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st harmonicas onlineMissing Friday nights at the Southgate Club listening to the great bands playing at St Harmonica's? Well, we can't do anything about the lockdown, but we can do our best to recreate St Harmonica's in the comfort of your own home. So pour yourself a glass of beer, move the furniture aside to make yourself a dance floor, click on the first of the music videos below and start a text conversation with some of the people you usually meet up with at the club.

Friday 29 May

This week’s St Harmonica’s playlist was compiled by local musicologist Nick Wall. In his own words:

"Here's my selection of blues and some of its neighbouring musical areas, with music from the 1920s to the beginning of the 1960s. There’s a core of Louisiana music, but it strays up to the Appalachians and down around the Gulf Coast. It embraces the contradiction at the heart of the blues – an expression of pain or an exuberant music for enjoying the good times."

You can read the notes and watch and listen by clicking on the videos below, or go to the YouTube playlist at www.youtube.com/playlist?​list=PLI0n6wR3Vz8xleer1BQK6g64gXFbwX2Mo


Booker White - Poor Boy Long Way from Home

Our starting point is one of the most compelling performances on film – just a man, a guitar and a metal rod, but Booker White conjures up an awesome noise.

 


(Papa) Harvey Hull & Long 'Cleve' Reed - Gang of Brown Skin Women

Aka The Down Home Boys, recorded in 1927 and released on the obscure Black Patti label. Blues scholars regard this as the last gasp of a pre-blues style of music.

 


Grayson & Whitter - Little Maggie with a Dram Glass in Her Hand

The white rural equivalent to the blues was old-timey music, which drew on old English ballads, the blues, fiddle tunes and even Victorian parlour songs. Grayson & Whitter provide one of the best examples.

 


Frank Hutchison - The Last Scene Of The Titanic - 1927

At the bluesier end of the old time spectrum was Frank Hutchinson, who spent a lot of the late 1920s and early 1930s entertaining striking miners in the coalfields of Virginia, practically a war zone at the time. His talking blues about the Titanic does at least adhere to the basics of the story.

 


Cleoma Falcon -J'ai passé devant ta porte (1928?)

Now we move down to Louisiana, where this Cajun song rivals any blues for sadness and provides evidence for the view that the best music is made within 50 feet of an alligator.

 


Yvonne Leblanc with Nathan Abshire - Mama Rosin

Like the blues, though, Cajun music could get people moving on the dance floor, as this rhumba from accordionist Nathan Abshire’s band demonstrates.

 


James Waynes - Junco Partner

We stay in Louisiana with the first (1951) outing for what became a classic blues song about the perils of hard living, Junco Partner. This has the sinuous rhythms associated with New Orleans R’n’B.

 


Cookie & The Cupcakes - I Keep Crying

The R’n’B music of South Louisiana was known as swamp pop. Among the best exponents of the style were Cookie and the Cupcakes. The genre included many ballads of heartache and loss, but this song is more likely to have people heading for the dancefloor than reaching for their handkerchiefs.

 


Margaret Lewis - You Said You Loved Me

Now we get a song from one of swamp pop’s biggest influences, Fats Domino, done in the style of another key figure, Jimmy Reed, live from the Louisiana Hayride.

 


Toots & The Maytals - Treatin' Me Bad

Across the Gulf of Mexico from Louisiana is Jamaica (you can’t see it from Louisiana because Cuba’s in the way), where American R’n’B provided the catalyst for its own style of music, ska. Here we have a soulful, churchy outing from the Maytals, slightly at odds with the lively backing.

 


Lightin' Hopkins - Jake Head Boogie

Finally, back across the Gulf to another man with a guitar, this time an electric one. Lightnin' Hopkins sings a song, the message of which is still as relevant as it was on the day he recorded it – if you do have to drink hard liquor, it’s best to avoid the stuff made from shoe polish.

 


 

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