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British Blues?


Zuben

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Just pondering (I seem to do that a lot lately) about British Blues artists. In the last two days I have wondered about authenticity. I was listening to one of my fav sat stations and in the hour I was driving, there were several Brits singing about their sad life in Ga, Hardship in MIss. I am talking about some well known artists.

 

It amazed me how much the songs were about the US and written by them before they even played the US or had toured the big cities and did nothing but party until they dropped.

 

I've heard Clapton talk about what an influence American blues had on him. I will give him and a select few other Brits of taking classics and evolving them into their own. Today, I would say Clapton has every right to be a real Blues artist as he has been there and back, several times.

 

But how many of them jumped on the bandwagon, writing blues songs that we ate up years ago. What was it Ringo sang? "You got to pay your dues if you wanna play the blues" ?

 

I could play either side of this and say we all have been influenced and are Bluesmen.

 

To complicate my conundrum, I was listening to Joss Stone, a new Brit female blues singer. Listening to her and if you didn't know who she was, you would think you were listening to some lost recordings of Janis Joplin trying to put a little Aretha Franklin in her voice.

 

I tried to think of female Brit blues singers. Not a lot but everyone I could think of all sounded like Billy Holiday, Aretha, Janis, they sure don't sound British.

 

I could make this a novelette but hopefully you will get the gist of my pondering.

 

Peace

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Zub, I've always thought that Peter Green was the best of the Brittish blues guys. He had a limited run before he lost it(literally), but his playing always evoked more passion IMO than any of his contemporaries, including Clapton. To me, Eric made his mark as a rock artist, although his deep love of the blues has always been at the root of his sound, his straight up blues playing doesn't really move me that much. He has all licks, for sure, and I do like his playing, but it sometimes leaves me a little flat. Actually, for someone nicknamed "slowhand" I don't think he utilizes space very well in his blues. It's one lick into the next without any breathing room. Just my opinion, and I love Cream, Derek And The Dominoes and Blind Faith as well as some of his solo stuff.

On to the bigger question. Authenticty is a hard thing to quantify. I think what country you are from is irrelevant. At least from a modern perspective. I guess it was probably different back in the 40's, 50's and 60's when you might have grown up surrounded by the music here in America, particularly in African American cultures. I don't know. What is "authentic" really anyway? If you are playing music that moves you, then to me it's authentic. It might not be any good LOL, that depends on the individual.

 

 

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Authenticity? I see your point. Guess not much of that.

 

But I've heard people say it wasn't until white Brits grabbed a hold of it that it wasn't "ok" for certain audiences in the US. I wasn't there so I can't say, but if that is the case it kinda makes you think there that the whole authenticity issue isn't relly much of an issue at all. Come to think of it, some people thought here in this forum that the best blues player ever was Jimi Hendrix--but where did he get "big"? He was from Seattle, but as a big star did he COME here from England? Was this the case? If that was the case (again, not trying to be controversial, don't know if the facts point towards that being the case), maybe it was like the musical mass-culture in the US was forced to look at itself w/ an open mind, and it fell in love w/ part of itself that before it had ignored.

 

The relationships between the Old World and the New World are sometimes funny, and are always a complex matter. I kinda hear celtic stuff in country and blues. This whole "mirror" thing is something that happens between Hispanic America and Spain, Brazil and Portugal, US and Canada and the UK, Québec and Haiti and France, etc. You can probably hear Arabic and Andalusian influence in the rhythms of some Afro-Hispanic-Caribbean music, which are usually thought of as coming from Africa.

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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Peter Green was definitely out there but he was a hell of a guitar player.

 

I like your outlook. That's what I am priming for. Everyone has a different outlooks.

 

Mine was an observation of artists and mimicing those that led the way. (Come to think about it, haven't well all mimciced those who came before us but I may have mimiced my heroes, I never tried to come across as someone I wasn't.)

 

Peace

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Interesting. I don't tend to think of it as trying to come across as something your not. A large percentage of lyric's aren't autobiographical( is that a word?). When I listen to Jimi's Hey Joe (I realise he didn't write the song, so maybe it's not the best example), I don't think he is being disingenous because he didn't actually kill his old lady. Some lyric's are more personal, some are metaphors, some are storytelling, some are observation and some are plain fiction. I don't believe Robert Johnson sold his soul at the crossroads, doesn't mean he was pretending to be someone he wasn't.

 

The other thing to keep in mind is those guys were pretty young, and still largely immitating. I don't think any of them had really found their own voice yet. Rather than being unauthentic, I think it was more unseasoned. You need time and life experiences. The ones that stuck around and had a career moved away from playing straight blues and found their own thing. Clapton with Cream ect., Page with Led Zep. Even Peter was starting to move in a different direction.

 

 

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I get what you are saying Zubes...totally. I don't want to put any artist down so I am going to refrain from that hopefully....but......

 

I think the biggest problem for me lies in the vocal accent and lyric content and how it relates as far as where the artist is from, if that makes sense...kinda what you said.

 

I think instrumentally it is acceptable to be from wherever and play a certain style of music and if you do it well you do it well...no biggie.

 

But the minute vocals and lyric content come into play it gets complicated for me. Like certain English artists singing with a Southern drawl.

 

Why do they do that?

 

I mean how many American artists go out and throw on a cockney accent and do an album?

 

 

 

 

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I undersatnd and completely agree with everything said here thusfar. But I think the important factor is how the british "blues" players have become so accepted into the, I guess for lack of a better term, the American Blues Community. If B.B. King can say that "Peter Green gave him the cold sweats" when he played, than I'd pretty much say that he's been accepted as a bluesman . I think if we look at the blues as less of "where you come from" and more of "what's inside you", then maybe it makes more sense.

"We're just musician's.....here to thin the thickness of your skin." - Max Webster
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Soul,

 

I agree with much of that but it is still going on. Lister (Fumbles) hit on what I was inferring. The female Brit Blues artist I was listening to last night is 23. There was NO hint of a Brit accent while she sang but her speaking voice was almost cockney. (I spent 2-3 years in London)

 

She is big in the UK and is now starting to make a mark in the US.

 

Hey Joe is a second party story. A lyric about another person and an interaction. Dylan wrote it as a social commentary. Jimi made the song his own with his interpretation. A great song. But it was true to its roots. Isn't that the heart of the Blues? Roots, heritage. It seems 80% of the Blues that we have made hits in the US had no real roots or heritage.

 

Again, that isn't a bad thing on its own. I play a mean Blues guitar but I sure never lived the Blues. There are a few styles of music that I take to my soul, that I feel I am really honest playing it. When you feel that, it just flows!

 

One of the Brit blues songs I heard was the Blues tune about having to "come Back to GA." A little drawl and a whole lot of poor blues stories. It was a bit hit here but at the time, (I checked on the band and singer, he had been to GA once for a sold out show in Atlanta and I am sure they held up at the Hilton) We took it hook line and sinker? A great Bluesman? He does have one hell of a voice. (We use to call him "the voice".)

 

Another example, in one of my 1st bands, BB King and some good Blues were getting though to the white middle class kids. (One day I will have to tell the story of going to Liberty City in Miami to see B B at a Black club when I was 16) Blues made for great slow songs at dances. For you guys playing in the late 60's remember that you could play a 3 hour dance with 8 songs LOL

 

We would do a medley of a few Blues songs, both guitar players had their runs, doing our best impression of Jimmy Va.... ahem the Kings and try to be Bluesmen. I knew it then as I know it now, even my best night running the neck on Blues riffs I'll never be a true Blues guitarist. On tape, you may hear a good Blues player, but it is only magic.

 

B B King can get more blues out of a 3 note riff then I can running the neck or trying to emulate his 3-4 note riffs.

 

Peace

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Regarding the accent... Well for me personally, I find it much easier to sing the blues in an American accent.. Because that is what the blues I listen too sounds like.

 

I have been trying to find my voice in my native accent.. But it's difficult to do... An English accent is NOT vocal friendly, in modern western music at least, the American singing accent is much more rounded and flowing, compared to English accents, which in general are quite harsh and strong. You will IME find a specific type of "native" music for each country... German music for instance, the German language and the way it is spoken, I have always felt is like having orders barked at you... So to go along witha german singer, they have their native music which counteracts it be being quite up beat.. Ya know like German Beer music... You also have to train your ear to want to hear something different than your brain is used to associating with a type of music. I think the Scottish, Welsh and Irish accents are much more pleasing to the ear in music than an English one is.

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I think there is far too much emphasis put on confining the term "The Blues" into a tiny little box. The only music allowed into that box is music that is really old, was written and preformed by an African American guy and is played very slowly.

 

I have an appreciation of the roots of blues, but feel that it has grown into so much more than BB King.

 

I think it boils down to your interpretations. What music you grew up listening too and what you've always considered the blues to be. For me, anyone can play it. It can be faster and rhythmic like Texas Blues or slow and sultry like Delta blues. It can be powerful or heart wrenching.

 

As an example, I think Lee (Trucks) is a good blues player and he's a white guy from England.

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It's what you grow up with. As a white English guy myself I grew up mostly listening to Black American music or music derived from Black American music so tat is a heck of a lot more natural for me to play, listen to or sing than English folk.

I think also that part of what makes an accent is the melody/tonal shape of that accent - I read a great book on American English once that claimed that the less obvious Transatlantic accent differences in singing were partly due to the pitch of the melody eliminating the tonal difference apparent in the spoken accents. Listen to the pitch pattern in Australian accents for example. The difference in pitching is the easiest way for me to differentiate Australian and New Zealand accents.

Blues and Jazz were Black American gifts to the world - and they're the world's now. They're still American musics, but not only Americans can play them.

The situation in the 60s was that, outside of certain areas, blues was not acknowledged or popular in America and it took the 60s British Blues boom to ensure that Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and others are household names.

As for Joss Stone; like a lot of modern English and American singers, I personally feel that she's just trying too hard. And the music doesn't seem to come from within her. I guess she might sound alright in 10 years. There are a lot better soul/gospel/jazz/blues singers in England than Joss and I'm fairly sure she'd admit that. She was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time with the right face.

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Regarding the accent... Well for me personally, I find it much easier to sing the blues in an American accent.. Because that is what the blues I listen too sounds like.

 

I have been trying to find my voice in my native accent.. But it's difficult to do... An English accent is NOT vocal friendly, in modern western music at least, the American singing accent is much more rounded and flowing, compared to English accents, which in general are quite harsh and strong. You will IME find a specific type of "native" music for each country... German music for instance, the German language and the way it is spoken, I have always felt is like having orders barked at you... So to go along witha german singer, they have their native music which counteracts it be being quite up beat.. Ya know like German Beer music... You also have to train your ear to want to hear something different than your brain is used to associating with a type of music. I think the Scottish, Welsh and Irish accents are much more pleasing to the ear in music than an English one is.

 

That German reference is hilarious, but true...(and I'm of German ancestry and have visited Deutschland a couple of times) I also agree that the Celtic vocal inflections might sound more pleasing as opposed to the English. However, I do believe that the English accent was adopted at times by American groups during the British invasion and the Punk and New Wave eras.

 

I'm not a black man from the South, yet when I sing

it tends to fall either into a country type Southern intonation or a soul/blues tinged voice.

I would definitely be pegged as a New Yawka if I spoke, but my vocal lexicon does not include "dees"(these), "dems" (them), and "doe's"(those). Bruce Springsteen doesn't sound like anyone I know from New Jersey?

 

I find it all irrelevant at this point, but this is still a very thought provoking argument Zuben.

 

Rich

 

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IMHO, I think you either 'get' the Blues, or you don't.

 

BB King thanked the Brits for 're-exporting' the Blues back to the US via what we called 'The Liverpool Beat' in the 60s & early 70s and I know ('cos I was there) that a whole lot of decent Blues bands had never 'suffered'.

 

I saw in a pub in Glasgow a few years ago and accidentally found a Blues band who were absolutely bang on - Southern Blues, Northern Blues and Mississippi Swamp stuff which was just great - superb playing too - but they were and continue to be, pretty much unknown. There's not a big audience for pure Blues or R&B around here, as I found out last year.

 

There's a whole lot of decent Bluesmen around here. The late Alexis Korner springs to mind - also check out a big Scot called Tam White.

 

I've just found a Mark Knopfler CD in Philly's collection called 'The Ragpicker's Dream'. Some of the stuff on that is SO Bluesy and SO well played that it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up (if I had any!). Yet the subject matter is about the Newcastle-on-Tyne of his childhood. See? You either 'get' it, or you don't. I think there may be a 'Blues Gene'!

 

As Trucks says, singing Blues or Rock'n'Roll with anything but an American accent just sounds wrong - hence my dislike for my fellow countrymen, The Proclaimers.

 

G.

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the World will know Peace": Jimi Hendrix

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The Geoff - blame Caevan!!!

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I have a live bootleg recording of James Taylor from around 1970. In it he describes how he came to write the song "Steamroller Blues". He describes performing at the Night Owl in Greenwich Village and being surrounded by white kids coming in from the suburbs to play Blues. He further describes their equating soul with volume. He wrote "Steamroller Blues" as a tongue-in-cheek comeback to all of the bad versions of "I'm a Man" that he heard being performed at the time. After his introduction, James went on to play the most soulful and intricate version of that song that I've ever heard. Very cool.

 

That said, I reserve my judgment for the individual. I like Joss Stone's voice and think that for her age she is far more credible sounding than most of the current herd of pop divas. I think there have been many great British Blues guitarists including Peter Green. Eric Clapton is hit or miss with me. When he is on, his performances are nothing short of awe inspiring but quite often, he seems to just go through the motions. "From the Cradle" illustrates this perfectly. There are tracks on there with a ferocity that can only come from deep within while there are others that are soulless and mediocre. I have no doubt that EC feels the music but I think he has trouble expressing it at times. Alvin Lee is one of my favorites and I think he really gets it. While his playing is completely outside the Postwar Chicago style that became what we now collectively consider the "Blues", his Blues playing comes with a ferocity and feeling that reveal the soul within. Zube had it right though... BB King gets more out two or three notes than anybody I've ever heard gets out of a fistful.

 

But then, Albert King said it best in "Blues Power": "Everybody gets the Blues".

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Regarding the accent... Well for me personally, I find it much easier to sing the blues in an American accent.. Because that is what the blues I listen too sounds like.

 

Regardless of what style a singer is doing it is natural to pronounce certain words differently in order to make them sound good and stay on pitch. So "pAst" sings better than "paHst"....and rather than "I'm going to get you"...(eye-m go-ing two gett u )...."aahm gonna gitcha or getcha" or aahm goin' ta get ya" .....these would sing better. I have over emphasised to make the point.

 

My point is more about when an obviously Englishman singer sings in a full bore Southern drawl twang......or any nationality white guy tries to sound like an early period black blues singer to the point of deliberately mispronouncing words and stuff .........and I sure hope that statement is not taken the wrong way. Stuff like....

 

"she nineteen year old.." ............ no s in she's and years.......

 

"Lawd ha' moicy"...a John Lee Hooker thing.....

 

" men lied 'bout dem"...Wolf....

 

I mean to a point this can be done subtly to give off a nice feel and sometime singers are drunk or stoned enough to slur or mispronounce....but when it is calculated and overdone...that is more what I am talking about....the educated white middle class blues singer trying too hard to sound like he's had a horribly rough road all his life, is partly illiterate and grew up on a plantation in the Delta working in the cotton fields by day for the slave owner boss.....trust me I've known cats in LA who walk around talking the talk....but they're dressed in expensive threads, $500 cowboy boots, get expensive haircuts and eat healthy at nice restuarants, shop for groceries at Trader Joe's.....but they are BLUES players ...baby.....or daddy-o... for that matter and they have this huge phony vibe about them.

 

Back to accents, listen to the way Elton's accent jumps around on the "Don't Shoot me.." album. Jagger did this a lot too........"ha cum yu daince so guuuuud"...there are times he really lays the drawl on on thick.

 

I like all these artists but I often find my attention being drawn away from the song to the vocal accent and inflections and it distracts me sometimes. There are a lot of non American artists I don't get that from or it is done subtly enough to not draw attention to it. I mostly did not feel it from The Beatles, Floyd....etc Knoplfer has a bit going on but his voice is very believable and suits the music so well.

 

Plus also there are regional accents that are quite different in England not so....those who would say pAst, lAst, fAst, bAthroom....and those who would say paHst. laHst, faHst, baHthroom......granted the A is a little shorter in length than a typical American A....don't know how to describe it phonetically....fast might sound fust in the UK in certain places, faahst in others and fAAAst in the US

 

I dunno....I am not bagging on anyone certainly not any Brit singers....I am just saying that while I do believe it is natural to pronounce words in order to make them sound good and stay on pitch while singing........sometimes full on American-ism's are taken a little far to the point of distraction.

 

 

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Hmm, authenticity... Suffering was common ground for anyone playing the blues regardless of nationality. You didn't have to be a young African American in the South to get the Blues. Some of the British bands described suffered from lack of money, because let's face it, a bar band isn't the most profitable career. Not only that, but suffering from drug abuse, getting beat up for just looking a certain way: (long hair wasn't desirable). And the old time classic, losing your woman.

 

So sure the Blues masters did "it" first. But the reason for so many of the British guys following (or copying if you care to be technical), IMO, was they were able to connect with it. Not only that, but they adapted those experiences into their own. Which is why they call it British Blues.

 

The music might have been different, but the message was the same.

Never argue with an idiot. They'll bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.

 

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I haven't heard Joss Stone's music so I can't really comment on her personally. Except to say that I don't think soul is confined to a continent. We all do the same thing. Find music that inspires us, try to assimilate it and hopefully expand upon it. Whether the music is from accross the pond or not, shouldn't make a bit of difference. Talent, commitment and feeling do. It's down to the individual. Some people have "it" and some don't, american, brittish or otherwise. Most people take on mannerisims and inflections when they sing, that have nothing to do with the way they talk. This isn't confined to just blues. For whatever reason, the american accent is just kind of the universal norm.

 

I saw Buddy Guy and Robert Cray awhile back. It did feel like Buddy was more the "real deal", for lack of a better term. Not that Robert wasn't great, but Buddy is one of the last of the living, breathing history of the blues kind of guys. I do see a difference between the original guys and everybody else. From that point of view I do kind of agree with you guys. For anybody coming up after that though, the where doesn't seem as important as the who.

I better go play some grunge, I'm from Seattle after all ;):D

 

 

 

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This accent thing is funny. I was watching an interview with a British actress and she was talking about doing roles that required a Southern accent. She said it was almost natural and took very little effort. Jude Law had a good southern drawl in Cold Mountian too. Maybe they're closer than we think. Jagger sounds like a hick alot. LOL!!!!
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No-one has a better English 'Upper Crust' accent than Hugh Laurie (House).

 

As he says, we see so much USTV that the accent comes as second nature.

 

When we were kids (before TV over here) we played Cowboys & Indians, and always with an American accent!!

 

:D

 

G.

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the World will know Peace": Jimi Hendrix

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=738517&content=music

The Geoff - blame Caevan!!!

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Laurie has been around Brit TV for many, many years, playing, usually, the upper class twit. With Stephen Fry, they did 'Jeeves & Wooster' and became very popular. Add to that that he plays quite a mean jazz piano.

 

It all added up to a 'lovable fool' who cropped up on BBC chat shows when plugging his book, and he's written a few!

 

Change his accent - US - and his character - deeply flawed - and he's an overnight success.

 

There's still, I suppose, some weird, insular people who have never heard of Blackadder (or Monty Python either!) I suppose.

 

Did you know Glasgow had a Bishop Blackadder in the Middle Ages?

 

:D

 

G.

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the World will know Peace": Jimi Hendrix

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=738517&content=music

The Geoff - blame Caevan!!!

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