Here’s a double offer this month with two giants of traditional american music, Hobart Smith and Robert Pete Williams. Smith was one of the greatest old-timey musician to come out of the Appalachians, a mountain virtuoso on fiddle, banjo, guitar, piano, harmonica, etc…, playing all these in a energetic style combining the huge influence of african-american music with the traditions of his family who passed on to their children the old ballads (Texas Gladden,Hobart’s sister, was a great ballad singer) and fiddle tunes of their forefathers that came from England. Smith was recorded early on by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress and by Moe Ash in New York, and appeared in many festivals during the Folk Revival of the early 1960’s.
-Here’s an lp recorded in 1963 and issued later on Topic Records in England. It’s called “The Old Timey Rap”, a term used by Hobart to describe his banjo pickin style…
1.Soldier’s Joy (banjo)
2.Peg and Awl
3.The great Titanic
4.Banjo group 1 (Black Annie, Sally Ann, Chinquapin Pie, Last Chance, John Greer’s Tune)
5.Short life of trouble
6.The devil and the farmer’s wife
7.Soldier’s Joy (fiddle)
8.Sitting on top of the world
9.Stormy rose the ocean
12.Columbus Stockade Blues
13.Banjo group 2 (Cindy, The girl I left behind me, John Hardy)
14.Meet me in rose time Rosie
This lp is available now on a cd by Folk Legacy records with three bonus tracks (Buy it here)
Robert Pete Williams is one of my favourite Country Blues artist. He had a unique style of singing and playing the guitar, very reminescent of African music in fact, giving to each of his performances a hypnotic and improvised mood. Here’s a bit of biography from Wikipedia:
Williams was born in Zachary, Louisiana, to a family of sharecroppers. He had no formal schooling, and spent his childhood picking cotton and cutting sugar cane. In 1928, he moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and worked in a lumberyard. At the age of 20, Williams fashioned a crude guitar by attaching five copper strings to a cigar box, and soon after bought a cheap, mass-produced one. Robert was taught by Frank and Robert Metty and began to play for small events such as Church gatherings, fish fries, suppers, and dances. From the 1930s-1950s, Williams played music and continued to work in the lumberyards of Baton Rouge.
He was discovered in Angola prison, by ethnomusicologists Dr Harry Oster and Richard Allen, where he was serving a life sentence for shooting a man dead in a local club in 1956, an act which he claimed was in self-defense. Oster and Allen recorded Williams performing several of his songs about life in prison and pleaded for him to be pardoned. Under pressure from Oster, the parole board issued a pardon and commuted his sentence to 12 years. In December 1958 he was released into ‘servitude parole’, which required 80 hours of labor per week on a Denham Springs farm without due compensation, and only room and board provided. This parole prevented him from working in music, though he was able to occasionally play with Willie B. Thomas and Butch Cage at Thomas’s home in Zachary. By this time, Williams’ music had achieved some favorable word-of-mouth reviews, and he played his first concert outside Louisiana at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.
By 1965 he was able to tour the country, traveling to Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Chicago and Berkeley, California. In 1966 he also toured Europe. In 1968 he settled in Maringouin, west of Baton Rouge and began to work outside of music.
In 1970, Williams began to perform once again, touring blues and folk festivals throughout the United States and Europe. His music has appeared in several films notably, the Roots of American Music; Country and Urban Music (1971); Out of the Blues into the Blacks (1972) and Blues Under the Skin (1972) the last two being French-made films.
His most popular recordings included “Prisoner’s Talking Blues” and “Pardon Denied Again”. Williams has been inducted into the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame.
Williams had slowed down his work schedule by the late 1970s, largely due to his old age and declining health. Williams died in Rosedale, Louisiana on December 31, 1980, at the age of 66.
-This lp was recorded for an Italian Blues label in 1977, while he was touring Europe, near the end of his life. He would record his last session three years after in Paris.
2.Big fat mama
4.Must be another man
10.Watch yourself boy round by that deep blue sea