Greens From The Garden

Corey Harris

Greens From The Garden

Corey explores acoustic blues, reggae, Caribbean and more in a remarkable, foward-thinking concept album. "A giant leap forward...A fragrant musical buffet with a natural soulfulness like a '90s Taj Majal"--GUITAR

No Longer Available on CD
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1. Introduction To The Greens 0:48
2. Basehead 4:41
3. Honeysuckle 4:23
4. Tapado 0:39
5. Eh La Bas 5:50
6. Interlude 0:40
7. Wild West 4:04
8. In The Kitchen With Momma 0:22
9. Sweet Black Angel 4:08
10. Pas Parlez 4:30
11. Interlude 0:13
12. Lynch Blues 6:16
13. Greens Back In The Day 1:20
14. Congo Square Rag 1:44
15. Diddy Wah Diddy 2:31
16. Ites 1:14
17. Just A Closer Walk With Thee 5:56
18. Nola Rag 4:56
19. Epilogue 0:49
20. Bonus Track: Teabag Blues 4:59

Corey Harris - Producer
Jamal Millner - Associate Producer
Corey Harris and John Alagia - mixing

Teabag Blues
produced and mixed by Grant Showbiz (recorded at Totally Wired Studio, Dublin - mixed at Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin)

All songs written by Corey Harris, ©1999 Njumba Music LLC (ASCAP) Except Eh La Bas (Writer & Publisher unknown), Sweet Black Angel (Bogan/Public Domain), Diddy Wah Diddy (Public Domain), Just A Closer Walk With Thee (Public Domain), Teabag Blues, words written by Woody Guthrie, Woody Guthrie Publications (BMI) / music written by Corey Harris

All musical arrangements by Corey Harris
Recorded by Terry Martin and Chris Cervens at Paragon Studios, Charlottesville, VA Except Congo Square Rag and Honeysuckle, recorded live at The Funky Butt, New Orleans, Mixed at Virginia Arts, Charlottesville, VA - Paul Brier-eng.
Mastered by Charlie Pizlner at Airshow Mastering, Springfield, VA
Art Direction & Design: Laurie Hager
Photography: Sam Erickson
Thanks to the Powell's for use of the farm


1. Harry "Pointman" Dennis-Djun-djun; Victor Brown-bass; John Gilmore-drumset 2. C. H-vocal, electric lap steel; Jamal Millner-rhythm guitar; V. Brown-bass; J. Gilmore-drumset; H. Dennis-Djun-djun; Darrell Rose-percussion; Hamza-tambourine. 3. C.H.-vocal and guitar; Henry Butler-piano; Michael Ward-violin; J. M.-rhythm guitar; Imhotep-Djembe; H. D.-Djun-djun 5. C.H.-vocal, electric lap steel, whistle; J. M.-lead guitar; J. Plunky Branch-soprano sax; V. B.-bass; J. G.-drumset; H. D.-Djun-djun, percussion: D. R.-congas: Hamza-percussion; Bro. Munier, Culture Fruit, Mr. Greenjeans-backup vocals. 6. H. D.-flute, rainstick 7. C.H.-lead vocal, rhythm guitar; featuring Sista Teedy-backup vocals; J. M.-guitar solo, backup vocals; V. B.-bass; J. G.-drumset; H. D.-Djun-djun, backup vocals. 9. C.H.-National resophonic guitar and vocal, foot 10. C.H.-lead vocal, acoustic guitar, percussion; J. M.-mandolin, backup vocal; J. P. B.-soprano saxophone; H. D.-Djun-djun, percussion, backup vocal; D. R.-djembe, percussion; Hamza--percussion 11. H. D.-flute; Mr. Greenjeans-rainstick 12. C.H.-vocal, lead guitar; J. M.-rhythm guitar, guitar solo; H. D.-Djun-djun; V. B.-bass; J. G.-drumset 13. H. D.-Djun-djun; V. B.-bass 14. C.H., J. M.-electric guitars; H.D.-Djun-djun; Imhotep-djembe; H. Butler-piano; Herlin Riley washboard; Leonard Blair-saxophone; Tracy Griffin-trumpet; Mark Mullins-trombone; Craig Klein--tuba 15. C.H. vocal, National resophonic guitar, foot 16. culture fruit-ites 17. C.H. vocal, electric lap steel; J. M.-rhythm guitar; H. D.-Djun-djun, rainstick, percussion; V.B.-bass; J. G. drumset; D. R. Hamza-percussion; culture fruit-vocal intro 18. C.H.-tales, acoustic guitar; J. M.-acoustic guitar 19. H. D.-Djun-djun; V. B.-bass; J. G.-drumset 20. C.H. - Lead vocal, guitar; Billy Bragg - backup vocals

*Sista Teedy appears courtesy of NYNO Records, Michael Ward appears courtesy of Ralph Records

Corey Harris plays Parker, National, and Gibson guitars. He uses D'Addario strings.

A Koolhot Production

Thanks to: Jah the Head Creator, The Ancestors, family, all the musicians who contributed to this recording, everyone at Alligator, Ron and Garry at Monterey, Coran, Chris, Bill, and everyone at Red Light. Thanks for Teabag Blues, which was recorded during the 'Mermaid Avenue' sessions; to Billy Bragg, Grant Showbiz, Peter Jenner, Wilco, Tony Margherita, Elektra Entertainment. Thanks also to Aunt Nell, Mr. & Mrs. Harry Dennis Sr., Mervin, Mrs. Betty Stell, and Mrs. Evelyn Gaston for your culinary advice. Psalm '33: Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.

Red Light Management: 804.971.8117

1. Most people (especially those not steeped in the blues culture) consider the blues a sad music, a woe-is-me music, or else a bar room music full of fist fights, cursing and nasty talking about up under women's clothes. Well, while the blues can be about all of that, the deepness and relevancy of the blues is about much more than that. The blues is a musical language of life affirmation in the face of inevitable contradictions and difficulties. The blues is philosophical.

What -- you may ask -- is philosophical about Sweet Black Angel or Eh La Bas ? Isn't the blues fundamentally folk music? Dance music? Entertainment? Isn't it true that the blues was never highbrow music? Never concert hall stuffiness, fussiness, sit up straight in your chair and listen to it in silence music?

Hidden in the core of questions like that is the assumption that there is no philosophy to the blues because it doesn't act/sound like what the mainstream teaches is art, and art is intelligent reflections on life rather than simple-minded hedonism.

Moreover, the blues has been commercialized from early on via "race" recordings. From '29 when Mamie Smith recorded Percy Bradford's Crazy Blues , the blues has been regarded as a windfall of profit by the entertainment industry. Once they saw how much money could be made, as legendary New Orleans musician Danny Barker insightfully noted, they went out and recorded every Smith woman they could find: Mamie Smith, Trixie Smith, Bessie Smith, and Smitty Smith!

Regardless of what they said out the front part of their mouths, in the minds of most recording executives, the blues was about the buck and bottom line, not about art and soul. To your face, they would call you an artist and behind your back they would expect you to be an entertainer. Even to this day nearly a century later, they will say they want to help you project your soul but will reject you if the bottom line is not boosted by millions of records sold (or, in the case of smaller companies, thousands of records sold).

Or, paraphrasing Ralph Ellison, to put it another way, the business of making records is enough to give the blues the blues.

All of which is to say, between assumptions of ignorance about the meaning of the blues and demands of commerce in making money off the blues, producing the blues is difficult as catching a catfish with your bare hands.

The daunting complications and complexities notwithstanding, there are musicians like Corey Harris, who against all odds produce contemporary blues recordings that both plow the fertile ground of the blues tradition, as well as produce an exciting new crop of music that is cross-bred with the contemporary sounds and experiences of its day.

2. Corey Harris was born in '69 and has an exemplary blues background: he grew up in Denver, Colorado and graduated in anthropology from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He won a Watson Fellowship and immediately cut out for the Cameroons in West Africa were he studied Pidgin English. Came back, signed up for teacher's corp and was assigned to Belle Rose, Louisiana where he taught French in middle school. Like I said, he has all the makings of a blues musician -- as long as you are not seduced by the stereotype of a bright-eyed, little, big-headed Negro boy sitting on a broke down front porch up under the tutelage of a snaggle toothed, sixty-something year old, mumbling musicianeer who doesn't know how to read music, plays slightly out of tune and has never been more than two hundred miles away from where he was born in the Mississippi Delta, the son of a sharecropper and a domestic.

Corey Harris' blues is "authentic" not because he has a stereotypical social background but rather because he is rooted in the diverse experiences of African American life and culture and because Corey Harris the individual brings to this music a consciously honed intelligence and carefully cultivated human sensitivity that is both broad and cross-cultural. Thus, like enslaved Africans a century earlier, he draws on his root heritage and expresses himself through languages and instruments not necessarily of his ethnicity.

Need we point out that most blues is in English (some in French or Louisiana Creole, but mostly English)? Or, as we used to say in the late sixties: African root, American fruit. Corey is consciously bilingual, both linguistically and musically. Thus is authenticity is that of a black man aware of the complexities and contradictions of his history and heritage. And more than simply aware, Corey is personally conversant with the elemental legacies and social conditionings of his blackness, his humanness.

Once Corey figured out that music was going to be his main thing, he quit teaching school and took graduate courses on the streets of New Orleans. He got his blues education the traditional way, he earned it by playing for his supper and interacting with the diverse musicians who trafficked in what is commonly called New Orleans street music. Moreover, Corey studied the musical traditions everywhere he went. He reads books and listens to records. He has played with jazz musicians and church musicians, backed up dancers and poets. And, most importantlyof all, he has kept in touch with an every expanding family of folk ever where he goes. Corey's authenticity is not in how well he imitates the past but rather in how well he maintains his roots in the present.

So then, there is no surprise that he has decided to call this recording Greens From The Garden -- he finds both hope and nourishment in this music and in his connection to a broad community of people.

3. The three main greens are collards, mustard and turnips. Spinach is a greens but it's not cooked like the holy trinity of leafy vegetables. And there is cousin kale, but he don't come round so often. Mainly people stick to the basic trio.

And just like people have different tastes, there are different ways to prepare greens, and, ditto, different ways to play the blues.

The three main sonic forces on this recording are voice, strings, and rhythm. Like I said collards, mustard and turnips.

Corey's collard green vocals are tough, rough, full of grit; even when he is tender there is a sonorous strength to his heavily/heavenly-hoarse whisperings. Please note that the backup voicings are no slouches in the shouting department, and pay special attention to the whip-crack contributions of Sista Teedy on the romp called Wild West .

The amazing zing of the mustard strings sing and swing with a vim and vigor that is nothing short of pot liquor potent. The textures are varied but all of them exude an edge that gives the music a tangy sharp twang. Corey utilizes a calculated grab bag assortment of string players, all of whom understand that regardless of their given instrument their mission is to get down. You have to go back to some of the recordings of the 20s and 30s to find such an eclectic mix of string instruments.

But it is the zestfully tart turnip rhythm sounds that truly distinguishes this callaloo of mixed greens. No American blues recording that I am aware of (other than maybe some of that como fife and drum stuff out of Mississippi) makes such practical use of rhythm as the basic structure of the music. Pop music tends to be melody driven -- you can always recognize a popular pop song because you can hum it. Serious western-oriented music is harmony heavy, you know, augmented this, diminished that, passing tones here, chromatic scales there. But Black music -- regardless of genre: gospel, jazz, R&B, rap or blues, all of it has a rhythmic drive.

Motion is the basis of life. To be alive is to move, to shake that thing. And damn, Corey sure does have a lot of stuff shaking on this recording. He's got drumkit and hand drums (everything from tambourines to djun-djun) plus piano and rainstick. You know of course that the piano is a combination string and percussion instrument (the percussive aspects are immediately apparent in the way Henry Butler plays). And the rain stick for all of its seductive softness is essentially a cactus plant with pebbles rattling around inside -- you can't get more percussive than rocks, right?

Additionally, Corey is clearly the cook. He composed all but three of the eleven songs on this recording. What is remarkable is that it is though much of the music has a freshness to it, most of the tunes also sound like they could have been written ten, twenty or thirty years ago -- I mean the physical sound, not just the words and themes, the thoughts and ideas, but the way the songs shake and the changes they move through, the keys and rhythmic patterns.

There are a lot of young blues players out there, but very few accomplished composers of the blues. If nothing else, this recording establishes Corey's credentials not just as a player but also as a composer of roots music.

Once I started thinking about what Corey has accomplished with this album another aspect became clear to me. In addition to the vocals, strings and rhythm elemental trinity and the compositional integrity, this was also a rap-influenced recording. To check my diagnosis, when I saw him in New York City opening up for English musician Billy Bragg, I asked Corey about all the interludes. He confirmed, "Yeah. I grew up listening to rap."

Ah ha, this is what a good blues musician does. He takes any and every influence and uses it, goes to the core of the human experience and extracts the principle of rootedness in whatever community and then applies it in a bluseological way to his music. Thus, instead of tales of gangsta lore, we get various takes on how to prepare greens (corey went around with a tape machine and talked to friends and relatives getting their take on the culinary culture of preparing greens).

And why greens? Well, because those are root foods, the source of minerals. They have the earthiness of growing in and close to the ground plus the vitality that comes from the sun.

So, how do you like your greens? Well if you're anything like Corey Harris you like your greens slow simmered.

Now it's time to say grace... amen and bon appetit!
--Kalamu Ya Salaam

Wild West
by Corey Harris

well i was troddin' through the wild west
where man they love dem gun
i seen a man hold his gun like his woman
clean it then he stroke that sucker strong
clean it, stroke it, walking in plain sight
all over town (that's how it go down)

troddin' thru the wild west
were long nose take him claim
genocide [is] him victory
money [is] him only game
first like sell we for sugar, then rum
now him push cocaine
what a shame, this game

troddin' thru the wild west
before the clock struck twelve
didn't seem like heaven,
(*1)i check seh must be hell

(rum, rum, sugar, sugar, bars of gold)
here in babylon, all sickness to be found
don't wait to call no healer
(*2) you know die -- body
no fear bury ground

(*3) since i be done go for cornah watah
for africa i de longah, de longah so
(*1){i know that it must be hell}
(*2){a corpse isn't afraid of the grave, i.e. things can only get so bad}
(*3){since i went across the water i miss africa too much}

lynch blues
by corey harris

what do i see hanging beneath the trees?
well they'll wanna hang you, if you don't bend at the knees

done it to my brother, and my elder too
and the people always ask me, son, why you sing these blues?

some like apples, cherry from the tree
well the fruit they like down here gonna be the death of me

well the old people told me, but i never did know
well the good book say, you gotta reap what you sow

by corey harris

bought my baby a brand new 'Benzo
bought my baby a diamond ring
she said if you ain't no honeydripper
brother don't mean a doggone thing

bought my baby a passenger train
she said papa don't waste your time
just meet me across the tracks
and don't forget my honeysuckle wine

when i first met you baby,
i tried to play it cool
but after all your good lovin
i'll be glad to be your fool

well lay with me, baby
beneath the honeysuckle vine
for to suckle all this honey
gonna take a great long time

pas parle
by corey harris

j'avais une belle camerounaise
si noire et si douce
mais elle est parti, me voici sans cherie
comme-meme j'oublis jamais le gout

elle avait un monsieur de dix heures
moi j'ai pris deuxieme bureau
mias comment les abeilles cherche du miel partout
sans oublier la route?

pas parle
elle t'a deja quitte
pas parle
de ton miel vole

j'avais un ami, pendant la sechesse il devient fou
il a crie au village un tel de mensonges
voila mon meil vite perdu
je l'ai tape, il m'a rigolais
j'ai dit "papa, pourqoui tu m'a fait ca?"
il m'a regarde avec les yeux erailles, "papa, c'est le bon banga!"


j'avais cache en plein brousse
mon frere comme je fait toujours
je suis retourne le jour apres
voila mon miel disparu

je suis alle au sorcier
voila ce qu'il m'a dit
tu doit acheter ton miel au marche
le tien j'ai bien drague


i once had a beautiful cameroon woman
so black and so sweet
but she is gone; here i am with no sweetheart
but i'll never forget the taste

she had a ten o'clock man
me, i got a second office
but how do bees search all over for honey without losing their way?

i had a friend, during the dry season he became insane
he shouted to the village a bunch of lies
i lost my honey right away
i beat him, he laughed at me
i said "papa, why did you do me like that?"
he looked at me with bloodshot eyes,
"papa, it's because of the good herbs!"

i hid my honey well, deep in the bush
brother, like i always do
i came back the next day
and my honey had disappeared

i went to the sorcerer
here's what he told me
you better buy your honey in the market
i have already taken yours

don't talk
she has already left you
don't talk
about your stolen honey

by corey harris

well, mama do you know where your boys are
if they sling enough rock, they gonna be rock stars

well grandpa told junior about them slavery days
after all these years some still got them slavery ways

well, down home brother, this dance ain't new
if you don't watch your back, they'll show you how to do

seen the devil last night, walk like a natural man
had a pipe in his mouth, a rock in his hand

murder up the country, murder in your town
seem like everyday, another good brother shot down