Subtle warm acoustic guitar and harmonica duets by the masters of Tidewater blues. The gentle giants of Piedmont blues deliver their best. "Remarkable guitar and harmonica duets...tasteful and impassioned"--WASHINGTON POST
Produced by Joe Wilson
Tracks 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15 recorded by Pete Reiniger at Private Ear Studio, Hyattsville, MD
Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 13 recorded by John Vengrouskie at Vengrouskie Digs, Silver Spring, MD
Mixed by Joe Wilson and John Vengrouskie at Jake D. James' Doghouse, Silver Spring, MD
Photos by Tom Radcliffe/Point of View Studios, Takoma Park, MD
Package design by Matthias Minde
For concert performances and festivals, please contact:
Tel: 704-399-2210; Fax: 704-399-2261
John's Comments on the Songs...
1. Mamie. We've been doing that one on shows for years, and people ask for it everywhere, so we laid it down at this session. I've changed it some, but I heard it first from Blind Boy Fuller. I think it says he got awfully upset when some other dude tried to put the moves on his woman.
2. Meeting The Mule. That's mine. The guys that came up to Washington from the Carolinas and Alabama used to say, Well, I don't have to meet that mule in the morning, if you asked how they were getting along. That meant that the worst job you could get in the city was better than looking at the world over a mule's hind end for twelve hours a day in the hot summer sun. I want to dedicate it to my buddies Jerry Ricks and Gregg Esposito. It would help them get closer to the blues if they could spend a little time at ground zero behind the mule, the key spot on his artillery range. Joe Wilson spent time behind a horse in the Blue Ridge Mountains when he was a kid, and gained enough understanding to help with a couple of the lyrics. Wish I could remember the name of the old Alabama guy who told me, The whole world smells better when you quit the mule.
3. Spider Woman. Our buddy Mike McQuade wrote the words to that one. I think he must have had some of the usual trouble with some of the usual suspects. I composed the tune.
4. Trouble In Mind. That's as old as mud and a lot of people have done it, but I love it. It has more faith than most blues songs. The guy is gonna put his head on the railroad track, but he's going to pull it back before the train gets there. That's good. No need to mess up a clean railroad track. It has revenge, too. She's done him in, but he's going to drive her crazy. It's okay to talk like that so long as you don't do it.
5. Jelly Roll. We were making jokes at a practice session, and that one jumped out of Phil and me and Joe Wilson. A jelly roll gets to be several different things in blues songs, and I really don't know what this one is. Maybe Phil can tell you. It's the kind of song that's hard to sing for your kids or mother.
6. Walking Mama. That's another set of lyrics from our pal Mike McQuade. He seems to keep an eye peeled for things that swing and wiggle. So blame everything on him. I only take responsibility for the tune.
7. A Lot Of Them Blues. I like torch songs, and this is a new one. It has a Southern sunshine feel for the problems of life. You're broke and unemployed but the sun is shining and the fish may be biting, so the blues feel good. Patsy Vogel wrote the lyrics, and I composed a melody for them.
8. Illinois Blues. That's a Skip James composition, and almost a praise song for the state of Illinois. He wrote it during segregation, and you can hear how much he loved getting away from segregation. Skip was from Mississippi, but his music style was a personal one and all his songs are based on his experiences in life.
9. I Was Determined. That's mine, my story.
10. Sounds Of The Blues. Phil wrote that and he is singing the lead. Phil takes life apart and checks the pieces when he writes a song, and he has written some great ones.
11. Worried Life Blues. That's a song that Phil and I learned from Chief Ellis. His name was Wilber Ellis, but everyone called him Big Chief. He was a first class street guy, a professional gambler who lived by his wits. He had a heart of gold and he was a first-rate piano bluesman. I was playing in Chief's band at the Smithsonian's big festival in Washington when I met Phil. He was working in Flora Molton's band, and Johnny Shines heard us jamming backstage and said, "You guys need to work together," so Chief put Phil to work with us. Chief is gone now, so this is a way for Phil and me to show our respect. We had to have a piano man for a Chief song, and the great piano guy standing in for him is Daryl Davis. He did it so well we got him to do a few more songs with us. Daryl has a good band in the Washington, D.C. area.
12. Me And My Chauffeur. That's from Memphis Minnie, one of my favorite blues women. She was a great picker and had a lot of vinegar, and wrote some really good songs. I've changed this one around, and tried to get my brand onto it. Listen to how Phil turns up the heat.
13. Slow Blues. That's our instrumental arrangement of a Rev. Gary Davis tune. He's one of my heroes.
14. Leaving Blues. That's a new one for everybody who has ever been left. It puts some country into the country blues. We thought about putting in a verse about crying and cussing and breaking furniture and throwing stuff, but decided to be nice.
15. Pigmeat. There's double meanings in that one. We've done it on shows for years and some fans seem to have it figured out because we get requests for it. That's our arrangement, but I heard it first from Blind Boy Fuller.
Also Available By Cephas & Wiggins on Alligator:
Cool Down ALCD 4838