Document Records - Vintage Blues and Jazz

Document Records
Jaybird Coleman & The Birmingham Jug Band 1927 - 1930

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Frank Palmes (poss Jaybird Coleman)
Bessemer Blues Pickers
Birmingham Jug Band
Jaybird Coleman
Bogus Ben Covington
Robert McCoy
New Orleans Slide
R D Norwood
One Armed Dave (Dave Miles)
Vance Patterson
Bertha Ross
Joe Williams


Jaybird Coleman
01 - My jelly blues (Bertha Ross, vocal) Listen
02 - Mill log blues Listen
03 - Boll weevil Listen
04 - Ah`m sick and tired of tellin` you Listen
05 - Man trouble blues Listen
06 - Trunk busted - suitcase full of holes Listen
07 - I`m gonna cross the river of Jordan - some o` these days Listen
08 - You heard me whistle Listen
09 - No more good water - `cause the pond is dry Listen
10 - Mistreatin` mama Listen
11 - Save your money - let these women go Listen
12 - Ain`t gonna lay my `ligion down (Frank Palmes) Listen
13 - Troubled `bout my soul (Frank Palmes) Listen
14 - Coffee grinder blues Listen
15 - Man trouble blue Listen

Birmingham Jug Band
16 - German blues Listen
17 - Cane brake blues Listen
18 - The wild cat squawl Listen
19 - Bill Wilson Listen
20 - Birmingham blues Listen
21 - Gettin` ready for trial Listen
22 - Giving it away Listen
23 - Kickin` mule blues Listen

After leaving the service, he teamed up with "Big" Joe Williams in The Birmingham Jug Band and toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrel Show, working shows throughout the South in 1922 through 1924. He settled in Bessemer to work with his wife, Irene, in his local church, at parties, suppers and picnics through the 1920's. He recorded for the Gennett, Silvertone and Black Patti labels in Birmingham in 1927. He toured as a single entertainer, working club dates throughout the South in 1929, and frequently worked with the Birmingham Jug Band in Bessemer, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa areas into the 1930's. He recorded with the Birmingham Jug Band on the Okeh label in Atlanta in 1930 and with the Columbia label in Atlanta thereafter. Paul Oliver, in The Story of Blues, describes his music this way: "His technique was close to the field holler with a sung vocal line and then an interpreting response on the harmonica".

He worked mostly outside music with occasional work as a single with other jug bands, and sometimes accompanied sister Lizzie Coleman on the streets in the Bessemer and Birmingham areas through the 30's and 40's. He entered the Veterans Administration Hospital, where he died of cancer on June 28, 1950 and is buried in Lincoln Memorial Gardens in Bessemer, Alabama.

This Document CD take in Coleman's recordings between 1927-1930. The first selections, mostly unaccompanied, Coleman tends to use a higher pitched harp - often playing in the key of C or D. These tracks are a fascinating compromise between field hollers and blues, especially in Jaybird's cavalier disregard for the 12-bar blues form and his frequent use of the falsetto voice range. Coleman's harp often serves as an extension of his voice or as a call and response, similar to the musical form of a group work song.

The second set of recordings are by the Birmingham Jugband, with Coleman again playing Harp. The Birmingham Jugband were one of the most raucous groups to record. We can hear 8 of the 9 recordings they did for Okeh in December 1930. These sides underscores their place in American music history as one of the most irrepressible jug bands ever to record. It's varied repertoire reflects the general diversity of African American music in the deep south in the late 1920's; "Bill Wilson" is an engaging version of "John Henry", while "Giving It Away" reflects the Hokum Blues so popular at the time. One of their most entertaining performances, "The Wild Cat Squall", is a hectic, almost frenzied, showcase for the Harmonica player. "Kickin' Mule Blues" illustrates two of the group's most pronounced musical characteristics: its tempo is rather quick and it features a thick musical texture, enriched by the blend of jug, percussion and stringed instruments.

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