"Me, Me...Me Again!"

Jul 01, 2021

I try to be philosophical about the heat in Austin. Really, I do. I didn't move here for the weather, like some people I know. But I also don't want to be mad for six months out of the year for the foreseeable future. That said, I'm writing this just after an evening stroll with the Dauphin and the family dog, and sheesh! This wouldn't make my top-twenty dog walks even if I lived in a pizza oven on the fourth floor of Mt. Vesuvius.

But in other news, I'm not feeling bitter at all, just a little sheepish. My membership, the Fingerstyle Five, includes a community forum where people can meet up to talk about the assignments they're working on, post videos of their work in progress, and of course, point out the typos in my tablature downloads. I try and leave a comment on anyone's work if they post, and while I sometimes get woefully behind, I eventually always make a point of sitting down and getting caught up, because one of the big differences for me between posting Youtube videos and making lessons for the membership is that in the membership, I actually get to see how people are getting on with the material, observe their progress, and hear what they're doing to make the songs their own.

In short, it's supposed to be this helpful thing for the members, so my sense of sheepishness stems from how much I'm getting out of the experience. Case in point: a few months into the membership, someone posted a question about a backwards rake I was doing in one of the songs I teach. It wasn't anything I had consciously built into the arrangement, so I had to go back and figure out what they were talking about, then break down what I was actually doing. I wound up making a three-minute video about the technique and posting it in the forum. Now, every few months, someone new pops up, asking about the same technique, at which point more experienced members chime in, posting a link to the original video, occasionally with some commentary of their own.

Recently, someone wrote me directly to ask about the same thing, so I had to go searching through the forum for some of these earlier threads. To my dismay (it happened over four months ago) and delight (what a find!) I came across a comment to the effect that "David always credits Roy Book Binder with this move, but anyone interested in raking technique should really check out Scrapper Blackwell's 'Blues In A' from his 1962 Prestige LP Mr. Scrapper's Blues." Since "anyone interested in raking technique" certainly sounds like, to quote Bill Murray, "Me, me....me again!" I went immediately in search of said LP, and I'm glad I did. In case you missed it, this is one of the two Blackwell LPs I posted links to in last week's newsletter.

Back in the '90s, when I was teaching in the summer with Paul Rishell and thinking I knew what hot was because it was eighty degrees Fahrenheit at 8pm in Connecticut, he talked about Scrapper Blackwell a lot. So I went and found a few of the recordings with Leroy Carr on piano and thought, well, ok, these are some alright single-note licks, but if you've heard Carl Kress or Dick McDonough, what's the big deal? I had no idea about the solo recordings. Whoever sat down with Blackwell to produce him in 1962 was evidently enough of a guitar geek to just let the man loose on four or five minutes of both "Blues in E" and "Blues in A," much like a kid let loose in a bakery would probably make at least one batch of cupcakes using nothing but frosting. But there are also earlier solo recordings, some of which are collected on a Yazoo album called The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell, which I also posted a link to last week.

Mr. Scrapper's Blues feels like the kind of record that would have changed my life if I'd heard it at sixteen or twenty. But it's still pretty glorious to hear it now, another fragment of the solo fingerstyle blues puzzle I'm still trying to piece together. In the meantime, that email about how to do a rake got me thinking, so for this week's lesson I wound up doing a blues in E mixing downward rakes on the I chord with triplet-feel chords up the neck, open position blues scale slides, and even a Muddy Waters-style turnaround. You can find it all at the link below:

Blues Techniques: Rakes, Triplets And Bass Notes In E