blues folk and classical

So I’ve decided to expand my mainly rock CD collection with some music recorded before 1957. I have a little knowledge of blues and folk–I like Bessie Smith, Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams (who’s kinda neither of those), Vera Hill (who is singing on that “Natural Blues” song by Moby–I don’t know if I like that or not), and, of course, Billie Holiday. Can anyone recommend some more blues or folk that you think I would enjoy?
Unfortunatly, I have very little knowledge of classical. I like Ravel’s “Bolero” Beethoven’s 4 and 5, and The Nutcracker. Any suggestions here?

As soon as he gets home, I’m going to show my husband your post, ThisYearsGirl. He’s a blues musician, and based on what you’ve said you like, he’ll have tons of suggestions for you. He’s heavily in to roots music, and he’s got plenty of good stuff here he could recommend.

You mention Hank Williams. If you like him, you might be interested in Buck Owens. Most people associate him with Hee Haw, of course, but his music is actually quite good, if you like that country pickin’ thang. There’s a newer group called Big Sandy and the Fly-Right Boys that I think you might enjoy as well. If you like great music with absolutely the cheesiest lyrics ever, check out Junior Brown. The man is an absolute monster player. He plays this thing called a “guit-steel.” It’s a combination guitar/steel guitar. One of the strangest looking instruments I’ve ever seen, but he just sets that thing on fire. Tear the top of your head off, he will!

Can’t help you with the classical. I’m not really a fan, myself!

Persephone - Buck Owens and Junior Brown are both great, but I think ThisYearsGirl is asking for more traditional sounding music.

I recommend “Folk Songs of the Hills” by Merle Travis. His rendition of “Barbara Allen” is by itself worth the price of the cd.

You might also want to listen to Leadbelly, the Carter Family, Uncle Dave Macon, the Delmore Brothers, and Jimmie Rodgers - the singing brakeman, not the “honeycomb” guy.

You asked for classical suggestions…

–Wagner’s piece “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral.” It is absolutely gorgeous, and still sends goosebumps up my spine. (Kind of hard to find; I’m partial to the Eastman Wind Ensemble’s version of it)

–“La Belle Helene” overture by Offenbach. Starts out innocently enough, switches to a sweeping soft part, and ends with the most kick-ass cymbal part I ever played :wink:
Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops did a whole CD of Offenbach’s music…including the infamous can-can music. I think it’s called Vive La France.

–The “Classical Thunder” series is pretty good, actually, if you’re looking to buy some CDs.

That’s my 15 centimes.

If you like Beethoven, get his 9th, too. My favorite. His 7th ain’t bad, either.

Other classical music I like:

Tchaikovsky – 6th Symphony.
Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overture (though it’s by far the best idea to hear it live with real cannons).
Rossini – any collection of his overtures.
Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue
Bach – Brandenburg Concertos (I like #3 the best)

Blues – that covers a lot of ground and it’s hard to know what you’d like. Some suggestions:

Robert Johnson
Howlin’ Wolf
Muddy Waters

There are also some nice compliation CDs around.

I love Baroque, but lets not be parochial :slight_smile:

Siegfried’s funeral march - Wagner
The third symphony - gorecki
Any Bach :slight_smile:
Chopin - 99% of it

Where does one stop ?

There’s so much! Gotta plug some of my favorites.

Beethoven - Symphonies 3,6,9
Debussy - Nocturnes
Ravel - Daphnis and Chloe (look for “suite #2” or entire ballet)

There’s a nice collection of popular, quiet classics titled “Nocturne.” (London 463 635-2) If you run across it, buy it. It’s got Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” Vaughn Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,” and other nice stuff.

Other classical suggestions:

Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto in D Minor
Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring
Mozart, anything, but my favorite is Symphony No. 40 in G minor (if you’ve ever seen Amadeus, this plays over the opening credits)
Everything by Bach

I’ve worn out more copies of “1812 Overture” than I’d care to think about. You have to get a copy with good cannons and heavy bells, or it sounds too weak. London Symphany is the standard others are measured by.

Bizet - Les Toreadors
Bach - Brandenburg Concerto #2 (Allegro assai)


Buddy Guy
BB King
John Lee Hooker
Elmore James
Albert King
Muddy Waters
Howlin’ Wolf
Willie Dixon
Robert Johnson
Missippi John Hurt
Lightnin’ Hopkins
Blind Willie Johnson
Etta James
Jimmy Reed


Joni Mitchell
Bob Dylan
Nick Drake
Patty Griffin
Woody Gunthrie
take a listen to these artists and see what you like, these are just some that i recommend checking out… have fun!

Perhaps the best way to find out about classical music is to get hold of a few collections of popular pieces. Have a listen then follow the leads from what you find appealing. The good thing about compilations is that they are always a mixed bag, with something for everyone. As classical music can be somewhat obscure to track down, the compilation albums will give the composer’s name and the title of the selected piece, enabling you to follow a few leads.

How about listening to your local classical radio station? when your ears perk up, wait till the end and get the name of the composition. Who knows…you may prefer Janacek and Webern to Mozart and Beethoven.

For some nifty folk music, try the New Lost City Ramblers (Mike Seeger [Pete’s brother] on fiddle, plus banjo and guitar). They did some great recordings of “old-timey” music from the 20s and 30s back in the late 50s and early 60s…so now their recordings are older than the “old” music was when they recorded them.

If you’re just starting to get into classical, a good way to go are the “Best Of” CDs. Get them by period, not by composer, i.e. “Best of Baroque, Classical, Romantic, etc.” You’ll have the best chance of locating your taste that way. Though these kinds of compilations tend to be very mainstream. You’ll have plenty of time to experiment later.

And I happen to prefer Janacek to Mozart. Too bad most of his works are never performed in America. I did see the Makropoulos Case, though. Brilliant it was.


With all due respect to the previous posters, the lists of blues musicians already posted, while very well in their way, don’t do anything to indicate why TYG ought to be listening to the musicians mentioned. I had composed a detailed reply right after the OP, but it died a flaming death when my box crashed near the end. I’ll leave the classical and folk to those better qualified than myself, but here’s my Blues Starter Kit. This is a list not necessarily of my favorites, but of the figures you have to be familiar with (in my opinion) to understand and appreciate the genre as a whole and to assess any individual musician’s place in it. For each, I mention my nominee for the best one-shot introduction to their work, trying to limit myself to one- or two-disc packages that are still in print. Further caveat: I like my blues homegrown – the farther it gets from the Delta, the less I’m inclined to like it. As much as I love Hound Dog Taylor (and I’d probably rather listen to Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers than just about anything else), that’s about as citified as I can take, which is why Buddy Guy, Albert King, T-Bone Walker, et. al. aren’t on my list.

[li]Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers, Columbia Records. The one to have if you’re having only one. No other blues musician has had anything like the influence that Johnson did. There were bluesmen before him (Charlie Patton, Son House), and there have been many after him, but if you ask any true blues fan, his name’s going to be the first one mentioned. I can’t think of another major genre so dominated by the influence of a single figure.[/li][li]Elmore James, The Sky Is Crying: The History of Elmore James, Rhino Records. What Robert Johnson is to blues in general, Elmore James is to slide guitar blues. And he gets at least one vote as the second most influential bluesman of all time.[/li][li]Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), His Best, MCA/Chess Records. There are two Sonny Boy Williamsons, one whose real name was John Lee Williamson, one whose real name was Rice Miller (or some variant thereof) and who called himself Sonny Boy Williamson on broadcasts of the King Biscuit Time radio show from KFFA to capitalize on the popularity of the “real” Sonny Boy Williamson, who disdained playing in the South after moving to Chicago. Why is the imitation better than the “real” thing? Well, they’re both pretty good harp players in their own way and both were pretty well-known, but Rice Miller lived a lot longer and wrote more material that’s entered the canon of blues, not to mention having more contact with later generations of blues musicians.[/li][li]Howlin’ Wolf, His Best, MCA/Chess Records. Delta blues moves to town – Memphis, that is. Howlin’ Wolf made his name and reputation on KWEM as a radio performer, with strong material, a distinctive vocal style, driving harp playing, and Willie Johnson’s previously unheard-of guitar style behind him. Then on to Chicago, where Hubert Sumlin took over most of the guitar playing and Willie Dixon most of the songwriting, to incredibly good effect.[/li][/ul]

Yeah, you ought to listen to some B.B. King, some John Lee Hooker, some Jimmy Reed, some Robert Jr. Lockwood, some Lightnin’ Hopkins, some Mississippi Fred McDowell, etc. But knowing the first four will set you up nicely for the rest.

Saint-Saens, Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”). I can listen to this over and over again. Also, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia in C-minor.

There are many, many others.

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but if you want to hear a phenomenal Folk Artist, you can do no better than John Prine.

There is an excellent two-CD compilation of John Prine’s best stuff available. It’s called the “Great Days Anthology”, and it is absolutely wonderful. Here is a link to the CDNow page, including some MPEG samples of some of his best songs:*JOHN/DDCN=SD-8122+71400+2

If you want a slightly cheaper intro to his music, pick up “John Prine”, his debut album (and best), or “Prime Prine”, an early greatest hits collection. Both of those can often be found in ‘Price Saver’ issues for something like 7-8 bucks.

I’d also recommend Bob Dylan’s “Biograph” box set. It’s expensive as it has 5 CD’s, but worth it.

For blues, I have to second the Robert Johnson suggestion above. If you want to ease into the blues, you might try “From the Cradle” by Eric Clapton, which is a collection of covers of some classic blues music. Then go out and buy the originals of the stuff you like.

One more blues reccomendations: T-bone Walker.

rackensack, once again you have shown yourself to be one of the dandiest members of the SDMB. Excellent post.

If you don’t mind my weaseling in, I’d like to throw out a recommendation for Charley Patton, arguably the first great Delta bluesman. He’s pretty earthy and coarse, so he’s an acquired taste, but I think of him as the font from whom all else flowed. Yazoo Records has a couple of well-priced discs of his work available.

Yazoo also did a stellar collection of Ma Rainey tunes, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, just so ThisYearsGirl doesn’t get the impression that all great blues artists were boys.

I love T-Bone Walker, too. His T-Bone Blues (Atlantic) is a must-have in any electric blues collection. And look for any of his collaborations with blues saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson.

I started extending my all rock collection a couple years ago. I first started with the stuff you mentioned so I think i know where your coming from. Oh yeah, first off, Congratulations for expanding!!

For blues I would reccomend a box set called:
Southern Country Blues - It’s 3 cds, i think it says Boogie Alley on it but i can’t find it at It’s awesome though, it has artists from the 20s-50s. I will try to continue to look for it and post a link later.

Others here have also made some great suggestions. I would second:
Bob Dylan
Robert Johnson

Get greatest works or compilations cds from:
Mozart, Strauss, Rossini, Vivaldi, Chopin
Get everything from:
Beethoveen, and Bach

Try some jazz. Try the best of the Blue Note years. You can pick your fav’s from there and buy their cds.
I also recommend:
Miles Davis - Kind of blue, Sketches of Spain, Jack Johnson, Bitches Brew.
Those are must have’s for any rock/jazz fan.
George Gershwin - Rhapsody in blue