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View Full Version : Chris Thile covering 1952 VBL



Martin Jonas
Apr-11-2018, 5:17pm
This was posted today on the Richard Thompson email discussion list:



Martin
(Founder member of the RT list - going since 1993!)

billhay4
Apr-11-2018, 6:59pm
Fine job on one of my favorite tunes. My that's a fine sounding mandolin. I base that on only the first 15 seconds of the video.
Bill

jefflester
Apr-11-2018, 7:15pm
My that's a fine sounding mandolin.
A person could feel special playing such above the din

Dale Ludewig
Apr-11-2018, 8:45pm
Yeah, after I heard CT doing that this weekend on Saturday night, I listened again Sunday. And then listened a few times to Richard Thompson's, and then a couple through Del McCoury's version. All mighty fine.

Jeff Mando
Apr-11-2018, 9:04pm
All are great versions of a great song. I'd probably pick Del's version as my favorite due to his vocal and the telling of the story.

pops1
Apr-11-2018, 9:44pm
It's hard to beat Richard's version for me. Great song by a talented musician.

Jim Garber
Apr-11-2018, 10:08pm
It's hard to beat Richard's version for me. Great song by a talented musician.

+25 on RT, though all those other guys are among my favorites, too.

Ivan Kelsall
Apr-12-2018, 6:33am
I've only ever heard Del McCoury's version of it,but IMHO,CT does a great job & it's the first thing in a long time that CT's done something that i actually like ! Purely personal taste,
Ivan;)

lenf12
Apr-12-2018, 7:08am
It's a great song/story and while I much prefer RT's many versions, CT does a fine job as is Del Mc's cover. Thanks for posting Martin.

Len B.
Clearwater, FL

Mandotarian
Apr-12-2018, 7:46am
While we are talking about different versions of this, I've always liked this one by Sean Rowe. But yea, tough to top RT's original.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrGOs1a1lOk

billhay4
Apr-12-2018, 10:55am
Yes, Sean's version is something else.
Bill

gschmidt
Apr-12-2018, 1:50pm
All are great versions of a great song. I'd probably pick Del's version as my favorite due to his vocal and the telling of the story.

Not to mention a smokin' hot mandolin break. That break is how my breaks would sound in my dreams. Absolutely perfect.

JeffD
Apr-12-2018, 2:03pm
In my opinion the criteria needs to be does the artist "get it". The song itself is so great, that every little thing in the performance needs to be in support of the feeling of the song.

Thile did a great job, no question. But I put him third. IMO Sean Rowe's version gets it the best, or at least tied, with Richard Thompson's.

What Thile did great, IMO, is prove the mandolin, or his playing, isn't always the point, and that the mandolin can be in service of a good song. In the mando-centric performances, I like his the best. One hears the song, and the narrative of the song, and then realizes oh yea, its a mandolin.

CES
Apr-12-2018, 2:33pm
Mighty fine, indeed. Thanks for posting the Sean Roe version as well, hadn’t seen that one. I’m sure there are some bad versions of that song out there, but it’s such a great song that I’ve yet to hear one...

PJ Doland
Apr-12-2018, 3:22pm
I'm usually not a fan of artists monkeying unnecessarily with lyrics, but I do love how in Del McCoury's version the original "Box Hill" becomes "Knoxville."

sblock
Apr-12-2018, 3:36pm
This thread would not be complete without everyone having a chance to listen to Richard Thompson's original treatment, complete with fingerpicked guitar accompaniment. Especially if you're used to the Del McCoury version. Thompson uses an open tuning and capos up to sing it in Bb. Chris Thile sings it in C.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0kJdrfzjAg

John Adrihan
Apr-12-2018, 4:09pm
In my opinion the criteria needs to be does the artist "get it". The song itself is so great, that every little thing in the performance needs to be in support of the feeling of the song.

Thile did a great job, no question. But I put him third. IMO Sean Rowe's version gets it the best, or at least tied, with Richard Thompson's.

What Thile did great, IMO, is prove the mandolin, or his playing, isn't always the point, and that the mandolin can be in service of a good song. In the mando-centric performances, I like his the best. One hears the song, and the narrative of the song, and then realizes oh yea, its a mandolin.

I agree with Jeff here.

JonZ
Apr-12-2018, 7:05pm
All are great versions of a great song. I'd probably pick Del's version as my favorite due to his vocal and the telling of the story.

If you analyze what each instrument is doing throughout the Del version, it really is a master class in Bluegrass arranging. There is so much going on, but it is all so tasteful. The drive is perfect for a motorcycle song, it builds to that great hallucinatory crescendo, and then you have Del's conversational singing style (best since Nat King Cole) on top.

PJ Doland
Apr-13-2018, 12:16pm
The banjo is a 998cc V-twin engine in the Del version, particularly when everything else cuts out around 3 minutes in. It's perfect, so long as you're OK with the Britishness being stripped away from the song entirely.

Jeff Mando
Apr-13-2018, 2:28pm
It's perfect, so long as you're OK with the Britishness being stripped away from the song entirely.

My relatives came over from Wales four generations ago and to be honest, I still have trouble understanding some of the older ones. ;) I'm guessing without the Del version becoming so popular, I doubt if many here would have even been familiar with the Richard Thompson version, looking it up long after the fact.....:whistling:

c'mon, be honest.................................

Ivan Kelsall
Apr-14-2018, 3:49am
From Jeff above - "..I doubt if many here would have even been familiar with the Richard Thompson version..." Me for one Jeff !.

I have to admit to being puzzled by a song regarding a classic British motor cycle sung by an American Bluegrass band,
Ivan:confused:

lenf12
Apr-14-2018, 9:02am
I'm guessing without the Del version becoming so popular, I doubt if many here would have even been familiar with the Richard Thompson version, looking it up long after the fact.....:whistling:

c'mon, be honest.................................

Some of us have been aware of Richard Thompson since the 1960's Fairport Convention releases, performances with his wife Linda and later performances with his electric bands. I've seen him live several times in my hometown of Providence, RI. The Del McCoury Band came much later into my awareness. This thread is my first exposure to Sean Rowe and he is a great interpreter of the raw emotion of this song and much closer to Richard Thompson's performance than to the Del McCoury Band's, but they are all great.

Ivan, I have to admit to being puzzled by your lack of familiarity with a fellow Brit of such extraordinary writing, playing and performing stature as Richard Thompson. He's the real deal, even from this Yank's perspective across the pond.

Len B.
Clearwater, FL

Polecat
Apr-14-2018, 10:07am
I have to admit to being puzzled by a song regarding a classic British motor cycle sung by an American Bluegrass band,
Ivan:confused:

Maybe an australian would be less confusing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wirxd8q39-A

Martin Jonas
Apr-14-2018, 11:46am
Some of us have been aware of Richard Thompson since the 1960's Fairport Convention releases, performances with his wife Linda and later performances with his electric bands.

I think outside the global mega stars, "fame" is quite compartmentalised. Because of the close association of the mandolin with bluegrass, Del McCoury is a big deal here on the Cafe. Richard Thompson has been a big deal in UK folk circles since the late 1960s, and became a big deal in US alt.rock/indy music in the 1980s with "Shoot Out The Lights". In the UK, RT is clearly the bigger name. In the US, it's harder to say who of the two is the bigger draw in absolute numbers (gig attendance, albums sales, money made, media appearances, or however you want to measure it), but I would think that RT and Del have relatively little overlap in core audience. RT has been a darling of the rock music press for a long time, so many mainstream rock listeners at least know his name, while Del gets recognised by mainstream country listeners even if they don't go out of their way to find bluegrass.

For me personally, I have been a fan of Fairport and RT since the 1980s, but the first time I heard Del McCoury's name was when he covered VBL. I only got to know bluegrass a bit better after taking up the mandolin, some years later.

Martin

Mark Seale
Apr-14-2018, 12:38pm
Another great version:

Jeff Mando
Apr-14-2018, 1:40pm
Another great version:


Cool version. With the exception of the singer who looks like a young Michael Stipe, the other three look like they could be in a Kingston Trio tribute band. I also noted how much buzz the guitarist thinks is acceptable on his solo -- I realize he is really "digging in" -- but seems like a lot of buzz to me. (small criticism of a nice performance)

I did a quick search on youtube and see that 52 Vincent Black Lightning is now a bluegrass staple, I say bluegrass, whatever this modern type of bluegrass is called......the term newgrass is almost 50 years old at this point....so not sure what to call it, but like the old judge said, "I know it when I see it!" :grin:

Paul Kotapish
Apr-14-2018, 1:52pm
Del and the boys were definitely not my introduction to the song.

While I like both the Thiele and McCoury versions, the Richard Thompson original will alway be my standard. I've been listening to him do -- in concerts and on vinyl -- since he released it on Rumor and Sigh back in '91 or so.

JonZ
Apr-14-2018, 5:09pm
Maybe an australian would be less confusing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wirxd8q39-A

Now that’s a solo version with drive.

The most meta version would have to be The Red Molly Band’s.
Lovely harmonies, too.

JeffD
Apr-14-2018, 7:59pm
I'm guessing without the Del version becoming so popular, I doubt if many here would have even been familiar with the Richard Thompson version, looking it up long after the fact......

Really? See I kind of thought most people at least had heard of him even if if not familiar with his songs. Did you notice it was Suzanne Vega and Louden Wainright III on the stage with Richard Thompson? I assume a lot of folks have heard about them.

LWIII especially relevant here because his Charlie Poole tribute CD collection included Chris Thile here and there.

foldedpath
Apr-15-2018, 12:20am
Del and the boys were definitely not my introduction to the song.

While I like both the Thiele and McCoury versions, the Richard Thompson original will alway be my standard. I've been listening to him do -- in concerts and on vinyl -- since he released it on Rumor and Sigh back in '91 or so.

Yeah, what I think many people miss about this song is that it's a British folk song. It's been co-opted as Americana, but listen to the lyrics. The phrasing is British, the motor bike is a British machine, and "Down to Boxhill they'd ride." It's pure Richard Thompson at his folkie best.

Not to take away from all the other interpretations, and I think Chris Thile did a great job of putting heart and soul into his singing of the tune. But listen closely to Thompson's version, including his fingerpicking, and nothing will beat it for me. You can Bluegrass it up, but it's like trying to cover a Dylan song.

Ivan Kelsall
Apr-15-2018, 4:08am
Hi Len - I know Richard Thompson very well - just not the VBL song. RT vanished from my 'musical radar' quite a while back along with many other British 'Folkies',
Ivan

Anglocelt
Apr-15-2018, 6:47am
The banjo is a 998cc V-twin engine in the Del version, particularly when everything else cuts out around 3 minutes in. It's perfect, so long as you're OK with the Britishness being stripped away from the song entirely.
The only bit of Britishness McCourt changed was the place name. Everything else is still in there, including the potentially misunderstood bit about 'Indians having no soul' (Indians were a make of British motorbike).
I am a bit surprised that more Richard Thompson songs have not been adopted by bluegrass bands; he has written loads of great pacy songs.
Kevin

Ivan Kelsall
Apr-16-2018, 3:07am
'' Indian '' was a brand of US made motor cycles :- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Motocycle_Manufacturing_Company
Geoff Stelling was the proud owner of an Indian 'Chief' motor cycle, & produced a Banjo comemorating that model - " No. 3727 First ''Indian Chief'', presented to the Indian Motorcycle Company in 1991 ",
Ivan;)

PJ Doland
Apr-24-2018, 10:28am
To be accurate, from 1955 to 1960 Indians were rebadged (British) Royal Enfield motorcycles.

Also worth noting that from time to time Thompson substitutes various makes in that particularly line. I assume he's pandering to us British motorbike enthusiasts, while simultaneously denigrating our ride of choice.

On Rumor and Sigh he sings:

"Now Nortons and Indians and Greeveses won't do / They don't have a soul like a Vincent '52."

On Acoustic Classics recording he sings:

"Triumphs and Nortons and Beezas [BSAs] won't do / They don't have a soul like a Vincent '52"

pops1
Apr-24-2018, 11:30am
On Acoustic Classics recording he sings:

"Triumphs and Nortons and Beezas [BSAs] won't do / They don't have a soul like a Vincent '52"

He is talking about Greeves motorcycles not BSA. It was also a British motorcylce and he says Greevesas won't do. The '52 Vincent he is talking about is specifically the '52 Vincent Black Lightning, most think it was the best motorcycle ever produced.

My dad rode one of the real Indian motorcycles, his was a 1940. They were a great motorcycle and visually stunning. Harley's rival at the time.

When I first heard this song he was still with Linda, don't know how long ago that was, but a while ago.

PJ Doland
Apr-24-2018, 11:48am
On the original Rumor and Sigh album recording it's Greeveses (plural of Greeves).

But, as I said, changes it on other recordings. Listen to the Acoustic Classics version (https://open.spotify.com/track/29Uc4AJaMD3tfXCBVyJaib?si=tk7Xd2JkSPi0dMJ2xM4MRw) at 3'55"

It's clearly "Beezas" there. Which is a nickname that even BSA used in their own 1960's advertising.

167044

And that's actually the bike I ride. :grin:

Martin Jonas
Apr-24-2018, 11:49am
He is talking about Greeves motorcycles not BSA. It was also a British motorcylce and he says Greevesas won't do. The '52 Vincent he is talking about is specifically the '52 Vincent Black Lightning, most think it was the best motorcycle ever produced.

My dad rode one of the real Indian motorcycles, his was a 1940. They were a great motorcycle and visually stunning. Harley's rival at the time.

When I first heard this song he was still with Linda, don't know how long ago that was, but a while ago.

Putting my RT geek hat on: the song was written around 1990 and appeared on Thompson's 1991 album "Rumor & Sigh". As he split up with Linda in 1982, your memory must play you a trick.

PJ is right in saying that RT has made many changes to the line-up of other (inferior) bikes over the years -- the original studio recording from 1991 differs from the recent re-recording on his "Acoustic Classics" solo studio album. So, you are right that is was Greeves on the original, and PJ is right that it's BSA on the re-recording.

Martin
[Edit: my post crossed with PJ's...]

pops1
Apr-24-2018, 12:15pm
Putting my RT geek hat on: the song was written around 1990 and appeared on Thompson's 1991 album "Rumor & Sigh". As he split up with Linda in 1982, your memory must play you a trick.

At my age my memory plays tricks on me daily.

JeffD
Apr-24-2018, 1:15pm
Not to take away from all the other interpretations, and I think Chris Thile did a great job of putting heart and soul into his singing of the tune. But listen closely to Thompson's version, including his fingerpicking, and nothing will beat it for me. You can Bluegrass it up, but it's like trying to cover a Dylan song.

That is the wonder of music. You an make interpretations and add and subtract, without destroying the original.

While I enjoy the bluegrassy versions, a lot, I have to say the original RT does things for me that the others don't. There is a sensibility to the story that, to my experience, has its parallels in so many British folk songs and stories.

That is the whole thing about tradition - good music is good music and can be transported just about anywhere. But there is a "meaning" to a song or a tune, that comes directly from the tradition of which it is a part, and tapping into that meaning adds so much to the appreciation of it.

I am sure there are a few, if not many, British performers who have done, "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive". And done it well. Very well. Made everyone appreciate it. But whoa, when it is done in its original context it can make you cry.

I am 100% behind sharing and appropriating songs, from everywhere, but I am also 100% behind enjoying what makes each of our traditions unique and wonderful.

There is another thread on the effects of homogenization of musics and cultures, and if it means some future listener won't be able to appreciate it in its original context, (which it need not BTW) then we have lost something important. IMO, YMMV etc. etc.