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Mance Lipscombe - Texas Blues GuitarThe Blues of 'Mance The Man' Lipscombe -

Texas Blues Guitar Player

I was browsing around Youtube blues music video a few years back and I came across an old TV film of Texas blues man Mance Lipscombe. he played two or three songs - one 'hokum' bit of nonsense, typical of the lighter entertainment blues men gathered in their traveling minstrel days, another one he wrote and Goin' Down Slow.

This song was also performed in a slower, different style by fellow Texas blues guitar player Lightnin' Hopkins. They both played the monotonic bass style of thumb strike, but their approach was a little different.

Mance's Blues Finger Picking Technique

What really freaked me out about Mance's playing was the fact that he had a huge bandage wrapped around the third finger of his picking hand! It didn't seem to bother his technique much and I was full of admiration.

Acoustic Blues Guitar Video Lesson Preview - Goin' Down Slow by Mance Lipscomb.

This was the real blues played by a real blues man, and little niceties didn't really have any part to play here. During my own travels I met guitar players who were very careful about their manicures, talking about angle of attack and such stuff. I was the same in my younger days. We never realized that it doesn't matter - nor does it matter if you have a cheap guitar, just pick it up and play it, that's what it's all about.

The Blues Beat - The Monotonic Bass Thumb Strike, Mance Lipscombe Style

Bog Bill Broonzy - Swing Guitar BluesOther blues guitar players used the monotonic bass thumb strike to good effect, like Broonzy for example, but even Broonzy fretted the bass note with certain chords. Mance plays Goin' Down slow without fretting a bass note at all, and it does'nt seem strange to the ears. All the blues mens techniques are slightly different from each other and Lipscombe's is no exception

- his style is full of personal tricks and acquired habits, which makes it tough to copy at times. To make this happen, its important to damp down the strings using mostly the palm of the picking hand, but also sometimes we use the fretting hand as well.

Mance the Man Lipscombe - Acoustic Blues Guitar WizardWith the palm technique, we simply hold the palm very close to the bass strings , or even hold it lightly on them the whole time.

When the string is hit, we can detect the note, but it mostly sounds like a heavy 'thud', more like a drum beat, which is exactly the effect the old blues guys were looking for. The left hand technique is notably different, and isn't used with Lipscombe's style as he doesn't ever fret andy bass notes - Broonzy does this from time to time.

After hitting a bass note that's fretted, life the finger slightly immediately after the strike and the note is cut off. I use this technique a lot, and generally my playing in any style incorporates the two techniques, depending on the kind of music I'm playing and what effect I want to pass over.

There's other stuff going on in this piece, and some of it I haven't been able to pin down, like the strange 'double shuffle' at the end of many musical phrases, so I've been content to focus on the heavy beat and trying to get the overall flavor, instead of trying to copy everything faithfully.

This is a good guideline for all our blues guitar covers - if we can't get every thing as it was played (for this is our goal) then at least we can go for the authentic flavor - so if we simplify at all, we should be careful not to lose the feeling.

Born in April 9, 1895 Mance lived the best part of his life making a living as a farmer using someone else's land in Texas. He was recorded  in the early 60s and became a stalwart of the blues revival blossoming at that time. His blues, hokum and ragtime albms (Arhoolie ) featured himself accompanied by acoustic guitar.

He used a damped monotonic bass fingerpicking guitar style, and his voice was very descriptive and appealing. Lipscomb played with a partner, Sam Rogers, performing old songs such as Sugar Babe and other Tin Pan Alley songs.

The early 60s saw several releases and apearances at major folk festival venues.

He learned to fingerpick guitar when quite young and performed often for years in his own area, for partes and celebrations. He and his wife also use to arrange special Saturday Night Suppers, where he would play. He played mostly close to his home town of Navasota up until 1960.

After he was discovered (he was never lost!), Mance was never far from the folk blues boom action, playing at many festivals throughout the US.

He had a stroke in 1974 and pass on two years later.

Rating: 9 out of 10
Author: Jim Bruce
Date: 2012/01
Category: Music

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