Ishman Bracey

  • Genres: Blues

Biography

Ishman Bracey (certain 78 rpm record labels are incorrectly spelled "Ishmon," and this has carried over in some sources) was an early figure in Mississippi Delta blues and an associate of singer Tommy Johnson. Bracey learned guitar from "Mississippi" Ruben Lacy, and starting in the 1910s he played local dances, juke joints, fish fries and other local events in rural Mississippi. Bracey first recorded for Victor in Memphis in February, 1928 with Charlie McCoy on second guitar, and the two returned to Memphis for a second batch of records on August 31 of that year. Ishman Bracey finished out his recording career at Paramount with a group called the New Orleans Nehi Boys featuring Kid Ernest Michall on clarinet and Charles Taylor on piano. Bracey also accompanied Taylor on four selections of his own. As in the case of his close friend Tommy Johnson, Ishman Bracey's recording output is small; only 16 titles in all, although four of them are known in alternate takes. Two additional titles, "Low Down Blues" and "Run to Me at Night," were apparently issued by Paramount, but have never been found. Original copies of Ishman Bracey's 78-rpm records are among the most valued items sought by blues collectors.

Of Bracey's songs, "Trouble Hearted Blues" and "Left Alone Blues" are very highly regarded, but in general his work is quite consistent and listening to his small output in its complete form certainly has its rewards. After his recording career ended, Bracey continued to perform, again with Tommy Johnson, on the medicine-show circuit. After World War II Bracey "got religion," and wasn't even interested in discussing his career as a bluesman when rediscovered in the late '50s. However, he did provide advice to researchers that led to the rediscovery of Skip James, and it is worth noting that Ishman Bracey continued to perform sacred material in local churches up until the day he died. ~ Uncle Dave Lewis, Rovi
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Ishman Bracey
Born (1901-01-09)January 9, 1901
Byram, Mississippi, United States
Died February 12, 1970(1970-02-12) (aged 69)
Jackson, Mississippi, United States
Genres Delta blues, country blues, blues
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1928–1931

Ishman Bracey (January 9, 1901 – February 12, 1970[1]) was an American blues singer and guitarist from Mississippi, considered one of the most important early delta blues performers. With Tommy Johnson, he was the center of a small Jackson, Mississippi group of blues musicians in the 1920s. His name is incorrectly spelled "Ishmon" in some sources and on some records.[1]

Contents

Biography

Bracey was born in Byram, Mississippi, and started playing at local dances and parties around 1917. He also worked as a waterboy on the Illinois Central Railroad.[1] He first recorded in Memphis in 1928 for the Victor label, with Charlie McCoy on second guitar, recording two sessions in February and August that year.[2]

At that time his style had not fully formed and his performances varied considerably, probably in his attempts to become more commercially successful. Bracey's blues "Saturday Blues" and "Left Alone Blues", used interesting variations in the usual three line verse form. Bracey was one of the few Mississippi bluesmen who sang with a nasal tone without embellishment. In "Saturday Blues" he used one of the conventional infidelity themes, but he changed the form of the verses to fit a newer melodic concept. His lyrics loosen up enough to sing about skin creams and powder advertised as being able to lighten dark skin.[citation needed]

When he recorded in 1930 his voice had darkened and he tried to use a falsetto voice in "Woman Woman Blues" with an octave leap in the second line, but the effect was clumsy and unsteady.[citation needed]

He recorded again in 1931 for Paramount Records with a group called the New Orleans Nehi Boys, which included guitarist Charles Taylor. Bracey's total recorded output is only 16 songs, and original copies of his 78-rpm records are among the most valued items sought by blues collectors. "Trouble Hearted Blues" and "Left Alone Blues" are his best known songs.[1]

He was an associate of Tommy Johnson, and the pair performed together in medicine shows in the 1930s. By the time he was "rediscovered" in the late 1950s, he had become a preacher and a performer of religious songs, and was uninterested in recording or discussing his time as a blues performer. However, he did help in the rediscovery of his contemporary Skip James.[1]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e "Biography by Uncle Dave Lewis". Allmusic.com. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p54177/biography. Retrieved December 25, 2009.
  2. ^ Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 139. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.

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