Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

April 23, 2011

Springtime Country Blues Explosion, Part One

Filed under: music — paragardener @ 8:42 pm

Ah, springtime in Michigan, the muddy interlude between snow and Deep-South-like heat and humidity. A time for joy and renewed hope…

Meanwhile… even “liberal” MSNBC-friendly pundits are accepting the line that “entitlements” — most of which are directly paid for with their own special taxes — must be cut to save the U.S. budget. Never mind that a powerful company like General Electric doesn’t pay any taxes at all. Not to mention the costs of maintaining a military presence in over 150 countries or paying off financial terrorists (“bail me out or the whole system will collapse!”). Might as well ignore those issues, ’cause the new leadership has already decided to take granny’s pension money (while carefully, gently taxing the wealthy, the sacred and magical source of jobs.) Blechchh!

My point being – we Americans are rolling over to the money power and demonstrating our willingness to accept the sort of “austerity measures” the rest of the world’s people would riot over. So we are screwed. So we are all going to be singing the blues very soon.

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Lemon Jefferson was a Texas sharecropper’s son, born blind. As a young man he began playing guitar for hustlers — pimps and bootleggers — eventually moving up to better venues and being taken to Chicago to record in the middle of the Roaring Twenties. His success selling tracks with only himself for accompaniment opened the way for the one-man, one-guitar style of country blues mainly being venerated here. You may be able to afford producing this style of music straight through an economic collapse.

Shuckin’ Sugar:

Blind Lemon Jefferson collection at archive.org

Big Bill Broonzy

Broonzy was a sharecropper from Arkansas. He didn’t like coming back to Arkansas and being called “boy” after serving in World War I, so he left for Chicago where there were opportunities for musicians. During the 30’s, he played electrified, fully-arranged, urban blues, and during the 50’s, just to be difficult, he went for an acoustic guitar and an identity as a folk musician. He probably presented the world with the most songs and the broadest range of ideas of any blues player.

Worryin’ You Offa My Mind: Sony Music Entertainment will not allow me to embed this clip, though the song is in the public domain. I thought the entertainment industry wanted us all to obey copyright law on the Internet, but I see now that it was always a one-way street.

Post-psychedelic rock cover by LazyTwo:

Bill Broonzy collection at archive.org

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson was raised in a musical family in New Orleans. In 1917 he went on a tour to England, then returned in 1918 to find his entire family, save one brother, dead of the flu! Besides suffering the blues, Lonnie Johnson was a jazz-friendly player who perhaps invented the single-string, picked guitar solo now standard in all rock, blues and country tracks.

A note-for-note cover of Away Down in the Alley Blues:

Blind Willie McTell

Blind from childhood, Willie became a wandering street singer after his mother died and he had no reason to stay near his Statesboro home. He produced no real hits, but recorded many singles nonetheless.

Statesboro Blues

Fred McDowell

Fred McDowell played back in the day with these other bluesmen, but didn’t achieve fame until after World War II. He is credited with popularizing the “North Mississippi” style of blues, which is a little more African and less urbane than the famous Delta blues. Much music in this style is put out by Fat Possum Records.

Kokomo Me!

You Got to Move:

Robert Johnson

Of course, Robert Johnson traded his soul for musical talent at the crossroads, rambled from town to town womanizing, was poisoned over an affair, and died recanting the devil’s music. It should be taught in the schools, really.

Travelling Riverside Blues

Believe I’ll Dust My Broom

Glad to see Sony is protecting another dead artist from the abuse of Youtube embeds — I’m sure the money they make is really going back to Johnson’s relatives down South, right?

Well, that’s one part of three. During part two, there will be some information about playing guitar, and in part three, I will slap you with more harsh realities (I’m not being glum, I’m helping to draw out your inner sharecropper).

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2 Comments »

  1. Just the other night your dad and I were listening to the Allman Bros. version of Statesboro Blues. Another thought: although I know you can’t stand Eric Clapton, at least he deserves credit for appreciating the blues and, like other rock musicians, honoring as well as covering that music. And yet another thought, or memory, is of John Gorka’s reference to the blues singer known as Slow Blind Driveway …

    Comment by estraven — April 25, 2011 @ 11:49 am

    • Heh heh heh Slow Blind Driveway… a damn significant proportion of these guys were -blind-! Just so you know there is at least 1 female coming up in this three-part series… most of the women in the eldest blues were singers in front of a band, not the obsessive lone wolves with guitars that I for some reason study. And Clapton… he has his moments, I should really give up ripping on him for the wimpy voice he affects while faking some hypothetical amalgam American accent… ’cause it doesn’t mean a lot until I can play like him.

      Comment by paragardener — April 26, 2011 @ 6:27 am


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