Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Factory Blues

Yesterday, I was hard at work sorting building plans for an architectural company. I couldn't move the plans from the room they were located in because they were so old and liable to crumble away. The room was a factory type room with asbestos warning signs and a noticeable smell of natural gas, machinery, and just general death. The whole place looked depressing as hell and like it would probably give me mesothelioma if I stuck around for too long.

That got me to thinking about blues. A factory seems to me much much more depressing than any farmer's field could be - so why aren't there more songs about factory blues? The location of factories wasn't where the country blues was happening at the time, but there was blues to be found in the east as well. Blind Blake sang about his steel mill blues in 1927 but that's all I can think of off the top of my head. Seems like an untapped wellspring of songwriting to me.

An Assortment of Random Good Music

No overall theme to this post today, just sharing some random good music for you all.

Big Rock Candy Mountain

Recorded in 1928, it tells the story of a sort of hobo paradise.

Stop Breaking Down - Rolling Stones

This song is off of Exile on Main St and is a cover of the Robert Johnson original from the 30s. Not my favorite cover of Stop Breaking Down, but that's only because the two others are unbelievably good (will post them later. This is still a fantastic song.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Black Keys - Part one

Today, I want to introduce the Black Keys - if you didn't know of them already. I'm reluctant to call them "blues rock" because that makes me think of Cream or Led Zeppelin (not really blues), and the Keys have a WAY more soulful, simple, and trashy blues sound then any typical blues rock band. I like to file it under "Modern Blues" because I think that is essentially what it is - It's not a fusion of anything, not even rock - it's just what modern one man blues sounds like. If blues had directly evolved from the one guy and a guitar style that I post about, it would have come to sound like this, but instead it somehow went in that crappy generic boogie woogie direction that eventually led to Cream, The Rolling Stones, etc.

Anyway, this is a selection of my favorite songs off of their debut album. This and their second album are definitely the most blues influenced. Later they start to wander into other musical territories. Favorite selections from other albums will come later, so check back!

Brooklyn Bound

Leavin' Trunk

Do the Rump

Heavy Soul

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lord, Send me an Angel

This is a fantastic song by Blind Willie McTell. In those days, a bluesman could maximize his profits by recording the same song for different record companies, under different names. Blind Willie recorded many versions of this song under different names and giving the song a different name too. Of course, when you listen to it you can tell who it is and how it's really the same song with modified lyrics or a variation on the melody. Below are my favorite versions of "Lord, Send me an Angel" (yes there actually are more)

Lord, Send me an Angel - White Stripes

The White Stripes cover absolutely deserves mention here because it manages to preserve an old time blues feel even with the higher fidelity recording. I think the woody old time sound of the guitar and that very mild distortion of Jack's voice make the song.

Searching the Desert for the Blues

Recorded under the name Hot Shot Willie, McTell really nails it on this song. The recording quality is quite good for 1933 and you can really hear the jangle of his 12 string guitar - not something I can say for all his other recordings. The inclusion of the female voice answering his verses is also pretty funny.

Ticket Agent Blues

This is another great version. The noticeable reverb effect on the whole recording gives this whole song a really great feel. Some of the lyric changes used for this version are really top notch too. I believe this is the version the White Stripes covered (with lyrics thrown in from the others, too).

Lord Send Me an Angel

This versions is recorded in 1933 without accompaniment from a female singer. The guitar work is fairly clear in this recording so you can pick out the nice jumpy rhythm he's playing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

St. James Infirmary

This is one of those songs that everyone seems to have a version of. Some a direct cover, others use the melody with their own lyrics. It's transcended the borders between blues, jazz and swing, and it's transformed lyrically so much that it's hard to tell what it started out as. Below are my favorite versions.

St. James Infirmary Blues - White Stripes

I think the White Stripes version is the best, and it's one of my favorite songs of all time. It's absolutely haunting. Not sure I've ever heard a more chilling song.

St. James Infirmary Blues - The Wild Cards

Another fantastic version is a little known cover by The Wildcards. It has a swing vibe with some fantastic guitar work.

The next best is the Bob Dylan version, which uses the melody of the song but replaces the lyrics with his own words. That song is called "Blind Willie McTell", and unfortunately appears to have been pulled from youtube and is not able to be uploaded with my usual mp3 upload service. If I can find a way to get it to you, I'll edit this post.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Love These Days

September to December is my favorite time of the year. I love the cold days, the cloudy and grey sunlessness of it all. Living in Southern California doesn't give me much opportunity to enjoy days like that. As Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas come around, some of my music choices mellow to reflect the weather. A slow jazz number like this one below is a great compliment to a day where you want to bundle up and stay warm.

Bye Bye Blackbird

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Alison Krauss

Not old and not exactly blues, but still so full of soul and melody that I can't help but post it. Her music has an old American folk-ish feel that I really dig. Here's three of my favorites:

Scarlet Tide

You Will Be My Ain True Love

Down to the River to Pray

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nasty Blues

I have a hard time missing you baby, with my pistol in your mouth

Mmmm have a hard time missing you baby, with my pistol in your mouth

You may be thinking 'bout going north, but your brains are staying south

Just roll your pretty eyes, if you intend to stay

Just roll your pretty eyes, if you intend to stay

Close 'em up again, and I blow your world away

I see your eyes are rollin'

Must mean your love for me has come back

Must mean you're satisfied again

With our little wooden country shack

I have a hard time missing you baby, with my pistol in your mouth

You may be thinking about going north woman, but your brains are staying south

Even if you sneak away

I'll find you before nightfall

You're tied to me girl

I can feel your sweetblood call

Even if you sneak away

I'll find you before nightfall

Caused you are tied to me girl

I can feel your sweetblood call


Look-a here mama.
Can’t get along.
Honey I really tried to treat you right.
Now when I come in from work.
Give ya my check.
You wants to raise sand, fuss an fight.
Get a chance to stay out all night.
You left last night at eight.
Going to a show.
An’ come sliding in this morning at four.
You even had the nerve honey.
Bring another man.
Let him drive you up to my front door.
Say you’re through.
Ya got all my money too.
Come here woman let me tell ya what I’m gonna do to you.
I’m gonna cut your head four different ways.
That’s Long, short, deep and wide.
When I get through spreading rhythm of this rusty black handle razor
you’re gonna be booked out for an ambulance ride.
‘cause I’m gonna cut A, B, C, D on top of your head
That’s gonna be treating you nice like mama you ain’t gonna be dead.
Cut E, F, G right across your face.
H, I, J, K that’s where runnin’ bound to take place.
Cut L, M, N cross both your arms.
You’ll (Sell ??????? an’ pedal/peddle) gal your whole life long.
Cut N, O, P, Q that’s gonna be trouble too.
‘cause I’m gonna grab you mama and turn you every way but loose
Cut R, S, T to hear you cry
That’ll be the last time tears a run from over your eyes.
Cut U, V, W on the bottom of your feet.
That’ll be the last time you walk up an’ down 25th street.
Gonna mark you cross your bosom with X, Y, Z.
When I get through with this alphabet
you’ll quit your messing with me.

Sometimes blues music is downright mean.....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Power of Voice

My two favorite songs by bluesman Son House are entirely vocal. No instruments, the only accompaniment being claps or snapping. Give these songs a listen and see if you agree with me that great music can be as simple as one man and his great voice.

John the Revelator

Grinning in your Face

Monday, November 8, 2010


Numerous artists have recorded songs based on the story of Delia Green, a girl that was murdered on Christmas Eve, 1900 in Georgia. My favorite is the version performed by Blind Willie Mctell, once in 1940 and a second version in 1949.


Above is the 1940 version, recorded for the Library of Congress. You can hear Alan Lomax, the man recording Willie, yell "hurry up man" near the end of the song.

Little Delia

Above is the rarer 1949 version. Had to upload it to youtube because it wasn't there yet. The quality of the recording is much clearer on this one and you can tell pretty clearly what he's saying in each verse.

One Man Blues

Site dedicated to re-introducing old blues artists as well as some great new acts too. Check back often, I'll be sharing my extensive collection of blues music with you

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blind Willie McTell deserves some recognition

I invite anyone who sees this page to go check out Blind Willie McTell on youtube.

A great bluesman whose work should be more appreciated than it currently is.