Saturday, August 06, 2005

another musical recommendation

A wide variety of music falls under the category of the blues, and you may very well picture a fat white guy who knows only three chords when anyone brings the genre up. Every other line in his song will contain the word "blues", as if he needs to be constantly proving himself a genuine "bluesman", and his audience will generally be composed of men who look like Richard Jewell. Then again, you may picture Ralph Macchio battling the devil in a guitar duel (as played by Steve Vai) in the film Crossroads (not to be confused with the Brittney Spears film of the same name, though Macchio and Vai may very well show up to duel in that one as well).
At any rate, you may very well think you hate the blues because you have heard so many regrettable examples of it. That is understandable. It is easy for me to hate country music whenever I hear Tim McGraw and then love it again when I hear Hank Williams.
Williams sang the blues, and his song "Ramblin' Man" is a great example of that. It is slow, dark, and creepy as hell. Good blues music should scare you a little bit, and I am not the least bit afraid of Richard Jewell.
Due to all the folklore surrounding him, Robert Johnson is probably the best example of blues music that transcends to that level of flirting with evil. There is also something eminently more frightening about a man, his guitar, and the record scratches and hisses of nearly seventy years. This is not the fake plastic evil of Ozzy. Johnson did not go on to get his own reality show, and you can read about him and the devil here.
But a woman and her guitar can scare the hell out of you as well. Take Geechie (or Geeshie) wiley, for example. Her few recordings predate Johnson's by five or six years, and there is much less known about her. In fact, you can read it all here and be back within the minute. I'll wait.
You may have heard this somewhere before, but I wanted to recommend to you was her song "Last Kind Word Blues". It was recorded in 1930 or 31 and has lyrics that reference World War I, though there are likely versions of the song that predate this and focus on earlier wars. Geechie's recording was featured in the documentary Crumb and appears on the soundtrack. It can also be found on countless early blues compilations. You can hear it here for free.
Do yourself a favor and listen to it late at night sometime when you are all alone.

5 Comments:

Blogger melusina said...

You should hear what Greeks consider blues. They held an "authentic Memphis blues" night now and then at the taverna next to our apartment in Litochoro. It featured live music, and they played stuff like "50 ways to leave your lover" and "horse with no name".

Authentic blues, indeed. Of course, I am quite certain that if most Greeks heard true authentic blues, they might commit suicide. Not sure they can handle it.

5:09 PM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

If Robert Johnson had known that he would someday be in the same category with those songs, he might have very well gone back to Satan for a full refund.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Rex,
You can listen to some great old music from the American Memory Project site; a favorite of mine is the The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip collection, which includes a few blues songs.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

Gracias, Rachel.

3:07 PM  
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1:04 PM  

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