Sunday, 1 July 2012

How to feel blue, part 2

I've had lots of feedback about my beginners guide to blues, so as promised here's part 2.

The Blues is a bit of a mixed bag of music, covering all sorts from folk music to big bands. So if you don't like any of the tracks here, don't rule the genre out. That said, I love these songs and thinking they're anything other than God's gift to music is beyond me.

Woody Guthrie - Vigilante Man

What connects John Steinbeck with Bruce Springsteen? Well, other than a social conscience, best-selling portrayals of the American working class and the ability to look damn cool simply by not wearing a tie, it's this song.

Woody Guthrie is probably the best link between US folk and blues tradition and modern music. He lived through the Dust Bowl depression years and into the modern age of celebrity musicians, even hosting his own TV show. This song is typical Woody Guthrie, which means a simple, repeated riff and a good strong message to mull over.

Eric Clapton - Sweet Home Chicago

To be honest, I could have chosen almost any artist since this song was first recorded in 1937 and there's a good chance that they'd have recorded a version of this song. It's a Blues standard in the truest sense of the word.

What makes this song so popular is its potential for improvisation. It's a classic twelve bar blues track, which means that its easy to solo over even if you're not that great an artist. If you're learning to play Blues guitar, this is definitely a track to give a try. Luckily there's a plethora of great artists that have turned their hand to this too (including a pretty passable effort by the Blues Brothers), in case you're more the listening type.

The White Stripes - Hello Operator

Son House once said "when you go into a room and sit by yourself to think, that's the Blues", this song does its best to refute that. Grunge, garage bands and punk all influenced the Blues artists of the last three or four decades and nowhere more so than in the Detroit garage blues scene that fathered The White Stripes.

The rhythmic riffs, sad stories and foot-stomping finger-work that gave the Mississippi Delta its fame nearly a hundred years ago can still be heard in most of Jack and Meg White's back catalogue. This song, however, contains just the right mix of jilted love and distorted harmonica to make it something of a personal favourite.

That's it for another intro to Blues. Thanks to everyone who read and go in touch about the first of these How to Feel Blue posts. I dare say there will probably be a third in time too. Until then, enjoy these tracks.