Thanks Bunker for for the Brooks Berry notes. Maybe one day I'll track down a reasonably priced copy of the LP. Also thanks Stefan for the Brooks Berry page:[urlwww.wirz.de/music/berryfrm.htm[/url]
As you'll observe by double-clicking the image of the reverse of that Bluesville sleeve I only posted that relevant to the discussion. Here is the remainder which is a track by track analysis which was a common feature of Bluesville liner notes (hope I've caught all scanning glitches):
MY MAN IS STUDYING EVIL, Brooks does not remember where she learned this remarkable song, although it may come from some recording of the twenties. Its melody is very different from the usual ' twelve-bar blues melodies. The verses are cryptic and starkly pessimistic:
My life is a weakness, it is a weaknss to you and me…
COLD-BLOODED MURDER was recorded in the thirties by Bumble Bee Slim; it is a close adaptation of Leroy Carr's Mean Mistreater.
Brooks knows several blues songs which she has learned from recordings or elsewhere, and she sings some of them here. Most often, though, she improvises her blues as she sings from the great reservoir of traditional blues verses. In BLUES AND TROUBLE Brooks sings some of the most deeply moving lines from the old southern blues to Scrapper's piano accompaniment. Beginning With the familiar ironic personifications of the blues
Blues and trouble are my two best friends…
Early in the morning, blues knocked on my door,
Lord, and I jus, come here to worry you some more,
Brooks moves to the most trenchant of psychological insights:
Did you ever wonder what is on your min'?
Well the train is on time, but the track is all out of line.
Then come images of confusion, recklessness, weeping: Still, there remains the possibility that things may be better elsewhere:
I cried all night long, Lord, and the night before;
If you can't get no 'lief here, down the road you go.
SWEETEST APPLE ON THE TREE is a blues of tearing sexual longing, The blunt metaphor
You had a nail, and you drove it in the board
Lord, my daddy ain't here, but he's somewheres on the road,
is intensified later by a kind of incremental repetition:
I went to the bus station, and I looked up on the board,
Lord, and the bus ain't here, but it', further on down the road.
When people began to compose blues for records each blues song had to have a special point, described in the title and elaborated on more or less consistently in the verses—for example, the T. B. Blues, the Milk Cow Blues. Brooks, true to an earlier tradition, just "sings the blues," making no conscious attempt at consistency or coherence. And in a blues like SUN BURNT ALL MY COTTON, the rambling, spontaneous association of verses can be more telling than most composed blues. From thoughts of a burnt up cotton crop back South, the singer's mind drifts to the agony of an empty bed at night, to the blues knocking on her door, to the plea:
If you can't give me whiskey, please give me ice-cold wine…
Then from a bitter comment on the train that will "take your last dollar and blow black smoke on you," she goes to thoughts of a death room and flowers and finally to her utter aloneness in a world full of people. Brooks and Scrapper developed the two guitar sound heard here in the years after Leroy's death in 1935 when they occasionally played together in taverns on the west side of Indianapolis.
BAMA BOUND is a quite different sort of blues. Brooks learned it from Ida Cox's great early recording which is not to be confused with the better known barrel house piece, Alabama Bound.
CAN'T SLEEP FOR DREAMING is a blues that Brooks improvised as she sang it and again is dependent on the old blues stanzas. The fine line, "I can't sleep for dreaming, I can't laugh or cry," though, is Brooks' own.
LIFE AIN'T WORTH LIVING IF YOU CAN'T BE WITH THE ONE YOU LOVE The man Brooks had been with for many years was incurably sick and she made these recordings, and this song combines her profound concern over him with the desire to forget, to "go where they're drinking," and, in lines borrowed from Scrapper, to go "back South where the weather's warm the whole year round."
As if to show that a fine, strong blues can be created from material very different from the intense poetry of the old southern blues. Brooks bases BLUES IS A FEELING on a string of cliches like "my baby's left me beyond a shadow of a doubt," and "best of friends must part," singing to Scrapper's strident, marching piano.
I'VE HAD MY FUN is Brooks' version of St. Louis Jimmy's well-known blues of failing health, Going Down Slow.
HOW LONG was the first blues that Scrapper and Leroy recorded together, in 1928, and was the one that established their fame. Leroy had sung it for years at parties around Indianapolis before he re-recorded it, and Scrapper claims that it was derived from the old Coney Island Blues. It may well be the most widely known and sung of any blues. Brooks sings a random assortment of verses from the several versions that Scrapper and Leroy recorded.
Notes and Recordings by Art Rosenbaum
Produced by Kenreth S. Goldstein and Art Rosenbaum