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Now isn't that nice? - Skip James, in hospital, to Fahey and Barth after they show him a discography listing his known records

Author Topic: Texas Alexander's Lyrics  (Read 39199 times)

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HardLuckChild

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Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« on: July 01, 2004, 08:02:17 PM »
Does anyone know the lyrics to Texas Alexander's wonderful, primal tune, "Levee Camp Moan?
« Last Edit: October 06, 2006, 04:16:27 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2004, 02:38:18 PM »
Here goes:
Mmmm,mmmm,mmm
Lord, they accused me of murder, murder, murder, I haven't harmed a man
Lord, they accused me of murder, I haven't harmed a man
Oh, they have accused me of murder and I haven't harmed a man.

Mmmm, they have 'cused me of forgery and uhh I can't write my name
Lord, they have accused me of forgery and I can't write my name.

I went all around that whole career, I couldn't find a mule with his shoulder wear
Lord, I couldn't find a mule with his shoulder wear
I worked all month and I worked up here 
I couldn't find a mule, Maggie, with his shoulder wear.

Mmmm, mmm, mmmm, Lord, like morning bells.

Lord, she went up the country, yeah, but she's on my mind
Well, she went up the country but she's on my mind.

Oh, if she don't come on the big boat, boys, she better not laugh
Lord, if she don't come on the big boat, big boat, I mean she better not laugh
Mmmmm, mmmm, mmmm
Lord, if she don't come on the big boat, I mean, she better not laugh.

I expect it is not all right, but I think it is mostly pretty close.
All best,
Johnm 






« Last Edit: October 28, 2015, 03:52:20 PM by Johnm »

Offline jed

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2004, 09:18:38 PM »
The first two sections may explain where expatriate Eddie Boyd got material for his 1950s hit "Third Degree."

FYI,
Jed
ok then:  http://jed.net

Offline Johnm

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2004, 09:10:24 AM »
Hi all,
I was thinking about this tune and realized this, and the other tunes Lonnie Johnson did backing Texas Alexander are just about my favorite blues playing by Lonnie.  It is such an original approach to accompaniment--almost no chords, just melodic lines answering the voice and taking advantage of that great tone that he (Lonnie) had.  It's great to hear him operating outside of his normal bag.
All best,
Johnm

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2004, 12:34:33 PM »
Hi John:

Welcome back.

I don't think Lonnie dared to chords with Texas Alexander, he varies the arrangement every verse in this tune. Safer with single notes.

tough man to follow!

Alex

Offline Johnm

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2004, 05:47:52 PM »
Hi Alex,
You make a good point--I think I'd be nervous about landing a little too heavily if I was backing up Texas Alexander.  Little Hat Jones takes a more conventional accompaniment role, and while he does fine, I don't think his approach works as well as Lonnie's did..
All best,
Johnm

Offline Johnm

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2006, 07:26:35 PM »
Hi all,
I've been listening to Texas Alexander a lot recently and was particularly struck by "Sabine River Blues".  It's one of the prettiest blues melodies I have heard, and Texas Alexander sings it magnificently (as he did just about everything he sang).  It was recorded in New York on August 16, 1927, and the ultra-slick pianist Eddie Heywood backed Alexander on the song.  It is a fascinating pairing, because Heywood's sophisticated harmonic sense is at some odds with Alexander's very "country" sense of phrasing and unpredictability.  They make it work, though, and in a lot of ways, Heywood's approach is really flattering to Alexander's singing. 
The notes to the Matchbox CD, "Texas Alexander, Vol. 1", where I heard this cut, include an interesting quote from Lonnie Johnson to Paul Oliver re the difficulties he encountered in accompanying Texas Alexander:
   "He was a very difficult singer to accompany; he was liable to jump a bar, or five bars, or anything.  You just had to be a fast thinker to play for Texas Alexander.  When you been out there with him you done nine days work in one!  Believe me, brother, he was hard to play for.  He would jump--jump keys, anything.  You just have to watch him, that's all."
Listening to "Sabine River Blues", you do come to sympathize with Johnson and Heywood, for it took all of their knowledge and expertise to make the pairing work musically.  "Sabine River" is set up as a 16-bar blues, but Alexander switches to a 12-bar form in the second verse, catching Heywood, who lands on a IV chord as you would in a 16-bar blues on the downbeat of the 9th bar, off-guard.  Heywood makes such a instantaneous recovery, going right to the V chord, that you really have to listen to catch it.  In the third verse, Alexander switches back to the 16-bar form; Heywood finesses the question of what form is going to be sung by having an instant of silence on the downbeat of the ninth bar.  Alexander hums the fourth verse as a twelve-bar blues, and Heywood follows with his solo, which must have been a relief for him, in a way.  Alexander maintains a 16-bar form for the verse following the solo, and Heywood is just guessing as the ninth bar rolls around.  Alexander switches back to a 12-bar form for the final verse, and Heywood goes right along with him.  In many ways, I find Heywood's playing on this tune more impressive than a note-perfect rendition accompanying a singer who phrased more regularly would be.  It is sensational playing, really, as good as the singing, and that is saying something, with a great deal of improvisation and harmonic variation.  It's a terrific performance all the way around.
Alexander pronounces Sabine with a short a, like "sad" in the first syllable, and a long E sound, like "heat" in the second syllable.

   Sabine River, mama, so deep and wide, oh Lordy,
   Sabine River, mama, so deep and wide (2)
   I can see my baby on the other side

   Some cookin' cabbage, some cookin' collard greens, oh Lord, there is
   Some cookin' cabbage, some cookin' collard greens
   My woman got the best old garden, mama, 'round New Orleans

   I'm goin' to New Orleans, babe, what you want me to bring you back?  Oh Lordy,
   Goin' to New Orleans, what you want me to bring you back?  (2)
   A new pair of shoes and a Merry Widow hat

   Mmmmmmm (hummed verse)

   SOLO:

   Iron my duckings, you can press my overhall (sic), oh Lord, you can
   Iron my duckings, you can press my overhalls, you can
   Iron my duckings, press my overhalls
   'Cause I'm just in time to catch that midnight Cannonball

   I'm leavin', sweet mama, don't you want to go?  Oh, Lordy, I am
   Leavin', sweet mama, don't you want to go?
   'Cause my house is hainted (sic) and I can't stay there no more

All best,
Johnm



     
« Last Edit: October 02, 2006, 09:29:23 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2006, 05:22:18 PM »
Hi all,
Another Texas Alexander performance I've been enjoying is "Deep Blue Sea Blues".  He recorded it, backed by Lonnie Johnson, in San Antonio, on March 9, 1928.  Listening to these recordings is making crystal clear what a wonderful player Lonnie Johnson was, and being placed in the position of constantly having to be ready to go someplace unexpected or jump the form had the effect of making his playing very fresh and in-the-moment at all times (certainly moreso than when he accompanied himself).  It's hard to think of any other recordings in which the singer and the accompanist both have such beautiful tones on their instruments.
It's becoming apparent in listening to Texas Alexander that his lyrics, like Lemon's, turned up everywhere after he recorded them.  It would really be interesting to look at the lyrics of Blues players who survived into the '60s but were of the older generation, like John Hurt and Mance Lipscomb to see earlier appearances of lyrics they recorded in the '60s.  I've already encountered several instances of this, though, of course the lyrics may have been out there shared by everybody.
God, Texas Alexander sang well.  Almost every one of his songs includes a hummed verse, and it is a treat every time. 

   I followed my woman from the station to the train (2)
   Says the blues fell down like midnight showers of rain

   I left her at the station, wringin' her hands and cryin' (2)
   I told her she had a home, long as I got mine

   Mmmmm, Mmmmm
   Mmmmm, Mmmmm
   I told her she had a home, long as I got mine

   You can search that ocean, go across that deep blue sea (2)
   But you cannot find not 'nother man like me

   I'm goin' to be arraigned, gonna sign my initials down
   I'm goin' to be arrained, gonna sign my initial down
   Says these women don't like me, these men don't want me 'round

Edited 9/27 to pick up correction from dj
Edited 9/27 to pick up correction from Uncle Bud
Edited 6/16 to pick up correction from dingwall

All best,
Johnm

   
« Last Edit: June 16, 2007, 08:39:33 AM by Johnm »

Offline dj

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2006, 06:01:09 PM »
Quote
I'm goin' to Berry, gonna sign my initials down

Anyone have any idea what this line means?  There's a Barry, Texas about 30 miles south of Dallas, just west of Corsicana.  It looks to be a pretty small town - about 10 streets, most of them about 2 blocks long.  Is that where Texas is going, or is there somewhere else that makes more sense?  And what's he going to sign up for there?  I guess it could be farm work or sharecropping.  Or could this song be a relic from World War I and he's going to sign up for the army?  If so, Barry, Texas seems a pretty small and out-of-the-way place to do that.

By the way, that's one beautiful set of lyrics.  I haven't heard that much from Texas Alexander - just the few cuts that showed up on the Sony anthologies.  I guess I'll have to seek him out.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2006, 07:35:15 PM »
Thanks, dj, for tracking Barry down.  I'm sure that is the spot of which Texas Alexander was singing.  I find a lot of the "goin' to _______" lyrics in Country Blues mysterious because it is so difficult at this point to have any sense of what the allure of the places was at the time in which the songs were sung.  Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues" gets high points in this regard; to most of us, what are Friar's Point and Rosedale but dots on a Rand McNally Road Atlas?
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: September 26, 2006, 10:10:14 PM by Johnm »

Offline frankie

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2006, 04:40:46 AM »
It's one of the prettiest blues melodies I have heard

I'm sure there's a Ma Rainey song that uses this melody almost exactly...  one of the songs with a 12-string guitar player providing accompaniment (Miles Pruitt?)...  can't place the title, though.

Offline dj

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2006, 05:01:21 AM »
John M,

I keep thinking about that "sign my initials down" line.  The last line of the verse makes it seem that Texas won't be around anymore after he signs his initials, which keeps making me think of military service - something that will take him far away, and possibly across the "deep sea".  I'm going completely on conjecture here, since I don't have a copy of "Deep Sea Blues" to listen to, but might the first two lines in the last verse actually be "I'm goin' to barracks, gonna sign my initials down"?

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2006, 05:52:42 AM »
Sure sounds like Berry/Barry to me (actually more like Berry). No chance that it's "bury"?  Doesn't make sense, really.

BTW, you can listen to a fair amount Texas Alexander using RealAudio (or faking RealAudio like I do with less invasive software called RealAlternative) at redhotjazz.com: http://www.redhotjazz.com/talexander.html. Deep Blue Sea Blues is there. Is it Deep Blue Sea or Deep Sea?

Offline Johnm

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2006, 10:03:43 AM »
Hi all,
dj, I'm certain Texas Alexander is not saying "barracks", or rather, that if he is saying it, he is pronouncing it "Barry".  Could not the meaning of this line simply be "I'm leaving here, going to Barry, and I will swear to that, sign an affidavit if necessary.  I'm not kidding around!"? 

The title I have on the CD is "Deep Blue Sea Blues", Uncle Bud.  Whoops, good catch!  I see why you asked the question and I will make the change.

If you think of the title of that Ma Rainey tune, Frank, could you let me know?  My listening to her music is way too sketchy.  I realized that the melody to "Sabine River Blues" sounds like a variant of "C.C. Rider" to me.  Sung as a 16-bar blues, its bars 5--16 are pretty much identical to the melody of "C.C. Rider" you hear most often (not John Hurt's).
All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: September 27, 2006, 05:16:31 PM by Johnm »

Offline dj

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Re: Texas Alexander's Lyrics
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2006, 02:20:44 PM »
Quote
Could not the meaning of this line simply be "I'm leaving here, going to Barry, and I will swear to that, sign an affidavit if necessary.  I'm not kidding around!"?

I had a listen to this at the Red Hot Jazz Archive (thanks, Uncle Bud!).  Alexander's enunciation is remarkably good and johnm obviously has the lyrics transcribed correctly, so I think his surmise on the meaning of "sign my initials down" is probably correct. 

It's funny, whenever you read about Texas Alexander, the author gets in a line about how "primitive" his style is, but he recorded with some great accompanists, he had remarkably clear diction, and from the small sample of songs I've listened to or read the words to, his lyrics were poetic and held together into a cohesive and logical whole.  In other words, he really doesn't sound primitive at all to me. 

I guess it was the lyric cohesiveness of the rest of "Deep Blue Sea Blues" that made me so anxious to make sense of the final verse.       


 


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