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I can't see ya, but I can smell ya! - Blind Lemon Jefferson quoted by Steve James, Texas Blues, Blues Revue #30 Aug/Sept 1997

Author Topic: Walter Davis Lyrics  (Read 2647 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Walter Davis Lyrics
« on: August 26, 2010, 08:42:53 AM »
Hi all,
The St. Louis pianist Walter Davis had a pretty long recording career, and given the very unusual approach to Blues harmony that he employed, could fairly be said to have been surprisingly popular.  Perhaps the listeners of his era, as in many others, were responding more to his singing and lyrics, which were especially strong.  For folks who do respond to the sound of a player giving the chords and tonality of the blues an individual twist, Walter Davis is something of a hero.
Walter Davis recorded "Call Your Name" in 1939.  It is a medium tempo shuffle in which movement to the IV chord and back to the I is built into the first two four-bar phrases.  The song doesn't move much in the chordal sense, you get the feeling that it occupies a peculiar tonal space and just hangs out there.  Henry Townsend played a lot with Walter Davis (though not on this piece) and the two of them shared a gift for coming up with new and different lyrics.  I particularly like the next-to-last verse.



   Have you ever been low and d'spairin', mama, and you didn't know what was on your mind?
   Have you ever been low and d'spairin', and you didn't know what was on your mind?
   Lord, it hurt you so bad sometime, Lord, you just could keep from cryin'

   The house where you are livin', it don't look right no more
   The house where you are livin', it don't even look right no more
   And you can't find no consolation, nowhere in the world you go

   Then you wonder what did you ever do to make your poor heart ache and pain
   What did you ever do to make your poor heart ache and pain
   Lord, it hurt you so bad to hear somebody call Mr. So-and-so's name

   I looked for you Sunday mornin', 'til Monday in the afternoon
   I looked for you Sunday mornin', 'til Monday in the afternoon
   Well, I hope you'll be here Tuesday mornin', hope you will be here Tuesday mornin' soon

   If I don't never see you no more, please drop me a postal card
   If I don't never see you no more, please drop me a post card
   Lord, you know the way that you left me, mama, it almost broke my heart

Edited 8/26 to pick up correction from banjo chris

All best,
Johnm 
« Last Edit: July 06, 2020, 06:48:57 AM by Johnm »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2010, 11:25:15 AM »
Hi all,
The St. Louis pianist Walter Davis had a pretty long recording career, and given the very unusual approach to Blues harmony that he employed, could fairly be said to have been surprisingly popular.  Perhaps the listeners of his era, as in many others, were responding more to his singing and lyrics, which were especially strong.  For folks who do respond to the sound of a player giving the chords and tonality of the blues an individual twist, Walter Davis is something of a hero.
John, as an aside, Davis was very forthcoming and interesting about the manner of his getting recorded by Dave Kapp for RCA. He auditioned, was signed up there and then and given 50 dollars personally by Kapp. "I knew he meant business, because he wasn't just giving away 50 dollars." More about this and other matters can be found in Paul Oliver's Conversation With The Blues.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2010, 11:26:28 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2010, 02:35:39 PM »
I'm a huge Walter Davis fan -- I need to order the stuff I don't have from Document. John, just going from memory on this, but I think the first verse is "Have you ever been low in spirit..." and I seem to remember him saying "postal card" in the last verse.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2010, 03:29:43 PM »
Hi Chris,
Good catch on "postal".  He says it in the first line of the last verse and "post" in the second line.  I still think it is "despairing" in the first verse, though he pronounces it more like d'spairin'.  I don't hear the "t" sound of "spirit" at the end of it at all.  The vowel sound in the front end of the word would be odd for "spirit" too, I think.  See what you think after you re-listen, because I'm definitely not certain.
All best,
Johnm

Offline dj

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2010, 04:04:30 PM »
For what it's worth, I'll go with d'sparin' in the first verse.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2010, 03:03:42 PM »
Hi all,
Walter Davis recorded "Why Should I Be So Blue" in 1940, and it was used to open Walter Davis' side of the great old Yazoo anthology, "Cripple Clarence Lofton & Walter Davis".  The song is yet another reminder of how differently Walter Davis heard this music than did his peers.  It opens with a stumbling descending figure in free time that is of a type I've never heard played by a guitarist.  Throughout the course of the song, Walter introduces touches that you're very unlikely to hear in the music of another player, such as rocking in a shuffle between the V note and the major 7 note. He was just about as original in his lyrics as he was in his music, too, and rivalled Leroy Carr and Louis Hayes (Jelly Belly) in the number of syllables he could squeeze into a line. The opening line of the last verse sets up a much more complicated situation than is normally encountered in blues lyrics.



   Mama, why should I be worried, and why should I be so blue?
   Why should I be worried, why should I be so blue?
   Lord, it is all on account, all on account of you

   How can I sleep and keep from worryin', how can I laugh and keep from cryin'?
   How can I sleep and keep from worryin', how can I laugh and keep from cryin'?
   Lord, every time I turn my back, you always doin' somethin' to change my mind

   I just flutters when I see you, like a little bird up in his nest
   I just flutters when I see you, baby, like a little bird up in his nest
   Lord, sometime I think I love you, sometime I think I love my other gal the best

   I can't keep from worryin', Lord, I can't keep from tellin' you lies
   I just can't keep from worryin', and I just can't keep from tellin' you lies
   Lord, I would do all right wit' you, baby, but, you know, you try to be too wise

All best,
Johnm
   
« Last Edit: July 06, 2020, 06:49:59 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2013, 08:52:18 AM »
Hi all,
Walter Davis was in the studio in Chicago on February 25, 1935 and recorded one of the all-time blues greats, "Sloppy Drunk Again", backed by Big Joe Williams and Henry Townsend.  This is a perfectly amazing cut.  The two guitarists hit the ground together, running at full speed after a brief piano intro.  The song has no chord changes, which makes their wild riffing both possible and effective.  Apart from the over-all sound of the trio, the most arresting thing about the cut is the length of the instrumental response to the vocal lines; rather than being the more-or-less normal two bars of four beats each, the instrumental response is six beats long, starting on the second of the six beats.  It takes every bit of those six beats to have its say, too--there are no vocal pick-ups built into it, and the vocal lands, "BANG", right on the downbeat following that six-beat response lick.
One of the exciting things you realize if you listen to this track a lot is that the guitarists' approach doesn't end up producing a homogeneous texture.  There are pauses for breath, breaking time momentarily or nudging the beat one way or another.  There's a remarkable point about 2:05, in the next-to-last verse, where the guitars produce a kind of wheezing effect that is like nothing I've heard elsewhere.
Walter Davis' vocal is terrific too, as are the lyrics.  The opening line of the last verse, "Here I come, sloppy drunk again", captures the out-of-body, watching one's self aspect of profound drunkenness as well as anything I've ever heard.  If you haven't heard this one, seek it out.



My gal done quit me, found somebody else
My gal done quit me, found somebody else
And now I'm tired of sleepin' by myself

I love my moonshine whiskey, and I love my sherry wine
I love my moonshine whiskey, and I love my sherry wine
Sloppy drunk, 'bout to lose my mind

I'm gon' get sloppy drunk, tell everything I know
Gon' get sloppy drunk, tell everything I know
Another half a pint, mama, will see me go

Whoooo, whoooo-eee
Whoooo, whoooo-eee
Wonder what will, what will become of me

Water when I'm thirsty, bring me whiskey when I'm dry
Water when I'm thirsty, whiskey when I'm die
A brownskin woman, Heaven when I come to die

Here I come, sloppy drunk again
Here I come, sloppy drunk again
I ain't gon' tell nobody, where in the world I've been

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: July 06, 2020, 06:50:58 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2013, 05:13:10 PM »
Hi all,
Another winning cut from the Yazoo compilation, "Twenty First St. Stomp--The Piano Blues Of St. Louis" is Walter Davis' "West Coast Blues", a song which apart from its title, bears no relation to the Blind Blake number of the same title.  Indeed, the title of Davis' song qualifies it for the "Mystery Title" category, since the title phrase occurs nowhere in the course of the lyrics.  Davis is joined by a backing guitarist for the cut who is suggested to be Robert McCoy or Henry Townsend in the disc's notes; McCoy seems the more likely choice, since the guitar sounds to be flat-picked out of G position in standard tuning.  Walter Davis sounds like his own mysterious self.



I got a gal in Dallas, got one down on the water coast
I got a gal in Dallas, I got one down on the water coast
Lord, I don't know which one of them gals I love the most

They keep me worried and bothered, they keep me worried all the time
They keep me worried and bothered, they keep me worried all the time
But that gal down on the coast she's 'bout to make me lose my mind

Now, the backwater has been dreadful, I wonder how is my baby gettin' along
Lord, the back water has been dreadful, wonder how is my baby gettin' along
I hope she didn't get washed away, I hope nothing didn't go on wrong

Don't the Smoky Mountain look lonesome, out across the water coast?
Don't the Smoky Mountain look lonesome, out across the water coast?
Lord, I don't know which one of my gals I love the most

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: July 06, 2020, 06:51:47 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2013, 05:01:44 PM »
Hi all,
Walter Davis recorded "Travelin' This Lonesome Road" at a session in Chicago on February 25, 1935, the same day and session at which Big Joe Williams recorded his first solo performances on record.  For this song, Davis was backed by Henry Townsend and Big Joe, as he was for most of his numbers from this date.  Henry sounds to be playing out of E position standard, or possibly cross-note, with Big Joe capoed up three frets (or tuned correspondingly high) and playing out of Spanish.  The ensemble sound is anything but worked out; rather, it is a loose as it could possibly be, with everyone playing right on top of each other in a kind of musical puppy pile.  That having been said, these players all knew how the music was supposed to go, and the very free approach yielded some exciting textural sounds that almost certainly would never have resulted from arranging the piece carefully.  With riffers who had the kind of vocabulary and imagination that Henry Townsend and Big Joe Williams had, the normal structural signposts could end up just being confining.  Incidentally, the tempo on this one is slow, slow, slow, so if any of you have an affinity for slow material and are looking for a strong one that's not been done to death, you might consider "Travelin' This Lonesome Road". 

Walter Davis sings great, as per usual, and also as per usual, has interesting and original lyrics.  The opening line to verse three is kind of a shocker.  I'm not sure I have the tagline to verse two correct at the back end--Walter Davis kind of swallowed it, so corroboration/correction of the bent bracketed portion of the line would be appreciated.



I am travelin' this lonesome road, if I never get back no more
I'm travelin' this lonesome road, if I never get back no more
I have something to tell you, people, just before I go

Take care of my wife and my children, I hope to come back home someday
Take care of my wife and children, I hope to come back home someday
The racket that I am now in, Lord, I may get washed away

I'm going to rob and hi-jack, until I get satisfied
I'm going to rob and I'm going to hi-jack, until I get satisfied
And if the freight train leave me, Lord, I got a mule to ride

I's thinking about the times, when I was laying in my Mother's arms
I was thinking about the times, when I was laying in my Mother's arms
She always told me, "Son, don't you do nothing wrong."

But before I will stay to see my woman go down
Before I will stay to see my woman go down
I will pack my suitcase, while I hunt from town to town

Edited 8/20/15 to pick up correction from frankie

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: July 06, 2020, 06:52:42 AM by Johnm »

Offline dj

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2013, 03:54:10 AM »
Quote
That racket that I am now in, Lord, I may get [wise, stay 'way]

That's a tough one to hear, John.  The line might be as you have it, or it might be "That racket that I am now in, Lord, I MAKE IT WHY I stay 'way"

Offline banjochris

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2013, 10:06:23 AM »
It completely eluded me but I'll give it another listen tonight.

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2013, 03:33:47 PM »
a kind of musical puppy pile. 

Thats a good one, got to remember it  :D 8)

Alex

Offline frankie

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2015, 12:11:23 PM »
That racket that I am now in, Lord, I may get [wise, stay 'way]

This line sounds to me like:

That racket that I am now in, Lord, I may get WASHED AWAY

where "away" is pronounced with a long "A" in the first syllable: AY-WAY

Such a great performance...  it's just impossible to say what I like best about it!



Offline Johnm

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2015, 12:18:34 PM »
Thanks very much for that correction, Frank.  I have made the change--wasn't but two years after I couldn't get it in the first place!  Walter Davis was sure great.  Thanks!
All best,
Johnm 

Offline Johnm

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Re: Walter Davis Lyrics
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2015, 12:31:13 PM »
Hi all,
"Can't See Your Face" is probably one of Walter Davis's most-covered tunes in recent years, and with good reason.  It's a perfectly beautiful song, with striking lyrics.  They might be my favorites in the entire genre.  His performance has a relaxed, inward-directed sort of ruminative quality that suits the song so well.  Here is his performance:



Your old picture has faded, mama, that hangs up on the wall
Your old picture has faded, mama, that hangs up on the wall
It's been hangin' there so long, I can't see your face at all

Even my old house seem haunted, mama, that ain't nobody 'round
My old house seems haunted, and it ain't nobody 'round
Sometime it seem like at night, that the old house is falling down

I can hear my back door slammin', I can hear a little baby cryin'
I can hear my back door slammin', seem like I can hear a little baby cryin'
Lord, I wonder, baby, have you got me on your mind?

My old clock is ticking that hangs up on the wall
My old clock is still tickin' that hangs up on the wall
But now you gone and left me, and I can't see your face at all

All best,
Johnm

 


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