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G'WAY an' quit dat noise, Miss Lucy, put dat music book away. What's de use to keep on tryin' ef you practise twell you're gray? - Paul Lawrence Dunbar's poem When Malindy Sings

Author Topic: Bo Carter's Pop Blues  (Read 3766 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Bo Carter's Pop Blues
« on: July 12, 2009, 05:19:43 PM »
Hi all,
I've been doing some Bo Carter transcriptions recently after a several-year lay-off from that activity.  In the course of working out "Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me" as Bo played it, I was reminded of his unusual penchant for 32-bar, AABA, "Pop" Blues.  I think of Bo's songs like "Biscuits", "Let's Get Drunk Again", "I Get The Blues", and "I Want You To Know" as Pop Blues, because, rather than employing more common structural archetypes like the 8, 12 and 16-bar blues we're accustomed to encountering in the Country Blues, these songs of Bo's utilize the 32-bar format commonly employed by the Pop Song writers of the era, people like George Gershwin, Jimmy McHugh, Fats Waller, and Irving Berlin.
In the 32-bar format, a song is most often comprised of four 8-bar phrases.  The opening 8 bar phrase concludes with an ending that leads into a repetition of that phrase.  The repetition leads into an 8-bar bridge passage, the ending of which leads into a final repetition of the opening 8-bar phrase, hence the AABA designation. 
Bo's writing in this format was thoroughly comfortable and natural-sounding, and utilization of the Pop song phrasing archetype yielded some real benefits for his writing, both harmonically and in terms of the lyrics.  It is perhaps an indication of how comfortable Bo was working in this format that both "Biscuits" and "Let's Get Drunk Again" utilize the same big circle-of-fifths, III7-VI7-II7-V7, progression that George Gershwin used for the bridge of "I Got Rhythm".  Harmonically, working in this Pop archetype seems to have had the effect of opening things up for Bo, and making more options seem appropriate.  As an example, the second chord played in "Your Biscuits Are Big enough For Me", played by Bo in C, is an F minor 9.  You don't tend to run into too many F minor 9 chords in this music, but in this context it fits beautifully and adds some harmonic color that sounds really fresh.  Lyrically, the primary advantage seems to have been to give some variety to the phrasing, and to allow ideas to turn over and percolate at a different rate than had become the norm in the blues by the time that Bo made most of his records.  At the same time, a 32-bar form allows the lyric writer to be more economical with ideas, since the longer form allows time for fewer repetitions of the form in the course of a recorded performance.  Sometimes Bo would change only the lyrics for the bridge for subsequent passes through the form.
For present-day performers of this music who are interested in writing their own songs in the style, the 32-bar AABA formal archetype has much to recommend it and might yield some fresher sounding ideas than another 12-bar blues would.  It's something worth considering, at least.
All best,

Offline mr mando

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Re: Bo Carter's Pop Blues
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2012, 06:17:29 AM »
I was just playing around with "I want you to know", which was mentioned by JohnM in the above post. To me, this is the perfect example of what the term "pop blues" might  mean: A basic 32 bar (pop) structure with a chord progression strongly based in blues (e.g. the I-IV7-I chords at the start of the A parts) and the "un-pop but very blues" bonus of elongated A-parts whenever Bo feels like repeating the fill at the end of his vocals, making it a 38 bar form.

Offline LAKnight

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Re: Bo Carter's Pop Blues
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2014, 12:01:03 PM »
Old post I know folks, but any chance of tab for some of that Bo Carter? Want to share in some of that Lets Get Drunk Again good time but far to amateur to transcribe.. Thanks either ways, LAK


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