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Author Topic: Who is your best country blues lyricist  (Read 2028 times)

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Offline ArthurBlake

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Who is your best country blues lyricist
« on: February 12, 2015, 06:45:19 PM »
I have always marveled at the lyrical abilities of Robert Johnson and Blind Blake and many many others. Who is your favourite or favourites, purely for the lyrics. Of course it is always a matter of opinion but I usually prefer those who make me laugh. Robert and Blind Blake sure do, I LOVE double entendre's.
 
There is of course no RIGHT answer or opinion here.

P.S. If this thread needs to be moved to another location by John or another moderator please by all means do, just pm me if you can
I met a woman she was a pigmeat some
Big fat mouth, I followed her home
She pulled a gun and broke my jaw
Didnt leave me hard on, I didnt get sore

Offline frankie

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2015, 10:19:44 PM »
St. Louis may well be the poignancy capital of the US:

Walter Davis
Clifford Gibson

and then there's always Lemon. It seems like his lyric bag runs the gamut - beautiful, impressionistic amalgams of 'floating verse' to carefully honed 'thematic' blues (Peach Orchard Mama really had legs, didn't it?).

Offline banjochris

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2015, 12:12:25 AM »
Lemon, McTell, Bo Carter, Robert Wilkins, Lonnie Johnson come to my mind.

Offline blueshome

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2015, 01:23:52 AM »
Leroy Carr, Tampa Red, Sleepy John Estes. Many of their songs still played today.

For social commentary - Hi Henry Brown.

Offline harvey

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2015, 03:49:46 AM »
Depends what kind of lyrics I supose.

Luke Jordan really makes me laugh even though the subject is often quite dark.. I would say that skill was before his time, if you make films like that these days you?re a genius. I am sure there are others in that category.


Offline ArthurBlake

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2015, 04:11:37 AM »
St. Louis may well be the poignancy capital of the US:

Walter Davis
Clifford Gibson

and then there's always Lemon. It seems like his lyric bag runs the gamut - beautiful, impressionistic amalgams of 'floating verse' to carefully honed 'thematic' blues (Peach Orchard Mama really had legs, didn't it?).

Good lyrics in many BLJ songs, with his repertoire the songs he wrote are easy to pick I think. Clifford Gibson is a beauty too, as for Walter I have just heard a few of his songs although I have heard him on a few other recordings backing Lucille Bogan. Feel free to post any of your favourite verses too.
I met a woman she was a pigmeat some
Big fat mouth, I followed her home
She pulled a gun and broke my jaw
Didnt leave me hard on, I didnt get sore

Offline roig

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2015, 04:18:34 AM »
Robert Wilkins for me. Willie "61" Blackwell also wrote some pretty cool lyrics.

Offline Prof Scratchy

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2015, 04:36:24 AM »
Sleepy John!

Offline eric

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2015, 07:22:33 AM »
I'm going to go with Blind Lemon; his lyrics are quirky, funny and original.
--
Eric

Offline One-Eyed Ross

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2015, 07:40:50 AM »
Blind Boy Fuller, Bo Carter, Blind Blake.  There are others I enjoy, but those three would be top of the list.
SSG, USA, Ret

She looked like a horse eating an apple through a wire fence.

Online Johnm

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2015, 08:10:02 AM »
Hi all,
So many of my favorites have already been named, but there's nothing that says we can't have the same favorites.
  *  All-around favorite, and especially for communicating a life lived--Sleepy John Estes
  *  Favorite single song lyrics--Walter Davis--"I Can't See Your Face", L.V. Thomas--"Motherless Child Blues"
  *  Favorite eccentric--Willie Blackwell
  *  Favorite Old-Time/Blues--David McCarn
All best,
Johnm

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2015, 08:11:12 AM »
Howdy:

I'll second Luke Jordan and add my fav., Funny Papa Smith.

Alex

Offline harriet

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2015, 08:38:28 AM »
Rev Wilkins
Furry Lewis
Joe Callicott
Sleepy John Estes
« Last Edit: February 13, 2015, 10:48:56 AM by harriet »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2015, 09:18:56 AM »
Charley Patton, because half the time I can't understand what he's singing and the other half I can't understand what he means. This aligns perfectly with my life experiences and world view. --And then there's the third half...

Offline banjochris

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2015, 09:49:32 AM »
Sleepy John Estes for sure, how could I forget (it was late!)? Lightnin' Hopkins had some great lyrics too.

Offline Old Man Ned

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2015, 10:15:50 AM »
I'll add Furry Lewis, great story teller who also makes my laugh.  In agreement with Sleepy John Estes.  His "Floating Bridge", I can almost taste the water when I listen to it.  And Willie Blackwell, who I'm listening to now, is just bizarre.....but wonderful.

Offline Gumbo

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2015, 10:42:10 AM »
The Mississippi Sheiks, Frank Stokes and Big Bill Broonzy in the category of names not mentioned yet.


Offline Stuart

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2015, 12:57:20 PM »
I have to agree with  John regarding Sleepy John Estes. Songs like "Lawyer Clark" and "Little Laura" make me feel like I actually know these people--or wish I had. And after listening to "Floating Bridge," I feel like I was lucky to  have survived, like Old Man Ned says. "Clean Up  At  Home" comes across as sage advice. (Tell me more, Sleepy John--I have to know.) With Rev. Robert Wilkins, "New Stockyard" is a personal recommendation about where to do your trading. And "Old Jim Canaan's"  makes me feel that I was born way too late to get in on the real action.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2015, 01:38:55 PM »
Yeah, but I'm with you on Charley Patton, Stuart. You rarely get the feeling that Charley is just being clever, but his use of metaphor can be sublime. And he's also right up there with personal experience (High Water Everywhere) and mentioning local folks (Tom Rushen/High Sheriff Blues). Thinking about it made me wanna transcribe one of my favs:

Jersey Bull Blues

V1    If you gotta good bull cow y?oughta feed your bull good at home
   If you gotta good bull cow y?oughta feed your bull good at home
   (Boy, feed ?im good at home)
   It may come along a young heifer and just tow your bull from home

V2    Oh, my bull?s in a pasture, babe, lord, where there?s no grass
   And, my bull?s in a pasture, lord, where there?s no grass
   (Boy, ain?t no grass in this pasture)
   I swear, every minute it seems like it?s gon? be my last

V3    And my bull gotta horn long as my arm
   And my bull gotta horn, baby, long as my arm
   (Boy, long as my arm)
   Ah, bull gotta horn long as my arm

V4    Oh, five pound ax, now babe, cut two diff?rent ways
   I throw a five pound ax and I cut two diff?rent ways
   (Boy, cut for the women both night an??)
   And I cut for the women both night an?  day

V5    I throw a five pound ax and I just dropped in your town
   I throw a five pound ax and I just dropped in your town
   (Boy, got weight enough behind me)
   I got weight enough behind me to drive that ol? ax on down

V6    And I remember one morning, ?tween midnight and day
   And I remember one morning, ?tween midnight and day
   (Boy, way upstairs that time)
   I were way upstairs throwin? myself away

Wax
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Offline One-Eyed Ross

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #19 on: February 14, 2015, 08:06:26 AM »
The problem with this is posting just a few off the top of your head, then having time to think a bit and read other's posts.  There are just so many good ones, it is hard to just nail down a few "favorites."  The whole genre is good, which is why we are here in the first place.
SSG, USA, Ret

She looked like a horse eating an apple through a wire fence.

Online Johnm

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #20 on: February 14, 2015, 08:43:19 AM »
You make a good point, Ross.  I keep thinking of ones that I didn't name, either because they'd already been mentioned, like Robert Wilkins or Clifford Gibson, or I just hadn't thought of them.  A couple that occurred to me like that since I first posted who are among my very favorites are Booker White ("When Can I Change My Clothes", "Sic 'Em Dogs On Me", "District Attorney", "Fixin' to Die", et al, wow!) and Peg Leg Howell, who had tons of great lyrics.  Lil' Son Jackson had  some terrific lyrics, too, as did Frankie Lee Sims.
Henry Townsend, late in his life, was an amazing lyricist who had the knack for improvising lyrics, including ones that were narratives.  You can hear some of these songs on his Arcola CD.
All best,
Johnm 
« Last Edit: February 14, 2015, 02:11:01 PM by Johnm »

Offline dj

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2015, 12:50:32 PM »
Among those not yet mentioned, Teddy Darby would be on my list of favorite lyricists. 

blueshome already mentioned Leroy Carr, but I'll bring him up again just because he was one of the greats and does not get the recognition he deserves these days. 

Offline ArthurBlake

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #22 on: February 15, 2015, 06:48:11 AM »
Depends what kind of lyrics I supose.

Luke Jordan really makes me laugh even though the subject is often quite dark.. I would say that skill was before his time, if you make films like that these days you?re a genius. I am sure there are others in that category.

He is an awesome songwriter
I met a woman she was a pigmeat some
Big fat mouth, I followed her home
She pulled a gun and broke my jaw
Didnt leave me hard on, I didnt get sore

Offline ArthurBlake

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  • I laid him out cold, with his heels in a tub.
Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #23 on: February 15, 2015, 06:51:19 AM »
Hi all,
So many of my favorites have already been named, but there's nothing that says we can't have the same favorites.
  *  All-around favorite, and especially for communicating a life lived--Sleepy John Estes
  *  Favorite single song lyrics--Walter Davis--"I Can't See Your Face", L.V. Thomas--"Motherless Child Blues"
  *  Favorite eccentric--Willie Blackwell
  *  Favorite Old-Time/Blues--David McCarn
All best,
Johnm
David McCarn, now there's a guy I have never heard and never heard of, thanks John, you are a wealth of great blues information, I must check him out. I am sure also that many of us have many favourites in common, that's why we are all Weenies.
I met a woman she was a pigmeat some
Big fat mouth, I followed her home
She pulled a gun and broke my jaw
Didnt leave me hard on, I didnt get sore

Offline eric

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #24 on: February 15, 2015, 07:14:54 AM »
This thread got me thinking about Lightning Hopkins and John Lee Hooker.  I think of Lightning in particular as having a repertoire of guitar tunes, licks and stock blues lyrics that he uses to fill in the metric framework of his extemporaneous poetry and comment on current events and what's happening around him.  Like a classical bard.  It's brilliant really.
--
Eric

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #25 on: February 15, 2015, 10:22:32 PM »
Bukka White, to me, has written the most poignant and original Blues lyrics I know of. His ability to have them scan interestingly against the melody is highly original and sophisticated, and the sounds the words make as he sang them, contributed significantly to the whole piece.

Big Bill is also a contender and seeing his development from Mr. Conductor Man to It was just a dream is pretty amazing, I would agree that Leroy Carr has to be considered, and add Robert Wilkins for his unique lyric structure.Blind Willie McTell was no slouch in the lyric department either, and there are dozens more one offs even from people who generally employ traditional lyric usage.

Elizabeth Cotten has to be one of the great lyric imagists.

Not surprisingly if we veer into religious Blues, Gary Davis' songs like Sun Goin' Down, Crucifixion, Children of Zion and many others are superb, and even though many have their origins in the Bible, the use of images like "The Moon is Bleeding, the seas are boiling" in a ten minute long song, surely was the inspiration for later Blues like lyrics like in A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline banjochris

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #26 on: February 15, 2015, 11:51:28 PM »
Bukka White, to me, has written the most poignant and original Blues lyrics I know of. His ability to have them scan interestingly against the melody is highly original and sophisticated, and the sounds the words make as he sang them, contributed significantly to the whole piece.

I wish in the '60s and '70s that Booker would have taken some of his longer pieces and condensed the best of them into shorter pieces. His 1940 session is so strong and each number is so focused. I don't think he ever quite captured that again.
Chris

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #27 on: February 16, 2015, 07:49:38 AM »
I don't really know his late recordings so i can't say, but perhaps the three minute side was a good thing for him.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

http://www.youtube.com/user/MuckOVision

Online Rivers

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #28 on: February 16, 2015, 04:59:13 PM »
I would have a harder time coming up with a list of lousy lyricists in our genre, frankly. In fact I can't really think of any. This topic did make me think about it but the resulting list was too long, with too many deserving top positions. So I learned something about my own appreciation of it all, and of what I listen for in the greater country blues.

Leadbelly versus Lemon? Who wins that battle of the titans? Rhetorical question, don't answer.

Offline Lyndvs

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #29 on: February 17, 2015, 02:54:40 AM »
Robert Pete Williams,superb at long extemporised off the cuff stuff and concise pithy
songs like"Grown So Ugly".Genius.

Offline ArthurBlake

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #30 on: February 21, 2015, 08:28:32 PM »
I would have a harder time coming up with a list of lousy lyricists in our genre, frankly. In fact I can't really think of any. This topic did make me think about it but the resulting list was too long, with too many deserving top positions. So I learned something about my own appreciation of it all, and of what I listen for in the greater country blues.

Leadbelly versus Lemon? Who wins that battle of the titans? Rhetorical question, don't answer.
Leadbelly and Lemon were incredible, from what I have read about Huddie Leadbetter he had an amazing memory library of tunes where he could remember more that a hundred songs, I think that's incredible especially as I forget verses and B lines often even of tunes I do on a regular basis (maybe too wrapped up in the guitar playing). As for bad lyricists in country blues I never heard anyone in that category either. The comment above about Lightnin' Hopkins is so true, the man was a modern day bard, a troubador and probably the biggest advertisement for the Key of E in the history of the world and I never get tired of hearing him.
                                Bukka White was still a dynamic guitarist late in life but I agree his 40's stuff was very potent, lyrically and musically. J.T. Funny Paper Smith was a great lyricist and storyteller too, Bo Carter is the funniest blues lyricist for mine but Blind Blake is hilarious too, both had great delivery and as we all know they were guitar masters of a very high order. Thanks for all the great replies here guys, this thread has been tremendous.
I met a woman she was a pigmeat some
Big fat mouth, I followed her home
She pulled a gun and broke my jaw
Didnt leave me hard on, I didnt get sore

Offline DrJim

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #31 on: September 07, 2016, 07:45:59 PM »
My first post!

The Mississippi Sheiks capture the historical reality of inter-war America as well as any...

Offline Surbhar

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #32 on: September 08, 2016, 12:01:01 PM »
How about Pearl Dickson, Little Rock Blues?

I started to heaven, but I changed my mind
I started to heaven, but I changed my mind
But I'm going to little rock, where I can have a better time


I'll second Booker White and Big Bill. Also have a special place in my heart for John Hurt.
Denise
Denise

Offline banjochris

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #33 on: September 10, 2016, 05:10:11 PM »
She's starting for Helena, unfortunately!

Offline Surbhar

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Re: Who is your best country blues lyricist
« Reply #34 on: September 10, 2016, 05:58:16 PM »
Why aren't they one and the same  :)
Denise

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