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"...probably the low point of my music-listening career": Mississippi bluesmen Skip James and John Hurt trying to perform a version of "Waiting for a Train" with one playing waltz time and the other 4/4 - David Evans quoted in Nolan Porterfield's biography of Jimmie Rodgers

Author Topic: Looking for a word to use in a lyric  (Read 4283 times)

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Duke

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Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« on: May 27, 2005, 12:46:55 PM »
I'm trying to come up with a word for a line in a blues song I am writing.  The song concerns a [no-good, of course] woman, and the line refers to her putting on her "party" high heels.  I'm trying to find an old blues word that correlates to "party", but sounds good when followed by the words heels or high heels.  What are some old expressions used to describe a jukejoint, or a party type atmosphere.

Right now the best thing I can come up with is "rent party heels", which I do kind of like.  But I think there is something better out there.

Is there a book or website devoted to explaining the various old words and phrases used in country blues?

Offline waxwing

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2005, 01:14:14 PM »
You could say "uptown" meaning fancy or maybe "downtown", i.e. where the action is. Or maybe "steppin' out" heels. "Rent party" seems a little too particular, like she might have other heels for a fancier party? Not likely. How 'bout "booger rooger" which Lemon Jefferson uses for party a lot. I'm trying to think of something that really implies "man bait" a little more subtly but that's all I can come up with.

BTW, since you refer to her as a no good woman, I thought you might be incorporating the term "doney" which is often misinterpretted to mean a no good woman, But as RJ qualifies it in "she's a no good doney, they shouldn't 'low her on the streets" he would be redundant. Coming from the root, madonna, a doney is just any young woman, good or bad. She could just as easily be a real sweet doney. Just one of my pet peeves.

Anyway, lets see what else folks come up with for those hot heels.

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2005, 01:17:43 PM by waxwing »
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Offline a2tom

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2005, 01:30:22 PM »
"steppin' heels" was absolutely my first thought, just not as fast as John C? ;) - carries the connotation of going out for a good time, and gives "stepping" a bit of an interesting double meaning when coupled with "heels".? If you needed to make the meter work, you could use "high steppin' heels"? (nice little alliteration on the "h", and splits the term "high heels" with the word "steppin", giving lots of nested meanings).

or, how about "vampire heels" - since I've got vampire's on the brain...?

tom

Duke

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2005, 03:28:01 PM »
See why this is such a great place?  Thanks guys, I think I definitely have some good options here.  I've got most of the lyrics in place, and the basic musical arrangement.  Just have to sort it out and put it together.  The song is going to be called 'Dead Man Blues', and is basically about a man who is dead singing about how he's going to come back from the grave to even the score with the woman that poisoned him.  When I get a workable version going, I'll record it and post it on the porch for further tweaking!

Offline whigski3

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2005, 11:54:06 PM »
Perhaps "cake-walking" is a suitable adjective?? ?A cakewalk is said to be a "strutting dance"--but I haven't been to one so I can't say? for sure whether it is appropriate.? ?It was a fun thinking about the possibilities for that no-good woman's cleated cheatin' heals....  :)

Bill
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Duke

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2005, 11:31:49 AM »
Where have I heard the phrase "moanin' cat" or something to that effect?  My memory for song names is virtually non-existant.  It sounds like it could be used as a reference to a female cat in heat (or her human counterpart, the aforementioned no good woman), or am I offbase here?

ajd

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2005, 01:30:02 PM »
Don't know if you already decided on the "heel" part, but what came to my mind was in line with what Tom said as far as splitting the "high heels" - "high time heels". It's not an old blues term and could be confused with the normal usage of "high time", but I'm thinking more along the lines of the Dead song - high/drunk, ie. partying.

And I've heard "moanin' cat" in reference to my singing and/or slide work :D, don't recall any lyrics with it though. But I'm sure in the right context it would be easily understood (or use a more descriptive, standalone "cat in heat" word - resist the urge to use a synonym for cat though - keep it clean!)

Adrian

Duke

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2005, 01:43:14 PM »
Thanks Adrian, this has been an interesting exercise for me - trying to write in an authentic blues voice.  I want to use familiar imagery, without sounding generic (a noble goal, at least).  It's interesting that you brought up "high time heels", I had been thinking of the phrase "high steppin heels", thinking that sort of implies that she's not going to be grieving over the news of my demise for very long. 

Another image I'm trying to nail down with some "vintage" words is a euphemism for the Devil, or for Hell.  I know the term "Old Scratch" has been used for many generations past, I don't think it commonly occurs in blues though?

Offline a2tom

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2005, 02:31:50 PM »
I like "high time heels" - only, is she supposed to be grieving?!?!  Lyrics are a total SOB, trying to split the interests of being true to yourself, but also the blues "tradition" etc.  Very very easy to come off sounding contrived or stilted.  Keep plugging at it.

tom

chipmonk doug

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2005, 04:07:32 AM »
My wife calls those kind of shoes, f*** me heels.  Find them on page 22 of Fredricks. 
In polite company she calles them jump me heels.

Don't know if that will fit the flow of the song, unless you are trying for a Bo Carter feel.


Duke

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2005, 09:53:19 AM »
This song is a variation on the basic 'John Henry' tune, falling somewhere between the uptempo bluegrass versions and the more haunting National guitar version recorded by Furry Lewis late in his life.? The whole idea sprang from a blues-joke I heard many years ago, someone was talking about a most depressing blues song, that starts out "Well, I didn't wake up this morning".? I always found that mildly hilarious and wanted to use it somehow.? So here's my take on the woman-done-me-wrong song.? I'm still not sure how it all will piece together, but it's coming along.? I find it much easier to work on the words a-capella, trying to get it to flow well and sound good with no accompaniment.? I think I have the basic guitar part figured out, but it's always the last 10% of any project that gives me the most trouble.? I think I need a producer!

Dead Man Blues? (D.Baker, 6/1/05)

Well I didn't wake up this morning, I could not climb out my bed
There's cold pine boards beneath my back, six feet of earth restin on my head, Lord
Six feet of cold earth upon my head

Late last night when the sun sat down, there's three crows lit in my tree
When morning come them crows was all gone, Lord what will become of poor me?
Lord what will become of me?

I got a stone cold woman, take the heat right out the sun
Oh one fine day I'm gonna make her pay for how she done me wrong
Lord knows she done me wrong

My baby made me biscuits, baked 'em good and brown
She took none for herself, just sat and watched me put 'em down, mmm she just sat there
? ?and watched me put 'em down

And my stomach took to rumblin', and sweat come pourin' down
The last good memory I recall, I was bayin like an old Walker hound,
I cried baby why'd? you put your good man down?

But she paid me no mind, left me layin there to run my deal
She smeared her lips with devil red lipstick
And she put on her high timin heels - oh that moanin cat put on her black heels
I said Baby why'd you go and kill me?

Baby yes it's true? I stepped out on you, but a man ain't nothin but a man
But you ran around too and now you poisoned this fool, oh I wish I had a hammer in my hand
How I wish I had a hammer in my hand

I'm a dead man now, but baby I ain't gone
One night I'll rise up out this cold cold ground
And I'll come knocking on your door, yeah I'll come knockin on your door

When I walk back through this graveyard gate, no pistol ball can stop me
I'll wrap my long cold fingers round your sweet sweet neck
Baby how you think your man will squeeze?? How hard you think a dead man can squeeze?
I'll squeeze till your wicked heart turns green

I'm a dead man now, the blues won't worry me
Lord I thank you for my time, now I'm goin down the line
I wish I'd made my peace with Thee, it's too late to make my peace with Thee

But I'd ask You please, won't You please give me leave
To fetch that woman back to Hell with me,
Yeah she can burn in Hell here with me
That woman burn in Hell with me
« Last Edit: June 03, 2005, 11:35:09 AM by Duke »

Offline a2tom

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2005, 10:18:03 AM »
wow - that's a lot of words!? I struggle with getting a few good verses - you obviously are more capable in the wordsmith dept.? But, I admit to being audio-dependent - I gots to hear it to really gets it...? Not too many song lyrics stand up as straight poetry.? How long is gonna take you sing through all that?

tom

Duke

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2005, 10:41:01 AM »
wow - that's a lot of words!? I struggle with getting a few good verses - you obviously are more capable in the wordsmith dept.? But, I admit to being audio-dependent - I gots to hear it to really gets it...? Not too many song lyrics stand up as straight poetry.? How long is gonna take you sing through all that?

tom

Ha, that's a good question Tom.  I once came across a version of John Henry that must've had 20 verses.  I think if I leave out the 20 minute drum solo, this may clock in at under 4 minutes.  Maybe less if people start throwing things.  I'll try to work up a soundclip and post it on the Back Porch tonight.

lebordo

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2005, 12:20:55 PM »
Duke --

Interesting.? A couple of comments/suggestions.

  • "I got a stone cold woman" doesn't work for me -- for two reasons.? First, if you're dead, then you HAD a woman -- there isn't a present tense anymore.? Also, if you're dead, YOU are the stone cold one -- that woman is still quite warm :-)



[li]I wonder if "good time heels" wouldn't work better than "high time heels".[/li]



[li]From years of breeding cats, "moanin" isn't the sound of a cat in heat -- "calling" is the word breeders use, and it's technically accurate -- they are calling the male(s).? But the actual sound is more of a bellow or gutteral howl that comes straight from hell.? "Moanin" would better describe the contented sounds they make after visiting the male, or even the sound the mother makes when nursing kittens.[/li]



[li]I personally get more of a ballad feel from the words than a blues feel.? So I wouldn't be too concerned about trying to pick "blusey" words and phrases -- I concentrate on words that tell the story right, and let the voice inflections and accompaniment provide the blusey feeling.[/li]



[li]It's hard to be sure without hearing it sung, but there are places it feels too wordy -- places where there are words that don't really seem to add anything, and in some cases may detract.? For example, in the line "She took none for herself, just sat and watched me put 'em down", I don't find a need for the word "for" or for "sat and".? So I'd shorten it to "She took none herself, just watched me put 'em down".? As someone who tends to be long-winded, I guess I've learned to appreciate brevity over the years, even if it's hard for me to achieve personally.? It also gives you more options on how to fit the lyrics to the melody.? Son House was good at finding interesting ways to phrase a line.? As I sit and look at this line, it also occurs to me that I might also change a couple of words -- to "She ate (or had) none herself, just watched me chow 'em down".? The first change because the key to her still being alive is that she didn't eat any, not that she didn't take any.? The second, because "put 'em down" doesn't suggest eating the biscuits to me, it suggests NOT eating the buscuits.[/li]
[/list]

Of course, everyone has his or her own unique feelings, so if my comments don't work for you, feel free to ignore them.? I've certainly ignored enough ideas over the years -- my own and others :-).

Offline Norfolk Slim

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2005, 12:27:45 PM »
Personally- I think that is a woderfully eloquent and evocative set of lyrics.  Id have been very pleased with myself had I come up with them  :D

Duke

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #15 on: June 04, 2005, 02:10:36 AM »
Paul, I appreciate your comments.? I'm trying to tell this story purely with images rather than a literal narrative.? My goal is something like a lot of Neil Young's good acoustic songs - vague images that somehow tie together and eat at you, even if you're not sure why.? The switching back and forth from past to present tense was intentional on my part.? I just see this as a story that weaves various threads from this guy's life, the thoughts that might race through your mind when you suddenly found yourself poisoned, knowing your going to die - where your past, present, and future are suddenly all brought together.? And I think a lot of the phrases are coming from my Mom, who grew up in the coal-mining region of East Virginia (about 20 miles from Ralph Stanley).? It does "read" on the wordy side, but there is a cadence that I hear and every word has a place (at least I hope).? And I respectfully disagree about a moaning cat.? I grew up with a female Siamese cat and I heard some of the most frightening, otherworldly sounds come out of that cat when she was in heat - moaning was an apt description, believe me!?

About the time I started this, John posted that topic on the home page about pre-blues - and I guess maybe that is what this song is, more than a traditional blues.

So tonight I tried to get something down on audio, and it dawned on me how far I've got to go before I'll ever be able to play and sing this at the same time, all the way through.? But I recorded the first couple of verses and the basic guitar figure I want to use.? The verses are slower than I want, the tempo is probably more like the little guitar thing at the end.? Hopefully the basic idea of the song comes through.  I think it ultimately would need some nice slide Duolian added in here and there.  First things first, though.  Gotta actually get a complete version recorded...  I'll check back in at Christmas and give you a progress report!

PS Thanks for the kind words, Slim.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2005, 02:33:22 AM by Duke »

Offline a2tom

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2005, 05:21:04 AM »
heh, now that's what I'm talking about - the song means something to me now!  Sounds great.  You sing it more ballad like here, to be sure.  I can't hear it going TOO much faster (4 minutes... maybe, drum solo or not  ;)).  At least if it did, it would take a very different feel and sung style, more like an up tempo John Henry feel or something - oh I see that's what you said!  I'll be interested in hearing it again as you smooth out and tempo up the guitar.

I'd be interested to know, if technically, music theory wise, this would qualify as a "pre-blues".  While I understood John M's post logically on that, I must say I haven't wrapped my brain around it aurally yet.

BTW, I'm totally with you on the trying to create "imagery" - that's what good song lyrics do (and why I think they need to be sung to have their real force).  I'm always looking for words and phrases that are, for lack of a better word, "evocative", of more than just their literal linear meaning.

tom

lebordo

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2005, 10:36:27 AM »
Hi, Duke.

Sounds much more harmonious when sung.  The two verses you sang have no hint of the wordiness I found in the words alone.

As to whether it is pre-blues or not, it's not what I think of as pre-blues.  But I'm no expert on pre-blues -- only what the term evokes in my thoughts.  From my musical experience, I'd classify it as a classic Appalachian style ballad -- much in the style of "Long Black Veil" -- a very moving song, and one of my personal favorites.  A song that could be sung in many different styles, from pure bluegrass to hillbilly to old English to folk to bluesy.  Or even Bob Dylanish -- in the style of The Ballad Of Hollis Brown, though certainly with a different cadence.

Anyway, I'm glad you posted the .mp3 -- it makes it much easier for me to see what you are trying to accomplish.

Duke

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2005, 12:20:06 AM »
Well, I spent a lot of time thinking about the Appalachian ballad thing, and I think it works very well with the lyrics.  But I really wanted to try to put it into a blues context musically.  So I let the recorder run and noodled around on a traditional uptempo blues thing in E, sort of mumbling the lyrics just trying to hear something I could use.  There's enough to hear the basic outline of a song.  It is quite different from the mountainey version, but I think it might work just as well.  The comments have been very helpful, thanks everyone
Dan

the guitar used is a 1934 Gibson L-00, with bronze phosphor strings.

Offline a2tom

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Re: Looking for a word to use in a lyric
« Reply #19 on: June 11, 2005, 05:53:37 AM »
sort of mumbling the lyrics just trying to hear something I could use

Dan - I must admit that you are mumbling enough (I totally get why) that I am having a hard time hearing how your words complete out the song.  I get the first line or two of a verse, but then I can't actually tell what you're doing next - repeating phrases?  The guitar is a real steady vamping along in E, which you are obviously quite comfortable with (have you played rhythm guitar in band or something ever? - just curious since you "have it").    At the same time, the guitar so far is basically generic - a few twiddles on the treble heading back to the E and as you get playing along, but I can't tell yet how they define the tune.  So all said and done I get more "identity" from the ballady version at this point.  That's not to say not to keep working on the bluesified thing.  I really appreciate hearing posts along the learning and creating process - someday maybe I'll get the guts to do that.

the guitar used is a 1934 Gibson L-00, with bronze phosphor strings.

cool - I may have to have you up to A2 for a mini Weenie camp...if you bring the Gibson...  I'll send you an email at some point coming up.  (no, not just beccause you have L-00  :P)

tom

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