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Haven't you heard, the older the buck the stiffer the horn - Yank Rachell, during one of his later hospitalizations, amourously cornering a nurse. As quoted in Blues Mandolin Man

Author Topic: 'A World Unknown'  (Read 22348 times)

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Offline dj

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #15 on: September 25, 2007, 02:08:32 AM »
Quote
Does the Revenant box transcription have 'world unknown'?

Yes.  Dick Spottswood and company have "world unknown" in the lyric transcriptions included in the Revenant box.

And Stephen Calt has "world unknown" in his transcription of the song, too.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2007, 03:35:15 AM by dj »

Offline dj

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #16 on: September 25, 2007, 03:59:32 AM »
I put "Down The Dirt Road" on Transcribe! and played with it a bit, mostly slowing it way down looking for any phonetic clues to what Patton might really be singing.  What he's pronouncing is "wur dun no".  There's no hint of a syllable before "wur" that might be the "a" in "a world unknown".  But there's also no hint of an "I" in "where I don't know".  So whichever phrase it is, Patton swallows one syllable - not that unusual an occurrence for him.  I also don't get any hint of an "n" sound at the end of "no".  But dropping a final consonant sound is also not that unusual for Patton.  Based on the above, either phrase would fit what Charley is actually pronouncing.

As Son House said, "You could sit at Charley's feet and not understand a word he was singing."   ;D

I like the "world unknown" imagery, but I think I finally have to come down on the side of "where (I) don't know", just because Patton almost certainly would have known the phrase "a world unknown" from hymns and thus would have been familiar with its metaphysical connotation, and I just don't feel that that connotation fits in with the rest of the song.
   
« Last Edit: September 25, 2007, 05:51:34 AM by dj »

Offline Rivers

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2007, 05:34:35 AM »
Patton produced some memorable poetry. It's one of the reasons his work is set apart from the others. So with all due respect I would suggest it's not projecting backwards to recognize that simple fact. The man was clearly capable of poetic writing  that occasionally, as poetry often will, crosses over into the metaphysical. Whether Patton himself realized it or not, to discount that diminishes the man's genius.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2007, 06:50:05 AM »
I'm not saying Patton wasn't capable of poetry. I'm saying the phrase "a world unknown" seems affected, poetically hammy and out of character.

My guess is that these lines would be variations on a stock verse, as many Patton lyrics are. It would certainly be helpful if any other examples of verses using similar language could be turned up. I can't think of any but will keep my ears peeled.

Offline waxwing

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2007, 08:29:13 AM »
Well, using Transcribe! myself, slowed to 70% with no EQ,  and the Nevins/Yazoo remastering, what I clearly hear is "to  wellah  no-o-o" in both iterations. I can't hear any hard "D" sound at all, but do hear the soft "L" tap between a pretty sharp "eh" sound to the "ah" sound. Of course, the "W" sound would be a natural elide between "oo" and "eh" as a glottal stop would jar the phrasing.

It seems Charley drops the long "E" sound from the end of "Illinois" and the "NG" from the end of "Long" also somewhat changinge the "O" in "Long" to make the rhyme.

Metaphysics aside, I think Charley and most of the other residents of the Delta had Chicago on their minds. And I guess Son House's evidence negates Booker Miller's transcription, eh?

I'm sticking with "To Illinois".

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2007, 08:37:03 AM by waxwing »
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Offline uncle bud

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #20 on: September 25, 2007, 09:24:49 AM »
OK, so I did the same myself for fun, except using Audacity (and yes, Wax, working from the best remastered version by Nevins on Yazoo). Slowed to 70%. No EQ (though EQ could help) and the first occurrence it's a toss-up IMO, and the second it sounds clearly as a 'D' not an 'L', IMO. I'd go with "Illinois" before "world unknown" but am still sticking to "where I don't know", pronounced pretty much the way dj has it. He pretty much swallows the "I". Which wouldn't be uncommon for many more than just Patton.

Wax, what Son House evidence are you referring to? Frankly, I take everything Son House says about Patton with a grain of salt.

And if we're to talk poetics, "where I don't know" fits structurally with the deliberately vague imagery Patton builds up in the first couple verses. Not much is actually named in these verses, except the rider. There is a playful lack of concreteness. What we get is really wordplay based on unnamed things and concepts in opposition (going away/doesn't know where, worried now/won't be worried long, rider hiding something/Charley finding something).

I'm goin away to where I don't know
I'm goin away to where I don't know
I'm worried now but I won't be worried long.

My rider got somethin', she try'n to keep it hid,
My rider got somethin', she try'n to keep it hid,
Lord, I got somethin' to find that somethin' with.

(and no, it's not "find that bastard with...", Wax.  :P)



Offline Stuart

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #21 on: September 25, 2007, 09:37:17 AM »
John C: Son House's statement is just that--a statement. It may be at odds with or contradict what Booker Miller stated, but it doesn't negate it. We may not be sitting at Charley's feet, but we do understand a lot of what he says when he sings. His words are not totally unintelligible.

One can certainly make a case for "Illinois." It's possible that the first verse is not a close rhyme, even when we factor in Charley's pronunciation.

When I referred to "projecting" (re: the metaphysical, poetic, etc.) I just wanted to make sure that we are aware that we should be careful when giving reasons why or why not Charley would use a specific word or phrase. They are our reasons and do not necessarily apply to him. We don't want to impose any "fictive constructs,"--or do we?

Rivers: I agree that Charley wrote some great poetry. Wisdom and insights have come in many forms and from many different individuals. No one has a monopoly.

Again, the recording is unclear, or we wouldn't be having this discussion. At times the mind fills in what the ear cannot clearly hear (or wants to hear). Perhaps the best answer is "I think he's saying "X," but I can't be 100% certain."

I'd like to hear the "un-remastered" original 78s of this one. Sometimes I think that the remasters are like edited texts, certainly more refined, but another step (or steps) removed from the original.

Added: No 78s, but I listened to the Yazoo vinyl LP--as expected I still can't make it out. The liner notes transcribe it as "to where I don't know." (There you go, Uncle Bud.) I checked Fahey's book and he has it as "to the one I know."

When it comes to figuring out lyrics, I'm going to stick to instrumentals from now on. ;)

« Last Edit: September 25, 2007, 11:03:36 AM by Stuart »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #22 on: September 25, 2007, 12:07:45 PM »
When I referred to "projecting" (re: the metaphysical, poetic, etc.) I just wanted to make sure that we are aware that we should be careful when giving reasons why or why not Charley would use a specific word or phrase. They are our reasons and do not necessarily apply to him. We don't want to impose any "fictive constructs,"--or do we?

Hi Stuart -

I don't think it's projecting to say that a phrase sounds unlikely and unnatural in a particular context. I don't think Charley was incapable of getting metaphysical nor incapable of poetic turns of phrase (even bad ones). If the line had occurred in one of Patton's religious numbers, where the language is indeed that of religious texts and songs, fine. Then it would be like some variant on lines such as "I'm going down to the river of Jordan" that are 'metaphysical', reflective, spiritual etc. But in Down the Dirt Road, it just sounds out of place, and is more like something from the mouth of a carnival barker, or a Peter O'Toole character satirizing bad actors, or some other person inclined to purplish turns of phrase - like a writer of hymns. Like maybe the brilliantly named Augustus Montague Toplady. (I'd forgotten that name existed. Thanks Doug!)

Quote
I'd like to hear the "un-remastered" original 78s of this one. Sometimes I think that the remasters are like edited texts, certainly more refined, but another step (or steps) removed from the original.

I'd like to hear it too, although the latest version on the Best of Charlie Patton is probably as good as we'll get, and my limited understanding of Nevins' concept of remastering is to be as "natural" (e.g., unprocessed) as possible. Sometimes what we're calling "remastered" is mostly better copies of 78s, played at the correct speed, on the right equipment etc. Low tech, in other words.

Offline Stuart

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #23 on: September 25, 2007, 02:29:43 PM »
Hi Uncle Bud:

As I said in my earlier post, Charley could have just picked up "world unknown" and used for the purpose of rhyme. This is just one possible explanation of how "world unknown" came to be used in the first verse--if in fact it was used at all. (A big "if.") Personally, like yourself, I favor "to where I don't know." As you say, it's more like Charley. But this view--for me, anyway--is impressionistic and not analytic. If it is the case that Booker Miller personally heard Patton sing and play this piece and if his statements were accurate and also applied to the recorded version, then I'd be hard pressed to come up with a counter argument. Coupled with the evidence based on the rhyme scheme, the statements of a reliable informant supports the position that Patton sung "world unknown." However, it may be that his statements were inaccurate and that the rhyme scheme evidence is a red herring.

We don't have a very large sample of Patton's output to work with. And even if we did, there are always surprises. I always keep Richard Feynman's famous dictum in mind: "The easiest person to fool is yourself" and follow it by the old standard "So don't believe everything you think!" I've made too many mistakes to ever begin to entertain the notion that I know everything and/or that I am right all of the time.

One more thing: The copy to the advertisement for "Down the Dirt Road Blues" reads in part, "...he's decided to hit the dirty, dusty trail for parts unknown." Perhaps this phrasing worked it's way into the deciphering/transcription process, but this is just a guess on my part.

As Always,

Mr. Know-It-All


Offline dj

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #24 on: September 25, 2007, 03:27:28 PM »
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If it is the case that Booker Miller personally heard Patton sing and play this piece and if his statements were accurate and also applied to the recorded version, then I'd be hard pressed to come up with a counter argument.

I agree with this.  In judging Miller's statement, it would be nice to know when and under what circumstances it was made.  Did Miller sing his version of the song without prompting?  Or was he asked what the lyrics were?  Or did Calt read his  transcription of the lyrics and say "Is this correct"?  In the first case Miller's testimony would be worth a lot.  In the last, it's almost worthless. 

Offline Rivers

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #25 on: September 25, 2007, 04:28:03 PM »
I took my baby to meet that mornin' train, and the blues come down, baby, like showers of rain -  Charlie Patton, Pony Blues

Evenin' was at midnight when I heard that local blow -  Charlie Patton, Moon Goin' Down

Not to mention hollow logs, Natchez on a high hill, Vicksburg down below (or was it...), his mama gettin old and hair turnin' grey, whistles blowing, Southern crossing the Dog...

Patton's stuff is high art compared to most of the hack lyrics of the time, much as we love them.

Offline banjochris

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #26 on: September 25, 2007, 05:43:14 PM »
I agree with this.  In judging Miller's statement, it would be nice to know when and under what circumstances it was made.  Did Miller sing his version of the song without prompting?  Or was he asked what the lyrics were?  Or did Calt read his  transcription of the lyrics and say "Is this correct"?  In the first case Miller's testimony would be worth a lot.  In the last, it's almost worthless. 


Boy, ain't that the truth. From the clips of the interviews Gayle Dean Wardlow did with Miller that are included on the "Chasing that Devil Music" CD, I'd guess that some version of the latter is more likely. I'd also love to hear more of the actual tapes of a lot of those interviews.
Chris

Offline Stuart

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #27 on: September 25, 2007, 11:29:26 PM »
I really don't have any knowledge about the process that resulted in the transcriptions provided in the Revenant box set. I have no insight into how rigorous the critical evaluation of the various variants was and how final decisions were arrived at. My opinion is based on certain suppositions and assumptions, but in the end it is just that--an opinion. As I mentioned, I think that Uncle Bud and John C can each certainly make a case for alternative explanations.

Charley will never sing "Down the Dirt Road Blues" again, but hopefully many other people will. They will do it as they see fit. Poetic license, personal interpretation, and the art of performance have always been an important part of the Blues as a living tradition. I'm sure that future performances of Charley's great song will bear this out.

Over and Out,

Uncle Stuie

Offline uncle bud

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #28 on: September 26, 2007, 08:28:07 AM »
Stuart - I agree, Charley could have just picked up the line. Good point about the advertisement, too. I'd forgotten about that.

That there is no definitive answer here is basically what I was getting at -- cheeky claims of being right aside -- when I referred way back in this thread to Elijah Wald's article beginning "Who was Charley Patton and what the hell was he singing about?" and which goes on to say "There is no 'right' answer...."

Patton's lyrics have been debated for decades and will continue to be. I'm surprised we haven't had more of them discussed on WC.

Like Wax, though, I know what I'm hearin' and singin'.  :D

Rivers: is anyone saying otherwise?  :D Though I think it's important to keep in mind that many of Charley's lines have other origins.

Offline waxwing

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Re: 'A World Unknown'
« Reply #29 on: September 26, 2007, 09:04:52 AM »
Yeah, UB, but I think Charley would be just as likely to artistically change a traditional line to something different as to merely repeat it. For instance, I don't know how you can hear him sing "somethin' with" at the end of the second verse. He sings the word "somethin' " three other times in that verse and that last phrase doesn't sound even remotely like the others. It's not overly obscured by the guitar or scratches, and whether you think it's "ba-a-a-stid with" or not, I don't see how you could hear "somethin' " just because he or someone else has sung it in another song. You could possibly make a case that that is what he meant to say and just screwed up, except that he sounds pretty purposeful to me, but I think there's just as strong a case that he would purposefully change a line that his audience was familiar with just to catch their ear. To me that would be "in character" for what we know of Charley.

All for now.
John C.
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
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