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We wanted to play the blues, so we got some stuff we recorded that's almost a blues and it's almost a waltz - which I think would be nice for y'all to learn about... Don't ever say "I can't do something because I don't have this..." I learned to play fiddle on a cigar box - Canray Fontenot

Author Topic: Country Blues-writing songs in the style  (Read 9527 times)

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Offline a2tom

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Re: Country Blues-writing songs in the style
« Reply #45 on: December 01, 2004, 07:32:21 PM »
ooh, touche'!  Excellent dictionary use.  As an aside, we keep a dictionary handy near the dinner table and frequently refer to it in times like these.  An amazing book the dictionary.  Not great for reading aloud, though.

As another aside, the reason I like opera is simple - it is an unbelievable acoustic music experience.  Nothing will ever beat a fine instrument or voice in its glory.  Sitting in a good opera house with the orchestra and voices ringing is bone-tingling.

Sorry about the digressions.  I will bring this back by reiterating that I think some of the comments about lyrics really aren't specific to the blues, as I've heard very similar things re: a very different genre.   I'm not trying to make an argument that blues lyrics aren't poetry.  But I would echo JohnM's notion that you can't simply take fancy poetic words, set 'em to music and expect it to work, blues or otherwise, probably.


Offline Johnm

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Re: Country Blues-writing songs in the style
« Reply #46 on: December 01, 2004, 09:35:16 PM »
Hi all,
I don't have any problem with your opera post, Tom, and in terms of strong emotional undercurrents informing the musical content, I think the comparison to Blues is apt.  I think I made the distinction between the blues being poetic and being poetry partially because the great mass of Blues lyrics, especially in the early years, came right out of Black Tin Pan Alley and the Classic Blues, and was intended to succeed as popular entertainment.  This is not to say that popular entertainment can not achieve poetic qualities, but I don't see it having the absolute qualities that I associate with poetry.  It's more a functional sort of art.  What's more, I suspect poets would not be as good at creating blues lyrics as were the Tin Pan Alley writers or the more creative musician lyricists like JT Smith, Clifford Gibson, Lil' Son Jackson or Robert Wilkins.  Have you ever read Langston Hughes' blues lyrics?  They are not so great.
All best,

Offline GhostRider

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Re: Country Blues-writing songs in the style
« Reply #47 on: December 02, 2004, 10:17:41 AM »

I happen to be reading Paul Garon's Blues and the Poetic Spirit,

Beware Paul Garon! I bought and read his book on Memphis Minnie and it was the worst piece of analytical drivel I have ever read!

Speaking of blues lyrics, this discussion seems to have waxed serious. I doubt that Blind Blake or Lemon Jefferson were attempting to be deep or poetic, they were just trying to write catchy lyrics that would sell.

Of all the elements in blues lyrics that make them so enjoyable, the most prevelant is humour. Near the beginning of Wald's book on Robert Johnson he recounts a story about playing some RJ songs at the dedication of his memorial to a local audience who had never heard of him. He was suprised by the reaction of the locals, laughter, to RJ more salaceous lyrics.

In the 30's sexual bragadocio may have provoked a humour response. In writing blues lyrics I would try to provoke the humour, what modern audiences would find funny (in this PC society). As the blue lyrics writers of 80 years ago were trying to do (at least the sucessful ones) try and entertain your audience, not yourself.

« Last Edit: December 02, 2004, 10:18:43 AM by pyrochlore »


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Re: Country Blues-writing songs in the style
« Reply #48 on: December 17, 2005, 09:16:05 AM »
I have been writing a lot of songs the past few months, and came upon this topic since a recent post about creating own arrangments had a link to it.  I don't think my answer was helpful in that topic at all, since I cannot write my own arrangements or do not really want to, to trad songs.  However, when I write my own song, what I have been doing is drawing on what I have learned by studying country blues,  and was happy to read that I seem to be on the right track.  Another thing I do is let the lyrics lead me to the way the song should be played.  A lot of times I will consciously write the song to a 12 bar blues, structure but a song can always be modified to fit any form.  I get inspired to write in the style of an old blues master I am learning a song by, so while studying Robert Johnson, I find myself writing a lot of 12 bar blues in the key of A or E. Weenie Campbell is a great inspiration for me, I am always listening, and hear lines in songs that relate to one of mine, and in the old blues tradition, bring the line to my song and rewrite my line, or try to expand it for a new verse.  Hope this inspires some new dialogue to a great subject near and dear to my heart right now.


Offline RobBob

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Re: Country Blues-writing songs in the style
« Reply #49 on: March 16, 2016, 09:10:19 AM »
I am enjoying this old thread.  I have been making up blues for nearly 50 years.  Even recorded a couple.  AS for it being in our DNA, these are trying times and I have listen to and played with a wide range of musicians.  All the while absorbing their influence.  I guess it does really rub off, their influence and knowledge of their life experience.  As good as my life is, I still get the blues and that is why I stop in here from time to time.

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