Cover of W.C. Handy’s “Yellow Dog Blues” bleeding in and out of an intro and outro drone of ambient guitars over a cascade of analog sounds: radio snippets, static and a quiet ending flurry of a reel-to-reel careening in reverse into a manual television changing channels.
A studio360 as well as a Disquiet Junto challenge. Marc Weidenbaum, who runs the Junto, told me this particular studio360 project seemed especially appropriate for our collective because “the blues was never fully about composition as an end, but about a rich community of shared source material.” The blues, like other forms of folk music, is a source of inspiration for the Creative Commons, and he felt like the Yellow Dog Blues project seemed a vehicle to make that connection.
For the challenge, we were given the original sheet music and told to do something with it. In W.C. Handy’s narrative, no one is in a fixed place, whether physical (Jockey Lee, aka Easy Rider) or mental (Susan Johnson). The story seems to try to reconcile the desire to stay put with the yearning to run and never look back. The talk of technology and communication in the song (cablegrams, telegrams, letters, trains…) sent me thinking about the wait-times between communications, and then the spaces, static and snow between radio stations and tv stations. And then, broader, thinking about the spaces between songs around the same narrative. After all, W.C. Handy was continuing a story started in another song, jumping into it at a different time and place. What happened to Susan and her Easy Rider between those songs is part of the mystery. What happened to them was the blues.
Louis Armstrong’s recording helped get my timing right for the vocal part and understand the idiosyncrasies of the original’s 2/4 rhythm (I went 4/4, but did honor the underlying 12-bar structure). Then, Eartha Kitt’s take with Nat King Cole on piano doubled-down on my Junto-channeled courage to rearrange and rewrite some of the lyrics to suit my own style. I figured it was better to be “true” to myself than try to be “authentic” to any canonical version. So my take is cool where the original is hot. I changed the chorus up, too, because when I’m blue, I’m more bVII-IV-I than V-IV-I.
peace from brooklyn,
jolie (cherry-red es-335 w/ peekamoose custom electronics)
earthquaker devices “the warden” optical compressor, zvex box of rock, tc electronic flashback delay, diamond tremolo, strymon blueSky reverberator, line6 pod-xt, ehx superego synth engine, ehx pog2 octave generator, ehx freeze
akg c3000-b condenser mic, lexicon mx-200 rack delay
motu 828mk2 firewire, acid pro 7.0, win 8.1