Monday, June 7, 2010
"The Gone Dead Train"
It’s time for another edition of the Monday Morning Blues, & today’s featured song is a wild romp even by the standards of old blues. It’s called “The Gone Dead Train,” & it originated with a singer-guitar player who went by the name of King Solomon Hill.
It’s thought that King Solomon Hill was one Joe Holmes, who was born in Mississippi in 1897 & lived much of his life in Louisiana in the Minden area, & specifically in a place called King Solomon Hill Baptist Church. Holmes recorded six songs during his lifetime, tho there are no known copies of two of them. The four that survive are “The Gone Dead Train,” “Whoopee Blues,” “Down On My Bended Knee” & “Tell Me Baby.” A small output, but at his best he was a guitarist & singer with uncanny power & range. He did play slide style—reportedly using a steakbone as a slide—& from what evidence we have in his four surviving songs, he played a spare & highly individual guitar style. King Solomon Hill was apparently was a friend of the great Blind Lemon Jefferson, & like Blind Lemon was probably a street musician.
As per usual, the song is my version, not an imitation; for one thing, King Solomon Hill had an amazing falsetto, which I don’t possess. One of the riffs I use came from his song “Whoopee Blues”—a truly disturbing song about vengeance, but one that contains some interesting guitar work. “The Gone Dead Train,” on the other hand, is a hobo’s story about displacement & alienation & the inherent dangers of a life riding the blinds on freight trains.
Hope you enjoy it!