Tuesday, August 17, 2010

“Bird’s Nest Bound”

What if you were so blue you still had the Monday Morning Blues on Tuesday?  Well, figuratively speaking, that’s what’s happening here.  The Monday Morning Blues was displaced by one day by yesterday’s blog anniversary.  But to my mind, the old-time blues are good on any day of the week.

Today’s song is by Charley Patton, & it’s been passed down to us from a recording he made in 1930 in Grafton, Wisconsin for Paramount Records.  He’s accompanied by Willie Brown on second guitar on the recording.  Although he’s not well known outside of blues aficionado circles, Willie Brown was one of the great Delta blues guitarists.  Once Son House (who was also at the same 1930 Grafton recording session) was asked about Willie Brown’s & Charley Patton’s comparative guitar-playing abilities:

House: Well, now Charley…I thought Charley was the best player because I met Charley first, but I had never heard Will.
Q: When you first heard them together who was better?
House: Then I knowed it was Willie.
Q: Do you suppose that Charley knew he couldn’t play like willie?
House: Yeh, yeh, Charley knew it. Yeh, he knowed it, ‘cause a lot of times we’d be together & Bill, he called him Bill…Bill you c’mon play that piece….Charley could beat him singing, but those beats & things, Willie could beat him on that & he knowed it
from Oak Anthology of Blues Guitar: Delta Blues by Stefan Grossman

Patton & Brown played the song in open G, which is also called “Spanish tuning.”  This name comes from the song “Spanish Fandango,” a tune that many country blues guitar players had in their repertoire that was invariably played in open G tuning; for those of you who don’t know, “open G” means that the 6 guitar strings are tuned so that if you play them without fretting any strings, a G major chord is played.  In standard tuning, the open strings don’t produce a common major chord.  My version is done in drop D tuning, (the bass string tuned down to D rather than E) & there’s only one of me, so the arrangement is quite different.  I’m playing my Regal resonator guitar.

Hope you enjoy it & that it drives your Tuesday blues away!


  1. Okay, the Tuesday morning blues are gone! Interesting stuff about the drop D tuning.

  2. Interesting. I can imagine how that would sound with a second, slide guitar added; it'd be downright eerie!

    I'm partial to the open G tuning; you can get very spacey with it and do all-night trance jams with it, stuff like that. And back in the day when I still had a mandolin I used to tune it to an open D dulcimer-style tuning. I learned that from an Irish musician; apparently over in Ireland they like to tune mandolins, citterns, Irish bouzoukis (Donal Lunny is my hero!), and even banjos to open chord tunings because it fits well with the Celtic drone structure. Yeah, I like drones, too. Heh, heh!

  3. Hi Willow & Roy

    Willow: Glad you liked it--I never know how interesting the tuning stuff is to non-guitarists, so that's good feedback--thanks!

    Roy: Yes! I like open G tuning since I also play the banjo, but it doesn't tend to mesh as well with my voice as D--I do a few tunes in G in standard tuning. That's very interesting about the mandolin in open D--I'm assuming the G string goes down to F# & the E string down to D. Drones are cool--I'd be lost without 'em!

  4. Spooky stuff, as so often from the majestic Charlie Patton. Minor key, open G and resonator plus your laconic delivery work really well here, John.

    I just bought an Ozark resonator acoustic bass guitar on eBay. With new strings on board, it's good and loud.

  5. Hi Dick: Thanks!--yes, "spooky" is often a good word for Charlie Patton!" Now I've never seen a resonator bass guitar--that sounds truly intriguing--will have to investigate further.

  6. John, it's actually A-D-A-D; you only have to change the top and bottom sets. I have my mountain dulcimer tuned to D-A-D-D.

  7. Hi Roy: Right, I should know that--Eberle plays the mountain dulcimer--unfortunately only rarely, because she's quite good on it.

  8. Hi again Roy: Those I-V tunings are great for modal stuff--in some ways that's what I do with the drop D tuning for blues because you don't have to worry about the major third with either the D or A chords--in fact I usually add in Fs & Cs respectively, tho in some songs I'll rock between F# & F.

  9. Sometimes I need you... and then again I don't
    Those are the words I kept thinking about afterwards; they can sum up entire relationships.

    I enjoyed this; thanks for posting it.

  10. Hi HKatz: True enough about that particular stanza--the lyrics of this one interest me a great deal. Glad you liked it!


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