Monday, September 10, 2012

The Texas Blues #5 – So Lonesome – Ramblin’ Thomas

It’s Monday morning, so I expect some of you have the blues! & here’s some Monday Morning Blues on Robert Frost’s Banjo to help you sing them away.

Today’s post is a continuation of the rather ambling & meandering Texas Blues series—we’re still very much in the acoustic portion of the proceedings, & still very much in the 1920s. Today’s featured artist, Ramblin’ Thomas, in fact recorded one of my all time favorite blues: his version of “Poor Boy Blues,” which he waxed for Paramount in 1928.

But I’ve already written about his “Poor Boy Blues”—& other versions of that song (or concept) in the Poor Boy Blues series. Not wishing to re-invent the wheel, this is what I had to say about Thomas in my brief biography in that earlier post:

Ramblin’ Thomas was born Willard Thomas in Logansport, Louisiana in 1902.  Not a lot is known of his biography, tho the fact that his younger brother, Jesse “Babyface” Thomas was “re-discovered” in the 1970s (& lived until 1995) did fill in some gaps about his life.  We know that Ramblin’ Thomas moved to the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas sometime in the late 1920s, & that his considerable travels also brought him to Chicago & other points in the midwest.  He recorded 16 of his existing 20 sides in Chicago in 1928 during two separate sessions for Paramount—the first was in February, the second in November.  The fact that Paramount brought him back for a second session suggests that they considered his material to be commercially viable.  He also recorded four songs for Victor in Dallas in 1932.

Since I’d already written about his recording of “Poor Boy Blues,” I decided I choose another song for this series, & I decided on “So Lonesome,” a song I’ve played around with myself. It’s a much more straightforward piece, as it follows more closely what we think of as the standard 12-bar blues structure.  Still, it displays the characteristic sparseness of Thomas’ playing—lots of single string notes, minimal chording, & virtually no accompaniment while he’s actually singing. It is, of course, a slide guitar piece played in the “Vestapol” tuning—typically either open D or open E—tho this recording is in the key of F, achieved presumably with a capo (tuning all the way up to F in “Vestapol” tuning would not only be hard on the strings but on the guitar neck itself.)  “So Lonesome” was recorded at the same February 1928 Paramount session as “Poor Boy Blues,” & was an “A side” backed with “Lock & Key Blues.”


1 comment:

  1. Hi, John. I'm a bit of a stranger these days! Back here now to appreciate this
    piece of very clean-limbed slide guitar. I didn't know that Ramblin' Thomas was Jesse 'Babyface' Thomas' brother. Live and learn time!


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