Singin’ the Blues

A conversation starter I use sometimes: if you had to listen to only one narrow genre of popular music for a road trip / year / decade — basically, for a very long time — what genre would you choose? Now, you will certainly tire of that style, so you’ll need a chaser. Pick a second genre of music to complement your first choice.

For me, it wouldn’t be Blues. My shot would be early ’90s rock; Grunge, GNR. My chaser: ’70s pop such as ABBA and various mellow US/UK acts such as Little River Band and Christopher Cross. Levity to relieve the heaviness.

Still; sometimes there’s a perfect moment for Blues. Such a moment described in an earlier contemplation on music:

I once passed through a town in northwestern Tennessee, humming Dwight Yoakam’s “Thousand Miles From Nowhere” as I drove. This was midnight, 1995. With a cigarette in my hand I searched for radio stations, hoping to get lucky and catch Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” but instead, found a vintage Blues song. I left it on because the ghost of Nathan Bedford Forrest, who still watches over his folk in that little town, listened with me and because that recording, which lasted as long as the night, was a different kind of Clair de lune.

I know nothing about music but it’s my favorite blogging subject. Blues were developed by blacks reinterpreting Scots-Irish folk ballads. White artists who did great work in the genre:

The Crowes’ song above… I linked to a live performance. You decide if it works for you. It’s very passionate. A consummate performance by the entire band. The studio version is a great obscure song of the early 1990s.

  • Izzy Stradlin “Shuffle it All” (solid rebound after getting fired from Guns N Roses; my often-played song in 1992)

And this one below. It’s by Czesław Niemen. Here is an older post with some background on him and my favorite of his songs, “The Flowers of my Land.” He’s best remembered for his Sixties’ hippie aesthetic along with signature jazz- and blues-inspired music. Most of his music is in his native language, but he also recorded three albums in English.

“Why Did You Stop Loving Me” — I discovered the song a couple of days ago. A free-flowing twelve minutes of experimental, psychedelic Blues from the late ’60s or early ’70s. It starts out conventionally for the first minute-plus, and then:

49 thoughts on “Singin’ the Blues

  1. Come on PA lets show Niemen in all the glory of the Polish language, The English speakers can translate if they want. I can talk about music for ages, so I’ll post later, but for now.

  2. Niemen was one of a kind. I have a translation of “Kwiaty Ojczyste” linked above (“Here is an older post…”). I once listened all night to “Flowers of My Land” on repeat loop. In the comments there, Lothar posted several great Sixties songs in that genre.

  3. Pingback: Singin’ the Blues | Reaction Times

  4. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s voice can be impressive. Walloping and viscid, like a wolfpack poisedly hunting a mountain goat on a swerving cruise liner. One would like to see him accompany a vast enesemble of bagpipers, with a few electric harmonicas thrown in there too. Czesław Niemen slightly reminds me of The Black Angels, a younger group still active, albeit significantly less reliant on the manifold mental heroins of hardline psychadelica that their sound is so immersed in.

  5. Mexican popular would be the one genre categorically outside of consideration. “Alejandro” in particular.

  6. The topic of White and black influence on the blues and vise versa, has been done to death. Counter Currents gave it the insufferable ten thousand word treatment five years ago. It’s still a good topic though.

    I saw a comment just yesterday on Morgoth’s Review. A poster there has a real bug in his butt about America. He is always ripping on America. He must have a small dick or something. A lot of Englishmen suffered the scalpel in the hospitals of their birth; nothing near to American rates of diminishment but even so. After USA and Australia and Canada, they were the fourth most diminished. The Anglosphere; the eternal Anglo; perfidious Albion. There’s a reason for all those mean names.

    But this MR poster was ripping on American Music; he said American Music was entirely black and jew. The level of ignorance in such comment defies belief. That someone would speak so passionately and in ignorance. He is wrong. American Traditional music is Vast. Bluegrass and Country are the two White forms that predated popular rock and roll or whatever, but really it’s the old songbooks of traditional and popular folk. These songs are not obscure. Most of us will know them from the old days, elementary school etc blah blah blah.

    Except however they probably stopped being taught and SUNG sometime around 1985. Or in any case, no longer taught and sung w/ anything resembling enthusiasm. Or maybe they still are, I don’t have much direct experience of the school system anymore. Once they disallowed our participatory synchronized swimmers fan club, the welcome mat was removed.

    Old Susanna, Don’t You Cry for Me
    Many other examples

    Not to brag, but I know many of these songs by heart, or can at least sight read them well enough. They are definitely meant to be done up with “other people” in a come-together sorta way.

    That was the Thing with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir and the Dead. They had their problems, but they were, along with Dylan, the last popular expression of those songs. Jerry was in fact and w/o doubt, a musical genius. He had that certain something in his talent suite that brought it together. However his health problems were terminal. Bob Weir was the perfect counterbalance. Not so gifted but more together in his physical health; more vigorous.

    The genre of classic folk is red pill through and through —

    On Top of Old Smokey, all covered w/ snow
    I lost my true love, from courting too slow

    Same as it ever was …

  7. The reason all those negro (ahem) “geniuses” who could play three chords were such an alleged influence were because any young White boy who heard it said to himself “Hell, I could do THAT” and by the end of the first month he bought his first guitar he had most of those songs down pat, and with a cleaner energy.

    If that’s “influence”, well… it’s like giving JFK credit for the work of von Braun, merely because the former suggested we try to land on the moon.

    Compare, for example, the original “greasy black” versions of songs like Twist & Shout and Do You Love Me with the clean White energy of the Brit Invasion Beatles and DC5 respectively, and tell me which have more power.

    Guys like Brian Wilson could write the equivalent of Sweet Little Sixteen in his sleep… could Chuck Berry even dream of anything like God Only Knows or Good Vibrations?

    See what The Who did with Sonny Boy Williamson’s Eyesight To The Blind and then try to make the argument that Tommy has any negro influence.

    And of course, comparing Led Zeppelin’s work to the old blues songs that they allegedly cover is like comparing an oil painting to a coloring book.

    Another experiment for yucks is to compare black artists attempting to do some White songs… see if you can dig up the laughable version of the Temptations doing Hey Jude or Little Richard doing Lady Madonna and try not to cringe.

  8. It’s intetesting you have “Since i’ve been loving you.” That was one of the songs Page and Plant were accused of ripping off from a white artist, Moby Grape. But in most cases of Zeppelinic plagiarism, the plagiarees would come around. They knew it meant publicity for them, and their suits and such didn’t mean they weren’t flattered by the “attention.” Willie Dixon was said to have hosted the band at his Chicago home during their 77 tour, according to music journalist Stephen Davis; Spirit just lost a plagiarism case; the Incredible String Band was said to have been plagiarized (ever heard of them?Now you have…see how it works?); Moby Grape is good friends with Robert Plant; the list goes on.

    The only one who has a right to be pissed is Greenwich Village folksinger Jake Holmes. They blatantly profited over his “Dazed and Confused.” Holmes was also the one who wrote “Be, All That You Can Be” for the US Army. I hope they didn’t rip him off too.

  9. My shot would be 70s rock (Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Doobie Bros. etc) with my chaser being 80s/90s pop. Only including early 90s for the Brits new wave stuff from Depeche Mode and the like. And, I was a kid when the 80s pop was doing its thing so it offers a nice nostalgia trip and I do enjoy many of those tunes outright.

    PA, since you’d always reference music from time to time (especially at CH), I always took your avatar name to reference PA, you know for concerts and what not.

  10. All of those three excellent songs are about the deleterious effect of a woman on a man. The unsaid assumption is that women are and ought to be liberated. In Issa Lizza the women are responsible for mate guarding themselves. If they stray from the masculine ownership of the family and get raped or fornicate, they are stoned dead for it. Consequently, muzzies don’t get the blues ova involvement with wymens. (Yes, musical instruments are haram, beside the point) The fact of incels is a wash. By the terms of natural law, and it’s particular articulation by J. D. Unwin, muzzies have the higher culture, arguably the highest in the world as things stand now and will be for some time. Bros before hoes. White cucks gonna cuck. From the crypto-jews: “Good news everybody, cucks are the winners who go to heaven.” The muzzie win-win perspective on earth and heaven as a package deal was adopted by the Iberians that initiated the Age of Discovery and globalism. Now Western Christians are evangelical. Watch for the predictable response to this comment. Ye shall know them (already) by their being fruits. lol

  11. The reason all those negro (ahem) “geniuses” who could play three chords were such an alleged influence were because any young White boy who heard it said to himself “Hell, I could do THAT” and by the end of the first month he bought his first guitar he had most of those songs down pat, and with a cleaner energy.

    Who is being quoted as calling negroes geniuses?

    Regarding three chords. Another well known thing, is that there are 12 notes on the scale. For extra credit, how many of those 12 notes might be hit in a standard three-chord progression?

  12. And as if i’s not a considerable exaggeration, that “any young White boy” can master the blues in a month. Get real.

    The Kid Johnny Lange supposedly mastered the blues in three years. Blues songs are often in three chords, but they mix it up on the turn. Traditional music of all sorts is simple on paper. It’s always in the execution.

    Who here has “mastered” a musical instrument and or an idiom? Which ones and what counts for mastery?

  13. “For extra credit, how many of those 12 notes might be hit in a standard three-chord progression?”

    In my not-so-humble opinion, there is definitely a correct and non-trick answer to this. And it’s 8 or 9. It’s basic music theory but at the same time, the criticism that songs are simple because they are in three chords, is meh. As if there aren’t thousands and millions of excellent songs, done by say whomever, in three chords. In the idiom of Blues, Rory Gallagher does a lot of great stuff in open tuning, which is arguably not even three chords.

  14. Guys like Brian Wilson could write the equivalent of Sweet Little Sixteen in his sleep… could Chuck Berry even dream of anything like God Only Knows or Good Vibrations?

    And yet Chuck Berry was, without a doubt and by a country mile, the better guitar player.

    And if we are going to argue the point, of who was the better player, let’s compare videos so as to be on the same page. It’s not much of an arguable point though.

  15. Took a long road trip with the wife earlier this week. We never turned on the radio. We prefer our own conversation, and even long bouts of silence, to the noise pollution.

  16. Took a long road trip with the wife earlier this week. We never turned on the radio.

    Many times, I have thought, I am not the same species as those people who, you get in their car to go somewhere and they turn on the radio, as if radio-ON is the default, and the noise is somehow pleasant, or calming, or wanted, or not-annoying.

  17. As for the question in the OP, I find it interesting that everyone selected some form of pop music. I would pick folk music, the Music of my People, it’s mostly what I listen to anyway anymore.

    I never “got” blues. Maybe I’ve never been “blue” enough to understand?

  18. I’m always driving alone, so music’s always on. I still have a CD player in my car and do make mix CD’s, usually with a theme or to follow a flow. I’d visit my parents now and then and I’d try to make a selection last the journey. It’s always fun to go back and see what playlists/CDs I made since it captures whatever mood or disposition I had at the time. And upon hearing those playlists, it whisks me back.

    In 2009 a new radio station had just started out and I was in the throes of a wicked commute. That radio station aided me through much of it all and at the time, they played deep album cuts and songs that lasted for over 8, 9 minutes. It’s how I got to know many a song that I’m sure several of you would be like “oh yeah, that one.” It was new for me and a blast.

    When traveling with people, a prolonged silence, one without tension in the air, is a testament to the strength of the relationship(s).

  19. And as if i’s not a considerable exaggeration, that “any young White boy” can master the blues in a month. Get real.

    The Kid Johnny Lange supposedly mastered the blues in three years. Blues songs are often in three chords, but they mix it up on the turn. Traditional music of all sorts is simple on paper. It’s always in the execution.

    I’m not talking about the guitar wizards (whose pyrotechnics, btw, all pretty much sound the same after the first 20 minutes… and that includes Mr. Lange, whose concert I actually left in boredom after half an hour, but I digress)… I’m talking about merely cranking out the usual 3 minute classics that somehow didn’t become classics until some mostly limey White boys gave ’em a run.

    And yet Chuck Berry was, without a doubt and by a country mile, the better guitar player.

    Which means nothing when speaking of songwriting and composing.

    It’s actually ironic that in many genres so many virtuoso-level players of instruments are seldom adept at composing memorable music… it’s almost as if their ability to play at high levels either satisfies their creative drive in and of itself, or they “know too much about real music” to bring something unique to the table.

    And vice versa, some of the most notable songwriters and composers are self-taught and only actually play an instrument at a serviceable fair-to-middling level.

  20. To begin, Blues music is based on something called the Pentatonic scale which gives it its unique sound and structure. It is based on five notes as opposed to more ” modern ” scales, which are based on seven, and in ancient times it was considered to be the ” Mystical ” scale as the number five was considered to be the number of ” Mankind “. As you will find out from the article I linked, it has nothing to do with Africans, Blacks, or magical kneegrows. As all ancient people seemed to have used it, including Europeans at least 60,000 years ago if not longer.

    All southern blacks did is start using something they were already familiar with and combined it with Scottish / Welsh music ( which was already based on ancient pentatonic scales ) , ” western ” instruments, and ever increasing amounts of improvisation.

    When white teenagers started gravitating towards Blues music in the sixties, they were actually returning to their genetic/ spiritual musical roots. In a way, they were turning against the rigid boring, rigid, stuffiness that ” white ” music had become i.e. Lawrence Welk . They then took the Blues and started using it as a basis to create some of the most exciting, beautiful, and creative music mankind has ever know.

    As a musician and a lover of music, I can attest that there is no one group that is better in music then any other, every culture has examples that I admire and can find beauty in. Even simple and ” primitive ” African drumming actually has complex poly-rhythms and multiple time signatures going simultaneously . Although, I despise most of today’s music as it no longer taps into the higher realms and has become degenerate due to the influence of our
    ((( enemy ))) . A pox be upon them.

    Personally, I dont think bringing in racial superiority to the Spiritual art of music is a worthwhile exercise. Having said all this, I still want ” our ” homelands free of the ” other ” . We can exchange musical ideas with the rest of humanity without intermixing.

  21. On my commute it’s the classical station by default, rock if im in the mood for that kind of energy.

    Music I listened to on my all night solo drives in my twenties is an entirely different story because it’s a different mindframe. One night: Mozart’s “Requiem” all along Connecticut’s Merritt Parkway. On a different occasion also along Merritt, trance techno CDs I borrowed from a friend.

    One thing I don’t do, and don’t get people who do: play electronic anything-noisy in nature. Nothing comes close to the sound of birds. The need for electronic noise to fill the negative space is inversely correlated with intelligence.

    As to my handle PA, here is how it came to be. I started commenting on AmRen and the great art/culture blog Two Blowhards in 2002. I initially typed in any handle that popped into my mind, sometimes “meaningful” and sometimes random, and always changed it. Usually by cleaning history and cookies after visiting a naughty nahzee site. At one point on 2BH, I got on a quality-commenting streak as “PA.” I had picked those letters on free-associating a recent trip to Pennsylvania with my girlfriend, who is now my wife. Having developed rapport with blog host Michael and a few of the commenters, I stayed with PA. Nice letters together, a clean consonant-vowel color from the perspective of synesthesia.

  22. ” PA.” I had picked those letters on free-associating a recent trip to Pennsylvania ”

    And here I was this whole time thinking it meant Polish Alpha ! 😉

  23. The first thought that springs to mind is the Velvet Underground and the various bands that were inspired by them:

    The second thought is White free jazz! The rarest and most exclusive of genres:

    Speaking of White free jazz, I once had the opportunity to jam with the bass player of this song (RIP). He also happens to be the stepfather of a famous actor. I was in college at the time. Many years ago

  24. The first thought that springs to mind is the Velvet Underground and the various bands that were inspired by them:

    One of the wry quotes from back in the day:

    “The Velvet Underground’s first album only sold 30 thousand copies… but everyone who bought one started a band.”

  25. Eliots said: Guys like Brian Wilson could write the equivalent of Sweet Little Sixteen in his sleep… could Chuck Berry even dream of anything like God Only Knows or Good Vibrations?

    Elk said: And yet Chuck Berry was, without a doubt and by a country mile, the better guitar player.

    Pretty much an immaterial point.

    For the record, I believe Brian Wilson was strictly a bass player and occasional keyboardist, especially when he composed… his bass lines in Pet Sounds inspired Paul McCartney, by his own admittance, to expand his repertoire… also The Wrecking Crew’s well-respected Carol Kaye, who contributed many a famous bass riff to most of the hits of the sixties, admitted to being schooled by him in re Good Vibrations… but I digress.

    But his brother Carl was the big Berry fan, and as far as that goes, he (and just about every other famous and not-so-famous rock guitarist) could mimic the style and licks without breaking a sweat, so there’s that.

  26. Chakrates, I took up knitting a few years ago in order to make my mom happy. I have made about 20 hats, and some other things. 30 or 40 dishrags. To knit more complicated things like sweaters is a lot of work. I have done one pair of mittens and want to do fingerless gloves as the next ambitious project. They are of course pretentious, but when you yourself have made them, then it’s not as pretentious.

    Not everyone’s favorite character Bob Dylan wore trademark fingerless gloves, and had a “dead fish” handshake. Wearing knit hats is hipsterish but if it is your own work (or your mom’s) then it is what it is.

  27. OT and sorry PA, but I finally got a chance to watch MM’s Rabbit Hole video. He’s hitting an existential crisis, a “man bereft of friends” state of being, I think. It echoes some of my feelings. I’m not losing all hope, but I feel grim, betimes.

    That’s the worst way to be. I was thinking just last evening that what’s worse than clown world, is the every man for himself scenario. Kali Yuga or something whatever-it’s-called, where there’s no allegiances to anything. That will be much much much much much much much worse than this here clown world.

    And so what, then: don’t be that man, that man disconnected and bereft. Whites suffer from things quite a bit, having no Superstructure in which to guide themselves and their lives. I am surrounded by Mexicans and other such 40 hours per week, and it’s very apparent that their lives are, to them, active and alive. Iow they are living them. Whereas the Whites in their same situation, are sort of in a different boat. I enjoy working at the cardboard box factory, but for a White person it’s a different trajectory. And the Trajectory itself infuses so much of the feeling of how you are.

    How are you doing? How do you feel things are going? Are your prospects on the up or on the down? What’s your future? Blah blah blah etc

  28. And speaking of 80s Movies. Real Genius with Val Kilmer and some other people. It’s on Crackle and I suffered through the first 30 minutes. It’s so bad that you can’t believe. I was trying to figure out what was the meme power of this movie. How much meme power did it have? How well known is it?

    How many of the readers saw it, and have any idea what I am talking about? With tremendous regret, I used to like the movie, or maybe thought I did. It’s all about this 15-year old jew genius who saves the day. The jew genius hero is so unappealing that he must have been related to some big shot in Hollywood. Val Kilmer should be ashamed.

    There’s also the premise that was apparently appealing to some audiences, about how “genius” works; it’s a very unrealistic premise. The notion that the DoD is getting its breakthrough ideas from the talent farmed out of high school science shows, is absurd. But somehow that notion appeals to people. Tldr — everyone wants to think he is special

    Honest question: Are two 150 iqer’s smarter than one 160?

  29. “…Dylan wore trademark fingerless gloves…”

    Saw Dylan’s son once while walking around Manhattan. He was wall-white, with a stray-seeming flowery smirk. I steadfastly refused to shake his hand, continuing my stroll toward a quick meeting with a prostitute from Albany.

  30. He was wall-white, with a stray-seeming flowery smirk

    No wonder he named his band The Wallflowers.

    Albany still a happening place?

  31. As far as I know, mendo; first heard of it while reading up some on Chin, the late Manhattan mobster. Well worth a visit.

  32. blues. i remember as plain as day my introduction to this music genre. i was visiting a girl who lived in a row of huddled houses. old abodes, shutters closed, their front doors giving right onto the pavement. the rooftops were a mishmash of angles with tv receivers probing the late afternoon sky. a poor area, adorned by an endless sequence of communist slogans, bearing messages of revenge and justice. the sort of place with that distinct note of crookery and uncleanliness. i knocked once. waited, she peered out first, then the unlocking of chains and unloosening of bolts followed. as a youth, i had this uneasy realisation that she lived in a bad area, but somehow hadn’t caught up on it before. else, i would just have avoided it completely. never mind some easy air-headed broad. she pulled the door wide open and i went in. after a moment of brief romantic interaction, she asked if i would like to dance. rather unexpected i thought, i was content to just sit and unwind. she stooped over to where a pile of long playing records were, sifting through them until she found one: a laminated cover of a huge spade standing beside a pillar fringing a pool. admittedly, the onset sounded promising enough: a subdued orchestra of strings. then the vocals. what quickly sprang to mind was the way that the whole tune seemed to be carried: a single line repeatedly sung and i suddenly became impatient. the song did change my mood, only not for the better. looking back, there was a high likelihood that person had a google skeleton. all the signs were there, the way she would awkwardly hunch, the coarse mannerisms and lax demeanour. the thirst, combined with naivety, makes for a bad companion.

  33. I can’t believe that nobody here listens to classic country music from the 60s and 70s: TammyWynette, George Jones, Melba Montgomery, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Lynn Anderson et al.

  34. I do like Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless, George Strait, and Pam Tillis and some other recent country singers, too, but not as much as the older music.

  35. Country music is great. Johnny Cash is more important than Bob Dylan. That said, the current crop of people who listen to modern country like Aldean could care less about Cash or Hank or David Allen Coe. Just my observation from hanging out with some of my relatives in the Rust Belt.

    To them, Darius Rucker is one of the titans of Country and Western!

  36. There’s intriguing, richly-rusted country soaring interestingly from northern Greece. I’ve been invited to have a listen to a Hellenistic-country soloist in front of the Temple of Apollo early next spring.

  37. Shot- 80’s new wave (Depeche, New Order, Tears for Fears, The Cure)
    Chaser- Classic Rock (Floyd, Zep, Stones. Fuck the beatles- the first boyband.)
    Next day hair of the dog- 00’s EDM/ electronic (Schulz, Oakenfold, Warren, Sasha,)

    Synthwave is growing among Gen Z and making its way into my daily rotation. Ex:


  38. Some of those synthwave tunes are magnificent. Was introduced to that genre vis DS. Occasionally, or if this they still do, they’d have a post devoted to some of the newer tracks coming out, of course curated via the comment section

  39. Another decent Van Damme flick is Sudden Death, a Die Hard ripoff that knows what it is, has some good action with a big stunt at the end. A paint-by-numbers affair that works.

  40. “And yet Chuck Berry was, without a doubt and by a country mile, the better guitar player.”

    Not to mention far more influential.

    One simple thing Berry had going for him that Wilson did not was that he was “cool”. And that explains a lot about the appeal of black music to white kids. Millions of young white guys idolized Berry for that reason, yet few young white guys idolized Wilson — because despite his talent he was a chubby, introverted dork.

  41. Berry wasn’t “idolized” by anyone young and White… not even close to the reaction that guys like Elvis, Eddie Cochran, etc. were getting.

    And you might as well say Bill Haley was “influential”… meh on THAT sort of “lucky to get there first” influence.

    By the time most White kids of the sixties and seventies picked up their own guitars, Berry was to them an old man, and a sort of letcherous one at that… his only #1 song, by the way, was the stupid novelty My Ding-a-Ling, and while those incessant “muh fifties” nostalgia concerts of the seventies and beyond might draw a few thousand, the music of Brian Wilson still packed houses for decades, even when the heaver sounds of the bigger groups were more in fashion..

    And if by “idolized” you mean Berry’s licks were copied by early White rockers until they found their own sound, invariably more complex and compelling,, that point was already mentioned that, since the three-chord style of music could be picked up by anyone with a little bit of effort, of course that sort of “influence” was there.

    But not too many people are or were able to match the sort of music Wilson was writing, and albums like Pet Sounds are STILL being touted to this day, along with Wilson’s achievements in composition and studio engineering and vocal arrangement.

    You may want to check your dictionary for the meaning of “idolize”. And if your critique on musical influence is based upon who looks dorky, then perhaps you may want to limit your commentary to the clothes and choreography of performers and leave the musical evaluations to those who address the actual music.

    /Condescension where merited.

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