Welcome to a land of murder, jealousy, troubled minds, and broken hearts. This compilation was hand plucked from the wounded heartstrings of our very own American roots musicians in the form of traditional ballads or very personal blues. Lend an ear to such songs as “Rats in My Kitchen” by Sleepy John Estes and Yank Rachell; or perhaps the more traditional “Pretty Polly,” sung by the angelic duo Kathy and Carol, about murdering your fiancee and throwing her into a pre-dug grave!
With the folk and blues revival of the 1960’s came a revival of traditional ballads. Many of them detail rather dark lyrical stories of murder and betrayal. Interestingly enough, these ballads have survived both time and geography almost unaltered in lyric and tone for centuries. American ex-pat sweetheart, Hedy West, sings a traditional English ballad entitled “Matty Groves” which dates from no later than the 17th century. It has several variant names, including “Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard.” The song details a love affair between a man and a woman that ends when the woman’s husband discovers the couple in bed and consequently murders them by sword.
Music clubs like the Ash Grove in Los Angeles provided a venue for blues artists and folk revivalists to share their stories. A frequent performer there and friend to founder/owner, Ed Pearl, was Lightnin’ Hopkins. A blues revival star from Texas, Hopkins was able to lead the audience through a series of songs that feel as much like conversation as they are composed. The song, “How Many More Years I Got to Let You Dog Me Around?” brings the free rhythm melody line of country blues together with urban boogie woogie stylings. Hopkins stayed true to this style and proved a strong influence for generations of musicians spanning many genres.
Another blues artist, Sam Chatmon, shares his remarkable tune, “Cold Blooded Murder.” Chatmon is one of an expansive family of musicians, (not to mention Charlie Patton’s alleged half brother!), and a former member of the acclaimed Mississippi Sheiks. In this tune, Chatmon gives us a mega dose of the low down Delta blues. Chatmon is a true veteran of blues, and his “re-discovery” is something we can all be thankful for.
Miss Maybelle Carter finishes off this ‘lovely’ compilation. As the matriarch of American country music, “Mother Maybelle Carter” brings us a woeful ballad of sorrow and strength entitled “Lover’s Farewell.” This tune exemplifies her signature scratch style picking on the auto harp alongside an equally identifiable vocal rendering. Yes, Mother Maybelle’s been through the ringer too, and she’s come out on top. Find solace in the warm comfort of her voice through a rhapsody of strings.
These artists have been through the battle and have lived to sing about it…and now you can too!
• 1. Kathy & Carol | Pretty Polly 3:22
• 2. Sleepy John Estes… | Rats In My Kitchen 4:20
• 3. Cousin Emmy | Goin’ Down The Road Feeli… 1:54
• 4. Mance Lipscomb | Haunted House Blues 3:48
• 5. Lightnin’ Hopkins | How Many More Years I Got… 4:10
• 6. Hedy West | Matty Groves 5:34
• 7. The White Brothers | Ain’t Nobody Gonna Miss M… 3:03
• 8. Sam Chatmon | Cold Blooded Murder 3:43
• 9. Roscoe Holcomb | Trouble In Mind 1:36
• 10. Muddy Waters | Blues And Trouble 4:56
• 11. Ramblin’ Jack Ell… | Nobody Knows You When You… 2:42
• 12. Sonny Terry & Bro… | Change The Lock On My Door 4:09
• 13. Taj Mahal | Killing Floor 5:26
• 14. Long Gone Miles | Standing Around Crying 3:23
• 15. Maybelle Carter | Lover’s Farewell 3:01
For this just in time for Valentine’s Day playlist, got to Wolfgang’s Vault