Monthly Archives: April 2009

Delmore Brothers do * River Blues

I learned the folky country tune “Big River Blues” from Doc Watson. Somewhere or other he mentioned he learned the song from the Delmore Brothers, and yesterday I came across that original version.

Here it is: The Delmore BrothersBig River Blues (mp3)

This recording is from the 1930s. The genre is self-aware as something like country and western, probably with an emphasis on the western. Their conception of the style is that it’s slightly slick rube music, more in tune and less liquored up than the crude early days only ten years before. The single-note lead guitar line might be on an early electric instrument. It a step on the evolutionary path to rockabilly, and you can start to hear how something like Carl Perkins would come out of this.

Their guitar lead got picked up in Doc Watson’s version, modified to use his Merle Travis influenced picking technique rather than a flatpick. I didn’t grab that lead line when I learned the Doc stuff, it just didn’t catch my ear that strongly. And I used the title from Doc’s version; _Deep_ River Blues rather than _Big River Blues_.

Creative Commons: what’s in it for me?

The hidden value of Creative Commons:

Every so often, I get a little Google news vanity alert about a photo that’s been credited on the Internet. One of my faves is the remix of Lawrence Lessig at the top of this post. It is actually a collage that was created by Andy on the fly for a G33k dinner.

Tag up your photos and try it yourself. If they’re on a free hosting service, what do you have to lose?

Makes sense to me. A big part of why I use CC or public domain licensing on my music is to encourage reuse and hopefully create viral effects.

So something holding back CC musicians is that it’s hard for potential reusers to find permissively licensed music on independent sites like mine.

100 years ago: Temptation Rag, Fred Van Eps

Listening: Temptation Rag (mp3) performed by Fred Van Eps and Albert Benzler in 1909, graciously provided by the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project, found on the Facebook page for the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project.

To put it in historical context, ragtime was getting long in the tooth but wasn’t over the hill yet. Pop was morphing into a rowdier, hotter, and blacker form. Lynchings were at their height. Blackface minstrelsy was still common but was a style for older people. Blacks were abandoning the banjo en masse; the saxophone was hip; brass military bands were becoming New Orleans -style second lines. The reigning white banjo virtuoso Vess Ossman was declining and Fred Van Eps was taking his place.