Walkin’ Blues

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cd cover: terraplane by scott ainslie(Robert Johnson)

I woke up this morning, feel around for my shoes
You know by that I got these ol’ walkin’ blues, I woke
Up this morning, feel around all for my shoes.
You know by that I got these ol’ walkin’ blues.

I feel like blowin’ my, ol’ lonesome home;
Woke up this mornin’ my gal was gone….

Leave this mornin’ if I have to: gon’ ride the blind*,
I been mistreated and I don’t mind dyin’…

Well, some people tell me that the worried blues ain’t bad,
Worst old feelin’ I most ever had….

She’s got the Elgin movement** from her head down to her toes,
She breaks in on a dollar most anywhere she goes…

*Ride The Blind: to ride behind the coal car on a railroad train in the slatted compartment where the coal man and the engineer couldn’t see you.

**Elgin Movement: a reference to the well-made, smooth working inner movement of the watch by the same name…

This comes from Robert Johnson’s recording, which borrowed heavily from Son House’s tune My Black Mama. Both of these guitar accompaniements pay homage to what are known as ax or chopping songs. In gang labor situations, axmen stood facing eath other; chopping alternately into the same cut (In Alan Lomax’s The Land Where the Blues Began, there is an account of four Parchmans Farm convicts armed with axes, standing around the same tree, and chopping in tandem.) African song traditions and the danger inherent in this arrangement gave rise to rhythmic worksongs in which the downbeat of each measure was left open for the ax, hoe or hammer stroke and the remaining beats of the measure were sung, leading up to the next downbeat/ax stroke. Often heard in rock and contemporary music, the argument can be made that the distinctive rhythm of these songs moved up into other pop music forms on the shoulders of this particular tune.

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