The guitar that spawned this recording came to me out of the blue. A dear friend in Louisiana played it in front of me about 5 years ago. Eventually, she sold it north. I have allowed this guitar to choose the songs it plays well, songs from when it was young, and songs that sit well in that larger context.
This is essentially an album of duets for guitar and voice. That is what I have done, day in and day out, for years. After more than four and a half decades of guitar playing, I still find singular power and beauty in what two hands, one guitar, and one voice can accomplish in service to the human spirit.
I’m happy to return to this spare format again.
There is music here that is robust, joyful, humorous, and tinged with a sense of the fragility of human joy, as well as the temporary nature of our tenure here below.
I hope you’ll enjoy these tracks.
– Scott Ainslie on “The Last Shot Got Him”
Tracks – click titles for Lyrics
First Shot Missed Him
[1:45] (Cecil Mack, Chris Smith, Everett J. Smith, 1912) An ebullient little miniature from the playing of Mississippi John Hurt. (Guitar and fretless gourd banjo)
[3:45] (Mississippi John Hurt, 1928) This tune led to Hurt’s rediscovery in 1963, originally recorded on December 21, 1928 in New York City.
Love In Vain
[2:54] (Robert Johnson, 1936) A remarkably spare song with wonderful poetic images and its persistent lamentation, “All my love’s in vain.”
Say It Isn’t So
[3:35] (Irving Berlin, 1932) I was introduced to this song by the singing of the ebullient Sippie Wallace (author of Woman Be Wise). I simply had to learn it. I had no idea that the author of God Bless America could also write like this.
Let The Mermaids Flirt with Me
[3:30] (Mississippi John Hurt (music) W. E. Myers (lyrics), 1929) Hearing Hurt’s 1928 recordings, W. E. Myers sent Hurt twenty-two sets of lyrics for songs and asked him to set them to music for upcoming recordings. He also sent Hurt a 78 r.p.m. record of Jimmie Rodgers’ Waiting For A Train, and suggested the melody might be good for one of the songs. This is that song.
Got The Blues, I Can’t Be Satisfied
[2:29] (Mississippi John Hurt, 1928) I couldn’t pass up a verse like, “Whiskey straight can drive the blues away. That being the case, I’ll take a quart today.”
When I See an Elephant Fly
[2:13] (Oliver Wallace, Ned Washington, 1941) Originally sung by Cliff Edwards on the soundtrack for Disney’s fourth animated feature film, Dumbo. My arrangement builds on one that Tom Chapin showed me years ago.
[3:42] (Rev. Gary Davis, 1930s) This is a fine example of the sorts of party songs Davis largely abandoned when he remarried and took up preaching. Luckily, he didn’t forget how to play them and they reappeared in his repertoire when he was an old man.
Honey Right Away
[2:05] (Mississippi John Hurt, 1966) Recorded during Hurt’s last recording session in February of 1966. He passed away in Grenada, Mississippi in November of that year. His career in the 1960s had lasted only three years.
[2:52] (Fats Waller, Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf, 1929) I worked out this guitar arrangement in 1986 and have been playing it in select circumstances ever since: everybody likes this tune.
Monday Morning Blues
[4:10] (Mississippi John Hurt, 1928) One’s chances of being arrested on spurious charges and sent into the convict leasing system in the South were far higher than being lynched, and for many just as deadly. Convict leasing persisted until 1942. Hurt recorded the tune during his first recording sessions on Valentine’s Day in Memphis in 1928.
Late Last Night
[4:33] (Scott Ainslie, 2008) Written in the harmonic style of the 1920s and 30s, this song came into being on the night Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia in 2008. I would sing the same about any people, any country, any war.
Cross Road Blues
[2:51] (Robert Johnson, 1936) A landmark tune from Johnson’s San Antonio sessions in November, 1936. (You’ll notice the devil is not mentioned…)
Over The Rainbow
[3:33] (Yip Harburg, Harold Arlen, 1939) A poignant reading of a song that was initially left on the cutting room floor by the movie executives in charge of The Wizard of Oz. Harburg and Arlen essentially went in pounding on desks until the executives relented. Isn’t it amazing to think about that movie – or our lives – without this song?
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