DIRTY MEAN OLD BLUES - Joe Rollin Porter's Next CD!
In the four years since I recorded my first CD, my playing and singing have changed quite a bit and I'm very enthused to soon be able to offer a recording that is more representative of my current style. This album will include many songs that have become audience favorites over the last couple of years.
I got the bulk of these songs from recordings made in the late 1920's by early blues artists such as Charlie Patton, Fury Lewis, Mississippi John Hurt and Henry Thomas. Discovering the traditional folk and country blues music of that era changed my life. It led directly to my eventually figuring out how to play fingerstyle guitar, which is now a central focus of my existence.
Something about this old music both freed up my creativity and gave my musical expression a direction that I previously lacked. I've never felt compelled to attempt to duplicate specific performances from these old records, which is a good thing because I frankly do not have that particular talent. Rather, I've tried to re-craft something new out of them. Those familiar with the source recordings will no doubt easily identify where my inspiration comes from, but will also notice a different technique and different arrangements, as well as occasional new lyrics and even some new chord progressions and riffs.
I am deeply appreciative of and indebted to these musicians and the gifts they have given me through their music. Playing these songs is in part an attempt to pay tribute to them, and to expose new folks to this old music that has meant so much to me.
Here is the track list for the album, along with some notes about the songs.
Mississippi Boll Weevil - Charlie Patton recorded his take on this traditional blues theme in 1929, playing with a slide in open G tuning, and the result is a true masterpiece. I play it in standard tuning without the slide.
Little Lulie - This is a traditional Appalachian folk song commonly known as "Darlin' Cory". I learned it from a 1929 recording by Logan County West Virginia native Dick Justice.
Dirty Mean Old Blues - This is the only original composition of the collection. It's origin is in my attempts to work out arrangements of Charlie Patton's "Down the Dirt Road Blues" and Sam Chatmon's version of "Big Road Blues". Both of these attempts fell short, but one day I found myself playing essentially a whole new song with elements of both. I wrote new lyrics along the same theme.
Flop Eared Mule - Some twenty years ago or so someone gave me a cassette tape with this song on it. I've long since lost track of the tape, and I've never known who the musicians were but the song always stuck with me and a few years ago I stared playing it. The result is a new version of it that may not be immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with the tune, but I like it and hope you will too.
Simply Wild - Luke Jordan recorded "Cocaine Blues" in 1927. Dick Justice recorded his version of it in 1929, and I discovered that recording in 1989 and became immediately enthralled by it. At the time I could not play fingerstyle guitar at all, and the very thought of ever trying to play this song in a similar style was mind-bogglingly intimidating. I've changed the title on this version to avoid misleading anyone into expecting it to be one of the several other better known songs called "Cocaine Blues".
Billy Lyons and Stagger Lee - 1927 Memphis Bluesman Furry Lewis recorded his take on this true modern folk story from a real murder that occurred in 1895.
Sugar Baby - This is another traditional Appalachian folk song, sometimes know as "Red Apple Juice" or "Rock Rocking Chair" among other titles. My first exposure to it and biggest influence is the 1927 recording by Dock Boggs.
Ain't No Tellin' - Another one from Mississippi John Hurt's 1928 sessions, he later recorded a different version during his revival career under the title "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor".
Frankie - In 1899 Frankie Baker shot Allen Britt, and the first published version of a song about the incident appeared in 1904. Since then a least 256 recordings have been made of some version of this story, and somehow sometime it became the story of "Frankie and Johnny". My reference point is the 1928 recording by Mississippi John Hurt, who sang about "Albert" rather than "Allen Britt".
Ode to Joy - If Beethoven seems out of place in this collection to you you're probably not alone, and I won't really argue the point. However, I love playing this brief instrumental adaptation taken from the last movement of this 9th symphony, and I think it provide a nice change of pace.
Run Mollie Run - A combination of a song about an 1878 horse race and the "Liza Jane" family of traditional songs, Henry Thomas recorded this in 1927.
Kassie Jones - Another one from Furry Lewis. He recorded this version in two parts in 1928.
All the recording for this project is already done. What remains to be done is the mixing, mastering and the mass production. I'm very proud of the work I've done here, and I'm confident that anyone who has ever enjoyed any of my live performances will enjoy the finished product, and I think there are many people out there who have so far never even heard of me yet who will enjoy it also.