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Americana Blues

Piedmont Bluz: “Joliet Bound” and “That’s No Way to Get Along”

The Piedmont blues style is extremely enjoyable. It’s generally calm and soothing – though that’s not a requirement. Among the highest profile musicians in playing this style were Etta Baker, Blind Blake, Elizabeth Cotten, Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Boy Fuller, Brownie McGhee, Blind Willie McTell, Sonny Terry and Josh White. It’s wonderful music. Click here for more Piedmont Bluz from iTunes. Click here or on the image for a compilation of Piedmont style music from Smithsonian Folkways.
Sometimes, things come together nicely without an individual trying too hard to do anything.

A case in point: A while ago, The Daily Music Break posted a couple of items – including a podcast interview — on Guy Davis, a terrific contemporary blues player. One of the songs that we focused on was Rev. Robert Wilkins “That’s No Way to Get Along.” The song was covered/changed and became The Rolling Stones’ “Prodigal Son,” which is on the great “Beggar’s Banquet” album. (It’s an extremely odd re-imagining. It’s great because of Keith Richards’ guitar. It’s odd because of Mick Jagger’s decision to make it into religious – or, more accurately, “religious-y” allegory. I doubt he consulted clergy.)

That’s one string. The other is TDMB weekly newsletter features posts from our archives. On Friday, the site posted two numbers from Robert Clifford Brown, who is better known as Washboard Sam.

The two strings come together in the when doing a little YouTube poking around. The search quickly produced a great version of “That’s No Way to Get Alone” by the Piedmont Bluz acoustic duo. The principals are Valerie and Ben Turner. She is a tremendous – and tremendously calm – singer and guitar player who to my untrained ear sounds like Elizabeth Cotten. Ben is a washboard player.

It seems logical to think that the instruments with which we are familiar evolved from efforts to replicate the natural and mechanical sounds around us. Indeed, the line between the world at large and music seems to be porous. Scat singing, for instance, is the use of the human voice as an instrument. Likewise, there are thousands of songs in which the rhythm section is meant to sound like a train. The washboard is a bit different in that it is an actual household item that is re-purposed as an instrument.

The Piedmont Bluz acoustic duo (Photo: Barbara Huang Matheis)

Here is Piedmont Bluz website. A profile at Acoustic, Folk and Country Blues describes the duo, who – at least when the story was posted two years ago – lived in Queens, NY. Ben is a competitive speed skater and a graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology. He designs the washboards. Thus, it’s likely that they haven’t seen duty as actually cleaning shirts and socks.

Piedmont Blues is very enjoyable. It’s rich heritage. In addition to Cotten, Wikipedia says that the well-known players include Mississippi John Hurt, Etta Baker, Blind Blake, Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Boy Fuller, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Blind Willie McTell and Josh White. As usual, there are great names: Barbecue Bob, Peg Leg Howell, Bull City Red, Peg Leg Sam, Bumble Bee Slim and Drink Small.

The Turners’ version of “That’s No Way to Get Along” is below. It was recorded at Hurt’s home. Above is “Joliet Bound,” which was written by Kansas Joe McCoy. It is just fabulous. The recording was a Wes Houston presentation.

Our New Things: Links to Music Sites and Info on Analog Tech and Vinyl

TDMB has focused on music and musicians. We will continue to do that, of course. We're also expanding our coverage to include vinyl and analog equipment.

More specifically, we'll look at this huge and interesting world from the perspective of music lovers who want a better experience, not committed non-audiophiles.

Check out is some of what we've written so far:

-- Assessing the Value of Vinyl Records: An Overview

-- 7 Quick Tips on Optimizing Your Turntable Cartridge

-- Why Vinyl Records Continue to Thrive

-- Finding the Best Amplifier

-- Finding the Best Phono Preamp

-- What Speakers Do I Need for My Turntable?

Check out more articles on analog equipment and vinyl.

The site also is home to The Internet Music Mapping Project, an effort to list and describe as many music-related sites as possible.

Our Music

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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