Songwriting Month Day 5: Blues

If you know me at all you knew this day was coming.

PROMPT: Learn a blues song.

The blues ranges in difficulty from three really simple chords to hot damn.  It’s also got a lot more diversity in styles than people tend to realize.

We normally think that blues songs are all sad but trust me, they aren’t.  Have you heard BB King’s version of the “Catfish” song, for instance?  Or Taj Mahal’s “Cakewalk into Town”?  Then there is the gospel blues.  The Holmes Brothers own this style, I think, though Eric Bibb plays my favorite songs–these are gospel songs in the blues style. They are about ugliness and redemption and they are awesome.

Here is my favorite gospel blues song:

I like the porch blues the best—I guess that’s officially called Delta Blues?  I like Mississippi John Hurt’s style.  And Leadbelly’s. If you like Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy, that means you like Chicago Blues–less rustic, more showy.  My favorite blues singer, Elmore James, plays both Delta and Chicago.

I first came to love the blues about a decade ago when, in that fair time when Borders was still alive and well and in Ann Arbor, I decided to spend an afternoon listening to CDs they had on display.  Remember when we could do that? Le sigh.  Anyway, that was the day I first listened to The Very Best of Elmore James—he had me at the first squeal of his slide guitar in “Dust My Broom”.  I melted. I bought the CD.  I have been obsessed with the blues ever since.

The blues has a lot to teach us about honesty, self-awareness, grit, and, ultimately, joy.  I get a tremendously joyous feeling when I listen to the blues. I’m hoping to pass some of the joy on today with the prompt.

Okay, so …

If you don’t know any blues chords, this site might help you get started.  There are plenty of people all over the internet who would love to teach you how to blues out.  Youtube has several instructional videos about this.  Just google “How to play the blues.”

SONG OF THE DAY: I’m Bad Like Jesse James

John Lee Hooker is a Detroit bluesman. His songs are violent/sexy.  He growls a lot, is what I mean.  He is my second favorite blues musician, next to Elmore James.

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