I woke up this morning and made a sweet lazy Sunday playlist of (mostly) downhome blues. You can listen to it here, or just scroll to the bottom of this post.
Included is an epic story song, “Jaybird,” by Scott Dunbar, recorded in the summer of 1968 on the bank of Lake Mary, Mississippi, by folklorist Bill Ferris. Ferris describes “Jaybird” as “a cante-fable — a sung story — about a young man who courts his sweetheart. He brings corn whiskey to her parents to make them fall asleep, and then he courts their daughter through the night.”
Scott Dunbar says this of the song: “I made that one up. That’s the jaybird in the air. I made that one about how you cut out the momma and the poppa so you can talk to the daughter.”
This playlist draws, among other things, from some really wonderful collections of field recordings. I suggest you check any and all of them out:
+ The George Mitchell Collection, Volumes 1 – 45
+ Art of Field Recording: Traditional Music Documented By Art Rosenbaum
+ Drop On Down In Florida: Field Recordings of African American Traditional Music, 1977-1980
+ The Blues: Music from the Documentary Film by Sam Charters
+ Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices from the Mississippi Blues, by William Ferris
+ In Celebration of a Legacy: The Traditional Arts of the Lower Chattahoochee Valley
+ Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia
There’s also music here from Elizabeth Cotten, Pink Anderson, Algia Mae Hinton, Precious Byrant, Jesse Fuller, and others. Mississippi John Hurt sings this prayer, from his last recording sessions, in 1966:
Blues all on the ocean, blues all in the air
Can’t stay here no longer, I have no steamship fare
When my earthly trials are over, cast my body out in the sea
Save all the undertaker’s bills — let the mermaids flirt with me.
The lovely accompanying photo of John Hurt with Elizabeth Cotton was taken by Joe Alper at the Newport Folk Festival, 1964.
Hope you enjoy the mix. Happy Sunday, and peace.