100th Fever

Jonny Meister bluesandbeyond@GMAIL.COM
Wed May 11 05:58:47 EDT 2011

An interesting observation . . . Johnson recorded in a time when a
linear story in a song was more important than when Blind Lemon
Jefferson or Charlie Patton did. One author talked about "stanzaic
disjunction" in Patton's songs.

So Lemon's image of a train with a "red and blue light behind" in
"Dry Southern Blues" (a song with no easy-to-find story line) ends up
in a Johnson song that tells a story, "Love In Vain." The story and
the setting of "Love In Vain" seem likely inspired by another
Jefferson song of the same period, "Booster Blues."  In that song,
Lemon arrives at the station just after the train with his woman has
left. In Johnson's song, it's actually a little more confusing. He
"follows" her to the station (doesn't take her there) with a suitcase
(so he seems ready to go...) but doesn't board the train. The story
and imagery are moving, but what happened is maybe a little less
clear than in Lemon's "Booster Blues" where it seems Lemon arrived at
the station in pursuit but just missed her.

There was a general shift shift toward story consistency between 1928
and 1937 in country blues. "How Long" (which actually came to Leroy
Carr through Ida Cox's 1925 "How Long, Daddy, How Long") seems
consistent to me, about a lover leaving you on a train and how lonely
the person left behind feels.

Seems like those trains wrecked a lot of relationships . . .  :-)

At 10:47 PM 5/10/2011, Son  Lewis wrote:
>While there were many, few rose to the lyrical and thematic levels that RJ
>reached... yes, while being derivative... with the possible exception of
>Skip  James, I cannot think of another Delta songster off the top of my head
>whose  verses remained as tightly linked to each other so that the story in
>the third  verse is referring to the same "story" the singer is singing about
>in the first  and fifth verses....
>For me, it is not so much the maniacal guitar playing or the frenzied
>singing... it's the lyrical construction itself that sets RJ apart
>from so  many
>(if not MOST) of his contemporaries...
>I just finished recording LeRoy Carr's "How Long" for my next release and
>while it's a beautiful song with a wonderful melody and impassioned singing
>by  Carr, his lyrics are all over the place... like it's several different
>songs  sharing a melody...  I don't get that sense in most of Johnson's
>Son  Lewis
>Blues Vocalist/Guitarist

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