Written in the 18th century, this song has been sung by many. I remember this song from when I was frequenting the coffee house/folk scene. The site thebluegrasssituation.com is totally worthwhile, and this post is classic, including different versions of this song done by 20 gr8 voices – Glenn Campbell, Ed Sheeran, Jack White, and Johnny Cash to name a few. Check out Jack White singing this song on YouTube.
“You Are My Sunshine” is an example of country music’s large contribution to American music. This version shows off the song’s country roots. The tune was made popular by Jimmie Davis, who would later became governor of Lousiana. The song was written by a Paul Rice, but the songwriting was credited to the Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell, who purchased the song from Mr. Rice.
Wilf Carter, who performs this version, was a Canadian who often used the nickname of “Montana Slim.” Carter’s version evokes the deep melancholy in the song. The contrast between the cheery chorus (the most recognizable section), and the tone of the verses, make this version unique.
One curious part of this recording, the fluttery instrument that emerges during the first chorus, sounds like a direct reference point for a similar texture The Clash would employ on “Somebody Got Murdered,” several decades later.
Born in January of 1900 in Allatoona, Georgia, Clayton McMichen had his great success recording with Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers and Hometown Boys, and also as a solo artist. His solo effort performance of “Grave In The Pines” is a starkly sweet and sincere lament to a fallen love. McMichen performed regularly in Louisville, Kentucky until retiring in 1955, and later returning to the stage at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964.
Several decades before Bob Dylan recorded his breakthrough “Highway 61 Revisited” album, the folk-blues song “Highway No. 61” was interpreted by numerous blues singers including Charlie Pickett, Memphis Minnie and Joe McCoy, The Sparks Brothers and others. Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band recorded this classic version with fiddler Will Batts on vocal duties. According to Dylan, when he told his record label the title of his new album in 1965, they didn’t understand it, and only agreed to let him call the record what he wanted after to he went all the way “up the fucking ladder” to insist on it. The rest is history.
In his long career, Big Bill Broonzy wrote and copyrighted over 300 songs. Many were original, some were adaptations of folk songs in the oral tradition. You can hear in this early Broonzy recording of “How You Want It Done,” the seeds of rock and roll guitar playing which would later sprout in the hands of Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and many others in the 1950’s. We’re fortunate to have a nice clean digital copy to enjoy today.
Sligo is a form of lively folk music which takes its name from the county and town of Sligo on the west coast of Ireland. Paddy Killoran, one of the biggest names in Sligo, was born there in 1904. He emigrated to the United States in the 1920’s and embarked upon a prolific recording and performing career. “Sligo Maid’s Lament” was one of his popular 78 RPM sides. Sligo music is alive and well today, and if you like it as much as we do, have a look at sligomusic.ie for more info on the history of Sligo, and about contemporary and early Sligo artists.
This is one fine early example of amply motivated walking in song, from a group called Akins Birmingham Boys. Little biographical info is available online about these ukelele strummin’ and fiddlin’ singers, but we do know they recorded this and one other side for Columbia records, and the songs more than stand the test of time. Great vocals on this early pop country gem.
The Mississippi Sheiks from Bolton, Mississippi were a popular band in their time, and their recorded songs have been covered by an impressive list of artists that includes Howlin’ Wolf, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte and Bob Dylan. Three of the Sheiks were brothers Lonnie, Sam, and Armenter Chatmon, the latter of whom is famously known as Bo Carter, who enjoyed a successful solo career while he managed and was a part time member of the band. This recording of “Please Baby” captures their distinct blend of country, folk, and blues.
“Last Gold Dollar” is the first of several sides Ephraim Woodie and the Henpecked Husbands recorded for the Columbia label in 1929. Led by Ephraim Woodie’s affecting vocal, this North Carolina group featured Clay Reed on fiddle and multi-instrumentalist Edison Nuckolls on banjo. Original pressings of their records are rare and highly sought-after by collectors, and we are lucky to have this nice clean digital copy to share and enjoy. This song is about as sincere and uncomplicated as any love song ever could be.