Friday, September 17, 2004:

"All I want is your love; you can throw my money away"

First, I'd like to thank The Tofu Hut, Said the Gramophone, Orbis Quintus, Fluxblog, Spoilt Victorian Child, and *sixeyes for the kind words. If you're coming here from somewhere else and you haven't yet checked them out, you should; they're all worth your time. Links on the left are all endorsements, and John at The Tofu Hut has an astonishing blogroll that's worth exploring.

Joe McCoy -- If You Take Me Back
Big Joe McCoy was born in Jackson Mississippi in 1905. He was a vocalist and a slide guitarist, and played alone under a number of pseudonyms and with his brother Charlie under a number of different band names. Joe McCoy was for a time married to Memphis Minnie; she's a good musician in her own right, a powerful singer and a talented guitarist, and together they recorded the original "When the Levee Breaks."

I first heard Kansas Joe about ten years ago on a mix tape I got from my ex-girlfriend, under the name "Big Joe and His Washboard Band." At the time I just thought the tape was a nice conciliatory gesture; now I wonder if I was paying attention at all: every song on that tape is about heartbreak. The heartbreak here is offset by the jauntiness: the harmonica, the washboard, the swing feel, the brisk pacing. They all help to put on a strong face, stick out a proverbial chin; but the lyrics give the lie to it, making wild claims, pleading and desperate: "If you take me back I'll buy you a diamond ring / and if you don't, my life don't mean a thing."

A recent posting on The Tofu Hut pointed up the confusion about early blues musicians' names. There's a reason for it: many of them used pseudonyms, and sometimes two different musicians would use the same name.
Who's who
(Or, if your tolerance for country blues is low,you can try More Music From Northern Exposure. The Les Paul/Mary Ford song on it is very good, but after track #3 I suddenly understood Bob Marley's scorn for Johnny Nash.)

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