Thursday, January 05, 2006:

Jimmy Reed

Jimmy Reed -- Everest Records Archive of Folk and Jazz Music
Jimmy Reed -- Down in Mississippi
Jimmy Reed -- Ain't That Lovin' You Baby
I just got back from a trip to the Bible Belt boondocks where I grew up: the kind of place where white men wear mullets and congregate on rebel-flagged porches and tailgates to drink Budweiser and talk about wrestling and NASCAR and football; they're real manly men who bear a simmering hatred towards Hilary Clinton and black people and Arabs, tossing out sexist and racist epithets like darts. I'd like to say that's all a stereotype, the kind of thing you find in lazy film making and lazy writing, but in this case at least it's true. The town is fairly interesting from a sociological perspective, except after a few days of it I get tired of going around trying to be a sociologist--I'd rather not be stared at; I'd rather be at home where I can order a vegetarian sandwich without getting a puzzled look or hearing about how some people just need to start eating meat.

Jimmy Reed was a seminal electric bluesman popular in the 1950s and 60s and known for a mumbling vocal delivery and a casual, unschooled approach on guitar and harmonica; his influence is apparent on musicians from Dylan to The Rolling Stones to The Yardbirds to (shudder) The Grateful Dead. If it sounds like he's probably drunk while singing these, it's because he probably was--he was a notorious alcoholic with a tendency to forget lines to his own songs--but I don't tend to listen to musicians for their private lives (or even their public lives), just their lives in the studio. The studio that Reed is in here sounds cavernous, echoey; his guitar lurches along gamely; his voice reverberates; his harmonica cuts through it all.

These are digitized off an LP I picked up sealed for $3; "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" is commonly found on Reed compilations (and for good reason); "Down in Mississippi" is rarer, appearing only on the two "Boss Man" compilations--one at two discs and 36 tracks, the other at three discs and 75 tracks. I posted "Down in Mississippi" not because I went to Mississippi (I didn't) but because it's just such an odd story in it, like some elliptical Faulknerian saga where most of the interesting stuff is in the subtext. What does the boll weevil mean? Why the rapacious preacher? Is farm work really so hypnotic?

If it's not immediately apparent why I posted "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" then, well, you probably don't like the blues.
[The Essential Boss Man: The Very Best of the Vee-Jay Years, 1953-1966]
[Boss Man: Best of Jimmy Reed]


The Shanty throws open its doors to greet a brand new '06.

Hello, 2006. [gives a friendly wave]

Hello from another vegetarian (vegan, actually) in a bible belt boondocks. But I live here permanently. You get to leave -- lucky you.

It's a hard place to be a vegetarian, much less a vegan, if you like to eat out at all. I don't envy you staying there.

another treat of a post tuwa beautifully rich blues....

hope i'm not explaining the obvious but bo weevil (and all the other spellings) was some kind of insect or bug which liked cotton fields as a dwelling place and destroyed the crop.

Thanks, John.

Anon: If I'm understanding the lyrics right, Reed says that the boll weevils wear overalls (!), which is what has me puzzled. I'm sure it means something--maybe just an exaggeration about the seriousness of the infestation--but I'm not sure what.

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