An in-depth examination of the music of the 78 era.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
"Country Blues" - "Dock" Boggs
Set Three: Songs; Disc Two; Track Three: "Country Blues" performed by "Dock" Boggs. "Vocal solo with banjo." Recorded in New York on March 9, 1927. Original issue Brunswick 131A (96).
For biographical information on Dock Boggs, see the entry for "Sugar Baby."
Come all you good time people, While I've got money to spend, Tomorrow might be Monday And I'll neither have a dollar nor a friend.
When I had plenty of money, good people, My friends were all standing around, Just as soon as my pocket book was empty, Not a friend on earth to be found.
Last time I seen my little woman, good people, She had a wine glass in her hand; She was drinking down her troubles With a low-down sorry man.
Oh, my daddy taught me a-plenty, good people; My mama, she taught me more. If I didn't quit my rowdy ways, Have trouble at my door.
I wrote my woman a letter, good people; I told her I's in jail. She wrote me back an answer Saying "Honey, I'm a-coming to go your bail."
All around this old jailhouse is hainted, good people; Forty dollars won't pay my fine. Corn whisky has surrounded my body, poor boy, Pretty women is a-troubling my mind.
Give me corn bread when I'm hungry, good people; Corn whiskey when I'm dry; Pretty women a-standing around me; Sweet heaven when I die.
If I'd a-listened to my mama, good people, I wouldn't have been here today; But a-drinking and a-shooting and a-gambling, At home I cannot stay.
Go dig a hole in the meadow, good people, Go did a hole in the ground. Come around all you good people And see this poor rounder go down.
When I am dead and buried My pale face turned to the sun, You can come around and mourn, little woman, And think the way you have done.
"Country Blues" is a variant of the song "Darling Cora." One version of the lyrics to "Darling Cora" is as follows:
Wake up, wake up, Darlin' Corey. What makes you sleep so sound? Them revenue officers a-commin' For to tear your still-house down.
Well the first time I seen Darlin' Corey She was settin' by the side of the sea, With a forty-four strapped across her bosom And a banjo on her knee.
Dig a hole, dig a hole, in the medder Dig a hole, in the col' col' groun' Dig a hole, dig a hole in the medder Goin' ter lay Darlin' Corey down.
The next time I seen Darlin' Corey She was standin' in the still-house door With her shoes and stockin's in her han' An' her feet all over the floor.
Wake up, wake up Darlin Corey. Quit hangin' roun` my bed. Hard likker has ruined my body. Pretty wimmen has killed me mos' dead.
Wake up, wake up my darlin'; Go do the best you can. I've got me another woman; You can get you another man. Oh yes, oh yes my darlin' I`ll do the best I can, But I`ll never take my pleasure With another gamblin' man.
Don` you hear them blue-birds singin'? Don` you hear that mournful sound? They`re preachin' Corey`s funeral In some lonesome buryin' groun'.
"Country Blues" is the second song in a row to make reference to prison. It is essentially a warning song. The speaker in this song describes himself as a "rounder" who drinks, shoots and gambles. He finds himself in prison and predicts a melancholy end to his dissolute existence. The biggest difference between "Country Blues" and "Darling Cora" is that in "Darling Cora," Cora (a gun-toting, moonshining woman) lives the dissolute life that leads to her death. In "Country Blues" it is the speaker himself. There are several lyrics in "Country Blues," however, that are clearly drawn directly from "Darling Cora."
Boggs is frequently cited as one of the first white performers to fully integrate the blues (a primarily black style in the early days of the 20th century) into his music. While "Country Blues" is certainly not an example of the traditional blues form, it does contain blues themes. One might even argue that by switching the song's point of view to a first person account of the speaker's troubles, Boggs transformed the song from a traditional mountain ballad into something more modern.
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Here's a version of "Country Blues" performed on ukulele.
Here's a version of "Darling Cora" performed on banjo.