T-Model Ford is going to remember you sorry fuckers how it's done.Word.
Let's talk about the blues this week.
Yeah, The Taildragger, T Model Ford, killed a man once. For real. You got a problem with that? He'll put his foot in yo ass, you understand? He ain't done rememberin' you yet, neither.
That's beautiful music right there, but it's not pretty. It's beautiful the way a mean ass good looking drunk redneck farmgirl is. Do not mistake the beautiful bones in that music for softness; there is a very hard edge that lurks in the lyrics and what he sings about and what a lot of the old bluesmen sing about. It is authentic.
That said, you shouldn't make a fetish of authenticity. If you're going to make a fetish of anything, make a fetish of the truths that authentic artists try to tell. Authenticity is nice but it's not the only thing. A lot of new, synthesized stuff - music and consumer goods - is just great.
But authentic stuff carries in it a grain of something enduring. You're looking at a piece of history here, an older style of music that is passing away, and life stories that are just damn hard. Appreciate the authenticity in it but don't yearn for that kind of authenticity - authentic hard, a lifestyle I've lived now and again for a couple months at a time and thankfully I don't have to do it any more. Because it sucks. You shouldn't don the rose colored glasses and yearn for the hard old days to come back. Life is easy now because a lot of people dragged themselves up out of hard times, and we're living on the social capital. Civilizations rise and fall, if not us then our kids or their kids will have it damn hard, and if you could zip forward in time, they'd put a foot in your ass for not doing more to prevent the hard times from coming.
For now, you and I can crow about the authenticity of this music and how cool it is, but what we should really think about is the truths in it. T Model is an interesting curiosity to us, a leftover from an age that was a little less artificial, a little less cushioned from reality. There's a heartfelt genuine-ness to it that appeals. It contains an honesty that is striking today because most of life today is so many people blowing so much bullshit at each other. I see a lot of people who are mildly famous, look at what they're doing, and realize their main talent is self-promotion of their mediocre selves. They'd be selling snake oil - and starving - in an earlier age. If I wanted to self promote like that I could, it's not terribly difficult once you see it. But it's hollow. The self promoters are narcissistic. They've mastered smoke and mirrors and there's money in that particular end of show business, in politics and media, but there's no substance. The blues are not like that. They are not like Justin Bieber moaning about his heartbreak or wanting some girl. What the fuck does Justin Bieber know about anything? Nothing. T Model maybe isn't a brain surgeon, but he knows some stuff that he picked up at the University of Hard Knocks. He isn't telling you how great he is, he's never going to fail, and blowing cubic yards of smoke up your ass. Instead, he's going to tell you some hard truths about how it is, about what he's like and about what life is like. When he sings in another song that he's a good hard working wood cuttin' gravel road living man, that means something. It is freighted with significance and he's telling you about his identity, who he is at the core, a man who comes from a rough, rural place and does what he has to do, damn hard labor, to keep food on the table. What he's saying is *attractive* to a woman who lives just up the road, who is hanging out in the same juke joint. She's not going to throw her panties at him and scream, but she's going to find him interesting, and in the world he comes from - where that bluesman is doing hard physical labor during the day to put food on the table, that kind of thing is worth something. Your I-Pad is not.
Never assume that people who speak softly and soothingly to you and tell you nice things, are conveying anything meaningful to you. They may be doing so, but often, meaning, significance in life, usually comes in rough packages rather than wrapped in shiny paper and ribbons. I would bet that the true-est, rawest moments you've experienced in your life have mostly involved bitter disappointments. *That* is what traditional blues are conveying information about.
Skip James recorded this one when he was dying of cancer.
Damn. That is some honesty that cuts to the bone, served up on a plate by a waiter who has one foot in the grave. He was doing that performance to raise money for an operation to try to cure his cancer, to no avail. So tell me, what are the problems that are troubling you in your life today?
Robert Johnson was singing this next one about segregated, gangster-ridden, corrupt Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler, Stormy, husky, brawling Chicago.
Sweet home, Chicago, eh? Loving a city as rough as that was when Robert Johnson sang about it, must have been as rough as being in a marriage with a fun, physically abusive drunk. Robert Johnson may not even have gotten there by the time he sang about it... how tough does your life have to be, to view 1920's Chicago as the land of milk and honey? Rough jobs, tenements, crime, corrupt ward heelers - is heaven to a 1920s bluesman. What is that telling you about life in Tunicaville, Mississippi in 1921?
You've heard about a suitcase full of blues, right? Well, Sonny Boy Williamson appears to have traveled with an attache case full of blues. He sang a lot of songs about people doing him wrong, and if you get a good look at his face when he's singing, you can see he's thinking about some particular people, or a person. There is an intensity in his lyrics that one doesn't get from Lady Gaga.
And when Son House sang, "Here Come the Blues," well, you get a sense he's a guy who can see 'em coming from a long ways off. His music will help us deal with them when they get here, be a midwife to our sorrow over a woman leaving, a spell in jail, or things just plain being tough. Yep, here come the blues.
Rough people get comfortable around elemental truths, I think, because life is a little more honest around the edges with you when you're living hard. There's no cushion if you're living rough. No use lying about your predicament; you can't spin doctor it if you're poor, crime ridden, a down-on-your-luck blue collar drunk, or in the case of these old blues artists frankly oppressed black men living in grinding poverty in a segregated nation that doesn't give a fuck if you live or die. So Blind Willie Johnson asks what Justin Bieber can't even conceive of, "What is the Soul of a Man?"
I saw a crowd stand talking, I came up right on timeWe like the blues because most of the time, for most artists who sing them, the form works to express some elemental - and what I think will ultimately be proved permanent - truths about life. Much of the time, we spend our lives avoiding the truth, because the truth tends to hurt soft people like us. Maybe it takes people who've lived in a world of hurt, to introduce elemental truths back into our lives. Yeah, life and the truth and everything hurts. SO WHAT. Talk about it. Sing about it. Get off your chest and dance about it. We can deal with it and move on, and R.L. is comin' up to the juke joint next Thursday. Get a cooler of Pabst and we'll dance our asses off and get our drank on. Alright?
Were hearing the doctor and the lawyer, say a man ain't nothing but his mind
I read the bible often, I tries to read it right
As far as I can understand, a man is more than his mind
When Christ stood in the temple, the people stood amazed
Was showing the doctors and the lawyers, how to raise a body from the grave
It's not for nothing that Ulysses had a rough trip home. The damn story wouldn't be worth telling if his biggest hassle was the cruise line losing his luggage. Wouldn't have had any meaning, and we'd have gotten tired of hearing about his pissing match with Achilles during the war, this hot chick he cheated with who wouldn't stop emailing him and bugging out his friends, and the morons running the cruise line. That his friends get killed, his mistress turns his men into pigs and every time he gets near the ocean he gets shipwrecked because he pissed off Poseidon, makes it worthwhile. We look at Ulysses, and we learn what not to do, and we are reminded that life is a hurt locker, at its core. A vale of tears. A tough challenge when we leave the friendly confines.
I just wanted to remember all you sorry fuckers about that.
Have a nice weekend y'all. Ride some, have fun, hug somebody you love. That's my plan.