Formerly called 40-70 blues, but I couldn’t remember why…
If you listen to the bass, this is essentially a 12-bar with aspirations, not to mention pretensions. While at the moment I’m concentrating on getting more-or-less one-take versions of my songs onto the site, I think there might be more unexpected synth incursions in the near future. And I think I might come back to this one.
This is a song I learned from Michael Cooney many decades ago. He told me recently that he learned it partly from Guy Carawan and partly from Bess Lomax Hawes, but had changed it around a lot. As have I (not least by making a slide piece out of it). It’s the folk process, folks. I particularly like the last verse, which also occurs in Robert Brown’s ‘James Alley Blues’ and Judy Roderick’s ‘Born In The Country’, which is based on Brown’s song.
My good friend Vic Cracknell, who among other musical activities runs open mike nights around Surrey, where I lived for several years, often used to introduce me as someone who plays authentic blues. As a result of which, I got used to introducing this along the lines of: “This is a traditional blues. However, it differs from most traditional blues in that it was written on the platform at Chalk Farm Tube station after an evening at the Enterprise folk club in 1983.” Essentially a 12- bar but with more minor chording than you might expect.
I rarely get the opportunity to play this with a band, so this is how I generally do it, with just my trusty Les Paul for support.
And a slide version. Too slow for my taste now, but some nice slide-y moments.
And this is an acoustic version. Better vocal, but a lot of ambient noise. Never mind, I’ll get back to it at some point. Plugged or unplugged? Not sure yet.
Here’s a much older, slower acoustic version. I’m thinking I might revert to this arrangement, or something close to it, as per the video linked below.
Recorded as a live video some time ago:
Here’s an audio version captured from the video and mastered to raise the levels slightly:
You can’t cage a butterfly, not unless you break its wings (x2) You can cage a songbird, but you can’t make him sing
I went over the hill and I heard some flyer blow (x2) I’ve been too long in the city: time to pack my grip and go
You think I’m fooling, but honey, it’s a fact You had a good old mule, but you just broke his back
Words and Music by David Harley (all rights reserved) Not to be confused with The Butterfly, a slip jig of which there’s also a recording sitting on this site somewhere.