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.
NB this replaces the demo I posted here in July 2014. It’s still a demo, but it’s nearer the way I now hear it in my head. Whether it’ll ever get as far as a commercial recording is a different issue. 🙂
Not one of my songs, of course. This demo is an interpretation of a song I learned many years ago from Michael Cooney by way of banjo player Merrion Wood. Oddly enough, Bert Jansch also recorded a slightly similar ‘Weeping Willow Blues’ using a 12-string. I’ve never heard Michael Cooney’s recording, but I seem to remember that he also played it on 12-string when I heard him play it live. Just to be awkward, I play it slide, so it’s probably not that close to either version. 🙂 I think Michael did tell me at the time (I guess it was in the early 70s) where his version comes from – I heard him sing it at the old Shrewsbury Folk Club – but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten what he said, and Google isn’t helping much. (A post on Mudcat suggests that it came from Leadbelly: I guess it has some similarities to Roberta.) Michael recorded the same song on an LP called Singer of Old Songs, and it’s on the CD of the same name he’s released on his own label.
[I’ve subsequently been in touch with Michael, who tells me that:
“I first heard the song sung by Guy Carawan; I believe he sang it in a minor key. I added a verse or two from other blues songs and worked out that arrangement. I play it in D with the E string tuned down to D, AND I used to (back then) tune the whole guitar down so when I played it in “D” it was really in C# or even C.”
I must admit that as my voice becomes less and less flexible I also have to tune down for this one, which I used to sing in D.]
The ‘Sometimes I think you’re too sweet to die…’ verse is close to one associated with Rabbit Brown’s ‘James Alley Blues’, widely known through Judy Roderick’s rewrite ‘Born in the Country’.
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 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.
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.