Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Barroom Blues"

A site called "Get Underground" has an overview piece called "The Strange Career of an Unfortunate Rake." While the broad outline is not wildly different from what's in the essay that this site spun out of, there are a couple of interesting tidbits.

First: Who was it that came up with the earliest trace of the "Rake," believed to date to 1790? It was Irish musicologist P.W. Joyce, the piece, by Mike Morris, says.

Second: Toward the end of his piece, as Morris notes the "Streets of Laredo," "St. James Infirmary," and "Gamblers Blues" variations, he also mentions the song "eventually making it to California, where a migrant named Herman Davis stumbled through a dirge to his fate entitled Barroom Blues." Following that link leads to a Library of Congress page that is part of a "Voices from the Dust Bowl" project, and it seems that Davis (who I'd of course never heard of) recorded a sort of Woody Guthrie-ish version in 1941, at the "Arvin FSA Camp." There's an MP3 to listen to, and I think Morris is right in using the word "stumbled" to describe Davis's performance.

Finallly, Morris has a couple of interesting related links at the end: to The Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads collection; and The Max Hunter Folk Song Collection.