Karen Dalton makes everything feel right… Summerville, Colorado, 1970. From Karen Dalton’s “Cotton Eyed Joe” double CD & DVD U.S. release on Delmore Recordings.
There’s a really interesting discussion thread about the origins of this song HERE.
The New York Times recently published an evocative long-form article penned by John Jeremiah Sullivan about the enigmatic Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas, woman blues musicians who haunt the archive with just six songs ever recorded, pressed on cheap, poor quality 78s by Paramount in 1930, as was the custom with “race” records not intended for mainstream markets.
I have been gripped on every listening by “Last Kind Words Blues” since I first heard it on the soundtrack to Crumb in the late ’90s (the same place Sullivan did), so I understood what Caitlyn Love, who did much of the the on-the-ground research for Sullivan, meant about its haunting her. From her blog:
When I first started doing research for John Jeremiah Sullivan for his article about Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas, two women who changed American music and then vanished without a trace, I kept Wiley’s song “Last Kind Words Blues” on repeat for days. I hadn’t listened closely to her songs before this project, but I was aware of the mythology around them. Now, I found myself hearing something new: a haunting, a mystery.
I began my research splitting time between the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, hunting among death, birth and marriage records, and the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, looking through old maps, photographs and city-directory records. All of these materials provided context for the era that Lillie Mae (Geetchie) Wiley and L.V. Thomas lived through.
Eventually we learned a great deal about Thomas’s personal history. But leads to Wiley went nowhere. I made myself dizzy scrolling through rolls of microfilm to find any meaningful clue. She had disappeared. The trail only picked up once, but it picked up sharply.
“We may have found Geeshie’s grave yesterday. Not 100 percent but optimistic,” John wrote in an email to editors at the magazine.
Continue reading about Caitlyn Love’s quest HERE.
Read John Jeremiah Sullivan’s piece HERE – it’s beautifully written, and reflects in deep ways on the romance and violence of the archive.
And this is the short version of the story, from a Youtube comment posted last week:
It is now believed that Elvie (L.V. Thomas nee Grant) and Geechie (Lillie Mae Wiley) recorded all of their songs in Grafton, WI for Paramount in 1930. According to L.V., she would play and Geechie would “bass” behind her or she’d play (guitar) and Geechie would “bass” behind her. Thus, it might very well be Geechie we hear doing this fine guitar work. L.V. turned her back on the blues (life) and dedicated herself to her local church in Texas. Geeshie disappeared into the unknown. Recent records indicate she killed her husband with a knife in 1931. She may have changed her name/I.D. to avoid being found.
Cover of the Ronnie Earl/Mighty Sam McClain blues/soul classic – this is a tremendous bootleg recorded on 24 October 2006 at Rio Theatre, Santa Cruz.
Karen covering Fred Neil’s classic – from an album of a friend’s reel-to-reel recordings of her rehearsing in her living room, entitled1966, which was released in 2012.
Record Label: Delmore Recording Society
Karen Dalton: Voice; 12-String Guitar
Richard Tucker: Guitar
Download the whole album HERE.
From the soundtrack to the 2004 documentary, Be Here to Love Me.
Flip side of “Just an old love of mine” (1947).
J.J. Cale passed away around 20h00 on Friday 26 July, 2013 at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, California, after a heart attack.
This beautiful album was released on 30 April 1974.
“Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” is a gospel-blues song written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson, probably recorded in 1927. The song is primarily an instrumental, featuring Johnson’s self-taught bottleneck slide guitar and picking style accompanied by humming and moaning.
For more about this haunting record, check out the fascinating Wikipedia page.
The fifth track on the White Stripes’ debut, eponymous album, released in 1999.
“I can’t be good no more
Once like I did before
I can’t be good, baby
Honey, because the world’s gone wrong.”