As already noted over @ the red light, we've been lissening to Robert Johnson, and it has prompted us to think about the transactions that make up the tradition we're working. It is a tradition of, among other things, leaving and returning, rambling and coming home. And that powerful metaphor builds both content and form. The constant revision of songs, and the constant reversion to earlier songs are part of the same motion (and the same emotion of loss and reconciliation -- should we second this?).
And as we've been hearing Rob't, we've been hearing the echoes of things past and present. So we thought we would load up a clip of those echoes for you.
- Leroy Carr, "I Believe I'll Make a Change."
- Kokomo Arnold, "Sagefield Woman Blues."
- Kokomo Arnold, "Sissy Man Blues."
- Robert Johnson, "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom."
- Roosevelt Sykes, "Mr. Carl's Blues."
- Elmore James, "Dust My Broom"
- Ike & Tina Turner, "Dust My Broom"
- Pyeng Threadgill, "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom."
There's really no revelation here, is there? The first few bullets are drawn in part from ElijahWald's close reading of the body and soul of Rob't Johnson's work, Escaping the Delta, a book for which we have much proper respect. The last three are versions we have been unable to forget. The cumulative story is nothing but that of persistent creolization of the same material. But as it moves, the material absorbs again and again its own opposites. The major themes are straightforward: leaving at the end of something bad and getting a fresh start. They are deep in nuance, too: the broomsweep has hoodoo resonance; the tension between giving up and getting started again has sweet promise and sad consequence on both ends -- both plea and curse in the same step. There is no one pattern of right and wrong: there's plenty of wrong doing and quitting going on, and in enough directions to make a good soap opera. The big, restlessmaking horizon calls from faraway, but the call may also to be return home like the prodigal, giving up on the taking business for something more generous. But if the themes are straightforward, they are turned and turned again in the retelling.
In the last four months, we shoulda been here more, but it's like that, so we have nothing more to say about our absence. We are just glad to be back. We'll come back to the unfinished work, too, especially the big opus on OB4CL. The force of the work is to great to put it down forever.