When I first met you, baby, you were a real gone chick When I first met you, baby, you were a real gone chick Now you've let your skirt down 'n' you know that ain't the lick You better wake up, baby 'n' change your antique ways You better wake up, baby 'n' change your antique ways Instead of advancin' baby you're goin' back to horse & buggy days Just leave it up to a woman, they'll do it every time Just leave it up to a woman, they'll do it every time Well, ain't no long skirt baby, gonna be no gal a-mine
Oh yes, the times they done been a’ changing quite a bit in the 72 years since T Bone Walker cut ‘Long Skirt Baby Blues’, which all as it should be*, a description that fits The Blues Of T Bone Walker rather beautifully.
I struggle to think of another LP in the 1537 that fits its’ title so well^. You know how AC/DC like to append ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ to every song title? well they ain’t got nothing on Aaron Thibeaux Walker. On The Blues Of T Bone Walker he goes 12 for 12.
Of course this 1965 compilation is no album as such, just a themed compilation of his 1947 sessions for Black And White and there is a surprising amount of variation in here. If you were searching for the source of the modern blues guitar^^ look no further, because this is where the waters break the surface.
What is equally fascinating to me, as much as I dig the whole blues thing is that you really can hear rock and roll starting to break through as well. Seriously, take a good listen to ‘Long Skirt baby Blues’ and just listen to what Chuck Berry would be doing on guitar a bit faster a decade later, it has that just-like-ringin’-a-bell tone down pat^*. Or the sped up stride piano on ‘Hypin’ Woman Blues’ which anticipates Johnny Johnson’s playing by another decade, or maybe just Big Joe Turner’s gloriously unsubtle charms by 6 years.
T Bone bestrides that interesting area between jazz, blues and more raucous turf perfectly, I love it when music butts up against a number of genres, that’s always where the real interesting stuff is in my view. It reminds me a whole lot of Louis Jordan too, especially Hallelujah… Louis Jordan Is Back! the 1964 LP that my folks and then me, used to play a lot when I was a teenager.
All life is here, well as long as it’s not ecstatic you’re looking for. Fire up the shuffling piano and buzzy horned ‘Lonesome Woman Blues’ for a bit of a bop. You can take a left turn into the absolutely exquisite late night under a streetlight, muted trumpet, ‘Long Lost Lover Blues’, where T Bone plays a little like Django Reinhardt. Or if it suits you better just fire up the mournful ‘Vacation Blues’, where the guitar prefigures Albert King and the vocal is smoky and emotional.
My particular favourite tonight is definitely ‘Midnight Blues’, a mournful slightly inebriated dark night of the soul blues with some deceptively languid guitar playing and a glass full of the sentiment that would keep Tom Waits in business up to the late 70’s. A beautifully short and to the point number too.
But let’s not get too hung up on The Blues Of T Bone Walker being some kind of museum piece full of reverential music, it ain’t; there’s a lot of fun to be had in these grooves. Let’s not forget this is the guy who later in life taught Steve Miller how to play guitar behind his back and with his teeth – standard flash on the chitlin’ circuit way back when, but it went down a storm with white rock audiences down the road a piece.
I am also rather fond of the overly dignified, sniffy and stuffy sleeve notes penned by Patrick James, a jazz gentleman of the old school who was certainly not in favour of all the young English attempts at recreating ‘the rhythm and blues of the urban American Negro’ (his capital letters, not mine). Mr James praises the instrumentation here (very rightly so) and writes in vinegar I assume that:
There is a whole world nestled down in this LP, a collection of then state-of-the-art light entertainment, soul searchers and some real progressive struts too.
*we’re not allowed to tell chicks** what to wear anymore, Mr Walker. Sorry. Apparently they can choose now. I know, I know.
**real gone ones, or otherwise.
^with the possible exceptions of Judas Priest Mid-Tempo Pumping Songs About Missiles, Robots and Things That Go Bang, Saxon Transport, Bloody Transport and Radiohead Startlingly Sad Bleep Music Which You’ll Only Realise Is Possibly Our Best LP Yet After 2 Years Have Passed.
^^and by extrapolation, the modern rock sound.
^*ditto the innovative playing on ‘Lonesome Woman Blues’.