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Others like St. James Infirmary?
November 23, 2009 7:53 AM   Subscribe

My band does a great cover of St. James Infirmary Blues. What else should we do that's in the same vein?

Here's a bozillion .mp3s of St. James so you can get a feel for it. It looks like it's been categorized under pre-war blues. It sounds great - we do it as a three-piece... guitar, banjo, fiddle with three-part vocal harmonies. It plays well on the fiddle - what other tunes capture this kind of dark, painful sound in a blues way that translates well to string band?
posted by Baby_Balrog to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
- What about Pastures of Plenty? Odetta's cover is my favorite. Shivers every time.

- Son House's Death Letter
- Two Gallant's Train That Stole My Man? I'm not sure how well it would translate, and I can't find a decent YouTube video, but it's definitely worth the $.99 to buy it. Lyrics.

- Have you heard The White Stripes' cover of Jolene? When Jack White's voice cracks, oh man.

- Langhorne Slim? I like Natural Selection Blues (scroll down).

- The Good Life's Under a Honeymoon? On first listen, you might discard this one, but I think y'all could maybe do a great, blues-ier cover of it.

- There's gotta be a Nick Drake song you can cover -- talk about painful. And something by the Be Good Tanyas. Maybe Fruit Tree and Scattered Leaves (lyrics, since they're kind of hard to hear), respectively.

Okay, so perhaps I latched onto the "painful" aspect more than the "blues part...
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:31 AM on November 23, 2009


Malted Milk - Robert Johnson
posted by TheOtherGuy at 8:31 AM on November 23, 2009


Nobody Knows You (When You're Down and Out)

Sitting on Top of the World

See That My Grave is Kept Clean
posted by Miko at 9:16 AM on November 23, 2009


Jack White also covered Sitting on Top of the World for Cold Mountain, if you'd like to hear an updated version.

(I... I might have a crush on Jack White. I'm not sure how I feel about that.)
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:24 AM on November 23, 2009


Best bet is to start with the other blues standards that have been covered by artists in your vein. In my opinion, Doc Watson has particularly good taste in this department. He has at least one entire blues album, and there are blues tracks scattered across his other work, including a collaboration with Earl Scruggs and (I think) Ricky Skaggs.

A few of the tracks on the above linked album that have the dark, painful sound of St. James Infirmary:

St. Louis Blues
Stormy Weather
Going to Chicago

Another one I've heard DW play is "Walk on Boy," which has a little more of the dark-but-rhythmic feel of SJI.
posted by pete_22 at 9:25 AM on November 23, 2009


Hey this is some awesome stuff already! Thanks folks and keep the suggestions coming.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:45 AM on November 23, 2009


I would check out some Townes Van Zandt, mayb his cover of Dead Flowers (from the Big Lebowski) but a lot of his stuff is super painful bluesy.
posted by saul wright at 10:10 AM on November 23, 2009


Try listening to
Ma Rainey
Kid Ory
Johnny Dodds
and for a better recorded sound listen to
Turk Murphy. He found many old gut bucket blues
and has a great voice.
posted by charlesminus at 10:15 AM on November 23, 2009


I would say "Love in Vain" is the classic in this genre, if you don't mind that the Stones already did a fairly famous cover.

If you want to go REALLY old school, get a hold of the Dylan bootleg version of The Basement Tapes (not the crappy official release! The real thing is bootleg only, I have seen it called "The Real Basement Tapes" and also "Tree With Roots.") At any rate he does some really great painful old folk/blues songs. Some of my favorites are "The Banks of the Royal Canal" (aka "The Auld Triangle") and "Rock Salt and Nails."
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:20 AM on November 23, 2009


Bei Mir is typically done in an upbeat jazz style, but I've heard it slowed down and played acoustically. It can achieve a nice melancholy tone.
posted by lholladay at 11:41 AM on November 23, 2009


Just expanding on my earlier reply, since I'm home from work and can find Youtube links :) -- to the extent you're looking at blues artists, I might go for the more formal, folk- or jazz-influenced types like Josh White or Lonnie Johnson respectively.

But I still think you'll have better luck just looking for other blues songs recorded by country, bluegrass or folk artists -- almost all of these performers done a few blues songs, and the arrangements will be easier for your combo of instruments. For example, here's the Texas Playboys playing Blue Prelude.
posted by pete_22 at 4:30 PM on November 23, 2009


"Stop Breakin' Down Blues" by Robert Johnston
posted by backwards guitar at 10:57 AM on November 24, 2009


You might also like Ray LaMontagne's Hey Me, Hey Mama, though it's more bluegrass-y than blues-y
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:53 PM on November 30, 2009


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