Tell me about this guitar thing, and where I can find more.
June 4, 2019 5:36 AM   Subscribe

I barely have language for this, but: I have been listening to the Black Crowes (in the midst of a whole big revisit to the music of my teen years), and there's a guitar thing that I love in the song Thick n' Thin that starts with the lyric "left holdin' the bag again." What is that, and where can I find more? I know southern rock in general will give me some of what I want (so bring on the recommendations), but that very specific thing makes my toes curl and I want more. Help?
posted by hought20 to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I believe what's happening is a modal chord change played with what would be called a slur in classical - there are chords being played that are not in the key of the song, and they're being played in such a way that you hear the notes in-between the starting and ending position. Can't come up with other examples with the same effect but I find it pleasing as well. I actually think the outro of "Perfect Day" is similar in terms of a series of chords that marches through ones that aren't nominally in the key. But on piano so no tied notes. But I'm pretty sparse in actual musical theory. And I'm not sure this will help you find more examples!
posted by mzurer at 6:07 AM on June 4, 2019

Yeah that’s a descending bass line moving from the 4th scale degeee down through the major 3d and 2d to the tonic, a scalar “walkdown” in rock terminology, where the rhythm guitar matches the bass line with power chords on the same notes. It’s such a common gesture in rock and blues that I’ve never thought of it as a stand-alone thing at all. This song is a fast shuffle blues form. You can hear similar full band unison walkdowns (and walkups) in the classic electric blues of Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf and in every single rock subgenre that has copped from them.

I’ll think of some classic examples later today.

posted by spitbull at 6:25 AM on June 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

The tab shows that song in open G tuning (DGDGBD) -- Keith Richards used it for many many Stones hits. ZZ Top uses it a lot too.

I think "Reelin' in the Years' uses the same descent through the major chords, not the same vibe at all though.
(It actually reminds me of an obscure pop-punk cover of "I'm a Believer")
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:15 AM on June 4, 2019

Deep Purple Highway Star , right after "it's a killer machine It's got everything..."
posted by canoehead at 8:03 AM on June 4, 2019

The southern rock song that comes to mind with maximum walkin' it down is Leon Russell's "Delta Lady", though it's doing it with a whole soul revue crew, not just guitars.
posted by bendybendy at 8:36 AM on June 4, 2019

Try Scotty Moore on Elvis "Trying to Get To You" or "Mess of Blues" the walkin' and "slap back" are pronounced.
posted by effluvia at 9:26 AM on June 4, 2019

I feel like Tom Petty uses this a lot, but the particular song I have in mind I just can't place the name or any lyrics of.
posted by supercres at 9:39 AM on June 4, 2019

(Found it: "Runnin' Down a Dream", right at the beginning of the chorus. Then it ascends back up. Only three chords, though; for some reason I thought it took four steps.)
posted by supercres at 9:43 AM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Black Crowes are almost a Rod and the Faces karaoke act at times and this is definitely one of them. Try Stay With Me for starters.
posted by merocet at 10:07 AM on June 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

By the way the stripping down of the rock band sound to bass and rhythm guitar playing power chords on every note of the bass line is virtually the defining property of classic punk rock. The Ramones did almost nothing else, likewise the Sex Pistols (such as the same repeated walkdown from the IV chord as in the OP example on the chorus of “No Future”).
posted by spitbull at 3:57 PM on June 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

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