World Arbiter 2006

Blind Lemon Jefferson: Long Lonesome Blues

Lemon's texts revealed.

  • Transcription of Lemon's complete texts. In 2014 this CD was remastered for downloading that contains an additional bonus track.
  • Released May 27, 2012
  • $16.98, free postage within the US
  • On iTunes
  • On Amazon

Track List

  1. Rabbit Foot Blues
  2. Shuckin' Sugar Blues
  3. Booster Blues
  4. Dry Southern Blues
  5. Long Lonesome Blues
  6. Got The Blues
  7. Black Horse Blues
  8. Corrina Blues
  9. Old Rounder's Blues
  10. Beggin' Back
  11. That Black Snake Moan
  12. Stocking Feet Blues
  13. Bad Luck Blues
  14. Broke And Hungry
  15. Chinch Bug Blues
  16. Deceitful Brownskin Blues
  17. Electric Chair Blues
  18. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
  19. Low Down Mojo Blues
  20. Jack O' Diamond Blues
  21. Chock House Blues
  22. Change My Luck Blues
  23. Lemon's Cannon Ball Blues
  24. Lemon's Worried Blues
  25. Prison Cell Blues
  26. Long Distance Moan
  27. bonus download track: Bakershop Blues

Although Blind Lemon Jefferson’s complete recordings have been reissued, they are without texts and in poor sound. Our restoration with Sonic Depth Technology offers a greater clarity which enables a more accurate transcription of his words. The absence of lyrics has further obscured a major artist whose life’s facts remain unknown. Jefferson has become a blues icon: the survival of but one photograph along with sparse knowledge of his career and personal life has encouraged legends which become caricatures rather than interpretations of his art in relation to his life. Leadbelly, his one-time senior partner, spoke of their days in Dallas with varying accuracy, yet a more significant musical reciprocity is heard on their recordings. Jefferson’s career and art place him with Blind Blake and Papa Charlie Jackson as the first fully-documented professional bluesmen, highly skilled, distinct composers with extensive repertoires. With the absence of facts, Jefferson’s words become our only guide to his life, to the society he depicted in song and sounds. His texts give us a rural Hogarth, a Breugel displaying a vast panorama, a vivid depiction of his society’s deeds, thoughts and emotions. A balladeer who aimed to satisfy his audience’s tastes, it is inevitable that Jefferson’s individuality crept into his texts. One example of his craft lies in unique virtuosic guitar lines which support the texts’ messages as a separate entity, similar to Schubert’s Lieder. in the flow of their contrasting textures and rhythms.

Past efforts to transcribe his lyrics often had errors which present Jefferson as an ignoramus, as though these specialists deemed him as hardly more than an illiterate without a mother tongue who mangled content and syntax into incomprehensibility: One misreading of Corrina [C. C. Rider] is commonly perpetuated: “Aint no potatoes, cross-hound killed the vine.” Attentive listening detects: “frost has killed the vine,” as any farmer could explain. One published transcription of Begging Back Blues [Grossman. Texas Blues. Oak Publications, 1984] has the following (with corrections in bold):

Grossman: “Oh my baby, take me back, Why a wanna, take me back.”
Jefferson: “Oh my baby, take me back, What have I done, take me back.”

Grossman: “And I went in, half past six, I went out the rich man’s gate.”
Jefferson:Every evening, half past eight, I’m laying around the rich man’s gate.”

Grossman: “Working and studying, thinking I was grand,
Gotta get that best gal back, rich man’s hand.”
Jefferson: “Working and studying, thinking I was grand,
How to get that biscuit out of that rich man’s hand.”

Grossman: “She turned around two or three times,
Take you back Henry, wintertime.”
Jefferson: “She turned around two or three times,
Take you back in the wintertime.”

Certain words defy transcription: our text contains these enigmas as gaps or phonetic approximations in italics, awaiting a keener set of ears to bring us towards a more definitive transcription. We deliberately chose to give Jefferson’s words in their correct spelling in order to illustrate his regional inflection. (ex. “Cuba” is pronounced “Kew-baing.”)

Read on as you listen, and a great man’s language will once again come to life, rich in metaphor, puns, sexual imagery, pain, irony, misogyny, a blend of the real and imagined, the testimony of an artist who bore much physical and emotional tragedy. — Allan Evans © 2003


Pages 2-3 and Track 10:

Text has:
thinking I was grand

Should read:
thinking out a plan