Another man done gone: a song that has come full circle.

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“Another man done gone” is a traditional chain-gang song first recorded in 1940 that is just as timely in today’s world as it was 75 years ago. What is going on in our country right now with the killing of unarmed black men and the rise of openly racist and fascist political candidates can cause a sensitive soul to lose hope in humanity. I’d like to believe we have come far and in many ways we have. However, we cannot heal and rise from our collective traumatic history unless we are willing to acknowledge, accept, learn from our past and all do our part to break the cycle of systemic racism and violence.

“Another man done gone” was first recorded by folk singer Vera Hall in 1940. Vera Hall was recorded by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax and she is most well known for her song “Trouble so hard.” You might recognize that song as sampled in Moby’s “Natural blues”.

Hall’s rendition of “Another man done gone” is so haunting in describing the casualness in the killing of black men for minor (if any) infractions. New Orleans Soul Queen Irma Thomas recorded a version/remake of it on her 2006 Grammy-winning album, “After The Storm” chronicling the trauma and wretchedness of the Hurricane Katrina disaster aftermath. I’ve posted the original and the remake below. Folk singer Odetta and folk band Our Griffin also recorded versions, as well as Johnny Cash and many other musicians over the years.

Please pass this post along if it so moves you and let us all contribute to our collective healing of the trauma of the horrific violence of the past and present in our country and world. Let us love each other and have reverence for human life. #BLACKLIVESMATTER

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In memory of Dave Lamb of Brown Bird

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In December of 2013, I wrote about the folk-blues duo Brown Bird’s Dave Lamb’s fight with cancer. I bought all their albums and listened to the song, By The Reins, incessantly (and still do). As I reflected on another young cancer fighter who died last week, my thoughts went back to this group and Dave Lamb. I hadn’t heard anything so I went to the band’s website and found out sadly that just four months after my post, he too died from his cancer. I was so sad to hear that as I thought the treatment may have been working. It’s been almost a year since he died, and I want to pay tribute to his legacy by dedicating this post to him and the beautiful music he and his partner MorganEve Swain made together.

Doc Watson’s magical guitar-picking

Photo by Lee Tanner. 1969.

Photo by Lee Tanner. 1969.

Today is the birthday of Doc Watson, so in his honor I dug down on Youtube to find some examples of his genius guitar playing. According to Wikipedia: “Arthel Lane ‘Doc’ Watson (March 3, 1923 – May 29, 2012) was a blind American guitarist, songwriter, and singer of bluegrass, folk, country, blues, and gospel music. Watson won seven Grammy awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Watson’s flatpicking skills and knowledge of traditional American music are highly regarded.”

I first heard Doc Watson while living in Washington, D.C., where old-time, bluegrass, and flatpicking guitar has a very strong tradition, with it being so close to Virginia and other southern states where these styles developed. I used to listen incessantly to WAMU and their various bluegrass and old-time music shows. I’m not sure the first time I found out about Doc Watson, but he is surely someone anyone who loves American music should know about. He has influenced so many guitarists and he also lived a long life and had an amazing career. This style of guitar picking inspired me to take guitar lessons where I focused on the finger-picking country blues styles.

Here he is with “Southbound” written by his son Merle Watson, who died young and tragically in a farm accident:

Doc plays one of my favorite old-time songs “Darlin’ Corey”:

Doc shares the stage with bluegrass legend, banjo-player Bill Monroe playing “Sally Goodin”:

With the blues tune “House of the Rising Sun”. So many amazing versions of this song, here is Doc’s contribution:

I have listened to this song on repeat on my iPod for weeks at a time, honestly. “Country Blues”: