Saturday, October 11, 2008

32-20 Blues vs. 22-20 Blues

I´m all immersed in the new installment of Dylan´s Bootleg Series at the moment. Another treasure trove from the archives, with quite a few songs even hardcore Dylan collectors hadn´t heard before. Dreamin´Of You, Marchin´To The City, Mary And The Soldier, Red River Shore, Can´t Escape From You... Very very nice. By the way: as so many other Bobcats I know I bought the 2 disc version and downloaded the - ridiculously priced - third disc somewhere. If Sony might ever decide to release the third disc on its own with a more or less normal pricetag, I´ll be the first to pick up a copy.

Anyway, one of the tracks on Tell Tale Signs that immediately caught my fancy was 32-20 Blues, an interesting leftover from the ´93 World Gone Wrong album. Heavy lyrics, sung with conviction: "If I send for my baby, 
man, and she don't come... all the doctors in Hot Springs 
sure can't help her none... If she gets unruly, thinks she don't wan´ do... take my 32-20 now and 
cut her half in two."

Writes Larry ´Ratso´ Sloman in the booklet accompanying Tell Tale Signs: "In Dylan´s memoir Chronicles - Volume One, he describes the staggering impact Robert Johnson had on him when he began to write songs. Here, for the first time, we have an official release of Dylan singing Johnson. The track reminds us of what a great white blues singer Dylan remains. ´Ah baby, where you stayed last night?´ cuts to the bone and makes the imminent use of his 32-20 all the more believable."

Ok, I´m with you, Ratso, but... 32-20 Blues is of course Robert Johnson's version (from ´36) of the song Skip James wrote and recorded in ´31 as 22-20 Blues. Johnson changed the reference to Wisconsin throughout the song to Hot Springs, Arkansas, except in the third from last verse, where he forgot to do so and used Skip's original lyric instead. A good example of an early case of ´Love & Theft´... Why not mention this fact? Sloman should know. And I´m pretty sure Bob knows... His publishing company isn´t called Special Rider Music without reason. Yup, that´s after Special Rider Blues, by the same Skip James.

Skip James - 22-20 Blues MP3
Robert Johnson - 32-20 Blues MP3
Bob Dylan - 32-20 Blues MP3
Skip James - Special Rider Blues MP3

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