gall and gumption

Friday, July 20, 2007

If You Hear Me Howlin'

...I'm probably in the car next to yours, and I've got Howlin' Wolf turned up really loud and I'm singing along. Yesterday I even caught myself doing a little head-bopping while I was driving to Bethesda. How the minutes flew by! I've been listening to him in my car for two weeks. Okay some trips only take a couple of minutes like my morning drive commute to the other end of the apartment complex (why do I drive that short distance? Because I just finished walking the dogs and I'm running late, and also I'm hauling a rather heavy laptop and the apartment complex is large and none of the roads go in a straight line and I'm carrying the laptop because I write on the train.)

Willie Dixon wrote most of Howlin' Wolf's most famous blues, but Howlin' Wolf got inside them as if he'd been living in them since he was born. He made them completely his own. First of all was that voice, so intimate and insinuating even though it is a rasping roar that yeah, suggests a wood shop or a construction site.

And the way his guitar comments on the situations in the songs -- it's not just this aggressive-sounding noise, it's this whole other medium for insight and irony and pure evocation of specific feelings.

I am a back door man.
I am a back door man.
Well the men don't know, but the little girls understand.

When everybody's sound asleep,
I'm somewhere making my midnight creep.
Yes in the morning, the rooster crow.
Something tell me, I got to go.

And listen to the guitar in "Shake It for Me" and tell me if it doesn't suggest to you that really fast, high-energy jiggle of jello. Try not to picture that woman shaking it, and the singer's hearty appreciation.

You better wait baby, you got back a little too late
You better wait baby, you got back a little too late
I got a cool-shaking baby, shake like jello on a plate
When my baby walk, you know she's fine and mellow
When my baby walk, you know she's fine and mellow
Every time she stops, her flesh it shake like jello

Yeah I know it seems like one of those things everybody knows about that I'm just discovering, last to the party etc. How can I expect to be taken for cool when I just go and like something that everybody liked a while ago and they've moved on?

Well, that's me. I get there late and I never move on. But really, I actually discovered Howlin' Wolf for myself right when I began to take an interest in the blues, a little more than 10 years ago. First, Robert Johnson and then Howlin' Wolf. Not because I am a guitar nut but because I am a poetry nut. But what happens with these two, especially, is that from time to time I just go mad for them all over again, they stay new for me, I keep finding new things in them.

And I so like how ordinary it is. It's not romantic at all. (Robert Johnson: "You break my heart when you call Mr. So-and-So's name...")

By the way this is the first time I have ever posted a YouTube clip. I set it up this morning and I don't know where the clip is going to show up. I mean it will show up on the blog but I don't know where. Yes, I'm late to the YouTube posting party as well.


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