Brown's Ferry Blues

Back in 1993 I attended a workshop given by Tom Paley, one of the original New Lost City Ramblers. Among many delights, Tom played Brown's Ferry Blues on guitar in the key of F, in a fingerpicked version which I suspect may have come from Sam and Kirk McGee. Back home, out came my well-worn copy of The New Lost City Ramblers, Vol 1, Folkways FA2396, with Tom Paley and John Cohen playing Brown's Ferry Blues on twin guitars. (You can also find the track on the Smithsonian Folkways CD The New Lost City Ramblers: The Early Years, 1958-62.) The result of my listening is the mandolin tab below, which is fairly close to the Ramblers' version - spot the guitar bass patterns in bars 8, 9 and 14 (counting from the double bar line).

The half-bar (bar 6) corresponds to the phrase got them in the vocal line Lord, Lord, got them Brown's Ferry Blues. The half-bar is omitted in the Delmore Brothers' and Doc Watson's instrumental breaks (see below); nor do the NLCR play a corresponding half-bar in the second half of their break.

The Delmores and Doc Watson both recorded Brown's Ferry Blues in G. (There's a lovely version by Doc and Merle on the Doc Watson On Stage LP.) Bob Wills also recorded it as Oozlin' Daddy Blues.

Play this mandolin version with vigour, at a metronome setting of half-note (crotchet) = 120. This is old-time mandolin rather than bluegrass, and I hope it captures something of the spirit of the song.


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