Friday, February 7, 2014

27 of 1001 Songs: Robert Johnson's Cross Road Blues

Robert Johnson's song is very bluesy and very filled with attitude. I did like it, but I think of the older songs I've listened to so far it was my least favorite. It's very simple, but for those who like a more toned down blues style this is definitely an appealing song. Johnson's voicing is timed to fit the instruments as well, but his voice goes way beyond to make up the majority of the talent for the song.

History: There is a lot of interesting history behind Robert Johnson's song, that would also contribute to the myth that he sold his soul to the devil in the spot referenced in the song to gain his musical talents. If so that tragically just ruins the song! There are a few other possible meanings, with one being the difficulty of being black in some spots in the south, and others simply stating loneliness. The song is a very traditionally composed blues song though. The song is quite popular in pop culture with it being covered many times, and used in soundtracks.

Vocals: Robert Johnson does have some of the most bluesy vocals I've heard. He does add to that vibe created by the lyrics and the instrumentals. Johnson though shows a lot of talent with the range and control of his voicing though. Of all the aspects of the tune it's really the voicing that is most impressive because it carries so much of the rhythm and tone of the tune.

Instrumentals: The primary instrument is just the guitar, and it's very suiting to have a lone guitar to fit the lone vocalist. The guitar is well played, but behind the strong vocals it does quite fail in comparison into what your ears will be directed to. I like the chords that are strummed though, and the composition of the instrumentals is very creative and very talented. I don't quite understand all the technical terms and what was utilized, but it makes for a sound that is raw with talent.

Lyrics: Essentially the lyrics are quite simple, but what they have stirred people to interpret is far complex. The lyrics are basically about a guy trying to get a ride, but he is failing to get anyone to give him one. From these very simple verses lots of meanings have been derived. I wonder if he just meant he couldn't get a ride and it bummed him out so he wrote about it? That isn't apart of what is suggested it means. Instead it means everything from his life circumstance to racism. Those are possible though. The potential for darker meaning though makes this tune difficult to listen to.

Robert Johnson seems to be a favorite blues singer of popular culture with even Martin Scorsese giving his music use in his movies. When this song was made in 1936 I'm sure that wasn't imagined by Robert Johnson. The song though wasn't too much my pace. I could see the talent in the tune, but the pacing and the overall tone wasn't too my preference.

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