It has long been said that “Monday is a mess” so we will endeavor to do our best to help you wend your way through the muck with upbeat tunes like Lightning Hopkins’ “Happy Blues for John Glenn” and other oldies of similar sentiment. And as it is Monday, we will be bookending this chapter of Blue Monday with two work songs that embody just that. It may start off “Stormin’ and Rainin’” but by month’s end you’ll be “Feelin’ Bad” no longer. Let’s catch that train and ride. . . .
—Irving Snurd, Blue Monday director of cosmetic consciousness
“In 1954, Christer Falkenstrom made his first radio broadcast accompanying himself on the cittra (zither) at the age of ten in Stockholm. That same night, he and his father were approached by a representative of HMV records, resulting in the recording of this song the following day. . . .”*
Here’s one by the great Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabinde and the Mahotella Queens. Mahlathini, who was known in South Africa as “The Lion of Soweto,” sounds to these ears an awful lot like a close cousin to Howlin’ Wolf. . . .
Fred McDowell recorded this tune a number of times over the years usually with a variation on the “write me a few of your lines” lyrics heard here. Today’s version was released originally on The Blues Roll On, one of Alan Lomax’s “Southern Journey” collections that appeared on Atlantic records in 1960. The songs Fred McDowell sang for Lomax during his southern field trip in 1959 and subsequently issued on LPs documenting that field trip by both Atlantic and Prestige International were his recorded debut. Another version with completely different lyrics appeared in 1965 on Fred’s second Arhoolie LP, Fred McDowell Vol. 2, where it was titled “Frisco Lines.”
Back in 2012, The Singing Bones posted an awesome quartet version of an old lining hymn, “A Charge to Keep” by the Echoes of Zion. The Echoes’ song is reminiscent of an earlier quartet record by The Pilgrim Travelers, “I Love the Lord” (also recorded by Rev. Robert Crenshaw in a congregational version). All of these records bring to mind another really fine congregational lining hymn recorded in a Chicago church service by Deacon Leroy Shinault around 1957. Alan Lomax writes, in his notes to Negro Church Music (Atlantic LP 1351), “The most vigorous survival of early black religious folk culture is the lined-out psalm, which is not black in origin, but goes back to the beginning of the Reformation in Europe. . . . The early Protestant leaders needed hymns by means of which they could teach their radical doctrines to an illiterate congregation. Therefore their song leaders intoned the psalms line by line. After each line was given out, the song leader led the congregation in singing it.” Though the Deacon Shinault record is rarely seen (or heard) in its original incarnation on Ping, and it certainly isn’t here, it (and its flip) has been reissued over the years on LP and CD and should be relatively easy to find.