22 January 2015

Post 161: 'OWL CALL BLUES'

Photo : David Wiseman

Tuba Skinny have introduced a beautiful slow-paced song, Owl Call Blues, to their repertoire. It is gloriously sung by Erika Lewis. The melody was written by Shaye Cohn and the lyrics by Erika herself. What a team!

I'm pleased to say they included it on their sixth CD, which is actually called Owl Call Blues and includes 14 other tunes, such as Dallas Rag and Oriental Strut.

I can tell you this haunting, melancholy tune immediately embeds itself in your mind. You will want to hear it again and again; and you will go around humming it for days.

It's not a 12-bar blues. It is a 16-bar tune that begins by working its way down a chromatic ladder of long notes. In general feel, it has something in common with Jelly Roll Morton's 1938 composition, Sweet Substitute, Fred Meinken's Wabash Blues (of 1921) and Alex Hill's 1934 song Delta Bound (which Tuba Skinny have also brilliantly recorded).

Tuba Skinny perform it entirely in Bb.

Erika's lyrics comprise two 8-line verses of mystic wistful, nostalgic, pastoral poetry. Both verses begin with the same four lines, but the second four lines are different.

If, like me, you can't resist trying to play it yourself, you will probably be able to pick out both the melody and the chord structure (in the main it seems to be a three-chorder, though for the long note - E - in Bars 3 and 4 I settled on Bb diminished).

I first came across this tune in two YouTube videos. One was recorded inside a museum and the acoustic is inevitably resonating, bringing out the full glory of Erika's voice. The Band (with Shaye going for the higher octave) plays three choruses before Erika sings:
Watch it by clicking here.

The second, also filmed in the open air by the great video-maker digitalalexa [Al and his wife Judy], obviously has a quite different acoustic. You can watch it