Earlier this year, I uncovered what to me was a “new” Chris Whitley song. Based on the ATCW group discussion (and several searches that turned up squat!), I’ve concluded that this is an original CW composition – although possibly a jam in which Chris improvised the lyrics. That all live performances of this song occurred in the latter half of February 1992 and that the song was never heard again seems to support this “improv” deduction except that in the lead-in to the bootleg from The Loft (appears at the end of track 15-Dust Radio) Chris seems to mumble that he wrote it a few years ago (???).
Brent Johnson, an ATCW group member and a bluesman himself, is also a bit of a blues historian. Hearing this track, he provided the following comments:
It sounds to me like he’s just improvising lyrics over the jam…maybe trying out lines he’d been working on for a song left orphaned or something. Of course, with Chris’s brain, those could be lyrics to a song from any genre sung over a 12 bar blues. It sounds like a free for all jam, the words might’ve just been a placeholder to help direct traffic among the soloists?
I can’t really make out some of what he’s singing…I can tell you that the soil in the river bottoms in Mississippi is mostly clay and some of it gets really sticky after a rain. There’s all kinds of ghost stories about people getting stuck in or swallowed up by the clay after a hard rain. The “see me coming, stand aside” theme pops up a lot in old prison songs… I believe this is one of them…
Thanks to Maarten (Metter Bozze), we now have THREE bootlegs of this original composition. As time allows, I’ll try to decipher the lyrics, which are quite a bit clearer on the bootlegs Maarten provided. In the meantime, enjoy these versions of a never-officially-recorded CW original song.