Some Rare Bootlegs – One Original and A Few Covers

As a producer, I’m really interested in interpretation,” Street continues. “But most people don’t even begin to put their own personalities into their music. Chris, though, has gone all the way through the blues and out the other side. He’s really the only guy around who has that thing that Jimi Hendrix and Robert Johnson had–the ability to write[and I would add, cover!] evocative songs and get them across by singing and playing the guitar with a real individual spirit. – Craig Street  in Billboard, Vol. 110 Issue 11

I’m often amazed when I hear Chris cover someone else’s music.  When I learn that a song is a cover, I’m compelled to search for the original.  If not for the lyrics being pretty much the same, I would not have recognized that the original and Chris’s cover were the “same” song.  Chris so fully inhabits these covers that he makes them his own.

In this post, you’ll find a song/jam of Chris’s own making – Rain of Clay – and some covers that Chris seems to have performed live only once.

Rain of Clay

Based on the ATCW group discussion, this is an original CW composition (Chris introduced it once as a song he wrote a few years ago) – although possibly a jam in which Chris improvised the lyrics.  Interesting to note that all live performances of this song occurred in the the latter half of February 1992.

Brent Johnson of the ATCW group knows a thing or two hundred about ‘da blues and offered these comments:

Are you sure it’s a cover? I don’t recognize it at all. It sounds to me like he’s just improving 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 amongst 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.  Long way of saying that your guess is as good as mine.
In a later comment, Brent noted that “The ‘see me coming, stand aside’ theme pops up a lot in old prison songs.” 

Tivoli (Utrecht, Netherlands) 1992-02-18: 

Batschkapp (Frankfurt, Germany) 1992-02-24: 

The Loft (Berlin, Germany) 1992-02-27: 

Down South Blues

Played only once, this is a cover of an old blues song, also covered by Muddy Waters.  Identifying the song’s origins proved difficult because there are several old blues songs that have the same title (e.g., one credited to Ethel Waters/Fletcher Henderson/Alberta Hunter, another – or possibly a cover of the previous – sung by Dock Boggs, two totally different ones performed by Dave Von Ronk and Sleepy John Estes, and who knows how many others).  Adding to the confusion is Chris’ changing (and mumbling!) some of the lyrics.  For example, the first verse is mostly Muddy Waters …

Well I’m goin’ down south child
This weather here’s too cold
You know I’m goin’ down south child
This weather here’s too cold
I gotta lay around Chicago I ain’t got change in clothes

… but Chris substitutes “New York town” for Chicago and sings”I don’t got my ass no change of clothes.”

Blues Harbor (Atlanta, Georgia) 1992-10-08: 

Muddy’s cover: 

Jesus Just Left Chicago

This one is a cover of a ZZ Top song – again, seemingly played only once.  Billy Gibbons (ZZ guitarist) provides an interesting note about the song’s origins:

There was a buddy of mine when we were teenagers — everybody called him R&B Jr. He had all these colloquialisms. He blurted out “Jesus just left Chicago” during a phone conversation and it just stuck. We took what could have been an easy 12-bar blues and made it more interesting by adding those odd extra measures. It’s the same chords as “La Grange” with the Robert Johnson lick, but weirder. Robert Johnson was country blues — not that shiny hot-rod electric stuff. But there was a magnetic appeal: “What can we take and interpret in some way?”

Blues Harbor (Atlanta, Georgia) 1992-10-08: 

Both Down South Blues and Jesus Just Left Chicago were played just this once, as noted, perhaps because, as Hiroshi Suda recalls, Chris appeared on the bill with John Campbell.  Maybe Chris was upping his “blues” ante?

Too Young to Know

This is another one of those songs that Chris seems to have performed live exactly once, in this case Batschkapp, Frankfurt (GER), 1992-02-24.  Written by Muddy Waters and originally released in 1952 as the b-side of Honey Bee, Too Young to Know “features dark, chilling Delta-styled guitar” [source].  The song was re-released in 1979/1981 on King Bee, an album produced by Johnny Winter.  Muddy & Johnny?  No wonder Chris was drawn to it.



Listen to Muddy Waters: 

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