Blind Lemon Jefferson: See That My Grave is Kept Clean
See That My Grave is Kept Clean
Blind Lemon Jefferson (guitar, vocals)
King of the Country Blues (Yazoo)
Blind Lemon Jefferson (guitar, vocals).
Composed by Blind Lemon Jefferson.
Recorded: Chicago, October 1927
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
No one did more than Blind Lemon Jefferson to create a commercial market for traditional blues. The success of his Paramount releases from the 1920s inspired many other record labels to jump into this market, and created opportunities for numerous blues musicians to release their own 78s. But Lemon's work still stands out among the crowd these many years later. This is a dark and troubled song, and like many of the best blues of the era, it touches on subjects that rarely figure in popular music. Jefferson's guitar always surprises, moving inside and outside the typical 12-bar form. You don't hear many of Lemon's peculiar licks here; instead he maintains a ruminative groove. But toward the end he stops chording and delivers resounding low register tones that imitate the funereal tolling of church bells. There are flashier blues from the 1920s, but "See That My Grave is Kept Clean" is about as deep as blues can go. What a shame that Lemon's grave remained neglected and unmarked for so many years. But eventually people paid attention to the admonishment in the song title, and his gravesite is now a much visited (and well tended) monument to a towering blues artist.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia