Blind Lemon Jefferson: See That My Grave is Kept Clean

Blind Lemon Jefferson

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.

September 05, 2008 · 0 comments


B.B. King: See That My Grave is Kept Clean

B.B. King may have been born in 1925, but his blues rarely reminds listeners of the really old 1920s blues. He is a modernist who runs his music off electricity, and is something of a dynamo himself. But here King resurrects a very old song, almost as old as B.B. himself. Blind Lemon Jefferson recorded "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" back in 1927, and this song is about as old school as blues can get. King and producer T Bone Burnett skillfully update Jefferson's tune, giving it a pseudo-Latin beat, and adding a slick organ part that nicely underscores King's electric guitar lines. King's vocal is more understated than usual, but perfectly suited to the sober sentiments of the lyrics. After so many projects that have tried to make King into a rock or R&B icon, it is refreshing to hear him return to these early blues roots.

September 05, 2008 · 1 comment


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