Friday, November 02, 2007


I've been meaning to pick up one of Oxford American's annual music issue's for a few years now but had never gotten around to it. So when I recently had a half hour to kill before meeting family to enjoy (or at least my nieces reaction to having) lunch at The American Girl Place (which began with mini-cinnamon buns and ended with chocolate mousse, a sugar cookie and a heart shaped piece of frosted white cake) I ran to the bookstore to buy a copy. Really glad I did, too. Not only is the accompanying CD stellar, but the articles I've read so far have all been beautifully written. Highly autobiographical, historically rich with context, each author dives deep into their subject and comes up with great surprises.

Roy Blount, Jr.'s contribution, American Yawp: Doddley dew de dowm woodle-y dee d'doodle ya day eedel-y doo do, takes a look at the yodel. The biggest surprise of the piece was this:

The version of "Blue Yodel No. 9" that you should hear, of course, is Jimmie's 1930 recording of it, on which Satchmo plays coronet. The first yodel almost almost seems to throw Armstrong--he tosses in a couple of faint, embroiderish tootles. He's quickly back in stride, laying down his own fine stuff and letting the yodel be. But the last note he plays, which is the last note on the record--I may be imagining this, but isn't there a winking little yodelish break in that note?

I don't think there's any existing footage of that session, but you can watch Armstrong perform it on this clip from the Johnny Cash show:

For a genre not exactly known for its racial breadth, it's easy to forget how much early country and honky tonk were attuned to what was happening in the worlds of blues and jazz.

I love Johnny Cash, but he sure can't yodel.

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