For me, this is quite simply one of the most powerful blues
performances of all time. JLH had a long and fruitful
career, but I don't think he ever surpassed the quiet,
steady intensity of this performance. Magnificent.
"He used to be a gambling man, just like you..."
Characteristically warm guitar artistry from Norman Blake.
"A back porch for a dining room, a boxcar for a home".
Not to be confused with John Lee Hooker's "Hobo Blues"
above, or Peg Leg Howell's or Seasick Steve's "Hobo Blues" below. Four completely different songs.
Merle does some quietly impressive yodeling on this
cover of the Jimmie Rodgers classic.
Now Hazel Dickins, that is one country-fied voice at work,
right there. "To lay in the gutter and die with no name".
Country great Hank Snow offers up his characteristically
smooth version of the Jimmie Rodgers chestnut.
Well, the rhythm here is pretty plodding, Red's delivery is
not nearly as fluid and soulful as it should be for material
like this, and the lyrics are basically kinda dopey and stiff.
But... he mentions my hometown of Birmingham, and for that
the tune made its way into this collection! Thanks, Red.
Canadian country singer Wilf Carter displays a wry sense
of humor and offers up a bit of social commentary in this
fine little number. The only hobo tune I've come across
that makes overt mention of the Depression.
Dylan's hobo here is a very bitter and unlucky soul, with
a serious life of crime behind him. What starts out, in the
first verse, as a pretty straightforward bad man ballad
becomes a little more enigmatic and less predictable as
the song progresses.
Songs don't come a whole lot more delightful than this one.
"In the big rock candy mountains, you never change your socks,
and the little streams of alcohol come trickling down the rocks"
Here's country great Hank Snow, once again covering an old Jimmie Rodgers hobo tune. "I'm a thousand miles away from
home, waiting for a train".
And Hank Snow once again: "we dodged the bulls on the eastern route and the cops on the Chesapeake..."
Here's the archetypal hobo song, from the great Jimmie
Rodgers. Check out Jimmie's train whistle imitation just
before and after the last verse! This song was Interpreted
in following years by many, many country music artists,
and below I've included covers from Hank Snow and
Merle Haggard, both of whom brought their own voice
to the song quite authoritatively.
"Listen to the steel rails hummin'..."
Check Burnett and Rutherford's train imitations after the lines "that freight train would not stop" and "I bid that girl adieu".
And then that ending! Fantastic! And I don't know what it is about the town of Danville, but they sure seem to have a lot
of pretty girls there. I'm always hearing about 'em in these
old songs. Mmm-hmm. Yup.
"No one loves a hobo, and I need some love"
Unlike most of the hobo songs here, which most often
paint a picture of the hobo as a sad, desperate and
unfortunate soul, Boxcar Willie's peppy little number here
is a celebration of the freedom of the rambling life.
Here's a more staid version of the tune we heard Burnett
and Rutherford do just above (their version called the Rambling
Reckless Hobo). Now, Cowan was definitely not as rowdy as
B&R, but it is, as a result, easier to make out the lyrics here.
Here's RL's version of the John Lee Hooker tune at the
top of the page. Sounds good!
Ol' Jimmie's back with another hobo tune! "Will there be any
freight trains in heaven, any box cars in which we might ride?"
'Hobo' Jack Turner stops his tune about two/thirds of the
way in to do a bit of spoken word: "you know, I'm the most
unlucky bum in the world... if it was rainin' soup I'd be
standing with a fork in my hand!"
Just fantastic. Louis Armstrong is pure musical joy..
Some seriously adventurous fiddling in this old tune.
Seasick Steve is a man after my own heart, putting jaw
harp on this one.