Following on a discussion over at the earworms, I’ve been thinking a lot about Blind Willie McTell. I see him as an artist that transcends genre labels. He plays the blues, certainly, but to my ears he encompasses so many other styles as well. He was adept at finger-picking piedmont-style blues, but he could also play in a ragtime style, and a bottle neck blues style. He seems to break out at the seams of pattern and repetition that defines the blues, in a way that reminds me of early jazz. According to professor Wiki…
His playing…is masterful, fluid and inventive; based on multiple recordings of the same song (for example, “Broke Down Engine”), he never played a song the same way twice. His style could almost be called “stream of consciousness,” as he would vary the bar pattern and sometimes even the rhythm and chord progression from verse to verse.
Dylan loved him – you can hear folk songs in some of his tunes. And, of course, lovers of indie music and Rock n Roll will instantly recognize the influence he had on Jack White of the White Stripes, who covered many of his songs and dedicated an album to him.
Here are a ten songs in different styles, including some repeats so you can hear how each version is different.