Casey Jones (Furry Lewis/banjo to guitar)

When I was doing the book tour for Escaping the Delta, my book on Robert Johnson and the history of blues, I started playing this song regularly at the various events, and fell completely in love with it. It is Furry Lewis’s take on a song that has been recorded in dozens of versions, by dozens of people–Charlie Poole did a variant titled “Milwaukee Blues,” Waylon Jennings did it as “Waymore’s Blues,” a bunch of people have done it as “Jay Gould’s Daughter.” Aside from being a great piece of music, it’s a good example of the kinds of songs that were all over the South at the turn of the 19th-20th century and crystallized into blues, and of the way banjo styles affected blues guitar. I started thinking about those banjo slides when I learned Lead Belly’s arrangement of “Poor Howard,” which is very similar to the way Furry played this.

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