Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Don't ever play with guns

I mentioned Brandi Carlile's cover of Folsom Prison Blues a few posts back. I believe I also misspelt Folsom. Anyway, here, of course, are the complete lyrics:

I hear the train a comin'; it's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when.
I'm stuck at Folsom Prison and time keeps draggin' on.
But that train keeps rollin' on down to San Antone.

When I was just a baby, my mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy; don't ever play with guns."
But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
When I hear that whistle blowin' I hang my head and cry.

I bet there's rich folk eatin' in a fancy dining car.
They're prob'ly drinkin' coffee and smokin' big cigars,
But I know I had it comin', I know I can't be free,
But those people keep a movin', and that's what tortures me.

Well, if they freed me from this prison, if that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move on over a little farther down the line,
Far from Folsom Prison, that's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away

Me? I never shot anybody. But one of the reasons why I like this song is that it's the first song I ever just figured out how to play on guitar by ear. I don't remember how it goes now, but I vividly remember striking a D (maybe) with a kink of a chuka-chuka strum and thinking Whoa, that sounds like the beginning of the Folsom Prison Blues. Then I hit an E (maybe). All of which is odd, because the chord charts I checked a minute ago all start with an E.

Intro: / B7 - - - / - - - - / E - - - / - - - - / - - - - / - - - - /

E (8)

I hear the train a comin'
It's rollin' 'round the bend,
And I ain't seen the sunshine,
Since, I don't know when,

A (4)
I'm stuck in Folsom Prison,

E (4)
And time keeps draggin' on,

B7 (4)
But that train keeps a-rollin',

E (4)
On down to San Antone.

E (8)
When I was just a baby,
My Mama told me, "Son,
Always be a good boy,
Don't ever play with guns,"

A (4)
But I shot a man in Reno,

E (4)
Just to watch him die,

B7 (4)
When I hear that whistle blowin',

E (2)
I hang my head and cry.

Solo (instrumental verse)

E (8)
I bet there's rich folks eatin',
In a fancy dining car,
They're probably drinkin' coffee,
And smokin' big cigars,

A (4)
But I know I had it comin',

E (4)
I know I can't be free,

B7 (4)
But those people keep a-movin',

E (2)
And that's what tortures me.

Solo (instrumental verse)

E (8)
Well, if they freed me from this prison,
If that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move out over a little,
Farther down the line,

A (4)
Far from Folsom Prison,

E (4)
That's where I want to stay,

B7 (4)
And I'd let that lonesome whistle,

E (2)
Blow my blues away.

/ B7 - - - / - - - - / E - - - / E (hold) /

Solo (1st 4 measures):

And I'm not even sure I know how to play a B7. Maybe I did then. Maybe I inadvertantly transposed it into another key. Anyway, the larger observation is that music, when played by and to oneself, is an act of self delusion in the most positive sense. I remember when I was first learning how to play guitar and trying to figure out how to finger a new chord--and I never liked B, by the way--I could stop the song in mid-flight, spend two or three actual seconds (a musical eternity) reconfiguring my fingers, and then continue as if nothing had happened.

Painting is likewise such an opportunity for self-delusion. I was talking to a friend of mine about Self Portrait II (That Boy Could Sure Eat Some Beets) and he had two thoughts: A) he didn't realize it was me, and B) he didn't like the title. I wasn't sure how to respond, other than to suggest that the titles of paintings are a lot like the NFL draft. We can't judge them in the present; we have to wait ten years or so to really decide how good they are.

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