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  • Jack Baker

Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out

The trend in city finger-style folk guitar is progressing more and more towards the integration of classical techniques: that is, the use of countermelodies and moving bass lines. The city guitarist avoids the slick, overly orchestrated "Nashville Sound" and keeps with a puristic approach using simpler chord structure and more ethnic material. Some of the better guitarists in the New York City area using this approach are: Stefan Grossman, Marc Silber, Rory Block, Dave Laibman and Eric Schoenberg. All of us have spent time in Izzy Young's Folklore Center (NYC) exchanging licks and ideas to put into ragtime and blues songs. The song we are going to work with in this article is Eric Schoenberg's interesting arrangement of the old blues favorite "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out". Although Eric hasn't yet recorded this song, Bessie Smith's powerful vocal rendition can be heard on Columbia Label (CL-856). Many consider it her finest recording. Eric's guitar arrangement and Bessie Smith's vocal arrangement are very similar, but he says he arranged the song before he ever heard her recording. One of the most interesting qualities of this song is a bass line that moves freely with the melody, keeping the song full and rich, much richer than the usual thumping bass that simply alternates back and forth between two notes. The arrangement presented here is intended for the intermediate and advanced student who has a basic knowledge of Finger Picking and can read tablature as best illustrated in Happy Traum's Finger Styles for Guitar (Oak Publications). Because of the complexities of this piece, I have used several devices in the tablature to help you find the correct hand positions. The fingers of the left hand are numbered, (1) index, (2) middle, (3) ring finger and (4) little finger. The left-hand finger positions are encircled next to the fret numbers while the right-hand fingering is found above the staff. The indicates a slurred or blue note. The (D7+9) is gotten by moving the C7 chord up two frets. Footnote: Happy Traums's forthcoming "Finger Picking Traditional and Contemporary" (Oak Publications) will be featuring one of Eric Schoenberg's more complicated ragtime guitar arrangements.

Sing Out, Feb 1969

Jack R. Baker