Get your eerie unsettling country blues fix

Salon’s Audiofile free download today is a pointer to a pair of classic Dock Boggs tracks from the late 1920s, “Pretty Polly” and “Country Blues.” More than any other track on the Anthology of American Folk Music, the latter earns Greil Marcus’s nickname for this old pre-genre music: the old, weird America. And yet it’s a blues, through and through. If you double the first line of every couplet and drop the “good people/poor boy” interjections, you can sing it to just about any twelve bar blues. My favorite is to take it against Bob Dylan’ “Meet Me in the Morning.”

And I disagree with the assessment that Dock’s 1960s recordings are better. Yes, Dock going back after 40 years in the coal mine and picking up his banjo to revisit some nearly forgotten songs is impressive, but not as impressive as Dock leaving the coal mines to go and do something totally alien and then being forgotten for 40 years. Plus there’s more menace, for me, in the earlier recordings.

I wrote my woman a letter, good people
I told her I’s in jail
She wrote me back an answer
Saying “Honey, I’m a-coming to go your bail”

All around this old jailhouse is haunted, good people
Forty dollars won’t pay my fine
Corn whisky has surrounded my body, poor boy
Pretty women is a-troubling my mind