Other people’s songs: Corrina Corrina

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Intro from Tony:  I should explain, in case you have not come across any of our joint articles before, that Aaron and I play a little game which keeps us amused, in which Aaron in the States selects the songs and simply sends them to me (in the UK) with only an occasional thought or spot of background by way of commentary.  I then set myself the of writing the commentary while the track is playing, largely to avoid me going off into some ludicrously boring musical analysis which interests me but no one else.

But I’ve doubled back this time to write this intro having written the article, because this collection is such, such fun.  You may of course be here just to read about and listen to Bob’s music, but I would urge you, if you have ten minutes, to play the musical examples Aaron has selected, in the order they are here.  It really does make for an enjoyable interlude in life – whatever your life is doing at the moment.

Aaron: Corrina, Corrina was first recorded by Charlie McCoy & Bo Chatman in 1928.

Tony: Wow, I knew it was an old song but I would have put it as being written at least ten years later.   One learns something every day!   (Actually, did you know there is a movie called Corrina Corrina?   I can’t say any more about it as I’ve never seen it, but I throw it in as a useless fact).   Anyway come to think of it, it was the Mississippi Sheiks that did a version and that would have been in the early 1930s – unfortunately, I seem to have the ability to retain useless bits of knowledge but not have the ability to tie them together into a meaningful unified package.

One more bit of information: the song seems to have eight verses (unless I lost count part way through) which is inordinately long for a song that just has two lines in the 12 bar format.  And especially for a song that actually doesn’t say very much other than “My baby left me”.

The B side of the recording above was called “In the gutter” I do remember that, but have no idea what it sounded like.  Just one more piece of useless information.

Aaron: The song has been recorded in a number of musical styles, including blues, jazz, rock and roll, Cajun, and Western swing.

Here is Cab Calloway’s jazz version from 1932.

Tony: I love the way the vocalist holds back by a fraction of a beat from the musical accompaniment all the way through, emphasising the fact that she’s gone and left him (he’s left behind, the vocals are a fraction of a beat behind, if you see what I mean).

But the real fun is in the instrumental break – I really do hope you have a moment to play this all the way through.   This was from the days when the vocals were just a warm up for the band and its arranger to show what they can do – including throwing in a verse in a minor key, before the vocalist comes in once more.   And just listen to that final instrumental break after that – that is musical fun and a half.  Absolutely love it.

Aaron: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan version incorporates lyrics from the Robert Johnson song Stones in My Passway: “I got a bird that whistles, I got a bird that sings”

Tony:  Of course as I noted above it is Aaron who chooses not just songs we look at but also the order in which the songs come – and wow, wow and thrice wow, what a fantastic contrast between the previous version – and how wonderful it is to hear Bob’s version again.  I can hear it in my head anytime I wish, but to take on the original once more after what must be a number of years is something else.   And to play it straight after the Cab Calloway version is just extraordinary.  I can honestly say I was not ready for it.  Great move Aaron!

Aaron: Joni Mitchell covered the song in 1988 on her album Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, with the title “A Bird That Whistles (Corrina Corrina)”, Wayne Shorter adds a wonderfully evocative soprano sax solo.

Tony: Fabulous guitar introduction and accompaniment too, for a complete re-working of what is of course musically nothing more than a 12 bar blues.  And this shows us why the 12 bar format (A A B in musical terms) has been so popular for so long.

And that extraordinary voice of Ms Mitchell allows the accompaniment to be explored to the full – after all if the voice is going to fly why not the instrumentalisation?  Maybe the attempted move into bird song at the end is a bit too much to make we want to listen to this over and over, but if I had a copy without that conclusion I’d place it on my eternal play-list with the instruction, “play this at the wake.”

Aaron: Jumping forward to 2012, Beck recorded his cover for the charity compilation Every Mother Counts 2012.

Tony: One of the great things about this series is that it is even now after 40 episodes it can be full of surprises, and I’ve been surprised all the way through this selection – and here I am once again stunned.    Slowing the music down this far is quite a gamble given the format with the second line being a repeat of the first.   It requires musicality of the greatest level to be able to put that simple arrangement together and hold the listener’s attention – as it certainly did mine.

And yet it works.  Just pause (or go back and play it again) and listen to the guitar – it is so simple and yet it holds the song together – even though the words too are so utterly simple.

Oh my, what a fantastic collection.   I owe you for that, Aaron.

Previously in this series…

  1. Other people’s songs. How Dylan covers the work of other composers
  2. Other People’s songs: Bob and others perform “Froggie went a courtin”
  3. Other people’s songs: They killed him
  4. Other people’s songs: Frankie & Albert
  5. Other people’s songs: Tomorrow Night where the music is always everything
  6. Other people’s songs: from Stack a Lee to Stagger Lee and Hugh Laurie
  7. Other people’s songs: Love Henry
  8. Other people’s songs: Rank Stranger To Me
  9. Other people’s songs: Man of Constant Sorrow
  10. Other people’s songs: Satisfied Mind
  11. Other people’s songs: See that my grave is kept clean
  12. Other people’s songs: Precious moments and some extras
  13. Other people’s songs: You go to my head
  14. Other people’s songs: What’ll I do?
  15. Other people’s songs: Copper Kettle
  16. Other people’s songs: Belle Isle
  17. Other people’s songs: Fixing to Die
  18. Other people’s songs: When did you leave heaven?
  19. Other people’s songs: Sally Sue Brown
  20. Other people’s songs: Ninety miles an hour down a dead end street
  21. Other people’s songs: Step it up and Go
  22. Other people’s songs: Canadee-I-O
  23. Other people’s songs: Arthur McBride
  24. Other people’s songs: Little Sadie
  25. Other people’s songs: Blue Moon, and North London Forever
  26. Other people’s songs: Hard times come again no more
  27. Other people’s songs: You’re no good
  28. Other people’s songs: Lone Pilgrim (and more Crooked Still)
  29. Other people’s songs: Blood in my eyes
  30. Other people’s songs: I forgot more than you’ll ever know
  31.  Other people’s songs: Let’s stick (or maybe work) together.
  32. Other people’s songs: Highway 51
  33. Other people’s songs: Jim Jones
  34. Other people’s songs: Let’s stick (or maybe work) together.
  35. Other people’s songs: Jim Jones
  36. Other people’s songs: Highway 51 Blues
  37. Other people’s songs: Freight Train Blues
  38. Other People’s Songs: The Little Drummer Boy
  39. Other People’s Songs: Must be Santa
  40. Other People’s songs: The Christmas Song

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