Other people’s songs: My Blue Eyed Jane


By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Aaron: A lesser-known Jimmie Rodgers song, My Blue-Eyed Jane is more of a swing tune than anything else. Jimmie’s recording of My Blue Eyed Jane is as atypical of a country song as one could get.

According to Daniel Mullins writing for Bluegrass Today:

“The song is very addictive. It requires more than one listen. The Dixieland-style trumpet, clarinet, and piano may be off-putting to bluegrass and country purists, but those who allow that to deter their listening are missing out. The vaudeville-ish style hearkens to days long gone. Lovers of music will be able to appreciate the purity of the music being presented.

“Jimmie’s vocal delivery is some of his finest. He seems so relaxed. The ease with which he sings each line gives the song a backporch feel which draws in the listener. He gathers steam as the song moves along, and he lets it all loose on the final chorus alongside the pounding barroom piano. From this recording, it’s easy to see why Jimmie is pointed to as one of the first recorded singers to present songs with heart, soul, and authenticity.

“The song itself is wonderfully simple. It’s a classic tale of boy meets girl, boy can’t be without girl, then boy must leave girl. Although, on the surface, the song’s ending is somewhat sad, the lover’s promise to come back again makes My Blue-Eyed Jane surprisingly optimistic. The vigor with which the song is delivered seems to have a “love conquers all approach,” and there seems to be little doubt that the lovers will be reunited.”

Tony: Wow, what a review.  I felt the need to go and look up Daniel Mullins as I’d not come across this work before, which perhaps is not surprising as I am not at all well-versed in bluegrass.  So I had to start reading more about the form as well.

What I did know (and am pleased to have confirmed as true) is that bluegrass takes elements out of a whole range of musical genres and pulls them together, so we have something from the music of the American south with the traditional music from various parts of the British Isles.  Generally, you get a banjo, guitar, fiddle (violin), mandolin, and bass – and of course, the bands that created this music were acoustic, not electric.

As for Daniel Mullins, yes he’s an important man in the field of commenting on bluegrass, winning awards, running radio programmes, and so forth.  So I bow to his expertise, and if you know all about bluegrass my apologies for not knowing in the first place.

And what do I make of this recording?  Well, it is so far out of my normal listening, it’s hard to know where to begin and how not to make a total fool of myself by exposing my ignorance.  If I suggest it is “pleasant” that sounds like a put-down, but in essence, I played the music and watched the wind blowing the trees in my garden on a fine blustery autumn morning and it was all very pleasant.  “Pleasant”.  That does seem the right word.

Aaron: Hank Snow’s version comes from 1953

Tony: There are subtle differences here in the rhythm and melody which I didn’t hear in the original version: I guess they were added because most listeners would have known the original and catching people out with the odd amendment is something arrangers of later versions love to do.  Indeed, otherwise, why bother – why not just listen to the first version?

Aaron: Bob’s version comes from the 1997 album The Songs Of Jimmie Rodgers – A Tribute

Tony: I have to admit, this recording passed me by, so I’m hearing this version either for the first time, or having heard it before, I’ve forgotten it.  Bob sounds very Bob, which is good, he’s not trying to put on another voice – and there are moments of that half-sung half-spoken style that he can do.  It gives an impression of the vocalist being separate from the band: they do their thing dead straight, and Bob plays around (a little but not too much) with the melody.

Although sometimes he does seem to get into a bit of a tangle – as with the final “and the shadows are creeping all over town” which appears a bit rushed just at the moment when one feels everything ought to be fitting into place with a complete regularity and resolution.   That’s because, I guess, the original lyrics are written (completely illogically as there can’t just be one shadow spreading across  the town) as

And when the sun goes downAnd the shadow's creeping over town

Bob actually sings, grammatically correctly

And when the sun goes downAnd the shadows are creeping all over town

We don’t normally associate Bob with a concern for grammar, and I rather like the fact Bob did that.

Aaron: Here is an alternative version with Emmylou Harris on backing vocals

Tony: A softer, gentler, more melodic Bob.  I really do like this; it’s a lovely arrangement and the harmonies work perfectly both in terms of the song itself and in terms of the two voices.   Bob does that thing where the last word of a lot of the lines is half-sung, half-spoken and that contrasts beautifully with the chorus sung by both vocalists.

Here are the previous editions…

  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
  41. Other People’s songs: Corina Corina
  42. Other People’s Songs: Mr Bojangles
  43. Other People’s Songs: It hurts me too
  44. Other people’s songs: Take a message to Mary
  45. Other people’s songs: House of the Rising Sun
  46. Other people’s songs: “Days of 49”
  47. Other people’s songs: In my time of dying
  48. Other people’s songs: Pretty Peggy O
  49. Other people’s songs: Baby Let me Follow You Down
  50. Other people’s songs: Gospel Plow
  51. Other People’s Songs: Melancholy Mood
  52. Other people’s songs: The Boxer and Big Yellow Taxi
  53. Other people’s songs: Early morning rain
  54. Other people’s Songs: Gotta Travel On
  55. Other people’s songs: “Can’t help falling in love”
  56. Other people’s songs: Lily of the West
  57. Other people’s songs: Alberta
  58. Other people’s songs: Little Maggie
  59. Other people’s songs: Sitting on top of the world
  60. Dylan’s take on “Let it be me”
  61. Other people’s songs: From “Take me as I am” all the way to “Baker Street”
  62. Other people’s songs: A fool such as I
  63. Other people’s songs: Sarah Jane and the rhythmic changes
  64. Other people’s songs: Spanish is the loving tongue. Author drawn to tears
  65. Other people’s songs: The ballad of Ira Hayes
  66. Other people’s songs: The usual
  67. Other people’s songs: Blackjack Davey
  68. Other people’s songs: You’re gonna quit me
  69. Other people’s songs: You belong to me
  70. Other people’s songs: Stardust
  71. Other people’s songs: Diamond Joe
  72. Other people’s songs: The Cuckoo
  73. Other people’s songs: Come Rain or Come Shine
  74. Other people’s songs: Two soldiers and an amazing discovery
  75. Other people’s songs: Pretty Boy Floyd

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