Last week we listened to Jimmy West’s take on the blues with his Limehouse blues. This week we’re gonna listen to Speedy West’s “Birth of the Blues” and, for comparison, a song that I would classify as a ‘traditional’ blues to give some perspective.
Speedy West plays an instrument called the pedal steel guitar. As you can see from the picture, it is an instrument that has a flat playing surface with one or two guitar necks holding from 8-12 strings and is played with a fret that shortens the strings rather than with the fingers and plucked with two or three fingers/fingerpicks. The pedals are used to change the pitch (high or low) of the strings similar to the harp.
The instruments in the Speedy West recording are: pedal steel, acoustic bass, drums and rhythm guitar.
In thinking about the ‘blues’ music from Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant as compared to the recording of Bo-Diddley:
1) What differences do you hear in instrumentation?
2) How is the music different (happy, sad, up beat, funky or not etc…)
3) Why do you think Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant thought it was important to make an effort to connect to the blues tradition?