FIVE SONGS: Acoustic Slide Guitar Essentials

I’m going to start doing a semi-regular themed series highlighting five songs that inspire our music.  In the first entry in this series, I’m going to highlight five songs from pre-1940 (what’s known as the Pre-War era in blues music) that feature acoustic slide guitar wizardry.  Many of our songs are build off acoustic fingerstyle slide guitar riffs brought into an electric environment so the songs listed below are enormously influential to us.  If you love acoustic slide guitar as much as I do, or you just want a great introduction to early acoustic blues, check these out.   -Chris

1.  God Moves on the Water (Blind Willie Johnson) – Blind Willie Johnson was a gospel blues singer and master of acoustic slide guitar.  His use of the slide to not only play catchy melody licks between his vocal lines, but also to accent underneath his singing is unmatched among the early bluesmen.  God Moves on the Water may be the best example of his amazing slide guitar skills.

2.  The Panama Limited (Bukka White) – trains were an extremely popular subject for blues songs, for me, this song is almost perfect execution of a train song on guitar.  Bukka keeps the train rhythm going with his thumb while playing the melody and also mimicing the train whistle with the slide.  I feel like I’m riding and old steam train when I hear this song.

3.  Mississippi Boweavil Blues (Charley Patton) – this song could almost be said to be the purest version of delta blues ever recorded.  It’s a one chord vamp with a recurring slide guitar riff that runs between the vocal lines.  And Charley was the man that popularized the delta blues and tought guys like Son House, Robert Johnson, and Howlin’ Wolf.

4.  Roll and Tumble Blues (Hambone Willie Newbern) – little is known about Hambone Willie aside from the fact that he was the earliest to record (if not the songwriter of) what was to become one of the most covered blues songs of all time, and which contains what may be the second most famous blues guitar riff ever behind the Dust My Broom riff.

5.  Come on in My Kitchen (Robert Johnson) – Robert Johnson was the original guitar god.  He was so good that it was rumored he sold his soul to the devil.  You can clearly hear the signature slide guitar style that influenced Elmore James and so many others after, but also note the parallel slide guitar and moaning, and his use of dynamics as he brings down the intensity in the middle of the song to give his guitar a more haunting sound.

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