Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Folk/Blues Roots of the White Stripes

As the display person at the library I work at, I sometimes take some liberties with what goes on display including a massive White Stripes display that's been up for the past few weeks (and the next few). I made my own Canadian tour poster (see above) using a doctored version of some Rob Jones art, who's also doing the official posters for the tour. I'm sworn to secrecy, but I can tell you that I was THIS close to having the White Stripes come play the Edmonton secret show at my library. Seriously. I still got to go (see previous post), but how amazing would it have been if it was at the library?

I didn't exactly get the perfect shot, but Jack and Meg were waving the Alberta flag at the Edmonton show on Sunday. Man, I love this band!

Anyway, in honour of the White Stripes Canadian tour, which is turning out to be more and more monumental by the day, I've assembled a selection of songs from artists that have heavily influenced Jack White. Most of these are songs that the White Stripes have covered on their early albums or in concert.

From the liner notes to the Son House compilation Heroes of the Blues:
"In my hometown of Detroit, nothing stirs me up more than knowing that Son House died just miles from my home; before I was even old enough to even know what he had done to father modern music." - Jack White III (The White Stripes)

Son House - Walking Blues (Death Letter)
The White Stripes' eponymous debut album was dedicated to Son House. Their version of Death Letter appears on their 2nd album De Stijl. It's a staple at their live shows and is absolutely electrifying to watch live.

Son House - John the Revelator
A traditional song, The White Stripes incorporated part of it into Cannon, which appears on their debut album.

Son House - Grinnin' in Your Face
The White Stripes have been known to play this live. As an aside, here's one of my other favourites Andrew Bird tackling the same tune:
Andrew Bird - Grinnin'

Robert Johnson - Stop Breakin' Down Blues
The White Stripes recorded a cover of Stop Breaking Down for their first album.

Blind Willie McTell - Southern Can is Mine
De Stijl, which features a wonderful cover of this song, was in part dedicated to the influential Blind Willie McTell.

Blind Willie McTell - Lord, Send Me an Angel
Another song the White Stripes have covered (as a B-Side, I believe). There's a wonderful 3-CD set called Statesboro Blues: The Early Years 1927-1935, which consists of the complete recordings of Blind Willie made between those years. Definitely worth checking out (from your local library).

Bob Dylan - Love Sick
They have covered Bob Dylan numerous times including One More Cup of Coffee on their debut album and Outlaw Blues on their Under Blackpool Lights DVD. Love Sick was one of the songs I saw them perform a couple years ago in Vancouver.

Jack White & Bob Dylan - Ball & Biscuit
A few years ago, Jack got to join his hero on stage for a performance of the White Stripes' Ball & Biscuit from their 2003 album Elephant.

Now here's some fun playing connect the dots . . . you may or may not have noticed that the illustrations of Son House and Blind Willie McTell are by famed underground comic artist R. Crumb. In 1980, a series of trading cards featuring the Heroes of the Blues were illustrated by R. Crumb, an avid collector of 78 rpm records including early blues records. Some of these illustrations were used on a series of Heroes of the Blues CDs including the aforementioned Son House CD with the Jack White quote. The 2005 book, The R. Crumb Handbook, came with a CD of music from several of R. Crumb's bands, from which we get this cover of the traditional folk song St. James Infirmary:

The Crumb Family - St. James Infirmary
Another cover of this song also appears on the debut White Stripes album.

Blind Willie McTell - Dying Crapshooters Blues
The tune to St. James Infirmary was adapted by Blind Willie McTell for Dying Crapshooters Blues, a song (you guessed it) also covered by The White Stripes on occasion.

The White Stripes - St. James Infirmary/Dyin' Crapshooters Blues (live)
Here are Jack & Meg covering BOTH live in 2005.

Bob Dylan - Blind Willie McTell
Bob Dylan himself wrote a tribute to Blind Willie McTell. . . to the tune of St. James Infirmary. From a series of sessions with Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler.

The White Stripes - Blind Willie McTell (live)
And the White Stripes also covered this live in Perth, Australia in 2003.

Toshiyuki Honda - St. James Infirmary
On a personal note, the first time I had ever heard this song was this Toshiyuki Honda arrangement from the 2001 anime film Metropolis (awesome soundtrack by the way), which was inspired by Fritz Lang's influential 1927 science fiction film Metropolis. And just to give your head a final spin, one of the latest shirt designs at the White Stripes online store is of Maria. . . from Fritz Lang's Metropolis.


Ass Hat said...

great stuff. thanks for pulling these together.

Anonymous said...

Duder what's with all the strikethroughs. Not very pleasing on the eyes.

Fongolia said...

The strikethroughs have just been a simple way to indicate that the mp3 links have been removed. In 3 years that's the first complaint I've had about them, but you have a point. That said, I'm not going through 200 old posts to fix it...