I’m fascinated/confused by this idea that people listen to music without giving a fuck what the words are. It came up at the Hooded Utilitarian and it still blows my mind. What, then, do people sing in the shower, if they don’t know the words to songs?
This morning I sang in the shower “Can I Sleep in Your Arms Tonight, Lady?”
And I thought about how our parents would always put on “The Red-Headed Stranger” in the trailer while we were camping so that we would fall asleep while they were out talking or playing cards.
And then I was kind of bummed that I didn’t know the words to “Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight, Mister?”
Because I would have sung that. Ha, you know, it’s kind of beside the point I’m trying to make (which is a meandering point anyway), but you know that Charles Wolfe would have known who the fiddler on this recording was, either just because he knew who Charlie Poole’s fiddler was, or because he’d listen to it and be able to make a guess just by sound (Wikipedia suggests it’s Posey Rorer). I really like Poole’s version because I feel like we’re listening to something that is recognizable as proto-bluegrass–the heavy fiddle, the plinky, show-off-y banjo, the nasal singing.
But I would not have sung “Red River Valley,” because it’s so sad.
Anyway, if you don’t know the words, aren’t those the same song?