From The Desk Of Glenn Morrow: Robert Palmer’s “Deep Blues”

Glenn Morrow is a Hoboken, N.J., music treasure. He owns the influential 31-year-old Bar/None label (Yo La Tengo, They Might Be Giants, Feelies, dB’s, Of Montreal). His bands, such as the Individuals and “a,” have helped put the Mile Square City on the indie-rock map for equally as long. His latest project is Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help, which has a new self-titled album. Morrow will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

Morrow: It was really interesting re-visiting Robert Palmer’s Deep Blues a couple of years ago. The late great writer wrote music criticism for the New York Times in the 1980s. Prior to that in the late ’60s, he was part of the Insect Trust, an eclectic rock group based in Hoboken. I first read the book when I was 25 but now, with Spotify and YouTube, I can locate the music for which, back in 1981, I would have had to travel through the South in search of old 78s or at the very least, I would’ve had to spend hours in the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts. Now it’s all at our fingertips. Palmer wrote about a boogie piano style called “the Forty Fours” that was used to test the chops of juke-joint players. One of the architects of that style was Brother Montgomery. His song “Vicksburg Blues” from 1930 in turn led me to the electric Chicago blues of Howlin’ Wolf, who cooked up a version called “Forty Four” based on Roosevelt Sykes’ interpretation of the same blues pattern. I borrowed from these sources and more to come up with my own take about a spurned lover packing heat while walking the streets of a small town. Suffice to say he’s an unreliable narrator.

Videos after the jump.

Brother Montgomery “Vicksburg Blues”

Brother Montgomery “Vicksburg Blues” 1930

Howlin’ Wolf “Forty Four”