Blues You Can Use: Eight Bars with a Twist

September 15, 2015

Here is another classic tune from the Freddie King songbook, recorded in 1964 in Dallas, Texas for the Federal label. “Some Other Day, Some Other Time” fits in with our previous discussion of alternate forms, as it employs an eight-bar blues with a unique twist for the A section, and a standard eight-bar bridge that goes to the IV chord. The groove is a fun blues mambo/boogaloo, similar to several other Freddie King hits like “Heads Up” and “San Hozay,” and the bass line (performed by an unknown player) maintains an anchoring 1–6–5 pattern throughout the track. The roots of the mambo influence go back to the earliest forms of New Orleans music, where the Latin 3:2 clave rhythm mixed with European harmony to create the first American-made syncopated popular music.

The bass line eschews the typical baion rhythm (Ex. 1, page 52) for a more on-the-beat feel. It gives the groove some tension as the drummer is emphasizing the “and” of beat two, while the bass hits squarely on beat three. The chromatic pickup note on the “and” of beat four gives this otherwise-staunch pattern some forward motion, and as the song is in the key of Bb (the funkiest of all keys), the open E, A, and D strings serve this function well. Example 2 is the general idea of the part under the A section. The form is an eight-bar blues, but due to the standard four-bar “long I” followed by two bars of the IV chord, the ear is momentarily tricked into expecting a standard 12-bar form. But after the IV chord, we take the express train to the V chord in bar 7 which cadences to the I chord in bar 8.

The bass pattern remains intact through the IV–I–IV–V progression, which has served as the bridge to thousands of songs over the years (Ex. 3). One other cool bit is the intro (Ex. 4), whose dominant-7 arpeggio brings to mind the 1959 Rosco Gordon classic “Just a Little Bit.” The opening lick “pushes” or anticipates bar 2’s downbeat for a nice kick, and the bass gets the most out of the low E as a pickup note to the lick that brings us back to the Bb in bar 3. The last bar of the intro is an archetypal rhythm played on the V chord as a setup to the I chord.

The music of Freddie King is an important body of work to absorb, as it represents a wide range of grooves and forms, but even more so for the sheer passion that he brought to every note. When comparing his instrumental work to the modern blues guitar paradigm, I’m struck not only by the lack of pyrotechnics and the rawness of his sound, but also his realness. If there is anything that qualifies a performance as “real blues,” it would be the honest expression of the performer. These days, it seems too many players focus on the surface aspects of the music: the licks, the repertoire, the vintage gear, and such. But performing without a personal connection to the source of the blues produces at best uninteresting music—and at worst, total crap. How does one cultivate this? By living your life, and being sensitive to the struggle. Whether it’s your struggle or not, this music was born out of pain, and it was used as powerful medicine. When you understand where this music came from, you can begin to see how it relates to your own life. We all experience pain, adversity, struggle … and as such, we all need the blues to wash it away.

INFO

ED FRIEDLAND

Ed Friedland plays, writes, and teaches out of his bass base in Austin, Texas. edfriedland.com

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