Someone noticed in class that the band's been playing two versions of Sittin' On Top of the World for people - one with the minor four chord as well as the bar with the hook phrase in it, and the other version without both of those and a four chord in each place instead. Why?
Shoji explained that the best he could tell, the first version to do this is the one from Howlin' Wolf (though Joe made the comment that he has heard the move to a minor chord like that within the jug band tradition on other tunes). So Shoji and the band have been making a judgement call for players in the Performance Class depending on what style people play and what version they are likely listening to.
He went on to demonstrate these differences and we talked about them at length - now class performers know what to request!
Why play that minor four chord at all? Notice that the vocal phrasing for every two bars occurs on the first bar. This leaves an open "hole" on the second bar most of the time in this song. Bands feel compelled to fill such holes with a fill, a chord change, or as you hear in the Wolf version, there is a shift to minor AND a strong rhythmic figure that builds tension and carries into the next vocal phrase.
We also reviewed and listened to a few versions, including, per Joe's request, one we hadn't yet heard from Jed Davenport, which Joe believes is the earliest recording of this song with harmonica on it.
- RECORDING: This session's recording date for the Performance Class is Monday, December 14. You should be firming up the tune you mean to record and practicing it each week with the band.
- Joe is back!
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Band