Blind Teddy Darby: Built Right on the Ground

Blind Teddy Darby: Built Right on the Ground

There’re more than a few reasons why listening to early blues players is an interesting endeavor. Firstly, the sheer historic importance of the music is enough to reign in potential listeners. Beyond that, the stories told and images created contribute to the blanket of American culture that we’ve all grown accustomed to. Perhaps most engaging, though, is how the music developed, sometimes in cloistered situations with guitarists from different parts of the country arriving at similar ways to voice their instrument. In some cases, there were wildly different approaches. But with communication being what it was during the first thirty years of the twentieth century, people were frequently pressed to summon an individual notion of how this should all come off.

With such disparate and unique takes on music, it’s not too surprising that the tunings from one part of the country vary drastically when contrasted with others. Blind Teddy Darby even sounds like he was just plain ole outta tune on a few sides. But a few sides is, unfortunately, all we’ve got left. There’re even a couple missing in action.

Regardless of that, what Document was able to cobble together and issue constitute a body of work, not disconnected from then current conceptions of the blues, but a pretty expansive one. In mentioning the lack of proper tuning, getting to listen to either “Lose Your Mind” or “Built Right on the Ground,” listeners should pretty plainly be able to hear what’s going on even as Darby seems to be able to adjust his vocals enough to mitigate any hugely glaring problems.

Interestingly enough, Darby worked with a few other players while recording. Most frequently, it’s just Darby and a guitar, but on a few tracks he’s joined by a pianist. And on one occasion, there’s a horn player added into the mix as well. For “What Am I To Do?” Darby doesn’t affect the approach he takes to either playing or singing, it’s just an early example of what was going to happen to the genre as its performers, increasingly, found themselves in major cities and had more musicians at their disposal. In contrast to the other performances found through out Darby’s catalog, most of the time his vocals are sedate – and here they are as well. It’s just that, moved by the group dynamic, Darby hollers out a “GO!” or something similar when the spirit grabs him. It’s likely to grab you as well.