Backwater Blues - 1


Rising waters in Kentucky 1927

This 'Backwater Blues' was recorded for Vocalion Records by Uncle Dave Macon and Sam McGee on May 11, 1929 in New York City. This is just after flooding in the Mississippi River valley covered 27,000 miles to a depth of 30 feet. It affected 630,000 many of whom were forced to live in relief camps for log periods.

Did this flood inspire Uncle Dave to write the song? Maybe, but that flooding affected mostly the Mississippi river delta and probably did not touch Nashville. More likely the song refers to the flood that struck Nashville on Christmas day in 1926 when the Cumberland River rose 56 feet and cascaded right through the middle of town.

Only three months before Bessie Smith recorded a song also named 'Backwater Blues'. Maybe Uncle Dave liked the title. But except being about a flood, the two songs have nothing in common.

My banjo arrangement is not quite the same as Uncle Dave's but it features the two-finger style and open C tuning that he favored.

Lyrics: 

Backwater's up and the people are runnin'
I'm a-goin' to the mountain, I'm a-goin' huntin'
Fare you well, oh my little darlin'
Lord, lord, ain't I gone

Oh my love, lonesome road
Oh my love, lonesome world

I love you and you can't help it
You love me, but you won't confess it
No you don't, oh my little darlin'
Lord, lord, ain't I gone

Oh my love, lonesome road
Oh my love, lonesome world

Two little children lyin' in the bed
The water was a-risin' over their head
Their mother's up town, was never found
Lord, lord, wasn't that sad
Oh how bad, oh how sad

I heard a man talkin' to a feller
The water was a-risin' in his cellar
Rise any more and a-comin' through the floor
Lord, lord, open the door

Oh my love, lonesome road
Oh my love, lonesome world

Nashville is a favourite town
The back water's got us a-runnin' around
Lord have mercy, ain't I gone
Lord, lord, fare you well

Oh my love, lonesome road
Oh my love, lonesome world

Instruments: 
Tuning: 
gCGCF