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Friday, March 28, 2014

35 of 1001 Songs: Lead Belly's The Gallis Pole

The next song on the list is getting me back to the blues, and it's catchy and interesting. The instrumentals were where it was really at for me among the other sounds happening. Also, it's a song you definitely are going to have go back and read the lyrics over as it moves extremely quick. I imagine people had to be moving with the pace of this song.

History: This song existed before Lead Belly covered it. His version though switched it up a bit though with more emphasis on the lyrics, and an instrument that would liven the tune up a lot. It was also the song that launched the song to be more familiar to the public as it is today. The song would go on to be covered by many other artists though like Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin, charting the song's popularity didn't stop with artists.


Vocals: There was actually a song that came on after The Gallis Pole that I really enjoyed by Lead Belly called, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? I was listening to that and wishing that was on the list instead. It sounded so much better, but I guess it lacks historical and cultural significance that got the other on the list. The singer really has a great voicing, but The Gallis Pole utilizes more of spoken word techniques, and has a certain pacing that I didn't felt showed off the vocals as much. The way he paces his vocals works for the overall tone of the tune though.

Instrumentals: The most impressive thing about the song instrumentally is the use of the 12 string guitar. It shows a lot of talent a long to make your way around on that instrument much less play it in the style that it's being played in this tune. Also, it is the primary instrument, but you don't need too much more because the instrumentals and the vocals are enough to give this song enough rhythm and memorable moments without the addition of more.

Lyrics: So for a song that Lead Belly turned into a bit more of faster tune the lyrics are really dark. It's basically about a guy about to be hanged on the gallows pole. Anyway, throughout the song it sounds as if he continuing to try to bargain his way off. A lot of songs I'm hearing from the 30's either contain dark content, or lighter content like "Over the Rainbow", but for the most part every song has this somber edge to it. It makes sense though considering the 30's may have not been the easiest time to live in for anyone.

The Gallis Pole is a piece of blues history. I think Lead Belly has some better songs that show the talent of his vocals and instrument talent, but it makes sense as to why this was chosen from his collection because it does have a lot of value lyrically. Plus, the song was already a classic before he went on to popularize it anyways.

Rating 7 of 10.



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