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Depot Blues


Overview


This is one from Son House’s fantastic Library of Congress recordings made in the early 1940s with Alan Lomax; a session with great songs including Jinx Blues Pt 1. That song and this song are Son House in really top-notch shape, an astounding voice and very rhythmically solid guitar.

The song starts out with a series of bass moves alternating with treble moves. The first is a “long” slide on the bass side, with some treble work in what John Fahey calls the “train whistle” section of the top 2 strings (bends on the 2nd string 8th fret going to the 7th fret of the top string.. kinda has that nice train whistle sound). After that, the 2nd portion has a “quicker” bass-side slide, going to more treble work; very similar to the 1st portion. The 3rd portion does away with the slide – it’s just a 6th string bass hit – followed by a more bendy treble section. Finally, the 4th portion is similar to the 3rd – just a 6th string bass hit with treble work to finish the section off.

The song is really classic in the way of that Delta blues style. It starts with those slides into 5th fret 5th string, similar to Willie Brown on Future Blues, alternated with treble side work around the 7th-9th fret top 2 strings. On the recording, it’s cool since you can actually hear how he snaps the strings with his index finger haha.

Then he gets into the 4 chord, again not treading far from other classic Delta blues songs. The barre along the 5th fret with bends on the 8th fret 2nd string are really akin to Robert Johnson playing Crossroad Blues on the 4 chord, or Terraplane Blues. And of course, who knows, Robert Johnson may have gotten those moves from Son House!

Finally, he finishes out the song, with the main mentionable move being the descending or “toggling” 3-note double stop. It’s a sandwich the way he plays it – 1st he plays it descending, 2nd he plays it toggling (with the lyric, “well lookie here baby..”), and 3rd he plays it descending again.

All in all, a beautiful song and filled with good-to-know moves. A big perk is that if you learn this song, you’re really set for a lot of Patton songs, Willie Brown songs, and Robert Johnson songs that use similar shapes. Hope this helps with this tune and that it goes really smoothly and well for you!

Workstation


Tuning
Vestapol / Open E — E B E G# B E (from lowest to highest)
Capo Position

None

Song Lyrics

Well, looky here, honey
I ain't gonna cry no more

I went to the depot and I, I looked up on the board
I went to the depot, I looked up on the board
Well, I couldn't see no train
I couldn't hear no whistle blow

Engineer blowed the whistle and the fireman, he rung the bell
Oh, oh, the fireman, he rung the bell
You know my woman was on board
She was wavin' back, "Fare you well"

If I had any strength I would set this train off the track
I would set this train off the track
Else you make me a promise
You gonna bring my baby back

You ain't comin' back no more
I don't believe you ever comin' back no more
You leavin' now, baby
Bet you hangin' creeper on my door

I'm gonna miss you from rollin' in my arms
I'm gonna miss you from rollin' in my arms
If I can't get no stamps and paper
I'm gonna sit down and telephone

Song History


Year of Recording

17 July 1942

Location

Robinsonville, Mississippi

Record Label

Field recording by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress