Tag Archives: Blind Willie McTell

5 great cover versions of Blind Willie McTell by Bob Dylan

Blind-Willie-McTell cover versions

Seen the arrow on the doorpost
Saying, “This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans
To Jerusalem”
I traveled through East Texas
Where many martyrs fell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Let’s start this party by reminding ourselves what a fantastic song this is. Here are the official released Bob Dylan version from The Bootleg Series Volume 1-3:

“One of Bob Dylan’s absolute masterpieces, “Blind Willie McTell” is the jewel of The Bootleg Series and arguably one of the finest songs ever written. Recorded in 1983 for the album Infidels, it was deemed superfluous to requirements, and all that remains is one take of the song with a full band (yet to be officially released) and this haunting demo, with Dylan playing piano with accompaniment from Mark Knopfler.”
– Thomas Ward (allmusic)

And the outtake, the electric version from the Infidels sessions (audio), my favorite:

Ok, so here are those wonderful cover versions.

The magnificent Mick Taylor did this great version in Germany in 2009 (Rockpalast):

This cover version by Dream Syndicate from a free single given away with Bucketfull of Brains. No dates of the recording are listed. Apologies as it cuts just before the end of the song (audio):

“I started playing it live because I heard the Band doing it. Most likely it was a demo, probably showing the musicians how it should go. It was never developed fully, I never got around to completing it. There wouldn’t have been any other reason for leaving it off the record. It’s like taking a painting by Monet or Picasso – goin’ to his house and lookin’ at a half-finished painting and grabbing it and selling it to people who are ‘Picasso fans.'”
– Bob Dylan

Levon Helm Band “Blind Willie” Live at Pompano Beach Amphitheater, Pompano Beach, FL 11-4-2010:

I want to include a very fine interpretation in Swedish by Mikael Wiehe (Spotify):

Finally a jazz/blues instrumental, wonderfully done by Jef Lee Johnson (Audio):

– Hallgeir

Other cover versions of Bob Dylan’s songs

Bob Dylan – Blind Willie McTell – Columbia, Maryland – 23 July 2013 (Video)

bob dylan columbus 2013

Seen the arrow on the doorpost
Saying, “This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans
To Jerusalem”
I traveled through East Texas
Where many martyrs fell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Columbia, Maryland
Merriweather Post Pavilion
July 23, 2013

Musicians:

  • Bob Dylan – center stage with harp
  • Tony Garnier – standup bass
  • George Recile – drums
  • Stu Kimball – rhythm guitar
  • Colin Linden – lead guitar
  • Donnie Herron – banjo

Well, I heard that hoot owl singing
As they were taking down the tents
The stars above the barren trees
Were his only audience
Them charcoal gypsy maidens
Can strut their feathers well
But nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

See them big plantations burning
Hear the cracking of the whips
Smell that sweet magnolia blooming
See the ghosts of slavery ships
I can hear them tribes a-moaning
Hear that undertaker’s bell
Nobody can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

There’s a woman by the river
With some fine young handsome man
He’s dressed up like a squire
Bootlegged whiskey in his hand
There’s a chain gang on the highway
I can hear them rebels yell
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Well, God is in His heaven
And we all want what’s His
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is
I’m gazing out the window
Of the St. James Hotel
And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell

Check out:

-Egil

Today: The late Blind Willie McTell was born in 1898 – 115 years ago

blind willie mctell

And I know no one can sing the blues
Like Blind Willie McTell
~Bob Dylan (“Blind Willie McTell”)

He was a songster of wide repertoire and as fine a 12-string guitarist as ever lived. The dexterity of his playing was extraordinary, and his voice was an unusually smooth tenor. The interplay between voice and guitar also brought into the equation McTell’s intelligence and wit, and it was the fusion of all these elements that led Bob Dylan to write in his 1983 tribute song that ‘no-one can sing the blues like Blind Willie McTell.’
~Michael Gray (BD Encyclopedia)

Willie Samuel McTell was one of the blues’ greatest guitarists, and also one of the finest singers ever to work in blues.
~Bruce Eder (allmusic.com)

Statesboro Blues:

Wikipedia:

Birth name William Samuel McTier
Also known as Blind Sammie, Georgia Bill, Hot Shot Willie, Blind Willie, Barrelhouse Sammy, Pig & Whistle Red, Blind Doogie, Red Hot Willie Glaze, Red Hot Willie, Eddie McTier
Born May 5, 1898
Thomson, Georgia, U.S.
Origin Statesboro, Georgia, U.S.
Died August 19, 1959 (aged 61)
Milledgeville, Georgia, U.S.
Genres Country blues, Piedmont blues, ragtime, Delta blues, gospel
Occupations Musician, songwriter, songster, accompanist, preacher
Instruments Vocals, guitar, harmonica, accordion, kazoo, violin
Years active 1927–1956

Blind Willie McTell (born William Samuel McTier May 5, 1898 – August 19, 1959), was a Piedmont and ragtime blues singer and guitarist. He played with a fluid, syncopated fingerstyle guitar technique, common among many exponents of Piedmont blues, although, unlike his contemporaries, he came to use twelve-string guitars exclusively. McTell was also an adept slide guitarist, unusual among ragtime bluesmen. His vocal style, a smooth and often laid-back tenor, differed greatly from many of the harsher voice types employed by Delta bluesmen, such as Charley Patton. McTell embodied a variety of musical styles, including blues, ragtime, religious music and hokum.

blind willie mctell & Kate McTellBlind Willie and Kate McTell in Atlanta, 1930s

 Travelin’ Blues:

Born blind in the town of Thomson, Georgia, McTell learned how to play guitar in his early teens. He soon became a street performer around several Georgia cities including Atlanta and Augusta, and first recorded in 1927 for Victor Records. Although he never produced a major hit record, McTell’s recording career was prolific, recording for different labels under different names throughout the 1920s and 30s. In 1940, he was recorded by John Lomax for the Library of Congress’s folk song archive. He would remain active throughout the 1940s and 50s, playing on the streets of Atlanta, often with his longtime associate, Curley Weaver. Twice more he recorded professionally. McTell’s last recordings originated during an impromptu session recorded by an Atlanta record store owner in 1956. McTell would die three years later after suffering for years from diabetes and alcoholism. Despite his mainly failed releases, McTell was one of the few archaic blues musicians that would actively play and record during the 1940s and 50s. However, McTell never lived to be “rediscovered” during the imminent American folk music revival, as many other bluesmen would.

McTell’s influence extended over a wide variety of artists, including The Allman Brothers Band, who famously covered McTell’s “Statesboro Blues”, and Bob Dylan, who paid tribute to McTell in his 1983 song “Blind Willie McTell”; the refrain of which is, “And I know no one can sing the blues, like Blind Willie McTell”. Other artists influenced by McTell include Taj Mahal, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Ralph McTell, Chris Smither and The White Stripes.

blind willie mctell 2lBlind Willie McTell, circa 1950

 Pal of Mine:

Bob Dylan has paid tribute to McTell on at least four occasions:

  • Firstly, in his 1965 song “Highway 61 Revisited“, the second verse begins with “Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose”, referring to one of Blind Willie McTell’s many recording names
  • later in his song “Blind Willie McTell“, recorded in 1983 but released in 1991 on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3
  • then with covers of McTell’s “Broke Down Engine” and “Delia” on his 1993 album, World Gone Wrong
  • in his song “Po’ Boy“, on 2001’s “Love & Theft”, which contains the lyric, “had to go to Florida dodging them Georgia laws”, which comes from McTell’s “Kill It Kid”

Bob Dylan – Blind Willie McTell – Hollywood Palladium Theater, Los Angeles, California – 12 January 2012:

Check out this great post @ jasobrecht.com:

Playlist of the day:

Other May-05:

Continue reading Today: The late Blind Willie McTell was born in 1898 – 115 years ago

The 5 best songs Bob Dylan left in the studio – updated..


Bob Dylan left many a jewel in the studio. Some were rerecorded for later albums, others were abandoned for good.

All the songs on this list have been officially released at a later date.. they might not be the best version of the song.. I will point out.. but at least he eventually put a version out.

The List:

  1. Blind Willie McTell
  2. Idiot Wind – New York version
  3. She’s Your Lover Now
  4. Red River Shore
  5. Caribbean Wind

Details:

Continue reading The 5 best songs Bob Dylan left in the studio – updated..