MUSICAL NOTES The ACOUSTIC CORNER

“…down on old Chestnut Street…”

"I got the idea of playing guitar to my garden from the great Ramblin' Jack Elliott, who talked about singing old cowboy tunes, to soothe an unsettled herd. 

Whenever I see plants going through a hard time or new starts in need of a lullaby, I just grab my guitar and sing 'em a SONG. And ya know, it seems to work some. Or sometimes, 'good enough' is all you can do.

Really, it's just me goofing off, noodling around on a guitar, when I should be gardening. I fear they are on to me...."  

The ACOUSTIC CORNER is a place for fellow ‘guitar nuts‘ to share all manner of tips, reviews, recordings, memories, gear talk, transcribed guitar tunes, lessons, advice, ‘ones that got away’ stories & general acoustic guitar related miscellanea that excites & inspires us.

…down on old Chestnut Street…”

There is simply no way to talk about my own guitar development & journey without talking about the great Elizabeth Cotten.

Her unique finger-picking style, a warm, rich tapestry of melody, harmonic counterpoint, rhythm & alternating bass, has had a foundational influence on my own playing, to say the least.

A self-taught guitarist from North Carolina, much of her style & technique was informed by learning to writing songs, at a young age, on her brother’s banjo, PLUS the fact that she was left handed, and so taught herself to play the guitar flipped upside down. Which, perhaps is how she came to develop her signature bass style.

Elizabeth Cotten’s 1958 debut album, “Folksongs & Instrumentals with Guitar” (Folkways Records), recorded in her own home, by Mike Seeger, contains numerous classic & influential tracks such as “Honey Babe, Your Papa Cares For You”, “Vastopol”, “Spanish Flang Dang” and more.

This song continues to reveal something new every time I hear & play it. An essential staple of aspiring & accomplished guitarists, alike. ENJOY!!

GUITAR: Elizabeth Cotten’s main guitar was a 1950 MARTIN 000-18. The Martin 000-18 is a ‘Auditorium Orchestra’, sitka spruce top with mahogany back & sides.

CHORDS & SCALES

FREIGHT TRAIN

by Elizabeth Cotten

C – G – G7
Freight train, Freight train run so fast
G7 – C
Freight train, Freight train run so fast
E7 – F
Please don’t tell what train I’m on
C – G – C
They won’t know what route I’ve gone

C – G – G7
When I am dead and in my grave
G7 – C
No more good times here I crave
E7 – F
Place the stones at my head and feet
C – G – C
Tell them all that I’ve gone to sleep.

C – G – G7
Freight train, Freight train run so fast
G7 – C
Freight train, Freight train run so fast
E7 – F
Please don’t tell what train I’m on
C – G – C
They won’t know what route I’ve gone

C – G – G7
When I die Lord bury me deep
G7 – C
Way down on old Chestnut street
E7 – F
Then I can hear old Number 9
C – G – C
As she comes rolling by.

*Written by Elizabeth Cotten.

* All transcriptions are from ear & represented in keys, who’s open chord shapes best capture those used in the original recordings, or else best lend themselves to more common finger-picking patterns employed within the specific genre. So keep your CAPO handy!! Comments, corrections, improvements and cool alternate versions are WELCOME!! As previously stated, all transcriptions are as best as I could figure, from ear. So keep me honest.

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