Blues AOTM: Etta Baker - One Dime Blues


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02-22-2008, 03:00 PM

Etta Baker - One Dime Blues (

The first time I saw Etta Baker she was in a short movie clip in which she was talking about music. She didnít grab me right away as anything special. She just seemed like an elderly African American woman, talking about old blues music from the 20ís and 30ís. In fact I just about ignored her until she picked up a guitar and started playing. From the first note I shut my mouth and devoted all my attention to this 93 year old woman that was blowing my mind. Etta Baker is one of those people I fell in love with after one song, her blues playing is so heartfelt and genuine, it almost feels like sheís having a conversation with you through the guitar.

Etta Bakerís style of primarily instrumental blues is known as the piedmont blues which incorporates very complex finger picking. In just about all her songs Etta will keep a steady alternating bass line rhythm with her thumb and use her other fingers to play melodies and counterpoints in the chord progression at the same time. She makes an extremely difficult technique sound easy though, as if sheís not even trying giving the songs a very easy, gentle manner. In fact her music can even be considered a sort of happy and uplifting blues style.

One Dime Blues, her second album, is my choice for album of the month. Etta Baker recorded it in 1991 when she was 78 years young, her first album since 1956. She took this long break between recordings because her husband would not permit her to play her music publicly. Just about every tune on this album is a highlight, so I am not going to go through and discuss every single track, except for the song Broken Hearted Blues, which showcases a very rare vocal performance. This track makes me wish she sang more often; even though she does not have good pitch or tone she has a voice that simply oozes the blues. Several of the other songs you may recognize the melodies even without vocals and start singing along, this happened to me with Never Let Your Deal Go Down, Going Down The Road Feeling Bad, John Henry and Carolina Breakdown. Even songs I had never heard before I would start singing along with the beautiful melodies.

All in all I got sucked in by this blend of blues, folk and country. This 93 year old woman shut me up in a way I never expected, and I still struggle to find words when I listen to her music.

Here are a few resources to learn more about Etta Baker and sample her music.

Picture and short biography
longer biography and mp3 files
Her performance of one dime blues at the 1994 Florida Folk Festival

02-22-2008, 03:15 PM
I tried to pick someone who deserves more attention than they receive, I'm hoping I turn a few people on to something they haven't heard before!

02-22-2008, 03:39 PM
Very well written article, for an oft overlooked musician. The style in which she plays has such a rhythm, it's just so upbeat.

02-22-2008, 03:42 PM
Very nice review, just as a little add on, here she is in an interview + playing a little

02-22-2008, 03:59 PM
Nice job, Jimmy. Well written and you picked a great artist!


ze monsta
02-22-2008, 04:24 PM
Nice job, Jimmy. Well written and you picked a great artist!



She's great! And seems like such a lovely woman!


02-22-2008, 04:29 PM
Very well written, I've never heard much of her music, I will deffinently check it out now!


02-22-2008, 04:31 PM
Very well written, I've never heard much of her music, I will deffinently check it out now!


thats the point ;)

*does the same*

02-22-2008, 04:35 PM
And I just did take a listen, and she is amazing! What an artist!

02-23-2008, 03:18 AM
I forgot to mention that she died in 2006... I'm glad you guys are enjoying the pick :)

02-23-2008, 04:47 PM
Sweet! :cheers: Good artist choice. I'm gonna have to check some of her stuff out now :)

03-13-2008, 02:33 AM
Do we have to sign up for these AOTM things? I have some good albums I could do. Should I just write it up? Who do I send it to?

03-14-2008, 02:13 PM
there's a blues AOTM thread that needs to be bumped, especially now that it's been a new month for two weeks!

03-27-2008, 03:51 AM
Free bump Jimmy