Horny Frog

Continuing the blues theme, let’s go back further to 1937 with Big Bill Broonzy’s “Horny Frog”. This adheres more closely (but not absolutely) faithfully to the standard (and by now essentially clichéd) 12-bar blues form than does Faron Young’s country-blues song. Here too we have a small group accompaniment of string bass, two acoustic guitars, and piano.

Once again, the focus is on the expressive vocals with swoops and yells adding enormously to the sense of frustration and loss that is conveyed in what is essentially a story of unrequited love. Once again, bent and sustained acoustic guitar notes give a vocal quality to the instrumental breaks. Corporeal.

Listening to the earliest blues songs, it is instructive to hear how fluid the structure really is. It accomodates all sorts of unconventional bar-lengths and forms that really do seem to be tied far more to the vocal requirements of the song much more than you hear in later blues (and most particularly in the rock-blues of the 1960s and beyond where the structure seems almost fossilized). Consequently, these early recordings retain a freshness and power that later recordings can lack.

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