In a comment on the About page of this site, JP Bruneau wrote: “There’s a version of ‘Barroom Blues’ that’s not on your list. It’s in Stripped Down the new Cd (on Arhoolie Records) by The Magnolia Sisters, an all women Cajun band. In the liner notes I read that the band learned the song from another Cajun band, The Alley Boys of Abbeville (that recorded in the 30’s on the Columbia label).”
“Barroom Blues” is not a frequently used title for “SJI” and its variations, generally speaking (I think I’ve made one just reference to such a version on this site, by a fellow named Herman Davis, here.) But in any case, title aside, this is pretty much the “Gambler’s Blues” version (quite close to the one Jimmie Rodgers recorded, and Preservation Hall/Yim Yames followed, as mentioned Monday).
As JP Bruneau suggests, the Magnolia Sisters version is a Cajun arrangement, and pleasant enough, although I wasn’t personally crazy about the vocal (decent fiddle though — and I’m guessing others may disagree about the vocalist, since Stripped Down was nominated for a Grammy). A few of the lyric tweaks — full lyrics after the jump — involve the gender-adjustments sometimes made when the vocalist is a woman. (Earlier post on versions sung by women here.) In this case I liked the singer recounting “someone a-callin, ‘Young gal, your baby’s down.'” I like to think that indirectly refers to the “Unfortunate Rake” descendants that make the young woman the focus of the story, such as “Bad Girl’s Lament” and “When I Was A Young Girl.” But I don’t know if that was the intent.
As for The Alley Boys of Abbeville: I have a number of songs by them (all from a record called Abbeville Breakdown), but not a version of “Barroom Blues.” I haven’t yet researched this extensively, but it appears the Dixie Ramblers, another Cajun group of similar vintage, did record the song — although of course that doesn’t mean the Alley Boys didn’t record it too.
Anyway a final quick note on this strain of versions that tie in to “Gambler’s Blues:” One of the distinguishing characteristics, included in the Magnolia Sisters take, is the narrator returning from the infirmary or the graveyard or some other site of bad news, to the barroom (Joe’s, Big Kid’s, whoever’s), finding the crowd drinking, and joining in. I hadn’t thought about it, but that narrative conclusion does in a way tie into the usual “SJI” narrator’s shift to bragging, etc. Perhaps the sentiment that “she’ll never find a man like me” is a drunken one.
Barrroom Blues / Magnolia Sisters
It was down in the corner barroom.
The regular crowd was there.
I strolled on down to the corner.
I saw my baby there.
He was lying down on a table.
I knew he’d been drinking some,
Cos I heard someone there a-callin’,
“Young gal, your baby’s down.”
I ran on down to see the doctor
“Your guy is low,” he said
I went back to see my baby.
Good God, he was lying there dead.
I followed him down to the graveyard
And now in the ground he lays.
I spread many flowers around him.
Goodbye, he’s going away.
I went back to the corner barroom
Down where my baby died.
Everybody’s drinking liquor
So I went on and joined the crowd.