Dinner Music: Elizabeth Cotten
warm weather, porch sitting sounds from a pioneering artist
Thanks to Flow State for recommending today’s Dinner Music album.
Elizabeth Cotten was a singer-songwriter and self-taught, pioneering guitar picker born in the late 1800s. She spent much of her childhood learning guitar and developing her unique, left-handed picking style. As an early teenager, she began writing songs, including Freight Train, a tune that would become her most recognized, covered and misappropriated song. Throughout much of her adult life, she worked as a housekeeper for white families throughout the South and Washington DC. Cotten began recording and performing her work when she was in her sixties, after the family she worked for “discovered” her talents. She went on to gain some late life fame, from playing the Newport Jazz Festival to winning a Grammy in 1984 when she was ninety years old. Her work pioneered and influenced so many aspects of guitar playing, folk music and musical tradition, though her contributions have often been overlooked or ignored completely. However, this year, she’ll be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes, Cotten’s first album, was first recorded in 1958 and re-released in 1989 by Smithsonian Folkways. The album is characterized by her unique style, known as the ‘Cotten style,’ that she cultivated by playing the guitar left-handed without restringing it, effectively playing and picking the instrument upside down. The album begs of the listener to sit down and stay a while. Advice we could all stand to take. So, put on the record, open your windows and make it simple.
Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes - Elizabeth Cotten:
Pair this album with:
Mint Julep. I can’t think of sitting on a porch and enjoying life without picturing a mint julep. In 1890, a Kentucky newspaper man called it the “the very dream of drinks.” I’m loath to disagree.
Pork Chops with Apples. Elizabeth Cotten grew up in North Carolina, so these pork chops are an ode to her home state. It’s a bit healthier than barbecue pork, but still retains a bit of that Carolina flavor.
Thank you. Have a great rest of your week.