Child of Sorrows

For my songwriting class at CSULA, we have to write a different kind of song each week. This week, Da Blues.

Here it is. My staggeringly white attempt to write the blues. I had to resist the urge to make the whole song about this time I ordered a Chai Tea Latte at Starbucks, but got a Soy Latte instead. Oh Lord, why must I suffer.

Child of Sorrows

Finished it, here’s the full demo:
Child of Sorrows – Final

Child of Sorrows

I am a child of sorrows
The Good Lord won’t let die
I am a child of sorrows
The Good Lord won’t let die
Lord knows I’ve been trying
With whiskey and with rye
But I ain’t done suff’ring yet

I am a child of money
But that don’t mean a thing
I am a child of money
But that don’t mean a thing
She kicked me out at 17
And I ain’t seen her since,
Oh I ain’t done suff’ring yet

I married a good woman,
And you know I turned her bad
I married a good woman,
And you know I turned her bad
The joy I took away from her
Is the only joy I’ve had
Oh I ain’t done suff’ring yet

I went to see the preacher
About my heart of sin
I went to see the preacher
About my heart of sin
Well he looked me up
And he looked me down
And he kicked me out again
Said I ain’t done suff’ring yet,
No I ain’t done suff’ring yet,
Well I ain’t done suf’ring yet.

24 thoughts on “Child of Sorrows

  1. Chad

    Michael, this is quite fun. Your track is loose and groovy. The playing is so cool, that I want to take those drum MIDI tracks and run them through a dirty, stanky mono drum kit from BFD.

    I have a piece of vocal feedback for you, but I don’t know if you’re looking for it. I won’t be offended if you’re not interested. :)

  2. michael lee

    vocals were tracked in like 10 minutes at 8 in the morning. I’m not sure I’m looking for notes on something this rough.

  3. Chad

    Well, It’s just this.

    I think you should resing it and not try and sing the blues. Go all Johnny Cash on it. Don’t affect it. Play it straight. Drink some whiskey, wait until it’s late, watch a nihilistic movie, crank up the gain so it can catch the nuances and details, and let your blues come out that way.

    My $.02.

  4. michael Post author

    So, here’s my problem with that – what’s the difference between being stylistic and being “affected”?

    This isn’t me giving a bitter bite back, by the way, I really want to get into this, not just on this song but in general.

    I listen to that vocal, and while I don’t love it, I do think it sounds like just me singing the tune.

    When I think of stylistic things, I think of somebody doing something that feels right, something inside of their musical instinct, that relates to the genre or the piece of music.

    When I think of affectation, I think of someone doing something outside of their musical instinct in order to cop something that’s not them.

    Also, I’m exhausted and completely done with the world right now, so please give this comment the most charitable reading possible. Mentally filter anything that sounds snarky or self-important.

  5. chad

    Well, it’s important to note that the voice is the only real instrument with which I kick ass. In fact, I’m coming to the conclusion that I’ve largely ignored and taken it for granted for the past decade, as I’ve instead intentionally developed my writing, production, engineering, mixing, and personal marketing skills. I’ve treated my voice like a workhorse. It pays the bills, but has been largely unappreciated, at least in my own mind.

    This is something I’ve been pondering upon… the desire to cognitively develop the instrument with which I am the most skilled. Duh. Anyways… take any and all commentary through that unbelievably self-focused lens, ok? I’m a d-bag, is what I’m saying.

    So… with that said, I personally hear an honest vocal until 0:28, when you give the “Lord Knows…” that extra rip. That doesn’t sound like an honest vocal moment to me. Call it personal bias. I hear a “Christian” vocal in that moment. Then it settles back into an honest sounding vocal. I hear genuine pathos.

    2nd verse… same thing… it’s in the the 3rd phrase, when you’re emoting, that I don’t believe you.

    Lest anyone read this and think that I’m unfairly taking you to task on the one small slice of music over which I wield a little authority, just after that, the little B3 / piano thing makes me want to chop my fingers off and then yell at them for their own pitiful inadequacy.

    So, again, at the end of verse 3, the gruff in your voice as you sing, “I ain’t done sufferin’ yet.” I don’t buy it. It’s not that I don’t think you can sing with a gruff and get away with it. I guess I just don’t believe that take. You’ve already disclaimed the early morning vocal tracking session. I totally get it.

    I guess… I dunno. I like this song. That’s all I’m saying.

    Fuck Facebook, by the way. I’m moving back here.

  6. corey

    “Fuck Facebook, by the way. I’m moving back here.”

    I agree with you. I get the feeling Facebook’s dusk is coming. I would like to see everybody head back to the road house for some friendly and intelligent banter. And Zack.

  7. aly hawkins

    I am not the singer you are, Chad. (I’m barely a singer at all anymore. And that’s okay.) But it seems to me that ALL singing is, on some level, artifice. It’s not like we live in a musical, bursting into song at the drop of a four-click to out our inner monologue and soft-shoe down the produce aisle. Even though that would be awesome. There is no entirely “natural” way to sing. Conversation is natural. Singing is not.

    I think there is such a thing as an honest performance, wherein the singer believes what she’s singing and you can tell. But (1) every singer uses whatever tricks she needs and has mastered to achieve that performance (artifice) and (2) it’s totally subjective. Maybe you didn’t believe Mike’s performance, but it sounded to me like he meant it. I LIKE that it’s so . . . careless, as if he didn’t have the time or the energy to think ahead about how he’d get it done. (Apparently, I heard right, if his previous comment is any indication. Get some rest, Mike.) Yeah, he dipped into his bag of tricks to achieve some measure of stylistic authenticity (it’s the blues, after all). But I’m not comfortable with the idea that doing so betrayed the honesty of the performance.

    And you’re not a d-bag.

  8. corey

    On a 7 hour flight on Monday, I read “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior” by Ori and Rom Brafman. In it, they talk about the process of value attribution, which is the process of assigning value based on circumstances. They use a number of examples and studies but the most famous is probably that of Joshue Bell (violin virtuoso) in a D.C. area subway station, playing one of the most challenging pieces composed for the instrument on his $3.5M violin while 1100 people passed him by assuming he was a common street performer. The environment tainted the product.

    With that in mind, there are 2 sticking points for Mike’s performance that it sounds like we’re wrestling with. The first is that we know Mike is not a blues artist in the traditional/stereotypical use of the word. He drives an eco-friendly Jetta, for starters. Knowing Mike too well hurts the legitimacy of the product- not to mention how “street” is it that he delivered the demo and final via his own personal internet blog? :)

    The second thing is the opposite argument, which is just a reiteration of Aly’s point. What makes an authentic performance? I firmly believe that if Mike had to draw upon frustration, anxiety, sorrow, pain, self-condemnation, etc., he could probably muster up enough to believe what he was singing. And knowing Mike, I believe that while this started as a class exercise or example, he internalized the lyric writing enough to bring it into living color (or at least greens and blues).

    Voice is not my instrument, so I can’t really speak from your chair, but I believe the performance was in line with the project.

  9. Chad

    Well, it’s all subjective.

    I’m so used to apologizing for myself at this point that I’m fighting the urge to backpedal and make sure that everyone feels ok.

    But the hell with that. It’s a blues song. Sing the stuffing out of it. Or don’t. It’s a roadhouse. If I don’t like it, I’ll drink another beer until I do. Or, I’ll throw it at you.

  10. Gretchen Lee

    I love the fact Chad that you put more thought into your critique than Mike put into the entire song. Just an observation.

    Aly-my daughter does in fact live her life in a musical. Complete with choreography. It does seem a very joyous way of life. Even in the “angry” scenes. :)

  11. michael Post author

    No Chad, don’t apologize, that’s ridiculous. And would everyone quit being so damn polite?

    I think the authentic / artifice debate is a really interesting one, with a long history. As part of my going back to school, I’m listening a crapbucket full of music, and this question keeps coming back again and again. Here’s just one example:

    Listen to this first.

    That’s legit! That’s gritty, hard, it’s Elvis singing the tune as Elvis, putting everything into it that made him such a legend. There’s nothing in there that I would call affected.

    Right up until you hear the artist who did the tune first:

    Now, all of the sudden, Elvis’s cut sounds affected and trite (maybe – I still really dig it).

    It’s tempting to say that Elvis just ripped off Big Mama and did her poorly, except that Elvis never heard this version. He heard the song being sung by a lounge act, loved it, and taught it to the band by ear based on their version. I’m guessing what he did with it is 50x more hip than the lounge version he and the boys were referencing.

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