Geeshie Wiley – Last Kind Words Blues
American Primitive, Vol. II: Pre-War Revenants (1897 – 1939)

I discovered Geeshie Wiley’s “Last Kind Words Blues” while reading a piece from Best Music Writing 2009 anthology – John Jerimiah Sullivan’s Unknown Bards (the blues becomes transparent about itself.)  Sullivan detailed the rigorous, painstaking process of seeking, restoring, and analyzing forgotten American treasures/some of the oldest/rarest (country-blues) recordings on earth. Sullivan dedicated a great amount of time and attention to Geeshie Wiley’s “Last Kind Words Blues,” giving a deep and thoughtful analysis of the lyrics and singing with help from Pre-War Revenants curator/’American fingerstyle guitarist’ John Fahey.

“Last Kind Words Blues” is about a ghost-lover. When Wiley says “kind” -as in, “The last kind words I heard my daddy say” – she doesn’t mean it like we do; she doesn’t mean nice; she means the word in its older sense of natural (with the implication that everything her “daddy” says afterward is unnatural, is preternatural.) Southern idiom has retained that usage, in phrases involving the world “kindly,” as in “I thank you kindly,” which – and the OED bears this out – represent a clinging vestige of the primary, archaic meaning:[…]

Not many ciphers have left as large and beguiling a presence as Geeshie Wiley. Three of the six songs she and Elvie Thomas recorded are among the greatest contry-blue performances ever etched into shellac,, and one of them, “Last Kind Words Blues” is an essential work of American art, sans qualifiers, a blues that isn’t a blues, that is something other, but is at the same time a perfect blues, a pinnacle.

What you do to me, baby, it never gets out of me.
I believe I’ll see ya,
After I cross the deep blue sea.


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