Ceçi n’est pas un Blues!
Though it always sounds a little pretentious when someone says “I am an artist,” the reality is that as I mentioned previously, Whelan is an artistic endeavor. So therefore, it’s important to remember a little Picasso, a little Magritte when listening to our music. “Flood Waters Rising” really is not a blues album. It’s a blues-inspired album and the difference is important, because once you identify within a genre, you have a hard time breaking the rules of that genre and the element of artistry (in my view anyway) is therefore diminished. Technically there is only one true blues song on the disc, which is our adaptation of Fred McDowell’s “Frisco Lines.”
Even “Sittin’ on top of the World” isn’t fully a blues song because of the lack of repetition between the first and second lines of each stanza. It’s really a refrain song written over an 8-bar blues chord progression – so kind of a half-blues. Similarly “Fool’s Gold” is a refrain song written over a riff inspired by the sound of Muddy Waters’ electrified classics such as Mannish Boy and Rollin’ and Tumblin,’ but which throws in an F chord (“and the blues came around…”) that is completely out of left field for that type of music and owes as much to Leadbelly’s odd sonorities on “CC Rider” as it does to anything else. Speaking of that song, it is the perfect example of what inspired the musical side of the original songs on Flood Waters Rising – it both is an isn’t blues at the same time and has lyrical, structural and harmonic tricks in it that take it to a unique, compelling and artistically powerful place. The title track sounds like the Delta blues, yes but really it’s an AAB song that’s been abstracted and modified.
So when we get to the next disc, “Grandpa’s Rye,” inspiration will be the order of the day and it certainly will not sound like anything coming out of Nashville.