Chord Substitutions On Mississippi John Hurt

 

Exotic Is Relative

I spent most of this week in Florida. As a kid growing up outside of Boston, that would have sounded unspeakably exotic to me, only toppable, if that's a word, by the idea of Hawaii or Bermuda. In my twenties, I drove with a friend from New Jersey straight down the eastern seaboard in a day, and I remember finally piling out of the van after however many hours to get gas in North Carolina. The roads had been so iced over up north that while we'd been stuck in traffic on the turnpike, a semi had begun gradually sliding sideways into our lane and we'd nearly had a slow-motion collision with about twenty thousand pounds of ornamental shrubbery. But now, just hours away, the air was warm and humid, and only getting warmer with each stop. The idea that, for all those years of waiting for summer to arrive, we could have simply hopped in the family car and driven to it, made my twenty-something head explode.

Now that I live in Austin, there's nothing especially exotic about 80 degree weather in April. In fact, I was disappointed to hear that I missed out on a big cold front and rainstorm while I was away, which just goes to show it's all a matter of perspective. (As is the whole idea of what qualifies as "cold," but let's not go there.) Speaking of perspective (see how I did that?), there are certain chord substitutions that are more or less routine in the jazz world which sound positively exotic when applied to a Mississippi John Hurt sort of I-IV-V. In this week's lesson, I illustrate how to dress up the first four bars of an alternating-thumb blues in C with a little jazz exoticism.

Tomorrow, I'm off to perform and hang out at the Texas Fingerstyle Guitar Association concert and gathering in Salado, Texas. If that's not exotic, I don't know what is.

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