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Mississippi John Hurt


I owe him a lot. After I had picked up which fingers went where as regards fingerpicking I got a book published by Oak Publications (long gone now, I think) containing the notation (this was before the days of tablature) of this man’s tunes. And I learned and practiced just about every damn’ one. Even tried to sing them. “Stagolee” and “CC Rider” readily spring to mind. I spent so long with this book that his style has been irrevocably embossed onto mine – or the other way around. In fact, my style is largely predicated on his. Which is a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because it’s easy to learn and alternate bass fingerstyle sure provides your tunes with plenty of forward momentum, when needed.

The downside is that the very regularity of the thumb movement becomes so firmly embedded in the muscle memory that it can be hard to break out of without having to think about it. Or to put it another way: for a long time whenever I picked up my guitar and start noodling, I just fell into an alternating bass style which became limiting and frustrating after a while. It’s no longer as inevitable as it once was although when I’m putting together some up tempo stuff, it still permeates the results.

For a listener, the boom-chick-boom-chick of an alternating bass fingerpicking style can be infectious. For the player, recuperation can take a long time.