There’s something to be said for anyone in the modern era attempting to play a credible version of any Sam Chatmon song. In the wrong hands, his done-wrong Delta blues can come across as cartoonish rather than heartfelt. But even though they’re about 100 years younger than Chatmon, Clarence and Will surprised me with this version of “Who Gonna Love You Tonight.”
I was walking back from filming the Asheville Holiday Parade on a surprisingly warm November day, when I saw two guys setting up in front of the Iron Sculpture. Both were dressed as if it was a good ten degrees cooler than it was, and putting on a great show of being barely interested in the tip-bearing crowd passing by. They’d clearly spend some time developing their old-time musician personas, from Dust Bowl-hinting clothing to their practiced, skeptically detatched drawls.
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And I’ll give them a lot of credit, it was pretty convincing. The hand-rolled cigarettes, the farmhand-style overalls and jeans, the work-out hats made the look, while the half-bored attitude made them seem to all the world that they were old souls and veterans of too many hard-luck stories to remember, let alone channel into song. (It was a fun illusion, but it’s hard to not crack a smile when the down-at-the-heels musician drops a hint that he’s got a professionally recorded CD of his work that he’ll sell you for $15.) They were playing it cool, even replying that the only way people could find more of their work was to give up looking online and “Come to Sandy Mush and knock on a lot of doors.”
Writing this updated post in 2012, almost two years since I recorded this video, I really regret not getting another few songs from these two. I’ve run into Clarence Gallagher a few times since, but this was the only time I recorded Will (whose last name I still don’t know). This is a really good tune played by two guys who clearly have a knack for interpreting the Delta blues. Maybe some day I’ll get another chance.