Elizabeth Cotten (January 5, 1895 – June 29, 1987)

“Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie” by Elizabeth Cotten [Folkways Recordings, 1957]

Admittedly I’m not much of a bluesman nor do I know much about the great Elizabeth Cotten. But I recently came across this gem of hers and found out today just so happens to be the 25th anniversary of her death.

Born in North Carolina, it’s said that she started playing banjo at age 8 before switching to guitar. Left-handed, she taught herself to play the guitar backwards (or upside down) and performed until she was in her late 80s. Not only that but her style, a plucking technique that sounds like multiple guitarists playing at once, was later dubbed “Cotten Picking”. Most of her work, bare-bones folky blues stuff, was recorded on reel-to-reel in her home and released on Folkways Recordings. “Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie” is the tune that turned me onto her; a striking, somber love song written and performed by Ms. Cotten 55 years ago that speaks to me more now than any modern love track ever could.

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