Thursday, September 10, 2020


I am so uncertain as to whether there are any songs about e-mails that I am not going to look. Any complaints about that, send me a S.A.E. for my nuanced response. I like letters, yet I cannot recall the last time I either sent or received one, other than electronically. Even birthday and christmas cards seem but a fond memory, as even aged aunts resort to social media to mark their notice of such milestones. So, what then is the purpose of a postal service, mail and mailmen (and women)? Junk, bills and amazon deliveries seems to be the answer. Given at least one of our small and loyal band of posters works in a country where such luxury no longer exists, how long, I wonder, will the rest of us be graced by the regular tap tap tap of the postman's knock? And will that demise be hastened by the opinion of the extravagantly haired buffoon (U.S. version) wanting to knock postal voting out the ocean?

Time then to remind ourselves of the power of the post: the excitement and anticipation of writing and sending a letter to a loved one, awaiting, with baited breath, for a response. And then? Tell me text is as poignant, e-mail as effective, and I'll tell you different. Far too quick, too instant: where's the build up of hope, increasing by the day, layer upon layer. And supposing then, like this song, you then get this reply?

Since the gruff tones of Alex Chilton helmed the original Boxtops version, back in 1967, this song has been covered oodles, often from similarly chalky voiced singers, most attacking the lyric at the same lick. Walking in Memphis hitmaker Marc Cohn gives it a slightly less frantic approach, a sense of quiet determination rather than the breakneck rush of the original. I like it and hope he got there safe.

But it isn't always so simple, as Richard Thompson so exquisitely describes. A rousing song he still finishes most live shows with, it has a real zydeco vibe to it, many folk learning of the song through the version by cajun squeezeboxer Jo-El Sonnier. But prior to that, swamp rocker Jerry Williams had released the featured version, again, as with 'The Letter', a less frantic version, one that swings, perhaps like a pendulum of the emotions brought on by the letter in question. I say swamp rocker because that's what Williams sounds like, and an assumption I certainly initially made. In fact, he was a Swede, most of his career based there, as early rock'n'roll enticed the youth of his homeland just as much as the rest of the world. As a bonus, here is a link to the great RT, knowing he has fans here, this being from David Sanbourn's great 80s/90s TV show, Night Music, and which features him, alongside both Thompson and the above mentioned Sonnier.

Worse still than any reply, is the spectre of no reply, insult added to by the injury of having the letter you first sent dropped back to your door. Classic Elvis is the template, obviously, but I enjoy this curiously upbeat version, coming from the possibly little known Dave Kelly. However, if you are familiar with UK blues maestros, the, um, Blues Band, fronted by ex-Manfred Mann frontman and BBC radio blues broadcaster Paul Jones, you will recognise the voice and the slide guitar of Kelly. Sticking with a mail theme, here is that band, with a Son house classic.

You can find these songs yourself, but maybe won't think of this.....

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