Etta Baker was born in 1913 North Carolina. Etta played Piedmont Blues for ninety years, beginning before she could hold the guitar her dad gave her at age three. Her father, Boone Reid, taught his daughter the Piedmont Blues that he played, with Etta learning six-, and twelve-string guitar as well as banjo. Etta Baker stuck more to the guitar, becoming a key component of the Piedmont Blues scene and tradition in North Carolina, though she did not begin recording until 1956 when she and her father met Folk musician Paul Clayton.
Music Maker Relief Foundation reissued the Etta Baker disc, Railroad Bill, to re-acquaint the music of Etta Baker, whose legacy spans decades of American music from nineteenth century parlor songs through post-World War II electric Blues. Etta played every day, arranging and fine-tuning music. One sotry of her life tells about a twenty-one year old Bob Dylan visiting fellow Folkie Paul Clayton where he met and heard Etta Baker, returning to his NYC home to write “Don’t Think Twice”.
Another story told that Etta’s husband had traditional views of women in the home and refused to let her travel and perform away from home while another version says that Mr. husband was afraid of his wife’s beauty leaving his four walls. Etta never stopped playing her music. Taj Mahal cites that ‘This gracious grandmother was the source of a great deal of joy and surprise when I found that she still played guitar after I had heard her early recordings from the 60s. One of the signature chords of my guitar vocabulary comes from her version of "Railroad Bill". This was the first guitar picking style that I ever learned’.
Etta Baker has a light touch on the strings. There is gentleness in the high notes she coaxes from her guitar, while her bassline is sturdy, it’s strength supporting the playful fingerpicking. That style lies in the traditions of Piedmont Blues, a way of playing with an alternating thumb bassline keeping the rhythm against a more syncopated treble lead, in the style of ragtime music.
Railroad Bill offers the fingerpicking style of Etta Baker. The title track for the album holds hints of riffs and playing style that seem familiar, airing the depth of Etta Baker’s mark on music with her sound. The album features traditional tracks that have become an audio fabric covering the American Roots landscape with “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”, and “Don't Let Your Deal Go Down”. Etta Baker picks with an ease that blends the intricate stylings into one mood of sound. Etta Baker’s fingers take control of the tunes as they fly over “One Dime Blues”, duetwith a songbird outside the window while recording “Carolina Breakdown”, gusts with the breeze from “Chilly Winds”, shine and strum on “Sunny Tennessee”, and become the strong current carrying “Cripple Creek”.
Listen and buy the music of Etta Baker from iTunes or Musicmaker Relief website