Two songs; “I Be’s Troubled” and “That’s No Way to Get Along” will all be analyzed for musical characteristics, delivery and accompaniment and the meaning of the lyrics.  The two artists of these songs are from the Mississippi Delta region and a similarity can be heard in the pieces because of the regional influences.  “The Delta style is characterized by a strong rhythmic pulse, the use of a slide with open tunings, and thumbed bass notes.”[1]  The first piece “I Be’s Troubled” by Muddy Waters is a great example of the Delta sound that would come to shape and influence the Chicago, Memphis and rock styles of music.  The opening of Muddy Waters’ piece is the wailing sound of a slide guitar.  The accompaniment sound at the beginning is a foreshadowing of the vocals to come.   Muddy Waters uses some more complex fills than heard in early blues music, but it is understandable as some of his most influential musicians were Son House, Robert Johnson, Jefferson, the Mississippi Shieks and Charley Patton.  “Muddy Waters listened to them all.”[2]  Although artists from different regions impacted him musically, they did not alter his style.  He studied the new sounds carefully, borrowed guitar riffs but always sounded Delta.  The song “I Be’s Troubled” is no different; it is heavily influenced by his Delta sound.  The whining guitar, the scooping vocals and flatted pitches, the story like lyrics are all characteristic of his sound.  Bernie Pearl, a blues musician, says: “It's a powerful don't-mess-with-me Mississippi Delta blues song with a slashing slide guitar riff that underlines a sense of rootlessness, bravado, jealousy and threat of violence conveyed in the lyrics.”[3]  The lyrics seem to hint at a relationship that no longer works.  The singer, Muddy Waters, is saying that he needs to leave the woman in the relationship because she has not been faithful. “I don’t need no telling, girl, I can watch the way you do.”  Obviously this line speaks about the infidelity in the relationship, as most songs tell of personal hardships or ordeals the musician has gone through.  

                The piece “That’s no way to get along” by Robert Wilkins is another great example of the Delta style of the blues.  Wilkins, like Muddy Waters, was born in Mississippi and was influenced greatly by the regional culture of the Mississippi Delta.  Wilkins’ piece was recorded first in 1929, and it sounds a bit more simplistic than Muddy Waters’ “I Be’s Troubled.”  His song starts out with a simple plucked bass note, followed by chord strums and a sliding effect.  The piece has a strong rhythmic feel and carries it through to the end.  The guitar however begins to become more complex throughout the piece if special attention is given to the accompaniment.  The sliding effect of the guitar sounds to be happening on beats 1 and 3, and truly add that special sound of the Delta blues.  The vocals are a little more melodic, but do feature sliding and scooping which is another common characteristic of the Delta Blues.   The lyrics of this piece of music are undoubtedly filled with double entendres.  Looking at the lyrics of the song, it would appear that this piece is simply about a love torn man that has ended his relationship.  However, the use of the term “low down” women instead implies something a little more risqué.  Low down women is more than likely a derogatory term for women that are un-discriminatory in their sexual intercourse.  Again, the line “treated me like my poor heart was made of rock or stone,” can again describe the nonchalant nature in which “working girls” would have acted.  Robert Wilkins interestingly was also an ordained minister and later changed the lyrics completely to remove the unholy words and align it more with a biblical theme, titling it the “Prodigal Son.”  Again the lyrical content, vocal and instrumental performances align with the characteristics of the Delta Blues.

                Although these two pieces come from different years and different musicians, many common elements can be found in both.  The regional influences of dialect, and culture greatly shaped the style of music we know as the Delta blues, and its impact can be heard in the many characteristics that have been described above.  The sliding guitars and performance practices of playing with a knife or bottleneck to mimic the singers voice is a very regional quality of the Delta Blues.  The vocal production of the singers is reminiscent of the field hollers and working songs that permeated the landscape of Mississippi.  Both songs seem to relate directly to the artist and are personal in nature, which again aligns with the characteristics of early Delta Blues.  The straightforward and poignant lyrics are easily related to by the performer and the listener.  The style of the Mississippi blues would go on to influence countless styles and musicians.  It’s laid back feel and simplistic harmonies are supplemented with great vocal and instrumental technique, that truly make the Delta Blues a style all of its own.

[1] Jas Obrecht. “A century of blues guitar” in The Cambridge Companion to theGuitar. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

[2] Robert Palmer.  Deep Blues. New York: Penguin Books, 1982.

[3] Robert Gauthier. Old School Bluesman honors the masters. La Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bernie19apr19,0,2490319.story?page=2 (20 July 2008).