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I think thats where it comes from when he plays it, if i could play Dark was the night with that feel and emotion and never play anything else i would be happy both versions are amazing, easy enough to learn(the tabs are out there) but very difficult to play, wolvoboy
I have an excellent tab that a friend helped me sort out. I found both Ry's tab and the Blind Willie Johnson tab on the net. I sent them to my friend Hiroshi in Japan he's a big Chris Whitley fan and a big National guitar fan. Hiroshi made some corrections to the tab and emailed it to me. IMO he's nailed it. I'd be happy to share it with you, send it to you. Just send me a private msg. I worked on Dark is the night for more than a month, getting those little nuances worked out. That's why my wife was pulling her hair out. I must've listened to both versions a thousand times ...
You might be interested in Roberto Luti's atmospheric electrified resonator version, if you are not aware of it:
I don't think Johnson played a resonator, reportedly a Stella or Hawaiian Conservatory, both of which had a distinctive sound - wonderful to my ear - and I don't know but I think Ry Cooder's probably an electric.
Now worries mate .....I love Ry's slide work .....and man that Martin is sweet .......I have an mp3 interview with Ry where he talks about that guitar. It was one of the first guitars he ever owned ....He say's he can't explain the sound of it, and people, luthiers have tried to reproduce it with no luck ....Ry has seen copies of it and even played a few, but none ever lived up to his.
I struggle to listen to other people’s rendition of that BLJ tune. Almost every time I’ve listened to someone playing it, they slide up to the Major 3rd note on the 1st string (4th fret), giving it a very Major 3rd feel. This is totally wrong. BWJ doesn’t play it like that. He plays that note MUCH flatter, almost Minor 3rd, BUT not quite. There is a gulf of difference in the tone and feel of the whole song that hardly anyone seems to get right, which takes them MILES away from how the original song sounds.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone play that right. And I don’t think I’d ever dare try to play that song live. I could never do it justice.
When I was young I'd copy note-for-note something but only for the purpose of learning but then I never played it exactly that way. When I want to play a song I love, I listen to it a lot and try to understand why I like it and which are the magic bits that make the music memorable and catchy. It might be a part of the melody, or just a single line, or the way the melody lies with the rhythm. Whatever... And then when I make my own version I try to retain those bits and what I feel is the magic, and hope for the best.
There are certain pieces of music, though, that I very rarely play live, expecially some very emotional blues songs. “Dark was the night...” among them. It would take me to dark places and I probably would stop in the middle of it. “Hard time killing floor” is another one I'd struggle... It's a personal thing and I respect musicians who want to have a go at it but... it's just...me. And when I listen to a cover I want the musician to make me feel it, or else (for certain songs) I'd feel very disappointed... I hope you got my point of view. Frank