The Commuter Challenge

2 March 2015

The March 2015 Challenge

by CC @ 15:47

Compose and perform an original song in the style of the blues, gospel, or field holler. There are no restrictions on the matter of the lyrics, and in fact you are encouraged to explore beyond the normal range of subjects. The recorded song should be at least two minutes in length.

The Results

Brian Raiter

Bad Companion Blues

Ryan Finholm

Magic Faerie

Mike Hamrick

Ed the Revelator


  1. I listened to a Folkways recording titled “Prison Songs” to get an idea of the sorts of forms that existed inside the traditional blues, and wound up using one song in particular, “Tangle Eye Blues”, as my jumping-off point. Given my skill set, I figured I couldn’t realistically hope to sing in key with a musical instrument, so I looked for something I could sing solo, and relatively free-form in style. I recorded a handful of takes, and took what I thought was the best one. After I had uploaded everything and it was too late to call it back, I finally re-listened to my entry and was horrified at how awful it sounded. I don’t know why it sounded so different to me after the fact — but I guess it’s better than if it had been the other way round, because then I might not have submitted it at all.

    Fortunately for the challenge, my companions had much more accomplished and interesting entries. Kudos to both of them.

    by Brian — 3 April 2015 @ 19:25

  2. I listened a lot to Son House’s a cappella version of John the Revelator and tried to give it a modern spin. As the clock ran down, I took the first take I had where I made no obvious screwups and sent it off. After I listened to it with fresh ears, I was also horrified, but I’m happy to have finished.

    What I liked about Bad Companion Blues is that it captures a lonesome and resigned feeling. I feel it succeeds as an honest blues holler. I love love the lyrics on Magic Faerie and the churchy organ, great spin on a gospel tune. Well done all.

    by mikeh — 16 April 2015 @ 19:28

  3. The “blues, gospel, or field holler” genres involve an arguably limited set of musical options. More specifically, in order for them to be identifiable as fitting into those genres, there is a limited set of chord progressions to choose from. The individual expression and creativity has to come from the delivery and/or subject matter. It could also be argued that the subject matter is typically limited: blues songs are about the opposite sex, gospel songs are about jesus, and field holler songs are most often about work.

    I like the Violent Femmes’s version of “Jesus Walking On The Water”, so I decided to go that route. And of course I’m an empiricist and an atheist so I did an easy satire. I wanted it to sound more passionate, but I just don’t have that kind of delivery. Instead it sounds gimmicky.

    In comparison to the submissions from Brian and Mike, my song sounds like a Buggles first draft first take. Brian and Mike each achieved an impressively soulful delivery, and mine sounds robotic, gimmicky and unconvincing in comparison. I really enjoy and envy the submissions from Brian and Mike.

    by RyanF — 1 May 2015 @ 17:32

  4. BTW for anyone interested in an excellent (non-bluesgospelfieldholler) song with similar subject matter, check this out. I’ve been watching this one a lot lately:

    by RyanF — 2 May 2015 @ 13:10