THE HOUSE OF THE RIS­ING SUN

Tra­di­tional folk-blues

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

The An­i­mals did a bril­liant Bri­tish R&B take on this bal­lad of a Ca­jun bor­dello, but here Stu­art of­fers his solo gui­tar take on the trad leg­end.

Think of House Of The Ris­ing Sun and it’s im­pos­si­ble not to imag­ine The An­i­mals’ ver­sion of the tune. With Hil­ton Valen­tine’s arpeg­giated Gretsch intro chords (that every­body had to learn as their six-string rite of pas­sage in the 60s), Eric Bur­don’s fan­tas­tic vo­cal de­liv­ery, Chas Chan­dler’s thump­ing Epi­phone Rivoli bass and of course that un­for­get­table or­gan solo from Alan Price. How­ever it is ac­tu­ally a tra­di­tional Amer­i­can folk song (some even be­lieve it to be a tra­di­tional English folk song that was taken over to the States and turned into a blues num­ber), and has been recorded by artists as di­verse as Bob Dy­lan and Nina Si­mone. Even The Bea­tles did a ver­sion. One of our favourites is by the black acoustic blues man Josh White, whose heart­felt rendition takes some beat­ing. White’s 1947 record­ing predates The An­i­mals by 17 years, it also sticks to the orig­i­nal narrative which talks about a New Or­leans brothel, not a gam­bling den as Bur­don, Price and co had it.

For the solo acoustic gui­tar player, songs like this can ei­ther be a great bonus or a hin­drance: a bonus as the sim­ple melody of­fers many ar­range­ment pos­si­bil­i­ties; a hin­drance as the man in the street is so used to hear­ing that first arpeg­giated A mi­nor chord that he may look at you strangely if you do any­thing dif­fer­ent.

How­ever, it is a sure fire win­ner to have in the reper­toire as its uni­ver­sal ap­peal and in­nate bluesi­ness means that it should find favour, what­ever the au­di­ence.

So how do we go about ar­rang­ing such an iconic piece of mu­sic? I de­cided to take two dif­fer­ent ap­proaches: firstly to imag­ine how a Travis picker such as Tommy Em­manuel might ap­proach it and then to tip a hat to The An­i­mals’ record­ing and use some ar­peg­gios but with more so­phis­ti­cated voic­ings and phys­i­cal stretches, as a jazz gui­tarist like Martin Tay­lor might do.

If you are new to Travis pick­ing this ar­range­ment will give you a great op­por­tu­nity to work on the tech­nique as the melody notes are quite long and you can re­ally fo­cus on putting the bass line and top melody to­gether. If you are al­ready a Travis picker you won’t en­counter too many prob­lems, but it’s worth thinking about the tail end of the ar­range­ment where you can try your rolling ar­peg­gios on some tricky chords – re­mem­ber that with all gui­tar styles the fret­ting hand should be able to play any­thing it is re­quired to, and big­ger stretches must be over­come. When play­ing the chords make sure ev­ery­thing rings out so the melody can be clearly heard against the un­der­ly­ing har­mony.

It’s re­ally worth tak­ing a sim­ple song like this and re-ar­rang­ing it (and check out Josh White’s ver­sion with its blue­sier chords). En­joy learn­ing this ar­range­ment, but do use it as a spring­board for your own ideas.

JOSH WHITE’S 1947 RENDITION PREDATES THE AN­I­MALS BY 17 YEARS; IT ALSO STICKS TO THE ORIG­I­NAL NARRATIVE THAT TALKS ABOUT A NEW OR­LEANS BROTHEL!

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