How to Play: “The Man Upstairs”

Essentially, Sam decided to write an original EAB blues piece so that he’d have something that sounds like Folsom Prison Blues, but wouldn’t actually be Folsom Prison Blues, although we still play Folsom Prison Blues sometimes, if the mood is right. But then we don’t play this song in the same set.

Sometimes, you just gotta lay into an EAB. Works as any other 1-4-5, though, if you want to screw around with the key and see how it sounds. It’s not bad in A.

Verse 1
E
The man upstairs, he’s got a plan for me

A
The man upstairs, he’s got a plan for me (ee-ee)

E                      B7                    E
He told me he want me to be free

E
The man upstairs, he told me what to do

A
The man upstairs, he told me what to do (oo-oo)

E                      B7                    E
But he ain’t never told me about you

BREAK

Verse 2
E
The man upstairs, he says he likes me fine

A
The man upstairs, he says he likes me fine (i-ine)

E                      B7                    E
He told me to go ahead and get mine

E
Now the man upstairs, he don’t look quite right

A
The man upstairs, now, he don’t look quite right (i-ight)

E                      B7                    E
Got to get a look in that morning light

BREAK

Verse 3
E
Now the man upstairs, he’s got a grimace on his face

A
The man upstairs, he’s got a grimace on his face (a-ace)

E                      B7                    E
Got to get him some of that ‘mazing grace

E
Now the man upstairs, well he ain’t there no more

A
Yeah the man upstairs, now, he ain’t there no more (o-ore)

E                      B7                    E
Got to get me off of that ground floor (that’s right)

E                      B7                    E
Got to get me off of that ground floor

And finish with a big punctuation on the last hit of the E from the turn around. This is an indictment or organized religion we’re doing here. You’re kind of angry. But also giving yourself a little pep talk. You’ve beat him.

Anyway, give it a listen and see how you stack up:

How to play: “Gently Used”

This one is a barn burner. Sam wrote this one based on a text message he got from Angelique down in DC where she told a story about some kind of free box of stuff labeled “gently used,” and then commented that it would be a good name for a song. And so it was.

Verse: C [yep, just C]

Chorus: G C F C C G F C

Verse 1
C
I been beat up, kicked around

C
I spent my time in jail

C
I tried to woo you with love letters

C
Through the US Mail

Chorus
                 G                         C
I’m so glad that you found me

F                      C
Gently used, gently used

C                         G
I’m so glad that you found me

F                      C
Gently used, gently used

Verse 2
C
So what is it that I

C
Never got quite right?

C
Lead me down that yellow road

C
I’ll try with all my might

CHORUS

Verse 3
C
Sleepless nights and endless dawns

C
I’m always out too late

C
You think maybe I’ll come around

C
But I’m afraid it’s much too late

CHORUS

And finish the last chorus with a little, bump-bump-budda-bump-bump-bump, kind of finish. And arch your voice up a little in that last vocalization to let everyone know it’s the end.

How to play: “Kicked in the Shins”

Sam wrote this song mostly as a way to practice using his pinky to sweeten up chords when it wasn’t doing anything else, and so it’s a two-chord song that’s sorta three chords because you really need to play the C chord differently in the verse and chorus.

We’ll use pictures.

Verse: C (weird, see illustration below) G


But Sam keeps his pointer finger up on the B string at the first fret so he can move that pinky on the third fret around to sweeten and sour the chord at his discretion and not lose the voice of the C chord.

Chorus: C (normalish, as per below) G


Sam doesn’t normally play the C chord with the high E fretted at all, but he does use his pinky for that here, and he sees on the internets that lots of people do, thus “normalish.” He’s weird. Whatever. Do what you want. But it sounds cool if you use these two basic settings for C, and then just move your pinky around a lot, especially in the verse, over which the leads go if you’re playing with a band.

Also, it’s important that the leads retain the grouping of three back and forths between the C and G. That’s vital to the song. The whole “in threes” thing, even though the song is in 4/4.

Also, find someone to sing it with you. This is really a guy-girl duet and it will sound better that way. Unless the other person can’t sing, or you can’t, and then it will sound sucky, but no big deal on that. You’re just playing in your living room or whatever. It’s not like you’re ACTUALLY the World Famous Grassholes.  You’re just playing our songs.

Verse 1
C (weird)                                                                             G
Ever since you went away, the stars don’t come out at night

C                                                                                  G
Ever since you went away, the sun don’t shine as bright (oh no)

C                                                                                  G
Ever since you went away, my hands just don’t feel right

Chorus
C (normalish)
Ever since you went away

G
Ever since you went away

C
Ever since you went away

G
Ever since you went away

Verse 2
C (weird)                                                                     G
Ever since you went away, the tides just don’t come in

C                                                                                          G
Ever since you went away, I can’t tell my thick from my thin (oh no)

C                                                                                              G
Ever since you went away, I feel like I been kicked in the shins

CHORUS

Verse 3
C (weird)                                                                   G
Ever since you went away, I can’t seem to find my cat

C                                                                                                 G
Ever since you went away, I can’t seem to my head into my hat

C                                                                                         G
Ever since you went away, I can’t tell my this from my that

CHORUS

Coda
C (weird)                                                                                                  G
Ever since you went away, ever since you went away, ever since you went away

C (weird)                                                                                G
Why did you go away, why did you go away, why did you go away

C
Oh, baby come home

G
Oh, baby come home

And at the end there you sorta let the C and G ring out on those last “home”s and do a sorta a capella thing where you hold the “home” from the first line and then sing “oh, baby come home” all slow and important-seeming, holding the last “home” so it sounds like you’re a good singer. It works better as a duet, for real.

Check it out:

How to play: “Maybe”

This is the title track of sorts off of our second record, The First Time You Got Scared. It’s called “Maybe,” but that’s the first line of the second verse and Sam thought it sounded cool and so, voila, the name of a record. Nice of him to consult everyone.

Anyhoo … some of you may find this similar to just about every song that Bob Dylan wrote, but that’s kind of unfair since these are all the best chords and Dylan can’t just have them. You can make a lot of hay with these four chords. We recommend you learn them and keep them handy for other bluegrass and folks songs.

Verse: G D Am C G D C C

Chorus: G D Am C G D Am Am

Verse 1

G                               D                    Am                           C
Whaddaya gonna do, when it all comes down to you?

G                               D                             C                           C
Whaddaya gonna do when they’re gone?

G                               D                 Am                           C
Whaddaya gonna be when it all comes down to history?

G                               D                             C                           C
When you gonna find out what you want?

Chorus

G             D     Am C                               G
Maybe, oh, maybe you’re coming home

Am
Maybe you’re not

G             D     Am C                               G
Maybe, oh, maybe you’re coming home

Am
Maybe you’re not

Verse 2

G         D                    Am                           C
I saw you the first time you go scared

G        D                         C                           C
I saw you caught in a lie

G            D                          Am                           C
I saw it all when you’re pushed up against the wall

G           D                             C                           C
I think maybe I saw you die

CHORUS

Verse 3

G              D                   Am              C
You told me it would all be alright

G                      D                             C                           C
You told me things would be fine

G                     D                                   Am                           C
You said the one thing wrong was playing this stupid song

G                          D                             C                           C
You said you’d see me down the line

CHORUS

FINISH

In the last chorus, go a capella for the middle of three go-rounds. It sounds really cool if you don’t suck at singing.

Listen here and compare your singing to the Grassholes’!

How to play: “Janey”

The title track off The Outlaw Janey Jenkins, this was the first World Famous Grassholes song, written in 2003, just before birth of Sam’s first kid. It contains all his hopes and dreams for his daughter’s future. Or something like that.

Note that it’s important to start the song with a banjo “doo-doo-doo-doodle-doodle-doo” and then a bass “bum-bum-bum” walk up to the D. Very important. Like, you can’t play the song without it. Seriously.

Verse: D D C G (for as long as you’d like)

Chorus: A G A D A G A C/G

Verse 1

D                                                            C                      G
Janey cut a switchback down the steep mountainside

D                                C                 G
Faster to drive her car into town

D                                                C                      G
Asked about her methods, Janey up and lied

D                                                C                      G
Said I swear to God, those trees just fell down

Chorus

A                        G
Jane, oh she’s an outlaw

A                  D
Jane, she’s such a catch, yeah

A                             G
Jane, yeah she’s an outlaw

A                   C                     G
And, Jane, she’s coming home to you

Verse 2
D                                                            C                             G
Now Janey she’s a looker, so you know that no one cared

D                                                            C                             G
If she’d a been an ugly girl they’d thrown her straight in jail

D                                                                          C                        G
But she’s the cutest thing you’ll see, the boys all stop and stare

D                                                              C                      G
They put her picture in a frame and hang it on a nail

CHORUS

Verse 3
D                                                            C                   G
Janey drives a pickup, she does donuts on the ice

D                                                            C                     G
All the guys, they come around, just hoping she’ll drown

D                                                                          C                        G
But even when she’s going down, she can’t say nothing nice

D                                             C                      G
Says, “I swear to god, I’m too big for this town”

CHORUS
WICKED AWESOME JAM

Coda:

A                        G
Jane, oh she’s an outlaw

A                  D
Jane, she’s such a catch

And make sure you end all staccato on the “such a catch” finish and then mute your strings so it’s nice and crisp and clean. If you’re any good, everyone will finish at the same time.

Listen here and see if it sounds the same (or better!):