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Elizabeth Cotten

Elizabeth Cotten was among the most influential guitarists to surface during the roots music revival era, her wonderfully expressive and dexterous fingerpicking style a major inspiration to the generations of players who followed in her wake. Cotten was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the early weeks of 1895. After first picking up the banjo at the age of eight, she soon moved on to her brother's guitar, laying it flat on her lap and over time developing her picking pattern and eventually her chording. By the age of 12 she was working as a domestic, and three years later gave birth to her first child. Upon joining the church, she gave up the guitar, playing it only on the rarest of occasions over the course of the next quarter-century. By the early '40s, Cotten had relocated to Washington, D.C., where she eventually began working for the legendary Charles Seeger family and caring for children Pete, Peggy, and Mike.

When the Seegers learned of Cotten's guitar skills a decade later, they recorded her for Folkways, and in 1957 she issued her debut LP, Folksongs and Instrumentals. The track "Freight Train," written when she was 12, became a Top Five hit in the U.K., and its success ensured her a handful of concert performances. The great interest in her music spurred her to write new material, which appeared on her second album, Shake Sugaree. As Cotten became increasingly comfortable performing live, her presentation evolved, and in addition to playing guitar she told stories about her life and even led her audiences in singing her songs; over the years, she recalled more and more tunes from her childhood, and in the course of tours also learned new material. Cotten did not retire from domestic work until 1970, and did not tour actively until the end of the decade. The winner of a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship Award as well as a Grammy -- both earned during the final years of her life -- she died on June 29, 1987. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Shake Sugaree

1. Shake Sugaree

2. Take Me Back To Baltimore

3. Washington Blues

4. I'm Going Away

5. Fox Chase

6. Ontario Blues

7. Fare You Well, My Darling

8. Untitled / George Buck

9. Mama, Nobody's Here But The Baby

10. Mama, Nobody's Here But The Baby

11. Look And Live, My Brother

12. Jesus Lifted Me

13. Jesus Is Tenderly Calling

14. Buck Dance

15. Ruben

16. Oh, Miss Lulie Gal

17. Can't Get A Letter From Down The Road

18. Shoot That Buffalo

19. Boatman Dance

20. Hallelujah, It Is Done

21. Holy Ghost, Unchain My Name

22. Little Brown Jug

23. Delia

24. Ball The Jack

25. Till We Meet Again

26. When The Train Comes Along

x

Track List: Freight Train And Other North Carolina Folk Songs And Tunes

1. Wilson Rag

2. Freight Train

3. Going Down The Road Feeling Bad

4. I Don't Love Nobody

5. Ain't Got No Honey Baby Now

6. Graduation March

7. Honey Babe Your Papa Cares For You

8. Vastopol

9. Here Old Rattler Here / Sent For My Fiddle Sent For My Bow / George Buck

10. Run...Run / Mama Your Son Done Gone

11. Sweet Bye And Bye / What A Friend We Have In Jesus

12. Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie

13. Spanish Flang Dang

14. When I Get Home

x

Track List: Elizabeth Cotten, Volume 3: When I'm Gone

1. New Year's Eve

2. Praying Time Will Soon Be Over

3. Time To Stop Your Idling

4. Gaslight Blues

5. Jenny

6. Street Blues

7. Home Sweet Home

8. Freight Train

9. Casey Jones

10. Willie

11. Boddie's Song

12. Wilson Rag

13. When I'm Gone

Comments

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luv this lady's style.roots
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Where did my comment too,hopefull y ta their hearts ???
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So great.....
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NC blues. The good stuff.
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On a return trip to Syracuse, NY, I learned about Elizabeth moving to my hometown just about the time I was leaving. My thanks to the good people at The Erie Canal Museum for telling her story.
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I heard about her for the 2nd time in many years when I was playing Bioshock Infinite. If you comment tell us if heard her song in Bioshock Infinite as well.
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every thing i got is done in pawne

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