Play the Blues Like: Elizabeth Cotten

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Few guitarists have had as much impact on fingerstyle folk and blues guitar as Elizabeth Cotten (1893–1987), the singer-songwriter whose songs have been covered by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, David Bromberg, the Grateful Dead, and many others. The folk crowd drew inspiration from Cotten’s songs in standard tuning, like “Freight Train” and “Mama, Your Papa Loves You,” as well as her instrumentals in alternate tunings, like “Spanish Flang Dang” (in open G) and “Vastapol” (open D). This lesson looks at some of the ideas and phrases that Libba, as she was nicknamed, would play in open G and D.

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