Crossroad Blues

Lesson Menu

If you've tried Milkcow Calf’s Blues and Terraplane Blues, the name of the game has been relatively straight forward accompaniment– those chordal sweeps on the 1 chord (not actual “sweep picking” but sweeps with the pointer finger), barres on the 4 chord with some bends peppered in, and a break for the 5 chord with that stark slide, returning back to the sweeps.

On Crossroads, really the way to think of it is as being very similar to the above, but with slide added in. With that in mind, sometimes you don’t play those 1 chord sweeps– instead you play lead lines with the slide, only to return back to to the accompaniment when you’re down in order to fill in the space. So, that’s really the key message. To always keep in mind what the accompaniment should be, then do your lead thing with slide, and know where to come back to in terms of accompaniment when you’re done, so that overall it’s a seamless process in the same way that he does it.

Although, making a blanket statement that it really just returns to the Milkcow Calf’s / Terraplane Blues isn’t wholly the case– he does vary things more in Crossroads, straying from the structure, more so than on most if not all of his songs– but using those moves and keeping them in mind for building your own ideas from is a workable rule of thumb.

Overall though, definitely just keep it loose with this one. Which usually means starting slow to get the muscles used to everything and the brain. And really, your version doesn’t necessarily have to be fancy like his if that’s not your thing– in that case, make your version simple and minimalistic. On the other hand, if you like lots of sound, maximize everything, speed it up, add a sudden break between choruses with a different chord progression to suddenly play an instrumental part over, etc.

Year of Recording
27 November 1936
San Antonio, Texas
Record Label
Vocalion 03519

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above, “Have mercy, save poor Bob if you please”

Mmmm, standin’ at the crossroad, I tried to flag a ride
Standin’ at the crossroad, I tried to flag a ride
Didn’t nobody seem to know me, everybody pass me by

Mmmm, the sun goin’ down boy, dark goin’ catch me here
Oooo ooee eeee, boy dark goin’ catch me here
I haven’t got no lovin’ sweet woman that love and feel my care

You can run, you can run, tell my friend boy Willie Brown
You can run, tell my friend boy Willie Brown
Lord that I’m standing at the crossroad, babe
I believe I’m sinkin’ down