Week 66:
Beulah Land

Mississippi John Hurt
The Song
Beulah Land is a very old and well known hymn written in the 1800s and it seems to be the source for this tune. This version is very different to the hymn, but I haven’t been able to find any information about the origins of this version. It is listed as ‘traditional’ when it first appeared on John Hurt’s 1963 album ‘Today’.
The song is in the key of E, in standard tuning, and uses the familiar I IV V chords of blues. It’s a 16 bar progression that pretty much follows the same ideas the entire song. There is a bit of natural variation due to the pace and amount of notes that are being played.
It’s a great example of MJH’s superior finger picking technique, it’s very fast with an alternating bassline and features some great momentum behind his voice. It is also a great example of using the tones of the major scale to great effect – it is what gives the song it’s feeling of triumph and glory. John slides up to a double stop based on a D chord shape to accentuate the majorness of the E chord in bars 3 and 11, and he’s hitting the major 6ths on the relative chords whenever he is changing chords.
John uses a technique with the E chord that he uses in a few other songs. On beat 1 he plays the bass low E, then on the off beat he hits the open G string to hammeron the the major 3rd on the 1st fret, but he times it so the hammeron hits right on beat 2 and he plays another bass note at the same time. It’s hard to get used to, but it is a great little delayed sound to add to your trick bag.
There is one super tricky – at least for me – section where he plays some quick hammerons on the off beat while alternating bass notes in bar 8. The song is quick with a lot of notes and will take a lot of practice to get smooth. Start slow – despite the fast pace the song has a fluid and relaxed feel to it – and gradually build up speed as you get more comfortable with it.
The Lyrics
E
I got a mother in Beulah Land outshine the sun
A                                                            E
I got a mother in Beulah Land outshine the sun
E
I got a mother in Beulah Land outshine the sun
B7           E
Way beyond the sky

Yes come on and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun
Come on and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun
come on and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun
Way beyond the sky

I got a father in Beulah Land outshine the sun
I got a father in Beulah Land outshine the sun
I got a father in Beulah Land outshine the sun
Way beyond the sky

Yes come on and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun
Come on and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun
come on and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun
Way beyond the sky

I got a sister in Beulah Land outshine the sun
I got a sister in Beulah Land outshine the sun
I got a sister in Beulah Land outshine the sun
Way beyond the sky

Yes come on and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun
Come on and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun
come on and go to Beulah Land outshine the sun
Way beyond the sky
The Progression
First two bars are only played in the intro.
$4.2.$3.1 $6.0 $4.2.$3.1 | $6.0 $4.2.$3.1 $6.0 $4.2.$3.1 |
Verses
$6.0 $3.0h $4.2.$3.1 $2.0 $6.0 $2.2 0.$4.2.$3.1 $2.2 | $6.0.$1.0 $4.2.$3.1 $1.0 $6.0 $4.2.$3.1.$2.0.$1.0 | $6.0.$1./4 4.$3.4 $6.0 $1.0.$2.0 $1.2.$3.2 | $6.0.$1.0 $4.2.$3.1 $1.2 $6.0 $1.2 $4.2.$3.1 |
$5.0 $2.1 /2.$4.2 $1.0 $5.0 $2.2 $4.2.$1.0 | $5.0.$1.2 $4.2 $1.0 $5.0 $1.0 $4.0h2 $2.0 | $6.0.$1.0 $4.2.$3.1.$1.0 $6.0 $2.2 $4.2 $2.0 | $6.0 $3.1 $5.2 $3.0h1 $6.0 $3.0 1.$4.2 |
$6.0 $2.0 $4.2.$3.1 $2.0 $6.0 $2.2 $4.2.$3.1 $2.0 | $6.0.$1.0 $4.2.$3.1 $1.0 $6.0 $4.2.$3.1.$2.0.$1.0 | $6.0.$1./4 4.$3.4 $6.0 $1.0.$2.0 $1.2.$3.2 | $6.0.$1.0 $4.2.$3.1 $6.0 $4.2.$3.1 |
$5.2.$1.4 $3.4 $1.4 $6.0 $1.0 $3.2.$1.2 | $6.0.$1.0 $4.2.$3.1 $6.0.$1.2 $4.2.$3.1 | $6.0.$1.0 $4.2.$3.1 $1.0 $6.0 $2.2 $4.2.$3.1.$1.0 0 | $6.0 $4.2.$3.1 $6.0 $4.2.$3.1 |
MJH plays an interlude between each verse. When he’s going into the interlude he cuts off the last half of the last verse. The other thing he does differently is he plays the major 3rd to the 2nd on the high E in bar 4 – instead of playing the 2 big melody notes on the 2nd fret of the high E, he plays the first on the 4th fret then switches to the 2nd fret. During the A section he sometimes plays the low E and A as the bass notes.
To end the song, hit a big E chord.
More about Mississippi John Hurt
Biography

16 thoughts on “Beulah Land

  1. Hi Rob,

    How about another Sam Chatmon song? “Cold Blooded Murderer” that slow blues in A from the Alan Lomax archive (1978).

    Harry

  2. Thanks so much for this!
    What a great resource.
    Love all the background information. This really helped me appreciate this music more.

  3. I have to say this cllection of good songs and the part of backgrounds about the artists and about the songs,
    made this site to be my top favorite sites on the web right now, and one of the best ever exist…
    keep the good work, you make people happy πŸ™‚

  4. It would be amazing if you can do Bo Carter’s “babe i want you to know”, i never figured out how to play it properly πŸ™‚

    • Hi Federico,

      Nice tune! I’ll see what I can do but I’m not updating the site as much as I should be – apologies I’ve replied so late.

      I’ll let you know when Ive got something down.

  5. Thanks again for all your works…epic!
    I really like Big Bill Broonzy & Stump Blues, any chance you can make Joe Turner Blues & How you want It Done happen?
    Best regards,
    Ben.

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