Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Streets of Laredo

Magazine article Acoustic Guitar

Streets of Laredo

Article excerpt

In the memorable final scene of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the latest Coen Brothers film, the actor Brendan Gleeson sings an unaccompanied version of "The Unfortunate Lad" (aka "The Unfortunate Rake"), a number that represents an excellent example of the folk process at work. The song originated in the late 1700s as an Irish ballad and spawned many variations, including an American version, "Streets of Laredo" (aka "Cowboy's Lament"), in which an unlucky cowboy meets his untimely demise in Texas.

"Streets of Laredo" has received lots of great interpretations over the years, by artists such as Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, and Chet Atkins to name just a few. It's often played with just four chords-the I, the IV the V and the V/V or II- making it ideally suited for campfire play. The arrangement shown here, not based on a particular version, is in the guitar-friendly key of C major and uses the basic C (I), G (V), F (IV), and D (II) chords. …

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