We loved the recent track Have You Ever Seen Peaches Growing on a Sweet Potato Vine? from Jake Xerxes Fussell’s second full-length album, What in the Natural World, which like its predecessor explores traditional songs from the American South, due out on 31st March via Paradise of Bachelors.
Now, the Durham, North Carolina singer and guitarist has shared Furniture Man, a desperate tale of poverty, dispossession, and imminent homelessness, as relevant and heartrending now as it was when first recorded in the 1920s.
As the man himself explains, “I learned “Furniture Man” from hearing the 1930 recording by Lil’ McClintock, who apparently was a street singer from South Carolina. I’ve been playing the song for years now, but I’ve always changed up the arrangement in little ways to keep it going. Some of the guitar playing I’m doing on this recording is based on some little treble riffs I learned in Mexico — nothing too advanced but they help the narrative roll along. Long before I’d heard McClintock’s recording I was already partially familiar with the story because I knew a version of “Cocaine Blues” that this guy Doug Booth from Dothan, Alabama, used to sing which included a verse about the furniture man and how he was “a devil without any horns.” I always loved that imagery. There are a lot of variants of the “furniture man” character out there in different folksongs. Country preachers even recorded sermons about the furniture man. The furniture man, the rent man, whatever you want to call him. The guy who’s always there to collect a debt of some kind, whether you really owe him or not. Devil without any horns. It was a big topic for a while there, and in many ways, it still is.”
It is a gem. Stream it here.