Elizabeth Cotten (1893-1987) occupies a unique niche in American fingerpicked guitar. Composer of the perennial favorite "Freight Train," she taught herself to play left-handed on her older brother's guitar (which was strung right-handed), leaving her playing not only left-handed, but upside down as well, picking alternating bass with her index finger and melody with her thumb. Her musical gifts might have gone unknown except to family and friends had not a chance meeting in a Washington D.C. department store resulted in her living with and working for the Seeger family, who were excited when they heard her music and enabled her to record.
What, then, is Elizabeth Cotten's sound? It is a beautifully flowing fingerpicked style with exceptional attention to the details of phrasing and voice leading. There is a strong improvisatory element too, because renditions of the same song performed throughout Libba's career are often surprisingly different from each other. This video includes rare film footage of Elizabeth Cotten performing all the songs that are taught, and the accompanying booklet includes TAB/standard notation transcriptions and lyrics of the songs. 102 minutes.