Travis Picking Fun with Rex's Blues (Townes Van Zandt / Ramblin' Jack Elliott)
Lesson #460 • Nov 22, 2022
In this week’s lesson, I’ll teach you a 3-part instrumental fingerstyle sequence inspired by the song Rex’s Blues. While Townes Van Zandt originally wrote & recorded this song, my inspiration is the Ramblin’ Jack Elliott cover featuring Emmylou Harris and Nanci Griffith.
Just like you hear in Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s cover, I’ll be using Travis Picking fingerstyle technique with a capo on 8th fret — using the chords G/C/D. While not a note-for-note recreation of what Elliott plays, I’ll incorporate many of the melodic flavors he’s utilizing — so you’ll sound just like him.
If you’re looking for something that’s fairly approachable while also presenting a bit of a fingerpicking challenge, this is a great one to pick up & get going with. Special thanks to Song Notes community member Ken P. for sending this one in. Let’s get to it!
Free Video Lesson
All 3 figures shown up-close, with tabs, without talking. Figures 1 & 2 are played twice each, before continuing. This shows the tabs I have in my PDF, to help you follow along. Requires membership to Song Notes Premium.
Instructional PDF 1 page
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Inspiration For This Lesson
This lesson was inspired by a request from Song Notes community member Ken P, who wrote in asking “I’d love to get a lesson on Rex’s Blues — the Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Emmylou, Nanci Griffith version. The intro is awesome.” I hadn’t heard this song before, to my knowledge — but was eager to give it a listen. Here’s the specific version Ken requested:
New to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott?
If you, like me, were totally unschooled on the topic of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, here’s a profile of him from CBS Sunday Morning (1999). This segment was put together shortly after his Friends of Mine album from 1998 was released. Great overview!
Other Versions of This Song
The original version of Rex’s Blues was written & recorded by Townes Van Zandt. Here’s his recording from the album Rear View Mirror:
And here’s the live version Townes recorded in Live from the Old Quarter:
And of course, many other folks have covered it! Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Kelsey Waldon, and others:
Check out my Travis Picking page for a summary of all my lessons that use this same picking style!
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