Elizabeth Cotten And Viv Albertine

I was talking with a friend about my “Twelve Amazing Guitarists…” post this past Friday. She mentioned that she did not know who Elizabeth Cotten and Viv Albertine were. I thought I would link to a video for each of them.

I first encountered Elizabeth Cotten while learning finger-picking. Cotten wrote the incredibly challenging song, Freight Train. She was an impressive player, and actually played her guitar upside down, using her thumb to play melodies, and her index finger to run bass lines.

Viv Albertine has a solo album out now, and she has performed with the Raincoats and the New-Age Steppers. But what she’s best known for is as the guitarist and backup vocalist for the legendary punk group The Slits. The first several times I heard the Slits I had no idea what to do with them. Their songs were full of competing rhythms, multi-part vocals. They were dissonant and controversial. They were obnoxious. Really, all the things you want in a good punk band. This is an old video of them performing Heard It Through the Grapevine, and Albertine is the blonde being interviewed at the beginning. It’s followed by their video for Instant Hit.


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