I'm Troubled

Let's start our tour of this tune with the cut our own arrangement favors most. That would be the version recorded by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman on the CD you see to the right, Been All Around This World. (Acoustic Disc). Here's how they interpreted the song:

Audio Clip: Garcia and Grisman on I'm Troubled .

In that form, the song has come a long way from its apparent roots as a Negro Spiritual. There are several variations of it in that tradition. You can see the lyrics of one version below. Notice how they scan exactly like those of the secular Country version of Garcia/Grisman.

I'm troubled, I'm troubled
I'm troubled in mind
If Jesus don't help me I surely will die.

Oh Jesus, my Saviour, on thee I'll depend
When troubles come near me
You'll be my true friend

When ladened with trouble
And burdened with grief
To Jesus in secret I'll go for relief.

As similar as the lyrics may appear, the melody of the Spiritual versions I have found are somewhat different and they have all been much more somber in tone, as in the clip below. (If anyone can help identify the ensemble, please do.)

Audio Clip: I'm Troubled performed as a Spiritual

Some other early versions of the song were variations on I'm Going To Georgia. Which to some might suggest that Georgia is the next best thing to Jesus. I have no personal experience in the matter, but the Georgia Tourist Board should at least give it consideration as a motto. But I digress, and probably blaspheme, so I'll stop. I give you The Carolina Tar Heels, a popular string band in the Piedmont region during the late 1920' and early '30's.

Audio Clip: The Carolina Tar Heels on I'm Going To Georgia.


But more often these days you hear versions similar to the Grisman/Garcia take we heard first. Decades before them, brothers Bill and Earl Bolick—performing as the Blue Sky Boys—gave the song a very similar mandolin/guitar treatment. Apparently, that's where Doc Watson learned the song, so let's listen to a bit of both versions, shall we? Give particular attention to Doc's rhythm guitar, which is full of moving bass lines. You might not want to emulate this style with multiple guitarists—your fine, silken threads would no doubt end up in a tangle—but when you're the sole rhythm player you have it on Doc's authority that it's cool.

Audio Clip: The Blue Sky Boys on I'm Troubled, I'm Troubled

Audio Clip: Doc and Arnold Watson on I'm Troubled


Every decade or two, old time music becomes newly hip. We're at such a moment just now, and one of the groups responsible for the genre's rehippification is Crooked Still, who recently gave our tune a facelift. I leave it to your discerning ears and tastes as to whether the update constitutes an upgrade. Now I will grant you, and them, that this sounds way fun to play. Whether the funk groove suits the lyric...again, I leave to you. Regardless, check it out...

Audio Clip: I'm Troubled as performed by Crooked Still