Spin That Vinyl : Skip James


I discovered Skip James some days ago. Having listened to Blues by artists like BB King, Muddy Waters, Clapton, Robert Johnson and Son house for a few years now, I guess this feeling of discovering a new facet of the Blues must have been similar to how Americans felt when James’ recordings made in 1930s, that went unnoticed due to the great Depression resurfaced in the 1960s.

Not meant for the jukebox style of blues dance music, Nehemiah Curtis James’ songs are brutally honest and sound dark and eerie with falsettos that pierce your soul. He thought of music as a tool for self expression and not something that caters to the need for entertainment of other people. And boy, Is this self expression disillusioned with merry making and joy of any kind or what. Most blues records while being sad in their lyrics often have a dance friendly rhythm and melody but James’ songs evoke the mood that blues as a mood is generally thought of as.

Like most Delta Blues artists, James performed on his own with an accompanying guitar. Check out his finger picking virtuosity and strange guitar tuning (Open E, for the nerds) and lyrics about personal hardships.

We recommend “Devil Got my Woman”, “Cypress Grove Blues”, “Hard time killin floor blues”, “Illinois Blues”, “Drunken Spree” and “Hard Luck child” from the album The Complete Early Recordings of Skip James.


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