James, Skip - Rare and Unreleased (special)
"Vanguard gave us a magnificent gift this year,with this issue of a complete unknown session by the very great Nehemiah "Skip" James (1902-1969),the most original master of the country blues. Born in Bentonia (like Jack Owens),Skip gave to the blues some of its greatest masterpieces: "Hard time killing floor blues","Cherry ball blues","Devil got my woman","Cypress grove blues". At this time,a very long time ago,these guys,who were often born in the same area,used to play in a totally different style from their neighbours.Skip James, Bukka White, Fred McDowell, Ishman Bracey, Rubin Lacey, Son House, Bo Carter, Charley Patton, John Hurt, Robert Pete Williams, just to name a few,they all play and sing the blues,but they all do it with their own style.Seems like the most important thing was to sound different from the others.Among these guys,Skip James certainly was the most original of them all.He played piano,and guitar,not in the usual tuning but always in his own minor tuning,and sang with a strange falsetto voice.
In this "new" record,you won't listen to Skip's well known tunes;he never recorded another version of most of these tunes. You'll listen to James P.Johnson's "backwater blues",Brownie McGhee's "sportin' life blues",a milestone in the blues history,the traditionnal "bumble bee" or "Mary,don't you weep",some great blues by Skip,like "my last boogie" or "Omaha blues",a bunch of gospels,like the very great "walking the sea",in which Skip sings with his wife,Lorenzo,and even...an Hoagy Carmichael tune,"lazy bones",which was also recorded by Louis Armstrong. And even if some of the most amazing blues tunes don't figure here (hard times,cherryball,cypress grove...),it's a real delight to hear one of the greatest blues artists playing and singing these unknown tunes.This session was recorded in 1967 for Vanguard; James commited two albums for this label,"Devil got my woman" and the fantastic "Skip James today",which is one of the most magnificent, amazing,incredible, superlative blues records ever done.Skip James' voice is just like Billie Holiday's or Jimmy Scott's: just like an octopus;when it takes you in its arms,you can't leave it.And Skip's guitar style is one of the most fascinating ones with Robert Pete Williams';he was a Master of the 20th century music.One of the most essential ones,like Duke,Coltrane,Monk,Robert Johnson or Charley Patton.You,american citizens,you have the privilege to belong to a country that gave to the world dozens of musicians who will always be among the absolute geniuses of music.Hope you won't forgive them.Among these geniuses was Nehemiah James;and this guy never recorded between 1931 and 1964. Neither did Mississippi John Hurt or Bukka White or Son House. I hope you'll be fascinated by this incredible music;of course,Skip's blues aren't the easier to listen to; it's as astonishing as listening to Monk for the first time;nobody never played guitar that way ("bumble bee"," Jack o'diamonds"). Totally fascinating and hypnotyzing,incredibly beautiful. Jump into Skip James' musical world !!!"-Jean-Marie Juif