Search - Skip James :: Complete Early Recordings

Complete Early Recordings
Skip James
Complete Early Recordings
Genres: Blues, Pop
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #1

With an unmistakable falsetto delivery, Skip James created some of history's eeriest blues records. His blues sounds dark and mysterious, using odd tunings, structures, and rhythms, and exploring gloomy lyrical themes. Un...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Skip James
Title: Complete Early Recordings
Members Wishing: 6
Total Copies: 0
Label: Yazoo
Release Date: 9/15/1994
Genres: Blues, Pop
Styles: Delta Blues, Traditional Blues, Acoustic Blues, Piano Blues
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 016351200921, 803680474150

With an unmistakable falsetto delivery, Skip James created some of history's eeriest blues records. His blues sounds dark and mysterious, using odd tunings, structures, and rhythms, and exploring gloomy lyrical themes. Unlike other bluesmen of the day, James's music was personal and bleak, played for his own emotional release and not for purposes of entertainment. "Devil Got My Woman," "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues," "Hard Luck Child," and "Special Rider Blues" convey sorrow and misery like few others can. Uptempo numbers such as the classic "I'm So Glad" and "Drunken Spree," which resembles the hillbilly traditional "Late Last Night," showcase his forceful guitar picking while rags "Little Cow and Calf" and the jumpy "How Long 'Buck'" feature his unique piano work. --Marc Greilsamer

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CD Reviews

Some of the Most Intense and Moving Recorded Sound
Francis Flannery | 04/02/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The eighteen songs presented on this CD may, if allowed, cause the listener to re-define their standards of what personal expression in music might be. Skip James' music has been called strange and idiosyncratic. If these terms are adequate to describe sound that resists all attempts to pigeonhole and categorize, than perhaps they apply. These surviving sides, recorded in Grafton, Wisconsin, in 1931 (not 1930 as the title of this disc would indicate, the only flaw in this otherwise perfect presentation) show James as someone who chafed against existing musical idioms. Rather than subscribe to a pat or pre-figured means of communication, Skip James created his own unique means of expression through sound, depicting a unique world-view in an equally unique series of sonic vignettes, each one full of beauty and terror. We have come to regard James as a blues musician, although very little of this music fits into the conventional blues idiom. This music embodies the sense of pain and the desire to transcend that pain that most blues music supposedly (but seldom actually) expresses. The songs address living with an unabashed intensity. They speak of surviving economic hardship, lost love, reckless living, and travel. They sometimes aspire to salvation, although this salvation always seems distant or chimerical. The world they articulate is one suffused with pain, joy and the threat of violence. In this, James' music is a very distant cousin to Guns n' Roses Appetite For Destruction, another group of songs founded upon a desire to live life in spite of extreme self-loathing. To critique the audible surface noise present on the 78 source records is a bit like dismissing a Vermeer painting because the paint has crazed slightly in the centuries since it was painted. In some cases, Yazoo has used the only surviving copy of an original 78 as source material. Given these parameters, this disc sounds wonderful, especially when compared with other versions of these same recordings that have been previously available . Skip has sometimes been compared with Robert Johnson - but their similarities are superficial, and comparisons between them most often stem from their common apocalyptic imagery and use of the Devil as an overt lyrical presence. Robert Johnson was a dance musician. His arrangements prefigured the band-driven sound of postwar electric blues. Skip James' music is not for dancing - his rhythms are frequently changing within songs and even within measures. It is impossible to imagine him recording with other musicians - the very private and exclusive essence of his expression precludes collaboration. His entire being, as evidenced in his sometimes ethereal, sometimes in-your-face guitar and piano playing, was devoted to finding a personal course of survival in a world plagued on all sides by hardships. If you open yourself to this sound, you may find the most personal and private of rewards. If the music is not enough, I recommend reading Stephen Calt's provocative and engrossing biography of Skip James, "I'd Rather Be The Devil: Skip James and the Blues" (Da Capo, 1994)."
The Historic Collection
Caesar | college | 10/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For any fan of blues or "old-timey" music, Nehamiah "Skip" James' early recordings are essential.What we have is every surviving cut James recorded for Paramount way back in the 1930s. Together, these provide perhaps the most emotional and musically complex pieces of the era. Foremost, James was an exceptional guitarist and while the blues format is inherently simple, he adds a prodigy's complexity to the basic structure.But his voice is what grabs you. In each song, he expresses fragility and heartbreak like no other bluesman, perhaps surpassing even his famous contemporaries Son House and Robert Johnson. His eerie falsetto combined with hair-raising moans will make any listener shiver.On several of these tracks, James puts down the guitar and plays piano--and while I'm not a traditional fan of piano blues, I cannot under-appreciate his ingenuity on the keyboard. Abandoning all standards, James will literally bang the keys before breaking the rhythm, all while stomping a beat with his feet. I feel sorry for the poor sap who attempts to transcibe his songs.They're all here, folks: "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" of recent "O Brother" fame; "Devil Got My Woman"--my personal favorite, it's opener is the best line of any blues song ("Lord, I'd rather be the devil than be that woman's man..."); "22-20 Blues"--the basis for Robert Johnson's "32-20"; "Cypress Grove", "Cherry Ball"; so many greats.A few will complain about the sound quality. But I can't. The guys at Yazoo have done a tremendous job of removing as much of the hisses and pops as possible, and frankly, I think these songs sound pretty darn good. But keep in mind that this isn't the album you are going to test out on your new $10,000 stereo. No, the historical significance and sheer musical genius are what make this CD essential.Words can only say so much. If you have the slightest appreciation for music, you will not be disappointed."
Why cant we give it 50 stars
Tony Thomas | SUNNY ISLES BEACH, FL USA | 05/15/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you thought the "revival" records and performances Skip James did in the 1960s were good, these originals are on an entire different level. They are so deep musically, dramatically, emotionally, rhytmically, they are so unique, they are such complete works of art, that as several other reviewers have pointed out, that they are NOT for light listening, they are NOT for the faint of heart, they are NOT for those whose dont like original African American or traditional folk music, they are NOT for people who can't appreciate great art. James plays with a unique major-minor style and rhythmn native to the small area of Mississippi he came from. Yes, there are other players in that area, few recorded, who played in the same modal blues style that skip played and played some of the same tunes.

However, no one can can get you as deep out in the Mississippi Midnight you might not ever come back alive Piney Woods nights of love, death, struggle and pain as Skip James does. As excellent as Robert Johnson is, his music is easy listening music compared to this!"