What I have on the menu for you today is a healthy helping of haunting–that is the haunting tunes of Skip James. Skip’s style is 100 percent his own. His voice is higher and more lonesome than a Bill Monroe nightmare, making lines like “I’d rather be the devil than be that woman’s man” tremble down your ear canal with an eerie chill. His finger picking style is also unique, sounding almost sloppy by intent, and carried away by the gentle tap of his big foot on decades worth of wood floors. Skip’s songs were first recorded in 1931, and was quickly forgotten until his rediscovery in 1964 as part of the blues revival, making this 1966 Newport performance all the more miraculous. The video I’ve provided shows three sides of Skip, the slow and spooky of “Devil Got My Woman,” the rough and tumblin’ “I’m so Glad,” which you may recognize as a song Cream covered, and the third song, which is pretty standard, but I actually don’t know. My favorite side of Skip is the spooky which he does so well, so for further listening I recommend “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” and “Sick Bed Blues,” they’ll send shivers down your spine.

By the way, see if you can recognize the other folks in the video–a few legends in there.

Today is the birthday of a great (deceased) blues man, Bill Broonzy. He would be 120 today, if he hadn’t been cut down at a young 65 by cancer. Bill’s blues were built on a foundation of traditional tunes and some of his own writings, and all were sang with a sweet mellow molasses voice over his expert finger style guitar. As a testament to Bill’s skill one need not look further than the fact that it was Bill who was signed up to replace the recently killed Robert Johnson in John Hammond’s 1938 “From Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall. Bill’s career spanned several decades, over which time he influenced generations of musicians, blues and otherwise–here’s to you Bill, happy 120

Doesn’t get as real down home delta as Son House. Son was a contemporary of Robert Johnson. If you don’t know who that is you may be lost in the internet. Son’s life was one of contradiction; alternating between periods as a preacher and one wailing incantations of the devil’s music, blues. He also was perhaps too big a fan of whiskey, but so it goes.

This song is a great example of Son’s distinctive rhythmic style, and a great example of his skill with the slide–one of my favorite weapons of blues. This song as been covered plenty, perhaps most notably by the White Stripes, but every one of those artists were just playing tribute to the master–he couldn’t be outdone. Son House is as real as the blues gets.