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.