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The Very Best Of

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Album Review

Skip James' soft eerie falsetto and odd guitar tunings place him apart from other Delta blues players, and when he took a turn at the piano, that, too, was unique. His reputation rests on 18 sides he recorded for Paramount Records in Grafton, Wisconsin, in 1931, but James also had a brief second act when he was rediscovered in the 1960s with his guitar and singing skills still intact. He recorded for several small labels and played the folk and blues college coffeehouse circuit until his death in 1969, and if his legacy wasn't expanded by his rediscovery years, neither was it diminished. This set contains several of his classic 1930s tracks, including "Devil Got My Woman," "I'm So Glad," and "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues," but it also features versions of these three songs recorded live in the 1960s, ample proof that James lost little of his talent in those 30-plus "lost" years.


Born: 21 June 1902 in Bentonia, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

Among the earliest and most influential Delta bluesmen to record, Skip James was the best-known proponent of the so-called Bentonia school of blues players, a genre strain invested with as much fanciful scholarly "research" as any. Coupling an oddball guitar tuning set against eerie, falsetto vocals, James' early recordings could make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Even more surprising was when blues scholars rediscovered him in the '60s and found his singing and playing skills intact....
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