Preacher and cat house pianist, Skip James personifies the contradictions that seem to permeate the blues. He was born Nehemiah James in 1902 in Bentonia MS. His fathe was - depending on who you believe, either a minister or a bootlegger. What is agreed is that James graduated from high school, and learned to play the guitar from the locally famous Henry Stuckey. The young Skip established himself as a traveling bluesman, playing work camps, farms and whorehouses. At this time, it seems, he was also a gambler. In late 1930 Skip was spotted by H C Speir - a talent scout for Paramount records, and Skip was despatched to their Grafton, Wisconsin studios. By this time, the company was near collapse. Even in good times was not Paramount's policy to record so many sides with an untried artist. Either James came cheap, or that he was seen as a musical prodigy who would save the company. In the event, the James sides sold badly - a few were not even released, and on their dissolution, Paramount destroyed all but a few masters, so that unissued material was lost. This, incidentally, also explains the poor quality of Paramount reissues - all the material is transcribed from poorly made 78rpm discs. Skip James' disillusion at being unpaid (Paramount might never have intended to pay him - they knew closure was imminent) was so great that he ceased working in the blues. He formed a Gospel group, the Dallas Texas Jubilee Singers to support his father, who now certainly was a preacher. In 1932 he was himself ordained as a Baptist minister, his career as a bluesman, he must have thought, now behind him. In 1964, James was coaxed from a hospital bed to perform at the Newport Folk Festival. The Blues Revival had found him. He died in 1969 of the cancer for which he had been hospitalized. Also featured are Son House, Bukka White, and Tommy Johnson - all Blues Stalwarts who made their own unique contribution to the genre.
Label: JSP Records
Release Date: 09/23/03
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