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Skip James

“Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”

If you love the roots of the blues, you love Skip James, the Edgar Allan Poe of American blues. Skip was born in 1902 in the Mississippi Delta, smack dab in the heart of the blues. He grew up working as a laborer who built levees, and he eventually became a bootlegger.

His musical style is extremely dark and mysterious, which is his defining characteristic. His almost exclusive use of minor chords intrigued Paramount records enough to get him in a studio to record a few tracks. As a result of the Great Depression the records barely sold any copies. While Skip enjoyed success in the last 5 years of his life, most of his notoriety came after his death when the “blues revival” movement took off in the mid-1960s.

Skip James was known to be an aloof and moody person. “Skip James, you never knew. Skip could be sunshine, or thunder and lightning depending on his whim of the moment” commented author and musicologist Dick Spottswood on James’s personality. He seldom socialized with other bluesmen and fans. Additionally, James loathed the so-called “folk” scene of the 1960’s. He held a high regard for his own work and was reluctant to share musical ideas with other performers, which may as well have been the case because it’s doubtful anyone could come close to doing what he did.