Nehemiah Curtis James

b. June 9th, 1902 in Bentonia (Mississippi) or June 21st, 1902 in Yazoo City (Mississippi)

d. October 3rd, 1969 in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)

THE COMPLETE 1931 SESSION

Yazoo

COMPLETE 1931 RECORDINGS

Document

THE COMPLETE 1931 RECORDINGS

Body & Soul

I'D RATHER BE THE DEVIL

Rev-Ola

February 1931

Né sur la plantation Woodbine, son père Edward était prêcheur (et contrebandier d'alcool) et sa mère Phyllis cuisinière. Le jeune Nehemiah James est marqué par Henry Stuckey, un bluesman influent de la région qui n'a jamais été enregistré. Il gagne sa vie comme métayer ou contrebandier d'alcool tout en jouant de la musique localement avec Stuckey. Capable de jouer de la guitare mais aussi de l'orgue et du piano, il est repéré au début de l'année 1931 par H.C. Speir à Jackson. Grâce à celui-ci, il grave une vingtaine de morceaux à Grafton (Wisconsin) dont de superbes chefs d'oeuvre sous la houlette du producteur Arthur Laibly : "Devil got my woman", "Hard time killin' floor blues", "Cypress Grove blues", "Drunken spree", "Hard luck child", "I'm so glad" (repris plus tard par Cream et Deep Purple). Il y développe un style en fingerpicking virtuose et complexe, pas du tout typique du Delta mais qui deviendra néanmoins un style à part, bientôt nommé Bentonia Sound, réhaussé de sa voix pénétrante et expressive. Malheureusement, ces morceaux n'emporteront pas un grand succès et "Skip" James abandonne rapidement la musique. Il exercera plusieurs métiers et deviendra même révérend vivant d'abord à Dallas puis Birmingham, Hattiesburg puis finit par retourner vivre à Bentonia.

Born on the Woodbine plantation, his father Edward was a preacher (and a bootlegger) and his mother Phyllis, a cook. The young Nehemiah James is marked by Henry Stuckey, an influential regional bluesman who has never been recorded. He earns his living as a sharecropper or bootlegger while playing music locally with Stuckey. Able to play guitar but also organ and piano, he was spotted at the beginning of 1931 by H.C. Speir in Jackson. Thanks to him, he cuts about twenty songs in Grafton (Wisconsin) including superb masterpieces under the direction of producer Arthur Laibly : "Devil got my woman", "Hard time killin' floor blues", "Cypress Grove blues", "Drunken spree", "Hard luck child", "I'm so glad" (later covered by Cream and Deep Purple). He develops a virtuoso and complex fingerpicking style absolutely atypical of the Delta but which will nevertheless become a new style, soon named Bentonia Sound, enhanced by his penetrating and expressive voice. Unfortunately, these pieces will not obtain a great success and "Skip" James quickly abandons music. He will practice several jobs and will even become reverend living first in Dallas then Birmingham, Hattiesburg and eventually returned to live in Bentonia.

THE BLUES AT NEWPORT 1964 vol.2

Vanguard

THE GREAT BLUESMEN AT NEWPORT

Vanguard

BLUES WITH A FEELING

Vanguard

July 1964

Retrouvé par John Fahey, Bill Barth et Henry Vestine, guidés par Ishman Bracey dans un hôpital de Tunica, "Skip" James, à son grand étonnement, trouve la possibilité de relancer sa carrière de musicien. Quelques jours plus tard, il se retrouve sur la scène du Newport Folk Festival devant un auditoire blanc qui l'ovationne. Sa performance restée mythique avec des versions remarquables de "Devil got my woman" et "Cypress Grove blues" lui a permis de conquérir un nouveau public. Son superbe jeu de guitare et sa voix magnifique sont restés intacts comparés à ses titres de 1931. Grâce à la supervision de son manager Dick Waterman, il s'embarque pour une seconde carrière fructueuse.

Rediscovered by John Fahey, Bill Barth and Henry Vestine, guided by Ishman Bracey at Tunica Hospital, "Skip" James, to his amazement, finds the possibility to revive his career as a musician. A few days later, he finds himself on the stage of the Newport Folk Festival in front of a white audience who ovations him. His mythical performance with remarkable versions of "Devil got my woman" and "Cypress Grove blues" allowed him to conquer a new audience. His superb guitar playing and beautiful voice remained intact compared to his 1931 titles. Thanks to the supervision of his manager Dick Waterman, he embarked on a second successful career.

SHE'S LYIN'

Genes

Edsel

August 1964

Capté à Washington par John Fahey, Ed Denson, Bill Barth et Gene Rosenthal quelques jours après son apparition mythique au Newport Folk Festival. Ce disque devait être publié par le label Takoma mais resta finalement inédit jusqu'en 1993. Pourtant "Broke and hungry", "I'm so glad", "Cypress Grove blues", "Catfish blues", "Devil got my woman", "Hard time killin' floor blues" sont réellement superbes.

Captured in Washington by John Fahey, Ed Denson, Bill Barth and Gene Rosenthal a few days after his mythical appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. This disc had to be issued by the Takoma label but remained unpublished until 1993. Yet "Broke and hungry", "I'm so glad", "Cypress Grove blues", "Catfish blues", "Devil got my woman", "Hard time killin' floor blues" are actually superb.

SKIP'S PIANO BLUES

Genes

Edsel

October 1964

Skip James était aussi un très bon pianiste mais il a fallu attendre 1996 pour que ces bandes soient enfin publiées. Elles furent enregistrées par Dan Doyle et Gene Rosenthal. Même s'il n'est pas aussi virtuose et inventif au piano qu'à la guitare, le CD recèle quelques beaux morceaux ("All night long", "Black gal", "How long blues").

Skip James was also a very good pianist but it was not until 1996 that these tapes were finally issued. They were recorded by Dan Doyle and Gene Rosenthal. Although it is not as virtuosic and inventive on the piano as on the guitar, the CD contains some beautiful songs ("All night long", "Black gal", "How long blues").

LIVE BOSTON 1964 & PHILADELPHIA 1966

Document

November 1964 / 1966

Recueil de deux concerts à Boston et Philadelphie. Les quatre titres du concert de 1964 (captés par Bernard Klatzko) sont précédemment parus sur deux simples chez Herwin. Ces bandes live s'avèrent plutôt intéressantes mais restent mineures dans la discographie de "Skip" James.

Collection of two concerts in Boston and Philadelphia. The four tracks of the 1964 concert (captured by Bernard Klatzko) have previously appeared on two singles on Herwin label. These live tapes are rather interesting but remain minor in the discography of "Skip" James.

GREATEST OF THE DELTA BLUES SINGERS

Melodeon

Storyville

Biograph

A TRIBUTE TO SKIP JAMES

Biograph

HARD TIME KILLING FLOOR

Biograph

December 1964

Contrairement à ce qui a parfois été écrit, il ne s'agit pas de son premier enregistrement depuis sa redécouverte. Cette séance fut organisée et produite par Dick et Louise Spottswood en décembre 1964. Lors de celle-ci, "Skip" James reprend ses classiques de 1931 qu'il interprète remarquablement, avec justesse et émotion : "Hard time killin' floor blues", "Devil got my woman", "Cherry ball blues", "Cypress Grove blues". Il raconte également son combat contre le cancer dans "Sick bed blues" et "Washington DC hospital center blues" avec une extrême sensibilité. Un disque essentiel.

Contrary to what has sometimes been written, it is not his first recording since his rediscovery. This session was organized and produced by Dick and Louise Spottswood in december 1964. During this performance, "Skip" James covered his 1931 classics, which he performed remarkably accurately and emotionally : "Hard time killin' floor blues", "Devil got my woman", "Cherry ball blues", "Cypress Grove blues". He also tells his fight against cancer in "Sick bed blues" and "Washington DC hospital center blues" with an extreme sensitivity. An essential disc.

THIS OLD WORLD'S IN A HELL OF A FIX

Biograph

December 1964

KING OF THE DELTA BLUES SINGERS

Biograph

December 1964

HEAR ME HOWLING

Arhoolie

1965

LIVE CAFE AU GO-GO

Rockbeat

November 1965

Six morceaux de "Skip" James dans ce concert capté dans le célèbre club de Greenwich Village (New York). La qualité sonore est très correcte. A noter de jolies versions de "Cruel Jane" et "Cherry bough".

Six pieces of "Skip" James in this concert captured in the famous club of Greenwich Village (New York). The sound quality is really decent. Note nice versions of "Cruel Jane" and "Cherry bough".

TODAY

Vanguard

January 1966

Ce disque reste un des plus accomplis de "Skip" James et un incontournable pour n'importe quelle collection blues. Ses lectures de "Hard time killin' floor blues", "Washington DC hospital center blues", "Cherry ball", "Cypress Grove" demeurent superbes : pureté de sa voix au timbre si particulier et jeu de guitare en fingerpicking plutôt unusuel dans le Delta. En outre, ce disque possède une qualité sonore pure et cristalline qui met parfaitement en valeur sa musique.

This disc remains one of the most accomplished of "Skip" James and a must for any blues collection. His readings of "Hard time killin' floor blues", "Washington DC hospital center blues", "Cherry ball", "Cypress Grove" remain superb : his voice purity with his so particular timbre and fingerpicking guitar playing rather unusual in the Delta. Moreover, this disc has a pure and crystalline sound quality that perfectly enhances his music.

MEMPHIS BLUES CARAVAN vol.2

Memphis Archives

February 1966


LIVING LEGENDS

Verve - Folkways

August 1966

Sur la scène new-yorkaise du Cafe Au Go Go, "Skip" James interprète ses classiques "Devil got my woman" et "I'm so glad".

On the New York stage of Cafe Au Go Go, "Skip" James performs his classics "Devil got my woman" and "I'm so glad".

ALAN LOMAX BLUES SONGBOOK

Rounder

August 1966

DEVIL GOT MY WOMAN

Vanguard

March 1967

Dans ce deuxième disque pour Vanguard, "Skip" James est surtout à la guitare, un peu au piano. Un très beau programme bien enregistré qui mérite une écoute attentive. On peut ressortir notamment une superbe version de "Sick bed blues" et "Lorenzo blues" écrit pour sa femme Lorenzo Meeks James.

In this second disc for Vanguard, "Skip" James is mainly on the guitar, a little on the piano. A very well recorded program that deserves attentive listening. We can point out in particular a superb version of "Sick bed blues" and "Lorenzo blues" written for his wife Lorenzo Meeks James.

RARE AND UNRELEASED

Vanguard

1967

Ces morceaux édités tardivement proviennent d'une séance de 1967. A cette époque, la maladie commence à l'affaiblir en particulier sa voix. Pourtant, son blues reste passionné et émouvant empruntant à la folk et au gospel ("Let my Jesus lead you").

These late-issued pieces come from a 1967 session. At that time, the disease began to weaken him especially his voice. Yet, his blues remains passionate and emotional borrowing from folk and gospel ("Let my Jesus lead you").

BLUES FROM THE DELTA

Vanguard

1967

Dans cette compilation des faces Vanguard, on trouve deux titres inédits "She's all the world to me" et "Everybody leaving here" issus des séances de 1967.

In this compilation of the Vanguard sides, there are two unreleased songs "She's all the world to me" and "Everybody leaving here" from the 1967 sessions.

AMERICAN FOLK BLUES FESTIVAL '67

Fontana

L+R

October 1967

"Skip" James est invité pour la tournée de l'American Folk Blues Festival 1967 aux côtés de "Bukka" White, Son House, Sonny Terry & Brownie Mac Ghee, Little Walter. Dans ce recueil, il interprète une belle version de "Hard luck child".

"Skip" James is invited to the 1967 American Folk Blues Festival tour alongside "Bukka" White, Son House, Sonny Terry & Brownie Mac Ghee, Little Walter. In this collection, he interprets a nice version of "Hard luck child".

THE AMERICAN FOLK BLUES FESTIVAL 1962-1969 vol.3

Hip-O

October 1967

THE COMPLETE BLOOMINGTON INDIANA CONCERT

Document

March 1968

Concert enregistré à l'Indiana University Folksong Club à Bloomington par Peter Narvaez. Inspiré et en bonne forme, il délivre une belle prestation entrecoupée de moments où "Skip" discute avec le public, introduit ses morceaux. D'excellentes versions de "I'm so glad", "Cherry ball blues", "Drunken spree" parmi d'autres. L'intégralité de ce sympathique concert a été reprise en 2 CD par Johnny Parth et son label Document.

Concert recorded at the Indiana University Folksong Club in Bloomington by Peter Narvaez. Inspired and in good shape, he delivers a beautiful performance interspersed with moments in which "Skip" discusses with the public, introduces his pieces. Excellent versions of "I'm so glad", "Cherry ball blues", "Drunken spree" among others. The entirety of this nice concert was compiled in 2 CDs by Johnny Parth and his Document label.

FESTIVAL OF AMERICAN FOLKLIFE vol.1

Smithsonian Institution

July 1968