Skip James, “Cherry Ball Blues”

It’s not often you hear falsetto in a blues recording. This was one of the many standout traits that made Skip James a glowingly original artist of the Delta region. More importantly, his odd style of guitar tuning influenced some of rock’s legends, including Eric Clapton. “Cherry Ball Blues” is a lamentation about losing love, a theme repeated over and over in rock n’ roll and any genre of popular music.

Cherry Ball Blues (play/download mp3)

Blind Lemon Jefferson, “Rabbit Foot Blues”

Blind Lemon Jefferson had a natural gift of crafting catchy-chord progressions and an accessible vocal range that complements every recording he ever made. “Rabbit Foot Blues” is one of his most popular titles, even earning a commissioned album cover. This mp3 was ripped from the original 78, and the crackle and hiss of this recording makes you feel like you’re listening to an original pressing of “Rabbit Foot Blues.” Enjoy!

Rabbit Foot Blues (play/download mp3)

Kokomo Arnold, “Sissy Man Blues”

Kokomo Arnold’s left-handed slide guitar playing and his vocals, delivered with the intensity and conviction as a sermon from a Sunday preacher, made his records sound 20-years ahead of their time. Recorded in 1934, “Sissy Man Blues” has a place in gay-music history, with the famous, and perhaps the most lucidly sung phrase on the record, “Lord if you can’t send me no woman/please send me some sissy man.”

Sissy Man Blues (play/download mp3)

Mississippi John Hurt, “Nobody’s Dirty Business”

Mississippi John Hurt sings on this thinly veiled song about domestic violence in “Nobody’s Dirty Business.” According to John, the sadism works both ways. Eventually his woman leaves. But John writes her a letter begging her to come back. She eventually returns and I suspect the dynamic keeps cycling over and over again. An important message brought to you from way back in 1935 – sometimes relationships just plain old don’t work out.

Nobodys Dirty Business (play/download mp3)

Mississippi Sheiks, “I’ll Be Gone, Long Gone”

This is an absolutely beautiful recording of the The Mississippi Sheiks’ song to agency, “I’ll Be Gone, Long Gone!” Recorded at the hight of their popularity, this cut’s fidelity lets The Sheiks’ unique blend of country and fiddle music really shine.

I’ll Be Gone, Long Gone (play/download mp3)

Fiddlin Frank Nelson, “Buck Creek Gal”

Fiddlin Frank Nelson was a moniker used by the great southern fiddler, Doc Roberts. Doc was a farmer first and a musician in his spare time. Although he only played and recorded on weekends, he cut over 70 sides. “Buck Creek Gal” is an upbeat number, and you can hear how his style influenced early country music.

Buck Creek Gal (play/download mp3)

Gus Cannon, “Madison Street Rag”

You can trace most of American popular music back to the blues. Rock n’ roll is the obvious one. But with “Madison Street Rag,” a different American music’s roots can be heard: hip-hop’s. Hip-hop is born and bred from the streets. Released on the Paramount label in 1927, Gus Cannon’s gravelly voice sounds like he’s freestlying on the street corner as passersby look on in amazement. Sounds a lot like how hip-hop got its start. Enjoy!

Madison Street Rag (play/download mp3)