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)

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)

Alger “Texas” Alexander, “Range In My Kitchen Blues”

Alger “Texas” Alexander was a blues singer from, as his name suggests, Texas. Although he never played an instrument, his unique vocal stylings influenced a wide range of bluesmen. Recording sides for the Okeh and Vocation labels, “Texas” Alexander sung with some of the greatest blues guitar legends such as Lightnin’ Hopkins. “Range In My Kitchen Blues” was recorded in 1927 in New York and tells the tail of Alexander’s guest to find a “decent” woman while recording in The Big Apple.

Range In My Kitchen Blues (play/download mp3)

Kansas City Kitty and Georgia Tom, “How Can You Have The Blues?”

From Kansas City Kitty & Georgia Tom we get this upbeat blues number, “How Can You Have the Blues,” a flirty duet about a woman who appears to have it all, but is continually bogged down by depression. The name Kansas City Kitty may not ring any bells with the most enthusiastic American blues aficionados. It could be because there is a mystery behind the true identity of this sexy voiced blues woman, but what we do know is that this track, recorded in 1930, features Thomas A. Dorsey on piano and vocals, playing under his popular pseudonym Georgia Tom. With its fantastic melody and conversational blues style, this number lends truth to the idea that money can’t buy you happiness.

How Can You Have The Blues? (play/download mp3)

Charlie Spand, “Back To The Woods Blues”

Charlie Spand’s notoriety stems from his genius in the boogie-woogie and barrelhouse style of piano. The first few bars of “Back to the Woods Blues” illustrates what Spand was best at, skillfully moving those fingers over the piano keys to make blues tunes that can’t help but stir the heart. Ultimately, Charlie Spand is an elusive figure in blues history because no one knows much about his life, but what we are left with are 33 of the most wicked piano blues tracks to remember him by.       

Back To The Woods Blues (play/download mp3)

“Bumble Bee Slim” Easton, “Chain Gang Bound”

“Bumble Bee Slim” Easton was a prolific singer and songwriter whose relaxed, upbeat style and often humorous lyrics made him one of the most-recorded and best-selling blues artists of the 1930s. His work exemplifies the beginnings of what came to be known as the Chicago style, retaining elements of earlier country blues while anticipating the more polished urban sounds of the postwar period. “Chain Gang Bound” shows off Bumble Bee Slim’s complex chord structures, and it is easy to see why rock ‘n roll legends like Keith Richards studied his style.

Chain Gang Bound (play/download mp3)

Beale Street Sheiks, “Jazzin’ The Blues”

Sometimes the journey you encounter in life happens for a reason. Such was the case for Frank Stokes. In 1920, life led Stokes to Oakville, Tennessee where he teamed up with Dan Sane. Shortly after, they joined Jack Kelly’s Jug Busters, and eventually they all made it as far as Beale Street where they united as the Beale Street Sheiks. Stokes is considered the father of the Memphis blues guitar style and for good reason; he played for every occasion, in any venue and various platforms. In “Jazzin’ the Blues,” the band marries jazz music with a little bit of blues. Enjoy!

Beale Street Sheiks – “Jazzin’ The Blues (play/download mp3)

Son House, “Mississippi Country Farm Blues”

This scratchy copy of “Mississippi Country Farm Blues” is a window into Son’s oppressive up bringing. A master at creating unusual chord structures, he uses his vocal and guitar to create moving double harmonies. Jack White of White Stripes fame dedicated the White Stripe’s first album to Son House.

Son House – “Mississippi Country Farm Blues

Ida Cox, “Fore Day Creep”

Fore day creep means to sneak around at night and cheat. Blues legends Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson turned infidelity into a full-time job. Every woman in the post-war blues circuit knew this, but no one put their foot down on 78 with as much style as Ida Cox. “Fore Day Creep” was recorded in Chicago along with 3 other sides in the summer of 1927. A bluesy piano number, Ida Cox announces in “Fore Day Creep” that she will make her man sleep with a bull dog because she knows he’s a genuine fore day creep. Enjoy this swinging number with your partners, ideally during the day.

Ida Cox, “Fore Day Creep (play/download mp3)