At first, as the car barreled north toward Washington, D.C., the old blues singer pestered the driver with questions, demanding to know the name of every river, creek, and lake they crossed. Whiskey helped James ease the pain of his cancer and settle into his new surroundings. ‘Cause nothing but the devil changed my baby’s mind. It seemed inappropriate somehow that this strange haunting sound which had existed ’til now only as a barely audible dub from a scratched 78 should be reclaimed so casually on an overcast summer’s day at Newport….As the song came to an end, the field exploded with cheers and whistles. An elfin old man answered, and his wide, good-natured grin turned sour when he saw the white stranger. But James earned little money from those records. “Skippy,” a precocious child, was versed on guitar and piano well before his teens. It made people uncomfortable, but the blues is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable.”, Dark, dense, and downright scary, James’ music would prove too difficult for fairy-tale success. In Washington, he would finally make a livelihood from his art. “Skip’s got mean things on his mind.’ ” Then she asked Calt to buy her a bottle of Scotch, which he did. He bought that record for $1 (its only blemishes were crayon marks on the label), and then nabbed another, more worn-out record by the same singer for only 60 cents. But before moving into their new abode, the couple spent an idyllic week at the Maryland farm—more a commune, really—where Talbot lived. Few can resist the legend that he sold his soul to the devil, was poisoned by a jealous lover, and died a young genius’s death. “At the time, I didn’t have a very good car,” he remembers. Dick Spottswood’s wife, Louisa, became James’ fast friend. They provided directions down a gravel road that led to a shack. He worked on road construction and levee-building crews in Mississippi in the early 1920s and wrote what is perhaps his earliest song, "Illinois Blues", about his experiences as a laborer. [1][7] Subsequently, Cream's adaptation was recorded by other groups. I gathered that it was related to the illness that he had when he was found in [Mississippi]. The accompanying photo showed a haggard, grim James in his hospital bed, solemnly reading a pamphlet from his father’s collection of theology tracts. After Mardi Gras, the fugitives drove to Mississippi, arriving in Avalon one Friday at dusk. As was typical of his era, James recorded various styles of music – blues, spirituals, cover versions, and original compositions – frequently blurring the lines between genres and sources. If the instrumental part of “22-20” was Elizabethan, the violent, homicidal lyrics hewed closer to the Jacobean period. She followed directions to a row house near Union Station, where the man lived in a second-floor apartment. Freelancers Guide The tumor grew, and that winter, James checked into D.C. General Hospital, which treated indigent patients. This song is a cover of "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" by Skip James. He once told Calt that he played his songs “to deaden the mind” of female listeners. James didn’t need much prodding. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues #2. In early 1931, James auditioned for the record shop owner and talent scout H. C. Speir in Jackson, Mississippi. James improvised the words on the spot after the engineer requested a “gun song.” Those lyrics still pack a wallop, even by the standards of gangsta rappers: All the doctors in Wisconsin sure won’t help her none. Writer Peter Guralnick, transfixed by the dramatic comeback, described the scene in his book Feel Like Going Home: Portraits in Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll: Skip James appeared, looking gaunt and a little hesitant, his eyes unfocused and wearing a black suit and a wide-brimmed flat-topped preacher’s hat that gave him as unearthly an appearance as his records had led us to suspect he had….As the first notes floated across the field, as the voice soared over us, the piercing falsetto set against the harsh cross-tuning of the guitar, there was a note of almost breathless expectation in the air. Now it was Mable who was ill and depressed. “Skippy expected hero worship, which he pretty much got from most everybody, but Fahey was a pretty arrogant person.”, Fahey laughs sarcastically, remembering that James couldn’t pay his hospital or rent bills. When he was 5, his father—a musician and bootlegger—fled town after agents raided his whiskey still. Play Advices. Hockey Even as James’ depression lifted, the ritual continued. Spottswood believes that James felt no qualms about returning to the blues, unlike the Rev. The Yazoo label released a CD of his 1931 classics, Complete Early Recordings; distributor Shanachie reports that it’s already sold several thousand copies. The song Hard Time Killing Floor Blues was written by Skip James and was first released by Skip James in 1931. He was virtually unknown to the general public until about 1960. There, Hoskins asked a pair of elderly men if they knew a blues singer named John Hurt. He gleaned a clue from a bootleg tape that Spottswood had acquired from an Australian enthusiast. "Killing Floor" is recognized as a blues standard, with Skip James' 1931 recording "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" as the likely inspiration. Hard time here and every where you go e|- It’s Louisa.’ And he’d pull off the sheet and be friendly and chat.”, James slowly came to accept his condition, and even began to joke about it. James' song "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" was featured in the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? 66 likes. James could barely afford medical treatment. [3][6], More of James's recordings have been available since his death than were available during his lifetime. General CommentSkip James one of the Legends of Delta Blues this is a different song but has the same title as a later electric blues "Killing Floor", the structure is 8 bars, the verses just tell it like it is : a life of hardship and despair, true to the hard times of the 1930's Depression when it was recorded.His singing is haunting and bleak, a dark classic of the blues. Delta blues are some of the most emotional blues and this song is a perfect example. At his sharecropper’s shack, James picked up the borrowed guitar and began playing his old songs, which he hadn’t performed in years. The taciturn James exuded no such showman’s charm. James angrily broke up the “foolishness,” as he dubbed it, and pulled Mable back to her chair. Hurt’s floppy fedora and foot-tapping music won over people who’d never even heard of the Mississippi Delta, and who would have gasped to know that the Hurt lyric “lovin’ spoonful” referred to semen. He began playing the guit… The bluesman was now a man of leisure—strolling around Dupont Circle, feeding pigeons in the park, and generally taking it easy. Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues #1. In 1931, he got to test his powers. HARD TIME KILLING FLOOR BLUES FROM "O' BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? But through reissues and James’ own brief blues revival career in the ’60s, James’ body of work is recognized as an aesthetic pinnacle of blues recording. And if she gets unruly and gets so she won’t do. “He was a middle-aged man with a rather unfriendly appearance, quite stern, and on the wall was a chart which had a map with astrological symbols,” she remembers. Theirs was our finest and oldest native-born music, the blues, country-style, pure and personal, always one Negro and a guitar lamenting misery, injustice, but still saying yes to life.”. I would rather be the devil than to be that woman’s man. After that dead end, Fahey’s blues posse combed the upper Delta, coming up empty-handed at country shacks and deserted towns. One, struck by the “lovely contrapuntal lines and eccentric phrasing,” went so far as to claim that James’ melodies were “more like Elizabethan music than the blues.”. Soccer He was bright, bubbly, and full of life. Calt describes the song: “No blues pianist has ever displayed the arresting variety of instrumental phrases he uncorks after every vocal line of “22-20,’ which is probably the most impromptu, improvised effort found in blues recording.” In fact, Calt notes that the artsy Kronos Quartet covered it in the ’80s, but the classically trained musicians “could not capture the nuances” of the original. Baseball In fact, he admired his first musical mentor, a whorehouse pianist, as much for his fancy clothes and stable of prostitutes as for his keyboard mastery. The rest is history, or at least a footnote. Mable’s stories fascinated Talbot; he especially remembers a confession she made as her husband napped on the porch. That fall, James moved into an apartment on 19th Street NW, near Dupont Circle, and his wife, Mable, left Mississippi to care for him. Spottswood began to see the many sides of his houseguest. Skip told me the witch doctor diagnosed the case and said [Skip] had been hexed by a jealous woman in the area of the navel, and the poison had sort of drained downward.”, James once asked Louisa to pick up the witch doctor’s medicine. An unreleased session tape reveals James angrily pounding the piano to drown out Hurt’s earnest—if ludicrously out-of-sync—accompaniment. He worked on road construction and levee-building crews in Mississippi in the early 1920s and wrote what is perhaps his earliest song, "Illinois Blues", about his experiences as a laborer. Events: A heads up about City Paper events, from panels to parties. Books Here John Hurt had launched his second career. He believed that he’d whipped his cancer, and put weight on his emaciated frame. According to Calt, James received only $40 for his 1931 recordings, and he soon quit the music business, bitterly declaring it a “barrel of crabs.” The next year found him in a Dallas bread line. Remembers Louisa, “He was sort of swaggering around in those shorts, which was in the old way of thinking—remember when this was back in the ’60s—an uppity thing to do.” James was feeling strong again, strong enough to show the devil in himself. (The students had already been mistaken once that summer for civil rights workers, and had spent a night in jail.) Hard Time Killing Floor Blues Tab by Skip James with free online tab player. Yet James had never been up north until he was brought to Grafton, Wisconsin, in 1931 to … His father disapproved of James’ blues-singing past. Reviewed in … He received each answer with a nod of recognition. [1] One of the last living links to the original Bentonia school is Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, the owner of the famous Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia, Mississippi. BY CHRIS THOMAS KING GUITAR TUNING Dm (LOW TO HIGH) D A D F A D Dm7 Am F Dm F/C Dm 1. “When we found out he’d run off with a new woman, we were just dumbfounded,” said Louisa. James drew his baroque vocabulary from the Old Testament, and peppered his speech with jargon from his father’s collection of theological books. But the wanna-be guitarist hungered for more than the record: He wanted to see Hurt play. He wanted to learn the technique from the master. Little, recorded in 1928 by Gene Austin and by Lonnie Johnson (Johnson's version was entitled "I'm So Tired of Livin' All Alone"). This time, James pictured himself as part of the nameless, mortal multitude, among “many a thousand trying to get home.”, Spottswood later found out that James died that afternoon. The students assured James that if he accompanied them back to Washington, D.C., capital of the so-called “blues revival,” he’d soon be as famous as Mississippi John Hurt, who’d been rediscovered the summer before and now ruled the local coffeehouse scene. Well, no one came to visit him in his sickbed—no one except the strangers who’d driven 3,000 miles to worship him. He saw music as a hobby, whether performing on a street corner or in a barroom. It was the summer of 1964, and three California college students—led by Washington-born John Fahey—had ventured into the Deep South not as civil rights activists, but as blues fanatics in search of their hero. ), Where racial matters were concerned, James was too misanthropic to choose sides. As a young man, James had written songs full of swaggering machismo, songs about women and violence. James subsequently recorded for Takoma Records, Melodeon Records, and Vanguard Records and performed at various engagements until his death from cancer in 1969. Catfish Blues. I’ll take my 22-20—I’ll cut her half in two. He packed a shabby old suitcase, and donned a dark suit and preacher’s hat. The driver asked James to wait until they escaped the Jim Crow South. James didn’t hide his jealousy. Read about Hard Times Killing Floor Blues by Little Albert and see the artwork, lyrics and similar artists. Listen to Hard Time Killing Floor Blues on the English music album Thousand Mile Night by Jonah Tolchin, only on JioSaavn. To James, music meant ruthless, if not bloody, competition. Lyrics to 'Hard Time Killing Floor' by Skip James: Hard time's is here An ev'rywhere you go Times are harder Than th'ever been befo' Robert Johnson also recorded in this tuning, his "Hell Hound on My Trail" being based on James's "Devil Got My Woman. Owens and other musicians who may have been contemporaries of James were not recorded until the revival of interest in blues music in the 1960s. Privacy Policy Throughout the ’20s, business boomed for “race records” produced for a black audience, and companies scoured the South for blues singers. James remained the last great prize to be found. “If he had been raised in different circumstances and had some level of academic training, he could have been an original thinker in any number of fields. Strangely, Fahey’s own career would echo James’. Download original Guitar Pro tab. [citation needed] His style of playing had more in common with the Piedmont blues of the East Coast than with the Delta blues of his native Mississippi. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues Lyrics: Hard time here and everywhere you go / Times is harder than ever been before / And the people are driftin' from door to door / Can't find no heaven, I … Museums/Galleries A former grocery store in Adams Morgan, the Ontario attracted a nearly all-white crowd of college students, professionals, and beatniks. During James’ previous convalescence, young worshipers had surrounded his previous sickbed, and Newsweek had come calling. These five prolific years have not been thoroughly documented: recordings, outtakes, and interviews not released on James's LPs (which have been repeatedly cannibalized and reissued) are scattered among many compilations released by small labels. 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