HARD LUCK CHILD
A TRIBUTE TO SKIP JAMES
STONY PLAIN RECORDS SPCD 1373
NEHEMIAH JAMES–SPECIAL RIDER BLUES–CYPRESS GROVE BLUES–IF YOU HAVEN’T ANY HAY, GET ON DOWN THE ROAD–LITTLE COW AND CALF IS GONNA DIE BLUES–DEVIL GOT MY WOMAN–JESUS IS A MIGHTY GOOD LEADER–HARD TIME KILLING FLOOR BLUES–I’M SO GLAD–HARD LUCK CHILD
Rory Block is not only one of the most talented blueswomen on the planet, but she shares a connection no one else can lay claim to. As a young girl eager to absorb everything she could about blues guitar, she had the good fortune to mentor with some of the Delta masters. Her latest installment of this series is dedicated to Skip James, and is entitled “Hard Luck Child.”
Over the course of these ten songs, Rory gives us a glimpse thru her own stylings of the incredible talents of James. She leads off with an original composition, “Nehemiah James,” which serves as a mythical biography of sorts, showing how, back in James’ day, the lines between life and death and blues and gospel were blurred, to say the least. Rory sings that a young “Nehemiah Curtis James” was called upon by the Holy Spirit to “preach the blues.”
Rory’s take on “Cypress Grove Blues” shows the melancholy side of James’ personality, which appeared in varying degrees on many of his songs. Lyrics such as “I’d rather be six feet in my grave” and “you gotta reap what you sow” show his predilection for the stark differences between life and death. Then, with a cut such as “Little Cow And Calf Is Gonna Die Blues,” he deals with the same subject, yet this one follows a livelier, jazzy progression, further attesting James’ talents.
James always kept an ear to his gospel roots, and Rory shows this side of him thru “Jesus Is A Mighty Good Leader” and “I’m So Glad,” layering her guitar and vocal parts to give these a full band sound.
Our favorite was easy. Skip James was as expressive on piano as he was on guitar. Rory’s expertise allowed her to play Skip’s piano leads on her guitar. As such, “If You Haven’t Any Hay, Get On Down The Road” turns into a good-natured, jazzy affair punctuated by Rory’s playful yelps, scat-singing, and deft slide runs.
Rory Block continues to solidify her place in the blues pantheon as she brings a brilliant tribute to Skip James, “Hard Luck Child.” She faithfully captures his ebullient and eclectic spirit thru the eyes and ears of a woman fortunate enough to have known and mentored with him! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.