Mississippi John Hurt – “Avalon Blues”

“Avalon Blues” was the last song recorded by Mississippi John Hurt in the 1920’s. Named for Hurt’s hometown of Avalon, Mississippi, this song provided clues that folk musicologist Tom Hoskins used to locate the legendary bluesman in the early 1960’s. That meeting led to Hurt’s appearance at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival, which re-launched his career and gained him international recognition. After that, Mississippi John Hurt performed extensively, even recording three new albums and appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, before his death in 1966. Hurt’s home in Avalon is now open to the public as The Mississippi John Hurt Museum.

Big Joe Williams – “Stack O’ Dollars”

Mississippi blues legend Big Joe Williams testifies on the real value of a Stack O’ Dollars, on this astonishing early Delta blues recording.

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Williams’ unique 9-string steel guitar rhythm, alongside a haunting fiddle lead, provides the perfect accompaniment to his searing vocal. Joe Williams continued to tour and perform for decades after recording this and numerous other sides for various early record labels. This song is as relevant today as it has ever been.

Son House – “My Black Mama (Part 1)”

son-house200pxThe lyrics and music that Son House put down in the 1920’s and early 30’s left an indelible mark on blues, country, rock, RnB, and just about every genre of American music. His classic “My Black Mama (Part 1)” has been covered and reinterpreted by a who’s-who of blues legends including Robert Johnson, who recorded it as “Walkin’ Blues.” John Lee Hooker called his post-war version “Burnin’ Hell,” based on the lines “Ain’t no heaven, ain’t no burnin’ hell, where I’m goin’ when I die, can’t nobody tell.” This amazing solo vocal and guitar performance has lost none of its power over nearly a century since it was released on 78 RPM discs.