Born in 1874 in Big Sandy, TX, Henry Thomas was part of the first generation to be born out of slavery. He learned to hate cotton, but found solace in songwriting. “Texas Easy Street” was recorded in the mid-1920s and shows how Henry Thomas truly made his guitar swing. This is some heavy blues from Uncle PD to you. Enjoy!
“I Wonder” was pre-war pianist and blues singer Cecil Gant’s first single. Released on Oakland’s Gilt-Edge Records, “I Wonder” is a romantic pop-tinged ballad which topped the R&B charts despite a wartime shellac shortage that hit tiny independent companies like Gilt-Edge particularly hard. Grab a glass of wine, cozy up with your lover, and let the beautiful voice of Cecil Gant remind you of what’s really important in life.
Sloppy Henry puts so much soul into his singing you really believe every word. This recording is very old but sounds contemporary. Good storytelling is timeless.
Hailing from Oklona, Mississippi Booker White learned guitar from his father, and helped to define Delta Blues music as we know it. White’s interpretation of “Shake ’em On Down,” a popular theme of the day, was later covered as a rock piece by Led Zeppelin.
Although the subject matter of “One Dime Blues” may be cliche in the world of blues, no other artist has such a powerful cadence as the great Blind Lemon Jefferson. Jefferson’s quick-chords and toe-tapping rhythm is sharp juxtaposition with the song’s subject matter, each verse tackling the plight of the poor in the 1920s.
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.
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.
Blind Blake was born Arthur Blake in Jacksonville Florida. During Blind Blake’s prosperous career he recorded over 75 cuts for the Paramount label. “Diddie Wa Diddie” shows off Blind Blake’s distinctive vocal and guitar rhythm. This song was later covered by Ry Cooder and Hot Tuna. I only wish somebody would tell me what “Diddie Wa Diddie” means.
The great Leadbelly, with one of his classic sides that helped define American music in the 20th century and beyond. Over his own distinctive, relaxed guitar accompaniment, Leadbelly’s vocal on this recording is simply magnificent. Widely revered by music fans and covered by blues scholars, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” was also sung by Kurt Cobain on Nirvana’s Unplugged album.
When you read the words “Slave to the blues,” it doesn’t compare to how it sounds and feels when Ma Rainey sings this song. You can imagine her holding her heart in chains during this dreary memory. It’s another way to say endless heart ache.