Skip James From The Vault

Skip James Video Lesson (Download Here) The first Blues Vault release, She Lyin’ is a guitar collection recorded by Skip James in 1964, immediately after his “rediscovery.” Skip was found in the Tunica County, Mississippi, hospital by John Fahey and Bill Barth, young guitarists who were acting on a tip from Ishmon Bracey.

Like James, Bracey had recorded blues 78s during the late 20s/early 30s heyday, but, as a sanctified preacher, Bracey had no interest in returning to the Devil’s music. According to Barth, age and infirmity had put James at the bottom of the plantation hierarchy, responsible for such mindless tasks as overseeing the sowing of cotton seeds into furrows, and Skip was both delighted and anxious to leave Mississippi farm life.

The two young men paid the modest hospital bill and whisked Skip away to the thriving East Coast folk scene. After rehearsals and several performances, including a brief but memorable appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, Skip was ready to record again.

John Fahey, Barth and partner Ed Denson arranged for sessions with sound engineer Gene Rosenthal in the basement studio of the Rosenthal home in Silver Spring, Maryland. Those sessions, supplemented with live performance tapes made by Rosenthal at the Ontario Place Coffee House in Washington during the same period, are reproduced here.

Of all the so-called blues “rediscoveries” of the 1960s, Skip James was the most enigmatic. His genuine artistic temperament made him no less volatile and unpredictable than Van Gogh or Toscanini. While he could be a loyal friend and ingratiating performer, Skip was not one to suffer fools, cheats, bigots or inferior music gladly…. He possessed genius and artistry, however, in amounts sufficient to justify that temperament, though his talents earned him precious little reward until the end of his life, when the Eric Clapton-led rock group Cream placed Skip’s I’m So Glad on a best-selling LP…

~Richard Spottswood, 1993. From the liner notes

UPDATE 2005: Skip James’ song I’m So Glad appears on Cream’s Reunion Concert, Recorded Live at Albert Hall, released on CD and DVD in October 2005.
Gene Rosenthal attests that it’s his belief that Skip James’ performance of I’m So Glad on She Lyin’ is his perhaps his finest performance if the song in Skip’s post-rediscovery

Lyrics to Skip James Song Crow Jane:

Crow Jane , don’t you hold your head too high

Someday, baby you know you rot to die

You got to lay down and die

You got to die you got to die

You know I wanna buy me a pistol,

Want ma 40 rounds of  ball

Shoot  Crow Jane just to see her fall

She got to fall she got to fall

I wanna dig her grave with a silver spade

I ain’t gonna let nobody take her place

No you can’t take her No you can’t take her

I never missed my water till my well went dry

Didn’t miss Crow Jane till she lay down and die

Till the day she died, till the day she died

There’s a reason I begged Crow Jane

Hot to hold her head too high

Someday baby you know you got to die

You got to lay down

And I dug that women’s grave 8 ft in the ground

I didn’t feel sorry until the let her down

They had to let her down

Someday baby you know you got to die

Most Original of All Blues Men

In his youth, Skip James  heard local musicians such as Henry Stuckey and brothers Charlie and Jesse Sims and began playing the organ in his teens. He worked on road construction and levee-building crews in his native Mississippi in the early 1920s, and wrote what is perhaps his earliest song, “Illinois Blues”, about his experiences as a laborer. Later in the ’20s he sharecropped and made bootleg whiskey in the Bentonia area. He began playing guitar in open D-minor tuning and developed a three-finger picking technique that he would use to great effect on his recordings. In addition, he began to practice piano-playing, drawing inspiration from the Mississippi blues pianist Little Brother Montgomery.

Skip James Official Site for Songs, Lyrics, Tabs, Blues Lessons By John Cephas

Skip James Songs, Tab, Lyrics,  taught by John Cephas
Skip James D-minor guitar tuning is considered to be one of the most haunting of blues guitar tunings. The premier leader in teaching his haunting style for the past 40 years has been John Cephas. John Cephas a black blues man and has taught more students than anyone else how to play this Bentonia and Piedmont style  of finger picking. He has given lessons to hundreds of thousands of students. John Cephas’s lessons can be found at the www.theguitarworkshop.com. John Cephas has several DVD’s and Online lessons and also as a packaged set a 5 DVD and 80 Page Tab Book available.

John teaches song like:  Devil Got My Woman, Hard Time Killing Floor Blues, Cypress Grove; I’m So Glad, Illinois Blues, Special Rider Blues, Cherry Ball Blues, Sick Bed Blues.

John Cephas teaches the guitar playing style of legend Mr. Skip James. Skip James was one of the first blues artist to be recorded, the forem ost practitioner of the bentonia sound of the Mississippi. He was an inspiration to the then young Robert Johnson.

His music was often described as the Deepest and Darkest of all the Blues, eerie. mesmerizing down right haunting. His vocal style featured his falsetto phrases. His guitar playing was based mostly on open tunings, in G and D minor.John begins each tape with a very thorough explanation of all the licks and signature moves Skip James used. Chord progressions and turn arounds, bass runs, and tuning to D minor is all explained.

Skip James Blues Guitar and Piano Player Early years
Skip James was born near Bentonia, Mississippi. His father was a converted bootlegger turned preacher. As a youth, James heard local musicians such as Henry Stuckey and brothers Charlie and Jesse Sims and began playing the organ in his teens. Read More…


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