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Son House, Skip James, Bukka White, and Big Joe Williams are the saints and originators,

the shrine upon which was born that groovey sound we call The Blues.



Living Legends

Son House - Skip James

Bukka White - Big Joe Williams

Linear Notes by Brian Van der Horst 


Album recorded at Cafe Au Go Go in New York City

Side One: 1. Levee Camp Moan -- Son House 7:28 2. Black Bottom -- Bukka White 3:56

3. Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues -- Bukka White 3:34  4. Whiskey-Headed -- Woman Big Joe Williams 1:40

Side Two: 1. Devil Got My Woman -- Skip James 6:08  2. I'm So Glad -- Skip James 2:18  

3. So Soon -- Big Joe Williams 2:56 4. Somebody Evil -- Big Joe Williams 2:05 6. Poor Boy -- Bukka White 2:56

Blues lovers, this album should occupy the reliquary of your record collection. Here are those great men of blues you have heard about so often, with such reverence. To the collectors, the players, the friends and the followers of the blues, this album probably seems placed on the shelf by nothing short of celestial intervention. For Son House, Skip James, Bukka White, and Big Joe Williams are the saints and originators, the shrine upon which was born that groovey sound we call The Blues.

To those who have formerly known these men only by their sought-after recordings from the 1930s in the heydey of the country blues, an album like this boggles the mind. Yes, impossible it seems, that on November 24-26, 1966 in the Cafe Au-Go-Go in provincial Greenwich village, the world could see these men, most of whom have been recently re-discovered by hunting through rural areas, playing with their near-mythical force and virtuosity. For the first time in the annals of blueslore, these men were together on the same stage, at the now-historic Blues Bag concerts.

Most of the men had not met each other before, a strange situation for four men who were born not more than a hundred miles apart in the cradle of the blues, The Mississippi Delta. Each remembers the same black dirt, the levee camps, the fields and towns under the Yazoo Country sun. Yet each gentleman represents a different primary shade of the Delta Blues.

This album is an astounding collection of the styles and creators of the blues that have continually influenced modern popular music. Bob Dylan, The rolling stones, the Beatles, and countless others have sung versions of the songs these men composed, have formed styles reminiscent of their singing and playing. Nearly every artist in the top 40s owes something to these four who first made it happen.

Here they are, required listening for blueslovers the world over, recorded live in performance, the living legends of the blues.

Sun House albums: Father Of The Delta Blues  /  The Original Delta Blues  / The Very Best of Son House


Son House is another of the "Re-discovered" singers. He, too, recorded a few sides for Paramount in 1930, but he went back to his home near Clarksdale in the Delta and worked farms, driving a tractor during most of the 30s. In 1942, Alan Lomax came through his territory, and recorded Son, then 40 years old, for the library of Congress. In 1943 Eddie J. (Son) House moved to Rochester where he worked as a porter for the New York Central Railroad and later as a short-order cook for Howard Johnson. Dick Waterman reports that discouraged by the trend to electric instrumentation and rock and roll, Son just stopped singing his old, emotive blues because he didn't think anyone was listening. Then, in 1964, Al Wilson tracked down Son in Rochester, and told him of the blues renaissance covering the nation. Son turned again to the blues, and has recently played from coast to coast, including Carnegie Hall, tot he delight and wonder of folk audiences everywhere.

Skip James albums The Complete Early Recordings of Skip James / Vanguard Sessions: Blues From The Delta  /  Hard Time Killin' Floor


Nehemiah (Skip) James had given up playing the guitar in the 1950s until three young blueslorists, John Fahey, Henry Vestine, and Bill Barth found him in Tunica, Mississippi, and brought him to the 1964 Newport Jazz Festival, where he was acclaimed by all that knew the blues and had known Skip only through his extremely rare and coveted recordings. Skip was born on the Woodbine plantation in Yazoo County, Mississippi, on June 9, 1902. Through the encouragements of his guitar-playing father, Skip became an accomplished guitar and piano bluesman in his late teens. Skip made his living playing for parties in the major Delta cities, until in February 1930, he was signed by Paramount.

After several recordings which showed little money return, Skip became discouraged and left paramount, which folded in 1932, to play around the country with his own gospel groups.

Gospel turned unsuccessful too, so Skip traveled the South at several jobs until moving to Birmingham in 1942. Skip later married there, and next moved to tunica in the mid-50s where he was discovered by Fahey and company.

Skip's high, plaintive tenor sets up a sly tension against his complex, almost Elizabethan sounding ripples of picked guitar notes. Skip's once demonically fast picking is still going at an incredible velocity.

Big Joe Williams albums: Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1 (1935-1941)  /  Absolutely the Best  / Walking Blues


Big Joe Williams,  born on October 16, 1903 into a family of sixteen children in Crawford, Mississippi, made himself a one-string guitar from a shoebox when he was four, and by the time he was thirteen, was making up his own blues. Not one for field work, Joe earned his dollar a day in the grueling levee and line camps, playing guitar for Saturday nights or intown dances. After traveling with medicine shows and Jug Bands, Joe hit Chicago in 1930 and recorded for paramount in '31. Joe had several hits in the thirties before the war put the lid on country blues.He then left Chicago for St. Louis, where he has spent most of his recent years. Joe plays a home-made nine-string guitar with heavy insistent rhythms in open tunings accompanying his rough voice. throughout his life he has run into situations where he would have to beat a hasty retreat, leaving his guitar. He thus got into the habit of collecting old, inexpensive 6-string guitars and attaching three or four extra strings for his unique, piano-like sound: friendly and rolling with a bouncing elegance.


Bukka White -- Booker T. Washington (he prefers to be called Booker) was  born on his grandfather's farm near Houston, Mississippi on November 12, 1906. though the women in Bukka's family disapproved of the blues as "devil's music," his father taught him guitar, and his grandfather used to play fiddle with him. At nine, Bukka tried to run away from home to work in a saw mill, but was retrieved by his parents. At fourteen, however, he went to St. Louis and made a living for himself playing in pool rooms and honky-tonks, Bukka kept to the road pretty much from then on until in 1930 he recorded eight tracks for Victor in Memphis. After a recording foray to Chicago with Big Bill Broonzy, Bukka returned to the Delta where he "had to burn a guy a little and they gave me a little time down there on Parchman Farm." Bukka stayed in Parchman until 1944, during which time he was recorded by Alan Lomax on one of his penitentiary recording stints. After many years of absence from music, working in the Delta, Bukka was located in 1963 by John Fahey and Ed Denson and reestablished in the music world.

Bukka's style on guitar and piano covers open tunings and bottle-neck, fingerpicking and a fast flailing shuffle. Railroads, engines, fast and furious livelihoods and travelings come to mind from Bukka's loud, barrelhouse music. —Verve Folkways, manufactured by MGM Records

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Son House

Father Of The Delta Blues

According to legend, it was Son House's blistering bottleneck guitar that prompted Robert Johnson to pick up a six string. House's potent early recordings from 1930 and 1941 to 1942 showcased his raw, emotionally powerful style, but never received the acclaim of Johnson's. When he was rediscovered during the '60s blues revivalist movement, House's voice still possessed wall-shaking intensity and his idiosyncratic slide guitar still had bite. These 21 recordings (including five alternate takes) offer superior fidelity and significant room for House to stretch out. The first disc features his classic "Preachin' Blues," a stirring a capella "Grinning in Your Face," and a nine-minute "Levee Camp Moan," with Canned Heat's Al Wilson on harp. Disc two (outtakes and alternates) includes an odd homage to President Kennedy and a riveting version of the spiritual "Motherless Children."—Marc Greilsamer

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The Original Delta Blues

This Columbia Legacy reissue of the 1965 release is one of the few recordings available of one of the blues' founding fathers. It contains some of his best songs, which have unsurprisingly become classics of the Delta blues genre: "Death Letter," "Preachin' Blues," "Levee Camp Moan," "Pony Blues," and "Downhearted Blues" are all here. Though not as comprehensive as Father of the Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions, this CD is an excellent introduction to this seminal artist's work, revealing the creativity, passion, skillful guitar playing, and rich singing that helped form a whole new kind of music.—Genevieve Williams

The Original Delta Blues The Original Delta Blues combines the nine tracks from Son House's 1965 LP with a couple of cuts from the session ... that were unreleased until its complete issue on Legacy in 1992. House's skills eroded quickly after his rediscovery, and these sides are certainly the best of his revival recordings.—Living Blues

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The Very Best of Son House

Son House's place, not only in the history of Delta blues, but in the overall history of the music, is a very high one indeed. He was a major innovator of the Delta style, along with his playing partners Charley Patton and Willie Brown. Few listening experiences in the blues are as intense as hearing one of Son House's original 1930s recordings for the Paramount label. Decades later listeners are still awestruck by the emotional fervor House put into his singing and slide playing. Little wonder then, that the man became more than just an influence on some White English kid with a big amp; he was the main source of inspiration to both Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, and it doesn't get much more pivotal than that.

This release in the Heroes of the Blues series is the only true cross-licensed best-of package for Son House. A complete career retrospective, covering all periods of his career and various record labels. Transcribed directly from Paramount 78's and completely restored and re-mastered. Original cover art by R. Crumb.—

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Skip James

The Complete Early Recordings of Skip James

With an unmistakable falsetto delivery, Skip James created some of history's eeriest blues records. His blues sounds dark and mysterious, using odd tunings, structures, and rhythms, and exploring gloomy lyrical themes. Unlike other bluesmen of the day, James's music was personal and bleak, played for his own emotional release and not for purposes of entertainment. "Devil Got My Woman," "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues," "Hard Luck Child," and "Special Rider Blues" convey sorrow and misery like few others can. Uptempo numbers such as the classic "I'm So Glad" and "Drunken Spree," which resembles the hillbilly traditional "Late Last Night," showcase his forceful guitar picking while rags "Little Cow and Calf" and the jumpy "How Long 'Buck'" feature his unique piano work.—Marc Greilsamer

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Vanguard Sessions: Blues From The Delta

Unlike any other early bluesman rediscovered in the 1960s, James had fundamentally changed his style, adopting a weird falsetto that, to some of us, is the most haunting and soulful sound in blues. Unfortunately, the white fans who spearheaded the blues revival have often been guitar nerds, who note only that James's technical skill on that instrument had deteriorated with age. This is true, but irrelevant to anyone interested in music rather than technique. The fact is, James's 1930s recordings and his 1960s recordings provide quite different experiences, with quite different strengths, and both are extraordinary.

 he Vanguard sessions are outstanding, among other things, for his new composition, "Washington DC Hospital Blues" (here called "Center Blues"), one of his greatest lyrics. As a longtime blues journalist, who has at times defended Stephen Calt's biography of James, which makes similar disparaging remarks about his later work (as well as some absurdly virulent attacks on James's character), I want to go on record as saying that, if I had to choose one era of his work, I would pick the 1960s. Fortunately, I don't. I can have both, for which I am supremely grateful. . . . Just listen to the record, and you will find out why virtually all the people who heard James in the 1960s consider it among the supreme musical experiences of their lives.— Elijah Wald (Cambridge, MA USA)

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Hard Time Killin' Floor

This is it! In my opinion, this is the definitive collection of Skip James' early recordings. Yazoo has always had the best sound, mostly because of the label's judicious use of noise reduction (in the old days, that meant NO noise reduction!). Now they've apparently used the latest tools to remove most of the intermittent noise, while leaving the music and some high-end background noise intact. Whatever process was used, sound engineer Richard Nevins has created the best sounding versions of these songs that I've ever heard. On the old Yazoo compilation, songs like "Special Rider Blues" and "Illinois Blues" were almost completely buried in noise. Somehow, Nevins has resurrected them. In particular, the guitar parts are much clearer. There is still quite a bit of noise and distortion - these records are notoriously rare and in poor condition - but this is probably the best they'll ever sound. This CD has all of the Skip James 1930 Paramount recordings that are known to exist. It also includes four cuts by Son House from the same year. These recordings are also extremely rare in and in very poor condition. Once again, Nevins has made them sound better than ever. As for the music, it is some of the most haunting ever recorded in the blues genre.— Lee C. Grady (Madison, WI USA)

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Big Joe Williams

Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1 (1935-1941) 

Equipped with the unwieldy handle of "Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order volume 1 (1935 - 1941) - Break 'Em On Down", this is the best collection of Big Joe Williams' early recordings. Joe Williams' vocals are stronger and more focused than on his 60s "rediscovery" waxings, and while the original 1935 recordings of Williams' all-time classic songs "Baby Please Don't Go" and "Highway 49" are certainly interesting, the 1941 re-recordings, which feature John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson on harmonica, are simply the definitive recordings of those two songs by ANY artist.
John Lee Williamson plays harmonica on a total of ten songs, including a magnificent performance on the mid-tempo shuffle "North Wind Blues".

Big Joe also delivers a potent rendition of John Lee Hooker's "Crawlin' King Snake" (credited to himself), and covers like "Break 'Em On Down" (a version of Bukka White's "Shake 'Em On Down") and "Someday" (originally by Sleepy John Estes) are equally powerful.
The sound is notably better on the 1941 recordings than on the prewar sides, but the '30s waxings aren't terrible by any means, and you get a chance to hear Big Joe Williams playing with his mid-30s two-man backing band, washboard player Chasey Collins and fiddler "Dad" Tracy.
Sonny Boy Williamson (I) shows up on both the 1937 sides and the December, 1941 sides, and on the 1937 recordings a certain Robert Lee McCoy shows up as well, playing second guitar. Robert Nighthawk had yet to go electric (as had almost everybody at the time), but he and Williamson flesh out the sound wonderfully on terrific, muscular blues tunes like "I Know You're Gonna Miss Me" and "I Won't Be In Hard Luck No More".

If you've only heard Big Joe's rediscovery recordings, you may be surprised at how sophisticated and melodic many of these songs are, and what a great instrumentalist Joe Williams actually was. 1941-recordings like "I'm Getting Wild About Her", "Throw A Boogie-Woogie" and "Meet Me Around The Corner" are not among his best-known songs, but they're certainly among his best. Check out "Meet Me Around The Corner", and you'll hear where Howlin' Wolf got the idea for "Meet Me Down In The Bottom."— Docendo Discimus

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Absolutely the Best

The late Big Joe Williams, a literal giant of the blues, recorded so many quality albums that this title seems like smoke. Yet these 20 cuts do beg for inclusion among his best. Backed by pianist Erwin Helfer at Cobra's tiny Chicago studio in 1957, Williams invokes the magic of the 1930s with his distinctive nine-string guitar and tatter-edged voice on the opening tunes, including his trademark "Baby Please Don't Go." Later there's a match-up with Lightnin' Hopkins and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, in which they all trade licks, lyrics, and harp notes in an amiable jam through "Chain Gang Blues."

It's fun to catch Hopkins and Williams trying to outdo each other—Hopkins tossing off a rippling single-note solo, Williams pushing his voice up into ghost howls. Nonetheless, the best shot at hearing what the blues sounded like on a street corner in the pre-electrification Delta is the last nine numbers. Williams goes it mostly alone on those songs from 1963, stomping his foot, thumb-snapping low notes, and laying down bright flashes of slide behind his shouted words. The strings rattle against the frets under his determined bottleneck playing, lending muscularity to the sadness so many of these performances evoke. It's that physical nature of Williams's arthis crisp, soaring vocal phrases and the stuttering, impetuous breaks of his accenting chords, solos, and slide--that makes even the lowdown themes of sickness and loss that reverberate in tunes like "Razor Sharp Blues" and "I Feel So Worried" convey his dignity and power.—Ted Drozdowski

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Walking Blues

By the time these sessions were recorded in the early '60s (as Studio Blues and Blues for Nine Strings), the sounds of Big Joe Williams's thundering voice and his extraordinary nine-string guitar had been heard from the levee camps of the Delta to the freight yards of old Chicago. Once rediscovered by the folks at Prestige/Bluesville (like so many blues artists), he was placed in the studio with an understandably nervous young harp player named Larry Johnson and legendary bassist Willie Dixon. What resulted was a down-home jam session in which Big Joe dragged the others to wherever his personal muse led. Highly personalized versions of ancient ballads are the norm here, with Big Joe's fluid fingerpicking weaving its way around Dixon's deep, syncopated groove. It's incredible how tight the trio is and how original each song sounds considering the improvised nature of the sessions. But then, the great ones always make it sound easy.—Ken Hohman

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Bukka White

The Complete Bukka White

Using the simplest melodies as his canvas, Delta bluesman Bukka White painted vivid pictures of his own life in the rural South, punctuating his words with a highly percussive steel-guitar attack. Among his subjects: trains, booze, sex, prison, and death. After shooting an old Mississippi rival during a roadside showdown, White had allegedly jumped bail to record his first two songs in 1937. The bawdy "Shake 'Em On Down" was a hit, but White spent two years in prison for his indiscretion. When White returned to Chicago in 1940 to record again, producer Lester Melrose rejected his roster of cover tunes, giving him two days to come up with his own material. Under the gun, White created the 10 autobiographical gems that round out this collection.Marc Greilsamer

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Mississippi Blues

In 1964, University of California at Berkeley college students John Fahey, and Ed Denson, both blues enthusiasts, sent a letter solely addressed to "Booker T. Washington White (Old Blues Singer) c/o General Delivery, Aberdeen." Amazingly, the letter found its way to relatives of Booker (Bukka) who then passed it on to Booker himself. Two hours after receiving a letter from Booker, Fahey and Denson were in their car on the way to Memphis. They located his rooming house and were surprised to find that after 35 years of forced silence (prison), Bukka still played with the same fire and intensity of his younger days.

The recording they made that historic day in '64 became this disc. The version of "Poor Boy Long Way From Home" is filled with the same passion and energy of an earlier,1930 version. You'll picture Bukka standing in his prison uniform, exhausted and broken as he sings . . . "When can I change my clothes" . . .  from the classic cut "Parchman Farm Blues." No doubt life was rough for Bukka on the Parchman Farm Prison Work Camp and you can feel his heartache and misery in that song as if you were the unlucky one in prison stripes.

At age 55, Bukka surely thought his time as a recording artist were over. But the two young white men who traveled across country to meet this legend breathed new life into an old tired soul. Feel the passion as he sings "Baby Please Don't Go." You'll think you really are on the "New Orleans Streamline" or "The Atlanta Special." You'll thrill to the complex arrangement of "Poor Boy Long Way From Home" done just as it was for Alan Lomax back when Bukka was still in Parchman. What we have here is a true slice of history. Relive his life through songs such as "Army Blues" and "Shake 'Em On Down." Yes, this cousin of B.B. King is a true American original whose timeless recordings should be treasured by generations to come. A music fan

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1963 Isn't 1962

The difference a year makes. Bukka White hadn't released a record in over twenty years, and then the Blues revival hit. Bob Dylan had recorded one of his songs. A new generation had discovered early Blues and the south was being combed for living links. Bluesmen were coming out of retirement and Bukka White went on tour.

Recorded live in California in 1963, Bukka sounds confident, seasoned and in full comand of his abilities. Though at times one wonders if Bukka doesn't have doubts about his brand new young audience, it doesn't hinder his performance either way; if anything he sounds bemused and pleased.

Worthy of mention here is the live version of Alberdeen Blues. He accentuates his crying, wistful vocal with a hammer run of notes on the neck of the guitar while he slaps the body of the instrument with his other hand for resonation. The effect is striking and mesmerizing. Hours after I've listened to this CD that part of the song keeps sneaking up on me and haunting me. I have trouble getting rid of it. This isn't a bad thing.

Though, as a whole, this CD isn't as impressive as his earlier music collected on The Complete Bukka White (what could be?), this certainly is a nice place to go along the way to further explore this unique artist.—jackback" (Orlando, Florida United States)

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Charley Patton (1891-1934)

Grandfather of Rock 'n' Roll

Charlie Patton born Mississippi, April 1891 was an experienced performer of songs before he was twenty years old and was first recorded (Thankfully) in 1929. His influence is everywhere and was arguably the first of the greats. An influence on Son House, Tommy Johnson, Bukka White and without doubt Howlin' Wolf. We have to thank archivists, the likes of Harry Smith, that we can hear these inimitable songs today.

Some people tell me, oversea blues ain't bad

It must not been the oversea blues I had

Everyday seem like murder here

(My god, I'm no sheriff)

I'm going to leave tomorrow,

I know you don't bid my care

I ain't going down no dirt road by myself

If I don't carry my rider, going to carry someone else

*   *   *   *   *

I'm going away to where I'm known

I'm worried now but I won't be worried long

My rider got somethin' she try to keep it hid

Lord, I got somethin' find that somethin' with

I feel like chopping, chips flying everywhere

I've been to the Nation, lord, but I couldn't stay there

Charlie Patton was the first great Delta bluesman; from him flowed nearly all the elements that would comprise the region's blues style. Patton had a coarse, earthy voice that reflected hard times and hard living. His guitar style—percussive and raw—matched his vocal delivery. He often played slide guitar and gave that style a position of prominence in Delta blues.

Patton's songs were filled with lyrics that dealt with issues like social mobility (pony Blues), imprisonment (“High Sheriff Blues”), nature (“High Water Blues”), and morality (“Oh Death”) that went far beyond traditional male-female relationship themes. Patton defined the life of a bluesman. He drank and smoked excessively. He reportedly had a total of eight wives. He was jailed at least once. He traveled extensively, never staying in one place for too long.

Charley Patton was "the" delta blues man of course, his playing was raw and expressive, a distinctive style, rather dissident to the other blues players of the time. A monument !

The Dockery farm was the sawmill and cotton plantation where Charley and his family lived from 1900 onwards.

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Charley PattonSpoonful Blues (A song about cocaine, 1929)

Spoonful Blues

(spoken: I'm about to go to jail about this spoonful)
In all a spoon', 'bout that spoon'
The women goin' crazy, every day in their life 'bout a . . .
It's all I want, in this creation is a . . .
I go home (spoken: wanna fight!) 'bout a . . .
Doctor's dyin' (way in Hot Springs !)
just 'bout a . . .
These women goin' crazy every day in their life 'bout a . . .
Would you kill a man dead? (spoken: yes, I will!) just 'bout a . . .
Oh babe, I'm a fool about my...
(spoken: Don't take me long!) to get my . . .
Hey baby, you know I need my . . .
It's mens on Parchman (done lifetime) just 'bout a...
Hey baby, (spoken: you know I ain't long) 'bout my. . .
It's all I want (spoken: honey, in this creation) is a . . .
I go to bed, get up and wanna fight 'bout a . . .
(spoken: Look-y here, baby, would you slap me? Yes I will!) just 'bout a...
Hey baby,
(spoken: you know I'm a fool a-)
'bout my . . .

Would you kill a man?
(spoken: Yes I would, you know I'd kill him)
just 'bout a . . .
Most every man (spoken: that you see is)
fool 'bout his...
(spoken: You know baby, I need)
that ol' . . .Hey baby,
(spoken: I wanna hit the judge 'bout a)
'bout a . . .
(spoken: Baby, you gonna quit me? Yeah honey!)
just 'bout a . . .
It's all I want, baby, this creation is a...
(spoken: look-y here, baby, I'm leavin' town!)
just 'bout a . . .
Hey baby, (spoken: you know I need)
that ol' . . .
(spoken: Don't make me mad, baby!)
'cause I want my . . .Hey baby, I'm a fool 'bout that...
(spoken: Look-y here, honey!)
I need that...
Most every man leaves without a...
Sundays' mean (spoken: I know they are)
'bout a . . .

Hey baby, (spoken: I'm sneakin' around here)
and ain't got me no . . .
Oh, that spoon', hey baby, you know I need my . . .

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Charlie Patton—Shake it and Break it  / Charlie Patton—Revenue Man Blues' (1934)

Charlie PattonGoing To Move To Alabama (1929) / Charlie Patton and Bertha Lee—Yellow Bee (1934)

Charlie PattonPoor Me (1934) / Charlie PattonI'm Goin' Home

Charlie Patton—Some These Days I'll Be Gone (1929) / Charlie Patton—When Your Way Gets Dark (1929)

Charlie Patton—You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Come to Die (1929)

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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