Hard Time Killing Floor Blues – Skip James (2003)

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Wow. This was such an emotionally exhausting listen. What a compilation. I had never heard of Skip James before, in all candor. Luckily enough for me, however, I was introduced to such an exemplary blues musician.

I’ve recently finished up with finals and am back home for the holidays. Unfortunately, things weren’t looking so up for me as of late, so I turned to the blues for some much-needed solace and inspiration.

His voice. His voice. His god damn voice. James’ voice penetrates the mind on the deepest level; there’s no easy way around this fact. His voice is simply pervasive and exquisitely emphatic. Each of the 12 songs included here on the compilation exude such a timeless vibe that each is such a treat to hear and take in. Simultaneously, however, although it’s exciting to hear such a talented singer sing his heart out, it’s also quite melancholic and intensely sad. Like I said, listening to this compilation was so exhausting. Succinctly put, we live through James’ trials and tribulations.

I’ve heard “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” once before (which was off of Buddy Guy’s “Blues Singer”). And, upon hearing that version, I thought it was one of the most emotionally resonant things I had heard up until that point in my life (which was sophomore year in high school). This version, however, is overwhelming; James’ voice screams at us, despite him never having to raise it at all. That’s his definite talent: he’s able to use such tranquility to create a vastly intense, fiery and candid environment.

My favorite song off of “Hard Time” is the title track. This, along with a few select tracks (which will be reviewed on their respective albums in due time), may be the most emotionally convincing and resonant track I’ve heard. Breathtaking and dismal, “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” is extraordinary.

Luckily for us, each song on “Hard Floor” is fully fleshed out due to each song’s runtime. Each of the 12 cuts passes the four-minute mark; this allows James to take his time and dutifully map out each of his stories. Each song is magnificent and harrowing; every god damn song. Not a second is wasted on this compilation album. One of the best out there, that’s for sure.

 

My Grade: B-

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