Agony Shorthand

Friday, July 25, 2003
MASTERPIECE: SKIP JAMES “HARD TIME KILLIN’ FLOOR BLUES”….Sure, “Devil Got My Woman” and the Cream-covered “I’m So Glad” get all the attention, but SKIP JAMES’ most intense and arguably disturbing work is crystallized in one single 78rpm track, the original 1930 “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues” . Without resorting to the overwrought clichés common to most writing on blues, let’s just say that this song is as sparse and lonesome as they come – truly deserving of the blues moniker. The crackle and sputter of the old 78 recording only enhances the ghostly, out of time feel of the song, and James’ mournful falsetto tells a tale that’ll definitely stiffen the spine. It’s sort of the aural equivalent of watching a Bergman film like “Cries and Whispers” or “Autumn Sonata” – at times uncomfortable, evocative of deep emotions that we usually prefer to keep bottled up, and yet it’s still exceptionally beautiful and liberating in its way. All in one song. I think that’s why they call it a masterpiece, hunh?