15. Special Rider
When I was living in Somerville Mass, Al Wilson (who was a friend of
my neighbor, and was later in the group Canned Heat) showed me how to play this open G guitar
part. For some reason I remembered it, although I never thought of singing it, or any of Skip James’s
songs, until many years later.

16. Richmond Blues
Julius Daniels and Bull City Red recorded this song, but the best known
version is Blind Boy Fuller’s, and in certain places down south it’s a ready-made jamming song. The
first time I went to Georgia to visit Precious and Tony Bryant we played this song together and she
and I traded off verses. The same thing happened whenever I went to see J. W. Warren, a fine musician
and singer who lived in Alabama but unfortunately wasn’t as well known as he should have
been because he didn’t like to travel much, not even to Birmingham.

17. Mississippi Blues
John Jackson showed me the basics of this song, although I couldn’t sing it
until I put the original melody out of my head and twisted the tune around a little. John was always
generous and willing to pass on his musical knowledge, and it’s a joy to look back on those visits,
just sitting around his house and talking and playing music. I especially remember John’s
granddaughter Neecie, who was a tiny little girl at the time, sitting at his feet and singing along note
for note with his intricate guitar runs. I also remember Cora Lee’s jokes and food, and James’s
amazing demonstration of taxidermic skill on display in the basement.

18. What’s the Matter with the Mill

This is a good last song to do at a gig, because everybody
gets to sing or shout out “done broke down” and they can all leave feeling rowdy.


photo- Michael Stewart