Skip James: Devil Got My Woman

Written by Maria Valdes


In category: Song of the Day

Published April 20, 2016

When I was about 20, I became very interested in early American music after being introduced to Alan Lomax. Lomax was an American folklorist and ethnomusicologist. He collected thousands of field recordings for The Archive of American Folk song at the Library of Congress. Without the work of Lomax and and his contemporaries, much of the popular music we have today would not have developed.

I would spend hours listening to his discography. There was something so refreshing about hearing music that wasn’t produced in a studio. Lomax would just go into someone’s home and ask them to play a couple of songs. There were mistakes and there was laughing and talking. Sometimes it was 45 minutes of intolerable wailing when, suddenly, you’d stumble upon something breathtaking. One such breathtaking discovery was Skip James.

Mr. James takes us back to 1931 to give us today’s song, “Devil Got my Woman.” It’s one of those songs that sticks to your soul. ‘Been tryin’ to shake it for years and it just won’t quit!

P.S. Listen for how different the guitar accompaniment is from the vocal line. How does he do that???

author: Maria Valdes

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This week, soprano María Valdés curates Song of the Day. She will perform with NYFOS next Tuesday, April 26th, in Compositora: Songs by Latin American Women, alongside baritone Efraín Solís. She is a recent alumna of the Adler Fellowship at San Francisco Opera where she sang and covered several roles. Her performance with NYFOS will mark her New York recital debut.


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