The Late Movies: Old Blues Songs That'll Give You Chills

Ransom Riggs

I don't meet many people who are passionate about the blues. But maybe that's because a lot of modern blues music sounds like this:

Compare that to this haunting 1930 recording of Geechie Wiley singing "Last Kind Word Blues." They don't write 'em like this anymore.

This 1960 performance of Son House singing "Death Letter Blues" is almost as powerful.

Blind Willie Johnson sings "God Moves on the Water" in 1929. Amazing. Turn this one up and give it a minute ...

Skip James' falsetto singing on "Devil Got My Woman" is unbelievable.

The Reverend Gary Davis on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest with a young Donovan. Skip to 1:55 if you don't care for all the introductory stuff.

Elizabeth Cotten was discovered while working for Pete Seeger's family as a housekeeper.

Leadbelly sings the classic work song "Take this Hammer," punctuated by breaths for hammer-strikes.

Odetta's rendition of "Water Boy" emphasizes the beats until they become something else entirely -- cries of anguish.

This performance of Skip James' "Killing Floor Blues" is haunting.

This is a fightin' blues song.

Lightnin' Hopkins singing "Lonesome Road" in 1960.

Another great Hopkins song, "Baby Please Don't Go." I love the way he completely dominates the guitar.

Muddy Waters performs "Mannish Boy" with the Band in Scorsese's The Last Waltz. Four minutes, four notes and totally hypnotic.

You might recognize this song's hook from a sort-of-old pop song.

I, on the other hand, have the way-down-in-the-Delta follow me on Twitter blues.

Ransom Riggs is on book leave. This post originally appeared last July.