What I assume to be the very latest new version of “St. James Infirmary” appears on the album Rise (official release date: yesterday), by Chris Thomas King. King is probably most famous for his role in the film “O Brother Where Out Thou?” but in Louisiana he’s fairly well known for his actual occupation: blues musician. More about his background here. I hadn’t heard this, but evidently he lost a home and recording studio Uptown; this new record is a post-Katrina effort.
The best thing about his mostly traditional take on “St. James Infirmary” is his revision of the singer’s request to be decked out with a “20-dollar gold piece on watch chain” at his funeral (so they boys will know he died standin’ pat). Thomas’s character asks, instead, for “an iced-up crown medallion on my neck chain.” Thomas has experimented with hip hop, and of course of “iced-up” is basically rap slang for diamond-encrusted — a nice updating.
Beyond that: I enjoyed Thomas’s vocal delivery here, but I’m really not a fan of his guitar playing. And being a little pressed for time, I’m going to leave it at that.