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Archive for the ‘“St. James Infirmary”’ Category

This hardly makes up for the melancholy fact that once again it’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and only Tuesday where we live, but: I was pleased to hear, when listening to the latest episode of the excellent Sound Opinions, a snippet of “SJI.” Or rather, it was a snippet of Josh White’s variation on the tune, “Free and Equal Blues,” played during a long interview with the founder of Elektra.

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all.

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Via friend of no notes Alex Rawls and his colleagues at Offbeat:

“St James Infirmary” by Jeremy “Mojo” Phipps and the Outsiders feat. Maddie Ruthless on the latest CD Looters 2011.

Billed as “St James Infirmary (Dub) by Jeremy Phipps and the Outsiders feat. Maddie Ruthless,” it sounds more ska/reggae than dub to me, but I’m not exactly an expert. (Feel free to set me straight in the comments.) Anyway, Ruthless has a nice voice and the vibe, whatever its proper label, is excellent. Worth a listen!

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I’m amused to see that a Facebook page for SJI has emerged. (I had nothing to do with it, for the record!)

It’s basically just a Wikipedia entry, but so far 46 people “like” it.

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Here’s an entertaining, if incomplete, snippet of video from Voodoo Fest, via Brooklyn Vegan. It’s a double version of “SJI” performed by Preservation Hall, with assists from My Morning Jacket members. The clip starts fairly deep into version one, with guest vocals by Jim James, who as noted here previously does a turn on the most recent Preservation Hall record. “James sang it straight, as a bluesy dirge,” writes Alison Fensterstock. “Once he concluded, [My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick] Hallahan grabbed a pair of sticks and joined drummer Joe Lastie for a hot, swung-out version.” That happens at about the two-minute mark on this video. The transition is really fun.

Fensterstock again:

Hall vocalist Clint Maedgen scorched the mic; plenty of cowbell and tambourine gave the number a street-parade, Mardi Gras Indian feel (sort of like Wardell Quezergue’s famous production of the Dixie Cups’ “Iko Iko,” which, legend has it, utilized ashtrays and water glasses for its unforgettably clanky percussion.)

After the song, the band second-lined out and into the crowd, then returned to the stage for a closing version of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene.”
Unfortunately, the clip ends well before the song does — but she’s right, this second version is superhot. And while we don’t get to see the band head into the crowd, there are some very amusing shots of fully Halloweened-out audience members dancing.

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I was listening to Sound Opinions’ recent episode of “scary” songs (Halloween-connected and otherwise), and was interested to hear a Willie Dixon/Koko Taylor tune, “Insane Asylum.” Check the opening lyrics:

I went out to the insane asylum
And I found my baby out there
I said please come back to me darlin’
What in the world are you doin’ here?

Then the little girl raised up her head
Tears was streamin’ down from her eyes
And these are the things
That the little girl said ….

Full lyrics after the jump, or you can hear it here:

The hosts made no mention of “SJI,” and of course it isn’t really a cover, but I think the reference point is pretty clear.

The Detroit Cobras also covered it:

Those lyrics in full: (more…)

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A MetaFilter link to a Fred Astaire/Jonah Jones “SJI” rendition on YouTube (mentioned on this site in 2007), sparks some chatter about the tune, with various MeFi-ers naming their favorite versions and so on. Some unusual picks in there, for sure.

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Views differ on whether “SJI” ought properly be traced quite so far back as “The Unfortunate Rake.” My take remains that there’s somewhat of a connection there, so I read with interest today this entry on NineBullets.net. It’s about “The Cowboy’s Lament”/”Streets of Laredo” a song cycle with a connection to “The Unfortunate Rake” that seems more obvious. But:

While it appears to have descended from “The Unfortunate Rake,” the origins go a little deeper all the way back to an Irish ballad “Bard of Armaugh” which later mutated into “A Handful of Laurel” which is the work “The Unfortunate Rake” was based on.

Read (and listen to) more on this subject, here.

“Bard of Armaugh”? I admit, that’s a new one on me. I’ll investigate as time allows, though comments and tips in the meantime are obviously welcome.

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