Elmore James The King of the Slide Guitar. The man whom none other than Muddy Waters called "the most exciting, dramatic blues singer and guitarist that I've ever had a chance to see perform in the flesh." An influence on so many great blusemen: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeremy Spencer of early Fleetwood Mac, and Gregg Allman (to name but a few).
I first heard of Elmores James from The Blues Brothers. My first album of Elmore's was from Rhino Records. I listened to that CD so much it eventually died. In university I blasted it quite frequently. One day in my freshman year (out of nowhere), a stunning blonde knocked on my door and asked about this amazing music. I was too stupid and naive to know how to respond. Perhaps she's still listening to Elmore this day.
First up his most well known hit, Dust My Broom. One of the most covered and well known blues songs of all time. It also highlights the jumpin sound of his band, The Broomdusters, including the great pianist Little Johnny Jones.
Elmore died young. So did Little Johnny. As wikipedia tells us:
An important side to James's character which may have hastened his demise was his lifelong taste for, and manufacture of, moonshine whiskey, to which he was introduced at an early age. Alcohol definitely killed his band-mates/friends Willie Love and Johnny Jones at an early age, and probably others too. His regular rhythm guitarist Homesick James maintained his longevity was due to his not partaking of the heavy drinking sessions after — and often during — gigs, a refusal that was unpopular with the rest of the band. James was also reportedly an extremely fast driver who also loved hunting with guns and dogs in Mississippi.
That pain, loss, and tenderness shows itself in our next track: The Sky is Crying. [Covered by the great Stevie Ray and Albert King.]
Next up, Rollin' and Tumblin', a classic blues standard Elmore here covers. It shows the influence on Elmore of the great Robert Johnson. Elmore stands (at er the crossroads) between the earlier Delta folk acoustic blues and the Chicago electric style. This one shows that crossover fantistically and highlights in particular Elmore's amazing singing ability.
Next, James' classic It Hurts Me Too, easily one of the three of four greatest blues songs ever. The lyricism, power, pathos, the virtuoso performance (listen in particular to Johnny's piano and Elmore's guitar in point/counterpoint on this one):
"He loves another woman. Yes I love you. But you love him and stick to him like glue. But when things go wrong, go wrong with you, it hurts me too."
Next, a more relaxed, free-wheelin', travelin' style of blues from Elmore: Got To Move.
Last, a bread and butter Elmore: I Need You Baby. The slide guitar, the voice--blues purity. As the last line says, "Come on home to me." That is the feeling of listening to Elmore James.
Update I: I just can't put Elmore up without this one--Everyday I Have The Blues. The Broomdusters are on fire. The sound is unreal.