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Jimmie Strothers

Jimmie Strothers was a blind banjo and guitar player from Virginia who recorded 15 tracks for Alan Lomax and Harold Spivacke in 1936. Biographical details are sketchy, but Strothers was apparently a medicine show entertainer for a time before going to work in the mines, where an explosion took his eyesight, forcing him to earn a living as a street singer. Things changed even more drastically when he was convicted of murdering his wife with an axe and was sent to the state penitentiary in Lynn, VA, which was where Lomax and Spivacke, working on a field recording project for the Library of Congress, found him. Strothers recorded a total of 13 songs (plus alternate takes of "Jaybird" and "Poontang Little, Poontang Small") over the course of two days on June 13 and June 14, 1936, often with fellow inmate Joe Lee sharing vocal and guitar duties. In what may have been a crowd-pleasing gimmick from the medicine show days, Strothers and Lee even play the same guitar at the same time on "Do, Lord, Remember Me."

The songs recorded over the two days were split between secular pieces and stripped-down versions of sacred hymns, all reflecting an era of post-Reconstruction rural black culture, and what is most remarkable is the variety of song forms that Strothers had in his repertoire, and the eerie passion and energy he brought to his singing and banjo playing. The odd "Keep Away from the Bloodstained Banders," the first track Strothers recorded, is a variant of a John Adam Granade hymn from the 1800s, "Let Thy Kingdom, Blessed Savior." At the other end of the spectrum, Strothers delivered two takes of the bawdy "Poontang Little, Poontang Small," which earned a "Delta check" (the designation for erotic material) when it was entered into the Library of Congress archives. "I Used to Work on the Tractor" is a caustic comment on working for an exploitative contractor, while the six-minute "Goin' to Richmond" is a long blues. Strothers also recorded an interesting version of "Cripple Creek" on his second day with Lomax and Spivacke called "Thought I Heard My Banjo Say," which fleshes out a song that is usually only done in brief fragments. In two days of recording, Jimmie Strothers managed to leave behind an edgy, singular, and fascinating group of songs that explore the boundaries between the sacred and the profane. ~ Steve Leggett
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Goodbye, Babylon

Disc 1

4. Present Joys

5. All I Want Is That Pure Religion

8. Thou Carest Lord, For Me

9. Lift Him Up That's All

10. Rock My Soul

12. Crucifixion

14. I'll Never Go Back

15. God's Gonna Separate The Wheat From The Tares

16. Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

17. I Belong To The Band - Hallelujah!

18. River Of Jordan

19. Sow Good Seeds

20. I'll Be Satisfied

21. Troubled 'bout My Soul

22. Dry Bones

24. Creep Along, Moses

26. He Gave Me A Heart To Love

27. O Day

Disc 2

1. There Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down

3. The Bible's Right

4. Standing In The Need Of Prayer

7. Jesus Is A Mighty Good Leader

9. Glory, Glory, Glory, Glory To The Lamb

10. Come Over Here

11. I'm Gonna Cross The River Of Jordan

12. Milky White Way

17. This World Can't Stand Long

18. God's Getting Worried

19. Get Right Church

20. Move, Members, Move

24. The Bible's True

25. Ship Of Glory

28. When The Saints Go Marching In

Disc 3

4. Ain't Gonna Lay My Armor Down

7. Lord, I Just Can't Keep From Crying

9. You've Got To Move

11. Golden Gate Gospel Train

12. I'll Be Rested (When The Roll Is Called)

13. Down On Me

14. Goin' To Rest Where Jesus Is

19. What Are They Doing In Heaven Today

22. I Am In The Heavenly Way

23. Over In The Glory Land

25. In The Land Where We'll Never Grow Old

26. Bathe In That Beautiful Pool

Disc 4

1. Walking My Lord Up Calvary Hill

3. If You See My Savior

5. Found A Wonderful Savior

8. Take Your Burden To The Lord And Leave It There

12. Standing On The Promises

13. Jesus Is My Air-O-Plane

15. I Mean To Live For Jesus

16. When Was Jesus Born?

17. Come To The Savior

18. I Want Jesus To Walk With Me

19. He's Coming Soon

20. Return Again

21. I Am The True Vine

23. I'll Lead A Christian Life

24. I'm Leaning On The Lord

25. Where He Leads Me I Will Follow

26. Jesus Is Getting Us Ready For The Great Day

Disc 5

3. Hallelujah To The Lamb

4. You Need Jesus On Your Side

5. You'd Better Mind

8. Keep On The Firing Line

9. Romans Ten And Nine

10. Standing Outside

11. Sinner You Better Get Ready

12. I Got To Cross The River Of Jordan

13. Free At Last

15. Amazing Grace

16. Honey In The Rock

17. On Jordan's Stormy Banks We Stand

20. Primrose Hill

21. Keep On The Sunny Side

25. Strange Things Happening Every Day

Disc 6

1. Gettin' Ready For Christmas Day

5. The Liar

14. O Lord I'm Your Child

15. Moses Was Rescued By A Negro Woman

x

Track List: Deep River Of Song: Black Appalachia

1. Cripple Creek

4. Soldier's Joy

5. Old Joe

7. Black Bayou

8. Banty Rooster

9. Poontang Little, Poontang Small

10. Give The Fiddler A Dram

15. Devil's Dream

17. Steel-Laying Holler

18. Pauline

19. Track-Lining Song

20. New Careless Love

21. The Red Cross Store

Comments

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Reminds me of Gus Cannon...
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jpgascoyne
Outrageous - tremendous depth of expression, great voice

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