For the week of 4/30/2012…

“It Hurts Me Too” by Elmore James

The original version of this song was recorded in 1940 by Tampa Red, but Elmore James recorded the definitive version in 1957; it’s been covered numerous times since then.  It’s not hard to see why James’ version is the definitive one:  It’s easily the best.  While this is certainly a blues song, some of its aspects encourage me to classify this as ’50s R&B, in the same vein as Fats Domino.  In fact, the impassioned vocals here belong more to early ’60s soul than to ’50s blues; those vocals are my favorite part of the song.  Honorable mentions:  the way the guitar kicks in during the chorus after James sings the line “when things go wrong”; the powerful fourth verse, which gives me goosebumps each time I hear it.

As mentioned above, this is a cover, albeit one that James took and made his own.  His best known original is probably “The Sky Is Crying.”  James really should be considered one of the titans of ’50-’60s blues, alongside Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and John Lee Hooker.  Unfortunately, he died at the age of 45 in 1963, which prevented him from participating in the late ’60s blues revival that brought immortality to those other famous bluesmen.  That’s not to say that James isn’t remembered as a great; in fact, his legacy as a pioneer of the electric slide guitar lives on.  If I may quote from AllMusic:

“Mississippi born and raised, Elmore James learned his trade in the Delta in the 1930s, emerging in the early 1950s as the godfather of modern electric guitar, and no guitarist who ever plugged an instrument into an amp is free of his influence. Not only did he create the template for electric slide players everywhere, he also reworked his amps until they delivered a raw, overdriven sound that became endemic in pop and rock music a decade later, and no punk band ever sounded more ragged or passionate than Elmore James in full stride.”

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