24 MAY 10 ANNE FARNSWORTH
James "St. Louis Jimmy" Oden was an itinerant bluesman who wrote for major artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker. A successful singer himself, in 1960 he reprised a set of his most personal material called Goin' Down Slow, the title of his biggest hit.
Born in Nashville in 1903, as a teenager he headed for St. Louis. An important center of black American music since the Ragtime era, by the '20s it had a vibrant blues culture with its own distinct sound. Oden stayed long enough to hone his skills and pick up a nickname, which he carried to Chicago, spending the rest of his life recording and composing.
"Goin' Down Slow" is a chilling account of a hard-living man who sees his health deteriorating. "Poor Boy" is the lament of an impoverished, illiterate orphan. Autobiographical or not, it must have resonated with a significant portion of southerners of that era. "Mother's Day Blues," a paean to mother love, is an example of blues as a discrete musical form whose subject matter isn't always downbeat.
A huge part of this record's appeal is the piano playing of Robert Banks. His churchy right hand and shuffle basslines exemplify a sound that lead to the rock and roll era of Fats Domino and Little Richard.