Saturday Single No. 763

Anything beyond basic mental functions still escape me as I wait for antibiotics to do their work. It’s supposed to be a run-of-the-mill infection, but if so, it’s a badly operated mill. And I’m still waiting for my new glasses.

Still, not wanting to punt entirely, I did a quick search to see which of the nearly 84,000 files in the RealPlayer were ever recorded on November 27 – a reminder: I have that information for maybe ten percent of the files – and I came up with a bunch.

That’s because eighty-five years ago today, Robert Johnson had the last of three recording sessions in San Antonio’s Gunter Hotel. Unless something new has come to light in the past few years, nine tracks from that session survive: “They’re Red Hot,” “Dead Shrimp Blues,” “Walkin’ Blues,” “Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped The Devil),” “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day,” and two versions each of “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” and “Cross Roads Blues.”

Of those, my favorite is likely “Last Fair Deal Gone Down.” Now, there’s nothing wrong with Johnson’s two versions, but I thought I’d see how many covers I have of the tune in the stacks. Turns out to be eight, with one version each from Eric Clapton, the Peter Green Splinter Group, Dave “Snaker” Ray, Dave Van Ronk, the Rising Sons, and Crooked Still (described as a neo-bluegrass band from Boston) and two versions from Rory Block.

Of all those, the approach by Crooked Still may be the most interesting, with Aoife O’Donovan’s vocals backed by a combination of banjo, cello and double bass. So here’s Crooked Still, from the 2004 album Hop High, with “Last Fair Deal Gone Down.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

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