Written by Nick Morrison
In the Western Hemisphere, January is typically the coldest month of the year. Most of us feel that if we can somehow drag ourselves through January, things will begin to turn around and we’ll be on the road to springtime.
But January is also typically the month that feels as if it will never end. So as we slog through the cold rain and snow, awaiting January’s demise, here are five winter blues songs to help get us through:
- Song: Cold Winter Day
- Album: Statesboro Blues: The Early Years 1927-1935
Although Statesboro Blues is Blind Willie McTell’s most famous song, having been covered by many artists including Taj Mahal and The Allman Brothers, he certainly wasn’t a one-song wonder. He was very prolific during the 20’s and 30’s, writing and recording some of the best blues of that era.
Cold Winter Day is just one the many great songs in the extensive Willie McTell discography.
- Song: Nine Below Zero
- Album: Essential Sonny Boy Williamson [MCA/Chess]
Blues harmonica virtuoso and singer, Sonny Boy Williamson, liked this song so much he recorded it twice, once in 1951 and again in ’61. This is the later version which features one of the best back-up bands a bluesman could ever want: Otis Spann (piano), Luther Tucker (guitar), Willie Dixon (bass) and Fred Below (drums.)
For some reason, ‘nine below zero’ became a favorite temperature for musicians. You’ll hear that temperature referred to in another song in this list. It also pops up on Bob Dylan’s Outlaw Blues from 1965.
- Song: Cold Weather Blues
- Album: Folk Singer
‘Cold Weather Blues’ might be the most evocative winter-weather blues in this list. It comes from Muddy Waters’ 1964 LP, ‘Folk Singer.’ But don’t let the album’s title fool you.
This all-acoustic session contains some of the deepest, darkest, most intimate blues that Waters ever recorded. Headphones and closed eyes (or a darkened room) are highly recommended for maximum listening enjoyment.
An added pleasure on this song is the presence of a very young Buddy Guy, playing acoustic guitar behind Muddy.
- Song: St. Paul Wintertime Blues
- Album: I-94 Blues
The Cash Box Kings are one of the hottest contemporary blues bands in Chicago. The Chicago Blues Guide describes the Kings as “a cohesive band endeavor that effortlessly captures the sound of bygone days without getting stuck in a retro strait-jacket.”
As you will hear, they don’t like getting stuck in a St. Paul winter, either.
- Song: Pinegum
- Album: Rattlebag
In this song, Canadian bluesman, Paul Reddick, gives us a slightly lighter take on winter weather. Slightly. His lyrics are somewhat enigmatic but it sounds as if his nighttime walk in the winter woods starts to get a bit strange after a while.
You be the judge.