Take Five: A Weekly Jazz Sampler

5 Blues Songs That Feel Your Midwinter Chill

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Cover art to Muddy Waters' Folk Singer LP. i i

hide captionCover art to Muddy Waters' Folk Singer LP.

Chess Records
Cover art to Muddy Waters' Folk Singer LP.

Cover art to Muddy Waters' Folk Singer LP.

Chess Records

In the Northern Hemisphere, January is typically the coldest month of the year. If we can somehow drag ourselves through the month, things will begin to turn around and we'll be on the road to springtime. But January often feels as if it'll never end.

So as we slog through the cold rain and snow, awaiting January's demise, here are five blues songs to help get us through the winter.

5 Blues Songs That Feel Your Midwinter Chill

Blind Willie McTell cover

Blind Willie McTell

  • Album: Statesboro Blues: The Early Years 1927-1935
  • Song: Cold Winter Day

Although "Statesboro Blues" is Blind Willie McTell's most famous song — it's been covered by many artists, including Taj Mahal and The Allman Brothers — he wasn't a one-song wonder. McTell was very prolific during the '20s and '30s, writing and recording some of the best blues numbers of that era. "Cold Winter Day" is just one the many great songs in his extensive discography.

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  • "Cold Winter Day"
  • Album: Statesboro Blues: The Early Years 1927-1935
  • Artist: Blind Willie McTell
  • Label: Document
  • Released: 2005
 
Sonny Boy Williamson cover

Sonny Boy Williamson

  • Album: Essential Sonny Boy Williamson [MCA/Chess]
  • Song: Nine Below Zero

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 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 addressed in another song in this list, and it also pops up in Bob Dylan's "Outlaw Blues" from 1965.

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  • "Nine Below Zero"
  • Album: Essential Sonny Boy Williamson [MCA/Chess]
  • Artist: Sonny Boy Williamson II
  • Label: Chess
  • Released: 1993
 
Muddy Waters cover

Muddy Waters

  • Album: Folk Singer
  • Song: Cold Weather Blues

"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 music Waters ever recorded. Headphones and closed eyes (or a darkened room) are highly recommended for maximum enjoyment. An added pleasure in this song: the presence of a very young Buddy Guy, playing acoustic guitar behind Waters.

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  • "Cold Weather Blues"
  • Album: Folk Singer
  • Artist: Muddy Waters
  • Label: Chess
  • Released: 1964
 
Cash Box Kings cover

Cash Box Kings

  • Album: I-94 Blues
  • Song: St. Paul Wintertime Blues

The Chicago Blues Guide describes the Cash Box Kings as "a cohesive band endeavor that effortlessly captures the sound of bygone days without getting stuck in a retro straitjacket." As you'll hear, the group doesn't like getting stuck in a St. Paul winter, either.

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  • "St. Paul Wintertime Blues"
  • Album: I-94 Blues
  • Artist: Cash Box Kings
  • Released: 2013
 
Paul Reddick cover

Paul Reddick & The Sidemen

  • Album: Rattlebag
  • Song: Pinegum

In this song, Canadian bluesman Paul Reddick gives us a slightly lighter take on winter weather. Slightly. His words 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.

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  • "Pinegum"
  • Album: Rattlebag
  • Artist: Paul Reddick & the Sidemen
  • Label: NorthernBlues Music
  • Released: 2001
 

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