recorded 18 songs for Paramount Records in Grafton, WI, in 1931, a session that yielded some of the greatest and most unique sides in the history of country blues. These tracks have been issued in their entirety by several labels, including Yazoo, Document, and Body & Soul, each of which has transferred them from surviving 78s. In the case of some songs, like "Illinois Blues," for instance, only one copy of the original 78 has ever been located (and that copy was well worn and somewhat damaged), so the sound quality isn't always the best on these CD reissues, but the music is so brilliant and transcendent, it ultimately doesn't matter that much. The Body & Soul release, like Document's version, sequences the songs chronologically in the order that James
recorded them, which means that the 13 guitar songs come first, followed by five on piano. Yazoo mixes the piano songs throughout, creating what is perhaps a more balanced listening experience, although more historically minded listeners may prefer the chronological running order. Other than the running order, though, these are exactly the same tracks on all three releases (and in many cases, taken from the exact same surviving 78s), so it ends up being a coin flip over which one to get.