Death Letter Blues, Son House
If there was a “platonic form” of the perfect Depression-era blues song, this would be it. Powerful, driving, tragic and empowering, this song is a towering achievement. House heavily influenced Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, and most of modern music along the way.
Come on in My Kitchen, Robert Johnson
Women were said to weep openly when Johnson played this song in juke joints. This is the masterwork of the first modern blues guitar player, full of passion and tense with sexual energy. Women want Johnson, men want to be like him. No wonder he’s the “King” of the delta blues singers.
Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning, Blind Willie Johnson
Johnson is, hands down, the best slide guitar player ever. It’s not even close. He used a pocket knife as a slide, and hit such perfect notes that the music compels an inescapable, deeply emotional reaction. There’s a reason why his music is rocketing off into space on the Voyager probe, showcasing the very best humanity can achieve.