The Colorblind James Experience
First, a recent one. The other day, musician/composer/teacher David McIntire, of Kansas City, was nice enough to send me a version of "St. James Infirmary" as performed by a band he used to be in, The Colorblind James Experience (great name). That band was based in Rochester, and recorded its version in 1991, when it was a standard part of their reportoire. Mr. McIntire played clarinet in the band.
Their arrangement is a bit swingy, almost jaunty, but still soulful. I can say with honesty that the clarinet parts are my favorite element, musically, of their take.
The band used the old-school blues lyrical setup, starting out with Big Joe Mckennedy and so on, but also added this interesting tweak:
I went down to the St. James Infirmary.
My baby, there she lay:
Stretched out on a cold, marble table.
I looked; I turned away.
"What are my baby's chances?"
I asked old Dr. Sharp.
He said, "Boy, by six o'clock this evening,
She'll be playing on her golden harp."
Let her go, let her go, God bless her...
From there it returns to lyrics that more closely track other versions I'm familiar with (apart from some flourishes, such as a reference to being buried in a "milk white" Stetson, which I don't think I'd heard before). But I like this exchange with "Dr. Sharp," and as I've made clear before, I'm an advocate of fiddling with the lyrics.
The version appeared only on a Rochester-area compliation album. Aside from Mr. McIntire, the musicians were: Colorblind James on rhythm guitar and vocal; Phillip Marshall on lead guitar; Joe "The Bone" Colombo on trombone; Ken Frank on acoustic bass; James McAvaney on drums. Aside from his blog, linked above, Mr. McIntire also has a site about the Colorblind James Experience, and another concerning McIntire Music Studios.