Saturday, March 25, 2017

Cary Morin Cradle to the Grave

Cary Morin
Cradle to the Grave
Maple Street Music

Of Native American ancestry (he is a Crow Tribe member), singer-songwriter-guitarist Cary Morin in recent years was a member of The Pura Fé Trio before his present solo career. This is his fourth CD, and completes a three-album project of acoustic recordings by him. The press release accompanying this release states "On 'Cradle to the Grave', Cary Morin brings together the great musical traditions of America and beyond like no other artist. These recordings provide a timeline of his songwriting and guitar work spanning 2014 to 2017. The lyrics range from blues to folk and sometimes shine a light on his Native American Heritage and small town life in America. At times, the collection conveys the simplicity of a single chord to complex finger-style guitar."

While there is definitely blues roots to the performances here (eight originals and three interpretations), tone might view this recording as as much folk or Americana. This is a minor point because Morin is wonderful guitarist, who sings with warmth and conviction and writes some real good songs. His rendition of "Mississippi Blues," a Library of Congress recording by a Willie Brown (not the Willie Brown associated with Robert Johnson or Son House), is a marvelously rendered performance full of scintillating guitar runs although taken as an uptempo romp. The title track, a straight blues performance, reflects his own realization that life is fleeting and his accompaniment complements his gospel-like pleas. "Laid Back" opens with more startling finger-style playing (reminds me of some of the more gifted guitarists of the folk revival) with his peppery tempoed singing.

"Dawn's Early Light," was written in support of the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and he notes, "This song may be an oversimplification of the situation, but I have always felt that the honoring of a treaty, no matter when it was made, is not a complex idea. History has proved this not to be the case, but I hope this time it is." It is followed by the jaunty "Lay Baby Lay," an original, not a cover of the Dylan folk-ballad. "Mishawaka" is a superb folk ballad. "Back on the Train" is his take of a number by the jam-band Phish, with more superb guitar and then followed by a marvelous folk take on Prince's "Nothing Compares To U."

The closing "Watch Over Me," is a different take on the theme explored on the opening title track as he sings about making his way through this world as he asks for one to watch over him as he is only a child. It is a strong close to this album of consistently superb performances. Not having heard of Morin prior to this recording, this writer was thoroughly impressed by him and believe many others will as well by this first-rate CD.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 371) with some minor revisions. Here Cary performs the title track.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns Back to the Shack

Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns
Back to the Shack

Jack Mack & the Heart Attack Horns are veterans of the LA scene with a classic Memphis-Muscle Shoals soul sound. with New Orleans native Mark Campbell handling the vocals, on this new recording the backing includes Tony Braunagel on drums, Andrew Kastner on guitars, Bruce Atkinson on bass guitar, and Carlos Murguia on keyboards with an impressive horn section that includes Les Lovitt on trumpet, Bill Bergman on saxophones. Special guest Lee Thornburg arranges the horns and is on trumpet and trombone on 'Aint No Way" while Mike Finnigan adds his Hammond B-3 and vocal to “Somethin’ In The Water.” Nine of the ten tracks are originals with the exception being Carolyn Franklin's “Ain’t No Way,” that Aretha originally waxed for her "Lady Soul" album.

Andrew Kastner, an original Jack Mack member plays the hard-edged, screaming guitar on the opening track “Standin’ Before The King,” a tribute to the B.B. King with an impassioned vocal from Campbell with Melanie Taylor adding her voice. "Something in the Water" is a funky number with Finnigan adding his voice to enhance Campbell's lead. The medium tempo easy rocker "Don't Let Her Go," is some soulful advice with punchy horns and Bergman's strong booting sax solo. The driving groove of the bluesy "Never Too Late," is followed by a lovely bluesy ballad "Somebody To Trust," with Finnigan again guesting on Hammond B-3 while Campbell displays his range as his voice soars here.

"Serves Me Right" is a terrific number that evokes Muscles Shoals in the backing and horns, while the funky JB's feel of "Bad Habit," should get listeners up and dancing. The lilting ballad, "Change My Ways," which opens with Bergman's sax, like "Never Too Late," exhibits the warmth in which Campbell can put forth a lyric and then after this Memphis sounding gem, we get another gem with his heartfelt delivery of the Franklin song. The closing rocker, "Let Me In," is a bit frenzied perhaps, but the backing is tight and the breakneck tempo doesn't phase Campbell's singing.

Mark Campbell is a terrific singer that suggests Otis Redding, Joe Tex and Wilson Pickett but places his own stamp on the songs here. The backing is terrific and the recording is excellent. This is an impressive album full of soulful music.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Best Of Cedell Davis

Cedell Davis 
The Best Of 
Fat Possom / Capricorn 

Arkansas blues artist CeDell Davis is one of the more unique practitioners of slide guitar blues. Originally right-handed, childhood polio left him partially paralyzed. He now plays left-handed, fretting with a left-handed butter knife and developing his unique tunings and the highly individual bottleneck style he employed while working with Robert Nighthawk and others in the delta area.

Robert Palmer, then pop music critic for the New York Times, wrote an enthusiastic article of surviving juke joint blues in the delta area which focused on Davis. Later, Palmer helped arrange for him to appear at the old Tramps in New York. I had the pleasure of seeing him there and was enthralled by his highly unique, bittersweet blues. Field recordings of solo work appeared on anthologies by L&R and Rooster Blues, but only gave a sense of his music. Recently Fat Possum issued a full album, Feel Like Doin’ Something Wrong, which was mostly solo with three band tracks. I understand that in the decade between when I first saw him and the Fat Possum album, he had suffered some health setbacks. This was particularly apparent on the solo recordings which sounded tired, while the band recordings were more vigorous. 

CeDell is back with his second Fat Possum album, one of the first to be issued under the label’s licensing arrangement with Capricorn Records. It is oddly titled The Best of CeDell Davis, almost suggesting it is a compilation, but it is not. He is backed by Capt. Bruce Hampton & the Aquarium Rescue Unit (whom I am totally unfamiliar with), who do a workmanlike job and elevate the music while giving it more focus. Davis is a unique blues artist with a very somber singing style and an acidic bottleneck approach, to which Hampton occasionally adds a busier, blues-rock tone nicely complementing CeDell’s playing. The songs are traditionally based, but treated to Davis’ own particular spin. His own Fattenin’ Frogs For Snakes is a different tune from the Sonny Boy Williamson classic, and CeDell’s Boogie is a chance for he and Hampton to play some slide. 

Davis’ music is never flashy, and his vocals and slide possess a barely restrained, burning edge. While playing time may be short at about 40 minutes, this is a much more satisfactory introduction to Davis’ music than his earlier Fat Possum release. 

This review originally appeared in the May 1995 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 201). I likely received a review copy from the publication or the record company.While I didn't focus on the specific personnel, it is apparently Derek Trucks adding the slide on CeDell's Boogie. Here is CeDell playing a house party.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Eddie Taylor In Session

Eddie Taylor
In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1953-1957

This is a public domain British reissue with some terrific blues that involved Eddie Taylor, a brilliant guitarist most associated with Jimmy Reed, but who is heard heard on a number of classic (mostly) Chicago blues recordings along with his own recordings for the Vee-Jay label. The Mississippi native is best known for his association with Jimmy Reed, but played on numerous sessions in the 1950s and 1960s for labels like Parrot, Blue Lake, Chess as well as Vee-Jay who he had four singles released under his own name. In the 1960s he shared on album on Testament and backed up Carey Bell and others for Delmark, Bluesway and other labels. He also made several albums under his name including for Advent (later on Hightone) and Antone's.

This reissue includes several selections from Jimmy Reed and Johnny Lee Hooker including Reed's "Ain't That Loving You Baby" and Hooker's "Dimples." But in addition to these hits, he is heard behind John Brim on "Ice Cream Man" (with great Little Walter harp) and the topical blues "Tough Times"; Sunnyland Slim's terrific take on the "Rolling and Tumbling" theme, "Going Back To Memphis," as well as Slim's "The Devil Is a Busy Man"; a trio of songs (including "Schooldays on My Mind" and "Ain't Times Hard") from Floyd Jones with Sunnyland Slim on piano and Snooky Pryor playing some great harp; and Little Willie Foster's "Falling Rain Blues." Taylor's own sides are equally superb including "Bad Boy," his remake of Little Johnnie Jones "Big Time Playboy" and a "Catfish Blues" variant, "Stroll Out West," which was unissued until released on an album years later.

Longtime fans of the blues will likely be familiar with many of these recordings as this contains some real gems of the Chicago blues of the fifties. Sound is good and Bob Fisher's liner notes provides a nice background of Taylor and the music here. This is an easily recommended reissue, especially for those who do not have many of the recordings on this.

I purchased this. Here is a clip of Eddie Taylor in 1970.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Jimmys Live in Transylvania

The Jimmys
Live in Transylvania
Brown Cow Productions

Led by keyboardist and vocalist (as well as one who helps on his family's 1500 acre Dairy farm), Jimmy Voegeli, The Jimmys, is one of the hottest blues bands out of Wisconsin with its mix of modern and jump blues. Recorded at the 2015 Sighisoara Blues Festival in Romania, this new disc is full of hot jump blues grooves with slashing guitar, greasy organ and rollicking piano, and hot riffing brass.

A hot organ instrumental, "Jacqui Juice," kicks things off with the leader starting off with some strong organ before the horns add their voices before Pete Weber takes a guitar solo that sounds like a cross between Pee Wee Crayton and B.B. King followed by Charley Wagner taking off on trumpet, then some booting sax from Pete Ross before the leader returns with some deep burning organ. Kudos to John Wertenweiler on bass and Mauro Magelian on drums for pushing the groove here and throughout.

It is followed by a jump blues, "I Wonder" with the leader on piano with some T-Bone Walker styled guitar from Weber with Voegeli wondering where his love gone and what she does to him as Darren Sterod's growls on the trombone. Voegeli's straight-forward blues shouting also has considerable appeal. There is a rock and roll feel on a cover of Jim Liban's jumping blues "You Can't Hurt Me Anymore," with Weber and the leader's piano featured. In contrast is "Hell or Heaven," a number in the manner of the pop supergroup, Chicago, and shows how solid Voegeli and band are playing non-blues material (also displayed on the group's closing number, The Band's "Ophelia").

The buoyant "Love will Find a Way," is followed by a credible interpretation of Mack Rice's "Cold Women," although Voegeli can't quite match Albert King as a singer. Nice to hear a cover that is not the usual over-played blues standards. The classic Freddie King recording "Lonesome Whistle Blues," is slowed down and reworked into how it might have been performed by B.B. King, with Wagner adding some growling obligatos. Weber sings the gruff sounding vocal on his medium tempo "You Say You Will," with a dedication to Hubert Sumlin as he takes a torrid solo. Voegeli's 'Lose That Woman" is a Ray Charles' styled romp with the rhythm laying down a terrific groove with short fiery solos from the leader, Ross and Weber.

The sound of this spirited location recording is quite good. Jimmy Voegeli and The Jimmys put on quite a show in Transylvania and listening to one can imagine what a party folks had that evening with this wonderful jumping blues performance.

I received from my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared originally in the January-February 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 370). My review of "Hot Dish" the previous album by The Jimmys, appeared in the January-February 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 364) but not on this blog and I will post it next week. Here are The Jimmys  at the 2015 Sighisoara Blues Festival.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Original Blues: The Emergence of the Blues in African American Vaudeville 1899 -1926

The Original Blues: The Emergence of the Blues in African American Vaudeville 1899 -1926
by Lynn Abbott & Doug Seroff
University of Mississippi Press: Jackson MS
2017: 420 + viii

This is the third in a trilogy of volumes in which authors Abbott & Seroff chronicle the development of African-American Popular Music. The earlier volumes  explored previously in of "Out of Sight: The Rise of African American Popular Music, 1889-1895," and "Ragged but Right: Black Traveling Shows, 'Coon Songs,' and the Dark Pathway to Blues and Jazz." This is a textbook size book, handsomely printed and designed. The main body of text is 309 pages long and there are over 70 pages of end-notes (over 2000 end-notes) along with a bibliography and general index. The extent and amount of end-notes should provide an idea how thoroughly researched this volume is and the end-notes are not simply citations, but link some of performers and songs they performed on the stage to artists and recordings when such music was in fact recorded commercially at a later time.

In the acknowledgement, the authors note that their work is a detailed account of the appearance and popularization of the blues on the black and professional stage as they trace the emergence of African-American vaudeville stage out of the minstrelsy in the age of Jim Crow and segregation. It is a story of African-American artists telling their own story, even when still employing some of the conventions of the minstrel stage such as blackface. When doing so, the artists and comedians attempted to subvert the original white supremacist theme. Furthermore, the creation of theaters for African-Americans to enjoy their music and comedy was liberating. There was a certain jarring in reading some of the descriptions of the performers, even in African American newspapers like the Indianapolis Freeman, as "coon shouters," and the use of the term "coon song" as a description of the some of the pre-blues material.

The first chapter takes us through the emergence of Southern vaudeville in cities such as Houston; Galveston, Jacksonville; Pensacola; Tampa: Frenendina; Savannah; Macon; Louisville; New Orleans, Memphis and Atlanta, with early establishments serving as both saloons and theaters. The principals behind such ventures, their place in the community as well as the performers, and the character of what the shows were are considered along with advertisements and photographs of some of the facilities. Some of the reports and advertisements even listed the programs presented with songs and acts enumerated.

I found the discussion of the creation and operation of Lincoln Park  in New Orleans fascinating. In its early days, The John Robinchaux Orchestra was resident along with a variety of acts such as (in 1905) Madame Magladene Tartt, better known as the "Black Swan" singing operatic selections that are reported to have set the house crazy. There is an illustration of her from an advertisement for a 1911 Ryman Auditorium performance. Others performing included a husband and wife comedic team who also sang, along with contortionists and acrobats. Then there was the comedy team of Lew Kenner and John Lewis. Kenner has sung with a minstrel show getting encores for "I Got Mine," while Lewis started singing with a quartet before getting billed a great southern tenor, and the two eventually formed the Kenner and Lewis Amusement Company with sixteen performers who barnstormed the region as well as playing Lincoln Park, and also inaugurated the vaudeville stage at a competing Dixie Park.

After an interlude that examines briefly the emergence of African-American vaudeville in Chicago out of the city's saloon culture, we are introduced to "The Life, Death and Untold Legacy of Bluesman Butler "String Beans" May." In this lengthy chapter. the authors provide May's biography and an overview of his career and influence. May was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and the authors were fortunate enough to find someone who knew May, to provide background on May's family and his performance style. May left Montgomery with Benbow's Chocolate Drops, a southern road show that took residence in Pensacola, Florida and not long after taking resident there William and Gertrude Rainey came aboard. Early descriptions of May describe him as a funny man, but he was also a pianist of some reputation as well as a singer. It was in Pensacola that May's "String Beans" persona emerged and was becoming a favorite and known for singing the infectious "I've Got Elgin Movements in My Hip and Twenty Years Guaranteed," helped this "metaphor of clockwise hip action" become "entrenched in the blues tradition." The authors trace the succession of his stage partners, including one who he married and later separated from, along with accounts of his popularity as well as reviews of his performances in Chicago by one Sterling Russell, who was not receptive to certain vulgar aspects of the blues and southern vaudeville. As the authors note, his style of performance was "anathema to those accustomed to judging performers by conventional standards."

May's outrageous risqué comedy, blues songs, and suggestive eccentric dancing did not fit their concept of proper entertainment" (p.74). However String Beans clearly was a significant attraction who filled theaters and his songs included "The Sweetest Man in Town," and "Get You a Kitchen Mechanic. With his wife Sweetie May, they closed shows with "I'm Alabama Bound." The authors note that "Kitchen Mechanic" and Alabama Bound" were signature markers of the blues revolution. Others songs that would be echoed in recordings was Chris Smith's "Fishing," that would be recorded by Henry Thomas in 1928 and by the Loving Spoonful in the 1960s, and one of his other songs in his repertoire "Blind Man Blues" contained an interjection 'doggone my soul," found in numerous blues recordings are further descriptions of his piano playing, singing and dancing (often the term pianologue is used in describing his performances) and press reactions as well as his responses to what he viewed as unjust criticisms.

May died as a result of a 'hazing accident' at an Masonic lodge that was not a general Masonic fraternity, but an independent one of local recognition in Jacksonville, Florida. It has led to a gap in the historiography of the blues that the authors that despite the fact he was the first national blues star cannot be simply filled. As they note, the realities of the recording industry at the time left no trace of what his music sounded like and unfortunately he never copyrighted his compositions. We can only speculate what he may have sounded like just like one wonders what the mythical Buddy Bolden's cylinder sounds like. Abbott and Seroff speculate on why he disappeared from the historical record noting some of his contemporaries were jealous of him and his popularity. The last portion of this chapter is an attempt to show the influence of the songs associated with him through examining recordings by others made long after he passed.

For all his fame in his lifetime, Abbott and Seroff note that String Beans was still a blackface comedian with a skill set tailored to the vaudeville stage as talented as he may have been, even if he made blues his specialty. The next chapter focuses on some of the other male blues pioneers, few of which, because of attrition, recorded, leading to the view that the classic vaudeville blues was a primarily female art form. Some of these like Kid Love and H. Franklin 'Baby" Seals," began as piano players in the pit of Houston Theaters which served as an incubator of early blues piano. In fact in Houston, Seals was on piano on a bill that included future blues recording artist Viola McCoy. Later he would be part of a husband and wife team with Little Baby Floyd Fisher. Kid Love and his wife performed "The Grizzly Bear Rag" and "Elgin Movements" with similar lyrics to String Beans, which they steadfastly claimed to have originated. He unfortunately died in 1913 at the age of 35 after having moved from playing blackface comedy on a minstrel show in 1904 to performing on the southern vaudeville stage when he passed.

While death ended Love's career, Seals and Fisher's career is traced including his protestations against the racial abuses in the old south as well as what he felt were unfounded criticisms directed against southern vaudeville. In Chicago, after playing at the Monogram Theater, Seals did a week at the Virginia Theater before white audiences. Seals became known for his composition,'"Sing Them Blues" that was published in 1912 as "Baby Seals Blues" and may be the earliest vocal blues published as sheet music. It was taken up by fellow southern vaudevillians although there were not many complete recordings of it (the authors cite recordings by Charles Anderson as "Sing 'Em Blues" and Ida Cox as "Mama Doo Shee Blues") although signature phrases from the song were sampled in numerous recordings including those by Sara Martin, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Peg Leg Howell and others including Memphis Slim's fifties recording, "The Comeback." Seals earned a reputation as a writer of the blues but suddenly died at the end of 1915, the details of which remain mysterious. The authors do suggest that had he not died so young, he might well have been a contender for the father of the blues.

The chapter then discusses Charles Anderson, described as a tenor and yodeler, and in 1913 "Baby Seals Blues" was the first blues in his repertoire which he would record in 1923 at the start of his Okeh recording career. He apparently also introduced Handy's "St. Louis Blues" in vaudeville and discussion indicates blues became a more important part of his repertoire. The chapter also introduces us to other acts including Johnny Woods and his dummy Little Henry who was presented as a "drunken-hearted, blues singing vagabond."

Having presented the early Male performers who played a major role in the blues emergence on the Vaudeville stage, Abbott and Seroff turn attention to women. The first significant section is dedicated to Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith and while detailing their performances on tent shows and theaters, certain myths including the one that Smith was Rainey's protege is discredited as the music transitioned from a transitional style of vocal ragtime into the blues. Smith's vaudeville career was fully under way by 1909, but in contrast to blues lore that Rainey took Smith under her wing, the authors relate that in 1910 Smith did perform with the Raineys, "The collaboration was brief and did not end well."

They recount how Smith was with the Raineys for an engagement at the Pekin Theater in Memphis, but after week four she had been replaced by Laura Smith, another future blues recording artist. There paths did not cross again until 1917, but the so-called apprenticeship lasted less than four weeks (pp.164-165). The ups and down of their respective careers are detailed along with bits of their repertoire such as the performance of "Lovie Joe" by Joe Jordan and Will Marion Cook by Smith, her partnership with Wayne Burton (which ended in 1913) with increasing recognition of Smith's singing, and the bumpy reception they initially received when appearing in front of Northern audiences ("they may have been too unpolished"). Smith is credited in 1913 with singing a proto-blues, the same year that Ma Rainey is reported as singing a blues and the book traces the increasing use of blues in describing their performances. As documented here, by the time both recorded in the 1920s, they were very experienced performers who had transitioned from the ragtime songs of a decade early into the blues.

Other women discussed in the chapter include Victoria Liston (noted for her rendition of "Titanic" and "Casey Jones") Laura Smith (who had performed "Baby Seals Blues" and would record "Don't You Leave Me Here" a version of "Alabama Bound"); Ora Criswell who never recorded; Trixie Smith, who had begun as a blackface comedienne and would become the first southern vaudeville blues artist to record (for Black Swan); and Estelle Harris (who was one of the first to be identified as singing a blues, but more usually described as a a rag song shouter. She may have recorded for the Pathe Record Company in 1923). In this material there is a discussion of the blackface characters that women on the southern vaudeville stage might be expected to play including "Crow Jane" and "Black Sis Hopkins," and the "Crow Jane" character is one referenced in a number of blues including that by Skip James in 1965.

One important point made is that "the black vaudeville theater entertainment for a black audience enabled the full creative development of the blues. Insular black theater entertainment was a liberating phenomenon for performers. Unconstrained by what white theater goers were prepared to accept, their blues spoke directly to African-Americans. Audiences felt validated and empowered. The "birth of the blues manifested artistic, commercial and political motives." One consequence of the cultural impact of the blues was the term "coon shouter," descended into the dustbin of history as the blues gained acceptance. (p.175).

After an interlude on the theater circuits and the formation and decline of the T.O.B.A. circuit, the author's final Chapter focuses on "The Commercialization of the Blues: 1920-1926," as the shift of the music north but the blues here were as more jazzy form of 'polite syncopation' as opposed to the bawdier blues heard in the southern vaudeville stage pioneered by String Beans. The legendary musical "Shuffle Along" was also a vehicle in which the blues was filtered and which early stars Gertrude Saunders and Florence Mills performed in with Saunders recording songs from the show. Edith Wilson, one of the first artists to record blues after Mamie Smith's pioneering recordings is described as jazzy interpretations of the blues representing a style suiting the New York market as were most of the first wave of artists that recorded blues in 1921 and 1922, a full year before Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and others would set foot in a studio.

In addition to Broadway and recordings the authors discuss the Burlesque Stage as another vehicle for the mainstreaming, then turn mull fully with the recording of the blues starting with a brief discussion of Black Swan Records who recorded Trixie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Ethel Waters and others with some focus on Waters career in this time as she toured with Fletcher Henderson. Black Swan had financial difficulties that led to its essentially being taken over by Paramount. Okeh's recording activities and those of artists such as Mamie Smith and Sarah Martin are discussed as are that of Butterbeans and Susie (whose performances influenced by those of String Beans and Sweetie May of a decade before). The signing of Bessie Smith and Clara Smith by Columbia Records was also significant as is the fact Smith in Birmingham hawked recordings at her performances. The role of the T.O.B.A. also played a significant part in promoting race record stars. Ma Rainey herself started recording for Paramount in 1923, although the advertising by Paramount were the ones that credited her as the "Mother of the Blues." One curious aspect of the marketing of the new stars was to suggest they were fresh faces, including examples relating to Bessie Smith, including an incredible depiction by a T.O.B.A. news column of a 1925 visit to Chattanooga, Tennessee, her home town as her first there. After discussing the relationship of the T.O.B.A. and the blues recording stars, the final pages of the chapter (and text) discuss the emerge of the guitar playing blues artist with the concluding paragraphs making an effort to link the blues of the piano playing blues star String Beans with Blind Lemon Jefferson, the first popular blues star of the country blues.

This review only hints at the richness of the materials in this volume "The Original Blues" is a remarkable work that takes us from the minstrel stage to the vaudeville stage and the emergence of blues in this theatrical and performance world. It sheds new light on the emergence of the blues, and artists and performers whose names and music who have been obscured for a variety of reasons, along with the institutions that made the emergence of this music possible. There are numerous illustrations including reproductions of advertisements and photos of the performers, along with the extensive end notes for the text. This superb book is among the most important recent books on blues and African-American music history.

I purchased this.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Remembering James and Chuck

I was reading Holger Petersen's wonderful collection of interviews of blues and roots musicians, Talking Music 2," and Steve Miller remembered recording backing Chuck at the Fillmore in San Francisco, a recording that I once owned when it came out. Then later on Facebook I saw the posts about Chuck having passed away on Saturday March 18. This was sad news, especially after coming so shortly after blues harmonica legend James Cotton passing away as well.

I had the pleasure of seeing James Cotton a number of times over the decades, first seeing him in Cleveland in 1967around the time of The James Cotton Blues Band album on Verve Forecast. It was probably the first live blues performance I saw. Over the years I saw him at clubs (The Belle Star outside of Buffalo and the Maryland venues Twist & Shout and Tornado Alley) and festivals such as the Western Maryland Blues Festival and several times at the Pocono Blues Festival. Even after Cotton had surgery that limited his singing, he always had terrific bands and front men as singers. He was also such a warm person as well. Mr. SuperHarp will be missed.

I only had the pleasure to see Chuck Berry once at a music festival held only once at the Kennedy Center where he was backed by local DC area musicians led by Daryl Davis, who was his East Coast pianist of choice.  Others will have written about Berry's legacy but songs like "Johnny B. Goode," "The Promised Land," "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Back in the U.S.A." and "Roll Over Beethoven" will forever be part of the soundtrack of our lives.

Here is a playlist of a few songs by each starting with Chuck Berry with "Johnny B. Goode."

Now a bit from James Cotton doing the Creeper which he first recorded on the album Pure Cotton, an album that in my humble opinion belongs in the Blues Hall of Fame, if it isn't already.

One of my favorite Chuck Berry recordings is "The Promised Land," which also was known from Elvis' cover as well as the cajun cover from Johnnie Allen. Here is Chuck doing it live.

James Cotton was an important member of Muddy Waters Band for many years and hear he is backing Muddy at the Newport Jazz Festival on "Got My Mojo Working."

Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" was one of numerous numbers that influenced the folks over in Great Britain.

James Cotton seen on Playboy after Dark in 1968/69 with Luther Tucker and apparently Rod Piazza is in this cip

Finally I close with Chuck Berry's "Sweet Sixteen" that the Beach Boys would be influenced by. The performance is from 2014 when Cotton received the Polar Music Prize, the Nobel Prize of the Music World.