Sunday, December 31, 2006
I have neglected this blog for way too long. To make up for it I have included my list of outstanding blues recordings from 2006. This is not an exclusive list as I have not heard all blues recordings (who has) but here are ones that I found particularly good. This list appeared original in the DC Blues Society’s newsletter, the DC Blues Calendar and a pdf file of that issue should be downloadable from www.dcblues.org
Outstanding Blues of 2007
(* are reissues) (^ local acts)
*Blast Off -- The Best Of Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets (Shout Factory)
*Roy Brown, Good Rockin’ Brown -The King & Deluxe Acetate Series, (Ace (UK))
Robert Cray Band, Live Across The Pond, (Nozzle)
^ Cephas & Wiggins, Shoulder to Shoulder (Alligator)
Williams Clarke, The Early Years Vol. 1 (Watchdog)
*Snooks Eaglin, With His New Orleans Friends (Universal)
Mary Flower, Bywater Dance (Yellow Dog Records).
The Hollywood Blue Flames/ Hollywood Fats, Road to Rio/ Larger Than Life (Delta Groove)
*Ivory Joe Hunter, Woo Wee!-The King & Deluxe Acetate Series, (Ace (UK))
Chris Thomas King Rise (21st Century Blues Recordings)
Little Ed & the Blues Imperials, Rattleshake, (Alligator)
^MSG - The Acoustic Trio- Meet Me in the Middle.
Janiva Magness, Do I Move You? (Northern Music)
Manish Boys, Live & In Demand (Delta Groove)
Mississippi Heat, One Eye Open - Live at Rosa’s Lounge, Chicago (Delmark) (CD & DVD)
Big James Montgomery Now You Know (self-produced)
John Mooney, Big Ol’ Fiya, LML Records)
^Saffire-the Uppity Blues Women, Deluxe Edition (Alligator)
Carlos Santana Presents: Blues at Montreux 2004 (3 DVD set w ^ Bobby Parker, Gatemouth Brown & Buddy Guy (Eagle Vision)
*Otis Spann, The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions (Blue Horizon)
*Sunnyland Slim, The Legacy of the Blues, (Universal)
Various, Blues Harp Meltdown Vol. 3 Legends (Mountain Top)
Various, Higher Ground: Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert (Blue Note)
Various, The New Orleans Social Club’s Sing Me Back Home (Burgundy Records)
John Long, Lost & Found (Delta Groove)
Various, Blowing the Fuse (1956-1960) (Bear Family) (1959 volume has Big Jay’s There is Something on Your Mind with Little Sonny Warner on vocals)
^Various, Songs of Peace & Forgiveness (benefit for Archie Edwards Heritage Foundation)
Watermelon Slim, Watermelon Slim & the Workers (Northern Blues)
Junior Wells, Live at Theresa’s 1975 (Delmark)
^ Chick Willis & Jacques Johnson, Cookin’ the Blues: A Tribute to Albert King featuring Chick Willis (Old School Productions)
* Smokey Wilson, Round Like an Apple, The Big Town Recordings 1977-1978 (Ace UK)
With Tower Records closing, its getting harder to find blues and other roots music in stores. Online retailers like www.bluebeatmusic.com or www.louisianamusicfactory.com specializing in such music deserve your support as do local independent retailers that carry such product. Some of these can also be obtained on www.amazon.com and local acts often from Wayne Kahn at Right on Rhythm at www.rightonrhythm.com.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Gant's career was a relatively short one, as he died at a very young in 1951, yet in his eight year career issued 160 or so sides, most performed at a very high level. While Flyright issued a wonderful CD of Gant's music, the European Blue Moon label has finished its seven CDs of Gant's Complete Recordings, which frankly can all be recommended. Volumes 6 and 7 have just been issued and like earlier volumes are varied musically and full of excellent performances. One interesting aspect of the seventh volume is a duet with Red Foley from 1950 that was not issued originally and then another session where he did Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Shotgun Boogie" as well as "Rock Little Baby" from Eunice Davis and Alberta Hunter along with his own originals.
One would be hard pressed to find a living blues pianist-vocalist who has made as substantial a contribution to the development of the blues and left such a consistent body of music as Gant did over five decades ago.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Saxophonist Ed Wiley, Jr.’s name might be familiar to fans of early post-war Texas rhythm and blues. Once a member of Gatemouth Brown’s Orchestra, he played on numerous Houston sessions. He had one record under his name, 'Cry, Cry Baby,' for Bob Shad’s Sittin’ In With label which made the top ten of the R&B charts. He can be heard on many sides on a number of reissued recordings, although current published discographical information has many errors. A colleague of mine has been interviewing Wiley including discussing his many recordings as well as stating ones on which he did not play on. Raised in Texas, he moved to Baltimore around the time his record became a hit. Out of Baltimore he worked with a variety of performers including saxophonists Johnny Sparrow and Avery Ross, pianist Clyde Patterson and guitarist Rufus Nance. His band also had a vocal group at the time that would become the Moonglows, and after a while settled in Philadelphia where he concentrated his musical career, playing with the likes of Amos Milburn, Cannonball Adderly, Dinah Washington, Al Hibbler and others. He raised his family while still playing, and his son, Ed Wiley III, set up the D.C. based Swing Records who issued an earlier album by Wiley, "Until Sunrise." His new recording, produced by father and son, is "In Rembrance." On this, Wiley is backed by a stellar cast that includes Shirley Scott on piano, Milt Hinton on bass, Bobby Durham and Mickey Roker on drums, Wycliffe Gordon on trombone and Terell Stafford on trumpet. It is a session of mostly blues and sacred themes that showcase just how fine a saxophonist Ed Wiley is. Growing up in Houston, it is not surprising his playing is in the Texas tenor tradition. It opens with his acapella saxophone tour de force on the spiritual 'Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,' which showcases his fat tone and his warm, bluesy attack. Shirley Scott’s 'There’s Blues Everywhere' provides more space for him to showcase his big Texas Tenor sound, while the bop standard, Shaw Nuff, is played with complete authority. There’s a wonderful rendition of the classic James Weldon Johnson song 'Lift Ev’ry Voice,' along with the spiritual, 'Go Down Moses,' which effectively integrates vocals and background choir into the performance. Those who love the playing of Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, or Buddy Tate will be delighted by Wiley’s playing that is so full of soul and feeling. This is a wonderful recording, and when a true master resurfaces after years of general obscurity, one cannot help but be glad. Ed Wiley is a terrific player and In Rembrance is one terrific album. Swing Records distribution may be limited, so if you can’t find this you may want to contact the label directly for information on how to obtain it. The address is Swing Records, 1718 M St, NW, Suite 148, Washington DC 20036.
That address is likely outdated. This is available at amazon.com and I am not sure what other mail order outlets, but check out his informative website, www.edwileyjr.com.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Johnny Shines Remembered
Johnny Shines, one of the last of the original “Delta” blues performers passed away Monday April 20. Johnny Shines was born April, 25, 1915 in Frayser, Tennessee, a Memphis suburb. Both his brother and an uncle played guitar, He first started playing in 1932 and early influences included Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson, Scrapper Blackwell and Charlie Patton, before he attracted the attention of Howlin’ Wolf, and he was known as the Little Wolf. He started playing professionally by 1933-1934, playing around Memphis with such other artists as Willie Bee Borum, Honey Boy Albert Shaw, his cousin Calvin Frazier and others. While playing he made the acquaintance of Robert Johnson in Helena, Arkansas with whom he travelled with throughout Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and other places, even going north to Buffalo and Windsor, Ontario. Johnson deeply influenced Shines guitar playing. Mike Rowe, in his history of Chicago blues, "Chicago Breakdown," points to Lonnie Johnson as a major influence of Shines’ singing. Shines moved to Chicago in 1941 and established himself as part of the club scene, although working a day job, and working mostly on weekends, including occasionally working out of town. In 1945, Lester Melrose recorded him for Columbia in a small group setting, but these sides remained unissued until 1971. His next recording session was in 1950, when Jimmy Rogers brought him to Chess and as “Shoe Shine Johnny” recorded two powerful sides, 'So Glad I Found You' coupled with 'Joliet Blues,' that had Jimmy Rogers on guitar and Little Walter on harmonica. These sides were not released until the late 1960s when they appeared on a Chess anthology "Drop Down Mama." In 1953, Johnny returned to the studio for Joe Brown’s J.O.B. label. His first record was 'Ramblin’,' a fabulous recreation of Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues, with stunning bottleneck guitar and a scorching vocal. He also recorded a superb version of Robert Johnson’s 'Terraplane Blues,' called 'Fishtail Blues,' which wasn’t issued until the 1980’s. Shines’ performances stand up to Johnson’s originals, and if Shines’ guitar playing stood in Johnson’s shadow, he was frankly a more powerful singer than Johnson was. A subsequent session for J.O.B. produced 'Evening Sun' and 'Brutal Headed Woman' & featured the harmonica of Walter Horton whose solo on 'Evening Sun' is among the definitive blues harmonica solos, while Shines sand with overwhelming power, and a later session with Sunnyland Slim and J.T. Brown produced an unusual 'Living in the White House.' Shines remained active on the musical scene until about 1958, although a disagreement with Al Benson, an influential person in the Chicago music scene, made it difficult to get a contract. In 1958 he became disillusioned with the music scene and gave up playing music. In the early-sixties Johnny was rediscovered working as a freelance photographer at the clubs where Muddy or the Wolf would play.
Upon rediscovery, he was recorded by Sam Charters and Pete Welding. His recordings for Charters was issued on Volume 3 of Chicago the Blues Today and featured Walter Horton’s harp. After a superb version of 'Terraplane' as 'Dynaflow Blues,' Johnny is heard on a set of solid, traditionally based Chicago blues with Horton’s magnificent harp weaving in and around his vocal. He made several albums for Welding, one of which was part of the "Masters of Chicago Blues" series for Testament with Otis Spann and Walter Horton among the sideman. Of particular interest were several duets with drummer Fred Below. Shines also recorded a solo album, "Standing at the Crossroads" for Testament that contained numerous brilliant delta blues performances. Johnny Shines was also a charter member of Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All Stars around 1968, although at some point he moved out of Chicago to Holt, Alabama, near Tuscalosa. He continued to tour blues clubs and record extensively.
Frank Scott recorded a brilliant album for Advent that included superb acoustic performances including a remake of 'Ramblin’' and the ominous 'Skull and Crossroads Blues' with urban band blues sides, including the gripping 'My Love Can’t Hide,' reminiscent of Otis Rush’s Cobra recordings, and showed his capabilities outside of a Delta or traditional Chicago blues setting. He recorded somewhat frequently during the seventies for Biograph, Rounder and other labels, and toured extensively. During the mid-seventies, Walter Horton and he toured with guitarist John Nicholaus and his band, Guitar Johnny and the Rhythm Rockers, as well as recorded with Nicholaus for Blind Pig. Later in the decade he also started working with Robert Lockwood, Jr. and they recorded an album, 'Hangin’ On,' which was nominated for a Grammy in 1980. Sometime after that album was issued, Johnny suffered the first in a series of strokes that limited his physical dexterity, and had lesser effect on his powerful singing style. In recent years, Johnny appeared with a talented Kent DuShaine who handled much of the guitar chores while Johnny continued to sing with much the same power, although there might be a little bit of slur in his vocals at the beginning.
With the increased interest in Robert Johnson, attention was focused on Shines who played at the 1991 Chicago Blues Festival’s tribute to Robert Johnson, as well as at the 1991 Folklife Festival of American Folklife sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution as part of "The Roots of Rhythm and Blues: the Robert Johnson Era," along with Robert Lockwood, Henry Townsend and Honeyboy Edwards. Johnny shared, with considerable patience, remembrances of Johnson, and still showed how powerful a singer he was. Also, Blind Pig Records issued a solid album by Johnny and Snooky Pryor which Johnny’s old friend, John Nicholaus produced, as well as handled most of the guitar chores, reflecting his love of Johnny. While suffering in comparison to those classic recordings Shines made prior to his stroke, it remained a worthy testimonial of him.
News of his death by a heart attack wasn’t a total surprise, He had been hospitalized since mid March when his left leg had been amputated because of the hardening of the arteries, although the word seemed to be that Johnny was getting better. The weekend before his death Robert Lockwood mentioned that he heard Johnny was doing well under the circumstances. In addition to being a brilliant blues performer, Johnny Shines was a thoughtful, and articulate spokesperson for the blues, who will be sorely missed. There will be no more like him. He is survived by his wife Candy, a fine blues singer in her own right.
By Ron Weinstock
Jazz & Blues Report (July 1992 • issue 172)
Johnny Shines Remembered
Johnny Shines, one of the last of the original “Delta” blues performers passed away Monday April 20. Johnny Shines was born April, 25, 1915 in Frayser, Tennessee, a Memphis suburb. Both his brother and an uncle played guitar, He first started playing in 1932 and early influences included Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lonnie Johnson, Scrapper Blackwell and Charlie Patton, before he attracted the attention of Howlin’ Wolf, and he was known as the Little Wolf. He started playing professionally by 1933-1934, playing around Memphis with such other artists as Willie Bee Borum, Honey Boy Albert Shaw, his cousin Calvin Frazier and others. While playing he made the acquaintance of Robert Johnson in Helena, Arkansas with whom he travelled with throughout Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and other places, even going north to Buffalo and Windsor, Ontario. Johnson deeply influenced Shines guitar playing. Mike Rowe, in his history of Chicago blues, Chicago Breakdown, points to Lonnie Johnson as a major influence of Shines’ singing.Shines moved to Chicago in 1941 and established himself as part of the club scene, although working a day job, and working mostly on weekends, including occasionally working out of town. In 1945, Lester Melrose recorded him for Columbia in a small group setting, but these sides remained unissued until 1971. His next recording session was in 1950, when Jimmy Rogers brought him to Chess and as “Shoe Shine Johnny” recorded two powerful sides, So Glad I Found You coupled with Joliet Blues,that had Jimmy Rogers on guitar and Little Walter on harmonica. These sides were not released until the late 1960s when they appeared on a Chess anthology Drop Down Mama. In 1953, Johnny returned to the studio for Joe Brown’s J.O.B. label. His first record was Ramblin’, a fabulous recreation of Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues, with stunning bottleneck guitar and a scorching vocal. He also recorded a superb version of Robert Johnson’s Terraplane Blues, called Fishtail Blues, which wasn’t issued until the 1980’s. Shines’ performances stand up to Johnson’s originals, and if Shines’ guitar playing stood in Johnson’s shadow, he was frankly a more powerful singer than Johnson was. A subsequent session for J.O.B. produced Evening Sun and Brutal Headed Woman & featured the harmonica of Walter Horton whose solo on Evening Sun is among the definitive blues harmonica solos, while Shines sand with overwhelming power, and a later session with Sunnyland Slim and J.T. Brown produced an unusual Living in the White House. Shines remained active on the musical scene until about 1958, although a disagreement with Al Benson, an influential person in the Chicago music scene, made it difficult to get a contract. In 1958 he became disillusioned with the music scene and gave up playing music. In the early-sixties Johnny was rediscovered working as a freelance photographer at the clubs where Muddy or the Wolf would play. Upon rediscovery, he was recorded by Sam Charters and Pete Welding. His recordings for Charters was issued on Volume 3 of Chicago the Blues Today and featured Walter Horton’s harp. After superb versions of Terraplane & Dynaflow Blues, Johnny is heard on a set of solid, traditionally based Chicago blues with Horton’s magnificent harp weaving in and around his vocal. He made several albums for Welding, one of which was part of the Masters of Chicago Blues series for Testament with Otis Spann and Walter Horton among the sideman. Of particular interest were several duets with drummer Fred Below. Shines also recorded a solo album, Standing at the Crossroads for Testament that contained numerous brilliant delta blues performances. Johnny Shines was also a charter member of Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All Stars around 1968, although at some point he moved out of Chicago to Holt, Alabama, near Tuscalosa. He continued to tour blues clubs and record extensively. Frank Scott recorded a brilliant album for Advent that included superb acoustic performances including a remake of Ramblin’ and the ominous Skull and Crossroads Blues with urban band blues sides, including the gripping My Love Can’t Hide, reminiscent of Otis Rush’s Cobra recordings, and showed his capabilities outside of a Delta or traditional Chicago blues setting. He recorded somewhat frequently during the seventies for Biograph, Rounder and other labels, and toured extensively. During the mid-seventies, Walter Horton and he toured with guitarist John Nicholaus and his band, Guitar Johnny and the Rhythm Rockers, as well as recorded with Nicholaus for Blind Pig. Later in the decade he also started working with Robert Lockwood, Jr. and they recorded an album, Hangin’ On, which was nominated for a Grammy in 1980. Sometime after that album was issued, Johnny suffered the first in a series of strokes that limited his physical dexterity, and had lesser effect on his powerful singing style. In recent years, Johnny appeared with a talented Kent DuShaine who handled much of the guitar chores while Johnny continued to sing with much the same power, although there might be a little bit of slur in his vocals at the beginning. With the increased interest in Robert Johnson, attention was focused on Shines who played at the 1991 Chicago Blues Festival’s tribute to Robert Johnson, as well as at the 1991 Folklife Festival of American Folklife sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution as part of The Roots of Rhythm and Blues: the Robert Johnson Era.,, along with Robert Lockwood, Henry Townsend and Honeyboy Edwards. Johnny shared, with considerable patience, remembrances of Johnson, and still showed how powerful a singer he was. Also, Blind Pig Records issued a solid album by Johnny and Snooky Pryor which Johnny’s old friend, John Nicholaus produced, as well as handled most of the guitar chores, reflecting his love of Johnny. While suffering in comparison to those classic recordings Shines made prior to his stroke, it remained a worthy testimonial of him.News of his death by a heart attack wasn’t a total surprise, He had been hospitalized since mid March when his left leg had been amputated because of the hardening of the arteries, although the word seemed to be that Johnny was getting better. The weekend before his death Robert Lockwood mentioned that he heard Johnny was doing well under the circumstances. In addition to being a brilliant blues performer, Johnny Shines was a thoughtful, and articulate spokesperson for the blues, who will be sorely missed. There will be no more like him. He is survived by his wife Candy, a fine blues singer in her own right.
By Ron Weinstock
One of the very pleasant surprises at the 2006 Pocono Blues Festival was the performance from South Carolina singer Wanda Johnson who was backed by a tight combo led by pianist Shrimp City Slim (Gary Erwin). Opening with a lively song about telling her lover he’s history, 'I‘m Through With You,' Johnson enthralled the Pocono audience at the Friday Night concert she performed at, whether singing a bluesy rocker or a soulful ballad. She has a marvelous voice and delivery and the band provided tight, punchy backing. At the Festival, this writer picked up her 2004 debut album, "Call Me Miss Wanda" (Erwin Music) which contained some of the same musical magic I had experienced at the Festival. Comprised of originals by her and Erwin, the album is full of lively, heart felt performances whether the rocking blues of "I’m Through With You," the gospel-tinged soul of "The River," or the lovely ballad "Always" with some nice backing harp. "If I Rise in the Morning" opens with some nice guitar before she tells her man that he may not think she he is strong enough or smart enough to be on her, but one thing’s for sure, she ain’t waking up next to him. "Finally Back" is a nice rocker celebrating the blues as she recites a litany of blues greats and songs including Eddie Boyd, Memphis Minnie, Lightnin’ Slim, Muddy Waters, Roosevelt Sykes, Jimmy Reed, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Bessie Smith and Bo Diddley. Never does she get shrill or exaggerate her delivery, rather her delivery is smooth like honey, yet her delivery does not sweeten up her better barbs at her mistreating man while the band is right in the pocket and the solos are well played, and to the point. I have been listening to this regularly for over a month and the recording still sounds fresh and is one of this listener’s favorite recordings of 2006. Wanda has a more recent CD, "Natural Resource," which I more recently purchased. It is a good CD but neither the songs nor performances seem to be as good as those on "Call Me Miss Wanda." I suspect I may warm up to it upon further listening. Both CDs can be purchased on cdbaby.com, and you can contact Erwin Music directly at PO Box 13525, Charleston, SC 29422 ((843) 762-9125), or email email@example.com.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Memphis Gold arguably put on the highlight set of 2006 DC Blues Festival held at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Washington DC, Saturday, September 2.
The Festival started in the rain as the remnants of Tropical Depression Ernesto continued moving north, but during the set prior to Memphis Gold's, the sun came out. Because of the weather, attendance at this year's festival was lighter than in previous years although a healthy crowd did come out later in the afternoon
Having seen Memphis Gold since the early 1990s, I have been struck just how good his music has elevated itself over the past couple years. His music was already good but with the release of his second album, the excellent "Prodigal Son", it seemed that Chester Chandler, aka KD, has elevated his music to another level. This was evident at his superb 2004 Pocono Blues Festival set, and even more so yesterday (as I write this). His set was made almost excl;usively of original material and the band was so tight. His drummer, Warren Witherspoon, is someone I had not seen in several years (originally saw him backing Bobby Parker back in the early nineties), and harp wizard Charlie Sayles was back with Memphis Gold.
Its been a good year for Memphis Gold as he received a justifiably rave review in the British publication Blues & Rhythm and the Sweddish publication, Jefferson, featured him on the cover. In fact he had just come back from Sweden and will be going out on another USO tour in the near future. Jim O'Neal picked up the self-produced Prodigal Son for his Stackhouse Productions to distribute.
What can one say. It could not happen to a more talented and nicer gentleman.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Chicago Blues: Portraits and Stories
by David Whiteis
(University of Illinois Press 2006)
David Whiteis’ new book, Chicago Blues: Portraits and Stories, is a collection of portraits of blues performers and venues that provides a sense of the diversity of the Chicago blues scene with an emphasis on its evolution as a living tradition among the city’s African-American community. There are chapters devoted to departed masters to a number of contemporary performers representing a diversity of approaches to the blues, and in the process provides an enlightening overview of a still evolving blues scene and tradition. The portraits are derived from articles that Whiteis wrote for a variety of publications including the Chicago Reader, Juke Blues and Living Blues, and it would be welcome for no other reason than making these available, but the book is more than that.
The first part of Chicago Blues is devoted to Elder Spirits, and includes chapters on Junior Wells, Sunnyland Slim and Big Walter Horton. What is surprising is how little has been written on these three and Whiteis’ chapters are welcome for recounting these the lives of these pioneers and masters of the post-war Chicago blues scene. As Whiteis notes, these three mentored him as he developed an knowledge and love of the blues, and his affection for them is obvious as can be gleaned from what he states about Sunnyland Slim, “We weren’t what you would call blood brothers. I don’t claim to have been his intimate confidant. Nevertheless, I honestly believe that no one else ever taught me so much about life than Sunnyland Slim did. To hear that voice growl through the octaves, build into a liontine roar, and then soar into a leonine roar, and then soar into high-tenor declarations of freedom-bound blues passion — or just spend time in the presence of this tender-hearted giant of a man — was to learn life lessons of the most profound and lasting kind.”
The Second Part, “We Gon’ Pitch a Boogie Woogie!” is an examination of blues venues past and present. There is a chapter on Florence’s Lounge, the neighborhood lounge where Hound Dog Taylor and Magic Slim had held regular gigs before they began their years of touring which closed in the early 1980s; the celebrated Maxwell Street Market whose rich history is recounted along with the gentrification of Chicago, expansion of the Chicago campus of Maxwell Street and its destruction of this historical area with a promise of a restored and improved, but ultimately sanitized, area. Whiteis’ bittersweet account of the last day of Maxwell Street brings the community that the University destroyed alive for us. The final chapter of this part, Clubbing the Current Chicago Scene, provides sketches of different venues including the Delta Fish Market and its successor, Wallace’s Catfish Corner; the Starlite Lounge and the late Harmonica Khan who was a star in this neighborhood juke; and then taking in Denise LaSalle’s show at East of the Ryan which includes a nice overview of her career in addition to his perceptive analysis of her oft salty performances that like those of other modern soul and blues artists transcend the dichotomy between sacred and profane.
The Next Part, Torchbearers is in Whiteis’ words, ”the heart of the book.” The portraits of currently active performers who carry on the traditions of the elders. Perhaps these are not all major stylists but each “is representative o the music that remains prevalent on the contemporary scene, and each one’s story exemplifies important facets of the ‘blues life’ as it is lived by contemporary artists… .” Chapters devoted to Jody Williams, Bonnie Lee, Billy Branch, Sharon Lewis and Lurrie Bell, give us an insight into their personal histories, the ups and downs they have faced and how they continue to preserve with their art. It is a reminder that blues is more than “just notes” or “just a feeling,” devoid of any broader context. Of course, one has to be a bit careful in objecting that the music’s cultural history is obscured and challenging the success of some teenage white prodigies while veteran blacks stay in obscurity and then be labeled as an ‘ignorant racist,” as Billy Branch, one of the most eloquent teachers of the blues as well as a blues performer of the highest order. Chapters on Bonnie Lee, who first came up under Sunnyland Slim and later was associated with the late Willie Kent and Sharon Lewis were revelatory about two women who keep doing what they love to do the most, while the chapter on Lurrie Bell detailed the travails of his life as well as his triumphs (musical and personal).
Part IV, The Soul Side of Town, is devoted to Artie ‘Blues Boy’ White (who notes even down south some of the venues he used to play have closed), Cicero Blake and Little Scotty (the later a social activist as well as singer). The book concludes with a Coda, as Whiteis ruminates on the current state of the music and its future, observing that their seem to be new obstacles today to the music surviving, but also reminding us that the blues seems to have this ability to reinvent itself, and its new manifestations and performers may confound us and our expectations what the blues should be, “yet again reveal itself to be a musical language that, once incubated and nurtured in its cultural milieu, can expand its scope and speak to a universal audience.”
Chicago Blues: Portraits and Stories, is invaluable for its lively, informative portraits of a variety of performers that help us appreciate aspects of the blues life. Furthermore, it raises significant questions of what the blues is, that goes beyond the current trend of focusing on playing notes and ignoring the culture and community the blues arose out of. As Whiteis reminds us, the music is still deeply rooted there and continues to live and evolve, aiding us to appreciate the music in a deeper and more knowledgeable manner.
Monday, August 14, 2006
This led to an email that objected to the review ”The person that wrote this article is obviously a very prejudice ignorant (expletive) mother-(expletive) toward white man not "boy" blues. That was the first thing that pissed me off. We don't like being called boy, just like you don't like being called boy. Well let me tell you something you prejudice (expletive)-wipe. The white blues players are the ones that's keeping your music alive. Hell If it wasn't for us the blues would have been dead long ago. You should be on your knees thanking us for that. But my guess is that your the type of black that would ban whites from playing blues if you could. Remember Stevie Ray !! Huh ! Do ya!! he's the one that brought the blues back to the fore front.“
I think the email reveals more about the prejudices of the sender. Dylann’s astute response to this can be read at http://bluescritic.com/Commentary.html
Sunday, August 13, 2006
I had not seen Joe Louis Walker since the last century so the chance to see him at Chick Hall's Surf Club In Hyattsville MD just outside of Washington DC on saturday night, August 12 was a real treat. Having seen him at the Poconos two weeks earlier reminded me just how powerful a performer he was. The advantage to this show was that it was in a more intimate setting,
I reviewed for Living Blues Walker's Hightone debut album "Cold is the Night" when it came out in 1986 and have followed his career since then. He has issued over twenty albums (with a new one due soon on JSP) and I suggest nobody has put together a body of blues recordings as deep and varied as Mr. Walker.
And his live performance was one of the best shows I have seen in awhile. He remains a great singer and guitarist and has a tight band. And added trteat was DC area bluesman Linwood Taylor joining him towards the end of the second set. Wish I had taken notes but I was too busy with the camera but somehow I was thinking the lyrics of his recording "747" when he launched into it with its great line "She took a 747 'cause a Greyhound runs much too slow; There no tracks in the airt, I don't know where did my Baby go." He even played some harp, laying his guitar down and going out into the audience.
Do see him when he comes to yoru town. The blues doesn't get any better than this.
Monday, July 31, 2006
The Mannish Boys, featuring Finis Tasby, Johnny Dyer and Leon Blues were among Sunday highlights at the Pocono Blues Festival. Rusty Zinn and Kid Ramos were the featured guitarists for a wonderful show. Other highlights that day was the sacred steel of Aubrey Ghent, Mem Shannon's unique music, John Lee Hooker's soulful performance, Zac Harmon's personal adaptation of traditional and soul blues, Mighty Sam McLain and John Hammond, who I did not see. Oh how could I forget a terrific set by Koko Taylor.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Some of the best performances I have seen were Saturday at the Pocono Blues Festival. Mel waiters was exceptional with some deep southern blues backed by a great band. Other highlights included Kenny 'Blues Boss" Wayne's boogie blues piano and the great Joe Louis Walker. Big James Montgomery was a pleasant surprise and it was nice to see Diunna Greenleaf from Houston again.
Those in the Washington DC area, Mel Waiters will be at Lamont's in PoMonkey (Charles County) MD tomorrow, July 30. He will not disapppoint.
The 15th Pocono Blues Festival opened Friday night July 28 on Big Boulder Mountain in Lake Harmony PA. Eddie Taylor did a set of older blues from a variety of sources including BB King, Muddy, Jimmy Rogers, Freddie King and of course his dad. Nothing remarkable except he played wonderfully in the manner of his legendary father with an unassuming, straightforward style. He has a new CD on Wolf. His first CD is a wonderful tribute to his father.
Second up was Wanda Johnson who I had not heard before and is vivacious as well as a soulful performer that Gary Erwin discovered in South Carolina. She quickly became an audience favorite with her peroonality, lively snging and soul band that included Erwin on keyboards. They were selling her CDs and they were selling briskly as left. I purchased her "Call Me Miss Wanda." She is someone you are going to hear more about in the future.
After a long day of travelling I left prior to Maurice John Vaughan, but it was a fine evening of blues to open the festival.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
This is self-described as an anecdotal dictionary of the blues, but it suffers some serious flaws and while there is some useful information, it is far from authoritative or comprehensive and while it has some usefulness, it can be improved in so many ways. There are some 150 words and phrases which Ms. DeSalvo, former Blues Revue editor, focuses on, in a volume that emphasizes the African roots of the blues, but at times does not focus on other meanings the terms have. One review in Blues & Rhythm notes the focus on sex and hoodoo, but oddly enough very little on traveling which is a significant theme of the blues.
Much is made of the fact she interviewed a number of blues performers and included the material with various entries. However much if not most of the interview material is irrelevant to understanding the language of the blues, or the entry. For example she briefly discusses crossroads focusing on the African conception which leads to a discussion of the Robert Johnson meeting the devil at the crossroad myth and notes that some believe it. Then she included a discussion of Robert Lockwood, Johnson’s stepson which bears very little relationship to the discussion of the term. This would have been better included in a sidebar about Johnson and Lockwood. It would have also been instructive to include lyrics of several songs for specific terms to show contrasting meanings. As an example, Elmore James’ Standing at the Crossroads, clearly does not have the connotation that some impute to Johnson.
Also some of her sources are not exactly scholarly. In an entry on the Delta, she discussed Charlie Patton working for Will Dockery. She provides as her reference correspondence with Stephen Lavere. There are lengthy published biographies on Patton by John Fahey, and Stephen Calt and Gayle Dean Wardlow that should have been cited. There is no excuse to not citing these sources while citing private correspondence. Then there is this statement "In '34 Blues', Patton nails the desperation and anxiety of unemployment, but something good came out of leaving the plantation this time-Patton went to New York and recorded twenty-nine songs for the American Record Company. When these recordings were reissued in the mid-1960s, they sparked great interest in this Delta cropper who came to be known as the father of the blues." On the same page there is Patton's picture which noted he recorded for Paramount and became that label's biggest selling artist. It was the reissue of Patton’s recordings by Yazoo, which presented mostly the Paramount recordings that led to this recognition of Patton's music.
Discussing Canned Heat which some strained to drink the alcohol from, DeSalvo notes that Canned Heat adopted their name from the Tommy Johnson recording and that the members of Canned Heat used their fame to help their blues heroes citing their collaboration in John Lee Hooker's The Healer. Hmm, I would think that it was the classic double album, Hooker and Heat, recorded when Alan Wilson, the Blind Owl, was still alive that not only was the recording that led to Hooker's crossover but it stands up with the best recordings Hooker ever made. It was an album the ghost band that is Canned Heat is today would be incapable of producing. Sorry for perhaps going off topic, but so many entries here go off topic. (Again sidebars would have been useful). However the fact she is so imprecise with this, makes me suspect the accuracy of some other entries.
She does include some suggested recordings, but more lyric quotes for the entries
would have been very helpful. Also there should have been more cross entries, such as in her discussion of policy numbers, cross references back to that entry should have been provided for some of the policy combinations. And there are numerous terms that are not discussed here. This is a really rough first effort and this work needs some serious reworking if it is going to be a useful tool, which probably also means she should find herself a collaborator and take into account the serious criticisms if she wants to put together a work that will stand up as scholarly and a reference.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Theodis Ealey has been a veteran on the blues and southern soul circuit. In the nineties he had some wonderful recordings for the Ichiban label. I saw him open for and accompany the terrific Trudy Lynn at the Poconos over a decade ago but with the demise of Ichiban, Ealey's profile was less visible. A couple years ago, he had a smash soul-blues hit, "Stand Up in It" which has produced numerous reply songs as Theodis explains what this woman told him about making a woman never want to elave you. He continues to write great songs whether soulful party dance songs like "Don' tcha Wanna Party" as well as delivers his old blues like "Going Back to Hurtsville." HE protests that he isn't a southern soul singer but rather a blues singer and lays down some mean licks that partly refelect his Mississippi origins, but based around Atlant, he sings so soulfully and can get a crowd ip onj its feet and moving with his music. There are more photos of this perfromance as well as others on this show from June 17 on my flickr.com blog, www.flickr.com/photos/novaron.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Just received word that Sam Myers passed away today (I believe he was 70). The Jackson, Mississippi bluesman is today best known for his association with Texas blues guitarist and bandleader Anson Funderburgh with whom he toured for over a decade. Prior to that he was associated with Elmore James, with whom he played harmonica on some recordings. Sam had recorded the deep south downhome blues "Sleepin' in the Ground" for Ace.
I first saw Sam Myers when he was drummer playing with Robert Lockwood, Jr., at a Washington DC club. Sam was late but it was a treat to see him arrive and get to sing with the authority he invested his songs with. Teaming up with Anspon Funderburgh certainly helped expand his recognition and gave him opportunities to record as he fronted the band with his singing and harp while Funderburgh and the Rockets played crisply and strongly behind him.
Sammy mentored numkerous perfomers. 2006 Blues Music Award winner for Best New Artist, Zac Harmon, knew Sammy growing up in Jackson, MS, and cites Sam as a major personal influence on his music influence. I could list countless otyhers like Hash Brown from the Dallas area and numerous other performers who will say the same thing about him.
Sam had been receiving treatment from throat cancer for the past year and recently had returned to his home and seemed to be making great progress when he died relatively suddenly, He will be missed for his music and his warmth and friendship he extended to so many. Hopefully we will continue learning from those lessons he taught us, and not simply the ones dealing with playing the blues.
Here he is seen at the 2002 National Capital BBQ Battle in Washington DC
Sunday, July 16, 2006
June 10 I had a chance to catch a southern soul and blues review at the Charles County MD club, Lamont’s. Among the performers was one Big G (pictured above) from the Richmond, Virginia area who I had heard of and had purchased one of his CDs on www.cdbaby.com. Besides his own set on which he displayed a soulful singing style, he played guitar later to back up Roy C, a popular performer on this circuit. I purchased two more of his CDs at the show and reviewed one in the July-August 2006 DC Blues Calendar which I reproduce below.
Based on his performance at a recent southern soul show at Lamont’s, this writer understands why Richmond’s Big G has developed a following among fans of the soul-blues in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. He has produced a number of CDs on his own which are typical of such efforts in that there is considerable use of overdubbing and the employment of a rhythm track as opposed to a live drummer. Big G is a more than capable guitarist and keyboard player and a very soulful singer.
Despite the self-imposed limitations, his newest CD, Broken Hearted, will appeal to his fans and even more casual fans of the music. The title track is a nice ballad evoking the swamp pop era with Big G’s tear-in-the-throat vocal aided by the sparse production. Freaky Groove is a seductive song as he tells his woman how much she means to him and how he wants to get freaky with her that night. Two Step (on which rapper 100 Proof appears) is a party dance song, presented in a radio version and a longer club mix. One number, Family Reunion Slide, is an instrumental whereas the remainder are standard soul-blues that are well written and sung. The material and Big G’s own singing deserves a bit more time and production effort so that it would be easier for him to have broader appeal. You can get this and his other recordings from dbaby.com or www.BigGSounds.com.
Howard Johnson, seen on the 2006 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise where he led Gravity, his all tuba brass section, as part of Taj Mahal's Band on the trip, which gave a fresh persoective for some of Taj's songs. The terrific jazz guitarist Calvin Keys was also part of the band. Its been a couple decades since Gravity performed with Mahal, although Taj as returned the favor, and in fact the eclectic bluesman can be heard on a live European Gravity album. Johnson, of course, does more than play tuba and plays baritone sax on the most recent Half Note CD by David 'Fathead' Newman.
Friday, July 14, 2006
It has been a good year for my friend Chster Chandler who performs under the name Memphis Gold. His self-produced CD "Prodigal Son" has been picked up by Jim O'Neal for his Stackhouse Drop Top Records, Jefferson, the wrold's oldest blues publication had a cover story on him, Blues & Rhythm, the fine British publication raved about this CD and he will be one of the main performers at this year's DC Blues Festival. Here Chester and I are just enjoying a sunny June day attending the Columbia Pike Blues Festival, June 11 in Arlington Virginia.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I first had the opportunity to see Fiona Boyes on the 2005 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. More recently she was Chick Hall’s Surf Club where she gave a wonderful performance of acoustic blues although the show was sparsely attended. She has a really ebullient (I like this word) personality and enjoys performing. She writes plenty of original material but really is rooted in older styles of blues as opposed to some acoustic artists. She sings wonderfully and can handle a Memphis Minnie number as good as almost anyone alive today. Here is the link to my flckr photoset with several pictures of her, all from this show.
Originally posted on July 9, the photo was added on July 12
An image of the Late Little Milton, taken at last year's 2005 North Atlantic Blues Festival. It turned out to be his final performance. This weekend, a I type this, the North Atlantic Blues Festival takes place. It was a typically fine set of music of a person who always retained a loyal audience but never was able to cross-over and gain the larger audience his talent deserved. A great songwriter and performer, over five decades he made some timeless and influential recordings and thrilled audiences over the world.
I have posted four Black & White pictures from that performance on my flckr.com site, http://www.flickr.com/photos/novaron/
The pictures were likely taken using a Leica M6 or a Bessa R2 and a Leica 90/2.8 Tele-elmarit and 35/2 or 50/2 Summaron lenses.
Here is a link to my set of pictures from that Festival which will be augmented.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Here is the link
Here is link for Dallas Blues Society Records:
Here is a teaser:
“”Last True Texas Bluesman;
How a farmer and mechanic from tiny Elmo, Texas, wound up on a road
to the recording studio, nightclubs and European music festivals
BYLINE: Bill Minutaglio
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Dallas music promoter felt sure that he had come across one of the most important discoveries in recent
Texas history. Now, alone in his two-room garage apartment, he placed a call to Holland.
Waiting on the other end was the producer of a prestigious European music festival.
The promoter pushed the Start button on his tape player and placed his phone near the speakers. Over
the wires moved a slow, naked sound from somewhere long ago. Spider-web whispers of a rough backwoods East Texas guitar rhythm rarely heard in the last quarter-century. Open-wound sighs of an instrument—bottle, knife, shard of glass—hitting steel strings. And most of all, a proud but weary working
man's voice. A broken, graveyard voice singing I about the train, the phantom, that might take you away if
only someone would let you on board I about a thing so cold it could only be death I about the cruel way a
child _ of any age _ can lose a mother.>>
The full message is in the message archive of North Texas Blues Group on Yahoo where the full piece can be read. I am not sure whether you need to join this group or not to read the message. The Archives may be visible to all. I tried posting the link to the message but it did not work so here is a link to the North Texas Blues Group and the message was posted saturday, July 8. If it does not work, you may have to join the group.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Just something I found interesting and I suspect I am not the first to observe that.
Here is the link to the amazon page on this:
Otherwise go to amazon.com do a DVD search for Muddy waters and it will come up.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Theodis Ealey joined his band after one warm-up number, George Benson’s Breezin’. Theodis did some fine soul and blues from his Stand Up In It album and others including some solid blues like Heading Back to Hurtsville. Several times he told the audience I may sing some some southern soul, but I really am a bluesman launching into some blues licks and later when he made this statement launched into a terrific rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On. Of course his closing number was Stand Up In It, where he noted that “you can lick it, you can stroke, you can put it in a pipe and smoke it,” and then referencing the Queen who is coming to Lamont’s on July 15, “tell Denise LaSalle that it ain’t going to snap, crackle and pop until you stand up in it” It capped a terrific performance from Ealey who is a helluva singer, guitarist and songwriter and certainly someone who should be able to appeal outside the southern soul-blues circuit.
Friday, June 16, 2006
It was a bit over a year ago when I came across his big hit recording, Stand Up In It, which is about how a man can please his woman. Its a song that has become a staple on the soul-blues circuit although many who think of themselves as blues fans are probably not aware of it. Also, there have been more than a handful of covers and answer songs to Stand Up in it, including Sir Charles Jones’ Make It Talk. Even the Queen, Denise Lasalle has her own reply song. Checking out Ealey’s album Stand Up In It (Igram) I finally heard this bawdy song (which was not suitable for airplay) as well as other songs that were simply strong blues and soul numbers. Theodis Ealey sounded as solid a singer-guitarist as I remembered, not simply doing the risque material, but anything he tackled.
He goes on at Lamont’s tomorrow at around 5:30PM and I look forward to seeing him. If the set is half as entertaining as the CD, it will be one of the better blues shows I have been to in awhile.
Here is a link to Theodis website: http://www.theodisealey.com/newsite/index.htm
Here is a link to a picture from the website of Theodis at lamont’s (I recognize the pagoda) from a couple year’s back (I wish I had been there): http://www.theodisealey.com/newsite/photo4.htm
Thursday, June 15, 2006
This is available at amazon.com.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Hendrix compositions bvecame part and parcel of Gil Evans Orchestra performances. The German label Jazz Club has issued "Voodoo Chile" which is predominantly from a 1974 Swedish performance and after a medley of compositions by Alan Shorter and Trevor Koehler (who was on baritone sax on this performance), the Orchestra launches into 'Voodoo Chile' with Tom Malone's trombone taking the lead before the horns start filling in and providing an energetic if occasional chaotic sounding counterpoint to the lead. It is followed by the two-part 'Blues Medley' (over a half-hour) of John Lewis' 'Concorde', Charlie Parker's 'Cheryl' and a vocal medley entitled 'Stormy Monday' (which has lyrics from several other songs including 'Rock Me Baby') sung/shouted by trumpeter Hannibal Marvin Peterson. The mix of acoustic horns and reed instruments with electronic instruments makes for some fascinating listening and mau open up some ideas of what it means to play the blues. The CD concludes with the Evans Orchestra (slightly different personnel) in Cologne, Germany in 1978 performing one of Hendrix's most evocative compositions, 'Little Wing,' which features the tenor sax and flute of George Adams. Listening to this CD one can imagine what a Hendrix and Evans collaboration might have sounded like. Certainly it would have been an intriguing presentation of Hendrix's music.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Davis' album stands far above most of the winners this year and one would be hard-pressed to name one winning new CD that is close to Davis' recording in its focus and impact, and will be also be regarded as a classic album in twenty years. While its nice to see Little Milton win one wonders how highly regarded his Telarc album would have been if he had not passed. I confess that I found myself enjoying this disc with repeated listening, but it is not as strong or significant as the classic albums he recorded for Chess, Stax and Malaco. The best traditional album was a modest album of Muddy Water covers by Hubert Sumlin and famous friends. I suggest that Muddy's songs do not even effectively display Sumlin's unique style. Is anyone going to really listen to this five years from now as opposed to his work with Wolf, Big Mac, Sunnyland Slim and Willie Williams. And comeback artist of the year award for Al Kooper. Were there no blues artists other than aging bluesy rockers who had significant comebacks last year. Indicative of the shortcomings with the Awards that not one European album, not even reissues where labels like Ace in England have made available recordings by artists who are fundamental to blues history, including some fabulous reissues of the Delta Region recordings the Bihari Brothers made in the fifties, many under the direction of Ike Turner. Instead Johnny Winter's Second Winter was a final nominee for reissue. No offense but if anyone thinks that Johnny Winter is a significant a figure in blues history as say Roy Brown or Ivory Joe Hunter, they really need to undergo some real education.
That's enough ranting for 1 post.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
This is not to say every song was about these themes, but these were prevalent. There was really good singing and the bands were very fine, including some Washington DC area treasures that are often ignored here such as Lil Margie & Jacques 'Saxman' Johnson. Lil Margie really can hit the high notes as well as the Billy Stewart stutter.
Meanwhile, at least twice during the show, women commandeered the men's room. Denise Lasalle would have loved it. I just remembered she is coming to Lamont's July 15.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Through interviews with musicians, club owners, patrons and local photographers and through the inclusion of more than 200 previously unpublished photographs, they bring forth an overview of the socio-cultural history of the area that is richly illustrated. As they write, “This book is meant to be a slice of life, not a completist’s history nor analysis of events. Such locally photographers as Jerry Stoll. Ricardo Alvarado, Steve Jackson, Jr, David Johnson *(who was Ansel Adams’ first African- American student) are among those whose works are included here. Among the individuals interviewed are bassist Vernon Alley, singer Sugar Pie DeSanto, former mayor Willie Brown, community activist Steve Nakajo, saxophonist John Handy, club owner Wesley Johnson Jr., record company founder Jim Moore, John and Francis Lynne Coppola, saxophonist Bobbie Webb, musician, producer, radio host Johnny Otis, and others.
The book has four sections, a general introduction; a historical section on the neighborhood that tracks its change from a predominantly Japanese community into an African-American one during the incarceration in internment camps of Japanese-Americans and the emergence of the Fillmore district as a vibrant cultural center; a discussion of the various nightclubs in the Fillmore area including such long-closed rooms as Jack’s Tavern, the Club Alabam, the New York Swing Club; The Texas Playhouse/ Club Flamingo; The Long Bar; The Ellis Theatre; Bob City and others including of course the Fillmore Auditorium which dates back to the 1912 as the Majestic Hall & Academy of Dancing which in 1928 became the Majestic Ballroom and in 1936 the Ambassador Dance Hall.
Harlem of the West is a marvelous overview that delivers what the authors promise. Perhaps the only thing lacking are suggested recordings, but there is a bibliography, list of various websites including several for some of the musicians who are still active. A highly recommended book that will lead to a fuller study and evaluation of this scene.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Also there is an excellent biography on Kirk by John Kruth
For a basic introduction to Rashaan Roland Kirk check out the wikipedia entry:
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Its been a decade since an unheralded walk-on group competed and won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, edging out a group fronted by Susan Tedeschi. Previously unknown to many blues lovers in the Washington area, The Hardway Connection have since established themselves as among the best-loved blues and old school soul bands in the Mid-Atlantic. Featuring several truly superb singers and a tight band with two keyboards, guitar, bass and drums, they have produced soulful and funky music and in the course of their three self-produced cds, have come up with strong original material along with some covers of some gems by Roy C. William Bell, the legendary soul artist, has compiled 15 tracks from the three discs on his Wilbe label,
What is impressive is the quality of the originals (which shouldn’t be surprising since guitarist-vocalist Robert Owens is Don Covay’s nephew) as well as the remarkable vocals of Jerome MacKall (whose vocals evoke Otis Redding crossed with Al Green) backed by the group’s strong playing. Originals range from the get up on the dance floor groove of "Come On and Dance;" the southern soul of "What She Doesn’t Know" about a man in an affair; "Horn-ee Side," perhaps an unfortunate title for a lyric in which MacKall sings about wanting to turn on his women’s mind; one of the group’s finest soul ballads, "It Must Be Love"; and "Somebody," a deep soul lyric that evokes the Bee Gees To Love Somebody. Guitarist Robert Owens takes to the vocal mike on the medley of Roy C songs that is a staple of their live shows, "Morning Train"/ "Peeping Thru the Window" (presented in both radio and unedited mixes) and the follow-up, "One in the Morning," in which Robert attempts to remedy what his woman viewed as the deficiency in his equipment being too short.
And when one sees The Hardway Connection perform, one will mainly hear them performing originals along with selected covers from Dorothy Moore, Etta James and others. Hopefully this disc will be available in better stores. You can get it at the group’s performances and the Wilbe website, www.williambell.com.
Monday, June 05, 2006
I arrived at the end of the set by the BoneDaddy band which sounded like a pretty solid jump blues group for the little I heard. The Festival has two stages and when music stops on one stage Larry B hops to the other and introduces the next act with the next act starting right up. Kelly Bell Band was up featuring Bell witht his Phat Blues, a mix of blues, funk and some psychedelic touches. Bell has a tight group with a fine guitarist (believe his name is Irving Mayfield) and organist. He has a soulful voice and does not take himself too seriously but he seriously good at entertaining an audience and bringing out quite a crowd. Bell was followed by The Nicole Nelson band and Nelson impressed me as a fine singer with control in her delivery, not simply power and a tight backing group over a range of blues material including a rendition of "Summertime" that had the crowd really excited. It has been a few years since I saw Sugar Ray & the BlueTones who put out a splendid set of Chicago styled blues. Guitarist Paul Size supported Ray Norcia ably with Norcia playing some wonderful harp and playing some real fine songs, including a cover of Rocking Sydney's "No Good Woman" (a pre "Don't Mess With My TuTu" swamp blues) and Rice Miller's "Keep it To Yourself." I have known Sugar Ray since I first saw the band with Ronnie (Earl) Horvath on guitar backing JB Hutto in NYC. A real fine band that keeps true to the tradition while never slavishly imitating it and did a number of songs that one does not hear that often.
Sugar Ray's set was followed by a typically fine performance by The Holmes Brothers who opened with the spiritual classic "Amazing Grace" before launching into covers of Jimmy Reed and others along with their originals, all passionately delivered. After that was a terrific set by Tab Benoit whose singing matches the power of his guitar in the power-blues trio setting. The backing rhythm add so much and they get a groove going and can rock and roll. Highlights were a wonderful Otis Redding cover and a of numbers associated with New Orleans along with Benoit's telling the audience they can't let the politicians forget about the areas victimized by Katrina. John Lee Hooker, Jr. followed and if he is burdened/blessed by his name, he wisely has not attempted to play blues in his father's style. He has a really good voice and might be labeled as a soul-blues performer, although his band was a typical modern blues quartet. I really like his vocal delivery and his stage presence and while I left during the middle of his set, I look forward to seeing him in several weeks at the Pocono Blues Festival.
Making the drive back to Northern Virginia, I skipped the Dirty Dozen who were also featured at last year's festival and I have no reason to doubt they were similarly splendid this year. There was no question that this was a really excellent day of blues and I look forward to next year's line-up. The City of Hagerstown puts on quite a nice party the first Saturday of the month.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Of course, her point it is not simply l,imited to blues. In his book "Is Jazz Dead", Stuart Nicholson observes that gigs for bands that command medium-level fees have dried up and that thata only the acts that get very large fees or acts strating out get low fees can afford to tour and put some money away. Summer is an exception with some good paying festival gigs, but again there are less of them (I note that Wolf Trap, whose Jazz and Blues Festival had become musically irrelevant is not even pretending to have one this year) and some of the sponsors are more interested in bodies attending than in bringing in great music and supporting teh artists who deserve it.
Revues or packaged tours may be the way to go but still with lessening amounts of radio exposure as even public NPR stations increasingly become irrelevant for exposing music, and increased costs that performers incur, the chance to see artists like Candye, except for the Festival season, will be lesser.
Europe is a different situation because venues are closer together and there is much more government subsidy of the arts, including small community venues. Nicholson discusses this in his volume and it is very illuminating why jazz may be prospering a lot more in Europe than here in its homeland.
A lot to think about and I do agree with Nicholson that there needs to be mechanisms (including some governement subsidies) to enable bands that can only command medium fees prosper.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Andrews has had quite a career dating back to the Central Avenue scene in Los Angeles of the forties (he first recorded in 1947 when 17 with Red Callendar's band). This album is a tribute to the singers and the songs of the forties and fifties with PercyMayfield's "The River's Invitation," and the standard, "The More I See You," perhaps the most familiar songs. For most of you a reference point might be the late Joe Williams (the Basie vocalist, not Big Joe) although Billy Eckstine is an influence as was the late Billy Daniels. Four of the songs are from Eckstine's repertoire or recordings, the most notable one being the wonderful Leonard Feather number, "She's Got the Blues For Sale," that would seem ripe for someone reviving it today. There is also a real nice rendition of Eddie Boyd's "Vacation from the Blues." Andrews reminds me of Williams and Witherspoon with the authority he brings to the blues. The wonderful backing band includes the marvelous tenor saxophonist Houston Person, who always shines backing up great singers like Mr. Andrews with his tone and lyrical playing. The band also includes pianist Phil Wright, guitarist Terry Evans, bassist Richard Simon and drummer Frank Wilson. To fans of Duke Robillard's swing recordings and productions with Jay McShann, I would certainly recommend this as its in a similar vein to Duke's recent swing oriented efforts.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
David Whiteis has a nice chapter on Sunnyland Slim in his recently published "Chicago Blues"