Sunday, November 30, 2008
One recording by him is Livin' the Blues on the French Black & Blue label which is available for download from emusic and Amazon lists the CD. Not sure who the personnel is on this, but they are a pretty solid group. Much of the material are covers but Johnson makes such overdone songs as Jimmy Reed's You Don't Have To Go, his own as one hears a tinge of the classic Bill Doggett instrumental, Honky Tonk. Similarly he adds a West Side Chicago flavor to Elmore James' The Sky Is Crying, laying out a really strong solo that matches his heartfelt vocal. Sam Cooke's Bring It On Home To Me, opens with some sparkling guitar before he launches into the vocal on an arrangement that stays true to the original. The rocking shuffle, Pretty Baby, is a retitled Ride With me Tonight. Not as original a rendition, but still this is solidly handled with some rollicking piano. Johnson adds a funky groove and a slightly quicker tempo to Born Under a Bad Sign. Since I downloaded this I do not know who played on this session, I cannot say who the vocalist is on the two closing selections, Quicksand and When There's A Will, There's A Way, but it may be John Watkins based on the listing of Johnson albums at allmusic.com.
At its worst, Johnson provides us with solid covers, but at its best, he does make some overly recorded songs sound fresh and his vocals and guitar are typically first-rate. There are one-dimensional acts out there who are far better known than Jimmy Johnson, and to quote Fats Domino, "Ain't That a Shame."
Here (from youtube) is Jimmy backed by Dave Specter doing, You Don't Know What Love Is. Jimmy performs several songs with Dave on Dave's excellent Delmark album, Live in Chicago, available on CD and also on DVD.
Monday, November 24, 2008
It's been some four decades since this writer developed his love and enthusiasm for the blues, particularly those blues artists rooted in the Mississippi Delta and surrounding area. As a freshman in college, I bought and read Samuel Charters The Bluesmen, as well as various books by Paul Oliver. I also purchased reissues of rare country blues on Yazoo, Origin Jazz and Blues Classics, as well as albums by Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson on Chess; B.B. King and John Lee Hooker on Bluesway; Elmore James on United and a variety of other acts. Charters' book brought alive the music and personalities of the artists he focused on, which included not simply the great artists from the Delta, but also such pioneering Texas blues artists such as Blind Lemon Jefferson and Texas Alexander. Written at the time that Son House, Skip James and Bukka White had been rediscovered and were performing, and with the contemporaneous interviews that he drew upon, he made these artists and their recordings larger than life.
The Bluesmen was a major factor that led me into my four decades old obsession with blues artists and their music. I start reading DownBeat for the incisive articles and reviews by Pete Welding and John Litweiler, the pioneering British publications Blues Unlimited and Blues World, (to which I made modest contributions), and then Living Blues when it began publishing. New information on the blues legends came out along with numerous reissues of rare recordings. Robert Palmer published his pioneering Deep Blues, while Living Blues and Blues Unlimited (and after Blues Unlimited folded, Juke Blues and Blues & Rhythm) published lengthy interviews with the likes of Johnny Shines, Robert Lockwood, Eddie Taylor, Snooky Pryor and others. In light of the surprise success of the Robert Johnson reissue box around 1990, much was written on Johnson and his music and influences, with Elijah Wald's Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues being important in both debunking myths about Johnson's life, as well as highlighting Johnson's place in the history of the blues. And, in addition to several books about Johnson, we have been fortunate to have had biographies about some of the major figures in blues from the Delta including Skip James, Charlie Patton, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Elmore James, Little Walter, Memphis Minnie, and Jimmy Reed. And if Mack McCormick never finished his planned Robert Johnson biography (or his equally important book on Texas Blues and Music), his work has been drawn on others including Peter Guralnick.
Ted Gioia's new book Delta Blues was a surprise when I heard of it. I was familiar with his History of Jazz and his book on West Coast Jazz, but a new book on the deep blues that came out of Mississippi was intriguing. This music, that moves so many of us, was rooted in a community living under the most oppressive conditions. In summarizing what we know about the music's early days and the lives of some of the pioneering artists, Gioia provides a useful service. Gioia integrates the writings of Stephen Calt and Gayle Dean Wardlow in putting together portraits of Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson and Skip James, and adds some brief sketches of Big Joe Williams and Tommy McClennan as well as highlight the importance of H.C. Speir, who was the talent scout that led to most of the great Delta artists recording. But his focus, even on the early Delta blues, is on the guitarist-vocalists, and outside of brief mentions of Louise Johnson (who recorded at one of Charlie Patton's sessions) and Skip James, there is essentially no discussion of the blues piano tradition of the Delta region or its proponents.
Gioia perhaps places too much relevance in the fact that some early blues recordings were reworked by such rock acts as Cream, Rolling Stones, Canned Heat and Led Zeppelin. In discussing James' I'm So Glad, Gioia goes beyond simply noting Cream would rework the song, and incredulously includes Cream's jam-rock live recording as one of the 100 Essential Blues Recordings. Discussing Johnson, he traces his life and discusses his recordings while integrating the recollections of Johnny Shines, Robert Lockwood, Honeyboy Edwards and others who knew the pioneering blues artist. In addition to the music and biography, he also attempts to counterbalance the writings of Elijah Wald and Barry Lee Pearson who had debunked the Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil myth with a suggestion that Johnson may have presented himself as having done so to the public.
Gioia takes us forward with discussion of the Delta recordings for the Library of Congress that Alan Lomax made, focusing on the sessions with Son House and Honeyboy Edwards as well as Muddy Waters. The discussion of Muddy Waters leads off a detailed discussion of his music and career, along with similarly detailed examinations of John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King. There is a brief overview of Mississippi blues in Chicago and a chapter on the blues revival, detailing the rediscovery and postwar careers of some early blues pioneers. However, seminal Mississippi blues artists like Elmore James and Jimmy Reed are dealt with not as thoroughly, and such equally important Delta artists as Albert King and Sonny Boy Williamson are not dealt with in any substantial fashion.
There are also curious statements made, including one that Jimmy Reed failed to achieve fame or critical recognition in the blues world. The statement simply is foreign to my understanding as a blues fan. Also, in the limited discussion of Elmore James he doesn't discuss James' travels with Robert Johnson or Steve Franz's assertion that Dust My Broom was as much James' song as Johnson's. Enamored by Honeyboy Edwards, Gioia repeats Edwards' claim, without challenge, that Chess held his material back because they would not compete with Muddy Waters. Honeyboy's rendition of Drop Down Mama was first issued on a Chess album of that name nearly four decades ago along with rare and previously unissued recordings by Robert Nighthawk, Johnny Shines, Blue Smitty, Floyd Jones and Big Boy Spires. Listening to that one song in the context of the others on that album, it is likely that Honeyboy's Chess recordings lay unissued because they weren't very good.
You will not find the names of such post-war representatives of the Delta blues as Floyd Jones, Arthur Big Boy' Spires, or Blue Smitty, or their recordings discussed in this book, despite them being equal to some of the recordings that Gioia considers essential. Nor will you find any detailed discussion of the commercial post-war delta recordings of Drifting Slim, Junior Brooks, Boyd Gilmore, Joe Hill Louis, Dr. Ross, J.B. Lenoir, John Littlejohn, Charlie Booker, Walter Horton or Willie Nix. While Sam Phillips and Sun records is acknowledged, the important role of Joe Bihari's field trips in the South, usually with Ike Turner, and the legacy of the recordings he made of Delta artists is ignored. One will not find Pinetop Perkins, whose piano played such a big role in the Delta blues scene of the forties and fifties, in the book's index.
And it is not that the missing artists are biographical phantoms. The late Mike Leadbitter conducted pioneering research on the post-war blues in the Delta Region that has been followed up by many, including most notably, Jim O'Neal. There have been articles published and essays in the booklets accompanying recent reissues of these Delta Blues recordings. Several of the English Ace Records reissues of the Modern Downhome Blues Sessions contain Jim O'Neal's scholarly discussion of the sessions and artists. The volumes devoted the Delta region have been available for a couple of years. In fairness, I have no idea whether Gioia approached O'Neal and others (such as Bill O'Donohue who is writing a biography of Rice 'Sonny Boy Williamson' Miller) about their research. It is possible that work is still ongoing on the post-war Delta blues volume and that some material was not open to be shared, awaiting its separate publication. But the fact is that some of the results of this research have been published. Nothing in the text, or the list of recommended reading provided by Gioia indicates he made use of available material. There is also no reference or the use of the autobiography by the late Delta blues harmonica player, Sam Myers.
His discussion of the blues revival provides an overview of the rediscovery of some of the prewar artists who found a new audience for their music as well as discusses some of the more recent artists uncovered such as R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough and the Fat Possum label, but there is no mention of the late Jesse Mae Hemphill, nor of Roosevelt Booba' Barnes, the remarkable singer-guitarist who ran his own Mississippi juke joint, or Joe Willie Wilkins, another associate of Robert Johnson and later guitarist on King Biscuit Time, who Steve Lavere recorded and produced an extremely rare, but excellent album by.
Gioia provides a list for further reading, which also has significant omissions relating to books germane to his text. He does not include several of Paul Oliver's writings (a couple of Oliver's books are included, but not The Story of the Blues, and Oliver's writings specifically directed at the questions of the blues origins are not listed). Another significant omission is Mike Rowe's Chicago Breakdown. Gioia also provides a dubious list of 100 essential blues recordings (Gioia selects songs, not albums, because albums might go in and out of print). The uselessness of this list is seen by the inclusion of a Cream recording but nothing by Eddie Taylor, Floyd Jones, Boyd Gilmore, Junior Brooks, Willie Huff, Little Johnnie Jones, Sunnyland Slim, Robert Lockwood or Jesse Mae Hemphill to name a few. If one is going to include Bessie Smith and Blind Lemon Jefferson for context, where are representative recordings by Leroy Carr and Lonnie Johnson? I would also question some specific choices such as Tommy McClennan's Bottle Up and Go, whose controversial lyrics was atypical of McClennan's recordings. I would suggest checking out Elijah Wald's Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, and track down the various recordings Wald discusses.
One might be more forgiving of Gioia if there was substantial new material presented here, but there is little, if any, here. There is discussion that many will find insightful of the music, and Gioia's consideration of the musical legacy of John Lee Hooker is the most credible discussion of John Lee Hooker's recordings readily available; and there is also cogent discussion with respect to early 78-RPM recordings by Mississippi artists. In fact, he shares, with long-standing enthusiasts of the music, the recognition that some of the recordings that reach us so deeply today had little, if any, commercial success. At the same time, one still must place the performers accurately in the history of this music, not simply relying on the fact it influenced modern popular artists. Gioia simply does not cover the full spectrum of Delta Blues or the idiom's performers.
In addition to photographs of some of the principal figures here (many from Dick Waterman's collection), the book does benefit from Neil Harpe's artwork. Neil, based in Annapolis, Maryland, is an accomplished artist as well as a pretty darn good blues guitarist and vocalist, and even if I am not very enthusiastic about this book, I am about the artwork. That does not change the fact that this book is simply not the authoritative work on the Delta Blues that it is proclaimed to be on the back cover. That work requires substantially deeper digging into the entire Delta Blues history.
By the way, the book has received a number of rave reviews including into the NY Times and JazzTimes as quoted on Gioia's website, http://tedgioia.com/deltablues.html. I disagree with their opinion.
Also this book is being carried by the major book retailers in addition to online retailers. For those having an Amazon Kindle, you can purchase this for the Kindle.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
First up from 1980 with his great Alligator band that included A.C. Reed
Then Albert with Roy Buchanan and Lonnie Mack
Finally, singing the old Jimmy Liggins "I Ain't Drunk" with Debbie Davies on rhythm guitar
I miss Albert. He had style and sure could play the blues.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
One other matter. I was chatting with Washington area blues artist Memphis Gold, and he mentioned that his father grew up around Estes and others. Interesting how blues roots run deep in families.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Some magic by the incredible Rashaan Roland Kirk in 1969 (From the Supershow 1969?). Incidentally there is a terrific DVD of Kirk in the latest batch of the Jazz Icons® DVDs and for those who but the entire thrid set, there is even more Kirk on the bonus disc. Great stuff. Here is a link for Kirk with Buddy Guy and Jack Bruce from Supershow 1969. The video can't be embedded in a thread.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
The present CD displays there maturation as performers, and songwriters. There are numerous pleasures to be experienced here including the marvelous vocals by all three and the very solid musicianship evident throughout. Despite being rooted in the blues, especially the Piedmont tradition, this album might be better termed as urban acoustic music insofar as there are healthy elements of the church, folk and other musical genres evident here. The church background is evident on the opening traditional “God Don’t Like It,” followed by Jackie and Resa’s “Mean Church People,” a jab at some close-minded church folk. “Resolution,” an original ballad by Miles and David Bird, has a lovely, soulful vocal by Resa with some marvelous harmonica from Jackie. Joel Bailes' “The Katrina Flood,” is a song in tradition of similar songs about other tragic events and even if the lyrics have some holes, the rousing chorus of “wasn’t that a mighty storm,” does come across powerfully. Jackie’s “Racetrack Blues” , sports some lively guitar from Miles with Resa enlivening the performance on rubboard, while “Penniless Rag,” is playful with Spicer evoking Blind Blake while Jackie is on the bones and Resa adds to the fun on rubboard and bicycle horn.
“It’s Always Something,” is a nice slow blues from Spicer and David Bird with a mesmerizing slide guitar riff, crying harp from Jackie and Resa singing compellingly. “Ain’t No Grave” is a field holler type performance by Resa with simple percussion backing, while “Come Back Baby,” credited as traditional is the Henry Townsend blues originally recorded by Walter Davis, again with a wonderful vocal from Resa. “Fast Food Mama,” is another entertaining, raggy blues from Jackie, with Resa on rubboard, followed by the brisk, skittle band blues “I Need More Trouble Like That,” with Miles taking the vocal, with Resa on kazoo. The ballad “Sometimes,” has some of an old-timey feel with Resa on strumstick as well as singing Jackie’s thoughtful lyrics. Back to the church for the closing two numbers, Resa’s a capella rendition of “Go Down Hannah,” followed by Reverend Gary Davis’ “I Heard the Angels Singing.” There is a lot of heart and feeling throughout these performances that is always entertaining and usually quite moving. In addition to the wonderful music, the CD packaging by Jackie Merritt is stunning. This is available on cdbaby.com or check their website, www.acousticbluesmsg.com for information on how to order.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Follow that from Robert Lockwood, Jr. doing a rendition of his stepfather's "Sweet Home Chicago." Lockwood's J.O.B. recording of "Aw Aw Baby" was one of the earlier post-war Chicago Blues versions of this song. I am not sure if this predates Roosevelt Sykes' "Sweet Old Chicago," which likely inspired Junior Parker's "Sweet Home Chicago" for Duke and which Magic Sam cited when he performed it at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival. It was not until after magic Sam's rendition before we got a plethora of recordings, some good, but way overdone. This rendition is part of the Grammy Award Winning, The Blues Shoe Project.
Finally another rendition of "Sweet Home Chicago," by Robert Johnson's travelling friend, Johnny Shines. Listening to mediocre Robert Johnson tributes by the Eric Clapton and Rory Block, I need to cleanse my ears by playing Shines whose mix of Lonnie Johnson, Howling Wolf and Robert Johnson made him, to my mind, the best interpreter of Johnson's songs.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I soon became aware of the importance that Smith had in documenting the music, culture and communities of New Orleans. His photos graced album covers and t-shirts (I proudly had t-shirts of his photos of James Booker and Clifton Chenier). Subsequently I acquired his marvelous book, A Joyful Noise: A Celebration of New Orleans Music, which is out of print.
When I first attended the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, in the mid-190s, I went to his tent in the crafts section of the Festival grounds which his daughter Leslie (herself a very fine jazz singer) was manning, and eventually purchased his then recently published book on the Mardi Gras Indians as well as a poster made from the Dancing Cat Professor Longhair album cover that was signed by him. Since I framed it upon getting home, it hangs in my bedroom.
Subsequently I purchased his New Orleans Jazz Fest, A Pictorial History, which chronicled the first 20 or so years of the festival from images of Mahalia Jackson with the Eureka Brass Band; Jackson with Duke Ellington, George Wein and Cousin Joe, Rashaan Roland Kirk with Herbie Mann's Band, Como Fife and Drum Band, Sonny Stitt with Ellis Marsalis, Sweet Emma Barrett, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Stevie Wonder with the Meters, Dizzy Gillespie and Bongo Joe, Benny Spellman, Professor Longhair, Nina Simone, etc (and that's in the first 50 odd of 200 pages). This book is in black and white and was followed by an JazzFest Memories with color photography which was done in collaboration with Allison Miner who wrote about the Festival's history.
I am obviously a fan of his work and was saddened when I found out he passed away on Friday, September 26. The New Orleans Times-Picayune celebrated his marvelous life in an obituary, Cultural archivist Michael Smith dies. If that link does not work, try http://tinyurl.com/3oz49v
An excerpt from John Pope's piece.
"Michael P. Smith, a photographer who spent three decades capturing vivid, vibrant images at jazz funerals, Mardi Gras Indian ceremonies and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, died Friday at his New Orleans home of two diseases that destroyed his nervous system. He was 71.
A man of boundless energy who devoted himself to the culture he chronicled, Mr. Smith seemed to be everywhere at whatever event he was shooting. Fellow photographers joked that every good Jazzfest picture they took included the back of Mr. Smith's head.
Mr. Smith's subjects included Mahalia Jackson, Irma Thomas, James Booker, Harry Connick Jr., Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers, as well as anonymous mourners, strutters and Indians whom Mr. Smith always managed to capture caught up in the moment.
"I don't think there's another photographer who has more sensitively documented very significant aspects of the second half of 20th century New Orleans culture," said Steven Maklansky, a former curator of photographs at the New Orleans Museum of Art."
The biography of him on his website, www.michaelpsmithphotography.com notes the many honors he earned. "In the last few years, Mike Smith has been honored with numerous awards. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities in 2002 and was named Music Photographer of the Year by Offbeat magazine. In 2004, he received a Mayor's Arts Award from the Arts Council of New Orleans and a Clarence John Laughlin Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Orleans/Gulf South chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). In 2005, he received the Delgado Society Award (New Orleans Museum of Art), the first photographer to be so honored."
In Spring, 2007, the collection of his negatives and copyright to his work was transferred to the New Orleans Collection. The collection was over 500,000 negatives, most of which have never been printed and the New Orleans Collection intends to make more of his work available in the future. Smith's photographs are also in the permanent collections of the Bibliotheque National in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution and, locally, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Louisiana State Museum.
A brief sample of his images can be downloaded from the website of The Historic New Orleans Collection. One can download issues of the newsletter, THNOC Quarterly at http://www.hnoc.org/publications/publications-quarterly.php#. It is the Spring 2008 issue.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Here are some clips of some of the performers to whet your taste. 1st up is Taj Mahal.
2nd is Christian McBride
Next up is McCoy Tyner
Sonny Fortune is at Twins Friday and Saturday
Finally, Dee Dee Bridgewater
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I should mention that the new issue of Blues and Rhythm, No. 233, October 2008, has Terence McArdle's story on Memphis Gold and one of my photos of him is the predominant one on the cover. There are a few more of mine inside illustrating the story, taken from gigs in the 1990s at JV's in Annadale VA (not in Washington) and Fleetwood's in Alexandria VA. Its really nice to see the story and the exposure as he is such a good person as well as a performer. He still is recuperating from his fall earlier this year an gets better every time I see him. Bluebeat Music carries Blues & Rhythm, and while I suspect they do not have it yet in stock, you might check in a week or two after the date of this post. Btw the harmonica player on this performance is Charlie Sayles (Hollywood Charlie Sayles as Memphis calls him). Below is Part 2 of this performance.
From the London CD release party for Evan Christopher's Django à la Créole (Lejazzetal & Classic Jazz), a tribute to the great Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, performing "I Know That You Know," which Django recorded, but Christopher prefaces the performance by referring to the great Jimmy Noone. This is a marvelous CD, with other songs performed including Django's marvelous "Nuages,"as well as the love closing medley of Tears and Djangology. The empathy of the band and the music comes through in this video which should hopefully lead a few of you to sample more of the music on this recording.
I only have had the good fortune to see Evan perform live a few years back at Donna's on the edge of the French Quarter in a group with Tom McDermott, and have the marvelous duet album that they recorded, Danza (STR Digital). I have been enthralled by his wonderfully warm, fluid playing. He has a marvelous live album, Live At The Meridien (Jazz Club), where does a remarkable medley of Ornette Coleman's Ramblin and Lonely Woman, as well as Scott Joplin's, The Entertainer, and Duke Ellington's Prelude to a Kiss. Nat Hentoff wrote quite an enthusiastic piece in Jazz Times about Delta Bound, with pianist Dick Hyman, on Arbors.
Django à la Créole be obtained from (among other sources) the Louisiana Music Factory and cdbaby.com. The Louisiana Music Factory carries the other referenced recordings and more that Evan can be heard on.
Another video, this time Helen sings her big hit "Hey Baba Leba," around 1947. Notice Dizzy is playing a straight trumpet (that is without the upward bend he was known for later). Not too shabby a band he had.
I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to see Helen at NYC's Cookery. What a wonderful performer and person.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
What the book compiles is the answers of about 300 jazz musicians to what three wishes in life they had. The text consists of their answers. Included are countless photographs of jazz legends from Monk, Barry Harris, Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins, Art Blakey, Bud Powell, Sonny Clark John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Mary Lou Williams, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and countless others. Most of her photos were taken with a Polaroid camera, and several of the images are from worn photos, but the pictures, like their words, speak to us decades later. Some of informal, intimate images of them at the house, others sghow them perforing at the Cathouse. This is a book one can easily get lost with for days and hopefully should be available at your better book store or from the large internet retailers.
Monday, September 22, 2008
The other new Blind Pig disc is a live release by Albert Cummings, Feel So Good, that I would describe as a blues-tinged hard rock date as opposed to a blues. A power guitarist, just supported by bass and trio. He bellows out his vocals while hammering out some sizzling guitar pyrotechnics. The opening Party Right Here, and the succeeding Why Me, have a flavor not dissimilar from what one might see/hear on CMT or some contemporary country stations, although a bit more rocked out and certainly not sung with any great distinction, and taken at breakneck tempos. Sleep, a somewhat dreamy rock ballad is taken at a slow tempo with a more relaxed vocal and nice thoughtful guitar. A medley of Hootchie Cootchie with Dixie Chicken owes more to the Allman Brothers, Z.Z. Hill and other southern boogie rockers than Muddy Waters or B.B. King which also is evident by Barrelhouse Blues, which evokes Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile, while Your Own Way, is musically suggestive of All Along the Watchtower, with a long-extended screaming guitar solo, Cummings does a creditable hard-rock rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Rock & Roll, which indicates where the core of Cummins’ musical heart is. He bellows out that the Blues Makes Me Feel So Good, but this disc must not be the blues, because it don’t make me feel that way.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
James fronts the recording with his powerful vocals and his terrific guitar (evoking the late Robert Lockwood and Williams). He and Ryan are joined by a variety of backing musicians including harmonica player Bob Corritore with whom they have toured Europe, pianist Dave Maxwell, drummers Sam Lay and Willie Hayes and saxophonist Jonny Viau. They mix in some wonderful originals that suggest John Brim, Little Walter along with covers of songs from Elmore James (four numbers, of which only Hawaiian Boogie, may be well known), Jay McShann, Bo Diddley, and Snooky Pryor.
Whether the title track, a strong shuffle taken a relaxed tempo; a remake of Jay McShann’s Confessin’ the Blues, with a terrific tenor solo from Carla Brownlee and strong piano from Julien Brunetaud; and Mister Coffee is a easy rocker with hints of Jimmy Rogers and John Brim as James sings about being man who grinds so fine,” with Corritore adding harp. Early in the Morning, is one of the Elmore James covers here with some nice slide along with horns using the “Fannie Mae” riff. Hawaiian Boogie, is often is played with a no-holds bar manic tempo the performance here benefits from James’ restraint which does not diminish the power of this rendition. You Got to Move, is one of the songs Elmore recorded for legendary Harlem record man Bobby Robinson, and with Brownlee’s baritone helping give bottom to the performance, James lays down a first-rate vocal, and takes a terrific solo. Its so refreshing to hear someone put his own stamp on Elmore’s music yet remain true to the music’s essence. James is a tad bit out front on the vocal on Snooky Pryor’s Someone to Love Me, but it still is a solid performance. Relaxing at the Clarendon,” is a fine instrumental that displays more of James’ strong slide style taken at a walking tempo. Mix in the fine rendition of “Bo Diddley’s Mona, and one has little to find fault with Stop and Think About Me. When I saw James and Ryan backing Jody Williams I could appreciate how good they were as musicians, but this stellar release shows even more, how good they are out in front. This was an unexpected blues delicacy and highly recommended.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Cathead has issued a DVD of Brock, Hard Times, that includes both performances by Brock as well as interview segments that is very entertaining and illuminating and I found the music in the DVD stronger than his CDs, which may benefit by the fact that the documentary character of the DVD breaks up the performances. It is one of the better DVDs I have seen recently.
Brock’s CDs and DVDs are available at amazon, cdbaby.com and better retailers. The Cathead website is www.cathead.biz.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Just a heads up that issue 30 of the genre-spanning hip hop journal, waxpoetics is out and it is titled The Rock Issue. The two covers are of the Bad Brains and Elvis and there are stories on both (Elvis in Memphis is the subject of that article. There is a rediscovery of the Johnny Jenkins album, Ton-Ton Macoute!, obits for Jimmy McGriff, Buddy Miles, Bo Diddley and Ike Turner, and other articles on Dave Bartholomew (by Andra Lisle who also contributed the Ike Turner obituary, the Black Rock Coalition, The Rascals, and Ernie Isley (the article is titled "Guitar Hero"recalling Hendrix among other things). Some good writers here including John Kruth who authored the fine Roland Kirk Biography, Bright Moments and Jon Kirby, who penned the Bad Brains story. I picked this up at the magazine section of Barnes & Noble, and the website is www.webpoetics.com. I mentioned this publication before and bring this to your attention once more.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Yesterday (August 25), I got an email from Blind Pig announcing they signed Big James. "Blind Pig Records has announced the signing of Big James & the Chicago Playboys, a brass band that combines blues, soul, R&B and funk into a rollicking, horn-drenched stage party.
The bandleader and trombone player, Big James Montgomery, who also serves as singer, songwriter, and producer for the group, sports a voice as big as his girth. This year he received his second Blues Music Award nomination as “Horn Instrumentalist” and the title track from his last solo effort, Thank God I Got The Blues, will be featured in the upcoming movie Cleaner, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Eva Mendes."
The press release also notes that Big James Montgomery is a three time winner of Living Blues magazine’s Critic’s Choice Award for “Most Outstanding Horn Player and that he will start working ona new album in November.
While I would not use the term brass band to describe his sound, I agree his horn-led band mixes blues, soul and funk for a rollicking, horn-drenched stage party that is unique in the blues today. For those in the Baltimore-Washington area he is appearing at the Baltimore Blues Society's Alonzo Memorial Picnic on Sunday August 31 at the Rosedale MD American Legion Hall. For information on that event visit the BBS website. His CDs, Thank God I Got The Blues and Thank God I Got The Blues are available at cdbaby.com.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
After years working with Johnny Adams and making some recordings for small New Orleans labels, Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington emerged as an important blues voice in his own right with several albums for Rounder, and then one for PointBlank that evidenced his emergence as one of the true major voices in contemporary blues. Now with Blue Moon Risin’ (4 Tunes Records), currently only available as an import, he has produced an absolutely stunning album that seamlessly integrates soul and funk elements into Washington’s blues gumbo. Washington’s band, the Roadmasters (not to be confused with Ronnie Earl’s band of the same name), has a rhythm section of Jack Cruz on bass, Wilbert Arnold on drums and Brian Mitchel on keyboards that is as good as they get. While the regular Roadmasters horns are only present on two tracks, ten of the twelve tracks have the J.B. Horns (Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis). Wolfman’s mix of funk and blues is perfect for the J.B. Horns, whose crisp playing matches up with the hard funk groove of the Roadmasters on the strutting remake of Bill Withers’ Using Me and showcase Wolfman’s solo on Fever. Still the disc’s highest points are the originals by Wolfman and Jack Cruz, such as the opening Stop and Think (to which keyboard player Mitchel also contributed), the title track (with its opening line “There’s a blue moon risin’, in my heart & in my soul, passion and pain lying on everything I known”), and Can’t Stop Lovin’ You, a terrific driving updating on Otis Redding’s Can’t Cut You Loose. Cadillac Woman may be the closest thing to a straight blues shuffle, but it has an interesting turn in the melody. And while his guitar is showcased, mixing in bits of George Benson and Kenny Burrell to the gulf coast blues guitar stew, his fervid singing is just as central to these performances. He’ll employ a strangulated falsetto for emphasis, or stretch out a syllable as necessary before cutting loose with a concise guitar solo as the horns riff in support. I’ve listened to this repeatedly since buying it at the Louisiana Music Factory in New Orleans. Wolfman has made fine records before, but this is one of the best new albums in a very long time.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Accompanied by their parents and others, the trio certainly displays a considerable amount of talent and exuberance. Musically, the set was a mixed deal. Mixing in covers of songs from B.B. King, Albert King, Little Milton and others along with originals penned by father Renaud (who played harmonica for several tracks), they are talented and Ryan is a particularly promising vocalist. Him and Kyle play home made guitars and bass respectively, fashioned from car mufflers.
Obviously there youth is a basis for their appeal and they certainly are entertaining, but if one did not know that they were 9, 15, and 13, one would not pay particular attention to them. Their youthfulness was perhaps felt by the relatively simple backings they had and problems they had in ending songs which sometimes reached an abrupt conclusion. It will be interesting to see what the future has for them as they and their musical skills grow and mature and whether they become distinctive and persuasive musical voices.
Playing with Booba Barnes as a teenager, and later recording for Fat Possum, while touring with R.l. Burnside, Jr. Kimbrough and others, Mississippi blues man Lil’ Dave Thompson may not be 40, but he has developed into a terrific modern bluesman. Thompson had an impressive debut album on Fat Possum followed by an excellent recording on the British JSP label. Despite his hill country roots, his stinging guitar and forceful vocals owes much to the legendary Albert King, joining such other significant blues artists as the late Son Seals and Larry Davis as well as the muscular blues of Michael Burks who display King's influence . Thompson’s new album, Got to Get Over You Electro-Fi), displays that he has developed his own blues style. He is a fiery guitarist, whose tone evokes King, although like others he has a busier style. Tied to this is soulful, expressive singing and a program of strong blues originals including the title track and rocking shuffles like Out in the Cold, and Hard Headed Woman. Need For Speed, the lone instrumental, is a showcase for his searing fretwork. Recorded in Toronto, Electro-Fi backed Thompson with a tight band with organist John Lee and saxophonist Pat Carey impressively adding their voices, but the spotlight remains most impressively on Thompson and with this recording and his striking, intense performances (this writer just saw him at the Pocono Blues Festival), his stature in the blues world should be growing.
Lil' Dave will be appearing at the free 20th DC Blues Festival put on by the D.C. Blues Society on Saturday August 30 at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre in NW Washington DC. He will also appear at the Festival After Party at Surf Club Live that evening. For more information visit the D.C. Blues Society's website.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Originally from Pennsylvania, but a resident of the Washington D.C. area since 1988, vocalist Janine Gilbert-Carter has distinguished herself both as a gospel and jazz singer. Jazz Karma has just issued her new album, A Song For You, Live at the 15th Annual FMJS East Jazz Festival that should hopefully make her better known outside of the Nation’s Capital. The February 2006 appearance at the East Coast Jazz Festival captured here has her backed by a wonderful band featuring saxophonist Paul Carr, guitarist Steve Abshire, pianist Chris Grasps, bassist Gavin Fallow and drummer Clyde Adams. And while Carr gets a number of strong solos here, with his Texas-based tenor playing being especially nice, Ms. Gilbert-Carter is front and center possessing a delivery that swings along with the band over a wonderful range of material that includes songs associated with Dinah Washington (What a Difference a Day Makes); Big Maybelle (Candy); Shirley Horn (Here’s to Life); Percy Mayfield (Please Send Me Someone to Love); Etta James (At Last); and Denise LaSalle (Someone Else is Steppin’ In). And then there are the standards like All of Me, and When I Fall In Love. No matter how familiar a song is, Janine Gilbert-Carter brings a breath of fresh air in her interpretations, with her phrasing and the sophisticated bluesy inflections she adds. I was familiar with Leon Russell’s A Song For You, from Donny Hathaway’s recording. The rendition here does evoke Hathaway’s prior recording but she provides an equally stirring performance. She transforms Denise LaSalle’s soul-blues classic, Someone Else is Steppin’ In, into a swinging blues as she belts out the lyric on a stunning performance (Carr’s tenor solo also deserves note). It must have been quite a night to see Janine Carter-Gilbert at the East Coast jazz Festival when this was recorded. The proof is this terrific album that that is available at cdbaby.com.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
"You are invited to experience a spectacular evening of the soulful sounds of rhythm and blues with Michael Roach and Johnny Mars in concert to benefit the Tinner Hill John Jackson Blues Festival. Blues singer and guitarist Michael Roach and Blues singer and harmonica player Johnny Mars reside in the United Kingdom and will be making a rare U.S. tour to perform at the Pocono Blues Festival They will perform in Falls Church in a one night, one show invitation only concert at the historic Henderson House and gardens.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C. Michael Roaches’ life has taken him to reside in Cheltenham, England. He has become a beloved performer in Guitar, Blues, Folk, Jazz, World Music and Country Blues Festival across the globe. He has performed in Sweden, France, Ireland, England, Scotland, The Channel Islands, in the Middle East including Dubai, Bahrain, Abu Dhabe, and Qatar. His work has taken him to Bali and Jakarta in Indonesia. He will soon be performing in Spain and Capetown, South Africa. He has performed in the USA at the Chicago Blues Festival and Maryland's Bluebird Blues Festival.
He has taught in workshops in the United Kingdom for the European Blues Association (which he founded with Paul Oliver.), in Galway, Ireland, at the Bergen Music Festival in Bergen, Norway, Centrum Country Blues Week in Port Townsend and the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop in Washington state, and at the Augusta Heritage Festival for Bluesweek in Elkins, West Virginia. He traveled to the USA to interview many Blues elders for the BBC which culminated in his 3 part series called "Deep Blue" for the highly esteemed BBC Radio 4. He created the Federal City Blues Connection with the Washington, D.C government to serve many factions of the community in Washington.
He was the President for over 4 years of the D.C. Blues Society and Festival Director of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Annual DC Blues Festivals. Michael currently performs as a solo performer, as the leader of the Michael Roach Band and as a duo with harmonica master Johnny Mars.
Mr. Roach is an exceptional performer who has developed his own unique rhythm and blues style after many years of learning directly from such well known figures as John Jackson, John Cephas and Jerry Ricks. Come experience the indisputable genius of Michael Roach.
Songwriter, harmonica player and singer Johnny Mars was raised in a sharecropping family. He was given his first harmonica at age nine. His family lived in various places around the South, including North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
When Mars' mother died in 1958, the older family members settled in Florida, while Johnny and his younger brother went to live in New Paltz, N.Y. After he graduated from high school, he played club shows around New York and recorded with his band Burning Bush for Mercury Records.
In the mid-1960s, Mars moved to San Francisco, where he met Dan Kennedy and formed the Johnny Mars Band, playing clubs and festivals in northern California, as well as shows for rock promoter/impresario/producer Bill Graham.However, Mars could not seem to expand his audience much in San Francisco. After hearing about the greener pastures across the pond from his friend Rick Estrin of Little Charlie and the Nightcats, he toured England in 1972. There, he recorded a couple of albums, eventually moving to West London in 1978. Working with producer Ray Fenwick, who also worked with Spencer Davis, Ian Gillan, Mars met with success on the much praised album, Life On Mars.
In 1991, Mars became a featured soloist with the British New Wave pop group Bananarama. The group used him on their singles "Preacher Man," "Megalomaniac," and "Long Train Running," and he appeared in the group's video of "Preacher Man." Through the 1990s, Mars retained his strong European fan base, and he enjoys particularly strong followings in Ireland, Scotland and Scandinavia. Critics there have called him "the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica." Over the years, Mars has shared bills with Hendrix (before he was well-known) and Magic Sam.
In 1992, after a long absence from the Bay Area blues scene, owing to his new foothold in England and the rest of Europe, Mars was invited to play at the San Francisco Blues Festival. Mars' 1994 U.S. release for MM&K Recordings, Stateside with Johnny Mars, features brilliant, original, topical compositions and superb, unique harmonica playing, unfettered by the standard Chicago blues conventions. ~ Richard Skelly, All Music Guide
These gentlemen will offer breathtaking virtuosity and wide-ranging musical palette in the lovely garden and historic house constructed in 1913. The home was home for over fifty years to civil rights pioneers Dr. Edwin B. and Mary Ellen Henderson.
Don't miss the opportunity to meet Michael Roach and Johnny Mars, connect with fellow blues lovers and help the Tinner Hill John Jackson Blues Festival. If you are unable to attend we can still support the Blues Festival by making a donation.
Trish Byerly, Ed & Nikki Henderson
The Henderson House & Garden
307 S. Maple Ave.
Falls Church, VA. 22046
Date & Time:
Sunday, July 27th
Tickets: $25.00 each
The concert includes hors d'oeuvres extraordinaire, luscious desserts, and cool beverages.
A Cash wine bar will be available.
Parking, in the designated parking lot adjacent to the Henderson House.
Please mail checks and/or money order for reservations and donations to:
Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation
P.O. Box 6117
Falls Church, VA. 22040
For more information about Michael visit:
For more information about Johnny Mars visit:
For more information about Tinner Hill visit:
Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. The festival is co-sponsored by Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and the City of Falls Church.
We warmly welcome your friends. Feel free to forward this e-mail those who may be interested in a wonderful evening of refreshments, music and the opportunity to help the Tinner Hill Blues Festival! Please bear in mind this is an advance invitation event open ONLY to those with reservations/tickets.