Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Taking the Blues Time Machine to April 1977

This is my blues column from the April 1977 Buffalo Jazz Report which had the great Roy Haynes  on the cover. My column was relatively lengthy, and included a Blues On EP segment which I will post next week. have noted the first 58 issues of Buffalo Jazz Report (now Jazz & Blues Report) have been digitized and can be downloaded from the University of Buffalo Library system. The website for these archived issues is: http://digital.lib.buffalo.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/BuffJazz. Note that Southern Record sales from which I obtained some releases no longer exists, and of course Living Blues is no longer published in Chicago. Many of the recordings I reviewed are not easily found these days. Also the scheduled Jimmy Dawkins' performances mentioned did not happen as Jimmy was fed up with the music scene at the time. Big Joe Turner and Lloyd Glenn were replacements. I have corrected typos and spelling errors in the original review.

After a month that brought Muddy Waters, Bobby Bland and B.B. King legendary blues artist, Robert Jr. Lockwood, will be appearing at.the University of Buffalo Folk Festival Friday evening, Ap i I 15. (The festival runs through Sunday the 17th). Lockwood, the stepson of Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson has played and recorded with many of the greats such as Sonny Boy WiIIiamson (with whom he appeared on the famous King Biscuit Time radio program in the early 1940s), Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Eddie Boyd, Willie Mabon, Otis Spann and Roosevelt Sykes. One of the blues finest guitarists, his fluid chord-work should also appeal to jazz enthusiasts. He has influenced many other guitarists including B.B. King and the late Freddie King.

A number of new albums came my way this month documenting the less well known of America's folk traditions. Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Band is heard on Zydeco (GNP Crescendo GNPS 2101) a fine collection of musical gumbo. Queen Ida is the only zydeco artist to have an album other than Clifton Chenier. Playing a push-pull diatonic accordion (as opposed to a piano accordion) behind her brother AI Lewis' guitar and vocals, a set of very relaxed enjoyable music results. The music is more traditional cajun though about half the album is in a bluesy frame. Very infectious.

Live recordings document blues from Fort Worth/Dallas and Saint Louis. Robert Ealey and His Five Careless Lovers Live at the New Blue Bird Nite Club is an infectious and rock-ing set recorded in Fort Worth (Blue Royal BR 300) as singer Ealey, tough keyboard player Good Rocking Ralph and a mostly young white band go through a series of blues and boogie. Highlights include a nice Sweet Sixteen, Black Night and a hot Further on Up the Road. Good party music.

Clayton Love, once pianist for Ike Turner, turns in a bluesy, if somewhat short, set, Mississippi Music, Mud & Misery (Flash Back Records), recorded at the Carousel in St. Louis. Love, a very mellow singer and strong pianist, plays as producer Sid Wallace raps for over seven minutes about Mississippi and the blues and the various people from there (emphasizing his (Sid Wallace's) home town of Tunica. This goes into a nice rocking blues Big Question. A fast Worried Life Blues opens the second side which also includes a really nice St. Louis Blues and a nice treatment of Tore Up, an Ike Turner song that Otis Rush has also recorded. Key to the Highway closes with some harp backing. The only reservation of this album is the playing time, as the music is fine.

Barrelhouse Records has a small catalog of blues and rockabilly records. Of the three latest releases one is a sure winner, the other two are plagued by some recording problems. Bring Me Another Half a Pint (BH 09) features some of the lesser known Chicago harp players. Drummer Kansas City Red is heard with harpist Nate Armstrong to fine advantage on Money Tree and sounds like Robert Jr. Lockwood on Lockwood's tune Mean Black Spider. Nate Armstrong's Red Light Boogie is a fine chromatic harp feature. Easy Baby has gentle vocal and strong harp on his Good Morning Mr. Blues. Sonny Boy McGhee turns in two strong performances, sounding very much. like his mentor John Lee WiIIiamson. Earl Payton's tracks are pleasant but recorded when he had a broken arm and don't allow him to show his ability. Billy Branch turns in an assured vocal on Hootchie Kootchie Man and brilliant harp work recalling Walter Horton. Billy currently travels with Willie Dixon and is a name to remember. Steve Wisner recorded these sides and the sound is good. Special note must be made of Walter 'Big Red' Smith's guitar work. Steve also produced the fine Good Rockin' Charles album on his own Mr. Blues label.

George Paulus own productions for his label, Blind Joe Hill's Boogie in the Dark (BH-08) and Joe.Carter's Mean and Evil Blues (BH-07) feature what is interesting music, but the vocals of both are poorly recorded making it difficult to estimate their abilities as vocalists. Blind Joe Hill, a one-man band from Akron, Ohio is less affected as his abilities in the Jimmy Reed mode are well preserved. Through a wide range of material, Boogie in the Dark, Tin Pan Alley, Hideaway, Manish Boy, Sweet Home Chicago and She Gotta Go, he proves adept on harp guitar and keeps the beat with bass drum and high hat cymbal. As Tim Schuller's liner notes claim, Joe Hill is an artist of 'incredible singularity'!

Joe Carter is a fine slide guitarist who can recall both early Muddy Waters and Elmore James: With just Big Red's second guitar and drummer Johnny Junious he produces rocking music. I can't make any judgment on his singing because of its distorted character, though on the Elmore James tunes I'm Worried, It Hurts Me Too, Shake Your Moneymaker and Dust My Broom a certain enthusiasm is apparent. A nice treatment of Robert Jr. Lockwood's Take a Little Walk With Me is also included. Only one tune.really falls apart and that is Muddy's Blow Wind Blow. Despite its flaws an enjoyable set that makes one wish more care had been shown to the details. If George Paulus is trying to get a down home sound, he perhaps succeeded too much.

I have seen the Queen Ida in local stores, the others I ordered from Living Blues, 2615 N. Wilton Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60614, (Southern Record Sales, 42 North Lake Ave.. Pasadena, Calif. 91101 can also supply). The new Living Blues should be available when you read this and includes an obituary article on Freddie King (with interviews) and big feature on Son House; Willie Dixon currently has a column and extensive reviews and news is also included. Single copies now cost $1.00 and a six issue (1 year) subscription runs $5.50. Serious blues fans should check it out if you haven't already.
Finally, WBFO will be bringing in Jimmy Dawkins to the Tralfamadore Cafe the last weekend in May (May 27-29). Jimmy is the most original guitarist to emerge in the blues in the past 10 years and will be bringing some tough West Side Chicago Blues to Buffalo. More details next month.

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