Friday, September 21, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Twelve

As I've mentioned several times, the first blues recording I ever picked up was Showdown!, from Texas blues legends Albert Collins and Johnny Clyde Copeland, along with a newcomer who was attracting a lot of attention during the mid 80's, Robert Cray.  It's not much of an exaggeration to say that listening to this album was a life-changing experience for your humble correspondent.  Today, some 32 years later, I'm still hooked on the blues in a big way.  The music still grabs me just as tightly as it did in March of 1986, when I plugged this cassette into my car stereo.

There are several songs from Showdown! that would be an excellent fit on a blues fix mix CD, but the one I chose for Track Twelve of Volume Two was the song that drew me to the music the most.  Copeland wrote "Bring Your Fine Self Home," and he and Collins are at their absolute best (Cray sat this one out).  The Iceman even broke out his harmonica for this track and he and Copeland set the mood from the beginning with a little banter.  

Copeland was always a powerful singer, and he really pulls out all the stops on this one.....yes, Shemekia Copeland is his daughter, in case you didn't know.  Although he recorded frequently, beginning in the late 50's, he really didn't break out until the 80's, when he recorded Copeland Special and Texas Twister (the latter with appearances from Stevie Ray Vaughan), both of which were still fairly new releases when Showdown! hit stores.  His vocal made a believer out of me, and when Collins launched into his barbed wire solo about midway through, it raised chill bumps the first time I heard it.



Like I said, this CD was a life-changer, and this is only one of the fantastic tunes featured.  Each guitarist had some great moments on Showdown! and the end result was a Grammy in 1987 for Best Traditional Blues Album.  It's still Alligator Records' best-selling album of all time and I can't recommend it highly enough.  It's unfortunate that these guys never got the chance to team up again, though Collins did appear on one of Cray's early 90's albums shortly before his death. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Eleven

I apologize for the rather sporadic posting schedule over the summer.  I've been trying to spend what spare time I have working on CD reviews for Blues Bytes.  Due to being very busy at work and at home, I've been pretty backed up for quite a while, which is why I haven't been posting reviews here as much.....I hate to write them up twice when I could be working on another release.  I'm hoping to catch up, maybe by the end of the year, but I'm still about two months behind.  It's a nice problem to have, though, because there are some great new releases that are out there right now.  Anyway, you didn't come by to hear my blues.....you want to hear some real good down-home blues, right?  Well, check out this week's selection from our Blues Fix Mix CD.......Track Eleven to be exact.


This week's track is a bit of a change of pace and features one of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite duos, guitarist Corey Harris and New Orleans' late, great piano man Henry Butler, who passed away just a couple of months ago.  Harris' acoustic blues really made their mark when he signed with Alligator back in 1995.  His version of the Delta blues was refreshing and dynamic on his debut, and he also added other influences to his music with each new album, such as New Orleans jazz, Latin, Island, and World Music.  On his 1999 masterpiece, Greens From The Garden, Harris collaborated with Butler for the first time.  Butler's catalog was nearly as eclectic as Harris', with ventures into not only jazz, but blues, funk, and even a bit of classical and gospel.


In 2000, Harris and Butler collaborated for Vu-Du Menz, a wonderful set of blues guitar/piano duets that bring to mind the classic sounds of 20's and 30's blues.  The pair also dove into soul, barrelhouse,  ragtime and a couple of gospel tracks.  There are so many good songs on this set, but my favorite has to be the lively, piano-driven "If You Let A Man Kick You Once."  Written by Harris, this is a fun track that would have been a great fit during the 20's and 30's.  His lyrics are entertaining and Butler really tears it up on piano.  The line "From the time you're born, 'til you're ridin' in the hearse/ain't nothin' so bad that it couldn't get worse" is one that each of us can use just about every day of our lives......I know I have used it many times.  

As stated above, Butler died in early July from colon cancer.  He recorded a few albums after Vu-Du Menz, including a fantastic collection of solo live performances in 2008 that spanned a couple of decades called PiaNOLA Live.  Harris has continued to record as well, though he's into African and Jamaican music as much as he is the blues.  Whatever music he chooses to make is compelling music.






Friday, August 31, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Ten

For Track Ten, we're going to keep things rolling in Louisiana, with one of the most successful of Excello Record's stable of swamp blues artists, Slim Harpo.  As I mentioned in my previous post a couple of weeks ago, I've been digging deep into the sounds of the swamp with Ace's Bluesin' By The Bayou series, and Mr. Harpo has several tracks included in that series (and graces the cover of the second volume).  I first got into the Excello catalog via Hip-O's House Rockin' & Hip Shakin' series of releases in the late 90's and if you can track either of these series down......even a volume or two of each, they are well worth any blues fan's time.

Mr. Slim Harpo was born James Moore in 1924 and worked as a longshoreman and construction worker as a youth, playing music on the side under the name Harmonica Slim, sometimes accompanying his brother-in-law Lightnin' Slim.  When he started recording for Excello in the late 50's, he changed his stage name to Slim Harpo to avoid confusion with another performer using the Harmonica Slim name.  Harpo's first recording, and hit, was "I'm A King Bee," but it wasn't his last.  His first chart hit was "Rainin' In My Heart," in 1961.

Harpo was influenced by Jimmy Reed, but his music was actually more accessible to a wider audience than Reed's.  One of the best descriptions I've read of Harpo was that his voice reminded one writer of a cross between a black blues singer singing country and a white country singer singing the blues.  His music used rock n' roll influences at times and his singing was reminiscent of country music at times.  In fact, his music has been recorded by artists of multiple genres over the years.

Harpo's biggest hit was released in 1966 and is this week's Blues Fix Mix track, "Baby Scratch My Back."  Largely instrumental, it hit #1 on the R&B charts and #16 on the pop charts.  Like most of his other recordings, it had a little blues, a little rock, and a little country music mixed together.......the essence of Swamp Blues.


   


Harpo was beginning to expand his audience in the late 60's with regular touring, and was gaining a larger fan base from young rock n' roll fans.  While getting ready for a tour of Europe with some recording sessions mixed in, he suddenly died of a heart attack at age 46.  His impressive body of work is available in several different collections for several different labels and any blues fan needs to have some of it in their collection.


Since our posting has been a bit erratic this summer......thanks for hanging in there with us.....here's a list of Volume Two's tracks to date:

"Mannish Boy" - Muddy Waters
"Big Legs" - Zuzu Bollin
"If It Wasn't For Bad Luck" - Lee "Shot" Williams
"Taylor Rock" - Sonny Landreth
"How'd You Learn To Shake It Like That" - Snooky Pryor with Eddie Taylor
"The Score" - The Robert Cray Band
"Ninety-Nine" - Bobby Rush
"Your Love Is Like A Cancer" - The Son Seals Blues Band
"Rats & Roaches In My Kitchen" - Larry Garner
"Baby Scratch My Back" - Slim Harpo


Friday, August 3, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Nine

Over the last few weeks, your humble correspondent has been taking in quite a bit of swamp blues via the Ace UK Bluesin' By The Bayou series (which I hope to post about in the near future).  I spent a large chunk of the Amazon card I received for my birthday to catch up with this series, along with some previously mentioned items and a few others that I haven't gotten to just yet, and I'll save the details for that later post, but one of the songs in the collection is a little blues ditty from 1962 by Silas Hogan called "Trouble At Home Blues," that's is a classic example of swamp blues......a little country and a little rock n' roll and a lot of blues.




Hearing that track again reminded me of the next selection on Volume Two of our Blues Fix Mix CD, which is a reconstruction of "Trouble At Home Blues" from one of my favorite modern-day swamp blues artists, Mr. Larry Garner, who recorded it as "Rats And Roaches In My Kitchen" (as Hogan did later in his career) for his mid 90's Verve/Gitanes release You Need To Live A Little.  Where Hogan was backed by harmonica on his version for Excello, Garner opted for a little extra guitar support from that slide guitar master Sonny Landreth (who previously appeared on Track Four of this volume).  

Garner has a lot of fun with his version....it's not quite as somber and forlorn as Hogan's rendition.....and he and Landreth work very well together.  You Need To Live A Little is probably my favorite Larry Garner album (and the first I was able to track down) and this tune is a big reason.  Check it out and see if you agree.


Garner is also one of the finest songwriters currently practicing in the blues genre, so if you aren't familiar with him and you dig the blues, you really should be.