Friday, July 16, 2010
Red Hot Blues
One of the first Friday Blues Fix posts was a mini-interview with Larry Garner. He mentioned an upcoming release with the Norman Beaker Band called Live at the Tivoli. It was recorded in 2009 at the Tivoli in England and provides a pretty wide retrospective of Garner's recordings, ranging from his early standouts ("No Free Rides," "Shak Bully") to his newer material ("Heavy Pieces," "Raised In The Country") to crowd favorites ("Jook Joint Woman," "Kleptomaniac," "Cold Chills," "The Road of Life," "Had to Quit Drinking"). Of course, you get a sample of Garner's unique rapport with his audiences as well. Norman Beaker, a longtime member of the UK blues scene, provides some great guitar work and takes the mic for a couple of his own tunes, and his band is first-rate. This is a great set of blues that is well worth tracking down. Check out Garner and Beaker in action from a few weeks ago, performing the Henry Gray tune, "Cold Chills."
Back In Mississippi Live at the 930 Blues Cafe was initially released about a year and a half ago but saw fairly limited distribution. Earwig Records of Chicago has picked up distribution of the CD, which proves that there is justice in the world. Champion took a bit of a sabbatical from music a few years back, but has resurfaced in Mississippi over the past couple of years, playing many of the local clubs just like Jackson's 930 Blues Cafe. Joining him for this wonderful set is another local favorite, Eddie Cotton, who's recorded a couple of outstanding live discs himself. Cotton plays guitar on this set, and Champion takes the spotlight for a memorable performance. It's easy to hear why Champion won the IBC Best Band competition this year. He's a powerful and charismatic performer. Hats off to Earwig for getting this one out there for all to have a chance to hear. Below is a song from the performance. "Policeman Blues" also features some sweet guitar from Cotton and an appearance from local rapper Jacktown Swiff (Champion actually got his start in music as a rapper before moving on to the blues). I'm proud that there are still young guys in Mississippi that are keeping the blues alive.
The third Saturday in July used to be marked on my calendar every year in the late 80's. That was when the Chunky Rhythm & Blues Festival was held, about fifteen miles from my house. I guess it started in the early 80's, but at that time, I wasn't really into the blues.....more into soul and R&B and jazz, so I didn't keep up with it that much. Chunky is a pretty small town, just a couple of stores, churches, a post office, and a great place to eat catfish, but I spent a lot time there in my early 20's, playing basketball a couple of days a week in one of the churches that had a gym. The festival was actually a couple of miles outside of town in a big pasture that was called Richardson's Farm.
The pasture was a natural amplitheatre, with a sloping field surrounded by trees. The sound was pretty good and there was plenty of room to move around. The only hazard was at night, when you walked back to your vehicle, there was no lighting at all once you left the music area, and the parking was a pretty good walk away, so finding your ride could be pretty interesting, even if you were sober.
Despite it's size (or lack of), the festival drew some pretty big acts at the time. I think B. B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland played it before I started going, at least once, but I never saw them there. The first year I went, the main acts were The Kinsey Report (just before their first album, Edge of the City, was released), Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets (and Sam Myers), Koko Taylor, and Lonnie Mack. Now that wasn't a bad lineup at all.
They tried to move the festival to nearby Meridian for a few years and even had the artists from Fat Possum Records appear one year, but it never really caught on as well. It was fun while it lasted though, and gave me the opportunity to see some great blues artists close up and close by.
Long John Hunter. Hunter made some fine recordings for Alligator in the 1990's, including a collaboration with Lonnie Brooks and Phillip Walker called Lone Star Shootout. He got his start playing the blues in Juarez, Mexico on the Texas/Mexico border way back in the 50's, after hearing B. B. King play a gig at Beaumont. He bought a guitar the next day and was soon playing at the same club in Beaumont. After that, he was the main attraction at the Lobby Bar in Juarez for thirteen years. He's still active today, having released a CD last year for Blues Express that was well-received. Happy Birthday, Long John!
To close things out this week, please enjoy one of my favorite Long John Hunter tracks.....from his Border Town Legend disc......the slow burner, "Ice Cold." Have a good weekend, Blues lovers.