Friday, February 11, 2011

One Year Later.......

A year ago this week, Friday Blues Fix, the blog, was launched.  It's hard to believe, but sure enough, this is our 53rd post.  Thanks to everyone who's been with us from the beginning for their support, as well as those who stopped by and stuck around since we got started.  I've been amazed at the response the blog has gotten....not just locally, but from all over the world.  I've made some interesting new friends from all over the globe who love the blues just as much as I do.

There's so much more that I would like to do, such as check out some live music, go to a few festivals, visit some historical sites, etc.......  Unfortunately, it's hard to get away to do that like I used to.  Most of the places and events are several hours away and when they are close by, it seems like other things come up that make it hard to do.  Maybe some day.....  In the meantime, I will continue to look at some great recordings from the past and present, treat you to some nice audio and video clips, look at legendary artists and blues record labels of the past, and anything else related to the blues that catches my eye that particular week.  I hope you will continue to stop by and see what's going on every Friday.

Coming attractions include a few tributes to legendary blues artists (some you know, some you might not know), more albums that you might have missed first time around, some cool Ten Questions With.....subjects, a look at blues labels past and present, new releases, and anything else I can think of in between.  If there's anything blues-related you'd like to see or hear, drop me a line and I'll do my best to get it done.

I don't know if you're familiar with the disc pictured on the left or not.  It was released about fifteen years ago by a tiny label out of Oxford, MS called Midnight Creeper Records.  Midnight Creeper was the brainchild of Peter Lee, the former editor of Living Blues magazine and also the founder of Fat Possum Records.  The label only released three discs before shutting down operations, beginning with a gritty Blues/R&B disc from former Bobby Bland guitarist Ray Drew and a downhome Delta blues disc from John Weston.  Both of these releases were excellent and well-done (though the Ray Drew release had some controversial songwriting credits), but their third release was arguably their best.

The Lost American Bluesmen consisted of five bluesmen (drummer Bill Warren, guitarists Frank "Little Sonny" Scott, Jimmie Lee Robinson, and Willie Hudson, and harmonica player Sleepy Otis Hunt), all of whom were hardworking sidemen in Chicago blues bands during the glory days of  1950's era Chicago Blues.  Eventually, each of them soured on the music scene during the lean years for one reason or another, and walked away, seeking greener pastures.  Scott and Robinson (who never really left the music scene, often assisting journalists and fans in tracking down hard-to-find musicians of the past)became cab drivers, Hunt and Warren became truck drivers, and Hudson took up painting and paper hanging.

Sleepy Otis Hunt brings a downhome vibe to the proceedings with his four tracks.  During his earlier career in the 50's, he played harmonica for Freddy King, Eddie Taylor, and Elmore James.  I really like the downhome vibe from his tracks.  The opening cut, "Pick No More Cotton," benefits from drummer Bill Warren's lively playing, but Hunt also emulates Jimmy Reed very well on "Love's A Hurting Game."

Bill Warren was nearing 80 at the time of these recordings, but you would never have guessed it, based on his work on the skins.  During his career, he made several recordings with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells (including their classic Hoodoo Man Blues), and also with Jimmy Reed.  He also shows a nice gravelly vocal style on three tracks, including a remake of a tune he originally recorded in the early 60's, called "Riding In My New Jaguar."

Frank "Little Sonny" Scott
Frank "Little Sonny" Scott was a mainstay of the Chicago scene in the 50's, playing with Freddy King, among others, before moving back to his native Texas and eventually recording a young Albert Collins on his Great Scott record label.  His songs range from the autobiographical "American Bluesmen," to an adaptation of Donnie Hathaway's "The Ghetto," to a pair of slow blues tunes, "Double Trouble" and this track, "Reap What You Sow."

The youngster of the bunch, then in his mid 50's, guitarist Willie Hudson cut his musical teeth playing with Willie Mabon and, later, Buddy Guy.  Hudson left Guy to play with his brothers in the Hudson Brothers Band, but soon fell on hard times and quit music to support his family.  He fronts the group on two tracks, "Cry For Me" and "Fat Meat."  These two tracks have more of a modern feel than the rest of the tracks.

Jimmie Lee Robinson
Robinson had restarted his career in the early 90's, with a recording for Delmark Records called Lonely Traveller.  He had gotten his start in the early 50's, playing with Freddy King, and recorded behind Elmore James, Little Walter and others, even making two or three singles himself before retiring from the business to drive a cab.  He was the driving force behind The Lost American Bluesmen project, serving as co-producer and backing musician, selflessly relegated himself to the background for the most part and letting the others have their time in the spotlight, though he steps up for a couple of songs, the instrumental, "Jumping In Chicago," and the John Lee Hooker-styled "I Was Wrong."

It was a nice comeback for all of these artists, and they were able to receive some attention that they never got during their earlier stint in the business.  Robinson and Scott became heavily involved in the Save Maxwell Street coalition at the turn of the century, Robinson even contributing a theme song of sorts to the campaign.  A couple of these artists have passed on in the waning years, and Robinson sadly took his own life in 2002, after a long, painful bout with cancer, but The Lost American Bluesmen stands as a strong testament to their musical abilities.

Midnight Creeper Records closed up shop soon after this release, but there are still copies of the disc out there.  If you like your blues on the traditional side, this is an excellent choice.

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