Friday, June 3, 2011

My Favorite Things.....Currently

I honestly don't know how so many bloggers are able to post stuff daily.  It's amazing to me how creative and resourceful some people are.  I read a lot of blogs covering many different areas of interest and they all post daily or every other day.  When I originally started Friday Blues Fix, I figured I would at least post on Fridays, along with a few items during the week.  Nope.....can't do it.  Weekly is about all I can manage, so I try to at least give you a quality post once a week and hope that it's enough to make you think about stopping by at least once a week.

This week, I thought I'd give you a glimpse at some of the blues items that I'm currently enjoying.....some new recordings, books, DVDs, or other blues-related items.  Maybe you're already enjoying some of these things yourself.  If not, well......maybe you should be.

First up is an impressive CD from Texas guitarist Hamilton Loomis called Live in England.  A friend of mine in Houston send me a mix CD several years ago with a couple of Hamilton Loomis tracks on it, with a note that I needed to keep an eye on this young dude because he was just getting started.  After a couple of indy releases, Loomis eventually recorded for Blind Pig in the early 2000's and released this live set about a year and a half ago.  I got a copy in the mail for review a couple of weeks ago and, folks, let me tell you....if you haven't heard this guy perform, you need to pencil him into your busy schedule because this man can raise the roof.  An incredibly talented guitarist, Loomis also sings with the best of them.  This disc features a dozen great tracks, mostly originals from his earlier releases, plus a few surprises (a tribute to Loomis' idol, Bo Diddley, is a standout).  Live blues CDs are a dime a dozen and a lot of them leave you as soon as you take them out of your CD player.  This one is different.  If you've not experienced Hamilton Loomis, this is a fantastic place to start.

Still on the music side, Stony Plain Records, the Canadian label of roots music, celebrates its 35th year in existence this year.  As part of that celebration, the label recently issued a 2 CD/1 DVD set that will serve as a wonderful introduction to Stony Plain.  Disc 1 collects many of the label's foremost country, folk, and vocal performers.  Disc 2 is all blues, R&B, and swinging jazz and the DVD captures some of both areas.  The blues disc also includes four excellent previously unheard blues recordings from Robert Nighthawk's final session in 1965 in Montreal.  Now if you're a blues fan of any merit at all, by now you should be halfway to your computer or to your favorite record store (if it still exists).  Probably the most noteworthy thing about this release is the amazing diverse number of blues artists that the label has recorded over the years, ranging from mainstay Duke Robillard to relative new kid on the label Joe Louis Walker to lap steel wizard Sonny Rhodes to Chicago legend Billy Boy Arnold to the swinging jazz and blues of Big Jay McShann to the blues/rock of the late Jeff Healey, who gets a nice tribute on the DVD.  If you're a fan of roots music in general, this has something for everybody and I have to admit that I enjoyed the first CD of country and folk almost as much as I did the blues CD.

One more new one and then we'll move on........Ruf Records recently added Lightnin' Malcolm to their already impressive roster.  Malcolm's latest release, Renegade, came out in April.  I've seen Malcolm off and on over the years, first as a part of the M for Mississippi documentary and soundtrack, then as part of the recent Big Head Blues Club tour.  This latest CD, which features Malcolm along with drummer Cameron Kimbrough (grandson of Junior Kimbrough), continues the update of the Hill Country sound that has been ongoing with various members of the Burnside and Kimbrough families, mixing elements of funk and rock with the droning, hypnotic rhythms of Hill Country blues.  It's safe to say that this brand of blues is nowhere near reaching its peak and Lightnin' Malcolm proves that there's still plenty of exciting music to be heard from its many purveyors.   

I want to give you a heads-up on one of the coolest books on the blues that I've read in a while.  Cat Head's Roger Stolle has penned an indispensible volume on the history of the land where the blues began - the Mississippi Delta.  Hidden History of Mississippi Blues is a comprehensive look at the music from its beginnings all the way through its current status, with lots of fascinating stops in between, with some magnificent photos by Lou Bopp.  Whether you're a newcomer to the blues or an old hand who's seen it all, this book is a must-have.

I asked Stolle to give us some background on the story behind the book and he was gracious enough to respond.

For almost a decade, I've talked to blues fans, tourists and musicians from across the counter at my Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art store in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Through that time, I've heard certain questions over and over, and I've taken note about what folks want to know more about. After hours, I've enjoyed many amazing blues nights at local juke joints, blues clubs and house parties. I've interviewed dozens of older Delta bluesmen for magazines like Blues Revue, and I've spent quality time hanging out with juke owners and other Mississippi natives.

When The History Press approached me last year about writing the Hidden History of Mississippi Blues book, I thought, "Hmm. Here's a chance to take everything I've learned and share it with fellow fans of blues music, Southern culture and American history." From there, it really just became a question of what to include and how to present it in an entertaining way. I tried very hard to write a book that would appeal to both newbie and long-time blues fans. Chapters about the music's origins, cotton plantations, race records, Delta radio, "The Crossroads" and juke joints cover many of the questions and discussions I've had with Cat Head customers through the years. Additionally, the series of interviews towards the back of the book provides deep blues history from the mouths of the men who were there and lived to tell about it. Finally, because a picture is worth a thousand words, I called on my buddy Lou Bopp to use 40 or so of his stunning Mississippi blues photos. Most of the shots are in color, and all of them capture both the men and the environment behind the blues -- from highly personal portraits to live juke joint happenings.

If our new book is successful, then it will hopefully inspire many repeat visits to the Magnolia State. After all, part of the "Hidden History of Mississippi Blues" is that the tradition is still being carried on today in a handful of decaying Delta jukes on steamy Saturday nights. It's happening this weekend and next, but it could be over the weekend after. We really don't know. The world needs to experience it now -- while it still can.
For more information, visit the History Press website.

Roger Stolle interviewing Cedell Davis for his book, Hidden History of Mississippi Blues

This weekend, I went with the family to Orange Beach and vegged out for a few days with a good book (see above) and some good music (ditto).  On the way home, my brother suggested we stop in Mobile and take in some BBQ at The Shed.  The Shed got its start when former Ole Miss student Brad Orrison and his sister Brooke decided to open their own BBQ joint in Ocean Springs, building the original basically from junk that Orrison collected from dumpsters.  Word soon got around about the wonderful BBQ and the great blues music featured, both live (Broke & Hungry Records recorded their Odell Harris CD here) and via air waves.  Now The Shed has locations in Mobile, Gulfport, MS, Scott, LA, Destin, FL, and Hattiesburg, MS.  Trust me when I tell you that these folks know what they're doing with some of the best BBQ you will ever put in your mouth....and they're not playing around with the sides either.....great potato salad and macaroni salad, too.  I'm getting hungry just typing this.  The closest one is two hours away from me, but it sure doesn't seem like it's that far away right now.  Great food, great atmosphere, and, best of all, great music.

Yes, they taste as good as they look!!!!!

Now you're set for a great weekend of nothing but the blues.  You can thank me later.

No comments: