Friday, November 22, 2013

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue #11

I've always enjoyed doing the Old, New, Borrowed, Blue posts because they're a great way to get a wide variety of blues out there that may be new to some visitors.  If you're not familiar with the process, here's how it works.......we will look at a blues artist who dates back to either the beginnings or the formative years of the blues (Something Old), a relative newcomer to the genre who's putting a new spin on the blues (Something New), either a blues artist doing a cover of a rock or country song, or vice versa (Something Borrowed), and finally, someone who is the epitome of the blues....a man or woman whose picture you might see next to the word in the dictionary (or on Wikipedia).  As the number indicates, we've done this ten times already here at Friday Blues Fix, and I also did this topic a number of times when FBF was a weekly email to my co-workers.

Floyd Jones (photo by Pete Lowry)
For Something Old, let's take a look at one of the early Chicago blues men, Floyd Jones.  Jones was born in Arkansas, but was raised in the Mississippi Delta, where he learned to play guitar (supposedly a gift from Howlin' Wolf).  He migrated to Chicago in the mid 40's, where he picked up the electric guitar and began playing for tips on Maxwell Street with his cousin, Moody Jones, Baby Face Nelson, Johnny Young, Little Walter, and Snooky Pryor, and also on the Chicago club scene.  He recorded in the late 40's, either with or backing Pryor, Sunnyland Slim, and his cousin, Moody, for several labels....J.O.B., Chess, Vee-Jay.

Most of Jones' original compositions were dark and foreboding.  They often were about events that were occurring at the time, such as "Stockyard Blues" or "Hard Times."  Some of his songs have become blues standards, such as "Dark Road," one of the darkest of the blues songs and one you've rarely heard other artists cover.  Jones' laconic delivery of the tune was hard to top.  He also was the original composer of "On The Road Again," which later inspired the hit by Canned Heat.  Jones remained active on the Chicago blues scene, although he eventually moved from guitar to bass, until his death in 1989.  Though he didn't get to record very much after his intial run in the late 40's/early 50's, he was part of Earwig Records' standout release, Old Friends, in 1979....appearing with Sunnyland Slim, Honeyboy Edwards, Kansas City Red, and Big Walter Horton.

Robert Randolph (photo by Derek Brad)
For Something New, we go to Robert Randolph and the Family Band and the tune, "Amped Up," from their latest CD, Lickety Split, on Blue Note Records.  I keep saying that I need to do a post on Sacred Steel, and I plan to do one in the near future.  Randolph got his start playing drums in church and eventually graduating to steel guitar in his early teens.  Unlike many of his fellow steel guitarists, Randolph began listening to other music, like funk, soul, jazz, and blues.  He began incorporating those sounds into his own music and soon began working on the jam band circuit with groups like The Derek Trucks Band, and his live shows with the Family Band became the stuff of legend and led to an appearance on the wonderful instrumental gospel/blues album, The Word, in 2001.

Randolph has recorded several albums over the past decade....a couple of live discs and four studio discs.  Until their most recent release, Randolph and the band had difficulty capturing the joy and manic energy of their live shows, but with Lickety Split, that's no longer an issue.  It's a wall-to-wall thrill and features the band with guitar legend Carlos Santana on two tracks and the New Orleans rising star, Trombone Shorty, appears on another.


For Something Borrowed, how about Buddy Guy covering Eric Clapton? Two of Clapton's big influences were Guy and Albert King. On the original version of "Strange Brew," from Cream's album, Disraeli Gears, Clapton did his best Albert King impression on the solo. Some thirty years later, the House of Blues record label issued a Clapton album (Blues Power: Songs of Eric Clapton) as part of their "This Ain't No Tribute" tribute series that found blues artists covering classic rock & roll artists (the others in the series were the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, and Led Zeppelin). Of course, some of these tributes worked better than others...the Stones and Clapton sets were both pretty good throughout and the Joplin and Dylan sets were sort of hit-and-miss. I have to admit when I looked at the track list, I was probably the least excited about this song, but Buddy Guy actually does a great job with the tune....his tight, stinging lead guitar on this track is one of the highlights of the album.....a really nice effort.

Son Seals (photo by Kirk West)
For Something Blue, we look to the late, great Frank "Son" Seals.  The first song I heard from Seals was "Goin' Home (Where Women Got Meat On Their Bones)," which was intriguing enough to encourage me to listen to more.  From there, I bought the album, Bad Axe, which included "Goin' Home," and this unbelievably intense opening track from the disc, "Don't Pick Me For Your Fool."  From that point, I was hooked and ended up grabbing up all of Seals' recordings in one format or another.

Seals' guitar sounds like it's strung with barbed wire and his throat-shredding vocals are just as engaging.  Best of all is his songwriting, which is the blues at it's best.  Face it.....anybody who could come up with a song called "Your Love Is Like a Cancer" certainly deserves to be heard.  Just check out this track and be amazed at the raw power behind Son Seals.

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