Friday, December 6, 2013

My Favorite Things - Five Great Songs

This week marks Friday Blues Fix's 200th post!!!!  Now that's hard to believe!  When I started doing this almost four years ago, I figured it would be fun for awhile, but I would lose interest pretty fast and move on to the next thing.  Instead, it's turned out to be a lot of fun and I've met and heard from a lot of interesting people from all over the place.  Thanks so much to all of you who have been visiting and those of you who provide feedback.  I don't know much about the blues, but what I do know, I will do my best to share it with all of you as long as I can.

I thought about doing some kind of big, special post to honor the occasion, but instead I just opted to share a few more of my favorite things about the Blues.  This week, I will share some of my favorite songs from over the years.  A favorite song is defined as follows.....If you're listening to a CD or your iPod and a song comes on that you always listen to from start to never forward to the next song or cut it off while it's playing....that would be a favorite song.  These are a few that I always hear from beginning to end.

One of the first blues bands that I really enjoyed was The Fabulous Thunderbirds.  I went to see them with a friend of mine in Jackson, MS in early 1987, right after I finished college.  They were touring behind their big hit "Tough Enuff," but I had actually heard them before their big break-out on their album, T-Bird Rhythm.  "My Babe" was one of my favorite tracks on that album, but it was loaded with some great tunes.  I thought Jimmie Vaughan was the coolest cat around, but his solos on record was short and sweet.  When he played live, he really stretched out.  When he left the T-Birds in the late 80's/early 90's, citing musical differences, I sort of tuned them out for awhile, but in recent years, I have rediscovered them.  With their latest release, On The Verge, they moved more toward the soul/blues bag, which is a style that longtime front man Kim Wilson really sinks his teeth into.  They now have two great guitarists in Mike Keller and Johnny Moeller, too, so they're still a fun band to hear.

Now, I've been listening to music for a long time, and I have to say that I still pause when I hear Son Seals' "Your Love Is Like A Cancer." I'm not sure how you define this song. In a way, it's a love song....Seals has got it for this girl and got it bad that he compares her love to a cancer, eating away the very essence of his life. I have to admit that if I were trying to let somebody know how I felt about them, I would have probably chosen a different simile to express my thoughts. More than likely you would have, too, but not Son Seals. If you've ever heard him, you know that he was no shrinking violet. He was all grit, muscle, and passion....right up there in your face. This track is the same way and, sure, it makes me squirm whenever I first hear it, but I can't stop listening. The best thing of all is that it's just one of several great tracks on Seals' first album for Alligator, The Son Seals Blues Band, which is one of his best.  You can hear another one, the gritty "Mother-In-Law Blues," immediately following on this clip.

I first heard Larry McCray in the early 90's, when he released Ambition, an album he recorded in a friend's basement in Detroit at night while he worked at General Motors during the day.  Ambition set the blues world on it's ear upon release and McCray followed it up with the powerful Delta Hurricane, from which this track, "Last Four Nickels," was first heard.  Actually, Son Seals recorded it a little earlier and later recorded McCray's "After Awhile," which also appeared on Delta Hurricane (both songs were written by Dave Steen).  McCray really made "Last Four Nickels" his own though, in my opinion, and it's still one that he plays on a regular basis.  It's a really high-energy tune that will get your blood pumping when McCray tears into one of his string-shredding solos.

Corey Harris was a big change from the usual Alligator Records recording artists, who veered sharply toward electric blues.  Harris was more of a pre-war, unplugged who took old songs and updated them without changing them, so he didn't come off as an interpreter or imitator.  There were numerous acoustic blues musicians who surfaced around the time Harris did in the mid 90's, but he was one of the best at playing this brand of blues.  When he released Vu-Du Menz with New Orleans piano man Henry Butler, Harris was starting to move from the pre-war blues into more of a funk, world-based style of blues, and this was basically his last stop in that genre.  Butler's incredible work on the keys really complemented Harris well and one of the best was their splendid version of Tampa Red's "If You Let A Man Kick You Once."  The whole album is a treat, but this is my favorite track.

Let's end today's post with one of my all-time favorite instrumentals.  Hound Dog Taylor didn't play pretty, but he could blow your doors off with that roaring slide guitar.  Sonny Landreth is one of the finest slide guitarist currently practicing and this incredible cover of Taylor's own "Taylor's Rock" should serve as proof positive of his status.  Taylor's original is a model of chaotic mayhem that deserves to be heard in and of itself, but Landreth's version, from Alligator's star-studded tribute album to Taylor, is sheer slide guitar nirvana.  This is just the tip of the iceberg with Landreth's talents.  Any of his recordings are worth a listen, but every self-respecting blues fan needs at least one Hound Dog Taylor CD in their collection, too.

That's all for today.  Thanks for your support and I'm looking forward to the next 200 posts.


Tammy said...

Good job, Graham!. I appreciate your interest and commentary on the "older" musicians, as well as some of the "newer" ones. Don't know how you find the time to do it, but keep up the good work! Hope Clarksdale, for one, continues to keep the music alive and well!
Tammy B. Rich

Graham said...

Thanks, Tammy. I appreciate your comments and support.