Friday, February 14, 2014

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue #12

Once again, it's time for one of FBF's most popular topics.  For those new to the blog, Something Old represents a blues artist from the Old School of blues.....could be from the 1920's through the 1980's.  Something New represents either a relative newcomer to the blues or a new album that you might enjoy.  Something Borrowed can be either a blues artists covering a song from a different genre (rock, country, jazz, etc....) or an artist from another genre covering a blues song.  Something Blue is an artist who is considered the epitome of the blues.  Pretty simple and straightforward, right?  Let's proceed.....

For Something Old, let's go way back to the 1920's and a singer named Sam Collins, or Crying Sam Collins.  Collins was born in 1887 in Louisiana, but was raised in McComb, MS, so he learned to play the blues in south Mississippi, not in the Delta.  He recorded in the late 20's and early 30's, with his earliest recording, "The Jailhouse Blues," being released in 1927.  He sang in a falsetto voice for the most part and was a fine slide guitar player.  He recorded under several different pseudonyms, including Jim Foster, Jelly Roll Hunter, Big Boy Woods, Bunny Carter, and Salty Dog Sam.  He wasn't well-known during his life (he died in 1954), but when interest in country blues was rekindled in the 60's, he was represented on several albums released during that time.  I first heard him on a couple of the Yazoo Records collections on Mississippi blues artists and he was one of the 36 artists featured on the Yazoo/R. Crumb card series, Heroes of the Blues (see picture).

The song we're featuring today should be a familiar one, "Midnight Special Blues."  Collins recorded his version in 1927 for Gennett Records, but the song dates back to the 1800's, originally believed to be a prisoner work song referring to a passenger train called the Midnight Special.  The song has been recorded numerous times, but most people are probably most familiar with the versions by Leadbelly, or Creedence Clearwater Revival, or Johnny Rivers (whose version was used as the theme song on the 70's late night music program, The Midnight Special), or maybe Andy Griffith's version on his TV show in the 60's.  A country band first released it in 1926, but Collins was the first to release it as a blues song.  Just do a YouTube search for "Midnight Special" and you'll be surprised at the number of artists that have recorded the song.

For Something New, let's look to James Armstrong.  Armstrong's story is an amazing story of success, tragedy, perseverance, determination, and resurgence.  We will be taking an extended look at Armstrong's life and music in the very near future.  He will be releasing his fifth studio release next week (February 18th) for Catfood Records, called Guitar Angels, and I can tell you that it is a great album.  He's a talented and imaginative songwriter, a soulful singer, and his guitar playing is a wondrous thing, given what he's been through over the years.  Check back in a couple of weeks to read more, but in the meantime, check out a clip of the title track from Armstrong's new CD.

For Something Borrowed, let's go to Memphis for one of my favorite bands, the Daddy Mack Blues Band.  The group released a collection of rock covers several years ago, called Slow Ride, in 2006.  If I remember correctly, Daddy Mack had not even heard the majority of these songs prior to this session, which just amazed me because he nails all of them.  I really liked this version of the Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman," because it got that raw, greasy, grungy Memphis blues feel to it.  You can almost feel the sweaty Memphis summer heat and smell the BBQ when you hear it.  Usually, I'm not a real fan of these "blues artists doing rock" recordings, but Daddy Mack and the band (with help from harmonica ace Billy Gibson) really transform these songs, or maybe they just focus on the blues aspects of each tune and bring it to the forefront.  Either way, it's a great listen that's worth tracking down.

For Something Blue today, let's go with Magic Sam.  Today (February 14th) would have been his 77th birthday.  We can speculate till the cows come home about what Magic Sam would have done had he lived, would he have crossed over to the soul/R&B field or gone in some other direction, but we will never know for sure.  Fortunately, he left us with a lot of fantastic music to enjoy, and more keeps turning up, like Delmark's recent release of a performance at the Avant Garde in Milwaukee (discussed here a few weeks ago).  Let's sign off today with Magic Sam's blistering version of Freddy King's "San-Ho-Zay," from that performance.

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