Friday, September 2, 2016

Summer Listening

Since my birthday is in the summer, I usually spend most of my free time, such as it is, listening to music I've ordered from Amazon.  Since I'm just about impossible to buy for, nearly all of my family will give me gift cards, so I can pick up what I want.  This year, I got several cards, plus I actually won a gift card from Amazon online at the same time, so I put a pretty big dent in my Wish List over the past couple of months.  Some of them were repurchase of previous favorites and some were collections of some of my favorite bands from the past in several genres.

I've already talked about several of my purchases:  Lonnie Mack's Strike Like Lightning (a repurchase), Toronzo Cannon's The Chicago Way, Daddy Mack Blues Band's A Bluesman Looks At Seventy, The Bo-Keys' Heartaches By The Number, and The Allman Brothers Band's Live From A&R Studios.  That was a pretty good run right there by itself, but I also decided to check out some vintage sounds, too.  I've already talked about Blind Willie Johnson's Dark Was The Night, but I also found a couple of other classics, too.

I had an old cassette copy of Muddy Waters' The Complete Plantation Recordings from when it was first reissued in the early 90's, but never managed to get a copy on CD until this summer.  If you're not familiar with these recordings, made for the Library of Congress in 1941 and 1942, you really need to give these a spin, especially if you're a fan.

Waters plays several solo tunes (some he would revisit later with Chess) and he also plays with the Son Sims Four.  There are several interview segments sprinkled in, too.  The sound is fantastic.  What you're hearing here is not just Mississippi Delta blues, but also the very beginnings of the Chicago Blues that became so prevalent in the 50's.  It's a great history lesson for blues fans, but it's great listening as well.

I also picked up a new copy of Mississippi John Hurt's 1928 recordings for Okeh Records, Avalon Blues.  I previously had a cassette copy of these recordings when Yazoo Records issued them.  Although the sound was pristine on the Yazoo edition, it's even better on this release from Columbia/Legacy from the mid 90's.

We discussed Hurt's music during our Ten Questions with Sliding Delta author Ed Baldwin a few weeks back.  His brand of blues was always warm, friendly, poetic, sometimes even beautiful.  He would record many of these songs later on during his "rediscovery" period of the 60's, but it's really hard to top these versions, which have such good sound quality that it's hard to believe they were recorded nearly 90 years ago.

Luther Tucker is a name that may not be familiar to many newer blues fans, but he was a big part of the 50's Chicago blues scene.  He played with Little Walter for many years and was guitarist on many of Walter's classic tunes,  He recorded with many of the era's great blues artists......Otis Rush, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, and James Cotton.  He played in Cotton's mid 60's band for several years before forming his own band in the early 70's, after relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he stayed until his death in 1993.

Despite his blues bona fides, Tucker only released a couple of albums of solo material, with only one being issued before his death......Sad Hours.  The eleven tracks really captures his versatility as a guitarist, and he shows some abilities as a songwriter and vocalist as well.  His blues are on the funkier side, but he pulls that off very well.  This one was issued on Antone's Records in 1990, and features artists like Mel Brown (keys), Tony Coleman (drums), Kaz Kazanoff (sax), Kim Wilson (harmonica), and Reese Wynans (keys).

Tucker was by nature soft-spoken and shy, but the history of Chicago blues would be quite different without him and other great unsung artists who contributed to those stellar recordings.  Sad Hours is a great chance for newcomers to hear a talent that they might miss otherwise.

I also picked up a few new (to me) recordings that I'd been looking for.  The first one was one that I'd been trying to find for over twenty-five years.  In the late 80's, I discovered several outstanding Texas guitarists, one of which was Don Leady, who fronted the outstanding band The Tailgators for a number of years.  One of the first things I tried to do when I switched to CDs in the mid 90's was try and repurchase all of the Tailgators' recordings on disc....I still haven't done that because their first label, Wrestler Records, went out of business, and copies of those CDs have prices up in the stratosphere.

Leady is one of several guitarist featured on the disc I'd been searching for, called Big Guitars From Texas, and I finally tracked it down this summer.  It features an incredible line-up of Texas-based guitarists.....Leady, Ray Benson, Evan Johns, Frankie Camero, Denny Freeman, Sarah Brown, Rick Rawls, etc...and the music goes from blues to surf to rock to swing to jazz to R&B to country to rockabilly and it's a joy to listen to over and over again, if you are a guitar fan.  If you can find it, don't pass it up!!

Sonny Landreth is another longtime favorite of mine.  I first saw him backing John Hiatt in Memphis, as part of the Goners in the late 80's, then I discovered his solo music.....South of I-10 is one of those discs that epitomizes the sound of Gulf Coast music, combining blues, rock, zydeco, Cajun, New Orleans R&B and I still play it regularly, over 20 years after it was released.

Landreth's latest CD was released last year, Bound By The Blues, and has been on my "Got to Have" list for a while.  It's evenly split between covers and originals, and they all feature Landreth's exquisite slide guitar.  It's the blues, basic and stripped down to its essence and was regarded as one of the best blues releases of 2015.  I wish I hadn't messed around so long before buying it.  Sonny Landreth has released album after album of magnificent music and this one is no fact, it's one of his best.

Mike Mattison served as lead singer with the Derek Trucks Band, during the band's last few albums and currently serves as a vocalist with the Tedeschi Trucks Band.  I have always been impressed with his warm, weathered, soulful vocals and was a bit disappointed that he was in a secondary role with TTB (though he does play a more prominent role in the band's latest triumph, Let Me Get By).

A couple of years ago, the singer released a solo album, You Can't Fight Love, that really shows he has a lot more range than indicated by his work with Trucks and Tedeschi.  There are some really great soul and funk tunes here, and he also ventures into jazz and country territory a few times.  There are some impressive original tunes as well, and Mattison also tackles TTB's "Midnight In Harlem," which he co-wrote, and knocks it out of the park.  This one is a winner and would have been a great fit on one of FBF's Five Discs You Might Have Missed posts.  Check it out!

So, not a bad haul this summer for the birthday boy.  There were several other discs that I picked up to from other genres, plus several books that will be discussed in future FBF posts, whenever I get finished reading them all.

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