Friday, December 8, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Eighteen

This week's selection brings Volume One of FBF's Blues Fix Mix CD to a conclusion.  I hope you've enjoyed listening as much as I enjoyed compiling this several years ago.  At this point, I've completed four volumes of the Blues Fix Mix CD series, which I usually put together for friends who are just becoming acquainted with the blues.  While it can by no means be seen (or heard) as a definitive set of blues, it is definitely a set of blues that I've enjoyed listening to over my thirty years of being a blues fan.  We'll be looking at Volume Two in the near future.

For my final selection of Volume One, I opted to conclude with an instrumental....one of my favorites.  If I had a theme song, this song would be on the short list.  It's the perfect song for driving down a hot, dusty Mississippi highway (and actually was featured a lot during the M for Mississippi documentary).  It's just a fun song overall and is an excellent example of modern Mississippi Delta blues from T-Model Ford and Terry "Harmonica" Bean........."Red's Houseparty."

"Red's Houseparty" was part of Ford's Jack Daniel Time release from 2008.  The album was a live session recorded at Red's Lounge in Clarksdale, MS, which happened to be Ford's favorite juke joint.  It was a mix of band tracks, which featured Ford with Bean on harmonica (of course) and drummers Lee Williams and Sam Carr, and several acoustic solo tracks by Ford (a rarity).  There's nothing at all fancy on this set, just the blues played well by a man who came to recording late in life, but made the most of it while he was here.




Your Complete Blues Fix Mix CD (Volume One)......

Track 1:  "Cold Women With Warm Hearts," Magic Slim & the Teardrops
Track 2:  "Son of Juke," Billy Branch
Track 3:  "Feel Like Blowing My Horn," Robert Lockwood, Jr.
Track 4:  "Big Boy Now," Big Jack Johnson
Track 5:  "Blues Man," B.B. King
Track 6"  "Four Cars Running," Larry Garner
Track 7:  "Cadillac Blues," Johnnie Bassett & the Blues Insurgents
Track 8:  "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues," Skip James
Track 9:  "Double Trouble" (Live), Otis Rush
Track 10:  "She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride," Taj Mahal
Track 11:  "Give Me Back My Wig," Luther Allison
Track 12:  "Garbage Man," Bernard Allison
Track 13:  "Walking By Myself," Jimmy Rogers
Track 14:  "Fast Train," Bobby Parker


Track 15:  "Beefsteak Blues," James "Son" Thomas
Track 16:  "Honky Tonk Blues," Roy Gaines
Track 17:  "Caldonia," Pinetop Perkins
Track 18:  "Red's Houseparty," T-Model Ford (with Terry "Harmonica" Bean)

Volume Two coming soon, but Friday Blues Fix will be back in a couple of weeks with our Top Twenty Albums for 2017.  


Friday, December 1, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Seventeen

We're just about to wrap up our Blues Fix Mix CD.......this week's and next week's will conclude Volume One.  We've tried to provide a pretty wide base of blues styles for listeners, but we haven't had much blues piano to speak of, so far......I did put more in my later volumes, but for Volume One, we only have one track and Track Seventeen is it.

Although I've never posted much about blues piano, I have several favorites artists and several favorite tunes.  The one I decided to put on here is not from my favorite blues piano player, but it is one of my favorite blues performances.  It is such an exuberant performance that it just had to be included.  It's from the first volume of the Antone's Tenth Anniversary Anthology (the same album that featured Otis Rush's "Double Trouble," Track Nine) and it's from Pinetop Perkins and friends playing the old favorite, "Caldonia."

Perkins started out as a guitarist, but was involved in a fight with a chorus girl, who injured his left arm with a knife.  He moved to piano and in his early years backed Robert Nighthawk and Sonny Boy Williamson on their respective radio shows, and later backed a young Earl Hooker.  He appeared on hundreds of recordings and replaced Otis Spann in Muddy Waters' band in the late 60's, serving with Waters for ten years.

As busy as he was over most of his career, he didn't record his own album until the late 80's.  He was fairly prolific from that point, however, and remained active until he passed away in March of 2011 at age 97  There's a nice DVD that covers his career called Born In The Honey that is worth finding (there's also a live CD included in the package).

For this rousing cover of "Caldonia," Perkins is joined by guitarists Luther Tucker and Jimmie Vaughan and harmonica master James Cotton.  It's such an easy, freewheeling performance that you can't help but smile while you listen.  Enjoy!







Friday, November 24, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Sixteen

This week's selection is a bit different from the others.  When I started putting this together several years ago, I decided that I wanted to include a few songs that were maybe a little bit off the beaten path as far as blues goes, but they had to be tunes that I enjoyed listening to regularly.  During the first incarnation of the blues fix mix tape, I was really listening to Texas/West Coast blues.  Most of the guitarist who made up the West Coast blues sound came from Texas......T-Bone Walker, of course, along with Pee Wee Crayton, Lowell Fulson, and many others.

Guitarist Roy Gaines was also in that group, though maybe a generation behind.  Gaines was born in Texas in 1933 and actually backed Walker as a teenager in the Houston area.  He later moved to Los Angeles, and also served as a session guitarist for acts like Bobby "Blue" Bland, Junior Parker, Big Mama Thornton, and Chuck Willis.  He also worked in the bands of Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, the Everly Brothers, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight, and was in demand as a session guitarist.

Gaines worked closely with T-Bone Walker over the years, he was even billed as "T-Bone Jr." and occasionally teamed up with the legendary guitarist in the years before he passed away.  One can hear a lot of T-Bone Walker in Gaines' guitar playing, which can also be said of many other guitarists, but Gaines took what he learned from the older guitarist and built upon it.  Over the years, he has recorded solo albums and is a fine vocalist in addtion to his guitar skills.

One of my favorite releases of Gaines' is his tribute to T-Bone Walker, 1999's I Got The T-Bone Walker Blues on Groove Note Records.  The album consists of eleven songs, nine T-Bone Walker songs (two versions of "Stormy Monday"), plus one track that's a bit of an variation.....Hank Williams' "Honky Tonk Blues."

People who might scratch their heads at the inclusion of this tune on a T-Bone Walker tribute album don't really know about the contributions Hank Williams made to not just the country music genre, but multiple other genres, including country, blues, rock, rockabilly, folk, and gospel music.  He was one of the most influential singers, songwriters, and performers in modern American music.  Most of the great Texas-born guitarist were exposed to a variety of musical styles while growing up in the Lone Star State, but blues and country were probably the most prevalent, and Hank Williams was probably one of the most heard by a lot of blues men during the 40's and 50's.

Gaines does a magnificent job with this classic country tune, one of his personal favorites that he'd always wanted to record.  His guitar work is fine and his vocals are equally effective, but what really raises this song above the norm is the presence of Alejandro Velasco on pedal steel and the fiddles.    Gaines' "Honky Tonk Blues" mixes blues, country, and swing to excellent effect.  Just check it out below......


For good measure, here's Williams' original version.....





Friday, November 17, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Fifteen

One of the first Mississippi blues musicians I was familiar with was James "Son" Thomas.  I'm not sure exactly how I knew about him, but I remember seeing his name in the Jackson, MS newspaper, The Clarion-Ledger, maybe in one of the occasional articles they featured on blues in the early/mid 80's.  It seems like there was a mini-documentary about Thomas on Mississippi's public television station, but from what I remember, it talked a lot more about his artwork, which was mostly sculptures he made from the clay he dug from the banks of the Yazoo River.  His artwork was mostly skulls (often with real teeth), some of which can be seen in various blues museums in the Delta.  I do know that I was more familiar with that aspect of his life than I was with his musical talents at that time.

Around 1990 or 1991, my future wife and I went to the Delta Blues Festival in Greenville, MS.  One of the things I remember, other than the fact that there were tents set up by fans all in front of the stage that made it difficult to see the performers (a tradition I wasn't aware of at the time), was Thomas's appearance on the main stage.  Though I couldn't really see anything other than the top of his hat, I was able to hear him, along with harmonica player Walter Liniger, who accompanied Thomas often during the latter part of his career.  Though it was just the two of them on that big stage, Thomas commanded a lot of attention and the audience was mostly silent during his performance.

That was the only time I got to see him....Thomas died in the summer of 1993 after suffering a stroke.  For a long time, it was hard to find any of his music......I was into cassettes at that time and it was getting harder for find new releases on cassette, especially blues.  Finally, in 1998, Evidence Records released a collection of some of Thomas's 80's recordings.  Beefsteak Blues was a mix of live and studio recordings with Thomas doing a few of his own songs and several blues classics from others.  It served as a great introduction to his music and I still listen to it regularly.

The title track, "Beefsteak Blues," really grabbed me when I first heard it.  When I heard it, I was driving around in the northern part of my work district across a long, lonely piece of flat land that really favored the Mississippi Delta.  The sun was setting and it was a relatively clear, but humid, day.



The sound of Thomas' somber voice and his sparse guitar work was a perfect backdrop to that scene and the lyrics......well, what red-blooded American male wouldn't want the things he is asking for in the first verse??!!!  In fact, when Thomas died, rocker John Fogerty paid for his headstone and put that first verse on the back.



Thomas' son Pat continues his tradition as a musician.....and an artist and sculptor.  He's recorded for Broke & Hungry Records (recording a few of his dad's songs) and appeared in one of the more entertaining segments of the documentary, M for Mississippi, playing guitar at his father's grave.


Your Blues Fix Mix CD (Volume One) to date......

Track 1:  "Cold Women With Warm Hearts," Magic Slim & the Teardrops
Track 2:  "Son of Juke," Billy Branch
Track 3:  "Feel Like Blowing My Horn," Robert Lockwood, Jr.
Track 4:  "Big Boy Now," Big Jack Johnson
Track 5:  "Blues Man," B.B. King
Track 6"  "Four Cars Running," Larry Garner
Track 7:  "Cadillac Blues," Johnnie Bassett & the Blues Insurgents
Track 8:  "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues," Skip James
Track 9:  "Double Trouble" (Live), Otis Rush
Track 10:  "She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride," Taj Mahal
Track 11:  "Give Me Back My Wig," Luther Allison
Track 12:  "Garbage Man," Bernard Allison
Track 13:  "Walking By Myself," Jimmy Rogers
Track 14:  "Fast Train," Bobby Parker
Track 15:  "Beefsteak Blues," James "Son" Thomas


Friday, November 10, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Fourteen

We are rapidly approaching the end of first Blues Fix Mix CD.  It's been a lot of fun going over these tunes with readers.  I've learned a lot about some of these tunes that I wasn't aware of when I first listened to them.  Your humble correspondent has completed four volumes to date, each one an improvement on its predecessor as far as I'm concerned.  At a later date, we'll probably look at those, but for right now, let's keep rolling with Volume One.

Our next blues fix mix track comes from Bobby Parker (1937-2013).  Few people today may recognize the name (and probably few did during his seven-decade career), but he was one of the most influential blues/R&B artists of the 50's and early 60's.  He recorded for a number of labels in the 50's and 60's and enjoyed several hits on the R&B charts during that time.   

The B-side to his first single ("Blues Get Off My Shoulder") was "You Got What It Takes," which was recorded by Motown's Marv Johnson.  One problem with the Motown release was that composer credits were claimed by Motown founder Berry Gordy and two others, so Parker was not able to reap the royalty benefits from the sales of the song.  

Bobby Parker - early 60's
In 1961, Parker released his biggest hit, "Watch Your Step," on the V-Tone label.  The song made the Billboard Hot 100, but not the R&B charts.  However, numerous acts covered the song over the years, including the Spencer Davis Group.  The Beatles performed it in concert and the guitar riff was a big influence on the Fab Four's hits "I Feel Fine" and "Day Tripper."  Later, Led Zeppelin used the riff for their instrumental "Moby Dick." 

Parker was not as well known on the blues circuit as some, but he was a major influence on other artists as well......Eric Clapton, Robin Trower, and Carlos Santana.  It was on Santana's early 80's solo album that first heard "Watch Your Step."   It's really a shame that he wasn't better known.  He was a dynamic performer (and how could he not be, playing with some of those entertaining artists listed above), but he was also a first rate guitarist, singer, and songwriter.......the "Total Package" that many musicians can only dream about .  

Parker settled in the Washington D.C. area and become the go-to artist in that area for many years.  He took another area guitarist there, Bobby Radcliff, as a protege', and Radcliff described Parker as "Guitar Slim meets James Brown".....which is about as well as you can put it.  In the 90's, Parker released two superlative CDs on the Black Top label, Bent Out of Shape and Shine Me Up.  Though both are out of print now, copies can be pretty easily had and are well worth tracking down.  

Track Fourteen of our mix CD is from Parker's Bent Out of Shape album, the dazzling opening track, "Fast Train."  Climb aboard and hang on!!!






Friday, November 3, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Thirteen

For our next Blues Fix Mix CD track, we are going back a bit to the 1950's.......1957 to be exact.  I've always been a fan of the artists who recorded for Chess Records.  Some of the first vintage blues recordings I heard were from Chess, thanks to MCA Records reissuing some of Chess's classic sides in the mid-late 80's, which was about the time I started listening to the blues.  I heard all of the stars from the label......Muddy, the Wolf,  Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy, etc......, but my favorite ended up being Jimmy Rogers.

Rogers' brand of blues really resonated with me.  I always liked his relaxed vocal style, always expressive and never over the top or overdone.  His guitar work was always sturdy and workmanlike.  His songs were pretty memorable, too, and the supporting cast on his recordings was always a blues fan's dream band.  Of course, he was part of what many consider the blues Dream Team......Muddy Waters' band that consisted of Waters, Rogers, Little Walter, Otis Spann, dubbed "The Headhunters" for their habit of dropping in on other musicians' gigs, and either outperforming them on their own stage, or stealing their gigs completely.

During the 50's, Rogers recorded several songs as a front man for Chess.....many of which are now considered standards.  Over the past 60 years, many a blues band has covered "You're Sweet," "That's All Right," "Ludella," "Chicago Bound," "Sloppy Drunk," and my personal favorite, which is track thirteen on this mix CD, "Walking By Myself."  He also served as a go-to session guitarist for Chess.

"Walking By Myself," recorded in 1957, was inspired by a T-Bone Walker song called "Why Not," which the legendary guitarist recorded during a Chicago session for Atlantic Records where Rogers backed him on rhythm guitar.  It can be heard on Walker's essential release, T-Bone Blues.  "Walking By Myself" became Rogers' only hit on the Billboard R&B chart. 

By the end of the 50's, the blues had fallen out of favor with music lovers and Rogers' musical opportunities waned.  He left the business for about a decade, running a clothing store in Chicago through most of the 60's.  When his store was burned to the ground during the riots which followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., he gradually returned to performing and recording, releasing several fine albums which showed his skills to be virtually intact.  He worked steadily until shortly before his death from cancer in late 1997.

FBF did a profile of Rogers in 2011 which can be found here.

Rogers left a strong catalog of fine music......his later recordings compared very favorably with his early Chess recordings.  One of the steadiest, and underrated of the 50's blues giants, Jimmy Rogers deserves to be heard.  Here's track thirteen, my favorite of his tunes.


As a bonus, here's the track from T-Bone Walker that inspired the Rogers' classic.....




Your Blues Fix Mix CD (Volume One) to date......

Track 1:  "Cold Women With Warm Hearts," Magic Slim & the Teardrops
Track 2:  "Son of Juke," Billy Branch
Track 3:  "Feel Like Blowing My Horn," Robert Lockwood, Jr.
Track 4:  "Big Boy Now," Big Jack Johnson
Track 5:  "Blues Man," B.B. King
Track 6"  "Four Cars Running," Larry Garner
Track 7:  "Cadillac Blues," Johnnie Bassett & the Blues Insurgents
Track 8:  "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues," Skip James
Track 9:  "Double Trouble" (Live), Otis Rush
Track 10:  "She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride," Taj Mahal
Track 11:  "Give Me Back My Wig," Luther Allison
Track 12:  "Garbage Man," Bernard Allison
Track 13:  "Walking By Myself," Jimmy Rogers


More to come......

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Twelve

Bernard Allison
I promised last week that we would be hearing more from the Allison family.  It wasn't planned or anything like that......I was simply compiling a CD of some of my favorite blues songs for my listening pleasure and, later, others' listening pleasure.  When I was putting them in the order I wanted, it just so happened that I had listed back-to-back songs from Luther Allison and his son, Bernard Allison.

Not long after Luther's death, I was flipping through CDs at a record store and discovered a CD from Bernard, called Keepin' The Blues Alive on a new label called Cannonball Records.  Fans of 90's-era blues may recall the Cannonball label, which featured some standout artists and were recognizable due to the tiny "cannonball" that the label placed in their CD cases.

Father and Son
The only thing that I really knew about Bernard Allison was that he had appeared on one track of his father's last studio release for Alligator, Reckless.  I wasn't aware that he had done anything on his own, but later discovered that he had released several albums on European labels.  He's every bit as energetic on stage as his father was and his music fits the same mold.  The only difference to me is that Bernard injects a healthy dose of 70's funk and soul into his brand of blues.......the music he grew up with.





Keepin' The Blues Alive was a real eye-opener.  Released in early 1997, Allison was joined by a select list of Chicago musician friends (drummer Ray "Killer" Allison, bassist Greg Rzab, guitarist Will Crosby, and harmonica player Matthew Skoller) and recorded a powerful set of originals and a few choice cover tunes from his father, Jackie Brenston, Freddie King, and Aron Burton.  In fact, it's Burton's song, "Garbage Man," that makes our list this week.  Burton was a Chicago bass guitarist who was a member of Albert Collins' Icebreakers, but also enjoyed a solid solo career with releases on Earwig and Delmark Records during the 90's.  "Garbage Man" was released as a single by Cleartone Records in 1993.

Allison's version of Burton's song is a nearly-seven minute slow-burner that finds the guitarist really stretching out on guitar.  I really liked Allison's vocal as much as I did his guitar work.  His vocal style has a bit of the styling of the 70's and 80's funk and soul singers, which gives it a really cool sound to me.  Although I've listened to a lot of Bernard's subsequent recordings and they're all very good (be sure to give a listen to his latest from a couple of years ago, In The Mix.....fantastic!!), "Garbage Man" is one of my favorites of his songs.




If you would like to hear more from Bernard Allison, check out this "Ten Questions With......" session he did for FBF back in 2015 right after In The Mix was released.




Friday, October 20, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Eleven

When I started listening to the blues back in the mid 80's, one of the artists that really got me fired up was Luther Allison.  He played the blues, sure enough, but he also had the soulful vocal style and the rock-edged guitar that was sort of the connecting factor for me at the time.  I had really gotten into rock and soul a few years before, but the blues sort of combined those two styles ideally to me.  When I first heard Luther Allison, that was the Great Connector......the act that really sealed the blues deal for me.

Of course, at the time, there wasn't a lot of product available of Allison's that I was aware of.  In the early 70's, he's actually been signed to Motown Records, where he recorded three albums, but they had been unavailable for years.  Having moved to Europe in the mid 70's, he recorded regularly for the German label Ruf, but at the time not many of those sets were making it to my neck of the woods.  There was a release on Blind Pig Records (Serious), and later I found his release on Delmark (Love Me Mama), but that was about it until he signed with Alligator Records, which really allowed his career to blossom.  Always popular in Europe (a big reason why he'd relocated years earlier), the Alligator releases (Soul Fixin' Man, Blue Streak, and Reckless) really opened a lot of American eyes and ears to what they'd been missing.

Just as all that happened for Allison, it abruptly ended.  Diagnosed with lung and brain cancer in July of 1997, he passed away less than a month later.  At the time, I had just gotten access to the internet, and had discovered a few blues-related bulletin boards.  It was at one of those boards where I first read about his diagnosis and the fact that he had little time left.  It was like getting hit in the gut with a 2x4, and the year got even worse with the deaths of several other blues artists (Johnny Copeland, Fenton Robinson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Jimmy Rogers in 1997, Junior Wells and Junior Kimbrough in early 1998).  It was a tough several months for the blues.

In 1998, Alligator released a tribute album honoring their very first recording artist, Hound Dog Taylor.  A number of the label's artists and other popular blues artists at the time recorded several songs from Taylor's catalog.  Taylor's wild shows and showmanship were what inspired Alligator founder Bruce Iglauer to start his label, with Taylor serving as his introductory release.  Most of the artists who recorded the tribute acquitted themselves very well, but few captured Taylor's manic charm in a way that came close to the original.  Allison's version of the Dog's "Give Me Back My Wig," was the one that came the closest.  At the time I was putting together this set, I was really into Allison's slide guitar playing, which I've always thought was the most underrated part of his style.  There are lots of great Luther Allison songs that could be part of a mix CD, and "Give Me Back My Wig" was one of the best choices.




Your Blues Fix Mix CD (Volume One) to date......

Track 1:  "Cold Women With Warm Hearts," Magic Slim & the Teardrops
Track 2:  "Son of Juke," Billy Branch
Track 3:  "Feel Like Blowing My Horn," Robert Lockwood, Jr.
Track 4:  "Big Boy Now," Big Jack Johnson
Track 5:  "Blues Man," B.B. King
Track 6"  "Four Cars Running," Larry Garner
Track 7:  "Cadillac Blues," Johnnie Bassett & the Blues Insurgents
Track 8:  "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues," Skip James
Track 9:  "Double Trouble" (Live), Otis Rush
Track 10:  "She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride," Taj Mahal
Track 11:  "Give Me Back My Wig," Luther Allison

More from the Allison family next week.......


Friday, October 13, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Ten

We're past the halfway point with our first Blues Fix Mix CD.  The most important thing to remember about a mix CD is that you have to put as much music as technologically possible on it, meaning you have to get as close to 80 minutes worth of content as you can, especially if you're a bit on the dorky side, like I am.  Therefore, when we're done, we will have a CD full of great blues tunes.

Our tenth track comes from one of the most prominent blues figures of the late 60's/early 70's.....actually the latter part of the 20th Century would fit there.  Taj Mahal (born Harry St. Clair Fredericks) started out playing acoustic blues, later expanding to electric blues, soul and R&B, reggae, Caribbean, folk, gospel, Latin, West African, and even Hawaiian music.  While doing that, he never strayed far from his acoustic blues roots, and has continued to make some excellent music over the past fifty years.

Back in the 70's, when they had this thing called record stores, one could always find a few Taj Mahal recordings on the shelves......he recorded for many years on the Columbia label, which was a major recording label (and still is, though now part of Sony Music) during that time, which guaranteed his recordings would have pretty wide distribution.  If Mahal had only recorded his first three albums, his self-titled debut, The Natch'l Blues, and the double LP Giant Steps would have cemented his place in the blues pantheon.

Mahal was able to help update, therefore revive, the country blues sounds of the 30's and 40's.  While he may not sound like anything special nowadays, just remember that when he first started doing this around 1967/68, there was nobody else in the blues world, or the rock world for that matter, who sounded like him.  It was a refreshing new take on the blues and his influence can be heard in a number of more recent artists, such as Alvin Youngblood Hart, Keb' Mo', Guy Davis, and Corey Harris.

I had to include my favorite Taj Mahal song, "She Caught The Katy and Left Me a Mule To Ride," from The Natch'l Blues.  Mahal wrote this song with Yank Rachell, the master of blues mandolin who began his career in the 30's and was active until his death in 1987, and it has become one of his most famous compositions.  It's been covered many times and many people will recognize it from the Blues Brothers' rendition over the opening credits of their 1980 movie, which made sense because it was one of John Belushi's favorite blues songs.  As you can hear below, Belushi had excellent taste in blues songs.



All of Taj Mahal's music is great, regardless of the genre he was exploring at the time.  Blues fans will enjoy his self-titled debut, The Natch'l Blues, both released in 1968, or more modern fare like Senor Blues (1997) or TajMo, his recent collaboration with Keb' Mo'. 


Friday, October 6, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Nine

One of my favorite albums from my early days as a blues fan was the first volume of the Antone's Tenth Anniversary celebration, a live show which took place at the Austin club back in 1985.  I wrote about this album in great detail here about three and a half years ago.  I have an iPod Shuffle that I use to work out......one of the tiny ones that you can clip to a shirt sleeve or belt loop....that will hold about 400 - 450 songs.  I have five songs from this album on that iPod, and could possibly include a few more.  It was actually one of the first live blues albums that I owned and it was a very energetic set of tunes by some of the genre's legends.

I've mentioned this track several times before, so it shouldn't be a surprise to longtime readers that I would include it.......Otis Rush's inspired reading of "Double Trouble," one of the classic tunes he recorded for Cobra Records during the late 1950's.  Though relatively brief at around 3:45, it's an action-packed 3:45.  Rush's vocal is one of his most intense and his piercing guitar work is awesome.  I've heard a lot of Rush's live recordings (and posted about them here) and to me, this is near the top of the heap for me.

Rush is one of my favorite blues artists, and has been for a long time.  I've always thought that his style would appeal to new blues fans because of his strong, soul-influenced vocals and his versatile guitar style, which mixes his own distinct qualities with influences from others such as B.B. King, Albert King, T-Bone Walker, and jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell.  When you listen to a collection of Otis Rush songs, you will hear hints of those other influences, but for this version of "Double Trouble," Otis is playing nothing but Otis.  Check it out!!!




Your Blues Fix Mix CD (Volume One) to date......

Track 1:  "Cold Women With Warm Hearts," Magic Slim & the Teardrops
Track 2:  "Son of Juke," Billy Branch
Track 3:  "Feel Like Blowing My Horn," Robert Lockwood, Jr.
Track 4:  "Big Boy Now," Big Jack Johnson
Track 5:  "Blues Man," B.B. King
Track 6"  "Four Cars Running," Larry Garner
Track 7:  "Cadillac Blues," Johnnie Bassett & the Blues Insurgents
Track 8:  "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues," Skip James
Track 9:  "Double Trouble" (Live), Otis Rush

More to come.........

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Eight

For track 8 of our Blues Fix Mix CD, I decided that a change of pace was in order, so we're looking a a pre-war blues artist this week, but with a twist. One of my favorite pre-war blues artists (for those new to the blues, "pre-war" actually indicates the time prior to World War II) is Nehemiah "Skip" James, the enigmatic artist from Bentonia, MS who introduced the Bentonia style of blues to the world.  James recorded for Paramount Records in 1931 and the recordings that survived over the years are considered masterpieces of recorded blues not just for the era, but for all time.



James' style was something that you couldn't immediately get over.  His voice was an haunting falsetto and his guitar worked coupled finger-picking with a hypnotic bass line, which gave it a totally unique sound.  Even in those horribly scratchy recordings for Paramount, which have been cleaned up about as much as they possibly could, you get that James was a unique blues artists.  There were only a few artists who played in the Bentonia style......there are still only a few that do.

I didn't really want to put one of his Paramount sides on a mix CD......remember these were set up for new listeners, who I didn't figure would have the patience to endure the scratchy quality of the recordings (That being said, once you get a taste of Skip James' music, I strongly suggest that you check these recordings out.  They're are on a par with the recordings of Son House, Bukka White, and yes, Robert Johnson).  Fortunately, even though James basically vanished from sight after his Paramount recordings.....they didn't sell very well and he only received $40 and a train ticket for his efforts, so he opted to become an ordained minister, also driving a tractor and working as a supervisor on various plantations......he was rediscovered by blues fans in the early 60's and was able to perform and record again.

James' best post-war recordings were for Vanguard Records.  His Today! release was the first time I heard him and it was amazing.  The recording was crystal clear, one of the best recordings of the rediscovered Mississippi country blues artists, and he really seemed to be at the height of his powers, almost like it was just 1932 instead of 1964.  He sounded incredible as he re-created many of his old songs, plus a few new ones. He was in the hospital when he was found, and sadly, he battled illness for most of his "Comeback" years, passing away in 1969.  The song I selected for our Blues Fix Mix CD was the opening track on Today!  "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues" really showcases James' haunting vocals and his delicate guitar picking and, trust me, that's only the tip of the iceberg.




If you'd like to read more about Skip James, check out this FBF post from 2013.

Your Blues Fix Mix CD (Volume One) to date......

Track 1:  "Cold Women With Warm Hearts," Magic Slim & the Teardrops
Track 2:  "Son of Juke," Billy Branch
Track 3:  "Feel Like Blowing My Horn," Robert Lockwood, Jr.
Track 4:  "Big Boy Now," Big Jack Johnson
Track 5:  "Blues Man," B.B. King
Track 6"  "Four Cars Running," Larry Garner
Track 7:  "Cadillac Blues," Johnnie Bassett & the Blues Insurgents
Track 8"  "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues," Skip James

More to come.........






Friday, September 22, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Seven


In the late 90's, a new record label had surfaced, Cannonball Records.  The first recording I ever saw from the label was a CD by Bernard Allison, the son of the recently departed Luther Allison. When I bought it, the first thing I noticed was the little ball bearing-sized "cannonball" that was placed in the corner of the CD case.  It slid up and down as you moved the case.......how cool!!  The CD was also pretty cool and showed that the younger Allison had big things ahead of him, too.....in fact, FBF subjected Mr. Allison to Ten Questions a few years ago, and you will hear one of his songs from that particular album later on in this mix CD.

Since I enjoyed that particular CD so much, I decided to go a bit deeper into Cannonball's group of recording artists and I discovered Johnnie Bassett, a Detroit blues man who deftly combined urban blues, jump blues, jazz, and even a bit of the Delta into his brand of blues.  One day while thumbing through the blues section in a Camelot Music store, I found Bassett's Cannonball debut, Cadillac Blues, and purchased it without hearing a single tune.  

I was pleasantly surprised with my purchase.  Bassett played guitar a lot like B.B. King.....just a crisp, clear ringing tone and his husky vocals were a plus as well.  The band featured horns, drums, and organ....no bass, the organ took care of the bass parts.  I found out later that Bassett had been around for a long time, backing Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, Nolan Strong, Andre Williams, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, John Lee Hooker, Eddie Burns, and many many more, even releasing a few previous albums of his own, which I later bought and enjoyed.  The band played slow blues and shuffles and just had a great sound.....a straight-ahead Grade A blues band.

When I was compiling my first blues fix mix tape for a friend way back in the late 90's, I knew that I had to have at least one Johnnie Bassett track on it.  I was really into him at the time, having seen him perform at the 1999 Blues Music Awards (then called the Handy Awards), where he and Cadillac Blues had received five nominations that year.  Bassett even performed at the show, performing "Cadillac Blues" and "Party My Blues Away," the title track from his upcoming album on Cannonball.  

It was so cool to see him perform and afterward, as everyone walked from the Orpheum to Beale Street, we fell in behind him and his wife, walking hand-in-hand, with Bassett carrying his guitar case.  He later released a couple of other discs, which I haven't gotten to hear yet, and was pretty active until he passed away in 2012 after battling cancer.

Track Seven of our blues fix CD is "Cadillac Blues," from Johnnie Bassett & the Blues Insurgents.  If you've listened to a lot of blues, you've probably heard at least one song about an artist hoping for better times when he can just ride around with the lady of his choice in a brand new car, preferably a Cadillac, or maybe one who's living the life and has his own Cadillac.  Well, in this case, Mr. Bassett has one and he's on Cloud Nine.  This is one of my favorite blues songs ever, and I just love Bassett's smooth vocal, his crackling guitar, the band's funky backing, and the overall good vibe.  I hope you dig it too.





Friday, September 15, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Six

One of the things that people like about the blues is that the songs usually are about subjects that everyone can relate to.  Just about everybody has experienced some sort of heartbreak (or caused a little bit), lost a job, lost all their money, or any number of other hard luck stories....and there have been hundreds or thousands of songs written about those subjects over the years.  The trick is to make it interesting when you sing about it, put your own personal twist on it......something that will make it stand out in the blues fan's mind.  These days, with nearly a century of blues songs recorded (and a healthy number of songs written before the recording days), it's really a challenge for new songwriters to come up with a fresh take on these subjects.

In the mid 90's, I found an album by one of the new faces on the blues scene:  Baton Rouge resident Larry Garner.  I had read about him in Living Blues several times, but it was really hard to find any of his music in a record store back in the pre-internet days.  He had only recorded a couple of albums on one label, the British label JSP, and there were hard to find in my neck of the woods.  However, in 1994, Garner released You Need To Live A Little on the Gitanes Jazz subsidiary of Verve Records. During this period of the 90's, Verve released several blues albums from a diverse group of blues artists like Johnny Copeland, Gatemouth Brown, Lucky Peterson, Joe Louis Walker, James Cotton, Buddy Scott, and Larry Garner.

That's a solid group of artists and all of those albums were enjoyable, to be sure.  Garner's was my favorite though.  I liked his guitar playing and the arrangements were creative, but the songs were the thing.  He wrote about everyday life events, things that might seem mundane to some folks, but to folks who were dealing with the type of things he wrote about, it was really cool to hear that somebody else was not only dealing with those things, too, but also writing songs about it.  Even familiar blues subjects were given a unique and fresh spin.

If you happen to follow Garner on Facebook, a lot of his observations sound like future songs.  He has a very common sense approach to addressing things, whether it's traveling to other land and meeting their residents, hanging out with his friends and mentors at home, dealing with family issues, or just making observations about life, food, and even politics.  He's got to be one of the most down to earth guys in the blues world and always has a minute or two for a fan, even this one.  He's actually agreed to do three different interviews for this blog, including the very first one!!

For our Blues Fix Mix CD, I had to include a Larry Garner tune, and I included what is one of my favorite of his tunes from You Need To Live A Little, "Four Cars Running," which finds Garner up to his neck in trying to keep up with his family responsibilities, including maintaining the vehicles of all of his family members.  This was always an amusing song to me, but never more so than in the last few months, when I suddenly found myself trying to.......you guessed it......KEEP FOUR CARS RUNNING!!  Dads all over the place (and Moms, too) can definitely relate to this tune.  It's nice to hear that we're not alone.  Here's Track Six of our Blues Fix Mix CD.......Larry Garner's "Four Cars Running."





Friday, September 8, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Five


To be sure, there are no definite guidelines to compiling a Blues Fix Mix CD, but if there were any, Guideline #1 would be that at least one B.B. King song be included.  I mean, how could you not include one?  The main question would be, of course, which one and there are so many to choose from over King's eight decades as an entertainer.....the so-called Vintage Years of his tenure with RPM and Crown Records from 1949 - 1962, or his long association with ABC-Paramount, later MCA, later Geffin Records from 1962 until his death in 2015.  What a body of work.

I decided to use one of my favorite of his later tunes, from his 1998 album, Blues on the Bayou.  This was the first album that King produced himself and he took his sweet time putting it together.....just he and his band playing a collection of old B.B. King songs and a few new B.B. King songs.  It was all done live in the studio, no overdubs, no bells and whistles.....just the blues played by the King of the Blues and his band.

"Blues Man," to me, is King sitting back and reflecting over his long career.  At the time he recorded this album, King was 73 years old and this song was no doubt a great representation of his thoughts at the time, and probably represented the feelings of many a blues man before and after him.....the long hours of travel and the long nights of work, followed by more long days of travel to the next town, the lonely days on the road, not seeing family for a long time, even not being able to keep family together, not having any money, or not enough to be able to do anything, even get to the next town.......but still hanging in for that big break, because "Good things come to those who wait."

Since King's death in 2015, listening to "Blues Man," makes me sort of sad, but at the same time, it's a perfect retrospective of his career in just over five minutes.  He waited a long time, too, but he did taste a huge amount of success over most of his career and was certainly was one of the most beloved figures in the blues, and will continue to be for a long time.  That  make me feel better.  Right now, sit back and relax and listen to Track Five of our Blues Fix Mix CD, B.B. King's "Blues Man."




So maybe not your first choice for the B.B. King song to include on a blues mix CD, but it's a good one.....understand?

I've traveled for miles around
It seems like everybody wanna put me down
Because I'm a blues man
But I'm a good man, understand

I went down to the bus station
Looked up on the wall
My money was too light, people
Couldn't go nowhere at all
I'm a blues man
But a good man, understand

The burdens that I carry are so heavy, you see
It seems like it ain't nobody in this great big world
That would wanna help old B
But I will be all right, people
Just give me a break
Good things come to those who wait
And I've waited a long time
I'm a blues man but a good man, understand
  • Writer(s): Riley B. King

Friday, September 1, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Four

For this week's selection, we selected a tune from one of my all-time favorite blues albums......the original soundtrack to Deep Blues, Robert Mugge's 1992 incredible documentary that looked at the early 90's blues scene in the Mississippi Delta that introduced a lot of blues fans to R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Booba Barnes, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Lonnie Pitchford, Frank Frost, and Big Jack Johnson.  Well, it introduced me to several of them anyway.  I wasn't that familiar with Burnside or Kimbrough at the time.  I had heard or seen the other ones.....Frost on the movie Crossroads, Hemphill and Pitchford on a couple of documentaries shown on Mississippi Public Television, and Barnes from my recently-purchased copy of his Rooster Blues release, The Heartbroken Man.

I found out about Big Jack Johnson via his Earwig debut release, The Oil Man in the late 80's.  His guitar playing cut to the bone and just sent shivers down my spine.  I really enjoyed his songwriting, too.  It was so down-to-earth and covered situations that you could relate to.  Backtracking, I found out that he and Frank Frost and Sam Carr were renowned in the Delta as the Jelly Roll Kings, which led me to their self-titled album, also on Earwig and another one of my favorites.

I had heard about Deep Blues via Living Blues, but of course, the actual documentary didn't get within 150 miles of where I lived, so it was much later when I had the opportunity to actually watch it, but I was hoping that I could get my hands on the soundtrack.....which wasn't as easy as you might think.  Though it was on a subsidiary of a major label (Atlantic Records), it took a bit of time to track it down, but I managed to finally grab a cassette copy at a newly-opened record store nearby.  It was a wonderful collection, just bursting at the seams with energy and excitement, with sound that was so clear, you could hear the bottles clanking on the tables near the stage.  It would be impossible to pick a single favorite song, but I loved two of Big Jack Johnson's selections......."Catfish Blues" (coming in a future post) and "Big Boy Now," Track Four of our Blues Fix Mix CD.

Big Jack Johnson in a scene from Deep Blues
"Big Boy Now" is an autobiographical track about Johnson's childhood infatuation with the country singers he heard on the radio.....Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry.  Johnson used to want to yodel like those country singers, but his mom told him, "You can't do like them white folks on that radio," to which Johnson replied that oh yes, he could, "'cause I'm a big boy now and I can do what I please!" at which point he launches into a blue yodel that would rival his childhood favorites and then launches into a guitar solo that sounds like his instrument is strung with barbed wire.  It's a wild experience to hear on the CD and I can only imagine how it was to hear it in person.



One thing the song does make clear is how closely related blues and country music actually are.  Both originated in the same regions and both are similar in their delivery and subject matter, though the instrumentation and rhythms are different.  That wasn't always the case, though, because in their beginnings, at least their earliest recordings, both employed guitars, fiddles, piano, and harmonica, though they began to go their separate ways after electric instruments became the fashion.  Johnson, like a lot of his contemporaries (and some of his predecessors) grew up listening to what he could hear on the radio and in Mississippi, and most of them played both kinds of music......country and western.  There were a lot of country music stations blaring away at night at maximum wattage, so that's what most people, regardless of race, listened to at night.  

Anyway, hope you enjoyed Track Four of our Ultimate Blues Fix Mix CD, and we hope you come back next week for Track Five.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Three

The third track of our Blues Fix Mix CD was an easy one for me.  I became a fan of Robert Lockwood Jr.'s in the mid 90's, when I picked up several of his CDs.  There was no particular reason why I hadn't collected any of his work before, other than the fact that little of it was available on cassette that I could find, other than his Delmark release, Steady Rollin' Man (an essential release of his, to be sure).  I remembered seeing his name in the credits on several Chess blues releases from the 50's and 60's, many with Sonny Boy Williamson (Version II).

Lockwood was born in 1915 in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, and learned to play guitar from Robert Johnson, who had an off and on relationship with Lockwood's mother for about ten years.  For many years, Lockwood was known as Robert Jr. Lockwood because of his professional and personal relationship with Johnson, and he played fish fries, street corners, juke joints, and house parties with Johnson, Williamson, and his longtime associate Johnny Shines around most of the Mississippi Delta.

Lockwood recorded a few 78's off and on during his early career, but was really in demand as a studio musician for most of the 50's and 60's, so he really didn't get into recording his own albums until he was in his 50's.  1970's Steady Rollin' Man was his first as a front man, but he really hit his stride in the 70's, recording a couple of albums for Trix and a tribute album to Johnson.  Along the way, he mastered the 12-string guitar and really expanded his style.  His own recordings also occasionally leaned toward jazz and swing and he combined all of his styles on his albums.

One of his later releases was in 1998 for Verve Records, I Got To Find Me A Woman.  It is my favorite of his albums.  B.B. King and Joe Louis Walker play on a couple of tracks and it's just a really cool set of songs, originals and covers of songs by his influences, Robert Johnson, Leroy Carr, and Roosevelt Sykes.

In fact, the Sykes song, "Feel Like Blowing My Horn," is Track 3 on our Blues Fix Mx CD.  Walker accompanies Lockwood on this song.  I included it for a couple of reasons.....first, I just like the gentle, reflective vibe that Lockwood conveys here, in contrast to Sykes' boisterous in.  You can feel the resignation in his voice, and the playing is just marvelous to me.  Second, in my first and, thus far, only trip to the BMA's, Lockwood performed this song on stage and I still get goose bumps thinking about it.  That was a lean year for the BMA's (still called the Handy's at that time) because a big overseas tour coincided with the date of the awards (something that probably wouldn't happen today) and Lockwood was one of the big stars who did show up (Walker actually hosted it that year).

Lockwood died in 2006 at 91, still playing a regular gig in Cleveland, OH at the time he passed away.  He didn't record a lot on his own, but he made the most of his opportunities.  Hopefully, when time allows, I will get to do a full post on Lockwood, one of the true characters of the blues.  In the meantime, here's Track 3 of our CD from Mr. Lockwood.  Enjoy!




Friday, August 18, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track Two


Welcome back.  As mentioned last week, I have compiled a couple of mix CDs for some of my friends who have just started listening to the blues and wanted a few suggestions about who and what to listen to as they start out.

Back in olden times, when FBF was a weekly email to some of my co-workers, a couple of them told me that they had compiled the music files I included in my emails into a mix tape.  I thought that was a good idea, so I started keeping all of my music files in a folder on my desktop.  I am now using the folder's contents to compile my mix CDs.

There's really no rhyme or reason to how I'm compiling them, other than I think they sound good together, sort of like if you were listening to them on the radio.  Most of the songs right now are older ones because I'm guessing that most new blues fans would be more familiar with new artists, having maybe heard them live somewhere, or maybe seen a clip on the internet.  Eventually, I will start including newer songs, too, but in the meantime, here's Track Two of Disc #1:

CD One, Track Two:  "Son of Juke," by Billy Branch (from Satisfy Me)



You can't have a really good blues mix CD without a few instrumentals mixed in, and this is our first.  One of my favorites is this track from Billy Branch's Satisfy Me CD, which was released in the late 90's on the House of Blues record label.  Blues newbies may wonder where the title, "Son of Juke" comes from.  It's an amped-up sequel to "Juke," blues harmonica legend Little Walter's early 50's smash hit on Chess Records.

At one time, Billy Branch was considered a young gun on the Chicago blues scene.  He toured with Willie Dixon's Chicago Blues All-Stars in the mid 70's, replacing the great Carey Bell.  Also in the 70's, Branch formed the Sons of Blues, a band that featured several second generation Chicago blues artists (guitarist Lurrie Bell, son of Carey, and drummer Freddie Dixon, son of Willie).  This group has recorded several albums over the years and also employed a number of other young blues stars like guitarist Carl Weathersby.

Branch has also appeared on well over 100 recordings, plus a dozen of his own, and continues to play festivals and teaches as part of the "Blues in the Schools" program that has brought the history of the music to numerous students in schools all over the world.  Once a promising young star, Branch is now one of the veterans in the Windy City.  Be sure to check out some of his recordings when you get an opportunity.  Meanwhile, here's "Son of Juke."

As a bonus, here's the groundbreaking original source, from Little Walter, circa 1952.  Branch counts Little Walter as one of his biggest influences.  Compare the two tracks and see for yourself.





Friday, August 11, 2017

A Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume One, Track One

Well, Friday Blues Fix is back!!  While it's still sort of hard to put together a lengthy post for now, we're going to try a little different format for now.  We will post on other blues-related items from time to time, too, as time permits, but today's post is similar to the Friday Blues Fix emails that I used to send out at work, which usually consisted of a song and a little bit of info about the song and artist.

Recently, I've met some new blues fans at work and around town.  Being new to the music, they've asked me questions about what and who to listen to.  To help them get a feel for the blues and give them the opportunity to hear a lot of different songs from different artists without them having to break the bank buying or downloading numerous albums or songs, I've compiled a couple of CD-R's to help them get their feet wet, so to speak.  What I thought I would do is use my old email format to present some of my favorite blues artists and songs from those homemade collections, so check back every week and see what we have to offer.

CD One, Track One:  "Cold Women With Warm Hearts," by Magic Slim and the Teardrops (from Gravel Road)




Magic Slim would have been 80 years old on August 7th, and hard as it is to believe, he's been gone for 4 1/2 years.  This was one of his first albums that I owned.  There was actually a time when there were very few Magic Slim albums available in the U.S.  In fact, this was his first release with Blind Pig Records, a label he spent over twenty years with.  The album came out in the early 90's, when John Primer served as his second guitarist.  One of the things I liked about this album was that Primer sang on three tracks.  To me, Primer was one of the most underrated artists in the Chicago Blues world, a potent force himself on vocals and guitar.

The song itself, "Cold Women With Warm House," kicks off Gravel Road and it's a great choice.  Slim recorded several live versions of this and the band always really settles into a groove every time, but this is my favorite version of it.  It was written by Sir Mack Rice, but was one of the highlights of Albert King's Truckload of Lovin' album from the mid 70's.  While I like King's version, Slim's rough and raw version knocks it out of the park to these ears.  Check out King's reading below and you be the judge.



FBF will continue to post a new track each week as time allows.  This will be a good chance for newer blues fans to build on their Blues Vocabulary and for older fans to revisit some old favorites.  Hope you enjoy!!


Cold women with warm hearts is my kind of woman
Cold women with warm hearts is my kind of woman
If you got a woman that's cold
9 times outta 10 she can't be stole
If you got a woman that's hot as fire
You can wave your woman bye-bye
If she's hot she knows she's hot
Then you can't please her with what you got
Cold women with warm hearts is my kind of woman
Cold women with warm hearts is my kind of woman
If you gotta woman that's hard to get
9 times outta 10 the lil' girl'll stick
If you gotta woman that talks to every man that hits
When you get home she might done split
If she listens to them long enough
You can wave bye-bye to your good good stuff
Cold women with warm hearts is my kind of woman
(I say)
Cold women with warm hearts is my kind of woman
If you gotta woman that don't like to laugh and grin
Aw buddy, she'll stay with you until the end
But if you gotta woman that likes to flirt
You can call your family doctor buddy 'cause you bout to get hurt
If you got a woman that can't count her fingers and toes
It's no telling how many men have seen exposed
Cold women with warm hearts is my kind of woman
Cold women with warm hearts is my kind of woman
Written by Mack Rice • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group