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

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