Friday, October 12, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Thirteen

Rooster Blues Records was one of my favorite labels.  I really enjoyed the raw feel of their recordings, basically live in the studio, which obviously made the label's artists most comfortable because all of their recordings were exciting.  Looking back, it's hard to think of even one recording from Rooster Blues that wasn't a favorite at one time or another.  I really need to devote an entire post to the label in the near future, but today I'm just going to talk about one of their recording artists and that artist's song that made its way onto Volume Two of our Friday Blues Fix Mix CD.

James "Super Chikan" Johnson is one of the unique characters of the blues, no doubt about it.  He's played music since he was a boy, like many youngsters in Mississippi during his early years, his first instrument was a diddley bow.  He bought a guitar, an acoustic two-stringer from the Salvation Army store in Clarksdale.  He drove a truck when he reached adulthood, but still worked on his music and songwriting and carving out his own unique style.

His first release was on Rooster Blues, Blues Come Home To Roost, in 1997.  It was one of my favorites that year.  It was raw and funky and had some of the coolest songs.  My favorite was the title track, "Down In The Delta," a sly and slippery funky blues about a regular day in the Mississippi Delta that packs more of a punch than listeners might expect.

The imagery is vivid, painting pictures of peach trees blooming, clothes hanging out on the line, the hum of tractors, cotton blooming, agricultural planes flying, catfish farms, April showers, May flowers, watermelon etc....., but at the end of each verse reflecting on what's perceived as good things about the Delta, Super Chikan drops a line stating that below the surface, thing aren't as blissful as they appear, at least for him.......his shoes are worn out, his front porch is about to fall off the house and his 25 year old car is about to be repossessed.  It's a sobering touch to what would appear to be a celebration of life in the Delta.....and really, life in general.   Not everything is as rosy a picture as one would believe, which is certainly the case in the Delta. 

Super Chikan later re-recorded "Down In The Delta" on his album Chikadelic, which came out about ten years ago, but this original version is still my favorite.  He's maintained a fairly high standard with his recordings and he remains a crowd favorite.  He's also established quite a reputation for designing unique guitar made out of gas cans, toilet seats, and anything else he can think of. 

"Down In The Delta" is a great example of modern Mississippi Delta blues, even twenty years after its original release........I can't believe it's been that long ago.  Anyway, enjoy Track Thirteen!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Tributes

Several years ago, I wrote a post called "This Week...... No One Dies!!!!" During that time, the blues world had lost several stars in a matter of months and, to be honest, it got pretty depressing for blues fans.  As I wrote then, that's one of the risks you take when you become a fan of the blues......a lot of the best known and best loved of the blues world are a bit long in the tooth and, though most of them continue to play to a ripe old age, it's still a jolt when they depart this world, which happens with a lot more frequency than it used to.

That post also focused on six artists that I enjoyed who were still with us nearly seven years ago.......Magic Slim, Daddy Mack Orr, Otis Clay, Eddie Cotton, Bobby Womack, and B.B. King.  Well, as most of you are aware, four of those six have passed away since that post, so as a favor to blues artists everywhere, I'm NOT going to repeat that post's theme this time around, but I will acknowledge a couple of my favorites who recently passed away and pay tribute to them.



Lazy Lester
Lazy Lester died a few weeks ago after suffering from cancer.  The first time I saw Lazy Lester, which I've recounted here several times already....I'm pretty sure, he was playing at the 1987 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.  That had already been a pretty impressive night for me, seeing John Lee Hooker for the first time as he actually opened for the Fabulous Thunderbirds (Kim Wilson/Jimmie Vaughan edition), who hosted an old school revue of sorts with a bunch of blues artists coming on and playing a pair of songs apiece.  There were some great acts there....Duke Robillard, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John, Katie Webster (who came onstage throwing rubber crawfish into the crowd), and the Roomful of Blues horn section to name a few.

When Kim Wilson introduced Lazy Lester, I had no idea who he was, but Wilson recognized him as one of the band's greatest influences.  At this point, I was a fledgling blues fan and knew next to nothing about the history other than the Chess Records reissues I'd found in a local record store.  When Lester came out, he was wearing a tank top, work pants, and a baseball cap of some kind (I think it said "Louisiana Yard Dog" or something like that) and looked like he'd just gotten off work and walked over to the show.  However, when he started blowing that harmonica and singing in that swampy drawl, I was hooked.  I wanted to hear more than two songs (I think one of them was "Sugar Coated Love," but my memory has faded), but it was next to impossible for me to find any of his recordings.

Lazy Lester - Late 80's
A few months later, Alligator released Harp & Soul and I tracked it down as quickly as possible.  Not long after, I found Lazy Lester Rides Again, his "comeback" album from a few years ago (which I wrote about here).  Those two recordings were played quite a bit around my house and later on, my girlfriend (now wife) enjoyed them as well.  Lester was all blues, but the Louisiana swamp blues had a nice mixture of blues, R&B, and country, which meant it appealed to a wide variety of people back when Excello Records (Lester's first home) was active.  It wasn't until the late 90's that I found any of his Excello recordings and I still listen to them all the time (along with his labelmates Slim Harpo, Lightnin' Slim, Lonesome Sundown, etc.....).

Around that same time, Lester signed with Antone's Records and released a couple of new albums that showed he had plenty of fuel in the tank in his 60's.  In fact, he was still pretty active up until the months before his death and I was so excited to see him in that Geico commercial (which they've sadly quit running since his death).

I strongly recommend Lazy Lester to any blues fan.  His Excello recordings are the place to start, but everything he recorded is worth checking out.  Trust me, if he's not a favorite now, he will be once you start listening.



Otis Rush
I read about Otis Rush passing away on Saturday afternoon.  Dick Shurman wrote a very nice tribute to him.......he did a lot to try and help Rush over the years, probably as much as anyone did.  I talked to Shurman several times over the years about Rush and he was always very gracious and very honest about him.  Rush had some really tough breaks over his career (I wrote about his career here), so it sometimes made him a little leery of dealing with people and sometimes he wasn't able to capitalize on some opportunities because of it, which is unfortunate.

While Rush didn't record a lot of albums over his 40+years as a musician, nearly all of it is excellent.  If he'd never recorded anything after those fantastic Cobra sides in the late 50's, his place in blues history would be secure.  They are simply astonishing........his guitar playing was so distinctive (he played guitar left-handed, but didn't restring it for a left hander) and his vocals would send chills down your spine......the original recordings of "Double Trouble" and "I Can't Quit You, Baby" are just amazing.

While he didn't record a lot of studio albums (the Cobra sides, several sides for Chess Records, one appearance at Duke Records, a handful of sides for Vanguard's Chicago!  The Blues!  Today! series, and several studio albums in the 70's and 90's (netting him a Grammy Award), over the years, he had several live albums released that revealed that as good as he was in the studio, he was even better as a live performer.  While some are better than others, the best ones are fantastic.  I recently heard the early 70's performance from Cambridge and it's very good.  I wrote about the rest of Rush's live albums here, if you want to check them out.

Otis Rush at his 2017 Blues Marker Dedication, Philadelphia, MS
I never got to see Rush perform live.  I did get to see him when Mississippi dedicated a Blues Marker to him in his native Philadelphia, MS in 2007.  It was clear that the honor really moved him and he enjoyed seeing some old friends and relatives while he was there.  I wish I'd had the nerve to go and speak to him, shake his hand, and tell him how much I enjoyed his music.  What really amazed me more than anything was that one of the most influential blues guitarist in the world, not only in blues but also rock music, was born about 20 miles from me and he's hardly even known in his home county, other than by relatives, a few friends, and a few blues fans.

The night I heard he passed away, I plugged in his Live in San Francisco DVD and just watched it.  It's the closest I ever got to seeing him live.  If you'd like to see or hear more from Otis, you can check out my recommendations here and here.


While it's sad to see these two blues legends go, blues fans can take comfort in the fact that there is a whole younger generation doing their part to keep the blues alive.  Every week, I hear new releases from young musicians who have taken what Rush and Lester did and expand upon it, adding their own unique flair to keep the music fresh and interesting.

Friday, September 28, 2018

New Blues For You - September, 2018 Edition

I decided this week to post a few mini-reviews at FBF's Facebook page......just a few lines here and there.  Well, our Facebook page has a few members, but the blog has a few more visits each week, so I thought I'd share those reviews on the blog this week.  I'll be sharing a few here and at Facebook whenever I get a chance.  


I first heard Houston harmonica ace Steve Krase a couple of years ago as he backed Trudy Lynn on her Connor Ray Music recordings.  Not long afterward, I got to check out one of his solo releases and was really impressed with it.  Recently, he released Just Waitin' on Connor Ray and it's an excellent album that not only includes several tough blues songs, but also a couple of tracks that flirt with country......a rocking Hank Williams cover kicks off the disc......and a zydeco reworking of "The Ballad of Jed Clampett."  Yes, you read that correctly....."The Ballad of Jed Clamplett".......and it's guaranteed to get toes to tapping and booties to shaking.  There's a lot of great harmonica players out there today, and Steve Krase is certainly near the top of the heap.  Blues fans need this one in their collection, no question about it.


City Soul is the new release from Chicago singer/harp player Russ Green. It's a rock solid release of Chicago blues and R&B. Green began playing music as a young adult and was influenced by Jimi Hendrix, seeking to replicate the guitar legend's sound on an instrument he could afford at the time, his harmonica. After hearing Sugar Blue, he found his sound. Not only is he an excellent harmonica player, he's a smooth and soulful singer and a great songwriter. This is a fine disc of modern Windy City Blues and Soul that is worth a listen.





Several months ago, I listened to a podcast interview with Dick Shurman and he mentioned that he had worked with Steve Wagner on an upcoming Carey Bell tribute album, Tribute To Carey Bell, with Lurrie Bell (guitar/vocals) and his brothers Steve (harmonica), Tyson (bass), and James (drums, vocals). I couldn't wait to hear it and I was not disappointed at the results. 
Let me tell you right now, that if you're a blues fan, particularly a Chicago Blues fan, you need to have this disc in your collection. This was truly a labor of love for all involved and includes appearances from Billy Branch, Charlie Musselwhite, Surrito Ariyoshi, and Eddie Taylor, Jr. The Bells, dubbed the Bell Dynasty for this release, need to consider doing future recordings together because this one was very enjoyable.


Several years ago, I met a drummer from Denmark named Tim Lothar Petersen on the old Blues Access message board. Tim was looking for an article on the great drummer Fred Below. I sent him a copy of one that I had and we struck up a friendship. Turns out that he was the drummer in a Danish blues band called Lightnin' Moe. A few years ago, he taught himself how to play guitar and embarked on a solo career, releasing several very good albums, which show his dexterity as a guitarist and his ability to interpret old songs and write his own compositions.

His most recent album, called More Stories, is a sequel of sorts to his previous solo effort called, you guessed it, Stories. He allowed me to look in on the creative process with this one......how he developed the songs and the early "scratch" recordings that he did on them and it really opened my eyes to the entire creative process. It's a great disc with some very personal songs, some reflective, some humorous, some poignant.

Tim also recently released an acoustic album with some of his friends, harmonica player Peter Nande and percussionist Mik Schack, called Walk Right In. It's a delightful set of mostly old classic pre-war blues and gospel blues recorded at Schack's home in Copenhagen in front of an appreciative audience. The trio plays acoustic guitars, harmonica, suitcase drum, washboard, woodblocks, and jub, and they are joined on a couple of tracks by Svante Sjoblom Vrak, who plays banjolin and lapsteel. It's obvious that this isn't their first rodeo because they complement each other so well.
Tim's recordings are on iTunes and some are available on Amazon or CDBaby, so check this talented guy out. There are a lot of talented folks in Europe like Tim and Peter that are making some fine blues music.

More reviews coming in the future.  You can check them out here or on our Facebook page.  

Friday, September 21, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Twelve

As I've mentioned several times, the first blues recording I ever picked up was Showdown!, from Texas blues legends Albert Collins and Johnny Clyde Copeland, along with a newcomer who was attracting a lot of attention during the mid 80's, Robert Cray.  It's not much of an exaggeration to say that listening to this album was a life-changing experience for your humble correspondent.  Today, some 32 years later, I'm still hooked on the blues in a big way.  The music still grabs me just as tightly as it did in March of 1986, when I plugged this cassette into my car stereo.

There are several songs from Showdown! that would be an excellent fit on a blues fix mix CD, but the one I chose for Track Twelve of Volume Two was the song that drew me to the music the most.  Copeland wrote "Bring Your Fine Self Home," and he and Collins are at their absolute best (Cray sat this one out).  The Iceman even broke out his harmonica for this track and he and Copeland set the mood from the beginning with a little banter.  

Copeland was always a powerful singer, and he really pulls out all the stops on this one.....yes, Shemekia Copeland is his daughter, in case you didn't know.  Although he recorded frequently, beginning in the late 50's, he really didn't break out until the 80's, when he recorded Copeland Special and Texas Twister (the latter with appearances from Stevie Ray Vaughan), both of which were still fairly new releases when Showdown! hit stores.  His vocal made a believer out of me, and when Collins launched into his barbed wire solo about midway through, it raised chill bumps the first time I heard it.



Like I said, this CD was a life-changer, and this is only one of the fantastic tunes featured.  Each guitarist had some great moments on Showdown! and the end result was a Grammy in 1987 for Best Traditional Blues Album.  It's still Alligator Records' best-selling album of all time and I can't recommend it highly enough.  It's unfortunate that these guys never got the chance to team up again, though Collins did appear on one of Cray's early 90's albums shortly before his death. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Eleven

I apologize for the rather sporadic posting schedule over the summer.  I've been trying to spend what spare time I have working on CD reviews for Blues Bytes.  Due to being very busy at work and at home, I've been pretty backed up for quite a while, which is why I haven't been posting reviews here as much.....I hate to write them up twice when I could be working on another release.  I'm hoping to catch up, maybe by the end of the year, but I'm still about two months behind.  It's a nice problem to have, though, because there are some great new releases that are out there right now.  Anyway, you didn't come by to hear my blues.....you want to hear some real good down-home blues, right?  Well, check out this week's selection from our Blues Fix Mix CD.......Track Eleven to be exact.


This week's track is a bit of a change of pace and features one of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite duos, guitarist Corey Harris and New Orleans' late, great piano man Henry Butler, who passed away just a couple of months ago.  Harris' acoustic blues really made their mark when he signed with Alligator back in 1995.  His version of the Delta blues was refreshing and dynamic on his debut, and he also added other influences to his music with each new album, such as New Orleans jazz, Latin, Island, and World Music.  On his 1999 masterpiece, Greens From The Garden, Harris collaborated with Butler for the first time.  Butler's catalog was nearly as eclectic as Harris', with ventures into not only jazz, but blues, funk, and even a bit of classical and gospel.


In 2000, Harris and Butler collaborated for Vu-Du Menz, a wonderful set of blues guitar/piano duets that bring to mind the classic sounds of 20's and 30's blues.  The pair also dove into soul, barrelhouse,  ragtime and a couple of gospel tracks.  There are so many good songs on this set, but my favorite has to be the lively, piano-driven "If You Let A Man Kick You Once."  Written by Harris, this is a fun track that would have been a great fit during the 20's and 30's.  His lyrics are entertaining and Butler really tears it up on piano.  The line "From the time you're born, 'til you're ridin' in the hearse/ain't nothin' so bad that it couldn't get worse" is one that each of us can use just about every day of our lives......I know I have used it many times.  

As stated above, Butler died in early July from colon cancer.  He recorded a few albums after Vu-Du Menz, including a fantastic collection of solo live performances in 2008 that spanned a couple of decades called PiaNOLA Live.  Harris has continued to record as well, though he's into African and Jamaican music as much as he is the blues.  Whatever music he chooses to make is compelling music.






Friday, August 31, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Ten

For Track Ten, we're going to keep things rolling in Louisiana, with one of the most successful of Excello Record's stable of swamp blues artists, Slim Harpo.  As I mentioned in my previous post a couple of weeks ago, I've been digging deep into the sounds of the swamp with Ace's Bluesin' By The Bayou series, and Mr. Harpo has several tracks included in that series (and graces the cover of the second volume).  I first got into the Excello catalog via Hip-O's House Rockin' & Hip Shakin' series of releases in the late 90's and if you can track either of these series down......even a volume or two of each, they are well worth any blues fan's time.

Mr. Slim Harpo was born James Moore in 1924 and worked as a longshoreman and construction worker as a youth, playing music on the side under the name Harmonica Slim, sometimes accompanying his brother-in-law Lightnin' Slim.  When he started recording for Excello in the late 50's, he changed his stage name to Slim Harpo to avoid confusion with another performer using the Harmonica Slim name.  Harpo's first recording, and hit, was "I'm A King Bee," but it wasn't his last.  His first chart hit was "Rainin' In My Heart," in 1961.

Harpo was influenced by Jimmy Reed, but his music was actually more accessible to a wider audience than Reed's.  One of the best descriptions I've read of Harpo was that his voice reminded one writer of a cross between a black blues singer singing country and a white country singer singing the blues.  His music used rock n' roll influences at times and his singing was reminiscent of country music at times.  In fact, his music has been recorded by artists of multiple genres over the years.

Harpo's biggest hit was released in 1966 and is this week's Blues Fix Mix track, "Baby Scratch My Back."  Largely instrumental, it hit #1 on the R&B charts and #16 on the pop charts.  Like most of his other recordings, it had a little blues, a little rock, and a little country music mixed together.......the essence of Swamp Blues.


   


Harpo was beginning to expand his audience in the late 60's with regular touring, and was gaining a larger fan base from young rock n' roll fans.  While getting ready for a tour of Europe with some recording sessions mixed in, he suddenly died of a heart attack at age 46.  His impressive body of work is available in several different collections for several different labels and any blues fan needs to have some of it in their collection.


Since our posting has been a bit erratic this summer......thanks for hanging in there with us.....here's a list of Volume Two's tracks to date:

"Mannish Boy" - Muddy Waters
"Big Legs" - Zuzu Bollin
"If It Wasn't For Bad Luck" - Lee "Shot" Williams
"Taylor Rock" - Sonny Landreth
"How'd You Learn To Shake It Like That" - Snooky Pryor with Eddie Taylor
"The Score" - The Robert Cray Band
"Ninety-Nine" - Bobby Rush
"Your Love Is Like A Cancer" - The Son Seals Blues Band
"Rats & Roaches In My Kitchen" - Larry Garner
"Baby Scratch My Back" - Slim Harpo


Friday, August 3, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Nine

Over the last few weeks, your humble correspondent has been taking in quite a bit of swamp blues via the Ace UK Bluesin' By The Bayou series (which I hope to post about in the near future).  I spent a large chunk of the Amazon card I received for my birthday to catch up with this series, along with some previously mentioned items and a few others that I haven't gotten to just yet, and I'll save the details for that later post, but one of the songs in the collection is a little blues ditty from 1962 by Silas Hogan called "Trouble At Home Blues," that's is a classic example of swamp blues......a little country and a little rock n' roll and a lot of blues.




Hearing that track again reminded me of the next selection on Volume Two of our Blues Fix Mix CD, which is a reconstruction of "Trouble At Home Blues" from one of my favorite modern-day swamp blues artists, Mr. Larry Garner, who recorded it as "Rats And Roaches In My Kitchen" (as Hogan did later in his career) for his mid 90's Verve/Gitanes release You Need To Live A Little.  Where Hogan was backed by harmonica on his version for Excello, Garner opted for a little extra guitar support from that slide guitar master Sonny Landreth (who previously appeared on Track Four of this volume).  

Garner has a lot of fun with his version....it's not quite as somber and forlorn as Hogan's rendition.....and he and Landreth work very well together.  You Need To Live A Little is probably my favorite Larry Garner album (and the first I was able to track down) and this tune is a big reason.  Check it out and see if you agree.


Garner is also one of the finest songwriters currently practicing in the blues genre, so if you aren't familiar with him and you dig the blues, you really should be.  


Friday, July 27, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Eight

Apologies to those who stop by regularly for the absence of new posts this month.  Your humble correspondent has been battling computer issues and a multitude of other unplanned events during the past few weeks, but this week, there's been enough time to sneak in a look at the next track on Volume Two of our Blues Fix Mix CD, so here we go......


I've written before about the music of Son Seals.  He's been on FBF's list of favorites for a long time, ever since I first heard him sing about "going home where women got meat on their bones" on Alligator's first Genuine Houserockin' Music anthology back in the mid 80's.  One of the first CD I actually purchased of Seals' was his Live & Burning set from a mid 80's appearance at the Wise Fools Pub, which remains one of my favorite live recordings of any genre, but most especially the blues genre.......just a dynamite set from start to finish.  From there, I collected everything else he released on Alligator, plus a live date on the old B.L.U.E.S R&B label that was cassette only and really needs to be released on CD or even digitally (same label as the amazing Magic Slim Live at B.L.U.E.S. album discussed here many years ago.

The last Son Seals recording I was able to track down was ironically his very first one, The Son Seals Blues Band.  The story goes that Bruce Iglauer got a call from his friend Wesley Race, who was attending a Seals performance at the Flamingo Club on Chicago's South Side.  Race called Iglauer to rave about Seals and held the receiver of the pay phone out in the direction of the bandstand, so Iglauer could hear the band.  The Alligator head man wasted little time getting Seals in the studio and it became the label's third-ever release.  Rough and ragged, befitting the label's future motto ("Genuine Houserockin' Music"), the album was loaded from can to can't with Seals' rugged vocals and his raw guitar work, which you felt down your backbone when he was at his best.

My favorite tune on the track was one of the most unusual, "Your Love Is Like A Cancer."  Obviously not your typical love song, this is Seals at his most intense.  The guitar work and the vocal sound like they're coming from a man who's at the end of his rope, desperate for something to change, but at the same time reluctant to let it go.  Most people have lived long enough to encounter a lover who fits this particular description, so they can definitely relate to Seals' plight here.  I thought it was a perfect fit for a mix CD of this type, to give new listeners a taste of the real, REAL thing and to make longtime listeners smile.  Enjoy!!





Friday, July 6, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Seven

In 2004, singer Bobby Rush released Folkfunk, one of my favorite blues releases of that year.  I'd heard of Rush for years.  Living in Mississippi in the late 70's/early 80's, you couldn't help but hear of him.  His records were in all of the record stores.  If you listened to R&B radio, you'd hear some of his songs.  Plus, he played countless festivals in countless towns.  At the time, I didn't really get into his music because it was loaded with those synthesized keyboards that everyone just loved back in the day, but now date that era's music distinctly.

Folkfunk was different.....none of the synthesizers were present.  In their place was a small, but potent combo that included Alvin Youngblood Hart on guitar, Steve Johnson (you might know him as current soul blues star Stevie J Blues.....he also played on Rush's Live at Ground Zero CD/DVD set) on bass, and drummer Charlie Jenkins, along with Rush who played a little guitar and a lot of harmonica.  These guys had their act together, no doubt, and this was quite possibly the best album Bobby Rush ever made, at least to these ears it is.

Most of the songs are familiar to blues fans, though Rush does make a few adjustments to some of these classics.  There's actually not a bad track on the disc and I would strongly encourage blues fans to give Folkfunk a spin......you can thank me later.  One of my favorite tunes is a modified take on the Sonny Boy Williamson (Version II) classic, "Ninety-Nine."  It's taken at a relatively brisk pace and Rush's underrated harp blowing is front and center.  It's just a really fun track (how often do you hear the lyric, "I was so broke I didn't have eye water to cry"??) and it made it onto Volume 2 of my Blues Fix Mix CD series.  Enjoy!!



Just for kicks, here's the original version from Sonny Boy II.....






Friday, June 22, 2018

The June Blues

June is usually a good month for me, as far as the blues go.......it's my birthday month and it's also Father's Day, both of which usually give me the opportunity to take in some new music and reading.  I'm pretty hard to buy for, so everyone usually gets me gift cards, and that's what happened this year, so I seized the day and picked up some splendid new music to listen to and share with my fellow blues fans. I picked up a brand new ones that I had been wanting to hear and a few that I had been meaning to pick up for a couple of years or more.

I was in a soul frame of mind this month......does everyone else do that at times?  While you might prefer a particular genre much of the time (in my case, blues.....DUH), sometimes you like to take a little break and wade off into another genre.  For me, I usually drift toward jazz in the wintertime....not sure why.....and usually soul music in the summertime.  This year, I decided to pick up a couple of highly-praised recent soul releases and I found out that those praises were much deserved.


While most blues fans may not be familiar with Don Bryant, they've definitely heard some of his songs.  Bryant was one of the principal songwriters for Hi Records.  Starting out as a performer with the Four Kings and as a solo artist, he eventually found his biggest success as a writer, penning several tunes for his future wife Ann Peebles, including "99 Pounds" and "I Can't Stand The Rain," and also songs for Hi's Mount Rushmore of soul singers - Al Green, Syl Johnson, O.V. Wright, and Otis Clay.  Bryant eventually retired from the music scene, returning later with a focus on gospel music in the 80's and 90's.  When Peebles restarted her career in the early 90's, Bryant was there to give her a hand, but largely limited his own performances to the church.

A couple of years ago, Bryant was invited to participate as a vocalist with the Memphis group The Bo-Keys on their wonderful Heartaches By The Number album.  The reception to his return to soul music inspired Bryant to return to the studio for his own album, which was released by Fat Possum Records last year.  Don't Give Up On Love featured Bryant backed by The Bo-Keys and several other Memphis luminaries.  It's a great mix of Bryant's early tunes and some very good new material which touches on soul, blues, and gospel.  Bryant sounds fantastic and so does this incredible band in support.  Any music fan who digs southern soul music, especially in a Memphis vein, simply has to have this in their collection.  Soul music is alive and well, thank you very much.


Keeping things in Memphis, William Bell also released a great soul music album in the past couple of years.  2016's This Is Where I Live was a Grammy winner for Best Americana Album and one of the most deserving in the show's history.  Bell was one of the first performers for Stax Records in Memphis, joining the staff as a writer originally, but he ended up having a huge hit in 1961 with the self-penned "You Don't Miss Your Water," which was one of Stax's first big hits.  Unfortunately, he was drafted soon afterward and his career stalled until 1967 when he was able to release his own album, The Soul of a Bell, and Albert King recorded his song (maybe you've heard it), "Bone Under a Bad Sign."


William Bell at MSU Riley Center 6/14/18
Bell continued to record, having a few more hits, the biggest being the 1977 R&B smash "Trying To Love Two," which is where I first heard Bell and became a big fan.    Though he's continued to record over the years, on his own label, Wilbe Records, he hasn't had a lot of chart success, but has continued to perform.  When Stax reactivated a few years ago, he joined up with the label to release This Is Where I Live, which consists of mostly Bell originals, including a cool remake of "Born Under a Bad Sign."  Bell's songs have always taken a thoughtful, mature approach to the familiar themes of soul and blues music and this new batch of songs is tremendous.  Bell hasn't lost an inch off his fast ball as a singer either and the band is more than up to the challenge of backing this great singer.

I got to see William Bell last week at the MSU Riley Center in Meridian, MS.  The show was billed as "William Bell's Tribute To Memphis Soul Revue" and featured Bell with several of the artists on his Wilbe label, all of whom performed songs from the Memphis soul catalog from Ann Peebles, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and Carla Thomas.  Bell opened and closed the show and gave a masterful performance.  His voice was amazing as he went through several of his classic songs.  I would have loved to have heard more from Bell, but it was a very good show all around and hopefully will help bring some attention to the other artists on his label as well.


Another longtime favorite is Walter "Wolfman" Washington, the subject of an FBF post a few years ago (I apologize for the audio issues.....several years ago, Divshare went on hiatus and then shut down, causing me to lose about 400 songs I had placed on their site).  Washington has been away from the studio for several years and his latest, My Future Is My Past (Anti Records), is quite a change from his usual mix of roof-rattling blues, funk, and soul.  The Wolfman's latest is a sterling set of after-hours blues tunes, a very low-key set.  Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of great guitar work here, but it's a decidedly different style of blues that what fans will be used to.

The focus this time around is Washington's vocals, which have long been his secret weapon....he worked for years with the great New Orleans vocalist Johnny Adams and certainly picked up a few pointers.....fans of both will notice some similarities in phrasing and, like the Tan Canary, he's equally well-versed in blues, soul, and jazz.  The band's presence is pretty low-key, which helps the vocals stand out even more.  One of my favorite tracks is a duet with Irma Thomas, performing David Egan's "Even Now," a song that Adams also did on his last album in the late 90's.  This isn't really a set to play at your next party, but it's a great one to play when you're trying to chill out afterward.


I also picked up what is considered by many to be one of the best blues albums of the 80's, New Orleans pianist James Booker's Classified, albeit in the recently remixed, expanded edition that was issued around 2013.  Shortly after I started listening to the blues, I discovered Professor Longhair, who with Dr. John was my first exposure to the great New Orleans piano tradition.  When I discovered Booker a couple of years later, my mind was blown.  Booker's story is one of the most amazing, and tragic, stories in New Orleans music lore.  He could not only play the blues, R&B and soul, gospel, and boogie woogie, he was also trained as a classical pianist as a youngster.  He was a huge influence on many of the Crescent City's R&B artists of the 50's and 60's, but he battled a severe drug and alcohol addiction for most of his life, so his career was maddeningly erratic.

Speaking of maddening, the 1982 recording session for Classified was quite an experience, according to the liner notes by producer Scott Billington.  After several days of erratic recordings with Booker and bassist James Singleton, drummer Johnny Vidacovich, and the legendary tenor sax player Alvin "Red" Tyler, the pianist really came alive and blasted through a tremendous set of solo piano performances, most of which are being heard for the first time on this release.  Where the original release of Classified captured the depth and breadth of Booker's piano mastery pretty completely, the expanded set shows even more of his creativity and imagination.  Sadly, Classified serves as a closing statement for Booker, as he died just over a year later, only 43 years old.  Everything Booker recorded was worth listening to, though there's not much available, but Classified is the definitive James Booker album.



Last month, Bill Mitchell, publisher of Blues Bytes, reviewed If It's All Night, It's All Right, the 1989 album released by the Silent Partners on Antones Records.  The Silent Partners were guitarist Mel Brown, bassist Russell Jackson, and drummer Tony Coleman, all of whom had backed up a host of legendary blues artists from B.B. King to Bobby "Blue" Bland to Otis Clay.  The trio had actually teamed up to back Katie Webster and decided the combo was too good not to make their own album.  The album has been out of print for a number of years, but reading Bill's review last month was enough to encourage me to seek it out.....it would be a good choice for one of my Five Discs You Might Have Missed posts......and I found it relatively easily from a seller on Amazon for a great price.

All of the trio do a fine job vocally and the track list is pretty cool, too.  The line-up of backing artists is a formidable one.......guitarists Derek O'Brien and David Gonzalez (of The Paladins) and sax man Kaz Kazanoff, among them.  I've got to say that I was a longtime fan of Mel Brown's guitar work, but I wasn't as familiar with Jackson or Coleman.  I came away impressed with both of them.  This is a very nice album that I just never was able to track down back in the day.  Plugging it in gave me a nice sense of nostalgia....actually it made me a little sad about those bygone days when I was a young blues fan whose eyes and ears were constantly being amazed by the new sounds I was hearing.  While you might not get that feeling when you hear it yourselves, you'll still get to hear a set of blues well done.


I picked up a few more items, and will save them for a later time.......but before we go, I have to acknowledge the passing of Matt "Guitar" Murphy earlier this week.  FBF once  posted (sorry, again, for the audio issues) about Murphy's long musical partnership with the great Memphis Slim, but we actually first heard Murphy as part of the Blues Brothers.  I can remember seeing his smiling face when the Blues Brothers debuted on Saturday Night Live some forty years ago, thinking he was one of the coolest dudes I'd ever seen.  Not only that, but I loved the way he played guitar, and was able to track down some of his performances with Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, and James Cotton.  I was really excited a few years later when I saw that Antones had released a Matt "Guitar" Murphy album, Way Down South.  I snatched it up without a second thought on cassette, and repurchased it on CD fifteen years later.  Murphy suffered a serious stroke in 2002, but managed to recover and return to playing a few years later and was still fairly active until his death on June 15th at age 88.  Let's sign off today with a little Matt "Guitar" Murphy, one of the all time greats......







Friday, June 15, 2018

New Blues For You - June, 2018 Edition

It's time once again for a new batch of mini-reviews of new releases over the last few months.  As most readers know, your humble correspondent also writes reviews for Blues Bytes, THE monthly online magazine of blues CD reviews.  I'm looking at a huge stack to review over the next few months, but I'm taking a little time to give you a sneak preview at a handful of the cream of the crop each month, so you can get your hands on them as fast as you can.  Hopefully, each month FBF will be offering up a few reviews of new and upcoming blues albums, so be sure to check back in on a regular basis. We appreciate your support, as always.


Victor Wainwright picked up another couple of awards a couple of weeks ago at the 2018 Blues Music Award - his second consecutive Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year and Blues Band of the Year.  Recently the keyboard master put together a new band called The Train, and their new self-titled release (Ruf Records) will probably result in Wainwright returning to the stage for a couple more BMA's next spring.  

The new release features a dozen new songs that touch on a variety of music styles.  Of course, there are several furious piano workouts that will have listeners moving whatever they're able to move, but there's also a couple of songs that find Wainwright mining the swampy blues territory of Dr. John and Leon Russell.  He also ventures into the deep soul arena on a couple of tracks and there's also a positively Allmanesque instrumental and a fine tribute to B.B. King that features guitarist Monster Mike Welch.  Wainwright is a great songwriter with a updated perspective on old blues subjects and several of these will make listeners smile knowingly, whether procrastinating on going to the doctor, keeping a positive outlook, or thinking about the one you love.  Blues fans should track this one down because anything from Victor Wainwright is a sure thing.



It only makes sense that young A J Ghent [J-ent] is a formidable steel guitarist.....his father is Aubrey Ghent, one of the current Sacred Steel guitar masters who has emerged over the last 20 years, his great uncle, Willie Eason is considered to be the creator of the Sacred Steel Tradition, and his grandfather, Henry Nelson, is the founder of the Sacred Steel rhythmic guitar style.  Young Ghent is not only carrying on their traditional Sacred Steel form, but he can also tear it up a slide guitar or resonator guitar) and he has expanded his sound to take in elements of blues, funk, pop, rock, and R&B.

His latest release, The Neo Blues Project (Ropeadope Records), is a six-song EP that not only shows off his mad guitar skills, but also reveals his talents as a singer, songwriter (he wrote five of the six tunes), and musician (he played all the instruments on the album).  Several of the songs mix the blues effectively with heavy doses of funk, There's one raw house rocker that folks will be talking about which combines the best qualities of Hendrix, Lenny Kravitz, and Gary Clark, Jr.  There are a pair of deep soul ballads that showcase his singing ability, and a straight-forward rock n' roller.  The disc is just over 20 minutes, but you won't just listen to it one time anyway.  Hopefully, this disc will lead to a future full-lengther very soon.



Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys recently marked 20 years as one of the hardest-working blues bands in the business.  Long regarded as one of the finest blues bands in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee-based band recently released My Life (Nevermore Records), a compilation of 16 tracks from the band's previous four albums, remixed or re-recorded as a new version.  Raven and his associates are equally adept at Chicago-styled blues, Delta blues, and Swamp blues, not to mention jazz, swing, roadhouse and jump blues.  Raven enlists several harmonica players who have played and toured with the band over the years, Cadillac Pete Rahn, Benny Rickun, Madison Slim, and Westside Andy Linderman, along with sax man Big Al Groth on a couple of tracks, and the Reverend is a veritable force of nature himself on guitar and vocals. This is a fabulous look at some of the finest work of this excellent band over the last couple of decades and it will definitely make listeners want to dig deeper into the band's catalog.



I heard about Long Tall Deb and Colin John a couple of years ago, when they released the EP, Streets of Munbai a couple of years ago.  I never had the opportunity to hear it, but I have heard the follow-up, Dragonfly (Vizztone), and I recommend it without hesitation.  The duo has traveled the world over the past couple of years, visiting much of America and also Europe, India, and Nepal.  The new album embraces not only blues, but Americana, rock n' roll, jazz, surf, pop, and world music, and it's loaded with surprises.  John is a superlative guitarist and Deb is a great vocalist with a lot of range, which works well with these tunes, which meld a lot of different styles.  One song sounds like a mash-up between surf music and a spaghetti western, while John breaks out a sitar and a baritone guitar on another tune.  Another tune blends surf guitar and Spanish influences.  This all makes for a wonderful listening experience.  While all of it is not blues, it has strong roots in the genre, and the combination of John's guitar work, Deb's vocals, the excellent songwriting, and interesting musical twists make this one that deserves to be heard.......so give it a listen!!



Several years ago, I met a fellow blues fan named Jim Shortt on the old Blues Access music board.  Jim was a retired computer ace at the Johnson Space Center, but he had been a lifelong blues fan, even helping Johnny and Edgar Winter book a few shows when he was in college and the brothers were in their teens.  He knew just about everybody who was anybody on the Houston music scene and introduced me to a whole lot of great music that I'd never heard before.  He loved to send me mix CDs of bands from his area, plus lots of swamp blues and pop songs from years ago....many of which I still listen to.  He also would send me songs via email that he thought I would dig.  One of those was from a guy named Tommy Dardar, who was a music legend in Houston.  He was known by all as "Big Daddy Gumbo" and he played along side nearly all of Houston's blues and R&B stars over the years, singing and playing harmonica up until his sudden death in July of 2017.

Dardar released a great album in 1999, Fool For Love, that brought a lot of attention to him....enough to encourage him to start recording a follow-up in 2001.  Sadly, he had to suspend production due to financial and health issues and never was able to get back to it. Happily, his friend and producer Tony Braunagel was able to locate the tracks Dardar recorded and finish them up with help from the original studio band (including Braunagel on drums, Johnny Lee Schell on guitar, Jon Cleary on piano, and Hutch Hutchinson on bass), plus a lot of Dardar's buddies on the music scene.....including Mike Finnigan, Joe Sublett, vocalists Tommie Lee Bradley and Teresa James.  The finished product, Big Daddy Gumbo, features Dardar's eight recorded track, an excellent set of originals written by Dardar and his friends, plus a loving tribute by the friends that closes the disc.  There's plenty of great blues, Gulf Coast-flavored R&B, and Swamp Pop in these track and Dardar's powerful vocals and harp are front and center.  It's too bad that this great artist didn't get the recognition he deserved, but thank goodness Braunagel and friends were able to get this out there to allow blues fans to hear what they missed.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Chief

Late last week, the blues world lost one of its great characters when Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater died on Friday of heart failure at the age of 83.  He was still active on the scene......one of my friends saw him a couple of weeks ago during the Beale Street Festival, where he put on quite a show.  In fact, he was renowned for his live performances and his music, both of which combined the best qualities of the blues, 50's-era rock n' roll, a little bit of country as well as gospel.  He was also inclined to wearing Native American headdresses during his performances, which earned him his nickname.

I listened to Clearwater a lot over the years, beginning back in my early days as a blues fan, when I purchased his Flimdoozie album at Stackhouse Records in Clarksdale.  I had heard a lot about his album, The Chief, which, like Flimdoozie, was released on Rooster Blues Records, but was unavailable the day I traveled to the Delta.  Just as well, I played Flimdoozie quite a bit in the coming weeks.....Clearwater was joined by one of my favorites, Otis Rush, on a couple of tracks and harmonica master Sugar Blue as well.  Later on, I finally got to hear The Chief and I understood what the fuss was all about.  My favorite Clearwater song is on The Chief, "I Wouldn't Lay My Guitar Down."



Over the years, I've heard much more from The Chief......I really liked his Chuck Berry approach to the blues.  It helped him to stand out from the pack, but he was equally adept at the straight ahead West Side blues, too.  I found the Delmark album, Chicago Ain't Nothin' but a Blues Band, which collected several recordings from Clearwater's uncle, Reverend Houston H. Harrington's small 50's label, Atomic-H, including a pair of Eddy Clearwater first tracks, as Clear Waters.


Clearwater was born Eddy Harrington in Macon, MS in 1935, but he was Clear Waters as a takeoff on Muddy Waters.  After recording in the early 60's for Federal Records, he was known as Eddy Clearwater and that name stuck as he recorded singles for Federal, USA Records, and other labels during the 60's all the way through those great recordings for Rooster Blues in the 80's.






In the 90's, Clearwater recorded albums for several labels......his own Cleartone Records, Blind Pig Records, and an extended run with Rounder's Bullseye Blues subsidiary, including an interesting album with the surf rock band Los Straitjackets.  His last disc came from Alligator Records in 2008, West Side Strut, but he continued performing, appearing at the aforementioned Beale Street Festival in early May and at Buddy Guy's Legends a couple of weeks before he passed away on June 1st.

 




Eddy Clearwater was one of the most consistent and durable blues artists on the scene for a long time.  For over 60 years, The Chief packed quite a punch.  Please remember his family in your prayers and be sure to check out some of his most impressive catalog.

Eddy Clearwater - Beale Street Music Festival - May 5th, 2018 (Photo by Scotty Russell)


Friday, June 1, 2018

Another Blues Fix Mix CD - Volume Two, Track Six

Robert Cray with Hi Rhythm and Steve Jordan
When your humble correspondent began listening to the blues, one of the first artists whose work he followed closely was Robert Cray.  Young Bob was one of the featured artists on the first blues album I ever owned (Showdown! on Alligator Records).  Not long after that purchase, I found a copy of Cray's Bad Influence, which only reinforced my admiration for this music.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Though I have discovered many other blues titans during my 30+ years of listening, I still check out the occasional Robert Cray release, including his last one, where he's backed with the great Hi Records Rhythm Section in a "Dream Team" setting.

Over the years, I've compiled a couple of Robert Cray "Greatest Hits" compilations in my time to introduce his music to fledgling blues fans, but one of my all time favorite tracks from Young Bob actually came from his debut release, Who's Been Talkin', which was actually recorded in the late 70's and released in 1980 to limited distribution.  Atlantic Records reissued it in 1986, around the time that Cray's breakthrough album, Strong Persuader, hit the charts.  Cray's usual brand of the blues mixes the blues with the classic sounds of Memphis soul in a very effective way, but this early release is considered by many to be Cray's most "blues-oriented" album.

I agree to an extent......there are some fantastic covers here of tunes associated with blues legends like Freddie King ("The Welfare Turns It's Back On You"), Sam Myers ("Sleeping In The Ground"), Willie Dixon ("Too Many Cooks," a hit for Jessie Fortune back in the 50's), and Howlin' Wolf (the haunting title track), but there is also a dynamite soul-drenched take on O.V. Wright's "I'm Gonna Forget About You" (a duet with a young Curtis Salgado, who was a huge influence on John Belushi's Jake Blues character).  Cray wrote several of the noteworthy original tunes as well and they're in his classic blues-soul format, but my favorite song on the disc was "The Score," a tune from Dennis Walker and Bruce Bromberg (as D Amy) about a wronged lover who finally figures things out.  Cray launches it with one of his best solos.......he's always been a crisp and concise soloist, but this one really packs a lot of wallop in a short burst.  I would have loved to have heard B.B. King do this song.......that's who it reminded me of when I first heard it.  If you've not heard this album, it's well worth seeking out.




Friday Blues Fix Mix CD, Volume Two track list to date........

1.  Muddy Waters - "Mannish Boy" (from the album Hard Again)
2.  Zuzu Bollin - "Big Legs" (from Texas Bluesman)
3.  Lee "Shot" Williams - "If It Wasn't For Bad Luck" (from Cold Shot)
4.  Sonny Landreth - "Taylor's Rock" (from Hound Dog Taylor:  A Tribute)
5.  Snooky Pryor - "How'd You Learn To Shake It Like That" (from Antone's Tenth Anniversary Anthology - Volume 1)
6.  The Robert Cray Band - "The Score" (from Who's Been Talkin')


Friday, May 25, 2018

Music From The Morganfields

Mud and Big Bill, with brother Joe Morganfield (Photo - Lynn Orman Weiss)
During the last year or so, two members of one of the First Families of the Blues have issued new releases that show that the blues is doing just fine continuing into the next generations.  There have been other blues families that have carried on the tradition over the years (Carey Bell and family, Raful Neal and family, James and Lucky Peterson, Luther and Bernard Allison, Tabby Thomas and Chris Thomas King, etc.......) and all have enjoyed a healthy measure of success, but it's been a really cool thing to see Big Bill Morganfield and Mud Morganfield, the descendants of Muddy Waters, find the spotlight as well, because though they had a huge pair of shoes to fill, they've repeatedly proved that they are more than up to the task.


Big Bill Morganfield had little contact with his famous father as a child.  He was born in 1956 in Chicago, but was raised in Georgia by his grandmother.   Growing up, he did listen to Muddy Waters records, but also the standard popular fare of the day.....R&B, soul, etc....  He also earned degrees at Tuskegee University and Auburn University and became a teacher.  Though he always dabbled in music, Morganfield began to seriously pursue it after his father passed away in 1983.  He bought a guitar a few years after his father died, and spent the next six years learning to play by studying his father's music as well as many of the old masters.

By the mid 90's, he had his own band, The Stone Cold Blues Band, and began to attract attention, but his career really took off after his first release on Blind Pig Records, Rising Son, hit the streets in 1999.  It featured several of his father's former band members, including Pinetop Perkins, Paul Oscher, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith.  Morganfield sounded a lot like his father as a vocalist and showed some pretty impressive skills on guitar, particularly slide.  The best thing about it was that while he did cover some of his dad's tunes (and some other classics as well), he brought several great songs of his own to the table.  I wasn't sure what to expect when I first heard it...these were the days before songs were blasted all over the internet like they are today....but I have to say that I was really blown away by his talent and the fact that he was the son of Muddy Waters played very little into that.

Since then, Big Bill has released several very good albums, including last year's Bloodstains On The Wall, which to these ears, is his best release yet.  Like on his previous releases, he offers up some choice cover tunes from a wide variety of sources......Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Lonesome Sundown, the title track from Alabama blues artist Frank "Honeyboy" Patt, Jimmy Reed, and Jimmy McCracklin, and his own songs are as strong as the covers.  He even ventures into more modern sounds with one track, blending his voice and guitar with hip and electronica......even if that's not your bag, it's pretty cool that he's venturing into what must be unfamiliar territory music-wise.

Bloodstains On The Wall was released about this time last year, during my extended leave of absence from blogging, but it really stood out to me.  It's nice to hear the traces of Muddy Waters in Morganfield's voice and his guitar.....who wouldn't want to hear that.....but it's also great to see him branching out from that sound and developing his own distinctive sound.




Like his brother, Larry "Mud" Morganfield never really got to know his father.  He was born in 1954 in Chicago and was raised by his mother and her seven brothers.  Though his father, busy with touring and traveling, did occasionally visit him (giving him a drum set when he was a kid) and despite being around music most of his life, like his brother, he never seriously pursued it until his father passed away, even though he played drums and later moved to bass guitar.  He actually made a living driving a truck, but a recurring dream about his dad performing on stage encouraged him to give the blues a shot.

His vocals strongly resemble his father's in their tone and phrasing, but again like his brother, Mud grew up listening not only to his father's music, but also the popular music of the time, particularly R&B, soul, and Motown, and his live sets featured a mix of those styles.  His first album release came much later in 2008 on the Gypsy Woman/Pops Daisy label, but he also released a live disc that year with the Dirty Aces.  In 2012, after signing with Severn Records, he released Son of the Seventh Son.  A powerful set, Morganfield wrote most of the songs, but covered one of his father's tunes, a chilling read of "You Can't Lose What You Never Had" that sounds for all the world like his father singing it back in the day.

Though I've never heard his early recordings, I did review Son of the Seventh Son for Blues Bytes and the vocal resemblance was just amazing to me.  Morganfield's next release, For Pops:  A Tribute To Muddy Waters, was, as the title would indicate, a loving tribute to his dad.  Morganfield covered fourteen of his father's most beloved tunes, backed by the incredible harmonica legend Kim Wilson.  Severn Records president David Earl reported that he was inundated with phone calls and emails after Morganfield's debut release, demanding that he and Wilson (also with Severn) join forces.

More recently, Morganfield released They Call Me Mud, also on Severn Records. It's a bit of a change from his previous efforts in that while he does cover a few of his father's tunes in that magnificent voice, and also offers a few originals that touch on that traditional Chicago-from-the-Delta quality, there's a definite soul/R&B feel to about half of the album, sometimes combining funk and even a touch of jazz to the soul/R&B tunes.  On these tunes, Morganfield doesn't sound as much like his father, but he still sounds great, and there's even one song that he sings with his daughter, Lashunda Williams.

Like his brother, Mud Morganfield manages to carry on the proud musical traditions of his father, but he also shows that he is more than capable of branching out to other styles with relative ease.

   


I think Muddy Waters would be extremely proud of his sons doing their part to keep the blues alive.  If you haven't had the chance to check out either of these fine artists, I highly recommend you give their music a spin.





Friday, May 18, 2018

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue #21

Once again, dear readers, it's time for Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue.......our 21st edition.  This has been one of our favorite themes over the years, dating back to FBF's early days as a weekly email to co-workers.  For those unfamiliar with the format, we offer a song from the early days of the blues (Something Old), a song from a recent blues artist (Something New), a blues artist covering a rock song or vice versa (Something Borrowed), and finally, someone who epitomizes the blues.....usually a legendary artist (Something Blue).  Pretty simple format that can be worked in a lot of different ways.  Here we go......


A couple of times on previous editions of Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, we've taken variations of a familiar blues song.  We're going to do that this time with the North Mississippi hill country blues classic "See My Jumper Hanging On The Line."  Most blues fans have heard it before from the late R.L. Burnside, but they may not know what the phrase means.  Supposedly, in blues lore, if a married woman hung her housecoat, or "jumper," on the clothesline, it was a signal to her lover that the coast was clear, so to speak.  The song was one of Burnside's most recorded songs, and certainly one that his fans loved to hear him perform.  It was the first Burnside song I ever heard, on the soundtrack to Deep Blues in 1992.  For the Something Old portion of today's post, here's the great Mr. Burnside performing this tune sometime in 1978, filmed as part of a documentary by Alan Lomax.  I realize that for some,  like me, 1978 is not OLD, but it's old enough for today's purpose.




For Something New, check out this rendition of "Jumper" from Muddy Gurdy, the recent collaboration by the French trio Hypnotic Wheels and a host of the current cream of the North Mississippi hill country crop.......Cedric Burnside, Sharde' Thomas, Cameron Kimbrough, and Pat Thomas.  The interesting thing about this collaboration is the inclusion of the Hurdy-Gurdy into the mix.  The Hurdy-Gurdy is a traditional French instrument, operated by a hand crank, and has a most interesting sound, sort of a combination of an accordion and a fiddle.  This sound works really well with this album, which is a set of mostly older tunes made popular by various hill country artists and one of them was "Jumper On The Line," of course.  Cedric Burnside, R.L.'s grandson, takes the mic for this rendition.  




For Something Borrowed, here's the Kansas roots rockers Moreland and Arbuckle's version, first heard on their 1861 album in 2008.  This trio (guitarist Aaron Moreland, vocalist/harmonicist Dustin Arbuckle, and drummer Kendall Newby) has recorded for several labels, Northernblues Music, Telarc, and most recently Alligator, but their 1861 album is my favorite because it has their smoking version of "Jumper On The Line."  If you've not heard these guys, you certainly need to.  They're the real deal.  This live recording was taken in early 2009, not long after 1861 was released, as part of a broadcast on Wichita Public Television.




For Something Blue, here's another look at Burnside performing this tune......this time with his band, The Sound Machine from recordings he made in the late 70's/early 80's for Dr. David Evans (later released as Sound Machine Groove).  These were Burnside's first recordings with his band (made up of family members) and also his first electric recordings.  If you've never heard these recordings, you need to check them out because these are some of his best and they really have a funkier edge than most of Burnside's recordings.  This is probably my favorite version of "Jumper On The Line," and just one of the great songs on this set, which is worth seeking out, as are all of Dr. Evans' series of recordings from that time period.