Friday, August 31, 2012

Bad News Blues

As I work on this week's post, we are awaiting landfall of Hurricane Isaac.  Though we live a couple of hundred miles from where it will make land, we know from experience that sometimes that's not nearly far enough away, due to the accompanying winds and rain.  Since we've basically done all the preparations that we're able to do, in case of power outages and such, there's really nothing left to do but wait.

Blues musicians have been writing and singing songs about catastrophes of all kinds since the genre got its start.  This has been a common thing in the blues, and other genres, since the beginning of time.  Back before there were newspapers, televisions, the internet, and even radio for some families, songs like these were sometimes the only way that many people got to hear about current events, good and bad, all over the world, from floods to earthquakes to tornadoes to the assassinations of U.S. Presidents and Civil Rights leaders.  This week, Friday Blues Fix will take a look at a few of these from the early recording days and a couple of modern blues tunes that have helped keep the tradition alive.  We will revisit this topic more extensively at a later date.

Charley Patton
In 1929, the great Charley Patton wrote and performed "High Water Everywhere," a song about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 that devastated parts of Louisiana, for Paramount Records.  This two-part epic is considered by many blues scholars to be Patton's best work.  The diminutive (5'5", 135 lbs.) Patton was a major influence, as a singer and guitarist, on scores of blues artists such as Son House, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, and, most notably, Howlin' Wolf.  Sadly, Patton recorded for Paramount Records, and the sides that have survived, like most other Paramount recordings, have pretty bad sound, so most of the time today, modern listeners might have difficulty hearing and understanding what made Patton such a legend.   The recordings on these two videos have been cleaned up somewhat, thanks to modern technology.

Howlin' Wolf
Speaking of Howlin' Wolf, in the mid 50's, he immortalized the tragic story of the Rhythm Club in Natchez, MS.  In 1940, the corrugated tin building was packed full of blues lovers who had gathered to hear the Chicago band, Walter Barnes and his Sophisticated Swing Orchestra.  To give the club some atmosphere, the owner had spread Spanish Moss in the rafters, spraying it with a flammable insecticide to keep the bugs out.  Most of the doors and windows had been locked or nailed shut to keep party crashers out (admission was fifty cents), so the only way in and out was through the front door.  During the festivities, someone flipped a cigarette and the building caught fire, spreading quickly through the moss hanging in the rafters.  Barnes, a Vicksburg native, and his band were among the 209 people who died in the fire.  Howlin' Wolf recorded the song paying tribute to the club, "The Natchez Burning," in 1956.

In 2009, Big Jack Johnson released his final CD, Katrina.  The title track was very much in the tradition of earlier songs about catastrophic weather events.  An event as bad as Hurricane Katrina was bound to inspire some music.  About fifteen years earlier, Johnson had penned "Ice Storm Blues (Parts 1 & 2)," a vivid tune about the Great Ice Storm of 1994, which really hit the Mississippi Delta hard.  Though Johnson's music never stopped evolving, he always kept an eye on the traditions of the past, so he recorded several songs about current events and tragic happenings during his career.

Hopefully, this is a tradition that will continue in the blues.  While it's not as necessary for listeners today, information-wise, the descriptiveness and imagery of these types of songs sometimes gives us the feeling of actually being there.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blood Red Blues - Ten More Questions With Cee Cee James

So what has our friend Cee Cee James been up to lately?  Well, she's been touring almost non-stop, even making a trip overseas to Europe earlier this year.  She also just released a brand new CD, Blood Red Blues, that is poised to make some noise in the blues world.  Coming off two great releases from a couple of years ago, Low Down Where The Snakes Crawl and Seriously Raw:  Live at Sunbanks,    Blood Red Blues is well on the way to topping both of them in critical reception and sales, a pretty impressive feat.

The new disc features some of Cee Cee's most intimate and personal songs, like "Wounds," "Worn Out Sins," and  "Right To Sing The Blues."  She really pours out her heart and soul on these songs.  There's also some great rocking tunes like "Let's All Get Loose" and "Feel My Love Come Down," plus some tunes in praise of the power of love, like "Cover Me With Love," "Thick Like Blood," "100 Ways To Make Love," and "Comfort of a Good Heart." 

Cee Cee sounds fantastic, really taking it to another level on her vocals, and her husband, Rob "Slideboy" Andrews, is his usual awesome self on rhythm and slide guitar....weaving in and out and around these songs like a blues-fused serpent.  Lead guitarist Rocky Athas is also first-rate...he and Andrews complement each other perfectly, and the rhythm section (Chris Leighton - drums, Dan Mohler - bass, and Susan Julian - keyboards) are outstanding, as are the backing singers (Cee Cee, Stanley Crouse, Vicki Atkins, Danunielle "Pie" Hill, and Kimberlie Helton).

If you're a fan of Cee Cee's, more than likely you already have her new disc.  If you're not familiar with her, give it a listen.  You will want to hear more.  

As if she's not busy enough, Cee Cee also appeared in the upcoming movie, We Be Kings, which also stars Magic Slim and Grana Louise.  In between festival gigs, movie shoots, recording sessions, and overseas tours, Cee Cee also found the time to answer Ten More Questions from Friday Blues Fix.  We are grateful that she took the time and we hope you will be, too.  Check it out. 

For your latest release, Blood Red Blues, you’re produced by the legendary Jim Gaines.  What was that like for you as far as your own preparation for recording…..compared to your previous releases?

In one word it was FAST.  I’m used to taking my time, mulling over my melodic progressions, sitting with the instrumentation as it gets laid down, feeling if the lyrics are being properly supported and colored by the musical instruments, adding and taking away things that aren’t working - overall just being able to relax into the production process of each song.  However there was no time for this with Jim due to us needing to get it done in the time frame for the budget we laid out.  So we jumped through many hoops of personal dedication and focus to "get ‘er done" and I don’t feel the music suffered one bit for it.  Had I not done plenty of arrangement and production work on my own in years past, I don’t think I could have made our release date.  Because of the past studio and recording experience we both had, when Jim said jump, we knew where to jump to and quick!  LOL

Is there anything different about this album from your previous releases, as far as production, songs, performance-wise?  If so, did you go out of your way to try to do things differently or did it just work out that way?

We never go out of our way to make anything different!  LOL It just “is what it is,” with our music truly representing our growth as artists and the personal inner life paintings and expressions being revealed in the songs.  We are both obviously performing stronger on this release, our songs revealing a deeper strength of character and for me even more of the beauty and ache of the poignant truth of love and life - which is one of the most beautiful gifts of getting older.. seeing more and more through the veils of illusion.

You’ve always written your songs based on your own personal experiences.  How cathartic is it for you to write a song like “Right to Sing the Blues” or “Wounds?”  

Very.  At times when I listen to or sing those songs in my own private space at home or in the car, I still cry.  I feel I will always cry as those lyrics continue to dig in and work to heal the small child and the woman who experienced the situations that caused those lyrics to be written.  Ah, but what is art without the "experiences" that form it?  Nothing but a pristine, white, perfect blank page; or a beautiful round lump of gray smooth clay.  Rather beautiful.. but there's nothing there to relate to.  Blank slate beauty and perfectionism are illusions that commerce thrives on - but that's another topic for another day or maybe not!  LOL

What can you tell us about your role in the upcoming film, We Be Kings, with Magic Slim and Grana Louise?

I can tell you that speaking of "cathartic," this will be cathartic!  I play Ruth, the Mother of Bianca Ryan.  Bianca plays a young girl in the film living at home who wants to be a singing star.  My husband in the film is her abusive, alcoholic stepfather who doesn’t give a shit about her and picks on her and puts down her ache to follow her dreams.  I was Bianca when I was younger as I had dreams of being something big, in my heart.... famous.. I ached to win the race.. some kind of race seemed to be aching to be run in my chest.  During my teen years, I had an alcoholic stepfather who abused my mother and the drama was so intense that no one dared follow any dreams.  It was only about survival and hoping my mother would not be killed in his drunken rages.  There was more than one abusive stepfather in my life and finally at age 17, I got away.  Bianca does the same thing.  She runs away.  Her Mother is supportive of her dreams.  My Mother was too but there was too much going on for her to really be of any help to me.  Same with Bianca.  So the word "cathartic" is very apropos for my role in this film.  Should be quite an easy one for me to just step into as I understand my role from all angles including the misery of the Stepfather lost in his demonic addiction.  My Stepfather who was an alcoholic put a gun in his mouth when I was in my late 30’s.  Talk about a wrenching experience for me.  That will never stop cutting me in two.  

How did you end up in the movie?  Did you audition for the part or were you approached?

I saw a post on Facebook in regards to supporting the Kickstarter fundraiser for the film and so I pledged to be an extra in the film and then wrote to the guy personally and offered myself up to be more than just an extra.  He went and checked out some of our YouTube videos and he wrote back telling me he was blown away and there began the conversation to bring me into a stronger role.  I felt extremely strong about submitting myself for a bigger role.. something in me said "do it and do it now and don’t hold anything back....."  It felt like driving force of destiny.

You did some acting when you first started out…… that something that you would be interested in doing now, or was this just a one-time thing?

I’m totally interested in acting always have been... always will be.  Every song for me is a "Broadway performance," every song is a "play."  A chance to "act out" the story of the song... make it real... drive it home.  I become the song... and I open up my heart and soul to channel the energies the story of the song wants to bring.  It might sound strange but the song becomes the master and I’m just the puppet.
You recently returned from your second European tour and will be going back soon.  What are the major differences in performing there and in the U.S.? 

Here’s how to sum it up in a nutshell.. the days on the road, in the van, in the hotels... the fatigue, the constant lugging around of the gear and the suitcases, is like a very hard childbirth labor.  Then when you hit the stage it seems the whole world has come out to see your baby and can’t wait to show you their love and appreciation for the birth.  They are not distracted by the women or men in the crowd, or at the bar smoking or watching any TV in the venue or playing any video games or shooting pool.. they are there, at the stage totally engaged in your every move, every note you play and emit; and they applaud and scream like you are God's gift to mankind.  That’s the difference.

Musically speaking, is there anything that you want to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?  

Tons!!!! We have so many more CD’s to release and so much of the world yet to tour.  We are far from being out of magical musical journeys.

You've been in the music business for a number of years, and played with a lot of different musicians during that time…..are there any cool stories or experiences that you would like to share? 

Well I do think the coolest story for me personally is getting to perform at the Sunbanks Blues Festival in eastern Washington in Sept 2009, and the challenges that came with it that I had to overcome.  We got opening slot at 5pm on a Friday night.  The crowd was still recuperating from the night before, it was about dinner time, and as well, not a lot of folks there knew who I was.  On top of that, it was hotter than the Sahara in the heat of summer and I was not feeling well.  So I decided to let the Volcano erupt and get ‘um out of their tents and campers and cabins.  We played a 90 minute set straight through with a 2 song encore and I never let up on ‘um for a second.  I pulled out every stop and the band rose up to the challenge.  It worked.  They came and they screamed and they danced and they lost their hearts and minds in the HOT Lava.  A year later the CD that was born from that crazy fest - Seriously Raw:  Live at Sunbanks, that had been released in the Spring of that year, had been riding the Roots Blues Charts Top 50 for weeks on end.  By year end it was named on an amazing amount of Top 10 Lists.  Bill Wax, XM BB Kings Bluesville spun "House Of The Blues" - one of the songs from the CD, and every time he did, I sold a CD.  So I guess there was some kind of magic juju juice in that Lava I was spewing that day!!! LOL Whatever it was, I’m very grateful.

Cee Cee with husband Rob "Slideboy" Andrews
What’s in the works for you, musically…..anything you’d like to share?

Well much to the surprise of our fans who will be reading this, we most likely will the studio again next spring.  (hee hee).  We are working on a new sound and we feel excited to get in and lay these new ideas down.  This will not discount anything we have already done, it’s just a new layer of creation that is aching to be born.  It will also open up many more opportunities for us for performance around the world.  We also have something special up under our sleeves that we are working on and with God’s Grace and guidance it will come into birth sometimes soon!  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Music IS Medicine - Ten Questions With Zac Harmon

Zac Harmon was born and raised in Jackson, MS, cutting his musical teeth at Jackson's historic Farish Street District.  As a teen, he gigged with local legends like Z.Z. Hill, Sam Myers, and Dorothy Moore.  He moved to L.A. in the 80's and worked as a studio musician, writer, and producer for artists like the O'Jays, the Whispers, Alexander O'Neal, Karyn White, and Black Uhuru.

Though he enjoyed success, Harmon longed to return to his blues roots and, in 2002, he released a live disc, Live at Babe & Ricky's Inn, a strong release that put Harmon firmly in the "Next Generation" of blues artists.  In 2004, his band won the IBC's "Best Unsigned Band" award, and followed up that release with 2005's impressive The Blues According to Zacariah, which won the BMA for Best New Artist Debut in 2006.  The disc mixed the blues with R&B, gospel, funk, reggae, and soul.  Harmon followed up with a pair of releases, 2008's Europe-only Shot in the Kill Zone, and 2009's From the Root.  

He's done a lot of other things in the interim, acting in the movie, Black and Blue, participating in the Bluesapalooza tour of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008, and touring Sicily, Italy, and Egypt as part of the "Pizza and Pyramid Tour" in 2009, even performing on site at the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx.

Recently, Harmon released what is probably his best CD to date, Music Is Medicine.  His music has always been biographical at times, but Music Is Medicine is probably his most personal album yet, with songs like "Grandma's Prayer," and "Country Boy."  There's a healthy dose of R&B on tracks like "Miss American Girl" and "Talk To Me," and Harmon shows some sizzling guitar skills on tracks like "Blue Pill Thrill," "Running From the Devil," and "Drowning in Hollywood."  I figure you'll be seeing this disc on a lot of Top Ten lists at the end of the year....mine for sure.  This is some great stuff.

Mr. Harmon was gracious enough to sit down and answer Ten Questions with Friday Blues Fix this week and we appreciate it very much.  Check it out below.

The Zac Harmon Band in front of the Alamo Theatre in Jackson, MS
(L to R) Buthel, Corey Lacy, Harmon, Cedric Goodman

You have a very diverse background as a composer, producer, and performer that encompasses a lot of different styles and genres of music.   This obviously developed over a period of time, so who are your musical influences and why? 

My very basic musical influences are blues musicians like Muddy Waters, Howlin; Wolf, Albert King, BB King, Albert Collins, and Jimi Hendrix. I was also influenced by jazz musicians like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and George Duke. Then, because I was a 70’s teen, I was influenced by Sly Stone, Bob Marley, and Bobby Womack.

What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

Funk, Jazz, Reggae, and of course the Blues. 

When did you decide that you wanted to be a musician?

When I first touched a harmonica at 5.

What is your favorite part about playing music for a living?

Healing through music.

Jackson, MS Blues Royalty - King Edward, Zac Harmon, Jessie Robinson, (front) Jarekus Singleton

You’ve played with a lot of great musicians over the years….do you have any cool stories about your playing with all these musicians, either in the studio or onstage?

The most humbling story is when I played with Dorothy Moore. She was on tour opening for BB King and Bobby Bland. After our set, I was always looking for the party and never hung around to listen to BB. I thought I was such a hot guitar player and of course could learn nothing from BB. Well one night we were in Kansas City and a storm came up. We had to stay in the auditorium and I was forced to listen to BB. He totally blew my mind. He played with such articulation and feeling that it really put me in my place. I spent the remainder of the tour trying to get as much as I could from BB and of course he was such a gracious person. I truly learned how to be a bluesman.

I think your newest release, Music is Medicine, is your best yet.  It’s loaded with great songs that cover a pretty broad range of styles.  Can you tell us the story behind a couple of them?

The songs on this CD are my conversations with the world. "Grandma’s Prayer" is about my Grandmother. She was a very strong religious woman that believed in the power of prayer. She didn’t have much but her prayer’s fueled a generation in my family. "Country Boy" is the story of my early years leaving Mississippi and going to the west coast. My Mother’s words were the source of my strength.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to fish.

Musically speaking, is there anything that you want to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

I would love to play with Eric Clapton. I love the freedom in his music.

What are some of your favorite albums?

My favorite albums are Endless Boogie by John Lee Hooker. Albert Collins' Live, Band of Gypsys by Jimi Hendrix, The London Sessions by Howlin’ Wolf, "Let’s Cut It" by Elmore James, Feel by George Duke, Soul Almighty by Bob Marley, Life on Mars by Dexter Wansel, and After the Gold Rush by Neil Young. Actually there are too many to mention.

Your father, George “Doc” Harmon, passed away earlier this year.  As owner of Harmon’s Drug Store, he was a much-loved figure on Farish Street in Jackson and touched a lot of lives, both young and old.  What lessons did you learn from him and your mother that you’ve taken with you in your life and tried to pass on to others?

My Dad had the heart of a servant. He dedicated his life to helping people. This I have taken up from him. I have dedicated my life to healing through music because Music IS Medicine.

Zac Harmon - Discography

Live at Babe & Ricky's Inn

The Blues According to Zacariah

Shot in the Kill Zone

From The Root

Music Is Medicine

Friday, August 10, 2012

On The Road

I'm on the road this week, attending a meeting, so I'm blogging from a hotel room this week.  Needless to say, I don't have many resources at hand, so this may be a short post.  I think we'll be looking at a couple of items of interest, plus a few new releases.

Johnnie Bassett passed away this weekend at the age of 76, from liver cancer.  Bassett was a mainstay of the Detroit blues scene since the early 50's, primarily working as a session guitarist for Detroit's Fortune Records, and leading his own group, Joe Weaver and the Bluenotes.  He also backed Nolan Strong, Andre Williams, and The Miracles (he played on their first single, "Got a Job"), as well as John Lee Hooker, Dinah Washington, and Little Willie John.

In the late 90's, he emerged as a front man on several successful albums for Fedora, Black Magic, and Cannonball, where he recorded one of his most familiar tunes, "Cadillac Blues."

After Cannonball folded, Bassett didn't return to the studio until 2009, but he was able to release two more discs......the last one, I Can Make That Happen, being released just a month ago.

I haven't heard his last couple of releases, but I heard all of his 90's material and I loved his laid-back, almost jazzy style, mixing T-Bone Walker/B.B. King-style guitar with his deep, mellow vocals.  I remember seeing him years ago at the Handys in Memphis (around '99).  He played "Cadillac Blues" at the Orpheum and sounded great.  As my brother and I were leaving, we were walking behind him as he was walking out.  He was holding his guitar case in one hand and his wife's hand in the other.  He will be much missed on the Motor City blues circuit.

We'll be looking at some big new releases over the next few weeks, but this week, check out these mini-reviews.  As always, check out the upcoming issue of Blues Bytes for more details about these discs.

The Blasters were a force of rock and roll nature in the early 80's, with their retro mix of rock, blues, R&B, and country.  In the mid 80's, one of the founding members and principal songwriter, Dave Alvin, left for a solo career, and the band split shortly after.  They reformed around 2002 and have released a couple of albums.  Fun On A Saturday Night (Rip Cat Records) is their first in eight years.  It's a fun romp, with more of a focus on the blues than usual, with songs like Magic Sam's "Love Me With A Feeling," Sonny Boy Williamson's "No More Nights By Myself," and Tiny Bradshaw's "Well Oh Well."  There's also a cool redo of the Johnny Cash/June Carter duet, "Jackson," with X's Exene Cervenka joining Phil Alvin on vocals.  This is a fun disc that could only be better if it was longer.

I don't understand why the Dennis Jones Band isn't a bigger deal.  The trio plays some powerhouse blues/rock, Jones is a charismatic singer and guitarist, and he writes some very good songs that are sometimes topical, sometimes humorous, and always blues-oriented.  If you give it a chance, you will find that his latest release, My Kinda Blues (Blue Rock Records), is probably your kind as well.  The band rips through a rousing set of original tunes, plus a great Chicago-style cover of the late Dave Thompson's "You Took My Baby."  Guest artists Kenny Neal and the great Guitar Shorty also stop by to lend a hand, but this is Dennis Jones' show.  If you like this new release, check out Jones' previous work, plus his new DVD, Live at the Temecula Theater.

For anybody who says the Chicago Blues are fading away, I present to you Linsey Alexander.  The Mississippi native was raised in Memphis, and learned to play guitar from listening to Little Milton and B.B. King records and migrated to Chicago in the late 50's, working mostly on the South Side.  He's played with an All-Star cast of musicians, including King, Little Milton, Bobby Rush, Buddy Guy, Magic Slim, Byther Smith, Otis Clay, and Larry McCray.  His debut for Delmark, Been There Done Thatis his best yet.  In fact, this is one of the best Chicago Blues albums I've heard in a while.  Alexander has a warm vocal style, his songs are good, and he's a strong guitarist.  Delmark has been on a roll with their latest run of releases, and Been There Done That continues the hot streak.

Friday, August 3, 2012

My Favorite Things - Soul Fixin' Man

Soul Fixin' Man was Luther Allison's triumphant return to the U.S. nearly two decades of self-imposed exile in Europe.  In the late 60's and early 70's, Allison's rock-fueled Chicago blues and deep soul vocals had achieved a fair measure of popularity with critics in the U.S., based on his appearance at the 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival, his 1969 Delmark release, Love Me Mama, and his three well-received albums for Motown in the 70's, but critical success didn't necessarily translate into sales and show dates at the time, at least in the U.S.  European countries (Holland, France, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, and France) actually hungered for the blues that the frustrated Allison's home country largely ignored, so during the 70's, he moved his base of operations to Paris, where he enjoyed celebrity status and toured non-stop.

The end result of this move was that even though Allison toured endlessly and recorded nearly a dozen albums throughout Europe for the late 70's and all of the 80's, none of this reached the ears and eyes of his American fans, so Luther Allison's career basically came to a standstill in the U.S.  The only album of his that really saw the light of day here in the 80's and early 90's was the impressive Serious, which was recorded in France, but released domestically by Blind Pig in the mid 80's.

1994 saw the release of Soul Fixin' Man, Allison's first domestic release in over 20 years.  The album shows that Allison displayed a remarkable amount of musical growth during that time span.  Like his Motown releases of the early/mid 70's, there was plenty of soul and rock mixed with Luther's blues, but now Allison also incorporated elements of funk and reggae.  However, with Allison, it was first and foremost the blues.

Allison's agent and longtime friend, Thomas Ruf, formed the Ruf Record label primarily to record Luther Allison and Soul Fixin' Man was the label's first effort (Alligator Records handled the American distribution).  Allison recorded the disc with right-hand man, guitarist James Solberg, and Solberg's band, in Memphis with the legendary Jim Gaines producing.

The songs were all top notch....Allison wrote most of them.  The opening cut, "Bad Love," is one of his all time best.  B. B. King was a big influence on Allison and it really shows on this track.  The Memphis Horns (Andrew Love and Wayne Jackson) are a huge asset on this tune.  Allison's son Bernard performs this track live and recorded it on his first CD after his father's death.  He does a fantastic job on it whenever he plays it, really capturing the spirit of his father's original, but he knows that this is, and always will be a Luther Allison question.

The title track, also written by Allison with James Solberg, is an autobiographical track with some blazing fretwork.  Allison trained as a shoemaker and repairman before taking up music).  Allison penned several other noteworthy tracks, including "I Gave It All," a bare-bones soulful number with understated guitar and an emotional vocal.  "You Been Teasin' Me," is a loose-limbed funk rocker.  "Nobody But You" allows the guitarist to show off his slide work, an underrated facet of his music.  "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" mixes soul and jazz and showcases keyboardist Ernest Williamson.

The cover tunes are really strong.  Allison borrows two tracks from the Malaco Records songbook, both written by Sam Mosley and Bob Johnson ("She Was Born That Way" and "Love String").  He also covers the Bob Geddins/Sugar Pie DeSanto tune, "I Want To Know."   Most of these tracks are soul-based and they show that if Allison had decided to go the soul route, he would have been just fine.

But the real show-stopper on Soul Fixin' Man is Allison's stunning version of the Guitar Slim standard, "The Things That I Used To Do."  Accompanied only by Williamson's churchy organ, Allison gets to the very heart of the song, a tune of regret and renewed hope, with one of his best vocals ever.  I get goosebumps on my goosebumps even now when I hear it.

I can remember when Soul Fixin' Man hit the record stores.  I had only heard Allison via his Blind Pig release and a live recording from Ann Arbor of Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Somebody to Love" on one of the Atlantic Blues volumes of the mid 80's.  I was immediately hooked by the raw, rugged rock-based guitar of Serious and those strong vocals that were reminiscent of the Stax era.   I didn't know the whys and wherefores about his long absence from recording, but then there wasn't a lot of new product coming from blues artists in the late 80's anyway.

Allison in 1974
That's the sad thing about Luther Allison's career to me.  If you listen to his work for Motown done shortly before he moved overseas, you will realize that what he was doing in 1974 was not that far removed from what he was doing in 1994.  Basically, Allison's U.S. audience was out of luck for twenty years because they didn't buy his albums or see him perform.  By the time he returned, his days were numbered.

Frustrated as that might make you feel, think about the man himself......having to relocate across the world to ply his trade and to achieve success.  While it had to be great to have such a following as he did in Europe, you know it would have meant even more to have that level of fame and popularity in his homeland.  Then, when he finally starts reaching that level in the U.S., he's stricken with cancer and gone within a few weeks.

That being said, I really don't think Luther Allison spent a lot of time being bitter about what might have been.  He loved what he did too much for that.  Obviously, he left everything he had on the stage every night, regardless of the number of people watching, where he was performing, and regardless of how he felt that night.  He gave those marathon four-hour shows until he literally couldn't do it anymore.

On August 12, fifteen years ago, Allison left us, but fortunately we've been blessed with an abundance of recordings that have been issued and re-issued since his death, both live and studio.  The best place to start with Luther Allison is with Soul Fixin' Man.  By no means should you stop there though.  He had some fantastic recordings on either side of this masterpiece.