Friday, September 14, 2012

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue #7

Welcome back.  Here we are once again visiting one of Friday Blues Fix's most popular themes.  In case you're visiting for the first time, or you just haven't been paying attention all the other times, FBF will take a look at a blast of blues from the past (Something Old), a shot of blues from the current scene (Something New), either a blues man doing rock or a rocker doing blues....whatever suits me at the moment (Something Borrowed), and someone who sums up the essence of Blues as we know it (Something Blue).  Are you with us?  Outstanding!   Let's get started.

The Mississippi Sheiks (L to R):  Bo Carter, Walter Vinson, Lonnie Chatmon

For Something Old, let's go way back to the 1930's, for a good ol' shot of Mississippi Delta blues, courtesy of the Mississippi Sheiks.  The Sheiks were basically a family group, consisting of members of the Chatmon family from Bolton, MS.  The Chatmons were a musical family dating back to slavery times.  Their most famous member was Armenter Chatmon, better known to most pre-war blues fans as Bo Carter, who was a successful solo artist as well, having recorded the original version of "Corinne, Corrina," but also specializing in ribald songs like "Banana In Your Fruit Basket" and "Your Biscuits Are Big Enough For Me."

The first version of the Sheiks was Carter, his two brothers Sam and Lonnie Chatmon, and Walter Vinson.  They played guitars and fiddles and were adept at several different styles of music (blues, country, popular....even in Carter's risque style) since they made their living playing parties for many different groups of people.  They are probably best known for their song, "Sitting on Top of the World," which has been recorded by Bob Wills, Howlin' Wolf, Bill Monroe, the Grateful Dead, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Eric Clapton, Jeff Healey, and many others.  Robert Johnson actually redid the song, transforming it into "Come On In My Kitchen."  If you've seen the Andy Griffith movie, A Face In The Crowd (highly recommended), you've heard it played there.  The Sheiks recorded numerous songs for several labels during the 30's and their music is still well-loved today, as evidenced by the release of a wonderful tribute CD and DVD from a couple of years ago.  Meanwhile, check out the Mississippi Sheiks performing their big hit.

For Something New, check out Joanne Shaw Taylor.  This British singer/guitarist was discovered by Dave Stewart if the Eurhythmics around ten years ago when she was 16.  Stewart recruited her to play in his supergroup D.U.P. for a European tour.  She released her first disc, White Sugar, for Ruf Records in 2009, and will be releasing her third disc, Almost Always Never, next week (Sept. 18).  Ruf Records has built an impressive arsenal of female blues guitarists over the past few years, and Taylor has the potential to be the best of them all.  Her guitar playing was influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Albert Collins.  She's also a great singer and her songwriting has improved with each album.  Check out "Blackest Day," a cut from her first CD.

For Something Borrowed, let's revisit Boz Scaggs.  Scaggs enjoyed a measure of pop success in the 70's and early 80's, with a hit list that ranged from R&B to disco to country to pop.  While most pop fans may remember the slick, schmaltzy pop hits like "We're All Alone" and "Look What You've Done To Me," most longtime fans realize that Scaggs got his start playing the blues with schoolmate Steve Miller.  His first couple of releases were full of blues tunes and his marathon cover of Fenton Robinson's "Somebody Loan Me A Dime" featured guitarist Duane Allman.  However, these records didn't sell, so Scaggs veered more to the mainstream with subsequent releases and more success until he took a lengthy hiatus in the 80's.

When he resurfaced in the late 80's, he released an all-blues album, Come On Home, in 1997 that featured his renditions of some classic blues and soul tunes from the past.  There were some great tunes on this album, notably a cover of Earl King's wonderful "It All Went Down The Drain," "Goodnight Louise," and "Picture of a Broken Heart," a Scaggs tune that Robert Cray had recorded a few years earlier, but my favorite tune was his cool cover of Chris Kenner's New Orleans R&B classic, "Sick and Tired."  I love the original version from the 60's, but Scaggs' take just clicked for me and is still one of my favorites.

For Something Blue, we present Mr. Otis Spann.  If you look up "blues piano" in the dictionary, more than likely there's a picture of Spann next to the definition.  Spann was an important member of the quintessential Muddy Waters band, playing on most of Waters' recordings between 1953 and 1969.  Spann didn't really launch his own solo career until the late 50's/early 60's, when he recorded two amazing records for Candid Records with Robert Lockwood Jr.  All of his solo work throughout the 60's, with Candid, Vanguard, Bluesway, Testament, Prestige, and other labels is uniformly great.  Unfortunately, cancer cut Spann's career short and he passed away in 1970 at the age of 40.  He was a talented singer, too, as evidenced on this track, "Ain't Nobody's Business."

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