Friday, September 27, 2013

Blues Legends - B.B. King

B.B. King celebrated his 88th birthday on September 16.  If you're a blues fan of any kind, whether you're a major fan who listens to nothing but the blues or a recent fan just picking up on the music, you're familiar with King.  For years, he's been the most mainstream of blues artists, appearing on multiple TV series as himself, on nearly every talk show of the past fifty or so years, various commercials, and even the occasional motion picture.  He has probably influenced more guitarists, not just blues but also rock guitarists, over the past decades as any other guitarist in any other genre.

His style is immediately recognizable with the fluid string bending and his shimmering left hand vibrato.  As impressive as it is to hear on record, you really have to see him do it, and how effortless he makes it seem to be.  Despite his influence on other guitarists, there really isn't anybody else out there who plays quite like him....yet if you listen to other guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Luther Allison, Otis Rush, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Elmore James, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Derek Trucks (how's that for a wide-ranging list of talent??!!!!), you can actually hear King throughout their fret work.  As formidable as his talents are on guitar, his vocal power is every bit its match.  Rugged and strong, even as he approaches 90 years old, it's as distinctive as his guitar work.

B.B. King was born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925, near the small Mississippi Delta town of Itta Bena.  As a youngster, he moved between his mother and his grandmother....his father abandoned the family when King was four years old and his mother remarried soon after.  Raised predominantly by his grandmother, young King was raised singing in the church and working as a sharecropper before moving to Indianola, MS as he approached his 18th birthday.

Bukka White
After a few years, King moved up north to Memphis, following his cousin, Booker T. Washington White.  The man that blues fans know as Bukka White had recorded some of the finest pre-war blues in the late 30's....songs like "Shake "Em On Down," "Parchman Farms Blues," 'Fixin' To Die Blues," "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues," etc.....  King lived with White for ten important months, as White instructed him on playing blues guitar.

King took what White showed him, along with influences from early giants like T-Bone Walker and Blind Lemon Jefferson, mixed it with the gospel style that he had played for several gospel groups previously, plus his love for country music and the jazz stylings of Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt, and forged his own distinctive style, but soon he headed back to Indianola, where he stayed until 1948, when he returned to the Bluff City to stay.

"The Beale Street Blues Boy"
Soon he was playing his music on the pioneering Memphis radio station, WDIA, one of the first radio stations to have an all-black format.  King was able to plug his local performances while playing at the station, and soon had his own program, where he operated as "The Beale Street Blues Boy," which he later shortened to "Blues Boy," and eventually "B.B."  Starting out as a ten-minute spot, "King's Spot" eventually became so popular that it was expanded and later was called "The Sepia Swing Club."  During his air time, King spun records and played his own music in the studio, and the exposure led to great things for the young blues man.

In 1949, King cut his first record, "Miss Martha King" (named for his wife), for Bullet Records, out of Nashville.  Soon, he signed with the Bihari Brothers' RPM Records in Los Angeles, and most of his early recordings were produced by Sam Phillips, who later started Sun Records.  King was very active with RPM, eventually moving and doing his recording in L.A., and his first big hit came in 1951 with "Three O'Clock Blues."  Originally recorded by Lowell Fulson, the song has become a blues standard.

The hits continued pretty much non-stop, with songs like "Woke Up This Morning," "Please Love Me," "You Upset Me Baby," "Every Day I Have The Blues," "Sweet Little Angel," and "When My Heart Beats Like A Hammer."  During his years with RPM (and later Kent Records), King moved effortlessly from the gutbucket roadhouse blues to the smoother urban blues to exuberant gospel numbers and swing tunes.  His guitar work became more forceful and aggressive (the vocals were already there at the time) and he started his long 300+ shows a year streak, becoming a mainstay of the so-called "Chitlin' Circuit"

In 1962, King switched over to ABC-Paramount Records, which later became part of MCA Records,which has merged and morphed with other labels over time, one of which is Giffen Records, the label King is currently associated with.  He continued to hit the charts with the occasional song, but in 1964, he released what is still considered by many to be THE live blues album, Live at the Regal.  King has released many great live albums, but this effort, recorded in Chicago, captures him at his best, not just as a guitarist and singer, but most of all as an entertainer.  At times, the crowd seems as if they are on the verge of exploding.  This is what a live performance is supposed to sound like.

Among King's other hits from the 60's with ABC were the above track, "How Blue Can You Get," "Don't Answer The Door," "Paying The Cost To Be The Boss," and "Why I Sing The Blues."  In 1969, he recorded his signature song, Roy Hawkins' "The Thrill Is Gone."  It was a marked departure from King's standard fare, with a lush arrangement including violins replacing the usual horn backing, and the results placed King not only at the top of the R&B charts, but also placed King firmly in the Pop charts as well.  In 1969, King also opened for the Rolling Stones during their American tour, so his name was pushed into the mainstream at that time, based on this and his new and improved chart success.

In the 70's, King continued to have chart success, in part because he veered from the standard blues treatments and combined Pop, R&B, and Jazz into his sound.  "To Know You Is To Love You," was a Stevie Wonder/Syreeta Wright composition that saw King teaming with Wonder and the band that was prominently featured on many of the 70's Philly Soul hits.  He also ventured into the Jazz arena by working with the Crusaders, one of the biggest groups in the jazz field during the 70's, on "Better Not Look Down" and "Never Make Your Move Too Soon."  In addition to two live recordings with longtime Memphis cohort, Bobby "Blue" Bland, King also released another excellent live album, Live at Cook County Jail, that runs a close second to Live at the Regal.

In the 80's, King's recorded output decreased quite a bit, and a lot of what he did release hasn't held up very well due to concessions to the popular bells and whistles of the era (synthesizers, computerized drums, etc...) but he continued to perform over 300 shows a year and made numerous appearances on the late night shows, assorted movies and TV shows (Sanford & Son, The Cosby Show, Married.....With Children, Touched By An Angel, The Young and the Restless, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air).  He reached a whole new audience in the late 80's, when he appeared on U2's Rattle and Hum album and movie, singing with Bono on "When Love Comes To Town."  He was inducted into the  Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

In the 90's, King sort of enjoyed a resurgence in the studio, cutting several albums that rank with his best.  1993's Blues Summit was the first of several releases that teamed the legend with various guest the case of Blues Summit, it was an all-star group of his peers, including Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Joe Louis Walker, John Lee Hooker, Lowell Fulson, Etta James, Koko Taylor, and Albert Collins.  Riding With The King was a 2000 collaboration with Eric Clapton that won a lot of well-deserved attention.

However, the best of King's recordings over the past twenty years featured just him.  Blues on the Bayou, recorded in Louisiana with his working band, and with King himself serving as producer, was a great return to the straightforward blues, and Let The Good Times Roll, a tribute to one of his heroes, Louis Jordan, was a fun set as well.  He also recorded a pair of live discs that show the old tiger had plenty left in the tank, even as he approached his mid 80's.

King's most recent studio effort was One Kind Favor, recorded in 2008.  Produced by roots favorite T-Bone Burnett, the set really took King out of his comfort zone.  He recorded a set of songs he had never previously recorded and the whole disc has a really earthy feel, far removed from the slick sound that he's been associated with for so long.  There were also three songs from one of his earliest influences, Lonnie Johnson, and a reflective take on Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," from where the album title was taken.  If this should happen to be King's final studio recording, and there seems to be nothing else in the works right now, it's an appropriate send-off.

Over the past few years, King has trimmed back his touring schedule somewhat, not traveling abroad as much and staying seated for most of his shows, and has the occasional health issue (he developed diabetes in the early 90's).  However, he hasn't slowed down that much and continues to make appearances and numerous domestic festivals, including all of Eric Clapton's Crossroad Guitar Festivals, and recently performed at the White House in 2012, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 and the Presidential Medal of the Arts in 1988.

King's biggest honor probably came in 2008, when The B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center opened in September of 2008.  The Center traces King's entire life and career, from his humble beginnings to his formative years in Memphis and through his years as a blues icon.  There are tons of interactive areas that people of all ages will enjoy.  If you're a fan of King's and have not experienced this wonderful attraction, you are missing a real treat.  It's a great way to spend half a day completely immersed in the blues.

This has been a lengthy post and, believe or not, we've only scratched the surface as far as the importance of B.B. King to the Blues World.  No one else has influenced more guitarists and performers than he has.  It's hard to imagine what the blues would actually sound like had he never played a note.  It's absolutely amazing that as good as his career has been, it still continues nearly as strong as it has ever been.  Blues musicians and fans will never be able to repay their debt to this great man.

Of course, we would be remiss if we didn't mention King's partner-in-crime, his accomplice of over sixty years of playing the blues......Lucille.  According to King, in the winter of 1949, he was playing at a dance hall in Arkansas.  To heat the room, a barrel half-filled with kerosene was lit, which was common at the time.  While King was performing a fight broke out between two men and the burning barrel was knocked over, sending burning fuel running across the floor and starting a major fire, killing two people.  While evacuating, King realized he had left his prized guitar, a $30 Gibson, in the building, so he rushed back in to retrieve it.  The next day, King found out that the two men who were fighting were arguing over a woman named Lucille, so he named his guitar after the woman and has continued that practice with every guitar he's owned since that night, as a reminder to never do anything as stupid as running into a burning building or fighting over a woman.

Before we go, here's a few other selected recordings by King that no self-respecting blues fan should be without.  Please keep in mind that this represents just a small portion of King's body of work and nobody should stop with just a couple of B.B. King albums in their collection.  These recommendations will focus on collections of his best work.

First, let's look at his early recordings, covering the early 50's through the early 60's, when he was developing his sound and combining his influences (urban blues, country, jazz, rock & roll, jump blues, and R&B) to create his own unique brand of blues.....

The best single disc release from this time is King of the Blues, which was his sixth release for Crown Records.  This set was reissued by Ace Records in 2003, and adds ten bonus tracks to the original release.  If you only want one disc of early B.B. King, this would be the one to go for.  It doesn't have all the hits, but it's a good and diverse representation of his work during this era.  For the hits, listeners will be well-served with Original Greatest Hits, released by Virgin Records on the anniversary of King's 80th birthday, which includes 40 tracks on 2 discs covering this same period.  This is as good and representative a set as you can get of King's early recordings, hits, near-hits, and a few rarities, too.

For the period covering the early 60's through the modern era, here are two selections (of many) worth hearing.  We discussed Greatest Hits a few weeks ago for our first Ten Essentials List, so you know what you're getting there, but Anthology offers more tracks (34) on 2 discs, basically the cream of all of King's recordings during the 60's and 70's with a few sprinkled in from the 80's and 90's.  You really can't go wrong with either of these sets.


For listeners wanting to expand their knowledge of B.B. King, here are two four-disc sets to consider.  The Vintage Years was released by Ace Records about ten years ago and is probably my favorite collection.  I love the early 50's and 60's recordings and this set is as close to perfect a box set as I've ever heard.  There are four discs, one consisting of his hits, another focusing on his Memphis-styled blues sound, another showcasing on his gospel, soul, jump, R&B, and rock & roll ventures, and a disc that covers many of his later works of the 50's and early 60's, with some tunes that may be new listening to even die-hard fans.  There are also several interesting essays in the accompanying booklet.  King of the Blues was also a four-disc set, released by MCA in 1992, and covering his entire career up to that point, though the first decade gets short shrift a little bit, and featuring all of the familiar songs.

For that absolute, 100%, sho-nuff B.B. King fan who wants the most complete collection there is, check out Ladies & Gentlemen...Mr. B.B. King, which was released last year.  This set covers everything from start to his most recent studio release in 2008.  It's available as a 4-disc set, or as a 10-disc set (exclusively from Amazon) and I'm pretty sure this is all the B.B. King you will ever need.  I don't have this set in either form, maybe one day, but I'm pretty confident that it has to be the be-all, end-all for B.B. King's recording legacy.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Coming Soon!!!!!

Due to a combination of technical difficulties and the Dreaded Deadline Syndrome striking in various locations at the same time, this week's Friday Blues Fix will take a look at a few upcoming posts to give you a heads-up about what to expect in the next few weeks.  This will give you something to look forward to, plus it will allow you the opportunity to visit the FBF archives and see if there are any posts of interest that you might have missed.

It's hard to believe, but we are approaching 200 posts, nearly four years worth, so if you're a relative newcomer to the blog, take a few minutes to see what we've been talking about.....after you read this week's post, of course.

Over the summer, I was able to pick up a few discs up on Amazon.  Some were CD versions of previous albums that I had on cassette, while a few were discs that I had been looking for a while.

Some of these, you already have read about on FBF....Lazy Lester Rides Again, Robert Randolph Presents The Slide Brothers, Boz Scaggs' Memphis.......but I picked up several more that deserve a mention.  In the next few weeks, we will look at several releases and they will be the subjects of a couple of different posts.  One of these will take a look at some of Otis Rush's live recordings, while another will focus on a pair of excellent collections of unsung artists that deserve to be heard.

One of the things I like to do is just be spontaneous with a couple of purchases, buying a set with no idea who most of the artists or songs are.  It's a great way to find some new music, but it's always a big leap of faith when you do that.  I'm happy to report that I did find some great new music by doing of them is a fantastic series of Louisiana swamp blues from the early 70's that I had always heard about but had never been able to find and the other is a great collection of zydeco music from many of the genre's up-and-coming artists of the 90's.  You'll be hearing more about both of these sets in a few weeks.

Regarding the Otis Rush live recordings....earlier this summer, someone asked me about the possibility of writing a biography of Rush.  I have to admit that I had thought about doing that in the past.  After all, Rush is a local guy who made it big and he still has family in the area.  With that in mind, I did approach a couple of people to get their thoughts on writing the book and they basically told me that it was probably not a good idea because 1) Mr. Rush would more than likely not be forthcoming with any information, being the intensely private man that he is, and 2) because of any reluctance he might have, other associates of his would probably respect his wishes and also not be available as sources for the book.

I understood this and backed off (I may still write up an "appreciation" of Rush that would be available locally, if that interested anybody in his home county), but while I was pondering it, I decided to try and fill the gaps in my Otis Rush recordings collection.  Most of these gaps consisted of his live recordings (though I did also pick up Troubles Troubles, the original Sonet version of the controversial Alligator reissue, Lost in the Blues, which could also be a future FBF post by itself), plus a DVD he recorded shortly before his illness.  We'll discuss those soon.

There will also be another Ten Questions With......installment in the next few weeks with an artist who has rapidly become one of my favorites with his insightful songwriting and his impressive guitar skills.  He just released a wonderful new album and he'll be talking about that, the songwriting process, his inspirations, etc....., so be on the lookout for Ten Questions With.....Toronzo Cannon!!!!

Finally, there will be one more post coming up definitely in the near future.  It's a Blues Legends installment, only this one will be taking a look at a Blues Legend who is actually a living Blues Legend, something never tackled previously here at FBF.  He's a one of a kind Blues Legend who continues to amaze and astound audiences, and influence scores of blues singers and guitarists, even into his late 80's.

FBF will also look at some of the great new releases that have hit, or will be hitting, the shelves during the fall season.  There will be a pretty diverse list of albums to choose from, something for everybody and enough that we may have to spend a couple of weeks on it.

All these things will be happening at Friday Blues Fix in the coming weeks.  Be sure to check back on a regular basis (every Friday works for me) and see what's going on.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ten Questions with.......Phil Gates

Phil Gates has been around music all of his life, coming from a family who loved music of all styles.  That diverse range of musical influences combines to form his own unique vision of the Blues.  His recent release, Live at the Hermosa Saloon, puts that vision on full display.  Gates shows himself to be an excellent songwriter, a guitarist of impressive range, and a soulful vocalist.  Backed by a tight three-piece band, He puts on a great performance in front of an obviously appreciative audience.  This is what a live record is supposed to sound like.

In addition to his solo career (his Addicted to the Blues release made FBF's Top Discs You Might Have Missed list in 2010), Gates has also worked as a producer on several blues and R&B releases, as a session guitarist for multiple albums, and he also scored the AFI movie, My Normal Life.

Mr. Gates agreed to sit down and answer Ten Questions from Friday Blues Fix.  We appreciate his time and his talents.  Check him out.........

Friday Blues Fix:  You come from a musical family…..did you always know that you wanted to have a career in music?

Phil Gates:  Yes, I've always wanted a career in music for as long as I can remember. By that, I mean constantly being involved in as many aspects of music as possible. This would include things like: writing, recording, audio engineering, performing, touring, playing guitar on other artist’s projects, Co- Producing, and Producing.

FBF:  Besides your family, who were your musical influences (composers and performers) and why?

PG:  The ones who were direct influences on me musically were Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Roy Buchanan, Al Di Meola and Rory Gallagher. I liked how they articulated the instrument, by picking, palming, and slide guitar techniques. And how they applied effects. They didn't just HAVE effects on their tone, they APPLIED effects to specific phrases.

Then I got to cats like Albert King, and Shuggie Otis, Fred McDowell, B.B King, Johnny Winter, and Buddy Guy because they had a WAY of saying things on guitar. With just a guitar.

Later it was time to stretch with cats like Larry Carlton, John McLaughlin, Lee Ritenour, Robben Ford, Mike Stern and John Scofield, because they play the changes, and could play inside, or stretch outside.

For Composers, especially for film, I’m a James Newton Howard fan, or Ennio Morricone. Go listen to the score for Grand Canyon, or The Legend of 1900. Amazing.

FBF:  What kind of music did you listen to when you were growing up?

PG:  My dad used to play a lot of Jazz records, so the first melody I believe I ever knew was John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”, first song with lyrics: Ray Charles “Hit the Road Jack”. There was a lot of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Cannonball Adderley, Eartha Kitt. My mother was a classical fan, so Wagner and Beethoven were there, as well as great R&B singers like Sarah Vaughan and Gladys Knight. My sisters were playing everything like Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye from Motown. Also any thing from Wilson Pickett to Isaac Hayes from Stax records, and my brother brought in everything from Bill Haley and the Comets, to Albert King and Freddy King, Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Carlos Santana. I’m also a fan of Rock bands like Rush, Robin Trower, to Sting, Peter Gabriel, Papa Wemba and Jerry Douglas. I like variety.

FBF:  When did you realize that you wanted to play the blues?

PG:  When I started playing guitar. I had taken Violin, and Clarinet in school, but when I heard the stuff from, Hendrix and Roy Buchanan, I was done.

FBF:  You've produced or co-produced several recordings, including Zac Harmon’s The Blues According to Zachariah…..what drew you to that part of the music business?

PG:  I dig all of the aspects of the creative. I like helping an artist develop a project with a sound as close to what they hear in their heads as possible. That’s always fun. I used to mix live music for a lot of great Jazz artists, I learned a lot from them. I can apply many of those lessons to help other artists. As a Producer, you have the freedom and responsibility to make the artist sound and perform the best that they can. Which makes for a better finished product.

FBF:  You've also done a lot of session guitar work over your career….are there interesting stories that you can share about working with some of these musicians, or any life lessons you've learned from any of them?

PG:  Humility. There are SO many great guitarists out there that I’m very honored to just be asked to perform on a session. I did a session with a huge artist once who asked me to play some guitar harmony parts. They asked me what harmonies I heard that could work. I knew instantly that they already knew every harmony possible, and they were just being gracious so I’d feel more comfortable. That was cool.

I was also on a session tracking (recording) to 2” analog tape once where the artist needed eight bars of pre-roll to punch in (correct) a bad vocal line here or there. If there are say five spots to fix per song, and ten takes on each, do you know how much billable time that is in a 12 hour session date?

I learned to be fast, and if I have to change something, I need only 2-4 beats to punch, not bars. Producers like people that can get in, get them what they need, and get out. I’ve been very fortunate that most times I get hired for session work, it’s to be me. I get to play what I hear when playing parts or improvising, and not have to play what’s written on a chart.  Though those sessions can be fun as well.

FBF:  Can you tell us a little bit about how LiveAt The Hermosa Saloon came about?  What made you decide to do a live album?  What are the challenges to doing a live recording?

PG:  I’ve recorded many of the shows we’ve performed at various venues. That way, the band gets used to all of my extra gear that I bring. There’s no “Oh man, we’re RECORDING tonight!” anxiety factor. The show that got captured on Live at the Hermosa Saloon was great because there’s SO MUCH unscripted, off the cuff, one off vamps, solos, and everyone was loose, and just having a blast.

The reason I decided on a live record, was that the energy we have on stage, is different than the energy of the CD’s I already have out. I dig those prior CD’s, yet I knew that a live CD would be much more representative of who we really are on stage. I wanted fans, and also industry professionals to be able to get a sense of what the band is like live.

The challenges recording live are pretty minimal. As long as I can get everything recorded well, I’m cool. I paid a lot of attention to make the mix more present, and not like you’re in say, row 20. I wanted to invite the listener IN to the show.

FBF:  If you were compiling a Best of Phil Gates album, what songs would you put on it?

PG:  Wow. All of them of course!!!!! OK for the sake of this interview, and in no particular order:

“Summer In the City”, “End Of Time”, “Evening Train”, “I’m Lost” and “Get Around To Me” from Phil Gates Live at the Hermosa Saloon

“It Doesn’t Matter”, “Unfinished Business”, “Mo Better Blues”, “Away I Go” and “Old School” from In The Mean Time

“Take It Out”, “Back It Up” and “I’m Lost” from Should I?

 “Sexy Little Cool”, Used Me Up” “Evening Train”, “My Babe” and “Addicted” from Addicted To The Blues

“Salina’s Smile” and “Querida” from ThisSide of Me

All available on iTunes mind you…

FBF:  Musically speaking, is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you would like to do?

PG:  I’d love to perform on stage with Buddy Guy, or Jeff Beck. That would be insanely cool.

And as arduous as it can be, I did a sixteen-country world tour in the military in the U.S. Air Force’s “Tops In Blue” show. I’d like to perform another world tour with the music and band I have now.

FBF:  Can you give us a list of a few of your favorite albums or songs?

PG:  OK, You asked for it! It’s pretty eclectic:

"Mary Ann" - Buddy Guy
"Midnight Train" - Buddy Guy
"Goodbye Porkpie Hat" - Charles Mingus or Jeff Beck
"Country Preacher" - Cannonball Adderley or Roy Buchanan
Live in ’74 - Rory Gallagher
Moonflower - Carlos Santana
"Phone Booth" - Albert King
Talk To Your Daughter Robben Ford
"Tipatina's" and "Common Ground" - Mike Stern
Second Winter - Johnny Winter
That’s What I am Here For - Roy Buchanan
Sean Costello - Sean Costello
"After The Fall" - Hiram Bullock
"Universal Peacepipe" and "Blue Misty Morning" - Eric Gales
"Bounce" - Jerry Douglas
"The Crisis" - Ennio Morricone

Bonus Question:  FBF:  What is your favorite part about being a musician?

PG:  Working with other creative people, and the professionals associated with that process. Sharing and learning from each other. Meeting and performing for so many cool fans, and music lovers.

Having a random music idea in the car, or out somewhere. Then taking that idea, putting it on a blank canvas so to speak, then the process of everyone adding their vibe, and energy to it, and being able to show this once random idea to others as music.

That process of creation from idea to fruition is exciting to me.

And of course, playing guitar.

Visit all of these Phil Gates sites for more information and music.....

Friday, September 6, 2013

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue #10

This week, Friday Blues Fix takes a look at the world of the Blues from all directions.  We'll go back to the beginnings of the Blues, we'll see what's new with the Blues, we'll check out what has been influenced by the Blues, and then we'll give a listen to someone who epitomizes the blues.  This is a great way for blues fans to take in a lot of good blues music in just a few short paragraphs.  This is one of FBF's most popular departments, and we thank you regular visitors for making it so. 

Mississippi Fred McDowell
For Something Old, let's go way back to the beginnings of what became the north Mississippi hill country blues sound with Mississippi Fred McDowell.  Though he was usually associated with many of the Mississippi Delta blues guitarists of his era, he actually lived more in the north Mississippi area, east of the delta.  McDowell's style was different from the traditional blues guitarist with it's droning hypnotic style, though he was an impressive slide guitarist, too.  His style was a direct influence on other hill country guitarists that may be more familiar to modern blues fans.....R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, though he was obviously a more versatile guitarist than them.

McDowell had an interesting career in that even though he was active during the 20's and 30's, and boasted a deep repertoire, he never recorded during that time and was "discovered" in 1959 and wasn't even a full-time musician until the 1960's.  When he recorded in the 60's, he took the blues and folk worlds by storm because not only was he an unknown commodity to most (thanks to having no previous body of recorded work), he was also as strong a performer in the 60's as he was earlier, with some fiery guitar and emotionally powerful singing.  Also, he was somewhat nonplussed by all of the new attention he was getting....for years he had farmed and gone about his business in Mississippi and acted like it wouldn't have bothered him a bit to return to that peaceful life if the accolades faded.

Even though he famously said, "I do not play no rock and roll," he was a big influence on many rockers and blues rockers from that era, most notably Bonnie Raitt, whom he coached on slide guitar, and the Rolling Stones, who recorded his song, "You Gotta Move," on their Sticky Fingers album in the late 60's.  Over time, he began to play electric guitar and even toured overseas as part of the American Folk Blues Festival ensemble in the 60's, before succumbing to cancer in 1972 at age 68.

One of McDowell's most popular tunes over the years has been "Shake 'em on Down."  It has been recorded by numerous bluesmen and even a few rockers over the years.  While you listen, please note the guitar work and style that influenced many modern bluesmen, who fell under the hypnotic spell of the hill country sound.

For Something New, let's continue with traditional blues and check out Little G Weevil.  You might not have heard of him yet, but I can predict that you will know who he is soon.  He won the Solo/Duo competition at the 2013 IBC in Memphis, plus he also won the Best Solo Guitarist Award during that week.  A native of Hungary, Weevil has shown a fondness for the pre-war classics as well as artists like John Lee Hooker.  He recently released his third CD, Moving, on VizzTone Records.

For this CD, Weevil wanted to capture the authentic sound of the old classics, so he recorded in a tiny 20 x 15 room in an Atlanta studio near where Blind Willie McTell used to play for tips.  He set up microphones all over the room to capture the atmosphere and setting.  Was this extra effort a success?  I certainly think so.  Moving is a great listen and does an excellent job capturing that raw, down-home feeling of early blues recordings.  If you haven't heard Little G Weevil yet, this is a great opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.

Dan Penn
For Something Borrowed, we turn to the music of Dan Penn.  Penn is one of FBF's favorite songwriters and his songs have been recorded by a huge and diverse set of soul, blues, rock, and country artists for nearly fifty years.  Chances are that you've heard at least one of his songs if you're a music fan.  The coolest thing is that as good a songwriter as Dan Penn is, he's an equally great performer with a voice that rivals many of the soul and blues artists who covered his songs.

One of my favorite cover versions of his songs was done by the Derek Trucks Band a couple of years ago on their Already Free album.  "Sweet Inspiration" was originally a hit in 1968 by a soul group called, appropriately, The Sweet Inspirations.  The group consisted of Cissy Houston (Whitney's mom), Lee Warwick (Dionne and Dee Dee's mom), plus several other singers over the years, including Judy Clay.  The group was in demand as studio session singers and actually provided backing vocals to Van Morrison's classic tune, "Brown Eyed Girl."  The rendition below is from a recent Tedeschi Trucks Band appearance and features former Trucks lead singer and current Tedeschi Trucks backing singer Mike Mattison with Susan Tedeschi on vocals and the incredible guitar of Derek Trucks.  Check it out, and while you're at it, you must listen to their new release, Made Up Mind, one of the standout albums of 2013.

Little Milton Campbell
For Something Blue, I don't think you can get any more blues than Little Milton doing his legendary track, "The Blues Is Alright."  A native of Inverness, MS, Milton Campbell was the total blues package, deep soulful vocals, a fiery lead guitar, and peerless songwriting skills.  That potent combination resulted in Little Milton recording with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR renowned blues labels.....Sun, Chess, Stax, and Malaco.

The list of hit records that Little Milton released is impressive...."We're Gonna Make It," "Grits Ain't Groceries," "If Walls Could Talk," "Little Bluebird," "Walking The Backstreets and Crying," "Annie Mae's Cafe," and his anthem, "The Blues Is Alright."  He was often compared to B.B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland and truthfully, his talent combined the best of both of them.  His guitar work was heavily influenced by King and Bland's soul/R&B approach to the blues was also a factor in Little Milton's development as a performer.  Sadly, he left us in 2005, and though he was one of the most successful blues artists, and one of the most prolific over a fifty-year career, he's not as well known as many of his contemporaries, which is a shame.  Something tells me that we might be seeing a future FBF post dedicated to him.