Friday, September 25, 2015

Blues Legends - Son House

The first time I actually listened to Son House was when I heard one of his tracks on a CD collection called Legends of the Blues, Vol. 1, one of the first releases on the Columbia/Legacy label in the early 90's.  Previously, the only early blues recordings I'd heard were the two Robert Johnson albums.  Most other artists weren't available where I could find them at the time and I was just beginning to explore the wonderful world of mail-order music catalogs.

That particular album had 20 songs from a variety of early, pre-war blues artists and it was, for sure, an amazing experience for a still-fledgling blues fan.  The sound had been dramatically improved, or so the liner notes told me.....I had nothing to compare it with at the time, so that was why I checked it out.  I had read that the sound of older recordings like these could make for challenging listening, so I was pleasantly surprised.  These recordings were very clear, with a minimum of noise, and I heard artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Charley Patton, and Bukka White for the first time, and it made me want to hear more.

Good as all of these were, they didn't hold a candle to the 20th and final track on the album, Son House performing "Death Letter," from his 1965 comeback album.  When I heard House's stunningly intense vocals and the incredible sound of that slide running across the steel guitar, I knew it was something special.  I had seen pictures of Son House over the years in newspapers (when Mississippi musicians were discussed), but didn't know who he was.  A few months after I subscribed to Living Blues, his obituary was printed in the magazine.  I knew who he was, but until hearing him perform "Death Letter," I really didn't know WHO he was.

From that point, I went back and was able to hear his early recordings.  I found them on a couple of collections released by a new discovery of mine at the time, Yazoo Records.  One of the tracks, "My Black Mama (Part 1)," appeared on an album called The Roots of Robert Johnson and, boy, was it tough to listen to at times.  On some songs, there was a lot of surface noise to contend with, but even through the racket, you could still get an idea of the raw intensity he brought to the song and it made me want to hear more, as I'm sure many other blues fans felt when they finally got to hear Son House for the first time.

Son House was born in Coahoma County, near Clarksdale, as Edward James House, Jr.  His date of birth is usually given as March 21, 1902, but Dick Waterman, who "rediscovered" House and helped rejuvenate his career in the 60's as his manager, believes that House was born in the 1800's, maybe in the 1880's, based on various hints that he gave Waterman during their discussions. He came from a musical family, but a family who was focused on the church.  His father was torn between the church and the blues, a trait that his son also inherited.  For his part, Son focused on singing instead of his family's instruments.

He was a Baptist preacher in his mid-teens and had a general dislike for not only secular music but the guitar.  In his mid 20's, not particularly caring for the menial jobs that came with farming and the other available options, he turned to the blues after a drunken night at a local house party, where he picked up a guitar and started playing.  He was paid for his "playing" and apparently it was enough to encourage him to pursue playing the blues in earnest, though he was wracked with guilt about doing so.

House struggled for years between the church and the juke joint, and actually served time in Mississippi's notorious Parchman Farm for murdering a man in a Coahoma County juke joint one night.  He was released in two years, claiming self-defense, but the die was cast.  The judge told him to stay away from Clarksdale and he became a traveling blues man, eventually making his way south to Lula, MS, where he met Charley Patton.  Patton was impressed enough with House's rapidly developing skills that he began inviting him to some of his local appearances.  He also accompanied Patton up to Grafton, Wisconsin, with Willie Brown and Louise Johnson in 1930, where the three of them recorded for Paramount Records on Patton's recommendation.

House had three two-part 78's released by Paramount, but they didn't sell very well, and the production values were so lacking that the few that did survive had horrible surface noise.  Despite that, these three records are considered valuable collector's items today, and House's performances are spell-binding on all three ("Preachin' The Blues," "Dry Spell Blues," and "My Black Mama"....some years later an unreleased test recording of "Walkin' Blues" was discovered), and manage to overcome the background noise.

Alan Lomax heard those Paramount recordings, however, and he sought out House to record for the Library of Congress in 1941.  On these recordings, he played solo and on band tracks with Willie Brown, mandolin player Fiddlin' Joe Martin, and harmonica player Leroy Williams.  House, who had cut back on his playing after Patton's death in 1934 was still at the height of his powers during this session and a subsequent one in 1942.  These recordings are still amazing today.  The musicians were comfortable with each other and it showed.  Some of the tracks went well over the usual three-minute mark of the 78's of the time and it's fairly obvious that many of the musicians who headed north to Chicago later in the decade took a lot of their own performance style from what was on these recordings.

Then.......House disappeared.  He actually moved to Rochester, NY and became railroad porter and later a chef for the New York Central Railroad.  He lived in relative obscurity for twenty years, rarely if ever touching a guitar.  He was rediscovered in 1964 by Nick Perls, Dick Waterman, and Phil Spiro, who had been searching for House all over the Deep South (Waterman later found out, to his chagrin, that Lomax had known House was in Rochester all the time).  When he was found, House was completely unaware that there was any sort of enthusiasm for his early recordings and of the accompanying revival of folk blues.  He didn't even own a guitar at the time.

Son House at Newport, 1966 (photo by Robert Corwin)

Waterman became House's manager and the young musician Alan Wilson (of Canned Heat), who was a huge fan of Son House and knew his repertoire front to back, was recruited to teach "Son House how to play like Son House."  Waterman began booking House at festivals, including the 1964 Newport Festival, at Carnegie Hall, and eventually a 1967 tour of Europe as part of the American Folk Festival.  He also recorded again and the new recordings showed that while he may have lost a little bit off of his fastball, he still played and sang with incredible power and intensity.....and the new recordings were a nice alternative to those old Paramount recordings for new blues fans.  These new fans were amazed at his performances.  Even though he appeared somewhat meek and mild-mannered as he approached the stage, when he strapped on the guitar, he was completely transformed.  Waterman once said (it's on House's tombstone), "It was as if he went into a trance and somehow willed himself to another time and place."  For those awestruck young fans, House was a living link to artists like Robert Johnson and Charley Patton, who they only knew through recordings.  House actually played, traveled, and lived with them.

House toured Europe again in 1970, appearing at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and continued to make appearances until the mid 70's.  By this time, House's health had started to fail and he was losing his battle with the bottle.  In early 1970, he had been drinking in a Rochester bar and passed out in the snow.  He was there all night until he was found and taken to the hospital.  His hands were so badly frostbitten that he was no longer able to play guitar.  He therefore missed out on a huge opportunity, the biggest he ever would have had.  Eric Clapton was a huge fan and had wanted House to open for Clapton and Delaney and Bonnie at the Fillmore East, but Waterman had to turn down the gig because House's hands were so severely damaged.

In 1974, House retired again from music.  By this time, he was suffering from the affects of both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.  He had started having problems remembering songs onstage and his shaking hands had forced him to give up guitar.  He moved to Detroit, and lived there with his wife, Evie, until his death in 1988 from cancer of the larynx.

For the numerous blues artists who were influenced by his music, Son House was the Gold Standard.  He was the direct influence of two blues legends in Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, and indirectly of the numerous blues and rock & roll artists who were influenced by Waters and Johnson.  Last week, I mentioned Richard Shade Gardner's book, Finding Son House:  One Searcher's Story, about Gardner's 1981 visit with House (a great read).  In the foreword to the book, Gardner summed up House's importance to the blues (and rock & roll) rather effectively:

"Imagine the evolution of rock music, outlined on an org chart.  Son House might be the CEO, Waters and Johnson vice presidents of manufacturing and marketing, with Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, and the rest of the generation that followed in sales and distribution.  The board of directors, whence CEO Son received his directives, would be the generation of men and women who preceded him in the fields, before they had access to recording devices, before many had instruments, before some even had their own names.  Son House was that important."

Last month, the city of Rochester hosted an unveiling of the latest Mississippi Blues Trail marker honoring House.  The ceremony took place in the middle of a four-day festival called "Journey To The Son," also in tribute to House which featured concerts, academic papers, reminiscences, guitar workshops, and a reading of Keith Glover's play, "Revival:  The Resurrection of Son House."  Gardner's book also came out during these events and serves as a important document regarding a part of House's life that was previously fairly unknown.

There's also a biography of House written by Daniel Beaumont, Preachin' the Blues:  The Life and Times of Son House.  I haven't read this book yet, but I've seen very good reviews on it, so I'm confident that this would be an excellent way to find out more about House.

Son House - Selected Discography - A Beginner's Guide

The Original Delta Blues (Columbia/Legacy):  This is where I would start.....a budget-priced sampler of House's rediscovery recordings, actually a reissue of his 1965 comeback album with Alan Wilson playing harmonica in support on a couple of tracks.  There are a couple of  A capella tracks that are just amazing and hearing House tear into a couple of the guitars with his fierce vocals and even fiercer guitar will raise goose bumps on even the most jaded listeners.  Once you listen to these songs, you will definitely want to hear more, so from here I would move to.......

Heroes of the Blues:  The Very Best of Son House (Shout! Factory):  This will give you a taste of all of House's repertoire, going back to a couple of his Paramount recordings, a few of his recordings for the Library of Congress, and some live performances from his 60's comeback.  Once you hear this set, you will definitely know whether you want to hear more, and I think you will.  Now, you can expand in each direction, starting with.......

Father of the Delta Blues:  The Complete 1965 Sessions (Columbia/Legacy):  This set is actually where I started listenign to was all that I could find at the time.  It captures the original album (see above), plus alternate takes, previously unreleased songs, and other bonus features.  Wilson plays guitar and harmonica on several tracks.  The thing to think about here is the fact that just a few months earlier, House had not played any of the songs in nearly TWENTY years and had to be RETAUGHT how to play them.  You would never know it by these performances.

Delta Blues (Biograph/Shout! Factory):  The complete 1941-42 Library of Congress recordings, this set is positively riveting, both the solo tunes and the band songs.  The sound has been improved considerably over the years on these tracks.  Anyone who likes acoustic Delta blues at all need these recordings in their collection.

Masters of the Delta Blues:  The Friends of Charley Patton (Yazoo):  This set includes all six sides of House's Paramount recordings, plus the recently-discovered "Walkin' Blues" acetate, plus several other songs from Tommy Johnson, Kid Bailey, Ishman Bracey, Tommy Johnson, Willie Brown, and Louise Johnson.  This is about as good a pre-war collection as you can get.  The sound is as good as it will probably ever get on House's sides, too.

And just for the heck of it, check out the aforementioned Legends of the Blues, Vol. 1 (Columbia/Legacy), if you can find it.  There's only the one House song, but there's a lot of other great music with a great roster and great sound.  It's a fantastic introduction to some of the early blues giants.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue #16

Here we are again, revisiting one of FBF's oldest topics, dating back to the pre-blog days when I used to email songs to my friends every Friday morning.  This week, we will look at four artists, one that hails back to days of yore (Something Old), a relative newcomer to the genre or a new release (Something New), a blues artist taking a song from another genre, or vice versa (Something Borrowed), and finally, an artist who, to me is the essence and epitome of the Blues (Something Blue).  Let's get started, shall we......

For Something Old, here's Son House.  Recently, I've been reading Richard Shade Gardner's Finding Son House, the story of Gardner's quest to meet the Delta Blues legend.  It's a very interesting read and Gardner fills in a gap in House's history that few people knew about.  House's force of nature voice and guitar inspired numerous Delta Blues artists over the years......Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and all the guitarists and performers who were influenced by them.  House's story is worth a full post in itself (I promise to do that soon), the incredible early recordings with Paramount, the Library of Congress recordings, his constant struggles with the church and the juke joint, his disappearance and rediscovery, and his later years.  Gardner's book gives us a glimpse of the latter period, and was very entertaining, so check it out.  To get you in the mood, here's House singing "Walkin' Blues," a song that's associated with his protege' Robert Johnson, but it originated with House.  It has been covered by dozens of subsequent artists over the years since House originally recorded it in 1930.  No one has come close to House's rendition so far, however.

For Something New, check out Clarence "The Blues Man" Turner, a rising star on the Blues scene who is based in the DC area.  He grew up listening to his dad's record collection, which included Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, and became a lifelong fan at the age of eight.  As a teenager, he played the blues, took a bit of time away from the music, but returned with a vengeance and has been impressing fans ever since in festivals across the country. He sings, plays guitar, bass, and drums, but his true calling is guitar.  His music is largely traditional blues, but also has traces of rock, soul, jazz, and swing mixed in.  He finished in the Top Ten at the 23rd IBC in 2007 and recently released his latest CD, The Caster Blaster, which every blues fan should have in their collection.  Here's a sample.....a tune that all of us can relate to.  You definitely need to check this guy out.

For Something Borrowed, I give you Memphis blues icon Preston Shannon.  Shannon was born in Olive Branch, MS in 1947, but his family relocated to Memphis when he was a kid and he developed a love for the blues early on.  He played part-time while working at a hardware company, but went full-time after securing a gig in Shirley Brown's backing band.  He's been a mainstay of the city's blues scene since the early 90's, leading his own band.  He recorded three albums for Rounder's Bullseye Blues subsidiary during the 90's......three excellent albums that showcased his soulful vocals and powerful guitar that shows the influence of Albert and B.B. King.  In the early 90's, I was on Beale Street and walked into B.B. King's Blues Club when I heard some powerhouse blues.  It was Mr. Shannon and his band tearing into Bobby Womack's "Lookin' For A Love."  Shannon plays some great original blues and soul and he also is a very creative interpreter of popular blues and soul.  One of his crowd favorites for many years has been his terrific version of Prince's "Purple Rain".......yes, that's right......Prince's "Purple Rain."  In Shannon's hands, it becomes a stripped-down soul burner.  Check it out below and check out Mr. Shannon if you're ever in Memphis near B.B. King's Blues Club.

For Something Blue, here's the late, great (never thought I'd type that) B.B. King, who would have turned 90 years old on Wednesday.  Also on Wednesday, the city of Memphis renamed the portion of the intersection at Third and Beale Street B.B. King Boulevard, and the B.B. King Museum in Indianola also scheduled some events on his birthday, including allowing visitors the opportunity to view new footage of B.B. King performing in studio.  Geffen Records and Universal Music are reissuing several of King's earliest albums that haven't been available for years, including several on vinyl.  Coolest of all, in next year's Mississippi Blues Marathon, which is held in Jackson, MS each winter, all participants will receive a medal with King playing guitar.  In addition, there have been a couple of multi-disc releases that focus on King's 50's - early 60's recordings that are available at bargain prices that will give newer fans a full account of this legend's early ground-breaking recordings.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Blues For You - Summer, 2015 Edition (Part 3)

Summer is drawing to a close (though you'd never know it by the temperatures around here), so here's the third part of Friday Blues Fix's look at just a few of the summer's best releases.  Unfortunately, your humble correspondent only had time to look at a few releases this week, but you can find out about many more great new albums that deserve to be heard at Blues Bytes, THE monthly online magazine of blues CD reviews.

Buddy Guy - Born To Play Guitar (Silvertone/RCA Records):  By now you should have a good idea what you're getting, and Guy's latest will not disappoint his fans in the least.  Teaming up with his longtime collaborator, producer/drummer Tom Hambridge, the 79-year-old guitar slinger offers up 14 tracks of sizzling blues guitar that give proof to the album title.  As with previous Guy albums, guest stars abound.  This time around, the guest list includes ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, The Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson, British soul singer Joss Stone, Doyle Bramhall II, and the legendary Van Morrison.

Personally, I liked this disc a bit more than his last couple of releases.  The songs were really strong on this set, and while I'm not usually a fan of blues albums loaded with guest stars (see a few of John Lee Hooker's later recordings and Jimmy Roger's final release), all of the collaborations worked really well and Guy remains front and center, as it should be.  Guy and Hambridge make a pretty good team.  Hambridge wrote most of the tunes here, a few co-written with Guy, but Guy sings these tunes like he lived them.  Personally, I hope I have this much fire and passion when I'm 79.  If you're a blues fan, you probably have this already.  If not, what are you waiting for???

The Word - Soul Food (Vanguard Records):  Fourteen years have passed since The Word's amazing self-titled debut.  Each of its members (pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph, keyboardist John Medeski, guitarist Luther Dickinson, drummer Cody Dickinson, and bassist Chris Chew have continued to have big success with their regular groups (Randolph with The Family Band, Medeski with Medeski, Martin, and Wood, and the Dickinsons and Chew with the North Mississippi Allstars), which explains the gap between recordings.  Despite that gap, the group's second recording feels like they've never been apart due to their remarkable musical rapport. 

Like its predecessor, Soul Food is based in gospel, but with the blues, jazz, R&B, soul, funk, and rock mixed in.  When Randolph appeared on the group's first recording, he had only appeared outside of the church a couple of times and only had one recording to his credit.  For those of us who have listened to him over the past fourteen years, it's remarkable how much ground he's covered, but if your only experience with him was in relation to the band's first recording, his development is downright astonishing.  The same can be said of each band member here.  While the early emphasis with the group was more in the jam band vernacular, these songs are shorter and actually more cohesive, which is really saying something.  This time around, there are a few vocals, as well, with appearances from Ruthie Foster and Amy Helm on a track apiece, plus a few from the group itself.  True, fourteen years is a long time between recordings, but when they're this good, they're worth the wait.  I would really like to see these guys perform live somewhere, and after hearing this disc, I'm pretty sure you will, too.   

Jimmy Burns - It Ain't Right (Delmark Records):  Burns makes a triumphant return to the label that heralded his return to the blues after a few years' absence in the mid 90's.  This new release finds Burns backed by his longtime regular band, a potent horn section, and two Windy City keyboard masters, Roosevelt "Mad Hatter" Purifoy on organ and piano man Ariyo of Billy Branch's band.  FBF favorite Dick Shurman produced the disc and it features a whopping fifteen tracks of blues and soul.

Most of the set consists of cover tunes, some of which are familiar and some that are seldom heard, written by or associated with a diverse set of artists such as Percy Mayfield, Jimmy Reed, Goree Carter, Bobby Stone, Ben E. King, Little Walter (the title track), and Burns' late brother, Eddie (FBF profiled the brothers several years ago.....check it out here.).  Probably the coolest cover is Burns' funky remake of the Junior Wells' classic, "Messin' With The Kid."  As always, Burns mixes blues, soul, and gospel quite capably and his songs always combine urban blues with a touch of the down-home sounds of his native Mississippi.  Burns is one of the finest singers in Chicago these days and he certainly outdoes himself on these tunes, making this his best release and one that blues fans should want to have in their collection.

Royal Southern Brotherhood - Don't Look Back - The Muscle Shoals Sessions (Ruf Records):  There have been a few changes in RSB since their last release.  Guitarists Devon Allman and Mike Zito are no longer with the group, having dropped out to focus on their own thriving solo careers.  In their place are two equally impressive young guitarists, Nashville-based Bart Walker and Tyrone Vaughan (son of Jimmie).  Still firmly in-place are singer/percussionist Cyril Neville, bassist Charlie Wooton, and drummer Yonrico Scott.

For their third album, RSB journeyed to FAME Studios, home of many classic 60's soul hits from Otis, Aretha, and the Wicked Pickett, with producer Tom Hambridge to record these 14 great original tunes.  The addition of Walker is not only felt in the guitar department, but also via his powerful vocals.  He and Vaughan play off each other really well, and Vaughan even steps behind the mic for a tune of his own.  Of course, Cyril Neville is Cyril Neville, and he brings plenty of funk and soul to the mix.  The tunes mix southern soul with swampy blues and New Orleans rhythms, as previous RSB discs have done, but this incarnation brings the funk more to the forefront and that's definitely a good thing.

Martin Grosswendt, Mary Flower, Rich DelGrosso - The Ragpicker String Band (Yellow Dog Records):  Three of the the finest guitarists in roots music have joined forces for this awesome collaboration.  DelGrosso (mandolin), Flower (guitar), and Grosswendt (guitar/fiddle/mandolin) have nine Blues Music Award nominations between them and it's easy to see why when listening to this release.  The trio mixes fourteen original songs and covers from legends such as Sleepy John Estes, Lil Johnson, the Mississippi Sheiks, and Thelonius Monk(!).

Flower and DelGrosso each contribute original tunes and they fit well with the standards.  Each of the three take turns behind the mic, both solo and in harmony vocals.  There are also several outstanding instrumentals that really showcase the trio's talents.  The Monk tune is really cool.  I really hope that these three continue to get together for future projects in addition to pursuing their own solo careers.  If you're a fan of acoustic blues and roots music, you really need to check out this disc.  You can thank me later.

Samantha Fish - Wild Heart (Ruf Records):  This is my favorite of the lovely Ms. Fish's three releases.  The KC-based singer/guitarist collaborated with famed songwriter Jim McCormick and Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, who produced the album and guests on guitar throughout.  Fellow Allstars Lightnin' Malcolm and Sharde' Thomas also join in the fun.  

Fish plays plenty of the powerful blues rock that she's noted for, and these are some of her best efforts to date, but she also adds several Americana tunes, and a couple of soulful ballads, co-written with McCormick.  A couple of the tunes, covering Charley Patton and Junior Kimbrough, were recorded at Dickinson's Zebra Ranch Studios in Hernando, MS with Malcolm, Thomas, and Dickinson.  All of Fish's releases (her solo albums, plus the Girls With Guitars releases from 2011 with Dani Wilde and Cassie Taylor) are worth hearing, but this one tops them all.

The Peterson Brothers - The Peterson Brothers (Blue Point Records):  This is a great story and bodes well for the future of the blues.  Guitarist/singer Glenn Peterson, Jr. and his brother Alex (bass) had been impressing Texas blues fans for a few years before producer Michael Freeman saw the brothers perform at a CD release party for the Freeman-produced Pinetop Perkins/Willie "Big Eyes" Smith 2010 release Joined at the Hip.  At the time, the brothers were 14 and 11 and their performance left most of those in attendance in awe.  Freeman signed the brothers to his Blue Point label and took the time to help them develop as musicians, performers, songwriters, and recording artists.  The patience and hard work paid off, because this is one of the best debut releases I've heard in a long time.

Most of the songs are covers from Albert King, Albert Collins, Bernard Allison, Tampa Red, and Earl King.  The brothers also wrote a couple of the tunes themselves and show themselves to be adept playing a variety of blues styles, even venturing into jazz territory.  Several of the cover tunes are recreated with interesting new arrangements that revitalize them.  19-year-old Glenn Jr. is already a talented guitarist, with crisp, concise, and creative solos, and a confident vocalist with a smooth style.   16-year-old Alex is a rock-solid rhythm man on bass, and even breaks out the violin on the closing cover of "Amazing Grace."  The future of the blues is good hands with these talented young blues men, so get on board early and check out this great disc.

That wraps up our look at a few of the summer's outstanding releases.  Be sure to visit Blues Bytes and check out full reviews of these discs and other great new ones.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Blues Down Under (Part 3) - Ten Questions With.....Isaiah B. Brunt

This week, Friday Blues Fix wraps up it's look at the blues scene in Australia by paying a visit to Isaiah B. Brunt.  Brunt is a native New Zealander who came from a family of musicians.  He has worked as a recording engineer, playing music on the side, even recording with Keanu Reeves's band Dog Star.  In 2006, he decided to pursue his own music full time with a focus on the blues.

In 2011, he went to the IBC in Memphis, representing the Sydney Blues Society.  He received a lot of attention, even being featured on the front page of the Memphis Daily News.  From there, he returned to Australia and recorded his first album, a self-titled EP.  He played guitar and harmonica unaccompanied on nearly all of the tracks, accompanied only by the Didgeridoo on one track.  He wrote all of the tracks and proved to be a very versatile and personal songwriter with a firm grasp of traditional blues.

In 2013, he released a full album called Nursery Rhyme Blues, updating his sound a bit and adding more instrumentation, including ukulele, piano, bass, cello, flute, accordion, sousaphone, and vibraphone.  Again, he showed a great knack for making pre-war-styled blues with some interesting modern twists which kept things very interesting.  The whole CD has a gentle, lovely, sometimes haunting vibe.

Just The Way That It Goes is Brunt's latest release, and there are some notable changes.  For starters, Brunt traveled to New Orleans from Sydney to record.  He's backed by a strong group of Crescent City musicians who really give the disc a funky New Orleans feel, mixing in some local R&B and Jazz flavor.  This is also his first completely electric album, but it retains the relaxed groove as its predecessors.

I've enjoyed all three of Brunt's releases.  They're perfect listening for a lazy Sunday morning or for a nice long drive.  I've already mentioned his songwriting, but he's also a compelling singer and a versatile guitarist and he's not afraid to take chances with his music.  We greatly appreciate him sitting down for Ten Questions and we hope that all of you have enjoyed this look at the blues from an international perspective.  Hopefully, we will be visiting other locales in the future.  Meanwhile, check out more on Isaiah B. Brunt below and then visit his website.

Ten Questions With......Isaiah B. Brunt

Friday Blues Fix:  Can you describe the blues scene in Australia?  There’s obviously a considerable amount of interest in the blues there.  How long has this been going on and how do you explain the appeal of the music to fans down under?

Isaiah B. Brunt:  The Australian Blues scene is like a under current of the music scene here, the older crowd love to hear familiar blues standards and good blues music delivered with emotion. I’ve played to inter state audiences and had young people ask me how I worked out the Skip James cover I performed even though I never revealed the song when I played it. Blues music has been going distinctively since the 70’s when bands like Chain were pioneering there own original style of Aussie blues.

FBF:  What kinds of music did you grow up listening to?  

IBB:  Jazz and Blues and contemporary music.

FBF:  Can you describe how you discovered the blues?

IBB:  Listening to late night blues radio shows on a transistor radio, and watching Jimi Hendrix on a BBC show playing acoustic guitar singing, “Hear My Train a Comin'.”  

FBF:  When you became a fan, who were some of the artists that you listened to?

IBB:  Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Skip James, Albert Collins, Albert King.

FBF:  In making your latest album, Just The Way That It Goes, you journeyed to the Deep South to record all or at least part of them.  What were you able to get from this experience that was different than if you had remained in Australia to do it?

IBB:  I got a certain understanding of the richness blues music has in American culture, by hearing and witnessing the musicians play the music I love with my own eyes the way I heard it when I was very young.

FBF:  What was it like for you when you made your first trip to the land where the blues began?

IBB:  In the 1980’s I first visited America to travel up and down the West coast and heard blues music every where on the radio, in TV shows. Then in 2011 I visited Memphis and witnessed Beale Street, for the IBC competition I got a great experience seeing a lot of modern US blues artists.

FBF:  Can you describe your brand of blues?  Do you blend other musical styles with the blues?

IBB:  Indie Blues that incorporates a little jazz and R & B  + soul.

FBF:  Who are some of your influences as musicians, blues or other genres?

IBB:  John Lee Hooker, Freddie King, Jimi Hendrix and John Mayall.

FBF:  Can you describe your songwriting process?  

IBB:  I write normally when I listen to what’s going on, other times I write about my own experiences.

FBF:  What has been your biggest moment as a blues artist?

IBB:  Going to Memphis representing Sydney Blues Society at the IBC.

FBF:  What would you like to do as a musician that you haven’t done yet?

IBB:  Make blues music popular in the main stream.

FBF:  Can you tell us about any of your future projects?

IBB:  I have been approached to take over and run a new recording studio, so I will be working as a consultant co-ordinator

FBF:  Who are some other Australian blues artists for us to look out for?

IBB:  Dream Boogie out of Melbourne, Chris Okunbor out of Blue Mountains Sydney.

Isaiah B. Brunt Discography

Isaiah B. Brunt (EP) - 2011

Nursery Rhyme Blues - 2013

Just The Way That It Goes - 2015