The Blues is becoming a major subject area of study and exploration for me this month. I make it a special point to browse the music section of the magazine racks at Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc. every chance I get.
I discovered a real gem of a specialty publication today at Barnes & Noble. Guitarist Magazine from the United Kingdom has put together a 250+ page high gloss, coffee table size publication entitled, Blues Guitar Heroes. The world’s greatest blues guitar players are featured with lots of insightful perspectives. It’s a real strong issue with past and present (2010) interviews/profiles of 54 blues guitarists. The newstand price is $19.99 for the import magazine, well worth the price for the value of the collected and sorted information.
The chapter breakout is as follows….
Chapter One: Story of the Blues
Chapter Two: Interviews & Profiles ( I have seen 19 of those 54 blues guitarists perform live.)
Chapter Four: Top 40 Blues Guitarists (I’m proud to say I have seen 10 of those 40 blues guitarists.)
Chapter Five: Ten Classic Blues Guitars (Beautifully photographed in color).
If you are a serious blues music fan or collector you must get this magazine to enhance your knowledge of the blues. It’s a definitive source about blues, the musicians, its history and the guitar its played upon.
Wintery days, snowed and iced bound indoors creates cabin fever. What better way to handle cabin fever than listening and studying the blues, while doing my graduate school homework 😉
The Nov/Dec issue of Blues Revue, The Worlds Blues Magazine is a fantastic issue featuring a cover story entitled, “Powerful Women Play the Blues”. If you are looking to discover invigorating musicians carrying the blues tradition forward you want to get this magazine to read about what these women are accomplishing.
If you scratch my rock and roll heart you will find at its core the blues. The discoveries I have made through the blues have been some of the most enriching experiences of my life. It’s important to fortify and deepen one’s trusted experiences by gaining a better appreciation for women in the blues.
Joanne Shaw Taylor produces that gutsy sounding blues you’ve come to respect from respected blues artists. Her raspy vocals match her tough guitar playing. I didn’t find her blues style immediate, but as I listened further to Diamonds in the Dirt, a natural intensity took hold. It was like lighting a candle that burns bright with an ever-increasing flickering flame.
I especially love this quote about Joanne Shaw Taylor :), “Last year I heard something I thought I would never hear … a British white girl playing blues guitar so deep and passionately it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!” — Dave Stewart, Eurythmics
People have been singing the praises of Debbie Davies to me for years. I finally got around to reading more about Debbie Davies today. The more I read told me that I too am a fellow beatnik. I took the time today to listen to Debbie Davies’s latest recording, Holding Court. I love the tone of her blues guitar, she has the chops of Albert Collins, who she played with from 1988-1991 and so much more. I hear some of Michael Bloomfield in her style. Her command of the guitar is blues power pure as she plays with an effortless sincerity that will captivate your soul.
I stumbled upon Eden Brent recently when I was looking at a list of blues artists playing on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. One of my fantasies is to take that cruise with Rosemary from some port of call in the future 😉
I then noticed that Eden Brent’s recording Ain’t Got No Troubles as #4 in Amazon’s Top 10 Best Blues Albums of 2010. (As is Joanne Shaw Taylor’s Diamond in the Dirt recording at #10). This intrigued me further. Next thing I know I am buying the latest Blues Revue on the newstand and there is a feature article on Eden Brent. Well I go with synchronicity when it strikes like that.
I really like Eden Brent’s recording. The Mississippi area of the US has always been a fertile source of blues music to draw upon. Eden Brent encompasses the boogie woogie piano playing and adds her velvety smooth vocals to that mix. Her interpretations are resonant as they collect your warm smile.
I just adore Cyndi Lauper. Her voice is emotionally poignant. I respect how Cyndi Lauper takes risks on creative levels through constant experimentation with her music. Memphis Blues establishes a defining chapter in the evolution of Cyndi’s ever-changing songbook.
We saw Cyndi Lauper open for Cher in 2003 at Mohegan Sun. She knocked us out with her magnetic aura, which was both intimate and charming in its appeal.
I was thumbing through the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Blues Revue magazine, where I picked up on a thread of continuity with three blues harp players, Grady Champion, James Cotton, and Charles Musslewhite. Each had advertisements in the magazine and all three harp players recordings are reviewed in the reviews section.
The first harp player reference I saw was a half page advertisement for the International Blues Challenge 2011, featuring an image of Grady Champion (last year’s IBC winning band!). The Blues Foundation will present the 27th International Blues Challenge February 1-5, 2011 in Memphis, TN
Grady Champion is a new influence for me. His band’s latest recording is Back In Mississippi Live at the 930 Blues Cafe on Earwig Records. Having a Microsoft Zune music account I decided to sample Grady Champion’s recording. I liked what I heard immediately. Grady and the band have a sharp, fresh sound that commands your attention from the first note. Give them a listen 🙂
Charlie Musselwhite, is a veteran blues-man who is having a welcome resurgence of late. You may have seen him playing with Cyndi Lauper on her latest recording Memphis Blues. Charlie has been a sideman with many famous musicians such as Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker and The Blind Boys of Alabama, just to name a few. Charlie’s latest recording on Alligator Records, The Well is up for a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Traditional Blues Album category. The Well has been hailed by critics and fans as one of the very best blues CDs of 2010. I wholeheartedly agree, The Well is a gritty, straight ahead blues rocker. One of my favorite tracks is “Cook County Blues” where you hear humorous diatribe about being in the slammer” 😉
“Superb, original and compelling…harmonica master Musselwhite sets the standard for blues.” – Rolling Stone Magazine
Alligator Recording artist James Cotton at 75 years young has also received a well-deserved Grammy Award nomination in the Best Traditional Blues Album group for Giant. James Cotton began his career at the age of 9 under the tutelage of Sonny Boy Williamson. He is totally dedicated to his craft and will shake you to your bones on this recording.
“Among the greats of all time, He blazes on harp with brilliant virtuosity,”–Rolling Stone Magazine
John Lee Hooker created the “talking blues” style. His improvisational method accompanied by his growling deep voice endeared him to his fans and musicians alike. Two songs he was very known for are, “Boogie Chillen” and “Boom Boom“.
One of my favorite John Lee Hooker collaborations is the The Healer, which was recorded in 1989 with Carlos Santana and Ms. Bonnie Raitt, to name a few. The Healer brought John Lee Hooker a whole new generation of music fans. The title song has such staying power 21 years afterward.
I was fortunate to see John Lee Hooker open for Santana on October 14, 1970 at the Capitol Theater in Portchester, NY. He held the concert hall spell-bound when he did One Burbon, One Scotch and One Beer as his encore.
I received an e-mail from Willie Dixon’s grandson, Alex Dixon about the launch of the new “Official” Willie Dixon Website. If you are a fan of the blues I urge you to browse over and take a look at the information Alex has created about his grandfather, the legendary “Godfather of the Blues” Willie Dixon.
You will find a rich set of content, starting with a biography and a timeline, lots of great pictures and videos.
A renewed artist with a new lease on life after a successful liver transplant, Gregg Allman takes us back to the roots of American music with a gritty collection of classic country blues covers. The winning combination of Gregg Allman with distinguished vocals coupled with the instinctual music producer with the midas touch, T-Bone Burnett offers us a unique blend of music.
The recording utilizes the formula T-Bone Burnett chose with Robert Plant and Allison Krause for the Raising SandCD. Place the musician in a natural music setting with stylistic period musicians as the support infrastructure and explore indigenous music.
This video gives you the panorama of the making of Low Country Blues.
Gregg’s notable side musicians include Dr. John on piano , Doyle Bramhall II on guitar, bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose.
Get an early listen to Gregg Allman’s Low Country Blues for free, click on over to NPR’s First Listen….
“When I think back On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder I can think at all
And though my lack of education Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall”
“Kodachrome” – Lyrics by Paul Simon, Copyright 1972, Paul Simon Music
High school didn’t teach me very much. College was the real education, especially when I minored in music at the University of New Haven, from September 1972 – June 1974. I was exposed to audio experiences from music professors who were graduates of Wesleyan University‘s World Music program. Their knowledge of world music sounds, cultures and instruments expanded my horizons in ways I never imagined before. I took courses on the music of the Far East, where we studied such countries as India, China, Tibet, Bali and Japan. We studied Black Music, diving deep into the eras of jazz, deciphering John Coltrane and gaining a full appreciation for Miles Davis. We studied the music of Africa and its relationship with American blues and jazz. My favorite book we discussed and read was Savannah Syncopators: African retention in the blues by Paul Oliver . We also studied the music of Europe, especially the music of the gypsies and Django Reinhardt.
Brown wrote that he: “… invented the term ‘world music’ … to avoid using … ‘ethnomusicology’ for a new graduate program we were cooking up, and to emphasize music and music performance as the core of the program, as opposed to musicological research.” (Robert Brown, letter to the editor, “His fault,” Folk Roots (208 Oct. 2000), 1-2.).
I also had Paul Simon to thank as he championed world music in exciting, innovative ways. Simon’s relationship with world music began with Bridge Over Troubled Water, which featured an Andean song called el Condor Pasa. Then in 1972, when his first solo album Paul Simon was released he created the reggae influenced hit, “Mother and Child Reunion”. He continued on that path by adding layers, textures and world music influences by recording much of Graceland in South Africa.
Paul Simon continued to imbue world music cultures into his music, for example he moved on to the music of Brazil with The Rhythm of the Saints recording.
Another famous Wesleyan graduate, John Perry Barlow has worked with Gilberto Gil, Brazil’s Minister of Culture to create an online music archive to catalog all the music of Brazil. It is an open source initiative that I heartily embrace as it will make all the music available for free download.
It was my last day of public school, June 1969, I was hanging out in the gymnasium, loving the freedom before me yet dealing with the ambiguity of where was my life going? I really had a case of the blues. All around me various members of my senior class were putting up the decorations for our senior prom, which we were attending the following night.
In the middle of the gym floor was a record player, I walked over with my copy of Super Session, placed it on the platter, dropped the needle and shuffled back over to the bleachers to sit and listen. The sound of Mike Bloomfield‘s guitar and Al Kooper‘s organ filled the gym with the stinging sound of “Albert’s Shuffle” which filled my void masterfully. My angst about the future slipped away as the intensity of the music appeased my concerns. It was then I knew that music would carry me through the next phase of my existence.
Ratchet ahead 41 years to when I purchase the remastered edition of Super Session. What a tour de force to hear a cleaner, enhanced edition of this historic work. It all comes flooding back in waves of sound that envelops the listener and finds me at another major fork in the road.
Mike Bloomfield had just left The Electric Flag. Another recording that helped define the music of the 60s in terms of Texas blues mixed with R&B. Mike brought with him to the Super Session recording session two ex-Flag band mates Harvey Brooks on bass and Barry Goldberg on electric piano (Barry contributed to tracks 1 & 2).
The Super Session recording was rounded out admirably by “Fast” Eddie Hoh on drums and Steve Stills on guitar who filled in for Mike Bloomfield who left after one day’s recording to deal with his insomnia. Steve Stills was in the process of leaving Buffalo Springfield and he turned out to be the perfect complement to completing Super Session. It ended up fitting that Super Session would usher in the era of the super groups, representing a transitional portal for Kooper, Bloomfield and Stills in their respective careers.
Al Kooper in the liner notes states about Super Session, “…amazingly found itself timeless….making this one of the most rewarding projects I have ever worked on.”
There were two live recordings of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper that took place, the first was at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, September 26-28th 1968, featuring the first live recording of Carlos Santana released when he was 22 years old* This live performance also stars Elvin Bishop. It was released by Columbia Records in 1969.
Then later in the year at the Fillmore East in New York City they recorded, Fillmore East: Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield. The Lost Concert Tapes 12/13/68 (featuring Johnny Winter)
* Carlos Santana was recorded in 1967 on Santana Live at the Fillmore in 1967 but it was not released commercially until January 1, 1997