Category Archives: Blues

Stay Sane at Work: Mixtapes

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For those of you /us who struggle from time to time with boredom or cynicism or ennui at work. And restlessness too. Just can’t stand your co-workers and your boss is a ponce? Well what you need is a bit of fresh music and a playlist or two to listen to between meetings (maybe even during meetings).

Here you go. Long live 5 o’clock!

Stay Sane Pt 1

Track Listing (Pt. 1)

01 The Wonder Of It All [Mind & Matter]

02 No No Blues[Culey Weaver]

03 Your Love’s Been Good For Me [Gladys Knight & The Pips]

04 Swing Low, Chariot [Sister O.M. Terrell]                                                                           1

05 Funny World [Johnny Hartman]

06 The Panama Limited [Washington White]

07 Get a Feeling [Kings Go Forth]

08 I Want Jesus To Walk With Me [Shirley Stewart]

09 Ash Can Blues[Cliff Carlisle]

10 Talk To Me Baby[Fleetwood Mac]

11 Signed Gladys[Gladys Knight & The Pips]

12 Kalimba [Mr. Scruff]

13 Sleepin’ Bee [Johnny Hartman]

14 Gotta Make Me a Gun[Basement Freaks]

15 Never Feel Cold (feat. Mendee Ichikawa) [Bosq Of Whiskey Barons]

16 Now That I Don’t Have You[Mind & Matter]

17 Missing You[Billy Paul]

18 Black Family  [Roy Ayers]

!!!++$

StaySane Pt 2

Track Listing: (pt. 2)

01 My Baby’s Got A Dead Man’s Number [Chris Gaffney]

02 Almost Persuaded[David Houston]

03 Amos Moses [Jerry Reed]

04 King of California [Dave Alvin]

05 I Wish I Didn’t Love You So [k.d. lang]

06 Polk Salad Annie[Tony Joe White and Johnny Cash]

07 Sad Songs And Waltzes [Cake]

08 Old River[Hazel Dickens/Ginny Hawker]

09 Ashgrove [Dave Alvin]

10 She Thinks I Still Care [Johnny Paycheck]

11 Are You Sure                [Ray Price]

12 California Women  [Hoyt Axton]

13 Another Place, Another Time [Jerry Lee Lewis]

14 Holding On To Nothing [Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton]

15 Rings Of Gold [Dottie West]

16 Alchoholidays [Chris Gaffney & The Cold Hard Facts]

17 Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone? [Charley Pride]

18 Collection Box [Thomas Jefferson Kaye]

19 In Time [Kelly Hogan]

##**!!

Everybody Loved Him and They Weren’t Jiving Either: B.B. King

B. B. King

B. B. King

With B. B. gone from the stage we’ve lost a big part of our collective human soul. A man whose life exemplified simplicity, hard work, passion and resilience. Day in day out doing the thing you’re on the earth to do.

In the past weeks tens of thousands of words have been penned in his honour and remembrance. Here is a link to documentary about his life that you may not be aware of as it is fairly recent .

This particular album is a sweet one in which he hooks up with some pop stars of the day (Leon Russell, Carole King) to produce a slick but still soulful stew of Kingly blues. Named after the small delta town where he picked cotton and worked as an agricultural hand before finally making it as working bluesman the record is full of wonderful piano (with his co stars you couldn’t expect less), some nice horn charts but most of all BB singing and playing in his unique style. The atmosphere in the studio is one of respect and camaraderie.

BB’s speaking voice (and sometimes his singing one too) has often been a window to his sensitive side; his human vulnerability. Though he never spoke out strongly against the racism he and his fellow African American citizens faced so unrelentingly for so long, B.B’s life was not an easy thing.   When you listen to him speak his voice has a fragility. I detect a certain reticence and discomfort there. Perhaps it is its higher than average pitch. Perhaps I’m imagining things. I don’t know. But in his vocal chords I do hear a certain choking cadence. The shyness of the sharecropper. But whatever it is described as, it is belied by his cutting, snapping and plucking way with the guitar strings. As if what was missing from his voice was channeled through his fingers.

Love ya B.B.!

Indianola Mississippi Seeds

Track Listing:

01 Nobody Loves Me But My Mother

02 You’re Still My Woman

03 Ask Me No Questions

04 Until I’m Dead and Cold

05 King’s Special

06 Ain’t Gonna Worry My Life Anymore

07 Chains and Things

08 Go Underground

09 Hummingbird

BBK

Best Unknown Guitarist: Roy Buchanan

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It has been a while folks and I do apologize. Life is so incredibly busy and rather stressful at the moment. (Add to that the sad reality that I had composed what I thought was a nicely written introduction to this album but then accidently deleted it! Stress levels higher than normal at the moment!)

So, not wanting to delay this lovely collection of white-man blues any longer I commend to you the wonderful Roy Buchanan

Roy Buchanan has long been considered one of the finest, yet criminally overlooked guitarists of the blues rock genre whose lyrical leads and use of harmonics would later influence such guitar greats asJeff Beck, his one-time student Robbie Robertson, and ZZ Top‘s Billy Gibbons. Although born in Ozark, AR, on September 23, 1939, Buchanan grew up in the small town of Pixley, CA. His father was both a farmer and Pentecostal preacher, which would bring the youngster his first exposure to gospel music when his family would attend racially mixed revival meetings. But it was when Buchanan came across late-night R&B radio shows that he became smitten by the blues, leading to Buchanan picking up the guitar at the age of seven. First learning steel guitar, he switched to electric guitar by the age of 13, finding the instrument that would one day become his trademark: a Fender Telecaster. By 15,Buchanan knew he wanted to concentrate on music full-time and relocated to Los Angeles, which contained a thriving blues/R&B scene at the time. Shortly after his arrival in L.A., Buchanan was taken under the wing by multi-talented bluesman Johnny Otis, before studying blues with such players asJimmy Nolen (later with James Brown), Pete Lewis, and Johnny “Guitar” Watson. During the mid- to late ’50s, Buchanan led his own rock band, the Heartbeats, which soon after began backing rockabilly great Dale (“Suzy Q”)Hawkins

The praise eventually led to an hour-long public television documentary on Buchanan in 1971, the appropriately titled The Best Unknown Guitarist in the World, and a recording contract with Polydor Records shortly thereafter. Buchanan spent the remainder of the decade issuing solo albums, including such guitar classics as his 1972 self-titled debut (which contained one of Buchanan‘s best-known tracks, “The Messiah Will Come Again”), 1974’s That’s What I Am Here For, and 1975’s Live Stock, before switching to Atlantic for several releases. But by the ’80s, Buchanan had grown disillusioned by the music business due to the record company’s attempts to mold the guitarist into a more mainstream artist, which led to a four-year exile from music between 1981 and 1985.

Luckily, the blues label Alligator convinced Buchanan to begin recording again by the middle of the decade, issuing such solid and critically acclaimed releases as 1985’s When a Guitar Plays the Blues, 1986’s Dancing on the Edge, and 1987’s Hot Wires. But just as his career seemed to be on the upswing once more, tragedy struck on August 14, 1988, when Buchanan was picked up by police in Fairfax, VA, for public intoxication. Shortly after being arrested and placed in a holding cell, a policeman performed a routine check onBuchanan and was shocked to discover that he had hung himself in his cell. Buchanan‘s stature as one of blues-rock’s all-time great guitarists grew even greater after his tragic death, resulting in such posthumous collections as Sweet Dreams: The AnthologyGuitar on Fire: The Atlantic SessionsDeluxe Edition, and 20th Century Masters and the live When a Telecaster Plays the Blues, which appeared in 2009. (AMG)

Track Listing:

Sweet Dreams_ The Anthology

Disc 1

1-01 Baltimore

1-02 Black Autumn

1-03 The Story Of Isaac

1-04 There’ll Always Be

1-05 Sweet Dreams

1-06 Pete’s Blue

1-07 The Messiah Will Come Again

1-08 Tribute To Elmore James

1-09 After Hours

1-10 Five String Blues

1-11 C. C. Rider (Live)

1-12 My Baby Says She’s Gonna Leave Me

1-13 Please Don’t Turn Me Away

1-14 Country Preacher

1-15 Wayfaring Pilgrim

RYBN

 

Disc 2:

2-01 Down By The River (Live)

2-02 I’m A Ram (Live)

2-03 I’m Evil (Live)

2-04 Good God Have Mercy

2-05 If Six Were Nine

2-06 Green Onions

2-07 Soul Dressing (Live)

2-08 Hey Joe (Live)

2-09 Fly…Night Bird

2-10 Turn To Stone

2-11 Dual Soliloquy

BNRY

Humble and Glory draped: Harry Manx and Kevin Breit

Harry Manx and Kevin Breit

Harry Manx and Kevin Breit

A small (perhaps in reputation) record full of brilliant string playing, some very old and unexpected covers, references to Al Capone and lots of brilliant string playing (did I say that, already?).

Harry Manx from north of the border is a blues man with a strong love of Indian ragas. He studied for a while there and is a pretty good at handling the Mohan veena (invented Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, India’s classical guitar guru). Not a great voice but a lot better than mine. Together with his friend Kevin (Breit) he’s turned out a very pleasing north American record.

The musical partnership of singer/songwriter/guitarists Harry Manx and Kevin Breit is given a third outing on their duo album Strictly Whatever. The two play a variety of stringed instruments that includes, along with many different guitars, banjo, and mohan veena (Manx) and electric sitar, ukulele, and mandolin (Breit); Art Avalos provides percussion. Sometimes on these mostly self-written tunes,Manx and Breit create a ramshackle folk-rock sound somewhat reminiscent of Bob Dylan albums of the late ’90s and early 2000s, notably on “Nothing I Can Do.” That similarity is accentuated when Manxis singing in his gruff voice, though he can also suggest Mark Knopfler (“Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”). The album is a low-key mixture of folk, country, and blues styles full of textured playing and interaction between the two guitarists, who have enough experience with each other to be comfortable trading licks throughout. (AMG)

I’m sipping a whiskey. I get on a plane in a few hours and in a few more will be back home with my family! A week of work followed by a week of down time before the rush to the end of the year begins in earnest.   This record which I’ve really enjoyed over the past many months is one I hope you’ll enjoy too! Humble but glory draped in its own way.

Strictly Whatever

Track Listing:

01 Sunny

02 Nothing I Can Do

03 Looking For A Brand New World

04 Hippy Trippy

05 Mr Lucky

06 Note To Self

07 Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

08 Little Ukelele

09 There Was A Girl

10 Looking For A Plan

11 Dance With Delilah

12 Carry My Tears Away

M a N x

 

Winning Game: Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson

I picked this album up many years ago in one of those independent record stores that used to dot the strip malls of America. They were dangerous places and fun too. Hours would pass like minutes as I explored rack upon rack of tapes and CDs, while racking up an ever bigger dent in my credit rating.

Thankfully, the independent record store is making a comeback, at least in my hometown of Melbourne. Every week a book store expands its stock to include boxes of old vinyl or a new vinyl shop opens it doors offering to the world once more that deep richness of the 33 1/3 rpm disc.

I digress.

The name, Lonnie Johnson, had been a small whisper in my mind at the time I made this purchase. And looking back, I wonder, why? I was pretty into the blues by that point but was focused primarily on the Chicago electric scene. I knew nothing of the pioneers of the genre and the discovery of that sophisticated East Coast sound of the 20s and 30s was many years in the future. Perhaps there is some sort of sub-conscious ‘knowing’ that inhabits the ether and which operates, unbeknownst to us, compelling the purchase of music which normally would go unnoticed. I don’t know.

This record, though, has been an absolute winner for me since that Fate Full day two decades ago. It is a solo record; just Lonnie, his voice and tremendously accomplished and deceptively simple guitar playing. There is an inherent melody in this collection, something that goes beyond the individual songs. Lonnie’s voice has a timeless quality. I hate words like ‘timeless’, normally. They mean everything and nothing. But in this case it is appropriate. I have never been able to peg whether this is an old man’s voice or that of a young singer. It just is; doesn’t betray age. And it commands our attention because of its sweet deep tunefulness. Johnson is able to use his physical instrument with such delicacy too. Listen to each of these tracks with care but especially the final ballad, You Won’t Let Me Go and try to think of a more sensitive interpretation.

I’m not a guitar player so will defer to those who understand the nuances of the art. B.B. King claims Johnson as his most significant influence, which for me pretty much sums up the case. The guitar picking on this album reminds me of the writing of the Indian novelist, R.K. Narayan, who has built an international reputation on writing wonderfully humane stories in the most basic prose. But try to do the same and you’ll see how difficult that ‘simplicity’ is to replicate.

Lonnie Johnson’s guitar playing is like this. Each note sharp and distinct, so easy to identify. Yet in their relationship with other notes there is born a complex emotional feeling. A feeling of warmth and the particularly human pleasure that arises from when the dart hits the bullseye smack in the middle.

The songs here cover a few standards (Summertime, What a Difference a Day Makes) as well as originals. Evil Woman is one of my personal favorites: my woman is so evil/she sleeps sideways in the bed !

Love this.

cover_large

Track Listing:

01 New Orleans Blues

02 My Little Kitten Susie

03 Evil Woman

04 What a Difference a Day Makes

05 Moaning Blues

06 Summertime

07 Lines in My Face

08 Losing Game

09 New Year’s Blues

10 Slow and Easy

11 Four Walls and Me

12 You Won’t Let Me Go

G A M E

The Best of Them All: Muddy Waters

McKinley "Muddy Waters" Morganfield

McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield

To my mind (ageing and limited as it is) Muddy Waters is the undisputed king of the blues. I love Lightnin’ Hopkins ability to never tell the same story twice. Fred McDowell’s blues are some of the deepest dug songs ever recorded. And the frisson filled snappiness of Buddy Guy’s electric guitar is impossible to replicate. Any number of blues men and women can be praised for one, two or even multiple contributions to the music but no one was able to sum it all up like the colossus of Chicago.

For the first half of my life blues was the stuff played by Lamont Cranston, The Minnesota Barking Ducks and a whole work gang of other bar bands in the pubs and taverns around the University of Minnesota. Dancing and sweating for long hours on those crowded and cramped floors was some of the best fun I’ve ever had. And yes, it’s true, I actually thought that Baby, Please Don’t Go was an original composition of the Barking Ducks! When Willie Murphy banged on the keyboards and howled, (Wednesday nights at the 4 Corners) I had no clue that he had been an apprentice with all sorts of Delta, Chicago and Detroit blues men and was widely regarded as one of the minor prophets of the blues piano.

My only knowledge of Muddy Waters had been from his rendition of Mannish Boy in the film, The Last Waltz. And I didn’t like it. It was too black, too primal, too beyond my ability to comprehend. I could see he had a voice to contend with but honestly? He’s nothing on the bands we listened to on the West Bank.

Slowly the waves of truth eroded the naïve ignorance of my musical shore. A Lightnin’ Hopkins record picked up for cheap was surprisingly accessible. None of this Muddy Waters shit screaming about his being a ‘maaaan!’! That moved me to venture into the music of Hound Dog Taylor, Mississippi Fred McDowell, John Hurt and Champion Jack. I was starting to get the blues. Thankfully, I came to understand that all those great songs I heard at the tavern were actually fucking old. They had been around forever, it seemed and everyone had recorded them. Again and again.

Muddy WatersAnd in the back of mind, like a whisper, was the nagging ‘You gotta listen to Muddy Waters.’ I resisted. He may be a grand figure, the one whom everybody seemed to kowtow and do homage to, but I was willing to try to navigate around him. One day in a Borders shop in Tucson (remember that chain?) I forced myself to buy a CD of the Mr. Waters. It was a deal with myself: put the CD on the shelf for credibility but that doesn’t mean I’ve got to listen to it.

Back home in Dushanbe, Tajikistan (don’t ask) I found myself sitting around on one slow Saturday afternoon feeling brave. I popped in the CD I’d picked up on the other side of the Universe and crossed my arms in a defensive harrumph.

It was good but nothing earth-shattering. I started to read something and didn’t pay the music much mind. But then this song which I thought Buddy Guy had written (She’s 19 Years Old), and whose version I figured was the ultimate electric blues song, came on. It was wild and raw but what really blew my mind was this amazing high-pitched choking murderous guitar solo. The slide was simply terrifying in its determination and intention. To do what, I’m not sure, but since the song was about having the hots for a teenage girl, I could easily imagine.

waters_muddyAt that very moment I got Muddy Waters. All resistance fell away. Everything he did on the rest of that solitary CD instantly, and I mean instantly, turned to gold. Ever since I’ve been collecting every recording of McKinley Morganfield I can get my hands on. In one fell swoop I heard his voice for what it was (a booming bravado growl of incredible emotional power) and concluded he was one of the most important and under appreciated guitar players in American music.   Over the journey I fell in love with his complex psychological makeup (an immensely disciplined leader of his band and cultivator of his art, yet a man ready to accept a white man’s largesse for his living) and his sense of style. Whether he was sang a dusty acoustic country blues or raved it up with America’s great rock ‘n rollers, whether he shook his jowls like an insane bulldog or ran his sharecropper’s hands up and down the neck of his guitar he had it all. He spoke, like they said of Jesus of Nazareth, with a preternatural authority. His art came from somewhere else than this world.

I could rave on, but I’ll spare you. I’m a disciple of this man. And here are 35 (just the tip of the tip of the iceberg) tracks that demonstrate his genius.

He is, indeed, the maaaan!

muddy

Track Listing:

01 Got My Mojo Workin’

02 Little Geneva

03 You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone #2

04 My Eyes (Keep Me In Trouble)

05 Leavin’ In The Mornin’

06 What Is That She Got

07 Twenty Four Hours

08 You Shook Me

09 She’s 19 Years Old

10 Come Back Baby (Let’s Talk It Over)

11 When I Get To Thinking

12 Cold Weather Blues

13 Take The Bitter With The Sweet (Alt 1)

14 One More Mile

15 Long Distance Call

16 Mannish Boy

17 Rollin’ And Tumblin’

18 Little Brown Bird

19 Sugar Sweet

20 Gypsy Woman

21 Instrumental

22 My Home Is On The Delta

23 32-20 Blues

24 Crawlin’ Kingsnake (Live)

25 Elevate Me Mama (Alt)

26 Baby Please Don’t Go

27 Tiger In Your Tank

28 Deep Down In Florida

29 Tell Me Baby

30 Country Blues (Number One)

30 Forty Days And Forty Nights

31 I’m Ready

32 Standin’ Here Tremblin’

34 Feel Like Going Home

35 Nine Below Zero

***********

Inter planetary: Phil Cohran

starsplanets

In the outer reaches of the musical galaxies that swirl around us you will find a lump of rock from which came a man named Phil Cohran. Though he inhabited the Windy City for most of his life he was born in the deep delta blues lands of Mississippi. Stints of learning and disruptive discourse with a man, universally accepted as being a resident of Saturn, and who went by the name of Sun Ra, led Mr Cohran to take up an interest in composing music. He played it too, often after he’s composed and for hours on end.

Kelan Phil Cohran

Kelan Phil Cohran

Restless he was and travelled the flat lands of the United States from Kansas City to New York island. He did apprenticeships with Jay McShann and formed his own groups and of course played the trumpet (among other instruments of familiar and not so familiar description) in the Arkestra of Sun Ra.

He was bitten by the bug of know-no-bounds creativity and in the early part of the 1960s established a group made up of blues session players and called them the Artistic Heritage Ensemble. Today we share some of this amazingly straight-laced but exciting music. Cohran fills the gap, someone said between Sun Ra and Earth Wind and Fire. And when he wasn’t composing wonderful sounds and releasing them to an audience of nil on his own record label, he was a voracious reader, critical philosopher and community educational activist. Just what you would expect from such a man.

Few people know of this man but they should. Here is a good article/interview with him from a dozen years or more ago. Relish this music which will sound familiar in some ways (get a load of the metallic twang so popularized by recent world-music heroes Konono No.1) but then recall these were composed and performed and recorded nearly 50 years ago!

 

Singles

Track Listing:

The African Look

Loud Mouth

Frankiphone Blues

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

Detroit Red

New Frankiphone Blues

Black Beauty

***