Monthly Archives: May 2015

Fresh Biscuits! Hot New CD Reviews

Our CD reviews this week turned into a guitar fest. I didn’t even plan it that way. I grabbed bunch off the stack and boom! Glorious guitars showering us with notes covered in grease, grime, grits, and gall. The music featured this week is sometimes audacious, sometimes laid back, but just right for whatever ails you. Collect them all!

As always, I hope you find something interesting for your ears.

 

JohnMayallLiveIn67John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers

Live In ‘67

Forty Below Records

Released on April 21, 2015

 

If Corey Harris really wants to know if white people can play Blues, all he needs to do is listen to Peter Green emote liquid hot pain and turmoil on the Bluesbreakers archival release called Live In ’67. The answer he will find may confound him, but it will be a resounding Yes. Much more than Eric Clapton’s replacement, Green transcends musical genres and unleashes the raw hellish nightmare of post WWII Great Britain in a tidal wave of musical expression that will have you listening for the air raid sirens over London. John Mayall is known as the Godfather of British Blues, and along with guys like Cyril Davies and Alexis Corner brought Blues to the attention of the devastated, disaffected youth of England who grew up in abject poverty, standing in line for rations, and stealing to get basics like food and shoes. The industrial cities of the Midlands had ghettos full of workers who would never escape their toils and lived in an unofficial state of indentured servitude. The emotional music of blacks who were exploited for their labor in the American South resounded in the children of the WWII survivors in Britain. They knew the despair and hopelessness first hand and dreamed of more. The Blues provided a way to channel the frustrations and find moments of pure joy amid their miserable existence. Live In ’67 captures some of those moments as delivered by John Mayall, Peter Green, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood.

This band is where Fleetwood Mac was born. Yes, Fleetwood Mac was a blues band kids, before Green checked out and Jeremy Spencer went religious. The triumvirate of Green, McVie, and Fleetwood dominate these recordings which is a testament to Mayall as a band leader. Even in his early days he showcased his band and was willing to step out of the spotlight. Green leads the band through fiery renditions of Otis Rush classics “All Your Love” and “Double Trouble” but he brings down the house over the course of eight minutes of “Have You Ever Loved A Woman.” As for Mayall, his tenor is in fine form and his organ playing anchors the songs that Green stretches six ways from Sunday. One of Green’s jams gets so intense you’ll forget it started out as “The Stumble.” When he kicks back into the song proper, it’s a jolt. There is nothing sleek, pretty, or cute on these recordings. The source material for Live In ’67 is one-channel reel to reel tapes sent to Mayall by a fan from Holland who covertly recorded the shows 50 years prior. Mayall cleaned up the tapes but be warned, this a bootleg recording, albeit a damned good one. This version of the Bluesbreakers only existed for about three months and thankfully the anonymous fan was there to capture one of the most intense Blues line-ups ever, be they white or black. Yes, Corey Harris, white people can play the blues, however very few can play like Peter Green. Represent!

DeltaMoonLowDown

Delta Moon

Low Down

Jumping Jack

Released on May 5, 2015

 

Tom Grey and Mark Johnson of Delta Moon met by chance many (delta) moons ago when Tom tried to sell a Dobro to Mark. Phone numbers were exchanged and soon the two were playing together all around Atlanta. The guitar interplay between Gray and Johnson is magical. After almost a dozen Delta Moon albums, the duo has cemented its place in guitar tandem history. It is rare for a band to have even one skilled slide guitarist but Delta Moon boasts two. Their styles seem to mesh effortlessly and the sum sounds larger than their individual parts. The music also benefits from Tom Gray’s voice which has a mellow whispery rasp which draws you in and makes you listen closely. He was the Roots Music Association’s 2008 Blues Songwriter of the Year so you may want to listen closely anyway. He has a knack for creating insidious hooks that dig deep into your consciousness the more you listen to them. The duo is joined in the band by bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Marion Patton. These two musicians could have been great engineers because they build perfect foundations for every song on Low Down.

Low Down starts with the steady chug and side-winding slide of “Wrong Side Of Town.” “Spark In the Dark” is a fitting title to this energetic tune. It has a driving beat, terse chords, and greasy slide. These guys get incredibly warm tones from their instruments and amps, and the loping stand-up bass in songs like “Nothing You Can Tell A Fool” creates a stomping on the floor boards kind of low end you don’t hear much anymore. I must really hate Tom Waits’ voice because I can’t listen to him, but when I often love his songs when done by others. Delta Moon’s cover of “LowDown” is one of those great covers. The amusing wordplay in the song is perfect for this band and their style and feel makes it pure Delta Moon. If there is a complaint to be made about Low Down it’s this: it’s almost too mellow. It’s relaxing. This is Monday through Thursday Blues. When Friday and Saturday night come around you’ll probably want something more rambunctious and if all goes well, on Sunday you’ll have some explaining to do. At least you can feel sure when Monday night comes around again you can relax on the porch with a tall glass of lemonade or sweet tea and fall into the friendly Low Down groove of a Delta Moon.

 

DebbieDaviesLoveSpin

Debbie Davies

Love Spin

VizzTone

Released on April 21, 2015

 

Love Spin is the latest from the tremendously talented Debbie Davies. The title is drawn from the grimy, slinky title track that brandishes a hopeful attitude about all the crap that comes your way. This seems like it might be her personal philosophy. Debbie tackles many personal issues and demons on Love Spin but presents them in a positive way. “A Darker Side Of Me” is the most pleasant song about self-destructive behavior I’ve ever heard. Other topics include getting traded in for “Two Twenty-Five-Year-Olds” and handling a deficiency in the romantic health of a relationship with “I’m Not Cheating Yet.” Yet, of course, is the operative word so get it together buddy.

The record is full of Davies road tested guitar playing. You can tell she’s played with and learned the greats because she is right there with them. Davies is a tasteful, intelligent player with wide ranging tones, imaginative licks, and fully developed solos. Every note means business. Davies’ work is succinct, tasteful, and accessible. She resists the urge to overplay and knows she made the right decision. Guitar players don’t agree on much but I’m sure most of us would agree that on Love Spin and all her records, she plays exactly what the songs need. On “Two Twenty-Five-Year-Olds” Debbie channels her old boss Albert Collins with some icy, sharp picking. She must be playing daggers for the idiot who wants to trade her in. “A Darker Side Of Me” has delicately strummed chords and gentle fills, and “Life Of The Party” opens with a blast of joyously spiky single note jabs. On the album closer, Debbie plays some mean and gritty slide guitar. I don’t know which guitar and amp combo she used but I want it and I want it today!

Overall, Love Spin lives up to its name as Debbie Davies plays and sings for us a set of happy sounding, reassuring songs. Debbie is in strong voice, singing and playing with verve and style. This is another solid effort from the sassy, guitar slinging road warrior. Give it a (Love) spin.

 

GuitarHeroesJames Burton, Albert Lee, Amos Garrett, David Wilcox
Guitar Heroes
Stony Plain
Released on May 5, 2015

Guitar Heroes is pure, unadulterated joy. Albert Lee, James Burton, Amos Garrett, and David Wilcox spend an hour four twisting and turning your mind through 60 years of Rock, Roll, and Hillbilly Rhythm & Blues guitar licks, tricks, and trapeze flips. Gathering these Masters of the Telecaster was the brainchild of Doug Cox, artistic director of the Vancouver Island MusicFest. In the liner notes Cox says “As Artistic Director of the Vancouver Island MusicFest, I get to dream up collaborations like these for what will hopefully become once-in-a-lifetime musical experiences. This one worked. It’s truly rock and roll heaven, right here on Earth where there is indeed, a hell of a band!”

Beyond the pickers, that band consisted of the members of Albert Lee’s touring band including keyboardist Jon Greathouse, bassist Will MacGregor and drummer Jason Harrison Smith. The 11 tracks were recorded live on stage at the Vancouver Island MusicFest and are presented as-is. There are no edits, overdubs, or studio touch up. This is the real thing and the interplay suggests a band that plays together seven nights a week, not four guys who just met and decided to jam. It is a testament to their abilities and attitudes. There is room for everyone and even though everyone seems to be playing their best stuff, it never sounds like a competition. The playing remains tasteful and the boys never get in the way of the others. Often they play amazingly complimentary bits that give the familiar material unexpected freshness. All the signature tunes are here from rollicking opener “That’s All Right Mama” to “Susie Q” and an all-out jam on set closer “Country Boy.” Stony Plain had the good sense to provide track by track performance credits and a quicksilver set like this needs one so we can keep up. And while the solos are dazzling some of the most interesting work is done to the rhythm guitar parts as these guys deconstruct the songs on the spot and build them back up again while we listen.

Albert Lee has over 20 solo albums, played with Heads, Hands and Feet, the Everly Brothers, Eric Clapton and more. James Burton is responsible for the classic “Susie Q” lick. He was a longtime member of Ricky Nelson’s band and then joined Elvis Presley’s band and stayed until the King died in 1977. He also worked with Jerry Lee Lewis, John Denver, Merle Haggard, Roy Orbison and countless others. Amos Garrett was in Paul Butterfield’s Better Days and has played with Maria Muldaur, Doug Sahm, Gene Taylor Band, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Garcia and a host of others. David Wilcox is a veteran of Nashville North and The Ian Tyson TV show. he also played with Maria Muldaur, has had many Canadian hits and gold and platinum albums. David is regarded as one of Canada’s most influential roots musicians. The four men got to town one day early to rehearse. One day. One. Day. The result is an incredible set that defies description and must be heard to be fully appreciated. This isn’t just for blues fans. This is for anyone who can appreciate the artistry of master musicians capable of delivering the highest caliber performances just for fun.

JBHuttoHawkSquatJ.B. Hutto With Sunnyland Slim
Hawk Squat
Delmark
Released on March 17, 2015

Delmark has been putting out some great reissues recently and Hawk Squat does not disappoint. Hawk Squat was originally issued in 1968 on Delmark and now contains the re-mastered original album and six additional previously unreleased tracks. Hutto is regarded by those in the know as a standout of the second generation of Chicago Blues greats but his output was sporadic and his catalog is filled with recordings of questionable origin and quality. Luckily he occasionally recorded for reputable labels like Delmark. Recorded at sessions separated by roughly three months, from May to August 1968 plus one track recorded in December 1966, Delmark managed to capture lightning in a bottle. J.B. Hutto’s energy is tangible and his mastery of the Elmore James style of slide is more joyful celebration than emulation. His voice is plaintive and full of anguish on slower numbers like “If You Change Your Mind” and confidently strong on “The Same Mistake Twice” and “Speak My Mind” which appears three times in total. The final version closes the disc and is a full minute longer than the previous two. It is slowed down slightly and is played without the strutting shuffle but is no less intense. These variants offer a wonderful glimpse into the creative process and in this case make the bonus tracks enjoyable additions instead of filler.

Sunnyland Slim is present for the sessions and plays a lot of organ. His piano takes center stage on “Too Much Pride.” This song is also represented by an alternate take which isn’t significantly different but Sunny’s piano seems to sound brighter on the bonus version and his intro sounds higher in pitch. “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” is the only bonus track without a counterpart on the original album. Sunnyland Slim plays some swirling organ under Hutto’s biting guitar licks as J.B. sings about drowning his sorrow and telling his hear he’ll cry tomorrow.

As for the original album, it is fiery, feisty, and fickle. Sunnyland Slim’s organ playing is effervescent, and J.B. Hutto is a whirlwind slurry of Blues Power, sly wit, and toastmaster general. The sessions included Lee Jackson on guitar, Junior Pettis and Dave Myers on bass, frank Kirkland on drums and Maurice McIntyre on tenor sax. Herman Hassell plays bass on “Hip Shakin’” the sole track from 1966. Together these musicians created a Blues classic that still sounds fresh and relevant today. If you are not familiar with J.B. Hutto, do yourself a favor and start right here with Hawk Squat!

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues – May 27, 2015

Happy Hump Day! It’s a natural fact that Blues men love the ladies, but there were also several Blues women who also had an eye for the ladies. This week we’re going deep in the grooves of some old time lesbian ladies of the blues who dared to sing about their sexuality. Nicknames pertaining to homosexuals have never been altogether complimentary and the early 20th century was no exception. Manly lesbians were callously referred to as Bulldaggers. There were several Bulldaggers in early Blues, especially during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. In Harlem, self expression was encouraged and sexuality was less focused on hetero vs homo. It was geared toward feeling good with whomever you chose. Still, in less progressive parts of the country, women chose not to come forward about their sexuality but would hint about it in song and through flirtation on stage. Ma Rainey took this path and sang “Prove It On Me Blues.” The final verse of her song sums it up nicely:

MaRaineyStamp“I went out last night with a crowd of my friends
It must have been women ’cause I don’t like no men.
Wear my clothes just like a fan
Talk to the gals just like any old man
‘Cause they say I do it, ain’t nobody caught me
Sure got to prove it on me”

Lucille Bogan is no stranger to our Hump Day readers. However when it came to singing about hot lesbian action, she used a pseudonym Bessie Jackson. You may think people have intolerant tendencies today but multiply that by a thousand percent and you’ll have a better perspective on intolerance of the early 20th Century.  Lucille sang other songs as Bessie Jackson and singing under an assumed name has been done for several reasons by numerous blues performers over the years. However, if you chose to sing about “deviant sexual activity” it was definitely best to do so under a secret identity. In just two lines of her song “B.D. Woman’s Blues” Lucille makes a bold statement and also raises provocative questions about choice versus genetics.

“Comin’ a time, B.D. women they ain’t going to need no men
Cause they way treat us is a lowdown dirty sin”

LucilleBoganShe sings the Bulldaggers won’t need men because the men don’t treat us right. By using us, she is identifying herself as a Bulldagger. However, she insinuates that it is a choice. She can choose to go with women because the men in her life have been less than satisfying, apparently on several levels. It makes you wonder if she chose a woman with manly qualities to quell her own misgivings about lesbianism. Maybe she was able to rationalize the choice by thinking about her lover as a male, thereby lessening her own perceived deviance. [Please note, throughout history homosexuality has been publicly perceived as deviant behavior. This is not my opinion and I am not calling it deviant. I am describing the attributes of the time period and the public notions about homosexuality. I personally don’t care who you love as long as you find someone who loves you back and makes you happy.]

One of Ma Rainey’s disciples was Bessie Smith. Bessie’s sexuality was ambiguous at best. It seemed she would try anything (insert your try-sexual joke here). She openly bedded at least one female singer in her band and allegedly had a sexual relationship with a gay male pianist named Porter Grainger, as well as several relationships with straight men. She didn’t sing directly about gay or straight sex but her song “Foolish Man Blues” explores the changing roles of men and women.

BessieSmith1894to1937“Men sure is deceitful and they’s gettin’ worser every day
Men sure is deceitful and they’s gettin’ worser every day
Act like a bunch of women, they’s just-a gab, gab, gabbin’ away
There’s two things got me puzzled, there’s two things I can’t stand
There’s two things got me puzzled, there’s two things I can’t stand
A mannish actin’ woman and a skippin’ twistin’ woman actin’ man”

 

 

Also this week, we have a male perspective on the lesbian relationships with Billy Mitchell’s “Two Old Maids.”

“Two old maids in a folding bed
One turned over to the other and said
I need some loving, that’s just what I need”

And in true hokum tradition he slips in a double entendre…

“Two old maids in a folding bed
One turned over to the other and said
Yes, yes, we have no bananas”

No bananas indeed.

Last but not least, and somewhat because this is a fairly serious subject that needs some levity, we have The Hokum Boys taking a tongue in groove, er, cheek look at a full range of behavior in “Somebody’s Been Using That Thing No. 2.”

That’s it for Hump Day folks. No matter who you’re humping, make it a good one and make sure somebody’s using that thing!

Ma Rainey Prove It On Me Blues

Lucille Bogan/Bessie Jackson B.D. Woman’s Blues

Bessie Smith Foolish Man Blues

Billy Mitchell Two Old Maids

The Hokum Boys Somebody’s Been Using That Thing No. 2

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues – May 20, 2015

Happy Hump Day everyone! With the sad news in the Blues world recently, it’s important we celebrate the good times and the true meaning of the Blues, which is of course, Seduction. Sweet, sweet seduction. For a hundred years the blues singers have been seducing mates by boasting of their sexual prowess, directly and through metaphor. They sing of their experiences, what they knew and what they could do, for you, to you, and with you. However, Willie Dixon came along and made this power congenital. That sounds dirty. Yes, Willie (which also sounds dirty) wrote about being born a sexual dynamo. He was so powerful the gypsy woman showed up to warn his mother. I’m not sure what she hoped to accomplish with that. Maybe it was her recommendation to keep him away from the Little Schoolgirls. We’ll probably never know. One thing we do know is that singing about this natural born condition was contagious.

Pretty much everyone has sung this song, even the ladies. Etta James famously adapted the song as “Hoochie Coochie Gal.” Just in case you’re not sure, she’s gonna tell you what it’s all about. Now, since we’re a Blues website we’ll stick to mostly Blues artists but “Hoochie Coochie Man” has been done by rockers like Steppenwolf and the Rolling Stones and jazz masters like Jimmy Smith, to guys like Lou Rawls and Steven Seagal.

Don’t worry, Steven Seagal’s version didn’t make our list, but you might hate one of them just as much! See? You have something to look forward to. You should definitely look forward to a live rendition from Buddy Guy. He messes with the crowd and they deserve it too. Some of them wouldn’t shut up during the quiet intro. We’ve got Muddy Waters doing a version from a 70s TV special, Junior Wells’ studio recording, the man himself Mr. Willie Dixon performing with Stephen Stills, a smoking 1970 live version from The Allman Brothers Band, and Walter Trout laying waste to everything holy with a blazing five-alarm guitar fire.

Since the song made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll” we have to include at least one Rock & Roll version so we’re jumping way off the deep end where Lemmy is dressed in a leather and denim bathing suit and floating in a lounge chair with a Jack & Coke in one hand and a Marlboro in the other reminiscing about his legendary exploits. Yes folks, even Motorhead did a version of “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Don’t make assumptions! Give it a listen. It features the short lived early 80’s line-up with former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson and is a pretty good Blues jam. Maybe it will seduce you into a life of Rock & Roll sin. Whatever you do, enjoy the rest of your week. Lemmy remind you, there’s still time to throw a Hump into it.

Etta James Hoochie Coochie Gal

Buddy Guy

Muddy Waters

Junior Wells

Willie Dixon with Stephen Stills

Allman Brothers Band

Walter Trout Band

Motorhead

B.B King Funeral Arrangements Announced

Details of the funeral services for B.B. King have been announced by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and the board of the B.B. King Museum. On Saturday, May 23, a memorial service will be held in Las Vegas, NV. On Wednesday, May 27, Mr. King’s remains will be flown to Memphis and a procession from the airport will begin around noon and move to Beale Street’s Handy Park for a tribute. Then, on Friday, May 29, a public viewing will be held at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, MS from 10 am – 5 pm The funeral services will be held at the Bell Grove M.B. Church in Indianola on Saturday, May 30, from 11 am – 3 pm. From the church, a procession will travel to the Museum around 4 pm. There will also be a private graveside service for family and friends at 5 p.m.

BBKingHomecomingPosterMississippi Governor Bryant commented “There are any number of reasons we are glad B.B. is being brought back to Mississippi. First and foremost, he’s one of our state’s most beloved native sons.” Mr. King never forgot his home and community. According to long-time friend and former Museum board member Carver Randle, B.B. King maintained strong personal ties to Indianola and always considered it home. The B.B. King Homecoming Festival has been a destination for Blues fans for over 30 years and brings thousands of fans to Indianola each year.

Executive Director of the B.B. King Museum Dion Brown said “From a practical standpoint, we feel comfortable knowing his final resting place will receive perpetual care at the Museum. Also, he had requested that his funeral be held at the Bell Grove M.B. Church in Indianola, and that the Rev. David Matthews conduct the service. Sadly, Rev. Matthews passed away just over a month ago, so that part wasn’t possible. Everyone involved is trying their hardest to fulfill the remainder of his wishes.”

Governor Bryant added “I, along with fans that number in the millions from all over the world, feel a connection to this gentleman who left the earth a better place with his kindness. On a personal level, my mother was born in Berclair one year after B.B., and I grew up in Moorhead just down the road. I can’t help but feel a certain kinship over our shared geographical roots in the Delta soil.”

“Mississippi couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador for our state. When everyone from every corner of the globe knows an individual by two initials and knows the state they’re from, that’s pretty impressive,” said Gov. Bryant, “and we’re humbled that it’s our state.”

While B.B. King’s death may seem sad to many, Mr. King had a wonderful life full of achievements, friends, and good will. Celebrate the life of B.B. King by being kind to someone today and every day. If you are considering sending flowers, please consider a donation to the B.B. King Museum instead and help keep B.B. King’s legacy Live & Well.

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases May 19, 2015

Greetings and salutations! It’s time for new releases again and this week we have four more exciting albums. The Amanda Fish Band debuts on VizzTone with Down In The Dirt. Amanda was part of the VizzTone showcase at Rum Boogie in Memphis as part of BMA week. She’s getting a lot of attention right now and we’ll have a full review of the new album posted soon. And yes, Amanda is related to Samantha. Amanda is Samantha Fish’s older sister and according many, is also Kansas City’s best kept secret. Make sure you check out Down In The Dirt.

Sugaray Rayford is back with Southside. Sugaray Rayford was nominated for the prestigious BB King Entertainer Award by the 36th Blues Music Awards. He was also nominated for Traditional Blues Male Artist and included in three Mannish Boys nominations. He has an incredible set of pipes and could probably sing the phone book and hold your attention. You do remember phone books right? Billy Price and Otis Clay are two other guys who could probably steal your date while singing the ingredients in a can of Campbell’s soup to them. This is definitely a week for fans of talented vocalists and tremendous interpreters of song. Don’t let that take your attention from the Texas Horns though. These guys will blow you away!

Texas Horns

Texas Horns Blues Gotta Holda Me

Billy Price and Otis Clay

Billy Price and Otis Clay This Time For Real

Amanda Fish Band

Amanda Fish Band Down In The Dirt

Sugaray Rayford

Sugaray Rayford Southside

Five Lessons Of B.B. King

The passing of B.B. King last night has put me in a reflective mood. I’ve never been the biggest B.B. King fan, but I enjoyed his music, respected his achievements, and recognized him as giant among legends. His influence in undeniable and today’s social media feeds are overflowing with tributes to the man, his music, and his spirit. How did a poor boy born into poverty on a cotton plantation get so far and touch so many? What lessons can be learned from the man born Riley B. King? I’m sure there are many more than what I listed, but these five are what I consider the big ones.

1. Adversity can be overcome
B.B. King was born on a plantation in 1925 Mississippi. He died one of the most respected musicians and people in the world. He shared his story countless times and encouraged young musicians everywhere to keep going. He didn’t let bad circumstances prevent him from succeeding. Neither should you.

2. Music is to be shared
Over the course of his career, B.B. King shared his stage with a myriad of performers from all genres of music. He sang with a diverse array people from jazz songstress Diane Schuur to the ultimate Country Outlaw Willie Nelson. One of his biggest hits was performed with a little band out of Ireland called U2. B.B. welcomed all comers to the Blues and was welcomed in turn by everyone else.

3. One note matters
Most guitarists across all musical genres count B.B. King as an influence. All Blues guitarists were influenced by B.B. whether they know it or not. B.B. King is widely regarded as THE Blues guitarist. He didn’t build that reputation on flash. His guitar playing is simple at its core, but ultimately impossible to imitate because so much of B.B.’s spirit went into his playing. He could put more emotion in one note than most players put in 100. They know it, too.

4. Dedicate yourself to your craft and the rewards will follow
B.B. King played 250-300 shows a year for most of his career. Sometimes more. He said he loved the road and spent his life traveling from town to town taking Blues to the people. He spent his life honing his skills, building great bands, and perfecting his shows. His dedication and attention to details set him above the crowd, earned him a satellite radio channel, several TV specials and appearances, myriad awards, and millions of fans.

5. A little humility will get you everywhere
I’ve never heard or seen in print a mean word about B.B. King. Likewise I’ve never heard of B.B. King being anything but humble. His positivity, humility, and welcoming attitude made him not just the King of the Blues but a Good Will Ambassador around the world. He didn’t get that far by being an asshole.

The video below is one of hundreds of examples of B.B. King sharing his stage and music. This time he brings out Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, Eric Johnson, and Gregg Allman. As Bandleader and Ringmaster, B.B. makes sure everyone gets the spotlight. Sharing, humility, and good humor are all here. Thank you for showing us the way Mr. King.

Should Corey Harris Play Blues?

Has it ever been disputed that Blues is Black music? Corey Harris seems to think that fact has been lost on modern blues musicians and listeners. He seems to believe Blues are not authentic if they aren’t played by Black people, and he doesn’t like it when White people imitate the Black Blues musicians. Corey recently wrote an essay for his blog titled “Can White People Play The Blues ?” I encourage everyone to read it at least twice. There is a lot to digest in Corey’s thoughtful and passionate piece and I agree with much of it including his disdain of the modern Blues genre’s tendency to imitate and regurgitate what came before. However, if what came before moves you and you feel it, and can relate to it, who is to say you are not authentic? As listeners I think many of us can tell when someone is pretending. However, Blues is not a lucrative music scene. You have to dedicate your life to it if you want to succeed. There really isn’t much room for those without passion. Still, there are many who seek to relive what they think was the heyday of the music, play note for note versions of “Got My Mojo Working,” and name drop Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters every few minutes. In part, I think Corey is railing against those who do so without any understanding or regard to its origin because he sees them as empty imitators, and he may be right.

Personally, I have been enthralled by Blues and its history for about 30 years. It was those damned White guys who brought me into the fold too. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Allman Brothers Band, Johnny Winter, and even Cinderella drew me into the music called Blues. I went backward from there and discovered a world of music rich in history and influence. Even as a teenage fan, I knew it came from Blacks, but I never in my life thought I shouldn’t play it because I’m White. I certainly never expected, as Corey suggests, asking permission from a Black person to play Blues. I came from a mostly white rural area. The only Black person I knew was into Rap and didn’t seem to know anything about Son House. That subconscious sense of entitlement may be his whole point about White Blues vs. Black Blues. I never saw the music as Black or White. Just because it was born of Black tribulations doesn’t mean others can’t relate to it.

I also get Corey’s stance that culture informs the music, but sometimes the music of one culture can resonate with people in another, especially where similar circumstances allow the feeling of the music to penetrate the soul. And while a culture can lay claim to the creation of an art form, it does not own it. Art, including music, is uniquely human and is for all people, everywhere, and it moves us all differently. After World War II, the poor children of war-ravaged England found the Blues at the time blacks in America were turning away from it and getting into Motown and Soul music. The postwar generation stood in line for food, saw their parents work exist as unofficial indentured servants in dank factories, and saw their future as little more than taking their parents place at the factory. their future was one of poverty, debt, and death. By the time the kids like John Mayall, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards brought British Blues to American shores, most blacks had moved on from this music they supposedly own. The mostly-white hippies of America were looking for escape from the ravages of another war, this time in Viet Nam. They turned to music that soothed their souls and in many cases it was the amped up British Blues of Cream and The Rolling Stones among many others. To their credit, these bands loved the black artists and talked about them consistently which led to a Blues revival in the United States. The children of a burned out Britain could relate to the messages in the Blues songs and wanted to meet the kindred spirits who created them or knew those who did. The British Blues movement made White kids aware of one of America’s finest creations. It’s a shame and a sin that it happened that way, but I for one am glad it did.

Corey Harris seems more than incensed that Whites imitate the Blacks by dressing like them, singing like them, and acting like them. Of course white blues players will copy the original Black musicians. But this isn’t exclusive to White people. I’ve seen Black Blues artists who model their presentation after the greats, but in those cases it’s considered traditional. Black musicians created the template. Naturally, if you see something you like and you want build a similar item, you’re going to use a template, or blueprint. From cars, to homes, to guitars, and songs, there is nothing new under the sun. Everything has roots in what came before. As human beings we share a common history. Some of us have experienced that history in different ways but it affects all of us.

Corey Harris asserts over and over that Blues is Black Music, however his essay hints that inversely, Black Music is Blues as is everything that came from it. Does Mr. Harris mean that Blues is one facet of Black Music? Harris states that Black music “has never stood still, it has never stopped evolving and changing.  Whatever happened to Black people, happened in the music.  And since Black culture is obsessively fresh, as soon as the new influence became standard, a new standard was applied.” Yes, Corey seems to be examining Black music in his essay and Black music has changed a lot. In the 50’s and 60’s it changed into Soul and Rhythm & Blues. In the 70’s it became Funk, and in the 80s, Black Music became Rap. Still, many performers sing and play R&B. They didn’t have the same experiences as Ray Charles, so Black or White or any race, do they have to ask Ray’s permission to play R&B? Simply because a style of music has been left behind by its creators doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed, performed, or further developed. Among Mr. Harris’ issues with Whites playing Blues is the idea that Black Music evolves while Whites are nostalgic about Blues and don’t do anything new with it.

But Blues has evolved. However, I get the feeling Corey doesn’t like how it has evolved and changed. He says it needs to be sung to be blues but then says modern blues has turned into guitar hero worship, which is clearly contradictory since it is a change. Mr. Harris seems concerned that Blues is no longer focused on individual singers accompanying themselves on guitar or piano. He seems disdainful of the front man formation of modern Blues bands that highlight instrumentalists. This too is an evolution of what Muddy Waters started when he formed the first electric blues band. Maybe the key word there is electric. Electricity provided amplification. Suddenly those without good singing voices could express themselves through amplified instruments. The means of expression evolved and expanded. Should we discount the genius of Hubert Sumlin because he wasn’t a singer? Isn’t it a good thing that more people can express themselves musically and connect with an audience without ever muttering a word? Right there is proof that blues in universal and transcends language, culture, and circumstances.

Mr. Harris umbrage at calling Blues universal though, as if universal is a White concept and Whites control what is and what is not universal. The truth is that universal is merely a word used to describe the phenomenon experienced by so many, a feeling evoked by songs sung over a one-four-five chord progression. Most human beings, regardless of race, creed, or color would be moved by and could relate to the songs of the Blues. The world wide appeal of Blues is proof. And as Corey says, Blues comes from the music of Africa. Humanity, too, sprung forth from Africa and spread all around the world, just like the Blues. Blues has a rich history and it can be shared and appreciated people of all colors and cultures. We need to be a culture of Earth and stop focusing on all our differences. The music we love and the people we love all have their distant origins in the same place. When you limit yourself to seeing everything in terms of Black and White you lose sight of all the other colors of the Universe and your experience on Earth is greatly diminished.

So, should Corey Harris play Blues? Even after reading his essay several times, based on his own words I’m still not sure. There are contradictory arguments that might preclude him from doing so. He didn’t live in the same conditions Son House did. He doesn’t live in the same time period he describes as Blues Time. He grew up outside Denver and graduated from a New England university. But he is Black, and I think we all agree that Blues is Black music. He has studied the history of Blues, lived in Africa, sang on the streets of New Orleans, and has been recording a fairly traditional form of Blues since the 1990s. As a Black man he has faced obstacles I, and many of you, never will. I cannot know his struggle, and likewise he cannot know mine. I personally don’t care what color he is, but at the same time I don’t discount it. In fact I’m glad a Black person is playing Blues. Much of his essay comes back to the idea that Whites discount the Black struggle and the way it formed Blues music. On this we agree. Everyone who enjoys Blues should delve into the history of the music and the culture it came from. That knowledge will certainly increase your understanding of Blues and probably enhance your enjoyment. It will bring you closer to the music and expand your sense of the history that goes along with the foundation of songs upon which all of us stand. Yes, Corey Harris should play the Blues. And so should you no matter what your skin looks like. Remember where it came from, but make it yours.

Fresh Biscuits! New Releases May 12, 2015

Alright Buiscuiteers, it’s new releases time again. This week, we have two brand spankin’ new discs and a reissue of a lesser known classic.  Sure it’s not much, but look at this week as time to appreciate some acts that may have dropped below your Blues Radar. take some time to really get to know the new Blues you pick up this week.

King King is a Blues band from Britain, currently ripping it up on the European festival circuit. King King won five awards at the 2014 British Blues Awards including Best Band for the third consecutive year and Best Album for 2013’s Standing In The Shadows. The new disc is Reaching For The Light. Reach for your copy at their website or at fine online retailers everywhere.

Scott Ellison has been putting out blues albums since 1993 but before that he worked with a long list of artists including The Box Tops, The Shirelles, Marvalettes, JJ Jackson, The Drifters, The Coasters, and Gary “US” Bonds. Ellison has written several songs that have appeared in hit TV shows and movies including Sister Sister, Santa Barbara, Reindeer Games, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Joan of Arcadia, Saving Grace, Smash and four songs on 2012’s hit TV show Justified. Scott recently sang and performed a song he co-wrote called “Jesus Loves Me” (Baby Why Don’t You) for the movie “Home Front” starring Jason Statham and Kate Bosworth. “Jesus Loves Me (Baby Why Don’t You)” was on the film soundtrack, but is also on Elevator Man. Elevator Man was produced by Walt Richmond, who has played keyboards on the last five Eric Clapton records. Scott is on tour in the US and Canada so head on out and catch this veteran musician live.

Last but not least this week is a a reissue on Wounded Bird Records of Johnny Winter’s Raisin’ Cain album from 1980. This was the last record Johnny made for the Blue Sky label. Four years later he would turn up on Alligator and dedicate the rest of his career to playing Blues. Raisin’ Cain has plenty of Blues though, and Johnny was clearly influenced by working so closely with Muddy Waters. Highlights include “The Crawl,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Bon Ton Roulet,” “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “Mother-in-Law Blues,” and “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.” So, if you missed this one originally, or if you haven’t been able to find it since it has been out of print for a while, check it out. You can’t go wrong

King King

King King Reaching For The Light

Scott Ellison

Scott Ellison Elevator Man

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter Raisin’ Cain Reissue

36th Blues Music Awards Announced

Another year for the Blues Music Awards is in the books. Elvin Bishop and Bobby Rush came out on top as big winners this year in Memphis. The even this year coincided with the opening of the long awaited Blues Hall of Fame. According to The Blues Foundation president Jay Sieleman, the foundation built the Blues Hall of Fame after raising nearly $3 million, finally providing a destination for fans and a location where blues legends are remembered for their contributions to America’s unique musical creation. The Blues Hall of Fame is located at 421 South Main St. in Memphis and is open 10a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is only $10 so get your Blues loving self to Memphis.

I see lots of my favorites on the list as winners but I still can’t figure out who voted for Joe Bonamassa over Ronnie Earl in the Guitarist category. Anyway, without further delay, the winners are…

B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year
Bobby Rush
Elvin Bishop
John Németh
Rick Estrin
Sugaray Rayford

Band Of The Year
Elvin Bishop Band
John Németh & the Bo-Keys
Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
The Mannish Boys

Album Of The Year
Can’t Even Do Wrong Right – Elvin Bishop
Living Tear To Tear – Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
Memphis Grease – John Németh
Refuse to Lose – Jarekus Singleton
Wrapped Up and Ready – The Mannish Boys

Song Of The Year
“Can’t Even Do Wrong Right” written and performed by Elvin Bishop
“Another Murder in New Orleans” written by Carl Gustafson & Donald Markowitz, performed by Bobby Rush and Dr. John with Blinddog Smokin’
“Bad Luck Is My Name” written and performed by John Németh
“Let Me Breathe” written by Janiva Magness & Dave Darling, performed by Janiva Magness
“Things Could Be Worse” written by Ray Norcia, performed by Sugar Ray & the Bluetones

Contemporary Blues Album
BluesAmericana – Keb’ Mo’
Can’t Even Do Wrong Right – Elvin Bishop
Original – Janiva Magness
Refuse to Lose -Jarekus Singleton
Hornet’s Nest – Joe Louis Walker

Soul Blues Album
Memphis Grease – John Németh
Blues for My Father – Vaneese Thomas
Decisions – Bobby Rush with Blinddog Smokin’
In My Soul – The Robert Cray Band
Soul Brothers – Otis Clay & Johnny Rawls

Acoustic Album
Timeless – John Hammond

Hard Luck Child: A Tribute to Skip James – Rory Block
Jericho Road – Eric Bibb
Jigsaw Heart – Eden Brent
Son & Moon: A Tribute to Son House – John Mooney

Best New Artist Album
Don’t Call No Ambulance – Selwyn Birchwood
Chromaticism – Big Harp George
Heavy Water – Fo’ Reel
Making My Mark – Annika Chambers & the Houston All-Stars
One Heart Walkin‘ – Austin Walkin’ Cane

Traditional Blues Album
For Pops (A Tribute to Muddy Waters) – Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson
Common Ground: Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy – Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin
Livin’ it Up – Andy T-Nick Nixon Band
Living Tear To Tear – Sugar Ray & the Bluetones
The Hustle is Really On – Mark Hummel
Wrapped Up and Ready – The Mannish Boys

Rock Blues Album
Step Back – Johnny Winter
Goin’ Home – Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Time Ain’t Free – Nick Moss Band
heartsoulblood – Royal Southern Brotherhood
The Blues Came Callin’ – Walter Trout

Historical
Soul & Swagger: The Complete “5” Royales 1951-1967 – The “5” Royales (Rock Beat)
From His Head to His Heart to His Hands – Michael Bloomfield (Columbia/Legacy)
Live at the Avant Garde – Magic Sam (Delmark)
The Modern Music Sessions 1948-1951 – Pee Wee Crayton (Ace)
The Roots of it All-Acoustic Blues – Various Artists (Bear Family)

Acoustic Artist
John Hammond
Doug MacLeod
Eric Bibb
John Mooney
Rory Block

Contemporary Blues Female Artist
Janiva Magness
Beth Hart
Bettye LaVette
Marcia Ball
Shemekia Copeland

Traditional Blues Male Artist
Lurrie Bell
Billy Boy Arnold
John Primer
Sugar Ray Norcia
Sugaray Rayford

Koko Taylor Award
Ruthie Foster
Alexis P. Suter
Diunna Greenleaf
EG Kight
Trudy Lynn

Contemporary Blues Male Artist
Gary Clark, Jr.
Elvin Bishop
Jarekus Singleton
Joe Bonamassa
Joe Louis Walker

Soul Blues Male Artist
Bobby Rush
Curtis Salgado
John Németh
Johnny Rawls
Otis Clay

Soul Blues Female Artist
Sista Monica
Candi Staton
Missy Andersen
Sharon Jones
Vaneese Thomas

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player
Marcia Ball
Barrelhouse Chuck
Bruce Katz
David Maxwell
Eden Brent

Instrumentalist – Harmonica
Charlie Musselwhite
Kim Wilson
Mark Hummel
Rick Estrin
Sugar Ray Norcia

Instrumentalist – Guitar
Joe Bonamassa
Anson Funderburgh
Johnny Winter
Kid Andersen
Ronnie Earl

Instrumentalist – Drums
Jimi Bott
June Core
Kenny Smith
Tom Hambridge
Tony Braunagel

Instrumentalist – Horn
Deanna Bogart
Al Basile
Jimmy Carpenter
Sax Gordon
Terry Hanck

Instrumentalist – Bass
Lisa Mann
Bob Stroger
Michael “Mudcat” Ward
Patrick Rynn
Willie J. Campbell

 

Hump Day! Risque Tunes For Your Midweek Blues

Welcome back for more Hump Day hokum fun and debauchery. Our theme this Hump Day was inspired by a reader who shall remain anonymous for fear her puritan reputation be sullied. “Why don’t you write about pussy cats?” she asked. It took me by surprise. I thought every installment entered that realm somehow, if you know what I mean. Wink wink, nudge nudge. Anyway, we may as well get right down in there and explore a few moments in blues history where the topic is pretty much called out by name in some of the slickest double entendre depravity ever achieved.

Big Bill Broonzy played on over 600 sides in the 1930’s and a handful were with the Famous Hokum Boys. Under his own name, he made “Pussy Cat Blues” aka “Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat” with a little help from the Hokum Boys’ friend Hannah May (aka Jane Lucas). The song begins with Hannah May singing the incredibly filthy yet perfectly innocent line “You can play with my pussy but please don’t dog it around / If you going to mistreat it, no pussy will be found.” Clearly she is a woman who cares about her pussy and wants to make sure it gets treated properly and with the respect it deserves.

Harry Roy & His Orchestra isn’t necessarily a blues band, but their classic ode to feline charms is definitely hokum of the first order.  This song takes hiding in plain sight to the highest magnitude. And it’s such a happy, bouncy tune that you’ll be singing along before you realize what just happened to your morality.

There’s one pet I like to pet
And every evening we get set
I stroke it every chance I get
It’s my girl’s pussy

Seldom plays and never purrs
And I love the thoughts it stirs
But I don’t mind because it’s hers
My girl’s pussy

Often it goes out at night
Returns at break of dawn
No matter what the weather’s like
It’s always nice and warm

It’s never dirty, always clean
In giving thrills, never mean
But it’s the best I’ve ever seen
Is my girl’s pussy

Where can you go after that? This is from 1931. 1931. A song so clearly about his girl’s kitty cat that it tricks your dirty mind into doing cartwheels. Right? It is about a cat isn’t it? We better listen to it again.

We also have Johnny Winter playing the Rolling Stones ode to teen runaway seduction “Stray Cat Blues” and Katie Webster warning you that stepping out on her and returning to her back door will not make her happy. You gotta keep your woman happy so treat her pussy right, especially on Hump Day!

Big Bill Broonzy Pussy Cat Blues

Harry Roy & His Orchestra My Girl’s Pussy

Johnny Winter Stray Cat Blues

Katie Webster Pussycat Moan