After last week’s disappointing lack of new releases, this week comes back strong with new music from the late great Johnny Winter, promising guitarist Philip Sayce, and some soulful blues from Grady Champion and Otis Clay. Vinyl fans will find some reissues below too.
Welcome back folks. The Friday Fast Five is back after a week off. I hope you found the Two For Tuesday CD reviews we put up on Tuesday. This week we have a wide variety of styles from excellent musicians out there keeping the blues vibrant, potent, and relevant.
If I see a Firebird and a slide on an album cover, I’m in, and thus Jay Willie Blues Band had me interested before I ever heard a note of the new Rumblin’ And Slidin’ CD. I was not disappointed. This is fresh sounding music, even when it’s old. Jay Willie’s vocals have a bemused innocence that obfuscates the seasoned professional within. Rumblin’ And Slidin’ starts with a spacey version of Link Wray’s “Rumble.” Harpmeister Jason Ricci completely disguises his harmonica with effects until it sounds like Funkadelic playing the blues. “Key To The Highway” is a stomping dirge with more howling harp from Ricci. The relentless pounding beat takes this tune in a new direction and makes it a standout track on the album and among the myriad versions of this all-time classic.
“Fly Away” is a spirit-lifting take on the Edgar Winter tune. Guest Suzanne Vick sings it convincingly; urging us all to believe anything is possible. Jason Ricci blows his harp for all he’s worth in “It Hurts Me Too” which is given a stripped down arrangement. It sounds like it was recorded live in crystal cavern 60 feet underground. The resonant slide riffs entwine with the harmonica to create a demonic howl born in the depths of Hell. The covers are interesting but the originals are damned good too. On “Dirty 2:30” Willie’s slithery slide lubricates the proceedings and bassist Steve Clarke takes a funky solo as the tune closes. “Bad News” is rambunctious fun and “Rotten Person” is the best Johnny Winter song I’ve heard in a while. That’s a compliment. The Firebird and slide, Bobby Torello’s raspy vocal delivery, and the amusing subject wrap it all up in classic blues rock style. I love it.
The album closes with four bonus live tracks that make me long for more. The Jay Willie Blues band absolutely cooks on these tracks. “Hold Me Tight Talk Dirty” and “Tore Down” are raucous and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” is turned into a funky hard rock jam. These four tunes make a great case for catching the band live wherever they’re Rumblin’ And Slidin’. Until then, this disc will more than tide you over.
The blues genre is like a forest. There are many types of trees, all part of the larger landscape twisted together at root level and bound by the earth that surrounds them. Blues and jazz roots mingle below the soil and new hybrids occasionally emerge. Springing from this fertile ground comes Davina And The Vagabonds. Somehow they avoid convention while embracing tradition. There are no guitars; no harmonicas. No sax man. Instead they use trombones, trumpets, and tubas. Davina’s piano is, of course, prominent. The tone is earthy, dreamy and nostalgic. The musicians have changed a bit since their last disc, but the new disc Sunshine is brighter than a gleaming sousaphone.
The title track opens the disc with what sounds like Davina singing through an old wind-up Victrola and morphs into an upbeat anthem for rejuvenation. “Flow” is a bouncy track built on Davina’s piano figure, and chiming horns. It is New Orleans Jazz stripped to its core. “Fizzle Out” sounds impossibly contemporary, “Red Shoes” it a delightful romp that makes you want to stay home with Davina every night, and “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water” is a defiantly strutting cover of the Eddie Miller track.
The music on Sunshine has camp, sass and coy sexuality. It could be played at 2 a.m. in a smoky jazz club or when throwing open the curtains at dawn. It will make you dance, writhe, and relax. The instrumentation is deceptively primitive, and the band conjures creative arrangements which prevent your ears from recognizing the con. The piano deftly connects the odd instrumentation and captures your attention in a web of delightful music you’d never expect to enjoy this much. It also helps that Davina writes clever songs and delivers them with panache. Davina And The Vagabonds are a throwback to the days before blues, when minstrels roamed the country side bringing entertainment and music to masses. Their ability to capture this spirit on tape is an accomplishment in itself. Do yourself a favor and enjoy it.
Rip Lee Pryor is the son of Blues legend Snooky Pryor. His new disc is his second foray into the music business. His first time around was spent touring and playing guitar with his dad. He put out an independent CD in 1999 and promptly left the music scene in 2000 to focus on carpentry. All the while, Rip wanted to play again. Some personal issues including a bout with cancer stopped him from returning. Today, Rip Lee’s cancer has been in remission since 2011 and he’s not wasting any more time. He’s been touring the world, taking his blues to South America, Europe, and across the USA. In 2013 he spent two days recording his re-entry disc, Nobody But Me. It mixes a handful of originals with tunes by his dad, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Elmore James. The result is an intimate, foot-tapping record that brings Rip Lee Pryor right into your living room.
Nobody But Me starts off rocking with “Shake Your Boogie.” She’s out there shaking her boogie, if you know what I mean. The title track is a one of three Rip Lee Pryor originals. It’s pure Rip Lee, just the man and his guitar, harp and voice doing what he does best. His rudimentary guitar strumming is propulsive as his thumb keeps the beat on the bottom strings and he puffs away on the harmonica into a handmade mic. His voice has a personal quality that draws you in even when the words are sparse as they are on “Nobody But Me.” “You Got To Move” is gentle and earthy yet emphatic. He’s not happy about it but still you got to go. Sorry. Here’s your hat. “Stuck On Stupid” is another of his originals and displays a keen wit. Rip Lee’s originals fit perfectly with the covers and it’s a shame he didn’t write more for the record.
My personal tastes lean more toward his songs with drums and bass, but I found myself draw into the solo performances in a way that doesn’t usually happen. Rip Lee Pryor may be the son of a famous blues man but, Rip Lee is his own man and it comes through in his music. Nobody But Me is appropriately titled. As you listen you get a clear portrait of the man and his music. With his quiet rasp, sparse guitar, and lonesome harmonica, Rip Lee Pryor strips away any pretense, shine, or clutter and gets to the heart of each song he performs.
In 2013, Selwyn Birchwood won the International Blues Challenge and the Albert King Guitarist Of The Year Award which caught the eyes and ears of Alligator Records’ president Bruce Iglauer. The Florida native has been touring steadily since winning the IBC, building a fan base the old fashioned way. The Alligator debut Don’t Call No Ambulance should have no problem adding to that fan base especially in light of its presence near the top of the blues charts for weeks and weeks.
Selwyn’s appearance and youth belies his deep voice and mature musical sound. He’s been touring since the age of nineteen when he was a member of Sonny Rhodes’ band. He displays a command of several blues styles and delivers a diverse album. “Addicted” is the opener and pumps hard in the fashion of many tunes in the Alligator catalog. It is especially reminiscent of Albert Collins’ work. Selwyn rips it up over a funky bass line that recalls Johnny B. Gayden. This tune mixes Collins with Freddie King and pulls together two and a half minutes of effervescence that perfectly opens this tour de force album. From there, the band lances into the Hill Country stomp of the title track. This one rocks and rolls at a frenetic pace that feels like it very well may require an ambulance.
Drummer Curtis Nutall spent five years in Joe Louis Walker’s band and his former boss turns up to play slide on the scorching “The River Turned Red.” “Love Me Again” is a gentle plea for forgiveness; “Brown Paper Bag” is a nine minute showcase explaining why he won the Albert King Guitarist Of The Year Award. “Queen Of Hearts” has a funky groove and shows off the talent of band saxophonist Regi Oliver. The bass is positively pulsating while Oliver plays a fat solo, then Selwyn jumps in with a solo on the edge of restraint. He has the opportunity to overplay but never does. “Overworked And Underpaid” is a quiet lonesome lament with guest RJ Harman on harmonica. Birchwood plays the blues lowdown and gritty on lap steel, glistening like the sweat on his brow. The disc closes back-porch boogie style with “Hoodoo Stew.” It’s a jumping slide guitar jam that will make your crawfish boil without ever lighting a fire. It closes the album on a high note for sure, and leaves you wanting more. Selwyn Birchwood is the total package. He has an identifiable, satisfying voice, finely honed songwriting skills, and outstanding guitar chops. He should be leading the vanguard of young blues players for years to come.
The Mannish Boys are a loose collective of west coast blues all-stars spearheaded by Randy Chortkoff. Though the lineup may change, the quality of the music remains high and the dynamic membership keeps the it fresh. This time around, for Wrapped Up And Ready, coordinator-in-chief Randy Chortkoff is joined by Sugar Ray Rayford on vocals and harmonica, Kirk Fletcher and Frank Goldwasser on guitars, Willie J. Campbell on bass, and Jimi Bott on drums. Rotating in and out of the lineup on this disc are special guests including Candye Kane, Bob Corritore, Laura Chavez, Kim Wilson, Kid Ramos, Steve Freund, Monster Mike Welch, and Fred Kaplan among others.
“I Ain’t Sayin’” is a strutting opener with Monster Mike Welch sitting in on lead guitar. Mike plays on eight tracks and may as well join the band; he fits in seamlessly with the ensemble. Speaking of the ensemble, you need a score card to keep up with the personnel on this disc but the amazing feat is the cohesive sound and tone of the album. Everyone contributes their talents to the greater good, which turned out great. For instance, Steve Freund sits in as lead guitarist on “It Was Fun” and plays tasty licks that elevate the song and keep it interesting. Fred Kaplan plays piano on eleven tunes and his accents and fills add significant textures all over the album. His fills in the Candye Kane sung “I Idolize You” sparkle like Candye’s delivery. With Wrapped Up And Ready Chortkoff has created a blueprint for making a perfect blues album. You might expect such a contrivance to seem forced and lack personality, but therein lays his genius. While Chortkoff plays and sings occasionally, his real talent seems to lie in matching musicians to material for the best possible result.
Sugar Ray Rayford puts a lot of personality into his delivery and his harp playing is top notch throughout Wrapped Up And Ready. “You Better Watch Yourself” gives Rayford and guitarist Kirk Fletcher plenty of sparring room. Steve Freund returns to blaze a path through a tune he wrote and sang called “The Blues Has Made Me Whole.” While highlights abound on Wrapped Up And Ready, Kirk Fletcher’s closer “Blues For Michael Bloomfield” is a scorcher. Monster Mike Welch joins Fletcher and takes the second solo but truly the whole song is full of guitar soloing so listen close for the guitar tones to change. Clocking in over eight minutes, it serves up a stunning testament to Fletcher and Welch. They channel Bloomfield, filter it through their own styles and deliver an incredibly moving and scalding finale. This is a breathtaking way to end a superb record. I highly recommend picking this one up and I dare you to find all the personnel changes without looking!
My introduction to Stevie Ray Vaughan began with Jimi Hendrix. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” was and is my favorite Hendrix tune of all time. By the time I was aware of Stevie Ray Vaughan, sometime in 1986, I had collected all the versions of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” I could find. Being 15, unable to drive and living in Podunk, PA, with a paper route and crappy job at the local grocery store did not give me a lot of access to the music I craved so the number was few and I studied them closely.
I did have access to music magazines and if you remember the 80’s you know there was a surplus of them, from Creem to Hit Parader, Rolling Stone and Spin, to my favorite, Guitar For The Practicing Musician. I was and am an LP liner notes nut and Guitar… went even further in depth, analyzing the music and players, sharing influences, writing habits, and of course, instruments. I had yet to get into playing guitar past the noodler stage but serious interest was right around the corner. Mostly I was reading Guitar… for the interviews. I knew little of blues and as a 15 year old listener I had no idea I was already hearing blues from my favorite bands like Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix Experience. Even Tom Keifer from Cinderella was playing blues for me, and mentioned Johnny Winter in a Guitar… interview – a name I tucked away for much later.
One day whilst perusing Guitar… I saw an advertisement for an album called Live Alive by a flamboyant looking dude named Stevie Ray Vaughan. A few things piqued my interest. It was a live album and from Iron Butterfly Live, to The Who Live At Leeds to The Jimi Hendrix Concerts and Frampton Comes Alive, I was a live album guy. This Stevie Ray was dressed in a flashy gold coat that matched the ring on his hat and the color of the guitar. He looked like a cowboy who joined Sha-Na-Na. Awesome. But perhaps most intriguing was the inclusion “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” Now I was really interested. I filed this away too.
A short time later I saw this album in an ad for Columbia House Music Club. Get 12 LPs for a penny! A penny? Damn. I had a penny. I decided this Ray Vaughan guy would be worth the hassle of taping a penny to the card, so I picked 11 LPs since Live Alive was a double and counted as two selections, and mailed in my card – ever hopeful the penny would stay affixed. I still wonder how many they got without that penny. Anyway, I would deal with the purchase requirement later, once Mom realized I signed her up for Columbia House. Six to eight weeks later my box of records arrived and I excitedly opened my cache of music.
I found “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and cued it up on the turntable. Holy shit. This is amazing. A little different in the opening but he nailed the feel of it. It sounded like Hendrix to me. People haven’t always covered Hendrix tunes like they do now. For a while they were like sacred texts, plus no one really wanted to be judged in comparison Jimi. Stevie didn’t care. He loved Hendrix and was going to play the music. He inhabited the music. I was stunned. This was incredible. After my “Voodoo Child” induction to Stevie Ray, I went back to the side one of the LP and digested the whole thing through, all the while checking out the photos on the inside cover of this marauding, mariachi pirate kicking his guitar, wearing Native American headdresses, and hamming it up with his band. Who is this guy?
At this point I wasn’t completely sold on Stevie Ray. I loved the Hendrix, and the fast tunes like “Pride And Joy” and “Love Struck Baby” but still, I was regretting my exclusion of his other albums in my 12 for a penny deal. Over the next year I eventually picked up “Texas Flood,” and “Couldn’t Stand The Weather” which I enjoyed quite a bit. I was in shock when I heard “Scuttle Buttin’.” That was the fastest thing I’d ever heard and I was, at this point, quite a metal head. Still, SRV was just one more guitar player I liked. Sometime over the course of the year, I turned sixteen, won $50 in a school poetry contest and ventured into the world of bootlegs with the winnings. I’ve been trapped there ever since. I found a cassette bootleg of Stevie Ray Vaughan live at Loreley. It had no track list, no label, and no specific date but it was marked as a soundboard recording. My young ears had heard some really crappy Led Zeppelin audience boots, so soundboard drew me in. I paid eight 1987 dollars for the tape and it transformed me from casual SRV fan to apeshit wingnut in just under 90 minutes. He actually pulled off “Scuttle Buttin’” live and it was better! Plus “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and sick versions of “Little Wing” and “Third Stone From The Sun.” Third. Stone. From. The. Sun. What?
That was it. All bets were off and my SRV bootleg collecting skyrocketed. I bought them all. Eventually I moved into the realm of VHS bootlegs and came home with Live In Japan January 1985. Out comes Stevie Ray puffing a pipe and casually ripping his way through “Scuttle Buttin’” – it just wasn’t fair. He was too good. My close friend and musical conspirator digested all this along with me and we spent hours watching Stevie Ray’s hands and poring over live recordings. The day “In Step” came out I bought it and took it over to his house so we could hear it together. All the while, I was reading every interview I could find with Stevie Ray Vaughan. I learned a few of his tunes and some of his licks from magazines like Guitar For The Practicing Musician. I even started using GHS guitar strings because of Stevie Ray. Within all this Stevie Ray Vaughan material, I discovered blues. I slowly realized it had been around me all the while.
Stevie Ray Vaughan, even at his most drug-addled and intoxicated, was always talking about his heroes. People like Jimi Hendrix, Albert King, Freddie King, B.B. King, Lonnie Mack, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, and his big brother Jimmie Vaughan. I checked out all these guys and discovered a world of music that slowly redirected my attention away from metal. Naturally it was at this point I seriously regretted buying a Charvel guitar. The Jackson-cut headstock and fire-engine red finish weren’t very bluesy. Anyway, I tied this information together with what I learned from reading about the blues adored by Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. I also recalled that name Tom Keifer dropped in an interview a few years earlier: Johnny Winter. Johnny Winter and Stevie’s work with Lonnie Mack led me to Alligator Records. My listening has never been the same.
I will always remember where I was when I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan was dead. Keep in mind this was 1990. I had no internet. No texting; no tweeting. The 24 hour news cycle hadn’t even been born yet. That came later with the first Gulf War. I was in my room, waiting for a friend and listening to Neil Young & Crazy Horse. My friend arrived and asked if I heard. Heard what? Stevie Ray Vaughan is dead.
What? How? Where? I teared up. I felt like I had been sucker punched. I felt like I knew him from listening to him pour out his soul in his music. I read all the interviews. He was clean and sober and helping others get their lives together. He was playing great, touring a hot new record and had just made a record with his brother. How could he be gone? I must admit that when I heard the circumstances of his death my first reaction was why wasn’t it Clapton? Callous I know. Sue me. I took his death hard. Only my grandmother’s death has affected me more. I felt empty and hurt. A huge black hole now existed in my musical universe.
Eventually I started trying to fill that hole and find someone else with that sound. No one else at that time sounded like Stevie Ray Vaughan. I looked. I dug up Tinsley Ellis, Smokin’ Joe Kubek, anybody who played blues with a Strat – I tried them out. I found a lot of great music and my journey deeper into the blues began in earnest. Without Stevie Ray’s death I may have never discovered Ronnie Earl or Roy Buchanan, Jimmy Thackery, Walter Trout, or even more recent guys like Chris Duarte and Mato Nanji. I also discovered I loved most styles of blues and went back to the masters like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, and Son House. My musical universe expanded greatly but the black hole has never been filled. I’ve just learned to accept it. I did not know Stevie Ray Vaughan and never met him in person, but I loved him and I miss him to this day. I miss the music that could have been and the powerful force for good he represented by helping people and always humbly directing others to those who came before him to whom he felt indebted. He was a class act, amazing musician, and a respectful, unpretentious human being. Stevie Ray Vaughan continues to inspire me and his music lifts me up whenever I hear it or play it. Not a day goes by without thinking of something or hearing something Stevie Ray Vaughan related and in many ways that makes me very happy. Fly on little wing, fly on…
Well Biscuiteers, we were very busy last week and it was capped by a trip to Rochester to see Dan Baird & Homemade Sin so I didn’t get to the Friday Fast Five Reviews. So, today we’re going with a favorite American radio cliche and do Two For Tuesday. Fast Five should be back this week but we have some other things lined up too so we’ll see what happens. Until then…
Friend is a fitting title for the new album from Billy Thompson. He is joined by many musicians he calls friend, and many of the songs address relationships in society that would benefit from amicable, friendly relations. In opener “Soldier of Misfortune” Thompson sings about the effect of the military industrial complex on our society and the lives it affects, including soldiers returning injured, both mentally and physically. They need a lot of things, not least of which is a friend. Thompson’s stinging guitar punctuates his points and he pours out his distress at the situation through his playing. “Many Faces” addresses racial and cultural divides that could be eliminated if we focused on our commonalities – a friendly notion indeed. Billy’s friend Ron Holloway sits in on sax, contributing a spirited solo and tasty fills.
Billy Thompson’s style reminds me of Little Feat so I wasn’t surprised to learn Kenny Gradney and Bill Payne sat in on Friend. “Garden” features Bill Payne on keys and has a churning beat and greasy slide. Thompson’s voice is a perfect blend of Lowell George and Paul Barrere and makes this sound like long lost 70’s Feat. That’s a good thing. “Satisfied” features both Gradney and Payne, and drummer Eric Selby lays down a driving, marching beat. Thompson’s guitar work is slippery, slick, and slithering. This is a fast paced rocker and will definitely get you moving. “Got To Be Did” has a Little Feat feel too and features no one from Little Feat at all. Four songs on Friend feature the keyboard talents of Mike Finnigan. You may have seen Finnigan’s name in the credits for Jimi Hendrix’ Electric Ladyland or from The Phantom Blues Band. Finnigan’s chops are in fine form on Friend. All the keyboard players on Friend, including Mike Peed and Wes Lanich, add depth and intrigue to the music. They keyboards serve as a great counterpoint to Thompson’s guitar and in other places provide layers of sound.
Friend is a highly satisfying album and covers a lot of bases. The stellar musicianship and the friendly attitude between the bandleader Billy Thompson, his guests, and his road band allowed the best possible music to be made. Friend came out in 2013, and if you missed it, here’s your chance to catch up with this tremendous music.
When Are You Coming Home? is the debut disc from New York City’s J. Blake. The title track is a slow burning blues tour de force. At five and a half minutes it’s the longest tune of the set and he leaves it all hanging out. Impassioned vocals, searing solos, and a broken relationship spin into a perfect storm. “When You Coming Home?” is one of three tunes written or co-written by Blake on the disc including opener “Ain’t No Good (At Lovin’ You)”. This swampy blues showcases J. Blake’s gritty vocals, and the lyrics are a twist on the classic tale of woe. Instead of the woman complaining about his running around and drinking, he’s laying it out for her instead, without apology and without remorse. There are several twists on the record and they make for an enjoyable listen, especially given his choice of covers.
J. Blake has a knack for making covers interesting. Sometimes I hate covers, especially when a million and one people have done the song, like “Spoonful.” A lot of people know the Howlin’ Wolf version and maybe even more know the Cream version and somewhere in between you get the style of most covers. Blake deconstructs “Spoonful” and rebuilds it as a smoky jazz club tune to be played around 2 am when booze soaked patrons are looking around at their final options to stave off loneliness yet again. Keyboardist Stephen Hastings owns this version and his cascading runs make you forget about the guitar heavy versions of “Spoonful” you’ve heard all your life. The rhythm section of Mike Berman on bass and Scott Hamilton on drums work magic on this track too, as does J. Blake, who avoids the guitar histrionics and overwrought vocals in exchange for a gentler delivery all around. This is a great re-imaging of a classic tune.
Blake twists another classic around in knots too with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll.” He puts it to a Bo Diddley beat and his almost whispered vocals are the antithesis of the wailing Robert Plant. It’s a fitting tribute to a band notorious for keeping lyrics and eschewing the original music in exchange for the more dynamic Page riffery. Blake makes great use of the Diddley beat and you’ll be scratching your head wondering what other Led Zeppelin tunes could be turned on their heads this way. Blake may have only a few original compositions on the disc, but his rearrangements of others are inventive and certainly original. This is an auspicious first step and I look forward to the future.
It’s fresh biscuit time again. There’s a movement afoot to change the release day to a worldwide Friday schedule. What’s with the Tuesday release schedule in the United States? Why not Monday? It’s the first day of the business week. But retailers don’t want to have to set up new displays on a Sunday night after a busy weekend sales day. So there’s a buffer zone of a day. But Friday works too for new releases because Thursday is traditionally a slower day in retail and gives everyone plenty of time to get the new stuff out. In the height of the CD era, having time for displays was a big concern. There were tons of releases every week, sale signs to set up, and promotional materials to display. Recently the labels don’t send out much promotional material. CDs don’t move like they used to, and in the digital age, titles released abroad on Friday are on the internet by Friday night slowing sales when Tuesday comes around here in the USA. I think Friday is a good idea. What do you think? If you want to read the article on Billboard click here or the link above.
Welcome to the first installment of Friday Fast Five CD Reviews. I hope to do this every week. There’s a lot of music out there to sort through and we’re here to help you find something appealing. The idea is to present five short and to-the-point reviews in 300 words or less. Yeah, I didn’t think I could do it either!
Maybe you’ll love something I don’t and maybe you won’t like something I love. Be sure to comment here, or on Facebook or Twitter. Alright, let’s get to it…
Livin’ It Up is the follow up to Andy T & Nick Nixon’s 2013 breakout album Drink Drank Drunk. It’s big but uncluttered, crisp, clean Rhythm & Blues. Nick Nixon has a smooth voice and a heartfelt delivery. Andy T mixes classic guitar influences from T. Bone Walker to Jimmy Rogers into a personal style with rich tone that avoids being derivative. These guys know the importance of creating your own music beyond your influences and they do it well. They claim to play Chicago, Texas, and New Orleans Blues and R&B. Somehow they manage to wrap all those styles into a singular package without getting messy or losing the plot.
“Livin’ It Down” is ostensibly the title track. She undoes everything he has and while she’s out there livin’ it up, he’s trying to live it down. He had his “ducks in a row and she shot ’em.” That’s cold! The words are playful and fun even though Nixon gets continuously dumped on by his erstwhile love. Nick Nixon is a consummate vocalist and varies his intensity according to the song. He can be silky smooth or rasp saw rugged and Andy T plays exactly what’s needed to accompany his partner’s voice. Both men work for the song, making every track a keeper. The band falls in behind and consistently delivers big grooves and deep blues. Larry Van Loon is a master of Hammond B3 dynamics and Ron Jones and Dana Robbins shine on saxophone. Producer Anson Funderburgh puts it all in the blender and serves up fresh organic blues with the finest ingredients. If you want fun, good time blues with a vintage feel this is your band.
Anthony “Big A” Sherrod & The Cornlickers Red’s Juke Joint Series Vol. 2 Independent Unknown release date – Summer 2014
Anthony “Big A” Sherrod is around 30 years old, plays guitar like a man possessed, sings from his soul, and entertains a crowd like he was born for the stage. He’s the total blues package and very few people have heard of him outside Clarksdale, MS. Very little about him can be found on line and if not for his two stellar performances at Briggs Farm Blues Festival this past July I’d know even less about him. This CD was, as the title suggests, recorded at Red’s Lounge. Red’s is one of the last true jukes in Clarksdale and is featured heavily in the film We Juke Up In Here. Big A is also featured in the film and wrote the title song for the film. This disc captures the energy of Big A’s live show, backed by Big Jack Johnson’s former band, The Cornlickers. The Cornlickers are tight and know every blues lick ever played, every rhythm, every chord. The music in their collective soul and they get the house rockin’ every time.
Sherrod works the crowd like Buddy Guy, and even covers one of Guy’s latter day tunes “Midnight Train.” In his hands it becomes a raucous down home jam instead of the Jonny Lang-overwrought-singing, big-production crossover blues. Anthony plays it so funky you could smell it – something Buddy should have done. “Big A” personalizes “Have You Ever Been Mistreated,” bends the notes long and hard and heats things up by having Rita Engedalen join in for a vocal duet. At the center of the album is a nine minute excursion called “The Blues Is Serious.” Even though Big A has some fun with it and the crowd, you can tell this young man is a serious rising star. The set closes with a raucous “Got Something On My Shoulder,” with Anthony digging deep and playing from the gut. This is good time, Mississippi groove music and it translates well to disc. Keep an ear to the ground for Anthony “Big A” Sherrod. His train will be leaving the Delta shortly and hopefully coming to a stop near you.
Roger Stolle has informed us that Anthony’s CD is available to order from his store in Clarksdale, MS – the legendary Cat Head.
Joe Louis Walker has been on his share of labels, which happens with a lot of blues artists. Stony Plain has released a selection of tunes from his tenure there. From 2008 to 2010, Joe Louis Walker made three records, 2008’s Witness To The Blues, 2009’s Between A Rock and The Blues, and Live On The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise in 2010. I like it best when Joe rocks it up a little and there is plenty here to scratch that itch from “Eyes Like A Cat” and “I’m Tide” to “Slow Down GTO” but there’s something for everyone here. There’s the big band R&B of “Black Widow Spider,” the jazzy jam of “Highview,” the heart-wrenching soul of “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” featuring Curtis Salgado, and acoustic back porch blues on “Send You Back.”
JLW’s plaintive vocals and outstanding guitar playing are mainstays of the collection no matter what direction Joe sends the music. Part of the fun of a Joe Louis Walker record is wondering where it’s going next. He’s a blues man by trade but he is a well-rounded musician who draws inspiration from a multitude of sources. He has become a master of compiling those sources on record and keeps them coherent. The Best Of The Stony Plain Years gives a glimpse of all Joe’s styles and because of his eclectic tendencies, this works well as a standalone album.
Rick Estrin & the Nightcats are the result of Little Charlie Baty retiring in 2009. The band Little Charlie & The Night Cats changed the name, added Chris “Kid” Anderson on guitar and took off with their new moniker. The sound has remained familiar as Estrin has always been the singer, harp player, and principal writer. His sly lyrics, self-deprecating humor, and astute word play make the songs interesting and the band can play anything. They can get deep in the pocket, funk it up, or dust up the boards with a rollicking shuffle. The new disc, by popular demand, is You Asked For It…Live!
There’s a lot of good humor here including “My Next Ex-Wife,” “New Old Lady,” ‘Dump That Chump,” and “That’s Big.” Estrin’s harp playing is in fine form all over this album and it no surprise that he is every bit as good live as he is on record. Kid Anderson has settled into his role whether comping behind the soloist or burning up the fret board. He’s a full-blown Nightcat by now and brings a lot of energy to the band. “Smart Like Einstein” gives everyone a chance to jam and keyboardist/bassist Lorenzo Farrell plays his ass off, and effortlessly covers the deep end even when working his magic on the keys.
Surprisingly, the disc has no tracks from the band’s two albums as Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, so I’m not sure how well it represents their live show, but it’s only one disc and maybe they didn’t want to repeat recent offerings. What we do get on You Asked For It…Live! is energetic and entertaining especially with Estrin’s stage banter and stories. Whatever the reason, if You Asked For It…Live!, you got it: 76 minutes of fun.
Suit Ty Thurrsty play Blues, Rock, Funk, Soul, & Hip-Hop. I don’t know if it’s a new hybrid or not but they are convincing. The trio is named for its members Tom “The Suit” Forst, Tyree “TY” Pope, and Pedro “Bigg Thurrsty” Johnson. Their assorted backgrounds meet in R&B and Soul and their music weaves in and out of the modern R&B idiom. This isn’t James Brown’s R&B nor it is blues, but it’s not not-blues either. It’s a peculiar mix. Many songs have group vocals that maintain the R&B/Soul vibe, however, much like the real People In The Street, there is a lot of diversity here. “You Make Me Real” draws from ballads of sidewalk soul singers and “Drawers” rips everything wide open with its punky metal blues. There are nods to Jimi Hendrix all over this record, most obviously on “Diamonds” which has parallels with “Purple Haze,” especially during the verses. “Same Old Song” is the closest to straight blues but it also has a 70’s blues rock feel and squealing ZZ Top style guitar leads.
Suit Ty Thurrsty is trying to be a lot of things at once and while I can appreciate the desire to avoid being pigeon-holed, sometimes you need to establish a tone for your music and build from there. People In The Street has the feel of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. It’s messy and scattered and even includes a bonus track alternate version of “Same Old Song.” It’s like they’re saying “if you didn’t like the hard blues version here’s a funky urban version.” Their overall success might be better served if they pick one and stick with it. They do offer samples on their website so check it out.
I don’t know how it happened but this week’s Hump Day theme turned into “tight.” Maybe it’s the tight schedule I’ve been on lately. Maybe by socks are too tight.
Tampa Red has been featured here before. I’ll give you a nickel if you remember what song. Hey, a nickel could buy you a lot of sin in 1928! You supply the Time Machine. This time Red is paired with Georgia Tom, aka Thomas Dorsey, the father of black gospel music. I didn’t realize there was white gospel music – I think it’s referred to as Christian Rock. Long before either though, Tampa Red & Georgia Tom teamed up for some bawdy blues. Can you picture St. Peter at the gates of Heaven humming “It’s Tight Like That” when he saw Georgia Tom in line? Mr. Dorsey was probably sweating that one.
Next up is Barrel House Annie with a song loosely related to our topic. “If It Don’t Fit, Don’t Force It” is good advice for any situation, especially a tight one. Hell it worked for OJ when everybody thought he was sincerely, irrevocably fu… Shut your mouth!
As a bonus we’ve got a modern version of the Sippie Wallace classic “Mighty Tight Woman” featuring young Bonnie Raitt performing on a Philadelphia radio show in 1972. She was touring to promote the Give It Up album. There’s a dirty joke in there somewhere. I’ll let you write it.
That’s it for Hump Day this week. I hope you enjoy this feature. Please comment here or on Facebook or Twitter. Say hello or share some of your favorite dirty blues. On Twitter, search for #thatsoundsdirty and you’ll find some of our other risque blues tweets. Have fun everyone!
Tampa Red & Georgia Tom It’s Tight Like That
Barrel House Annie If It Don’t Fit (Don’t Force It)
I have mixed feelings about tribute albums, and about children of legends attempting to carry on the legacy. I think it’s great that the heirs are interested in music, and it makes sense they would engage in music similar to their parents. However, if they try to clone the past work it often falls flat or comes off as dishonest because the music isn’t theirs. It is their parents’ music. Whether it is Muddy Waters, Luther Allison, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Lonnie Brooks, Johnny Copeland or a host of others, that music was theirs. It came from their experiences, their relationships, their toils, triumphs and tribulations. The children of these musicians had different experiences, and trying to re-create the music of their elders will never resonate as much as making music of their own. Luckily, Blues is a big tent and those who stick with the family business have plenty of space to stake out their own claim.
Larry “Mud” Morganfield got started late in the game, but with his live shows and two critically acclaimed albums he has begun to develop his own version of traditional Chicago Blues. I was pleasantly surprised by his Severn Records debut, Son Of The Seventh Son. I was initially dubious of Larry Morganfield due to his “Mud” moniker and what I suspected was an attempt to cash in on his father’s legacy. However, the music changed my mind. At first I couldn’t tell if it was flattery or forgery; it was too damned good. The amount of care that went into the music could not come from anything other than the genuine article.
Apparently many people picked up on Mud’s sincerity and Severn was flooded with requests to get him and Kim Wilson on record together. According to Severn Records president David Earl, they “couldn’t ignore all the requests. After we released Mud Morganfield’s Son Of The Seventh Son album and The Fabulous Thunderbirds’ On The Verge disc, the phone was ringing off the hook and the inbox was flooded with emails. The topic was always the same: ‘You have to get Mud and Kim to do an album together!” Mud and Kim were in agreement and the duo set forth to commemorate the 100th anniversary of McKinley Morganfield’s birth, ambiguous as it is.
Mud captures the spirit of his father’s vocals, but even more so, he captures the tone and phrasing so well that if you close your eyes and listen close you’d swear it was Muddy reborn with his 21st Century mojo working. However, if you keep your eyes closed and ears open you’ll also hear Mud loud and clear. The variations are there and somehow they make me smile. I want to know Mud is in there, giving us his version of this treasured music. Mud’s partner for this outing, Kim Wilson, is a music legend in his own right. Wilson successfully evokes all of Muddy’s harp players from Little Walter and James Cotton to Junior Wells, Paul Oscher and Jerry Portnoy yet remains very much Kim Wilson. The rest of the band is also top notch and features Billy Flynn and Rusty Zinn on guitars, Barrelhouse Chuck on piano, Steve Gomes on bass and Robb Stupka on drums. The album was produced by David Earl and Steve Gomes and recorded at Severn Sound Studios in Annapolis, Maryland.
Mud Morganfield and Kim Wilson picked a great mix of songs, avoiding almost all obvious choices. They chose just enough hits to draw people in but then hit them with some equally great rarities. Muddy Waters had a vast reserve of songs and rehashing his biggest tunes would have been a major misstep. Instead we have Mud and Kim bringing you in with “I Just Want To Make Love To You” and capturing you with “My Dog Can’t Bark” and “Gone To Main Street.” The songs were recorded live with the band in one room and Mud in a vocal booth. The interplay and tightness of this band is incredible and their dedication to their craft is palpable. If Chess Records had modern equipment, this is how these tracks would have sounded. There is just enough mix of old and new to hold your attention and side by side comparisons will reveal the contributions of all involved.
“She’s Got It” has the classic “Mannish Boy” call and response riff with Mud’s hum over top. Wilson and the band have a raw edge that rocks this tune hard. “Just To Be With You” finds Wilson pushing the tune, going deep into his gut and bellowing the blues through his Mississippi Saxophone while Barrelhouse Chuck sublimely tickles the ivories, and Mud energetically and emphatically declares he would do anything, honey, just to be with you. On “I Love The Life I Live, I Live The Life I Love” Kim Wilson’s harp is howling like the highway wind around a tour bus heading South on I-55. Barrelhouse Chuck’s piano takes “I Don’t Know Why” into Chicago boogie territory and he burns up the 88’s with a lot more energy than the original and transforms this fairly obscure tune into a true contender.
“Nineteen Years Old” gives the guitar players some time to shine and again Barrelhouse Chuck steals the show with his ebullient fills. The liner notes don’t say which guitarist takes the slide leads but Mud calls Billy Flynn by name in the song so I suspect it’s him. He has the perfect tone and touch. Muddy’s slide playing was deceptively simplistic. He didn’t play a lot of notes but he knew exactly how to play them. Billy Flynn, if it was him, made Muddy proud for sure with his succinct, impeccable playing. The record closes with another slide guitar driven tune “She Moves Me.” This time, it’s a slow blues dirge and Wilson’s lonesome harp and the forlorn slide play unison runs that will make your hair stand on end.
This particular group of musicians, hand-picked by Mud Morganfield, Kim Wilson and David Earl, is one of the best tribute bands I’ve ever heard. I love this record, and I usually don’t give much attention to tribute albums after a few listens. They are usually superfluous and lacking understanding of the original music and/or musicians. I knew Mud’s style and sense of history already, and what can you say about Kim Wilson? Someday people will be making albums in tribute to him. Even still, I had only moderate expectations of For Pops – A Tribute To Muddy Waters. However, these two men and their band have served up an album that just might serve as the ultimate tribute to McKinley Morganfield. The familiar songs sound so authentic you’ll be digging out the originals in disbelief, and the wide variety of tunes on For Pops will expose listeners to the breadth of Waters’ catalog, hopefully opening their ears to other hidden gems from the late blues master. This is a fitting birthday present to Mud’s Pops and a great way to celebrate the 100th birthday of the father of modern electric blues. You will not find a better tribute to Pops Morganfield than For Pops – A Tribute To Muddy Waters.
I was looking for some pictures to commemorate Buddy’s Guy’s birthday and for Throwback Thursday on our Facebook page. I was led to a nice set of shots taken at Bluestock, the ill-fated festival in the Catskills that literally and figuratively took a bath thanks to Hurricane Irene striking far inland three years ago. The post led to a conversation on Facebook with ChefJimi Patricola and Chris Lyon, our ticket winner for Pennsylvania Blues Festival, and it got me thinking about that fateful weekend at Hunter Mountain in New York state.
So let’s get in the WABAC machine once again and revisit the one, and so far only, Bluestock…
Skies were blue and spirits were high on Friday afternoon as the first annual Bluestock festival kicked off with two time IBC winner Lionel Young and his band, but a sense of foreboding was palpable as attendees wondered what Sunday would bring as Irene left a wake of destruction in her path up the east coast.
No, Bluestock did not exactly happen as planned. Gregg Allman, Saturday’s scheduled headliner, had to cancel due to illness. Mysteriously, or perhaps enigmatically, Steven Seagal and his band Thunderbox (yes! this is a real thing) were no where to be found. Shemekia Copeland was a late addition to the lineup and Robert Cray was added as a headliner. Then the unexpected, unwanted guest arrived: Hurricane Irene. Producer Steve Simon probably never had an inkling that hurricane season could disrupt his monumental undertaking of combining the Blues Cruise with Woodstock. A hurricane? In the Catskills? Never. Well, think again.
By the end of Friday night, Sunday’s schedule had been scrapped and the festival, originally intended to take place outdoors, with two side-by-side stages for continuous music, was to be moved indoors on Saturday. Thankfully, Hunter Mountain Ski Resort had several halls to accommodate the indoor festival allowing them to keep the original plan of adjacent stages and continuous entertainment. To everyone’s surprise, the headliners Robert Cray and Buddy Guy were to play outdoors on Saturday afternoon and all the other acts that could make it would be playing indoors for a marathon thirteen hour show.
Of course, many were displeased by the turn of events and several angry customers shared their opinions on social media sites like Facebook. Some were angry about cancellations and many felt the festival should have been cancelled altogether. However, the majority of people gathered on the mountain thought the show must go on. And go on it did. Crammed into two days of music were nineteen acts featuring a veritable who’s-who of modern blues. Performers ranged from longtime favorites like Elvin Bishop, Tommy Castro & The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue, Tab Benoit, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Shemekia Copeland to relatively newcomers Moreland & Arbuckle, Alexis P. Suter Band, Trampled Under Foot, and Port City Prophets to local favorites Bruce Katz Band and Chris O’Leary, who made a surprise appearance with Bob Margolin & Matt Hill (Matt now plays full time in his wife Nikki Hill‘s band).
While Saturday had illustrious acts seemingly every hour on the hour, Friday’s lineup was stellar in itself. The Lionel Young Band got the early birds moving with their leader’s guitar pickin’, fiddle pluckin’ boogies and a rollicking version of “Got My Mojo Working.” Literally moments after the closing notes of their set, Bob Margolin & Matt Hill continued the show on the adjacent stage allowing the crowd nary a second to catch its breath. Bob Margolin is a proven crowd pleaser but 2011 BMA Best New Artist winner Matt Hill stole the show with possibly the best AC/DC cover ever in “Hellz Bellz” – done Jerry Lee Lewis style, it was a nearly unrecognizable revved up rock n’ roller that would have left Malcolm and Angus Young drop-jawed and stupefied. Matt Hill then upped the ante with a song presumably called “Lemon Squeezer.” He sang about squeezing your lemons, woman, showed you his technique, bounded around the stage and removed his belt to whip you into submission. His infectious energy spread through the crowd and band. When Chris O’Leary came out to blow some harp it seemed the hurricane may have come early. They laid waste to preconceived notions of legendary jams when Lionel Young came out with his fiddle and joined the fray. This supergroup tore into another version of “Got My Mojo Working” that had the Catskill evergreens shimmying on the slopes.
The Bluestock crew kept the music going, operating like a well-oiled machine, getting BMA nominees Trampled Under Foot on stage just as the jam with Bob Margolin ended. The band appeared on many “best” lists in the last few years and it is immediately apparent why. This trio of siblings plays almost telepathically, locked in the groove and playing hard. Once their fiery set ended, the festival modeled after the Blues Cruise found ports of call in Louisiana with sets from Tab Benoit and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Benoit’s laid back delivery and sinewy grooves took us deep in the heart Cajun Country. Exuberant fans threw plush alligator hats to the band and Tab obliged by donning the cap while playing. His searing solos were hot as a raging skillet in a blackened shrimp contest, and were twice as tasty.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue took us from Benoit’s rural bayou to the Crescent City with an effervescent set full of New Orleans funk and jazz. Many concert goers later commented that the band seemed out place at a blues festival, but enjoyed them nonetheless. Blues and jazz are inextricably linked, born of similar circumstances and using the same musical language. It was a master stroke to remind the fans of this oft forgotten musical relationship and the powerful music of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue certainly had the crowd in the palm of its hand by the end of the set. Shorty’s passion and connection to his instruments was nearly tangible as he breathed life from the trombone and trumpet into the air around Hunter Mountain. The band was one of only a few selling their CDs for less than twenty dollars – theirs were merely ten – and I hope everyone who enjoyed the set took one home. A better value for ten bucks could not be found at the festival.
Friday’s closer Elvin Bishop took the stage and played a set roughly based on his recent CD “Raisin’ Hell Revue” recorded on one of the Blues Cruises. Unfortunately he told some of the same stories from the CD but his good humor helps overcome the familiarity. His guitar playing helps a little too. Well, it helps a lot. The jamming kicked up a notch when Tab Benoit joined Elvin Bishop and the band for a few songs to close out the set. They didn’t play “Got My Mojo Working” and I’m glad for that. After the first two acts of the day did it I was getting worried.
Due to a bizarre twist of weather-related fate, Saturday noon found Robert Cray on stage while the crew set up the opposite stage for Buddy Guy. Robert Cray and Buddy Guy, back to back, on a Saturday afternoon. It almost made you glad to be in the path of a hurricane. Cray’s smooth, soulful blues eased the bleary-eyed revelers into the day. Cray joked a few times about the bright sunlight and time of day but there was no detrimental effect on the music.
While Robert Cray’s set was somewhat laid back, Buddy Guy came out all guns blazing. If the hair of the dog didn’t cure your ills, trouble was coming your way at maximum volume and speed. Buddy’s amps must have been bought from Spinal Tap because he was definitely one louder than everyone else. He sang “74 Years Young” from his Living Proof album but played like the owner of 34 years young fingers. His passion, humor, stage antics and propensity to say “fuck” a lot certainly woke everyone up.
About halfway into his set, Buddy brought out 12 year old Quinn Sullivan who has been appearing with the Buddy Guy Band for a few years. Quinn has enormous talent and his technique is flawless, but unfortunately he’s at a stage of his musical life marked mostly by imitation, and Buddy let him dominate the rest of the set. Sullivan sang a few songs, but his pre-pubescent voice is too high and was washed out in the mix. Still, he is only twelve and will hopefully evolve into a powerful musical force in the next ten years or so. Buddy Guy believes in him and even quipped that he would certainly come back next year, but only if Quinn gets an invitation too. I say Quinn Sullivan should be invited, but give him his own set so we can get a full ninety minutes of Buddy Guy next time.
After Buddy Guy’s set, the festival moved indoors, just moments ahead of the rain. Recent concert tragedies from stages falling at the Indiana State Fair and the Ottawa Blues Fest surely had the promoters and crew concerned and they made short work of taking down the outdoor staging. Accommodations were also made to allow the campers to stay in the lodge on Saturday night. Steve Simon and crew put safety first making sure all attendees were protected.
Meanwhile, two stages were ready to go inside. One in a large auditorium style hall and the other in place for the late night jams with Mitch Woods, dubbed Club 88. Mitch hosts Club 88 on the Blues Cruises and usually persuades lingering musicians to join in the fun. Tucked in the corner of the lodge, the stage was like an eight ounce brisket sandwich with sixteen ounces of brisket on it; messy, over flowing, and finger licking good. The sky was crying but the blues lovers were smiling as the two stages provided continual music for the next eleven hours as the rain pounded the mountain outside.
Saturday’s indoor lineup was Shemekia Copeland, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Curtis Salgado, Bruce Katz Band, Shakura S’Aida, Moreland & Arbuckle, Tommy Castro & The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue, Albert Cummings, Alexis P. Suter Band, and Port City Prophets. Every one who made it to the mountain played a set and then the music continued once more when Mitch Woods’ Club 88 re-opened for business with the Prince of Beale St. Billy Gibson at the microphone.
I must confess I’ve seen Shemekia Copeland three times this year. She played basically the same set each time and told the same stories. I suspect I’m spoiled by bands that vary their sets. Her band is tight and plays perfectly each time, which makes once a year enough for me. Ms. Copeland has a powerful voice and uses it well, but there are no surprises for repeat customers. If you haven’t heard her sing live though, I highly recommend it. No studio wizardry, and sometimes no microphone, is used but her tiny frame holds inside an immense musical force.
Ronnie Baker Brooks gave the guitar fans one long guitargasm after another and even soloed his way through the crowd to the bar for a drink and a bottle to play some slide. It’s not a new addition to the traditional trick bag, but it gets the crowds going every time. Curtis Salgado’s blue-eyed soul had the faithful swaying to the beat; Bruce Katz Band whipped up some Hammond B-3 blues with Alexis P. Suter’s guitarist Jimmy Bennett pulling double duty, playing and singing with Bruce. Shakura S’Aida’s vigorous vocalizing drew cheers and Moreland & Arbuckle literally and figuratively kicked everything up a notch with their guitar and harmonica led trio. They were asked to play a bit longer while Tommy Castro was setting up next door and the enthusiastic crowd response drove them to greater manic intensity. They even had the audacity to release their new album on vinyl, which was quite popular at the merchandise table.
The delay from getting Tommy Castro set up caused a schedule crunch and bands had to play simultaneously, dividing the attention of the Bluestock survivors but Tommy Castro & The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue held most of the focus once under way. They played an incendiary rendition of “Gotta Serve Somebody” before being joined by Rick Estrin, Deanna Bogart and others for a recreation of the legendary blues cruise’s favorite jams.
Albert Cummings took the stage with the rhythm section from Shakura S’Aida’s band – two guys he met a mere thirty minutes before going on – and they wowed the small crowd in front of the tiny Club 88 stage. The trio played seamlessly with Cummings’ molten licks flowing freely over the bedrock of bass and drums. Alexis P. Suter’s powerful, booming voice filled the auditorium and the band’s gospel infused blues surely added weight to those prayers for shelter from the storm pounding the Catskills. Port City Prophets, an upcoming band from South Carolina, played last on the Club 88 stage, mixing amusing originals with clever covers. They played a dynamic version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Couldn’t Stand The Weather” in honor of the looming devastation that would be unleashed by morning.
And so, we had Bluestock 2011: One of the headliners cancelled, an MC was AWOL, minor acts hoping for major exposure were crammed into a ski lodge playing for hundreds instead of thousands, headliners opened the show, openers closed; all the signs of the Apocalypse were there. But the Apocalypse never came. The crowd was well behaved in the cramped space, everyone was happy to be there enjoying a seemingly endless variety of blues, and the producers, promoters, managers and musicians all pulled together to provide those who braved the weather the best possible experience. They came through with class and grace, deftly handling one dilemma after another making Bluestock 2011 an unforgettable weekend of music, friends and adventure. Although I’m already looking forward to the next Bluestock, strangely enough, the Simon brothers and the Bluestock crew will have a hard time topping it next year.
We spent the past weekend at Pennsylvania Blues Festival and had the good fortune to catch two sets by James “Super Chikan” Johnson. Super Chikan is one of my favorite blues performers, players, writers and guitar builders. He made some wild looking guitars from items like old oil and gas cans to ceiling fans, axes, and even shotguns. On Sunday July 27, 2014, Super Chikan played a solo set using a variety of his homemade instruments, and performed again later in the day. The second set was supposed to be a solo set but turned into an impromptu full band set as Jarekus Singleton and his whole band eventually joined the Chikan on stage. This set was my favorite of the weekend. It was an organic jam that the musicians quite obviously enjoyed and Super Chikan’s upbeat blues boogies had everyone moving and more people up dancing than any other set I saw.
How does all this relate to Hump Day? Well, Super Chikan has a tune called “Shoot That Thang” and it gets down and dirty. So down and dirty that Chikan declined to play it when requested by a fellow PA Blues Fest patron. He said it gets a little X-rated (a slight overstatement) and he wouldn’t play it with little kids around. Did I mention he’s also a class act? Somebody Shoot That Thang! I looked around for a video with the studio version but I came up empty. I did find a pretty lengthy but fun performance clip though. I hope you enjoy it.
Our second selection is also inspired by Pennsylvania Blues Fest. Barbara Carr performed an afternoon set and unfortunately I missed a lot of it covering another band on another stage. I don’t know if she played this song but if she did I’m sorry I missed it. Maybe she would have explained just what a “Bo Hawg Grind” is but I’m guessing that if you don’t know you’ve never experienced it. According to Barrelhouse Words: A Blues Dialect Dictionary By Stephen Calt, a bo’ hog is a boar hog; literally an adult male swine. Bo’ hog connotes a middle aged or sexually experienced boyfriend, a bo’ hog shuffle is a slang term for sexual intercourse, and a bo’ hog’s eye or hog-eye is a slang term for vagina. Well, then, let’s have a listen and see what we can learn of the “Bo Hawg Grind.” I wonder if Muddy was looking for Barbara when he was singing “Can’t Get No Grindin'”…