Wednesday, July 31, 2013

J. Geils Band - Bloodshot

Anyone who knows me or who has read this blog for any amount of time knows that I am a huge fan of 60's and 70's J. Geils Band - one of the best live shows I have ever seen and truly fantastic party records. Starting as a blues band, they mixed up blues, r'n'b, rock'n'roll and whatever else they could think of to come up with a wild, rockin' sound. Bloodshot is another of their terrific 70's albums.

Opening with a true party tune, the aptly titled "Ain't Nothing But a House Party", the guys rip it up with a high-energy dance number where each member gets to show off their licks - the incredible Magic Dick on harp, the man, J. Geils on guitar, Seth Justman on keys, superb rhythm section of Stephen Jo Bladd on drums and vocals and Danny Klein on bass, and, of course, the incomparable Peter Wolf on lead vocals. They bring it down a bit for "Make Up Your Mind", more of a easy-groovin', early r'n'r kinda number. Then rev things up for "Back To Get Ya", a funky rocker, with more fantastic harmonica wailin' and string wranglin'.

Justman sets the scene on the piano for the early r'n'b/r'n'r of "Struttin' With My Baby", which is followed by the drunken-Salvation-Army tune "Don't Try To Hide It", showing that these cats had a stoner sense of humor ("I see your heinie, it's nice and shiny, don't try to hide it, you know I'll find it") - totally goofy fun. Tour opener "Southside Shuffle", is a mover and shaker, with a great soul opening that turns into a rocker with an ending that the crowd would always get into - "got to do it, got to do it"! "Hold Your Loving" really raves, again sounding like an updated early r'n'r stomper.

Slowing it down for "Start All Over Again", they somehow manage to create a doo-wop ballad without the harmonies - not sure if that makes sense, but that's what it sounds like to me! They close the album with their take on reggae (many people tried around this time), which proved to be fortuitous as it gave them another hit with "Give It To Me". Truthfully, while I like this, it is a bit too affected for me - not quite as authentic sounding as most of their stuff.

Still, another terrific album of blues/rock'n'roll and white-man's r'n'b!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Jinxemgood / The All-Togethers - the Dillinger, Boulder City 7-27-13

We've been meaning to check out the Dillinger for a while, though seeing as it is about as far away from us as possible while still being vaguely in the LV area, it took some doing. But, after seeing the All-Togethers last weekend, we decided to make the trek to Boulder City for this early show. Arriving at about 8:00pm the bar was packed with patrons, though most seemed to be there for food and drinks, not for the entertainment. The Dillinger was probably the only place that was open in this quiet burg so that might account for the crowd.

In any case, Jonathan Jinxemgood opened the night as a solo performer doing what he calls "Super Folk", his original folk-based tunes accompanied by his flashy acoustic guitar playing. His guitar style is fairly unique in that he tends to play an almost slap-bass style with his thumbs while picking out the chords and melodies with his fingers. A couple of people made comparisons to Dave Matthews, though I am completely unfamiliar with him, so I couldn't say. But, Jonathan was upbeat and fun and worked with different tunings to keep the songs interesting.

The All-Togethers continue to entertain in their prohibition-styled manner, though they threw in a number of covers this night, from "16 Tons", "Man of Constant Sorrow" (the Stanley Brothers version that was used as the basis for the one in O Brother Where Art Thou), and the encore of "Folsom Prison Blues", to more modern songs like a Lady Gaga tune that I don't know, "99 Problems" (that I only know because there are a number of internet memes based on the lyrics) and Radiohead's "I'm a Creep" with a guest singer/guitarist. For me, the originals are what captivates, but I'm sure a lot of the audience appreciated some more familiar tunes.

Fun night in the outskirts of town and even with the distance, we were home close to midnight! Our kind of night!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

recommended gigs

Friday July 26 - The All Togethers at the View at Palms

Saturday July 27 - Thee Swank Bastards - Double Down Saloon
Saturday July 27 - The Delta Bombers - Bar 702
Saturday July 27 - The All Togethers and Jinxemgood - the Dillinger

Wednesday July 31 - Bob Log III, Black Jetts, Fuzz Solow - Dive Bar
Wednesday July 31 - Tiger Sex - the Griffin

Thursday August 1 - Beau Hodges Band - Commonwealth
Thursday August 1 - Tiger Sex at the Beauty Bar w/Dirty Hooks, Solid Suns, Runaway Lives
Thursday August 1 - The All Togethers - the Orleans

Friday August 2 - The All-Togethers at Whiskey Dicks
Friday August 2 - Bogtrotter's Union - Hennessey's Tavern

Saturday August 3 - Tiger Sex at the Beauty Bar with Soft White Sixties

Sunday August 4 - Thee Swank Bastards + the Astaires - Dive Bar

Friday August 9 - Bogrotters Union - McMullen's Irish Pub

Saturday August 10 - The Psyatics at the Dive Bar
Saturday August 10 - The All-Togethers at Artifice

Tuesday August 13 - Delta Bombers with the Goddam Gallows - LV Country Saloon

Thursday August 15 - Tiger Sex - Triple B

Saturday August 17 - The All-Togethers at Money Plays
Saturday August 17 - Tiger Sex - Bar 702

Saturday August 24 - The Swamp Gospel at the Double Down Saloon

Saturday August 31 - the return of Atomic Cossack - Beauty Bar
Saturday August 31 - Thee Swank Bastards - Double Down Saloon

Wednesday September 4 - Delta Bombers at the Griffin

Sunday, September 8 - The Psyatics at Triple B with Calabrese

Friday Sept 20 - Bogtrotters Union/Mass Distractors - Artifice

Saturday Sept 21 - The Swamp Gospel 2nd Anniversary show at the Motor City Cafe with special guests Crazy Chief and the Mapes!

Friday Oct 4 - The Psyatics with Rev. Horton Heat at LV Country Saloon

Thursday Oct 10 - Bogtrotters Union/Pietasters - Hard Rock

What have I forgotten? Lemme know!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tom Waits - Blue Valentine

Seeing as this is my favorite Tom Waits record, I don't see how I have missed talking about it until now, but that is what my blogger search is telling me. Of course, I don't trust that SOB, so I may be repeating myself. Such is life...

I believe that this was the first Waits album that I picked up - it was the late 70's and I was buying whatever I could afford that looked different and interesting. I was into "punk" and "new wave" as well as older styles of music - I was just bored with the current "rock" bands and AM radio pap. Waits' jazz/blues stylings appealed to me immediately as to me he sounded like a beat generation book set to music!

The opener here is a bit odd, though - a jazz/lounge run-through of "Somewhere" from West Side Story - a bit sappier than most of Tom's original work and not really suited or his voice. But from there on, every song is stellar. Tom knows how to set a scene and "Red Shoes By the Drugstore" emulates the sound of windshield wipers as he talks of street characters in the rain in Hollywood where nothing is ever resolved - just like in real life!

But in "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis" he does tell a pretty straight-forward tale (though far longer than could fit on most cards!) of a whore trying to convince an ex - and herself - that her life is going well, filled with great imagery set to a simple piano accompaniment. Things get darkly swinging in "Romeo is Bleeding" with its sweet organ, sax, stand-up bass, drums, and jazzy guitar and again, Tom tells a very LA-centric story of a Mexican gang leader who got wounded in a shoot-out with a cop but it too macho to let on. Terrific sax solo on this one!

He sings the blues in "$29.00" with guitar and piano trading licks to a slow, groovy backing and he picks it up somewhat in "Wrong Side of the Road" with its incessant, mid-tempo beat, wailing sax and mini-movie about roustabouts up to no good. By the time he gets to "Whistlin' Past the Graveyard" he's moving pretty fast, as if he can't wait to get past it and this feel is similar to early r'n'r that came from horn-driven jazz and r'n'b. But he brings it back down to a piano ballad for "Kentucky Avenue" where he reminisces about his childhood and friends and foes from that time.

We come back to a swinging, brushes-on-the-drums-groove of "A Sweet Little Bullet from a Pretty Blue Gun" with some good dynamics and nice guitar licks. The record closes with a quiet guitar playing jazz chords as Waits sings about his "Blue Valentine" - really effective and evocative in its simplicity.

To me, this is when Waits really came into his own though I know it was a character - but man, what a character! And it was one he lived - his home was a room at the Tropicana, he wore old suits and drank at dive bars and sang songs of the people he would meet in the street. It was all very real to me. I understand that his later work is more original but these songs just knock me out. Give a listen if you only know his noisy side - his beat generation identity is the essence of cool jazz/blues.

The All-Togethers - Ridge Runner

As I said in my live review, The All-Togethers traveled from Virginia to Las Vegas to bring us their brand of prohibition-era, "hillbilly-jazz". Fronted by Ken Osborne on acoustic guitar, banjo and mandolin with lovely wife Cindy on stand-up bass and old friend Brian Phillips on minimalist drums and washboard they look and sound like a combo you would have seen in a 1920's nightclub, singing about hooch-drinkin' and sinnin'.

The banjo takes the forefront on many of the tunes, though with the magic of modern, multi-tracking technology, Ken adds guitar and mandolin for a fuller sound. Utilizing his 4-string banjo in a rhythmic, New Orleans/Dixieland-jazz-strumming style, this keeps the song moving and gives it an old-timey feel. Ken and Cindy both have strong voices and the harmonies are truly lovely.

The songs range from the cryptically-titled "I Heard You Paint Houses" (I keep wondering if this is some old saying that I'm not familiar with) to the Dixieland of "So What?" to the sorrowful "The Monotone of Promises" with some nice, emotive violin work (I'm guessing this is Cindy, as mistress of the 4-strings). "Hangover Stomp" tells an obvious tale of regret and woe with guitar and a metronome-ish banjo keeping time. Things get a bit weird with "Thump Keg Waltz", a drunken sounding instrumental in which Ken apparently loosened all of his guitar strings to give the tune a feeling of being recorded underwater!

The mandolin is pulled out for "Old Fashioned Lie" and back to banjo for "Lonely Road", both tunes getting a lead melodies from the respective instruments. "When the Night Comes" is a noir-ish, minor-key tune with a fairly disturbing lyrical story, proving that banjo doesn't always equate happiness! But the closing "Sunday Morning Trail" does end things on a lighter, mandolin-driven note.

The All-Togethers give Vegas a truly unique sound and vision, which is always welcome in any town. As often as they play, most likely you will stumble upon them at some point - but you should be sure to make it a priority to see them - so buy them a drink and ask them to tell you a tale and sing you a song. You won't be sorry!

You can view their video for their song "Points for Honesty" here.

Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever #2 - Igloo Tornado

Our friend Tom Neely has come a long way since he first drew the Excessories as the Archies! His art is now in galleries across the country, in magazines, and on record covers and his graphic novels have won awards as well as critical acclaim. (I reviewed his first graphic novel, the Blot, here.) For the Henry and Glenn series he collaborates with Mark Rudolph and Josh Bayer as Igloo Tornado - each telling their own stories in their own ways.

I really dig Neely's style and sense of humor and pop culture - in his tale he references Jack Kirby, internet memes, the Archies, Black Sabbath, Donald Duck, Hall and Oates, Rapture Ready and more. Fun, funny and well executed, it's always a blast! I could easily imagine Rudolph's "How the Chores Thrill" occurring in our world while Bayer's story is much more bleak than the others and, dare I say, serious!

More good stuff from Neely and company! You should support whatever this man is doing!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Memphis Slim - Cold Blooded Woman

This budget CD - there are no liner notes so no information about any of the songs included - is still a good example of Memphis Slim's style of jump-blues - a mixture of B.B.King's horn-driven blues and early r'n'b boppers and hoppers like Big Joe Turner. Unfortunately, the musicians are not listed, as the guitarist is truly exceptional and the rest of the band does a great job of backing Slim's piano and swingin' vocals.

Born in Memphis, he traveled throughout the South before settling in Chicago (where he worked with Big Bill Broonzy), but still has a New Orleans feel to some of his tunes ("Good Time Roll Creole" and "What is the Mare Back" being the obvious) but his sound is solid blues throughout.

Not as down and dirty as some of my faves, but a good r'n'b feel to his blues and a nice, horn-driven sound. Dig it!

Rev. J.M. Gates - Are You Bound For Heaven of Hell

Rev. Gates was one of the most prolifically recorded preachers, recording over 200 sides between 1926 and 1941. This is a compilation of some of his best known sermons, some interspersed with songs, but most simply his preaching, with responses from Deacon Leon Davis and Sisters Jordan and Norman.

The subjects are wildly varied, from "Goodbye to Chain Stores" to "Devil in a Flying Machine" to "The Woman and the Snake" to "Kinky Hair is no Disgrace" to "Hell Bound Express Train" to "Mannish Woman" to "Scat to the Cat and Suie to the Hog"! Many, if not all of these sound as if Gates had a basic idea and starting riffing off of it and when the members of the congregation would interject, he would get thrown, but come back to his point - whatever that might be, which he might not be certain of!

There is plenty of humor here - some purposeful and some unintentional - and there are times when Gates seems to be arguing with the Sisters to the point of everyone becoming testy, but somehow it all works in the context. Highly entertaining and good fodder for my Prophet Greene persona!

Frankie Lee Sims - Lucy Mae Blues

Born in New Orleans but brought up in Dallas, Texas, Frankie Lee Sims is the cousin of Lightnin' Hopkins - their styles are quite similar, though each have their own idiosyncrasies - and peer of others great Texans such as T-Bone Walker, King Curtis and Albert Collins, all of whom he worked with. Sims actually went to college - unusual for a bluesman - and taught school for a few years while playing in blues clubs on the weekends. He had a regional hit with "Lucy Mae Blues", went to Chicago where he played alongside the likes of Muddy Waters, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Etta James, appeared on American Bandstand and recorded with King Curtis. He continued to play and record until his untimely death of pneumonia at the age of 53.

While employing the same technique of simultaneous bass runs and treble licks for a full sound, as Hopkins did, Sims often has fantastically primitive drum backing (sometimes practically deliriously falling apart) and other instruments, such as harmonica, filling out the tunes. His voice is raspy, harsh and filled with emotion and the guitar is beautifully distorted and it all blends to make an incredible, raw and real blues sound.

Sims is another find that I simply stumbled upon, but damn glad that I did! He sings of being "Raggedy and Dirty" and that is how he sounds, which makes this another new favorite! Again, Amazon has a great price ($7.99 new) so there is no reason not to own this!

The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers

Highly influenced by the Monroe Brothers, the Stanley Brothers are often considered the third of the top three bluegrass acts (Flatt and Scruggs being the other, naturally), but given the quality of this compilation, I would say that Carter and Ralph could easily be a contender for the number 1 slot!

But they obviously owe much to the other two groups. Having started as copiers of the Monroe "sound", Ralph later picked up Scruggs' style of melodic and tasteful banjo picking (though he does not play at Earl's super-sonic speed), but when Carter (on guitar) started writing original material, they really came into their own. With the addition of Darrell "Pee Wee" Lambert on "high baritone" and mandolin, the three part harmonies - with Carter's lead and Ralph's tenor - gave them a sound unlike any others. While other acts may have relied on vocal harmonies (such as the Louvin Brothers) or instrumental prowess (Flatt and Scruggs), the Stanley Brothers combine the two to create some of the best bluegrass sounds around!

These recordings date from the beginning of their career through their stint with Columbia - from 1949 through 1952 and include religious numbers like "Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet" and "Have You Someone (In Heaven Waiting)", semi-secular tunes like "We'll Be Sweethearts in Heaven", love songs like "Pretty Polly" and "Sweetest Love" and classics like "I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow". Once again I need to reference O Brother Where Art Thou since it is obvious that the movie took this arrangement as the basis for the highlight of that film.

This is truly one of my favorite recent finds - absolutely fantastic, traditional bluegrass. Amazon is currently selling this 22 song disc for the absurdly low price of $3.99 so you have no excuse not to get it. What are you waiting for?!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Megan Barker and the All Togethers at E-String, Henderson July 20, 2013

The Swamp Gospel shared this bill and I always say that if you want to know when it will rain in Las Vegas simply look to see when the SG has a show! This weekend provided some of the biggest storms of the year for the area but enough brave, hearty souls made it out through the floods to the wilds of Henderson for a night of cool and diverse music.

Opening at the early hour of 8:00 p.m. was singer/songwriter/guitarist Megan Barker. Megan is a fine acoustic guitarist who combines finger-picking styles, percussive effects and powerful strumming to reflect the lyrical imagery of her songs. Her voice is sweet and high and she has a cute and unpretentious stage presence and communicates directly to members of the audience. Not something that I normally go out to see in a live setting, but well done modern folk.

The All Togethers have come from the hills of Virginia to Vegas to bring their brand of bluegrass/folk/Americana music to Sin City. Husband and wife team Ken and Cindy Osborne sing sweet harmonies while playing guitar/banjo/mandolin (Ken) and stand-up bass (Cindy), augmented by their old friend Brian Phillips on various, minimalist percussion (including washboard). They describe themselves as "hillbilly jazz, tin pan alley, bluegrass, gypsy, Americana" and they should know! Love their style, their talent (all are superior musicians), their stage banter and their songs! They seem to have taken over Vegas and play regularly throughout town, so you have no excuse not to see them. Be sure to also pick up their CD, Ridge Runner.

Friday, July 19, 2013

B.B. King/Pee Wee Crayton - Blue on Blues

I don't know where I happened upon this CD, but I have been a fan of King's since his "The Thrill is Gone" crossed over to the pop charts and I have wanted to explore Pee Wee ever since I heard of him (and still need to get more) so this was a natural wherever I found it! The pairing is slightly odd, though the sounds are not as different as one might think in these early recordings (all from the early 50's), especially considering that both men were highly influenced by the great T-Bone Walker.

King gets the first half of the CD and opens with his mambo-rhythmed "Woke Up This Morning", which includes all of the classic B.B. sounds, with a full horn section (the sax wails here!) augmenting the piano/bass/drums, but King's guitar is a little rawer and raspier here, which makes it more enticing to my ears. "Please Love Me" has B.B.'s guitar positively slashing out the "Dust My Broom" lick in this pre-r'n'r number - again, his playing never sounded better to me just cuz of its rough edge. There's another jumpin' blues in "You Upset Me Baby" and its sexy swagger gave him another hit - in fact everything on this CD charted in the 50's, showing that audiences had good taste back then! He gets some fine T-Bone-flavored licks in "Everyday (I Have the Blues)" and while "Sweet Sixteen" was a hit for Big Joe Turner a few years before, King makes it his own now and forever more in this version with his expressive singing (nobody could hit those "baby I wonder"'s like he can) and fantastic riffing. He also picked up "Rock Me Baby" from Arthur "big Boy" Crudup, added a simple, catchy lick, a sultry sex-beat, and turned this into his own. This is a short set, but some of his best work.

Crayton didn't pick up a guitar until he was in his early 30's, which makes his playing all that much more astonishing. But, he was actually a friend of T-Bone's and obviously picked up some of his techniques, as he displays in his first instrumental hit "Blues After Hours". He proves to be a fine singer, as well, in the L.A.-based "Central Ave. Blues" (the then-thriving African-American entertainment strip) but his playing is truly creative and emotional. "Texas Hop" is an upbeat instro where Pee Wee trades licks with sax player Buddy Floyd, both swinging up a storm! The cats slow it down for the romantic torch song, "I Love You So", before boppin' back in with the energetic "Poppa Stoppa" with more innovative guitar and wild'n'wooly sax. His set ends all-too-soon with the high-energy swinger "You Know - Yeah" which will positively make you want more from this man!

Short, but superior CD - unless you already have this cuts on other collections, get it!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

recommended gigs

Friday July 19 - Tiger Sex at the Double Down with People's Whiskey

Saturday July 20 - The Swamp Gospel and the All Togethers - E-String (Henderson)

Sunday July 21 - The Lucky Cheats at Commonwealth

Wednesday July 24 - Thee Swank Bastards - Double Down Saloon

Friday July 26 - The All Togethers at the View at Palms

Saturday July 27 - Thee Swank Bastards - Double Down Saloon
Saturday July 27 - The Delta Bombers - Bar 702
Saturday July 27 - The All Togethers and Jinxemgood - the Dillinger

Wednesday July 31 - Bob Log III, Black Jetts, Fuzz Solow - Dive Bar

Thursday August 1 - Beau Hodges Band - Commonwealth
Thursday August 1 - Tiger Sex at the Beauty Bar w/Dirty Hooks, Solid Suns, Runaway Lives

Friday August 2 - The All-Togethers at Whiskey Dicks

Saturday August 3 - Tiger Sex at the Beauty Bar with Soft White Sixties

Sunday August 4 - Thee Swank Bastards + the Astaires - Dive Bar

Saturday August 10 - The Psyatics at the Dive Bar
Saturday August 10 - The All-Togethers at Artifice

Saturday August 17 - The All-Togethers at Money Plays 

Saturday August 24 - The Swamp Gospel at the Double Down Saloon

Saturday August 31 - the return of Atomic Cossack - Beauty Bar
Saturday August 31 - Thee Swank Bastards - Double Down Saloon

Sunday, September 8 - The Psyatics at Triple B with Calabrese

Saturday Sept 21 - The Swamp Gospel 2nd Anniversary show at the Motor City Cafe with special guests Crazy Chief and the Mapes!

Friday Oct 4 - The Psyatics with Rev. Horton Heat at LV Country Saloon

What have I forgotten? Lemme know!

The Best of Amos Milburn

Born in 1927, Amos Milburn was a Houston, Texas boogie-woogie, r'n'b pianist who became popular in the 40's and 50's with a series of jump-blues drinking songs. Leading the way with his pumpin' piano and soulful voice, he was backed by a wailin' sax, bass and drums and created a sound imitated by Little Willie Littlefield, Floyd Dixon and especially Fats Domino.

Moving to LA and Aladdin Records, Milburn produced more than 75 sides and this CD gives a good overview of his output and truly does include some of his top numbers. "Chicken Shack Boogie" was one of his first hits - included here in a slower 1948 version and a r'n'r-styled 1956 take - and from here he moved into a list of fantastic, partying, drinking songs - "Let Me Go Home, Whiskey", "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer" (one of his best known tunes), and "Bad, Bad Whiskey", which topped the r'n'b chart and started the trend.

He also recorded several songs based on "Chicken Shack Boogie", such as "Roomin' House Boogie" and "Sax Shack Boogie", which were jumpin' tunes that certainly would get any crowd dancing! There are several other boogie-ing, cool, pre-r'n'r numbers on this all-too-short CD.

Hardly a complete review of this man, but a great start which will certainly make you want to look for more!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Poison 13 - Wine is Red, Poison is Blue

Poison 13 was a truly maniacal combination of punk and blues coming out of the Texas ashes of the punk-rock Big Boys with a true vengeance. I never got a chance to see the band live but by all accounts the shows were bouts of madness and noise with members flailing and falling and noise colliding and sweat pouring. Tim Kerr (slide guitar) went on to many other bands, bassist Chris Gates moved to guitar and LA and formed Junkyard and I'm not sure what became of vocalist Mike Carroll, guitarist Bill Anderson or drummer Jim Kanan but hopefully they are continuing their mayhem somewhere.

While other bands, most notably the Gun Club, had merged punk & blues, no one did it with quite the mania that Poison 13 managed. Truly trashy guitars, a solid rhythm section and a singer whose voice is difficult to describe - raspy and not quite in tune, but great for both punk and blues. Kerr's slide guitar really gave the band a more distinctive sound and added a lot to the bluesier numbers.

The debut opens with a traditional blues turnaround that is cut short and instead the guys plow into "One Step Closer" ("to my grave"), a mid-tempo stomper with a chant-along chorus and cool guitar interaction with Kerr's slide giving it a neat, off-kilter feel. From there they blast into a rampaging take on Willie Dixon's "7th Son" and then another dark original, "My Biggest Mistake" ("is when I left a shallow grave"), which is blazingly fast punk rock with Kerr keeping up on his slide. Their "Spoonful" is dirty and dirgey and their own "Out on the Street" shows just how damn catchy their songwriting was while talking about homeless punks.

Not afraid to slow things to a crawl when the song called for it, they got intense and dark in "Big City Lights" before galloping into "Die For Me" and then performing a swaggering version of "Codine" with its piercing guitar solos sounding ragged and jagged as withdrawal symptoms. We get more blistering punk rock with "Grip on My Heart" and "Justice" and then a couple surprises - trashed out covers of the Animals' "When I Was Young" and Richard Hell's "Blank Generation"! The album closed with a raw, riff-rocker, "Hellbound Train" with drummer Kanan barreling down the tracks with relentless speed but doesn't quite lose control! Great!

The follow up EP was even better for me, with improved sound and with the incredibly catchy riffer, "First You Dream, And Then You Die" that has one of the best guitar licks in the history of r'n'r! They take on the Troggs' ode to porn, "Strange Movies" and the original "Can't Cry" harkens back to "Grip on my Heart" but they pull out an acoustic guitar for "Parchman Farm", showing that they don't have to just be noisy punks, like they are when they ravage "She's the One Who's Got It" (damn, who did that originally?) and the Pleasure Seekers' "What a Way to Die". The EP finished with "I'm Dangerous Tonight" but the CD adds a few more covers - a revved up "Love Me", "Strychnine" (appropriate for this band) and Joy Division's (!) "Warsaw".

This is a phenomenal package - 23 slabs of bluesy punk rock and a cool fold-out mini-booklet with pix and liner notes. Yes, you should own this!

The Essential Jimmie Rodgers

Born in 1897, Jimmie Rodgers is known as the Father of Country Music, The Singing Brakeman and the Blue Yodeler, all fairly accurate titles. Jimmy was one of the first to move "hillbilly" music toward more modern "country" music, though this is still a far cry from what is considered country these days. To my ears, the tunes here are more Americana and folk with hints of bluegrass and blues - all styles that Jimmie absorbed in his youth.

Plagued by tuberculosis, he nonetheless worked on the railroad - most often as a brakeman, hence one of his nicknames - traveled extensively, and learned the guitar from other railroad workers and hobos. His first hit came in 1927 with "Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas)" and he continued his recording career right up until his disease took his life in 1933 at the far too young age of 35.

While "essential" is always subjective, this is a fine collection of 20 of his better known songs, from "In the Jailhouse" (re-done for O Brother, Where Art Thou - and as with the Carter Family, this man was obviously used as a basis for the music in that movie), "The Brakeman's Blues", "Frankie and Johnnie", "Pistol Packin' Papa", "Blue Yodel No. 8 (Muleskinner Blues)" and the autobiographical "T.B. Blues". I love the style and performances, except that the yodeling gets on my nerves after a while. I understand that this was his trademark and it was expected of him, but since it is in almost every one of these 20 songs - and the yodel has few variations - it gets a little monotonous. Of course, when these songs were initially released, they were singles and not meant to all be played back-to-back, but personally, I would have preferred if he didn't rely on this quite so much.

Regardless, as with the Carter Family, Rodgers is an essential link in the evolution of modern American music. The CD comes with an extensive, high-quality booklet making it a well-rounded package.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Sweet

"Little Willy" was the initial American hit for the British band the Sweet, and while this Chinn/Chapman composition was quite silly, it still had great, big guitar chords which sounded amazing over the AM Radio in the days of 70's drek. Starting as a bubblegum combo supervised by C/C (writers/producers for many similar crossover glam/pop bands), the group moved into full blown, heavy glam rock with guitarist Andy Scott becoming a masterful player and singer Brian Connolly blowing people's minds with his range while bassist Steve Priest and drummer Mick Tucker added harmonies, style and a strong backing.

This album was the first full length for America and it gives a great overview of the band as it moved from teen pop to testosterone heavy metal/glam. "Little Willy" and "Wig Wam Bam" are included, but songs like "New York Connection" and "Done Me Wring Alright" hinted at what was to come in albums like Desolation Boulevard. "Hellraiser", "Blockbuster" and "Need a Lot of Lovin'" combine the two worlds about as flawlessly as could be imagined - huge chords melding with melodic harmonies creating shades of later tunes like "Ballroom Blitz" - while "Man From Mecca" hints at Scott's later guitar heroics.

"Spotlight" has some interesting acoustic guitar backing with electric noodling over, giving it a bit of a different feel, although the incredible harmonies are still there. I like the lyrical story of the narrator being the man behind the spotlight rather than the band member in the spotlight - hardly a common theme in rock'n'roll! The vinyl album closed with the softer pop of "You're Not Wrong for Loving Me" with more acoustic guitars and harmonies that certainly influenced Queen when they arrived on the scene.

The CD version apparently has bonus tracks with some of the earliest, more mediocre bubblegum pop like "Co-Co" and "Poppa Joe" - nice to hear for Americans since these tunes weren't released in this country (that I know of), but none of them are particularly good. But the album itself is a rocker and well worth putting next to Desolation Boulevard and Give Us a Wink.

Ted Taylor - An Introduction To

I'm not sure how I stumbled upon Ted Taylor - most likely a Facebook friend, so thank you, whoever it was! - but I'm glad I did. This soulful singer, born in Oklahoma in the mid-30's, began as a gospel singer influenced by the Soul Stirrers, moved to LA and was convinced to change to secular music by the Bihari Brothers' Modern Records and his group became the Cadets (also recording under the name the Jacks), who scored big with "Stranded in the Jungle" (although Wikipedia says Taylor did not sing on that cut). From there he went solo and recorded for a number of different labels until he ended up with the legendary Okeh Records for his first hits, though he continued to migrate until his untimely death in 1967 in a car crash.

This CD compiles cuts from the Jewel and Ronn labels so I don't know if the sticker's claim of "best of the best" in completely true - I certainly want to hear some of the other numbers he has done - but this is still a stellar collection. At first listen you will wonder whether this is a man or a woman singing since his tenor range is so wide that it dwarfs most women's soprano. But it sounds natural on Taylor and he is expressive and full of soul.

The material ranges from Otis Redding-styled emotional ballads to early r'n'r/doo-wop inspired boppers to Stax-ish dance groovers and all with excellent musicians backing him up - often the legendary Muscle Shoals sidemen. The man's influences show, from the southern soul & r'n'b to gospel to doo-wop and all working within the Ted Taylor sound. One highlight is his version of "The Road of Love" that I know from Clarence Carter's take with Duane Allman - while this doesn't have Duane, it is damn near as strong. The funky, wah-wah flavored "I Feel a Chill" and groove-alicious "Something Strange is Going on in My House" are stand-outs, as well.

Hell, the whole record is cool! Great funky soul with a terrific vocalist and amazing backing musicians! What more do you want?!

Bill Doggett and His Combo - All His Hits

While the title might be somewhat misleading - Doggett had several charting songs that are not on this collection - this is a solid CD of some of this r'n'b keyboardist's best known work.

Doggett started his first band in 1938 as a pianist and went on to play with Lucky Millinder, Bill Mundy, the Ink Spots and then Louie Jordan where he picked up the Hammond organ and made that his trademark instrument. He formed his Combo in 1952 and became one of the biggest instrumental groups of the 50's with their hit "Honky Tonk" selling 4 million copies and charting for over two months.

His sound is a combination of swinging lounge, light jazz and r'n'b, and his Combo is filled with fine players, though, unfortunately, the liner notes does not mention anyone by name. Doggett's Hammond is, of course, the star, but everyone gets in some nice licks, especially the guitarist, who really makes some of the tunes, including "Honky Tonk". The sax is a great addition, as well, and gives the proceedings a bit more of an r'n'b/early r'n'r feel than they would probably have otherwise.

The CD really picks up when we get to "Honky Tonk" with its dance groove - much more r'n'b/r'n'r than the previous, more lounge-y numbers - wailing sax, and excellent guitar solo. It's no wonder that this was a hit! "Slow Walk" follows and is along the same line - hell, it even has the same beat! - and while Doggett leads on this one, the sax takes over gives it some real power. Wish I knew who this was - he's great!

"Sweet Lorraine" is a bit jazzier, "Don't Get Around Much Any More" (the standard) is well-done jazz/pop with some more cool guitar licks and "Ram-Bunk-Shush" has a growling sax leading the melody and a boppin' beat. "Soft" is a softer, flute-led, lounge number and then "Blip Blop" (gotta love the titles!) is a flute/sax duet over the Combo's dance beat with the title chanted over it all. The guitar gets to takes the intro for "Hold It", another r'n'b-ish/early r'n'r groover and "Smokie (Part Two)" continues in this cool vein and then the CD ends with a remake of "Honky Tonk" with some new leads.

Definitely a swingin' CD with Doggett's mix of r'n'b/early r'n'r and jazzy lounge that somehow all works!

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Stranglers - Rattus Norvegicus

Opening with swells of Doors-like organ, prominent, edgy bass, a driving beat and a first line of "some day I'm gonna smack your face", you immediately discover what the Stranglers are all about. Keyboard driven punk rock (very much an anomaly at the time) with misogynist lyrics, but still damn catchy. At the time I assumed that the sexism was a punk-rock persona but I have been told that the guys really are like that - not that I could say for sure myself. In any case, they still made some amazing music!

Dave Greenfield is an exceptional keyboardist and wasn't afraid to show it, even during the early punk days, when such proficiency was looked down upon, especially on keyboards. Jean-Jacques Burnel was the sex symbol of the band (the rest were, frankly, fairly ugly and even sported - another punk faux-pas - facial hair!) and the man behind the melodic bass and a sound that would influence many bassists to come. Hugh Cornwell most often sang lead (Burnel would sometimes, as well) and played a sharp, biting Telecaster guitar - he was not the virtuoso that Greenfield is and relied more on simple, noisy lines. Jet Black (Brian Duffy) drumming was always solid and fitting for the song, but nothing flashy.

Lyrically, they did manage to inject humor along with their misogynistic ways (which some say was parody) with a song about Jesus' crucifixion called "Hanging Around" and "Down in the Sewer" telling the tale of a young man who has descended underground to make love to sewer rats! The arrangements are all well thought-out, with plenty of interesting musical and melodic tidbits and instrumental interaction.

This just goes to show that 70's punk could be any number of things and way more of an attitude than a formula - something that is sadly missing from most of today's "punk rock" bands. This is truly a superior record and by far my fave from the group.

Junior Kimbrough - You Better Run - The Essential Junior Kimbrough

Junior is another blues musician - similar to R.L. Burnside, who he has been compared to - who, having been born in 1930, recorded briefly in the 60's and 70's with little or no releases or distribution, but came to prominence with Fat Possum's resurgence in the 90's. Influenced by John Lee Hooker & Lightnin' Hopkins, Kimbrough managed to created his own, unique sound that is droney, bluesy and quite harrowing.

Friends with Burnside, the families often collaborated and each man's sons have played with the elders. But, I find R.L. to be a bit more of a "regular" Mississippi bluesman while Kimbrough is much more atmospheric and moody. He guitar work drones and wails and he will often hit "bum" notes in his reach for expression, but since most of his recordings are done live - I once read where Junior would simply move onto another song if the first take didn't work - this simply adds to the magic of the song. Each number has its own hypnotic groove and while there's not distinct verse/choruses, it is quite enticing.

This is a "greatest hits" package (not that he really had any hits) from his 3 full length releases in the 90's - "All Night Long", "Sad Days, Lonely Nights" and "Most Things Haven't Worked Out". While you are not likely to find yourself humming any of these songs and the playing is simplistic, his work is still terrific blues, in the real, organic sense of the word. Not for those who like their music slick, but if you dig the down'n'dirty, real life, emotional blues, check our Junior!

Mississippi John Hurt – Avalon Blues – The Complete 1928 Okeh Sessions

Mississippi John Hurt is more of a folk singer/guitarist than a blues man, though, of course, there is certainly some cross over. But his self-taught, complex, finger-picking style (he claims to be influenced by no one in particular) has become the basis for many, if not all, folk singers from the 50’s and 60’s.

Born in 1892, Hurt recorded the 13 tunes included on this disc in 1928 for Okeh, at the recommendation of a couple of white country musicians the label had recorded in the area. He initially cut 8 sides, two of which (“Frankie” – a version of the traditional “Frankie & Johnnie” – and “Nobody’s Dirty Business) were released and sold well enough for a second session that year. These included his own “Avalon Blues”, referencing his home territory, which gave blues researchers the clue to find the man during the folk/blues resurgence.

The liner notes for this CD (there is a nice booklet included with notes from a 1965 Down Beat article) describe his playing as “three-finger picking…highly syncopated with a smooth, clear, rolling tones that asserts mastery and finesse.” That says it better than I could! His voice is a bit rougher than his playing, but still elegant and versatile and fitting for his story-telling songs.

The material includes originals and traditional tunes, from the afore-mentioned numbers to “Stack O’Lee”, “Candy Man Blues”, to the religious “Blessed be the Name” and “Praying on the Old Camp Ground” to ones that are closer to what we think of as blues, “Blue Harvest Blues” and “Spike Driver Blues”.

Don’t expect the usual Mississippi Delta blues from this man – as I said, this is more folk than blues – but for fine finger-picking, acoustic guitar playing, this is one to pick up!

The Best of Lonnie Johnson (Blues Forever)

This is an 18 song collection of Johnson’s work from 1932 through 1950, as part of the same series that released the Memphis Minnie CD I reviewed earlier. The early cuts are Lonnie by himself, then with a simple piano accompaniment and later with bass and drums added. Everything here showcases Johnson’s wonderful, fluid guitar style – a mix of single-string blues lines and jazz – and his terrific, expressive voice.

I normally like my blues a little rawer than this, but Johnson is just so damn good – like T-Bone Walker, who he also influenced – that I continue to return to his music and search out more and more. Everything that I have heard is great stuff and this is a good start for his early work. I hope to find more soon!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Rolling Stones - Love You Live

In 1977, the Stones released an updated live album to show the inclusion of guitarist Ron Wood in a concert setting. Compiled from 1975 US shows, 1976 European shows and - what made the album so memorable - performances from the El Mocambo club in Toronto. Unfortunately, these songs, which were meant to harken back to the band's old Crawdaddy Club days, are heavily overdubbed, so they are not exactly a live representation (though I've heard that the Stones have done that with all of their live albums - someone even quipped that their live records took more time in the studio than their "studio" records!).

Regardless, this is a good set, though I don't think that Mick is at his best for some reason - not "singing" as much as vocalizing and sometimes dropping out, no doubt due to his onstage gyrations. "Honky Tonk Women" is a terrific starter which then leads into a medley of "If You Can't Rock Me" and "Get Off of My Cloud" that frankly rambles a bit. Keith gets his moment in the spotlight with "Happy" and this is a fine take with an extended slide solo at the end.

The funky "Hot Stuff" is given a good run-through, but this was never a fave song of mine. The surprise addition of "Star Star" ("Star Fucker") was a huge plus for this album, as it is a rocker as well as being lewd and rude! "Tumbling Dice" has some swell Billy Preston keys and good guitar work on it but Mick's staccato, faux-reggae pronunciation on the chorus is a bit distracting. Their unfortunate disco fascination is evident in the forgettable "Fingerprint File" but they redeem themselves with a loose, raggedy take on "You Gotta Move", although I miss Mick Taylor's sweet slide work from the album version. Never one of my fave Stones' songs, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is just ok here as a slow jam. I think they did it best on Rock'n'Roll Circus though here you get to hear Jagger practice his French as he asks the crowd to sing along.

Side Three of the vinyl version was the El Mocambo performances, starting with a tough and rockin'  "Mannish Boy" followed by a fairly obscure Bo Diddley tune, "Crackin' Up", done reggae style, as was their wont around this time in their career. They joke around with some band introductions and then head back to the beginnings  of the band with "Little Red Rooster" with Wood taking over Brian Jones' slide part without the reverence that Jones had for Howlin' Wolf's original. Still pretty cool and the subtle organ in the background actually works here. The last song from this club is another blast from the past, a rollickin' "Around and Around", with (I assume) Ian Stewart on the piano, giving us the closest glimpse of their early days as an r'n'b/r'n'r band as would be possible at this time. Pretty freakin' great!

Back to the stadiums for the last side of the 2-LP set and a return to their present with one of the first songs that Wood recorded with them, the infectious "It's Only Rock'n'Roll", given a good treatment here. One of my all-time fave Stones' songs, "Brown Sugar", is positively frantic here, which makes it lose some of its cool swagger and Bobby Keys was apparently not with them on this tour as there is a guitar solo where the sax should be! One of the best songs of all time, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" also is a bit rushed and Jagger adds more marbles to his mouth as he sings this one, again losing some of its charm - but then, they were never able to pull off the magic of the studio version live - not that they should have duplicated that, but still...A song they once swore they would never play live again (until they realized how silly that was), "Sympathy for the Devil" finishes the proceedings and they actually do a good job with it.

So, overall, pretty cool, though not as good as Ya-Yas, which is probably to be expected. But enough strong points to certainly be worth owning.

Brenton Wood's 18 Best

In 1967 a former Compton, California high school track star recorded the unlikely-titled "The Oogum Boogum Song" and created a nationwide hit! He followed up with two more soul/pop classics, "Gimme Little Sign" and "Baby You Got It" and made himself a star!

These are/were superb summer songs, that made you turn up the radio when they came on the air. Highly melodic sing-alongs with a soulful groove that captivated damn near everyone who heard them. Coming from SoCal, Wood gives the numbers a kind of beach/boardwalk feel in a way that's hard to put into words.

The hits are, naturally, the highlights of the CD, but the other tunes have the same feel and it's a shame more didn't get on the radio, though "Catch You on the Rebound" and "Me and You" did get some play, as I recall.

The CD liner notes says that some of these songs were unreleased, but it doesn't say which ones and since I have never owned any of Brenton's albums, I can't say either, but regardless, this is a cool, soulful package. Executive Producer is Art Laboe, the man who came up with "Oldies But Goodies"!

Memphis Minnie – Me and My Chaffeur

Ma Rainey, Alberta Hunter, Ida Cox, Mamie Smith and Bessie Smith were the stars of the early days of blues recordings, but as their style faded and the more male-dominated country blues came into vogue, few women worked in this genre. Memphis Minnie was one of the best.

This 2-CD collection (much more extensive than the one Ipreviously reviewed) is presented in chronological order, starting with her work with husband Kansas Joe McCoy. “When the Levee Breaks” (with Joe singing) was, of course, revised and made famous by Led Zeppelin, but Minnie’s vocal numbers are the highlights here. One of best known numbers is, rightfully, “Bumble Bee” – an excellent example of acoustic, country blues – but most of her numbers recorded in the 30’s are just as good.

I’m not a big fan of the novelty numbers, though, like “What’s the Matter With the Mill” or “Frankie Jean (That Trottin’ Fool)”, despite the instrumental work. But when she performs the true blues, such as “Crazy Cryin’ Blues” or “Where is My Good Man”, or the instrumentals “Pickin’ the Blues”, with its cool slide work, and “Let’s Go to Town”, there are few better!

Husband Joe gets a few vocals here and while he has a fine voice, it is not nearly as distinctive and powerful as Minnie’s. The lady does some recording on her own, as well, which shows her prowess on the guitar – no, not a complete virtuoso, but rollickin’ and rhythmic, with cool finger-picking licks (“Chickasaw Train Blues” is especially good). Eventually, sidemen were added – piano, bass, second guitar and even drums on a few numbers (and clarinet on a couple, which I don’t really think works as well with her style, but not bad), moving her sound into more of an “urban” tone, but not diminishing her strengths in the least!

Although most of her songs are standard male-female tunes, she dedicates two tunes to boxer Joe Louis – “He’s in the Ring” and Joe Louis Strut” – interesting choice of current events for the topic of blue songs! Funnily, a number than Minnie simply plays guitar on, “New Orleans Stop Time” is an ode to tap-dancing, which two male characters apparently challenging each to do more difficult steps. Of course, this is an audio recording, so whether anyone was actually dancing is anyone’s guess!

But when Minnie comes back in with “Bad Luck Woman”, we’re back to the true blues! “Caught Me Wrong Again” could be a Muddy Waters tune, and she gets downright salacious with “Black Cat Blues” (“everybody wants to buy my kitty” – she did earn her living as a prostitute at times) and “If You See My Rooster”.

She later divorced McCoy and married Little Son Joe Lawlers (who also played guitar) and recorded a large body of work with him, including her tribute “Ma Rainey”, “In My Girlish Days”, “Me and My Chaffeur Blues” and much more – all pretty darn stellar.

This set comes with a nice, full-color booklet with some great pics and an overview of Minnie’s life, along with a list of the personnel on all of the songs. A great comp!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

recommended gigs

Thursday July 11 - Beau Hodges Band - Hard Rock

Friday July 12 - The Psyatics with Missing Persons at the LV Country Saloon
Friday July 12 - Bogtrotter's Union - McMullens Irish Pub

Sunday July 14 - Crazy Chief - Triple B

Friday July 19 - Tiger Sex at the Double Down with People's Whiskey

Saturday July 20 - The Swamp Gospel and the All Togethers - E-String (Henderson)

Wednesday July 24 - Thee Swank Bastards - Double Down Saloon

Saturday July 27 - Thee Swank Bastards - Double Down Saloon
Saturday July 27 - The Delta Bombers - Bar 702

Wednesday July 31 - Bob Log III, Black Jetts, Fuzz Solow - Dive Bar

Thursday August 1 - Beau Hodges Band - Commonwealth

Sunday August 4 - Thee Swank Bastards - Dive Bar

Saturday August 10 - The Psyatics at the Dive Bar

Saturday August 24 - The Swamp Gospel at the Double Down Saloon

Saturday August 31 - Thee Swank Bastards - Double Down Saloon

Sunday, September 8 - The Psyatics at Triple B with Calabrese

Saturday Sept 21 - The Swamp Gospel 2nd Anniversary show at the Motor City Cafe

What have I forgotten? Lemme know!

R.L. Burnside - Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down

This 2000 release is less successful for me, as it tries hard to be a cross-over record (and apparently succeeded in that to some extent, at least) but loses the magic of the man and his guitar. I'm not sure how to even describe the music - it's not bad, and in some cases it's almost like Ry Cooder's atmospheric music - but the band is slick and smooth and not rough-edged like blues should be.

But, that said, "Miss Maybelle" is an attempt at more of a traditional blues sound - it sounds like R.L. played the basic track with his electric backing band but then the producer threw some annoying, completely unnecessary, noisy tricks on top of everything which is simply distracting and takes away from the song rather than adds to it.

The title track is a haunting, acoustic slide number and probably the best track on the record since it is simply Rule & his guitar - as it should be! This might be the saving grace of the album and damn near worth the price of admission by itself! But then we get a drum machine beat and some excess loops for "Too Many Ups" marring an otherwise successful, funky electric number - again, if Burnside was left to his own devices, this would be a superior song. The hip-hop break in the middle really destroys the whole damn thing. "Nothin' Man" is a cute but inconsequential, throw away number - no really worthy of Burnside. Ironically, this is a song that doesn't have a lot of garbage tacked onto it - it just isn't a great song.

Thankfully, they get back on track with "See What My Buddy Done", a smoldering, electric blues stomper that lets the man do his thing without any interference (there is piano, but that works) and hence, is another highlight. "My Eyes Keep Me In Trouble" is a bit unusual with its country blues influence and addition of mandolin, but this is good stuff - a bit of a departure and more light-hearted than most of the album, but cool. Unfortunately, they lose the momentum with "Bad Luck City", which is basically a hip-hop song (although I admit some of the samples are kinda hip in a Curtis Mayfield kinda way - just not right for Rule - more like one of the Heavy's more experimental album-filler tunes).

There's a decent cover of "Chain of Fools" (though, again, not particularly fitting for Burnside, but good) before closing with "R.L.'s Story", the atmospheric autobiography telling of the murders of his family members in Chicago - chilling, in a movie theme kinda way, but not really a "song", per se.

Not a terrible album, but very far from his best and while I understand the concepts and the desire for experimentation and cross-over appeal, the attempts here really just don't work.

R.L. Burnside - Acoustic Stories

As the album title would suggest, this is Rule and his acoustic guitar (with the help of harpist John Neremberg) playing traditional styled Delta blues - something that he excels in! Highly influenced by John Lee Hooker (he covers 3 of Hooker's tunes here - "When My First Wife Left Me", "Hobo Blues" and "Meet Me in the Bottom"), he has a similar presentation, though I think that Burnside is a better guitarist.

R.L.'s numbers are derivative, in the best traditional of the blues (his "Death Bell Blues" is a re-write of "Rollin' and Tumblin'") but this just adds to the authenticity of the proceedings. I love his "Skinny Woman" - great lyrics and cool guitar lick, but could do without his recitations like "Monkey in the Pool Room". His slide work on tunes like "Walking Blues", "Poor Black Mattie" and "Long Haired Doney" is impeccable - great tone and his finger-picking around the slide work augments it perfectly. But his non-slide playing is terrific as well, with numbers like "Miss Glory B" and "Kindhearted Woman" reminiscent of the works of Muddy Waters (his cousin-in-law) and/or Robert Johnson.

This is another excellent Burnside release, recorded in 1988, before he began some of his cross-over work and this is the stuff that I love. Acoustic blues as it should be done!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jimi Hendrix: Blues

I am always surprised to discover certain releases that I never got around to writing about - like this one. I'm a huge Hendrix fan (as can be determined by the number of times I have sung his praises on this site) and love his psychedelic take on the blues, so this was a natural for me. The songs here come from various situations but are mostly live, inspired Hendrix mania.

The opening number, though, is a rare acoustic track - one used for the documentary movie simply titled Jimi Hendrix. This is a fantastic and fun variation on Jimi's usual wild noise and one that I was fascinated with when I first saw the flick, since I then mostly played a cheap, Montgomery Wards 12-String guitar and I had no idea how Jimi could play such lines! I didn't really realize at the time (I was barely a teen, I think) how quality really affects the play-ability of an instrument and that Jimi tuned down a couple of steps! Great stuff, though!

Some of these cuts are obviously just jams, such as the instrumental take on "Born Under a Bad Sign", but that doesn't mean that the playing is inferior - just not necessarily as "set in stone" as might have been for an official release. Hendrix will take some risks that he might not take otherwise - some that work better than others - so keep that in mind. "Red House" was, of course, the most straight-forward blues in Jimi's original repertoire and there are a couple of versions on this CD, the first being one recorded for the British version of "Are You Experienced" and supposedly not released in the States before, though this doesn't sound much different from the tune that we all know and love.

"Catfish Blues" is Jimi playing with various Muddy Waters songs and giving them an updated, full, rock'n'roll experience. Definitely a precursor to tune like "Voodoo Chile" with some incredible playing, though the inclusion of a drum solo in a blues song is a bit tedious and the rave-up ending a bit of a (pleasant) jolt - but Jimi was never afraid to break convention! As the compilers obviously noted the similarities, an outtake of "Voodoo Chile" is up next - an earlier, looser version of the classic song with the same line up as the official release (Mitch Mitchell, Jack Cassidy and Steve Winwood) that was not quite fully arranged yet. But Jimi, while tentative in some chord changes, still lets fly with some spectacular riffs up until the fade-out ending, which, I assume, indicates that the song most likely fell apart rather than properly ended.

After the traditional opening, Hendrix turns "Mannish Boy" into a funky, upbeat groover with a stompin' drum beat and melodic lead lines - though he does seem to forget some of the words, which leads him to simply scat a while! Then they switch gears completely was a super-slow blues in "Once I Had a Woman", with Jimi  making lots of use of whammy bar and effects pedals. Again, this sounds like pretty much a jam with just a basic structure - and with a harmonica player! That doesn't really work well in this setting though - guess cuz the harp is pretty tentative and Jimi dominates.

"Bleeding Heart" is a more successful mid-tempo blues that has appeared on other collections - and rightfully, as this is pretty damn fantastic blues playing! But, "Jelly 292" is definitely a jam - with piano! - and while there's some cool licks, it is not one of the more memorable tunes here. "Electric Church Red House", though, is another terrific run-through of this classic, this time with keys (organ) added - not sure of the personnel here (though there is an extensive booklet, it doesn't list everyone who plays on each tune) but I would guess that this was Winwood again. According to said booklet, Jimi was frustrated and almost left the studio and walked back in and cut this - putting his frustration into his amazing playing!

Closing out the CD is "Hear My Train A Comin'", originally from the Rainbow Bridge album and another wonderfully classic tune built upon the foundations of Muddy Waters along with many others. One helluva performance and a great finisher for this CD.

No, this isn't the best or most consistent Hendrix album - this is a bit of a hodge-podge put together well after his death, after all - but for fans, this is a must-have!

The Best of Memphis Minnie - In My Girlish Days

Lizzie Douglas, better known as Memphis Minnie, was a blues singer & guitarist, born in 1897 and working from the 20's through the 50's. A strong woman, she married several times, traveled with and without her men, performed and recorded with and without them, supported herself as a prostitute when needed and had a helluva powerful voice and played a mean blues guitar!

This collection of tunes spans her career and she is often supported by piano, sometimes bass, drums and even a second guitar. But it is Minnie's voice and guitar that really stands out - her vocals are often loud and brash but are also capable of crooning when called for and her guitar lines are fluid, stinging and pretty darn original.

Some of her more famous songs are included, such as "Bumble Bee", "In My Girlish Days",
"I'm Talking About You" and "Me and My Chaffeur Blues", which Chuck Berry re-wrote (barely) for his "I Want to Be Your Driver". But everything here is superior, raw, early blues done by one of the best. This was the time when women dominated the blues and before they became slick. Anything by this woman is highly recommended!

R.L. Burnside - Mississippi Hill Country Blues

R.L. Burnside, born in 1926, was a Mississippi blues guitarist who didn't gain notoriety until the late 80's/early 90's when releases began appearing on punk rock labels such as Epitaph and he began recording with the likes of Jon Spencer.

Rule, as friends called him, picked up guitar in his early 20's after being inspired by John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen". He learned some of his style from Mississippi Fred McDowell, who he also played with, and cited his cousin-in-law, Muddy Waters as an influence. He moved to Chicago in the mid-40's - no doubt in the hopes of starting his own musical career - but things didn't work out as planned - to say the least. His father, 2 brothers and an uncle were all murdered there within a year and Burnside eventually moved back to Mississippi, where he killed a man during a dice game and spent 6 months in prison. He then settled down and while he continued to play music locally, he didn't really receive much attention until his recordings in the 80's and 90's.

This CD is his first 80's recordings, initially released by Fat Possum and distributed by Epitaph as he became more well known. This has many of the acoustic blues numbers that have become associated with him, especially "Lost Without Your Love", done as "Bird Without a Feather" in the movie Black Snake Moan. These are traditional numbers from his area in Mississippi arranged by Burnside and played with verve and vigor, sounding every bit like an original, early country blues man that he is. He is at home with or without a slide and the recording has a great sound, giving it an intimate feeling - that cliche of him being in the room with you.

Burnside later did some more experimental work that wasn't quite as artistically successful (for me), although it heightened his popularity. But here he is playing pure blues and it is pretty damn fine!

Mose Allison’s Greatest Hits

Mose Allsion is, of course, most well-known for his “Young Man Blues”, covered with wild abandon and great effect on the Who’s Live At Leeds album, and for his “Parchman Farm”, covered by nearly everyone in the history of music!

This is, naturally, a set of the tunes that are most associated with him, from his originals to multiple covers – “Eyesight to the Blind” (Sonny Boy Williamson), “7th Son” (Willie Dixon), “That’s All Right” (Jimmy Rogers) and more. Allison plays piano and sings, backed by stand up bass and drums (and a horn in one instance), all done in a smooth, quiet jazz-blues style. He is nowhere near as raucous or edgy as most of the bands who have done his songs, but this is fine stuff in its own style.

Don’t expect any wild rock’n’roll, but if you want to hear an originator who influenced most of the people you probably listen to and you aren’t afraid or light, cool jazzy performances, then check it out!

Thursday, July 04, 2013

reccommended gigs

Thursday July 11 - Beau Hodges Band - Hard Rock

Friday July 12 - The Psyatics with Missing Persons at the LV Country Saloon
Friday July 12 - Bogtrotter's Union - McMullens Irish Pub

Sunday July 14 - Crazy Chief - Triple B

Friday July 19 - Tiger Sex at the Double Down with People's Whiskey

Saturday July 20 - The Swamp Gospel with Tarah Grace & Hold Your Horses and the All Togethers - E-String (Henderson)

Wednesday July 24 - Thee Swank Bastards - Double Down Saloon

Saturday July 27 - Thee Swank Bastards - Double Down Saloon
Saturday July 27 - The Delta Bombers - Bar 702

Wednesday July 31 - Bob Log III, Black Jetts, Fuzz Solow - Dive Bar

Friday, August 2 - the Psyatics at the Dive Bar

Sunday August 4 - Thee Swank Bastards - Dive Bar

Saturday August 24 - The Swamp Gospel at the Double Down Saloon

Saturday August 31 - Thee Swank Bastards - Double Down Saloon

Sunday, September 8 - The Psyatics at Triple B with Calabrese

Saturday Sept 21 - The Swamp Gospel 2nd Anniversary show at the Motor City Cafe

What have I forgotten? Lemme know!