Pages

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Robert Johnson’s Son Dies in Mississippi

Claude Johnson, seated
The blues legend Robert Johnson remains an enigma; for all but two pictures are known of him (a third one is under dispute and is most probably fake), he also never left a will, and died at a young age. Yet his music shook the foundations and spawned rock n' roll.

One of his sons, Claude Johnson, was announced dead at the age of 83 in Mississippi a few days ago. Claude was the sole heir of his father's music, and under a supreme court order in 2014 to also benefit from the photograph royalties, despite heavy class action suits from relatives.

However, he didn't use these royalties to build houses or whatever, rather taking menial jobs and living a simple life.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Rolling Stones Sing a Muddy Waters Tune Featuring Buddy Guy



A few days ago at one of their concerts in Milwaukee, The Rolling Stones performed 'Champagne & Reefer', a Muddy Waters classic. Joining them as a special guest was blues legend Buddy Guy (who played and recorded with Muddy many years ago.)

Nice to see the Stones pay tribute to one of their biggest influences!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

'Early Morning Blues' - Big Joe Williams/Lightnin Hopkins/Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee





In 1960, a live jam session took place at the Ash Grove club in Los Angeles, featuring four blues legends, Big Joe Williams, Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

A very raw and down low, loose performance by all these greats, this album was only released in 2001 after being bootlegged for so long.

Here's 'Early Morning Blues' also known as 'Chain Gang Blues':


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Post-Gig Blues Report



10 years. 

It was 10 years ago that I performed in Beirut. Why did I take so long to go back and play? Lots of factors really. After all, I was always in a band situation, never a solo performer until only a few years ago. 

The opportunity seemed ripe, considering the amount of work and effort I was putting into this blues thing. How far can someone go with the blues? A genre that continues to dwindle in the overall scheme of things?

I got the approval of Fete de la Musique a month back. It was the comeback I was looking for after a decade of absence from the Lebanese music scene.

The next step would be to assemble a band. Like I normally do things, I have my friends and network of musicians. I was fortunate enough, considering how busy everyone would be on that night (92 bands were playing), I reunited with Toufic who was the drummer with me in the Mojolaters Blues Band before we returned to Lebanon 4 years back.  

Next I had the versatile and laid back Joe on guitars, who was essential in filling both the role of lead and rhythm. 

Given the time constraints and busy schedules, I was not able to get other people on board. A power trio it would have to be.



Under tension and anxiety, and also having an extremely powerful band (Funky Blues Brothers), incidentally fronted by the French Ambassador no less, led me to almost crumble. I mean, these guys have about 30 years of playing experience, not to mention some of the best musicians in Lebanon, and having more members on stage to fill up the sound.

To counter this, I made a rapport with the audience, telling them my story of being here, cracking some jokes here and there.

Our setlist was:

1) Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock N Roll - Muddy Waters
2) My Babe - Little Walter
3) How Blue Can You Get - BB King
4) La Grange - ZZ Top
5) Got My Mojo Workin' - Muddy Waters




My tension eased once the first opening notes were played, and when everything gelled together. By the 3rd song we were in full force. Thankfully we pulled off a great performance and the crowd was very supportive and engaging, especially when they were singing along in "Got My Mojo Workin'.

Thanks to Fete de la Musique and to Beirut for having me again after all these years, to my friends and family who came to the show in support. I'm back in Kuwait now with the blues as I write this, but I hope to be back again soon. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Standard of the Week: 'Statesboro Blues'


In 1928, country blues legend Blind Willie McTell released 'Statesboro Blues' on the Victor, referring to the town in Georgia.

The song is very much a ragstyle blues, and became one of his biggest hits.



However, it was the 1968 version by Taj Mahal and the 1971 version by the Allman Brothers that actually popularized the song, due to it's heavier beats and the electrifying slide guitars. The Allman Brothers version has seen heavy success and was chosen #9 on Rolling Stone's Top 100 Guitar Songs.







Sunday, June 14, 2015

Weekend Roundup + A Reminder



It's been a busy weekend, so I thought I'd group everything into one post:

First, we start off with some bad news.

1- Ornette Coleman, free jazz legend, dies at the age of 85. 



Ornette Coleman was known to be a breaker of conventions; a man who played a plastic Yamaha alto sax, which is alone a shocker at the time, and performing odd measures, scales, and with more and more freedom within jazz.

His album, The Shape of Jazz to Come, in 1959 was his breakthrough, and went on his never ending search of new sounds until the day he died.

Jazz truly was never the same without him. Here's an old post I wrote about him a while back.

2- My Full Interview with Urban Q8 is Out


I had a great time doing this video with Tarek of Urban Q8. I hope you guy like this video!



3- Only a Week Left for Fete de la Musique!


Remember, next week on 21 June, I will be performing with my blues band in Beirut, at Samir Kassir Square. 

Checkout the full lineup that day, and don't forget to say hi!





Thursday, June 11, 2015

Live Version of my original 'Snake Oil Blues'



I recorded an interview for Urban Q8, and that will be coming later on, however I thought I'd upload a live version of one of my tracks for that interview for you to enjoy.

This version, unlike the original, is in open G tuning, which makes it sound a lot darker and more true to the Mississippi Delta blues sound.

Hit me up with your feedback!





Tuesday, June 9, 2015

'Glory Bee' - Lightnin' Hopkins



Lightnin' Hopkins was known for his haunting vocals, enchanting lyrics and fiery guitar skills. This song combines them all in a chilling blues track, called 'Glory Bee'.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Delta Blues Playlist

via mojohand.com

The Mississippi Delta is the region in the southern United States, also known as the Deep South, where blues music originated. The area, known for its poverty, sharecroppers and farming, is the place where African-Americans on the plantations started singing the music originating from West Africa, combining it with work songs, spirituals, and instead of talking about God (gospel), talked about women, working conditions, and poverty, which became the blues. 

From this focal point between the banks of the Mississippi River lie the states of Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas, where the most famous movers and innovators and legends of the blues emerged. From Robert Johnson to Muddy Waters to BB King to John Lee Hooker and hundreds more, this was not just fertile land for farming but also for growing legends.

The country style, usually with a bottleneck slide, no amplification, and loose, raw, solo arrangements define the sound of the delta blues. It is the origin, and from the 1920s onwards was the prime location for bluesmen to shine.

I've complied a list of 10 songs from the Delta for your blues needs:


10. Depot Blues - Son House



9. Country Blues - Muddy Waters



8. Sittin' on Top of the World - Mississippi Sheiks



7. Goin' Down to the River - Mississippi Fred McDowell 



6. Big Road Blues - Tommy Johnson



5. Someday Baby - Sleepy John Estes




4. Grandpa Got Drunk - Kokomo Arnold



3. Good Gal Blues - Sonnyboy Williamson I



2. Black Spider Blues - Robert Lockwood Jr.



1. Crossroad Blues - Robert Johnson