Friday, August 31, 2012

Muddy Waters Covers "Smokestack Lightnin'"

The blues standard "Smokestack Lightnin'" is song made famous by Howlin' Wolf in 1956. Since then, dozens of performers covered it; but another blues legend, Muddy Waters, did his own cover too.

The song is a lot more laid back, feauturing Muddy's hypnotic late 50's sound. Some of the lyrics are altered as well, and the famous opening line and verse of the original was moved to the third verse.

Interesting take on this song... most bluesmen covered each others' songs over the years.

Here it is:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Story about Race - "Black Cat Blues" by Lightnin' Hopkins

This is an amazingly played song by blues master Lightnin' Hopkins.

While it's sung in a funny tone, the song is actually a metaphor about whites and blacks.

You see, back before the civil rights movement, there was a lot of racial tensions in the US, especially in the 50's and 60's.

This song, which also features some amazing fingerstyle skills, while humorous in the way Hopkins speaks it, has serious underlying tone, such as:

The black cat told the white cat, let go out to town and clown
The white cat told the black cat to sit his black self down

I do feel a lot of the speech is improvised... which is a usual style of Lightnin'... to make up lyrics as he went by.

Here's the song!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Happy Birthday Charlie Parker!

Charlie Parker with a young Miles Davis

Oh man... where would jazz be without Charlie Parker, also known as The Bird?

Charlie Parker, the legendary sax player and band leader, was born on this day in 1920.

The catalyst in the rise of bebop and individual player skills, of seeking improvisation, of learning and exploring new chord changes... of being a band leader and teacher for new players (including Miles Davis)... Bird was all those and more.

He died at the young age of 34 on March 12, 1955 ... his legacy though lives on forever.

His influence had a huge impact on the entire jazz world, and it would not be too far fetched to say that jazz would not have become what it was without Charlie Parker.

On Parker, John Coltrane said when he saw Charlie Parker perform for the first time June 5, 1945:

"the first time I heard Bird play, it hit me right between the eyes."

Hope you're having a good time with all the jazz cats in heaven Charlie.... here's one of Bird's best known songs, "Bird Gets the Worm" from 1947:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Follow me on Instagram!

I'm not the world's best photographer or anything... but if you wanna see some cool music and random pictures, then follow me @BLUESMAN81.

You can also look at the nifty Instagram widget I put on this blog under the Twitter widget... so that way you can view them quickly, as seen in the picture above.

(Shameless begging for friends)

My Dad's Guinness World Record for Most Prayer Beads (Masbaha) Renewed!

My dad is a two time Guinness World Record holder; one for prayer beads (masbaha) and opaline glass.

Today, Guinness World Records sent us the latest renewal of the record starting March 9, 2012.

Hope you all enjoy it :)

Remembering SRV

On August 27, 1990, Texas blues guitar extraordinaire Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash. He was at his peak of popularity, and adding to the adage that "the good die young".

I would rather let the music speak for itself... just want to say that SRV's legacy lives on, as being one of the main reasons blues was revived in the 80's, and how his guitar playing inspires millions of people to pick it up and start learning. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked him seventh among the "100 Greatest Guitar Players of All Time".

It has to be seen and heard to be believed. RIP Stevie!

Homesick James - The Country Blues

A cousin of Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson II, Homesick James Williamson was a blues musician who had his roots in country blues.

Interestingly he performed on Elmore Jame's best known track "Dust my Broom" and others like "The Sky is Crying" as session musicians (bass duties).

He is well known for being an adept slide guitar player and singer. He spent time in the 30's and 40's in Chicago as a sideman and and recorded many solo albums until his death in 2006.

Here's a track from Homesick James album "Blues on the Southside" from 1964:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Some Essential Blues Books

These are two highly recommended books for blues lovers:

1- The History of the Blues by Francis Davis

2- The Rough Guide to the Blues by Nigel Williamson

These book have tons of information, like the origins, styles, important dates, musician bios and just about everything blues you will need.

Knowledge is power my friends!

BB King & Eric Clapton?! Yes Please!

In June, 2000, this great collaboration album was released. I remember buying it as soon as it hit the stores in Lebanon.

These two music giants decided to record this album of cover songs as well as a couple of old BB King songs, such as "Three O'Clock Blues", Ten Long Years", "Help the Poor", "When My Heart Beats Like a Hammer" and "Days of Old".

There's also old blues standards like "Key to the Highway" and "Worried Life Blues".

The dynamics between the two is interesting; here you have Clapton who's a famous blues/rock star with slick guitar skills, with the laid back blues master playing with soul on Lucille (the name of King's Gibson guitar)... it's very surreal.

While this album might be considered too polished it's still a great album nonetheless and it won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album.

Here's the title track from the album, a great punch the stomach the minute you put the CD in your player:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How I Feel Right Now: "Soon as I get Paid" by Keb' Mo'

Keb' Mo' is an awesome blues guitarist and singer. He's a contemporary bluesman, and while some of his sounds are obviously throwbacks to the old days, he has a unique modern edge that landed him Grammy awards.

One of his older songs is one of my favorites and also it's how I feel right now:

Ring-a-ling with the telephone
Is the man of the house home
Your master card is overdue
We need a payment from you
Right now
Right away
I ain't got nothing to send you today
But I'm gonna give you all your money
Soon as I get paid

Awesome song... check it out!

This is a Naughty Fender Bass

That's a ... nice "Jazz" bass isn't it!

More Menu Fail. (18+)

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Introduction to the Blues - Top 10 Albums

I've been preaching the blues for a while now (either through music or through this blog), and I'm not intending to quit anytime soon!

The blues is a vast genre with many styles and musicians. There are regional scenes (Delta Blues, Chicago Blues, etc), there's style genres (jump blues, country blues, jazz blues etc) and almost everything in between.

For the rookie blues enthusiast, or the occasional listener, or a curious soul, I've compiled a list of ten albums that will get you started with the blues, from which you can then explore on your own.

These albums are all from the builders of the style, and the ones mostly associated with the genre. You might notice there are some compilation albums on the list, this is due to having most of the famous songs that shaped the blues in them. This is not a "best albums of all time" list.

So here we go:

10. ELMORE JAMES "The Very Best of Elmore James"

Elmore James is the master of the electric slide guitar, and his most famous song is "Dust My Broom". That opening slide lick set the standard for generations!


Lightnin' Hopkins is a master guitarist, vocalist, and champion of early Texas blues. His guitar skills and haunting vocals are among the reasons people pick up the blues!


Stevie Ray Vaughan (SRV) single-handedly revived the blues in the 80's. His Texas blues-rock and extraordinary guitar skills have made every kid and adult want to pick up a guitar. He is considered one of the best guitarists of all time.

7. HOWLIN' WOLF "Moanin' in the Moonlight"

This Chicago blues giant (and I do mean that literally) has produced some of the most memorable music, thanks to his raspy, powerful voice. He is also a very adept guitar player in his own right.

6. JOHN LEE HOOKER "The Ultimate Collection 1948-1990"

John Lee Hooker is one of the staples of the blues, and for good reason! His songs "Boom, Boom" and "Boogie Chillen" have shaped rock n' roll; his unique guitar style is often imitated but never duplicated.

5. ALBERT KING "Born Under a Bad Sign"

Albert King is a legendary guitarist, and his title track of this album is enough to understand why. Being left handed, his unusual guitar playing (a right handed guitar with strings in the usual position, ie the thickest strings on the bottom!) gave him a sense of mysticism!

4. SON HOUSE "The Very Best of Son House"

Son House is one of the pioneers of Delta blues, and his influence stretches to the entire world. His guitar playing and haunting voice inspired the bluesmen of the day such as Muddy Waters.

3. B.B. KING "The Ultimate Collection"

B.B. King needs no introduction. His music and guitar skills has made him the most successful bluesman ever, and his popularity in the music world is extremely high. He is still alive today and was in Lebanon recently (check out the exclusive review [here].

2. MUDDY WATERS "The Anthology 1947-1972"

Muddy Waters is the king of the electric Chicago blues. His move from Mississippi to Chicago, and adopting the electric guitar, set the stage for the world and it never looked back. His songs "Hoochie Coochie Man", "Rollin & Tumblin" and "Rollin' Stone" are just some of the examples that took the world by storm.

1. ROBERT JOHNSON "The Complete Recordings"

No one else has put the blues on the map, from lyrics to slide guitar, to mystery and voodoo as Robert Johnson. It was him that everyone wanted to be and even though he only recorded a few dozens songs, they live on forever and almost all bluesmen (and rockers) put him as the best blues player of all time.

There you have it folks! I hope you enjoyed this list and good luck with the Blues!

Reasons to Date a Bass Player

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Otis Spann Records Debut Album in Today in 1960.

On this day in 1960, Otis Spann, one of the most important Chicago Blues pianists, recorded his first solo album "Otis Spann is the Blues".

Otis Spann is most well known for being in Muddy Waters' band from 1952-1968. He and Muddy were so close that Muddy sometimes called him his brother, and in many shows Otis would sing a few songs while Muddy took a rest (can be seen in the Live in Copenhagen concert in 1968).

Otis was considered an important figure in post-war Chicago blues and was elected to the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980.

Here's one song off the album, a blues standard called "Worried Life Blues":

Want Crap for Lunch?

This isn't the first time I got crap related menus in Kuwait. But this is getting serious!

Thanks Moe for the tip!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ZZ Top to Release First Album in Nine Years!


Blues rock legends ZZ Top have announced that they are set to release 'La Futura', their first new album in nine years, on September 10.

'La Futura' will be ZZ Top's fifteenth album.

These guys are awesome, not only as musicians, but come on... if you had beards like that you would be awesome too!

Here's a classic ZZ Top track... La Grange:

New Updated Fender American Vintage Series Guitars


Check out the new upated Fender American Vintage Series of guitars (no word on basses yet!), with pictures and video demos, and new color options!

The models:

'56 Stratocaster

'59 Stratocaster

'65 Stratocaster

'52 Telecaster

'58 Telecaster

'64 Telecaster

'65 Jaguar

'65 Jazzmaster

New John Lee Hooker DVD : Cook with the Hook 1974

The official Facebook page of John Lee Hooker updated us on the "Cook with the Hook" Live DVD, which is now available for sale at Amazon and other stores.

The black and white DVD features rare footage of the 1974 concert in Massachusetts; here's the official description:

On Saturday, July 6, 1974, Mississippi-Delta bluesman John Lee Hooker was one of the star attractions at an all-day festival attended by 6,000 people. The event in the town of Gardner Massachusetts was called ""Down in the Dumps"" perhaps the first in what was proposed as a series of musical events to be held in the city landfill area. Luckily, very luckily, Hooker's performance was captured on a three camera shoot and broadcast on cable television in local cities and towns. Tracks: It Serves You Right to Suffer, Sweet Sweet Thing, Boom Booom, Whiskey & Women, Boogie, Encore/Medley

Also, there's a free MP3 you can get for "Serves me Right to Suffer" here.

Finally, here's a clip from Youtube:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

5 Tips to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues

We had a long break for Eid, especially after the month of Ramadan (which already messes up all our schedules).

Some people, like Psychology Today, give you some advice on to get your life back on schedule after a holiday. It's all flowers and ponies and unicorns if you ask me.

So I've made up my own list of how to beat your blues and get your miserable life back together:

1) Your holiday is over. Get over it. No more days off, no more time to lay down and watch TV till 8AM or play video games all night.

2) Think like you actually contribute something to society. If you have nothing to contribute, you should not be working anyways. Get out there and get busy.

3) Have a good attitude. Smile, be positive. You looking like a drunk horse at the office won't make your co-workers like you anymore (they already hate your guts as it is).

4) Stay relaxed and fresh. The less you sleep the more groggy and annoying you will be to all of us. Also, slow down on the highways; we still didn't get enough of your bad attitude.

5) Drink coffee. Lot's of it.

I hope you all had a good vacation!

Awesome Grendizer Graffiti!

My buddy Jihad who is in Lebanon sent me this snap of ... a suited Grendizer.

Simply brilliant!

My Original Muddy Waters Print for the 1977 "Hard Again" Album

I got this off Ebay a few years ago; it's an original print advertising Muddy Waters' comeback album Hard Again from 1977.

This album was the first album by Waters not recorded or released on Chess Records, where he worked there from the early '50s till 1976, until the label was sold. Johnny Winter was an essential catalyst for getting Muddy to record with him at Blue Sky Records. His final 3 albums (including this one) were released on that label.

This album features Muddy's longest tenured band with special guests: Johnny Winter and Bob Margolin on guitar, guest blues legend James Cotton on harp (who was in Muddy's band in the '50s), Pinetop Perkins on piano, Charles Calmese on bass, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on drums. A simply awesome lineup.

It's got several Muddy classics such as Mannish Boy, Can't be Satisfied, and new originals such as Bus Driver.

My favorite has toq be "The Blues Had a Baby and they Named it Rock n' Roll", so enjoy this great electrifying Chicago blues track:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Creepy Jazz Musician

The Howlin' Wolf Album: Blues + Psychedelic Fused

In the late 60's, when psychedelic rock was at it's peak thanks to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and the counter-culture, Leonard Chess, owner of legendary blues label Chess Records, asked Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf to record an album that fused their blues with the sound of psychedelic rock of the day.

This decision was very controversial, as both artists shunned the albums after their release (both Muddy and the Wold called them "dog shit"), and the blues purists as selling out. However it was viewed, the albums are actually very listenable.

Muddy recorded Electric Mud and After the Rain, and Howlin' Wolf recorded the album a year later, simply called The Howlin' Wolf Album. And yes, the above picture is the actual cover art.

The band used in this album was also the same players on the Electric Mud album. Basically, it's the blues standards of the each bluesman but played with more wah-wah, distortion, and rhythms of the psychedelic sound.

I personally like all these albums, as they bring out a fresh, raw perspective of the blues we all love. All these albums ended up selling very well despite negative reaction.

The tracklist for The Howlin' Wolf Album consists of the major songs for the Wolf:

1. Spoonful
2. Tail Dragger
3. Smokestack Lightning
4. Moanin' at Midnight
5. Built for Comfort
6. The Red Rooster
7. Evil
8. Down in the Bottom
9. Three Hundred Pounds of Joy
10. Back Door Man

Here's "Backdoor Man":

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Today in 1959; Blind Willie McTell Passes

Blind Willie McTell was a blues legend, as well as superb guitar player. He wrote dozens of songs, many of which became blues standards, such as "Statesboro Blues".

He was a prominent artist in the 20's and 30's, and was known for his ragtime and gospel influences in his songs. He never left Georgia, unlike other bluesmen of his time, who went to Chicago or Detroit and made it big.

On August 19, 1959, McTell died of a stroke in Georgia.

Here's one of his songs from 1933 called "Broke Down Engine":

Soviet Guitars

I love retro stuff; they just ooze cool.

During my university years in AUB, I fiddled around with communist theory... I read a lot of books and was intrigued by the nostalgia of the USSR.

I've passed that phase, but I still yearn for that nostalgia.

So being a musician how about I show you some Soviet guitars and basses? We all know how Soviet design was often bulky, dull, and counter intuitive... all that socialist hate I presume.

(You can read more about their history in detail over on Cheesy Guitars)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Door Squeals like Miles Davis' Trumpet

Thought it was kinda funny.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Today Marks 74 Years of Robert Johnson's Death

On August 16, 1938, the king of the Delta Blues Robert Johnson passed away.

I don't think I have to overstate what I've already stated several times in the past... but Johnson's music and his mystique are forever etched in human history.

There is so much mystery surrounding Johnson; only 2 pictures exist of him. No one really knows how he died; some say poison, some say drugs.

Also the legend about him selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads... it's the oldest and most famous story of the blues.

Whatever the case, we owe Robert Johnson for giving us his gift of music. Without him a lot of modern music would not have come to be.

This is his most seminal track... the "Crossroad Blues":

Did You Know? Miles Davis was in "Scrooged"

I didn't know about this until now and by accident.

This movie from the 80's starred Bill Murray (one of my favorite actors) in a modern world version of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.

In one section of the movie Bill runs into a bunch of musicians, and one of them just happens to be Miles Davis! Of course the last time I saw this movie was when I was a kid so I didn't even know who he was. But it's still cool to come across this after all this time!

The video is unavailable but there's the track, which is a cover of "We Three Kings of the Orient", a Christmas Carol by Miles Davis, Larry Carlton, David Sanborn & Paul Shaffer.