Monday, December 29, 2014

Rare Performance of Muddy Waters & Otis Spann - Paris 1964

unofficial bootleg cover of the Paris 1964 concert

You have to love the internet; it's like an online museum vault for archiving history.

Just recently (2 weeks ago) a video of Muddy Waters performing in Paris in 1964 was uploaded. It features the great Otis Spann, a young Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith on drums and Ransom Knowles on bass. 

This is a rare recording because not only has it not been officially released, and only exists on bootleg CDs, but also it shows Muddy's white, maple-neck Telecaster before he re-painted it Candy Apple Red and added a beefy rosewood neck on it. 

European crowds were not that exposed to American blues and jazz music at the time so this performance as dazzling to them to say the least.

Here's Muddy singing one of his signature tunes 'Country Boy': 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Detroit Blues Queen Alberta Adams Passes Away


The Queen of Detroit Blues Alberta Adams has passed away at the age of 97. Alberta was one of the last living blues divas who sang the deep blues.

Starting her career in the early 50's in Chicago, before settling in Detroit. She saw a major spike in popularity in her older years, even to  record her final album in 2008 at the age 91.

I have listed her in my Detroit Blues playlist post earlier.

She will be missed; RIP Alberta.

Here's one of her tunes from 1999 called 'Born With The Blues'.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Speakin' the Blues - Year 2014 in Review

Writing about the blues is not easy; not only is it a very niche genre of music, which is still pretty much an American roots music that hasn't caught on as fast unlike other genres like EDM and hip-hop. I do struggle with finding relevant topics and news that would interest my fellow fans and readers.

However, I'm happy to say 2014 was a good year for Speakin' the Blues and myself personally.

Not only did the blog increase viewership this year as opposed to 2013, but  also got a bit of recognition! Speakin' the Blues was listed as 15th most prolific Lebanese blog as chosen by Lebanese Blogs. Considering the subject matter, that's a good place to be in!

Do you like the new banner? That's one of the things I said I'd change in 2014. I also became a blues partner with The Blues Foundation.

On the musical front, I had a much better year than 2013. I had some high profile gigs, as well as a radio highlight on Dubai Eye FM. You can view my Youtube channel for recent uploads. There will be some big announcements in 2015 so stay tuned. 

Heading the blues jam at JAM KUWAIT

Thanks to all my loyal readers and blues lovers. Speakin' the Blues may not be the most popular blog on the street, but the passion keeps me driving forward. I pride myself that Speakin' the Blues is the only blog of it's kind in the Middle East. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Perfect Christmas Blues Gift on a Budget

I bought myself a little, yet very value packed, bang for your buck Christmas blues gift!

Now I'm no harp player, but as a bluesman it's one of the things you have to pick up. This is a Hohner Piedmont Blues harmonica set. It comes with 7 (seven!) 10 hole diatonic harmonicas, each in a key (A, Bb, C, D, E, F, & G) which are perfect for the most popular blues keys. 

The harmonicas are made of plastic so they are not of the highest sound quality (unlike my Marine band harp) but they are perfect for beginners like me. It also comes in a sweet harmonica case (that alone is worth the package).

And for how much? 

I got it for only $19.99 on a holiday sale, but the usual price is $26.99 on Sweetwater (which is still a great deal) with free shipping.

Merry Christmas everyone; don't forget to hear my Christmas Blues playlist for tonight!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Blues Salute at the 1987 Grammy Awards

In 1987 at the 29th Grammy Awards, a great showcase of blues musicians got together for a great blues jam. And they were announced by the great Billy Crystal which is an added bonus! There should be more salutes to the music that brought us just about everything else.

The performers are: 

Willie Dixon, BB King, Albert King, Koko Taylor, Etta James, Dr. John, Junior Wells, Ry Cooder, Big Jay McNealy, Robert Cray, Tim Drummond, and Jim Keltner. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bluesy Christmas Playlist

Christmas is just a few days away, and we are all getting into the jolly mood. However, not every Christmas is filled with merriment; for the blues is with us every season, come rain or shine.

Here's a blues-ified Christmas songlist for you to play while you wait for Santa to come along, that's if he didn't get drunk and slept half-naked on his workshop floor.

BB King - Please Come Home For Christmas

Chuck Berry - Run Run Rudolf Run

Albert King - Christmas Comes But Once a Year

Canned Heat - Christmas Blues

John Lee Hooker - Blues for Christmas

Big Joe Williams - Christmas Blues 

Blind Blake - Lonesome Christmas Blues

Sonny Boy Williamson - Sonny Boy's Christmas Blues

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It's Official: Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Paul Butterfield Blues Band Inducted into 2015 Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame

Another great day and achievement for the blues! The Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame has announced the inductees for the 2015 Hall of Fame:

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band are now set in stone as some of the greatest musicians and influencers, alongside their blues brethren who are also in the Hall of Fame. The legacy of the blues never ends, and just proves how important the genre is to popular music.

Congratulations to the other winners Ringo Starr, The 5 Royales, Green Day, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Lou Reed, and Bill Withers. For the full nominee list check my previous post [here].

Let's celebrate with the winners:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Standard of the Week: Smokestack Lightnin

In 1956, blues legend Howlin' Wolf (real name Chester Burnett) recorded 'Smokestack Lighting' for Chess Records. The song is a repeating E chord vamp, with hypnotic blues wailing from the Wolf, true to his name. His band for the ages backing him: Hubert Sumlin and Willie Johnson played electric guitars, Hosea Lee Kennard on piano, Willie Dixon on bass guitar and Earl Phillips on drums. Wolf  played the harmonica on the song too.

The song is in reference to trains, and early blues pioneers who coined and sang some of the same lines like Charlie Patton. Wolf said: "We used to sit out in the country and see the trains go by, watch the sparks come out of the smokestack. That was smokestack lightning."

Since then it's become a blues standard, winning a Grammy Hall of Fame award in 1999 for it's historical significance, and remains the Wolf's most famous song.

Dozens of blues and rock musicians covered it, such as:





Thursday, December 11, 2014

36th Blues Music Awards Nominees Announced

The Blues Foundation has announced the nominees for the 36th Blues Music Awards, which will take place on May 7, 2015 in Memphis, Tennessee.

The full list is after the jump:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rory Block Covers Robert Johnson's 'Crossroads Blues' With Flair

This is one talented lady; Aurora "Rory" Block is a country blues guitar virtuoso and has been preserving this blues style in her own passionate ways.

Here's her covering the blues classic 'Crossroads Blues' by Robert Johnson:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Assorted Jazz News

I haven't done much on the jazz side of things on the blog recently, so I rounded up a few recent news bits for you!

Read more after the jump:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Video: 4 Blues Styles in Under 1 Minute

Although I'm a bassist, I do fool around on guitar for songwriting purposes.

I have stitched together four short videos into one of me playing on my Fender Telecaster, to showcase some famous bluesmens' playstyles:

1. Elmore James. open D tuning a la Dust My Broom
2. Albert King, a la Laundromat Blues
3. Muddy Waters, a la Rollin' Stone
4. B.B. King, a la How Blue Can You Get

Friday, December 5, 2014

57th Grammy Awards: The Nominees for Best Blues Album

Another year, another Grammy awards ceremony, and as always here are the nominees for Best Blues Album for the 57th Grammy Awards, to be held on February 9, 2015:

Looks like there is some serious competition between the old schoolers and the contemporary artists. Last year, I made this rant about how it was not a good idea to fuse traditional and modern blues into one category.

Here are videos of each nominee; who do you think will win? Personally, my vote goes to Johnny Winter, who passed away earlier this year.

Dave & Phil Alvin:

Ruthie Foster:

Charlie Musselwhite:

Bobby Rush:

Johnny Winter: 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Ultimate Blues Gift: 'ABC of The Blues'

My sister and her husband were vacationing in Greece, and they got me this gift for my birthday.

This could be the ultimate blues collection.

This 52-disc compilation 'ABC of the Blues: The Ultimate Collection from the Delta to the Big Cities', lives up to its name. There are more than 100 artists represented, performing 1,040 tracks. The music begins at the beginning with Charlie Patton, Son House, and Robert Johnson, and moves all the way through the vintage Chicago years of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, with stops along the way in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, New York, and all points in between. It also comes with a booklet with biographies for everyone in this package.

And not only that, my version happens to have a Hohner Puck harmonica (key of C) included too! It packs a punch for a tiny instrument! 

For scale with a full size Hohner harmonica.
If you're a blues freak like me, or just want to have almost every blues CD you could ever need, then this is it!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Doogie Howser Episode Full of the Blues

Remember Doogie Houser MD? Neil Patrick Harris' early series where he plays a young genius doctor?

Well in one of the episodes (Season 2 Episode 6), Doogie admits a homeless man to the hospital who turns out to be Blind Otis Lemon, a legendary blues player long thought to be dead. When Otis is scheduled for surgery to remove a tumor that could possibly leave him deaf, Vinnie and Raymond sneak him out of the hospital for one last gig.

What a piece of 80's nostalgia... also Otis is modeled after Muddy Waters ("A to Z, Rock n' Roll belongs to me" and being called the original Hoochie Coochie Man) and his name after Blind Lemon Jefferson

The songs featured are "Stormy Monday Blues" by T-Bone Walker and "Got My Mojo Working" by Muddy Waters.

Haunting Performance of 'Lightnin's Blues' - Lightnin' Hopkins

From 1963-1966, the European tour of the American Folk Blues Festivals by major bluesmen and women drew huge crowds and massive media attention to blues music. You can read a little about that [here].

One of the performers was none other than Texas bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins, whose blues playing and singing leaves us haunted every time.

Here's that deep, harrowing performance from one of these shows:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Video Review of Pink Floyd's 'The Endless River'

Hey guys, since the arrival of my limited edition of the new Pink Floyd album 'The Endless River' came out, I couldn't stop listening to it. I thought a video review would do the album more justice.

The Endless River - Limited Edition

I'm technologically challenged so please be gentle and send me feedback!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Standard of the Week: 'Mean Ol' Frisco'

In in 1942, Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup recorded the blues standard 'Mean Ol' Frisco'.

The "Frisco" is actually a shorter term for the St. Louis-San Francisco train line, where he sings about his baby leaving him:

Well, that mean old, mean old Frisco,
And that low down Santa Fe
Well, that mean old Frisco, and that low down Santa Fe
Well it carried my baby away, and it's blown right back on me.

Ain't nothin' subtle about this old Mississippi blues track; with it's driving rhythm:

Soon enough many musicians took the song and covered it, such as:







Tuesday, November 25, 2014

'Blues Beyond the Call of Duty' - The Duke Robillard Band

Duke Robillard released his latest album "Calling All Blues!" in late September. As usual, it's high on energy and groove, with a deep southern blues vibe.

As can be seen in this soulful blues number, "Blues Beyond the Call of Duty", it heavily features his band taking up lead roles.

Duke kills it with his guitar on this one!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Video: 'I Am The Blues' / Ali Sleeq & Friends

This was taken at the Jam Kuwait event on Friday, 21st November.

This song was performed as a jam with some great and aspiring musicians (mentioned in video), never having played before together. Such is the spirit of the blues.

Video taken by Bachir Najjar.

Hope you enjoy it! And send me feedback goddammit!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

'You Said You Would Be On Time' - Otis Spann

I've been on an Otis Spann trip for some time now; you can hardly blame me... Otis' soulful voice and deep blues playing is haunting and addictive.

It is unfortunate that Otis passed away at his peak in 1970... the blues world lost one of it's pillars.

Here's a slow, midnight blues by Otis called 'You Said You Would Be On Time' from the 1968 Crying Time album:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Today's New Re-Release: 'Southside Blues Jam' - Junior Wells

Today, the classic 1970 album Southside Blues Jam by Junior Wells will be re-released with an expanded tracklist. I wrote a previous post about a song on that album which you can read [here].

The excerpt about this release from Delmark Records: 

The follow up to Hoodoo Man Blues (DMK 612), this classic Chicago blues album is now re-issued in an expanded digipak Deluxe Edition containing unissued performances and a 16-page booklet with many never-before-seen photos. The Godfather of Blues, Junior Wells is accompanied by Buddy Guy and Louis Myers, guitar; Otis Spann, piano; Earnest Johnson, bass; Fred below, drums. Recorded December 30, 1969 and January 8, 1970, the five extra performances include Rock Me Baby, an alternate take of I Could Have Had Religion, Junior's In Charge, an eight-minute improvisational studio jam with lots of Otis Spann, and more, 73 minutes. With new notes by producer Bob Koester. A must for blues lovers.

And indeed it is a must!

Here's another track from the album, 'Stop Breaking Down':

Monday, November 17, 2014

Starting a Blues Vinyl Collection

Vinyl record sales are on an increase; it's retro appeal among hipsters, vintage enthusiasts, audiophiles, collectors, and an older generation reminded of it's simpler past are among the reasons for this. Audiophiles swear by the sound of vinyl as being 'pure' sounding compared to digital and CD formats; teens wanna look cool with records... it's the hip thing these days.

Well I got a few blues records for my birthday in September, but I had no record player. Until yesterday that is!

Say hello to my little friend.

Thanks to my friend Amin (a talented musician in his own right), I purchased his Numark portable record player... this little-player-that-could is a great starting point for a new collector; I've only got a few records now... but thanks to eBay and me being a compulsive collector... I expect my record collection to grow significantly in a short period of time.

Vintage Muddy Waters records in mint condition
Electric Mud record... psychedelic blues at it's finest.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Unholy Blues Jam: T-Bone Walker / Joe Turner / Otis Spann / George 'Harmonica' Smith

This was a great get together for the blues; imagine some of the blues legends gathered alongside for a jam... 

In 1969, Bluestime Records released an album of it's latest roster called Super Black Blues... gathering guitar legend T-Bone Walker, pianist extraordinaire Otis Spann, the blues boss vocalist Joe Turner, and harmonica pillar George 'Harmonica' Smith into the studio and released a 4 track, loose and extended jam session.

The results, alongside bassist Ron Brown, drummer Paul Humphrey, sax player Ernie Watts, and guitarist/arranger Arthur Wright, kick serious ass. Everyone is cool as ice... deepest of the blues.

Here's 'Jot's Blues' from that classic album:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New Family Portrait

Every musician considers his instruments his family; and now that I moved to my new apartment, the family is now settled in the man cave.

From left to right (all Fender): and excuse the shitty phone picture :)

DC-10 acoustic, Jaguar Bass, US Precision Bass, Mexican Telecaster, US Precision Bass, Custom Japanese Precision Bass.

Monday, November 10, 2014

'Keep It To Yourself' - Sonny Boy Williamson II

Sonny Boy Williamson II (stressing the II, because there already was another older Sonny Boy Williamson who isn't related) was a highly influential harp player from Mississippi.

His reached his music peak in the 50's and 60's in Chicago, releasing many recordings as a solo artist as well as a prolific session player.

In the mid 60's he took part of the highly successful American Folk Blues Festivals in Europe right before his death in 1965. 

Below is one of the videos from the festival called 'Keep It To Youself'; he was known to be quite eccentric!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New Blues Music: Grinder Blues Band

I always watch the Billboard blues charts for new blues music; and am I glad I found these guys!

Grinder Blues is a new band comprised of King X's dUg Pinnick and the Emmy award winning roots music band The Bihlman Brothers. The trio’s high-energy performances and heavy hitting sound is a fresh, contemporary spin on the blues. 

The Self-titled Album

The Grinder Blues self-titled new album debuted at number 8 on the Blues charts and has a feel of both blues-rock and Louisiana swamp blues at once; the video below is for the first single 'Burn The Bridge'. The song is drop-tuned to low C which gives it the heavy sound. 

Support new blues music where you can!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Standard of the Week: Driving Wheel Blues

In 1936, Roosevelt Sykes released 'Driving Wheel Blues' under the Decca label. This 12 bar blues features himself singing over a piano.

Since then it has become a blues standard, covered by many artists such as:







Sunday, November 2, 2014

Foo Fighters Sonic Highways Interview with Buddy Guy

The Foo Fighters new album Sonic Highways will be released on Nov. 10; however there is an ongoing documentary series on HBO right now called Foo Fighters Sonic Highways which features interviews and history information from various cities in America from where the album was recorded. The first episode was in Chicago and features an interview with Blues great Buddy Guy, as well as talking about the blues era or the 50's and 60's as well as the rock scene of the 70's and 80's.

It's a great documentary for the Fighters fans and for music fans in general; check out the Buddy Guy interview below:

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Best of Jazz Album Art

From Paste Magazine

Paste Magazine has published an article showcasing selected jazz album cover art that they consider to be the best. They show how early artists had a lot more creativity since they did stuff without a computer to aid them.

If you are into design, art, or jazz music then this is for you! And now that I saw the 'Relaxin' with The Miles Davis Quintet' album on there I might as well put that record on and browse more art!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cream Bassist Jack Bruce Passes Away at 71

The music industry lost one of the greatest musicians yesterday. Jack Bruce, the voice of the band Cream of who he was also the bass player, passed away at the age of 71 in his town of Suffolk, UK.

Cream was one of the very successful blues-rock bands of the 1960's, with Eric Clapton also being in the band. They released four solo albums and were inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame.

Jack Bruce also enjoyed a successful solo career as well as playing as a session player with major artists like Ringo Starr and Frank Zappa.

He will be truly missed for his musical contributions. Here's the 1967 hit 'Sunshine of Your Love' by Cream:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UN Day Concert

Once again, I'll be performing alongside Nawaf Gheraibah and other fine musicians, this time for the UN, at the UN Day concert.  

I'll have some pictures up once the show is done!

Here's what Nawaf had to say about the concert:

"I have the privilege to be performing alongside my colleagues and friends at the United Nations Day "UN DAY"
On the 27th of October at the UN Building in Mishref, Kuwait.
UN Day marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter. With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United Nations officially came into being.
24 October has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948. In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly recommended that the day be observed by Member States as a public holiday."

Oil Man - Big Jack Johnson

Big Jack Johnson was an oil truck driver, hence the nickname "The Oil Man"; he was discovered in the mid-seventies and in the 80's and 90's was very active musically with acclaimed albums.

He passed away in 2011 at the age of 70; but his music lives on as one of the top contemporary blues artists, with a raw edgy blues sound.

Here's one of his signature tunes called "Oil Man":

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Live Event: Cozmo Spraybox (update: postponed)

UPDATE: "The concert portion has been postponed due to reasons beyond the organizers control; the show is still on but the new date will be announced later"

I'll be performing this Friday the 24th of October for the opening of the Cozmo Spraybox, the first ever graffiti park in the Middle East. 

There will be many other performers ranging from hip-hop, rock, and other great treats. I'll be opening the show with a blues set, so come on down and show your support for local artists!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Precision Bass 70's Design Mod

Although I usually like to keep my basses looking as stock as possible, there's always that little modding twitch that gets to me. 

So I decided to slightly modify my Sunburst Precision Bass from a 60's design to a 70's design.

Before / After

Basically I just changed the pickup covers from black to cream, which resemble the DiMarzio pickup replacements that became very popular in the 70's and many musicians often used. Also, I changed the pickguard (scratchplate) from tortoise shell to black, which was the standard color for Fenders in the 70's.

The pickups are still the same (American Vintage '62 pickups) so the sound remains a 60's sound. 

Hope you like it and can't wait to gig with this bass on the 27th (more on that later). 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Standard of the Week: Rollin' & Tumblin'

The original 'Rollin' & Tumblin' was recorded in 1929 by Hambone Willie Newbern under the name 'Roll and Tumble Blues'. It's a great Delta blues classic that's been covered by dozens of blues and rock musicians; the most famous version is by Muddy Waters recorded in 1950.

The Original:

The song features a bottleneck slide riff, played in the key of A with open tuning. The later cover versions either feature the riff under a different name (like 'If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day - Robert Johnson) or changing the lyrics with the name song title (Rollin & Tumblin - Bob Dylan). The song is immortalized and is one of the greatest blues standards.

I mean, one the greatest lyrics ever are in this song:

Well, if the river was whiskey, and I was a divin' duck
Well, if the river was whiskey, and I was a divin' duck
Well, I would dive to the bottom, never would I come up

Here are a few versions by various musicians:

Muddy Waters

Memphis Slim with Buddy Guy

Big Joe Williams


Jeff Beck

Cyndi Lauper (great version too!)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Two More Blues Acts Nominated for the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame

For this year, The Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame announced it's nominations for the artists to be voted on to be inducted.

This time, two more blues acts are listed, them being Texas blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan and Chicago blues greats The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

I hope that everyone votes for these well deserved artists who have given so much to the music industry; support the blues!

Listen to My Music Being Reviewed By Dubai Eye FM!

On October 9, James Piecowye from the Nightline show on Dubai Eye 103.8 FM reviewed my music, as part of the weekly Indie Jukebox program. 

You can hear the podcast below, and my part starts at 12:10. The other musicians reviewed are 

Lena Chamamyan, Jeed La Soul. and High on Bodyfat. 

Shout out to the Nightline crew for their support and positive review! 

Note: does not support mobile viewing.