Sunday, March 30, 2014

New Photos Found from Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' Session

I've talked about John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme' many times, and I still don't mind talking about it. It's a really supreme (don't mind the pun) album.

And now, David Stewart, son of Chuck Steward who was taking photos on the day of the recording in December 1964, found 6 never seen before pictures of that session.

You can go to NPR's Jazz Blog 'A Blog Supreme' (a name very relevant to this news!) and check out the whole story [here].

Everytime I Get to Drinkin' - Sunnyland Slim

Sunnyland Slim (real name Albert Luandrew) was born in Mississippi, and took the great migration to Chicago, like many of his fellow bluesmen. He became one of Chicago's greatest blues pianists and cut many tracks with dozens of musicians including Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters. 

This track is from the 1964 American Folk Blues Festival which was held in various places in Europe (this one specifically from the UK show).

Master bluesmen Willie Dixon and Hubert Sumlin are on the bass and guitar respectively on this low down blues.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Shredding the Blues

Steve Vai, shred master

It takes quite a lot of skill and technique to play shred guitar (playing rapidly with quick successive notes and sweeps, scales and arpeggios); I certainly don't have this ability. Shred guitar is not only used to to effect in certain musical genres like metal, but, in my opinion, to also show off in front of people.

We've all been in that situation where in a jam session someone will be the 'guitar master' and will shred the guitar so hard that it looks like it will explode and will leave everyone in awe. Unfortunately to many, it seems that if you don't have such skills, it means you suck as a musician.

To me, I can care less if people play better than I do (of course it doesn't hurt to be an all round musician) but I play what I like and feel. It's not just about skill, but also about the message. I've been in situations where I've played with great classically trained musicians but they were playing off of sheet music while I was winging it. They were rigid. I was flexible, and had more fun because I was playing what I felt, and not what someone else told me to play.

It's about taste.

So what if you got a shredder and put him in a blues situation? Again, the skills are top notch, but musically, I call it wanking, because all I hear is a barrage of notes flying at me with that distorted humbucking destruction. The blues is not about technical showmanship, as most of the old (and new) blues musicians were not musically trained and they learned how to play just by imitating others. It's about the song and the feeling; blues solos have some breathable space in between.

Here's NOT how to play the blues:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

'Chain Gang Blues' - Kokomo Arnold (1935)

one of the only photos of Kokomo Arnold

"Kokomo" was a popular brand of coffee back in the day, and was the subject of Francis "Scrapper" Blackwell's first recorded blues in 1928. When slide guitarist James Arnold covered that song as "Old Original Kokomo Blues" for the Decca record label in 1934, little did he know that this would soon become his permanent stage name: Kokomo Arnold.

Arnold recorded 88 tracks for Decca in the 1930s and was an influence on Robert Johnson, however he quit the music business in disgust in 1938 and went into factory work in Chicago. He was rediscovered there by blues researchers in 1962, but didn't show much enthusiasm for reviving his musical career, and certainly did not resume recording. Kokomo Arnold died of a heart attack at the age of 67.

This next song from 1935 is a gritty blues number, about murder and serving jail time, as such: 

'I'm layin' in jail, with my back tied to the wall;
I'm layin' in jail, with my back tied to the wall;
Says this whiskey and old bad women, WHOA, was the cause of it all'

Thursday, March 20, 2014

79 Years Ago: Josh White AKA Pinewood Tom records ''Prodigal Son'

Under the name Pinewood Tom, blues singer and guitarist Joshua White records Prodigal Son in New York City, USA. White, who used the Pinewood Tom pseudonym for his non-religious blues material, will later find greater fame as Josh White, singing in a folksier idiom.

Josh White was very influential in both blues, folk and gospel, and therefore a lot of musicians across the spectrum learned from him.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Led Zeppelin's First 3 Albums to be Re-Released

The legendary classic rock band Led Zeppelin have announced that their first three albums, Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, and Led Zeppelin III, will be remastered and re-released on June 3.

The albums will come in several packages, like a special box set, single or double CD's, 2 vinyl versions, and digital download. The extra content will be an unreleased live concert audio for Led Zep 1, and studio outtakes for Led Zep 2 and 3.

Led Zeppelin remain one of the biggest rock bands ever, and of course their blues influence is very profound.

Here's 'The Lemon Song', featured on Led Zeppelin II, which is a blues nod to Howlin' Wolf; who incidentally sued the band for copyright infringement on his song 'Killing Floor'; and he has since then been credited on the song.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Most Kickass Blues Gig Announced, to be in Las Vegas

Holy fuckballs; this has got to be the biggest, meanest, most orgasmic (ok I'll calm down) blues event of the year!

The Big Blues Bender has announced a major blues event between September 25-29 in Las Vegas, Nevada. It will take place at the Riviera Hotel & Casino.

Now, how big is this show? Just a a few dozen of the best blues musicians alive today!! Take a look for yourself:

I might have to start saving up for this; unless of course I start a Kickstarter campaign, I wouldn't want to miss this!

Tickets are now for sale ONLY from the official website and include 4 nights stay in the hotel.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My 3rd Article for Revolver Is Up!

The lovely folks at Revolver have been very generous to publish my blues rambling; the third time in fact!

This time around the article is called "Booze and the Blues: 10 Blues Songs About Alcohol", and you can read it [here]. 

Cheers (hah) to Revolver and Bernard for their interest and support!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Blues Music Goes Global: A VOA Report

The Voice of America (VOA) has uploaded a special report video about blues music; speaking about the history and it's influences on music, and features several clips of live music playing. The report was prepared by Greg Flakus, who is from Texas and discusses Lightnin' Hopkins, who is a Texan as well. The International Blues Challenge is also shown, and Joe Whitmer of the Blues Foundation tells him a bit about it.

It's a short but very informative video; check it out:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

International Jazz Day 2014's Host City is Osaka, Japan

The 3rd Annual International Jazz Festival's host city has been announced and it will be in Osaka, Japan.

From the official release:

"In the spirit of International Jazz Day, organizers select a venue with rich historical significance, representing jazz’s ability to connect disparate traditions and cultural identities. In 2014, Osaka, Japan’s beautiful Osaka Castle Park will host more than 30 world-renowned performers and an audience of thousands in celebration of the third annual International Jazz Day. 

The 2014 All-Star Global Concert will feature internationally renowned artists including pianists: Toshiko Akiyoshi, Kris Bowers, John Beasley and Herbie Hancock; vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roberta Gambarini, Lalah Hathaway and Gregory Porter; trumpeters Theo Croker, Roy Hargrove, Claudio Roditi and Terumasa Hino; bassists James Genus, Marcus Miller and Esperanza Spalding; drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and percussionists Pete Escovedo and Sheila E.; saxophonists Kenny Garrett, Troy Roberts (Australia), Wayne Shorter and Lew Tabackin; trombonist Steve Turre; guitarists Earl Klugh and John Scofield."

Looks like this will be an insane concert! April 30 is the official UN approved International Jazz Day. See you then!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Even The Beatles Sang The Blues

The Beatles, during a troubled time of the band in 1968, released what is now known as The White Album (it's actually a self-titled album). In that album, is one (for me at least) standout track, called 'Yer Blues'.

Written by John Lennon while the band was in India, the song came about as Lennon put it: "trying to reach God and feeling suicidal". 

The song is pretty much your standard blues, but with a twist near the end where slow tempo picks up and George Harrison plays the slide guitar solo. Also, it's noted that this was one of the few times Paul McCartney played the Fender Jazz Bass on record.

The lyrics are also your standard Lennon too: 

The eagle picks my eye
The worm he licks my bones
I feel so suicidal
Just like Dylan's Mr. Jones
Lonely wanna die
If I ain't dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why.

Hope you enjoy this jem!

Low Down Dirty Blues: 'Cold Lonely Nights' - Lonnie Brooks

Lonnie Brooks, currently at age 80, is a pioneering blues guitarist and vocalist from Louisiana; having started his career in Texas before moving to Chicago in the early 60's. He has performed with dozens of musicians including BB King, Jimmy Reed, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, and many others.

Here's a cut from 1988 called 'Cold Lonely Nights', featuring hard-hitting guitars and gut-wrenching vocals:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Blues Map of The USA

We talked about the many regions of the blues; but now, I have created a visual representation of it, otherwise known as a map (and we all love maps don't we!)

So with my superior MS Paint skills (shrug), I present to you The Blues Map of the USA! Thank me later!

(click for larger image)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Voodoo and the Blues

Voodoo is a religious belief which combines African, Caribbean, French and other national traditions,  and while it is mostly based in Haiti (and is considered an official religion) it has deep roots in New Orleans, Louisiana, where almost 15% of the population admit to practicing it. Voodoo was brutally repressed by slave-owners, yet its powerful beats, ethics and aesthetics endured. Since New Orleans has a distinctive place in blues and jazz; and we draw the origin references to voodoo from it. 

Some, especially in the Arab world, view Voodoo as an evil cult, with gruesome descriptions of human sacrifice and black magic; a perfect match with the music that is the Blues.

Much of the lore of voodoo in the blues comes in the form of using magic spells, seeing gypsy women (fortune tellers), and putting curses on others who were treatin' us bad, mostly as a sign to show the mysterious and sometimes mystical side of the music. 

Here are a few voodoo references in blues music: 

I Got my Mojo Workin' - Muddy Waters
"I'm going down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand; I'm gonna have all you women right here at my command"

Mojo Hand - Lightnin' Hopkins
"I lay down thinking, Buy me a mojo hand; I did wanna fix my woman so she can't have no other man." 

I Put A Spell On You - Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Speaks for itself really!

Hoodoo Lady Blues - Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup
"Now, Miss Hoodoo Lady, please give me a hoodoo hand;
"I wanna hoodoo this woman of mine, I believe she's got another man."

And there's a compilation album you can buy containing several voodoo related blues music
 (Disclaimer to the idiots: IT'S NOT SATANIC)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Standard of the Week: 'Born Under a Bad Sign'

This week, we will delve into one of blues most famous standards, 'Born Under a Bad Sign', by Albert King.

Recorded and released by the legendary Stax record label, 'Born Under a Bad Sign' is considered the quintessential Albert King song. It was recorded with the Booker T & The MG's as the backup band; which is a winning combination.

It's listed in the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame as one of the '500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll', and is was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in the "Classic of Blues Recording, Singles or Album Tracks" category . 

The original 1967 album version.

The riff is what gives the song wide appeal to both blues and rock fans. Dozens of musicians covered it, 
such as Cream:

Jimi Hendrix (as an instrumental)

Robben Ford: 

and.... HOMER SIMPSON (seriously)

Stay tuned for more standards, hope you liked the little tidbits for this song this week!