Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#Throwback: Classic Blues Gig in Beirut (2004)

On Dec. 21, 2004 in Beirut, we performed a gig that (in my eyes at least) was considered a classic blues performance. 

Our blues band, Evergreen, performed to over 200 people at the now closed blues pub Roadhouse Blues in Monot Street. 

This was the last big performance I had with the band before I left Lebanon to Kuwait.

I have this poster hanging on my wall as a reminder of the good times; now ain't that the blues!

See more about my musical adventures in Lebanon [here].

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Standard of the Week: 'Crawling King Snake'

via ArtLetter

'Crawling King Snake' is a blues standard that has been covered by many artists. It's origins go back to the old Mississippi Delta blues of the 1920's. It is thought to be inspired by 'Black Snake Moan' by Blind Lemon Jefferson.

The heavy riff and the lyrics immediately became a favorite. The original version is disputed to be between Big Joe Williams and Tony Hollins (though I could not find the latter's version).

Big Joe Williams (1941)

Since then, some of the bluesmen who covered it were: 

John Lee Hooker (1949)

The Doors (1970)

Muddy Waters (1971)

George Thorogood (1985)

Buddy Guy (2003)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Celebrating the Birthday of Miles Davis

On May 26, 1926, Miles Davis, the legendary jazz leader, composer, and trumpeter, was born.

I've spent many articles on Miles in the past; but you can never have enough of talking or discussing this great figure, for his contributions to music generally, and jazz specifically, are far too numerous.

Never seeking to stay stagnant or fade into obscurity or being considered a 'relic' of the past, Miles always kept pushing his music further.

It started when he moved away from bebop, into cool jazz, a style that he was monumental in developing, to his shift to hard bop during the early to mid, 50's. His leap into modal jazz was cemented when he released the best selling jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue, to much acclaim.

He started playing with electric sounds and literally creating the genre of fusion, Miles released In a Silent Way, and then the Electric Miles phase was born.

Electric Miles

He even released (although posthumously), a hip-hop/jazz album with the help of Easy Mo Bee called Doo Wop.

His trumpet style is also widely duplicated, in the philosophy of "less is more".

His legacy lives on through his music, and all the awards such as the Lifetime Achievement Award, several  Grammys  and the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. 

We salute the King of the Cool, Miles Davis, and I leave you with one of his most recognizable songs, a live version of "So What" of the Kind of Blue album, featuring John Coltrane on the tenor sax, and don't forget the block party being hosted by his estate in NYC for the Miles Davis Way celebration!

The New Hendrix Movie Offends & Tainting A Musician's Legacy

The new biofilm of Jimi Hendrix 'All Is By My Side' has been on the receiving end of some controversy. The film stars Andre 3000 (of Outkast fame) as the legendary Jimi Hendrix, and while the film initially had some buzz about it, it quickly died down once it was revealed that no actual music from Jimi Hendrix will be used in the film (not even as a cover version). The producers say that this is due to the film being made about Jimi's pre-fame era.

However, a film about a legendary musician without a hint of his music misses the point. It's like showing how Pink Floyd were created without showing off their most famous material, or even before David Gilmour joined the band. 

The film also shows some violence against women, particularly in the character of Kathy Etchingham, who was Jimi's girlfriend. According the article, he never did beat her as shown in the film, as told by his biographer Charles Cross. 

What we are left with is an origin story, much like all these famous Hollywood superhero movies being churned out yearly. While that is nothing too major to pick upon, but if you want to watch a movie about Hendrix, you expect to see him at full glory, concerts and Strat-burning and all, not just the periods before and at the end and missing the meat of what Jimi contributed to the music world.

Years ago, the movie 'Cadillac Records' was released, loosely portraying the real Chess Records of Chicago's blues fame. While they used the same names of the musicians like Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Howlin' Wolf etc, it was not 100% accurate, yet it was able to give us the lasting legacy. Using the real music from that day by those musicians adds to the realism and immersion. 

Cadillac Records wasn't accurate, but it told the story very well.

The 2000 movie 'Hendrix', acted by Wood Harris, might not have been the best film and had a much lower budget, but it gave us the full round story including the infamous Monterrey performance. 

When doing a biofilm, especially about a highly revered artist or cultural icon, you have to expect that the fans, not the critics, are final line in deciding the film's rating. Much like other icons like Kurt Cobain, Bob Marley, etc, the directors and producers will be held to close scrutiny. 

Respecting an artist's legacy and their contribution is something that is held sacred by the fans, and if movie makers can't uphold this sanctity, the end result will always be negative. 

The film opens June 13 in the UK. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

'Hold That Train Conductor' - Byther Smith

Byther Smith is a great Chicago bluesman, who still tours and plays until today. He found his success late, however since the 80's he's been releasing albums and performing live constantly.

He's well known for his gritty blues guitar and soulful voice. Here's 'Hold That Train Conductor':

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Blues Sketch on 'In Living Color' (with Jim Carey)

In Living Color was a comedy sketch show back in the early 1990's and featured the young Jim Carey, Jamie Foxx, the Wayans brothers and many more.

Here's one sketch about a fictional bluesman named Calhoun Tubbs (played by David Alan Grier) trying to teach Jim Carey's character (with a bad English accent) about the blues. Hilarity ensues!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Block Party in NYC Celebrating 'Miles Davis Way'

A few month back I posted that New York City's 312 West 77th Street will now be renamed 'Miles Davis Way'. In celebration, the Miles Davis Estate has invited everyone to go celebrate this occasion at a block party:

Join us Monday, May 26 from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT on Miles Davis' 88th birthday

At 312 W 77 Street (between Riverside Drive & West End Ave.) in New York, NY

This event will be FREE and OPEN to the public, hosted by Cheryl Davis, Erin Davis and Vine Wilburn, Jr.

If you live or are near New York City, you owe yourself to go and check it out!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

'Morning After Blues' - Sonny Stitt

Sonny Stitt was one of the great jazz sax players, a staple of the bebop and hard bop subgenres. He recorded over 100 albums, and played with the greats like Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey and many more.

In 1959 he released 'Sonny Stitt Blows the Blues', and is a collection of some great jazz blues tracks, one being 'Morning After Blues', a mellow song that closes the album:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: 'Sweet Giant of the Blues' - Otis Spann (1969)

It is hard to not write about the great blues pianist Otis Spann; he was a pillar of the classic Chicago blues. Indeed, he was in Muddy Waters' band from 1952 until 1968... in the blues world that's almost a lifetime, as many session players would often leave a band to pursue solo efforts. Muddy Waters always chose the best of the best to play in his band, and he also encouraged them to find their own success. 

Otis Spann, called a brother by Muddy, was the leading blues pianist of his time. His unique playing and soulful voice propelled him to the top of the pack very quickly, and he is included on many of the classic blues standards of the 50's and 60's. He released his first solo album in 1960, and until his early death in 1970 released several more and performed with other bluesmen such as Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Peter Green, Eric Clapton, and more.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

2 Year Old Kid Sings The Blues (No Joke)

This kid is going places... he ain't even old enough to have the blues but he's already wailing on it like he's a dog without a bone.

Thanks Zaid and Tarek for the link!

'Who's Gonna Love You Tonight?' - Deep Blues by Sam Chatmon

Sam Chatmon was a delta blues singer and multi-instrumentalist, who was part of the blues group The Mississippi Sheikhs. Their music was highly influential from the 1930's onward.

Sam died in 1983 but his musical legacy lives on; here's Who's Gonna Love You Tonight? It's a version of several blues songs from Blind Lemon Jefferson and Arthur Crudup.

Feel the blues!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Swamp Blues: 'Cadillac In The Swamp' - SmokeHouse

There is a sub-genre of the blues called Louisiana Blues, with it's music center being New Orleans. Within this subgenre lies a variation called 'Swamp Blues'.

Swamp Blues is a lot more gritty, laidback and for lack of a better term, loose. The beats are a heavier version of the standard blues rhythms or boogie riffs of Chicago and mixing the Cajun sounds the South, taking you to the depths of the swampy, misty Louisiana bayou.

A nice modern example comes from the band Smokehouse. In 1996 the band released an album called 'Cadillac in the Swamp', which features this type powerful sound; a great story along with eerie blues imagery in the video.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hugh Laurie (AKA House) Covers Muddy Waters' 'Louisiana Blues'

Hugh Laurie (best known as House from the TV show of the same name) is a lover of the blues; previously I reviewed his debut album 'Let Them Talk'. His newest album 'Didn't It Rain' was released last year. Both albums heavily feature blues music among other genres.

One of the album surprises on that album is a cover of the Muddy Waters 1950 classic 'Louisiana Blues', with his own twist.

Here's the video, and the original below it for reference:

'Beefsteak Blues' - James 'Son' Thomas

James 'Son' Thomas lived the blues; he was a gravedigger, was shot by an ex-wife, worked the fields, and lived down in Mississippi most of his life. He started recording in the late 60's till the 80's, however he remains obscure outside of the blues circles.

His Delta blues style is very gritty and deep like the muddy Mississippi river. This song called 'Beefsteak Blues' was recorded sometime in the 80's and he sings:

'Beefsteak when I'm hungry, whiskey when I'm dry;
 Beefsteak when I'm hungry, whiskey when I'm dry;
Good lookin' woman when I'm livin', and heaven when I die

Worry I'ma leave you; worry you off my mind;
Worry I'ma leave you; worry you off my mind;
Way you keeps me worried; bother all the time

Some folks say I'm worried, worried the blues ain't bad
Some folks say I'm worried, worried the blues ain't bad
Well that's the worst old feelin' I most ever had.'

(That last line is taken straight from Muddy Water's 'Country Blues' from 1941.)

This is some hard drinkin' blues music:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

35th Blues Music Awards Winners Announced

The 35th Blues Music Awards took place on May 8, 2014 in Memphis, Tennessee. The event brought together the lovers and players of the blues into one great night of celebration.

Congrats to all the winners; it's always nice to see a mix of the traditional bluesmen such as Buddy Guy and James Cotton with contemporary bluesmen like Susan Tedeschi and Gary Clark Jr.

Here's the full winners list after the jump:

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

More Bad Places to Have the Blues

A few years back I posted a small list of places where you can't have the blues.

Here's a new list of places that you just cain't have the blues , no matter how the economy dragged you down , or no matter how many men/women done mistreat you:

You dropped your monocle at an art gallery

You missed Kim at her opening of Millions of Milkshakes

Your doctor left some fat on your leg during lypo

Your iPhone's home button don't work so you go the Apple Store

A Justin Beiber concert

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Blowin' the Blues: Top 10 Blues Harp Players

Hohner, the most famous brand of harps for blues players.

The harmonica, or as it's known in blues terms as the 'harp', has been and still is an essential addition to any blues song. The harmonica is older than the blues, but ever since the early days of the blues in the Mississippi Delta,  harp players started accompanying guitarists and vocalists, it gave the song a more 'country folk' sound that people associate with. 

Eventually with the great migration of blues players to the urban centers of Chicago, Detroit, etc, harp players started using amplifiers to keep up with the electrified guitars and vocals, and since then traditional blues players most always have a harp in their band lineup.

I compiled a list of my personal top 10 harp players, based on influence and legacy.

Monday, May 5, 2014

'BB King: The Life of Riley' to Get Theater, DVD Release

A new documentary called 'BB King: The Life of Riley' is set to be released in select US theaters on May 21st, with a DVD, Blu-Ray and digital release for June 17.

The film, directed by Jon Brewer and narrated by God Morgan Freeman, will cover the rich and long-lasting musical history of Riley 'B.B.' King from his childhood, to his career beginning until now, where at 88 years old remains one of the only original bluesmen from back in the day. It features interviews by BB King himself, as well as Bono, Eric Clapton, Bruce Willis, Ringo Starr  and others, including appearances by Keith Richards, Mick Jagger And President Obama.

The soundtrack will be released as well, featuring selected works spanning his entire career.

Here's the trailer for the film: