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!