Here's a neat little story from back in November noting that an audio podcast tour of Chicago's blues music history narrated by Buddy Guy is being downloaded 1,000 times per day.
On the off chance that the myopic record industry that ignores blues music reads this, take note: you could be selling all of these people CDs and downloads.
Good story in the Seattle Times over the weekend notes that former Arhoolie artist Alice Stewart is making a comeback to blues...at age 65! The prevailing wisdom on blues, of course, is that you mature like a fine wine. Or a good bottle of whiskey. Or something like that. You can read more here.
It's a sad day in Calgary, where the Red Onion is closing its doors after a few years of serving up smoking blues to westerners. Everyone from Honeyboy Edwards to Carlos del Junco to Canuck mainstays like Sue Foley and Jack De Keyzer played the Onion, which was also noted for its top-notch menu. In a note to regular patrons and fans last week, owner Ric Kalef said he hopes to find a new location closer to the the heart of the city that will bring in more walk-in lunch and weeknight traffic.
Gig commitments at the club are being honoured right up until it closes at the end of January, when it will shut it doors with a monster jam Jan. 27.
Tough to see Mighty Lester's smoking guitarist Lenny Terenzi retire from the band this past week. We all know it's temporary; his tone is far too smoking to stay hung up on the shelf for long. The band, formed in 2000 and universally acclaimed as one of the best "little" big bands in the U.S., was coming off one of it most successful years ever, after winning the 2007 Best Self-Produced CD award from the Blues Foundation and coming third at the IBCs. Terenzi puts the decision down to the tough nature of the road and the importance of family, which even the most die-hard fan could understand. The band's exceptional 2007 CD We Are Mighty Lester can be found here.
... there's a big benefit show going this Saturday in Dallas, Texas to help cover the final costs for the late Armand Hussein, former pro wrestler extraordinaire (and tag team champ partner of Abdullah The Butcher) and longtime stalwart of the local blues scene.
The show goes from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Mardi Gras Club in Stremmons Towers, 2720 N. Stremmons Freeway. Call 214-634-9669 . Or, you can send a cheque in the name of Rahma Funeral Home to organizer Jim Wells at VHA Texas, 7160 Dallas Parkway, Suite 600, Plano, Texas 75024. DON'T write the cheque in Jim's name or he'll have to send it back to you. If they get more money than needed, they'll void the cheque and send it back.
So why attend if you didn't know Mr. Hussein? Here's the lineup:
3:00 RL Griffin, Ernie Johnson, Big Charles Young
and possibly other friends of Armand Hussein!
3:45 Rob Donovan
4:25 Big Jim Wells and the Nightowls
5:00 Perry Jones and Friends
5:45 Hash Brown, Christian Dozzler, Anson Funderburg,
and Joe Jonas
7:00 Tutu Jones
7:45 or so: The Armand Hussein "Open Jam"!!!
Stony Plain Records
It must be very nice to get on Holger
Peterson's creative good side.
The Canadian owner of Stony Plain Records is
known for his willingness to let artists
indulge in creative flights-of-fancy;
fortunately, he generally picks the right
Having said that -- and despite this writer's
contention that he's one of the best players
ever -- Ronnie Earl's latest isn't for
And if it's a little inaccessible, that's
also not down to it being instrumentals.
Heck, Freddie King did it, Albert Collins did
The issue here is length: this is essentially
a live session recorded on the fly, with Earl
creating on the fly and working around some
basic pre-arranged structures. And six of the
11 cuts top eight minutes. That requires some
patience and some real faith in an audience's
ability to keep following that narrative
thread that runs through all such blues
The lead track, Eddie's Gospel Groove, has a
truly classic 14-note chorus lick that gets
proceedings off in cooking style. From there,
it's into a shuffle around on Bobby's Bop,
with Earl going deliberately low key to start
out and really building the momentum of the
A nice change of pace for Earl is Wolf Dance,
a piece that's part Albert Collins's Don't
Lose YOur Cool and part Hubert Sumlin doing
Smokestack Lightnin'. Groovy.
One of my favourites here is Blues for Otis
Rush, which is hardly a copy of Earl's hero,
but does incorporate both some of Rush's
signature licks and even a bit of his tone,
to create a song that's every bit as original
as a tribute. For fans of the aging Chicago
southpaw, who has been laid low of late by
his recent stroke, there's an encouraging message
from Rush from just before Christmas on his site.
Is this disc standard electric blues fare, in healthy
three- and four-minute doses? No. But for
fans of Earl's jangly style, Hope Radio is a
testament to greatness...one looooong cut at
Change Our Ways
You don't get too many self-released titles showing up among the nominated at the Blues Music Awards. But Root Doctor's second recent CD has the inimitable Freddie Cunningham and pals in fine style.
The prominent use of keys, combined with arrangements that tend to move away from the 12-bar norm, have marked the band as much as fans of straight-up soul music as blues.
Much of it is funky, from the boogie-based band title song "Root Doctor", to the 70's funk drive of "Keep Our Business Off the Streets", one of my favourite cuts of 2007. Cunningham's turn on "I Wish it Would Rain" is also notable, while "Lucky One" kicks out some contemporary electric lead, alongside some tight horn fills.
Great stuff from the funky side of the blues aisle.
The Essential Magic Slim
Blind Pig Records
He's never going to blow minds on that old
Fender Jazzmaster but Morris "Magic Slim"
Holt has been cranking out good old-fashioned
Chicago-style lump shuffles and
Delta-inspired slow grinders with his
tight-as-nails band the Teardrops for 30-plus
This is a pretty good representation,
although there's plenty missing here, as well.
The shuffles -- Before You Accuse Me,
Mind Your Own Business, Mustang Sally,
Jealous Man and a few others -- are farely
But Slim's stripped down pentatonic scale
noodling is a welcome break from the modern
brand of player, intent as they sometimes are
on stuffing every space in a song with chord
fills. This, instead, is all about feel and
tone, and Slim has bags to spare.
The live cut of Get Your Business Straight
seems a bit tacked on; but for the most part,
this is solid party blues from one of the
industry's senior ambassadors.
Long Time Coming
Blind Pig Records
There seem to be a lot of people recording
'40s and 50's Blues these days, and many of
them are darn good: a couple of Seans spring
immediately to mind (and one of them plays on
this disc), as do a teenage Canadian kid named
Jimmy Bowskill and our northern standard-bearer,
None of them, of course, were actually alive
when this stuff came into vogue, cutting
solid single for Savoy Records. So on that
count, Nappy Brown has them beat.
Not that it's a competition. Instead, this
relaxed mix of Brown's laconic vocals and a
super tight band just give us a taste of brilliance.
Comparatively, it would be like mixing a
touch of early Johnny Guitar Watson with a
bit of Charles Brown and Lowell Fulsom, and a
bit of gospel. There's some big band style material here,
like the opener Keep on Pleasin' You and the
soft soul ballad, Give Me Your Love; there's
a little country/old-time blues style fare with a take on
Cherry Red and Take Care of Me, and some deep blues
with Every Shut Eye Aint' Sleepin'.
The guitar tones are nice and also familiar,
with Sean Costello, Junior Watson and Steady
Rollin' Bob Margolin contributing. And the
Mighty Lester Horns are fat-sounding!
Brown has been out of the North American
recording scene for far too long, relying on
the respectful adoration of European fans.
But his recent increased activity on this
side of the pond bodes well.
Live at Rockplast
This DVD of the late Irish guitarist's performances in Germany is astonishing in several regards. First, its breadth: covering three DVDs and seven concerts,the bulk of Gallagher's recording legacy is here in one respect or another.
Second, it's a reminder how thoroughly he impressed audiences with his fine, soulful, vocal control and dazzling finger speed. Even though Gallagher was still essentially a classic single-string player much of the time, he was also adept at retuning into open keys on the fly and whipping out a slide.
There aren't many European artists who could have so thoroughly immersed themselves in the music as to achieve the kind of feel and tone the elder statemen admire, but Gallagher was certainly there.
There's a rare all-acoustic set at the front end of the DVD package, and it shows how Gallagher held his audience in the palm of his hand; he was a phenom in Germany and Eastern Europe in part because of these television performances, on the show Rockpalast.
But to me the real highlights here are the shows at Wiesbaden in 1979, where Gallagher rips through a heady mix of his own material and covers; and the show at Loreley, where Gallagher is showing his maturation from a cover-based artist revering blues in the late 60's and early 70s, to one on the verge of a new decade, using it as a base to create his own magic.
It should be noted that North Americans may not truly appreciate how big a blues star Rory Gallagher was, because he wasn't the legend here that he was seen as in much of the rest of the world. But hey: he sold 30 million albums, before passing too young at 47.
Looking for some good online tunes? I've always been likely to recommend the excellent Korean streaming channel Blues On Air, but alas, after five years it signed off last August. But another great option at present is Smokestack Lightnin's webcast. The Orlando radio show is currently running down the top 60 blues CDs of last year. Sounds promising...
Sean Carney, the Columbus, Ohio band leader and 2007 IBC winner, has been tearing up Europe of late, accompanied by none other than band edition Chris Brzezicki, an Edmontonian who has played with a whoooole lot of blues stars now on his standup bass. He's lockstep tight. Anyway, Sean will be checking into Hardline Blues from time to time with the resumption of his notes from "On the Road." Check out some photos from Europe at his Myspace Page.