Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wedlock Is A Padlock by Laura Lee

I like the play on words, in the title of this song.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cool Pic - Louie, Paul and the Duke

This picture of Louis Armstrong, Paul Newman and Duke Ellington made me smile.  I saw it @ AmericanBluesScene on Facebook

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Thoughts On Taylor Swift.

Would someone please tell Taylor Swift, that if her music is not on Spotify, then I probably want be listening to her.

And I say that realizing that she is not aiming her music at people in my demographic (50 somethings who mostly listen to blues music), but I have listened to her music in the past.  Posted her music in some of my other blogs, and even promoted some of her albums.  I really liked her earlier music.

Her songs, before this last album, were in some of the playlist that I subscribe to, and I got to hear some of that music.  Too much like pop music for me though.

Her move probably works for her, and it might work in the short run, but in the long run I'm not sure it will work.

So how do I use Spotify?  I have gone back in time and recreated my album collection.  This is so cool, I mean I went back in time and saved some of the albums that I purchased back when I was in highschool.  Like Pink Floyd's "The Wall" for example.  And for those who say streaming does not support artist, consider that a music lover like me bought "The Wall" in every format that it was ever offered in, I owned the album, the eight track tape, the cassette tapes, and the mp3 files.  And I paid good money for each format.  So I don't feel bad that I can now stream this music that I love.

For those of us who like music that is not popular and not in the main stream, streaming net works are the best.  You can listen to a lot of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf  & BB King on Spotify, and other streaming services.

So it will be interesting to see how this all plays out, will Taylor Swift's move of removing her music, mean that people will go back to buying their music in physical forms? Or will she put her music back on streaming services, once it is not as popular.

Maybe I'll get to listen to her then.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stevie Ray Vaughan Tee Shirt

Stevie Ray Vaughan - T-shirts - Band

* Officially Licensed Music T-shirt
* Brand New Never Been Worn Merchandise
* 100% Cotton Short Sleeve T-Shirt
* High Quality Manufactured Apparel T-shirt

Waist Up Photo Of Stevie Ray Vaughan Holding Guitar With Red Stacked Logo Why Pay Those Ridiculous Concert T-Shirt Prices, When You Can Buy From Us? We Have The Largest Selection Of Shirts Anywhere Around! Most Of Our T-Shirts Are 100% Cotton, Preshrunk And Machine Washable.

Rockabilia Tees and stuff @

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Duke Ellington Tee Shirt

Duke Ellington - T-shirts - Mens Vintage

Vintage Distressed Duke Ellington @ Monterey Jazz Festival 1966 Logo & Photo These Super Soft Distressed T-Shirts Are Custom Made To Be Much Thinner Than Regular Tees And Some Have An Outer Stitch. They Feel Like You Purchased It At A Concert In 1980, And Never Took It Off.

Old Glory Tee Shirts and Stuff @

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mud Morganfield And Kim Wilson A Tribute to Muddy Waters

This sounds like it might be good, i'm amazed by the sound of Mud Morganfield, he sounds just like his dad.

For Pops (A Tribute To Muddy Waters)

Friday, August 15, 2014

John Coltrane Tee Shirt

John Coltrane - Focused Overdye T-Shirt

John Coltrane strikes a contemplative pose in a unique orange and green woodgrain logo graphic on the front of this grey/blue, 100% cotton t-shirt from Jim Marshall Clothing. Hand-crafted and featuring impeccable design and construction, this is a must-have for any fan of jazz's most innovative genius.

Old Glory Tee Shirts and Stuff @

Charles Brown - Driftin' Blues (The Best Of) (Full Album)

I love going back and looking at the wonderful blues musicians of the past, man the gems that you can find. Consider one Charles Brown, a master bluesman in my mind.  While some others may be better known, few can say they were as good.

Mr. Brown had a big mellow tone, and his piano work was top notch.  This album shows how influential he was.  You can hear the evolution of the blues in some of the songs that were covered by others.

As always, love the music, support the music, buy the music. Driftin Blues: Best of

Notes from YouTube;

Extremely underrated Blues man and hard to find album. He's known for the songs "Black Night" and "Driftin' Blues" both on this record. 

1. Driftin' Blues 0:00
2. Homesick Blues 3:16
3. Get Yourself Another Fool 6:28
4. In The Evening When The Sun Goes Down 9:32
5. A Long Time 12:30
6. It's Nothing 16:05
7. Trouble Blues 18:57
8. My Baby's Gone 21:21
9. Black Night 24:23
10. I'll Always Be In Love With You 27:32
11. Seven Long Days 30:29
12. Hard Times 33:33
13. Evening Shadows 36:44
14. I Lost Everything 39:31
15. Lonesome Feeling 42:31
16. Cryin' Mercy 45:29
17. I've Been Saving My Love For You 48:13
18. Fool's Paradise 50:12
19. Please Don't Drive Me Away 53:00
20. Merry Christmas Baby 55:23

Friday, August 01, 2014

Led Zeppelin - Live at the Royal Albert Hall 1970 (Full Concert)

This is just one of those videos, that's too good to pass up.  I bet I watch this it least once a month, can't really say that about every video that I post.  But man this is so good...

And as always if you like the music then support it by buying it. Led Zeppelin III (Deluxe CD Edition)

Led Zeppelin - Live at the Royal Albert Hall 1970 (Full Concert)

00:27 We're Gonna Groove (James A. Bethea, Ben E. King)
03:40 I Can't Quit You Baby (Willie Dixon)
10:36 Dazed and Confused (Jimmy Page)
26:09 White Summer (Page)
38:32 What Is and What Should Never Be (Page, Robert Plant)
43:11 How Many More Times (John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Page)
1:03:28 Moby Dick (Bonham, Jones, Page)
1:18:49 Whole Lotta Love (Bonham, Dixon, Jones, Page, Plant)
1:25:13 Communication Breakdown (Bonham, Jones, Page) 
1:29:29 C'mon Everybody (Jerry Capehart, Eddie Cochran) 
1:32:00 Somethin' Else (Bob Cochran, Sharon Sheeley) 
1:34:10 Bring It On Home (Bonham, Dixon, Jones, Page, Plant)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Samantha Fish: Black Wind Howlin

I've got Samantha Fish's latest album "Black Wind Howlin" on constant play right now.  Man I don't really know where to start with this young lady.  Love her guitar work, love her voice, and love her songs.  She is new and fresh, and I'm sure she will have a long storied career because she is coming out of the gate smoking hot.

She is a very talented singer, songwriter and blues guitarist, hope to see more good stuff from her in the future.

Big Legged Woman - Chris Duarte on Legends TV program

Friday, July 25, 2014

Eric Clapton - The Cream Of Clapton [Full Album]

One reason that I really like compilation albums like this one is that they allow you to take a nice survey of an artist work.  And when you take a master musician like Eric Clapton there is just so much to enjoy.

And if you like this music, please support it by buying it. The Cream of Eric Clapton

01.Layla - (Album Version)Derek & The Dominos,Eric Clapton
02.Badge - Cream
03.I Feel Free - Cream
04.Sunshine Of Your Love - Cream
05.Crossroads (Live At Winterland) - Cream
06.Strange Brew - Cream
07.White Room - Cream
08.Bell Bottom Blues - Derek & The Dominos
09. Cocaine - Eric Clapton
10.I Shot The Sheriff - Eric Clapton
11.After Midnight - Eric Clapton
12.Swing Low Sweet Chariot - Eric Clapton
13.Lay Down Sally - Eric Clapton
14.Knockin' On Heaven's Door - Eric Clapton
15.Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton
16.Let It Grow - Eric Clapton
17.Promises - Eric Clapton
18.I Can't Stand It - Eric Clapton

Friday, July 18, 2014

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood - Full Album

Here we go with some of the good stuff.  SRV is a guitar God and we lost him way too soon.

If you enjoy this then please support Blues music by buying at.  Texas Flood

0:00 Love Struck Baby
2:23 Pride And Joy
6:04 Texas Flood
11:25 Tell Me
14:14 Testify
17:39 Rude Mood
22:19 Mary Had A Little Lamb
25:07 Dirty Pool
30:09 I'm Cryin'
33:51 Lenny

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thelonious Monk Tee Shirt

Thelonious Monk - CBS Overdye T-Shirt

Thelonious Monk hits the keys during his famous 1963 CBS Recording Sessions in a stylized violet photo graphic on the front of this premium black, 100% cotton t-shirt. Presented by and featuring a photograph by legendary rock photographer Jim Marshall, with distressed overdye print and soft, reinforced construction for authentic vintage style and quality, this is a a truly stunning tee - any Monk fan's Dream.

Old Glory Tee Shirts and Stuff @

Friday, July 11, 2014

Muddy Waters - After The Rain - Full Album

Here is one of those rare finds that a Blues fan will enjoy.  This Album has never been converted to mp3s so you'll have to get either the vinyl or the CD.

And as always if you like the music, then buy it.  After The Rain (Deluxe Edition)

Published on Sep 14, 2013
I Am The Blues 0:06
Ramblin' Mind 4:49
Rollin' And Thumblin' 09:38
Bottom Of The Sea 14:30
Honey Bee 20:13
Blues And Trouble 24:32
Hurtin' Soul 28:56
Screamin' And Cryin' 33:36

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Tye Tribbett Gospel - What Can I Do

Lately I've been checking out more of the Grammy nominated Gospel acts out there.  According to Wiki;

Tyrone "Tye" Tribbett (born January 26, 1976) is an American gospel music singer, songwriter, keyboardist, choir director and founder of the Grammy-nominated and Stellar-Award winning gospel group Tye Tribbett & G.A. (short for 'Greater Anointing.')
I really enjoy the energy that this song has.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Angelina Jordan sings Jazz Music

When someone says, "Jazz is a dying art form", I think of this little girl.  Proof that the great music will live for a long time to come!

Friday, July 04, 2014

Nat King Cole - Embraceable You - Full Album

Here is another one of my favorite singers of all time.  When you listen to Nat King Cole it is easy to understand why he is considered one of the greats of all time.

Check out the video below and if you like it please support good music by buying it.  Nat King Cole : Embraceable You

Nat King Cole - Embraceable you

1. All for You
2. Gee baby, Ain't I good to you
3. Jumpin'at capitol
4. Straighten up and fly right
5. Embraceable you
6. I just can't see for looking
7. It's only a paper moon
8. Sweet Lorraine
9. What is this thing called love
10. I realize now
11. I'm a shy guy
12. Don't blame me
13. I'm Thru' with love
14. You're nobody till somebody loves you
15. The frim fram sauce
16. Get your kicks on route 66
17. I don't know why-I just do
18. I'm in the mood for love
19. For sentimental reasons
20. When I take my sugar to tea

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Tomas Doncker Band

Spent the morning listening to a new Moanin' at Midnight: The Howlin' Wolf Project by the Tomas Doncker Band.  And I have to say it is good stuff.  I really like their rendition of Howlin Wolf's "Spoonful".

This band is exactly the kind of music that I enjoy listening to, they are rooted in traditional blues music, but are also pushing the boundaries and not just kicking out the same old sound.  This band does Traditional Blues, Psychedelic Blues, Soul, and I think I hear some Reggae/World Music influences in there.  And it is all done with style and skill.

Check out this video of their song "Shook Down" which was co-written by the legendary Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa.  I also love the harmonica being played in this video.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Billie Holiday ft Sy Oliver & His Orchestra - Them There Eyes (Decca Rec...

When I woke up this morning, my wife was laying there staring at me with those baby browns... made me think of this song.

My favorite part of the lyric is;

"... you better look out little brown eyes, if you're wise, they sparkle, they bubble, they going to get you into a whole lot of trouble... Oh baby them there eyes! ..."

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Very Cool Photos of HipHop Greats from Rolling Stone.Com

Very Cool Photos of HipHop Greats From Rolling Stone.Com Rarely Seen Images of ... Raps First 25 Years. From Grandmaster Flash to Snoop Dogg through the lens of Lisa Leone.

I really love Lisa Leone's captions that accompany these pictures, she makes you feel like you are there when she took these pictures.

I guess part of the delight of viewing these photos is realizing that some of the greats of HipHop were just kids when they started that whole thing.

And this post also got me thinking about how much Blues music and HipHop has in common, but I'll go into that more in depth in another post.

BET Awards 2014 / Yolanda Adams "Jesus Is Love"

I did not see this live, but I love Yolanda Adams and her voice.  She is amazing and she did such a wonderful job on this Lionel Richie Gospel song "Jesus Is Love".

Yolanda Adams @

Monday, June 30, 2014

Jazz Book: Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington

Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington

Right now I am so behind in my reading, so many wonderful books on jazz and blues music and so little time.  But this is on my night stand as I type this, and if I can I will plow threw it in quick time.  I've always found the stories about Duke Ellington intriguing and hopefully you will too.

According to;
A major new biography of Duke Ellington from the acclaimed author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century—and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world’s most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady,” remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm.

As the biographer of Louis Armstrong, Terry Teachout is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the public and private lives of Duke Ellington. Duke peels away countless layers of Ellington’s evasion and public deception to tell the unvarnished truth about the creative genius who inspired Miles Davis to say, “All the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke.” 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Phil Hughes - Trouble So Hard (Vera Hall)

Very nice version of Vera Hall's "Trouble So Hard" by Phil Hughes.  Nice harpping and singing.  Hope you all enjoy on this Sunday morning.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rap Lyrics Uesed as Evidence In Court

I don't usually write about Rap music, because I don't really listen to it.  Not because I don't like some of it, but because it does not usually reflect the reality of my life, they way Blues, R&B, Soul, Country, Jazz and Folk music do.

To be honest, a lot of  it seems to come from an angry place, and life is too short to be listening to music that makes you feel angry.  But the same can be, and has been said about blues music. Rock music and even country music. I going to admit, that it really comes down to the fact that I do not understand most of the new Rap music.

This article from PBS Newshour got me thinking about Rap music lyrics. Rap Lyrics Used As Evidence of Intent in Criminal Cases describes how prosecutors are using Rap lyrics to convict Rappers of violent crimes.

And it got me to thinking about some of the other art forms where authors and musicians sing songs about murder and other crimes.

I wanted to leave the comment on the article;

I wonder what would happen if George RR Martin was accused of a brutal murder.  I wonder if anyone would believe that because he writes popular violent fiction that he is capable of committing those kinds of crimes?
But they wanted me to give them too much information, just to leave a comment so I thought I would write this blog post.  Feel free to comment below.

Part of me thinks that Rappers are easy targets, because (1) most of them are young black men, and (2) they sing about violence, and (3) many people really don't like Rap music.  And this means that it is easy to pin crimes on them.

But I also think that it is probably more complicated than that also, Rappers are singing and writing about their environments, where they live, where they grow up.  Some of it is autobiographical I am sure, and there is much of it that is exaggeration, bragging and just down right make believe.

So I think that it is important that those who use music, or any art, as evidence should make sure that they really understand it.  That they are not just taking advantage of a group of musicians, because it is easy to scapegoat them.

Paolo Nutini - Caustic Love (Full Album)

I've been listening to a lot of Paolo Nutini lately.  The young Scottish musician has a lot of talent for someone so young.  He reminds me of a couple of different soul, R&B singers, with a bit of Reggae and Folk in there too.

Check out his latest album Caustic Love @Amazon.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Soul Singer Bobby Womack is Dead

MTV.Com is reporting that Soul Singer Bobby Womack is Dead.  Please see their article  Soul Singer Bobby Womack Dead at 70.

From the posting;

Womack released dozens of albums during his decades-long career, beginning with Fly Me To The Moon in 1968. His music became an influence for later R&B records, as well as hip-hop, and he was sampled by a number of artists, including by 50 Cent, Wu-Tang Clan, Bone Thugs N Harmony, Big K.R.I.T., and Mariah Carey. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.

Billie Holiday Collection Album

If I ever get stranded on an island with only one album, it will be Billie Holiday.  I have no doubt that I could listen to this all day, and still love it.

And if you like this music, please support Jazz music by buying the mp3s. Billie Holiday - Collection Vol. 1

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mary Gauthier - I DRINK ( LIVE)

I want to say thanks to Terry Gross of Fresh Air on NPR for her interview with Mary Gauthier.

She has a new album titled Trouble & Love.  Check it out, it's good stuff.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Louis Armstrong Master of Modernism

According to;
The definitive account of Louis Armstrong—his life and legacy—during the most creative period of his career. 
Nearly 100 years after bursting onto Chicago’s music scene under the tutelage of Joe "King" Oliver, Louis Armstrong is recognized as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. A trumpet virtuoso, seductive crooner, and consummate entertainer, Armstrong laid the foundation for the future of jazz with his stylistic innovations, but his story would be incomplete without examining how he struggled in a society seething with brutally racist ideologies, laws, and practices. 
Thomas Brothers picks up where he left off with the acclaimed Louis Armstrong's New Orleans, following the story of the great jazz musician into his most creatively fertile years in the 1920s and early 1930s, when Armstrong created not one but two modern musical styles. Brothers wields his own tremendous skill in making the connections between history and music accessible to everyone as Armstrong shucks and jives across the page. Through Brothers's expert ears and eyes we meet an Armstrong whose quickness and sureness, so evident in his performances, served him well in his encounters with racism while his music soared across the airwaves into homes all over America. 
Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism blends cultural history, musical scholarship, and personal accounts from Armstrong's contemporaries to reveal his enduring contributions to jazz and popular music at a time when he and his bandmates couldn’t count on food or even a friendly face on their travels across the country. Thomas Brothers combines an intimate knowledge of Armstrong's life with the boldness to examine his place in such a racially charged landscape. In vivid prose and with vibrant photographs, Brothers illuminates the life and work of the man many consider to be the greatest American musician of the twentieth century.

Book Details

  • File Size: 8108 KB
  • Print Length: 609 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0393065820
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (January 27, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English

Friday, June 20, 2014

Antonio Carlos Jobim - Stone Flower - Full Album

Here is another tasty little nugget for you to add to your collection of wonderful Jazz music.  Please check out Mr. Antonio Carlos Jobim and if you like it, please support the music by buying it. Stone Flower (CTI Records 40th Anniversary Edition - Original Recording Remastered)  

Notes from YouTube
Published on Nov 23, 2012

Antonio Carlos Jobim -- piano, electric piano, guitar, vocals
Harry Lookofsky -- violin
Joe Farrell -- soprano saxophone
Urbie Green -- trombone
Hubert Laws -- flute
Ron Carter -- double bass
João Palma -- drums
Airto Moreira
Everaldo Ferreira -- conga
Deodato -- arranger

All songs composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, except where indicated.
"Tereza My Love"
"Children's Games"
"Brazil" (Ary Barroso)
"Stone Flower"
"God and the Devil in the Land of the Sun"
"Brazil" [alternate take]

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Miles Davis - You're Under Arrest

Of course I love this album, but my two favorite cuts are "Human Nature" and "Time After Time".  Check out the notes below for more information.

You're Under Arrest by Miles Davis at

Notes from YouTube;

Miles Davis - You're Under Arrest (The album)

"One Phone Call"/"Street Scenes" (Davis) 00:01

"Human Nature" (John Bettis, Steve Porcaro) 04:33

"Intro: MD 1"/"Something's On Your Mind"/"MD 2" (Davis, Hubert Eaves III, James "D-Train" Williams) 09:00

"Ms. Morrisine" (Davis, Morrisine Tynes Irving, Robert Irving III) 16:17

"Katia Prelude" (Davis, Irving III) 21:23

"Katia" (Davis, Irving III)

"Time After Time" (Cyndi Lauper, Rob Hyman) 29:40

"You're Under Arrest" (John Scofield) 33:15

"Medley: Jean Pierre"/"You're Under Arrest"/"Then There Were None" (Davis, Irving III, Scofield) 39:36

Personnel: Miles Davis: Trumpet, "Police Voices, Davis Voices" on track 1, Synthesizer on track 5,6

John McLaughlin: Guitar on track 4,5,6

John Scofield: Guitar on track 1,2,3,7,9

Bob Berg: Soprano Saxophone on track 1, Tenor Saxophone on track 8,9

Al Foster: Drums on track 1,7,8,9

Vince Wilburn, Jr.: Drums on track 2,3,4,5,6

Robert Irving III: Synthesizers, Celesta, Organ, Clavinet

Darryl Jones, A/K/A "The Munch:" Bass

Steve Thorton: Percussion, Spanish voice on track 1

Sting (under his real name Gordon Sumner): French policeman's voice on track 1

Marek Olko: Polish voice on track 1

James Prindiville, a.k.a. "J.R.:" Handcuffs on track 1

You're Under Arrest is a 1985 album recorded by Miles Davis that saw Miles mix pop tunes with political statements about racism, pollution and war. Among other tracks, the album featured Davis' interpretations of two contemporary pop songs: Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and Michael Jackson's "Human Nature".

During the recording sessions, bass player Darryl Jones introduced Sting to his longtime idol Miles Davis. Sting was startled when Davis asked him if he could speak French, and since he did, to translate the Miranda warning into French and yell it into the microphone against a backing track.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Books on Jazz: Art: Why I stuck with a Junkie Jazzman

ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman

According to  Art Pepper told his sexy, sordid, and exciting true adventure stories to his lover, Laurie, who put them in a book. She quizzed him (and those who knew him) unrelentingly over seven years, editing and structuring a narrative to which she dedicated all her energy. Straight Life by Art and Laurie Pepper (Da Capo) was published in 1979. It was critical success and remains a classic of its kind, the subject of college literary and music studies. Laurie went on to marry Art and manage his resurgent career, touring the world with his band.

“Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman” was the headline some editor gave a newspaper interview Laurie did while the band was in Australia in 1981, and she’s now stolen that “that perfect title” for her memoir. ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman (APMCorp), describes her marriage to the deeply troubled, drug-addicted, madly gifted artist. “That marriage was the making of me,” says Laurie. “Some people go to grad school or join the Marines. I married a genius who valued and inspired me and challenged me to use MY gifts. We had a difficult, powerful partnership. I had to tell that story.” She says she also needs to set the record straight and clarify her role: “People think I was some kind of little wifey-saint who rescued him. And Art encouraged them in that. But he knew how truly crazy I could be. We rescued each other.”

Duke Ellington Solo Piano Concert

The worst thing about this video is still wonderful.  It should be required viewing, as far as I am concerned.

According to the notes at YouTube this was recorded by ABC in Australia, it is a concert where Duke Ellington gives an overview of Jazz.  It is just so cool, to listen to a master of the form who knows the history of the music and gives a great presentation.

Bliss - Cindy Bradley

I'm coming around to some smooth jazz trumpet played by the lovely Cindy Bradley.

Give her a listen, and as always if you like the music help support the artist.

Bliss at

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Stanley Turrentine Sextet - Sugar

Very sweet indeed.

Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits Full Album

I just love Janis Joplin's music.  She was so groovy and her sound brings back many memories of my youth and that whole time period.  It all comes flooding back, the real and the imagined, every time I hear this album.

If you love this music, you have to support it.  Buy it, and listen to it, and if you are musically inclined, play it.
Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits

Monday, June 16, 2014

Blues Books: Escaping The Delta

Escaping the Delta:
Robert Johnson
and the Invention of the Blues
Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues
please click image

According to Publishers Weekly;
In this combination history of blues music and biography of Robert Johnson, Wald, a blues musician himself (and author of Narcorrido), explores Johnson's rise from a little known guitarist who died in 1938 to one of the most influential artists in rock and roll. From the blues' meager beginning in the early 1900s to its '30s heyday and its 1960s revival, Wald gives a revisionist history of the music, which he feels, in many instances, has been mislabeled and misjudged. Though his writing sometimes reads like a textbook, and he occasionally gets bogged down in arcane musical references, Wald's academic precision aids him in his quest to re-analyze America's perception of the blues as well as in trying to decipher the music's murky true origins and history. Using a lengthy comparison of how white Americans and black Americans define the blues, Wald demonstrates how Johnson fit into the gray area between the two. Wald combines a short bio of Johnson with detailed analysis of his songs and the mysterious tales that are associated with him, giving a thorough account of Johnson's life, music and legend. The chapter on how white guitarists like Eric Clapton and Keith Richards interpreted who Johnson was and what he played really shows why he is not one of the many forgotten early 20th-century bluesmen. Wald's theories will no doubt cause passionate discussions among true blues aficionados, but the technical and obscure nature of much of his writing will make the book more of a useful reference resource.

The Washington Post gave this review;
The congressional proclamation of 2003 as the "Year of the Blues" enabled all manner of film, concert and educational initiatives meant to raise public awareness and appreciation of a genre that Congress asserts "is the most influential form of American roots music." While few would argue otherwise, some have responded to all this Capitol Hill pomp by raising questions about the relevance of the blues in the 21st century, when the music's audience has skewed overwhelmingly white, and its most rabid supporters appear to be the fraternity of beer-ad music supervisors.

Elijah Wald is not so interested in what the blues means in its year of distinction, but he is very interested in how it came to mean something other than what it once did. In Escaping the Delta, he sets out to explore "the paradox of [Robert] Johnson's reputation: that his music excited so little interest among the black blues fans of his time, and yet is now widely hailed as the greatest and most important blues ever recorded." Wald sees this paradox as symbolizing a larger gulf between the blues as heard by the black audience in its own time -- who knew it as hip, popular music -- and a later, mostly white audience that romanticized the blues as "the heart-cry of a suffering people." Not a book about Johnson per se, Escaping the Delta is a thoughtful, impassioned historical essay about that gulf.

Wald spends the first several chapters laying out the prewar musical terrain in which the blues came to the fore, through a synthesis of murkily understood received culture and the skills of those who refined the blues into a consciously commercial -- not naively folk -- art. After a quick sketch of Johnson's life and a critical analysis of his recordings, Wald carries the story through to the folk-revival "discovery" of the blues in the 1950s and the British Invasion's canonizing stamp of the 1960s, then adds a coda in which he seeks to lay permanently to rest the resilient myth that Johnson met the devil at a crossroads and sold his soul for other-worldly musicianship.

If the first half of the story sounds a lot more interesting than the second, Wald may feel the same way. Escaping the Delta is most engaged in the early going, as he dismantles genre stereotypes via endearing tidbits such as that blues singer Memphis Minnie's set list included George Gershwin's "Lady Be Good" and that Johnson rated the Sons of the Pioneers' "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" among his favorite songs. The book is much more hurried and polemically loose on the downhill side, as Wald takes broad swipes at an uptight blues "cognoscenti" and cites more dully familiar anecdotes such as the time the Rolling Stones sat at the feet of Howlin' Wolf. A professional musician himself, Wald can regale a listener with pinpoint comparisons of Johnson and Kokomo Arnold recordings that were each waxed more than 60 years ago. Such record-geek soliloquies can clear out a cocktail party, but here they serve a reader well. For Wald is rarely less than convincing when he makes his case for what Johnson and the prewar blues audience were actually hearing in their own day.

Often it wasn't the blues. Repeatedly Wald drives home the point that neither the musicians nor the audience frequenting a Clarksdale, Miss., juke joint in 1937 likely limited their taste to visceral fare like Johnson's "Cross Road Blues." They'd probably never heard it. In Wald's estimation, black listeners tended to prefer the smooth, urbane vocals of the far better-selling (in Johnson's day) blues pianist Leroy Carr, and if the jukebox selections noted by a 1944 field recording team are any indication, some may have liked the "sweet band" leader Sammy Kaye better than either.

In this fashion Wald does not seek to temper admiration for Johnson and his brilliant Delta generation. Rather he wants to rescue them from a historical narrative he sees as having been edited by record producers (the blues were good business), folklorists (the blues were authentic) and Rolling Stones fans (the blues were outlaw), each of which had a separate agenda for the music.

But Wald's focus on folkies and Stones freaks is problematic. For all his interest in the complexity of black-white, blues-pop musical exchanges in the pre-World War II South, he largely ignores that dynamic as carried through to the volatile postwar context. The South is full of tales of white kids who during the segregation era snuck away to off-limits black nightclubs, and of black kids who grew up with their ears tuned to the Grand Ole Opry. Wald is rightly sympathetic to the frustrations of the latter (quoting Bobby "Blue" Bland, "it was the wrong time and the wrong place for a black singer to make it singing white country blues") but oddly uninterested in the experiences of the former. He mentions Elvis Presley mostly in passing and scarcely touches on the impact of postwar black radio. Yet that generation's story had every bit as much to do with evolving perceptions (and misperceptions) of the blues as did any folk revivalism or Stones evangelism.

Nevertheless, the best studies inspire further study, and the best music books inspire further listening. Escaping the Delta could well do both. Blank spots aside, one comes away respecting Wald's view that far too much time has been spent wondering if Robert Johnson really sold his soul to the devil, and far too little time listening at the musical crossroads where he actually lived.

Blues Books @SqueezeMyLemon

Blues Music Books