April 30, 2013

Happy 80th Willie Nelson!!

Well after all the obituaries we've had around here of late it's great to be able to celebrate a good ol' birthday. Happy birthday to Willie Nelson who turned 80 years old today. Here's a fairly new one by Willie ... a new gospel song as he says, called "Roll me up and smoke me when I die" which is also the name of his new autobiography, memoirs, musings.

April 27, 2013

RIP George Jones

"The Possum" has died. From gritty Texas honky tonks to the glitzy country of Nashville George Jones had the golden voice that most could only envy. During his fiery marriage to Tammy Wynette in the 1970's the couple became "Mr. and Mrs. Country Music" and toured extensively, but their tempestuous relationship was marked by alcohol abuse and even gunplay, and ended after six years mostly due to Jones' alcoholism.

Throughout his long career, Jones made headlines often as much for tales of his extreme drinking, stormy relationships with women, and violent rages as much as for his prolific career of making records and touring and this wild lifestyle led to Jones missing many performances, earning him the nickname "No Show Jones."

As Waylon Jennings once said though, "If we could all sing like we wanted to, we'd all sing like George Jones."

April 23, 2013

RIP Ritchie Havens

Ritchie Havens, who famously opened the '69 Woodstock Festival with a 3 hour long set, has died of a heart attack in New Jersey. He was 72.

April 22, 2013

Scrapper Blackwell

Francis Hillman "Scrapper" Blackwell was an exceptional guitar player who's single-note picking style anticipated the electric blues of the '40s and '50s. He was a self-taught guitarist, building his first guitar out of cigar boxes, wood and wire. Known for being withdrawn and hard to work with, Blackwell established a rapport with pianist Leroy Carr, whom he met in Indianapolis in the mid-1920s, creating a productive working relationship. Carr convinced Blackwell to record with him for the Vocalion label in 1928; the result was "How Long, How Long Blues", the biggest blues hit of that year.

Blackwell also made solo recordings for Vocalion, including "Kokomo Blues" which was transformed into "Old Kokomo Blues" by Kokomo Arnold before being redone as "Sweet Home Chicago" one of Robert Johnson's most famous recordings.

Blackwell's last recording session with Carr was in 1935  but the recording session ended badly with both musicians leaving the studio mid-session and on bad terms, stemming from payment disputes. Two months later Carr died due to heavy drinking. Blackwell recorded a tribute to Carr ("My Old Pal Blues") before retiring from the music industry. He returned to the music industry in 1958 and was ready to resume his blues career when he was shot and killed during a mugging in an Indianapolis alley. He was 59 years old. Although the crime remains unsolved, police arrested his neighbour at the time for the murder. Blackwell is buried in New Crown Cemetery, Indianapolis.

April 17, 2013

Jack White's Voice-o-Graph debuts on Record Store Day

On Saturday, April 20th (Record Store Day), Jack White and Third Man Records are unveiling their Third Man Recording Booth, a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph machine that records up to 2 minutes of audio and dispenses a one-of-a-kind 6" phonograph disc to the user. The Voice-o-Graph machine was an arcade staple through the middle of the 20th century but fell out of vogue in the 1960s and 70s. Like the records of old, users of the Third Man Recording Booth are encouraged to mail their recording to a loved one.

The Third Man Recording Booth is apparently the only machine of its kind in the world that is both operational and open to the public.

Read more at the Third Man Records site.

April 15, 2013

Dan Auerbach produces Bombino's "Nomad" album

Tuareg guitarist and singer Omara “Bombino” Moctar has recorded an album with producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, called "Nomad" on Nonesuch Records. Bombino and his band traveled to Nashville to record in Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound in Nashville.

Moctar was born and raised in Niger and is a member of the Tuareg Ifoghas tribe, a nomadic people descended from the Berbers of North Africa; for centuries they have fought against colonialism and the imposition of strict Islamic rule.

This is African blues with a Nashville touch.

April 12, 2013

Watermelon Slim to play at The Riverhead Boathouse

Watermelon Slim is playing Blues in the Boathouse at the The Riverhead Landing on Sunday April 28th.  Slim is an interesting guy; his first recording project was Merry Airbrakes, an album recorded and released on a small label in 1973 after returning from a tour of duty in Vietnam. He became involved with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and recorded the album of songs with lyrics reflecting drug use, spiritual exploration, and involvement with the emotional cost of fighting "enemies." He has been performing since the 1970s and has been linked to several notable blues musicians, including John Lee Hooker, Robert Cray, Champion Jack Dupree, Bonnie Raitt, "Country" Joe McDonald, and Henry Vestine of Canned Heat. Will be great to see him in New Zealand.

More info on the Riverhead Landing page.

How blind was Blind Lemon Jefferson?

Entertaining article on The Delta Blues site about How Blind was Blind Lemon Jefferson?

Turns out he might not have been totally blind. I mean why would a blind man wear spectacles?

April 10, 2013

Ron Franklin

I love it when online travels uncover some lone guy with a Fender strat who's been listening to Buddy Holly or Dylan and he's got the blues in his fingers and a mess of songs swimmin' around his head. Gotta thank the internet for that; in years gone by you would have had to have been in the right crossroad town at the right time. And how's this for a "how I got  turned on to music story" ...Ron Franklin told music journalist Denise Sullivan that he was introduced to Memphis music when Mississippi Hill Country artists Jessie Mae Hemphill and fife man Othar Turner made an appearance on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood! Can that be for real??? Was Mr. Rogers ever that cool? More research in order. Anyways, give this guy a listen. He also plays in a band called Gasoline Silver which I'll be exploring next.

April 9, 2013

Blues & Roots - free sampler from Alligator Records.

One of the preeminent (and still extant) blues labels, Alligator Records is releasing in collaboration with NPR and public radio stations a downloadable 17-song sampler to help bring attention to Public Radio Music Month. Alligator Records Presents Blues & Roots is set to feature songs selected from the label's 42-year history. The sampler was curated by Alligator president and founder Bruce Iglauer, and will be available on April 11 at the Alligator Records Facebook page. A pretty impressive collection is being promised as well, with artists such as Marcia Ball, James Cotton, JJ Grey & Mofro, Curtis Salgado, Janiva Magness, Joe Louis Walker, Tommy Castro & The Painkillers, Koko Taylor, Roomful Of Blues, Saffire--The Uppity Blues Women, Jesse Dee, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials, Anders Osborne, The Holmes Brothers, Charlie Musselwhite, and Albert Collins, Robert Cray, and Johnny Copeland.

Update: The sampler is now available here.

April 7, 2013

Rick Holmstrom & Mavis Staples, Auckland Town Hall

Of all the guitars on serious display at the final Auckland performance of Wilco's tour of Japan, Australia and New Zealand, for me it came down to Rick Holstrom of the Rick Holmstrom Band. Holstrom's spacious and groovy country blues licks drew Mavis Staples back into the days of performing on stage with Pop Staples - and then she just let rip on representing Chicago, Selma to Montgomery, marching, occupying, and an hour long certainty in the righteousness of man and song! With a playlist that spanned over 60 years and Holstroms earthy telecaster phrasings the Staples and Holstrom combo was organic, simple and seriously soulful ... and Wilco were good too (don't get me wrong), but I've seen them perform with far fewer guitar changes (every single song and sometimes during songs!!! really?) and be better.  If you get the chance .. go see Mavis.

Here's Mavis and Holstrom in the NPR studios in Los Angeles.

And a Tweedy and Staples composition,  "Wrote a Song for Everyone".

April 5, 2013

Moonshine and Mojo Hands

Looking forward to this web series by the makers of the award-winning documentaries M For Mississippi and We Juke Up in Here. Moonshine & Mojo Hands, will be a weekly series "dedicated to the rude, rowdy – and often ridiculous – world of Mississippi blues." The makers are running a Kickstarter campaign to get things going, so if you're a fan of the blues and particularly the Mississippi type then think about making an investment.  

Down Under Delta Blues Channel

The B-Squared Breakdown