Monday, 30 December 2013

This week's playlist

Joe Louis Walker - "Hellfire"
Kevin Breit - "Field Recording"
Jack Derwin - "Bone House Blues"
The Mustangs - "The Line"
CC Bronson - "Thank You"
Carolina Chocolate Drops - "Trouble In Your Mind"
Michael Jerome Brown - "Doin' My Time"
Eric Bibb - "Booker's Guitar
Isaiah B. Brunt - "Just A Beautiful Thing"
Aynsley Lister - "Sugar"
The Paul Rose Band - "Rollin' And Tumblin'"
Todd Wolfe - "It's All Over Now"
RB Stone - "Loosen Up"
Dr. Feelgood - "Because You're Mine"
Sean Pinchin - "High Heel Shoes"
Anni Piper - "Jailbait"

Monday, 23 December 2013

This week's playlist

Elvin Bishop - "Little Drummer Boy"
The Nic Nacs with Mickey Champion - "Gonna Have A Merry Xmas"
Sterling Koch - "Merry Christmas Baby"
Blind Lemon Jefferson - "Christmas Eve Blues"
Cecil Gant - "Hello Santa Claus"
Shemekia Copeland - "Stay A Little Longer Santa"
C.J. Chenier - "Zydeco Christmas"
The Christmas Jug Band - "Christmas Iz Coming"
Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women - "Really Been Good This Year"
Leroy Carr - "Christmas In Jail"
Frankie 'Sugar Chile' Robinson "Christmas Boogie"
Gary U.S. Bonds - "It's Christmas In Nu Awlins"
Hilda Lamas - "Christmas Won't Be Christmas"
Otis Reading - "Merry Christmas Baby"
Larry Sparks - "Christmas Time's A-Comin'"
The Ravens - "White Christmas"
Marcia Ball - "Christmas Fais Do Do"
Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials - "I'm Your Santa"
The Fabulous Thunderbirds - "Merry Christmas Darling"
Bo Carter - "Santa Claus"
Southside Johnny - "Please Come Home For Christmas"
Titus Turner with The  Danny Kessler Orchestra - "Christmas Morning"

Monday, 16 December 2013

This week's playlist

Paul Lamb - "Hootin' And Screamin'"
Elmore James - "Cry For Me Baby"
Jimmy Butler - "Trim Your Tree"
Jason Daniels - "Early In The Morning"
Lloyd Glen - "(Christmas) Sleigh Ride"
John Pippus - "House Of Cards"
Kim Trusty - "Comfort And Joy"
The Carolina Chocolate Drops - "Trouble In Your Mind"
Dan Sowerby - "Messin' Round"
Sandy Carroll - "Leave It Alone"
Elmore James - "Elmore's Contribution To Jazz"
Black Ace - "Christmas Time (Beggin' Santa Claus)"
Trampled Under Foot - "You Never Really Loved Me"
Elmore James - "Take Me Where You Go"
Charles Brown and Johnny Otis - "Christmas Comes But Once A Year"
John Lee Hooker - "Wheel And Deal"
Lawrence Lebo - "(I'm Your) Christmas Present"
Will Wilde - "Numb"
John Hammond - "Get Behind The Mule"
The Rides - "Only Teardrops Fall"
Duffy's Nucleus - "Hound Dog"
Elmore James - "One Way Out"
J.B. Summers with Doc Bagby's Orchestra - "I Want A Present For Christmas"

Featured Artist: Elmore James

Elmore James
(January 27, 1918 – May 24, 1963)
The most influential slide guitarist of the postwar period was Elmore James, hands down. Although his early demise from heart failure kept him from enjoying the fruits of the '60s blues revival as his contemporaries Muddy waters and Howlin' Wolf did, James left a wide influential trail behind him. And that influence continues to the present time -- in approach, attitude and tone -- in just about every guitar player who puts a slide on his finger and wails the blues. As a guitarist, he wrote the book, his slide style influencing the likes of Hound Dog Taylor, Joe Carter, his cousin Homesick James and J.B. Hutto, while his seldom-heard single-string work had an equally profound effect on B.B. King and Chuck Berry. His signature lick -- an electric updating of Robert Johnson's "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" and one that Elmore recorded in infinite variations from day one to his last session -- is so much a part of the essential blues fabric of guitar licks that no one attempting to play slide guitar can do it without being compared to Elmore James. Others may have had more technique – Robert Nighthawk and Earl Hooker immediately come to mind -- but Elmore had the sound and all the feeling.
A radio repairman by trade, Elmore reworked his guitar amplifiers in his spare time, getting them to produce raw, distorted sounds that wouldn't resurface until the advent of heavy rock amplification in the late '60s. This amp-on-11-approach was hot-wired to one of the strongest emotional approaches to the blues ever recorded. There is never a time when you're listening to one of his records that you feel -- no matter how familiar the structure -- that he's phoning it in just to grab a quick session check. Elmore James always gave it everything he had, everything he could emotionally invest in a number. This commitment of spirit is something that shows up time and again when listening to multiple takes from his session masters. The sheer repetitiveness of the recording process would dim almost anyone's creative fires, but Elmore always seemed to give it 100 percent every time the red light went on. Few blues singers had a voice that could compete with James'; it was loud, forceful, prone to "catch" or break up in the high registers, almost sounding on the verge of hysteria at certain moments. Evidently the times back in the mid-'30s when Elmore had first-hand absorption of Robert Johnson as a playing companion had a deep influence on him, not only in his choice of material, but also in his presentation of it.
Backing the twin torrents of Elmore's guitar and voice was one of the greatest -- and earliest -- Chicago blues bands. Named after James' big hit, The Broomdusters featured Little Johnny Jones on piano, J.T. Brown on tenor sax and Elmore's cousin, Homesick James on rhythm guitar. This talented nucleus was often augmented by a second saxophone on occasion while the drumming stool changed frequently. But this was the band that could go toe to toe in a battle of the blues against the bands of Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf and always hold their own, if not walk with the show. Utilizing a stomping beat, Elmore's slashing guitar, Jones' two-fisted piano delivery, Homesick's rudimentary boogie bass rhythm and Brown's braying nanny-goat sax leads, The Broomdusters were as loud and powerful and popular as any blues band the Windy City had to offer.
But as urban as their sound was, it all had roots in Elmore's hometown of Canton, MS. He was born there on January 27, 1918, the illegitimate son of Leola Brooks and later given the surname of his stepfather, Joe Willie James. He adapted to music at an early age, learning to play bottleneck on a homemade instrument fashioned out of a broom handle and a lard can. By the age of 14, he was already a weekend musician, working the various country suppers and juke joints in the area under the names "Cleanhead" or Joe' Willie James." Although he confined himself to a home base area around Belzoni, he would join up and work with traveling players coming through like Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson. By the late '30s he had formed his first band and was working the Southern state area with Sonny Boy until the second world war broke out, spending three years stationed with the Navy in Guam. When he was discharged, he picked off where he left off, moving for a while to Memphis, working in clubs with Eddie Taylor and his cousin Homesick James. Elmore was also one of the first "guest stars" on the popular King Biscuit Time radio show on KFFA in Helena, AL, also doing stints on the Talaho Syrup show on Yazoo City's WAZF and the Hadacol show on KWEM in West Memphis.
Nervous and unsure of his abilities as a recording artist, Elmore was surreptitiously recorded by Lillian McMurray of Trumpet Records at the tail end of a Sonny Boy session doing his now-signature tune, "Dust My Broom." Legend has it that James didn't even stay around long enough to hear the playback, much less record a second side. McMurray stuck a local singer (BoBo 'Slim' Thomas) on the flip side and the record became the surprise R&B hit of 1951, making the Top Ten and conversely making a recording star out of Elmore. With a few months left on his Trumpet contract, Elmore was recorded by the Bihari Brothers for their Modern label subsidiaries, Flair and Meteor, but the results were left in the can until James' contract ran out. In the meantime, Elmore had moved to Chicago and cut a quick session for Chess, which resulted in one single being issued and just as quickly yanked off the market as The Bihari Brothers swooped in to protect their investment. This period of activity found Elmore assembling the nucleus of his great band The Broomdusters and several fine recordings were issued over the next few years on a plethora of the Bihari Brothers'owned labels with several of them charting and most all of them becoming certified blues classics.
By this time James had established a beach-head in the clubs of Chicago as one of the most popular live acts and regularly broadcasting over WPOA under the aegis of disc jockey Big Bill Hill. In 1957, with his contract with the Bihari Brothersat an end, he recorded several successful sides for Mel London's Chief label, all of them later being issued on the larger Vee-Jay label. His health -- always in a fragile state due to a recurring heart condition -- would send him back home to Jackson, MS, where he temporarily set aside his playing for work as a disc jockey or radio repair man. He came back to Chicago to record a session for Chess, then just as quickly broke contract to sign with Bobby Robinson's Fire label, producing the classic "The Sky Is Crying" and numerous others. Running afoul with the Chicago musician's union, he returned back to Mississippi, doing sessions in New York and New Orleans waiting for Big Bill Hill to sort things out. In May of 1963, Elmore returned to Chicago, ready to resume his on-again off-again playing career -- his records were still being regularly issued and reissued on a variety of labels -- when he suffered his final heart attack. His wake was attended by over 400 blues luminaries before his body was shipped back to Mississippi. He was elected to the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1980 and was later elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a seminal influence. Elmore James may not have lived to reap the rewards of the blues revival, but his music and influence continues to resonate.

Monday, 9 December 2013

This week's playlist

Big Daddy O - "Heavenly Joy"
Big Bill Broonzy - "Out With The Wrong Woman"
Marshall Brothers - "Mr. Santa's Boogie"
Felix Gross - "Love For Christmas"
Anders Osborne - "On The Road To Charlie Parker"
Funkyjenn - "Just Me And The Mistletoe"
The Allman Brothers Band - "Desert Blues"
Washboard Pete - "Christmas Blues"
Fiona Boyes - "City Born Country Girl"
Frank Bey & The Anthony Paule Band - "Don't Mess With The Monkey"
Big Bill Broonzy - "She Caught The Train"
Lionel Hampton Orchestra with Sonny Parker - "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus"
Mud Dog - "Testify"
Big Bill Broonzy - "Stuff They Call Money"
Isaiah B. Brunt - "Pathway Home"
Guy Davies - "Lost Again"
Samantha Fish - "Kick Around"
Johnny Rawls - "Eight Men. Four Women"
Moreland and Arbuckle - "Red Bricks"
Larry Darnell - "Christmas Blues"
Shawn Holt and The Teardrops - "Daddy Told Me"
Big Bill Broonzy - "Make My Getaway"
Bertha 'Chippie' Hill - "Christmas Man Blues"

Featured Artist: Big Bill Broonzy

Big Bill Broonzy
(June 26, 1893 – August 15, 1958) 

Big Bill Broonzy was born William Lee Conley Broonzy in the tiny town of Scott, Mississippi, just across the river from Arkansas. During his childhood, Broonzy's family -- itinerant sharecroppers and the descendants of ex-slaves -- moved to Pine Bluff to work the fields there. Broonzy learned to play a cigar box fiddle from his uncle, and as a teenager, he played violin in local churches, at community dances, and in a country string band. During World War I, Broonzy enlisted in the U.S. Army, and in 1920 he moved to Chicago and worked in the factories for several years. In 1924 he met Papa Charlie Jackson, a New Orleans native and pioneer blues recording artist for Paramount. Jackson took Broonzy under his wing, taught him guitar, and used him as an accompanist. Broonzy's entire first session at Paramount in 1926 was rejected, but he returned in November 1927 and succeeded in getting his first record, “House Rent Stomp”, onto Paramount wax. As one of his early records came out with the garbled moniker of Big Bill Broomsle, he decided to shorten his recording name to Big Bill, and this served as his handle on records until after the second World War. Among aliases used for Big Bill on his early releases were Big Bill Johnson, Sammy Sampson and Slim Hunter.
Broonzy's earliest records do not demonstrate real promise, but this would soon change. In 1930, The Hokum Boys broke up, and Georgia Tom Dorsey decided to keep the act going by bringing in Big Bill and guitarist Frank Brasswell to replace Tampa Red, billing themselves as "the Famous Hokum Boys." With Georgia Tom and Braswell, Broonzy hit his stride and penned his first great blues original, "I Can't Be Satisfied." This was a hit and helped make his name with record companies. Although only half-a-dozen blues artists made any records during 1932, the worst year in the history of the record business, one of them was Big Bill, who made 20 issued sides that year.
Through Georgia Tom and Tampa Red, Big Bill met Memphis Minnie and toured as her second guitarist in the early '30s, but apparently did not record with her. When he did resume recording in March 1934 it was for Bluebird's newly established Chicago studio under the direction of Lester Melrose. Melrose liked Broonzy's style, and before long, Big Bill would begin working as Melrose's unofficial second-in-command, auditioning artists, matching numbers to performers, booking sessions, and providing backup support to other musicians. He played on literally hundreds of records for Bluebird in the late '30s and into the '40s, including those made by his half-brother, Washboard Sam, Pete Chatman (aka Memphis Slim), John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, and others. With Melrose, Broonzy helped develop the "Bluebird beat," connoting a type of popular blues record that incorporated trap drums and upright string bass. This was the precursor of the "Maxwell Street sound" or "postwar Chicago blues," and helped to redefine the music in a format that would prove popular in the cities. Ironically, while Broonzy was doing all this work for Melrose at Bluebird, his own recordings as singer were primarily made for ARC, and later Columbia's subsidiary Okeh. This was his greatest period, and during this time Broonzy wrote and recorded such songs as "Key to the Highway," "W.P.A. Blues," "All by Myself," and "Unemployment Stomp." For other artists, Broonzy wrote songs such as "Diggin' My Potatoes." All told, Big Bill Broonzy had a hand in creating more than 100 original songs.
When promoter John Hammond sought a traditional blues singer to perform at one of his Spirituals to Swing concerts held at Carnegie Hall in New York City, he was looking for Robert Johnson to foot the bill. Hammond learned that Johnson had recently died, and as a result, Big Bill got the nod to appear at Carnegie Hall on February 5, 1939. This appearance was very well received, and earned Broonzy a role in George Seldes' 1939 film Swingin' the Dream alongside Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman. In the early '40s, Big Bill appeared at the Café Society, the Village Vanguard, and the Apollo Theater, in addition to touring with Lil Greenwood, all of which kept Big Bill busy during the AFM recording ban. By the mid- to late '40s, the operation in Chicago with Melrose had finally begun to wind down, just as electric blues started to heat up. Big Bill continued to record for labels ranging from majors Columbia and Mercury to fly-by-nights such as Hub and RPM. In 1949, Broonzy decided to take some time off from music, and got a job working as a janitor at the Iowa State University of Science & Technology in Ames.
In 1951 Broonzy was sought out by DJ and writer Studs Terkel and appeared in the latter's concert series I Come for to Sing. Suddenly, Broonzy started to get a lot of press attention, and by September of that year, he was in Paris recording for French Vogue. On this occasion Broonzy was finally able to wax his tune "Black, Brown and White," a song about race relations that had been in his book for years, but every record company he had ever sung it for had turned it down. In Europe, Broonzy proved incredibly popular, more so than at any time in the United States. Two separate documentary films were made on his life, in France and Belgium, respectively, and from 1951 until ill health finally put him out of the running in the fall of 1957, Broonzy nearly doubled his own 1927-1949 output in terms of new recordings.
Broonzy updated his act by adding traditional folk songs to his set, along the lines of what Josh White and Leadbelly had done in then-recent times. He took a tremendous amount of flak for doing so, as blues purists condemned Broonzy for turning his back on traditional blues style in order to concoct shows that were appealing to white tastes. But this misses the point of his whole life's work: Broonzy was always about popularizing blues, and he was the main pioneer in the entrepreneurial spirit as it applies to the field. His songwriting, producing, and work as a go-between with Lester Melrose is exactly the sort of thing that Willie Dixon would do with Chess in the '50s. This was the part of his career that Broonzy himself valued most highly, and his latter-day fame and popularity were a just reward for a life spent working so hard on behalf of his given discipline and fellow musicians. It would be a short reward, though; just about the time the autobiography he had written with Yannick Bruynoghe, Big Bill Blues, appeared in 1955, he learned he had throat cancer. Big Bill Broonzy died at age 65 in August, 1958, and left a recorded legacy which, in sheer size and depth, well exceeds that of any blues artist born on his side of the year 1900.

Monday, 2 December 2013

This week's playlist

Leadbelly - "Good Morning Blues"
Magic Sam - "Call Me If You Need Me"
Del McCoury Band - "Brakeman's Blues"
Davis Coen - "One Arm At A Time"
The Mills Brothers - "Goodbye Blues"
Townes Van Zandt - "Diamond Heel Blues"
Taj Mahal - "Fishing Blues"
Mississippi Sarah and Daddy Stovepipe - "Greenville Strut"
Bessie Smith - "At The Christmas Ball"
Lou Reid and Carolina - "Kentucky Blues"
Magic Sam - "Everything Gonna Be Alright"
Nick Curran and The Nitelifes - "Beautiful Girl"
The Outliers - "Guilty Of The Blues"
Magic Sam - "21 Days In Jail"
Littler Jimmy King and The Memphis Horns - "Happy Christmas Tears"
Soulstack - "This May Be The Last Time" (live)
Little Esther with Johnny Otis - "Far Away Christmas Blues"
Mike McGuire - "Leaving New Orleans"
Nine Below Zero - "Hard Goin' Up (Twice As Hard Comin' Down)"
Big Maceo - "Winter Time Blues"
Jimmy Rogers - "Money, Marbles And Chalk"
Nappy Brown - "You Were A Long Time Coming"
Magic Sam - "My Love Is Your Love"
Pete 'Snakey Jake' Johnson - "Strange Fruit"

Featured Artist: Magic Sam

Samuel "Magic Sam" Gene Maghett
(February 14, 1937 – December 1, 1969) 

No blues guitarist better represented the adventurous modern sound of Chicago's West side more proudly than Sam Maghett. He died tragically young (at age 32 of a heart attack), just as he was on the brink of climbing the ladder to legitimate stardom, but Magic Sam left behind a thick legacy of bone-cutting blues that remains eminently influential around his old stomping grounds to this day.
Maghett (one of his childhood pals was towering guitarist Morris Holt, who received his Magic Slim handle from Sam) was born in the Mississippi Delta. In 1950, he arrived in Chicago, picking up a few blues guitar pointers from his new neighbor, Syl Johnson (whose brother, Mack Thompson, served as Sam's loyal bassist for much of his professional career). Harpist Shakey Jake Harris, sometimes referred to as the guitarist's uncle, encouraged Sam's blues progress and gigged with him later on, when both were Westside institutions.
Sam's tremolo-rich staccato fingerpicking was an entirely fresh phenomenon when he premiered it on Eli Toscano's Cobra label in 1957. Prior to his Cobra date, the guitarist had been gigging as Good Rocking Sam, but Toscano wanted to change his nickname to something old-timey like Sad Sam or Singing Sam. No dice, said the newly christened Magic Sam (apparently Mack Thompson's brainstorm). His Cobra debut single, "All Your Love," was an immediate local sensation; its unusual structure would be recycled time and again by Sam throughout his tragically truncated career. Sam's Cobra encores "Everything Gonna Be Alright" and "Easy Baby" borrowed much the same melody but were no less powerful; the emerging Westside sound was now officially committed to vinyl. Not everything Sam cut utilized the tune; "21 Days in Jail" was a pseudo-rockabilly smoker with hellacious lead guitar from Sam and thundering slap bass from the ubiquitous Willie Dixon. Sam also backed Shakey Jake Harris on his lone 45 for Cobra's Artistic subsidiary, "Call Me If You Need Me."
After Cobra folded, Sam didn't follow labelmates Otis Rush and Magic Slim over to Chess. Instead, after enduring an unpleasant Army experience that apparently landed him in jail for desertion, Sam opted to go with Mel London's Chief logo in 1960. His raw-boned Westside adaptation of Fats Domino's mournful "Every Night About This Time" was the unalloyed highlight of his stay at Chief; some other Chief offerings were less compelling.
Gigs on the Westside remained plentiful for the charismatic guitarist, but recording opportunities proved sparse until 1966, when Sam made a 45 for Crash Records. "Out of Bad Luck" brought back that trademark melody again, but it remained as shattering as ever. Another notable 1966 side, the plaintive "That's Why I'm Crying," wound up on Delmark's Sweet Home Chicago anthology, along with Sam's stunning clippity-clop boogie instrumental "Riding High" (aided by the muscular tenor sax of Eddie Shaw).
Delmark Records was the conduit for Magic Sam's two seminal albums, 1967's “West Side Soul” and the following year's “Black Magic”. Both LPs showcased the entire breadth of Sam's Westside attack: the first ranged from the soul-laced "That's All I Need" and a searing "I Feel So Good" to the blistering instrumental "Lookin' Good" and definitive remakes of "Mama Talk to Your Daughter" and "Sweet Home Chicago," while “Black Magic” benefitted from Shaw's jabbing, raspy sax as Sam blasted through the funky "You Belong to Me," an impassioned "What Have I Done Wrong," and a personalized treatment of Freddy King's "San-Ho-Zay."
Sam's reputation was growing exponentially. He wowed an overflow throng at the 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival, and Stax was reportedly primed to sign him when his Delmark commitment was over. However, heart problems were fast taking their toll on Sam's health. On the first morning of December of 1969, he complained of heartburn, collapsed, and died.
Even now, more than a quarter-century after his passing, Magic Sam remains the king of Westside blues. That's unlikely to change as long as the subgenre is alive and kicking.