chicago blues

chicago blues on Elsewhere by Graham Reid - Browse our selection of content tagged 'chicago blues'.

Eric Bibb: Diamond Days (Telarc/Elite)

Eric Bibb: Diamond Days (Telarc/Elite)

Bibb is one of that new generation of bluesmen who sounds utterly authentic: this despite Bibb growing up in New York, having John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet as an uncle, and studying psychology at Columbia University. But in his late teens -- he's now 55 -- he took off to Europe with his guitar, studied the blues and hooked up with...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007: Tinariwen: Aman Iman/Water is Life (Filter)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007: Tinariwen: Aman Iman/Water is Life (Filter)

The previous album Amassakoul by these extraordinary musicians and desert tribesmen from the southern Sahara was one of the Best of Elsewhere 2006 and turned up in quite a few critics picks of last year. If anything, this album -- dense, driving, intense, poetic and shot through with mercurial, stinging guitar work -- is superior to...

Liam Ryan: Mississippi 2 Mauao (Torch)

Liam Ryan: Mississippi 2 Mauao (Torch)

On the release of excellent recent albums by Wellington pianists Kevin Clark and Charmaine Ford, and Auckland saxophonist Brian Smith I have noted what a rare year it is shaping up to be in New Zealand jazz. And here is further evidence -- but something very different to those mentioned. Ryan was once the songwriter/keyboardist in the...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007: Watermelon Slim and the Workers; The Wheel Man (Southbound)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007: Watermelon Slim and the Workers; The Wheel Man (Southbound)

To be honest I didn't quite "get" the last, self-titled, album by this rough'n'ready bluesman, but I was clearly in the minority: the album won the Mojo magazine and the Independent Music Awards for blues album of the year, got six nominations at the Blues Music Awards and so on. And this album -- which I have to say I...

Koko Taylor: Old School (Southbound)

Koko Taylor: Old School (Southbound)

Some years back this fog-horn voiced blues singer released an album under the title Force of Nature: and that's what she is. Now 71, Taylor can still drive in nails across the room with her gutsy blasts, and she has never shied away from having a beefy rockin' guitar-driven band behind her because she knows if they get too loud she can just...

Peter Case: Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John (YepRoc Records)

Peter Case: Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John (YepRoc Records)

Case used to be the mainman in the Plimsouls, a terrific and slightly ragged power pop band but he has enjoyed a long and diverse alt.country/alt.rock solo career -- as befits a man who was once married to Victoria Williams. On his superb self-titled debut in '86 he had John Hiatt and Roger McGuinn helping out, and down the decades he has...

Joan Armatrading: Into the Blues (Shock)

Joan Armatrading: Into the Blues (Shock)

For years Armatrading - whose job description includes folk, reggae, rock, jazzy pop and so on -- had been promising herself she would write an album of songs within the the same genre. This is it, her "blues" album. But far from being a monochromatic trawl through same-same songs in a blues style she brings her inclusive musical...

Eric Andersen: Blue Rain: Live (Appleseed/Elite)

Eric Andersen: Blue Rain: Live (Appleseed/Elite)

After four decades as a troubadour, Andersen has finally got round to recording a live album -- but he has done it with typically wilfulness: he hooked up with a Norwegian blues band and recorded it in a rock club in Oslo. But this is no foot-to-the-floor rock-blues session because everyone holds back and the songs seethe with barely...

Tahuna Breaks: Reflections (Chewy/Rhythmethod)

Tahuna Breaks: Reflections (Chewy/Rhythmethod)

While I understand the wide appeal of Fat Freddy's Drop -- a laidback distillation of reggae, soul and so forth -- it is too mellow for my taste. Tahuna Breaks -- who also distill elements of soul and reggae but have an urgent rock attack too -- are much more my kind of thing. Vocalist Marty Greentree often sings like his life depends on...

John Mayall: Live From Austintx (New West/Elite)

John Mayall: Live From Austintx (New West/Elite)

John Mayall (whose Blues From Laurel Canyon in '68 appears as an Essential Elsewhere, see tag) was undeniably the man who founded the British blues boom in the early 60s and on his albums at the time he covered classic and often little known blues material. His bands during those years included Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce (who went on to form...

BB King, Live (Geffen)

BB King, Live (Geffen)

This may not be the best live album King has made -- there is a case made for another under Essential Elsewhere, see tag -- but from his comments in the tie-in DVD bonus footage it will be his last. In interviews King is breathless and wistful, and he has, at 82, all but retired. He speaks now about when he is gone . . . These concert...

The Black Keys: Attack & Release (Shock)

The Black Keys: Attack & Release (Shock)

I maintain I was right about this Ohio drum-'n'guitar duo: that their first albums showed more promise than being as great as they were hailed. And that when I saw them I was struck by how the hip, young crowd acclaimed them yet wouldn't cross the street to see someone as unfashionable as, say, George Thorogood who could wipe the floor with...

Billy TK Jnr: Presenting Billy TK Jnr (Ode)

Billy TK Jnr: Presenting Billy TK Jnr (Ode)

It's odd that this album should be called "Presenting" given that Auckland-based guitarist Billy TK Jnr has been taking his brand of tough Texas blues around the bars and clubs of New Zealand (and to Texas) for about two decades. Perhaps the reason he isn't a household name is that he has been known to take sabbaticals and go get...

BESSIE SMITH: The Empress of the Blues -- and jazz? (1991)

BESSIE SMITH: The Empress of the Blues -- and jazz? (1991)

It wasn’t just because he discovered Bessie Smith that Columbia executive John Hammond sank money into recording her in 1933 when her money was all gone. Columbia was all but bankrupt and Hammond scuffling for bucks himself. But to the end of his life Hammond simply believed Bessie Smith to be “the greatest artist American jazz...

Various: Albums from the Smithsonian Folkways series (Folkways/Southbound)

Various: Albums from the Smithsonian Folkways series (Folkways/Southbound)

The Smithsonian is one of those great American institutions which, if it says "we're here to help" actually is. In their Smithsonian Folkways collection they have short audio examples of 40,000 tracks and through their Global Sound website they are all available for download. And they have the original liner notes for the relevant...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Eli Paperboy Reed and The True Loves: Roll With You (Shock)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Eli Paperboy Reed and The True Loves: Roll With You (Shock)

For the past week or so I have been listening to old vinyl by Dusty Springfield and Southside Johnny (a New Jersey bar-band chum of Springsteen and Stevie Van Zandt) and have been reminded again just how many white singers have been immersed in soul/r'n'b.And there seems to be a new wave again with James Hunter, Duffy and Beth Rowley, all of...

Dave Murphy: Yes That's Me (Ode)

Dave Murphy: Yes That's Me (Ode)

Yes, and that's me with the quote on the back cover of this excellent collection by longstanding Wellington bluesman Dave Murphy.Here's what I say: "The blues is a music made by people who have struggled, have hard and true stories to tell and do so in a voice that is compelling. Dave Murphy, 35 years a journeyman on New Zealand's blues...

Grinderman: Grinderman (EMI) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Grinderman: Grinderman (EMI) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

In which Nick Cave takes a break from his dark and Biblical stuff and just gets down and dirty with a raw, edgy band to make music which seems to come with machine oil on its hands and blown through with thick diesel smoke. Cave is also obviously having fun with his persona, but that doesn't stop some of the raucous, simple and often...

WATERMELON SLIM INTERVIEWED (2007): He's had interesting lives

WATERMELON SLIM INTERVIEWED (2007): He's had interesting lives

“You tell them this,” says 58-year old bluesman Watermelon Slim in a voice which sounds like he has been gargling whisky-soaked nails. “God has blessed me with an extremely full and interesting life. It’s not all been fun or positive and I’m not proud of everything I’ve done. But I’ve been blessed to get...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Mavis Staples: Live. Hope at the Hideout (Anti)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Mavis Staples: Live. Hope at the Hideout (Anti)

The last album by the great Mavis Staples, We'll Never Turn Back was picked as one of the best albums of 2007 at Elsewhere, and that was no sympathy vote for one of life's survivors who had grown up with the civil rights movement and has now lived long enough to see Obama heading for the White House. So when she sings "keep your...

CAN'T BE SATISFIED, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MUDDY WATERS by ROBERT GORDON

CAN'T BE SATISFIED, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MUDDY WATERS by ROBERT GORDON

When McKinley Morganfield’s grandmother named him Muddy after the nearby Mississippi and he later took the surname Waters, there seemed something oddly symbolic in it. Here was man who wasn’t born in the year he said he was, claimed a town he wasn’t born in as his birthplace and carried a name he wasn’t born with....

JIMI HENDRIX: THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE BOX SET (2000): Get experienced, but differently

JIMI HENDRIX: THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE BOX SET (2000): Get experienced, but differently

It should be easy to get together a thorough Jimi Hendrix collection. After all, his recording career lasted fewer than four years. Presumably, all you'd need would be his exceptional debut album Are You Experienced, the follow-up Axis: Bold As Love and the expansive, Essential Elsewhere double album Electric Ladyland. The Smash Hits...

Otis Taylor: Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs (Telarc)

Otis Taylor: Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs (Telarc)

A copy of this album has been in and out of my player for at least two months and I assumed it had already been released some time back and I'd missed my chance to comment. But the amount of repeat-plays it was getting suggested I write something, and now I find it has only just come out. Happy to bring it to your attention then because...

Louisiana Red: Back to the Black Bayou (Ruf/Yellow Eye)

Louisiana Red: Back to the Black Bayou (Ruf/Yellow Eye)

This seventysomething year old has earned to right to sing the blues: his father was lynched by the Klan back home in Alabama when he was boy; he was moved around staying with various relatives; played with John Lee Hooker for a while; has recorded for about as many blues labels as there are; lived in Europe for a while . . . He's...

White Denim: Fits (Inertia)

White Denim: Fits (Inertia)

This three-piece from Austin were everywhere in the UK media when they were touring while I was in England and Scotland in the middle of the year -- and I kept missing them. And the more I read the more interested I became: no one seemed to have a clear bead on them and while some cited Hendrix (it's the wah-wah pedal, folks) others mentioned a...

Brilleaux: Decade (Brilleaux)

Brilleaux: Decade (Brilleaux)

You -- well, I -- admire a rock'n'roll r'n'b band that names itself after the late lead singer of the British pub rock band Dr Feelgood whose Stupidity album from '76 is mandatory in any Essential Elsewhere collection. And this four-piece who make their energetic pub-rock sound at jazz and blues festivals (and I am guessing excellent...

THE ROLLING STONES' GET YER YA-YA'S OUT! (2009): The '69 Garden party

THE ROLLING STONES' GET YER YA-YA'S OUT! (2009): The '69 Garden party

The live album -- or double live as was standard in the days of vinyl -- has had a chequered history in rock: some live albums defined an artists career (Frampton Comes Alive, Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous) and others added little to the sum of our knowledge (most of Dylan's). Some artists regularly drop live albums (Paul McCartney, who...

Blakroc: Blakroc (Blakroc)

Blakroc: Blakroc (Blakroc)

While nu-metal spawned some horrible offspring in terms of rap/rock collaborations or assimilations of one into the other, there has always been more in common between the two genres than many would concede. If nothing else, some of that bad nu-metal at least prepared the mind for this collection where the one-time blues-rock duo Black...

THE ROLLING STONES; TRUTH AND LIES (Eagle Media DVD)

THE ROLLING STONES; TRUTH AND LIES (Eagle Media DVD)

While it may have been possible to make an even more superficial DVD of the Stones' career than this, it would take a bit more laziness. Relying on newsreel footage, a few talking heads and with no access to their music, what you get here is a fast trip through their fortysomething year career with most of the emphasis on the Sixties and...

Various Artists: The History of Rhythm and Blues 1925-1942 (Rhythmandblues/Southbound 4 CD Set)

Various Artists: The History of Rhythm and Blues 1925-1942 (Rhythmandblues/Southbound 4 CD Set)

From the opening track on this remarkable collection -- a testifying scream of faith recorded in 1934 which calls to mind Little Richard and Hasel Adkins as much as African chants -- you are offered evidence of the old saying/song, "the blues had a baby and they called it rock'n'roll". Just as Blind Willie Johnson (here with...

Jimi Hendrix: Valleys of Neptune (Sony)

Jimi Hendrix: Valleys of Neptune (Sony)

The old joke -- usually applied to the death of Elvis -- is “good career move”. Death sells, just ask -- if you could -- Elvis, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Otis Redding, John Lennon and Kurt Cobain who saw their record sales soar after their deaths. Or would have, if they could have. As a magazine cover said of Jim Morrison:...

Sammy Price: Nice'n'nasty

Sammy Price: Nice'n'nasty

Sammy Price, who had been the house pianist on Decca sessions in the Forties (and played with the likes of Sister Rosetta Tharpe) among many other things, told me a very funny story which I remember to this day. He'd been in Chicago and after a recording session the manager of the European record company wouldn't pay him. No money, Sammy,...

THE WHITE STRIPES; UNDER GREAT WHITE NORTHERN LIGHTS (XL CD/DVD)

THE WHITE STRIPES; UNDER GREAT WHITE NORTHERN LIGHTS (XL CD/DVD)

Since this 2007 doco was filmed of the White Stripes tour across Canada (with interesting digressions of shows done on the fly), Jack White has peeled off into other areas of interest: Dead Weather, Raconteurs, the movie It Might Get Loud, more production (tantalisingly with early rocker Wanda Jackson) . . . Drummer Meg -- his former wife...

JOAN ARMTRADING INTERVIEWED (2008): Into and out of the blues

JOAN ARMTRADING INTERVIEWED (2008): Into and out of the blues

Joan Armatrading makes an embarrassing admission for someone whose most recent album Into the Blues debuted at number one on the Billboard blues charts: she doesn’t listen to the blues and while some interviewers have noted the influence of John Lee Hooker in a couple of tracks she couldn’t identify a Hooker song if she was...

Joan Armatrading: This Charming Life (Hypertension/Southbound)

Joan Armatrading: This Charming Life (Hypertension/Southbound)

After the success (critical and saleswise) of her last album Into the Blues, you'd expect attention would be drawn to this new album from one of rock's long distance runners who has long since fallen from media and wider public attention. That said, this outing is much more patchy than the tightly coherent predecessor which roped together...

Son of Dave: Shake a Bone (Kartel/Rhythmethod)

Son of Dave: Shake a Bone (Kartel/Rhythmethod)

You can't say you weren't warned. A couple of years back when he released his '02' album Elsewhere said you'd be hearing more of this human beat-box, one-man foot-stompin' blues band which is Ben Darvill. Here recorded by Steve Albini in Chicago he once more abuses that harmonica, makes his own percussion and becomes a wall-shakin'...

JOHN MAYALL INTERVIEWED, AND REVIEWED (2010): On the blues highways

JOHN MAYALL INTERVIEWED, AND REVIEWED (2010): On the blues highways

The English musician John Mayall repeats his familiar refrain: he’s never had “a hit record, never won and Grammy and isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame“. At 76 and having played professionally for more than 45 years he might have reasonably expected one or more of those. But in 2005 he did get an OBE....

John Mayall: Tough (Eagle)

John Mayall: Tough (Eagle)

Given this seminal blueman's low profile in the marketplace this past decade or two, it can only be his impending New Zealand tour which has seen the Antipodean release of this, his 57th, album. Yes, 57 -- and that doesn't count compilations. You'd expect by now that John Mayall might have run out of things to say, but not at all. Here he...

Guitar Shorty: Bare Knuckle (Alligator)

Guitar Shorty: Bare Knuckle (Alligator)

They used to say “when the times get tough, the songs get soft” – but hard times is good times for the blues which articulates the concerns of the downtrodden. And the US economic downturn means hard times which this 70-year old, electric and electrifying guitarist/singer from Texas (on a Chicago label) addresses...

NICK CAVE, THE SEEDY MIDDLE YEARS: From Tender Prey to Henry's Dream

NICK CAVE, THE SEEDY MIDDLE YEARS: From Tender Prey to Henry's Dream

In the early Eighties the safe money would have been on Nick Cave -- then battling various demons and his elusive muse -- not making it much further. Yet here is Cave, now in his early 50s, dutifully going to the office every day to write songs, novels, screenplays and soundtracks, and curating arts festivals . . . And seeing his...

Various Artists: We Are Only Riders (Shock)

Various Artists: We Are Only Riders (Shock)

The recent reissue of Gun Club albums (Miami, Fire of Love and Death Party), Jack White's championing of their frontman Jeffrey Lee Pierce (who died in 1996), and the presence of kindred dark soul Nick Cave here should further draw attention to the profile of Pierce, a man possessed of an angry, urgent yet poetic and often melancholy streak....

Tamikrest: Adagh (Glitterhouse/Yellow Eye)

Tamikrest: Adagh (Glitterhouse/Yellow Eye)

As we know, for every breakthrough band there are a dozen or more who can successfully coattail. Tamikrest come from the same area -- geographical and musical -- as the great Tinariwan and Etra Finatawa so create a kind of hypnotic desert blues . But where their two predecessors have established a genre and staked out territory within it, the...

Dirt Music: BKO (Glitterhouse/Yellow Eye)

Dirt Music: BKO (Glitterhouse/Yellow Eye)

In a way this album was inevitable -- although has come from an unexpected source. The whole "Sahara Blues" style of Etran Finatawa, Tinariwen and more recently Tamikrest has always lent itself to being brought to wider attention by collaborations with European musicians. The co-joining of Anglo-alt.folkers Tuung with...

Deadstring Brothers: Sao Paulo (Bloodshot)

Deadstring Brothers: Sao Paulo (Bloodshot)

With the impending 40th anniversary re-issue of the Stones' Exile on Main Street, the time might be right to rediscover rootsy, toxic, blues-driven rock'n'roll which slews sideways out of the speakers fueled by whisky and weed. If that's the case, then this album is neatly timed to anticipate the Stones. On their fourth album...

The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St (1972, reissued 2010)

The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St (1972, reissued 2010)

Few albums in rock have been so surrounded in dark mythology as this sprawling double album which was the last great gasp of the Rolling Stones. Certainly subsequent albums -- Goats Head Soup, It's Only Rock'n'Roll and Black and Blue particularly -- had their great moments but (aside from Jagger's embrace of New York dance and Richards'...

Various Artists: The History of Rhythm and Blues 1952-1957 (2010 collection)

Various Artists: The History of Rhythm and Blues 1952-1957 (2010 collection)

The first two volumes in this 4-CD series which traces the history of old style r'n'b have already been acclaimed at Elsewhere here and here respectively. These multi-genre, colour-blind, cross-label and highly inclusive collections not only cherry pick the most significant artists and songs in the growth of r'n'b but also intelligently...

Various Artists: Rumba Blues (Rhythm and Blues Records/Southbound)

Various Artists: Rumba Blues (Rhythm and Blues Records/Southbound)

From the same label which has brought the superb 4-CD sets of rhythm and blues (here) comes this equally excellent 26-song collection of post-war material which had soaked in a Latin rumba-shuffle influence. And when you look at who is here, that influence was considerable and across a wide range of artists: T-Bone Walker; the Johnny Otis...

THE WHITE STRIPES INTERVIEWED (2003): The Elephant in the room

THE WHITE STRIPES INTERVIEWED (2003): The Elephant in the room

Jack and Meg White are easily spotted in the large lounge of Sydney's swanky new W Hotel on a converted wharf in Woolloomoloo. But they were always going to be. The Detroit duo who are The White Stripes - formerly said to be brother and sister, but now we know are ex-husband and wife - always wear a combo of red and white, and occasionally...

THE BARGAIN BUY: The White Stripes; Elephant

THE BARGAIN BUY: The White Stripes; Elephant

For many people Elephant from '03 was the White Stripes' "break-out" album, the one which took them well out of cult status and into their living room. With material as strong as Seven Nation Army, There Is No Home For You Here, Ball and Biscuit and the killer cover of Dusty Springfield/Bacharach-David's I Just Don't Know What To Do...

Eli Paperboy Reed: Come and Get It (Capitol)

Eli Paperboy Reed: Come and Get It (Capitol)

The previous album by this white boy singin' soul music -- Roll With You -- was considered a Best of Elsewhere 2008 release but didn't quite make it into mainstream media or thinking. This time around, for a slightly lesser album, he's been picking up big press . . . and again he certainly deserves it. He may have come from Boston but he...

Karen Elson: The Ghost Who Walks (XL)

Karen Elson: The Ghost Who Walks (XL)

As you may already know, Karen Elson from England comes with a number of black marks against her on this debut album: she was a model (and no one takes them seriously, huh?) and her husband is Jack White (Stripes). Still, Carla Bruni made better albums than most would like to give her credit for -- and we shouldn't hold her marriage against...

Jeff Healey: Last Call (Stony Plain/Southbound)

Jeff Healey: Last Call (Stony Plain/Southbound)

When the singer/blues guitarist Jeff Healey first emerged in the late Eighties there were two critical camps set up: those who heard him as a fiery young player in the tradition of a Stevie Ray Vaughan, and those who thought he was getting the sympathy vote because he was blind. Playing guitar on his lap, he could certainly strip the...

JEFF HEALEY INTERVIEWED (1989): Keeping the future open

JEFF HEALEY INTERVIEWED (1989): Keeping the future open

Sitting in his Sydney hotel room, Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey talks lovingly about his collection of 11,000 78rpm records (“I bought another 30 or 40 today in a shop near here.”) And he talks about how he played with Albert Collins onstage in Toronto as that guitarist's guest. It was the turning point in his career. At the...

Various Artists: Roll Your Moneymaker, I Smell a Rat (Trikont/Yellow Eye)

Various Artists: Roll Your Moneymaker, I Smell a Rat (Trikont/Yellow Eye)

Subtitled “Early Black Rock'n'Roll” these two parallel volumes (Roll is 1948-58, Rat is 1949-59) pick up some classic, dirty, thrilling rock'n'roll from the time before and through the Elvis Presley years, but often sound much more scandalising and sexualised than even The King. So across these two discs – and you need...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Black Keys: Brothers (Shock)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Black Keys: Brothers (Shock)

Albums are usually far too long these days, and this is no exception -- but just when you think you might lose interest here the Keys pull out another angle: around the midpoint there are some superbly dark and soulful blues (Ten Cent Pistol, Sinister Kid) which sound steeped in Howlin' Wolf/Muddy Waters, then a new classic on The Go Getter...

STONES IN EXILE, a documentary by STEPHEN KIJAK

STONES IN EXILE, a documentary by STEPHEN KIJAK

Keith Richards once offered a neat observations of Mick Jagger: "Mick's a lovely bunch of blokes." Jagger, by all acounts, has that uncanny ability to switch his langauge and accent depending on who he is talking to: with the turn of his head he can go from plum-in-mouth when chatting with a lord or lady to a Jamaican accent if the...

Screaming Lord Sutch: Til the Following Night (1961)

Screaming Lord Sutch: Til the Following Night (1961)

In later years Screaming Lord Sutch was better known for being the founder of the Official Monster Raving Looney Party in Britain and standing in various electorates (from '63) in weird outfits. He's in the opening scenes of The New Statesman standing against Alan B'stard (Rik Mayall). In the Stones' Get Off Of My Cloud, Sutch was the "guy...

Little Axe: Bought for a Dollar, Sold for a Dime (Real World/Southbound)

Little Axe: Bought for a Dollar, Sold for a Dime (Real World/Southbound)

The previous album by guitarist Skip McDonald as Little Axe, Stone Cold Ohio, was a Best of Elsewhere 2006 album so interest was high for this one which also sees the whole Tackhead crew (bassist Doug Wimbush, drummer Keith Le Blanc) together again after 17 years, and with producer Adrian Sherwood. Guests include vocalists Bernard Fowler and...

Lucille Bogan: Shave 'Em Dry II (1935)

Lucille Bogan: Shave 'Em Dry II (1935)

In these days of earnestly crotch-thrusting young women on video clips you long for something which has that long forgotten ingredient: wit. Old time blues is ripe with innuendo, downhome analogies and suggestive lyrics. When Lonnie Johnson sings of being the The Best Jockey in Town he doesn't mean he brings home the winners. Lil Johnson...

TODD RUNDGREN INTERVIEWED (2010): Getting out his Johnson for you

TODD RUNDGREN INTERVIEWED (2010): Getting out his Johnson for you

Todd Rundgren laughs as he predicts the end the current model of on-line music sales which will disappear like the Sony Walkman and vinyl singles: “Because some songs are priceless, some songs are worthless . . . and some songs are worth exactly 99 cents”. He should know. In a 40-plus year career he's made songs, and whole...

Bob Dylan: Folksinger's Choice (Left Field/Triton)

Bob Dylan: Folksinger's Choice (Left Field/Triton)

One of the revelations of the first of Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series was the maturity of his voice for one so young. Songs like Moonshiner showed a wisdom and understanding well beyond his years. And this remarkable, and previously rare, album confirms that point -- and many more about the young Dylan and how he saw himself. Not as a...

Otis Taylor: Clovis People Vol 3 (Telarc)

Otis Taylor: Clovis People Vol 3 (Telarc)

First, there is no Vol 1 or Vol 2, but this addition to Taylor's catalogue of "trance blues" which follows the excellent Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs of last year is certainly a welcome one. Taylor takes a very different view of the blues: while others see it as an idiom with strict stylistic codes if not chord progressions,...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Todd Rundgren; The Original Album Series (Rhino)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Todd Rundgren; The Original Album Series (Rhino)

With the ever-evolving Rundgren scheduled to play in New Zealand see interview here) here was a five CD collection of some of his albums from 1970-83 which skip over his double album Something/Anything, the glorious A Wizard/A True Star and the double Todd. But here are Runt (Rundgren with the Sales brothers who later worked with Bowie); The...

Big Daddy Wilson: Love is the Key (Ruf/Yellow Eye)

Big Daddy Wilson: Love is the Key (Ruf/Yellow Eye)

Singer Wilson from North Carolina is yet another of those US blues (and jazz) artists who found a more sympathetic and profitable environment in Europe and these days operates out of Germany playing festivals and clubs across the Continent. Ironically -- because he grew up in the church, listened to country music at home and joined the army...

JOHN LEE HOOKER INTERVIEWED (1990): What's in his name?

JOHN LEE HOOKER INTERVIEWED (1990): What's in his name?

Talking to 72-year-old blues singer John Lee Hooker - even in a cursory 15 minute interview - you know you are confronting a legendary, influential figure. And The Hook, as he is commonly known, isn’t afraid to tell you so. “I have inspired so many rock 'n' roll singers and blues singers and stars - more than any other blues...

Oli Brown: Heads I Win Tails You Lose (Ruf/Yellow Eye)

Oli Brown: Heads I Win Tails You Lose (Ruf/Yellow Eye)

The blues goes in cycles of visibility: there were those great days of the late Forties/Fifties in the South and the early Sixties in Chicago; the British blues boom of the early/mid Sixties (John Mayall, Clapton, the first Fleetwood Mac etc) and then . . . You can tick them off just by a name alone: Alligator Records (Hound Dog Taylor and...

ERIC CLAPTON; THE FIRST 25 YEARS CONSIDERED: The living link between hippie and yuppie

ERIC CLAPTON; THE FIRST 25 YEARS CONSIDERED: The living link between hippie and yuppie

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when Eric Clapton -- once called "God" by his devotees -- ceased to be relevant. Certainly he still plays to huge audiences and his guitar playing remains technically undiminished. But his albums are --with rare exceptions -- anodyne, his playing often bloodless and despite genuine efforts to find...

ELMORE JAMES: Sliding with the king

ELMORE JAMES: Sliding with the king

It has been almost half a century since Elmore James bent over to pull up his socks before going out to play in an Chicago nightclub . . . and went face down on to the floor with his third and final heart attack. Although he was not widely known, the world lost a good one who left an immense legacy. James had an agonised vocal style...

B.B. KING; KING OF BLUES: It's good to be King

B.B. KING; KING OF BLUES: It's good to be King

B.B. King (born Riley King on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi in 1925) has arguably been the blues' greatest populariser, so his track record includes performances with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Stevie Wonder and the Memphis Horns, Joe Walsh, the Crusaders, Gary Moore and, of course, U2 and Eric Clapton. That kaleidoscope of...

John Mayall with Eric Clapton; Blues Breakers (1966)

John Mayall with Eric Clapton; Blues Breakers (1966)

For an album which is a cornerstone in any serious consideration of the British blues boom of the Sixties, the Blues Breakers record -- John Mayall with Eric Clapton -- of July '66 hardly had an auspicious gestation. In March '65 Mayall and the Blues Breakers had been dropped by their label Decca after just one album (a live outing, John...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Eric Clapton; Journeyman (Reprise)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Eric Clapton; Journeyman (Reprise)

By the time he got to the end of the Eighties, the title of this album must have been greatly appealing to Eric Clapton: he was in his mid 40s, had been a solo artist for almost two decades and had been playing for a living for 25 years. He'd been putting out a studio record about every 20 months on average, and this was released on the back of...

The Yardbirds: Shapes of Things, The Best of the Yardbirds (Music Club/Triton)

The Yardbirds: Shapes of Things, The Best of the Yardbirds (Music Club/Triton)

Aside from the obvious ones -- the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and arguably the Small Faces and perhaps the Animals -- was there any other group in the mid-Sixties which was such a magnet for, and breeding ground of, talent? And it's not just the roster of guitarists who passed through its ranks -- Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page...

ERIC CLAPTON; THE 1960s REVIEW (Chrome Dreams/Triton DVD)

ERIC CLAPTON; THE 1960s REVIEW (Chrome Dreams/Triton DVD)

Eric Clapton has made a somewhat sudden appearance in the past month with a survey of his early career here, the album with John Mayall and also his Journeyman popping up as a Bargain Buy. Now by coincidence this interesting -- and rather detailed -- overview of his rapid career in the Sixties (Yardbirds, Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith)...

Grinderman: Grinderman 2 (EMI)

Grinderman: Grinderman 2 (EMI)

The black wings beat at the window and there is a smell of sulphur in this dark southern land where crazed prophets and murderous mountain men walk . . . From a distance, through the leafless trees comes what sounds like the voice of judgement and doom. A man in black is declaiming filthy sex and raw passion, killing and redemption....

Eric Clapton: Clapton (Reprise)

Eric Clapton: Clapton (Reprise)

It's fair to say Eric Clapton at 20, while playing with John Mayall's Blues Breakers, never gave much thought to a “career”. Yet with this new album he can reflect on more than 40 years in the game, of highs and lows, successes and mis-steps (most of the 80s). Inevitably Clapton at 65 doesn't have the fire which propelled...

JIMI HENDRIX, AN ESSAY: In my Life

JIMI HENDRIX, AN ESSAY: In my Life

For a man who changed the landscape of rock -- and not so coincidentally my life -- his last resting place looks extremely modest. It is late 2002 and I am standing at a simple plaque in the grass with only a single glass of fading flowers on it. There are no visitors here other than me and my companion Tommy, a Norwegian music journalist from...

Eddie Turner: Miracles and Demons (Northern Blues/Southbound)

Eddie Turner: Miracles and Demons (Northern Blues/Southbound)

As mentioned previously on the occasion of The Turner Diaries, this singer-guitarist won't be to every blues fan's taste -- and not just because he gets the Hendrix tag a bit (true, but only sometimes and rarely this time out). For every time he unleashes fire there are other times when you feel he is holding far too much back and neither his...

Jimi Hendrix: 1983, A Merman I Shall Turn to Be (1968)

Jimi Hendrix: 1983, A Merman I Shall Turn to Be (1968)

Because of the sheer number of his recordings out there, you'd be forgiven for thinking that when he wasn't playing a gig (and being recorded), having sex or sleeping, the great Jimi Hendrix was in a recording studio jamming, putting down demos or just simply noodling around. Which seems to have been true.  The man only saw the...

The Mississippi Sheiks: Bed Spring Poker (1931)

The Mississippi Sheiks: Bed Spring Poker (1931)

The blues is often blunt and to the point when it comes to sexual imagery, at other times it is coded -- although no one should be in any doubt that when Lonnie Johnson says he is the best jockey in town he isn't boasting about his horse riding skills. This song by the Mississippi Sheiks -- Walter Vincson on guitar and vocals, Lonnie Chapman...

WATERMELON SLIM AND THE WORKERS; LIVE AT THE GROUND ZERO BLUES CLUB (NorthernBlues/Southbound DVD)

WATERMELON SLIM AND THE WORKERS; LIVE AT THE GROUND ZERO BLUES CLUB (NorthernBlues/Southbound DVD)

Watermelon Slim has lived quite some dangerous and interesting life (see interview here) and he owns a face which, we might charitably described as "lived in". In this DVD of him and his band live at Clarksdale's famous Ground Zero blues club, he tells of once waking up in the local hospital with a dislocated jaw and then driving...

Darren Watson: Saint Hilda's Faithless Boy (Red Rocks)

Darren Watson: Saint Hilda's Faithless Boy (Red Rocks)

It's been far too long between albums for Wellington blues-rocker Watson -- frontman-guitarist for Chicago Smokeshop, later simply Smokeshop -- because his excellent South Pacific Soul album (under his own name) was five years ago. In some ways Watson has mellowed, inasmuch as the vocals and guitar work here are taut as if the passions are...

BUDDY GUY INTERVIEWED (1992): Damn right he's famous

BUDDY GUY INTERVIEWED (1992): Damn right he's famous

Buddy Guy is talking about his club Legends in his home town of Chicago. Every Sunday and Monday it is open for all-comers, just sign at the door, get up there and play your blues. Since Guy won a Grammy for his raw and soulful Damn Right I Got The Blues album this year, he’s seen a few more up-and-corners through the door. He...

Buddy Guy: Living Proof (Silvertone)

Buddy Guy: Living Proof (Silvertone)

The great Guy has been one of blues' most enduring and endearing characters: he upstaged the Stones in his cameo slot on their Shine A Light doco, and way back influenced Hendrix. He's been picking up awards for the past couple of decades, but unlike some others who have become part of the institution (and tailor albums for awards, as...

LIFE by KEITH RICHARDS with JAMES FOX: Through the past cheerfully

LIFE by KEITH RICHARDS with JAMES FOX: Through the past cheerfully

Most reviews of this frequently funny, sometimes insightful and too often rambling autobiography -- Keith + tape recorder + ghost writer Fox -- have concentrated on the obvious: the sniping at Mick Jagger which occurs a little in the first three-quarters but reaches a peak in the final throes where the autobiography/chronological account runs...

Jimi Hendrix and Curtis Knight: Hush Now (1965)

Jimi Hendrix and Curtis Knight: Hush Now (1965)

It's well known that Jimi Hendrix didn't have much business sense, but he sure knew how to play guitar. This track -- one of about 60 recorded with the little known singer/guitarist Curtis Knight at a small studio in New York -- is a measure of both. Hendrix -- at that time Jimmy James -- had recently been fired from Little Richard's touring...

Jimi Hendrix: West Coast Seattle Boy; The Jimi Hendrix Anthology (Sony)

Jimi Hendrix: West Coast Seattle Boy; The Jimi Hendrix Anthology (Sony)

In 1964 the Isley Brothers – a doo-wop/r'n'b outfit from Cincinnati who had scored a hit with Twist and Shout – were playing a show in a baseball stadium in Bermuda. They had their own in-built support act, they simply sent their band out to warm up the crowd. But on this night there was whooping from the audience and a guy came...

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE ROLLING STONES, a doco by ROLLIN BINZER (Shock DVD)

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE ROLLING STONES, a doco by ROLLIN BINZER (Shock DVD)

Aside from the obvious reason (40th anniversaries), there is another explanation for some much Stones stuff from the late Sixties/early Seventies: that was when they became the bad boy phenomenon which most people associate with them. There is also a lot of footage and music, and by the late Seventies and early Eighties things were less...

JACK BRUCE INTERVIEWED (1994): Cream rises to the top

JACK BRUCE INTERVIEWED (1994): Cream rises to the top

Talk to Jack Bruce and the of name of That Band just cannot be avoided. Yet this Band That Dare Not Speak Its Name occupied a mere three years in the life of this 51-year-old musical polymath - and that ending as far back as ’69. Then he took his phenomenal bass playing skills and distinctive, strong tenor voice into a series of...

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Orange + Experimental Remixes (Shout Factory/Southbound)

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Orange + Experimental Remixes (Shout Factory/Southbound)

The JSB Explosion's early catalogue has undergone the remastering/expansion process but here's the essential starting point on any investigation: Orange from '94 was their career highpoint, an album which dragged their alt.rock/Elvis-on-speed, rock'n'roll blues into mainstream attention for its concise, harmonica-wheezing, Cramps-like energy and...

GREGG ALLMAN INTERVIEWED (2010): The Road Goes On Forever

GREGG ALLMAN INTERVIEWED (2010): The Road Goes On Forever

Scroll down the Wikipedia entry for Gregg Allman and two things will surprise: first how brief it is for a musician who has lived such a full, creative and often dangerously self-abusive life. And second the interestingly inexact sentence which reads, “Allman has been married at least six times . . .” By the time he was...

JOHN LEE HOOKER REMEMBERED: Face to face with the blues

JOHN LEE HOOKER REMEMBERED: Face to face with the blues

John Lennon once said the blues was a chair. Not a fancy chair, just the first chair. No, it doesn't make much sense - but you know what he means. And by making this analogy he placed himself alongside a swag of blues artists who have their own pithy statement: the blues is a feeling, the blues is healing music, and so on. John Lee...

T-Model Ford and GravelRoad: Taledragger (Alive/Southbound)

T-Model Ford and GravelRoad: Taledragger (Alive/Southbound)

At 90, the great and late-discovered bluesman T-Model Ford still sounds like he is one man who isn't going to let the road of life weary him. Here with his touring band GravelRoad, he delivers a short sharp shock: eight songs, two hitting past the seven minute mark, closing with a nasty-edged Little Red Rooster. This is roadhouse blues which...

Joanne Shaw Taylor: Diamonds in the Dirt (Ruf)

Joanne Shaw Taylor: Diamonds in the Dirt (Ruf)

It would be easy to describe -- and acclaim -- this fiery British singer-guitarist as a blues artist, and she is. But there's more to her than that. Certainly she can peel off blazing solos like Stevie Ray Vaughan (whose producer Jim Gaines is again on hand here) and can also conjure up the more gentle blues-soul of Hendrix (World on Fire)....

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters: Spread the Love (Stony Plain)

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters: Spread the Love (Stony Plain)

Blues guitarist Earl opens this typically free-wheeling, jazz-inflected instrumental album with a swinging treatment of Albert Collins' burning Backstroke -- then gets into a low mood on Blues For Dr Donna before the Hammond organ of Dave Limina kicks in for the sultry, midnight groove of Chitlins Con Carne . . . and we away go on another...

ERIC CLAPTON, LAYLA 40 YEARS ON (2011): I don't want to fade away

ERIC CLAPTON, LAYLA 40 YEARS ON (2011): I don't want to fade away

By the time Eric Clapton flew to Miami in 1970 to record what would become the Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs double album, he had spent six years in an emotional wringer: he was the acclaimed guitarist in the Yardbirds before he abruptly quit over dissatisfaction with their pop direction; took time out; joined John Mayall in his Blues...

Left Lane Cruiser: Junkyard Speed Ball (Alive/Southbound)

Left Lane Cruiser: Junkyard Speed Ball (Alive/Southbound)

Judge a band by its cover? Sure, why not? Here the raucous blues-rock duo of guitarist Freddy J IV and drummer Brenn "Sauasage Paw" Beck out of Indiana are almost horizontal in a bathroom sharing a bottle of Jameson whisky on the inner sleeve of the cover, and the album features tracks with the titles Lost My Mind, 24HR, Weed Vodka,...

ALLIGATOR RECORDS 1971 - 2011: Four decades of brittle and often brilliant blues

ALLIGATOR RECORDS 1971 - 2011: Four decades of brittle and often brilliant blues

In his excellent book More Miles Than Money, subtitled “journeys through American music”, the expat London-based writer Garth Cartwright meets Bruce Iglauer who founded the Alligator blues label in Chicago which became that city's most important label after Chess went belly-up in 1975. As Cartwright notes, the label was home...

KOKO TAYLOR (1928-2009): The queen from Chi-town

KOKO TAYLOR (1928-2009): The queen from Chi-town

Koko Taylor, the self-styled Queen of the Blues, lets out a hoarse barking laugh and roars, “Yes, I'm feelin' fine, thank God, and everybody is doing nicely. “I've been back at work about six weeks now and it feels good. I got bored staying at home. After 25 years out there doin' it you can get bored easily at home. I needed...

B.B. King: Makin' Love is Good For You (SBird/Southbound)

B.B. King: Makin' Love is Good For You (SBird/Southbound)

With the great B.B. King due to arrive in Australasia for concerts, this now-readily available album from 2000 is timely. It caught him on a career high with his road-tested band in the studio just peeling off some tough-minded songs which had been part of their repertoire for while, as well as some new songs. Set aside King if you can and...

BRUCE IGLAUER OF ALLIGATOR RECORDS: The bossman of the blues

BRUCE IGLAUER OF ALLIGATOR RECORDS: The bossman of the blues

On a per head of population basis, Bruce Iglauer – the founder of Alligator Records – has been the man who has let you hear the real minority stuff. As he said when we spoke in 1988, “Getting our artists on to radio is tough. Radio plays young, white male artists and to get somebody like Koko Taylor - a middle aged...

Social Distortion: Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (Social Distortion)

Social Distortion: Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes (Social Distortion)

Standing between metal-edge country-rock and disheveled Keith Richards riff-hard rock'n'roll blues, Social Distortion don't exactly reinvent the wheel, but they do enjoy burning rubber on this 11-song set which invites you to roll down the window, rack up the volume and point the bonnet down a strip of empty highway. For an American...

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Darren Watson

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Darren Watson

Darren Watson of Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, has long been a multiple-threat; powerful and souldful singer; excellent blues guitarist; great songwriter. He first came to attention in Chicago Smokeshop (an appropriate name for a blues band from another city full of politicians) which later became Smokeshop, and released a series...

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Eli Paperboy Reed

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Eli Paperboy Reed

Long an Elsewhere favourite, Eli Paperboy Reed's 2008 album Roll With You made the list of Best of Elsewhere for that year, and his follow-up Come And Get It of 2010 also got very favourable notice. Reed is a conduit for the great soul voices of the past -- Sam Cooke, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and others -- but he brings deep...

Geeshie Wylie: Skinny Leg Blues (1930)

Geeshie Wylie: Skinny Leg Blues (1930)

Blues singer Geeshie Wylie -- probably not her real name, more likely a nickname because she was of the Gullah people of South Carolina and Georgia -- recorded even fewer songs than Robert Johnson. Just six known recordings and no photograph of her exists either. She may have been with a traveling medicine show in the Twenties but, other...

JIMI HENDRIX; SOUTH SATURN DELTA (2011): The sun rises again

JIMI HENDRIX; SOUTH SATURN DELTA (2011): The sun rises again

As with Bob Marley's "catalogue", it seems only right that Jimi Hendrix's messy existence -- he seemed to a sign a contract at the drop of an offer, and would record with whomever when the mood took him -- should be reined in and given some coherence. So when the Hendrix family finally wrestled a measure of control after years of...

The Rolling Stones: Child of the Moon (1968)

The Rolling Stones: Child of the Moon (1968)

Although the Stones' psychedelic album Their Satanic Majesties Request of late '67 has taken a bad rap, they didn't entirely abandon the trippy sound even as they put it behind them and moved into a more blues-based rock for their next single Jumpin' Jack Flash and the album Beggar's Banquet (which had Street Fighting Man on it). They might...

BEN WATERS INTERVIEWED (2011): One more time for the boogie woogie man Ian Stewart

BEN WATERS INTERVIEWED (2011): One more time for the boogie woogie man Ian Stewart

When he was just nine – 26 years ago – Ben Waters briefly saw something in a pub which changed his life. He was at his auntie and uncle's 25th wedding anniversary in the Wynyard Gap in Somerset, just across the border from his home county of Dorset, and the great pianist Ian Stewart was a family friend who sat down and played...

Alvin Robinson: Down Home Girl (1964)

Alvin Robinson: Down Home Girl (1964)

When the Beatles and the Stones covered songs by black American artists on their early albums and championed Motown soul (Beatles) and Chicago blues singers (Stones) they undoubtedly drew attention to the genius which many locals had overlooked. The Stones' early shows and albums were stacked with songs by Chuck Berry (Come On, their...

STEVE WINWOOD PROFILED (2011): From teen-soul boy to mainstream man

STEVE WINWOOD PROFILED (2011): From teen-soul boy to mainstream man

When the salty bluesman Howlin' Wolf growled “the men don't know, but the little girls understand” on the 1961 Willie Dixon-penned Back Door Man we know he was talking about something more earthy and sexual than pop singers like Justin Bieber. But when Bieberfever arrived to what appeared to be the surprise of anyone over...

NICK CAVE, FROM OUTSIDER TO AUTEUR IN THE NINETIES: Let Love In to No More Shall We Part

NICK CAVE, FROM OUTSIDER TO AUTEUR IN THE NINETIES: Let Love In to No More Shall We Part

From the early Nineties, Nick Cave -- ever so slowly -- ceased to be a preoccupation of those who immersed themselves in the gloom of his raw and dirty blues-based music and became a respected, almost mainstream figure. You could mention him in most conversations and people would know who you meant. Songs like Straight To You,...

Joe Bonamassa: Dust Bowl (J&R/Southbound)

Joe Bonamassa: Dust Bowl (J&R/Southbound)

There are some extraordinary guitar talents -- Roy Buchanan comes to mind immediately -- whose gift just seems to go right past an audience you know would appreciate it, if they just shifted their attention in that direction. Bonamassa -- who also has lungs like leather and can write terrific blues rock songs also -- is another. He's...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Grinderman: Grinderman 2 (EMI)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Grinderman: Grinderman 2 (EMI)

Nick Cave has been very clear that Grinderman is not some side-project from the Bad Seeds, but nor is it a sort-of-solo-project-with-pals or an extension of the early Bad Seeds' darkly malevolent work. It might be angry, blues-based and gloom-laden, but it also isn't a parody. It is . . . Grinderman. And to prove it, after their...

Howlin' Wolf: The Howlin' Wolf Album (Set on Down)

Howlin' Wolf: The Howlin' Wolf Album (Set on Down)

One of the assertions on the cover of this album – released in 69, reissued after a long absence – isn't true. Bluesman Howlin' Wolf had been an “early adopter” of electric guitar. What is true is he didn't care for this album (“dog shit” was his considered judgment) which had him being made over in...

Watermelon Slim and Super Chicken: Okiesippi Blues (NorthernBlues)

Watermelon Slim and Super Chicken: Okiesippi Blues (NorthernBlues)

In Clarksdale, Mississippi I saw a singer/guitarist who called himself Howl N Mudd, which was certainly a man covering his bases. (That story is here.) The juke joint he played in was very popular (be sure to read that piece of graffiti I quote) and recently Elsewhere reviewed a DVD of Watermelon Slim whiuch was filmed there. Slim has a...

Tab Benoit: Medicine (Telarc)

Tab Benoit: Medicine (Telarc)

Soulful blues with a dark bayou twist is Tab Benoit's musical style, but he also locates lyrics in this world, whether it be a relationship going to hell (“We've been fighting over nothing”) or the Louisiana environment on the same path (“Whatcha gonna tell the children/trees/spirits when the heart of the bayou...

Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven (YepRoc)

Dave Alvin: Eleven Eleven (YepRoc)

The former Blaster (a band he shared with his brother Phil) has been delivering his earthy, rootsy blues out there on the road for decades now. He was briefly in X and the Gun Club, but mostly he's been taking his dusty, country-edged dark baritone to narratives about what he sees out there: railroads and desert highways, the losers and lost,...

Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor, Dani Wilde: Girls with Guitars (Ruf)

Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor, Dani Wilde: Girls with Guitars (Ruf)

Nothing like naming your album with a product description, right? This lead/bass/rhythm trio (with drummer Jamie Little) bridge sultry blues, a soul-kiss and rock'n'roll blues (bassist Cassie the daughter of the great Otis). Wilde's Stax/Aretha/sexy vocals impress and she's a double threat, pulling out mercurial and razor sharp lead...

Joe Louis Walker's Blues Conspiracy: Live on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise (Stony Plain)

Joe Louis Walker's Blues Conspiracy: Live on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise (Stony Plain)

That this was recorded on a Caribbean cruise might tell you all you need about its crowd-pleasing nature. But Walker's guests (guitarists Johnny Winter, Tab Benoit and Duke Robillard, Watermelon Slim on harmonica among them) get away serious six-string savagery and down low dirty vocals. Yes, crowd-pleasing – but songs like A Poor...

Rory Block: Shake 'Em on Down (Stony Plain)

Rory Block: Shake 'Em on Down (Stony Plain)

Singer-guitarist Rory Block learned directly from Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Bukka White and others and here – through originals and retooled covers – acknowledges the great innovator Mississippi Fred McDowell who (despite singing I Do Not Play No Rock'n'Roll) influenced blues-rock musicians like the young Stones, and...

Boyd Rivers: Fire Shed in my Bones (1985)

Boyd Rivers: Fire Shed in my Bones (1985)

Not a lot is known about the Mississippi-based country-blues and gospel singer Boyd Rivers who died in '93, but his growling voice seems to belong to a much older time. He was born near the town of Pickens in December '43 and after being injured at his casket-making job in '72 he lived off his music and the pay-out. He was also a Reverend....

Duke Robillard: Passport to the Blues (Stony Plain)

Duke Robillard: Passport to the Blues (Stony Plain)

Multiple award winner Robillard founded Roomful of Blues in the late Sixties, was in the Fabulous Thunderbirds and has been playing for more than four decades, and shows no signs of slowing with this fist-tight collection of (mostly) originals. He's toured with Tom Waits (an influence on the gritty Hong Kong Suit, and whose Make It Rain...

CHICAGO SOUL, BLUES AND FUNK IN THE SIXTIES: Moving the Chess pieces

CHICAGO SOUL, BLUES AND FUNK IN THE SIXTIES: Moving the Chess pieces

In 2002 after a Rolling Stones concert in Chicago I asked my friend, who lived in the city, to take me down to 2120 South Michigan Avenue, the old home of Chess Records. Aside from wanting to see this legendary place where Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, Etta James, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon once held court, I also half thought...

JOHN MAYALL IN THE SIXTIES: And Another Man Done Gone . . .

JOHN MAYALL IN THE SIXTIES: And Another Man Done Gone . . .

When veteran British bluesman John Mayall played the Civic in Auckland in 2010, the concert was both disappointing and crowd-pleasing. Disappointing because, although professionally executed, it failed to really take flight. Crowd-pleasing because he played his hits. The joke, of course, is Mayall has never had hits and at 77 it seems...

Superheavy: Superheavy (Universal)

Superheavy: Superheavy (Universal)

There are few bona fide bands worthy of the appellation “supergroup” (these people, or these?) but it's fair to say anything with Mick Jagger, former Eurythmic Dave Stewart, Bollywood megastar A.H. Rahman, hip-hop reggae-rocker Damian Marley and soul singer Joss Stone would unquestionably qualify. Yet given the melange of...

Koko Taylor: Wang Dang Doodle (1960)

Koko Taylor: Wang Dang Doodle (1960)

Although you never need an excuse to play this strutting Willie Dixon-penned classic from Chess Records' studio with the great Koko Taylor growling her way through it, it does seem timely on this very day as Tom Waits' new album Bad As Me has a terrific track inspired in part by its raw spirit. Waits' Satisfied might nod to the Rolling...

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa: Don't Explain (J&R Adventures)

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa: Don't Explain (J&R Adventures)

Janis Joplin would scare the daylight out of most sleeve sucking, infantile women pop singers cluttering the charts and few have taken her as a role model. Hart played Joplin in a stage production and seemed well cast given her sandpaper-brushed roar. Here with Black Country Communion guitar virtuoso Bonamassa, she covers material by...

JACK WHITE INTERVIEWED (2003): The heat on the rising son

JACK WHITE INTERVIEWED (2003): The heat on the rising son

As a measure of how mighty or mundane Jack White's life has become, consider this: It made news in Hollywood gossip magazines that he had grown a moustache. Now for him, that's either great fame or a great pain. No two guesses needed about what he thinks. The man who is one half of the White Stripes with Meg White -- his sister or...

BUDDY GUY INTERVIEWED (2001): One of the last men standing

BUDDY GUY INTERVIEWED (2001): One of the last men standing

Oddly enough, this is not the best time to talk to 64-year-old bluesman Buddy Guy - despite him having released Sweet Tea, one of the finest albums in his long career.It is days after the death of his contemporary John Lee Hooker and Guy is understandably philosophical rather than keen to talk up his new album which was, uncharacteristically for...

The Rolling Stones, The Unstoppable Stones (1965)

The Rolling Stones, The Unstoppable Stones (1965)

The early albums by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones appeared in different versions in Britain and the States. New Zealand being a colony thankfully got the UK versions for the most part, just as the gods intended. But in some instances we got something different from both -- and in this case, better. The album The Unstoppable Stones...

Various Artists; Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol 1 (1966)

Various Artists; Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol 1 (1966)

With an American history over a century long, the blues isn't easy an easy journey to begin on: do you go at it chronologically from slave chants and field hollers, or work back from white popularisers like George Thorogood, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Led Zeppelin? Given that most people live in what we might call the post-rock era it might be...

B.B. King, Live at the Regal (1965)

B.B. King, Live at the Regal (1965)

With his royal surname, a 60-year career which has earned him Godfather status, a sophisticated demeanour and dapper suits, and his own chain of nightclubs it is hard to see BB King as an earthy and edgy blueman: the guy who used to play 300 nights a year, who has fathered at least a dozen children to as many different women, the...

Dr Feelgood, Stupidity (1976)

Dr Feelgood, Stupidity (1976)

In his superb single Cry Tough of '76, the American singer-guitarist Nils Lofgren (a member of Springsteen's E Street Band since '84) namechecked the British pub-rock outfit Dr Feelgood, showing an awareness few other Americans had. Dr Feelgood, from Canvey Island near Southend, at that time had released three albums in the UK and made a...

Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings (2011 reissue)

Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings (2011 reissue)

Those who were there say everything changed when he walked in the room and started to play. He’d been away a long time -- learning guitar was what they said -- but the last time anyone had seen him he was an uppity kid and not that good. You can imagine how it must have been that Saturday night in a small run-down club in Banks,...

Tinariwen: Amassakoul (Wrasse/Shock): BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Tinariwen: Amassakoul (Wrasse/Shock): BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Tinariwen were from a group of stateless wanderers who lived at the whim of weather and changing political climates in the greater Sahara, and were educated in the language of armed struggle. In the 80s they developed their music of exile. But just as blues singers from America's south found acoustic guitars didn't cut it in the hard-edged...

Eddie Turner, The Turner Diaries (Northern Blues/Southbound)

Eddie Turner, The Turner Diaries (Northern Blues/Southbound)

Stephen Stills -- of Crosby, Stills and Nash -- says that Turner reminds him of his old friend Jimi Hendrix, and you can certainly hear that sky-scaling Jimi-approach in any number of the blistering tracks on this powerful album. But Turner does pull back in some material -- which still seem to seethe with menace. This album won't be to...

Little Axe: Stone Cold Ohio (Virgin) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Little Axe: Stone Cold Ohio (Virgin) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

Little Axe is guitarist/singer Skip McDonald who first came to attention as a member of the Sugar Hill Gang, the house band for Sugar Hill Records which released such classic rap tracks as Grandmaster Flash's The Message. McDonald went to England and joined Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound crew and was a member of the innovative Tackhead which...

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