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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...

Betty Davis: They Say I'm Different (Light in the Attic)

Betty Davis: They Say I'm Different (Light in the Attic)

No, this isn't here just so we can display the striking cover of the former Mrs Miles Davis looking like some astral traveller from Ziggy Stardust's planet. In fact this is something of lost soul-funk classic from '74 from a period of skin-tight silver pants, sky-high heels on the dancefloor and shoulder-wide Afros. In her own way Davis...

Bettye LaVette and Drive-By Truckers: The Scene of the Crime (Anti) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

Bettye LaVette and Drive-By Truckers: The Scene of the Crime (Anti) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2007

This is an unexpected pairing: soul-singer LaVette with alt-country rockers Drive-By Truckers recording in Muscle Shoals in Alabama. A marriage made in heaven (or a somewhat hotter place) as it turns out: the band are edgy or supportive and nudge LaVette (who needs little prompting it must be said) through a collection of gritty songs which...

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...

Jill Scott: The Real Thing, Words and Sounds Vol 3 (Inertia)

Jill Scott: The Real Thing, Words and Sounds Vol 3 (Inertia)

To be honest, this one might take a few goes: initially it seems fragmented, opening with a taut and percussive two minute track, kicks into something soulful driven by a distant rock riff, moves into a blast of tough r'n'b, then a mellow and intimate mood enters . . . But it was nominated for best r'n'b album at the Grammys and Scott for...

Lizz Wright: The Orchard (Verve)

Lizz Wright: The Orchard (Verve)

We aren't short of soulful women singers right now, but few deliver with such blues gravitas and sensual authority as this Georgia-raised New Yorker whose two previous albums on Verve announced her as one of the rare ones. Most black (and a few white) women singers who sing with an ache are hailed as the new Billie Holiday (Corinne Bailey...

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...

JANIS JOPLIN: Singing out the painful sparks within

JANIS JOPLIN: Singing out the painful sparks within

Of all those admitted to that illustrious pantheon of Dead Sixties Rock Stars, Janis Joplin has been the one least well served. Jimi is revered and regularly remarketed; and Jim has his reissued albums, an Oliver Stone bio-pix, a new headstone in Pere La Chaise and people still seem to refer to him as “a poet”. And Janis?...

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...

Bettye LaVette: Interpretations; The British Rock Songbook (Anti)

Bettye LaVette: Interpretations; The British Rock Songbook (Anti)

Soul singer and Muscle Shoals veteran LaVette has enjoyed a revival recently: her 05 album I've Got My Own Hell to Raise put her back to the foreground; the excellent 07 Scene of the Crime teamed her with US alt.country rockers Drive-By Truckers; and last year she was at Barack Obama's inauguration and with the remaining Beatles at New...

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...

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...

Janis Joplin: Trouble in Mind (1965)

Janis Joplin: Trouble in Mind (1965)

The great Janis Joplin has been dead for over four decades now but it would be fair to observe that no woman in rock has ever approached her deep understanding of the blues and earthy, powerful delivery . . . let alone her self-destructive approach to life. Yet she has been largely forgotten and, as this essay notes, no one seems in any mind...

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...

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