Blues in Elsewhere

Interviews, overviews and reviews of classic and contemporary blues musicians and music.

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Darren Watson: Too Many Millionaires (Beluga)

25 Apr 2018  |  3 min read

Although most people might not know it, the tenacity of Darren Watson (and animator Jeremy Jones) created a landmark ruling in this country pertaining to freedom of speech and the right to express a political opinion without it being labelled as partisan and therefore a political advertisement. Watson’s song Planet Key – far from his finest musical moment it must be said –... > Read more

Hallelujah (Rich Man's War)

Curtis Salgado and Alan Hager: Rough Cut (Alligator/Southbound)

8 Feb 2018  |  1 min read

Elsewhere has doubtless made this observation previously but it remains true: the blues gets little airplay, there are few enough albums released (and consequently sold) yet whenever a decent blues band or solo artist turns up in New Zealand they can always pull an audience. There is a musical demographic out there which appreciates the blues – although it does seem to be aging.... > Read more

I Will Not Surrender

Tinsley Ellis: Winning Hand (Alligator/Southbound)

22 Jan 2018  |  1 min read  |  3

The remarkable thing about Chicago's Alligator label – and singer-guitarist Ellis who started his career on it three decades ago – is just how consistent the quality of their innercity blues has been. Often you hear a new Alligator album and feel that time stopped back in the hard-scrabble days for raw blues back in '66 or maybe '76. Another of that American... > Read more

Saving Grace

Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Delta Blues, Reborn and Remastered (Rough Guide/Southbound)

9 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

Tommy Johnson is one of the more interesting figures in the shadowland of the Delta blues of the Twenties: he recorded fewer songs than the acclaimed Robert Johnson who was no relation (just 16 in '28 and '29) and recent research has suggested that Robert inherited the legend of his pact with the Devil at the Crossroads from Tommy who had made that claim. Tommy Johnson was also quite... > Read more

Hard Times Killin' Floor, by Skip James (1931)

Various Artists: Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection (Alligator/Southbound)

4 Jul 2016  |  <1 min read

The Alligator collections are always worth hearing because they serve two purposes; a catch-up with the Chicago label's recent signings and some terrific tracks from the label's enormous and credible back-catalogue. Billed as "genuine houserockin' music" (one of their greatest acts was their first signing, Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers), Alligator music cuts straight to... > Read more

Don't Call No Ambulance by Selwyn Birchwood

Joe Bonamassa: Blues of Desperation (Southbound)

4 Apr 2016  |  1 min read

Despite commercial success and enthusiastic audiences at his shows, bluesman Bonamassa is also a divisive figure: many blues guitarists for example see him only as a sum of his considerable influences and not adding much originality. However he was also recently voted best blues guitarist by Guitar World so . . . That former opinion however was confirmed by the second, electric, half of his... > Read more

Drive

Various Artists: God Don't Never Change; The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator/Southbound)

4 Apr 2016  |  <1 min read  |  1

Late last year Elsewhere essayed the life and music of the great Blind Willie Johnson, the man who gave blues (and then rock and country) such cornerstone songs as It's Nobody's Fault But Mine, John the Revelator (which appeared on the Harry Smith collection) and Dark was the Night, among many others. Johnson was a man for whom Jesus and Satan were as real as his fellow travelers on this... > Read more

Jesus is Coming Soon (Cowboy Junkies)

Jeff Healey: Heal My Soul (Warners)

28 Mar 2016  |  <1 min read

Blind blues guitarist Healey – who died in 2008 – would have been 50 this year and these previously unreleased songs confirm he was in a class of his own (Mark Knopfler, George Harrison, Benmont Tench and many hardcore black blues musicians happily played alongside him). A Canadian, he had jazz and the sound of old 78rpm records in his soul, but couldn't be confined to any... > Read more

Daze of the Night

The Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson: Meet Me in Bluesland (Alligator/Southbound)

18 Jan 2016  |  <1 min read

Here's one literally pulled from the vaults, a decade after the death of pianist Johnnie Johnson who was there for all those classic, early Chuck Berry sides. In the Eighties and Nineties, Johnson finally enjoyed a career under his own name (Johnnie B. Bad from '92 is excellent) and along the way became friends with the Kentucky Headhunters. The story behind this album is that the day... > Read more

Meet Me in Bluesland

JULIA LEE RECONSIDERED (2015): Not just the KC queen of rude blues

9 Nov 2015  |  3 min read

At the time of her death in 1958 at age 56, blues singer and pianist Julia Lee – who had started her career at 16, worked with the young Walter Page (bass), saxophonist Benny Carter and others around Kansas City and used Jay McShann, Red Norvo and other name players on some of her sessions — was largely overlooked. And after her death, until Britain's Charley label... > Read more

Come On Over to My House (1944)

JAMES “WEE WILLIE” WAYNE CONSIDERED (2015): Not tending to his business

26 Oct 2015  |  3 min read

Such mystery as there is about rhythm'n'blues singer James Wayne is compounded by the well-meaning writer of the liner notes to the 1980 Dutch compilation Travelin' From Texas to New Orleans, one of the very few existing collections of Wayne's work. With English clearly a second language and a somewhat imperfect understanding of geography the unnamed writer informed his readers that,... > Read more

Junco Partner

R.L. BURNSIDE CONSIDERED (2015): Blues from before fame

28 Sep 2015  |  4 min read

For many decades before his career was given a high-profile resurrection by the Fat Possum label in Nineties (and he toured with the likes of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), R.L. Burnside was a working bluesman who had grown up in North Mississippi and followed the trail to Chicago. In Mississippi he'd heard Fred McDowell (who reputedly taught him a little guitar), and fife and drum... > Read more

Sweet Black Angel

BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON CONSIDERED (2015): From deep in the soul to deep space

7 Sep 2015  |  4 min read  |  1

The old saying, “You gotta sin to get saved” perhaps accounts for the wayward careers and emotional U-turns of people like Little Richard and Roy Buchanan who would vacillate between the secular and spiritual worlds. If you believe that Jesus is real and your savior, then you are just as likely to have to accept the corollary, that Satan is also real and ready to drag you... > Read more

Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed

BO CARTER AND HIS RUDE BLUES (2015): Putting more than just his pin in your cushion

13 Jul 2015  |  3 min read

There are two peculiar and distinctive features about the career of bluesman Bo Carter (1893-1964). It's not that he sang rude, double-entendre songs – many blues artists did that – but that he recorded so many of them. Considerably fewer blues singers did that. And also there's the fact that -- at least according to his brother Sam who was also blues singer in the... > Read more

Banana in Your Fruit Basket

BLIND BOY FULLER PROFILED (2015): Still truckin' on

6 Jul 2015  |  4 min read

Unlike so many other bluesmen and women of his era, Blind Boy Fuller (1907-1941) lived a life that was well documented, enormously prolific and fairly profitable by the standards of the day. When he died at just 33 – complications following an heroic consumption of booze in his short life – his friend Brownie McGee recorded The Death of Blind Boy Fuller to commemorate the... > Read more

Lost Lover Blues

DAVE ALVIN INTERVIEWED (2015): Brothers in arms, again

16 Feb 2015  |  7 min read

Dave Alvin has, as they say, miles on the tyres. At 59, the acclaimed guitarist and singer can look back to the roots-rock band the Blasters he formed with his brother Phil in the late Seventies, a band that blended punk energy with Americana and blues, and shared bills with the likes of Black Flag and The Gun Club. The Alvin brothers however had one of those volatile sibling... > Read more

Southern Flood Blues

Joe Bonamassa: Different Shades of Blue (J&R/Southbound)

12 Sep 2014  |  <1 min read

Astutely released today in advance of his sole New Zealand concert in Auckland tonight, this is the first album by acclaimed American guitarist/singer Joe Bonamassa featuring all his own compositions. That's surprising given he has quite a body of releases behind him, but as always he refers to the past and the masters: the two-minute opener is the Hendrix-referencing Hey Baby/New Rising... > Read more

So, What Would I Do

JOE BONAMASSA INTERVIEWED (2014): The plan is do what you do

3 Sep 2014  |  5 min read  |  2

Joe Bonamassa – the 37-year old Grammy nominated blues-rock guitarist considered one of the finest players of his generation – is talking about what he does when he takes a break. But first let it be said, he rarely has down-time. In fewer than 15 years he's released 11 studio albums under his own name and two with gutsy soul-blues singer Beth Hart (many with DVD footage),... > Read more

Lonely Town Lonely Street

Joe Louis Walker: Hornet's Nest (Alligator/Southbound)

7 Jul 2014  |  1 min read

The furious and fiery, award-winning 64-year old Joe Louis Walker is, of course, a bluesman . . .  but you could equally file some of his material under "rock" and even "hard rock". Or "gospel blues" if you catch him in another mood. With about 20 albums behind him -- with titles like Hellfire, Playin' Dirty and Blues Survivor -- Walker has an attack as... > Read more

Stick a Fork in Me

Lowell Fulson: Trouble Trouble, The Definitive Early Years Collection (Fantastic Voyage/Southbound)

22 Nov 2013  |  1 min read

Sometimes the singer-guitarist Lowell Fulson (1921-99) recorded as Lowell Fulsom and even Lowell Fullsom, but he was born Fulson although the liner notes to this three CD set suggest where the variations came from. Fulson himself would adopt the various spellings for his own reasons (think: the taxman), but his grandfather was actually Henry Fulsom who was black freeman living with the... > Read more

The Train is Leaving (1947)