Blues in Elsewhere

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

ERIC BIBB INTERVIEWED (2009): Born into this

6 Jan 2012  |  3 min read

You could say singer-guitarist Eric Bibb had little choice, that he was born to the musical life: his father Leon was a well-known New York folk singer; his uncle was John Lewis, the pianist in the Modern Jazz Quartet; and his godfather was the legendary singer, activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson. Add in family friends like Pete Seeger and the late Odetta, advice from... > Read more

Tall Cotton

Big Daddy Wilson: Thumb a Ride (Ruf)

21 Sep 2011  |  <1 min read

This big bluesman with a sometimes gentle and soulful voice has appeared at Elsewhere previously with his fine Love is the Key which featured Eric Bibb, a singer he is close in spirit to. This all acoustic outing recorded in Germany (where he has lived for many years) with his touring band (and a studio percussion player) continues his generous, gentle and inviting journey and -- as he... > Read more

If You Were Mine

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

13 Sep 2011  |  4 min read

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 increasingly unlikely he ever will. But he did... > Read more

Snowy Wood

Duke Robillard: Passport to the Blues (Stony Plain)

22 Aug 2011  |  <1 min read

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 gets covered) and nods to Willie Dixon on Rhode... > Read more

Make It Rain

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

7 Aug 2011  |  <1 min read  |  1

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 tutored Bonnie Raitt. Block met him at a formative... > Read more

Mississippi Man

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

20 Jul 2011  |  <1 min read

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 Man's Plea with Kenny Neal turn the cruise ship... > Read more

Born in Chicago

Tab Benoit: Medicine (Telarc)

4 Jul 2011  |  <1 min read  |  1

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 bleeds”). A great band (Ivan Neville on Hammond,... > Read more

Nothing Takes the Place of You

Watermelon Slim and Super Chicken: Okiesippi Blues (NorthernBlues)

28 Jun 2011  |  <1 min read

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 great backstory -- more interesting than his DVD... > Read more

I'm a Little Fish

Tedeschi Trucks Band: Revelator (Masterworks)

13 Jun 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

Anyone who caught the husband and wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi in New Zealand recently were perhaps familiar with guitarist Trucks' impressive Allman Brothers/Eric Clapton pedigree, but she came as something of a surprise to most. Looking like what Americans call a "soccer mom", the slight Tedeschi could sing like Bonnie Raitt and sometimes edged as close to... > Read more

Midnight in Harlem

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

12 Jun 2011  |  1 min read

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 line with the post-Hendrix psychedelic music of the... > Read more

The Red Rooster

TRAVELLING RIVERSIDE BLUES: Robert Johnson, the blues and Clarksdale, Mississippi

25 Apr 2011  |  13 min read  |  2

The intersection of highways 61 and 49 near Clarksdale in northwest Mississippi doesn't look particularly special: there's a car yard, a service station, a couple of kids listlessly kicking a ball outside Abe's barbecue shop . . . Just the usual stuff. The only thing to distinguish it from hundreds of other such intersections in the state is the odd looking monument-cum-sculpture thing at... > Read more

Robert Johnson: Crossroad Blues

DEREK TRUCKS INTERVIEWED (2009): Allman and Clapton, but his own man

10 Apr 2011  |  12 min read  |  2

For someone yet to hit 30, the Jacksonville, Florida-based singer-guitarist Derek Trucks has achieved a lot. But then, he was almost born to it. His uncle is drummer Butch Trucks of the Allman Brothers Band; he was named after Eric Clapton’s pseudonym in Derek and the Dominos; and these days he is married to acclaimed blues singer Susan Tedeschi. Those factors alone don’t... > Read more

Derek Trucks: Down Don't Bother Me

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

28 Mar 2011  |  3 min read

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 to exceptional talents like the earthy bellower... > Read more

Son Seals: Goin' Home (1984)

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

28 Feb 2011  |  9 min read

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 30, keyboard player and guitarist Allman –... > Read more

Gregg Allman: Floating Bridge


23 Feb 2011  |  8 min read

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 black woman and not particularly glamorous -- on to a... > Read more

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

21 Feb 2011  |  5 min read

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 a rest, but not like that,” she hoots.... > Read more

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

21 Feb 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

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 the piano work by James Toney is worth the price of... > Read more

BB King: I'm in the Wrong Business

JANIS JOPLIN CONSIDERED (2011): Singing out the painful sparks within

13 Feb 2011  |  5 min read  |  4

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? Like Otis, she is pretty much forgotten other than by... > Read more

Janis Joplin: What Good Can Drinkin' Do (1962)

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

7 Feb 2011  |  8 min read  |  3

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 inspiration (working with BB King, his dreary... > Read more

I Feel Free

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

6 Feb 2011  |  <1 min read  |  1

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 enjoyable ride where the spirits of Jimmy Smith and Otis... > Read more

Ronnie Earl: Chitlins Con Carne