Blues in Elsewhere

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

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

8 Aug 2010  |  1 min read

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 the like); George Thorogood; Stevie Ray Vaughan;... > Read more

Oli Brown: Take a Look Back

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

2 Aug 2010  |  <1 min read

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 at 16 when he was shipped off to European military... > Read more

Big Daddy Wilson: Ain't No Slave

Otis Taylor: Clovis People Vol 3 (Telarc)

19 Jul 2010  |  <1 min read

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, guitarist-singer Taylor regards it as a feeling... > Read more

Otis Taylor: It's Done Happened Again

Jeff Healey: Last Call (Stony Plain/Southbound)

7 Jun 2010  |  1 min read

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 paint and those early albums put him on a plateau... > Read more

Jeff Healey: The Wildcat

JEFF HEALEY INTERVIEWED (1989): Keeping the future open

6 Jun 2010  |  4 min read

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 end of halt an hour when Healey is called away for... > Read more

Guitar Shorty: Bare Knuckle (Alligator)

19 Apr 2010  |  <1 min read  |  3

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 bluntly in the opener Please Mr President (“lay... > Read more

Guitar Shorty: Please Mr President

John Mayall: Tough (Eagle)

12 Apr 2010  |  <1 min read

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 addresses the economic downturn (Tough Times Ahead),... > Read more

John Mayall: How Far Down

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

12 Apr 2010  |  6 min read

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. “That was a total surprise,” he... > Read more

John Mayall: The Death of JB Lenoir (from Crusade, 1967, with guitarist Mick Taylor)

Otis Taylor: Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs (Telarc)

22 Jun 2009  |  1 min read  |  1

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 bluesman Taylor is unlike any other: his last album was... > Read more

Otis Taylor: Lost My Guitar

King Leo and the Growling Dogs: Mad Love (King Leo)

24 May 2009  |  1 min read  |  2

Ahh yes, the "Dunedin sound", huh? Well here's something out of the south which will further confound preconceptions: King Leo LaDell and his tight band haul into tough urban blues territory with the confidence of people who have been schooled on the South Side of Chicago and were nourished on Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and all the other electric and electrifying blues giants.... > Read more

King Leo and the Growling Dogs: Hands of a Maker

Various: The Roots of Led Zeppelin (Proper/Southbound)

15 May 2009  |  1 min read

To some small but much lesser degree we've been down this path before with the DVD Down the Tracks: The Roots of Led Zeppelin recently posted here. But as noted, that was interesting enough but hardly got to the heart of the complexity of music Led Zeppelin drew on: rural blues, Anglo-folk, rock'n'roll, Chicago blues . . . This three-CD/DVD set is much better and offers a wealth of... > Read more

Howlin' Wolf: How Many More Years

DANNY CLICK INTERVIEWED (2004): Jimi beating up Buck

19 Apr 2009  |  3 min read

Singer-guitarist Danny Click, from Austin, the capital of live music in America, laughs about a description he heard of his playing style: "I'm not really country and I'm not really total blues - and I'm definitely not hardcore thrash rock'n'roll. In Austin all the minor sub-categories are mixed up but I don't fit any of them sometimes. "Someone once described my sound as Jimi... > Read more

Susan Tedeschi: Back to the River (Universal)

2 Mar 2009  |  1 min read

This raw and soaring blues-rock singer and guitarist has been mentioned in Elsewhere dispatches recently, but only as the wife of slide guitarist Derek Trucks. Very much her own person however, she opens this album with a full throated attack of the kind that has rarely been in rock music since the late Janis Joplin. In an age of coy and infantile women singers who come on like coquettish... > Read more

Susan Tedeschi: Back to the River

Eric Bibb: Get On Board (Telarc/Elite)

20 Feb 2009  |  1 min read

From the haunting opener Spirit I Am though to the country-blues reworking of the old Civil Rights song Stayed On Freedom which closes this exceptional collection, this 57-year old, Helsinki-based folk-blues singer from New York confirms that he is one of the great writers/interpreters of this tradition-to-the-future idiom which touches soul, gosppel, folk, blues and pop with equal lightness.... > Read more

Eric Bibb: Spirit I Am

Billy TK Jnr: Presenting Billy TK Jnr (Ode)

5 Jun 2008  |  1 min read  |  1

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 "a real job" (banking once if I recall,... > Read more

Billy TK Jnr: Nothing But the Blues

Bo Diddley (Dec 30, 1928 - June 2, 2008)

3 Jun 2008  |  <1 min read

Tributes will come fast for this legend of rock'n'roll and all will -- or at least they should -- note that for the past four decades the man barely sold an album despite his position as a figurehead. Over a decade ago he released the terrific A Man Amongst Men which featured guests Keith and Ronnie from the Stones, Richie Sambora, the Shirelles, Chuck Berry pianist Johnnie Johnson, Jimmie... > Read more

Bo Diddley: Bo Diddley is Crazy

Pinetop Perkins: Pinetop Perkins and Friends (Elite)

12 Apr 2008  |  <1 min read

On paper this may look like just another celebrity collision around an old bluesman -- and singer/pianist Pinetop is a very old bluesman. He's 95. And yes, of course Eric Clapton and BB King are here, but outside of those two (both on excellent form) the blues players who line up for this thoroughly enjoyable outing aren't really big name players. Of the others guitarist Jimmie Vaughan... > Read more

Pinetop Perkins: Down in Mississippi (with BB King)

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

12 Nov 2007  |  1 min read

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 repressed passion, disappointment and rage. And... > Read more

Eric Andersen: The Other Side of This Life

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

11 May 2007  |  1 min read

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 "got" immediately -- comes with guest Magic Slim and... > Read more

Watermelon Slim and the Workers: Drinking and Driving

Son of Dave: '02' (Kartel/Rhythmethod)

14 Apr 2007  |  <1 min read

In the last couple of years this UK-based Canadian-born singer-songwriter (aka Ben Darvill, formerly of Crash Test Dummies) has conjured up the spirit and sound of old bluesmen punctuated with raw harmonica and to his beatbox vocalising or the thump of his shoes on the floor. He's played a couple of hundred live gigs ("on four continents" according to the liner notes), appeared... > Read more

Son of Dave: I Got What You Need