Amazing to see how differently Shakespeare's work has been dealt with in music: there is Jerry Lee Lewis doing a blues on Othello. David Gilmour, former Pink Floyd lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, turned Sonnet 18 into a touchingly beautiful ballad. The Metal Shakespeare Company wrote a heavy metal song about Hamlet (III/1), "To bleed or not to bleed". And yes, there is Shakespeare rap, too: William Shatner (the very same!) raps about Caesar and British rapper Akala thinks he is a reincarnation of the bard. Last but not least, the Beatles tried their luck at Shakespeare, too (no music this time): they did a skit on the famous Pyramus and Thisbe scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream (very rare footage!).
Sugar Pie DeSanto says, "I like to sing blues, R&B, and pop and I think I do them pretty well". [more inside]
John Campbell was a blues guitarist from Shreveport, Louisiana, mostly known for his skill with the slide guitar. His career was cut short in 1993, on the brink of national and international fame, when he died of a heart attack at the age of 41. Over on youtube, user louisianahaywire has uploaded some live footage from a 1986 performance: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9.
Ahmet Ertegun was profiled by George W. S. Trow in The New Yorker in a classic piece back in 1978. Ertegun was the son of the Turkish ambassador to the US and he remained behind in D.C. studying medieval philosophy at Georgetown. Instead of devoting himself to his studies he founded Atlantic Records with his friend Herb Abramson. Trow charted how Ertegun moved from tramping through muddy, Louisiana fields in search of hot new sounds to the whirl of Studio 54. Below the cut are links to the songs mentioned in the article, as best as I could find, in the order in which they appear. [more inside]
...The narrative of the blues got hijacked by rock ’n’ roll, which rode a wave of youth consumers to global domination. Back behind the split, there was something else: a deeper, riper source. Many people who have written about this body of music have noticed it. Robert Palmer called it Deep Blues. We’re talking about strains within strains, sure, but listen to something like Ishman Bracey’s ''Woman Woman Blues,'' his tattered yet somehow impeccable falsetto when he sings, ''She got coal-black curly hair.'' Songs like that were not made for dancing. Not even for singing along. They were made for listening. For grown-ups. They were chamber compositions. Listen to Blind Willie Johnson’s "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.'' It has no words. It’s hummed by a blind preacher incapable of playing an impure note on the guitar. We have to go against our training here and suspend anthropological thinking; it doesn’t serve at these strata. The noble ambition not to be the kind of people who unwittingly fetishize and exoticize black or poor-white folk poverty has allowed us to remain the kind of people who don’t stop to wonder whether the serious treatment of certain folk forms as essentially high- or higher-art forms might have originated with the folk themselves.From Unknown Bards: The blues becomes apparent to itself by one John Jeremiah Sullivan. I came across it while browsing Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers On The Albums That Changed Their Lives. For Sullivan, that album was American Primitive, Vol. II: Pre-War Revenants (1897 - 1939), which is my favorite CD of the year. Which came out in 2005 while I just got around to buying it this year. Foolish me. It is a piece of art in itself in every respect--all CDs should have such production values. [more inside]
"She was a rock star," recalls Ira Tucker Jr., who grew up watching Tharpe with his father's gospel group in the 1940s and '50s. "You know, like Beyonce today and people like that. That's what Rosetta was to us." Sister Rosetta Tharpe wasn't the first one to bring black popular music into the church. (Here's the great Arizona Dranes playing barroom honky-tonk piano on the gospel side I Shall Wear a Crown in 1927.) But her fierce stage presence and her original blend of gospel, boogie-woogie, swing and smoking hot blues guitar was a crucial forgotten influence on what we now recognize as rock and roll. (Many more recordings inside. Enjoy!) [more inside]
Kentucky folksinger Paul K. has released his entire catalog online under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. [more inside]
The Crazy Ken Band! Cool and Hot! Swinging horns! Groovy chicks! Fast cars! Danger! Crazy! CRAZY! [more inside]
Carlos Montoya can play the blues/jazz too. youtube X 2. The second link is a still with great audio. Guitarists and music lovers enjoy!
Sleepy John Estes with Yank Rachel - Mailman Blues
More about Sleepy John Estes
From Stephan Wirz - American Music: Illustrated Sleepy John Estes discography
See also The Tennesseean Encyclopedia - Sleepy John Estes [more inside]
More about Sleepy John Estes
From Stephan Wirz - American Music: Illustrated Sleepy John Estes discography
See also The Tennesseean Encyclopedia - Sleepy John Estes [more inside]
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, formed with some former members of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers played some amazing blues-rock from 1967-1970 (long before Fleetwood Mac's descent into '70s wuss-rock). "Like it this way", "Oh well", "Rattlesnake Shake", "Shake your moneymaker" and the original version of "Black Magic Woman". Peter Green struggled with drugs and mental problems, penning "The Green Manilishi with the two prong crown" shortly before leaving the band. [more inside]
Hey kids, let's go way back, and spend a little quality time with Tampa Red, shall we? Cause, you know, you can't get that stuff no more, and if you missed him, you missed a good man.
"With this blog, I want to use the Folkways Anthology as a roadmap to explore American folk music and maybe other countries traditions along the way. I’ll use texts, images, music and videos gathered from my personal collection and from the net to make this work-in-progress enjoyable and educational the best I can." (via)
As patrons begin to fill a room decorated with toy monkeys, beer posters and a silver disco ball, Mr. Seaberry emerges in a startling suit of red with white pinstripes and a snazzy white hat, and smoking a cheroot. “Po’ Monkey is all anybody ever called me since I was little,” he said. “I don’t know why, except I was poor for sure.” Transformed in the 1950s from a sharecropper shack that was built probably in the 1920s, Poor Monkey's Lounge is one of the last rural juke joints along The Trail of the Hellhound on the Mississippi Delta. [more inside]
"He was one bad dude, strutting across the stage like a harp-toting gangster, mesmerizing the crowd with his tough-guy antics and rib-sticking Chicago blues attack." - All Music Guide. He was also a sharp-dressing mofo who, at the end of his storied life, was buried in "his creaseless sky-blue silk suit and matching homburg, a shiny trove of harmonicas laid out beside him, a pint of gin nestled nearby to ease his journey home". In the opinion of many, he was the greatest blues harmonica player of all time. [more inside]
Snooks Eaglin has died. One of New Orleans' most authentic and underrated guitar players won't be making his jazz fest gig this year. Next time you have some red beans & rice, take a moment to remember the guy who some called the human jukebox.
Desperate Man Blues Edward Gillen's documentary about Joe Bussard, renowned collector of 25,000+ blues, folk and gospel 78rpm records from the 20s and 30s. It's about the hunt and the hunter, as much as what he found. One week only on Pitchfork TV [more inside]
The occasionally updated The Celestial Monochord claims to be the "Journal of the Institute for Astrophysics and the Hillbilly Blues" [more inside]
I might be doing some more-serious-than-snapshot photography soon, so I figured I'd better read up on how to balance my whites. [more inside]
Pinetop Perkins survived being hit by a train. Bukka White was a professional boxer, a Negro League pitcher, and hobo. Sunnyland Slim was a hustler. Johnny Shines toured with Robert Johnson, and Honeyboy Edwards saw Johnson poison himself. Skip James was a laborer and bootlegger. Son House started out as a preacher but went to prison for killing a man. R.L. Burnside also killed someone, but said "I didn't mean to kill nobody, I just meant to shoot the sonofabitch in the head." Big Boy Crudup's songs were stolen by Elvis Presley. Mississippi Fred McDowell did not play no rock 'n roll. To get more recording contracts, John Lee Hooker also called himself John Lee Cooker, John Lee Booker, Texas Slim, Birmingham Sam & His Magic Guitar, Delta John and Sir John Lee Hooker. Big Joe Williams was King of the 9 String Guitar. Snooky Pryor began his musical career as an Army bugler. Mississippi John Hurt learned to play guitar in secret. Paul Pena wrote Jet Airliner, knew Tuvan, and could throat sing. After a severe case of polio, Cedell Davis learned to play guitar left-handed using a kitchen knife. Earl Hooker was so good he never had a day job. Hound Dog Taylor, who was born with six fingers on each hand but cut off one of the extras with a razor blade, said his epitath should be "He couldn't play shit, but he sure made it sound good!" [more inside]
Mercurial Skip James was a Delta bluesman from Bentonia, Mississippi. His best known song is probably I'm So Glad, covered by Cream but my favorite is the haunting Hard Times Killin' Floor Blues.
How to best show your love if you're a rockabilly singer in the 50's? First, claim you might cry. Or die. Or commit suicide. If that doesn't work, you can threaten her vaguely, threaten her with a baseball bat, or even threaten her with death. Oh, you're female? Try the gun/sex metaphor (NSFW images) or just go hog wild and claim you'll blow his head off with nitro. Touched on previously. [more inside]
Ramblin' Thomas: No Job Blues (1928), J.D. Short: Lonesome Swamp Rattlesnake (1930), Bo Carter: My Baby (1940). [more inside]
You know, I want you to pick up on this. You know, these lyrics are something else. Just dig this. [more inside]
Lady Dottie's a "sixty-something blues queen with body pillows for boobs and more swagger than Space Ghost." Her band, The Diamonds, is a bunch of young hard-rockers. (Think Kings of Leon or the MC5 backing up Etta James.) Their new record kicks all kinds of ass - as do their live shows.
On June 25, 1964, Janis Joplin visited Jorma Kaukonen at his home in San Francisco. Accompanied by Jorma's wife on typewriter, they recorded six songs. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Though Bessie Smith is regarded as the queen of the early blues singers, Martha Copeland was singing the blues and its variants (and doing a fine job of it) back in the 20s as well. Head over to Internet Archive to hear Martha sing her versions of two of the tunes that made Bessie so famous: I Ain't Got Nobody and St. Louis Blues, the latter with backing vocal chorus from the Hall Johnson Choir. Check out her Dying Crap Shooter's Blues and Sorrow Valley Blues. And there's plenty of Martha Copeland goodness for your ears (RealPlayer) here and here. [more inside]
...As he pored over the mass of texts and thumbnail photos that the eBay search engine had pulled up on that day in 2005, one strangely worded listing caught Schein’s eye. It read, “Old Snapshot Blues Guitar B.B. King???” He clicked on the link, then took in the sepia-toned image that opened on his monitor. Two young black men stared back at Schein from what seemed to be another time. They stood against a plain backdrop wearing snazzy suits, hats, and self-conscious smiles. The man on the left held a guitar stiffly against his lean frame. Neither man looked like B. B. King, but as Schein studied the figure with the guitar, noticing in particular the extraordinary length of his fingers and the way his left eye seemed narrower and out of sync with his right, it occurred to him that he had stumbled across something significant and rare... the more convinced he became that it depicted one of the most mysterious and mythologized blues artists produced by the Delta: the guitarist, singer, and songwriter whom Eric Clapton once anointed “the most important blues musician who ever lived.” That’s not B. B. King, Schein said to himself. Because it’s Robert Johnson.Searching for Robert Johnson reveals not only what may be the third picture of Robert Johnson but a Byzantine struggle over his legacy as well.
Why is Nina Paley depressed? Her debut feature film, Sita Sings the Blues — which she animated herself in Adobe Flash — screened to general acclaim at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. It won the best feature-film award at this year’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival and best American feature at the Avignon Film Festival. Oh, wait, here’s the problem — she can’t find a distributor willing to take a chance on her unconventional, very personal film. (This is a bad year to be shopping an indie.) Because she doesn’t have “synch rights” to the compositions underlying the Annette Hanshaw songs that inspired the story — and now constitute its backbone — she can’t give the film away. Having invested so much in striking prints of the film for festivals and making screener DVDs for press, she’s too broke to pay the $220,000 it would take to clear the 11 songs for distribution. (Don’t miss the spreadsheet showing exactly how much the various players expect her to pay to clear each 80-year-old song.) And now she notes, with tongue maybe half in cheek, she may be on the hook for felony copyright infringement. Also, she’s newly homeless. What’s an indie animator to do? Previously discussed here and here.
In the French Quarters of New Orleans you are very likely to come across various street entertainers. Grampa Elliott is one such performer.
Elliott Small has had a smattering of recordings over the years like the 1976 Malaco record discussed hereSince that time no record lables have produced any of his work that I can find. He spent his time performing on street corners in the Quarter until Katrina, some people feared the worse, but he turned up on Royal street in 2005 no worse for wear. Here is a story by Rick Bragg of the NYT [more inside]
When the Rolling tones recorded an old blues tune called You Gotta Move on Sticky Fingers back in 1971, it was another instance of a tune by an old black man, known only to blues aficionados, suddenly becoming part of the consciousness of a gazillion people who probably never would've heard it otherwise. But let's pay a little visit to the man who originally wrote and recorded the song, Mississippi Fred McDowell, shall we? Here's a jumping version of Shake 'em On Down, his haunting Going Down to the River, the gospel blues of When I Lay My Burden Down, Highway 61, My Babe (you'll note the similarity to "This Train"), Louise, and his version of the American folk/blues standard John Henry. And don't miss the beautiful 1969 documentary featuring McDowell at Internet Archive, Blues Maker, which features some superlative acoustic performances, and footage of the people and environment of the Mississippi delta country.
Who you are is what you listen to: Prof. Adrian North of Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University recently published results of what the Beeb calls "the largest study of its kind" linking music listening habits to personality characteristics. His breakthrough conclusions? Heavy metal listeners, contrary to public perception, are not a "suicidally depressed" or a "danger to themselves and society in general. But they are quite delicate things." [more inside]
In the little town of Enterprise, Alabama, there stands a bizarre statue that would make any card-carrying surrealist proud: an archetypical Greek goddess raises her arms toward heaven and holds high above her head... an enormous insect. Of course, it's the boll weevil. That cotton-eatin' critter inspired not only the world's only monument to an agricultural pest, but some great tunes as well, from a wide range of artists. [note: see hoverovers for link descriptions] [more inside]
September 14, 1998 "the Tan Canary" passes away. He started out as a gospel singer but went on to perform blues, soul, county, and jazz. In 1968 he covered the country standard "Release Me" and it became a hit. His audience grew, but stardom outside of his home in New Orleans was not to be his. [more inside]
Those familiar with the plaintive falsetto of Delta blues great Skip James will surely hear Skip's influence in the much lesser-known Johnny Temple's Evil Devil Blues, recorded in 1935, which features some delightfully unexpected melodic twists. And though Johnny Temple "never achieved stardom", he does have a Wikipedia page. [more inside]
The brass quintet Canadian Brass is both venerable--it's been around 38 years--and prolific--its discography is as long as your arm. While they often play classical arrangements, they also mix in jazz and blues, along with a complement of showmanship and humor. (Also, they play Flight of the Bumblebee on the tuba.) [Mouseover for titles.]
Elvis rode to fame on one of her covers and Janis got rich on her signature song, but you haven't truly heard Hound Dog or Ball & Chain until you've experienced Big Mama Thornton belting them out. A seminal blues figure who could play the harp with the best of them, she was true original. In her heyday, Willie Mae was a 6-foot tall, 350-pound, gun-toting crossdresser who led a rough and colorful life and took no guff whatsoever. Emaciated but still powerful, she gives a final raw and expressive performance of Ball & Chain and Hound Dog shortly before her death in 1984. [more inside]
Baby please don't go, baby please don't go, baby please don't go down to New Orleans, I love you so, baby please don't go.
It's just gotta make you feel so good to hear (and see) Sonny Boy Williamson sing and blow the harp. Keep in mind, of course, this is Sonny Boy Williamson II we're talking about here. Yes, there were two harp-blowing Sonny Boys, and here's a documentary on the legendary Sonny Boy the first: Part 1 and Part 2. [more inside]
So, about 9 months ago I started working on this compilation... Until yesterday, however, I hadn't seen a tracklist from the mysterious 10-cd set called the VrootzBox, so this is not a derivative work, however similar it may be...I should mention that not all of these songs are songs that he covered or copped licks from. Most of the music he has made mention to, though a few of the songs were recorded after his formative years and one or two he never would have heard. But they are presented to give an illustration of the styles he drew from (such as gamelan, which he grew up playing in his neighbor's back yard).Wrath of the Grapevine: The Roots of John Fahey
One fine old day in old LA, in the year of nineteen and sixty, one Frederick Usher met Eddie "One String" Jones, heard him lay down some deep blues on his diddley bow, and was so taken with Jones' monochord masterpieces that he ran home, grabbed his tape recorder and recorded Jones in the alley. One other recording session ensued soon thereafter, which was released as an LP in 1964. By that time, however, the mysterious Eddie Jones (if that was even his real name) was long gone, and was never heard from again. [NOTE: see hoverovers for link descriptions] [more inside]
The full length of Tom Davenport's "Born for Hard Luck" featuring Peg Leg Sam, the last of the great medicine show singers/dancers/musicians. [more inside]
Whole Lotta Shakin' - a PRI documentary series on the history of rockabilly, hosted by Rosie Flores.
Wayne Miller's compelling B&W photos of Chicago 1946-1948 set to Muddy Water's "I feel like going home." (flash alert; via bifurcated rivets)
Sounds of America is a new monthly streaming audio program, a collaboration between the National Museum of American History and Smithsonian Global Sound. Up now are 3 episodes: African-American music in New Orleans, Women in American Music, and Freedom Songs of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
The youngest of the three kings of blues guitar, Freddie King (The Texas Cannonball) is probably best known for his instrumental Hideaway, but what stands out in retrospect is his amazing intensity. Having grown up in Texas and then Chicago, during the 1970s he found a niche playing to mostly white audiences in supper clubs and at festivals -- what he called the Fillmore Circuit -- although he also played other more challenging venues. His music, always funky and sweaty, just got funkier and sweatier. His death in 1976, at the age of 42, took him at his prime.