(Pictured above – Southern Avenue)
I don’t do nearly enough blues on this blog. Well, maybe I do and I never noticed. Anyway, a couple of bluesy things to listen to because you A) woke up this morning; B) lost your job and 3) your baby left you. (Not necessarily in that order.)
First up, a guy I’ve been meaning to get around to writing about, guitarist Coco Montoya. Coco is not a newcomer. He played drums for a while in Albert Collins’ band, later switching to guitar. In fact, he learned Collin’s ice-pickin’ style directly from the master.
Coco joined John Mayall in the Eighties and stayed with him for about ten years. He’s been out on his own over since. I took a friend of mine to see Coco at a small club about four or five months ago. He went nuts for the guy and bought every CD in sight.
As jumpin’ as this song “Gotta Mind To Travel,” is, that’s what it was like that night. For those of you who might think that blues is entirely mopey dull shit, check this one out:
Next, the one and only Albert King. I am embarrassed to admit that I have been doing this blog for about a year and a half and never really written about the man. One of the three great Kings of guitar – B.B. and Freddie being the other two – Albert was a giant of a man. He played left-handed, but took right-handed guitars and flipped them over. Jimi Hendrix did the same thing.
Albert bent the shit out of his strings. If you listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan, he plays every single fucking Albert lick in existence. In fact, they played together on at least one jam.
Here’s Albert doing his classic, “Crosscut Saw.”
I’m a cross cut saw
Just drag me ‘cross your log
You know, I’m a cross cut saw
Just drag me across your log
I cut your wood so easy for you
You can’t help but say ‘Hot dog!’
Don’t recall how or where I first heard Southern Avenue. But I instantly connected with their sound. Their website says this: “Southern Avenue is a Memphis street that runs from the easternmost part of the city limits all the way to Soulsville, the original home of Stax Records.
Southern Avenue is also the name of a fiery young Memphis quintet that embodies its home city’s soul, blues, and gospel tradition while adding a youthful spirit and dynamic energy all their own.
Their self-titled debut album is a breath of fresh air with its own unique blend of gospel- tinged R&B vocals, roots/blues-based guitar work, and soul-inspired songwriting.”
This tasty little number is called “Don’t Give Up.” Indeed:
You know Gov’t Mule, yes? Allmans’ offshoot, been around for almost 25 years. Features the ubiquitous Warren Haynes, keyboardist Danny Louis, bassist Jorgen Carlsson and drummer Matt Abts. Original bassist Allen Woody died in 2000.
They have a new album called Revolution Come, Revolution Go. Strictly speaking, bluesy but not a straight-up blues. But the title track is fine and funky. Play it loud. Nope, a little bit louder than that. There you go. Just right.
In 1990, Jeff Healey, a blind Canadian blues guitarist, released his second album, 1990’s Hell to Pay which really put him on the map. (Interestingly, his star was rising the same year fellow bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan died. Fortunately, they got to play together at least once.)
“I Think I Love You Too Much,” is absolutely, hands-down one of my favorite blues songs ever, Top Ten for sure. The song was written by Mark Knopfler and debuted live (by Dire Straits) at the 1990 Knebworth Festival. Knopfler offered it as a gift to Healey whose playing he admired.
Healey takes lead vocal on this and you will pretty clearly recognize Knopfler accompanying him. That organ swell in the beginning, is trademark Bobby Whitlock from Derek and the Dominos. Healey’s solo here is nothing less than astonishing. And that outro is just a nice, sweet mesh of both guitars. Death of the guitar? Fuck, no:
Sadly, Jeff Healey, who had been born with retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer, died of lung cancer in March 2008 at the age of 41. If you love the blues, you owe it to yourself to check him out.