Time for a Shot of Blues

(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:

Spotify link

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!’

Spotify link

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:

Spotify link

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.

Spotify link

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:

Spotify link

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.

 

 

 

26 thoughts on “Time for a Shot of Blues

  1. Great stuff, Jim! That Coco Montoya tune you highlighted grabbed me right away after listening to the opening bars. I’m currently checking out Southern Avenue – wow, I had never heard of these guys, pretty powerful!

    Jeff Healy was a hell of a guitarist. I don’t mean to sound stereotypical, but there is just something about blind musicians. Just look at artists like Jose Feliciano and Stevie Wonder.

    When it comes to the blues, I find there are some encouraging recent developments. This Friday, Kenny Wayne Shepherd is coming out with a new studio album, Lay It On Down. The first four tracks are already available in Apple Music and I assume Spotify. If you haven’t done so, check it out. The opener “Baby Got Gone” grabbed me the same way than the Montoya track you highlighted. Apparently, Shepherd was inspired by Stevie Ray Vaughan. It shows…

    Then there is Casey James, a 35-year-old Texas singer-songwriter who last month released a great electric blues album, Strip It Down. I blogged about both his and Shepherd’s record.

    Every time I come across a young guitar dude who plays the blues, I’m like, ‘yes, the electric guitar may have become an endangered species, but it sure ain’t dead!’😜🎸

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    1. I learned the first part of that Montoya intro on guitar by slowing it down on YouTube. I may well try to learn more of his solo. I only steal from the best.

      Southern Avenue’s album is pretty recent. I love their sound. Timeless. As to Healey, love his playing. That song is a minor blues making it all the more bluesy IMHO.

      Kenny Wayne has been around for quite a while. Frankly l, was initially quite irritated with him. He was not only an SRV admirer, he just seemed to be a blatant ripoff. (Hey, I “borrow” from guitarists too but not their whole act.) But he seems to have settled in. I’ll give that a listen.

      I think I may have seen both those guys on your blog. If I don’t comment I confess it’s because I can’t keep up with you. I thought I blogged a lot but you have me beat. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand Kenny Wayne has been criticized by some folks in the past by sounding too commercial. Based on his last album and the upcoming one, I think that’s BS. Plus, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with mixing up the good ole’ blues with some other genres, which he clearly does on the upcoming record. In addition to blues rock, there’s a good dose of soul and country. I think the guy is legit, but that’s just little me! 🙂

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        1. No, not too commercial. At least not for me. Too close to SRV in sound and style. Again, that was a long time ago. I’ll give his newer stuff a spin. Thanks.

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        2. Hey, unfortunately the only tune available on Spotify thus far is the title track. I don’t have Apple Music so I’ll have to wait for the album to drop, I guess, to hear the rest.

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        3. I found YouTube clips for all four tracks. They’re all in my last post!😀 Based on these tracks, I’m very curious to hear the remainder of the album. BTW, I really dig Southern Avenue – has a great Memphis soul touch to it!

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        4. Ah! Ok. I see. I’ll check ’em out next opportunity. Looks like Southern Avenue has some YouTube action as well. Type in their name, get a bunch of stuff.

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        5. I listened to those tunes. I like most of ’em but not so much the title tune. I see what you mean about the commercial aspect. He ties in a bluesy guitar sound with more commercial sounding choruses. I think you kinda have to do that these days if you want to escape just playing the blues circuit. Good stuff overall. Thanks.

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  2. Yup Coco does sound like AC on that cut. I just listened to that King album a little while ago. SA sounds good. Familiar with Mule and yeah i like that cut. Jeff gets a lot of play up here or he use to. Good set Doc. This kind of music is all over my stack. There is so much good stuff that is influenced by the blues. It’s kinda the genesis isn’t it?

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    1. It’s nice to have guys like CB and some others following me these days. Once upon a time I could post blues and get a big yawn. Yeah, I dig all kinds of stuff but the blues is like caffeine. Gotta have it. Was Healey a big deal for you guys? We loved his shit down here. I love that song boy, I’ll tell you that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes he was pretty big up here. The radio stations have to play a certain amount of Canadian content. So they get away with playing a lot of music that I don’t dig, stuff that is commercially popular. It fills their quota. Somehow Jeff snuck in and got lots of play. He had the goods. I’m all over the map with the blues, it’s like Jazz, so many styles.

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        1. Seriously, they have to play a certain amount of Canadian? Huh! No such regulation here for US music. In fact I think if anything the FM stations had to play a certain amount of British music! Or at least it seemed that way. After the Beatles, any band that was British got a certain amount of leeway over all others. We are reverse Euro-snobs!

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        2. I stay away from harsh opinions but you know the bands that they play. There have been so many good bands up here over the years. I think CB is poised to wave the flag on a post. I have a mini one coming up. I had a friend who did a radio show called ‘Next Door to the Blues’ years ago. It was very good and he had great guests and did his homework. He would have had you as a guest for sure.

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  3. Glad you’re digging the mix. Blues is such a fundamental thing. I need a little taste of it, if not every day, then on at least a weekly basis. Otherwise, I get cranky. 😀

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  4. Great post Jim.
    I was fortunate enough to see Jeff Healey way back when he got started doing the a Jimi Hendrix tribute show. Boy he was talented. Really dug the “Southern Avenue” tune after I got Susie Q by CCR off my mind. The first couple notes made me think of it. Never heard of “Coco Montoya” but I’ll be checking out more of his music now.

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    1. Cool to see Healey. Never saw him myself. Another one of those “how did I miss this guy?” questions I ask myself. As to “Suzie Q,” good point. Know that version well, never made the connection. Southern Avenue has the swamp thing goin’ on. Have to listen to more of their stuff. As to Coco, do not miss him if he comes to town. You don’t even have to know his stuff. It’s just a blast.

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  5. There’s always time for some blues over in these parts and this was a mighty good selection. As usual I was mostly unfamiliar with those, so thanks for dropping them in my in-tray.

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  6. Thanks again for calling out Southern Avenue. In the meantime, I’ve listened to their debut album more carefully. In fact, I’ve done so many times, since I got totally hooked!

    In addition to the tune you called out, I really dig “80 Miles From Memphis.” It’s got such a seductive groove! For that reason, I included that tune in my last post about Stax.

    The fact these guys are with the same label that had Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Booker T. & the M.G.’s and so many other top-notch soul and blues artists on its roster is kind of cool – even though Stax today obviously isn’t what it was in its heyday!

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    1. That’s pretty cool. Stax. What a great label. I’ll have to remind myself to check out your post. You beat me to it. I would have gotten to that label eventually. 😀 Although that said, I do have something in mind on one of their artists for not too far down the road.

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