Time for a Shot of Blues

(Pictured above, Albert Collins)

The late Son Seals started out as a drummer for Robert Nighthawk and later switched to guitar. Arkansas-born, he inevitably gravitated to Chicago and started to jam with people like Albert King and Bobby “Blue” Bland.

Seals was discovered in a Chicago bar and wound up on the great Alligator records label. I used to devour his album Live and Burning with its rough, raw sound. Even though he didn’t tour much, staying close to Chicago, I have a memory of seeing him in a Cambridge club some years back.

Son’s life got rough in the end  – shot by his wife, leg later amputated. Rough. The blues. He played on, died in 2004.

This song is called “I Can’t Hold Out.” Recorded at a Chicago club and well, you’ll feel like you’re right there with the blood, the mud, and the beer. This shit will scorch the paint off your Chevy:

Spotify link

One of the greatest bands in the history of the earth, Cream, broke up in 1968. Almost forty years later, 2005, they reunited to play the Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden. Tickets, per Wikipedia, sold out in under an hour.

Among those in attendance were Bill Wyman, Steve Winwood, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Roger Waters, Brian May, Jimmy Page, Mick Taylor and, of course, the Music Enthusiast, if only in spirit.

There aren’t too many blues songs I love better than “Born Under a Bad Sign.” (Albert King again.) Boy, I love Jack Bruce’s voice.

“Born under a bad sign
I been down since I begin to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck
I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”

Spotify link

Marcia Ball has been a force in the blues for as long as I can remember. She’s a piano player and blues belter specializing in – here it comes – New Orleans blues, New Orleans R&B, swamp blues, Louisiana blues, Texas blues, boogie-woogie, swamp rock. Yes – that!

She has been turning up a lot on the blues station on satellite which, thank heavens for. I think she did a live show for them or something. She does it all, pounding out the piano on stomping blues when need be and then bringing it way down low.

Try “I’m Coming Down With The Blues.”  This is from Marcia’s 2001 album Presumed Innocent for which she won the 2002 W.C. Handy award for Blues Album of the Year:

Spotify link

You know the name, Walter Trout? No? Maybe? Trout is a 66-year-old blues guitarist/singer from Ocean City, NJ. (Where I have spent a fair amount of time.)  He grew out of that late ’60’s scene that so many blues people came from. A short list of people he has played with would include John Lee Hooker, Canned Heat and Joe Tex.

Most significantly, he played with a revamped version of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers which for blues guys is like jazz guys playing with Miles Davis. Trout played with Mayall from 1984 – 1989, sharing the stage with fellow blues god Coco Montoya.

“Gonna Hurt Like Hell” is from his smokin’ new album of duets called We’re All In This Together. This one’s with Kenny Wayne Shepard. Love that shuffle.

“It may feel good for just a minute, then it’s gonna hurt like hell.”

Spotify link

Last but far from least is the mighty, mighty Albert Collins. There used to be a club in Boston back in the day called The Channel. Saw Albert on a bill with The Persuasions that night. Albert killed and was simply one of the best blues shows I’ve ever seen.

Collins’ guitar sound is impossible to mistake for anybody else’s. It stings and that sound he gets makes it sound like he’s hittin’ it with an ice pick. That’s not just some bullshit I made up. That’s what he called his style and this song, “Honey Hush,” kicks off the 1978 album Ice Pickin’.

Spotify link

Encore, you say? Let’s slow it way down with another one from Son Seals with tenor saxman A.C. Reed who also played on Collins’ record.

“Blue Shadows Falling.” Mercy! This one goes – as B.B. King says – way back down in the alley. Whenever I have the opportunity to go to Chicago, I hit a blues club. This is what it sounds like pure and simple, down and dirty.

“Don’t bother me, boy, you see me workin’?”

Spotify link

16 thoughts on “Time for a Shot of Blues

  1. Really like all of these tunes – I suppose there’s almost no way you can go wrong with the blues!

    It goes without saying that the Cream and Albert Collins are first rate. Frankly, I hadn’t heard of Son Seals, Walter Trout and Marcia Ball.

    That lady – damn! I know this may sound a bit silly, but from looking at her you’d never guess she’s such a firecracker blues singer!

    The Walter trout duet with Kenny Wayne Shepherd sounds awesome, as does the entire album from what I’ve heard thus far.

    I’ll also be sure to further check out Son Seals!

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    1. Yeah, these songs all just sounded mighty fine together. Seals came and went some time ago. He wasn’t all over the radio and I don’t even remember where I first heard him. Ball and Trout have been around forever. But that’s the lot of blues artists, you know? You have to seek them out and they spend their lives toiling in obscurity to a small core of hardcore fans..

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  2. That’s a real good shot Doc. Were Cream made to play with each other? I’ve heard that song a million times and it still sounds great! CB was brought up on that stuff. Watched an Austin city show last night from 2014. A bit of a tribute to SRV. Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne laid down some good chops. Liked all the cuts you posted. The last one by Seals sounds good today. Love Reeds sax. Reminds of the old Fleetwood Mac in Chicago album.

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  3. Great picks, Doc (is that a PhD in the Blues?). Saw Albert Collins in Denver, and probably the best club show I’ve ever attended. The highlight was when he, during a solo, strutted through the audience, then out the door, then down the sidewalk with a crowd behind him. Saw Son Seals twice (Denver and Chicago) and got to talk to him in Chicago. And though I’m not much for reunions, the Cream reunion blew me away. It’s like they’d never left.

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    1. Well, I like to think of myself as the Doctor of Love, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing. 😀 Wasn’t Albert great? His whole band was tight. This was when Debbie Davies had joined him, a pioneer in women playing blues guitar as far as I know. That’s cool about talking to Son. You can’t beat blues in Chicago. There’s a club called B.L.U.E.S that I hit every time and it’s right out of central casting. (One day I’ll hit Buddy Guy’s club, hopefully when he’s in residence.) Yeah, Cream was astonishing. According to Wikipedia, the MSG concerts were less successful as the Baker-Bruce hostility reared its ugly head again. Famously, Baker once drew a knife on Bruce back in the day.

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      1. Like someone said “There’s drunk and then there’s George Jones drunk”. There’s nasty and then there’s Ginger Baker nasty. Did you catch Bruce smiling a couple times in that clip? You can throw me into the Cream love group. Doc of love? I can’t even respond to that one.

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      2. I briefly lived in Chicago and frequented all the major clubs on Halsted, Lincoln, plus Buddy Guy and Junior Wells’ respective clubs in the South Side. I had a black friend from work who knew nothing of blues music, but he and I and another guy visited Wells’ club one night (1983). We spent about 15 minutes in Wells’ Cadillac while he rambled on about music, traveling the world, etc. I think he was trying to impress my black friends, that they too could get out of the ghetto if they had a mind to. I was just a fly on the wall! Very memorable.

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