(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:
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.”
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:
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.”
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’.
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’?”