Pictured: Willie Dixon and Koko Taylor
While ME likes a wide variety of music, he always comes back home to the blues and is vaguely suspicions of music lovers who don’t love it and musicians who can’t play it. But, to each his (or her) own. Onward:
I did a song by Janiva Magness a while back. To quote myself: “Magness is from the tough town of Detroit, Michigan. She says that she saw bluesman Otis Rush play and it changed her life. She sings soul and blues and has a good reason to sing the latter. Think you have it rough because your favorite sushi place just closed? Her parents both committed suicide and she kicked around foster homes during her childhood. (She is not shy about this. It says this right on her web page.)
She traveled under the radar for years and I think she still very much does. However, she has by no means gone unrecognized. Wikipedia: The Blues Foundation named Magness the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year in 2009, becoming only the second woman, after Koko Taylor to be so honored. The award was presented by B.B. King himself and Bonnie Raitt. As I said, under the radar.
The song “It’s Your Voodoo Working” was written by an obscure R&B performer from Lousiana named Charles Sheffield. It’s got a nice lazy feel:
Recently, fellow blogger Rich Kamer and I got into a discussion about Eric Clapton’s solo tunes which somewhat inevitably led to the seminal EC 1994 album by EC, From the Cradle. Clapton had always been primarily a bluesman but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to know that some people who only heard his later output thought of him as a pop star of sorts.
Clapton is a weird hybrid whose audience may just as readily come out to hear him do stuff like “Wonderful Tonight” or “Lay Down Sally” as hear him do “Key to the Highway.” Or maybe they know one or the other.
But I saw the Cradle tour and I can tell you that the hardcore blues crowd – those that would never go to a Clapton pop show – turned out in full force. This was in part, I think, not only because it was a “pure” blues album as for the fact that Muddy Waters’ harmonica player Jerry Portnoy was in the band.
Anyway, right after that conversation I heard Clapton’s “It Hurts Me Too” on the radio. I used to listen to Elmore James’ version of this all the time back when I was learning slide guitar. Haven’t touched that in a while. Need to get back to that.
Here’s a live version
James Cotton was one of our premier harmonica-playing bluesmen. We lost him in 2017 at which time I did a post on him. One of the songs I did there and will also post here is “Flip, Flop, and Fly.” I recall that a guy who I was in a band with loaned me this album and I could not stop listening to this fucking song.
For those who say that all blues is boring, slow, and depressing, this song is for you. Also, “live” which is the only way to go with this tune:
Another band I wrote about a while back is the Butterfield Blues Band, one of the seminal blues groups of the Sixties. Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield used to go over to the largely Black South Side of Chicago when they were young and did not give two flying fucks that they were the only white guys there.
This is “Blues With a Feeling.”
Wikipedia: “Hot Tuna is an American blues rock band formed in 1969 by former Jefferson Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen (guitarist/vocals) and Jack Casady (bassist). Although it has always been a fluid aggregation, with musicians coming and going over the years, the band’s center has always been Kaukonen and Casady’s ongoing collaboration.”
I’ll say. These guys and Gracie Slick are pretty much all that’s left of the Airplane. I know that Slick does paintings and such and pretty much keeps to herself these days. I wouldn’t expect her to show up at one of the gigs. As much as I loved her voice, she was decidedly not a blues singer.
Did Hot Tuna ever have a hit? Well, they were about the furthest thing from caring about that as you can imagine. “Keep On Truckin” is arguably their best-known song. That’s Papa John Creach on violin. The Airplane were one of the few bands of the “hippie” generation I saw live (at Fillmore East) with Creach.
You doubtless know Willie Dixon, Chicago bass player and writer of many a classic tune. “A short list of his most famous compositions includes “Wang Dang Doodle,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Little Red Rooster,” “My Babe,” “Spoonful,” and “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover.”
The song “Insane Asylum” reminds me a bit of “St. James Infirmary.” And that woman singing? The timeless Koko Taylor. We saw here way back in the day with J.B. Hutto at a high school auditorium. Hutto is a story for another day.
2 thoughts on “Time for a Shot of Blues”
The Blues is a gift that keeps on giving and that rarely disappoints. These are all great picks! That said, the one I find most intriguing is Clapton’s rendition of “It Hurts Me Too” – I mean, damn, that’s some neat slide guitar playing there! I need to check out Hot Tuna. I only know them by name!
Oh, man. Hot Tuna has been around a long, long time, always swirling around Casady and Kaukonen. Early 70s, maybe? They still tour, and I’ve considered seeing them. Both very fine musicians.
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