I get the blues sometimes … and then I think I shouldn’t be having all the fun. So for everybody who is not already fortunate enough to have the blues, a random blues list for a warm Sunday afternoon….
To start off, think the deep Texas soul of Janis Joplin wrapped around the blues classic Trouble in Mind backed by the guitar of the Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen – with a typewriter thrown in.
Then let’s rag it up On Some Cold Rainy Day with some East Coast roots music from Atlanta, 1930. The Georgia Cotton Pickers were an all-star group, Curley Weaver, Barbecue Bob and Buddy Moss, all of whom also made recordings under their own names.
Then there’s the rawest voice to ever come north from Memphis, the primal Howlin’ Wolf, one of the undoubted kings of the Chicago Blues, here with a live version, from 1964, of his masterpiece Smokestack Lightnin’. Observe Willie Dixon, a Chicago blues giant in his own right, behind Wolf’s shoulder playing stand-up bass.
Then of course you can’t talk Chicago blues without bringing up the band that practically invented it, the Muddy Waters band. In this clip from a 1966 CBC program, James Cotton has replaced Little Walter from the original line-up and Otis Spann has been added in. Muddy Waters Can’t Lose What You Never Had featured as high-octane a blues crew as has ever been assembled.
But that doesn’t mean that Texas doesn’t have a thing or two to say. Albert Collins insists I Ain’t Drunk. You can watch the vid to see whether you believe him.
I always like a balance between old and new, city and down home. Bukka White was as down-home Mississippi as they come. Here he is singing (careful now) Aberdeen Mississippi Blues. (Even though he’s playing by himself, I find the gain on this recording a little high – just to warn you.)
And then the preacher, bluesman from Texas, Blind Willie Johnson, singing Motherless Children Have a Hard Time, accompanying himself on slide guitar.
Louis Jordan stood on the line between blues and jazz, and unfortunately is sometimes ignored by both factions because of it. Is You Is or Is You Ain’t (My Baby) stands on the jazzier side of his repertoire, but some of his other work arguably represents the birth of rock and roll.
BB King is a Memphis bluesman. But Caldonia is taken right out of Louis Jordan’s repertoire.
Zydeco is a musical style from Louisiana (and Texas) rocking out with Cajun and R&B influences. The King of Zydeco was (and probably always will be) Clifton Chenier, here performing his version of Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, another Louis Jordan standard.
And since we’re hanging out in Louisiana anyway, some Swamp blues from Slim Harpo, who’s Got Love If You Want It.
And because Sonny Boy Williamson says Help Me, is that any reason to pay attention? Well, yeah, of course it is.