Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pick On It

I took my son John out looking at electric guitars for his birthday. He's been holding up his part of the bargain by practicing on his Washburn classical acoustic steadily and is progressing quite well. His mom wanted him to take lessons before we sprang for a guitar, but he hasn't had the time, yet, and he has balked at the idea. He'd rather just pull up one of the vast quantities of youtube vid lessons and pick away. Amazingly useful technology happening today. He's picked out Tears in Heaven within a few days by doing that.

So, we headed to the two shops that stock guitars in any kind of numbers withing a 50mile radius from us. I grabbed a CD on the way out the door that I knew had plenty of guitar licks for him to listen to during the drive. He's slowly beginning to listen a bit more carefully to the old man's music than before. He quickly gained a appreciation for Peter Green's guitar skills from disc one of a 3 CD compilation called Fleetwood Mac Men Of The World/The Early Years released in 2005 from the Sanctuary Record Group.

I explained how much of a stone cold blues band these English cats were back in the day. That was sort of lost on him because he's never really listened to post-Peter Green Fleetwood Mac with diva Stevie Nicks. Now, my daughter and son-in-law (who are in their 20's) were floored when I played the same on the way to take them out to lunch during our trip.

I went ahead and explained to him just how close Peter Green was nicking at BB King's guitar style and that he needed to pull out my BB collection. I also pointed out Jeremy Spencer's love for Elmore James' slide skills informed what he was all about.

All this got me to digging through some of my stuff when we got back home to set out for him to get into. Of course, he's been listening to and ignoring my blues most of his life, but I don't think he realizes that not all of my stuff is harpcentric.

Since I greased the wheels with that set from the Englishmen, I pulled out John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton to continue his lesson abroad. To counter with an American counterpart, Mike Bloomfield's slinging on the first Paul Butterfield LP had to be thrown down (yeah, I know--it has blues harp). The BB King Flair compilation Do The Boogie/Early 50s Classic should provide ample proof of his estimable influence on those guys.

Since he had heard the Allman Brothers' licks on the Guitar Hero game (remarkable how many youngsters have gained an appreciation for classic rock through that series), I pulled my old record of the Brothers' first album off the shelf. I'd forgotten just how quickly I had to turn the album over to continue listening to Duane Allman's superior skills on slide. That prompted me to search for my cassette copy of Rhino Records The Sky Is Crying: The History Of Elmore James--wonderful, wonderful. I've got tons of blues cassettes from the period of time when the LP faded from planet Earth and my refusal to buy a CD player.

I had already sat him down and force fed him 17 Original Greatest Hits from a Freddy King tape once he indicated that he wanted to go electric. Since he's familiar with Stevie Ray Vaughan, since I have most of what the man recorded, then I might as well tie him down and get him into Albert King by playing the recording of the two in the studio. Then I'll slip the Stax stuff his way. And maybe also towards the other brother Vaughan and Jimmy's tasteful T-Birds picking and his unique style on his solo albums.

I can point him to my stack of Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, and Magic Sam before getting into some of the more modern guys. I'd forgotten just how good Bobby Radcliff's playing is on Blacktop Records Dresses Too Short until I dusted it off. Of course John's got to have a dose of fellow Texan Anson Funderburgh, even if his partner is a blues harp man and then I can bounce back to Albert Collins to show him what a Telecaster master can do with the blues. Then, I can turn him loose to dig deeper into my vault.

Of course, I'm doing all this so that when he plugs in around here that maybe he'll give me something that we can jam together upon and not something that'll drive me out of my ever loving mind. We'll see.

Back to the trip to the guitar shop. We ran across a relatively new addition to the Strat clone zone by the name of Cruzer by Crafter, which is priced along the lines of the Fender Squier. John like the touch and feel of the Cruzer over the Fender budgeteer, so we'll probably go with it and pick it up next week before his 16th. I think it'll suffice as a starter model. I think he'll go for lessons from the shop owner also. Of course, I'd get him into a standard Fender Strat if my money didn't argue otherwise and besides, if he gets into playing heavy metal, I won't feel any pain by chunking the cheap one in the dumpster. Anyway--p.s. That's John artwork from quite awhile back at the top of the post.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Collard Greens & Lone Wolf

Just had to post this up. Collard Greens and Gravy working their thing at the Broadbeach Festival playing the Wolf's Moanin at Midnight and Sammy Lewis' So Long Baby GoodBye. I've got a couple of reasons to post this--first is, of course, it's Ian Collard singing and blowing and the second reason is that he's been supplied with a Fender Twin Reissue amplifier which is less than an optimal harp amp---but, Ian has his Lone Wolf Delay, Lone Wolf Tone+, and his Lone Wolf Harp Attack pedals helping to boost the amp's harp quotient. Good stuff here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ramble On

I didn't mention in the post below that I had plans to turn my pickup truck over to my son John, who gets his license on July 2, so I bought a new Ford F-150 crew cab for the trip to the canyons. Shame on me for buying a gas guzzler. Actually, I thought the 21 mpg that I got on the trip was darned good and the back seat area is way spacious for a road trip. Plus, the iPod connection allowed me to plug in as much Little Walter as my wife and son could possibly stand. I do have need for a truck bed for hauling something fairly often around my 5 acres. Enough excuses. I've driven pickups since college and I like 'em and this 'un is a good 'un if the 3,000 mile journey to the canyons indicates anything.

Oh and why is Rod Piazza pictured above? Well, since I need to count up just what this vacation trip might have tallied, I should hold off adding to my substantial stash of blues music. Shouldn't I? So, I thought that I would mention a few new releases that I ain't buying (yet), that may hold some promise for blues harp fans; and the new Piazza Soul Monster from Delta Groove Productions tops the list. He's one of the main men out there doing it today, so we've got to get his stuff. Right? Right.

Bobby Jones impressed me with his vocals on the last Mannish Boys CD (also on Delta Groove). Apparently, he happened by the studio, by invitation, and they talked him into singing a few and then a few more and a couple after that and before long he had his own release--backed by those Mannish Boys, who play the blues righteously. The man can sing. He goes from sounding like BB, to Muddy, to the Wolf, to himself, depending on the song selection.

I ran across a CD entitled Day To Day by Alabama Mike and featuring Steve Freund and RJ Mischo. Never heard of Alabama Mike, but those other two guys convince me to get this one. Can't go wrong when Mischo's on board.

Speaking of those unknowns to me. I purchased Severn Records Diamonds In The Rough a few years back featuring some Chi-Town harp players still doing the do around town. I knew not of anyone blowing the blues on that disc and some, like Russ Green, proved to be hugely talented. Others proved why they'll remain second or third tier level players. Enjoyable release, though. Severn repeats the process with a new release called Chicago Blues Harmonica Project--More Rare Gems. Russ Green is back and I know of Little Arthur Duncan (who sadly has passed away), but the rest of the blowers are new to me. Might be a good one.

Along the same lines comes Juicy Harmonica featuring blasts from the past by some folks I've certainly never heard blowing the blues. Ever hear of Leslie Lewis? How about Model T Slim? Or Little Daddy Walton? No? Okay, what about Tim Whisett or Harmonica Slim? No? Me neither. Never heard of the Sundown label, neither. Which makes it all the more intriguing.

How about Big Walter Horton? Okay, now we're talking. JSP plans to release a retrospective of sorts that might be of value to any of us that would like to have his scattered discography in one place. Just might turn out to be a MUST HAVE on the wish list. Anyway--'nuff for now.

Back In Fat Air

Just got back from traveling to the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon and points in between with the wife, Virginia and son, John. Great trip! Along the way, we spied the Petrified Forest and the Painted Deserts of Arizona and they proved to be wonderful landscapes, but just warmed us up for the main events. We rode the Grand Canyon Train from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon, more for the historical aspect of the trip than anything else. Our tour conductor warned of the higher altitude's skinny air and the resulting breathing difficulties as a result. He certainly was correct and our lungs complained more than once during our canyon hikes. We really enjoyed the mild temperatures that rarely exceeded a high of 75 degrees.

So, here I sit back in the Fat Air of Texas with a current temperature of 100 degrees. Now that will oppress any kind of attempt to draw a breath. I have to say that Bryce Canyon turned out to be our favorite landscape. The Hoodoos and Grottos won us over.

Blues content---We spent two nights of our trip in Santa Fe and we ventured into the La Fonda hotel bar that promised a blues band featured. Once I saw that a double decker keyboard dominated center stage and that the guitarist planned to sling his notes through a small solid state amp, I had my doubts. Since we were within five minutes of show time, we hung around until the first song proved that they wouldn't be my cup of tea. Mellow R&B, which my son aptly nailed as elevator music. Anyway--here's a few flicks of the 310 photos we shot.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rick Estrin and the Nightcats

Rick Estrin
& The Nightcats
Alligator Records

He's baaack! Seems just yesterday that I plugged Rick Estrin's On The Harp Side and his DVD just before that and now he's back with a new Alligator release with his version of the Nightcats. Twisted. Now that title perfectly fits Estrin's personality.This new Nightcats' recording adheres more or less to the old Nightcats' formula--instead of Charlie Baty leading the guitar charge and shining on jazzy or swinging instrumentals, Kid Andersen turns loose his different flavored chops. Where On The Harp Side was an Estrin vehicle, Twisted does the ensemble band thang that we've grown to love about a Nightcats' release. Estrin's still front and center as always, but he certainly allows Andersen to stretch out and put the pedal to the metal on occasion--such as on his instrumental, Earthquake where Kid approximates what Freddy King might have sounded like on meth. Rockabumping stuff, indeed. Oh, and Estrin gets the shaking going right along with him.

Estrin's witty lyrical behavior lives up to his reputation as an astute observer of real life stories, siphoned through his wise ass demeanor. The opener Big Time takes off where his last CD left off--with some nasty, honking Estrin licks. The amped up tone sounds very similar to what he squeezed out on the solo release. He aims his message at those folks who think that they are 'big time' and basically tells 'em to get out of his face with the attitude. The tune rocks. No, really. Kind of an old time rock and roll vibe kicks things off right.

Back From The Dead answers the song he wrote called Circling The Drain from that great, last Nightcats' CD, Nine Lives. That tune had Estrin ready to throw in the towel, this one has him saying that even though some may have thought that he did---well, he's got news for them because he's back from the dead despite the laundry list of reasons he offers why he should have croaked by now. Hilarious stuff and with the Kid slinging hash with his guitar, I think it should be on every Top 40 play list. Riiight.

UBU is another about minding your own damn business as he says "Let me be me and you be you" on this driving shuffle and Catching Hell is about, well, catching hell and slows the pace down with Kid showing off what he can really do with blues licks. P.A. Slim Is Back jumps the boogie with Estrin's harp leading into a tale about a cool daddy hitting town again after fleeing cold Chicago winters.

And so it goes and if you know Estrin like I know Estrin and his work with the Nightcats, then you know what the rest of the program is all about. He does keep his harp stuck to his mouth throughout the proceedings a little more so than on a typical Little Charlie and the Nightcaps release and he sucks the tonal variety out of the instrument, as usual, to keep things sounding fresh. He does the sweet and low chromatic thing on the Cool Breeze instrumental, gets his exquisite Sonny Boy II style going on You Can't Come Back, and displays some original acoustic licks during the brooding, Someone, Somewhere (which also showcases the Kid's acoustic flair).

The rhythm section of J Hansen (drums) and Lorenzo Farrell (bass) rode along on Estrin's solo release and they prove adept at swinging the variety of rhythmic changes thrown at them--or hell, maybe it is they who set the vibes. Regardless, they prove to be quite the groove monkeys. Hansen is turned loose on rough-hewn vocals on his own, I'm Taking Out My In-Laws, which is right up the Nightcats' alley.

Can't say enough about Kid Andersen, though. This ex-Norwegian seems to pretty much play "in-the-moment", sort of like a twisted Hubert Sumlin might or Junior Watson and it ain't no telling where he's coming from, going, or ending up. Darned unpredictable. Then, again, so is Estrin--even when you think you know what he's all about, he'll pull his own stunts with a harp in his mouth. He plays outside of himself everytime he takes a solo and way outside of what a wealth of other harp can achieve. Hurray for this one!

Anyway---This may be my last post for awhile. I'm going to try like the dickens to finish typing my novel before leaving for a Grand Canyon/Bryce Canyon trip June 14-23, which should be a great ride. I'll see if I can stick something up here before pulling up stakes and heading that direction.