Author Archives: pbistyping

The Rumble Strip – Coming September 23!

Preacher Boy – The Rumble Strip

Coming September 23!

Pre-order on Amazon TODAY!

The Rumble Strip - Black Trim

 


The Totally Useless (But 100% Real) History of The Useless Bastards

Bastards-Pinwheel

The truth is, The Useless Bastards began as a joke. But something funny happened along the way. A real band was born. And not just any band. A genuinely great band.

Sure, the live shows were loose, boozy, and raucous, with audiences perpetually in a good-natured battle with the band themselves to see who could heckle the band more. But behind the irreverent exterior was a group of five singer-songwriter-bandleaders who took their fun pretty seriously.

But we’re getting ahead of the story a bit.

The Useless Bastards were the brainchild of Jonathan “Captain Ahab” Dryden. He’d been a successful jazz pianist in New York for years. But in a post-9/11 NYC, gigs were down, stress was up, and Ahab needed an outlet.

The Useless Bastards - Sum of our Parts - Ahab

A lifelong fan of classic American music, and a bit of a Machiavellian trickster, he got an idea—a band in which every member played an acoustic instrument with a bad reputation.

Thus, the now-immortal Bastards slogan: “Songs you love, on instruments you hate.”

He sought out some of his close musical pals whom he knew had a few aural grotesqueries at their disposal, and the line-up began to coalesce around said unloved instrumentation—accordion, banjo, harmonica, ukelele, trombone, etc. It was a junkyard symphony in the making.

Ahab lived in Park Slope, which at the time was still affordable, and a great many musicians lived there as well. He picked a fave haunt down the road from his house as the venue to debut his project—Cafe Steinhof. Did he know they sold Il Bastardo wine by the glass before he made his choice? No, actually, he didn’t. But needless to say, the band members were thrilled with the discovery.

Who were these band members?

This is the part of the story where things shift from a joke to a jam. While Ahab may have picked them for their collection of loathsome instruments, what he got in his ensemble was in fact a group of professional songwriters and performers, each of whom was already a bandleader in their own right. Before he knew it, Ahab had himself a sort of Brooklyn version of The Band on his hands—think The Basement Tapes, but set in The Slope.

The Useless Bastards - Sum of our Parts - Sinnerman

On bass, Jim “Sinnerman” Whitney. Did audiences know that this doghouse bass player who was singing a song to his penis on stage at Steinhof, had studied with Dave Holland at the New England Conservatory? Did they know he’d also played with Bill Frisell, Tony Trischka, Anthony Braxton, David Grisman, Ray Anderson, Jamey Haddad, Richard Greene, John Scofield, Ricky Skaggs, and many more?

The Useless Bastards - Sum of our Parts - Bullpork

Would it have been mind-blowing to the audience to know that in J. Walter “Bullpork” Hawkes—trombonist and ukelelist extraordinaire—they also had a Grammy-winning composer? Or that the profane gent in the front going under the name “Preacher Boy” had a Gold Record on his wall from his work with Eagle-Eye Cherry? When they heard Bryan “Park” Miller singing about “Them Jeans,” did they know they were listening to a two-time Nashville Songwriter’s Award winner?

The Useless Bastards - Sum of our Parts - PreachThe Useless Bastards - Sum of our Parts - Park

And what of Jonathan “Captain Ahab” Dryden himself? As audience members gleefully sang along with the chorus of “Pentecostal Girlfriend,” did they know the song had been written by a graduate of the Berklee College of Music—a musician who’d performed with everyone from Lenny White and Regina Carter, to Norah Jones and Marcy Playground?

Ultimately, it wasn’t the pedigree that mattered. It was that the songs the writers brought to the table were seriously crafted. They were still funny, irreverent, and loaded with multiple entendres, but they were substantively sardonic. Best of all, they were never played quite the same way twice, and it was a virtual requirement that band members brought new songs to each new show. And not every song was played for laughs, mind you:

The number of songs in the Bastards’ repertoire made it a challenge when it came time to actually record. There were so many songs to choose from! But, the band had only booked the studio for a day, so they had to be merciless in their selections.

Ok, actually, the album was recorded in Sinnerman’s living room. But it was still done in a day, and what was recorded that day are the 14 songs that make up the first album.

“Sum of our Parts” is actually only one name of five for the band’s legendary debut. The idea was to have a CD release party, with each band member responsible for providing a chunk of the inventory that would be for sale. The CD itself was the same in all instances, but each member gave the collection a different name, designed a different cover, and brought their own custom-designed inventory to the show. Park’s title was “The Problem with Impotence.” Bullpork’s was “Place Drink Here,” and it featured a coffee stain on the cover. Sinnerman’s was perhaps the best of all: “It’s Hard Suckin’, Not Knowin’.”

It’s largely because of this custom-inventory approach, that the album never saw “proper” release. Being a rather useless bunch —but popular!—the group managed to sell out all their copies, leaving nothing for posterity.

Time would pass, Bastards would move away, and while there were the occasional shows at other venues with other guest musicians, the magical core of The Useless Bastards experience was the original 5 members, doing what they did, in the corner of Cafe Steinhof.

As it would turn out, the recordings weren’t lost after all—they were found!—and now, remastered for the digital age, the full selection of 14 songs is available for listeners the world over, under Preacher Boy’s original title “Sum of our Parts.” Preach’s version had a hand-drawn sketch of Captain Ahab on the cover …

ahab3

… but the remastered version is simply rendered in dignified black, white, and red. Because dignity is what The Useless Bastards were always about.

That’s not true at all, actually. The Useless Bastards were about writing great songs, playing our asses off, and having a really fucking great time.

If you want to understand the whole history of The Useless Bastards in one fell swoop, just dive right in and check out “The Useless Bastards’ 116th Nightmare.” It’s on Spotify if you want a quick stream, and the lyrics are below:

“the useless bastard’s 116th nightmare”

ahab in a bikini, makin’ a martini
accordion around his waist
has a dirty room once again, says he wants a lesbian
to come and clean up around the place
drinkin’ lots of makers, makin’ fun of quakers
tryin’ to make the raider’s bail
not so very PC, liquefied and greasy
tryin’ to catch the great white whale

i had a dream, and it was rather useless, all about the bastards i was in a group with

yes, it’s very well known
j. walter’s got a big bone
and he’s the cause of so much hunger
that we all had to decide 
if he was goin’ outside
he’d have to cover up with a plunger
he told a very gross joke
about a broken egg yolk
i laughed until i almost puked
i felt so sick in my gut 
but he quickly cheered me up
with a song about a tulip on his uke

i had a dream, and it was rather useless, all about the bastards i was in a group with

preach, he is a rare bird
a kind of living swear word
that you can’t say in front of guests
he got a job with good pay
shilling for the AMA
as poster boy for tourette’s
he won the nobel peace prize
sold it for a king-size
bottle of wine and a shuttle-cock
tripped and spilled the wine
when i saw him for the last time
he was lickin’ it off the sidewalk

i had a dream, and it was rather useless, all about the bastards i was in a group with

park is in the park
singin’ songs after dark
and smokin’ a bali-shag rolly
havin’ sweet dreams about them jeans
and singin’ on the grand ole’ opery
had a little lovin’
got a bun in the oven
and now ya know he really does need luck
he’s tryin’ to save his pennies
but he ain’t savin’ any
’cause the pay sucks drivin’ a meat truck

i had a dream, and it was rather useless, all about the bastards i was in a group with

if anyone’s got a problem
sinnerman’s got one
and it’s very hard to diagnose
every doctor that we know
came and had a good go
but they never ever even got close
it seems his penis
a schizophrenic genius
offended him with something it said
now, i don’t mean to be demeaning
but it brings a new meaning
to hearing voices in your head

i had a dream, and it was rather useless, all about the bastards i was in a group with

Have you gotten your copy of “Sum of our Parts” yet? If not, BUY IT today!

Bastards FB Ad source 3


Top 11 musical things I DO & DON’T like discovering via social media

Beefheart Video Social Media

Social media is equal parts fascinating and horrifying. For every one gift of a new bit of Mississippi John Hurt footage that gets uncovered and shared, there is … well … everything else. However, in the interest of trying to present a balanced assessment, I’ve done my level best to list out 11 musical things that I DO and DON’T like discovering via social media.

Today’s Top 11 musical things I DO like discovering via social media:

  1. Vintage Captain Beefheart video footage I haven’t seen before
  2. Unearthed guerrilla footage from inside recording studios when legendary albums were being recorded
  3. Anything about Thelonious Monk
  4. Stories about Kid Andersen saving vintage Hammond organs and putting them to use at his Greaseland studio
  5. Any kind of evidence that there are new and excellent songs being written within a broad definition of the blues idiom
  6. Anything about Mance Lipscomb
  7. News that artists I admire are releasing new music
  8. Examples of well-known and amazing artists sharing the music of lesser-known but equally amazing artists
  9. Videos of that that baritone sax guy with the drummer playin’ house music in the Union Square subway station
  10. Evidence that other people also miss and revere Chris Whitley
  11. Excellent quality upright basses for sale, within 5 miles of my house, for less than $400.*

Today’s Top 11 musical things I DON’T like discovering via social media:

  1. Home videos of people performing Beatles covers
  2. Videos of Beatles covers, of any kind
  3. Beatles songs
  4. Videos about harmonica microphones that last for more than 3 seconds
  5. New examples of Joe Bonamassa’s offensive claims to importance
  6. Snarky posts from people aggressively defending the fact that they’re a cover band/act, especially when they presume that “no one wants to hear original songs” but fail to take into consideration that their own original songs might just suck.
  7. Self-righteous posts from record labels posturing pro-artist stances when we all know behind the scenes that they f*&k over artists constantly
  8. Bad lyrics
  9. News about new Tribute Albums that don’t donate all their profits to organizations that work to ensure that new and talented artists don’t have to choose between starvation and giving up, the way the artists they’re paying tribute to did because no one was there to support them when they needed it most
  10. Anything to do with that TajMo album
  11. News about another good music club closing down

*note: this has never happened

 

 

 


Top 11 Most Influential Singers, Songwriters, & Guitarists

Top 11 most influential singers, songwriters, and guitarists

I was recently asked to prepare answers to the questions below, and be prepared to discuss my responses for a possible radio interview. The interview never happened, but it was instructive thinking through the answers all the same, so I’m posting what I landed on here.

Question:
You’re known primarily as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. For each category, please list the 11 artists who most influenced your style and approach.

Top 11 Vocalists Who Most Influenced My Style

  1. Blind Willie Johnson
  2. Bukka White
  3. Charley Patton
  4. Howlin’ Wolf
  5. Bob Dylan
  6. Dave Van Ronk
  7. Captain Beefheart
  8. Jim Morrison
  9. Townes Van Zandt
  10. Tom Waits
  11. Lemmy Kilmister

Runners Up:
Dr. John
Leon Redbone
Tony Joe White
Joe Cocker

Top 11 Songwriters Who Most Influenced My Style

  1. Bob Dylan
  2. Bruce Springsteen
  3. Neil Young
  4. Tom Waits
  5. Tony Joe White
  6. John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
  7. The Band (Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson)
  8. Nick Cave
  9. Kris Kristofferson
  10. Shane MacGowan (The Pogues)
  11. Phil Ochs

Runners Up:
Billy Bragg
The Clash (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon)
The Doors (Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, John Densmore)
The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards)

Top 11 Guitarists Who Most Influenced My Style 

  1. Mississippi John Hurt
  2. Mance Lipscomb
  3. Fred McDowell
  4. Blind Willie Johnson
  5. Son House
  6. Bukka White
  7. Charley Patton
  8. Johnny Winter
  9. John Fogerty
  10. Willie Nelson
  11. Stevie Ray Vaughan

Runners up:
Mike Campbell
Tony Iommi
Brian Setzer
Marc Ribot

 


Working on a Building: The art and craft of songwriting

Working on a Building

A song is a built thing. As such, its creation is dependent on the efforts of a builder who deploys a combination of intentions, skills, and tools to achieve a finished result.

The Holy Trinity of Songwriting

The final barometer of whether a song can be considered a successful creation depends on whether it meets three related criteria:

  1. Vision: Is there a discernible, experience-able “intention” driving the song? Is there a “point” to it? Is there a worldview at work behind it? Is there a reason for the song to exist, and is that reason woven into the DNA of the song itself?
  2. Craft: Has genuine skill been applied to the creation of the song? Is there “talent” of a kind at work? Has the song truly been “built” through the application of technique?
  3. Aesthetic: Is the song pleasing in some way? Does it move a listener? Is it beautiful? Not pretty, mind you—beautiful.

By these standards, the raw one-chord majesty of Blind Willie Johnson’s “God Moves On The Water” is every bit the equal of Beethoven’s “Eroica,” and that’s as it should be.

The Due Diligence of Songwriting

As a builder of songs, you are remiss in your duty if you fail to evaluate every component of what you’re building, as you work to fruition. Lyric, melody, harmony, rhythm. It is your responsibility to consider these components, and ensure you’ve done your diligence. It is not required of you that you audition your composition in every single available time signature, but it IS required that you have experienced, understand the full import of, and have a reason for, the time signature you choose.

At The Crossroads

All that said, the best songs emerge from the holy crossroads where craft and spontaneity meet. You must practice all your life for those singular moments when you must act as if you know nothing at all. This, among so much else, is what both Bukka White and John Coltrane teach us. The critical moments of inspiration and composition depend for their success on the craft that you bring to bear on those instances. As with any craft, you must practice, and as with any practice, you must understand how to be free.

The Neil Young Use Case

If you want to understand how all the above inter-relate, listen to Neil Young. His transparency, and bizarre willingness to let us hear EVERYTHING from the terrible to the divine, offers a rare opportunity to bear firsthand witness to what a successful song requires in the way of synergy. Musically, he is often a mess. Otherwise potentially wonderful songs are marred by unimaginative melodies, repetitive chord patterns, and hopelessly sloppy execution. Lyrically, he falls into cliche so often it’s a wonder he is not concussed. Great lines are often surrounded by the most appallingly banal lines. Rhythmically, he rarely strays from the “Crazy Horse Beat.” Songs run one into another, hardly discerning themselves. But when it all comes together, he writes songs of otherworldly stature, that few songwriters in history can claim to have matched. We may all have personal preferences when it comes to songs such as the following:

  • Helpless
  • Pocahontas
  • Cinnamon Girl
  • After the Gold Rush
  • Old Man
  • The Needle and the Damage Done
  • Powderfinger
  • Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  • Heart of Gold
  • Cortez the Killer

But it’s hard to refute that they each in their own way represent remarkable convergences of spontaneity and craft, that they each meet the trinity of Vision-Craft-Aesthetic, and that they are each, in their own way, great songs.

The Complexity of Simplicity

Perhaps the most complicated concept, when it comes to the art and craft of songwriting, is the question of simplicity, because, what IS simplicity? Is this haiku by Basho simple?

An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.

If you want to experience songwriting perfection, listen to the opening couplet of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”:

Jolene, I’m begging of you please, don’t take my man
Jolene, please don’t take him just because you can.

The melody is perfection. The instrumentation and arrangement are perfection. The lyrics are perfection. Her vocal is perfection. The great Zen master Dogen once wrote, “The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass.” The whole world and the entire sky are reflected in the first two lines of this perfect song.

That said, don’t be fooled by the seeming simplicity. To understand the complexity of simplicity, listen to Thelonious Monk’s re-harmonizations of Harold Arlen’s “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” on the “Monk Alone” collection. To hear this performance is to experience a completely different enactment of the Vision-Craft-Aesthetic triumvirate.

Working on a Building

The point is, there is no right answer. There is no universal definition of perfection. There is only the work. The work of songwriting is to work your songs. To build.


My Baby Left Me, etc.

My baby left me,and I feel .....

Welcome to Episode 32 of …

Getting to the Art of the Matter:
In which we try to answer the really BIG music questions!

Q: Why are there, like, a million songs about “my baby left me?”

A: There are actually 4 possible answers to this very important question:

  1. It’s a metaphor.
  2. Somebody is lying.
  3. There are a lot of exceptionally promiscuous people out there.
  4. So-called “blues songwriters” are continuing to rely on an exceptionally short list of lame clichés.

Thank you for your question! Stay tuned for Episode 33, in which we address the question: “What happened to the saxophone in the 90s?”


10 Critical Songwriting DON’Ts

Songwriting

I’ll preface this list by saying that I KNOW you’ll look at each one of these, and immediately think of a pre-existing exception. So I’ll clarify my intentions. This is a list highlighting what should not be done EVER AGAIN. Even if it was a good idea once.

10 Critical Songwriting DON’Ts

  1. Unless you’re a woman named Maria, do not put any women in your songs named Maria.
  2. Do not write about, or even mention, walking on water.
  3. Do not write genre songs about a genre (e.g. do not write a blues song ABOUT blues music; do not write a rock n’ roll song ABOUT rock n’ roll music, do not write a jazz song ABOUT jazz music, etc.)
  4. Do not write songs about waitresses or prostitutes with hearts of gold.
  5. Unless you’re younger than 11, do not ever use the word “hater” in a lyric, or mention any social media platforms.
  6. Do not co-write with Diane Warren.
  7. Unless you’re Van Morrison, do not write choruses made up of words that are not words (Sussudio and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, I’m looking at you)
  8. Do not straight up copy someone else’s song and say you wrote it (Led Zeppelin, I’m looking at you)
  9. If you’re a comedian, don’t write songs. (Pay special attention to this order. It’s not necessarily a DON’T if you go the other direction.)
  10. Do not rhyme “love” with “dove.”

Abide by these rules. Thank you.


#365DaysOfAlbumRecommendations – The COMPLETE List

#365DaysOfAlbumRecommendations

It all began on January 1, 2017, with Rare & Unissued, by Muddy Waters. Come December 31, it was all over. 365 albums, 365 days. I’d made a promise to myself, and I’d kept it.

Your comments and shares along the way made it all worthwhile. Together, we know these albums mean something. They freeze us in time, and they free us from time.

Are we a lost generation? Will our children listen to entire albums from start to finish? Will musical artists still sequence their tracks?

I have learned more about the music that moves me from liner notes than from any other source.

If this list moved you to listen to but one new album, I will have done something meaningful for you. Simply making this list meant meaning for me.

Thank you for reading, thank you for listening. Deep bows to the makers who made these albums.

Here, finally, is the complete list.

  1. Muddy Waters  – Rare & Unissued
  2. Skip James – She Lyin’
  3. Albert King – I’ll Play The Blues For You
  4. Dave Van Ronk – Folksinger
  5. Robert Pete Williams – Louisiana Blues
  6. The Best of Nina Simone
  7. Johnny Winter Progressive Blues Experiment
  8. Don’t Mess With Miss Watkins
  9. Lightnin’ Hopkins – Autobiography in Blues
  10. Howlin’ Wolf – His Best – Chess 50th Anniversary Collection
  11. Chris Whitley – Dirt Floor
  12. Bo Diddley
  13. Janis Joplin – I Got Dem Ol Kozmic Blues Again Mama
  14. Stevie Ray Vaughan – Couldn’t Stand The Weather
  15. Kelly Joe Phelps – Shine-Eyed Mister Zen
  16. Gil Scott-Heron – Pieces of a Man
  17. Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth
  18. The Victoria Spivey Collection 1926-1937
  19. Phil Ochs – All The News That’s Fit To Sing
  20. Joseph Spence – Good Morning Mr. Walker
  21. Clara Smith – The Essential Clara Smith1924-1929
  22. Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I Might See
  23. John Mooney – Comin’ your Way
  24. The Pretenders – Learning to Crawl
  25. Manifesto Mix Tape Vol. 1
  26. Robert Johnson – King of the Delta Blues Singers, Vol I & II
  27. Jimmy Smith – Back at the Chicken Shack
  28. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
  29. Greg Brown – Slant 6 Mind
  30. Tim Buckley  – Dream Letter, Live in London, 1968
  31. Muddy Waters – Folk Singer
  32. Bukka White  – Sky Songs
  33. The Brothers Johnson  – Look Out For #1
  34. Ivie Anderson – It Don’t Mean A Thing
  35. Oscar Levant  – Levant Plays Gershwin
  36. Blind Willie McTell – Last Sessions
  37. Leon Redbone  – On the Track
  38. Guitar Slim – I Got Sumpin’ For You
  39. Soul Coughing – Ruby Vroom
  40. Fred McDowell  – Levee Camp Blues
  41. John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers – Crusade
  42. Angelique Kidjo – Oremi
  43. At Home With Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
  44. Bobby Rush – Porcupine Meat
  45. Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain
  46. Horace Silver and The Jazz Messengers
  47. Stray Cats – Built for Speed
  48. Charley Patton – The Complete Recordings 1929-1934 (Disc 1)
  49. Lonnie Johnson – Vol 1. 1937-1940
  50. The Electrifying Aretha Franklin
  51. Chuck Berry – After School Session
  52. Junior Kimbrough – Sad Days, Lonely Nights
  53. Mississippi John Hurt  – 1928 Sessions
  54. Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna
  55. Jelly Roll Morton – Oh, Mister Jelly
  56. The Mississippi Sheiks – Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, Vols 1-3
  57. Kokomo Arnold – Restored and Remastered Hits
  58. Roy Rogers – Chops Not Chaps
  59. Irma Thomas – Wish Someone Would Care
  60. Woody Guthrie – The Asch Recordings, Vol 1-4
  61. James Brown’s Funky People (Part 3)
  62. Doc & Merle Watson – Down South
  63. Dolly Parton – The Grass Is Blue
  64. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River
  65. Albert Collins – The Complete Imperial Recordings
  66. Dolores Keane  – May Morning Dew
  67. Bessie Smith – The Complete Recordings Vol. I
  68. Lyle Lovett – Joshua Judges Ruth
  69. The Modern Lovers – The Modern Loves
  70. Robert Petway – Catfish Blues
  71. B.B. King – Live in Cook County Jail
  72. The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues
  73. Grant Green – First Session
  74. Son House – Father of the Folk Blues
  75. Alvin Youngblood Hart – Big Mama’s Door
  76. The James Cotton Blues Band
  77. The American Graffiti Soundtrack
  78. Willie Dixon – I Am The Blues
  79. Memphis Minnie – All The Published Sides 1929-1937
  80. Charlie Christian & Dizzy Gillespie – After Hours
  81. Blind Lemon Jefferson – The Complete Classic Sides Remastered Chicago 1926 Disc A
  82. Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan
  83. The Yardbirds For Your Love
  84. Bukka White – Mississippi Blues
  85. Hank Mobley – Workout
  86. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Safe as Milk
  87. Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones
  88. Mance Lipscomb – Texas Sharecropper & Songster
  89. The Beat Farmers – Van Go
  90. Sleepy John Estes – I ain’t gonna be worried no more
  91. Eric Dolphy – Outward Bound
  92. Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Sessions
  93. Rev. Gary Davis – At Newport
  94. Bob Dylan – Bringing it all back home
  95. Robert Wilkins – The original Rolling Stone
  96. Edwin Starr – War & Peace
  97. Ma Rainey – Mother of the blues
  98. Jessie Mae Hemphill – She-Wolf
  99. Little Jimmie Dickens – Raisin’ The Dickens
  100. Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones
  101. Grant Green – The Complete Quartets With Sonny Clark
  102. Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball
  103. Louis Armstrong – The Complete Hot Five & Hot Seven Recordings
  104. Dock Boggs – Country Blues : Complete Early Recordings
  105. Thelonious Monk – Plays Duke Ellington
  106. 16 Horsepower – 16 Horsepower
  107. Dvorak: Symphony No. 9, “From The New World” / Symphonic Variations
  108. Bix Beiderbecke – 20 Classic Tracks
  109. Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
  110. Willie Nelson – Teatro
  111. Billie Holiday & Lester Young: Complete Studio Recordings
  112. Fred McDowell – Long Way From Home
  113. Dwight Yoakam – Guitars Cadillacs Etc, Etc.
  114. Benny Goodman – Complete Capitol Trios
  115. Blind Boy Fuller – Volume 1: 1935-1938
  116. Ella Fitzgerald – Sings the Cole Porter Songbook
  117. Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps – Blue Jean Bop
  118. Los Lobos – Kiko
  119. Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen
  120. Johnny Horton – The Spectacular Johnny Horton
  121. Hungry Dog Brand – Boy Meets Dog
  122. DI3 – Torch
  123. Eagle-Eye Cherry – Living In The Present Future
  124. Colin Brooks – Blood and Water
  125. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy – Soundtrack
  126. Dusty Wright – Elevened
  127. Will Scott – Gnawbone
  128. Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um
  129. Billie Holiday – Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia, 1933-1944
  130. The Clash – The Clash
  131. Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left
  132. Sam & Dave – Hold On, I’m Comin’
  133. Cream – Fresh Cream
  134. Big Mama Thornton – Essential Recordings
  135. Frank Sinatra – sings for Only The Lonely
  136. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Extra Width
  137. Bruce Springsteen – The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle
  138. Tracy Chapman – Our Bright Future
  139. Bob Log III – My Shit Is Perfect
  140. Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs & Englishmen
  141. Tomasz Stańko – From The Green Hill
  142. Paul Chambers – Whims of Chambers
  143. Booker T. & the MGs – Green Onions
  144. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
  145. J.J. & Kai: The J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding Trombone Octet
  146. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
  147. The Shangri-Las – The Complete Collection
  148. Furry Lewis – In His Prime 1927-1928
  149. Phil Ochs – A Toast To Those Who Are Gone
  150. The Clash – Give ‘Em Enough Rope
  151. Skip James – Greatest of the Delta Blues Singers
  152. The Original Sonny Boy Williamson
  153. Leon Redbone – Champagne Charlie
  154. Curtis Mayfield – Superfly
  155. Gillian Welch – Hell Among The Yearlings
  156. Beth Gibbons – Out of Season
  157. Buddy Holly – A Rock & Roll Collection
  158. Mance Lipscomb – Vol. 5, Pure Texas Country Blues
  159. Jimmy Reed – Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby – Singles As & Bs 1953-1961
  160. Fats Navarro – The Fats Navarro Collection, 1943-50
  161. Jeffrey Halford & The Healers – Lo Fi Dreams
  162. Lennie Tristano & Warne Marsh – Intuition
  163. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Let Love In
  164. Bill Withers – Just As I Am
  165. Jacques Brel – Enregistrement Public à l’Olympia 1964
  166. Leroy Carr – The Essential
  167. Etta James – At Last!
  168. Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders
  169. John Mayall – Bluesbreakers (w/ Eric Clapton)
  170. Ted Hawkins – The Final Tour
  171. Elmore James – Slide Order of the Blues, The Singles As & Bs 1952-1962
  172. Ida Cox – Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, Vol. 1, 1923
  173. Hoagy Carmichael Sings Hoagy Carmichael
  174. Blind Willie Johnson – The Complete
  175. Thelonious Monk – Monk Alone: The Complete Solo Studio Recordings of Thelonious Monk 1962-1968
  176. The Replacements – Tim
  177. Bad Company – Bad Company
  178. Duke Ellington – Money Jungle
  179. Bill Evans – Interplay
  180. Big Joe Williams – The Essential
  181. Kiss – Love Gun
  182. Mississippi John Hurt – Complete Studio Recordings
  183. John Lee Hooker – Boogie Chillen
  184. The Doors – The Soft Parade
  185. X – See How We Are
  186. Charlie Parker – With Strings
  187. Lucinda Williams – Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
  188. Culture – Two Sevens Clash
  189. Billy Bragg – Back to Basics
  190. Sleepy John Estes – I Ain’t Gonna Be Worried No More 1929-1941
  191. Tommy Johnson – 1928-1929 Complete Recorded Works
  192. The Rolling Stones – Through The Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol 2)
  193. Lightnin’ Hopkins – The Complete Aladdin Recordings
  194. Ray Charles – Pure Genius: Complete Atlantic Recordings 52-59
  195. Aretha Franklin –  Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
  196. Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus
  197. Townes Van Zandt –  High, Low And In Between
  198. Little Richard – Here’s Little Richard
  199. The Bodeans – Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams
  200. Junior Wells – Hoodoo Man Blues
  201. Mance Lipscomb – You Got To Reap What You Sow, Texas Songster, Vol. 2
  202. Johnny Cash – With His Hot And Blue Guitar
  203. Tony Joe White – Black & White
  204. The Ramones – The Ramones
  205. Cesária Évora – Café Atlantico
  206. Issa Bagayogo – Mali Koura
  207. Seán Tyrrell – The Orchard
  208. Malkit Singh – Sikh Hon Da Maan
  209. Anonymous 4 – Hildegard von Bingen, 11,000 Virgins: Chants for the Feast of St. Ursula
  210. Peter Tosh – Equal Rights
  211. Dmitri Shostakovich – The String Quartets
  212. Charley Patton – The Complete Recordings 1929-1934 (Disc 2)
  213. Blind Blake – All the Published Sides 1926-1932
  214. Blind Willie McTell – Classic Years: 1927-1940 (Disc 1)
  215. Leadbelly – Important Recordings 1934-1949
  216. Blind Lemon Jefferson –  The Complete Classic Sides Remastered: Atlanta & Chicago 1926 Disc B
  217. Johnny Azari – Songs From A Motel Room
  218. Legends of Country Blues
  219. Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’
  220. Bob Dylan – Another Side of Bob Dylan
  221. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
  222. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
  223. Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding
  224. Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
  225. Dr. John – Gumbo
  226. Dr. John – Gris Gris
  227. Nina Simone – Little Blue Girl
  228. The Carter Family – The Carter Family: 1927-1934
  229. Emmylou Harris – Red Dirt Girl
  230. Koko Taylor – Koko Taylor
  231. Social Distortion – Prison Bound
  232. Slim Harpo – The Excello Singles
  233. The Kinks – The Kink Kontroversy
  234. The Meters – Look-Ka Py Py
  235. Wilson Pickett – In The Midnight Hour
  236. James Brown – Live at The Apollo (1962)
  237. Woody Guthrie – Dust Bowl Ballads
  238. Hank Mobley – Soul Station
  239. Miles Davis – Birth of the Cool
  240. Bobbie Gentry – Ode to Billie Joe
  241. Joan Baez – Diamonds & Rust
  242. Patsy Cline – Patsy Cline
  243. Charlie Musselwhite – Stand Back! Here comes Charley Musselwhite’s Southside Band
  244. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown – Pressure Cooker
  245. Taj Mahal – Taj Mahal
  246. Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill
  247. Art Tatum – The Complete Solo Masterpieces
  248. Randy Newman – 12 Songs
  249. Waylon Jennings –  Lonesome, On’ry and Mean
  250. Hank Williams as Luke the Drifter – Beyond the Sunset
  251. Townes Van Zandt – For The Sake Of The Song
  252. Steve Earle – Train a Comin’
  253. Portishead – Dummy
  254. Ministry – Rio Grande Blood
  255. Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
  256. Gerry Mulligan-Chet Baker Original Quartet: Complete Recordings (Master takes)
  257. Link Wray – Link Wray & The Wraymen
  258. Hüsker Dü – Warehouse: Songs and Stories
  259. Professor Longhair – Mardi Gras In New Orleans – Complete Recordings 1949-1962
  260. Little Eva – The Locomotion
  261. Tom Waits – Frank’s Wild Years
  262. Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica
  263. Christy Moore – Back Home In Derry
  264. Sinead O’ Connor – Sean-Nos Nua
  265. The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy & The Lash
  266. Charlie Parker – The Complete Savoy & Dial Master
  267. Frank Sinatra – In The Wee Small Hours
  268. Mississippi John Hurt – Last Sessions
  269. Louisiana Red: My Life With Carey Bel
  270. John Lee Hooker – The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker
  271. Frank Stokes – The Victor Recordings (1928-1929)
  272. Dire Straits – Dire Straits
  273. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go
  274. The Staple Singers – Be Altitude: Respect Yourself
  275. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Damn The Torpedoes
  276. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Southern Accents
  277. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
  278. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Long After Dark
  279. Chris Whitley – Living with the Law
  280. Chris Whitley – Perfect Day
  281. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation
  282. “Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – United
  283. Thelonious Monk – Brilliant Corners
  284. Django Reinhardt – The Classic Early Recordings
  285. “Townes Van Zandt – Rear View Mirror
  286. Ministry – The Land of Rape and Honey
  287. MC5 – The Anthology: 1965-1971
  288. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  289. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country
  290. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Willy and the Poor Boys
  291. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory
  292. Pink Anderson – Carolina Blues Man, Vol.1
  293. Big Bill Broonzy – The Young Bill Broonzy
  294. Sam Collins – Cryin’ Sam Collins and his Git-Fiddle: Jailhouse Blues
  295. The Doors – The Doors
  296. Duke Ellington – Mrs. Clinkscales to the Cotton Club, Vol. 1: 1926-1929
  297. John Fahey – Railroad
  298. G. Love & Special Sauce – G. Love & Special Sauce
  299. Alberta Hunter – Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order
  300. The Impressions – The Complete A & B Sides 1961 – 1968
  301. Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking
  302. Killing Joke – Night Time
  303. Solas – The Edge of Silence
  304. The Modern Jazz Quartet – Complete Atlantic Studio Recordings of the Modern Jazz Quartet 1956-1964
  305. Big Maybelle – The Complete Okeh Sessions 1952-1955
  306. Phil Ochs – Rehearsals for Retirement
  307. Tom Waits – One From The Heart
  308. Catfish Keith – Mississippi River Blues
  309. The Del Fuegos – Boston, Mass.
  310. Lone Justice – Lone Justice
  311. Half Deaf Clatch – The Life and Death of A.J Rail
  312. Gene Ammons – Boss Tenor
  313. Elmo Hope – Trio & Quintet
  314. Jim Croce – You Don’t Mess Around With Jim
  315. Sade – Diamond Life
  316. Massive Attack – Protection
  317. Tricky – Maxinquaye
  318. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
  319. John Coltrane – My Favorite Things
  320. Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come
  321. Otis Redding – Otis Redding Sings Soul
  322. AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
  323. The Clash – London Calling
  324. Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey
  325. Albert King – Born Under A Bad Sign
  326. Neil Young – Harvest
  327. The Pogues – Red Roses For Me
  328. Seasick Steve – Dog House Music
  329. Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder
  330. Coleman Hawkins – Body & Soul
  331. Sonny Rollins – The Bridge
  332. ZZ Top – Tres Hombres
  333. Alejandro Escovedo – A Man Under The Influence
  334. King Solomon Hill – The Gone Dead Train
  335. The Clash – Sandinista
  336. Elvis Costello – Spike
  337. 16 Horsepower – Sackcloth & Ashes
  338. Cab Calloway & His Orchestra – The Early Years: 1930 – 1934
  339. PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love
  340. Tori Amos – Under The Pink
  341. Richard Shindell – Blue Divide
  342. Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3
  343. John Hammond Jr. – The Best Of
  344. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
  345. Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come
  346. The Smithereens – Especially For You
  347. Duke Ellington & John Coltrane – Duke Ellington & John Coltrane
  348. Morphine – Yes
  349. Fugazi – (EP/7 Songs)
  350. Great Bluesmen at Newport
  351. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
  352. Van Morrison – Moondance
  353. Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow
  354. The Stone Poneys – Evergreen, Vol. 2
  355. Townes Van Zandt – Live at the Old Quarter
  356. Stevie Wonder – Talking Book
  357. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True
  358. Chet Baker – Chet Baker Sings
  359. Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song
  360. Neil Young – After The Gold Rush
  361. The Bar-Kays – Soul Finger
  362. Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (Rock n’ Roll)
  363. Motorhead – No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith
  364. Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
  365. Dylan Thomas – Reading His Complete Recorded Poetry

 

 


Way Over Yonder: What Happened to the Minor in Blues Music?

Way Over Yonder

It CANNOT yet be said (fortunately!) that the very people who were purporting to preserve the blues, were in fact those who strangled it to death.

However, it CAN be said, that this WILL be the case, if certain things don’t change.

The preservationist ethos. It’s a dangerous thing. Potentially fatal. That whole, “This is how Muddy did it, that’s how I’m doin’ it, and that settles it” attitude. It’s scary.

Muddy Waters almost single-handedly architected an astonishing artistic transformation by connecting the dots between the country and the city. There was no precedent for him. His music was revolutionary. So if you truly want to stand on the shoulders of giants, walk in the footsteps of the masters, and embody the spirit of the greats, shouldn’t you be engaged in revolution?

Instead, to put it bluntly, we just get the same old shit.

Which brings us to the core of the question posed in the title of this post: What Happened?

We can ask this question about many things in the blues music tradition. Today, the question is about minor chords, and minor keys. Where’d they go? Robert Pete Williams and Skip James—two of country blues music’s most transcendent, visionary talents—regularly worked in minor keys. Robert Johnson, arguably one of the most influential blues musicians of them all, gave us perhaps his greatest creation when he recorded “Hellhound on my Trail”; a straight-up homage to his minor-key master, Skip James. Tommy Johnson, another legendary figure in the annals of blues music history, derived much of his sound from the tension created by moving back-and-forth between major and minor tonalities.

It’s not as simple as just having a token song in G minor on an album. Great blues music IS NOT simple. It’s about COMPOSING. It’s about tonalities, and colors, and feels, and imagination, and creativity. It’s about the raw, and the beautiful.

Preservationist be damned. Let’s have the weird back. Way over yonder in the minor key, something special is still happening. Go find it. Quick.


What Great Blues Music Is NOT: A Lil’ Somethin’ From The Wee Bully Bulpit

“The point is, if you hear Blues Musicians writing and singing about the same old thing over and over, that’s not universal truth, that’s just willful mediocrity.”

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As an old acquaintance used to say, here’s a lil’ somethin’ from the wee bully pulpit:

Great Blues Music is NOT about the things we ALL share and experience. To borrow a concept from the late, great Cultural Anthropologist Alan Dundes, Great Blues Music is not some sort of catalog of jump rope rhymes that transcend geography to express a kind of universal unconsciousness.

Rather, Blues Music is about the totally unique, personalized, rough-hewn translation of immediate experience into an almost haiku-esque poetic form. Put another way, it’s about musician’s turning their lives, and the lives around them, into song, with a Haiku master’s flair for capturing direct and immediate experience.

Think of Charley Patton’s “High Water Everywhere.” Sleepy John Estes’ “Fire Department Blues.” Skip James’ “Washington D.C. Hospital Bed Blues.” These songs represent the very best of what Blues Music is capable of.

Robert Pete Williams once said his songs came to him on the wind. Bukka White famously called his songs “Sky Songs” because they came to him from out of the sky.

The point is, if you hear Blues Musicians writing and singing about the same old thing over and over, that’s not universal truth, that’s just willful mediocrity.


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