365 Days of Album Recommendations – Oct 4

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

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Where it all began. Hard to believe “Breakdown” was their FIRST single ever. What an announcement of intention.

 


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Oct 3

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Southern Accents

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I acknowledge this is a problematic album in many ways; it was difficult to record/complete, there was tension within the band, Petty broke his hand, there were the controversies around the song “Rebels,” and so on …

But all that said, I think this is just a magisterial accomplishment; a thing of total aesthetic beauty.

Plus, it contains one of my absolute favorite Petty tracks, “Spike”:

Oh, we got another one, just like the other ones
Another bad ass, another troublemaker
I’m scared, ain’t you boys scared?
I wonder if he’s gonna show us what bad is?
Boys, we got a man with a dog collar on
You think we oughta’ throw ol’ Spike a bone?

Hey Spike what do you like?
Hey Spike what do you like?

Here’s another misfit, another Jimmy Dean
Bet he’s got a motorbike,
What do ya’ll think?
Bet if we be good we’ll get a ride on it
If he ain’t too mad about the future
Maybe we oughta help him see
The future ain’t what it used to be

Hey Spike, you’re scarin’ my wife
Hey, Spike what do you like?
Please Spike, tell us ’bout life?

It’s tempting to make comparisons when talking about this album, and there’s an argument for doing so; situated as it is so perfectly along a timeline of timeless Americana, but it’s better experienced on its own terms, as something only Petty and The Heartbreakers could create. If it must be compared, literature may be the better analog, in that Petty’s south is sort of a rock n’ roll Yoknapatawpha County—something imagined so intensely that its fictions become stronger than truth, and in so doing, they throw new light on the actual truth.

Mainly, it’s every bit the fully realized masterpiece they seemingly set out to make, and while, per Petty’s own admissions, much of the original “concept” fell by the wayside over the course of bringing the album too light, I think what emerged was a gift to us all. As was Petty himself.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Oct 2 (Special Tom Petty Edition)

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Damn The Torpedoes

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From virtually as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a lyricist. I was obsessed with song lyrics.

I remember a long car drive with my parents. I believe it was from Wichita, Kansas, to East Lansing, Michigan. Over 900 miles. I was in the back seat by myself, with a battery-powered one of these:

Tape Recorder

and a cassette copy of “Damn the Torpedoes,” which had just been released.

I sat in the back of the car, and I played “Refugee” over and over and over. I’d play it forward a little bit, for just one line of the song, then I’d hit the rewind button to go back again. I wouldn’t even hit stop first, even though I knew you were supposed to. The cassette would make that horrible backwards music sound every time, and it was horrible, but it helped me find the right spot to get back to. Then I’d play it forward again, writing furiously as the song played, trying to get the line down just exactly right:

We got somethin’, we both know it, we don’t talk too much about it

I’d go line by line, battling  with Petty’s drawl, the layers of sound, his peculiar phrasing, trying to work out words that were new to me when placed in these orders and rhythms:

Somewhere, somehow, somebody must have kicked you around some
Tell me why you want to lay there and revel in your abandon

Revel in your abandon! I wasn’t even in my teen years yet; I’d never heard words like that, sung like that, with meaning and import like that. The lyrics held mysteries within them, drama, pathos, stories I was still too young to understand, but could already feel. Like all great pop songs, what was implied or left unsaid was sometimes bigger than the actual words:

Somewhere, somehow, somebody must have kicked you around some
Who knows maybe you were kidnapped
Tied up taken away and held for ransom

This was dangerous poetry, and I was obsessed.

Over and over, mile after mile, line after line, page after page, I worked through that song, trying to get it just right. There was no internet back then. If the lyrics didn’t come with the record, you were left to your own devices. That was fine by me. I wanted to learn it myself, directly.

Honey, it don’t really matter to me
Everybody’s had to fight to be free

Much later in life, I would hear the story of how Hunter S. Thompson retyped The Great Gatsby so he could understand and feel what it was like to write a book like that. I understood what he meant, and why he did it. I had written “Refugee” a thousand times.

~

Update: Tom Petty has passed on. Deep bows.

“Right now it seems real to you, but it’s
One of those things you gotta feel to be true”

 


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Oct 1

The Staple Singers – Be Altitude: Respect Yourself

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From the opening chicken pickin’ notes of “This World,” to the glorious gospel fadeout of “Who,” this album is soulful, spiritual perfection.


9 Months of #365DaysOfAlbumRecommendations!

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Startin’ to feel like we might actually make it all the way!

It’s been a pretty remarkable journey, this whole process. I’m grateful for the opportunity to think about and re-engage with so many amazing recordings, and I’m just so thrilled that literally thousands of you have been checking in to read and listen as well. Music is a magical thing, no question about it. So without further ado, here are the 273 albums I’ve recommended from Jan 1 – Sep 30:

  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

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Sep 30

The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go

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If you had to pick an album that defined what came to be known as “The Motown Sound” would it be this one?

For me … probably?

Hard to say, and probably not a particularly compelling argument anyhow. The main point being, what an album!

“Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” and “Come See About Me” are about as good as any three pop songs can get. That this album was held out of the #1 spot by The Beatles ’65 should tell you an awful lot about what’s wrong with this country.

Mainly, this album is just an incredible slice of right place, right time, right talent. The “classic” Supremes line-up of Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson. The songwriting and production talents of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Smokey Robinson, and Norman Whitfield. The musical mastery of The Funk Brothers.

It’s musical history on wax.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Sep 29

Dire Straits – Dire Straits

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When one is engaged in the process of recording an album outside of Manchester, one often finds oneself at the pub at the end of the day, sprawled across table and chairs with a group of musicians, and a producer, and an engineer. And at those times, one often finds oneself arguing good-naturedly with the group over important things like “Who is the greatest live band ever,” and “Who is rock’s greatest drummer” and “What’s the greatest guitar solo ever?”

I recall that last question in particular being debated not once, but over the course of many nights. The producer in this ensemble was insistent that “Hotel California” was the obvious choice, but as he also felt The Who were the greatest live band, his opinion was obviously suspect.

I was torn between Hendrix on “All Along The Watchtower” and Knopfler from this album, on “Sultans of Swing.”

It will probably be obvious to you, if you’ve heard me on electric guitar before, that I did not learn my instrument by learning famous guitar solos note-for-note. To date, I think I can probably play a grand total of 5, and one of those is Neil Young’s solo from “Cinnamon Girl!” (That’s the guitar player’s equivalent of a Dad joke). Of the other four, one is “Stray Cat Strut,” one is Judas Priest’s “Living After Midnight,” and one is Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” And then finally, the most challenging of them all by orders of magnitude, “Sultans of Swing.”

My obsession with writing “character songs” was certainly fueled in part by this song; Guitar George, Harry, and those young boys foolin’ around in the corner who were drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles, who didn’t give a damn about any trumpet playin’ band … in fact, it’s safe to say the lyrical legacy has been far more inspirational to me than the guitar work.

That said, it might in fact BE the greatest guitar solo.

But more than that, the album is an incredible debut, and it ain’t just about Sultans. Personally, I think “Down By The Waterline” is every bit its equal, in quality if not in scope:

Sweet surrender on the quayside
You remember we used to run and hide
In the shadow of the cargoes I take you one time
And we’re counting all the numbers down to the waterline

Near misses on the dog leap stairways
French kisses in the darkened doorways
A foghorn blowing out wild and cold
A policeman shines a light upon my shoulder

Up comes a coaster fast and silent in the night
Over my shoulder all you can see are the pilot lights
No money in our jackets and our jeans are torn
Your hands are cold but your lips are warm

She can see him on the jetty where they used to go
She can feel him in the places where the sailors go
When she’s walking by the river and the railway line
She can still hear him whisper
Let’s go down to the waterline

And while “Southbound Again” is fairly shameless with its J.J. Cale-isms, it’s still badass. Same for “Setting Me Up”.

“Water of Love,” in a weird way, may actually be the most important song on the album, from an artistic standpoint, pointing forward as it does to some of Dire Straits’ later work on blockbusters like Brothers in Arms.

Anyhow, about those arguments in the pub? Nobody won. We just agreed to disagree.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Sept 28

Frank Stokes – The Victor Recordings (1928-1929)

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There are a number of ways to get your Frank Stokes. While there is no disputing the importance of Yazoo Records when it comes to preserving SO much great country blues music, their masters, it must be said, often suck. In the case of Stokes’ recordings, I definitely prefer these Document versions.

I’m not sure one can really understand the history of this music without having knowledge of Frank Stokes. He cast a long shadow over Beale Street and what’s come to be known as “The Memphis Sound” (tho he had strong roots in Mississippi) and while that was often his neck of the woods, and while he and his mate—and sometime fellow Memphisian—Furry Lewis certainly share some sonic similarities, Stokes and Mississippi John Hurt, to mention but one example, shared some shared traits as well.

More important than all that, however, is that Stokes is a “bridge” figure between the era of minstrel and medicine shows, and the era of classic blues. In his playing—striking for its precision and clarity—you hear the breadth of influences that would come to mark the canonical innovations of country blues.

If for some reason Stokes is still an omission in your musical knowledge, you must remedy said omission, instanter.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Sep 27

John Lee Hooker – The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker

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I may be in the minority in saying this, but I prefer John Lee Hooker acoustic. This album, recorded in 1959, is one of my very favorites—possibly my absolute favorite.

I first heard a recording of John Lee Hooker performing Tupelo Blues live from Newport, and I was transfixed.

I have heard this album derided for a) being a “forced” recording meant to pander to the burgeoning folk music revival audience, and b) exposing that John Lee was a less-than-competent guitarist. My opinion: reason “a” is irrelevant, because regardless of the motivation, the music speaks for itself. And reason “b” is stupid; because John Lee was exactly the best guitarist for his music, as this recording of Tupelo Blues makes amply clear.

I love this album for its mix of material, something I personally feel much of his later albums would suffer for. Here, he takes on a wide range of songs, many that take him far out of his patented “boogie” mode, including Leroy Carr’s immortal “How Long Blues,” Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” and Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake” (the latter he completely makes his own, to the extent that it probably shouldn’t even be considered Lemon’s song).

In addition to all the above, Hooker’s version here of “Bottle Up and Go” (by  Tommy McClennan originally, titled here as “Bundle Up and Go”) has to be considered canonical. And if you want to hear pure mojo in effect, check out “I Rowed A Little Boat.” If that don’t give you the chills, then I can’t do a thing for ya.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – Sep 26

Louisiana Red: My Life With Carey Bell

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Man, I just revered this album when I was a young fella. I got it somewhere in my teens if I recall, and I just straight up wore it out.

So you can imagine how staggered I was when, on the very first Preacher Boy tour after the very first Preacher Boy album came out on Blind Pig Records, I was told that in the club where we were playin’ on whatever night it was, wherever we were (somewhere in Southern California, if I recall), was none other than Carey Bell! And, he’d come specifically to hear US play!

I mean, I really couldn’t believe it. But there he was, sittin’ like royalty, waitin’ to give me an audience. And I went up, and I introduced myself, and I said, “I think we’re label mates,” and I told him I was on Blind Pig Records, (there was a Carey Bell album out on Blind Pig), and he looked up at me (he was sitting, I was standing and leaning over to talk to him), and he said: “Fuck Blind Pig.”

#LifeLessons


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