Tag Archives: Alvin Youngblood Hart

365 Days of Album Recommendations – March 16

Alvin Youngblood Hart – Big Mama’s Door


The mid-90s were a wonderful, brave, exciting, and brazen time for its early resurgence of interest in country blues music. Corey Harris was coming out with his first music. Chris Whitley had only just arrived on the scene. G. Love was just starting to make waves with his version of the thing. The Loved Ones were bringin’ that Yardbirds touch to it all. Kelly Joe Phelps had just released his debut. Yours truly debuted on Blind Pig Records with Preacher Boy & The Natural Blues.

And then along came Alvin Youngblood Hart, and just blew us all away.

There will be a great deal more to say about Alvin across these 365 days, as his journey has taken him all over the musical map, but for now, for today, just check him out at the core of his roots.

Pony Blues and When I Was A Cowboy are amazing, but for kicks, start with Hillbilly Willie’s Blues.

And let Alvin kick yer door down.

Albums You Should Resolve To Listen (Or ReListen) To In 2016

What follows are a selection of “modern” albums (#AltBlues #CountryBlues #DeltaBlues #AcousticBlues) that for me help define the spirit and mojo of #CountryBlues as it continues to inform, guide, mold, and move our music in these contemporary times. PLEASE never stop listening to Son House, Bukka White, Charley Patton, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Tommy Johnson, Mance Lipscomb, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Blind Willie Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, and so many more, but PLEASE also listen to these records. The spirit is with us, #DIG.

Chris Whitley: Dirt Floor

A modern genius of emotive, genre-defining authenticity; one of the very few who saw in The National a world of new sounds. This is exactly how he should be heard. Raw, naked, pure. Essential modern #AltBlues, vastly under-rated #SingerSongwriter, genuine #Americana.

Kelly Joe Phelps: Shine-Eyed Mister Zen

Kelly Joe’s hallucinatory slide-fueled lyrical spelunking into the wild, weird America of country blues can be both mesmerizing and maddening to follow, but on this album, everything comes together magically. He’s a slide virtuoso, with the perfect voice for these wistful and wandering narcotic narratives. Vital #AcousticBlues that proves #Songwriting is still required.

Alvin Youngblood Hart: Big Mama’s Door

I appreciate every turn that Alvin has taken on his incredible musical path, but I’ll never shake free of my affection for—and appreciation of—this first album. Full disclosure, I was fortunate enough to hear a lot of these performances in progress before Alvin recorded this album, but regardless of any personal connection, the album stands on its own—on very, very, very tall legs. If there is one album that proves #CountryBlues is alive and well today, it’s this one.

Corey Harris: Between Midnight And Day

Corey is another one who has wandered far and wide on his musical journey, and as with giants like Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal (among others) he has done wonderful work enacting the connections that bind this music and its makers and listeners the globe over. Ultimately tho, it’s this record—where he just gets raw and down it it—that I feel his power most. This was the future of the blues when it was first released, and for my money, it still is. Plus, Jesus, his voice … just listen to “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning” …

John Mooney: Comin’ Your Way

This album (and “Chops Not Chaps” from Roy Rogers) is why I wanted to sign with Blind Pig Records in the first place. John is rightly celebrated for his otherworldly ability to channel the ghost of Son House in his playing and singing (he actually “studied” with him in Rochester, NY!), and he’s also become somewhat of a new champion of the Louisiana sound, but for my money, he’s almost closer to Leon Redbone in spirit. That said, his National playing is another thing altogether, and the hoarse urgency of his voice a force unto itself. Critical #AltBlues that should never be forgotten.

Roy Rogers: Chops, Not Chaps

It gives 1992 for the release date on the Amazon page for this album, but it actually came out in 1986. I was awful young at that point, tho I was already trying to play country blues guitar. But if you’d a told me then I’d one day have my own album with the Blind Pig imprint on the back, I’d a thought you were crazy. At the time, Blind Pig meant not a thing to me. But this album sure did (I had it on a cassette!). I couldn’t honestly believe there was someone out there like Roy, who was doing this. This is a straight up brave album, made at a time when there was NO reason to do this, other than because you loved the music. Canonical #AcousticBlues.

Dave Arcari: Devil’s Left Hand

There are probably a lot of albums and artists that you’d expect to see on this list, that aren’t on this list. Why? Well, probably a few reasons, but honestly, the #1 reason why I don’t include some artists you think might would be obvious is because they don’t sing right. That may sound strange comin’ from a guitar nut like me, but it’s true. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re gonna play this music right, you have to sing it right. And that’s something most “interpreters” of this music just don’t get. If I had a dollar for every bloody so-called blues artist I’ve heard who might as well be a karaoke machine for how accurate their guitar playing is (and how crap their voices are), I could buy every karoake machine in the world, and break it. And that’s why Dave Arcari IS on this list. Sure he plays wild National (also important, wildness! i HATE clean picking!), and sure he writes great songs, but most of all, he SINGS it right. And yes, that’s a Scottish accent you’re hearing.

Will Scott: Gnawbone

I’m totally biased, I admit it. I worked on this album. But it’s a great bloody album, because Will Scott is a great bloody artist. Per my comment above, he sings it right, and he plays it wild. This is dangerous and creepy music, and so soulful, and his voice is dangerous, and his songs are lethal, and his whole juju thing is just invasive and excellent. This voice—Will’s voice—is THE sound of what modern #CountryBlues is capable of.

Lucinda Williams: Car Wheels On A Gravel Road

It’s a funny thing about Lucinda Williams. As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t until she STOPPED trying to play #CountryBlues that she started to play #CountryBlues. Her early albums are pretty clear attempts to nail that authenticity (listen to “I Asked For Water”), but for me, they don’t make it. But, with this album, suddenly, it’s all there. There isn’t a thing on it that could pass for blues in any conventional sense of the term, but the spirit and the ghosty mojo are there. The Lucinda Williams of this album is as close to a heartbreaking, storytelling Sleepy John Estes as we have today.

Townes Van Zandt: Rear-View Mirror

Townes nuts can argue for hours over which is the best version of this so-very-important musician. The early, plaintive, over-produced but still heartbreaking early Townes, the stumbling, ravaged, but creepily compelling (and also heartbreaking) late Townes, the stripped-down acoustic Townes of Live at the Old Quarter, or some other available iteration. For my money tho, this is the best. The musicians here are SO sympathetic, the song choice is perfect, and Townes is in the perfect middle space where he’s old enough and has seen enough to sound right for his material, but still hearty and hale enough to simply nail every performance with lethal heart mojo perfection. This is #CountryBlues with an emphasis on Country, but if you think this ain’t blues, just listen to “Dollar Bill Blues,” and then be quiet.


Bob Log: Log Bomb

Jesus, what can ya say about this cat? Alternative Blues? Pretty much man. I first met him when he was still in Doo Rag. Those were the early days, when just about nobody was playin’ anything resembling Country Blues. So I dug it, big time. And I dig him on his own. Hard to resist. Weird as hell. The NEW weird America. Honestly, hard to pick one album, so start here.

Stevie Tombstone: The Dark Country Blues

This one is a little unfair, since it only just came out, but for God’s sakes, it’s actually called The Dark Country Blues! That pretty much sums it up, man, and if you’re lookin’ for a successor to the way Townes did it—a voice, guitar, and pen that know how to tell the raw stories right—then Mr. Tombstone is your man. #Dig.

16 Horsepower: Sackcloth & Ashes

The greatest band you might never have heard. If Dock Boggs—in all his creepy glory—was Country Blues (and he was) then 16 Horsepower is Country Blues. Raw, Gothic, Gospel Americana at its finest. Too deep. Must listen.


I could go on and on and on, but I won’t. Let’s just talk after you’ve given these all a really good listen.



The Bottle And The Pen -or- The Secret History of Joe Louis Walker’s Mean Streets Records

I have a new column that has just debuted on Grape Collective, entitled “The Bottle & The Pen: An Exploration Through Wine & Literature,” and I wanted to offer a little bit of backstory to the title, as it’s actually derived from a Preacher Boy song.

After completing the sessions for “Crow,” I stayed on at Revolution (the English studio outside Manchester where we recorded the album) laying down a bunch of publisher demos of additional songs I was working on at the time. Among these tracks was a song called The Bottle & The Pen. I recorded a solo acoustic version with just voice & The National, thinking I’d revisit it at another time to explore arrangement possibilities with the band.

Fate intervened, however, in the form of Frank Klein, and Biscuits & Blues. Frank was the manager of Biscuits at that time, and was pushing hard, and with great imagination, to broaden the ways in which B&B could contribute to the world of blues music.

The answer was a record label! Frank launched Means Streets Records, as presented by Joe Louis Walker, with this release:

Mean Streets Blues – A San Francisco Collection – 13 Stompin’ Tracks

Mean Streets Blues - A San Francisco Collection - 13 Stompin' Tracks

The album reads like a Who’s Who of Bay Area Blues from that era, and to the endeavor’s credit, nearly all of these artists are STILL vibrant presences on the scene. Check it out:

Mean Streets Blues - A San Francisco Collection - 13 Stompin' Tracks

Tommy Castro, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Lavay Smith, Mark Hummel, Rusty Zinn, Big Bones, James Armstrong, and more; it’s a remarkable collection.

Remarkable all the more for the fact that, like so many great blues projects with great blues intentions, this would prove to be the only Mean Streets Records release.

That said, I am extremely proud to have been a part of this project, and was honored and humbled both when Frank asked for a song. Having just completed the Revolution sessions I mentioned earlier, I had quite a few new recordings to consider, and The Bottle and The Pen, in its original solo acoustic format, was the final selection.

Strange journey, that it now lives on as the title to an article about wine & literature. Prophetic in a way, I suppose. The chorus lyrics:

If you wanna know where I come from
I’ll tell you this my friend
I was born beneath a bottle and a pen

You can here this recording of The Bottle & The Pen by clicking here.


Big Bones and I recently reunited for a very special show at Biscuits & Blues: you can see footage from that performance below:


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