Tag Archives: Slide Guitar

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Feb 27

Roy Rogers – Chops Not Chaps


Hearing this record for the first time—that was the first day I began to believe that I myself might have a career in this music.

It was the first time I thought it possible that a young white kid like me might be able to tunnel a way into the realm of the gods, where strode the likes of Son House, Robert Johnson, Skip James, and so many more.

If Roy could do it, perhaps I could do it?

It was the first time of many times I determined that someday, I would sign a record deal with Blind Pig Records.

I did sign a record deal with Blind Pig Records. I signed it in 1994, 8 years after Chops Not Chaps came out. I signed it on a table in a cafe in North Beach. It was one of the most important days of my life.

Will listening to this album change the direction of your life as it did mine? I don’t know.

Today, a career as a slide guitarist coming out of the country blues tradition isn’t so rare as it was back then. Back then there was no Martin Scorsese presenting the blues. There wasn’t a No Depression magazine. Americana wasn’t a genre. Contemporary Blues Album and Traditional Blues Album were not Grammy categories. There weren’t a whole lot of teenagers running around talking about Kokomo Arnold and Mississippi John Hurt.

But you should listen to this album anyway. It’s a pioneering work, and deserves to be revered as such. Maybe it will change your life. It DOES have that power. And I say ME for a parable.

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Feb 26

Kokomo Arnold – Restored & Remastered Hits


As with a great many early blues recordings from canonical artists, there are now many different ways to get your Kokomo Arnold. Different compilations, different record labels, new remasters, etc. I spend a fair amount of time listening through different versions of collections like these, trying to find the ones I think offer the best combination of quality and “naturalness”—what I mean by naturalness in this case is, I prefer NOT to hear the heavy hand of the remaster.  If I have to choose, I’ll take the “original” scratchiness over absurd amounts of filtering and manipulation.

This is why it was such a pleasant surprise to stumble on this collection of Kokomo Arnold recordings. I know nothing about the label other than that they’re based out of Italy, and that they’ve done a similar treatment with Cab Calloway’s music. But what I can tell you is that the sound quality here is really fine; warm, natural, clear, and you can REALLY hear what Mr. Arnold is gettin’ up to w/ that slide.

Kokomo Arnold’s influence is unmistakable, and probably fairly widely acknowledged at this point, given that two of Robert Johnson’s most well-known recordings—Sweet Home Chicago and Milkcow’s Calf Blues—are clearly swiped nearly wholesale from Mr. Arnold. Not to mention that Elvis did him some Kokomo as well!

Unlike many still-living early-era blues players sought out by enthusiasts in the 60s, Kokomo Arnold didn’t take up the offer to return to music, so all we have are his earlier recordings, but honestly, that’s more than enough to enshrine the man in hallowed halls.

His commanding voice, both urgent and powerful, had a moxie all its own, and his effortlessly clear and cutting falsetto is remarkable. His sense of melody was virtually flawless as well, which helped make so many of his compositions so timeless. But it’s his guitar playing that really raises the bar. Take a listen to The Twelves (Dirty Dozens) if you want to hear a flat-out clinic on how to play acoustic slide guitar. It’s just lethal.

Preacher Boy Trio: Now, Con Funky Adicional




The Preacher Boy Trio

The Preacher Boy Trio, live at Aptos St. BBQ: featuring Zack Olsen & Virgil Thrasher (photo by Ulises Gonzalez)

Tonight’s show was groovy as f&*k—The Preacher Boy Trio was Con Funky Adicional.

Cheers to Zack Olsen (drums) and Virgil Thrasher (harmonica) for blessin’ me with the music tonight. I was so honored. Thanks to Aptos St. BBQ fer havin’ us … such a good home for this music.

So, I’ll run ya the whole set list down below, and some lyrics as well, but here’s a lil’ foursome of raw live tracks straight from the stage to give ya the Con Funky flavor:

If I Had Possession Over My Judgement Day

(if you don’t see the embedded music player below, please click here to stream)

i start every show with it, and so you see it listed every time, but i never offer recordings of it, but I will do tonight, cuz this was a particularly struttin’ version of the cut …


New Red Cedar Blues

(if you don’t see the embedded music player below, please click here to stream)

essentially pretty much a new song—i did try and roll out an early arrangement of it a few months ago, but it weren’t happenin’ yet, so ’twas shelved and woodshedded, but the thing came back with a vengeance tonight … lyrics at the end of  post…


A Thief For Every Bible

(if you don’t see the embedded music player below, please click here to stream)

this is essentially a new song as well, tho it’s born of some pre-existing components—the final lyric is actually a combo of two earlier songs that never quite coalesced independently, as well as a new 1/2 chorus, and the music is a complete re-arrangement of a long-ago track that crawled back out from under a rock and said, “play me as a slide guitar rhumba in a minor key, and I’ll be yer baby tonight … and so, said yes …


Blister and a Bottle Cap

(if you don’t see the embedded music player below, please click here to stream)

I include this cuz it’s just f&*kin’ epic. Nearly 8 minutes of AltBlues Con SwampFunk


And here are lyrics for the new songs in town:

New Red Cedar Blues

off the banks where the rapids flow
learn a lil’ somethin’ ‘bout what i know
raccoon is as raccoon does
learn a lil’ somethin’ bout what i was

and the good witch of the river
from deep down in the water
asks for you to give her
your wish upon a quarter
flashin’ silver that you feed her
oh, if you get lost …
come on home to red cedar

the thunder sends the lightnin’ first
after that, the cloud bursts
its buckshot through the shadows
to the water’s black staccato

and the good witch of the river…

oh my darlin’, oh my darlin’
oh my darlin’, look behind you
in a cavern, in a canyon
if you get lost, i’m gon’ find you
oh, if you get lost …

we left the lake to greet the sun
and got some walkin’ done
back to red cedar
follow the leader

and the good witch of the river…

oh my darlin’, oh my darlin’…


A Thief For Every Bible

rats thin and dried, and the noose you tied
and it’s a bad day comin’
it’s a whistle and a pig
and i can hear the drummin’

sweet bitter tea, and the howlin’ three
got an itch for hemlock
they sold the black mariah
and bought an auction block

hey hey, it’s something to wrap your head around
somethin’ good ‘bout to rise up, somethin’ bad ‘bout to go down
hey hey, somethin’ even you have never seen
gon’ be a thief for every bible, and a drunk for every dream

soot sweet and thick, and the broken brick
i hear the claws a-climbin’
a crow inside an overcoat
said somethin’ ’bout simon

and so simon said, god bless the dead
and the rest can go to hell
tell the pig to get his whistle
and tell the rat to ring the bell

hey hey, it’s something to wrap your head around…

hey there gun, tell the seventh son
we ’bout to build a railroad
i know you like the water clear
as dew upon a cane toad

i’m drinkin’ buttermilk , all by myself
been in the cups on rye
i make the fine look ugly
i make the ugly look fine

hey hey, it’s something to wrap your head around…


and here’s the full set list from the evening’s entertainment:

The Preacher Boy Trio: featuring Zack Olsen & Virgil Thrasher

Live at Aptos St. BBQ, 7.16.2016

  1. if i had possession over my judgement day (robert johnson, arr. pb)
  2. i just hang down my head and i cry (mance lipscomb, arr. pb)
  3. down the drain (pb)
  4. cornbread (pb)
  5. the cross must move (pb)
  6. catfish (willie doss, arr. ob)
  7. setting sun (pb)
  8. casey bill weldon (pb)
  9. comin’ up aces (pb)
  10. down and out in this town (pb)
  11. a person’s mind (pb)
  12. my car walks on water (pb)
  13. new red cedar blues (pb)
  14. a little more evil (pb)
  15. revenue man blues (charley patton, arr. pb)
  16. dead, boy (pb)
  17. motherless children (blind lemon jefferson/mance lipscomb/dave van ronk, arr. pb)
  18. a thief for every bible (pb)
  19. down south blues (sleepy john estes, arr. pb)
  20. blister and a bottle cap (pb)
  21. baby, please don’t go (bukka white, arr. pb)


I hope you dig!

It Was A Set Your Daddy Dug Tonight [Live Tracks Included]

Preacher Boy - Virgil Thrasher - The National Blues

The inestimably excellent Virgil Thrasher brought his groovily moody and soulfully squallfull harmonica to the stage this evening, and together we ran down a set list which—upon retrospecting—I rather dig.

Here’s the full list of the songs we spelunked in and out of over the course of two solid hours tonight (please click the hyperlinked tracks to hear live, guerrilla-live recordings straight from the stage to vibrating drums:

If I Had Possession Over My Judgement Day (arr. PB, after Robert Johnson)

Rollin’ Stone (arr. PB, after Rev. Robert Wilkins)

Evil Blues (arr. PB, after Mance Lipscomb)

Revenue Man Blues (arr. PB, after Charley Patton)

Levee Camp Blues (arr. PB, after Mississippi Fred McDowell)

Settin’ Sun (PB, from “The National Blues”)

Comin’ Up Aces (PB, from “Demanding To Be Next”)

I Just Hang Down My Head And I Cry (trad., arr. PB, after Mance Lipscomb)

Catfish Blues (trad., arr. PB, after Willie Doss)

Jackson Street (PB, from “Demanding To Be Next”)

The Dogs (PB, from “The Devil’s Buttermilk”)

Obituary Writer Blues (PB, from “The National Blues”)

Down And Out In This Town (PB, from “Gutters and Pews”)

Red Cedar River Blues (PB, new-unreleased)

My Car Walks On Water (PB, from “The National Blues”)

99 Bottles (PB, Demanding To Be Next”)

That’s No Way To Get Along (arr. PB, after Rev. Robert Wilkins)

Casey Bill Weldon (PB, new-unreleased)

You’ve Been A Good Old Wagon (arr. PB, after Dave Van Ronk)

Death Letter Blues (arr. PB, after Son House)


Yeah man. I dig. I dug. I dig.

Recorded Live at The Pocket in Santa Cruz



The Pocket is strictly authentic. I love it. The sound is actually mighty mighty for an oilcan crib, the souls behind the bar are extremely soulful, and Patron Papa Jerry is of a broken mold and more … poet laureate of the pub, dig?


Yeah, man. The wisdom.

I had the great pleasure of rollin’ in recently with The National Blues — Virgil Thrasher on the horizontal reed hammer, Zack Olsen on the tub n’ thumps — and we carved three sonic hours out of the night-funk, including a slice of sour cherry drama by the name of “A Little More Evil” …

7 1/2 minutes of crescendo murk mud menace, prognosticated via slide baton on wail cans and thub-tumpers …

I hope you dig it.


Preacher Boy | The National Blues




NEW! Live video from the Preacher Boy & Big Bones Special Reunion Show at Biscuits & Blues!

Brand-new footage of Preacher Boy & Big Bones, with Zack Olsen on drums, performing “Shake ‘Em On Down” live at Biscuits & Blues, December 8th, 2014!

I first heard Bukka White perform this song on a vinyl album from the Takoma label, and it literally changed my life. That was when I was probably 16, maybe 17 years old, and probably 4, maybe 5 of those songs have been in just about every set I’ve ever played since. Shake ‘Em On Down, Poor Boy Long Ways From Home, Fixin To Die, Baby Please Don’t Go, Aberdeen Mississippi Blues, etc.  The point being, I’ve been playing Shake ‘Em On Down, for a LONG time … and I still love it. I LOVE to play this song …

For you guitar heads, it’s a pretty straightforward I-V-V progression, with a couple of arrangement twists. The National is tuned to Open D, and most of the action is actually on the low end, designed to mimic (albeit with a different rhythm) Bukka White’s original descending bass line …

The lyric is straight up raw blues poetry; sexy as hell:

She got somethin, I don’t know what it is
But it sure make me drunker than any ol’ whiskey still …

Bones takes an awesome approach with his harmonica on this version, opting to largely play a minor vibe, which ties to the main riff cleanly,  but then darkens up the IV and V which, on the National, are major. Killer manipulation of the abstract flatted third …

Anyhow, check it out, hope you enjoy!

%d bloggers like this: