American Epic: Part 1, The Big Bang

I have been waiting for this Only on PBS music series to be viewable for four years. The production has a magic appeal as a combination of music history, Americana, and the significance of the lacquered phonograph record.

It was fortuitous for the series to begin with the hills of Appalachia and the Carter Family. They are the roots of country music. I love the risks they took to seek out a long distance audition being held at the famed Bristol Sessions with Ralph Peer.

Ralph Peer was an electrical engineer, responsible for the invention of the modern recording equipment.  It was said of him, “He must have been a visionary”, due to the profound impact he had on finding talented artists and recording them.

I loved learning more about the original Carter Family which consisted of Alvin Pleasant “A.P.” Delaney Carter (1891–1960), his wife Sara Dougherty Carter (1898–1979), and his sister-in-law Maybelle Addington Carter (1909–1978).

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I was moved to see a rare collaboration in color video with Sara and Maybelle Carter perform with Johnny Cash on The Johnny Cash Show, Nov. 18, 1970.

American Epic is beautiful in its curation. The videos are painstakingly articulated as are the graphics and the b&w/color stills.

The episode shifts to the home of the blues, Memphis, Tennessee. The focus here is the seminal influence of the Memphis Jug Band. Another recording find of Ralph Peer

We learn about Will Shade a founding member of the Memphis Jug Band. The jug creates an interesting context on the harmony and backdrop of their music.

We get to see and hear the original 78rpm records”Newport News Blues”, “On The Road Again (1928)”, “Stealin, Stealin”, “Cocaine Habit Blues (1930)”

It was smart to see American Epic incorporate two blues historians, Taj Mahal and Charlie Musselwhite. They each provide us with a firm foundation of the blues curated with all the love in their heart. I was fortunate to write a term paper on Taj Mahal as a roots/blues musician when I minored in music in college.

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You will want to see the segment where Charlie Musslewhite in the Memphis Police building plays the guitar and sings the heartfelt song Will Shade taught him, “I’ll Get A Break Someday”.

Threaded throughout the episode is producer/musician/pressing plant owner Jack White our modern day preservationist of rare music and phonograph records. He performs in the studio with Nas and Lillie Mae on violin and other musicians.

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Jack White’s record company, Third Man Records, is selling the American Epic artists reissues on their Web site. There are lots of great roots musicians to get to know better and hopefully add to your vinyl music collection.

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American Epic: The First Time America Heard Itself

 

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Jack White, T. Bone Burnett, and Robert Redford have teamed up to executive produce American Epic, a historical music project exploring the pivotal recording journeys of the early twentieth century, which for the first time captured the breadth of American music and made it available to the world. It was, in a very real way, the first time America truly heard herself.

The companion book to the groundbreaking PBS and BBC documentary series celebrating the pioneers and artists of American roots music—blues, gospel, folk, Cajun, Appalachian, Hawaiian, Native American—without which there would be no jazz, rock, country R&B, or hip hop today.

 

 

Horn From The Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story

HORN FROM THE HEART: The Paul Butterfield Story is a feature-length documentary about the life and career of legendary blues musician Paul Butterfield. A white, teenage harmonica player from Chicago’s south side, Paul learned the blues from the original black masters performing nightly in his own back yard. Muddy Waters was Paul’s mentor and lifelong friend, happy to share his wisdom and ability with such a gifted young acolyte.

The interracial Paul Butterfield Blues Band, featuring the twin guitar sound of Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, the rhythm section of Sam Lay and Jerome Arnold and the keyboards of Mark Naftalin, added a rock edge to the Chicago blues, bringing an authenticity to its sound that struck a chord with the vast white rock audience and rejuvenated worldwide interest in the blues. The band’s first LP, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band released on Elektra Records in 1965, was named “#11 Blues Album of All Time” by Downbeat.

The only artist to perform at The Newport Folk Festival in 1965, The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969, Paul would continue to break new ground in the blues and to stand up for racial equality until his death at age 44 in 1987 of a drug overdose. Through his music and words, along with first-hand accounts of his family, his band mates and those closest to him, HORN FROM THE HEART: The Paul Butterfield Story tells the complex story of a man many call the greatest harmonica player of all time.

 

Sidemen: Long Road To Glory – Blues Music Documentary

Let’s help this vital Kickstarter music project make its goal today. The blues are an indigenous art form native to America. Preserving on film these seminal sidemen for future generations is paramount.

Sidemen: Long Road To Glory- Award Winning film about the lives of bluesmen Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.

Gregg Allman – Southern Blood

When I think of the blues I hear the trademark sound of Gregg Allman’s voice swirling with a Hammond B3 Organ and Leslie speakers.

I was curious about the origin of Gregg’s love of the blues. During an interview in Keyboard Magazine in 2011, Gregg spoke about the first exposure he and his brother Duane experienced with blues music.

“We used to listen to this radio station called WLAC, which broadcasted from Gallatin, Tennessee. There was this DJ called “Big John R.” He’d play Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, all of ’em. That was really our first taste of the blues. We listened to that show religiously.”

The blues giants had a powerful imprint on Gregg’s career. I am grateful for The Allman Brothers exposing me to the rich heritage of the Southern blues.

I was curious about what Gregg Allman has been up to since The Allman Brothers retired at the end of 2014.  Happily, there will be a new Gregg Allman studio album, Southern Blood available on March 29th.

Southern Blood produced by Don Was and due to be released on Rounder Records. Join the Gregg Allman mailing list to learn more information. Preorders for CD and vinyl editions are available on the Gregg Allman Store now.

Update: The Oxford American Southern Music #18 – Blues Issue

I just received notification that the Oxford American Southern Music Issue  due on news stands on December 12, 2016 has shipped. I can’t wait to absorb the superb music journalism and add it to my Oxford American Southern Music Issue collection 🙂

This year’s 160-page magazine and 23-song soundtrack is called Visions of the Blues. 
 
The issue features the greatest artists associated with the blues alongside contemporary musicians who are building on the genre’s legacy and reinterpreting the genre’s traditions. This is the first time that the Oxford American has devoted an entire music issue to a genre theme. To commemorate this occasion, we have created three different cover designs that celebrate three generations of musicians: John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, and Adia Victoria.  Our music issues are prized by collectors and often sell out.
A few highlights from the issue: John Jeremiah Sullivan on his hometown’s blues history; Elijah Wald on Bob Dylan’s lost blues album; Ann Powers on “Miss You” by Alabama ShakesAmanda Petrusich on the blues scene in Tokyo, Japan; Daphne A. Brooks on the power of blueswomen’s duets, from Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas to Lauryn Hill and Mary J. BligeGreil Marcus on “John Henry” by John Lee HookerJewly Hight on Bonnie Raitt’s journey of artistic formation; Crystal Wilkinson on how Prince saved her life; Rashod Ollison on Malaco Records; Jeffery Renard Allen’s short story about a fictional meeting between Jimi Hendrix and Francis Bacon; a memoir by Zandria F. Robinson; and “The Blues,” a new poem by Nikki Giovanni.
 
PLUS: Rhiannon GiddensGil Scott-Heron, Bassekou Kouyaté, Charley Patton, Regina Carter, Barbara Dane,Koko Taylor, Ida Cox, Otis Taylor, and much more.

Tom Petty sang it best, “The Waiting is the Hardest Part”.

  

The Rolling Stones Blue & Lonesome Album – Available December 2nd

Five decades in the making and just three days to record

On 2nd December 2016, The Rolling Stones will release Blue & Lonesome, their first studio album in over a decade. Recorded in just three days in London, England, ‘Blue & Lonesome’ takes the band back to their roots and the passion for blues music which has always been at the heart and soul of The Rolling Stones.

‘Blue & Lonesome’ is available in various formats and will be released on December 2nd by Polydor Records. It was produced by Don Was and The Glimmer Twins and is available for pre-order worldwide from today, October 6th, at 9am EST in the USA and 2pm in the UK (equivalent times worldwide), go to rollingstones.com/blue-lonesome.

The album was recorded over the course of just three days in December last year at British Grove Studios in West London, just a stone’s throw from Richmond and Eel Pie Island where the Stones started out as a young blues band playing pubs and clubs.

Their approach to the album was that it should be spontaneous and played live in the studio without overdubs. The band – Mick Jagger (vocals & harp), Keith Richards (guitar), Charlie Watts (drums), and Ronnie Wood (guitar) were joined by their long time touring sidemen Darryl Jones (bass), Chuck Leavell (keyboards) and Matt Clifford (keyboards) and, for two of the twelve tracks, by old friend Eric Clapton, who happened to be in the next studio making his own album.

‘Blue & Lonesome’ sees the Rolling Stones tipping their hats to their early days as a blues band when they played the music of Jimmy Reed, Willie Dixon, Eddie Taylor, Little Walter and Howlin’ Wolf – artists whose songs are featured on this album.

The tracks are – Just Your Fool, Commit A Crime, Blue and Lonesome, All Of Your Love, I Gotta Go, Everybody Knows About My Good Thing, Ride ‘Em On Down, Hate To See You Go, Hoo Doo Blues, Little Rain, Just Like I Treat You, I Can’t Quit You Baby.

“This album is manifest testament to the purity of their love for making music, and the blues is, for the Stones, the fountainhead of everything they do.” Don Was, Co-Producer of ‘Blue & Lonesome’

THE ROLLING STONES – ‘BLUE & LONESOME’ WILL BE RELEASED BY POLYDOR RECORDS WORLDWIDE ON 2 DECEMBER 2016

Deluxe edition including CD album, 75 page mini-book about the making of the album and band postcard prints.

Listen to the Little Walter track, “Just Your Fool”