We had what we believe is a UK blues first last night with a track from legend James Cotton's new Alligator album, one from label-mate Charlie Musselwhite's new one, music to mark the 40th year since the early death of Janis Joplin and a competition to win the "Band of Joy" album by Robert Plant. Top that heady brew up with a deep trawl through the blues heritage and you're about on the money for the new version of STAR BLUES.
Congrats to Rupert who not only knew it was Alison Krauss who did "Raising Sand" with Mr. Plant, his email entry came out of the hat first. Thanks to everyone who took part (no-one got it wrong); sorry we only had one copy to give away. Janis Joplin was a colossal talent who's best work was only fully realised on the posthumous "Pearl" album; one of the two songs I chose ("One Good Man") was covered on a YouTube submission during the week and Janis' original was described as mediocre. We hope that new ears will be the order of the day to that contributor as his current pair clearly don't work.
James Cotton is a mite older than BB King at 85 but his harp chops are still supple and commanding on "Giant" that'll be out in October. His voice isn't up to singing these days but that gorgeous rich harp tone pervades the whole project up there alongside his best work with Muddy Waters. The cover of Muddy's "Sad Sad Day" was both fitting and superb. One of my fave harp players - Charlie Musselwhite - will struggle in the critical stakes in the shadow of "Giant". His "The Well" album has the ill-fortune to be released during the same cycle as Cotton's. The playing is graceful and subtle with a maturity and stoicism in the self-penned songs Charlie has put together. Repeated plays will however show you all the treasures in that one.
Other newly issued gems include a fabulous gospel collection of stuff on The Gospel Truth label that Al Bell created when he took over at Stax. Our sampling was done by Joshie Jo Armstead, a former Ikette with extraordinary pipes. Similarly through Ace, there's a set of "Deep Shadows" soul ballads including a powerful vocal rarity by bluesman L V Johnson. Our other gospel piece came courtesy of the Fairfield Four in their time at Ted Jarrett's Champion label - the piano blues went to the brand new album by Pinetop Perkins with Willie Big-Eyes Smith, and a reworking of the Avery Parrish standard "After Hours" by Jimmy McCracklin.
Birthday boys Chick Willis and Jackie Payne provided two more tracks and we wallowed in some blues classics by Eddie Taylor, Tarheel Slim, Jimmy Anderson and Jimmy Nelson. The new STAR BLUES is proud to celebrate the full heritage of our music with just the cream of the newest releases. In that vein the next four shows will look back over 40 years one decade at a time, being guided by Living Blues magazine selections (they are 40 this year). I'm thrilled skinny by the opportunity to do this (ok, ok not as slender as Mark Peters). Please bring your good self along to your place next Sunday at 10 and until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.