Monday, 31 August 2009

STAR BLUES on 30th August 2009 at 22:00

Bank Holiday STAR BLUES meant the continuation of our survey of Blues in Britain, this time from 1969 to date. The show was a lot of fun to prepare and present - it showed the ever-present quality and longevity of the music on this side of the pond.

The oldest contributions came from Rory Gallagher and Maggie Bell, two performance of power sounding as fresh now as then. The energy of punk owed much to the tough R&B to be found in the London pubrock circuit and we had Dr. Feelgood and Nine Below Zero in evidence - not forgetting the Blues Band gigging in the same venues without troubling the blues purists. Old school stalwarts Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Chris Farlowe and the Rolling Stones never strayed too far from their roots and appeared again last night just as they did in the first part of the special that we did at Easter. Flying in the face of financial common-sense, Otis Grand and Jools Holland regularly take big bands into the concert halls of Britain, ensuring the jump-style R&B lives on. Gary Moore got commercial success from his early-90s return to the blues, his outing with BB King got into the lower reaches of the charts - as did Paul Lamb in the guise of "Bravado" for Pete Waterman who took time out from playing with Kylie and trains.

Maestro Bob Hall and newcomer Paddy Milner both romped through some boogie woogie on a couple of pieces written sixty years apart. They added a party flavour emphasising how blues can be thought of as good-time party music and our spiritual well-being was taken care of by the much-underrated Ruby Turner's rousing go at the Sister Rosetta Tharpe classic "This Train". If there's any justice her single will be number 1 for 19 weeks. The show ended with a nod to the future with tracks from young guitar turks Oli Brown and Danny Bryant. In amongst it all there was a chance to win a pair of tickets to Maximum R&B in Cambridge next month and congrats are due to Ian in Sutton for his win.

I'd like to spend some more time with you next Sunday at ten with more blues on the Commercial Radio Station of the year (2009) on FM and on-line, until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 24 August 2009

STAR BLUES on 23rd August 2009 at 22:00

It's almost four years since Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area and there are still folks in straits but are now largely forgotten. The piano blues spot on last night's STAR BLUES featured Champion Jack Dupree - one of the Crescent City's finest players - with two rambunctious tracks in the finest barrelhouse tradition. The folks in the Fens in our part of the world are right to ask how the powers-that-be would react in similar circumstances here (God forbid).

Forty years on from the Woodstock festival, so it was appropriate to remember Canned Heat and Johnny Winter who both appeared back then, though strangely at a time of US commercial popularity for the music - no other acts joined them? I was in North Norfolk on Saturday, somewhat disgracefully shaking my funky butt at a new festival venture that had Cambridge cult duo Ezio & Booga share a bill with the multi-faceted (and wonderful) Spikedrivers. A few other folks hid me from too much public ridicule by similarly shaking their own funky bits. It was great weather and a lovely setting with non-stop music from 1:30 through almost midnight and I sincerely hope the organisers will do more. Look for Southrepps on the regular blues festival scene in future.

We had some Downhome Blues from the Modern label courtesy of a collection on Ace and a smidge of Gospel from the Golden Gate Quartet - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss covered the Everly Brothers to start the show and new band Elephant Shelf closed us out with a taster of their new album. In between we did classics like "Devil With A Blue Dress" and a back-to-back on "Hoochie Coochie Man". I'm putting the finishing touches to a very special show for next weekend - Bank Holiday Sunday - that follows the last special by bringing the story of British Blues from 1969 up to date. There's also a chance to win two tickets to get some Maximum R&B at Cambridge Corn Exchange from Chris Farlowe, Maggie Bell, Alan Price and Zoot Money.

You'll need to be there at 10pm next Sunday 30th August on the Commercial Radio station of the year 2009 or on line from Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 17 August 2009

STAR BLUES on 16th August 2009 at 22:00

A couple of tracks to remember two influential musicians and a couple of exclusive first-in-UK plays marked out last night's STAR BLUES on the Commercial Radio Station of the Year 2009. A stalwart of the Memphis music scene, Jim Dickinson, died on Saturday - he was a talented session player, much in demand for classic sessions on Atlantic by Aretha Franklin as well as work with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder. In 2007 he won an AMA lifetime achievement gong for Production/Engineering. His sons are the core of the North Mississippi Allstars and we remembered Jim through a track he did with them in 1997, his version of JB Lenior's "Down In Missisippi". My most recent memory of Jim came through the Samuel L. Jackson film "Black Snake Moan" - if you get chance watch the dvd extras and see Jim in action.

Also lost last week was Les Paul - much was made of his part played in the development of the electric guitar but of greater importance - in my opinion - was his invention of phased effects, tape-loops and multi-track recording. Music of every genre owes him almost everything. He crafted a solid guitar from a piece of 4x4 but couldn't get Gibson interested in in in the 1940's. He worked out of hours in the Epiphone factory to refine the design by adding two hollow-body "wings" but still not able to take things further. By 1950 the Fender company had gone into the electric guitar market and Les came back into the picture as far as Gibson was concerned. This coincided with an executive at the newly launched Capitol outfit getting wind of the other-worldly effects Les had created for his records. Les teamed with his wife Mary Ford for a number of pop hits and Gibson used Les' higher commercial profile to launch the Les Paul guitar. From there the rest is where we are today with Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jimmy Page and so many others in debt to Les. To mark the passing of this innovative man, I went to his recordings for Decca (pre-Capitol) and a piece of blues genius with singer Georgia White.

The two new things came from Dennis Jones, robust and fluid - and from Rich Berry, sprightly and thoughtful. If these guys get their due rewards, remember where you heard them first. One of the Guitar magazines is featuring early recordings of Stevie Ray Vaughan so giving me the excuse to play the earliest known outing for the Austin guitar maestro from 1977. It was 40 years to the day since Fleetwood Mac released "Pious Bird of Good Omen" and so we did the definitive rendition from there of "Need Your Love So Bad". With it being 16th August it was right to do a bit of Elvis too, alongside the original of Arthur Gunter's "Lets Play House".

I'm starting to put together a special show for the Bank Holiday weekend and it'll include a competition to see the R&B legends tour in Cambridge (featuring Georgie Fame, Chris Farlowe, Maggie Bell and more). Thanks as always for the invite to your place, I hope we can be together again next Sunday at 10pm for some more STAR BLUES. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Gary Blue

Monday, 10 August 2009

STAR BLUES on 9th August 2009 at 22:00

Even if the white tee-shirt couldn't be seen last night, STAR BLUES did deliver blues in all shades - much of it from the distaff side. Lady Bianca has joined the group on Facebook and celebrated a birthday this weekend so we helped with a track from her latest album. She has a big voice and piano talent to match, her individual approach to blues is a welcome change to the many young guitarists who think the music is easy as long as it's played loud.

Candye Kane hasn't always been dealt a good hand by life but she is a straight talking feisty lady that plays the cards she has with some style. The title of her album "Superhero" indicates her overcoming recent health problems back to live and studio work - a year after she thought those things would be gone. Her project is one of the few by a female voice that the boss at home will listen to, and who am I to dare argue? Laura Chavez is on Candye's album and she turned in some stinging guitar on Lara Price's version of the Buddy Guy song "Can't Quit The Blues". At any age that'd be a challenge but from a very placid looking 22-year old, it was astonishing.

Memphis Minnie could be thought of as forebear to the genre of female blues guitar star and it was fitting to include her on the playlist too last night. Alison Krauss' pure voice went Down to the River gospel-style and Mike Kindred held up the piano blues end of things. A new artist to me, Gene Rodgers, also did some boogie work on the keys and you could hear how he held down a spot in Coleman Hawkins orchestra.

My DVD player developed some random faults last week, I fixed them and chose the DVD from Stevie Ray Vaughan's box-set to check it was all working. Hence my choice of "May I Have A Talk With You" from the Texan legend for our playlist. IN similar robust fashion, there was an unreleased live version of "Further On Up The Road" by Jeff Healey taken from a cd-set issued in very controversial circumstances. A judge Stateside has decreed the release is legal so STAR BLUES had the first UK play of the set.

Thanks to everyone who took time to chat on Facebook during the show, I will be back next Sunday at ten with two hours more blues and tomfoolery - I'd be pleased to have your company on line at and on FM at the Commercial Radio station of the Year 2009. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Gary Blue

Monday, 3 August 2009

STAR BLUES on 2nd August 2009 at 22:00

This year is shaping up to be a bumper year for new blues releases of real quality and substance - and STAR BLUES is the place you'll hear them first in Britain. Last night I was lucky enough to play tracks from the new albums by Otis Taylor, Fiona Boyes, Woodbrain and Johnnie Bassett. Otis' album has Gary Moore in a sympathetic supporting role (free of rock-blues excess) and the project ably demonstrates the relevance of the music in the 21st century by dint of very personal lyrics. Fiona goes from strength to strength and now occupies the middle ground previously the domain of Maria Muldaur and Bonnie Raitt - anything with her name on is well worthwhile. Woodbrain are a new name on the scene and do what the North Mississippi Allstars did when they started: they take the blues form as the starting point for mixing in different styles across the ages. Not to the taste of a purist but something for when you'd like a change.

As for Johnnie Bassett, his is the cleanest most economical style of playing possible and he sings just like Lou Rawls. He's a very dapper gent in sharp suit, bowtie and pristine white shoes and he plays the most beautiful instrument - semi acoustic classic design Gibson with f-holes in a burnished cedar colour. More photos on the booklet cover next time please.

Piano came courtesy of Otis Spann and a session he did for Sam Charters at Prestige. It was actually the Muddy Waters Band - who did the date to earn enough money for coach fare home from a gig at Carnegie Hall, NY - but no-one was supposed to know as Muddy was still signed to Chess. Muddy didn't sing but you'd know his guitar (and James Cotton's harp) anywhere. My other piano blues was a pre-war item by Leroy Carr, an artist deemed most influential of all time by Living Blues magazine. Over in the gospel tent we had Blind Willie Johnson and "John The Revelator", a song known to most by virtue of Ackroyd and Belushi(2) in the Blues Brothers 2000 film.

More blues in a white tee-shirt (esp. for the webcam) next Sunday at 10 on FM and online at I hope we can spend more time together - until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you