Monday, 27 December 2010

STAR BLUES on 26th December 2010 at 22:00

They all thought I was mad (no change there) to do a live STAR BLUES on Boxing Day. Thankfully the invitation to your place at this special time of year proved them wrong - your kindness was somewhat humbling. We did a run through of 2010's best bits, announced the second annual STAR BLUES Award winners and took the wraps off my Almanac book.

Imelda May is one of Ireland's best exports at the moment, we marked her debut on the cover of Classic Rock magazine with the lead off track on her "Mayhem" album. Dana Gillespie is probably best known for her acting but she is also a very fine purveyor of jump blues on the raunchy side. Her newest album is a self-written project on Ace that should see her get some props, we had a track to mark it last night. We also had "Color Blind Angel" from Robin Rogers: it is the song she was most proud of about a murdered Civil Rights Campaigner and it also showed Robin's own spirit that wasn't quite strong enough to best liver cancer two weeks ago - already very much missed.

Robert Cray was awesome at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in 2010 and in the playlist yesterday. As for the awards, Alligator wrested the Label crown off last years winner Delta Groove with exceptional releases for the Holmes Brothers, Charlie Musselwhite, James Cotton, Smokin' Joe Kubek and Janiva Magness. Both the last named got played with Janiva doing a really bluesy cover of Nick Lowe's "Homewrecker". At 74 Buddy Guy turned in an album full of brio and balls called "Living Proof" that got him Artist of the Year in an example of guitar mastery that every axe player out there should be worried by. The London based ACE outfit held on to the award for reissue label of the year with their ethical approach to royalties and packages including photos, memorabilia and information essays. Their knowledge and love for the music will be difficult to beat in any year.Dana's album above, the new one from Mavis Staples and Bettye LaVette's "Interpretations" flew the flag for women of a certain age, but Bettye's album was so achingly beautiful I felt moved to sing its praises to all and sundry. She scooped Album of the Year and we put her version of Derek & Dominoes' "Why Does Love Got To Be So Bad" into our show to celebrate her remarkable achievement.

The last award came from the listener vote, Robert Plant was the choice as Artist of the Year - his knowledgeable selection of songs and enthusiastic production brought life to a project his voice wasn't capable of a few years ago. All the winners are published in "GARY BLUEs ALMANAC 2011" and everyone is welcome to a free copy by just sending their email address to Its completely free but if you enjoy it or find it useful, please consider sending a small donation to the Music Maker charity. I'm not associated with them in any way but they provide help to bluesmen without health insurance and so on.

If you like tomfoolery and mayhem and some music you wont hear anywhere else, our company is more than welcome on Tuesday at 7pm for three hours "BACK-in-Black". Hope you can make it until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 20 December 2010

STAR BLUES on 19th December 2010 at 22:00

If you pressed me real hard about it, my definition of “specialist music” would be just great music most folks haven’t found yet. The most knowledgeable, passionate and enthusiastic supporter of such – Mark Lamarr – has announced his “retirement”. I can’t count the number of new artists, songs and genres he has pointed my way through his never less than excellent shows. By way of thanks last night’s STAR BLUES went down the road toward rock’n’roll to show how thin is the line with blues. It seemed fitting to get into a relaxed party frame of mind too with the festivities going on all around.

The expected suspects like Ray Charles, Wynonie Harris, Elvis Presley and Big Joe Turner did their classics and the wily John Lee Hooker didn’t miss out on the new craze with “Shake Holler and Run”. Clyde McPhatter turned up twice: once with the Dominos on “Sixty Minute man" then with the Drifters for “Such A Night”. The sublime “Cool Yule” of Louis Armstrong and the lascivious “Back Door Santa” of Clarence Carter showed polar opposites of what it means to get into the Christmas spirit. Sugar Chile Robinson was but twelve years old on his “Christmas Boogie” while Mabel Scott was a tad older when she hooked up with her “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus”. Both those piano pieces kept the uptempo feel going; we didn’t really do a recognisable gospel song but the sentiments of the Staples Singers “Who Took The Merry Out of Christmas” gave us a poignant reminder on how the message can so easily get lost. I asked folks to remember everyone working over the holidays including taxi drivers who will give up their party nights to get you to yours and home safely. A cheap Christmas gift to give that would be priceless is for you to knock on your neighbours door to check if they are alright in this bad weather – helping with a pint of milk or a loaf of bread can make a difference while getting out and about is difficult.

I’m hoping to fix the problem with posting playlists this week, thanks for your patience related to a broken pc. God willing I’ll bring you some more blues on Boxing Day at ten when you’ll find out how to get your *free* copy of Gary Blue’s Almanac. We’ll also reveal the STAR BLUES award winners including your listener choice of Artist of the Year. I’m also in on Bank Holiday Tuesday 28th at 7pm for three hours “BACK IN BLACK” with mayhem and tomfoolery in equal doses. Until then, from my family to yours, have a really good Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. Take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 13 December 2010

STAR BLUES on 12th December 2010 at 22:00

While half a dozen or so folks up and down the land were glued to Hughie Green's swingometer on Opportunity Knocks the rest of us had chance to listen to the artists in with a shout of a Grammy Award for blues. So we had the perfect excuse to go back to the latest albums by James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Solomon Burke and Buddy Guy and if I had my way they'd all win just for having made it the hard way in small clubs out in all weathers for less than the petrol money.

As far as many here are concerned, the Carolina Chocolate Drops are a local favourite and they are up for a Grammy in a Folk category. Their version of an Etta Baker tune showed complete mastery of form and content. "Guitarist" magazine has a festive special on Blues Guitarists (its a pretty decent effort actually) but they overlooked Etta, and Memphis Minnie and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The only women in the list were Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi. Mind you it isn't just sexist because Elmore James ain't there, nor is Duane Allman or Ry Cooder.

Unusually for us, the piano pieces closed the show and I did get the back timing spot on to allow Jimmy Yancey his trademark off-key flourish at the close of "Yancey Stomp". The Holmes Brothers romped through "Up Above My Head" for the gospel one and they've set the tone for next week's show: "Shake Rattle and Roll". It has a subtitle: "How I learned to stop worrying about blues, we just call it rock'n'roll instead". White tee-shirt and cat clothes will be the order of the day and we'll expect you to roll back the rug for some jumpin' blues, bop and rock'n'roll. I'm comin' in my slick-a-back limousine and I look forward to your company again this Sunday at 10pm. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 6 December 2010

STAR BLUES on 5th December 2010 at 22:00

We opened up the listener vote last night for the STAR BLUES Artist of 2010 with suggestions coming in by phone, email and Facebook. The winner will be announced live on the Boxing Day show and published in the imminent Gary Blue's Almanac. Some of the candidates made a showing in the playlist: Eric Clapton, Solomon Burke, Tom Jones, Mavis Staples.

There were new tracks from Tas Cru, Sweet Angel and the Delta Flyers and first outings for Willie Anderson and John Lee Henley. Thanks to our rock god Neil Jones we also had a chance to spin the single “Hard Times” by Eric Clapton not due until 27th December. Three of my favourite albums of the year are all by “women of a certain age” if I may be so bold: Mavis Staples, Bettye LaVette and Dana Gillespie each one a welcome antidote to the over-produced preening queens you can see on the reality talent shows.

For many the appeal of our music is in the song and how it touches and we revisited Wendell Holmes' song about his recovery from cancer called “Fair weather friends” and Charlie Musselwhite wrote for the first time (“Sad and beautiful world”) how he felt when his mother was murdered at Christmas in 2005. Marie Knight brought her gospel offering as a neat contrast to the Tom Jones version of “Burning Hell” that out-hookered John Lee Hooker's original. West Coast pianist Kenny Blues Boss Wayne had to migrate north of the border to Canada to get a recording break but he now has his props and the go at Amos Milburn's “Let me go home whiskey” was proof indeed.

This upcoming Sunday we will survey those Grammy nominations in the blues categories, I'll bring my white tee-shirt if you bring your best ears. Until then, take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 29 November 2010

STAR BLUES on 28th November 2010 at 22:00

I made a blunder on last weeks show that had to be put right yesterday with suitable man size portion of humble pie. My piece on Little Smokey Smothers was finished off with a splendid blues performance - by his brother Otis (Big) Smokey Smothers. So we played something from Little Smokey's debut solo album last night to make amends. Amazingly it was also his first appearance on STAR BLUES too.

There were also rare outings from Angela Brown, Dana Gillespie and Joan Armatrading (who knew in 1972 that the gentle folkie could play electric blues guitar like that and have two number-1 blues albums before 2010). Dana is know to many by her association with David Bowie, for being an Australian swimming champion and her voluptuous charms - she's matured into a smokey voiced blues singer and writer of the very highest order. Like Armatrading, she has a new album that will surprise and delight many.

As a young child I went to Sunday School which was fun but the weekly session with the grown ups in church was cold and impersonal. If only they'd had Mavis Staples doing the sermons and music, my experiences would have been so much better. There is a warmth and stoicism in her singing that touches the listener - her new project with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco is a magnificent effort already written onto the statuettes at next years awards I'm sure.

We found Freddie King in rare acoustic mood in a Dallas radio studio in the early 1970's with a very individual take on "Dust My Broom"; handslapped knees provided rhythm to the Carolina Chocolate Drops version of "Why Don't You Do Right" composed by Kansas Joe McCoy but made into a hit by Lil Green then Peggy Lee. Not much chance of a hit or even airplay for (Benjamin) Bull Moose Jacksons "Big Ten Inch" but it was his shellac he meant wasn't it? That actually brings us back to Dana Gillespie who covered the song back a while.

I'm updating the cover songs section of GARY BLUE'S ALMANAC, so its coming. Please bring your best ears next Sunday at 10pm (GMT), I can't promise to be blemish free but it won't be bland. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 22 November 2010

STAR BLUES on 21st November 2010 at 22:00

Heartiest congratulations to the Mighty Mark Peters and Lisa this past week, both up late at nights with new son Harrison to ensure his daily routine includes a weekly dose of STAR BLUES. To mark the celebration we had James Armstrong on hand with “Slender Man Blues” and Lady Bianca’s rollicking “Baby’s Boogie”. By that time we’d already heard from Otis Grand, Joe Louis Walker and Johnny Rawls – a starting line-up you’d not match anywhere else.

Earl Gaines, Bobby Rush, and Bob Corritore brought new or recent albums, as did those chaps at the SPV label who have put out a nice anthology of Jump and R&B from 1940’s label Bullet Records. As well as Cecil Gant, Willie Dixon and Walter Davis they gave a start to an earnest young pup by the name of Riley King, wonder whatever happened to him? Johnnie Mae Marshall co-wrote “Gonna Send You Back to Georgia”, Timmy Shaw did it first but our back-to-back feature had versions from James Carr and Hound Dog Taylor about as different as you can imagine. Roy Roberts is a nice player with a warm throaty voice and anything by him is a welcome addition to the playlist and we caught Luther Allison in a rare acoustic mood in his living room. Mahalia Jackson held fast in the gospel tent and Red Miller’s Trio did the honours on a b-side for the piano feature.

Little Smokey Smothers died on Saturday and we passed on the sad news and remarked on his long-lasting friendship with Elvin Bishop – we’ll play something from it on next weeks show along with Elvin’s own album that has at long last arrived here. In the run up to Christmas, I’m putting the finishing, touches to Gary Blue’s Almanac 2011 the follow up to last years volume. As before there’ll be no charge, I’m just asking for a donation to benefit the MusicMaker charity if you like it and decide to keep it. Keep listening for more details. You made me welcome last night and I’d like to do it all again next Sunday at 10pm if you’ll have me – until then take care of your selves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 8 November 2010

STAR BLUES on 7th November 2010 at 22:00

A first for me on last night’s STAR BLUES with every track coming from a brand new album, boy was I nervous coming round to your place with an armful of stuff barely out of the shrink wrap. As it turned out you made me welcome anyway and there were plenty of good things on offer.

Imelda May is stylish and a rebel in a way that fuses rockabilly with forties jump blues, the title track off her new album “Mayhem” set the tone from the off last night. She was joined with new names Rita Chiarelli and Kirsten Thien, each with confident performances from projects we’ll be bound to go back to before long. The latter was lucky to get on the playlist; her soft-focus photo on the front cover looks more for Marie Claire magazine than for a blues show. Nearly put her to the bottom of the pile as being too glamourous for us? (Then I remembered our very own slender man – Mark Peters – the very epitome of cool suave sophistication at 6 in the morning)

Why Kenny Neal isn’t a huge star I’ll never know, just savour how his fluid playing stretches out on modern blues. The 74 year-old Buddy Guy has “Living Proof” out next week and he came along with two tracks: one with Carlos Santana’s magic, the other a ferocious piece the envy of a 24 year old. I found his music many years ago on a semi-legal cassette tape while in a leaky caravan during a miserable fortnight’s holiday, his axe playing blew me away then. It still does. Clay McClinton’s influence is obvious, but when that is Delbert as dad, he ain’t doing too bad at all. Todd Sharpville looks set to break big in the States; his new double album has cameos from Duke Robillard, Joe Louis Walker and Kim Wilson. He wrote all but one of the songs and his muscular guitar never outstays its welcome. Did I mention his dad is an Arch-Bishop and David Cameron wanted him to be a Conservative mp? The coalition’s loss is our gain. Lynwood Slim has gone to Sao Paolo in Brazil for his backing band and the results were both jumpin’ and joyous.

Bobby Womack and Aaron Neville both brought covers of Dylan songs and Robert Plant inspired me to include the original “Twelve Gates to the City” that his Band of Joy did magnificently at the Electric Proms. Tiny label Dialtone gave us Hosea Hargrove and the Rev. KM Williams bringing us full circle with authentic rural blues. If nothing else I hope STAR BLUES has given you some ideas for items on Santa’s list and the “normal” programming will be back next Sunday at 10pm. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 1 November 2010

STAR BLUES on 31st October 2010 at 22:00

We finished our contribution to Black History Month with the fifth show in a quartet. Living Blues magazine chose essential blues albums for the for decades since 1970 and last night we looked at how blues has changed in this period as well as at how blues is already in the main stream in adverts and as part of tv show soundtracks.

Case in point being Etta James' "I Just Wanna Make Love To You" via the soft drink advert is now on a colleague's ring tone even though he won't have anything to do with blues. Similarly Ray Charles' "Mess Around" now promotes a well known chemist with cute kids and grubby faces. Taj Mahal's "You Can't Always Get What You Want" has been in Hugh Laurie's "House" and so on.

There's a fifty year limit on song reproduction copyright that's opened up dozens of cd reissues of classic blues and r&b from late 40's and 50's - there's a number of labels formed to put these songs into the marketplace. Personally I'm not sure about buying things when you can't be sure the artist (or family) has got their dues. Stick to the big name reissue labels like Ace would be my advice because of the research done to ensure everyone gets paid who should. STAR BLUES last night made mention because the situation has changed the landscape for blues making things readily available that you could only dream of just a few years before.

Hardworking live acts in Britain and Europe have kept the word out there so we were pleased to celebrate the Blues Band, Dr. Feelgood and Mike Sanchez in particular. Big names courted by the rock press like Gary Moore, B. B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Lee Hooker and Bonnie Raitt made sure our music could be found in non-blues places. Tom Jones as we speak is in the album charts reflecting the visibility of gospel so we went to the original of his cover of Johnny Cash's "Gods Gonna cut You Down" for our sacred spot; and then to Eric Bibb's uplifting bucolic piece "Shingle by Shingle". Mitch Woods' tribute to the New Orleans sound that shaped Rock'n'Roll was called Crescent City flyer with rippling piano and solid sticksmanship off Earl Palmer at age 82.

Next Sunday every track will be from a cd not played before and released in 2010. If you've not been naughty you can use the show to build your Santa list - don't forget Santa knows and he'll check the list twice. I've got another white tee-shirt in my box if you've got the ears. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 25 October 2010

STAR BLUES on 24th October 2010 at 22:00

The fourth show in the series looking at notable blues albums chosen by Living Blues magazine gave us the widest range of styles so far. The Noughties has been a decade that has allowed our music to take note of its heritage in country-blues and jazz and then bring in elements of world music. It still retains the edge of electric guitar based Chicago blues.

B B King is still doing the biz, his "One Kind Favour" album is on the list and he brought a new version of a Howlin' Wolf song. We had chances to celebrate less well known artists like Johnny B. Moore, Andrew Jr. Boy Jones and Barbara Lynn as well as core show stalwarts like Phillip Walker and Robert Ward who never made a bad album. Moore's "Rockin In The Same Boat" from 2003 is his most recent project because of health worries and Koko Taylor died after her "Old School" album that did exactly what it said on the tin with a fierce slide guitar display from "Steady Rollin" Bob Margolin. Barabara Lynn is an amazing left-handed guitarist and singer whose work was sampled by Moby on his "18" album.

Last week we talked about some comments from blues-bored rock-based guitarists wanting to change the music, I hope the selections from Otis Taylor, Corey Harris and Alvin Youngblood Hart were enough to demonstrate that the future is in safe hands. One of the heavyweight Sundays proclaimed R. L. Burnside as "the last living bluesman" though his "Wish I Was In Heave Sitting Down" won him few friends with the purists when it came out in 2000. They objected to his use of samples, overdubs and seven producers and they bemoaned the lack of interaction with other players. Obviously there's been a re-evaluation to see the album in this list. Bettye Lavette and Joe Louis Walker came along with excellent contributions that back up their achievements with brand new albums we've featured on STAR BLUES.

I haven't felt the four shows have had enough of the full flavour of 40 years change in blues so I've added a fifth show to the quartet to look at how the music has been bucked up by folks like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gary Moore; at the effect of john Lee Hooker's "Healer", at the use of blues music in adverts and in tv series, and at how box-sets and public-domain recordings have added to the sustained popularity of blues. All that - and a white tee-shirt - next Sunday at ten. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 18 October 2010

STAR BLUES on 17th October 2010 at 22:00

I have just about everything Bobby Womack has recorded, so I am at loss to explain why I thought his 1975 song Jealous Love was done by Syl Johnson for the Robert Cray version in last night’s 1990s blues album survey. I am suitably humbled. Elsewhere STAR BLUES heavily reflected the electric dominance of our music during the decade with just small pockets of down-home and acoustic sounds. Cray has been recording for thirty years and has a remarkable consistency that sees him (even as we speak) on the cover of the newest issue of Living Blues. Within the pages he’s pictured with B. B. King whose ‘Blues on the Bayou’ project was full of lovely relaxed unforced performances. My review in B&R at the time remarked on how it was the first whole album worthy of his talent.

Michael Hill’s Blues Mob currently have no record deal, yet their “Can’t Recall A Time” from their debut “Bloodlines” had a still-relevant social message showing blues has a vibrant future. Similarly at the envelope of the blues, Mighty Mo Rodgers’ big-label debut drew its influences from a number of places including the new-world and Alvin YoungBlood Hart and Corey Harris brought new sensibilities to traditional forms of blues. At the moment a couple of high-profile “blues” players have said the music is boring and needs to change, presumably by adding more free-form instrumental grandstanding – I think our music is in great shape with a younger generation that includes Robert Randolph and the Homemade Jamz band. This is a discussion that happens every now and again when second rate rock guitarists turn to blues to make a quick buck and then want to move on to the real money in the mainstream.

The other side to the 90s blues scene was the almost total replacement of vinyl with compact disc and with the indecent haste box-sets were assembled and pushed out to celebrate the legacy or make us buy stuff for a second time depending on your perspective. By their nature those projects were missing from Living Blues survey and I plan to do a fifth show in the series of four to “catch up” with the milestones for blues since 1970. That’ll be in a fortnight on 31st October and next week we’ll look at the Noughties decade, so I hope you’ll bring your best ears, the music and white tee-shirt is down to me; until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that will take care of you.

Monday, 11 October 2010

STAR BLUES on 10th October 2010 at 22:00

Jerry Wexler described Solomon Burke as "the" soul singer and the news came hard yesterday that the Bishop had died while travelling to his next gig in Holland to promote a new album he's recorded with Dutch band deDijk. Our STAR BLUES show last night remembered him with a pair of tracks, one from each end of his career. As a sixteen year-old, he recorded for Apollo in 1956 and we uncovered one of those sides and did a selection off this year's "Nothings Impossible" album, produced by legendary Willie Mitchell (who passed in January). I left the playing of his really well-known sides on Atlantic to the other shows who will remark on this great talent but we had chance to recall a couple of his entrepreneurial activities.

The rest of the show moved to the 1980s for the choice of albums in the second of four specials looking back over 40 years of blues. In that decade many afro-Americans felt pushed out of soul and blues music by white rockers and disco fans so there was a sense of holding ground with only pockets of artists trying new things. The blues market had moved towards albums and the mainstream labels had no real interest in our music. Z. Z. Hill bucked the trend with a ground breaking album on Malaco that opened up a "soul-blues" genre aimed squarely at the Southern States' chitlin circuit. Bobby Bland also moved to Malaco after parent-label MCA didn't know what to do with him or his music - he was persuaded to cut a Larry Addison song "Members Only" that gave a real kick start to his career.

Muddy Waters was enjoying an Indian Summer in fortunes too by dint of Johnny Winters production and help on four great albums: "King Bee" proved to be his last in 1981 but it was chosen by Living Blues for the 1980s list and onto our show. Winter also did some sessions with Sonny Terry and Willie Dixon for his own Mad Albino label that saw wider distribution via Alligator. Bruce Iglauer maintained the quality with offerings from Koko Taylor, Son Seals, the final Professor Longhair project and the debut of Lil' Ed Williams and his Rough Housin' Blues Imperials. Jimmy Johnson is 82 now, is still gigging and his "North South" on Delmark was featured - Magic Slim is up there in years too and is the bedrock for the current Chicago club scene, we had a track from his "Grand Slam" album. According to LB he is a national treasure and you wouldn't find any argument here.

Next Sunday our review turns to the 1990s and I hope you'll be able to come along, I'll bring the music if you bring your best ears. Until Sunday 17th at 10pm (BST) take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Gary Blue

Sunday, 3 October 2010

STAR BLUES on 3rd October 2010 at 22:00

Of all the blues magazines, few if any can match the longevity and influence of Living Blues, published 6 times every year to the world - and now celebrating the 40th anniversary. To mark the achievement they've chosen albums that define each decade and STAR BLUES reflects them yesterday and on the next three shows. We did music from twenty-two of the thirty in the Seventies selection to show the depth and quality of blues on offer.

1970 was a watershed for the blues purists and for our music in general as the emphasis moved away from singles on 45 or 78 towards the long playing vinyl format. It also meant that a blues song could be recorded in one than one studio at more than one time and pieced together later (previously blues was done in one or two takes with everyone present in the same studio for the session). Blues was documented as discographies showing who played with who and when, how players interacted to spark a unique or compelling performance. The Seventies for some meant the end of that "innocence" and a move towards a moguls-view of blues as a business commodity shifting emphasis away from artists. Not sure if I subscribe to those notions but it gives you an idea of the background to the birth of America's first international blues publication. (Prior to then we Brits showed our interest in blues, soul and gospel in a number of monthly magazines).

It was a great chance to remind ourselves how good the music was back then even if it was very hard to come by after the Sixties boom finished. Hound Dog Taylor set the tone with a rambunctious workout, Fenton Robinson, urbane and anguished followed and so lesser Muddy Waters opened the show. Bukka White, Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker all had substantial careers already by the turn of the decade so no surprise to see them in the list. Eric Clapton and Dr. John were on hand for Buddy Guy and Jr Wells seminal "play the Blues" album and two Alberts Collins and King did what they did best at opposite ends of the Seventies. Hugh Hefner kickstarted Phillip Walker's career by signing him to the Playboy label and Walkers old mentor Clifton Chenier was on hand with a vibrant zydeco version of "The Hucklebuck". Lonnie Brooks got his start in Chenier's band and his "Bayou Lightnin'" gave us "Breakfast In Bed". His energetic sound effects won't be encouraged or in keeping with the family image our slender man has on the weekday breakfast extravaganza.

The soulful side got a good representation from ted Taylor, Bobby Bland, Little Milton, McKinley Mitchell and Geater Davis. The last pair being very difficult to find on cd at the moment. You can make a white tee shirt very happy if you can come up with more info on discs on either man. I'll leave you with that conundrum as I set about putting an Eighties setlist together for next Sunday. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 27 September 2010

STAR BLUES on 26th September 2010 at 22:00

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.

Gary Blue

Monday, 20 September 2010

STAR BLUES on 19th September 2010 at 22:00

More taboos shattered on last night’s STAR BLUES with Furry Lewis, Bette Midler and Jimi Hendrix on the same show: possibly a world first? We marked Hendrix’ early demise 40 years ago with a magnificent version of “Red House” from 1966; Furry Lewis was on board with some rare and unissued recordings discovered by Fat Possum, and by request the Divine Ms Midler lead us through “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” cut during her time as a sauna attendant in New York. Put a rap song with BB King into the mix and you’ve got a typical feast from the man in the white tee-shirt.

Davis Coen, Ian Siegal, Gary US Bonds and Duke Robillard brought new wares to the party with the Duke’s “Text Me” coming right off the tabloid headlines. Its ok I didn’t mention any footballers or comedians. The Alligator label is starting to make its back numbers available for download so if you’ve heard names like Carey Bell and Raful Neal, there’s now little excuse for not finding some of their best work. To set you off running, both men got an outing last night. From the same imprint, Corey Harris and Henry Butler romped through some piano blues, I just can’t fathom why their duet hasn’t been repeated these past ten years?

Hendrix always gave props to Guitar Slim so we included one of his 1958 Atco pieces and then a landmark London appearance by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee from the same year. BB King’s 85th gave us reason to do his 1954 songs like “You Upset Me Baby” and “Everyday I Have The Blues”, I’d have done “Thrill Is Gone” too if the left-hand cd deck had played ball as we closed the show – promise I’ll do better next time. That’ll be ten pm on the same channel – your Star Radio – next Sunday; I’ll just ask you to bring your best ears. Until then, take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 13 September 2010

STAR BLUES on 12th September 2010 at 22:00

Every so often you come across a song that has a good vocal and splendidly adept guitar playing that says a lot about hope and humanity. Case in point "Jesus and Mohammed" by Candye Kane with lyrics about the similarities of the many over the differences of the few. Given the hoo-ha Stateside this weekend, I wanted to include some common-sense from one of our favourite artists.

The slice of serious was matched with slabs of new stuff from former gospel star James Nixon and nascent soul star Charles Walker - both on SPV later this month, both helmed by the really wonderful Fred James from Nashville (knighthood must only be a formality Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg). The Spikedrivers now have "Seven" issued and their take on "Easy Money" says more about our economic woes than any MP or banker. Best of the bunch is the Telarc project by Pinetop Perkins and Willie Smith - good old fashioned blues befitting two veterans at the top of their games. Smith made a name playing drums for Muddy Waters, on this one he just plays harp - and - get this - the inside booklet has a photo of Pinetop without hat. Rarity value in that alone, this dapper man is known for his titfer and love of the ladies. The Band Of Joy album by Robert Plant is out now too but I won't go further except to say his voice has markedly improved with age, a national treasure no less.

B. B. King is 85 on Thursday 16th so I included lesser known pieces from the Sixties and one from the essential "LIVE AT THE REGAL" album, and there'll be more next Sunday. Erja Lyytenen and the Golden Gate Quartet turned up with some nimble vocals in our sacred spot, Albert Ammons did his boogie woogie piano thing fronting a combo as tight as a ducks hind quarters. We topped and tailed with two guitar maestros: Albert Collins and Lowell Fulson (pronounced Fulton) - it was all over too soon.

Your invite was very kind and you were great company, I hope to do it all again this Sunday at 10 for two hours more white shirted tomfoolery: you're very welcome. Until we get together again, take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 6 September 2010

STAR BLUES on 5th September 2010 at 22:00

Lady Blue wasn't keen on my idea for last night's STAR BLUES. She said "You can't talk about cricketers and what they do in their spare time, you'll get arrested". I said "Wanna bet?" And I did.

Mark Butcher played for Surrey and England up until 2009 and scored 8 centuries at Test level. He has an album showing off good writing, singing and guitar skills - some of it quite bluesy. If you like Paul Weller as well ...

We had tracks from brand new outings by Dani Wilde, Gerry Jablonski and Tom Jones - the boy from the Valleys doing a nifty update to a John Lee Hooker piece exciting good reactions from the throng. Just a smidge under forty years since Hendrix died in London and we marked the date with a track off the 2010 rarities set "Neptune" (it will be worth your while tuning in early to Neil's Rock show if you're a Hendrix fan over the next couple of weeks). Similar sadness because we lost Lil Dave Thompson earlier this year but JSP has now reissued his classy set "Cmon Down To the Delta" that gave us a chance to showcase his work last night.

Robin Rogers is very ill and we sent her our love and best wishes as she battles her liver disease, "Nobodys Gonna Hurt You" has a soulful groove and a feisty vocal that indicates shes putting up a heck of a fight and the blues world is right behind her. Facebook friend Janiva Magness has provided updates and we included the title track off "The Devil Is An Angel Too", her latest project.

Now I'm into a second decade of commercial FM blues, I've decided to tweak the second hour of the show and in the coming weeks I hope you'll find it has moved to another level by looking at the classic blues eras. To start things off I went back to the track that started me off ten years ago from the second Sonny Boy Williamson (in truth him plus Muddy Waters band). We won't be abandoning the newest artists and releases but other stations do that so much better, you can rely on STAR BLUES to be that bit different. In fact you can bet on it.

If I can keep myself out of mischief I plan to be back on Sunday at ten for two hours more white shirted tomfoolery I hope you can come along. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those thast take care of you.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

STAR BLUES on 29th August 2010 at 22:00

Moving into a second decade of blues on commercial FM radio proved to be less daunting than feared on Sunday's STAR BLUES. No time to look back with new tracks by Charlie Musselwhite, Ronnie Earl, Paul Thorn and Peter Karp/Sue Foley. All four are quality issues that underline the depth of active talent we have at the moment to celebrate our music.

As for the future we can see guys like Otis Taylor marking out one way forward that an be passed down - his "Think I Won't" is a contemporary piece straight from the news headlines set to a hypnotic ambient arrangement. Irma Thomas - one of the true giants of soul-blues - did a track with hip-hop band Galatica showing the adaptability of both artist and form. Incredibly (according to the new issue of Living Blues) Irma doesn't work as often as she deserves because of her attention to detail and wish to always use her own band rather than pickup musos the club provides.

The remarkable Little Willie Littlefield will be over here next month and he will sing, play and talk about old times when he comes to Castor. We went to his classics for our piano blues feature and the Blind Boys of Alabama did some gospel in their cover of "Wade In the Water". Gene Allison and Chris Beard were born 29th August and Van Morrison is 65 today (31st). No further excuse needed to play tracks from each.

My anniversary celebrations continued last night (Bank Holiday Monday) with a three hour "Journeyman" show where I swapped white tee-shirt for black and rummaged into the rest of my music collection. I am the luckiest man in radio getting an invite to your place every week to chat and play some music - you are very kind in the warmth of your company - thank-you.

I'll be back starting another decade on Sunday at ten, until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 23 August 2010

STAR BLUES on 22nd August 2010 at 22:00

“The Blues is a Healer” – so said John Lee Hooker who was born on 22nd August and whose song started off last night’s STAR BLUES show. For many folks, his music was the first they heard described as blues, even dark and moody. Carlos Santana found him working in San Francisco in the mid-80’s, gave him that song and the rest changed the course of blues since. His Vee-Jay recording of “Boom Boom” was also in to show what the Brits saw in him in the Sixties to fuel the blues boom.

We didn’t forget Debbie Davies either, her birthday was excuse (if one was needed) to go to her latest album “Holding Court” for a version of Duke Robillard’s “Fishnet”. The ladies were further represented by Jesse Mae Hemphill, suggested by Olga who herself did a cover of Memphis Minnie’s “What’s The Matter With The Mill”. Dani Wilde’s upcoming album is produced for Ruf records by legendary producer Mike Vernon. If our choice last night is typical this will be her best yet with a confident swagger to her vocals usually only found in the male of the species.

Vernon’s job in 1967 was to coax a performance from John Mayall and Mick Taylor in the songbook of the second Sonny Boy Williamson – you can take it from the “Classic” badge given to the Crusade album that he succeeded. More new music from Ben Prestage who ploughs the same furrow as Seasick Steve for a Johnny Cash song that is the gospel standard “Run On” in all but name.

This upcoming Friday it will have been twenty years since the helicopter crash that killed Stevie Ray Vaughan and several others – there’ll be tributes elsewhere but we chose instead to include two rarities off the SRV boxset that you won’t find anywhere else. I’ve been in print saying that if I want this sort of rock blues, Stevie is my first choice: no-one did it better. He helped raise the profile of our music, even if we got left with dozens and dozens of second-rate Strat players that think blues is an easy buck.

Piano came from Eddie Boyd in 1955 and from Bob Hall in 1998; we’ve done “Axel’s Wheel” before but it is a gloriously free piece of boogie woogie that never fails. Prestage did some gospel as did the Soul Stirrers with a 20-year old Sam Cooke on amazing lead vox. We also squeezed in Eric Bibb’s cover of a Blind Willie Johnson Song to mark another birthday.

Bank Holiday Monday inches ever closer and that means a black tee-shirt for JOURNEYMAN – a rambunctious ride through the darkest corners of my cd box with roots, rock, soul, reggae and even some blues. Starts at 7pm though we’ve got a STAR BLUES on Sunday before then. I’d be thrilled skinny if you’d like to come along – until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Gary Blue

Monday, 16 August 2010

STAR BLUES on 15th August 2010 at 22:00

The definition of STAR BLUES = Johnny Winter to start and Johnny Shines to finish by way of Robert Plant and Count Basie. Add to those a handful of new tracks and something from what is likely to be the album of the year and you have a normal days fare from the show.

We took two bites at Johnny Shines but it was well worth it for a classic Chicago style performance, both Johnny Winter and Katie Webster were coaxed to give of their best by Bruce Iglauer for Alligator and the quality looks set to continue with eagerly awaited sets off James Cotton and Charlie Musselwhite any time soon. I think Plant's new album "Band of Joy" has been featured elsewhere, we had his covers of songs by Los Lobos and Lightnin' Hopkins - the latter has him on washboard (if you're thinking Deryck Guyler, think again). He's continued in that mid-west Americana treatment of his muse that started with "Raisin' Sand" so don't expect any Zep bombast these days. We like it a lot here and I was surprised to get it before our very own rock god Neil Jones.

He will probably get shaded out in the album stakes this year by a project that is so achingly wonderful you just want to tell everyone about it - Bettye LaVette's "Interpretations" has her doing bold covers of songs by Zeppelin, Derek & Dominoes and the Who. She's never heard the originals and that gives here the freedom to find new meanings in the lyrics winning high praise from Robert Plant and Pete Townshend. Tiny in stature, her voice has a thousand years of life's knocks and she is a unique talent whose time has come at last.

Jimmy Rushing was on hand with Count Basie for "Good Morning Blues", Earl Gaines had a song written by Mary Ann Brandon bemoaning the girth of his woman's seating arrangements and Saffire had the perfect answer (or should that be re-butt-al) saying you can't have too much. Who says you can't have fun with the blues? Next Sunday at 10pm we'll try to prove it again, I hope you can make it along - until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you. Remember Bank Holiday Monday 7pm JOURNEYMAN is coming ...

Monday, 9 August 2010

STAR BLUES on 8th August 2010 at 22:00

In looking back at favourites and the originators we get chance to look forward too. STAR BLUES does both and I've got a special anniversary coming up. You've been kind enough to have me round at your place for ten years on 2nd September so I'm planning a three hour show for Bank Holiday Monday 30th August starting 7pm. I'm starting to put things into my bag now, some of them that have got you worked up or tickled your fancy and some that no-one else would dare to play. I'll be here if you like roots, blues, country, folk, soul gospel or good-ol-fashioned rock - or you just want to find out what foolery tom is getting up to (or even what he's wearing)

We've got regular doses of blues on Sundays at 10 until then and I hope we an get past the milestone together. Look out for the JOURNEYMAN on the station that plays Cambridge and Ely's greatest hits on 107.9/1FM and streaming on line from Until then ... ...

Monday, 2 August 2010

STAR BLUES on 1st August 2010 at 22:00

I'd like to think STAR BLUES did something to show how vibrant and relevant our type of music is last night.

The boy from the valleys stands tall in the UK album charts with what all the critics say is the best thing he's ever done - not easily swayed by what the papers say, we talked about Tom Jones' "Praise and Blame" project. We also had a first play of Mellow-D with one of her singles "Half of Love", a gorgeous reinvention of classic soul produced by Syl Johnson. He's reopened his classic Twilight label for her album due any day now, she has the potential to be a big star, provided she doesn't discover pop music like the erst-while last big thing from Devon. We played "Run On" from Tom's album and he settles nicely into a John Lee Hooker Groove with some heartfelt vocals. There's a couple of things that he sounds less comfortable with and the playing time is less than an old-fashioned vinyl album but it is an important marker in the resurgence in interest in blues and gospel.

Two major monthly magazines have cover-mount cds with blues themes and we played Son House's "Death Letter" from one of them. The blurb says here are the influences of Robert Plant and many more - I'd say there's not much in my collection that WASN'T influenced by House. Buddy Guy had a birthday and Ann Rabson has just done a solo spot with him on the day, she reported a great time had by all and we look forward to what she does next. Buddy's go at "Let Me Love You" marked his birthday and "You Got To Choose" was in to send similar good wishes to Deitra Farr.

Otis Taylors newest project has an angry parent taking on the sadly too-frequent dug dealer in the playground problem and he pushes blues just that little bit further by making his stories and subjects bang up to date. There was some long overdue catching up with releases on Delta Groove: the last studio project from Sean Costello and Kirk Fletchers new album showed that the younger generation can still make decent blues music. There is a poignancy to the early loss of Sean when he promised so much. The Phantom Blues Band were dependably enjoyable in the songbook of Freddie King and two very different piano blues vyed for attention last night: Bobby Troup and Henry Butler. Sister Rosetta Tharpe brought her original 1942 version of "Strange Things" that Tom has covered for his first single off the album.

Other new stuff came from Walter Trout and Wilson T. King; Stephen in Wisbech won the Steve Earle competition by knowing that Earle has been married 7 times (twice to same woman). Next week we'll have a whole show of back-to-back originals and covers, I hope you can come along next Sunday at 10pm. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 26 July 2010

STAR BLUES on 25th July 2010 at 22;00

Other than a live album he recorded in Japan in the early Seventies, I have just about everything Phillip Walker recorded under his own name. Despite a big guitar sound his warm voice and gentle nature created a classy intimate setting for his blues. I never met him but those that did stressed his manners and kindness, the announcement of his death last Friday caught many folks unawares and it still hasn't yet sunk in. The three tracks I had on last night's STAR BLUES were scarcely enough to do him justice. He just beat Robert Cray into the studio for his version of "Don't be afraid of the dark", but the way of these things the critical acclaim wasn't matched by the high profile and subsequent sales from Cray even though they shared a producer and record label.

We also had a track from Steve Miller's first recordings in 19 years - an album of blues covers that feature the much missed Norton Buffalo on harp. Paolo Nutini's go at "Lovin' Machine" over Christmas prompted new listener Steve to ask about the original: it was Wynonie Harris as lead vocalist to the Todd Rhodes Orchestra in 1951. Another notable cover was Otis Reddings' version of "Satisfaction" he did in 1965 for the classic "Otis Blue" project - he upset the soul purists at the time but what he lost with them he gained in the mainstream.

Classic Rock magazine this month (there are other mags) has features on the Doors and on Stevie Ray Vaughan (who died 20 years ago next month). To coincide we did "Roadhouse blues" from the former and celebrated a "love struck baby" for the latter. I noted during the week its now possible to get Hound Dog Taylors songs in download format so there's the excuse to go to his "She's Gone" he did for Alligator. Aaron Neville has the build of a very trim and toned heavyweight boxer but the falsetto voice of an angel, tremulous and wispy on Sam Cooke's "change is gonna come" - that was over in the gospel tent. Our pianists were Ray Charles, Joe Liggins and Mike Sanchez. My birthday celebrations on Saturday ended with the dvd by Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings with Mike on lead vocals and keyboards. He is disgustingly talented and the good Lady Blue thinks he's real cute - me I love his tomfoolery, I have much to learn it seems.

Good to hear that Sophie has Mark Peters in hand on Star Breakfasts and the podcasts are easily the equal of Mrs Dales' diary - "I'm worried about Jim..." (Did you see his photos on Facebook: toned and buff or what - confirms my theory about him being a babe magnet). While I still have a job I'll put the spade down until next Sunday at 10pm, I hope you'll be able to come along for some more blues. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 19 July 2010

STAR BLUES on 18th July 2010 at 22:00

Our Slender Man is looking for a golf buggy to help at the Charity Golf day – he’s got his bats and balls but after the shapes he’s thrown lately, he’s aggravated an old Macarena wound. His fans on STAR BLUES are worried.

To salve their concerns we had a feast of guitar dexterity last night, including instrumental pieces by Elizabeth Cotton and Martin Simpson. Cotton didn’t start recording until she was 66 and she won a Grammy for her live album aged 90; Simpson is a folk player whose music I discovered while researching the FREEWHEELIN’ show earlier this month and the track I chose came from a gospel album he did in 1994. The other song in the gospel spot was Professor Alex Bradford’s “Too Close To Heaven”, a rousing song delivered with melismatic swoops and shouts.

I somehow missed Pinetop Perkins’ 97th birthday on 7th July and there’s two things about him you should know other than his lovely florid piano style: he is never seen without a hat, nor is he ever found without the most beautiful women at his side. Ladies Man. Certainly true in 1978 for his support on Koko Taylor’s version of Floyd Dixon’s “Hey Bartender”. We made a swift return to Mitch Wood’s “Gumbo” album for a rollicking run through of “Too Many Drivers” – the album pays tribute to Smiley Lewis and the New Orleans rhythm & blues era.

As usual the Cambridge Folk Festival has some blues artists on the bill: Seasick Steve, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Holmes Brothers are but three – and all made an appearance with tracks last night. Robert Cray was in town last week and his new album is in shops this week – recorded in Mobile Alabama it has a go at the Mississippi Sheiks’ song “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”, something I’d not heard him try before. It had fine interplay of his guitar with the keyboards skills of Jim Pugh. A couple of rock’n’roll ladies dropped in: Ruth Brown who’s been before and Erline Harris whose stuff is as rare as hen’s teeth was with us for the first time. She’s also on the cover of the new issue of Juke Blues magazine. (Other blues publications are available).

With Lightnin’ Hopkins, Smokey Wilson and Sonny Boy Williamson, we’ll modestly claim the best selection of blues available anywhere on the planet last night. If you’d like to be with us to see if we can do the same again this upcoming Sunday at 10pm (BST), we’ll be pleased to have your company. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 12 July 2010

STAR BLUES on 11th July 2010 at 22:00

The footie ballyhoo is done now and I've been more impressed with kids at primary school in behaviour and organisation than anything I saw over the last month. I'm told there's only 3 weeks until the new season. At least you can rely on the blues to see you through the long dark cold nights until then.

Last night's STAR BLUES was introduced as evidence, namely Rob Stone and Mitch Woods brought more us good stuff on Earwig and both are sure to return in short order. Johnny Winter went for "Highway 61" and made Dylan's original redundant, while Steve Howell dispensed sage advice from father to son on the benefits of a Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache - not sure Mark Peters has either. Speaking of who, the sizable contingent of fans he has in the STAR BLUES community will take it in turns to call him at odd times to ensure he doesn't relapse into comfort eating now that Amy is otherwise busy. He will need to be trim and toned ready for when she comes back.

Larry Dale died in May and we had one of his solo sides from 1960 as a short note on his passing - best known as a sideman, his pleasing voice really deserved better chances to record under his own name. Eddie Taylor and Eddie Kirkland are also better known for who they helped rather than for their own pieces: the seminal "Big Town Playboy" and dance workout "The Hawk" respectively should've reset the balance somewhat.

Robert Cray was at the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Saturday night and I've rarely seen him play with more fire or sing better - his songs inhabit a twilight world of conspiracy, deception, intrigue and pain, these are adult themes across the ages and no-one else does them so well. Support Andy Fairweather Low has a nice line in easy to listen to blues tributes which made the whole gig something to remember. Of equal passion for yesterday's playlist on guitar was Eric Clapton the deity in the midst of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers for the 1966 classic "Have You Heard" over five minutes of playing like his life depended on it. You'd be forgiven for feeling a little drained after hearing it, whatever happened to Clapton? Where is he now?

You were great company last night and you made me feel so welcome, we had a couple of new listeners: Louise on facebook and Elaina in Uruguay, I hope they like you will want some more tomfoolery in a white tee shirt next Sunday at 10pm (BST). Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 5 July 2010

STAR BLUES on 4th July 2010 at 22:00

Crikey, I didn't know the human body was as pliable as that - you should have seen our very own Slender Man on Friday throwing shapes like they were going out of fashion. The Mighty Mark Peters and the Freewheelin' Gary Blue - wow. I had to have a rub down with a white tee-shirt and lay down in a darkened room for two days to be sure to recover enough for STAR BLUES last night.

Walter Trout's fervent "Star Spangled Banner" set the tone on Independence Day with six new albums and a cd competition. (Congrats to Roger who knew where Freddie King was born and got drawn first from the hat). This year is shaping up to be Earwig's year with high quality new blues from Les Copeland, from Tim Woods and from Chris James and Patrick Rynn for example (there's a tank-top involved but no-one's perfect). Norton Buffalo died earlier this year and his "Lady Luck" underlined how much he will be missed. That project is part of a bigger arts project in San Francisco running at the moment.

Also newly out through Ace in London, there's an anthology of Spencer Wiggins recordings post-Goldwax and a survey of Johnny Vincent's Ace label from Mississippi. The latter had Joe Tex sounding uncannily like Little Richard showing that Vincent - like Syd Nathan before him - hadn't figured out where Joe's talents really lay. (That was for the Dial label next). Albert Ammons rambunctious "Shout For Joy" put a smile on everyone's face around the piano, Charles Brown was far more urbane and one of Marie Knight's final recording was a lovely gospel piece for the MC label in tribute to Gary Davis.

We wrapped up with a fabulous a cappela performance of the Larry Addison song "Members Only" by the Persuasions that I sung along to (in my head you'll be relieved to know). I had a fabulous couple of days dabbling with folk and roots music and then the normal STAR BLUES - entirely thanks to you. If you're game, I'll be back again Sunday at 10pm (BST) with more. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

STAR BLUES on 27th June 2010 at 22:00 - EXTRA!

Breaking news!!! Following STAR BLUES' first festive song of 2010, the satellite movie channel MOVIES24 is going to be showing Christmas films every weekend in July.

Star Blues - the only blues show you can trust to be first.

Monday, 28 June 2010

STAR BLUES on 27th June 2010 at 22:00

Just like in Blumfontaine, it was a football free zone for STAR BLUES last night. There was a competition for two tickets to see Robert Cray (congrats to Tony who not only knew BB King is the "King of the Blues" but was first out of the hat), more new albums a 95th birthday and a Christmas record.

I had chance to tell the story of Calvin Leavy who died on 6th June, the poignancy of dying in prison forty years after writing about it was palpable. The full story is in Juke Blues magazine (#52) and "Cummins Prison Farm" remains a classic blues single for all that. Top of the shop we had tracks from the latest offerings on Blind Pig from John Nemeth and Magic Slim - at the tale end one of Jeff Healey's final jazz sides conjured up the very best work from Django Reinhart, his dextrous playing was a real delight.

Dave Honeyboy Edwards is 95 today (28th June), he is still active and his distinctive plaintive voice and guitar were helped by the harp of Bobby Rush on a 2007 session for the Earwig album the celebrates his career. I already have made a note to get his autobiography "The World Don't Owe Me Nothin'". There is a connection back to Robert Johnson but Honeyboy deserves his own place in blues history. We were in the Crescent City for Champion Jack Dupree and Professor Longhair and in Memphis with Al Green for the gospel spot. The Rev. Green's voice is a mere gentle breeze in a field of gossamer.

I noted that our very own Slender Man, the Mighty Mark Peters, was online but his head must have been in his hands when I did my annual first play of a Christmas record - no other station has yet started their festive selection for 2010, so I started the ball rolling with Clarence Carter's "Back Door Santa". In truth Carter just reworked the familiar Back Door Man theme with sleighbells and wickedly lascivious "Ho Ho Ho"'s.

I have a special folk and roots show on Friday 2nd July to mark this years Cambridge Folk Festival, with a pair of tickets and a cd to give away. I hope you'll be able to spend three hours from 7pm celebrating acts on this years bill and those from years gone by. Plus I'm back next Sunday 4th at 10 with more STAR BLUES, until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 21 June 2010

STAR BLUES on 20th June 2010 at 22:00

Hot on the heels of the most awesome Rock Show line-up imaginable, STAR BLUES last night had a Father's Day special, an exclusive track that you won't hear anywhere else and a preview of a new album from Robert Cray. We are also worried about our very own Slender Man but more of that later ...

Fathers on the show included Luther Allison, John Lee Hooker, Rufus Thomas, Johnny Copeland, Muddy Waters and Carey Bell and their talents went alongside those of the children: Bernard, Zakiya, Carla, Shemekia, Big Bill Morganfield and Lurrie. All are familiar names to regular listeners though we did miss a trick by including "Hell Of A Lovin' Man" off the new one by Chris Beard but nothing from his dad, Joe. The exclusive track was a special edited version of the fine "I'll Be Your Lover" by Toni Spearman from her "Can't Get lovin'" album and we are grateful for the work put in to get us the song in time for the show.

Robert Cray was recorded in Austin Texas for the King Biscuit Flower Hour Radio Show in 1985 and the original issue Stateside was heavily bootlegged. Mercury now have the rights to the tapes and there's a new "Authorized Bootleg" due out next month. We had two tracks, one a cover of Albert King's "Natural Ball" that he hasn't done anywhere else. I think I may have said how much I hate Cray: he's good looking, he can write, he can sing, he can play guitar (I have everything he's recorded including sessions and guest appearances). He will be in Cambridge on July 10th -- see you there?

I came across a picture of Little Sammy Davis on the front of a recent Living Blues magazine at the same time as finding his "Goin To New Orleans" off an anthology of stuff by Henry Stone, it was a little gem and sat well on the playlist. . Fats Domino did the piano blues for us and we also went to Louis Jordan and the Dixieaires from a marvellous 4-cd package from the RhythmandBlues label, a sumptuous set with 68 page paperback book with information on songs and on the historical context of how blues morphed into rock'n'roll. Jordan was a key figure and the Dixieaires gospel harmonies were enthralling and the show was over before we knew it.

The Mighty Mark Peters has a substantial following in the STAR BLUES Community and there is real worry over his passion for a full English breakfast and how he will retain his Slender tones. I did give some reassurance that he won't need a new theme song as this is just a sympathy pang with the lovely Amy and he is allowed the occasional treat - just to be sure we will put James Armstrong on stand-by in case the theme song needs to add extra lyrics. My white tee-shirt is XL by the way and I have several - though I'm not sure of Mark's dress code for Breakfasts. Its compulsory for me on STAR BLUES, I hope to have your company at 10pm (BST) next Sunday on your station that plays Cambridge & Ely's Greatest Hits - until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 14 June 2010

STAR BLUES on 13th June 2010 at 22:00

We had no embarrassing fumbles to speak of on the playlist; instead we had some truly great vocal talents on STAR BLUES last night in answer to those other blooze shows that have end-to-end teenage plank-spankers: Big Joe Turner, Big Maybelle, Chuck Willis, Tiny Topsy, Screamin Jay Hawkins, Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. (OK we're stretching the definition for Jalacy Hawkins given that his track was the irrepressible "I Hear Voices" that only made sense to him on the day he did it, but you gotta give the man his props for setting himself on fire 15 years before Arthur Brown thought of it).

He was one of those tracks from new albums ("Great Googly Moo" rock'n'roll collection on Ace) and Tiny's was another. Willie Walker is still gigging with the Butanes, his "Run Around" had his voice wrapped in a lush soul backing originally out on the XL label and Anni Piper brought along ferocious slide guitar for "Whistleblower" off her new album (check the centaur image of an Amazon huntress on the sleeve). Then again, if you think you know everything about slide guitar and you've done Elmore James and Hound Dog Taylor, your next port of call must be John Littlejohn - his "Dream" off the essential "Chicago Blues All Stars" album showed why. Lightin' Hopkins' career survey on Ace yielded another classic cut and Guitar Shorty's newbie on Alligator was reliably robust for "Get Off".

A couple of weeks ago Junior Parker covered "Driving Wheel" in 1961, Roosevelt Sykes did it first in 1936 for Decca and again in 1960 for part one of two piano blues offerings. The second half was put in to correct the statement on another radio station that the originator of Keith Emerson's go at "Honky Tonk Train Blues" was Albert Ammons - tut tut all listeners to STAR BLUES knew it was Meade Lux Lewis.

Next Sunday is fathers day, so we will do something to mark the dad/sons and dad/daughters of the blues. Plus * plus * plus * the famous bootleg Robert Cray live album is out officially on 14th July. Its on STAR BLUES this next Sunday at 10pm (BST) - until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 7 June 2010

STAR BLUES on 6th June 2010 at 22:00

STAR BLUES yesterday had Serendipity on the show and an armful of albums newly out or due real soon. We bumped into the new theme song for our own Mighty Mark Peters, a song from James Armstrong called "Slender Man Blues" - he can do what bigger men can't and you can expect Mark will come on stage at the World Championship Welly Wanger event with spangly cape and swirling smoke to his new opus. Or possibly he's too shy.
Just in case you're thinking the rest of the playlist couldn't keep up: In order we dipped into newbies of local favourites Egypt, the Holmes Brothers, Smokin' Joe Kubek, Magic Slim, Lightnin' Hopkins, Aynsley Lister, Janiva Magness and the third volume of the Goldwax story. We'll make return visits soon and Wendell Holmes' "Fair Weather Friend" seems set to become feted with song awards for his poignant lyrics on being diagnosed with cancer.
A couple of weeks ago, Maria Muldaur gave me trouble with a gospel offering on cd but her duet with Bonnie Raitt yesterday was just fine. Champion Jack Dupree is another centenarian this year, he was on hand for first session done for Syd Nathan's King label - his "Heart Breakin Woman" featured superb electric guitar from Brownie McGhee. The whole thing went out under the name of Big Tom Collins but we weren't fooled for our piano blues spot. Mark Knopfler helped Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings and Kid Ramos excelled for James Harman on "Icepick Boogie" - two good excuses to roll the rug back and jive at bedtime.
Almost forgot. The Lighnin' Hopkins set is as far as I know the first career spanning retrospective of this unique blues artist. It goes from 1948 to 1973 and it intends to be the music for Alan Govenar's biography of Hopkins. This will be one of the reissue projects of the year.
As for next week, more new things from Guitar Shorty, Anders Osborne, Tiny Topsy, the XL label, a rock'n'roll anthology from Ace and the new one from Anni Piper. We kick-off next Sunday at 10pm (BST) and I'll be thrilled if you can drop in for more STAR BLUES. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 31 May 2010

STAR BLUES on 30th May 2010 at 22:00

Probably the greatest blues artist of them all was born 10th June 1910 so last night's STAR BLUES marked Howlin' Wolfs centenary. He was the link from Charley Patton to the Rolling Stones and when signing to Sun Records Sam Phillips regarded him as "the soul of a man" with a bigger talent than Elvis Presley. Patton showed him guitar and Alex Rice Miller (2nd Sonny Boy Williamson) taught him harp; he ran with Robert Johnson and loved fishing. The Stones refused to go on prime time tv to promote their number 1 cover of his "Red Rooster" unless he also got a spot; his mother threw him out just about as soon as he could walk and rejected him again at the end of his life when he tried a reunion - she hated his godlessness and the blues. We went to his recordings in Memphis for Sam Phillips and to his classic sides done in Chicago for Chess. Nuff said.

The Alligator label is starting a new project with digital downloads, the first is "The Best Of Michael Burks" and we had some "Voodoo" from him last night. He has a warm voice and fluid playing style with plenty of fans hereabouts. Similar skills were on offer from Phil Gates making his debut with us, and Phillip Walker from 1979 and Larry Garner off his highly rated recent set "Here Today Gone Tomorrow". Eddie Burns was off Hastings Street in Detroit and that man Sonny Boy said "Help Me" in Chicago. As for piano blues Romeo Nelsons signature piece "Head Rag Hop" had spoken parts by Tampa Red and the female impersonator Frankie Half-Pint Jackson. A fine cut from the Vee-Jay catalogue of Blind Boys Of Alabama kept up the gospel end of things.

I struggled in the heat yesterday with a broken aircon and I almost did the show topless however I know many of you expect the white tee-shirt and I really didn't want to leave you with the wrong image if you're off to sleep. We'll see how we get on next week and I'd love to have your company at 10pm (BST) for more STAR BLUES. For those wanting more tomfoolery and sounds like folk, country, soul, reggae and rock that you won't hear anywhere else on radio - I'm doing a show tonight (Monday 31st) at 7pm (BST). I'll have a black tee-shirt and a real rarity from the Rolling Stones. Please feel free to stop by, you'll be very welcome -until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 24 May 2010

STAR BLUES on 23rd May 2010 at 22:00

Every now and again I get to hear a new artist that makes a real impression and in the week Steve D contacted me to tell me about William Elliott Whitmore. We had a track from his album "Animals in The Dark" on STAR BLUES last night - we also had generous helpings of blues, rock'n'roll, piano and gospel. Certainly you won't get that mix anywhere else (and most definitely not in a pristine white tee-shirt).

Roy Gaines is a bluesman for life, he told us on the forthright opener with powerful guitar - Otis Rush redid his classic "Homework" in 1994 and Walter Horton turned in the greatest blues harp solo of the all on Jimmy Rogers' "Walking By Myself". I've not played anything under his own name before but Jimmy Nolen had been on the show as guitar player to James Brown, he did a tidy cover of "It Hurts Me Too" for us yesterday. Buddy Guy's cd had a slight crack in it and stopped us getting his go at "Lucy Mae Blues" but Frankie Lee Sims' 1957 original saved the night. Fluffy Hunter couldn't find her rhyming dictionary while delivering her "Walking Blues" and Little Esther praised her "Cupid" with Johnny Otis in 1955.

That rock'n'roll came from Roy Orbison, Warren Smith, Smiley Lewis and Sticks McGhee and the gospel two-hander from Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Marie Knight celebrated in splendid style. Behind the piano, Chicago maestro Jimmy Yancey's Bugle call finished as always in the key of E-flat. (My copy had the track listed as Buggle Call but video wasn't around for this radio star). Jimmy Vaughan has a brand new album and it's probably his best so far - Guitar Junior's song "Roll Roll Roll" will I'm sure be just our first taster from Stevie Ray's brother. Two great female voices made the line-up complete: Bettye LaVette and Madeleine Peyroux.

As well as next Sunday's dose of the blues, I've got a couple of special shows lined up: "On the Wild Side" on Bank Holiday Monday at 7pm without blues or white tee-shirt and on Friday 2nd July at 7pm I'll be "Freewheelin'" towards the Cambridge Folk Festival. It'll only be complete if you can make it along - until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Gary Blue

Monday, 17 May 2010

STAR BLUES on 16th May 2010 at 22:00

We had shock and surprise in equal measure on last night's STAR BLUES. In the latter case there was the normally fiery and fulsome Gary Moore in attentive accompaniment to Otis Taylor on the first play of "Clovis People Vol.3". On paper this is the strangest musical partnership one could imagine but in practice Otis coaxes fine axework from the Irishman. As for shock, we can't believe that WC Clark last recorded in 2004, he's still active on the Texas live scene and his two Alligator albums garnered awards by the armful and were extremely entertaining to boot.

As well as Otis Taylor, we had a first UK play for Toni Spearman's new album with the track "Apple on the Tree", she hails from Greenwood South Carolina and reminds us somewhat of Koko Taylor. The slow blues was nicely done. Releases on Delta Groove seem hard to come by at the moment, so it was a relief our first dip into "Shake For Me" by the Mannish Boys pulled out a plum with "Black Nights". The fourth newbie came from Brooks Williams who decamped to our side of the pond for his 17th album "Baby O!", he has a lovely technique shown to good effect on his go at "Grinning In your Face". If you think 17 is a fair total, consider British maestro Bob Hall who at last count has appeared on 120 with his lovely florid piano skills. His offering was done in 2007 at Kim Simmonds studio in New York and out on SPV Blue.

Thurston Harris popped along, as did James Cotton and Lowell Fulson - we had one of the last performances from Sam Myers and a languid two hander between Robert Lockwood Jr and B B King. The unusual lap steel of Aubrey Ghent underpinned his gospel choice "Just A Closer Walk" that he did for Chris Strawitz at Arhoolie. James Brown closed off last night with a version of "Night Train", something I may repeat as a regular wrap-up piece. Your company was much appreciated last night and I'd be honoured if you came along next week too, until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 10 May 2010

STAR BLUES on 9th May 2010 at 22:00

The 31st annual Blues Music Awards (aka the blues Oscars) were announced on Thursday and Tommy Castro was the big winner, he took home four very well-deserved trophies - and had pride of place on last night's STAR BLUES. His move to Alligator has paid off with less emphasis on guitar and more on his singing that has deepened and added tone. The title track to Hard Believer was offset with his version of Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" with a bold new arrangement. Tommy is playing two dates in the UK this week and three next. One of my favourite players - Duke Robillard - was named best Traditional male and you cannot take one note from his playing nor can you add one. The man has taste and we took a track from his "Stomp" album to prove it. Counterpart female Debbie Davies effortlessly reworked Okie Dokie Stomp from "Holdin' Court" and swung us up to the witching hour. In the soul blues category, Ruthie Foster got the nod and it gave us the perfect excuse to include her version of the O V Wright hit from 1971, "Nickel and a Nail".

Our piano feature went outside the awards to Texas for Little Willie Littlefield's "Boogie" that had rugs rolled back in Cambridge, Ely and South Carolina. Charles Brown's rare recordings for Johnny Vincent's Ace label brought forth the full-length "Black Night" and Junior Parker was on Duke when he covered Roosevelt Sykes' "Driving Wheel".

David Maxwell's intimate 2007 session with Louisiana Red garnered the album award and Mike Zito showed how far he's come in a short time with the Song of the Year "Pearl River", co-written with Cyrille Neville about the river running across Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Joe Louis Walker picked up an award for his sophomore effort on Stony Plain and the mighty Super Chickan got the traditional album prize - long overdue in my humble.

Speaking of humble, we strongly suggested a new Prime Minister should stop faffing about and give Jeff Beck that knighthood and to induct the late Thurston Harris into the coalition for his words of wisdom in the lyrics on the 1958 smash "Do What You Did". I've persuaded one of my stateside blues dj colleagues (hi Clair) to lead a "I'm A Blues-DJ and I Know How to Party" party, her deputy leader is Bootsy Collins who knows more about Parliament than is good for him. We had fun last night and it would make my day if you said you'd do it again next Sunday at ten in a white tee-shirt. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 3 May 2010

STAR BLUES on 2nd May 2010 at 22:00

When it came out, it seemed like I was the only one who could hear how great it was: certainly the music papers and radio thought it was a waste of plastic not worthy of the band. I got teased mercilessly for being in love with "Exile on Main Street", strange how lauded it is now by those same nay-sayers. The album is due for remaster and expansion treatment in a fortnight, so last night's STAR BLUES went back to the original with some blues artist covers of the songs. Of the latter Deborah Coleman nailed "Happy" and Otis Taylor reworked "Sweet Black Angel" for the early 21st century. The iconic "Tumblin' Dice" and Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips" held up Mick'n'Keef's end from those St Tropez sessions in 1970-1.

We also boldly claimed there'd be no rock'n'roll without Arthur Crudup and his 1944 "Cool Disposition" was on the playlist; Crudup inspired Elvis (hence our idea) but Sam Phillips thought Howlin Wolf was a bigger talent and there was "Tell Me What I've Done Wrong|" to prove it. Both Walter Brown and Phillip Walker had trouble with a Lying Woman (probably not the same lady but you never know).

Speaking of trouble, I thought I may get into more trouble with Amy but I took a deep breath and went for it anyway and I think I got away with it this week. If you're there for the walk on Saturday 8th at 7:30 to raise money for the hospice, you'd best not mention my name just in case. Mum's the word. Mighty Sam McClain got his music into Ally MacBeal and onto our show last night with "New Man In Town" and Dionne Farris was on hand for the gospel offering: "I wish I knew How It was to be Free". James Godwin was suitably florid on piano for an authoritative vocal by Dave Thomas on Otis Spann's "Blues Never Die" to fill the piano blues spot.

At the Record Store Day I bought the Malaco boxset, I prize I've long coveted and put in McKinley Mitchell's "Trouble Blues" to show his Bobby Bland side. My Wild Side is out on Bank Holiday 31st May and the tee-shirt will be black. Customary white attire next Sunday for more STAR BLUES, I hope you can come along. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take of you.

Monday, 26 April 2010

STAR BLUES on 25th April 2010 at 22:00

Without even being in the studio, the lovely Amy had me as a tongue-tied gibbering wreck last night on STAR BLUES, you'd think at my age I should know better. The cause of my confuzzlement was the announcement of the walk to raise funds for the hospice: no matter how I tried it always came out as if it was a walk around Amy for money. To raise a decent sum you'd need to walk a lot further than that, hopefully she will forgive me.

Two fine blues from Albert King marked his birthdate, one a version of Hendrix' "Red House" the other came from the seminal 1967 sessions when he was backed by Booker T and the MG's. His unusual guitar sound came by way of being left-handed playing a guitar strung for a right hander in strange tunings. One of a kind acknowledged by Eric Clapton as being the inspiration for some of his work with Cream. Our other birthdate yesterday was Roxy Perry and her "Back To Bluesville" staked her claim with a robust outing for her and the band - she's a neat harp player too but I'll save that for later.

Top of the shop we went to the soundtrack of "Good Morning Vietnam" for Van Morrison as leader of Them in the songbook of Big Joe Williams for "Baby Please Don't Go". Then bang up to date with the multi-award winning album from Buddy Guy "Skin Deep". The two "Fannie Mae" selections from Buster Brown and the Clovers excited a little flurry of interest from the listeners and I don't propose to comment further other than to note Buster getting a no. 1 hit from it at the venerable age of 50. Big Joe Turner "Bit The Apple" and Ray Charles went down "Lonely Avenue" for more classics from the Fifties and Sam Cooke cut a lovely loping version of "Little Red Rooster" with no resemblance to either Howlin' Wolf or the Rolling Stones.

Memphis Slim's "Best Girl I Ever Had" from 1957 was unissued at the time but Bruce Bastin's Flyright label put things right 30 years after and gave us a fantastic exhibition of solo piano and sonorous voice. In the afternoon I spotted a bargain disc with some rare early recordings by the Blind Boys of Alabama - far too good to pass up the chance to put them front and centre in the gospel spot. We also marked the passings of Clayton Love (a former stalwart of Ike Turners genius band) and Barbara Brown, she of silky voice from Memphis on XL and Stax. Our regular new release feature wasn't forgotten either, we had Rick Taylor in the realm of Elmore James for his debut album (he's Canadian but we'll forgive him).

Next week's show has Rolling Stones theme to preview the reissue of their greatest album "Exile On Main Street". Mick and Keef and co will provide some of the music and some blues artists have a go at covers of the tracks too. All that and another white tee-shirt on Sunday next at 10pm (BST), I hope you'll be able to come along. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 19 April 2010

STAR BLUES on 18th April 2010 at 22:00

I felt confident last night in endorsing the fact that Spring has come - not through the temperature or clear blue skies, more the fact that I have at last taken the two cans of deicer from my car. We had a track from the new album by Downchild (marking the band's 40th anniversary) and something to remember Sean Costello by (taken from us two years ago just shy of his 29th birthday). Sean only put out five albums under his own name and he did more than enough there to mark him out as a very special young man with respect for blues and the artists gone before - he played just enough guitar unlike so many of his contemporaries who use our music as an excuse to show off.

Johnny Otis is a bit like a London bus as far as the blues historians are concerned, nothing in a long while and then two books about him in the same month. He's been one of the most influential artists and artist-makers of the last fifty years particularly on the West Coast: his 1951 track "All Night Long" with Mel Walker showed he ain't too shabby when he gets himself behind mic and guitar either. ZZ Hill was on hand with the song that spawned a whole genre- "Downhome Blues" and the great blues shouter Jimmy T-99 Nelson lead Otis Grand on the twenty year old recording of "Jumpin' For Jimmy" with a superb outing on piano for Steve Big-Man Clayton.

We're often asked about the traditional blues form, including pre-war recordings, so we went some way to putting things right with Scrapper Blackwell, Big Joe Williams, Lightnin' Hopkins and Willie Dixon. Add Andrew Blueblood MacMahon from 1976 and Byther Smith from 1984 and you've covered more bases than any other blues show on commercial FM radio anywhere in the world. We also had the heartfelt low E note on Isaac Freeman's "Lord I Want You To Help Me" for the gospel feature and Champion Jack Dupree's "Going Down Slow" off the essential album he did for Atlantic in 1958 "Blues From The Gutter".

We spoke a bit about Record Store Day by getting sentimental on how this is a rare pleasure now, just being able to wander in and hear things for the first time. I think I'll pick the topic up again when we next go down the Dark Side (if you'll let me). We had blues in all shades yesterday, we'll have more next Sunday at ten pm (BST) and I'll have another white tee-shirt at the ready. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 12 April 2010

STAR BLUES on 11th April 2010 at 22:00

The show was on last week but I didn't blog for reasons too complicated to bother you with, here is a bumper fun-size edition to make up for it. Last night we had an early play of the new album from Oli Brown, he's only 19 and is making big waves on the British scene - his project on Ruf Records tempted the old master Mike Vernon out of retirement to weave some of his magic. Not that much was needed for the guitar tyro who has moved on a notch from his debut in 2008. He will need to make sure he remembers that the blues form isn't there just to provide a platform for plank-spanking - he hasn't yet gone that same way as so many others touted as "the next big thing". Four other new albums on offer: Elmore James Junior with a different guitar tone from his dad, but still in that industrial hard-working seam where he takes no prisoners; Eric Bibb with a track only available through his website as bonus content to his "Bookers Guitar" album a lovely evocation of pre-war harp maestro DeFord Bailey; Jim Hendrix with the first legal outing of the April 1969 studio take on "Hear My Train A-Comin", a seven minute exercise in masterful control over tone and volume, and Harry Manx at the edge of blues with his blend of Indian influences.

I also returned to the impossible question "Does my bum look big in this?" and we now know the only answer is "You can't have too much butt". So say Saffire, The Uppity Blues Women before you hold me responsible for any physical damage that special lady in your life gives you. Pinetop Smith was on hand for the tune that defined a whole piano genre: "Pinetops Boogie Woogie" and was more than a starting off point for Ray Charles' "What'd I Say". Two versions of "Crawlin Kingsnake" too, one from John Lee Hooker and one from the man who taught him the piece: his step father Tony Hollins.

Harry Manx is where blues is in the 21st Century, as is Chris Thomas King (who was greeted with universal silence a few years ago when in Cambridge by a disbelieving audience) - he was in the gospel tent with a generous sample from "John The Revelator". Top of the shop were Bonnie Raitt (gorgeous vocal and slide guitar) with Buddy Guy on the John Hiatt composition "Feels Like Rain" (thankfully not) and what could very well be my signature theme: BB King and Robert Cray on "Playing With My Friends".

I hope you'll come out to play again next Sunday night at 10pm (BST) until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 29 March 2010

STAR BLUES on 28th March 2010 at 22:00

Probably more blues in two hours than any comparable show anywhere last night. Chicago blues certainly ain't dead when we've got Magic Slim in such commanding form - his only problem is "Cold Women with Warm Hearts" (I used to dream of problems such as that). Eddie Burns and the late Lil Dave Thompson showed two other flavours of modern blues without straying too far from the purist path. Dave was killed on Valentines Day in a van accident and we lost Marva Wright this week, her "Bluesiana Mama" was more than enough proof of her claim as Blues Queen of Louisiana on STAR BLUES yesterday.

When I first heard "Naggin'" I was sure it was a Jimmy Reed piece, similar vocal mannerisms and harp technique pointed me that way - in fact it was a recording on Excello by Jimmy Anderson who was in a studio far less often than his gifts deserved on this showing. Another mystery in the Unknown Male vocalist who brought us a version of Fats Domino's "Every Night About This Time", one can only guess that Johnny Vincent was too busy to make a note of the session men for the outing on his Ace label. BB King was on hand for the Gospel Spot, Thomas Dorsey's "Precious Lord" was opening track on B's fourth album for the Crown imprint but the first with all new material (previously the albums were collections of single hits). On the distaff side we had Esther Phillips, Peggy Scott and the imperious tone of Jo Ann Kelly who was accompanied by genius the British pianist Bob Hall. Amos Milburn and Chuck Berry both did versions of our piano blues choon: "Down the Road Apiece" by the Will Bradley Orchestra. We had all three.

All that wrapped up with T-Bone Walker's "Bobby Sox Blues" where he set the pinnacle of electric guitar playing that few have even come close to, though many still try. The next STAR BLUES will be on Easter Sunday, next week, at 10 pm (GMT) but I'll be back behind the mic on Good Friday for something a little different. I'm swapping t-shirts from white to black and bringing in some rarities and old favourites for "The Dark Side of Gary Blue". I hope you'll be able to be there too at 7 pm on Good Friday. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

STAR BLUES on 21st March 2010 at 22:00

My blog helping is a bit late this week, I hope the wait was worthwhile as I've some news about the show on Easter Sunday. First let's talk about this show where we looked back at the music brought to us by writer, producer and radio presenter Charlie Gillett who died last week. I'd make a case that he was more influential than John Peel though much less well known. To support the view we had J.J. Cale, an early track by the Band, Big Al Downing, the Pilgrim Travellers, Frank Frost and more on the playlist. You shouldn't forget he discovered Dire Straits, Graham Parker and Elvis Costello and managed Ian Dury. Latterly he championed World Music as he thought the traditional centres of American music had started to sound the same by the mid-80s each having lost the individual identities: World music put the sense of place back into music.

We also had new music from April Pantheress Winn and Steve Howell who has a deft light touch and a real passion for country blues, he gave us a version of a Mance Lipscomb classic. Mississippi John Hurt was in with his 1965 recording of "Since I Laid My Burden Down" and Victoria Williams updated the song for a Vanguard project to showcase contemporary artists (such as Beck) covering John Hurt compositions. That was a back-to-back feature where previously we had two goes at "Stagolee" so it was fitting that this week we included Titus Turner's "Return of Stagolee" he issued in answer soon after the original hit in 1959. Titus didn't write it but later on his was the pen for "Leave My Kitten Alone" that label-mate Little Willie John did for us.

That special show on Easter Sunday has (all being well) an interview with Fran Leslie, editor of Blues In Britain magazine. They've got to #100 under her stewardship so we are going to mark the milepost in two Sunday's time. Your next (regular) STAR BLUES will be this upcoming Sunday at 10pm (GMT), I've got my white tee-shirt lined up - you just need to be where you are right now tuned into Cambridge and Ely's STAR RADIO. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Gary Blue

Monday, 15 March 2010

STAR BLUES on 14th March 2010 at 22:00

I've been a bit worried lately that the playlists for STAR BLUES have been filled with guitarists plying their version of electric blues/rock and I've neglected the other styles of blues. So I set myself a task last night of showing as many sides of our music as I could in the couple of hours I'm allowed. Judging by the feedback I've had so far, we did ok with some great choons. We still did some modern stuff with Sean Chanbers but we also had classics from Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James and John Lee Hooker. Our piano blues spot covered both bases with Mike Kindred from 2004 on "Bankable Boogie" and the ever reliable Jimmy Yancey from 1951 at one of his last sessions for his "Bugle Call".

Pick of the crop - in my humble - was the imperious Cleo Gibson whose Ford Movements made this happy man very old (she wasn't talking about her car when offering a 10,000 mile guarantee). Georgia White and Marion Williams completed a formidable trio of great female blues voices. Marion's "Can't No Grave" is covered by Johnny Cash on the final set of unreleased recordings he made with Rick Rubin at American studios and she provided a neat comparison in approach that gave each version a different spin. As for the Gospel tent, the Blind Boys of Alabama came along with Robert Randolph and Ben Harper for a robust go at Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready".

The other trips through blues were done with Kelly Joe Phelps, deft of finger and warm of voice, Eric Clapton , who with practice could make a name for himself, Arthur Adams , back in great form and on Delta Groove, and two very different versions of recorded fifty years apart of "Stagger Lee". Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore were on hand as the Irish contingent to bring an early celebration of St. Patrick's Day even though Mr. Moore had help from a certain Mr. King.

I'm planning a black-tee shirt outing on Good Friday as an extra but I'll be back clad in white next Sunday at 10pm (GMT) with more blues, news, reviews and tomfoolery. You can wear what you like, nothing at all if you really want because its radio - until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 8 March 2010

STAR BLUES on 7th March 2010 at 22:00

The hot new ticket billed for the show was the duet of Joe Bonamassa with B.B.King an album still a fortnight in the future as far as the shops are concerned, yet on STAR BLUES last night. Their go at Willie Nelson's "Night Life" started the second hour of the show, by which time we'd already had great music from harp maestro Little Hatch and Messrs Pink and Floyd. I also had the chance to listen to Roy Buchanan's "Sweet Dreams" at decent volume - in my youth I'd heard it at low amps through a transistor radio underneath the bedclothes from Radio Luxemburg (208).

I guaranteed that 95% of the audience would hate the cover of "My Babe" that Dr. David Evans discovered on a field trip to North Mississippi courtesy of the Napolean Strickland Fife and Drum band. The track is blues in its purest form,played from the soul on the simplest of instruments - hugely ripe for sampling by Moby (but thankfully not yet). Memphis Minnie and Lucinda Williams both sang "Me and My Chauffeur" but fifty years apart, Chuck Berry let it rock and JB Lenoir let it roll then from 1966 Al King captured a timeless theme with his "Money's Not Long Enough". Buddy Guy and the second Sonny Boy were in Chicago and one third of the Boogie-Woogie trio held up the piano end on six wheels. I can't think of another show on radio anywhere in the world last night with all those blues and a white tee shirt.

By the way come Good Friday I have a little something extra for you - in a black tee-shirt. Meantime come next Sunday (Mothers Day) I'll be back with more blues and tomfoolery, I hope you'll be able to share those two hours at ten p.m. (GMT) - until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Gary Blue

Monday, 1 March 2010

STAR BLUES on 28th February 2010 at 22:00

A different pace to STAR BLUES last night came about by taking the chance to include a couple of names not previously played on the show - and some old favourites. In the first group, Eric Lindell's new album for Alligator (more bluesworthy than his previous) and the incredible vocal gifts of Shaun Murphy. I'll admit to thinking it was a guy's name when a listener suggested I check out the music. Boy did I feel silly when I saw her clips on her web-site. Her first full recording under her own name is a goodun.

For the second group we chose Drink Small (erstwhile raconteur extraordinaire) and Walter Brown who's best works are to be found on a couple of cds compiled by Dave Penny on the Classics imprint. (Actually there's a good place to start for any investigation of the R&B greats immediately post-war). There was also an opportunity to go back to some great anthologies of the past couple of years - not that you need an excuse to play B. B. King etc as well as gospel and piano blues in their normal spots.

I'm planning another venture outside the blues for the Easter weekend as well as a big interview and competition (fingers crossed) on Easter Sunday. Meantime, I'll be back next Sunday at 10pm (GMT) in another white tee-shirt for more blues, news, reviews and tomfoolery - I look forward to spending the two hours with you. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Gary Blue

Monday, 22 February 2010

STAR BLUES on 21st February 2010 at 22:00

Last night’s STAR BLUES show included a couple of short musical tributes to bluesmen that died a week ago: Dale Hawkins and Lil Dave Thompson, the first after battling cancer the second in a van accident returning after a gig. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Hawkins’ timeless “Suzie Q” and he was making great rockabilly and blues through his life: we had his versions of “Caldonia” and “Number Nine Train” in evidence. Thompson was very much a star on the rise with albums on Fat Possum, JSP and Electro-Fi under his belt. I understand a third for Electro-Fi was to be started next month. Both samples I chose yesterday showed his clean unfussy guitar style and he will be missed. Smokey Wilson brought his slide guitar along while Eric Bibb’s instrument was once owned by Booker White.

Missy Anderson is a fairly new name to me but I’ve been impressed with her album so we had a good excuse –not that one was needed – to feature a selection last night as part of her birthday on Friday last. The equally lovely Imelda May was on hand with her “Big Bad Handsome Man”, the theme song of the Mighty Mark Peters’ Legion of Fans.

The gospel offering from Michael Roach done a capella found him in great voice from his latest album “Innocent Child”, Albert Ammons reached across the years with his “Boogie Woogie Stomp” confirming irrefutably a new law of Physics: “It is impossible to fail to enjoy the music of Albert Ammons” – now there’s a GCSE I could have passed! It’s a rare treat to go to the music of Lightnin’ Slim and Eddie C. Campbell, so both on one show was sweet indeed. We had a rare track from Johnny Winter at the close and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s go at George Harrison’s “Taxman” at the start. Shawn Holt wrote “Young Man Blues” and helped his dad Magic Slim perform it and finally move the band status into the big league on the “Black Tornado” album. Add in the very first record Mike Vernon ever issued – done by Hubert Sumlin in a pressing run of 98 to avoid purchase tax – and you’ve reached the weeks quota of news, blues, reviews and tomfoolery in a white t-shirt. I hope we can spend another two hours together next Sunday at 10pm (GMT) for some more of the same (except different). Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you