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.