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.