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