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 www.star107.co.uk. 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.