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