Monday, 27 December 2010

STAR BLUES on 26th December 2010 at 22:00

They all thought I was mad (no change there) to do a live STAR BLUES on Boxing Day. Thankfully the invitation to your place at this special time of year proved them wrong - your kindness was somewhat humbling. We did a run through of 2010's best bits, announced the second annual STAR BLUES Award winners and took the wraps off my Almanac book.

Imelda May is one of Ireland's best exports at the moment, we marked her debut on the cover of Classic Rock magazine with the lead off track on her "Mayhem" album. Dana Gillespie is probably best known for her acting but she is also a very fine purveyor of jump blues on the raunchy side. Her newest album is a self-written project on Ace that should see her get some props, we had a track to mark it last night. We also had "Color Blind Angel" from Robin Rogers: it is the song she was most proud of about a murdered Civil Rights Campaigner and it also showed Robin's own spirit that wasn't quite strong enough to best liver cancer two weeks ago - already very much missed.

Robert Cray was awesome at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in 2010 and in the playlist yesterday. As for the awards, Alligator wrested the Label crown off last years winner Delta Groove with exceptional releases for the Holmes Brothers, Charlie Musselwhite, James Cotton, Smokin' Joe Kubek and Janiva Magness. Both the last named got played with Janiva doing a really bluesy cover of Nick Lowe's "Homewrecker". At 74 Buddy Guy turned in an album full of brio and balls called "Living Proof" that got him Artist of the Year in an example of guitar mastery that every axe player out there should be worried by. The London based ACE outfit held on to the award for reissue label of the year with their ethical approach to royalties and packages including photos, memorabilia and information essays. Their knowledge and love for the music will be difficult to beat in any year.Dana's album above, the new one from Mavis Staples and Bettye LaVette's "Interpretations" flew the flag for women of a certain age, but Bettye's album was so achingly beautiful I felt moved to sing its praises to all and sundry. She scooped Album of the Year and we put her version of Derek & Dominoes' "Why Does Love Got To Be So Bad" into our show to celebrate her remarkable achievement.

The last award came from the listener vote, Robert Plant was the choice as Artist of the Year - his knowledgeable selection of songs and enthusiastic production brought life to a project his voice wasn't capable of a few years ago. All the winners are published in "GARY BLUEs ALMANAC 2011" and everyone is welcome to a free copy by just sending their email address to Its completely free but if you enjoy it or find it useful, please consider sending a small donation to the Music Maker charity. I'm not associated with them in any way but they provide help to bluesmen without health insurance and so on.

If you like tomfoolery and mayhem and some music you wont hear anywhere else, our company is more than welcome on Tuesday at 7pm for three hours "BACK-in-Black". Hope you can make it until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 20 December 2010

STAR BLUES on 19th December 2010 at 22:00

If you pressed me real hard about it, my definition of “specialist music” would be just great music most folks haven’t found yet. The most knowledgeable, passionate and enthusiastic supporter of such – Mark Lamarr – has announced his “retirement”. I can’t count the number of new artists, songs and genres he has pointed my way through his never less than excellent shows. By way of thanks last night’s STAR BLUES went down the road toward rock’n’roll to show how thin is the line with blues. It seemed fitting to get into a relaxed party frame of mind too with the festivities going on all around.

The expected suspects like Ray Charles, Wynonie Harris, Elvis Presley and Big Joe Turner did their classics and the wily John Lee Hooker didn’t miss out on the new craze with “Shake Holler and Run”. Clyde McPhatter turned up twice: once with the Dominos on “Sixty Minute man" then with the Drifters for “Such A Night”. The sublime “Cool Yule” of Louis Armstrong and the lascivious “Back Door Santa” of Clarence Carter showed polar opposites of what it means to get into the Christmas spirit. Sugar Chile Robinson was but twelve years old on his “Christmas Boogie” while Mabel Scott was a tad older when she hooked up with her “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus”. Both those piano pieces kept the uptempo feel going; we didn’t really do a recognisable gospel song but the sentiments of the Staples Singers “Who Took The Merry Out of Christmas” gave us a poignant reminder on how the message can so easily get lost. I asked folks to remember everyone working over the holidays including taxi drivers who will give up their party nights to get you to yours and home safely. A cheap Christmas gift to give that would be priceless is for you to knock on your neighbours door to check if they are alright in this bad weather – helping with a pint of milk or a loaf of bread can make a difference while getting out and about is difficult.

I’m hoping to fix the problem with posting playlists this week, thanks for your patience related to a broken pc. God willing I’ll bring you some more blues on Boxing Day at ten when you’ll find out how to get your *free* copy of Gary Blue’s Almanac. We’ll also reveal the STAR BLUES award winners including your listener choice of Artist of the Year. I’m also in on Bank Holiday Tuesday 28th at 7pm for three hours “BACK IN BLACK” with mayhem and tomfoolery in equal doses. Until then, from my family to yours, have a really good Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. Take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 13 December 2010

STAR BLUES on 12th December 2010 at 22:00

While half a dozen or so folks up and down the land were glued to Hughie Green's swingometer on Opportunity Knocks the rest of us had chance to listen to the artists in with a shout of a Grammy Award for blues. So we had the perfect excuse to go back to the latest albums by James Cotton, Pinetop Perkins, Solomon Burke and Buddy Guy and if I had my way they'd all win just for having made it the hard way in small clubs out in all weathers for less than the petrol money.

As far as many here are concerned, the Carolina Chocolate Drops are a local favourite and they are up for a Grammy in a Folk category. Their version of an Etta Baker tune showed complete mastery of form and content. "Guitarist" magazine has a festive special on Blues Guitarists (its a pretty decent effort actually) but they overlooked Etta, and Memphis Minnie and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The only women in the list were Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi. Mind you it isn't just sexist because Elmore James ain't there, nor is Duane Allman or Ry Cooder.

Unusually for us, the piano pieces closed the show and I did get the back timing spot on to allow Jimmy Yancey his trademark off-key flourish at the close of "Yancey Stomp". The Holmes Brothers romped through "Up Above My Head" for the gospel one and they've set the tone for next week's show: "Shake Rattle and Roll". It has a subtitle: "How I learned to stop worrying about blues, we just call it rock'n'roll instead". White tee-shirt and cat clothes will be the order of the day and we'll expect you to roll back the rug for some jumpin' blues, bop and rock'n'roll. I'm comin' in my slick-a-back limousine and I look forward to your company again this Sunday at 10pm. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 6 December 2010

STAR BLUES on 5th December 2010 at 22:00

We opened up the listener vote last night for the STAR BLUES Artist of 2010 with suggestions coming in by phone, email and Facebook. The winner will be announced live on the Boxing Day show and published in the imminent Gary Blue's Almanac. Some of the candidates made a showing in the playlist: Eric Clapton, Solomon Burke, Tom Jones, Mavis Staples.

There were new tracks from Tas Cru, Sweet Angel and the Delta Flyers and first outings for Willie Anderson and John Lee Henley. Thanks to our rock god Neil Jones we also had a chance to spin the single “Hard Times” by Eric Clapton not due until 27th December. Three of my favourite albums of the year are all by “women of a certain age” if I may be so bold: Mavis Staples, Bettye LaVette and Dana Gillespie each one a welcome antidote to the over-produced preening queens you can see on the reality talent shows.

For many the appeal of our music is in the song and how it touches and we revisited Wendell Holmes' song about his recovery from cancer called “Fair weather friends” and Charlie Musselwhite wrote for the first time (“Sad and beautiful world”) how he felt when his mother was murdered at Christmas in 2005. Marie Knight brought her gospel offering as a neat contrast to the Tom Jones version of “Burning Hell” that out-hookered John Lee Hooker's original. West Coast pianist Kenny Blues Boss Wayne had to migrate north of the border to Canada to get a recording break but he now has his props and the go at Amos Milburn's “Let me go home whiskey” was proof indeed.

This upcoming Sunday we will survey those Grammy nominations in the blues categories, I'll bring my white tee-shirt if you bring your best ears. Until then, take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.