Monday, 28 February 2011

STAR BLUES on 27th February 2011 at 22:00

Saturday was wet so I did the only thing possible, I went to a record fair. Result too by finding a rare Freddie King double set with some unreleased goodies. That was a real fillip while compiling a STAR BLUES playlist that featured some blues ladies of the first order.

Etta James was despatched to the FAME studios in Alabama by Chess in the hope that the magic given to Aretha's classic soul sides would rub off. She came back with "Tell Mama", "Security", "I'd Rather Go Blind" and the gem written by Oldham and Penn: "I Worship The Ground".For reasons best known to Chess they put it on an obscure b-side but it was our show highlight yesterday. Candi Staton's flirtation with disco brought her some commerciasl recognition but she's always been in a class above the rest when it comes to soul and gospel - our evidence was her version of "Thats How Strong My Love Is". Deborah Coleman is a stylish singer and player, she did a song from Albert Collins repertoire: "If You Love Me Like You Say". Rory Block is given short shrift by blues purists for her mannered style, I don't have a problem with her and I'm really enjoying her new album that celebrates the music of Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Gospel from Mahalia Jackson and Johnny Cash, piano from a nine year old Sugar Chile Robinson, classic Memphis Slim from 1957 and a 1991 session from Jimmy McCracklin. We paid tribute to Carl Hodges and Johnny Nitro who died recently, the latter via his song "Too Many Dirty Dishes". While on air, news came through that Eddie Kirkland had been killed in an accident with his van and a bus on the way back from his gig. Eerily similar to the death last Valentines Day of Lil Dave Thompson.

The aforementioned Freddie King and T-Model Ford did blues of different flavours both deserving to be played loud. I'm still struggling mightily with pc problems and generating playlists, thanks for your patience. I've had better luck with white tee shirts (bought anothER one last week), see it in your minds eye next Sunday at 10pm (GMT) until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

While on air

Monday, 21 February 2011

STAR BLUES on 20th February 2011 at 22:00

With both Blind Willie McTell and John Alex Mason in the playlist, I doubt another blues show on the planet could cover a wider spectrum of blues than we did last night. Mason has a rap section from RL Burnside’s son, Cedric and Willie’s was a trademark piece of 12string finger picking from 1932. The latter item was this weeks “1001” blues that showed everything you Google about someone is likely to be wrong or incomplete. Michael Gray has written the definitive biography of McTell and even he doesn’t know who Ruby Glaze was.

This May will celebrate 100 years of Robert Johnson and the modestly named Big Head Todd has a project of cover songs helped out by luminaries like Hubert Sumlin, Charlie Musselwhite and B B King. We chose “Crossroads Blues” to put the King of the Blues in a very different spotlight – he has been influenced by jazz greats like Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. This came through in his playing, beautifully sculptured jazz accompaniment to Hammond B3 organ – not the five note trills you normally hear from Lucille. At 86 B can still surprise us.

Cassie Taylor provided vocals to Gary Moore’s last album, she’s the daughter of Otis Taylor and is gifted with a breathy vocal and punchy bass style – both are to the fore on her new album “Blue”. She tackles a number of genres but she’s never far from roots or blues. Soul star Bobby Jones has a new project too but I didn’t get too many details, the only track I had was “Little Sally Walker” but I can’t wait to hear more. Soulmen Clay Hammond and Marvin Sease died recently and Little Johnny Taylor’s go on Galaxy at Clay’s “Part Time Love” was the biggest selling blues single of all time (part due to the song, part to Taylor’s vocal and part to the anguished guitar from Arthur Williams). I got a song suitable for family audience to mark Marvin’s death and a star of his stature won’t easily come again. If you want to know more about him, it’d be worthwhile finding the article in Living Blues magazine.

Chain at the top was Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” and the show ended with the Stones’ version of the same song they cut in St Tropez for “Exile on Mainstreet”. Along the way we had Elmore James, Johnny Heartsman, piano boogie woogie from Meade Lux Lewis and Katie Webster and gospel from Rev. Gary Davis and the Speer Family. I’ve an idea what I can use for the Chain next week, see if you’re right by bringing your best ears on Sunday at 10pm (BST). Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

STAR BLUES on 13th February 2011 at 22:00

Sting sang about “Ghosts in the Machine” and I know where they’ve been lately: my six week old toaster caught fire and I’ve lost a desktop and a laptop to faulty power supplies. I think I need to invest in a windup radio just in case.

STAR BLUES on Sunday marked the death of Clay Hammond, a sweet voiced singer and songwriter (“Part Time Love” is his most well-known) – we went to one of his mid-Sixties sides he cut for Kent. News also came in about the loss of Marvin Sease who was a hard-working star of the “Chitlin circuit” in the Southern States. His work in later years has needed “Parental Advisory” stickers, though I’m waiting for Amazon to deliver something more suitable for a family show. Though Marvin isn’t a household name in the mainstream, his popularity with the African American audience mean his loss will be hard felt.

Harry Manx was an unusual choice for the playlist, his mix of Indian instruments and voices proved to have blues at its heart. The chain had two songs called “I Hear You Knocking”: the first from Smiley Lewis was linked to the last show via Cosimo Matassa’ J&M studios, the second by Lazy Lester at Excello from the pen of J D Miller. You’ll need to be with us at ten on Sunday to hear where we go from there.

The "1001" feature was an instrumental piece by the under-rated Jerry McCain. He was one of the earliest artists to sign to Lillian McMurray's Trumpet label, by 1960 he was with Johnny Vincent for "Steady" and "She's Tough" put out as single on Rex.

Naomi Shelton cut a number of soulful sides in the Sixties but waited until 2009 to make an album. She did so with her gospel group for the Daptone label; a name that is being dropped everywhere by dint of the “real” music on offer from “real” musicians made to classic values. Sharon Jones is a case in point, she is at the forefront of the retro-soul movement. Naomi was joined in the gospel spotlight by Ruby Turner and Jools Holland recorded live in Kent in the songbook of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Steve Grills has veteran pianist Ernest Lane in his band - Steve’s new album is a real gem that sadly will get overlooked because he refuses to showboat his guitar playing. Big Joe Duskin would have had a birthday this week so his “Dollar Bill Boogie” was the other half of the feature that celebrates those rolling 88s.

Which neatly gives me an opportunity to direct you to a new show on Star every Thursday night at 10pm to bring us the sounds of rock’n’roll. As well as 107.9/1FM it'll also be there streaming from I hope you can also be around on Sunday night at 10pm (GMT), dress is optional for you – I will have a white tee-shirt, though if it’s a bit creased you’ll know Stings ghosts have moved to the iron.

Monday, 7 February 2011

STAR BLUES on 6th February 2011 at 22:00

Presenting a live blues radio show sometimes means you get to bring sad news and yesterday it was the sudden death of guitarist Gary Moore (announced at tea time). Neil did a great tribute on STAR ROCK and I took the opportunity to talk a bit about him on STAR BLUES; as well as play some of his music.

Even the most curmudgeonly of purists would concede that Gary's skillful, fluid playing opened up our music to a much wider audience. His 1990 and 1991 albums had guesting blues legends and had him in the vaults for some covers - blues had been a bit in the doldrums ion the 1980s and was just starting to get the imagination of the mainstream - Gary Moore took it onto the next level with exposure on tv, in magazines etc. Imelda May and Seasick Steve get plenty of coverage on Top Gear and the like, I doubt either would get a second thought had it not been for Gary Moore.

Some will have a problem labelling him as blues because he also played rock, jazz and hip hop with the same dexterity and focus on instrumental virtuousity. I chose a rare live tack he did with Albert Collins, a lovely controlled cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Merry Go Round" (using a Gibson guitar that used to belong to Peter Green), and a guest appearance on Otis Taylors last album.

We also had the usual fare including mayhem, tomfoolery, a chain, the piano, some gospel, you me and 1001 blues. Little Miss Higgins showed us her Bargain Store Panties, I broke my toaster listening to JJ Jackson, and we said congrats to Paul Jones' award for "Keeping the Blues Alive" with his moving vocal go at Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready". Boo Boo Davis and Roomful of Blues have new albums out and Los Fabulocos has called up Kid Ramos for some exquisite Mexican flavoured cajun music. (I think I just invented a new genre). They did a unique version of "Keep a Knocking" they credited to Little Richard but the current issue of Juke Blues says the song is much older than that.

Guitar Slim used a long lead and the shoulders of his roadie to take his playing into the audience and outside to the street, he also gave us the "1001 blues" song. There's nothing new, just stuff you ain't heard yet. Next Sunday at ten pm, I'll see if I can find some more and it'll be great if you can make it along. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.