Mojo Risin’: Fantastic Negrito pushes blues to the brink on Last Days of Oakland

Last summer, we told you about the Muddy Waters 100 project, on which former Waters band guitarist John Primer and a collection of friends paid tribute to the late blues master with a set of updated takes on a number of Waters classics, many incorporating such modern effects as electronic drums and drum loop programming to help achieve producer Larry Skoller‘s goal of demonstrating that “in one way or another, these sounds all lead back to Muddy Waters”. While that revisiting-the-classics approach certainly seems to have resonated with blues fans and critics alike, with Muddy Waters 100 having earned blues album of the year nominations in both this year’s Grammy and Living Blues awards, this rootsy new release from West Coast sensation Fantastic Negrito also serves as a nice example of the influence the blues has had on the broader music industry through the decades, with sounds ranging from Lead Belly to the Beatles to Prince and Gary Clark Jr., blending in its fair share of alternative, hip-hop, and rock along the way.

Negrito, you may recall, catapulted to fame last year after winning NPR’s inaugural Tiny Desk Concert Contest. Shortly after, his song “An Honest Man” could be heard as the opening theme on Amazon’s original series Hand of God, with Negrito also making several guest appearances on the show throughout the season.

After a couple of powerful EPs, Negrito has released his much-anticipated debut full-length album in Last Days of Oakland (Blackball Universe), a raw, insightful recording that tackles such timely issues as race, police violence, economic and wage disparity, and the current state of his longtime home of Oakland, California, through a rich combination of grooves and catchy riffs that Negrito describes as “blues with a punk attitude”.

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There Must Be a Better World Somewhere

Regardless of which side you take on issues such as the U.S. presidential candidates, the shootings by and of police officers, and Brexit, we can all probably agree that the world has witnessed a truly sad state of affairs in recent weeks.

We can’t think of a better message of hope to offer our friends than this classic tune from the late, great King of the Blues. Give it a listen, share, and then go out and do something good to help make the words to this song’s chorus a little more of a reality.

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Versatile Nick Moss Band stretches From the Root to the Fruit on new double CD

They say you can’t have it all, but fans of the Nick Moss Band will be especially delighted with this double-disc set (Blue Bella Records) of new music that nicely embodies the Chicago guitarist’s musical career, starting with a soul- and blues-filled disc one (Roots) before exploring a diverse array of sounds on the second disc (Fruits), the overall title (From the Root to the Fruit) of which of course refers to a famous and frequently cited quote from Chicago bluesman and songwriter/producer Willie Dixon that “The blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits”.

NMB_from_root (280x280) (2)Trading off on vocals with the great Michael Ledbetter (a descendant of Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter) throughout, Moss leads the band through a solid, nearly 30-song collection of largely shuffling originals, with main highlights including the soulful, “Killing Floor”-like “Make Way For Me”; a Charlie Musselwhite-ish title track that features Moss on vocals, guitar and harmonica; the soul-drenched slow blues of “Lost and Found”; a John Lee Hooker-style “The Woman I Love” that includes some Taj Mahal-like licks on harmonica from Jason Ricci; an effects-filled, truly cosmic performance of “Serves Me Right (Space Jam)”, and the southern-rocking “Grateful” with its Lynyrd Skynyrd-like riffs and backing vocals from Ledbetter as well as Tina Crawley and Lara Jenkins.

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Happy Fourth of July (Amerexit?)!

Here’s one to add to your blues playlist as you’re grilling, entertaining family or friends, or just kicking back and relaxing this Independence Day, a little gem from one-time Jelly Roll Kings singer and guitarist Big Jack Johnson compliments of M.C. Records.

Released in 1996, “It’s the 4th of July” first appeared on Johnson’s We Got to Stop This Killin’, one of four albums he recorded for M.C. Records in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Have a great holiday!

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Born to the Blues

We know we’ve been a little quiet here on The BluesPowR Blog lately, but hopefully this latest edition of our BluesPowR Radio Hour will help make up for that, featuring music from Magic Sam, Johnny Rawls, Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’ Blues, Eric Bibb, and Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea, plus a double-shot from Jake Chisholm, a real live one from the Nick Moss Band, and more!

Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea – Hit Me Like a Train (On the Rocks)
Magic Sam – Same Old Blues (alternate) (Black Magic deluxe edition)
Eric Bibb & North Country Far, Danny Thompson – The Happiest Man in the World (The Happiest Man in the World)
The Jordan Patterson Band – If You’d Help Me Please – Revisited (The Back on Track Recording Project)
Jake Chisholm – No More Sorrow (No More Sorrow)
Jake Chisholm – Just Because You Want To (No More Sorrow)
Johnny Rawls – Born to the Blues (Tiger in a Cage)
Kalo – Treat Me Bad (Dear John)
Nick Moss Band – Try To Treat You Right (Live and Luscious)
Mac Arnold and Plate Full O’ Blues – Give It Away (Give It Away)

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Play like Buddy Guy

Buddy_Guy_Play_Along (262x350)For all of us aspiring guitarists who have long dreamt of playing with – or even like – Grammy and Blues Music Award-winning guitarist and the reigning king of the blues Buddy Guy, a new book of tabs from Hal Leonard publishers may be the closest many of us will ever get to fulfilling that dream. The latest in the music publisher’s Guitar Play-Along series (this is volume 183, joining others ranging from the likes of Clapton, Hendrix, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, T-Bone Walker, Albert King and ZZ Top to David Lee Roth, Duane Allman, AC/DC, Taylor Swift, and Iron Maiden), the Buddy Guy – Guitar Play-Along allows guitarists to see the tab, hear clips of the music – including the ability to slow the audio down, set loop points, and change keys, among other functions – and then play along to eight of Guy’s most popular tracks, from the brazen swagger of “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” and “Man of Many Words” to the softer, more refined “Feels Like Rain” and “What Kind of Woman Is This”, along with “Someone Else is Steppin’ In”, “Midnight Train”, “Stone Crazy”, and “Hoodoo Man Blues”.

The book may not win you quite the awards Guy has received, but it will make it easier to impress your friends with some of Guy’s most killer riffs!

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The Blues Never Sleeps

Here’s the latest installment of our BluesPowR Radio Hour, featuring music from recent Blues Music Award (BMA) winners Walter Trout and Duke Robillard, as well as a double-shot from quadruple BMA nominee Anthony Geraci, plus tracks from Tasha Taylor and Samantha Fish, Steve Hill, and more. Enjoy!

The Blues Never Sleeps – Anthony Geraci & The Boston Blues All-Stars (Fifty Shades of Blue)
Blues for David Maxwell – Anthony Geraci & The Boston Blues All-Stars (Fifty Shades of Blue)
Put Me Back – Amy Hart (Live at the Mayne Stage)
John the Revelator – Lewis Hamilton (Shipwrecked)
Rollin & Tumblin / Stop Breaking Down – Steve Hill (Solo Recordings Vol. 3)
Slender Man Blues – Billy the Kid & the Regulators (I Can’t Change)
Leave That Dog Alone- Tasha Taylor w/ Samantha Fish (Honey for the Biscuit)
I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water – Duke Robillard (The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard)
Cold Cold Ground – Walter Trout (Battle Scars)

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Posthumous single from dual Blues Music Award winner Otis Clay: Mississippi Poor Boy

You may have seen in our last post that among the multiple award recipients at last week’s annual Blues Music Awards was the late soul-blues crooner Otis Clay, whose wins in the soul male artist and soul blues album (for his collaboration with Billy Price on This Time for Real) categories were, believe it or not, his first Blues Music Awards in a long and distinguished musical career that, in addition to blues, R&B, and soul, was also largely rooted in gospel, an influence to which Clay returned often throughout the decades.

Such is the case with this track, for which Clay’s vocals were actually recorded during the sessions for his 2014 Soul Brothers collaboration with friend and fellow soulman Johnny Rawls. The plan was to include the song – one of Clay’s favorites – on his next solo album, a project that unfortunately never came to fruition before the legend’s passing this January at age 73.

Not wanting to see such a good thing go to waste, Catfood Records’ Bob Trenchard enlisted Rawls and a few others to help complete the track, with Trenchard on bass, Johnny McGhee on guitar, and Rawls producing as well as providing both percussion and background vocals along with neo-soul artist Janelle Thompson. The result was a fittingly beautiful and fulfilling note by which to remember Clay, a gospel song with a raw blues edge that embodies both the spirit and career of this Mississippi boy.

We weren’t able to catch Clay when he visited Pittsburgh to perform with Price at the Rex Theater last fall, but here’s a great medley from that show that also starts on a bit of a spiritual note:

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Buddy Guy, Walter Trout, Otis Clay among big winners at last night’s Blues Music Awards

The winners of the 37th Blues Music Awards were announced last night in Memphis, with Buddy Guy, Walter TroutOtis Clay, Cedric Burnside, and Victor Wainwright each taking home a pair of awards in a five-way tie for the event’s big winner.

Guy received awards for album and contemporary album of the year for his Born to Play Guitar; Trout took home the gold for both rock blues album (Battle Scars) and song (“Gonna Live Again”); and the late Clay won in the soul male artist and soul blue album categories for his collaboration with Pittsburgh’s Billy Price on This Time for Real. Burnside was honored for traditional blues album (Descendants of Hill Country) and his work on drums, while Wainwright got the nods for band and B.B. King Entertainer of the year.

Among the night’s other winners were Joe Louis Walker for contemporary male artist, Shemekia Copeland for contemporary female artist, John Primer for traditional male artist, Ruthie Foster for traditional female artist (Koko Taylor Award), Doug MacLeod for acoustic artist, Sonny Landreth on guitar, Kim Wilson on harmonica, and the late Allen Toussaint for Pinetop Perkins Piano Player. You can view the full list of winners on the American Blues Scene site.

Congratulations to all of last night’s winners and all of this year’s nominees.

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Second volume of live recordings offers another listen at Mayall’s pre-Fleetwood Mac Bluesbreakers

Every time we hear a new album from John Mayall, like last year’s Find a Way to Care, we think The Godfather of British Blues just may be sounding better musically than ever. But then we hear something like this, the second in a series of previously unreleased live recordings of his band The Bluesbreakers culled from a handful of London shows from the spring of 1967, and we’re reminded that Mayall has really always been pretty brilliant, especially when backed, as he is here, by the likes of guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood, and bassist John McVie, a line-up that didn’t stick around long enough to ever join Mayall in the studio, choosing instead to go their own way and form a band called Fleetwood Mac.

Bluesbreakers_1967_vol2 (280x280)You may recall us hoping for a second volume of music from these shows during our review of the first set last spring, and we’re pleased to report that only three of the songs on John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers Live in 1967 – Volume Two (Forty Below Records) are repeats of tracks that appeared on volume one, not that we mind at all hearing some different interpretations from these guys on classics like “Stormy Monday”, “So Many Roads”, and “Double Trouble”. But that’s only once you’re able to get past the opening track, the slow blues of a “Tears in My Eyes” that features some stinging playing from Green and that you’re going to want to play over and over again.

As on the first volume, pretty much everything here is spectacular, with the biggest highlights (once you’re able to move on from that opener) including the grooving instrumental “Greeny”, a slow, patient take on B.B. King’s “Sweet Little Angel” that captures the band deep in the zone, and a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Bye Bye Bird” that also has Mayall blowing away on harmonica.

In between, you’ll also hear a shuffling, slightly accelerated take on Williamson II’s “Your Funeral and My Trial”, the “Spoonful”-like original “Please Don’t Tell”, covers of J.B. Lenoir’s “Talk to Your Daughter” and Eddie Taylor’s “Bad Boy”, and another instrumental original in “Chicago Line” that includes a terrific bass solo from McVie, many of which again feature Mayall on harmonica in addition to vocals and/or keyboards.

Derived from a fan’s bootleg recordings of shows at four different London clubs, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise (especially to those who heard Volume 1) that the sound here can be a bit muffled and uneven at times, even with the great work from producers Mayall and Forty Below’s Eric Corne in cleaning things up. But that really is a small and insignificant price to pay to be able to hear such an important and intriguing piece of blues history. Along with its predecessor, Live in 1967 – Volume 2 is a must-have.

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