Thursday, April 16, 2009

21st Century Blues

You could poll 100 people on the matter of "what is the Blues?" and you'd probably get 100 different answers. Most of them would probably be right in various ways. To some, if it ain't acoustic and recorded south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it might be bluesy but it ain't the Blues. Some prefer the post-WWII electric stuff (Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley) and regard the earlier stuff as anything from "early country" to "folk blues." Some prefer the Blues of the Classic Rock Era, Mike Bloomfield, the Paul Butterfield Band, the J. Geils Band, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin... Then there are those who only know the stuff which made commercial radio in the 80s: George Thorogood & the Destroyers, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, and a Pacific Northwest treasure named Robert Cray. There are many destination points in between those, but you know what we mean. It's all a matter of taste and it's all Blues.

On the old stuff, few will argue the value and enjoyability of everyone from Robert Johnson to Son House, Magic Sam to Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie to Big Bill Broonzy... we could yammer on for weeks about the things we love about the Blues of the 20th Century. Hell, we've got a club based on it. In this blog entry, we offer up a couple artists and labels who are, in our opinion, carrying the torch and evolving the genre into the post-2K era. And to avoid being accused of self-promotion, we'll make a point to not include artists who've played our club. So here goes:

The Black Keys - guitar-intensive blues-rock. If you dig Zeppelin and the Black Crowes, we guarantee you'll love this band. Minimal 2-4 piece arrangements, they don't try to get cute, not even when their last album was produced by Gnarls Barkley member Danger Mouse.
Rocco DeLuca & the Burden - imagine Jeff Buckley as a Blues artist. Heartfelt vocals and personal songwriting make this guy's albums a staple in your car, your mp3 player, wherever you listen to music. He's been flying below the radar but that's about to change.
Gravelroad - now we're part guilty, because this Seattle-based band is playing here w/ Moreland & Arbuckle on May 8. Gravelroad represents a new guard of Blues, fused with heavier, punk rock sensibilities. In '09, they've partnered with the legendary T-Model Ford for a road-intensive national tour.

Not the Same Old Blues Crap - the first in a series of compilations by the great Fat Possum label. They specialize in marrying traditional/older and contemporary/younger artists in ways that are awesome and more importantly, relevant. Far from gratuitous the standard "old meets new" schlock we see in other genres, this stuff is compelling and, if you fancy yourself a blues fan, necessary.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Stax Volt

Admittedly, we are not good bloggers. At least, we don't blog as often as folks who accept the term "blogger" tend to do. We're trying to get better at this, while also running a club in a rhythm-n-blues-challenged market and keeping up with all the internets (myspace, facebook, and now twitter, not to mention our own website). In this brief post, we'd just like to extol the virtues of Stax Records. We're currently digging the hell out of their nine-disc collection, The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968. It's got all kinds of stuff you won't even find on the Best-Of compilations from the artists. If you threw a party - dinner, BBQ, nighttime, or otherwise - and only loaded this set into your jukebox of choice, you'd be a star among your friends for having such great taste in music that's sadly not been heard enough in the 21st century. Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, Booker T & the MGs, Eddie Floyd, Albert King, the Mar-Keys... If you're not feeling saucy enough to buy a nine-disc set in a retail environment, we understand. We bought it used, too. The used bins at local stores like Sonic Boom and Easy Street are the sources of many great finds. Online, we really love, an ebay subsidiary where people sell used records, books, videos and such. That's all for today.

Here's a good source of