B.B. King – The Best of the Bluesman

I have had a couple of people ask me for album recommendations for B.B. King.  From a discography of over 40 studio albums and a dozen or so live recordings, I think these 5 are quality representatives of a lifetime of recording:

  • Completely Well (1969) ABC Records
  • Live in Cook County Jail (1971) Geffen Records
  • Blues on the Bayou (1998) Geffen Records
  • Riding with the King (with Eric Clapton) (2000) Reprise Records
  • One Kind Favor (2008) Geffen Records

And now for some of the best B.B. King single tunes:

  • Three O’ Clock Blues (1991 Remaster)
  • The Thrill is Gone (1969)
  • When Love Comes to Town (with U2) (1988)
  • Why I Sing the Blues (1992)
  • Lucille (1968)

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.  And if you have a set of five favorites, just a leave a comment!

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A Toast to B.B. King

When a bluesman passes, we mourn for just a bit and then celebrate their lives with song, the clinking of glasses, and the telling of stories amongst friends.

I first saw B.B. King at the age of sixteen back in 1969.  I attended a Johnny Winters concert and BB was the opening act.  I had no idea of who he was.  Dressed in a white shirt and black tie, he and his band came up on stage to the murmurs of the teenage crowd.  “Who is this dude?”  Once he started playing, the audience sat in stunned silence as BB began to make love to Lucille. It was an electrifying performance and by the third or fourth song, everyone was on their feet. I will never forget that night; I was introduced to the blues by the King himself!

The traveling bard telling stories and singing songs is one of the oldest art forms known to man.  B.B. told the story of the blues in concert a reported 15,000 times in his career. He rose from humble roots in the cotton fields in Mississippi and spread the music of the blues literally across the globe. And his legacy of songs will be sung long after we return to the dust from whence we came. If you have a story about B.B., share the memory with family and friends and us……

Rest in peace Riley King!  I count it a blessing to have lived during the era of the King of the Blues, though I wish you could have stayed just a little longer.

Smokin’ Blues (and almost the blues) Reviews – May 13, 2015

The Stone FoxesSmall Fires  (2013 Stone Foxes Records)

A one Cigar rating for this CD from a San Francisco blues rock band. With a sound steeped in the distortion blues of the Black Keys and a vocal style reminiscent of the Kinks and the J. Geils band, the Stone Foxes deliver some crankin’ tunes with a good beat and lyrics. I enjoyed Everybody Knows.

John Mayer – Paradise Valley (2013 Columbia Records)

While most of the media seems fascinated by John’s love life, I prefer to focus on his music. Featuring a true talent on the guitar and a special voice, Paradise Valley is a pleasant roots rock/country work with a melancholy tinge and lyrics that blue lovers will enjoy. On Call Me The Breeze, John builds on the Tulsa sound recordings of Eric Clapton and the songwriter, JJ Cale, to produce a great version of his own. I just want John to stop toying with the blues out at the fringe and dive into the deep end….it will happen one day and be well worth the wait.  One cigar and the patience of Job rating for this CD.

Marcus BonfantiShake the Walls (2013 Jigsaw Music Ltd.)

A one fine cigar rating for this blues rock recording by a great British singer and guitar player. His deep gritty voice and “seventies throwback” look fit the blues like a well made glove. While he can crank out blues rock with the best of them, I also enjoyed the acoustic cuts on the album. Try Jezebel, Alley Cat, Blind Alley, and The Bittersweet.

DorothyDorothy EP (2014 Claray Records)

An Acid Cigar and shot of tequila rating for this badass debut EP! Featuring the riveting raw vocals of Dorothy Martin, this blues rockin’ foursome out of Los Angeles just cranks it out. I loved Gun in My Hand, After Midnight, Wicked Ones, and Bang, Bang, Bang.  Gotta check it out!!

2015 Blues Music Award Winners

And the big winner was……. Elvin Bishop….with album, band, and song of the year!

Full-Time Blues Radio

Courtesy Blues Foundation Courtesy Blues Foundation The Blues Music Awards were held in front of a sold out crowd at Memphis’ Cook Convention Center, and the folks in attendance enjoyed an incredible night of music and brotherhood celebrating the Great American Music. Elvin Bishop was the big winner at this year’s event, walking away with half of the six awards for which he was nominated. John Hammond won awards in both Acoustic Blues categories. The evening’s other multiple award winner was Bobby Rush, who won Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year and the BMAs most prestigious award, B.B. King Entertainer of the Year.

The ceremony featured the incredible live performances and once in a lifetime collaborations that the awards have become known for. 2015 featured one significant change, with the Hall of Fame inductions happening on the night of the awards. In previous years, the Hall of Fame ceremonies have taken place…

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“Music Was Better Back Then”

Interesting article on the demographics of buyers of music. It appears that men stop buying new music at 30 years old and women at 40. After that, they primarily buy music from their 17 to 30 period. For the blues, this means we have to redouble efforts to expose younger folks to all the bad ass blues that is out there!

Skynet & Ebert

After sixty years of research, it’s conventional wisdom: as people get older, they stop keeping up with popular music. Whether the demands of parenthood and careers mean devoting less time to pop culture, or just because they’ve succumbed to good old-fashioned taste freeze, music fans beyond a certain age seem to reach a point where their tastes have “matured”.

That’s why the organizers of the Super Bowl — with a median viewer age of 44 —  were smart to balance their Katy Perry-headlined halftime show with a showing by Missy Elliott.

Missy don't brag, she mostly boast Missy don’t brag, she mostly boast

Spotify listener data offers a sliced & diced view of each user’s streams. This lets us measure when this effect begins, how quickly the effect develops, and how it’s impacted by demographic factors.

For this study, I started with individual listening data from U.S. Spotify users and combined that…

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Pour Me a Dream – A review of Beth Hart’s “Better Than Home”

In an age when pulsing electronica and sexually explicit hip hop and pop drive the top of the music charts, it is exhilarating to listen to an artist that continues to write and perform from the soul. On her latest album, Better Than Home, Beth Hart pours out her feelings and thoughts in a musical style that reflects her blues core. The album highlights her artistry on the keyboards as well as her song writing talent without diminishing the quality of a voice for the ages.

This is an album best listened to with a glass of wine on a contemplative evening. (In my case, it would also include a Perdomo 10th Anniversary Champagne robusto cigar!) On my favorite cut, she writes “Pour me a dream and play me a tune…I will get along just as long as I have a song.” It is a lyric that reflects the feelings of most music lovers. But then she cuts you to the core with the reminder that melancholy reverie is “a slip into the rich of the dark…the cheapest of tricks” but she goes ahead anyway and invites us along. It is the essence of the blues and no other current artist even comes close to laying out her heart and soul like Beth.

I had the honor to interview Beth backstage in the fall of 2013. I was doing a piece to be used on radio in Europe for her upcoming tour that year. It was my first (and to date only) radio interview with an artist and she immediately put me at ease. She is personable, self-deprecating, a “down home” girl from California, who after struggling and overcoming her drug demons is comfortable in her own skin. She talked of her love for her husband (who has been her road manager for the last 15 years), her family, and the fans that have stuck with her through thick and thin. I also mentioned that over the years on many of her albums she has “wrestled with God” in her lyrics. She smiled and said simply that she writes about life’s struggles and her feelings as best she can. She also stated that she prefers a simple sound without a lot of the “production values” that modern producers foist onto the final versions of songs before they are released. On the deluxe version of the current CD, there are a couple of songs where one is “produced” and the other version is only Beth and her piano and they are great. (I will get along as long as I have a Song and St. Teresa). Kudos to the producers for allowing Beth’s vision to bear witness to her talent.

On the new album, she continues to address many of the topics we discussed two years ago. The title cut of the album, is a great song where Beth addresses God and angels with an honesty and sincerity that transcends the cold and often harsh theology of modern religion. She pays tribute to her mother “Mama, This One is for You” on one tune and writes another “We’re Still Living in the City” that is surely for her husband. I had mentioned to Beth in our interview that I thought R&B was her strong suit and “Smile on my Face”, “Trouble”, and “The Mood I’m In” just confirm my thought. The power of her voice matched to an R&B beat is simply infectious. Beth reaches out to those struggling with their demons, poverty, and despair with “Tell Them to Hold On”. And her love song, “Tell Her You Belong to Me”, is just simply beautiful. My pick for “breakout single” is a catchy tune called “Mechanical Heart”.

Beth’s new album debuted on the Billboard Hot 200, a feat she last accomplished fifteen years ago. It is a testament to her perseverance and love of music, the loyalty of her fans, and her constant touring in Europe and the United States. I will get to see her again here in Houston on June 13th. Checkout her website at www.bethart.com , buy the album, and make sure to go see her if she gets close! Pour me a dream Beth and just sing your songs….and the world will be a better place for us all.

April 2015  Mascot/Provogue Records (Deluxe Edition)

Review by Ben Vee  benveeblues.com benvee@yahoo.com