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!

Advertisements

A Blues Primer for Electric Blues and Blues Rock Artists

What is the blues? I get asked that question a lot and it is not as easy to answer as it might sound. The blues covers a lot of territory from its roots in the African culture and rhythms of the American Deep South to the latest music from Buddy Guy and Joe Bonamassa. There is the delta blues of the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s personified in the music of Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Skip James, Son House, and Sonny Boy Williamson to name just a few. There is the electric blues (and soul blues) of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Elmore James, Albert King, Freddie King, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, and Howlin’ Wolf that emigrated from the American south to the cities of the northern United States during the 40’s and 50’s , primarily to Chicago. Both the delta and Chicago blues were reinterpreted by a bunch of young urban kids in bands like the Rolling Stones, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Jimi Hendrix, and many others to create the blues rock genre. There are country blues, jazz blues, soul blues, jump blues, Kansas City Blues, St. Louis blues, New Orleans blues, gospel blues, swamp blues, and the West Coast blues. There are female blues (and jazz) from the likes of Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Etta James, Janis Joplin, Janiva Magness, Koko Taylor, and Beth Hart. The blues is a broad diversified music genre that has expanded from the Mississippi Delta and is now enjoyed all over the world.

So for me, the blues is about the music. It has no color, though we all pay our deep respects to the early black blues men and women artists who worked the fields, the juke joints, and battled the menace of segregation. The blues is definitely not politically correct, and it is not confined to one type of lyric composition or music style. It is the music of the soul battling the everyday demons that haunt us all. The stories it tells in the music often don’t have happy ending and deal with jealousy, lust, drinking, anger, remorse, and sadness. But they also address joy, faith, and profound love. The blues instrument of choice for me is the electric guitar but the acoustic guitar, the bass, drums, the Hammond organ, the harmonica, the piano and electric keyboards, and a variety of horns populate the music of the blues.

So if you’d like to learn more about the blues, listen to the music! Download some to support the artists, checkout out Spotify on the internet, visit my stream at http://s1.nexuscast.com:8043 , and most importantly, go see them LIVE! Blues artists almost to a person are accessible at their shows. They are you and me…real down to earth people. And they love their blues. They have to….. since most can’t make a living solely from the blues unless they stay on the road paying their dues. Below is a list of artists that I enjoy from the electric blues and blues rock genres; many have passed on but there are plenty that are out there touring regularly. It is not an all inclusive list but it will get you started! Enjoy the artists and the tunes!

Electric and Soul Blues Artists

B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Etta James, Eric Clapton, Luther Allison, Janiva Magness, Koko Taylor, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Little Walter, Hubert Sumlin, Albert Collins, AC Reed, Chris Thomas King, Curtis Salgado, Deborah Coleman, Dion, Boz Scaggs, Hound Dog Taylor, Elmore James, Willie Dixon, Ian Siegal, Irma Thomas, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Joe Lewis Walker, Johnny Copeland, Shemika Copeland, Junior Wells, Keb Mo, Tab Benoit, Kim Wilson, Lonnie Brooks, Lonnie Mack, Magic Sam, Magic Slim, Marcia Ball, Maria Muldaur, Mary Bridget Davies, Mavis Staples, Melody Gardot, Mississippi Fred McDowell, RL Burnside, Nina Simone, Otis Rush, Robert Cray, Robert Johnson, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Ruthie Foster, Seasick Steve, Taj Mahal, and T-Bone Walker.

Blues Rock Artists

Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Albert Cummings, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Vaughan, 24 Pesos, The Black Keys, the Rolling Stones, Cream, Alvin Lee, Robin Trower, Albert Castiglia, Damon Fowler, Ana Popovic, Meena, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Bonnie Raitt, Bryce Janey, Jack White, Julian Sass, Coco Montoya, Colin James, Dave Hole, David Gogo, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Eric Gales, Dr. John, Van Morrison, Steve Miller Band, Johnny Winter, Elvin Bishop, Eric Sardinas, the Allman Brothers, Gary Clark Jr, Gary Moore, Jeff Healey, George Thorogood, Gov’t Mule, Greg Allman, Devon Allman, The Royal Southern Brotherhood, Trampled Under Foot, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Thackery, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Jonny Lang, Joss Stone, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Leslie West, Mike Zito, Nick Moss, Ollie Brown, Omar and the Howlers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pat Travers, Chuck Berry, Fleetwood Mac, Rory Gallagher, Samantha Fish, Sena Ehrhardt, Sonny Landreth, Stacy Mitchart, JJ Grey & Mofro, The Blues Brothers, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Peter Green, Tinsley Ellis, Tommy Castro, Grand Funk Railroad, Joe Cocker, Tony Jo White, Ty Curtis Band, ZZ Ward, Walter Trout, and Warren Haynes.

Smokin’ Cigars and Ponderin’ Blues (Feb 23, 2015)

Sittin’ in my easy chair, smokin’ a cigar, and ponderin’ blues reviews:

  • Rory BlockHard Luck Child – Stony Plain Recording 2014
    • No Cigar – While acoustically brilliant, the album, which covers Skip James, didn’t do much for me.
  • Eric BibJericho Road – Stony Plain Recording 2013
    • One Fine Cigar – Death Row Blues is a great tune on a solid album.
  • Edin BrentJigsaw Heart – Yellow Dog Records 2014
    • One Fine Cigar and a Sniffer of Brandy – She is “Bonnie Raitt on a piano”. Nuff said!
  • John MooneySon and Moon – Fatback Records 2014
    • One Fine Cigar – Covering Son House tunes, John does some fine acoustic pickin’ playing the delta blues.
  • Elvin BishopCan’t Even Do Wrong Right – Alligator Records 2014
    • One Cigar – The title cut is vintage “Red Dog” blues and nominated for song of the year by the Blues Foundation.
  • John NemethMemphis Grease – Blue Corn Music 2014
    • One Fine Cigar – Bad Luck is My Name has been nominated for song of the year. Contains several nice soul blues and harp tunes.
  • Jarekus SingletonRefuse to Lose – Alligator Records 2014
    • One Fine Cuban Cigar with some friends – It’s the Chicago blues Baby! Great album by an up and coming young artist! High Minded was my favorite.
  • The Mannish BoysWrapped Up and Ready – Delta Groove Music 2014
    • One Fine Cuban Cigar with some friends – Layin’ down the Chicago blues with vigor and finesse. Loved Blues for Michael Bloomfield, a great jammin’ grinding blues tune!

Nick Moss Band – Time Ain’t Free (Blue Bella Records 2014)

I was fortunate to catch Nick Moss & his band recently doing a gig outside of Houston. Obviously tired from twenty six hours on the road direct from Chicago, he got on stage and just let it rip with tunes from his new album “Time Ain’t Free”. He shed the highway weariness in a hurry and his face lit up as the band launched into a Chicago funk instrumental, “(Big Mike’s) Sweet Potato Pie” to start the show. Nick is a big man and he bear hugged his guitar and just torched the frets as his tight band laid down an energetic groove. It was an impressive start to an entertaining evening.

“Time Ain’t Free” is the tenth album for Nick on his own label, Blue Bella Records, and seems destined to land him even more blues artist and music nominations (he already has 16!) It also marks a return to his Chicago roots via Macon Georgia! Nick’s last two albums were blues rock oriented and a marked departure from the Chicago blues style and sound that brought him notice on his first two albums in 1999 (First Offense) and 2001 (Got a New Plan). On the new album, we get a delicious mix of Chicago blues, urban funk, and that Southern sound that emanated from Macon in the seventies. It is a magical stew of the modern blues cooked Nick Moss style.

“Was I Ever Heard” is a southern blues rockin’ tune about life on the road and the night after night grind that all bands endure trying to make an impression and light a spark of enduring remembrance in sometimes fickle audiences. All I can say is that the guitar solos on this cut are for the ages and in league with the best of Dickey Betts, Duane Allman, and Warren Haynes. The cover of the Son House song, “Death Letter Blues”, is in the same vein as is the title cut, “Time Ain’t Free” and “No Reason”….sweet southern rockin’ blues.

The album also has a number of cuts featuring the remarkable voice of band member and Chicago native Mike Ledbetter. He has a soul inspired sound combined with a magnetic personality and a pair of movin’ hips that had the ladies in attendance smiling and swaying. (In fact, that is my only nitpick of the album after seeing the live performance, the CD just doesn’t do justice to the power of Mike’s vocals.) I particularly enjoyed the tune, “Fare the Well”, that showcased the clarity of his voice set to a Chicago urban funky blues beat.

The Nick Moss Band is doing a slew of concert dates in the United States through late June. In August 2014, he will head to Germany for shows in Bremen, Forst, and Hamburg. Check your local concert listings and make a date with the Nick Moss band. The time you spend listening to them live won’t be free but well worth the price of admission.