Tag Archives: Blues

Demo-lished: Quincy LePalm

30 Apr

Not often can you catch my attention with a demo version of a track that I already love. Or even demos of things I don’t already love, really. (Sorry, Karen O.) But there is always an exception to the rule. Our exception this time is Quincy LePalm, a genuine songsmith. He is gearing up to release his debut EP, but has released several demos that are sure to catch your attention.

My personal favorite, “Mazinaw Blues,” channels the soul of Son House, with the songwriting reminiscent of Jack White’s ballads. This metaphor goes deeper though; White is conspicuously influenced by Son House- he plays a Son House LP during It Might Get Loud, and the Son House edition of the Heroes of the Blues CD series has a quote from White right on the back of the jewel case. I like to think that not only is LePalm influenced by both of them, he is their new form. Son House was the master of the blues, then Jack came and renewed rock and roll as we knew it with The White Stripes, then The Raconteurs, and then The Dead Weather. Okay, so I’m getting ahead of myself; LePalm has no interest in fundamentally changing the folk or blues music scenes as we know them. But he is interested in telling you a compelling story, just him and his guitar. The paradigm shifts will come later.

There is an EP in the works, due out this summer. For more information on Quincy LePalm, follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Top Albums of 2014 – #2: Turn Blue by The Black Keys

24 Dec

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To be honest I was not sure where to start with this post on the #2 album of 2014: The Black Keys’ epic LP Turn Blue, an album eagerly awaited by a substantial fan base since the uber-successful release of the band’s 2011 album El Camino. My loss of words is directly caused by the plethora of topics I can discuss concerning this album. There is the continued partnership with producer Danger Mouse (who always finds his way onto the Music Court’s end-of-the-year charts with multiple bands), the Mike Tyson aided release announcement in March of this year, the Ghoulardi-inspired album title and the blue and pink Twilight Zone-esque spiral album cover, and, of course, the powerful 11 tracks that features sounds that range from psychedelic, low-key Broken Bells inspired keys to the upbeat blues rock that the Black Keys became famous for.

I’ll stick with the music.

The Black Keys, the baby of two childhood friends Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, has produced excellent scratchy garage rock since the band’s inception in 2001, and since then the band has continued to evolve as an inventive propagator of engaging, catchy rock music, and this has helped the duo develop a loyal fan base. Turn Blue, the band’s 8th studio album, involved some tenseness (as expected in the creation of any album) and a lot of new exploration for the band, which helped produce some fascinating tunes that take the Black Keys out of its comfort zone.

“Weight of Love” is a perfect indication of this. The inception of the song draws out two chords, distorted guitar, and distended percussion.  The first two minutes plays like pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd mixed with Burton’s spaghetti-western inspired Rome. The song then transforms to a sprawling rock piece with echoed harmonies and wall-of-sound keys. There are so many elements magically combined into this piece and this combination is done incredibly well. It is masterful. The fear was that it would be too self-indulgent, but, instead, the song actually blends 50 years of rock music elements and takes on past and present with ferocity and listenability. Excellent piece.

“Gotta Get Away” is refreshing. It’s a jaunty on traditional Black Keys garage rock. It is an infectious song with drawn-out keys and jocular instrumentation. It’s just a joy to listen to, so do so, and have a wonderful holiday!

Listen to more – Black Keys Website

The Recovery Blues – Dave Powell and the Lonely Gales

18 May

Dave Powell and the Lonely Gales

I am typing this with one hand. That is the major reason why I have not posted in a week. Shoulder surgery has left my left arm unavailable for use. One-handed typing is cumbersome! That being said, I plan on trying to post as often as I am able despite this temporary disability. For now, I am encountering the recovery blues.

Dave Powell, a wayworn blues musician from the swamplands for Louisiana, is part of the true blues movement among young musicians, and his most recent EP Recovery Blues is a 5-track EP that “catalogues his descent into substance abuse and depression, and the ragged road he trudged back home to health and happiness.” (http://noisetrade.com/davepowell). 

I apologize for the blurriness of the video, but just listen to this fast-paced blues ditty. Powell features a rich vocal that is time-tested, gritty, and passionate. The guitars have a voice of their own and complement Powell’s croon effectively. The swinging rhythm is toe-tapping goodness. A great song and EP to listen to when you are stuck on the couch longing to move!

Live at The Cafe Au Go Go – The Blues Project

25 Apr

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During a four-day stretch of concerts in November of 1965 at the revered Cafe Au Go Go, a band of New York-based blues musicians recorded its first album. The club, which was the first New York venue for the Grateful Dead, also featured an often weekly collection of uber-talented blues artists entitled the Blues Project. I mention the Dead because the Blues Project was known as the New York response to the Grateful Dead, which was also a collection of incredibly talented blues musicians. Unfortunately, the Blues Project lacked the staying power and fell into 60s music history – although two members did form Blood Sweat & Tears. I bring the band back today on the Music Court because the debut live collection of covers is a sparkling example of true 60s blues music that engendered the propagation of the genre stateside.

The Blues Project was a jam band at its finest. The album was actually a cut version of several longer covers of famous blues songs like “Back Door Man” and “Goin’ Down Louisiana.” These covers were fresh and inspirational, as several British blues musicians would also come to cover these songs with similar aptitude. The big three members of the Blues Project were guitarists Danny Kalb (also vocals) and Steve Katz and organist Al Kooper. Tommy Flanders kicked in some vocals, and the band also included Andy Kulberg on bass and Roy Blumenfeld on drums. Al Kooper actually joined the group after its failed audition for Columbia Records; Kooper was a session musician and liked what he heard. It didn’t take long for the band to secure a record deal with Verve Records and record its first album. 

So, let’s talk a bit about Live at the Cafe Au Go Go. One of the interesting components of the album is that it blends classic 60s folk with pre-60s blues. For example, The Blues Project performs a version of “Violets of Dawn,” a piece by Greenwich Village folk staple Eric Andersen.

The piece is quintessential psychedelic folk, which was developing at the time with bands like the Byrds. The mellow song features a bright guitar that provides a consistent lead while the percussion and bass hold down the subdued rhythm. It’s the type of song that does not stand out to the listener but easily flows like a narrow stream. It’s hard to believe that the next track on Side 2 of the album is a version of Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man,” which sounds like this:

Just a killer version of this classic. It moves with vigor: effortless percussion, whining blues guitar, efficient bass, and fitting vocals. It is gritty and more true to real rock n’ roll blues. It also demonstrates The Blues Project’s ability to successfully swap between folk and rocking blues with ease. A truly talented band that deserved more listerners and success.

 

The Deity of British Blues – Alexis Korner

8 Sep

Alexis Korner

Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Son House, Ma Rainey, Big Bill Broonzy – Names that are forever linked with their god-like status among the propagation of American Blues – an extensive genre that had an indelible impact on the future molding of rock ‘n’ roll.

On the other side of the pond, British jazz musicians and fans became ensconced with the Blues music of musicians like Ma Rainey and Fats Waller, acquiring much of these tunes from African-American GIs stationed there during the Wars. After the Skiffle craze died down in the 1950s, many Skiffle-influenced musicians turned their attention to pure Blues music. Muddy Waters had a shocking electric (literally) visit to England where he shocked Brits with his amplified electric blues. Some were appalled by his lack of reverence for the classic style, but the youth ate up this edgy playing. Among them was a guitarist by the name of Alexis Korner, who, like the Blues ancestors above, would spark a focus on Blues in Britain and influence a slew of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest musicians. Thus, he too should be considered a true Blues god, and it should come to no surprise that he is often given the moniker of the “Father of British Blues.”

Korner’s elaborate music history is extensive and impactful. It is not easy to keep the plenitude of anecdotes to a minimum, but for the sake of the reader I shall limit my focus to a few stories. Like, for example, in 1969 while touring with a new band, Korner was jamming with a little-known singer named Robert Plant. Jimmy Page, who often performed with Korner at the Marquee Club, was intrigued by Plant’s voice and asked him to join The New Yardbirds…who would soon turn into a rock band called Led Zeppelin with Page and Plant at the helm.

But I am getting ahead of myself. That was in the late 60s. Korner’s career (even though he dabbled in Skiffle) really began in 1961 when he founded Blues Incorporated with Blues harmonica extraordinaire Cyril Davies. Blues Incorporated (like The Yardbirds, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, and Cyril Davies’ All-Stars) was an early example of a “supergroup.” But, in truth, it was just a platform for talented blues musicians to play music. Blues Incorporated, though, has the special mark as the first electrified Blues band in Britain. The band secured a residency at the Marquee (mentioned above) and even established an R&B Night at Ealing Jazz Club.

Remember what I said about the youth loving electrified Blues music? Well, where do you think they went to hear this music? And who do you think inspired them to pursue this music? So when I tell you that Korner played with musicians like Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Paul Jones, Eric Burdon, and many, many others, you should not be too surprised. Most of the early Blues musicians in Britain are linked with Alexis Korner in some way. He is like the Kevin Bacon of British Blues. And when Cyril Davies left Korner to form his All-Stars he played with musicians like Nicky Hopkins and Long John Baldry until he died far too young in 1964. The All-Stars were led by Baldry who created Hoochie Coochie Man, featuring a singer named Rod Stewart. Page also had a few All-Stars jam sessions, adding individuals like Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman, and Mick Jagger to the mix.

But back to Korner for one more story before I urge you to watch this documentary about him.

Blues Incorporated was asked by BBC radio to broadcast a session in the early 60s, but the producer only had room for six musicians. The seventh member of the group with a singer named Mick Jagger. Jagger was asked to gather some friends and play the normal spot at the Marquee. The friends he gathered were Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart on piano, Dick Taylor on bass and Tony Chapman on drums. The band went by the name of  Rollin’ Stones after a Muddy Waters tune.

Cyril Davies on vocals and harmonica. Alexis Korner playing a mean acoustic guitar. Released in November, 1962.

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