Tag Archives: British

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.

The Dunwells are Doing Just Fine

3 Oct

The Dunwells

Every band goes through a point early in their career when they must make a decision on whether or not their music is worth being pursued. It’s a dreaded decision.

That point in the Dunwells’ young career came when the well ran dry and they were without consistent shows. A fortuitous UK tour, an invite to perform at the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis (which they took advantage of and flew in across the pond for despite their lack of funds), and the subsequent winning of the ‘break-out band’ title at the conference, turned around the favor of the British folk band, and since then, dare I say, they are doing quite well.

The Dunwells are one of the more intriguing bands I have profiled in a while. They display an authentic brand of organic Americana (despite their Leeds roots) and their powerful harmonies trump folk contemporaries like Mumford and Sons. The band also demonstrates a keen interest in creating variety in their music. Acoustic ballads much akin to Justin Nozuka or even Eric Hutchinson are followed by toe-tapping, riff-smashing Tom Petty-like songs. If I have one criticism with several folk bands today, it is with their lack of variety. The Dunwells crush that convention and then let their skillful harmonies do the rest of the talking.

The band was formed by Joseph and David Dunwell, two brothers and former solo performers, in October of 2009. They recruited friends and local musicians to complete their band, eventually ending up with a lineup that consisted of them, Jonny Lamb (drums), David Hanson (lead guitar), and Jonny Lamb’s cousin Rob Clayton (bass). They released their debut single (“Elizabeth” – below) in 2010 and it achieved moderate chart success. Eventually, they were recognized for all the skills mentioned above. It just so happened it came by way of former Cutting Crew keyboardist Tony Moore, who spotted the band and invited them to the folk festival in the United States which then led to them being signed by Austin, Texas-based label, Traffic Records.

The Dunwells released their sweet debut Blind Sighted Faith on February 14, 2012. They are now making their rounds touring, and recently were showcased on the Jay Leno Show (their television debut) in August of this year.

This is a great sample of why I am so high on this band. This is one of those acoustic ballads I mentioned before. At first listen, I was blown away by the Backstreet Boys harmonies. Seriously, they are that smooth. But do you know what’s scary? There are no effects added to this piece. This is purely acoustic. They are naturally this talented. The song itself is soothing and constructed well. The vocal interplay later in the song is fresh and skillful. It is actually difficult to not like this song.

And then BOOM. You are hit square in the face by a song that you could swear is by another band (until you hear the harmonies). The blues-saturated, powerful folk/rock song features instrumental breakdowns, vocal repetition, and a damn effect-driven electric guitar solo. It is an example of a band that knows hard work, exasperation, and, well, good music. No, great music. The inter-connectedness and fortitude supporting the band is refreshing, and I am excited to hear more from them in the future. This is most certainly a band to watch.

Find out more about the band by following their Facebook or Twitter. You can also check out their website

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