Tag Archives: Duane Allman

The Evolution of the Statesboro Blues

11 Apr

List five of the most famous blues songs you can think of. Was “Statesboro Blues” on your list? It is a mainstay on most lists not only because of its excellence as a song, but also because of its proliferation – i.e. the song was re-recorded by the right people. Even if “Statesboro Blues” didn’t find a spot on your list, it is certainly a staple of blues history and a widely recognized song today. You hear the opening few notes of the riff and hear “Wake up Mama, turn your lamp down low” and you just know you are traveling to Georgia to experience the Statesboro blues. But with whom are you traveling with. The original creator of the famous blues piece, the first modernizer, or the performers with arguably the best version of the song? I think we are in need of a Blues Evolution.

By the way, before I continue, if you are interested in the blues and want to learn more about famous originators check out the list that John Phillips is compiling over at the Real Canadian Music Blog. His Let’s Explore the Blues section offers a deep dive into pre-rock blues (http://therealcanadianmusicblog.wordpress.com/category/blues/)

The best way to explore the evolution of “Statesboro Blues” is to work backwards. Instead of starting in 1928, let’s start 43 years later at the Fillmore East in March of 1971. The Allman Brothers recorded a version of blues piece for their live album At Fillmore East, which is one of the most extraordinary live albums ever released. The song is now a staple during Allman Brothers’ concerts. Why did the song succeed initially? One name. Duane Allman. His slide work on “Statesboro Blues” is some of the greatest ever done by any guitarist ever. It is spine-tingling, goose-bump inducing, holy sh*t how is he making that sound, good. You can listen to it over and over again, transcribe it and play it until your fingers are blue and pulsating, NO ONE will ever play the slide guitar and this song like Duane Allman. Let’s not forget Dickey Betts who also creates a magical tone with his guitar. The riff is heavenly, the blues solo scary good, and the vocals fresh and original. The Allman Brothers makes the song theirs, which is partly why everyone thinks it is their song!

But it’s not. And it is not Taj Mahal’s either, who recorded a modernized version of the song for his eponymous debut album in 1968. The version, slower than the Allman Brothers piece, clearly influenced the Brothers. Taj Mahal’s voice is the strength of his version. I give him a whole lot of credit for turning this song into a late 60s blues piece, but he knocks the piece out with his chops. Listen here:

Will the real Statesboro Bluesman please stand up? Name is Willie McTell, Blind Willie Mctell. McTell was an early 20th century blues singer/songwriter/guitarist, with tremendous skill on the 12-string guitar – fingerstyle and slide (Allman inspiration of course). His music is more Eastern than Delta Blues. It is more ragtimey and his voice is not as granular as the deep south Delta blues performers like Big Joe Williams and Charley Patton.

The original lyric is different from the Taj Mahal and Allman Brothers versions of the song. The covers splice together parts of McTell’s original lyric, a narrative about some family struck with the Statesboro, Georgia blues. One of the most influential portions of the song is McTell’s fast-paced verse progression later in the song which is a bit atypical and certainly much appreciated. Anybody out there have the “Statesboro Blues?”

Inagural Journey

5 Sep

I’d like to take you on musical journey, more specifically my musical journey, from a tiny dweeb with a mix CD of songs downloaded from Kazaa to this post pubescent humanoid interested enough in music to volunteer to write for this esteemed music blog.

I envision this category as an exploration of musical genres that I enjoy, handpicking artists, albums and even specific songs that are part of my musical gospel.  These music genres and how I divide and subdivide them are really of my own creation and bear no resemblance to what you may or may not have read on wikipedia.  Also, I haven’t decided yet if I will crossover artists between genres.  You’ll just have to stay tuned to find that tantalizing bit of knowledge out.

With that administration stuff out of the way, we can now make way on this exploration.  I’d like to start with my longest obsession: the blues!

The Blues: Great Guitarists

My guess is if you’re here, you’ve at least heard of the greats.  Perhaps you enjoy listening to the Pioneers of Blues, like Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry, the three Kings (BB, Freddie and Albert), Buddy Guy,  or Hendrix.  Or maybe you rock out with the blues guitarists of the British Invasion, try Jeff Beck, Mr. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or Keith Richards.  Perhaps, (like myself), you find something really cool about Southern Blues like SRV, Duane Allman, Dickey Betts or Gary Rossington.  Those guys are the greats for many reasons but they certainly are not the only great players out there.

I’m sure you’ve heard of a guy named John Mayer.  Tall, skinny white dude who only seems like a prick until you actually hear him speak and you can confirm it.  Everytime I used to hear the man’s songs I had the sudden and barely controllable urge to break things.  Sometimes I still do.  However, that doesn’t change the fact that although he may have the voice of a pop singer who injects himself with estrogen, Mr. Mayer plays like a guitar god on steriods with three hands who will be killed painfully when and if he stops playing with a healthy does of skill and soul.  Just check out the mans solo and even compare it to the great Eric Clapton’s.

As amazing as some of these guys are, I’ve never wanted to learn to kick ass and take names on guitar more than seeing a guy by the name of Davy Knowles play live.  I was standing next to another act, a pretty good guitarist himself by the name of Evan Watson (checkout this video) who was standing there, mouth open, shaking his head as Davy fretted and played with one hand.  Check out his album Coming up For Air to understand just how talented he is.

Just watched Davy?  The song he just played isn’t actually his.  It’s by a guy by the name of Rory Gallagher.  I know, wimpy first name, not wimpy player.  The bad boys of rock and roll themselves,, those Rolling Stones even asked this guy to play for them.  That’s how good.  Check out the Irish 74 tour live double album for a legend in tippy top shape.

The Allman Brothers at the Beacon

22 Mar

Catching an Allman Brother’s show at the Beacon Theater in New York City is more of an unpredictable event than a concert. While the band does entertain with music, the set-list through the Brother’s string of 13 Beacon shows constantly changes and you never know who will join them on stage. The band, consisting of Gregg Allman, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Jaimoe Johanson, Marc Quiñones, Oteil Burbridge, is tremendously talented. Every member has an immense musical library in their head that allows them to effectively jam through numerous complicated blues songs effortlessly. The Allman Brothers are the band to see if you want to witness musical proficiency.

Tonight will be my first time seeing the Allman Brothers and I am not sure why it has taken me so long to buy tickets for a show. Perhaps it is because it seems like they will always be a staple for their double-digit concert tour in New York City. No rush if they continue coming back. But, I do also feel that the band is just simply underrated and understated. All classic rock fans know the Allman Brothers, but only few dedicated fans truly know their music. Unlike the Dead, the Allman Brothers have a smaller following even though their music is jam blues/country rock at its finest. The untimely death of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley did not effect the band immediately. They were still one of the biggest draws. The band absolutely fell apart in 1976 because of conflict, therefore not perpetuating their music until they were reformed by Allman in 1989. This 13-year lapse did not help their popularity, and because of this they are still somewhat flying under the radar and not getting the credit that they absolutely deserve.

The last time the band played on March 22 at the Beacon Theater was in 2007. The last song of set II was “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” one of my personal favorites. Here it is for your listening pleasure:

Great Covers: “Hey Jude” by Wilson Pickett

28 Oct

It was well into Wilson Pickett‘s illustrious singing career when he recorded a successful version of The Beatles’Hey Jude” that turned into a #16 pop hit. No surprise about the great ranking. Pair a talented vocalist with an excellent song and generally you will produce good music.

Wilson Pickett’s version of “Hey Jude” was recorded after Pickett moved on from Stax Records after Stax banned all outside production in 1965. Pickett left to go to Fame Studios in Alabama where he recorded the highest charting version of Chris Kenner/Cannibal & The Headhunters’ “Land of 1000 Dances.” The reason I put Cannibal & The Headhunters is because their addition of the famous “na, na, na, na” lyric (which was originally a mistake, the singer forgot the lyrics mid-song) was used by Wilson Pickett and was instrumental in making his version famous.

*Six Degrees of Your Ipod Moment* Cannibal & The Headhunters helped put Wilson Pickett on the charts in a big way. They were also the opening act on The Beatles’ Second American Tour. Cannibal to Beatles to Pickett?

Back to the article. Pickett left Fame and went to American Studios in Memphis in 1967. He worked recording numerous Bobby Womack songs. After returning to Fame in 1968/69 he recorded “Hey Jude” with a band that featured Duane Allman. How about that? Listen to his impact and the amazing passionate voice of Wilson Pickett on this awesome recording of a Great Cover.

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