Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell, Pee Wee Crayton, Bo Diddley

Continuing on with The ABC Of The Blues boxset (this'll be a going on until June or so...) - I pause for a moment to expand on my first quibble with this series. Volume 5 (from last week) featured one song from guitarist Scrapper Blackwell, who is most famous for his collaboration with Leroy Carr (Volume 9, this week). The quibble is that Blackwell returned to music in the late 1950s and recorded for several more years before he was killed, and none of that later music is here (thought much of the recordigns from 58 to 62 were posthumous releases). The irony is that the song featured is apparently a cover of a song that was rewritten from a song her originally wrote anyway... I'm not sure they didn't credit this song incorrectly to be honest.

The next quibble will come up several more times over the next few months - an artist with a disc all to themselves. Considering the depth, and breadth, of the achievement of this box set, giving over a full 20 songs to a single artist seems like they didn't dig deep enough to find artists we might not have heard of.

Volume 7 & 8

Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell
Scrapper's history can be found in last Sunday's post. He and Leroy had a seven year carreer together that ended in a fight in the middle of a recording session, Leroy died shortly after that. Leroy came out of Nashville, TN, a vocalist and pianist, adding some light blues piano to Blackwell's jazz-blues style of guitar, and paved the way for the deeper more cosmopolitain voices of later artists. The two collaborated from 1928 to 1935 befire Carr died and Blackwell left music for twenty years. This makes them some of the earlist recorded blues.

Several, or all I think, of these recordings are taken from old 78s, only on a few is the hiss audible, and there are not artifacts such as pops and clicks. Good clean recordings of some old music here. These are very early blues songs, most of them are just Carr's piano and Blackwell's guitar, with usually Carr singing. Very much before later influences, most of the songs are slow, but there are few with a faster ragtime tempo. Until now I'd never heard any of these songs before, which is just the kind of gem I like this box set for. As with a lot of Blues before WWII, a lot of it is really old folk tunes and note "the blues" per se.

Pee Wee Crayton
Ever listen to an artist and never know who it was? I've heard several of the selections here, new knew who Pee Wee (Connie Curtis) Crayton was. From Texas, he had moved to Los Angeles, and picked up the guitar by 1935. It's rumored he was the first blues guitarist to use a Fender Stratorcastor. His guitar sound is distinct, so much so it's almost a style unto itself, and has been copied by other artists through the decades. the guitar is agressive, forward, like some kind of ZZTop prototype at times. His vocals, on the other hand, are smooth, softer, not nearly as loud.

These recordings are clean and clear. Some of them are just Crayton and his guitar, some are with a full backing band, with horns up front, giving him a jazz ensemble sound. But his guitar is never just put aside, always front and center. The guitar is the main voice as often as the singer. This is original, or classic, rhythm and blues music. I love the guitar work here, really amazing work, if you're a fan of guitar go find some of his recordings.

Bo Diddley
Bo gets all 20 Tracks on Disc 8 to himself, my quibble with that is above. Bo is occasionally called The Originator, which is a reference to him being the truly visible bridge between Blues and Rock And Roll. He sped things up, let his guitar really drive forward, and merged the two nicely. Without him Rock music wouldn't have developed so early and so quickly, his influence on both sides of the fence is great. Bo was still a kid in the 30s, when the other artists this week were recording. While he was born in Mississippi as Ellas Otha Bate (and later Ellas McDaniel after he was adopted by a cousin of his mother's), his family moved to Chicago in 1934. In the early 50s when he was getting into music he took the stage name Bo Diddley. He recorded with Billy Boy Arnold and other famous blues musicians from Chicago in the 1950s.

A good solid collection of early stuff from Bo here, I don't think any track here is later than the mid 1960s giving a nice early look at the artist. Some amazing early rock-blues classics (including the oiriginal Who Do You Love?) make their way here. I'm glad this focused on the early blues career, as the later stuff is easy to come by and often shows more rock than blues. Some of the stand out songs are Pretty Thing and Hey Bo Diddley, both really showcase some early rock beats. While The Story Of Bo Diddley and I'm A Man are pretty classic blues riffs. If you have no idea who this is run out right now and buy a Bo Diddley album, any one works.

Next Week: Willie Dixon, Floyd Dixon (no relation to each other), Snooks Eaglin', Sleepy John Estes.  Between the four we cover Texas, West Coast, Chicago, New Orleans, and Country blues.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Week Of 1/17 - J-pop/Trance, Brazilian Techno, Dubstep, Psychobilly

This week is a bunch of various electronica styles, and some Psychobilly.

New Releases:
Buck Satan And The 666 Shooters - Bikers Welcome Ladies Drink Free
Label: 13th Planet / Soulfoud
Released: 1/20 2012
Genre: Psychobilly
Al Jourgensen takes a break from industrial-rock songs about drugs to release an album of psychobilly songs about drugs. I didn't see Hank III in the credits anywhere, but it sounds like he should be on here. It's fast country beats with punk rock noise on top of it. A pretty good album, nice and quick. None of the songs linger around for too long, like proper punk infused anything. The country is fast, and full of fiddle and the occasional banjo, plus plenty of guitar and screaming vocals. Hopefully we see some more from Buck Satan in the future, as it's pretty good stuff - especially if you like your psychobilly with lots of country and your coutnry way too fast.
Adding To The Collection:
Rusko - O.M.G.!
Label: Mad Decent
Released: 2010
Genre: Dubstep
Reaching back just a little bit, right before dubstep exploded, is this album. It's got all the standard beats, drops, and wubs. Coupled with a few singers and several MCs, gives the tracks some depth beyond just trying to be dance-club only cuts. The album isn't a grouping of singles, but it's not quite the same as some of the 90s DJ mixes with nearly perfect flow between tracks. It's good, it's bouncy. You can pick out the evolution from the earlier stuff in the early 00s to the sound that caught mainstream success in the last year or so. All the really good tracks feature a vocalist, all the really basic, but decent, tracks are instrumental. As a producer Rusko has a good ear, but he really shines with vocals in the mix.

The Rough Guide To Brazilian Electronica
Label: World Music Network
Released: 2003
Genre: various electronica
This one pulls from various electronic styles from the 90s in an almost haphazard way. You can tell that house music was really just starting to pick up in Brazil a little before this was compiled. There's Chicago, Big Beay, Ambient, and all kinds of ideas mixed in with the more traditional, and pop, music of Brazil. And some of it is amazing. All of this is pure experimentation, there's no concept of genre limitation involved. The only possible reason these artists didn't make it bigger in the US and Europe had to be because they came to the party a little too late. A lot of it is relaxed, not so frantic, lots of samba bossa nova in mixed in. This made itself one of my favorite Rough Guides so far, everything here wants to be danced to.

Song + Nation 2 Trance
Label: Avex
Released: 2002
Genre: J-Pop / Trance
This is the second volume of Song + Nation, a collection of J-Pop megastars. This volume remixes all of it with trance/rave style. The two genres mix extremely well, as they aren't musically too far apart. But it's also a little boring, there's no real creativity in any of this. Aside from the mega-stars vocal presence the music is very recycled, so much so I can pick out the over-used samples. Fun if you needed some more trance, especially with Japanese vocals on it, but otherwise, stick with the first volume only.

Next Week - several new releases caught my attention, so many I had to actually narrow down my choices before I broke my budget too badly. And some other older stuff pulled off the shelf. Listen Hard!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Big Bill Broonzy, Scrapper Blackwell, Blind Blake, Champion Jack Dupree, Cousin Joe

Continuing the epic ABC Of The Blues, this week we finish the B's and head into the C's. Disc 5 deviates from the 10 Songs/2 Artist model to give us one solo track from Scrapper Blackwell and only 9 songs from Blind Blake.

Big Bill Broonzy
William Lee Conley Broonzy was one of the more influential early blues artists, active from the late 20s to his death in 1958, at age 55. He played a number of styles of blues that eventually led the way for post-war Chicago Blues. He's also credited with copyrighting over 300 songs, though it's disputed if he wrote most of those or not, as many of them are recognized as folk songs handed down. He is one of the most prolific recorders of songs during his time as well.

The ten songs here are mostly folk-blues and country-blues songs. And are all clean recordings, I think most of these songs come from the early part of his career, pre-WWII, but am not entirely sure. It's hard to date a lot of early blues as "race music" wasn't tracked and charted until 1942, and most of Broonzy's recordings took place before that.

Scrapper Blackwell
Only one solo song from Francis Hillman "Scrapper" Blackwell appears here, though he did have a long enough solo career he could have filled out a 10-track selection. Mostly he is known for his work with pianist Lary Carr (we'll get to that next week). He is a guitarist with a distinct 'string-snapping' sound that was later duplicated by any number of blues musicians.

With only one song, it's hard to judge the body of work, but it's a good song. He covers Komoko Arnold's Kokomo Blues here, a good rendition of it.

Blind Blake
Arthur Blake is another very early blues artist, his finger picking style of playing guitar contributed to the rise of Easy Coast (or Piedmont) Blues. Blake died in 1934 with a small but significant recording history.

All his songs had to be taken off of surviving 78s, and do contain a lot of hiss. Though here they did a good job of cleaning out the other noise on the recordings. They all have a bit of a ragtime feel to them, recording in the mid 1920s.

Champion Jack Dupree
We know when William Thomas Dupree died (1992), but not when he was born (early 1900s, dates given are from 1908-1910).  What he left was a New Orleans Blues, and Boogie Woogie legacy from the 1930s onwards. He gets the name Champion from his boxing career where he was a Golden Glove winner. He moved to Europe in 1960 and stayed there until his death. Even while he continued to record he also made a living as a cook serving Louisiana Cooking.

These are good quality recordings, though they're quiet. Most of it is good slow blues, Jack's piano with minimal accompaniment. The last track is Stack-O-Lee, one of my favorite classics, a story told almost differently every time it's sung. This one comes with a great sax solo.

Cousin Joe
Born in 1907, Pleasant Joe, is another important foundation stone in the legacy of Blues. I don't have a lot of information on this artist, and had not heard of him until now. So mostly I can only sit back and comment on the music a little bit. Another New Orleans artist, his music has a big band upswing to it that places it near jazz as much as it does traditional blues.

The songs are good, clear recordings, though some of them are old enough to have the tell-tale hiss of being taken from old records. While Joe never hit major mainstream success he played with just about everyone in the scene, and his influence can be heard in this selection if you listen closely. Most of them bounce nicely in a way that only blues from New Orleans really can.

Next Week - Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell (together), Pee Wee Crayton, and Bo Diddley.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Week Of 1/10 - Modern Classical, Noise/Glitch

[Notes: Sorry for being late, I participated in the Blackout on Wednesday, and then had trouble accessing my blog yesterday.]

This week I loaded almost all of what's on my Unwoman USB flash drive discography. Only a little bit is left on it I haven't heard. Which will get loaded a little later in the month (next week, maybe the week after). This weeks new release is a short EP from Venetian Snares, a little glitchy noise to break up the cello.

New Releases:
Venetian Snares - Affectionate
Label: Self Released via Bandcamp
Released: 1/11 2011
Genre: noise, glitch
Noise tends towards all harmonics, rhythms tend to feel accidental, and rarely last for long. The beat is nearly nonexistent most of the time. Here we have a short 4-track EP from Venetian Snares that has all the glitchy bits I like from his stuff, highly experimental, and rhythmically erratic. The harmonics go high and low, though not often together. This release almost sees actual rhythm last through a song, but it's quickly broken up. A well paced set, all four tracks flow nicely from one to the next. Before I know it the EP is over and I find I have to hit repeat or find something else to listen to. If only this could carry it's feeling on a little longer, a good problem to have.

Adding To The Collection:
Unwoman - Blossoms
Label: Self Released via Bandcamp
Released: 2007
Genre: Modern Classical
The marked difference here from earlier releases is the loss of industrial undertones, and for the better I think. The cello comes fully to the front with her voice, the song writing is smoother too. Serene is a good word for the feel of this album. Honestly, I only pay a little attention to the lyrics, I like the music (which includes the melody of her voice) on this release. A few songs do stand out from the rest, Witch-Wife and Three Songs Of Shattering, have both made me stop what I'm doing to just listen. A good change of pace from her previous work, and it carries forward to other albums.

Unwoman - The Keys
Label: Self-Released on Bandcamp
Released: 2009
Genre: Modern Classical
Ok, not every album actually makes an impression on me either way. Sometimes, I find an album I consider very... middle. This is one of those. It's not bad, I don't want to turn it off nor am I just waiting for it to finish. But I probably won't listen to this again for a while, it'll simply occupy space in my library. There are three covers here - Running Up That Hill, House Of The Rising Sun, and Hurt. The first could have used a little more punch, more anger to it. The last is just (to be blunt, but not trying to be mean) boring. The House Of The Rising Sun, Unwoman managed to capture the song very nicely, it's an excellent cover, the gem of the album.

Unwoman - The City Single
Released: 2010
Genre: Modern Classical, Pop
A four track EP with a little more pop element to it that her albums have. at least on the title track. The third song, A Valentine, is the Lewis Carroll poem set to music, a nice touch. Poems and Songs are close enough cousins to make this work well. Past that, it's a four track single, good for completing a collection if you're a fan.

Unwoman - Casualties
Label: Self-Released on Bandcamp
Released: 2010
Genre: Modern Classical
I like this album well enough, nothing really stands out as spectacularly good. But nothing falls behind either, I don't skip tracks. Though I also couldn't pick out a song from this album, it all blends together a little bit in a good kind of way.

Unwoman - Casualties Instrumentals
Label: Self-Released on Bandcamp
Released: 2010
Genre: Modern Classical
This version of the album absolutely awesome, I love it. It's a completely different tone, feels darker and the atmosphere is gorgeous. Listen to this album with headphones on, good ones. The soundscape here feels a little more ominous at times. And it has nothing to do with her voice being good or bad, but without it her music feels more haunting, larger. All of it feels like one big song, like the version with lyrics nothing is a stand out and nothing gets left behind. I honestly sat with this one on repeat for a few hours while reading, perfect background atmosphere.

Next Week - Al Jorgensen goes country, some older dubstep, a Jpop collection, and House/Club music from Brazil.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Bobby "Blue" Bland, Charles Brown

Continuing my adventures through the ABC Of The Blues box set, Volumes 3 and 4 provide this mornings soundtrack.

Bobby "Blue" Bland
We start this volume with Blues from Beale street in Memphis, Bobby is one of the many Soul Blues singers that mixed blues music with gospel lyrics. One of the early members of the Beale Streeters, as the ad hoc musicians playing along Beale in the 1950s were known. He played Soul and R&B through the 1960s. The late 60s saw him hit some hard times, and he quit drinking by 1971. After that he had moderate success on the R&B charts, but pop-chart success eluded him despite attempts to infuse his blues with more modern sounds. By 1980 he would return firmly to his roots, and touring with B. B. King extensively. Bland never gained mass popularity or great success, but he continues to put out music and tour. One of the many musicians that other musicians look to, and often pay tribute to.

Until this box set I'd never heard any of Bland's recordings, so I don't know exactly how well this represents his body of work. But it's a good mellow, sometimes jazzy, style of blues. Bland's voice is a smooth slow style most of the time. There's a very laid back quality to a lot of these tracks, but some of them pick up a nice swing beat reminiscent of a big-band style.

Charles Brown
A Texas blues pianist from the late 1940s onward. Charles was part of a post-war movement in blues that started to add ensembles, and occasional arrangements into blues music. His style is very close to jazz, with lighter piano accompaniment, and softer sounds. As Rock'n'roll advanced in the 1950s, and blues advanced with it, Charles found his popularity in keeping with the Traditional Blues Sound, which had as much to do with stripping out the rougher elements in blues music as it did with him being 'authentic' in his blues.

If there's an original lounge-sound, it's probably found in the clubs of 1940s Los Angeles where Charles settled, becoming a fixture there. His traditional folk-blues kept him popular for sometime. This collection is even more mellow than Bland's, his voice low and smooth, the piano light. The set evokes a low light setting, candles, a quiet club. Despite the eras increasing use of bands and arrangements, there are almost none here in this selection. It also throws in, at the end, the once very popular original recording of Merry Christmas, Baby.

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
 Another Texas bluesman, Clarence didn't stick to just blues though. Starting in 1947, getting his break as a stand in at a T-Bone Walker concert. He's been influential in fiddle circles, and often diverges to cajun, swing, and boogie, and other styles as well. He won a grammy in 1981 for Best Traditional Blues album, but has often expressed his dislike at being pegged just as a blues artist.

Picking up the pace a little from the previous volumes slower selections, but isn't quite up to close to rock, this is still a traditional folk-blues style, though a few tracks upswing and aren't completely blues, some bluegrass is always at the edges.

Blue Lu Barker
Louise Barker started her career by running away with guitarist Danny Barker in 1930 and building a reputation in New Orleans. In 1938 her career started to take off, making her an early female blues and jazz singer. Billie Holliday considered Louise her biggest influence. Coming from a pre-WWII sound, her singing - and backing band - is as much jazz as it is blues, switching between the two freely. She was a staple in the New Orleans scene for both jazz and blues throughout her entire career.

The music here is upbeat, veering well from the folk-blues of the last few artists in this collection. There's a very big jazz influence here, especially in the faster boogie songs. But when she slows down she has the now classic smoky blues voice.

Next Sunday - Big Bill Broonzy, Scrapper Blackwell, Blind Blake, Champion Jack Dupree, and Cousin Joe.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Week Of 1/3 - Modern Classical, House, Downtempo, Traditional India

Tried to mix it up a little this week. The New Release is a 7" Single from Ingrid Michaelson. The A-Side was released as a digital single last year, but the 7" Record is a new release with a B-Side Demo. Her new album comes out at the end of January. Adding to the collection I found two albums that "everyone owned" from the mid 1990s that somehow never made it into my own collection...

New Releases:
Ingrid Michaelson - Ghost
Label: Cabin 24 Records
Released: 1/3 2011
Genre: Modern Classical, Rock
It's hard to really judge an artist on a 2-track single. This one includes both the album-version and a demo of the song Ghost. It's a good song, has some pop-radio legs to it, and could easily earn itself some decent airplay if give the chance. The full album will be released later in January, and hopefully this song will be an indication of what to expect. If you want the demo version of the song you'll have to go track down the 7" record at your local indie-store. Otherwise the album-version of the track is available digitally. The song is primarly Ingrid and her piano, but strings and percussion accompany it lightly in the background to create a fuller sound. A bit light rock, modern classical style.

Adding To The Collection:
Tori Amos - Under The Pink
Label: Atlantic Records
Released: 1994
Genre: Modern Classical
I think this is one of those albums everyone is supposed to own, or claims to own. A few of the songs got some heavy radio play, contributing to her stardom. In all honesty, the first two thirds of this album are boring to listen to. They're not bad songs, just kind of bland. It's the last five tracks, starting with Cornflake Girl, where things pick up, a little color enters, some depth appears. The songs become more than displays of Tori's singing and piano. These last few tracks feel like full songs, where before they felt more like half-formed ideas. The albums she produced after this one improve greatly, you can tell this album is early in her career and her sound is still finding itself. A good album, but there are better from her.

Fatboy Slim - You've Come A Long Way Baby
Label: Astralwerks / Skint Records
Released: 1998
Genre: House
This is another album that everyone owned, or was supposed to own. It is classic mid/late-1990s house music, how it never ended up in my collection is anyone's guess. Probably because half of the tracks on it were so hard to avoid I never got around to buying it. The sound is firmyl big-beat, though the really big bass sound isn't quite in it. From the samples to the beats to the flow of the record the whole thing really does sound like the accumulated collective sound of popular house music from the early to mid 1990s. There's a lot of tracks that aged well, and bounce right along.

Ustad Sultan Khan - Rare Elements (Remixes)
Label: 5 Points Records
Released: 2004
Genre: Downtempo, Trip-Hop
I had never heard of this artist before this album ended up in my collection, but with remixes by Thievery Corporation and Radar One it was worth checking out (the wife is the one who found this gem one night of crate digging). It's all very downtempo style trip-hop and house. I don't know how to compare it to the original recordings, so I don't know if the remixes took great liberties or if they were very close to the originals. I do know this is a great mellow album without being too quiet. Ustad was a sarangi player, and a member of Tabla Beat Science (reviewed recently on 12/27), from India. From that I can imagine that his normal recordings are very traditional Indian with modern aesthetics mixed in. Making these remixes probably just a little more modern, but not a lot. I highly recommend seeking out this, or other, recordings of his if you're a fan of Indian music.

The Rough Guide To The Music Of India & Debshish Battacharya
Label: World Music Network
Released: 2010
Genre: Traditional, Indian
Sticking with an Indian theme, this rough guide pulls in from all over the musically diverse Indian continent. It's extremely diverse, with a lot of different styles and genres to pull from, it does a pretty good job of covering them all. Tabla, Sitar, Sarangi, water bowls, and vocals. This is definitely an introduction to styles and music of India, like many Rough Guides stands best either to find new artists in a particular styles, or in a larger mix of music from similar regions. With this album comes a live performance of Debshish Battacharya, on a custom designed slide guitar. It's a live recording, with only two other musicians to accompany him. As you listen you get the usual rhythms you associate with India, but towards the end of the performance the song slips into nearly a blues rhythm. So much so I almost wondered if he hadn't pulled out a bottle-neck to complete the concert, showing that many rhythms are nearly universal. For this second bonus album alone it has become one of my favorite Rough Guides to pull up and listen to.

Next week is an Unwoman marathon, I had a flash-drive of hers sitting around with a complete discography that I had yet to really crack into, so I loaded several of the albums from it all at once to listen to. The drive contains a lot of music, but I wanted to really get her main discography into my collection. Listen Hard!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday Morning Blues - Kokomo Arnold, Billy Boy Arnold, Richard Berry, Barbecue Bob

Over the holidays I was given a massive 52-Disc Box Set of Blues music, the ABC Of The Blues. Each disc is arranged with two artists, ten songs each, alphabetically. Given this is over 100 artists and 1000 songs to listen through I decided to focus on two discs a month for the first half of the year.

The box set is as comprehensive as you can really get without becoming unwieldy, varying far and wide in blues styles. Any style that relates to the blues is here, Delta, Chicago, Detroit, Jump, Boogie, Kansas City, Rhythm & Blues, etc... It goes pretty deep into the genre.

The downside to such a huge collection is that it doesn't have the space to really go into the history of each recording, and the musicians working with the primary listed artist. Blues artists are a tight nit group, especially from the 1930s to the 1950s where they primarily recorded "race records" and weren't considered appropriate musicians a lot of the time for the 'music buying public' (mostly white consumers.) Still, they were recognized and often covered after that. It does have a booklet with some very brief histories of each musician included. The box set is perfect for anyone looking to explore a wider range of blues and expand their collections. (as an added fun bonus, the box set also comes with an authentic Puck Harmonica.)

The first two discs promise that this will not only be an excellent listening experience, but a really fun trip through the history of American Music as seen through the Blues.

Volume One and Two;

Kokomo Arnold
Born in Georgia in 1901, James Arnold has a very brief Blues career. He started out playing on the side while bootlegging during Prohibition, under the name Gitfiddle Joe for Victor. After that ended he was 'forced' to make a living as a musician. Kansas Joe McCoy introduced him to Decca Records where he recorded from 1934 to 1938. After that he left the music industry altogether and never returned to music, though he was approached in 1962. While he was largely known in the Chicago Blues scene of the time, he also influenced Delta Blues artist Robert Johnson. Robert would turn his song Old Kokomo Blues into Sweet Home Chicago. (The song itself has possible roots going back even further, but the history is muddy waters to wade through.) His other very famous song is Milk Cow Blues, which has been covered by Elvis, George Strait, and Aerosmith, among others.

Neither of these two tracks appear here on his ten song selection, these cuts go a little deeper in. The recordings themselves are nice and clean as well. It's all Kokomo and his guitar, no band, and also no stomp box which wasn't uncommon among blues guitarists. They're a little soft, but whatever masters or records they lifted them from are clear.

Bill Boy Arnold
Another Chicago Blues artist, but jumping ahead to the 1950s. Billy Boy learned harmonica from his neighbor Sonny Boy Williamson, even then a legend in blues. His first recording was with another neighbor, Bo Diddley.  In 1955 he played harmonica on the hit I'm A Man. Instead of signing on with Checker Records he ended up recording for Vee-Jay Records. His first recording there, I Wish You Would and I Ain't Got You were later made famous by the Yardbirds. Both of these recordings appear here on this collection. Billy Boy continues to record today, enjoying some moderate success with the 1990s revival in the Blues.

Like most artists in the 1950s, there's a full band here, including piano, drums, bass, but no brass. Billy Boy is both singer and harmonica player, so it's one or the other through this set. It does include his first two recordings for Vee-Jay. As well as some very early Rock'n'Roll style beats in the form of Rockinitis and No, No, No, No, No. Rock'n'Roll is just starting to come out about the time Billy Boy is starting his career and there's a lot of cross over into the faster blues around this time that Billy Boy plays a lot, now a classic Chicago Blues sound.

Richard Berry
Staying in the 1950s, but moving out west to Los Angeles. We get to R&B artist, and the some real beginnings of modern Rock'n'Roll, with Richard Berry. Richard was the original recorder and writer of Louie Louie, made famous by the Kingsmen in 1963, investigated by the FBI, and probably one of the most covered songs in the history of rock, also Richard had sold the rights in 1959 and didn't see any money from it until the 80s. The song has its own website: - in case you wanted to know more about this song. Beyond that, Richard's career didn't really take off until the 1960s, a lackluster recording career in the 50s is what prompted him to sell Louie Louie. He continued to play and record with various Doo Wop and R&B artists through the 1990s before his death in 1997.

His collection here starts with the original recording of Louie Louie, and moves onto a solid collection of early Rhythm & Blues songs, some with heavy rock leanings, such as Mess Around, with a faster rhythm and tangy guitar sound. His backing band, The Pharaohs, is on most of the songs (possibly all of them, but I don't have exact information on when all these recordings were made).

Barbecue Bob
Moving back to the 1920s and to Georgia, Robert Hicks was a cook and entertainer at Tidwell's Barbecue Place. He would occasionally record a side, but was not a full time musician. He played a 12-string guitar that is similar to the clawhammer banjo, as well as bottleneck blues. His style is Piedmont Blues (or East Coast), which has more ragtime in it that traditional Delta Blues. Robert died at age 29 in 1931, with only 68 sides recorded. One of which was Barbecue Blues, which was one of the highest selling records of the time. Eric Clapton has recorded his Motherless Child Blues for his From The Cradle album.

Unfortunately the some of the recordings here are taken from the original 78s, as such there is a lot of hiss behind the sound. Luckily, they did a good job of removing the pops, leaving only background needle hiss, and even that's not prominent on all the songs. These recordings are also hard to find, but not impossible. He's a solo artist on these songs, so it's mostly just him and his guitar, occasionally a harmonica joins him.

Next Sunday - Bobby "Blue" Bland, Charles Brown, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and Blue Lu Barker.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Week Of 12/28 - Jazz, Modern Classical, Ambient, Scottish Folk, Modern Arabian

The last week of December 2011 saw... well, absolutely nothing new worth getting. Not even digitally. I did find a hardcopy of Burial's 2011 release, so that was a bonus "new release" - a last hurrah of 2011. A few compilations this week as well.

New Releases:
Burial - Untrue
Label: Hyperdub Records / Cargo Records
Released: Spring 2011
Genre: Ambient
This piece of dark ambiance, with just the slightest hint of dubstep under it (Burial is usually known as a dubstep producer), is really interesting. It reminds me a lot of early to mid 90s era Future Sound Of London, not in a derivative way. But in that nostalgic kind of way that nearly makes you think you haven't quite left that time period yet. The albums rolls forward smoothly, the ambiance is not in light in nature. It's deep rolling bass, kind of like an impending twilight, not afraid to create dance style rhythms, without ever quite reaching that club-level sound. All mood and background. Easily one of the best albums of the year, and to my shame I didn't seek out a copy earlier. The cover is a grey-scale piece, which perfectly sets the mood for this - things are dim, but not bleak, deep without being heavy thumpers. Absolutely go find a copy (digitally or otherwise) and add it to your collection.

Adding To The Collection:
Pizzicato Five - Unzipped EP
Label: Matador Records / Atalantic
Released: 1995
Genre: Modern Jazz, Pop
Another EP off of Pizzicato Five's brief dalliance with American exposure. They didn't become huge, but they had enough clout to toss out several singles off their one major US record. This EP comes from their addition to a soundtrack for the movie 'Unzipped' - hence the EP title. It contains four tracks, Happy Sad (from the movie), and a remix of it, If I Were A Groupie, and a remix of CDJ. Overall, it's decent, light, happy sounding, and just a four track EP. Unless you run across it as a cheap album like I did, nothing particularly great is here. That said, nothing particularly bad is here either. Like I said, light and happy sounding, poppy jazz rhythms and beats.

Unwoman - Wildness & Artifice (2CD Edition)
Label: self-released
Released: 2005
Genre: Modern Classical, Dark Ambient
This is the second full release from Unwoman, it's full of dark ambient rhythms from sythns and drums, and her cello, piano and voice. Most of it is of a modern classical bent, with some overtures towards downtempo styles and beats. It's far from dark itself, at least in total. Unwoman's voice is smooth, halfway between rock and trip-hop a lot of the time. The 2CD Edition (technically I have the digital version) comes with a 7 track 'acoustic' disc. Honestly, I don't particularly like the acoustic versions. It's just her voice and one or two instruments for each version. They lack the depth and even clarity of the non-acoustic versions with the percussion and beats behind them. A good early album, you can hear Unwoman's sound shaping up, gaining confidence in being a solo artist here. Worth picking up if you're an Unwoman fan.

Rough Guide To Scottish Folk - 2CD Edition with Maggie MacInnes
Label: World Music Network
Released: 2010
Genre: Folk, Scottish Traditional
Rough Guides are, as I've pointed out, great ways to get into a particular genre or region. It's easy to get Irish and Celtic music, Scottish contributions aren't as readily available. This compilation is full of folk music from the upper portion of the British Isles. It really sounds lovely, not overwhelming with bagpipes (as that's what usually pops into mind when you here "Scottish Music" - I'd actually wager bagpipes feature in less than half these tracks. Plenty of fiddle, guitar, soaring vocals, and dance numbers. Though, it's very full of arias and ballads. Less jigs and reels than I would have liked, but not so few that they're missed. Also, like many Rough Guides, it's a little haphazard in composition. Good to put on with other music in the genre (or near it) and hitting random, not as cohesive if you just hit play and listen. And, many tracks are sung in Scottish accents (as expected), which makes them a wee bit hard to understand to this American. Not a bad thing, just makes it difficult to sing along if that's your thing.

The bonus album is the album Bhon Chridhe from Maggie MacInnes, definitely a good deal to get two albums in one. Her voice is soft, her music is light, cheerful. It's not loud, it's not all fiddle and reels. A good album, though nothing stands out as magnificent, still worth the price either by itself (also on World Music Network) or with the Rough Guide. Another stack of songs to put on a random rotation when you need something Scottish in the background.

Between the two, I actually recommend finding a disc of two of Irish Folk and liberally mixing the two up, the sounds are similar enough they compliment and different enough to keep it moving.

Arabian Travels
Label: Sex Degrees
Released: 2001
Genre: Modern Arabic
Six Degrees compilations are just as good as World Music for gathering together a very diverse group of artists from a region or style in one place. It makes the album as a whole a bit non-cohesive, but that's hardly a problem. It's less a genre-compilation and more a region-compilation where the more diversity the better. This one goes to the Arabian peninsula, and bleeds into Persia and India as well, to find some of the best modern artists from that region. This one covers the gambit from exactly what you think modernized traditional Arabic music should sound like to Banghra House beats. It's almost a little too all over the place. Also, it's really a lot of English DJs and Producers who are of various Indian and Arabic decent that bring traditional music heavily into the future. It could due with a little more artists from the region and a little less modern house elements. Still, definitely a good album to put on at a party you want to keep things upbeat without actually having a dance floor spontaneously form in your living room.

Onto 2012:
No bonuses or surprises this week. The future holds more of the same next week (Indian, House, more Modern Classical and some Rock). But Sundays will, starting this coming Sunday, focus on The Blues. I picked up a massive 52-CD blues compilation that spans literally the entire history of the genre and touches on every major aspect (from Delta to Chicago, R&B to Rock N Roll influences) and about a hundred different artists. I'll be going through it, two discs at a time, for the first half of this year. Vinyl Files will get snuck into weekly updates occasionally, and pick up again over the summer on Sundays unless I find any more giant box sets between then and now.

Listen Hard!