Tuesday December 10, 2013
It's the holiday blues again on the blues chart for the week ending December 14, 2013 as the best sellers sell the best and the usual suspects dominate the top of the chart. Gary Clark, Jr. and the Tedeschi Trucks Band keep their stranglehold on the number one and two positions, but the minor surprise this week is the slow march towards the top spot by Joe Bonamassa's Vienna set. The album re-emerged on the chart a few weeks ago, and jumps three spots this week to number four...a respectable position, indeed, for an album that's been on the shelves for nine months.
Leslie West re-enters the chart at number eight with his Still Climbing, while veteran roots 'n' blues artist Tony Joe White re-enters at number ten with his Hoodoo album. There are no new CD releases this week but British blues-rock legends Foghat are releasing their Live In St. Pete, an hour-long, ten-track DVD on their own independent Foghat Records label.
Here are this week's Billboard Top Ten blues albums, ranked by sales:
10. Tony Joe White - Hoodoo (Yep Roc Records)
9. North Mississippi Allstars - World Boogie Is Coming (Songs of the South Records)
8. Leslie West - Still Climbing (Provogue Records)
7. The Rides - Can't Get Enough (429 Records)
6. Hugh Laurie - Didn't It Rain (Warner Brothers)
5. Jonny Lang - Fight For My Soul (Concord Records)
4. Joe Bonamassa - An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House (J&R Adventures)
3. Buddy Guy - Rhythm & Blues (Silvertone Records)
2. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Made Up Mind (Sony Masterworks)
1. Gary Clark, Jr. - Blak and Blu (Warner Brothers)
Photo of Tony Joe White's Hoodoo courtesy Yep Roc Records
Monday December 9, 2013
Well, friends, followers, and fellow blues fans, it's time for the Reverend's annual Grammy® Awards rant about the absurdity of The Recording Academy's yearly snub of blues as the single American musical art form which nearly everything else follows. Rock 'n' roll, of course, was directly inspired by the blues, as was jazz music, while soul and rhythm & blues pretty much speak for themselves. Even country music has incorporated a large amount of blues influence through the decades, and yet a few years ago blues music was demoted from a whopping two annual nominations ("traditional" and "contemporary" albums) to a single "Best Blues Album" award hidden in between folk, bluegrass, and Americana in the catch-all "American Roots" category.
Yeah, as I've said before, the snubbing of the blues is unfair, a badly-made, demographic-driven decision that really makes no sense considering not only the influence of the blues on other genres but also its growing popularity with mainstream audiences. It's not like they broadcast any blues performers on the annual TV awards ceremony anyway, so why not hand out awards in both the previous categories as well as, maybe, "Best Traditional Blues Artist" and "Best Contemporary Blues Artist"? That way they could properly honor the artists who make the blues what it is...
The Recording Academy announced nominees for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards last Friday night with a gala primetime TV special featuring the shiniest pop stars the network could present on the broadcast. Five worthy recordings were nominated in the "Best Blues Album" category: James Cotton's Cotton Mouth Man; Bobby Rush's Down In Louisiana; Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa's Seesaw; Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite's Get Up!; and Blind Pig Records' tribute compilation, Remembering Little Walter, which features talented harp players Charlie Musselwhite, Billy Boy Arnold, Mark Hummel, James Harmon, and Sugar Ray Norcia.
While all of these albums should be honored (well, I might have chosen Bonamassa's An Acoustic Evening At The Vienna Opera House instead of Seesaw), only one will get the award, so vote for your favorite below. I'll go on record now as predicting that Harper and Musselwhite's Get Up! will take the award, but all are good choices (although more choices would be better!). Nominations in other categories also went to several other blues and blues-rock favorites: the Alabama Shakes and Jack White both received nominations for "Best Rock Performance" and Gary Clark, Jr. was nominated in the "Best Rock Song" category. The 56th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday night, January 26th, 2014 but you won't see any blues artists, so tune in here on Monday morning for the winner. In the meantime, we'll all just wait for the Blues Music Awards in May...
Photo courtesy Stax Records
Friday December 6, 2013
We're sad to report on the death of Chicago blues pianist Aaron Moore, who passed away on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 from cancer. Moore was 95 years old.
Born in 1918 on a plantation near Greenwood, Mississippi Moore was taught the piano by his mother, who was a music teacher. After graduating from high school, Moore followed many Mississippi blues musicians in moving to Chicago, where he found a mentor in the great Roosevelt Sykes, who schooled the Windy City newcomer in the ways of the blues and boogie-woogie. Moore's talent propelled him into the upper ranks of Chicago blues royalty, and through the years the skilled pianist played alongside such greats as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and B.B. King, among others.
If Moore isn't as well known as his blues contemporaries, it's because he made the decision to work a day job and spend time with his family, playing blues on the weekends. After retiring from the city's sanitation department in the late 1980s after 36 years on the job, Moore moved to nearby Milwaukee and began performing more regularly. Moore recorded his first solo album, Hello World, for Delmark Records in 1996, following up three years later with Boot 'Em Up!, also for Delmark. The pianist was accompanied on the albums by local legends like bassist Bob Stroger, guitarist James Wheeler, and drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith.
Moore retired from public performances a couple of years ago after a show at Buddy Guy's Legends club, but continued to tickle the ivories occasionally. His contributions to the blues are underrated, but significant. He is survived by his wife, a sister, and six children. Our thoughts go out to Moore's family, friends, and fans in Chicago and elsewhere.
Photo courtesy Delmark Records
Thursday December 5, 2013
Here's something that should have been done a long time ago: Dr. Michael Spörke has penned a much anticipated biography of the late, great blues legend Big Mama Thornton. The good doctor wrote and published previous book on Janis Joplin (a Thornton disciple) and her band Big Brother & the Holding Company, and his Big Mama Thornton: The Life and Music will be published by McFarland & Co on April 15, 2014. The 277-page 6"x9" paperback includes around 50 photos as well as an extensive bibliography, footnotes, and an appendix but more importantly, sheds light on the larger-than-life talent and personality of the legendary singer. The book will also be available as an eBook for those readers who prefer a digital edition.
Here at About.com Blues we closed out November with a bang, the Reverend's "Blues Bites" review column for the month covering guitar-heavy recent releases from talents like Jonny Lang, Leslie West, Samantha Fish, Mick Abrahams, and Shawn Holt & the Teardrops. In case you missed it, we also posted a review of singer/songwriter David Bromberg's excellent Only Slightly Mad album, a fine collection of blues, folk, and roots music that deserves a place in your collection!
Related content: Big Mama's Thornton's With The Muddy Waters Blues Band CD review
Photo courtesy McFarland & Co