Thursday March 6, 2014
Universal Music is resurrecting the famed Chess Records label imprint for a very special project - guitarist Wilko Johnson and singer Roger Daltry's Going Back Home album. Scheduled for April 8th, 2014 release, Going Back Home is Johnson's swansong after a lifetime spent making great music. The guitarist is suffering from terminal cancer and the album is his way of making the most of the time he has left as well as giving his fans one last blast of music.
Roger Daltry should need no introduction; as the long-time frontman of rock 'n' roll legends the Who and a celebrated solo artist, Daltry is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee who has always kept one foot in the blues and R&B of his band's roots. Wilko Johnson was guitarist of British rockers Dr. Feelgood, the cult band featured in the 2009 documentary film Oil City Confidential, as well as an esteemed solo artist in his own right who has delved deeply into the musical intersection of blues, rock, and R&B music. Johnson has also done a bit of acting, recently appearing in a small role in HBO's acclaimed Game of Thrones series.
Going Back Home was recorded in November 2013 and features eleven tracks, including ten Johnson originals from both his solo years as well as his time with Dr. Feelgood. The album's lone cover is Wilko's take on the Bob Dylan gem "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window." The idea of the album came back in 2010 when Daltry and Johnson were both attending an awards ceremony and talking about the old-school British rhythm & blues music that they both loved. Like musicians often do, they said "we should do an album together" before going on about their individual business.
In January 2013, Johnson was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and told to get his affairs in order. He wasn't expected to see the new year but, in true defiant rock 'n' roll fashion, Wilko went out and performed a series of live shows designated as his "farewell tour." When Daltry returned home in late 2013 from a sold-out Who tour, he found a hale and hearty Johnson ready to go into the studio. Backed by Johnson's touring band, which includes bassist Jorman Watt-Roy (the Blockheads), drummer Dylan Howe, and keyboardist Mick Talbot (Dexys Midnight Runners), Going Back Home was recorded in a week with Daltry on vocals and Johnson cranking on his guitar.
"I've had a brilliant year," says Johnson in a press release for Going Back Home. "I was meant to die in October and now I've recorded this with Roger. I can't keep gushing," he continues, "but I saw the Who in 1969 when I was at university. He's a star to me." Daltry, who is donating his royalties from Going Back Home to a Teen Cancer charity, adds "I'm very proud of this album. So much music today is over polished. This record has a freshness that can only come from the pressures we're under."
Photo courtesy of Chess Records/Universal Music
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Some new blood hits the blues chart for the week ending March 8, 2014 in the form of new recordings from two of Great Britain's finest. Both the Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown album Goin' To The Delta and guitarist Matt Schofield's Far As I Can See LP hit the Top Ten with their first week of sales, Simmonds and his longtime crew entering at number five and the award-winning Schofield one spot lower at number six, his highest chart position to date if memory serves me correctly. Kudos to both for shaking things up a bit!
Much like the last couple of weeks, Fat Tuesday provides a wealth of great music for you to run out and buy! Not exactly blues, maybe, but perhaps a kissing cousin, we have Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration, released as a two-disc CD, DVD, and Blu-ray. The 1992 concert featured folks like Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, John Mellencamp, Levon Helm and many others, so it promises to be a scorcher.
Real Gone Music is celebrating Mardi Gras with a trio of reissues/archive releases that include Dr. John's swamp-blues debut GRIS-gris; New Orleans piano-blues giant Professor Longhair's The Last Mardi Gras, a spankin' live disc; and Irma Thomas' Full Time Woman, a previously unreleased set of great soul and blues tunes. Spend your money wisely and buy all three Real Gone releases! Find out what other great music will be released in March with our monthly New Releases column.
Here are this week's Billboard Top Ten blues albums, ranked by sales:
10. Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa - Seesaw (J&R Adventures)
9. Buddy Guy - Rhythm & Blues (Silvertone Records)
8. Jonny Lang - Fight For My Soul (Concord Records)
7. Tommy Castro & the Painkillers - The Devil You Know (Alligator Records)
6. Matt Schofield - Far As I Can See (Provogue Records)
5. Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown - Goin' To The Delta (Ruf Records)
4. Michael Bloomfield - From His Head To His Heart To His Hands (Legacy)
3. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Made Up Mind (Sony Masterworks)
2. Paul Rodgers - The Royal Sessions (429 Records)
1. Gary Clark, Jr. - Blak and Blu (Warner Brothers)
New releases this week: Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Legacy Recordings), Dr. John's GRIS-gris (Real Gone Music), Irma Thomas' Full Time Woman (Real Gone Music), Professor Longhair's The Last Mardi Gras (Real Gone Music)
Photo of Irma Thomas' Full Time Woman courtesy Real Gone Music
Sunday March 2, 2014
It looks as if we may have spoken too soon about the plan to turn Muddy Waters' longtime Chicago home into a museum in his honor. As we reported early last month, the sale of the North Kenwood was ready to close at any moment, with the prospective buyer planning on turning the home into a tribute to Waters and the many bluesmen-and-women that made the Windy City their home. The sale evidently fell through, though, and Chandra Cooper - Waters' great-granddaughter and the owner of the property - placed the home back on the market at a $100,000 asking price.
Although in "a dangerous state" of disrepair, Waters' former home, located in a historic landmark district, seems safe from demolition for now. As anybody who has ever dealt with big city politricks and zoning issues knows, however, that "safe" status can easily change from one day to another. Bruce Iglauer, founder of Alligator Records, is quoted from a 2013 Chicago Tribune interview in a recent Huffington Post article about the situation as saying: "The city of Liverpool would recognize the historic, cultural and tourism value of John Lennon's house and never allow it to be torn down...Muddy Waters was every bit as important to the blues and to Chicago as the Beatles were to rock 'n' roll and Liverpool."
In better news, if you're anywhere around the Nashville, Tennessee area on Saturday, March 8th, 2014 you may want to leave your nighttime plans open. The Nashville Fringe Festival is presenting a joint "birthday bash" for the Mando Blues radio program and Soulshine Pizza (located in midtown) with an amazing evening of entertainment. Soulshine Pizza expanded into the Music City a year ago from Oxford and Jackson, Mississippi while Mando Blues is celebrating its fourth anniversary with this "bash," which will feature sixteen blues, soul, and R&B acts performing on two stages. Among those scheduled for Saturday night are soul singer supreme Charles "Wigg" Walker, Etta Britt (who has sung with Delbert McClinton), Supe and the Sandwiches, the Jake Leg Stompers, IBC finalist Matt Tedder, and many more!
The Mando Blues radio program is a true labor of love for host Whit Hubner, a longtime fixture on the Nashville non-country music scene. The program showcases the past, present, and future of blues music with an inspired mix of live guest performances and interviews alongside classic and obscure blues records from the entire history of the music. The program is recorded every Monday night at Omega Lab, a unique 5.1 surround sound studio located in the wilds of West Nashville, and broadcast on Wednesday at midnight on community station Radio Free Nashville (WRFF, 107.1 FM). Over the four year history of the program, Hubner has featured over 200 acts from over 25 states and six countries. Find out more about the birthday bash on the Mando Blues blog, check out the show over the Internet on the Radio Free Nashville website.
Etta Britt photo courtesy Etta Britt
Thursday February 27, 2014
The collaboration between soulful singer Beth Hart and popular blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa has been both critically-acclaimed and commercially successful. While their 2011 album Don't Explain laid a foundation and flitted on and off the blues chart for a couple years, their 2013 album Seesaw earned the pair a Grammy® nomination and still sits in the Top Ten. So, what do Beth and Joe do for an encore?
How about a live album? Better yet, a live album and a live DVD! No one has ever accused Joey Bones of not delivering for his fans, and on March 25, 2014 his J&R Adventures label will release the dynamic duo's Live In Amsterdam in three different formats. A live concert documentary featuring 22 songs, including such fan favorites from the two albums like "Sinner's Prayer," Etta James' classic "I'd Rather Go Blind," "Strange Fruit," "Nutbush City Limits," and the title track from Seesaw.
Live in Amsterdam will be released as both a two-disc DVD and a single-disc Blu-Ray as well as a two-disc CD for fans such as myself that prefer the audio over the video. A notorious workaholic, Bonamassa's Rock Candy Funk Party side project will be releasing the live, three-disc CD/DVD Takes New York on February 25th with Live In Amsterdam to follow a month later. I tell you, there's never a dull moment when Joe Bonamassa's around!
Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa - Don't Explain CD review
Rock Candy Funk Party - We Want Groove CD review
Photo courtesy J&R Adventures