JOVM celebrates Stevie Ray Vaughan’s 66th birthday.
JOVM celebrates what would have been B.B. King’s 94th birthday.
JOVM celebrates Buddy Guy’s 84th birthday.
Known as Juneteenth, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, June 19, 2020 commemorates the 155th anniversary of Union Army General Gordon Granger arriving in Galveston, TX with his troops and announcing federal orders that all people held as slaves in Texas were free. In reality, those held as slaves in Texas were technically freed two and a half years earlier with the Emancipation Proclamation, which officially outlawed slavery across Confederate territories.
Although Juneteenth is commonly thought as celebrating the end of slavery in the US. it was still legal and practiced in Union border states until December 6, 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolished non-penal, chattel slavery across the country.
Officially celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866, initially involving church-centered community gathering across Texas. It spread rapidly across the South becoming much more commercialized, centering around food. Regardless of how you celebrate it, today should be America’s real independence day — the day in which all Americans were made free. There’s still a lot of work to be done by all of us for all of us to truly be free from fascism, white supremacy, the patriarchy and other oppressive human systems. Let’s keep pushing on.
In the meantime, I wanted to spend today celebrating Black people and Black art. Being Black has truly been the best thing to ever have happened to me. Black is multifaceted. Black is beautiful. Black is powerful and righteous. Black is brotherhood and sisterhood. Black is swagger and flavor. Black is joy in the face of terror, horror and injustice. Black is survival and pride. Black is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
If you’re Black and gay. I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and trans, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black woman, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black man, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and non-binary, I love you, you matter to me.
Because of the occasion, I had been thinking of Syl Johnson‘s 1969 full-length album Is It Because I’m Black? Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS, Johnson and his family relocated to Chicago in 1950. Acclaimed bluesman Magic Sam was his next-door neighbor — and Johnson quickly developed a reputation as a go-to guitarist and vocalist, playing with Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, and Howlin’ Wolf throughout the 50s. He recorded with Jimmy Reed in 1959 and made his solo debut with Federal Records, a subsidiary of legendary Cincinnati blues label King Records that year.
Personally, I find Johnson to be interesting because he’s part of that last wave of the Great Migration — and because his work comfortably sits in between blues, R&B and soul. As for Is It Because I’m Black? It’s a great album that deserves more love and greater attention for its observations and thoughts on being Black in America, Black unity and more — plus it features a Southern fried cover of The Beatles‘ “Come Together” that’s worth the price of admission.
Spencer Kilpatrick is a Big Water, UT-based blues guitarist and singer/songwriter, who has built a profile regionally for playing Stax Records-infused soul and blues with a smoky, aching croon. Kilpatrick has sporadically released material online for some time now, including his latest four song EP, four big water bluses, which he wrote and recorded after losing weekly gigs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spending the bulk of his 20s in garage rock bands, Kilpatrick’s latest effort finds him returning to some of his earliest musical influences — the blues — as a conscious step outside of the comfort zone he had developed for himself. The EP’s third track “the one where you wait for vocals to come in” really caught my ear. Centered around shimmering and expressive guitar work, the track is a slow-burning classic blues-inspired song that the emerging Utah-bass artist says was inspired by Mdou Moctar, Jimi Hendrix‘s instrumental version of “Born Under A Bad Sign” and Funkadelic‘s “Maggot Brain” — with a subtly lysergic air.
Jack Broadbent is a rapidly rising Lincolnshire, UK-born singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer. Influenced by a diverse array of influences, including Radiohead, Robert Johnson, Joni Mitchell and Davey Graham among others, Broadbent has cited that listening and learning from such a wide array of artists has helped him create a unique style and sound that frequently features and meshes elements from a different genres and styles. Interestingly, over the past few years, the Lincolnshire-born, has been hailed as “the new master of the slide guitar” by the Montreux Jazz Festival and “the real thang” by Bootsy Collins.
Broadbent has opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Hallyday, Robben Ford and Tony Joe White — and he’s headlined sold-out shows across the world. And building upon a growing profile, the Lincolnshire-born singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer has amassed over 110,000 monthly listeners and over 10 million Spotify streams. Last year’s Bruce Cameron and Broadbent co-produced full-length album Moonshine Blue was released to widespread critical praise. And since the release of the album, the rapidly rising British has been busy on an extensive headlining tour, including opening for Peter Frampton during his upcoming farewell tour in the UK.
But in the meantime, “If,” Moonshine Blue’s latest single further establishes his critically applauded sound — a warm, radio friendly country-tinged New Orleans-like blues with a soulful and shimmering solo that seems like a synthesis of old-timey blues, Eric Clapton and Dr. John. And while being a perfect road trip jam, the song describes a restless character, who’s out on the road searching for something — primarily himself.
The recently released video for “If” follow Broadbent was he travels across the States on the historic Route 66. And as he goes from coast to coast, we see the rising British singer/songwriter stopping in a number of locations both big and small, new and worn; but interestingly enough, the video captures the British singer/songwriter observing the country with the awe, joy and bemusement.
S.G. Goodman is a rising Murray, KY-born and based singer/songwriter. Born and raised in a strict, church-going family of row crop farmers, near the Mississippi River, Goodman went from singing and playing in church three times a week to becoming a prominent member of Murray’s DIY arts and music scene, as well as an impassioned voice and presence in the political and social movements she supports.
Her forthcoming Jim James-produced full-length debut Old Time Feeling is slated for a May 29, 2020 release through Verve Forecast Records. Recorded at Louisville, KY-based La La Land Studio. which was specifically chosen by Goodman because it possessed her three favorite things — “a creek, a big porch and a kitchen,” the Old Time Feeling sessions were imbued with a familial and community touch: the Murray-born and-based singer/songwriter and guitarist cooked meals for the studio crew and her backing band, which includes her lifelong friends Matthew David Rowan (guitar) and S. Knox Montgomery (drums). The album is reportedly a brutally honest, complex and loving look at rural Southern life that debunks rural stereotypes while while thematically drawing from her own personal experiences as a gay woman in a rural and deeply religious Southern community and touches upon living with OCD, estrangement, reconciliation and loving your family and community although you might disagree with them on political and social issues. And from her Rockwood Music Hall, Communion set last month, the album’s material is a slick and seamless synthesis of old-school country, Delta blues and rockabilly centered around Goodman’s aching Patsy Cline-like vocals.
Old Time Feeling’s first single “The Way I Talk” is a slow-burning and sultry country-tinged blues centered around a sinuous bass line, shimmering guitars, explosive peals of feedback, dramatic and forceful drumming and Goodman’s plaintive, Western Kentucky drawl. Much like “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which “The Way I Talk” subtly references, the song is brutally honest look at the plight of the rural working class — in particular, the rural farming community she grew up: indeed, much like every other aspect of our lives, big business in concert with politicians have managed to exploit and destroy the lives and well-being of everything within their path, leaving the poor to fight the poor for limited resources and options. And while, the song is seethes with anger, there’s also defiant pride — in the fruits of hard and honest labor, of owning a piece of land and being able to pass it down to family, and so on.
“The song is inspired by the plight of the farming community in Kentucky where I grew up, where big business and the laws that protect them have vast control over my community,” Goodman told The Fader. “It is a scary thing calling into question the very thing that put food on my table and is putting food on my niece’s table (she plays the little girl in the video). Isn’t that the case for every person working a factory line who is afraid to unionize? Or a fast food employee afraid to take sick leave to care for her kid? We are all expected to be thankful, not question, and shut our mouths.”
Directed by Brandon Boyd, the recently released video for “The Way I Talk” is a cinematic and intimate look at rural Southern life that follows Goodman and her family through a day in their lives: while they tend to the little ones, there’s a sense that the adults recognize that their way of life is rapidly becoming unsustainable and will disappear, no matter how hard they fight.
The Bobby Lees are a young, rapidly rising Woodstock, NY-based garage punk act, featuring Kendall Wind (Bass), Nick Casa (Lead Guitar), and Macky Bowman (Drums) — and over the past 18 months or so, the band has received attention for a frenzied and energetic live show, opening for a who’s who of contemporary indie rock — including The Black Lips, Murphy’s Law, Boss Hog, Future Islands, Daddy Long Legs, The Chats, and Shannon & The Clams.
SKIN SUIT, the Woodstock-based punk outfit’s forthcoming Jon Spencer-produced full-length album is slated for a May 8, 2020 release through Alive Naturalsounds Records finds the band mixing classic garage punk hits, raw and emotive storytelling and some of the most blistering guitar work I’ve heard in some time. Now, as you may recall, last year I wrote about “GutterMilk,” 94 seconds of explosive punk that will remind some listeners of Fever to Tell-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Jon Spencer‘s work with The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The forthcoming album’s second and latest single is a feral and unhinged cover of Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man,”‘ that nods a bit at George Thorogood — but with a defiant, gender bending boldness.
Early James is a Birmingham, AL-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and frontman of the Birmingham-based act Early James and The Latest. Along with bandmates James Mullis and Adrian Marmolejo, the act seamlessly meshes roots rock, the blues, early rock and classic country. The band is Dan Auerbach’s latest singing to his Easy Eye Sound Records — and as the story goes, Auerbach decided he needed to produce James’ work after watching roughly two seconds of the Birmingham-based singer/songwriter and guitarist performing. “Every line has to mean something to him, personally. It’s not good enough to just write a good song, it needs to have a deeper meaning,” Auerbach says of working with James. “He’s unlike any person I’ve ever worked with. He’s not writing a song to be universal; he’s writing a song for him.”
Singing for My Supper, Early James’ full-length debut is slated for a March 13, 2020 release through Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch Records. Reportedly, the Dan Auberach and David “Fergie” Ferguson-produced debut features ten-wide ranging songs that span across blues, folk and old-timey pop crooning that are influenced by Fiona Apple, Tom Waits and the Southern Gothic poets — while being deeply personal, full of world weary wisdom and informed by lived-in experience.
Singing for My Supper’s second and latest single “It Doesn’t Matter Now” tells a tale of a bitter breakup of a dramatic and dysfunctional relationship with recriminations and accusations and deliberately hurtful actions coming from both sides. Musically, the song is centered around a cinematic and brooding Chris Issak “Wicked Game” meets Mississippi Delta Blues arrangement — reverb drenched guitars, gently padded drumming, a sinuous bass line and James’ incredible vocals, which express the heartbreak, bitterness, pride, longing and ambivalence at the core of the song.
Directed by Tim Hardman, the recently released video is a Southern Gothic-influenced visual that recalls Deliverance, A Time to Kill and others, as it stars James, his backing band and a collection of sideshow freaks and primarily set in and around a creepily beaten up cabin in the middle of nowhere. But the video’s protagonist are the sideshow freak couple, who inflict pain on each other — and gleefully enjoy it. “The subject matter for this song is pretty heavy. I felt there needed to be some aggression on screen but didn’t want it to play out like a typical break up,” Hardman told Billboard. “For some reason, Sideshow Bennie, whom I worked with several years ago, popped in my head. I looked him up and learned he was now working with a sidekick, Anna Fiametta. When I read how they met, I thought it was a funny story that would fit the song. The thought of them inflicting pain on each other, and the pleasure they receive from it, was intriguing. I pitched the idea to Early and I’m grateful he got it and trusted my vision for his song.”
Tomer Katz is a Tel Aviv singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer — and the creative mastermind behind the electro blues project D Fine Us, a project which finds the Tel Aviv-based artist meshing dusty old-school blues with warm and modern electronic textures.
Driven by a passion for exploring and understanding cultures, Katz traveled to the Mississippi Delta to learn the blues from local bluesmen and women. And while the project is informed by the age-old themes that’s been at the core of the blues — right vs. wrong, reality vs. illusion, relaxation and addiction, love, heartbreak and so on, the project finds Katz bringing a 21st century perspective to them.
Sonically Katz’s work with D Fine Us is a mix of raw, live recordings frequently created in desolate barrooms, wide open fields and friends living rooms mixed with polished studio work and electronics. Katz’s latest D Fine Us single “Safe to Disconnect” meshes old-timey and dusty, twangy vibrato guitars, harmonica and gospel-like chorus sections with tweeter and woofer rocking beats, swirling, atmospheric synths and other electronic effects. Thematically, the song meshes the concerns of classic blues with more contemporary concerns — and in a way that points out that the more things have changed, the more nothing much has really changed. Sonically though, D Fine Us reminds me a bit of Daughn Gibson, who does a similar modernization of old-timey country but with a bit of a muscular thump.