Tag: John Lee Hooker

Throwback: Black History Month: John Lee Hooker

Time does what it usually does: it flies by faster than what you’d expect or even want.Today is February 15th, the 15th day of Black History Month. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been proudly featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles with the hopes that these artists can guide you towards further understanding of the Black experience.

As the month goes on, I hope that you’ll be reminded of these urgently important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

John Lee Hooker was arguably one of the greatest bluesman to ever live in my book. As far as I’m concerned, no one can compete, because Hooker was the real deal.

New Video: Introducing the Global-Spanning Sounds of Mayotte’s M’Toro Chamou

Located in the Comoros archipelago off the coast of Southeast Africa, between Northwestern Mozambique and Northeastern Mozambique, the Department of Mayotte is a French overseas region, which consists of two islands — the main island of Grande-Teerre (or Maore), a smaller island of Petite-Terre (Pamanzi) and several islets around the two. 

Initially populated by people from nearby East Africa, Arabs, who brought Islam came later on — and by 1500, a sultanate was established. In the 19th century, Mayotte was conquered by Andriantsoly, former king of Ibonia (which was in modern day Madagascar), and later by the neighboring islands of Moheli and Anjuoan before being purchased by France in 1841.  

With a decisive referendum on the independence  of the Comoros region in 1974, the people of Mayotte voted to politically remain a part of France. Another decisive referendum vote in 2009 led to Mayotte becoming a French Department on March 31, 2011 — and an outermost region of the European Union on January 1. 2014. Although the islands are a politically recognized French territory, the majority of its inhabitants speak Shiamore, a Sabaki language closely related to the languages spoken in the neighboring Comoros Islands, not French. Kibushi, a Malagasy language, which features two dialects — Kibushi Kisakalava and Kibushi Kiantalaotra is also spoken by a significant portion of the population. Interestingly, according to a recent census report, a majority of the population aged 14 and older say that they can speak French — with varying levels of fluency. 

As a new department, the island region currently faces some enormous problems: as of this year, its annual population growth is at 3.8%. Half its population is less than 17 years old. Unemployment is at 35%. 84% of its inhabitants live below the officially recognized poverty line. And as a result of an influx of illegal immigration from its neighbors, 48% of its population are foreign nationals. As you can imagine, much like everywhere else on the planet, things socially and politically on Mayotte are rather turbulent. 

Over the past few years, the Mayotte-born singer/songwriter and guitarist M’Toro Chamou has created a unique sound and musical style that he’s dubbed Afro M’Godro Rock, which meshes the traditional M’Godro, Shigoma and Chengue rhythms of Mayotte with more Western sounds — primarily rock and blues. In fact, he’s deeply influenced by BB King, John Lee Hooker, Nina Simone, Ray Charles and James Brown, among a host of others. Thematically, his work exhorts people to come together as one rather than being torn apart by politics. Interestingly, his most recent album Sika Mila, which translates into English as “Preserve Your Culture” thematically focuses on the rapidly charging Mahoran culture while spreading messages of hope and unity to a fractious people. 

Chamou’s latest single “M’Godro Rebel” is a breezy and anthemic song centered around shimmering acoustic guitar, brief bursts of emphatic electric guitars, propulsive polyrhythm and call and response vocals. And while deeply rooted in traditional sounds, the song finds Chamou’s sound and approach nodding at Bob Marley-like reggae both thematically and sonically. As Chamou explains in press notes, the song is about the discrimination and oppression that limits the people of Mayotte and Black people everywhere. 

Directed by Lenz, the gorgeous shot and recently released video for “M’Godro Rebel” finds both the director and the Mayotte-born singer/songwriter purposefully highlighting the beauty, wealth and strength of African people: the video begins with Chamou and a cast of beautiful black people of all shades wearing 18th Century Rococo — or late baroque — style clothing, in opulent European-inspired settings that makes the first portion of the video seem indebted to the work of Kehinde Wiley. In the West, we rarely see Africa or Africans in such a proud, powerful fashion, let alone other Black people across the Diaspora — and it is defiant, boldly Black as fuck. During the video’s second half, we see the same cast wearing the vividly colored designs of South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo. The video says that Africans have a proud, rich history and an important place in the modern world. Simply put, everything about the video is black excellence.  

Melbourne, Australia-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Harmony Byrne grew up in a Mormon family, the third of seven children. Early on, she was instilled with a love for church hymns and rock ‘n’ roll, both of which would heavily inform her own life and later, her own music. After enrolling into Melbourne’s Waldorf School of the Arts, Byrne devoted her time to learning guitar and piano, eventually developing her own original material.

Slated for a Spring 2020 release, the Melbourne-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s Jim Eno-produced, 10 song full length debut Heavy Doors reportedly features material that evokes the work of Jeff Buckley, Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin. Although to my ears, the album’s latest single, the incredibly cathartic  “Come Down vs. Calm Down” manages to bring John Lee Hooker, The Black Keys, PJ Harvey and Heartless BastardsErika Wennerstrom to mind, as the track is centered around a looping and shimmering 12 bars blues guitar line, simple yet forceful percussion and Harmony’s expressive and searing wailing, which effortlessly evokes heartache and triumph within the turn of a phrase. It’s a song that comes from lived-in experience, so the hurt and the catharsis at its core are familiar and real.

“In essence it’s a song about mental health,” Harmony says of the track. “It started as a cathartic vocal improvisation, allowing whatever came to mind to be sung. Through this process, words that kept reoccurring later became lyric. I feel there is darkness hidden in our minds that often engulfs us, which although hard to talk about, is important to express. 

“I wanted to convey this in the song and for it to feel like a victorious roar of will, showing that through really digging in and knowing who we are and how we deserve to be treated, that we can overcome our monkey minds. It may seem like it’s an angry break up song, but really it’s about the different voices in our heads that we battle with every day.”

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard Release a Strutting and Shimmering Retro-Futuristic Boogie Blues

Over the course of 2017, the Melbourne, Australia-based psych rock septet and JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, comprised of Stu Mackenzie (vocals, guitar, and flute), Ambrose Kenny Smith (synths, harmonica), Cook Craig (guitar), Joey Walker (guitar), Lucas Skinner (bass), Eric Moore (drums) and Michael Cavanagh (drums) released five albums — with each album consisting of material in a wildly different genre and style from the other, further cementing the band’s reputation for being restlessly prolific. Flying Microtonal Banana and The Murder of the Universe, two albums released within that incredibly prolific run found the acclaimed Australian act pushing their thematic concerns and sound in new, and darkly trippy directions. 

For a band that has been as productive as the Melbourne-based JOVM mainstays, not having much in the way of new music last year seems extremely odd but they were busy with several other things — including: a relentless tour schedule that featured a headlining set at Desert Daze and three sold out-dates at Brooklyn Steel, the largest venue they’ve played in the States to date. Additionally, the band re-issued their first five albums on vinyl for the first time ever, and it created such a frenzied demand that the Flightless Records website crashed from the traffic.

The band’s fourteenth album, Fishing for Fishies is slated for an April 26, 2019 release through their own Flightless Records, and the album reportedly finds the band creating a sonic world in which the organic meets the automated; where the rustic meets the robotic; where the past and future collide in the beautiful present, as the material is essentially boogie blues that struts, shimmies and stomps through several different moods and terrains. “We tried to make a blues record,” says frontman Stu Mackenzie. “A blues-boogie-shuffle-kinda-thing, but the songs kept fighting it – or maybe it was us fighting them. Ultimately though we let the songs guide us this time; we let them have their own personalities and forge their own path. Paths of light, paths of darkness. This is a collection of songs that went on wild journeys of transformation.”

“I didn’t really know who I was by the end of 2017,” Mackenzie continues in press notes, about the band’s incredibly prolific 2017. “It was a good kind of spent feeling though, as I like being busy. For most of the holiday period I was in the studio doing the last of the recording and mixing on Gumboot Soup. And as soon as it clicked over to 2018 I stopped worrying about recording for a while and started living instead.” 

Written primarily on piano, the material on Fishing for Fishies is reportedly centered around recurring musical motifs — piano, mellotron and synth flourishes, paired with vocals drenched in vocoder, and a plethora of creative U-turns. Now, as you may recall, the album’s first single, “Cyboogie” found the band pushing their sound in a completely new direction, with five of its seven members playing synths in a funky and strutting disco boogie with heavily vocoder’ed vocals that brought From Here to Eternity . . . And Back-era Giorgio Moroder, The Man Machine-era Kraftwerk and DEVO to mind while actually being about a dancing cyborg from the future.  Interestingly, the album’s second and latest single “Boogieman Sam” is a retro-futuristic take on boogie blues that’s one part Marc Bolan and T. Rex, one part John Lee Hooker, one part prog rock freakout that struts and shimmies. 

Seth Olinsky is perhaps best known for being the primary songwriter, frontman and guitarist of influential and renowned underground noise folk punk act Akron/Family — and his solo project Cy Dune has developed a reputation for celebrating raw  and primordial rock that has drawn from his work with Akron/Family, Swans’ Micheal Gira and Rhys Chatham, as well as collaborations with Hamid Drake, William Parker, Keiji Haino and Tatsuya Nakatani among others.

Olinsky’s latest effort The Desert initially came about after experimenting with making drum loops on a refurbished Alan Lomax Ampex 601-2, pushing a clash of layered 16th notes and African inspired triplet relationships to create a new, repetitive drum sound.  That early experimentation wound up inspiring some of the meta sampling on Summer Rebels; however, with The Desert, the sampling is a much rawer form, while featured layered and energetic playing from backing band and collaborators drummer Andrew Barker, bassist William Parker, who has worked with Cecil Taylor and Peter Brotzman, and bassist Shazad Ismaily. who has worked with Marc Ribot and Sam Amidon. Initially written in the Sonoran Desert after Olinsky and Lighting Records co-founder Ali Beletic relocated to the desert in 2010, the material was tested as various adobe house shows around Tucson, in open desert arroyos running off of battery power at organized sound/noise poetry happenings that featured poetry professors from the University of Arizona and their friends from Montana and Oregon, who were traveling through town — and then eventually at SXSW with 40 drummers, including Akron/Family’s Dana Janssen, Megafaun‘s Joey Westerland, Son Lux‘s Ian Chang and Jobs’ Max Jaffe.

Olinsky relocated to Joshua Tree in 2014 and he continued to further deconstruct and develop the desert blues songs he originally wrote in 2010, with some material becoming part of pieces cut together with Ampex samples of old blues tunes, eventually becoming post-minimalist compositions which he performed in the Integratron, before being installed in the desert with multiple amplifiers run off generators. The Desert interestingly enough is the first of a series of archival Cy Dune releases that Lighting Records will be releasing this year, before a full-length of new, original material next year — but in the meantime, The Desert‘s first single is the explosive, John Lee Hooker and George Thorogood boogie blues meets psych blues-like “Desert 3.” Centered around a stomping drum progression, an inspired and fiery bit of guitar playing from Olinsky, the song possesses a feral and almost unhinged urgency.

 

 

 

 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay Matthew Stubbs Teams Up with Pat Faherty, Charlie Musselwhite, and Luther Dickinson on a Boogie Blues Number

Last year, I wrote a bit about the Boston-based bandleader, songwriter, composer and guitarist Matthew Stubbs. Stubbs has spent the past 11 years as a member of Charlie Musselwhite’s backing band, and he’s played in the backings bands for a number of other blues legends including of John Hammond, James cotton, Junior Watson and James Harman. Stubbs has also released two solo instrumental albums 2008’s Soulbender released through Vizztone Records and 2010’s Medford and Main released through Chicago, IL-based Blue Bella Records that drew from the  Memphis, TN soul/blues sound. And as you may recall, Stubbs formed his own band The Antiguas, a Duane Eddy, Link Wray, and Booker T meets garage rock, B movie soundtracks and Afrobeat-inspired act that features Just Lopes (organ), Chris Rivelli (drums) and Marc Hickox (bass). 

The Boston-based composer, songwriter and guitarist’s latest musical project GA-20 is a collaboration with his longtime friend Pat Faherty. Formed last year, the project is centered around the duo’s mutual love of traditional blues, R&B, 50s and 60s and their love of the work of Lazy Lester, J.B. Lenoir, Earl Hooker, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush and Junior Wells. Feeling a void in contemporary music, the duo set out to write, record and perform a modernized version of the blues — with the same sort of passion and earnestness on stage and in the studio of the genre’s heyday.

GA-20’s full-length debut is slated for release later this summer through Karma Chief Records, and the album’s latest single is the shuffling, “Naggin’ On My Mind.” Indebted to Earl Hooker and John Lee Hooker, the track features the imitable and explosive harmonica playing of Charlie Musselwhite, and from North Mississippi All Stars’ Luther Dickinson — and is built around a looping 12 bar blues, a slide guitar solo and a stomping rhythm. Simply put, it’s blues the way I love it — a boozy boogie stomp. 

Comprised of Jonathan Phillips, Dylan Palmer, Terry Kane and Reid Cummings, the Nashville, TN-based quartet Faux Ferocious can trace their origins to when they all met while attending the University of Tennessee. And since the formation of the band, they’ve released music through Burger Records, Infinity Cat Records and Striped Light Records that’s been described as brain-liquefying fare and strange, hypnotic rock and like John Lee Hooker‘s Endless Boogie while on speed. Interestingly, the band’s soon-to-be released EP, 12″ will be released next week through Drop Medium Records, and as you’ll hear on “Solvency,” the second single off the soon-to-be released EP, the Nashville-based quartet will further cement their reputation for being uncompromisingly weird, as the new single seems to draw from thrash metal, stoner rock and Krautrock as they pair layers of buzzing guitar chords with a chugging, motorik-groove and spoken word-delivered lyrics describing how difficult it is to stay financially solvent, which gives an incredibly trippy song a bitterly ironic bite reminiscent of Gang of Four.

 

 

 

New Video: The Classic Soul Sounds and Visuals of Nick Waterhouse’s “It’s Time”

Nick Waterhouse is a Santa Ana, CA-born, San Francisco, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who first took up gutiar when turned 12. And as teenager, he found himself increasingly interested in more obscure and ecletic Americana and blues outside of the pop and contemporary rock his peers were listening to; in fact, he’s cited Bert Berns, Mose Allison, John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison among his earliest musical influences. However, Waterhouse’s musical career started in earnest when he was a member of an Orange County-based band Intelligista, an act that was compared to The Animals and High Numbers-era The Who. After the band split up, Waterhouse went on to attend San Francisco State University — and while studying, he continued pursuing music with very little luck.

As he was purising a music career, Waterhouse was simultaneously getting more involved in San Francisco’s DJ scene; in fact, he had quickly become a fixture at tthe all-vinyl Rooky Ricardo’s Record Shop eventually taking up a job with the store. Publicly, the San Francsico-based singer/songwriter and guitairst has cited that his time working under the store’s owner, Richard Vivian was deeply influential, as it put the then-aspriing musician i touch with the city’s soul club scene — while developing a friendship with The Allah-Las’ Matthew Corriea.

His debut 7 inch “Some Place”/”That Place” was recorded at the Distillery Studio in Southern California with backing band billed as the Turn-Keys, featuring The Fabulous Souls’ Ira Raibon on saxophone. The single was hand-pressed with letterpress printed labels, and because of the single’s overall response and its rairty, collectors have snapped it up. And on the strength of that single, Waterhouse was able to assemble his own backing band The Tarots and a trio of backing vocalists The Naturelles, with whom he played shows with Ty Segall, The Strange Boys, White Fence and The Allah-las. And in between touring across North America and Europe, the California-based singer/songwriter produced The Allah-Las 2012 debut effort. He then followed taht up with the release of his first two singles as a frontman and bandleader.

Waterhouse’s third full-length effort, Never Twice was released earlier this year thorugh Innovative Leisure Records and the album finds him collaborating once again with producer Michael McHugh, who has worked with Black Lips, Ty Segall, and The Allah-Las. As the story goes, McHugh was Nick’s first producer — and as Waterhouse was about to record the material that would comprise Never Twice, Waterhouse enlisted McHugh to recrate and capture the sound of Nick’s youth while in bands in Huntington Beach.

After McHugh was on board, Waterhouse being calling his favorite musicians to join him — Bob Kenmotsu, who contributed his flute; Ralph Carney, who has played with Tom Waits and Elvis Costello contributed sax; Will Blades, a protege of Dr. Lonnie Smith, contributed organs; a highly-accomplished batch of horn planers, bassists and guitarists join in; and Leon Bridges contributed vocals on the album’s lead single “Katchi.” The album’s latest single “It’s Time” will further cement Waterhouse’s burgeoning reptuation for crafting old school, jazzy soul with an incredibly uncanny period specificity — in this case, sounding as though it were released in the mid 1950s/early 1960s, thanks to a careful attnetion to craft while adding his name to a growing list of contemporary artists, who specailzie in the classic soul sound.

Directed and edited by Laura-Lynn Petrick, the video shot on what apears to be old Super 8 Film, and follows Waterhouse as she wanders around New York and features live footage of the Californian and his backing band playing live sets — and with the grainy, old-timey footage, it adds to the song’s old school aesthetic.

Alt country/folk-rock/blues-rock artist Lee Miles, best known Chief Ghoul has quickly become a JOVM mainstay artist for a sound that channels and owes a major debt to the Delta Blues — in particular, the blues of Lightnin’ HopkinsBlind Willie JohnsonRobert JohnsonMuddy Waters‘ acoustic blues and John Lee Hooker as Miles’ work had a tendency to be sparse, most self-accompanied and concerned itself with some prototypical blues themes and motifs. Seeking to expand the project’s sound, Miles recruited Chase Coryell (bass) and Justin Brown (drums) to flesh out the project’s sound, expanding the project to a full-time trio.

Damned is Miles’ fourth Chief Ghoul album, and the album’s latest single “Let Me In” is a twangy ballad that sonically draws from outlaw country and the blues — and that shouldn’t be surprising as the song’s narrator sings ruefully about a lover with whom he had a conflicting and confusing relationship; in typical blues fashion, the narrator recognizes that the love interest is dangerous to him and yet he can’t pull himself away.

 

 

 

 

Over the past few months, Jack Berry, a Reno, NV-born and Nashville, TN-based singer/songwriter and rock/blues artist has quickly become one of my favorite artists of 2016 as I’ve previously written about two singles off Berry’s forthcoming full-length Mean Machine  The Bull,” a sultry and bluesy single with an anthemic hook that sounded as though it were Superunknown-era Soundgarden — in particular “Mailman” “Spoonman,”and “Fell on Black Days,” as well as “Bad Dog,” a swaggering, cocksure song that continued in the arena rock-friendly vein of “The Bull” but bluesier, as though Berr were attempting to channel Howlin’ WolfMuddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.
Mean Machine’s latest single “Coal” will further cement Berry’s growing reputation for bluesy and anthemic power chord-based rock that manages to possess a moody, sensual and contemporary take on hard rock and the blues,  complete with his signature cocksure swagger.