If you’ve been following me through my various social media platforms, you’d know that I’ve been in Chicago for the past few days for a conference related to my day job — and of course, while in town I’ve been running around to see friends, eat good food, drink good beers and catch as much live music as I could possibly take in. Naturally, while en route here and towards the bars, music venues and restaurants I’ve eaten in, I’ve spent it listening to a variety of music — especially Chicago blues, particularly my favorites, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. Check out this (mostly) Windy City-inspired playlist below. (Of course, there will likely be additions as I’m commuting to and fro for the next few days, so feel free to keep checking it.)
The late bluesman Roscoe Chenier was born in the tiny town of Notleyville, LA. And although his sharecropper family were extremely poor, Chenier grew up within a deeply musical family. Although he was related to zydeco legend Clifton Chewier and bluesman Morris “Big” Chenier, his father, Arthur “Bud” Chenier, a cajun accordionist, who was frequently accompanied by his first cousin, fiddler John Stevens (the father of Duke Stevens) was the Roscoe Chenier’s bigger influence; in fact, Bud Chenier and John Stevens were best known for playing at popular weekend house parties, where Roscoe would soak up the music.
In 1958, Roscoe Chenier was invited to join one of the region’s hottest traveling bands in the region — CD and the Blue Runners, which featured Lonesome Sundown on lead guitar and three of the Gradnier brothers on harmonica, drums and bass. Chenier played with CD and the Blue Runners until 1970, finding enough work to survive as a bluesman despite the popularity of the British Invasion acts of the 1960s. However, as tastes changed, Chenier like a lot of the great old bluesman discovered, it was difficult to eke out a living — especially when some gigs paid maybe $6 per man per night. And throughout the better part of the 70s, Chenier began a succession of jobs as a truck driver while picking up the occasional hired gun gig, playing in the backing bands of Good Rockin’ Thomas, Good Rockin’ Bob, his old bandmate Lonesome Sundown, Clarence Randle and Duke Stevens.
By 1980, Chenier was leading his own band and through a combination of reputation, luck and skill, he was able to recruit a number of talented musicians while desperately trying to remain as financial independent as possible, which by the late 90s became increasingly difficult. And yet, Chenier and his band managed to play several of Europe’s most prestigious festivals including Blues Estafette (in 1992, 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2001), North Sea Jazz Festival, toured across Europe several times and released a few albums before his death in February 2013 including 1998’s Roscoe Style and 2006’s Waiting For My Tomorrow. Roscoe Chenier’s last record, featured a haunting and folksy, acapella rendition of the old gospel standby “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” that immediately brings the early Delta Blues to mind — in particular, Son House, Lightnin’ Hopkins, early Muddy Waters and the like.
Interestingly, ElectroBluesSociety, a Dutch blues act, comprised of Japser Mortier (drums, bass) and Jan Mittendorp (guitar, production), who worked with Roscoe Grenier on several releases and several European tours decided to pay tribute to their late friend by adding a spectral and moody arrangement Chenier’s vocal that’s appropriately bluesy yet subtly modern, while retaining the timeless vibe of the original vocal take.
Now earlier this month, you might remember that I wrote about Redemption and Ruin’s first single, a slowed-down, twangy, Johnny Cash, Sun Records-era-leaning cover of one of my favorite Muddy Waters tunes “Champagne and Reefer” that retained the original’s wicked sense of humor and gleeful debauchery. The album’s second single is a cover of bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley’s classic and oft-covered “I Am The Man Thomas,” and as Bernhard told the folks at Relix, “‘I Am The Man’ is a gruesome tale of the capture and crucifixion of Jesus sung by none other than the late great Ralph Stanley. It may be the most metal Gospel song ever penned by mortal hand. What better song to include on Redemption And Ruin, This tune has it all, the chase the death and the rise from the grave.” The Devil Makes Three cover is a subtly and deceptively straightforward cover that puts a bit of snarl and muscle into it — while with a deeper emphasis on the gruesomeness and cruelty of the cruxifixction and Jesus’ eventual redemption.
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’ Hopkins, Blind Willie Johnson, Robert Johnson, Muddy 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’ Wolf, Muddy 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.
Originally released as a Record Store Day B-side to his incredibly soulful cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Changes” with fellow Daptone Records labelmates The Budos Band, and a regularly occurring part of his live sets “Ain’t It A […]
February 2016’s JOVM Spotify playlist will likely continue the wild variety I’m so proud of but with a number of mainstay artists including tracks by Victoria + Jean, Anna Rose, Rene Lopez, Anika, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Gosh Pith, Marco Benevento, New Order, Boulevards, Mavis Staples, Sofi Tukker, Charles Bradley, Majid Jordan, La Sera, Pr0files, Atmosphere, We Are Temporary, Beacon, Elephant Stone, Caveman, Octo Octa and several others who you’ve become familiar with through this site. But you’ll also come across a couple of tracks from one of my favorite new artists of the year, Sophie and the Bom Boms, some classic blues from Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and George Thorogood, porto-metal and stoner rock and countless more. Check it out!
Back in January, I wrote a post on Reno, NV-born and Nashville, TN-based alt rock/blues/rock artist Jack Berry. Berry can trace the origins of his recording career to when he wrote and recorded his first album while studying in Los Angeles. Berry then worked and performed along the West Coast as one half a of a duo before before he decided that it was time to go solo. Relocating to Nashville, Berry spent several months couch-surfing and writing and recording material with the hopes that he could catch the attention of that city’s local press. Eventually, Berry began receiving praise from outlets such as Nashville Scene, The Deli Magazine, Blues Rock Review and others, which resulted in slots at Toronto‘s North by Northeast (NXNE), CMJ and SXSW‘s Red Gorilla Festival. Since then, Berry has played a number of venues between his hometown and NYC; however, 2016 may be his breakthrough year with the Spring 2016 release of his latest album, Mean Machine.
Now, as I mentioned a little earlier, back in January I wrote about Mean Machine‘s first single “The Bull,” a sultry and bluesy single that paired arena rock-friendly power chords, propulsive and carefully syncopated drumming, an anthemic hook and Berry’s seductive crooning and howling that sonically seems to draw from Soundgarden (think of “Mailman” “Spoonman,”and “Fell on Black Days” off Superunknown) as it does from old-school blues and contemporary rock. Mean Machine‘s latest single “Bad Dog” continues where “The Bull” left off: arena-friendly power chords, propulsive drumming paired with Berry’s sultry crooning; however, the song possesses a cocksure swagger and menace that pushes the song towards the old school blues territory — in particular think of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.
Over the last few years, Daptone Records has released a series of albums documenting the gospel and church-based music from the Mississippi River Delta region — in particular Como, Mississippi. The third album in the series, Panola County Spirit is the debut effort from The Walker Family Singers, who were originally discovered and featured on the Daptone Records compilation, The Voices of Panola County: Como Now.
Comprised of Raymond and Joella Walker, three of their four daughters, Alberta, Patricia and Delouse, and their two songs Robert and Bobby, the gospel quintet is well known throughout their hometown: the Walkers have a long history of preaching the gospel as the Walker men have been preachers for many generations and the entire family continues a long and proud musical tradition that goes back quite some time. In fact, this should tell you well regarded the Walkers are in Mississippi Delta region — back in the day, Raymond Walker was once recruited by Fred McDowell and the legendary Sam Cooke to back them on tour for what would have been a rather significant amount of money. And as the story goes, the Walker patriarch refused unless McDowell and Cooke did gospel instead of the blues. McDowell vehemently refused and the rest is pretty much history.
Although the deeply religious would consider the blues as the devil’s music, it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that the gospel and the blues from the region share so much deeply in common sonically, spiritually and aesthetically, and when you hear “Jesus Gave Me Water,” the first single off the album slated for a March 18 release, you’ll immediately feel as though you were taken back in time; perhaps to the days of Alan Lomax running around making field recordings of the blues musicians and gospel singers, who would become some of the towering and most influential names of contemporary music — in particular, think of Robert Johnson (who was murdered three weeks before Lomax arrived to record him), Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and countless others. Much like those classic and dusty recordings, the song possesses deceptive simplicity — led by Raymond Walker, the song features the vocalists singing acapella in a gorgeous and layered call and response harmony in a song that describes finding Jesus in a profound yet very simple fashion.