blues music


Duster BennettDuster Bennett was one of the most distinctive and unusual artists to emerge from the very productive period of the late 1960s that came to be known as the ‘British Blues Boom’. Welsh-born Tony ‘Duster’ Bennett was a blues-wailing ‘one man band’, playing guitar and harmonica whilst also providing his own rhythm section via a bass drum and hi-hat. He scored a record deal with the British Blue Horizon label (helmed by the great Brit Blues producer, Mike Vernon), by way of a recommendation from Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green. Bennett became a real draw on the thriving pub, club and student union circuit of the late 1960s and early 1970s, renowned for his energetic live performances, Mod sharp style and audience rapport. He was a favourite on John Peel’s Top Gear radio show and eventually joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers as band member/solo act on a US tour in 1970. A cultured and skilful harmonica player, this unique artist would open up his musical base to incorporate funk and rhythm and blues styles after he left Blue Horizon, but his life was cut cruelly short at the age of 29 when he died after falling asleep at the wheel of his Ford Transit when driving home from a gig with Memphis Slim in Warwickshire in 1976. This excellent double disc set brings together all of the recordings he made for Blue Horizon from from 1968 to 1970, charting the development of a fine, intriguing songwriter and magisterial musician. His back-to–basics approach can be heard in the sound of later acts such as The White Stripes, and Bennett’s name is still held in high regard by his musical contemporaries. Highlights include 1969’s Bright Lights live session recordings featuring classics such as She Lived Her Life Too Fast, the storming Just Like I Treat You, Talk To Me, My Babe and of course Bright Lights (And More Bright Lights).


Elvin BishopALBERT KINGElvin Bishop was one of the twin guitar attack of the Butterfield Blues Band. In 1963 Bishop met harmonica player Paul Butterfield and joined his blues band, remaining with them for five years. He was originally Butterfield’s only guitarist, but was later joined by Mike Bloomfield, who largely took over the lead guitar role for the band’s classic first two albums. After Bloomfield departed, the Butterfield Band’s third album, The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw, took its name from Bishop’s nickname and his renewed role as lead guitarist. On FEEL IT (FLOATM6290), Elvin Bishop’s second solo album, released in 1970, he fronts his own combo on a varied set that embraces Soul and Rhythm and Blues styles. Charlie Daniels later mentioned him in his song ‘The South’s Gonna Do It’, with the lyric, ‘Elvin Bishop sittin’ on a bale of hay; he ain’t good lookin’, but he sure can play’. Albert King, born Albert Nelson in Mississippi, was a blues guitarist and smooth singer whose playing influenced many others. One of the ‘Three Kings of the Blues Guitar’ (along with B.B. King and Freddie King), he is probably best known for his Gibson Flying V, which he named Lucy, and the 1967 single, Born Under a Bad Sign. He was known as ‘The Velvet Bulldozer’ because of his large size and because he drove a bulldozer in one of his day jobs early in his career. The Albert King release here features two CDs - FILLMORE EAST NY 1971 & EARLY STUDIO SESSIONS (FLOATM 6286). On the first he wows the Fillmore East venue in New York and the second is OMAR & THE HOWLERSJOHNNY JENKINSan added bonus of some early studio recordings, before his legendary tenure with the Stax Records label. Johnny Jenkins was an American left-handed blues guitarist who helped launch the career of Otis Redding. His flamboyant style of guitar playing also influenced Jimi Hendrix. BLESSED BLUES (FLOATM 6287) is a CD he made in the 1990s as his long-awaitied follow up to the Ton Ton Macoute album of 1972. Like Hendrix, he played guitar left-handed, and like Albert King, his guitar was strung upside-down. Blessed Blues is a minor gem that shows Jenkins was a talent who made far too few records in his lifetime. Omar & the Howlers is a Texas based electric blues and blues rock band featuring guitarist and singer Omar Kent Dykes. The original Howlers band was formed in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 1973 before moving to Austin, Texas. HARD TIMES IN THE LAND OF PLENTY & WALL OF PRIDE (FLOATM 6281) represent the Texas Blues on two hard-rocking albums from the late eighties. Omar Dykes has been ill lately, so this excellent reissue is a welcome musical reminder of his awesome guitar and vocal talents.


John MayallBorn in 1933, John Mayall has been a pioneer of blues music for more than 50 years, earning himself the title, ‘The Godfather of British Blues’ as a hugely influential singer, guitarist, organist and songwriter. The elder statesman of British blues is best known as the founder in the 1960s of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, a band which was a finishing school for some of the most famous blues and blues rock musicians of the erahas, including Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jack Bruce, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Mick Taylor, Don ‘Sugarcane’ Harris, Harvey Mandel, Larry Taylor, Aynsley Dunbar, Hughie Flint, Jon Hiseman, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser (of Free) Walter Trout and Buddy Whittington. Mayall’s ilustrious personnel has sometimes overshadowed his own remarkable abilities as a performer of Chicago-style electric blues. This two disc set has over two hours of great music, with 14 previously unreleased live performances from Canada in 1970-71. Musical friends guesting on this blues extravaganza include Harvey Mandell, Freddy Robinson, Sugarcane Harris and Keef Hartley. Mayall selected the tracks himself and wrote the liner notes in which he heavily criticises his own erratic vocals. As well as the classic title track, highlights include My Pretty Girl (featuring bass player Larry Taylor), two versions of the epic Possessive Emotions, the exuberant instrumental Blue Fox, and Took The Car (with drummer Paul Lagos). ‘Working with people, the musical part is one thing but the personal part is totally different and just as critical. If the friendship is there and it's a lasting friendship, then it will take care of itself.’ - John Mayall.


Michael BloomfieldBorn in Chicago, Illinois, in 1943, guitarist Michael Bloomfield was one of the first popular music superstars of the 1960s to earn his reputation almost entirely on his instrumental brilliance. Respected for his guitar playing by giants such as Muddy Waters and B. B. King, he knew and played with many of Chicago’s blues legends before achieving his own fame and and popularising blues music in the mid-1960s. Alongside Elvin Bishop, he contributed the fiery lead guitars in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and contributed unforgettable Telecaster guitar wails for Bob Dylan the day he ‘went electric’ at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. Mike Bloomfield went on to play on many of Dylan’s classic mid-sixties recordings, including the immortal ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ on the album Highway 61 Revisited. Dylan asked Bloomfield to join his touring band but he preferred to continue playing with Paul Butterfield. He also played on the superb Al Kooper’s ‘Supersession’ album as well as in The Electric Flag, who made their live debut at the epochal Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Michael Bloomfield also made many well-received solo recordings but his career was derailed because of substance abuse problems that made him both unreliable and ultimately claimed his life in 1981, aged only 37. Troubled, flawed, charming and hugely influential, Bloomfield was a unique and mercurial character whose stock has rightly risen in recent years. This welcome ‘Retrospective’ is a reissue of one of the first and best collections of his work, with tracks interlaced with snippets of interviews given by the man himself. The 25 tracks include a storming instrumental version of the Howard Tate soul stomper, ‘Stop’, the swinging ‘Albert’s Blues’, and material from Electric Flag as well as solo recordings. The two-CD release distils the purest essence of a musician who was ranked 22 on Rolling Stone’s list of ‘100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time’. ‘In this white Jew’s opinion, Michael Bloomfield was simply the best blues guitarist I’ve ever heard.’ - Rob Reiner.


Electric KingOne of the fabled ‘Three Kings of The Blues’, alongside Albert and BB King, the brilliant Texas born Freddie King was placed fifteenth in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. He was a major influence in the sixties for the likes of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. Freddie died in the mid-seventies aged only 42, but he was far from a spent musical force. The live recordings on this double-CD release showcase his classic repertoire over a period from 1969 to 1975, including two versions of his signature tune ‘Hideaway’, named after a nightclub on Chicago’s Westside: ‘Mel’s Hideaway lounge’. The legendary blues man, known as The Texas Cannonball, is in fine form on these tracks, including great versions of ‘Have You Ever Loved a Woman’ and ‘Aint Nobody’s Business’. ‘He taught me just about everything I needed to know, when and when not to make a stand, when and when not to show your hand and most important of all, how to make love to a guitar!’ – Eric Clapton, in reference to Freddie King.


Otis SpannBorn in Jackson, Mississippi, Otis Spann became known for his distinctive piano style and brilliant technique. One of five children, he began playing the piano at the age of seven, and by the age of 14 he was playing in bands in the Jackson area. He moved to Chicago in 1946, where he eventually replaced Big Maceo Merriweather as Muddy Waters’s piano player. He continued to record as a solo artist and session player with other musicians, including Bo Diddley and Howlin’ Wolf, during his tenure with the group and stayed with Waters until 1968. He died aged only 40 in 1970 and was buried in the Burr Oak Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois. His grave was unmarked for almost thirty years until blues enthusiasts from around the world sent donations to purchase a headstone. Unveiled at a private ceremony in 1999, the stone reads, ‘Otis played the deepest blues we ever heard – He’ll play forever in our hearts.’ He was posthumously elected to the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. This double-CD set features two great albums from the vaults of Testament Records by this piano blues legend. ‘Live the Life’ consists of twelve songs with Muddy Waters and five songs from a Martin Luther King tribute concert in 1968. ‘Chicago Blues’ was recorded in 1965/1966 and captures Otis Spann accompanied by James Cotton, Walter Horton, amongst others.


Peter Green - Alone With The BluesThe great British blues-rock guitarist Peter Green was born in 1946 in working-class Bethnal Green, London. Best known as the founder of Fleetwood Mac (the band was originally named Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac), he was a major figure and bandleader in the second epoch of the British blues movement, admired by Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and B. B. King, who said of him: ‘He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.’ Even though his career was damaged by drug abuse and schizophrenia, Peter Green remains for many the greatest white blues guitarist of them all. His musical influences range from Hank B. Marvin of the Shadows to Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Freddie King and traditional Jewish music. Alone With The Blues is an excellent double-CD release featuring 34 hand-picked tracks spanning more than 40 years of great recordings. Selected from Peter Green’s solo work, early Fleetwood Mac tracks and cuts with the Brunning Sunflower Blues Band, this is an essential overview of the development of one of rock’s most intriguing, talented and misunderstood enigmas. The 8-page booklet includes detailed sleevenotes. Highlights include heartfelt versions of The Green Manalishi, Man Of The World, Black Magic Woman and Oh Well (live), as well as the soulful Cryin’ Won’t Bring You Back and Got To See Her Tonight.


Blind Boy FullerBorn in 1907 in Wadesboro, North Carolina, Fulton Allen was one of a family of ten children. After his mother’s death he moved with his father to Rockingham. As a boy he learned to play the guitar and heard from older singers the field hollers, country rags and traditional songs as well as blues popular in poor, rural areas. He married young and worked as a labourer, but began to lose his eyesight in his mid-teens and he was completely blind by the time he was 21, finding whatever employment he could as a singer and entertainer, often playing in the streets. During his short (he died aged only 33) but prolific recording career as Blind Boy Fuller he became one of the most influential and best-selling bluesmen of his time. With songs brimming with wit and soulfulness, his strikingly original and energetic guitar arrangements have been an inspiration to countless guitarists ever since. In a similar way to Robert Johnson in the Delta, Blind Boy Fuller was able to bring together the many different styles of the Piedmont region and serve them up in a way that encapsulates the essence of the East Coast blues. The distinctive sound of his National steel guitar and energetic arrangements have been an inspiration to countless guitarists ever since. Whilst singing and playing outside a tobacco warehouse during the winter of 1934-1935, he was approached by a white entrepreneur and record retailer J.B. Long, who arranged for Fuller him to travel to New York City to record for the American Record Corporation (ARC), along with his fellow guitar mentor Gary Davis and the albino washboard player known as name of Bull City Red. Fuller went on to record over 120 songs for a variety of labels and this excellent collection in the Rough Guide to Blues Legends series features 25 tracks, including his big selling up-tempo rag ‘Step It Up and Go’, and ‘hokum’ classics ‘Get Your Yas Yas Out’ and ‘Truckin’ My Blues Away’, as well as soulful blues numbers such as ‘Lost Lover Blues’.


Unsung Heroes Of Country BluesCountry blues, mainly acoustic guitar-driven, mixes blues elements with characteristics of folk and country. After blues’ birth in the Southern United States, it quickly spread throughout the country, giving birth to a host of regional styles, including Memphis, Piedmont, Louisiana, West Coast, New Orleans, Delta, Hill country and Kansas City blues. Traditional artists like Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Boy Williamson II reinvented themselves as folk blues artists, while Piedmont bluesmen like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee would later find great success at folk festivals during the blues revival of the 1960s. Very little is known about many of early blues artists featured here, other than the simple fact that their classic recordings are like arrows through time and have a cutting edge coolness which defies the age in which they were recorded. There is no space for the likes of Charley Patton, Robert Johnson or Son House here as the limelight fall on some of the lesser-known country blues masters, whose brilliance has always been slightly under the radar. This handpicked selection of beautifully re-mastered tracks ranks alongside anything by the more decorated blues greats of the time, and delves that bit deeper into the early origins of the genre. Far from being a best of the rest, this album brings to the fore classic masterpieces that need to be heard. Aside from the much reduced crackle and hiss synonymous with old country blues recordings, it is hard to believe that all of these tracks date from the late 1920s/early 1930s, as they have an evergreen quality and emotional depth quite unlike anything else recorded at this time in history. These tracks are essential listening for any blues connoisseur, and an adventure into some of the more hidden recesses of country blues.


Albert KingThe phrase ‘the blues’ is a synonym for having a fit of the blue devils, meaning down spirits, depression and sadness. The first appearance of blues music dates from between 1870 and 1900, coinciding with the emancipation of the slaves and the transition from slavery to sharecropping and small-scale agricultural production in the southern United States. Since then it has been a huge influence on American and Western popular music, finding expression in ragtime, jazz, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, hip-hop and country music, as well as in conventional pop songs. A great revival of interest in blues music began in the 1960s, when British bands such as The Rolling Stones and The Animals popularised the Chicago style blues in particular. One of those involved in this revival awas the late Albert King, who won a huge international fan base during his long career. Playing a Gibson Freddie KingFlying ‘V’ guitar left handed (strung upside down), his swaggering, sulphurous playing style was a major influence on the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore and many others. This album features many of King’s signature tunes – such as Born Under A Bad Sign (famously covered by Cream), Crosscut Saw, Oh Pretty Woman and I’ll Play The Blues For You, with recordings taken from various shows throughout the 1970s. Best of all is an epic version of T-Bone Walker’s classic Stormy Monday recorded live at The Forum in Hollywood, California. FREDDIE KING - LIVE AND LOUD (FLOATING WORLD FLOATM6243) features another of the fabled ‘Three Kings of The Blues’, alongside Albert and BB King. Much of this album is culled from a show at the Fillmore West venue in 1968 and contains two takes on the fabulous Freddie King’s fiery instrumental hit, Hideaway (as recorded by John Mayall), as well as a scintillating Have You Ever Loved A Woman and the pile-driving Going Down. Freddie King died in the mid-seventies aged only 42, but was far from a spent musical force. This recording captures the Texan guitar ace at the top of his game.


Classic Appalachian BluesThe Appalachia cultural region of the United States stretches from the southern New York state to northern Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. A somewhat isolated place, Appalachia has been a source of enduring myths and distortions regarding its population: moonshining, clan feuds, violence and poverty. Traditional Appalachian music is mainly derived from the English and Scottish ballads and Irish and Scottish fiddle music but African-American blues musicians played a significant role in the instrumental aspects of its development, most notably with the introduction of the five-stringed banjo. Commercial recordings of Appalachian musicians in the 1920s had a significant impact on the development of country music, bluegrass and old-time music. The ‘mountain cousin’ of the Delta blues, Appalachian blues is a distinctive blend of European and African styles and sounds born at the cultural crossroads of railroad camps, mines and rural settlements. This compilation features music from the Southern Appalachians and includes performers from deep in the mountains as well as from the foothills leading up to them. Many of these recordings are from the collection of Folkways Records founder, Moses Asch, together with recordings from 43 years of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (formerly the Festival of American Folklife). The 21 tracks feature such bedrock acoustic blues performers as Pink Anderson, Lesley Riddle, Etta Baker, John Jackson and Doc Watson (an exquisite live version of Sitting on Top of the World). Other highlights include Sticks McGhee’s hit song Drinkin’ Wine (Spo-Dee-O-Dee), Bill Williams’s Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down, Roscoe Holcomb’s arrangement of Mississippi Heavy Water Blues, the brilliant finger-picking of Reverend Gary Davis on Hesitation Blues, and Archie Edwards’s surprisingly joyful The Road is Rough and Rocky. This album comes with a 40-page booklet containing comprehensive notes by Barry Lee Pearson and archivist Jeff Place. As Pearson says, a lot of emphasis is put on instrumental dexterity, letting the guitar do the talking in this melodic, ragtime-influenced version of the blues.


Blind Lemon JeffersonThe blues as a vocal and instrumental form of music evolved in the United States in the communities of former African slaves, especially in the Mississippi Delta. Growing out of spirituals, praise songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, blue notes and the prominence of call-and-response patterns in the music and lyrics are indicative of its West African pedigree. Texas-born Lemon Henry Jefferson was one of the most popular 1920s blues singers, whose music influenced artists such as Charley Patton, B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Son House and Robert Johnson. Dubbed the ‘Father of the Texas Blues’, Blind Lemon Jefferson had a mesmerizing guitar-picking style and an impressive vocal range. He died aged only 36 and sang his own epitaph throughout this life, a grizzly anecdote that forms the refrain of his most well-known and most-covered song, ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’. Characteristic of his style, the lyrics to the song are laced through with sour notes of irony that are underpinned by his brooding bluesy guitar. Rough Guide’s excellent new release features a lovingly remastered selection of this blues legend’s varied repertoire, from deepest blues to raucous ragtime and God-fearing gospel. A bonus album, The Rough Guide To Country Blues Pioneers, includes 24 tracks by the famous names that Blind Lemon Jefferson inspired, such as Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Willie McTell, Bukka White, Mississippi John Hurt, Leadbelly, Robert Johnson and Memphis Minnie. There are also rarities by less well-known names such as Frank Stokes, Willie Brown, Teddy Darby and Barbecue Bob. Highly recommended.


Blind Willie JohnsonLike Blind Lemon Jefferson, gospel blues singer and guitarist Willie Johnson was born in Texas. When he was five, he told his father that he wanted to be a preacher and then made himself a cigar box guitar. Johnson was not born blind and it is not known for certain how he lost his sight. According to one account, it happened after his stepmother threw lye in his face following a violent argument with his father. While the lyrics of Johnson’s songs were often religious, his music drew from both sacred and blues traditions and is distinguished by his powerful bass thumb-picking and gravelly bass voice. Blind Willie Johnson remained poor all his life, preaching and singing in the streets of Texas cities such as Beaumont, where in 1945 his home burned to the ground. With nowhere else to go, he lived in the burned ruins, sleeping on a wet bed in the Texas summer heat until he contracted malarial fever and died in September that year. His exact gravesite remains unknown. The Rough Guide To Blind Willie Johnson features the music of this fire-and-brimstone guitar evangelist who played sacred songs so mean that his legacy has gone down in blues history. The mesmerizing bottleneck guitar is superbly captured on remastered classics such as ‘Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground’ and ‘God Moves On The Water’. World Music Network have painstakingly remastered the warped and hissing recordings that exist of Johnson, and his slide guitar technique sparkles and fizzes out across the texture like never before. As testament to his earth-shaking and historically significant style, Johnson’s recording of ‘Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground’ was included on the Voyager space probe, a rocket that was sent on a mission to seek out other life forms in the universe. A bonus album, The Rough Guide To Gospel Blues Legends, includes 19 tracks by religion-inspired artists such as Reverend Gary Davies, Blind Roosevelt Graves, Rev Edward Clayborn (The Guitar Evangelist), Josh White, Blind Willie Davis and Washington Phillips. Like Blind Willie Johnson, these artists straddled the line between the Lord’s song and that of the old blues style.


Fred McDowellJohnny ShinesCountry blues singer and guitar player Mississippi Fred McDowell was born in Rossville, Tennessee. He started playing guitar at the age of 14 and played at dances around his home town. His parents were farmers, who died when he was a youth, and McDowell moved to Memphis, where he worked in the Buck-Eye feed mill, then went south into Mississippi to pick cotton while continuing to perform music at dances and picnics. Initially he played slide guitar using a pocket knife and then a slide made from a beef rib bone, later switching to a glass slide for its clearer sound. While often lumped together with Delta Blues singers, McDowell was actually the first of the bluesmen from the ‘North Mississippi’ region to achieve widespread recognition for his work. The 1950s brought a rising interest in American blues music and folk music and McDowell was discovered and recorded in 1959 by Alan Lomax and Shirley Collins. His records became popular and he performed regularly at festivals and clubs, sometimes on electric guitar rather than acoustic, often with younger rock musicians such as Bonnie Raitt and The Rolling Stones. This excellent double-disc set features archive recordings of Fred McDowell originally released on the Testament Records label in the middle to late 1960s. In this mix of blues and spirituals, McDowell’s powerful full-throated vocals and punchy yet sensitive bottleneck guitar work are augmented by his wife, the wonderful Annie Mae McDowall, with the Hunter’s Chapel Singers of Como, Mississippi, joining them on Amazing Grace. Retroworld has also released a double-disc set featuring Testament recordings by another equally important figure in the history of the Blues, Johnny Shines. His teacher in the art of bottleneck guitar was none other than Robert Johnson as the two men travelled and performed together for about two years in the mid-1930s. JOHNNY SHINES: BIG WALTER HORTON & STANDING AT THE CROSSROADS (FLOATD6188) features Shines on the first disc backed by a tight band that includes pianist Otis Spann, guitarist Luther Allison, and the great harmonica player Walter Horton. This contrasts with the stark, rural blues of the accompanying disc, Standing At The Crossroads. The influence of the likes of Fred McDowall and Johnny Shines continues to resonate down the years; nearly fifty years after these vital recordings, the Blues is still the wellspring from where much contemporary rock scene derives its musical nourishment. Other indispensable double-CD releases from Retroworld include FREDDIE KING: TEXAS IN MY BLUES (FLOATM6190), featuring live recordings taken from two shows, one recorded in Texas, the other in Oklahoma in 1976. One of the fabled ‘Three Kings Of The Blues’, Freddie King in sizzling form and the album includes his pile-driving version of Don Nix’s savage Going Down, Woman Across The River, and the Blues classic Sweet Home Chicago. This is powerful, finely-rendered stuff, and a timely reminder of the brilliance of a man who died unexpectedly young – aged only forty-two - in 1976.


Eric BurdonEric Burdon joined with Alan Price in Newcastle in the early 1960s to form The Animals, combining electric blues with rock and having massive gutsy hits with singles such as The House of the Rising Sun, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Boom Boom, and We Gotta Get out of This Place. The Animals became one of the leading bands of the British Invasion of America, where Burdon settled in San Francisco and joined forces with Californian funk rock band War before going on to various solo projects. He has released nearly 50 records but this latest album, released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of The Animals, is perhaps Eric Burdon’s most personal to date. The title reflects his lifelong passion to ‘express his own truth’, resulting is a deeply intimate, honest self-portrait, as well as an unsparing look, through his eyes, at religion, politics and the environment. Most of the 12 songs are self-penned and address the topics that he finds most urgent, intriguing and important. Co-produced with Tony Braunagel and recorded in Santa Barbara, ‘Til Your River Runs Dry shows convincingly why Burdon has been hailed by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the ‘100 Greatest Singers of All Time’. His unique sound incorporates those Newcastle roots along with his California dreams and the underlying inspiration of Mississippi Delta blues. Highlights include the powerful opening track, Water, an unrepentant Old Habits Die Hard (‘Nothing’s changed, I’m still the same’), Bo Diddley Special (a tribute to the most African musician America has ever known), Marc Cohn’s Medicine Man and a particularly bluesy Invitation To The White House. Eric Burdon has clearly lost none of his passion and remains, as ever, true to himself. He is currently working on a memoir and will be back on the road performing later this year.


Robin Trower2Robin Trower is one of the most acclaimed of British rock music’s elder statesmen. For his album Roots & Branches he has produced unique cover versions of classic blues and R n B tracks. Of the new album he says, ‘I started off thinking I would do a complete album of covers, I wanted to get as far away from the originals as possible. I came up with half a dozen arrangements, which felt different enough, so I ended up writing some new songs as well. I have tried to make the new songs be influenced by what I have done with the classics, so the album blends together.’ The unassuming guitar virtuoso has, over the forty-odd years since his departure from Procol Harum, assembled a remarkable body of work, including the epochal Bridge of Sighs album in 1974. His music has never made concessions to commercial demands, and his improvisational skills have consistently re-set the bar in terms of blues-soaked inspiration and intensity. Highlights on this impressive CD include That’s all right Mama, a particularly bluesy Little Red Rooster, Hound Dog, The Thrill Has Gone, Born Under a Bad Sign and the Jimi Hendrix-inspired See My Life. This is exciting, driving music from one of the most talented musicians that the UK has ever produced.


Julian SasSince they got together about seven years ago, The Julian Sas Band have released seven CD's and a DVD and have played many gigs around Europe. Julian Sas lives in Beneden Leeuwen, a small town in what might be called the Blues Delta of The Netherlands. Already being compared to American guitar giants such as Johnny Winter, Walter Trout and Jimi Hendrix, Sas can play loud and aggressive as well as heartrendingly subtle, and no-one can play a boogie like he does. Most of his songs are based on riffs of John Lee Hooker, Freddy King, Willy Dixon, Memphis Slim or other major blues artists, and he's a great fan of the late Rory Gallagher. Pierre de Haard, the drummer in the band, lives in Germany and is also known as the ‘Boogie Machine’. Tenny Tahamata, of Moluccan origin, is the bass player and formerly accompanied Curtis Knight until his death. Willem van de Schoof guests on the Hammond organ for the band's latest album, Bound To Roll. This is a fine collection of no-nonsense, mostly up-tempo blues that took two and a half years to make. It is, confirms Sas, ‘a very personal record. This album is about pleasure, enjoyment, love, loss, pain and sadness. About real life, about the blues, about experiences that, I hope, made me stronger and a better human being. For me making this album was a way of dealing with my emotions.’ Three covers rub shoulders with the nine original compositions, namely: Shadow Play (Rory Gallagher), 30 Days In The Hole (Steve Marriott) and a high-powered Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan). Other highlights include Life On The Line, Mercy, The Blues Won’t Stay, and the slower tempo How Could I Have Been So Blind and Burnin’ Bridges. Arguably Europe’s best blues guitarist, Julian Sas will play a short series of dates in the UK in and around the Easter Weekend and is expected to play more dates here later in 2013.


Lester ButlerAmerican blues harmonica player and singer Lester Butler was born in Virginia in 1959 and achieved fame as a member of the Los Angeles, California, based blues roots band, The Red Devils. After the breakup of that band, Butler also fronted the band, 13, releasing one self-titled record on Hightone Records in 1997. The original members of 13 included Kid Ramos on guitar, James Intveld on bass and Johnny Morgan on drums. The recorded release of 13 on Hightone Records and produced by Warren Croyle features Stephen Hodges and Johnny Morgan on drums, Tom Leavey and James Moore on bass, Andy Kaulkin on keyboards, Alex Schultz, Smokey Hormel, Paul Bryant, and Doug Hamlin on guitar. Lester Butler achieved his greatest following in Europe, especially the Netherlands, and seemed to be heading for greater fame when he died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine in 1998, in Los Angeles, at the age of just 38. Butler’s superb, high energy blues rock re-invented the music for a younger audience and this welcome re-release, 13 Featuring Lester Butler, is a brilliant sixteen track collection that mixes his own material with raucous covers of songs by Elmore James, Dr Ross, Billy Boy Arnold, Big Joe Williams, Howlin Wolf and Willie Dixon. Irresistible, even to blues purists.


Howlin WolfChester Arthur Burnett, better known as blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player Howlin’ Wolf, was born in White Station, Mississippi, in 1910. With his distinctive booming voice and huge physical presence (6 feet, 6 inches tall and close to 300 pounds), he became one of the greatest andmost influential electric blues performers of all time. Along with Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), and Little Walter Jacobs, Howlin’ Wolf was one of the pillars of the Chicago Blues music scene and recorded for the legendary Chess label. His fearsome voice has been compared to ‘the sound of heavy machinery operating on a gravel road’ and many of the songs he popularised - such as Smokestack Lightnin’, Back Door Man and "Spoonful - became standards of blues and blues rock. This three CD and DVD set revolves around the great bluesman and other artists that influenced him, including Charley Patton, Skip James, Jimmie Rodgers and Sonny Boy Williamson as well as the less well-known Harlem Hamfats, Johnny Temple and Tommy Johnson. There are 41 tracks by Howlin’ Wolf himself, an excellent booklet and a DVD, ‘Talkin Howlin’ Wolf’, with insightful interviews by, among others, Bob Brozman, Sid Griffin, Charlie Musselwhite, Paul Oliverand and Charles Shaar Murray. ‘When I heard Howlin’ Wolf, I said, ‘This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.’ - Sam Phillips. Highly recommended.


The CraveSinger, songwriter and guitar supremo Stephen Dale Petit grew up in Huntington Beach, a small surf town south of Los Angeles, where he met blues greats such as Albert King and B.B. King and performed in bars and clubs with bands ten years his senior. In the mid 1980’s, inspired by the British blues boom, he moved to London, where guitarists such as Jimmy Page, Peter Green and Jimi Hendrix were adapting and developing old blues musical styles originating in the American South. The British boom re-established the blues, creating exciting new sounds and inspiring the creativity of a young Petit. During his early years in the UK, he toured in Phil May of the Pretty Things ‘Friends Band’ and performed with Eric Clapton. In late 2003, he began busking on the London Underground, followed in the tradition of blues artists such as Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Petit attracted considerable media attention before releasing his debut album, Guitararama, Guitar Magazine’s 2008 Album of the Year. He was soon acclaimed as one of the leading artists of the New Blues Revolution, reviving the blues as an independent cutting edge genre of music. The Crave is Petit’s follow-up to Guitararama and contains some ferocious, rocking New Blues monsters alongside classics by the likes of Robert Johnson, Fleetwood Mac, Little Willie John and Albert King. ‘Updates of classic blues songs often don’t work but this one certainly does’ - Paul Jones, BBC Radio 2.


Really the Blues, Vol. 1Produced by Allen Lowe, this invaluable box set by Allen Lowe includes rare recordings by, among many others, Bert Williams, W.C. Handy, Al Bernard, Wilbur Sweatman, Mamie Smith, Kid Ory, Marion Harris, Ethel Waters, Sophie Tucker, Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, Bessie Smith, King Oliver and Blind Lemon Jefferson. These state-of-the art digital restorations are arranged in chronological order over nine CDs, with over 100 pages of fully illustrated notes on an invaluable additional CD-ROM, making this the most comprehensive audio history of the blues ever attempted. Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Mississippi John Hurt are among the better-known performers here but there are many outstanding recordings also by artists that will be unfamiliar even to most blues afficionados. Tracks range from some of the earliest known recordings to the 1920s and cover a vast range of musical styles. This fascinating collection, the first in a projected four-volume series celebrating the complete history of blues music from 1893-1959, is highly recommended.


Candy Man BluesThe influential country blues singer and guitarist Mississippi John Hurt was born in 1893 (or possibly 1892) and raised in Avalon, Mississippi. He learned to play guitar from the age of nine and spent much of his youth playing old time music for friends, earning a living as a farm hand into the 1920s. In 1923 he partnered with the fiddle player Willie Narmour, who recommended John Hurt to Okeh Records producer Tommy Rockwell. After auditioning Monday Morning Blues at his home, he took part in two recording sessions, in Memphis and New York City. The ‘Mississippi’ tag was added by Okeh as a sales gimmick. The records were a commercial failure and Okeh Records going out of business during the Great Depression, so Hurt returned to Avalon and obscurity, living with his 14 children, working as a sharecropper and playing local parties and dances. In 1963, folk musicologist Tom Hoskins, inspired by the recordings, rediscovered the singer and encouraged him to move to Washington, D.C.. His subsequent performance at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival resulted in his becoming a star amongst the new folk revival audience, and before his death in 1966 he played extensively in colleges, concert halls and coffee houses in Washington, D.C. He recorded three albums for Vanguard Records and much of his repertoire was also recorded for the Library of Congress. He wasn’t primarily a blues man but more a storyteller and collector of popular songs, playing with quiet dignity a mix of country, blues and old time music. His gentle and expressive voice, coupled with a superb finger-picking guitar style, can be heard to good effect on these excellent 1963 recordings. Highlights include the famous title track, Avalon Blues, the tender Louis Collins, and two versions of the Casey Jones story. This album is part of Rounder’s brilliant Perfect 10 series of essential recordings, which also includes albums by Ted Hawkins and Loudon Wainwright III. COLD AND BITTER TEARS (CDROUN2206) features the rough-edged soul/country voice and simple acoustic guitar of the scandalously neglected Ted Hawkins. His moody world is full with the life of a street singer, reflected in dark and often quirky songs that are balanced with a surprisingly upbeat sense of humour. Before the release of his 1982 debut album on Rounder Records, Ted Hawkins earned his living by busking on the boardwalk at Venice Beach, California, a venue that he never completely abandoned even though he was a world-class singer with one of the most powerful and moving voices in American music, as well as a deeply personal songwriting style that drew equally on soul and country roots. These haunting tracks represent the true and unmitigated soul of Ted Hawkins. ONE MAN GUY (CDROUN3262) features the unique Loudon Wainwright III, who has been making records for nearly 40 years and has earned himself a special place in the American Songbook. His poignant songs are searingly honest and heartfelt, with often highly personal lyrics, biting humour, passion and an underrated gift for melody. Instantly recognisable for his voice and for his fine guitar playing, these ten songs from his Rounder years are all are unmistakably Loudon. Highlights include Out of This World, a live version of his classic School days, and the desperate Motel Blues. Essential listening.


Chester Arthur Burnett, better known as blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player Howlin’ Wolf, was born in White Station, Mississippi, in 1910. With his distinctive booming voice and huge physical presence (6 feet, 6 inches tall and close to 300 pounds), he became one of the greatest andmost influential electric blues performers of all time. Along with Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), and Little Walter Jacobs, Howlin’ Wolf was one of the pillars of the Chicago Blues music scene and recorded for the legendary Chess label. His fearsome voice has been compared to ‘the sound of heavy machinery operating on a gravel road’ and many of the songs he popularised - such as Smokestack Lightnin’, Back Door Man and "Spoonful - became standards of blues and blues rock. This three CD and DVD set revolves around the great bluesman and other artists that influenced him, including Charley Patton, Skip James, Jimmie Rodgers and Sonny Boy Williamson as well as the less well-known Harlem Hamfats, Johnny Temple and Tommy Johnson. There are 41 tracks by Howlin’ Wolf himself, an excellent booklet and a DVD, ‘Talkin Howlin’ Wolf’, with insightful interviews by, among others, Bob Brozman, Sid Griffin, Charlie Musselwhite, Paul Oliverand and Charles Shaar Murray. ‘When I heard Howlin’ Wolf, I said, ‘This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.’ - Sam Phillips. Highly recommended.


Oli Brown has played guitar since the age of twelve and his first main influence was Jimi Hendrix. In 2005, when invited to the States to guest with American Blues band Blinddog Smokin’, he learned about stage performance, soloing and some of the history and meaning of the Blues, which has all helped develop his writing, singing and playing to produce a formidable performer. He has opened for artists such as Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal in the States and back in England has played alongside the legendary John Mayall. The latter is highly significant, as Oli Brown’s music stands comparison with the great British blues bands of the 1960s. As well as Hendrix, other influences include Chris Cain, Albert Collins, Freddie King, B.B. King, Albert King and Tom Waits. Towards the end of 2006, whilst playing at jam sessions in Norwich, Brown met drummer Simon Dring and asked him to join the band. Talented bass player Fred Hollis soon joined and in March 2007 the Oli Brown Band performed their first gig at The Walnut Tree Shades in Norwich. Since then they have played up and down the country to increasing acclaim, recorded a live session for BBC Radio 2’s Paul Jones Blues Show, and signed to Ruf Records. The excellent Open Road, Oli Brown’s first official album, was recorded in Germany and proves that the authentic blues sound is alive and in safe young hands. ‘A great talent’ – John Mayall.


Legendary American singer-songwriter Dion Francis DiMucci, better known as Dion, was born in 1939 to an Italian-American family in the Bronx borough of New York City. As a child, he accompanied his father, a vaudeville entertainer, on tour, and developed a love of country music - particularly Hank Williams - and the blues and doo-wop stars of the time. His began singing on the street corners and in local clubs before recording singles such as ‘A Teenager In Love’ and ‘Where or When’with his friends, The Belmonts. In early 1960, Dion checked in to hospital for heroin addiction then started on a solo career, having worldwide hits such as ‘Runaround Sue’ and ‘The Wanderer’. Changing public tastes led to a period of commercial decline but in 1987 he appeared at a fundraiser for homeless medical relief, alongside fans such as Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Lou Reed, and began recording again. More recently he has found success with a winning blend of blues and country standards and his lived-in voice can be heard in this vein on this latest album. Highlights include Chuck Berry’s Nadine, Willy Dixon’s My Babe and classics by Sleepy John Estes (the brilliant Drop Down Mama), Robert Johnson (Preachin’ Blues) and, of course, Skip James. There are also two fine Dion originals and the spoken Interlude (Dylan Story). This is deep and affecting music from a veteran artist who sounds fully at home after finding his way back to his roots.


The guitarist, singer and composer Eric Patrick Clapton, nicknamed ‘Slowhand’, was born in 1945 in Surrey, England. He became one of the world’s most respected and influential musicians, with a style that has always been rooted in the blues. In 1963 he joined The Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock and roll band, and stayed with them until March 1965. Synthesising influences from Chicago blues and guitarists such as Freddie King and B.B. King, Clapton forged a distinctive style and soon became one of the most talked-about guitarists in the British music scene. The band initially played covers of Chess/Checker/Vee-Jay blues numbers and began to attract a large cult following when they took over the Rolling Stones’ residency at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond. They toured England with American bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson and a joint LP, recorded in 1963, was issued belatedly under both their names in 1965. Clapton left the Yardbirds after taking exception to the band’s pop-oriented direction and joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in April 1965. The tracks on this album date from 1963-66 and represent Clapton’s first accomplished recordings as a student of the blues, when his embryonic talent flourished to the extent that his followers began daubing ‘Clapton Is God’ on walls around London. Titles include John Lee Hooker’s classic Boom Boom, For Your Love (Clapton’s last recording with the Yardbirds), several tracks with the legendary Bluesbreakers, and some of the finest live British blues ever recorded (at the famed Marquee Club). Best of all are the six tracks that feature jam sessions recorded in 1965 at Jimmy Page’s house, with famous name guests such as Mick Jagger and Bill Wyman. Eric Clapton has taken a few musical diversions in the last fifty years but this exciting collection proves conclusively that his talent was always best served by playing traditional blues. An accompanying booklet includes comprehensive notes on all the recordings featured. Highly recommended.


Blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter Gwyn Ashton was born in Wales and raised in South Australia. At an early age he developed a love for blues and rock music began learning to play guitar from the age of 11. He formed his first professional band in his teens to play local blues clubs and bars before going on the road across Australia. He now tours and performs his infectious brand of slide guitar-filled blues-rock in countries worldwide, including the United States and Europe. Ashton is joined on this new album by bass player Chris Glen and drummer Ted McKenna, with a cameo by the acclaimed keyboard player Don Airey. Prohibition shuffles a smart selection of tough rocking styles, from the blues-soaked Ball & Chain, through to more lyrical forays such as Castaway and the demonic Bo Diddley-esque shuffle of the title track. The album also includes a soulful tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rest In Paradise. Every element of the blues is encapsulated here and played with amazing dexterity and power. Old Strats, Teles, National resonators, Fender tweed amps, fuzz boxes and his ancient Echoplex are driven to the extreme, guaranteed to satisfy the most discriminating taste in guitar-led blues. Gwyn Ashton’s formidable virtuoso guitar work is perfectly balanced by the Glen/McKenna axis to keep things devastatingly simple. Prohibition captures Ashton in his finest rocking blues performance to date, blending Mississippi, New Orleans and Texas blues, 60s surf, British 70s rock and no-holds-barred Australian boogie. Highly recommended.


Guitar virtuoso Bob Brozman’s latest ground-breaking CD is an all-acoustic collection of songs inspired by traditional blues artists and the many musical influences Brozman has absorbed on his travels. The album features several National guitars, Bear Creek Hawaiian guitars, baglama, percussion and vocals by Bob Brozman, with Greg Graber on drums for three songs. Blues Reflex uniquely combines Delta blues with music from the Pacific Islands in a highly enjoyable and eclectic fashion. Highlights include Dead Cat on the Line (a traditional field holler with a modern edge), the Charley Patton-inspired RattlesnakeBlues, the wonderfully spooky Death Come Creepin’, Poor Me, the Skip James classic Cypress Grove Blues, New Guinea Blues (in the unusual ‘plucking’ style of the Gilnatta String Band from Myoko, East New Britain), a heartfelt It’s Mercy We Need, More Room at the Edge and Workman’s Song (a lullaby for tired working people everywhere). With Blues Reflex, Brozman shows that it’s possible to remain true to the blues tradition while being open to world and modern influences. More of his music can be heard on the excellent Songs of the Volcano.


The third disc in this superb box set of four CDs features 15 essential tracks by blues pioneers such as Robert Johnson (Hellhound On My Trail), the eery voice of Blind Willie McTell (Statesboro’ Blues), Blind Lemon Jefferson, the underrated Bukka White (Fixin’ To Die Blues), Mississippi John Hurt, Leadbelly (The Bourgeois Blues) and Blind Willie Johnson (Dark Was The Night). The other three discs are titled Blues Legends (including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, B.B.King, Memphis Slim, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Witherspoon), Blues Divas (Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Victoria Spivey, Memphis Minnie, Big Maybelle and Big Mama Thornton) and Blues ‘n’ Boogie (Little Esther, Big Joe Turner, Billy Eckstine, Johnny Otis and The Ravens). Altogether there are 60 tracks and more than three hours of superb blues music. Many of the classic tracks will be very familiar to blues addicts but it’s also good to hear music by some less well-known artists, especially divas such as Ida Cox (the wonderful Hard Times Blues), Mamie Smith (first black female singer to record a vocal blues), Ethel waters (a heartbreaking version of Stormy Weather) and the wonderfully expressive Sippie Wallace (I’m A Mighty Tight Woman). Simply Blues is the latest compilation in an wide-ranging series from Union square that also includes Simply Jazz and the excellent Simply World (SIMPLYCD019).


John Cohen made these historic recordings in the home of Reverend Gary Davis in early 1953 and these wonderfully informal tracks predate the Reverend’s seminal albums. The irresistible CD features Davis singing with his wife and another preacher, and the music provides a window into the world of a blind preacher caught between the blues and the church. The tracks include If I Had My Way, If The Lord Be For You, Twelve Gates to The City, You Got To Move, A Friend Like Lonely Jesus, Shine On Me, Say No to The Devil, Give Me A Heart to Love and Got On My Traveling Shoes. Ten of these 18 songs were never recorded again and are unavailable anywhere else, making this an essential album for the many peaople who appreciate Davis’s moving and accomplished artistry. Extensive notes and photographs are included.


Blues music, which evolved from African American spirituals, work songs, shouts and chants, has been a massive influence on modern Western music styles. In the 1940s and 1950s, electric blues music predominated, with artists as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, T-Bone Walker and John Lee Hooker. In the 1960s, a remarkable surge of interest in the blues took hold among young white audiences, especially in the UK. Bands such as Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and the Animals covered classic early Delta Blues numbers as well as electric blues from Chicago. These musicians in turn inspired American acts such as Canned Heat and Johnny Winter, both of whom feature this eclectic collection. The 54 tracks are more or less equally divided between classic greats (such as Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Memphis Slim, Son House and John Lee Hooker) and some of the finest 60s revival groups (Canned Heat, John Mayall, Alexis Korner, the underrated Groundhogs and Johnny Winter). This fascinating release is a great introduction to late twentieth century blues. It is one of a series of great value 3-CD box sets from Disky, with others including Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll (CB 902118), Rock Explosion (CB 902728) and Punk Explosion (CB 902727).


The sometimes eerie sound of a bottleneck slide guitar has been heard on many film soundtracks, including Ry Cooder’s music for Paris, Texas. But the technique’s origins can be traced back to traditional West African tribal instruments that had a gourd resonator and strings, over which a bone or metal object would be dragged to produce music. African musical influences were introduced into America’s Mississippi Delta region, where many emancipated slaves migrated after the civil war and where the blues form was largely created. Delta blues still influences popular music today and the bottleneck style continues to fascinate. The Rough Guide To Bottleneck Blues features many fine recordings of original blues legends such as Fred McDowell, Blind Willie Johnson, Son House (Country Farm Blues), Robert Johnson (Come On In My Kitchen), Muddy Waters, Blind Willie McTell, Charley Patton and the wonderful Bukka White (Sic ’Em Dogs On). The album also includes bottleneck masters of more recent vintage, including Stefan Grossman, Jim & Bob (The Genial Hawaiians), John Fahey and Martin Simpson. This is music played with great skill and spell-binding intensity by masters of the bottleneck art.


Subtitled The Secret History of Rock and Roll, this four CD box set is a treasure trove of historic, mostly blues reissues from the vaults of Bluebird and RCA Victor. The 100 superbly remastered tracks feature music ranging from 70-year-old blues and country jug bands to the work of many influential post-Second World War performers. The first volume, Walk Right In, has Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers, Alberta Hunter (Beale Street Blues from 1927, with Fats Waller playing organ), Bukka White, Leadbelly and Paul Robeson's 1926 recording of Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child. Volume two, The First Time I Met the Blues, features Blind Willie McTell, Jimmie Rodgers and the wonderfully named Daddy Stovepipe & Mississippi Sarah. The third volume, That's Chicago's South Side, has such classics as Leroy Carr's When the Sun Goes Down, Big Bill Broonzy’s Keep Your Hands Off Her, and the great Sonny Boy Williamson’s Good Morning School Girl. The final volume, That's All Right, includes Doctor Clayton (Pearl Harbor Blues), boogie woogie piano pieces and such rock 'n' roll precursors as Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup's That's All Right, Sonny Terry’s Ride and Roll, and Little Richard's first recording from 1951 (Get Rich Quick). This invaluable collection, also available as individual CDs, is a rare treat for blues fans, and will interest anyone wanting to know how the blues influenced 1950s and 60s rock and roll. ‘A surprises-all-the-way switchback ride through one of the great catalogues of 20th century music’ - Mojo.


Robert Johnson, probably the most influential delta blues singer and guitarist in history, was born in Hazelhurst, Mississippi in 1911. By the time he died in 1938, allegedly as a result of drinking poisoned whisky, he had recorded only 29 songs on a total of 41 tracks in two recording sessions. The best of these recordings, including Sweet Home Chicago, Crossroads Blues and Terraplane Blues, feature here on the first of two great value CDs. Despite Johnson's undoubted originality he did not invent the blues, and the second CD explores some of his influences, many of them legends in their own right. These include Bukka White (Parchman Farm Blues), Bessie Smith, Blind Willie McTell (Mama, 'Tain't Long Fo' Day), Charley Patton (Screamin' And Hollerin' The Blues), the great Son House, Memphis Minnie, Roosevelt Sykes, Blind Lemon Jefferson (Easy Rider Blues) Lead Belly, Ma Rainey, Lonnie Johnson, Rev. Blind Gary Davis and Big Bill Broonzy. This essential double album serves as both a definitive collection of Robert Johnson’s work and a fascinating introduction into how the blues evolved.


This collection of singles, studio out-takes and live performances captures all the energy and excitement of one of the world’s best-known bands in its earlier blues incarnation. Man Of the World, included here, is the famous single version featuring Peter Green’s world-weary vocal and superb guitar playing. Among the other tracks are studio out-takes, alternative versions of blues classics or several live recordings. Black Magic Woman again features Green’s immaculate guitar work and there’s an rousing version of another hit single, Oh Well. Best of all, perhaps, is the powerful and disturbing performance of The Green Manalishi. There are hugely atmospheric performances recorded at London’s Marquee club (including great versions of Shake Your Moneymaker and Dust My Blues) where the fuzzy sound quality is more than compensated for by the verve and urgency of the music. This outstanding album will bring a nostalgic tear to the eye of anyone who experienced the British 1960s blues scene first hand, and proves that the music was every bit as good as remembered.


Sam Phillips opened his Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union Avenue in 1950 and this double CD gathers together a cleverly chosen selection of the marvellous music recorded there in the following ten or twelve years. Phillips had an uncanny knack for finding talent and this album features electric bluesmen such as Howlin’ Wolf, B.B.King, Little Junior Parker and Ike Turner, plus the artists who helped change the face of the twentieth century by inventing rock’n’roll. These include Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and the underrated Charlie Rich, heard here to great effect on three outstanding tracks. Among the lesser-known but highly enjoyable performers featured are The Miller Sisters, Charlie Feathers, Harold Jenkins (later Conway Twitty), Barbara Pittman and the splendidly named Narvel Felts. This generous 60-track collection makes a fine tribute to one of the greatest record labels ever.


Some of the finest blues performances of the second half of the twentieth century were produced in Chicago, where thousands of African-American migrants moved from the poor rural farm-based economy of the southern states. Blues music thrives today among second and third generation performers and The Rough Guide To Chicago Blues features a broad range of styles that evolved into the mature electric ensemble sound that characterises Chicago blues, delving into less-reissued performers, labels and styles, and illustrating the great and varied musical heritage that musicians repeatedly return to for inspiration and structure. Artists include John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Charlie Musselwhite, James Cotton/Billy Boy Arnold/Elvin Bishop, Elmore James, Nolan Struck, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Little Walter, Magic Sam, Roosevelt Sykes, Johnnie Jones, Koko Taylor, Hound Dog Taylor, Valerie Wellington, Eddy ‘The Chief’ Clearwater, Robert Nighthawk, Otis Spann, Robert Lockwood Junior/Otis Spann and John Littlejohn.


This vibrant CD reunites Peter Rowan, David Grisman and Vassar Clements from the original bluegrass boundary-breakers, Old & In The Way. These three outstanding musicians have combined with veteran banjo player and vocalist Herb Pedersen, who takes over the slot left by the late Jerry Garcia. Brynn Bright plays an inspired upright bass, replacing the late John Kahn. Together the group produces joyful bluegrass music that includes great versions of Bill Monroe’s On the Old Kentucky Shore, Flatt and Scruggs’ Let Those Brown Eyes Smile at Me, John Hartford’s Good Old Boys, and a masterly Pancho & Lefty, written by the legendary Townes Van Zandt.


In the early 1980s, the English Country Blues Band brought together musicians from opposite corners of the English folk scene in an innovative, barrier-demolishing blend, naturally anglicising blues and old-time country and finding new ways of looking at British traditional songs and tunes. These tracks from their two albums and one single feature the band’s core trio of Maggie Holland, Rod Stradling and Ian Anderson, regular members Chris Coe, Sue Harris and John Maxwell, and guests including Nic Jones, John Kirkpatrick, Dave Peabody and Danny Stradling. The tracks have been remastered from original tapes and there’s an extra new recording featuring the veteran English folk performer Bob Copper. Other standout tracks on this highly enjoyable CD include Weary Blues, Handsome Johnny and Rambling Boys of Pleasure.


The brilliant American guitarist and singer Robben Ford plays a compelling fusion rock, jazz and soul influenced blues. While crossing these musical genres this CD retains the power and essence of the blues in a most distinctive way, and the guitarist/vocalist/songwriter creates rich, rewarding sounds. As well as Robben Ford (guitar, vocals, wurlitzer electric piano and piano) Blue Moon also features Russell Ferrante (piano), Neil Larsen (organ, piano), Tom Brechtlein (drums), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Roscoe Beck (bass, 5-string bass), Jimmy Earl (electric bass), Lee R. Thornburg (trumpet, trombone), Dave "Woody" Woodford (tenor sax, baritone sax), Julie Christensen (vocal on Make Me Your Only One) and Louis Pardini (background vocal on Don't Deny Your Love).


The music on this outstanding CD takes you on a journey that follows the history of the blues from Minnesota back to the Deep South and the Delta. All the artists - a brilliantly chosen mix of classic and contemporary performers - demonstrate a close connection with the rural blues traditions as the CD features tracks by Luther Allison, Junior Wells, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, Artie White, Ike & Tina Turner (a stunning version of B B King’s 3 O’Clock in the Morning Blues), Bobby Bland (St James Infirmary), the great Mississippi John Hurt (his timeless Make me a Pallet on Your Floor), Chris Thomas King, John Lee Hooker (Baby Don’t do me Wrong), Memphis Minnie (I Got to Make a Change Blues) and Memphis Slim. This superb music is elegantly packaged with informative liner notes by Scott Jordan and a collection of highly evocative photographs.


European exploration of and expansion into North America was made possible by three important elements: beef bouillon, sauerkraut and melody. The latter has been lovingly recreated on this fine recording by the Press Gang with a selection from ‘Four Centuries of Maritime Music on the Chesapeake Bay’. The music ranges from traditional songs dating back to the reigns of Elizabeth and James I to Tin Pan Alley numbers of the early 20th Century. The Sailor’s Companion charts the history of a fascinating musical journey that has been meticulously researched by John Townley, who leads the Press Gang - a group of friends and fellow musicians ‘shanghaied’ into a recording studio for these sessions. Among them are the cellist Anne Waple, pianist Blanton Bradley and brilliant Scots fiddler John Turner. The CD comes complete with informative liner notes and evocative vintage maritime illustrations.


On this entrancing CD the gloriously pure voice of Stockholm-born Sofia Karlsson brings a sensitive beauty to a selection of traditional Swedish folk songs, religious hymns and chorales. Unobtrusive accompaniment by a fine group of musicians ensures the music’s integrity is maintained throughout. The other performers include Esbjorn Hazelius (citern, violin and voice), Leo Svensson (cello), Harald Haugaard (viola, violin) and special guest Johan Hedin (tenor kee fiddle).


The brilliant Swap’s music successfully blends Celtic and Swedish traditional influences with their own compositions to produce a highly individual sound. This lively, energetic music has become increasingly popular around the world, including England, the USA, Germany and Japan. The group consists of Ola Backstrom (violin), Ian Carr (guitar), Carina Normansson (violin and voice) and Kren Tweed (accordion). Highly recommended.

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