Saturday, May 29, 2010

North Carolina's Algia Mae Hinton

Algia Mae Hinton- Honey Babe

Album Review:
"Although North Carolina native Algia Mae Hinton began playing guitar in the late '30s at the age of ten, Honey Babe, her first full- length album (an EP appeared in the mid-'80s on Audio Arts) wasn't released until 1999 when Hinton was 68. A casual collection of Piedmont blues, folk pieces, and gospel tunes, Honey Babe is full of warmth and joy, and even features a little of Hinton's trademark buck dancing. She sounds like a cross between Etta Baker and Elizabeth Cotten, also both from North Carolina, although she isn't quite as precise a guitarist as the former (Hinton's title tune, "Honey Babe," is a variation on Baker's signature "Railroad Bill" progression) or as timeless a writer as the latter (whose "Freight Train" and "Shake Sugaree" compositions have become folk-blues standards). She shares Cotten's fragile, delicate singing style as well, although Hinton's wry humor is all her own, and her sheer delight in music and motion is everywhere evident on this album. Among the highlights are "Honey Babe," "Snap Your Fingers," and an impressive turn at the banjo for "Out of Jail." "

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Lonnie In The '40s & '50s

Lonnie Johnson- Me And My Crazy Self

Album Review:
"With a firm emphasis on the less schmaltzy side of Johnson's 1947-1952 stint at Cincinnati's King Records, this 20-tracker finds the blues pioneer coming into the age of electric blues and R&B quite adroitly. His dignified vocal style similarly weathered the ensuing decades nicely -- "You Can't Buy Love," "Friendless Blues," and the title track are bittersweet outings sporting multiple levels of subtlety."

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Indianapolis Grit

Pete Franklin- Guitar Pete's Blues

"Q: Have you always played in the same style, or have you tried to change recently to keep up with the times?

A: Well, in a way of speaking I have changed a bit, to keep up, but generally it is along the same lines. I like a certain blues that I like better. And I can play two types. In fact I can play folk blues...

Q: What do you consider "folk blues"?

A: These are the original blues that came out of the cotton fields. And then there is, like I said, the modern type on the style of T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, and all the rest. Well, I try to play a little of that too.

Q: But you like the old style best.

A: That's my heart. The old style is what I really dig the most.

Q: Are there very many playing in the old style left in Indianapolis still?

A: Well, just about all the guys I named off are old, not that old. They aren't ancient, I'll put it that way.

As far as young musicians playing folk blues- you never find them. The youngest one that I know is Meshack Thacker and he's about 35 or 36 years old. Frankly, I believe that me and Meshack are the youngest.

Q: Are the older people who play country blues from all around the South or are most of them from, say, Mississippi, or...

A: Every one of them I know is from the South except me. The others are not from any certain section. I know them from Kentucky, from Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, from Mississippi. All over.

Q: Do you think that there is a certain sound that developed, perhaps from the influence of the people coming from different parts of the South, into what could be called the "Indianapolis blues sound"?

A: Yes, I think so.

Q: Could you define or characterize it?

A: Well, just about all of us that lived in Indianapolis at that time played on the order of Scrapper Blackwell.

Q: So that Scrapper was a very influential person then...

A: No, there were guys that played guitar like that before Scrapper was born but they just were never heard of!

Q: Then it's not really true that Scrapper was a large influence around Indianapolis and that people copied his style.

A: In other words, I could play a guitar plenty before I ever went around the corner with Scrapper Blackwell and I definitely didn't learn anything from him. Neither did I copy his records. But just being around him every day and being around Jesse Eldridge every day, now that's who I tried to practice after.

Q: Do you think that Scrapper learned as much from Jesse as he did develop his own style?

A: Well, now Jesse didn't only play blues, he played more than blues. Scrapper, he played only blues.

Q: With regards to blues do you think that Scrapper would have listened to Jesse or developed his own style?

A: Scrapper didn't originate that style of playing. I don't know who did but I been hearing that style of playing guitar ever since I was a small boy. Like I said, a lot of them boys didn't even know Scrapper. I'm not down on Scrapper, because I think that he was one of the best that ever lived playing blues, but as far as creating that whole style by himself, he didn't. I can say the same for Wes Montgomery. I showed Wes some chords, and almost everyone who played guitar in Indianapolis knew Wes, he didn't originate that style. Those octaves what he plays, he originated that style. I'll go along with that, but when he left Indianapolis he wasn't playing no octaves, and I'm sorry that he played those octaves because, frankly, Wes plays so much guitar till them octaves... His fingers were as fast as greased lightning but he sat there playing with them octaves. He felt the same way but the public liked it. I'll tell you something else, Wes Montgomery hated blues anyway you burn it? He was a jazz man all times. I knew him before he could tune a guitar."
-Living Blues Magazine,

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Just Like Minnie

Jo Ann Kelly- Black Rat Swing (Disc 1)

Album Review:
"This double CD by the best blueswoman England ever produced isn't new; it's actually a compilation from material already available on the Mooncrest label. But it's hard to criticize the recycling (unless you already own the other discs), as it provides a superb introduction to her raw style. Helped out by a number of others, this is a varied set, ranging from the unaccompanied "Levee Camp Moan," to several live cuts, or her cover of Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway." Listening to the 45 tracks here (actually a condensation of the other CDs), the first question has to be: Why is she so unknown? In many ways, Kelly was everything Memphis Minnie aspired to be, an excellent guitar player, blessed with one of the most affecting voices in blues, and a huge compositional talent (her own "Love Blind," for example, sits perfectly naturally next to the traditional "Death Have Mercy"). Recorded between 1964 and 1968, she was still in her ascendancy -- dying at the young age of 46 -- and acoustic blues still seemed like a way forward. To call this a vital album of British blues isn't overstating the case at all. Jo Ann Kelly was one of the best, and this is all the proof anyone needs."

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Tuna & Blues Sandwich

Hot Tuna- Hot Tuna

Album Review:
"When Hot Tuna's self-titled debut album was released in May 1970, it seemed like the perfect spin-off project for a major rock group, Jefferson Airplane's lead guitarist and bass player indulging in a genre exercise by playing a set of old folk-blues tunes in a Berkeley coffeehouse. The music seemed as far removed from the Airplane's acid rock roar as it did from commercial prospects, and thus, it allowed these sometimes overlooked bandmembers to blow off some steam musically without threatening their day jobs. In retrospect, however, it's easy to hear that something more was going on. Friends since their teens, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady had developed a musical rapport that anchored the Airplane sound but also existed independently of it, and shorn of the rock band arrangements and much of the electricity (Casady still played an electric bass), their interplay was all the more apparent. Kaukonen remained the accomplished fingerpicking stylist he had been before joining the Airplane, while Casady dispensed with the usual timekeeping duties of the bass in favor of extensive contrapuntal soloing, creating a musical conversation that was unique. It was put at the service of a batch of songs by the likes of the Reverend Gary Davis and Jelly Roll Morton with the occasional Kaukonen original thrown in, making for a distinct style. Kaukonen's wry singing showed an intense identification with the material that kept it from seeming repetitious despite the essential similarities of the tunes. (Harmonica player Will Scarlett also contributed to the mood.) The result was less an indulgence than a new direction. "

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