Robert Johnson wrote and recorded “Crossroads” in the mid-1930s.
Many, myself included, consider it the icon blues song, a cultural achievement of a high order, like the blues itself.
Those acoustic songs were the platform on which Chicago’s electric blues were built in the 1950s and, a decade later, a fusion of blues and rock.
What today’s best blues-rockers have done with it is amazing, original . . . and it has kept the genre alive, not as a relic but as a living, evolving musical form.
Just listen to Sheryl and those great backup singers, carried forward on a wave of guitars and some mighty inventive percussion.
With North Korean missiles threatening, I’d say it’s time for some uptempo, rockin’ blues.
I posted Joe Bonamassa’s version of Let the Good Times Roll exactly one year ago, as Tim Favero reminded me, and it’s time to go to that deep well again.
So, here’s Riley B. King with Buddy Guy, Branford Marsalis, Kim Wilson, and Dr John.
In case you don’t recognize Kim’s name, he was the front man for The Fabulous Thunderbirds (“Ain’t That Tuff Enough?” and “Wrap It Up”) and is one of the great blues harmonica players today (along with Charlie Musselwhite).
Here are Gregg, Duane, Dickey Betts, and the Band in their iconic 1970 performance at Fillmore West
“Tie Me to the Whipping Post”
Blending southern blues-rock with the acid-rock rhythms of San Francisco, they created something unique.
And lasting, unlike nearly all the acid music of that era, which sounds like a time capsule.
Btw, also on the bill that night: The Byrds, Elvin Bishop, and Van Morrison. Good ticket, I’d say.
Here’s Gregg, chatting with Conan in 2012, remembering that concert.
My favorite song of Gregg’s is Southbound. It’s what kick-ass Southern rock is about. Here’s a great performance–so live you can feel the electricity in the room–done when the song came out in 1973.
Rest in Peace, Gregg, wherever you are bound.
Some phrases capture an essential truth.
That’s why Rodney Dangerfield’s “I can’t get no respect” is so great. It is a universal human cry, and his whole persona manages to convey it.
It is the comedic version of Death of a Salesman’s Willie Loman. As Willie’s wife says of him “attention must be paid.”
Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.
–Linda Loman speaking of her husband, Willie Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Blues music is filled with such universal cries from the heart. One that particularly resonates is Albert King’s 1967 classic, Born Under a Bad Sign (lyrics by William Bell, music by Booker T. Jones). Albert King’s version is a landmark in electric-blues history, leavening the self-pity with humor: “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.” (The original recording is here.)
Here is Joe Bonamassa, one of today’s best blues/rock guitarists, with backup singers that remind me of Ray Charles’ “Raylettes.”
Quinn Sullivan is a blues prodigy. Like Derek Trucks, he began very young and just keeps getting better.
I first heard Quinn when he was 8 years old. He had been introduced backstage to Buddy Guy, who generously invited him on stage, and played along with him–something they have done ever since.
Now, Quinn is 17 and producing his own version of the blues. Here, from his 2017 album, Midnight Highway, is “Something for Me.”
It begins slowly. Give it time. The guitar work later in the song is wonderful.
And his line, “You’ve got something for me,” has at least a touch of John Lee Hooker’s characteristic snarl of lust.
If you want to watch him as an 8-year-old with Buddy, here it is:
Joe Bonamassa and Mahalia Barnes’ version of “Riding with the King”
Joe Bonamassa, a fabulous guitarist, and Mahalia Barnes, with her great voice, do a flat-out version of “Riding with the King.” (For some reason, they pluralize it: Riding with the Kings.)
You have probably heard the version by Clapton and B.B.
I dreamed I had a good job and I got well paid.
I blew it all at the penny arcade.
A hundred dollars on a kewpie doll.
No pretty chick is gonna make me crawl.
I stepped out of Mississippi when I was ten years old
With a suit cut sharp as a razor and a heart made of gold.
I had a guitar hanging just about waist high
And I’m gonna play this thing until the day I die.
Don’t you know we’re riding with the king?
Don’t you know we’re riding with the king?
Riding, you’re riding with the king.
You’re riding, you’re riding with the king.
–lyrics by John Hiatt
This one, with Mahalia’s soaring voice, is just as good.
Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
⇒Linked articles in bold purple
◆The always-penetrating Peter Berkowitz on “Can Trump and Constitutional Conservatism Coexist?” (Real Clear Politics)
Berkowitz begins by emphasizing the value of constitutional conservatism, particularly its protection of individual freedom:
Limited constitutional government protects individual liberty by restricting the federal government, through a variety of checking and balancing mechanisms, to the powers enumerated in the Constitution while ensuring that government has the necessary and proper means to accomplish its legitimate and vital tasks.
Limited constitutional government also protects traditional morality and religious faith by shielding from government interference the nongovernmental institutions—starting with the family and extending outward to religious communities, neighborhoods, and the great variety of voluntary associations that compose civil society—where character is formed, attachments are developed, and lives are lived to their fullest. –Peter Berkowitz
He concludes with his anxiety about whether Trump is committed to these limits:
Trump rarely invokes the Constitution. Even as conservatives have reason to be generally pleased with his Cabinet picks, his impetuousness, brazenness, showmanship, and peculiar mix of policy prescriptions is hard to reconcile with the spirit of modern American conservatism. –Peter Berkowitz
◆ The great blues-rock guitarist, Joe Bonamassa, was playing a concert in Tulsa, when he saw a bouncer harassing a fan. Joe used his rare 1951 Fender guitar to bonk the bouncer on the head! Bouncers should note that one of Bonamassa’s hits is called “Headaches to Heartbreaks.”
Comment: Pres. Kennedy once quoted the maxim that “victory has a thousand fathers. Defeat is an orphan.” But he had not seen the paternity game after Hillary’s defeat.
Herbert Hardesty did more than play the tenor sax on Fats’ hit songs. He helped craft the sound and that of New Orleans rhythm and blues and early rock music.
To quote the NYT obituary
Mr. Hardesty played on the sessions that created hits like “I’m Walkin,’” “My Blue Heaven,” “Ain’t It a Shame” and “Let the Four Winds Blow.” For the recording of “Blue Monday,” he played the baritone sax for what he said was the first time.
In all, he and Mr. Domino collaborated in the studio and onstage for nearly 50 years. –New York Times
Just look over Fats’ shoulder on this signature song, Ain’t That a Shame, and you’ll see Herbert Hardesty at work. Enjoy! And rest in peace, Mr. Hardesty