• Blues-Rock selection: “Never Make Your Move Too Soon”

    The song was made famous by B.B. King.

    Bonnie Raitt has done a fine version on the slide guitar (link here)

    If you like blues-rock, you’ll love this version by the great Joe Bonamassa. Great sound quality; live recording with a strong horn section and redoubtable backup singers. Of course, Bonamassa himself is one of the best guitarists around.

    He came by his BB King connections the right way. When Joe was 12, he opened for BB.

    If you want to compare it to BB’s version, done live, enjoy this one. More rhythm-and-blues than Bonamassa’s rock. Great, as BB always is.


  • In memory of SRV: Today, on the anniversary of his death, this great tribute from his fellow blues artists

    Stevie Ray Vaughan is rightly recognized as one of the greatest, most creative blues musicians ever.

    Today is the anniversary of his tragic death after a 1990 concert in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin.

    He perished, along with several members of the Eric Clapton tour, when their helicopter crashed on its returns to Chicago.

    An incredibly beautiful and song, “Six Strings Down,” commemorates that death and that of other blues greats who went before him.

    Written by Art Neville and others and originally sung by SRV’s brother, Jimmie (himself a fine guitarist), its lyrics remember not only Stevie Ray but many other blues greats now departed:

    Alpine Valley
    In the middle of the night
    Six strings down
    On the heaven-bound flight
    Got a pick, a strap, guitar on his back
    Ain’t gonna cut the angels no slack
    Heaven done called
    Another blues-stringer back home . . .

    Lyrics to Six Strings Down

    The lyrics mention the Voodoo Chile (Jimi Hendrix), Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Albert King, Freddy King, T-Bone Walker, Guitar Slim, Little Son Jackson, and Frankie Lee Sims.

    The best rendition was recorded at a 1995 tribute to Stevie Ray and begins with Jimmie singing about his brother. After that, you’ll hear Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, BB King, Buddy Guy, Dr. John and Art Neville–true greats and moved to be part of this memorial.

    If you love blues, you’ll love this:

    A hat tip to Tim Favero for reminding me of this sad anniversary.


  • Allman Brothers: Great Live Version of “One Way Out,” plus some other treats

    Fabulous performance, 1972, Hofstra.

    Dickey Betts – guitar, vocals
    Gregg Allman – organ, vocals
    Barry Oakley – bass
    Jaimoe Johanson – drums
    Butch Trucks – drums
    Chuck Leavell – Fender Rhodes piano

    The theme of the song is one of the oldest in blues: Our singer tells the woman he’s in bed with that he has to get out real fast:

    Ain’t but one way out baby, Lord I just can’t go out the door
    Ain’t but one way out baby, and Lord I just can’t go out the door
    ‘Cause there’s a man down there, might be your man I don’t know
    Lord you got me trapped a woman, up on the second floor –Lyrics to “One Way Out”

    Versions: The song was first done by Elmore James in the early 1960s. (I have that posted below)

    Blue harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson II reworked it for Chess Records (link here).

    In 1968, Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper updated it to blues-rock at Fillmore East. (You can hear it here.)

    But it’s the ABB version that stays with me.

    Now, as a special treat, here’s the original Elmore James version, with a lot of band-band R&B folded in. And he says the man “might be yo’ husband, I don’t know.”

    If you want some more Elmore, click here for his classic version of “Look on yonder wall, hand me down my walkin’ cane”



  • “Crossroads” by Clapton, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, and Robert Randolph; I gotcha cultural appropriation right here

    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.

  • Riley B. King says, “Let the Good Times Roll”: A great, live performance

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    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).

  • Gregg Allman, Rest in Peace

    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.

    Billboard has a first-rate remembrance of Gregg.

    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.


  • The quintessential blues lament: Born Under a Bad Sign

    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.”