Three years ago I happened across the newly formed British band Little Brother Eli (2013 post) while checking out the music blog Read and Hear. The band released an EP that year and has now released a full-length effort “Cold Tales”. The new album features solid rock and roll, as well as some eclectic tracks with deep, bluesy feels. Check out “This Girl” in the rock and roll vein, and the title track to hear the band’s more eclectic side.
Somewhere over the Atlantic I spent a couple of hours sampling the musical offerings of AirFrance’s in-flight entertainment system. Found some crazy things on there (did you know that Hugh Laurie – the “House” guy – sings old blues tunes?) Also came across an engaging song by the French duo “The Dø”. “At Last” is from their first album “A Mouthful” released in 2008. Their most recent release “Shake Shook Shaken” has swapped the guitar for synthesizers and a decidedly more electric sound, as you’ll see on “Anita No!”
Rummaging through the 2015 Grammy nominees, the American Roots category stands out as a catch all for great tracks and albums by artists from many genres. Across its Best Performance, Best Song and Best Album sub-categories, Roseanne Cash is nominated in all three (see our earlier post), and John Hiatt in two (see our earlier post)
The most dramatic song on the Best Performance list comes from the album “Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro”. It’s a cover of “And When I Die” performed by pianist Billy Childs (who’s responsible for the album project), with vocals by Alison Krauss and guitar by Jerry Douglas. You have to love when artists take a song in a unique new direction. Listen to the new version alongside Laura’s original. You may also want to remember the Blood, Sweat & Tears hit version.
Another nominee from the Best Performance list is “Statesboro Blues” from the concert “All My Friends – Celebrating The Songs and Voice of Gregg Allman” that took place back in January. The track features Taj Mahal and Gregg Allman sharing the vocals, and that is a significant pairing. Taj Mahal performed the song on his eponymous 1968 debut album, featuring slide guitar by Jesse Ed Davis. The story goes that Gregg Allman gave the Taj Mahal record to his brother Duane along with a glass pill bottle one day, and that was the beginning of Duane’s slide guitar playing. Give a listen to the nominated performance and Taj’s earlier version.
A few weeks ago, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced the nominees for the Class of 2015, with 16 acts spanning a broad range of styles and eras. The annual announcement is always a great chance to remember acts who may have faded a bit from memory, but were very important in their day.
From the era of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival (the same one where Jimi first set his guitar on fire) and Woodstock, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band played classic Chicago blues fronted by their singing and harmonica playing namesake. Butterfield was a talented young man from a well-to-do Chicago family. He studied classical flute in high school, was offered a track scholarship to Brown, and studied at the University of Chicago where he met bandmate Elvin Bishop. Fellow Chicago native Mike Bloomfield was another notable member of the band. Here’s a performance from Monterey. That’s Bishop on guitar, and Bloomfield clapping enthusiastically at the end of Butterfield’s soulful singing and harmonica work.
War formed in the 1960’s in L.A. and hit the big time when Eric Burdon, formerly of the Animals, joined the band in 1969. Who can forget their first big hit, “Spill the Wine”. Burdon only stayed with the group for a couple of years, but War kept bringing the funk well into the 1970’s. Enjoy these live versions of “Spill the Wine” and “Slipping into Darkness”.
Bill Withers is still around, though not performing anymore, and he put up a string of hits beginning with 1971’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” and running through 1981’s “Just the Two of Us”. Both songs won Grammy’s for Best R&B Song. Wither’s highest charting single, though, was 1972’s “Use Me”. Here’s a live performance of that tune by Bill, and a truly out-there cover by Mick Jagger from his 1993 solo album “Wandering Spirit”. Lenny Kravitz contributes.
Bluesy roots rock is alive and well, with plenty of soulful, raspy voices, guitars of all sorts, and lyrics about heartbreak and women.
A reader suggestion (thanks, Pete!) leads us to JJ Grey from Jacksonville, Florida, recently proclaimed “The Swami of Swamp Rock” in this article from Oxford American magazine. Here is his band, JJ Grey and Mofro, performing “99 Shades of Crazy” from the April 2013 CD “This River”,
Music blog pH balanced, posted news of Amos Lee’s upcoming release, “Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song”, and here’s a live performance of “The Man Who Wants You” from that CD. If you check out more of Lee’s material, you’ll see it generally runs in a softer vein that this track.
While JJ and Amos have solid followings, The Tedeschi Trucks Band is roots rock royalty. Singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi opened for acts ranging from B.B. King to Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones early in her career. Her husband, Derek Trucks (nephew of Butch Trucks from the original Allman Brothers Band) was a child prodigy who played guitar with his uncle’s band and is now perhaps the best known slide guitar player working. The Tedeschi Trucks Band’s first album “Revelator” won the 2012 Grammy for Best Blues Album, and their second release “Made Up Mind” is just out. Here’s the title track.
Last week’s post Courtesy of Other Bloggers featured Scott McKeon, one of a half-dozen “Guitar Legends” featured on the blog Proguitartricks. Inspired by the guitar legend theme, for any of you not already familiar with him, meet Tommy Emmanuel. The Australian acoustic guitar legend is known for his blistering speed but is capable of pretty much anything.
This somewhat grainy video has over 10 million YouTube views – see why.
Staples of his concert performances are Beatles medleys – no small task on solo acoustic guitar unless you’ve got Emmanuel’s chops.
Tommy can use his abilities in quiet and subtle ways too, as displayed in this performance of the jazz standard “The Nearness of You” with Martin Taylor. Emmanuel and Taylor have just released an album together featuring this tune.