Roots Rock Lives! – Suggestions from All Around

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.

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Danny Gatton – The Greatest Guitarist You Never Heard Of

Been waiting to write this post all year.  September 4th was the birthday of the late Danny Gatton – the best guitarist the world never heard of and one of the best guitarists of all time, period.  Nicknamed “The Humbler”, Gatton combined dazzling technique with his own creative fusion of rockabilly, blues, jazz, country and a bit of everything else.

He grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and spent much of his life playing close to home. His aversion to touring may have been a major factor in his lack of commercial success, but he was a musician’s musician. Legend and innovator Les Paul said of Gatton, “He could do anything the other guy could do … and do it better”.

“Funhouse” from his 1993 album “Cruisin’ Deuces” shows Gatton’s massive technique delivering tasty solos that don’t easily fit into any genre.

Gatton’s closest brush with mainstream fame may have been his Grammy nomination for the track “Elmira Street Boogie” which showed off his bluesy, rockabilly side.

For those who got to see Danny play live, a favorite stage trick was his slide work with a beer bottle. His solo starts around 4:20 in this video, and don’t worry about the beer dripping from the fretboard of his Fender Telecaster – at around 5:30 he cleans it up!

Joe Robinson – Up and Comer from Down Under

A few weeks ago we wrote about one of the world’s guitar legends, Tommy Emmanuel, from Australia.  Turns out Tommy has been mentoring a young countryman named Joe Robinson for over a decade, and the results of studying under the master clearly show.

Robinson has won a string of awards, both in his home country and internationally (check out his Wikipedia page Joe Robinson), and his relationship to Emmanuel really came through when he won “Australia’s Got Talent” at age 16.  His performances included a Beatles medley and an arrangement of Mason William’s 1968 multi-Grammy winning “Classical Gas”. Compare Robinson’s Beatles medley to Emmanuel’s in our earlier post, and watch both the master and the student cover “Classical Gas”.

But lest we leave the impression that Robinson simply hews closely to the style of his teacher, here are two examples of Joe’s other dimensions – “Out Alive”  and “Lethal Injection” (which also features fine bass work from Bernard Harris), both from his 2012 album “Let Me Introduce You”.

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RIP J.J. Cale – Songwriter, Musician and Clapton Collaborator

J.J. Cale passed away at age 74 on July 26th.  The generally reclusive artist is best known for writing songs that became hits for Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Waylon Jennings and others. His four decades of connections to Eric Clapton, though, were certainly his deepest and most successful.

Cale penned two of Clapton’s earliest solo hits, “After Midnight” from Clapton’s 1970 solo debut and the iconic “Cocaine” from Clapton’s second solo album “Slowhand”.

In 2006 Cale and Clapton recorded the Grammy winning album “The Road to Escondido”, which featured Cale’s songwriting and a Who’s Who of collaborators. This album is real gem, and “Danger” is the opening track.

Cale’s latest contribution to the long-term partnership was the tune “Angel” that appears on Clapton’s 2013 album “Old Sock”.

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Bernhoft and Kimbra Demonstrate the Art of the Live Loop

Fans of Conan O’Brien just got introduced to soul singer and one-man band, Bernhoft.  After fronting a couple of bands between 1996 and 2005, the Norwegian released his first solo album in 2008.  His performances center around recording a series of backing loops, sometimes on multiple instruments, to sing and play guitar over.  Check out  the totally entertaining “Cmon Talk” as well as the live version of “Sunday”.

Another artist who makes use of loops, more focused on vocals, is Kimbra.  She got a lot of exposure in 2012 accompanying Gotye on his Grammy Record of the Year “Somebody That I Used To Know”, but her vocal range and stylistic range are much broader.  Check out these two numbers and hang with the idiosynchratic “Settle Down”.

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