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Hey Blues Fans,
Some of you may have noticed the work in progress on our website. We are working hard to improve it and make it represent what we do here at Blues Blast Magazine. As a result our original website concept and design for IllinoisBlues.com has started to evolve and grow into much more.
Our new website address is www.TheBluesBlast.com. The old address still works too so using either IllinoisBlues.com or TheBluesBlast.com now gets you to the same great content on our website. You'll find Blues videos, CD reviews, Blues Band listings, Live Blues Shows around the globe, Blues links, Blues Internet Radio links, Blues Society links, photos and much more there. So check out the new look and let us know what you think!
COMING NEXT WEEK - Blues In The Digital Age!
Next week Blues Blast Magazine begins a three part series on Blues in the Digital Age. Blues guitarist and journalist Nikki O'Neill has researched how the Digital age, downloads and social networks have impacted the business side of the Blues. She interviews the major Blues labels, publicists and music producers to find out how they are meeting the challenge of the Digital revolution. Check out Part I of this great series next week!
In Memory of Lil' Dave Thompson 1969 - 2010
We are saddened this week by the news of a tragic accident involving third generation Mississippi Bluesman Lil' Dave Thompson. It is a huge loss for the Blues world! Dave was killed when he was thrown from his van in a traffic accident this week as he was returning from a show. From his booking agent Doug Tackett at Road Dawg Touring Co:
"It is with great sadness that I write you all today that Lil' Dave Thompson was killed in a car accident early morning, Sunday, February 14, 2010. He was travelling home after playing the Blues Bash at Fiery Ron's in Charleston, SC on his final day of a very successful tour. The band was driving toward Greenville, MS when the van struck a hole in the road, veered into gravel and lost control. Lil' Dave will be greatly missed by me personally. It has been an honor & blessing to represent such a genuine talent and wonderful person."
Lil' Dave is survived by his children: David Jr. (20), Danielle (19), Shequeena (18), Shirleiah (16) and Destiny (13); sisters Patricia, Barbara Denise (twin sister), Jennifer and Pasty Thompson, Zenovia Henderson and Rose Marie Richmond; and brothers John, Sam, Elijah Allen and Tyrone Thompson.
The funeral for Lil' Dave Thompson will be at 2:00pm Saturday February 27th, 2010, at Bell Grove Mission Baptist Church, 1301 BB King Rd. Indianola, MS 38751
A support fund has been set up by the
family of Lil' Dave Thompson. Contributions to the family can be mailed to:
Community Bank, PO Box 28, Indianola, MS 38751 or by wire transfer to
routing # 084204301
A complete bio of Thompson is available on his website at: www.lildavethompson.com
We made it out to catch a double fun bill last week by British Blues guitar sensation Joanne Shaw Taylor and slide guitar monster Eric Sardinas.
Taylor kicked of the show playing most of the songs from her 2009 debut CD White Sugar. The CD is nominated for a Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut. (It was also nominated for a Blues Blast Music Award last year!)
Touring with Detroit musicians Paul Lamb on bass and Lila on drums, Taylor had all the guitar players in the crowd in awe of her chops. Probably the first time most of the guys wished they could play like a girl!
Then Eric Sardinas took the stage to show why he is a consistent crowd draw where ever he plays. Playing both electric and acoustic slide he provided an awesome show to a crowd of over 120 Blues fans at a Valentines Day Sunday night show. Impressive!
Later to cap off the night, Joanne Shaw Taylor joined Eric on stage for a few tunes that were a fun time for both the musicians and the audience. If you get the chance to hear either of these fine Blues pickers, DO NOT pass it up!
In this issue - Blues Reviews and MORE!
We have an interview with Alligator records CEO, Bruce Iglauer by new Blues
Blast Magazine writer Terry " Gatorman" Lape.
Look for Terry to bring you more great interviews and other articles
on what's hot in Blues music in the coming months. Check out some of Terry's
past work at: www.ameriblues.com
Also in this issue,
James "Skyy Dobro"
Walker reviews a new CD from Tommy Keys. Paul Schuytema reviews a
new CD by Mac Arnold & Plate Full ‘O Blues. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by
Bryan Lee. Sheralyn Graise reviews a new
CD by Tommy Brown. Steve Jones reviews a new CD by
All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
We have an interview with Alligator records CEO, Bruce Iglauer by new Blues Blast Magazine writer Terry " Gatorman" Lape. Look for Terry to bring you more great interviews and other articles on what's hot in Blues music in the coming months. Check out some of Terry's past work at: www.ameriblues.com
Also in this issue, James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD from Tommy Keys. Paul Schuytema reviews a new CD by Mac Arnold & Plate Full ‘O Blues. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by Bryan Lee. Sheralyn Graise reviews a new CD by Tommy Brown. Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Will Tucker. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Interview
Interview With Bruce Iglauer - December 2009
By Terry " Gatorman" Lape
Previously published at: http://www.ameriblues.com Used by permission
Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for me. How did you first start in the record business?
I came to Chicago at the beginning of 1970 to work for Bob Koester, my mentor and hero, at his label, Delmark Records, and in his store, the (still wonderful) Jazz Record Mart. I thought I was going to stay for a year and then go to graduate school, but I’m still here. At first I just wanted to be around the blues scene, and to see recordings being made. I became Bob’s shadow; if he went to a South or West Side club, I went along. If he went to the studio, I was there as gopher. If he was editing tape, I wanted to watch. My first recording session was “Junior Wells’ South Side Blues Jam” with Buddy Guy, Louis Myers, Otis Span, Fred Below and Earnest Johnson. It was like going to heaven. I also got to watch/help out on sessions with Robert Lockwood Jr., Roosevelt Sykes, Jimmy Dawkins and a few others. I never dreamed of having my own label; I just wanted to work for Delmark. Bob is still a huge hero to me, and I feel he’s never gotten the credit he deserves as a key figure in bringing the blues to the world. I walk in his footsteps. At that time, the entire blues scene was in the black community, and I was going to the little ghetto blues bars 4-5 nights a week. The music was often just terrific, and the atmosphere was very special. The musicians and the audience were basically the same people, and they communicated in a way that I don’t see when blues is more of a presentation, as it usually is today. The people in these ghetto clubs shared a cultural understanding, a history and understood blues as a way to heal everyone’s emotional wounds, not just a form of entertainment. Those nights were some of the happiest experiences of my life. Often I was the only white person there, and almost everyone was very friendly and welcoming. Sometimes the street was a little scary, but the clubs (which were basically neighborhood bars with a band) were full of working class people who understood that I was there for the music, and appreciated it. This was before I was a record guy; I was just a fan, and a “hippie” (at least in appearance). I got to know a lot of musicians personally.
Junior Wells always kept an eye on me and we drank on street corners. People like Lefty Dizz , Eddie Shaw, Big Bad Ben and Magic Slim were really nice to me.
Why the Blues?
It’s hard to explain, and I don’t entirely understand it myself. They say that if you don’t love the blues, you have a hole in your soul. Well, it seems like the blues fills the hole in my soul. From the first time I really heard blues, at a Fred McDowell performance in 1966, it was as though blues spoke directly to the innermost part of me. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. I felt Fred’s music was the most honest, direct and emotional thing I had ever heard. After that, other kinds of music seemed false and plastic. These days, I’m not an easy man to move with music, but when the blues works for me, it still works just like it did that first time. Blues has made me happier than I ever imagined, and it’s wrenched me more than I ever imagined. Sometimes it’s so good it makes me cry (in a good way). First and foremost, I’m a fan. That’s crucial in understanding what Alligator is about. I made a label to share my fan-dom with others.
In 1971 you left another blues label shortly after you recorded Hound Dog Taylor &the House Rockers. Did you have any idea at that time that you would become one of the most influential Blues Men in the industry today?
Not at all. When I recorded Hound Dog (while I was still working at Delmark Records), all I hoped was to sell enough copies to make another record. I never dreamed of a catalog of 260 albums. Hell, I never dreamed of having an employee! Everything was day to day, just trying to make my company survive. I never wanted to be a businessman, but I realized early on that unless I was good at business, I couldn’t make more records. So, I learned. A lot of people I know tried to start labels at that time. They loved the music but didn’t take time to learn the business.
What did it cost for that very first record?
That’s easy—my first studio bill was $956 dollars. That included cutting the master disc. We recorded direct to two-track, mixing as we went. There was nothing to do over. We recorded each song a couple of times, and chose the best versions. I paid the band $960 dollars--$480 for Hound Dog and $240 each for the other two members of the band. Of course, that was an advance. They made thousands on royalties over the years. I pressed 1000 LP's, and got the jackets printed on credit. Then the hard work began!
In the start up years, what were some of the challenges you faced?
Essentially, everything, I had no distributors, no radio play, no press, no booking for the artists I recorded, no road management, nothing. I was on my own. So, I found distributors (some of them I knew as Delmark distributors, but others I had to find; I wanted distributors who weren’t so specialized that they only dealt with a few stores), made my own contacts with radio and press, booked the bands, traveled with them, published their music, and pretty much did everything, including packing and shipping the boxes of LPs. I could only afford to release one album a year, and if that one didn’t sell, it was hard to get the distributors to pay me for anything. I was operating out of an efficiency apartment in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. It took two years to move to a three-room apartment, and a year later I bought a small house. It took from 1971, when I started, until 1985, before I wasn’t living in the same place as Alligator. I didn’t have a full time employee until 1977. Eventually I had seven people coming to my house, with LPs warehoused in the basement and 7000 cassettes in the kitchen. I knew then it was time to move, either the label or me. I chose to move the label, and I still live in the house. Alligator has never stopped being a challenge, or a battle. Actually, this may be the hardest time ever in the history of the label. I don’t know how record labels are going to survive the closing of literally thousands of stores and the rampant illegal downloading. Plus blues is not at the peak of its popularity right now. We need some young champions of the music who have a vision for taking the blues into the future.
Can you name some of the very first artist’s you recorded?
Sure. Hound Dog Taylor, Big Walter Horton, Son Seals, Fenton Robinson, Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, Albert Collins and the Living Chicago Blues series, which had 18 different artists spread over six LPs. It’s now four CDs.
Can you tell us a little bit about the costs involved to develop an artist for recording?
Every album varies in costs. First, there is the cost of the musicians, both the sidemen and the leader. These can vary a lot. Then there’s the studio cost—typically $600 to $1000 per day. In the old days, recording tape was a big expense, often $1500 or more for an album. We usually spend between three and ten days recording, and mixing is usually about three songs a day. There are artists who record really quickly, like Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, and artists who need more time. When I’m the producer (I’ve produced or co-produced about 125 albums), I prefer the faster artists. I’m not super patient! I like to do as much rehearsal as possible. I don’t think the studio is the place to experiment with arrangements. The studio is the place to get the best possible performance. But sometimes, when I’m working with an out of town band, we have to pull a lot of the music together in the studio. Once I’ve recorded and mixed, then there’s mastering (usually around $1000-$1500 if you want it done right), photos, packaging. And then we get to manufacture about 4500 CDs that we give away as promo copies, to radio, press, and retailers. Then we have to buy retail programs at the stores—things like listening posts and top shelf positions and featured placements. None of those things are free. And we have to do our basic advertising. Usually this means that we’re spending $15-20,000 per release to set up the recording in the marketplace before we sell a single copy. In the meantime, we’re working with the artist, the booking agent and hopefully a professional artist manager to do tour planning, so that the artist is out in front of the public when the new release is being promoted. We have about three months when the media and stores will think of something as a new release. After that, it’s back catalog. During that three month period, we will spend additional money advertising and publicizing every gig the artist does. We continue to publicize gigs after that, but our big advertising push is in those first 90 days. One thing that’s important to understand is that we have to pay for all these things, on a product that gives us a profit of around $6 per CD (less for a downloaded album). So it’s a very risky proposition. Alligator spends more promoting a release than anyone else in blues, and I like to think we do it better.
How do you find new artists?
I’m constantly listening to artists, both on demos or homemade recordings (or on other labels) and at live gigs. The first thing I go by is my gut feeling. Does this artist reach my emotions, stir me, touch a little of my soul? It’s MY label; I have to believe in everything we release. Alligator probably signs at the most one or two new artists a year. So, as you’d imagine, these decisions are terribly important. Besides the cost of making a new record, including paying the artist, we spend tens of thousands of dollars promoting, marketing and advertising every new release. And of course we also spend hundreds of hours of human time trying to attract the attention of the media, the retailers and potential customers. Plus, for every artist or band we sign, this means there are hundreds that we don’t sign. If one of them had been a better choice (or maybe not signing anyone new and attempting to further promote our existing roster of artists would have been the smartest choice), then we have wasted a huge amount of time and money. In 2009, the new artists we signed were Buckwheat Zydeco and Tommy Castro, who were obviously already well-established acts. Plus, we released the debut by Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, who had begun life as Little Charlie and the Nightcats and spent their whole recording career with Alligator. In 2008, we signed Janiva Magness, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater and Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King. Again, these were artists who had already had some success on other labels. The last artists we signed who had not been on a nationally distributed label before Alligator were Eric Lindell in 2006 and Michael Burks in 2002. So, obviously, one thing I look at when considering artists is their previous recording history, including their sales history. I’m always looking for artists who have done a lot to establish their own fan base, whether locally and regionally or nationally. I need artists who have some sense of how to take care of their own careers, or who may have some kind of professional management or booking agent. I can’t deal with artists who are ‘weekend warriors’ or who are unprepared for major touring; getting in front of audiences is the best way blues and roots artists can create fans and sell their music. There isn’t enough radio and other media for blues and roots to make touring less than totally essential.
Of course I look for artists who have their own sound and style, well connected to blues but not repeating what’s already been done. This is a tough row to hoe for artists. The pressure is often to do familiar songs and re-create familiar sounds. But Muddy Waters didn’t become famous by coping Son House and Robert Johnson. B.B. didn’t become famous trying to copy T-Bone Walker. So creating your own songs, or taking other people’s songs and making something fresh from them, is essential for anyone hoping to be signed with Alligator. Above all, there is the live performance. If an artist can thrill me on stage (and I’m a tough sell), then I’m interested. That includes the ability to play but also to sing really well, and to communicate with the audience. I do still listen to demos, but it’s been a long time since I found an artist based on his or her demo recording. And these days so many artists who aren’t ‘ready’ are financing their own albums and sending them to me. They are expecting me to take an hour of my life to listen to their album, and are often resentful when I only listen to the first four songs. As almost no one else in the industry listens to demos at all, I would hope they would be thrilled just to get a listen, but often my honest response leads to an angry reply, not a ‘thank you for taking the time’ note. No one wants to hear “you can’t sing”, even when they asked for my opinion. And “you can’t sing” (said really nicely) is my most common criticism of demos and self-made records that I receive.
Can you tell us some of the steps involved in recording an artist?
One thing that distinguishes Alligator from most other blues labels is how much preparation we put in before recording. In the old days, when so much of the standard blues repertoire was still new to younger fans, labels like Delmark could bring artists into the studio and if they didn’t write a lot (like Magic Sam), they could still make great records of songs that are familiar now but weren’t then. Now I work very closely with my artists on repertoire and arrangements, to try to make each album as fresh and original as possible. If I am producer, I generally rehearse quite a bit before we get to the studio, trying to figure out how to give each song its individual identity, planning the dynamics, and honing the lyrics. I try to involve the whole band in creating the arrangement. Musicians play with more fire if they have some ownership of the arrangement instead of just coming in playing a pre-defined part. Plus, sessions are more fun that way. Some of my artists produce themselves, like Tinsley Ellis , Rick Estrin, Eric Lindell, Lee Rocker and Roomful of Blues. Some bring their own producers, like Marcia Ball, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. and Tommy Castro. For some, like Lil’ Ed, Michael Burks and Smokin’ Joe Kubek; Bnois King, I produce with the artist. Under almost all circumstances, I’m going to be involved with the choice of songs and give some input on the arrangements. One thing I like to point out is that I am running a commercial record company, albeit in a specialized field of music. I’m not just saying to my artists “express yourself.” I want them to make honest records that they believe in, with songs they want to perform live. But I also have strong feelings about what each artist’s most distinctive talents are, and why I wanted them on Alligator. I’m not shy about saying to an artist, “that’s the kind of song your fans like” or “that’s not really a song that is showing what makes you special” or “that’s one that will challenge the public definition of you.” Generally I will insist on approving the mixes and mastering, and want input into the order of songs on an album. I am often called a control freak, but that’s mostly by people who don’t understand the kind of input a label normally has into its releases (outside the world of blues). It’s my job to sell the final album. If the artist gives me something that I can’t sell, then I’m going to disappoint him or her. I have had situations where an artist wants very much to make an album that I don’t believe shows the artist’s strengths, or I simply believe is wrong-headed for that artist, and that I won’t be able to market effectively. In that case, I have sometimes released an artist rather than put out an album I don’t believe in.
What do you look for in a new artist or signing an artist?
I’ve answered some of this already, but to summarize—I want artists who have a real musical vision, with at least one foot firmly in the blues/R&B tradition but other elements that make their music personal and different from what’s already been done. I want artists with both vocal and instrumental talent. I ideally want artists who write their own material, or can personalize songs written by others. The point is of course that they need to have a distinctive, personal sound. I absolutely need artists who know how to deliver on stage. Blues and roots music is all about communication skills, both musical and visual. It’s not only music, it’s also show business, so a visually boring act is not for me (though I know that some artists can hold stock still and keep the attention of the audience through their intensity). I need artists who understand that they are in the business of being professional musicians, and that it’s a full time job. The fun part is doing a show. The un-fun part is leading a band (very different skill set), honoring contracts, working with booking agents, being media-available and media-friendly, not getting too ‘relaxed’ on substances to keep from delivering a top notch show and total professionalism. I need artists who have already established some kind of fan base, even if it’s just local; I need to have something to build on. Ideally, I’d like artists who are internet-savvy and take care of things like Myspace and Facebook. And of course I need artists who are prepared to sell their CDs from the stage, understand how to do that, and don’t think they are ‘above’ taking the fans’ money! But ultimately the real and final question is—does their music move me? I have built Alligator to be a label that has a consistently of quality, rootedness, and musical urgency. I have to believe in every release. The Alligator Logo is also the Bruce Seal Of Approval. I admit there are some releases I like better than others, but my concept of the label is all killer, no filler.
If I was to listen to your Ipod what song would I hear?
First, I don’t own an Ipod. I really hate compressed files because they eliminate so many of the subtleties of the recording and the mix. In a car you can’t tell, but if you play a compressed file against the original CD, you can tell the difference in a second…assuming you’re not listening through earbuds or computer speakers.
But if you want to know what I listen to for pleasure, the answer is almost always blues records from the 1950s and 1960s. If I had to listen to only one artist for the rest of my life, it would almost certainly be Elmore James. I could argue he was the greatest blues singer of all time, just a chilling voice. Plus, I’m a slide guitar freak.
What blues song do you think could be a representative of Chicago blues?
Tough question. Do you mean the ‘classic’ Chicago blues of the 1950s? In that case, my choice would be something obvious, like “Hoochie Coochie Man”, with the lineup of electric guitars, amplified harp, piano, bass and drums and a charismatic vocalist like Muddy. If we start talking about the somewhat ‘modern’ era, I’d pick another obvious choice, like Otis Rush’s “I Can’t Quit You, Baby”. If we’re talking about today’s Chicago blues, it’s harder to define, because the language of blues has become more universal. There is less Chicago about Chicago blues now than in the past. I’d probably listen to one of the so-called throwback artists, like Lil’ Ed or Magic Slim, who could have been recording in the 60s as easily as today.
Can you define what a true Blues Man is?
Honestly, the answer is ‘no.’ I would say that being a blues man or woman in my mind is more than being a musician. The music must be an expression of your soul. Like John Lee Hooker said, “it’s in him and it’s got to come out.” There’s another song (can’t remember who wrote it) that says “I didn’t choose the blues, the blues chose me.” And I do believe that you can’t perform blues effectively without having lived a lot of life. That’s why some of the kid guitar hotshots don’t impress me. They can play a lot of notes very fast, but they don’t understand the emotional function of each one. As I like to say, they don’t know what the important notes are, so they don’t know which ones tell the story. And often they don’t understand that a rest (when you don’t play a note) is part of the music and the storytelling too.
Can you tell our readers what Lumpty lump is?
Ah, an easy one! Yes, it’s a type of shuffle where the rhythm goes “lumpty lumpty” like a horse cantering. A “true” lump for me involves playing the same note twice in the bass pattern. But when blues musicians are jamming, they can say “Lump in G from the 5” and count it off, and they will all be speaking pretty much the same musical language. Someone like Bob Stroger is a great lump bass player. And Jimmy Reed was the king of putting great catchy lyrics to a lump beat.
You just concluded your seat on the Board of Directors for The Blues Foundation. Tell us a little bit about that experience.
I am a big supporter of the Blues Foundation, and consider the production of the International Blues Challenge and the Blues Music Awards to be major achievements, and very good for our community. Nonetheless, I wish the Foundation would do a lot more, especially in the area of blues education. The mission statement of the Foundation talks about “ensuring the future of the blues” and I think blues education in the schools and elsewhere is a lot of that job. Blues is not fashionable music at all right now, and younger people have almost no way to learn about it and become fans. So I wish the Foundation would dedicate itself to that goal. During my time on the board, I was considered to be pretty much of a maverick, and probably wasn’t the best-liked person there. I bumped heads with the staff quite a bit too. We just see things very differently. I believe in the mission of the Foundation. It’s a question of how to fulfill that mission where we often disagree.
Pat Morgan, Pinetop Perkins’ manager, is the new president of the Blues Foundation. I am eager to see how she steps into the role, and how she affects things. Paul Benjamin, the outgoing president, was very much responsible for significant improvement in the BMAs. Jay Sieleman, the executive director, has done a great deal to make the IBC a truly fine event. But producing two major events, no matter how good, is just not enough.
Where do you see the genre in the future?
This is a crucial and scary time for the blues. The most famous icons of our music, B.B. King and Buddy Guy, are in their 80s and 70s. After them, no one artist has achieved a national profile that anywhere near equals theirs. B.B. has been amazing for the blues, both as a musician and as a spokesman. To have someone like him, who can communicate with audiences so easily and who can go on TV or radio and speak so eloquently about the blues, is a miracle, and has helped make the blues known worldwide. What other blues man can come on the Tonight Show and charm everyone? Unfortunately, no one who is coming up in the blues has that kind of combination of charisma, talent and eloquence, as well as being really well known. I’m afraid when B.B. is no longer with us, many people will pronounce the blues ‘dead’. And it is true that the ‘young guns’ of the blues are mostly middle aged now. There are some good young artists, but many of them are guitar slingers rather than the whole package. And try to name someone under the age of 40 leading a working blues band in Chicago, or almost anywhere. That’s not true in almost any other genre of music. We need to nurture our younger artists. We also need to have an expansive definition of blues, and lots of blues fans want new blues that sounds just like old blues. If the music doesn’t evolve, it will petrify. I don’t want blues to be like Dixieland jazz…a museum piece with a few hardcore old fans that want re-creations of what has already happened. You’ll never beat Muddy at being Muddy. I can never understand why I get so many demos of Muddy and Robert Johnson songs. Do you really think you can bring something new to those, and make me forget the originals?
What are some of today’s challenges?
There are many. For a start, people aren’t buying music like they used to. This includes both recorded music, and, to some extent, live music. Ever since 1999, when illegal downloading began, record stores have been closing. We’ve lost literally thousands of them. And the remaining ones are mostly stocking the hits, just like Wal-mart. As you can imagine, it’s pretty tough to get blues records into hits-only stores. And stores were where a lot of fans (and potential fans) found out about new recordings for the first time. A good record store could be a port of entry for people to discover new music and even genres of music they didn’t know about. Now that discovery isn’t happening. Unfortunately, a lot of blues fans are older, and aren’t very committed to shopping on the web. So our sales through Amazon and our own web site, www.alligator.com are not nearly as large as you’d expect. And many blues customers don’t want to buy downloads. With our roots artists like Eric Lindell and JJ Grey Mofro, downloads can be around 30% of their sales. For our blues artists, they are more like 12%.
Still, the best way that a blues artist has to promote his or her career is live performance. Most of our artists tour year-around, usually the old-fashioned way, driving their own vans, hauling trailers, carrying their own gear with no road management or help of any kind. Only a few have buses or even an extra person to help. They survive by gigging as constantly as possible, selling CDs at the gigs (which is very important to us, as you’d imagine) and living almost from gig to gig. With blues not being so fashionable, and the economy in so much trouble, it’s harder and harder for the artists to get the weekday gigs they need to support their touring. Having nights off is really expensive and most of our artists would be happy to gig 6 or 7 nights a week if the work were there. They’re not lazy! They try to save money from better paying festival dates and overseas tours, but it’s hard.
How have you monopolized the internet?
We have hardly monopolized the internet! However, I can brag that I believe we were the first blues label to begin selling online, back in 1995. Our site at www.alligator.com offers not only the entire Alligator catalog of CDs but also Alligator-branded clothing and books, DVDs, calendars and other merchandise that I think any blues fan would be interested in. Besides selling, our web site includes bio materials on all our artists, a complete history of the label, tour calendars and booking information for all our artists, an online jukebox that streams hundreds of Alligator tracks, a goodies section that includes free downloads, news of the label and artists, and most important, a place where fans can sign up to be on our mailing list! Besides offering them special deals from our site, we also inform them of gigs by Alligator artists in their area. We recently expanded this service to inform our Canadian and European customers about upcoming gigs and tours.
More recently, we’ve established myspace and Facebook sites for any of our artists who didn’t have them, and I’ve even begun to twitter, though I have to say that I think it’s kind of silly. Myspace and Facebook are good tools to let fans know where gigs are. These also include links to artist’s videos. We’re continuing to explore all kinds of online communication, as we’re very aware that traditional media is struggling. It sure was a lot easier when there weren’t so many bloggers and podcasters trying to convince us how important their work was!
I hate to ask this question, but there is a rumor that you turned down Stevie Ray Vaughn. Is that true and if so why?
I heard Stevie live around 1980. At that time, he was playing what I heard as lots and lots of Albert King licks at about three times Albert’s volume. I didn’t hear original songs or much in the way of original guitar playing. In fact, as much as I appreciate and admire Stevie for turning on so many people to the blues (and for producing our wonderful Lonnie Mack record, “Strike Like Lightning”, which he also played on), I don’t think many of his fans realized that he was playing a lot of other people’s licks. Stevie had an amazing ability to absorb existing styles and playing. His playing of Albert King’s and Lonnie Mack’s styles was uncanny, and you could also hear his huge vocabulary of guitar from the players like Clarence Holliman, Roy Gaines and Pat Hare, who did lots of session work behind singers like Bobby Blue Bland and Junior Parker. Of course Stevie pumped up the volume and the intensity, but he would be the first to point the spotlight at his inspirations. So, I heard Stevie playing a lot of things that I considered derivative, and passed on him. I would say that he grew a great deal as an artist, but his music didn’t really excite me a lot until about halfway through his recording career, when he began to write more original songs. I think his best, most original and personal music was still ahead of him. Of course, his death was a huge loss for the blues. No one since has managed to bring the blues to a new, young audience. We didn’t know how much we needed him until he was gone. As Tinsley Ellis says, the only thing worse than a world full of Stevie Ray imitators is a world without them.
Now, don’t ask me who ELSE I foolishly turned down!
Do you have any secrets you would like to share with our readers?
You mean, besides the names of the artists I mistakenly passed on? What I’d say to aspiring blues recording artists is—don’t get into this music because you think there’s a career for you there. There probably isn’t, and if there is one, it will be a constant struggle without much financial reward. Play this music because you love it, because it soothes your soul and makes you smile. If someone hears you and likes you, great! But keep your day job.
For aspiring record business people, I’d say—this is about the hardest time ever for anyone trying to run anything that resembles a record label. If you are determined to try it, apprentice to an existing label first. I learned a lot as I went along, but there is not time for that now. You need to know what you’re getting into before you get into it, not afterward.
If you could go back in time what one thing would you change?
This question made me smile. The first thing I’d do is go back and see Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson live. In fact, I’d see plenty more blues men and women…Tommy Johnson, Skip James, Louise Johnson, Cripple Clarence Lofton, young Gatemouth, hundreds and hundreds. As far as business, there are some chances I should have taken and didn’t. I could have signed Otis Rush, for example. And I would have invented cloning so that I could clone myself and have a couple of selves working all night so that I could go out to more gigs!
What are most proud of?
Wow. Lots of things. I have given many great artists recording opportunities and career opportunities they might never have otherwise had. I have helped make recordings that will stand the test of time, from Hound Dog Taylor to Professor Longhair to Koko Taylor to Lil’ Ed to Corey Harris to Michael Hill to dozens more. I hope I’ve helped enlarge the audience for blues, and helped to carry the tradition into the future.
Right now we’re working on albums by The Holmes Brothers and Guitar Shorty for March release. In April we should have a new Janiva Magness. Soon I’ll be going into the studio with Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King for a 2010 release. I’m constantly listening and watching artists, trying to fine the visionary blues men and women for the next generation. I hope I have enough vision to recognize them. I like to think that the future of Alligator Records and the future of the blues will be one and the same.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 5
Tommy Keys - The Man In The Moon
10 songs; 47:50 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Piano led Blues, Rock and Roll, Boogie Woogie
How many performing bands and musicians are there in the U.S.? With a national population of 308 million, could there be 500,000 bands or 5 million? I do not know the answer, but what I do know is this: the supply of available music is huge – way more than even all the independent record companies can maintain. So, how can deserving, quality, award winning regional acts break nationally?
One answer is the annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis hosted by The Blues Foundation. To my mind, if Tommy Keys had not competed and been a finalist in the 22nd annual IBC, I would have never paid much attention, and that would have been a shame.
A native of Long Island NY, the 54-year-old Keys is known for Barrelhouse Boogie and Blues piano with moody, soulful vocals. Fans tired of guitar shredding Rock will delight at “The Man in the Moon,” Key’s enjoyable third CD featuring seven original songs and three well chosen covers. The recording employs a multi-talented line-up starting with passionate vocals, solid songwriting, and imaginative keyboards from Tommy Keys. No less than eighteen artists appear on the CD, co-produced by Keys and Savoy Brown’s Mario Staiano, with the most notable guest being Gary U.S. Bonds adding some background vocals.
The set opens with the title track, which is one of
the best cuts on the CD. “The Man in the Moon” is a bouncy mid-tempo number with
a New Orleans feel to it. Peter Danforth’s Saxophone paces the rhythm, and John
Whelan takes two nice guitar solos. Meanwhile, Tommy’s keyboards accent the
vocals about a relationship gone bad with nowhere left to turn for answers
except the man in the moon.
“Rock A Boogie Woogie” is a dance inducing high energy tune about a band playing on a Saturday night to an excited crowd. Rich Cannata plays a wailing saxophone solo, trading leads with Keys on organ and Whelan on guitar.
For some real-deal Blues, “Troubled Life Blues” is a slower paced number featuring John Whelan’s early Allman Brothers influenced guitar work. “The house is in foreclosure, the car has been repossessed, the sheriff’s on the doorstep with a man from IRS...,” sings Keys in this plea for a helping hand.
Piano fans will appreciate the glee in a tribute to the late Mr. Big Joe Duskin, titled “Big Joe the Boogie Man.”
Memphis Slim’s “Born with the Blues” is given a fitting arrangement with Keys singing his deepest sentiments while recapitulating Slim’s cascading solos. The message: “You can’t learn the Blues in school!”
Another fun romp is found in Professor Longhair’s “The Hadacol Bounce” about a cure all elixir from the 1940s. (Allegedly the name comes from the idea that they “had to call” it something, thus, Hadacol.) Yes, friends, shake it and take it everyday!
The set closer is Floyd Dixon’s “My Wish,” a slow, emotional plea for things to go back to the way they used to be. Key’s organ and the rich background vocals give the song a near Gospel feel.
“The Man in the Moon” is probably Key’s best work yet, and it’s a winning combination of styles all fueled by his formidable keyboards and vocals. Sure, there are a lot of artists and bands out there, but piano fans will understand why he was a finalist in the solo/duo competition at the IBC.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Thursdays from 7 - 8 pm and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL
To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE
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Featured Blues Review 2 of 5
Mac Arnold & Plate Full ‘O Blues - Country Man
13 songs; 51:11 minutes
At times, the blues can feel so welcome and familiar, like a favorite chair at the end of a long day or a shot of your preferred poison after hours of jamming. Country Man is a disc of warm, familiar blues that transports you out to the South Carolina piedmont, the red soil, the kudzu and the chugging of a rusty old Ford tractor.
Mac Arnold cut his teeth in the Chicago blues scene of the 1960s, playing bass with saxophonist A.C. Reed and later, Muddy Waters’ band. After spending time in Los Angeles in the 70s (including working on the set of Soul Train), he settled in South Carolina on an 80 acre farm that would allow him to blend together his love of farming and the blues.
Country Man is the second disc for Mac and Plate Full of Blues, and they play together like old friends, tight when they need to be, loose at times and always sharing the same groove.
The disc begins with “I Ain’t Sugar Coatin’”, a bluesy cautionary tale played with a country twang. The tune showcases the tightness of the five piece band, Mac’s deep voice and their penchant for songs that try to do a little Sunday-morning moralizing.
“This ‘Ol Tractor” features Mac playing a gas can guitar built by his oldest brother Leroy. The rolling beat of the song serves as the foundation for the raw, treble guitar wails that seem to bring you back in time. This song also showcases another thematic element in Mac’s original songs: the love of old style “country life.” On one hand, it can seem dated and trite, but on the other, it’s Mac writing about life in his own corner of South Carolina, where the anchors of deep rural life haven’t really changed that much at all over the decades.
“Country Man”, the title track, continues on the same theme, and features a tight traditional blues progression, heavy on the harmonica. This song captures both the best and worst of the disc. At its best, it’s a tight band playing an original song that paints a sincere “everyman” portrait of rural life - at its worst, it displays the limited range of Mac’s vocals and predictable lyrics, played against a musical backdrop we’ve heard a thousand times before.
The standout track on the disc is “Screamin’ And Cryin’”, a duet with producer Bob Margolin (who also plays slide guitar). The traditional blues song brings out the best in Mac’s voice, and the play between Mac and Bob feels like they are just performing a pick up song on Mac’s front porch.
Country Man is a solid blues album by a tight, experienced band. Too often, however, they end up sounding more like a good bar band that you’ve heard a dozen times before - and lyrically, the original songs are far too predictable. Mac Arnold, however, is the real deal, in these songs, you are treated to a glimpse inside his world - the rugged farm land of South Carolina, where a blues man works hard, loves hard and cares for his tractor as tenderly as his wife.
Reviewer Paul Schuytema is a lifelong blues enthusiast who grew up in Chi-town. He cut his blues teeth at shows by Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. He now lives in the cornfields and puts on the Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival every fall.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
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Vocalist seeks Gigs
Uvon Brooks - vocalist with hit blues CD and twenty years experience is available to tour with her band. She performed twice at the Monterey Blues Festival, and was a guest artist with the Chandler Symphony. Audio/video promo available. Tempe, AZ (480) 966-6039 firstname.lastname@example.org www.uvonsinger.com
Solo Bluesman Seeks Festivals
Paul Miles - Specialty slide guitar Delta Blues. Detroit Music Award winner and 2010 International Blues Challenge semi-finalist is looking for summer festivals opportunities as solo performer.
Artist Seeks Representation
Independent blues artist seeks talent/booking agency. Seeking Festival & Venue booking representation. Be a part of the times and travels of an American Bluesman. Contact Billy Jones at: email@example.com For more info visit: http://myspace.com/billyjonesbluez
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
Bryan Lee - My Lady Don’t Love My Lady
Justin Time Records, Inc
The last time I caught Mr. Lee live, I left convinced that I had just witnessed his best performance of the many times I have seen him and his stellar backing band. The primary reason I was so impressed was the quality of Bryan’s vocals that night. He sang with a powerful, expressive voice that expertly captured whatever feeling each song was going for. With his new recording, Bryan proves that what I heard that evening was no fluke.
Lee gets the star treatment on this project with Duke Robillard once again in the producer’s chair and special guest appearances by Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. He is accompanied by an all-star group of musicians including Boston Blues award winner David
Maxwell on piano, Marty Ballou on bass, Gordon “Sax” Beadle on tenor sax, Doug James on baritone sax and John Perkins, Lee’s regular drummer. Some musicians might be overwhelmed in the middle of all of this talent but Lee thrives on pressure, not afraid to share the spotlight but always bringing the listener’s attention back to his own contributions.
Big Bill Broonzy’s “When I Been Drinking” sports a late-night feel punctuated by Maxwell’s sparkling piano licks. The Beadle/James horn section provides a marvelous backdrop for Lee, who sings the tune like someone with first-hand experience on the subject matter. Lee turns the Willie Mabon classic “I Don’t Know” into a raucous rocker, with Maxwell and Beadle turning in strong solos before the leader finishes the cut with some stinging guitar work. The opening number, “Imitation of Love”, finds Lee voice soaring over hard, funky beat punctuated by the horns. Buddy Guy appears on a cover of a tune penned by his old partner, Junior Wells. Lee sings with conviction while Guy’s biting guitar tone and inspired playing serve to remind us why he is the dean of the Chicago electric blues guitar style. A quick run-through of Shepherd’s tune, “Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough”, gives Kenny Wayne a chance to show off his impressive talent on guitar. The band manages to breathe new life into “Reconsider Me” with another stirring vocal performance from Lee and another magnificent arrangement for the horns.
There are three tunes penned by Lee on the disc, starting with “Too Many Wolves”, which finds Lee describing his attempts to deal with the current financial mess our country is in. Maxwell gets plenty of solo space and Lee closes the piece with his guitar ringing out over the riffing horn section. The title cut finds Lee in the midst of a losing battle, trying to make peace between his wife and his guitar. “Me and My Music” is a jump blues tune about a former girlfriend who suddenly reappears now that the singer has a big hit record. Lee shouts out that she can keep on knocking on the door “..but the fat boy don’t live there no more!”.
Lee has numerous moments to showcase his guitar work but it’s his superb singing that commands your attention. And he wisely gives his cadre of veteran musicians plenty of room to stretch out. Robillard keeps everyone focused and delivers a package with clean, crisp sound. I thought one of Lee’s prior releases - Six String Therapy - was the pinnacle of his recording career. But this new release now takes that honor thanks to Lee’s impassioned vocals and the fine ensemble work by the band. You don’t hear many recordings this good from start to finish !!!
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2010 Blues Blast Music Awards
Have YOUR Music Considered For Nomination
Last year we had quite a few inquiries from Blues artists around the globe wondering how to get their recordings considered for nomination in the annual Blues Blast Music Awards. This year we are including a process for those interested to send in their recordings for consideration by our nominators. We have 30 nominators and you can send in copies of your CD to be considered. Eligibility for specific recording releases is from May 1, 2009 to April 30, 2010. For complete details about the awards and the new process CLICK HERE
The 2010 nomination process starts March 1st when we begin accepting submissions from labels and artists. Artist do not necessarily have to submit their releases to be considered but any that do will have their recordings screened by the nominators. Read all the details at the link above for a complete list of options to have your CD release considered now.
CDs for the 2010 nominations are the ones the nominators have heard. We have a diverse group of 30 nominators and they hear many CDs but if an artist or label really wants a CD to be considered by all the nominators they can send in copies of their CDs beginning March 1. CDs received will be sent to the nominators. A minimum of 30 copies are required so that all nominators get to listen to them. There is no charge for this in 2010 but we reserve the right to change this financial policy in future years. Complete information on sending in your CD is HERE
Nominators begin their initial nomination phase on May 1st and final nominations will be announced after May 31st, 2010. Voting Begins in July. The 2010 Blues Blast Music Awards will be held on Thursday October 28th, 2010 at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago, IL.
Blues Society News
You can submit a maximum of 175 words or less in a Text or MS Word document format.
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Crossroads Blues Society presents The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Sunday, March 7th at 7 PM at Big Cities Lounge. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Big Cities or by calling Steve at 779-537-4006. The show will probably sell out in advance so don't count on tickets being available at the door. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. The other two past shows were sold-out, so don't wait - get your tickets now at Big Cities - or by contacting Mark Thompson at Kahunablues@aol.com
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Spring 2010 Friends of the Blues shows- March 16 - Shawn Kellerman, 7 pm , Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, April 13 - Perry Weber & DeVilles, 7 pm , Kankakee Elks Country Club, April 17 - Joel Paterson Trio, Kankakee Valley Boat Club (“Rockin’ the River”), April 20 - Too Slim and the Taildraggers, 7 pm , Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, June 22 - Al Stone, 7 pm , River Bend Bar & Grill. For more info see: http://www.wazfest.com/JW.html
The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society - Marietta, Ohio The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society will hold its 18th Annual Blues Competition on February 19 and 20, 2010, at the historic Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, Ohio. Blues Bands and Solo/Dou blues acts will compete for cash prizes and BJFMS sponsorship to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis. More information: contact Steve Wells at 304.295.4323 or firstname.lastname@example.org Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. Feb 22 -
Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys
River City Blues
Society - Peoria, IL The River
City Blues Society has started booking more of their weekly Blues shows.
The shows start at 7:00pm at Good Fellas Pizza and Pub, 1414 N 8TH St
Pekin, IL. Admission for all shows is $4 or $3 for RCBS members. Shows
currently scheduled are: Wednesday February 24 -
Jett & the Phat noiZ, Thursday March 4 -
Biscuit Miller, Thursday
March 11 -
Thursday April 1st -
Motor City Josh.
For more info visit
The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society will hold its 18th Annual Blues Competition on February 19 and 20, 2010, at the historic Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, Ohio. Blues Bands and Solo/Dou blues acts will compete for cash prizes and BJFMS sponsorship to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis. More information: contact Steve Wells at 304.295.4323 or email@example.com
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. Feb 22 - Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys
River City Blues Society - Peoria, IL
The River City Blues Society has started booking more of their weekly Blues shows. The shows start at 7:00pm at Good Fellas Pizza and Pub, 1414 N 8TH St Pekin, IL. Admission for all shows is $4 or $3 for RCBS members. Shows currently scheduled are: Wednesday February 24 - Alvin Jett & the Phat noiZ, Thursday March 4 - Biscuit Miller, Thursday March 11 - Shawn Kellerman, Thursday April 1st - Motor City Josh. For more info visit http://www.rivercityblues.com/Events.htm
Featured Blues Review 4 of 5
Tommy Brown - Rockin’ Away My Blues
Tommy Brown, born in Atlanta in 1931, has had several careers in his lifetime. At the age of six, he debuted on stage as a dancer. Still at a young age, he took piano lessons and played drums in school. In high school, he found the first of many bands and performed at local teen dances. He was a regular at radio stations in the Atlanta area in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Soon his band was backing local and national touring acts. In the ‘50s Brown moved from behind the drums to step up to the mic. In 1951, he made his first recording for Savoy. He has since recorded for Savoy, Dot, Imperial, King, his own label T&L, and now for Bonedog Records.
One night Brown was onstage performing an Ivory Joe Hunter tune when his fiancé walked in the club with another man. Brown burst into tears during the performance and fell to his knees. It was not an act but it led to his biggest hit, “Weepin’ and Cryin’.” “Weepin’ and Cryin’” was number 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart for three weeks. That spontaneous reaction of weeping, crying and falling to his knees became part of his shtick. This may also be the genesis of a fellow Georgian’s creation, also named Brown, “Please, Please, Please” by James Brown.
Tommy Brown has had successes and near successes throughout his long career. He toured with the famous and not so famous. He has been a dancer, bandleader, musician, singer, comedian, songwriter, record label owner, artist manager, and most recently, owner/operator of personal care and treatment facilities. His heart never left the music industry and in 2001 he returned to the stage. His newest CD, Rockin’ Away My Blues was released in 2009 and contains a remake of “Weepin’ and Cryin’ Blues.”
The CD has a strong start with “Southern Women.” Now this is my type of blues. I have to admit, I hit the repeat button several times on this one. It has catchy lyrics but the best aspect is the music. French blues guitarist, Fred Chapellier, guests on lead guitar. I didn’t care for “House Near The Railroad Track,” however. It’s a good song for the jitterbug set, as in those old enough to have danced the jitterbug when it was the current dance craze. “Leave It Alone” is a witty warning on staying away from jailbait. He says, “leave it alone, she ain’t full grown…the paint ain’t dry on that girl yet!” “Love Of Mine” reminds me of late ‘50s R&B. It would be a good song for a live performance. “Atlanta Boogie” is just that, a boogie about Atlanta. “Night Work” is also a bit of a boogie with its walking bass line.
Tommy Brown is no Johnny Taylor but his delivery on “Cheaper To Keep Her” is much funnier. This is where his comedic background comes into play. He sings it as if he truly has experience on the subject. “How Much Do You Think I Can Stand” also seemed a bit dated to me but I enjoyed the horn work. “I’ll Die Happy” is snappy and “Do Fries Come With That Shake” is tasty. The weeping and crying throughout “Weepin’ And Cryin’ Blues” is definitely over the top. Another good one for a live performance but for a recording a little less weeping and crying would have been better. The final song “Rock Away My Blues” is a traditional song; again rather dated in style.
The CD is a mix of modern blues and old style R&B. The background vocals provide a smooth contrast to Brown’s gruff, shouter voice, especially on “Do Fries Come With That Shake.” There are real musicians and they’re good. I’d like to give a shout out to the entire horn section and a special shout out to Jimmy Britton on piano and organ.Reviewer Sheralyn Graise graduated from the University of Akron a while back. A former Social Services professional, she is now pursuing other interests such as music history, writing, and photography. She has been a member of the Blues Foundation since 2001.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Featured Blues Review 5 of 5
Will Tucker - Stealin’ the Soul
Will Tucker Music
A few years ago I was in Memphis on business and stopped by BB King’s Blues Club for a beer and to listen to the music. Some 15 year old kid was up there who was doing quite well. He never really panned out, but it was apparent BB and his club owners keep an eye out for young, local talent. Will Tucker is another teenage guitar prodigy, and this time they have found a real gem that will not require a lot of cutting and polishing to make it shine! Tucker is 16 and was discovered by King’s owner Tommy Peters in the summer of 2008. Since then he has appeared with a host of blues stars, played at the IBC Youth Showcase last year and now has prepared this CD to promote himself.
The CD contains one original tune; the rest of the tracks are all covers that showcase this young man’s superb talent. Four tracks were recorded live at BB’s club in Memphis, the other 5 at Ardent Studios in Memphis. Tucker’s band includes three stalwarts of the Memphis music scene: Joe Boogie on keys, Randy Middleton on bass and Pete Mendillo on drums. Tucker apparently “ingests” old, worn out blues records, playing them until they are barely audible. If this CD is any indication, this compulsion has given him a a very credible foundation and passion for the blues that makes him sound a lot more savvy than his young age.
The CD begins with the one original cut, “Your Sacrifice”. This is a funky blues song with lyrics of a love gone awry, where Will laments over some girl who “plays by her own set of rules” but he tells her he won’t become “your sacrifice”. The vocals are confident and expressive and his guitar work impeccable. Nicely done, and the stage is set for a host of traditional stuff that burns white hot. The guitar work on Muddy’s “Walkin’ in the Park” is sweet, as is the harp solo and fill in. Willie Cobb’s “You Don’t Love Me” is done in Allman Brother’s style (minus the 19 minute jam), with Will channeling a little of Duane Allman while Boogie is backing him nicely on the B3. There is no dual guitar interplay as in the ABB version, but the lead guitar is beautifully methodical and rises to robust crescendos on the solos. “Stormy Monday” also hearkens to the ABB “Live at the Fillmore East” version of this T-Bone Walker song. Tucker is restrained and soulful in his approach, craftily doling out the notes one at a time as he stretches this out 8 and a half minutes to showcase his guitar work. Next he switches it up with “Born Under a Bad Sign”; I can’t decide if his influence was more Albert King or Eric Clapton on this one, but it was a good influence either way!
The last four songs are the live set from BB’s club. “Burning Love”, “When the Levee Breaks”, “Johnny B. Goode” and “Little Wing” give us a good picture of how this kid (which I say with all due respect, as he is only 16 and I am 54) handles himself in front of a crowd. The first song burns through rapidly and, while overplayed and overdone by so many bands, is still fun and well done. “Levee” is more in the original Memphis Minnie jumping blues style than Led Zeppelin’s and again features solid work by Tucker and Boogie. He is quite animated in the Chuck Berry number, delivering a strong performance and plays the song slightly over five minutes with searing heat. He finishes up with the seminal Hendrix song and pulls it of quite nicely. He pays homage to the softer licks and chords in this one very expressively, and the vocals here are probably his best effort on the CD.
I’m impressed. I’ve heard a lot of the nouveaux guitar heroes and this one’s a damn fine one. He needs to develop his vocals a bit as he sounds young and little apprehensive at times, but he’s got the six stringed beast tamed and under his control. I really like the way he approaches the guitar. He is restrained and reverent, but when he needs to let go he does and it is hot. Some of these young kids just play what they hear on the records while others try to play every note they can to impress you, Tucker falls into a different category- he is respectful to the material he covers, he does not try to totally reinvent it and yet he does not just copy it. Check him out on YouTube and Myspace- you won’t be sorry that you did. I think we will be hearing a lot more from this hot, young talented artist! Go out and get this CD if you want to hear the future of the blues!Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.
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