I’VE GOT THE BLUES! –
After a particular rubbish week I started my weekend by going to a gig to see Nine Below Zero last Friday night at Gateshead Old Town Hall. I had got the date wrong and was ill prepared and to honest it would have been easier to cancel. But after my naff week and the fact that I had been looking forward to it, I rushed around and got there. I have to say they were the cure to my miserable week it was a great gig, great venue, great music, great vocals, and to top it all beer and the best harmonica playing I’ve ever heard. Nine Below Zero playing the blues, cheered me up nicely and my weekend looked a lot more promising.
So it goes to show that the best cure for ‘the blues’ is good music. Well to be honest I feel music is the cure to everything for me. I saw a quote recently and I must admit I hate some of those sickly sweet sentimental things, however this one rang true with me.
The power of the music and especially the lyrics of a song when you need it most are what make ‘the blues’ so special. They’re songs with heart and soul in them.
Born from a tradition of African spirituals and influenced by American folk and country music, the blues is a genre of musical story tellers. The Blues date back to the 1900’s played from the soul by acoustic musicians. The lyrics and music handed down to the blues pioneers such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and BB King to name but a few. They changed music history singing us the Blues and set the bar for many an artist’s rendition and the more contemporary R&B we hear today.
This week I would like to play 5 songs I personally like a couple of artist’s that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the Blues, but I enjoy their interpretation, see what you think.
BETTYE LAVETTE – LET ME DOWN EASY
Bettye LaVette (Betty Haskins) born 1946 in Michigan USA. Betty is an American blues/soul singer-songwriter who made her first record at sixteen, but achieved only intermittent fame until 2005, with her album I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise. Her eclectic musical style combines elements of soul, blues, rock and roll, funk, gospel, and country music. In 1962, aged sixteen, she recorded a single, “My Man—He’s a Lovin’ Man”, with Matthews, which became a Top Ten R&B hit after Atlantic Records bought distribution rights. This led to a tour with Rhythm and Blues musicians Clyde McPhatter, Ben E. King, Barbara Lynn, and then-newcomer Otis Redding. She next hit the charts with “Let Me Down Easy” on Calla Records in 1965. This led to a brief stint with The James Brown Revue. After recording several 45–rpm singles for local Detroit labels, in 1969 LaVette signed to the Silver Fox label. She cut a handful of tracks. The Memphis studio musicians on these recordings have since become known as The Dixie Flyers. After being signed to The Rosebud Agency for live bookings, Rosebud president Mike Kappus brought her to the attention of Anti- Records president, Andy Kaulkin. Upon seeing LaVette perform, Kaulkin signed her to a three–record deal. For the first project, he paired her with Joe Henry, and suggested an album of songs written entirely by women. The resulting CD, I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise, was on many critics’ “Best of 2005” lists. In 2006, she received a “Pioneer Award” from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. ‘Let Me Down Easy'” was recorded in 1965 by Bettye and her biggest hit. Written by Dee Dee Ford and released by Calla Records, the song peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles chart.
It’s one of those wonderful moments when you hear a great song that you had forgot about. I went to see Paolo Nutini as a labour of love with my sister and he sang his version of this song. I must say I was impressed with his vocals and he did do this track very well. Or was it just because I was so happy at being reminded of it?? I don’t know but Bettye I had forgotten how amazing your voice is and I love this record, you can hear the please in her voice to be ‘let down easy’.
OTIS RUSH – I CAN’T QUIT YOU BABY
Otis Rush born Illinois 1935 is a former blues musician, singer and guitarist. His distinctive guitar style features a slow burning sound and long bent notes. With similar qualities to Magic Sam and Buddy Guy, his sound became known as West Side Chicago Blues and was an influence on many musicians including Michael Bloomfield and Eric Clapton. Rush is left-handed and, unlike many other left-handed guitarists, plays a left-handed instrument strung upside-down with the low E string at the bottom. He played often with the little finger of his pick hand curled under the low E for positioning. It is widely believed that this contributes to his distinctive sound. He has a wide-ranging, powerful tenor voice. I Can’t Quit You Baby” is a blues standard written by Willie Dixon and recorded by Otis in 1956. The song, a slow twelve-bar blues, has been recorded by various artists, including Led Zeppelin, who included it on their debut album.
This is my favourite Nine Below Zero song. They play it so well but I also love this original version as well. Otis plays that guitar so well man….
MUDDY WATERS – GOT MY MOJO WORKING
McKinley Morganfield, known to us as Muddy Waters, born 1913 and died 1983 was an American blues musician. He is considered the “father of modern Chicago blues” and was a major inspiration for the British blues explosion of the 1960’s. Born at Jug’s Corner in Issaquena County. He was raised by his grandmother following his mother’s death shortly after his birth. She gave him the nickname “Muddy” at an early age because he loved to play in the muddy water of nearby Deer Creek. Muddy later changed it to “Muddy Water” and finally “Muddy Waters”. The shack where Muddy Waters lived in his youth on Stovall Plantation is now located at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He started out on harmonica, but by age seventeen he was playing the guitar at parties, emulating two blues artists in particular, Son House and Robert Johnson. Muddy headed to England in 1958 and shocked audiences with his loud, amplified electric guitar and thunderous beat. His performance at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival, recorded and released as his first live album, At Newport 1960, helped turn on a whole new generation to Muddy’s sound. He expressed dismay when he realised that members of his own race were turning their backs on the genre while a white audience had shown increasing respect for the blues. His influence is tremendous, over a variety of music genres: blues, rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll, hard rock, folk, jazz, and country.
Nine Below Zero sang this on Friday night and I love this upbeat Blues song. The harmonica playing is excellent and Muddy’s version is exceptional. He isn’t called the Father of the Blues for nothing and of course it got some of my MOJO working.
THE ANIMALS – PLEASE DON’T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD
The Animals were a British band of the 1960’s, formed in Newcastle upon Tyne during the early part of the decade. The band moved to London upon finding fame in 1964. The Animals were known for their gritty, bluesy sound and deep-voiced frontman Eric Burdon, as exemplified by their signature song and transatlantic No.1 hit single, “The House of the Rising Sun”, as well as by hits such as “We Gotta Get out of This Place”, “It’s My Life”, “I’m Crying” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. The band balanced tough, rock-edged pop singles against rhythm and blues-oriented album material. They were known in the US as part of the British Invasion. The Animals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
I love The Animals and really regret not putting them in my LOCAL HEROES article last week. It was actually intentional. I think you can guess by now I’m a big 60’s music fan and I didn’t want to sicken you all with it. I should have just indulged myself and added them, SORRY. They are worthy of the title ‘Local Heroes’. So to make up for it, here they are with a great track. Written for and originally recorded by the great Nina Simone in 1965 and the following year by The Animals. Sure this song is about me and that’s why I love it.
KATIE MELUA – BLUES IN THE NIGHT
Ketevan “Katie” Melua born 1984 in Georgia, Soviet Union. Singer, songwriter and musician Katie moved to Northern Ireland at the age of eight and then to England at fourteen. After completing her GCSEs, Melua attended the BRIT School for the Performing Arts in the London, undertaking a BTEC with an A-level in music. When studying at the school, Melua began to write songs and met her future manager and producer, Mike Batt. Batt was originally looking for an acid-rock band, bass player and a singer capable of singing “jazz and blues in an interesting way”. After hearing Melua sing Batt signed the 18 year-old Melua to his small Dramatico recording and management company and took her into the studio, producing her first three albums.
“Blues in the Night” is a popular song which has become a pop standard and is generally considered to be part of the Great American Songbook. The music was written by Harold Arlen, the lyrics by Johnny Mercer, for a 1941 film begun with the working title Hot Nocturne, but finally released as Blues in the Night. The song is sung in the film by William Gillespie.
Katie included this in her second studio album ‘Piece By Piece ‘it was released in 2005 by Dramatico Records. I think she sings this classic song beautifully. She doesn’t have a typical women blues singer’s raspy voice, but I love this version.
I found this on t’internet whilst looking for blues tracks, seems to be some of the greatest on one stage, worth a watch definitely.
SALUTE TO THE BLUES – GRAMMY’S
Also a little glimpse of what I enjoyed on Friday night.
Before I go I must say thanks for all the comments last week, loved them. Does anyone like Sting any better? Probably not, ha-ha. I have already apologised for The Animals (everyone makes mistakes).
Greeny: I agree with all of your choices and I especially like Back in Black AC/DC. Loved the Eurythmics and been told 100’s of times I look like Siobhan Fahey (Dave Stewart’s wife) just thought I would drop that in. My Hendrix link did seem a tad tenuous however he did live in Heaton for quite a while. But hey! Hark you and meeting The Kinks, I’m impressed.
Alan: Thanks for the Mayfair tip, your right ‘material of the future’ and those 3 songs are irritating.
YOURCLUBMYCLUBWORCLUB: Please tell me what ‘Chinka Plonka’ means? Love ‘Big River ‘and ‘Meet me On The Corner’ is also a huge favourite of mine. Thanks for the recommendations.
Ben: Thanks for the beautiful African music loved it.