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Top Five Records
Rick Webb - Editor, Bluesinlondon
Well I guess I had to step up and do mine first...
These things are, by their very nature personal, so I thought I'd take
you on my own personal journey of the blues. These are records that have
made a difference to me, for one reason or another over the years. They
may not be the 'best' records of all time, but round my house, they've
had a big impact...
1. B.B King - Live at The Regal
first time I met the blues was listening to a radio series called
something like 'Guitar Greats' at some point in my early teenage years.
By chance a guy called B.B. King was that week's featured artist. I heard
'The Thrill is Gone' and something just clicked - life had changed and
from that point on I pursued this thing called the blues.
Eventually, if you follow the B.B. King path, you arrive at 'Live At The
Regal'. For me, with my non-rock sensibility, it's the essence of all
that the blues should be - full of life and joy and soul and heart. Just
=2. The Fabulous Thunderbirds - What’s The Word + Girls
After I'd started playing, inspired by the likes of B.B's 'Live at The
Regal', I quickly learned that, in this country at least, 'The
Blues' was a bit beardie-real-ale-drinkers-going-on-about-how-great-things-were-in-the-sixties.
Imagine my great joy when I discovered these records (thanks Blisterin'
Bob!). They exude fantastic style, charisma and attitude - truer to the
spirit of Muddy than all that hippy bell bottomed shoegazing malarky that
had held sway in the 70s.
Punk Rock Blues? Like Wilko and the Feelgoods in the UK, it felt like
the T-Birds were reminding the late 70s what R & B should be all about
by taking on some of that punk spirit. They made some shockers later,
but these two records remain the high water mark for harp led rockin'
4. G - Love & Special Sauce - Coast To Coast Motel
by the mid-nineties I'd become a tad disillusioned with the blues - it
seemed like the SRV brigade had won and the dance-floors of London's
club scene turned my head for a while (there were GIRLS there, rather
than the hairy arsed bikers who mainly constituted my saturday night audience
when playing in pub blues bands). One night, for old-times sake I tuned
into 'Later, with Jools Holland' to see Jimmie Vaughan doing his 'Strange
Vaughan was great, but also on that night was this G-Love feller with
doing 'Blues Music', a hip-hop-blues tribute to the greats the like of
which I'd never heard. Here were guys in their twenties, clearly steeped
in the blues, but also of their time and blending it in with for-real
If you think hip-hop blues means adding a scratchy sample of Muddy going
'Oh Yeah' over the top of some lame rapping, think again. These guys play
it live and this isn't an overlaying of one style over another; like Blundell-fly,
the very DNA is mixed to create a genuine new hybrid (and they
don't end up doing horrible things to Geena Davies...)
'Odelay' had paved the way, but hearing this put me right back into music.
I went out and formed a new band the very next day. Or something like
that... This, their second album, is probably a bit more accessible to
blues heads, but their first, eponymously titled one, is just as good.
Do yourself a favour and get hold of both.
5. Jimbo Mathus - Knockdown South
I'm sure all the traditionalists are spluttering in their cocoa already,
so I might as well plough on and include this in the spirit of 'here's
something new that I'm actually listening to...' This is a great
record. It's got tone and soul and heart. It's got great songs and great
singing and great playing. It's oozes blues but isn't suffocated by all
that history. Its a good record, not just a good blues
record, to the point that the guys I work with, usually fed up with my
putting blues stuff on, really enjoy it.
Mathus, from Clarkesdale Mississippi, served his time touring and recording
with Buddy Guy and these days he's settled into Clarkesdale and is producing
some extraordinarily good records at his Delta Recording Studio. His whole
thing is imbued with a lo-fi, down-home, l'il old boy from the South attitude
that belies just how good he really is.
He's making records, for himself and for others, that sound the way records
just don't sound anymore. As in the review of this album I did for this
site a while back (here),
I'm gonna give the last word to Jimbo's old mate, and favourite friend
of bluesinlondon, Seasick Steve: "Jimbo,
he'd play for a skunk on the road if he had the gig booked and a dollar
coming. He's a hell of a player man."
If you want to buy
any of these, then click below (we get a commission from Amazon, at no
extra cost to you if you use these buttons).
The Mathus CD can
be bought here: http://cdbaby.com/cd/jmathus