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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

B.B. king - Live at The RegalThe 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 beautiful.

=2. The Fabulous Thunderbirds - What’s The Word + Girls Go Wild

The Fabulus Thunderbirds

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' R&B combos.

4. G - Love & Special Sauce - Coast To Coast Motel

Well, 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 Pleasures' thing.

Vaughan was great, but also on that night was this G-Love feller with his band 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 hip hop.

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...)

Beck's '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

Well, 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."


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The Mathus CD can be bought here: