Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Giant Passes

by Robert Horn

Rural Mississippi still had a lot of Civil War veterans in 1913. News of the automobile had gotten around to many and ten years earlier a couple bothers in North Carolina flew a machine for about 100 feet. In terms of musicians in Mississippi there were some giants about to appear on the scene. Charlie Patton wrote his first songs in 1910. Eddie James "Son" House was born in 1902, but the music world had not yet heard of him since he was only 11 years old. Robert Johnson also was born in rural Mississippi, but in 1913 he was only 2 years old. It was into this world that Joe Willie Perkins was born July 7, 1913, on the Honey Island plantation near Belzoni, Mississippi. The nickname "Pinetop" came years later when his playing of “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie” (a popular 1920s recording by pianist Clarence “Pinetop” Smith) caught the attention of many and became his signature tune.

Pinetop Perkins was there when those we sometimes credit as being the founders of the blues were beginning their careers. The birth of the Blues and Pinetop Perkins were part of each others' world. Years later he was at the scene of other profound moments in music history. When Les Paul invented the electric guitar and Muddy Waters got one, the blues became electric. Like on the Sistine Chapel, electricity shot between two fingers. The black finger of rural Mississippi bluesmen now in Chicago pointed down, and the young white finger of much of teenage America (and then teenage England) pointed up. With Electric Mud the blues became pregnant and they named the baby Rock N Roll. Pinetop played the piano for the drama unfolding that inspired the likes of Mich Jaeger, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and all the others who we hear everyday.

One of those that Pinetop directly influenced was a school boy who walked passed an open window on his way home from school and heard the piano music inside. That kid set out to play piano and in the early 1950's his song "Rockin' 88" was said to be the first Rock N Roll song. And while Ike Turner played piano well, I still think his teacher played better. His teacher died on March 21 , 2011 in his sleep, of cardiac arrest. What a life and what an influence.

More on Pinetop Perkins...
  • For an informative obituary on Pinetop Perkins, Click Here
  • Interview with Pinetop Perkins at age 95 on NPR:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

John Nemeth's Triumphant return to the Pacific NW

by Robert Horn 

Years ago I heard a kid from Idaho sing near Winthrop Washington, and I wrote about it. I wrote that either he must be one of the best vocalists around, or that was a performance of a lifetime, or both. A little while later someone from Blind Pig Records caught his act and when he was signed by Blind Pig (they have signed many of the great blues legends) they said that "never before have we signed an artist based on one performance, but that was not a normal performance." I don't know many other blues musicians that have accomplished so much before turning 40.

Name The Day!I need to apologize to readers for something. All this time, since those things happened, I have underestimated John Nemeth. He is now in the same league as the legends mentioned in the same sentence as BB King, Luther Allison, Charlie Musselwhite,...etc. In 2008 he got the Rising Star Award among other awards. Last year he got the Living Blues Award for Most Outstanding Blues Singer. His latest CD, Name The Day!, has already gotten him nominated for Best Traditional Blues Act and Best Blues Recording.

John Nemeth and his amazing band performed at the Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle on Saturday, March 19. When he thought he was done, the packed building was on their feet demanding multiple encores. You don't see that very often at Highway 99, but I saw it that night.

If you have not seen him perform in a couple years, and catch a 3 hour show of his now, you may not have heard any of the songs ever before. He has written a ton of new stuff. Often when you hear a favorite musicians' new stuff you can be disappointed and think it isn't as good as their early stuff. I loved Nemeth's early stuff a lot but something happened that doesn't happen really often: I thought the new stuff was better than anything I had heard him do before. His performance on March 19th was the best performance I have seen him do. If a performer can do his best performance (better than all previous ones) almost every time he performs, then there is something pretty special going on. He is young, and his best work is in the future. NPR did a special about him called: John Nemeth: Soul From a Different Era (Click here to listen to the NPR special).

Yes he is young, but his band is a lot younger. His rhythm section has been with him a few years even though they don't look old enough to get in a bar. The bass player has hollywood good looks and a crowd of young women who were about 21 years old gave him a lot of flirtatious looks from the dance floor. The new member of the band is A.C. Miles and people should write down that name. He is a guitar player that really surprised me. As soon as he began, I wondered how a 60 year old black man was inside that 25 year old white boys' body. I can't really compare his style to anyone: a few crossed my mind, like Luther Allison and other greats but this kid has his own style. He was not copying anyone. He got a lot of applause anytime he did a little solo. This band has a good chance of being one of the really great ones.

John's CD's sold to the crowd that stood in line for a long time to buy what he brought. The new CD, like 5 before it, contained original stuff better than the stuff before. What an amazing show. His recordings are good, but he is one of those artists whose live show is far better than any recording of it. His vocal range hits octaves that perhaps only dogs are aware of, but he can sing as a baritone when he thinks it is appropriate as well. There are reasons he wins awards for being the best blues singer. But many mainly talk about him as the great harmonica player. He did things with harmonicas that still have me baffled: how can a human breath in and out that fast. On one song he not only played harmonica faster than I have ever heard it played but sang the song like an auctioneer speaking. I only picked out a few words like "boogie, boogie, with me..."

If you can't see him live anytime soon, do the next best think and get his latest record.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"The Mathematics of Love" - Peter Parcek 3 (Vizztone)

By Malcolm Kennedy 
The Mathematics Of Love
The Mathematics of Love features Steve Scully-drums and Marc Hickox-bass along with Peter Parcek on guitar and vocals; but this is not your average power trio. You won’t find a bombastic assault of solos; you will find a rather more nuanced approach to a wide variety of music. I found information on Peter and the band rather difficult to come by; however the music speaks for itself and the BMA nominators felt the same giving The Mathematics of Love a nod for 2011 Best New Artist Debut as did the Boston Music Awards who nominated him for Blues Artist of the Year. 

Parcek has been playing his trade in the New England region and as touring band leader for Pinetop Perkins for a period. The Mathematics of Love opens with some electric Delta slide of the wicked order on Peter Green’s “Showbiz Blues.” Parcek keeps things in this low down groove for the title track. 

A couple of my favorite cuts, both originals, featured an alternative line up with Mike Levesque playing drums on both and with Danny Morris on electric bass and Jesse Williams on acoustic for “Tears Like Diamonds” that has a mellow JJ Cale like feel (of whom I am a huge fan) and Peter singing ‘I cried tears like diamonds, froze before they hit the ground.’ The second, a down home blues titled “New Years Eve,” features Ed Sporrgo on bass and Mike Fritz on harp and guest Ronnie Earl on the second solo. I found The Mathematics of Love to be a complex and thoroughly enjoyable piece of work and recommend it highly.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Washington Blues Society Sets Local Competitions in Kennewick, Spokane, and Seattle for the 2012 International Blues Challenge

By Tony Frederickson 
The Washington Blues Society’s local competitions for the 2012 International Blues Challenge in Memphis have been set! It’s time for bands and solo/duo acts to make their plans to compete. One band and one solo/duo act will represent the Washington Blues Society (WBS) in Memphis at the world’s largest gathering of blues musicians from January 31 through February 4, 2012.

For the first time, we are working with the Walla Walla Blues Society and the Inland Empire Blues Society to hold semi-finals across the state to make it easier for blues acts to participate in this great event. We will hold semi-final competitions on Friday, May 13th at the Untapped Blues and Brews Festival in Kennewick, on Sunday, May 29th in Spokane, and on Sunday, June 19th and 26th at the Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle.

The finalists will compete on Sunday, August 21st at the Taste Of Music Festival in historic downtown Snohomish. Each competition will follow the rules of the Blues Foundation. Each set will be limited to 25 minutes, and each competitor will be allowed one 15-minute set change. Any Washington State blues act may enter, and the act must include at least one who is a member of the WBS. Membership can be established at IBC entry, using the membership form in the WBS Bluesletter. The application may be downloaded from www.wablues.org and must include the non-refundable entry fee, which pays for the backline and a PA system for events. Any excess funds will be used to defray expenses of the winning solo/duo act and band to participate in the 2012 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Band entry fee is $30.00 and solo/duo entry fee is $15.00. Entry deadline is Sunday, May 1, 2011, and all entry forms and payments must be received by a Washington Blues Society Board member or arrive in the blues society’s Post Office Box no later than that date (Washington Blues Society, PO Box 70604, Seattle, WA 98127).

All proceeds will help with expenses for Memphis. The WBS will help winners in fund-raising, but cannot guarantee that all expenses for Memphis will be covered. Judges will evaluate each act using the Blues Foundation scoring criteria and rules. Judges will not be affiliated with the WBS Board or any competitor. Application is an initial statement of interest and not a binding agreement between the applicant and the WBS.

Make your plans to enter now! For more information, please contact Tony Frederickson, Washington Blues Society Merchandise Director, at anthonyfrederickson(at)comcast.net or Eric Steiner, Washington Blues Society President, at president(at)wablues.org.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Blues Trippin’ - A Time To Remember

By Blues Boss 

It has certainly been a rough, rough winter for the Pacific Northwest blues community. We have lost some of the true stalwarts of the local blues scene. Sir Charles White. Michael Kahler. Kirk “KT” Tuttle. L.J. Porter. Sad times for sure. A simple “Rest in Peace” doesn’t seem quite enough for all the musical joy they brought us.

We all have great memories of each of these talented individuals. For me, well… I used to be a “drinkin’ buddy” of Michael Kahler’s, back in the day. Michael introduced me to Sir Charles White at the long since defunct Larry’s Greenfront. I attended many a Wednesday Night Jam with that bunch. Michael is as much responsible as anybody for me being involved in the local blues music scene. He’s even responsible for the nickname “Blues Boss.”

As for “KT,” I met Kirk through his lovely wife Jimie Jean at the long running Thursday blues night at the Salmon Bay Eagles in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Often it seemed like “KT” was the house drummer there, and that’s a good thing. Spiderman! In the last few years I’d see KT driving around Ballard in that big ol’ car of his. I’m sure Jimie Jean and “KT” are now running that big jam upstairs – it would only be fitting.

BlueFinally, L.J. Porter! I didn’t know L.J. that well, but that didn’t stop the two of us from having a night or two of spirited discussion about the general state of the blues in Seattle in general, and the Washington Blues Society in particular. My fondest memory of L.J. is her on stage at a benefit for Ricki Hudson – singing – directing the band (one of her trademarks, for sure) and just generally enthralling everyone with her spectacular voice.

Yes, these are sad times for the Pacific Northwest blues community for sure. R.I.P, Sir Charles, Michael, KT, and LJ. Thank you for some unforgettable blues music.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Nothing Strange about The Strange Tones

By Robert Horn 

The J & M in Pioneer Square (Seattle) had The Strange Tones performing last Saturday, March 5th. The J & M has had some good music lately and all the chairs were full that night. This band is no stranger to Seattle. They have been here before. Some of the usual suspects were in the audience (like Blues Boss, Tom Honeywell, and other Washington Blues Society members).

We're On Our WayThis band has won 11 awards from the Cascade Blues Association and are regulars on stage in the Portland area. I love their on stage presence and how they have their moves down. Oh, they sound good too...

The crowd at the J & M is what a sociologist, or even a casual bar patron, would call diverse. It included "old" blues fans in their 60's to a lot of young people celebrating the fact that they are now 21 years old and can put away shots of Tequila with their college classmates.

When Julie Strange introduced a Paul DeLay song, "Fourteen Dollars in the Bank" and told a little about Paul DeLay, there were people in the audience who knew who he was and some younger people who did not. The first people on the dance floor were the younger folks, which shows how they appreciate a good blues band. So, it was unanimous: all generations there agreed that the band was good. If some think it is strange that all these people would like the same band, I bet bass player Andy Strange and singer/guitar player Julie Strange would disagree. Drummer Andy Gauthier and lead guitar player Suburban Slim were real impressive and I got a chance to tell Suburban Slim how much I appreciate his guitar playing.

There is nothing strange about the tone of the guitars and nothing strange about the fact that they have won so many awards in categories like Best Recording, Best Traditional Blues Act,...etc from the CBA. Anyone who gets a chance to hear them anywhere in the Northwest is in for a treat, that is if you haven't been treating yourself to their music already. It would be pretty damn strange to have a chance to hear and see them but not do it!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Grammy-Winning Blues Musician Chris Thomas King in Seattle March 15-16, 2011

Grammy-Winning Blues Musician Chris Thomas King, touring in support of his latest release: Sketches of Treme, will be in Seattle with a show at Dimitrious Jazz Alley March 15-16, 2011. Chris will also have a show in Vancouver BC at The Yale on March 13th.

Band members are Chris Thomas King (vocals, guitar and piano), Bill Burke (bass) and Jeff Mills (drums).

RiseChris Thomas King came into his own while expanding on traditional musical horizons that were inherited from his father, Tabby Thomas. Born and bred in the Delta tradition, King's success as a bluesman was virtually guaranteed while he performed under the umbrella of his father's genre. He grew up among the finest blues musicians in the genre at his father's blues club and began touring with artists like Buddy Guy and B. B. King in his teens.

Why BluesHis music was not only influenced by the blues, but by early hip-hop and country music, styles he fuses to create his own unique sound. Initially known for his audacious fusion of blues and hip-hop, Chris Thomas King reached a whole new audience starring in and scoring music for the Coen Brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, not only appearing on the award-winning soundtrack, but establishing himself as a serious dramatic actor as well. King has continued to act in and score motion pictures including the Oscar winning Ray. King has also written and recorded more than 150 songs that are in demand for license to motion pictures, documentaries and television programs. The new album, Sketches of Treme, is Chris Thomas King's first full-length studio album since the release of the Handy-nominated Rise, in 2006.

Sketches of Treme creates a fresh but ancient meditative groove syncopated by djembe and various percussions. These new original arrangements take's King's sound from his best known acoustic recordings like O Brother, Where Art Thou and Down from the Mountain. King cranks up the electric guitar with his power trio on several tracks.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"A Look Back" - Charles White Band 20 Year Anniversary Special CD/DVD (Self Released)

By Malcolm Kennedy  
A Look Back…. is just what it says: a 20 year anniversary look back at the career of one of the Pacific NW region’s finest and most beloved entertainers. The CD features a dozen cuts, including remastered studio originals picked from the bands two studio releases, 1992’s High Livin’ and 1997’s Not Easily Amused, along with some previously unreleased live material. In addition there is a bonus live DVD that is just a hoot, with plenty of memories for those of us who were there in the clubs and at the shows. The DVD is a hand held video of home movie quality. Especially now that Charles has past, this DVD is priceless and a blast to watch. Charles received the Washington Blues Society “Best of the Blues” Award for Entertainer of the Year four times, along with Best Band and induction into the Hall of Fame. It is quite evident why he was so honored.

Along with classics from the studio CDs like Bill Blackstone’s “Pink Champagne” and “Don’t Make Me Wait” are some covers Charles often performed at shows like “Thrill Is Gone,” and Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Add to that a live medley of Jr. Walker’s ”Shotgun” with tastes of “Susie Q,”"Louie Louie,” “Purple Haze,” “Inna Goda Davida” along with the popular James Brown medley, and to quote Charles ‘I said, Lord have mercy!’

Also included are two of my favorite studio cuts, “Paid My Dues”, a slow burner that is on fire and the instrumental “Moonlight” both penned by Scott E. Lind, and you have a CD jam packed with highlights. On Elmore James’ “Can’t Stop Loving My Baby” Scotty struts his stuff on a Duane Allman inspired slide guitar. The 12 tracks on A Look Back…. offer a full hour of good time music. 

Charles was a pure entertainer. Listening to these tracks I can picture him in my mind, dancing, wiggling, bumping, and shimmying. His head doing the bob and weave, dressed sharp, with a hat and open collar so he could breath. Strutting about the stage as founding band members Scott on guitar and Bill on sax leave it all on stage. My only complaint is the lack of information regarding the line-ups of who is playing, dates and places of the live pieces, and although the DVD provides some info it would be nice to have a more fuller picture. 

A Look Back… is a must have for anyone who ever caught this band in action and for those who didn’t this is a great starting place.

To purchase the CD/DVD set, CLICK HERE to email Blackstone Music from their web page.