The notable, frequently dramatic, story of pioneer modern blues label Chess Records and its founder, Leonard Chess, has made its way to the movie screen in a film as remarkable and as powerful as its subject -- Cadillac Records. While the film is not always historically accurate, it does indeed tell a powerful and well-scripted story that engages the watcher's attention fully.
We identify readily with the humanness, rough edges and creativity of the film's protagonists -- legends who are put into human terms in the film without sacrificing any of the creative greatness that made them legends in the first place. For Cadillac Records focuses itself around the frequently tempestuous musical and personal relationships of Leonard Chess with Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry and Etta James.
The excellent soundtrack features many of the Chess classics played by a band of first-class musicians formed by harmonica great Kim Wilson, who plays harp on the soundtrack and masterfully re-creates the signature Little Walter licks. Other notables in the band are guitarist Billy Flynn and pianist Barrelhouse Chuck.
Odetta, the powerful voice of folk and blues whose music was the anthem for the Civil Rights Movement, died December 3, 2008 in a Manhattan hospital. She was 77. She died of a heart attack but had been admitted several days earlier for kidney failure.
Born Odetta Holmes on December 31, 1930, in Birmingham, Ala., during the height of the Great Depression, she grew up on the black folk, blues and prison work songs that she heard around her. In 1937 she moved with her mother to Los Angeles, and in a 2007 videotaped interview for the New York Times, she recalled her humiliation on the trip as all the "colored" passengers were required to move from the train car they were riding in.
One of her teachers commented to Odetta's mother in 1940 that she had a voice that should be trained, and so Odetta studied classical voice music in high school and at Los Angeles City College, where she earned a degree in it. But she later dismissed her classical training as a "nice exercise, but it had nothing to do with my life," for she had discovered folk music -- the traditional songs of the African American and Anglo-American folk and working people's lives, and that music became her passion to sing.
Dave Specter, with Tad Robinson, Jimmy Johnson and Sharon Lewis
Live in Chicago
Delmark DVD DVD1794
Live in Chicago was recorded and filmed at two of Chicago’s leading blues clubs in August 2007, Buddy Guy’s Legends on Aug. 2 and Rosa’s Blues Lounge on Aug. 20. This DVD features live performances from one of Chicago’s most acclaimed younger blues guitarists, Dave Specter, with his band and special vocal guests Tad Robinson, Jimmy Johnson and Sharon Lewis performing in sets of solid, soulful contemporary Chicago blues.
Paul Rishell and Annie Raines
A Night in Woodstock
Mojo Rodeo MOJR1950
Moreland & Arbuckle
Northern Blues Music NBM0044
Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, along with Moreland & Arbuckle, are two Dynamic Duos of the guitar-harp-and-vocal acoustic blues. Moreland & Arbuckle is actually a trio, for, in addition to Aaron Moreland, guitars, and Dustin Arbuckle, harp and vocal, there is Brad Horner on drums, adding a nicely rocked-up feeling to the music that serves importantly in making Moreland & Arbuckle’s blues a hybrid between city and country styles.
From the Bluff
Swirldisc SD 78453 630
Memphis six-man band FreeWorld’s fifth CD, From the Bluff, is a delightful admixture of influences: horn-driven soul/funk rhythms, modern jazz, Frank Zappa cacophonic sound mixtures and 1960s to early 1970s rock, with powerful sound lyrics that are both streetwise and philosophical, in the best of the San Francisco hippie tradition.
FreeWorld was founded in 1987, when its bassist/lead and backing singer, Richard Cushing, approached legendary Memphis jazz saxman Dr. Herman Green about forming a band. Now 78, Green had played and recorded with the likes of B.B. King, Miles Davis, Lionel Hampton, John Coltrane, Clark Terry, Bob Weir and many others in a 63-year career.
Carry the Light
Sweet Lucy KRB1138
Earwig Music Earwig CD 4954
The blues is many things, and one of those things is its Janus-faced looking to both the past and the future at the same time. That is what’s so well manifested by these two strong CDs from two most notable blueswomen.
While Liz Mandeville’s Red Top builds up a contemporary blues sound based on the stylistic bricks from its past, Kelly Richey’s Carry the Light trailblazes by forging ahead into straightforward blues-rock that owes more to the rock of the mid-1960s and early 1970s than to what’s culled from the traditional blues repertoire.
Yet it’s just as much part of contemporary blues as Liz Mandeville’s Red Top, and both CDs are eminently rewarding, affirmative statements of the real future of the blues (now very much a hybrid, polyglot genre), a future that looks lovingly toward its substantive past certainly, but simultaneously in eager anticipation of its uncharted, undetermined, and unpredictable future.
It Must Be the Blues
Brent Bennett Music
Bookends from the Soul
The summer crop of new CDs brought solid new offerings from three strong singer/songwriter/guitarists in the Central Indiana region. All are steeped in the blues, although, as they show on these new CDs, they are each comfortable and convincing in other genres as well. Below are three thumbnail sketches of the new summer CDs from Brent Bennett, Fast Johnny and Jethro Easyfields.
08.20.42 - 08.10.08
01.10.17 - 08.15. 08
Two of the greats of soul, R&B, recently died within five days of each other. Isaac Hayes, as close to a one-man definition of soul music for the late 1960s and early 1970s as one gets, died Aug. 10. He was 65.
Five days later, one of the greatest soul, R&B and blues record producers of all time, Jerry Wexler, passed on also, at age 91. The passing of both leaves a hole in the soul of the music they both cherished and did so much to nurture and develop. "The Sky Is Cryin'" indeed, as Elmore James, Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan all told us in song earlier.
But this end is just the beginning, for the magnificent legacies both men left. So it's appropriate to exult with the late Little Milton also, "The Blues Is Alright." The blues masters come and go, but the blues -- and its babies, rock, soul, R&B, live on, and on, and on!
Emanuel Young with Howard Glazer and the EL 34s
Live in Detroit
recorded live at The Halligan Bar, Detroit, Michigan
Random Chance RCD-35
Howard Glazer and the EL 34s
Liquor Store Legend
Random Chance RCD33
Detroit blues vocalist/guitarist Emanuel Young is described in the short biography included on the sleeve notes to Live in Detroit as a "living Detroit legend." He's been playing the blues in the Motor City since the end of the 1950s and held one of the longest runs in Detroit musical history as host of blues night at Cooley's Lounge from 1978 until the place closed in 2005.
He's played with many of the greats of Detroit blues, including a year-and-a-half stint with John Lee Hooker, and has also played with Albert King, Jimmy Reed and Martha Reeves, lead singer with the Motown soul group Martha and the Vandellas.
The Blues Experience with Cash McCall
The Vintage Room
Dixon Landing Music
The Michael Packer Blues Band
Random Chance RCD-34
Blues Lights for Yours and Mine
Three solid electric bands here give us the blues as expressed in the characteristic sound of their respective cities. The Blues Experience with Cash McCall lays down the classic Chicago blues, while New York City's Michael Packer Blues Band delivers the blues as influenced by the polyglot musical influences of the Big Apple, and Davis Coen serves up the spicy blues gumbo of New Orleans.