'Blues and More' by George Fish
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.
Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks
Born to be Wilder
recorded live at WorkPlay,
Blind Pig Records BPCD 5120
Deliveries After Dark
Blind Pig Records BPCD 5121
The Yank Rachell Tribute Concert and CD Release Party happened June 8 in the courtyard of the Indiana Historical Society in downtown Indianapolis, along the banks of the newly renovated White River Canal. It drew only a moderate crowd, perhaps because of the $10 admission charge ($12 at the door), but nonetheless, was a delightful way to spend a sultry Sunday afternoon that featured a full five hours of music.
The mandolin was very much the dominating instrument among the music played, fittingly enough given that that was not only the instrument of choice of Rachell himself, but also given that he was one of the undoubted masters of the blues mandolin.
National artists Rich DelGrosso and Andra Faye sang and played mandolin, with mandolin also featured by several notable local and regional artists as well -- Jim Richter, Mike Butler (who played not only his electric mandolin, but also Yank's own acoustic-electric Harmony mandolin, which Butler plans on donating to the Smithsonian upon his death), and Steve Robbins.
Jimmy McGriff -- 04.03.36-05.24.08
Seminal jazz organist Jimmy McGriff died Saturday, May 24, 2008, of apparent heart failure. He was 72. He had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years earlier.
One of the giants of the Hammond B-3 organ, McGriff was mostly known as a jazz musician, even though he always considered himself first and foremost a bluesman. Indeed, his numerous jazz records always had a funky, bluesy edge to them. Comparing himself to another great jazz organist, Jimmy Smith, McGriff once said, "Jimmy Smith is the jazz king on the organ, but when it comes to blues, I can do things where he can't touch me."
Another strong influence on his playing was the Black church. As he stated in a biography posted on All About Jazz, www.allaboutjazz.com, "They talk about who taught me this and who taught me that, but the basic idea of what I'm doing on the organ came from the church. That's how I got it, and I just never dropped it."
April 9 was the 11th anniversary of the death of Yank Rachell, one of the true legends of the blues, who lived in Indianapolis from 1956 until his death in 1997. He was especially known as the "Blues Mandolin Man," not only because he played this little-used instrument for the blues, but also because he was one of the true masters of the blues mandolin, with masterful folk musicians such as Rich DelGrosso and Ry Cooder devoted to studying and teaching his particular way of playing.
Which was unique for two reasons: first, he was entirely self-taught, and second, he developed his own particular way of playing the mandolin that emphasized playing the along the melody line of the song and not the more common way of strumming the instrument to the chord patterns.
While playing the blues on the mandolin produces a most compelling, haunting, indeed beautiful sound, the number of significant blues players on this instrument number fewer than 10. Among those at the very, very top was Rachell.
It's good to be back in the saddle again! Recurring viral infections have kept me away from my computer keyboard, so that this is my first "Blues and More" column since Feb. 24. I'm happy to be able to devote it to another top regional blues-based group, Indianapolis's Stone Martin Band, same as I had the honorable pleasure of devoting my Feb. 9 column to Mike Milligan and Steam Shovel.
The Stone Martin Band describes itself as an "eclectic, blues-oriented show band" whose repertoire not only includes modern blues, but also ample soul and funk, and blues classics from the 1940s and early 1950s revamped in contemporary blues and blues-rock arrangements, a la Buddy Guy, Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Covered material ranges from Muddy Waters to James Brown, and also includes band originals.
Two recent benefits for members of Indianapolis's blues community were three positive things: 1.) an outpouring of solidarity and compassion for "its own" when they developed major medical problems (and corresponding expenses); 2.) significant and helpful philanthropic fundraisers; and 3.) outstanding displays of blues talent and musicianship. They were displays of Indianapolis's blues community at its best, outpourings of love, artistry and devotion from fans and artists alike.
I've had the pleasure of knowing Mike Milligan for a decade now and during this time watch him grow as a guitarist and musician, a songwriter and a singer, becoming, with his band Steam Shovel, national-quality blues-rock performers who are respected as such -- while still continuing to live in Central Indiana!
Mike, now 36, and the two other permanent members of Mike Milligan and Steam Shovel -- brother Shaun, 33, bassist, and Robert "Tiny" Cook, drummer -- are all full-time musicians, although "Tiny" is also an engineer for Escience, a multi-million dollar home theater company that's made home theaters for former Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller, pizza entrepreneur Papa John and the Drake Hotel. Mike formed Steam Shovel in 1993, with Shaun joining in 2000, and Cook in 2005.