Finding worthwhile music has always been a challenge and in the brave new digital world of 2012, even the most intrepid explorers can be daunted by the sheer mass of recordings that have been released to the public. So where do you start? Metawyrd would like to help by giving you some “can’t miss” recordings from well-known genres such as the blues, folk music, and country. This installment will focus on the blues. Here we go….
B.B. King – Live at the Regal (MCA): If you have never heard the blues before, I suggest that you start with this live album from Chicago circa 1964. King’s heart-rending vocals and smooth yet stinging guitar are pure gold and his band’s swinging horn-driven style is totally soulful and totally impeccable. You just can’t miss with this one. I guarantee.
Little Walter – Hate To See You Go (Chess/MCA): If you love “Live at the Regal,” I suggest you try this recording next. This is a collection of marvelous ’50s sides from influential harmonica player and singer Little Walter. These tracks range from swinging urban blues (“Mellow Down Easy”) to the stripped-down country style which recalls John Lee Hooker (“Key to the Highway”). Sometimes people complain about the blues and claim that “they always sound the same,” but this collection dispels that myth with ease. There’s a ton of variety here and all the tracks are ace.
NOTE: If Amazon is any judge, this CD is now hard to find. I have not heard Little Walter’s “His Best” CD but it does have more than a few tracks from “Hate to See You Go,” so “His Best” is definitely an option.
Fathers and Sons (Chess/MCA): Yes, we have more Chess! On this superb late 60s recording, the blues legend Muddy Waters is backed by an all-star cast of young R&B and blues stars and almost by luck, everything comes together in this disc. On “Fathers,” Chess allowed the tracks on this recording (originally a double LP) to go out beyond the typical three minutes and this does immeasurable good for Muddy. The songs don’t feel like canned singles–they sound fresh and lively and real. The additional time also allows Muddy to stretch out and terrify me with some totally searing electric slide guitar! It is some of the best blues guitar I have ever heard. EVER.
Best of Howlin Wolf (Telstar): If you go by discography alone, I am willing to state that Howlin’ Wolf (aka Chester Burnett) was and probably is the greatest bluesman to have ever lived. The tracks on this greatest hits collection of Chess recordings, most of which you can find on the “Howlin’ Wolf”/”Moanin’ At Midnight” CD, make this case without even breaking a sweat.
Once you get these tracks in your player, Wolf’s barbed-wire “vokills” will grab you by the throat then his wild and passionate band–led by the intense stutter-snap stabs of guitarist Hubert Sumlin–will give you the ride of your life. And the songs! These versions of “Little Red Rooster,” “Spoonful,” “Wang Dang Doodle,” and “Killing Floor” inspired all the lesser rock musicians who never matched the Wolf. Yes, Mr. Burnett is pretty raw and he may not be to your taste, but everybody needs to give him a whirl and hear a hint of what the real blues can be.
For the Faithful: John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat’s “Turn Up The Heat!” cassette (Sony Special Collections), John Lee Hooker’s “The Legendary Modern Recordings 1948-1954″ (Ace Records UK), Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “I Do Not Play No Rock’N’Roll” 2XCD (Capitol Blues Collection), Buddy Guy’s “Sweet Tea” (Silvertone), R.L. Burnside’s “Too Bad Jim” (Fat Possum)
Next week: Metawyrd’s Can’t Miss Folk and Country!