Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Song of the Week: "Shake It Baby", Sunnyland Slim

Sometimes one runs across a record so darn weird that they just need to stop and say "what the hell were they thinking?" This is one of those. The first time I ran across this 78rpm record I was digging on the very low-fi recording for the first 45 seconds of the song. It has a good little rumba beat and a nasty, fuzzed out vocals from a mic that seems to have been buried under the sheets with Sunnyland Slim who sounds as if he recorded his vocals after a very long night. Then, right around 45 seconds, a woman's voice pops in. But unlike Sunnyland's voice, her voice is recorded with a mic that captures the woman's voice crystal clear. The voice is one Anna Lee। Then, very quickly, one realizes what she, and Sunnyland, are singing. Or should I say, negotiating.

I'm shaking it, daddy. Like this daddy? Is this what you want, daddy? Mama's shaking it. Mama's trying to please you this morning, daddy. Want this diamond ring, daddy. How am I doing? Is this the way you want it?
WTF?! And that is only the beginning. Anna Lee continues her call-girl and response with Sunnyland as they negotiate the required duties for the promised Cadillac. This song feels like a little peek behind the scenes of those late night clubs on Maxwell Street in Chicago in the early 50's. Booze, broads, blues, knives and guns.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Song of the Week: "I Wish You Would", Billy Boy Arnold

Listen - Billy Boy Arnold performs I Wish You Would

"Early in the morning, about the break of day." Most know that opening line from The Yardbirds' stellar debut single from 1964, I Wish You Would. But nine years before Eric Clapton's heavily fuzzed Telecaster spit out the two note riff, Billy Boy Arnold recorded his original for Vee Jay Records in Chicago. Billy Boy Arnold had served as Bo Diddley's harp man on the Chess Recording of Diddley Daddy and took the spirit of that song to create his own debut single. It's a gem. Hope you like it.

Below is a nice vid from 1964 of The Yardbirds, with Eric Clapton, performing the same number. This live version tracks much closer to the original than did the Epic Records release.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Song of the Week: The Chesterfield Kings - I've Gotta Way With Girls

I admit, I am always a little shocked when I put this single on my turntable and it still plays. That's because when I first picked it up in 1984, I played this thing about 69 times a day and I was sure I was going to wear the grooves out. But it still works!

The band is none other than The Chesterfield Kings, whom hailed from the music mecca of America, Rochester, New York. The quintet all met at the legendary House of Guitars (best music store I have ever visited) sometime around the year 1979. They all loved 60's garage, had access to some of the best instruments from the 60's, and the singer, Greg Prevost, was, and still is, a very impressive record collector who helped the band flesh out their set-list. The band started off with a bevy of covers, but, over time, they weaved in more and more of their own compositions.

Our SoTW, I've Gotta Way With Girls, is an original composition from the band a cover from a Texas band that I was previously unaware of, The Lavender Hour. Don't know how I've missed them. The Flip-Side of I've Got A Way With Girls is an equally good original song, She Told Me Lies, which utilizes the all important Hand Saw as an instrument. Back in '84 I was more enamored with the Vox Organ heavy A-Side to the point that my mommy told me I might go blind if I spun it as hard as I liked to do in those younger days. But these days, it's the Flip-Side that grabs my attention and turns my palms all black and hairy. And specifically Richard Cona's awesome guitar work that, unlike most garage band revivalists, shows great restraint in tone and attack. I just love me that classic Rickenbacker sound.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Song of the Week: K.C. Douglas - Make Your Coffee

I was driving around in California's central valley some ten years ago listening to a KDVS blues show when a hard chargin' two chord song came on that stopped me in my tracks. I didn't get the name of the artist but I recognized some of the lyrics and was able to track it down. The song was K.C. Douglas's rendition of Tommy Johnson's Catfish Blues. I went out and picked up Arhoolie's 1998 release, K.C. Douglas - Mercury Blues.
It turns out K.C. Douglas, born in rural Mississippi in 1913, had relocated in 1945 to the San Francisco Bay Area to work in the naval shipyards, probably the yards in Richmond where he lived for awhile. Having earned his blues chops in Mississippi, including alongside the likes of Tommy Johnson, he continued playing after settling into his new locality. So it would only make sense that he would come under the radar of Chris Strachwitz, the founder of Arhoolie Records. The album, all of which was recorded by Strachwitz on a portable recorder between 1960 and 1974, is about half electric with backup band, such as on Catfish Blues and his now familiar Mercury Blues, with the rest acoustic, just K.C. and guitar. Not surprisingly (if you know me), I gravitated to the acoustic set, and in particular to the mellow fingerstyle blues of today's song of the week, Make Your Coffee, a previously unreleased track. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Busker Days: Richard Brandenburg: "This Love We've Been Living Through"

A couple weeks ago I surfaced to some new sounds around North Berkeley BART. That's the beauty of busker music - it is not tacked down to any particular place or time and you never know what you're gonna hear. And sometimes the tempo, melodies and words conspire to make a stressed out world-weary working stiff pause and think about things and look around a bit. This conspiratorial trio - tempo, melody, words - as found in old-time country music always seems to do the trick, hand delivering a heaping of heartache on the sweetest plate of music around.

Local singer songwriter Richard Brandenburg follows in this tradition with his composition This Love We've Been Living Through. Enjoy!