I love the Mississippi hill country blues, especially R.L. Burnside and Fred McDowell. Some of the coolest grooves in blues – lots of texture and rhythm for a more individual, vocal-style playing on the guitar. Burnside has some more modal-type grooves and longer-form melodic ideas, where McDowell has these brilliantly contrapuntal lines that mimic the voice of the singer and the voice of a church response. I much prefer McDowell’s version of “Shake em all down,” but grooves like “Poor Black Mattie” are the stuff of music. And his version of “Deep Blue Sea Blues”/”Rolling Stone”/etc. is very deep and modal; “Rolling and Tumbling” is killer good, I love that he is able to pitch his voice in the bottom and mid registers of the key of the moment, and then in the next tune hit the mid and low-upper registers; “I believe, I believe my time ain’t long,” McDowell also did a version of this tune; “Poor boy, a long way from home,” again, both Burnside and McDowell do versions of this tune, but with this tune their versions are very different; “Jumper Hanging on the Line,” he’s got something on his mind…
Ferocious slide playing when it’s his time to shine, subtle when playing behind the tune, I swear the amp has already blown, when the solo kicks in the whole thing, guitar and amp, just scream with pain and joy… that was a presumptuous observation…let me say that the part really roars and sings, in my opinion, a little out of tune, but nasty out of tune. I love it.
Give me back my wig, goddamit, can’t you see I’m bald without?
Source: Cultural Equity Research Center
This is the source for what I assume is most of Alan Lomax’s field recordings. I would need to go through the catalog numbers, but really I don’t want to; whether or not the complete recordings are available, this is a great resource for teaching or just for listening. I love the prison recordings and the Southern country blues in particular, but I’m also partial to the calypso and the other Caribbean recordings. I’m definitely assigning this for class listening projects, asking students to identify and describe or defend individual compositions or groups of compositions.
Some great drumming and great found sounds. This video performance of djembe rhythm and dance feels familiar, like an authentic performer tinkering with musical tradition and modern technology at the same time. This video loves the music, portraying it in all its complexity while making it abundantly clear that the complexity long pre-dates the modern focus on technology.
This is a heartbreaking blues written for the girls who were killed in the Birmingham, AL church bombing in 1964. I really hate the word plaintive, but I think that best describes Coltrane’s playing and tone on this composition. McCoy Tyner’s playing is also near perfect, hitting the II-V cadences just so, floating just behind the beat. This is definitely high on my list of all time favorites.
I have to say that, though I am primarily a blues guitarist, I am a real fan of Adrian Belew’s playing. The guy has a real ear and mind for using technology to bend the guitar to his will. Sometimes I think, though, that the technology leads him rather than the other way around. I would love to be able to make the screeching and ambient sounds he is able to come up with, though I think I would have a tone heart attack if I had that many effects in my signal chain.
Definitely a unique musician.
Source: Sun Ra Discography at Discogs
This is a decent discography of Sun Ra’s recorded works, but it still doesn’t approach the detail of Robert Campbell’s The Earthly Recordings of Sun Ra. At several hundred pages, it is an essential resource for any researcher or fan of Sun Ra’s music, full of session info, musicians’ credits, copyright info, etc., all indexed according to compositions, recordings, and musicians. Great stuff to geek out on.