Corey Harris – Special Rider Blues – YouTube

My favorite teacher of the blues, generously dishing it out one week at a time at Sonic Junction¬†as one of their first teachers. He even teaches this version of “Special Rider Blues” in an odd tuning of his own invention, inspired by the time he spent with Ali Farka Toure. Mr. Harris is a very generous teacher with a real head-full of music and clear passion for what he does. This is one dude I would love to spend some time talking to.

But check out this guitar playing. He’s got a syncopated bass going on in 12/8 time with a nice modal melody on top. Most people who approach a song like this get dazzled by Skip James’s original playing on this tune, so it’s nice to see someone who has found a way to complement James rather than copy. James was such a virtuoso that it takes much time to master his playing. Harris took the tune to Mali and found a new way to express James’s music. read more

Down to Mississippi – YouTube

This is deep, coming from Wim Wenders’s contribution to Martin Scorsese’s The Blues from a few years ago. It starts off with Blood Ulmer, Eagle Eye Cherry, and Vernon Reid playing a tune and morphs to the original J.B. Lenoir version, accompanying video of the Klan in Mississippi. Ulmer’s hands are so big I don’t know how he is able to play the guitar, let alone play it well. But even with electronic percussion (Cherry) this tune has some depth and slow swing to it; it’s all in how you phrase against the beat. read more

R.L. Burnside – Mississippi Hill Country Blues – Full Album – YouTube

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… read more

Houndog Taylor – Give me Back My Wig – YouTube

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?

JOHN COLTRANE Alabama – YouTube

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.

Adrian Belew Electronic Guitar Instructional Video, lesson – YouTube

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. read more

Sun Ra Discography at Discogs

Sun Ra

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.