The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random songs at a time

The Sunday Six has become my favorite recurring feature of the blog. Highlighting six tunes from any genre and any time gives me plenty of flexibility. I think this has led to pretty diverse sets of tracks, which I like. There’s really only one self-imposed condition: I have to truly dig the music I include in these posts. With that being said, let’s get to this week’s picks.

Lonnie Smith/Lonnie’s Blues

Let’s get in the mood with some sweet Hammond B-3 organ-driven jazz by Lonnie Smith. If you’re a jazz expert, I imagine you’re aware of the man who at some point decided to add a Dr. title to his name and start wearing a traditional Sikh turban. Until Friday when I spotted the new album by now 78-year-old Dr. Lonnie Smith, I hadn’t heard of him. If you missed it and are curious, I included a tune featuring Iggy Pop in yesterday’s Best of What’s New installment. Smith initially gained popularity in the mid-60s as a member of the George Benson Quartet. In 1967, he released Finger Lickin’ Good Soul Organ, the first album under his name, which then still was Lonnie Smith. Altogether, he has appeared on more than 70 records as a leader or a sideman, and played with numerous other prominent jazz artists who in addition to Benson included the likes of Lou Donaldson, Lee Morgan, King Curtis, Terry Bradds, Joey DeFrancesco and Norah Jones. Here’s Lonnie’s Blues, an original from his above mentioned solo debut. Among the musicians on the album were guitarist George Benson and baritone sax player Ronnie Cuber, both members of the Benson quartet. The record was produced by heavyweight John Hammond, who has worked with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Leonard Cohen, Mike Bloomfield and Stevie Ray Vaughan, to name some.

John Hiatt/Have a Little Faith in Me

Singer-songwriter John Hiatt’s songs are perhaps best known for having been covered by numerous other artists like B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, Ry Cooder and Nick Lowe. While his albums received positive reviews from critics, it took eight records and more than 10 years until Hiatt finally had an album that made the Billboard 200: Bring the Family, from May 1987, which reached no. 107. The successor Slow Turning was his first to crack the top 100, peaking at no 98. If I see this correctly, his highest scoring album on the U.S. mainstream chart to date is Mystic Pinball from 2012, which climbed to no. 39. Hiatt did much better on Billboard’s Independent Chart where most of his albums charted since 2000, primarily in the top 10. Fans can look forward to Leftover Feelings, a new album Hiatt recorded during the pandemic with the Jerry Douglas Band, scheduled for May 21. Meanwhile, here’s Have a Little Faith in Me, a true gem from the above noted Bring the Family, which I first knew because of Joe Cocker’s 1994 cover. Hiatt recorded the album together with Ry Cooder (guitar), Nick Lowe (bass) and Jim Keltner (drums), who four years later formed the short-lived Little Village and released an eponymous album in 1992.

Robbie Robertson/Go Back to Your Woods

Canadian artist Robbie Robertson is of course best known as lead guitarist and songwriter of The Band. Between their July 1968 debut Music from Big Pink and The Last Waltz from April 1978, Robertson recorded seven studio and two live albums with the group. Since 1970, he had also done session and production work outside of The Band, something he continued after The Last Waltz. Between 1980 and 1986, he collaborated on various film scores with Martin Scorsese who had directed The Last Waltz. In October 1987, Robertson’s eponymous debut appeared. He has since released four additional studio albums, one film score and various compilations. Go Back to Your Woods, co-written by Robertson and Bruce Hornsby, is a track from Robertson’s second solo album Storyville from September 1991. I like the tune’s cool soul vibe.

Joni Mitchell/Refuge of the Roads

Joni Mitchell possibly is the greatest songwriter of our time I’ve yet to truly explore. Some of her songs have very high vocals that have always sounded a bit pitchy to my ears. But I realize that’s mostly the case on her early recordings, so it’s not a great excuse. Plus, there are tunes like Big Yellow Taxi, Chinese Café/Unchained Melody and Both Sides Now I’ve dug for a long time. I think Graham from Aphoristic Album Reviews probably hit the nail on the head when recently told me, “One day you’ll finally love Joni Mitchell.” In part, his comment led me to include the Canadian singer-songwriter in this post. Since her debut Song to a Seagull from March 1968, Mitchell has released 18 additional studio records, three studio albums and multiple compilations. Since I’m mostly familiar with Wild Things Run Fast from 1982, this meansbthere’s lots of other music to explore! Refuge of the Roads is from Mitchell’s eighth studio album Hejira that came out in November 1976. By that time, she had left her folkie period behind and started to embrace a more jazz oriented sound. The amazing bass work is by fretless bass guru Jaco Pastorius. Sadly, he died from a brain hemorrhage in September 1987 at the age of 35, a consequence from severe head injuries inflicted during a bar fight he had provoked.

Los Lobos/I Got to Let You Know

Los Lobos, a unique band blending rock & roll, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, R&B, blues and soul with traditional Spanish music like cumbia, bolero and norteño, have been around for 48 years. They were founded in East Los Angeles in 1973 by vocalist and guitarist David Hildago and drummer Louis Pérez who met in high school and liked the same artists, such as Fairport Convention, Randy Newman and Ry Cooder. Later they asked their fellow students Frank Gonzalez (vocals, mandolin, arpa jarocha), Cesar Rosas (vocals, guitar, bajo sexto) and Conrad Lozano (bass, guitarron, vocals) to join them, completing band’s first line-up. Amazingly, Hidalgo, Pérez, Rosas and Lozano continue to be members of the current formation, which also includes Steve Berlin (keyboards, woodwinds) who joined in 1984. Their Spanish debut album Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles was self-released in early 1978 when the band was still known as Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles. By the time of sophomore album How Will the Wolf Survive?, their first major label release from October 1984, the band had shortened their name to Los Lobos and started to write songs in English. In 1987, Los Lobos recorded some covers of Ritchie Valens tunes for the soundtrack of the motion picture La Bamba, including the title track, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in the summer of the same year. To date, Los Lobos have released more than 20 albums, including three compilations and four live records. I Got to Let You Know, written by Rosas, is from the band’s aforementioned second album How Will the Wolf Survive? This rocks!

Booker T. & the M.G.’s/Green Onions

Let’s finish where this post started, with the seductive sound of a Hammond B-3. Once I decided on that approach, picking Booker T. & the M.G.’s wasn’t much of a leap. Neither was Green Onions, though I explored other tunes, given it’s the “obvious track.” In the end, I couldn’t resist featuring what is one of the coolest instrumentals I know. Initially, Booker T. & the M.G.’s were formed in 1962 in Memphis, Tenn. as the house band of Stax Records. The original members included Booker T. Jones (organ, piano), Steve Cropper (guitar), Lewie Steinberg (bass) and Al Jackson Jr. (drums). They played on hundreds of recordings by Stax artists during the ’60s, such as Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Bill Withers, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas and Albert King. In 1962 during downtime for recording sessions with Billy Lee Riley, the band started improvising around a bluesy organ riff 17-year-old Booker T. Jones had come up with. It became Green Onions and was initially released as a B-side in May 1962 on Stax subsidiary Volt. In August of the same year, the tune was reissued as an A-side. It also became the title track of Booker T. & the M.G.’s debut album that appeared in October of the same year. In 1970, Jones left Stax, frustrated about the label’s treatment of the M.G.’s as employees rather than as musicians. The final Stax album by Booker T. & the M.G.s was Melting Pot from January 1971. Two additional albums appeared under the band’s name: Universal Language (1977) and That’s the Way It Should Be (1994). Al Jackson Jr. and Lewie Steinberg passed away in October 1975 and July 2016, respectively. Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper remain active to this day. Cropper has a new album, Fire It Up, scheduled for April 23. Two tunes are already out and sound amazing!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

21 thoughts on “The Sunday Six”

  1. Green Onions has to be up there as one of the most universal, instantly recognizable tunes (Especially, among instrumentals). Such a great song. Personally, I think “Time is Tight” is my favorite, but no one can begrudge you picking Green Onions. It’s a classic forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I could listen to Green Onions at any time…anytime! Great variety as always Christian.
    LOVE the Lonnie Smith cut. A B4 will be in my head all day!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s quite a rootsy week with Los Lobos and John Hiatt, who are both great. Court and Spark was my entry point for Mitchell – no shrill folk (that had pretty much gone by 1971’s Blue) just jazz-pop with great lyrics and creative chord changes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Sunday Six is a great idea Christian and while I have not be able to consistently check the out I had to chime in when you feature one of my favorite artists John Hiatt and one of my favorite songs by him – Have a Little Faith was my wife and I’d wedding song so has a special place in my heart. Hearing him play it live which he usually does solo on keyboards is always a treat. Great to know he has a new album coming out soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Paul, always happy to see you chime in!

      I love that tune, “Have a Little Faith in Me.” I also have to admit I know far too little about John Hiatt, except he keeps popping up as the writer of great songs having been covered by other artists like Bonnie Raitt, one of my all-time favorites!

      I definitely need to pay more attention to Hiatt. Based on the two tunes that are already out, it sounds like his new album will be great!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes agree that I think you would really like Hiatt based on what I know of your musical tastes. Places to start would be the Bring the Family album that Have a Little Faith is on, the next one Slow Turning, Walk On from 1995 and Crossing Muddy Waters from 2000. Have to check out his new singles!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am inching closer to trying to revitalizing our blog (just haven’t had the time) and if I do perhaps I’ll do a feature on Hiatt.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I was trying to remember when I first heard Los Lobos- I think it was on a college radio station- and Will The Wolf Survive- got that album and every one since. Great band. Deserved more success. It’s a shame their big hit was a cover. Saw them a few times in concert. John Hiatt also a favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. How Will The Wolf Survive/ By The Light Of The Moon/ Kiko- and a two disc compilation -Just Another Band From East LA– are good starting points- the debut album is my favorite- How Will The Wolf Survive.. One of the times I saw them just a couple years after ‘La Bamba’- and they didn’t play it!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The only 2 I recognized were the Robbie Robertson and Bookie T & Co. Lots of good music. I have a real liking to having organ in the rock and roll mix. I’m way more familiar with Joni’s earlier work. Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm is the “newest” I know of her stuff. Another great line-up for this Sunday, Christian!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa, glad you liked it. I also dig organ in rock, especially when it’s a roaring Hammond B-3. Jon Lord was an important reason why I dug Deep Purple as much as I did! Or Steve Winwood in Spencer Davis Group. And, of course Booker T. He’s the man.

      Have you ever watched this clip? Booker T. demonstrating the Hammond B-3 on NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert. If not, I would absolutely encourage you to watch this. Though I have to warn you. You probably gonna want a Hammond afterwards for yourself! 🙂

      Like

      1. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this clip. I find Booker’s T.’s passion so electrifying. This should be mandatory watching during music classes in school.

        The problem is every time I watch this clip, I wish I would own a Hammond organ, even though I’ve no clue how to play it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You aren’t going to believe this, but I listened to my first Tiny Desk Concert last week, when I was looking for clips for my last Womens Music March feature. I won’t say who it is, but I was absolutely delighted to find it and to learn of the existence of Tiny Desk Concerts. I listened to one by The Black Crowes too.

        About the organ, I understand! At around age 7 I was given a small organ and a songbook to play. I spent hours and hours at it but only being a small child I could only take it so far. If my folks would have had an ounce of common sense they would have gotten me lessons.

        Liked by 1 person

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