Rolling Stones Come Full Circle With New Blues Album

“Blue & Lonesome” feels like the Stones took a journey back to the early 1960s and made their best album in more than 20 years.

Yesterday (Dec 2, 2016), The Rolling Stones released their long anticipated blues album, Blue & Lonesome. After having listened to it for a few times, I would say it’s their best music since 1989’s Steel Wheels.

Blue & Lonesome is the band’s first studio album since 2005 when they released A Bigger Bang, and their 23rd British and 25th American studio release overall. It is also their first full-length record that includes covers only. While the Stones started out playing mostly blues covers, even their early albums had at least one song credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Produced by long-time Stones’ producer Don Was, the collection of 12 vintage blues songs was recorded in a London studio in just three days. According to a recent feature in Rolling Stone, the Stones initially went into the studio to work on an album of original songs that is still in its early stages. To warm up they did what they oftentimes do – play blues songs they have loved for many years. Since they knew the tunes so well, they played them (mostly) live and didn’t need to run through many takes. This gives the album a fresh and spontaneous feel.

The Rolling Stones 2016

To me one of the highlights is Jagger’s blues harp playing. I have to say I wasn’t aware how talented he is. Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood also provide great guitar work, while drummer Charlie Watts and Darryl Jones,  who after playing bass for more than 20 years still is not an official member of the band, effectively drive the rhythm.

And then there is Eric Clapton, who happened to work on an album at the same study while the Stones were doing their sessions. They invited him to play slide guitar on two songs: Everybody Knows My Good Thing, a tune by Miles Grayson and Lermon Horton, and Willie Dixon’s I Can’t Quit You Baby.

Other contributing musicians include Matt Clifford (keyboards);  Chuck Leavell (keyboards), who was a member of The Allman Brothers Band in the 70s and has frequently recorded and toured with the Stones since 1981; and long-time session drummer Jim Keltner who worked with John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Hiatt and Ry Cooder, among others, and plays percussion on Hoo Doo Blues (Otis Hicks & Jerry West).

Following are a few clips of tunes on the album.

Just Your Fool (Walter Jacobs)

Blue and Lonesome (Walter Jacobs)

Everybody Knows My Good Thing (featuring Eric Clapton) (Miles Grayson and Lermon Horton)

Ride ‘Em On Down (Eddie Taylor Jr.)

I think what Richards said about Jagger’s harmonica playing and the album overall in the above mentioned Rolling Stone feature sums it up perfectly. “This is the best record Mick Jagger has ever made…It was just watching the guy enjoying what he really can do better than anybody else. And also, the band ain’t too shabby.”

This post was updated on August 4, 2020.

Sources: Wikipedia; Rolling Stone; YouTube

Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan

Today 26 years ago, the world lost one of the best blues guitarists.

As I have previously written on this blog, Stevie Ray Vaughan was an amazing blues guitarist. On August 26, 1990, he died in a helicopter crash at the age of 35.

To remember this incredible artist Guitar World posted a great YouTube video on their web site. It shows Stevie and his band Double Trouble in January 1986 during a sound-check. They’re playing Scuttle Buttin, one of my favorite Vaughan tunes, Ain’t Gone ‘n’ Give Up on Love and Say What!

As they say, a picture, or in this case a clip, speaks more than a 1,000 words!

Buddy Guy & Jeff Beck at PNC Bank Arts Center, NJ

The second show of my concert summer season featured guitar legends (and cool septuagenarians) Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck.

Last night (July 26), I had a chance to see Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ. From the moment I started exploring Buddy’s music in greater detail earlier this year (admittedly very late!) I wanted to see this amazing blues guitarist live. And when I learned he is doing a summer tour with Jeff Beck and they are playing in my neck of the woods, it was an easy decision.

PNC Bank Arts Center is a great outdoor venue, in my opinion – not too big, not to small. I’ve seen other fantastic gigs there, including Santana, Steve WinwoodThe Allman Brothers and Tom Petty. Yesterday, the weather was brutally hot, so luckily the show only started at 8:00 pm!

Buddy kicked things off, which almost made it feel like he was opening up for Jeff. While Jeff played the longer set, it should have been the other way around. After all, it was Buddy who was around first and influenced Jeff and many other great guitarists, such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Keith Richards! I read Clapton once called him “the best guitar player alive.”

Buddy was truly on a misson, saying he wants to save the blues. His guitar-playing was simply out of this world. I also thought he had a pretty strong voice. Both certainly did not give you any clue that the man is close to 80 years old. In fact, his 80th birthday (July 30) is just around the corner! In addition to playing and singing with an impressive amount of energy, Buddy also went on a little hike off the stage to walk through the audience in the front of the venue – pretty cool.

I thought highlights of Buddy’s set included Damn Right I’ve Got the BluesHoochie Coochie Man and Blues in the Night (My Mama Done Tol’ Me). He also played two songs from his latest album, Born to Play the Guitar, including the title song. Unfortunately, he did not perform my favorite from that album, Whiskey, Beer & Wine, which currently is also my overall favorite Buddy Guy song.

Next it was Jeff’s turn. He certainly delivered as well! In addition to his amazing guitar-playing, I was mostly impressed with his band, especially singer Rosie Bones who also appears on his latest album Loud Hailer, singer Jimmy Hall and dynamite bassist Tal Wilkenfeld.

I think my favorite of Jeff’s set was the version of the Sam Cooke classic, A Change is Gonna Come. Jimmy Hall did an outstanding job on vocals. Other highlights included Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and the instrumental of The Beatles’ A Day In the Life, which was the final song of the night.

Perhaps the only thing that could have made the show even better would have been at least one song both of these fantastic guitarists would have performed together, just like they do in the above photo!

The Electrifying Stevie Ray Vaughan

A little tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was one of the greatest electric blues guitarists

This morning, I listened to my blues playlist in iTunes. One of the songs was Hank Ballard’s Little Sister performed by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Every time I listen to Stevie, I get goose bumps. I think he was one of the most amazing electric blues guitarists.

In addition to Little Sister, which was included on Stevie’s 1985 album Soul to Soul, some my favorite tunes from him include Pride And Joy (from Texas Flood, 1983), Cold Shot (Couldn’t Stand the Weather, 1984) and Tin Pan Alley. The latter, which also appeared on the Couldn’t Stand the Weather album, is one of the best slow blues tunes ever, in my opinion.

Sadly, Stevie died in a helicopter crash in August 1990. He was only 35 years old. But his music undoubtedly continues to live on.

The other day, Guitar World had a cool clip of Stevie and Jeff Healey, playing Little Sister together back in 1987. Jeff, another terrific electric blues guitarist, also passed away in the meantime (March 2008). Check out the clip at http://www.guitarworld.com/stevie-ray-vaughan-and-jeff-healey-play-look-little-sister-video/25997.

 

My Late “Discovery” of Buddy Guy

While I had heard of Buddy Guy before, it was not until a few months ago that I began exploring his music – better late than never!

It all started when I came across Whiskey, Beer and Wine, a song from Buddy Guy’s most recent studio album Born to Play Guitar, released last year – the title couldn’t be more fitting!

What an amazing guitarist and what a fantastic tune! When I listened to it for the first time, I could picture Jimi Hendrix before my eyes. And no wonder, from what I read, Jimi was one of many top-notch guitarists who were influenced by Buddy. Others include Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards and Stevie Ray Vaughan, to name a few.

It’s also amazing to me that when you listen to Born to Play Guitar, you certainly don’t realize Buddy is close to 80 years old. He seems to have the energy of a young Jimi Hendrix!

Buddy was born in Lettsworth, LA on July 30, 1936. He started performing with bands in Baton Rouge in the early 1950s. His debut solo album, I Left My Blues in San Francisco, came out in 1967. Buddy has since released 16 additional studio albums and various live albums. He has also collaborated with numerous other artists on more than 20 albums.

Born to Play Guitar and six other of Buddy’s albums have won Grammys for Best (Contemporary) Blues Album. I think this record speaks for itself.

I know it’s impossible to know all music, but if you like Blues and were like me just a few months ago, go and check him out! And if you need additional encouragement, a clip of Whiskey, Beer and Wine is here.