Mamadou Kelly – Politiki (Clermont Music CLE 016CD, 2017)
Superb Malian guitarist Mamadou Kelly skillfully combines Saharan desert blues with American blues on Politiki.
In addition to his regular band, BanKaiNa, Mamadou Kelly invited American musicians such as award-winning steel guitar master Cindy Cashdollar, Susie Ibarra on drums, Jake Silver on bass, and Dan Littleton on guitars.
Politiki is a remarkable combination of West African and American blues genres featuring outstanding guitar work.
Born in Issaquena County, Mississippi as McKinley Morganfield in 1913,Artist Profiles: Muddy Waters was deeply rooted in the Mississippi Delta blues. He got his nickname as a result of a childhood predilection for ‘playing in the muddy waters.’
He started playing harmonica at nine, but later switched over to the guitar. The teenaged, tractor driver Muddy Waters spent his free time absorbing the music scene of Clarksdale, Mississippi. There, he learned from two of Mississippi’s iconic bluesmen, Son House and Robert Johnson.
Muddy soon joined up with Silas Green and his traveling show, before plying his guitar in St. Louis and finally returning home. It was back in Mississippi that Muddy met with John and Alan Lomax, where he performed songs for the pair and their folk recordings for the Library of Congress recordings.
Muddy made two extraordinary decisions at that point; he joined many making the great migration north to Chicago in search for factory work and he plugged his guitar. Muddy plugged his guitar into an amplifier to be heard over the clattering masses of the Chicago club scene and it’s that sound that changed blues music forever.
Electrified blues soon spread to the streets of Chicago and Muddy found club work and started recording for Columbia and Aristocrat (later to become Chess Records).
Muddy Waters inspired numerous blues and rock musicians, including Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray, Peter Green, and the Rolling Stones.
Acclaimed blues harmonica player James Cotton died on March 16, 2017. He was a legendary musician who had performed with some of blues’ greatest musicians along with rock stars.
James Cotton (called Cotton by his friends) was born on the first day of July, 1935, in Tunica, Mississippi. He was the youngest of eight brothers and sisters who grew up in the cotton fields working together with their mother, Hattie, and their father, Mose. On Sundays, Mose was the preacher in the area’s Baptist church.
Cotton’s earliest memories included his mother playing chicken and train sounds on her harmonica and for a few years he thought those were the only two sounds the small instrument made. His Christmas present one year was a harmonica; it cost 15 cents, and it wasn’t long before he mastered the sounds of the chicken and the train.
King Biscuit Time, a 15-minute radio show, began broadcasting live on KFFA, a radio station just across the Mississippi River in Helena, Arkansas. The star of the show was the harmonica legend, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller). The young Cotton listened closely to the old radio speaker. He recognized the harmonica sound and discovered something – the harmonica did more! Realizing this, a profound change came over him, and since that moment, Cotton and his harmonica became inseparable. Soon after, he was able to play Sonny Boy’s theme song from the radio show and, as he grew so did his repertoire of Sonny Boy’s other songs.
Mississippi summers are unbearably hot and James was too young to actually work in the cotton fields, so little Cotton would bring water to those who did. When it was time for him to take a break from his job, he would sit in the shadow of the plantation foreman’s horse and played his harmonica. His music became a source of joy for his first audience.
By his ninth year, both of his parents had died, and Cotton was taken to Sonny Boy Williamson by his uncle. When they met, the young kid wasted no time – he began playing Sonny Boy’s theme song on his treasured harmonica. Cotton remembered that first meeting well and said, “I walked up and played it for him. And I played it note for note. And he looked at that. He had to pay attention.” The two harmonica players were like father and son from then on. “I just watched the things he’d do, because I wanted to be just like him. Anything he played, I played it,” he remembered.
James Cotton embarked on a long musical career. He joined Muddy Waters’ band, formed his own blues outfit called James Cotton Blues Band in the late 1960s and collaborated with rock artists such as Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.
“James Cotton’s talent as a blues harmonica player was unmatched. While the Mississippi native was best known for his collaborations with Muddy Waters, he was also an accomplished singer-songwriter and fronted his own group called the James Cotton Blues Band. A 10-time GRAMMY nominee, he earned the Best Traditional Blues Album GRAMMY for 1996 for his album Deep in the Blues. He was later inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006. Our deepest condolences go out to James’ family, friends, and creative collaborators,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy.
Knut Reiersrud was born in 1961 in Oslo. He has been a much sought-after guitarist since he was teenager. He started out as a scholar of blues and folk music, and acquired a vast amount of knowledge about older forms of folk music. He became a professional musician in the late 1970s.
At 18, Knut Reiersrud made a sensation locally in Scandinavia when he tried to upstage blues guitarists Buddy Guy and Otis Rush in concert jams when they played Northern Europe. Later he has shared stage with among others Dr. John, Rick Danko (of The Band), Joe Cocker, Jan Garbarek and countless Norwegian jazz and rock settings, such as Silje and Bendik Hofseth (of Steps Ahead). He has also played with Morten Harket (of A-HA).
Reiersrud’s knowledge of Norwegian and international folk music has made him a renowned guitarist and composer. He has toured throughout the world, and has collaborated with musicians from all corners of the globe. His powerful presence and playful exuberance on stage make him a popular performer for all audiences.
Knut Reiersrud is also a renowned record producer, who has worked with numerous blues, folk and world music acts.
* Blå Koral with Iver Kleive (Kirkelig Kulturverksted FXCD 106, 1991)
* Himmelskip, with Iver Kleive (Kirkelig Kulturverksted FXCD 163, 1994)
* The sweet sunny north vol 1, with Kaiser/Lindley (Shanachie SH 64057, 1994)
* The sweet sunny north vol 2, with Kaiser/Lindley (Shanachie SH 64061, 1996)
* IX, with Bendik Hofseth ( Sony/Columbia 468 400 2, 1991)
* Amuse yourself, with Bendik Hofseth (Sony/Columbia 472 988 2, 1993)
* Tramp (Kirkelig Kulturverksted FXCD 129, 1993)
* Klapp (Kirkelig Kulturverksted FXCD 151, 1995)
* Soul of a man (Kirkelig Kulturverksted FXCD 194, 1998)
* Sub (Kirkelig Kulturverksted FXCD 215, 1999)
* Den signede dag, with Iver Kleive (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2000)
* Sweet Showers of Rain (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2001)
* Pretty Ugly (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2004)
* Gitar (Big Dipper Records, 2009)
* One Drop Is Plenty, with Mighty Sam McClain (2011)
* Aftonblues (Bluestown Records, 2013)
* Tears Of The World, with Mighty Sam McClain (ACT Music, 2015)
Belgian multi-ethnic band Zanzibar plays an unexpected mix of rhythmic Afropop music, harmonica-based American blues, boogie woogie, jazz, Haitian folk music and even a traditional African American prison work song titled “‘Berta ‘Berta”.
Zanzibar uses vocals in various languages, including English, French, Kirundi (language of Burundi) and Haitian Creole.
Band members include vocalist Desire Ntemere from Burundi on vocals; Belgian multi-instrumentalist Renaud Patigny on piano, keyboards, balafon, and vocals; Kankan Bayo from Guinea Conakry on percussion and vocals; and Belgian harmonica ace Genevieve Dartevelle, who also plays didgeridoo.
Genevieve Dartevelle delivers outstanding performances on the harmonica.
The album Porcupine Meat by Bobby Rush (Rounder Records) is the winner of Best Traditional Blues at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.
The other finalists were:
Can’t Shake This Feeling – Lurrie Bell (Delmark Records)
Live At The Greek Theatre – Joe Bonamassa (J&R Adventures)
Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook: Volumes I & II) – Luther Dickinson (New West Records)
The Soul Of Jimmie Rodgers – Vasti Jackson (VJM)
Henry Gray was born on January 19, 1925, in Kenner, Louisiana. He created the outline for post World War II Chicago blues piano. Playing for twelve years with legendary Howlin’ Wolf, Henry Gray has remained prominent for decades as an original blues voice in Chicago and Louisiana.
Henry Gray has performed at virtually every New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival since its beginning. A Grammy Nominee for “A Tribute to Howlin’ Wolf’,” he also performed at Mick Jagger’s 55th birthday party in Paris in 1998 and is featured in Clint Eastwood and Marin Scorsese blues films. Henry received a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship award in 2006.
In 2015, Delta Groove Music released a selection of collaborations between Henry Gray has and harmonica virtuoso Bob Corritore made over a 19-year period. Vocalists featured include Robert Lockwood Jr., John Brim, Nappy Brown, Tail Dragger and Dave Riley. Guest instrumentalists include Bob Margolin, Kid Ramos, Kirk Fletcher, Big Jon Atkinson, Chris James, Patrick Rynn, Bob Stroger, Chico Chism, June Core, Doug James and others.
* Louisiana Swamp Blues, Vol. 2 (Wolf Records, 1990)
* Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest (Lucky Cat Records, 1999)
* Don’t Start That Stuff (Last Call Records, 2000)
* Henry Gray Plays Chicago Blues (Hightone Record, 2001)
* Watch Yourself (Lucky Cat Records, 1999)
* Henry Gray and the Cats: Live in Paris CD/DVD (Lucky Cat Records, 2003)
* The Blues of Henry Gray & Cousin Joe (Storyville Records, 2004)
* Times Are Gettin Hard (Lucky Cat Productions, 2009)
* Lucky Man (Blind Pig, 2011)
* Vol. 1: Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest (Delta Groove Music, 2015)
Buddy Guy is an internationally acclaimed blues guitarist, singer and showman. He’s one of the finest examples of Chicago-style electric blues.
Throughout his extensive musical career Buddy Guy has received numerous Grammy Awards, Blues Foundation’s W.C. Handy Awards, a Billboard Century Award and in 2003, the United States President presented Buddy Guy with The Medal of Arts that was established by Congress in 1984.
Even though Buddy Guy is closely associated with Chicago, his story in reality started in Louisiana. Born in 1936 to a sharecropper’s family and raised on a plantation near the small town of Lettsworth, located some 140 miles northwest of New Orleans, George “Buddy” Guy was one of five children born to Sam and Isabel Guy.
His earliest years were affected by growing up in the American South: separate seating on public buses, whites-only drinking fountains, and restaurants where blacks (if served at all) were sent around back. But it was tolerance, not resentment, impressed upon in the young Buddy Guy.
Buddy was seven years old, he recalls, when he put together his first makeshift “guitar” a two-string device attached to a piece of wood and secured with his mother’s hairpins. There was usually no work to be done on the plantation on Saturday afternoons and Sundays, and the valuable free time helped Buddy to develop the very skills that would one day bring him fame. It would be nearly a decade, however, before Buddy would own an actual guitar, a Harmony acoustic that now sits on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
By late 1955, following a job pumping gas, the 19-year-old Guy was working as a custodian at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, earning $28 per week. His passion was already firmly connected to the guitar and the blues sounds he heard coming from the radio, but at that point in his young life, Guy had never even been out of Louisiana.
It was September 25, 1957, a date Guy would cite countless times in interviews over the following decades, when he boarded the 8:14 a.m. train in Hammond, Louisiana, arriving in Chicago just before midnight. In an instant, his world had changed. Gone was the rural landscape of Louisiana; in its place was the thriving urban sprawl of a large city.
Within months, though, Guy had taken up residency in Chicago’s fabled 708 Club. His first appearance followed a set by Otis Rush and an often repeated story about a hungry Guy, penniless and on the verge of returning to Louisiana, getting salami sandwiches from none other than Muddy Waters himself, who had arrived at the club in a red Chevrolet. It was the first time Guy had ever seen the blues giant, who happened to live nearby.
“When I first came to Chicago,” says Guy, “most musicians were still sitting down in front of music stands even if they couldn’t read music, they did it just to look more serious. Then Guitar Slim got wild and kicked them all off stage, and I was wild like that, too.
“We used to have guitar battles every Sunday and Monday, with guys like Otis Rush and Magic Sam. It was like watching two tennis players or two boxers, they’d go at each other, but it was just making a living. One time, I came in with a 150 foot cord, walked in the door playing, and they just put their guitars down. And even now, if I don’t go off the stage, people ask if I’m feeling alright!”
By the early 1960s, Guy was a first-call session man at Chess Records. In that role, he backed artist like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and Sonny Boy Williamson. One milestone recording with Waters, Folk Singer, was made in September of 1963 and released in the spring of 1964.
Poducer Ralph Bass wrote in the album’s original liner notes about the “search” for a second guitarist to back Waters: “Buddy Guy, a young blues singer in his own right, was first choice and it is amazing for so young a musician as Buddy to be able to fit in with Muddy.”
In addition, Guy began to release a considerable amount of recordings under his own name. By the end of the 1960s, he released trailblazing albums like 1967’s I Left My Blues in San Francisco, his last recording for Chess, and 1968’s A Man and the Blues for Vanguard. In the process, Guy, the musician who developed a stinging, attacking electric guitar style and wild, impassioned vocals, was influencing a growing number of rock musicians.
“He was for me what Elvis was probably like for other people,” Eric Clapton remembered at Guy’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2005. “My course was set, and he was my pilot.”
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Guy released over 20 albums under his name. The best was a collaboration with the late harmonica master Junior Wells.
In the 1990s, Guy entered a new era of commercial success. His first three albums for Silvertone, the 1991 comeback hit Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues (reissued in 2005), 1993’s Feels Like Rain, and 1994’s Slippin’ In, all earned Grammy Awards.
Succeeding releases like Live: The Real Deal (1996), Heavy Love (1998) and 2001’s Sweet Tea demonstrated that Guy, while firmly rooted in blues, has always tried to keep his music looking forward, even at the risk of alienating lovers of traditional blues sounds.
On his album Bring ‘Em In, Guy invited Carlos Santana and John Mayer on an album featuring covers of classic soul songs.
On Skin Deep, Buddy Guy showcases younger players such as pedal steel virtuoso Robert Randolph and husband-and-wife guitar guitarists Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. These musicians serve as a living response to the question Guy raises on the song “Who’s Gonna Fill Those Shoes,” featuring pre-teen guitar whiz Quinn Sullivan, in which he reflects on the future of the blues beyond his revolutionary generation.
“I just try to get the best players, and hope I can pop the top off this can and show that the blues are back,” said Buddy Guy. “I learn from them, bring them in and see what they can do. And these guys got me feeling like when I was 22 years old and went into the studio with Muddy Waters.”
On March 14, 2005, Buddy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and on March 15 he re-released the Grammy Award winning Damn Right, I’ve Got The Blues.
In 2010, The Blues Foundation presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Buddy Guy. The award is a one-of-a-kind creation of Patterson & Barnes, who also created the original artwork that served as the basis for the 2010 poster.
John Cephas & Phil Wiggins played country blues, keeping the Piedmont tradition alive. The duo celebrated the gentle, melodic blues style of the Southeastern United States.
Because both Cephas and Wiggins were born in Washington, D.C., they brought an urban sophistication to the traditionally rural blues they performed. The duo quickly became popular with traditional blues fans in the United States and in Europe, where they recorded two albums, Living Country Blues and Sweet Bitter Blues, for the German L&R label.
Often under the auspices of the U.S. State Department, the two spent much of the 1980s abroad, playing Europe, Africa, Central and South America, China, Australia, and New Zealand. In 1988, they were among the first Americans to perform at the Russian Folk Festival in Moscow.
By the end of the 1980s, the international blues community began to recognize Cephas & Wiggins as the leading exponents of traditional Tidewater blues. The two recorded their first domestic album, Dog Days of August, in 1987 in John’s living room, and it quickly won a W.C. Handy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year. In 1989, John received a National Heritage Fellowship Award. Often called the Living Treasure Award, this is the highest honor the United States government offers a traditional artist.
Aside from their busy performance schedule, both Cephas and Wiggins also worked as actors. In 1991 John portrayed a blind bluesman in the Kennedy Center production of Blind Man Blues. Phil was in the cast of Matewon, a prize-winning Hollywood film. Together they appeared in the stage production of Chewing The Blues and in the documentary films Blues Country and Houseparty.
Cephas & Wiggins were also inckuded in four touring arts programs in the United States, sponsored by the National Council For The Traditional Arts: Masters of the Steel String Guitar, Juke Joints and Jubilee, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and Echoes of Africa.
In 1996, after two successful albums for the Flying Fish label, Cephas & Wiggins made their Alligator debut with Cool Down. It was a collection of original and traditional country blues. The success of Cool Down helped establish Cephas & Wiggins as essential musicians in the resurgence of interest in country blues, as seen in the success of young acoustic artists like Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Guy Davis, Chris Thomas King and others.
John Cephas died March 4 of 2009 of natural causes. He was 78.
Tomislav Goluban – Kaj Blues Etno (Spona CD194, 2016)
Tomislav Goluban is one of the best harmonica players in Central Europe. His album Kaj Blues Etno divides the musical pieces into three types.
Kaj makes reference to Kajkavian, which is a Croatian dialect from Zagorje in Central Croatia. Here, Goluban delivers a mix of Kajkavian pop and folk combined with jazz.
The Blues songs are pretty self-explanatory. In this set, Goluban plays songs in Croatian and instrumentals in a delta and country blues format, with notable harmonica solos.
The last set, titled Etno, is what we would call world music or world fusion. Goluban performs traditional and original pieces where he combines blues with jazz and folk music. And, even though blues has been performed in many languages other than English before, the novelty here is that Tomislav Goluban incorporates traditional Croatian musical instruments into the mix such as tambura, bagpipe, and a few others.
Kaj Blues Etno includes numerous guests although the backbone of the band consists of Tomislav Goluban on harmonica, vocals; Adalbert Turner, Hana Hegedušić, Nikola Santro, Ivana Kurs Podvorec on vocals; Mike Sponza on guitar; Damir Halilić Hal on mandolin, guitar; Miroslav Evačić on tambura; Toni Starešinić on keyboards; Marko First on violin; Stjepan Večković on bagpipe, double flute; Damjan Grbac on double bass; and Branko Trajkov on percussions. Two ensembles also participate in the recording, the Zagrje Brass Quintet and Ansambl Zabok.
Tomislav Goluban is a prominent Croatian blues harmonica musician, who has been playing for two decades. He does solo, duo and full band performances. Goluban has won several of Croatia’s most prestigious annual national music awards. He’s the founder of the ethno blues festival in his home region of Zagorje, northwest of the Croatian capital of Zagreb; he also works with young people, exposing them to the harmonica and music in general and hosts a blues radio show on the Croatian national radio station.