Tag Archives: blues

Blues on the Fox Announces 2019 Lineup

Blues festival Blues on the Fox will take place June 14 and 15, 2019 in Aurora, Illinois.

The lineup includes guitarist and vocalist Ana Popovic, blues legend Taj Mahal, rising blues musician Jamiah Rogers, acclaimed guitarist Ronnie Baker Brooks, renowned guitarist Coco Montoya, and steel guitar maestro Robert Randolph and the Family Band.

More at riveredgeaurora.com/events/blues-on-the-fox-2019

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Artist profiles: Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal in 2008 – Photo by Jay Blakesberg

Taj Mahal is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, ethnomusicologist, and award-winning artists. His music includes elements of Afro-Caribbean music, blues, folk, hula, funk and other influences.

Taj Mahal was born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks on May 17, 1942 in Harlem but grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father a jazz pianist composer and arranger of Caribbean descent and his mother a gospel-singing schoolteacher from South Carolina encouraged their children to respect and be proud of their roots. His father had an extensive record collection and a short-wave radio that brought sounds from near and far to Taj’s ears. His parents also started him on classical piano lessons but after two weeks he says “it was already clear I had my own concept of how I wanted to play.” The lessons stopped but Taj didn’t.

In addition to piano, the young musician learned to play the clarinet trombone and harmonica and he loved to sing. He discovered his stepfather’s guitar and became serious about it in his early teens when Lynnwood Perry an accomplished young guitarist from North Carolina moved in next door. Perry was an expert in the Piedmont style of playing but he could also play like Muddy Waters Lightin’ Hopkins John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed. Taj was inspired to begin playing guitar in earnest.

Springfield in the 1950s was full of recent arrivals both from abroad and from elsewhere in the U.S. “We spoke several dialects in my house — Southern Caribbean African — and we heard dialects from eastern and western Europe,” said Taj. In addition musicians from the Caribbean Africa and all over the U.S. frequently visited the Fredericks’ household. Taj became even more fascinated with roots — where all the different forms of music he was hearing came from what path they took to get to their current states how they influenced each other on the way. He threw himself into the study of older forms of African-American music, music the record companies largely ignored.

While attending the University of Massachusetts at Amherst as an agriculture student in the early 1960s the musician transformed himself into Taj Mahal an idea that came to him in a dream. He began playing with the popular U. Mass. party band The Elektras then left Massachusetts in 1964 for the blues-heavy Los Angeles club scene. There he formed The Rising Sons withRy Cooder Ed Cassidy Jesse Lee Kinkaid Gary Marker and Kevin Kelly. At the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles The Rising Sons opened for Otis Redding Sam the Sham The Temptations and Martha and the Vandellas at The Trip. Taj also had the opportunity to hear meet and play with such blues legends as Howlin’ Wolf Muddy Waters Junior Wells Buddy Guy Louis and Dave Meyers Sleepy John Estes Yank Rachel Lightin’ Hopkins Bessie Jones the Georgia Sea Island Singers and Hammy Nixon.

Taj Mahal circa 1968 in Los Angeles – Photo by Baron Wolmans

Taj tapped these experiences on three hugely influential records: Taj Mahal (1967), The Natch’l Blues (1968) and Giant Step/De Old Folks at Home (1969). Drawing on all the musical forms he’d absorbed as a child these early albums showed signs of the musical exploration that would be Taj’s hallmark over the years to come. “I didn’t want to fall into the trap of complacency,” said Taj Mahal. “I wanted to keep pushing the musical ideas I had about jazz music from Africa and the Caribbean. I wanted to explore the connections between different kinds of music.”

In 1970 Taj traveled to Spain to have a well-deserved rest and vacation in the home of the guitar. He carved out his own musical niche with a string of adventurous recordings throughout the ’70s, including Happy Just to Be Like I Am (1971), Recycling the Blues and Other Related Stuff (1972), the Grammy-nominated soundtrack to the movie Sounder (1973), Mo’ Roots (1974), Music Fuh Ya’ (Musica Para Tu) (1977), and Evolution (The Most Recent) (1978).

Taj Mahal circa 1974 in Berkeley, California – Photo by Baron Wolmans

Taj’s recorded output slowed considerably during the 1980s as he toured relentlessly and immersed himself in the music and culture of his new home in Hawaii. Still that decade saw the well-received Taj (1987) as well as the first three of his celebrated children’s albums.

Taj returned to a full recording and touring schedule in the 1990s including such projects as the musical scores for the Lanston Hughes/Zora Neale Hurston play Mule Bone (1991) and the movie Zebrahead (1992). Later in the decade Dancing the Blues (1993) Phantom Blues (1996) An Evening of Acoustic Music (1996) and the Grammy Award-winning Se?or Blues (1997) were both commercial and critical successes.

At the same time Taj continued to explore world music beginning with the aptly named World Music in 1993. He joined Indian classical musicians on Mumtaz Mahal in 1995; recorded Sacred Island a blend of Hawaiian music and blues with The Hula Blues in 1998; and paired with Malian kora player Toumani Diabate for Kulanjan in 1999.

Since 2000 Taj has released a second Grammy-winning album Shoutin’ in Key (2000) and recorded a second album with The Hula Blues 2003’s lush Hanapepe Dream.

Etta Baker With Taj Mahal came out in 2004. In 2005 he released Mkutano Meets the Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar. On this recording Taj Mahal took the blues to the mythical island of Zanzibar an East African island just off the coast of Tanzania. He collaborated with legendary local acts such as Culture Musical Club and Bikidude.

On February 2006 Taj Mahal was designated the “Official Blues Artist” of Massachusetts by Chapter 19 of the Acts of 26.

Taj Mahal in 2008 – Photo by Jay Blakesberg

Maestro, released in 2008 was a landmark album where Taj Mahal explored some of his favorite musical traditions from various regions including the Mississippi Delta the Appalachian backwoods the African continent the Hawaiian Islands Europe and the Caribbean. The album features his daughter Deva Mahal, Latin rockers Los Lobos, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, the Phantom Blues Band, Ziggy Marley Angelique Kidjo, Toumani Diabate and the New Orleans Social Club.

With his record as with all my records I want people to roll back the rug and go for it,” said Taj about Maestro. “This record is just the beginning of another chapter one that’s going to be open to more music and more ideas. Even at the end of forty years in many ways my music is just getting started.”

Taj Mahal participated in the album True Blues, a 13-song live CD released in May 28, 2013 on Telarc. It was recorded at various venues throughout the United States including Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York True Blues explores and celebrates the blues and follows its rich history from the Mississippi delta of the early 1900s to the present day. The album includes performances by Corey Harris, Taj Mahal, Shemekia Copeland, Guy Davis, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Phil Wiggins.

Taj Mahal Trio

On True Blues, Taj Mahal performs “Done Changed My Way of Living” with the help of his Taj Mahal Trio. Recorded at Ram’s Head On Stage in Annapolis Maryland Taj uses his trademark growl that’s reminiscent (either by design or by accident) of the great Howlin’ Wolf. The trio reemerges later for a rendition of “Mailbox Blues” that hints at the mid-20th century swing music that would eventually evolve from the blues tradition.

In 2012 he released the two disc set The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969-1973 (Legacy, 2012).

In 2014, Taj Mahal received the Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

A self-taught musician Taj plays more than 20 instruments, including ukulele, steel and dobro guitars.

Keb’ Mo’ and Taj Mahal

In 2017, Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ released their first album as a duo, “TajMo” (Concord Records). “TajMo” includes original songs and covers, featuring cameos from Bonnie Raitt, Joe Walsh, Sheila E. and Lizz Wright. The album was self-produced by the duo and was recorded by Zach Allen, John Caldwell and Casey Wasner at Nashville’s Stu Stu Studio.

Discography:

Taj Mahal (Columbia Records, 1968)
The Natch’l Blues (Columbia Records, 1968)
Giant Step/De Ole Folks at Home (Columbia Records, 1969)
Happy Just to Be Like I Am (Columbia Records, 1971)
Recycling The Blues & Other Related Stuff (Columbia Records, 1972)
Sounder (original soundtrack) (Columbia Records, 1972)
Oooh So Good ‘n Blues (Columbia Records, 1973)
Mo’ Roots (Columbia Records, 1974)
Music Keeps Me Together (Columbia Records, 1975)
Satisfied ‘n Tickled Too (Columbia Records, 1976)
Music Fuh Ya’ (Warner Bros. Records, 1976)
Brothers (Warner Bros. Records, 1977)
Evolution (Warner Bros. Records, 1977)
Taj (Gramavision, 1987)
Shake Sugaree (Music For Little People, 1988)
Mule Bone (Gramavision, 1991)
Like Never Before (Private Music, 1991)
Dancing the Blues (Private Music, 1993)
Mumtaz Mahal, with V.M. Bhatt and N. Ravikiran (Water Lily Acoustics, 1995)
Phantom Blues (Private Music, 1996)
Señor Blues (Private Music, 1997)
Sacred Island, with The Hula Blues Band) (Private Music, 1998)
Blue Light Boogie (Private Music, 1999)
Kulanjan (with Toumani Diabaté) (Hannibal Records, 1999)
Hanapepe Dream, with The Hula Blues Band (Hannibal Records, 2001)
Mkutano Meets the Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar (Respect Records, 2005)
Maestro (Heads Up International, 2008)
Talkin’ Christmas, with Blind Boys of Alabama (Masterworks, 2014)
TajMo, with Keb’ Mo’ (Concord Records, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Pata Negra

Pata Negra

Pata Negra was formed by the Amador brothers, Rafael and Raimundo, two wild Gypsy rockers from Seville. They were Flamenco’s number one rock fans. It could have been this feeling for rock that led Frank Zappa and Jerry Garcia to number themselves among their fans.

During Rafael and Raimundo’s teenage years, servicemen at a nearby US Air Force base in Morón de la Frontera provided an authoritative source for American rhythm and blues albums while their father and the rest of the Montoya family provided the deep schooling in Flamenco traditions.

The Amador brothers are two versatile guitarists who are just as comfortable playing blues with Flamenco guitars or Flamenco with electric guitars.

Pata Negra disbanded in 1991. Raimundo formed Flamenco rock band Arrajatabla in 1992, together with veteran rock guitarist Manglis.

Discography:

Pata Negra (Mercury, 1981)
Rock gitano (Mercury, 1982)
Guitarras callejeras (Nuevos Medios, 1985)
Blues de la frontera (Nuevos Medios, 1987)
Inspiración y locura (Nuevos Medios, 1990)
El directo (Nuevos Medios, 1994)
Como una vara verde (BMG, 1995)

‘ ‘Spain’ ‘Europe 1’

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Artist Profiles: Boubacar Traoré

Boubacar Traoré

Boubacar Traoré was born in Kayes, in 1942, in the Bambara region of Mali. His nickname, Kar Kar was given to him when he was the local school football (soccer) star. It means “the one who dribbles too much” in Bambara. Kar Kar is a self taught musician. He began to compose music at an early age, influenced by American blues and kassonké, a traditional music style from the Kayes region. Kar Kar’s older brother spent eight years in Cuba studying music and, once he returned to Mali, he helped his brother learn how to play the guitar.

In the early 1960s, Mali won its independence and the people of Mali awoke each morning to the sound of Kar Kar’s melancholic voice on the radio which sang of independence. Every person in Mali from his generation remembers having danced to his hits “Kar Kar Madison”, “Mali Twist” and “Kayes Ba,” in which he encouraged his fellow citizens to return and build the country.

Despite his radio success, Kar Kar could barely support himself. He earned a living as a tailor, shop keeper and agricultural agent. During the evenings he trained orchestras and sung for his friends.

After a twenty-year absence from the stage, in 1987, Boubacar Traoré was invited to perform for Malian TV and many people couldn’t believe their eyes. Unfortunately, two years later, life took a tragic turn when Boubacar’s wife, Pierrette, died. Dazed and heartbroken, Kar Kar left Mali to work in France. During the weekends he performed for his fellow immigrants until a British label, Stern’s, discovered him and produced two CDs. This led to European and North American tours.

Boubacar Traoré has risen from the ashes and still sings better than ever. Faithful to his roots, for the recording of his album “Sa Golo,” he sought out Baba Dramé, a childhood friend, in his hometown of Kayes, to accompany him on the calabash. On the title song “Sa Golo”, they are in the Kayes of the past where magicians in clanging outfits made the night air resonate.

The film, Je chanterai pour toi, about Boubacar’s life was released in 2001 and is now available on DVD.

After an erratic career with long periods of absence, it was at around seventy that Boubacar returned to the public eye in the company of Vincent Bucher, one of the finest French contemporary harmonica players. Vincent brought an international feel to Boubacar’s music, as demonstrated by two records – Mali Denhou (2011) and Mbalimaou (2015) – and many concerts throughout the world, accompanied by Alassane Samaké’s subtle calabash.

On “Dounia Tabolo” (2017), Boubacar decided to continue with this internationalization, bringing in musicians from the Southern States of the USA he had met on tour: Cedric Watson on violin and washboard, and Corey Harris on guitar. When he told them he wanted to add a cello and female voice to the album, Cedric Watson suggested Leyla McCalla.

Discography:

Mariama (Stern’s Africa, 1990)
Kar Kar (Stern’s Africa, 1992)
Sa Golo (Indigo, 1997)
Maciré (Label Bleu, 1999)
Je Chanterai Pour Toi (Marabi Productions, 2002)
Kongo Magni (Marabi Productions, 2005)
Mali Denhou (Lusafrica, 2011)
Mbalimaou (Lusafrica, 2014
Dounia Tabolo (Lusafrica 2017

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Otis Rush, Legendary Chicago Blues Guitarist, Dies at 84

Otis Rush

Masaki Rush, wife of Otis Rush, announced that highly influential Chicago blues musician Otis Rush, died September 29, 2018 due to complications from a stroke which he initially suffered in 2003.

“GRAMMY winner Otis Rush was one of the most influential guitarists of the Chicago blues scene, best known for crafting the city’s “West Side Sound,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. “With his passionate vocals, unique performance style, and jazz-influenced guitar playing, Rush set the standard for blues musicians in Chicago and beyond.

He earned four GRAMMY nominations throughout his expansive career, and was awarded the Best Traditional Blues Album GRAMMY for Any Place I’m Going at the 41st Annual GRAMMY Awards. He will forever be remembered for transforming traditional blues into a more intensified sound, and influencing many of the rock and blues greats that followed him. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and colleagues during this difficult time.”

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Guitarist Ana Popovic Motivates the Ladies

Ana Popovic – Like It On Top

Ana Popovic – Like It On Top (ArtisteXclusive Records, 2018)

Ana Popovic is one of the finest guitarists in the blues scene. She’s a role model for women who want to pursue a career as a working musician. On like It on Top, she sings about women who have initiative.

The album is vocal oriented, with Ana Popovic on solo vocals and duets with Keb’ Mo’ and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Although the guitar is Ana’s greatest skill, it is very subdued in many tracks.

Musically, Like It On Top features ear friendly songs with pop beats, R&B, funk and rock. The highlights are the more blues-oriented tracks, where the guitar stands out: “Last Thing I Do,” “Brand New Man,” “Matter Of Time,” and “Honey I’m Home.” The album was produced by Keb’ Mo’ and there is definitely a Keb’ Mo’ flavor in terms of arrangements throughout the recording. Guitarist Robben makes a guest appearance on “Sexy Tonight.”

Buy Like It On Top

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Laid Back Blues and Latin

StringShot – Blues and Latin

StringShot – Blues and Latin (Chops Not Chaps Records, 2018)

Stringshot brings together three virtuoso musicians from various musical genres: slide guitarist and vocalist Roy Rogers (USA), guitarist and vocalist Badi Assad (Brazil) and violinist and Paraguayan harp player Carlos Reyes (Paraguay).

 

Stringshot

 

As you would expect, Blues and Latin combines these genres although it’s not a showcase for virtuosity. Instead, it’s an easy listening album featuring ear friendly pop, smooth jazz, blues and bossa nova.

 

Buy Blues and Latin

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The Wholehearted Encounter of Guadeloupe and the Blues

Delgres – Mo Jodi (PIAS, 2018)

Mo Jodi (Die Today) is the debut album of Delres, a French band that connects the music of Guadeloupe with American Mississippi delta blues and the brass sounds of New Orleans.

Pascal Danaë, the founder and leader of Delgres was inspired by a visit to the island of Guadeloupe, the land of his ancestors, in the Caribbean. The vocals are in Creole and English and express the effort to oppose to contemporary forms of domination and slavery.

The trio is named after Louis Delgrès, a Creole officer in the French Army who died in Guadeloupe in 1802 fighting against Napoleon’s army, which had been sent to reestablish slavery in the French Caribbean.

The lineup includes Pascal Danaë on vocals and guitars; Baptiste Brondy on drums; and Rafgee on sousaphone.

 

 

Mo Jodi is a visceral blues and Caribbean roots album that reconnects the musical relationships between Guadeloupe and Louisiana.

Buy Mo Jodi

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Thornetta Davis Earns the 2017 International Songwriting Competition Blues Award

Thornetta Davis’s song I Believe Everything Gonna Be Alright is the winner of the 2017 International Songwriting Competition in the blues category. Altered Five Blues Band is number 2 and The Jimmy Zee Band is in the third place.

In 1987 Thornetta Davis became backup singer for the Detroit soul band “Lamont Zodiac and The Love Signs”. Subsequently, the lead singer left the band and the name changed to “The Chisel Brothers featuring Thornetta Davis”. In 1996 Thornetta released her first solo album Sunday Morning Music on the Seattle label Sub Pop. Her song “Cry” from that album was featured on the HBO hit series The Sopranos.

Thornetta recorded a live performance at an iconic venue (that no longer exists) located in Greektown in downtown Detroit: Thornetta Davis covered Live at the Music Menu. This album is an anthology of Thornetta’s most requested cover tunes.

In 2009 Thornetta released Remember Love On Christmas Day. Her latest album is Honest Woman (2016).

For a complete list of ISC 2017 winners and to hear the winning songs, visit: www.songwritingcompetition.com/winners.

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Bonnie Raitt Receives 2018 Folk Alliance International People’s Voice Award

Singer, songwriter and musician Bonnie Raitt has earned the Folk Alliance International’s 2018 People’s Voice Award. Presented annually, the award is intended to honor individuals who endeavor to take on social or political activism in conjunction with their artistic careers, as with 2017’s winner Canadian singer, songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn who has highlighted issues like the environment, human rights and politics through his music.

Championing environmental issues since the 1970s, Ms. Raitt has spoken out against the oil and gas industries and is a founding member of MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy), as well as called for the protection of forests and fought for clean water. As an advocate for The Guacamole Fund, Ms. Raitt aids non-profit organizations working to the goals of sustainable energy forms and environmental protections.

Known also for her political activism and her humanitarianism for help for victims of the 2004 southeast Asia tsunami, Ms Raitt has also been a champion to the Little Kids Rock organization that provides free musical instrument to children and helped finance memorial headstones for musicians like Dick Waterman, Memphis Minnie, Sam Chatmon and Tommy Johnson.

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