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.
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.”
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.”
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
Vassar Clements was one the United States’ most versatile fiddle players. His career began at a very early age. His phenomenal ability to virtually play any kind of music (bluegrass, country, pop, rock, jazz and swing) garnered him various awards including five Grammy nominations and a track record that involves multitudes of recording performances.
Vassar was a prolific composer of instrumentals and played seven instruments: violin, viola, cello, bass, mandolin, guitar and tenor banjo.
Vassar’s career spanned over fifty years. His association with Bill Monroe began when he was only 14 years old and still in school. He started with Bill as a regular Bluegrass Boy in 1949 and was with him through 1956. From 1957 to 1961 he performed with bluegrass artists Jim & Jesse McReynolds. In 1962 he took leave from his music to pursue other interests but returned to full time music when he decided to make Nashville his home in January 1967.
Vassar did recording sessions and played tenor banjo in Nashville’s Dixieland Landing club until October 1969. He then started touring with Faron Young and doing occasional solo dates when time permitted. In February 1971 he joined John Hartford and his Dobrolic Plectral Society, initiating a professional association and personal friendship that has grew stronger through the years. After ten months and earning an enormous amount of recognition and popularity, the group decided to disband. Vassar then found himself with the legendary Earl Scruggs and the Earl Scruggs Revue.
During that time, one of the most important milestones in his career was his participation on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1972 Landmark album Will The Circle Be Unbroken. This historical event was produced by William McEuen and featured an extravaganza of bluegrass, country and folk’s greatest artists. It was the turning point that re-kindled Vassar’s career and at the same time introduced him to a much younger non-country audience.
Within a few short months Vassar was recording and/or performing with Dicky Betts, Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, David Grisman, Paul McCartney, etc. In May 1973, The classic Old & In The Way album was recorded in San Francisco during a live performance. The Sales from this project have exceeded other albums of like kind and has formed staunch cults that still exist after twenty three years.
Since 1973 when Vassar signed his first major label deal with Mercury/Polygram records his personal discography ranged from country, waltzes, swing to jazz. Ironically, in 1992 he recorded his only straight bluegrass recording for Rounder Records titled Grass Routes.
His early experience growing with jazz and swing music left an indelible mark on his style. Vassar said: “bands like Glen Miller, Les Brown, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Artie Shaw were very popular when I was a kid. I always loved rhythm so I guess in the back of my mind the swing and jazz subconsciously comes out when I play because when I was learning I was always trying to emulate the big band sounds I heard on my fiddle.” Understandably the form of jazz music created by Clements was a mix of the diverse influences that touched him throughout his career but particularly his affinity for the jazz and swing music of his youth.
Therefore it is no surprise that even though early in his career, as he learned and developed bluegrass and country styles, he also gained respect as a jazz player. Hence classic number two: Once In A While which resulted from a jam session with Miles Davis’s ex-band members Dave Holland, John Abercrombie and Jimmy Cobb. Classic number three: Together At Last. with Stephane Grappelli was produced by Tim Yaquinto and recorded in Vassar’s former studio.
Back Porch Swing was Vassar’s first album to feature the Little Big Band. Recorded between September 1997 and September 1998 at the Historic RCA Studio B in Nashville Back Porch Swing was performed almost entirely live with the exception of vocal and string overdubs.
Vassar Clements participated in Dead Grass (2000) a bluegrass twist on some Grateful Dead favorites.
Full Circle (OMS Records) released in 2001 had Vassar returning to his bluegrass roots with an all star cast that included Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Bryan Sutton, Peter Rowan, John Cowan, Josh Graves, Jeff Hanna, Jimmie Fadden, J. D. Crowe, Billy Troy, Alan O’Bryant, Ricky Skaggs, Jim & Jesse and Jake Landers.
In May of 2004 Runaway Fiddle (OMS Records) came out. This project was a labor of love of two of the greatest American fiddle players of modern times Vassar Clements and Buddy Spicher. Buddy Spicher is one of Nashville’s most recorded session artists and arrangers. On Runaway Fiddle these two legends teamed up to record tunes they grew up loving playing and internalizing but for the most part never recording. Selections include 192’s show tunes Western Swing Dixieland. Several songs are interpretations of songs popularized by country music icon Bob Wills who created the new art form called Western Swing.
His CD Livin’ With The Blues (Acoustic Disc) was released in August of 2004. It was his first blues album. While Vassar Clements has often been considered the ?bluesiest? of the bluegrass fiddlers it wasn?t until producer Grisman asked him what kind of record he wanted to make that the soft spoken septuagenarian replied “I’ve always wanted to make a blues record.”
Livin? With The Blues includes Skip James? swampy “Cypress Grove ” with Vassar’s lonesome fiddle accompanied by Bob Brozman’s slide guitar. Elvin Bishop cleans house with his own “Dirty Drawers” and “That?s My Thing ” while Maria Muldaursings with Vassar on “Honey Babe Blues” and Bessie Smith?s “I Ain?t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle.” Other tracks include Roy Rogers desolate take on Robert Johnson?s “Phonograph Blues ” “Mambo Boogie” featuring Dave Mathews and the Booker T. Jones classic “Green Onions ” given a new twist by Charlie Musselwhite and Vassar. “Rube’s Blues” featured blues guitar whiz David Jacob-Strain (who was 19 at the time) helping Vassar reinvent a bluegrass standard and Norton Buffalo with his unique soul treatment of his own “Don’t Stand Behind A Mule.”
In November of 2004 Vassar Clements joined bluegrass quartet The Biscuit Burners onstage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Vassar played on two of the band’s original songs “Come On Darlin'” and “Red Mountain Wine”. The surprise appearance was part of the historic Ryman Auditorium’s $1 on the 1th Mystery Artist Series celebrating the 1 year anniversary of the legendary theater’s renovation.
On March 11, 2005 Vassar was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died at his home August 16th, 2005 at 8:25 am. He was 77.
[Biography adapted from Vassar Clement’s official biography].
Vassar (Mercury Records)
Superbow (Mercury Records)
Southern Waltzes (Rhythm Records)
Vassar Clements John Hartford & Dave Holland (Rounder Records)
Crossing The Catskills (Rounder Records 1972)
Vassar Clements (MCA Records)
The Bluegrass Session (Flying Records 1977) Grass Routes (Rounder Records)
Saturday Night Shuffle – A Celebration of Merle Travis (Shanachie Records)
Hillbilly Jazz (Flying Records 1978)
Hillbilly Jazz Rides Again (Flying Records)
New Hillbilly Jazz (Shikata Records)
Together At Last with Stephane Grappelli (Flying Records 1987)
Nashville Jam (Flying Records)
Westport Drive (Mind Dust Records)
The Man The Legend (Vassillie Productions)
Country Classics (Vassillie Productions)
Vassar Clements Reunion With Dixie Gentlemen (Old Homestead) Once In A While, Jam with Miles Davis’ ex-band members (Flying Fish Records 1992)
Live in Telluride 1979 (Vassillie Productions 1979)
Music City USA (Vassillie Productions)
Old And In The Way – Volume 1 (BMG Music)
Old and In The Way – That High Lonesome Sound – Volume 2 (Acoustic Disc)
Old and In The Way – Breakdown – Volume 3 (Acoustic Disc)
An Americana Christmas with Norman Blake (Winter Harvest)
The Bottom Line Encore Collection (Bottom line 1999)
Vassar’s Jazz – Golden Anniversary (Winter Harvest)
Back Porch Swing (Chrome Records 2000)
Dead Grass (Cedar Glen Music Group)
20 Fiddle Tunes & Waltz Favorites
Full Circle (OMS Records 2001)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken – Volume II – 3th Anniversary Edition (Capitol Records)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken (United Artists)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken – Volume III (Capitol Records)
Old & In The Gray (Acoustic Disc)
Runaway Fiddle with Buddy Spicher (OMS Records) Livin’ With The Blues (Acoustic Disc 2004)
The Fiddle According to Vassar (Homespun Tapes). Taught By Vassar Clements. 9-minute DVD or VHS Includes music book
Vassar Clements In Concert – Vassar Swings (Shikata Records)
Vassar Clements In Concert – Ramblin’ 81 (Shanachie Records)
Robert Randolph & The Family Band – Got Soul (Sony Masterworks, 2017)
Robert Randolph puts his latest recording with The Family Band called Got Soul this way, “The music takes me back into the roots of who I am, where I came from. It’s got an upbeat, positive church/gospel/rock/bluesy vibe to it. I’m like a rock and roll preacher on Got Soul.”
Yeah, “rock and roll preacher” just about sums the indefatigable sparkle Mr. Randolph & The Family Band lays down on the Grammy nominated Got Soul. In the way of previous recordings like Unclassified (2003), Colorblind (2009), We Walk This Road (2010), Born Again (2013) and Lickety Split (2013), Mr. Randolph and company have listeners veering off onto a wild musical ride where the colors of soul, funk and gospel run deep and vibrant. Searing and warmly exuberant, Got Soul proves irresistible as it embraces elements of rock and roll, blues and jazz to create a flattering mix.
Songwriter, vocalist and pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph is joined on Got Soul by a whole host of kick ass musicians like electric guitarist Johnny Gale, Hammond B3 organist Raymond Angry, electric bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Marcus Randolph, percussionist Bashiri Johnson, Hammond B3 Organist Shedrick Mitchell and backing vocalists Lenesha Randolph, Candice Anderson and Stevie Ladson. Guest vocalists Anthony Hamilton, Cory Henry and Darius Rucker lend their talents to make the soul stew even richer.
Opening with the fiery title track “Got Soul,” Mr. Randolph & The Family Band pulls out all the stops and dishes out a track that will have the most reluctant listeners jumping up and grooving to the music. Ramping up the goodness with “She Got Soul” with Anthony Hamilton on vocals, Randolph and company stokes the fire with some smoking guitar licks, sassy vocals and an irrepressible joyfulness. Darius Rucker takes his turn with vocals on “Love Do What It Do” backed by an intoxicating mix of pedal steel guitar, electric guitar, electric bass and Hammond B3 organ, not to mention some seriously fine backing vocals.
If that weren’t enough, Got Soul boasts the deliciously funk inspired “Shake It” edged by some sizzling brass lines laid down by saxophonist Jeff Coffin and trumpeter RaShawn Ross. The pedal steel guitar opening of Isaac Hays and David Porter classic “I Thank You” should not be missed and it just gets better with addition of organ and vocals provided by Cory Henry. Equally delightful are offering like “Be the Change,” “Heaven’s Calling” and the funk groove of “Find a Way.” “Travelin’ Cheeba Man is a raucous personal favorite. “Lovesick” and closing track “Gonna Be All Right” are just as delicious.
If you can listen to Got Soul without dancing, tapping a toe, raising arms skyward or at the very least nodding your head, seek professional medical or spiritual attention immediately.
Part of the “Sacred Steel” movement, Florida band the Lee Boys (most of whom are related) put pedal steel guitar at the front of their gospel. But unlike their contemporaries there’s a slight and unusual country tinge to their bluesy gospel sound making them sound at times like the mid-’70s Allman Brothers.
This family group consists of three brothers Alvin Lee (guitar), Derrick Lee and Keith Lee (vocals) along with their three nephews Roosevelt Collier (pedal steel guitar), Alvin Cordy Jr. (7-string bass) and Earl Walker (drums).
Each member began making music at the ages of 7 and 8 in the House of God church they attended in Perrine, Florida. There, they underwent a rigorous course of training in a variety of musical instruments including lap and pedal steel guitars.
Born and raised in Miami each of The Lee Boys grew up in the church where their father and grandfather Rev. Robert E. Lee was the pastor and a steel player himself.
Sacred steel is a type of music described as an inspired unique form of Gospel music with a hard-driving blues-based beat. The musical genre is rooted in Gospel but infused with rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, funk, country and ideas from other nations.
Influenced by the Hawaiian steel guitar fad of the 1930’s brothers Willie and Troman Eason brought the electric lap steel guitar into the worship services of the House of God church in Jacksonville, Florida. The Pentecostal congregation embraced the soulful sound and over time this unique sound became the hallmark of the church. The pedal steel guitar was added to the mix and soon became the central instrument. The Lee Boys are part of the fourth generation of musicians in this faith.
This music form was totally unknown to the world outside the church until the mid 1990’s when folklorist Robert Stone attended House of God services and recorded the music as well as its history contributing the name sacred steel. A series of compilations featuring artists such as Aubrey Ghent, Calvin Cooke and the Campbell Brothers as well as the late Glenn Lee followed on legendary roots label Arhoolie Records for whom The Lee Boys also record.
When The Lee Boys bring their joyous spiritual sound to the stage audiences instantly recognize that this is not sitting and listening music: dancing, shouting out and having fun are considered essential parts of their tradition. Founder and bandleader Alvin Lee explains: “The inspiration and feeling that comes along with our music is the reason that people feel good. It is like the new music on the block and it’s just getting ready to explode! It’s mostly original material with a few standards and hymns the group blueses up a little.”
Their unique sound has attracted musical artists such as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band, The Black Crowes, Los Lobos, Michelle Shocked, Gov’t Mule, Derek Trucks Band with Susan Tedeschi, The North Mississippi Allstars, Hill Country Revue, Umphrey’s McGee, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Oteil & Kofi Burbridge, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Toubab Krewe, Victor Wooten, The Del McCoury Band and The Travelin’ McCourys, all of whom have played with the Lee Boys and/or invited them to tour with them.
The Lee Boys recorded with The Travelin McCourys completing a joint album titled Meetin In The Middle which illustrates their amazing bluegrass/sacred steel festival shows.