More on Scott-Heron — artist in the American tradition

I turned to the recordings of Gil Scott-Heron after writing that he should have and did known better than to abuse drugs as he did, leading to his decline and demise. They make me ever more impressed with his scope and intensity, in both long ago and recent work. His 2010 recording "Me and the Devil" fully justifies the black and white zombie pulp of the video by Coodie and Chike that accompanies it. It's a horror song of a burned out, psychotic soul, a new link in an American tradition running from Edgar Allan Poe through Robert Johnson … [Read more...]

Robert Johnson on speed

Musicologists are convinced blues icon Robert Johnson's recordings as released are 20% faster than he performed in two solo sessions in 1936 and 1937. It's unclear whether they were sped up intentionally (to push their excitement, which seems hardly necessary) or accidentally at some point in the chain between microphone and pressing plant. What is obvious is that since only 11 of the 41 existent Johnson takes were issued by Vocalion on 78 rpm discs during his lifetime (and one posthumously), his complete documented repertoire of 29 tunes … [Read more...]

NYC blues extra: Grammy winner Honeyboy Edwards @ BB King’s

City Arts, for space reasons, left off the last graph I'd submitted: True blue fans will flock to hear David "Honeyboy" Edwards, running buddy of legendary Robert Johnson and recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, at B.B. King's March 11. Edwards is 95, a lifetime achievement for any blues musician, and according to this report from two years ago, he can still play. Continuing with the strength that it has for more than 100 years is an achievement for the blues itself, and American culture, too. howardmandel.com Subscribe by Email … [Read more...]

Blues lyrics: write to win

For tickets to Jazz at Lincoln Center this weekend or a dvd of Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson performing live, try writing a blues. How hard can it be?"Minutes seem like hours, hours seem like days,Seems my baby would stop her lowdown ways" -- Muddy Waters, "Country Blues" "Woke up this morning, looked 'round for my shoesYou know I had those mean old walkin' blues" -- Robert Johnson, "Walkin' Blues" . "Whoa, oh tell me babyWhere did ya stay last night? An' why don't ya hear me cryin'?Whoo hoo, whoo whoo, Whoo who. . . " -- Howlin' Wolf, … [Read more...]