Blues

Blues guitarist and vocalist Elvin Bishop recently stopped by the KPLU performance studios and, as is usual with an Elvin Bishop show, a good time was had by all.  

In the mid-1960s Elvin was a founding member of the highly influential Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Since then Elvin's made a number of recording as a group leader.  

His latest is called "Can't Even Do Wrong Right." In this performance/interview hosted by Mary McCann, Bishop performs that title track as well as another original composition, "Old School." The band also gave us their beautiful rendition of the Percy Mayfield classic, "River's Invitation."

Justin Steyer

    

The group Omaha Diner is made up of four of the most gifted and adventurous musicians in jazz: drummer Bobby Previte, trumpeter Steven Bernstein, guitarist Charlie Hunter and saxophonist, Skerik.  

Along with the almost scary level of talent, the other thing that makes Omaha Diner unique is their musical repertoire.  They won’t even think about playing a song unless it has reached #1 on the Billboard Pop Music chart.

That’s right, Omaha Diner is a jazz band that plays only pop music. But boy, do they turn that pop music inside out.  

Ever since the 1960s, when she worked as a solo blues singer and member of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Maria Muldaur has been dedicated to traditional American music, primarily blues and gospel. In 1973, she had her biggest hit record, Midnight At The Oasis.  Maria and her band stopped by the KPLU Performance Studio during a tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of the recording of that song.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

One of Seattle's most sought-after bands, Industrial Revelation, performed live in the KPLU studios hosted by Abe Beeson.

Track List:

  • End Of Courtesy
  • Old Man Soul
  • Ingathering

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Jon Cleary has the rare ability to transcend his geographical background. As you will learn in his interview with All Blues host, John Kessler, Cleary grew up in England and was exposed to the New Orleans sound by his uncle at a young age. 

Cleary saved up enough money to visit New Orleans, planning to stay a few weeks, but 33 years later he is still there and has become one of the city's best known musicians. 

Justin Kauflin: A Pianist And His Mentor

Jun 26, 2014
Aaron Hushagen / KPLU

Justin Kauflin is a 23-year-old jazz pianist who is also one of the subjects of a new documentary film called Keep On Keepin’ On.

The other subject of the film is Justin’s musical and spiritual mentor, jazz trumpet legend, Clark Terry. Kauflin has been a musician since childhood. He’s also been blind since age 11. The film deals with Justin’s apprenticeship and friendship with the 93-year-old Terry.

Stevesworldofphotos / Flickr

What was the first recorded rock and roll song?

Before we can answer that question, we have to go back and figure out the ingredients of rock and roll. We can identify three most important ingredients: gospel, jump and blues. 

Muddy Waters was born in rural Mississippi, and learned his blues at the feet of Son House and Robert Johnson.

By the 1940’s he took that delta blues to Chicago and led the gradual transition to electrified urban blues. He then recorded “Honey Bee” in 1951 with just bass and guitar accompaniment. The sound was closer to the delta, but you can hear the beginnings of the more aggressive modern sound starting to happen.

Earl King is one of the great songwriters and performers to come out of New Orleans, and his legacy continues to live on. Many of his compositions, including “Big Chief," “Trick Bag” and “These Lonely, Lonely Nights” have become an important part of the New Orleans “songbook."

His 1960 recording of “Come On Pts. 1 & 2” is punctuated with many starts and stops, featuring his expressive voice and aggressive and precise guitar work. If you look through Jimi Hendrix’s early releases, there are only a handful of songs among the dozens that he did not write. Earl King’s “Come On” is one of those.

The urban blues of places like Detroit and Chicago came from country blues. Little Son Joe and his better known partner Memphis Minnie were among the players who brought the blues to the cities, paving the way for Muddy Waters and others who would follow.

Memphis Minnie is known as one of the best guitarists and singers in the blues, and had a prolific career lasting 40 years. She married Little Son Joe (Ernest Lawlars) in the late 1930’s and they recorded “Black Rat Swing” in 1941 with Joe on vocals.

10 Artists You Should Have Known In 2013

Dec 26, 2013
Courtesy of the artist

It's usually easy to keep up with your favorite artists. You can follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook and check them out when they come to your town.

Falling in love with unfamiliar bands? That's not quite as simple. There are so many aspiring musicians out there, you can't possibly listen to all of them.

But a few lucky people get to listen to random new artists for a living, including public radio hosts. So we asked NPR stations around the country to highlight their favorite musical discoveries of the year. The results ranged from a Pulitzer Prize winner to stars of the Kansas City BBQ circuit.

Read on for more about the 10 artists you should have known in 2013.

Joe Goblin / Associated Press

Boz Scaggs: Memphis (429 Records)

A tribute to the Memphis soul-blues tradition, made with some of the city’s best players. His unique rasp has only improved with age, and perfectly complements the laid-back groove that permeates the release. Not all the material is “soul” music, some of the best tracks are the bluesy “Cadillac Walk” and “Dry Spell”. Boz is a master of the simmering blues vibe, slightly restrained, but overflowing with mojo.

James Cotton: Cotton Mouth Man (Alligator Records)

Here’s a perfect example of a song that changed with the times, and was at the cutting edge of those changes.

Drummer and singer Rabon Tarrant recorded “Blues With a Feeling” in 1947, a time when big band swing music was in transition to rock and roll. This version straddles both genres with the beat of rock and roll, but the more jazzy instrumentation of piano, sax and trumpet.

Hooks Brothers

If I had to pick one person to represent Delta blues at the peak of its expression, it would be Robert Johnson.

Saying that he was a superlative guitar player, impassioned singer and masterful lyricist seems barely adequate to convey the importance of the work he accomplished in his 27 years. Many of his songs became not only blues standards but would be a huge influence on rock music.

It’s hard to trace the exact source of “Crow Jane”, but it’s a song that has outlasted many others from the early days of the blues. Its roots lay in the Piedmont region of Virginia and North and South Carolina. Rev. Gary Davis was known to perform it during the 1920’s, and the first recording was made in 1927 by guitarist Julius Daniels. Daniels is important partly because he was one of the first Black guitarists to record in the Southeast, inspiring others to follow.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Pianist/singer Marcia Ball is one of the best-known  players of Louisiana blues, swamp blues and boogie-woogie. While in town for a show at Jazz Alley, we were lucky enough to have Marcia stop by for a solo performance and interview hosted by All Blues' John Kessler. 

Sleepy John Estes was a Tennessee-based blues singer of the 1920’s and 30’s. Though not a flashy guitarist, his voice was packed with power, and the songs he wrote have lasted through the years to be sung by Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

On his first trip to Seattle, Grammy-nominated vocalist Gregory Porter stopped by the KPLU Seattle studios for a live studio session that you do not want to miss.  This also happened to be the day that Blue Note Records announced the release of Porter's new album, Liquid Spirit. 

Ken Thomas

The Legend of John Henry is an iconic myth of American railroad history, a battle between man and steam drill. One of the intriguing things about the legend is that no one knows for sure if John Henry existed. At least part of the myth is based  on historical events from the mid-1800’s; some say the source lies in Alabama, others point to West Virginia, both places where significant railroad tunnels were dug.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Want a good recipe for soul music?

Here’s what you do: Start with vocalist, Joan Osborne, who has had pop music hits, performed on The Grand Old Oprey, toured with members of The Grateful Dead and yet never strayed from her roots in rhythm ‘n blues music.

It’s one of the defining songs of the Blues, written by one of its formative figures, Son House. The opening lyric “Woke up this morning…” would be considered trite today, but its 1930 recording date makes it more iconic than anything.

With its simple but insistent guitar rhythm and mournful lyrics, “Walkin’ Blues” is a virtual blueprint for Delta Blues, and a powerful influence on the development of modern blues.

Verve Records

Over the past few years, Take 5’s theme-based music lists have covered a wide variety of subjects. We’ve covered all the seasons of the year, all the holidays, different types of weather, the careers of jazz legends, the cutting-edge work of up-and-coming jazz artists and have gotten into the musical minutiae of things like flowers, birds, baseball, prohibition and civil rights.  And now it’s time for Take 5 to go meta and present a five-song list of songs about….LISTS.  It had to happen sooner or later.

Louis Jordan is one of the pioneers of American music, and an important force in the transition from the Jazz Era to Rock and Roll. He was one of the first to down-size the big band format to a combo of five or six players, pounding out high energy jump, swing and rhythm and blues for dance audiences.

One of the early bands to use electric guitar, he established a musical style that rock originators like Bill Haley followed closely. Louis Jordan’s 1947 recording of “Early in the Morning” is an example of the influence of Afro Cuban rhythms on American music.

Most blues started in the country before becoming urbanized, and Bukka White brought his brand of Mississippi blues to Chicago in the 1930’s and 40’s.

It is likely that he met and learned from elemental bluesman Charley Patton, and he was known for playing a National steel guitar with a slide. He recorded “Shake ‘Em On Down” in 1937 and established the cutting edge.

Little Walter made a harmonica sound like nothing that had been heard before – somewhere between a saxophone and an electric guitar. By the early 1950’s he not only used amplification, he used the amp to creatively alter his sound with distortion and sonic effects.

You might say he was the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica. One song in particular has rolled through history: 'Mellow Down Easy.'

It’s another one of those mysteries — who actually wrote “One Way Out”?

Elmore James recorded it in 1961, but didn’t release it until ’65. Sonny Boy Williamson released a version in 1961 and 1965 and G.L. Crockett had a 1965 hit with the same song under a different name.

Joel Mann

It’s one of the most iconic songs from New Orleans, and like the city, it’s origin and meaning are a product of may different influences.

Its meaning is still being debated by scholars and linguists, but “Iko Iko” was first recorded in 1953 by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, who wrote the pop song “Jock-A-Mo” based on 2 different Mardi Gras Indian chants. The Mardi Gras “Indians” are actually African-American groups who have been parading as Indian tribes at Mardi Gras since the mid-19th Century.

Last month more than 4,600 votes were cast by our listeners for the songs they felt were the greatest jazz vocal of all time.

The votes have been counted and the top 50 songs are now available below in our 24/7 stream!

Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup has been called the “father of rock and roll” for writing the song that launched Elvis Presley’s career. His own career had a rough start-- after migrating from Mississippi around 1940, he was living on the Chicago streets, playing for tips.

His unique, though unpolished sound was distinctive enough to land him a record deal, and he had several songs on the mid-40’s r & b charts. Despite the success of his songs, he was never paid fairly for the music he composed and worked as a laborer to support his family.

In the Western Hemisphere, January is typically the coldest month of the year.  Most of us feel that if we can somehow drag ourselves through January, things will begin to turn around and we’ll be on the road to springtime. 

But January is also typically the month that feels as if it will never end.  So as we slog through the cold rain and snow, awaiting January’s demise, here are five winter blues songs to help get us through:

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