Thursday, November 25, 2010

Boogie Woogie Woman


"The Blues was like that problem child you may have had in the family. You was a little bit ashamed to let anybody see him, but you loved him. You just didn't know how anybody would take it." - B.B. King

Sounds just about right. Everyone's had the blues, or different forms of them. Whether or not it makes you want to sit in your house with a tub of ice cream, scream-crying to a Celine Dion CD, retract entirely, or write a song from the bottom of your broken soul about plain old heartbreak - everyone knows that slow motion ache that life can cause. The blues, originating from the deep American south, says it all when disguising isn't needed. It's harsh, it's a story, it's low - and it's the truth. Like hip-hop and country, music that is the in-your-face or slice of life truth sometimes has the greatest appeal. Everyone wants to say their piece.

One of my favourite used music stores has a truly superb blues section. I've been slowly dipping into my (probably shouldn't be dipped into) funds and building back up my music library again - and I've found myself ending up with a blues-heavy collection. Equal parts words and instruments - I love the raw blues. I get a real kick, and think anyone else would too, out of the scratchy, twitching voices keeping up with the dirty slide guitar and emotional horns. It's getting colder outside by the day, and there's nothing like a little radiator heat on your toes, bourbon and blues to keep you warm and in good company.

Here are some toasty blues greats, if you're feelin' lonely on one of these frosty winter nights:

1. Grits Ain't Groceries - Little Milton: Ooooh baby, sing it to me. Little Milton has a classically soulful and smooth voice. He demands"Hit me!" overtop hurried blues guitar, clashing symbols and slamming horns. This sound is soaked in soul and finished with a sprinkle of a good time - and you can hear it in the bluesy sarcasm of this flashy tune. "If I don't love you baby/ Grits ain't groceries/ Eggs ain't poultry/ And Mona Lisa was a man."

2. I've Been Loving You Too Long - Ike and Tina Turner: Ladies and Gents, welcome to the blues. This cover of Otis Redding's original is pure sex, pain and addiction all rolled into one. It's something anyone has had a part of, the feeling of someone you love being a habit that you recognize you need to detach from. This heated 1960's slow-jam is exactly what the blues are about - Tina aches every word of every verse, even practically simulating sex at one point as she begs for the closeness of the man she loves. Maybe this duet is a little foreshadowing of the tempestuous relationship between her and Ike? Who knows, but either way it is an absolute blues must.

3. Have You Ever Loved A Woman - Eric Clapton and Duane Allman: Iconic Clapton meets iconic Allman. Unbeatable duo cover a Freddie King song. Blues-Rock is born. This 1970 piece of music is absolute blues gold - a stomping combination of Clapton's silky smooth vocals and fiery licks against Allman's legendary slide guitar. The best part about this scorching epitomy of blues? It's a true story. As Clapton's vocals so accurately narrate - Patti Boyd, the woman he needed, craved and longed for was married to his best friend, Beatles great George Harrison. Not to worry, the hopeless pleading via blues paid off. He got the girl.

4. Dimples - John Lee Hooker: Monsieur Blues himself. A man of which I share the exact same initials, therefore must have a divine interconnection with. If I could go back in time, sit in a cloud of smoke (I would suck it up) with a strong drink and listen to JLH jam out behind his dark glasses, I would. His filthy guitar, redundant, hard-knock lyrics and searing harmonica are the textbook blues. This Mississippi-born originator of the "boogie-woogie" blues is who you can go to when you're sick of insincere people, he'll tell you exactly how it is.

6. Touch, Feel, Lose - Ryan Adams: A contemporary blues track, but nonetheless, a smokin' one. The rolling guitar and pounding horns work perfectly against Adams sweet country croon and all-female back-up. He's got the swinging tempo, the build-up and the angry regret of a heartbroken man - everything to put my main man in the big leagues with the rest of these blues cats.

5. Don't Give Up On Me - Solomon Burke: One of my absolute favourites of the bluesy love song category. This song is extroardinary - it's romantic, heart-filled and honest. If you are ever in the doghouse and desperate to apologize, this song is genuine and should conjure up a little redemption. Drop what you're doing and take the time for a slow dance under the moon with this one - the organs, desperation and simple acoustic melody are straight out of a dream.

JLH 1912 - 2001

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