The new Blues Images calendar for 2017 was released a couple of months ago and, a “cliché but true,” it’s just wonderful. The sound reproduction on the accompanying CD is the best I’ve heard yet for many songs I’ve known and loved for decades. (And I’m sure the ones I’m not so familiar with have never sounded better either!) A number of reviews have noted the presence of the music, beyond the noise of the often battered 78s they were transferred from, sounding “like the artists are in the room with you.” Some of the notable tracks are Charley Patton’s “Lord I’m Discouraged,” “Outside Woman Blues” by Blind Joe Reynolds, my all-time favorite Blind Willie Johnson tune, “Let Your Light Shine on Me.” Also notable for both sound restoration and terrific performances are Skip James’ “Illinois Blues”/“Yola My Blues Away,” Garfield Akers’ fabulous two-part “Cottonfield Blues,” “Chain ’Em Down” and “Louisiana Glide” from Blind Leroy Garnett, and this week’s Blue Monday offering, Memphis Minnie’s “I’m Talking About You” and its flip “Bumble Bee.” Both have never sounded better. Smart listeners will head straight over to the Blues Images website and buy the new calendar and accompanying CD right now, post haste, schnell!
“Temperature risin’, the jukebox blowin’ a fuse.” Volume 11 of Blue Monday is here, and it’s a hot mess however you may construe the term. Swampy midnight-to-sunrise bottleneck piano-rompin’ spo-dee-o-dee rhythm & blues. Blue Monday as you like it. “And that’s it.”
Since late Tuesday night my mind and emotions have run the gamut from feeling gobsmacked, depressed, really pissed off, and back again, round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows. So please bear with me for a few minutes to imagine this song not as regret for a love lost but as it might apply to the current nightmarish scenario here in these Newnited States.
I’ve perversely chosen, since we’re living in pretty perverse times, not Jerry Lee Lewis’s classic 1956 Sun recording (nor Ray Price’s ’56 hit for that matter), but this version from the soundtrack of the buffoonish 1989 movie Great Balls of Fire! starring a way over the top Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee because somehow in this upside down world it seems to fit. . . .
Jerry Lee Lewis & Dennis Quaid • Crazy Arms • 1989
A review copy of the pictured LP arrived one day around 1985 all beat to hell (as pictured) from out of nowhere (well, from Malaco Records). I hadn’t followed the many incarnations of the Nightingales over the years after the departure of Rev. Julius Cheeks, but I put the record on and was immediately taken with “Hard Headed Jonah.” Still am.
Victoria Spivey, vocal; Henry Allen, trumpet; J. C. Higginbotham, trombone; Charlie Holmes, soprano sax; Teddy Hill, tenor sax; Luis Russell, piano; Will Johnson, guitar; Pops Foster, double bass. New York City, 1 October 1929
Here’s Nathan Abshire and his Pine Grove Boys, with steel player Darius LeBlanc taking the vocal on the old Joe Werner tune, “Wondering.”
Nathan Abshire & The Pine Grove Boys • Wondering • 1958
Rear photo: (left to right) Darius LeBlanc, Cleveland “Cat” Deshotel, Thomas Langley, Nathan Abshire, Junior Benoit. c.late 1950s. Front photo: Thomas Langley, “Cat” Deshotel, Darius LeBlanc. c.late 1950s. Photos and label shot courtesy of Lyle Ferbrache.
Nathan Abshire is, along with Iry LeJeune and Lawrence Walker, one of the greatest Cajun accordion players and singers of all time. Though Abshire made a small handful of records in the prewar era, it was beginning in 1949 with his recording of “Pine Grove Blues” that he rose to fame, if not fortune, in South Louisiana. He made a number of recordings of his big hit “Pine Grove Blues” over the years, all truly fine; here’s one he recorded in later years with the Balfa Brothers for the LP market.
This 1958 edition of “Odds & Ends” will take us “beyond the sea” in more ways than one as you will shortly see. Or hear. Nineteen fifty-eight was a phenomenal year for all types of popular music, as our twelve top tunes will attest. Stay with us as we spin gold out of plastic. First up: Jimmy Clanton and the Rockets.
Rockin’ Sidney Simien had a brief blast of international fame with his self-produced (he also played all the instruments) 1985 single “My Toot Toot.” It was released on Maison de Soul, became a huge regional hit and was leased out to Epic where it became an international million seller, won a Grammy, and generated dozens of cover versions by artists as diverse as Fats Domino and John Fogerty. Rockin’ Sidney used some of his royalties to buy a radio station and entertainment complex in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and started his own record label, ZBC. He continued to tour the U.S. and Europe for many years thereafter; he passed away in 1998.
Somewhere around 1970 I played this Terry Clément track along with a few others for a Louisiana transplant in Richmond, Virginia, and he sniffily told me it wasn’t Cajun music, it was rock’n’roll. Whatever it was/is, it’s a good one, and everyone involved is fully letting the bon temps roll. (We’re re-upping this as we got a nice comment from WF, who knows what he’s talking about, and also the audio link is now updated. It was originally posted in 2014.)