Saturday, December 12, 2015

Shepherd’s Song

Roll over John Coltrane and tell Pharoah Sanders the news. . . .

Elias Litos & Lazaros Rouvas

Get it: Five Days Married & Other Laments: Song and Dance from Northern Greece (1928–1958)

Sunday, November 08, 2015


“In ‘Farewell Party,’ [Gene Watson’s] wrenching signature song, Watson plays a lovelorn man who’s about to take his own life . . . his anguish aggravated by the realization that his wife will be only too glad to see him go. . . . Wailing the final three words ‘when I’m gone’ with the agony of someone who knows he’ll never awaken from his dark night of the soul, Watson gets off a parting shot that, he hopes, will ring in her ears for all eternity.” —Bill Friskics-Warren, Heartaches by the Number

Gene Watson • Farewell Party • 1979

Find it: Gene Watson – Reflections / Should I Come Home

Sunday, October 18, 2015


“A working marriage meets the world of work, and lives to tell about it.

“‘I don’t know how to tell her that I didn’t get that raise in pay today,’ Charlie Rich begins, but you know that once his wife hears the weariness in his voice and sees his slumped shoulders and teary eyes, he won’t have to tell her anything. . . . Rich knew this sort of guilt and frustration only too well. . . . In Rich’s voice you can hear all the ambition and disappointment, all the love and obligation and guilt, of a real marriage. . . .” —David Cantwell in Heartaches by the Number

And, you might not have guessed it, but Charlie’s wife Margaret Ann wrote this song. . . .

25.  Life’s Little Ups and Downs • Charlie Rich • 1969

Get it: Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich

Charlie Rich image: YouTube

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Those “girl groups” are back for eight more weeks of misery, beginning with Timi Yuro’s 
1961 classic.

Timi Yuro • Hurt • 1961

Sunday, October 11, 2015


In the early- to mid-eighties I kind of picked up listening to country radio again in a city in the middle of the Pacific. It wasn’t much of a time to regain an interest in contemporary country music. Slick pop acts like T. G. Sheppard and Barbara Mandrell (she was country before it was cool) abounded. The Judds and Reba, however, were starting to rise, and a few records, like John Conlee’s “Rose Colored Glasses,” didn’t sound exactly like the country music of yore, but hit where it counted anyway. Into this mix came “hillbilly deluxe” John Anderson with his #1 hit “Swingin’.” The record itself was quite a mélange: deep soul horns, Hammond organ, girlie chorus, and leading the way was John Anderson’s deep-down-in-Florida twang, and his simple ode to sittin’ on the porch with Charlotte Johnson, just a-swangin’. To take the HBTN essay by David Cantwell a little out of context here, “What could be more perfect than that?”

John Anderson • Swingin’ • 1983

Frame grab: YouTube

Sunday, September 20, 2015


“Two Latin-inflected records that wouldn’t convey half the anguish they do were it not for the spit and polish they got in the studio. Both should be required listening for anyone who thinks that raw emotion can’t be served by slick arrangements and production.” 
—Bill Friskics-Warren in Heartaches by the Number

255.  Crying • Roy Orbison • 1961

256.  Before the Next Teardrop Falls • Freddy Fender • 1974

Get ’em: CryingThe Best of Freddy Fender

Roy Orbison image: Showbiz 411; Freddy Fender image: Minnesota’s New Country

Sunday, September 13, 2015


“Tears in your beer music, cantina style, replete with doleful waltz-time rhythms and an accordion weeping in the background. . . . In some respects [Conjunto Bernal’s] ‘Mi Unico Camino’ anticipates the tortured romanticism of fellow Texans Roy Orbison and Johnny Bush, singers who, like many others, were inspired by the Tejano music of the Bernal brothers and their peers. . . .” 
—Bill Friskics-Warren, Heartaches by the Number  

254.  Mi Unico Camino • Conjunto Bernal • 1959

Ruben Perez, first voice; Paulino Bernal, accordion/third voice; Eloy Bernal, bajo sexto/second voice. January 1959 

Get it: Tejano Roots.

Label pic: The Strachwitz Frontera Collection/UCLA

Saturday, August 15, 2015


The great Sleepy LaBeef covers The Midnighters. . . .*

Tommy La Beff • Tore Up • 1959

*This is a repost from July 2011, just for the heck of it.

Sleepy LaBeef, vocal/guitar; Charlie Busby, lead guitar; Dean Needham, bass; Mike Schellachi, drums; Carl Sroop, piano. Houston, 1959

Get it: Sleepy LaBeef – Sleepy Rocks

Label photo: Rockin’ Country Style

Sunday, July 26, 2015


In his outstanding HBTN essay for entry number 9 Bill Friskics-Warren writes, “Records as evocative as ‘Rank Stranger’ cry out for multiple interpretations. The song’s narrative is as straightforward as it is sketchy—and as harrowing. . . . [One] possibility is that the dystopia depicted in ‘Rank Stranger’ isn’t so much a physical place (although it’s certainly that) as a moral condition. . . . Adrift in some infernal limbo, Ralph’s aggrieved wailing floats, untethered, on the chorus, making it plain that, for now, the brothers are stuck in a living hell.”

The first time I heard “Rank Stranger” was at the height of my blues fever which had been built upon a foundation of a decade’s worth of listening to Top 40 rock’n’roll and pop music. Country music and bluegrass could not have been farther from my musical interests. Until the fateful day when a banjo playing friend played for me the Stanley’s “Rank Stranger.” To say I was floored, flabbergasted, my heart and soul taken with no resistance, might be a little on the dramatic side but no less accurate a description of my reaction. So let’s just say that nearly 50 years later “Rank Stranger” and the Stanley Brothers remain near the very top of my own “500 greatest records” of any stripe or color.

9.  Rank Stranger • The Stanley Brothers • 1960

Sunday, July 05, 2015


In the midst of all the hullabaloo over who was going to influence the musical tastes of the newly discovered teenage demographic (and grab as much of their record buying money as possible), 
up walked Ray Price. Ray was just coming into his own after shedding his earlier Hank Williams influences so he was not particularly interested in trying to be a Rock’n’roller or embracing the emerging Nashville Sound. Instead he and his musical cohorts invented a sound of their own, the “Ray Price beat.” As Bill Friskics-Warren writes in HBTN, “‘We were having trouble getting a good clean bass sound,’ Price recalled of the session [that produced “Crazy Arms”]. ‘So instead of going with the standard 2/4 beat, I said, “Let’s try a 4/4 bass and a shuffle rhythm.” And it cut—
it cut clean through.’ Indeed, Buddy Killen’s surging bassline—which Price suggested be played on both electric and acoustic bass, making it doubly rocking—cut a swath wide enough for honky-tonk to rocket straight into the modern era. . . . Price and company transformed the gutbucket country shuffle of the postwar era into a pop-wise rhythm that kicked as hard as big-beat rock & roll. Hard enough, in fact, to knock [Carl] Perkins’s ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ off the top of the country charts. . . .”

6.  Crazy Arms • Ray Price • 1956

Ray Price, vocal; Van Howard, guitar/harmony vocal; Jack Pruett, Pete Wade, guitars; Jimmy Day, steel guitar; Tommy Jackson, fiddle; Floyd Cramer, piano; Buddy Killen, bass. Nashville, 1 March 1956

The Essential Ray Price is a good place to hear “Crazy Arms.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


B. B. King • Highway Bound • 1953

B. B. King, vocal/guitar; Floyd Jones, trumpet; George Coleman, alto sax/tenor sax; Bill Harvey, tenor sax; Connie Mack Booker, piano; James Walker, bass; Ted Curry, drums. Houston, late 1952

Get it: The Vintage Years

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Abide with me

Thelonious Monk Septet • Abide with Me • 1957

Original LP cover: Cover Jazz

Friday, June 05, 2015

(Blues All Kinds Book Club?!)

In 2003 David Cantwell and Bill Friskics-Warren published a book on country music with an intriguing premise: instead of being just another compendium of top country singles or buying guide, they talked—and argued—about the country records that were important to them, and why they were, wrote insightful and provocative essays for each record entry and gave us music fans Heartaches by the Number: Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles. In the book’s introduction, titled “Don’t Fence Me In,” the authors went into depth on the how and why of the book, why they limited it to singles as opposed to albums or live performances, and told us, “This is a book about listening . . . an argument for a sensibility, a way of hearing.” They continue, “. . . rarely does anyone write about what would seem to be the point of listening to the music in the first place—how it feels to hear a great record or why you might decide it’s great to begin with. . . .” So Heartaches is a book and not a list; it’s an attempt to tell the story of country music through 500 singles. The reader will note that one record brings to mind another record and so the rankings flow into one another. As the authors write in “How to Use the Book,” “Connections between singles usually mattered more to us than any claim of one record’s superiority to another.”

We here at Blues All Kinds have been a fan of Heartaches by the Number for several years now and continue to return to it for inspiration and new ways of listening to a music that’s been a big part our lives for many, many years, even before we knew the difference between country and rock’n’roll and R&B and plain ole pop music. If it hit us in the stomach and that sweet pain remained, we figured it was a good piece of music. A good record, as Messrs Cantwell and Friskics-Warren would say. We’ve also discovered some great music and artists we barely knew existed and most likely never would have listened to (Sammi Smith and Gene Watson come to mind) had it not been for this excellent book. So, have a listen over the next several Thursdays (Sundays starting June 14), hear the records, and if you enjoy them, get your own copies of these records in whatever form you listen to ’em in, and by all means, find your way to a copy of Heartaches by the Number. You will be rewarded for your time in it over and over again. And feel free to agree or disagree with the authors’ observations and choices. That’s what it’s for.

For this new BAK series, we’ll post the first 10 entries from Heartaches, then branch out randomly to some of our own favorites from throughout the main 500 as well as the authors’ “Alternate 100.”

So . . . to today’s “record.” The book’s authors’ number one pick is Sammi Smith’s recording of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It through the Night.” Cantwell and Friskics-Warren open with a long essay on the Music City scene of the late sixties and early seventies, Smith’s record, and the effect her re-visioning of Kristofferson’s lyric had on listeners and critics (including both the CMA and Bible thumping preachers). The authors write, “‘Help Me Make It through the Night’ begins like the releasing of a breath. . . . Kristofferson’s sensual imagery . . . sets us up for a seduction. Instead it embraces a deeper feeling, the fear that one cannot make it alone.”

1.  Help Me Make It Through the Night • Sammi Smith •  1970

“Help Me Make It Through the Night” can be found on Varese Sarabande’s The Best of Sammi Smith.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


O tierra del sol . . . 

Los Donneños • Canción Mixteca • 1960

Ramiro Cavazos, bajo sexto, first voice; Mario Montes, accordion, second voice. McAllen, Texas, early 1960s

Friday, February 06, 2015


of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe: Sonny Boy Williamson’s sublime “Trust My Baby”

Sonny Boy Williamson • Trust My Baby • 1960

click on song title to listen

Sonny Boy Williamson, vocal/harmonica; with Lafayette Leake, piano; Robert Lockwood Jr., Luther Tucker, guitars; Willie Dixon, bass; Fred Below, drums. Chicago, 15 September 1960

LP cover: discogs