Welcome to the January 2019 Issue

Welcome to the January 2019 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

For our annual “winter blues” observance we’re highlighting five recent blues-based releases: Eric Bibb’s Global Griot featuring Malian musician Habib Koité and Senegalese kora master Solo Cissokho; Snooky Pryor’s All My Money Gone featuring previously unreleased studio and live recordings; The Prophet of Funky Texas Blues, aka Willie J. Laws Jr.’s Black Maria; Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne’s Inspired by the Blues; an expanded reissue of Henry Townsend’s Mule; and Roscoe Robinson’s 90th birthday tribute Turn Right and Go Straight which combines blues, soul and gospel.

Also featured this month is Harbinger Records’ Sissle & Blake’s Shuffle Along of 1950 that draws from rare, one-of-a-kind acetate discs. And, since black-eyed peas are a New Year’s Day tradition, it seems fitting to include the Black Eyes Peas’ new album Masters of the Sun Vol 1

Other new releases include Anderson .Paak’s Oxnard that channels ‘90s West Coast funk; the Detroit-based octet Will Sessions collab with soul singer Amp Fiddler on The One; Detroit techno pioneer Robert Hood’s first release in !K7’s highly acclaimed DJ-Kicks series; and rising country artist Kane Brown’s sophomore album Experiment. Wrapping up this issue is a review of the timely book from Indiana University Press, Black Lives Matter and Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection, and our list of December Black Music Releases of Note.

Eric Bibb – Global Griot

 

Title: Global Griot
Artist: Eric Bibb
Label: Stony Plain
Formats: 2-CD set, Digital
Release Date: October 26, 2018

 

Grammy nominated blues and folk musician Eric Bibb’s latest project, Global Griot, was inspired by his engagement with the West African tradition of storytelling through music—an engagement that began at least fifteen years prior when he met and recorded with Malian musician Habib Koité. In the introduction of the liner notes for his new album Bibb writes, “Dear friends, my ongoing reunion with West Africa is a life-changing blessing. Collaborating with and befriending musicians from legendary griot families has been a long awaited homecoming—like a healing singing river washing over my soul. It’s an honor and a great pleasure to introduce you to my fellow global griots with this gathering of tribes.” Continue reading

Snooky Pryor – All My Money Gone

 

Title: All My Money Gone
Artist: Snooky Pryor
Label: Wolf
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 1, 2018

 

All My Money Gone is the latest addition to the late Snooky Pryor’s catalog. Released by Wolf Records, this album features previously unreleased studio and live material that was recorded in Austria in October 1979. Also included are unreleased songs that Snooky recorded at other sessions such as “Work With Me, Annie,” “Boogie Twist,” “Blue Bird Blues,” and “Telephone Blues”—titled “I’m Gonna Call Up My Baby” on this compilation. In short, this album contains tracks that will be familiar to Snooky fans, but all of the sessions and live performances themselves will be new to the listener. Continue reading

Willie J. Laws Jr. – Black Maria

 

Title: Black Maria
Artist: Willie J. Laws Jr.
Label: Dist. CD Baby
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 10, 2018

 

Self-described as “The Prophet of Funky Texas Blues,” guitarist Willie J. Laws offers an eclectic fusion of the blues with sounds native to the Gulf Coast region, including Zydeco, R&B, a twang of country, a little Tex-Mex Tejano/Conjunto, and a dollop of funk. Honed over 25 years of performing with his own band, as well as the Tejano band Los Texmaniacs, Laws’ playing style is American roots music at its best. On his latest album, Black Maria, Laws (on rhythm/lead guitar and vocals) is joined by his longtime band members—Bruce Mattson (keyboards/organ), Osi Brathwaite (drums), and Malcolm Stuckey (bass)—who helped pen the ten original tracks on this recording. Continue reading

Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne – Inspired by the Blues

 

Title: Inspired by the Blues
Artist: Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne
Label: Stony Plain
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 28, 2018

 

Veteran blues musician Kenny Wayne might have been raised as a preacher’s kid, but when he found himself “turning from the Lord’s work to the Devil’s music,” the “Blues Boss” was born. Well-known for his flamboyant zoot suits, boogie-woogie piano playing, and affinity for the classic jump blues of Amos Milburn and Louis Jordan, Wayne strives to keep all of these styles alive. As the septuagenarian states, “That’s classic stuff. And I’m at that classic age, so it all works out.”  On his 10th release, Inspired by the Blues, Wayne and his band are joined by several special guests, including legendary Chicago harmonica player Billy Branch, guitarist Duke Robillard, and B.B. King’s long-time bassist Russell Jackson. Continue reading

Henry Townsend – Mule

 

Title: Mule
Artist: Henry Townsend
Label: Omnivore Recordings
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: December 14, 2018

 

Hailed as one of the last of the original St. Louis pre-war blues musicians, the late Henry “Mule” Townsend was equally skilled on piano and guitar. His distinctive string snapping style drew heavily upon his Mississippi Delta roots as well as the ragtime and jump blues of his adopted city of St. Louis. Townsend, who began his recording career in 1929 for Columbia Records, holds the distinction of the only blues artist to have recorded during every decade from the 1920s to the 2000s. He accompanied many of the great blues musicians over the years, including Roosevelt Sykes, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Robert Nighthawk. In 1980, the Nighthawk Records label out of St. Louis wanted to honor Townsend with an album worthy of his “unique genius,” and “thus secure for him the recognition that an artist of his stature and historical importance deserves.” The result was the “improvised” solo album, Mule, which highlights Townsend’s vocal and keyboard skills. Assisting musicians include another country blues legend, Yank Rachell, on mandolin and guitar, as well as guitarist Norman Merritt and Henry’s son, Vernell Townsend, who adds vocals on several songs. Continue reading

Roscoe Robinson – Turn Right and Go Straight

 

Title: Turn Right and Go Straight
Artist: Roscoe Robinson
Label: Abkco
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 29, 2018

 

Born in 1928, singer-songwriter Roscoe Robinson recently cut two new tracks in celebration of his 90th birthday. The longtime resident of Birmingham, Alabama, has performed with several significant gospel groups, including the Highway QC’s back when Sam Cooke was a member, as well as the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Blind Boys of Mississippi. Like Cooke, Robinson also crossed over into secular music, gaining recognition as a soul singer in the 1960s with several charting hits, and later releasing recordings on the Atlantic, Fame, Paula, and Sound Stage 7 labels. Continue reading

Various Artists – Sissle & Blake’s Shuffle Along of 1950

 

Title: Sissle & Blake’s Shuffle Along of 1950
Artist: Various
Label: Harbinger
Format: CD, MP3
Release date: October 19, 2018

 

Two of the most famous early African American composers, vaudeville stars and recording artists—Indianapolis-born Noble Sissle (1889-1974) and Baltimore native Eubie Blake (1887-1983)—began their careers during the ragtime era. Joining Lt. James Reese Europe’s famous 369th U.S. Infantry “Hell Fighters” Band during WWI, they helped to promote an appreciation of Black popular music throughout the U.S. and Europe, especially the new genre known as “jazz.” After the war they experienced a number of successes, but none so great as their landmark musical Shuffle Along. Based on a comedy routine by their vaudeville colleagues Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles, who wrote the book, the musical opened in New York in 1921 with Blake leading the orchestra from the keyboard. Though not the first Black show on Broadway (Bob Cole’s minstrelsy themed A Trip to Coontown and Will Marion Cook’s more progressive Clorindy both debuted in 1898), Shuffle Along became one of the most successful Broadway musicals of the era, drawing audiences with its swinging jazz melodies and “hot rhythms.” Continue reading

The Black Eyed Peas – Masters of the Sun Vol. 1

 

Title: Masters of the Sun Vol. 1
Artist: The Black Eyed Peas
Label: Interscope
Release Date: October 26, 2018
Formats: CD, Digital

 

Before their mega-hit, “Where is the Love,” before Fergie, before holding both the number 1 and number 2 Billboard Hot 100 spots with their 2009 singles, “I Gotta Feeling” and “Boom Boom Pow,” The Black Eyed Peas established themselves as conscious rappers with their 1998 Interscope debut album, Behind the Front.  Twenty years later, the group is returning to their roots with their newest release, Masters of the Sun Vol 1. Loosely based on the 2017 graphic novel bearing the same name, The BEP circles back to hip hop’s conscious scene, providing us with their most politically-charged collection to date. Continue reading

Anderson .Paak – Oxnard

 

Title: Oxnard
Artist: Anderson .Paak
Label: Aftermath/Universal
Release date: November 16, 2018
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Digital

 

Since the 2016 release of his sophomore album Malibu, Anderson .Paak continues to shine. Not only did that album result in his Grammy nomination that same year for Best Urban Contemporary Artist, but he has since been featured on tracks for both established and up-and-coming artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Chance the Rapper, Dr. Dre and Rapsody. His latest creation may well follow that same trajectory. Continue reading

Will Sessions & Amp Fiddler ft. Dames Brown – The One

 

Title: The One
Artist: Will Sessions & Amp Fiddler, featuring Dames Brown
Label: Session Sound
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: October 26, 2018

 

Detroit-based group Will Sessions has made a name for themselves in the motor city. From their early beginnings, the octet released several albums influenced by R&B, hip-hop, funk, and jazz. In 2017, the group began collaborating with legendary funk singer and keyboardist Amp Fiddler, first on their Deluxe album track “In The Ride,” and later that year on their live recording Kindred. Like their previous releases The One includes Fiddler on lead vocals, along with the soulful and dynamic voices of vocal trio Dames Brown. Continue reading

Robert Hood – DJ-Kicks

 

Title: Robert Hood DJ-Kicks
Artist: Robert Hood
Label: !K7
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Digital
Release Date: November 16, 2018

 

Robert Hood is a name you probably aren’t familiar with. If you know your Detroit techno scene, then the name will ring a bell. If not, then let me introduce him to you please. Robert Hood is a DJ who records techno tracks or, to use the more general term, electronic music. Hood has been flying under the radar for quite some time and his name is seldom mentioned when Detroit techno is the subject. Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, and Carl Craig laid the foundation, so maybe that’s the reason? Nevertheless, Hood has an extensive body of work and his latest is a straight up DJ mix. Continue reading

Kane Brown – Experiment

 

Title: Experiment
Artist: Kane Brown
Label: Sony Music Nashville
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: November 9, 2018

 

Question! Have you ever had a conversation with someone on music and they reply, “I like/listen to all types of music except country.” I know I have. Depending on your age, back in the day country music was Loretta Lynne, Conway Twitty, and Hee Haw. The ‘90s saw a dramatic explosion: Garth Brooks, Clint Black and Miley Cyrus’s dad Billy Ray. Country music crossed over and the twangy, pickup truck, good ol boy notion that some had was all but erased. Well now, what was perhaps the biggest story in music this fall? I bet you missed it (hint: Kanye West is not the answer). Continue reading

Book – Black Lives Matter & Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection

Title: Black Lives Matter & Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection
Editors: Fernando Orejuela and Stephanie Shonekan
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Series: Activist Encounters in Folklore and Ethnomusicology
Format: Book (hardcover, paperback, digital)
Release date: August 10, 2018

 

On July 13, 2013, two days after George Zimmerman was found not guilty for shooting and killing unarmed African American teen Trayvon Martin, a grassroots movement aimed to reaffirm the value of black lives in the United States was born. Black Lives Matter— the chapter based, multi-faceted movement— humbly began as a hashtag on Twitter upon the announcement of George Zimmerman’s acquittal. The hashtag and phrase, black lives matter, have been used in social media, protests, and rallies to protest against the violence and systemic racism black bodies are globally subjected to. Continue reading