Billy Branch & The Sons of Blues – Roots and Branches: The Songs of Little Walter

 

Title: Roots and Branches: The Songs of Little Walter
Artist: Billy Branch & The Sons of Blues
Label: Alligator
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 5, 2019

 

One of the greatest blues harmonica players alive today, the three-time Blues Music Award winner Billy Branch carries on the Chicago blues harp tradition he learned first-hand from legends such as Junior Wells, James Cotton and Willie Dixon. Following up on his 2014 release, Blues Shock, Branch’s latest project reimagines 15 songs written or made famous by another Chicago harp legend, the late great Little Walter Jacobs. Branch is joined by his longtime band, The Sons of Blues, featuring pianist Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi, guitarist Giles Corey, bassist Marvin Little, and drummer Andrew “Blaze” Thomas. Their goal for this project was to go beyond a mere tribute recording, fusing their own contemporary mix of funk, rhythm and blues, and soul into each and every track. Continue reading

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – Cypress Grove

 

Title: Cypress Grove
Artist: Jimmy “Duck” Holmes
Label: Easy Eye Sound
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 18, 2019

 

Mississippi bluesman Jimmy “Duck” Holmes literally grew up in a southern juke joint. His mother and father established the historic Blue Front Café in 1948 in the town of Betonia—ground zero for the minor-tuned, acoustic country blues style made famous by Jack Owens and his predecessor, Skip James. Now a prominent stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail, the Blue Front Café has been run for the past 47 years by Holmes, who can still be heard nearly every weekend singing and playing his acoustic or hollowbody electric guitar. As possibly the last living musician who was weaned on the Bentonia blues style, Holmes aims to keep the tradition alive on his latest album, Cypress Grove. Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, the project captures classics performed in forward looking renditions that stay true to their roots while bringing a spontaneity into the mix. Backing Holmes is an all-star cast of musicians including Auerbach and Marcus King on guitars, Eric Deaton on bass, and Sam Bacco on drums and percussion. Continue reading

Vince Agwada – Light of Day

 

Title: Light of Day
Artist: Vince Agwada
Label: Rocketnoodle Music/dist. CD Baby
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 15, 2019

 

Blues singer/guitarist Vince Agwada got his start in music playing in bars like the historic Checkerboard Lounge on the South Side of Chicago, backing artists such as Buddy Guy, Magic Slim, Otis Rush and John Primer. After spending over two decades on the road, touring with the likes of Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, and Son Seals, he decided to take some time off for his own projects. Agwada’s self-produced debut album, “Eyes of the City,” was released in 2008, followed by Basic Blue in 2011. Now, after an eight year hiatus, Agwada has returned with a new album, Light of Day, featuring 16 original songs spanning the genres of jazz, rock, funk and blues. Continue reading

Jessie Mae Hemphill – Run Get My Shotgun

 

Title: Run Get My Shotgun
Artist: Jessie Mae Hemphill
Label: Big Legal Mess
Format: CD, Vinyl, Digital
Release Date: December 6, 2019

 

Jessie Mae Hemphill (1923-2006) comes from a long line of legendary Mississippi blues musicians. Her great grandfather Dock Hemphill was a renowned fiddle player from Choctaw County and her grandfather Sid Hemphill was a fiddle player and bandleader who recorded for Alan Lomax and George Mitchell. Jessie Mae was a talented singer, songwriter, guitarist, and drummer whose first recordings were made with blues researcher George Mitchell and ethnomusicologist David Evans in the 1960s and ‘70s. This new release by Big Legal Mess, Run Get My Shotgun, is a collection of field recordings by the late musician from New Year’s Eve 1989, a few years prior to her retirement. Continue reading

Various Artists – 50 Years of Como MS Blues

 

Title: 50 Years of Como Ms Blues (Greatest Blues Songs, Vol. 1)
Artist: Various
Label: Wolf
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 25, 2019

 

The hill country around Como, Mississippi produced several significant country blues artists. Less than an hour south of Memphis, the relatively isolated region also gave birth to a unique blues style that was distinct from the more popular Delta blues tradition. This new compilation from Wolf Records includes both well-known and lesser-known artists from Como, including Fred McDowell, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Eli Green, Ranie Burnette and Othar Turner—all born between 1901-1923. R.L. Boyce, the last living bluesman in Como and Othar Turner’s nephew, represents the younger generation. Continue reading

Viscaynes, Sylvester Stewart – The Viscaynes & Friends

 

Title: The Viscaynes & Friends
Artist: Viscaynes, Sylvester Stewart (aka Sly Stone)
Label: ORG Music
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: December 6, 2019

 

The Viscaynes & Friends from ORG Music is essentially a reissue of the tracks featured on the long out of print vinyl compilation, Spaced Out Sly, released in 1977. As many Sly Stone fans are likely aware, the young Sylvester Stewart cut his first singles in 1961-1962, both under his own name and with the Viscaynes, a multi-racial teenage doo-wop group formed by students at Vellejo High School in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. As Rickey Vincent relates in the liner notes, Sly was initially approached by classmates in the Viscaynes to assist with vocal harmonies, and they were so impressed with the multi-talented musician that they persuaded him to join their group. By that time, Sly had been performing gospel music for well over a decade and had also played guitar for other doo-wop and jazz groups. By 1961, the 18-year-old was a seasoned professional who led the Viscaynes to success with the single, “Yellow Moon,” which incidentally is backed by a band featuring saxophonist Jerry Martini, who would later join Sly and the Family Stone. Continue reading

Welcome to the December 2019 Holiday Issue

Welcome to the December 2019 Holiday Edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

In keeping with the season, we’re starting off with our list of the Best New Holiday Albums, featuring releases from Keb’ Mo’, Ne-Yo, Wynton Marsalis & Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The McCrary Sisters, Elijah Blake, Jonathan Butler, and Mariah Carey.

.Special editions and box sets include Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, vol. 17 (2020 calendar + CD), Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsys’ Songs for Groovy Children: Fillmore East Concerts, Nat King Cole’s Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943), Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection featuring Chicago blues and gospel, LAMP Records: It Glowed Like the Sun: The Story of Naptown’s Motown featuring Indianapolis artists, the anniversary compilation Down in Jamaica: 40 Years of VP Records, a celebration of the Fred Hersch Trio’s 10 Years / 6 Discs, the Super Deluxe Edition of Prince’s 1999, Mary J. Blige’s HERstory Vol. 1, the 10th Anniversary limited edition of Michael Jackson’s This Is It, and a vinyl box set of the Miles Davis Quintet’s Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions.

If you’re looking for books to gift, we’re featuring Booker T. Jones’s new autobiography, Time is Tight: My Life Note By Note plus the companion CD, Note by Note; Aaron Cohen’s Move on Up: Chicago’s Soul Music and Black Cultural Power; Prince’s memoir The Beautiful Ones, and Rip It Up: The Specialty Records Story by Billy Vera.

New releases include the world premiere recording of Margaret Bond’s Christmas cantata Ballad of the Brown King, the compilation Black Voices Rise: African American Artists at the Met 1955-1985, James Brown’s 1969 homecoming concert in Augusta, Georgia’s released for the first time on Live At Home With His Bad Self, jazz drummer Jerome Jennings’s Solidarity which focuses on the experiences of African American women, and the London Afrobeat Collective’s Humans.

For the new parents on your holiday shopping list there’s Lullaby Renditions of Snoop Dogg from Rockabye Baby. Wrapping up this issue is our list of November 2019 Black Music Releases of Note.

New Holiday Albums: The Best of 2019

That special time of year has come around again, filling everyone with holiday cheer. But nothing has the ability to spread Christmas spirit quite like music does. Following are brief reviews of what we believe to be the best holiday albums so far this year, featuring releases from Keb’ Mo’, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The McCrary Sisters, Elijah Blake, Jonathan Butler, and Mariah Carey. We hope these selections provide the perfect soundtrack for everyone’s holiday season. Continue reading

Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, Vol. 17

 

Title: Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, vol. 17
Artist: Various
Label: Blues Images
Format: CD + Calendar
Release date: November 15, 2019

 

From the first glance at the photograph on the 2020 calendar and booklet of the accompanying CD, our staff at the AAAMC was taken in by Blues Images’ 17th volume of classic blues songs and art. In the photograph, a youthful B.B. King stands at a WDIA station microphone in front of a wall advertisement for 51 Beer. With extensive black radio materials in the AAAMC’s special collections, we couldn’t help but get excited about this connection to our collections and our online exhibit about the Golden Age of Black Radio (including some great content focusing on WDIA). Continue reading