Search Results for ‘John Lee Hooker’

John Lee Hooker – King of the Boogie

John Lee Hooker

Title: King of the Boogie

Artist: John Lee Hooker

Label: Craft Recordings/Concord Bicycle Music

Format: 5-CD Box Set

Release Date: September 29, 2017

 

Turning 100 calls for a celebration regardless of who you are, and in the case of musician John Lee Hooker, only a “Go Big or Go Home” mentality will suffice. In honor of this boogie master’s centennial, Craft Recordings has released a career spanning, retrospective 5 CD box set honoring this guitar-driven, legendary artist. King of the Boogie features not only Hooker’s iconic hits, but also rarities, live recordings and several previously unreleased tracks. Housed within a 56-page hardcover book, the collection includes a wide selection of photos, taken throughout the musician’s life, plus new liner notes by writer and John Lee Hooker historian Jas Obrecht, as well as by the artist’s longtime manager and friend, Mike Kappus.

The collection is part of a year-long celebration and commemoration to Hooker and as a complement to his musical recordings, the GRAMMY Museum® in conjunction with the John Lee Hooker estate is exhibiting Hooker’s performance outfits, guitars, photos, and awards in his home state of Cleveland, Mississippi through February 2018. At that point the exhibit travels west to the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE.

John Lee Hooker (1917-2001) was born 100 years ago, near Clarksdale, Mississippi to a sharecropping family. Throughout the years, there has been some academic debate about his original birth year. However, The Hooker family maintains 1917 as the de facto date. Says daughter Zakiya Hooker, “As we all know there was no great push for accuracy back then in that portion of the community. But we just stick to what my father told us, which was what he was told by his mother.”

As a young man, Hooker worked his way up north to Detroit to pursue his passion of music. By 1948, the artist had a hit on his hands with one of his earliest recordings, “Boogie Chillun‘.” From there, Hooker would record over 100 albums throughout the course of his six-decade-long career, building a diverse collection of fans along the way—from folk musicians and beatniks, to the stars of the British Invasion. The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana are among those who cite Hooker as a major influence.

Mike Kappus recalls in his liner notes, “Everyone who knew John Lee Hooker loved him and felt privileged to be in his presence. While he influenced generations of musicians with his incomparable style, that impact on musicians stepped up to yet another level once they got to know and, universally, love him.” In his later years, as Hooker found himself in one of the busiest, most productive eras of his career, the bluesman was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Blues Hall of Fame and Memphis Music Hall of Fame; was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and took home four GRAMMY® Awards, plus a coveted Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

The album is organized chronologically, showcasing Hooker’s influential recording career from start to finish. Disc one begins with his first release, “Boogie Chillen.” The remainder of the disc provides Hooker’s classics the way he was first known—as sole commandeer of pulsing rhythms on the electric guitar. Disc two and three offer stunning recordings of previously unreleased sessions—“Unfriendly Woman” and “Meat Shakes on her Bones”—as well as the more widely-known “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” and “Homework.”

Disc four is a completely live tribute section, featuring Hooker’s performances at various Newport Folk Festivals, the American Blues Festival in Hamburg, Germany, Café Au Go-Go in New York and California’s Soledad Prison. The final disc of the collection features Hooker’s collaborations with other musicians such as “Little” Eddie Kirkland, The Groundhogs, Canned Heat, Santana, George Thorogood, Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Robert Gray, Warren Haynes, Jimmie Vaughn, Los Lobos, Eric Clapton and B.B. King.

Timeless and classic, cutting-edge and influential—all describe John Lee Hooker’s storied life and career as the undisputed boogie ruler. Whether solo and unplugged or accompanied and wired up, Hooker’s guitar and vocals prove that in the world of the Delta and blues, no one else but Hooker can wear the Crown.

Reviewed by Amy Aiyegbusi

View review December 1st, 2017

John Lee Hooker – The Modern, Chess & VeeJay Singles Collection, 1949-62

john-lee-hooker
Title: The Modern, Chess & VeeJay Singles Collection, 1949-62

Artist: John Lee Hooker

Label: Acrobat

Format: 4-CD set

Release date: October 7, 2016

 
Though there are countless compilations of the recordings of legendary Delta blues guitarist John Lee Hooker, this 101-track 4-CD collection from Acrobat compiles all of his singles released on the Modern, Chess and VeeJay labels from 1949 to 1962. Sequenced chronologically, disc one begins with “Sally May,” recorded in Detroit with producer Bernard Besman and released in 1949 on Joe Bihari’s Modern label out of Los Angeles. Hooker’s second release produced the indelible classic “”Boogie Chillen,” followed by more hits in his R&B arsenal: “Crawlin’ King Snake,” “Hobo Blues, “Hoogie Boogie,” plus “Rock and Roll” from 1950. The disc concludes with some of his early sides for Chicago’s Chess Records.

Disc two picks up with “High Priced Woman” on Chess and concludes with his 1953 release on the Modern label, “Too Much Boogie.” Most of the Modern releases on this disc were produced by Bihari, who flew to Detroit to work directly with Hooker. Though disc three is still dominated by Hooker’s releases for Bihari, we’re introduced to the VeeJay period, which carries through to the end of disc four. Hooker signed with the Chicago-based VeeJay label in 1955, which produced a number of career highlights including his classic 1962 song “Boom,” with backing provided by session musicians with experience in Motown’s studio. The set concludes with additional songs recorded during that session, coming to an optimistic close with a reworking of his 1952 song “New Leaf.”

Though this set has nothing new to offer, it presents a nice introduction to Hooker’s work, mixing his blues and R&B sides. Liner notes are provided by Paul Watts, and the booklet includes complete discographical and session information.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review January 3rd, 2017

John Lee Hooker, Jr. – All Hooked Up


Title: All Hooked Up

Artist: John Lee Hooker, Jr.

Label: Steppin’ Stone Records/dist. by INgrooves Fontana

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: September 18, 2012

 

 

John Lee Hooker, Jr. has some big shoes to fill. With a famous name and father, he has had both the advantage of automatic cache and the disadvantage of an automatic comparison to his legendary namesake. A childhood spent touring the blues circuit with his father introduced Hooker, Jr. to the blues as a musical form and as a lifestyle, something that would come back to haunt him especially hard during the years spent in his hometown of Detroit wallowing in the hard substances and lifestyles that always brought him right back down.

Tough beginnings like that made Hooker, Jr.’s debut, Blues with a Vengeance, released in 2004 at age 52 , easy to root for. The last eight years have produced three more albums, establishing him as a notable bluesman in his own right. His latest release, All Hooked Up, is definitely a 21st century blues album with songs like “Tired of Being a Housewife,” which recounts a woman’s frustrations with Facebook and her husband’s internet porn addiction, and “It Must Be the Meds,” a contemporary tale of woe that is fairly self-explanatory.

Hooker, Jr.’s contemporary edge is also seen in his willingness to meld traditional Memphis blues sounds with R&B and soul, as heard most excellently in his duet with Betty Wright on “I Surrender.” Even more modern, however, is Jr.’s acknowledgement that the blues life can wear someone down and that, in his case, avoiding rowdiness and focusing on his faith has given him the opportunity to sing about the hard times while living for the good ones.

Review by Dorothy Berry

Editor’s note: The CD also features a special bonus DVD with an animated film noir video for John Lee’s song, “Dear John.”

View review January 1st, 2013

John Lee Hooker – Cook With The Hook Live in 1974

Title: Cook With the Hook: Live in 1974

Artist: John Lee Hooker

Label: MVD

Formats: DVD

Release date: June 19, 2012

 

 

In the summer of 1974, John Lee Hooker played the small outdoor festival “Down in the Dumps,” so named for its locale—a landfill in Gardner, Massachusetts. The festival was broadcast on a local access station, and the footage (grainy, low-quality 3-angle camera work) has been packaged in a concert DVD, Cook with the Hook. The DVD takes its name from Hook’s stage-swaggering mantra. When the emcee asks, “You gonna cook with the hook?” he’s not questioning the audience, he’s warning them of what’s to come: solar flares of electric boogie blues.

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The video features the ever-dapper Chicago bluesman against a backdrop of hippie excess. Even Hooker’s backing band has the undeniable features of rock’s counterculture: long-hair, unkempt clothes, and experimental unrestraint. The contrast is about as jarring as the jumpcut shots of the performance, but to good effect. Both work to frame the dizzying, near-transcendent experience of Hooker’s electric melody-making. While a landfill concert seems unbefitting the blues legend, Hooker owns the stage and captivates his audience, proving his music to be just at home at a psychedelic flesh fest as a South Chicago juke-joint. In the extended jam on “Boogie,” Hooker tosses his guitar aside and grabs the mic to give a rousing blues sermon. He raps, he dances, and he seduces the crowd into a call and response frenzy. Though we are piped into the concert via local-access fiber-optics, viewers will feel part of the privileged few seeing music history in the making.

Reviewed by Betsy Shepherd

View review September 4th, 2012

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite – No Mercy In This Land

no mercy
Title: No Mercy In This Land

Artist: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

Label: Anti

Formats: CD, LP, Digital

Release date: March 30 2018

 

Blues powerhouses Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite return with a new musical collaboration, No Mercy In This Land. Their first album, 2012’s Get Up!, spurred, at least in my mind at the time, comparisons to other blues and jazz artists such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. I now realize that while some comparisons are productive, sometimes artists come together to produce the most amazingly creative offerings. Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite are the perfect example of just that.

“When I Go,” the opening track, sets the mood for what to expect on this new album. The song begins with humming! You know what I mean—1930s/1940s, take-me-to-the-river-and-baptize me-in-blues humming. Then, the mesmerizing strumming of a guitar takes over. “I’ll take you when I go,” replies Harper. Talk about musical blues call and response.

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After that moving scene, picture a jukebox in some honky-tonk bar, with patrons who perhaps had one too many, lip synching to the next track, “The Bottle Wins Again.” On “Trust You to Dig My Grave” I can practically hear Muddy Waters weighing in on the action from the Beyond—Harper and Musselwhite really do justice on this one. “Bad Habits” is an up tempo, clap-along jam. Musselwhite and Harper are never quite specific what kind of bad habits they are referring to. You listen. You be the judge of that one.

No Mercy In This Land is excellent work from Harper, and once again, he has found a great compadre in Musselwhite. For this album, and this iconic blues duo, there literally is no comparison.

Reviewed by Eddie Bowman

View review June 1st, 2018

Welcome to the December 2017 issue of Black Grooves

December 2017_small draft

Welcome to the December 2017 holiday issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re highlighting box and multi-disc sets including Isaac Hayes Spirit of Memphis 1962-76, John Lee Hooker King of the Boogie, the 68-CD Johnny Mathis compilation Voice of Romance: Columbia Original Album Collection, the 2-CD compilation Jesus Rocked the Jukebox, and the calendar/CD set 24 Classic Blues Songs from the 1920’s, Vol. 15. More Box Sets features brief descriptions of Wilson Pickett and Dinah Washington album compilations, plus a new Blue Note deluxe box set subscription series.

Our Holiday Music selections include Fantasia’s Christmas After Midnight, Chanté Moore’s Christmas Back to You, Patti LaBelle & Friends’ Home for the Holidays, Smokey Robinson’s Everyday is Christmas and Bigg Robb’s Christmas Party.

Other new releases include gospel artist Cheryl Fortune’s Simply Cheryl, Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Memphis …Yes, I’m Ready, the 60th anniversary expanded edition of Here’s Little Richard, the 25th anniversary expanded edition of Whitney Houston’s Bodyguard soundtrack album I Wish You Love: More From The Bodyguard, and former Shalamar guitarist Micki Free’s Tattoo Burn-Redux.

Our selection of books for holiday giving begins with Florida Soul: From Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band by John Capouya. Other staff picks described in brief in the post New Books About Black Recording Artists include biographies of Otis Redding, Al Green, and Sarah Vaughan; Gucci Mane’s autobiography; two books about Prince—one featuring photographs and another his early studio sessions; Chuck D’s chronology This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History and an oral history of Bob Marley by reggae archivist Roger Steffans.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of November 2017 Releases of Note.

Happy Holidays to All!

View review December 1st, 2017

November 2017 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during November 2017—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country, Zydeco
Etta James: Chicago Blues Festival 1985 (Air Cuts)
John Lee Hooker: Black Night Is Falling: Live at the Rising Sun (Justin Time)
Lil’ Nathan & The Zydeco Big Timers: Unpause (Cha Cha)
Little Axe: London Blues (Echo Beach)
Lucky Peterson: Tribute to Jimmy Smith (Jazz Village)
Various: Blue 88s: Unreleased Piano Blues Gems 1938-1942 (Hi Horse)
Various: Hard Core Harp (Electro-Fi)
Various: Rough Guide to Holy Blues (World Music Network)
Various: Rough Guide to Ragtime Blues (World Music Network)

Classical, Broadway, Soundtracks, Holiday
Julius Eastman: The Zürich Concert   (New World)
Kevin John Edusei; Münchner Symphoniker: Schubert  Symphonies 4 & 7  (Solo Musica)
Kevin Kelley : A Soulful Christmas   (K2Music)
Kirk Smith: Joyful Noise – EP (Powerhouse)
Terence Blanchard; Brussels Philharmonic: Music for Film   (Silva Screen)
Paragon Ragtime Orchestra: Black Manhattan, Vol. 3 (New World )
Valerie Boyd:  A Gift for You (Shekinah International)
Various: Chasing Trane Documentary (DVD, Soundtrack)   (Ume)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Amp Fiddler: Amp Dog Knights (Mahogani Music)
Bad Brains: Finding Joseph I Documentary (DVD)  (MVD Visual)
Cameron Bethany: You Make Me Nervous (Unapologetic)
Kxngs: Air Sign EP (Tru Thoughts)
Malka Family: Le Retour Du Kif (Saint Paul Force)
Nona Hendryx & Gary Lucas: World of Captain Beefheart (Knitting Factory )
Shamir: Revelations (Father/Daughter )
The Liza Colby Sound: Draw EP (Oh Baby)
Timothy McNealy: Funky Movement (Now Again)

Gospel, Christian Rap, CCM
Aha Gazelle: Trilliam 3 (Reach)
Beverly Crawford: Essential Beverly Crawford, Vol. 2 (JDI)
Derek Minor:   High Above EP (Empire)
Fedel:  Brave 2
Gods Own Radikalz: 20dozen The Call (Hawk -Eye Ent.)
Isabel Davis: The Call (eOne)
Javon Inman: Agape Eros (Liberty Music)
Joe Mettle: God of Miracles (Reverb Studios)
Judah Band: For My Good EP (Light)
N.E.M.G.: The Freeze
The Standard: Eight “New Beginning” (Band Geek Music Group)
The Walls Group: The Other Side (RCA Inspiration)

Jazz
Illinois Jacquet: Jacquet Files, Vol. 1 (Live At Village Vanguard 1986) (Squatty Roo)
Blaque Dynamite: Killing Bugs (Ropeadope)
Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band: Body & Shadow (Blue Note)
Dwight Trible: Inspirations (Gondwana)
Eric Valentine & Velvet Groove: Velvet Groove (Matcha Ent.)
Houston Person: Rain or Shine (HighNote)
Lyman Woodard Organization: Saturday Night Special (reissue)     (BBE)
Rahsaan Barber: The Music in the Night (Jazz Music City)
Ron Miles: I Am a Man (Yellowbird)
Sandra Nkaké: Tangerine Moon Wishes (Jazz Village)
Seal: Standards (Universal)
Sly5thAve: Invisible Man: Orchestral Tribute to Dr. Dre (Tru Thoughts)
Vincent Herring: Hard Times (Smoke Sessions)

R&B, Soul
Aretha Franklin: A Brand New Me (Rhino)
Barry Antoine: Eclipse (Shabar Music Ent.)
Beatchild & The Slakadeliqs: The Only Difference   (BBE)
Davion Farris: With Pleasure
Diana Ross: Diamond Diana: The Legacy Collection (Motown)
Elijah Blake: Audiology (Steel Wool / Empire)
Frank McComb: Soulmate: Another Love Story (Prodigee)
Karina Pasian: Interlude
Keaira LaShae: Purple Crowns (3707 Ent.)
Kristan Omor: From Then
Lalah Hathaway: Honestly (Hathaway Ent.)
Martha High: Tribute To My Soul Sisters (Record Kicks)
Maurice Moore: The Amber Room (Empire)
Maxayn: Reloaded: Complete Recordings 1972-1974 (Soul Music)
Phyllis Hyman: Deliver the Love: The Anthology (Soul Music)
Prince Charlez: Evolution EP (Republic)
Project Mama Earth: Mama Earth (Provogue)
Ruby Turner: Livin a Life of Love: Jive Anthology 1986-1991 (Soul Music)
Run N’ Fly: S/T (MRI)
Sharon Jones:  Soul of a Woman (Daptone)
Paxton:  In the Key of Love (Prodigee)
Syleena Johnson: Rebirth of Soul (Shanachie)

Rap, Hip Hop
Mr. Lif & Brass Menazeri: Resilient   (Waxsimile)
Williesco & Yikey Mikey: Yeamonyikezzzz (Triple R Muzik Group)
Amy True: Eleven (True Music)
BeatzByNEFF: Blackness (Bbent / Starcreations)
Big Cakes: No Excuses (Origarmy)
Black Squad: Bad Boy Files (mixtape)
Blacka Da Don: A Part of My Story (MusicThatMatters)
Cam’Ron: The Program (Killa Ent.)
Chris Brown:   Heartbreak on a Full Moon (RCA)
Cyhi The Prynce: No Dope On Sundays (Red Music/Sony)
Da Deputy: Bear Your Soul
Dee-1: Slingshot David (Essential Sound)
Droop-E: Trillionaire Thoughts (Sick Wid It)
Duckworth: XTRA UUGLY (mixtape)
Fabolous & Jadakiss: Friday On Elm Street (Def Jam)
Futuristic: What More Could You Ask for? (OnlyFuturistic, LLC)
Hopsin: No Shame (300 Entertainment)
J Hawk: Mood (LSR)
Jaden Smith: Syre
James Lavell:   StereoType
Jovan Mackenzy: Crooked 10
Keak Da Sneak: Withdrawal (Empire)
Kiddo Marv: Kingz in Denial Don’t Overcome
Lil Uzi Vert: Luv is Rage 2 (Atlantic)
Louis Cato: Starting Now (Ropeadope)
Meyhem Lauren & DJ Muggs: Gems From the Equinox (Soul Assasins)
Milo: Who Told You to Think??!!?!?!?! (Ruby Yacht)
Moka Blast: The Blast Testament (Fly Guy)
Oddisee & Good Compny: Beneath the Surface (Live) (Mello Music Group)
Pete Rock: Lost Sessions (VinDig)
Pharcyde: Bizarre Ride II (25th Anniv. Ed.) (Craft)
Philthy Rich: Sem God (Empire)
PnB Rock: Catch These Vibes (Atlantic)
Princess Nokia: 1992 Deluxe  (Rough Trade )
Reek I’van: Book of Tabias (London Boy Ent)
Rexx Life Raj: Father Figure 2: Flourish (Empire)
Rsxgld: S/T (Fat Beats)
ShaqIsDope: S/T (2UP WorldWide)
Shredders: Dangerous Jumps Explicit (Doomtree)
Skeme: Second Notice EP (eOne)
Skooly: BAcCWArdFeELiNgS (TRU)
Spitta:  Let Me Eat Too (N.W.A.)
Stalley: Tell the Truth: Shame the Devil (Blue Collar Gang)
Swissivory: Real Dreams 2 (Rough Trade)
T-Pain: Oblivion (RCA)
Thenewfaceofsound: LiveInDaFresh (Marvelous Phenomenon)
The Problem: Selfish (Empire)
Third Root: Libertad (Third Root Music)
Too $hort: Hella Disrespectful: Bay Area Mixtape (Dangerous Music)
Wiz Khalifa: Laugh Now, Fly Later (Taylor Gang/Atlantic)

Reggae, Dancehall
Blackstones: Insight (1st CD reissue) (Burning Sounds)
Dub Syndicate: Misplaced Masters (On-U Sound)
Horace Andy: Good Vibes (VP)
Ken Boothe: Inna de Yard (Chapter Two)
Various: Havana Meets Kingston (VP)
Various: Strictly the Best Vol. 56 (VP)

World, Latin
Lulendo: Mwinda (Buda Musique)
Monoswezi: A Je (Riverboat)
Various: Original Sound of Burkina Faso (Mr Bongo)
Various: Don’t Sleep: Omutibo From Rural Kenya    (City Hall/Mississippi)
World’s Experience Orchestra: Beginning of a New Birth (Now Again)

View review December 1st, 2017

October 2017 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during October 2017—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country

Darius Rucker: When Was the Last Time  (Capitol Records Nashville)
Du-Rites:  Greasy Listening  (Redefinition)
James Armstrong: Blues Been Good to Me (Catfood)
John Lee Hooker:  King of the Boogie  (Craft)
Kim Wilson: Blues and Boogie, Vol. 1 (Severn)
Mighty Mo Rodgers & Baba Sissoko: Griot Blues (One Root Music )
Nico Wayne Toussaint: Plays James Cotton (Dixiefrog)
Original Blues Brothers Band: Last Shade of Blue Before Black (Severn)
Supersonic Blues Machine: Californisoul (Provogue)
Various: Stax Country (Stax/Concord)

Classical, Broadway, Soundtracks
Pretty Yende:  Dreams (Sony)

Holiday
Fantasia:  Christmas After Midnight  (Concord)
Leslie Odom Jr.:  Simply Christmas  (S-Curve)
Various: Cool Blue Christmas: Mr. Santa’s Boogie (Contrast)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Ayo: S/T  (Believe Direct Limited )
Benjamin Clementine: I Tell A Fly (Virgin)
Bootsy Collins:  World Wide Funk (Mascot)
Crowd Company:  Sun and Stone (VLM)
Ikebe Shakedown: The Way Home (Colemine)
Jimi Hendrix Experience: American Landing Live at Monterey (DVD) (Legacy)
Kele Okereke: Fatherland  (BMG)
Nubiyan Twist: S/T  (  Wormfood )
Phonk Beta: Symplex 3 (digital) (Fahrenheit)
Rock Candy Funk Party: The Groove Cubed  (J&R Adventures)
The Clubs: Funk on the Floor (digital)
Various: Funkadelic Reworked By Detroiters (Ace)

Gospel, Christian Rap, CCM
Ada: Future Now (FreeNation)
Angella Christie: Intimate Conversations (ACSM)
Chad Brawley:  WeWorship Project (digital) (CKBMusik)
Coliér McNair: Intimacy (COGEO Ent. Group)
Deanna Ransom:  The Real Me EP
Earnest Pugh:  Survive  (Black Smoke)
Felton Hodges & The Annointed Voices: Fix It   (Ecko)
Lisa Knowles-Smith & The Brown Singers: Evolution-The Legacy (EvoWorld)
Mission: All of You None of Me (RPSMG)
Optimist & Fresh Yardey: The Mission, Vol. 1 (digital)
Parxx:  Uncharted (RLVNC Music Group)
Tasha Page-Lockhart: The Beautiful Project  (RCA Inspiration)
The Porter’s Gate: Worksongs (Fuel Music)
Troy Sneed: Taking It Back  (Tyscot)
Tye Tribbett: The Bloody Win (Motown Gospel)
Visionz Of Destiny: The Works
Williams Brothers: Timeless  (Blackberry)

Jazz
Céline Rudolph & Lionel Loueke:  Obsessions
Chantae Cann: Sol Empowered (Ropeadope)
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah:Emancipation Procrastination  (Ropeadope)
Cornell Thigpen: History (Hitman)
Ezra Collective: Juan Pablo: The Philosopher  (Enter The Jungle)
Joey Alexander:  JOEY.MONK.LIVE! (Motema)
Johnny O’Neal: In the Moment (Smoke Sessions)
Sherman Irby: Cerulean Canvas  (Black Warrior)
Sonny Emory: Love Is the Greatest (Universal )
Various:You Need This: Introduction to Black Saint & Soul Note (1975-1985) (BBE)
Virginia Ayers Dawson: Standards of Love  (Ayerplay Music)
Wadada Leo Smith:  Najwa  (TUM)
Wadada Leo Smith:  Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk  (TUM)
Wally Badarou:  Unnamed Trilogy, Vol. 1 (Diskotopia )
Wayne Ellington: Sings ‘Unforgettable (digital)

R&B, Soul
112: Q Mike Slim Daron  (eOne)
Bigg Robb: Born 2 Do This  (Music Access Inc.)
Bobby Byrd: Help For My Brother – Pre-Funk Singles 1963-68 (BGP/Ace)
Boyz II Men:  Under the Streetlight  (Sony Masterworks)
Brik.Liam:  The Ascension (digital) (Cre8Daily)
Chante’ Moore: Rise Of The Phoenix  (CM7)
Charlotte Dos Santos: Cleo (Fresh Selects)
Chuck Jackson: Big NY Soul – Wand Records 1961-66 (Kent/Ace)
Curtis Harding: Face Your Fear (Anti/Epitaph)
Demetria McKinney: Officially Yours (eOne)
Detroit Emeralds: I Think Of You-Westbound Singles 1969-75 (Westbound /Ace)
Deva Mahal: S/T (Motéma Music)
Devvon Terrell:  Weird Nights (digital)
dvsn: Morning After (Warner Bros.)
Eartha Kitt: I Want To Be Evil – The Wicked Eartha Kitt (Jasmine)
Eric Roberson: Fire (Blue Erro Soul)
Jackie Shane: Any Other Way (Numero)
Jamila Woods: Heavn  (Jagjaguwar)
Kelela: Take Me Apart (Warp)
Kenny Latimore: Vulnerable (Sincere Soul)
Keyshia Cole:  11:11 Reset (Epic)
Leroy Hutson: Anthology 1972-1984 (Acid Jazz )
Lyrica Anderson: Adia (Empire)
Marcus Randolph & My Peeples Peeple: Transplant (American Showplace Music)
Mic Lowry: Mood (Island)
Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland (DVD) (Lionsgate)
Mpho Sebina:  Neo (digital)
Nicole Willis & UMO Jazz Orchestra:  My Name Is Nicole Willis (Persephone)
PP Arnold: The Turning Tide  (Kundalini Music)
Rationale: S/T (Warner Bros.)
Rhyon: Pretty Girl (Empire)
Saràyah: Feel the Vibe (Basin Street)
Tom Tripp: Red EP (Prime Sound)
Vivian Green:  VGVI  (Make Noise)

Rap, Hip Hop
Juice Aleem: Voodu Starchild (Gamma Proforma)
Aaron Alexander: Memento Mori  (Ignant Art)
Belly: Mumble Rap (Republic)
Big K.R.I.T.:  4eva Is A Mighty Long Time (BMG)
Blood Before Pride: Mimesis, Catharsis and Imitation of Art in Life (Fatbeats)
Blu & Exile: In The Beginning: Before The Heavens (Fat Beats)
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Outlawz: Thug Brothers 3 (Real Talk Ent)
Chief Keef & Fredo Santana: Turbo Bandana mixtape
Cunninlynguists: Rose Azura Nijano (A Piece of Strange Music)
Da Flyy Hooligan: S.C.U.M.  (Lux Ent.)
Dame D.O.L.L.A.: Confirmed (digital) (Front Page Music)
Earthgang: Robots (digital) (Spillage Village)
Edo.G: FreEDOm (5th & Union)
Future & Young Thug: Super Slimey (mixtape) (Epic)
GhostWryter:  27 Darvin (digital) (Never Basic Assoc.)
Gospel of Rufus: Alternate Path (Alternate Path Music Group)
Hex One:  Words Worth a Thousand Pictures ( Mic-Theory)
Hustle Gang: We Want Smoke (Roc Nation/Grand Hustle)
IDK: Iwasverybad (Commission Music/BMG)
J. Stalin: Gas Nation 2 (Livewire)
Krayzie Bone: E.1999: The LeathaFace Project (Real Talk Ent.)
Krept & Konan:  7 Days & 7 Nights (mixtapes)
Lil Pump: Lil Pump (digital) (Warner Bros.)
Masta Killa: Loyalty Is Royalty ( Nature Sounds)
Meyhem Lauren & DJ Muggs: Gems from the Equinox (Soul Assassins)
Moneybagg Yo: Federal 3X  (Interscope)
Playboi Carti:  S/T (Interscope)
Rob Stone: Don’t Wait For It (Grove Town)
Sivion: Dark Side of the Cocoon (Illect)
Snoop Dogg: Make America Crip Again (Empire)
Stalley: Another Level (mixtape)
Swissivory: Real Dreams 2 (NoHook!/Rough Trade)
Tech N9ne Collabos: Strange Reign (Strange Music)
TeeCee 4800: Realness Over Millions 2 (digital)
Trippie Redd: A Love Letter to You 2 (mixtape)
Ty Dolla $ign: Beach House 3 (Atlantic)
Vandalyzm: Rumors of My Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated (Blue Collar Initiative)
Waka Flocka Flame: Flockavelli 2
Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues (36 Chambers ALC /eOne)
Yo Gotti: I Still Am (Epic)
Young Dolph: Thinking Out Loud (digital) (Paper Route Empire)
Young Dro: Da’ Real Atlanta (Real Talk Ent)
Young RJ: Blaq Royalty (Ne’Astra Music/Slum Village)
Young Spray: Invisible Tears (RTM)

Reggae, Dancehall
Emeterians: The Magic Touch (VP)
Frightnrs: More to Say Versions (Daptone)
Jamaiel Shabaka: Land of the Rising Sun ( Roots Vibration )
Lee Perry & The Upsetters: Trojan Albums Collection, 1971-73 (Trojan)
Prodigal Son: Pure Gold  (Main Street)

World, Latin
Adriano Trindade & Los Quemados: Balançando o Jazz (Loop Publishing)
Da Cruz: Eco do Futuro  (Boom Jah)
Diron Animal: Alone  (Soundway)
Eduardo Sandoval: Caminos Abiertos (Egrem)
Elida Almeida: Kebrada (Lusafrica)
Emo Kid:  Gqomtera EP  (Gqom Oh! )
KOKOKO!: Tongos’a EP (ICI)
Leila Gobi: 2017 (Clermont Music )
Miles From Kinshasa: Limbo (Quality Time)
Orchestre Les Mangelepa:  Last Band Standing (Strut)
Professor Rhythm: Bafana Bafana (Awesome Tapes from Africa)
Thandeka: Thandanani Ma Afrika (Chocs Pro Sound)
Various: Jukebox Mambo Vol. 3 (Jazzman )

 

View review November 2nd, 2017

Walter Trout – We’re All In This Together

Walter Trout
Title: We’re All In This Together

Artist: Walter Trout

Label: Mascot Label Group

Formats: CD, Vinyl, MP3

Release date: September 1, 2017

 

 

Walter Trout’s We’re All In This Together marks the newest addition in what has already been a prolific career as a recording artist. One could view this recording as a celebration of sorts since Trout underwent a liver transplant in 2014. While this isn’t his first release since the transplant, it certainly has a much more upbeat feel overall when compared to his 2015 release, Battle Scars, which dealt with his battle with liver disease.

Helping Trout celebrate on this recording are a number of notable guest artists. With each track featuring a collaboration with a different artist, this album stands out for its stylistic variety. The various formidable guitarists should interest any guitar aficionado, although not every guest artist is a guitarist. Charlie Musselwhite’s harmonica on “The Other Side of the Pillow” stands out as one of the best performances on the album. However, make no mistake about it: this is a guitar album!

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Trout’s history playing with major names in the blues world such as John Lee Hooker, Canned Heat, and John Mayall—just to name a few—must have contributed to his ability to lure so many great guest artists to this project. His ability to blend well with each of the guests and play complementary to their style was undoubtedly a factor. With 14 different guests, there is likely an artist to suit almost any taste. Trout is joined by his former bandleader John Mayall on “Blues for Jimmy T.” Other standouts include performances by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Sonny Landreth, Robben Ford, Eric Gales, Joe Louis Walker, and Joe Bonamassa.

Bonamassa might be the most recognizable name in today’s guitar world, and his performance on the title track is a knockout. Nevertheless, it is the playing of Eric Gales, who recently released his Middle of the Road on the same label, that reminds the listener why Joe Bonamassa himself has described Gales as “one of the best, if not the best guitarists in the world.” “Somebody Goin’ Down,” which features Gales and begins with an intro reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix, ultimately manifests itself as a medium-tempo rock track that becomes a vehicle for some brilliant improvising by both Trout and Gales, who end up trading guitar licks during the outro solo.

Another standout track is “Crash and Burn,” an upbeat blues with a Chicago feel featuring Joe Louis Walker on vocals and guitar. Like many tracks, this one also features guitar playing suitable for in-depth study, but Walker’s vocals are also worth mentioning. His voice would not be out of place on a Stax recording from its heyday, and at times it is akin to Albert King, who recorded at Stax in the late 1960s.

We’re All In This Together is a welcome addition to any blues fan’s collection. It is an even more welcome addition to the collection of someone who loves guitar playing. Walter Trout is at the top of his game on this record, and his selection of guests perhaps inspired him to new heights. Whether the catalyst for this performance was newfound inspiration from great players or a new lease on life, the final product is a solid recording that will hopefully introduce Walter Trout to a new generation of listeners.

Reviewed by Joel Roberts

View review October 2nd, 2017

Guy Davis & Fabrizio Poggi – Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train: A Look Back at Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry

Brownie Train
Title: Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train: A Look Back at Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry

Artist: Guy Davis & Fabrizio Poggi

Label: M.C. Records

Formats: CD, MP3, Vinyl

Release date: March 24, 2017

 

Blowing past the mouthpiece and producing train whistle-like chords, Fabrizio Poggi masterfully creates a sonic image on his harmonica of a train blowing steam as Guy Davis boldly strums on his acoustic guitar during the introduction of “Sonny and Brownie’s Last Train.” This original composition by Davis pays homage to the great mid-twentieth century Piedmont blues duo, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Terry and McGhee drew inspiration from early folk-blues figures such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Josh White, and John Lee Hooker and were also associated with the left-wing folk movement.

This 12-track album of acoustic blues studio sessions was recorded live in Milan, Italy and features songs written by McGee and Terry including “Walk On,” “Evil Hearted Me,” and “Hooray, Hooray These Women are Killing Me.” Davis and Poggi also cover a number of blues greats from Jimmy Oden’s “Going Down Slow” to Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train,” as well as familiar traditional songs like “Take This Hammer,” “Shortnin’ Bread,” and “Midnight Special.”

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Special attention should be paid to the technical musical nuances during these live recordings. Of particular interest is Poggi’s emulation of Terry’s whooping and hollering between harmonica riffs for an added soulful effect. As well, Davis embraces the storytelling tradition in his performances inspired by the work of Blind Willie McTell and Big Bill Broonzy.

After a music career spanning over two decades, this commemorative album marks Guy Davis’ 14th recording. Reflecting on this latest work, Davis explains, “Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry were two musicians whose work will not be surpassed, let alone improved on. This musical opus was produced by Fabrizio Poggi. It features our combined musical talents, and is not meant to compete with the originals. It’s meant to be a love letter to Brownie and Sonny signed by the both of us. They were two of my favorites.”

Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train is certainly worth giving a listen, not only to hear expertly executed blues techniques on the harmonica and acoustic guitar, but to witness an excellent and historically significant collection of standard blues and traditional music.

Reviewed by Jennie Williams

View review July 7th, 2017

March 2017 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during March 2017—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk Country
Big Daddy Wilson: Neckbone Stew (Ruf)
Bukka White: High Fever Blues: Complete 1930-1940 Recordings (Soul Jam)
Eric Gales: Middle of the Road (Provogue/Mascot)
Gary Clark Jr.: Live North America 2016 (Warner Bros.)
Gene Mighty Flea Conners: Sanctified (Remastered) (JSP)
Guy Davis & Fabrizio Poggi: Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train (M.C. Records)
John Lee Hooker: Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker’s Finest (Vee-Jay )
Leo Bud Welch: Live at the Iridium (Cleopatra)
Lettuce: More Crushmore (Lettuce Records)
Lightnin’ Hopkins: Live In Denver [1974] (Klondike)
Teddy Williams: Worry Off My Mind (Big legal Mess)

Classical, Spoken Word, Soundtrack
Roscoe Mitchell: Four Compositions (reissue) (Lovely Music)
Roscoe Mitchell: Pilgrimage (reissue) (Lovely Music)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Cilantro Boombox: Shine (digital)
Columbia Nights: In All Things (Record Breakin’ Music)
Danko Jones: Wild Cat (AFM/Soul Food Music Dist.)
Delta Moon: Cabbagetown (Jumping Jack)
E-Life 7: Miked Up (Three 2 Go Music)
Flyjack: New Day (Bean Pie Records)
KXM (with Dug Pinnick): Scatterbrain (Rat Pak)
Mother’s Finest: Love Changes: Anthology 1972-1983 (SoulMusic)
Osunlade: Pyrography (vinyl) (BBE)
Sampha: Process (Young Turks)
Star Stuff: Chaz Bundick Meets The Mattson 2 (Company)
Theo Parrish: First Floor, Part 1 & 2 (vinyl) (Peacefrog)
Wayne Snow: Freedom TV (Tartelet)

Gospel, Christian Rap
Carolyn Traylor: The Best of My Story (Traylor Made Music Group)
Da’dra: All of Me ( Greathouse Music Group / DREAM)
JJ Hairston & Youthful Praise: You Deserve It (eOne)
Jor’Dan Armstrong: Vibes EP (SeaQ/Good Guys)
Montel Dorsey & Muniversity: Love Over Hate (eOne)
Rev. Sam Dixon: My Soul Says Yes (Asherah)
The Williams Singers: In Real Time (CD + DVD) (Blackberry)
Various: Lord Have Mercy: The Soulful Gospel of Checker Records (Playback)
William McDowell: Sounds of Revival II: Deeper (eOne)

Jazz
Abdullah Ibrahim: Ancient Africa (reissue) (Sackville)
Bill Evans Trio: On A Monday Evening (previously unreleased) (Fantasy)
Billy Childs: Rebirth (Mack Ave.)
China Moses: Nightintales (MPS)
Christian Scott Tunde Adjuah: Ruler Rebel (Ropeadope)
Collocutor: The Search (On the Corner)
David L. Harris: Blues I Felt (digital)
Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble feat. Vijay Iyer: Transient Takes (Denmark)
Heads of State: Four in One (Smoke Sessions)
Howard Johnson And Gravity: Testamony (Tuscarora)
Idrees Sulieman Quartet: The 4 American Jazz Men in Tangier (Sunnyside)
Jamiroquai: Automaton (Virgin EMI)
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and Jon Batiste: The Music of John Lewis (Blue Engine)
Jazz Passengers: Still Life With Trouble (Thirsty Ear)
Joey DeFrancesco & The People: Freedom project (Mack Ave.)
Johnny Griffin: Riverside Collection 1958-1962 (Enlightenment)
Marcus Anderson: Limited Edition (Anderson Music, LLC)
Matthew Shipp & Ivo Perelman: The Art of Perelman-Shipp (Leo)
Ronald Bruner, Jr.: Triumph (World Galaxy / Alpha Pup)
Roscoe Mitchell With Yuganaut: Four Ways (Nessa)
Sol: Upfront (Pacific Coast Jazz)
Steve Nelson: Brothers Under the Sun (Highnote)
Trio 3: Visiting Texture (Naxos)
William Parker & Stefano Scodanibbio: Bass Duo (Aum Fidelity)

Latin
Daymé Arocena: Cubafonía (Brownswood)
Ondatrópica: Baile Bucanero (Soundway)

R&B, Soul
6lack: Free 6lack (Interscope )
Chet Ivey: A Dose Of Soul – The Sylvia Funk Recordings 1971-75 (BGP)
Frankie & The Spindles: Count To Ten: The Complete Singles Collection 1968-77 (Playback)
Johnny Guitar Watson: At Onkel Po’s Carnegie Hall Hamburg 1976 (NDRInfo)
Kevin Ross: The Awakening (Motown)
Khalid: American Teen (RCA)
La’Porsha Renae: Already All Ready (Motown)
Lee Fields & the Expressions: Special Night Instrumentals (Big Crown)
Leela James: Did It For Love (BMG)
Nicole Willis, Jimi Tenor & Jonathan Maron: Big Fantasy (For Me) / Tear It Down (Persephone)
Norman Connors: Valentine Love: The Buddah/Arista Anthology (SoulMusic)
Otis Junior & Dr.Dundiff: Hemispheres (Jakarta)
Roscoe Shelton: Best of Roscoe Shelton (Sunset Blvd )
Selina Albright: Conversations (Golden Rays Music )
Stevie Wonder: Live at the Regal Theater Chicago June 1962 (Jambalaya)
Syd: Fin (Columbia)
Syl Johnson: My Funky Funky Band (Numero)
Syl Johnson: We Do It Together (Numero)
Trey Songz: Tremaine (Warner)
Vanessa Collier: Meeting My Shadow (In Tune Music Group)
Various: Soul of the 60s (Time Life)
Various: This Love Is For Real – The Sweet Soul Of Chicago: 1968-1981 (Interstate)
Various: This Time Will Be Different The Sweet Soul Of Philadelphia: 1968-1982 (Interstate)

Rap
50 Cent: Best Of (Aftermath)
Alchemist: Rapper’s Best Friend 4 (ALC)
Amir Obè: NØTÇW (digital) (Def Jam)
Body Count: Bloodlust (CD + DVD) (Century Media)
Boondox: The Murder (Majic Ninja)
Clutchy Hopkins & Fat Albert Einstein: High Desert Low Tide ( Aural Tradition)
Daye Jack: No Data (digital) (Warner Bros.)
Deaf Switch & Toon Kurtis: Backup (Dirty Version)
Devin the Dude: Acoustic Levitation (Coughee Brothaz Ent.)
Dorrough: Ride Wit Me (Real Talk Ent)
Dr. Dooom: First Come, First Served (Threshold)
Drake: More Life: A Playlist by October Firm (Young Money Ent./Cash Money)
Freddie Gibbs: You Only Live 2wice (digital) (ESGN/Empire)
Goldlink: At What Cost (digital) (Squaaash Club/RCA)
Gorilla Zoe: Don’t Feed Da Animals 2 (Real Talk Ent.)
GrandeMarshall: Risk/Reward (Fool’s Gold)
Homeboy Sandman: Veins (Stones Throw)
IAM: Revolution (Universal France
Stalin: I Don’t Sell Dope No Moe (Livewire)
J.I.D: The Never Story (digital) (Dreamville/Interscope)
K’Valentine: Here for a Reason (Javotti Media)
Kodak Black: Painting Pictures (digital)
Kool Keith & KutMasta Kurt: Your Mom Is My Wife EP (Threshold)
Little Simz: Stillness in Wonderland (Age 101)
Locksmith: Olive Branch (digital) (Landmark Ent.)
Mike WiLL Made-It: Ransom 2 (digital) (Eardruma/Interscope)
Mozzy: Fake Famous (Mozzy Records)
Murs: Captain California (Strange Music)
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya: Drool (Sooper/Father-Daughter)
O.C.: Same Moon Same Sun: 1st Phase (Ditc )
Oddisee: The Iceberg (Mello Music Group)
P.O.S: Chill, Dummy (Doontree)
Porter Ray: Watercolor (Sub Pop)
Raekwon: The Wild (H20)
Realz: Blue Lion Chamber (Chambermusik/Thrice Great)
Rick Ross: Rather You Than Me (Epic)
Shawty Lo: R.I.C.O. (digital) (300 Ent.)
Slum Village: Fantastic Collection (Ne’Astra Music Group)
Too $hort: The Pimp Tape (Dangerous Music)
Tuamie: Holy Ghost Spirituals (Fat Beats)
Your Old Droog: Packs (Fat Beats)
Iam: Revolution (Universal)

Reggae, Dancehall
Dillinger: Answer Me Question (reissue) (Radiation Roots)
Inna de Yard: The Soul of Jamaica (Chapter Two/Wagram)
Jackie Edwards: Mr. Peaceful (Kingston Sounds)
Jackie Mittoo: The Keyboard King (reissue) (Radiation Roots)
Keith & Tex: Same Old Story (Liquidator Music)
Prince Far I: Psalms for I (Deeper Knowledge)
Queen Ifrica: Climb (VP)
Skatalites: Foundation Ska (Studio One)
Talisman: Don’t Play with Fyah (Sugar Shack)
Various: Hustle! Reggae Disco – Kingston, London, New York (Soul Jazz)

World
Abdou El Omari: Nuits D’été
Elida Almeida: Djunta Kudjer EP (Lusafrica)
Ibibio Sound Machine: Uyai (Merge)
Livy Ekemezie: Friday Night (Odion Livingstone)
Mokoomba: Luyando (OutHere)
Ondatrópica: Baile Bucanero (Soundway )
Orchestra Baobab: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (World Circuit)
Red Baraat: Bhangra Pirates (Rhyme & Reason)
Seydou Boro: Hôrôn (Indigo)
Somi: Petite Afrique (OKeh)

View review April 4th, 2017

Welcome to the January 2017 issue

Welcome to the January 2017 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month were leading with two big December releases: Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love! and A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service. Other new hip hop and rock releases include Totem Pole from the Philly band Johnny Popcorn (led by Hezekiah), and the trap music of Post Malone on Stoney.

New jazz releases include Pennal Johnson’s Conversations: Live in Chicago, Gregory Porter’s Live in Berlin, Adam O’Farrill’s Stranger Days, and Kosi’s I Know Who I Am. Also featured is jazz/classical pianist Daahoud Salim’s Erwin Schulhoff: Forbidden Music, Senegalese artist Élage Diouf’s Melokáane, and the Gospel Pioneer Reunion DVD (finally released by the Gaither Music Group after nearly 25 years).

Continuing our annual winter blues theme, there are reviews of Grown Ass Woman by Sharon Lewis and Texas Fire, Cab Driving Man by Mississippi Heat, One of a Kind by Grady Champion, and Live at Rosa’s Lounge by Omar Coleman.

Under the category of reissues and compilations, there’s the first CD release of Dee Dee Sharp’s Songs of Faith, Bobby “Blue” Bland: The Singles Collection, 1951-62, Evelyn “Champagne” King: The Complete RCA Hits and More, and John Lee Hooker: The Modern, Chess & VeeJay Singles Collection, 1949-62.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of December 2016 Releases of Note.

View review January 4th, 2017

October 2016 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during October 2016—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Angel Faye Russell: Taste of Angel (Music Access)
Arthur Gunter: Baby Lets Play House Complete Excello Singles (Jasmine)
Big Daddy Wilson: Time (Dixiefrog)
CeDell Davis: Even The Devil Gets The Blues (Sunyata)
Dom Flemons & Martin Simpson: Selection of Ever Popular Favourites (Fledg’ling)
Jerimiah Marques & The Blue Aces: Winning Hand (The Last Music Company)
John Lee Hooker: Modern, Chess & Veejay Singles Collection 1949-62 (Acrobat)
Lightnin’ Hopkins: Thinkin’ And Worryin’ – Aladdin Singles 1947-1952 (Jasmine)
Mississippi Heat: Cab Driving Man (Delmark)
Mississippi John Hurt: Spike Driver Blues: Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings (Dark Was the Night Records)
Rev. Km Williams : The Real Deal Blues (Cleopatra)
Sonny Rhodes: Then & Now (Blues Express)
Trudy Lynn: I’ll Sing the Blues for You (Connor Ray Music)
Various: Classic Blues Artwork From The 1920s Calendar (Blues Images)
Various: Rough Guide To Delta Blues (Rough Guide)

Classical
Leontyne Price: Prima Donna Assoluta – Her Ultimate Opera Recordings (Box set) (Sony Classical)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Misc.
Kadhja Bonet: The Visitor (Fat Possum)

Gospel, Gospel Rap
Anthony Faulkner: Guardian Angel (7th Chapter Music)
Bishop Paul S. Morton: Legacy: Live in New Orleans (Light Records)
Clifton Ross III: I Believe God (digital) (CDBaby)
Dee Dee Sharp: Songs of Faith (reissue) (ABKCO)
Derek Minor: Reflection (eOne)
Hart Ramsey & The NCC Choir: True Story (eOne)
Mahalia Jackson: Sings–The Great Television Performances (Real Gone)
Nimisilla Park : Welcome to Nimisilla Park (Coal Mine Ent.)
Rance Allen Group: Live From San Francisco (CD + DVD) (Tyscot)
Various: Best of Proverb & Gospel Corner Records (Narro Way/City Hall)

Holiday
Bob Baldwin: The Gift Of Christmas (Red River Entertainment)
Kenny Lattimore: A Kenny Lattimore Christmas (Motown Gospel)
Phillip Carter & SOV: Christmas
R. Kelly: 12 Nights Of Christmas (RCA)
Various: Joyful Jazz! Christmas with Verve, Vol. 1: The Vocalists (Verve)
Various: Joyful Jazz! Christmas with Verve, Vol. 2: The Instrumentals (Verve)

Jazz
Charles Mingus: Complete Albums (Enlightenment)
Daniel Weatherspoon: The Langley Park Project (Longlife Entertainment)
David S. Ware & Matthew Shipp Duo: Live in Sant’Anna Arresi 2004 (AUM Fidelity)
Earl Hines All Stars: Live at CLub Hangover, S.F. 1957 (Acrobat)
Fostina Dixon: Here We Go Again (Fossiebear Inc. Productions)
George Cables: The George Cables Songbook (HighNote)
Josef Leimberg: Astral Progressions (digital) (Alpha Pup)
Kenny Burrell: Complete Albums Collection 1956-1957 (Enlightenment)
Kenny Burrell: Complete Albums Collection 1957-1962 (Enlightenment)
Malia: Malawi Blues / Njira (MPS)
Miles Davis Quintet: Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5 (Legacy)
Mili Bermejo and Dan Greenspan: Arte del Dúo (Ediciones Pentagrama)
Orrin Evans: #knowingishalfthebattle (Smoke Sessions)
Pennal Johnson : Conversations: Live In Chicago (Hitman)
Ramsey Lewis: Hot Dawgit: Anthology – Columbia Years (SoulMusic)
Shabaka and the Ancestors: Wisdom of Elders (Brownswood)
Zoot Sims Quintet: Buried Gold: Complete 1956 Quintet Recordings (Acrobat)

R&B, Soul
Ari Lennox: Pho (Dreamville/Interscope)
Chet Ivey: A Dose Of Soul – The Sylvia Funk Recordings 1971-75 (BGP)
Della Reese: Singles Collection 1955-62 (Acrobat)
Dr. John: Musical Mojo Of Dr. John: A Celebration of Mac & His Music (Concord)
Edwin Birdsong: S/T (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Eric Benet: Sunshine (Primary Wave)
Evelyn “Champagne” King: The Complete RCA Hits and More! (Real Gone)
Johnny Mathis: Complete US Singles As & Bs 1957-62 (Acrobat)
Jones: New Skin (Pias America)
Kadhja Bonet: The Visitor (Fat Possum/Fresh Selects)
Kevin Ross: Awakening (Motown)
Lizzo: Coconut Oil (digital) (Atlantic)
Otis Redding: Dictionary of Soul (2CD 50th Anniv. Ed.) (Rhino/Atlantic)
Otis Redding: Live At The Whisky A Go Go: The Complete Recordings (Stax)
Rebecca Ferguson: Superwoman (RCA)
Sebastian Kole: Soup (Motown)
Sly & The Family Stone: Ain’t But The One Way (Friday Music)
Syreeta: The Rita Wright Years – Rare Motown 1967-1970 (Kent)
The Seshen: Flames & Figures (Tru-Thoughts)
Various: Let It Be – Black America Sings Lennon, Mccartney And Harrison (Ace)
Various: Please Relase Me – The Soulful Side Of Country (Jasmine)

Rap, Hip Hop
Cakes Da Killa: Hedonism (Ruffians)
Sleepdank: Airport Lifestyle (Hands Down)
A-F-R-O and Marco Polo: A-F-R-O Polo (Duck Down Music)
Bizzle: Crowns & Crosses (digital) (God Over Money LLC)
BROOKZILL!: Throwback to the Future (Tommy Boy Ent.)
D.I.T.C.: Sessions (digital) (The Fam Agency)
D.R.A.M.: Big Baby D.R.A.M. (digital) (Empire)
Damian Lillard (Dame D.O.L.L.A.): The Letter O (digital) (Vibe Music)
DJ Shadow: Endtroducing (3CD set) (Mercury)
Gaika: Spaghetto (Warp)
Gucci Mane: Woptober (Atlantic)
Ishdarr: Broken Hearts & Bank Rolls (Empire)
Stalin: On Behalf of the Streets 2 (Livewire/Empire)
Jay Prince: Smile Good (Cosa Nostra Music)
Joe Budden: Rage & the Machine (Mood Muzik Entertainment / EMPIRE)
Journalist 103: Battle for the Hearts and Minds (Babygrande)
Lauryn Hill : The Lauryn Hill Story (Chrome Dreams)
Lil Keke: ABA IV (digital) ( SoSouth)
L’Orange & Mr. Lif: The Life & Death Of Scenery (Mello Music Group)
Mark Steele: Almost Time (digital)
Mickey Factz x Nottz: The Achievement: circa ’82 (digital) ( W.A.R. Media)
Napoleon Born Apart: Infinite Nights (Hit Man)
NxWorries (Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge): Yes Lawd! (Stones Throw)
OG Maco: Children of the Rage (Columbia/Motown)
Saba: Bucket List Project (digital) (Saba Pivot, LLC)
Soprano: L’Everest ( Warner Music France)
Swet Shop Boys : Cashmere (Customs)
The Game: 1992 (eOne)
The Outlawz : Living Legends
U.G.: Portals (Creative Juices)
Various: Latest & Greatest Hip-Hop Anthems (Union Square Music)
Various: BBE20: Attitude, Belief & Determination (BBE)

Reggae, Dancehall
Alkaline: New Level Unlocked (Zojak World Wide)
Bunny Wailer: Solomonic Singles 1: Tread Along 1969-1976 (Dubstore)
Bunny Wailer: Solomonic Singles 2: Rise & Shine 1977-1986 (Dubstore)
No-Maddz: Sly & Robbie Presents No-Maddz (Nomaddz/Epiphany)
Osunlade: Mix The Vibe-King Street Goes Yoruba (King Street Sounds)
Patrice: Life’s Blood (Supow Music)
Various: Merritone Rock Steady 1: Shanty Town Curfew 66-67 (Dubstore)
Various: Kuduro Reggaeton Hits 2017

World
Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta (Numero)
Le Tout Puissant Orchestre Poly-Rythmo: Madjafalao (Because Music)
Noura Mint Seymali : Arbina (Glitterbeat Records)
PeruJazz: Verde Machu Picchu (Vampisoul)

View review November 1st, 2016

September 2015 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during September 2015—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

 

Blues, Folk, Country

Adolphus Bell: Mississippi Rubberleg (Music Maker)

B.B. King: Complete Singles As &Bs 1949-62 (Acrobat)

Gary Clark Jr: The Story of Sonny Boy Slim (Warner Bros)

Guy Davis: Kokomo Kidd (M.C. Records)

James Cotton: Live at Antone’s Nightclub (reissue) (Texas Music Group)

James Cotton: Mighty Long Time (reissue) (Texas Music Group)

JC Smith Band: Love Mechanic (Cozmik)

John Lee Hooker & Friends: The House of Blues (Klondike)

Mighty Sam McClain & Knut Reiersrud: Tears of the World (Music & Vision)

Mr. David: Put It On Ya (Waldoxy)

Shemekia Copeland: Outskirts of Love (Alligator)

Various: Rough Guide to the Blues Songsters (World Music Network)

Various: Rough Guide to Unsung Heroes of Country Blues, Vol. 2 (World Music Network)

Willie Dixon: Live in Chicago – 1984 (Hi Hat)

 

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic

Boulevards: Boulevards EP (Don’t Funk With Me)

Darlene Love: Introducing Darlene Love (Columbia)

Gap Band: The Gap Band I, II & III (Reissue) (Beat Goes On)

Harleighblu: Futurespective EP 2 (Tru Thoughts)

Leona Lewis: I Am (Def Jam)

Main Squeeze: Mind Your Head (digital)

Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers: Live in Seattle (Concord)

Petite Noir: La Vie Est Belle/Life is Beautiful (Domino)

P-Funk All-Stars: Live at the Beverly Theater (reissue) (Westbound)

Prince: HITNRUN

Thunderbitch: Thunderbitch (digital, LP)

Various: Daptone Gold II (Daptone)

 

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM

Audrey Cher: The Intro (CD Baby)

Danetra Moore: Light in the Dark (Tyscot)

John P. Kee: Level Next (Motown)

Jonathan McReynolds: Life Music: Stage Two (eOne)

Tiff Joy: Tiff Joy (Tyscot)

Walter Hawkins: Classic 3: Love Alive (eOne)

 

Jazz

Billy Cobham: Atlantic Box Set 1973-1978 (8 CD) (Atlantic)

Bob James & Nathan East: The New Cool

Carlos Henriquez: Bronx Pyramid (Blue Engine)

Cecile McLorin Salvant: For One to Love (Mack Avenue)

Christian McBride Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (Mack Avenue)

Duke Ellington: Black Power (Live, 1969) (Squatty Roo)

Incognito: Live in London – 35th Anniversary Show (earMusic)

Josh Evans: Hope and Despair (Passin’ thru)

Kendrick Scott Oracle: We Are The Drum (Blue Note)

Lizz Wright: Freedom & Surrender (Concord)

Mack Avenue SuperBand: Live from the Detroit Jazz Festival – 2014 (Mack Avenue)

Mariea Antoinette: Straight from the Harp: Special Edition (MAH Productions)

Mike Reed’s People, Places and Things: A New Kind of Dance (482 Music)

Miles Davis: San Francisco 1970: Classic Radio Broadcast (Left Field Media)

Orrin Evans: The Evolution of Oneself (Smoke Sessions)

Perez Patitucci Blade: Children of the Light (Mack Avenue)

Rob Reddy: Bechet: Our Contemporary (Reddy Music)

Ron Carter & WDR Big Band: My Personal Songbook (IN+OUT)

Tomeka Reid Quartet: Tomeka Reid Quartet (Thirsty Ear)

 

R&B, Soul

Avant: The VIII (MO-B Ent.)

Charity: Yellow EP

Jonathan McReynolds: Life Music: Stage Two (Light/eOne)

Kwabs: Love + War (Warner Music UK)

La Mont Zeno Theatre: Black Fairy (reissue) (Athens of the North)

Marc Stone: Poison & Medicine (Louisiana Red Hot)

Marvin Gaye: Volume One 1961-1965 (7 CD Box Set) (Motown)

Miki Howard: Live in Concert (Slimstyle)

Otis Redding: Otis Redding Sings Soul (Collector’s Edition) (Atlantic/Rhino)

Steven A. Clark: Lonely Roller (Secretly Canadian)

Urban Mystic: Soulful Classics (SoBe Ent.)

Various: Please Mr. Disc Jockey: Atlantic Vocal Group Sound (Fantastic Voyage)

Various: Reaching Out: Chess Records at Fame Studios (Kent)

 

Rap, Hip Hop

Apollo Brown: Grandeur (Mello Music Group)

Big Boi & Phantogram: Big Grams (Epic)

Blackalicious: Imani Vol. 1 (Black Mines)

Casey Veggies: Live and Grow (Epic)

Chief Keef: Bang 3 (RBC)

Curtiss King: Raging Waters (digital) (Magnate Music)

Do or Die: Picture This 2 (Rap-a-Lot)

Erick Sermon: E.S.P. (Def Squad)

Fetty Wap: Fetty Wap (300 Ent.)

First Division: OVERWORKED & UNDERPAID: THE LP (Soulspazm)

Glasses Malone: GlassHouse 2: Life Ain’t Nuthin But…

Guilty Simpson: Detroit’s Son (Stone’s Throw)

Jay Rock: 90059 (Top Dawg Entertainment)

Jigmastas: Grassroots: The Prologue (BBE)

K Camp: Only Way is Up (digital) (Interscope)

Little Simz: A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons (AGE 101)

Mayday!: Future/Vintage (Strange Music)

Mega Ran: RNDM (digital) (RandomBeats)

OCKZ: The Stuyvesant Chronicles (digital)

Opio & Free the Robots: Sempervirens (Hieroglyphics)

Paul Wall: Slab God (Paul Wall Music)

Psalm One: P.O.L.Y. (DIGITAL)

Public Enemy: Live from Metropolis Studios (DVD) (Def Jam)

Pupp Barber: Somethin to Prove (Reality)

Rawyals: Our Queendom

Reconcile: Catchin’ Bodies EP (Track or Die, LLC)

Rick Ross: Black Dollar Mixtape (Maybach Music Group)

Scarface: Deeply Rooted (BMG)

Sheek Louch: Silverback Gorilla II (Koch)

Sir Michael Rocks: Populair (digital) (6 Cell Phones)

Solow Redline: #homelessrapper (Wicked Ent)

T.I.: Da ‘Nic EP (digital) (King Inc.)

Talib Kweli: Train of Thought: Lost Lyrics, Rare Releases & Beautiful B-sides (Javotti Media)

Travis Scott: Rodeo (Epic/Grand Hustle)

Underachievers: Evermore (RPM MSC Dist.)

Wordsworth & Donel Smokes: New Beginning (Worldwide Communication)

Young Dro: Da Reality Show (eOne)

Young Thug: Hy!£UN35

 

Reggae, Dancehall

Bob Marley: Complete Island Recordings (12 LP Box Set) (Tuff Gong)

 

World, Latin

Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal: Musique de Nuit (Six Degrees)

Chouk Bwa Libete: Se Nou Ki La (Buda Musique)

Daby Touré: Amonafi (Cumbancha)

Gambari Band: Kokuma (Membran)

Insingizi: African Harmonies: Siyabonga – We Thank You (ARC)

Kuku: Ballads & Blasphemy (Buda Musique)

Mr. Pauer: Orange

Terakraft: Alone

Various: Kanta Cabo Verde (Lusafrica)

Various: sounds of Anguilla (Massenburg Media)

Vieux Farka Touré & Julia Easterlin: Touristes (Six Degrees)

Witch: We Intend to Cause Havoc! (4-CD box set) (Now-Again)

View review October 1st, 2015

Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues – Blues Shock

BillyBranch

Title: Blues Shock

Artist: Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues

Label: Blind Pig

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: January 21, 2014

 

Billy Branch is a three time Grammy nominee who was discovered by blues legend Willie Dixon while attending undergraduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Upon graduating, he pursued a career in blues, becoming recognized as a leading figure in a new (1970s) generation of blues performers. A singer, songwriter, and harmonica player, Branch and his band Sons of Blues have released their first album in fifteen years, Blues Shock. It features primarily newly composed songs alongside a few standards like Dixon’s “Crazy Mixed Up World” and an energetic cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.” The title track, “Blues Shock,” is an up-tempo, funk inspired song about “that moment when you find yourself with a sudden insatiable appetite for the blues.”

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Similarly, a cover of Shorty Long’s “Function at the Junction” features a danceable grove with animated call and response between Branch and background vocalists.  Branch’s delightful sense of humor is showcased in the selections “Dog House” and “Slow Moe.” In the former (sung with Ronnie Baker Brooks), he laments an ongoing dispute with his lover and commiserates with a friend about his lover’s new nick name for him, “bow wow.”  Conversely, “Slow Moe” is a slow paced blues in which singer Mose Rutues Jr. playfully portrays a character who’s frequently insulted because of he refuses perform any task quickly.

Branch is a longtime blues ambassador touring internationally as well as promoting blues education in public schools. His celebration of Chicago blues is perhaps most evident in the composition, “Going to See Miss Gerri One More Time,” in which he chronicles the influence of Gerri Oliver and her 47th Street Palm Tavern that served as a landmark for Bronzeville nightlife until it was removed by City Hall.  An all-around “feel good” album, Blues Shock is sure to impress blues enthusiasts and new comers alike.

Editor’s note: Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues will be performing a set on June 14, 2015, at the Chicago Blues Fest, and later that same day Branch will be producing the Willie Dixon Centennial Tribute.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review June 2nd, 2015

Guy Davis – Juba Dance

Guy-Davis--Juba-Dance-album-cover

Title:  Juba Dance

Artist: Guy Davis

Label: M.C. Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date:  September 10, 2013

 

 

The multi-talented Guy Davis has segued between music and acting throughout his life, not surprising since he’s the son of Ruby Dee and the late Ossie Davis.  His folksy style also reflects his early exposure to roots music at a summer camp run by the Seeger family, where he first learned to play the banjo.  On his latest release, Juba Dance, Davis continues to weave together these influences, presenting some mighty fine storytelling, banjo picking, old-timey hoedowns and down home country blues.  Here’s the official album trailer, featuring the track “Love Looks Good On You”:

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Featured guest Fabrizio Poggi, an Italian harmonica virtuoso, contributes to the majority of the tracks and is especially effective on Muddy Waters’ “My Eyes Keep Me In Trouble” and Josh White’s “Prodigal Son,” and delightfully adds the cream to “Black Coffee,” a homage to Delta blues master John Lee Hooker.  On “Some Cold Rainy Day,” a song popularized by Georgia Tom (aka Thomas A. Dorsey) and Bertha “Chippie” Hill, Davis is joined by “blues & gospel empress” Lea Gilmore and they clearly relish their role in re-creating this classic.

One of the highlights of the album is a rendition of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” with the Blind Boys of Alabama singing back-up over Davis’s lead vocals and 5-string banjo.  Another is “Dance Juba Dance,” an original song composed in the style of a folk ballad that references the 19th century African American dance, complete with claw-hammer banjo and spoons in a “butt shaking rhythm.” Children will be enthralled by “Did You See My Baby” as Davis turns into a one-man band, playing 6-string guitar while employing harmonica for call and response in this foot-stomping romp through an “Old MacDonald’s Farm” style tale.

The album closes with Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” to which Davis admits adding “some Motown chords” to support the story, but it’s done with subtlety in a manner that bridges traditional blues with a little dash of soul.  That approach sums up the album—reinterpreting and reinvigorating the classics while adding new songs to the repertoire that will satisfy traditionalists and with any luck, engage a new generation.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review November 1st, 2013

Buddy Guy – Live At Legends

Title: Live At Legends

Artist: Buddy Guy

Label: RCA

Format: CD, MP3

Release Date: December 18, 2012

 

 

For many years, the month of January has meant a return home from the road for Buddy Guy, and fans long for his annual 12-night stint at his Chicago nightclub, Legends. The roster of A-list sidemen at many of those gigs over the years often served to sweeten the pot for those who were fortunate enough to procure tickets to the often sold-out shows.

When the release of new recordings from Legends was announced, we hoped for a sense of the intimacy that attracts people from all over the world for those annual shows and the best of those performances. Sadly, these eight tracks from January 29 and 30 performances in 2010 seem little more than a money grab. One is left to ask, “Were they rushing to put out some new material in light of Guy’s being recognized with the Kennedy Center Honors late last year?”

More than half of the live performances are covers of other people’s blues standards and Guy’s playing sometimes lacks focus, as evidenced by the abrupt ending on Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” which features a clumsy merger with Bobby Rush’s “Chicken Heads.”  Yes, we realize that Guy likes to pay homage, but isn’t he also a legend?

This isn’t to say that Buddy Guy: Live at Legends isn’t without its merits. Guy is at his best when he performs his own material—“Skin Deep,” the title track on his new CD at the time, and his classic, “Damn Right I Got the Blues.” But we want more Buddy and fewer covers that every other band in Chicago plays nightly.  His musical catalog is so deep that it’s unnecessary for Guy to play covers of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” Cream’s “Strange Brew” and “Sunshine of Your Love,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.” Surely, the producers have culled much more from a dozen performances that year.

Ironically, several of the best tracks on the disc aren’t even live. “Live at Legends” features three “bonus” studio recordings, which benefit from guitarist David Grissom—a Texan who has performed with Joe Ely, the Allman Brothers and John Mayall, and was a member of John Mellencamp’s band in the early 1990s. Together, Guy and Grisson shred “Polka Dot Love,” and present a stronger argument for downloading select tracks, rather than buying the entire CD.

Reviewed by George J. Vlahakis II

View review March 1st, 2013

Welcome to the January 2013 Issue

Welcome to the January 2013 “winter blues” issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Archives of African American Music and Culture.  This month we’re covering thirteen blues projects released in 2012, ranging from the 4-volume 12-CD set Plug It In! Turn It Up! Electric Blues, 1939-2005 from Bear Family to individual albums from Harrison Kennedy, Mike Wheeler, Willie Buck, Linsey Alexander, Smokin Joe Kubek & Bnois King, Rev. K.M. Williams, John Lee Hooker, Jr., Shemekia Copeland, Dorothy Moore, and the Blues Broads.

Another highlight is Linda Tillery and The Freedom Band’s Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute, Celebrate the King In the reissue category, there are albums from two Indianapolis funk groups, the Circle City Band and Rhythm Machine, as well as the first CD releases of Charley Pride’s gospel album Did You Think to Pray and reggae artist Keith Hudson’s Torch of Freedom.

Also featured this month are two roots music offerings from Eric Bibb: Brothers in Bamako with Habib Koité, and the collaboration with Louisiana musicians Deeper in the Well; the jazz fusion album Move: The Trio Project with Hiromi Uehara, Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips; new releases from Angie Stone, Heather Headley, and Jonathan Butler; and Halifu Osumare’s book The Hiplife in Ghana.

View review January 2nd, 2013

Plug It In! Turn It Up! Electric Blues, 1939-2005

Title:  Plug It In! Turn It Up! Electric Blues, 1939-2005: The Definitive Collection

Artists:  Various

Label: Bear Family

Format:  CD box set (4 volumes, issued separately)

Release date: 2011 (2012 U.S.)

 
There are many, many blues compilations, but what sets this outstanding collection apart from the rest are the definitive liner notes that accompany Bear Family’s collection of electric blues.  Bill Dahl, the producer of the compilation, also wrote the notes for all four volumes and each of these well-illustrated booklets runs over 150 pages.  Each volume also includes 3 CDs, for a total of 12 CDs if you purchase the entire series.

Dahl aptly sums up the collection in the introduction to part one: “Before this series of three-CD sets concludes, the listener will be guided through all the permutations of electric blues: Swinging jump numbers, lowdown slow grinders, ‘50s rock ‘n’ rollers, the hard-charging British and American blues-rock of the ‘60s and beyond, soul-blues of the ‘70s, and right on up to the contemporary blues of today, where the electric guitar continues to reign as almighty king.”  He goes on to apologize, somewhat, for the selection process: “There’s no way to include every deserving landmark of the genre on this series―that would require a virtual mountain of discs and an accompanying avalanche of words―but by the time you listen to the dozen jam-packed CDs that comprise this series, you’ll have a pretty fair idea of how electric-blues progressed, and who the important players were (not to mention a raft of unsung heroes).”    So essentially, you’re getting a course on the history of electric blues, courtesy of “Professor”  Dahl. Can’t get any better than that!

Part one takes us from the beginnings in 1939 through 1954. The honor of the first example of electric blues guitar on record goes to Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds of Joy for “Floyd Guitar Blues,” recorded March 16, 1939 (Decca 2483). Close on their heels was T-Bone Walker, universally considered the “father” of electric blues, with his “Mean Old World” from July 1942. Over the course of this volume are more examples from Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, Louis Jordan, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf and many other luminaries, as well as regional phenoms such as Louisiana’s “Bon Ton” Clarence Garlow, and blues women including Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton, and Memphis Minnie.  For many blues enthusiasts, or those eager to learn about the roots of electric blues and rock, this volume will likely be a favorite.

Part two, featuring post-war recordings from 1954-1967, covers an era when blues had become “electric, loud, and in-your-face” while “lonesome southern bluesmen stroking acoustic axes” were a dying breed.  This era also saw the rise in manufacturing of electric guitars, the amplification of harmonicas, and of course the dominance of rock ‘n’ roll.  Dahl refers to this period as the “golden age,” with blues recordings emanating from all corners of the country.  Major figures included in this set are B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jackie Brenston, Hank Ballard, Jimmy Reed, Little Milton, Earl Hooker, Memphis Slim, Ike Turner, Albert Collins, plus many more.

Part three covers 1960-1969, notable for the “concept of the blues guitar hero” and the emergence of a new generation of bluesmen and women, including British groups who pioneered a new form of blues-rock.  Dahl attempts to showcase “that tumultuous decade’s electric blues highlights” over the course of the next three CDs in the series. Featured musicians on the first two discs include Buddy Guy, Freddie King, Junior Wells, Elmore James, Aretha Franklin, Mable John, Etta James, Koko Taylor, Albert King and Taj Mahal, while disc three is devoted to blues-rock with Johnny Winter, The Animals, Fleetwood Mac, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, among others.

Part four features recordings from 1970-2005. According to Dahl, blues music was at a crossroads by 1970, a victim of the natural ebb and flow of musical tastes.  Likewise, out of the four volumes, this one is the most likely to cause enthusiasts to quibble over the content.  The first two discs span the 1970s, beginning with Ted Taylor, Al Green, B.B. King, Otis Rush, and Hound Dog Taylor, and slowly branching out to explore various permutations of folk-blues, blues-rock, and R&B through artists such as Ann Peebles, Denise LaSalle, Syl Johnson, Betty Lavette, ZZ Top, and Bonnie Rait. The final disc covers the ‘80s and early ‘90s through performers such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lonnie Brooks, Robert Cray and Buddy Guy. The final track fast forwards to a 2005 recording by Nick Moss, who Dahl hails as “a savior of traditional Chicago blues,” fully conversant on guitar, harmonica and bass, and capable of changing up his sound at regular intervals to keep things interesting, and to keep the blues alive for another generation.

Regrettably, this magnum opus is an import and thus will set you back about $60 per volume.  However, there aren’t many really authoritative sets being manufactured these days, and an education does not come cheap.  Since the volumes are issued separately, you can take your pick if your budget is limited.  This set is highly recommended for college and conservatory libraries, and would serve as a fine resource for courses on the blues.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review January 1st, 2013

Welcome to the September 2012 Issue

Welcome to the September 2012 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Archives of African American Music and Culture (follow the AAAMC on Facebook for up-to-date information on new releases and give-away contests).

This month we’re continuing our “Women of the World” series with a review of Fatou by Malian artist Fatoumata Diawara, who will be featured at the upcoming Lotus World Music & Arts Festival in Bloomington, Indiana. Other world music releases include new projects from the Israeli reggae band Zvuloon Dub System, Brooklyn’s Afrobeat-centered band Antibalas, and the Los Angeles-based Chicano band Quetzal, plus the reissue of Paul Ngozi’s 1976 classic Zambian rock album The Ghetto.

A two-disc reissue of the 1965 live album The Supremes at the Copa is reviewed, as well as the newly released DVD Diana Ross Live in Central Park from a 1983 performance. Other new DVDs include Jimi Plays Berkeley documenting Jimi Hendrix’s 1970 concert at the Berkeley Community Theatre, and Cook With the Hook Live in 1974 featuring a festival performance by blues guitarist John Lee Hooker. Additional blues CDs in this issue include Otis Taylor’s Contraband, his daughter Cassie Taylor’s debut album Blue, Lurie Bell’s gospel blues release The Devil Ain’t Got No Music, and Detroit blues legend Johnnie Bassett’s final album I Can Make That Happen.

Wrapping up this issue is a look at jazz albums by Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio, the Jeff Parker Trio, and the  David White Jazz Orchestra; the compilation Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, and the Visioneers’ jazz/rap mixtape Hipology.

View review September 4th, 2012

Can’t Sit Down

 

Title: Can’t Sit Down

Artist: C. J. Chenier

Label: World Village

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date: September 13, 2011

 

 

An album’s never been more aptly named. Here, C. J. Chenier (the son of zydeco king Clifton Chenier, the first Grammy Award-winning musician in the genre) blends R&B, soul, and funk with a healthy dose of what his family does best. Foot stompin’ and fun lovin’, Can’t Sit Down, with the exception of a few somber tracks, is straight party music “recorded in one kick-butt session,” as the liner notes explain, “because [they] wanted this to feel like we were at the club having a party with you.”

“Can’t Sit Down,” the album’s opening track, is by far the most characteristic  of zydeco, featuring Chenier’s strong accordion and a washboard solo. Here, the traditional is fun and zealous. Mid-album, things get spicy with “Hot Tamale Baby,” leaning more on funk and soul traditions than zydeco. In addition to his own and his father’s work, Chenier tackles cover songs, too, including Tom Waits’ “Clap Hands,” John Lee Hooker’s “Dusty Road,” the Richard Jones classic “Trouble in Mind,” and Curtis Mayfield’s “We Gotta Have Peace,” with a keen ability to make even the most poignant song dance-friendly.  “We Gotta Have Peace” embraces Mayfield’s funky sensibilities and maintains Chenier’s spirited tone, closing the album on a high note.

Embodying its genre’s heart and soul, Can’t Sit Down, while not always the strictest and most traditional zydeco album, should be embraced as an instant classic nonetheless.

Review by Hannah Davis

View review February 1st, 2012

Garland Jeffreys- King of In Between

Title:  The King of In Between

Artist:  Garland Jeffreys

Label:  Luna Park

Formats: CD, MP3

Catalog No.: LPR-001

Release Date: June 7, 2011

Think Bob Dylan’s visual lyricism meets Lou Reed’s stern delivery—this is the perfect description of Garland Jeffreys’ aesthetic.  Remember his 1973 hit, “Wild in the Streets”?  Well, Jeffreys is back to remind everyone that, after a 13 year hiatus (his last album, Wildlife Dictionary, was released back in 1997), there is more where that came from. The King of In Between is a strong comeback, holding the same New York grit and insightful songwriting that permeates all of his previous releases (those not familiar with Jeffreys should check out his 1992 masterpiece, Don’t Call Me Buckwheat).

The album opens with “Coney Island Winter,” one of the many songs that references New York. It begins with a guitar riff drenched in distortion that alludes to the dirty alleys, the heavy air, and the ardent traffic of The City—a constant motif found throughout the album.  Jeffreys’ narrative songwriting style is strong on this opening track, as on the rest of the album. Lyrics like “Woman walks down the street/ tears come rolling down her face/ frozen on her cheeks” exhibit the lyricism the veteran songwriter is known and loved for.

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Jeffreys,  now in his late 60s, is beginning to reflect on fatherhood, and many of the lyrics on The King of In Between focus on his children. In the song, “The Beautiful Truth,” he states it clearly—“That’s what I tell my kids” —while the track “Streetwise” is a father’s words of advice to his child on the perils of the city. He even has his teenage daughter, Savannah Jeffreys, providing back-up vocals on “The Contortionist,” along with his longtime friend Lou Reed. Other notable collaborations include the reggae guitar work of Junior Marvin (Bob Marley & the Wailers).

The album is steeped in a wide range of musical styles which keep you listening with anticipation. Whereas “Streetwise” employs a funky Curtis Mayfield-esque vibe- circa the album Super Fly, “‘Till John Lee Hooker Calls Me,” “Love Is Not a Cliché,” andIn God’s Waiting Room” play with the old Blues sound, and “Roller Coaster Town” incorporates characteristics of ska and reggae. Other surprises include a hidden bonus track—a cover of David Essex’s 1973 hit “Rock On.”  The rhyme or reason for this extra track is unclear (it’s almost identical to the original), but since Jeffreys has been doing this music thing longer than many of us have been alive, he’s reserved the right to have some fun.

The King of In Between is an enjoyable listen—a holistic meditation on life in New York City, as well as an impressive release for an artist this late in his career. Despite the cold weather, the dangers of the streets, and the difficulty that come with raising a family in a large urban environment, Jeffreys’ says it best in “Roller Coaster Town” — “Yes, New York’s my home.”

Reviewed by Sebastian Ramirez

View review August 1st, 2011

Medicine

Title:   Medicine

Artist:  Tab Benoit

Label:  Telarc

Catalog No.:  Tel-32823-02

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date:  April 26, 2011

 

Contemporary Cajun guitarist, singer-songwriter Tab Benoit may be best known as a master of the blues (he won the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year in 2007), but he “continues to explore the bayou backbeat,” drawing on the best Cajun, swamp pop, R&B, country, and rock talent in Louisiana to extend the boundaries of his palette.  On his latest album, Medicine, he enlists keyboardist Ivan Neville and drummer Brady Blade to anchor the rhythm section, with additional guests Corey Duplechin on bass, and BeauSoleil’s Michael Doucet adding fiddle and vocals on three tracks. Co-producer Anders Osborne, who also co-wrote seven of the songs, joins Benoit on vocals and guitar, performing half the album using B.B. King’s famous guitar “Lucille.”

Recorded at Louisiana’s famous Dockside Studio in the heart of Cajun country, the album primarily features live first takes, free of the excessive editing found on most contemporary projects. When asked about the title, Benoit responded “Let music be the medicine – like John Lee Hooker once said, ‘Blues is the healer.”  The title track riffs on this theme: “I need my medicine, baby” punctuated by extended sections showcasing the blazing guitar work of Benoit and Osborne.

Of the 11 tracks on the album, one of the standouts is “A Whole Lotta Soul,” featuring Ivan Neville on the Hammond B-3 with Benoit reflecting upon recent the tribulations and triumphs of the delta region (used as the soundtrack to the official album video):

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These regional themes play out again on the haunting ballad “Long Lonely Bayou,” featuring a delicate interplay between Doucet’s fiddle and Benoit’s soulful vocals, while the rocking “In It to Win It” references sugar cane fields, snakes and gators (it should come as no surprise that Benoit has worked diligently to save the wetlands that he so obviously reveres).

Overall, this is a great album to accompany summer evenings hanging out on the back porch while eating some pulled pork or fried catfish, drinking ice cold libations, and dancing the night away.  The hard rocking blues punctuated by Cajun fiddling definitely create a gumbo unique to Benoit and his delta roots.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review August 1st, 2011

Chicago Blues


Title: Complete Chess Masters (1950-1957)

Artist:  Little Walter

Label:  Hip-O Select

Format: CD Box Set

Release date: March 10, 2009

The king of Chicago blues harpists is celebrated in this five CD box set, featuring all of Little Walter’s solo studio recordings for Chess. Also included are previously unreleased and alternate takes for “Goin’ Down Slow,” “Mean Old Frisco,” and many other classics. Extensive liner notes are by Tony Glover, Scott Dirks and Ward Gaines- the authors of Blues With a Feeling: The Little Walter Story.  This is a must for all blues harmonica fans, and since Hip-O’s limited editions never stay in print for long, don’t delay.

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Title: What It Takes: The Chess Years (expanded edition)

Artist: Koko Taylor

Label: Hip-O Select

Format:  CD

Release date: November 10, 2009


The world lost the Queen of Chicago Blues earlier this year, and Hip-O Select has paid tribute by remastering this great 1977 compilation featuring Koko Taylor’s early Chess sides, produced by Willie Dixon. This is as good and raw as it gets if you’re a fan of female blues belters, which certainly sums up Taylor, whose style harkens back to Memphis Minnie and Big Mama Thornton. If you’ve only got Taylor’s later Alligator recordings, you owe it to yourself to check out this compilation. From her hit song “Wang Dang Doodle” to “Don’t Mess With the Messer,” the 24 tracks are a fine overview of her early career.

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Title:  Never Going Back

Artist:  Shemekia Copeland

Label:  Telarc

Format:  CD, MP3

Release date:  February 24, 2009


Shemekia Copeland, the Harlem-born Chicago-based daughter of Texas blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, is arguably the current leader among the younger generation of female blues singers, and she hits a home run with her first release on the Telarc label. The title reflects her attempt to stay true to her blues roots while seeking innovative ways to contemporize the genre, which often leads to the merging of old style Chicago blues with R&B, soul, and even a few rock licks. The album features some unusual covers, such as Joni Mitchell’s “Black Crow” and Percy Mayfield’s “River’s Invitation,” which are balanced by more traditional fare such as “Sounds Like the Devil” and “Circumstances,” a song composed by her father. Accompanists include Oliver Wood (who also produced the album) and Marc Ribot on guitar, and John Medeski and Kofi Burbridge on keyboards.

Here is a live performance of Shemekia Copeland performing “Never Going Back to Memphis” in Boston on Nov.21, 2008, which is featured on the CD  Never Going Back (courtesy of Telarc):

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Title: Blues Attack

Artist:  Shirley Johnson

Label:  Delmark

Format:  CD

Release date: March 10, 2009

Shirley Johnson, a fixture on the Chicago blues scene, offers up a rollicking good time on her latest album for Delmark. With backing by the Chicago Horns, guitarists Herb Walker and Luke Pytel, and Roosevelt Purifoy on keyboards, Johnson has the ammunition she needs to convincingly deliver hard hitting blues, southern soul standards (“634-5789” and “Unchain My Heart”), and then funk it up on tracks such as Purifoy’s “My Baby Played Me for a Fool” and Johnson’s own “Blues Attack.”  A very enjoyable album that makes you think about reserving a spot at the Grant Park bandshell for the next Chicago Blues Fest.

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Title: Tear This World Up

Artist:  Eddie C. Campbell

Label:  Delmark

Format:  CD, MP3

Release date:  May 19, 2009

Chicago’s Eddie C. Campbell, known as “The King of the West Side Funk Blues,” made his Delmark debut this year, his first release in over a decade.  One of the originator’s of the West Side sound—along with Jimmy Dawkins, Eddy Clearwater, and Buddy Guy—Campbell is known for his reverb-drenched guitar, powerful vocals, and a unique songwriting style, which is amply demonstrated on original songs such as “Makin’ Popcorn,” “Big World,” and “Voodoo.”  He pulls out all the stops on a rendition of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” and pays tribute to Magic Sam on covers of “Easy Baby” and “Love Me With a Feeling.”  Listening to this CD is the next best thing to sitting in a Chicago blues club on a Saturday night.

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Title: Chicago Blues: A Living History

Artists:  Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell

Label:  Raisin’ Music

Format:  CD, MP3

Release date:  April 21, 2009

This two-CD set features four “inheritors of the Chicago Blues tradition” paying tribute to the evolution of the genre from its earliest days through the present. Many of the city’s past blues masters are covered, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Bill Broonzy, Big Maceo, Elmore James, B.B. King, Memphis Slim, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Junior Wells, Earl Hooker, Magic Sam and John Lee Hooker, among others.  The first disc, recorded in analog to create a period feel, covers 1940-1955, while the second disc covers  1955 to the present.  A 36 page illustrated booklet rich in historical detail completes the set.

Here is a clip of a performance courtesy of Raisin Music:

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Title:  Chicago Blues Harmonica Project: More Rare Gems

Artists: Various

Format: CD

Label:  Severn Records

Release date:  May 19, 2009


This follow-up to 2005’s Diamonds in the Rough features five more contemporary Chicago blues harpists– Reginald Cooper, Russ Green, Harmonica Hinds, Charlie Love and Jeff Taylor, as well as the late Little Arthur Duncan.  The back-up band, dubbed the Chicago Bluesmasters, includes Illinois Slim and Rick Kreher on guitar, Mark Brumbach on piano, and E.G. McDaniel and Twist Turner on bass and drums.  Selections include classics such as Howlin’ Wolf’s “Ooh Baby, Hold Me” and Johnny Guitar Watson’s “Gangster Of Love,” as well as newer compositions.  Severn must be congratulated for their efforts to document and preserve the classic postwar style of blues harp through performances by lesser-known Chicago bearers of the tradition.
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Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review January 12th, 2010

Let Freedom Sing

Title: Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement

Artists:  Various
Label:  Time Life
Catalog No.:  80051-D (CD box set)
Release Date: January 27, 2009

You don’t get a black president overnight. Songs . . . in this box set make you understand the collective voices that make it happen.” –Chuck D (from the preface)

Just in time for Black History Month, the folks at Time Life have produced a wonderful 3 CD deluxe box set that is a must have for every library and educator. To sweeten the deal, a companion feature length documentary will also air this month on TV ONE, and possibly PBS (more on this following the review).  Sometime later this year the documentary will also be released on DVD, perhaps in an expanded version.

The Let Freedom Sing box set was produced with the assistance of noted music historian Colin Escott, who has written extensively on rock, rhythm and blues, and country music, and is known as much for his meticulous research as for his writing skills.  His liner notes situate each track within the historical context of the Civil Rights Movement, both within his descriptions of the music, and through the use of timelines. Though other CD sets with a similar focus have been released in the past, this compilation actually goes well beyond the Civil Rights era, including 58 seminal songs presented in mostly chronological order from 1939 through 2008 and the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. What I most appreciate about the set is the song selection, which is at times both surprising and provocative, but always representative of the struggle for equality.  The producers, which also include Mike Jason and Bas Hartong, spent two years on the compilation, and their care and attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the project.

The first disc covers a lot of ground, beginning with the popular spiritual “Go Down Moses” (sung by the Southern Sons in 1941), then veering off sharply to Billie Holiday’s ominous 1939 ballad “Strange Fruit” about Southern lynchings, before heading into the war years with “Uncle Sam Says” by Josh White. Post WWII disillusionment is expressed in “No Restricted Signs” by the Golden Gate Quartet, “Black, Brown and White” by Brownie McGhee (a rare blues track), and the original 1949 version of “If I Had  Hammer” by the Weavers. The tracks from the ’50s were selected to follow the Brown vs. Board of Education and other anti-segregation rulings, and include “The Death of Emmett Till” by the Ramparts, “The Alabama Bus” by Brother Will Hairston, and “Why (Am I Treated So Bad)?” by the Staple Singers. The disc concludes in the mid-1960s, commenting on the Civil Rights Movement through “Mississippi Goddam” by Nina Simone and “We Shall Overcome” by Mahalia Jackson, but also including Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind” and Phil Och’s “Too Many Martyrs.”

Disc two focuses exclusively on the years 1965 through 1970, with the bulk of the songs released at the end of that period. Though many popular favorites are included, such as the Impressions’ “People Get Ready” and James Brown’s “Say It Loud-I’m Black and I’m Proud,” again the producers have added a number of interesting selections to the mix. Oscar Brown, Jr. addresses reparations in his 1965 song “Forty Acres and a Mule,” while John Lee Hooker’s “The Motor Town Is Burning” comments on the July 1967 riots in Detroit. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., George Perkins sings “Cryin’ in the Streets” while Smokey Robinson and the Miracles lament three separate assassinations in “Abraham, Martin, and John.” Other highlights include the original “Yes We Can” released by Lee Dorsey in 1970, Syl Johnson’s “Is It Because I’m Black,” and Swamp Dogg’s “I Was Born Blue.”

The final disc of the set picks up in 1971 with Gil Scott-Heron’s proto rap “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and follows with a number of popular Black Power era songs by the Chi-Lites, Marvin Gaye, the Isley Brothers, and the O’Jays, along with Aaron Neville’s “Hercules” and Bob Marley and the Wailer’s “Get Up, Stand Up.” From this point the disc segues briefly into the ’80s with the Jungle Brother’s hit “Black Is Black” and the Neville Brother’s “Sister Rosa,” while the ’90s are represented only by Chuck D’s “The Pride.” The set concludes with five recent releases, including “Unity” by Sounds of Blackness, “None of Us Are Free” by Solomon Burke, “Eyes on the Prize” by the Sojourners, “Down in Mississippi” by Mavis Staples (from her 2007 Civil Rights album We’ll Never Turn Back), and, fittingly, “Free At Last” by the Blind Boys of Alabama.

TV ONE TO PREMIERE LET FREEDOM SING: HOW MUSIC INSPIRED THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT ON SUNDAY, FEB. 15 AT 8 PM

(Excerpted from the press release) TV One will premiere Let Freedom Sing: How Music Inspired The Civil Rights Movement, a two-hour documentary that chronicles how the power of lyrics and songs helped move a nation during the most turbulent days of the 20th century, Sunday, Feb. 15 from 8-10 PM. The special will repeat at midnight and also air on Sunday, Feb. 22 at 1 PM (HD/all times ET).

Let Freedom Sing will trace the interaction among the music, the movement and the people involved. The film showcases how the music calmed tensions when protesters were arrested and how creative pioneers in gospel, blues, R&B and pop brought music, medium and message together as never before, composing a soundtrack perfectly tuned to the tempo and pulse of its time.

The film includes interviews with musicians, civil rights activists, music industry executives, historians and others involved in the movement, including former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young; actress Ruby Dee, influential musicians Pete Seeger, Gladys Knight, Jimmy Carter and the Blind Boys of Alabama, Ruth Brown, Jerry Butler and Chuck D; and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) co-founder Dr. Bernard Lafayette.

Let Freedom Sing begins in the era between the wars when segregation was often brutally enforced in Southern states, and when jazz and blues evolved from songs sung by African-Americans in church and in the fields.  It will feature never-before-seen footage from the 1960s, while tracing the influence of Civil Rights-inspired music around the world and revealing the enduring impact it retains on today’s popular music. Chronicling a musical and cultural past, the film also shows how this music is living history that inextricably binds the past with the present.

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review February 3rd, 2009

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