Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In the Pocket with Mr. Solid

By John Lee

The American Folk Blues Festival Volumes 1-3

I recently borrowed the three DVD set, "The American Folk Blues Festival," from my friend Jeff Herzog, harp player and front man for the boogie-blues band, Jeff and The Jet City Fliers. John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon, T-Bone Walker, Little Walter, Big Mama Thornton, Son House, Skip James, and Howlin’ Wolf are some of the blues artists that appear at different times through out this incredible film series. Each disk comes with a cool 24 page booklet. Bill Wyman, former bass player with The Rolling Stones, who wrote the forward for the booklets says: “Things would have been a whole lot different in Britain without the American Folk Blues Festivals; they proved to be a rich legacy for musicians throughout Europe .” These are some of the great bluesmen and women at the top of their game.

Volume 1 (1962-1966) - The highlights for me on the first disk in the series is John Lee Hooker doing “Hobo Blues” and Sonny Boy Williamson backing Muddy Waters on “Got My Mojo Working.”

Volume 2 (1962-1966) - The Howlin’ Wolf tunes are incredible. T-Bone Walker is also very cool, showing why he’s a major influence on so many guitar players.

Volume 3 (1962-1969) - Dr. Isaiah Ross’s “Feel So Good” is very cool. Dr. Ross plays guitar, harp in a rack, a bass drum keeps the beat and the good doctor's left foot plays a high hat. He sings well too. A great example of a one man band. Big Mama Thornton doing “Hound Dog” with Buddy Guy on guitar, Son House’s “Death Letter Blues” and Otis Rush backing up Big Joe Turner are just some of the highlights of disk 3.

If you like classic blues, check out The American Folk Blues Festival. I think you’ll dig it as much as I do.

Black Snake Moan

Just last weekend I went to The Varsity Theater located in Seattle’s University District to see the film "Black Snake Moan." The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, and Justin Timberlake. Black Snake Moan was written and directed by Craig Brewer who also directed the highly acclaimed "Hustle and Flow."

The film is a steamy telling of a “reformed” black bluesman named Lazarus, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who has just found out that his wife is running off with his younger brother. He finds the local “nymphomaniac” Rae (Christine Ricci) badly beaten after she has gone on a bender when her boyfriend (Justin Timberlake) joins the service. After Lazarus puts her on his couch and cleans her up, he inquires with friends about who she is. When he finds out that she is the local hussy, he decides to nurse Rae back to health and to cure her of her evil ways. He goes to the barn and finds a large and lengthy chain and chains her around the waist and keeps her in his house against her will until she is “cured”. Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci both give great performances, but a weak script keeps this from being a truly great film.

The true star of Black Snake Moan is the blues soundtrack. Scott Bomar, bass player for the Memphis instrumental group The Bo-Keys, put together this great soundtrack. Mr. Bomar performs on three tracks for the soundtrack including the opening theme. R.L. Burnside, Jesse Mae Hemphill, Precious Bryant, Bobby Rush, and the North Mississippi Allstars are some of the artists that contribute to this great soundtrack. Despite some flaws in the film I still had a good time. At the beginning and near the end of the film are film clips of the great Son House giving his take on “Ain’t but one kind of blues”. This will make a great rental. Check out Samuel Jackson’s rendition of "Stack O Lee," I think you’ll dig it too.

Charles Brown- A Life in the Blues

"Charles Brown- A Life in the Blues" is a DVD and CD of Mr. Brown and his band recorded live at The Lone Star Roadhouse in New York City in 1990. Charles Brown was one of the finest purveyors of piano blues, and it’s easy to see why Ray Charles considered Charles Brown his major influence!

This dynamite club set consists of 10 tunes including the classics "Driftin’ Blues," "Black Night," "Merry Christmas Baby," and "Please Come Home for Christmas." Mr. Brown and the band, especially guitarist Danny Caron, really cook. The DVD also has two short films of Charles Brown with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers in 1945, two interviews with Mr. Brown, a photo gallery and a complete discography of the master piano man’s music. The set comes with a great booklet with a complete history of his music written by Chip Deffae and liner notes by Bonnie Raitt.

Charles Brown is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, and winner of numerous W.C. Handy awards. He is a legend of blues music and I think this collection is a must for the blues music fan. Do yourself a favor and check it out sometime. I would like to thank my friend Ed Maloney at the Highway 99 Blues Club for turning me on to this incredible set.

Southern Soul Radio

I was recently checking out the Malaco Records (the modern soul/blues/R & B/gospel label based in Jackson, MS) web site when I discovered a link to This very cool internet station plays the likes of Little Milton, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Z.Z. Hill, Denise LaSalle, Tyrone Davis, and Bobby Rush to name a few. If you dig soul music like I do, you’ll dig Southern Soul Radio. Their motto is “Goin’ home ain’t never felt so good.” It’s 24 hours a day too!

Paul deLay

Paul deLay the great harmonica player, singer, and songwriter from Portland , Oregon died March 7, 2007 from leukemia. I have seen Paul deLay play dozens of times and it always struck me what a incredible harp player he was. He was a big influence on dozens of harmonica players in the Northwest. He was a gentle soul and his immense talent will be sorely missed. My sympathy goes out to his friends, family, band mates and his wife Megan. Paul deLay was 55 years old. R.I.P.

Quote of the Month

I toured and played bass with John Lee Hooker twice. To hear him talk was almost as cool as to hear him sing. One of my favorite sayings of The Hook was: “Nothin’ but the best, and later for the rest. Nothin’ but the best, and later for the garbage.”

Electric bassist John "Mr. Solid" Lee was born in Alaska and has been active in the Seattle blues scene for about 30 years. He currently plays with the Crossroads Band. Photo by Mike Coyote.

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