Sunday, January 22, 2006

What I'm listening to this week.

Still Bad
Denise LaSalle
The Malaco Music Group

I haven't listened to this CD for quite a while, but it has been in steady rotation in my car player for a couple of weeks now. The following is a review I wrote about this collection for the Caldonia web page in 1995 - it still accurately reflects my opinion, so here it is again.

This CD is a big hit in my neighborhood right now. I brought it home just in time for our annual Blues & Barbecue party. After a couple of million drinks, we put this CD on the box and had a ball dancing in the living room until the wee wee hours. Now I've got to make tapes of "Still Bad" for everyone...

Nobody does the in your face, nasty, soul/blues woman show better than Denise LaSalle. Born in Leflore County, Mississippi in 1939, Denise is a well respected song writer and singer. She specializes in clever, humorous tunes about the battle of the sexes. In fact, Barbara Mandrell's hit, "Married, But Not To each Other," was written by her.

An R & B singer for most of her career, Denise La Salle has successfully concentrated on the soul/blues genre since signing with Malaco Records in the early 1980's. She is supported on this recording by the crack Malaco studio staff. Many of the cuts utilize a full horn section, backup vocalists, and an actual string section (!). The production is very good; funky and not too slick.

Five of the songs here were written by LaSalle. My favorites are "The Sweeter The Man," a bittersweet ballad about lost love, and "Risky Business," a tune about the dangers of messin' around with sex in the '90s.

There's a whole mess of great tunes here by the Malaco songwriting staff. In "Three People" Denise wonders who her man is thinking about during sex (“Three people in my bed/me, my man, and the woman in his head..."). And by the way, why should men always get it for free, she wonders in "1-900-Get-Some," a great tune about phone sex. The real rocker on this set is "It Ain't Over Until The Fat Lady Sings," a tribute to female orgasms ("It ain't over 'til you make my bell ring/it ain't over 'till the fat lady sings!"). I'll bet Denise tears up the concert crowds with this one!

A terrific set, great production and songwriting, and a sense of humor throughout. Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin’ Daddies
Raging River Café & Club – Fall City, WA
January 14, 2006

Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin' Daddies

I drove out to Fall City last night to check out Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin’ Daddies, and I’m here to tell you that they had the Raging River Café & Club rockin! If you haven’t seen these guys yet, do yourself a favor and get down to the nightclub to do so – you won’t be sorry!

The band (Becki Sue – vocals, Tom Boyle – guitar/vocals, Jim King – tenor sax/harp/vocals, Les White – acoustic bass/vocals, and Jeff Hayes – drums) did a cool mixture of all types of blues, original tunes, and an occasional old rock tune, such as Don and Dewey’s “Farmer John.” These guys have got it goin’ on – the band is very good as a four piece with both Jim and Les very good on lead and harmony vocals, and plenty of smokin’ leads offered up by Tom and Jim.

The rhythm section was kicking, proven by the full dance floor on practically every song. And Les, to me, has this amazing facility on the acoustic bass. Most bands that feature this variety of tunes would have a bass player that doubles on electric and acoustic bass, but Les does it all on the acoustic. Oh yeah, and for good measure, he occasionally plays it horizontally or behind his head, like a guitar player.

The band did a few tunes at the beginning of each set, and then brought vocalist Becki Sue to the bandstand. I dig Becki Sue’s thang – she has a tough, aggressive style, but avoids the full-throttle Janis Joplin shouting that many female blues vocalists get caught up in. The band was very supportive when Becki Sue was on stage, and some of the song she did featured three-piece harmony parts. What a concept!

Part of my mission this night was to check the club out because my band has a gig there next week. The new owners (Bo and Nina) have done some remodeling, and now there is more seating in the nightclub. The club was full of music fans that were having a blast listening and dancing to the band, on a night when it was threatening to snow outside. I’m looking forward to my band’s gig at the Raging River next week.

Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin’ Daddies – Great musicians, great material, great show. Go see ‘em!

The Raging River Café & Club is located at 33723 SE Redmond - Fall City Road in Fall City (425-222-6669).
Weird Gig No. 2 - Blues eyes cryin' in the rain...

By Brian Butler

Note: This story, written by Seattle guitarist/singer/songwriter Brian Butler (left), was originally published on the Caldonia web page around 1996. Funny, both of the Weird Gig stories published on Jet City Blues so far are related to county fairs - what does it MEAN?!

South of Seattle near the foothills of the Cascade Mountains lies the small town of Puyallup. That's where this weird gig story starts. Normally an uneventful hamlet, the town roars to life each September when the Puyallup Fair cranks up and dominates the life of its citizens. In a far corner of the huge fairgrounds, past the bungee-jump and the dime-toss, is a performance arena built somewhat like an early Western fort. It was there some fifteen years ago that the Brian Butler Blues Band started its peculiar descent into weirdness.

Live music shared equal billing with the chainsaw artists who were noisily engaged in turning Douglas fir into totem-like poles depicting bears, salmon, eagles, and other wildlife figures. Before the last note of a band's set slipped beyond the range of hearing, the mighty chainsaws were fired up and for the next 45 minutes, primitive art-making was king.

During one of the breaks in our show, a lanky fellow in his fifties (we'll call him Jack) approached, and, talking loudly over the din, expressed a desire to hire the band. "We have get-togethers where we always hire country-western bands, and I'll tell ya, even drinking doesn't make them sound better. I'm in charge of hiring the band for our next party and I wanna hire you guys!" His association was a group of CB enthusiasts (Citizens Band radio). "No sweat", I thought, "just another gig."

Jack needed a little more support from his colleagues before he took the big step and hired a blues band, so he brought a group of friends to our next gig in the area - the Engine House No. 9 in Tacoma. The four couples seemed to enjoy themselves that night, talking boisterously while the number of empty beer pitchers accrued on their table. The final sign of approval came at the end of the night, when one of the women in a fit of wild laughter, fell over backwards in her chair. Jack and I confirmed the date and dough and the gig was on.

On the chosen night we rolled south to the countryside outside of Gig Harbor. The parking lot of the meeting hall was a forest of antennas. This being a CB club, each vehicle bristled with a soaring communication appendage. Inside, the activities were getting started. Folding tables lined the perimeter of the dance area and machinery for making plastic badges was set up on them. The CB folks wore vests and denim jackets covered with these badges or "handles", the use and display of names and aliases being a ritual of the members. We noted all of this while we rolled the gear in and set up on the stage.

We started playing and whipped into our proven, crowd-pleasing blues as the audience watched impassively from their chairs. When the third or fourth song was over, a woman sporting a huge cowboy hat yelled out, "Play some country!" These people were used to country music and that's what they wanted. We went into a huddle and scratched out a list of all the country songs we vaguely knew, padded with country's second cousin, classic rock songs.

The next song that crowd was up; stretched across the dance floor and they were two-steppin', natural as can be! I remember playing "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" several times that night. We enlisted audience members to help us sing a couple of numbers and somehow we limped through the night. We entertained that crowd and they went home happy, although they probably stripped Jack of his entertainment planning responsibilities.

The final surprise came when we were paid. There were a couple of twenty-dollar bills and the rest was in a huge bag which Jack proudly dumped out on the table; quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies-more change than a Carson City slot machine!

We need more Weird Gig stories! Do you have one that the readers of Jet City Blues might enjoy? If so, write it up in an MS Word document and e-mail it to Mike Lynch at Thanks!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What I'm listening to this week.

You Need It - Anthology
Johnny Guitar Watson
Sanctuary Records Group

Here's another CD I snagged at Tower Records this last Christmas. I am a BIG Johnny "Guitar" Watson fan. I was actually looking for a compilation of his older stuff that might have "Cuttin' In" on it, a tune I used to sing with my old band Nightlife. I had no luck finding that tune, but found this compilation instead that features Watson's funky sides that were released in the '70s and '80s.

Funny - I was thinking about this later material of Watson's after watching the movie "Roll Bounce" with my kids over the holiday weekend (good show by the way- check out Charlie Murphy, the hilarious neighborhood garbage man). This movie featured many '70s tunes including Watson's "Superman Lover," which I had never heard before, but really enjoyed.

There are lots of great tunes on this inexpensive double CD set. Besides "Superman Lover," the hits "Ain't That A Bitch" and "A Real Mother For Ya" are also included on the first CD. I also enjoyed "It's About The Dollar Bill," "You Can Stay But The Noise Must Go," and "What The Hell Is This?" There is also an oddball version of "Gangster Of Love" that features a straight ahead shuffle beat and eliminates the break-time arrangement of the original tune.

The cool thing about these tunes is this: Watson may have reinvented himself as a funkmeister during this period but his great sense of humor is evident throughout, and his guitar playing, while not as raw as his earlier blues sides, is still smokin'! Hey, we even get some extensive liner notes with this collection for a change, so what's not to like - check it out!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Musings from Mr. Solid.

I think the best music show dedicated to roots music is the radio show from New Orleans, American Routes. In the Seattle area, American Routes is broadcast on KUOW 94.9 fm. In the Olympia area, is it simulcast on 1340 am, and in Bellingham, you can tune in to 90.3 fm. American Routes airs Sunday evenings from 9:00 to 11:00 pm. If you cannot get the show on any of these stations, you can go to their website and see the internet broadcast sites and times. Check it out…..I hope you dig it as much I do.

January Blues Birthdays

Etta James - January 25, 1938
Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland - January 27, 1930
Charlie Musselwhite - January 31, 1944
Earl Hooker - January 15, 1929 (died 1970)
Eddie Taylor - January 29, 1923 (died 1985)
Sleepy John Estes - January 25, 1904 (died 1977)
Elmore James - January 27, 1918 (died 1963)

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.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What I'm listening to this week.

Donny Hathaway
Atlantic Records

I picked up this old favorite a couple of weeks ago at Tower Records. Inexpensive at $12.00, this CD includes the original vinyl album artwork but is missing the liner notes.

I'll bet it's been 20 years since I've heard these recordings by the great singer/keyboardist/songwriter Donny Hathaway and a terrific band that included guitarist Cornell Dupree and ace bassist Willie Weeks, plus another guitarist, conga and trap drums, and Hathaway on acoustic and Wurlitzer electric piano. The album was recorded before very enthusiastic fans at the Troubadour in Los Angeles and the Bitter End in New York, and was released in 1972.

These recordings are great fun and Hathaway, the band, and the fans are all having a ball! The first tune is a fine version of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On," followed by Hathaway's "The Ghetto" which features smoking piano and percussion solos. The crowd helps out with the vocals on Carole King's "You've Got A Friend" by singing the choruses for the band leader. There's even a cool version of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" here where the band helps out with some vocal harmonies on the chorus. The final tune, "Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)," is a 14-minute jam that features the famous 3+ minute-long solo by electric bass maestro Willie Weeks.

This is a terrific record by one of the premier soul artist of the time, and I recommend it highly. Play it loud!