Saturday, January 16, 2010

Foster Williams memorial at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant

The photo shown in this blog was created by Pamela Eaton-Ford. 

If you are a musician that played at Seattle's New Orleans Creole Restaurant over the past 25 years, you probably saw longtime employee Foster Williams there.  Foster died of cancer on November 9, 2009.  He was 74 years old.

I used to hang out with Foster occasionally and tip a few in the bar at the New Orleans.  He was quite the music fan and a Korean War veteran.

A memorial for Foster will be held at the New Orleans on Sunday, January 17th, from 2:00 to 6:00 PM.  Owner Gaye Anderson tells me that the jazz bands that play the regular Monday through Thursday night gigs at the club will be performing.  Greg Roberts and I are planning on playing a few tunes at the gathering also.

Foster Williams - RIP

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Blues Eye Photos

Here are some photos that David Brewer sent to me some time ago of his Seattle band Blues Eye.  From the clothes and hair styles, I'm guessing that these photos were created sometime in the '70s.  I recall seeing Blues Eye at the old Pipeline Tavern, and believe that they used to back up Albert Collins when he came to town.

Sunburn City!  Hey Dave, where was the band playing this summer day?

This looks like an "Images by Edy" photo to me.  Edy and her little poodle dog ran a studio in Seattle's University District.  Many Seattle bands had promo photos created by Edy.  I wonder what happened to her photo stash after she passed away?

I believe that our drummer friend Les Hutchinson (second from left here) is in all of these photos.  He lives in Portland now. Maybe Dave can identfy the other players for us.
Jet City Blues CD Review

By Mark Dalton

Decade of Soul – From the Soul
by Star Drums and Lady Keys

Surely the longest running continuous gig that fits under the big tent of the Pacific Northwest Blues scene is that of New Orleans native Leslie “Stardrums” Milton and Gael “Lady Keys” Kurath at Everett’s Alligator Soul Creole restaurant. Leslie and Gael have had a regular Saturday night gig at this venue for over a decade – a “house band” gig of the kind that has almost completely vanished from the national horizon in this era of big street television and downloadable, disposable music.

I had the good fortune of growing up in an era when longer term engagements were much more common – when setting up equipment for at least two nights, and often four or five was the rule, rather than the succession of one-nighters scattered around the area, which is the nearly invariable situation today. Longer engagements allowed a band to settle in and get to know their audience, and vice versa. I once played a five-night-a-week job with Tom McFarland that lasted eight months, and during that time we got to feel like part of the family at the Boulder Café on First Avenue… a very strange, intriguing, and sometimes scary family – but an experience I’ll never forget!

This live CD captures the warm relationship that has developed between this duo and their audience very well. Stardrums and Lady Keys sound relaxed and happy here, confident of their acceptance by the enthusiastic crowd. The material covers quite a range; from Louis Armstrong’s “Wonderful World” to the country standard “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You” to the New Orleans classic “Junko Partner.” Standout tunes for me include Leslie’s sly version of “Little Red Rooster,” and the Guitar Slim classic “The Things That I Used to Do” (with stinging guest guitar by Walter Young), and Gael’s rollicking takes on “I Want to Be Loved” and “Madam Kicks,” and the scolding “Don’t Lie to Me” (with Mike Lynch taking a great harp solo). Other good tunes here include Marcia Ball’s “Red Beans,” Larry Davis’ “Texas Flood” (made popular by Stevie Ray Vaughan), Willie Dixon’s classic “I’m Ready,” and Leslie’s unique reading of “Tennessee Waltz.”

This is a pair of consummate entertainers. Leslie Milton is one of the finest drummers ever to hit a Northwest stage, and Lady Keys’ two-fisted piano playing shines throughout. I’m thinking you should head out to Alligator Soul some Saturday night soon; get yourself some good Cajun food, settle back and get into this joyful show! And if you like what you hear (and I guarantee you will), pick up a copy of this CD and take them home with you.

Originally from Nebraska, Mark Dalton moved to Seattle in the early '70s. He is an accomplished bassist and stalwart bluesman. He currently plays with Chris Stevens' Surf Monkeys. Photo by Ronda Lee.
New Years Eve, Seattle - 2009/2010

I drove to downtown Seattle this last New Years eve to check out a couple of my friends' bands. Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin' Daddies! were playing an early gig (7-10 PM) at the Frontier Room in the Belltown neighborhood. I didn't know this, but this joint has live music a couple of nights a week, but there's no dedicated spot for bands - just a spot on the floor next to the hallway leading to the bathrooms. So what else is new?!

The crowd was pretty light during BS&TBRD's set, but you wouldn't know it from watching the band. They put on a couple of their usual high energy sets, although there was no room for bassist Les White to play his acoustic bass behind his head as usual.

At the end of the band's show, the long table in front of the band was removed and a dance floor magically appeared. The house DJ was getting ready to perform, of course, and the Army of Young Women Wearing High Heels and Tiny Dresses began to assemble in the club. I would have liked to stay and admire the scenery, but I had to move on to Pioneer Square.

Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin' Daddies!

Tom Boyle and Jim King

Eric Manegolden and Les White

Becki Sue

Next stop, the New Orleans Creole Restaurant in Pioneer Square where the Blues Orbiters were holding court. The Square wasn't as busy as Belltown, but the band had a decent crowd to entertain. I dig this version of the Orbiters - they do a great job of backing up band leader/vocalist/guitarist/harp blower Brian Lee on tunes ranging from Elmore James to James Brown.

I hung around long enough to have a glass of champagne at midnight, then split to have a hot dog across the street before heading home. I played at the New Orleans the following Saturday, and even though we had a pretty decent crowd, the Square was a ghost town. I've never seen it like that before!
Here's a wish that everyone has a better year in 2010!

The Blues Orbiters

Conrad Ormsby and Hank Yanda

Brian Lee

Tim Sherman

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Jet City Blues CD Reviews

By Mark Dalton

Black Diamonds by Kim Field and the Mighty Titans of Tone

Hey Now! By Eric Daw

There are several good reasons to review these two CDs together – they were recorded at about the same time, by two men who were playing together in a band at the time (although the personnel on the two CDs are different on most tunes). The two CDs even share a song (Eric Daw’s “You’re the One”) in versions that offer a good comparison of these top-flight Northwest musicians.

The two CDs were also recorded in the same studio (Seattle’s Orbit Audio), both with an emphasis on an uncomplicated, live-in-the-studio, rootsy sound. Both these artists are comfortable as bluesmen, but both have a wider musical view. Influences from classic country music, 60’s soul music, and from the rise of rock and roll are evident here.

Of the two, Kim Field is the experienced master; possessed of a long and rich career as a performer, song writer, recording artist and graphic designer – and an internationally known music historian who literally “wrote the book” on the development and history of the harmonica. In his book "Harmonicas, Harps and Heavy Breathers," Kim traces his chosen instrument from its humble origins as a pocket instrument for cowboys and hoboes, to the highly amplified, soaring electric instrument launched by the likes of Little Walter and George “Harmonica” Smith into the front lines of modern improvisational music.

The younger man, Eric Daw arrived on the Seattle music scene less than a decade ago, and his rapid development as a guitarist; first as a dedicated sideman, seemingly popping up everywhere you looked, to a smoking instrumentalist and increasingly dazzling soloist, to a confident vocalist and a competent songwriter – this development has been a joy to watch and a pleasure to hear.

Kim Field’s album, Black Diamonds, represents a solid return to form by Kim as a songwriter. Kim has always pushed himself well beyond the clichés that so many roots music songwriters fall into. “Endless boogie” crowd pleasers are notably absent here, although the Titans can rock with the best of them. What you get from Kim are finely crafted songs – both musically and lyrically – songs that often plunge deep into the heart of human relationships. In addition to calling up the spirits of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and their delta predecessors, Kim’s influences by later R&B and country music geniuses like Sam Cooke, Arthur Alexander, and Merle Haggard have added a richness and complexity to his work that sets this CD apart form any other area artist currently on the scene.

Kim’s CD opens up with one of the highlights of the set, “My Heart is Still My Own,” a rocking statement of survival in the face of romantic turmoil, followed by “The Language of Love” with the great line “don’t look to the Good Book, or the customs of Japan, if you want my touch, you got to put it in my hand.” “So Dark in Here” follows, a fine soul ballad reminiscent of the classic work of Dan Penn, followed by another of Kim’s rockin’ Cajun tunes (this one written with Henry Cooper), “Dis Pas Ca.” Other highlights of this excellent set include Kim’s signature harp instrumental, “Heavy Breathing,” his rollicking take on Eric Daw’s “You’re the One,” mentioned earlier, and the very dark “She’ll Bury You (In the Hole She Dug For Me)” here with Kim on delta style guitar. A reworking of the Slamhound Hunters' “The Snake Sheds it’s Skin” might make your skin crawl, and the title tune, “Black Diamonds,” is a minor blues coming straight out that desperate 3 am hour, with Kim’s huge harmonica tone flowing out of the speakers like black, bitter honey.

The musicians on this CD are all top-flight, with a special mention of Billy Spaulding’s rock-solid drumming throughout. As James Ellroy would say, DIG IT.

Eric Daw’s CD opens with the title tune, “Hey Now!” a Jimmie Vaughan-style instrumental shuffle which let’s you know right away that you are in for some treats with this collection! The personnel on this cut and several others make up another band that Daw stands out in during appearances around the area – The Satellite Four, a Booker T. and the MG's style instrumentals-only band featuring the amazing Jeff Conlin, who has quickly become my favorite area organist, as well as a solid rhythm section in Johnny Horn and David Hudson on bass and drums. If you like what you hear on this track, “Ricky’s Revenge,” and “Under Control,” you need to get out and see The Satellite Four live! They will blow you away, guaranteed.

There’s plenty of great guitar scattered all over this set – Daw is an imaginative player who covers a lot of territory, all done with true feeling and a lot of style.

Eric has a lighter touch with his singing, but again, this man is growing by leaps and bounds before our eyes and ears, and he carries this initial solo CD very well as a frontman. His vocal touch on “You’re the One” calls up the classic Hollywood rock-a-billy of Ricky Nelson, and had my wife dancing around the room singing along. Expect more great things from Eric Daw – ‘cause we’re gonna get ‘em!

The best idea, of course, is to get out and see these cats live and pick up these CDs direct from the source, but if need be, you can get either one or both from You WILL be glad you did!

Originally from Nebraska, Mark Dalton moved to Seattle in the early '70s. He is an accomplished bassist and stalwart bluesman. He currently plays with Chris Stevens' Surf Monkeys. Photo by Ronda Lee.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Which Roy Buchanan CD?

I picked up a real stinker of a Roy Buchanan CD the other day. Titled "When A Telecaster Plays The Blues,"it was a poorly recorded live set (unknown location and date), with Buchanan playing with a heavy-handed bassist and a drummer that appeared to be playing an electronic drum set. This thing was so bad that I simply threw the CD away.

Anyway, I don't want that to happen again, so I'm hoping that someone can recommend some listenable Roy Buchanan recordings. Which ones are your favorites?

I can think of at least a couple of Northwest guitarists that were probably partially influenced by Buchanan's high-wire act: Portland's Jim Mesi, and Seattle's Stan Eike (I don't recall seeing either one playing a Telecaster, though!).