Friday, May 29, 2009

The Knickerbocker Cafe Grand Opening Weekend

Last weekend was the grand opening of The Knickerbocker Cafe in Westerly, Rhode Island. Three nights of great music, dancing, food and more than a few cocktails marked the rebirth of this historic venue.

 Everybody on the Knick team worked very hard to get ready for this event. The place looked fantastic and a sell out crowd enjoyed the shows.

Saturday night was a blues review featuring Guitar Johnny Nicholas, Duke Robillard, Greg Piccolo and Sugar Ray Norcia. Joining Johnny on the bandstand from Texas were Joel Guzman on accordion, piano and B-3 organ and the incomparable Al Gomez on trumpet. Guitar Johnny was in rare form that night. Beside acting as the MC, his singing and tasty guitar work lit up the room. A great night of blues.

It was a treat to see Duke and Greg back on the stage at the Knick, where the Roomful of Blues made so much history years ago. When Duke and Sugar Ray traded verses on Honey Hush, I was taken back to the night I saw Big Joe Turner play the Knick backed by Roomful. That was a memorable night and I was lucky to be present in The Alcove for both shows.

On Sunday night, Delbert McClinton brought his brand of Texas roadhouse music to Westerly. Backed by a band of young guns, Delbert showed a sold out crowd what real country music is suppose to sound like. You don't hear music like that coming out of Nashville these days. I guarantee Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift will not be playing the Knick. Not even on Sh*T Night.

Besides the locals, there were some real Delbert fans in the house, including a couple that drove from Pittsburgh for the show. I think everyone enjoyed the show. I know I did.

Be sure to catch James Montgomery and J. Geils tonight. It will be another great night of blues at the Knick. I have known James since The Maniac introduced him to the Floyd's Hotel crew in the '70's. He is an energetic player who always puts on a good show.

See you there.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jason and the Scorchers - Absolutely Sweet Marie

The quality of the video isn't that great, but you can get a feel for how well Jason covers this classic Dylan song.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Absolutely Sweet Marie by Jason and the Scorchers

I have been working on a post about Jason and the Scorchers for over a week. When I heard their cover of Absolutely Sweet Marie on Outlaw Country yesterday, I knew it was time to get back to the keyboard.

In 1983, I heard one of my favorite Dylan songs on an album by a Nashville band called Jason and the Scorchers. I was completely blown away by their version. It is not easy to take on a Dylan song from Blonde on Blonde. Those songs are so definitive that most covers sounds like wedding band material. After hearing Sweet Marie, I bought the album and I was not disappointed with the rest of the cuts.

 Formed in 1981, Jason and the Scorchers were a Nashville based band that pioneered the punk/country sound that predated all of the alt-country bands. Led by Jason Ringenberg, their energetic live shows and inventive covers of rock and country classics made them popular with critics and country music fans. They released Fever in 1983 and Lost and Found in 1985. These are now available on a a single CD.

Besides the Dylan song, they play a great cover of Hank Sr's Lost Highway, which sounds like Hank on steroids.  Several original songs by Ringenberg also deserve mentioning. Harvest Moon, Hot Nights in Georgia, and Pray For Me Mama are well written and and show off the energy and style of the band. 

Unfortunately, the band was probably a little ahead of their time and they broke up in 1990. If you like your country with a little harder edge, I would recommend this CD. It is available on iTunes and from Amazon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Muddy Waters on The American Folk and Blues Festival

As I mentioned in my last post, this is a great cut of Muddy and Sonny Boy Williamson, with Willie Dixon on bass and Otis Spann on piano doing Got My Mojo Workin'. Notice the style of the players and the especially the conk on Muddy. Also, check out the audience in the last shots.

All three DVDs of The American Folk and Blues Festival are full of classic performances like this one. Available from Amazon.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966

After almost a week, I have finally gotten rid of the mint julep flu. Trust me, it is much more deadly than anything you can catch from a pig. The Derby is a hard road, but it is still the best day of the year.

About two years ago, Guitar Johnny Nicholas turned me on to this series of three videos called The American Folk Blues Festival 1962-1966. If you like the blues, you will enjoy these fantastic DVDs of great American blues artists performing in their heyday.

From 1962 to 1969, a group of top American blues musicians toured Europe. I have written in this blog about British musicians being interested in American blues and roots music. Seeing our best blues players on these tours had a huge influence on the musicians of that day. In the forward to the first volume, Bill Wyman writes: "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."

This footage, which were unreleased for over 40 years, captures these musicians live in front of a German audience. Wait until you see what a German blues audience looked like in the early '60's. The sound is excellent and the black and white cinematography is wonderful.

The highlight of volume one is Muddy Waters playing Got My Mojo Working with Sonny Boy Williamson on harmonica. Muddy is impeccably turned out in a suit and his hair in a huge conk is perfect. Rounding out the band on this cut is Willie Dixon on bass and Otis Spann on piano.

Other songs on the first volume include Otis Rush singing I Can't Quite You Baby, Junior Wells doing his classic Hoodoo Man Blues, and Sonny Boy playing Nine Below Zero. All of the songs showcase the class and talent of these great artists.

On the next two volumes, you can see T-Bone Walker doing Don't Throw Your Love on Me so Strong, as well as several songs from Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf and Magic Sam. There are also great performances from Big Joe Turner, Buddy Guy, Lighting Hopkins, Big Mama Thornton and John Lee Hooker.

These DVDs are a rare opportunity to see great blues musicians in their prime. Available from Amazon.