Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Monday, January 21, 2008

Susan Tedeschi - Live from Austin, Texas

Susan Tedeschi Live

Monday, January 31, 2005

Artist: Susan Tedeschi
Title: Live From Austin, Texas

Years ago, when Susan Tedeschi appeared on the cover of Blues Revue magazine, before the release of her first album, I assumed it was some pretty good record industry hype and, as is usually the case, a clanging gong usually best left ignored. Boy was I wrong. This latest album (and companion DVD), ‘Live From Austin, Texas’ was recorded in conjunction with the PBS program Austin City Limits. This is her third album and it just knocks my socks off.

If you’re not square with Tedeschi yet I would describe her as a young less polished Bonnie Raitt with a stronger roots bent to her songwriting. This new album is comprised of her best songs including the deliciously delicate ballad, ‘Love’s in Need of Love Today’ as well as the intense blues-based, ‘Wrapped in the Arms of Another.’ Also included is a live version of the song, ‘In the Garden’ which she recorded with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band Double Trouble.

Married to Derek Trucks, nephew to the Allman Brother’s Butch Trucks, Mrs. Trucks career had slowed down considerably to start and raise her new family. It’s nice to see that her chops remain sharp and her vocals have continued to improve. All in All this is a very good album by an artist who I plan to follow. Quite good entertainment!

Other artists included in New West recording label’s series of live recordings from PBS’ Austin City Limits are; Steve Earle, The Flatlanders, and Delbert McClinton. I suspect we will continue to see amazing archival releases of some of today’s best root musicians. As former radio deejay and area music-head Bruce Karlquist said to me, “Even if I don’t recognize the name, if it’s on Austin City Limits it’s probably something worth checking out.”

Bright Eyes and Standing Bear meet in history, for the 2nd time


Friday, January 07, 2005

With the January 25th release of two albums by Omaha's Saddle Creek recording artist Conor Oberst [I'm Awake, It's Morning - and - Digital Ash in a Digital Urn] fans around the world recognize the name,‘Bright Eyes’ as the musical moniker Oberst performs under.

Fewer will recognize the name Mato Nanji: leader of the BMG blues rock recording act Indigenous. Nanji’s Americanize name translates to Standing Bear: a name quite a few Omahan’s will recognize as the name of a local recreational dam site and a prominent bridge in North-Central Nebraska. Nanji, a Nakota Sioux is a direct descendent of the historical Standing Bear, a Ponca Sioux.

Few, if any, will recognize the name Susette LaFlesche but all three of these names played a role in one of our nation's most significant Civil Rights cases that occurred 125 years ago.

In March of 1879 Ponca (Sioux) Tribal Chief Standing Bear was arrested by a reluctant General George Crook. Prior to this date the Ponca’s had been forcibly relocated from their homeland in North Central Nebraska (near what is now Valentine) to the Indian reservations in Oklahoma. This trek is now referred to as, The Trail of Tears.’ Due to the severe living conditions more than 500 members (over a third) of the tribe died including Standing Bears son. At the dying request of his son Standing Bear and a handful of tribal members walked more than 500 miles back to Nebraska in January of 1879 to bury his son in the tribe’s native homeland.

Crook was ordered to arrest Standing Bear and once again forcibly return him to the distant reservation. While he followed his orders it would be reveled, after his death, that Crook also secretly meet with Omaha Herald Editor Thomas Tibbles to help the Indians. (The Omaha Herald had not yet merged to form the now Omaha World Herald). “Tibbles idea was this: that the newly passed 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed equal protection under the law to all persons. Since it clear that the government had no right to hold a white person in captivity unless that person had been convicted of a crime, it therefore had no right to hold the Poncas on a reservation against their will. Standing Bear could therefore petition a judge for a writ of habeas corpus, a type of legal order which would require the army to either prove the Poncas guilty of a crime, or to release them.” [pg 169]

Tibbles talked a young lawyer named John L. Webster to accept the case “pro bono” or without pay. Interestingly Creighton University’s law school now abuts Webster Street. Webster then sought the assistance of A.J. Poppleton. Somewhat verbose Poppleton’s closing arguments took a mere four hours while Webster’s lasted six hours. Opposing U.S. District Attorney Genio M Lambertson (the only one of the three to NOT have an Omaha street named after him) took five hours to sum up his case.

In a courtroom at Fort Omaha (30th & Fort), dressed in full Native regalia Standing Bear would deliver an oft-misquoted speech to the court in his own defense. Sitting Judge Elmer Dundy would decide that Standing Bear, and therefore all Native Americans, were “a person” and thereby have rights within the American Judisical system. This would mean that the Government could no longer detain these peoples on reservations against their will.
“Later that year Tibbles resigned his post at the Herald to go East on a speaking tour with Standing Bear. The two of them hoped to raise awareness, create sympathy for the Indians, and see that the Poncas got their land back. Accompanying them was a remarkable young woman named Susette LaFlesche, daughter of the chief of the Omahans. Partly of French ancestry, “Susette LaFlesche” was the woman’s “white” name. She had another: Inshtatheamba, meaning Bright Eyes. Beautiful, educated, and highly intelligent Bright Eyes served not only as Standing Bear’s interpreter, but as a powerful speaker in her own right. Eventually she and Tibbles were married.” [pg 177]

While free to live where they want, eventually the Ponca did receive their land back although the tribe remains divided between Nebraska and Oklahoma to this day.

Book referred to: ‘A Dirty, Wicked Town. Tales of 19th Century Omaha’ David L. Bristow. Caxton Press.

Fat Possum's Nathaniel Mayer

Nathaniel Mayer

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Artist: Nathaniel Mayer
Title: I Just Want to be Held
Label: Fat Possum

I don’t know how they continue to do it but once again the Fat Possum Record Label releases a terrific rootsy rock n’ blues album.

Nathaniel Mayer’s release, “I Just Want to be Held” ties together many of the genres that make up Rock Music’s bedrock sound.” With a voice that crosses between an anguished Joe Cocker and besoddened James Brown, Mayer wheezes his way through a litany of ten songs including three covers. Mayer’s rendition of John Lennon’s “I Found Out” is a perfect epiphany between the tune and lyrics of rock’s tortured Saint and the grit, grime, and broken glass of Detroit’s inner-city decay. Few should dare to cover a tune from Lennon’s pain ridden solo era and yet Mayer takes Lennon’s misery and ratchets it up. Pure musical beauty is the worst way emoting what “the blues” was meant to evoke in the listener.

Growing up in Detroit in 1960’s it’s clear that Mayer’s music is a blend of the pop sensibilities of Motown and the blues overtones from having heard migrants on the so called Blue Highway. The Blue Highway is a reference to massive movement of rural Southern Blacks to northern urban industrial cities after WWII looking for work and a way off the farm. A manifestation of this mass migration is the blues that were recorded in the 1950’s including; Muddy Waters & Buddy Guy in Chicago and John Lee Hooker’s stint in Detroit. And maybe it’s me but I hear a lot of Iggy Pop’s thrusting musical anxiety buried deep within Mayer’s music. Mayer’s use of the organ to accent and drive the songs harkens back to AM pop music of the mid-60’s while his lyrics delve well beyond the cliché ridden crapola so often served up as the blues.

When I consider rap music; like the blues of the 50’s, Soul Music of the ‘60’s or Funk/Disco of the 70’s & 80’s, it reminds me that this “sound” is simply White America’s fear & fascination of Black American culture being sold back in the highly stylized packaging. Like modern rock music however eventually this exaggerated ‘fear for sale’ gets marginalized and pasteurized so that it’s “fit” for television, radio and movie soundtracks: it’s about as dangerous as spoilt milk. I mean isn’t Eminem simply Elvis Presley of his generation? Which brings me to my point, ala’ Jack Nicholson, you want the blues? You can’t handle the blues! Cause if you could you’d be so heavily into the Fat Possum Record Label it would be selling like a Bright Eyes album!

Check out this Nathaniel Mayer record, it’s the perfect mix between pop music, the blues, and soul. What a great way to kick off the year!

W. C. Handy Awards '05

W. C. Handy Awards '05

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

As might be expected the W. C. Handy Awards cause the Grammy Blues nominations to pale by comparison.

When the blues industry (fans, writers, artists, & radio) wants to recognize acts they award them a W.C. Handy Award. Handy was a black jazz musician that is credited with having “discovered” blues music while waiting for a train in the South around the turn of the previous century.

Historically the W.C. Handy awards have been a pretty good indication of where the genre has been. It is also a high ground for blues purists. Historically 'death' has been a pretty good way to clean up Handy Awards. Voters also lean towards highly commercial a/k/a big budget efforts which, more often then not, flop: B.B. King & Eric Clapton’s, Riding with the King, or Peter Green’s (Fleetwood Mac), Robert Johnson Songbook. There is also a strong leaning toward 'name' artists' especially when they near the end of their career.

So here’s my handicap for this year’s awards, I have shaded the titles I think will win the award and I have (rg)’d the ones I think deserve to win. With all due respect for these artists that have taken the risks, done hard time on the road, and worked beer stenched barroom stages for decades, I based my personal choices more about where I feel the art form of American Blues needs to be headed rather than where it has been. Unlike artists, labels, or managers, I have no dog in this fight and hope all artists get recognition and more importantly more album and ticket sales in the coming year!

Always quick to jump in with both feet (and usually landing in my own mouth) I think the W.C. Handy Awards is missing the boat by not having a series of categories that embraces younger, louder, more electric acts that will bring with them youth and a wider audience. I know, I know, I KNOW... you have to draw the line at some point but a quick glance at this list shows us not only great names and great talent but an aging base of performers that are often past their musical prime. Am I advocating throwing them out? NO WAY! I just think we need to widen the circle and try to welcome a new fan base into the fold.

I also think the awards system is failing to recognize the other side of this business which accepts great financial risks: the blues labels. I think the Awards need to recognize labels that assist in making it possible for these artists to reach fans that are unable to see them. I would target the label(s) that are "square dealers" with the artists and fans, using technology to keep the industry competative, as well as, having a marketing cohesiveness that exhibits a commitment to the blues art form.

As with any award process, the Handy’s are homogenized to the point of blandness but it is a wide-net and actually is a pretty good representation of “pure” blues recordings and performances for the year.

2005 - 26th W.C. Handy Blues Awards

Acoustic Blues Album of the Year Paul Oscher - "Alone With The Blues"Billy Branch & Kenny Neal - "Double Take" Corey Harris - "Mississippi To Mali" Paul Rishell & Annie Raines - "Goin' Home" (RG) Carey & Lurrie Bell - "Second Nature"

Acoustic Blues-Artist of the Year Paul Oscher Corey Harris David "Honeyboy" Edwards Paul Rishell & Annie Raines (RG) Eric Bibb

New Artist Debut Watermelon Slim - "Up Close & Personal" John Lee Hooker, Jr. - "Blues With A Vengence" (Grammy nomination) Nora Jean Bruso - "Going Back To Mississippi" Michael Powers - "Onyx Root" The Bo-Keys - "The Royal Sessions" (RG)

Blues Album of the Year W.C. Clark - "Deep In The Heart" Mavis Staples - "Have A Little Faith" (RG) The Holmes Brothers - "Simple Truths" Guitar Shorty - "Watch Your Back" Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers - "Keepin' It Real"

Blues Band of the Year Little Charlie & The Nightcats Smokin' Joe Kubek Band (RG) Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers Magic Slim & The Teardrops (Lincoln resident) Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets The Holmes Brothers

Blues Entertainer of the Year Bobby Rush Kim Wilson B.B. King Pinetop Perkins (Grammy Nomination) Solomon Burke (rg)

Blues Song of the Year "Alone With The Blues" - WRITER Paul Oscher , Performed by Paul Oscher "Have A Little Faith"- WRITER Jim Tullio and Jim Weider, Performed by Mavis Staples "Run Myself Out Of Town"- WRITER Wendell Holmes, Performed by The Holmes Brothers "Piecework Politicians" - WRITER James Harman, Performed by James Harman "Nothin' Ever Hurt Me"- WRITER EG Kight, Performed by EG Kight

Comeback Blues Album of the Year Big Joe Duskin - "Big Joe Jumps Again!" (rg) Gary U.S. Bonds - "Back In 20"

Contemporary Blues Album of the Year Charlie Musselwhite - "Sanctuary" (rg) The Holmes Brothers - "Simple Truths"Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters - "Now My Soul" Guitar Shorty - "Watch Your Back" Michael Powers - "Onyx Root"

Contemporary Blues-Female Artist of the Year Janiva Magness Marcia Ball Shemekia Copeland EG Kight Deborah Coleman (rg) [Playing With Fire Artist]

Contemporary Blues-Male Artist of the Year Kim Wilson Chris Thomas King (rg) Charlie Musselwhite James Harman Robert Randolph

Historical Blues Album of the Year Hound Dog Taylor - "Release The Hound" (Alligator Records)Charles Brown - "A Life In The Blues" (Rounder Records)Muddy Waters - "Hard Again" (Epic/Legacy) Johnny Winter - "Second Winter" (Columbia/Legacy)(rg) Lucille Bogan - "Shave 'em Dry" (Columbia/Legacy)Muddy Waters - "I'm Ready" (Epic/Legacy)

Instrumentalist-Bass Bob Stroger Willie Kent Bill Stuve Calvin "Fuzz" Jones Mookie Brill Sherman Holmes

Instrumentalist-Drums Jimi Bott Popsy Dixon Sam Carr Sam Lay Willie "Big Eyes" Smith

Instrumentalist-Guitar Ronnie Earl Duke Robillard Kirk Fletcher Bob Margolin Roy Rogers

Instrumentalist-Harmonica Kim Wilson Charlie Musselwhite Rod Piazza James Harman Paul Oscher

Instrumentalist-Horns Calvin Owens - Trumpet Mark Kazanoff – Saxophone Roomful of Blues Horns Greg Piccolo - Saxophone Sax Gordon - Saxophone

Instrumentalist-Keyboards Henry Butler (rg) Honey Piazza Dave Maxwell Marcia Ball Jon Cleary

Instrumentalist-Other Robert Randolph - Pedal Steel Guitar (rg) Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown - Fiddle Sonny Rhodes - Lap Steel Guitar Otis Taylor - Banjo Andra Faye - Mandolin

Soul/Blues Album of the Year Mavis Staples - "Have A Little Faith" Bobby Rush - "Folk Funk"W.C. Clark - "Deep In The Heart" Tad Robinson - "Did You Ever Wonder?" (rg) Charles Wilson - "If Heartaches Were Nickels"

Soul/Blues-Female Artist of the Year Mavis Staples (rg) Bettye LaVette Etta James Toni Lynn Washington Barbara Lynn

Soul/Blues-Male Artist of the Year Bobby Rush Tad Robinson (rg) Little Milton Solomon Burke W.C. Clark

Traditional Blues Album of the Year James Cotton - "Baby Don't You Tear My Clothes" Jody Williams - "You Left Me In The Dark" (rg) Duke Robillard - "Blue Mood: The Songs Of T-Bone Walker" Pinetop Perkins - "Ladies Man" (Grammy Nomincation) Sam Myers - "Coming From The Old School"

Traditional Blues-Female Artist of the Year Jessie Mae Hemphill Nora Jean Bruso (rg) Ruth Brown Koko Taylor Maria Muldaur

Traditional Blues-Male Artist of the Year Robert Lockwood Jr. Jody Williams (rg) Sam Myers Hubert Sumlin Pinetop Perkins (Grammy Nomination)

The blues review - Year in Music '05

Year in Music '05

Friday, December 17, 2004

It’s that time of the year to make lists and resolutions. While hardly comprehensive here are my lists to begin the discussions.

Songs of the Year:
Joe Bonamassa – “The River”
John & His Sisters – “Too Damn Big”
Jackie Green – “Gone Wanderin"
John Crews Blues – “Captain of Her Soul”

Okay, I think Bonamassa’s the real deal. “Too Damn Big” is the song Aerosmith tried to record this year. Jackie Green’s track is especially buoyant and the whole album is quite good. Green’s a young guy and capable of writing really good songs.

Best Boxsets:

Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens – The Big Ol’ Box of New Orleans
The Faces – Five Guys Walk into a Bar

There are rumours of a Faces Reunion next year (Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Ian McLagan, Kenny Jones and a bass player to be named: Bill Wyman?). That would pretty cool. Course Rod is also kicking around a Jeff Beck Group Reunion (Rod, Ronnie, Jeff, and Mickey Waller). I wonder just how long Beck and Stewart could be in the same room at the same time without killing each other? The New Orleans boxset is a primo 4 disc set that any serious roots music fan would love!

Disappointments of the Year:
Aerosmith – Honkin On Bobo
Eric Clapton – Me & Mr. Johnson
Johnny Winter – I’m a Bluesman
The Blasters – Live

Aerosmith’s shot at the blues was bad. And Clapton? The last thing the world needed was another album of all Robert Johnson covers. Why the only thing that I could think of that would be worse would be a CD/DVD combo that included rehearsals for a tour where Clapton played Johnson tour. Johnny’s great but his voice is shot. Dave Alvin’s brilliant solo career overshadowed the Blasters rather lame live album.

“The Hype is Killing Me!”
Los Lonely Boys – Los Lonely Boys
Loretta Lynn (with Jack White) – Van Leer Rose

“They’ve Got the Buzz …
Sarah Benck and the Bank Robbers
Jason Churchill with Craig Balderston
Goodbye Sunday
Kris Lager Band
Monica Eby
Heidi Joy

More and more Omaha is becoming a live music Mecca. I sure hope our community continues to embrace the impressive array of talent that resides in our town.

Disappointment of the Year

Saddle Creek Records thwarted effort to open a venue on Saddle Creek Road. Sure, I certainly not 'hip' enough to have ever gone in there but it sure would have added prestige to our image to have embraced a label that even the New York Times indicated was the hippest thing in the world right now!

“Did We Really NEED It?”
Simon & Garfunkel – Old Friends: Live on Stage
The Rolling Stones – Live Licks
Eric Clapton – Sessions for Robert J(ohnson)

Did we really need another live version of ‘Sounds of Silence’, ‘Brown Sugar’ or Eric Clapton playing yet another album of Robert Johnson songs? Okay the Stones album’s mix is pretty unique but other than that these bands just need to write some new songs and let the old ones go.

Best Concerts
Joe Bonamassa with Indigenous & Joe Putjender @ Mick’s Tavern
The PWF concert series (which I co-produced)
Jason Churchill (Satellite Blues Band) with Craig Balderstan @ Mick’s
Robert Randolph @ Qwest Arena (with Eric Clapton)

Okay, seven of these I helped to produce. What can I say, free is good and the show at Mick’s was my idea of a perfect evening; great music, great venue, great friends! Look for exciting news on this year’s Playing With Fire concert series soon. Also, remember this, Robert Randolph was taught how to play by the Campbell Brothers.

Best Re-Issued Recordings

Johnny Winter – Second Winter
Muddy Waters – Hard Again
Muddy Waters – I’m Ready
Muddy Waters – King Bee
Candi Staton – (self titled on Astralwerks)

My Favorite Albums of the Year:

1. Rob Stone & the C Notes – Just My Luck - - Revived my faith in acoustic blues with a blue eyed soul twist!

2. Joe Bonamassa – Had to Cry Today - - I'd put Joemaha on stage with any guitar player in the world right now! He can write, he can sing, and he can play his ass-off!

3. Hadden Sayers Band – 12 Bars & the Naked Truth - - Little known Texas songwriter excels at what so many attempt: write exceptional songs!

4. Notorious Cherry Bombs (Rodney Crowell with Vince Gill) – Notorious Cherry Bombs - - Rodney Crowell can do no wrong in my book!

5. Sue Foley – Change - - Sexy Redhead writes killer tunes, play her tail off and can emote a good song like so few!

6. Henry Butler – Homeland - - Seeing Butler play his New Orleans style barrel house piano blues in a tiny outdoor club during Austin's SXSW Music Festival this year was incredible. Spending time with Ian McLagan watching it was even better!

7. Renee Austin – If This is Love… - - Must be the red hair or something. Susan Tedeschi & Bonnie Raitt are a red heads too. What is it with red haired women performing the blues? Just don't try and fix it!

8. Jody Williams – You Left Me in the Dark - - Very good. Very retro. Very smooth. Bruce Karlquist dug it!

9. Black Keys – Rubber Factory - - Indie, fashionable, awesome voice. Maybe there is hope for my factor of cool yet? Naw!

10. Smokin’ Joe Kubeck – Show Me the Money - - Good ol'Howard Street Zoo Bar Tavern table rockin' blues. Kubeck finally gets smooth and tasty!

'04 Grammy ramblings and errant mublings

Blues Grammy Nominations

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I suppose it's appropriate that in this year's Grammy nominations, 'The Blues' was category #13. As I scrolled down the extensive list I had the impression that the categories were ranked according to sales: so blues comes after Gospel, Tejano, and Mexican. Reflecting on population trends, this is kinda tell isn't it? There are two "Blues" fields in the Grammy's;

Category 64 - Best Traditional Blues Album (Vocal or Instrumental.) includes;
Me And Mr Johnson, Eric Clapton, [Reprise] Baby, Don't You Tear My Clothes, James Cotton, [Telarc] Blues With A Vengeance, John Lee Hooker, Jr., [Kent Records] Blues To The Bone, Etta James, [RCA Victor] Ladies Man, Pinetop Perkins, [M.C. Records]

See any names you recognize? What I see is a lame attempt by people that are clearly out of touch, particularly with the Blues genre, nominating names that are in their comfort zone. No effort was made to really uncover the field and discern actual trends or talent. Remember, these are the folks that gave Jethro Tull the ‘Heavy Metal’ Grammy the first year that category was awarded. ANY artist on the Fat Possum record label are more deserving in this category than anyone actually nominated, except possibly Pinetop Perkins; however that album relies heavily on pop star guests. Sure Cotton & Etta were the scene, “back in the day” but her voice is shot and he’s a thin vapor of his once great glory. Clapton? Much like Bob Dylan, Clapton has rested on his laurels for too long and is no longer capable of breaking new ground or taking the art form forward. And who in the hell is John Lee Hooker Junior? Next year they are probably going to prop up Muddy Water’s son! At least Jimmy Rodgers son, Jimmy D. Lane has a credible album out that he’s touring behind it. While California label misfits nominate clichés that fit into their naïve world I believe the Blues is as vibrant as it’s ever been and if anyone on this dopey nominating committee had taken the time to think… However judging from the method by which they’ve managed this industry into the (messed)-up mess it’s in at the moment it’s clearly too much for ask a bunch of fashionably “Recovered,” self-centered, elitists to make credible nominations. Much to their black rimmed glasses, tinted hair and squared toe black shoed shock – they really are out of touch and need to step out of the way to allow the next generation in.

Category 65 - Best Contemporary Blues Album (Vocal or Instrumental.)
N'awlinz Dis Dat Or D'udda, Dr. John, [Blue Note] Keep It Simple, Keb' Mo', [Epic/Okeh] What's Wrong With This Picture?, Van Morrison, [Blue Note Records] Sanctuary, Charlie Musselwhite, [Real World] I'm A Bluesman, Johnny Winter, [Virgin]

This list of nominations is a bit better. I’ll predict Johnny Winter wins: his health has been bad and this will be an effort to recognize him before its too late. Keb Mo is a genuine artist and this album is good although he’s had better. Charlie Musselwhite is a groundbreaking force of nature that has graduated to the top of the class. Van Morrison? All I can say is, “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” And while I appreciate his volume of work I was shocked to see Dr. John’s latest included but God bless him none-the-less.

Blues and Electronica


Monday, December 06, 2004

It was bound to happen. There has been a movement to expand the blues sound to include electronica music. If pop artist Moby represents one end of the sonic spectrum then R. L. Burnside represents a true blues man’s effort to push the art form forward. The band, Nu Blues, on Chris Thomas King’s 21st Century recording label lands somewhere in the middle.

So does it work? Listening to the variety of albums that amalgamate blues and electronica made me ask the seemingly simple question, ‘What are the blues?’ Much like rap, the blues WERE a threat to white mainstream society that was embraced by younger people in order to shock the previous generation. Furthermore, the blues relies heavily on a Confidence Game approach: the music is only as good as the listener can be convinced it is. Lastly, it’s heavy on rhythm and emotions. It’s also relatively easy to mimic and a vast majority of blues albums will not withstand the test of time.

So is this new hybrid sound blues or pop? The tradition 12 bar nature of blues is quickly laid aside on these new efforts. AND it cannot be performed live. Okay, with enough gadgets and tape loops it can be performed live. After numerous listenings I would say that Moby is interesting but hardly exciting, that RL Burnside is exciting and these experiments are interesting but very much a niche, and that Putumayo’s Blues Lounge various artist compilation is something you would probably be wiser to borrow from a friend.

Which brings us to Nu Blues, a four-piece, inter-racial band of young men, and their new album, “Dreams of a Blues Man.” Combing the sounds of the blues with the “modern sounds of the street” this band is exceptional. A tasteful smatter of singing and rap-like vocals set against loops & synthesizers, Nu Blues includes harmonica playing, a Nashville slide guitar and the dynamite vocals of Goose Ramon. The heavy blues influences seeds the music with familiar sounds and makes the album easy to pick-up. Okay, it’s not “The Blues” but it is quite interesting and folks that have a wider listening vocabulary will find this album worth their investigation. Clearly it’s not for everyone but than what music worth listening to is?

Omaha's top selling blues titles in 2004

Top 15 2004

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Da’ Blues! An American art form that delights the soul and celebrates life’s trials.
A quick glance at Homer’s Top Selling Blues albums for 2004 revels some interesting facts.

Joe Bonamassa, an artist that has become familiar with Omaha fans, was the best selling artist this year with two albums in the Top 100. His newest album, Had to Cry Today, sold well enough to give Bonamassa two albums in the Top Five (and three in the Top 100) but was classified as a “rock” album instead of a blues record.

Proving once again that death has great marketing potential, legendary Floridian Ray Charles had three albums in the Top 12. No doubt sales were also impacted by the release of the crucially acclaimed film, Ray.

Past sales indicate that B. B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan are the areas best selling blues artists. Interestingly King came in at #31 with his album, Why I Sing the Blues’ while Vaughan’s #15 seller hails last year’s “Year of the Blues” promotion featuring the PBS series, “Martin Scorses Presents the Blues.”

Not one but two artists see the positive effect of Reader columnist B. J. Hutchtemann with Top Ten placements that she has championed over the years; Keb Mo and Curtis Salgado.
Omaha’s Indigenous Jam clearly launched the local success for a likely contender for finest living blues guitar player alive today with Robben Ford coming in at #6 which was produced by John Wooler, former EVP of Virgin Records and founder of the defunct Pointblank Record label.

The increasingly significant Omaha Blues Society flexs it's impact muscle when the appearance of Renee Austin who was one of their guest artists this summer on their very popular Missouri River Boat cruises. If you're not yet a member of the OBS - GET OUT'YER WALLET and help make Omaha the live music Mecca it so richly deserves!

Last but hardly least, one of my top five favorite blues albums of all time Etta James’ “At Last” places #7 in the year’s best sellers. If you haven’t heard this album, and have even a casual affinity for the blues, this is a MUST OWN album by a towering figure within the genre. A great record by any standard.


Be sure to tune into KIWR’s Pacific Street Blues on Sunday, December 19th when Rick Galusha begins his 16th year of hosting this three-hour radio program. PS Blues airs Sundays from 9:00 – Noon. PS Blues is now preceded by Mike Fratt’s three hour program, Sunday Morning