Friday, April 30, 2010

Stomping 2010 - 4

Wednesday in New Orleans was a quieter day with just a free concert in Lafayette Square by Marcia Ball in terms of music. I caught up with Pierre, a soul DJ from Melbourne and great photographer, who I first met a couple of years ago and went for a few tinnies.
Yesterday was the first day of Jazzfest second weekend and what looked like a mediocre line up proved to be pretty good. Highlight, for me, was Elvis Costello, who played a varied set with perhaps a few too many weakish newer numbers, but who was in fine voice and had an excellent band. There was plenty of good zydeco, with C J Chenier, Geno Delafose and Joe Hall, some blues from Bernard Allison, an interesting interview with Dee Dee Bridgewater (plus dog), some brilliant gospel from the Inspirational Souls of Chicago and some N'Awlins stuff from Classie Ballou, so a decent day overall.
In the evening we went to the House of Blues to see L'il Band of Gold do a tribute to Bobby Charles and what a night that proved to be. As well as some great renditions of Charles numbers from members of this Cajun supergroup (Warren Storm, C C Adcock, Steve Riley and David Egan), there was a string of high quality guests making appearances during the show, including Dr John, Tommy McLain, Jon Cleary, Shannon McNally and, memorably, Elvis Costello, who duetted on Before I Grow Too Old with Tommy. All the great Bobby Charles numbers were there, including Jealous Kind and But I Do and finishing of with See You Later Alligator. A great night.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Stomping 2010 - 3

Day five and we left Lafayette to drive to New Orleans via Houma, where I picked up some more vinyl in a flea market. In the evening went to the new Rock 'n' Bowl where Dave Alvin was playing with the Guilty Women (singer Christy McWilson, slide guitarist Cindy Cashdollar, bass player Sarah Brown and drummer Lisa Punkratz). Dave was great, particularly on self-penned numbers like Central Avenue and Back to the Ash Grove, as was the band, although I found the folksy offerings of Christy McWilson less interesting.
Next day we saw legendary bluesman Bobby Rush up close as he played solo in the Louisiana Music Factory. He looks great for his 77 years and is still as rude, and non-PC, as ever but in great voice. Straight from there to the Mother in Law Lounge, which was opened specially for the visit by the UK contingent. Ernie K-Doe is gone and his widow Antoinette died last year, but daughter Betty has kept the place going, still full of over the top tributes to the great man. Local Woodie Armand played some New Orleans R and B on keyboard and two of Ernie's old side men, Ernest and Edwin Meyer, joined in. In the evening made our way to the Peaches record store, where Tower Records used to be, where Jay Chevalier played a short set for the UK visitors.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Stomping 2010 - 2

Two more days spent around the Lafayette/Baton Rouge area picking up on some good music. On Saturday we went to a little festival in Arnoudville and then on to the Baton Rouge Blues Festival. First act we saw was Ruthie Foster, a youngish singer with a powerful voice who mixed up blues, gospel and quite a bit of pop/folk material. Enjoyable but not really my taste. The next act was Tony Joe White, whose deep voice and hypnotic beat on self penned numbers such as Polk Salad Annie, Steamy Windows and Rainy Night in Georgia were a delight. Very laid back and mellow. Finally there was Chris Thomas King, son of Tabby Thomas, who is now an actor as well as a pretty good blues singer.
Next day the weather was hot and sunny so after a leisurely morning by the hotel pool we took a walk into Lafayette for a couple of acts at the festival there. D L Menard is 78 years old but still the king of Cajun and his nasal vocal delivery is still effective. He was followed by Nathan and the Zydeci Cha Chas, a proficient but rather unexceptional local band. After a delicious meal at Landry's restaurant a group of us went on to the Atchafalaya Club at Fishermans Wharf in Henderson where we were among the youngest there - despite having an average age of over 60 - among a group of locals enjoying Kenny and the Heartbreakers, a group that first recorded in the 50s. They did a 4 hour set without a break covering every musical style. It was a throwback to an earlier age, but very enjoyable.
Now it's off to New Orleans - more later.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stomping 2010 - 1

It's day three of my US music trip and already there;s been much to enjoy. After flying to Houston we drove to Lafayette and caught a couple of acts at the Festival Louisiane. I've seen Sonny Landreth, a big local favourite, quite a few times and he's always struck me as being too loud and too heavy rock, but on a big stage he was OK. But the star of the evening was Sharon Jones, who I'd never seen before - a dynamic. big voiced soul singer with bags of energy - with the Dap-Kings, an eight piece band which can lay down a great soul/funk feel.
Yesterday morning, after meeting with other Stompers, we visited the La Louisiane record studio where many of the great Cajun, zydeco and swamp pop artists were recorded. These included the Shondells (Warren Storm, Rod Bernard and Skip Stewart), and immediately after leaving the studio I found a copy of their one and only LP in a nearby flea market. Three of us travelled around Cajun country in the drizzle, stopping off at a boudin and crawfish place where the tables had a bucket in the middle for the crawfish tails. Then on to Baton Rouge where we ended up at Teddy's Juke Joint near Zachary, one of the few remaining juke joints around. It's a glitzy but dilapidated place overseen by larger than life patron Teddy, with a selection of teddy bears and liceense number plates adorning the walls. Performing was Rudy Richard, a guitarist who played with Slim Harpo, and Larry 'Lightning' Washington. The material was fairly predictable but the band was pretty goood.
Photos were be uploaded to the blog in due course. Cheers.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ashes to ashes

My fingers and everything else I can think of are crossed in the hope that the latest disaster that Iceland has inflicted on the world, its volcanic ash, doesn't keep me from flying to the US on Thursday. At the moment all flights from London are grounded but there is a glimmer of hope, so I live in hope. Wednesday is my last day in full time employment so one way or another this is an interesting week.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Million Dollar Quartet

Thanks to for this:
The Million Dollar Quartet," a stage musical based on the chance 1956 meeting of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash at Sun Records in Memphis, opened on Broadway Sunday (April 11). Reuters said it "wonderfully captures the spirit of these seminal figures who would go on to change the course of popular music." But USA Today only gave it 2 1/2 stars saying, "you're better off staying home and taking some old records off the shelf." And the New York Daily News carped that only a "few things are missing [and it would] fit right in on the Vegas Strip: a buffet dinner, slot machines and, more importantly, a story."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Eddie Cochran 50 years on

Next Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Eddie Cochran in a car crash on the A4 at Chippenham. His girlfriend and co-song writer Sharon Sheeley survived, as did Gene Vincent. Eddie's brief career had a great influence on early British bands and hits such as Summertime Blues, C'Mon Everybody, Something Else and Three Steps to Heaven still sound great today. Like Buddy Holly before him, we will never know how Eddie's career might have developed had he lived, but his short recording career and his excellent self-composed songs have left an amazing legacy. The Daily Express, of all papers, marked the anniversary of his death in today's paper:

A more recent death is that of Malcolm McLaren, often known as the King of Punk, whose brainchilds the Sex Pistols did so much to shake up pop music in the late seventies. OK it was exploitative and the band was designed to shock, but it was effective. After several years of being bored by the blandness of pop music at the time I came alive when the Pistols and others of their ilk came along. I remember visiting the infamous Sex shop on the Kings Road to gawp at the PVC and bondage trousers and seeing Jordan (the original one with face paint and swastika) serving customers. I felt a right nerd in my city suit. The Pistols may have been limited in terms of talent, but they had a certain edgy excitement about them and helped create the punk era which ushered in some excellent bands and musicians, including the Clash, the Damned, the Undertones, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and Blondie.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bell's Cellar of Soul

Some of the very best LP soul compilations of the 1960s were the three volumes of Bell's Cellar of Soul. Most of the material was unobtainable in the UK at the time and included tracks by such greats as Mighty Sam, Betty Harris. Lee Dorsey, the Ovations, James Carr, Benny Spellman, Clifford Curry, Al Greene (as was), the Incredibles, Spencer Wiggins, Allen Toussaint, the Showmen and Oscar Toney Junior. I've had volumes 1 and 3 for many years , but volume 2 always eluded me. I came across it at last at the market in Portobello Road - for a very reasonable price - and snapped it up. I also got a rare early Bill Haley LP on London, plus a couple of unusual and quite decent LPs by Nancy Sinatra and Nine Simone. So a pretty good day all in all.

It's less than two weeks until I go to the US for the festivals in Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. And give up full time work at the same time. So interesting times, as they say.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Times they are a'changing

This is a significant month for me. I will turn 64 next week and will be retiring from my job this month as well. I have negotiated an early retirement package so my last day at work will be April 21st. On my actual last day of employment - April 30th - I will be in New Orleans, which seems an appropriate way to bow out. When I get back from the 2010 US trip I will be a free man. I plan to move to Hampshire where I have a close female friend and where I have got to know quite a lot of people over the last few years on frequent visits. I hope to do some consultancy work a couple of days a week but the five days a week commute will be a thing of the past. I may not get to many gigs in London, but then I haven't been a regular for a while now.
The US trip will probably be my last road trip through the southern states. I arrive at Houston (BA strike permitting) on April 22nd and the plan is to drive to Lafayette for the night. Then it's off to Baton Rouge where I'm hoping to track down a genuine juke joint nearby and take in the Baton Rouge Blues Festival. After a couple more days at the Festival Louisiane in Lafayette it will be off to New Orleans. There are quite a few promising looking gigs in the evenings, including Dave Alvin, Irma Thomas, Walter Wolfman Washington, Marcia Ball and Allen Toussaint, and then there's Jazzfest, which has a couple of days that look appealing, although I'm sure it won't be as good as it used to be when the New Orleans R and B greats were still alive and performing. Still, it will be great to be in the Big Easy one more time and I plan to savour the experience.
Then it's back home to retirement - if I can afford it!