TALKIN’ APOLLO 13 BLUES LAUNCHES TODAY!
Scottish blues musician Jed Potts releases his tribute song, Talkin’ Apollo 13 Blues to mark the 50th anniversary of the USA’s third mission to land on the moon, a near-fatal event which NASA deemed to be ‘a successful failure’.
When not performing solo, Jed is lead singer and guitarist with his power trio, Jed Potts & the Hillman Hunters. The band released their eponymous debut album in 2018 to critical acclaim for its 1950s and 60s downhome authentic blues sound. The Bishop’s review in Blues Matters concluded; “Blues titans Jed Potts and the Hillman Hunters are as timeless as the classic British car but with the performance, power and refinement of a Formula One racer.” The blues has been in Jed’s blood from an early age, with his parents having, taken him to B.B. King and Robert Cray gigs as a child. Potts has been playing the blues professionally since he was 16 and is now one of the premier bluesmen in his native Edinburgh and beyond, including America where he has performed with Piedmont harp maestro Brandon Santini.
The versatile Potts swaps his Fender Stratocaster for an acoustic guitar and sings solo in the tradition of “talking blues”, a song format popularized during the Great Depression by the likes of Woody Guthrie. Potts’ vocal phrasing and timing are impeccable given the speed at which the words have to be recited in three minutes! Jed tells the story with an increasing sense of drama commensurate with the oxygen tank explosion which catastrophically damaged the spacecraft and forced the crew to orbit the moon without landing and to return to earth.
Once upon a time in the United States would unfold the story of three crewmates… When the day of the launch was finally here the skies ‘round the Cape were bright n’ clear…
A short while later they were well on their way and without being too cocky it was probably safe to say a successful moon landing was as good as in the bank until the boys in mission control asked the crew to stir-up a cryo tank. There was a real loud bang and all hell broke loose and the thing flew around like a headless goose and just when they were getting it to stay in one place they looked out and saw they were venting something into space. Turned out to be the oxygen. Houston, we’ve had a problem.
At mission control, it was clear within the hour the ship was losing air but also losing power. To get the crew home safe was the new objective of the mission but to turn the ship around was too risky a proposition. They wouldn’t land on the moon but they’d still have to go around. Would the oxygen last ‘til they were back on the ground? To lose an American in space was out of the question. Get our boys home with time to spare. Failure is not an option…
A very cold three days later the most dangerous part was yet to come: re-entry was drawing near. Would the damaged spaceship’s heatshields hold or would it burn up in the atmosphere? *Stand-by for communications black-out. This radio silence should last three minutes but that had come and gone.
Everybody in Houston held their breath as time dragged on and on… Odyssey, this is Houston, do you copy? Thirteen, this is Houston, do you copy? Thirteen, this is Houston, do you copy? Then out of the sky a most glorious sight: three parachutes did appear! Roger that, Houston, this is Thirteen. We read you loud and clear. Everyone rejoiced, cigars were smoked, what an adventure this had been. And that’s the story of a successful failure, the story of Apollo 13.
To summarise the story, sustain the tension and maintain the relentless pace throughout with mesmeric strumming and fingerpicking background guitar work is a great achievement on Jed’s part.
All in all, this is a neat tribute with a blues vibe to accompany it.
Talkin’ Apollo 13 Blues is accompanied by a video created by graphic design company Lentil, which will premiere via the Jed Potts Music Facebook page on Saturday the 11th April at 19:13 UK time – the 50th anniversary of the exact minute of the launch. www.facebook.com/jedpottsmusic
The song is available on all major streaming platforms including Spotify, and available for purchase on Bandcamp.
By The Bishop.
(the video will be added here later today)
Sitting In With… Jed Potts by Colin Campbell – Images by Alan Ferguson.
Jed is one of the hardest working musicians in Scotland; he has got various musical projects working, sometimes all at the same time! Whether it be fronting his band Jed Potts And The Hillman Hunters, guesting on guitar with ace American blues artist Brandon Santini, funking things up with Swampfog or jazzing it with Katet, he’s always got something to do, so what happens when the world, including Edinburgh, is in lockdown!
Jed has just brought out a new release, a solo song called “Talkin’ Apollo 13 Blues” to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing expedition, quoted as “A successful failure” by NASA.
Hi Jed, how’s it going, where are you today?
I’m hunkered-down in Leith, in Edinburgh.
How are you coping with lockdown procedures in relation to the COVID-19 virus, what’s the most upsetting or frustrating thing that affects you as a musician?
The weirdest thing in general, which I’m sure is weird for most people, is the absence of social activity. Being a musician is a very social job, whether it’s being at a gig or just being around the people in your band, and I’m also a very social person anyway, and I love ‘the hang’. Normally I’m trying to appeal to people to ‘C’mon oot’, and now I’m appealing to them to ‘Stay hame’.
You are usually a very active and busy musician, how are you spending the time out just now?
I’ve basically been getting ready to release Talkin’ Apollo 13 Blues since the lockdown came into effect, so that’s kept me plenty busy.
Without going into the minutia of your interest in Space technology, what got you interested in wanting to write a song about the Apollo13 Mission?
I’m honestly not sure exactly what got me really interested in the subject – I was never into space as a kid – but the idea for the song specifically hit me whilst reading the Apollo 13 Haynes Manual by David Baker. It was a present from my folks, so thanks again, Mum and Dad.
Why did you specifically take the stance of the narrator of this piece it sounds really authentic, any influences on your style? It is just you singing and playing here, what was that like and where did you record the song?
So the song is obviously in the style of a “Talking Blues” – for a couple of great examples check out Woody Guthrie’s “Talking Dust Bowl Blues” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Fraternity Blues” – and so I guess I was just following what I thought sounded right in my head. To be honest, it never occurred to me to sing it any other way than as the narrator. And I suppose I’m probably doing a little bit of a Woody Guthrie impression. I did consider singing it in my own accent but it felt wrong for the style. The song was recorded at Chamber Studio in Edinburgh, by Graeme Young, and we did it just as all of the coronavirus stuff started kicking-off, we literally recorded the song and then loaded a bunch of equipment from the studio into Graeme’s car so that he could get set-up to work from home. It’s just me playing and singing at the same time with a couple of mics on me. We had it in a few takes, I was ready, and actually the first take was pretty damn close.
With so many bands in tow, what musical genre do you feel represents you as a musician, or is it all just music and you’re naturally a musicaholic?
I’ve always referred to blues as my musical first language, but I suppose I love playing – and listening to – all sorts of stuff. I’ll listen to Tony Bennett right after Mesuggah nae bother.
What music did you listen to growing up and where was your first gig?
Neither of my parents is musical, but they’re both huge music fans, and there was music was on in the house all the time when I was growing up, particularly blues and rock. The inner-sleeve of Joe Walsh’s But Seriously, Folks… leaning against the sideboard is a specific memory. That’s still one of my favourite records. I’m pretty sure the first gig that I played was at the Royal Overseas League on Princes Street, which I just saw they’re turning into a hotel.
How did you get involved with working with Brandon Santini and what have you learned most out of your American touring experiences?
I got hooked-up with Brandon through a project that the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival put together a few years back. Basically it was an opportunity for me and Sandy Tweeddale to collaborate with some musicians from overseas. Brandon was the best guy on Beale Street, so I wanted to work with him. The thing that’s always stuck out to me is how comfortable the American bands are with promoting themselves on stage, and how comfortable the American audiences are with it, too. You could discuss ad nauseam where that comes from culturally, whether it’s healthy, whether it’s appropriate to the art form etc but the lesson I took from it was that there was no point in being a reluctant frontman; I might as well lean in, embrace it, and find my own way to do it. The other side of that is that it’s not necessarily something you can just transfer wholesale; I’ve seen American artists push the sales patter too much on a Scottish audience and it didn’t go well at all.
What were the venues like that you’ve played in?
The venues on the most recent tour with Brandon included everything from a big outdoor festival, to a sort of gastropub, to a liquor store (it was sort of like playing in a Vicky Wines) but I truly enjoyed all of the shows. The one in the ‘gastropub’ was great, actually. We were set-up in a really small space – much smaller than I think the boys were used to, and there was no choice but to really lock-in musically.
Do you prefer playing intimate venues as opposed to festivals?
There are equal opportunities to have a great, or not so great gig, in any type of venue. I think it’s all about not undermining the potential of the situation. There were many times on tour with the Blueswaters where we’d walk into a space that was less than ideal, and we’d set about giving ourselves the best chance of having a great gig. I don’t mind having a bad gig, as long as I know there was nothing more I could’ve done to save it.
Any funny things happen to you when touring?
On the last tour with Brandon? So many. The funniest of which will remain a secret, but for some reason, the thing that comes to mind is the girl on night-shift at a Florida gas station telling me to “make sure you got some water for that bitch” when I was buying a spicy Slim Jim. She was right; it was hot.
What’s the best advice musically you have had?
I can’t pick an all-out favourite, and it wasn’t even really advice, but I once had a conversation with an American comedian called Al Lubel where he said that doing a gig is like going on a date with the audience – you can’t really totally prepare for it, and you don’t know if you’re going to get along, you just have to show up and see. I think he said that it was Bob Newhart that originally made the analogy but I got it from Al, so…
Guitar wise, do you have any heroes?
Of course! Sean Costello, Jimmie Vaughan, B.B. King, Eddie Van Halen, Jonny Winter, Dimebag Darrell, Peter Green, Zal Cleminson, Taylor Goldsmith… I could go on forever.
What was the first guitar you played and what was the first one you bought? (you can get techy here if you want!)
I can’t remember the first that I played, but the first that I owned was an old acoustic that my Uncle Pat gave me. The action was so high that I later used it to practice lap steel. But it got me started.
If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you would be?
I could probably work in a shop. A haberdasher or something…
Do you get a chance to go and see other blues-based bands locally and would you recommend any to our readers that they’ve possibly not heard of?
Under normal circumstances, I go out to gigs whenever possible and off the top of my head I can highly recommend the likes of Nicole Smit, Tim Elliott, Sandy Tweeddale, Gus Munro and Logan’s Close.
Anything about Jed Potts that his fans don’t know about and that you’d like to share?
I love the movie Phenomenon starring John Travolta.
What are your plans for the next year musically?
Everything’s up in the air a bit at the minute but hopefully, I’ll be releasing a whole load of new original material with the Hillman Hunters, and also with Swampfog, some more Katet vs. John Williams shows, and hopefully some more stuff with Brandon.
Thanks for chatting to Blues Matters, and good luck with the new single launch!
For more info – www.jedpotts.com