by Marketing-PR·Comments Off on The Swedish Blues Scene and Covid-19
Swedish Blues Scene In The Midst Of The COVID-19 Outbreak By Brian Kramer.
Photos by Lotta Lindström
Saturday, March 21st 2020, I head out for my weekly Blues Jam in Stockholm, just celebrating our 23rd year. The train station is completely empty, and I am the only passenger to board from Hedemora to Stockholm. Central Station is also noticeably bare for this bustling major hub in Sweden.
As of this morning, there are a little more than 600 reported who have the COVID-19 virus in Stockholm, not as intense as other parts of the world; Italy, Spain, the US… The message is for “social distancing”, however, there is no direct order or panic to shut down clubs and venues here. At least not the modest-sized ones.
The local blues scene here is still churning along and I have not had my weekly shows cancelled as of yet. ClubEngelen is asking for folks to take personal responsibility; stay home if feeling sick, wash hands etc. So, there are a good half dozen venues with Blues Jams and shows still providing the opportunity for musicians to perform and a small public to gather.
I personally feel this is okay, as long as we all are socially responsible. We need the music and there is a great appreciation for this as well as keeping the fear in check. For this day during my Blues Jam, we have arranged something unique and special though. In consideration for many of the folks at home who are stuck there, and don’t want to risk being out in public gatherings, we have for the first time ever arranged to Live Stream my BluesJam direct to Facebook. The entire four-hour session, from start to finish will unfold over the internet uninterrupted, improvised, every unexpected twist and turn. I have also made the interactive consideration to leave many of the grooves within the songs with open-solo spaces, specifically for musicians stuck at home to Jam along.
I have prepared for this session to allow people who join in live, to feel a bit more secure by swapping out microphones for additional singers as well as puff screens covering the extra mics. I also have a handy 100ml pump bottle of hand sanitizer on stage for those who wish to partake (I did announce that a shot of tequila at the bar cost 10 bucks, but a shot of sanitizer from me cost 15, depending on your needs). The Houseband is in good spirits and we assume it will be a challenging day, but we are always ready for anything. A small crowd starts to steadily filter in as well as a handful of jammers. It’s a beautiful March day with the warmth of the sun basking everything and we are about to go live.
All of the venues and restaurants everywhere are taking a huge hit through all of this madness. Many struggling businesses have been devastated. Engelen is a popular music venue that is celebrating their 50 years in business, and we are fortunate to be able to perform there every week. Under normal circumstances, the room is packed throughout the day, which is quite fantastic for a Blues event on a Saturday afternoon anywhere in the world. Now with 20 to 30 people scattered standing and seated through the room at a healthy distance, I am reminded of the old days in New York when this was the more normal reality for any Blues Jam.
We have some brave jammers showing up now and I start to navigate and usher them on to the scene, remembering to switch out microphones and offer hand sanitizer, also refraining from the habitual and spontaneous handshaking or hugging. This is such a surreal experience and admittedly it’s a bit stressful just keeping tabs on all this. However, spirits are high, songs are flowing, and jammers are in motion, and the public is loving it all as well as a very healthy real-time response coming in from the Live Stream on Facebook. Messages from around the world; South Africa, Spain, Greece, America, Norway, UK, France. Musicians reporting that they are enjoying jamming along with us at home.
A few bassists show up, a few singers, harp players, a keyboardist, guitarists, it’s a good healthy jam. Unfortunately, no drummers, so our brilliant Markku has to really earn his keep today, but I do break it down halfway through for some old school Delta for a few songs of relief with just myself on guitar, keyboards and harp accompaniment.
Engelen is a good-sized space for an intimate scene and holds 250 people in the main room with another 100 or so in the joining room where they have TV monitors set up so folks can still view the on-stage activities as they eat and socialize. I believe Engelen is just happy or satisfied that they can continue to do some business and have regulars feel welcome, rather than creating a sense of disappointment amid this time of worldwide shutdown where everybody is feeling vulnerable. Also, the phenomena of incredible ceaseless streams on the internet of artists on every level posting or live streaming performances in the comfortable state of their home surrounding are just remarkable!
Not just out of the sense of boredom to do something because mainly all performing artists have been forced to cancel every tour and event, where more than 50+ people gather, but out of the genuine heartfelt gesture to lift people up throughout the world during a time when fear and instability are the most contagious. I have also put a few candid songs up and plan to do some more. Bringing this live stream of our International Blues Jam to the people that can’t attend somehow feels good.
More than three hours in, and the jam is a success and even with the added stresses, it feels so good to play for a small, appreciative crowd. A favourite local singer, Anna enters the room toward the end of the session and I immediately command her to the stage to take us home. During a rollicking final number of Rollin’ And Tumblin’, Anna looks to me to take a solo and for some reason, I spontaneously reach down and grab the plastic pump bottle of hand sanitizer and start to wiggle it all over the neck of my vintage 1959 Gibson ES225 attempting a slide guitar solo with it, which actually worked better than I thought thank goodness.
One person brilliantly commented that I turned “hand sanitizer into Blues hand satan-izer”. Yes, these are indeed strange and unusual times. Lets all hope for healthier ones soon and get back to some genuine Blues business with the usual, more manageable Blues worries.
by Marketing-PR·Comments Off on CHASIN THE TRAIN Dead Man’s Handle
Album Review for Chasin’ The Train – Dead Man’s Handle – Released Independently.
The Scottish blues scene is still flourishing with top-notch bands. Here is an example of one of them, the band Chasin’ The Train, who all hail from the Dumfries delta country. This is their debut release and packs a punch, just like their live shows which are not to be missed, very special.
They are a five-piece band comprising of Tom Cuddihy on lead vocals and guitar. He is joined by Bob “Howlin”Clements on blues harp. Next is Peter Jamieson on bass, keyboards and backing vocals. Rory Nelson provides great licks on guitar and Jason “Moon Drummer” Little on percussion.
Usually, their sets are peppered with cover versions but here are nine self-penned tracks of different musical genres, including blues, some jazzy tones and classic rock throughout. The opener, Beat Up Ford, incorporated a rock and roll style with a nod to Chuck Berry.
FWPB next, (First World Problem Blues) a tongue in cheek take to modern living is very quirky some very good harmonica here and a good groove. Temporary Man starts with a wonderful scything slide guitar lick, and then the song explodes into a real shuffle of a tune, exhibiting the band’s big sound and tight form. Some good guitar solos complement the vocals also, a highlight.
Down Home mellows the tone altogether at least initially, and then the pace quickens. It seems to allude to their home town Dumfries, locals call themselves Doonhamers, and so here is the town’s upcoming anthem, catchy chorus, and fine musicianship.
Whisky Bottle has a good chorus also, good rhythm section here marrying searing harmonica tones. Too MuchSugar has an up-tempo jump jive beat again with fine guitar playing. Exit Wounds is a fantastic slow blues song with a laid back groove here. No Blues opens with a great drum beat, another optimistic tune with a great vibe.
The final track is, Don’t You Lie To Me, a mellow tone to this again showcasing the band at their best. This is a talented band that is full of electrifying rhythm and lots of energy. Certainly, a band to look out for, if you get the chance to see them on stage, catch them. A great release, diverse sounds and catchy riffs and choruses, what’s not to like!
by Marketing-PR·Comments Off on IAIN PATIENCE’s Top 10 Blues
Choosing ten tracks from a blues world that is so huge, sprawling and covers so many styles and musical tastes is a virtual impossibility. From Chicago to Delta, acoustic to electric, slide to steel…where to begin, where to end?
I started my own journey coming from the electric end but moved into the world of acoustic as I discovered more and more astonishing music. Looking back, the first true blues musician I saw live was probably John Mayall in Glasgow in the 1960s when Mick Taylor was on guitar, though Lightnin’ Hopkins also played a part in my blues voyage in the early 70s.
1 – Muddy Waters – I’m A King Bee
First place must be Muddy Waters and ‘I’m A King Bee.’ What a track, one that almost everyone knows, loves and has heard – often without knowing just what it is – some time or other in their weary lives.
2 – Mississippi John Hurt – Richland Woman Blues
Mississippi John Hurt. Richland Woman Blues is a towering track, melodic, delightful lyrically, suggestive and bearing all the hallmarks of truly great acoustic blues picking from an absolute master. While John was the master, Maria Muldaur’s wonderful version (from her album, ‘Richland Woman Blues’) featuring 60s ‘Summer In The City’ Loving Spoonful’s John Sebastian on guitar is maybe just the finest version ever recorded.
3 – Johnny Shines – Kind Hearted Woman Blues
Johnny Shines. Shines was one of those truly remarkable old bluesmen. A guy who worked the road and played with the blues godfather, Robert Johnson, sadly Johnny often slips below the blues radar for that very reason. But, many would say, Johnny could do it all, and I for one would tend to agree. Shines lived a bluesman’s life, full of ups and downs, trials and tribulations but always with a hugely, generous warmth and welcome and a talent that is genuinely astonishing. I’ve had the wonderful good fortune to befriend his family and musical buddies in Alabama recently and believe the recently released for the first time live recordings from the Ann Arbour BluesFestival ‘The Blues Came Falling Down’ is simply superb. Give ‘Kind Hearted Woman Blues’ a listen and see what you think.
4 – Reverend Gary Davis
Reverend Gary Davis. An absolute giant in every way, the blind Harlem street preacher picked guitar like nobody else. His vocal delivery was jaw-dropping and his fretwork incomparable. For me, this is as good as it gets. Almost anything from his album, ‘Harlem Street Singer’ works just dandy.
5 – Blind Willie Johnson – Soul of a Man
An essential in any blues toolkit. A track needing no introduction, recorded by many but never bettered than the original, though Pittsburgh’s Ernie Hawkins comes damn near close.
6 – Fleetwood Mac – Hellhound On My Trail
What can be said that’s not been said about the original line-up? And that amazing album, ‘Peter Green’sFleetwood Mac’ with Green’s guitar on ‘Hellhound’ or ‘Shake Your Moneymaker.’ An absolute must-have release.
7 – Bonnie Raitt – Love You Like A Man
Now Bonnie’s never easy to categorise. Blueslady for sure, she can slip into the rock world with ease. For me, her cover of the wonderful Chris Smither song, ‘Love You Like A Man’ is always a pleasure…and for once, she leaves that slide behind.
8 – Fred McDowell – Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
Fred McDowell was a giant from Como, Mississippi. Thanks to the Stones, he received some recognition before passing in 1972, when they both recorded and credited him for ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.’ And how many of us don’t know and love that same track?
9 – John Mayall
John Mayall. The Godfather of British Blues truly influenced so much of the modern UK blues scene and has made an undeniably enormous impression on the music globally over most of our lifetimes. I guess a track from the revered ‘Beano’ album won’t go amiss – with Clapton making his presence felt – though I personally think John moved way beyond this as his career progressed.
10 – Ry Cooder – Vigilante Man
An odd choice maybe. Ry Cooder and ‘Vigilante Man.’ Not a true blues track, more a modern Americana bit of work. But what a song, lyrics from the legendary US roots giant Woody Guthrie and stunning guitar picking from one of the greatest acoustic slide pickers ever. A combination positively made in heaven.
Today’s list was compiled by our editor at large, Iain Patience, to contact Iain please email email@example.com
by Marketing-PR·Comments Off on DANI WILDE – Howling At The Moon (new single)
Blues Matters writer Dani Wilde has released a brand new single today called Howling at the Moon and it has been released via the Vizztone Label Group.
British Blues Award winner Dani Wilde burst onto the international blues scene in 2007, opening for JoolsHolland at London’s Royal Albert Hall and signing to prestigious blues record label Ruf Records.
“The entire audience was silenced and caught in the spell of deep emotion… she won the hearts and souls of everyone in the crowd – outstanding.” – Music News Magazine
Since then she has toured extensively (playing up to 250 concerts a year) across the UK, Europe, America, Canada and Africa charting in the blues and country charts in Europe. USA concerts have included headline shows under her own name, and performances with girl group “Girls With Guitars” alongside Samantha Fish and Cassie Taylor. The group’s 2012 record, produced by Mike Zito in Berlin, was a hit in Europe; the single ‘Bitch’ reaching the Number 1 spot in the iTunes blues charts in Italy.
In 2017, Dani signed with Vizztone Label Group to release a live in the studio album entitled “Live atBrighton Road”.
Her relationship with Vizztone continues as she reaches for new heights with the release of a brand new single ‘Howling at the Moon’.
Composed and produced by Wilde, the track takes influence from both her British and American influences: “I was listening to British artists Paul Weller and 80’s pop-soul singer Sam Brown who inspired my arrangements and vocals, as well as taking guitar influence from my American blues heroes Albert Collins and Sean Costello.” The track is about a darker time in Wilde’s life where she was “struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel having had my heart broken and stamped on – I was so lost back then but now I can look back and see that I’m a stronger and happier person today because I lived through that.”
Dani Wilde was interviewed for Issue 112 of Blues Matters magazine and she was our featured cover artist for this edition. If you’d like a copy of this then please go to our subscription tab where you can order single copies or order your print and digital subscription. Click here for your copy.
by Marketing-PR·Comments Off on PAYING THE BLUES FORWARD Needs Your Help!
Singer/songwriter/producer Mike Zito has teamed up with Nick Moss to raise money for out of work Blues musicians who find themselves in severe financial hardship as a result of all of their tours getting cancelled because of the coronavirus.
The project that they have set up is called Paying The Blues Forward – all artists involved will record a song and make it available to the public for FREE. In exchange, they ask for everyone’s support because every small contribution helps.
Mike posts regular updates on their GoFundMe page and lists the artists who have received money, and who has signed up to receive the next amount raised, he hopes to give each band $1,000 to help feed their families. If you can spare a few dollars then they’d be extremely grateful.
This is also the first track from Mike Zito’s quarantine-recorded album Quarantine Blues – he has been in total lockdown and self-isolation for 14 days now following a cancelled tour and he wrote and recorded this during those days to help support his own band members and their families. The GoFundMe link to directly help MikeZito and band is here.
“This recording will not be available via distribution, or on iTunes or Amazon, it will only be available through my website for download or cd. Every dollar you give to this project will go directly to myself and my band members: Matt Johnson, Doug Byrkit and Lewis Stephens. It is solely to offset the loss of our current tour and make creative use of our quarantine. This process will begin Monday, March 16th and be completed on March 30th for your listening pleasure. I will post live videos of the process and let you share in the experience. We will offer some very special opportunities for those who can give more and give this music to the world in return. We know it’s crazy right now and we don’t feel right begging for your assistance when those in more need may require help. So we wanted to offer you something special for your support. Something that is real and right now. We are musicians and that’s what we do, we create and perform music, so we will make music for you and anything in return will be much appreciated. God bless and please be safe!” said Mike.
The following statement is from Mike & NicksGoFundMe page…
Many of my musician friends are out of work during this pandemic. Not just a little out of work, completely out of work.
Not everyone is comfortable asking for assistance or maybe tech-savvy to do online shows or streaming. This is all VERY new to everyone.
I started a “Quarantine Blues” recording project to help feed my family and truly help my band members who were coming home with nothing after a large cancelled tour. The band and I have committed 10 original songs available for FREE to the world and in return, we were given much-needed support from our fans and the Blues community.
Now, we are extending this campaign to our large Blues community.
We are asking artists that are in need of assistance to contribute a song for this project and in return we are going to try and raise $1000 each for the artist and their band members. We feel this is a time of need,
but we want to give back with what we do best – music.
We have a list of musicians and bands that are in serious need right now and they are each going to contribute new music to the project.
We will announce an artist and band in need and once the amount of money has been reached, we will then announce a new artist and band…and so on.
PLEASE if you are a working, professional Blues genre musician that is out of work and in need and would be interested – please contact Mike Zito or Nick Moss to get on the list.
PLEASE if you can share – share what you can – if you cannot share financially, please share the campaign with your family and friends.
We are hopeful that the end result here will be hours of new and wonderful music that can help us all come closer and ease some
anxiety and give a little hope.
Mike Zito and Nick Moss
The GoFundMe page link for Blues musicians is here.
The GoFundMe link to directly help Mike Zito and band is here.
by Marketing-PR·Comments Off on STEPHEN HARRISON’S Top 10 Blues
I started listening to the Blues through listening to Led Zeppelin when I started High School. Its what they had based their music on by re-working some old Blues tunes and keeping the Blues as a base for their own material. As an impressionable teenager I was immediately hooked on Zeppelin and through this began my life- long obsession with the Blues.
1 –Travelling Riverside Blues – Led Zeppelin
This was probably the first Blues tune to really get me interested and it also began my journey and obsession with Robert Johnson. It was so different from anything I’d heard before. The sound and the structure sucked me in from the first note and I was hooked.
2 – When The Levee Breaks – Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie.
Obviously the first time I heard this was on Zeppelins amazing untitled fourth album. The deep drum beat and the blowing of the harmonica was so eerie but so spellbinding. But my favourite version of this is the 1929 one, by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. It tells a historic tale of woe and loss that occurred following the GreatMississippi Flood in 1927. A true Blues tune done so well.
3 – Nobody’s Fault But Mine – Blind Willie Johnson
Another Zeppelin tune but once again I’ve chosen the original version by Blind Willie Johnson that was first recorded in 1927. The sound of his voice and the sound of his acoustic guitar is so powerful and mesmerizing. It’s hard to think that almost a hundred years ago a blind musician would create something that would last and still be as important today.
4 – Black Betty – Sari Schorr
It would have been very easy to choose the original version done by Lead Belly or the rockier version by RamJam, but when I first heard Sari Schorr do it I was totally blown away. The power and force of her voice is simply sublime. But it’s the feeling that she puts into it that is what makes it so good. It is a dark tale of horror and humiliation that needs to be captured by someone who fully understands what the song is all about. That is why I chose the version by Sari Schorr.
5 – The Thrill Is Gone – B.B. King
This song is almost purpose-built for Lucille, B.B. King’s guitar. The sound that he gets from it together with his powerhouse vocals makes it inconceivable that anyone else could do this song justice. The master at the top of his game.
6 – Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out – Bessie Smith
This is another song that was recorded in 1929. It seems that was a great year for Blues music. For me, she has one of the greatest voices in Blues history. It was later recorded by Eric Clapton for his unplugged album and gig but Bessie Smith is the one to hear.
7 – Need Your Love So Bad – Fleetwood Mac
One of the greatest Blues guitarists of all time, Peter Green wrote and performed this with Fleetwood Mac. Desperation and longing pour from his vocals and out of his guitar strings. A truly magnificent song.
8 – Sweet Home Chicago – Buddy Guy
There are so many versions of this song to choose from, but I chose Buddy Guy’s version. It could be his song because he does it so well and because he is the Chicago Blues Man. His playing on this is one of the finest things I’ve ever heard in my life. Magical.
9 – Cross Road Blues – Robert Johnson
When compiling my top ten blues songs, I could easily have chosen ten songs by Robert Johnson. But I didn’t think that was fair on all the other great Blues artists. This is the pinnacle of Blues music. The greatest Blues artist of all time in my opinion. Robert Johnson is where I go to when I need to find my way home.
10 – I’d Rather Go Blind – Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart
As with my other choices, there are a few other versions to listen to. But this for me is the definitive one. I’ve heard it done by so many people, including the original by Etta James. But this towers above every other song in so many ways. The guitar playing of Joe Bonamassa is out of this world, starting slowly and building to a guitar solo that has the hairs on the back of my neck standing up every time I hear it. For me, it’s the finest guitar solo I’ve ever heard.
Then there is Beth Hart. For me, she is the greatest female Blues artist of all time. Her power and the emotion that she pours into every song are bewildering and mind-blowing. On this song she takes it to another level that will never be reached by anyone. In my opinion, this is the single greatest performance by any artist in the history of music.
List compiled by Stephen Harrison our Reviews Editor to contact Stephen please email firstname.lastname@example.org
by Marketing-PR·Comments Off on Coronavirus And The Impact On Musicians
HOW THE PANDEMIC IS AFFECTING MUSICIANS
With loads of musicians losing huge incomes from cancelled tours and gigs, Blues Matters contacted several well-known names from the world of blues to assess the impact of this awful virus on their livelihoods. We also asked them what steps they had taken to continue promoting their music and engaging with their fans. Some told us about their favourite activities, piece of music, or books, that keep their spirits up during the period of isolation.
Well, of course, it’s had a huge impact on my life and my husband too as we are both musicians so it’s our employment gone, temporarily and our upcoming festivals too. We were super excited about returning to Glastonbury 2020 but in the whole scheme of things, it’s only a small short-term price to pay. I’m so worried about all the smaller festivals and clubs. These places have been our lifeline and keep us alive. They need to work so hard to keep going even in a good climate. I’m really hoping the governments do all they can to help and support them to stay alive.
I’m trying to stay in touch with fans out there. I’m doing videos from the studio and will hopefully do a small live concert. Even doing wee online live video collaborations with other artists has started now since the outbreak which is a positive thing. Who knows where they might lead in the future. We also have a few fun ideas for upcoming posts lined up too which I am excited about.
Thankfully our wee boy Bobby Joe who’s one and a half keeps us entertained for the most part. We are making this a good opportunity for quality family time, nature walks, cycles, art and crafts etc. Mainly we try to exercise and take time to write and record songs that we haven’t had the chance to do. We also take time to listen to older albums that we had never got the time to enjoy and watch videos from artists who inspire us. I love reading too, I’m reading Alan Lomax, The Land Where The Blues Began. It’s a super read, very informative. I believe this will provide us with a new way of looking at and appreciating Mother Earth, slowing down a little and really appreciating our families and valuing their importance even more than we do.
It’s the simple things in life. Maybe we all needed to press stop momentarily. Nothing really stops this modern world turning but this has and it really makes you stop and think about what’s most important in life.
Hopefully, we will get back to making and enjoying music together soon.
It’s unprecedented and very difficult to put into words just how I myself and everyone is feeling right now. The total uncertainty as no one knows when this pandemic will cease and we can return to life as we’ve known it. I do believe now, as a world, things will have to change, and cannot assume that we’re as in control as we think.
The situation has decimated live music. Shows cancelled everywhere and for everyone. And for once we’re all in the same boat. We as self-employed people, are powerless and really the last on the list of economic priorities. Sadly that’s just the nature of the beast. It’s a case of buying bread or going to a gig. One can only hope that some have followed the old saying “putting something away for a rainy day” that will help some of us to cope until we’re able to work again. Once the initial shock of this now crippling pandemic virus has sunk in, we now have to deal with the fact we’re out of work for the foreseeable future. Everything cancelled or postponed. Sadly there’s nothing we can do but try to be optimistic in the hope work can be rescheduled when this crisis ends.
We need to be proactive to keep ourselves going best we can. I’ve seen a few musicians on social media doing a little something to entertain and to even raise funds to help, which is great. I guess like many, we find ourselves at home on an imposed, sabbatical. And trust me there’s much to do around the home. When you’ve been on the road month after month things can get neglected. So now I’m trying to approach this with a positive frame of mind to use my time well and I shall be de-cluttering physically and mentally.
The wonderful thing about technology now, it’s come into its own, connecting people to help alleviate isolation and share positive information. The very thing I believe it was created for. Of course like everyone else I’m grateful to be able to share new music, positive vibes and things I love and enjoy, like flowers in bloom and the wonderful things I see around me in nature. All this I hope will help to alleviate stress and tension whilst we weather the storm.
This is life, but not as we know it! Praying for better days, a better you and better me.
SEAN TAYLOR: London-based troubadour: singer, songwriter, guitarist.
Like many artists, venues and promoters I will be losing a lot of income. I have lost at least two months of tour work already and by the looks of things probably more.
This is an unprecedented time and it is going to get tougher for everyone. There is no safety net for musicians and as a workers’ movement, we must be united in calling for collective worker protections and support. It is also very important to remember that as musicians we all have a duty of care to the beautiful people who support the music. We should be following the world health organisation’s call for social distancing. Offering support for musicians and venues that cancel events to protect the public health, is crucial at this desperate time.
I have released a Live In London album at www.seantaylorsongs.com that I am selling via my website to get by and the response has been beautiful. I was only going to sell this album at concerts but I have lost a lot of work and I have to try and survive. I have been writing a lot which I do anyway as it’s my job. I will look into live- streaming gigs but the road is my home and I miss it already.
PAT McGARVEY:Banjo player withSouthern Tenant Folk UnionandThe Banjo Lounge 4
I’ve lost all my work for the next month ahead and more will go, of course. For example, I’ve had about £1000 worth of gigs cancelled over the next month and none of those, are coming back, I’ll be trying to see what government help I can get next week, probably something to do with the existing working tax credit/child tax credit thing we already had going on. My wife has some money coming in from her school job but it’s not enough for us to get by on.
Seamus McGarvey Band
I’m sure some music will get done and I might work on some new things I’ve not even thought of yet. I and my wife’s main role will be looking after the kids and maybe helping her mother who has been self-isolating. There’ll be plenty to do with that and getting some sort of schedule/timetable for the week so the children can do the work sent electronically by their teachers/school. They will continue to practise their instruments with us all playing together as well. I would like to try and do some recording with them too, probably showing them how to do it as we go.
I’ve got a lot of books to read. I started the Stan Lee biography, A Marvellous Life last night and other books ready to go are Orwell’s Down and Out in Parisand London, Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers, This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan (I’ve started this one already and it’s good), and Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosely. We started watching the Miles Davis documentary this morning: my son was resistant but we’re going to force him to watch it as part of his history studies. Anyway, I now have Milestones going around my head which is a good thing. There’s tons of music here in the flat and it’s all inspiring in its own way.
GERRY JABLONSKI AND THE ELECTRIC BAND: Scottish Blues Band.
Gerry and his band have raised over £4000 on their Facebook page via a fundraising platform for creative projects in order to record a single. They made the following appeal: https://youtu.be/5Q5i-6cZCe4
What are we trying to do? We’ve recently been doing demos for our latest single and we can safely say it’s the best one we’ve ever done. We’ve managed to convince one of the top London PR guys to help us out to get the single on the radio and press. This is the very first time we have had the opportunity for our music to be heard and spoken about. In order to do that we need to record the single properly and produce a video. Additionally, we will also record a “secret” track that will be included on all the formats you receive.
We need your help – We’ve managed to save some funds from our shows and merchandise sales however we need your help to cover all of the expenses- studio time and producing the video.
What do you get back? We would love to reward you for your help and give back all we can. We will ship CD’s & vinyl to everyone who pledges and decides to help us. You will be part of the project that hopefully will be heard on national radio and who knows – maybe even TV.
Thanks a lot in advance and see you at our next show!
ZOE SCHWARZ BLUE COMMOTION: Award-Winning British Blues Band
It’s a very weird and strange feeling having played full time since February 1984! The first point is that our income has evaporated pretty much overnight. We do earn some money through PRS, MCPS, downloads, as well as on-line CD sales. One positive we can take from this period is to use the time to improve our skills in using Spotify, YouTube and all social media.
We may also look at live streaming in the upcoming days/weeks, but I guess that is going to be flooded. By far the biggest percentage of our income comes through live performance. We don’t actually have a plan to deal with this situation as it is totally unprecedented. Our skill is playing music which of course is suspended for the foreseeable future. We had planned a whole series of concert dates and festivals to coincide with the release of our new album Chameleon; that is a lot of work that has just evaporated.
My personal approach (Guitarist Rob Koral) is to use this period of time to refresh, take stock, and whilst remaining mentally busy, slow down a little. I certainly miss gigging. I must say it is a very odd feeling where each day has the same value and same feel. The old cliche of the Monday to Friday routine, although never particularly applying to me, doesn’t exist for most people now.
All us musicians, being a creative breed, are not good at reading the “small print” when it comes to getting to the bottom of, and utilising, the new government legislation to help with the financial crisis of losing our livelihood; but we are just going to have to get on with it. Ugh!
Quite honestly my inspiration is totally unaffected and is the same as always. I am enjoying practising hard and working on new ideas. This part of being a musician involves disappearing into one’s secluded world and headspace anyway. Who knows, we may write a song or two for that wonderful day when we are back in front of audiences.
Interestingly, there is a whole breed of guitar players whose sole means of expression is through the Internet (YouTube and Instagram). There are several that I follow, and they have been around for a long time. Ironically enough I have always sneered at them for not playing live! Like a cricketer playing in the nets all the time and never playing a game!
BROOKS WILLIAMS: Statesboro Born Country Blues Singer.
These are strange times, indeed. My internal soundtrack is bouncing between moody Skip James, apocalyptic Blind Willie Johnson and ecstatic Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Aretha Franklin and Susan Tedeschi next, I think! The direct impact on me is up to 60 cancelled shows. Perhaps more depending on how long this all continues. We’ve been working two years toward the release of Work My Claim (March 2020) and the celebration of my 30 years on the road (a tour from late February to early July). I was a couple of weeks into the tour when we had to pull the plug.
The grim reality is lots of money invested in PR, advertising and preparation for this tour over the last year or so, and thousands lost in just weeks through cancelled shows. I have built my career on gigging. I identify as a ‘roaddog,’ if you know that expression. For me, it’s all about the face-to-face. Not only do I count on it for my livelihood, but I genuinely love it. To my way of thinking, music is all about what happens in a room with an audience. All the rest of it is just a means to get you to that room with those people. I’m old school in that way, I guess. Gigging has been the constant of my 30-year career. Now that is off the table, I’m trying to figure out a way to stay connected with my audience. They have been great before and I’m assuming we’ll find new ways to connect.
Like so many others, the strategy is to try and keep in touch via social media. I have a new Patreon page and an email list that I connect with every week or two, but I also use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
I’m filming videos of songs – deep cuts from my back catalogue, old blues songs – and beginning to post them. We’re also planning a series of live streaming concerts from my office. Additionally, I’ll be doing online guitar lessons as well. Of course, I’ll keep co-writing with my collaborators – we can do that online – and figuring out other ways to stay connected with my musician friends.
I’m not tech-phobic by any means, but I’ve never had a home studio or a live streaming set-up before. To be honest, I didn’t have time. Now I have the time and I have the need, so taking ‘baby steps’ learning how all this works and asking lots of questions. Many of my peers are way ahead of me here, but I’m kind of enjoying the process. It inspires me to think outside-the-box. We’re all being challenged to be inventive in a way we haven’t had to be before.
I don’t really have any hobbies other than guitar, songwriting and music, so those continue as part of my daily routine. I’m re-discovering reading and trying to re-learn the fine art of sitting still and being attentive to what’s around me. I’ve put the flight cases in the loft for now and have truly unpacked for the first time in I don’t know how long. Who knows what can happen? I’m also listening to my music collection again and making it a point to explore the music of other musicians, something I’ve not had the opportunity to do. I watch their videos and, in some cases, order their music. Long before thirty years ago, I loved this acoustic roots music and I’m delighted to discover I still love it not only as a player but as a listener.
Our first cancellation on arrival in Calais on, yes you guessed it, Friday 13th March was for a gig that evening in Abbeville, France. We were on a double bill with Chris Bergson and Ellis Hooks. As soon as the Eurotunnel train hit Calais I got a message from my agent saying that France’s President Macron had banned events of over 100 people. Myself, and the band, waited in Calais for a couple of hours for final confirmation that the show was off, which inevitably came and so back we went.
Slowly over the next few days, it became clear that all of my work for March, April, and May in Europe and the UK would be cancelled. I must admit this was initially a great shock. The work was some of the best I had received in France, Romania and Holland and Spain and it seemed that we’d turned a corner this year with sold-out shows in Paris and just outside Lyon.
On a more practical level – there was the money situation which is pretty nightmarish I’m sure for all musicians and indeed any creative freelancers who are living on a job by job basis without anything saved up. The next few months will be challenging to say the least and hopefully, the government will step up a bit more and help the self-employed somewhat further, and whilst I write this it looks like they will be. The one positive thing about being a professional musician is that if you’ve stuck with it and toughed it out over the years, you’re used to fighting through unexpected situations, cancellations and financial challenges that have made you stronger in the face of adversity because you have no choice if you want to carry on.
I’ve decided to use the vast amount of new free time as positively as possible to start building up my online teaching presence internationally and to try and monetise it. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for some time. I love breaking down both the legendary masters of the harmonica and writing new stuff to help with understanding different aspects of the instrument and the art of playing the music. I’ll also be writing and planning my new album. That way I’ll be on top of the overall concept, songs, artwork photography etc. when the touring kicks back in. I will also be writing some articles on blues masters of the past and also interviewing blues masters of the present for some magazine articles including Billy Branch.
I wish all my fellow musos well and look forward to catching up on the other side of this.
Longtime BM writer Mr Dave Scott AKA The Bishop gives us his Top 10 Blues.
1 – John Lee Hooker: Boogie Chillen
My love of the blues started with this 1962 classic vinyl EP, The Blues Of John Lee Hooker by the greatest all-time blues superstar. Listening to the 1948 recording changed everything forever and I became a blues aficionado for the rest of my life.
2 – John Mayall: Chicago Line
When I discovered Mayall’s debut live album, John Mayall Plays John Mayall the world of British blues and the succession of brilliant musicians in his band opened up in front of me. I can still feel the vibe of the saxophone, harmonica and guitars on Chicago Line; half a century later it remains one of the most atmospheric live blues albums of all time.
3 – Alvin Lee: The Bluest Blues
An important legacy of the British blues explosion in the 1960s was the emergence of a new breed of guitar gods led by Alvin Lee, “the fastest guitarist in the west”. Alvin was brought up listening to his dad’s collection of LeadBelly and Big Bill Broonzy records and these influences are evident in his immortal blues composition featuring George Harrison on slide.
4 – Grainne Duffy: Where I Belong
The Irish chanteuse sings with emotion and intensity, has dazzling axe skills and plays with the spirit of her legendary compatriot Rory Gallagher. Grainne’s unique blend of blues, rock, country and Celtic influences is what sets her apart and this title track from her latest album epitomises her unique talents.
5 – Brooks Williams: King Of California
This year Statesboro born, Cambridge based folk, Americana and country blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Brooks Williams celebrated 30 years as a musician with his 29th album Work My Claim. It was Dave Alvin who penned the timeless classic, King Of California but this version takes the song to a new level with the ethereal backing of mandolin and fiddles.
6 – Buddy Guy: A Few Good Years
The 2018 album The Blues Is Alive And Well proves that the most revered and influential bluesman on the planet still has what it takes at 83 years of age. Guy has released as many albums as his 50+ years in the business and thoroughly deserves the title of the most overused word in blues journalism, ‘legend’, more than any other proponent of the genre. Let’s hope he has many good years left.
7 – Giles Robson: Don’t Give Up On The Blues
The jaunty title track of this Number 1 album promotes the healing qualities of the blues, the optimistic message enhanced by Bruce Katz’ joyful and inspirational piano accompaniment. Robson is well worth his place in blues harp history as a world-class performer following his signing to Alligator Records and sensational live performances with Billy Branch.
8 – Holy Moly & The Crackers: Cocaine
This outstanding track from their Lilly EP proves that these rumbustious folk-funk-pop-rockers can play the blues as well as any band with frontman Conrad Bird both steeped in, and a leading exponent of, the genre. The EP also includes a sumptuous version of the African/American gospel song, Ain’t No Grave.
9 – Ruby Turner: Love Was Here
Ruby is one of the UK’s most popular singers and she has an impressive back catalogue of blues albums. On the title track from her 2020 release, the blues run very deep with its reflections on love and why neither party can let go. Ruby’s breathtaking vocals have virtuosic range, intensity and timbre; she is right at the top of her game.
10 – Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion: Amazon Woman
This award-winning British blues band are at last gaining the reputation they deserve with the release of the groundbreaking Chameleon album, their best yet. Amazon Woman is the ultimate road warrior song with ‘superhero’ Zoe Schwarz at the centre of this apocalyptic maelstrom, guitarist Rob Koral at her side providing the searing, slash and burn licks.