Archive | October, 2009

“Deep Sea Blues” is a Fun Ride

12 Oct


This DVD release from MicroWerks is an enjoyable exploration of the Blues Cruise phenomenon. Highlights include the searing guitar work of Michael Burks as he strolls through cruisers decked out in Hawaiian print shirts and sipping ice cold boat drinks. Taj Mahal gives a cooking demonstration and Otis Clay delivers a riveting version of OV Wright’s “Nickel and a Nail.” And you can’t help but be charmed as the one and only Bobby Rush performs a real wedding ceremony for legendary blues photographer Dick Waterman and his bride. Look for our old friend Jimbo Mathus in the bonus features. Great stuff and a must-have for blues fans & veteran blues cruisers alike. So grab your red fez and jump on board. This is next best thing to being there!

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Ray Charles is Back on the Road

2 Oct


Here’s another fine re-release by the folks at Concord Music Group. This collection is a bit of a musical road map as Brother Ray travels from state to state and burgh to burgh — musically, that is. The CD is pretty strong throughout, although I must confess I strongly prefer The Raeletts to the Anita Kerr Singers when it comes to the backing vocal choruses. That’s pretty much a no brainer if you’re under the age of 85.

There are a couple of flat tires along the way – most notably Deep in the Heart of Texas and Blue Hawaii. Ray often had the ability to elevate cheesy material with his magical interpretive prowess, yet these 2 cuts are really hard to sit through. The latter is just too closely identified with Elvis, while Texas  is a toss away novelty romp and that should have been tossed away … period.

The bonus tracks are OK and include a swinging version of Bill Monroe’s Blue Moon of Kentucky. The Beatles’ The Long and Winding Road is awkward at best and John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads is an obvious mistep. All in all the hits outweigh the misses, making this a pretty enjoyable road trip with one of the great vocal stylists of our time – or any time for that matter. Buckle up and hit the gas pedal! 

Here are some additional notes from the product description …

When Ray Charles left Atlantic Records for ABC-Paramount, his first move was to gather up a dozen vintage songs about U.S. destinations. The resulting album, The Genius Hits the Road, in turn gave Charles his first No. 1 hit, a soulful reading of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind.” The album, which also contains such travel songs as “Alabamy Bound,” “California, Here I Come,” “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “Blue Hawaii,” marked the start of Charles’ long association with producer Sid Feller and featured band longtime accompanists saxmen David “Fathead” Newman and Hank Crawford, plus the Raeletts.

A deluxe reissue of The Genius Hits the Road, augmented by six bonus tracks, digital re-mastering and new liner notes by Bill Dahl alongside original notes by Rick Ward.

“This was the first album we made together,” said late producer Feller. “(Ray) wanted to do songs either about states or cities. A lot of the material he knew himself. He’d give me some titles and then check through catalogs and publishers for other ones that had names of cities or states.”

The Genius Hits the Road was recorded in two lengthy New York recording sessions in March 1960. “Georgia On My Mind” was first on the evening’s agenda. The song’s lyricist Stuart Gorrell actually found his inspiration in Carmichael’s sister Georgia rather than the state, but the words pay tribute to either. It was Charles’ first No. 1 hit, earning him two of four Grammys that year. The album also contained a version of Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger’s “Blue Hawaii,” recorded originally for the 1937 movie Waikiki Wedding starring Bing Crosby. A year after Charles recorded it, the song became the title track to a 1961 Elvis Presley film.

The 12 songs of The Genius Hits the Road were by no means the only travel tunes Charles recorded in his ABC-Paramount tenure. The expanded edition reissue adds six more. The best known of these is Charles’ No. 1 version of Percy Mayfield’s “Hit the Road Jack,” which joins Les Brown’s “Sentimental Journey,” Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night in Georgia,” Paul McCartney’s “Long and Winding Road,” John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and Charles’ own “I Was on Georgia Time.”

The Genius Hits the Road vaulted to No. 9 on Billboard’s pop charts during a 50-week run that began in October 1960. But this particular road was just the beginning of a new journey for Brother Ray.

Great Roots Music That Is Hard to Define

2 Oct

los cent

American Horizon – Los Cenzontles with David Hidalgo & Taj Mahal Produced by Eugene Rodriguez and David Hidalgo © 2009 Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center, David Hidalgo & Taj Mahal

My friend Cary Baker of Conqueroo tipped me to this roots supergroup. I am so glad he did. The music connected with me on the very first listen and that is a rarity these days. I have long been a Los Lobos fan and enjoyed meeting David Hidalgo a couple years back. He was just as I expected him to be: friendly, soft spoken and humble. Taj Mahal is another personal favorite of mine. He’s bluesy, but his diverse talents and tastes can’t be pidgeon holed into just the blues category. You might find him fiddling up a storm or releasing a collection of Hawaiian folk tunes. He is hard to pin down and I like that in a recording artist.

This time around Hidalgo and Taj join forces with Los Cenzontles. We especially liked tracks 3, 7, and 10 on this collection. The third track is titled “Suenos” (Dreams). Track 7 is “Overtime” and track #10 is “Best of Me.” These tunes caught my attention due to their unique sound and structure. You can surely detect the blues and Mexican folk influences, but the female vocals remind one a bit of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. And that, in my book, is a good thing.

Check this one out — fans of roots and world music should love it. I did!  

This is the story of a place that is a place, but also a state of mind where people come from around the world to build their lives… to rise above. People give up what they were to become something new, believing that if you work hard you can make a better life for yourself and your children. But there are those who think they own this idea, this state of mind, this place and try to keep others out But when people believe that they and they alone hold the key to a dream is when the dream begins to die because this dream is not a birthright. It is the shared belief that working together we all rise above.

About The Band

Los Cenzontles (Nahuatl for “The Mockingbirds”) dig deep into Latino traditions to promote dignity, pride and cultural understanding. The group has pioneered revivals of Mexican roots music in California bringing traditions to new generations. The Mockingbirds now create a powerful new hybrid sound – creating a fresh Chicano voice for a new generation.

Fronting the group is the dynamic vocal dueto of Fabiola Trujillo and Lucina Rodriguez and sonero Hugo Arroyo . The Mockingbirds effortlessly mix electric bass and drums with traditional Mexican instruments – jarana, vihuela, requinto, pandero and quijada (jawbone) – creating a powerful contemporary sound infused with the gutsy soul of Mexico’s rural roots music.

The group’s core members also operate Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center in San Pablo, California. The Center has been training area youth in traditional Mexican music, dance, and crafts since 1994.