Omar Dykes is celebrating 50 years in the music business with the release of a brand new album, his first with his band, the Howlers in eight years, I’m Gone. We talk with the blues survivor about hooking back up with many of the musicians that’ve played with him over the years, his unique recording technique (no rehearsing allowed!), and the release of his first-ever career retrospective, Omar & the Howlers Essential Collection. He also tells a great story about sneaking “across the tracks” to hear the music of the blues.
Big Joe & the Dynaflows have just released their brand new CD You Can’t Keep a Big Man Down. As we find out from lead singer & drummer Big Joe Maher, the title refers to an accident he had in North Carolina where he seriously injured his back. But, through rehab and perseverance, the big man was back on his feet. The new CD is an excellent mix of originals and obscure blues covers. Icon Fetch talks with Maher about his great sidemen in the band, chumming with Delbert McClinton, and tells some great stories of working with some legendary bluesmen.
Johnny Winter is one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Yet, so little is known about him. Finally, his story can be told. In Raisin’ Cain: The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter, author Mary Lou Sullivan reminds us that Winter was a major figure in the rock n’ roll of the late Sixties and early Seventies. But, through drug addiction and misguided managerial decisions, his star faded. Sullivan spent countless hours interviewing the enigmatic guitarist. She also tracked down family members, and former musicians and girlfriends to help paint a complete picture of the legendary Texas bluesman. Icon Fetch talks with Mary Lou Sullivan about writing her labor of love.
JUST ADDED: As a bonus, we talk briefly to the man himself, Johnny Winter, on the way to a recent gig in New Hampshire. Winter, a man of few words, does tip us off to the possibility of a new Johnny Winter record in 2011.
Ohio Guitarist Kelly Richey has released eleven albums on her own label and toured extensively throughout the Midwest. Recently, she’s begun to branch out, finding new ways to use her talents, including becoming a Life Coach and forming an organization to help bring music to underprivileged schools. Icon Fetch talks to the talented blues player about her last record, Carry the Light, as well as her experience as part of the band Stealin’ Horses, who were signed to Arista Records in the Eighties. We also touch on her upcoming acoustic album and tour.
Pete Anderson spent 18 years as Dwight Yoakam’s guitarist and producer, helping spearhead the “back to basics” movement of the late Eighties. He’s also produced a wide array of artists, including Michelle Shocked, Roy Orbison, Tanya Tucker and the Meat Puppets.
He’s just released a deluxe edition of his fourth solo record, Even Things Up, which adds four bonus tracks, including a searing guest vocal from Bekka Bramlett. Icon Fetch talks with the versatile guitarist and producer about his new blues CD, some of the bands he’s worked with, and what it was like helping start a new brand of country music.
Maria Muldaur is best known for “Midnight at the Oasis,” her quirky hit from 1974. She’s led an eclectic career that’s seen her receive high praise and multiple Grammy nominations for her recent excursions into American roots music. Her latest CD, Maria Muldaur’s Garden of Joy, is a collection of jug band music reuniting her with John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful and Dave Grisman; musicians she first played with way back in the early Sixties. This latest project has just been nominated for yet another Grammy. Icon Fetch talks with the multi-faceted singer about reuniting with old friends, recording music for children, and the true story behind “Midnight at the Oasis.”
The Blues: A Very Short Introduction – Elijah Wald (Oxford University Press) book review –
This is one in a series of over 200 books covering a variety of topics, from Schizophrenia and Buddhism, to the Laws of Thermodynamics and just about everything in between; all short on page length (usually around 100 pages), and actual physical size (meant to easily fit into a purse or back pocket). Elijah Wald, author of several great books on the roots of American music, does an excellent job in “The Blues,” with a short amount of space, summing up what one musician called “nothing but a good man feeling bad.”
He divides the book into Pre-war and Modern Blues sections, and also uses the last half of the book to talk about blues’ effect on other styles, including jazz and country. One of the things that Wald has done in his other books is challenge long-held myths and beliefs. In the Blues, he asserts that the blues queens (Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, etc) were far more popular in terms of the size of their audience then the men, whom we consider as the true pioneers of blues (Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, etc).
He also cautions about pigeonholing the artists mentioned in his book as simply “blues musicians,” when in fact most of them were capable of playing many styles. This was in the age before the disc jockey, so every musician had to be able to please a wide variety of people. Finally, he draws an intriguing parallel between classic blues, which borrowed heavily from other songs, to modern day rap music, which, he ascertains, does much of the same today. Of course, it would’ve been nice to have an accompanying CD to be able to reference while reading. However, with youtube, all these artists are right at our fingertips.
While it is impossible to cover everything in the limited space provided, Wald does manage to both give an overview of the blues, as well as provide a fresh take on some of its history, making it a good read, no matter how much you think you know on the subject. –Tony Peters
Elijah Wald is the author of a new book, The Blues: A Very Short Introduction. In a little over 100 pages, he explores the history of blues, covering it’s many styles and key pioneers. He also traces its connection to other forms of music, like jazz and country. Wald has written several other music-related books, including the controversial-titled How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n’ Roll. Icon Fetch chats with the current blues professor at UCLA about his new book and more. Click below to listen to the Elijah Wald interview with Icon Fetch.
Peter Parcek – The Mathematics of Love (Vizztone) – CD review –
When most artists hit 60, their career is on the decline, but in Peter Parcek’s case, he’s just released his first national CD, the Mathematics of Love. He sets the bar pretty high with the opening track, a torrid cover of “Showbiz Blues” from Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac.
His slide guitar work is right up there with Green, and he bests the original in his meaty, distorted guitar tone. He immediately switches gears on the next cut, the brooding, acoustic title track, which Parcek penned (ironically, one of his previous jobs was as a school counselor). This isn’t your typical, run of the mill blues record. “Rollin’ With Zah” showcases some of Parcek’s best pyrotechnics. He gets help from legendary keyboardist Al Kooper on the instrumental take of Ray Charles “Busted.” To call that track a cover is somewhat misleading; the first half is faithful, but then things get way out there…it ends up turning into a psychedelic freakout.
Perhaps it comes with having soaked up so much in his years, but you can’t really peg Parcek’s guitar style: one moment, it’s straight blues, another minute, it’s rock n’ roll, still other times, he’s turning a jazz lick here and there, which keeps things interesting. It sure has taken him a long time, but with Mathematics of Love, it’s been well worth the wait. And, perhaps he’s given hope to all of us procrastinators. –Tony Peters
Teeny Tucker’s dad was the famous bluesman Tommy Tucker, who had a hit with “Hi Heeled Sneakers” back in 1964. Teeny, who stands only 5’1″, is continuing in her father’s tradition with her new release, Keep the Blues Alive. She talks with Icon Fetch about her new CD, her writing process and the true story behind the song “Old Man Magnet.” Click below for the Teeny Tucker interview.