Welcome to the first Guest Blogger post! This series dedicated sharing the knowledge and experiences of my friends and family who know a thing or two about a thing or two. Getting it started with a BANG is a friend I call Brother, Mr. Shawn Loga. He’s crafted us a killer blues mix, complete with song-by-song descriptions and lesson in what it means to have the blues. Without further ado, I give you The Blues Mix.
The Blues is the music of America. I got into the Blues, like most people these days, through Rock ‘n’ Roll. Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, The Clash- these all drove me closer and closer to their shared ancestor.
You will notice that most of these songs are a cover of this or that, or originally done by some other band. This is prevalent and common within the Blues genre, and a good cover is almost tantamount to inclusion: for example, if you never play a cover of Robert Johnson, you are NOT a bluesman. If you cannot play John Lee Hooker on command, you are NOT a bluesman.
The Blues are about sex, booze, violence, and misery. It is also about confidence, happiness, and love. The Blues are the most human of music, and emotion and passion are the root of every song. Without love and anger, without alcohol and guns and cocaine, without heartbreak and passion, there would be no Blues.
John Lee Hooker has a song titled ‘Whiskey and Wimmen.’ The opening lyrics are, “whiskey and wimmen almost wrecked my life.” “Almost” is the operative word. The Blues are founded on scratching the bottom of experience, taking the booze-soaked, tear-stained letters of last night and putting a good beat to it.
If you think this list is too long and you don’t have the time, you work too much. Sit back with a nice glass of bourbon (The Official Drink of The Blues!) and just jive. Enjoy! Below you will hear the voice of America.
*You can listen to the songs track-by-track or click here to listen to them straight through as a playlist. Track #8 is so old school its not even on youtube so if you playlist the mix you’ll have to click on that one seperately.
1. Boogie Chillen’ – John Lee Hooker: The Blues incarnate, John Lee Hooker is raw and rough and drunk and sexual. His basic approach is instantly recognizable: just a guitar, and a stomping foot for bass. If I could point to any single person as the definitive bluesman, I would point squarely at Mr. Hooker.
2. Moanin’At Midnight – Howlin’ Wolf: Another giant of the Blues, Howlin’ Wolf has a very distinct style and growl.
3. Cross Road Blues – Robert Johnson: King of the Blues, Robert Johnson gave Blues the mystic is has today. He is the apocryphal guitarist at the crossroads, ready to sell his soul to the Devil. He disappeared for years during his youth and reappeared, playing guitar like no one had ever seen before (thus giving rise to the Devil legend). Robert was given a poisoned bottle of whiskey by a jealous husband (it seems RJ was giving a certain young lady too much attention). Robert died young (27), only recording a handful of songs. Even given the scant recordings by this pioneer of Blues, he is regarded as the Father and classic originator of the Blues style.
4. Still a Fool – Muddy Waters: Along with John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters helped shaped the Blues as it is today. His distinct voice and guitar have inspired countless covers. Besides Robert Johnson, probably no other bluesman has been covered so many times. This is one of my all time favorites.
5. Numb– Gary Clark Jr.: This is the future of the Blues. The repetition in this song is reminiscent of the Mississippi Blues as made famous by Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. Heavy bass, monster guitar riffs, and repetitive vocals make this a worthy successor.
6. Can’t Be Satisfied – Scott H. Biram: A cover of the classic Muddy Waters song, this has feeling and emotion and shows what a simple backcountry blues tune can turn into over the years. Biram is a perfect example why bluesmen cannot be pigeonholed. A redneck who bleeds the muddy Delta blues.
7. Meet Me In The City – The Black Keys: This song is a cover of a Junior Kimbrough tune. It has become my favorite song of all time. It is slow and sexy, it hits hard, the passion is felt, and the listener is carried on an electric pulsing wave. Strap on your best stereophones and turn this baby up. Close your eyes and imagine the sexy lady of your dreams undressing slowly on a hot Mississippi night.
8. Travelin’Riverside Blues – Dion: This is a cover of the classic Robert Johnson song (maybe the most influential song in the history of the Blues). Dion has released three very awesome blues albums, and his simple approach is perfect. You don’t see too many old white men playing the Blues, but this guy warrants attention. This song is on Grooveshark so just follow the link and press “play”.
9. I’d Rather Go Blind – Etta James: Why? Because there are not enough women singing the Blues. Etta James is the most classic female Blues singer of all time (along with Koko Taylor – check out her version of Wang Dang Doodle). This song aches with heartbreak.
10. Baby Please Don’t Leave Me – Buddy Guy: Yet another cover of Junior Kimbrough, this song just rumbles with madness and sex. The drum-line repetition and backbone give this song its apocalyptic vibe, and then Buddy steps in to shred on the guitar. You better have a subwoofer, because this song is best listened to at a high volume while laying on the floor playing air guitar feeling the bass shake your whole body.
11. The Hunter – Albert King: A nice upbeat Blues number, often quoted by Led Zeppelin.
12. Feels So Good #1 – Junior Kimbrough: This is included as a prime example of what the Mississippi Hills Blues are, as contrasted to the Blues of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson, which are all the original Delta Blues. The gritty dirty sweaty repetitive style of the Mississippi Hills is, in my mind, much better suited for dancing and fucking and drinking.
13. Yer Blues – The Beatles: I included this for a few reasons. One, it shows how varied the Blues can be, and by a band so popular as The Beatles. Two, it is a damn good song. Go on, turn up the volume. Three, I know how much Maddie likes this song, which makes me like it even more.
14. You Shook Me – Willie Dixon: Besides Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon is probably responsible for more Blues hits than any other artist. Led Zeppelin’s first album alone had two Dixon covers on it. Dixon will be remembered for his song-writing skills more than his bass playing or singing.
15. I Believe to My Soul – Ray Charles: Better known as a Soul and R&B singer, Ray nonetheless sang the Blues better than anyone. His voice, the best in the business, was made for crying and shouting and telling women to fuck off. This is a classic example of Ray singing the Blues (listen to the backup vocals closely- they too are sung by Ray).
16. I Don’t Want To Be With Nobody But You – Joss Stone: Again, not enough women singing the Blues. This woman can sing, that’s for sure. Another modern example (along with The Black Keys and Gary Clark Jr.) of what contemporary Blues sounds like. Please ignore the awful video.
17. What Kind of Woman Is This – Buddy Guy: I included this because it sounds sufficiently different from the other Buddy song on this list, and it is a great representative of the “Chicago style” of Blues. One of my favorites.
18. Bird Without A Feather – R.L. Burnside: This is a classic song, even though it is relatively ‘new’ in the Blues genre. It hits all of the bases. Love, heartbreak, cheating, guns, murder-it’s all here.
19. Next Door Neighbor Blues – Gary Clark Jr.: You know when a song has the lyric ‘came home last night, with a pistol pointed at my head,’ it’s gonna be good. Gary Clark Jr. is keeping the Blues alive in the 21st century. Just a good foot-stomper.
20. I’m Broke – Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears: The Blues expresses whatever you’re feeling at the moment. And at the moment, I’m broke. At least I have this song to dance to.
21. Back Door Man – The Doors: A cover of a Willie Dixon song, I included this just to show the wide variety of Blues.
22. I’m Gonna Kill That Woman – John Lee Hooker: Open with Hooker, close with Hooker. This is a less-known song that, again, is a great representation of the Blues. Enjoy.