Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gospel Warriors

And now this Sunday's main feature!

This set was compiled by Tony Heilbut, author of the definitive books on the subject. This lp came from Elder Cliff and the careful FLAC rip is, of course, courtesy of your host Deacon KC. 

"Spanning a half century of classic performances, Gospel Warriors assembles 16 tracks from some of the church circuit's most renowned female soloists, among them Marion Williams, Bessie Griffin and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. While each vocalist is clearly a singular talent, listening to their music side by side offers real insight into their common gifts for improvisation; all are in total command of melody, tone and lyric, transcending their material to enjoy an unparalleled sense of creative freedom. An ideal introduction for new gospel listeners, the collection's highlights include Tharpe's "Just a Closer Walk with Thee," Williams' "It's Getting Late in the Evening" and Clara Ward's "Precious Lord."
Jason Ankeny AMG

Chicago Gospel Pioneers

I was always a bit dismayed at the lack of response to my rip and posting of these remarkable and rare lp's. Maybe this time around they shall fare a little better...or not....

Yes my friends it is once again Sunday morning and time for our weekly Gospel program. Today's service is brought to you by Elder Clifford and Deacon KC.

"Chicago, a gospel center for more than 50 years, thanks to the early migration of thousands of Southern blacks who turned to the church for religion, entertainment and emotional expression, has spawned and nurtured a number of great gospel singers.

``Chicago Gospel Pioneers`` features five such artists, all of them from the first generation raised on gospel: Robert Anderson, a soulful, dynamic performer who is credited with training former gospel singers Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls; Delois Barrett Campbell, known for her stellar phrasing, who reached wider audiences through her appearance in the film ``Say Amen, Somebody``; Little Lucy Smith, a singer and organist whose style combines gospel ballads with pop and light opera; Gladys Beamon Gregory, who moonlighted as a nightclub singer in the 1940s but is right at home with Baptist hymns; and Irma Gwynn, possessed of dignified but stirring contralto. All are in their 60s now, but this album, recorded in 1986 in a Chicago studio, is proof that passing years need not dim man`s spiritual vision or God-given talents."

Saturday, August 29, 2015

John Lee Hooker w/ Earl Hooker - If You Miss 'Im...I Got Him

I wanna say that I recall seeing at least one other record of these cousins playing together, but I'll be damned if I can remember what title and I don't think that I've ever had a copy of whatever it is that I'm thinking of. Anyone?

"This album is marked by the interaction between John Lee Hooker and his guitar-playing cousin Earl. Earl, who succumbed to illness in 1970, was a fine bluesman in his own right, possessing a formidable slide technique. Many are unaware that the two often performed together, and the band that accompanies John Lee here also backed Earl frequently. The opening cut, then, a slow 12-bar number called "The Hookers" is not about ladies of the evening, but rather about the gentlemen in question.

Heard here less than a year before his death, Earl still sounds frisky and versatile, often utilizing a funky wah-wah style without ever descending into the psychedelic excesses that plagued so many late-'60s electric blues albums. One of the most effective cuts is "Lonesome Mood," a low-key, one-chord stomper in the classic John Lee mold, where Earl's wah-wah guitar meshes with Johnny Walker's organ and Jefferey Carp's harmonica to create a subtly shifting, sensuously undulating web of sound over which John Lee works his hoodoo. On IF YOU MISS 'IM, John Lee definitely benefits from keeping it in the family."

H-Bomb Ferguson - Big City Blues

AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett

"Long before his 1990s re-emergence as a fright wig wearing blues star, Robert "H-Bomb" Ferguson had recorded a series of Wynonie Harris-styled jump blues singles in the '40s and '50s for a variety of labels and under various names, including several as the Cobra Kid. Although he was so close to Harris' delivery and repertoire on these sides that most critics dismissed him as an outright clone, Ferguson's booming, wink-and-a-smile voice was obviously something special. Ferguson first recorded under the moniker H-Bomb in 1951 when he signed with Savoy Records, and the name stuck. This generous 31-track collection from Rev-Ola Records includes Ferguson's Savoy tracks, as well as sides he cut for the Atlas, Prestige and Esquire labels between 1951 and 1954, and features such gems as "Rock H-Bomb Rock," "On My Way," "Preachin' the Blues," "Bookie's Blues," and his best known tune, "Good Lovin'." Discouraged with the direction of his career, Ferguson took up residence in Cincinnati, OH in 1957, where he was content to be a regional treasure (all the while experimenting with increasingly bizarre wigs and headgear) until his debut album, Wiggin' Out, was released in 1993 on Chicago's Earwig Records. The album established Ferguson as a true original in his own right, and gave the colorful singer a national stage until his death in 2006. The joy and energy obvious in these early sides makes the Harris comparisons merely academic at this point, and these are wonderful examples of late period jump blues by any measure."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup - Everything's Alright

Happy Birthday Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup.

 "Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (August 24, 1905 – March 28, 1974) was born in Forest, Mississippi. For a time he lived and worked throughout the South and Midwest as a migrant worker. He and his family returned to Mississippi in 1926. He sang gospel, then began his career as a blues singer around Clarksdale, Mississippi. As a member of the Harmonizing Four, he visited Chicago in 1939. Crudup stayed in Chicago to work as a solo musician, but barely made a living as a street singer. Record producer Lester Melrose allegedly found him while he was living in a packing crate, introduced him to Tampa Red and signed him to a recording contract with RCA Victor's Bluebird label.

He recorded with RCA in the late 1940s and with Ace Records, Checker Records and Trumpet Records in the early 1950s and toured black clubs in the South, including with Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James. He also recorded under the names Elmer James and Percy Lee Crudup. His songs "Mean Old 'Frisco Blues", "Who's Been Foolin' You" and "That's All Right" were popular in the South.

Crudup stopped recording in the 1950s, because of further battles over royalties. His last Chicago session was in 1951. His 1952-54 recording sessions for Victor were held at radio station WGST in Atlanta. He returned to recording with Fire Records and Delmark Records and touring in 1965. Sometimes labeled as "The Father of Rock and Roll", he accepted this title with some bemusement. Throughout this time Crudup worked as a laborer to augment the non-existent royalties and the small wages he received as a singer. Crudup returned to Mississippi after a dispute with Melrose over royalties, then went into bootlegging, and later moved to Virginia where he had lived and worked as a musician and laborer. In the early 1970s, two local Virginia activists, Celia Santiago and Margaret Carter, assisted him in an attempt to gain royalties he felt he was due, with little success.

From the mid-1960s, Crudup returned to bootlegging and working as an agricultural laborer, chiefly in Virginia, where he lived with his family including three sons and several of his own siblings. While he lived in relative poverty as a field laborer, he occasionally sang and supplied moonshine to a number of drinking establishments, including one called The Dew-Drop Inn, in Northampton County, for some time prior to his death from complications of heart disease and diabetes. On a 1970 trip to the United Kingdom, he recorded "Roebuck Man" with local musicians. His last professional engagements were with Bonnie Raitt.

There was some confusion as to his actual date of death because of his use of several names, including those of his siblings. He died of a heart attack in the Nassawadox hospital in Northampton County, Virginia in March 1974."

The Voices Of East Harlem - Right On Be Free

"The Voices of East Harlem was an African-American vocal ensemble of up to 20 singers, aged between 12 and 21. Founded as a community initiative in 1969, the group performed with top soul and R&B musicians and recorded four albums in the early and mid-1970s.

The group originated in an inner city action project in East Harlem, New York City, in 1969. Charles "Chuck" Griffin, founder of the East Harlem Federation Youth Association (EHFYA), and his wife Anna Quick Griffin, set up the ensemble, initially to perform in colleges and at local benefits. Their first major performance was at a benefit for Mayor John Lindsay, after which they attracted music director Bernice Cole (5 November 1921–19 November 2006), who had been a member of the Angelic Gospel Singers, to which she later returned. They also gained a manager, Jerry Brandt, who had previously worked with Sam Cooke and who persuaded the ensemble to update their material and style.

In January 1970, they performed at the "Winter Festival for Peace" at Madison Square Garden on a bill with Harry Belafonte, Richie Havens, Judy Collins, Dave Brubeck, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Rascals, Jimi Hendrix (who abandoned his performance after two numbers), and the cast of Hair. They made regular TV appearances, and recorded an album for Elektra Records, Right On Be Free, issued in 1970. The album focused on ensemble singing in a traditional black gospel style, but with secular lyrics emphasising "the power of the people", and a "soulful feel". Several of the tracks, including the title track "Right On, Be Free", were written by Chuck Griffin. Lead vocals on Right On Be Free were by Cole, Anna Griffin, Gerri Griffin, and Cynthia Sessions. The backing musicians included Richard Tee, Cornell Dupree, Chuck Rainey, and Ralph MacDonald, and the album was produced by David Rubinson. The group received a standing ovation at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival in the UK, appeared at the Apollo Theater, and performed in Ghana in February 1971 at the Soul To Soul concert."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sallie and Cora Martin - Just A Little Talk With Jesus

The final (for now) post of the Gospel Friend series so generously provided by our favorite Unky Cliff.
 
By Bob Marovich

"Sallie Martin, the Mother of Gospel Music, paved the way for those who paved the way. A no-nonsense singer, group leader, choir director, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Martin helped Thomas A. Dorsey sell his catalog of songs before going into business with Kenneth Morris in 1940 to form the Martin & Morris Music Studio.

It is in 1940, when Sallie was a member of the Martin & Morris Singers, where Just A Little Talk With Jesus, Gospel Friend’s superb twelve-year survey of Sallie Martin’s early classic recordings, begins. The 25 tracks represent the first commercially available compilation of most of Sallie’s earliest recordings.

The CD follows Sallie and her adopted daughter, Cora Brewer Martin, from their sweet singing days as part of the Sallie Martin Gospel Singers and their collaboration with the famous Echoes of Eden Choir from St. Paul Baptist Church of Los Angeles, to their duets for Capitol and Specialty Records. As such, the compilation is not only a joy to listen to, it is a mini gospel history lesson.

Although Sallie’s voice was not the most melodious pipe in the organ, she could sell a song with her honest-to-God delivery. Cora, on the other hand, was a quite gifted vocalist who so impressed Art Rupe of Specialty that he wanted her to go pop, just like Sister Wynona Carr. Cora refused, and that ended her association with Specialty Records.

There are many rare selections on the CD, including a mid-40s Martin & Morris disc that features the lively piano of Melva Williams and one of the handful of sides Sallie made for Aladdin Records with her Singers of Joy. The title track comes from a disc the group waxed with J. Earle Hines and the Goodwill Singers in 1948 for the predominantly white gospel Sacred label. All of the tracks were re-mastered from the original vinyl recordings. As usual, Per Notini and Jonas Bernholm of Gospel Friend spit shine them so the sound quality is clear."

Saturday, August 22, 2015

John Lee Hooker - That's My Story

Another of the Riverside dates, this one with jazz greats Sam Jones and Louis Hayes on board!

"Although Orrin Keepnews' Riverside Records was primarily a jazz label, the company dabbled in blues in the 1960s -- and one of the bluesmen who recorded for Riverside was John Lee Hooker. Recorded in 1960, this Keepnews-produced session came at a time when Hooker was signed to Vee-Jay. The last thing Keepnews wanted to do was emulate Hooker's electric-oriented, very amplified Vee-Jay output, which fared well among rock and R&B audiences. Keepnews had an acoustic country blues vision for the bluesman, and That's My Story favors a raw, stripped-down, bare-bones approach -- no electric guitar, no distortion, no singles aimed at rock & rollers. Over the years, Hooker fans have debated the merits of his Riverside albums. Some much prefer him in an electric setting; others applaud the rural vision that Keepnews had for him. But, truth be told, both approaches are equally valid. While many of his electric recordings are stunning, he is also well served by the rawness that Keepnews goes for on That's My Story. From the sobering "Gonna Use My Rod" (which finds Hooker warning that he will shoot anyone who fools around with his wife) to the gospel-themed "One of These Days," Hooker's performances are often compelling. Most of the time, he is joined by two jazz musicians, acoustic bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes, both Cannonball Adderley sidemen at the time. However, the blues giant is unaccompanied on a few selections, including the autobiographical title song and the overtly political "Democrat Man" (a passionate endorsement of the Democratic Party). While That's My Story falls short of essential, it is a solid, rewarding product of Hooker's association with Keepnews and Riverside Records."

John Lee Hooker - Sittin' Here Thinkin'

Another 1959 session recorded outside of his Vee Jay contract that was eventually released on Muse Records in 1979. It would appear that the session was recorded under the supervision of Fred Mendelsohn  of Savoy Records in New Jersey, but it was not issued by that label until more than 20 years after this release. I haven't been able to find any discussion of the circumstances surrounding the Muse issue or why Savoy left it on the shelf for 20 years prior. I don't see any evidence that Mendelsohn ever had any involvement with Muse, so my best guess would be that Muse licensed the recording when Joe Fields sought to expand the scope of his label.   

John Lee Hooker - The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker

Happy Birthday Mr. Hooker! There is some debate as to whether he would have been 98 or 95 (his birth year is listed as 1917, but he acknowledged he had lied about his age to join the Army and other events of his early life line up better with 1920).

This album was recorded in 1959 as a part of a series of Blues albums recorded for Riverside Records during a phase where Orrin Keepnews was doing his best to expand the label beyond Jazz  with this series and another featuring legends of New Orleans 'trad jazz'. Hooker was under contract to Vee Jay records at the time and was 'rented' to Riverside for sessions that yielded 3 LP's.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Clara Ward - In Memory of Willa Ward-Royster


"Clara Ward and the Famous Ward Singers were gospel music pioneers who, alongside great voices like Mahalia Jackson and Rosetta Tharpe, were responsible for making gospel an internationally celebrated music. The ensemble initially included Clara Ward’s mother Gertrude Ward, her sister Willa Ward-Royster, and varying other singers including powerhouse Marion Williams. The second volume in a series highlighting the important contributions of the Famous Ward Singers, this compilation does not feature all of the greatest hits such as “Surely God is Able,” but includes some of their strongest recordings made during the height of the groups’ career from 1949 to 1958.

Released in memory of Willa Ward-Royster who passed in 2012, this album includes several songs by celebrated traditional gospel composers like William H. Brewster whose writing style and influence was instrumental to the group’s success. “I’m Climbing Higher and Higher,” written in Brewster’s iconic storytelling style, highlights the mid-tempo swing and group harmony and call and response that helped define the Famous Ward Singers. While this album is filled with technically skillful, yet powerful group performances such as “Come Ye Disconsolate,” it also includes some lesser-heard but just as moving solo performances by the group’s members. For instance, Marion Williams’ “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” with organ accompaniment highlights the range, vocal agility, and expressiveness that led to her being one of the most recognizable voices in traditional gospel music. Willa Ward-Royster’s smooth yet colorful voice is most prominent in an exciting rendition of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah.” And those more interested in the warm alto of Clara Ward will be enraptured by her rubato performance of “The Day is Past and Gone.”

In Memory showcases the versatility of the group as well as a sampling of sounds that transformed African American worship music during a pivotal period in the U.S. The CD comes with a booklet that outlines a brief history of the group as well as highlights each of the ensemble members that are included on the compilation."

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Johnny Heartsman - Still Shinin'

Well everyone seems to like him and this album is yet another keeper from Mr. Heartsman. Harp player James Winnegan is a beast throughout these live recordings done mostly in the Sacramento area. Great stuff!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

KC's 45's - Charles Brimmer

Judy Clay & Marie Knight - Bluesoul Belles Vol. 4

"A monster treat for fans of female soul – rare recordings back to back, by two of the 60s greatest under-recorded voices! Judy Clay's work for the Stax label has been issued elsewhere before, but this set features 15 tunes by Judy recorded before her years at Stax – for the Scepter and LaVette labels, recorded on the east coast with a mixture of hard and uptown styles that really show a different side of her talents! Most of the tunes were originally only issued on 45s, and there's even a few on the set that were never issued during the 60s. Titles by Judy include "I'm Uptight", "Lonely People Do Foolish Things", "I'm Comin Home", "You Busted My Mind", "Your Kind Of Lovin", "Turn Back The Time", and "That's All". The remaining 10 tracks on the CD were recorded by Marie Knight around the same time – mostly for the Musicor label, with a sweeter style that's more strictly in an east coast uptown mode. Marie's vocals are still quite deeply handled, though – and the set's got some great arrangements by Garry Sherman and Bert Keyes, and tracks that include "You Lie So Well", "Hey Tell Me Boy", "A Little Too Lonely", "Say It Again", and "Comes The Night"." (Out of print.)  © 1996-2015, Dusty Groove, Inc.

Jean Knight & Barbara Lynn - Bluesoul Belles Vol. 2

 AllMusic Review by Andrew Hamilton

"Westside Records' second volume of the Blue Soul Belles series pairs Jean Knight and Barbara Lynn, a statuesque singer/guitarist from New Orleans, on 33 songs culled from Jet Stream and Tribe Records with Knight performing 19 numbers and Lynn 14. Both singers have that one big hit in common: Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff," not included but referenced on "(T'Aint It) The Truth"; ironically, Lynn's biggest hit, "You'll Lose a Good Thing," is included, but by Knight, not Lynn. Each also enjoyed a handful of smaller regional and local hits. Lynn, an accomplished songwriter, wrote much of what she sang, including three soulful up-tempo jams for the feet: "Club a Go-Go," "Movin' on a Groove," and "Disco Music." But it's the Southern/bayou blues numbers that make Lynn special (i.e., the aching "Until Then I'll Suffer"). And she sings plenty of those on this 33-song smorgasbord. Knight's song choices will please the most demanding Southern soul fan. She comes hard and real on "A Tear," "Please, Please, Please," and other tough selections like "Doggin' Me Around." The disc is more representative of Lynn's hits (though none of her Jamie sides are included) than Knight's; Knight's Stax recordings are not included and her take of "You Left the Water Running" is disappointing compared to others. But overall this is a fine collection of feminine Southern soul from two of its most persistent purveyors."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Gay Family - God Will Take Care Of You

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog.
"Ask someone to name a female gospel group from Chicago,and he or she is likely to answer, “the Caravans.”  And that makes sense, as the Caravans were one of the most popular gospel groups of all time.
But before, during, and after the Caravans were the Gay Sisters of Chicago.  Evelyn, Mildred, and Geraldine Gay (their brother Donald joined them later) defied the prevailing stereotype of the Pentecostal singer by dressing in the finest clothing and infusing hymns and gospels with harmonies performed with sweetness, precision, and that straight-outta-Chicago lyric attack.
Thanks to Per Notini and Gospel Friend Records, a collection of classic Gay Family recordings from the 1940s to the 1970s are commercially available on CD for the first time.  God Will Take Care of You, named for the Gay Sisters’ first single and biggest hit, is a roughly chronological sampling of the family’s recordings for Savoy, Decca, Rush, Song Bird, PEA, B&F, Davis, and other labels.  The CD also includes their first, and extremely rare, single, “Just A Little Talk With Jesus,” recorded in 1948 for Dolphin’s of Hollywood.
If you, like me, have heard many of these recordings before, you will be pleased to listen to them cleanly remastered and without the snap, crackle, and pop of used vinyl.  What also struck me in hearing the 27 selections in sequence is just how dominant was the jazz influence on the Gay Family’s music.  From Mildred and Geraldine’s piano styling (Geraldine was referred to as the “Errol Garner of Gospel”) to Donald’s chesty baritone, the drive of urban jazz is evident throughout.  On “I’m a Soldier,” Evelyn plays the piano as if she took lessons from Arizona Dranes.  On tracks such as “So Glad I Know” and “Heavenly Home,” it is easy to imagine that Donald and Evelyn, respectively, could easily have become successful jazz and blues singers.
Among the musicians and singers assisting the Gay Family on various selections are Jessy Dixon and the Gospel Chimes, saxophonist Ben Branch, organist Willie Webb, and violinist William Petty.  Petty has been forgotten today, but in the 1940s and 1950s, he was quite popular among gospel and classical artists alike.
Robert Sacre’s liner notes, informed by a lengthy interview with Donald Gay, are fascinating and describe a circumstance in Geraldine’s life that took me by surprise when I first heard of it, but I won’t spoil it here.  You’ll have to read it for yourself.
God Will Take Care of You is a marvelous tribute to the Gay Sisters.  It will whet appetites to learn more about the group, and hear more of their music."
Five of Five Stars

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Carol Fran & Clarence Hollimon - See There ! (1994)

AllMusic Review by Bill Dahl

The duo's Black Top encore was a slightly more focused effort than their debut. They still exhibit considerable versatility on a highly infectious dance number, "Door Poppin'," and the Louisiana-rooted "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy," and soulful remakes of Tyrone Davis's "Are You Serious" and Gladys Knight & the Pips' earthy "I Don't Want to Do Wrong," but there's a more satisfying context overall. The album was waxed in New Orleans and Texas with two entirely different bands, lending laudable variety to the selections.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Johnny Heartsman - The Touch 1991

 "Few electric bluesman have been more versatile than Johnny Heartsman, and that versatility is impossible miss on The Touch. Recorded when Heartsman was 54, this unpredictable CD finds the singer incorporating soul and funk as well as rock and jazz and playing guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, and flute. Heartsman (who shouldn't be confused with the late jazz singer Johnny Hartman) gets into a soul-minded groove on "Got to Find My Baby" and "You're so Fine," while "Attitude," "Walkin' Blues," and "Paint My Mailbox Blue" favor a hard-swinging blues/jazz approach à la Jimmy Witherspoon. Those jazz-influenced selections make it sound like Heartsman is backed by a soul-jazz organ combo, but in fact, there is no organist on this CD--rather, Heartsman uses his keyboards to emulate a Jimmy Smith/Jack McDuff type of Hammond B-3 sound. Meanwhile, instrumentals like the moody "Tongue" and the funk-drenched "Oops" illustrate his mastery of the flute; an unlikely instrument for a bluesman, to be sure. But then, certain jazz improvisers have demonstrated how funky the flute can sound -- most notably, Herbie Mann, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Hubert Laws -- and similarly, the flute sounds like a very natural, logical blues instrument in Heartsman's risk-taking hands. Superb from start to finish, The Touch makes one wish that the late Californian had done a lot more recording as a leader." Alex Henderson AMG

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Betty LaVette & Carol Fran - Bluesoul Belles Vol 1

"The stellar Bluesoul Belles spotlights Betty Lavette and Carol Fran, two of the more criminally underrated singers from soul music's mid-'60s golden era. Unearthing two dozen tracks from the Calla, Port, and Roulette vaults, many of them previously unreleased alternate takes, the set offers a persuasive argument that, while never earning the critical respect or commercial kudos of their contemporaries, both women deserve consideration alongside the greats of the period. Lavette's opening "Let Me Down Easy," a staple of the Northern soul scene and the countless anthologies it's yielded, is far and away the most recognizable cut here -- the song is her masterpiece, a blisteringly poignant requiem for romance gone bad distinguished by its unique, tangolike rhythm and sweeping string arrangement. The remaining seven tracks don't reach the same peaks, but from the Motown-inspired stomp of "What I Don't Know (Won't Hurt Me)" to the gospel-inflected "Cry Me a River," Lavette's versatility and raw power ring through loud and clear. Although Lavette receives top billing, Fran's contributions comprise fully two-thirds of the disc; best known for her latter-day blues efforts with guitarist husband Clarence Holliman, the aching beauty of her mid-'60s soul sides is revelatory. Though rooted in the blues, her crystalline vocals were nevertheless ideally suited to the uptown style and sophistication of her Port dates; the chart failure of these recordings is baffling, and in particular the remarkable "Any Day Love Walks In" merits the label of lost classic."  Jason Ankeny, AMG

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Johnny Heartsman - Sacramento

"Johnny Heartsman (February 9, 1937 – December 27, 1996) was an American electric blues and soul blues musician and songwriter. Heartsman showed musical diversity, playing a number of musical instruments, including the electric organ and flute. His distinctive guitar playing appeared on a number of 1950s and 1960s San Francisco Bay Area recordings, and he was still playing up to the time of his death.

His best known recording, "Johnny's House Party", was a R&B hit in 1957. His other better known tracks were "Paint My Mailbox Blue" and "Heartburn". He variously worked with Jimmy McCracklin, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Big Mama Thornton, Ray Agee, Jimmy Wilson, Johnny Fuller, Al King, Tiny Powell and Joe Simon.

Heartsman was born in San Fernando, California, United States. Originally influenced by Lafayette Thomas, in his teenage years Heartsman started operating as a session musician, in the studio with local record producer, Bob Geddins. One of his earliest involvements was playing the bass guitar for the 1953 recording of "Tin Pan Alley" by Jimmy Wilson. His own efforts yielded the instrumental track, "Johnny's House Party (Parts 1 & 2)" on the Music City label, which reached number 13 on the US Billboard R&B chart in June 1957. The record billed the act as 'John Heartsman, the Rhythm Rocker and the Gaylarks'.

His session work continued into the early 1960s, and he played on Tiny Powell's "My Time After Awhile", and Al King's cover version of "Reconsider Baby". Heartman's guitar playing technique involved imaginative use of the guitar's volume control, producing "an eerie moan". Heartsman's later work included playing in show bands, appearing in concert in cocktail lounge settings, and as the touring organist for Joe Simon. He spent 1970-1973 in Midland, Texas, as the houseband leader at The Chateau Club. It was here that he hired young blues guitarist and singer/songwriter Jay Boy Adams. Adams credits Heartsman as one of his musical mentors. By the late 1980s, Heartsman had reverted to playing the blues, and he released his debut album, Sacramento, in 1987. It was described by one reviewer as "a great success". He had previously appeared at the San Francisco Blues Festival in 1985. The record producer, Dick Shurman, oversaw Heartsman's The Touch, released by Alligator Records in 1991.

Over the years, Heartsman's songwriting ability saw him pen tracks for Jesse James ("Are You Gonna Leave Me"), Roy Buchanan ("Goose Grease"), John Hammond, Jr. (Got to Find My Baby"), Amos Garrett ("Move On Down The Line"), and several more for Joe Simon.

He continued his varied career before succumbing to the effects of a stroke in Sacramento, California, in December 1996, at the age of 59." wikipedia

Monday, August 3, 2015

Carl LeBlanc & Coco Robicheaux - Modern New Orleans Griots

"A griot (/ˈɡri.oʊ/; French pronunciation: ​[ɡʁi.o]), jali or jeli (djeli or djéli in French spelling) is a West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet and/or musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition and is often seen as a societal leader due to his traditional position as an adviser to royal personages. As a result of the former of these two functions, he is sometimes also called a bard. According to Paul Oliver in his book Savannah Syncopators, "Though [the griot] has to know many traditional songs without error, he must also have the ability to extemporize on current events, chance incidents and the passing scene. His wit can be devastating and his knowledge of local history formidable". Although they are popularly known as "praise singers", griots may use their vocal expertise for gossip, satire, or political comment." wiki

So I had this possibly brilliant idea that the first of these albums could put the second one into a clearer context. I have been quite fortunate in my time here in "the city that care forgot" to know both of these gentlemen. Carl I know only to chat with for a bit now and then when we run into each other. Coco I knew quite well and drank with him often enough to be treated to many a tale including some of those included on this album. I recall be doubled over in laughter by a tale of youthful fishing exploits and the mummification of said fish. He was a very talented artist as well, that bronze bust of Professor Longhair at Tipitina's is an example of his work. A treasured old Meters t-shirt I've had more than 30 years is another.

It was Carl's brilliant album, of course, that was the source of my concept here as it is he who suggested to me that the West African tradition is alive and well in our wonderful cultural gumbo called New Orleans. He explains his connection quite well on the album, the stories are New Orleans stories. Now Coco was of Cajun, American Indian, Salem Witch and Voodoo ancestry as he told it, and I choose to accept all that as the 'reality' that actually matters. There are obvious reflections of the African griot in the Native American brujos and medicine men. I'd say that Coco embraced those traditions, particularly here on his final album.

This album hasn't been particularly well received, even folks who enjoyed his earlier albums seem under whelmed, but I choose to believe that is at least in part because the album is misunderstood. Musically Dave Easley and Jim Singleton and a host of other great Nola musicians provide mesmerizing backdrops for Coco's story-songs which are equally mesmerizing for me.
"Perhaps if you were to listen a little betta..."

I would be horribly remiss if I failed to mention how proud Coco was that his daughter was responsible for the cover art and design.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

South Carolina Gospel

The Gospel Friend series continues! Thanks again to Cliff for these rare discs.

"South Carolina Gospel", Gospel Friend CD, PN-1506:

"This is a CD of black quartet gospel (13 songs) by the Original Golden Stars of Greenwood, S.C., and solo singing with a choral group (13 songs), by the exciting lead voice of Reverend Norris Turner. Here is more than 76 minutes of soulful, vibrating gospel singing from the black southern church, recorded between 1958 and 1979.

The music was originally released on local South Carolina record labels like Pitch and HSE and was then exclusively distributed in the black community. It is now reissued, for the first time, for the benefit of gospel lovers all around the world. This has been possible after the producer's visit to South Carolina in 2005 and after almost five years of research, to which some of the leading authorities of the genre have helpfully contributed."

Bob Marovich, gospel DJ, author and editor at www.theblackgospelblog.com:
"The Golden Stars' high, tight harmonies, propelled by insistent electric guitar work ... are excellent examples of how gospel quartet's influence on pop music boomeranged in the late 50s and early 1960s to bestow its parent with the street-corner rawness of rock and soul ... What the 1970s tracks demonstrate, more than anything, ist that [Norris] Turner's voice remained amazingly vibrant after more than three decades on the gospel highway ... Notini's liner notes are fascinating and informative, assisted greatly by personal reminiscenses he collected while visiting [Reverend Norris] Turner and other members of the Original Golden Stars, such as Alphonso Devlin and Rev. George Devlin... Five of Five Stars.

Chris Smith, Blues & Rhythm reviews editor:
“...this is a splendid release ... the sort of record we used to buy long ago: outstanding music by artists one was unfamiliar with, accompanied by thoroughly researched, authoritative notes ... Everything on this release is very much worth hearing ... “.