ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE BLUES| From ‘Hey Now’ to ‘Israelites,’ Not to Mention Janis Joplin’s Showstopping Version of ‘To Love Somebody’
For years I sent out an end-of-the-year compilation of music. I am going to write about some of these mixes and also sprinkle in some contemporary radio shows from KOTO (One Step Ahead of the Blues airs every other Wednesday from 3-5 p.m., and my next show is Wednesday, April 30).
The first annual compilation I made was in 2000. The first song on that 2000 collection was The Meters’ “Cabbage Alley,” from their 1972 record of the same name. The Meters hail from New Orleans, and from 1968 to 1977, laid down some of the greasiest grooves ever put onto wax. To me, they are the progenitors of funk and they need to be put into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. If Heart can get in… don’t get me started.
In 2000, I was living in Baton Rouge, La., and was enthralled with the music of the Mississippi Hill Country. R.L. Burnside’s “Don’t You Let My Baby Ride” appeared on RL’s 1998 release Come on In, my favorite of all of his records. It was produced by Tom Rothrock, the second of Rothrock’s collaborations with R.L., following 1997’s Mr. Wizard. Rothrock is best known for producing Beck’s mid-90s classic Odelay.
Come on In infuses hip-hop with R.L.’s hill country blues to great effect. I could not, and still cannot, get enough of this record. It’s Bad You Know appears on my 2001 compilation (it was also featured on the Soprano,s and released on one of their collections).
The North Mississippi Allstars debut record Shake Hands with Shorty was another instant classic for me at the time. “Poor Black Maddie” is one of the many great Burnside covers on that Fat Possum Records release.
The North Mississippi Allstars are right near the top of the list of my favorite bands playing today. Luther Dickinson is a guitar wizard. I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of guitarists play live and Luther does things with a guitar that I have never seen. Luther plays cigar boxes and all manner of homemade instruments. He is amazing. I saw The Allstars last year and they are still bring the heat. They were touring without longtime bass player Chris Chew, who was replaced by Lightnin’ Malcolm on bass. While the big man was missed, Malcolm was fantastic.
The band’s recent album World Boogie Is Coming was one of my favorite albums of 2013. It is by far their best record. I’ll write about it in another column.
The North Mississippi Allstars recently recorded a fantastic 40-minute set for the radio program Live from the Divide in Bozeman, Mont. You can stream it here (you really should check this out; no, I’m serious. It is awesome).
Janis Joplin covers Barry and Robin Gibb’s “To Love Somebody” on this compilation. The song was written in 1967 for Otis Redding, but Redding died in December of that year, before he could record it. The song has been covered by many, many artists, but Janis’s version is my favorite. In light of her well-known romantic struggles, her delivery of the lyrics “you don’t know what it’s like to love somebody, the way I love you” is heartbreaking.
“Been Gone too Long” is a song that was recorded by The Hourglass, one of Gregg and Duane Allman’s early groups. They recorded two records in 1967 and 1968 out in L.A., neither of which is included this amazing song. It only appeared on Duane Allman, an Anthology, Vol. 2. Both of the Duane Allman Anthology records are must-listens and include music by B.B. King, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and more. One final note on The Hourglass, famed Muscle Shoals producer Johhny Sandlin (producer of Widespread Panic’s second and third records) played drums for the band.
Alvin Youngblood Hart delivers a fantastic cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile.” I have already written about Alvin, so I’ll just say see him when you can and leave it at that. I saw Alvin play with Luther Dickinson a few years back at the Maple Leaf as part of Johnny Vidocovich’s famed “Trio” sessions that the drummer leads on Thursday nights at that legendary haunt in uptown New Orleans. It remains one of the greatest nights of music I’ve witnessed with only 80 other people.
Around the time of this compilation, The House of Blues released a five-disc Box Set called This Ain’t No Tribute Blues Cube, a series of Blues covers of the music of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton. “Moonlight Mile” comes off the Stones’ Tribute. This is a top-notch collection.
Ted Hawkins was a street performer who played music on the sidewalks of Venice Beach, Calif. (when not touring in Europe, where he had a healthy following). He set up on a milk carton and put a tip jar out and played soul music on acoustic guitar to throngs of amazed folks who wondered what a guy with that kind of talent was doing singing for tips on the streets. David Geffen discovered him there and signed him to his record label. His first record for Geffen, The Next Hundred Years, is a masterpiece, and Hawkins appeared ready for mainstream fame. Sadly, he died of a stroke shortly after recording the record. The song “Biloxi” is a cover of a Jesse Winchester tune (who sadly died last week). Jimmy Buffett also recorded it. But Hawkins’ owns it, which would make sense, as he was born in Biloxi. Listen to when he sings, “Oh they look like fishes in the ocean…” If that doesn’t give you goose bumps, this might not be the right column for you. Enjoy the music and stay one step ahead of the blues.
01 Hey NowThe Meters
02 Will It Go ‘Round in Circles Billy Preston
03 Where Was You at War
04 Get Out My Life Woman Lee Dorsey
05 Don’t You Let My Baby RideRL Burnside
06 Poor Back Maddie North Mississippi Allstars
07 La la for YouAl Green
08 Chunk a FunkSantana
09 To Love SomebodyJanis Joplin
10 Been Gone Too LongThe Hourglass
11 Moonlight MileAlvin Youngblood Hart
13 Big BrotherStevie Wonder
14 BiloxiTed Hawkins
15 Too Much for MeJJ Cale
16 All Your WayMorphine
17Slippery PeopleTalking Heads
18 Lonely Town, Lonely Streets Bill Withers
19 IsrealitesDesmond Dekker
Geoff Hanson’s “One Step Ahead of the Blues” radio show airs on KOTO-FM radio, in Telluride, on alternating Wednesdays, 3-5 p.m. This show airs Wed., April 30.
Category: One Step Ahead of the Blues