Posts Tagged ‘Blues’

To tell the truth, I had nothing in mind this morning for the blog. I was thinking that I would be too busy plowing but we didn’t get nearly as much of a snowfall as had been anticipated. We got a few inches but most of the precipitation came in an icy rain that coated everything. Not terrible, at least at my place, like some of the scenes I have seen from where the storm dropped larger amounts of icy rain that brought down wires and trees.

So, not having to get out there early to plow I found myself wondering what to talk about this morning. I went back through the archives and came across an entry from over ten years back. It’s about a piece that is in the possession of my sister. It might be my favorite among several she has , one that I always look forward to seeing when I visit her. With the pandemic, there haven’t been any visits so I haven’t had a chance to visit this piece recently. So, I thought I ‘d share it along with a little music at the end that seems to fit, at least in my head, some of the great Son House playing his wonderful Delta blues. Take a look at Big Foot Stomp, painted around 1995. And have a good day.


Singing and Mending– Robert Gwathmey

I was looking through a book containing many of the works of the painter Robert Gwathmey when I came across an image that reminded me of a small piece that I had painted several years back. Gwathmey’s painting was titled Singing and Mending and featured, like many of his paintings, a depiction of African-American life from the rural South.

This piece had a man in overalls playing a guitar while a woman mended a piece of clothing. It was the man playing the guitar that caught my eye. Perhaps it was the overalls or the position of the guitar or the bare feet but all I could think of was a similarity in its nature to a small painting that I had painted a few years ago and which now hung on my sister’s wall. It is a little oddity, a favorite that I always look at with interest whenever I go to her place. I call it Big Foot Stomp.


It was an experimental piece, a revisiting of another earlier foray in paint when I was just starting  years before. I can’t quite recall what my initial intentions were with this piece. I remember that I laid down the splattered background with spray bottles of paint, masking the lighter center with a piece of matboard as I did the darker outer edge. But I don’t think I ever had this figure in  mind when I began to paint in that center. But I’m glad that he came out in this way.

I recall painting the head first, just laying down a silhouette of paint then trying to make something from it. I remember liking the way the dark paint seemed to pop from the lighter background, making me think this was a black man and that I wouldn’t lighten it any more. It was right as it was.

The rest is hazy in my memory except for a slip in my brushstrokes that affected the size of his feet and for the decision to leave out the parts of his clothing that would normally be visible. For me, these two elements really make this little guy special. There’s something about the white space where his clothing would be that brings a spiritual element to this piece for me, as though his playing and the rhythm of his large feet on the floor are taking him to a place beyond the here and now. I think the way he rests in the splattered background enhances this.

I’ve never painted another piece like this. Maybe he was just meant to be one of a kind. He certainly feels that way. But at least in the Gwathmey piece I have found a spiritual relative to this lone guitar player.

Here’s Son House (1902-1988) and his Levee Camp Blues. House influence on the blues and, by extension, rock music, is huge. He is often cited as an influence on two other giant influencers, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. It don’t get much more real than that.

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This is a new piece, Walking Blues, that is headed to the West End Gallery for the annual Little Gems exhibit, which opens on Friday, February 7. As I have mentioned here before, the Little Gems show occupies a special place in my heart. The 1995 show was the first time my work was ever shown to anyone outside of my family and a very few friends.

It was a life changer for me, the first real big step in moving from what felt like an old life into a new and altogether different life.

And it felt like that at the time. It was abundantly evident for me. It wasn’t one of those things that happens without you really feeling the gravity of what is taking place. I didn’t know where this path would lead me or if I could even stay on it for long. But I knew it was a new path that had, if I was willing to really commit and work for it, the potential to change my life in some way.

And it has.

While this coming show is actually my 26th Little Gems show, it marks 25 full years of doing this, of transforming my feelings into paint, embedding thought into material. Standing at that first one back in 1995, anxiously watching to see if anyone even looked at my work let alone showed interest, there was no idea that it would lead here.

Like so many things, I just didn’t know.

But I am glad for it. And thankful.

Hopefully, I will be reminiscing about that first show on the occasion of my 50th Little Gems exhibit, 25 years (well, actually 24 years) from now.

I don’t know but we’ll see.

Here’s a version of the great blues classic, Walkin’ Blues, whose title I pinched for this painting. It originally recorded by the legendary Robert Johnson but I thought this very unique performance by contemporary bluesman Guy Davis amidst the stark beauty of the snow and ice of Uummannaq, Greenland, 369 miles north of the Arctic Circle fit this little gem of a painting pretty well.

Have a good day.

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Daylight Savings Time! Woke up late this morning so I am hustling around trying to get to a piece on the easel that has been gnawing at me overnight. I just realized yesterday that in all the time I’ve been doing his blog and sharing some of my favorite music I hadn’t played  any Jimmy Reed, the late great bluesman. Going to rectify that today. I came across his albums when I was teen and some of his songs from the 50’s and early 60’s remain among my faves including Big Boss Man (You ain’t so big/ You just tall That’s all), Baby What You Want Me to Do ( You got me runnin’/ You got me hidin’), Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby, and the song I’m sharing below, Bright Lights Big City.

Thought the painting above might fit. It’s fairly new and is one that I am still taking in mentally. There’s a lot going on and I thought the idea of being taken in by the movement and bright lights of the big city as one approaches it was a nice complement to the song.

Take a listen, give a look and have a good day.

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It’s a dark, damp day here that seems to sap the color out of the forest around the studio. All grays and browns and pale washed out greens.

It very much feels like the blues. The music, not the color.

I’ve got much to do today so I’m going to share a video that shows many of the works from one of my favorite painters, Charles Burchfield, set to the sound of one of my favorite Miles Davis songs, Blue in Green.

It’s a fitting song for a day like the one outside my studio windows.

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bb_king_lucille-4Times continually passes on and takes some of our friends along with it as it goes.  Thursday,  that friend was the great BB King.  He was the ambassador and face of the blues for the last half century, a genial presence who crossed over into the mainstream yet maintained the same intensity and integrity as when he was carving out his legend in the 1950’s playing clubs across the country as he toured almost non-stop.

By the time I was in my teens, he had transcended the blues and was part of popular culture.  The Thrill Is Gone was a mainstream hit, winning him a Grammy in 1970, and he maintained a visibility on the television, always accompanied by Lucille, his black Gibson guitar which has become probably the only guitar that most people can recognize by name.   And if they didn’t know her name they most likely knew the sound of her voice. Everybody knew who BB King was.

But my real introduction to BB King came when I was going through the used bin at a local record shop and found a  beat up copy  of  his Live at the Regal Theater from a show in Chicago in late 1964.  It was well worn as though whoever had owned it before had played the hell out of it.  From the second the needle on my turntable snapped into the groove, I understood why  that was so.

Pure electric, a perfect storm of time, place and people made every moment of that record crackle.  One listen and you knew it was about as good as it gets.  I still get shivers when I hear it.

So to honor the passing of our friend, this Sunday’s music is a song that was a favorite of that Regal Theater crowd (and mine as well), How Blue Can You Get?  But the performance I am showing is from a different venue.  It’s from a Thanksgiving show in 1972 from NY’s Sing Sing Prison with BB King, The Voices of East Harlem and Joan Baez.  I think this is a great version of the song and seeing the inmates respond really adds something to it.

So, give a listen to our friend and have yourself a great Sunday.

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GC Myers- Song of Searching smSunday morning.  Time for some music to fit the mood of the early day.  It feels kind of bluesy today but in a quiet way, typical for many Sunday mornings.  I immediately go to my default guy, John Lee Hooker and his 1991 collaboration, from his album Mr. Lucky,  with another favorite, Van Morrison.  The song is titled I Cover the Waterfront. While it shares a title, this song is not to be confused with the more well known song from the 30’s, most famously covered by the great Billie Holiday with a version that is also a fave of mine.  I’m sure Holiday’s version influenced Hooker’s song if only in setting the emotional tone and pace.

Both are beautiful in their own ways.  What the hell, I’ll put up both versions.  Hope one of these sets the tone for a cool and easy Sunday for you.

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GC Myers- Early Blues Study in wc and markerI love to watch the hands of guitarists or pianists when they are playing.  Maybe it’s just a desirous envy for a talent and dexterity that I will never attain or maybe it’s just the particular rhythm of the two hands working to create this sound that has a harmony and  life of its own.  I don’t really know but whenever I see films of piano or guitar players I am mesmerized.

I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan at a show in Utica, NY  back in  1986, I believe.  It was a great show although the quality of the sound was not great, poorly mixed with a lot of distortion.  From what I understand, this wasn’t uncommon for SRV shows.  I just wish we had better seats to better see his playing hands.

I came across this video on YouTube of Stevie Ray Vaughan playing acoustically for a French interview from 1982.  It’s shot in just the way I like, with the hands highlighted in a way that shows their syncopated dance.  Just wish it were longer.

PS–The image at the top is an older oddity, an experiment from the mid-90’s, painted in watercolor and a Sharpie marker.  The figure was a simplified and stylized representation of the way in which the figures from my early Exiles series were painted, composed from blocks of color.  It was never meant to be seen outside my studio but I like this for some reason …

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John Lee HookerI have been listening to my young friend Michael Mattice‘s debut CD, Comin’ Home,  quite a bit lately.  It’s been really well received, putting him regularly near the top of the “hot releases” in acoustic blues list from Amazon.  The mp3 album has been as high as #18 on their top 100 and currently sits at #84 in acoustic blues.  A really prodigious start for a self-produced album with no real promotion outside of the word of mouth created by Mike’s shows.   Like I said here before,  based not on sheer talent (of which he has loads) but on his devotion and drive, I see big things for him.

But the point of this is that listening to Mike brought me back to one of my first musical loves, the late blues great  John Lee Hooker.  Oh, I had favorite bands and songs but it was John Lee who I felt first spoke to me directly.  I remember coming across an old beaten up copy of one of his albums from the 50’s when i was in my teens.  It was a revelation, a sonic slap in the face with distorted electric wails coming from his guitar, all in a mesmerizing rhythm.

I didn’t know anything about the man at the time, didn’t know that he couldn’t read or his place in the history of the blues.  Didn’t even know of his rebirth a few years before my finding his album as a result of the British Invasion of the 1960’s, when youngs Brits discovered and brought the music of the great bluesmen to the world’s attention, giving them new and greater fame than they had had in their primes.

None of that mattered.  It was just the groove on that album that counted.

I found and listened to more of John Lee’s music over the years.  I was intrigued by the constancy of much of  it, the driving rhythm that is his signature which pervades most of his work.  Some might call it repetition.  I didn’t see it that way.  It was all about nuance and subtle explorations within the form and performance.  You know a John Lee Hooker song immediately but each is different and carries its own weight and emotion.

I carried that thought with me when I began painting and hoped that my work would operate in that same way.  I wanted to have that repetitive quality so that the work would be easily identified as mine but to have the differentiation  occur in the individual performance of the act of  painting.  By limiting what I painted I was able to go deeper into an exploration of the subtle aspects of the composition.  They sometime looked similar but were often widely different in tone and emotion.

When it works I feel like John Lee Hooker must have when he was in his groove.  One of my favorite lines from one of his albums, I believe it was a live set from Soledad Prison, was- “If you can’t dig this, you got a hole in your soul… and that ain’t good

Here’s a video from the 60’s when he was in midst of being found by the youth around the world.  It’s one of his trademark songs, Boom Boom.

Late addition: Here’s the song from Soledad Prison– Boogie Everywhere I Go. Be careful– it’s a deep groove.


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