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Posts Tagged ‘Blues’

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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