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Music Reviews

Martin, Sara -1922-1928 – [Wolf Records]

Thee Opinataur   9/22/2021   12-inch, Blues

These recordings are a mixed bag of recording quality from track to track. Some lyrics are difficult to hear clearly, some fuzzy static which adds a nice raw element to these early blues.  

This album captures a wide range of Sara Martin’s vocal capabilities, from the higher range Achin’ Hearted Blues to a deeper more sensual register in Death Sting Me Blues. While her voice is solidly classic blues, in some of these tunes, she sounds unrelaxed and a bit uptight. She is at her best when she reflects her personality which comes through in ‘Taint Nobody’s Bus’ness If I Do’ and ‘Hole in the Wall’. A couple of nice duets with Clarence Williams, I’m Cert’ny Gonna See ‘Bout That’ and ‘Squabling Blues’ brings out her sassy personality.

Sara Martin (b1884 – d1955) was a well-traveled singer on the African American Vaudeville circuit in the early 20th century. Known as the ‘colored ’ Sophie Tucker’ and The Famous Moanin’ Mama” she was signed by Okeh Records in 1922 and recorded dozens of songs accompanied by the most accomplished musicians of the day including Clarence Williams, King Oliver, and Fats Waller. – Thee Opinataur

John Mayall's Bluesbreakers – "Diary of a Band, The" – [Decca]

aarbor   5/26/2021   Blues, CD

The subtitle is “Selected highspots from sixty hours of Bluesbreakers club recordings 1967” Since the Bluesbreakers excelled live on stage Decca wanted to capture live performances. Mayall was against having recording engineers at their performances feeling that it would be too much of a strain for the band. He took a portable reel to reel tape machine to their live performances in the UK, Holland and Ireland during November and December 1967; recording each performance. Volume One showcases the band playing as well as the camaraderie between the musicians. Catch the humorous speech following Blood on the Night [1] and the insistence by a venue manager in Northern Ireland that the band play God Save the Queen [6] and their performance of it. Volume Two includes banter[6] between Chris Mercer and Keef Hartley during his drum solo and [3] a joke at the expense of Keith Tillman. AArbor

Lipscomb, Mance – “Mance Lipscomb Volume 4” – [Arhoolie Records Inc.]

mickeyslim   12/9/2020   12-inch, Blues

Navasota, Texas songster Mance Lipscomb recording once again for Arhoolie Records in Berkely. Discovered in 1960 during the blues roots discovery boom of the ’60s, Lispcomb, unlike most, had no earlier recordings. This is his fifth full-length, fourth in a series for Arhoolie. Most of his recordings, including the A-side on this release, were “live recordings” done in one session, in a single take. Extensive liner notes detail the unusual plight of Lipscomb, including his rise to fame as an important figure in the folk music revival period.

Excellent stories, raw gritty vocals. This is some top-notch, front-porch shit. Enjoy!

Bumble Bee Slim – “Bumble Bee Slim 1934-1937” – [Wolf Records]

mickeyslim   9/7/2020   12-inch, Blues

Born Amos Easton, Bumble Bee Slim helped define the sound of what would eventually become Chicago Blues. While the rural blues of the time typically featured a solo musician and their own vocals, musicians flocking to Chicago and New York would join forces, often collaborating in public jam sessions, most notably on Maxwell Street.

Here, Bumble Bee Slim’s smooth vocals seamlessly weave together the sounds of some very prominent blues musicians of the time; Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie, Scrapper Blackwell, Carl Martin, Tampa Red, and more, with everyone in top form.

Pre-war blues tastiness, very much in the Pete Dixon style. Play Mondays at 8pm, Tuesdays between 10 and 2, or anytime your heart ask for something to drown its sorrows in.

Hopkins, Lightnin’ – “Rockin’ At Herald” – [Wax Love Records]

mickeyslim   4/17/2020   12-inch, Blues


12 head-boppin’ tracks from Lighnin’ Hopkins’ Herald sessions recorded 1954 in Houston, Texas. While Hopkins was renown for his folk blues sound, this album leans toward rock ’n’ roll with Hopkins jamming on electric guitar accompanied by Donald Cooks on bass and Ben Turner on drums. A couple boogie tracks and still lots of slow, somber numbers.

As always, though, these are great tracks with great stories with virtuosic guitar playing. Lightnin’ Hopkins knows how to bring the house down. As the liner noters say, “roll back the carpet and put on your dancing shoes. This is no folk-blues session.”

Dig it.

Byrd, John & Taylor, Walter – "Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order 1929-1931" – [RST Records]

Hemroid The Leader   12/10/2019   12-inch, Blues

John Byrd & Walter Taylor (1929-1931), Complete Recordings in chronological order

18 Rare country blues. Split LP, Byrd on side A; Walter Taylor (“Washboard Walter”) on the flip. Acquired taste, low-fi stuff for completists, Mickey Slim, & Pete Dixon. From Joe Bussard’s basement collection.

A1 & A2 recall spirituals, set up with John Byrd playing guitar & sermonizing, accompanied by a singer and a few congregants. Byrd is a cool guitar player. B side is kind of pedestrian.

Jones, Tutu – "Staying Power" – [Bullseye Blues & Jazz]

humana   9/22/2019   Blues, CD

Wowza! As you’re swinging to these blues, be sure to read the liner notes about how Tutu was accomplished by the age of 20, created his first guitar by nailing his uncle’s fishing line to a board when he was a tot, and grew up with father and uncles surrounding him in the blues tradition. His wife sings backup on Track 3, and there are some soulful blues tunes on here as well (e.g. Track 8). Dallas has itself one fine shining star.

Fuller, Jesse – “San Francisco Bay Blues” – [Prestige Records Inc.]

mickeyslim   6/23/2019   12-inch, Blues

Jesse Fuller is the one-man band. Fuller plays the twelve-string guitar, has a harmonica, kazoo, and microphone in his mouth rig, and plays a series of foot pedals attached to a washboard and the fotdella (a foot-operated bass guitar), an instrument of his own invention. The washboard needed to be lubricated before being played, which, for this recording, was “provided by oil from the finest Norwegian smoked salmon, which everyone at the session (except Jesse who didn’t care for it) was consuming with relish.”

Jumpy, folk blues from this Georgia-turned-California native. Fuller was an unsung, old-school, busking style, folk blues hero. Famous for his original “San Francisco Bay Blues,” Fuller’s music influenced folk and rock legends across the globe. This release from Prestige Records is a solid classic

Henske, Judy – “The Elektra Albums” – [Ace Records]

Naysayer   2/27/2019   Blues, CD

Judy Henske is a singer of blues, folk, country and jazz. Her career was full of connections with big names: she opened for Lenny Bruce, was a regular on tv’s Hootenanny, performed on the Judy Garland show but turned down a chance to be a regular, shared the stage with Woody Allen and is the original influence for Annie Hall, oh and so much more. These two albums from 1963 and 1964 capture a highlight of her career when she tore up the nightclub and coffee house scene coast to coast. She has a brash, boisterous, powerful voice which really work the lyrics and create a tone for the selections of blues and murder ballads. She never holds back with her emotion. Powerful stuff. What is really exciting, though, is her chat before the songs. These are recorded live and the audience loves her audacious, snarky, suggestive intros to the songs. Henske is like a Lenny Bruce crooner, irreverent and stunning, not afraid to go there. A brilliant collection of an amazing singer songwriter. All Hail the other Judy.

Atlanta Blues 1927-1930 [coll] – [RST Records]

mickeyslim   2/20/2019   Blues, CD

Nothing

Nothing is known about Willie Baker, except that he would, as a child, play in Patterson, Georgia and that he may have gone to a Robert Hicks medicine show in Waycross, GA.

Charley Lincoln on the other hand, was born 3/11/1900. He performed with his brother, Robert Hicks (the same as above), professionally known as Barbecue Bob, for many years. After his mother and brother passed away, Charley became a very heavy alcoholic. He shot someone on Christmas Day 1955, and ended up going to prison. He died there of a brain hemorrhage in September 1963.

Atlanta, Georgia blues. One man, one guitar, one front porch.

Burnside, R.L. – Come On In – Fat Possum Records

mickeyslim   2/10/2019   Blues, CD

Mr. Fat Possum Records, R.L. Burnside’s houserockin’ blues. This is one of the few remaining records from this bluesman that we don’t have. For those unfamiliar, R.L. Burnside was born November 1926 in Lafayette, Mississippi, and started playing blues after hearing John Lee Hooker. He got a later start than others, but still knows how to bring the heat. Burnside helped define the sound of Fat Possum Records alongside Junior Kimbrough. His son, Cedric Burnside (who plays the drummer in the film Black Snake Moan), makes an appearance on track 4. Electric, fuzzy, scuzzy, blues.

Come on in, the water’s fine….

Pontiac, Marvin – “Legendary Marvin Pontiac,The – Greatest Hits” – [Northern Spy Records]

Naysayer   2/5/2019   Blues, CD

Marvin Pontiac was a blues singer of posthumous legendary status. Institutionalized at Esmerelda State Mental Institution, Marvin’s history is rich: only 3 photos were taken of him because of his belief that his soul would be taken by the camera, his abduction and probing by aliens, born in Mali, said to be a gifted musical genius, killed when hit by a bus, and he made some pretty great songs. The 14 songs on this recording deal with strange topics: Pontiac being a doggy, him obsessing on pancakes and rocks, him watching a fly drown in his soup. Many seem to be metaphors or puzzles into his past. They are humorous if not for the possible fact of their sickness. But wait: is this for real? Not so. Marvin Pontiac is actually John Lurie’s (Lounge Lizards) made up outsider artist. The project was” a wry and purposeful sendup of the ways in which critics canonize and worship the disenfranchised and the bedevilled” as stated in The New Yorker. Interesting considering Lurie’s own strange story written in the New Yorker about being stalked, disappearing, art and confusion. Look it up and ponder the relationship. A good, deep joke of high quality.

Rabson, Ann – “Struttin’ My Stuff” – [M.C. Records]

Naysayer   2/5/2019   Blues, CD

Ann Rabson was a blues singer, guitarist and piano player of renown in the blues world. She was recognized for her smoky voice and easy style that ran through the songs. “Struttin’ My Stuff”, Ann’s second recording, showcases both her instrumental skills and vocal excellence. Whether finger picking the songs or elegantly playing the piano, Rabson’s style is one of ease and assuredness. Her vocals are so smooth and easily carry through each song. Though she sings about many typical blues issues, her power and lightheartedness bring a unique quality to the sounds. Ann was probably a person who could hold her own: she sings about her love of whiskey and how she’s a big woman not to be messed with. Each song, whether honky tonk or Chicago blues style is a pleasure to listen to. I kept finding myself coming back to this CD over and over, for so many reasons, but mainly for it’s shear quality. A true gem.

Carthy, Martin – “an Introduction to Martin Carthy” – [Topic Records Ltd]

Naysayer   1/16/2019   Blues, CD

Martin Carthy is a British folk singer whose influence is far and wide in the world of folk and blues. Having started in the early 1960’s with the group The Three City Four, he went on to perform with Steeleye Span, members of Fairport Convention for the group Albion Country Band and also with Brass Monkey. He is known for his arrangement of the traditional tune “Scarborough Fair” which was then used by Simon And Garfunkel without acknowledgement. This collection of 17 songs, many traditional, is Carthy playing solo with his acoustic guitar. He likes to use alternative tunings and has a distinctive picking style which emphasizes the melody” of the song. Each song is a rich story, filled with passion due to the guitar work but also because of Carthy’s unique vocals. The vocals follow, add to and play with the guitar work, creating drama in the rendering of each songs tale. There are tearjerkers a plenty plus songs of humor. He is a hero of modern day bard, Richard Dawson. Just a wow of a voice and guitar playing.

Sista Monica – “Get Out My Way” – [Mo Muscle Records]

humana   1/10/2019   Blues, CD

This CD is a jewel traveling to us from 1995 and debuts the rich, hearty, nourishing voice of blues singer Sista Monica. Listen to the lyrics and you’ll learn that she moved to Santa Cruz. It’s true that her voice is an instrument, and though she is known for her blues, she stirs in elements of soul and rock and gospel (in the last song you can hear her gospel singing roots). This is a great add for our library. Sista Monica may have left the world, but her voice reverberates on.

Lester, Julius – “Dressed Like Freedom” – [BGP Records Ltd.]

Naysayer   12/5/2018   Blues, CD

Activist, poet, revolutionary blues singer, musicologist, friend of Fidel Castro, reporter of North Vietnam and so much more. Coming out of the coffee house folk scene of the late 1950’s, Lester’s trajectory followed that of the civil rights movements of many places during this time. Here is a selection of songs from the two albums he recorde. Just him and his guitar. A stunner of a vocalist with lyrics that do not hold back… these are in your face commentaries about the injustices of social conditions directed primarily toward African Americans. Songs of police attacks and profiling, economic disparity, work inequality… it could be today as much as the 1960’s and 70’s. Things don’t always change. Powerful and strong. “Stagolee” is a 13 minute epic equal in quality to Dylan'” and Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”. Brilliant, sad, depressing stuff.

If the “N” word is considered an FCC then FCC on tracks 7,11,13 and 14.

Sheridan, Eric Shoutin’ & The Uptown Rhythm Kings – “Live Show” – [Big Mo Records]

Naysayer   12/5/2018   Blues, CD

Yowsa. Eric Shoutin’ Sheridan & The Uptown Rhythm Kings are recreating a type of blues band called Honkers or Shouters that came out of the 1940’s. Horn driven, big vocals, hep cat jive stylin’ but done without kitsch. This is serious fun, recorde live at Fleetwood. Sheridan’s vocals take hold and lead the audience into rhythm frenzy with songs about dumping the wife and opening up the back door, if you know what I mean. The band is tight, with horns taking charge. A blast of fun that I could hear on any number of shows. Have fun.

Lewis, W. Furry – “Blues Magician” – [Lucky Seven]

Hemroid The Leader   11/28/2018   Blues, CD

After early success, the Depression turned him into a streetsweeper until 60s blues revival resurrected him. Recorded March ’69. Tracks left off his Fourth & Beale album. On his bed, leg off, slurring, drunk, out of tune. Blues, rags, religious, vaudeville. Recording tells a story, he’s a good show. Grows on you.
Religious:3,12. Drunk:4,8,9,12. Track 7 yodels. Mistakes:9. Track 2 ends when he gets worried the the snuff’s all gone.

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