I just spent three very happy days at Joyride Studios here in Chicago with my friends Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials. In about 18 hours, they recorded 16 songs full of their trademark raw energy, driving grooves, stinging slide guitar and Ed’s rough and ready vocals. Almost all the songs were cut in one or two takes, which is all that’s necessary when a band has been together with the same personnel for 27 years. The new album (still unnamed) should be out in September.
In early May I returned to Memphis for the Blues Music Awards. The series of events are a blues fan’s paradise, with the Hall of Fame inductions on Wednesday, the gala six-hour awards show featuring about 30 performances on Thursday, and jams and showcases up and down Beale Street on Friday and Saturday. Three of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees have outstanding albums on Alligator –Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Jimmy Johnson and Elvin Bishop. This year’s Hall of Fame ceremony was held in a beautiful new theatre, and included excellent audio-visual presentations about every winner. (Kudos to new Blues Foundation chief Barbara Newman for making this event even better than in the past.) The next night at the Convention Center, Alligator’s own Shemekia Copeland won the much-deserved Blues Music Award for Contemporary Blues Female Artist. You can find all the Blues Music Award winners and Hall of Fame inductees at www.blues.org.
Moreland & Arbuckle’s new Alligator release, Promised Land Or Bust, is winning rave reviews. AllMusic describes it as “rowdy, soulful and infectious…their energy, rawness and virtuosic instrumental skill are matched by their songwriting.” These heartland roots rockers will be touring all summer long, traveling back and forth between the U.S., the U.K. and Europe. Miss them at your own risk!
Speaking of touring, award-winning soul man Curtis Salgado is on a massive summer-long tour that’s taking him from the Pacific Northwest all the way to the East Coast. Curtis is showcasing the songs from his brand new album, The Beautiful Lowdown. Like the album, Curtis’ powerful shows are packed with joyful R&B, steamy soul and tough blues.
Just about the time you read this, we’ll be issuing The Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection, a double CD set (two for the price of one) that presents 158 minutes of our Genuine Houserockin’ Music from the last four and a half decades. It’s a great gift for any blues fan (including you). It includes tracks by our best-loved stars, our ‘next generation’ artists, and some gems from the archives that you might have missed, all lovingly remastered to bring out every houserockin’ nuance.
Sadly, my friend Lonnie Mack, the groundbreaking blues rocker, died in late April. Lonnie was a thrilling guitarist with amazing chops, capable of searing string bends and astounding speed, but always delivered with deep emotion. He was also an immensely soulful singer. Armed with his Gibson Flying V guitar, Lonnie was the first true blues-rock guitar hero, his signature sound and style announced by his groundbreaking 1963 singles Memphis and Wham! His music melded the blues, R&B, country and rock ‘n’ roll that he heard growing up. (What other artist would name Bobby Bland and George Jones as primary vocal influences, and Merle Travis and Robert Ward as his guitar inspirations?)
Lonnie cut three albums for Alligator in the 1980s, including Strike Like Lightning, produced and with guest appearances by his #1 fan, Stevie Ray Vaughan. That album and Live! – Attack of the Killer V are among the most exciting records on the label.
I also wanted to note the passing of Aron Burton, one of Chicago’s finest bass players. Aron was playing with Luther Allison back in 1969 when I began my career by bringing Luther to my college in Wisconsin. In the late ‘70s, he and Casey Jones were co-leading a band that Dick Shurman and I chose to back Albert Collins on his Ice Pickin’ album. They enjoyed playing together so much that Albert took them on the road, and Aron was the first to call them The Icebreakers. Aron was one of the solidest bassmen I ever recorded, and always the nicest of men. He will be missed.
More next time,