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Zharth's Music Log

Week 9: Slow Blues

Preface: If my soul was a song, it would be a slow blues, probably in a minor key. Rock was first to open my ears to the power of music, but even then, I was drawn toward the bluesier elements of the rock world. Peter Green once said that "all faster tunes are rock 'n' roll songs. The blues has always been the slower tunes." Son House said, "the real, old blues don't call for no jumping. If you go to jumping, that ain't the blues." Uptempo songs that get you jumping and clapping aren't true blues. It's the slow, weeping songs - that's the blues.

Monday (9/17/07): Led Zeppelin - Since I've Been Loving You [The Song Remains The Same, recorded live 1973]
Comments: This is the song that convinced me to become a guitarist. Other songs inspired me, but this song got my feet moving toward the guitar shop to pick out my first axe. Jimmy Page's guitar just oozes pain on this song. The inspired intro is out of this world. The image of Led Zeppelin playing this song on that stage has been burned into my mind, and represents the epitome of rock 'cool', for me. It doesn't surprise me that it's a slow blues song.

Tuesday (9/18/07): Ten Years After - Help Me [Live At The Fillmore East, recorded live 1970]
Comments: Originally a blues by Sonny Boy Williamson, Booker T & The MG's ditched the lyrics and sped it up for their hit instrumental Green Onions. Alvin Lee slows it back down on Ten Years After's first album, and dishes it out on subsequent live albums. The Recorded Live version is equally impressive (best reading of the line "I might mop the floor" ever), but this version from the recently released Fillmore concert features a rampaging guitar solo unmatched in length anywhere else. The atmosphere and dynamics on TYA's version of this blues are incredible.

Wednesday (9/19/07): Johnny Winter - It's My Own Fault [Live Johnny Winter And, 1971]
Comments: Johnny Winter, albino bluesman, adopts this soulful B.B. King blues, making it his live staple. Johnny simultaneously tackles vocals and lead guitar, like any blues virtuoso, but with a fire and fluidity that's hard to match. As if that weren't enough, Rick Derringer (member of Johnny's "And" band) contributes his own blues licks to complement and compete with Johnny's guitar. The result is a deliciously plodding slow blues which holds the mood for a good 12 minutes or so.

Thursday (9/20/07): Jimi Hendrix - Once I Had A Woman [Blues]
Comments: 'Blues' is not a true Jimi Hendrix album - it's one of those post-humous compilations, as far as I know. I don't even know where or when all the tracks come from, but what I do know is this - 'Blues' is, pound-for-pound, Jimi Hendrix's greatest guitar work on one disc. Obviously in a blues context. And my favorite track from the disc is Once I Had A Woman, a wallowing slow blues that may not be as flashy as Red House, but is every bit as passionate (if not more so).

Friday (9/21/07): Boz Scaggs (with Duane Allman) - Loan Me A Dime [Boz Scaggs, 1969]
Comments: Before you say "Boz Scaggs?", let me inform you that this track includes Duane Allman, the legendary guitarist who, before dying by motorcycle accident in 1971, not only made a name for himself in the Allman Brothers Band, but also helped make Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs the best album of Eric Clapton's career. Here he lends his genius to this aching slow blues, originally by Fenton Robinson (despite Boz' songwriting credits, I understand).

Saturday (9/22/07): Peter Green - A Fool No More [In The Skies, 1979]
Comments: Peter Green makes a temporary comeback at the end of the seventies, after a decade of confusion following the founding of the original Fleetwood Mac in the late sixties. He re-records one of his more depressing blues from the Fleetwood Mac days, this time with even more despair, after enduring years of psychological trauma accompanied by shock treatment. Once upon a time, in reference to Green's position as Eric Clapton's replacement in the Bluesbreakers in 1966, and the pressure of filling Clapton's shoes (a feat Green accomplished with room to spare), he said, "the applause I got when playing fast, this is nothing; it is something I used to do...when things weren't going too well, but it isn't any good. I like to play slowly and feel every note - it comes from every part of my body."

Sunday (9/23/07): Roy Buchanan - Roy's Bluz [American Axe: Live In 1974, 1974]
Comments: Roy Buchanan is one of the greatest guitarists to have ever lived, despite his unfortunate lack of popularity. His technique was as unique as it was innovative, and the emotive soul in his playing has never been equalled. A simple man with an extraordinary talent, who never "made it" in the business, and wound up dead in a jail cell after a night of drinking (suicide, or police brutality?). That, more or less, is the story of Roy's Bluz. "I think the lonely thing is kind of born inside of a person. That's what makes him play. Your soul seems to be completely someplace else from other people, lonesome people. My dad used to call it 'the blues'. I think he was right."