Friday, March 13, 2009

Drinkin’ Songs: Blues Edition

The blues is the music of hard times, and hard times often drive people to drink. So the blues is a rich source of drinking songs. I wasn’t about to let this week pass without sharing some of them.

Memphis Slim: When I‘ve Been Drinking

[purchase mp3, CD not available]

When people think of the blues, they tend to think of guitars and harmonicas, and of the electric sound of the classic Chicago groups. But there is also a long tradition of piano blues. Memphis Slim was one of the best blues piano players, and his music is a suitable introduction to this part of the tradition.

Floyd Dixon: Hey Bartender


Of course, the other place where the piano is prominently featured in the blues is in jump blues. Floyd Dixon is credited with bringing jump blues to the west coast. Hey Bartender is his best known song, thanks to a cover by the Blues Brothers.

Big Bill Broonzy: Good Liquor Gonna Carry Me Down

[purchase mp3. CD versions are also available, but this has the best sound quality.]

Big Bill Broonzy began his recording career in 1927, and his music came in time to represent a precious link to the earliest blues styles. He only began to be well known, however, as a result of the folk revival which began in the 1950’s. And Broonzy did not have much time to enjoy his fame; he died in 1958. His best known composition was Key to the Highway.
Broonzy was a wonderful guitar player who often worked in small ensembles, which included piano and percussion. The percussion was sometimes a washboard, played by his half brother, Washboard Sam.

Chris Thomas King: John Law Burned Down the Liquor Store


Chris Thomas King is a modern-day bluesman. He has explored the combination of blues and hip-hop. But he also shows a deep love and respect for blues traditions in his work. His next album, due out this summer, is an exploration of the musical traditions of New Orleans.

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