A Blues Sampling...
Someone once observed that bikers like a lot of things that begin with the letter "B": beer, barbecue, the color black, babes (sorry ladies), and of course, baggers. One could add to that the blues. The blues could be a reason why we ride or a reason to ride. We'd like to think it's the latter, because the chord progressions of the blues serve as the basis for so many great rock 'N' roll songs from groups like the Stones and The Allman Brothers to Thorogood and Zeppelin. And by its very nature, the blues is traveling music and always has been since those first early bluesmen began traveling up from The Delta to Memphis and Chicago. The road and traveling are essential recurring themes in innumerable classic blues songs, and in that we motorcyclists have something in common. For the most part, blues aficionados usually have the requisite Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf tracks ready to go or loaded into their sound devices. So here's a sampling of a few lesser-known but equally as potent blues releases that make for excellent riding tunes, whether you're cruising Highway 49 or Highway 1.
Have Blues Will Travel
Joe Kubeck & Bnois King
Joe Kubek and Bnois King ought to be playing every biker event across the country because they create some great houserockin' music. Let's face it, how many times does one really need to hear "Sweet Home Alabama" or "Born to Be Wild"? As classic as those songs are, they get kinda boring after a while. Kudos to those event organizers who seek to bring a little something different to the mix, which is exactly what these two dudes do. They deliver the goods: smokin' guitar solos, soulful vocals, and a rockin' back beat straight out of a Texas roadhouse. The CD ought to come with its own barbecue sauce, because these guys serve up the meat. Kubek, from Texas by way of Pennsylvania, and King, from Delhi, Louisiana, met up along the way and things jelled to the point where they began attracting lots of attention. Despite doing a hundred or so worldwide dates a year, the word is still spreading. Have Blues Will Travel is actually their 14th album (their second for Alligator-a label rich in this stuff) and looks to be the one to put them over the top. The album is full of rollicking stories and characters learned from a life spent on the road-perfect traveling music when accompanied by the sound of exhaust pipes.
Wheels represent ratings from 1 to 5 (best).
New Used Car
In my book, any woman who can strap on a guitar and play the blues is a contender for the Biker Music Hall of Fame. Susan Tedeschi and Bonnie Raitt are two favorites that come to mind, but Ottawa, Canada's, Sue Foley makes a welcome addition to the Women Who Rock contingent. The official bio describes Sue's early affection for Rolling Stones records as being a prime motivator. But it was attending a concert by blues great James Cotton at the tender age of 15 that inspired her to play guitar. Eventually, she moved to Austin, Texas-a Mecca for music lovers-to become a true practitioner of the blues.
Not content to sing drippy pop songs about long lost loves, this girl gets her vengeance from electrified guitar solos. Though blues purists may complain, Sue is a legitimate blues performer. She's obviously not a girly girl, but that's not to say her voice lacks passion. She easily switches from being vulnerable to pissed off throughout 2006's New Used Car, which was surprisingly her 10th album. I guess we have some catching up to do. Along with the album's title track, "Absolution," "Change Your Mind," and "When I Come Back To Ya," are superb standouts. It's an honest effort and one upon which she continues to build an ever-growing legion of fans. Perhaps a more aggressive marketing effort by her label based in, of all places, Germany, would lead to her becoming a household name. In any case, Sue is a treasure of the blues scene and one hopes she'll keep cranking out albums like this one. We'll be listening.
The legendary Son Seals lived the life of many other famous bluesmen, including all the fame, ambition, and tragedy parts. Even his path to a recording contract followed the trail of many who had gone before him. After migrating to Chicago in the early '60s, he was discovered in a bar on the south side and soon began an illustrious recording career. Signed to Alligator records in 1973, he would go on to record eight albums, songs from which are represented on this compilation Deluxe Edition, which was released in 2002. Thankfully the label resisted the all-too-common urge to call this a Greatest Hits, but it actually does offer up some of his greatest performances. "Bad Axe," "Landlord at My Door," "I Can't Hold Out," and "Hot Sauce" are required listening.
His bio details that Son Seals' dad operated a juke joint in Osceola, Arkansas, called the Dipsy Doodle Club, whose stage was frequented by the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Nighthawk, and Albert King. It was in this nurturing environment that Son Seals learned his craft, first on drums and then guitar.
Near the end of his brilliant career, Son Seals survived a gunshot wound and a leg amputation, performing all the while. This reviewer recalls catching him many years ago in a club on Printer's Alley in Nashville where he delivered a performance to a seemingly indifferent crowd that, in the end, lit up the entire joint and had everyone bouncing off the floor. But it was Chicago that he called home, and he finally succumbed to the grim reaper in 2004 from complications due to diabetes. Deluxe Edition stands as an ongoing testament to his legacy. And if you like this one, we recommend you explore the rest of his catalog from which these tracks were culled. It's good stuff for endless hours of highway contemplation.
Rock With Me Tonight
J.B. Hutto & The New Hawks
As mentioned previously, we motorcyclists can all relate to migration from one place to another. That's why we ride-for both fun and to see what's over the next hill and 'round the bend. For many, it's a form of escape and freedom. Bluesmen from the '40s and '50s also migrated to escape miserable living conditions and/or to pursue dreams. J.B. Hutto left Augusta, Georgia, bound for Chicago in the mid '40s. While he didn't travel by motorcycle, the sentiments and themes expressed in his musical legacy are surprisingly relevant to bikers. He learned a craft, slide guitar, and perfected his own persona. He had a penchant for flashy dress and wore all sorts of strange headgear. But he preferred to let his slide guitar playing do the talking. His guitar was something unique, a Montgomery Wards' "Airline Res-O-Glas" (fiberglass) model, also made famous by Jack White of the White Stripes.
Originally entitled Slippin' and Slidin', the reissued Rock With Me Tonight is a rough-and-tumble revisit with the blues that will leave you marveling at how Mr. Hutto could have escaped massive media attention. It's one big brawling bar fight of an album; Chicago blues at its finest. The band works its way through "Somebody Loan Me A Dime," "Pretty Baby," "I'm Leaving You," and others, all the while summoning up the ghosts of Muddy Waters, Elmore James (J.B.'s biggest influence), Howlin' Wolf, and Hound Dog Taylor (J.B. inherited his backup band) along the way. It's riding music at its finest, which will have you grinning and dancing on your seat. J.B. would approve. Sadly, J.B. Hutto passed away in the mid '80s, which makes the songs on this album living breathing monuments to his art. The next time you need a shot of the blues, take this out for a testdrive.