What''s Up, Chuck?
Green Roots, Blues Roots--Live Celtic soul meets recorded Delta soul.
Thursday, February 26, 1998
In terms of touring roots-type bands this week, it''s kind of slow around town. But that''s cool, because there are a couple of CDs I''ve been jonesing to tell you about.
But first things first.
If you''re into reasonably traditional Celtic music, you won''t want to miss Anam''s performance.
One of the biggest Celtic sensations in the last few years, on both sides of the Atlantic, has been the trad/fusion band Altan, and there are critics who are making favorable comparisons between Altan and Anam. With so many similarities, it''s difficult not to make comparisons: They both have fairly young band members, they both draw heavily on traditional roots, and they both have the ability to alternate between party jig/reel mode and an ethereal sound that could come straight from fairyland. If there''s a difference, it''s that Altan is somehow both earthier and more soulful, with Anam achieving a lighter sound at both ends of the spectrum. But that may be a function of age; Altan is many albums old, while Anam is currently on tour in support of their third release, First Footing.
At any rate, Anam''s music is rich enough to satisfy ''most any Irish music aficionado, from hardened traditionalist to those who are just getting into the music. The quartet--Brian o hEadhra, Aimee Leonard, Treasa Harkin, and Neil Davey--offer soulful vocals accompanied by a variety of traditional instruments including bodhran, button accordion, tin whistle and guitar.
Anam, Saturday, 8pm. Carleton Hall at Monterey Religious Science Church. $12/general advance, $11/students and seniors; $13/door. 373-7379.
Thereis another do-it-yourself musical opportunity at the PG Art Center where Vic Selby is coordinating another community Hootenanny. These community gatherings have been taking place for the last few months and seem to be growing in popularity with opportunities for musicians of all skill levels to take part. Informal songbooks are created for each Hootenanny and Selby writes that he''s trying to find recordings of "I Get a Kick Out of You," "Mean Old Bedbug Blues" and "Two Sleepy People" so he can transcribe the chords. If you want to help, give him a call.
Hootenanny, Monday, 7pm. Pacific Grove Art Center, 568 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. 375-6141.
Make a note of this name: Susan Tedeschi. You probably haven''t heard it before but, if you listen to the blues, you''re going to hear it again. And you''re going to buy her recordings.
Tedeschi has a voice that recalls and rivals some of the greatest blues names there ever were. Think big voices: Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown and, yeah, Janis Joplin. A lot of Janis. The first time her voice came ripping out of my funky office CD player, chills crawled up my spine and back down again.
Tedeschi has just released her debut recording, Just Won''t Burn, on Tone-Cool Records (a division of Rounder) and it''s killer. The press material doesn''t say just how old Tedeschi is but she must have a lot of years ahead of her: She just graduated from the Berklee College of Music in ''91. She won the Boston Battle of the Blues Bands in ''94 and was named "Best R&B Act" in ''95 by Boston Magazine. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Boston hasn''t always been a hotbed of blues activity. But Memphis has been. And, in addition to Tedeschi''s laurels from Boston, she took second place at Memphis'' National Blues Talent Competition in ''94.
According to her press, Tedeschi has done a lot of touring in the East and South. She doesn''t have any West Coast tour dates yet, but she just signed a booking agreement with Monterey International (who also handles folks like Blues Traveler and Johnny Lang) so it''s probably just a matter of time.
Even if that isn''t the case, the album stands on its own.
Tedeschi smolders and burns her way through an 11-song repertoire that''s about two-thirds originals and the rest covers including Junior Wells'' "Little by Little," Ruth Brown''s "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean" and John Prine/Bonnie Raitt''s "Angel from Montgomery." The latter, unfortunately, comes out sounding like a not-necessarily happy hybrid between Gladys Knight and Raitt. Still, that''s only a minor blemish on an otherwise powerful major-label debut by an exciting new blues stylist.
Susan Tedeschi, Just Won''t Burn (Tone-Cool TC00 1164).
Atalmost the polar opposite end of the blues recording spectrum comes a new four-CD set of live recordings from Muddy Waters, Reverend Gary Davis, Dave Van Ronk, and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee.
All of the recordings on the four CDs were made in Montreal between January and October of 1967 by musicologist Michael Nerenberg. While the Terry/McGhee recording, Live at the New Penelope Cafe, Van Ronk''s Live at St. George, and Davis'' Live & Kickin'' were all made during concert appearances, the most notable, Muddy Waters'' Goin'' Way Back, was captured off stage at the Prince Arthur Street rooming house where the band was staying between gigs.
Basically, Way Back is a Sunday-morning jam session with Waters'' band huddled around a single microphone doing what would have been "back porch music" at home in Mississippi. Nerenberg had convinced Waters and crew to do a special session at the rooming house. In his liner notes, Nerenberg describes the scene:
"All eyes seemingly turned together towards the silhouette in the doorway as Muddy stepped into the room, a purple velvet house robe adding a certain majesty to his already imposing presence. Even the slippers and hair net (for his famous but soon-to-be-dated pompadour) little diminished the dignity of his bearing. Pulling up a chair next to me, he joined in the banter, quickly sharing in the mood of the smoke-filled room, and called for his guitar, to go ''way back''."
You don''t need to be in that room for the music to take you way back. This is blues at its roots. Waters was probably the most important link between ''old'' blues and ''new'' electric blues but on this recording, with only acoustic equipment and a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder to capture the moment, the way-back, delta sound sluices through the microphone. This is rich stuff.
Over Waters'' many years of performing and recording, his band changed so often it''s worth noting the lineup listed on the recording: Sam Langhorn on guitar and vocals, John "Mojo" Buford on guitar and harmonica, Luther "Georgia Boy-Snake" Johnson on guitar and vocals, and Otis Spann--usually Waters'' pianist--also on guitar and vocals. (I got a sneaking suspicion that Nerenberg was taking name notes too quickly: There was a Sam Lawhorn who played with Waters during the ''60s, and a George "Mojo" Buford, and Luther Johnson was known as both "Snake Boy" or "Georgia Boy" but probably not the weird "Georgia Boy-Snake." But what''s in a name, right?) If you have a halfway decent blues reference book, you''ll find all these guys listed for their musical accomplishments.
If you''re into blues or roots music, you''re going to want to get this in your collection as soon as you can. cw