No relaxation in Bluesland
A few comments regarding Adam Gussowís review of the Broadway show, It Ainít Nothiní But the Blues (Journeymanís Road, BA#38), but first I would like to congratulate Adam on his book, Mister Satanís Apprentice, the best blues tale since B.B. Kingís Blues All Around Me.
When Adam says, "Thank God weíve all relaxed" in reference to race relations, I have to wonder how "relaxed" things really are. If notice is taken of some of the little things written in the forerunner of blues mags, the one with the racist feature article policy, things are not always as "relaxed" in Bluesland.
Cries of the "Elvis Presley Syndrome" reverberate while another generation of European-American blues rockers (some very young) scale the mountain of success while getting immediate airplay (the most important factor) in the process. Exclusionary magazine editorial practices (which BLUES ACCESS is not guilty of) and racial broadcast red-lining (as far as African-American blues artists are concerned) are two wrongs that donít make a right.
I havenít yet seen It Ainít Nothing But the Blues, but based on Adamís excellent synopsis, I plan to. If racial inequities continue to exist, we, as blues fans, are all living in dreamland. Or, it could be said, the race issue will be the hellhound on our trail.
After enjoying the great pictures of Luther Allison presented by David Horwitz (BA#37), I couldnít help pausing to reflect on the number of occasions this great performer deeply moved me. The Reckless session, however, was not Lutherís last trip to the studio.
On July 3 and July 7, 1997, Allison recorded "You Canít Always Get What You Want" for House of Blues Records Rolling Stones tribute, Paint It Blue. Unfortunately, this has become somewhat of a tribute to Luther Allison, Johnny Copeland ("Tumbliní Dice," recorded June 12, 1997) and Junior Wells ("Satisfaction," June 17, 1997), soon before each died.
In such a short period, we marked the last trip to the studio for three of the greatest bluesmen ever.
Peeling an onion
Please do not renew my subscription.
I do not enjoy the magazine. I find it depressing. Like peeling an onion. Itís all leaves and skin.
I have been playing blues since 1965. Blues is for me a high art form, blood and guts and real. I play blues in my basement to heal my heart. I play in clubs to make money and try to get outside of things and laugh at them. Laugh to keep from cryiní.
So when I see it in a glossy magazine, with jivey ads and nonsense reviews. The hordes of hot-rod Stratocaster playersí new CD releases with comments like "deeply rooted in the tradition of SRV." I get ill, really. I get a headache. SRV tradition? What? Three years of dressing like Jimi Hendrix and playing Albert King licks is a tradition?
You should have ó they interest me, anyway ó pieces about what did Robert Pete Williams do with his thumb that was unique? How did Big Walter isolate single notes? Did Sonny Boy Williamson play overblows, or was his harp just screwed up?
You should give information, like if blues is about bending the blues notes, how can it be done on a piano? Alberto Gianquinto, James Cottonís pianist in the 1970s, said that it was impossible, that what he did was play in thirds and let the harp or guitar put in the blue note.
In short, more music, less of whatever that other stuff in there is. Good Luck.
Have another wine cooler
Sorry, youíve priced (and cut issues) yourself out of the running, but Iím sure the yuppie scum will still subscribe.
PS. Since issue #1, I have enjoyed it, however.
Give íem one more chance
I gave up on BLUES ACCESS, assuming it only shined when conducting album reviews and obituaries. However, issue #37 makes me wonder if I wrote you off too soon. Great stuff on B.B. King, Luther Allison, Peter Guralnick and, of course, the reviews and obituaries were consistent.
The downside: filler like Catfish Whiteyís Pond ó who needs garage band coverage in a blues mag? Anyway, Iím ready for the next step: Jimmy Dawkins.
Reading our minds
Iím relatively new to the blues scene and enjoy your magazine very much. It has been a big help to me in deciding what I want to listen to and how to find it.
I stumbled on the blues by accident when I had the occasion to hear Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers in San Francisco, and I was hooked that night. His group remains my favorite. His wife, Honey, is the smoothest boogie-woogie pianist I have heard. His harmonica sounds like an organ!
I would like to encourage you to do a major piece on Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers. I honestly believe ó one manís opinion ó they are one of the best groups around playing toe-tapping, humming, whistling type of music.
Editorís note: See the hard-copy edition of Issue 39 for a special package of Rod and Honey Piazza stories prepared by Bryan Powell.
I am really enjoying the three issues that you sent when I recently re-subscribed to BLUES ACCESS. The Twist Turner column in BA#37 about Sammy Lawhorn shooting up 48th Street in front of Theresaís and passing out on his amp between the sweetest guitar riffs you ever heard brought back some memories of much better times.
I used to see Sammy, Jr. Wells and Cotton there on Wednesday nights for $1 cover. I still drive by there once in a while and smile. After reading this and all the other articles/CD features, all I could do was ask myself why I ever let my subscription lapse in the first place.
About your unfortunate and rather out-of-tune review of Ken Hammís latest CD (New Releases, BA#37):
First of all, Hammís latest CD, released 1998, is titled Galvanized! Solo Blues, not Solo Blues, as you have listed it. This disc has met with very enthusiastic reviews both in Canada and the US, and for good reason. Live off the floor, Hammís finger-picking and slidework on the steel guitar is as good as it gets: Lively, invigorating, pure talent.
With regard to Hammís "facility" as a guitarist, he has received a Juno Award for Best Roots & Traditional CD (Saturday Night Blues), and Guitar Player nominated him three years in a row for "best acoustic blues guitarist."
If you want over-dubbed, over-produced, commercial pap, maybe you should switch to reviewing Top 40 pop. Galvanized! is acoustic blues as they were meant to be played and heard.
Iím addicted to the blues, your magazine, and all the great CDs that are reviewed or advertised in BLUES ACCESS. My newest CD is by Scott Keeton & the Deviants, and it is burning my player up ó I would like to hear more about this band.
I thank you and the staff there for a great magazine. Keep the blues cominí.
Just wanted to let you know I think the new BLUES ACCESS cover design looks great ó much more hip and up-to-date.
I like the front cover photo as well ó the way itís set up looks a lot more interesting than the standard head shots of days past. It really grabs the eye, and I hope it leads to more folks grabbing the magazine off the rack at the newsstand.
Michael J. Spalding
And on the other hand
Holy Cow! What did you people do to BLUES ACCESS? Here was a magazine that needed nothing but a couple of more issues a year. You may think that Kurt Simmerman has set the art design world on fire, but I feel "young Kurt" has ruined a very good magazine.
Did anyone there bother to look at the new issue? The type is too small. Look at the reviews. Itís one thing to wear glasses to read, but I donít want to have to use a magnifying glass or a microscope! Look at each of the articles, did you see all the blank white space? Where are the words or photographs?
I find the Letters section to be very interesting at times, and weíve been short changed there also. Do you really think the magazine has improved? It hasnít. Itís just irritating. Please, open your eyes, realize your mistake and change things back. I would like to renew my subscription when due but why should I purchase a magazine that is not enjoyable to read.
Complaint number two. Another boring Chicago Blues Fest has come and gone ó and not too soon for me. Just being known as the worldís largest free blues festival doesnít cut it. There should be some excitement and electricity. Sadly, Chicago does not have that.
If we canít get some of the great national touring acts, there are plenty of talented local acts like Dave Specter, Ken Saydak, Tad Robinson, Carl Weathersby, Nick Moss and a host of others to charge things up. The organizers should seek advice from the Fox Valley Blues Society, whose Blues on the Fox Festival is a yearly killer.
Finally, the Paul Butterfield series was great. Now how about an in-depth article on Mike Bloomfield. Itís long overdue.