Results for blues
Blues legend and fellow Chicagoan Buddy Guy visits the show this week. The 70-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is back in town for a month-long stint at his club Buddy Guy's Legends. The club has been a mainstay for blues in downtown Chicago for more than a decade, but Buddy recently announced that he is being forced to find a new location. As residents and Sound Opinions listeners know, the city is not always kind to music clubs, but in his interview with Jim and Greg, Buddy stresses the need to maintain such venues. Our hosts also recommend listeners check out the bluesman at his best — live and stripped down at Legends — while they can.
One thing that makes Buddy Guy's music so unique is his sense of melody. He explains how he will listen to spiritual and gospel music on the radio as inspiration. As Greg states: he's trying to imitate the voices. He learned this from B.B. King and went on to inspire vocalists like George Benson. Another musician who inspired Buddy was Guitar Slim. Before seeing Slim play, Buddy didn‘t know how far he could go with a“strat.”Now he is known for his violent, high-energy style. This style wasn’t appreciated by his former label Chess Records, but was adored and emulated by British blues fans like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Andy Summers.Go to episode 58
Jim and Greg are joined by Robert Wyatt in the next segment. While he may not be a household name, Wyatt is one of the most influential musicians of the rock era. As a drummer with 1960s group Soft Machine, Wyatt reinvented prog rock, and was a pioneer of jazz-rock fusion. He was later ousted from Soft Machine, and in 1973 a terrible fall rendered him a paraplegic. But, as his interview with Jim and Greg reveals, Wyatt never ceased to be an innovator. Jim explains that Wyatt's been having a career resurgence in recent years. He was not only up for the prestigious Mercury Prize in England in 2003, but he is releasing a new album, Comicopera, on Domino Records, the label that is also home to Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys.
Greg begins by asking Wyatt about his appeal to a younger generation of musicians, including Thom Yorke and Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. Wyatt can‘t explain this phenomenon, but he imagines that people respect how he does his own thing and makes music for music’s sake. It's inspirational for young musicians to see that you can maintain artistic integrity and, at the same time, longevity.
Wyatt formed the Soft Machine with three other schoolmates, and he never imagined that they'd eventually be opening up for Jimi Hendrix on his 1968 tour. The music of that time influenced his politics as well as his sound. But while contemporaries like The Rolling Stones looked to the blues, Wyatt and the Soft Machine looked to jazz. After his accident, though, Wyatt was forced to approach drumming differently than other jazz musicians. By eliminating the element of acrobatic virtuosity that jazz drummers often focus on, Wyatt was free to focus on the beats and the sounds. But, listeners shouldn‘t confuse Wyatt’s experimentalism with an anti-pop attitude. He says, "Pop music is the folk music of the post-industrial era, and folk music is the most important music in the world."Go to episode 100
Robert Plant is arguably one of the most famous names and faces in music history—amazing considering he started his career in the Welsh borderlands of England, or as he says, the Black Country. There he was inspired by sounds from across the pond including the Blues and singers like Little Richard and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. Plant went on to found Band of Joy and later Led Zeppelin with his friend, drummer John Bonham, and the two ruled the rock airwaves in the 1970's. Bonham died in 1980, and with him Led Zeppelin. But Plant has never stopped releasing music or exploring new sounds. Examples of this are Raising Sand with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss in 2007 and Band of Joy with singer-songwriter Patty Griffin. His 10th and latest album is called Lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar.Go to episode 469
It's not often we get to share a room with a genuine national treasure. Jim and Greg were honored to speak with gospel and soul legend and Civil Rights icon Mavis Staples. (Greg is also the author of Mavis's 2014 biography I'll Take You There). Beginning her career at age eleven as the lead singer of her family band The Staple Singers, Mavis has inspired countless artists over the past half century.
Her father Pops Staples learned guitar at the feet of Charley Patton in Dockery Farms, Mississippi before moving to Chicago. There, he formed The Staple Singers, a gospel vocal group featuring his children – Pervis, Cleotha, Yvonne, and Mavis taking the lead. The combination of Pops's blues guitar, Cleotha's counterpoint, and Mavis's precociously powerful voice launched them into national attention with their 1956 hit "Uncloudy Day." Soon, the Staple Singers were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, often serving as the opening act to Martin Luther King, Jr. (We'll cover that period in more detail in a second episode with Mavis).
The group had its greatest success once it signed to Stax Records and began recording with the famed session musicians in Muscle Shoals, Alabama on hits like "I'll Take You There." That's also when Mavis began her solo career – reluctantly at first, but still going as strong as ever today. Her latest album Livin' on a High Note found her working with songwriters like Nick Cave, tUnE-yArDs, and Neko Case. Mavis offers Jim and Greg an intimate look at growing up on Chicago's South Side, forming the Staple Singers' signature sound, meeting Mahalia Jackson, and collaborating with Curtis Mayfield and Prince.Go to episode 593
Benjamin Booker has caused a stir in the indie rock world by melding the blues, punk and soul with a signature rasp. Fresh off the heels of his national television debut on Late Night with David Letterman, Booker visits the studio to perform songs from his first major label release on ATO records. He also tells Jim and Greg about transitioning from being a barista at Starbucks to touring with Jack White all in one year. He can also count influential label head Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records as a fan. Despite all this, Booker's parents are still not quite sold on this whole music thing.Go to episode 457
When Jim and Greg were in Austin, TX for SXSW they met with music artist Tim Fite. In 2007, Fite made Over the Counter Culture, one of Jim and Greg's favorite albums of the year and released it for free. Now he's back with a new record called Fair Ain't Fair that he's releasing the old-fashioned way. But, the artist explains that the subject matter of this album isn‘t as political and anti-consumerist, and therefore would be appropriate for sale. Plus he’s happy to support a great record label like Anti. Fite's music is hard to classify, but you can hear the folk, hip-hop, rock, blues mix in the songs performed on the show, as well as in a special bonus track.Go to episode 124
Before there was a Merge or a Matador there was Elektra Records. The great American label recently celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, and its founder Jac Holzman is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month. Jim and Greg talk to Jac about launching Elektra as an independent folk label out of his dorm room in 1950. Eventually the roster grew to include every genre of music – blues, rock, funk, world and pop. It became the home to The Stooges, the MC5, Love and Queen, and, Jim adds, some notoriously difficult personalities. But Jac insists no artist was too hard to handle. He did use caution when out drinking with Jim Morrison, however.Go to episode 275
Jack White is one of the most prolific, inventive, and mercurial characters in rock today. This week, Jim and Greg head down to Third Man studios in Nashville for a wide-ranging conversation with the former White Stripe and recent solo artist. White is known for being loose with the truth in interviews (no, Meg White is not his sister), but his talk with Jim and Greg is surprisingly candid and thoughtful. He recalls playing drums with his brothers at age five, being tutored by a neighbor in rock history, and discovering the blues recordings of Son House. There was no expectation, he says, that The White Stripes - a band that took design inspiration from peppermint candies and thwarted notions of“authenticity”by playing the blues like kids - could ever make it in the mainstream. The element of accident and luck in the Stripes' success, he says,“will never be lost on me.”White describes how his first record as a solo artist, Blunderbuss, also came about by accident. When hip-hop artist RZA failed to show for his Third Man recording session, White decided to record with the band that had come in himself. Blunderbuss earned Buy it ratings from both Jim and Greg.Go to episode 349
First there was the myth of blues legend Robert Johnson meeting the devil. Now we have the myth of a fork lift driver turned guitar virtuoso and poet. But as Kurt Vile explains, his rise to success has actually been quite slow and methodical. After leaving the band The War on Drugs, he has released five albums and earned the respect of music peers (not to mention a reputation for being an A+ rock student). His latest is called Wakin on a Pretty Daze.Go to episode 386
This week Jim and Greg welcomed Powerhouse Sound, a veritable who's who of avant garde jazz and rock musicians. Ken Vandermark, world-renowned reeds player and MacArthur Genius grant winner, assembled this bi-coastal motley crew to experiment with fusing jazz, rock, funk, blues and reggae. With him on the U.S. side of this project is bass player Nate McBride, as well as drummer John Herndon and guitarist Jeff Parker of the group Tortoise. The group has a new album out comprised of recordings done both here and in Norway entitled Oslo/Chicago Breaks.
Ken explains to Jim and Greg that the idea for Powerhouse Sound was inspired by Miles Davis' experiments with blending jazz and popular music. In the 1970s, Davis began working with a diverse group of musicians to create an improvisational sound that is as much funk as it is jazz. Greg notes that this was a heavily controversial period for Davis; jazz purists saw it as a commercial sell out. But, like Davis, the members of Powerhouse Sound are not interested in boundaries and musical dogma. The sound is the key. You can hear this freedom in their performance of "Shocklee/Broken Numbers." Check out the piece in its entirety here.Go to episode 114
Richard Thompson is a rock survivor, and with each decade comes a new successful era—whether it's Fairport Convention in the 1960's, with Linda Thompson in the '70s or as a solo artist. (You can check out producer, Joe Boyd, talking about Thompson & Fairport Convention here.) In fact, he's one of only a handful of artists, along the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, who have sustained a high level of artistic intensity and integrity since the '60s. And to further set him apart, he's one of few guitar heroes from that generation without an obvious debt to the blues. Instead, you'll hear blends of Eastern tones, jazz, Scottish balladry and Celtic folk. Jim and Greg agree he's one of the most underrated guitarists and songwriters in folk history and would urge acts like Mumford & Sons to“Listen and Learn.”The first step would be to study his live performance, which includes a gem from the "Capitolyears," the yet to be released "Fergus Lang," and the Richard and Linda classic "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight." Plus, check out the bonus track, Greg's request, "Dimming of the Day," which may be his most beautiful love song to date.Go to episode 446
The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead celebrated its 50th anniversary in July with a series of farewell shows at Soldier Field in Chicago. We're using that as an opportunity to reexamine the legacy of the controversial band. The Dead formed in the Bay Area in the 1960s and featured a core membership of guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, keyboardist Ron“Pigpen”McKernan, bassist Phil Lesh, drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, with important contributions from lyricist Robert Hunter. Though it was the prototypical "jam band," The Dead's sound was much more eclectic and harder to pin down than that sometimes derisive term indicates, incorporating free jazz, psychedelia, bluegrass, blues, early rock ‘n’ roll, and more.
The Dead built a community of devoted fans who would travel with the band from town to town, some of whom would tape the performances and share the recordings, which the band encouraged. Though Deadheads contend the true essence of the band was experienced in its experimental live shows, Jim has little patience for the erratic performances and instead prefers the band's early studio recordings. Greg argues that The Dead was a consistently great live band during its peak in the '70s, before drugs took their toll and the surprise 1987 chart hit "Touch of Grey" altered the fanbase. Garcia, who died in 1995, was an irreplaceable musical genius, and the band leaves behind a legacy of experimentation, eclecticism, and an unparalleled musical community.Go to episode 505
50 years ago, The Rolling Stones touched down in the United States for their very first American tour. While here, the band made a pilgrimage to Chicago's legendary Chess Records to record their take on tunes from the label's blues heavyweights like Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Chuck Berry. Those Chess sessions appeared on The Stones second album, 12 x 5, which also debuted 50-years ago. To mark the occasion, Jim and Greg explore the history and legacy of Chess, whose 25-year run produced music that influenced rockers like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and more. Jim and Greg highlight these Chess artists:
- Muddy Waters
- Willie Dixon
- Chuck Berry
- Howlin' Wolf
- Little Walter
- Sonny Boy Williamson
- Bobby Charles
- Buddy Guy
classic album dissections
Van Morrison Astral Weeks
Van Morrison recorded and released his masterpiece Astral Weeks 41 years ago, and to celebrate he released a live version of the album. This gave Jim and Greg a perfect opportunity to look back at Astral Weeks with a Sound Opinions Classic Dissection. Astral Weeks didn‘t produce huge hits, but as Jim and Greg explain, this record is unique from any other in Van Morrison’s collection, and in fact, rock history. It melds rock, blues, folk and jazz in such a way that makes it hard to define. The jazz musicians who contributed to this sound were guitarist Jay Berliner, drummer Connie Kay and bassist Richard Davis. In addition to the music, Jim and Greg both marvel at the emotions conveyed by the songs on Astral Weeks. You hear Van Morrison struggle with the search for home and the impermanence of life. It's as much a poem as it is an album, making it a classic in the Sound Opinions' book.Go to episode 171
B.B. King Live at the Regal
B.B. King was the face of the blues for much of the world. Sadly, we'll never get to hear him play his trusty guitar Lucille again. He passed away on May 14, 2015 at age 89. To honor the late great bluesman, we're offering a Classic Album Dissection of his Live at the Regal concert album, recorded in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood in 1964. Jim and Greg are joined by photographer, writer, promoter and Blues Hall of Fame inductee Dick Waterman. Waterman was a long-time friend of B.B.'s and co-author of The B.B. King Treasures. He explains that while King was pleased that Live at the Regal achieved iconic status, he didn't think there was anything special about his performance that night. Had they taped any other show around that time, the results would have been much the same. Still, the masterful control that B.B. had over his raucous crowd that evening became legendary. For Jim, the album resembles a celebratory church service more than any depressing blues stereotype.
If B.B. King's on-stage persona is that of a humble, genial man, that's because he truly was one in real life. According to Waterman, B.B. devoted hours after each show to meeting with his fans as a show of appreciation for their contribution to his success. Even after the mainstream commercial success of "The Thrill is Gone," he always stayed true to his vision, never watering it down for his new white audience. He was one of the last of his generation of blues artists, but his legacy is going to live on.Go to episode 499
Van Morrison Astral Weeks
Van Morrison recorded and released his masterpiece Astral Weeks 45 years ago, and to celebrate, Jim and Greg conduct a Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection. Astral Weeks didn‘t produce huge hits, but as Jim and Greg explain, this record is unique from any other in Van Morrison’s collection, and in fact, in rock history. It melds rock, blues, folk and jazz in such a way that makes it hard to define. The jazz musicians who contributed to this sound were guitarist Jay Berliner, drummer Connie Kay and bassist Richard Davis. But, in addition to the music, Jim and Greg both marvel at the emotions conveyed by the songs on Astral Weeks. You hear Van Morrison struggle with the search for home and the impermanence of life. It's as much a poem as it is an album, making it a classic in the Sound Opinions' book.Go to episode 414
The North Mississippi Allstars Keys to the Kingdom
The North Mississippi Allstars also have a new album out, called Keys to the Kingdom. This album was written following the death of producer Jim Dickinson, the father of bandmates and brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, and the songs are not only filled with emotion, but steeped in the sound of their youth – the blues of the North Mississippi hill country. They also collaborate with some of Dickinson's favorite musicians, including Mavis Staples. This is a great return to form for the band. Both Jim and Greg say Buy It.
Billy Gibbons Perfectamundo
If your only knowledge of Billy Gibbons is through his band ZZ Top's cartoonish videos, you may be surprised to find he is a gentleman, scholar, and connoisseur. He was also one of the first guests ever on Sound Opinions. Through his father, a bandleader in the Houston area, Gibbons was able to meet and apprentice under the famed Latin percussionist Tito Puente. On his first solo album Perfectamundo, the Texas guitarist is exploring those Afro-Cuban roots. Jim admits that Gibbons doesn't have much to say lyrically, but finds the record deep culturally. Gibbons manages to unite the blues and Latin music and has a great time doing it. For Jim, the album is a complete and utter joy – it gets a Buy It. Greg, however, disagrees. He likes the combination of the Hammond B3 organ with the Afro-Cuban polyrhythms, but finds there are too few of those moments. Gibbons makes a failed attempt to update his sound with guest spots from Houston rapper Garza, and his songwriting is underdeveloped with inane lyrics. Greg is forced to give Perfectamundo a Trash It.
Alabama Shakes Sound & Color
Alabama Shakes has the sometimes difficult task of topping a great debut album. With its new release, Sound & Color, Jim and Greg both think Shakes cleared the hurdle with flying colors. Greg says that the band has really utilized the studio to offer a multitude of soundscapes and Brittany Howard's deeply personal lyrics are a great compliment to the sound which mixes soul, rock and blues. Jim thinks the sound of this album is kaleidoscopic, and, like Greg, gives this album a Buy It rating.
The Dead Weather Dodge and Burn
The Dead Weather formed in 2009 as a supergroup of sorts, sporting a lineup of Jack White, Alison Mosshart of The Kills, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age, and Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs. Now the band has returned with its third album, Dodge and Burn. White is taking a literal and figurative back seat here as he remains behind the drum kit, and Greg is grateful for the showcase of Mosshart's excellent vocal talents. He also cites Fertita as the band's secret weapon, using distorted guitars and keyboards to bring an element of pure nastiness to the record. Despite a couple of missteps, including the odd closing piano ballad "Impossible Winner," Dodge and Burn is a Buy It for Greg. Jim concurs – the dirty blues garage rock may be nothing new, but its swampy, southern Gothic flavor is perfect for Halloween season. It's a Buy It for him, too.
Bonnie Raitt Dig In Deep
Forget about these young whippersnappers featured on today's show. Bonnie Raitt has just released her 20th album! Called Dig In Deep, it has the blues rock veteran working overtime as artist, producer and label head. But, as Jim and Greg remark, there's nothing tired or stale here, Greg exclaims, "let us all bow down to her slide guitar tone" and gives Dig in Deep a Buy It. Jim goes with a Try It, explaining that while he appreciates the up-tempo tracks, he isn't moved by the ballads.
Robert Plant lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar
For over half a century, Robert Plant has been making music and pushing the boundaries of rock ‘n’ roll. But despite being known as the Golden God of Led Zeppelin, most of those years were actually spent doing solo work and special projects, many of which incorporate wide range of American and international folk sounds, from Appalachia to the Middle East. Now he's back with his backing band the Sensational Space Shifters with the release lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar. Again you can hear West African poly—rhythms, Southern blues tones, and country music influences, proving that, as Jim put it,“Plant does whatever he wants.”Despite his respect for Plant's never-ending pursuit of the new, Jim wonders how much of this adoration should be credited to the 17-year-old Zep fan version of himself. So he says Try It. Greg, on the other hand, truly enjoyed the contemplative and quiet side of the“more tender Plant”displayed on this record and gladly prescribes a Buy It.
The New Basement Tapes Lost on the River
Who knew that one summer in a basement in upstate New York in 1967 would become such a big deal? But fans of Bob Dylan and The Band are still poring over the material that came out of those musicians‘ one-take, slapdash recording sessions, decades later. It’s amazing considering that those Basement Tapes weren't even supposed to go public. Now, more lyrics from that time have surfaced and have been turned into new music produced by T. Bone Burnett and performed by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello and Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons. The result is Lost on the River by The New Basement Tapes. Greg particularly admires the bluesy, pre-rock sound contributed by Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. But, for the most part, he doesn't hear any of the magic of The Basement Tapes. And that's not surprising considering it was a contrived project with the manufactured setting of the basement of Capitol Records in L.A., not rural New York. He can only say Try It. Jim thinks Greg is being kind. He doesn‘t think you can separate Dylan’s lyrics and poetry from Dylan's music and voice. This collaboration is nothing like the successful Wilco/Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie project Mermaid Avenue. He says Trash It.
Patti Smith Banga
In the past weeks Jim and Greg's inboxes have filled up with new records. This week, they award buy it, burn it, and trash it ratings to five of them. First up, punk godmother Patti Smith. The poetess behind Horses and Radio Ethiopia is back with her eleventh studio album, Banga. Recorded off and on between gallery showings and book readings, Banga, Greg says, is a meditation on the call of art. It's also a tour of global music styles.“We were going to see the world,”Smith intones in the leadoff track "Amerigo," and she doesn't let us down. Different tracks draw inspiration from free jazz, do-wop, celtic folk, and blues. Greg says Buy It. Jim agrees. This album is up there with Patti's best work, not the least because, Jim says, she seems to really be having fun. Double Buy It.
Jimmie Vaughn Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites
Guitarist Jimmie Vaughn's new album is Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites, and as the title suggests, the concept is pretty simple. This record has the former Thunderbird playing the songs he grew up with - deep cuts of blues, R&B and country - with accompaniment by guest vocalists like Lou Ann Barton. In fact, Jim wishes Barton was more than just a guest. He finds the strongest tracks are the ones where she is singing, not Vaughn. So he gives the record a Burn It rating. Greg really appreciates his guitar style-it's more terse and incisive than that of brother Stevie Ray. Kind of a“say it and get out”approach. Also, he appreciates the deep cuts on Plays More. Greg says Buy It.
Kings of Leon Come Around Sundown
A couple of weeks ago Jim and Greg discussed the career trajectory of U2. Kings of Leon seem to be on a similar path. The southern“band of brothers”(and cousin) are opening for the Irish band on their 360 tour, and Jim and Greg hear a lot more stadium bombast with their latest release Come Around Sundown. Lead singer Caleb Followill has turned on the rawk singing, and no funky or soul blues cliche was left unturned, according to Jim. It's way too over the top to him and lacks any experimentation or originality. Jim gives it a Trash It rating, adding that this might be one of the worst records of the year. Greg calls that a ridiculous statement, but agrees that he doesn‘t like the direction the band is headed. They’ve lost much of the rhythm and distinctiveness from their 2003 debut. But still, Greg wouldn't throw it in the bin. Kings of Leon gets a Burn It.
The Gang of Four were heavily influenced by Chicago blues, and perhaps no label better represents that sound than Alligator Records. The label, run by blues fanatic Bruce Iglauer, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. To toast them, Greg adds one of his favorite tracks by Hound Dog Taylor to the Desert Island Jukebox. It's the stripped down, raw, mood-setting song "Give Me Back My Wig."Go to episode 274
Fleetwood Mac has reunited for another tour, inspiring Greg's Desert Island Jukebox pick this week. While most people think of Lindsay Buckingham or Stevie Nicks, Greg's favorite incarnation of Fleetwood Mac was the earliest, with British blues guitarist Peter Green. An idol to peers like Eric Clapton, Green heavily influenced heavy metal musicians. But, he was also hit hard by LSD use. According to Greg, you can hear Green's descent into madness, as well as his guitar skills, in this week's DIJ song, Fleetwood Mac's "Green Manalishi."Go to episode 169
We really do read your letters! After we first aired our interview with Jac Holzman, a listener wrote in saying he'd like to hear more about Paul Butterfield. So in response, Jim drops a track by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band into the Desert Island Jukebox. In 1966, on an album of the same name, the group recorded the song "East-West" written by guitarist/composer Mike Bloomfield. Bloomfield was influenced by blues, psychedelia, free jazz and Indian raga music. This track in turninfluenced everyone from the Grateful Dead to Joe Boyd. It's a landmark in rock, and it's goin' with Jim to the island. Gotta question, comment or suggestion? Contact us here.Go to episode 486
Lost in the global media spotlight on Prince's death was the passing of another important musical innovator – guitarist Lonnie Mack, who died at 74 on April 21. Born an Indiana farmboy, Mack inspired generations of artists by blending country, blues, and soul on his famous Flying V guitar. He was one of the first to turn the whammy bar into a true textural instrument. But Greg feels Mack's vocal style is sadly underrated. He was a true soul singer, and Greg calls his recording of "Why" from the 1963 debut album The Wham of That Memphis Man! one of the great vocal performances of the era. Because of that, it's Greg's Desert Island Jukebox selection of the week.Go to episode 545
It has become a sad cliché at this point that 2016 has been a terrible year for losses in the music world. This week, Jim pays tribute to Candye Kane – an artist less famous than Prince or Bowie, but every bit as exceptional. She came out of the Los Angeles punk scene, but wore many hats throughout her life: feminist, porn star, bisexual, fat activist – and big, bold, and brash blues singer. Over dozens of albums, she showcased her power, raunchiness, humor and an unforgettable voice. Kane died on May 6 from pancreatic cancer at age 54. In her honor, Jim nominates her 2000 anthem "I'm the Toughest Girl Alive" for the Desert Island Jukebox.Go to episode 550
For Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick this week, he chooses She's Like Heroin To Me by The Gun Club. Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the other founders of this band played music that did not fit into any genre labels but which might be described as "psychobilly cowpunk post-punk tribal-psychobilly-blues." Jim reminisces about the very innovative period of indie rock and punk in the '80s when The Gun Club came about, and points out how important this particular track is in understanding '80s music and expressing popular punk themes like obsession, addiction, and sex.Go to episode 558
After a number of deaths of high-profile drummers in recent weeks, Greg now pays tribute to Butch Trucks, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on January 24. A founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, Trucks remained in the group for its entire 45-year span. He formed one of the best rhythm sections in rock alongside fellow drummer Jai Johanny“Jaimoe”Johanson. While Jaimoe provided the jazzy accents, Trucks was the freight train, with a command of the blues vocabulary. According to Greg, the best example of Trucks's blues shuffle is on a 1971 live recording of "Statesboro Blues," so it gets its slot in the Desert Island Jukebox.Go to episode 588
We really do read your letters! Last week a listener commented on our interview with Jac Holzman, saying he'd like to hear more about Paul Butterfield. So this week Jim drops a track by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band into the Desert Island Jukebox. In 1966, on an album of the same name, the group recorded the song "East-West" written by guitarist/composer Mike Bloomfield. Bloomfield was influenced by blues, psychedelia, free jazz and Indian raga music. This track in turn influenced everyone from the Grateful Dead to Joe Boyd. It's a landmark in rock, and it's goin' with Jim to the island.Go to episode 276
The great Chicago blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin died last month and Jim and Greg didn't get a chance to send him off with a full obit. With his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox, Greg now has his opportunity. Sumlin was twenty-one years younger than Howlin' Wolf when he joined the elder bluesman's band in the 1950s. Wolf was like a father to Sumlin, and Sumlin eventually became his right-hand man. Sumlin was briefly booted from the band in ‘56 for playing over Wolf’s vocals (no one plays over the Wolf!), but adapted his style by dropping his pick and plucking with his fingers. This signature style would make him an icon to later guitarists like Clapton and Hendrix. The 1964 track "Killing Floor," Greg says, is Sumlin at his best-like a second voice in the song.Go to episode 319
On his latest trip to the desert island, Greg pays tribute to an unsung musical hero who passed away more than 20 years ago. Mississippi-born guitarist and singer Ted Hawkins was often found on Venice Beach strumming along to folk, blues, and country standards, but occasionally - often at the behest of an awestruck passerby - he made his way into a recording studio. One such occasion came after Hawkins spent a lengthy stint in jail working through a heroin addiction. The album Hawkins cut after his release, Happy Hour, features the poignant track "Bad Dog" which Greg sees as the perfect metaphor for the late soulman's erratic life and career, and the perfect song to get a sense of what the man was all about.Go to episode 448
To cap off the show, Greg pays tribute to Robert Johnson. The 100th anniversary of the bluesman's death is this year. Although he died at the age of 27 and didn't get to record much in his lifetime, he nonetheless became so influential many regard him as the godfather of rock and roll. With his unique vocal and guitar performances and complicated narratives, it's easy to understand why Johnson resonates today. Greg chooses to add the song "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day" to the Desert Island Jukebox.Go to episode 291
At this point in the show Jim and Greg put on their lab coats and welcome another patient for an appointment with the Rock Doctors. This week's patient is listener Joel from Chicago. Joel describes his symptoms for Drs. DeRogatis and Kot: he's a big music fan, particularly roots rock, but hasn‘t been inspired in recent years. He’s hoping the doctors can prescribe some new music that has a definite sense of blues, bluegrass and roots music, but also has some rocking edge.
Dr. DeRogatis goes first and prescribes Sparklehorse's 2006 album Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain. The group is led by multi-instrumentalist Mark Linkous who has been paralyzed since 1996. Jim explains that Linkous‘ sound changed dramatically after being confined to a wheelchair. There’s a definite influence of alt-country and Southern gothic that Jim thinks Joel will appreciate. Plus, this album features some impressive guests like Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips and Tom Waits.
Dr. Kot recommends the new album from The Kills. The transcontinental duo met via the mail and have made three albums. Greg thinks the latest, Midnight Boom, is the best. He describes the band's sexy, in-your-face attitude and deep appreciation for the blues. Greg just hopes that Joel doesn't have an allergic reaction to their drum machine.
After a week taking his medicine, Joel returns for a follow-up appointment. He explains that the heavy production in the Sparklehorse initially put him off. But despite the fact that the music was a little slow at times, he can see himself returning to it. Joel describes Dr. Kot's pick as some strong medicine, but he really enjoyed The Kills' melodies and guitars. He thinks the album is at its best when the two singers are featured together, and was able to forget about the drum machine for the most part.Go to episode 128
Mag & Patrick
Jim and Greg know that not everyone can spend all their waking hours studying and discovering music. So as The Rock Doctors, they can help listeners ailing in the music department. This week's patients are Mag and Patrick, a young couple from Brooklyn. This is Jim and Greg's first stab at couple's therapy, and their task is to find music both Mag and Patrick can enjoy. Mag favors classic rock, while Patrick is a huge fan of Dave Matthews Band and Green Day.
Jim is interested in finding a Green Day equivalent that Mag can stomach. He recommends Texas punk band The Marked Men. Greg's prescription, Blitzen Trapper, has bluesy classic rock elements that Mag loves, as well as the strong lyrics Patrick appreciates.
Both patients diligently take their course of pills and report back a week later. Both Mag and Patrick absolutely loved the Blitzen Trapper. Mag was less high on The Marked Men, but says she‘d be willing to listen again as long as it was with Patrick. It sounds like the healing has begun, and that’s all the Doctors can ask for.Go to episode 172
Blues piano player Pinetop Perkins passed away this week at age 97. He was one of the last links to the Mississippi Delta blues era. As Greg relays, Perkins made his mark as a sideman for people like Muddy Waters. It wasn't until he was 75 that he released an album under his own name. He even holds the record for oldest Grammy winner. Pinetop Perkins was going strong right up until his death, so to honor him, Jim and Greg play the song that gave him his name, "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie," recorded at Sun Studios in 1953.Go to episode 278
It may have been many years since you last thought about The Lemonheads, but they are making news this week. Lead singer Evan Dando is suing General Motors over what he claims is the unauthorized use of his song "It's a Shame About Ray," in two commercials. Jim and Greg don't hear an alarming similarity, but regardless, they wonder if this is really the best time to be suing GM? Check out the ad for yourself.
Blues singer Koko Taylor died last week at the age of 80. Taylor was a longtime Chicago music icon, but as Greg explains, her influence was far-reaching. She was from the last generation of blues performers to have deep connections to the South. Initially Taylor didn‘t have a lot of confidence in her singing ability, but she developed one of the most bold voices and personas Jim and Greg have ever experienced. Through her partnership with Chicago’s Alligator Records, Koko Taylor defined the Chicago blues sound and paved the way for female blues musicians. In tribute to her our hosts play "I'd Rather Go Blind."Go to episode 185
The thrill, alas, is gone: B.B. King, international ambassador for the blues, has passed away at 89. Although the blues is associated with pain and heartbreak, King took great joy in his music, playing shows around the world non-stop until practically the day he died. King had a unique approach in which his voice was in a constant conversation with his legendary guitar, Lucille. That style was picked up by British blues-rockers like Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green, and he influenced countless others after that. Greg thinks King's iconic sound was on display as early as 1951 on his song "Three O'Clock Blues," so he plays that recording in tribute to the great Mississippi bluesman.Go to episode 495
A sad music headline kicks off this episode. Texas Blues guitarist Johnny Winter died last week at age 70. Greg notes that it's significant that Winter died while on tour in Europe, as he kept on working until the very end. And he encouraged his heroes to do the same. Winter, who had hits with his brother Edgar and with singer Rick Derringer in the 1970's, produced three late-career albums for Blues legend Muddy Waters. You can literally hear Winter's stamp on songs like "Mannish Boy" from 1977's Hard Again.Go to episode 452
After stops in countries like South Africa, Japan, and Sweden, the Sound Opinions World Tour is trekking on. Jim and Greg hop over to Cuba, inspired by the historic changes in U.S.-Cuban relations announced recently by President Obama. Their guide to Cuba's influential rhythms is Ned Sublette, author of Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. Ned tells us that Cuba has been alive with music ever since the sixteenth century. Drawing upon its unique ethnic history, Cuba developed a polyrhythmic style quite different from what emerged in North America. Innovative artists like Arsenio Rodríguez brought Cuban dance music into maturity during World War II. The unshakeable rhythms of the mambo, rumba, and cha-cha-chá filtered into the United States, particularly in the world of jazz – Dizzy Gillespie's collaborations with Chano Pozo changed music forever. Rock ‘n’ roll and the blues also adopted Afro-Cuban flavors. Even after Cuba's isolation following the 1959 revolution, the music never stopped, according to Ned. Nueva trova, for example, a movement led by singer-songwriters like Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés, began to fuse revolutionary politics and idealism with traditional song forms. Cuban rhythms also provided the basis for the global salsa phenomenon of the '70s. Today music in Cuba thrives in both traditional genres and in modern ones like reggaeton. Though he's not personally a fan of the hit 1997 Buena Vista Social Club album, Ned was happy to see North Americans reengage with Cuban artists. With the political changes underway, he expects to see an even more exciting cultural exchange between Cuban musicians and the rest of the world.Go to episode 482