Being the Chicago Bears die-hard I am, I find myself in a bit of a slump this evening. Last week the Bears (after the first few possessions) came out of the gate fists-a-swingin’, leading me to believe that we would have a very promising season. After last’s nights debacle with the Packers, I am still hopeful, but not quite as confident as I was yesterday. In any case, it suits me quite well given my music preference in this past week, to have a case of “the blues” about it. It’s almost as if my subconscious knew exactly what to prepare me for. In the midst of all the new glitz and glamor with recent albums that have dropped (or leaked), I still have had a hard time pulling away from my “blues” catalogue. Normally about 4-5 times a year I’ll slip heavy into a “blues” funk, and no matter what else is going on, I can’t seem to want to listen to anything else. All other times of the year it’s prevalent, but not as prominent. Because of all the new material at my fingertips lately, this week hasn’t been as par with the rest of those heavy weeks. However, I assure you it will come on full-bore tomorrow, after the suffering of what was last night’s game which included or notorious hero Jay Cutler being sacked seven times and throwing four interceptions. Here are some of my most coveted blues classics as of old.
R.L. Burnside – “Skinny Woman”
Burnside was up there with the originators of the Delta blues. A sound that was so southern and dirty that you’d think it crawled straight outta dat Gat damn bayou … but it didn’t … it crawled outta Burnside and his cronies. Like many classic blues artists, Burnside didn’t even really get in front of a microphone until the 60’s as far as I know, and then not hardly again until the 80’s. You can find many other recordings of this track online, but this particular one is too pure and raw to pass up. If you happen to be a fan of the early Black Keys days, you will recognize this guitar riff from there very first recorded tune “Busted” which has always served as a staple for their core fan base and for their live shows.
Howlin’ Wolf – “Moanin’ At Midnight”
I’ve recently decided that this is one of the most badass songs of all time. It has all the right elements to make it so. A thick and dirty guitar, a harmonica that tells a story all unto its own, and the single most important factor … Howlin’ Wolf’s voice. The song begins with the groaning and moaning of a beast just disturbed from his slumber. As it progresses we get the most grit-ified voice to ever be so soggily drowned in corn mashed moonshine, and so tarred and scared by cigarettes and blunts that any genre of music has ever heard. Yet it sounds pristine! It is the voice that unlikely heroes such as Tom Waits or Marv (Sin City) are made of. It’s also the voice that villains like Captain Barbosa or Bill the Butcher relish in, but could never match. We need more Howlin’ Wolf’s in this day and age. The only flaw this song could ever hold is that it grinds to a halt and heartbreaking 2:57. I could listen to that wolf howl for days.
Skip James – “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues”
Another King of the dirty Delta Blues. This song is home to one of my most favorite guitar licks of all time. It’s also among the most gut-wrenching licks of all time. That tiny little pull back Skip fingerpicks and slides after each progression tears me from the inside like no other lick in history. If you listen closely while watching O’ Brother Where Art Thou, you can hear the way T-Bone Burnett uses in times when its meant to rip your heart out. There really is no other use for it. Like every other artist and song on this list, Skip drains his soul into this song, and it’s almost impossible not to feel it as it’s happening. If he didn’t wrap up on a lighter note the way he does, I swear every man and woman that listens to this track would have their souls exhausted on that killin’ floor too.
Son House Pt. 1:
Son House – “Grinnin’ in Your Face”
“Just bear this in mind, a true friend is hard to find.” Son House didn’t always need a guitar. That was never more emphasized on “John the Revelator” which is all-in-all a better track, but for all intents and purposes I chose “Grinnin'”. It’s a simple message with the blues epitomized without a single instrument. I find if many songs matter in this world, this is one of them.
Son House Pt 2:
Son House – Whatever the Hell this track is …
YouTube holds home to some real gems. To my knowledge, this track doesn’t exist elsewhere. The beauty of it is that it is just a man, his guitar, and some blessed shmuck’s video camera that thankfully captured this moment. I could be wrong but it seems that he is just playing off the cuff. This is blues through-and-through from a man that holds more soul in his pinky that most modern musicians don’t grasp in their entire lifetime. Yes, that is paraphrased from one of the YouTube comments, but I’ll be damned if I don’t back it whole-heartedly. If there is anyone out there that actually listens/watches these videos we post, be sure to watch and enjoy this rarity.
Bo Diddley – “I’m A Man”
If you were to ask anyone on the street to mimic the blues in an A cappella fashion, this riff is what would be muttered from their pie-hole … and rightfully so. Not saying Bo himself created it, but he sure as hell popularized it. To this day, there has never been a bigger badass to grace a stage and declare his man hood as Bo does with this tune. Bo is so badass, he doesn’t even need more than three chords. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single track in which he does, yet he stamped his mark harder on rock’n’roll that the so called “King” (Elvis) ever did. Call me a fool, but I’ll stand by that comment til’ the day I die. If anyone ever claims they are a man but can’t sing this track, I challenge thee.
That’s my over dramatized take on what I believe to be the truest form of music there is. The blues derived from slave music as a way to relieve the pain and suffering that surrounded them. My pain from last night was child’s play in comparison, but I feel it has been lifted now nonetheless. Thank you blues! And thank you for reading!