Culture

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Culture | The Top 5 blues CDs for the week of June 14, according to Billboard magazine

Issue: "Schundler's bliss," July 7, 2001
1
Sweet Tea
Buddy Guy 4 weeks on chart
STYLE
Electric, psychedelic "dirt-road" blues, what Jimi Hendrix might be playing were he alive today.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
Nothing explicit; still, as the liner notes acknowledge, the music is "rife with intimations of lust and violence."

WORLDVIEW
Life is nasty, brutish, and long.

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OVERALL QUALITY
Having finally earned the title for which he's striven since signing with Chess Records in the 1960s-"King of the Chicago Blues"-Mr. Guy's return to the tortured, haunted blues of his Louisiana youth is harrowing.

2
Riding with the King
B.B. King & Eric Clapton 52 weeks on chart
STYLE
Blues, R&B, rock and roll, soul.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
Stoicism with a smile-a smile caused in no small part by the irony of a musician's mitigating the financial, romantic, and existential aspects of his misery by getting rich from songs about his financial, romantic, and existential misery.

OVERALL QUALITY
As both Mr. King and Mr. Clapton are often accused these days of sounding too comfortable to play authentic blues, this album's rambunctious, good-natured spontaneity constitutes an especially refreshing change of pace.

3
Shoulda Been Home
The Robert Cray Band 4 weeks on chart
STYLE
Soul, blues, R&B.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
None.

WORLDVIEW
Getting back to "Baby's Arms" or "forgetting her" altogether is the best cure for "Love Sickness," an emotionally crippling illness of which abandonment ("Already Gone") and its attendant anxieties ("I'm Afraid," "Far Away") are the symptoms.

OVERALL QUALITY
Consistently high in every way (singing, playing, songwriting, song-choosing), providing proof of Mr. Cray's ability to manipulate the various blues-based traditions he has inherited into something spine-tinglingly new.

4
Pure Blues
Various Artists 8 weeks on chart
STYLE
Classic electric blues.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
Nothing explicit, although "intimations of lust and violence" do persist.

WORLDVIEW
Stoicism with a smile (Bobby Bland's "Turn on Your Love Light"), a leer (Jonny Lang's "Good Morning Little School Girl"), and a weakness for strong drink (John Lee Hooker's "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer").

OVERALL QUALITY
A useful overview of electric-blues highlights, despite the premature inclusion of whippersnappers (Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Susan Tedeschi).

5
Nothing Personal
Delbert McClinton 14 weeks on chart
STYLE
Roadhouse blues, rock and roll, country, Tex-Mex.

OBJECTIONABLE MATERIAL
"Baggage Claim," "All Night Long" (lechery), "Squeeze Me In" (double entendres), "Nothin' Lasts Forever," "All There Is of Me," "Watchin' the Rain" (casual obscenity).

WORLDVIEW
"It's alright [sic] to let the good time roll / But try to exercise a little self-control / Nothin' lasts forever" (from "Nothin' Lasts Forever").

OVERALL QUALITY
Loose, funny, humble, and rough, its occasional detours into ribaldry the final step in Mr. McClinton's eery transformation into Jerry Lee Lewis.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Because most various-artists "tribute" albums are transparent attempts by little-known musicians to cash in on the clout of those to whom they're purportedly paying homage, the memorable music such albums contain is slight. An exception is Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt (Vanguard). Not only are its contributors (Bruce Cockburn, Lucinda Williams, Taj Mahal, Gillian Welch, John Hiatt) well known in their own right, but they're among the many whom the Delta bluesman directly inspired, and they prove as much with acoustic performances that remain true to the gentleness of his spirit. Among the selections on Avalon Blues are "Here Am I, Oh Lord, Send Me," "Since I've Laid My Burden Down," "Beulah Land," and "I'm Satisfied," but Mr. Hurt, who died in 1966, was not considered a gospel singer. Indeed, at least some of his legendary "sweetness" may have been attributable to alcohol and marijuana. But the commitment he brought to his music has survived, a fact to which this enjoyable labor of love eloquently attests.

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