Friday, September 15, 2006

i've always been skeptical of white blues musicians

Can't stand to see/hear a band or person just singing/playing blues songs. It's so so so superficial, so lacking in depth. The worst are Eric Clapton's "blues" songs. He should've been dragged (drug?) off the stage years ago for that alone, much less his extended use of light-colored jackets-as-accessory.

But this Richard Johnston guy is totally different. Anyone can learn to play a guitar (if you have hands/feet and /or flexibility and imagination...) and anyone can sing blues songs, but this guy sends out an emotion and a feeling to the listener. He's there in it with you.

Honestly, when it started, i thought---ahhh, it's a white blues guy, there's the hook. ok, i'll watch it cuz it's playing before my friend's doc. but man, it was so much more. The guy is so genuine, so charming, and the music was hypnotic. The North Mississippi All-Stars' music is based on this type of blues music, I believe. Max, if you read this, give a heads-up on any wrong info i put here.

One of the instruments he plays is this:
a cigar-box guitar with two sticks for the neck that allows him to play bass and melody by himself. He then added drums he plays with his feet with tambourine attached, so he was a self-sufficient one man band---and his voice is unbelievable.

It's Hill Country Blues, not Delta Blues, i didn't really know about the difference before I saw this documentary by Max Shores at the Rome Film Festival.
The film explains it better than i ever could, but this is a droning beat, a repeated bass and melody, i couldn't hear enough of it.

He learned with R. L. Burnside, Jessie May Hemphill and Junior Kimbrough, and for years played a street set on famous Beale St. in Memphis. Something interesting i learned from the documentary is that his street performances were so popular, that all street performers have since been banned on Beale St. He was drawing such big crowds to the outdoors show, bigger than any of the venues could house even, that the others business were going under, or nearly so. I don't think banning is the answer. That's weak. There had to be another way around that.

View the trailer here--but you still need to see the whole thing to get the full picture and experience.
There's a place on the website to sign up to be alerted of any tv dates, but it says it will have a 2007 release and Max does a great job with this b/c i was hooked.
Just keep an eye out for it. Ok?
Listen to and then buy the guy's music if you like it.
Though it really just is such a different experience to watch him play, even on a screen! Can't even imagine it in person.


Blogger maryk said...

nobody likes blues music or musicians? or nothing to say?


7:03 PM  
Blogger Squirrels in my Brain said...

I agree with your comments about Eric Clapton. He has pussed out and decided to pick up the blues? Yuck. I'm generally not a big blues fan myself, but I like music influenced by the blues, does that make sense?


1:26 PM  
Blogger andisheh said...

Can blue men sing the whites?

1:31 PM  
Blogger maryk said...

I believe the answer is a resounding "Yes!"
see the link below:


1:40 PM  
Blogger maryk said...

Here's a shorter URL for that one above:

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Josie said...

That was an amazing film, and he's an amazing guy among a slew of amazing people.

4:10 PM  

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