Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Is this the twilight of blues music?

I came across this article just now. How? How does anyone find anything on this interwebs: I stumbled into it.

Let me retrace. I googled "John Lee Hooker lessons." Why? Because I want to learn some John Lee Hooker songs on my guitar. That's why. And on the blues website with a video lesson, to the side it had a repost of a tweet that said "97-year old blues artist wins a grammy." So I clicked on that to see - was that Honeyboy? I couldn't remember how old he was when he died, but maybe they just awarded him something and I didn't know about it. But nope - it was another old boy I have a sweet spot for - Hubert Sumlin. Hubert! And from that article, I finally came to this final destination: a link to a piece entitled "Is this the twilight of blues music?"

Oh, boy. I don't like hearing that. I really don't. But this author makes a good point - we lost a lot of good people in 2011, certainly last of their generations. So Happy to say that I've seen all three name checked in this article: Honeyboy Edwards, Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins. I even had a conversation with Honeyboy! One of those great little moments I'll always be glad I went for, as I stood at the Hideout waiting for him to go on, and noticed, hey, he's just sitting at the back of the room enjoying a beer. Should I go over there? Should I? This mid-twenties little white girl, who hides an old soul and a love of the blues inside? I did. I went for it, and he seemed grateful for the company. Anyway, that's not my point, to brag on that.

My point is: that this article makes some good points. Especially about the lack of support for Chicago blues clubs, and those clubs who are stuck in a routine, afraid to shake things up. I'll certainly agree with that. As for his analogy to blues being like Gregorian chant, I must say: whoa dude, back that train up. Apples to oranges, apples to oranges my friend.

The blues exists and thrives in all shapes and forms. It will not be some dusty thing on the shelf. It's just not - it's influence is too wide and too deep. There's too many musicphiles that go right to that source. Look at Keith Richards or Jack White. Ask them if they're Gregorian chant revivalists or true blue channelers of a primal art form. Ask them.

Anyway, no offense, but this article itself had that familiar Tribune flavor of all polish, no soul. Maybe it's his editor, the way he's conditioned after years of employment, or maybe he's kinda stiff himself and that's why he can't see the many threads modern blues continues to weave. Of course they don't play it on the radio. Does anything good come from commercial channels of any sort? No. I dare say no.

But things do leak through. Maybe someday, that thing will be the blues again.

From ChicagoTribune.com:

"They buried Hubert Sumlin two weeks ago at Washington Memory Gardens Cemetery in Homewood, laying to rest the man whose ferocious guitar riffs galvanized Howlin' Wolf's classic recordings of the 1950s and '60s.

Just before Sumlin's casket was lowered into the ground, young Chicago blues artist Shemekia Copeland stood at his graveside and sang "Life's a Rainbow," her arms outstretched to the coffin. Barely 30 people showed up at the funeral — which was paid for by Sumlin admirers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards — bidding silent farewell to a bluesman who left Chicago years ago, dying in New Jersey at age 80.

As the wind blew across the cemetery grounds, Chicago blues musician Todd Park Mohr stepped near the casket and chanted a song of his own. It honored a man who helped define Chicago blues a couple generations ago, at long-forgotten clubs such as Silvio's, on the West Side:

Fly away from here, Mr. Sumlin.

The ground in New Jersey has gone cold. ...

When you ever gonna learn,

Chicago always gonna be your home.

Drive away from this evil world, Mr. Sumlin.

Drive that old car back to Silvio's.


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