Friday, May 16, 2008

News Roundup

Legendary Mississippi Sheiks to get their due

On a recent holiday, Steve Dawson—guitar maestro and founder of local label Black Hen Music—had the bright idea of putting together a tribute album to one of his favourite bands, the Mississippi Sheiks. Other than the blues classic “Sitting on Top of the World”, the Sheiks’ songs are largely unknown to today’s music fans, despite having been revered by Americana-influenced musicians since the ’30s. In those days, the trio was one of the hottest—and sauciest—acts around, and it influenced such legends as Memphis Minnie, Robert Johnson, and Big Bill Broonzy. “Much of their stuff remains obscure,” Dawson told the Straight. “They disbanded in 1935, but were one of the first bands to generate crossover interest from both black and white communities. What’s going to make this different from the regular tribute album is that, for the most part, there’s going to be a house band and the musicians are coming here to record over a three-day period.” The artists appearing on the album—which is scheduled to be out in March 2009—include Madeleine Peyroux, Bill Frisell, Bruce Cockburn, John Hammond, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Bob Brozman, Kelly Joe Phelps, Geoff Muldaur, Van Dyke Parks, and Dawson’s recording buddies Jim Byrnes and the Sojourners. “Ry Cooder has also agreed to do it, much to the chagrin of his lawyer. We don’t know how it’s going to shake down, but he would be recording in L.A.,” Dawson said.

Eden Brent: The sultry voice of the Mississippi Delta Blues

With a sultry voice like thick molasses, splashed with a shot of Jack Daniels, Eden Brent approaches the piano with the eagerness of a long-lost lover, determined to make up for lost time. An engaging aptitude with the keyboard, earthy and one-of-a-kind vocals, and a palpable, gutsy energy are just a few things that have helped Brent find success in the music world. Most folks around these parts already had a head's up on Brent's talent, and now, with the release of her latest CD, “Mississippi Number One,” the rest of the world is going to be let in on the secret. A Greenville girl born and reared, Brent says she can't remember a time when she didn't want to be a singer. But it was not until her introduction to Greenville bluesman Boogaloo Ames that Brent says she began to discover who she was as an artist. When she was 19, Brent says she finally plucked up enough courage to ask Ames, who by that time was a legend in the Port City, for lessons. And it was that one request that changed the rest of her life, says Brent, who spent the next 16 years learning from and working with Ames. Since launching her solo career, she was named a 2004 inductee into the Greenville Blues Walk, the 2006 winner of the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge, and has headlined venues across the world, including the Kennedy Center, the British Embassy, and tours in South Africa and Norway.

Elvis tribute artiste has Delhi rocking

Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll, set India's capital on fire. The hip-shaking, gyrating rock sensation of the 60s and the 70s was in full regalia - his trademark long sideburns, high-collared sequinned jacket - as he belted out favourites like 'Jailhouse Rock' and 'All Shook Up' in his deep resonant baritone. Only it was not the King in person. Award-winning Canada-based Elvis tribute artiste Stephen Kabakos took the audience back in time to the swinging 60s and the 70s in the country's first ever Elvis Presley tribute concert at the Hotel Radisson on Wednesday night. The performer, who was crowned the Grand Champion at the 2001 "Images of the King World Competition" in Memphis, Tennessee, is one of the top three Elvis tribute artistes in the world.

95 years of blues: 'Pinetop' Perkins comes to Marin

With a Nicasio show coming up and a new album, famed piano man Willie 'Pinetop' Perkins isn t letting age slow him down. I thought for sure that the last time I saw blues great Willie "Pinetop" Perkins would be the last time I'd ever see Willie "Pinetop" Perkins. Let me explain: Revered as the piano player in the legendary Muddy Waters Band, Perkins is a blues hall of famer whose barrelhouse style has influenced generations of rock and blues musicians. I had the pleasure of meeting him five years ago when he played West Marin's Rancho Nicasio with his pal Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. That night, he recorded tracks for a live album, the Grammy-nominated "Ladies Man," with Marin's Elvin Bishop and Angela Strehli sitting in. At the time, he was one of the last of the old-time Mississippi bluesmen still performing. I figured the old cat had used up his nine lives with that little confrontation with a train and, given his advancing years, thought it would be a pretty safe bet I'd never have the chance to see him play again. Which is why I don't gamble. Since then, Perkins has won two Grammys - for lifetime achievement in 2005 and another last year for traditional blues album for a concert recording with Henry James Townsend, Robert Lockwood Jr. and David "Honeyboy" Edwards called "Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas." Townsend and Lockwood died in 2006, leaving Perkins and Edwards as two of the few surviving bluesmen with a direct, first-hand connection to seminal figures like Waters and harmonica ace Sonny Boy Williamson. In his time, Perkins played with both of them. This week and last, Perkins was in his native Mississippi for ceremonies dedicating a couple of Mississippi State Blues Trail Markers in his honor. He's also up for Blues Foundation award for his DVD, "Born in the Honey - The Pinetop Perkins Story." He'll be celebrating his 95th birthday on July 7 with a new "Pinetop Perkins and Friends" CD, set to be out in June, with guests Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Jimmy Vaughan.

In related news: Blues marker honors Hopson Plantation, Pinetop Perkins

The History of BB King - The Legendary Blues Guitarist

In his youth he played on street corners for dimes and pennies! He was born on 16 September, 1925 on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, near Indianola. He spent his youth playing on street corners for dimes. Today B.B. King (Riley B. King) averages 250 'packed to the rafters' concerts around the world each and every year. In 1947, he hitchhiked to Memphis, Tennessee to pursue his music career and it is first love. His first major break came in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio broadcast. As the years well by, King has developed one of the world's most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, incorporating his distinct and complex voice-like string blends and his left-handed vibrato, both of which have become vital components of a blues guitarist's vocabulary. His economy, his every-note-counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of players from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck. In the mid-1950s, two men got into a fight during one of King's performances. The men knocked over a kerosene stove and set fire to the venue. King raced outdoors to safety and then realised he'd left his beloved acoustic guitar behind. He rushed back in to retrieve it and almost lost his life. He found out later that the fight had been over a woman. He named his guitar Lucille to remind him to never do a crazy thing like fight for a woman. Ever since, each one of King's guitars has been called Lucille.

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