Mittwoch, 1. August 2018

Chicago - The Blues - Today! Vol. 2




Otis Rush, Jimmy Cotton, and Homesick James Williamson are all from Mississippi, and each of them has found a place for himself in Chicago through his music, if you’re good, with a style of your own, there’s a Chicago blues business waiting to pick you up. Otis Rush is one of the best of the young Chicago bluesmen. He works steadily, seven nights a week at a lounge on the West Side. At the club, Curley’s, there isn’t much of a crowd on week nights; so he lets somebody from the neighborhood work the first set and he sits at a side table with two or three friends. It’s dark in the club and the band works on a high bandstand under dim red fluorescent lights. The crowd at Curley’s is younger, and they’ve been away from the blues for a while; so Otis can reach out into the area where the blues and jazz intermingle. “I was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi, but I left when I was fifteen...” He plays left-handed, looking down at his fingers on a solo. “It was the winter when I first came up and it was cold, but I had a sister living here; so I stayed with her.” He’s only 31 and he looks younger. “As a kid I just liked the looks of the guitar, but I didn’t play. I started after I got up here and got a little older and heard Muddy and Buddy Guy and T-Bone Walker...” Otis has always been an exciting singer, and he has matured into a brilliant, inventive guitar player. The rest of the band is even younger, and they move from the blues of Otis’ “I Can’t Quit You Baby” to the hard edged blues-jazz of “Rock” with an easy familiarity—except for the alto man, “Sax” Crowder, a thin, quiet musician from the 1939 Earl Hines Band. His jazz has always been the blues, and his blues style has always been jazz. This is the new, young, “tough,” Chicago blues—”tough” the South Side term for the newest, the most exciting.

With Jimmy Cotton the sound is closer to the country style. He’s been Muddy Waters harp man since 1957, and Muddy doesn’t stray far from the first band sound he developed in the mid-1940’s. At Pepper’s Lounge, where the band usually works when it’s in town, you can get down close to the bandstand and hear Jimmy sing. Muddy usually sits at one of the tables and lets Jimmy or Otis Spann do most of the playing. The Chicago harmonica—”harp”—style is one of the distinctive sounds of the Chicago blues, the instrument played differently than it was in the South. Jimmy, like Junior Wells and Little Walter Jacobs and Big Walter Horton, holds it against a cheap amplifier mike, cupping both the microphone and the harp in his hands. He’s in his early 30’s, and despite ten or so years away from the South there’s still some of the easy country enthusiasm in his exuberant singing—and even some of the country concerns in his blues about the outskirts of Helena, Arkansas, about bad cotton crops, and about new cars and ungrateful women.
Homesick James has been up from Mississippi longer, since 1947, but he has as much of the down home sound as Jimmy. His style comes partly from his cousin, Elmore James—Homesick worked with him on and off before Elmore’s death in the mid 1950’s—and partly from his own country background. The sound is as distinctive to Chicago as Jimmy’s harp. It’s the electrified “slide” style that Muddy and Elmore developed out of the Mississippi “bottleneck” playing. You put a metal bearing ring or a piece of metal pipe on the little finger of your left hand and you can work the strings to get almost any kind of sound. Homesick works at most of the South Side clubs, but he’s had a steady factory job ever since he got to Chicago; so he usually plays only on Friday and Saturday in one of the small clubs. The sound of the blues has changed on the South Side, but there’s still some of the sound of Mississippi music around the corner in a neighborhood bar, or in a lounge near the El tracks—the loneliness and the insecurity of the country music intensified, driven into a new creative excitement, in the slums of the northern city.
Chicago - The Blues - Today! Vol. 2
(192 kbps, ca. 62 MB)




Notes from the original release of "Chicago/The Blues/Today Vol. 2":

“Sweet Home Chicago”...up from Meridian, Mississippi, up from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from Jackson, from Selma, Memphis, Helena, Brownsville, Bessemer, Natchez...to a rooming house on S. Indiana, to a run down hotel on West Roosevelt, to a folding bed in a sister’s apartment on S. Lake Park. If you’re colored it’s better in Chicago than it is in Mississippi—unless you’re aggressive or talented or lucky not much better, but enough so that you get on the Greyhound bus in Jackson or Tupelo with some food in a shoe box and your clothes in a paper suitcase, or you sit up for a gritty night in a railroad coach, or you get a ride with somebody who’s got a battered car. Jobs? There aren’t many, and what there are don’t offer much more than you could have gotten back in the South. Someplace to stay? The rooms are small and dirty and you live poor and cramped until you can get a steady job and move into something better.

Sometimes—if you’ve come up from a cotton farm, or from a slow back country town—everything seems changed. the buildings along Indiana or Prairie in the south ‘30s, or on the streets going east to the lake, have a heavy, imposing look—stone and brick, with names carved into the top stone arch, “Doris,” “Paloma,” “Linda,” “Windermere,” but the stones are black with soot and the names are grimy and weathered. In the entrance hallways a broken light bulb dangles from the ceiling, and the names are scrawled on the walls beside the battered mail boxes. Beside most of the names a note like, “Third floor rear ring 2 times.” There isn’t enough money to rent a whole apartment; so a five room apartment becomes four rooms for four families with a kitchen for everybody to share. Along the inside hallways the doors have been wearily dragged shut with wires and hooks and cheap padlocks, but on most of them are old scratches and broken hasps, the marks of thieves who hang around in the dark hallways and back entrances of the buildings. But some things haven’t changed as much. Climbing up the stairs to somebody’s apartment you can hear the voices from the rooms around you. Children crying, women calling to each other, somebody singing, an abrupt argument... and you can hear music. Somebody’s always playing a radio or a phonograph and most of the time the music has the raw, insistent sound of the Chicago blues.

The blues is still the same emotional expression that it is in Mississippi, but in Chicago, like a lot of other things, the blues has changed. It isn’t only that the sound is different, that the clubs have to have three or four piece bands instead of one or two men with guitars, that the instruments have all been electrified to be heard over the noise of the crowded barrooms where the men work. The old style was less determined, less relentless, it was concerned with country towns and country roads and country cabins. It was “country” blues. If you grew up out along one of the rivers of the delta, or back on a one lane dirt road, there was a least the sun and the afternoon wind and the streams to fish in and the fall mornings when you could hunt in overgrown fields; so the music was gentler, sometimes almost warm and easy in its worries with love and loneliness. But there isn’t much sun in the South Side streets, and the apartment houses are overcrowded, and the winters are bitter and the spring comes late; so the music is harder, with some of the city’s mean ferocity.

3 Kommentare:

Feilimid O'Broin hat gesagt…

Many thanks for this recording of three blues greats and for your write-up and the album notes which are so informative. Otis Rush and James Cotton have always been favorites, but I was lucky enough to discover Homesick James' music six years ago and have enjoyed his recordings ever since. Your most recent posts and re-posts have been superb; thank you for maintaining a fantastic and unique blog.

zero hat gesagt…

It´s good to see you again in the comment section. Thanks a lot for your feedback. All the best!

Felix Cardoso, West New York, New Jersey, baby! hat gesagt…

"It's My Own Fault" is, to me, the high point of Rush's recorded legacy. The depth of feeling in the playing and the singing is unparalleled.

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