Thursday, December 27, 2018

Riding With The King-The Music Of B.B. King

Riding With The King-The Music Of B.B. King

CD Review

By Zack James

Riding With The King, B.B. King, Eric Clapton

“You never know where music, the muse of music if that is the right way to say it, if it is not redundant” Seth Garth said to his old friend Bartlett Webber one night when they were discussing various musical trends and commitments over a few drinks at Friday’s in downtown Boston. Seth had just been commenting on the hard fact that the guys and gals who were holding up the blues traditions of the quintessentially black musical form were mostly then younger whites who had gotten their baptisms of fire back in the early 1960s maybe the 1970s when as part of the British invasion of rock groups (the Beatles and Stones mostly) who worshiped at the feet of the old bluesmen and as part of the folk revival of the early 1960s when the young were looking for roots music and hit upon some old time country blues singers they got hooked on this genre.(That worship at the feet was no mere expression since as august a group as the Rolling Stones made their way to Chicago, made their way to legendary blues label Chess Records, made their way to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.)  

Seth went on, “You know with very few exceptions, maybe in the old days guys like Taj Majal and more recently Keb ‘Mo young blacks were running away from their blues is dues contributions, except the hip-hop artists who were savoring those blues as backdrop to their new language experiences.” Bart nodded his head not so much because he was as knowledgeable as Seth about musical trends, he wasn’t, but because ever since Seth had turned him on to various non-rock and roll forms of music such as these blues and folk music he had deferred to him on such subjects.         

That deference to Seth had not been happenstance since for early in his journalistic career starting with the American Folk Gazette when he was still in college he had been a music critic most frequently and profitably before it folded long ago when the ebb tide of the 1960s faded the prestigious The Eye. Moreover although Bart was a true aficionado Seth would be the one to lead the way forward musically ever since the old days back in Riverdale when Seth had been the guy who turned the crowd they hung around with to that folk music that was coming over the horizon. He would take the lead here as well ever since both men had attended a concert at the Garden by Big Bill Bloom, the legendary folksinger from the 1960s. Both men had agreed to walk out of the performance before the encore as a protest to the hard fact that Big Bill could no longer sing, was practically talking the lyrics through. That experience got Seth onto the trail of an idea. He wanted to check out all the singers still standing from back in the day who were still performing and rate them on the question of whether they still had “it.”  As it turned out some did like David Bromberg and his band who burned up the joint one night downtown. The late Etta James didn’t, didn’t have it. And so the quest.       

That quest was now centered more particularly on the fading fast few blues masters still around. That is where Seth began to see that break in the black blues tradition as two generations or more removed from Southern country life or hard inner city industrial madness which had brought a couple of generations north in search of a better life and the music needed to pick up as well bringing forth the whole electric blues scene that hummed cities like Chicago and Detroit in the early 1950s. That brought them to this-B.B. King and Eric Clapton, one of those British invasion guys were going to perform together at the Garden in a week or so.

At the concert Seth and Bart had been apprehensive when they saw ancient B.B. and his latest version of Lucille being escorted to a seat on center stage with Eric Clapton to the side. Not to worry though the work they did was a great success. Seth mentioned to Bart though that he was not sure where the new generation would get their blues fromsince they would never go away just like rock androll once guys like Eric passed away. This CD was their work-okay.        

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