Harper, Musselwhite Release One Of 2013’s Best Records In “Get Up!”

Courtesy:  Stax Records

Courtesy: Stax Records

Ben Harper’s latest release, Get Up! is both one of his finest releases to date and one of the best new albums of 2013.  Playing the blues is nothing new to Harper.  Much of the work that he has churned out throughout his career boasts an obvious blues influence.  This includes his 2004 collaboration with the famed Blind Boys of Alabama, There Will Be a Light.  Next to that record, this most recent release is the only other time that Harper has gone full blown blues.  Of course without fellow musician Charlie Musswelwhite on board for the project, it might never have gotten off the ground.  Thankfully though, it did.  And because it did fans of both Ben Harper and the Blues have an album that is one of those rare albums that can be enjoyed from start to finish without skipping even one song.

Get Up! opens in impressive form with the mid-tempo song, ‘Don’t Look Twice.’  This is a modern blues classic both in its lyrical and musical side.  It’s a song that reminds listeners their woes aren’t as someone else’s.  Harper sings to his listeners, “If your ship hasn’t come in/Don’t’ have a problem with the shore/If you’re locked out of your house/Don’t’ have a problem with your door/The dice are no man’s mistress/Black diamond snake moan/Wake up in the morning/Honey I’ll be gone.”  He’s telling listeners, don’t blame one thing for something else happening.  He’s saying that some things are just uncontrollable.  While it may sound like some sort of inspirational speech, it shows that the blues don’t have to be sad to be enjoyed even when the music boasts a classic, slower twelve-bar style.  They can be uplifting in different ways whether it is through those sad, slow songs or through something with a little bit more fire to them.  For that reason, this song makes for a proper opener.

Where ‘Don’t Look Twice’ leaves off, the album’s next song, ‘I’m In I’m Out and I’m Gone’ picks right back up.  This song has more of a classic Chicago blues sound about it.  Musselwhite’s harmonica playing is wonderfully countered by Jesse Ingalls’ steady bass line and Jordan Richardson’s complimentary time keeping on snare.  The trio comes together with Harper’s vocals to make another song that is a modern classic.  Its lyrical side makes it just as interesting.  It really shows the link between the blues and gospel music as he sings verses that are more gospel than blues.  He sings, “You gotta answer to somebody/If you didn’t learn/Then you didn’t read/Gotta live with it/What’s a man to do/Gotta answer to somebody.”  It is very much the spiritual song.  But its ability to mix two genres so seamlessly makes it one more of so many highlights that show up throughout this impressive opus.

Get Up! offers listeners so many impressive songs from the opening moments of ‘Don’t Look Twice’ to ‘I’m In I’m Out I’m Gone’ to the much slower closer, ‘All That Matters Now.’  That song echoes blatant hints of Muddy Waters musically speaking.  It instantly conjures images of a smoky, dimly lit blues club.  And even Harper’s vocals are so akin to that of a young Muddy Waters.  What’s ironic about the song is that just as with the album’s opener, the music is old school, twelve-bar blues but the lyrics are actually quite uplifting.  Harper is singing here that while things are so tough, his subject is still happy because he has that special someone.  He sings, “It’s been a long hard day/And a long hard night/Been a hard year/It’s been a hard life/But we’re together/And that’s all that matters now…Been thrown by the wind/Drowned in the rain/I walked through some things/You don’t want me to explain/But we’re together/And that’s all that matters now.”  There’s just something magical about that mix of music and lyrics.  Whether it’s just the feel of the two combined or something else, it taps into the very soul of the blues, just like so many other songs on this new record.  It’s one more part of the whole that makes this record one of the year’s best and one of the best that Ben Harper has ever released.  It is available now in stores and online and can be purchased via Ben Harper’s official website at http://www.benharper.biz/getup.html and via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Get-Up-Deluxe-CD-DVD/dp/B009ICQ6KO/?tag=conmusgro-20.  It can also be downloaded via iTunes.  Harper’s European fans will get the chance to see him this Summer as he tours across the continent and into South America.  His European tour kicks off July 3rd in Pistoia, Italy and wraps September 20th in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.  Ben Harper fans can get all of the latest tour updates and news from him online at http://www.facebook.com/benharper and http://www.benharper.com.

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New Muddy Waters/Stones Double Vinyl Makes A Great Performance Greater

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records/Eagle Vision

Eagle Rock Entertainment released what is one of the year’s best live releases earlier this year in the classic 1981 performance of The Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters live at Chicago’s Checkerboard Lounge.  That set contained both a DVD and CD.  Now, Eagle Rock has followed up that release and sweetened the deal for audiences even more with a new vinyl/DVD companion to the DVD/CD set.

 The new Vinyl/DVD companion to Eagle Rock’s previous release contains the entire performance from the DVD/CD set on two vinyls.  It also includes the artists’ full performance on a full length DVD presentation.  This new addition to the previously released set as it makes the classic performance that much more fully encompassing.  Just as listening to the CD and watching the DVD will give fans of the modern medium a full concert experience, so will this new set.  Audiences who haven’t yet checked out either set will be amazed at the enjoyment that they will experience, especially with this additional piece.  This iconic show was recorded before the dawn of compact discs.  And it was recorded in one of the “queen cities of jazz and the blues.”  Knowing that, putting on the vinyls will bring on a total sense of nostalgia for any fan that might prefer that medium. 

Listening to the concert on vinyl will instantly conjure up some wonderful nostalgic feelings in any listener young enough to recall those days before compact discs and mp3’s.  It’s a fantastic feeling to put on either disc, close one’s eyes, and really take in the music.  It may be even more so than with the CD presentation, because of that sense of nostalgia.  That’s just part of the whole package, though.  As wonderful as it is to experience this show as it was really meant to be experienced, the inclusion of a DVD with the full concert makes the entire thing that much better.  Being able to see the Stones, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, and all the others up on that tiny stage is incredible.  After having seen the show, audiences can go back, put the vinyls on back to back and gain that much more appreciation for what is one of this great nation’s greatest musical genres and for the artists performing each song.  Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones Live at the Checkerboard Lounge is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered direct via Eagle Rock Entertainment’s website, http://www.eagle-rock.com.

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The Blues Broads Are Four Ladies Who Can Really Sing The Blues

Courtesy: Delta Groove Productions

Bonnie Raitt, Etta James, Koko Taylor.  All three of these women are among the most famous names in the world of the blues.  But how many audiences out there have ever heard of a female fronted four-piece known as The Blues Broads?  This four-piece is made up of some of music’s greatest female names.  The group is comprised of Mother Earth singer Tracy Nelson, Stoneground founding member Annie Sampson, Dorothy Morrison (of the Edward Hawkins Singers), and Angela Strehli.  Strehli has sung with some of the blues most famed names such as:  Muddy Waters, Albert King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  The combination of these four women has led to what is one heck of a group.  And now thanks to the group’s new live CD/DVD release, odds are that the name of The Blues Broads may  become as well known as its members other projects, if not more so.

The Blues Broads’ live CD/DVD release was recorded at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, California.  This double disc set shows just how talented these women are.  The CD and DVD set lists aren’t exactly the same.  But that’s beside the point.  Every song in this performance makes for a great time for any blues lover and music lover.  There’s the up-tempo rocking cover of, ‘River Deep’, the easy going country/blues style of ‘Blue Highway’, and what has to be the absolute standout song from this performance in ‘Walk Away.’  This Stevie Ray Vaughan style song is classic twelve bar blues in every sense.  And while it was performed in a nice club (as is seen in the DVD portion of the performance), this is one of those songs that immediately conjures images of a smoky, dimly lit bar. 

The Broads are extremely talented singers.  There is no doubt at all about that.  The ladies’ backing musicians—Steve Ehrmann (bass), Paul Revelli (drums), Gary Vogensen (guitar), Mike Emerson (keyboards), and Deanna Bogart (keyboards, vocals, tenor sax)—add their own flair to each song.  All together, they add so much to the song that helped make Dorothy Morrison famous in ‘Oh Happy Day.’  Gary Vogensen plays as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan on ‘Walk Away.’  There is so much more that could be said and written of what makes this such an enjoyable live recording.  But audiences would do best to experience it for themselves.  It hits store shelves next Tuesday, September 18th.  While fans count down the days, they can check out all the latest from The Blues Broads online at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Blues-Broads/223064757721593 and http://www.thebluesbroads.com.  Fans can also check out more about The Blues Broads online at http://www.deltagrooveproductions.com.

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Peter Green & Co. Bring Back The Best Of The Blues On New Compilation

Courtesy: eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Records

The blues is one of the purest forms of American music that exists, next to jazz.  The blues is the root of so much of the most popular music throughout the ages.  Elvis, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and AC/DC all have their music steeped in this classic music, just to name a handful of acts.  Along with those acts, fans might recognize the name of former Fleetwood Mac front man Peter Green among the masses of blues fans out there, too.  Green and his band, Peter Green Splinter Group, have a brand new record out now titled, “Blues Don’t Change.” 

“Blues Don’t Change” is a wonderful record that longtime fans will love more and more with every listen.  The record opens with a cover of Robert Johnson’s timeless classic, ‘I Believe My Time Ain’t’ Long.’  The song brings up memories of a dusty, darkly lit blues club.  It’s almost a musical time capsule.  Green’s musicianship takes listeners back in time with this opener, paying homage to one of the greatest names in the blues.  There is also a rendition of Muddy waters’ famed twelve bar blues hit, ‘Honey Bee.’  Again, it has that quiet intensity for which old school blues is known.  It has that same feeling as ‘I Believe My Time Ain’t Long.’

‘Little Red Rooster’ is another great addition to this new compilation of blues hits.  The gritty feel of the vocals and subtlety of the classic Willie Dixon piece will keep listeners in that musical time warp, back to the days of the old juke joints that dotted the country’s landscape. 

For all the slower pieces on this record, “Blues Don’t Change” does change up here and there.  ‘Don’t Start Me Talking’ is just as impressive as every other piece on the record.  It’s noticeably more up-tempo than other pieces.  But it doesn’t lose any of the flare of the original in Green’s interpretation. 

“Blues Don’t Change” is loaded with so many incredible blues standards that it would take far too long to go into all eleven songs in the playlist.  Needless to say, this record is more than just a compilation of songs.  It’s a musical history lesson of one of America’s greatest musical genres.  “Blues Don’t Change” is available both in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online at http://www.eagle-rock.com.

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Eagle Rock sets the bar again with Muddy Waters, Rolling Stones archived live show

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Rock and roll shares a very special relationship with the blues.  If not for the blues, there would likely be no rock and roll.  Any music historian would agree with that sentiment.  Now, thanks to the good people at Eagle Rock Entertainment and Eagle Vision, music lovers everywhere get to experience what is arguably one of the greatest moments in the history of both genres in the new DVD and DVD?CD release of “Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones Live at the Checkerboard Lounge.”

Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Lefty Bizz and the Rolling Stones all came together in an impromptu show at the famed Checkerboard Club on November 22nd, 1981.  The weather outside may have been cold.  But as it was documented in this new release, the energy of this one off mega show warmed the house and everyone in attendance.  The vibe is set from the very first notes of the piano led, ‘Sweet Little Angel.’  Pianist Lovie Lee shines not only on the keys, but vocally, too.  His talent shows through on ‘Flip Flop and Fly’, as well.  Muddy keeps the positive vibe set by Lee coming when he enters on ‘You Don’t Have to Go.’  And his chops on the guitar are unlike anything that any other guitarist did then or does today.   Things really get moving when Muddy coaxes Mick Jagger and his band mates Keith Richards and Ron Wood to come up and join in.  This is just one of many impromptu moments that make this show such fun.  Audiences will thrill at seeing Mick Jagger in his trademark “Chicken man” stance, hands on his hips, head stuck out.  He, Wood, and Richards show their love and respect for the blues while they play.  It’s proof of what makes the Rolling Stones one of the world’s most beloved bands.

Even when Muddy and Mick take a break, the energy is maintained by fellow bluesmen Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Lefty Dizz.  The trio take over on ‘Got My Mojo Workin’ ‘, ‘Next Time You See Me’ and ‘One Eyed Woman’ before Muddy comes back up on ‘Clouds in My Heart.’

Audiences get one amazing show from the vault in this newly released concert.  It’s only made that much better with the addition of an audio portion in the bonus CD included in the double disc DVD/CD set.  This inclusion will allow audiences to listen to the show anywhere they go.  The audio transfer from the master tapes was seamless.  In short, the experience is just as grand on CD as it is on DVD.  All involved in bringing this show back to life on CD are to be commended.  The same should be said of those who dusted off the original video tapes of the show, and brought it back to life for DVD presentation.

Eagle Rock Entertainment and Eagle Vision have once more set the bar for live recordings with this latest release.  And while Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones take top billing, it’s obvious that this performance is less about either one, and more about celebrating the power of music.  It joined two members of the same musical family for one special night.  What’s more it has given eagle Rock and Eagle Vision one more of the year’s very best live recordings. 

The single disc DVD and double disc DVD/CD set are both available in stores and online now.  Fans can order it online at http://www.eagle-rock.com.  There will also be a triple disc DVD/ 2-LP Vinyl release on September 11th

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