Celebrate New Years with the Who Dat Loungers

9 member band that combines blues, jazz, zydeco and rock

The Who Dat Loungers will be playing in New Orleans at the New Year’s Eve dance Hall at Bay Street. They will be bringing in the New Year Mardi Gras style. I personally can’t think of a better band to spend your final 2011 moments with.

 

This band has combined blues, jazz, zydeco and even Rock into their very own sound. They have an unbelievable 9 members that play together to make their music come to life. Anytime that they have played a show, they bring a fun high energy experience to the stage.

The only downfall that this band faces is their size. It doesn’t impact their music at all, in fact it adds to their already great sound. The problem is finding spots big enough to have 9 band members on stage at one time. Regardless of that difficulty, the Who Dat Loungers are still able to book gigs. I can only assume that it comes down to their great sound.

When a band comes together to give the kind of performance that this band commonly delivers, they get booked. They may not get booked at the local bar, however they will get booked somewhere nearby. Their fans sometimes need to be a little more creative in finding the next location of their gig. You can ask any fan and they’ll tell you the show is well worth the extra effort. If haven’t had the opportunity to see this band and you plan on being in the Big Easy then make sure you show up at the New Year’s Eve Dance Hall, you won’t regret it.

The Ladies of Blues Mamie Smith

That woman can sing

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Mamie Smith was one of the first female blues musicians. She often combined the smooth sound of jazz into her powerful bellow of heartbreak. She gave blues music new life that lead to a new sound that would carry blues music into the next lonely road.

Her first recording took place in the early 1920’s. She released popular hits like Crazy Blues, You Can’t keep a Good Man Down and Do It Mr. So and So. Her Blues music isn’t the traditional sound of blues that we have all come accustomed to. Her sound was smooth with an earthy rawness that made people feel her soul deep within the inner core of each individual who stopped for just a moment to hear her roar.

Mamie grew up in a life of poverty combined with old school prejudices. If you listen to her voice you can hear the inner strength in each word. She rose above her time, bowing down to no man. It had to be that passion that led her into a music career that few women seen during her time and even fewer women of color.

Her influence in the music industry went beyond her songs and her voice. Her influenced opened the doors for woman vocalist nationwide. Women have come a long way in music, across on genres. I like to think that Mamie Smith in her own way made that happen. She stood tall and took that first step to open the doors to music and pull all women out of the kitchen and into the spotlight.

Early Blues Music legends Leadbelly

Leadbelly impacted music long after his death

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Taking a peek back into early blues can really bring blues musicians to the surface. Just by listening to them you can hear the beginnings of what almost all blues songs still have today. They are made of chords that belong to heartache and struggle. Their vocals slowly rip into your soul.

No musician sang songs of heartache and pain more deeply than Leadbelly. In fact his songs made such an impact in the music scene that numerous musicians have remade his songs. Leadbelly was the original maker of popular hits like Black Betty, Aint it a Shame, House of the Rising Sun and On a Monday.

The interesting part about his songs is that when his songs were rereleased by other musical talents, they were considered originals. Take for instance On a Monday, Johnny Cash remade this song and not only was it seen as a Johnny Cash original, it was also seen as one his many prison based songs that had been part of his image. Leadbelly was blues music, he made one hit song after another.

Leadbelly grew up in a time when men of color didn’t always receive the recognition that they should have. He also spent a great deal of his time behind bars, charged with murder in Dallas Texas and again charged for a fight that ensued after being released by a pardon where he was sent to Angola prison in 1930. Despite all of these challenges, he became famous and respected for his musical impact. He in fact was eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, sadly he never received the knowledge or pride that came with that moment as it was 39 years after his death.

Doyle Bramhall has Passed, Services Will Be Held This Monday

 

Blues musicians and fans are saddened by the passing of Doyle Bramhall Sr. He passed at the age of 62 at his home from, at this time undetermined causes. It was a shock too many, in fact he was scheduled to perform next week on the 26th at the Granada Theater. We will all, musicians and fans alike miss him dearly.

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Doyle has had a career in music that many struggling musicians only dream of. He has had an impact on the lives of several musicians who have had the chance to meet him. This man has played with some of the greats and in the process was able to become one of the greats.

Several blues musicians had performed a special musical tribute to Doyle last Sunday. His family and closest friends will be attending his services that will be held in his home state of Texas. His family has decided to keep his services open, welcoming all, friends, fellow musicians and fans alike.

I can only imagine that an open service for all would have fit into Doyle’s personality that he was so well known for. A man made of genuine kindness. Doyle Bramhall was a legend and star, a star has now fallen. We will all miss him, may our best wishes remain with his family.

Services will be held in Austin Texas at the Weed-Corley-Fish funeral home. The address is 3125 N. Lamar Blvd. Services will be held at 2:30 pm on November 21st, according to information provided by the Star Telegram.

JW Jones Returns Home

See JW Jones and his band Live at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre

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Ontario blues fans will have an opportunity to welcome back JW Jones as he returns to the Mississauga Living Arts Centre. He will be on stage to perform tonight November 12th at 8pm. JW Jones along with his band promises a show that delivers a more refined sound.

 

If you haven’t had a chance to see JW Jones perform, you won’t want to miss this opportunity. His band consistently delivers a high energy show that promises to add that element of surprise that will excite even the hardest audience critic. Jones is famed for mixing it all up and created a new sound that brings traditional blues into modern elements.

 

He has had the opportunity to play along with many blues headliners, both live and in recording. He has deservedly toured 17 countries and 4 continents throughout his 13 year musical career, including Canada, the United States, Brazil, Europe and Australia. His mere presence on stage delivers an envelope of energy that overtakes each member of his audience.

The  Mississauga Living Arts Centre is part of his current tour. He has just returned from overseas where he had performed in Norway, Germany, Denmark and Finland. He is currently halfway through his tour and will be leaving Ontario to go onto Quebec , the United States and then back home to Ontario. During his return stops in Ontario, he will be performing for a charity event for Cystic Fibrosis. Tickets for this charity event can be purchased online through Senators 65 Roses. 

2011 Blues Blast Award winners

Blues Blast Magazine has completed their 2011 Blues Blast Awards. They have had some great nominations this year, leading to some great award winners. Unlike many awards, Blues Blast is fan based; all judging is done by fans, as a result judging can take a couple of months. In this case judging ran from July until the end of August. Award winners were announced last week after collecting votes from 6500 fans.

Buddy Guy deservingly won the Contemporary Blues CD Award with his Living Proof album and Song of the Year with the single Living Proof. Buddy Guy is currently on his Living Proof tour and in fact is playing in Baltimore tonight. If you want a chance to see him live, be sure to check his tour schedule for upcoming dates near you.

The Traditional Blues CD Award was won by Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith for Joined at the Hip, which was a joined collaboration. I'm sad to say that Pinetop Perkins past on March 21, 2011 and was shortly followed by Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on September 16, 2011. Blues fans everywhere will surely miss them both.

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Trampled Under Foot won two awards, Best Blues Band Award and the sought after Sean Costello Rising Star Award. Their latest album, Wrong Side of the Blues has brought out their artistic sound. They have really shined this year and deserve both of these awards.

 

 

The Female Artist Award went to Robin Rogers. Sadly, she is also a star that has passed. She died quietly in her sleep within days of hearing of her nomination. Robin Rogers had fought a hard battle with cancer and her fans will deeply miss her and her music. 

The New Artist Debut Release Award was won by the Chris O'Leary band with Mr. Used to Be. If you haven't heard this band yet, make sure that you check them out. They deliver a slightly raw sound that harmonizes to create what I can only compare to classic blues.

 

Categorizing a few of the world's stringed instruments

I brought my mandolin to play in a park this weekend and people looked at it like I’d shrunk a guitar with a shrink ray.  I didn’t know a mandolin was so exotic.  But it got me thinking, if they don’t recognize this very American stringed instrument, would they recognize a lute, a dobro, a dulcimer, an erhu or a sitar, the stringed instruments of the world?  Take a read about these instruments and see if you find them in your favorite local park—in India.

 

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--The modern mandolin was created in Naples, Italy in the late 18th century.  It has four pairs of double strings, each playing the same notes that are plucked with a pick. The mandolin became popular in the United States because of a group of players called the “Spanish Students” played on the east coast in the 1880’s. Mandolins were fad instruments in the early 1900’s and even were dealt by the title character in the musical, The Music Man.  Southern string bands adopted the mandolin in the 1930’s.

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--The sitar is a popular instrument in North Indian music.  It has a total of 20 or 21 strings, which include 3 or 4 drone strings, 4 main strings and 13 harmonic strings.  Its body is made of gourd with a long neck made of wood. The sitar is played along with the tabla drum. A famous sitarist is Ravi Shankar, Norah Jones’ father.

 

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--The lute is an early ancestor of modern stringed instruments in Europe and the United States.  It refers to any stringed instruments with a neck and a deep, rounded back. The lute was used particularly in Renaissance and late Baroque music, often to accompany vocal works. However, lutes (the name itself is argued by musicologists) have been used to describe instruments of similar construction used in ancient Egypt, Armenia and Persia, along with other places, at the beginning of the 7th century.

 

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--The name Dobro originated when Slovakian brothers formed the Dobro Manufacturing Company in 1928. It is a resonator guitar and includes an inverted resonator cone to amplify an acoustic guitar’s sound.

 

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--The Appalachian dulcimer was popular in Irish and Scottish settlements in the United States. It is a long, thin instrument with few strings. Players lay the instrument flat on their laps and pluck or strum its strings with the right hand while fretting it with the other.  Another variant is the hammer dulcimer which is played by hitting two cloth-covered hammers onto the strings.

           

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--The erhu is a two stringed instrument played with a bow.  Often called a “Chinese violin,” this instrument originated in China more than one thousand years ago. Scholars believe it is related to an ancient instrument called the xiqin, which originated in central China in the 10th century. Erhus are played in contemporary, as well as classical Chinese music.

Although they are very different now, it is kind of amazing to think about the huge diversity of stringed instruments all over the world, all originating from some variation of the humble lute.  As we can see from the dobro, as we enter the electronic age, we are nowhere near at a standstill in thinking about the possibilities for modern stringed instruments.

Vaudeville and the Orpheum circuit

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          From the late 1800’s to the mid 1920’s, vaudeville and the Orpheum circuit were early examples of entertainment for all of America wherever they were—from Portland, Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts. Featuring all types of act from contortionists to musicians, celebrities to balancing acts, vaudeville was the best and worst of American theatrics and was a homogenizing force that brought upper and lower classes together like never before.

            Unlike its performing arts relative burlesque, where women wore sequins and feathers and often little else, vaudeville could be any kind of act, as long as it was family friendly. Surprisingly popular acts included acrobats, ice skaters and regurgitators. Regurgitators, including the most famous of them all, Hadji Ali, would swallow enough liquid to spew kerosene onto open flames and then enough water to put out the fire he had swelled.

            Other surprising people who made vaudeville appearances included Helen Keller, Babe Ruth and Will Rogers, who performed rope tricks onstage. In addition, as is to be expected, vaudeville made way for its offspring, the musical, by giving room to singers and dancers on every vaudeville bill.

            Besides being entertainment for all types of people, vaudeville performers could come from all races, religions and ethnicities.  There were Jewish vaudeville acts and black performers, comedians who had been window washers in another life and recent immigrants.

            At the height of its popularity in the early 1900’s through the 1920’s and because of its widespread appeal, it’s no surprise that vaudeville, its performers and the owners of its performance spaces were raking in the dough. Variety magazine reported that vaudeville was earning over $30 million dollars a year.

By 1919, even small-time performers who performed on the vaudeville circuit forty-two weeks out of the year were making $75 a week, or $3,150. Compare that to the average factory worker who made less than $1,300 and it’s no wonder that every Tom, Dick and Harry with a little talent tried to make it to the big time.

            Major chains of vaudeville circuit theaters were built by Sullivan and Consodine, Alexander Pantages and Marcus Loew, but the largest chain by far was handled the hardened businessmen Benjamin Keith and Edward Albee. The businessmen incorporated and managed the Orpheum circuit, an 1880’s-constucted chain of theaters, which stretched form the east to the west coast. Modeled after opera houses in Europe, the opulent houses featured gold leaf paneling, high ceilings and interesting moldings. At their completion, the Orpheum circuit had 45 houses in 36 cities throughout the country.
            Keith & Albee had a virtual monopoly over vaudeville houses by 1907. They crushed a performers’ union called The White Rats by creating their own fake union, the National Vaudeville Artists and refused to book anyone who didn’t join their union. They became radically puritanical about the cleanliness of the acts in their show, as well, and verbally and sometimes physically threatened any small-time performers who didn’t comply with their rules.

            Deadened by the Great Depression and the invention of the talking motion picture, vaudeville lost much of its audience and appeal in the 1930’s. However, the legacy of the Orpheum theater remains. Many of these opulent theaters are still in cities across the country, including Vancouver B.C., Omaha, NE, Madison, WI and Minneapolis—and have been refurbished and protected for years of viewers of whatever type of live entertainment comes next.

 

Sources and further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orpheum_Circuit_Inc.

http://www.musicals101.com/vaude2.htm

The Record Players - "Parasite City" (Video)

If you happen to be into the Desperate Bicycles, you already like the Record Players and you don't know. Can't figure if these guys were a Rough Trade group, but it would make sense. Either way, good punk cum pop. Play on repeat.

Roscoe Gordon - "No More Doggin'" (Video)

Whether or not Roscoe Gordon impact Jamaican music with his bouncy piano playing's a moot point. His songs were good and rightly deserve to be understood independent of their collective influence. Whatever, just listen to that swing.

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