“A Black & Tan Ball” will be released in the U.S. on 28th July. This new album by the Seattle songsters features the playing and singing of harmonica master Phil Wiggins, whose storied career has included performances at the White House with his long-time musical partner, John Cephas as well as decades of teaching.
While most murder ballads seem to revolve around sadness and tragedy, this song takes its time savoring the various possibilities of the violent act. We’re excited to present this new single “Do You Call That A Buddy” over on American Blues Scene today.
There’s a duality to the music of Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons; the same duality that lies at the heart of the blues. It’s the dichotomy between the weight of history that hangs over black America and the lightness of these old folk songs, which are meant to uplift and charm, to trick away danger, to fool authority, to squeeze a person out of harm’s way, but also to assert a subtle sense of worth and dignity. These songs brought black Americans through the darkest years of our country’s history, and they have an unsettling amount of currency in today’s world, where saying that the blues is black music or even saying that the life of a black person matters are both controversial statements.
The music that renowned Seattle roots duo Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons are making on their new album, A Black & Tan Ball, is not just blues music. The better term is a new and important one: Black Americana. To make this music, they’ve recruited good friend and touring partner Phil Wiggins, an eclectic legend of American blues harmonica (who received an NEA National Heritage Fellowship this year). By pulling together the many threads of black American roots music, and demonstrating the underlying meanings behind the black experience in folk music, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons are showing another side to Americana that can help expand the genre’s boundaries.
“Every musician is a product of their influences. It would be dishonest for me to deny the influence of B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and others however the two profound “game changers” were Freddie King and Magic Slim. A quote from B.B. or Muddy may come at any time in my performance, but the giants who take me to the gig and stand with me are Slim and Freddie. Freddie was an obsession of mine throughout the ’70s. I played all of his instrumentals as have many famous guitarists. In the late ’70s, I discovered another giant. While searching the record bins at a record store known for obscure recordings, I discovered Magic Slim and The Teardrops. This lead to a pilgrimage to Chicago in the hopes of finding Slim. The liner notes on the Austrian record label said that he was in Chicago and was relatively undiscovered. At the time, there was at least 50 blues clubs in Chicago cooking every night of the week. I only knew of two; B.L.U.E.S. on N. Halstead and The Checkerboard Lounge (owned at the time by Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells) in the South Side. There was no internet. If you wanted to find something, you had to search and ask…. a lot. So, my quest began to find Magic Slim. I drove to Chicago and went to B.L.U.E.S. on N. Halstead to ask about Slim’s whereabouts. When I got there, Magic Slim and The Teardrops were playing! It was packed so I couldn’t talk to Slim. The following night, I went to the only other club I knew of, The Checkerboard Lounge. I walked in and saw Slim sitting at the bar. I introduced myself and explained my shock and disbelief that I found him two nights in a row with no prior knowledge of his whereabouts. He looked at me and said “Well…that’s why they call me Magic Slim”. That began a friendship that lasted over 30 years until his passing in Feb. 2013. I became very close to Slim and his band and played with them many times through the years. John Primer was the last guitar player in Muddy’s band and when Muddy passed, John went with Slim.
In the 13 years that John spent with Slim, we also became good friends. One of my favorite tunes by John is covered on this album, “Stop Draggin’ That Chain Around”. Slim encouraged and inspired me to find my own voice in performing the blues. If there’s a moment while listening to this album that you find yourself tapping your feet or playing air guitar or drums, I’ve succeeded in bringing you Magic. Whether it was Magic Slim or Freddie King that lead to that moment, it’s clear to me that they are both responsible for the way I interpret my music and so I have named this album……..MAGIC KINGDOM. Hopefully, you will find this album inspirational in some way and together we can share these moments that help to keep the Blues Alive!” Gordon Meier
Fret board aficionados, tone junkies and fans of hot stove blues guitar will be glad to hear the return of Seattle guitarist Jim Allchin, who is preaching to the choir on his third album “Decisions.” The 14 tracks were recorded at the famed Blackbird Studio in Nashville by a production team led by Grammy winning producer, drummer and songwriter Tom Hambridge. The group of A list players involved also includes Michael Rhodes on Bass, Reese Wynans on piano and Hammond B3, Guitarists Pat Buchannan and Rob McNelly and the “Heart Attack Horns,” led by Bill Bergman and Lee Thornburg. If this wasn’t enough fire power Allchin and Hambridge recruited Niki Crawford, Wendy Moten, Seattle soul man Mycle Wastman and international blues super star Keb’ Mo’ to join in on vocals, rounding out the all-star team.
The core quartet opens the album on the rockin’ blues shuffle ‘Artificial Life,’ with Allchin extolling the turmoil and tribulations of the modern-day working man blues. The team then heads south of the border on a rollicking trip to ‘The Mexican End,’ an easy going four-on-the-floor groove with hot horns and lead guitar. Allchin then cranks up the volume for the heavy hitting track ‘Bad Decisions,’ featuring more molten fret work and organ from Wynans on one of several songs co-written by Hambridge. The mood mellows for the introspective ‘Healing Ground,’ with Allchin trading verses with Keb’ Mo’ speaking to the precious gift of life that surrounds us and the power of healing available to all, if we will only listen.
The house rockin’ shuffle ‘Blew Me Away’ features the “Heart Attack Horns,” who bolster Allchin’s guitar chops on a good old-fashioned song about falling in love at first sight. The piano driven ‘She Is It’ continues the theme as he testifies to the virtues of the love of his life during the easy pop ballad. The gang whip out all the Nashville cat tricks on the blazing boogie woogie instrumental ‘Just Plain Sick,’ trading hot licks like old pros. The barn-burning slow blues ‘Friends’ rolls out like a staple from the B.B King songbook, with Allchin delivering a sermon on trust and being wary of fair-weather toadies and sycophants. Allchin dons an acoustic guitar to emphasize his point and our need for peace and understanding delivered via the easy-going country blues of ‘You Might Be Wrong,’ celebrating our differences in a party atmosphere to sell an important life lesson. The second instrumental in this collection centers around soaring guitar melodies and intertwining harmonic lines that ebb and flow with emotion. The edgy ‘Don’t Care’ finds Allchin playing the role of a man done wrong and standing his ground while his guitar does most of the talking. He then digs deeper into the blues for the torch song ‘Stop Hurting Me,’ featuring dulcet piano from Wynans and a solo from Allchin that rips like Garry Moore. The tender tribute ‘My Father’s Eyes,’ will touch the heart of anyone who lost a parent at an early age and longs for them to know how much they are missed and still loved. The album closes with a third guitar-driven instrumental simply titled ‘Destiny,’ with Allchin pouring out the passion he feels for this magical instrument, through his fingertips.
Jim Allchin describes the collection in the album notes as a study in the decisions we make in our life about identity, relationships, and “how to live life authentically.” Themes reflected in the lyrical content and in the choice of every note from his cerebral guitar work and soulful vocals. This is quite an album; the stuff dreams are made of.
Acoustic, country blues is one of the purest forms of Americana
music. It also may be the most difficult to master. To capture the
sound and spirit of a Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt or Lightnin’
Hopkins takes tremendous musicianship and a feel for the music that few
But Cary Morin, a Crow tribal member who grew up far from the
Mississippi Delta in Montana, has tapped directly into the roots of
country blues. With his impeccable finger picking and occasional steel
guitar playing and crusty, expressive vocals and song writing, Morin has
developed a style that stands apart as true “Native Americana.”
Morin’s deft blues picking and raw singing are reminiscent of Corey
Harris’s early recordings.
Morin has performed professionally since forming his first band, The
Atoll, in 1989 and later as a part of the Pura Fe Trio. In the last
several years, Morin’s solo career has progressed as he won the Colorado
Blues Challenge Solo Championship in 2013 and 2014.
Morin’s Cradle to the Grave is his fourth solo album, following Streamline, Tiny Town and Together.
The album is entirely acoustic, and all songs were written by Morin
except for eclectic covers of tunes by Willie Brown (“Mississippi
Blues”), Prince (“Nothing Compares 2 U”) and Phish (“Back on the
Train”). Blues-based tunes like the title track, “Lay Baby Lay” and
“Watch Over Me” form the cornerstone of the album. Check out “Laid
But Cradle to the Grave isn’t entirely blues. Morin’s
heartfelt “Dawn’s Early Light,” written to support the Standing Rock
Sioux Tribe, and “Trust” are compelling folk songs, and Morin’s picking
on “Mishawaka” is spellbinding. Morin is a unique talent, and this
album is a pleasure.