Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This is the blues

Howlin Wolf – Howlin Wolf
I really got into the blues during my second wave of musical discovery. I found out most of my favourite bands were influenced by bands like The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. I then found out those bands were influenced by bluesmen like Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed. Luckily I worked at the Tuning Point. The coolest CD store in Prince George and my boss was a bona-fide blues specialist, he was from Chicago. The store also featured, for the first time, the opportunity to listen to the CD’s ahead of time and see if you liked it or not. Which also meant we could listen to any CD in the store when working! It was a win win kinda job. I dove head first into everything and really got into the blues.
Although I quickly found out, the blues tends to be limited as far as songwriting goes. It’s a very simple form of music and more for an emotional connection more than philosophical. Instead of great songs, it’s a genre for great performers playing the same songs over and over. Guitar playing singers for the most part and the real stuff comes from guys who don’t just sing the the blues, they live it.
I tended to lean more towards the delta style. I really got into Robert Johnson, thanks to the Rolling Stones who covered two Johnson songs. For the electric blues, it was Howlin Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and B.B. King. A little more laid back and old school.
And of those, for me…Howlin Wolf is the guy. There’s plenty of info about Wolf on the net. If you want to see some great footage with the story told by people closest to him, check out, “Moanin At Midnight: The Secret History Of Rock And Roll”. It’s an excellent docu/bio movie on the Wolf. And really, Muddy was great and all, but Wolf was the man. ALOT of rock and roll comes from him.
As far as the music goes, the “Howlin Wolf” album, also known as the “rocking chair” album because of the cover, is simply the greatest blues record I’ve ever heard. It’s a collection of 12 songs recorded between 1957 and 1961 that came out in 1962. I got my first copy on cassette around 1990/91. I still have it, but tapes have since been retired. Luckily I picked up the record a few years ago so I could spin it again regularly.
If you’re going to own any sort of real blues, this is the album to get. It’s from the greatest blues singer ever with enough songs to be amazing, but not too many to be boring. They cover the depth of the blues, from the lowest lows to the highest highs…..“Shake For Me”, “The Red Rooster”, “Down In The Bottom”, “Howlin For My Baby”, “Spoonful”….them’s the blues right there.
It certainly helps that I’m a big Howlin Wolf fan and also love the sound and production of music from the late 50’s, early 60’s. Everything had that fresh, new, iconic, larger than life feel about it. And with advances in technology since, it’s definitely music from another time.
Listen to this song!

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