Tuesday, March 27, 2007

JohnsCDs 2005-0657-031 - Blues For Christmas

If there was a musical genre that closely identified with Christmas, it would be the blues.

While most of the world focuses on the Christmas season, the gift giving, the get togethers, the tinsel, the shopping, and the like, there is an undertow of stress, depression, etc., that lurks below the surface.

Enter the blues.

The blues have often been an outlet for the artists and listeners to vent their frustration at people and things. Perhaps if more Christmas blues were heard, suicides and overindulgence would decline rapidly.

This is just a theory. But it couldn't hurt, huh?

Was this the theory behind Martin Johns impressive looking comp on Christmas blues? Or was this another showcase of his incredible talents to package together another themed comp?

I've asked Martin that question in the special section we've set aside for his insights into his comps that we call...


Since I was enjoying an abundance of Christmas spirit in 2005, I wanted to take the opportunity to crank out a straight ahead Blues mix, one that generally stayed away from the more familiar (possibly overplayed) Blues Christmas tracks. It may not be my most Christmassy mix, but I believe it's a solid Blues CD.

The graphics are among my most favorite efforts. I know it's not an original concept, but I thought it was very well executed. Not a hint of red or green, yet many shades and textures (like the music), allusions to the church and to urban life, almost no soft edges (just the Christmas ornament upper left), and the star (upper right).

Even the font for the title was a complimentary choice. I could easily see this one sitting in a CD bin at Sam Goody's. And I, for one, would certainly buy it.


(Click on image to enlarge)

1.) I didn't know Toronto had the blues, eh? That's where Chris Whiteley comes from and this song is plain fantastic! This one comes from a great Canadian comp called "Santa's Got Mojo" featuring all Canadian blues artists!
2.) The one and only Queen of the Blues! Koko has long been a fixture on the blues scene and her Christmas songs are always highlights - like this one! Find it on Alligator's "Genuine Houserockin' Christmas".
3.) Lovely stuff from Big Al & The Heavyweights. This Christmas rocker was the final track on their 1996 album "That Ain't Nice" - no full Christmas CD yet... why wait, guys?
4.) WOW! I can listen to that harmonica train intro forever! Carey Bell is a near living legend in Chicago and this track from "Genuine Houserockin' Christmas" (see #2 above) proves it!
5.) Impressive slide guitar on this - but I can't for the life of me can't find anything about this one! Whoever it is and wherever it came from, it's good as gold!
6.) Got the blues sound but not the blues feel. Casey York is better suited singing other genres... like beach music. After all, this did come off the "Carolina Christmas" comp (scroll down).
7.) GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS!!! No fillers, all beef - the reel deal! This is it! Titus Turner was a great singer (the Beatles covered his "Leave My Kitten Alone"!) and this swinger from "Blues Blues Christmas 1925-1955" is flat out incredible!
8.) When I first heard this, I thought Jack De Keyser was a black artist - he's got the feel and the sound down to perfection. Born in London, England and living in Canada, this was a true highlight from the "Santa's Got Mojo" disc (see #1 above).
9.) GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS!!! A forgotten blues single from the past! This is listed in the Goldmine Christmas Record Price Guide as "Mr. Bo & His Blues Boys" but doesn't have a year. This was on the Dead Dog comp "Santa's On His Way" but it seems this website is now defunct.
10.) Eddie C. Campbell is another Chicago blues legend who can almost walk on the water. This slow, simple blues riff / track was the only Christmas track on his 2000 album "Hopes And Dreams".
11.) Ever wonder what a Christmas party for blues musicians sounded like? Peggy Scott-Adams is the host and comments as she goes. This is a fine track from the "Christmas With Miss Butch Records" comp.
12.) 35 seconds of "Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy" on harmonica! Bruce Kurnow's "Holidays In Harmonicaland" is a definite on my wish list.
13.) Another great Christmas track from another Chicago blues legend! Found on Billy Boy Arnold's 1999 "Catfish" CD (the only Christmas track).
14.) GREAT JUMPIN' ICEBERGS!!! Scratch another long lost Christmas song off my search list! This is a R&B / blues / 50s rock n roll blend complete with Raelette-like backup singers! Another great track off the "Santa's On His Way" comp (see #9 above).
15.) Sassy, straight, and toe-tapping fun with Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women! Another great track from "Genuine Houserockin' Christmas" (see #2 above).
16.) WOW! Tampa Red was one of Elmore James' influences! Red's classic bottleneck guitar is on full display in this vintage recording off the "Blues Blues Christmas 1925 - 1955" CD (see #7 above).
17.) From the man who brought you the "Chicago Winter Weather Blues"! Golden Big Wheeler is a true Chicagoan and you can find this jammin' Christmas blues track (and "CWWB") on his 1997 "Jump In" CD.
18.) I wouldn't call this Lisa Layne track blues - more country rock along the lines of Travis Tritt maybe.
19.) Charles Brown's classic Christmas song in the hands of Francine Reed is a symphony! Awesome rendition from beginning to end! Find this on the "Ichiban Blues At Christmas V3" comp from 1994.
20.) Clarence Gatemouth Brown was one of the most talented blues artists ever (click on his name to read his amazing life story). This understated but powerful Christmas track came from "The Alligator Records' Christmas Collection".
21.) I wish there was a better biography on Cootie Stark than this obituary. Stark was the last master of the Piedmont blues and where this phenomenal version of "Silent Night" came from is beyond me. A perfect way to end this comp!

A famous quote states "Pizza is a lot like sex. When it's good, it's really good. When it's bad, it's still pretty good." The same could be said of this good (really good) Christmas blues comp I've just heard.

I enjoyed this comp quite a bit. It was good to hear some of the older blues (Tampa Red, Titus Turner), the newer kids on the block (Jack De Keyser, Chris Whiteley), and some real surprises for good measure (Cootie Stark, Ray Agee).

Some Christmas when I'm feeling overwhelmed, stressed or bummed, and desperate for an outlet, I'll reach for this comp and rock the blues away. Or is that blues the rock away?

UP NEXT: JohnsCDs 2005-0859-020 - Breaking Up Christmas


1 comment:

stubbysfears said...

The Cootie Stark track was an MP3 posted at the Music Maker Relief Foundation's website (www.musicmaker.org) in 2003 or 2004 (not reposted in 2006 and not issued on CD). Music Maker is a great organization with some graet CDs for a great cause (profits go to the Blues musicians who have given their lives to the music and now live in poverty). Not much Christmas music (just Cool John Ferguson's jazzy release so far). But some awesome Blues!