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Tag: blind lemon jefferson

Blues Guitar Maven Will Scott Makes His Way Back to His Old Brooklyn Stomping Ground

Will Scott was in goodnatured entertainer mode yesterday evening at this year’s Brooklyn Americana Festival, staged in Brooklyn Bridge Park by 68 Jay Street Bar impresario and distinctive British-American folk song stylist Jan Bell. “I’m the only guy who ever left Brooklyn for Indiana and lost weight,” he joked. Which is funnier than you might think, considering that his rangy build never seems to have felt the effect of all those late-night whiskeys during the weekly residency he held for years up the block at 68 Jay. This one of a handful of return shows over the past year was especially fun since he was playing solo acoustic – he’s always been more of a band guy. For another, he got to air out just about every one of his many blues styles: swooping, animated Robert Johnson-style slides; intricate fingerpicking; purist delta blues, and Bible Belt gothic gospel. And lots of grim fire-and-brimstone biblical imagery, and one absolutely sizzling, shredding display of tremolopicking where he really took his time chainsawing all the way to the top of the fretboard. The one style he didn’t show off, one that he’s exceptionally good at, was hypnotic Mississippi hill country blues. But you can only fit so much stylistic cliff-jumping into a 45-minute set.

Scott explained that Gnawbone – the raw, roughhewn title track from his 2009 electric blues album – was named for a town in his home state. “They wanted to name it after Narbonne, in France,” Scott explained, “But the best the hoosiers could do was Gnawbone. I figured I’d name my album that since there was no way I’d ever end up playing there,” he explained. He paused. “Well…I just did.” Apparently the people in town didn’t take offense.

Scott eventually brought up Bell, his longtime collaborator and partner for some harmony vocals on a high-energy, anthemic take of See That My Grave Is Kept Clean, which turned out to be pretty amazing. See, most backup singers will go way up high and wail around on the blue notes. Bell did the opposite: if memory serves right, she went up an octave above the fifth and then made her way down. The effect was as original as it was unselfconsciously chilling: somebody transcribe that so other singers can do that too! And it’s worth mentioning that they way they did the song, looking back toward gospel rather than the Blind Lemon Jefferson recording that Dylan based his on, harked back to a very early version better known as One Kind Favor.

The festival winds up today, September 27 with a ton of music, starting at eleven in the morning at Superfine in Dumbo with the mando and guitar-driven Demolition String Band, eclectic retro Americana/doo-wop singer Willy Gantrim, and honkytonk bandleader/bassist Abby Hollander. Then at 4 PM there’s a rare solo vocals-and-accordion set by charismatic Romany chanteuse and song reinventor Eva Salina followed by the Jack Grace Band playing their boisterously funny oldschool 60s C&W and brooding southwestern gothic, under the archway below the Manhattan Bridge: if you’re in the neighborhood, you’ll hear it. And Scott makes a fond return appearance at 68 Jay at 7 PM.

Purist Tunesmithing, Classic Playing and a Midtown Album Release Show from Adventures in Bluesland

Phil Gammage’s Adventures in Bluesland play about just as many styles of electric blues as there ever were. If you think that the blues us limited to Robert Johnson and bumpa-bumpa-bumpa 1-4-5 chord chamges, this band’s new album The American Dream makes as good an introduction as any. And for people who’ve spent some time with the blues (hell, that’s pretty much everybody, right?), it’s a reminder why we like the music. The band are playing the album release show on June 10 at 9 PM at Lucille’s Bar, adjacent to B.B. King’s on 42nd St. Cover is $10

For a guy with sizzling guitar chops, Gammage – probably best known as the lead player in long-running postpunks Certain General – doesn’t even take a solo til the fifth track. This album’s more about recreating the ambience of classics from the 50s onward, yet it isn’t reverential. But it is purposeful: there’s no gratuitous Claptonizing, no wanky funkdaddeh fingah-poppin’ bass, no campy fusion keyb solos or brontosaurus drums. The opening track, One Kind Favor – – an alternate version of Blind Lemon Jeffersons’s See That My Grave Is Kept Clean – sets the stage. This one’s a noir blues: Don Fiorino’s keening lapsteel soars tersely over Gammage’s multitracked, lingering, reverbtoned lines, drummer Kevin Toole keeping a steady, ominous pulse with his rimshots.

Creepy in the Woods is a westside Chicago-style groove, with Gammage’s Elvis-like vocals over a backdrop that’s not nearly as creepy as the title imlies. Float and Sting has mmore of a ghoulaiblly feel akin to the darker steuff Sean Kershaw‘s been pouting out lately, with a familiar deep-cut Stones riff driving the bridge. The suave ballad I’m Drifting featires a a simmering, blue-flame Robert Aaron alto sax solo midway through. Booze, Blues and New Tattoos is a Texas boogie, but not the over-the-top ZZ Top kind, Gammage adding some unexpected, spaciously noir-tinged riffage.

With its languid, morose, jazz-infused ambience and mournful foghorn harp, Watching the Traffic Flow might be the strongest number here. Our Lucky Day is just vocals and growling, Stonesy distorted guitar til the first verse is over, while Feel the Music is sort the missing link between Muddy Waters’ version of Sweet Home Chicago and Otis Rush – until a long psychedelic interlude driven by Aaron’s sax.

The second of the cover songs here is Last Kind Word Blues, the band’s only adventure in country blues, and it’s absolutely macabre. By conttrast, Walk on the Beach is an upbeat, Elvis-inspired party number with a searing Fiorino solo and some smoky Aaron sax. The album comes full circle with the noir, bossa-tinged Come to Me. While it’s not officially out yet, the band’s webpage has several tracks streaming along with some excellent live footage and other material.