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The shocking callousness of the two students whose idea of a joke pushed Tyler Clementi over the brink to suicide was exacerbated little more than a week after Clementi’s plunge to his death off the George Washington Bridge when a front page New York Times story reported on the torture, burning and sodomizing of three gay men—two teens who wanted to be part of the lame-brained gang that tortured them, and a 30-year-old gay man with whom they confessed to having had sexual relations—in the Bronx. In the days after Mr. Clementi’s suicide, other reports surfaced of gay teen suicides as well. The demonizing of people over their sexual-religious-political or any other orientation is incomprehensible madness. It is not unique to our time, but has been heightened by the intrusion of technology into our private lives and the general dumbing down of our culture and values. That’s a whole other discussion.
Almost from its inception this publication has featured multiple public service ads for the Matthew Shepard Foundation in its issues, all prominently featuring the Foundation’s slogan, “Erase Hate." In the aftermath of Tyler Clementi’s suicide, Judy Shepard, Mathew’s mother and the president of the Foundation that bears her late son’s name, offered the most eloquent commentary on gay youth suicide of any we encountered in the mainstream press or elsewhere. Mrs. Shepard knows whereof she speaks, from multiple vantagepoints, first and foremost being what happened to her own son. She also endured the horror of being present in the gallery of the United States House of Representatives when the irresponsible, hate mongering Virginia Foxx, a Republican House member from North Carolina, denounced a hate crimes bill then being considered by Congress, and made a point to call Matthew Shepard’s murder “a hoax.” This too is incomprehensible madness. (Foxx later sent a letter of apology to Mrs. Shepard and later, in a TV interview, couched it in the gutless language of the cowards we see day after day getting caught in racist, homophobic, sexist or other inappropriate behaviors: “If I said anything that offended her…”)
(FYI: The Matthew Shepard Act passed the House 249-175, with Rep. Foxx, who should have resigned after her hateful remarks, voting against the bill. Of course.)
For our part, TheBluegrassSpecial.com will continue to support the goals of The Matthew Shepard Foundation in any way possible, and as a Reality Check this month, we offer Mrs. Shepard’s observations penned in the aftermath of Tyler Clementi’s tragic death.
We Must All Protect Gay Youth from Suicide
By Judy Shepard
President, Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors
September 30, 2010
Our family, and the staff and board at the Matthew Shepard Foundation, are all deeply saddened by the devastating report of at least the fourth gay or gay-perceived teen to commit suicide in this country in the last month.
Reports say that Tyler Clementi, 18, leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge near his New Jersey college campus after a roommate allegedly broadcast him in a same-sex encounter behind closed doors in his dorm room, and apparently invited others, via Twitter, to view it online. Regardless of his roommate's alleged tweet, Tyler had apparently made no statement about his own sexual orientation. I'm sure we will all learn more about this terrible tragedy as legal proceedings unfold, but the contempt and disregard behind such an invasion of privacy seems clear. In the meantime, we send our thoughts and prayers to Tyler's family as they mourn their loss.
In the last month there has been a shocking series of teen suicides linked to bullying, taunting, and general disrespect regarding sexual orientation, in every corner of America. Just a few days ago, Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old in Tehachapi, Calif., passed away after 10 days on life support after he hanged himself. Police say he had been mercilessly taunted by fellow students over his perceived sexual orientation.
Billy Lucas, 15, hanged himself a few weeks ago at his Indiana home after years of reported harassment by students who judged him to be gay. Asher Brown, a 13-year-old in Harris, TX, who had recently come out, took his life with a gun after, his parents say, their efforts to alert school officials to ongoing bullying were not acted upon.
Many Americans also learned this week about Tyler Wilson, an 11-year-old boy in Ohio who decided to join a cheerleading squad that had been all-female. As a gymnast, he was interested in the athletic elements of cheering. He was taunted with homophobic remarks and had his arm broken by two schoolmates who apparently assumed him to be gay. He told "Good Morning America" that since returning to school, he's been threatened with having his other arm broken, too.
Our young people deserve better than to go to schools where they are treated this way. We have to make schools a safe place for our youth to prepare for their futures, not be confronted with threats, intimidation or routine disrespect.
Quite simply, we are calling one more time for all Americans to stand up and speak out against taunting, invasion of privacy, violence and discrimination against these youth by their peers, and asking everyone in a position of authority in their schools and communities to step forward and provide safe spaces and support services for LGBT youth or those who are simply targeted for discrimination because others assume they are gay. There can never be enough love and acceptance for these young people as they seek to live openly as their true selves and find their role in society.
Suicide is a complicated problem and it is too easy to casually blame it on a single factor in a young person's life, but it is clear that mistreatment by others has a tremendously negative effect on a young person's sense of self worth and colors how he or she sees the world around them. Parents, educators and peers in the community need to be vigilant to the warning signs of suicide and other self-destructive behaviors in the young people in their lives, and help them find resources to be healthy and productive. We urge any LGBT youth contemplating suicide to immediately reach out to The Trevor Project, day or night, at (866) 4-U-TREVOR [866-488-7386].
As we were going to press with this issue, we heard the sad news of the passing of SOLOMON BURKE. We have located a classic Solomon Burke interview, conducted by Robert Chalmers for UK-based The Independent in advance of a 2008 Burke appearance at the Glastonbury Festival, and offer it in this issue in remembrance of a giant of American soul. Next month we’ll follow up with an in-depth remembrance of the life and music of one of the most unique artists of our time.
Burke died early Sunday, Oct. 10, at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. He was 70. On his website, a statement by Burke’s family attributed his death to natural causes, with no further comment. Burke was a pre-teen pulpit prodigy (billed as the “Wonder Boy Preacher”) in his native Philadelphia and took his gospel training with him when he cut “Christmas Presents from Heaven” for the Apollo label in 1955 and even more so when he went secular in the early ‘60s as an Atlantic artist. Over the course of seven years with the label, Burke ranged across his entire musical vocabulary, cutting classic southern soul with full-throttle rhythm and horn sections and shouting female gospel singers in the background, as well as gospel, pop and even country—his first crossover hit was a beautiful, crooning version of the country song “Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms),” which peaked at Number 24 in 1961. Possessed of a keen social conscience, Burke also cooked up what he thought would be an empowering project for the black community in the wake of segregation’s end, in the form of a super summit called the Soul Clan. This musical group was to have been comprised of Burke and his fellow soul stars Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Don Covay and Joe Tex, with its aim being to take profits from a planned album and reinvest them in black neighborhoods, building good housing and rehabilitating local businesses so that blacks wouldn’t abandon their own communities for the better appointed white-dominated business districts and neighborhoods. Alas, the group’s demand for a $1 million advance was dismissed out of hand by Atlantic, Redding was killed in an airplane crash, and Pickett bowed out. Arthur Conley and Ben E. King joined up, but the sole fruit of this labor was a single, “Soul Meeting,” and then Soul Clan receded into history.
One of our favorite Solomon Burke stories—and they are multitudinous—comes by way of author/historian Peter Guralnick, in his essential study of southern soul music, Sweet Soul Music (Harper & Row, 1986). Describing the arduous bus tours that took groups of soul musicians across the country en masse in the ‘60s, Guralnick offered this priceless portrait of Burke’s conduct on tour:
Solomon, of course, found something of interest nearly everywhere he went. Everyone recalls the sandwiches and ice water that he sold on the bus and chuckles at his opportunism, but it wasn’t business that he enjoyed so much as people—men, women, fans, freaks, anyone with a story to tell. Don Covay recalls one time when a man came up to Solomon for advice backstage at the Apollo. “He got the guy to shave all his hair off. He told him, ‘Now the message can get to your head.’ Then he took his picture in a coffin. He said, “Now this is your gimmick. You preach from the coffin.’ The dude wound up on television. Solomon was like the Pied Piper. He turned this guy’s mind around completely.” Even for Solomon it wasn’t all fun and games, though. By 1965 he was no longer selling so many records. He was no longer Atlantic’s mainstay, either, and despite the fact that he would never fail to keep up appearances (the twenty-six-acre estate in Concordville, Pennsylvania, next to the Duponts, must be maintained, no less than the claim to the throne), in the view ofh his longtime friend Alexander Graham Bell, a security expert known to everyone as Nero who has worked for Solomon off and on since 1957: “You gotta understand him. He’s a complex man, he’s got his moods. When he’s up, he’s a master. When he’s down, ‘I’m sorry, baby, I gotta take care of some business. I’ll talk to you later.’ Solomon’s a bear. By his being so big people think he’s ferocious, and, he try to use his size and that deep bass voice. But they take shots at him, too. And you gotta understand one thing about Solomon: he may roar, but underneath he’s just a teddy bear.”
Godspeed, Solomon. Rest in peace.
New York City proved to be more of a test than Rhonda Vincent and The Rage had anticipated, owing to their bus driver having an accident in the Lincoln Tunnel and leaving the group without its own instruments or stage attire for a CD release event at Joe’s Pub. Ever resourceful, Rhonda and company triumphed over adversity and dazzled a packed house with new songs from the artist's finest studio album yet, Taken, and followed up by giving everyone in attendance a free CD and a post-show meet-and-greet opportunity—on the sidewalk. In our interview, Vincent, who was on the cover of TheBluegrassSpecial.com in July 2009, discusses why she decided to form her own label, how she’s handling the experience of being an entrepreneur, the making of Taken, and how she spends her downtime at home. Hint: It involves Everyone Loves Raymond.
‘Presenting The One And Only Lovesick Boy, Hank Williams!’
by David McGee
In one impressive 16-disc box set, all the surviving Mother’s Best Flour shows Hank Williams hosted in 1951 are gathered for posterity and lasting pleasure. It’s a tossup as to whether the shows’ survival or Hank’s performances are more miraculous. A critical appraisal plus an interview with Hank’s daughter, JETT WILLIAMS, who spearheaded this collection from the original acetates to the final, magnificent presentation.
CLASSICAL PERSPECTIVES: GIDON KREMER, DE PROFUNDIS
A new department. Each month we’ll take a look at a classical release from multiple perspectives—ours, the artist’s, and various critics’. This month: a moving, provocative work from the great Latvian violinist GIDON KREMER, De Profundis, a work ‘dedicated to all those who refuse to be silenced.’
ALBUM SPOTLIGHT: US 32, Tumblin’ Home and FRANK SINATRA, The September Of My Years
Intimations of Mortality: Strange bedfellows, the Chairman of the Board and US 32 consider twilight time in their own fashion
By David McGee
There is a distinct difference in US 32’s recognition of the merciless march of time and Sinatra’s understanding of it. W.H. Auden provides the best summary of what we hear in the relevant US 32 songs: “Death is like the sound of rolling thunder at a picnic”—ominous, threatening, but still at a safe remove; for Sinatra, the mood is that of one who senses something John Updike described as “real, and dark, and huge” on the horizon, is utterly consumed by its advance and thus eager to take stock, make amends, even ask for small favors of kindness in his 49-year-old dotage.
Sheriff Andy @ 50
Andy Taylor, our favorite small-town sheriff from the town of Mayberry, NC, and the cast of characters orbiting his world—deputy Barney Fife, Aunt Bee, son Opie, Thelma Lou, the Darlings, et al.—are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their TV debut this year, and so are we. In this issue:
*BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE REAL MAYBERRY
By Jake Easton
Exactly where did Mayberry come from? The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the sets and the actors and the real town that was the model for Mayberry. Plus some great clips of Andy picking and grinning with the Darlings (The Dillards) and the Country Boys (Roland and Clarence White), in addition to Andy’s classic interpretation of “Romeo and Juliet.” Must viewing and reading both.
*40 ACRES—WHERE MAYBERRY WAS BUILT
The backlot on 29 acres of land in Culver City, CA, that became Mayberry, NC, had a storied history long before Sheriff Andy showed up, dating back to it being used by Cecil B. DeMille for his 1927 film The King of Kings. The original King Kong was shot there, and it was the site of Civil War-era Atlanta in Gone With the Wind. A fascinating look at Mayberry before it was Mayberry.
PEANUTS @ 60
*PEANUTS: A COMIC BOOK HISTORY
by DR. MICHAEL J. VASSALLO
Peanuts devotee and historian Dr. Michael J. Vassallo charts the history of Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Peanuts gang in comics and comic books, from 1950 to the present.
*GIVING PEANUTS TEXTURE
by Nat Gertler
The go-to guy for all things Peanuts, Nat Gertler, explains how the Peanuts cast evolved from the generic to the special: an overview of how Charles M. Schulz created and added complexity to the Peanuts world, from its original three characters to a more worldly neighborhood gang that engaged both their own specific issues with each other and weightier matters pertaining to the world at large.
*’THE MAGIC OF HIS THING IS SIMPLICITY:
An Interview with Peanuts Comic Book Artist Dale Hale
by Nat Gertler
What was it like to work as an assistant to Charles M. Schulz? Veteran comic book artist Dale Hale did exactly that for several years in his early career, and reflects on the experience in this interview.
*A POTPOURRI OF PEANUTS
A sampling of Peanuts comic strips over the years, including an early Peanuts strip depicting a time before Snoopy was Charlie Brown’s dog, and the final Peanuts daily strip, from January 3, 2000, with Charles M Schulz’s farewell note to his readers included.
VIDEO FILE: JOHN LENNON @70
We feel certain our readers have heard or read their fair share of opinions about JOHN LENNON on the occasion of what would have been his 70th birthday, October 9. We have decided to add to the verbiage in a way that makes sense to us: through the lyrics of John’s songs, as collected in a special Video File ‘video album’ of John solo and with the Beatles. The first word belongs to George Harrison, in ‘All Those Years Ago.’
Arthur Penn: Farewell To An American Master
Director Arthur Penn, a towering figure in American film, passed away on September 30. Someone who had such an impact as Penn did on the film language of his time deserves more than a mere obit, and so we offer three perspectives on the man who gave us Bonnie and Clyde, The Miracle Worker, Little Big Man, The Chase, Night Moves, Alice’s Restaurant and other memorable fare, some of which was hailed upon its release, some of which has been subject to revisionist viewpoints that find more value in it today than when it was new and ahead of its time. To wit:
*THE MIRACLE WORKER:
A Critical Appreciation of Arthur Penn’s Timeless Art
by ADAM BINGHAM
Part biography, part critical appraisal, this in-depth treatise on the life and times of Arthur Penn takes a hard look at the director’s legacy and his impact on other directors, and indeed, on the film world in general.
*THE MIRACLE WORKER: An Interview with Arthur Penn
By DAMIEN LOVE
A fascinating Q&A with Arthur Penn, conducted by film critic Damien Love and originally published in the Bright Lights Film Journal, reprinted here by permission.
*’I LOVE THE GUY’
Arlo Guthrie Remembers Arthur Penn, A Friend
By ARLO GUTHRIE
‘I still don't know very much about films, but I do know a friend when I see one. I will hold what memories I have close to my heart and remain thankful for the chance to have met and worked with Arthur Penn.’ Arlo Guthrie pens a touching remembrance of the man who turned his 18 minutes-plus talking blues song into a feature-length film and helped him become “the person I am.”
‘A Moonlit Night On The Spring River’: Music Is Poetry
By Jensen Liu
The author explains why ‘A Moonlit Night On the Spring River,’ which was selected as one of China’s “Top 10 Chinese Classical Music’ compositions, is also his favorite. Includes the background on how the song came to be, and the original poem that inspired it. In a second piece, ‘Kang-Ding Love Song’: Stories Inside and Outside the Music, Mr. Liu examines the origins one of China’s most popular indigenous folk songs, which also happens to be regarded as the first love song of modern China.
THE BLOGGING FARMER
Alex Tiller’s Blog on Agriculture and Farming
‘Oh, The Farmer and the Cowman Should Be Friends...’
In which our author-farmer advocates for spending extra to buy beef from farmers who treat cattle humanely, and for supporting your local free-range rancher at the same time. An historical perspective is offered here, going all the way back to the story of Cain and Abel, which Mr. Tiller posits as a conflict between ‘new agriculture’ and the old herding/ranching lifestyle.
SEVEN IMPOSSIBLE THINGS BEFORE BREAKFAST
This month our books blogger JULES turns over her column to the Italian blogger CRISTIANA CLERICI, who follows books from all over, with special attention to her native Italy, the United States, the UK, France, Spain and South America, and reports her findings and thoughts in three blogs in three different languages. In this issue, Ms. Clerici considers a fine new entry in Italian children’s literature, Too Late, penned by one of that country’s top writers in the field and illustrated by a Swedish artist. ‘It's a lovely picture book I would suggest not just for bedtime but for a read-aloud session at school,’ Ms. Clerici suggests.
*Remembering ALBERTINA WALKER:
‘Her music was a healing balm to those who struggled for justice.’
By David McGee
The gospel world lost a giant on October 8 with the passing of ALBERTINA WALKER. Herewith, a look back at one of the 20th Century’s greatest gospel singers and social activists.
‘We Rejoice In The Destination’
by Terry Deboer, The Grand Rapids Press
Two-thousand-plus mourners, 100,000-plus online viewer send MALINDA SAPP home. A complete report of the Homegoing Service for Marvin Sapp’s wife and ministry partner, with some moving video clips from the service. Mrs. Sapp crossed over on September 9 following an 18-month struggle with colon cancer.
Y’ANNA CRAWLEY: Living ‘The Promise’
The Sunday Best champ works hard with faith
By Bob Marovich, The Black Gospel Blog
BET’s Sunday Best second season winner Y’ANNA CRAWLEY spoke with The Black Gospel Blog’s Bob Marovich, a regular contributor to TheBluegrassSpecial.com, a few days after the release of her first solo CD, The Promise. ‘I can lose myself in music and find myself in it,’ Ms. Crawley says of music’s healing properties. ‘Gospel music especially has helped me through my trials and my tribulations. It lets me know that when you fall down, and no matter what life brings you, you can always get back up. There's a word to help you in every situation and that's God's word.’
*BOB MAROVICH’S GOSPEL PICKS
This month’s Gospel Album picks from THE BLACK GOSPEL BLOG’s founder BOB MAROVICH include:
*LIZZ WRIGHT, Fellowship— Growing up in Georgia, jazz singer Lizz Wright grew up the daughter of a minister and sang gospel. No surprise then that on her exquisite new gospel-centric CD, Fellowship, Wright sounds like she's been singing the glory down since birth. She has.
*KIM PERSON, Speak Life— Kim Person is a gospel singer from North Carolina, and she possesses that distinctive amalgam of singer, performer, evangelist, witness, prophet, encourager and comforter that talented female gospel singers have. All of these traits, of course, are best exercised—and best witnessed—in live performance. Person's new live project, Speak Life, demonstrates that ably.
EVELYN TURRENTINE-AGEE, There’s Gonna Be A Meeting—"Give me that old key," a female voice drawls. An open chord is plucked note for note on an electric guitar, in the fashion of the Golden Age quartets. It's the cue for that female voice, belonging to Stellar Award-winner Evelyn Turrentine-Agee, to launch into "He's Using Me," which she does, rocking a bluesy beat and sounding for all the world like a protégé of Mavis Staples.
SHEKINAH GLORY MINISTRY, Refreshed By Fire—Apostle H.D. Wilson, co-producers and writers Phil Tarver and Michael Weatherspoon, and the multitudinous worship warriors of Shekinah Glory Ministry are back with Refreshed By Fire, their new two-CD experience. I don't use the word "experience" lightly, because that is what it is. From the opening to closing notes, Refreshed By Fire is the dramatic, theatrical, colorful, eclectic and soul-renewing project that gospel music has come to expect from the music ministry of suburban Chicago's Kingdom Valley Ministries.
*Impending Broadway Disaster: U2’s music for the forthcoming, totally unnecessary mounting of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The sci-fi website io9 tells it as it is about the one new song being previewed by U2 on tour: ‘It’s much, much worse than we’d feared.’ This is what real pain is all about.
*AMERICAN IDOL: EDDIE FISHER—Remembering an early ‘50s pop giant, who is now better known for his spectacular marital flameouts than for the juggernaut of hit records he produced from 1950 to 1956.
*DAILEY & VINCENT Homecoming Concert raises $30,000+ for Helping Hands FUnd
*SKYWATCHING TIPS: Observing Venus Without Staring at the Sun— Venus is currently a prime observing target, but skywatchers should be careful aiming telescopes at the brilliant planet, because it is appearing close to the sun at dusk.
CHRIS HILLMAN and HERB PEDERSON, At Edwards Barn— Consider this: you may have heard most if not all these tunes before, the original recordings (or even other Hillman-Pedersen versions—it’s not like they have never played these together before) may well have a deserved special place in your hearts and memories, but you have not heard them exactly as you will hear them here. Thus do the songs plant themselves anew in our lives. At Edwards Barn is a moment to treasure.
MOLLIE O’BRIEN & RICH MOORE, Saints & Sinners— Like her brother, Tim O’ Brien, Mollie O’Brien doesn’t recognize a lot of musical boundaries, and has no problem with unburdening herself of an affecting performance in any style she decides to tackle. Saints & Sinners is a highwater mark for her and her husband, Rich Moore, and for the pair a big step forward from 2007’s 900 Baseline in concept and execution.
ROCKIN ACOUSTIC CIRCUS, Lonestar Lullabye— Lonestar Lullabye is an impressive calling card for an extraordinarily talented young band. Nickel Creek made the most of its members’ insatiable musical curiosity and superior musical gifts; whether Rockin Acoustic Circus can or wants to be nearly as adventurous is going to be one of the more interesting stories to follow as these young people approach adulthood and, in essence, learn to fly. They got wings, though. Do they ever have wings.
PETER ROWAN BLUEGRASS BAND, Legacy—Legacy is a low-key masterpiece, at once an impressive showcase for Peter Rowan’s touring Bluegrass Band (Jody Stecher, mandolin; Keith Little, banjo; Paul Knight, bass) and a reminder not only of the high caliber of musicianship Rowan brings to the table as a guitarist (no flash, only tasty, to the point leads and unflagging rhythm) but the strength of his songwriting as well.
FRANK SOLIVAN & DIRTY KITCHEN—You know you’ve got something going for you when the dobro master nonpareil Rob Ickes ordains you “the best new bluegrass band.” Guess what? The estimable Mr. Ickes may have understated the case, if the level of playing, writing and singing on Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen’s self-titled debut is any indication.
DALE WATSON, Carryin’ On—Determined to be a little less retro than in the past, he ventured into a Nashville studio with some stalwart session players—we’re talking heavyweights on the order of piano master Hargus “Pig” Robbins, guitarist Pete Wade, Glenn Duncan on fiddle, bass man Dennis Crouch, Lloyd Green on pedal steel, Gene Chrisman on drums and the silky voiced Carol Lee Singers on background vocals—and emerges with the thoroughly delightful, eminently fulfilling Carryin’ On, which sounds like nothing so much as the finest mainstream country of the ‘60s, particularly if you remember some of Merle Haggard’s or Porter Wagoner’s albums from that period.
DUKE ROBILLARD, Passport To The Blues—If you’re feeling a little down, maybe been dumped by your favorite gal or guy, having trouble making ends meet, or spotted the first gray hairs surfacing, Duke’s office is open at all hours. He’ll stamp your passport for the blues train and have you on your way and feeling better in no time at all.
PEACHES STATEN, Live at Legends—If Etta James were somehow crossed with Tina Turner, the resulting irresistible creature would likely sound much like the powerhouse known as Peaches Staten. That would be someone whose muscular voice can growl an aggrieved blues, belt a celebratory blues, or sing it sweet and gritty all at once, as she does in an epic 10-minute gospel-infused workout declaiming against betrayal in “I’d Rather Go Blind” on her rousing live album recorded at Buddy Guy’s Legends club in Chicago, the city where the Mississippi-born Staten was raised and learned all about the blues from the ground up.
THE LUCKY TOMBLIN BAND, Honky Tonk Merry Go Round—There’s a good reason the Lucky Tomblin Band is revered in Austin, its home base, and among honky tonk aficionados worldwide. You would expect a high bar to be set by a band with cream-of-the-crop players such as guitarist Redd Volkaert, piano man Earl Poole Ball, bassist-vocalist Sarah Brown, guitarist John Reed and drummer Jon Hahn supporting the genial, muscular vocals of Lucky himself. And sure enough, on Honky Tonk Merry Go Round, all acquit themselves admirably and more.
TEENY TUCKER, Keep The Blues Alive—In his incisive liner notes for Teeny Tucker’s Keep the Blues Alive, producer-arranger-guitarist Robert Hughes relates how B.B. King told Ms. Tucker, “I want you to remember that you are not only a blues singer, you are a singer.” A formidable singer and blues singer himself, the now 85-year-old Riley B. King knows whereof he speaks, and Ms. Tucker proves the truth of his assertion with her every stirring note on Keep the Blues Alive. Yes, the form may be blues, or blues-based, but in the end Ms. Tucker vaults into the realm of pure, moving, human emotions, leaving in the dust all considerations of genre. This is good music, pure and simple.
MITCH WOODS, Gumbo Blues—You could say Mitch Woods’s Gumbo Blues tribute to Smiley Lewis and New Orleans’ R&B pioneers is fairly predictable Crescent City rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ fare, high spirited, effervescent, and bracing even in its bluest moments, and you would be right. But when you’re fairly predictable in a New Orleans kind of way, you have got something special going on in as far as tapping into elemental human impulses; so while the sound and style of Gumbo Blues will be comfortably familiar to many listeners, its energy and soul recommend it as one fine, memorable outing.