Roots Music

Last night we visited the Burnt Cove Church Community Center to catch a performance of the Loose Cannon Jug Band.  It was a foot-stomping, knee-tapping way to end a sunny Saturday on the Labor Day weekend.

The LCJB is five musicians who play just about every traditional musical instrument you can think of:  tenor banjo, guitars, fiddle, harmonica, squeeze box, washboard, . . . and two jugs, of course.  The only thing they seemed to be missing was a spoons player.  They performed traditional songs and original creations, all in the style of early blues, bouncy gospel, and other American roots music of the ’20s and ’30s.  The songs, old and new, were terrific and often funny, and the band members all seemed to be having a great time — which meant that the audience was having a great time, too.  The audience sing-along to Mud Flat Laundromat was a highlight.

The Loose Cannon Jug Band show was one of the many offerings of the Summer Entertainment Series in Stonington.  For a small community, the Series offers an impressive array of shows — in fact, last night there was a second performance, of folk music, at the Opera House itself.  The LCJB show occurred at the Burnt Cove Church, pictured below, which is a beautiful old church turned into a performance venue, complete with pews for seating and pressed tin ceiling.  When the band launched into one of their raucous gospel numbers about sin and Satan, it was a perfect combination of sound and setting.

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An Abundance Of Musical Riches

Tonight Kish and I got back from a performance at Schiller Park — more about that later — and we decided to build a fire.  When Skipper decided to turn in, I thought I would stay up for while, stoke the flames, drink a few cold beers, and listen to some American music.

But . . . what to listen to, exactly?  Because when you are talking about American music genres, you have the luxury of incredible choice.  Ragtime, jazz, blues, rock ‘n roll, soul — it all depends on your mood.

It’s extraordinary, when you think about it.  This country has produced a series of musical forms that have tremendous, worldwide, everlasting appeal.  We’ll gladly leave waltzes to Austria and opera to Italy, but we’ve cornered the market on just about everything else worth mentioning.  And don’t just take my word for it.  Ask people in France or Japan about Louis Armstrong or John Coltrane or Miles Davis, or listen to British lad Eric Clapton team up with Duane Allman for Derek and the Dominoes’ epic treatment of Key to the Highway, or listen to some early Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis and then hear the Beatles or the Rolling Stones cover those songs, and you realize what a fantastic wellspring of music has been tapped in the United States of America.

Tonight I felt like listening to some blues, so B.B. King and the Blind Boys of Alabama and Robert Johnson and Leadbelly and Odetta — as well as J.T. Lauritsen and Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers — helped to brighten and prolong a great evening.  Just listening to it made me proud to be a citizen of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

Bobby “Blue” Bland Goes Farther On Up The Road

Bobby “Blue” Bland died yesterday at 83, and the ranks of the legendary blues singers were thinned measurably as a result.

Over his long career he wrote some of the great R&B songs, including timeless efforts like Further On Up The Road and Turn On Your Love Light.  I was introduced to his music by Eric Clapton, who played an exceptional Further On Up The Road filled with awesome guitar work.  When I heard Clapton’s live introduction to the song — simply, “this is a song by Bobby Blue Bland called Further On Up The Road” — I knew I had to listen to the artist who wrote such a fantastic song.  My guess is that many rock ‘n roll fans who loved Clapton, Led Zeppelin, and other rockers who played the blues were introduced to Bobby “Blue” Bland and other blues artists in that same way.

Bland had a fabulous voice, deep and smoky and soulful.  And, as the YouTube clip I’ve included above shows, he must have been a blast to share the stage with.  The clip is part of a performance by Bobby “Blue” Bland and B.B. King on Soul Train, circa the mid-70s.  From the basso intro by Don Cornelius to the vintage ’70s clothing to the stunning music, the clip is a classic — and a great reminder of Bland’s outsized talent.