Sunday, November 4, 2012

Safe House - Great Compilation for a Stormy Night


Well, I guess by now you’ve heard all the news about the goings on on the East Coast. We were visited by Hurricane Sandy, a force of nature even stronger than Koko Taylor and those of us in the mountains of Virginia were very lucky to have only dealt with seriously torrential rain and snow.

It wasn’t fun, but compared to what our friends up north faced, it was a picnic with sweet tea.

I hope you and your families were able to ride things out. The Professor has a ton of friends in the New York and New Jersey areas, a few more in New England. I’ve heard from most of them and are praying for the rest.

I’ve been out on the road for a while working on a couple of side projects and had just gotten back home to Jordan’s Branch when the weather started picking up. Since the whole town knows I’ve got a couple a gigantic generators attached to the Juke Joint, plenty of food, some cold drinks, and of course the means of great entertainment, well, they just naturally headed up here.

Our Sherriff also wanted to keep everyone in one place so he wouldn’t have to be checking on folks spread out all over the place.

So we had a full house. People and dogs were all in the big room sitting around tables or milling about like it was some kind of giant cocktail party, which I guess it was. We didn’t charge anyone, just put out some buckets for donations. Once we realized we were going to be okay, we just sent the money on to the Red Cross.

I would like to urge you to do whatever you can. As a member in good standing of the human species, it’s up to us to look out for anyone who faces misfortune and to give them a hand to get back up. Send money, donate blood, or do whatever you are capable of in order to leave the world a better place.

Enough soapbox. I didn’t tell you that Henry Cook drove all the way in from Richmond to help out. That’s just the kind of guy he is. He was going to take a few days vacation and instead drove out to the Juke Joint and jumped behind the bar and started pouring drinks and swapping stories with our guests.

We watched the news for awhile and figured out we were   going to be okay, so we cut that down and put on the Juke Box.  We’ve gotten in a lot of nice new titles recently and I’ll get back to them soon. Sometimes though, you just want an old friend to comfort you when things look bad, so I dove back through the stacks and found one of my favorite slightly obscure titles and put that on.

Andrew Vachss is one of my favorite authors, a great advocate, and a champion of the blues. I’m also lucky enough to call him my friend. If you’ve never read any of his books, I suggest you get on the stick. I will warn you, his novels are not for the faint of heart, and if you can’t bear to hear the truth, there are plenty of others out there who will entertain you without showing you reality.

And you thought I was off my soapbox.

Anyway, to commemorate the release of his novel Safe House, Vachss put together a compilation CD called Andrew Vachss Safe House: A Collection of the Blues.

If you can find it, get it. Keep it handy at all times, it’s a killer collection and the kind of music that dives into your soul and never comes out.

There are 15 tracks on the CD by some of the all-time greats and include more than a few selections that one does not normally hear on “Best Of’ CDs.

The album kicks off with one of my favorite bands, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band playing I’ve Got A Mind To Give Up Living. Long time listeners to Time For The Blues know that Henry and I love the band and look for any reason to play them. Great way to start the night.

Katie Webster is next with the classic Pussycat Moan, a little honkytonk longing to take you through the night. Oh, the pains of love and lust. Oh, the joy of Webster’s voice.

Buddy Guy is another favorite and he provides One Room Country Shack from his Vanguard release, A Man And The Blues. Required listening from every blues juke box in the world.

Sweet Irma Thomas contributes a blistering live version of Time Is On My Side. This is a great recording and we featured it on one of our earliest shows. Time to pull it back out – that’s heavy rotation Time For The Blues style.

The late Son Seals is one of my favorite guitarists. His playing and growling voice are great counterpoints to the horn section and underscored organ on Going Back Home. Recorded in 1976 on the Alligator release Midnight Son, this one tears you apart. Time for us to revisit Mr. Seals on Time For The Blues.

Howlin’ Wolf contributes that great song, I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline). Wolf is one of those archetypal figures in blues and if you need me to tell you how great he is, better pull up a chair and order lunch, because we’re going to be here a spell.

Next up was a song that was apropos for the evening, Rain, by Little Charlie and the Nightcats.  We’ve played of few of their sides lately and I don’t know how we missed this one. Be sure to listen for the harp break about halfway through the song.

Sonny Boy Williamson is next up with Early In The Morning, another song from one of the all time greats. Simple arrangement, deep emotions.

Otis Spann is a great pianist and he checks in with Some Day. The man is a master and when you listen to his playing and vocals, you know you are in the presence of greatness. I can’t imagine anyone is hearing Spann for the first time, but if you are unfamiliar with his work, you’ve got a great journey ahead of you my friend.

The wonderful, amazing Judy Henske is one of my favorite singers in the entire world, bar none. Her lovely deep voice is transcendent and she was the first musician I ever interviewed on my talk show. The fact that she’s not all over the airwaves once again shows how we’re driven by so-called “art” that panders rather than the quality acts that are out there. ’Til The Real Thing Comes Along is a three minute masterpiece. Love you, Judy!

How can you have a blues compilation without Muddy Waters? Don’t think you can. It’s like us playing an entire show without a song written by Willie Dixon, it just shouldn’t happen. Well, Muddy is here with She’s Nineteen Years Old. You know you can’t go wrong.

Then comes the legendary Lead Belly with The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet singing Midnight Special. The story of an incarcerated man watching his jail cell at night waiting for the train known as the Midnight Special to shine its light on him and grant him release but turning every time just before the light shines on him is one of my favorites and still gives me goose bumps whenever I hear it.

Speaking of great harp players – I know we weren’t, but if you stick around long enough you know I will – the legendary Charlie Musselwhite contributes Baby, Will You Please Help Me from his first album, Stand Back! Here Comes Charley Musselwhite’s South Side Band. Yes, one of us misspelled Charlie’s name and it wasn’t the Professor. Musslewhite’s label used a different spelling, but according to Musselwhite in an interview Henry Cook and I conducted with him, he “didn’t care as long as the checks cashed.”

Wise man.

Long tall Marcia Ball is next with her take on Another Man’s Woman which was originally released on her 1986 Rounder release Hot Tamale Baby. Trust me, you just don’t go wrong with a Marcia Ball side.

The final selection is attributed to "Bazza" and it is entitled Ghost and is based on Vachss’ novel Shella. Great book, wild ride of a song.

You can learn more about Andrew Vachss, his novels, his mission, and the blues at his website here (www.vachss.com). Finding a copy of the CD may be tricky as it has been out of print for a while, but if you find one, grab it, you won’t be sorry. For more information, you might want to check out Vachss’ website about the CD here (http://www.vachss.com/media/safe_house_cd/index.html).

A CD called Safe House took us through the storm, it just might do the same for you.

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