Uncle Stan, The Hip Hit Record Man—Lightnin’ Hopkins

Record label owners and founders in the “soul, blues, jazz, r&b” realm always seem to have somewhat checkered pasts, and rarely are they immortalized as anything other than—at best—grifters, and—at worst—ruthless exploiters.

There are exceptions, of course, and regardless of their unscrupulous behaviors, we owe a great many of them a great deal for the music they make it possible for us to hear.

Jewel Records, founded by Stan Lewis, should rightly be revered as one of the great record labels of all time, and while history may have banished Stan Lewis into the musical shadows, we can at least…

Ruben Remus—The Band

Greil Marcus famously referred to it as “the old weird America.” It’s that indescribably carnivaleque mutancy that undergirds the best of our roots music and storytelling. The tales abound with hucksters, grifters, and noble villians. The doomed, the defiant, the desperate. Lunatics whose only evolutionary advantages are an unbridled imagination matched against sheer moxie. Song by song by song their tales play out, over banjos, mandolins, and barrelhouse pianos. The voices are rough-edged, a bit nasal, and always playful when it comes to pitch. …

Open Your Eyes—The Lords of the New Church

That Stiv Bators is not better known today is really a bit of a cultural crime. He was never going to be a household name, mind you, but he ought to be better known than he is.

In the halls of American punk, few figures were more omnipresent than the man born Steven John Bator in Ohio in the year of our lord 1949. His first musical success, the Dead Boys, were CBGBs darlings at a time when that was literally THE place to be if your were anybody.

Go check out the pictures. Is that Stiv with Debbie Harry…

When Something Is Wrong With My Baby—Sam and Dave

Written by Isaac Hays and David Porter. Music performed by Booker T. and the MGs with the Mar-Keys horns. Sung by the greatest soul duo of them all. The greatest, sexiest, most soulful love song ever put to wax.

When something is wrong with my baby
Something is wrong with me

That’s it, man. That’s love. The hurting kind of love. The aching kind of love. The your-heartbeat-is-beating-in-my-chest kind of love. The you-woke-up-in-your-bed-with-my-dreams-in-your-head kind of love. The when something is wrong with my baby something is wrong with me kind of love.

The chiming opening guitar chords. The simple piano…

Dirty Pool—Stevie Ray Vaughan

There have honestly only been a very small handful of electric guitar players who have really captivated my attention over the years, and very few of those have come from the blues world.

But man, when I first heard this album, I just about lost my mind.

“Dirty Pool” literally haunted by dreams. The sound was just so fucking cool. It wasn’t the scuttle-buttery pyrotechnics or the Hendrix channeling or the Albert King bends or the Texas shuffles … this was something else altogether.

It was drama and mood and violence and it was all minor-chordy, and the vibe was…

Bags’ Groove—Miles Davis

It’s been quite a week for musical birthdays already—we’ve already celebrated both Bob Dylan and Hal David—and now along comes another titan: Miles Davis.

How does one pick ONE Miles Davis song to recommend? Given how many redefinitions he’s put both himself and the world of jazz through, it seems literally impossible.

The first time we saw Davis writing a new chapter in the history of jazz was at Bird’s side, helping to define the dawning age of bebop. Then he took us to The Cool, and from there, we went with him into modal. Not long after that, he…

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence—Gene Pitney

Yesterday’s birthday may have been the more widely celebrated, but the world of songwriting owes a special debt to May 25 for more than one reason.

On this day in 1921, Hal David entered the world, and by the time he left it in 2012 at the age of 91, he’d bequeathed unto said world a pretty impressive roster of songs—a list that includes everything from “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” to “The Look of Love” and “Walk on By.”

He also wrote “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.”

The…

365 Days of Song Recommendations: May 24 [Bob Dylan Edition]
365 Days of Song Recommendations: May 24 [Bob Dylan Edition]

North Country Blues—Bob Dylan

It’s Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday. He’s the champ of them all. I picked 80 songs in honor. But I can only recommend one. So I picked the first one that truly and completely grabbed me soul. I still this it’s one of the most beautiful and haunting songs every written. North Country Blues. It’s said the biggest compliment you can give a songwriter is to wish you’d written their song. This is the one I’ve been trying to write my whole life. The song I’ve always been chasing. The first song of Dylan’s I truly and completely loved.

Come gather…

365 Days of Song Recommendations: May 23
365 Days of Song Recommendations: May 23

Gone to Pablo—Luka Bloom

He certainly could have traded on his famous family name to launch his career into the bigger time. His big brother, after all, is one of the most famous musicians Ireland has ever produced.

But he didn’t do that. After relocating to New York, he gave himself the first name “Luka” after the Suzanne Vega song. “Bloom” came, of course, from Joyce. And thus Luka Bloom came into being.

On May 23, 1955, there was no such person yet. The man who would become Luka Bloom was born Kevin Barry Moore. And yes, Moore, as in, Christy.

I first heard…

365 Days of Song Recommendations: May 22
365 Days of Song Recommendations: May 22

Situation—Yaz

If you’re reading this from the US, then you probably knew them as Yaz. If you’re reading from elsewhere, you may have known that their actual band name was Yazoo. It was contractual conflict with Yazoo records that necessitated the name change for the Yanks.

As to “Situation,” you may have known it as a single, a remixed single, or as part of Upstair’s at Eric’s.

However it was that you discovered it, it’s likely you haven’t forgotten it since.

For me, the song takes me back to a different era. In the 50's, it was jocks and greasers. In…

Preacher Boy

Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist , poet, writer. Vintage guitars, vintage typewriters, new Moleskines.

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