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Saturday, March 2, 2013

LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE THE CONCERT MOVIE

     buddy guy


All day I was scheduling myself to go to Woodlawn in the evening to hear Pathway, a bluegrass band of Scott Freeman's brothers. Scott plays fiddle with the band. When the time came to go out the door, I did not feel like going into the cold that I am well past tired of, the cold that wavers between 28 and 34 for weeks, tired of it. I had to go out earlier in the day by surprise for an hour or so. Attempting to write in the daytime I was interrupted over and over until I stopped writing. Time came to go to Woodlawn, the thought of the cold night, snow from last night still on the ground in shaded places, temperature 30 or 31, reminded me that I'd rather get my cold feet off the cold floor and go take a nap, and wake up sober in Cumberland Gap. I stumbled into the bedroom feeling how weary my mortal frame had become in the effort to tell me to stay home and sleep awhile. I don't want the Woodlawn trip on Friday nights to become a duty; perfect attendance is not my purpose. I was overtaken by weariness. A very odd dream upon waking: I was lying in the bed looking at the window next to the radio beside the bed. The venetian blinds were down and closed. It was almost dark. Suddenly, the blinds were all the way up, the late evening light in the window. I had been dreaming of looking at the window and woke looking at the window, dreaming it with blinds down, waking to them up.

From there I put the day's netflix dvd in the player. Lightning In A Bottle, a big concert at Radio City in NY of blues singers. It had so many people in it, each one went onto the stage, played one song and left the stage in a hurry. It was a very tightly controlled production, so much rush to it with the musicians playing cold, each one song, often seeming addled around trying to sing. Emphasis was Delta blues. There was no mention of Piedmont blues, a blues very different from Delta blues. But it was Delta blues that went to Chicago with Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, and evolved into rock n roll through Chuck Berry from Memphis, same musical environment Elvis came out of. Delta blues transferred to rock through Southern Rock, Allman Brothers, Skynnard and a long list of other white boy bands playing rock Southern style, Mississippi Delta style. At the show they brought on John Fogerty and Steve Tyler. By the time they were putting on white boys playing blues, and Bonnie Raitt, I felt sad for Hubert Sumlin, great guitar player, being teamed up for this production with David Johnason. He's a scream rocker of 70s punk. Johanson couldn't stop thinking it was about him.

It was an awkward production. Two people would be put together to perform a song together, people not connected in any way, often people who didn't even know each other. Shemekia Copland was set with Robert Cray. They were what looked like twenty feet apart, too long a distance for musicians to communicate back and forth over with eye contact. He sang the song through once and she sang the song through once. Both were good and both sang it well, but it just didn't work. It seemed by the time the concert came to them everyone in the musical cast was getting it that no spirit was happening. The audience was white with black exceptions sprinkled in about like white guys my age sprinkled in at a Little Richard preaching show. None of the performers could get warmed up. They were sent to the stage cold, performed cold and left the stage cold. It was something like a fiddler's convention in that way, except at fiddlers conventions the contestants play two songs. That's not a whole lot better. The soul simply was not there in this concert. I have a concert of Bo Diddley and Ron Wood jamming together at a show in New York. They do not hesitate to rock. The put the soul in it pretty good, too. One thing I really failed to get was somebody whose name was unfamiliar playing a very stylized guitar and singing, Alison Krauss playing fiddle. What? What ever.

It felt like a give-a-shit attitude was going around among the musicians backstage. It could have only been disheartening to the older black musicians to be playing to white people dressed up like for the Academy Awards, though not quite--a New York crowd in black. So little black people take an interest in blues in this time that it seems to have died out among its own race. What has happened is it has evolved. It went through rhythm & blues when electricity came into the guitars, then Motown, hip-hop and rap. I get the impression that in the black world of pop music, Son House and Junior Kimbrough are looked on as old-timey, like in the white world of pop music, the Carter Family and Vernon Dalhart are regarded too old-timey. It's so odd that a large audience of white people went to a concert of blues musicians. It is a music of deep feeling. The white middle class people there were connecting with that feeling, perhaps, the way Americans can groove to reggae and feel it. Like you don't have to be Jamaican to groove to reggae, you don't have to be black to groove to the blues. The rock that I and other white folks have grown up with, lived with all our lives, has its roots in blues, and before that, old-time that both country music and the blues came out of. American music has soul.

Blues and Country blended to make rock n roll, according to the rock pundits. I'm thinking the two approaches to American traditional music are twisted together like a rope. Black old-time fiddle and banjo music is only different from the white in subtle differences that have to do with the approach to the music. The banjo was an African instrument the black musicians had. Young white boys took to it; Uncle Dave Macon in central Tennessee and Clarence Ashley in eastern Tennessee both said they learned some licks in their teens from black banjo pickers. It old-time, white and black music were essentially together, then they separated into country and blues when electricity came along. After WW2 when the war babies were beginning to listen to music, country and blues came back together as rock n roll. Much crossing back and forth between rock n roll and rhythm & blues, and Motown happened, and Sixties rock happened that jumped way into the blues, especially in London and the South. The best parts of this blues collection is the video of Honeyboy Edwards, Son House, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker. I'm one of them white boys that loves the blues and blues-influenced rock, the element of soul. All the music I listen to I like to be played with soul.


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