Blues is the new Black. Guitar heroes. Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, George Thorogood, Billy Gibbons.

Blues Guitar Music back in Vogue in a Bluesier World…

Description of Blues-Rock guitar heroes & singers throughout the world from Mississippi Delta to today

 Written by Eoghan Jennings March 2019 

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In hard economic times, the rate of employment drops.  We have less money and we get depressed. That ties in with the origins of the blues back in the 19th century in the southern plantations of the United States. Slaves and their descendants began to sing it to help them overcome hardship and poverty.  It helped them when they were feeling down and to rid themselves of frustration.  They began to feel happy and forget their troubles. Your dog died, you got the blues. Your wife left you, you got the blues. You fall out of love, you got the blues. You lose your job, you got the blues.

Blues and jazz were linked back then and gradually began to separate in early 20th century.  Blues is thought to have started around the Mississippi Delta, close to New Orleans, the birthplace of Jazz.  Around the 1930’s, blues began to move north up through the Midwest and moved into the urban areas.  When it hit Chicago, it merged with other styles and it went electric and then from the ashes Rock ‘n Roll and various fusions of music were later formed and continue to be formed today.

Like all things in life, what goes up must come down and it’s the same with blues.  Over the decades, it’s fallen in and out of favour. In 2008, when we hit a recession, people began to listen to the blues.  Now in 2019, it has grown in popularity so much that Blues Guitar Music is finally becoming King again.  Blues is the New Black.

Where is the Blues now?

 


Unless you have been asleep or living in a Buddhist Temple deep in the heart of Tibet, you will surely have noticed that recently The Rolling Stones successfully released their Blues album “Blue” to widespread acclaim. Eric Clapton’s documentary movie “Life in 12 Bars” has hit our digital screens. A brand-new Jimi Hendrix album was released with some new studio material seeing the day of light for the first time. Even the Swedish fast guitar shredder Yngwie Malmsteen is about to drop his first ever blues album this month. In fact there are now more Blues Rock Festivals worldwide this year then ever before, as well as more blues guitar based bands performing across our Globe. Not to mention sold out Blues-Rock cruises to the Caribbean and blues songs sneaking their way into many modern movies and TV series.

We have seen this pattern before as Blues Music since the sixties has repeatedly dropped in and out of fashion and popularity, yet somehow it always resurfaces to the top and proves to be timeless. A trend of which we fondly like to refer to as a “Blues Revival” and it tends to happen every ten to twelve years.  Now it’s official, 2019 sees the latest Blues Revival emerge and this time with many Music Industry insiders predicting it’s going to be the biggest one yet.

See, that's nothing but blues, that's all I'm singing about. It's today's blues.  Blues is easy to play, but hard to feel.  You have to give people something to dream on

- Jimi Hendrix

Looking back to the Origins of the Blues

To understand the whole shebang, you must first look back to the long interesting history of the Blues genre itself.  No one would dare argue against the fact that the Blues is the very foundation and origin of Rock n’ Roll and all of its hybrids since.  It’s been well documented that the blues emerged from the Deep South in America along by the cotton plantations and areas such as the Mississippi Delta where the first wave of African American’s sang stories to each other whilst picking cotton and soon fine musicians emerged out of this where their style progressed to singer songwriter with guitars picking acoustic blues and country blues instead of cotton.

 

Many of these early Bluesmen played on street corners.  Some became travelling musicians playing real gigs at Weekend Juke Joints that became plentiful around the South.  Prominent names from this period include Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Son House, and Leadbelly.

Even the great Muddy Waters, who was born in Mississippi, would have started out playing acoustic blues before his important move north to the south side of Chicago where we now know the Blues first became electrified, a large significant step in the evolution of modern Blues.  Popular names alongside Muddy Waters rising up in the new electric blues genre included the three Kings:  BB, Freddie and Albert King who inevitably became the first ever Blues-Rock guitar heroes.  These great Blues musicians constantly toured and for a while achieved a certain amount of success but prominently amongst their own African American Black audiences before the Blues flame tapered off and hard times for the Blues were met again.

Blues is the new Black. Guitar heroes. The 3 Kings. BB King, Albert King Freddie King

The British Blues Invasion.

 

Ironic as it is. The next Blues Revival was in fact, spearheaded by the Great British Blues Invasion.  For the most part consisting of white blue-eyed middle class English boys playing their highly influenced black American blues.  But they played it well and on their own terms and they made a huge impact in America as well as at home in Europe.  Exponents of this brand new Blues wave featured bands like John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Alexis Korner, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.  It was bands like this that got the ball rolling for bands like The Yard Birds (which featured Jimmy Page & Jeff Beck), The Faces and of course The Rolling Stones.  Blues was booming again and soon the demographics changed.  The bigger Black American Blues artists including Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker found that their audiences were younger and in fact a larger percentage white.

Next up, came an even harder edge to the Blues notably the English Super Group “Cream” epitomizing the Blues-Rock Power Trio as well as making Eric Clapton the World’s first Big International Guitar Hero.  They paved the way for great Power Trios such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Johnny Winter band, ZZ Top and Ireland’s Taste featuring the very talented Rory Gallagher.  It was actually this progression that lead to a heavier sounding blues that went on to shape and influence bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and AC/DC which in turn were the steppingstones to Hard Rock and even Metal. 

If you don’t know the blues . .  There’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock ‘n roll or any other form of popular music.

- Keith Richards

80’s Blues Slowdown

Then the eighties saw the Blues slow down and found itself in the back seat lost among new music trends including the arrival of Synthesizer Pop, Hair Metal and MTV with music videos killing the Blues along with the Radio Star!  And then something extraordinary happened.  Right out of the blue, Texan Stevie Ray Vaughan arrived against all the odds and made Rockin’ Blues King again.  

 

A new Revival was born which brought us the likes of Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, Canadian Jeff Healey, and George Thorogood and the Destroyers became so popular. Bob Geldof had to have them perform on Live Aid and to Top it all up . . . ZZ Top became MTV Video Stars!!

Just like clockwork the popularity of the blues tapered off again and the next few years saw more or less a wave of smaller Blues Revivals which gave us Luther Allison, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang.  

Other milestones worth mentioning was the nod to the Blues by Mega Irish Band U2 by inviting BB King to join them as their very special guest and Nirvana covering a Son House song on their MTV unplugged concert.  A mellower style soulful blues also came to significant prominence with players like Jimmie Vaughan (Stevie’s brother), Robben Ford, Sue Foley and slide guitar players extraordinaire such as Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt and Sonny Landreth leading the way.

Blues is the new Black. Guitar heroes. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray, Jeff Healey, Kenny Wayne Shepherd

90’s Blues Revival

This concert from July 2010 was the last filmed performance by
Gary Moore before his untimely death in February 2011. R.I.P
 

The nineties kicked off a large enough revival when Irish Hard-Rock guitarist Gary Moore recorded and released his first ever Blues-Rock album. It was so well received, even by mainstream radio, that it went on to out sell his complete Hard Rock catalog.

Indie Punk Roots duo The White Strips hailing from Detroit, Michigan dominated the charts for a while and at the end of the day front man Jack White proved himself to be a fine Roots Blues player and he turned a new generation of Grunge Indie Punks onto the Blues.  

Other American bands like Blues Traveller also proved that white boys could again make a good living touring America playing the Blues, which was not really happening since The Allman Brothers and Paul Butterfield Band, at least certainly not in between Revivals.  

Another oddball stunt helped the struggling Blues genre, with the legendary Blues-Rock guitarist Jimmy Page (of Led Zeppelin) teaming up with Puff Daddy and charting a hit.  Around about the same time a white middle-class session guitarist from California decided to change his name and become a down and out Bluesman a.k.a. Seasick Steve and the rest is history. 

I believe every guitar player inherently has something unique about their playing. They just have to identify what makes them different and develop it.  

- Jimmy Page

New Millenium Blues

Joe and Beth do I'd Rather Go Blind.  A blues song written by
 
Ellington Jordan and co-credited to Billy Foster and Etta James. 

“That’s the whole point, how do we get through the next 100 years?” Joe Bonamassa said in a telephone interview. “Blues is 100 years old, essentially, so how do we get to the next hundred years?
We get the kids interested in it. A lot of blues guys tend to play the victim – that the music doesn’t get covered by the media, it gets ignored.
But at the end of the day, you have to be proactive about it.”

It’s in recent years that something interesting happened.  For starters, American Blues-Rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa almost singlehandedly started his very own Worldwide Blues Revival.  Joe and his management copped an attitude like “Hell, why wait for a new Revival? Let’s start one ourselves”!  And they certainly did just that.  Joe very quickly moved way beyond being a gifted child prodigy to becoming a very prolific artist.  He took his Blues-Rock to a wider and somewhat younger audience, whilst stimulating the market and opening the doors for other worthy artists to follow like Beth Hart, Warren Haynes, & Tedeschi Trucks Band, all enjoying widespread success now.  Meanwhile back in America, “Part-time Blues guitarist, part time Pop Star” John Mayer brought some memorable Blues (in between bubblegum Pop) to an even larger younger audience.

Never before has there being more Blues-Rock guitarists out there than right now.  But we have to be careful not to jump to any conclusions too fast in this fickle Smartphone digital age where we see many young music careers last as long as a cat video on YouTube.  Everybody loves to watch a ten-year-old young boy or girl play Hendrix note for note but remember, as good as they are, you are always only a mouse click or screen touch away from finding someone even younger and better.

Blues is the new Black. Guitar heroes. Joe Bonamassa, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi, Warren Haynes, Beth Hart

How to connect with people

 

In the old days, pre Facebook, there was an American kid, only eight years old, who became a very famous blues player on Myspace.  I ask where is he now? I can’t even remember his name.  I can only presume a terrible thing happened to him, like he grew up and after he hit sixteen the novelty of his act died a sudden death.

I have learned through my long research that in the past and possibly the future, Blues audiences never did and never will suffer fools.  You have to be damn good to break through from the small clubs to the Big Time.  Even being good isn’t good enough these days.  You have to have great management, good business awareness and a strong work ethic.  Artists over the years that we’ve all seen hyped as the next Hendrix, next Clapton, and the next Stevie Ray Vaughan have always proved to be the Kiss of Death!  

It’s not enough to be a great performer, singer and guitarist performing with drop-dead passion.  The final cog in the wheel must be songs.  Songs written from the heart about real life experiences that move people to tears and send shivers down their spine.  That’s when you connect with people.

Today’s Blues Revival

 

Gary Clark, Doyle Bramhall IIThis New Blues Revival is getting quite exciting, and it may well just be the biggest one ever.  

In America they’ve got Gary Clark Jr who’s making all the right moves and grooves and he’s got the songs.  Even Eric Clapton is a fan.

There’s Two Texans making waves, Doyle Bramhall ll, a singer songwriter, producer, guitarist and his father co-wrote songs with Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Lance Lopez, a no holes barred Texan Blues-Rock player who is highly championed by the Rev. Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top

You also have a talented young lady making serious waves in America and beyond called Samantha Fish.  Mississippi Blues-Rock outfit Bishop Gunn melt their local Delta Blues influence into their modern Rock sound.  

Memphis has their own star in the making Eric Gales, a true Blues-Rock guitar force to be reckoned with.

Canada Blues

Canada is in with a shout too.  The cream of Canadian talent features players such as Colin James and Matt Andersen and they seem to be blazing the trail previously travelled by Canadian blues-rock Stars Frank Marino and Jeff Healey.  

History has shown when Blues Revivals happen, they always pull a couple of should-be legends up to the top, especially when the last of the older living blues gentry get closer to the big jam in the sky!  On top of this list is the wonderful Walter Trout, who certainly deserves to be in the first Division, and this Revival should gladly oblige.

Stateside also got soulful Bluesman Tommy Castro & The Pain Killers from San Francisco, and a honourable mention must go out to hard working New York Guitar Slinger Popa Chubby who should also see some favourable results to give him the same success he has achieved in France elsewhere.

Don’t forget European Blues

 

But Europe is a different animal and one interesting note, is the fact that the Europeans (including the UK before they jump ship i.e. Brexit) have not had a Blues-Rock guitarist crack this genre’s market in the last thirty-nine years.  If you look at all the big European born Blues-Rock guitar names both living and no longer with us, then you can be sure they were all happening in the seventies.  Yet throughout the last three or four decades, we have seen at least six Americans and one Canadian Blues-Rock artist make it big Worldwide.

This time round. Europe sure has its worthy contenders to change that.

First up, they’ve got Irish Blues-Rock guitarist Eamonn McCormack.  Eamonn is critically acclaimed to be the welcome follow up to his predecessors Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore.  He’s got it all, great songs, he’s a fine singer, passionate lively performer with his very own original Irish Blues-Rock guitar sound and style.

Germany has a fine Blues guitarist, singer songwriter in Henrik Freischlader and he’s got his very own thing going on.

Blues is the new Black. Guitar heroes. Eric Gales, eamonn McCormack, Joanna Shaw Taylor, Ian SiegalIn the UK their main candidates are ex White Snake guitarist Bernie Marsden, an excellent player and songwriter.  There is the Scottish Party Blues-Rock band King King rockin’ their audiences near and far.  England also has a superb artist in Joanna Shaw Taylor who now lives in Detroit.  

Then there are the young blues guitarists, singer-songwriter acoustic guitarist Dan Owen and the electric guitarist Laurence Jones who are both successfully blending modern pop with their own blues styles.  They also have Big Band up and coming Blues Star Danny Bryant and last but not least, their own formidable bluesman Ian Siegal.

France has got a major talent in veteran Blues guitarist Cisco Herzhaft and a younger fine guitarist called Manu Lanvin.

Scandinavia is very proud of their Finnish contender Erja Lyytinen.

Serbia has a lot of talent in Ana Popovic.  

Even South Africa is in the picture with a tasty Blues-Rock guitarist called Dan Patlansky, and Australia has it’s very own travelling Blues-Rock veteran that is Gwyn Ashton.

Originality is the new Blue!

Truth is, there is an abundance of fantastic blues players across the world and this latest Blues Revival is starting to explode.  Already the Guitar companies are smiling like Cheshire Cats!  Up until now, Blues-Rock Tribute bands have somewhat filled the gap.  But now originality is the key as with any Blues Revival.

Of course, the blues is not brand new and you can’t re-invent the wheel but you can create an original twist to the style and put your own stamp on it just like all the greats have done in the past.

Revivals always come with a warning sticker on the package that clearly states:  Tribute bands need not apply!

Right now, Marcus King Band is making a lot of noise with his “Allman Brothers” influenced Southern Rock style imbedded into his tasteful Blues.  Teenager Christone “Kingfisher’ Ingram is turning heads with his passionate energetic guitar performances across the globe. Roots Indie sister act Larkin Poe owe their allegiance greatly to the likes of Son House.  

We also have the Boston based Blues guitarist Tyler Morris.  He is only nineteen and already has three albums under his belt.  Young teen band Greta Van Fleet from Michigan State (greatly influenced by Led Zeppelin) have just finished their first World tour to sold out clubs with young screaming teenage fans digging their modern style retro Blues-Rock so much so they just picked up a Grammy award.


The Times they are a Changin’

Yet again for the blues, who’d have thought that in the year 2019 the coolest, hippest place to be seen in town is at a Blues - Rock concert or Festival.

Did I mention that even India hosts a rather large Blues-Rock Festival now.

Long may it live…….cause this time it took a long while a comin’! . . . . .

I’d like to finish with a quote from Nick Cave

“The blues is instilled in every musical cell that floats around your body.”

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Blues is the new Black. Article Author Eoghan JenningsAbout the Writer

Eoghan is a part-time journalist and filmmaker and has spent the last two and a half years researching the Blues Genre. He has been busy interviewing many Blues artists across the World from The Mississippi Delta to Berlin and all points in between. As a novice guitarist himself, he loves all kinds of music.

You can contact Eoghan:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photograph Copyright info:  Photo of Eric Gales, Eamonn McCormack, Joanna Shaw Taylor & Ian Siegal © René Pop

All other photos are © PR  and taken from the press download section of the artists websites. 

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