James Brown can take his rightful place alongside Coltrane, Miles, Ellington, the Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, and Otis Redding. The guy had a remarkable music mind: a unique way of hearing. Brown camped on the off beats, a most unusual place to inject a clever twist or a hypnotic phrase.
It was 1964 when I first caught James Brown live. I was playing a prom at the coliseum in Louisville, Kentucky, in a side room, while Brown inhabited center stage in the sports arena. What a spectacle it was: Brown with his cape, three drummers and two bass players. The place burned with shrieking females and thundering rhythm. With the exception of the Count Basie band, I'd never heard a band play with such precision.
That summer, we followed Brown to Club Cherry in Lebanon, Kentucky. I was with the Shadows, a cover band playing mostly rhythm and blues classics of the day. Club Cherry was a black music venue next to a long stretch of railroad tracks. The joint was dim, its walls sticky with tobacco stains and evaporating body sweat.
Soon as we walked in, I beheld two large glass jars. The first held three or four forlorn pickled pigs’ feet submerged in what looked like pond water; its twin, next to the cashier, showcased a preserved pig snout. Posters of Arthur Prysock, Count Basie, Lowell Fulsom, and Cab Calloway graced the walls. The bands shared dressing quarters with the club owner, who on this occasion had failed to sweep away a recently spent condom. The place reeked of dirty clothes and the smell of fresh pomade.
Back in the day we had so-called supergroups, bands of big-name musicians jamming together, producing big-selling albums and reaping huge financial rewards for their collective efforts. An era now seemingly long gone and partly forgotten.
The Ragpicker String Band breathes interesting life into that previous historic theme with a decidedly acoustic, 1930s ragtime-blues tradition at its core. The fourteen track album has no title, instead simply singling out the individual stylists and band members on its front cover: acoustic guitar picker and singer Mary Flower, easily one of the finest ragtime-blues pickers in the USA today, here joined by Mandolin/resonator mando-master Rich Del Grosso, again probably the finest blues mando-man on the road and Martin Grosswendt, yet another superb acoustic bottleneck-guitarist-cum-mandolinist-cum-fiddler.
Tracks include mighty fine takes on a few John Estes standards, 'Clean Up At Home', Milk Cow Blues' and 'Black Mattie', together with 'Lonely One In this Town' from the Mississippi Sheiks, a Mary Flower-driven old traditional winner, 'Trimmed and Burning' and even a surprisingly successful stab at an unexpected jazz classic with Thelonious Monk's 'Blue Monk'.
Back home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, following a roller-coaster, roaring, successful tour of the UK and France, Debbie Bond remains elated by the whole experience and confirms she is already booking both repeat and new dates and festival gigs for her next tour in 2016.
'Our summer tour of mostly England and Wales, was simply wonderful. We met loads of our old buddies and made loads of new friends along the way,' she says. When Bond mentions her UK buddies, she means playing alongside the likes of some of the country's finest blues musicians, guys who need no introduction to UK blues fans - drummers Sam Kelly, Micky Barker and Pete Hedley, plus soulful Sax-man Sam Carless. As usual she was also partnered by her musical and life-partner, Londoner 'Radiator' Rick Asherson on Keys, Harp and growling vocals.
'Following the tour, tiring though it was at times, I now know I'm up for much more. I'm already looking forward to next year. I know I'm now roadworthy and ready to roll,' she jokes.
And though she evidently had a great time on tour in the UK and France, Bond is clearly happy to be back home. Alabama has been a positive musical inspiration to her and she gladly talks about the extraordinary encounters she has had with some literally legendary US bluesmen from the Deep - southern state.
Last year the decision was made at Cashbox Magazine Canada to start to dedicate legacy awards to individuals who have made major contributions to the Canadian Music Scene.
To date the recipients have been: Bobby Curtola Canada’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend and Member of the Order of Canada Danny Marks Guitarist/Entertainer, Blues Historian and Radio Host of Blues FM and founding member of Edward Bear Robbie Lane of Robbie Lane and the Disciples fame Singer/Performer, TV Host and currently a Radio Host on AM 740
The newest recipient of the award was one Sandy Graham, CEO and Editor in Chief of Cashbox Canada was one that she felt extremely honoured to be able to award to Fred Ramsperger, a man who was a partner in one of the largest record stores in Montreal in the 60's and 70’s. As Sandy explained,“I started in the music business working at International Music Store in downtown Montreal, and everything I have accomplished in this industry started at International.”
Every year I circle the date for Andy Kim’s annual Christmas extravaganza and look forward to catching up with Andy and seeing the stellar show he puts on all to benefit CAMH, Canadian Association for Mental Health.
And every year no one is disappointed, the talent, the spirit and the goodwill is awesome. But this year was even like no other year, the lineup was spectacular and the pacing and stage set up was reminiscent of the old Dick Clark Caravan of Stars that tour the continent in the 60’s.
The acts were varied in musical style and sound and each excelled on this night. There was remarkably little dead air and the pace was superb. With acts that included Andy Kim himself, a special addition Quebec rocker Michel Pagliaro, Tom Cochrane, Barenaked Ladies, Michael and Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies, the Trews, Ron Sexsmith, Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene, Beaches, Honeymoon Suite, Kardinal Offishall, Finger Eleven, Tom Wilson and Tomi Swick the night’s four hour show flew by. The evening started with Andy Kim and his ‘off the charts’ band, these guys and gals are amazing doing a couple of Andy’s hits. Pag THEN joined Andy’s band for the monster hits Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy and Rainshowers, which was a highlight of the night for me.