Monday, September 21, 2009

Tejano Roots (5) : Conjunto Bernal

Conjunto Bernal - Mi Unico Camino (buy) (1958)

Conjunto Bernal - La Novia Antonia (buy) (1958)

Led by Paulino Bernal, this conjunto started recording in the 1950s, and became the best of its generation.
It was a classic tejano group, with Paulino on lead vocals and accordion and his older brother Elias on bajo sexto and harmonizing. Like many conjuntos, they started in South Texas, playing in bars for blue-collar immigrants to support their family.

I really love their modern sound and their harmonizing is divine. And they were the first tejano band to play rock 'n' roll, as you can hear on the second track, a cover of Larry William's "Bonie Moronie".

There's a great Arhoolie compilation of them (see the image above) that you can download at e-music.

If you're interested in Tejano music, check this article from the University of Texas site.

Perfect for reading Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy.
God, that is a great series of novels, the perfect companion for the music on River's Invitation.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You send, I like : KJ Walker

KJ Walker - Without You (buy) (2009)

I've started receiving albums and e-mails about new artists and it's always a pleasure. Some were off-topic, some I didn't like enough, but I took KJ Walker's Cd with me when I went to the mountains and listened to it in the car.

I really liked his brand of roots rock, with a Californian flavour, especially in Kj's mellow vocals. The songwriting is solid most of the time, reminiscent of Roy Orbison, Tom Petty , and the melodies and beats are versatile enough.

I picked "Without You" a great love song, probably because it reminds me of the later Bruce Springsteen (didn't I tell you that Bruce is my favorite singer ?)and because of its nostalgia, but there are other highlights, from the ballad "A house In My Heart" to the driving rock'n roll beat of "Thinkin Of You".

According to his bio Kevin J Walker is a veteran of the Los Angeles blues circuit who started to play in the streets of Europe. And last but not least, just like me, he was born in Paris.

Bravo KJ !

If you liked this sample, you can either :

- visit the KJ Walker Band's Myspace

- or go here if you want to buy or hear more of the album.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Arhoolie 40th Anniversary Box Set (Cd 1)

Mance Lipscomb - Charlie James (buy) (1964)

Clifton Chenier - Louisiana Blues (buy) (1965)

Just before I went on holidays, I received this wonderful box set, a best of Chris Strachwitz's Arhoolie label. I had burned it a few years ago but having the real thing is really something different : the liner notes are fantastic !

The man behind that label, Chris Strachwitz, is one of the most important record makers in roots music, and the equal of an Alan Lomax. Born in Germany, he arrived in the States at age 16, and like a lot of Europeans, was fond of traditional music. The box set follows his musical discoveries : first , the blues (especially from Texas, since Chris was living in San Francisco) and old-time country, then Cajun and Zydeco, Norteno, and his last love, sacred steel.

The first CD is focused on the 1960's. Chris, a school teacher then, started his label from scratch, making recording trips to meet his favorite artists : the great Sam Lighting Hopkins in the Houston ghetto, JE Mainer in the Appalachian, and one-man band Jesse Fuller in "San Francisco Bay" (his very first recording, made in 1954 at Jesse's house).

Highlights of this first cd include a lot of great bluesmen (Big Joe Williams, Lil' Son Jackson, Fred McDowell...) but I picked two artists that really owe to Mr. Strachwitz : Texas songster Mance Lipscomb and the Zydeco king Clifton Chenier.

So if you really love down home music of all kinds, don't hesitate and buy this wonderful box set. I had mine for 45 dollars and it's not much compared to its content (the music, of course, but also the liner notes). And you will support a great label !

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

100th post : A new river ?

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band & Michael Martin Murphey - Lost River (buy) (1989)


I'm back from the Briançon area in the Southern Alps where I spent 2 weeks of well-deserved vacations. The town is located at the foot of the mountains, surronded by numerous valleys. The more I come to this place, the more I find it beautiful. Me and my wife took a lot of river pictures while hiking, so this 100th post will be full of images and songs of mountain rivers.

Now september comes with a lot of new ideas. First, I guess I won't be posting as much as I did before. Maybe once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less I guess. I've got a lot of other projects, and especially to start making, recording and writing music again.

Instead of focusing on the roots of popular music as I did in the past few months, I will surf more freely between one era to another; that will mean more music from the sixties and seventies to the present, and possibly new releases if I still receive CDs, and between styles, although I will stick to the "roots" styles : country, blues, world, roots rock.

Now enough said, let's hear more river songs.

Clarence Gatemouth Brown - River's Invitation (buy) (1997)

The very first mp3 I posted here was, of course, the Percy Mayfield version of my blog's title song, but I cherish this recording by Texas guitarist Clarence Gatemouth Brown, from his great album Gatemouth Swings, that he recorded with a big band.

Cephas & Wiggins- Going To The River (buy) (1996)

In contrast with the joyful picture above (yes, that's me with my wife and son), this song, originally written by Dave Bartholomew for Fats Domino is a mournful song of love lost, where the river's invitation is nothing but death calling. I love the way Cephas and Wiggins play it, almost gently, as if to remind us that singing the blues will stop the guy from drowning, as in these beautiful words by Blind Willie McTell :

Now a white man go to the river, take him a seat and sit down
The blues overtake him, he jump overboard and drown
Yes he's weary, weary hearted and blue
And that's why we're cryin' these weary hearted blues

Now a colored man go to the river, take him a seat and sit down
He takes the blues, he come home back to town
And yet he weary, weary hearted and blue
And that's why I'm cryin' these weary hearted blues