Archive for Robert Johnson

Blues for Monday

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2011 by 30daysout

We haven’t done this in a while – just wailed with some blues. Perfect for a Monday, don’t you think?

MP3: “Boom Boom” by John Lee Hooker

MP3: “Forty Days and Forty Nights” by Muddy Waters

MP3: “Make A Little Love” by Lowell Fulson

MP3: “Little Red Rooster” by Sugar Blue

MP3: “Key To The Highway” by Little Walter

MP3: “Gonna Pull A Party” by Lightnin’ Hopkins

MP3: “Rock My Baby Right” by Elmore James & the Broom Dusters

MP3: “I’m A King Bee” by Slim Harpo

MP3: “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” by Robert Johnson

MP3: “4:59 A.M.” by Magic Slim & the Teardrops

100 Years Out: Robert Johnson

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by 30daysout

In the dim early part of the last century, a bluesman named Robert Johnson claimed he sold his soul to the devil, as if to explain his otherworldly skills in writing, singing and playing the blues. If that really happened, right now Robert Johnson is burning in hell while we’re still talking and writing about him, and listening to his music. It means that Robert Johnson beat the devil.

Sunday will mark the 100th birthday of this mysterious figure. In this age of instant tweets and non-stop media, it’s almost impossible to know as little about an entertainer as we do about Robert Johnson. We do know that between 1932 until his death in 1938, Johnson was constantly on the move, playing juke joints and roadhouses across the South. He occasionally played gigs in places like Chicago and St. Louis, and the 42 songs we know him by today were cut during two epic sessions in San Antonio and Dallas.

The two things that have survived over the years are of course the legend of Robert Johnson and the devil, and the music. Robert Johnson’s music is terrifying in its stark realism, and the dark heart of his greatest songs form the foundation of rock and roll. No need to run down the list of artists influenced by Robert Johnson – you can hear it below.

MP3: “Me and the Devil Blues” by Robert Johnson

MP3: “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day” by Robert Johnson

MP3: “Come On In My Kitchen” by Robert Johnson

MP3: “Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)” by Robert Johnson

MP3: “Last Fair Gone Down” by Eric Clapton

MP3: “Ramblin’ On My Mind” (live) by Lucinda Williams

MP3: “They’re Red Hot” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

MP3: “Hellhound On My Trail” by Fleetwood Mac

MP3: “Traveling Riverside Blues” by Led Zeppelin

MP3: “Crossroads” by Cyndi Lauper w/Johnny Lang

MP3: “(I Believe I’ll) Dust My Broom” by Todd Rundgren

MP3: “Love In Vain” by the Rolling Stones

MP3: “Sweet Home Chicago” by the Steve Miller Band

MP3: “Stop Breaking Down” by the White Stripes

MP3: “Crossroads” by Cream

On The Trail of the Hellhound – 30 Days Out post from 2008

Repost: On the Trail of the Hellhound

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2010 by 30daysout

(Editor’s Note: Recently John Mellencamp has been in the news, promoting his new album No Better Than This, which comes out in August.  He recorded a couple of songs for the new album in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson supposedly recorded some of his greatest songs.  We’ve been told repeatedly that nobody knows where the recordings really took place, and there is no explanation in the press material for the album how they identified this particular room.  But who cares, really – here’s our original post from 2008.)

Perhaps no musician is as influential as the bluesman Robert Johnson.  Supposedly he sold his soul to the Devil so he could play his guitar like no one else.  And maybe he did – his songs “Cross Road Blues,” “Love In Vain,” “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Dust My Broom” are part of the bedrock of American music.  Johnson’s songs have been covered by the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin, among many others.

His music comes from the heart of the Mississippi Delta where Johnson lived and played until he died in 1938 under mysterious circumstances.  However, his entire catalog was recorded in Texas, during two short sessions in San Antonio and Dallas.  The San Antonio sessions produced some of the songs listed above.  Writer Dave Marsh once said, “Has there been any other single recording session that produced music so beautiful, so tortured, … so historically resonant?  No.”

Johnson first recorded in November 1936 at San Antonio’s Gunter Hotel, located just a few blocks from Alamo Plaza.  Now called the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, it has a few more floors than it did in Johnson’s day but it is still a nice place.

Some years back, I decided to stay a few nights in the Gunter close to where Johnson cut some of his most famous songs.  I had long since replaced the hellhound on my trail with two rugrats on the back seat – so I took my family.

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Review: “Tell Tale Signs,” Bob Dylan

Posted in Review with tags , , , on October 9, 2008 by 30daysout

  

Certainly no one who knows anything about American popular culture needs to be informed about Bob Dylan’s monumental importance.  He was an powerful musical (and social) force in the 1960s, and his influence is felt even today.  Which brings us to Tell Tale Signs: Bootleg Series No. 8, a two-CD collection of outtakes, unreleased and live tracks from 1989-2006.  Dylan has always reinterpreted his own songs in different ways, and the new set gives listeners an opportunity to hear some familiar songs differently, and to hear some gems that never made it to the released albums.

Even though the 27 songs on the two-disc set were recorded over an seven-year period, they flow together rather well in this collection.  And I must confess: I’m a long-time Dylan fan, but the Bootleg Series always seemed to me kind of superfluous and a transparent moneymaking ploy.  But after listening to Tell Tale Signs straight through, I’m ready to reassess – these tunes hold together at least as well or better than the albums they were intended for (Oh Mercy, Time Out Of Mind, Love And Theft and Modern Times).  Songs written for the first two albums were produced by Daniel Lanois, and his dark and swampy influence only heightens the artfulness of songs like “Dreamin’ Of You” and “Can’t Wait.” 

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