Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tale of Two Blues Guys

It seems like a lot of flavour-of-the-month bands are popping in and out of the mainstream spotlight these days. They mostly seem to lean to the emo-pop genre, which I don’t really mind all that much, considering the mainstream's recent history. Today I will post about a genre that I don’t think I have mentioned much here, but which is dear to my heart: blues.

Blues artists have traditionally been (in my opinion) the hardest working musicians in the business. It has always been an extremely hard and lengthy process to become recognized as a blues musician.

*Layton, Vaughn and Shannon arriving in Montreux

Everyone has at least has heard of Stevie Ray Vaughn. He is my personal all-time favourite blues musician and the inspiration for anything bluesy I have to say. At the time of his death (August of 1990), Vaughn had reached the pinnacle of his popularity and had endured much to attain it.

In 1982, Stevie and his Double Trouble band mates, Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton, had the opportunity to play the jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland. This put them out a large amount of money, but they were hopeful that the festival would allow them to break into the international market. The crowd that day had been bored by long sets of acoustic blues. When a skinny white boy from Texas came on stage and played an aggressive set of blues rock, he was far from well-received; the crowd even booed. This obviously tore into Stevie, but he still played as hard as he ever did, hoping to win over the crowd. The crowd was not won over, but after the show Vaughn was approached by David Bowie who was impressed with him and asked him to play on his next album, Let’s Dance. He also met Jackson Browne who offered the band the opportunity to record at his own studio free of charge. This would become Texas Flood, the group's first studio album for Epic Records. Over the next three years the band gained the recognition they deserved and when they returned to the festival in 1985, they were greeted by screaming fans.

I will probably get bashed for putting John Mayer in the same post as Stevie Ray Vaughn, but whatever. Mayer has traditionally been bashed as a stupid pop artist -- not only by “hip” indie kids, but even the mainstream audience, claiming he is an archetypal corporate rocker. I am not ashamed to say I own a few of his CDs, and you know what? They are all quite good. It is true that he pumped out a lot of pop BS love songs, but he has also recorded a lot of intricate, well-written songs.

In 2005, Mayer joined bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan to form John Mayer Trio. They released one live CD and toured as an opening act for The Rolling Stones. Mayer wanted to move his career in a new direction. Obviously not satisfied with the criticism he was receiving, he wanted to prove himself as a musician. John Mayer Trio feature a more blues-influenced style and pay homage to the great musicians of Mayer’s childhood days. He recently announced that the band was now defunct, but would continue to play a few festivals this year. Mayer is currently working with producer Kanye West and he will be appearing on West's "Bittersweet" (for release in 2006). Who knows how that will turn out.

[mp3] Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble - Pride and Joy Live in Montreux 1982
[mp3] Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble - Scuttle Buttin' Live in Montreux 1985
[mp3] John Mayer - Why Georgia
[mp3] John Mayer Trio - Who Did You Think I Was

* Buy Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - Live at Montreux 1982 & 1985
* Buy John Mayer Trio - TRY!

1 comment:

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