Cruisin’ The High Seas: LRBC Review

Hello again everyone, man what a week or so. Starting out at a fabulous pre-cruise party put on by the South Florida Blues Society featuring super bands and great party vibes just setting  us up for the seven days at sea. WHOA !

I am not gonna get complex or deep here, since I need to be in Memphis tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon.  I am forced by time to be somewhat compact in my offerings. So here goes some highlights for me……

In no particular order . . .

Betteye LaVette’s set in the big auditorium (Showroom at Sea) freakin’ stunning. One could hear a pin drop  as she interpreted many different songs in her own fascinating way. The arrangements were fantastic (by Al Hill) and guitar work by Brett Lucas was timely, effective and stunning. No there was no dancing.  One had to listen and confront this special artist on a level many are not used to. Her version of The Who’s ‘Reign O’er Me’ was killer.

Chris Cain – every show, every song, every note was wrenched from his soul. He is so joyful, his guitar playing so good. There is a touch of B.B. King in his voice, others said it was Albert – his fingers recalled Freddy King - so the vote is in- - the Three Kings of the Blues were present in his form this cruise. His band is excellent, featuring long time bassist Steve Evans and Greg Rahn on keys, not to forget Mick Mestek on drums just filled it out.

Drums were the big one on this cruise. Featuring such legendary pocket rockets as Chris Layton (KWS), Tony Braunagel (playing with Phantom Blues Band & Coco Montoya band), Harold Brown (Lowrider band), Dave Kida (Rod Piazza), Rick Carter (Latimore). Paired with talented young guns such as Adam Gust (Cafe R&B), Patrick Seals (Nick Moss), Taya Perry (Homemade Jamz Blues Band) Byron Cage (Tommy Castro) and Ronnie Smith (Joe Louis Walker) plus every other mutha drummer on the boat – it was truly an educational good time. They topped it off with a drum showcase wherein they explained drumming from a historic point of view and then added different beats and time signatures to show us what goes on back there. Thank you all very much.

Dion DiMucci offered songs from his latest release ‘Tank Full of Blues’ and shared the stage with Debbie Davies which was a highlight for many of us. Dion is most gracious with his time and his songs still ring of truth and reflect a lifelong journey with the blues do check his blues releases out.

Joe Louis Walker was on the ship with a slightly new configuration – using Keith Crossan and Tom Poole on horns and his daughter Lena and Sari Posner on vocals had an energy level unmatched as they debuted his new release on Alligator Records ‘Hellfire’.

KWS was his ‘en fuego’ self, with Noah boasting large on the vocals, but Buddy Flett was theone people came away talking about.

Not just electric out on the water, there was some grounding of the current with Bill Sims, Jr & Mark LaVoie who gave us acoustic blues at it’s best, a man with his guitar and a man and his harp – simply said it was beautiful. Plus Bill’s version of ‘Catfish Blues’ will go down in history as one of the dirtiest ones ever – with Shemekia Copeland in the audience laughing at the punch line -  – Jook Joint Alert !

Last  years IBC winners, Georg Schroeter & Marc Breitfelder brought the Blues from Germany to us in intimate settings that showcased their immense talents and a unique fashion sense.

International blues were well represented as Switzerland’s Philipp Fankhauser joined the cruise as a relative unknown and left with rave reviews and sold out CD sales. Surprise hit of the ship.

One man, his guitar and his voice – Matt Andersen ’nuff said.

Mississippi was holding down the US side of the plate with Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks making it all good for everyone as they worked their way thru good old down home stories and tasty music. Supe was also the commemorative artist for this cruise and had special hand made guitars for all to see.

Tupelo, MS gave us The Homemade Jamz Blues Band featuring Ryan, Kyle and Taya all under twenty years of age playing and entertaining the crowds both indoors and out. These young artists have been at it for quite awhile and they are improving and adding more and more to their repertoire every time we see them. Plus they did an event for Blues In The Schools on St. Croix that was like a Beatles concert complete with screaming girls and dancing in the aisles. Great job !

Chicagos’ Nick Moss and the Flip Tops were just plain out great. Featuring Nick on guitar and Michael Ledbetter on vocals and guitars they were tighter than a mosquitoes tweeter and just as funky. Michael is an exceptional vocalist and Nick does a great job featuring him – thank you Nick.  As an added treat they  brought along legendary Jimmy Johnson who was full  of spirit and great tunes that he shared with us all.

The power of soul was represented by Latimore who was in fine voice and gets the lyric of the week which will go unprinted here but damn it was a funny reference to feminine hygiene and cheating and how one helps reveal the other ! HAH Cafe R&B, featuring Roach on vocals and gymnastics were hi-energy straight ahead rockin’/funky blues, stunning visually and sweet sounding they are a band to see. Let’s not overlook The Lowrider Band – as great as ever these ‘old guys’ keep the spirit and love alive with every song and engage the audiance like no other.

Two other ladies who held sway were Shemekia Copeland and her fine band who’s set in the Queens Lounge was intimate and powerful. Sans mic,  Ms. Copeland belted out some of the old time religion to the enthralled crowd ending in a standing ovation. PHEW.

The other lady was more visceral, Ms. Shaukura S’Aida and her band teased, challenged, invoked and satisfied the crowd with powerful singing and scorching guitar work from Donna Grantis – their music was like a full contact drill in footbal – pads and all – just hitting hard and take no prisoners approach that was stunning to be part of.

The Phantom Blues Band were showcased with their new release ‘Inside Out’ and then backed the legendary Taj Mahal as they have often done. Slick, concise and straight up blues was their trademark wherever they played. On the beach Kenny Neal and the family just made it the perfect spot to be in if only we could hold onto that moment just a little longer. A versatile performer. Kenny played guitar, harp, and lap steel while grinding out his vocals over a rhythm section that juiced up island time just a tad.

Coco Montoya on the last night of the cruise just put it all out there for us to see and hear. While not the flashiest guitar player he wastes no notes and makes every one of them ring true down to the soul. This may have been his best show that I have seen of recent years.

The West Coast Swing of Rod Piazza and band had them dancing in  the pool – with water in it !

The final act of the Tommy Castro band as we know it had the last notes on the ship. An outdoors venue with the moon watching and the winds carrying the sounds of new musical directions to the distant shores it was a bittersweet affair. With Keith, Tom, Tony and Scot headed elsewhere they all for that one moment reminded us of what they had and were capable of doing, and we will see or hear no more….

and that ends my story…….

for over 750 photos of the cruise got to:
http://blues411.com/gallery/index.php?album=lrbc2012-small-camera

see ya in Memphis.

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2012
photos: Leslie K.Joseph

 

 

Dion: Blues Taught Me How to Live; Part Two

By Don Wilcock

On January 24, 2012, 1950s rock and roll star Dion Di Mucci released the third CD in his blues trilogy, Tank Full of Blues. The first two, Bronx in Blue and Son of Skip James, were largely covers of classic delta blues songs. On Tank Full of Blues Dion discovers his own blues voice and on one cut in particular, “Bronx Poem,” he creates a deeply personal statement that transcends the current definitions of rock and roll and/or blues.

At 72, he cuts away all artifice and produces a musical statement that underlines Willie Dixon’s definition of the genre: truth.  Add Dion to the short list of fellow icons Dylan and Cash in his ability to turn a microscope on his life under a spotlight so sharp and clear that it hides no imperfections. On “Bronx Poem,” Dion does not blink: ‘Yo! When I’m inside a song I’m strong. I can’t go wrong. That’s where I belong. Come along. It’s good. It’s bad. Who said it was perfect?’”

Two people in his life gave Dion permission to look inside his songs, Blues Foundation Director Jay Sieleman and music journalist Dave Marsh.

“Jay said to me, ‘Back in the day, Robert Johnson had a story. There was some kind of narrative and some kind of genius about his writing,’ and I said, ‘You know, I tell ya, Jay. I’m gonna lean in on the stories.’ So, I started leaning towards stories and really drawing pictures. I love drawing pictures with words.’”

“Jay told me about the story in the blues, and Dave Marsh told me about being the most creative and relevant over all these decades. He said, “You’re truly an artist for the ages.” Then, after those two remarks from Jay and Dave Marsh I thought, you know, let me express who I am within this genre. Let me start expressing who I am and what I can do in this musical form ’cause I loved the blues. I never realized how it was everything to me until I did Bronx in Blue. When I went in I cut that album in two days. I thought, ‘This is really what’s the center of my being.’ I never knew it. I kind of overlooked it because of the era I came from.”

Dion has travelled light years since “The Wanderer” and “Ruby, Baby,” but one consistency is that he’s always been what he calls a rhythm singer.

“It’s a rhythm that takes you along, that connects everything, and it’s the rhythm of the streets and the rhythm of the city.” In part one of our interview Dion said, “I think anybody could sing rock and roll, but I don’t think anybody could sing the blues. You need something in the blues. You need that feeling. There’s something about it. You need to be connected to it. I don’t think you can learn it.”

——-

Don Wilcock for Blues411: Tank Full of Blues is the third record in what you’re calling your trilogy.

Dion Di Mucci: Yeah.

B411: Does that mean it’s your last blues album?

DD: Absolutely not. I just wanted to, like I said, express who I was within the genre because I had done songs from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s on the last –  stuff that I consider classic, and I wanted to express – really show who I was with my voice sort of up front. I wanted to express myself within that form.

B411: Okay. When you look at some of our blues heroes like Buddy Guy and B. B. King, they’re older than we are, but then you also look at people we’ve lost in the last year or so like Honeyboy Edwards and Willie Big Eyes Smith and Clarence Clemons. Does that force you to look at your own mortality? How does it feel to be 72 and getting into the blues?

DD: Like I was saying, I’ve never felt more relevant, and that’s a wonderful thing. I’m very blessed in that respect because – at my age – I feel a lot of gratitude for that because I have a good mind. I have a good perspective, a good bird’s eye view of where I came from and the music, and how it evolved and the friends I have. I’m just very grateful because this music opened my whole life to travel, to meeting people and everything we think.

It all works itself in relationships. Without relationships, you got yourself. That’s pretty boring. So, I’m very grateful. In fact, to a large degree, the blues taught me how to live, the music, the feel and all the nuances in between the words, you know, reading between the lines and everything, good and bad. It taught me how to live and survive and move forward. I wrote a book and in the Bible they have the Psalms, and those are songs, and if they had to retitle the Psalms, they’d call them the blues.

Everybody in the Bible is broken and damaged. We’re all so imperfect. We were talking off the subject for a second, but we were talking about our dads, my kids, I know they love me. I got a great relationship with my kids. But yeah, I’m not perfect. They gotta roll with some of my little quips and quirks and all that kind of stuff.

B411: I’ll bet your wife takes care of that.

DD: [Laugh] Yeah, we’re a good team. She runs interference for me.

B411: Yeah, I can see that interaction working. Blue Horizon (Tank Full of Blues is the first CD on the new Blue Horizon label) was one of my favorite labels from England in the ’60s, and of course they  went belly up, and I think they tried to get back on their feet10 years ago or something, and that didn’t go over either. Do you feel at all responsible for renewing the vitality of that legacy?

DD: No, Seymour Stein and myself, we’re good friends, and so we go out for dinner. Man, you’d love to be there. These guys, I love to be there because Seymour Stein is like an encyclopedia because he sings all throughout the meal. I mean he’s great to go out with. He just sings songs you wouldn’t believe. I mean, he knows everything. I can’t begin to tell the songs he pulls out of a hat and knows beginning to end. I mean in everything including Hank Williams, Luke The Drifter, his narrations.

So, no, I don’t feel responsible. You know what? I feel like it’s a good fit. I feel like the album’s good. I don’t think of – I’m too busy creating and living and enjoying life to think – and I’m a believer. So like the 23rd Psalm says, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever. So, I’m changing addresses somewhere along the line. That’s about it.

B411: In 2007, this is a direct quote from you, “Sometimes white guys are trying to get inside the blues. Blues guys are trying to get out.

DD: [Laugh]

B411: When I reread that quote today I was thinking back to about a year ago I went with Danny Kalb to this jail in Burlington, Vermont, where he played the blues for these inmates, and I felt that dichotomy between them trying to get out and him trying to get in. Can you define what you meant by that?

DD: Well, you know, I might redefine it because I always said you don’t have to be a young, black guy to have the blues, and in the ’30s walking to the crossroads because John Paul II had them. He was born in Poland under the Nazis, under Communism. His friends were dying on the streets so the guy had the blues. It just was a letter – maybe he didn’t define it like we’re talking. He didn’t have the form, the three cords, but he had it. You know what I mean?

B411: Yeah.

DD: So, I don’t know. I might almost take that quote back.

B411: [Laugh] You’re wiser and older now. You don’t think the same way.

DD: Now, I don’t think –

B411: How would you say it today?

DD: I’m just meaning some like black kids today that don’t even know rock and roll has black roots. They think it’s white music, so I don’t know. I’m relooking. I’m taking a new look at this stuff, you know?

B411: It’s evident in your writing.

DD: ’Cause you had the blues growing up, and I had the blues, and I don’t know how you want to cut that up, or you can’t see it on a graph or anything, but you get it. You have it.

B411: Here’s another quote from 2007, “Freedom and license are two different things. License is giving your will permission to do anything you want to do with total disregard for your family, country, yourself and God. But freedom is the ability to choose the good and its ability to totally be free.”

DD: Yeah, yeah.

B411: That still works. That quote still works.

DD: That’s the truth because I thought freedom was doing anything you want, and it’s not. It’s really not. Like I never had the freedom to choose God’s best. I was in bondage. I was using drugs. I was drinking. I’m talking about years ago when I thought I was free and cool and hip and slick. Now, all the stuff I thought was lame I found out is cool.

B411: Does rock and roll make you free?

DD: Listen, music is such – uh – it won’t take you all the way there, but it’s a gift from God, man. Without it, we would total spiral inward and self destruct. If you and I, with the shit that was going on in our lives, if we didn’t have music to express stuff, I don’t think we’d be talking to each other today. So I think in a way it’s a handle to salvation for sure, you know what I mean? It gives you a handle to a higher reality. I think God gave it to us to express ourselves on the journey, to get it out. So I think it does. It’s definitely a handle for me. It definitely pulls me out, upward and forward.

B411: I love the album. The album is an amazing step forward.

DD: They wanted to know what song to go with. I didn’t have the slightest idea. My favorite song on the album is probably everybody’s least, but I like “You Keep Me Crying.” [Laugh] I don’t know. I was happy that (Rolling Stone Publisher) Jann Wenner liked (“I Read It in Rolling Stone”)’cause like whoa!

B411: Yeah, ’cause in 2007 when you and I talked, you said those guys at Rolling Stone didn’t believe there was any rock and roll before 1967.

DD: Right, well, it’s true.

B411: It is true.

DD: Well, they have a few guys they champion. You know how it is. With every era there’s about five guys that shine, but then there’s a lot of people that you and I know, especially in the blues, that are under those five monumental guys. Like a B. B. King will be like the biggest guy, but I don’t listen to B. B. King near as much as I listen to other guys.

DD: I love rural blues. I’m a good friend of John Hammond Jr. We go out a lot, and I just love him. The biggest compliment was when he did one of my songs, “If You Wanna Rock and Roll.” Oh, man, that was it. Of course, I’ve known him since The Village in the mid-’60s.

B411: Yeah, I know John, too, and I’ve been following him since the first Vanguard album. I was there when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Blues Foundation in 2011.

DD: Oh, man.

B411: What a thrill it was to see him get that.

DD: He’s a monster. He is a monster, that guy. I love what he does, and he’s the sweetest guy, man, very helpful and encouraging.

B411: Agreed, agreed. There’s another guy who didn’t like his father.

DD: Yeah, well, I talk to him a lot about that because his father certainly – you know, his father’s greatest legacy is him, was John, Jr.

B411: Oh, I’d have to think about that one for a while. He brought just about anybody that was anybody from 1930 to 1970 into the public eye. So, I don’t know if I’d agree with that statement.

DD: You may not, but I think his greatest legacy is John.

B411: Wow, that’s an honor for you to say that about him.

DD: I told John Hammond, Jr., “Your father was a head with a heart. You’re a heart with a head.”

B411: Interesting, interesting. I like the way you do the yin and the yang in your songs. I forget which song, I think it’s the last one on this album were you talk about a woman making you sane instead of insane. I like that.

DD: That’s my wife. You know it’s funny. I did a Huckabee show, and he said, “Man, you write, and you really love this woman, your wife that you’ve been married to.” You know me.” I go, “You know, Governor, this woman not for one minute, nada, nothing. In all the years I’ve known her, she hasn’t given me one ounce of sympathy.

B411: [Laugh]

DD: So, the audience is looking at me in horror, but it’s all in the nuances of what I’m saying. I said, “She loves me, and she gives me, you know, plenty of compassion and understanding and empathy, but no sympathy.” Then I had to go look up sympathy and found out it was something good. I used to think it was something bad. It’s good.

No wonder they were looking at me in horror, but it was all in the nuance of what I was saying, you know? I think he got it because I was saying she always says, “If you want sympathy, you’ll find It in the dictionary,” because I was feeling self-pity, and she never bought into it. She was like, F*** you!” I mean she doesn’t say that, but (you know what I mean.)

 

photos of Mr. Di Mucci provided courtesy of Joseph A. Rosen http://www.josepharosen.com/other photos courtesy of artist

We at Blues411 are thrilled to have this in-depth conversation with Mr. Dion Di Mucci provided to us by Mr. Don Wilcock. Don is well known in the music world as an author and journalist with 40+ years of experience. We believe that his contributions to Blues411 are a giant step in providing you, our readers, with the most talented and insightful writers around today. We would also like to extend thanks to Mr. Joseph Rosen for his soul capturing photos of Mr. Di Mucci.
To read the first part of this interview go to: http://blues411.com/?p=3199
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2012

JP Soars: Blues-Metal Mania

JP Soars is a young guitar slinger that can play anything, anywhere, at any time.  To classify him as a blues guiotarist would not do him justice, he is a true young professional musician. After seeing him several times and being fascinated by his stage presence and demeanor – the last time as a special guest of Jimmy Thackery – I just had to talk to him and learn more.
Mr. Soars is here to stay folks, read his words and gain an appreciation for what he is  doing and see him live to get the full experience at first oppotunity.

——
B411: We recently spoke to Jimmy Thackery about him having you join him on the October Bluescruise – he had nothing but good things to say about you. Just for the heck of it what are your recollections about that and how it all came together?

JP: I met Jimmy at a recording session in Ohio for the ‘Blues For The Cure’ with Sean Carney, that was the first time I got to meet him. Man I was nervous then. We then met again when we went up to Arkansas and Sally had us over for dinner, and Jimmy and I did the gig together. The more encounters I have had with him the more comfortable I got.

When he initially asked me to do the Bluescruise I was humbled and appreciative – he could have anyone he wants there with him and he asks me to do it. Its humbling and a little nerve racking, I am going to be up there with all these heavy weights so I better get myself together for this !

B411: That was so cool, you guys did a great job of it and the horns too very nice. To me it was also the tradition of passing on of the Blues that has gone on forever with this music. Older artists bringing the younger ones on stage to give them exposure and credibility.

JP: Exactly, Jimmy has been exceptionally great to me, I can’t say enough about it. To take time from the hectic pace to spend time with me it’s a blessing. It’s hard to make a living doing what we do. To get asked to do something like that was a privilege and honor.

B411: It’s got to help reinforce your opinion of what you are doing and be a very positive nudge, pat on the back kinda thing. He did ask you for a reason, he saw something.

JP: It’s a nod of approval, and as a musician that’s one of the greatest things – to feel acceptance from your peers and those that you admire as musicians is a great feeling one of the best you can get.

B411: Now you have been playing for a long time and done some interesting things.

JP: I have been playing thirty years, I’m forty three years old.

B411: You look good brother, I think it’s the blues it keeps ya young, the lifestyle can be hard but the music redeems you in the end. So I have heard that you have roots in Heavy Metal music, true?

JP: Yes I do, oh yeh, It was extreme metal. Not like Bon Jovi, Poison or Motely Crue it was more like Slayer and that kind of stuff, heavier more extreme side of it. I still like it – when I was young and I heard that music for the first time I had never heard anything like it before. There was nothing out there that sounded that way it was an evolution of the music. Cutting edge.

B411: There seems to always be that occurrence of edgier, ground breaking music that starts in the back bars and clubs and usually comes from the young people.

JP: I like the fact that it really pushed the envelope of the norm in music. I always look for that.

B411: So having lived and played in both of these musically diverse worlds, do you see similarities between he two?

JP: There’s a lot of similarities, for one the extreme metal we used to play was very much underground, it never got to be main stream. Much like the Blues, it’s kind of an underground cult following of people who are into it. Also both have been called the ‘Devil’s Music’ – there are more similarities, such as  a lot of people don’t like it, the Blues are too sad, not complicated it’s only three chords and so on. It either moves you or it don’t.

B411: Well yeah, if you got a whole in yer soul you won’t like it. How did you ‘find’ the Blues, was it overnight or what?

JP: The first music I played was stuff my dad showed me. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Hendrix and stuff like that. I had heard some rootsy kinds of stuff and learned to play some of it, I always liked the bluesy type of stuff. When I was sixteen years old I played a lot of ZZ Top the old stuff like the first album, they were my uncles’, I grew up listening to Ted Nugent and even the Beatles. A lot of this was taken from the Blues, so when I heard Muddy Waters I knew where they had gotten it from. I had read articles with Billy Gibbons and they would talk about Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker and these cats that’s when I realized that these were the guys who made that sound first.

I saw B.B. King when I was eighteen years old, got to meet him – that was in 1988 and I did my last real metal gig in 2005 it was a tour of Europe. So it kind of answers the question of was it an overnight thing  – absolutely not, I’ve been listening to the Blues and trying to learn it for as long as I have been playing. Only at a certain point did I say I would focus on it and devote myself to learn it properly.

B411: What made you decide to learn it, or to devote the time. You obviously were very good at Extreme Metal, why switch it up?

JP: I liked that extreme metal stuff, but when I went to a jam or a club where they were playing Blues I decided that I wanted to play that too. I want to be able to play with all these guys and in all these styles. I don’t consider myself a blues-man or a metal guy, I’m a musician. I think that for me, to be a successful musician I need to know different styles of music. I don’t want to be in a situation where I can’t hang, where I can go jam with these guys I want to be able to do that. Anything that moves me I dig, it can be country, blues, jazz, metal, salsa I love Django Rhinehart, all kinds of music.

B411: That’s a great attitude, and a very professional one. I think that sometimes we forget that you folks are artists.

JP: And as an artist the more colors you have to paint with the more pictures you can paint. The more tones and shades of things you can add to it makes it all better.

B411: Correct, good analogy. So let’s jump to the current time. You, Victor Wainwright and Damon Fowler will be appearing at the January Pre-Cruise party hosted by the South Florida Blues Society. Billed as the ‘Southern Hospitality’ tour/band. Any surprises on tap for all of the faithful?

JP: Man, I’m sure there will be some things coming out of our trick bag that will surprise our own selves. It’s a lot of fun, we always amaze me, there is always a possibility for some magic moments. Plus Ben Prestage, I love Ben Prestage.

B411: Great line up ! So y’all gonna sneak on the boat or what? I know some women who would gladly stash you in their bag to get you on!

JP: Hah, sure you do. But we are going to do a two week tour together as Southern Hospitality.

B411: You won the IBC and they are coming up really fast, may I ask what did it do for you? Did it open up doors or what.

JP: Now for me, it certainly cannot be viewed as a ‘be all end all’ for a musical career, and winning it doesn’t mean you have made it. What it does do it was a door opener, before I won I was pretty much a Florida artist, after winning that you get put on a bunch of Blues festivals, like maybe twelve. But that is the opener, you get on these festivals and placed in front of people who normally wouldn’t see you. We got the chance to leave an impression on these peoples minds. Out of that you will meet people and get other things, people will book you for other festivals, it is a great networking tool.

You have to work it and utilize it for what it is. I can say it has definitely changed my life. It is what you do with it, that the key – it is a gateway to so many other things. Winning it is the root of so many things that I am doing now. That’s how I met Jimmy Thackery – thru Sean Carney, who won the year before me. I met the people from Piedmont Talent from the IBC’s, even not winning is a networking tool it puts you in touch with almost everyone in the business. It’s a great thing, a very nice feather in the hat.

B411: You’ve used it very well.

JP: I went three times before I won, the first time as a sideman playing guitar, so I got to experience it from that end of it. The next year we got even more feel for it, and learn how to do things. Wait first of all it’s a blast, there is so  much energy, it’s fun. But besides from tat as a musician you never know who you are going to run into. There are artists that didn’t win and are doing very well and some who…

B411: I guess it depends on your individual desire and drive, and what it is you want from it. But it helps to hear from guys like you who have won it before and what your take on it is.
So you mentioned Piedmont Talent, you have signed on with them.

JP: Yes, we got picked up by Piedmont Talent, we now have a solid booking agency. A key part of the puzzle is to have a booking agent. We are pretty excited about it.

B411: Very good, that’s such a big part of it. I mean how much can you do on your own?

JP: Yeh it’s a full time job. We were doing our own booking in Florida and having Leo Gale do some national stuff as well as Piedmont was doing some national work too.

B411: So going back to the studio soon?

JP: Yes, gonna start working on a new CD soon, writing stuff now.

B411: Great, cause ‘More Bees With Honey’ was an outstanding release – it really was what I see in you and hear in your live shows.

JP: I appreciate it, thank you. The first was really based on me getting gigs and getting to the next level – I needed to get a CD out. There are some covers on there and I played it pretty safe on there too. I didn’t want to sound like some metal guy trying to play the blues. On the ‘More Bees…’ release I was able to stretch it out a bit more. Mix in some more ingredients. Just wait till the next one !

B411: Man, we all appreciate you artists wanting to bring your personal take and soul of your music to us. As an artist that seems to be what you want to do, make a mark with your own  music and have it accepted for what it is.

JP: Exactly, if you feel it in your soul and it moves you, then chances are it will move somebody else. It has to transcend to some people in the audience.

B411: So true, sometimes it takes a few meetings, listens to, whatever – hell, I can listen to a CD and not dig it today but next week it kicks my ass and I love it.

JP: Yes, what we do might not reach everyone at the same time for some it might take a bit longer.

B411: JP thanks man, I really appreciate your time and thank you for the music. See you in Florida in a few.

Visit JP at his web site: http://www.jpsoars.com/

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2012
photos: Leslie K.Joseph

 

Dion The Wanderer Comes Home to The Blues: Part One

By Don Wilcock

“Sometimes white guys are trying to get inside the blues. Blues guys are trying to get out.”

Dion Di Mucci makes profound statements like that in a Bronx accent that he delivers in a drawl that is the vocal equivalent of a mixed metaphor. It’s as though he were a Bronx borough kid who has spent the summers visiting his grandmother in Arkansas to get away from the street gangs and has become a bit of a hybrid.

He made the above quote to me in 2007 when he’d just released Son of Skip James, the second CD of the three in his blues trilogy. The first was Bronx in Blue. He releases the third, Tank Full of Blues, on January 24th. In the four and a half years since Son of Skip James, Dion has spent significantly more time working on that drawl which now plays a much bigger part in his persona, and he’s not sure he still believes blues guys are trying to get out of the blues.

“I might redefine it because I always said you don’t have to be a young, black guy to have the blues in the ’30s walking to the crossroads because John Paul II had them,” Dion says today. “(John Paul) was born in Poland under the Nazis, under Communism. His friends were dying on the streets so the guy had the blues. Maybe he didn’t define it like we’re talking. He didn’t have the form, the three cords, but he had it. You know what I mean?”

Dion is a complex person. The masses see him as the ultimate Bronx hipster whose late ’50s rock and roll hits “The Wanderer,” “Runaround Sue” and “Ruby Baby” made him one of the first rock and roll stars with all the baggage that went with it, drugs, sex and an attitude with a capital A. That said, he’s still married today at age 72 to Susan, whom he’s been with since he was 15.

Last year he published Dion The Wanderer Talks Truth co-written with religious writer Mike Aquilina. Dion is a life-long practicing Catholic who quotes scripture and is inspired by Psalms that he reminds me are songs in scripture.

To some in the blues community he is an interloper, a Johnny Come Lately switching musical styles late in life. Tank Full of Blues is going to change all that. While most of the songs on the first two blues albums were homages to the classics, this release is mostly originals by a “rhythm singer” as he calls himself who plays guitar with the kind of raw honesty that reminds me of Jimmy Reed.

Not so much that he sounds like Jimmy Reed, but more in that his fingers short circuit the brain and connect directly to his heart like Jimmy did. One cut in particular, “Bronx Poem,” tells his life story that is to blues what Gil Scott-Heron was to rap: fundamental, honest and true to the genre without mimicking its progenitors.

“I’ve never felt more relevant,” he says, “and that’s a wonderful thing. I’m very blessed in that respect because – at my age – I feel a lot of gratitude for that because I have a good mind. I have a good perspective, a good bird’s eye view of where I came from and the music, and how it evolved and the friends I have. I’m just very grateful because this music opened my whole life to travel, to meeting people and everything we think.”
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Don Wilcock for Blues 411: You and I did two interviews, one in 2006 and one in 2007. At that time you used the term “cartoon” saying that so many people from that era are viewed as cartoons, and when I do these interviews, Gene Pitney was another one. They’re so real that many people our age have taken what you did and what I listened to in the ’50s and it’s become a lifestyle that’s very meaningful and is much more than a cartoon.

Dion Di Mucci: Well, the thing is probably after that interview I made an album that was kind of an offshoot. It was called Heroes, guitar greats of early rock and roll, and you know when you get guys like Cliff Gallup who played with Gene Vincent and you listen to these guys, they were all into T-Bone Walker, and when you listen to even Chuck Berry’s riffs they come right out of T-Bone Walker riffs. All that Chuck Berry stuff he was playing. So you get guys who just flew under the radar.

B411: Yes.

DD: Like Paul Burlison who played for Johnny Burnett. When you listen to those guys, and they all were aware of the guys we’re talking about – as far as blues roots, they all had them. I didn’t even know how much I loved them until I recorded Bronx In Blue.

I wouldn’t even think of trying to sing like that at the Brooklyn Fox when guys like Bo Diddley and Little Richard, Chuck Berry and maybe Howlin’ Wolf were backstage. I wouldn’t even think of doing what the Rolling Stones did, like actually mimicking black people. It would have been like absurd. It would have been like what are you doing? What are you trying to do? What, are you kidding me? Why are you singing like that? You don’t talk like that, that kind of thing. So, who would even think of it?

So I guess recording stuff like “The Wanderer,” “Ruby Baby” and “Drip Drop,” they were all like blues songs, but what we did was go into a major key, and that’s rock and roll. That was rock and roll back then. You just turn blues into a major key, and you had rock and roll. And you put a little lift into the music. It was a little happier.

Even though “The Wanderer” is a dark song because the guy’s saying, “I roam from town to town. I go through life without a care. I’m as happy as a clown with my two fists of iron, but I’m going nowhere.” It’s really a dark, but we put such a spin on it. These were like cleverly disguised blues songs. So, some of those artists, like Cliff Gallop to me, people are very unaware of him. But he changed things. I think he infiltrated the culture of music, but he never wanted to leave Norfolk. He was a janitor in a school or something. He didn’t want to leave. He loved his wife, and he stayed there. He didn’t want to go on the road.

B411: I think you’ve transcended that chasm between people like your early self and Rolling Stones and the other side of the coin like Chuck Berry and the people at the Brooklyn Fox, particularly on “Bronx Poem.”

DD: Oh, you heard that?

B411: Oh, my God. You’ve found a voice there that’s authentic and not derivative of anyone. It’s so you.

DD: I always say I don’t sing black, and I don’t sing white. I sing Bronx. [Chuckle]

B411: In this particular song you’ve blown through to the other side.

DD: Wow. Thank you for that. I don’t know anyone who’s listened to that. You’re the first guy I’m talking to about it. But thank you ’cause it was totally free abandon stream of consciousness. There’s no melody. There’s no particular formula to the music. I just was playing and talking.

B411: So, that wasn’t written down in advance?

DD: Well, some of I was. Some of it was. Kind of what I do is with that I had some thoughts, and I fill it in. You know, it’s like I put some points, just to keep me in the continuity of it.

B411: Have you ever heard Gil Scott-Heron’s stuff?

DD: No.

B411: He came before the rappers, and he was the jazz guy. What you’re doing here reminds me so much of him. Knowing you as well as I do, it blew my mind. I heard it for the first time yesterday, and I think it’s the best thing you’ve ever don by a long shot. It’s marvelous.

DD: Well, you know, its’ funny. (Blue Horizon label head) Richard Gottehrer heard it and said, “You know, we should put that first.”

B411: Yes!

DD: I said, “It’s gonna throw people off.”

B411: No!

DD: I said, “That’s not a blues song.” I thought they’re gonna have the wrong idea about what the album’s about. It was kind of an afterthought, a meditation thing. It’s a funny thing. I was running it by my daughter. I said, “I want to do this.” She said, “Just make it three minutes. People get bored.”

B411: God, no.

DD: So, I don’t know how long it is, but I just kept going. Now that I listen to it, the weird thing about it is I could fill in, fill in, fill in, fill in. You know what I mean?

B411: Yeah.

DD: I could keep going. Good thing I just left it, but I tell you, even the guitar work on it has no rhyme or reason. Well, it does have a rhyme or reason, kinda punctuating the words, but it was just one time right through, and I left it.

I have two of the reasons I did this album. I have artist friends that I talk to, and it started with Jay Sieleman from the Blues Foundation. He’s not an artist, but he loves the blues.

B411: Yeah, I know Jay very well.

DD: Jay said to me, he said, “You know, Dion, what’s wrong? Today, blues is guitar driven. Only guitar. Everybody leans on guitar,” and we both agreed that’s what it should be. It’s blues. We’re going, “Yeah, okay. What else?” He says, “Back in the day, Robert Johnson had a story. There was some kind of narrative and some kind of genius about his writing,” and I said, “You know, I tell ya, Jay. I’m gonna lean in on the stories.” Maybe I made it too much of a narrative, but even “Tank Full of Blues.” “I got a woman who wants me and another who wants me gone.”

B411: Great line, a great line.

DD: When I wrote that line I said, “How come nobody ever wrote this?” There’s two women in my life, and I’ve finally had it.” That kind of thing. So a woman who wants me, and a woman who wants me gone. When I wrote the line I said, “How come nobody ever wrote this line?” You even get a line like that? What the hell?

Anyway, but then I had this vision in “Ride’s Blues” of me driving Robert Johnson to the crossroads. I figure the song is all about him being at the crossroads and trying to flag a ride from the crossroads, but he was in town. He asked me for a lift. So I drove him there, and I had this conversation with him and then I put that song together. I said, “I got some stories here.”

So, I started leaning towards stories and really drawing pictures. I love drawing pictures with words. Like even in “Holly Brown” it says, “I’m trying to get next to you any way I can. You’re like a soft wind summer breeze. When God made you he was really pleased.” It’s just a beautiful line to me that like, wow, okay, I got something now. “When God made you, he was showing off.”

Anyway, so I kept it up, and I thought I‘m gonna write these blues songs. I’m gonna lean on the narrative, the story, or the words. Blues is not a thinking man’s thing. I would never do a thing that’s contrived, ’cause I thought it came off really natural, so that was one of the things Jay told me. He said, “You should lean on the words a little ’cause people kind of toss them off. Jay was saying the words are the least important. It’s very guitar oriented. It’s very guitar driven which it should be.

I don’t know. I don’t listen to that much of new blues. So Jay was saying they kind of toss the words off. There’s certain things you hang your hat on that’s gotten me through the 72 years, out of the drugs, kept me married, kept me sane. That’s the other thing. One was the words. Jay was saying. “I don’t hear enough good story telling.”

This was a conversation I heard. Maybe he didn’t even say it the way I’m saying it. It was just a passing thing, but what I came out of the conversation with was why don’t you push the envelope a little with the writing of the words. So, anyway, I tried to lean on the story. That was one thing.

The other thing is in “The Bronx Poem” I do mention a lot about God. At 72 years old, I kid you not, I feel more relevant than I did when I was in my 20s making hit records, and you can hear it, and the reason is it’s like I’m connected a little. I open my heart to my creator, and however I choose to word that.

B411: How did you feel when (noted music journalist) Dave Marsh told you you were the most relevant pop star from your era?

DD: Okay, that’s the second thing. Jay told me about the story in the blues, and Dave Marsh told me about being the most creative and relevant over all these decades. He said, “You’re truly an artist for the ages.” I wanted to start arguing with him. I really did. It really encouraged me, and then what those two things did for me, Jay and Dave Marsh, was I wanted to start expressing who I was in this genre.

If you look at Tony Bennett, he does it great whatever he does, but he expresses it, or he interprets classics, and I thought that’s what I wanted to do on Bronx in Blue, and what I wanted to do on Son of Skip James. There are so many good songs out there. Let me go back and get some of these chestnuts. New people should hear these things.

Then, after those two remarks from Jay and Dave Marsh I thought, you know, let me express who I am within this genre. Let me start expressing who I am and what I can do in this musical form ’cause I loved the blues. I never realized how it was everything to me until I did Bronx in Blue. When I went in I cut that album in two days. I thought, “This is really what’s the center of my being.” I never knew it. I kind of overlooked it because of the era I came from.

That was the conversation we had a little while ago when I said the Rolling Stones did this and that, so I thought maybe it was a part of me, but I didn’t realize if it was another time, and I was born in another place. Man, that’s all I would’ve been doing, but it comes out on this latest album.

B411: Boy, does it!

DD: That’s only me on guitar. I’m the only guitar player. That’s me, and I thought, “I don’t know how to play a lot, but I’m in the groove. I like to play in the groove.

B411: Charles Messina is collaborating with you on a play called The Wanderer, The Life.

DD: Well, he’s writing it. I’m just giving him information. You know, I guess in a way we’re collaborating. Yeah, we are, but he’s a playwright. He’s a young guy. He’s almost 40, and he was born in the Village, and I relate to him because he’s a rhythm writer. I’m a rhythm singer.

B411: Can you define that?

DD: A rhythm singer?

B411: I know what rhythm singer means. What does rhythm writer mean to you?

DD: Well, he has kind of a pace that he – I don’t know. I just feel it. I was having lunch with David Gonzales whose writing a Times piece, and he was telling me his son put together a little essay, but he was trying to explain to his son you got all the facts right. You Google-ed, everything is in there, but now you gotta make people feel, and you gotta give it a rhythm,” and that’s what made me think, “Oh, really?” It’s a rhythm that takes you along, that connects everything, and it’s the rhythm of the streets and the rhythm of the city.

But I know when I’m reading it or seeing it, I know when I don’t have it. I always thought Bobby Darin was a rhythm singer. I go see Kevin Spacey doing his life story, drove me nuts ’cause Kevin Spacey is not a rhythm singer. He hijacked his songs. Yeah, he killed ’em. He destroyed the whole thing to me.

That’s why I think anybody could sing rock and roll, but I don’t think anybody could sing the blues. You need something in the blues. You need that feeling. There’s something about it. You need to be connected to it. I don’t think you can learn it.

B411: Do you think Mike Aquilina is a rhythm writer? [Author of the as-told-to autobiography Dion The Wanderer Talks Truth]

DD: I like him. Yes, I do. In a way he has his own – do you? You read some of his stuff. Do you like it?

B411: No.

DD: You don’t like the way he writes?

B411: No, I was disappointed in the book to be candid about it. I wanted more. You and I are always honest with one another, so I’m being honest.

DD: No, you’re honest. I’ll think about that next time because he is a religious writer. He was trying to get my rhythm. He’s a very heady guy. I was hesitant about answering that because I think he’s more of an intellectual, more of an academic writer.

To be continued

photos of Mr. Di Mucci provided courtesy of Joseph A. Rosen http://www.josepharosen.com/
other photos courtesy of artist

We at Blues411 are thrilled to have this in-depth conversation with Mr. Dion Di Mucci provided to us by Mr. Don Wilcock. Don is well known in the music world as an author and journalist with 40+ years of experience. We believe that his contributions to Blues411 are a giant step in providing you, our readers, with the most talented and insightful writers around today.
We would also like to extend thanks to Mr. Joseph Rosen for his soul capturing photos
of Mr. Di Mucci.
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2012
Part two can be found here: http://blues411.com/?p=3248