Assaying the Oxymoronic Nature of the Blues – Shared Knowledge and Some CD Reviews

So we all know (or maybe not) that I took some time off to chill on the hot and sunny shore of South
Carolina recently. I had planned on getting some work done, and did – but not in the ‘traditional’ sense of what I do.

Meeting new people and getting better acquainted with others led to some interesting discussions about the ‘mysterious’ Blues genre. Such things as, “it’s Jazz right”, “it’s always depressing”, “what are the real Blues”, “you should write more for the novice, so we can learn more” – – –  all these things played out before me as I tried to explain the differences, the subtleties, the glorious oxymoronic nature of it, and goodness knows what else to everyone and anyone who was interested. Yes they were interested, that’s a good thing. From seventeen year old Michael, who plays a little guitar wanting me to show him some Blues licks and patterns, to a new member of the half century club, Judy, wanting to really understand what makes the Blues the Blues and how she could learn more without feeling overwhelmed.

While there I had a good supply of CD’s that I had planned on listening to and reviewing, and was glad I did. I gave them out to these good folks – carefully selecting styles that I felt would compel them to learn more about the mother of American Roots Music. Thanks to the various publicists, record companies, Sirius/XM Bluesville 70 and all the artists who have allowed me to hear and spread the music in reviews or by word of mouth. So what I will do here is to offer up, for them and others – not a stale, word-smithing version of what the Blues are – but a sampler of music that in some respects illustrates how wide ranging and complex the genre is. These are newer releases, I chose them because of the familiar feel and production values that they contain, no need for trying to listen over scratchy vinyl.

I hope that you enjoy it and maybe pass it around and also hopefully pick up some of these discs and add
them to your collection. It is by no means being stated as a de facto standard. It is just the evolution of what went on in South Carolina and my attempt to help clarify and educate friends of all ages to the greatness that is the Blues.

K.K. Martin: Naked Blues, Vol. II (Ranell Records)

What better way to introduce someone to the traditional aspect of the Blues than with K.K. Martin’s ‘Naked Blues Vol. II’. While there are many choices, I was looking for something that was fairly current and featured the songs of artists that may be known to the casual fan. And, oh yes, it needed to be really, really good.

Here we have a man and his guitar – that’s it, copping to the title ‘Naked Blues’ it is that personal and that private a release here.With the first cut ‘Rattlesnake Shake‘, a cover of the Peter Green tune, Mr. Martin revels the true nature of this song with some slithering slide guitar and gritty ‘c’est la vie’ vocals that reiterate the inevitable outcome of shakin’ that rattlesnake. Next up is a Rev. Gary Davis tune, ‘Slow Motion Daddy‘, done with justice featuring excellent finger picking and slide work here.

On this ten track release Mr. Martin covers both past and modern era greats. From one of the sweetest versions of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean‘, to a dark interpretation of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ song, ‘Alligator Wine’ which allows us to rusticate in that swampy, unctuous bayou with the moon burning bright at midnight.

Moving to a more modern master, Johnny Winter, K.K. states that Johnny is a true hero – responsible for bringing the Blues to young rockers worldwide. Mr. Martin’s cover of ‘Dallas‘ is a slide filled, grit encrusted wrangling of Mr. Winter’s musical tribute to the big D. Included also on this release are two Tom Waits tunes. Mr. Waits may not be thought of as a Blues artist, but what Mr. Martin does with these tunes leaves no doubt that with a skilled interpreter amazing results can be accomplished. While we are drawn to Mr. Martin’s guitar playing, careful listening to his voice shows a depth and sincerity that is paramount in the Blues world.

What the listener will get from this release is the authentic true feel of acoustic blues played by a man whose love of the music coupled his own superior talent and confidence shine through, and in doing so make for one compelling release that will appeal to hard core Blues fans as well as the new members of our congregation. The figure of the solitary blues artist with their guitar is almost symbolic of the genre itself. Robert Johnson, Mississippi Fred McDowell, John Lee Hooker, to more recently Rory Block, Fiona Boyes , Guy Davis and Eric Bibb, these individuals are a true link to the past.

Jackie Johnson: Memphis Jewel (Catfood Records)

The eternal discussion as to the relationship between Blues music and church music is an interesting one. We have had Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Aretha Franklin (daughter of a preacher man), Reverend Gary Davis and Son House among countless others, male and female, who have straddled that fine line between Gods’ and the Devil’s music. Looking for something that would incorporate these qualities – while being familiar we find Ms. Jackie Johnson.

Opening with ‘It Should Have Been Me‘ which was originally done by Gladys Night & the Pips back in 1968, we find Ms. Johnson displaying her gospel roots and giving palpable distress to the bridesmaid’s situation as her ‘man’ weds another woman. Give her voice a listen to (ignore the groove if you can) and you will hear all the joy and grief that comes from such a situation as well as it’s roots in the cold comfort of the church where the ceremony is taking place.

Another superb cover is the Smokey Robinson & The Miracles signature piece ‘Tears of A Clown’. Featuring Ms. Reba Russell on background vocals and an enticing mix of instrumentation, they work together to help Ms. Johnson perform a musical act of eminent domain (not an uncommon occurence in music). While it might still be Smokey’s, Jackie has claimed a piece of it for her own. What follows this track is an absolute killer duet with Memphis legend Mr. Johnny Rawls. ‘Love You Still’  harkens to the days of such classic duets as Otis Redding & Carla Thomas in the hey-day of Stax Records. The pure force of these two vocalists makes you sit up and take notice on this Johnny Rawls penned song. One other familiar track is Betty Wright’s ‘Clean Up Woman’ a true Southern soul classic.

Ms. Johnson gives undeniable verity to what the human voice can do and the range of options that a quality artist possesses. With this release we can also remember that back in the day – yeh THE day – the Blues were ruled by female singers, Ida Cox, Memphis Minnie, Ma Rainey, Mamie Smith. With releases such as this one I have to attest that, to me, they still run the roost.

Lubriphonic: The Gig Is On (Lubricated World, Inc.)

It is said that ‘the Blues are the Roots , and everything else is just the fruits’….if this is so, then we should having no problem in accepting R&B as part of the Blues world. Rhythm & Blues incorporates Funk, Soul and whatever else industry moguls spuriously devise to keep us divided. R&B, Soul, Funk and yes, Hip-Hop are consanguine with the Blues.

Please allow me to introduce one of the funkiest, greasiest bands around currently. Lubrophonic. Based out of Chicago (the Northern home of the Blues where Muddy Waters went and turned it electric, as well as Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon to modern day apostles such as Buddy Guy, Nick Moss, Liz Mandeville, Billy Branch, and The Brooks Family all reside) this band is busy keeping the world lubricated and dancing in the aisles and living rooms across America.

With a drum roll, reminiscent of a circus intro, which turns into a spanking solo, quickly joined by such impertinent horns that we have no choice to listen up at the ‘Rhino‘ coming down the track. If you can get thru this cut without banging on the table or dancing – then as the old Blues adage goes – “Jack, you’re dead”. With trumpet, sax, trombones intermixed with keyboards, bass and filthy guitar licks and rhythms we feel much at home and in familiar company here. Sly Stone, Tower of Power and Curtis Mayfield amongst others. But they are current not regurgitated rhythms and music.

At times the vocals remind me of Anthony Kiedis from Red Hot Chili Peppers, with their rapid fire staccato delivery on such tracks as ‘Under The Line’ by band leader Giles Corey. Then they move to a hip-hop feel with lyrics that speak of hot summer nights, punks on the train, and dope men hangin’ on the streets. ‘The Getaway’  is a prime example of such vocal treatments, with piercing lyrics to add to the gritty inner-city urban feel, then they break off into an organ riff laced with acid jazz overtones which then gives way to the ghost of Terry Kath on guitar.

We hear the influences of Rock, Latin, and Soul which come together with such musical authority that it effectively proceeds to abrogate the artificial boundaries that separate the musical styles from one another. This is most apparent in the title track ‘The Gig Is On’ which starts out with a steady groove and soft wah-wah effects from the guitar and picks up force and speed much like a ride in the express track of a runaway subway train. Bolstered by two sizzling sax solos and searing guitar work it is truly a fast paced drive thru the bands world and leaves no room for the weak hearted or for fools.

This album features Ivan Neville playing organ on three cuts as well as the clavinet on one. His appearance solidifies the wide range of urban influences that paint the grooves of this release as they travel from inner cities up and down the Mississippi as the forefathers of the Blues did. We sometimes forget that music is energy and it expresses desires, deep inner feelings and a drive to transcend the current situation of the artist, whether it be in a simple song or a rave up of epic proportions they are all about life. This release captures these dynamics and lays them out for all to hear.

Lee Pons: Big Boogie Voodoo (Mind Balm Records)

Can you believe that just as women once ruled the Blues scene – that the piano was king. Yeah, long before the guitar became the rattlenake that shakes the blues world the trusty 88’s were the driving force in the blues. Such luminaries as Amos Milburn, Leroy Carr, Meade ‘Lux’ Lewis up through ‘Champion’ Jack Dupree, Memphis Slim to Ray Charles, Pinetop Perkins and Otis Spann. These names resonate with the soul of the Blues – piano blues.

Lee Pons is out of Florida, but his soul is in New Orleans. He comes from a family of accomplished, even famous musicians. In the 1930’s his dad played upright bass in big bands and was in the Danny Kaye film ‘A Song Is Born’ which featured a jam session with Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton and Benny Goodman (that was Lee’s dad on the bass). But the bass wasn’t for Lee, he found his calling one night seeing the good Dr. John on Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert – it was all over for him.

Opening the release with ”The Voodoo Boogie‘ we jump the train down to new Orleans and never look back. Showing some serious left handed bass runs and joyous right handed fingering we are treated to a showcase of ivory and we are now, hooked. The third track is titled ‘Blues for Nawlins’ and it is a moody pace enhanced by loving lyrics for his adopted home. His vocals sit deep in the chest and rasp like the long black line still hanging over the fifth ward and other areas forgotten by America, but underneath is the undying hope that it will return to its ol’ self.

With the Professor Longhair song ‘Her Mind Is Gone’  Lee pays tribute to one of the great Nawlins pianists. A full tilt boogie woogie with a solid walking bass line and enough triplets to make even octomom happy Mr. Pons shows a deep respect and understanding of the classic music of New Orleans and ‘Fess to inspire anyone to learn more about this style.

The love song here would be ‘Me Minus You’ as Lee pines the loss of his lover and how ‘me minus you equals lonliness’. With a sideways nod to Leon Russell this track is a nice change from the up tempo collection that he offers us. Slow, heart felt and with a sincerity that might scare other men away he does a fine, fine job of relating the situation and where it stands. Not to get too hung up on ‘real feelings’ Lee proceeds to ‘Radiate the 88’s’ in true piano man boogie fashion, then hits us with an cleverly titled ‘BoogieRobics’. I can see all the ladies at Zumba class shaking their money makers to this, well actually I can see everyone dancing to this at his shows – a solid boogie which holds a mirror of reverance to Pinetop and Sunnyland Slim.

This release will open up the cupboard and allow many folks to listen forward while looking back at the piano greats that once ruled the jook joints and chicken shacks. People like Art Tatum, Jellyroll Morton, Roosevelt Sykes and even the current crop such as Dr. John, Mitch Woods, Eden Brent and Marcia Ball – all worthy torch bearers of the radiatin’ the 88’s legacy.

——-author’s note:
As I set off to accomplish this simple task of revealing used mysteries, I realized that it was taking on a life of it’s own. It already has experienced shape shifting and directional movements that I had not foreseen. That being said, I like the way it is working on the many different levels, I believe that new fans will gain insight into the disarmingly reassuring world of Blues music, and will return for more. For the experienced readers they will, no doubt, have their hackles raised by some of my choices. But since this is a ‘friendly cactus’ of sorts it is meant to start conversations, or perhaps to open eyes. It is that exact jinxed charm that flows in the blood of the Blues and sometimes makes it hard for outsiders to grasp. So with your kind allowance I will make this into a multi part blog and hope you are looking forward to part II with sulky optimism.


Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease,
© 2011

photos: courtesy of artists.

The Blues:
Female Blues Singers:
Piano Blues:
by no means comprehensive but it’s a start, just Google Blues, The Blues or some of the names above and sit back and relax as the world opens up to ya.

Interview: In Approbation of Ben Prestage

You come from a musical family – both sides of the coin. Can you share some info about that background? What would young Ben listen to as a child, and then when you started to develop your ‘own’ sensibilities where did they take you?

BP: My great grand mother she was a touring Vaudeville musician, they toured as the Sophie Cherokee Girls they would dress in Native American Costumes and do dancing gigs, I actually have an old business card from her. Their biggest tours (name wise) was performing with Al Jolson.

BP: My grand-ma played ‘boogie-woogie’ piano, my mom played some piano but she worked so it was limited though I did hear her play occasionally.
Now my dad’s side of the family is how I got the Blues side. My Grand-dad was a share cropper in Mississippi, mostly growing sweet potatoes. Played a little guitar as did my dad. When I was thirteen or fourteen I started picking up some guitar chords.

Was that your first instrument, the guitar?

BP: No actually when I was in school, maybe ten years old in music class they made me play the trumpet. Then started teaching myself guitar based on what my dad had shown me, and being from Mississippi we listened to the blues in the house so it progressed from there. 

I am experiencing my own ‘Jug Band’ renaissance of late, on your latest release “One Crow Murder” you feature songs by Jesse Fuller, and Dewey Corley two artists who seem linked to your musical journey.

BP: Dewey played with the Memphis Jug Band with Will Shade, then started his own jug band, The Beale Street Jug Band. They played together almost thirty years, strange fact is that Dewey was the last surviving member of both of these bands, unfortunately there is not a lot of recorded material from either of them.

 What would you consider your major musical influences?

BP: While the jug bands had some influence as did one man bands, like Jesse Fuller, it was more the Mississippi Blues that was my main influence. Such Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside and Bukka White. On one of my earlier releases I did some jug music and we even did gigs as such, but I have a lot of influences, mostly any kind of American Roots Music.

I must say I enjoyed your linear notes on the release. Where you gave the history of some of the artists that went before us that you chose to cover. It seems that we are getting back into that type of thing – like when we used to have albums – information that is both informative and intriguing.

BP: I think that is a really important part of this music, the history. Without that history we lose where we came from. Blues is the history of Rock & Roll, Hip-Hop, Jug Band music. I want to inform people on the history but at the same time I don’t want the music to sound historical – I want I to be relative to today’s listeners, and relate it to their modern day lives.
I want to have my own voice, but want to draw younger people into it. I’ve done shows with punk-rock and heavy metal bands playing the same music and the basic difference is that I turn my amps up. My between song dialogue changes from type of show. But it’s great to bringing newer audiences into the fold, and have them digging it.

So you don’t do covers of Zep’s ‘Black Dog’ for them ?
(we laugh)
BP: Well I play a diddly bow – and I will do Primus covers on that and then roll into one man band straight blues songs. It all depends on the venue and show crowd. But as we said it’s great for bringing the young kids into the Blues, they love it. The deal is that if they like heavy metal and they hear some of what I am doing they will dig it and then we can have a dialogue about the music. They might say their bands are so hard core and I show them that R.L. Burnside and Howlin’ Wolf was way more hard core than any of these bands.

That’ so cool, and so very important – to have that available for the new generation, otherwise we grow old and die as a viable art form. I see the non-acceptance of hip-hop or rap as a missed opportunity to educate and involve a whole generation in American Roots Music.

BP: I feel the same way. I think hip-hop is a great art form, now I’m from the country so I never got into it so much – but I do appreciate the talent that goes into it. I think sometimes the ‘establishment’ feels someone is too country or too rock, but it’s the audience that matters. I, personally, am happy with where I am musically, and the same ‘establishment’ has been very helpful through the years. I may be thought of as not being enough of a traditional blues artist, but that’s OK, I do some but not all traditional blues. I have been to some blues shows where hardcore fans are yawning after four hours of straight traditional blues, even the people who love it.
One thing I like to bring up to the ‘traditionalists’ is to look at Muddy Waters who is basically the epitome of the blues, and listen to how he changed in his own lifetime from acoustic to electric. Howlin’ Wolf is the same thing. We aren’t even taking into account the difference between Wolf and Muddy’s predecessors Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, the music is so different. One might say it’s not even the same music but it is. We need to apply that same linear thinking to my music in relation to Howlin’ Wolf etc.

OK so I gotta ask ya, 100 years of Robert Johnson he is everywhere, I think if Frank Sinatra was alive he’d be releasing his tribute album of RJ covers. Not even a mention on yours….talk to me about that.

BP: I’ve done Robert Johnson covers before, and I do some in my shows. I don’t cover a guy because they are popular, but nor do I cover them because they are unpopular. I have to like the song to cover it. I have had people mention that I should cover this song or that song, but when I listen to it if it doesn’t connect with me I won’t cover it. I may include it in my repertoire but I only record songs that I have a strong feeling for.

So what led you to ‘One Crow Murder’ the title. That caught my eye immediately. There is a book called ‘An Exaltation of Larks’ by James Lipton wherein he provides us with a reference to all of these ‘nouns of multitudes’. How did you come up with the title?

BP: I had always heard that a group of crows is called a murder. That is such a strong word and for it to have another meaning just intrigued me. Now the title of the album came from the song I wrote. A group of crows is a murder and I do everything by myself so I am that group – originally I was thinking of a one wolf pack – it all evolved from there.

To pursue ‘One Crow Murder’ the release, it is a wonderful audio painting of all facets of American life. But it is also, to me, a chapter in the life of Ben Prestage as he stands before us today. Where you have been, how you got there and in all – I must tell ya – the title song is a wonderful self-descriptive song that ends with you thanking all of us (fan’s and I believe everyone whom you have contacted) because without us there would not be Ben as he is today. Please continue with the story if you will.

BP: When people see my show they say how I do everything by myself, but there are so many other people behind me involved at many levels. Nobody goes through life without somebody that influences them.

Absolutely, it’s the old adage of American culture ‘being a self-made man’ but metaphysically it is impossible to be such.

BP: That’s what the last line of the song is about, both me personally thanking everybody, and in the abstract way, about people in general how no mater where you think you are in life – whether good or bad – you got there because of other people decisions or actions we are all connected and all influence each other.

Man this is getting deep, sort of like your songwriting, if I might just touch upon One Crow Murder, the song, again. More specifically the line where you rhyme autonomous with synonymous…dude come on!

BP: It’s almost like a hip-hop phrasing. There are guys who use that kind of intelligent writing, you wont hear them on the radio but it’s out there. That works ! You can say a lot more with that type of writing than if you write just another damn love song. That’s one thing you won’t find on my releases is a love song – unless it’s got a murder or something involved.

Yes like the Ballad of Ray and Ruby, which we won’t get into here, The existing coterie knows about it and we need other people to find out these things so this will serve as their carrot.

Now your song ‘Amsterdam Rag’ is a song of lost love, but not to another man but because of the antiquated laws of this country.

BP: It’s kind of a political song, but I try not to write heavy political songs, but I don’t want to write sappy love songs. But it is ‘my baby left me’, yet has a more hidden meaning that I never thought of until we had this conversation. If you research Harry Anslinger you can find out how marijuana became illegal, he was in the know concerning the end of prohibition so he had to secure his job, and set about setting up this law. Well the curious people will look it up may just enjoy the music.

Well I don’t look at these songs as political, but I would be more apt to call them ‘socially conscious’ songs.

BP: Exactly, I like it. It’s not political it’s social commentary.

How did you ‘evolve’ or is it ‘de-evolve’ into a ‘one-man band’?

BP: I have had my own bands and never could find the right guys to get the sound I really wanted. I think what changed it was when I lived in Memphis and was a street performer. I played with Richard Johnson play and he let me sit in on the drums and decided it was cool. So one night I was hitting the drum kit and was lovin’ it. So he swapped out but what I was playing was so different from the ‘tat-toom, tat-toom’ that one man bands kinda fall into I realized that I could take this art form to another level. I realized that you are not as limited as one would think in a one man band situation and just wanted to go there to take it farther. It’s like being an artist, you might be a painter and discover metal work or sculptures and decide that’s where I want to go. This is where I ant to be into, the possibilities are endless. I can switch from fiddle, to violin and then go acoustic and finger style for some songs. I can do this with the drum kit that I play with my feet. On the song “Wish I Was In New Orleans’ there is a strong second line feel to it with the drum pattern and that’s just me using my feet and my drum kit.

Do you make your own instruments?

BP: No I don’t make them I just play them. I did rig up my own drum kit because I couldn’t find what I needed anywhere else, but that is mostly store bought. I would like to maybe one day, but right now my art is in the music.

You have toured throughout the world playing your music, how is it different over there from over here?

BP: I’ve played in Western Europe, the UK, Belgium, Switzerland and have been received very well. The people there seem to be very knowledgeable – they seem to know their music and the history of the songs. Yet they sit in their chairs and listen over there, while here they wanna dance and hoot and holler. They pay more over there, but it does cost more to travel. Each is a little different not better or worse.

To learn more about Ben please visit his web site .

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease,

photos: courtesy of  Ben Prestage

*appprobaton – an expression of approval, praise, validation.

Block & Cashdollar, A Solid Investment

So it actually got up to the mid-twenties temperature wise here in the frozen tundra of Rochester, NY. Which was a nice break, we could almost see the sun (if we knew what it looked like) and in spite of the dire warnings from local meteorologists I could not pass on the opportunity to see one of our musical national treasures, Rory Block, and Austin Texas based Dobro wizard, Cindy Cashdollar (her real name folks) play before a jam packed house at Abilene Bar & Lounge.

Ms. Block is set to release (March 29) ‘Shake ‘Em On Down‘, a tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell on Stony Plain Records. She has begun to tour in support of this release, cris-crossing the colder climates through February before heading to warmer climes in March. Ms. Block first met Mr. McDowell “…at a time in my life when I was most impressionable, and when that effect would deeply inspire and educate.” Recalling those times Ms. Block said “I spent a fair amount of time with Fred McDowell when he stayed at our house in Berkeley, California. He was a real character and seemed quite a bit younger than Son (House), The Reverend Gary (Davis), Mississippi John (Hurt) and Skip (James). We performed together one night at an open mike gathering, and that’s when someone jumped up and shouted, “She plays like a man!” I was dumbfounded.. what did they mean? Why were women not expected to play this way? I didn’t get it.”

To describe Abilene as cramped would not be fair, yes it is a bar and lounge, and not one of the largest around, but there is an intimacy that seems to ‘live’ inside it’s walls. So upstairs we congregated (sadly leaving the bar behind) and settled in to what would turn out to be a most intimate night in the living room of a friends home, or on their front porch on a summer evening. The rapport between these two fine artists was refreshing and REAL. No faked intimacy here, they went with the flow of the moment, almost like a late night jam that they/we just happened to walk into. Ms. Block would call the tune, and then urge Ms. Cashdollar to start it off. Stating a reluctance to use electronic tuning devices, Ms. Block was adept at tuning her various guitars and, along with Ms. Cashdollar tune together (and sometimes not) and proceed to offer to us some of the most beautiful acoustic music I have ever heard. One splendid moment occurred when they were about to start a song from the new release, and Ms. Block needed the words on a music stand, and she was trying to explain how it is hard to remember new songs after so many years of playing, and laughingly stated that one would think they would know it since they just left the studio, and Ms. Cashdollar aptly stated the fact that “recording songs in a studio does not equal learning them.”

There is only one person sounds like Rory Block, Rory. Her guitar, voice and spoken-sang narratives that she weaves into her songs, there is no denying who the artist is. Ms. Block would appear to be quite literally connected to the spirit and pulse of The Blues. This connection runs deep through her guitar playing (obviously, just look at her history) and the quality of her voice. But most interesting to me was her knack and penchant for storytelling, which after all, is what The Blues was in it’s original form – story telling through song. Enchanting us with stories from her past about Mr. McDowell, Mr. Pete Seeger, Ms. Maria Muldaur and countless others, as well as her thought process when writing songs and other more personal references made this an extraordinary night.

While Ms. Block was undoubtedly the featured artist, Ms. Cashdollar was more than capable of holding court when given the stage. These ladies had known each other for some years, in fact Cindy had ordered one of Rory’s guitar instruction kits and later took lessons from her. They were more recently reunited at a Michigan guitar workshop where they decided that come hell or high water they would work together. This promotional tour is testament to the synergy these two ladies have between them. Ms. Cashdollar’s lineage runs deep, through various forms of music, honing her skills in Woodstock, New York with the likes of Paul Butterfield, bluegrass legend John Herald, Rick Danko and Levon Helm of The Band. She later spent eight years with the premier western swing group Asleep At The Wheel.

Cindy’s work on the Dobro was just simply amazing. She would punctuate Rory’s playing with angel sighs, tormented moans of the damned, and triplets that resounded of the sound of a man running from the Devil himself as he flees the Crossroads at midnight. Poignantly crafting runs, fills and notes that would express the hope, pain and soul of each song. Cindy offered us a song of hers, ‘Waltz for Abilene’, an instrumental that had the room hanging on each note and leaving everyone hushed at it’s conclusion.

The soon to be released, Shake ‘Em On Down consists of covers of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s music and some original tunes from Ms. Block. In one song they played, ‘Steady Freddy’, she painted a portrait with words of Mr. McDowell that rivals any photo. Down to his iconic bow tie and white shirt and incorporating his most famous quote ‘I don’t play no rock & roll’. This song has me anxiously awaiting the release on March 29, 2011.

For more information on Ms. Block:

Ms. Cashdollar:

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease

photos courtesy of artists, Leslie K. Joseph
© 2011