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August 05, 1969 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1969-08-05

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Tuesday, August 5, 1969


Pevei p. Fivo l

Tuesday, August 5, 1969THE MICHIGAN DAILY

rage rivet'


-Daily-Jay Cassidy
B.B. King casts his spell over Junior Welts

-Daily-Larry Robbins
Nr. -Roosevvelt Sykes aind t he birth of the blues

-Daily-Larry Robbins
T-Bone Walker squeezes the sound from his guitar, his soul

With sunburned nose, as-
saulted ears and rheumatically
aching, dampened back, the
Blues Festival by Sunday night
had become as much a physical
as a musical experience. Im-
pressions, audial and visual,
continue to whirl incoherently,
d e f y i n g summarization. So
many artists and so much
The program eventually prov-
ed to be perhaps too heavily
weighted in the direction of the
urban blues. With the exception
of Son House, the country art-
ists had a less obvious impact,
often beginning the program
segments when audiences were
both cool and sparser. Yet it is
these quieter men of yesteryear
-Estes, McDowell, Crudup and
House-who provide the stand-
ard against which the rest must
be judged. From this perspective
some stand up remarkably well,
like Magic Sam and Otis Rush,
while others barely deserve to
share the same stage.
As was inevitable, the high-
lights were offset by low points
which weren't all predictable.
Certainly, the spell cast by B.B.
King on Friday extended over
the rest of the weekend, echo-
ing strongly in the- music of
Luther Allison, Magic Sam and
Freddy King, although it is
probably too facile to attribute
a monolithic influence to B.B.
On Saturday afternoon a
relatively small but appreciative
crowd was attracted. The ubi-
quitous Big Joe Williams and
Arthur Crudup provided the
finest music. There is some-
thing eternally fresh about Big
Joe. No matter how many times
he wends his way through
"Baby Please Don't Go" the
vigor is never diminshed. Crud-
up, given more time to warm up
than on Friday night, perfdrm-
edw with much more assurance.
His old standards including:
"Questionnaire Blues," "That's
All Right" and "Coal Black
Mare,' were all very worth-
while. Muddy's band followed
Crudup with some new faces
among the more established.
Bill Messenger's irksome potted
history of the blues was rightly
pushed off-stage by a crowd;
wanting music. Education has
a place in festival, but it should
come from the music for which
there is little enough time. Eru-
dition belongs in the program
Saturday night proved to be
an eerie experience, as the gods
approached the edge of the
abyss and more obscure artists
shimmered brilliantly. Begun
by Sleepy John Estes and Yank
Rachell the music was updated
by Luther Allison. Allison, as
did Magic Sam on Sunday,
straddled the boundary between
blues and soul, edging between
the genres with ease. The lacK
of a finely honed vocal style
was compensated by the ex-
citing, stinging guitar and in-
fectious enthusiasm of Luther
A 1inn o h y i, ing nrnl



Unfortunately We were grant-
ed only a brief glimpse of the'
many facets of Chenier's talents.
But on Saturday that was
enough. The amplified accordion
burst forth with an incredible
assemblage of cascading sound,
as if a whole orchestra were im-
prisoned within the wheezing
box. The crowd was relatively
slow to warm to this walking
encyclopedia ,of regional music
but was gradually won over by
some driving instrumentals and
by rollicking "Shake, Rattle
and Roll." It was hard to be-
lieve that so much could come
from one instrument.
Perhaps reflecting the prob-
lems of dragging a man fron
his strong localized roots to &a
strange festival, Chener played
only one of his Cajun songs,
though he did perform blues in
their cracked French. Too bad
since he can take what appears
to me the most tawdry of ma-
terial and create a mood of ut-
terly solitary desolation vhich
granted, is not blues' but is the
deepest blue. Clifton was very
unhappy with the drumming
behind him, the two not having
played together before. So dis-
couraged he turned in only a
relatively desultory session on
Sunday night. It would be great
to have another chace under
more ideal circumstances with
the rhythm picked out by his
washboard and beer-bottle top
wielding brother.
The "star" of the evening,
Howling Wolf and Muddy Wat-
ers, performed below their cap-
abilities, though for different
reasons. Wolf's band was as
tightly good as ever, with the
long serving hand maiden Hub-
ert Sumlin on guitar, always at-
tentively sympathetic and im-
maculate in timing. Detroit Jr.,
on piano, was also welcome, as
the pool of Chicago pianists
seems to ebb ever lower. Yet the
"Tail Dragger" dragged, with
too many similar sounding
numbers ambling along at the
same tempo. Despite Wolf's
abrasively blue voice and eye-
rolling intensity this was a
half-hearted performance in all
but length.
The worst aspect of Wolf's
over-prolonged stay was the
consequently chopped d o w n
time for Otis Rush, who gave
within his limits one of the
most outstanding performances
of all. Otis is a readily discour-
aged artist; given the wrong
mood, or circumstances not just
right, he can become the most
bored and lackadaisical of
bluesmen. Poor handling by rec-
ord companies for almost a
decade now have not helped.
Yet in the last three of four
years of the 1950's he was re-
sponsible for a stream of rec-
ords which are classics of the
post-wair blues.
On Saturday, Rush approach-
ed his erstwhile brilliance. In a
more minor key, this was a re-
emergence as heart warming as
the discovery of Sleepy John
and Son House. Over the years,
Piidi'.~r nitav or ~iv,,rhp-


rsts, so
than many others who have
made the attempt. That sue-
cess, however, rested heavily on
the band's quality, which con-
sistently, excelled in its co-
hesivness and inventiveness. A
series ;of harmonica players,.
most recently George Smith and
Mojo Bufford were at least d1ose
to their predecessors in quality.
Now they and Otis Spann have
left, and the band seemingly
has disintegrated. What was
left was a jarring jumble of
competing guitars, a disturbing
Sunday afternoon repeated
the un-nerving effect of bright
light on the musical susceptibil-
ities. Luther Allison and Big
Mojo again did their best to
conjure up a bar-like atmos-
phere. T-Bone Walker was too
urbane. He does not become in-
volved in the message of his
songs as do Luther Allison or.
Otis Rush, so that only a tech-

nical proficiency remains. Big
Mama Thornton showed how
all of her songs stolen by white
artists should sound, while Fred
McDowell played excellently but
he seems to be plagued by the
amplifier wherever he goes.
The evening belonged to Hop-
kins, Magic Sam and Son
House. Starting with "Mojo
Hand," which once nested in
the charts, Lightnin' interpersed
reminiscences between stomping
instrumentals and the tender
"Trouble in Mind." He never
fails to be a magnificent per-
Freddy King was much too
like his namesake, and suffered
by comparison. What kind word
can be said for James Cotton?.
No-one should expect him to ,
sing "Cotton Crop Blues" for.
ever more and borrowing songs
from everywhere is a long blues
tradition, but sometimes the
borrowing results in an ,n-

provement, at least a reworking.
For anyone who doesn't know,
"Knock on Wood" is a soul
favorite, but try Wilson Pickett;
Cotton's weird Jimmy Reed imi-
tation, "Turn on Your Love
Light" 'belongs' to Bobby' Bland
and we almost got James
Brown's "Please . . '". In each
case the original would show
how empty the imitations are.
Another good harmonica player
has gone. How lamentable it all
was was aptly demonstrated by
the , wonderful\ Son House, a
cruel conclusion to the festival
for Cotton.
House of course is now aged
and frail but he was a most fit-
ting conclusion to a fine fest-
ival. A reminder that the blues
have roots beyond amplified
Chicago, and watching an en-
thralled Lightnin' 'annotating"
Son's songs for Clifton Chenier
was a reminder that the roots
bore fruit.

- f r

~ :'

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