I have no idea how many Independence Day/4th of July playlists are floating around the web today. I thought long and hard about composing one but decided against it for two reasons. Reason #1 is that every other music writer in the world is already doing it and reason #2 is that I really want to do this week’s Blues Power Rankings 6-Pack, the weekly look at songs from albums heating up the chart at blues radio. It’s the 4th of July! You’re probably at a barbecue and nothing goes better with barbecue than the blues, so here it is. These six songs are from albums currently on the BPR charts.
1) Bettye LaVette - “Isn’t It A Pity:” My appreciation for George Harrison’s solo career has really grown over the past few years and this is a great song from his catalog, one that I love even more after hearing what LaVette is able to do with it. Harrison often wrote from the outward-looking perspective of a spiritual wanderer. She takes these rumination on the damage done by selfishness and heartbreak and makes it something larger, something tragic. It’s hard to imagine taking Harrison’s songs and making them feel even grander, but the yearning in her vocal makes the sadness and sorrow larger and deeper.
2) Rob Stone - “Give Me Time:” This is a sweet version of a lesser-known Magic Sam tune that Rob and the guys absolutely nail. Legendary drummer Sam Lay forms a deep, deep pocket with rhythm mates bassist Patrick Rynn and pianist David Maxwell, creating a rich groove. Chris James’ guitar tone pairs itself perfectly to the song’s rhythm and style. It’s R&B channeled through Chicago and it’s going to make you dance.
3) Otis Taylor - “Rain So Hard:” Not long ago, The Wall Street Journal wrote something of a eulogy for the blues, decrying its conservatism and reliance on tradition. It was another of those silly “all blues sounds the same” articles that sadly said more about the writer than the music. Take this song from Otis Taylor, for instance. This is undeniably and identifiably the blues but how many blues staples do you know that deploy theremin, cornet, and cello? This is primitive, rustic music with an off-kilter spirit about it. It’s traditional, but Taylor doesn’t play it safe.