Welcome back for another 6-pack of songs from this week’s Blues Power Rankings, my weekly feature on the blues radio charts.
1) Jonny Lang – “One Person At A Time (live):”
I started this week’s chart with a song from Jonny Lang, whose Live At The Ryman continues to do well on the charts. I bought the album a few weeks ago and I like it just a little more each time I hear it. It’s on my “To Review” list. In the meantime, you can read Blogcritics Asst. Music Editor Donald Gibson’s review of it as well as his interview with Lang.
Lang takes his audience to church as he barks and chokes and wails his vocals over the top of gospel organ blasts and a fiery guitar lead. The message is an uplifting one but what makes this song compelling is how invested Lang is in the performance of it.
2) Pinetop Perkins & Willie “Big Eyes” Smith – "Take Your Hands Off My Woman:" This cut borrows the musical essence of Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Working." While the roots of that song are plenty old and tired, Perkins turns in his most energetic piano solo and Smith fires off a pair of fine harp solos. It's hard to imagine they'd have had the same energy had they settled for simply covering the more famous "Mojo."
3) Janiva Magness – “The Devil Is An Angel Too:” Every once in awhile I’m right about something and the title track from Magness’ latest record is all the evidence I needed. Her voice has changed very little from previous outings but the music, production, and arrangement has and that change made all the difference. Pairing her voice with some rootsy, nocturnal sounds brings the heat sorely lacking in the past. This is where Magness thrives.
4) Peter Karp & Sue Foley – “Ready For Your Love:” I fell in love with He Said She Said all over again this week. Peter Karp is one of the finest songwriters on the planet and this is such a great example of it. The bouquet of emotions that surfaces when new love and the ghosts of loves past intersect are beautifully explored and Karp’s vocal is filled with wonder and weariness, tenderness and toughness. I know so many of you think there’s nothing worth listening to “out there” because you only listen to the radio. This song, this album, and these songwriters are what you’re seeking.
5) Harper – “I Never Want:” I remember my shock and amazement when I heard Gerry Hundt make a Chicago blues record with his mandolin, completely unaware there was a tradition of mandolin in the blues. I dare someone to tell me there’s a didgeridoo tradition in the blues. What’s a didgeridoo? It’s a wind instrument from Australia. If you’ve seen a commercial for Outback Steakhouse or Foster’s beer, you’ve heard a didgeridoo. It takes some getting used to, hearing it incorporated into the rootsy, harmonica-driven sound of “I Never Want” and at times I’m not sure how well it works but it’s interesting enough you should all give it a try.
6) Anders Osborne – “Standing With Angels:” "Standing With Angels" is a touching tribute to one of Osborne's friends and it is a pure, beautiful tale that manages to uplift and inspire despite being a farewell to a someone who has left this earth after experiencing their share of pain and struggle. The music humbly points to the sky but it's his impassioned delivery and the obvious devotion to the departed that makes this song so compelling. He may have written these words with a specific person and circumstance in mind but all of us have been touched by this story.