Today’s Verse Chorus Verse entry is our weekly Blues Power Rankings 6-Pack playlist. Here are six songs from six albums that are among the hottest on blues radio this week. The BPR were kind to me this week, giving me a few new albums and artists to mix in to the discussion while also delving deeper into albums that have been on the charts for awhile.
Steve Miller Band – “All Your Love (I Miss Loving):” Otis Rush will always be my favorite bluesman and I will always be suspicious of other artists covering his classic material. I was a little more suspicious of SMB than I am of most because despite knowing Miller’s knowledge and passion for the blues, he will always be the guy who wrote some slick, cool, FM rock singles. I like those songs a lot but this is Otis Rush we’re talking about here!
In the liner notes to Bingo!, Miller tells us of his affection for Rush as an artist and as a person and that admiration is evident in this fine cover. Miller succeeds because he is in perfect balance. He plays to his strengths and doesn’t try to be Otis Rush. He injects a little of his own personality into the song while leaving intact everything that has made it an enduring classic for decades.
Rob Stone – “Don’t Turn Back The Clock:” Rob Stone gives everyone a little room to do something on this track while saving a little room for himself. David Maxwell is a monster on this track, punching some great rhythms and fancy fills throughout, playing a piano that sounds like an antique but still crackling with life. Sam Lay has drummed for everyone in his decades-long career and still keeps the beat. He’s not showboating but Stone wants us to hear what he’s playing and it’s a good, good call, as his cymbal work is periodically pushed forward in the mix. As for Stone, he gives a great vocal performance and saves a little space for his harp. He takes a few bars to solo here and there and also blasts some supporting bursts for Maxwell.
Les Copeland – “Ry Cooder:” Ry Cooder is the guitarists’ guitarist. Cooder has had a critically acclaimed solo career and shared his talents with many music luminaries, yet he doesn’t quite have that instant name recognition. He may be a mystery to the public at large but he’s no stranger to guitarists. Les Copeland has named a track on his Don’t Let The Devil In album in Cooder’s honor does an amazing thing: he captures a piece of Cooder’s essence without writing a copycat song. Very few guitarists can competently step into another’s shoes without stepping on their feet or getting lost (the great Ronnie Earl comes to mind). In addition to being an homage to an amazing musician, this is a lovely piece of music and slide playing.
Otis Taylor – “Past Times:” Otis Taylor reminds me of Peter Karp in that they’re both songwriters first and blues musicians second. Taylor is an amazing storyteller and this song tells the story of a man who knows he only has a few hours left to live. The man considers whether he has strength to fight to stay longer or if he’s ready for the suffering to end, pondering the hours he has left and the years behind him. Musically, Chuck Campbell’s pedal steel quietly but urgently weeps and wails like a ghost. The blues are filled with tales of sorrow but rarely are they lyrically or musically presented like this.
Peter Parcek 3 – “Get Right With God:” There are thousands and thousands of blues guitar instrumentals and most of them are well intentioned but lukewarm copies of the sliver worth hearing. Parcek’s “Get Right With God” belongs in that sliver. His lead lines are short and stylish. The other thing that intrigues me about this one is the way guitars are layered . That might not win Parcek many friends with purists but the differing tones create a tasty blend.
Magic Slim & The Teardrops – “Cummins Prison Farm:” The tale of the penitent prisoner has been a part of the music tradition for thousands of years. Johnny Cash helped make the murder ballad and tales of redemption and remorse from behind bars part of the language of popular music. “Cummins Prison Farm” is about a man incarcerated in one the most notorious prisons in American history and Magic Slim gives it a spirited interpretation.