We live in horribly cynical times that make you second guess everybody's intentions.
What are they getting out of it? That has become the typical response to altruistic behaviour. It's as if nobody today ever does anything because it makes the person feel good to help others.
Unfortunately it's an attitude that's understandable and one I freely admit to sharing due to the barrage of press releases we receive outlining just how wonderful some stars are because of their gifts to some cause or other.
The funny thing is that when the genuine article does come along it's remarkable how easy it is to recognize them.
From the moment I first came in contact with the folk behind the Music Maker Relief Foundation, Tim and Denise Duffy, through one of their CDs, I knew they were for real. Since then I've turned into one of those tiresome people that keeps going on and on about the same subject at any chance I get; The Music Makers Relief Foundation.
I can't help it; in a country like France where they honour culture they would be awarded the legion d'honor by their government for the work the foundation does. What had started out as way of helping elderly musicians care for themselves has become one of the most important programs outside of the Smithsonian Institution working to preserve American popular culture of the past and keeping it alive today.
According to Tim, it was his 1990 meeting with Guitar Gabriel that got him started on the work he's doing now. At first, he was content to simply play the Blues with Gabriel at festivals throughout the southern states and even Europe. Gabriel gradually introduced him to other musicians, and Tim saw how they were forced to live, barely surviving on their social security checks.
The men and women he met and recorded with were not only some of the most talented Blues musicians he had ever heard, they also represented a significant period in American music history.
Initially he strove to find them as many gigs as he could so they were getting little bit more money each month. At the same time he continued to make recordings of all the people he knew and tracking down those he was told had played music at one time or another.
It was this collection of field recordings that got the ball rolling for The Music Makers Relief Foundation. In one of those happy coincidences that occasionally happens in real life, a friend of Tim's late father ran a high-end audiophile equipment business. When Tim asked his advice about how to transfer his field recording to CD, the man went a step further and helped him produce the first CD.
From there, it's been a long, steady climb up the hill toward fulfilling Tim's dream of bringing his new friends to the world's attention. Through recordings and tours to South America and Europe he's been able to both raise significant funds toward supporting more individuals and continue to develop new projects featuring the music of some of the best traditional Blues and Gospel performers you are liable to ever hear.
This year they've come out with Blues Sweet Blues a two-disc set that features the talents of those who have been recorded and are still recording with the Music Makers Fund. Unfortunately, the only reason most people stop recording with Music Makers is that they have passed on or their health has failed them. But, while people like Guitar Gabriel, Etta Baker, and a few others are no longer around we at least have their music to remind us of what they meant to the world.
I've raved about the voice of Captain Luke on other occasions, but that's not going to stop me from doing it again. It's just so rare to hear a pure baritone anymore that hearing him sing for the first time can stop you cold. Tim Duffy once described how Captain Luke came out on stage in Argentina, in front of thousands of people, and the second he began singing you could hear a pin drop.
Sitting on stage in his chair with just a single guitar for accompaniment, this deceptively frail looking elderly gentleman opens his mouth and something amazing happens. With seemingly no effort on his part at all the room fills with the sound of lush summer twilight as the sky turns that particular shade of dark sapphire blue. Captain Luke's is easily the most amazing sounding voice I've heard in ages.
Of course, he's not the only one on the discs but he certainly is a highlight. He's joined on the first song, "Let The Good Times Roll" by Willa Mae Buckner and the late Cooties Stark, and the second song he goes it solo on "One Of These Days/" Then there's Drink Small singing his creation "President Clinton Blues" who's followed by…If I'm not careful I'll just end up naming all the songs on both discs. Every one of them are important and good for its own reason, but I guess you'll just have to follow the link above to the Music Maker's site and buy yourself a copy if you want to hear how good the are.
Tim and Denise Duffy might not have had any real idea of what they wanted to do initially aside from helping out some musicians who they liked and believed deserved better hands then what fate had dealt them. However, it's almost like the music was waiting for someone to come along and take an interest. The overwhelmingly positive response from audiences all over the world is proof of that. The Music Makers Foundation has done all of us a valuable service – not just he artists it represents.
Without Tim and Denise Duffy the world would have missed out on some truly amazing music and performers. If you have a few extra dollars this year you might want to consider sending it their way. There's always more they can be doing to help somebody out and new music to be recorded as well.