Sunday, July 19, 1998

Sherman Robertson ~ 1998

Sherman Robinson is part zydeco, part swamp blues, part electric blues and part classic rhythm & blues. His guitar playing style is extremely rhythm-based, but at the same time, he plays some extraordinary slide guitar and in the course of one of his typical three hour shows, he'll play a lot of great solos. Robertson's rhythmic playing is no doubt an outgrowth of his several years on the road in the 1980s with the king of zydeco, Clifton Chenier. He also served tenures with Rockin' Dopsie and Terrance Simien & the Mallet Playboys before deciding he wanted to venture out with his own high energy blues style several years ago.

Robertson drew his first inspiration from a TV performance by Hank Williams, the country singer known in bayou country for his composition, "Jambalaya.'' He was 13 when he first saw Williams perform and that experience changed his life. Robertson heard the blues coming out of the country legend, and his interest in playing guitar was piqued. Robertson's father bought him an old Stella guitar for $12 and the younger Robertson began playing the songs of Freddie King and Floyd London, often playing until his hands bled and often falling asleep with the instrument nestled beside him.

Growing up in Houston, just down the street from Don Robey's famed Duke/Peacock Records studios, Robertson had the chance to befriend many of the great musicians who stopped in there to make records. By 17, he was honing his craft with a local blues band and playing in the bars in his Fifth Ward neighborhood in Houston. In 1982, when Robertson's band was playing at the Crosstown Blues Festival, zydeco legend Chenier heard him play. Chenier told his bus driver to "get that guitar player," and a long alliance with Chenier's band was forged.

Robertson moved to Louisiana with Chenier's band and learned a lot from the accordionist about how to read an audience. Later, Robertson worked with singer-songwriter Paul Simon during recording sessions for his Graceland album, and also had the chance to sit in with all of his heroes, Albert Collins and B.B. King and Lightnin' Hopkins among them. In 1987 and 1988, after Chenier's passing, Robertson hooked up with accordionist Terrance Simien, and furthered his musical education, particularly with the overseas dates that band performed in Egypt and Africa. After all those years of playing zydeco, Robertson yearned to get back to more basic forms of blues, and in the early '90s, after two and a half years with the Mallet Playboys, he assembled his own band that would later take much of the blues festival circuit by storm. A few years and hundreds of shows later, critics were saying Robertson would inherit the seats left open by people like Albert King and Albert Collins. ~ Allmusic

Long John Hunter ~ 1998

The Louisiana native got a late start on his musical career. When he was 22 and toiling away in a Beaumont, TX box factory, he attended a B.B. King show and was instantly transfixed. The next day, he bought a guitar. A year later, he was starring at the same bar that B.B. had headlined.

Hunter's 1954 debut single for Don Robey's Houston-based Duke label, "She Used to Be My Woman"/"Crazy Baby," preceded his move to El Paso in 1957. Along the way, Phillip Walker and Lonnie Brooks both picked up on his licks. But Hunter's recording output was slim -- a few hot but obscure singles waxed from 1961 to 1963 for the tiny Yucca logo out of Alamogordo, NM (standouts include "El Paso Rock," "Midnight Stroll," and "Border Town Blues"). Perhaps he was just too busy, he held court at the Lobby Bar in Juarez, MX seven nights a week from sundown to sunup. Its riotous, often brawling clientele included locals, cowboys, soldiers from nearby Fort Bliss, frat boys, and every sort of troublemaking tourist in between. Hunter kept 'em all entertained with his outrageous showmanship and slashing guitar riffs.

For much too long, the legend of Long John Hunter was largely been a local one, limited to the bordertown region between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. Fortunately, Hunter's reputation is finally outgrowing the Lone Star state. His 1992 set for the now-shuttered Spindletop imprint, Ride With Me, got the ball rolling. Now, his 1996 disc for Alligator, Border Town Legend, should expose this Texas blues great to a far wider (if not wilder) audience than ever before.

Long John Hunter's here!

Thursday, July 9, 1998

Bryan Lee ~ 1998

Bryan Lee was born in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and completely lost his eyesight by the age of eight. His avid interest in early rock and blues was fostered through the 1950s by late night listening sessions via the Nashville-based radio station WLAC AM, while listening to "Big John R" and "Hoss Allen". This is where he first encountered Elmore James, Albert King and Albert Collins.

He moved to New Orleans in 1982 and eventually found a steady gig at the Old Absinthe House in the French Quarter. For fourteen years, Lee and his Jump Street Five played five nights a week at the popular bar, developing a huge following and a solid reputation until the bar closed to become a "frozen drink emporium".

Today, Lee continues to perform in New Orleans. He also tours several times a year in the Midwest, Eastern Seaboard, Rocky Mountain States and recently Europe. Lee appeared with Kenny Wayne Shepherd as the musical guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on February 14, 2007.

Saturday, May 23, 1998

Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes & Zydeco Sunspots ~ 1998

Musical expression grew out of Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes’ early immersion in the blues tradition carried on by his father and the community around him. “Blues is central of all my music,” he declares. “The music I write, perform, and record comes to me in dreams. It was my grandmother who explained this direct way of receiving information to me.”

Sunpie also credits his grandmother, Louvina Norris, for putting him in direct touch with the spiritual and practical lore of his ancestry. He says she showed him plants in nature that heal and prepared him to understand direct ways of knowing that have served him well in his original music, his schooling, and in his encounters with elders in his travels throughout the African Diaspora.

Albums available of Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots include: “Loupe Garou”, “Lick a Hot Skillet,” “Sunpie,” “Legends of the Swamp,” and his new release “Zydeco’s Got Soul.” While they may on the surface seem diverse and unconnected, all evoke the music of the African motherland and African music traditions which are alive in the Caribbean as well as here in Louisiana.