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Preserving Country Blues through Education, Performance and Technology
November 17, 2011, 06:20:11 PM by Slack
Views: 2136 | Comments: 2

Roy Book Binder - LIVE at the Fur Peace Station
Written by Andrew Mullins

Roy Book Binder - LIVE at the Fur Peace Station, PL CD 7005-5
Roy Book Binder has been on the road and playing country blues for audiences since the blues revival of the 60s, when he was a student of Rev. Gary Davis. With all of that traveling and performing, he's had a lot of time to perfect his stage routine. Listeners to Live at Fur Peace Station, his latest release, are the beneficiaries of this long experience and polish. Recorded in performances from 2002 to 2004 at the concert hall of Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch, Book Binder is in fine form, playing his brand of raggy, east coast country blues and deadpanning his way hilariously through the stories and one-liners for which he's become well-known. "The Book" is a modern country blues character if ever there was one, and for those not yet familiar with his style, this record is probably as good an introduction as you can get, short of catching him live.

Book Binder's last live album was the 1994 Rounder release, Don't Start Me Talkin'. That's a good record, but this one is even better, with a more interesting set of songs, in my opinion -- and Book Binder seems very much at home at the Fur Peace Ranch. There are actually a few echoes of the earlier CD in the stage repartee here, working essentially as in-jokes. It's worth noting that the talk on this record is given its own tracks, allowing you to skip straight to the music -- Roy can certainly spin a yarn and some introductions are longer than the songs -- or go straight to the talk as you prefer. He's one of the few players out there who could do a record without touching his guitar and still come up with an entertaining piece of work, and it's telling that he has appeared at the National Storytelling Festival.

The two original songs on the CD include the opening track, "What You Gonna Do," a lightly picked number played out of C -- a position Book Binder favors heavily on this set and that's well-suited to his style, which leans mostly towards the Piedmont -- with a lyrical guitar melody that wouldn't be out of place in the hands of Bo Carter. He follows up with a brief version of "Baby Let Me Lay It On You" (which he'd been teaching in the Fur Peace Ranch workshop but rarely performs). The song sets him up for a story of being on the road with Rev. Davis and leads hilariously, and circuitously, into a performance of the murder ballad "Delia."

Roy's approach to "Delia" is rooted in Davis's version -- itself never actually released on record -- a style that Davis called "old-fashioned pickin'," played in C with the fifth in the bass on the I chord, a simple change that somehow makes for a gorgeous guitar part. It's one of the most effective versions I've heard. (Fellow Rev. Davis alumnus Ernie Hawkins plays a real nice version as well.) The spoken introduction is over five minutes long, with Book Binder riffing comically about everyone who's covered the song having won a Grammy but him, and it is classic Book.

"Delia" is followed by a short version of "Jelly Roll" that features licks similar to Roy's version of "Hesitation Blues" in C (for those who are familiar with his teaching videos). "Three Times Seven" (in G) is a Merle Travis tune from the 40s, in the bragging style of songs like "Ragged But Right" or William Moore's "Ragtime Millionaire," which is also included here and is one of the most fun cuts on the CD. Playing in C, Book Binder weaves in bits from his version of Rev. Davis's "Cincinnati Flow Rag" throughout and sails through this performance.

There's much on the album that acts as a kind of tribute to the late Dave Van Ronk. Book Binder explains how the writing of the second original tune, "Full Go Around", comes out of the loss of several great musicians in recent years, including Van Ronk and John Jackson. It's played out of dropped D, a tuning my ear associates a lot with Van Ronk, and has much of his style to it. Two other tracks, "Cocaine Blues" and "Yas, Yas, Yas," have the Van Ronk touch as well. The former is the well-known Van Ronk adaptation of Rev. Davis's take on the song, while the latter is Van Ronk's fingerstyle arrangement of the song Tampa Red did as "The Duck Yas Yas Yas."

"CC & O Blues" is the song recorded in 1928 by Pink Anderson and Simmie Dooley, played here in D. Along with Rev. Gary Davis, Pink was one of Book Binder's mentors, and as is the case with Rev. Davis, Roy can be counted on for lots of stories about hanging out with Pink. We learn here that the first time Pink heard his 1928 recordings was when Roy, having taped the four songs from Nick Perls' 78 collection, called him up late one night and played the recordings over the phone.

Another highlight is "Travelin' Man", which Book Binder did originally on his album of the same title in 1971. That means he's had over 30 years to practice it, and it's one of the best versions I've heard, be it Luke Jordan, Coley Jones, Jim Jackson or Pink Anderson. There's more ragtime-style playing on Larry Johnson's version of "Charlie Stone," played out of G. This is one I hadn't heard before (it appears on Larry Johnson's "Fast and Funky" album, which, sadly, I am lacking) and has a great vocal melody and a catchy I - III - VI - II - V - I - V progression. "Won't You Be Kind" is the Luke Jordan song about the importance of good housekeeping ("Won't you be kind to your kitchen, I mean your dining room, sweep out your pantry, girl, won't you be kind, keep your backyard clean") which Roy plays out of an A position. "Chunk of Coal" is a spiffy country blues arrangement of a song by cowboy poet and country songwriter Billy Joe Shaver.

The record finishes up with two more covers: the first, Jimmy Murphy's 1949 "Electricity," played out of Vestapol tuning (or open D). The closing track is in the same tuning -- Jesse 'Babyface' Thomas's "Another Friend Like Me."

I've listened to Live at the Fur Peace Station a lot and have enjoyed it tremendously. It's laid back and appealing in so many ways. Book Binder's guitar style is deceptively simple-sounding at first but has lots of fine, subtle picking with quick-moving riffs, chord partials, and embellishing bends, snapped strings and hammer-ons. It's a great trick to be playing that much and sound so relaxed. Roy is I think at heart a songster, and he seems like he'd be right at home in a modern day medicine show, perhaps a lingering result of his friendship with Pink Anderson.

This CD is on Roy's own Peg Leg label (he takes several good shots at his former label, Rounder, on the disc), and it's important to note that it is available only at his shows and at the Book Store on his website at And it's now available on Weenie Juke.

1 - What You Gonna Do
2 - Baby Let Me Lay It On You
3 - Delia
4 - Jelly Roll Blues
5 - Three Times Seven
6 - Full Go Round
7 - Ragtime Millionaire
9 - Yas,Yas,Yas
10 - Cocaine Blues
10 - CC&O Blues
11 - Travelin' Man
12 - Mermaids Flirt With Me
13 - Charlie Stone
14 - Won't You Be Kind
15 - Old Chunk Of Coal
16 - Electricity
17 - Another Friend Like Me

released April 15,2005 72 minutes
November 17, 2011, 06:19:11 PM by Slack
Views: 1337 | Comments: 0

Love, Murder and Mosquitos - Red House
Written by Andrew Mullins

Love, Murder and Mosquitos - Red House RHR CD 172
It's hard to believe it's been five years since Paul Geremia's last record, The Devil's Music. That's too long for a musician of this calibre to go without a release. Finally we have Love, Murder and Mosquitos.

  There's quite a bit of 12-string guitar on this album, with a good eight tracks - almost half the CD - played on that great-sounding twelve he restored. The record is probably more strictly country blues than his previous release - no Ray Charles or Percy Mayfield - although aside from John Hurt's 'Frankie' and Patton's 'Pony Blues' there aren't many songs from the country blues Top 40 (which is just fine with me). Even 'Frankie' is given a rather unusual treatment on 12-string, and 'Pony Blues' features Martin Grosswendt on fiddle to distinguish it from the usual take on this Patton classic, while at the same time recalling Patton's work with Henry Sims.

Participants from the Port Townsend Workshop when Geremia was in attendance a couple years back may remember his take on some of the tunes that appear here. Pink Anderson showed him 'Meet Me in the Bottom,' which opens the record, played on 12-string, and which Paul played at Port Townsend in the 12-string concert he did with Ernie Hawkins. Blind Blake's 'Tootie Blues,' is slightly different from Paul's version that appeared on the Shanachie "Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues" compilation, and it features a nice little break using diminished arpeggios up the neck. George Carter's 'Rising River Blues' is done on twelve again and also features Paul on rack harmonica (which I believe he plays backwards). It's a pretty stunning version of an unusual tune, sounding very fresh. Patton's 'When Your Way Gets Dark,' which he performed at the introductory session at Port Townsend and blew people away with, is one of the highlights of the record here as well, with great slide work way up the neck. Jesse Thomas's 'Another Friend Like Me' is a lesser known tune from the country blues repertoire that gets a much deserved revival, and this version features string bass from Rory McLeod, as does Paul's take Blind Willie McTell's 'Don't Forget It'.

There are only a few original tunes on the record. One is really an update of 'Bully of the Town' ('New Bully of the Town') and is an angry dig at current US anti-terrorist legislation and foreign policy. 'Evil World Blues' is another sort of protest song, this time about homelessness, with some Robert Johnson-like licks. 'Loners' Blues' is more of an old-style folk tune and features clawhammer banjo from Grosswendt.

'This Morning She Was Gone' is a Jim Jackson tune and includes Jim Bennett on mandolin and  McLeod on string bass - it's good time music, with nice mandolin playing, and outshines the original Jackson version. 'Slow Mama Slow' is the Sam Collins song, another underappreciated early bluesman. Played on 12-string with slide here, I find it's a somehow darker take than the slow and steamy original. 'Bad Dream Blues' is the Dave Van Ronk tune in Statesboro Blues style, and Paul's notes to the CD say of the late Van Ronk, "He was my closest friend whose passing leaves a forever void in the world of music and truth." 'Mosquito Moan' is Paul digging into his Blind Lemon Jefferson bag once again and provides the mosquito reference in the odd album title. It's sort of a reprise of Paul's version of 'Booger Rooger Blues'  from The Devil's Music, featuring a similar progression in C and similar Blind Lemon licks. It's of one my favorite Lemon themes so I'm happy to hear more interpretations, and Lemon himself recorded dozens of variations on it. 'Scrapper Scraps' is Scrapper Blackwell material in D played brilliantly - he's really all over this, tossing in parts from 'Kokomo Blues,' 'Back Door Blues' and others. 'I Feel So Good' is the Big Bill Broonzy piece that sometimes goes by 'Ballin' the Jack', an up-tempo tune to close the album.

Geremia is in top form as usual on this record, perhaps a bit more sombre than in the past, but these are more sombre times. He's really exploring the 12-string more than on previous recordings and, along with Alvin Youngblood Hart, pretty much defines the art of 12-string country blues playing. His 6-string playing will make your jaw drop as well, and vocally he's matched the great singing on Devil's Music. You can't really go wrong picking up a new CD from one of the premier interpreters of country blues and this one is highly recommended.

1. Meet Me in the Bottom
2. Pony Blues
3. Tootie Blues
4. Rising River Blues
5. This Morning She Was Gone
6. New Bully of the Town
7. Slow Mama Slow
8. Another Friend Like Me
9. Evil World Blues
10. Mosquito Moan
11. Loners' Blues
12. Don't Forget It
13. Bad Dream Blues
14. When Your Way Gets Dark
15. Frankie
16. Scrapper Scraps
17. Keep a Love Light
18. I Feel So Good
Michael Kuehn
January 27, 2010, 04:45:52 PM by Michael Kuehn
Views: 3729 | Comments: 6

Craig Ventresco Plays the Guitar

Craig Ventresco Plays the Guitar - Independent
Craig Ventresco Plays the Guitar is the latest CD by, you guessed it, Craig Ventresco. Craig is a San Francisco-based guitarist who came to real prominence when he was lifted off the street corner by filmmaker Terry Zwigoff to record the soundtrack for the film "Crumb." He is known for his encyclopedic knowledge of late 19th and early 20th Century rags, pop and vaudeville tunes, jazz and blues. He manages to rediscover long lost music from old 78s, piano rolls, cylinders and manuscripts. I think most Weenies are familiar with Craig's unique style of playing with a flatpick and ring finger, so I won't go into that. There are a fair number of Craig's videos on YouTube where you can experience his amazing playing.

As one would expect, the songs on this CD are an eclectic collection, many, if not most, were new to me. After some digging on the internet, I found a bit of the history behind some of these tunes. Where Craig got them is anybody's guess. Here?s a brief sample of what's on the CD:

"The Blues Have Got Me", by Roy Turk and Abner Silver, was first recorded in 1924. I found a brief clip of Warner?s Seven Aces doing it for an album called Jazz From Atlanta, 1923-1929.

"Take 'Em To The Door" is a tune written by Henderson-Rose-Davis, performed in 1925 by Gus Van and Joe Schenck. Apparently they were a comedy duo, and the song has piano accompaniment.

"Downhearted Blues" was recorded by Bessie Smith in 1923.

"Low Down Blues" is a Eubie Blake-Noble Sissle tune from 1923. I found a version of it by Eddie Heywood and the Blues Singers on a Document CD.

I credit Todd Cambio of Fraulini Guitars for introducing me to the artistry of Craig Ventresco. While sitting in Todd's workshop, discussing music, he asked me if I'd heard of Craig. I hadn't, and I'm now grateful we had that talk.

Listening to this CD is how I imagine it must have been for those folks lucky enough to have heard Blind Blake or Broonzy playing live for a party or dance. Craig plays this music the way it was meant to be played ? rough, raucous, aggressive. There's a rawness, a liveliness, to it that you just don't hear in a lot of folks who play this music. His playing is not genteel. It's real.

I got my CD directly from Craig, which, as far as I know, is the only place it can be purchased.

And it?s a Fraulini Guitar that Craig is playing on this CD. So we got that going for us.


1. Take 'Em to the Door
2. Take Me to the Land of Jazz
3.Sugar Blues
4. Big City Blues
5. Broken Blues
6. Downhearted Blues
7. Step it Up and Go
8. Ukulele Blues part 1
9. Terrible Murder Blues*
10. Low Down Blues
11. Wang Wang Blues
12. Hesitation Blues
13. The Blues Have Got Me
14. The New Lonesome Crave
15. Ukulele Blues part 2
* Vocal by Meredith Axelrod
uncle bud
May 13, 2009, 07:20:15 PM by uncle bud
Views: 2486 | Comments: 1

Fetch It! - Steve Cheseborough
Written by Andrew Mullins

Fetch It! - Steve Cheseborough

Portland-based musician and author Steve Cheseborough has put together a strong set of country blues for his latest CD, Fetch It!, which was released in January. The author of the guidebook Blues Traveling: the Holy Sites of Delta Blues, Cheseborough is a part-time blues historian, but never comes across sounding like one on this CD. He takes a laid back approach to the music that is very appealing - it's always a pleasure for the listener when the performer sounds so relaxed and sure of their material. Just sit back and enjoy.

The record opens with "Hear Me Talking to You", an arrangement of a Ma Rainey song with a beautiful melody that provides the title for the CD in its lyric, "you got to fetch it with you when you come." The pace sets the tone for much of the rest of the disc. Cheseborough adapts the song - originally played by a jug band - for solo guitar in Vestapol tuning to great success. His arranging talents are in evidence throughout the record, but particularly on Little Brother Montgomery's "Vicksburg Blues", a slow blues that transfers surprisingly effectively from piano to guitar, and the wonderful Georgia Tom Dorsey song "Been Mistreated", which sounds a little like it's gone through a Bo Carter machine.

Cheseborough is in fact an expert on Carter, and so it's only fitting that he tackles several of his tunes for the CD, including the classic "Arrangement for Me Blues", and the guitar workout "Who's Been Here" - slightly toned down here from the original acrobatic version, but still rendered with style and Bo-itude. But the most enjoyable take on Carter here is surely the less common "Who Broke the Latch?", a raggy medicine show or vaudeville-style blues that is hard to resist.

If you've seen Cheseborough perform, you may have seen him put away the guitar and convincingly lay down a tune with simple harmonica, percussion and vocal. This time round it's Polly Wolly Doodle, perfectly executed comedy featuring melodic harp playing, hambone and vocal responses in the bass register. His harp playing in general should not go unmentioned: always understated, he resists wailing harmonica stylings, and has more in common with Noah Lewis or Will Shade.

Other tracks on the record include a funky, John Lee Hooker-ish take on Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips", Blind Lemon Jefferson's "One Dime Blues", Tampa Red's "Love With a Feeling", and even a nice cover of a Dean Martin tune, "Little Ole Wine Drinker Me" - complete with yodel. The CD also features percussion on every track - Stacy Adams shoes on an old box lid - though I think a few tracks should probably have stood shoeless on their own. Geeshie Wiley's "Last Kind Words" in particular is one where I could have done without the percussive tapping.

Cheseborough's vocals are strong throughout. He picks great singing songs, not just guitar parts, and he's got his own style (though an occasional tendency to exaggerate vowel sounds may alarm some listeners at first). With a playlist that avoids blues clich?s and Cheseborough's easy-going style, Fetch It! is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining CD. Featuring cover art by 15-year-old cartoonist Christopher Livingstone.

Available at CD Baby and

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