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February 26, 2006

Ron Hacker's Book- "White Trash Bluesman"

I have finally had some opportunies to sit and read. Not just the newspaper but really read a book. What made decide to do so was Ron Hacker's new book, "White Trash Bluesman".
He finally finished it and it's hot off the press.
I have been reading it bits at a time.
This is a story of a man who has really lived the blues!
He'll take you from his earliest memories, all through his life, the people in his life, and what effects they had on him. It's heart-wrenching at some of the stuff he's gone through. I feel sad, lonely, happy, arroused, angry, and many other emotions and feelings surface while reading it.
It's amazing that some survive the things they go through in life and live to tell about it. And Ron Hacker is difintly telling us HIS story and how the blues has saved his life.
I have only got to the part where he joins the Army so I've got a lot more to read yet. His childhood is one of those you only read about and some of you might have lived some of it so it might sound somewhat familar. It does to me. Yep, that's right, Mo grew up white trash but we siblings had each other and there were six of us so that helped.

Anyway, this isn't about me but about Ron Hacker and his life.
Pick up the book and get a dose of real life- White Trash in Indianapolis, IN.

You can purchase this book by going to his website or maybe even at one of his shows:

And for those of you who have never seen Ron Hacker and his Hacksaws perform live, well, you're surely missing out. A must!!
I know I'm jonesin' for a "Hack Attack". It's been waaay too long and I need that fix!


Posted by Mo at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2006

Otis Rush New Release- 'Live' in 1976! By: Mo

I have died and gone to blues guitar heaven. Finally, a CD that just
ooozes blues guitar!
Otis Rush and nuthin' but Otis Rush singing and Otis guitar, guitar,

My Blues Buddy, Lenny, HIGHLY recommended it and when he says jump to
buy something, I listened.
There's been a few that we disagree on but most times, we see eye-to-
eye on what we like in the blues.

Bored with the house, I went for a drive to Backdoor Disc in Cotati. They have changed owners, and the blues selection has changed although I haven't decided if it's indeed better, it's just great to see they have one!!

Walked in and checked their "used" blues section and it's a mess
with Zydeco & Cajun, mixed in, I was disappointed.
I went over to the "new" blues section and went to "R" for Rush and
there it was. That was all I needed so I did a quick browse thru the
rest of the blues, paid for it, and left. Opened it with haste and
stuck it in my car player. I took the long way home just to hear it
blastin'. Got home and put it the stereo to finish it up. I'm now on
song #10 and so far it's been nuthin' but Otis rippin' on guitar
and singing.

He has an awesome band with piano, horns, a drummer, another
guitarist, and Bob Stroger on bass, and they back him wonderfully.
When I say "backing" him, I mean backing him. No harp, keys, horns,
or other guitarist stealing the spotlite and leaving you feeling
ripped off. You want Otis Rush and nuthin' but Blues guitar, this is
the CD for you!!
It says Otis Rush and that's what you get. I love when that happens
at shows and on Cds.

The sound quality is a little off but it doesn't take away from the
feeling of the whole thing. After all, it was recorded in '76 in a
small pub.

Otis Rush's
"All Your Love I Miss Loving" Live at the Wise Fools Pub in
Chicago '76.
Released in 2006.
Go get it!

Quickly browsing before I left the store I did notice that they
filled the Mike Bloomfield slot since I was there last. I picked up
the only one left leaving it empty and now it's full with all sorts
of Bloomfield. That's a good sign.
I'm not sure what took me so long but I am now a Bloomfield fan
although I am still looking for that 'essential' Bloomfield.


Posted by Mo at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2006

James Cotton At Mystic Theatre, Petaluma 2/9/06

all photos by rolf olmsted

J.L. Stiles opened the show with his roots rock songs and alt Country band. After a nice opening blues number it was the country rock side of the street for about six tunes. They were pretty well done.

A swift set change brought on The James Cotton Band. Doing a wild instrumental shuffle they wowed the crowd and drew many out on the dance floor. This evolved into a knockout “Let the Good Time Roll” sung in a fine gravelly soul voice by a guitar player who drew my attention fast. After knocking us dead the band was introduced while the tune went on. Left-handed Tom Holland was the rhythm guitarist, Charles Mack the animated bassist, Marv Mack the steady drummer, and the attention grabbing guitarist/vocalist was Slam Allen. They did a reprise of “Let the Good Times Roll” and I was out dancing.

Slam Allen

Slam Allen took the band into the slow blues B.B. King classic “How Blue Can You Get?” I was riveted to the floor while watching Slam. Guitar and voice are Blues perfection! A fantastic lead guitarist with beautiful licks, he also has the great huge soul voice that can go from gravelly to angelic. “I’ve been down hearted, Baby, ever since the day we met!” Oh my god, it was like a cross between Sam Moore and B. B. King! Burning and aching!

James Cotton and Tom Holland

James Cotton was brought on stage to his theme song “Superharp.” Carefully positioning his bulk in his chair he suddenly hit a lick and it was like old times. Mr. Blues was in the house. James may have had bad medical problems that destroyed his voice, but that cat can blow! All the great licks and fifty years experience burst out in economical stabs of sound. Doing some opening ‘show’ licks he had the crowd with him in seconds.

The songs all sounded as modern as today and had that old time Chess Records feel too. Slam sings with James very well and they are in synch with each other. James seems to relish Slam’s singing. The great soul voice testifying things like “Something strange is gonna happen to you!” and “Rather go on without you, Darlin,’ than to live my life in misery!” would combine with Cotton’s harp into hair-raising blues.

Slam Allen, Charles Mack, James Cotton

Up-tempo jump numbers were there too. “I’m gonna take you downtown, and put shoes on your feet! I’m in love with you, Darlin’, tell everybody I meet!” What a gas, it was jitterbug time with women shouting out and people dancing hard. From that into Sonny Boy’s classic “Don’t Start Me To Talkin’” which was as funny as the original without being a copy. Slam really got the salacious quality of the song across. “Been down to Rosie’s, going down to Fannie Mae’s, gonna tell Fannie what I heard her boyfriend say!” Heh, heh, heh. The old warhorse of a song is still funny when it’s done right. It sounded like “The Devil made me do it!” Cotton’s harp on this song was outstanding with few showy licks and a whole lot of feeling and serious harp playing.

Straight Chicago Blues was the order of the rest of the show. Jimmy Rogers old “That’s All Right” sounded new and not hackneyed at all. Slam had another fabulous vocal. The Wolf’s “Louise” was every bit as good. “Mojo Hand” done as a fast shuffle was a winner. Cotton was up out of his chair and lumbering around the stage to the cheers of the crowd. They upped the tempo of the shuffle and things went really fast with heavy dance action out on the floor. “Got My Mojo Working” was done with full audience participation (“Got My Mojo Working! Got my Mojo Working!”) And as usual, “Nuh-uh Honey, just don’t work on you!”

Big sustained cheers made it clear that there would be an encore and the band didn’t protest too much. “Boogie Thang” was partly the vamp from “Hip Shake” and partly John Lee Hooker. Most of the crowd was out on the floor and yelling. It was a fine show and the show I found Slam Allen, I’ll watch for him now.

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 03:31 PM | Comments (2)

Wednesday Night Roadtrippin'! By: Mo

Man, it was great to get out on a weeknight once again.
I just love going down to hear some blues in the middle of the week. No parking hassels (unless of course you've got a bunch of passengers telling you where to go) no crowds, it's just a whole lot better.
I put out the call and a few of us ventured on down to the Saloon for some Steve Freund and crew. Not much else going on but this was plenty. I gots to hear him every so often just to get that fix.

The drive down was speedy after we finally made it out of town. I sure have missed my blues buddies and it was just great hanging out and talking.
It was so beautiful on the way down. A clear night but not at all cold like it has been. Crystal clear and sparkling, the City was winking and blinking with the glow of all those lights, A welcome site. San Francisco has got to be one of the most beautiful city's anywhere. That's my belief anyway. The cast of colorful characters that inhabit and visit the city is what makes it for me.

So, we parkewd in China Town and walked across Broadway and into North Beach and past the Jazz place where some blues piano and fiddle caught our ears. Peeped through the window and there she was!
Caroline Dahl playin' piano and I would later find out that that was Tom Rigney on fiddle. It sounded great but we kept moving to round the corner to the Saloon. I was very anxious to get there. I have really missed that place. Turned the corner and there was Greg-our favorite door guy. Lookin' serious about his work I said hello and he barly flinched. I hit him in the arm and said, "Damn Greg! How ya been? I've missed you!" That broke his stance/trance and I got a couple more words from him. It was great to see him again.

Steve Freund was already going at it. Bob Welsh was on keys, Robi Bean on drums and Tim "The Iceman" Wager on bass.
They were soundin' pretty darn good.
I guess when you don't get out much, your ears become sensitive because it was waaaay too loud for me. Especially those keys although the playing was the best. Not much else to expect form Bob Welsh. He's so awesome.

The rhythm section was the best part of the whole night. That Robi Bean had my pelvic grindin' although I couldn't get my feet movin' much. Must of been the huge day at work or something. Robi and Tim's magic rhythm would keep my hips a shakin' and pelvic grindin'. They were awesome.

Steve Kaufman would get up there to play harp and sing Mojo Workin' and another song and that was great!
I really like it when he gets up there.

It was an OK night musically speaking. I've heard much better from this band and this was not one of those nights. Sorry, I wasn't gonna say it but I did. Freund is magic on guitar and the magic was off Wednesday night. The keys were loud, not enough guitar(which is why I went down there in the first place) and those are my only complaints. But that rhythm section was killer!! The best part of the night was seeing all those familar faces enjoying the dancefloor and such. Hadn't seen many in awhile.

We stayed the whole night and then said our Goodbyes when it was over. Stopped for pizza and ate it on the way to the van. I'm not sure if we even looked both ways before crossing Broadway we were enjoying that pizza!
I promised Terri a stop for a view of da bridge so she could get pictures. I used to stop a Vista Point all the time until I found out about this view point- The Marin Headlands. Wow!! You want a view of the Golden Gate this is the spot. It was spectacular!! Crystal clear and Terri just went on and on about the reflections in the water. Being the artist she is I'm sure it inspired her even more. She does beautiful work and I bet we'll see that in some of her works in the future. We loaded up and headed home. I was beat but all of Dee's snacks kept me busy and awake.
We listened to a copy of Rolf's Lara Price and Laura Chavez that Rolf had burned for Dee. Yah I know, I know.... We all hate "burning" but you got to understand Dee's circumstances. She appreciates it and is a huge supporter of the blues scene.
It was accoustic for the first half and then the band kicks in on the second half. The Laura Chavez is so awesome on guitar. Her accoustic is even better.
I really need to go see them again and soon. Laura will get up there on stage and really puts out some sweet, intricate guitar licks that will make you cry and then it'll sting ya in the ass! Go see them sometime. That little Lara Price is as cute as a button and can sing her little lungs out!! Always a tight band too.

So we were listening to that on the way home and Dee says, "This music is putting me to sleep". Some people just don't appreciate good accoustic blues!
At first I told her,
"So go to sleep. I'll wake you when we get there"
But I moved it up to the electric part and she was happy. I love good accoustic playing and that Laura Chavez can play it!

Knowing I was going in to get these problem teeth yanked, I endulged in the Almond Rocha's Dee brought along. Nobody else wanted any so that was more for me. Normally I wouldn't have touched them with these sensitive teeth but I was feeling no pain on this night, I knew they were coming out in a few hours, and I just love those sticky, chewy things! I ate the whole bag and the sugar rush was what I needed to make it home. Thanks Dee.

Slept a few hours, got up, made to my early dentaL appointment. The dentist looked at me and she asked,
"Did you take any seditives before you came in today?"
I said, "No, but I went out lastnight does that count?"
And we laughed and continued to talk about the blues scene until it was time to stick those big ass novacaine needles in my mouth.
Aside from the cracking and crunching in you ears and head, having teeth pulled isn't so bad. Just keep having them fill you up on the stuff just to be sure.

So, Thank yo Dee, Terri and Rolf for joining me on this rare weeknight out. I had a great time hanging out with you and lookin' forward to more. I don't see much to get me out tonite but do see that Joe Louis Walker and Daniel Castro will be at Eli's next weekend and I want to hit one, if not both, of those shows!!
I have missed Joe and I'm wondering how he's sounding after his stay in France. I am glad to hear he's back.
I haven't been to Eli's since its latest reincarnation and am curious about that too.

Let's do it again and soon!
Love to all!

Posted by Mo at 08:15 AM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2006

Volker Strifler Band at DG's, Napa CA, 2/3/06

On a cool clear night my ride to Napa was drier than last time in the New Year's floods. I was surprised at how little traffic there was and how fast I got to Napa over Hwy 12. I arrived while the band was still setting up. Noting a vaguely familiar face holding a tenor saxophone, I asked and was told "That's Al Garth, he plays with The Eagles. David Schrader couldn't make it tonight, when he gets a sub, he gets a sub!"

It was a small house at the start as the drum set went together. Without flourishes the band went right into the instrumental opener. Two verses into it I knew this was one of the really good nights, they were funky as could be.

It's no secret I follow the Volker Strifler Band, I've watched the band from the beginning and watched its birth out of the work Volker did in A Case Of The Willy's. Volker's songwriting, singing, and guitar playing are such a total full experience and explosion of talent that it's impossible for me to pass up. While it's also no secret that I'm a fan of older blues styles, I can't pass up a whole new thing harmonically happening in the blues. When a miracle of talent occurs, go with it.

A thick swamp feeling decorated "Voodoo Queen", previewing the feel of many songs over the course of the night. Chip Roland's organ has now come into full use in the band as Chip has become comfortable with the band and the material. Now the organ is an organic part of the VSB sound adding a deep foundation sound. In combination with Gary Silva on drums and Don Bassey on bass this is a powerful rhythm section.

"All right, we're gonna keep it light," announced Volker (which made me laugh), and they swung into "Almighty Dollar."
"Ain’t gonna worry about the almighty dollar ‘cause that kind of thing ain’t for me!" I had no available partners and went and danced in the corner.

"Any Blues fans out there?" said Volker. Several of us laughed. "Too Bad Our Love Is Down The Drain" was blues as survival with low down organ, tenor sax, and guitar. Feeling good feeling bad feeling good feeling bad, yup, it was the blues all right. "Moving On" finally got people up and out on the floor dancing and Volker's spider fingers on the classic "Woke Up This Morning'" and Volker's own "Struck By Lightnin'" kept them out there.

Volker's baritone Danelectro got strapped on and the low tones made a thick swamp sound on "You Got The Touch." Very Voodoo! The low toned voodoo feeling came out a lot all night. Watching Volker over time I've seen his sound migrate and change. He used to have a more Texas roadhouse sound, now he's developing a sound that has no real easy label, but is jazzy and swamp, while retaining his flashing lead work and blues roots.

At the start of the second set Volker went to his first slide guitar excursion and did one of his 'hits' "In Your Arms."

"The morning sun’s nearly on the rise
Me and my baby made love all night

I see her face through my sleepy eyes
I get out of bed and everything’s all right

I finally found where my heart belongs
I finally found where my heart belongs
It’s in your arms ‘cause angels can’t be wrong

I'm not sure where Volker manages to find new stuff on the slide guitar, but he manages to find new ways of making the slide sound new ways harmonically. What Volker does with "Spoonful" has astounded me for the last six months. The impact it had on me when they introduced last summer hasn't lessened. Volker seems to have found a couple extra notes sliding in the blues scale. The resulting harmonies against the wonderful modal two chord vamp of "Spoonful." The Wolf would approve (even though, being the Wolf, he'd grumble about the changes). Volker had the audience now and they went out on the floor for "Somebody Help Me (Hanging Tough)."

"Smack dab in the middle of nowhere,
Feels like that's where I'm at.
The baby's crying and the rent is due
The landlord's breathing down my neck.

Sometimes it's rough
I've got a hound dog running after me
I'm hanging tough
Somebody help me cause I can't see.
(Volker Strifler)

Then the band slowed the roll, it was the deep blues and…

"Like it or not, Baby,

I've made up my mind,

Ba-by-yy, there ain't no use in crying,
I'm wasting my time.

I've had my share of being blue,
Lord knows, lord knows,
I'm falling out of love with you.

I know you tried--being true to me
Tried so hard--to satisfy me
But every time--I look in your face
I can tell by the look in your eyes,
That I'm taking--another man's place

Like it or not, Baby
I can't hack your cheating ways,
I've had my share of being blue,
Lord knows, lord knows,
I'm falling out of love with you.

Sweet memories of when we were together
Nothing could quite feel the same
But now you got me aching,
My lonely heart breaking,
When you took my soul
and tore it apart.

Worry, worry, worry, worry, worry, worry'
Darlin' that's all I ever do with you,
Ain't no use in crying,
Or wasting time on you.

I've had my share of being blue,
Lord knows, lord knows,
I'm falling out of love with you.

Keeping the audience dancing was the order of business on the next tunes, including a fine "the Dance Goes On." Waoooo-ooo Hoo. Volker can howl melodically. Out of nowhere and the old blues songbag came the wildly non-standard John Lee Hooker blues tune "Dimples" with 20 bar verses. A boogie freakout! "I like the way you walk. "Drinking Straight Tequila" was just plain roadhouse-shuffle-blues good.

The third set was more fine dance tunes with "My Babe", "Ring-a-Ling", "your Bad To The Bone", and "Hell and Purgatory (The Story Of My Life)" keeping us dancing. Some where about 12:30 everyone began to fade and the band was tired. They took a short break before a short finishing set and I said good night having an hour's drive home. A great intimate night with a band on top of its game and still evolving to new ideas.

Happy Birthday to the proprietor of DG's In The Napa Mill, the charming Liz Ratliff. "When you walk that walk, and talk that talk, Boom, Boom, Boom."

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 08:33 AM | Comments (2)

February 03, 2006

Piano Professors of New Orleans

By Anne Exton

It wasn't a late night setting, but Keyboardist and philosophy instructor Joel Rudinow offered an insightful look at piano in the rich New Orleans music tradition in his noontime SRJC presentation. The audience was treated to a tasty sampling, supplemented by spare, informative narrative and illustrated with slides of period scenes and notable players like Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr John.

Joel began by explaining that as an international port city New Orleans enjoys a multicultural musical heritage. Secondly, the piano is a large piece of furniture suited to being played in parlors. In 1890s New Orleans this translated to lots of jobs for pianists in the sporting houses of the Storyville vice district. Finally, a key feature in New Orleans piano styling is the blending of European composition with African and Latin rhythmic elements. As luck would have it, Storyville’s "International patrons expected grand entertainment and high culture."

Joel played recordings of several pianists. To illustrate the city’s appreciation for European classical form, the first was JellyRoll Morton [Ferdinand La Menthe] playing Verdi’s "Miserere". Next, to highlight New Orleans "collision of European cultures of conquest with African and Caribbean cultures of captivity," was James Booker’s ‘swung’ "Black Minute Waltz" in which he weaves Africanized syncopation and improvisation into Chopin’s original "Minute Waltz."

Fast forwarding to the 1950s, the piano, though cumbersome and a technical antique, is still the heart of musical New Orleans rhythm. It is highly percussive and the loudest instrument in any room, assuring a continued presence in the New Orleans variant of rock and roll. Joel played us a cut of Johnny Johnson, Chuck Berry’s sideman, as an audio taste of boogie-woogie rock and roll.

The final segment was devoted to two of New Orleans’ hugest piano giants. Antoine ‘Fats’ Domino carrier of the slow, New Orleans swing piano style, is perhaps best known for "Blueberry Hill." Roy Byrd, AKA Professor Longhair, or simply "Fess", d. 1980 was arguably the king of them all. He combined classical technique and swing with incredible fluency. Listening to Fess play "Tipitina" we heard different, complex rhythms being played with each hand, and played with deceptive ease.

And then, too soon, it was over. There was time to answer only a few of many questions, but our time was up. We were left with a handy discography and a newly honed appetite for more.

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

Celebrating History Under The Radar

By: Eldridge "Big Cat" Tolefree

Is it February and Black History Month already? After losing so many music icons this past year, it’s difficult to concentrate on celebrating. It is time to rejoice, but also reflect upon the state of blacks in America. Because replacing so many great legends in the entertainment industry will be very hard, but not totally impossible.

Who’s next in line to represent African America in the next century? In the past, the majority of black leaders came from within the church or inner cities across this country. I know we’re suppose to be whooping it up right about now, but what’s happening next month after the parties are over and the band stops playing our favorite songs?

Celebrating the history of any individual ethnicity can be a bit tricky these days, because every nationality deserves respect and recognition for their culture and heritage. Don’t get it twisted, celebrating Black History Month is not a slap in the face to other nationalities, or cultures that haven’t been recognized with a month of remembrance. Every culture has endured some form of injustice or unnecessary suffering at the hands of others, and should be recognized as well.

All African American households should be acknowledging black history with children, and relatives regardless of the date or season. Nobody can accurately depict or tell the truth in stories, or discuss historic events better than a black person who actually lived through the civil rights movements, including the struggles of today’s blacks in America.

African American parents and relatives are responsible for preserving black cultural heritage not some elected politician or governm! ent official. So make plans to round up the kids, hop in the car, be sure to buckle up, and go visit one of our extraordinary Bay Area museums, libraries or historical societies. Simply pass on buying that $3 cup of coffee, and brew your own for the next three months, and walla’ you have enough cash to make it happen.

African Americans should celebrate overcoming slavery as a nation, at the same time share the history of black achievements with the world. Blacks must never lose focus on goals and expectations for future generations, not just African Americans. I’m not totally convinced that televising the same old commercials every year, including out dated accomplishments meets the needs or inspire young people like it did for us back in the day.

Now just take a second to think about it, is the shortest month of the year a valid amount of time to celebrate the history of an entire race of human beings? Of course not! don’t be silly.

Today seventy five percent of American corporations still don’t celebrate, or consider Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a legitimate holiday. I don’t hear prominent business leaders or sports figures speaking out on it anywhere. However, a group of folks in the East Bay want to declare the Monday after Super Bowls a national holiday. What’s up with that?

People should concentrate on saving our planet, and focus immediate ways of preserving this big spinning ball of humanity for our children, and their children’s children. Not taking part in some foolish plans to legitimize missing work after sporting events. Just keep calling in sick like we usually do. Recycling and reducing fuel consumption 20% per household, now that sounds like a party, a global celebration.

I’m starting to get a nose bleed up here on this soap box, so I’ll get off now and talk music related stu! ff. Back to the "nitty gritty" about Black History Month, and the relevance of celebrating it.

Before I forget, there are a few good kids out there doing it real big in a positive way like, pianist John Legend, Fantasia and Bay Area’s own Latoya London. Support our young people when they demonstrate talent and real potential, and nurture and develop those kids who don’t. Don’t let them audition for American Idol and you know they can’t sing. Be honest with young people, stop trying to spare their feelings all the time, because nobody else will.

Blacks and every other nationality need positive role models and equal exposure in sports and entertainment, including academic arenas to be successful these days. It’s alright if little Suzie can’t dance or sing, or if little Johnny can’t jump over a building to dunk a basketball. The question is, can they read, count, spell and expound on current affairs when called upon? Now tha! t’s what’s up.

Now everybody knows Big Cat loves the kids and the blues, so if you have spare used books or musical instruments laying around collecting dust, please donate them to a public school in your neighborhood. Don’t forget Black History Month won’t last forever, so hurry up and get together with family and friends to discuss delicate issues that may influence change or unite people.

Please don’t forget to acknowledge all the public figures and entertainers that recently passed away in the past year or so. The world is a big place with plenty of space for tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness. We can co-exist among one another if we give communication and peace a chance.

Until next time more peace, less grease and red meat… Big Cat

Posted by Rolfyboy6 at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)