Last month, President Bush made an impassioned State of the Union Address to a
of Congress. In his speech, the President described many challenges ahead for
talked about the importance of homeland security, and about the way the United
States has risen
to face the twin challenges of a recession and the terrorist threat.
That speech got me thinking about the state of the blues.
What if the President gave an annual State of the Blues Address looking ahead to
a great blues
year? Think about the possibilities. Instead of addressing this important and
weighty topic to
the more stuffy confines of the Congress in Washington, D.C., I'd suggest that
he'd take his
blues out and roll on the American road. To blues destinations like Biscuits and
Blues in San
Francisco, Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago, Tabby's Blues Box in Baton Rouge, or
King's nightclub on Beale Street in Memphis. Along the way, I'd ask if he'd take
the pulse of
I've heard lately that that many blues clubs are on the ropes, one paycheck away
insolvency. While some clubs may indeed be in dire financial straits, I'm
heartened by the way
blues fans have responded to those clubs I mentioned above. It's a good sign for
live blues that
there's more than a few high quality tours promoting the blues, like the roots-
"Down From the Mountain" highlighting the music of the Coen Brothers' film, O
Art Thou (featuring the great Louisiana bluesman Chris Thomas King) and last
and BBQ tour sponsored by Lloyd's Barbeque headlined by B.B. King.
The President is a pretty busy man these days, so I'm going to suggest two other
help me out. I'd call on another President,
namely Bruce Iglauer or Edward Chemliewski to give this State of the Blues Union
the blues faithful. These movers and shakers in the blues world consistently go
the extra mile in
making sure that the blues is a vital force in American music. If you haven't
heard of them,
you've heard their artists. Let me introduce you to my leading candidates for
the closest thing to
a blues President that we've got, Bruce Iglauer and Edward Chmelewski.
Bruce Iglauer is the President and Founder of Alligator Records, one of the true
in modern, post war blues. He discovered Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers
1970's, and this fledgling Chicago blues imprint went on to sign Koko Taylor,
Horton, Fenton Robinson, Son Seals, and Albert Collins, among many other
blueswomen. New Alligator artists like Michael Burks, Rusty Zinn and Shemekia
me that the blues is in good hands with Iglauer's Alligator. I'm pleased to
announce that The
Blues Foundation has recognized Alligator Records with a 2002 Keeping the Blues
which will be presented during the FirstBlues weekend in Memphis this month.
Iglauer is also
the President of the Blues Music Association, a Memphis-based trade association
professionals and a sister organization to the Blues Foundation. I've touted the
importance of the
Blues Music Association on these screens last year, and their groundbreaking
sampler, Get the
Blues, is just one example of the power of a concerted marketing campaign
focused on getting
the word out about about the blues. Or, perhaps more importantly, getting the
blues out to a
wider audience. This $1.98 sampler is one of the best introductions to the blues
The next candidate for my State of the Blues speech is Ed Chmelewsi, one of the
Blind Pig Records (along with Jerry Del Guidice). Like Iglauer, Ed works behind
scenes in the Blues Music Association. He's part of the Founder's Advisory
with Mike Kappus (The Rosebud Agency) and Howard Stovall (The Blues Foundation),
other blues notables. I've heard about Ed's cross-country trip with stops along
the way that
involved a rodeo accident and a card game, but there's much more to Blind Pig
Records than its
storied beginnings from the back of an old MGB convertible.
Since then, Jerry and Ed's work have signed such blues giants as Buddy Guy,
Norton Buffalo, Roy Rogers, Snooky Pryor, and James Cotton, among many others.
has also attracted the younger generation of bluesmen and blueswomen, including
Bob Margolin, Jimmy Thackery, Debbie Davies, Coco Montoya, and the Chicago
Blues Kings. Last month, they signed Austin's Omar and the Howlers, and I'm
to some tasty Texas blues from these guys.
Well, to honor my nominees to give the State of the Blues Address, I want to let
anniversary compilations speak for themselves.
Alligator's 30th Anniversary Celebration is a treasure trove of the blues.
There's a live CD and a
studio CD, plus a bonus video of Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers. While
blues are well represented here in the searing live guitar work of Lonnie
Brooks' "Two Headed
Man" and Luther Allison's "Soul Fixin Man," Alligator's blues are all over the
C.J. Chenier's "Jambalaya" and "Maybe Someday Baby" from Delbert McClinton, and
tunes are just from the live disc alone. On the studio disc, my favorites
include Michael Burks'
"Got A Way with Women" and Rusty Zinn's "The Chill," but it's the kind of
sampler I've grown
to expect from Alligator over the years. From start to finish, I'll follow
The Blind Pig 25th Anniversary Collection features two discs of great music from
the likes of
James Cotton, Big Bill Morganfield and Taj Mahal, and Blues Kings, and Muddy
many others. The third disc contains performance and interview videos with Tommy
with a crowd-pleasing "Nobody Loves Me But My Baby" and a concept video
Rogers and Norton Buffalo doing "Ain't No Bread In the Breadbox." There's a lot
history here, too: we're treated to a backseat interview with Muddy Waters that
released as part of the Lost Tapes CD, and the interview with Snooky Pryor
features this dapper
bluesman reminiscing about coming up in the Mississippi Delta listening to
Incidentally, each anniversary edition is priced as a single CD. Is this a blues
heaven or what?
Since it's February, I'm going to go find my valentine and put these four discs
in the CD changer
and kick back. The State of the Blues is in good hands, both live and on record,
thanks in part to
the folks at Alligator and Blind Pig. Happy Valentine's Day!