All posts by tomcaswell

BOOTLEG SERIES #5: The Allman Brothers Band – Live at Syria Mosque, Pittsburgh, PA 15/10/71

This show marks Duane Allman’s third last with the band. They would go on to perform at Marietta College Gym, Marietta, Ohio the next day and Painters Mill Music Fair, Owings Mills, Maryland the day after. This bootleg contains the recordings of the band in the final stages of life before being ripped apart by the death of Duane Allman on the 29th October, 14 days later. The band would continue without him up until the present day but their sound would completely change.

As per usual in 1971, the band open with a fearsome rendition of the Blind Willie McTell song, Statesboro Blues. It’s interesting to note that Duane’s solo intro over the bands rhythm playing is almost note for note the same as the famous Fillmore performance earlier in the year. Both Duane Allman and Dickey Betts are on top form here with both trading solos while the rest of the band powers on. Berry Oakley’s bass playing is such a driving force as well, almost like a lead instrument with the two guitars.

Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’ and Done Somebody Wrong continue the hard hitting pace the band laid down in the first song, the latter being particularly explosive. One Way Out, one of my personal favourite songs the band performed live, sounds great. Betts begins the extended guitar intro with help from the audience before the rest of the band come in to start the 12 bar format which continues until the end. Such a great song, such a great rendition. Nearly every performance of this song ends before the 5 minute mark (until 1972 anyway) which is a shame.

During In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed, the band play their first “laid back” song of the set compared to the pace and fire of the four previous songs. At 10 minutes in length this is probably one of the shorter versions of the song but boy do the Brothers pack a lot in. A Dickey Betts songs, it’s purely instrumental. Recorded on their second album Idlewild South, the band took this song to another level every time it was played live. Here is no exception. Hot ‘Lanta, another instrumental, follows. It contains the first drum solos of the night.

  1. Statesboro Blues
  2. Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
  3. Done Somebody Wrong
  4. One Way Out
  5. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
  6. Hot ‘Lanta
  7. Stormy Monday
  8. You Don’t Love Me
  9. Revival
  10. Trouble No More

This is followed by one of the best songs they ever performed live in Stormy Monday. Gregg Allman sounds fantastic on vocals and his brother Duane explodes just like he did on every version of the song. Dickey Betts sounds great as well, absolutely untouchable. Just over midway through the song, the pace picks up and you know something fantastic is coming. At the 4:50 mark you’re rewarded with a wonderful solo that rivals any other solo every played.

You Don’t Love Me, another personal favourite of mine, is performed incredibly by the band with Duane in particular firing on all cylinders. This very rendition contains some of the best solos he ever played with the band. You can’t help but wonder how much better he would have become if he hadn’t have been killed in a motorcycle accident only two weeks later. The things he did with a guitar are enough to give you goosebumps. Towards the end of this song, Duane and Dickey fire solos at each other while the band again sit back and power through. Berry Oakley’s bass playing is exquisite here.

Two songs remain, the first being a Dickey Betts song called Revival which featured on their second album Idlewild South. The band didn’t play this very often but they sound great here. And finally, Trouble No More, a Muddy Waters song the band always played live, especially in 1971. It also featured on their debut album, The Allman Brothers Band, in 1969. Betts takes the first solo here and Duane the second. It’s weird thinking that this is the last solo Duane played, at least in public.

What a show. And pretty good quality too. The setlist differed somewhat to previous shows they played in 1971, with Whipping Post and Mountain Jam being the most noticeable songs they didn’t play. You can only wonder what new heights the band would have reached in 1972 if Duane had lived. They powered on with just one guitar in 1972 before Berry Oakley was tragically killed at the end of the year, nearly a year to the day that Duane was killed the year before. A member overhaul would occur after that with the band never sounding the same again.

INTERVIEW: Will Wilde

Will Wilde is a 4 x British Blues Award nominated harmonica player and blues musician I recently had the pleasure to interview. Check out what he had to say right here.

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Why the harmonica? How did you get into it?  Who or what got you into the blues? 

When I was about seven years old my Dad played me Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me”.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the moment I officially fell in love with blues harmonica.  There was something about his harp sound that felt like home.  It wasn’t until I was 16 that I actually picked up a harmonica and tried to play it.  I’d found a cheap plastic Guinness version on the table at a house party and stole it.  Of course then I had to figure out what to do with it.  I heard a track called “Work with me Annie” by Snooky Pryor, on an Alligator compilation CD.  It sounded to me like he was only playing a few simple notes, but with great effect.  So I figured if I could find the right notes on the harp, all I had to do was work out how to make them sound good too.  I found that came from how I felt just as much as hitting the right notes.  And that was that, I was hungry for the genre, searching out more blues, feeling with every record I was another step closer to where I wanted to be.  I spent hours playing along to Muddy Waters, particularly the “King Bee” album with Jerry Portnoy on harp and the “Hard Again” Album with James Cotton.  I didn’t listen to any other music; I was a purist, going deeper and deeper into the music.  For a year I lost myself completely, practising for ten hours a day until my lips were bleeding.  Before long I started playing harp as a sideman in my sister, Dani’s, band and later started singing myself and formed my own band.

Which blues artists have influenced you most? And how? 

I have so many influences it would be too difficult to narrow it down to just one.  On the harp I am inspired by all the greats; Big Walter, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Carey Bell, Junior Wells, James Cotton, the list goes on.  I think my style is much more aggressive than my peers, but it is still rooted in Chicago blues.  I also take inspiration from guitar players such as Buddy Guy, Albert King and Peter Green.  As a vocalist I am primarily influenced by soul singers like Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack.  Sam Cooke is my favourite singer of all time: I love his tone and the melodies he used.  Earl Thomas has been a big influence on me too.  I covered his song “Get Me Some” on my most recent album.

Your last album Raw Blues contains some great songs and individual playing both from yourself and your band. Tell me about the album and the musicians you had playing on it. 

As the title suggests “Raw Blues” pays homage to the stripped down Chicago blues that first inspired me to play.  It features Richard Newman on drums (Rory Gallagher, Steve Marriot), Stuart Dixon on guitar (Geno Washington, Marcus Malone) and Victoria Smith on Bass (Girls with Guitars, The Ramonas).  The album has a bite to it; rushes of adrenalin and an intensity that other records in the genre don’t often have.

You have quite a few tour dates booked for this year, especially in October where you’ll be touring Europe. Excited? And what is it about Europe and the blues right now? They seem to love it! 

The blues scene in Europe is incredibly vibrant and my band is always well received there.  I’m excited about going back to Germany in particular as it has an enthusiastic blues crowd and some fantastic venues to play.  I will be touring in Russia for the first time in August, which I’m looking forward to.  I’m not sure why the blues scene seems to be bigger in Europe at the moment; I think a lot of UK venues were hit by the recession which is a real shame because I love playing in my home country.

With all the tour dates this year will you be returning to the studio to record another album once you’ve finished? 

Yes.  I am writing new material all the time.

What are your fondest musical memories? 

On the last Blues Cruise I went on, I met one of my idols Earl Thomas.  I told him that I had covered one of his songs and so he invited me on stage to sing it with him.  I have a lot of great memories from that cruise including late night jams with Tasha Taylor and JP Soars.  I was also lucky enough to share the stage with Michael Burks before his untimely death.

SONG REVIEW: The Birds Of Satan – Thanks For The Line

The Birds Of Satan, comprising of Wiley Hodgden, Mick Murphy and Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins have released a song off of their upcoming album (The Birds Of Satan) called Thanks For The Line. The entire album was recorded in one week and features guest performances from Dave Grohl and Pat Smear.

This track however features the kind of drumming you expect from Taylor Hawkins and some great guitar riffs to boot as well! Check it out!

Thanks For The Line is available to download now when pre-ordering the album. The album is set for release on the 15th April.

INTERVIEW: Dani Wilde

Dani Wilde is a fantastic singer, songwriter and musician who I have had the pleasure to interview before. It was a thrill that she was up for another interview.

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How are you? What have you been up to since our last interview two years ago?

I’m good thanks Tom. I’ve been keeping busy. I did the Girls With Guitars Tour with Samantha Fish and Cassie Taylor across The UK, Europe, America and Canada. Must’ve played around 250 dates that year. I also did some Dani Wilde and Friends Live and Unplugged touring in the UK and Europe. My new record was out and also the Girls with Guitars album and live DVD. I also had some crossover success in the country music charts with my singles ‘Love Hurts’ and ‘Loving You’.

I really loved your last album, Juice Me Up, I could definitely sense the blues and soul tones throughout it. Terrific album. But you said that you no longer identify as a blues/soul artist so how do you see yourself now?

Well, I’m very much still rooted in blues and soul but at the same time I’ve always been inspired by a range of other genres too. I really love country music from Patsy Cline to Lyle Lovett. I love gospel music, good pop music and am a big fan of just great songwriting regardless of what genre it’s pigeon holed in. So at the moment I’m recording album number four and it’s very much an album of my strongest songs sung with sincerity, recorded with some incredible musicians and embracing all of the genres that inspire me. If the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Patty Griffin and John Mayer can play to the blues crowd but also embrace all the other genres that inspire them and reach out to a greater and more mainsteam audience then why can’t I.

What made you want to be a musician and songwriter?

Well, my dad brought me up listening to everything from Bruce Springsteen to Paul Weller, Muddy Waters to Bob Dylan and Humble Pie. I was brought up on Blues, Soul and Rock n roll. When I was about six years old I discovered Michael Jackson and was obsessed with him throughout my childhood. Michael was my hero and I spent hours every single day sat cross legged in front of the hi-fi with the lyrics in the cd sleeve in my lap, singing along. Then when I was a teenager I saw female blues artists including Shemekia Copeland and Susan Tedeschi playing at Bishopstock Blues Festival in the UK and I decided that I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Everyone knows the very first song they learnt to play on their respective instrument, what was yours?

Haha, well I’d love to say something cool but I guess I should be honest here. I think the first song I learnt on guitar was Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Deep Blue Something shortly followed by the James Bond theme tune. I was born in the 80’s and grew up in the 90’s so that’s my excuse. I quickly moved on to learning all of Bob Dylan’s songs and lots of John Lee Hooker though (I used to gig solo in pubs with rack harmonica and my acoustic guitar in Wiltshire in my teens).

What are your fondest musical memories?

I have so many… Opening for Jools Holland at the Royal Albert Hall with Chris Holland’s Band, having Mike Vernon come out of retirement to produce my record, sharing the stage with Pee Wee Ellis at WOMAD festival, opening for Johnny Winter at BB Kings NYC, jamming with Louisiana Red shortly before he passed away at his home in Hamburg, playing a concert to 1000 slum children in Kenya, touring in Canada, the USA, and all over Europe including Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, France, Holland, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Poland, Italy, Austria, Spain, Portugal. I also really enjoyed doing the BBC Radio 2 featured artist sessions where you get to go and record at the famous Maida Vale Studios. Charting alongside Taylor Swift in the European Itunes Country Chart’s top 40 last year was cool too and I just got home from my first Russian tour this week. That was a fun experience and also a crazy time to be there with Russia being on the brink of war potentially.

What defines you as a musician and songwriter?

As an artist you have to redefine yourself to an extent with every album you make because there needs to be progression and new inspiration and development as a songwriter to keep the music fresh. At the same time you have to keep the music honest and sincere and to have a musical voice that is immediately recognizable as you. That I think is what defines me; my voice and the honesty of the songwriting.

BOOTLEG SERIES #4: The Allman Brothers Band – Live at A&R Studios, New York, 26/8/71

The fourth instalment of my Bootleg Series is from one of my favourite bands, The Allman Brothers Band. And wow, what a performance! Broadcast on Wplj-Fm to promote the release of their At Fillmore East live album, the band were in top form during this performance. In fact when weren’t they in top form at this time of their career?

Recorded two weeks after the death of King Curtis, the band pay homage to him in a thrilling two song extended jam towards the end of the set. This is by far the highlight of the entire set and that’s saying something because every song is incredible. The band begin with a roaring rendition of Willie Cobb’s song You Don’t Love Me before Duane calls an end to it before beginning to play some beautiful slide licks by himself. You sense something big is coming next and the band do too. All of a sudden they roar into the most incredible version of Curtis’ song Soul Serenade. Never before has Duane ever sounded so good. What you hear is pure music and something (I doubt) the band planned on playing before starting the set. Just amazing. Not only is this the highlight of this one performance but it’s up there with the best Allman Brothers live performances ever.

Before this fantastic performance though came a number of songs the band pretty much lifted from the At Fillmore East track listing. But in no way do the songs sound the same as they did when performed at the Fillmore, every solo is different and each song lasts for a different amount of time. That’s one of the great things about bands like The Allman Brothers Band, no one performance of any song sounds the same. The band open with Statesboro Blues which is followed by the Trouble No More where Duane blows everyone away with his slide playing. Talk about opening with a bang! Next up is the first originals number of the set, Don’t Keep My Wonderin’ by Gregg Allman. You’d think the energy level in the band would drop slightly after the two opening numbers but you’d be wrong. In fact the energy level doesn’t drop off until after the fifth song where the band take a minutes break to re-tune their instruments, but this is only after they plough through the Elmore James song Done Somebody Wrong and One Way Out by Sonny Boy Williamson.

  1. (Intro)
  2. Statesboro Blues
  3. Trouble No More
  4. Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
  5. Done Somebody Wrong
  6. One Way Out
  7. (Tuning)
  8. In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
  9. Stormy Monday
  10. You Don’t Love Me/Soul Serenade/You Don’t Love me
  11. Hot ‘Lanta

Even though the band have played a number of blues covers in this set, they make each and every one of them their own. After tuning their instruments, the band launch into In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed which is a more laid back number to everything else they’ve played so far. Not that they take it easy during this song as the performance clocks in at 11 minutes and 45 seconds and contains lengthy solo sections from each member (minus Oakley, Johanson and Trucks). Stormy Monday was one of the highlights from the Fillmore shows and the band reward the radio listeners with a fantastic rendition. Both Duane and Dickey Betts sound great on this track and it’s actually difficult to tell the pair apart in some places.

Up next is the You Don’t Love Me/Soul Serenade medley and oh boy is it good. I don’t think any words can actually describe how good it is, you just need to hear it! To end the broadcast the band play their instrumental original Hot ‘Lanta which is a song that only featured at live shows and never on a studio album.

What a performance from the band. Originally only available as a bootleg, this performance is actually now available to buy legitimately for the first time. However it is still a bootleg in my book and one of the best bootlegs I’ve ever heard. In terms of sound and quality, I don’t think they get any better than this. This is a performance from a band on top of their game however it’s sad to think that Duane Allman would be dead just over 2 months after this performance. He wouldn’t be the only ‘Brother’ to die with Berry Oakley himself being killed almost a year after Duane. These two deaths would change the fate of The Allman Brothers Band forever. They didn’t disband but sound wise they wouldn’t be the same again. This was their prime and they were fantastic.

Dani Wilde Interview

How influential has the blues been on your career?

Very. I identify as a blues and soul artist.

What got you into the blues?

My Dad brought me up on blues music and so from a young age I was grounded in delta and Chicago blues.. artists like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and B.B. King. When I was 14  I went to Bishopstock blues festival in Exeter and saw for the first time young contemporary female blues artists… artists like Deborah Coleman, Sue Foley, Shemekia Copeland and Susan Tedeschi. I knew then that i would follow in their footsteps.

Which blues artists have influenced you most? And how?

As a guitarist I am influenced by finger style players like John Lee Hooker, Louisiana Red and Albert Collins. I love how Albert uses a capo and uses his thumb and forefinger… this is very similar a technique to how I play. Louisiana Red taught me some guitar when I was in my teens and that always stayed with me too. My favourite British blues artist is Peter Green… I love his phrasing, back in the Fleetwood Mac days his playing could just crucify you.. make you tingle till you cry. I also love Buddy Guy. He is just so full of character.. so exciting to listen too. As a vocalist I’m more inspired by soul artists and Motown.

What equipment do you use and was your decision to use it influenced by another artist or what you heard on a record?

I use a 1970′s Fender Super Reverb amplifier. I love my reverb.. thats the Albert Collins influence… bridge pick up, treble up, just like Albert. I use a Love Muffin pedal that Stuart Dixon (Eddie Floyd, Marcus Malone) introduced me to and my Fender Telecaster. I some times also play a 335 with hand wound pickups in.

When you write songs is there a certain way you go about it or does it change?

I tend to write chords and lyrics together. I cant seem to chose to write a song. More so I just feel sometimes I have something to say or an emotion to express and songwriting is my natural outlet.. it just happens.

Is there a blues player you haven’t played with that you’d really like to?

Buddy Guy…that would be a dream come true…or B.B. King.

Is there a song or album that has been influential in the way you write and play?

I could not list just one song or album… my style is inspired by a mix of blues and soul artists from Sam Cooke and Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin to Buddy Guy and Peter Green.

How influential do you think the blues has been on modern popular music?

Incredibly. That is where it all began. The Rolling Stones and Elvis were/are some if the most successful popular artists of all time and they were just young white guys taking the blues and making it into new and exciting pop hits.

In your eyes, how influential do you think Robert Johnson has been on the blues?

Well he was there at the beginning and his songs have been passed down through generations of blues artists ever since.

If you could name one blues player who has influenced both the blues and other genres the most, who would it be and why?

Willie Dixon… Just look at the list of songwriting credits he has to his name.. what a legacy. He was the blues.

What guitar techniques do you associate with the blues?

Well the obvious ones are slide guitar, pentatonic scales and the blues scale. Blue notes / seventh chords and for my that rugged fingerstyle that came out of the delta… playing with expression and feeling to make up for lack or technique/finding your own technique and your own style and form of expression.

Some people think the blues is basic and a lazy genre people just fall into when playing music. What do you say to that?

Well yes it is basic as in it can be just chords 1, 4 and 5 which makes it very accessible… but as with all genres there is a big difference between an average bedroom or pub player and musicians who have a great gift. Not many drummers can shuffle with great feel, not many blues bassists are bang in the pocket not over or under playing but just making the song full of feeling and groove and same goes for front men and women… the Bonnie Raitt’s and Susan Tedeschi’s of this world are phenomenal talents.. They have so much soul and feeling and their own unique sounds and approaches that set them apart.

Do you have a favourite blues period? If so, what?

Well the 50’s and 60’s were incredible. Leonard Chess made the scene back then. All the Chess artists were fantastic from Muddy to Little Walter to Etta James … so much talent… and the blues had just gone electric then… exciting times!

Albert King, Freddie King or B.B. King? And why?

Wow thats a tough choice. I chose B.B. King because I love his simple beautiful major pentatonic thing… so much feeling.. He can play just one note and you can hear it’s him. B.B. has an incredibly soulful voice too and is a great songwriter. He took lead from Motown and used strings to sweeten his sound helping him to become a huge cross over artist… He opened so many doors for all of us aspiring artists.

Modern music’s evolution from the blues isn’t that widely known, how important do you think it is that people become aware of it?

Its a shame. Most young people today don’t really know what blues is. I think its time the blues had a come back.. I guess Sea Sick Steve kind of did that.