Wednesday, September 24, 2014

St. Louis Blues are Good

Highway 61 out of St. Paul, MN. The southbound road is like a thread dropped from the big spool of American roads. It winds and twists, gets big, gets small. Wonders. Don't get the idea that it's all blues out here. While it is clear that satan is thought to be lurking in every shadow, this is a white bread journey just off the beaten track. "Fear God!" says the hand painted sign by the roadside. I'm really fearing I may not get a good cup of coffee again for hours. I'm trying to cut back. On coffee that is. There's never enough sin, either, apparently, to divide into fair shares. This road has been built, rebuilt, numbered and renumbered many times from it's starting point in Ontario to it's finish in Louisiana. Today I'm turning six hours of driving into eight by exploring some of the "old road" along the way to St. Louis, MO.

Old 61, with the weeds growing up the middle. Who travelled this road? Did my Dad drive over this? Did Son House?

I manage to arrive early to St. Louis, where I will be playing BB's Jazz, Blues, and Soups. It's on blues row, one of the three best blues clubs in town. All good, but I like this one the best. I played here way too many years ago, as well as the joint across the street. Here, at BB's, pictures of many of my friends are on the walls. Owner John May played with Henry Townsend, and we have a ball talking about old times and the old time musicians who gave us all so much. Nobody dumps on Jim Byrnes or Watermelon Slim, or me, for playing here without bass and drums.

The club is in the shadow of the stadium and some big hotels. Folks come to St. Louis to hear the blues, and the streets are full of tourists waiting for nightfall, hanging out at the Oyster Bar, having drinks, taking in a little sun, a little St. Louis hospitality. This town has come a long way since Colin and I first rolled into town, looked Henry up in the phone book, and invited ourselves over to his place.

In St. Louis you are never far from the big silver arch. This is the view from my little, upstairs green room.

A real nice crowd, especially considering it is a Monday night. Some folks from the Blues Society, some radio people, blues tourists from all over the world. The tour jacket is going home to South Carolina this time! That's good, I'l have to come back here soon and raffle another! BBQ ribs. The cooker out on the street up front. Cops coming in to say hello. Friendly place. Tom Wall, a top flight country blues guitar player based in St. Louis, opened the night for me. Nice to hear Blind Blake's "Chump Man Blues" before going on! Bo Carter... Very cool. Thanks, Tom!

This venue treated me like gold, and I appreciate that. For some reason it was "Canada Appreciation Day" in St. Louis. Hardly anybody knew about it, but people did come out to the show decked out in Maple leaves- which I thought was really pretty cool.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Edmonton, Northern Blues Town

Visits to Edmonton, AB are always centred around Blues on Whyte, and the Commercial Hotel. It's one of the last of it's kind: a big old hotel with music seven nights a week. Blues music, in a big room, with people. Twenty-three sets a week, if you count the Saturday matinee and the jam. Whole lotta playing. Old school. The street outside is wilding for action. The rooms upstairs are, too. I always stay here, even if I'm playing elsewhere. Doors banging. Laughing in the night. Neon. Musicians, oil patch workers on leave. All kinds, all kinds. Too thin blankets. Too hot, too cold. Air hanging heavy with the smells of old beer and pot. A sweet perfume. A thin veneer of fresh paint to hide the old splatters, the old stories spun out at the bar downstairs. Set up over the pool tables, each night washed away by morning traffic on the big street.

I play another venue up in the north end of town. I've got a local band for part of this one. This is my section for the night: Mark and Randy. Great players, and we have a ball.

Of course, I am leaving a trail of genuine satin, white stripe tour jackets behind as I go. The Raffle is always fun! And tonight's big winner is...

It's very rewarding to have as many blues fans come out to shows as I do. Folks who come on purpose, and know something about the music. Nice to hang out and chat...

I'm done early enough to get back downtown for the last set at Blues on Whyte. Maurice John Vaughn and Kenny chill out with me after the show. Nice guys. Great music. Old road warriors swapping travel stories as the bars empty out and the streets fill with good and bad. I'll sit in my room and play guitar over the sirens for a while. There's girls laughing, somebody shouting. Big town, big blues street. Money changing hands. A couple more days here and then I'll be pointing the Lincoln south.