|Sam Houston 'Lightning' Hopkins|
“Goin’ back to Dallas, take my razor and my gun / . . . There’s so much shit in Texas, I’m bound to step in some.”
Texas had a reputation for many decades of being full of the stinky stuff, especially for African Americans, as tonight’s opening lyric from an unknown blues singer rather grimly attests. Places like Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi usually get the rap for having been the real shit holes but Black Americans have known for decades that Texas, the Lone Star State, has never been that far behind.
Lightnin’ Hopkins was a Texan. He was also one of the most influential blues guitarists America has ever produced. His electric guitar playing style is raw and gritty. His voice sounds like sandpaper scraping slowly against a 2X4. Sit him in room, plug in his guitar and he’d make up a blues.
Generally speaking, Lightnin’ was not a political bluesman. He sang about love gone wrong, love so right, leaky roofs, drinking too much and gambling. The usual blues world. His songs rarely addressed (head on, anyway) racism or police brutality. But not always.
He sang a song called Bud Russell Blues which opens like this
Sure is hot out here/ Bud Russell don’t care/You know Bud Russell drove them pretty womens/ just like he did those ugly mens
For 44 years Bud Russell was a hated and feared man in Texas. His job was to transfer prisoners from the 256 county jails across Texas to the State Penitentiary in Huntsville. He and his brother Roy would shackle the prisoners, often by the neck, toss them in a metal cage on wheels, and drive them across the second biggest state in the Union to the Big House. A brutal man and a womanizer Bud carried a shotgun and had no problem shooting to kill.
The picture below of Roy (left) and Bud Russell with their infamous wagon is from 1934.
So feared was he that America’s best known bandit, Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) wrote letters to his lover full of dread of being caught by ‘Uncle Bud’. Such was his presence on the State’s consciousness that one of America’s most famous songs, Midnight Special goes like this:
Let the Midnight Special shine her light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine her ever-lovin' light on me
"Here come Bud Russell," How in the world do you know?"
Well he know him by his wagon, and his forty-fo'
Big gun on his shoulder, big knife in his hand
He's comin' to carry you back to Sugarland.
Texas Blues is my favorite Lightnin’ Hopkins record. It is so full of great songs, including Bud Russell Blues. Equally harrowing and startling in their starkness are Slavery Time a song that laments
One thousand years my peoples was slaves/ When I was born they teach me this way
Tip your hat to the peoples/ Be careful son about what you say.
And Black and Evil, a song of sad defiant self hate.
It’s not all darkness though in Texas. Hopkins shows off his humor (Bald Headed Woman) and finger picking genius (Watch My Fingers) on this absolutely essential recording. If you have even the smallest interest in the blues and real, good music you need this album.
01 Once Was a Gambler
02 Meet You at the Chicken Shack
03 Bald Headed Woman
04 Tom Moore Blues
05 Watch My Fingers
06 Love Like a Hydrant
07 Slavery Time
08 I Would If I Could
09 Bud Russell Blues
10 Come On Baby
11 Money Taker
12 Mama's Fight
13 My Woman
14 Send My Child Home To Me
15 Have You Ever Loved a Woman
16 Black and Evil
Monday, October 31, 2011
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Tonight’s post shines the pop spot light on a strange little gem from that ever confounding country Pakistan. A concept album about a train and its journey across the countryside. An album with no vocals. An album of popular music with no links at all to film studios, stars or songs. An album that is chock full of short little musically diverse snippets that against all expectation actually hold together to create an atmosphere. Not exactly the same atmosphere I remember from my trips on Pakistan Railways but a musical atmosphere that is quite unlike anything else I’ve come across in my search for the quieter lagoons of South Asian pop.
As the son of renowned Urdu poet Rana Akbar Abadi, Sohail Rana was born into a respected family in Agra, India in 1938. Having achieved academic qualifications in his formative years in Karachi, Rana moved into a career in musical composition following a chance meeting with media mogul and future long-running collaborator Waheed Murad that led to a job composing music for the Lahore (Lollywood) film industry. His early standout compositions for films like Armaan, Jay Sey Deika Hai and Heera Aur Pathar marked the beginning of a filmography of 25 films working along side luminaries as Runa Laila, Noor Jehan, Ahmed Rushdie, Tafo and M. Ashraf while balancing his non-film career as a stand alone composer of popular music. Combining his well studied interest in science, technology, music and English literature, Sohail’s early records introduced experimental techniques and electric instruments to his unique blend of Western pop and traditional Pakistani folk music. (liner notes)
|Sohail Rana (left) and Ahmed Rushdie|
With the status in his country similar to that of Laxmikant or Anandji in India, Rana was one of Pakistan’s best loved composers of film scores. Many of the films he scored were block busters racking up upwards of 50 ‘House Full’ weeks and turning singers like Ahmed Rushdie into stars. Those were the days, eh? When Pakistan still had a film industry that actually produced fine films and could support a mini universe of singers, composers and technicians. He has worked with several generations of singers (Mehdi Hassan, Farida Khanum) as well as taught younger ones like Nazia Hassan and the mega star Adnan Sami. His living room shelves creak with trophies and awards given to him by Presidents, record companies and peers.
|All (and we mean ALL) aboard!|
Sohail’s explorations in world music with his band The Forethoughts led to two successful self initiated projects entitled Folk Tunes of Pakistan On the Latin American Beat and Four Folk Tunes of Pakistan which garnered critical acclaim through the East with EMI-funded tracks appearing on oriental, bellydance and exotic LP compilations marketed to tourists and easy listening enthusiasts alike. (including this one) In 1969, EMI Pakistan funded Rana’s most ambitious project to date, Khyber Mail, which would run the length of a full 12” disc (a seldom pressed format in Pakistan at the time) with the hope of appealing to a wider global audience.
The resulting concept album, designed to invoke images and sounds of a high speed Pakistani train travelling from Karachi to Peshawar, was dominated by Sohail’s whining and addictive electric keyboard and motoric rhythm section of beaty percussion and sitars introducing a form of radical patchwork pop and mechanical music to a warm receptive audience. By combining the folk music of Sindh, Punjab with maverick sounds, signatures and rhythms, Khyber Mail, marks a landmark shift in the Pakistani pop industry, kick-starting a lengthy career for one of its best loved musical patrons, while setting a challenging new standard for the ‘plugged in’ Lollywood pop scene that would explode at the turn of the decade. (liner notes)
Throughout the 70s and 80s Rana served in Pakistan Television as composer conductor and producer. Khyber Mail went on to be one of the best selling records in Pakistani history. Since the early 1990s Rana lives in Canada where he continues to teach music.
01. Khyber Mail
03. Saat Maatray
04. Soul Sitar
05. Harvest Time
06. Cobra Sway
07. Indus Waves
08. Chandni aur Tum
10. Shahbaz Qalandar (Sound of Wonder)
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Happy Diwali and lots of good groovin' for the next 12 months!
Some bombastic, fun, old, new, Bollywood, classical, ghazal music for your celebrations!
01 Jai Ho A.R. Rahman
02 I Love You Vivin Lobo
03 Ye Kaisa Naya Saal Bappi Lahiri
04 Ganapati Susheela Raman
05 Whiskey Di Bottle Gunjit Singh
06 Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Kumar Sanu
07 Dancing Drums Ananda Shankar
08 Boom Boom Nazia Hassan
09 Aao Twist Karen (from 'Bhoot Bungla' 1965) Kazi Aniruddha
10 Main Ladki Tu Ladka (from Dil Diwana) Asha Bhosle
11 Brimful of Asha Cornershop
12 Zindagi ek safar hai Kishore Kumar
13 Sharab Cheez Hi Aisi Pankaj Udhas
14 Ramba Ho Ho Ho Samba Ho Ho Ho Usha Uthup
15 Choo Kar Mere Man Ko Sunil Ganguly
16 Terian Gulabi Buliyan A.S Kang
17 Kya Hua Tera Vada (Hum Kisise Kum Nahin) Joe Gomes
18 Ganga Aaye Hemant Kumar
19 Sunset over the Ganges Monsoon (featuring Sheila Chandra)
20 Aanandam Debashish Bhattacharya
21 Ja Sha Taan (Transglobal Underground Karachi Deathcult Mix) Fun Da Mental
22 Jai Jai Aarati O.S. Arun