13 July 2021

Bruce Watson Presents 83 Year Old MS Delta-Born Elder Jack Ward Follow-Up To 1964 Hit w/ Solo LP Debut Of Memphis Sacred Soul

Elder Jack Ward could’ve gone either way. He grew up in the Mississippi Delta, listening to Elmore James and Howlin’ Wolf and singing the blues himself. Living in Itta Bena, MS (also home to B.B. King), Ward made himself a promise that when he turned eighteen, he would move up to Memphis, leave behind the cotton fields and mules with which he worked, and make a hit record—and he did. He anticipated singing blues or rock & roll once he got to the city but he joined with the Christian Harmonizers, and their recording of 1964’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor” with Isaac Hayes on piano came out on Chalice, a STAX imprint, charting for two years. The first single "Already Made," comes out tomorrow.

Fifty-seven years later, Ward entered Bruce Watson’s Delta Sonic Studio in Memphis, TN to record his solo debut Already Made, co-produced by Watson with guitarist extraordinaire Will Sexton. Watson was transferring Shipp’s tape archive for an ambitious D-Vine Spirituals reissue project when he asked Shipp how many of the artists from his old label were still active, with the nationally acclaimed Elizabeth King album and Ward’s new work emerging from that conversation. Watson says, “Elder Ward has a notebook that contains somewhere around one hundred self-penned songs. We spent several days going through all of them. Let me tell you, we had a tough time narrowing the list down to ten songs. Ward has an otherwordly gift. The sessions always started with Ward humming and singing the songs to the Sacred Soul Sound Section; usually within an hour we had a good basic track. There was such a positive energy in the studio, it felt like we were creating something special.”

 The title track sets the uplifting mood with Ward’s daughters providing background harmony and — along with Bible and Tire label mates the Sensational Barnes Brothers. While the album has its share of pile-driving uptempo numbers, its slow-burning ballads are particularly moving, and a bridge seems crossed once Ward breaks into his quiet falsetto midway through “Someone Who Is Greater Than Me” and continuing through the album-closing, redemptively autobiographical “I Feel Better Since I Prayed.” Ward is also joined by the Sacred Soul Sound Section: guitarists Will Sexton (Luther Dickinson, The Greyhounds, Alejandro Escovedo, Dedicated Men of Zion, and his brother Charlie Sexton) and the GRAMMY-winnning Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Al Green, John Prine, Margo Price), bassist Mark Edgar Stuart (Alvin Youngblood Hart, Dedicated Men of Zion), drummer George Sluppick (Albert King, JJ Grey & Mofro, Rufus Thomas, Ruthie Foster, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, the City Champs). Also on the album are keyboard player Alex Greene (Reigning Sound), and vocals by the Sensational Barnes Brothers Chris and Courtney; and Elizabeth King, also Bible & Tire artists in their own right.

 Watson feels that Already Made is one of the best albums he’s ever produced, and after genre-defining albums by R.L Burnside and Junior Kimbrough for Fat Possum Records, that’s saying quite a bit. Ward might have been right there with them were it not for that trip to Memphis back in the late 1950s, saying, “I can just about sing anything anyone else sings. I never bragged on myself but this was a gift from God and the Bible says, ‘A gift comes without repentance.’ In other words, you don’t have to be a Christian to be able to sing. If you’ve got that God-given gift you can do it — your choice if you want to sing rock’n’ roll, blues, gospel — but I choose the right side.” After Ward’s arrival in Memphis, he briefly replaced soul sensation O.V. Wright in the Sunset Travelers during one of Wright’s secular sabbaticals. He went on to record sought-after 45s “Another Day’s Journey” and “God’s Going To Blow Out The Sun” on Peacock Records’ Song Bird imprint, later forming the Gospel Four and recording that group’s “The Last Road” and “A Change Is Gonna Come” on D-Vine, Shipp’s label.

09 June 2021


Did you know that noted Bostonian Michael Tarbox of Tarbox Ramblers fame has two terrific new songs out? Yup. Both recorded live and with & without his Ramblers at the Beachland Tavern in beautiful Cleveland, Ohio, by somebody in the audience.

 And did you know he did a beautiful album of covers in 2020 called Paler Suns?
I didn't. It follows eight after 2013's Work and Days. I guess I need to get out more or something. The songs on Paler Suns vary from William Blake's poem Ah! Sunflower which he set to music, Hendrix's Room Full of Mirrors on which Tarbox accompanies himself on harmonium - a bellows-powered organ - to haunting effect. This is followed by an acoustic cover of Mississippi Sheiks' World Gone Wrong. Talk about deep blues! Whew! Little Moses was first recorded by The Carter Family in 1929 and Tarbox does a lovely rendition here some 90 years later. Blind Lemon Jefferson popularized the song Jack of Diamonds via his 1926 recording. According to Wikipedia (because I do love some research) Jack of Diamonds "...was sung from the point of view of a railroad man who had lost money playing conquian" Also called "Coon Can, or Colonel" it's a rummy-style card game requiring close attention and a good memory to play. The song Jack of Diamonds is also called Drunken Hiccups as well as Rye Whiskey and A Corn Licker Still in Georgia. The alternate titles are all popular fiddle tunes and Tarbox is accompanied here by fiddle player Alan Kaufman. 
Now, I've skipped a couple songs because what's the point of not being surprised? But the last song, Jerry Garcia's Mountains of The Moon is one that Michael Tarbox has had on his mind...well...I should let Mr. Tarbox tell you about it: 

I came away from learning this song with an even greater love for, and fascination with, the otherworldly version that's on AOXOMOXOA, which I believe is the Dead's second album. I've always been a sucker for they way Jerry Garcia uses minor chords, and I think this song may be the best example of the master at work. That, combined with Garcia's fragile singing and Robert Hunter's great lyric, has kept this on my mind since I first heard it when I was twelve."

As an album, Paler Suns, as Garcia said about his song Mountains of The Moon, "...came off like a little gem."  It's a wonderfully varied work, artistic, and well-played (as you would expect coming from Tarbox) featuring Michael Tarbox's rough-hewn voice that feels like a well-worn and comfortable dress shoe. Yes, there's similarities in voice and sound but to tell you the truth I've never heard a Tarbox album that wasnt as if not more solid that anything Bob and Neil have put out in the last twenty-five years. Fight me. I'll be over here listening to some new to me Michael Tarbox recordings.

02 May 2021

DELTA HAiNTS : Cars Hiss By My Window - New Split 7" w/ The Ghost Wolves Out June 12th for Record Store Day!

DELTA HAiNTS cover The Doors' Cars Hiss By My Window (via LA Woman) on new (red vinyl!) split 7" w/ The Ghost Wolves
Something wicked this way comes to y'alls mailbox &  record store.

@FB! & @iNSTA

Previous Delta Haints 7" - Ashes of My Mojo -
Available in beautiful ltd. ed Haint clear blue vinyl, baby!

26 April 2021

Black Keys Cover Junior Kimbrough's Crawlin' King Snake

I found it interesting to see this posted on the usually great Cover Me blog. Some basic historical points and comparisons were made and yet there was no mention of the fact that Dan, Pat, Kenny, and Eric are covering Junior Kimbrough's version.

Contrary to what's stated in the Cover Me post, this has nothing to do with Thorogood or The Doors or 1960's "psychedelic blues-rock" nor does Dan sing in a monotone and it's not an "open-ended jam."

I don't get the point of Cover Me's post. Granted, the songwriter is listed as John Lee Hooker, but the barest of research...a simple google search for Black Keys Crawlin' King Snake would or should clue you in. 
To not, at the very least, act as if you've heard Junior's version is just plain lazy. To be sure, Cover Me is a great blog and the fact that it's survived and thrived this long is beyond commendable considering how many music blogs have died in the last ten years. They just bobbled the research ball a bit on this one. Kudos to Dan, Pat, and particularly Kenny and Eric for keeping Junior Kimbrough's sound alive and presenting and representing that vibe to a new audience.

18 March 2021

NORTH MiSSiSSiPPi HiLL COUNTRY BLUES - A Poem by Ted Drozdowski

 A meditation on the great American musical style, accompanied by National Tricone, Theremin and yard fowl. Photos by Laurie Hoffma. Dedicated to John Sinclair.

03 August 2020


Web // FB //

Black River Bluesman (Finland) has a new web site. Be sure and take a look at their documentary Into The Deep Blues

Here's what I wrote about them back around the dawn of time:

"Jukka ´Black River Bluesman´Juhola and ‘Andy’ BAd Mood Hudson destroyed the woods and the mountains around their tiny hometown of Mustio Finland by carving their guitars and drums from whole ironwood trees with their bare hands and by using John Henry´s twelve-pound hammer (with four-foot handle) they beat down those mountains for brass, silver, and iron (and coal to fire this thing) to fashion the rest of the parts they needed. When they were finished they stomped their thirst with a bottle of RL Burnside´s Bloody Mthrfckr and sat down in the full moonlight at that muddy crossroads between Holly Springs Mississippi, Mustio (Black River) to play Their raw dirty beautiful Blues.” 

BRB uses every manner of Lowebow Cigar Box Guitars built by the great alt-luthier John Lowe. Be sure and check those out, too!