The days of the classic blues performers and race recordings of the 1930’s are long, long gone. Even the days of folk/blues renaissance of the 1960s are fading into the mists of time. That was the last opportunity for a younger generation to touch bases with and be inspired by the likes of Mississippi John Hurt and the Rev. Garry Davis. Blues promoters of that era managed to find a few long retired classic blues musicians and coax them back into the public limelight for largely white college kids. The blues lessons from these old performers was taken to heart and basically it ignited and rejuvenated a blues scene that spilled over into the British rock scene and changed the face of popular music. What came about was not exactly blues in the old country tradition of the rural south. It had moved up town, discovered electricity and was brash and loud. Never-the-less it created an atmosphere where blues of every shade and persuasion continued to survive. Doc Maclean and Morgan Davis are among a number of performers who didn’t move up town but rather stayed true to the country traditions. Of course nothing ever stays exactly the same. Doc and Morgan both use electricity and amplification but in a manner that is a far cry from the “enormodome” theatrics of huge arena shows. They are probably two of a hand full of musicians who can actually reach back to the authentic musical experiences of the bye gone classic blues. The classic tradition was about blues but it also incorporated gospel, ragtime, novelty tunes and an abundance of stories. Folk musicians in every tradition are essentially story tellers. Saturday night’s performance was a skillful weaving of songs, humor and stories into a spell binding traditional tapestry that links us to a long gone era. The tools of their trade were some pretty old guitars (an old old Stella and a National Steel), blues harp, washboard, a three stringed cigar box guitar with an incredible sound (tuned A E A) and a couple of old off the shelf electric guitars. Doc’s slide of choice was a 11/16 inch Mastercraft Socket Wrench, Morgan was more inclined to use a 5/8 inch. So there was lots of finger picking, slide, subtle percussion, blues harp and a plethora of songs from all across the rural south. Songs included, Robert Johnson’ “When You Got a Good Friend”, Sleepy John Eastes’ “Going Down to Brownsville”, the classic “Stagger Lee”, the novelty song “Cats” (“dogs have people, cats have staff”), Sonny Terry and Brownie Magee’s “Come on if you’re Coming”, the gospel song “I will meet you on the Other Shore”, “Jelly Roll Blues” and “Reefer Smoking Man”. Interspersed with the songs was some marvelous stage patter. Even the sales promotion of their CDs received a round of applause. Here are some images from the evening:
The Kimberley Centre 64 engagement is about two thirds the way through a 60 show tour that started out in Quebec City on September 5, 2012. The tour crisscrosses back and forth across the country to finish in Winnipeg on November 16, 2012. That is a grueling schedule of almost back to back shows and despite the pressure the musicians appeared to be relaxed and in full command of the stage. It was an excellent show and it had what I always appreciate in a performance, music that had room to breathe. There was lots of space in the music.There was no helter/skelter on this stage. If the opportunity presents itself go see these two master blues players.