John’s Blues Picks

Maple Blues Newsletter, John Valenteyn, Vol. 26. No 9, September 2010

The artwork with Ken Whiteley‘s new CD includes a convincing map that compresses the famous music centres in the USA along with some of the centres here that figure on the CD. It looks like you can travel it in a day but it’s also intended to reflect Ken’s life in music. He certainly draws on a lifetime’s worth of memories. “Another Day’s Journey” is also the opening song, learned from Bessie Jones & the Georgia Sea Island Singers who he saw at Mariposa over 40 years ago. The arrangement is one that evokes Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee at their most joyous, even to the whoops. Guy Davis guests on guitar & vocals. Almost every song here is a new composition, using a career memory as its starting point and a friend/guest performer to assist. The result is a set of songs that looks forward and backward in equal measure. “Language Of Love” builds on classic blues of the ‘20′s and Maria Muldaur is the perfect collaborator, as she is for “Mike And Mary”, a new song that draws on their early jug band days and The Original Sloth Band. Guy Davis’ suggestion to re-work “Motherless Children” is another highlight, using Blind Willie McTell‘s twelve string slide version as its foundation. “Too Much Trouble” is another new one that features a gorgeous melody for a third Davis joint effort. “I Want To Be Happy” is from the late Jackie Washington‘s huge repertoire and a delightful tribute. Special mention should be made for Chuck Campbell‘s contributions on his “Sacred Steel” lap guitar playing and to Chris Whiteley‘s harmonica work, especially on “Old Wind Blow”. Bucky Berger on drums and Ben Whiteley on bass provide sterling support throughout. With such a rich career to draw on this can serve as a template for innumerable albums. The Toronto CD launch is at Hugh’s Room on October 1st.