Aug 10

Magic Slim and the Teardrops

This was the third time I’ve seen Magic Slim and the Teardrops this year at Kingston Mines, but it was a special treat, because in the first set Magic Slim played a Fender Jazzmaster. This was his primary guitar on his early recordings, including my favorite album of his, Grand Slam (1982). In his hands (he uses a thumb and a finger pick), the Jazzmaster had a more twangy, stinging tone than does the Les Paul Classic that I’ve see him play before and which he played during the second set. (He doesn’t use effects pedals, but plugs directly into the amp.)

Magic Slim at Kingston Mines August 14, 2010

Magic Slim at Kingston Mines August 14, 2010

Magic Slim is a master of the shuffle. Many of his songs are based on this fundamental blues rhythm. Born Morris Holt on Aug 7, 1937 in Torrence, Mississippi, Magic Slim is one of the elder statesman of Delta-flavored Chicago blues. He was given his blues moniker by West Side Chicago bluesman, Magic Sam, a Mississippi friend. Magic Slim is no longer slim, but he’s still tall and he definitely still has the magic. There are guitarists who can play faster and with more flash, but very few who can convey the depth of feeling Magic Slim can with seemingly little effort.

At this performance, The Teardrops consisted of Jon McDonald (Fender Stratocaster and vocals), Andre Howard (electric bass) and Brian Jones (drums). They provided a solid rhythmic base for Slim’s singing and playing. During the second set, a trombone player joined the band (I couldn’t catch his name). Additional photos of this event are on Flickr.

I’m already looking forward to more Magic in September when the band returns to Kingston Mines as well as to Buddy Guy’s Legends.

Jul 10

Chainsaw Dupont at Nick’s Beer Garden

Chainsaw Dupont is the first musician I’ve ever seen take a cell phone call during a set. (It was a brief call and the band kept playing.) He played his blues loose, but raw, his Laguna electric guitar heavy on echo and reverb. Several times he asked someone in the audience for a beat and would use that as the basis for a song. He had mike problems, so it was hard to hear when he sang. Perhaps because of that, most of his numbers were instrumentals.

Chainsaw Dupont

Chainsaw Dupont at Nick's Beer Garden

His band consisted of electric keyboard, bass and drums. The bassist (Tom?) and drummer were outstanding. During the first set, a couple of young men carrying African-style drums came in the club and sat down to listen. Dupont asked if they were there to jam. I gathered that wasn’t their intention, but he invited them to join the band and they played along through the second set.

Nick’s Beer Garden on Milwaukee Avenue in the busy, trendy Wicker Park neighborhood is a typical long narrow storefront bar. The band was set up by the windows at the front. Patrons coming through the front door sometimes had to step around Dupont as he played. It didn’t seem to faze him.

This was the first time I’ve heard Chainsaw Dupont and I really enjoyed his playing. It was a fun show and I would definitely go see him again. Additional photos of him are here.

Jan 10

The Howlin’ Wolf Story (2003) [DVD]

I really enjoyed Don McGlynn’s The Howlin’ Wolf Story (2003), which I saw on DVD. I think it’s one of the best blues documentaries I’ve seen. It’s a typical mix of archival footage and photos with contemporary talking heads interviews. It gives an overview of Wolf’s life and music. One of its strengths is that several songs are heard in entirety. Some are recordings behind a montage of images. The best segments are from a 1966 performance of Wolf with Hubert Sumlin, his lead guitarist, and others. There are also some clips of drummer Sam Lay’s home movies of Wolf and the band at Silvio’s Lounge in Chicago (now a vacant lot). One really gets a sense of what he might have been like as a performer. I would give almost anything to have seen him perform before his death in 1976.

Howlin’ Wolf is one of my blues heroes and mentors. While he’s not as well known, perhaps, as Muddy Waters, he’s of equal stature in his importance to the blues and his influence on later music, including rock ‘n’ roll.