Sometimes it feels like we’re stuck down here in the antipodes, miles from the action of the mainstream blues scene. But it’s not so! The 31st International Blues Challenge is on in January 2015, and it’s time to get ready! The Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society has called for bands and individuals to nominate for our Victorian Blues Challenge.
If you have a look at the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society webpage or newsletter, you will find an entry describing their “Eternal Patron”, Dutch Tilders. Many organisations have a patron, but this is the only example I have ever come across of an Eternal Patron. Immediately, you think that this must be something special.
A number of times I have spoken about “jam sessions” as a good thing, especially for players who are just starting out. It occurred to me that I haven’t really said anything about what a jam session is, what’s in it for a player or how to get into them.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the origin of the blues down in the south of the USA. The other major style of blues arose in Chicago at the time of the Great Depression. The depression began in 1929 and there is argument as to when it finished. Those at the top of the heap say it lasted about five years, but for most people it didn’t end until World War II in 1939. Being a soldier was the first full-time job many had. I could go on about conservative politicians blaming the unemployed for being unemployed, but that’s an old song.
The blues is often seen as a resort of the older person, preferably with a black t-shirt and Harley Davidson. In my last column I talked about the origin of the blues in work songs decades ago in the south of the USA. There’s actually a large number of younger people getting into the blues, often as a result of participating in the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society’s ‘Youth in Blues’ program, or our local ‘Blues Boot Camp’ organised by Wayne Jury and with a high quality set of mentors including Chris Wilson, Tim Neal, Sarah Carroll, Sandy Brady, Dave Steel and David Park. Recently, one such graduate, Jarrod Shaw, was a headliner at Sleepy Hollow.
There’s a lot of discussion of classic blues players – Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Sister Rosetta Tharpe – and a cast of many more whose music has formed, influenced and been a model for many modern blues singers. Talk to these singers and you’ll hear these names and more mentioned again and again.
One of the things about blues is its amazing international flavour. Take Ivan Zar. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt and migrated to Perth in 1963. At an early age he taught himself the harmonica and Delta blues style guitar. Five years after getting to WA, he formed his first band, King Biscuit Co.
It’s one thing to select a pizza off the menu, but when you’re at home or with friends, you can select and mix and match exactly what you all like. OK, so that’s a weird way to start a music column, but what I want to talk about this time is “jamming”. Many people have seen the term, but don’t really know what it’s about, or think it’s just for musicians only, which is definitely wrong. Jamming is nothing more or less than musicians getting together and playing together.
Four years ago I was at the Anglesea Music Festival, on the prowl with my trusty recorder, searching out people to interview. One of the people I spotted was Jessey Jackson. She came across as young, self-assured and exuberant – just the sort of person for an interview, and so she was. It was a good interview; she happily talked about her music, her ambitions, the life she saw ahead.