What do you get when you take a track from an English prog rock band and give it to a partially deaf guitar player from Athens, Georgia who describes his own singing voice as being comparable to geese farts on a muggy day? Well, you get the second track in today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl. In 1975, Leo Kottke covered Procol Harum’s “Power Failure” on his album Chewing Pine. And if you think that Leo Kottke means more acoustic guitars are going to follow, this probably isn’t your first visit to the Way Back Studios. Tossed and crossed, and screwed in transit, Jorma Kaukonen flies the Jefferson Airplane into the “Third Week at Chelsea” while Bonnie Raitt, broken, splintered, bruised and thrown, opts for the “Big Road.” Despite being badly shattered and gale forced frighty, Taj Mahal manages to feel the sea beneath his soul while Ry Cooder, rushed across and shown alone shows up “Smack Dab in the Middle” toward the end of the set. Trust me, that’ll make sense in a minute.
But the song that got me started on this alt folk acoustic blues extravaganza comes from B.B. King’s 1971 album, In London. It featured a dozen big names from rock and roll, including Ringo Starr, Gary Wright, Peter Green, and Dr. John. It also featured a guy whose name is less well known. A guy who was vital to the development of the British blues scene in the late fifties and early sixties. Alexis Korner had a band called Blues Incorporated that ultimately influenced the Stones, Zeppelin, and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. We’ll hear B.B. and his friends doing one with Alexis Korner on the heels of Ms. Bonnie Raitt. But first, climbing out of open windows, and crashing down from broken stairs, here’s a guy out of Colorado who I heard one night at a bar in Jackson, Mississippi. A fine guitar player by the name of John McKay doing an instrumental called “Uh Oh.”
|John McKay||Uh Oh|
|Leo Kottke||Power Failure|
|Jefferson Airplane||Third Week in Chelsea|
|Taj Mahal||When I Feel the Sea Beneath My Soul|
|Bonnie Raitt||Big Road|
|B.B. King||Alexis’s Boogie|
|Ry Cooder||Smack Dab in the Middle|
|Van Morrison||I’ve Been Working|
From the same album where he says, Hey Mr. DJ, I just wanna hear some rhythm and blues music on the radio, that’s Van Morrison, His Band, and The Street Choir doing the decidedly R and B “I’ve Been Working.” Before that, acoustic instrument fetishist, Ry Cooder giving us a little Chicken Skin Music. “Smack Dab in the Middle” of that set, we heard one from the album In London. B.B. King and Alexis Korner doing an acoustic duet called “Alexis’s Boogie.” Blowing the harp on that was the late Steve Marriott of Small Faces and Humble Pie fame. At the top of the set we heard an instrumental called “Uh Oh” written and performed by John McKay, a guy I happened to hear one night while I was out on a book tour, wandered into a bar, got knocked out by his playing, and bought his disk. And I’m pretty sure you can too, at his website. After that, Leo Kottke covering Procol Harum’s “Power Failure” followed by Jefferson Airplane from the Bark album, an acoustic gem called “Third Week in Chelsea.”
Taj Mahal gave us a pretty one called “When I Feel The Sea Beneath My Soul.” That’s from his album Music Keeps Me Together. After that, recorded live on four tracks somewhere on Enchanted Island, Bonnie Raitt from her debut album, a song called “Big Road” wherein she asks what good is a bulldog, if he won’t fuss or fight? And what good is a man can’t make his wolf stay all night in the Way Back Studios, where we like to read and answer your emails. If you want to drop me a note, I’d love to hear from you. You’ll find an email link at billfitzhugh.com or you can track me down on one of those popular social media sites. I’m Bill Fitzhugh. I’ll be back sooner or later with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.