8 Must Have Items When Going to a Blues Festival

We are on the cusp of summer, and the blues festival movement is well under way. With events popping up all over the world, you have plenty of opportunity to get your fix of your favorite music live and in person. Most of the better events take place over the course of days, in outdoor settings, making it essential that you bring along the following:

Earplugs – This may sound counter productive, but earplugs can actually enhance the musical festival experience. Most are designed to just muffle noise, not stifle it altogether, which you’ll be appreciative of if you end up to close to a speaker.

Fanny Pack – Not the most attractive look, but you need somewhere to stash your cash, cell phone, keys and cigarettes. Backpack you say? Go ahead, and then you’ll find yourself the mule for all of your friends cash, cell phones, keys and cigarettes. The fanny pack makes sure that you are in charge of just your own stuff. You can also upgrade to a Camelbak if you want an easy way to lug around your drinking water.

Porta Potty Stuff – It’s a fact of life so we may as well be adults about it, no one likes the porta potty. To make it less hell-full bring along wipes, toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Cell Phone Power Pack – Good luck finding a power outlet in the middle of a festival, but having a back-up or a power pack should do the trick of letting you stay in touch in between sets.

Portable Infrared Sauna – If you are bringing along a power source, or will have access to one, having a portable infrared sauna is a great way to unwind at night and stave off muscle exhaustion in your legs. A portable infrared sauna review site can help you find the best one to bring along to a festival for the right price.

©Jay Blakesberg

Protection from the Sun – You will get fried if you are not careful. Sunblock, hats, sunglasses, chapstick and long sleeves are must haves.

Comfortable Shoes – Measure the distance from your family sized tent at the campsite to the nearest stage. Need we say more?

Candy and Gum – These help with keeping your mouth fresh, and in making friends. See someone who looks interesting to chat with, pull out a pack of gum and then offer a piece when you see them looking.

Blues festival season is short, and you want to make the most of the time while you can. With careful planning and the right gear, every festival you hit up this summer will be one worth remembering.

Is Clean Shaven Taboo in Good Blues Music?

With rare exception, pop bands and artists are baby faced, without a whisker in sight, yet in blues the epic beard abounds. Is there some sort of connection between great music and great looking facial hair, or is the blues artist just too laid back to care. Stop by any blues fest, and chances are you’ll see more whiskers than you could shake a beard trimmer at.

The Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard is one of the best examples of this, as he is generally seen performing his set behind the mask of a very scraggly looking beard. Despite the harsh look, his heart wrenching ballads and soul infused rock will still blow you away every single time.

Then of course is the aptly named Beards, who have taken facial hair to a whole new level of overgrowth. They have even dedicated a song to the beard “You Should Consider Having Sex With a Bearded Man” to help turn the females on to the look.

If you ever are lucky enough to see them perform live, be a dear and throw some beard balm onto the stage. This will help in taming their whiskers. If you don’t know what kind, find some beard grooming review sites and see beard balm brands other beard wearers are using to smooth their styles down.

When it Comes to Playing the Blues a Beard is Almost a Pre-Requisite

The list of beard donning blues magicians is almost as long as the beards themselves. This leads the fan to wonder if the music makes the beard, or if it is the beard that is leading to great tunes. One can certainly not deny that legendary Fitz would not be quite as legendary if he put a beard trimmer to his Gandalf beard.

fitz

Ben Caplan may give the most honest insight into the beard and blues music. According to him, his beard grew out of laziness, and as it grew he just decided to go with it. Does this mean blues artists are lazier then the average musician? I beg to differ. Instead I imagine they are just too caught up in the electrifying sounds to really care about something so trivial.

The next time you find yourself at a blues fest, start counting the beards. I bet my guitar that you are going to find more scruff than smooth bringing their musical genius onto the stage.

Music to Get Your Juices Flowing

We all listen to music for different reasons at different times, but a great many of us listen to music to help raise our energy level and get excited. Of course, no place uses music to get people excited better than athletic events. No matter how many times we go to a sporting event or how many times we hear the same song, the songs played always seems to get large crowds engaged and excited. Here are a few songs that you may have heard at sporting events that are sure to get your juices flowing.

Ever since the movie “Rocky,” Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” has been a staple of sports arenas everywhere. It’s such a motivating song, which is why it was the perfect song to get Rocky up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and a lot of times it’s played during the pre-game festivities to help build excitement before the start of a game. Even outside the sports arena, it’s a great song to listen to whenever you need a little extra push to get yourself motivated.

Another classic song that sports arenas tend to play before the start of games is “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses. In a sports context, this song is great at creating an intimidating environment, helping to give the home team a distinct advantage. This is one of my favorite songs to listen to before I strap on my paintball gear and head out to play. Outside of the sports arena, the song can be used by anybody looking for a little extra motivation and a confidence boost upon facing a difficult challenge.

There may be no better song to get a crowd at a sporting event rocking than, as its name implies, “We Will Rock You” by Queen. When the home team is playing well and about to go in for the kill, this rock anthem will blare from the speakers as loud as possible. In fact, few songs you’ll hear at a sporting event will bring a crowd together as much as this one. This is what song my paintball team usually plays while dusting off our paintball guns after a victory in a match. Outside of the sports arena this song will rarely be heard, but there’s nothing wrong with listening to Queen, and it will help you to build up a quiet confidence in yourself.

Once the crowd gets going, nothing can maintain that excitement like playing “Jump Around” by House of Pain. This song will rarely be heard outside of a sports arena, or perhaps your favorite dance club, but people tend to take its message quite literally, making it the perfect song for sporting events.

Finally, there is the outlier of the group, “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. This song is most popular in Boston, but it can be heard in sports arenas all over the country. It doesn’t bring the same type of energy as some of the other songs we frequently hear at sporting events, but it gets the crowd engaged and brings everyone together, which is why it’s become one of the most popular songs to hear at sporting events.

Your Five Favorite Blues Songs and How to Listen to Them

Having the blues has been described as that feeling you get when you have no money. You know that melancholy of knowing that there’s no food in the pantry and no way of getting any. It comes as no surprise than that the origin of blues music comes from American ghettos, and that the original artists were all African Americans.

We all get the blues from time to time. Maybe not for money reasons, maybe for love. Whatever the cause, there are those times when you just want to sit back and feel melancholy by your self. And the best way to do that is by hearing the blues.

Black Betty – James Baker and Gang

One of the earliest blues recordings lamented about the struggles of being at a dead end job. James is part of a work gang where the pay is pennies and the work is hard. This is a song to hear after an unappreciated week of work. Preferably with an ice cold beer and your favorite lounge chair.

Bukka White – Parchman Farm Blues

Just the song you need when you are facing legal issues of your own. This classic blues song was written while White was in prison for murder. Great for listening to on your darkest days, when a little perspective is needed. Dim the lights, swirl some scotch and remember it could always be worse.

Ma Rainey – Call Me Anything, But Call Me!

Use your scented oil diffuser to fill the room with the smell of roses, and then reflect back on the one that got away. This is a classic song of the love that got away. With your scented oil setting the stage, close your eyes and imagine what if.

Robert Wilkins – Rollin’ Stone

Arguably one of the most recognizable blues recordings ever made, Rollin’ Stone is what you need to hear when you want something to sing along with. Break out the Old Spice and dedicate this to the Rollin’ Stone in your life.

BB King – You Upset Me Baby

BB King is the king of the blues, having hundreds of recordings under his belt and one of the few black artists in the genre to become a household name. If you have company and want to share your blues, sit back and let the King guide your party.

bbking_2372999bMississippi John Hurt – Payday

The ultimate in poor man’s Blues. This calls for a can of Schlitz and a bag of chips for when money woes are wearing your down.

There is a blues song to fit any melancholy mood, and somehow the music makes your troubles seem insignificant. While the genre has gotten muddled up in rock and pop over the years, classic blues has never gone out of style.

ZZ Top: Mexico, Beards and the Modernization of Classic Blues

In their humble beginning, ZZ Top always showed their blues roots. But then fame took over, and that crazy urge to remain mainstream that ruins so many great blues bands. In 2012 they finally did the right thing, and channeled that blues energy once again, except this time with a modern (and electronic) twist.

ZZ Top started out in Houston Texas in 1969, a time when there were amazing changes taking place all over the musical spectrum. Over 40 years later, the heavily bearded band still has the same line-up. This consists of Billy Gibbons on guitar and vocals, Dusty Hill on bass and vocals and Frank Beard on drums.

Besides the big beards, ZZ Top has always been known for having a strong blues sound paired with rather funny songs laden with innuendo and double entendres. Who can forget “You got it whip it up and hit me like a ton of lead, If I blow my top will you let it go to your head?” It was lyrics such as this that allowed ZZ Top stay at the top of the charts for so long.

They have had their moments, taking brief (thankfully) excursions to the grunge world and even techno but they have never forgotten their blues roots. This is evidenced by the 2012 release of La Futura, one of their most authentically blues sounding albums in decades, with a modern twist. That release put them back on tour and back at Blues Fests all over the world.

Sometimes mistaken for being Hispanic, thanks to the Spanish album titles and references in their music, these three Houstonites are not of Mexican descent, but rather just have a deep love for the culture. This is easy to understand after growing up in an area that is infused with a large immigrant population.

The beards are another story.

The only member of the band who is clean shaven ironically is drummer Frank Beard. Gibbons and Hall grew out their facial hair while on a break in the late ‘70’s and have never looked at a beard trimmer since. They have been offered deals by razor companies to shave and possibly even give beard grooming tips, deals that they have happily turned down. As both bearded boys explain, at this point they are afraid to see what has gone on with their faces during the 30 plus years they have been covered by hair.

The latest album by ZZ Top is chock full of references to their old ways and old music. As only they can, electric blues has been integrated perfectly with the past to create a completely fresh sound that still manages to remind us of the bands very checkered past.

If you haven’t taken the time to listen to La Futura straight through, you are missing out. Grab your air guitar and a bottle of Mexican tequila and get ready to embark on a modern blues laden musical journey that only ZZ Top is capable of delivering.

Discover More About Blues Music

Some may say that listening to music is a part of a person’s life. There is nobody that I know who hasn’t been interested in music at a certain point in their life. One example of the most poplar types of music that people would love to listen to is blues music. This type of music has been popular since the 19th century and it’s still popular nowadays.

A Little Bit of History

blues guitarsBlues music is known to originate from the African-American natives. They are people who are situated in what they refer to as the Deep South. Ancestors of these natives are then inclined in producing songs that are more rhythmic, narrative and for some music that sound like chants.

As time goes by, these songs and music then evolved to be accompanied by instruments and melodies which can be very pleasant to the ear. Some called blues a freestyle music where it is not conformed with the usual Westernized songs and music that we hear. Instead, the music has its own elements to blend as part of a musical piece.

From a wide genre of musicians and singers, African-American people were able to introduce this type of music for everybody to love. Even with the lack of musical instruments to use to accompany their piece, blues music continued to prosper from then on.

At Present

Knowing that this type of music have influenced a good number of soul singers nowadays, the music still continues to evolve. More and more artists find the music interesting that is why they opt to bring their own taste of melodies to blues music. Current musicians are experimenting on their own music to blend with the blues.

What makes blues that popular is that you can listen to it wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Because of the melodies made to be pleasant to the ear, you will find this type of music very appealing. You can listen to it while cooking in the pantry, while relaxing or even while fishing outdoors and waiting for the fish to catch the bait (speaking of fishing, just last week I picked up a new finder for an amazing deal. Just wanted to give y’all a heads up in case you’re into this too!). This type of music gives you that sense of tranquility because of its freestyle melodies.

Blues music over time has inspired a lot of music lovers and artists to use their own style when it comes to composing songs and adding melodies to their music. Probably you haven’t noticed, most of the songs you hear nowadays incorporates blues music. Having said that, there is now a growing number of blues music enthusiasts. Who knows, sooner or later you might be joining them too.

How I Write Lyrics for My Blues Music

You might think that the words written along with songs just come easily and flow right out, but they don’t. For me, song lyrics are written intentionally to represent what is going on in my life, what is going on with others, and what is going on in the world. Although they may be written poetically and as idioms, there is always meaning behind the lyrics of my blues songs.

Inspired by a Miter Saw

my brand new miter sawSometimes I come up with song lyrics at the most random times. For instance, one of my favorite songs, “Simplify” was written when we were expecting our first child. We were working on the baby’s room, preparing it with some woodworking projects such as crown molding as well as window and door trim. I was working with my brand new miter saw in the workshop to get the angles just right when the lyrics for that song came to me. Of course, they didn’t come out all at once, but the ideas instilled themselves in my mind during this time.

I thought about how much effort we were putting in to planning for this tiny little person who hadn’t arrived yet. With baby showers, room decoration, hospital tours, doctor visits, and birthing plans, there certainly is a great deal of time, effort, and money which goes into the preparation of a baby’s arrival.Continue Reading

Strange and Interesting Topics in Blues Lyrics

If your lover left you, your cat died, and your truck broke down on the very same day that you lost your job, then you may just be the topic of a hit Blues or Country Music song.  Blues music often makes use of the most bizarre and unique topics for songs, and here is a list of some of the most interesting ones you might never have heard.

Bad Hair Day Blues

bad hair dayWhen you’ve gotten out of bed and you’re in too much of a hurry to fix your hair properly, you may find yourself wanting to complain about your bed head troubles. Or if you need a hair cut but your stylist is on vacation, who can you tell about the heartbreak of Bad Hair Day Blues? Put it in a song! When you run out of conditioner, your flat iron won’t heat up, or your electricity is out so you can blow your hair dry, pour out your feelings into a little ditty that will make you (and tons of other people with the same experience) feel a little bit better about their bed head or dread head styles.  Even if your friends don’t want to be seen with you and your supremely embarrassing coif, singing a song about it can make you feel a lot better–even if it can’t make your hair look better. It might just make you more popular than a good hair day ever could!

Getting Pregnant Blues

Although trying to get pregnant might sound like lots of fun, many couples have a hard time conceiving a child when they want to.  In an effort to get their hearts poured out through song, some trying-to-get-pregnant blues singers choose to put their troubles to music while they try not to get overwhelmed with tracking ovulation and fertilization. Some couples, when trying to get pregnant, tend to lose the romance and focus only on the medical and clinical side of having a baby. This can lead to a whole lot of heartache and even a little bit of blues music dedicated to the topic. A blues song writer who is composing a song on this topic might do a little research. Surely, they will find that the question that needs to be answered is this: When do I ovulate? Turns out, that could be a perfect title for a blues song. A little humor could be added and this composer just might have a hit on their hands.

Alien Abduction Blues

Just your luck! On the day you have been planning a relaxing beach vacation, or an exciting ski trip with the cute guy you like, you get abducted by aliens.  What a bummer! Never fear. This is the kind of stuff that great Blues Music is made of: stories of heartache, frustration, and extra-terrestrial interruptions of your life. Don’t pout about it or feel sorry for yourself while you’re inside the UFO missing the ski trip. Take the opportunity to do something about it and write a song! Test it out on your new alien friends and maybe they’ll love it so much that they’ll let you go. Then you can head back to your home planet, write the Top 40 Hit “Alien Abduction Blues” song and that cute guy will ask you out on a date to hear your story first hand. You’ll probably have fans and groupies and your life will never be the same. And then you can write a blues song about that too.

Vegetarian Loves Bacon Blues

No matter how much a vegetarian might try to deny it, bacon is one of the best foods on the planet. Crispy, warm, and salty, this superfood may not be the healthiest of foods, but it is totally worth every cheating calorie and there are many vegetarians out there who know it. Bacon isn’t just for eating with eggs or in omelets. On sandwiches, on pizza, in chocolate, The frustration created by knowing how good something is and not being able to eat is can certainly be reduced by singing a song to the pigs about how much it means to save their lives. The Vegetarian Loves Bacon Blues brings to the forefront the grief and loss of having loved something so sweet but no longer being able to enjoy it. Don’t worry, though. There are many bacon-flavored sundries such as room spray, soap, perfume and more. Heck, you may even be able to by bacon-flavored tofu! Just sing the Bacon Blues while participating in these products and you’ll find yourself feeling like you have been eating bacon all along.

While these strange and bizarre topics may or may not be actual blues songs, it’s likely that they should. If you were going to write a blues song, what would you write about?

Image Credit: Matthias Weinberger via Flickr

Annual Blues Festival in Dallas, Texas

Each year lovers of blues music gather in the city of Dallas in the deep south in order to pay tribute to their love of all things blues related. The year 2014 marks the 10th year in a row of this tribute to blues music. Involving blues and jazz musical talent from around the United States, the Annual Blues Festival in Dallas offers the opportunity to witness a spectacular show of live blues music.

Located at the Dallas Convention Center, the 2014 event features names such as Willie Clayton, The Manhattans, Mel Waiters, Denise LaSalle, and TK Soul. This event, typically held in the month of March, has included in the past such acts as Bobby Womack, Floyd Taylor, Shirley Brown, Bobby Rush, and Theodis Ealy.

Here are some of the bios of the most recently featured artists:

The Manhattans

A popular R&B group, The Manhattans were formed in 1962 by members George “Smitty” Smith, Edward “Sonny” Bivins, Winfred “Blue” Lovett, Kenny “Wally” Kelly, and Richard “Ricky” Taylor. Even while the boys were still in high school, the group began but was quickly interrupted by service in the armed forces. They reunited after their respective terms and began releasing recordings throughout the late 1960s until their most recent album in 2013. Throughout a variety of changes in members, The Manhattans have continues to develop as a group and has been featured in two PBS specials as well as some high albums on the charts.

Theodis Ealy

One of the finest blues guitarists and bandleaders of his time, Theodis Ealy hails from Mississippi where he learned to play guitar at age four, taught by his older brother Y.Z. Ealy. Early in his career, Theodis performed in bands with two brothers until he moved on to play in other groups. He was signed to record in the 1990s, touring Europe and the United States extensively. Stand Up in It from 2004 was his most popular album peaking at No. 5 on the Top Blues Albums Chart.

 Mel Waiters

Mel Waiters began his performance career in 1974 in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas by singing at nearby teen clubs. He began to entertain at military bases in the southwest in the 1990s, and continues to perform at festivals and clubs all over the United States. He has recorded several albums in his career including Woman in Need and Poor Side of Town.

Denise LaSalle

A singer, songwriter, and record producer, Denise Lasalle comes from a small town in Mississippi. Beginning by singing in church choirs, she moved on to Chicago and began with a small recording in 1967. Her first national hit was the song “Trapped By A Thing Called Love” in 1971 and she has continued recording critically acclaimed albums for over 20 years. Recently she was nominated for the Blues Music Award for the ‘Soul Blues Female Artist’ category, and she currently runs a restaurant called Blues Legend Cafe.

Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack recently passed away, but deserves a mention as one of the top blues artists featured at the Dallas Blues Festival on more than one occasion. The third of five brothers, Womack’s first musical influence was his mother’s gospel music organ playing at church and his father played the guitar. With many hits in his solo career during the 1970s and 1980s, Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 prior to his death in June 2014.

Getting to witness some of the very best Blues Music perform live is an incredible privilege and this can be done right in the heart of Dallas. The Annual Blues Festival in Dallas at the Dallas Convention Center each Spring is one of the most convenient ways for those living in the south to get to be part of such a show. From seasoned veterans to newer acts, the performances found at this blues festival are sure to be some of the very highest ranking in the genre.

 

The History of Blues in America

Although the lyrics of blues have gotten a reputation for being sad and come people would even describe them as depressing, blues music has a strong emphasis on going beyond your struggles. Relaxing and having fun, even when times are tough, is the name of the game for blues music which conveys deep and genuine emotion. This style of music has a rich history in the United States and has been an influential partner for a variety of other styles derived in the US as well.

Where Blues Began

Blues history runs very closely along with African American history, hailing from 19th century plantations in the southern parts of the United States. Singing and song composition began with slaves, their descendents, or those who had one time been slaves and were then freed. Beginning with Negro Spirituals which were often sung during slave work, the blues was developed from the chants, hollers, drums, and hymns which were prevalent in that day and age.

A northern relative of Cajun-style New Orleans jazz music, the blues has strongly been influenced by jazz culture and vice versa, with many musicians crossing over genres. It was not until the late 1930s that the blues began moving north up the Mississippi river to Midwestern urban areas eventually to Chicago. Regional styles brought differences to some of the music, including the electrified versions of Chicago which began with Muddy Waters following World War II.

Although the style began in the 1800s, sheet music of blues did not make an appearance until the early 1900s, following a great deal of ragtime style music. Recordings were made of pre-blues music were made in the 1920s and 1930s from around the southern states such as Mississippi, Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana. Urban areas which began to develop a strong blues influence included St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, Kansas City, and Chicago. Many of the earlier blues performing artists used only a guitar as their accompaniment and then eventually the musicians began to team up with cohorts from gospel choirs, jazz bands, drummers, and even country style jug bands.

Blues Instruments

Commonly used instruments began with what could be found cheaply and easily since the time was the Depression era. This included washboards, jugs, kazoos, harmonicas, whistles, make-shift drums, and spoons. Traditional instruments used included guitars, banjos, fiddles, mandolins, and other stringed instruments such as basses. Twelve bar blues are the most common type of chord progression used, with cyclic or repeating chords which may include a call/response. The sounds often includes notes that are flattened or bent purposefully as part of the minor key sound. There may be a shuffle style which creates a repetition known as a groove.

 

Blues Influences

As blues music began to develop, many diverse styles were created. R & B (Rhythm & Blues), Rock ‘n Roll, Boogie-Woogie, West Coast (Swing) Blues, and Jump were all spinoffs of the traditional county blues which comes from the southern and rural areas of Mississippi. Some of the stronger influences came from Count Basie, Eric Clapton, Guitar Slim, Blind Lemon Jefferson, John Lee Hooker, Louis Jordan, and Pete Johnson are just a small sampling of the folks who have been recipients as well as developers of the blues music genre.

The development of blues music, and the impact that it has made on the rest of the music world has been prominent. Often performers of jazz, rock, or folk music such as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and Bob Dylan, have incorporated some blues songs in their recordings, or use blues-hybrid music in their popular songs. Even George Gershwin’s orchestral movements have included blues type tones and sounds. R & B has been developed as a blend of gospel with blues and has had a strong influence on the spiritual aspects of the African American community.

As recently as the 1980s and 1990s came The Blues Brothers movies which brought to the forefront talented artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, B. B. King, Bo Diddley, and other  Whether standing on its own in the classical blues sense, or blended with other styles such as jazz or rock, blues music is an American staple and will likely continue to develop and influence for many years to come.