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Blues or Soul?

Blues or Soul? cover

Thirty years ago I travelled to London to see Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Albert King and John lee Hooker ( a lineup the like of which will never be seen again ). I recall being struck by the total lack of Soul representation and a complete takeover by Rock Fans going into raptures over Buddy Guys extraordinary licks. For decades the pop/ Rock media have told us we can have gospell but the Blues is theirs .But it isn't, it's ours too.

 

Recently I saw Michael Roach in Durham; a Black American Country Blues artist and there wasn't a familiar face in the building. Normally I run a mile from a singer with just a guitar but this is how this music is supposed to be played and he is also a Blues Historian and the history of Blues is the pre-history of Soul.

About a year ago my son and I saw Larry Garner at the Darlington Arts Centre. LG is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and one of the most important Blues artists to emerge in the last 30 years and there wasn't another Soul fan to be found. My son was carrying a guitar injury so we ended up talking guitars with him and the band and he invited him to join them on stage. Thirteen and with a bandage on his hand, my son can still play a bit and took the roof off.

 

Consequently he became fanatical about Blues which ultimately took us to a Blues Festival in Switzerland to see Howlin Wolf pianist Henry Gray, Soulful Blues singer/ guitarist and another of the modern greats - Joe Louis Walker, top of the bil for my son Larry McCray - another modern great with a Soulful voice and perhaps the finest Blues guitarist since Buddy Guy. Top of the bill for me, Otis Clay, a regular at the festival, because in Switzerland, like most places, Blues and Soul go together.

 

Recently Larry Garner returned to Darlington and, since I'd seen him in Keighley a week earlier ( guess what - no Soul Fans), and knew his set and his jokes, found myself people watching and people clearly couldn't believe they were watching an artist of this calibre making such incredible music in a tiny room in Darlo.

Michael Roach, LG and Henry James are not Soul singers in the way Joe Louis Walker, Larry McCray, Bobby Bland, Little Milton, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Albert and Freddie King and Robert Cray are, but all Black American Blues Singers are soulful, I like to make the distinction, with a small s.

 

Recently I was at a Soul Night in Sunderland and people kept saying to me - this is better than Muddy Waters and this is better than John lee Hooker - and I was reminded that Frankie Lucas used to say that some of the stuff I listen to is so Soulful it's almost Blues and I figured this is where it came from. I've been listening to Blues for 30 years, alongside Soul, and Reggae and Jazz and lots of other things.

 

In the mid eighties I saw Bobby Bland, Johnnie Taylor and Denise LaSalle ( and Mosley and Johnson ) on the same bill and Latimore and Little Milton on the same bill. Can anybody say categorically, once and for always, whether Bobby Bland or ZZ Hill are Blues or Soul?

 

 

 

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JuniorWells1996 by Masahiro Sumori (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons





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I don't think you can categorize these artists as either, and there isn't really a need to do so. Both have tracks on the same LP (especially their later Malaco stuff) that I would say were outright blues and others that were outright soul tracks. The term BlueSoul has been used for a long time to describe the mixing of the two genres. Just enjoy their music for what it is, without any need for pigeon holes.

Edited by John Reed

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A great piece....But JOHN I would say the whole point he is making is that a huge amount of people on the Soul scene do 'pigeonhole' don't they?.....

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I was at the London show of Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. I have always attended all the Blues shows I can in the North East - Robert Cray at the Kirk (as well as Lowell Fulson and Louisiana Red). Joe Louis Walker and Sherman Robertson amongst others at Harveys in Stockton. Whilst I did not travel to Switzerland I saw Henry Gray upstairs in The Central in Middlesbrough.

What does someone who likes Soul and Blues look like? how can you tell?

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Interesting here, to me a least, is that no-one has mentioned the styles that are collectively known as Rhythm and Blues. R&B seems to broadly spans the gap between out-and-out Soul and pure Blues. I've always placed artists such as Boby Bland and Z.Z. Hill in this area, though, of course, their material cuts right across the spectrum as a whole. If I may go slightly off the original question, I don't think that the mentality that deliberately refuses to accept certain songs or artists because they aren't whatever the definition says they should be is at all helpful or desirable. A lot of R&B gets played at Soul nights, and, of course, the Mod scene has always accepted a wide variety of tunes from Soul, R&B, Blues, Ska, Latin, 60s Beat etc., etc. Music is a continuum, not a series of clearly defined chunks, and there is great material to be heard at any event, no matter how is it advertised or marketed. So, I don't think it's all that important what niche you place Bobby or Z.Z. in: their music is wonderful, and that's all that matters.

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Interesting here, to me a least, is that no-one has mentioned the styles that are collectively known as Rhythm and Blues. R&B seems to broadly spans the gap between out-and-out Soul and pure Blues. I've always placed artists such as Boby Bland and Z.Z. Hill in this area, though, of course, their material cuts right across the spectrum as a whole. If I may go slightly off the original question, I don't think that the mentality that deliberately refuses to accept certain songs or artists because they aren't whatever the definition says they should be is at all helpful or desirable. A lot of R&B gets played at Soul nights, and, of course, the Mod scene has always accepted a wide variety of tunes from Soul, R&B, Blues, Ska, Latin, 60s Beat etc., etc. Music is a continuum, not a series of clearly defined chunks, and there is great material to be heard at any event, no matter how is it advertised or marketed. So, I don't think it's all that important what niche you place Bobby or Z.Z. in: their music is wonderful, and that's all that matters.

Very well put, but genres sell magazines, gig tickets and records unfortunatly.

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Very well put, but genres sell magazines, gig tickets and records unfortunatly.

Why does the real world have to keep getting in the way :-)?

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Very well put, but genres sell magazines, gig tickets and records unfortunatly.

Soul blues is a style of blues music developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s that combines elements of soul music and urban contemporary music. Singers and musicians who grew up listening to the traditional electric blues of artists such as Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed and Elmore James; soul singers such as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Otis Redding; and gospel music wanted to bridge their favorite music together.Bobby Bland was one of the pioneers of this style. This is a sub-genre of blues that is very popular with African American audiences but less known by white audiences. The style continues to be popular in the new millennium.

Notable artists

Maybe this might help :thumbsup:

Edited by Carol J

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Couple a things going on in West Yorks and the NE.

You will need to join the Bronte Blues Club but well worth it for Larry McCray on 7th Sept, a Soulful voice and a virtuoso guitarist. Not sure of the date ( like I'm your PA now ) but Eugene Hideaway Bridges is there in Oct or Nov and he's very much influenced by Soul. I've seen them both and they're well worth the effort.

The night before his Keighley date Hideaway is in Newcastle and the night before McCray at Keighley, the Cluny also plays host to Alvin Youngblood Hart. Only know one album but he ranges from Country Blues to almost Beefheartian. He's performing solo and I can't really stomach music for a band played by one man and his guitar so I'm not taking a night off work for that one. Howewer, I reckon all of these events are worth checking out.

Incidentally, the night before Hideaway, Matt Schofield is doing the Cluny - he's one of the British great white hopes of the Blues which means he plays bar-room rock, but he uses a Hammond trio which is always interesting and can certainly play guitar.

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Being a blues fan first & foremost, it was my gateway into soul music, but the article is right, not a lot of crossover between the NS scene & the blues scene in my experience. I love them both.

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