Chicago Blues: A Living History (R)Evolution Continues
2009's self-titled landmark debut 21-track, 2-CD set "Chicago Blues: A Living History", paid homage to Chicago Blues' creators, its rich history, its current practitioners and its singular place in the (r)evolution of 20th century American music. For the first time on record, the men who played with the original Chicago-blues pioneers were gathered together with the artists who bridged the gap between those early icons and today's scene, all in honor of the past, appreciation of the present and hope for the future of Chicago Blues.
With "The (R)Evolution Continues", Chicago Blues: A Living History continues its tribute to Chicago blues with a second double-disc set that underscores the outsized and ongoing influence that this music continues to exert on music everywhere.
Produced by Larry Skoller, and backed by The Living History Band (Billy Flynn- guitar, Matthew Skoller-harmonica, Kenny "Beady Eyes" Smith-drums, Felton Crews-bass and Johnny Iguana-keyboards), Chicago Blues: A Living History - "The (R)Evolution Continues" features additional new recordings of Chicago Blues by two generations of Chicago's greatest living traditionalists. Special guests include Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Magic Slim, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Zora Young and Mike Avery -- making this the largest-ever gathering of Chicago-blues greats for one studio recording. This new double-album takes us from Billy Boy's loving homage to Sonny Boy (Williamson), the piano-powered boogie-woogie "She Don't Love Me That Way" (1941), to Ronnie Baker Brooks' torch-carrying guitar showcase "Make These Blues Survive" (1998). The band once again digs into more than half a century of the Chicago-blues sound they've been immersed in all their lives.
Chicago blues not only laid the foundation for rock 'n' roll and pop as we know it today—but its songs, sound, masters and myths have had an incalculable effect on American society and have touched lives on a global level as much as any other American art form. This group of musicians united to bear witness to the history and power of the music in its purest form, as they themselves are the artists who formed the bridge between the originators of the genre and the Chicago blues of today. Through them, Chicago blues remains a potent living tradition.
It's been a half century now that the gods of rock 'n' roll have been worshipping the men of Chicago blues. For their first single and first album, the Rolling Stones (who took their name from a Muddy Waters song) recorded songs by Chicago blues songwriting titan Willie Dixon. A young Eric Clapton and his band the Yardbirds made their first recordings as the backing band for Chicago blues harmonica hero Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) and decided on "I Wish You Would"—a classic by another Chicago-blues harmonica great, Billy Boy Arnold—for their first single. Eight years before "Rumours", Fleetwood Mac came to Chicago to record with Willie Dixon and blues-piano legend Otis Spann. At the height of his Ziggy Stardust fame, David Bowie also recorded Billy Boy's "I Wish You Would" for his "Pin Ups" album. And so the story goes…
Rock superstars visiting Chicago still make it a priority to duck into a blues club to rediscover the musical legacy and recapture the musical lightning that first lit a charge under them. Eric Clapton and Cyndi Lauper chose songs by Little Walter and Muddy Waters for their 2010 albums. It's impossible to imagine the genesis of modern-day rock bands like the White Stripes and the Black Keys if Chicago blues had never been born. The same goes for pop and rock stars from Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix to Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead…from Led Zeppelin (noted idolizers of Chicago blues) to Prince (who's known to play passionate after-hours blues sets) to Beyoncé (who portrayed Etta James in the movie based on Chicago's Chess label, "Cadillac Records"). The unparalleled power of Chicago blues has been fueling artists around the world ever since the 1940s.
It's no secret (to anyone who investigates the roots of modern-day pop and rock music): it was the Mississippi Delta bluesmen, who headed north to escape the social and economic hardship of the South, that created the urban electric ensemble sound. After moving from the Stovall Plantation in Clarksdale, Mississippi to the Windy City, Muddy Waters began electrifying his acoustic guitar to be heard over the loud crowds at the house parties and clubs of Chicago. Interweaving independent guitar lines and bass parts with drum shuffles and backbeats, Waters was the first to forge the irresistible grooves and high-powered electric sounds that came to life in Chicago blues and proliferated in the ensemble playing of virtually all rock 'n' roll groups that followed. Rock 'n' roll, soul, funk, R&B, pop…they all took this formula and ran with it.