24 June, 2008

You can never be too young for the blues

The best blues has always been the kind played by families and friends in their local neighborhoods. It's a shared American art, something undeniably tied to the concept of community and normalcy. In fact, even the name "blues" references a common human currency: emotion. The sad thing about the blues is that its popularity has been dying for a long time. You can still find sections of the population and geographical pockets of the country where blues is a celebrated art, but few thirty-somethings, twenty-somethings, and teenagers realize the extent of influence that blues music has had over current popular music and rock and roll; fewer still actually turn this recognition into interest and exploration.

Don't be downhearted, there's always hope, and today it comes to you in the form of the Homemade Jamz Blues Band from Tupelo, Mississippi. Their first album Pay Me No Mind was released this month, and it's a slamming, rocking blues house party. The guitar reminds me of Hendrix blues, but also of B.B. King (as do the vocals). Albert King also comes to mind. The percussion and bass line are very well matched, and far from boring. The most exceptional thing about this band is their talent. While a lot of contemporary blues sounds stale, this band can really jam. The most interesting thing about the Homemade Jamz Blues Band is that they are three siblings who are 9, 13, and 15 years old. Taya Perry (9) plays drums, Kyle Perry (13) plays bass and sings back-up vocals, and Ryan Perry (15) plays guitar and sings lead.

Instead of giving you a full run-down of the eleven tracks on Pay Me No Mind, I'm going to cull my favorites and explain exactly why they are my favorites. The first three songs on the album are exceptional. "Who Your Real Friends Are" has a few nasty little guitar solos and very tight rhythm. "Voodoo Woman" rumbles and roars, while Ryan wails with a voice that sounds that it hasn't cracked in at least five years. "The World's Been Good To You" is a layered song that sizzles before peaking. Skip ahead a few songs to "Time For Change" and you find a rock song with strong blues undercurrents. The title song, "Pay Me No Mind", has room for a great harmonica warble as it chugs along the highway. The final song "Boom Boom" is almost surreal, channeling John Lee Hooker and the Animals, but also having a distinctly individual feeling.

Pay Me No Mind is a great classic feeling blues album that seems equally inspired by Muddy Waters and Hendrix and the Doors. It perfectly captures that contemporary pluralism required for blues to make a comeback. This album should be accessible to people who grew up listening to Green Day, as much as those who had their musical teeth cut on Stevie Ray Vaughn and R.L. Burnside. You can be blown away by the fact that such smooth music is played by three people who haven't graduated from high school, or you can just recognize that this music is exceptional for musicians of any age. Whatever you do, I hope you pick up a copy of Pay Me No Mind. It's a good album.

1 comment:

p&b said...

i used to think that you had to have leather skin, dress in old suits and hang out in smoky bars to appreciate or play the blues.
i had always avoided learning how to play the blues on guitar because i thought it was one of those over rated things like Cadillacs and Jim Morrison. But i loaded up some blues licks in GP 5 and i have to admit, it was bloody fun!!
i don't think any genre of music should be inaccessible to young people. my wacky standard six teacher used to make us listen to Keith jarrett and Tchaikovsky. i think we fully absorbed the music or anything, but we weren't too young.

keep on blogging!