I listen to a lot of different kinds of music.
I love jazz – listened to it all my life. I listen to classical and country, I listen to hard rock and electronic. From Tuvan throat singing to Phillip Glass to Johnny Cash. Depeche Mode to Belefonte. I listen to a lot of different music.
But every time I pick up the guitar, write a song or sing – it usually comes out as blues, or it’s close relative – Roots music.
I know you might be tired of ‘bar band slow blues’ and maybe you’ve heard Downchild and The Blues Brothers too many times. Or scratchy old recordings of blues singers with shaky voices and out of tune guitars.
But that’s not all there is to the blues.
Do yourself a favour and check out Tommy Castro, Ana Popovich and Matt Schofield (see videos below). They are among the many contemporary blues players who write great songs and put all their soul into the performances – it’s honest music, direct from the heart.
Along with the heart felt singing, blues is primarily centered on the guitar. Popular music may have lost some of the love for “guitar solos” since the advent of punk and electronic music; but the electric guitar is one of the most expressive instruments ever invented.
A guitarist can create music the way a piano player does: playing chords, melody, bass runs and counterpoint; sometimes all at the same time. But a guitar can also ‘rip your heart out’ with a single bending note.
You know solos by David Gilmore of Pink Floyd are seared into your subconscious somewhere. He was playing the blues – his notes are based on blues scales and blues ideas. It’s that expressiveness and the raw emotion that a guitar can create which draws me and holds me.
It’s about expressing more than just musical ideas, it’s about expressing the feelings and emotions we have.
We all deal with crap in our lives. The blues is about expressing that stuff; the situations may be different but the emotions are the same. And, by expressing that pain and frustration through music, we connect with other people, we engage with them, we form community.
That’s why, in this age of overproduced music and fake new, the honesty of the blues is as important as ever.
Here’s some videos of the performers I’ve mentioned.