On his major-label debut Blak and Blu, you can hear the roar in Gary Clark Jr.'s blues guitar, and in his vocal throughout "Bright Lights." It's one of the few straight-up blues songs on what is essentially an introduction to one of the most highly praised young blues guitarists in recent times. While Clark comes out of a blues tradition, he's also a twentysomething who's taken in all of contemporary music.
Shemekia Copeland says she didn't really find her singing voice until her teen years, when her father, the late blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, began suffering from health issues. On her new album, 33 1/3, she finds a different kind of voice — one that's eager to participate in a national dialogue.
In the 1980s, Elliott Sharp was the height of New York City cool, a central part of that town's experimental music scene. His creations were inspired by advanced mathematical concepts. He tuned his guitars according to the Fibonacci Sequence and wrote challenging pieces inspired by fractal geometry.
Eric San, who goes by the name Kid Koala, plays the blues. But just as Kid Koala isn't a traditional blues name like Blind Lemon Jefferson or Doctor Ross the Harmonica Boss, he isn't a standard blues man.
Kid Koala is a DJ. Big turntables, fast hands, scratching old-fashioned vinyl records — the whole deal. Now, he's taken that DJ equipment and produced a "turntable blues" album titled 12 Bit Blues.
So how did a Canadian DJ discover the blues, exactly? San says it all happened in high school.
Credit Johnathan Crawford / Courtesy of the artist
Sidi Touré is a Songhai singer-songwriter from the city of Gao in northern Mali. Though he grew up in a royal family, he sings the blues elegantly and in his own native language; interestingly, Touré has said he'd never heard American blues music until after his first album was released.
Weekend Edition continues its series on the sounds of music al fresco with a musical act founded on a very inconvenient choice. You'd think a street musician would want to travel light when selecting an instrument — say, a ukulele, a violin, maybe a guitar. But a piano?
"It's about 300 pounds," says Kirby Lee Hammel. "Only one pulled muscle in the last year and a half, I think."
Curtis Salgado is a blues icon in Oregon. During his 40-year career in music, he's held long stints with The Robert Cray Band, fronted Roomful of Blues and done his own thing with The Nighthawks and Curtis Salgado & The Stilettos. Growing up in Eugene, Salgado began playing music on the guitar, but fell in love with the sound of blues harmonica and changed course. When he inherited a small amount of money for education, his parents used it to pay for vocal lessons, which helped Salgado nurture his huge voice.
A simple approach is often the most affecting. In "To The Bone," the latest video from folk and blues artist Mirel Wagner, the singer slowly rises and sinks in a black pool of water, illuminated only by the faintest light. Wagner slowly turns, falls back, and rises again before something pulls her back under. It's both a seductive and unsettling metaphor for love's darker side.
In an email, Wagner described how the video came together.