Let’s get one thing straight, at least for those that might be unfamiliar: blues music is not all sad and slow songs filled with sorrow. Although, certainly, there’s a place for those, too. It’s true, I suppose, that Albert King may have summarized some people’s impression of the blues as a whole with the immortal opening lines to his most famous song:
“Born under a bad sign / Been down since I began to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck / I wouldn’t have no luck at all”
Personally, my single all-time favorite bluesy sentiment came in a title line from B.B. King, where he sang:
“Nobody loves me but my mother / And she could be jiving too”
But in reality, singing the blues is not all about singing the blues. At all. And it’s certainly not true about playing them. Blues is a format, a structure, a style, not necessarily a mood. And, in case you weren’t aware, there are just oodles of upbeat, rollicking, fun blues tunes.
Which is where my blues center-of-gravity lies, not with the musty blues originals like Robert Johnson but with the second- and third-generation practitioners that can kick up some serious dust. Many years ago my friend and bluesy compadre, Art, looked over at me like a light bulb had just gone on as we listened to some rowdy blues tunes I’d curated over a couple of beers. “I finally figured it out,” he exclaimed with a “eureka” expression, “you really like the guitar!” Yes sir, Art. Yes I do. Give me loud, fast, crackling, overdriven, psychedelic, explosive, feedbacky, wailing squalls of guitar and I will most definitely not have the blues.
And with that in mind I compiled this playlist for Art, probably more than a couple decades ago, but happily re-issued here (with a few small updating tweaks). It’s blues music that’s, in a word, rocking (and, okay, with a few slower and mid-tempo ones mixed in as well). Blues songs that just maybe you can dance to…or at least do some damn fierce air-guitaring. These are blues tunes that are not sad but joyous. And, above all, are sure to chase away your blues.