The 74-year-old Mississippi blues guitarist Robert Belfour possesses a deep, earthy tone which makes his live performances enthralling and compelling. Belfour has been playing since childhood in the Mississippi hill country around Red Banks (just south of Memphis, Tenn.), where he picked up his father's guitar and learned to play. When his father died, the burden of supporting the family fell largely on the 13-year-old. He went into construction work in Memphis, playing blues on the side when there was time.
Originally published on Thu January 31, 2013 1:12 pm
Ben Harper grew up roaming the aisles and restoring guitars at his family's music store, the Claremont Folk Music Center. Going on its 60th year of business, the storefront in Southern California is where Harper first discovered the harmonica playing of blues legend Charlie Musselwhite.
"We had Charlie's records stacked high at my family's store and at my house," Harper tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.
In the Northern Hemisphere, January is typically the coldest month of the year. If we can somehow drag ourselves through the month, things will begin to turn around and we'll be on the road to springtime. But January often feels as if it'll never end.
So as we slog through the cold rain and snow, awaiting January's demise, here are five blues songs to help get us through the winter.
We couldn't leave Memphis without a taste of the blues from gospel-blues singer and preacher Rev. John Wilkins. He's the son of Rev. Robert Wilkins, who wrote "Prodigal Son," a song famously covered by The Rolling Stones on Beggars Banquet.
Here, we've got a performance by Rev. John Wilkins with his band — and his daughters on backing vocals. During our interview, Wilkins spoke about his faith and his father, and even sings a version of "Prodigal Son" himself.
Originally published on Wed December 26, 2012 5:11 pm
Bonnie Raitt is a blues-rock legend with nine Grammys and five platinum albums under her belt. Her rootsy and passionate take on everything blues — combined with her intimate understanding of composition, deft slide-guitar skills and soulful vocals — helped Raitt become an icon.
Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 4:58 pm
Gary Clark Jr.'s new album Blak and Blue is his major-label debut, but the blues guitarist is hardly a newcomer. Clark made his first album at 17, and by then he'd already spent several years hanging out in the blues clubs of Austin, Texas.
Originally published on Fri October 26, 2012 9:05 am
By NPR Staff
It's been a while since pop-music writers have heaped praise on a blues guitarist as the next big thing. But that's what's happened with Gary Clark Jr., who's just put out his first full-length album on a major label. It's called Blak and Blu.
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.
Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 3:25 pm
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.