WIB Listening Party #22: Sweet Tea


Buddy Guy, Sweet Tea

🍺 Riedenburger Dolden Hell

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

Yeah, so it’s heating up quite a bit ‘round these parts now. No longer any need to summon summer. It’s here. And with it, a slower pace. Even in the city.

That’s one thing I really like about the American south. People take their time in almost everything they do. I’m tempted to say it’s so because of the heat, but I’m a New Yorker and New York also gets excruciatingly hot in the summer months. But we haven’t got that take it easy thing down. Not really. Not like southern folk.

The climate around JazzFest in New Orleans is just about perfect. Really, it’s my weather ideal. The festival traditionally kicks off the last weekend of April, running into early May. Temps are in the 80s. Warm enough to knock off the rust of winter but never oppressive. Some of my favorite memories are of lounging in front of the Congo Square stage at the festival grounds, listening to funk and Caribbean sounds, soaking in the sunlight, enjoying an adult beverage.

But Mississippi in July? Yes, I have made that mistake. I’ve even camped out in the unbearable mid-summer humidity, inescapable even at night. I went to movies just to bask in the air conditioning.

Oh, right, music. It’s got to be a steamy hot record this week, a Mississippi in July kind of record. So I’m going with Sweet Tea, a #1 Billboard Blues album for Buddy Guy following its release in 2001.

The perfect beverage would be the one mentioned in the title, but since this is about blues and beer, we’ll pour a glass of Riedenburger Dolden Hell, a tasty and refreshing helles from Bavaria.

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WIB Listening Party #15: Forgiven


Los Lonely Boys, Forgiven

🍺 Mashsee Beverly Pils

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

Do you have a funeral playlist? You know, a batch of songs you’d want to have played when people gather at your memorial service and talk about what an incredible person you were? I do, though I haven’t yet bothered to write it down.

Certain songs express an attitude about life, mortality, God and a hypothetical hereafter. An attitude that speaks to you. Sometimes, I imagine the folks sitting there when I’m gone, hearing the songs on my personal playlist and gradually recognizing who I was and what I believed in. 

I’ll get to one of those songs shortly. First, let’s talk about Los Lonely Boys. A terrific band that’s overlooked by many blues fans.

One reason might be the name. Los Lonely Boys doesn’t scream blues like, say, Too Slim & The Taildraggers. Or it might be the curse of their smash debut single “Heaven” – a melodic rock number that put the band on the map in 2004. It’s the only thing a lot of people know by Los Lonely Boys. The trio has tried to replicate that success with radio-friendly tracks on subsequent albums but has never come close. So for some, they’re a one-hit wonder.

But Henry (guitar), Jojo (bass) and Ringo Garza (drums), sons of Conjunto musician Enrique Garza Sr., have been making good to great albums all along, mixing blues, classic rock, pop and Tejano into what they like to call Texican Rock’n’Roll. My favorite of theirs is 2011’s Rockpango, where the brothers blend those ingredients into a cocktail spicier than a Bloody Maria. The follow-up Revelation, their final album to date, is also very good.

Today I’ll go a bit further back to their third studio album Forgiven, mostly because the title track is one of those on my funeral playlist. At this writing the band is on some kind of hiatus or may in fact have packed it in completely. I hope not, so I’ll talk of them in the present tense.

And because the motto of the Who Is Blues Listening Party is “One album, No scotch, One beer,” I’ll be diving into Beverly Pils a bit later on – a superb Pilsener created by Germany’s Mashsee brewery.

Now, let’s head south to San Angelo, Texas, a little bit west of Dallas, a little bit north of San Antone.

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WIB Listening Party #13: Born Under A Bad Sign


Albert King, Born Under A Bad Sign

🍺 Guinness Hop House 13 Lager

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

I bought Born Under A Bad Sign when I first started writing about the blues in the late 90s. It’s one of those quintessential albums you had to be familiar with if you were going to publish anything on the subject. Required listening, so to speak. Read any three guitar player interviews and one of them is bound to mention Albert King as an influence. Hendrix, Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan … if those guys idolized the big man from Mississippi and tried to copy his peculiar left-handed upside-down string-bending style, then there must be something there, right?

I like what self-proclaimed guitar nerd Joe Bonamassa had to say about King’s legacy on an episode of his Live From Nerdville video series: “[Albert] has been imitated many times – including by yours truly – but never quite duplicated, because his attack, his presence and the way he felt the music was completely new.”

The appeal of Born Under A Bad Sign begins with cover art that is among the coolest in the blues’ long history. The color scheme, the placement of the ace of spades, snake eyes and other bad luck symbolism, even the iconic Stax Records logo tucked into the lower left corner – all very striking. It reminds me of some psychedelic 1960s wallpaper … one you wouldn’t want hanging in your room if you were on a bad trip.

The album collects 11 tracks recorded in 1966 and 1967, many of them running less than three minutes (!!) … starting with the title song, dating to May of ’67 and played countless times by well-intentioned blues bands the world over in the half-century since. Frankly, it’s a challenge to listen to an LP with fresh ears when so many of its tunes have been covered to death – though it speaks volumes about the quality of the material.

Perhaps a bit of barley broth will help get us there! Guinness Hop House 13 Lager was an obvious choice for Listening Party #13, what with the bold red number 13 on the label echoing the calendar page on the cover of Bad Sign.

That’s a lot of 13 gathered in one place. Bad juju?

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