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There is something about the early history of the blues that really speaks to me. After first discovering blues through artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin (and others like the White Stripes) I've been interested in the early days; the music that influenced these artists. Backtracking my way through the blues it wasn't long before I was consumed by artists like Son House, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell, Leadbelly, Willie Dixon, Charlie Patton, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Jr. Lockwood and of course Robert Johnson (plus many others).
There is just something so raw and powerful about these artists that I immediate identify with and respect. Although I also love electric blues and blues rock, but I will always have a very deep respect for each and every one of these early artists because with just a guitar and their voice, they changed music forever.
There have been lots of blues players over the years always adding their own personality to the genre. A lot of great players have come and gone but personally I had not yet seen a blues player who could quite capture the early delta street style where blues began completely. Well that is until I heard Curtis Blues.
My father first heard this artist in Viginia and quickly picked up the album and played it for me. I was immediately very impressed and amazed at both his skill and how much he sounded like some of my favorite early blues masters.
Curtis Blues is a one man band who plays resonator guitar, harmonica, bass drum and high hat to create stunningly raw and rough delta blues. He plays a lot of blues covers by the early delta blues artists like Robert Johnson and Son House, as well as other blues greats like Muddy Waters with some originals mixed in. His takes on these songs are so honest that they capture the spirit of early delta blues perfectly and evoke images of the original blues greats. The combination of the biting resonator guitar, and expert harmonica blasts combine with the light drums to make great blues that speaks with the emotion of someone who has definitely lived the blues life. Curtis doesn't quite have the Son House intensity in his vocals or the Muddy Waters growl, but his vocals are soulful, gritty and authentic, perfectly adding his personality to these songs. His harmonica playing is great, especially on "Train Time" where he recreates a train rumbling down the tracks entirely on harmonica. His guitar work and slide guitar work reminiscence of the greats; nice and rough. I'm amazed how he handles the percussion, the guitar rhythm and the advanced harmonica melody all at once on some of these songs. As a whole package, everything just works to create a nice little blues band in the form of one man.
Curtis Blues is simply one of the best new acoustic delta blues performers I've heard in a long time. I wouldn't compare him to the greats of the past, but then again, they're legends and have been for a while, influencing thousands so I don't really think it is a fair comparison to make. I think he's got the right idea though, about how to get the right feel for the blues.
Here's what he says in his bio on his website:
I play the same way my heroes, who created this music, played: no mike, right on the street, for cash. It gives an insight into how they played that you don't get from records, or even from playing this music in clubs.
Playing on the street tests the emotional reach of my music. People are honest and direct on the street. They vote with their dollars.
Every day I play I learn more about expressing deeper emotion through my music. It grows with my life.
Curtis Blues Bio from www.curtisblues.com/bio.htm
There really is no better venue for blues than the street, where emotional intensity is a must in order to reach the casual passerby. The spontaneity and raw authenticity that comes from playing on the street can be heard in his music and is part of what makes it great. I haven't gotten to hear Curtis blues play live, but I hope I can someday as although the recordings are great, it really is a different atmosphere out playing in the real world. Without an amplifier, a mic, or even a backing band, there is nothing to hide behind, giving the music incredible honesty. I think playing on the streets has given him the a great understanding of artists like Son House and Robert Johnson not otherwise possible without actually playing in the 30s and 40s, and it comes through in his music.
If you're a blues fan or even a folk fan, I definitely think you should check out Curtis Blues. I wish there were more artists who were keeping the spirits of the original blues guitarists alive in such a pure form.
I'm glad you're keeping the this type of blues alive, Curtis.
Here is a link to his website. The guy also does parties and events so if you're really interested, you can hire him to play a show: http://www.curtisblues.com/
You can also find his album Forget With Me here at CDBaby: http://cdbaby.com/cd/curtisblues