That time I asked Taj Mahal which blues artists were making him smile lately

By Steve Newton I've interviewed American blues great Taj Mahal (real name Henry Saint Clair Fredericks) a couple of times. The first time was back in November of 2001, before he headed to Vancouver for a solo acoustic show at the historic Commodore Ballroom. At one point in the conversation I asked the 59-year-old Grammy-winner … Continue reading That time I asked Taj Mahal which blues artists were making him smile lately

That time John Mayall told me that his Bluesbreakers of 1988 were the best band he ever had

By Steve Newton The first time I interviewed blues legend John Mayall was in December of 1988, shortly after he'd released his Chicago Line album, which featured smokin' guitarists Walter Trout and Carlos Montoya. Mayall has always surrounded himself with the finest pickers--including guys like Mick Taylor, Eric Clapton, and Peter Green--so at one point … Continue reading That time John Mayall told me that his Bluesbreakers of 1988 were the best band he ever had

Super Chikan’s childhood poverty led to cool homemade guitars and slide-infested blues

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 29, 2010 By Steve Newton When bluesmen chat about their favourite electric guitars, the words Strat and Les Paul often work their way into the conversation. Not when James “Super Chikan” Johnson is doing the talking, though. His ultimate six-string carries neither the Fender nor the Gibson brand, … Continue reading Super Chikan’s childhood poverty led to cool homemade guitars and slide-infested blues

John Mayall believes the Bluesbreakers are better than ever on Chicago Line

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JAN. 13, 1989 By Steve Newton The biggest aim for most rock musicians when they're starting out is getting on a major label. A major-label signing means that your music is available to the masses. It's the first step on the road to international stardom. But it's not just … Continue reading John Mayall believes the Bluesbreakers are better than ever on Chicago Line

That time I asked 28-year-old Susan Tedeschi what she hoped to accomplish in her career

By Steve Newton Hey all you diehard Susan Tedeschi fans: here's another audio excerpt from my 1998 interview with her, when she had just released her second album, Just Won't Burn, and was on the verge of stardom. As the "phoner" wound down, I asked her what she hoped to accomplish in her career, and … Continue reading That time I asked 28-year-old Susan Tedeschi what she hoped to accomplish in her career

That time I asked 28-year-old Susan Tedeschi what she got from attending Berklee College of Music

By Steve Newton Here's another audio excerpt from my 1998 interview with Susan Tedeschi, for those who think she's awesome, like me. At one point in the interview I asked her about attending Berklee College of Music, which she graduated from in 1991. That's the Boston institution where such stellar musicians as Steely Dan's Donald … Continue reading That time I asked 28-year-old Susan Tedeschi what she got from attending Berklee College of Music

That time I asked 28-year-old Susan Tedeschi if she had a favourite tune on Just Won’t Burn

By Steve Newton I love listening to Susan Tedeschi sing and play guitar. I mean, who doesn't? I love interviewing her too, because she's not just a wicked musician, but a total sweetie as well. The first time I chatted with her was back in 1998, when she was just 28, and touring behind her … Continue reading That time I asked 28-year-old Susan Tedeschi if she had a favourite tune on Just Won’t Burn

Donald Kinsey laments the death of Roy Buchanan, relives the attempted assassination of Bob Marley

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 2, 1988 By Steve Newton Donald Kinsey knows the meaning of the blues. Lately--in the wake of Roy Buchanan's suicide--he knows it better than ever. Kinsey was a good buddy of Buchanan's, and played guitar on his late two albums, Hot Wires and Dancing on the Edge. Since … Continue reading Donald Kinsey laments the death of Roy Buchanan, relives the attempted assassination of Bob Marley

Warren Haynes calls Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” one of the most haunting recordings ever

By Steve Newton Gov't Mule is one of my favourite bands, and not just because their original music is so damn fine. Once in a while they'll do a cover of an old blues tune that inspires me to search out previous versions, with wonderful results. Like back in 1998 when they recorded "John the … Continue reading Warren Haynes calls Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” one of the most haunting recordings ever

Blues-rocker Candye Kane puts aside her porno past

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 13, 2003 By Steve Newton Some say that blues-metal was born in 1969 when Led Zeppelin released “Whole Lotta Love”, and indeed that tune’s thundering guitar riff and wailing vocals have launched a thousand headbanger bands. Today it’s still having a powerful effect. Just ask Candye Kane, who … Continue reading Blues-rocker Candye Kane puts aside her porno past

Mason Ruffner was inspired by Jimmy Page to inject fire into his Gypsy Blood

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 31, 1987 By Steve Newton The Fabulous Thunderbirds are from Austin, Texas. Mason Ruffner is from Forth Worth. The Fabulous Thunderbirds hit it big last year with an album produced by Dave Edmunds. Mason Ruffner is hitting it big this year with an album produced by Dave Edmunds. … Continue reading Mason Ruffner was inspired by Jimmy Page to inject fire into his Gypsy Blood

Albert King’s “adopted grandson” Little Jimmy King salvages Vancouver gig with Hendrix-style string-chomping

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 6, 1995 By Steve Newton Sometimes greatness takes a while to reveal itself, and that was certainly the case at the Commodore on June 30. After a set of gospel-laced blues and spiritual tunes by the Holmes Brothers that included some soulful harmonizing on dusty standards such as … Continue reading Albert King’s “adopted grandson” Little Jimmy King salvages Vancouver gig with Hendrix-style string-chomping

Telecaster queen Sue Foley didn’t pick up a guitar to get chicks–or even guys, for that matter

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 2, 1992 By Steve Newton Talk about the harried, high-pressure life of a travelling blueswoman! In her Phoenix, Arizona hotel room, Sue Foley is getting it from all sides. It’s check-out time, and room service is banging on the door; she’s playing Tucson that night, and her fellow … Continue reading Telecaster queen Sue Foley didn’t pick up a guitar to get chicks–or even guys, for that matter

The Newt Commute #2: Muddy Waters’ “Champagne and Reefer”

By Steve Newton Couple weeks ago I banged out a little blog about how I played Neil Young's "I'm the Ocean" eight times on my shitty commute. That was kinda fun to write, so while I was cruising into work this morning I kept my mind open for another song-based subject to blather on about. … Continue reading The Newt Commute #2: Muddy Waters’ “Champagne and Reefer”

Blind Willie Johnson’s blues genius lauded in upcoming tribute album

By Steve Newton Blues legends don't get much more legendary than Blind Willie Johnson, whose recordings in the 1920s of songs like "John the Revelator", "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine", and "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning" have inspired versions by everyone from Hot Tuna to Warren Haynes to Led Zeppelin. So it's more than … Continue reading Blind Willie Johnson’s blues genius lauded in upcoming tribute album

Texas blues-rock guitarist Smokin’ Joe Kubek dies from a heart attack at 58

By Steve Newton Blues fans are learning some sad news today. Smokin' Joe Kubek, the Texas blues-rock guitarist best known for his work alongside guitarist-vocalist Bnois King, died of a heart attack yesterday (October 11). Kubek, 58, passed away minutes before he was to appear on stage at the Pleasure Island Seafood & Blues Festival … Continue reading Texas blues-rock guitarist Smokin’ Joe Kubek dies from a heart attack at 58

Koko Taylor, Queen of the Blues, says Willie Dixon was her right arm

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 25, 2003 By Steve Newton When Koko Taylor was a youngster, living with her poverty-stricken family on a sharecropper’s farm in Tennessee, she used to find joy in her meagre existence through the music B. B. King liked to play. It wasn’t King’s own soulful blues that caught … Continue reading Koko Taylor, Queen of the Blues, says Willie Dixon was her right arm

Big Dave McLean got pointers from John Hammond as a teen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 7, 2003 By Steve Newton When he was just a teen, Dave McLean attended the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ontario, and got pointers from John Hammond on how to play some basic blues progressions. A couple of weeks ago the now 51-year-old Big Dave performed with Hammond … Continue reading Big Dave McLean got pointers from John Hammond as a teen

Delta bluesman Big Jack Jackson says you can’t hardly tell the rap kids nuttin’

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 24, 2003 By Steve Newton When the Straight contacts Big Jack Johnson—the veteran bluesman, not the youthful chart-topping surfer dude—at his home in Clarksdale, Mississippi, he’s just gotten back from Milan, Italy. To hear him tell it, the blues is definitely alive and well in Europe, and has … Continue reading Delta bluesman Big Jack Jackson says you can’t hardly tell the rap kids nuttin’

Michael Burks always played a Gibson, but he keeps a coupla Strats handy too

  ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 30, 2002 By Steve Newton I know a couple from Richmond who were such huge Stevie Ray Vaughan fanatics that they named their first-born child Vaughan. That’s pretty cool, but I’d like to go one better, and have my own son actually become a blues-rock guitar wizard! … Continue reading Michael Burks always played a Gibson, but he keeps a coupla Strats handy too

Drum great Terry Bozzio livens up Omar and the Howler’s Big Delta

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 26, 2002 By Steve Newton If you’re a blues-rock guitarist-vocalist looking for a guy to play drums with you, you could do worse than have Terry Bozzio—renowned skinbasher for Jeff Beck—living three doors down. At least that’s what Kent Omar Dykes—the Omar in Omar and the Howlers—discovered recently. … Continue reading Drum great Terry Bozzio livens up Omar and the Howler’s Big Delta

Robert Plant calls Shemekia Copeland, 23, “the next Tina Turner”

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 26, 2002 By Steve Newton There are a number of things that can boost an up-and-coming recording artist’s career; one of the most effective might be having Robert Plant call you “the next Tina Turner”. Blues vocalist Shemekia Copeland, 23, had no complaints when the shaggy-maned former Zepman … Continue reading Robert Plant calls Shemekia Copeland, 23, “the next Tina Turner”

Jack De Keyzer grew to like Howlin’ Wolf more than the Stones

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 19, 2002 By Steve Newton Toronto blues-rocker Jack De Keyzer spent the first decade of his life in England, when the biggest thing in pop music was Cliff Richard and the Shadows. Just before he moved to Ontario, though, the Beatles came along, and it was through the … Continue reading Jack De Keyzer grew to like Howlin’ Wolf more than the Stones

Sue Foley teams with Colin Linden to kick ass on Where the Action Is

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 29, 2002 By Steve Newton Ottawa-based blueswoman Sue Foley recorded her Juno Award–winning 2000 CD, the Colin Linden–produced Love Comin’ Down, in Kingston, Ontario, but travelled down to New Orleans to mix it. On her new album, Where the Action Is, she went full-on with the southern treatment, … Continue reading Sue Foley teams with Colin Linden to kick ass on Where the Action Is

Deborah Coleman switched from bass to guitar after hearing Jimi Hendrix

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 4, 2002 By Steve Newton Deborah Coleman is a captivating soloist in her own right, but on her latest CD, Livin’ on Love, she did fans of impassioned blues guitar a big favour by letting her buddy Jimmy Thackery get his licks in as well. Actually, she might … Continue reading Deborah Coleman switched from bass to guitar after hearing Jimi Hendrix

David Gogo gives Depeche Mode a bluesy makeover on Skeleton Key

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 25, 2002 By Steve Newton David Gogo is a festive kinda guy. When he calls the Straight from his home in Nanaimo, he’s just returned from playing the Ottawa Blues Festival, where he got to see one of his guitar idols, Otis Rush, and shared the event’s acoustic … Continue reading David Gogo gives Depeche Mode a bluesy makeover on Skeleton Key

Harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite has real good lung capacity

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 14, 2002 By Steve Newton Charlie Musselwhite was just 13 years old when he started playing harmonica, the instrument that he’d wield so well while staking out his place in the blues world. He was living in Memphis at the time, which was a good location to be … Continue reading Harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite has real good lung capacity