Monday, March 07, 2005

"Hold On, I'm Coming"

One of the things I like best about the blues is the ramshackle, pickup way in which songs can start. One person's just noodling along, riffing quietly to himself, and then someone else steps in and offers a counterpoint, perhaps a syncopation, there's a hesitation, a moment's juddering halt, and finally the drums and bass step up to bring structure to the whole thing.
Another thing I like about the blues is the sound B.B. King's guitar makes: I can only call it limpid, pure, like droplets of water falling into a pool of mercury. No wailing, flying divebombers of feedback like Hendrix, but simple straightforward playing. Watching King, a big bear of a man, wring the neck of his guitar to produce these clear notes is a great great pleasure: he's perhaps the last of the great original bluesmen.
This track is from an album he made with Eric Clapton, and in listening to the whole CD you get a sense of the reverence Clapton has for King, and the cameraderie that exists among bluesmen. They know the language, the shorthand, the riffs, and they can talk to each other with just a little flick of the wrist along the neck and strings. They're proud of their traditions, but not too proud to let the blues grow.

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