January 23, 2017
B B King – Take It Home
I once woke up in Clarksdale. Mississippi and when the Delta Blues Museum opened I visited the exhibits before throwing my leg across my bike and cycling south. I rode the 65 miles to Indianola where the BB King Museum is sited. I got there in a steady downpour but the ride through Mississippi was flat. A busy and energetic day for the Blues I hear you say. It is a fabulous museum but there may be easier ways to get there.
This pilgrimage was because this legend was worth studying in greater detail, not least in his proverbial back yard. The museum is the best music museum I have been lucky enough to visit.
I’m not sure how I came across this masterpiece in 1979 but it is blend of straight down home Blues and Blues Rock. It was a brilliant introduction and so many of these tracks have become friends forever. BB King has a distinctive and melodic vocal style and the captivating, fluid and often soaring and searing guitar is an irresistible combination.
The team of Will Jennings and Joe sample wrote five of the tracks with Jennings collaborating on the other four. In other work then Joe Sample was a ‘go to’ session keyboard player and Jennings would become well known for working with Stevie Winwood, Eric Clapton, Whitney Houston and writing several soundtrack classics – ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and ‘Up Where We Belong’.
BB King was an early originator who played the US chitlin’ circuit in a time of segregation and prejudice with his band and maybe just about making a living. He started life on a plantation driving a tractor before his escape into music. As regards the ‘story’ every Blues man needs then he was authentic.
Blues music, at the time, in the USA was definitely a race thing and whilst it spawned white Rock n’ Roll then it wasn’t remotely mainstream up until the 1970’s. Eventually white music fans heard from their white Rock heroes about the real Blues men and from here many people who we would now regard as Blues legends – Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and ‘Blues Boy’ King started to get greater exposure.
BB King issued tens of albums up until his death in 2015 (this was his 26th) and played a major role in bringing the genre of Blues to a wider international audience.
What first caught my ear was the name check of our own Queen in ‘Better Not Look Down’, the mournful and beautiful self pitying of ‘I’ve Always Been Lonely’, the practical courtship analysis going on in ‘Second Hand Woman’ and the tongue in cheek affair of ‘A Story Everybody Knows’.
Bliss and worth the bike ride but maybe not the beg bug bites at the motel afterwards!