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Pic inspiration thanks to Keith over at www.jt30.com




May 2006. By Emily Clarke


There are no doubt a great many people who would sneer in disdain at the idea of listening to what has been termed, in a stroke of genius, a podcast (best not tell them about the new city flats being built – iPads) but try as you might to hang on to your 12”s, the march of digital music foot soldiers is approaching. They’re everywhere - the kids on the bus playing hip hop from mini ghetto blasters (their phones! Would you believe it?) and the first single has just topped the UK charts without selling a single CD. Naturally, its garbage, but all this technology has made us here at Blues in London sit up, albeit rather reluctantly, and cast our dusty ears around the web to see what’s really out there.

Starting to click with trepidation, I naturally do what every other digital music cretin would; google. Blues podcasts are plentiful it tells me, and I sigh at the prospect of listening to days worth of some Mississippi hick rambling about SRV. God forbid.

With a heavy heart, and a deep breath, I click along to www.freeblues.com. This is a good place to start, although you’re not going to discover anything burning or fresh. Freeblues.com has a streaming broadcast that just seems to go on and on. It’s mainly concerned with Delta blues, and is obviously in awe of the great. However, to occupy your eardrums while you’re in search of better things, it’s a good bet. During my time in blues limbo, I got Elmore James, Guitar Gabriel (yes, really) and Memphis Slim.

Freeblues.com is an affiliate of an altogether humanitarian cause; The Music Maker Relief Foundation. This charity’s tries to keep the roots music of the south alive by, basically, feeding musicians. They have a radio station (again obsessed with Guitar Gabriel) dedicated to interviews and sessions with the musicians plucked from poverty: “if you can’t afford your beans to eat, how you gonna think about music?” Despite its noble aims, the broadcast is a measly 7 minutes long, and is no more than a plug for a growling old Captain Luke. It is possible that there are only two artists featured on MMRF, but the website is definitely worth a look if you want to feel cosy and warm inside your wi-fi haven.

Undeterred, I return to google to see what else is out there. As quickly as I can, because the heart-warming attempts of freeblues.com and MMRF have thrust Gabriel and his version of Amazing Grace into my ears. Hurry, before I drown (slowly) in my own tears.

A leap over to the comprehensive live365.com, which appears to be the McDonalds of internet radio. Pop-ups all over the place and my internet browser baulks at the prospect of having to run something in real player. Nevertheless, this is an easy portal for hundreds of blues radio stations.

First to Bluebird Blues Radio at www.bluebirdradio.com/blues. This is an offshoot of the London based (not that it matters) Bluebird radio and was a good port of call. Although choosing far too many John Mayall tracks, in particular bad ones, it has a good sense of blues. Unfortunately, all of the podcasts are littered with ridiculous ads – nothing to do with music I’m afraid, but if you can bear a minute in every 20 to shut your ears, Bluebird radio can soothe your worried mind with artists such as Willie Dixon and Zora Young. A high concentration of female blues artists here and a definite preference to slow, wrenching blues.

Palmdale Slim is our next host as we nudge deeper into blues radio. www.mybluesroots.com is a lovingly dedicated site, claiming that 700 of its 4000 songs have been recorded from vinyl. No mean feat, but not a punishment either. I’m sad to report we start on a little of a country tangent, with the dulcet gurnings of Waylon Jennings (never could stand him) and Ramblin’ Man. It’s a lame beginning, and is quite indicative of what you’ll run into on your long search for good podcasts. However, the ever devoted Palmdale Slim (also and accomplished and self-appreciative harp player) has compiled some themed podcasts for your aural pleasure. There’s one about drinking, and one about… food. I’m not going to delve into these, rather let you discover for yourself. After Jennings stops his bouncing and rambling, I’m greeted with the Wolf. Much more like it - My Baby Walked Off is enough to renew my interest in Palmdale’s collection.

There are many ‘stations’ that have the dedication to broadcast every week with a new show. My, I hear you say, this is starting to sound like real radio. Well, almost. The thing to remember here is that the internet allows any honest Joe to hole up in his bedroom and extol the virtues of some clapped out hero of theirs. Nevertheless, our tastes have got to match up somewhere.

My mission is to trawl the internet, and bring you the best stations... I n addition, we’ll be annexing all the free music we can find. If you have no computer or ears, this section is probably not going to be for you, but if you’re fully equipped, you may follow me...


This months selection:

The Uncensored History of the Blues
www.purplebeech.com/blues/

This is a good site, with a dedicated focus; to discuss blues history, peppering with the best of examples. It’s a side project of The Delta Blues Museum, and attempts to release a fortnightly podcast, which is recorded on a certain theme; the Devil, war – the usual subjects. The latest show is number 17; a short show on migration to major cities in the U.S in the first half of the 20th century. The show’s host, and probable creator and architect, Mike Rugel obviously has a great affection for blues (which is why he works at the museum, I suppose) but cannot help sounding like he’s giving a talk to a group of uninspired schoolchildren.

The shows are easily accessible from the website, all of them listed for your clicking convenience, and if you have one of the listed podcast programs, you can download the shows to your computer. Particularly good show though - it strikes a good balance between talk and music. Tommy McLennon was belting addition to this sensitively collated show.

If you’re a backwards kind of listener – as will be the case with all of these sites, as Blues in London strives valiantly to catch up on and seek out the good shows – check out in particular show 13: Dealing with the Devil, for nostalgia-filled stories and songs.

PDX Blues cast
www.pdxbluescast.com

PDX is a Portland based blues show, and endeavours to showcase local artists. You’d be surprised how many there are - and some of them are rather good. The shows on PDX hover at about 35 minutes just the right amount of time to keep the mood running. On closer inspection, Pat McDougall has a slight personality disorder. He will not stop talking. Two and a half minutes later, after offering to open the window to gives us “a little taste” of the rain. Luckily by the time he’d stopped talking, the rain had stopped. No ambience for us – and McDougall seems sad.

The first track in show 23 is Ellen Whyte. She is… Not very good. Next, the Strange Tones. There’s something disconcertingly Phil Collins about the guy’s voice, so I have to skip on. And the riff is surely ripped from Weezer. Strange. PDX are thrilled to announce, next, that they have some live tracks from The Original Snakeboy, and these are, well, I’ll let you decide for yourself; but the slide is nice (but it sounds like it is in space on Snakeboy’s second track). Although on Snakeboy’s website he’s very, very proud of the fact that he was befriended by SRV (he whose name shall not be spoken on BluesinLondon). Your choice.

My advice with PDX is to give it a chance – some of the musicians that buzz around the Portland scene have to be good, and there will be many that just don’t cut the creole sauce. McDougall is making a good effort though – if you stand him talking over every intro, vocalising each thought as if he were a DVD commentary. Nevertheless, it’s definitely listenable.

Bandana Blues
www.bandanablues.com/podcast/current.html

Bandana Blues is long running. Currently they’re on show number 142. The hosts, Beardo and Spinner (Don’t ask, maybe they were marine buddies…) are totally comfortable. This week’s show is all about live music – and they do play a pretty eclectic mix.

A winner, this show is, if for nothing but the voice-overs: “We’ve got the blues… Want some?” Had me for hours.

Spinner’s section is a regular feature of the show, and between the two, these men hover round that renaissance of blues that is so easy to fall in love with – regardless of whether it’s very good or not. Despite having trawled through blues for ages, Bandana Blues manages to pick tunes that don’t sound jaded or too familiar.

Well, that’s a lie, they do sound familiar – it’s just that they pick good ‘uns. They are all about the value at bandana blues – you can stream right off the website and download the hour-long sessions really quickly, and let the dulcet tones of these absolute weirdoes ease your worried mind.

Just watch out for those jingles – they’ll either send you over the edge into blues oblivion (by this I mean you’ll buy a buy a necktie, a checked shirt and maybe even leather trousers. Be careful), or make you lose interest. But do persevere even if their “radio-friendly” style gets a bit irritating.

Choice tracks which are guilty pleasures (live Steve Miller Band… mmm) litter the show, and by the end of the podcast, you’ll want to go to the BB BBQ, to hang out with these two absolute trippers. Do they really talk like that? Come on, admit it… You can’t help yourself.