50 Badass Blues Solos You Must Hear: Part 4 | VIDEO

March 17, 2015
  • Here's our fourth batch of the 50 Badass Blues Solos You Must Hear—from Hound Dog Taylor to Earl Hooker, from Chuck Berry to Bonnie Raitt. We’ll post 10 entries a week for you to study and enjoy.
     
    Be sure to check out the informative evaluations and synopses included with each video. You can find part one right here,  part two here and part three here.
     
     
     
    Hound Dog Taylor
    “Wild About You Baby”

    Famously called “The Ramones of the blues” by the Village Voice, Hound Dog Taylor and his band the House Rockers played a ferociously raw kind of boogie blues. Based on the familiar “Dust My Broom” slide riff, “Wild About You Baby” (from Hound Dog Taylor and the House Rockers) is all about a game of call-and-response between the vocals and the guitar. When the time comes for Taylor to solo, he doesn’t stray far from the main riff, and his note choices are perfect examples of a solo taking the place of a vocal line. –Teja Gerken




    Otis Rush
    “It’s My Own Fault”

    Rush takes three solos on this track from the 1967 album Chicago/The Blues/Today!, Vol. 2. His first, in the song’s intro, is amazing from the get-go—not because it’s a display of guitar fireworks, but precisely because it’s not. Phrase by phrase, Rush uses his Epiphone Riviera to masterfully tell a story here. After a couple of vocal verses, he ventures higher up the neck, ramping the thrill factor. His final break is just four stop-time measures to set up the saxophonist’s solo, with a staggering impact-to-bar ratio. Rush, now retired, is a southpaw who played his righty-strung guitar upside-down—with the high E on top. This gives his bends an unusual sound because he’s pushing the strings where most guitarists would pull, and vice versa. —Adam Levy




    Earl Hooker
    “Blue Guitar”

    Earl Zebedee Hooker, first cousin to John Lee, recorded this instrumental on May 3, 1961, and it was released the following year. A short time later, Muddy Waters overdubbed vocals onto the track, renamed it “You Shook Me,” and released it under his own name. Now a blues staple—covered famously by Page and Beck among many others—Hooker played his immortal slide licks in standard tuning, which was novel for a Chicago blues guitarist at the time. He went on to experiment with echo, wah, and other effects, attracting the attention of Jimi Hendrix for one, but this early recording, sans Muddy, showcases one of the most original stylists of all time. —Barry Cleveland




    Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown
    “Okie Dokie Stomp”

    You can hear echoes of the big-band era in Brown’s recordings from the 1940s and early ’50s. It’s in the instrumentation—with an ensemble of horns, upright bass, and a drummer driving spang-a-lang on his ride cymbal. Rock-and-roll was about to happen, but hadn’t quite. Music from this in-between period is sometimes called “jump blues,” and Brown’s instrumental “Okie Dokie Stomp” is a first-rate example. T-Bone Walker’s influence is apparent here, particularly in a lick that Brown repeats: an up-bent 4 on the third string followed immediately by a 5 on the second string. Still, Gate had his own thing, and it’s a whole lot of fun to listen to. —Adam Levy





    Sister Rosetta Tharpe
    “Jesus Is Everywhere”

    Tharpe may not have considered herself a blues artist—favoring gospel songs as she did throughout her career. But when you listen to her live 1964 recording of “Jesus Is Everywhere”—from The Authorized Sister Rosetta Tharpe Collection—the gap between sacred and secular doesn’t seem so wide. Armed with a thumbpick, and backed by a bassist and drummer who sound like two thirds of the best rockabilly trio you’ve ever heard, Tharpe digs in hard on her early-’60s SG-style Les Paul Custom. The first half of her solo is relatively straightforward, but when she starts swerving and swooping you’ll wonder which way is up. Glory, glory!  —Adam Levy




  • Chuck Berry
    “Deep Feeling” 

    Even though he recorded for Chess records, home of Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, Charles Berry is not known as a blues guitarist but rather as one of the inventors of Rock and Roll. Nevertheless, this instrumental, released as the B-side to “School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes the Bell),” is a straight 12-bar blues. Well, maybe not completely straight, as Chuck throws in a V chord where you don’t expect it, and, oh yeah, he performed it on an unusual pedal- steel guitar— thought to be a Gibson Electraharp (Google it). The country-style string bends might have been played by anyone, but the wolf-whistle slides are pure Berry. —Michael Ross




    Bonnie Raitt
    “Three Time Loser”

    While blues and contemporary pop are not always an easy coupling, Raitt has been interlacing the two for decades now with consistently cool results. This track from her 1977 album Sweet Forgiveness is a high water mark. The chord progression here has nothing to do with the customary 12-bar form, but Raitt’s supernatural slide work infuses the song with deep blues feeling. Nobody else can make a quarter-tone glissando sound so expansive, and her overdriven Strat tone burns—the way whiskey does going down your gullet. Listen close to hear her widen her vibrato and pluck harmonics in the final rideout. Pure swagger. —Adam Levy




    Jonny Lang 
    “A Quitter Never Wins”

    The baddest blues showcase on then teen sensation Jonny Lang’s 1997 major label debut Lie to Me is still his showstopper on 2010’s Live at the Ryman. In his July 2010 feature he told GP that Albert Collins inspired him to become a Tele player, and Tab Benoit inspired him further. “When I heard his tone I freaked out—the Thinline Tele with humbuckers became the staple for me after that,” he said. GP relayed that Lang eventually placed a P-90 pickup between the two humbuckers, and he features the classic single-coil during the fiery intro and first solo on Tinsley Ellis’ tune at the Ryman. He cuts into the second solo with sheer reckless abandon.  —Jimmy Leslie




    Joe Bonamassa
    “Blues Deluxe”

    Bonamassa began his professional career when many lads are being Bar Mitzvahed. His early blues work was that of an impressionist: his solo on “Long Distance Blues” from 2003’s Blues Deluxe is Joe doing Eric Clapton, much like Fred Armisen doing Obama. In the decade since, Bonamassa has melded his influences and made them his own, honing a style of diamond precision playing and to-die-for tone. This slow blues from Jeff Beck’s first solo record (itself a cover of B.B. King’s “Gambler Blues”) starts off with three minutes and fifty seconds of soloing that take you from B.B., through Clapton and Eric Johnson, all inflected with a heavy dose of Bonamassa. —Michael Ross




    Roy Buchanan
    “John’s Blues”

    In 1971 PBS aired a documentary: Introducing Roy Buchanan A/K/A The World’s Greatest Unknown Guitarist, and the world’s perception of what a Fender Telecaster could do was forever changed. Buchannan wrenched human cries and animal squeals out of this dead-simple guitar design. His style of blues melded James Burton’s chicken pickin’ with Albert King’s expressive bends, definitively illustrating the deep connection between country and blues. It is all here in “John’s Blues” from his first record. This is the guitar tone and technique that inspired Danny Gatton, Gary Moore, and Jim Campilongo, as well as causing Jeff Beck to dedicate “’Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” to Buchanan. —Michael Ross

     
     
     
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