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Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain”

Bob Dylan

In 1966, Bob Dylan was involved in a serous motorcycle accident that temporarily stopped his career. Much changed as he recuperated and the recordings he released afterwards were generally acoustic and moderately interesting at best. It was a difficult period – as he said at the time, “Everything was wrong, the world was absurd.” Then, in 1975, Dylan released “Blood on the Tracks”, one of the most important albums of his career. “Buckets of Rain”, which I play here, is a Piedmont Style fingerpicking country blues that closes out the album. This style, based on ragtime piano music, got its name from the Piedmont Plateau on the east coast of the US, where many of the guitarist who played this style originated.

Mississippi John Hurt

I play this Dylan song in the style of Mississippi John Hurt. In 1965 and 1966, I saw Mississippi John play on a couple of the folk revival TV shows that were popular at that time and I immediately knew that, more than anything else in the world, I wanted to play like him. Much later, I found out that Mississippi John (1892-1966) was a self-taught guitarist, like I am. He was a sharecropper from Avalon, Mississippi who was recorded in 1928 by Okeh Records but the recordings never found an audience. He returned to being a farmer in Avalon for almost forty years. In 1964, he was recorded by the Library of Congress and these recordings were a huge success with our generation and Mississippi John became a crowd favourite on the college and coffee house circuits. Unfortunately he died before he got the chance to fully enjoy his late popularity. His influence in contemporary music is vast and his songs have been recorded by artists like Bob Dylan, Doc Watson, Bruce Cockburn, Gillian Welch and Taj Mahal, among others.

Growing up in Rockland, it was extremely difficult for me to learn Mississippi John’s finger-picking style, mostly because I had no money so I didn’t have a guitar of my own! I played on bad, borrowed instruments. There was of course no internet or any music shops in Rockland so I had to save and buy Mississippi John’s records in Ottawa. I also ordered a few finger-picking music books by mail, my favourites being the ones published by guitarist Stephan Grossman in New York, who had an enormous sphere of influence on thousands of guitarists. I bought my first guitar when I started working at the age of 19. Eventually, I worked at it and taught myself to play in a style similar to John Hurt’s – mine is more percussive. My early instrumental compositions recorded in the 70s were all based on this finger-picking style. To this day, my proudest achievement is learning how to finger-pick like Mississippi John Hurt, one of my biggest heroes.

Richard Séguin – voice, acousric guitars, electric bass

Buckets of Rain

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Howlin’ Wolf’s “Forty-Four”

Roosevelt Sykes

“Forty-Four” is a blues standard whose origins have been traced back to early 20th century Louisiana. In its earliest forms, the piece was an instrumental piano blues sometimes referred to as “The Forty-Fours.” Little Brother Montgomery, who is usually credited with the development of the piece, taught it to a blues pianist called Lee Green, who taught it to Roosevelt Sykes. It was Roosevelt Sykes who provided the lyrics and first recorded the song in 1929. It was his first release and the song became his signature piece. Through numerous adaptations and recordings over the years, ”Forty Four” has remained a vibrant part of the blues lexicon to this day.

In 1954, when Howlin’ Wolf recorded his version of “Forty Four”, the song took on a whole new feel. Backing Wolf, who sang and played harmonica, were Hubert Sumlin and Jody Williams on electric guitars, Otis Spann on piano, Willie Dixon on upright bass, and Earl Phillips on drums. Together they transformed “Forty Four” into a driving Chicago blues with prominent agressive guitar lines. However, it is Earl Phillips’ performance that drives the song, with an insistent martial shuffle on the snare drum and a bass drum that slams down like a hammer. Given Howlin’ Wolf’s gruff and overpowering vocal, the overall effect was described by one critic at that time as “menacing.”

Howlin’ Wolf and his band

When I was 21 years old, my brother bought a Sony reel-to-reel tape recorder and I recorded some of my favourite songs with three other musician friends in the basement of our home. I was more and more into the blues at that age and one of the songs we recorded was ”Forty-Four.” Amazingly, those recordings still exist and I can hear the slightly altered Hubert Sumlin guitar part that I had come up with for that recording. I kept this altered guitar part on our recording. Lowell George (1945-1979) introduced a slide guitar on Little Feat’s version of “Forty Four”, which I’ve also used here.

Wolf only sang two verses in his landmark recording and I’ve added two more. The third verse is taken from Roosevelt Syke’s 1929 recording of “Forty Four.” The last verse is taken from Wolf’s great trance blues classic, “I Asked For Water.”

Richard Séguin – voice, electric guitars, slide guitar, MIDI guitar (piano)
Alrick Huebener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – drums, buffalo drum

Forty-Four

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Gillian Welch’s “Orphan Girl”

David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

The United States as a country was populated mostly by immigrants from England, Ireland, Scotland and West Africa. All these different cultures had their own music and their own preferred instruments. Their diverse music changed as it was handed down through generations and, as these different ethnic groups intermingled, they produced a hybrid music now commonly known as Folk, Bluegrass, Cajun, Blues and Old-Time Music. The only thing these styles have in common is that they are all played on non-electric instruments.

When I was a teenager, I came to acoustic music through Bob Dylan and was quickly captivated by the Celtic music of guitarists like Bert Jansch (1943-2011). One of the most satisfying occurrences of my life is to witness the vitality that has been injected into acoustic music by some excellent young musicians, and the great respect for tradition that their new music exemplifies. Gillian Welch is one such musician.

Through her parents, Gillian Welch was introduced to the music of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and the Carter Family. She wrote “Orphan Girl”, a song of faith and family, as part of her first album, “Revival.” Her sparse nd dark compositions, accompanied by the outstanding guitarist Dave Rawlings, put her at the forefront of contemporary acoustic music.

Richard and Melanie

On this arrangement of “Orphan Girl”, I take great pleasure in introducing the exciting new singing voice of Melanie Phipps. Melanie lives with her family in the La Pêche area of Québec. Like myself, her earliest recollections of music came from her mother, who sang to herself while she worked. Music was a part of family gatherings growing up and she later joined a number of choirs in Montreal, Ottawa, Chelsea and Wakefield. Melanie is well know in some of the Wakefield clubs, where she occasionally sings. She plays the ukulele and has also started writing a few songs so I look forward to more collaborations with Melanie in the not too distant future.

Melanie Phipps – vocal
Richard Séguin – acoustic guitar, mandolin

Orphan Girl

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Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash (1932-2003) was one of the most popular artists of all time, selling more than 90 million records worldwide. Although primarily associated with country music, he also embraced rock ‘n roll, rockabilly, blues, folk and gospel. Cash has the rare honour of multiple inductions into the Country Music, Rock ‘n Roll and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.

Rebellious by nature, Cash stood for the poor, the deprived and the downtrodden, singing songs of sorrow, moral distress and redemption. He always wore black on stage and became universally known as “The Man in Black.”

The Cash family was poor and had a hard life during the Great Depression. Johnny’s older brother Jack worked in a saw mill to help ends meet but in 1944, he was involved in a horrible accident at the mill and died at the age of fifteen. The twelve-year-old Cash was devastated and struggled with guilt over the loss of his brother all his life.

Alrick


In 1954, Cash signed with Sun Records in Memphis, where Sam Phillips already had Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Howlin’ Wolf under wraps. Cash’s first recordings, “Hey Porter” and “Cry, Cry, Cry”, met with immediate success on the country music charts. Further hits, including “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk The Line”, ensured that Cash, like Elvis, priced himself out of Sam Phillips’ limited budget. Both artists signed lucrative contracts elsewhere.

In all his illustrious and successful career, Johnny Cash made the bravest and most impactful decision of his life in 1968 when he released live recordings made at Folsom State Prison in California. The recording was a huge hit, reaching # 1 on the Billboard country and pop charts. Further prison concerts and recordings solidified Cash’s outlaw image and endeared him with a large cross-section of the population world wide. In 1972, Cash met with president Richard Nixon at the White House to advocate prison reform. Ever on the side of the disenfranchised, Cash released the album “Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian” in 1964. His activism for Native Americans met with the typically bigoted resistance from radio stations, the recording industry and the media but Cash persevered.

Richard and Roch


Cash’s career was rejuvenated when he released the critically and commercially successful “American Recordings” in 1994. Cash sang the songs with only his guitar as accompaniment, while on “Unchained” in 1996, he was accompanied by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Both albums featured stark songs by more contemporary artists and both albums won Grammys.

Our version of “Folsom Prison Blues” is played in the traditional blues format, an approach championed by Keb Mo.

Richard Séguin – vocal, guitars, mandolin
Alrick Huebener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – drums

Folsom Prison Blues

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Little Walter’s “My Babe”

Little Walter

Little Walter (Marion Walter Jacobs, 1930-1968) was a blues singer and songwriter whose simple but revolutionary approach to the harmonica altered the course of contemporary music. Frustrated with having his harmonica drowned out by electric guitars, Little Walter started cupping a small microphone and his harmonica in his two hands and plugging the microphone into a public address system or an amplifier. The resulting sound was unbelievably loud and his bends and howls on the harmonica, even his breath, came out as something overpowering. It was a sound never heard before and impossible to reproduce on any other instrument. Afterwards, everyone wanted to play like him. He was inducted in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Little Walter left his rural Louisiana home at the age of twelve and rambled, playing with artists like Sonny Boy Williamson and Sunnyland Slim before getting to Chicago in 1945. He joined Muddy Waters’ band in 1948 and, listening to landmark recordings like “Long Distance Call” and “She Moves Me”, it is well understood that Little Walter was dramatically changing the sound of the blues. He left Muddy’s band to record on his own in 1952 and his first recording, an instrumental called “Juke”, reached #1 on the Billboard R&B chart, the only harmonica instrumental ever to do so. Little Walter had fourteen top-ten hits on the Billboard R&B charts between 1952 and 1958 (including another #1 hit, “My Babe”, in 1955), a level of commercial success never achieved by Muddy Waters nor by his fellow Chess blues artists Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson.

Alrick


“My Babe”, like most of the repertoire of postwar Chicago blues, was written by Willie Dixon, the bassist and A&R man (artists and repertoire) at Chess Records. The song is based on the traditional gospel song “This Train (Is Bound For Glory)”, recorded in the late 1930s by the sublime Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Ray Charles had controversially pioneered the gospel-song to secular-song approach with his reworking of the gospel hymn “It Must Be Jesus” into “I Got A Woman”, a number one hit on the Billboard R&B charts in early 1955. Shortly after, Little Walter recorded “My Babe” and the single eclipsed Charles’ record by spending five weeks at #1 on the Billboard R&B chart, making it one of the biggest R&B hits of 1955.

Richard and Roch


By the late 50s, Little Walter branched out as a session man and recorded his howling harmonica for artists like Jimmy Rogers, Memphis Minnie, Bo Diddley, Otis Rush and Robert Nighthawk. Unfortunately, this period coincided with his decline in fame and fortune. Little Walter, a small slight man in the rough and tumble macho world of Chicago blues, was an alcoholic and had a notoriously short fuse. This led to violent altercations which he seldom won – the knife scars on his face are a testament to that.

Little Walter toured Europe in 1964 and 1967. Returning home, he was involved in one last fight while taking a break from a performance at a nightclub on Chicago’s seedy South Side. Early the following morning, on February 15, 1968, he died in his sleep from wounds sustained in that fight. Little Walter was 37 years old.

 
Richard Séguin – voice, electric guitars
Alrick Huebener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – drums

 
My Babe

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Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl”

Tom Waits

Tom Waits came from an ordinary middle-class Celtic-Norwegian family and, in spite of his personal demons, became one of the most significant artists of my generation. Two of his albums have won Grammys and he is a member of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, in spite of limited radio and video support due to the abrasive nature of his music and lyrics. Musically, he borrows from blues, jazz, vaudeville and even industrial music. Lyrically, Waits is a disciple of Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation and Dylan. His voice, described by one critic as “soaked in bourbon and left hanging in the smokehouse”, is a miraculous reincarnation of Howlin’ Wolf, with a touch of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins for good measure.

Alrick

Waits’ songs are often associated with other, more successful artists like The Eagles (Ol’ ’55), Rod Stewart (Downtown Train), Bruce Springsteen (who embraces the New York/New Jersey rivalry in his version of “Jersey Girl”) and Sarah Jarosz (Come On Up To The House).

“Jersey Girl” is a beautifully evocative soundscape of a carnival by the shore with the moon reflecting on the water and the spending of time with a loved one. The song, one of Waits’ most romantic compositions, was written for his future wife, Kathleen Brennan. They met on the set of Francis Ford Coppola’s movie “One From the Heart” where she was working as a script supervisor and Waits was compiling the soundtrack music, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Waits also worked with Coppola on “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, where he gave the definitive performance of Renfield.

Richard and Roch

Richard Séguin – voice, electric guitars
Alrick Huebener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – drums

Jersey Girl

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Bobby Bare’s The All-American Boy

Bobby Bare

On March 24, 1958, Elvis Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army. I was eight years old and I was devastated. I had no idea that military service was mandatory with our southern neighbours and, for one of the many, many times in my life, I thanked God I was born in Canada. Elvis made a comeback in 1960 but he was never the same.

Everything was going wrong at that time. Apart from losing Elvis, we also lost Chuck Berry (jail), Little Richard (religion), Jerry Lee Lewis (morality), Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochrane (fatal accidents). The payola scandal (where record reps paid disc jockeys to play their records) was also gathering steam and threatening the recording and promotion industries. And then in 1959, I heard “The All-American Boy” on the radio and it was like a ray of sunshine. I loved the sophisticated humour and the hip beatnik language that the song brought to these gloomy times. To this day, it is one of my all-time favourite songs.

Alrick

The story of the release of “The All-American Boy” is a real classic. In 1958, Bobby Bare and Bill Parsons, an old friend, were both trying to land a recording contract by auditioning songs with different small record companies. Parsons had just come back from his army service and Bare had penned “The All-American Boy”, a talking blues parody of Elvis’ rise to fame and his subsequent abduction by the U.S, Army, personified by the famous “Uncle Sam” in the song. Fraternity Records purchased the masters of that song but when the record came out, Bill Parsons was credited as singer and writer of the song. Ironically, Bobby Bare had also reported for his own military service by that time and knew nothing of this. “The All-American Boy” caught the public’s imagination and reached no. 2 in the U.S. charts and no. 22 in the U.K, all under Bill Parsons’ name.

Richard et Roch

In 1960, Bobby Bare, ever the good guy, testified before the Harris sub-committee (the congressional probe into payola) and declared that he had composed, arranged and performed “The All American Boy” for the sole purpose of helping his friend Bill Parsons, and that he had agreed to let Parsons put his name on the record.

The payola enquiry ruined the career of Alan Freed, one the most energetic promoters of Rock ‘n Roll and one of my favourire Rock ‘n Roll personalities. I saw two of Freed’s 1956 promotional movies at the Cartier theatre in Rockland, “Rock Around the Clock” and “Rock, Rock, Rock”, which featured among others Bill Haley & His Comets, The Platters, Chuck Berry, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers and LaVern Baker, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. However, the payola enquiries spared Dick Clark, whose hit TV show “American Bandstand” is referenced in “The All-American Boy.”.

Bobby Bare went on to tour the world and enjoy tremendous popularity as a Country artist. Bill Parsons retired from the music business after recording two unsuccessful singles in 1960.

Richard Séguin – vocal, acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Alrick Huebener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – drums

The All-American Boy

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Solomon Burke’s “Valley of Tears”

Solomon Burke

Solomon Burke

Solomon Burke (1940-2010) was a preacher and a singer who helped shape R&B music when, along with Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin, he introduced Gospel music into 60s Soul music. A Grammy Award winner and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Burke never had a top twenty hit but recorded 41 albums in his career. The song Valley of Tears was recorded live with the roots duo of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and is included in his “Live in Nashville” album. Gillian Welch wrote the song for Burke.

David Rawlings et Gillian Welch

David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

The expression “valley of tears” refers to the tribulations of life that Christian doctrine says are only left behind when one leaves the world and enters Heaven. Shakespeare brilliantly referred to it as “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

The phrase “valley of tears” or “vale of tears” appears in literature as far back as the latin Vulgate, a 4th century version of the Bible. Psalm 84:6, the hymn Salve Regina (a prayer to Mary, which came from the Abbey of Cluny in the 12th century) and “Be Still My Soul”, a German hymn from 1752, all have references to the valley of tears.

Richard and Roch

In the interest of full disclosure, a major battle in the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur war between Israel and Syria in 1973 was also named The Valley of Tears. Humans being what they are, the profane invariably follows the sacred.

In his personal and professional life, Burke was certainly familiar with the valley of tears. The integration of Gospel music into secular music was very controversial. Burke was married five times and fathered fifteen children, some of which followed in their father’s footsteps and had an impact on the recording industry. Along with his hectic recording career, his church grew to have about 170 missions and 40,000 members. He assisted The Crippled Children’s Foundation in particular for blind and underprivileged children, while personally being responsible for more than 120 adopted children. Burke also owned funeral parlors in three States, and two of his children have turned his mortuary business into a franchise. Additionally, Burke owned and operated a limousine service and continued to operate companies that supplied theaters and stadiums with his own brand of fast food—Soul Dogs and Soul Corn. It was Burke’s love of cooking and food that was his undoing as he grew to over 350 lbs and was refused the knee and hip replacement surgeries he so desperately needed. Burke died after arriving at Amsterdam airport for another sold-out show on October 10, 2010.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, electric guitars, electric bass, MIDI guitar (B3 organ)
Roch Tassé – drums

Valley of Tears

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Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talking?”

Howlin` Wolf

Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Arthur Burnett, 1910-1976) was born in abject poverty in White Station, Mississippi, a tiny railroad station. When his parents separated, his mother, a religious fanatic, sent him to be raised by his great-uncle Will Young, a preacher, who beat the boy mercilessly. When he was 13, he ran away and joined his father on a plantation in Ruleville, Mississippi, in the Delta. There he learned guitar from local bluesman Charlie Patton and harmonica from Sonny Boy Williamson.

In 1951, Wolf came into Sun Studios in Memphis, to audition for the great Sam Phillips, the man responsible for launching the careers of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and many others. Phillips recalls seeing Wolf for the first time, a 6 ‘ 3”, 275 pound giant coming out of the fields in his overalls, holes cut out in the sides of his size 16 boots to accommodate his corns. When he heard him sing, Phillips said “This is where the soul of man never dies.” The first song Wolf recorded for Sun, “How Many More Years”, became a big hit on the R&B charts and a bidding war for Wolf’s services followed, won by the Chess brothers in Chicago. Phillips said that the loss of Wolf was his life’s biggest disappointment, worse than losing Elvis, who Phillips had to sell to RCA records for $35,000 to keep his studio going.

Alrick

Wolf’s booming voice and imposing stage presence made him one of the most popular blues artists of all time. Several of his songs became blues standards, many of them written by Chess songwriter Willie Dixon. His rough and raw stage personna was in stark contrast to the man himself. Functionally illiterate into his forties, Wolf eventually returned to school to earn a general education diploma and later to study accounting and other business courses to help manage his career. He payed his musicians very well and on time, provided them with health insurance and deducted unemployment insurance ans Social Security – a practice unheard of at that time.

Wolf met his wife, Lillie, when she attended one of his performances at a Chicago club. According to those who knew them, the couple remained deeply in love all their life. Together they raised Bettye and Barbara, Lillie’s daughters from an earlier relationship.

Wolf tried to reconnect with his mother all his life. At the peak of his success, he saw his mother in Mississippi but she rebuffed him. She refused to take the money he offered her, saying it was from his playing the “devil’s music”. Hubert Sumlin, his guitarist and friend, said Wolf cried all the way back to Chicago.

Richard and Roch

Wolf’s health began declining in the late 1960s. He had several heart attacks and suffered bruised kidneys in a car accident in 1970. Wolf had kidney surgery and died of complications from the procedure on January 10, 1976, at the age of 65.

Howlin’ Wolf probably influenced more artists than any other bluesman, even the great Muddy Waters. To listen to Captain Beefheart, Joe Cocker, Freddie King, or Tom Waits is to hear Wolf. I thought it would be fitting to play “Who’s Been Talking?”, one of my favourite Wolf songs, in the style of Tom Waits.

Richard Séguin – voice, electric guitars, MIDI guitar (tenor and alto saxophones)
Alrick Huenener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – drums

Who’s Been Talking?

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Delbert McClinton’s “When Rita Leaves”

Delbert McClinton

Delbert McClinton’s website says that there are two kinds of people in the world – those who love Delbert McClinton and those who haven’t heard him yet. Very true. Unfortunately, there are far too many in that second category.

In a career that spans more than five decades and nineteen studio albums, McClinton, a singer, songwriter and multi – instrumentalist from Lubbock, Texas, has managed to win Grammys in both the Rock and Blues categories. He’s also had great success on the Country charts for his collaborations with Tanya Tucker and Emmylou Harris and is also no stranger to R& B and Tex-Mex. Many artists have flocked to participate in his recording sessions over the years, including Bonny Raitt, Lyle Lovett, B.B. King, John Prine, Tom Petty and Melissa Etheridge. McClinton is easily one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard and his songs have been recorded by Etta James, Emmylou Harris, Joe Cocker, Rita Coolidge and even the late, great Ray Charles. Lyle Lovett famously said “ If we could all sing like we wanted to, we’d all sing like Delbert.”

Alrick

Delbert McClinton made a name for himself as a young harmonica player in the Texas roadhouses and was soon backing the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley and Jimmy Reed – something unheard of for a young white boy. Touring England with Bruce Channel in 1962, Delbert met the young John Lennon and taught him the finer points of playing the harmonica.

In all his compositions, it’s mostly Delberts lyrics that ring true for me – simple, honest, with the occasional wry humour. The first time I heard “Your Memory, Me, and the Blues” and his
impeccable lyrics “A creature of habit in all that I do / When I make coffee, I still make coffee for

Richard and Roch


two”, I knew that Delbert McClinton was in a class by himself. Roch, Alrick and I have chosen to play his Tex-Mex classic “When Rita Leaves.” I’m sure that every songwriter alive wishes they had written this song. If I were hosting a songwriting class, this is where I`d start.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, classical guitar, mandolin
Alrick Huebener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – drums and percussion

When Rita Leaves

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