Dave's Faves

All Time Favorites

On CD, unless otherwise noted

Ronnie Earl: Blues Guitar Virtuoso, Live in Europe (Bullseye Records) What can I say?  Ronnie is the most soulful, dynamic guitar player out there.  My original guitar idol.  This live album captures the energy of him and his band, absolutely beautifully.

Sonny Boy Williamson II: One Way Out (Chess Records) Killer harp, great original songs, and a fabulous entertainer. This was the first blues record I fell in love with, and it still gets me going.

Mighty Sam McClain: Give It Up To Love (Audioquest Records)
Deep soul, gospel, blues, and R&B -- all wrapped up in Sam's amazing voice and spirit. This is deeply moving music to cure your blues. All of Sam's discs are great, but this was my first, and is still my favorite.

Ray Charles: The Ray Charles Story (Atlantic Records)

Professor Longhair: Mardi Gras in Baton Rouge
How do you explain Prof. Longhair? Totally funky, beautifully quirky. Mixing latin rhythms and blues feeling, he was the king of New Orleans piano and an originator of funk. Special bonus: Snooks Eaglin on guitar.

Blind Boy Fuller: East Coast Piedmont Style (Columbia Records)
Of all my acoustic blues CDs, this is the one I keep coming back to. Great songs, musically and lyrically. Fun, but blue too. And it really swings.

Bobby "Blue" Bland: Here's the Man!!! (ABC/Dunhill Records) (LP)
Nothing bland about Bobby at all: tons of soul, the voice to carry it, and a driving big band to back it up. He claims notes that no one in their right mind would even consider going for. One of the greatest singers of any genre, ever.

O.V. Wright: Eight Men, Four Women (MCA Records)
O.V. has the perfect combination of macho toughness and tender vulnerability in his voice. There is something incredibly honest about him that is hard to put in words. This is like hard gospel set to soul grooves.

Magic Sam, Luther Allison, Big Mojo Elem, and others: Sweet Home Chicago (Delmark Records)
The four Magic Sam tunes are intense urban blues, and feature priceless sax from Eddie Shaw. The other stuff here is wonderful too, but buy this one to hear Sam and Eddie.

Albert King: Live Wire/Blues Power (Stax Records)
As much as anyone, Albert King drew me into playing blues guitar. Those huge bends of his, backed by his big, warm voice -- what's not to love? This live set captures his energy.

Snooks Eaglin: Out of Nowhere (Black Top Records)
Snooks is so much fun. God knows what the heck he is doing on the guitar, but he does it so well. Totally funky -- like the Prof. Longhair of the guitar. Apparently he knows a couple of thousand songs; this is a great sampling of his repetoire. Even more amazing considering that he's blind.

Robert Ward: New Role Soul (Delmark Records)
The seriously funky, deep soul singing and guitar-playing you've come to expect from Robert. This is his first CD in five years, and Delmark has done it right. Check out "So Proud to Have You for My Love" and "Whatever I Receive" for full measures of quavering guitar and vocal soul. We recently backed up Robert for a couple gigs in Vermont, and not only is he an amazing musician, but he is a warm and gracious human being. Please support his continued musical endevours by picking this one up. You'll be doing yourself a favor too.

Otis Clay: The Complete Otis Clay on Hi Records (Cream/Hi Records; marketed by English imprint Demon Records)
I can't put this one down. Otis Clay, who is still out there touring regularly, recorded for Hi Records back in the early 1970s. This double CD reissues both his Hi albums in their entirety (Trying to Live My Life Without You and I Can't Take It), as well as all his Hi singles. His rough-throated, gospelly soul singing is augmented by the ever-wonderful Hi Records rhythm section: the Hodges brothers on bass, guitar, and organ, and Howard Grimes on drums. Also features the Memphis Horns, some sweet strings, and the backing vocals of Rhodes, Chalmers, and Rhodes. Very catchy tunes. Sweet soul music. Excellent value for your dollar. If you can track this down, it's well worth it.

O.V. Wright: The Wright Stuff/O.V. Wright Live (Cream/Hi Records; marketed by English imprint Demon Records)
Simply put, this is some of the best deep soul music in existence. Yeah, I know that sounds like hyperbole, but just take a listen. In the first place, O.V. was, in my humble opinion, the best soul singer ever. Secondly, this CD combines some of his best Hi Records studio material (e.g., "Your Good Thing is About to End", "I Don't Know Why", and "The Bottom Line") with a jaw-dropping 1979 live set from Japan. Granted, O.V. had lost some of his vocal elasticity by then, but all the emotion and tortured tenderness is there, supported by the Hi Records rhythm section. When he launches into "I'd Rather Be Blind, Crippled and Crazy" it just knocks me out. And while I'm down for the count, he rips through the street-funky "Ace of Spades", an extended deep soul medley ("God Blessed Our Love", "When a Man Loves a Woman", and "That's How Strong My Love Is"), and winds up with the heart-tearer, "You're Gonna Make Me Cry". This may be a hard CD to find, but you will thank me someday for recommending it. Trust me.

Rebirth Brass Band: Live at the Maple Leaf
I am ashamed to admit it, but I never thought that a band with just horns and drums could be very interesting. Well, after seeing these guys live in New Orleans, I need no further convincing. If you should ever chance to see them up close, I will personally guarantee that you will be unable NOT to dance. Yes, they are that funky. With a sprinkling of trombones and trumpets, a warm sax, a bass-blurting tuba, and a snare n' bass drum combo, you have the perfect polyrhythmic riot on your hands. And if you can't manage to catch them live, this CD is the next best thing. I got my limited edition copy at Jazz Fest in N.O.; I guess it was so well loved that someone decided to print some more copies. Now go find one.

Junior Wells: Southside Chicago Blues Jam (Delmark Records)
Everyone has their own idea of what Chicago blues is. Much of it, unfortunately is bereft of any real creativity or soul, these days. Overproduced, and overplayed, it has lost much of its meaning. This CD, a reissue of a mid-60s session, captured Junior and friends in a very relaxed, yet powerful session. One imagines that this is what they really did sound like, without a producer's hand guiding them. Junior is his spunky, smart self. He sings with casual authority and blows harp in sharp, bent-note bursts. The friends, in this case, are equally amazing: Buddy Guy with his beautiful rhythm playing and insanely personal solos; and Otis Spann, rolling the ivories like no one else could, in his last studio recording; and Fred Below (drums), Earnest Johnson (bass guitar), and Louis Meyers (second guitar) rounding out the group. For years, whenever I've needed a hit of the real stuff I've come back to this music. It simple directness continues to inspire me.

Arthur Alexander: Lonely Just Like Me ( Elektra/Nonesuch Records)
Arthur had a string of R&B hits back in the 60's, and inspired many young rockers (including the Beatles). Okay, forget all that and check out this CD, his swan song before his recent death. The production puts his vulnerable voice up front, where it belongs. The Muscle Shoals instrumentation is sparse yet stunning. And the songs themselves speak little stories of heartbreak and hope. I'm grateful he left this one behind.

The Soul Stirrers: The Last Mile of the Way ( Specialty Records)
This CD, featuring Sam Cooke, is some of the sweetest gospel quartet singing out there. Sam's angelic voice is driven to amazing heights by support of the Stirrers, his longtime partners before he crossed over to the pop world. As wonderful as his pop recordings are, they can't hold a candle to the soaring, urgent feeling behind these gospel sides. If you've never tried gospel quartets, this one will make a convert of you.

The Holmes Brothers: Jubilation (Real World Records)
I had the chance to open for these guys a few years ago, but I was a fan even before that. Though they typically do blues, R&B, and some gospel, this particular CD is all gospel. Soulful singing, raw guitar, even some slippery pedal steel. They make each of these gospel standards their own. Recorded as part of Peter Gabriel's world music series, the Holmes Brothers were chosen as the sole representative of American music. There are even two cuts that use special guest musicians from Africa and Asia. This CD may be hard to find, but it's worth it.

Robert Ward: Hot Stuff (Relic Records)
Super-rare singles from the 60's. Some with The Ohio Untouchables, others backing Wilson Pickett and the Falcons. All with his quavering, Magnatone-driven guitar. This is driving R&B -- very raw, very soulful. Robert's voice is just as moving as his guitar playing. Easy to understand why these sides made his a legend. Also check out his more recent "post-discovery" CDs on Blacktop Records.

Solomon Burke: Nashville
Some of my favorite country soul songs.  Check out "Up to the Mountain", a stunner written by Patti Griffin.  Also, "Valley of Tears" with Gillian Welch.  Solomon is still one of the finest deep soul singers ever.

Robben Ford: Supernatural (Blue Thumb Records)
A very beautiful, interesting, arranged album of soulful material. Not quite blues, not quite rock. Very classy, but driving too, in places. Even has a string section on a few cuts -- used well. The title cut is a super heavy/bass-funky/rocker with great lyrics. I bought it on the strength of that cut alone, and was not disappointed.

The Golden Eagles, featuring Monk Boudreaux: Lightning and Thunder (Rounder Records)
When Africans first came to this country, their drums spoke loudly. A little too loudly for white slaveholders, apparently, as drumming and dancing were all but banned in America. Luckily, however, slaves were permitted to gather outside the walls of New Orleans (in the area now known as Congo Square) to drum and dance on Sundays. Even this expression of their humanity was eventually banned, and these activities went underground. Today, "Mardi Gras Indian Gangs" continue this tradition -- probably the greatest living link to the music of the original African slaves. I had the chance to witness the Golden Eagles, the Black Eagles, and the Wild Magnolias first hand last year. To see three generations of African-Americans on stage together, celebrating a music and culture which they refused to cast aside, brought tears to my eyes. To delve into this rich tradition, start with this CD by the Golden Eagles, recorded live during a rehearsal at a New Orleans bar in 1987. The call-and-response singing, the insistent and at-times-frenzied drumming, the barroom chatter -- all put you right there. I dare you to sit down while listening to this one.

Little Willie John: All 15 of his Chart Hits (King Records)
One of the sweetest voices of all time. Period. The original singer of "Fever" and "Grits Ain't Groceries" (aka "All Around the World"). His ballads are just perfect (e.g., "Let Them Talk", "Need Your Love So Bad"). Bear with the sometimes schmaltzy arrangements -- it's worth it. Sadly, Willie died at age 31 in prison, accused of manslaughter after having defended himself in a barroom fight. Still, his music lives carries his soul forward.

Robert Cray: Shame and a Sin (Mercury Records)
The slower tunes on this disc are full of his great singing and guitar playing. Lyrically, it's not his most memorable effort, but somehow the songs really hit me. Definitely some serious soul here.

Original Blues and Soul

"Your music is just very, very beautiful." --Ronnie Earl, renowned blues guitarist

"He's for REAL. Y'all check him out!" --Mighty Sam McClain, deep soul legend

"It's going to be necessary to put Vermont on the map of blues and soul." --Jacques Perin, "Soul Bag", Paris, France

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