JOHN PAUL KEITH: THE RHYTHM OF THE CITYWild Honey Records
For Fans of: Charlie Rich, Syl Johnson, B.B. King, Johnny Cash,
When it comes to American cities with rich musical history the city of Memphis is one of the wealthiest in the country. While most people think of Memphis as the home of Elivs, there is so much more to this musical mecca then Mr. Presley. Starting in the late 1800’s when jug and string bands performed for farmers outside the city’s cotton exchange and continuing all the way up until today Memphis has been home to a variety of genres of music. Musical heavy weights such as B.B. King, Otis Redding, Johnny Cash, and Al Green all recorded music that would change the world in Memphis and genre defining record labels like Stax, Sun, and Hi-Records all called the city home. It also should be mentioned that because of Memphis’ geographical location to the Mississippi Delta and Mississippi River the city became sort of a gateway to the south. Over the years, thousands have flocked to the city to seek new opportunities, conduct business, or inspire social change. While there are many books and records that tell the story of this great city the new album The Rhythm of The City from guitarist John Paul Keith might be a good place to start.
Well versed in a variety of musical styles, thanks to growing up in the musical Mecca that is Tennessee, John Paul Keith has done just about everything one can do in the music industry. He’s fronted his own bands, toured nationally and internationally, and worked with a wide range of legendary artists ranging from Soul legend Don Bryant to Rocker Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) . Additionally, he has also released his own critically acclaimed solo albums that run the roots music gamut and range from baroom country to hard soul. All that said, Keith’s new album The Rhythm of The City is definitely his finest hour to date. Featuring new original compositions by Keith, the album accomplishes the difficult feat of paying tribute to the rich musical history of Memphis while still sounding fresh and not sounding like a tired “tribute” album. Keith moves swiftly between playing Carl Perkins-style rockabilly on “Love, Love, Love, to Bobby Bland-esq “The Rhythm of the City” without missing a beat. Another strong track is “How Can You Walk Away”, which thanks to an excellent vocal take and some strategically placed horns is reminiscent of Little Milton’s best work.
Is Keith reinventing the wheel on The Rhythm Of The City? No, but that’s not the point. Keith has done what a lot of other “roots” artists are trying to do, he’s made this music fun and exciting again. While these styles might have gone in different directions over the years, Keith brings them all back home and makes everything sound cohesive. Whether Keith knows it or not he’s probably released one of the best albums of 2021. Hopefully The Rhythm of The City will invite a younger generation to not only check out his other work but also explore the vast musical history of Memphis. At the very least, we have some wonderful new music to dance to while we wait to be able to go outside again. Check out more on John Paul Keith here https://johnpaulkeith.com/
On Sunday June 23, 2013 the Blues world lost one of its most soulful voices, Bobby “Blue” Bland. Unlike many of his contemporaries Bland lived to the golden age of 83, thus making him one of the last living connections to the Memphis Blues scene of the 1950’s. In his early days Bland performed on Beale street along with artists like Johnny Ace, Little Junior Parker, Ike Turner, Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King. Although he spent his early years performing just up the street from the Mississippi Delta in Memphis, Bland’s smooth vocal style was closer to the big city Rhythm & Blues sound of artists like Louis Jordan and T-Bone Walker (he eventually earned the nickname “The Black Sinatra”).
During the 1950’s the Memphis music scene was one the biggest and most competitive in the South. Musicians from all over flocked to the area to showcase their talent at the clubs on Beale Street and across the river in West Memphis. In these clubs you had to be not only on top of your game musically but you had to be able to put on a show! The pool of talent was so impressive that it wasn’t long before record labels like Chess, Modern, and Duke got wind of what was going on and started signing artists to their rosters. Bobby “Blue” Bland first recordings were for the the Modern and Chess labels. Although they were very good they failed to draw national attention. It wasn’t until he started recording for Duke Records in 1954 that he found success as a recording artist. His first big single was “Farther On Up The Road” which reached number 1 on the R&B charts. In 1961 Bland and Duke released the album Two Steps from the Blues which was combined some newly recorded “Big Band” style tracks along with some of his previously released late fifties sides. The album was an instant success and took Bland’s career to the next level.
In the years following Two Steps From The Blues Bland released albums and kept a busy touring schedule. Duke released like Here’s The Man, The Soul Of The Man but in 1968 due to a number of personal problems Bland disbanded his touring band and cut his live schedule way back. He enjoyed some success with the single “This Time I’m Gone For Good” from His California Album which broke into the top 50 on the Pop Charts. In 1974 Bland teamed up with B.B. King and released the first of two live albums with B.B. King. Together for the First Time…Live was a commercial success and helped Bland and King stay in the spotlight through the 70’s. The pair toured on and off together for the next 35 years.
Although he may not have had the commercial success of B.B. King or Muddy Waters, Bobby “Blue” Bland was a force to be reckoned with in the would of Blues and R&B. He’s inspired everyone from the Heavy Metal band Whitesnake to the legendary rapper Jay-Z. He’s a member of both the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame and The Blues Foundation Hall Of Fame and has performed sold out concerts all over the world. B.B. King credits him as being one of the best singers he’s ever heard. Personally, I agree with Mr. King. Thank you Bobby for sharing your music and talent with us.