CowjazzR&B is a gumbo of musical genres in their classic forms as essentially defined in the fifties and sixties. You’ll find country music – think Hank and Lefty, Haggard and Jones, Patsy and Loretta, Johnny Cash and Willie. Next you may taste R&B and Soul artists such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and the Motown greats, and perhaps a little Blues with the likes of BB King. Simmering with all of those is early Rock ’n’ Roll, certainly Elvis but also Dion, great groups like the Drifters and Shirelles, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry. From that same era, the great folk music revival emerged with The Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary and early Bob Dylan as leading lights. Spice it up by adding the so called Outlaw movement spawned in the seventies largely by Texas based singers exemplified by Waylon, Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, who blended country, folk and rock in new ways. Although they’re different in many ways, these genres and artists share essential ingredients: emotion, honesty, creativity and artistry frequently seasoned with intelligence or wit. Occasionally they borrow from each other. Always, they’ve been music I love.
I first ran across the term “cowjazz” when Jerry Jeff used it to title an early 1980’s album. In his self penned liner notes, Jerry Jeff said:
“I like the things I do
To have a little magic,
A little humor,
A little love,
And a complete feeling.
Is the music that falls somewhere
Just outside the fringes of Roy Acuff and Miles Davis.
Or between the campfires of
Chuck Berry and Willie Nelson.
It’s when all or any of that music is played tastefully
To get it done.”
I’m on a life long search for great performances of this music whether by diving deep into the catalogs of the iconic stars, uncovering the unsung or underrated performers of bygone eras, or discovering great new talent working with the classic forms today. While I’ve built a great collection of “oldies,” that is a by product of my search rather than its purpose. Of course “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” is a classic “must have” record by the Righteous Brothers, but so is Bill Medley’s latest solo CD, “Your Heart To Mine: Dedicated To The Blues,” or newcomer Eli “Paperboy” Reid’s “Come and Get It.” If you love George Jones and despair about the sterile pop being labeled country music today, then drop a needle on Jason Eady or Sturgill Simpson.
Of course the catalogs of some of the greats seem endless. Consider Duke Ellington, Eric Clapton and Willie Nelson as examples. Yet even less exhaustive examples abound. The incomparable R&B artist Etta James is best known for her recordings in Chess Records’ Chicago studios. You may, therefore, find her one trip to Muscle Shoals to be a revelation.
Over time, I’ve shared my findings with like minded friends sitting on the porch in the evening sipping whiskey and listening to new tunes and long forgotten old favorites. Or perhaps the music has helped us ease on down a long road trip. Or maybe it’s a phone call in the middle of the night: “you’ve got to hear this new one!” Sometimes something new will really catch fire for them, and they’ll hurry to their favorite store or internet site to add it to their own collection.
That brings me to the purpose of my blog. I love finding great performances of CowjazzR&B. Even more I love sharing what I find with my music loving friends. Most of them don’t have the time and “follow my nose” mentality to search to the same depth as me. They’ve urged me to develop a blog based on my searches to deliver great music to their ears faster and more easily. I enjoy the process as well as the discovery. They enjoy listening to music I find. It’s a win-win. Give my blog a read; even better sample the music. If you like what you read and hear, forward the link to your friends.
Here’s how it works. Every week or two I’ll post a new selection of CD’s I recommend. The only real criteria is that I personally like the music well enough to buy it and listen to it regularly. It’s not the typical music review site. With very rare exceptions, I will not write about music or performances I don’t like. I will, however, rave more enthusiastically about some CD’s or qualify my recommendations by comparing a CD to another you probably know.
Sometimes when I’m searching I come across a CD with only a song or two that I love. You’ll read about these in a section of the blog called Cherry Picking. It’s kind of like the early days of rock ’n’ roll when record companies released albums with a couple of hits and the rest fillers.
By the way, you don’t have to be a baby boomer to enjoy this blog. Remember, I said I look for newcomers who find their own voice within the classic forms, many of whom find sizable audiences among twenty-somethings. Some of the best are among the youngest, and they continuously refresh the music. That’s why those kinds of discoveries are especially fun.
So that’s what CowjazzR&B and this blog are about. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it, and I especially hope you enjoy listening to the great music we find.