Three Recommendations From Music Maker on Bandcamp Friday
inTheir Musicon March 2, 2021
Nick Loss-Eaton here again to offer a few of my picks from the Music Maker catalog for Bandcamp Friday. On March 5 and the first Fridays of April and May, Bandcamp will waive its cut of the proceeds of all albums purchased, meaning that 100 percent of what you pay will go to supporting Music Maker and helping meet the needs of our partner artists.
I’ve been listening to Music Maker recordings for more than 15 years, and I think these three albums are ones everyone should hear.
Watkins was a guitar hero out of Atlanta, Georgia, who could play her Fender Mustang behind her head while still ripping solos. She said, “My style is real Lightnin’ Hopkins lowdown blues. I call it hard classic blues, stompin’ blues, railroad smokin’ blues.” This is the first of her three albums on Music Maker. Watkins first hit stages with Piano Red, James Brown, B.B. King, and Ray Charles in the 1950s and 1960s. “I was a senior in high school when I started playin’ with Piano Red,” Watkins remembered. “I started travelin’ before I graduated. Piano Red would go to the principal and get permission so I could take my lessons on the road.” In the 1980s, she worked domestic jobs and made ends meet by playing for change in Underground Atlanta before taking up regular weekly gigs at clubs in Atlanta. On top of all that, she performed regularly in church. “Back In Business” is searing electric guitar blues with impassioned vocals.
John Lee Zeigler of Kathleen, Georgia, played the guitar left-handed, with the strings upside down, striking the bass strings with his index finger and the treble strings with his thumb. Sonically, his work seemed to have more in common with North Mississippi blues than the styles of his native Georgia. Zeigler presented drones, slides, and rhythms that paralleled African music, coupled with his mesmerizing vocals. It’s wild stuff. Zeigler once said, “I went to work when I was 9. Started on that farm, plowin’ that mule out there. There was plenty older peoples out singin’ behind the mules. They were singin’ church songs, they were singin’ blues.” The vast majority of these tracks are not available on streaming services.
Cora Mae Bryant, who before her death was the subject of a long feature story in The New Yorker magazine, played a style of Piedmont blues she learned from her father, Curley Weaver, who was a prime influence on Blind Willie McTell. Cora Mae was a blues scholar; her house was a blues museum. She once talked about when her father would play with Blind Willie: “You could really hear their feet stomping.” That bounce to the music was always part of Cora Mae’s playing, too. This is some of the best acoustic blues of the past half-century.