Monday, May 17, 2010

(The) Doubtful Guest

About six weeks ago, I played a show at Café du Nord in San Francisco with the other members of Doubtful Guest -- the name we'd given ourselves (thanks, Drea) as part of Johnny Nitro's blues workshop at the Blue Bear School of Music. It was my first (public) performance on an instrument other than steel drum since the 2005 farewell concert by the Boyz Named Sue, and I think my first time working in an out-and-out blues ensemble. Now as a blues professional, I often feel that my chops don't always measure up to my knowledge or ambition. That said, this was incredibly sympathetic group of guys (and gal) to play with. About the only difficulty was with the songs I brought in for consideration -- all less-than-obvious Bob Dylan tunes (the 1978 tour rehearsal of I'll Be Your Baby Tonight may have been ambitious, but I also may have given up on Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache too quickly). In any case, the video from the show arrived last week, so let's go to the tape.

From what became our setlist, by far the most fun to play was Blues Before Sunrise -- an old Leroy Carr tune that, in the electric slide arrangement of Elmore James, opens Eric Clapton's 1994 From the Cradle album. I'd learned to play some slide at the very start of my guitar education, so with a second guitar available to keep tuned to the open D (yes, Clapton does it a half-step down...), it felt like the neighborly thing to do:

That was song #3 of our set. A couple of the tunes we played that night did bleed together -- at least from the perspective of what I was playing -- into that thumpity-thump Chicago blues thing that, again, I aspire to transcend (just not in those words). But our second tune of the night, Ike & Tina Turner's Crazy 'Bout You Baby, was one where I found myself a part that really clicked. Full disclosure: as a young guitarist I learned a lot of CCR's catalogue en route to getting a set of licks in the pocket. In other words, my quoting Hubert Sumlin and Smokestack Lightnin' has more than whiff of John Fogerty to it (oh, Suzie Q...). But the Ike & Tina song also had that ringing seventh that brought to mind that faux-bayou thing CCR did so well on tunes like Green River and, well, Born On The Bayou. Judge for yourself:

And a propos of nothing, here's one more tune from the show, a reasonably tight reading of Wilson Pickett's In The Midnight Hour:

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