Posted on

review for The Old Ramblers from the UK

Now it’s not every day that you find a Turkish band using their skills to reimagine old blues songs from the likes of LeadBelly, JB Lenoir, and even older…yet here we have just that. Called The Old Ramblers, this three-piece has put together some lesser-known but wonderful early blues and put their modern twist on them without taking away the rawness and elemental feel of the originals. Electric guitars are employed occasionally but this is the only nod to the modern sounds as there are no drums: the percussion comes from the bass and acoustic body…plus the judicious use of maracas! So, you’re invited on a journey to times gone by and you may just Find Me On The Road Sometime.

Opening track, Bourgeoise Blues, is interestingly shown as a co-write with Alan Lomax on the sleeve notes; Lomax was responsible for the Library of Congress recordings and his work discovered, preserved and brought to wider attention the vitality and importance of the field songs and early bluesmen of the American (mainly) Southern states. I know the song via the country blues mastery of the other name…Huddy Ledbetter or LeadBelly as he was better known. Huddy actually appears three times which shows how important his work was…and not just for writing Gallis Pole which some band or other turned into Gallows Pole. Anyway, the country/bluegrass feel is there; harp, acoustic, bass and maracas doing a good washboard impression. The electric solo is subtle and works well as does the harp solo…by the way the pronunciation of ‘bourgeoise’ is accurate from the original.

Diddie Wah Diddie is the Arthur Blake song but known by the more recognisable moniker of Blind Blake. This one again is pretty faithful and wholly recognisable and either the harp is overdubbed or Orhun has a very adaptable mouth! Good Morning Little School Girl is listed as by A.Miller…I think this refers to the real name of Sonny Boy Williamson II, whereas I thought (and a search of my blues CDs seems to confirm) it was Sonny Boy Williamson I (or John Lee Curtis Williamson to use his given name) who wrote it…not important; it is a brilliant song with so many versions out there (Paul Rodgers gets my vote) that its origin is not relevant here. The Old Ramblers do a good job keeping the more countrified origins and the bass line is the star on this one, although the electric solo is neat too. This sounds most like the Big Joe Williams version which is a good thing.

My Fat Gal, written by Merle Travis, probably would be up against the PC police today but, it’s written tongue in cheek and the band leave out the most ‘offensive’ verses from the original. True to its country and western origins the band keep it light and lilting; the acoustic solo is a highlight and sound nearly banjo but in a good way. Saturday Blues by Ishman Bracey is one of those 20s bluesmen who left a brief but significant mark on early recordings…I know of only sixteen, all in the delta crossed country blues style, and this is one of his better ones as it is more delta and the skills on show by Türker make this a favourite.

Shame Shame is a more recent (1963) song from Jimmy Reed and the train track rhythm is always a good ‘un. The slide guitar is well placed and thought out and the bass solo is something rare and welcome. Slowdown by the great JB Lenoir isn’t quite his masterpiece (I’d choose Voodoo Blues for that) but it is a fine country blues that typified JB. Another well played and honest interpretation. Take This Hammer was a ‘traditional’ prison song that LeadBelly took and made his own in such a delightful way…the lyrics may be familiar to Joey B fans even if you haven’t heard this song. Such a good song by almost anyone (Spencer Davis Group is one of the better) and hugely enjoyable here. Travelling Railroad Man provided the basis for many songs that followed and its nice to hear the original, original done so sympathetically.

Imagine if Socrates Drank The Conium ever did acoustic blues…it would sound like this. Viola Lee  (usually appended with ‘Blues’) was written by Noah Lewis for his own Jug Band but released by the better know Cannon Jug Stompers…whatever, here they don’t blow across the mouth of moonshine jugs, just a faithful and pleasing rendition. Ry Cooder did a great version too.

For the final track, we’re back with Huddie as his version of a traditional ploughing song, Whoa Back Buck, and this version conjures up the precise mood for which this was written…pure pre-war celebratory song give due deference. This album is full of curiosities as a Turkish trio takes on the early blues: sure English isn’t Sarp’s primary language but even the great LeadBelly was often difficult to decipher and these guys should be applauded for their bringing this early country blues to wider attention.

There may not be any earth-shatteringly different but they do bring sharpness and naivety to the raw originals. Do seek out the Lomax field recordings…they’re eye-opening and educational as well as huge fun for any blues fan and, The Old Ramblers have been kind enough to list their catalogue numbers on the sleeve notes (in case you were wondering what those codes meant).

Bluesdoodles rating: an album that is intriguing and welcoming and is a Great Listening addition to any true blues collection.

Posted on

review Mama & Friends from the UK

this one just came in:

Mama & Friends — Mama’s Bag / Bone Union Records
Well here’s a turn-up for the books. A group of Turkish musicians whose music reflects the early roots of the blues and gospel music, as with a high degree of authenticity, they bring to life the music of Robert Johnson, Jesse Fuller, Leadbelly and Bessie Smith and others. The musicians in question are Çağlayan Örge (banjo- guitar), Suna Suner (vocal, tambourine) and Sarp Keskiner (vocal, electric lead and slide guitar, kazoo, harmonica, tambourine, snare & a cymbal). The band was formed in 1996 and these recordings were made in 1997 at various live gigs in Turkey, recorded on a cassette recorder by in-house sound. But don’t let that put you off—this is a revivalist band par excellence! Take a listen to ‘This Little Light of Mine’, the old spiritual. It comes with vocals that sound like they emanate from a church in rural Mississippi and with a slide guitar that constantly reminds me of the very best ‘sacred steel’ work by the likes of Sonny Tredway, Willy Eason or Aubrey Ghent. These folks have done their homework! This is an album that is replete with authenticity taking some old favourites like ‘CC Rider’, ‘Trouble In Mind’ and ‘Careless Love’ and presenting them with a verve and panache that takes them to a new place. I really like this one, it has a nice feel about it and a certain je ne sais quoi which puts it in a different place than many of the revivalist groups I hear.

Posted on

new single Bone Union Records

today we released

BUR 1108 – The Shrimps – So Worried

Founded by Sarp Keskiner (vocal, guitar) and Bora Çeliker (vocal, guitar) in 2000, in order to present their versatile attempt to blend New Orleans grooves with 50’s and 60’s Latin American music and post-war Chicago blues; The Shrimps was one of a kind for sure in the Turkish blues community, by including the best musicians of the “cover” era. Thus, defined as a super-group by the audience as soon as it was massively promoted, the band had the ability to swiftly pitch around many genres. They were based in Ankara, which was the capital of Turkish blues scene, standing as an anti-thesis against to SRV wannabes but treating the scene with a punk-ish attitude. The band did not last after their debut performance but left this performance behind, which was recorded live in January 2000. “So Worried” is an original track suggesting us as if Wolf recorded it with Omar Khorshid in Cairo.

  • Sarp Keskiner: vocals, guitar
  • Bora Çeliker: guitar, harmonica
  • Burak Güngörmüş: bass
  • Alp Esin: bongos
  • Yusuf Tunceli: drums

The single is released digital and available on all the download and streaming platforms.

Bone Union Records was founded as a sub label from Black and Tan Records in June 2020 together by Sarp Keskiner (TR). The label aims to document a neglected musical scene in Turkey not just by releasing archival material from mid-90’s to this date; but also keen on releasing brand new material from Turkish artists. Though the scope mainly consist rare recordings of local traditional blues, urban blues and gospel acts, the material varies wildly by inclusion of folk, funk, dub, noise and experimental releases, that goes way beyond the borders of conventional blues.

Posted on

new single ElectroBluesSociety + Boo Boo Davis

today we released

Track number 7 from the ‘transatlantic quarantaine sessions”. This time it is an instrumental

From 1998 to 2019 Boo Boo Davis used to tour in Europe several times each year and a lot of music was written and recorded during these tours.  The worldwide Covid pandemic put that on hold . However with the help of the internet and mutual friend Chris Brown in St Louis, the guys from ElectroBluesSociety (Netherlands) and Boo Boo started to exchange idea’s and demo’s. The result of these ‘sessions’ is released as a string of single tracks and they are available on all the stream and download platforms.

Covid can stop live shows for a while but it can not stop the creation of new music.

Posted on

review Mama & Friends from Germany

Haben die Türken den Blues? Jedenfalls Caglayan Örge, Suna Suner und Sarp Keskiner haben ihn. Er schlummerte über 20 Jahre auf einer Kassette. Man kann von einer fabelhaften Entdeckung sprechen, die dem Vergessen entrissen wurde und nun auf Digitalplattformen verfügbar ist. Als Mama & Friends zeigen die drei auf „Mama’s Bag“ (Bone Union Records) wie extrem tief sie in Delta-Blues und Gospel eingestiegen sind.

Posted on

review Boo Davis + ElectroBluesSociety

This short review was published July 5:

Brick by brick, the ElectroBluesSociety (Jan Mittendorp + Jasper Mortier) and Boo Boo Davis have been putting together what is turning out to be a pretty solid collection of electro-blues tunes inspired by quarantine. The latest product from the Netherlands-East St. Louis connection is a number called “What’s Going On.”

This isn’t the Marvin Gaye classic, but bluesman Boo Boo Davis crafted his own pleading for the hard truth. Constructed on top of an acoustic bass riff, the ElectroBluesSociety flesh out a brawny groove with Davis’ bellowing voice and the EBS adding haunting background touches that accentuate, not dominate.

Posted on

new release Bone Union Records

today we released on Bone Union Records

BUR 1107 – Mama & Friends – Mama’s Bag

Founded by luthier – finger picking master Çağlayan Örge (banjo-guitar), Suna Suner (vocal, tambourine) and Sarp Keskiner (vocal, electric lead and slide guitar, kazoo, harmonica, tambourine, snare & a cymbal) in 1996; MAMA & FRIENDS is known as “the ever first combo in Turkey, based on pre-war blues styles, gospels and spirituals.” This album presents an unreleased bundle of materials taken from the live sessions of the trio, recorded directly to a cassette recorder by in house sound engineer Kubilay Gürol, between June and August 1997, at Eylül Müzik Kulübü.1 Gospels and spirituals performed here are also known as secondary examples, ever recorded in Turkey. Thus, enjoy this rare audio documentary; featuring covers of Robert Johnson, Jesse Fuller, Leadbelly and Bessie Smith.3 Other than displaying a naïve authenticity; “Mama’s Bag” captures a historical time frame of local blues scene in Turkey, when any event representing those styles was able to pull together hundreds of people, enjoying the diversity of the blues inventory.

Sarp Keskiner: guitar
Suna Suner: vocal
Çağlayan Örge: banjo-guitar

The album is released digital and available on all the download and streaming platforms.