bluesshow bob's blues show blog
This week I broadcast Blues Exclusive #100. This is a bit of a personal milestone as I did not know how things might evolve when I walked away from my long-time FM radio spot two years ago.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about my contribution to the airwaves in recent months, taking note of comments I've received from my listeners and examining the output from other broadcasters in detail. The thing that I've come to realise is that, if you compare different broadcasts in the Blues genre, you will find a lot of the same albums being played day in day out. This makes me uncomfortable. Why?
Well, think about your 'normal' FM radio broadcast where a banality of repetitive sound greets your ears whichever station you tune to. Whilst I'm not suggesting that dedicated Blues shows have reached this point, there is a grave danger that by devoting the bulk of our shows to new releases, we are actually ignoring the Bluesic (and its contributors) which have brought us to the current moment. Add to this that the bulk of the new releases are guitar-led Blues/Rock and it might seem to the casual listener that this is all that Blues music is and all that it has ever been.
Whilst I love some Blues/Rock, I also love Delta Blues, Country Blues, Hokum, Gospel, Zydeco and Chicago Blues (and more!) but with the plethora of new releases dominating shows across the spectrum it is difficult to visit the historic pathways to today's music. (And, for me, that's in a two-hour weekly show. How the hell people broadcasting for one hour a week - or sometimes less - can do anything more than pay lip service to the past escapes me).
My first Blues show which began life in 2003 declared its aim as 'to show people that Blues music wasn't just a "dee dah dee dum, My wife left me, dee dah dee dum, the dog died..."' I think this aim has remained unchanged in my fifteen years of weekly broadcasting. I'm thinking that a Blues show should be offering a diversity of styles, instrumentation and periods - a show which is substantially Blues-Rock does not fit this criteria in my view. Each Blues broadcast should offer an opportunity to the listener to hear something which adds to their knowledge and helps develop their interest.
Because of all of the above, I've decided to make some changes to my show. Blues Exclusive #101 will be the first new, improved version of the show. From then on, I will be delving into my personal archive for most of the music which I will play. There will be new offerings every week too but I will be becoming even more selective; maybe only visiting an album once rather than on a couple of occasions (or more) as has happened in the past. I hope that you will remain with me on the new adventure and welcome any comments you may have.
Incidentally, don't forget that voting in the inaugural UK Blues Awards runs only until the end of February. To register to vote visit: www.ukbluesawards.com/register
That's a bit of a given really and I'm fortunate to live within a short walk down a leafy lane to the beach. But, my current reason is that I'm anticipating this weekend's Tenby Blues Festival. Once again, I'll be involved as the host of the free Blues Trail which sees many individual performers and ensembles playing sets in the cafes, bars and restaurants of Tenby during the daytime on Saturday and Sunday. This year, my new friend Bud will be sharing the duties with me. He's another great Bluesic fan and we often jam together at a local pub. The Blues Trail is a really popular part of the weekend experience and brings the faithful to the streets of the town migrating from venue to venue following the performers. See the Tenby Blues Festival website for full details.
In the run-up to the weekend, I went to Radio Pembrokeshire's studio earlier this week to record an interview with B.B. Skone for his Sunday night show. It was a true déjà vu experience as the studio equipment was very similar to that which I'd used for over thirteen years at GTFM. I have to confess that I still miss the Live-to-Air experience which brought with it particular challenges. Speaking directly to the audience dictated that you had to really concentrate on what you were saying and doing whilst getting timings spot on so you didn't appear like a bumbling fool. Receiving emails whilst 'on air' was also a part of the Live show experience. Pre-recording a show, with the ability to edit and amend, just doesn't carry the same level of edginess. I was recently offered the chance to do a weekly live broadcast by one of the stations already airing the Blues Exclusive but the downside of living in a rural idyll is that the wifi signal is unreliable so wouldn't guarantee continuous transmission for a two-hour show. I didn't feel able to take the risk.
Back to the weekend: The festival runs from Friday night (November 10) through to Sunday night (November 12) with a programme of top acts offering Blues in its many forms; acoustic, piano, harmonica-led Chicago-style, Blues-Rock and even what is described as 'World' music, a fusion of Blues and African music - a really creative and entertaining sonic delight. I'm really looking forward to the whole programme in what will be, I'm certain, another superb weekend. Take a look for yourself. Better still: take a look at the website, get out your credit card and book some tickets. I hope to see you there.
I've been contemplating the benefits of the internet.
In the past week, I've had such a wide variety of offers. There was the sad story of a lady in Africa who had lost her husband in a plane crash and is, for some reason, unable to access his funds totalling over $10 million. Fortunately, a member of the banking staff has intervened and has approached me (obviously my reputation for financial stability and probity covers several continents) to ask me to become her sponsor in accessing the funds. For this service, which merely requires that I offer them my own bank account details - clearly they need this to ship the monies to me - they are offering a bewildering 20%. I've struggled with this. It's a lot of money for performing such a simple service and it's at the expense of a grieving widow. This really doesn't sit well with me. What sort of lowlife would exploit this situation?
I'll offer to do it for 10%.
Also, of course, my show reaches my listeners all over the world by using the internet. Broadcast times and places are detailed on my Home page. These are some of the clear advantages of subscribing to the world-wide web. On the other hand...
I use Facebook to give information to my listeners about upcoming shows and to point them at my uploaded shows. For many years, I used my show identity "Blues Show Bob" as the name of the page. Without issue. Until one morning when I was refused access to my own page until I changed the name to "Bob Williams". On questioning the reasons behind this, I received a generic message telling me nothing. When I told them that their message had told me nothing, they went a stage further and didn't respond.
Every week I post a show to Mixcloud. This automatically publishes to my Facebook page. I then inform those parties who I assume will have an interest by copying the link to a number of specialist Blues groups. I've done this now for a couple of years and I've been told by people in the Bluesic industry that my information path is second to none globally. Last week, when I had posted to half a dozen of the twenty or so groups I regularly post to, I received a message telling me I was 'blocked' from posting to groups for five days. No explanation was offered. There was nothing unusual in what I was posting. It was a replica of that posted for years - just an updated link to the current show. I questioned the reasoning. That was ten days ago. I've been unblocked for over a week now but still have received no explanation. The irony, to my little head, is that Facebook's very raison d'etre is as a communications company. I'm beginning to think it should be renamed Facelessbook.
Another facet of the internet is You Tube where we can see our favourite musicians perform their songs. Surely this truly is the magic of the internet. Well, isn't it?
I'm not so sure.
I was privileged to host the third annual Abertillery Blues & Rock Weekend last weekend. There was a fine mix of Blues and Blues/Rock musicians - five bands playing over a ten hour period. A lively and friendly atmosphere. A great line-up comprising Blacktop Deluxe, Red Butler, The Stumble, Danny Bryant (interview coming on Blues Exclusive #69) and Stan Webb's Chickenshack. All respected musicians and at an affordable price. One would have, perhaps, expected a full house. Sadly, it wasn't. There are undoubtedly many factors to play but I'm beginning to wonder whether people would now prefer to stay home and watch recordings of musicians rather than actually leaving home to watch a Live show. It's become a trend in recent years - Live gigs just aren't as well attended as they were 10 or 15 years back. Many clubs have closed. Okay, a general tightening up of families' budgets must contribute but it seems that many find it easier to watch their favourite bands on their computers and TVs in preference to going to watch them perform in the flesh. Frankly, there is no comparison in terms of the experiences.
Here's my warning: The videos you watch are recordings of Live performances. Without support, Live performances will become history. The well of recordings will run dry because the source will have been cut off. There will be no performers who feel able to tour because the rewards are no longer there to stay on the road.
That is, largely, thanks to the internet.
As I do every week at the tail end of the Blues Exclusive, I urge you all to stop being 'virtual' Bluesic fans. Get out to a gig or buy a CD or DVD of your favourite performers. The only way to guarantee a future for the music we love is to ensure that the artists can sustain their own livelihoods.
I don't want to sound too negative but, having been an active participant in the Bluesic community for a decade and a half, I am genuinely concerned. However, let's finish on a positive note. Using the internet:
The 12th Tenby Blues Festival takes place from November 10 - 12. I'll be MC-ing the free Blues Trail around the beautiful seaside town. Details of all ticketed performances together with a brief history of each performer are available at firstname.lastname@example.org
I'd love to see you bucking the trend by being there.