Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jimi Hendrix Film

I just discovered a short film about the early life of Jimi Hendrix. This film interviews Jimi's childhood friends, his two brothers Leon and Joe, and many other relatives. It also showed many of the places he lived in and went to school in. I found this to be an interesting movie, and gave a bit more insight to how Jimi grew up and how it shaped his music. Here is the link to movie on the Snags Film website. The film covers from 1941 to 1961, right up to where he went into the Army. I am looking for part 2.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Alan Wilson of Canned Heat

I have just finished reading a book called "The 27 Club." The book is about all the influential musicians who have died at the age of 27. The book covers Robert Johnson, Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, D. Boon, Kristen Plaff and many others who left this world. I wanted to more about

Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson was the leader, singer, and primary composer in Canned Heat, played guitar and harmonica, and wrote most of the songs for the band. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, majored in music at Boston University and played the Cambridge coffeehouse folk-blues circuit.

The nickname "Blind Owl" was due to his nearsightedness. While a member of Canned Heat, Wilson performed at both the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969. Canned Heat appeared in the film Woodstock, and the band's "Going Up the Country," which Wilson sang, has been referred to as the festival's unofficial theme song.
Alan was dedicated to the blues, and to the environment. He was one of the better bottleneck slide guitar players of the day, and was considered on of the best harmonica players around.
Wilson died in Topanga Canyon, California of a drug overdose at age 27. He had reportedly attempted suicide two times before and his death is sometimes reported as a suicide, this is not clearly established and he left no note.
I have been watching video of Alan on YouTube, of which there are quite a few. His slide playing, on a 50's era Les Paul Goldtop, was not in the style of Duane Allman, but based on players like Johnny Lee Hooker.
Here are a few of them:

It is sad that Alan did not stick around. It would have been interesting to see where his music would have taken him. He is not one of the most well-known of the sixties-era muscians, but he has a lasting legacy to music. Check out the videos and leave a comment on what you think of Alan. I also wonder where that cool goldtop Les Paul is today!

Here are a few interesting Alan-related sites:

The Blind Owl Blues Blog
Alan's Biography "Blind Owl Blues" by Rebecca Davis Winters
Canned Heat Website

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gibson 339

I had some time to kill on Friday, so I ventured over to the local Guitar Center, a mere one block away. I do not go there much, but I needed strings.

I looked around for awhile, saw a few nice used guitars and the usual rows of beautiful Fender guitars on the wall. After a few minutes I walked into the private area, where the really expensive Les Pauls and other electrics are stored behind locked glass doors. Hanging on the wall were two 335's, two 339's and two Les Pauls. The sales guy said to help myself and try out any of them. So I did!

I have done these kindof tests before when I had the room to myself, and I had it to myself on Friday. I plugged into a Bogner amp, not sure of the model, but you could switch between 20 and 40 watts. It was a great amp, priced at $1,500. The first guitar to try was the Gibson 339, which is a smaller bodied version of the 335, and with a maple-poplar-maple laminate. The electronics are also different, with circuitry to maintain the highs when the volume is turned down. I loved this guitar, and at $1,799, was the cheapest in the room! The guitar had a sparkle to it, crisp highs and very warm lows. The guitar had no imperfections on it, as many Gibsons often do. In fact, all of the Gibsons I tried were perfectly made - no fret issues, no finish issues.

The 335 was next. The last time I played one, it smoked all the Les Pauls and SGs I tried out. This time, I felt it did not have the spark of the 339 and the large body was uncomfortable to me. Now I have never played the 339 until today, so the 335 has always been the one guitar I really would love to own. It was still a great guitar, but felt the 339 had more punch.

The Les Paul Traditional was next, and at high gain, it was great. However, at the low gain setting it felt it was muddy sounding. Plus the single cutaway, never an issue before, seems to bother me a bit now. I am used to the double cutaway of my Fenders. The Les Paul was still a great guitar and this one had everything going for it.

I am trying these out at low volumes, so it is hard to really get a feel for how they sound. I have no doubt that any one of these guitars would sound fantastic on stage or on recordings.

I give my vote to the 339, though, because it just cut through the rest, was lighter and very comfortable, and is a stunning guitar to look at.

I am no expert on these things. I know what I like, by the feel and sound. I have been sort of anti-Gibson as of late, and am not very fond of how they have run the company the last few years or so. However, if I had the cash, I would have a 339 sitting in my music room.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kings Of Leon

I guess I am a few years behind, as I have just discovered Kings of Leon. I have been listening to them quite alot as of late, thanks to, which has many of their songs posted.

Kings of Leon consists of Anthony "Caleb" Followill (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Ivan "Nathan" Followill (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Michael "Jared" Followill (bass guitar, backing vocals), with their cousin Cameron "Matthew" Followill (lead guitar, backing vocals). They formed in Nashville in 1999, and soon were signed to RCA. Kings of Leon became very successful in Europe, and have opened of U2 and toured with Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam during 2005 and 2006.

I have been listening to "Only by the Night", their 2008 release. I like most of the songs here, unusual for me, as I tend to only like a few songs on any CD. "Manhattan", "Crawl", "Use Somebody", "Revelry", "Notion" and "Be Somebody" are my favorites here. Kings of Leon are very distinctive, with Calebs vocals standing out. He does not sound like anyone else in music today. You know it is him when you hear it. The guitar work is fantastic, not full of solos or guitar-wizardry, just simple work, with great tone coming from primarily Gibson guitars. Caleb uses an old Gibson ES-325 into a Matchless DC-30 or Lightning. I heard he recently smashed his 325 in a fit of rage during a concert.

Matthew uses an Epiphone Sheraton II into an Ampeg Reverbrocket, with pedals providing the overdrive tones. The Shearton is an inexpensive Korean or Chinese made semi-hollow guitar that has long been on my list to own.

Check Kings of Leon out. It took me long enough to start listening to them. You will not be disapponted.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Health Care Reform

This has nothing to do with music, but it is on my mind. I hope the government can work out something to guarantee everyone healthcare insurance because any of us can find ourselves without it at any time. If I were to lose my job, my coverage for myself and my family would be very difficult - cost-wise and with preexisting conditions. I would not stand a chance with that one. Same for my siblings. A person should not have to die because they can't afford healthcare. What does that say about America?

And insurance companies should be held accountable for denying people who pay for coverage.

Something has to change, because most of us are one step away from having no health insurance. The very people who spread misinformation about this could easily find themselves without insurance. Who will they come running to for help then?