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Big Road Blues | Crossroots

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Blues: Prewar Blues Blues: Acoustic Blues Moods: Type: Acoustic
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by Big Road Blues

An acoustic blues band that combines musical ideas from the recordings of various blues greats--using guitars (slide, 6 and 12-string), mandolin, harmonica and fiddle to accompany vibrant solo and call & response vocals.
Genre: Blues: Prewar Blues
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Me and My Chauffeur Blues
3:02 album only
2. Hey, Hey/Pigmeat Strut
2:21 album only
3. Nothing In Rambling
2:40 album only
4. Deep Water Blues (I've Got the Big River Blues)
3:06 album only
5. Bad Luck Blues
2:49 album only
6. Dancing With Tears in My Eyes
2:11 album only
7. Walking Blues
3:22 album only
8. Weepin' Willow
3:19 album only
9. Viola Lee Blues
2:52 album only
10. Come On in My Kitchen
3:05 album only
11. Long Tall Mama
3:32 album only
12. Big Road Blues
3:30 album only


Album Notes
Pre-World War II blues can be said to have a dual nature. They are structurally formulaic (both musically and textually), but as a largely solo medium, they provided artists with enormous freedom to create intensely personal styles. In this album Big Road Blues applies these contrasting qualities of uniformity and individuality to fashion new arrangements by combining musical ideas from the recordings of various pre-war blues greats -- the crossing of roots.

The roots of blues were complex, and included the intersection of many musical and social forces: cross-fertilization between African and European musical elements, the interplay of folk and popular music, the development of regional styles, and contributions from earlier song genres--all driven by interactions between musicians and their audiences in a social and economic environment that was oppressive toward African-Americans. In addition, the artists who originated this music were crossing both "routes," and “roots,” initially through their travels and touring, and later via records and radio as well, which led to the sharing of different regional and personal styles.

Blues reflected the daily struggles and concerns of African-Americans. The massive migrations from rural to urban areas with the end of Reconstruction (accelerated by the imposition of repressive southern “Jim Crow” laws) became a prevalent theme in blues. The name “Big Road Blues” (the title of bluesman Tommy Johnson’s signature song) suggests this theme of movement and travel. As blues writer Michael Taft puts it, "Although the main theme of the blues is love...its supplementary themes are movement and the anxiety caused by this movement"* (not to mention the "anxiety" caused by poverty and inequality enforced by the threat of violence), often expressed as a subtext in verses about difficulties in personal relationships. Blues speaks to all of these issues and, as a powerful survival mechanism, encourages the joy of life even in the face of them.

We have tried to make CROSSROOTS true to the aesthetic of acoustic blues as represented in recordings of the pre-war era, while also offering something new and fresh for our contribution to the genre (much as innovation within tradition has always been characteristic of blues--and folk music in general). We hope that our arrangements, such as the call and response group vocals, will make the album accessible to fans of both early downhome blues and more contemporary music.

*(For detailed analyses of these components of blues, see Jeff Todd Titon’s “Early Downhome Blues” and Michael Taft’s “The Blues Lyric Formula.”)

Band Members:

Ricky Eisenberg—lead vocals, guitar, slide metal-bodied resonator guitar.
Ricky’s rich bass voice and intricate finger-picking have been featured with the NYC Labor Chorus, where he was a member of the bass section and also performed as a soloist. He has played pre-war acoustic blues for over five decades, and has worked and studied with Woody Mann. In addition to his musical passion, he is a creative cabinetmaker.

Alan Podber—harmony vocals, guitar, slide wood-bodied resonator guitar, harmonica, bouzouki, fiddle, 12-string guitar.
Alan is a blues/old-time-country guitar player and mandolinist, a founding member of both the Delaware Water Gap and Wretched Refuse string bands, and a former host of several music programs, including ”A Taste of the Blues,” on WBAI-FM (Pacifica radio in NY). Most recently, he has partnered with Ralph Litwin in “The Fabulous Furry Harmonica Brothers,” and accompanies labor singers George Mann and Julius Margolin (“Young and Younger”). He holds an M.A. in Music (concentration in ethnomusicology) from Hunter College in NYC, and presently teaches Music Appreciation at Hagerstown Community College in Maryland. He is also a former member of the New York City Labor Chorus, where he met Ricky. He belongs to Local 351 of the AFM, and DC 37 of AFSCME. He is a licensed social worker.

Myriam Valle—lead and harmony vocals, mandolin, guitar, spoons, tambourine.
Myriam is a guitar and mandolin-playing vocalist who has appeared on Broadway and in film, and has worked as a recording artist in popular music and commercials. Myriam
was also a founding member of the Delaware Water Gap String Band, along with Alan (and Henry Sapoznik).

Delta Dave Johnson—harmonica.
Dave is a master of both pre- and postwar blues harmonica styles. He has performed at clubs and festivals around the world—in Europe, West Africa, Canada and the U.S.—and he’s played with blues luminaries such as Louisiana Red, R.L. Burnside, John Hammond, Honeyboy Edwards, Pinetop Perkins, Snooky Pryor, Bob Margolin and the Muddy Waters Band.

Ken Ficara--harmonica.
Ken is a popular and talented country/blues harmonica player and singer-songwriter from Brooklyn, NY, who performs on our version of the Delmore Brothers’ Big River (Deep Water) Blues. He is also a web consultant who builds musician's websites.



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