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Donna Herula | The Moon Is Rising: Songs of Robert Nighthawk

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Blues: Delta Style Blues: Slide Guitar Blues Moods: Featuring Guitar
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The Moon Is Rising: Songs of Robert Nighthawk

by Donna Herula

From the uproariously funny to the beautifully dramatic, Chicago blues singer and slide guitarist, Donna Herula, performs the neglected songs of slide guitar master Robert Nighthawk in a country/Delta Blues acoustic style.
Genre: Blues: Delta Style
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Take It Easy Baby
4:37 $0.99
2. The Moon Is Rising (feat. Inna Morris Melnikov (violin))
3:49 $0.99
3. Return Mail Blues
2:12 $0.99
4. I'm Getting Tired
3:17 $0.99
5. Jackson Town Man
2:19 $0.99
6. Lonesome World
3:21 $0.99
7. Crying Won't Help You
2:55 $0.99
8. Bricks in My Pillow
2:49 $0.99
9. Gonna Move to Kansas City
3:24 $0.99
10. Friar's Point
2:40 $0.99
11. Maggie Campbell (feat. John Jochem)
3:44 $0.99
12. Every Day and Night
3:08 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Inside Album Notes:
Most people know Robert Nighthawk from recordings made on Chicago’s Maxwell Street in the 1960’s. Every blues fan has heard his songs “Cheating and Lying Blues” and “Sweet Black Angel,” (the latter most famously covered by B. B. King). But few people know that Nighthawk wrote varied and beautiful songs over several decades that are relatively unknown.

My goal is to bring more attention to these neglected songs of Robert Nighthawk. These range from the uproariously funny (“Bricks in My Pillow”) to the beautifully dramatic (“The Moon Is Rising”). “The Moon Is Rising” is about a woman who is causing the singer anguish and whose friends are telling him to leave her. But instead of saying that he is going to leave her, as the story goes in most blues songs, Nighthawk says that she’s going to be his baby until the day he dies.

I included a couple of songs covered by Nighthawk. “Maggie Campbell” was among the first songs Nighthawk learned (from Houston Stackhouse who in turn learned the song directly from the man who wrote it—Tommy Johnson).

I created original arrangements of some songs, such as “The Moon Is Rising,” “Jackson Town Man,” “Lonesome World,” and “Return Mail Blues.” The musical arrangement for “Return Mail Blues” was loosely inspired by a Furry Lewis song “Good Looking Girl Blues.” Also, although I changed the lyrics’ gender to reflect a female blues singer and performed the songs in my own acoustic blues style, I tried to convey the intensity and integrity of Nighthawk’s work.

I had the good fortune of performing these songs for the Robert Nighthawk Centennial Commemoration at the 2009 Chicago Blues Festival. I also played as a soloist at the Mother’s Best Music Festival, in Helena, Arkansas—Robert Nighthawk’s hometown. Sam Carr, Nighthawk’s son and legendary blues drummer, performed at the festival, and I was honored to meet him. Sam performed with his father for many years. When he was brought up to the stage in his wheelchair and got behind the drum set, his face lit up with a huge smile and people said that it was the happiest they had seen him in a long time. I heard people in the crowd shout out, “We love you, Sam,” and other words of appreciation. I met so many warm and friendly people in Helena, I understood why Nighthawk loved his hometown so much.

I also performed on “King Biscuit Time,” the longest running blues radio show, located in the Delta Cultural Center (DCC), with the playful and charming radio show host, Sonny Payne. It was fun performing and being teased by Sonny on the show. Nighthawk was a past host on this show and used to announce where his gigs were, making it possible for many more people to come out and hear him play. The DCC has wonderful exhibits, including Nighthawk’s Silvertone guitar and amp.

The DCC’s assistant director, Terry Buckalew, and the DCC’s curator, Gregg Cook, graciously took my husband, Tony, and me to Nighthawk’s grave marker. Nobody, including his son, knows exactly where Nighthawk was buried in the all African-American Magnolia Cemetery.

In late 2009, I returned to Helena to play at the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (King Biscuit Blues Festival). The following day, I performed at a symposium about the life and music of Robert Nighthawk, sponsored by the DCC. Also performing at the symposium was Nighthawk’s friend and bandmate, C.W. Gatlin. Gatlin stated that Nighthawk was wanted for questioning in connection with a shooting, so he never stayed in one place for long. Gatlin also stated that Nighthawk told him he didn’t commit the crime. Gatlin thought that being constantly on the move kept Nighthawk from getting the recognition he deserved.

It has been an honor and a privilege to perform these songs of Robert Nighthawk. Learning more about Nighthawk and his artistry was like finding a hidden treasure. I hope you will love his songs as much as I do.

--Donna Herula

Donna Herula's Bio:
Donna was born and raised on the northwest side of Chicago. She began playing guitar at the age of 10. By 16, she was playing lead guitar in bands and writing original blues songs.

Influenced by slide guitar players Rory Block, Johnny Winter, Eric Sardinas, Bob Brozman, Bonnie Raitt and John Hammond, Jr., Donna set out to discover the early blues musicians that inspired these players, which included Son House, Robert Nigthawk, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.

At the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, Donna continued her search for tradition, learning Delta Blues and bottleneck slide guitar by listening to old blues recordings. She also began collecting and learning music performed by women blues singers and guitar players such as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Sippie Wallace and Memphis Minnie.

An accomplished slide guitarist, Donna performed a tribute to slide guitar master Robert Nighthawk at the 2009 Chicago Blues Festival for his centennial celebration. She also performed as part of a Nighthawk symposium for the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas (Nighthawk’s hometown), the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (formerly the King Biscuit Festival), the Mother’s Best Music Festival (Helena, AK) and the Bayfront Blues Festival (Duluth, MN).

With harpist John Jochem, Donna won the 2010 Chicago Blues Challenge, solo-duo category, and represented the Windy City Blues Society at the 2011 International Blues Challenge.

Donna’s second CD “The Moon Is Rising: Songs of Robert Nighthawk” was released in January 2011.

Donna plays National steel guitars and is a featured artist on the National Reso-Phonic Guitars website.

She has been on blues radio programs including King Biscuit Time and Delta Sounds, with Sonny Payne, legendary host and member of the blues hall of fame, and Terry Buckalew, both on www.kffa.com through the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas.

Donna plays as a soloist as well as in a duo with her husband singer/songwriter/guitarist, Tony Nardiello.

For more information, visit: www.donnaherula.com or e-mail belladonnablues@yahoo.com.

Performer Review:
Donna Herula captures the feel of classic folk blues better than many modern guitarists, who forget that playing by rote has nothing to do with the blues tradition, which is far more based upon improvisation and tonal effects than on particular signature phrases.  She’s got a very good handle on the “narrative” aspect of blues, in both the vocal and musical aspects of her performance.  She reconfigures many of the masculine stories of early folk blues in a manner that switches gender but not theme, the universalization which is at the heart of all folk genres.

She’s very adept as a slide and National Steel player, you’ll enjoy her performance, which is a true folk show and not a copycat museum piece.

- Steve Pasak, Chicago Blues Tour, Big Productions, Inc.



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