Monday, June 13, 2011

Kenny Brown

Kenny Brown is a blues slide guitarist from Nesbit, Mississippi.Born in Selma, Alabama, in 1953, his family moved to Nesbit, Mississippi, when he was less than a year old. Kenny developed an interest in playing guitar at the age of ten and began teaching himself the basics. Two years later, the bluesman Joe Callicott moved in next door, and Kenny’s fate was sealed. This unlikely pair would spend hours together, whether in the morning before Kenny had to be at school or in the evening as soon as Kenny came home.
On some nights, Kenny would hear the music coming from Othar Turner's place down the way. Growing up in this part of Mississippi, Kenny was surrounded by musicians: Junior Kimbrough, Fred McDowell, and R. L. Burnside. Their influence wasn’t wasted on this young white boy, and Kenny made sure to prove himself to them all.
Kenny became skilled in the North Mississippi Hill Country blues style popularized by his mentor R. L. Burnside,he began his career by apprenticing with Mississippi Joe Callicott, Johnny Woods, and Mississippi Fred McDowell.He has also cited Muddy Waters,Jessie Mae Hemphill,Junior Kimbrough,Johnny Winter,and Johnny Shines as influences.In 1971 Brown began performing with R. L. Burnside.By the age of eighteen he was playing with Burnside’s band; over the next thirty or so years together, they would tour all over the world. Burnside often referred to Kenny as his “adopted son”and affectionately called him "white boy on guitar" and "my white son." Both Brown and Burnside have noted the singularity of Brown's being a white musician playing in the previously predominantly African American genre of North Mississippi Hill Country blues.Brown's guitar work was featured in the 2006 film Black Snake Moan, where he provided backing for star Samuel L. Jackson's vocals. He can also be seen in the film's climax as a guitarist in a blues band, playing alongside Burnside's grandson Cedric.
He has also performed with rock bands Widespread Panic and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. He has recorded one album for the Fat Possum Records label (Stingray), and his most recent double-album "Can't Stay Long" was released in June 2011 on Devil Down Records .

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rev Utah Smith The Two Wings Preacher

Rev. Utah Smith (1906 - 1965) first was a "traveling evangelist" out of the Churches Of God In Christ before he settled in New Orleans. There he founded the Two Wings Temple and the song "Two Wings" became his "theme song". Smith oftentimes used two wings while singing this song. Even before he came to New Orleans he played an electric guitar. He toured the South and was famous for this particular song. Smith recorded "Two Wings" first in 1944, but the 1953 recording is the more famous one. Sister Rosetta Tharpe stated Smith being one of the great "old" guitar players in gospel music. Smith's "Two Wings" might be a good example of simple southern community singing.Almost nothing else has been known about the life of sanctified electric guitar preacher Elder Utah Smith .“I vividly remember the first time I heard Reverend Utah Smith in 1965 on a 78 rpm record on the Two Wing Temple label. God, what a sound! Screaming vocals by Rev. Smith, heated responses by a chorus of young women, and manic, distorted electric guitar with the volume knob turned all the way up. Since that time I have longed to know more about this mysterious evangelist and pioneer of the electric guitar but have learned very little.It turns out that Smith was a major player in the growth of America's largest predominantly black Pentecostal denomination.”
– Dr. David Evans, The University of Memphis