Every week of this outdoor Mister Sunday season, we’ll be asking Eamon or Justin to highlight an album that they’ll be playing in full at the beginning of the day. This week, it’s Eamon’s turn. He’s chosen Ernest Ranglin’s Jazz Jamaica record. This is what he has to say about it.
On a recent tour of the UK, Justin and I dropped into Idle Hands, a really nice record store in Bristol where we did a spot of record shopping. (There’s actually a video of us talking about a few of our picks from the store in case you’re interested.)
One of the records I picked up was Jazz Jamaica by Ernest Ranglin, and it’s that record we’ll be kicking proceedings off with this Sunday. The record initially caught my eye for the cover, which was clearly Jamaican but suggestive of a different kind of sound than reggae, ska, dance hall, etc.
As the title suggests, it’s actually a jazz record – notably, a jazz guitar record. Ernest Ranglin was a prolific guitar player in the reggae and ska worlds, integral to the early releases on Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, and his progressive style in the early 60s is credited with starting what would become know as ska. You can read a whole lot more in his bio.
It’s a really elegant record, with an obvious Caribbean swing to it but at the same time, it’s unmistakeably a jazz record. I buy a lot of jazz, and recently I’ve specifically been exploring the world of jazz guitar. I’ve really grown to love this record for its unique combination of jazz playing with a Jamaican sensibility. A perfect record to ease the party in this Sunday.
If you’ve ever gotten to the party early, you’ve probably heard Eamon or Justin play a full album or two. We’ve got a pretty nice sound system, and it’s a treat to hear a good long player over the PA before the dancefloor fills up. This year we’re making something official of our casual tradition with one of the guys selecting an album in advance and telling a little about why they’re going to play it. Justin’s taking the first turn. The record he’s chosen is RL Burnside’s First Recordings:
Back in October of 2011, I took a trip through the south that landed me in Clarksdale, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. Before then I had the cursory blues knowledge that any music fan might, but the stops in those two towns made me fall deeply in love with the music. (I made a short mix of some of my first blues infatuations back in January in 2012 in case you’re interested.) Since then, I’ve grown my collection, and I’ve become particularly interested in the blues as dance music.
In its heyday, the blues were played in many ways and served many purposes, but my favorite recordings are the ones that put me in a trance, where the guitars drone and the vocals punctuate. Even when there’s no percussive elements in a recording, you can almost hear how dancers would’ve clapped along or stomped their feet to fill in the space.
The first recordings of RL Burnside contain some of the hardest dance tunes I’ve heard in the blues. Absolutely crushing stuff. (I played “Skinny Blues” at peak time at one of the most recent Mister Sundays.) Even the songs that aren’t dancers are full of groove and swagger. I can’t help but nod my head through the whole record.
The story of how this album was recorded is also very cool. George Mitchell, one of the great blues scholars and field recorders, was in Mississippi in 1968, searching for unknown players. He was led to RL by Othar Turner, a legendary blues man himself. When Mitchell arrived at Burnside’s small home, his wife, nine of his ten kids, and a few local friends were squeezed inside. Mitchell took a seat on their couch, and RL started up. After the first song, George Mitchell, mesmerized, hit record on his tape machine and captured the album we’ll listen to Sunday.
If you’re interested in any more of the story, feel free to come to the booth and ask to see the jacket. (I also have the first issue of some of the recordings, which has a little more back story. I’ll bring that, too.) I’m really looking forward to playing it for you – and, selfishly, taking yet another opportunity to listen to it myself!
A live recording from Mister Sunday on August 4th this year. Eamon played solo from beginning to end as Justin took a weekend off and we caught the whole set on tape. Here it is unedited just as it happened, clocking in at almost 5 hours. We hope you like it. Eamon is happy to respond to any track ID requests in the Soundcloud timeline if he can remember what the tracks are!
P.S. Justin played the next Mister Sunday on Aug 11 solo but recording issues meant his set was not captured. We’ll aim to get a solo set up from Mister Carter in the near future.