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Talkin' Blues

Talkin' Blues with Jimmy Herring

By Published: December 27, 2011
AAJ: And his Piety Street Band stuff is great.

JH: Oh man yeah, that's just incredible. He's just the deepest well and he never runs out of ideas and ways to present what he's doing. He's really inspiring. And the same is true of Allan Holdsworth. When I get around those people I just want to ask them questions all the time.

AAJ: Right, that's the great thing about music lovers, on some level everybody is a fan. You know, there was a time when Miles Davis stood wide-eyed in front of the bandstand looking up at Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
. That's the beauty of it all.

JH: Holy crap yes! And that thing Souvik Dutta put together: Ranjit Barot
Ranjit Barot
Ranjit Barot

drums
, John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin
John McLaughlin
b.1942
guitar
, Wayne Krantz
Wayne Krantz
Wayne Krantz
b.1956
guitar
, Lenny White
Lenny White
Lenny White
b.1949
drums
, Anthony Jackson
Anthony Jackson
Anthony Jackson

bass, electric
, Scott Kinsey
Scott Kinsey
Scott Kinsey

keyboard
and Alex Machacek
Alex Machacek
Alex Machacek

guitar
were there. You know, all these brilliant musicians were in one place at one time, it was just sensory overload. I was so overwhelmed that I almost couldn't speak.

AAJ: It's fascinating how it all seems to tie together. Chuck Leavell told me that he was really surprised when he did some work with country musicians in Nashville, that they grew up listening to the Allman Brothers. I've got a few Brad Paisley CDs and that guy has got some serious guitar skills, he even did a duet with B.B. King.

JH: No doubt about it, he can play. I haven't met him, but I know a lot of people who know him, and I've always thought he was really a good player. I've actually gone on YouTube because I love that twangy country Tele sound. I love those Telemasters like Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan. I went on a Roy Buchanan binge a while back, and I found some things that were just devastating.

AAJ: Did you ever get into some of those early country players like Jimmy Bryant, Neil LeVang, and Buddy Merrill? Like you, those guys were real speed demons.

JH: Absolutely, I love those guys, and they were on a whole other level, Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West—it was just terrifying. That kind of playing is very hard to do, there's not an overdriven sustaining kind of sound where you can get a break. You have to make everything happen, you can't hit a note hold it for two bars and let it feedback. It's all about picking, and those guys have picking techniques that are stupefying.

Anyway, that's what led me to check Brad [Paisley] out, because I got fascinated with the Telecaster, so I started looking at all these Telecats, like Brent Mason from Nashville, he's just an amazing talent. There's Johnny Hiland and guys like that, they just play that chicken pickin' thing so well. Albert Lee, Vince Gil, you know, all those guys, there's no shortage of guys to check out.

AAJ: I was curious about your introduction to the blues. Was it through the Led Zeppelin and British bands, or did your brothers have some authentic hardcore blues too?

JH: My brother had some B.B. King
B.B. King
B.B. King
b.1925
guitar, electric
and Bobby Blue Bland
Bobby Blue Bland
Bobby Blue Bland
1930 - 2013
vocalist
records, so I'd heard Wayne Bennett, B.B. King, and Freddie King and I loved it, but being twelve years old, it didn't grab me like Led Zeppelin did. But that changed later in life. You know, when you like someone and you start tracing back their influences. For example, Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck
b.1944
guitar
, you start tracing his influences and you find out he was into Hubert Sumlin who just died the other day.

He was 80 and just passed, I think it was two days ago. I love B.B. and I love Hubert — he was the sleeper of all time, he's one of my favorites of all those cats.

AAJ: For sure, there's a reason Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters
1915 - 1983
guitar
and Howlin' Wolf
Howlin' Wolf
Howlin' Wolf
1910 - 1976
vocalist
were fighting over him.

JH: Hell, yeah; you could see why. There a couple of tracks in particular where Hubert just wrote the book, like "300 Pounds of Heavenly Joy." I could listen to that stuff all day long.

Actually my introduction to most of that stuff was through Bruce Hampton, when I played with him in the early 90s. Of course I knew about Albert King
Albert King
Albert King
1923 - 1992
guitar, electric
, who doesn't know about Albert King? His style is so infectious.

You know, when Stevie Ray [Vaughan] came out, and you could hear all the Albert King influence, the Lonnie Mack influence, and it was great.

AAJ: Wasn't that amazing how he could take all the Albert King and Jimi Hendrix influences and still end up with something that was still his own?

JH: It was freaky, and if you hear Stevie play with Albert, the influence is huge, but hearing them together it's clear he wasn't just a carbon copy, he's got his own essence. I love that stuff, I love the blues.

AAJ: Who are some of your favorite blues singers?

JH: Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker
1917 - 2001
guitar
would be at the top, and of course Howlin' Wolf—those are the big three and I can't put them in any specific order.

As far as later generations of blues, I've always considered Gregg Allman the greatest white blues singer, if there is such a thing, he's the greatest. When you listen to his stuff, especially the first four or five albums they did.

And as far as what's happening right now, you know Susan Tedeschi, I just don't think it gets any better than that. I love Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt

guitar, slide
too. But as far as what's happening right now, I have to put Susan at the top.


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