Talkin' Blues with Jimmy Herring
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. That's the beauty of it all.
JH: Holy crap yes! And that thing Souvik Dutta put together: Ranjit Barot, John McLaughlin, Wayne Krantz, Lenny White, Anthony Jackson, Scott Kinsey and Alex Machacek 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 Westit 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 and Bobby Blue Bland 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, 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 and Howlin' Wolf 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, 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 would be at the top, and of course Howlin' Wolfthose 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 too. But as far as what's happening right now, I have to put Susan at the top.