Reading & Listening

I had a Barnes & Noble gift card that, as my father would have said, was “burning a hole in my pocket” and a B & N store coupon for 20%-off any one item.

It was summer, I was on vacation: I just had to go shopping!

During my careful-but-leisurely afternoon browsing through the racks, I came upon a brand new (copyright 2011, first edition) paperback. Devil Sent The Rain: Music and Writing in Desperate America by Tom Piazza.

If the thumbnail pictures of such artists as Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmie Rodgers, Charlie Patton and Bob Dylan on the cover were not enough, the one of Gillian Welch was the clincher. I bought the book (and one other and a video, too) and headed on home.

Devil Sent The Rain is a collection of essays by Mr. Piazza, divided into three sections. In the second section, where the author “turns his attention to literature, politics and post-Katrina America,” I read the piece titled “Going Back To New Orleans.”

Originally published in the 2006 Music Issue of the Oxford American, Mr. Piazza writes about a recording that he calls “one of the all-time best musical tributes to the Crescent City.” It was a song I’d never heard of by an artist I’d never heard of: “Going Back to New Orleans” by Joe Liggins.

Singer and pianist Joe Liggins (born July 9, 1915 in Guthrie, Oklahoma) led a popular, Los Angeles-based group that produced “smooth, tightly scripted, functional jukebox small-band dance music for black audiences” during the 1950’s. Back in 1945, Liggins had recorded his first hit, “The Honeydripper” and later named his band “The Honeydrippers.”

In his essay, Mr. Piazza so eloquently and passionately described the arrangement and recording of “Going Back To New Orleans” that I had to hear it for myself. I was not disappointed.

Check it out for yourself.

So, what do you think?

After listening to this track, I searched my shelves and dug out a fabulous CD set that I’d bought a few years back called The Roots of Rock ‘n’ Roll, 1946-1954 to see if it contained a Joe Liggins song. Sure enough, disc 2, track 14, was Joe’s other hit “Pink Champagne” from 1951.

After listening to that track, the CD player went on to play track 15 and its opening acoustic guitar lick took me totally by surprise. What was this? It was: “Eyesight To The Blind,” written by Aleck Miller, aka Sonny Boy Williamson 2, and recorded here by The Larks.

Well, if you’ve come this far, you’ve got to hear this one, too.

Isn’t that amazing?

There you go. Thanks to reading an essay in a new book, I discovered a wonderful new recording and re-discovered an equally-wonderful recording I already had.

And thanks to this blog, I get to share them with you.

Life is good.

P.S.: Devil Sent The Rain by Tom Piazza is full of excellent essays and superb writing. Very Highly Recommended.

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