Bobby "Blue" Bland: Farther On Up the Road and God Bless the Child That's Got His Own
Al "TNT" Braggs - Drip Drip Goes The Tears
Little Milton - More and More
We are fortunate that blues legends like Bobby Bland and B.B. King are still around and are still going into the studio. Although the effects of time are very evident on both men's latter work, the recordings are still pretty high quality and, in Bland's case, keep the flame going among his long-time fans. To close out this week's series, here is "Farther On Up the Road," one of Bland's very first major hits from 1957. This is swaggering Texas blues at its best; with this song Bland kicked off a string of hits trumpeting a hurt man's revenge fantasy. Bland's style was still a little rough around the edges but the tune is great. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Bland's great reading of "God Bless the Child" from his 1995 Malaco album Sad Street. Bland, like many of his contemporaries, found his hitmaking streak cooling significantly by the end of the '70s. Although he got some R&B chart action out of 1985's "Members Only," Bland faded from mainstream R&B and became a charter artist in the "soul blues" idiom (I need to write about this odd duck genre in a future post), finding a sympathetic label in Malaco. "God Bless the Child" has a "Me and Mrs. Jones" groove that works very well, and Bland's world-weary reading of the song is very soulful. It's my favorite latter-day Bobby Bland recording.
We are also fortunate that Bland influenced several other artists of the '50s and '60s. Two that come immediately to mind is Bland's labelmate Al "TNT" Braggs and the blues/soul blues legend Little Milton. Braggs, whose biggest success came as the writer of "Share Your Love With Me," of which hit versions were recorded by Bland himself and by Aretha Franklin, recorded for Peacock in the early '60s and performed with Bobby Bland's revue (he appears in Charles Keil's account of a Bland show in Urban Blues). "Drip Drip Goes the Tears" shows obvious Bland influence, especially in the arrangement. Little Milton Campbell should not need any write up, as his magnificent career spanned from '50s recordings for Sun through to his death in 2005. Milton's growling voice was inspired by Bland and Milton's early recordings were all but Bland imitations. By the time Milton hooked up with Chess in the '60s he found his own voice (although songs like "Blind Man" went back to the Bobby Bland bag) and recorded some great soul-based recordings, including today's selection "More and More," which would be covered by Blood, Sweat & Tears.