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True Blue from Ellis Kell
Argus/Dispatch blues columnist

APRIL - 2002

This month we feature a very special new local CD that has been long overdue, ‘Grampa Jack’ Seales "Losin’ Control." Jack has always been regarded as one of the most versatile musicians around, and has performed for years right here in River City. Along with his brother Jim Seales (best known as lead guitarist with the contemporary country group Shenandoah), Jack first became acquainted with the blues in the late 1960’s, at the height of the rock revolution and Woodstock era. The brothers would go on to perform in their own early blues bands Mudlark and Jemima, and later in the revered country house band at Sweetwater. Jack tells the story best of why the eventual return to his early blues roots was inevitable.

"I fell in love with the blues first time I heard Muddy Waters back in `69. I was like 14 then. 20 years later I was making a good living as a country picker but was still soaking up all the blues I could get my hands on. Blues is so real, man. That`s what makes it so powerful! At that time I had a primitive little studio set up in my dining room. Had an old Teac 4 channel reel to reel and at least one of about every instrument you can think of. I was playin` country at night, writin` blues during the day, and before I knew it I had a pile of tunes that I was itchin` to put on tape. It`s completely a one man project. It`s your basic guitars, fretless bass, drums and vocal kind of thing but I also blew some sax, flute, violin, electric piano and blew a lot of harp. I love blowin` harp, man! Little Walter, Junior Wells, James Cotton - all them Chicago cats hit me right in the soul, brother."

The new CD is all ‘Grampa Jack’, from punchy houserockers like "Baby, Baby, Baby," to spooky Delta stylings on tunes like "Shady Lady Blues" and "You Can’t Depend on Nothin’," and funky numbers such as the title cut "Losin’ Control" and "Your Mama Never Taught You." Junior Wells signature "Messin’ With the Kid" is also masterfully done, along with a passionate and brooding rendition of the Allman Brothers classic "Whipping Post." Jack enlisted the assistance of old bandmate and friend Dave VanDerKamp to edit and master the collection, and Dave’s enthusiasm over Jack’s recordings carried the project to fruition.

"Another 23 years go by and I played it for my old friend Dave VanDerKamp at Norton and VanDerKamp Productions, and he says "you are such a bad cat man. We gotta get this out so folks can hear it". So I said ‘let`s do it!’ Dave is a genius, man. He re-mastered my original tape with his usual expertise, did the cover design and such, and there you are. I will still be holding the bass chair with the Sin City Orchestra but will also be fronting 'Grandpa Jack and Smokehouse' - playin` straight ahead house rockin` blues, and havin` a blast!"

Watch for this new release to be available soon at Co-op Records on the Illinois side of the pond as well as at Border’s across the Big Muddy in Iowa. Even better than that, make sure you catch ‘Grampa Jack and Smokehouse’ live - coming soon in the local pubs.

Mo’ New Blues…

"The Memphis Barbecue Sessions," Big Jack Johnson & Kim Wilson (M. C. Records) Delta blues legend Big Jack joins forces with blues harp master and Fabulous Thunderbird founder Kim Wilson, along with blues piano legend Pinetop Perkins, for a collection of classics by Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, as well as potent selection by Big Jack himself. The focus of these sessions was to "make some music, eat some barbecue, and have a good time," and there’s plenty of soul (and sauce) to be found on these tracks! For more on this new CD and other fine M. C. Records roots releases, please visit www.mc-records.com on the web.

Further On Up the Road...

Spring is here, and I just can’t wait to hear blues in the old bandshell. The complete 2002 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival schedule is booked and available now online at www.mvbs.org. Take a peek at who’ll be serving up the blues stew pipin’ hot at this year’s fest, July 4,5 & 6. I’m headin’ for the porch to rest a spell. Until we meet again at this crossroads, peace & blessings and…

Blues to ‘ya!



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