Catching Up with Debbie Bond at Blues On The Farm
Catching Up with Debbie Bond at Blues On The Farm
BD: Thank you so much for taking time out after your wonderful set to chat with us at the start of your 2016 UK Tour. Lets start, of talking about recording your latest album at Muscle Shoals?
Debbie: It was really fabulous. We were in the hands of an engineer that had worked at FAME; Muscle Shoals Sound, Nashville, what people don’t realise Muscle Shoals is actually a town like a mecca of studios. One of the things I have been trying to do is explain for example the first one was called FAME; Florence Alabama Music Enterprises. The shoals area is made up of four towns, Tuscumbia, Florence, Muscle Shoals, and Sheffield. Basically that is the Muscle Shoals area. Everybody broke off from FAME in Florence, there was Rick Hall a main studio producer, and a rhythm section the Swampers a whole group of studio musicians that formed Muscle Road Sounds, also one location called Jackson Highway and that place still exists. All those things became other studios, becoming a community of musicians, song writers, producers and engineers. Just amazing go there, and there is a community of people who have had lots of gold records and just lived it. When I was recording people would walk in and the engineer would say this is so and so, these guys played with array of people. They are all session musicians that no-one has every heard off. Will McFarland who guests on my record plays with Bonnie Raitt plays the slide on my record and the amp that he played through was the amp that Mustang Sally was recorded on in FAME studio. Everything has a story while you are there you hear so many stories that half the time you don’t know the significance the subtleties. “The very energy of the musical legacy must exude out of the walls” They say that there is something in the water of the Tennessee River their native American word for the river means Singing River. There is a lot of mythology it’s got a tradition of singing and music, it was because there were waterfalls there, but they dammed them up and there’s now a hydro-electric plant there. It is so beautiful very rural Alabama, woodsy place. Beautiful rural predominately white town, yet out of this place came the same tradition as Stax pretty much simultaneously with Stax Soul tradition Wild Horses recorded there. Once the thing was established people started to go there for the sound. Like The Stones.
BD: Now a bit about your Album, Enjoy The Ride, which Bluesdoodles really enjoy it was fun to review
Debbie:Seven of the 11 songs were self-penned. How do you choose the mix very organic playing all the time, your repertoire constantly evolves and changes. When you are ready to go into the recording studio you know. Like I really want to do a tribute to Willie King, Eddie Kirkland song just singing from the heart, let’s do that song and that song. Three Alabama tribute songs and then I really like soul music and we were in Muscle Shoals so I chose a soul song everything else was originals
Do you write on your own? What tends to happen I am the word person and the melody and pretty much the writer, Rick helps with arranging the music. But sometimes like on Steady Rolling Man he was messing on piano and I just started singing and the song came out. Sometimes he will do a really cool groove then the song will come to his groove.
BD: Is most of it personal? Debbie: Definitely and even other people’s songs I wouldn’t sing them unless I had been there. It’s something I resonate with because I have been there. It is what it is all about you are telling a story the Blues tells a story.
BD: Back in the UK on an extensive tour
Debbie: Yes, this is my first show (Blues on The Farm) Check out tour dates HERE
BD: We would love to hear about your style, your singing voice which is distinctive
Debbie:I get compared to Janis Joplin, (15 mins) Debbie showed blue glasses wore them and got more hits and people commenting that you should dress more often like that Debbie why? Because I looked like Janis. I love Janis improvisational thing, I have been brought up in the Southern tradition coming from the church of getting the spirit making words up on the spot and kinda going away. My stuff and the band is very improvised, that is why Ray is so good with us as we are so very improvised. Just recently playe/d on my previous CD ended up playing by accident he didn’t know my music; he was just incredible Sax player he started to do some shows and bringing charts and can’t tell you how it made me feel bad no we want spontaneous. Did show with him playing charts it was horrible he was over there reading I felt tied down felt weird so next show took music stand away took it off the stage look you did great just play from your heart. Finally he knows – don’t bring charts. Debbie says play spontaneous.
BD: Now for that passion that flows through your music, conversation Alabama Blues we want to hear more about the blues fromAlabamaa
Debbie:Well there are a number of artists some you may have heard off. Lisa Mills from near Mobile, a true road warrior like me Alabama Shakes, St Paul and the Broken Bones, then those making big, some are very soul-based. There is a blues scene one of the old, probably the last Alabama Juke Joints out in Bessemer is run by an old bluesman called Mr Gibb in his nineties. So anyone in Alabama needs to go there, it is only on a Saturday night, at his house. Then there is blues happening all over the State every night it is just not organised. There is no tourism around it, Alabama Tourisim is aware they are sitting on it now, but no organization like in Mississippi with the historic marker. In Alabama there are festivals all the time, just before I left there was a soul blues one out in the woods near where I live; it was predominately a black festival; with people like Denise La Salle, a loads of soul blues people from Selma. There is a guy who I like a lot he is called Earl Guitar Williams, he is a barber during the day and bluesman at night. He is just fantastic, he should be over here touring. SharBaby she has been touring over here a lot been to Birmingham. Lil Jimmy Reed been over here touring a lot he is from Enterprise Alabama. There is just loads. Lots white blues players as well all playing to such a high standard.
BD: Is there a specific Alabama Blues sound that differentiates from Mississippi Blues?
Debbie:Definitely regional sounds within Mississippi for example Howlin’ Wolf was from near the Alabama/Mississippi line at West Point, Big Joe Williams from Macon close by Willie King was right on the line born in Mississippi but live all his life in Alabama. People like Eddie Kirkland, there is a story that I think is really cool for people to know about Ike Zimmerman, was from Grady, Alabama, who taught Robert Johnson to play. So the whole story of the blues has been so skewed.
Women have been lost from History of The Blues and romantacised! Alabama blues woman, Big Mama Thornton was from Ariton, Alabama Dinah Washington, from Tuscaloosa, Odetta is from Birmingham Alabama, and many others including Bessie Jackson, pseudonym for Lucille Bogan, active in the blues scene in Birmingham was lewd and dirty, check out the lyrics of Shave ‘em Dry Bessie Smith discovered in Selma and all her family where in Alabama, Ma Rainie was probably born in Alabama. Where people are born is all bullshit, it is regional the amount they all travelled was phenomenal. There was local blues and travelling Blues, Alabama was right smack in the middle with travelling shows and TOBA shows, (Theatre Owners Booking Alliance). It was the first professionalization of the music industry, it was theatres where blues people toured through the south and they did tent shows as well. Bessie Smith and Ma Rainie all owned their own tent shows, they were successful Ma Rainie owned her own theatres they were trail blazers. The nickname musicians gave to the booking agency was ‘Tough On Black Arses’. It was a grueling touring schedule. They toured with practically orchestras hard to image now with their big hour sections back in the twenties and even up to the forties. Ma Rainie had an orchestra, how did they feed and pay everybody? We can hardly do it now, there was much more of an audience, big crowds came out to the tent shows. They had sponsorships from the fake medicines that were really alcohol. A cure-all, called them medicine shows, as it was prohibition, and they would sell alcohol as a medicine! If I could go back to any time and have an experience of that it would be in those travelling tent shows. The shows had comedians it was more a variety show, very Vaudeville. Alabama sound has different traditions. I think it is quite soully. If I was to compare Eddie Kirkland and Willie King, they are Juke Joint very dancey, electric, very improvised soul grooves. To be fair it was a mixture as everybody had influences from 78 records, because people got them so were hearing lots of musicians
One of my dreams that before I die, I can help to create a Blues Museum in Alabama because it deserves it and would be a tourist destination.
BD: Who would you have in your Dream Band?
Debbie:Feel really lucky as both here and in Alabama I am tuned into the very best. Even though my guys from Alabama would love to come over here I am not making enough money to do that.
Drums Sam Kelly played with Sam off and on for the last fifteen years
Saxophone – Ray Carlos played with him since last year on last tour
Keyboard, keyboard Bass & Harmonica and sings – Rick Asherson
What I found most amazing was carried on playing with his left hand and harp so the kept bass line playing. Joined by Rick – BD: Not seen harp and piano played at same time before. Rick – Not that different from playing left and right hand, Debbie interjects he is “ambidextrous”. Pianists split the mind and bass has own logic and right-hand has own logic. So my right-hand brain becomes the harmonica. The left-hand brain actually remains the constant. On a good day when we do a duo have foot percussive we are doing duo and as well as band. Good to be flexible.
Bluesdoodles review of Enjoy the Ride – HERE
Bluesdoodles review Blues On The Farm – HERESnippet Catching Up with Debbie Bond at Blues On The Farm Conversation about blues, woman and Alabama now and in the Past joined by Rick Asherson