Ghost Kings of Beale St.
Blues & Rhythm (UK), May 2007: '...a warm vocalist and talented guitarist...who is never afraid to take chances...one of the most gifted performers on the contemporary blues scene...' Blues Revue, June/July 2007: '...his musical persona is as palpable on disc as that of Taj Mahal or Keb' Mo' -- he's masterful, nuanced, and out to kill with blues power...Ultimately, each track is surprisingly different in style and execution from the last, but the entire disc possesses an overarching blues sensibility.' Living Blues, August 2007: 'It's a memorable offering from a fine blues songwriter -- a tradition that becomes scarcer in this genre every year since Willie Dixon passed.' Juke Blues (UK), August 2007 '...this modern day troubadour demonstrates an originality both in his songwriting and in the variety of approaches he takes to convey these ideas...' Real Blues (Canada), August 2007 TOP 100 Blues releases 2007 Ghost Kings of Beale St. Chainsaw Dupont Halfway - whether it's a good thing or a bad one is entirely a matter of perspective. Halfway can be a glorious hybrid or a tedious limbo; without a sense of direction it can be an ominous crossroads. Memphis is halfway between the gritty blues of Chicago and the party rhythms of New Orleans. It's a city that has always looked south for culture but north for validation. Rockabilly, spirituals, blues, and country all crossed paths in Memphis, got soaked in reverb, and re-emerged as pop music back when pop was cool. Sun Studio made it famous, but it was Stax that made it popular. Both labels had a distinctly Southern tension - half white, half black, one of them mixing the fury of bluegrass, hillbilly, and blues music, the other in near-blasphemy fusing spiritual and secular influences into pop music with weight and intensity. The Gateway to the South seemed to focus it's rebellion through it's music. After Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, within a stone's throw of Beale Street, the large black population of Memphis seethed with despair, and dignified resolve, but not with rage. That same year, the city government demolished most of the Beale Street entertainment district, leaving a tiny remnant intact to represent it's enormous musical legacy. Two other Kings, B.B. and Albert, rose to fame in Memphis, but only well after the heyday of Beale, refocusing attention on the extraordinary black musical contributions of the city. They found fame in the 1970s as the last of the white icons associated with Sun, Elvis Presley, fell into decline and occasional ridicule, a shadow of the groundbreaking artist he was during the segregation era. The fog of segregation and Memphis' ambivalent relationship with the sacred and the profane created a fortuitously antagonistic tension in it's music, similar to the alchemy of Cold War filmmakers in Eastern Europe who had to channel their message in subtext to evade censors. The simple existence of Elvis, using the same studio as Ike Turner and Howlin' Wolf, or of Booker T. & the MGs multi-racial band, was a slap in the face to segregation. Like Solidarity in Poland, producers at Stax were not afraid to cloak their message in the garments of the church, making it an organic whole which, if not unassailable, was at least tied aesthetically to the civil rights movement and it's concerns. This fusion of the earthly and the spiritual also added a forbidden allure to much of it's innovation. There is both a hallucinatory ecstasy and a carnal pleasure in the best Memphis music, a sort of mutant enjoyment that is neither holy nor sensual - and both holy and sensual. It's the state of the spirits - ghosts, notions, specters, visions, and any other half-realized, smoky image of a dream that ever dared to materialize. Halfway, the magic moment between real and imagined, between spark and flame, the moment when evil becomes good, sinners become saints. There's a balance between rhythm & blues, melody & harmony, parody & tribute; which way it tips depends entirely upon which way you want it to go. We decided long ago that the final chapter of the Blues Street Trilogy would celebrate Beale Street. As raw as Chicago Blues gets, Memphis gets that sweet, like smoked meat smothered in sweet barbecue sauce. We tried to update that sweetness with power, while maintaining it's simplicity, doing a "Delta Crush" on Memphis soul and rockabilly. Lake St. Lullaby emphasized empty space and raw chords, Bourbon St. Breakdown emphasized rhythmic intensity, Ghost Kings of Beale St. emphasizes melody and harmony. These musical forms find their analog in the lyrical content of each record as well, as the first is about hope and disappointment, the second about addiction and obsession, and this last is about acceptance and resolve. Take the three CDs together and you have the fundamentals of blues -- the taproot of all American music, either as an influence or as a form to react against. "Ghosts" appear as a recurring theme, lyrically and musically. The "Invisible Man" of track 1 might as well be a ghost, his unrequited (and forbidden?) love languishing forever. The dead icons of "Sinners Or Saints?" haunt all modern music. "Every Little Death" & "Back Again From Gone" toe the line that separates living from dead. "BluesOMatic™" suggests a different kind of ghost - a mechanical one that generates blues songs with no soul, only structural integrity and marketability. We tried to retain any "ghosting" that resulted from the recording process, either from prior takes or studio "crosstalk" (most obviously these can be heard on "Back Again from Gone" and "The Flood"). Taken in it's entirety, this collection of songs is about persisting, like gravity, in the face of obstacles and setbacks, finding your center, and emerging out of the halfway haze and into the light. Steve "MrBiG" Pasek BiG Productions, Inc. Chicago, IL.