The Best Of The Stony Plain Years By Long John Baldry

July 24, 2014



Long John Baldry, 1941-2012, was one of the key figures in the early British blues movement and thus a connector in the development of British rock and roll. He was a contemporary of early blues artists Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies and heavily influenced such artists as The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. During the mid-1960’s he played in bands with Rod Stewart (Steampacket) and Elton John (Bluesology).

He moved to Canada in 1978 and in 1991 formed a relationship with the Stony Plain Label. The label has now established a new compilation series titled The Best Of The Stony Plain Years.  Baldry is one of the first artists to have a CD release in the series as tracks from his albums for the label have been combined with two previously unreleased tracks.

The album begins with a creative version of “Good Morning Blues.” There is a 30 second snippet of his 1958 recording of the song before sliding into the version he recorded in 2001. The modernization of the song presents a much smoother sound and the instrumental backing is full, yet his roots are very apparent.

While the blues are painful at times; “I’m Shakin,’” “Easy Street,” and “Midnight Special,” which are presented in a row, are a joyous romp through the modern day blues. His voice has gained strength as the years have passed and has developed into a strong instrument.

His take on “Gallows Pole” is very different from the famous version by Led Zeppelin. It is a rollicking and boisterous interpretation that comes close to a traditional Americana sound.

Kathi McDonald toured with Baldry for close to two decades and she duets with him on the ominous “Insane Asylum” and the hitherto promo only release “Black Girl.”

The album ends on a high note. “Time’s Getting’ Tougher Than Tough” contains a duet with blues legend Jimmy Witherspoon with backing by The Duke Robillard Band. It all adds up to an excellent example of a modern day fusion of rock and blues.

The Best Of The Stony Plain Years presents a nice taste of the last part of Baldry’s career. The music may not be as influential or important as his early work but it is very listenable and shows the end product of his evolutionary process.


The Best Of The Stony Plain Years (CD) by Joe Louis Walker

July 23, 2014


Joe Louis Walker is just shy of the retirement age of 65 but shows no sign of slowing down. He has spent a lifetime playing the blues and early in his career toured with such luminaries as Thelonious Monk, Steve Miller, Buddy Miles, Willie Dixon, and Otis Rush. He was a roommate of Mike Bloomfield until his untimely death. A disciple of John Lee Hooker, he has released over 20 albums during the course of his career. The quality of these albums has varied but the three he released for the Stony Plain label, Between A Rock And A Hard Place, Witness To The Blues, and Blues Conspiracy: Live On The Legendary Rhythm And Blues Cruise were some of the best of his career.

The Best Of The Stony Plain Years gathers the better tracks from his three albums for the label. The only negative is each of his albums for Stony Plain was a cohesive whole and removing them from that environment creates a disconnect. The positive is this compilation album contains some of the best music of his career.

“I’m Tide,” “Send You Back” with Sugar Ray Norcia, and “Black Widow Spider” were culled from his Blues Foundation 2010 Blues Album Of The Year, Between A Rock And The Blues. The first is a fierce rocker while the other two are excellent examples of modern day electric blues.

The tracks from Blues Conspiracy were all recorded live. The cruise had a number of blues artists and they tended to play on each other’s songs. ”Slow Down GTO” with Mike Finnigan, “Ain’t That Cold” with Johnny Winter, and “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” with Chris Salgado & Mike Finnigan find Walker in an energetic live mode as he trades licks with some of the best in the business. The live tracks tend to be longer as they contain a lot of improvisation.

“Sugar Mama,” “Highview,” and Hustlin’” were taken from Witness To The Blues. They unite rock and blues into a fusion sound.

Joe Louis Walker has moved on from the Stony Plain label but has left behind some of the best music of his career. The Best Of The Stony Plain Years mines some of those nuggets.


35 Years Of Stony Plain by Various Artists

May 30, 2011

Thirty-five years have passed since Holger Peterson and Alvin Jahns sat down at a kitchen table in Edmonton, Canada and formed Stony Plain Records. Now 400 or so albums later, it is recognized as one of the leading independent music labels in the world. The label has decided to celebrate its birthday this year in style, by releasing the three-CD set, 35 Years Of Stony Plain.

It is a fine introduction to its artist roster and musical approach. It is a 41-track, 10-video extravaganza that presents its brand of rock, folk, country, blues, and roots music. You even get a tour of their new offices, which is still in a house in Edmonton; also the home of a huge record collection.

The label has been the home for the well-known and obscure. Artists such as Maria Muldaur, Jeff Healey, Ian Tyson, Rodney Crowell, Rory Block, and Long John Baldry have recorded for the label. Even a few Americans such as Steve Earle, Duke Robillard, Asleep At The Wheel, and Emmylou Harris appear on the album.

As with many albums of this type, it only provides a taste of the label’s music. The tracks flow and meander, yet ultimately combine into an excellent listening experience.

Like many compilation albums by various artists, you take what you get. Long John Baldry was a legendary British blues artist who passed away during 2005. He lived in Canada the last few decades of his life and his take on the venerable “Gallows Pole” is modern blues at his best. Better yet, there is a 1991 DVD track of him performing “Shake That Thing.”

Likewise, Jeff Healey passed way several years ago. He is represented here by a live performance of “I’m Torn Down,” which demonstrates why he was considered one his generation’s better guitarists.

Ian Tyson is now 77 years old. He was a part of the early 1960s folk revival in the United States and Canada, solo and as a part of the duo Ian & Sylvia. He has been with Stony Plain for 25 years. Here, he is represented by his “Blaino’s Song “and “Springtime In Alberta.” His weathered voice is the perfect vehicle for Canadian folk music.

There is a lot to like. Steve Earledeparts from his usual fare with the story song, “Ben McCulloch.” Maria Muldaur returns to her roots with the fun-filled Dan Hicks composition, “The Diplomat.” Emmylou Harris contributes a live version of the Gram Parsons/Chris Hillman song “Wheels,” which she first released as a studio track during 1975.

Canadian roots band Blue Rodeo introduces itself with Ian Tyson’s most famous song, “Four Strong Winds.” Duke Robillard, Joe Louis Walker, Jay McShann, Billy Boy Arnold, Ellen McIlwaine, and Rory Block all sing and play the blues on this release.

The most historic tracks are the four by Robert Nighthawk, who passed away November 5, 1967. He was a Delta blues artist who traveled the southern bar circuit during the 1930s and 1940s, before signing with the Chess label during the early 1950s. His recordings were few but grounded in the classic style and sound of the early Delta blues. He became an accomplished slide guitarist as his career progressed. “Nighthawk Boogie,” “I’m Gonna Murder My Baby,” “You Missed A Good Man,” and “Backwater Blues” were recorded in a small Toronto studio 45 years ago and are the last recordings of his life. Up until now, they have been unreleased. If you are interested in the history of American blues, these tracks are a treat.

Stony Plain is one of those labels that is important for music, as it takes chances and doesn’t make decisions just based on financial concerns. It has continually believed that good music always finds a market. 35 Years Of Stony Plain is a high-quality introduction to its approach and sound.

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