Aside from his music, King has acted as a sort of de facto spokesman for the blues. Articulate, gentlemanly and charming, his personality stands in stark contrast to the stereotypical image of the primitive, hard-living blues musician. King oozes class and intelligence, which is why he's been a frequent guest on the talk-show circuit for decades.
It's both inspirational and sad to consider King at age 74: inspirational because he still makes terrific music, but sad because you know the show won't be going on much longer. And when King goes, he takes a fat chapter of American music history with him. Catch B.B. King, living legend, Friday at the Galaxy Theatre and Saturday at the Coach House.
While we're on the subject of blues, HMG Records has released a new compilation called DEEP SOUTH BLUES, admirable in both its blazing content and its endeavor to correct a bit of galling historical revisionism. Artists like R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Hammie Nixon—who purvey an extremely primitive, disorderly brand of Southern blues—have come in recent years to be categorized as "punk," "chaos" or even "alt." blues by a select brand of retards, as if their music were somehow in kindred spirit with or even influenced by the soundtrack of trendy, white suburbia. Burnside has even been saddled with hip-hop rhythm and punk power chording on recent releases, much like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf were forced to release psychedelic albums in the late '60s (Wolf classified the work as "dog shit").
In fact, as the liner notes to this collection point out, Burnside and co.'s brand of untamed sound is virtually unchanged since the early part of the century in the hermetic Deep South. It is as much a part of African-American tradition in its region as surfboards and bikinis in SoCal. To claim otherwise is vainglorious, delusional and downright stupid.
But enough about that; the music speaks for itself. To listen to Burnside, Kimbrough, Nixon, Waynell Jones, Uncle Ben and his Nephews, Jessie Mae Hemphill, and others is to hear a music untainted by commercial aspiration of any sort; this is folk music in the truest sense of the word. Gloriously pure and unfettered by any agenda beyond the raw expression of emotion, this anthology offers the blues at its best and most honest. Buy it!
Buck Owens at the Crazy Horse Steakhouse & Saloon, 1580 Brookhollow Dr., Santa Ana, (714) 549-1512. Mon., 6:30 & 9:15 p.m. $60-$80; B.B. King at the Galaxy Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600. Fri., 5 & 9 p.m. $50; King also plays the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930. Sat., 7 & 10 p.m. $50.