Feeling Blues – Doc MacLean’s in town
Local performance is part of a second African tour for oldtime blues musician Doc MacLean
AMERICAN bluesman Doc MacLean will be performing at the Maritzburg Musicians Club (MMC) at La Casa in Quarry Road, Pietermaritzburg, on November 14.
Accompanying him will be acclaimed South African guitarist Tim Parr.
The gig is part of MacLean’s second African tour, Cross Bones Blues, which sees him returning to many of the places he visited on his Zulu Skies adventure.
MacLean, who said he was “thrilled” by the musicians he met last year, is now working to create opportunities for these artists to tour North America.
“I believe that a broader exchange of artists would serve both well,’ he said.
For MacLean, singing the blues is about “telling songs and singing stories”.
“This blues came from the Mississippi Delta, but before that, it came from Africa. It was passed down from mouth to mouth.
“It’s more than music ... it’s a placement of the human spirit,” he said.
The son of a civil rights lawyer and a fiddle player, MacLean was exposed to country blues and folklore at an early age.
By his early teens he was performing in coffee houses and at festivals.
Then, after trading a guitar for a 1948 Dodge, he set out to explore America and meet every oldtime blues player he could find. During this time, he befriended the likes of Son House, Tampa Red, ëSippi Wallace, Yank Rachel, Robert Pete Williams, Rev Robert Wilkins and Bukka White.
He also toured and performed with Peg Leg Sam the Medicine Show Man, Blind John Davis, Sunnyland Slim, Little Brother Montgomery, Rev Pearly Brown, Mose Scarlett, the Carter Family, Sam Chatmon and Colin Linden, with whom he became a popular opener for Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters and John Hammond.
Initially known for his work as an accompanist on harmonica and washboard, MacLean soon made his mark as a guitarist, singer, arranger and band leader.
And for 15 years he toured with the ninepiece MemphisNew Orleans jump band, Dr Limbo and His Fabulous OffWhites.
Alumni from the band include Linden, whose credits include working with Bruce Cockburn, The Band and O Brother, Gord Johnson (Big Sugar), Chris Whiteley (Whiteley Bros and Leon Redbone), Kevin Breit (Nora Jones) and Gene Taylor (Canned Heat, Blasters and Fabulous Thunderbirds).
Performing on bottleneck and standard guitar, MacLean’s lyrics are mainly contemporary but his approach reflects his exposure to southern string bands and jug bands, and to delta blues players and storytellers like Patton, Son House and Chatmon.
By 2006, MacLean had moved to Canada, releasing the critically acclaimed Narrow
House, produced by Linden. The album features bassist Larry Taylor (Canned Heat) and drummer Stephen Hodges (Mavis Staples), who at that time were the core of the Tom Waits band.
Parr, meanwhile, shot to fame with the Joburgbased band Baxtop, which featured Larry Amos on guitar and vocals, Parr (guitar, vocals), Fuzzy Marcus (guitar, vocals) and Bruce Williams (drums, vocals).
Their album Work it Out, includes the number one hit Jo Bangles.
In the eighties, Parr and Heather Mac formed the band EllaMental. They recorded two albums and had several numberone hits in South Africa, before relocating to Ireland in 1986.
They spent the next seven years performing in Europe and America, and supported Joan Baez at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1989.
Parr returned to SA in 1994 and started the grungeAfro folk punk band the Zap Dragons, which included Josh Hawks (now with Freshly Ground) on bass, Kholeho Mosala on marimba and Ashley Reed on drums.
In 1996, Parr released a solo album which includes the hits If You Rush You Crush, Love Will Find A Way and the title track Still Standing.
Parr has performed in South Africa, the United States, Ireland and England, and has appeared alongside Crowded House, The Hothouse Flowers, Paebo Bryson, Little Steven (guitarist for the Bruce Springsteen band), Tribe after Tribe and more.
Now based in Cape Town, he performs regularly with the Tim Parr Greenworld Collective Band.
The Cross Bones Blues gig at the Maritzburg Musicians Club gets under way at 7 pm for 8 pm on November 14.
Tickets are R50.
• The two musicians will also be playing at Corrie Lynn Farm Weddings on the Petrus Stroom Road in Howick, from 7.30 pm on November 15. Inquiries: 082 828 0424.
• If you would like to keep in contact with Doc MacLean, like his Facebook page: DocMacLean.deltablues
American bluesman Doc MacLean.