Feel­ing Blues – Doc Ma­cLean’s in town

Lo­cal per­for­mance is part of a sec­ond African tour for old­time blues mu­si­cian Doc Ma­cLean

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE - ESTELLE SINKINS • estelle.sinkins@wit­ness.co.za

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

PHOTO: NICK HARDING

Amer­i­can blues­man Doc Ma­cLean.

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