Up and coming UK blues musician, Connor Selby has just released the deluxe version of his self-tilted album. On these pages we said that “I’ve no doubt at all Connor Selby will release a classic record”. The man himself has spoken of his all-consuming love of classic blues and soul sound, saying: “I got interested in not just the music itself but the history and everything around it,” he says. “I wanted to learn and listen as much as I could. I think it’s important for someone who isn’t from that cultural background to treat it with the respect it deserves. You can’t separate the music from its historical context.”
“I love the directness, the simplicity and earthiness of it,” he adds. “I love really how down-to-earth it is, both lyrically and musically. I’ve also always been attracted to the authoritative quality of the music. As a kid and teenager, I was quite shy and not very self-assured, so I think it was a place for me to find a sense of power.”
No one better then to sit down with and discuss his top five albums. In no particular order, he dug through his collection to come up with these.
B.B. King – Live in Japan
B.B King in the early 70s at the height of his powers. An absolute masterclass in Blues guitar and Blues singing. Every phrase is perfectly crafted, and this album really demonstrates the sophistication and versatility behind B.B. King’s playing. “Sweet sixteen” is a stand-out track for me. The way it gradually builds and builds with every chorus until it reaches the climax at the end is sublime. Everyone knows live at the Regal, but I’d wager less people are aware of this album and it’s definitely worth having in your collection if you can get your hands on a copy.
Bobby Bland – Two Steps From The Blues
This is a classic album with some of the finest and most powerful Blues singing ever recorded. This album really demonstrates how thin the lines are between blues and soul and all forms of African American music in general. Stand out track for me is “Pity the fool”. Just a perfect blues song with amazing vocals and snappy, authoritative horns.
Albert King – King of the Blues Guitar
This is the album that really got me into Albert King. Booker T and the MGs backing and the Stax sound elevate Albert’s playing and singing to new heights and the soulful arrangements compliment Alberts unique style perfectly. Stand out track would be “You’re Gonna Need Me”. One of my favourite blues songs ever recorded.
Song – Albert King – You’re Gonna Need Me –
Ray Charles – Live at Newport
It’s hard to pick my favourite Ray Charles album but this is certainly up there. An absolutely incredible live recording of Ray In his prime that highlights just how much of a force of nature he really was. This album includes live versions of many of his Atlantic hits including a version of I’ve got a woman which is vastly different from the original. It’s much faster and features an extended outro section where Rays demonstrates his prowess as a singer. There truly hasn’t been a more gut-wrenching vocal performance caught on record for my money and Ray’s unique capacity to convey the spectrum of human emotion really shines on every wail, scream, moan that comes out of his mouth. My favourite song on this is “a fool for you’ which also greatly differs from the single version. Ray slows this down to a crawl and the song builds and builds until it explodes to a climax, where Ray lets out a blood curdling scream. When people ask me what my favourite song is this is the one I normally pick.
Eric Clapton – From the Cradle
This album is what got me hooked on the blues as a young kid. I suppose it was something to aspire to. If Clapton, a white English guy could play and sing the blues with this much authenticity and authority then maybe one day I could as well. This era of Clapton is my favourite, probably because he completely let’s go and his playing is fuelled purely by the love and passion he has for the music. You can tell he waited his whole life to make this album and I’m so glad that he did end up making a pure blues album that’s true to the original material. His singing and playing are the best they’ve ever been for my money and he really digs deep into his soul on these recordings. My favourite track is “Groaning the Blues”. I love a slow blues as you can probably tell and this is one of my favourites. Super heavy with lots of authority and attitude and the guitar solo is exceptional.
Song – Eric Clapton – Groaning the Blues –