Alvin Youngblood Hart at 2012 Memphis in May, Beale Street Music Fest
Sterling Billingsley at 2011 King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas
Jerry Wexler/ On The Record
Alvin Hart is a perennial favorite here on Beale Street Caravan. He represents everything that is right about blues music. His forward-thinking take on American Roots Music makes not only for interesting and compelling records, but for eclectic and inspired live shows as well. We caught up with Alvin and his band, Muscle Theory, at the Beale Street Music Fest in Memphis, TN. Then we head down river to Helena, and hear from Sterling Billingsley at the King Biscuit Blues Fest.
Guest Host, the late Jerry Wexler, recalls his experiences in the music industry in this series called On The Record.
The Cosmic American Love Child Of Howlin Wolf and Link Wray! Known as a musician’s musician, his praises have been sung by everyone from Bob Dylan to Brit guitar gods Eric Clapton & Mick Taylor. Since his 1996 debut recording, the all-acoustic BIG MAMA’S DOOR, Alvin Youngblood Hart has carried his musical message the world over. A devout follower of the “no barriers” approach laid by veteran performers like Gatemouth Brown and the late great Doug Sahm, Alvin continues to defy the so-called purists.
After receiving the 1997 W.C Handy Award for Best New Artist, as well as two Living Blues Awards, Hart’s 1998 release, TERRITORY, a rousing tribute to all forms of American music, received the Downbeat Magazine Critics Poll Award for Best Blues Album (and it wasn’t even a Blues album). In the summer of 1999 Hart teamed up with producer Jim Dickinson to begin recording START WITH THE SOUL. This record would be hailed as a new breed Southern Rock classic and Alvin’s return to the “sacred garage”. START WITH THE SOUL was chosen by the New York Times as one of the top 10 releases of 2000, as well as the BBC’s Blues record of the year. He also shared Living Blues Magazine’s best guitarist honors with fellow road dog Big Jack Johnson in 2001.
2003 was a busy year. Not only was there a GRAMMY nomination, Hart also toured the world as a member of Job Cain, a hard rocking side project he put together with Cry Of Love/Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed. In August of ’03 Alvin was invited to fill in for Taj Mahal for five nights in Tokyo as a member of Kip Hanrahan’s Conjure, the worlds longest running jazz poetry ensemble. Assembled to lend musical support to the words of Bay Area poet Ishmael Reed, Conjure featured the talents of tenor sax giant David Murray and also Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli. Alvin is still a member of the revolving cast and recorded with them on the BAD MOUTH CD.
In 2004 Mr. Hart received a Grammy for his contribution to BEAUTIFUL DREAMER :THE SONGS OF STEPHEN FOSTER. In the Summer of 2005 he released the self produced MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER, a rock guitar free-for-all, paying homage to fallen & missing rockers like Phil Lynott and Sly Stone. In 2006 Hart took time out to work on the film BLACK SNAKE MOAN. He served as a guitar tutor to star Samuel L. Jackson and recorded a duet with the film’s female lead Christina Ricci for the soundtrack. In the fall of that year Hart joined Austin dynamo Ruthie Foster and Rock n Roll legend Bo Diddley for a 2 month coast to coast US tour. Recently Alvin has thrown his talent into the educational arena. In April 2007 he participated on a tour of Mississippi high schools as a member of the Thelonius Monk Institute Of Jazz.
The Summer of ’07 saw Alvin hit the big screen as a juke joint musician in the Denzel Washington directed film THE GREAT DEBATERS
Hart continues to tour the globe as a solo artist and with his Mighty Muscle Theory band.