Friday, March 11, 2011

Guitar Weaver of the Chicago Blues: Eddie Kirkland

In Keith Richards' "Life," he offers much incisive musical commentary, especially about the blues. He definitely studied it at great length, but not like many British blues buffs… his reading is from a totally practical perspective.

"Life" discusses "the magic art of guitar weaving" [p.145]. What he describes is his and Brian Jones' emersion in the Chicago Blues music of Jimmy Reed. That music in its best form was underpinned elegantly by the second guitar of Eddie "Don't Call Me Little" Taylor.

It is very hard to discern the two guitar lines. But that is what Richards and Jones studied. They studied it carefully – in its simplicity and monotony – and focused on the two-guitar set-up, and the subtle, though 'primitive', interplay thereof.

The basic blues guitar and the rock lead and rhythm guitar duo are pretty well known. It is killing what passes for blues these days as it uncreatively recreates itself years after the fact. Less known is the more delicate two-guitar rhythm behind some of the key blues of the pantheon. The blues is more subtle than da blues of the post rock era would have it.

This came to mind as I read this week of Eddie Kirkland's passing. He was a magical weaver of the second guitar. He was not too widely known but, for a period, in the 1950s, he was John Lee Hooker's 'second guitar', and a partner in the creation of some significant complex primitive blues.

John Lee Hooker? He, the time breaker? The solo Kingsnake Crawling? Accompanied? Yup. Check out these pieces he did with Eddie Kirkland: I'm in the Mood [Modern 835], I Got My Eyes on You [Modern 876], Louise [Modern 852], Leave My Wife Alone [Chess 1467], Lets Talk It Over [Modern 935], and others.

Eddie Kirkland has a special place in the music that begat rockrnoll. up there with Eddie Taylor, who, as the record indicates, backed up Hooker as well as Reed. Taylor is credited as guitarist on Dimples [VeeJay 1049], Maudie [VeeJay 308], Boogie Children [VeeJay 319] and others.

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