Music Maker Relief Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of the Blues gain recognition and meet their day-to-day needs. Our blog is dedicated to keeping the conversation about these artists alive & thriving.
Author Archive

Diggin’: Clyde Langford – Good Golly

I often find myself catching a case of winter ambivalence brought on by the numbing cold of the frosty season. If you’re like me, Clyde Langford’s mournful wails might be the remedy you need to melt your cold soul. The East Texas bluesman’s guitar hums and buzzes along with his tender, folky crooning, reminding me of the birds, bees, and the cool breeze that’ll soon return with spring. So if you’re feeling numb, you ought to let Clyde sing for you. And you ought to let it move you. Because feeling blue is better than feeling nothing at all.

Artist Spotlight: Drink Small

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The Blues Doctor knows what ails you. He’s an expert diagnostician of the many maladies of the heart and soul. He got his education early, being born in the depths of the Depression to the cotton fields of Bishopville, South Carolina in 1933. As a member of a share cropping family, he started working in the fields young. One day, when he was just 8 years old, the mule-drawn wagon he was riding in lurched and both Drink and the cotton bales were thrown off the side. When his uncle started the mule to go again, the cart rolled over young Drink and severely injured his back. With no money for doctors or the hospital, a local midwife nursed Drink as best she could. But weeks later, when they removed the makeshift cast she put on him, it was clear to all that Drink would not be making a living as a farmer.

 

So at age of 11, Drink started work as an explorer of the human condition in song. He played the piano and guitar through high school and performed in homes and at churches. While he was sent to barber school, he discovered very quickly that he didn’t want to cut hair, he wanted to “cut up”. He turned his full attention to the music and has spent the eight decades since “boogalooin’ on Saturday and hallalejehin’ in church on Sundays”. Drink has travelled the world, playing the big festival stages and the dives, the country clubs and the juke joints, the chapels and the tent revivals. The study he has made of our plight is poignant and sometimes a little sad, but never lacks for humor:

 

“Rich people got the blues because they are trying to keep the money, the poor people got the blues because they are trying to get the money and I got the blues because I ain’t got no money.

 

Jesus had the blues. He had them because he didn’t want the devil to get all of the souls. He turned the rocks to souls, so the devil wouldn’t get them all. You know he turned the water into wine, I guess he did get drunk. Three quarters of the world is water. I’m glad he didn’t turn all of the water into wine or we would be in trouble.”

 


We met Drink Small way back in 1991, when he was still touring and recognized as one of the most renowned gospel guitarists and South Carolina’s finest bluesman. His music never brought him riches, but he made a living and has received some of the greatest honors a musician can earn, being the recipient of a South Carolina Folk Heritage award and being named a Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts heritage Fellow.

 

While we often hired Drink to play at the many music series and festivals we supplied talent to in North Carolina and around the country, for many years Drink never needed the assistance of our Musician Sustenance program. But, time has a way of wearing down the most fiercely independent of us. As Drink neared his 80s, his sight slowly began to slip away from him. Now completely blind, Drink can no longer travel or perform. The monthly stipend Music Maker sends him has become crucial to maintaining his extremely humble lifestyle. While Drink appreciates the financial aid, he believes that being part of the Music Maker family provides artists an essential sustenance for the spirit:

 

Now the guy that had never been discovered, he will have a second chance. And some of them that have been discovered and are kind of confused or about to give up, Music Maker spices them up, gives something to live for and a reason to continue on. And the ones that have done it and have given up, you give them something to come back to.”

 

— Denise Duffy

 

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Artist Spotlight: Patrick Sky

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Pat Sky’s biography reads like fiction. He’s a man of extraordinary gifts. A Southerner of Creek Indian heritage, he helped establish the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960s—observers and critics often mentioned him in the same breath as Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk. Around that time, he produced Mississippi John Hurt’s Vanguard recordings which are revered to this day by blues fan. He showed himself to be way ahead of his time as a politically-charged comedic songwriter with his scathing Songs that Made America Famous. He founded the renowned Irish Music label Green Linnet Records, opened a penny whistle factory, and literally wrote the book on Uilleann pipes, sparking an Irish piping renaissance.

Sky also earned an MA in folklore from UNC-Chapel Hill, which is where he met Tim Duffy. When Duffy was getting Music Maker off the ground, he turned to Sky for guidance. Being a music business veteran, he introduced Duffy to a renowned lawyer who helped Music Maker navigate the thorny legal terrain of the music world. Sky also mentored Duffy, offering general advice and warnings about common pitfalls. The older musician knew all too well that many artists, even those at the top of their game, struggle to get by. So he was enthusiastic about an organization that could work to alleviate some of that struggle, and he was eager to offer whatever expertise he could.

As uniquely and diversely talented as Sky is, he’s seen his share of struggle as well. He’s no stranger to the charlatans, bloodsuckers, and swindlers that populate the many shadowy places of the music industry. These days, Sky’s health does not allow him to tour or stand for long periods of time in his workshop, so it has become even harder for him to make a living. Music Maker has stepped in to offer him some assistance. His story sets into relief how important Music Maker’s Musician Sustenance Program is. Pat Sky has given the world so much: songs, recordings, instruments, a rekindled passion for past musical traditions—not to mention the mentorship that he offered Tim Duffy. It’s great to know that he can receive a little help with basic living expenses when he needs it.

One of the songs that Pat Sky recorded on his first album was the Peter La Farge-penned “Ballad of Ira Hayes.” Although Johnny Cash had a top ten hit with the song, his version is marred by kitschy production and an overabundance of pathos. Sky’s version is better. He sang the song straight, calmly relating the story of the Pima Indian who raised the flag in glory at Iwo Jima only to return home to a life of poverty and alcoholism, where he “died drunk one morning / alone in the land he fought to save.” Because he doesn’t force any bitterness or anger, Sky’s version rings truer. The world where people can accomplish great things and get nothing in return is not a fictional place in some imaginary song-land. It is the real world; the place where we all live together.

The Music Maker Musician Sustenance Program works to counteract that harsh reality. And every contribution to Music Maker helps make it possible for great artists who have given us so much to receive a little bit in return.

— Will Boone

Show Your Support For Artists Like Pat Sky By Making a Tax-Deductible Contribution TODAY!

Diggin’: Cootie Stark – Jingle Bells

Get your holiday swinging with Cootie & the gang on this version of Jingle Bells. Done in the Blues fashion this number is loose as it gets. I wonder if the some minor indulgent in some holiday spirits had anything to do with that! The looseness of this song is what makes it so emblematic of the holidays. Having some drinks with friends singing songs and feeling like a family. That is what the blues, the holidays and Music Maker is all about!

Artist Spotlight: Freeman Vines

freemanblog-3-of-4When I was studying ethnomusicology in graduate school, we sat around a classroom one day debating the question, “What is the most fundamental element of music?” Some argued for pitch. Some argued for rhythm. Although it didn’t occur to me at that time, the answer seems obvious to me now—sound. Sound itself—vibration, sonic energy—is the essence of music. You can hear whole stories told through sound without your conscious brain ever registering anything like “pitch” or “rhythm.” When you think about sound in this way, you realize how powerful an instrument can be. A good instrument is much more than a tool for actualizing music. It is a vibrational organism, a sonic storyteller.

 

Freeman Vines’ guitars bring this idea to life for me. When I plugged in one he crafted from an African ceremonial mask, I let my fingers fall into a familiar scale. It was something that would sound good—fancy even—on my own assembly line Fender. But on Vines’ guitar it fell flat, nothing to it. I looked at the guitar. Its wide white eyes looked back at me. The instrument had its own ideas about how it should be played. I adjusted the tuning a little and went for something in the low register. The guitar began to speak. As I tried different voicings and different attacks the instrument gradually started to reveal itself to me.

 

Like the man himself, Freeman Vines’ guitars have little patience for bullshit. They say just what they mean and just what they feel like saying, and not a whole lot else. And even though they all bear the mark of Vines’ irrepressible individuality, every one of them is different. Each has its own sweet spot—a tonal range where its vibrations are the most captivating—and each has its own personality. Like people, they’re not always warm and inviting. A couple of them get a little ornery, a little mean.

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Vines started building his own guitars because assembly line models weren’t giving him the sound he was looking for. “All the sounds to me were commercial,” he says, “plain, dang, ding, dong.” He wanted his own sound. Whether or not he’s found it he claims not to know, but his search has birthed some truly singular specimens. He used fire to shape the body of one guitar, burning the parts he wanted to remove and scraping away the ashes. “I saw the Indians doing it on TV with a canoe,” Vines allows with a touch of playfulness in his voice. The finished body looks inspired by naturally-occurring shapes, maybe a cross between a fish and a leaf. The grain of the charred wood is rich and splotchy like a centuries-old treasure map. It is a gorgeous instrument.

One of Vines’ guitars was fashioned from the soundboard of a piano he claims was over 100 years old. Another was made from cheap plywood. He uses materials that come to him. The shape of the instrument might originate in his imagination, or he might just follow the curves suggested by the wood. In some of his guitars you see echoes of classic Gibsons and Fenders. Others are simply idiosyncratic—one looks like a small boat, another like an ancient Greek lyre. Vines uses hardware and pickups from old unplayable guitars, and draws his own schematics for the wiring. On the headstock of several of his guitars, he’s handwritten in black, “Vine’s Ultrasound.”

Vines has been around. He’s 75 and is often alone these days, trying not to cross paths with people who may not share his ideas about how his time should be spent. Back in the 1960s, he got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, hanging with some guys who had just robbed their white boss. The boss came and bailed his workers out, leaving Vines to take the rap. He did 7 years in a Federal penitentiary. Out of prison, he traveled some with the Vines Sisters—a family gospel group. Recordings they made in the 1970s testify to the depth and quality of their music. But the gospel circuit has always been tough. The money, food, accommodations, and travel arrangements were never good, and the long dark shadows of racism that blot the Southern landscape were inescapable. Vines kept on going. He got married a few times. He did odd jobs. He worked on hot rods. He’s been well-acquainted with the spiritual things in life—with church folks and workers of witchcraft. He’s seen a lot of people come and go.

freemanblog-1-of-4His mother recently passed away at age 95. She kept a diary for years and Freeman’s sister has adapted it and had it published as a book. There are a lot of stories in their family. Certainly, Freeman has plenty of his own. But memoirs and biographies are not his thing. He’s carving his story out of wood, fashioning instruments that can tell it for him. When I plug up his guitars and start to dig in, I hear tales about a renegade, an iconoclast, a stranger to this world. But there’s warmth in there, too, and some laughter. There’s even some sweetness if you look for it. The story gets devilish, but it never loses its way.

 

 

Age and diabetes don’t allow Vines to play like he used to. And some of his guitars are just bodies, not even set up with electronics and strings. But it’s not melody and harmony that tell Vines’ story. It’s something more elemental. It’s the idea of sound; the promise of vibration to shake our mortal shells into a place beyond ourselves. That’s where the real Vines story unfolds. It’s the kind of story that’s not for everyone. But even when his instruments appear silent, those with ears to hear will hear.

— Will Boone

Why Do We Still Make Records?

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For over 20 years Music Maker has been releasing albums, showcasing the amazing work of the artists we feel are so important to the fabric of our culture. During the CD boom of the late 90s and early 2000s, Music Maker was able to sell CDs, putting money in the pockets of these important musicians. The dawn of Napster and other peer-to-peer file sharing applications, widespread accessibility to the Internet and the subsequent shift in how we value music began to diminish sales, even for the largest record labels. In a relatively short period of time the entire music industry changed.

Larger companies were only concerned with their bottom line so they began to change the way they worked with artists, giving them an even smaller piece of the revenue pie. But Music Maker’s function as a record label is different than the Sonys and Warner Brothers of the world. The albums we put out aren’t going quadruple platinum, there is something much more important at stake. Anyone who has ever toured or played music professionally knows the importance of CDs as a source of income and as a way to connect with fans, not to mention the fact that many Music Maker artists had never been given an opportunity to record an album at all. Music Maker is able to grant these CDs to the musicians for free because of supporters like you. 

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Boo Hanks, for example, was unique in that he had never played outside of his home community in rural Buffalo Junction, VA. Music Maker saw that Boo was a unique artist that contributed to our cultural heritage and was, like many many others, overlooked due to his socioeconomic situation. We partnered with Boo and recorded his first album – Picking Low Cotton and started booking him shows. Boo ended up traveling the world, sharing his music and even got to record his second album with GRAMMY award winning artist Dom Flemons.
Boo was incredibly proud of his accomplishments and was able to earn extra income with the CDs that Music Maker produced for him. After a show Boo played in Chapel Hill, NC a group of children rushed the stage when Boo was done to get their CDs signed. They were absolutely enamored with the fact that Boo was there in person to sign their CDs, Boo was equally excited. I immediately understood why we make still make albums at Music Maker.
— Corn Lewis

Show Your Support for Elderly Roots Musicians By Making a Tax-Deductible Donation Today!

Diggin’: Albert White – Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away

Albert White has been around the musical block. He started playing in High School, rehearsing with his uncle, the R&B legend Dr. Feelgood. When he and his buddies got together their own band, they all started out with guitars. Eventually one guy had to put it down for a keyboard, the other for a bass, the other for drums and so on. As a mentor, this band, The Rockers, had Atlanta’s music scene including Dr. Feelgood, Lou Rawls arranger Thomas Stewart, Grady Fats Jackson, the guy who blew two saxes at the same time and others. On top of that, Atlanta was and is a regular stopover for acts touring the East Coast. Albert opened for and often was hired to play with these national acts including Stevie Wonder (Little Stevie Wonder at the time), The Tams, The Shirelles, Ray Charles and many others. 

It is such a pleasure to be on tour with him. He is the consummate professional. On the EU tour several weeks ago, one of his song selections is Willie Nelson’s “Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away” The song is a selection from his recent release Albert White and the Rockers. The people must be liking it because most of shows are nearly sold out. Albert imbues this song with Atlanta soul and it makes you realize the slim differences between Country and Soul. How do you think they differ?

— Aaron Greenhood

Taj Mahal – Labor of Love

taj-mahal-for-chad-kassem-18            The blues live on because the blues give people life, not the other way around. Talk about the blues with Taj Mahal or Tim Duffy—founder of the Music Maker Relief Foundation—and you will quickly understand how deeply they grasp this. Both men are devoted to tradition, but not a museum kind of tradition. They’re devoted to living tradition; tradition that is not only “viable and vital”—as Taj puts it—but tradition that is life-giving and life-sustaining.

When Tim recounts his first experiences hearing Taj play live in the early 1980s, he describes a performer who rumbled with the echoes of ancestors and forefathers as he created a sound that was completely relevant in the present moment. Taj was not a revivalist. He was a medium for the blues’ reviving power.

Tim and Taj first connected in the mid-1990s. Tim, just getting the Music Maker Relief Foundation off the ground, had released A Living Past, a book and CD set featuring artists he was working with. When this collection found its way to Taj, it stopped him dead in his tracks. For a long time, he had nurtured a belief that there were musicians out there playing traditional blues with life and vigor; musicians who didn’t simply remember the music, but who got life from it. And here they were. Taj describes hearing their music as “deeply personal,” something that illuminated things about his own musical roots he had intuited before but now came to understand more fully. Taj was also was fascinated by Tim. Unlike so many folklorists of the past, Tim seemed to understand that preserving tradition did not simply mean sticking photographs and recordings into an archive. Preserving tradition was “all about taking loving care of these older artists.”

Taj brought Tim out to L.A. and introduced him and his new foundation to folks like B.B. King, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton. Tim invited Taj to his place in rural Pinnacle, North Carolina where the celebrated musician slept on a palette on the floor and hung out with several Music Maker artists. He loved how they played and sang, but he especially loved “getting to know their lives and how they made things work.”

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Taj says he wanted to “give whatever [he] had” to Tim’s foundation, and he figured maybe his name had “some kind of cachet.” Things fell into place, including a sponsorship from Winston cigarettes, and in 1998 a group of Music Maker artists set off on a mammoth 42-city tour with Taj as the headliner. Talk to anyone who was involved and it’s immediately clear that this was a special time. Artists who had spent the previous decades playing in drink houses and juke joints were lighting up audiences on high-profile stages across the country, rising to ever higher heights. The bigger the show, the better they played.

Listen to Billboard.com’s exclusive stream of Labor of Love HERE

Taj was tearing it up too, of course. But he was also soaking it in. He was hanging out with artists like Cootie Stark, Neal Pattman, and Beverly “Guitar” Watkins. He was listening to them and learning from them. And he was reconnecting to music he had been hearing and playing since he was a kid. But now he was grasping it in a new way, going “deeper.” Nothing was drastically different, he says, it just felt like he was getting “closer to the source.”

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Tim—sensing the incredibly rich musical possibilities in the air—hoped to catch something on tape. In addition to shepherding a motley assemblage of senior citizen bluesmen and women through a never-ending series of unfamiliar cities and settings, Tim was lugging around high-end recording equipment that he had recently acquired from the legendary audio wizard Mark Levinson. He set it up in hotel rooms in Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas—wherever—hoping he could get Taj to do an impromptu session. But it never seemed to work out.

Then one night in Houston, the daughter of Katie Mae was hanging around—the Katie Mae, the woman immortalized in the Lightnin’ Hopkins classic “Katie Mae Blues.” Hopkins, with his highly-original cut-to-the bone poetry and raw elegance, is an Olympian figure of the blues, and Taj, being steeped in the blues’ American mythology, couldn’t miss the chance to meet this woman face-to-face. So, a few bluesmen and Tim and Taj and Katie Mae’s daughter hung out together in this Houston hotel room. After a while, Taj picked up an acoustic and started whipping out classic tunes—“Stack-O-Lee,” “Walking Blues,” “Fishing Blues”—merging his reinvigorated feeling for tradition with his inimitable personal style. The tape was rolling.

Around the time of the Winston tour, Taj often visited North Carolina, first coming to Pinnacle and later to Music Maker’s new headquarters in Hillsborough. Tim had “tapped into a full-on living scene,” Taj says, and he was reeling with a sense of incredible good fortune that he was getting to be a part of it. He regularly sat in on recording sessions (usually long hang-out-and-barbecue sessions with some recording thrown in). When the music got going, Taj would play some piano, bass, harp, banjo, mandolin, whatever was needed. “It was fun. Really fun to get to use all my chops like that,” Taj says, “but I never got in just because I could. If I didn’t have something to say, I shut up.” He overflows with feeling when he talks about playing with these folks; singular artists like John Dee Holeman, Cool John Ferguson, Cootie Stark, and Algia Mae Hinton.

Tim loved the sounds that were getting recorded. The players were letting loose, digging in, coming alive as the music came through them. This was it, that place where tradition becomes “viable and vital” in the present. He wanted to put this stuff out—these North Carolina sessions and the Houston hotel recordings. But the time wasn’t right. Taj had just released a string of great studio albums with a throwback R&B flavor, and there was a new 3-disc retrospective of his work on the market. There really wasn’t any commercial space for Taj Mahal versions of “Hambone” and “Shortin’ Bread.” So the recordings just sat around.

Your Support Ensures That These Musicians Voices Are Heard. Make Your Tax Deductible Contribution TODAY!

For about two decades now, Taj and Tim have nurtured their friendship and partnership. They have incredibly nice things to say about each other. Both men credit the other with enriching their respective life, career, and musical journey. Tim says that, “having Taj Mahal be a champion for Music Maker has been one of the greatest joys of my life.” He goes on, “Without Taj, Music Maker would not be what it is, it would be something else; something different.” Taj’s spirit, it seems, infuses the whole enterprise.

In 2015, Tim’s foundation turned 21 years old, and Taj, born in 1942, was settling into his eighth decade of life. Both men were looking back and reflecting. They returned to these recordings made during that magical time in the late 1990s. In them they heard what Albert Murray, the great African American cultural critic, claimed to be the essence of blues style, “a unique blend of warmth, sensitivity, nonsense, vitality, and elegance.” These tracks needed to be heard. Taj wanted to do a vinyl-only release and Tim thought that “was really groovy.”

So here they are, on a piece of solid wax. Comb through all the dozens of Taj Mahal albums released in the last few decades and you won’t find a more intimate portrayal of his stripped-down traditional blues style, nor a better representation of Taj as a freewheeling, fun-loving, always in-the-pocket sideman. “When I listen to this,” Tim says, “it just shows how good the music really is. His version of ‘Shortin’ Bread’ with Neal Pattman is, you know, it’s just amazing. It’s as good as anything that was on wax in the 20s and 30s.” And it is, precisely because you don’t get any sense that Taj was trying to recreate some old record. He just sounds like he’s having fun. The album might be a Labor of Love (and the labor is there, no doubt), but when the needle hits the grooves, what really comes across is the love: the love of the budding friendship between Taj and Tim; the love of the blues; the loving care that is the essence of real preservation; and, especially, the love of being in the moment, playing, creating a sound that gives you life. I asked Taj what he wanted the record to say to people. “Hrmmh,” he grunted, diverting attention from my too-serious question, “just enjoy it.”

 

— Will Boone

 

PREORDER LABOR OF LOVE HERE

Diggin’: Harvey Dalton Arnold – Cold & Lonesome

“Cold & Lonesome,” a hit for venerable Southern Rock pioneers, The Outlaws, is here performed by its writer, Harvey Dalton Arnold. Just Harvey, a guitar and a slide. When you talked about cold and lonesome feelings, there is no better way. He weeps for bouncing from one woman to another, night after night and never getting tied down to the right one, and the guitar cries back. This was recorded back a few years ago for Harvey’s first solo acoustic record. One of my favorites!

Artist Spotlight: Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen

olp_lowres-11The blues call us to face the reality of mistreatment. Blues songs are full of people doing one another wrong—mistreatment from lovers, strangers, systemic structures, and, of course, from oneself. But by calling it out and making it plain—we humans don’t treat one another right—the blues exert an opposing force. They help us glimpse the world that we’d like to live in, one where people do right by themselves and their sisters and brothers.

At least that’s how I feel when I listen to Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen. Certainly, Cohen has seen her share of mistreatment. She’s completely open about what she’s been through—sexual assault as a young woman, being fired under false pretenses, being displaced by Katrina, losing her house to fire. “It’s just life,” she says. “And if you can’t keep it real, if you can’t tell the truth about yourself, what can you tell the truth about?” She tells the truth when she sings, too. There’s nothing sad about her blues, nothing weepy or self-pitying. With the confidence and regality of blues pioneers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, Cohen’s voice conveys the message, “yeah, the mistreatment is real, but it’s never going to stop me.”

Cohen’s blues, full of power and resilience, are the kind that fill you up and make you feel good. She loves to make her audience happy. “It makes me happy to make other people happy,” she says, “It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. I give it. It comes back. I give it. It comes back.” This kind of reciprocity is something Cohen talks about a lot. She calls it “planting seeds,” and she sees everything she does as an opportunity to plant seeds. She sings regularly at nursing homes in her area, for example. “I do all songs that they know, or things that I’ve handpicked just for them,” she explains,

And the people really appreciate it, because folks in these nursing homes, they don’t get the opportunity to hear really good music that often. And someone asked me, ‘Why are you doing that if they’re not paying you?’ And I said they are paying me. Maybe not with money, but they’re paying me. Because I leave out of there some days so filled up; so full, you understand? I’ll come out of there so full that the tears are just coming out of my eyes.

Before Hurricane Katrina, she would draw huge crowds in New Orleans clubs and was often called “The Queen of Bourbon Street.” She lived in the Ninth Ward, though, and lost everything in the 2005 storm. She was displaced to North Carolina where she had two brothers. “A lot of people don’t really understand what the word displaced is all about,” she says,

It’s being somewhere where you are totally out of sorts. Like they dropped you off in outer space. You don’t know anything. You don’t know where the stores are. You don’t know where you’re going to live. You don’t anybody in your town. You don’t know musicians, or where you’re going to play. You don’t know anything.

Eventually, she hooked up with Big Ron Hunter at a club in Winston Salem and he introduced her to Tim Duffy. Music Maker has been able to help her find gigs and even sent her to Europe and Australia with the Music Maker Revue. Still, she’s remained intimately acquainted with the struggles that so many musicians face. “This has not been the easiest life,” she muses, “It’s almost like when you devote yourself to being an artist, you take a vow of poverty. Like a monk.” The Music Maker Sustenance Program has pitched in to help Cohen with things like getting heat in her home and a vehicle to make it to gigs. Music Maker also helped offset the costs when she recently lost her house to fire. “Most of my life,” Cohen says, “I never had to ask anybody for anything, I’ve always made it myself. But sometimes, things happen where you could use a helping hand. And it is nice to know that there is somebody out there looking out for you.”

Cohen keeps a quote on her mirror that reads, in part, “Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% of how we respond to it. The single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude.” She reads it every morning and sets out to live by it. And I hear it when she sings the blues. She’s responding to a harsh world by exerting an opposing force. This is how the best blues work, I’ve always thought. By telling the truth about how people treat each other, they make us want to do better.

Music Maker nurtures of a community—Pat Cohen calls it a “family”—of great artists who tell these truths. And in the same way that the blues exert a counterforce to mistreatment, every contribution to Music Maker exerts a counterforce to the struggle that so many artists have endured for so long. “I really and truly, truly appreciate Music Maker,” Pat Cohen says, “To me, they’re like family. And the artists in Music Maker, we’re like a family. It’s a community and it’s a family, and I’m proud to be a part of it.” She goes on, “and for those that contribute to Music Maker, I want them to know, they’re not just contributing to a foundation, they’re contributing to people’s lives.” To return to Cohen’s favorite metaphor, every contribution is a seed. Together these seeds grow into a bountiful harvest that we all reap.

— Will Boone

Support Musicians Like Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen TODAY!

Diggin’: Cool John Ferguson – Come All Ye Faithful


Everyone has a favorite holiday song, Come All Ye Faithful is mine. You won’t hear an elaborate symphony or full chorus on this version by Cool John Ferguson – just one guy, his guitar, and a simple, peaceful melody. Cozy up and enjoy!

Also, if you have not finished your holiday shopping check out our Captain Luke T-Shirt or consider making a gift in your loved one’s honor.

Albert White and the Soul of the Blues

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I had the pleasure of meeting Albert over the summer when he came up from Atlanta to play at the Freight Train Blues series in Carrboro, NC. Albert and some other artists had just arrived from Atlanta, and we took them to have lunch at Waffle House, somewhat of a Music Maker tradition. I sensed right away that Albert was a kind and gentle soul. Later, at the show, I realized that he was also one incredible musician.

 

Albert will be turning 74 this December, and has been performing the Blues for over 50 years. He got his start in high school, influenced by his Uncle, Piano Red, who was one of the great pioneers of R&B. Albert would drive his uncle around the country for his shows, playing guitar along the way.

 

After his uncle passed Albert found work at a warehouse, but still continued to perform every weekend in Atlanta. He is retired now, and lives in a small working class home that he once shared with his wife, who has now passed away.

 

Albert has been part of the Music Maker family since 2000, touring with the Blues Revue as a guitarist and backing up dozens of Music Maker artists with his incredible rhythm guitar playing. Once a younger member of the family, Albert is now an elder. He is losing eyesight in one eye due to glaucoma, his hips are giving out, yet he still gets out there to play gigs. His love for music keeps him pushing forward.

 

Like many of our aging artists, Albert receives monthly support through our Musician Sustenance Program to help cover expenses for his increased medical needs. Over the years, we have also provided him with guitars and a replacement laptop in order to stay connected despite his more limited mobility.

 

Albert is a gentleman, a man of class and distinction, and an amazing Blues artist. Music Maker will continue to ensure that his needs are met, so that he may live in comfort and remain an active, vital member of the Music Maker family.

 

Learn more about our Musician Sustenance Program here, or make your tax deductible contribution – here and help amazing artists like Albert White

 

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