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Living the Blues

"Feelin' Good": Bob Corritore (center) enjoys a moment with Chico Chism (left) and late Chicago blues pioneer Jimmy Rogers.
Jim Wells

You'll have to excuse Bob Corritore if his head has been in the clouds lately. It's understandable given the fact that the release of his All Star Blues Sessions album (HMG/Hightone Records) is the culmination of a lifelong dream for the 42-year-old promoter, radio personality and performer.

At lunch with the pompadour-coifed Corritore, it's hard not to be taken by his genuine enthusiasm for the blues -- for which he has both an encyclopedic knowledge and a religious passion.

The album, collected from tracks featuring Corritore on harmonica and recorded in the Valley between 1986 and 1998, is full of sterling performances and contributions from local and national legends like Chico Chism, Bo Diddley and Robert Lockwood Jr. The record also has been approved for release in Europe and Japan -- a rarity for a white blues artist.

Despite the big names, the real heart of the project lies in the album's second cut, a 1992 recording of "Out on the Road" by Chicago blues legend Jimmy Rogers. For Corritore, a Windy City native and avowed Muddy Waters disciple, the chance to play with the King Bee's longtime side man was a dream come true.

"I bought Jimmy Rogers' [seminal 1950s Chess Records collection] Chicago Bound when I was in high school, and listening to that record, I used to go to bed dreaming about the songs. Its glory was beyond words," says Corritore.

Corritore began to develop a relationship with Rogers after he brought the veteran blues man -- who had been retired from music for an extended period in the 1960s -- to Phoenix for a series of regular engagements. "Jimmy and I got very, very close. We immediately hit it off and bonded; he was a great man," recalls Corritore.

The song and the story are bittersweet as Rogers (who passed away in December 1997) didn't live to see the project come to fruition. "It was sad because he had so much more that he could have said," notes Corritore

Rogers was about to get the mainstream attention due him with Blues Blues Blues, a posthumously released all-star affair featuring such notable rock luminaries as Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.

His bond with Rogers and other blues veterans is part of what carries Corritore through the 15-hour days, endless hassles and frayed nerves that come with running a thriving club and a weekly radio show. For Corritore, all of his activities, including the album, are ways to carry on the traditions of the music he's loved since childhood.

Aside from his own record, Corritore continues to be a vital player within blues circles, a fact confirmed by the release, in the last few months, of several projects bearing his name. Corritore, whose past credits include producing a number of harmonica albums for his own Blues Over Blues Records as well as work behind the board for Louisiana Red and Big Leon Brooks, produced "Come On In," the live title track to R.L. Burnside's latest Fat Possum record. Corritore also oversaw work on Mojo Buford's newly released Champagne & Reefer (Fedora Records), an album recorded live at the Rhythm Room last fall.

Apart from a pair of upcoming CD-release celebrations, Corritore won't have much time to enjoy his newfound status as a "recording artist."

"I never dreamed that these recordings and the things I've been doing would get to this magnitude. It's gotten bigger than life in a way," says Corritore. "It's real fun and great to have this record, but I'm always having the reality check of waking up in the morning and going to work, so I can't ever get too caught up in it."

Bob Corritore's CD-release party is scheduled for Friday, September 10; and Saturday, September 11, at the Rhythm Room. Showtime both nights is 8 p.m.

Tempe Calling: Although it may not be CBGB's West quite yet, Tempe's Cannery Row is quickly gaining a reputation as something of a local punk rock mecca. That's due in large part to the efforts of resident DJ/promoter Brian D. of Destroy Your Generation Productions. The club, at 705 South Forest, has hosted a number of unique concerts and events mixing a homey atmosphere with equal parts cheap beer and sweat-inducing rock and roll. The booze and blood are sure to flow during a Friday triple bill featuring Junk Records recording artists the Weaklings, and the Bulemics. Local girl group wonders The Peeps are scheduled to open the show.

This past March the Austin-based Bulemics released its full-length Junk debut Old Enough to Know Better -- Too Young to Care -- an inspired blast of snotty in-your-face punk produced by Mike Mariconda (Dropouts, Sons of Hercules). The Stoogey twin-guitar crunch of Gabe Bulemic and Ray Ject and the sneering Rotten-cum-Crash vocals of singer Gerry Atric equally recall Brit "No Future" prophecies and the decaying concrete of early '80s L.A. The 13 tracks on Old Enough . . . make the Bulemics poetic punk statement clear: How do I say fuck you? Let me count the ways. And there are more than enough clever, gross and ultimately engaging ways the group relays that sentiment on tracks like "Die Tonight," "Make Me Sick" and "Harlot From Beyond."

Portland, Oregon's Weaklings are on a slightly different, though equally determined, search-and-destroy mission. With a sound that a critic once characterized as "the Sex Pistols doing Hüsker Dü material or vice versa," the group has earned a reputation as incendiary (both literally and figuratively) live performers.

As for the group's stage act, front man Bradly Wayne Shaver has an affinity for engaging in nihilistic Iggy/Vicious antics, like carving his chest with broken beer bottles. The Weaklings' Cannery Row set is sure to be filled with plenty of mutilation, self-directed or otherwise. The group also has a new Junk album, Just the Way We Like It. The blistering 11-song disc adheres to the band's motto: "They'll drive you to drink, fuck and suicide." Well, two out of three ain't bad.

The Weaklings, the Bulemics, and the Peeps are scheduled to perform on Friday, September 10, at Cannery Row in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Hank, George and Kelly: Following last month's successful Buck Owens Tribute, a new event celebrating two of country music's true giants (and notorious hell-raisers), Hank Williams Sr. and George Jones, is set for Tuesday, September 14. The show will again be held at the Balboa Cafe in Tempe and will feature many of the same participants that helped make the previous tribute a resounding success. The upcoming show boasts a set list more than twice the size of the one for the Owens extravaganza and an equally expanded cast of local musicians. That should ensure a night that looks to be a veritable twang-filled orgy of cheatin,' drinkin' and heartbreak.

A couple days before the Williams/Jones salute, modern-day honky-tonk angel Kelly Willis will grace the Balboa Cafe stage during a rare Arizona visit. Willis is touring in support of the recently released What I Deserve (Rykodisc). The record features the singer's honey-drenched voice on a sparkling collection of songs that range from trad country, Americana and parts beyond (one highlight is Willis' unique take on the Replacements' "They're Blind"). Rumor has it that No Depression icon Alejandro Escovedo (who wowed a Balboa crowd with a powerful performance last month) may make a return to town to play with Willis.

The Hank Williams/George Jones Salute is scheduled for Tuesday, September 14. Showtime is 8 p.m. Kelly Willis is scheduled to perform on Sunday, September 12. Showtime is 9 p.m. Both shows are at the Balboa Cafe in Tempe.

Got His Mojo Working: Hide the women, children and Debbie Gibson as Mojo Nixon arrives in town for a Saturday, September 11, performance at the Green Room in Tempe. Nixon's 1999 release The Real Sock Ray Blue! -- Texas Prison Field Recordings Vol. 3 is packed with his inimitably wicked psychobilly send-ups. This time around, Nixon dispatches a whole herd of sacred cows with tracks like "Drunk Divorced Floozie (The Ballad of Diana Spencer)" -- featuring the immortal lines: "Married big ears/But as princess she failed/She birthed him two heirs to the throne/But she couldn't keep the royal member happy at home" -- "Disney Is the Enemy" (which links Walt Disney, McDonald's, and the entire Mormon religion to an alien conspiracy) and the aptly titled "Rock and Roll Hall of Lame." Local boys the Piersons (who recently finished laying down rough tracks for a new collection of songs) will open the show.

Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors are scheduled to perform on Saturday, September 11, at the Green Room in Tempe, with the Piersons. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Contact Bob Mehr at his online address: bmehr@newtimes.com


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