The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Hendrix’s legacy survives with new ‘Blues’ album

Observer Scene | Thursday, September 28, 2006

Whether you just got an exam back, lost your keys or had to spend an afternoon fixing a flat bike tire – sometimes it’s hard not to feel down. While commiserating with friends might seem like the best solution, sometimes talking can’t express it all. The Jimi Hendrix compilation album “Blues” serves as the perfect mix for conveying every woe.

Hendrix may not seem like an obvious artist here, since blues icons like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker come to mind first. Plus, Hendrix grew up in the Pacific Northwest – a far cry from the blues bastion of the Deep South.

But Hendrix spent his childhood listening to his father’s collection of blues singles. When he picked up his first acoustic guitar, he started to play along to those records. After taking up the electric guitar, he took what he had learned from the blues and developed his own unique style.

A self-taught musician, the left-handed Hendrix played a right-handed Fender Stratocaster guitar turned upside down and re-strung to suit him.

This album highlights the impact blues had on his music by focusing on 11 tracks that show off his roots.

The album starts off with an acoustic version of “Hear My Train Comin’,” a track with a healthy mix of vocals, acoustic bends and humming. A live electric version of the same track closes the CD, though its focus is quite different.

He adds his renowned electric guitar riffs, which become the dominant feature of the song. Despite the shift in instrumentation, Hendrix still maintains the same attitude of the original song – a testament to his ability to sing through the guitar. The riffs become the expression of the lyrics, embodying the hums with electronic distortion.

Another notable track is “Red House,” which was a live Hendrix favorite. The track lets the listener in on the conversational chemistry between Hendrix and his guitar. He pours out his soul through his lyrics, then pauses and listens as his guitar consoles him through the misery. Its heavy tone keeps the song pulsing. The song “Bleeding Heart” follows the same type of progression, though it adds even more drag.

“Mannish Boy” adds a driving beat and faster rhythm to the blues progression. It has a groovy, funky feel to it, but the influence of blues is still evident in the licks.

A few of the tracks, including “Catfish Blues,” “Voodoo Chile Blues” and “Once I Had a Woman” focus more on the essence of the blues guitar. They allow Hendrix to jam out to the blues, which adds more spice since it gives the jam a theme and an inspiration.

Hendrix may have led the psychedelic revolution with his rock music, but he always carried the roots of rock – the blues – with him in his works.

This album was released as part of the Experience Hendrix series, which was designed to better benefit Hendrix’s survivng family. The songs have all been digitally remastered in this new release.

While some might say the freestyle jams can be a bit of a turn-off, this album is a great way for fans of rock to step into the blues. The best way to listen to the CD is from beginning to end without skipping, because, if you’re feelin’ the blues, who wants to skip a track?

So get that exam back, hit the books, fix that tire and console yourself with the soulful rhythm of Hendrix and his blues-soaked guitar riffs.