Neither any of my siblings nor I have musical talent. It wasn’t something any of us learned as children, though we all share a deep love for music, and that certainly was something influenced by our parents, and later by friends and the bands we grew up listening to and sharing as a family; something we’ve done a lot in recent years at family gatherings… when those were happening, before COVID-19.
I wonder if that deep attraction to music rubbed off on our children, as most of us have had children who have played or are playing music. My two lads began playing violin at age four and continued until they were about 16. One has continued with numerous musical projects over the years, enjoying success and a strong local following. A nephew has played in a couple of bands here in Winnipeg, as has a cousin in Birkenhead, England.
And tonight, one of my brothers shared with me a 41-second video of one of his sons playing electric guitar to a backing blues track. It mesmerized me and made me want to hear more blues, while realizing I know so little about this spellbinding genre. According to the Shazam app, the backing music was “Sad Blues Backing Track in A Minor,” by Sebastien Zunino, a French guitarist-composer who creates tracks and lessons.
So, of course, I set out to find some blues this evening, and without resorting to some of the more obvious choices (or at least the ones I know), I serendipitously found tonight’s selection, by a Black American musician I’m not familiar with, Chris Bell. He and his band, 100% Blues, play a song, “Elevator to Heaven,” that reminds me a little of the clip I heard this evening on the family video. Official information on Bell is a bit sparse… no official website that I could find or Wikipedia pages from which to draw.
Bell was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Massachusetts. That state has been on my mind all week, with the passing of a friend who lived there. At a gathering of friends on Zoom today, there was more talk of this man who remains very present in those whose lives he touched. I do not doubt that our dear friend is on an elevator to Heaven, though I am sure he would have ushered all the other passengers on first before getting on himself.
“Elevator to Heaven” is featured on a live album released this year by Chris Bell & 100% Blues, Year of the Blues. While I enjoy live performances, I don’t find the recording to be of particularly high quality, so I am opting for the studio version from Blues 2001, which appears to be out of print. A much shorter version of the song also appears on 2017’s Baptized by the Blues, which, along with the 2020 live album, is available in the iTunes Store.
Here’s the audio for the 9:02 version from Blues 2001, though it is posted with a still image of the album art for another collection, Real Bluesman (2005).