Two years ago, the Rolling Stones released “Blue & Lonesome,” a surprise album featuring the band’s spontaneously recorded interpretations of 12 blues classics. The project includes the Stones’ renditions of songs by Baton Rouge blues artist Lightnin’ Slim and Marksville harmonica ace Little Walter Jacobs.
“Confessin’ the Blues,” a newly released two-CD compilation curated by The Rolling Stones, features the original Lightnin’ Slim and Jacobs recordings in a 42-track collection of blues, rock ’n’ roll and boogie-woogie classics.
Recordings by Louisiana artists appear across “Confessin’ the Blues”: Slim Harpo’s 1957 Excello Records debut, “I’m a King Bee” (recorded by the Stones for their 1964 album debut); no less than four Little Walter songs; Buddy Guy’s incendiary 1991 track, “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues”; Lightnin’ Slim’s “Hoodoo Blues” (recorded by the Stones for “Blue & Lonesome”); and Dale Hawkins’ swamp-rock hit, “Susie Q.”
Inspired by American blues, the Rolling Stones have been activist fans of the genre for more than 50 years. In 1965, for instance, they demanded that the producers of TV’s “Shindig!” book one of their heroes, Howlin’ Wolf, or the Stones wouldn’t do the show. Wolf’s network television debut was a breakthrough for the blues genre.
“Confessin’ the Blues” is a logical follow-up to “Blue & Lonesome.” The double album stretches from early 20th century legend Robert Johnson to the still touring and recording Guy. The Stones’ choices show their love and extensive knowledge of the genre. A portion of the sales will benefit Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation.
It should be noted that this album’s release comes at a time an important conversation is being had about white appropriation of the blues, a genre built by black musicians. In October, shortly before the release of “Confessin’ the Blues,” Louisiana blues artist Chris Thomas King stated that he and his latest album, “Hotel Voodoo,” were being blocked from inclusion in the blues categories at the 2019 Grammy Awards.
In his statement, King points to the Rolling Stones’ 2018 “Best Traditional Blues Album” Grammy win for “Blue & Lonesome” as “cultural appropriation at its most shameless.” The record’s inclusion shoved out deserving black musicians who depend on nominations for exposure, King wrote.
King’s full statement can be read on his website, christhomasking.com.