Tacoma, Washington's KPLU-FM "streams" on the Internet at kplu.org, and they are definitely worth checking out on Saturday and Sunday nights from 6 p.m. to midnight Pacific time when they play "All Blues" -- six straight hours each night of Blues/R&B/Soul with no commercials.
I've been listening for a couple of months -- and now that I'm hooked, I don't have to take CD's to work with me on weekends, because "All Blues" keeps me moving.
I hear they've been doing this show for YEARS -- and it took me years to hear it. I had to wait 'til I was completely fed-up with local radio and wanted to hear some strong emotions directly expressed. If you have anything like "All Blues" in your town, you're lucky. It is by far the best, most varied radio programming around here, and no one has complained -- and lots of customers have approved -- since I started tuning it in at work on weekends.
Now, I haven't become a huge blues fan -- I still can't tell Muddy Waters from Howlin' Wolf, though I've finally caught on to Bo Diddley -- and some of the more grinding, low-down or depressing blues numbers still don't do it for me ... and the more boastful stuff like "I'm a Man" or "Mannish Boy" just makes me laugh.
But most of the time "All Blues" is Really Good Stuff. It's impossible NOT to move to a lot of it. And I'm learning.
I think I first got hooked when they played Aretha's "I've Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" awhile back. I'd never heard it before. So I grabbed an Aretha Best-Of CD, and realized what an idiot I'd been for 40 years. I knew she was great. I didn't know she was GREAT.
Since then, I just let them play. Unless someone's playing all downbeat stuff, I'm never disappointed. And I can't remember the last time I could stand to listen to local radio for six hours straight. As I said, if you've got something like this where you're at -- with the current rotten state of most radio -- you're lucky.
As much as I like "All Blues," and as wide as their playlist seems to be, they DO have a current playlist of recent stuff that they definitely push. Every night I've tuned in, they've played current blues tracks by:
* Gary Nicholson (as "Whitney Jordan") -- "Living it Down." Sounds like Eric Clapton on vocals.
* Grady Champion -- "On the South Side," which sounds to me like a laid-back old-school late-'60s/early-'70s R&B number, deserves to be a big hit.
* Johnny Winter and Ben Harper's version of Elmore James' "I Can't Hold Out."
* Elvin Bishop's "Blues With a Feeling."
* Mark Knopfler's "Someday," a J.J. Cale song actually credited to Eric Clapton, from Clapton's tribute album to J.J. Cale, THE BREEZE. Sounds like a Dire Straits piece, lots of Knopfler-sounding guitar.
* Dr. John's "Dipper Mouth Blues."
* Mud Morganfield's "I Want You to Love Me," which I can't take seriously -- I know he's Muddy Waters' son, but this sounds like a satire. Course the blues can also be fun, and funny....
* Daveena and the Vagabonds' "I Try to be Good," which is cute, but sounds to me like a Broadway show tune.
* Shameka Copeland's "Never Going Back" and "Lemon Pie."
They also play lots of Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur, Joe Bonnamassa, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and stuff from as far back as the 1930's, possibly even older. I'm OK with the old stuff, but I prefer the newer.
They also play stuff like the Alabama Sheiks' great "You Ain't Alone," Dr. John's hilarious "Why Come it is?" (never liked him much, but it's a great, funny song), Lyle Lovett's "My Baby Don't Tolerate," Beth Hart and Joe Bonnamassa's great "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know," and LOTS of Louis Jordan, like the hilarious and racy "Movin' to the Outskirts of Town," which I'd never heard before.
The folks at KPLU seem to enjoy playing Elmore James and Albert King and Freddie King and somebody you've NEVER heard of -- and THEN they throw in Aretha, or The Beatles' "Yer Blues," or Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm" just to see if you're paying attention. I also heard Aretha's "Dr. Feelgood" and "The Night Life" here for the first time.
They also throw in old spirituals, a little bit of street-corner doo-wop like The Persuasions, some Etta James and Nina Simone, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain," The Meters, The Neville Brothers, hot guitar and organ and piano instrumentals -- and some woman doing a killer version of "Rock Island Line" ... I've never heard yet who it is.
Since getting hooked, I've bought some more R&B/Soul CD's for the other nights of the week. I've found one REALLY GREAT Bonnie Raitt song I'd never heard before -- "Angel from Montgomery." I'm getting to the point where I almost enjoy Ray Charles -- when he doesn't seem too "old-fashioned" for me. I've got some James Brown and Wilson Pickett CD's on the way -- and I'd like to hear a lot more of the Tedeschi-Trucks Band.
THIS is how radio should be done. It's never boring.