Many years ago we toured in East Germany when it was still a communist state. We were given quite a lot of money and had to spend every penny of it in the country. You couldn't bring it out - if you did you couldn't change it up. So every day we all ran around like lunatics buying everything we could lay our hands on.
Well there wasn't much to buy actually, and what there was was pretty shoddy. But the East Germans had done one thing right; they'd produced a series of excellent blues tapes. I don't know what was on most of the series, because of course - you couldn't get them! But I picked up one that was a gem.
It was Lonnie Johnson, recorded in Copenhagen during one of those European blues packages they all did. Just guitar and a pianist, who I realised after a while was none other than Otis Spann.
I used to play the tape a lot in the car, and found it to be a relaxing soundtrack to another boring drive. And one day it hit me that myself and Lou could do something similar ourselves.(Not comparing our talents to Lonnie and Otis I hasten to add - but still, we could make a good record). So that was it - the idea was born. Lou, of course, was up for it, and some time later I mentioned it to Terry Currier at Burnside Records. He leapt at the idea - so we did it.
Myself and Lou had a lot of favourite old tunes that we'd come across over the years, so it wasn't hard to come up with some material. I also wrote four new songs for the album.
"Blue Mood" was an original, written in a kind of pre-war European jazz blues style, (I think). It fell in to place easily and we decided to break our own rule by adding to it. What we added was a rather odd sounding horn effect - Linda describes the sound as cheesy. Sounds good though. "L&M Boogie" is a jam..you'll hear us end, well one of us ended and the other didn't so we started again. Anyway at least it's live.
"Sleeping in the Ground" is a favourite old tune by Sammy Myers though I think the lyric's a bit heavy..
"Keep on Drinking" is a lovely old song by Little Brother Montgomery. I know it from a fine performance on a "Folk Festival of the Blues" type album and it's a tune that myself and Lou have jammed together many times over the years. "Got to Find my Baby" is another favourite that I first heard by Chuck Berry.
"Chantale" is a very old fashioned sounding jazzy ballad instrumental - and the name is completely made up. It just sounded right. And strangely enough it didn't seem to confuse anyone in France when we played it there later.
"Hymn to Freedom" is one of Lou's favourites - I think he came close to recording it with Rory one time. "Happy Home" is the B-side, as far as I remember of Elmore's "Dust My Blues" on the original Sun label. "Love Me or Leave Me" - a great song by James Cotton which was one of the first songs that Killing Floor learnt. Didn't quite make it on to the KF album.
"1st Avenue Swing" was an original instrumental - named after the street that the studio was in, down in leafy Barnes. "You Don't Know" I heard on the radio in America years ago, but I never realised who it was. It was only after we'd recorded our version for this record that Burnside told me it was Little Walter! Such ignorance.
"As the Years Go Passing By" - another of Lou's favourites. He's a sucker for those minor keys - just couldn't resist it. Anyway it turned out great. And "One Kind Favour"..well it's an old song that's been done many times. I first heard it as a Canned Heat B-side. Our version came out with a lot of atmosphere - I love that doomy piano chord at the end - like a clap of thunder.
There was a nice footnote.. For the album cover photograph I wanted to find a pub with a piano in it, so one afternoon I went for a walk around south London looking for a good candidate. Actually finding a London pub with a piano is harder than you'd think, and I didn't find one at first, but after a while I struck lucky. I walked in to the Prince of Wales in Clapham Old Town to find it absolutely full of bizarre bric-a-brac, and right there in the front bar was that wonderful looking piano which you'll see on the cover.
We turned up for the photo session one Saturday afternoon to find that the photographer, who is also the noted blues artist Dave Peabody had brought a friend along. None other Dave "Honeyboy" Edwards, one of the great original Delta blues men and a personal mate of Robert Johnson!
So me and Lou boogied away while Dave took the photos and "Honeyboy" enjoyed a pint and tapped his feet. If we look happy on the photo, we are. Happy Home.
Post Script: Lou Martin passed away on Friday 17th August 2012 after a long illness which he bore with fortitude. Much missed by all who knew him - rock on Lou.