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Baker's Dozen

Kernow Calling: Mark Jenkin’s Favourite Albums
Sean McGeady , January 18th, 2023 09:12

Cornish bard Mark Jenkin talks Sean McGeady through the soundtracks to his teenage summers, long drives to the hospital, and lonely afternoons hand-processing celluloid, from Junior Wells to Joni Mitchell


Junior Wells – Hoodoo Man Blues

This is representative of my love of blues music, specifically that electric Chicago blues sound. My intro to that was my dad giving me two John Mayall albums on vinyl, Looking Back and Turning Point. From there, my dad bought me a cassette of Muddy Waters called Louisiana Blues, which I always thought was an album but it’s a reissue compilation. But it’s got ‘Louisiana Blues’ on it, which is probably my favourite blues track of all time, with Little Walter playing beautiful amplified harmonica on it.

When Little Walter went solo and left Muddy Waters, Junior Wells took over harmonica, or harp, responsibilities. Then he did his own records. This is the first one, with Buddy Guy on guitar. I love the Delta blues stuff, the acoustic stuff. But once they started amplifying the harmonica… I just love it. It’s the high point for that Chicago blues sound. It’s always been with me. I have a collection of harmonicas there that I play when there’s nobody else in the building. I love what Little Walter did, which was to play the harmonica with a microphone, which nobody had done before. That’s what I like about blues music, all the imperfections and those subtle variations, because every blues song is kind of the same really. The more limited you are, the more creative you can get. If you want to play a blues song you can look up the tab or the chords. ‘Oh, it’s E, A, B, of course it is,’ but that’s just a fraction of the story.

There’s a sort of naivety to it, in terms of the technology they were using. You’ve already got all of these limitations, and then you have to get creative within it. That’s why you have all of these people who sound so different. To some people it just sounds the same, but the more you listen, the more distinct it is.