I'm with You Always

$15.98 + $3 S&H (US)

Perhaps none could offer in the span of a night’s performances such a staggering array of idioms and styles as he did so effortlessly, beautifully and movingly, with as much unfeigned affection and sincerity and make it such an enjoyable listening experience, as this sampling of a typical evening’s performing makes so clear.

Pete Welding (from the Liner Notes)
Photo: Jim Marshall
Producer: Denny Bruce


1. Eyesight to the Blind – 4:15 (Sonny Boy Williamson) 
2. Men's Room – 0:56
3. Frankie and Johnny – 4:42 Traditional 
4. I'm with You Always – 3:41Traditional 
5. Jockey Blues/ Old Folks Boogie – 3:52 Traditional 
6. Some of These Days – 4:59 Traditional 
7. Don't You Lie to Me – 3:34 Traditional 
8. Hymn Time – 3:35 Traditional
9. Darktown Strutter's Ball – 4:05 Traditional 
10. Stagger Lee – Traditional 
11. I'm Glad I'm Jewish – 3:17 (Mike Bloomfield)
12. A-Flat Boogaloo (Mike Bloomfield) 

Liner Notes

Many of the performers who rose to prominence as part of the electric blues movement of the mid-to-late-1960s had come to that music through an earlier involvement with the folk music revival that immediately preceded it. This, you will recall, was a period that saw tremendous interest in the guitar-accompanied blues of the rural South, with many of the veteran performers of that music sought out, rediscovered and brought before appreciative collegiate audiences where interest in America’s bedrock musical traditions ran highest. They were palmy days indeed, what with such as Son House, Skip James, Big Joe Williams, Robert Wilkins, Sleepy John Estes, Bukka White and other titanic figures of the blues’ early days on the concert trail sharing stages with such newly discovered tradition bearers as Fred Mcdowell, Robert Pete Williams and Mance Lipscomb, among others. These were the models on whom many young white singer-guitarists of the day initially based their music, learning from the country blues reissue albums that proliferated during the late l950s and early ‘60s, as well as from the performers themselves.

Eventually it dawned on a number of these young performers that however gratifying such recidivist activities might be - at least on a personal level - ultimately they proved more than a bit stultifying, even frustrating. Once a number of the basic country blues styles had been mastered, the performer found himself at an impasse, painted into something of a musical corner. Product of a particular set of cultural and temporal circumstances in American musical history, the country blues was already moribund by the time these young performers had come to it, its glory days long since passed, living on only in the memories of older Southern blacks and in the grooves of old 78-rpm shellac recordings made when the music was a vital, living thing.

The spark still burned, and brightly too, in the modern electric blues approaches that had come into being in the years following World War II. Natural outgrowth of the earlier country styles, these mirrored the changed circumstances, values and worldview of urbanized blacks to whom the music addressed itself so tellingly, just as in earlier years the country blues had done for rural Southern blacks. Increasingly, young performers turned their attention to these modern blues approaches, mastering its techniques, its electric instrumentation and its ensemble practices.

They took to it like the proverbial duck to water, for the simple reason that they were much closer to it in time, temper and spirit. Not only was the electric blues a contemporary music that could be heard as a living form in the bars and clubs of black neighborhoods all over the country and on large numbers of records being produced by countless independent record firms serving the needs of black listeners in the North and South, where it still was followed avidly, but it could be heard in various other ways as well, as one of the very foundations of rock-and-roll, rhythm-and-blues, and even in country music and rockabilly.  Its sound was already in their cars, for it colored the entire edifice of postwar popular music.

For most young performers it simply meant stripping back to basics, seeking out the pivotal performers and recorded performances of the modern electric blues styles that had come into being in the late 1940s and early ‘50s. Robert Johnson and Charlie Patton in essence giving way to Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howling Wolf, T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, Lowell Fulson, Albert and Freddie King, Little Walter, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Junior Wells and the whole glittering panoply of performers who charged the modern electric blues with such vitality and excitement.

For Michael Bloomfield it meant discovering the wealth of contemporary blues that had come into flower in his hometown, where so much of the modern blues’ history had been, and still was being written.  He was fortunate in that when he was investigating and learning to perform the music he was able to do so directly from some of the music’s major shapers and movers - Muddy, Wolf, Walter, Junior, Buddy, Hound Dog Taylor, Smokey Smothers, Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Reed, Big Walter Horton and many others all lived in Chicago and could be heard on a regular basis in the clubs and lounges scattered through the city’s teeming South and West Side ghettoes.

He learned from all of them and, through recordings, countless others as well, spending hours each day in diligent practice, studying, absorbing the music and what made it work, polishing, refining, tightening his phrasing working on tone projection and all the other nuances of technique and expression that charged the modern blues with such thrilling, exciting emotional potency. Also he continually monitored his progress through frequent sitting-in with the city’s blues masters who not only shared their stages with him but selflessly offered encouragement, advice, friendship and, not least, ungrudging respect for his fast growing abilities. And, make no mistake, he was a quick student but, natural ability aside, Michael worked long, hard and diligently to master the instrument and its expressive potentials.

When American audiences first heard him, with Bob Dylan and, most importantly, the Butterfield Blues Band of which he was a charter member, we heard a fully formed artist, confident, assured and utterly masterly in his total command of electric blues guitar. Few players of his generation were in his class, let alone surpassed his fluent, perfectly poised, idiomatically assured handling of the instrument, and of these perhaps only Eric Clapton approached his bristling, supercharged, non-clichéd creativity of expression. In fact from the start Michael was a world-class player.

Over the next few years, first with Butterfield and then on his own, with the Electric Flag, KGB, and the various superstar sessions along the way, he extended and refined that basic mastery even further. Come to that, Michael never stopped studying guitar; he was always working one or another aspect of the instrument. For a time he might concentrate on speed of execution; for another tone projection or plectrum technique or any of a number of other technical or expressive matters. The process was never-ending, he said, and humbling as well, for no matter how adroit one was, there always was something more to learn or to perfect. Since he loved the music so deeply, he never begrudged or stinted on the time needed to do this. No, he did it gladly and constantly. Then too, there was the repertoire to explore, new songs to write or learn. And, always there was the acoustic guitar, a constant companion and source of inspiration, to which he always returned.

During the final years of his career when more often than not he was performing as a solo act, he generally divided his shows between both instruments, acoustic and electric guitars. His repertoire reflected his wide-ranging familiarity with the entirety of black folk-based musical expression, and a typical performance might encompass immaculately played ragtime pieces, country blues, hymns and country spirituals (for which he had a long-standing fondness), electric blues and R&B pieces with the support of a rhythm section, as well as original tunes drawing on various of these sources. What held his phenomenal musical diversity together, in fact what made it joyously whole, was the performer himself doing nothing less than just being and playing. But then, few performers have had the deep sense of history, of the continuity and interconnectedness of all the forms of black musical expression that Michael had. Perhaps none could offer in the span of a night’s performances such a staggering array of idioms and styles as he did so effortlessly, beautifully and movingly, with as much unfeigned affection and sincerity and make it such an enjoyable listening experience, as this sampling of a typical evening’s performing makes so clear.

Listen, enjoy and marvel, Michael Bloomfield was one of a kind, a true original, and we’ll not soon hear his like again. Honor his memory. 

Pete Welding





Send mail to anna@mondaymedia.org with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2008 Benchmark Recordings
Last modified: March 30, 2010