Friday, February 20, 2009

New Orleans treasure Snooks Eaglin dead at 72

Posted By on 02.20.09 at 03:47 PM

On Wednesday brilliant New Orleans singer and guitarist Snooks Eaglin died after suffering a heart attack. He was 72. To me Eaglin represented the wonderful sprawl of New Orleans music as much as any single person--on his recordings he mostly killed it with the blues and R & B, but he was kind of an old-school songster, a musician who could tackle just about anything. In a Reader piece I wrote about a reissue of Eaglin material from the early 60s, I quoted Allen Toussaint, who once called him "a human jukebox." Blind since boyhood, Eaglin developed a highly distinctive, funky, and percussive guitar style early on, using his thumb to snap the strings.

I got to hear Eaglin play once, back in 1995 at a Crescent City-themed yuppie hellhole in Lincoln Park called Gulf Coast, and he knocked me out. He played and sang sitting down, but the way he shook around on the chair said plenty about the music pouring out of him. Starting in the late 80s it seemed like most contemporary blues records were largely gratuitous, made by artists with little use for trying anything new, but I always got pumped whenever Eaglin made a new album--he had a string of strong releases for Black Top during the late 80s and early 90s.

Today's playlist:

Aldina Duarte, Mulheres ao Espelho (Roda)
Sam Rivers, Dimensions & Extensions (Blue Note)
Cheikha Rabia, Liberti (Dinamyte/Buda)
Phantom Orchard, Orra (Tzadik)
Various artists, Every Mouth Must Be Fed 1973-1976 (Pressure Sounds)

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