Play The Blues
Ever wanted to play along with a world class blues band in the comfort of your own living room? With PLAY THE BLUES you can do just that!
This exceptional & versatile set of tracks can be used for fun, for practice or as an aid for music teachers.
Learn some words and a guitar part and entertain your friends, or just pick up your guitar and PLAY THE BLUES!
Each of the 26 tracks has been recorded to sound like an authentic blues recording from its respective period in history. Authentic vintage instruments and recording techniques were used to really get that classic blues sound which so often gets lost in modern recordings. The music has been mixed in an intimate way to give you the feeling of being in the room with the band.
How to use Play The Blues
There are 26 tracks to play along with. Each track is indexed as two tracks – the first is a one or two verse version called "sample" with a demonstration lead guitar solo as an example of the style in which you can play blues guitar with that particular track.
The 'sample' track is FREE to listen to and download. Then you get the full version, the "track" without our lead guitarist, for you to play along with. The tracks vary in length from 5 to 10 minutes, allowing you to really stretch out and play with the band.
The main tracks are £1.30 each to download. Payment is with Paypal.
Click on INFO in each track and you have the key and some player's guidance. The player's guidance is also on this webpage below the music player.
All tracks except one follow a 12 bar progression and only use chords 1, 4 and 5 in each key.
The last track "Deep South Blues" is a one chord repetitive groove in the key of E.
Key of E - E A B7
Key of C - C F G7
Key of G - G c D7
Key of A - A D E7
Key of D - D G A7
the music - Play The Blues - samples and download tracks
musicians & production
Michael Messer - Slide, lap steel, lead & rhythm guitar
Ed Genis - Lead & rhythm guitar
Steve 'West' Weston - Harmonica
Alan Whetton - Horns
Simon Currie - Horns
Richard Causon - Piano, Wurlitzer & Hammond organ
David Mitchell - Piano & Hammond organ
Andy Crowdy - Bass guitar & upright bass
Simon Price - Drums
Produced by Michael Messer
Recorded by Keith James on 1 inch 16 track tape at Dream of Oswald Studio, England, 2002
Copyright ©Michael Messer - Knife Edge Records 2020 - All rights reserved
Copying or using any of this material for any type of commercial use is prohibited without permission.
All tracks Copyright Control
notes about the tracks - keys, tunings, style, player's guide
1/2 - Maxwell Street Shuffle - Key of E. This is an early South Side Chicago shuffle. The first lead guitar on the sample track is playing in a classic E style of blues in standard tuning (EADGBE). The second lead guitar in the sample is playing with a similar approach, but in open E tuning (EBEG#BE). The rhythm guitar is tuned in open E and is played in a rural style reminiscent of 1950s and 60s Chicago street singers. These players were still bringing rural influences into their sound. The turnaround between verses is a 1- 4 -1-5 progression. Try playing it on both acoustic and electric guitars.
3/4 - Uptown Blues - Key of C. We still have that shuffle, but this time with a cool jazzy feel to it. This kind of sound comes from Chicago and was popularised by among others, Memphis Minnie. The lead guitar in the sample is playing blues, but with a tinge of jazz in its expression. The slide guitar is played in the style of Casey Bill Weldon in open G tuning (DGDGBD). Try copying the piano licks on your guitar. Chuck Berry was influenced by this kind of sound and many of his signature licks work well on this one.
5/6 - Swing Them Blues - Key of C. 1940s Memphis / New Orleans style swing blues. This one is played in the style made popular by players like BB King, Fats Domino and T Bone Walker. Rock'n'Roll owes a debt to this kind of sound. Early BB King was the influence for our lead guitarist for this track.
7/8 - Riki-Tik Shuffle - Key of G. This style of shuffle made famous by Jimmy Reed became a staple of the British R&B boom of the early 1960s. The Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Animals and Manfred Mann, all played at the Riki-Til club in Windsor, England. Both our harp and lead guitar are played in the style of Jimmy Reed.
9/10 - The Groove - Key of C. Late 1960s rock blues played in a style typical of the fashionable players of the time. Eric Clapton, John Lennon. Taj Mahal and the Allman Brothers, among many others, all played music with this kind of groove and feel. Both the lead guitar and the slide guitar are played in an Eric Clapton, Delaney & Bonnie style, which became known as Southern Rock and Southern Soul.
11/12 - Blue Hooker Blues - Key of E. Early 1960s Chicago blues was the influence for this track. The band is playing in the style of Earl Hooker's band. The slide guitar is playing like Earl Hooker, Muddy Waters and Louisiana Red, in open E tuning (EBEG#BE).
13/14 - Woke Up This Morning - Key of G. The Stax record company signed Albert King in the late 1960s and teamed him up with Booker T & the MGs. This track is influenced by many of their great recordings. Albert King was an influence on the playing of Gary Moore and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Our lead guitarist is playing in a style reminiscent of these great musicians. The dynamics of this track allow you to really stretch out with your guitar playing.
15/16 - ‘lectricity Blues - Key of D. Rock & Soul Blues like this was defined in the late 1960s and early 1970s by people like Lowell George and Little Feat, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Rolling Stones, Mike Bloomfield and many others. 'lectricity Blues is influenced by many artists from that time.
17/18 - Chicago Rooster Blues - Key of A. This is a blues played in the style of the great Howlin' Wolf in his Chicago Chess recording sessions. His own "Little Red Rooster" has been covered by the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Doors, Manfred Mann and numerous others over the decades. To play this style the band had to lay right back on the beat and be as relaxed as possible. The lead slide guitar is played in open G tuning (DGDGBD) with a capo on the second fret in a style similar to Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters.
19/20 - South Side Shuffle - Key of D. Elmore James took a rural Mississippi rhythm to Chicago, mixed it with influences from earlier in Chicago blues history, like Kokomo Arnold and Casey Bill Weldon, and created one of the most influential shuffle patterns and guitar licks of the 20th century. The band played as close to the Broom Dusters as they could. The lead slide guitar is loosely based on many of Elmore's great licks and is in open D tuning (DADF#AD). The main rhythm guitar is also in open D tuning, giving this shuffle a raw rural sound and feel.
21/22 - Texas Blues - Key of C. Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown was the influence for this jazzy blues and our lead guitarist plays a lovely solo to give you some ideas to work with. Sit right back on the beat and whatever you do, don't rush your playing. Try this one on both acoustic and electric guitars and hang in there with the upright bass. The lead guitar solo is played by Ed Genis.
23/24 - Barrelhouse Boogie - Key of G. Two pianos playing boogie woogie in the style of people like Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson. This was recorded with as much of a live feel and sound as we could get in the studio. Be imaginative like our lead guitarist, or work along with the piano lines.
25/26 - Blues Brother Blues - Key of E. This is one of the classic blues riffs. Made famous by Sonny Boy Williamson and Booket T and the MGs, it has been used and re-worked on countless recordings by blues and rock musicians. This track features the band playing in a Booket T style with the harp playing in the style of Sonny Boy Williamson. The slide guitar is in open E tuning (EBEG#BE) and playing in a Chicago style reminiscent of Robert Nighthawk. This is a great one to really rock out with!
27/28 - Sharp Axe Blues - Key of C. Organ and guitar lead this track through a slow urban Chicago blues. This kind of sound has featured on countless blues recordings during the past 50 years and is considered by many to be a definitive electric blues style. Our lead guitarist plays a wonderful solo influenced by the playing of Buddy Guy. The Hammond organ is great to follow for guitarists.
29/30 - Down in the Mud - Key of A. Muddy Waters was one of the great blues artists of the 20th century. His music went from the Mississippi Delta in the 1940s to Chicago in the 50s and then in the 1960s through people like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton, he became a superstar of both the blues and rock music world. This recording is influenced by his style of playing urban blues with heavy overtones of the Mississippi Delta. The rough edges all add to the ambience and raw feel of our recording. The slide guitar is tuned in open E (EBEG#BE) and capoed at the 5th fret to be in the key of A.
31/32 - Blues for Lucille - Key of B minor. Lucille is the the most famous blues guitar, she was of course BB King's guitar. Along with Muddy Waters, BB King is one of the masters of the blues that influenced countless guitarists. The band is playing in a 1970s big band style and our lead guitarist is playing a solo in a style very reminiscent of BB King and Eric Clapton. The Wurlitzer electric piano adds to our 1970s sound on this recording.
33/34 - Lounge Lizard Blues - Key of G. Texas blues played in a style reminiscent of musicians like T Bone Walker and Bobby Blue Bland. There are lots of great lines to work with here from both the piano and the horns. Try those horn parts on the slide guitar, it sounds very cool. Our lead guitarist is playing a solo influenced by the great T Bone Walker. This kind of guitar playing is an area where blues and jazz begin to merge. Lay right back on the beat and don't rush.
35/36 - Brit Blues - Key of C. The British have their own slant on blues that gives a unique and hard-hitting punch to the music. The band is playing in a similar style to Gary Moore's or Rory Gallagher's band would play and our lead guitarists adding to that flavour with his edgy early Clapton, Page influenced solo.This is one for a Strat and an AC30.
37/38 - Beware of the Funk - Key of D. When soul and funk met the blues and rock in the 1960s some very cool music was created. This track was influenced by an Earl Hooker recording, but could be the backing for many hit records of the period. The horns and the Wurlitzer electric piano add an authenticity to the music. Try working with the keyboard, copy the licks on your guitar. Once again, those horn parts sound great on slide guitar.
39/40 - Yardbird - Key of E. Bo Diddley made some of the most rhythmic records of his time and was one of the architects of rock'n'roll. His unique African/fife & drum influenced rhythm was one of the most infectious sounds of post war Chicago and of the baby boom generation. In the UK most of the leading R&B bands had their own version of this rhythm and therefore 'Yardbird' seemed a fitting title for this recording. The lead guitar and the Bo Diddley rhythm guitar are in open E tuning (EBEG#BE). The second rhythm guitar is in standard tuning (EADGBE). Have some fun and cut loose on this one!
41/42 - National Steel Blues - Key of A. Among acoustic and resophonic guitar blues players, this piece has become one of the absolute staples, like the 'Stairway To Heaven' or 'Smoke On The Water' of the genre and is simply one of the standards that you simply have to know. On our recording the line up features slide playing on a single cone National-style guitar in open G tuning (DGDGBD) with a capo on the 2nd fret, acoustic guitar in standard (EADGBE), upright bass and harp. The track is a primitive rural Mississippi Delta blues performed in a style reminiscent of musicians like Son House, Charley Patton and Robert Johnson. This sounds great with electric or acoustic lead guitar playing off the slide and harp lines.
43/44 - Unplugged G Shuffle - Key of G. This track features National-style resophonic guitar in G tuning (DGDGBD) giving it a 1940s flavour, acoustic guitar is in standard (EADGBE) and upright bass. Try experimenting with both your rhythm and lead playing on this stripped down recording.
45/46 - Beale & Main Blues - Key of G. Here we have a cool shuffle in the style of Memphis Minnie. Check out Minnie's 1950s recordings. This track features an all acoustic band, except for the two rhythm guitars playing through 1950s Valco valve/tube amplifiers. One rhythm guitar is in open G tuning (DGDGBD) and the other is in standard (EADGBE). This was dance music of its time and it always had a raw rough feel to it. The electric slide is in open G tuning (DGDGBD) and is played in a style similar to Casey Bill Weldon (Minnie's one-time husband). The piano is playing some wonderful lines for you to copy on a guitar.
47/48 - Latino Blue - Key of E. This track is a kind of Chicago blues with a Latin feel. The slide guitar through the track is in open E tuning (EBEG#BE) and is played in an Elmore James style. The lead slide guitar in the sample demonstration track is in open G tuning (DGDGBD). Try playing this with and without a slide. Carlos Santana's style of blues playing sits really well on this.
49/50 - New Jersey Shuffle - Key of C. This is one for the rockers. Countless artists have built songs around this kind of rhythm and sound. Bruce Springsteen, Rory Gallagher and the Rolling Stones (Exile on Main Street period) are among the greatest exponents of this style of rock blues. Try working with the saxophone lines and don't forget with this type of music, always TURN IT UP & PLAY LOUD! Our lead guitarist is playing in a classic Keith Richards style.
51/52 - Deep South Blues - Key of E. John Lee Hooker and Ali Farka Toure are names that come to mind with this kind of blues - one chord, hypnotic and deep. Does it come from Mississippi or Mali? Try adding your own lines on guitar, or work with the runs already laid down by the saxophone, slide and lead guitars. Instruments on this recording are upright bass, saxophone, two acoustic guitars and slide guitar. All three guitars are in open E tuning (EBEG#BE). Sit right back on the beat and don't over play, space is everything in this one.
Reviews of Play The Blues
These are reviews from 2002 when Play The Blues was originally released as a 3 CD box set.
52 tracks in total, giving over 3 hours of music. The recordings are by Michael Messer & his band. I presume it is made up of various members of his Second Mind ensemble - there is a full list of musicians credits listed on the website. The concept is simple & has been done before. It is basically a collection of blues instrumentals put together with two tracks; the first is a short demonstration track with the lead guitar, then you get the full length track to play along with.
A comprehensive set of notes gives you stylistic references and the key of each track so you can easily play along. The big difference between this collection and others that I have seen, is that all of the tracks are played with authentic instruments and recorded in a sympathetic manner, so as to be as true to the original style as possible, and I have to say that it works! If you want T Bone Walker, BB King, Muddy Waters, in fact for just about anyone that you could hope to play with, there is probably a track to suit you; Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Earl Hooker, Gary Moore and many many more. Just to make it even better, all of the tracks follow a 12 bar progression and adhere to the 1 - 4 - 5 chord patterns in each key. If nothing else, listening to the rhythm tracks alone is enough to convince you what a powerful medium a good blues is! I have many backing track albums in my collection, but this is far and away the very best one of them all. If you play blues guitar, then you must consider this as an instant rehearsal aid and could even assist you with your song writing. Superb!
Dave Stone - Blues Matters!
Although we originally had a bit of a laugh, (karaoke for guitarists!) - we have to admit this is a brilliant idea and, what's more - we encourage all blues players, not
just guitarists to invest in this box-set.
The easiest way to review this for you is to quote mostly from the website itself......"Have you ever wanted to jam with a world class blues band? No time to organize regular rehearsals? Like to sharpen up your improvisational skills? Well, now you can in the comfort of your own living room!"
(This next bit is not from the notes!) - Before all you experienced players dismiss this as an unnecessary purchase - think again and check this out. The 52 tracks cover practically every style of blues you can think of, from old-time delta blues to lounge lizard uptown sleaze and most stops in between! There is information with each track with all the technical and historical detail you will need. Each track is preceded with a demonstration/example piece which lasts for a couple of verses.....then comes the track for you to cut loose on. Each lasts from five to ten minutes, so, plenty of time to indulge yourself. Over three hours of playing time!
The musicians who will be backing you are top notch and they've actually managed, through using vintage equipment and recording techniques, to achieve the sounds you hear on all those classic blues records. Just think....no more band arguments, no more punch-ups, no rounds to pay for - what more could you ask for! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Blues In The South
They say that books are silent friends. Well, here’s a friend that has plenty to say and, if you have a burning desire or secret ambition to play the blues then it could be one of the best friends you ever had.
Michael Messer, has come up with an ideal solution for those ‘can’t play the blues… blues’. In this box you will find twenty six tracks thoughtfully put together to provide a multitude of backing tracks which, with the aid of the accompanying notes, you can ease yourself into playing along with. The tracks are long and well paced so that you can take your time and get a good feel of what is going on and, novice or old hand you won’t be able to resist wanting to hop on for the ride.
Imagine having your mates round to your place. A ten piece band, including yourself, which is quite happy to practice in the spare bedroom, your study or the garage without a word of complaint from them or the rest of the household. You lucky dog, each one of them is a top notch musician and your band is one of the best blues bands in the land. Even better, they never fall out, there are no Prima Donnas, none of them want to stick their fingers up and go solo, and best of all non want to steel your beer or pinch your cigs'. Nobody rushes you and if you’re not happy with it you just press the button and the band, without a “tut” or a “huff” to be heard, start again or repeat the section knowing that you are going to get it right. The mix has been produced so that the band sounds as if is in a more intimate setting rather than a large studio.
The tracks cover various forms and structures fundamental to blues songs and instrumentals from the slick style of Albert King to the nitty gritty rhythm of Bo Diddley, from the raw electric slide of Elmore James to the more sophisticated sound of Casey Bill Weldon. The information with each track gives you the key
and tunings, while each track is preceded by a short introduction sample track which includes a lead guitar suggesting how the melody could be tackled. The lead guitar then holds off for the main track leaving you to take centre stage and give it a try. The great thing about this is that you are not strapped down to some finger breaking tablature system. Just soak in what you’re your band is doing, start with some simple chords, get some confidence and then begin to throw in a few riffs. Once you’re happy with the instrumental side of things you could then start putting lyrics to the numbers and the band will love the songs too!
Whether you are rehearsing to play in a living room near you or in, in a club or at a festival or if you just want to have some fun improving your guitar technique then this is definitely worth considering. This set will also make an excellent teaching device for music teachers. Apart from all of that, the music makes for good listening in its own right.
Gary Atkinson - Document Records
"These are the most professionally sounding backing tracks I've ever heard. Every style of the blues is covered. One slight criticism though. Some of the sample tracks containing the lead guitar last only about 30 seconds. That's long enough to get an idea what's going on, however, from purely a listening point of view I would have preferred full tracks, with and without lead guitar. I was most impressed with Play The Blues - it is unique to the market having such
really authentic live blues tracks - a great idea and really well produced."
Tony Skinner, Director of the Registry of Guitar Tutors,
London College of Music Principal Guitar Examiner
Customer reviews of Play The Blues
Play The Blues has been an absolute revelation to me. It's the finest and most innovative release of the last 10 years and is like nothing else I've seen or heard before. It's quite simply the best music purchase I've made since I bought a guitar in the first place! Get it now, you'll be delighted you did.
Billy - 5 star review
If you are an absolute blues beginner, or are looking for a blues tutor package then this product is not for you. However, if you need some space to practice and hone your blues licks, and want to have a ball and be inspired while you play then this compilation is just what the doctor ordered. What you get with this set are the very best backing tracks that I have ever heard, which range across the spectrum of blues genres. They are absolutely excellent for practicing and developing your own improvisational style across – and don’t feel they are only restricted to electric guitar. I have used them for working on my dobro, harp, bass guitar, bottleneck and lap steel technique. Michael Messer has done an excellent job and put a great deal of thought and artistry into this compilation. He has been greatly praised in the music press for the production quality on his albums and the same care has been taken on this project. If you are at the stage where you could do with some “hands-on” time to develop your lead improvisation you will be hard pressed to find a better product.
Robin - 5 star review
If you play (or want to play) blues this set is a must have. It is the best learning tool I have seen or heard in 20 years of playing. Each track gives plenty of time
for players of all levels to Jam along with. Stunning value for your money.
Steve - 5 star review
This is a wonderful set of recordings that does exactly what it says on the box - it's really helped to improve my blues playing and I'm getting hours of use from it.
It's got all sorts of different blues styles on it along with some helpful tips, and I'd recommend this to everyone who likes playing the guitar. Brilliant!
Chada - 5 star review
These are the most professionally sounding backing tracks I've ever heard. Every style of the blues is covered. One slight criticism though. Some of the sample tracks containing the lead guitar last only about 30 seconds. That's long enough to get an idea what's going on, however, from purely a listening point of view I would have preferred full tracks, with and without lead guitar.
Sharpy - 5 star review
These recordings have done what no other book or CD has been able to do, helped me to really develop my improvisational technique - I fancy joining a band now!
Anon - 5 star review
I have been playing for quite a few years but I find that playing the blues doesn't come easy. Practicing the moves, and the licks etc. against a good backing band
really helps, and you have all these blues styles to play along with! It's a useful aid if you can play the blues and want to improve. If you are a beginner buy a tutor a DVD or book etc. I have been playing for quite a few years but I find that playing the blues doesn't come easy. Practicing the moves and the licks agains a good backing band really helps, and these CD's have all these blues styles to play along with! If you want to play with a top class backing band and if you play the blues but want to improve, then this is it!
Kenneth - 5 star review