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Barbecue Music by John Morthland

Americans disagree, often fanatically, on the definition of a barbecue. In Texas, where I come from, for example, it means smoking meat -- most prominently brisket, sausage and ribs -- "low and slow," with indirect heat from hardwood coals; variants on this, often using different meats, are standard operating procedure in Kansas City, Memphis, the Carolinas, and other parts of the South. But to many people, barbecuing still means grilling hot dogs, hamburgers and steaks quickly over intense direct heat from charcoal briquettes. There is one thing about barbecues, however, that we can all agree on: To have a good one, you must have good music. (A swimming pool doesn't hurt, either.) Barbecue music should be summery, rollicking and upbeat, with a deep groove. It should also be familiar to most of the guests -- the better to bind them in a copacetic communal bond -- though the host is advised to throw in a few left-fielders just to prove that he definitely knows his stuff. There are many songs about barbecue; to hear some, simply go to the top of this page and select "track" in the search box and the words "barbecue," "bar-b-q" or "BBQ" in the slot next to it. You'll get a slew of song titles. But this list ignores music about barbecue; this is barbecue music. Willy and the Poor Boys Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival Release Date: 2000 No band from the classic rock era created better barbecue music than John Fogerty and crew. Recasting their hard rockabilly as a kind of jug-band stomp, this represents their most good-timey effort -- even "Fortunate Son," one of the most biting topical songs ever, can sound kinda fun. That jug-band feeling permeates "Down on the Corner," "Cotton Fields," "Poor Boy Shuffle," "The Midnight Special" -- the ghost of Lead Belly also hovers over these proceedings -- and even the Cold-War-paranoia allegory "It Came Out of the Sky" uses gleeful satire to make its point with a laugh. Night Train Artist: King Curtis Release Date: 1995 Dilettantes used to debate whether Curtis was "really" jazz or "just" r&b, as if the two weren't already joined at the hip. In truth, Curtis is groove, and that's all you need to know. He yakety-yakked wooly tenor sax solos on hits by everyone from the Coasters to John Lennon to Aretha, but his own records work by cutting a fat, funky night-time-is-the-right-time groove and holding it until the last partier drops. This works just as well outdoors, especially when you're strutting tunes like "Honky Tonk," "Hot Saxes" and "(Let's Do) The Hully Gully Twist" with a band that combines r&b blowers like fellow tenorman Sam "The Man" Taylor and jazzmen like organist Brother Jack McDuff. Giant Sand - Backyard Barbecue Broadcast Artist: Giant Sand Release Date: 1996 A drum roll, please, for our sole high-concept selection. This was recorded partly at a backyard-barbecue benefit for WFMU in New Jersey, and audience members definitely like what they're hearing. So you might say this music has already test-marketed high for our list. And well it should. Giant Sand, the forerunner to Calexico, hails from the desert college town of Tucson, and knows how to make hot-weather music for people in pursuit of the good life. Indeed, the 22:40 "BBQ Suite" moseys haphazardly but purposefully all over the place, like a slacker wandering around town in search of the next opportunity for free beer and food.

America's Most Colorful Hillbilly Band - Vol. 1 Artist: The Maddox Brothers and Rose Rose Maddox and her brothers, who ruled the West Coast country scene in the '40s and '50s, were also America's most clattering hillbilly boogie band; with Rose singing in a near-bray, their country music approached sheer foolishness in its purest form. But it's the kind of exuberant, irreverent foolishness any crowd can get into -- and best of all, underneath the hilarity was some fiery, abandoned and daring picking. The instrumental "Water Baby Boogie" is as hot as any music in any genre of this era (1946-51), and their repertoire was wildly eclectic, taking in religious and traditional music as well as pop, novelties, blues and then-current country hits.

Moments from This Theater Artist: Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham Release Date: 1999 You know most of these songs in versions by everyone from the Box Tops ("Cry Like a Baby") to James Carr ("Dark End of the Street") and Aretha ("Do Right Woman, Do Right Man"). Now hear them done by their writers, Penn on guitar and Oldham on piano. The former proves to be a great backwoods singer, and they harmonize like brothers, which they sorta are. They personify that distinctly Southern musical paradox by being simultaneously intense and laid-back, or maybe just intensely laid-back; at any rate, this is both deeply passionate and seemingly carefree, a perfect soundtrack to lazy, languorous days. Haul Up Your Foot You Fool Artist: Mr. Peter's Boom And Chime Release Date: 1997 Backed by a four-piece Belizean band whose members play guitar, boom and chime -- a bass drum struck on one side with a mallet (the boom) and on the other with something called a "drum sack" (the chime) -- tumba (aka conga), the jawbone of an ass and an auto brake drum, Wilfrid Peters carries on the traditional polyrhythmic music of 19th-century mahogany camps in what used to be called British Honduras. He sings his often-bawdy brukdowns (including a customized version of Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again") in chipper, Creole-inflected pidgin English, and plays driving/droning accordion. It's so infectious you'll involuntarily haul up your own foot and start dancing. Remember Me Artist: Otis Redding Release Date: 1992 Sure, they dubbed it soul, but they might as well have called it "heart music." Did any performer ever display a bigger heart than Otis Redding? He can lift a party -- any party, anytime, anywhere -- the instant he opens his mouth to sing, whether it's to sigh "I've Got Dreams to Remember," to admonish "Try a Little Tenderness" or to cry out for "Respect." And you haven't fully experienced summer until you've heard the sound of "The Dock of the Bay" riding a balmy breeze to mingle with the smell and smoke of barbecue. Remember that. The Very Best of Jimmy Reed Artist: Jimmy Reed Release Date: 2003 Reed's laconic '50s update of Delta blues seemed so simple that he's likely the most widely-covered bluesman ever -- but his timing, sound and mood proved so subtle and deceptive that nobody's ever gotten it quite right (except possibly Charlie Rich). With his sweet, nasal singing set off by walking bass, sighing countrified harp and insistent boogie guitar, songs like "Big Boss Man," "Bright Lights, Big City" and "Baby What You Want Me To Do" may go down easy, but they never really go away; they're like a part of the air they inhabit. Jimmy's timeless music is not just agreeable, it's downright irresistible.

30th Anniversary Tour: Live Artist: George Thorogood Release Date: 2004 Everybody's favorite white blues blusterer, Thorogood is so enthusiastic that his technical limitations as both a singer and guitarist become an important element of his charm. And it's not like he doesn't know that, either, which only makes it more so. In front of this British audience, the Delaware Flash careens through raunchy, high-volume faves like "Who Do You Love" and "Bad to the Bone" with -- after all these years -- his usual boozy, bloozy panache, giving inspiration to air guitarists everywhere. Guileless and unabashed, he's the consummate fan-as-musician, and who (besides sober-sided purists) can't relate that?

New Orleans' Funkiest Delicacies Artist: Various Artists - Funky Delicacies Release Date: 2005 In the steamy Crescent City, where the second-line beat and its variants are second nature, there's more to funk than just the Neville Brothers. New Orleans fans might recognize some names, like Eddie Bo (the surging "Hey Mama, Here Comes the Preacher") and Willie Tee (whose "Teasing You Again" faintly recalls '70s Marvin Gaye), but most of these performers will be unfamiliar to nearly everyone. No matter: with influences ranging from the Nevilles to Tower of Power, Sly Stone, George Clinton and Donald Byrd, they tighten up the NOLA carnival tradition as they get in the groove and let the good times roll.

About the Author:

Here author John Morthland writes about Barbecue music which he says is rollicking and upbeat, with a deep groove. Visit and enjoy the real taste of some good music combinations and real good titles with free music downloads, Audio Books, mp3 downloads, Online Music, etc...

Other articles by John Morthland