Randy Newman Chronicles Sonny Boy Williamson

Newman sings of one bluesman who had his name, and his catalogue stolen by another.

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 On August 4th, 2017, Nonesuch Records delivered the 11th studio album from master storyteller, Randy Newman. Dark Matter is the first studio release from the often sarcastic singer-songwriter in nine years. Inspired by Ray Charles, Newman, now 73, wrote his first song at age 17. Since the 1980s he’s focused primarily on film scores, writing 23 since 1981. He’s also accumulated two Academy Awards (out of 20 nominations), six Grammy Awards, three Primetime Emmy Awards, four Annie Awards, and inductions into both the Rock and Roll and Songwriter Halls of Fame.

Dark Matter is a collection of nine topical songs, dealing with such themes as Vladamir Putin, a discussion between Jack and Bobby Kennedy on the Bay of Pigs, and an eight minute musical debate on science vs faith. The one tune that caught our attention however, is the one entitled “Sonny Boy.”

A jazzy, unhurried melody, with a touch of NOLA, the song is narrated by Sonny Boy Williamson. As the only bluesman in heaven, he tells the tale, via Newman, of the man who stole his name, his songs, his soul, and even tried to steal his jellyroll – Sonny Boy Williamson II. At times melancholy, and at others celebratory, the first person account apprises the short life of the original Sonny Boy.

It’s not quite blues, and it’s not quite what we’re used to. It is brilliant yarn spinning from a doyen of the craft. Take a listen and let us know if you agree.

Randy Newman


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