Like many musical genres, the blues today suffers from too many chords, too many instruments, and too many white people with guitars with too many strings. Thankfully, there are still musicians holding up the minimalist blues tradition, and one of the finest examples is Shakin Jake Woods of Ann Arbor, Michigan. If you have ever been to Ann Arbor, you might have seen Jake, strumming his two-string guitar on the street, collecting tips and greeting everybody with his signature phrase "I'm on the move".
In 2004, Ed Special assembled some recordings of Jake done back in the 70s at WCBN and produced the CD On The Move on the 120° Hot Fat Bacon Records label, an ingenious collection of stories, jokes, and music which sounds like the bastard child of John Lee Hooker and Half Japanese. The AMG review by Arwulf Arwulf sums it up perfectly: "These 30 brief tracks taken consecutively may result in a complete reassessment of reality as we know it."
If you like what you hear, you can contact Ed Special at firstname.lastname@example.org and buy a copy. All the proceeds go directly to Jake, and he can really use some dough.
These days Jake has pushed his minimalism even further, often using a guitar without any strings. There is a very nice recent NPR piece about him which you can listen to here. Who ever had the ridiculous idea that blues needed 12 bars and 3 chords? Probably white people with guitars. Now you know better.
Credit for the photo with the pink guitar goes to Dan Martin.
UPDATE: Shakey Jake died Sunday, September 16, 2007, at the age of 82 (probably, though he sometimes claimed that he was over 100 years old), in Ann Arbor. Two more posts on Jake here and here, including the complete On The Move album and a live radio appearance on WCBN.