Taking a ride on “The Last Train Home”: An Interview with Foghat’s Bryan Bassett and Eddie Kirkland by Maureen Elizabeth

Posted on 7/29/2010 by Maureen Elizabeth

When music and musicians have roots - great things happen. The new Foghat blues CD "Last Train Home" is rooted in the culmination of an early dream as well as a relationship with an original blues artist - Eddie Kirkland. I spoke with Bryan and Eddie and asked them about their experience working with each other as well as what playing the blues has meant to them...

Talking with Bryan Bassett...

What brought you to this particular project?

This is a project that had been in the back of everyone’s mind for years. Lonesome Dave was a huge blues collector. He collected 78 records and was a true historian who knew just about every blues artist that existed. He was a huge influence on the band. The sound is not a huge departure. The British invasion (Clapton, Mayall) took the blues and rocked it up a bit, brought it back to America and Roger was a part of that invasion. The British invasion exposed people to their own heritage. Then they began to notice who the songwriters were – Otis Rush, Willie Dixon, Albert King, Muddy waters – and it brought many of these American artists into the public eye for the new generation of kids who were into Rock and Roll. We wanted to honor that original dream that Roger and Lonesome Dave shared.

I was so impressed with Colin Earl’s keys on 495 Boogie…

Rogers brother played in Mungo Jerry – remember the song “In the Summertime”- and he played on early Foghat records too. He still tours and is very popular in England – doesn’t come stateside often but when he does he sits in with us and now we have an entire album with him which is great.
We wanted our good friend Lefty Lefkowitz to play harp on several songs. We wanted to bring in that extra instrumentation to differentiate that real guitar sound of Foghat rock/ blues and expand the palette. The piano pulls it more into a blues atmosphere and adds some extra layers of tonality that we don’t normally use.

Your CD is being very well received!

We are most excited to reconnect to the entire blues community, to revisit it and see how thriving it is. It’s great to be accepted by this community again.

Is performing the blues, for you, about creating something new or honoring history?

Both. The blues, just like Jazz, has certain musical parameters that you can’t go out of and still consider it blues. The blues has a limited chord structure, limited song structure, and note selection specifically so and with good reason. As long as there is someone who wants to play in that musical parameter and respects the limitations of it – there will always be new blues.

Tell us about your relationship with Eddie Kirkland…

We did a benefit concert in the mid 70’s to fund a Blues Wing at the New York Public Library. Eddie was one of the performers donating his time along with John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield , Johnny Winter and others. We met Eddie then so when we decided to make this blues CD we invited him as an homage to remember that blues concert from way back.

What did Eddie bring to the table?

Well, first of all, he made us feel like youngsters! He has played with all the original blues artists and it was just an honor to play with a first generation blues man. Anyone who loves the blues, loves these guys and you really get to see up close and personal how it’s done for real. It was a great learning experience.

Eddie mentioned that the blues just, quite simply, tells a story and that is what is important to him.

Yes, all of his songs are taken right from the days of his life, whether it is a story about traveling or a woman or a heart breaker – he is very much a storyteller. Many of the great blues artists have that very lyrical style.

And so is that what led him to put “In My Dreams” on the CD?

We thought what a great song! The lyric concept was great and we loved it - if you can’t have the woman you can have her in your dreams. He’s quite the ladies man.

How did you choose these particular songs?

Each of us picked one or two songs that we liked a lot. And then we wanted to include two originals, “Last Train Home” and “Born for the Road” and then the spontaneous “495 Boogie” with Colin Earl, Rogers brother, on piano. Long time favorite “Needle &Spoon” is an old Savoy Brown song which Roger played when he was in the band. And in the middle of “Rollin' and Tumblin'” Roger put in a Savoy cover of a Willie Dixon song that he loved. It fit time wise and key wise – it was a great idea. The songs just fell into place. Eddie just came in a one day session, jammed all day long, and out of the 8 tracks we laid we picked the ones we liked best.

Knowing that there have been changes in personnel over the years do you see the body of work that Foghat has produced as an evolution of sound or staying true to their original roots?

The current Foghat pays particular attention to the original songs- the way they were written and the way they were played. Ultimately, your fan base determines whether or not you are Foghat. And if not, that is why there are recordings that can be listened to again and again. The records become a time capsule, not the band, because the band is a living organism that moves forward through the years. Our natural styles are Foghat-like and our new material falls in the Foghat vein. When we play the classic Foghat songs it is our responsibility to play the songs correctly and to please ourselves as well. Musicians need to play and with the continuation of Foghat we try to keep the tradition going and have some self expression as well. What is important is the song catalogue – the songs are the legacy of the band and Foghat music, like the blues, allows you to express yourself within the context of the notes.

Talking with Eddie Kirkland...

So what was it like working with Foghat?

Great. They been sticking by me for a long time and I was very glad to do something with them on the album . It was a pleasure. People don’t realize it but the blues is here. It’s been here a long time and some way or another it’s gonna’ stay.

When you perform is it about honoring history or creating something new?

As the years go by I kinda’ do things that are up to date that younger people can dance to. I never stay in one place. In all my albums I have different arrangements, so now I am working on something for later down the road. I try to keep up to date and go back and play the old blues. I never forget that- but I know how to get something going when I get on stage to get them on the floor. I been out here so long I know when I get on stage what to play to get them up to dance.

How has your tour been going?

When I made this tour everyone came out to see me – nice crowds- people telling me not to stay away for too long. A lot of clubs closed down this past year and I sat home more than ever before- so this tour is nice. I got a lot of songs and I'm ready for another recording on my own. Money is kinda ‘slow. That was a great thing that Foghat did when they called me and asked me to do numbers on their album. If things go well with this album they might ask me to do something else you know?

How did you choose your songs for their CD?

They wanted two songs. They liked “Good, Good Day." “In My Dreams” is a song that’s been on my mind for a long time. They fell in love with that song. I was wanting to record it for a long time. It tells the truth. There is always somebody who wants to love somebody but they pay no attention. The song tells a story. Any one can see somebody that they want to be with but they turn their head, so you go home and dream about them.

You had said that the blues is a "truthful alignment to human condition"...

The blues is very important not only to us, but all across the world.
The blues is the mother of Rock and Roll, jazz, and country takes some of the blues licks. Country music and blues have been out there a long time. The rap, that’s the younger peoples music. The blues can touch any body if you're listening. If we don’t have music, we don’t have love. On the plantation, the black musicians got together and played. That music pulls people together. When you got around that music, there was nothing but love all they way around, in the air. On Monday, things go back to normal. I know I had a hard time but I am not sorry I took to the blues. The blues has brought me some happiness. I met a lot of good people. I’ll be singing the blues until the good Lord takes me away

Who were your influences?

My idols? Bind Blake lived 35 miles from where I lived in Tulsa. One day a week he'd come and play in front of the store and I would sit and listen to him. I always wanted to be a great guitar player like he was. He was my idol.

Has this been a hard life to live?

It's what I wanted to do since I was two years old. My grandmother would always order records from Sears & Roebuck, that big old catalogue. She'd get blues, country, Tommy Dorsey and I listened to it but the blues and country were may favorites. I played swing bands for a while but it wasn't fun. Playing jazz was no fun either, too fast. I wanted to play something mellow. I went back into the blues. I played R&R in the 60's and in the 70's I played a little disco but it got too wild for me so I went back to the blues. I like blues the best. It tells a story. I write songs about myself. I've been in the business 75 years and I still am probably the poorest blues musician around. I get my glory when I go out into the audience and see hundreds of thousands of people come to hear me play . In Portland people hadn't seen me for so long they said "Eddie! Don't stay away so long!" - stuff like that gives you a push. When somebody appreciates what you're doing it's better than money.

Any words to your fans or to the Foghat fans?

I'm hoping that all this will bring me more fans and if what I did helped them (Foghat)I’ll be proud of that too. Either way I’m proud. I’d like them to have some glory and I’d like to have some glory too. I think my young grandchildren will bring the blues back to how it used to be. It died down here in the states but across the water it never left. Blues is coming back. Sit and listen to it, it tells a story and maybe theres a chance that some of the things you hear in the song, you’ve experienced yourself.

Check out the "Last Train Home" at
and view Eddie's incredible history at

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What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

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