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WYCE Music Journal: Blues

KENNY 'BLUES BOSS' WAYNE

Rollin' With The Blues Boss

Apr 22, 2014

There aren't enough boogie-woogie piano players out there. The world needs more performers like Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne. Sit him down in front of a piano (or Rhodes, or Hammond organ), let his left hand go to work, and you're in heaven. He sings, too. His singing voice is passable, and when he's in a boogie-woogie mood his lyrics make the joint rock. He slogs a bit in the few tracks where he lets the guitarist take over and relies on his voice to carry the song, and when he relies on silly animal-noise sound effects, like in #2. Kenny Wayne was born in 1944 in Spokane, Washington, and followed his family as they moved to San Francisco, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Compton, California. Now he makes his home in British Columbia, Canada where he records and performs and wins awards such as Canada's Juno.

--Gerald Etkind

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BRUCE MATTHEWS

So Far...

Apr 12, 2014

Bruce Matthews is a Grand Rapids-based independent singer songwriter, who sings about the outdoors, family, brokenness, redemption, and his journey with God. In his youth, he played in bands in central New York and later travelled the hotel bar circuit in the Northeast and Midwest, before packing up his guitar and heading to graduate school. His career in outdoor and environmental education led to positions in New Hampshire, New York and Michigan, and eventually he became founding president of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation in Washington, DC. He's now executive director of the North Country Trail Association (MI). It was not until 2007, when Matthews began attending Ada Bible Church, that he started playing regularly again. Original music began flooding out and soon Matthews was occasionally performing at local coffeehouses. The new album, So Far..., was released in March 2014 and features many band members including Bruce Matthews (acoustic guitar, vocals), Tony Muka (electric guitar), Ned Swift (bass), Jeff DeGroote (drums), Carmen DeGroote (vocals), Gary Wayne Wade (percussion), Jen "Sparkles" Dudik (vocals), Andy Ferris (keys, mandolin) and David Pomper (keys, accordion). The level of skill these musicians have is apparent through the album, particularly on tracks like "Ballad of Foxey Brown" and "Band Of Brothers."
- Richard Martin 

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KYLE HENDERSON

Brand New Chance

Apr 9, 2014

Kyle Henderson's musical career has been a journey filled with success alongside hard times. He first made it to the big leagues with Whiteface, a blues/rock, funk band in the 70s. Later he recorded two studio albums with The Producers. The band had success throughout the late 70s and early 80s, particularly through MTV. Though Henderson left the band, he has recently returned for special shows. After leaving The Producers, Henderson moved to L.A. to pursue a solo career and recorded a Christian rock album about which, in an interview with BRM, he said: "I think the record really sucked... the songs were derivative." With the help of fans via Kickstarter, he released Life Goes On in 2011, after he went through a divorce and his son, Daniel, committed suicide. His most recent release is Brand New Chance, featuring Henderson (guitar and vocals), Michael Ripp (guitar), John Christensen (bass), and Chris Sandocal (drums), along with guests Jimmy Voegli (piano and organ) and Steve Hamilton (percussion). The new blues-rock album was released in November 2013 and has garnered praise from The Isthmus, Blues Rock Magazine, and Madison magazine. The album's title track, "Brand New Chance," features Henderson's powerful vocals and Voegli's organ. "Perfect Day" with clear influences from the rock of the later 70s and early 80s.
- Richard Martin

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JON ZEEMAN

Down On My Luck

Mar 28, 2014

We live in a great age for the blues. There are plenty of mighty good blues guitarists out there, and mighty good blues singers, too. Jon Zeeman is both. Zeeman is a well-seasoned musician and earned his chops with professional work dating back into the 80s. He's got touring and recording credits with Susan Tedeschi, Janis Ian, and The Allman Brothers band. He cites Johnny Winter, B. B. King, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton as early influences. Zeeman breaks no new ground on Down on My Luck. You won't hear anything that would be out of place in an electric blues performance in a high-quality club. He delivers a skilled and entertaining set of music, and that's just fine.

--Gerald Etkind

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SHAWN HOLT AND THE TEARDROPS

Daddy Told Me

Mar 17, 2014

Shawn Holt makes music just like his daddy did, and he has taken over the family business. His father was Magic Slim (Morris Holt) and Magic Slim was a fixture in Chicago Blues for over 50 years, mostly with his band The Teardrops, and often alongside guitarist and singer John Primer. Magic Slim passed away in 2013, and Shawn Holt stepped up to front The Teardrops. This is their first album with Shawn as the lead, and John Primer guests on two tracks.

Daddy Told Me isn't an attempt to break new ground. Instead it demonstrates that Shawn Holt can step in as bandleader and continue to deliver fine Chicago blues with the Teardrops. He succeeds.

All the songs work fine. What you'll get is lead voice, backed by guitars, bass, and drums. Backup vocals pop in here and there. No horns, no keyboards, no muss, no fuss. You can't go wrong.

--Gerald Etkind

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THE APPLESEED COLLECTIVE

Young Love

Mar 13, 2014

The Appleseed Collective is an Ann Arbor-based group that formed in 2010.  They released their debut album, Baby to Beast, in 2012 and took to the road for nearly two years. The group's throwback sound and eclectic sentiment gives them a rather unique appeal. Their official site says it best: "The Appleseed Collective represents Americana music rooted in traditions from all over the world and from every decade, creating a live experience that welcomes every soul and is impossible to replicate." Young Love is the group's new 14-track album, released January 21, 2014. Andrew Brown (vocals, guitar) wrote the majority of the tracks on the new album, though Brandon Smith (violin, mandolin) and Katie Lee (banjo, vocals) also wrote for the album. Vince Russo (washboard and percussion) and Ben Rolston (upright bass) make up the other members of the group. The band is strongly rooted in their local community and has a desire to support sustainable living habits, which has led to "success that feels simply organic" to them.  The album opens with "Welcome to the Show," which situates the listener in a concert venue, true to the fact that the album was tracked almost entirely live.  The title track, "Young Love," is lyrically fast paced, reinforced by inventive percussion and old-timey melodies from acoustic instruments.
- Richard Martin

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Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown

Goin' To The Delta

Mar 10, 2014

Guitar great Kim Simmonds will celebrate 50 years with Savoy Brown next year and the best way to sum up the sounds on this new disc is the following quote from Kim. "When I started the band back in 1965, the concept was to be a British version of a Chicago blues band. Now, here we are in 2014, and once again, the music on this recording echoes the blues sounds of Chicago." At age 66 Kim's guitar and vocals match and at times exceed the classic Savoy Brown days in the late 60's & 70's. This is a straight blues disc with 12 original tracks and though encompassing a full sound it is kept to Kim on guitar and vocals, Pat DeSalvo on bas and Garnet Grimm on drums. The CD begins with the upbeat roadhouse sounds of Laura Lee and then slows back with "Sad News" & "Nuthin' Like The Blues", a blues track about the blues. One of the real highlights is the instrumental "Cobra" that will get your adrenaline going and salivating for more. The title track "Goin' To The Delta" has a rocking Texas blues feel and is followed by the slow blues burner "Just A Dream". This CD concludes with all the energy that it began with in "Going Back". This disc is blues guitarist dream from one of the best in the genre. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

MARK T SMALL

Smokin' Blues

Mar 7, 2014

A Man, A Plan, A Guitar: Mark T Small. Guitarist/Singer Mark T Small has played with lots of famous people, but here he is mostly playing by himself - solo and acoustic. You'll hear a dozen songs that other artists made famous, and he plays and sings in a dozen different styles. He calls it "Delta Blues with a Chicago Blues slant" but you'll hear much more than that. He plays slide guitar, he flat picks, and he fingerpicks. He spent some years focused on "progressive newgrass." I don't know exactly what "progressive newgrass" sounds like, but if this guy was playing it he must have made it sound good.

"Step it Up & Go" features boogie-woogie picking and rockabilly vocals. "Sell My Monkey" is sure to raise the what-the-heck-am-I-listening-to question. Lyrics: Me and my baby had a falling out. People let me tell you what it's all about. She wants to sell my monkey.

"My Daddy Was A Jockey" is inspired by John Lee Hooker's "Jockey Blues" and offers a rocking good time. "Going Down Slow" takes it slower and easier. Stretch out, sit back, and have a listen.

"Buck Rag" is indeed a ragtime tune, and it will have you smiling. "Walking the Dog" is NOT a solo effort - Shor'ty Billups alternates verses. You'll also hear Walter Woods hop in on harmonica in "Moanin' At Midnight."

All the rest are worth listening to and sharing, and you could probably build a blues education around this disk. It raps up with "America Medley" as arranged by Mark T Small. You'll hear 4th of July and nostalgic favorites - America, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and then America again.  You don't have to wait for the fireworks show. You can play it anytime.

- Gerald Etkind

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ALLISON THRASH

DO YOU COME WITH THE DRINK?

Mar 5, 2014

Hailing from Austin, Texas, where musical styles cross-pollinate like seeds in a wind-storm, singer Allison Thrash has crafted a disc that is as much garage rock as the blues. Joined by such first call musicians as Johnny Moeller (Fabulous Thunderbirds) and Tjarko Jeen (Ronnie Dawson) on guitars, Frosty Smith (Omar & the Howlers) on drums, Hunt Sales (David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Todd Rundgren) on bass and percussion and the Grooveline Horns, Thrash works her way through 12 original numbers. With a hard-edged voice that recalls Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders or Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane in her psychedelic days, she doesn't so much sing these songs as spit them out dripping with lust, sarcasm, anguish and venom directed at her competition, "Woman Enough", worthless men, "Whoa Baby", men worthy of attention, "Do You Come With the Drink"?, and the irrepressible urge to taste forbidden fruit, "Some of that Ricky". While many of the cuts lope along at a mid-tempo pace "Rubies of Foolishness", "No Poaching" and the lusty, horn-driven, "Thrash and Moan" are up-tempo rockers. Elsewhere, "Put That Toy Down" and "Last Night the Blues Came" have a trippy late-60s vibe with keyboard parts that could have been laid down by the Door's Ray Manzarek. While the material here mostly plays around the edges of the blues, there is plenty to like. Smitty

LITTLE MIKE AND THE TORNADOES

Forgive Me

Mar 3, 2014

Although Mike Markowitz' biggest influence was Muddy Waters, it is obvious he owes a debt of gratitude to bluesmen Pinetop Perkins and Paul Butterfield. Mike toured with Pinetop as his backing band and recorded/produced for him. Butterfield gave him the most advice, telling him to be a music purist not a blues purist.  This is their fifth album after a 16 year hiatus but brings that same toe-tapping swagger. They have been a band since 1978 from the working-class neighborhoods of Queens, although Mike has firmly planted himself in Florida. 'Opelousas Rain' just chugs along...pure instrumental tune. Love, love, LOVE the song 'Wait a Minute Baby' with its nice slow shuffle, guitar heat, harp reverb, and horn section that brings big-band sound. There's a little something for everyone in the lyrics too: "I know you think you're smart, but that ain't the way it's gonna be..." 'Tell Me Baby' and 'Traveling Blues' are jump jive numbers. 'Little Therese' is 11 minutes of slow, slow grooves which flesh out sublime piano and harp solos. 'Fool Too Long' lays down a groove with steady background bass line. 'The Hit' may be a self-fulfilling prophecy--almost 5 minutes of near complete instrumental harp and bass goodness. Reviewed by Pam VandeKerkhoff

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MOLLIE O'BRIEN AND RICH MOORE

Love Runner

Feb 28, 2014

Love Runner is Mollie O'Brien and Rich Moore, the wife and husband duo's second studio album together, and this time at the center is the universal theme of home. O'Brien released eight records before working with her husband, who had made a name for himself in the Colorado acoustic music scene. The album features three original songs and eight covers, creating a diverse sound mostly within the Country and Folk genres. The album opens with Dave Van Ronk's "Sunday Street," O'Brien's vocals bringing new meaning to the originally male told story. "Went Back Home" is the first original track on the album. Its autobiographical nature rhythmically swings through years of romance, heartache and commitment. The second original and title track, "Love Runner," is charged with sexual desire, veiled in rusty truck metaphors and accordion riffs. The last original track, "Don't Let The Devil Ride," features O'Brien's impressive, ease-filled vocals, Moore's guitar mastery, and their friends' fantastic instrumentation in a song that leans beyond the Folk genre, toward a Jazz/Blues sound. Robbie Fulks' "They Want Me Here" brings the fiddle in a lyrically driven folk song. The album closes with O'Brien's voice towering over a building instrumentation in the folk-feeling "Green Summertime."
Richard Martin

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ANNIKA CHAMBERS & THE HOUSTON ALL-STARS

Making My Mark

Feb 28, 2014

Annika Chambers grew up in Houston, Texas and began singing in church at a young age.  Her interest in blues was sparked during her first deployment to Kosovo. After rising to the rank of Sergeant during her 8-year term in the U.S. Army, Chambers' love of music drove her to leave the military to pursue her passion for blues. Collaborating with 18 renowned musicians from Houston, including keyboard ace David Delagarza III, Chambers has created a diverse album that is grounded in contemporary and cosmopolitan blues, but has influences from rock n' roll, soul, and at times pop on her debut album Making My Mark . Chambers' desire to make music which listeners can groove to is made clear in the albums opening track, "Move." Powerful vocals from Chambers in "Barnyard Blues" create an entertaining farm animal allegory."Lick'er" is thick with sexual metaphor, and the talented Larry Fulcher on bass and David Delagarza on clavinet keep the tension steady. Chambers' vocals sore as she calls out for comfort from loneliness and despair in "Down South." Chambers and Dominique Fulcher explore addiction amidst the funk of "That Feel Good" with its layered horns from Kyle Turner and hopping guitar lines from Brad Absher and Corey Stoot. Brad Absher joins Chambers on the high energy "Love's Sweet Sensation."
Richard Martin 

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DAUNIELLE

Daunielle

Feb 28, 2014

Daunielle sings the kind of blues that was once called Rhythm and Blues, back before it turned into R&B. Call it Soul. Her debut album is just called Daunielle, pronounced Dawn-Yell, the same as her one-word name. Daunielle earned her chops singing backup for Solomon Burke, Huey Lewis and the News (she's toured with them for four years) and Cee Cee James.

Daunielle is from Memphis, but her dramatic soul approach, horn arrangements, and use of backup chorus would fit right in with Etta James and stars of Motown like Gladys Knight and Diana Ross. For this, her first album as a solo artist, she is backed up by the Catfood Records house band, The Rays. Dan Ferguson injects tasty organ riffs from time to time.

"Runaway Train" and "Early Grave emulate classic Motown sound, horns and all. "Damn Your Eyes" is a nicely done cover of the Etta James classic, medium paced and heartfelt.

"I Got a Voice" speeds things up a bit. It's about having a voice with something to say. Trite but listenable. "Biloxi" has just a hint of Cajun to it. "(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher" is a fine piece of nostalgia that doesn't seek to add anything new to the classic. "Fallen Bird" slows things down again.  And so it goes. It's all good for a change of pace. The CD finishes up strong with "Goodbye Kiss" a sweet tale, slower paced.

Try:  10, 6, 1, 5.

---Gerald Etkind

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MICHAEL PACKER

I Am The Blues - My Story

Feb 28, 2014

Check listings carefully! Some are narration (spoken word), some are new music from the Michael Packer Blues Band, some are narration with music, some are old music from Michael Packer's two 1970s bands, Papa Nebo and Free Beer.

Play the first track off of Michael Packer's album I Am The Blues - My Story and your phones will ring off the hook. "What did I just hear? Can I hear some more? Who is this guy?". The album is spoken autobiography plus music. Most songs have a spoken intro, either as the track before the song, or integrated into a single track. One song was recorded with his first band, Papa Nebo (released 1971), and three were from his band Free Beer (approx 1975. This is NOT the current-day Detroit band that uses the same name.)

Michael Packer spent much time living and playing music in Greenwich Village, and he drops a lot of names you will recognize. He was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame in 2011. Here he tells his story of a life stunted by alcoholism, heroin addiction, well-earned jail time, and homelessness. His gravelly voice grabs you and holds you.  

Recommended: Track 1 "Mr. Packer" mixed spoken word and song. A great intro to him and absolutely worth listening to.   Tracks 2&3 "My Family" spoken intro into song "Uncle Al" about his great uncle Alfred Packer who ate people. Tracks 8&9, "Free Beer" spoken intro into "I'm in Love" by Free Beer. Track 16 Doing Time At Riker's Island. Track 17 This Train (the old Woody Guthrie standard).

FCC FLAG! Track 10 "Bob Dylan and Me" has profanity.

--Gerald Etkind

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SANDY CARROLL

Unnaturally Blonde

Feb 28, 2014

Singer/Songwriter/pianist Sandy Carroll lives in McNairy County, Tennessee, but considers Memphis her spiritual home. She has been a working professional musician and composer since the 1980s. She has headlined at Lafayette's Corner Club on Beale Street in Memphis, released numerous albums, written professionally for countless other recording artists, and was awarded her own "brass note" on Beale Street which you can see installed in front of the Hard Rock Café.  She even wrote the theme song for the Memphis Mad Dog football team, a member of the short-lived South Division of the Canadian Football League. Unnaturally Blonde follows up "Just As I Am", her first album for Catfood Records.

Sandy Carroll  got plenty of high-caliber help on Unnaturally Blonde. Sandy's  music is produced, mixed, and engineered by multi-Grammy Award winner Jim Gaines, who is also her husband. They brought in some pros with serious chops to back her up.

The result is a slightly bluesy, slightly country, lounge performance. Hear her in a hotel lounge, and you'll think she is much better than the room deserves, and probably ought to have some albums out. Sad to say, Unnaturally Blonde and doesn't have anything special to offer above a competently entertaining performance, well produced, with finely skilled backup musicians. The songs all sound vaguely reminiscent of other songs you've heard some other time, in some other place, but can't quite put a finger on.  There's nothing grating, but nothing exciting, either.

Any song on this album would make a good "palate cleanser" for those times when you want to calm things down, slow them up, and change pace.

---Gerald Etkind

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BILLY BRANCH AND THE SONS OF BLUES

BLUES SHOCK

Feb 26, 2014

After a 15 year recording hiatus, Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues (Dan Carelli on guitar, Sumito Ariyoshi on keys, Nick Charles on bass, Mose Rutues on drums) and a host of guests including Ronnie Baker Brooks, Johnny Iguana, the Chicago Horns and numerous background vocalists, have crafted a disc that mixes blues with a bit of a hip-hop twist, "Sons of Blues", traditional blues, "Crazy Mixed Up World", a blues cutting contest between Branch and Ronnie Baker Brooks, "Dog House", a piano and harmonica driven instrumental, "Back Alley Cat", and a few classics including John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" and Holland, Holland & Dozier's "Function at the Junction". As revealed by this diverse palate of styles, Branch is not content to play the same old shuffles and boogies. His self-penned "Going to See Miss Gerri One More Time" is a folky, Keb' Mo' style homage to Gerri Oliver the long time proprietor of Chicago's 47th Street Palm Tavern who hosted an after-hours scene that attracted the cream of the entertainment world as it passed through town while "Slow Moe" features drummer Moses Rutues bragging up the virtues of moving slow over a stop time beat that plays off the song's title. "Baby Let Me Butter Your Corn" is not only the perfect follow up with its frantic pace highlighting the deliberate pace of Slow Moe but stands on its own as one of the hottest tunes on the disc. Branch's "Song for My Mother" is a tasty, jazzy instrumental that highlights Branch's solid skills on harmonica. With his harmonica chops intact and self-assured vocals, Branch weaves this diverse set of tunes into an enjoyable listen. Smitty

JOHN MCVEY

MEET ME IN HOUSTON

Feb 26, 2014

John McVey is a Texas-based guitar slinger who is joined on this effort by drummer Frosty Smith, bass player James Cloyd Jr., and keyboard wiz Aaron Price. While he wears the proverbial 10 gallon hat, he's not a poser simply marketing his heritage. Instead, he's a solid, real deal blues guitarist who skips the effects pedals and plays only the notes he can squeeze out on his own- and there are plenty of them here. "Bayou Boogie", which opens this set, is the kind of upbeat instrumental showcase that bar bands around the land have used for years to get into the groove at the start of a set. It serves that same purpose here as McVey then drops the pace and moves into the salacious shuffle, "I'm Yours", where he unapologetically proclaims "I've got more love than you can hold". Memphis Slim's kiss off to an errant mate, "Wish Me Well", features plenty of single note picking and a big rich tone complemented by Price's saucy work on keys while Earl Hooker's instrumental "Blue Guitar" and the simmering title track are mid-set chances for McVey to show off the variety of his practiced chops. "Through the Tears" features jazzy riffing that stands in stark contrast to the heavy grind of "Dealing from the Bottom of the Deck" and the funky "I Don't Stutter". Willie Dixon's "Same Thing" puts Price back in the spotlight with a smoking solo that starts the fire for the terrific guitar showcase that follows on "Freddie King Goes Surfing". The set closer, "Walking In the Footsteps", segues into a nice, delicate, acoustic send off to this mostly electric affair. While no new boundaries are being pushed here, this is a solid effort. Smitty

WATERMELON SLIM & THE WORKERS

BULL GOOSE ROOSTER

Feb 16, 2014

Harmonica is not usually the first note you hear on most blues discs. On the other hand, Bill Homans aka Watermelon Slim isn't your ordinary blues man. In addition to his skills on the harmonica he sings and plays a mean lap slide guitar and dobro. Coupled with the unique perspective he gained working as everything from a truck driver, to a forklift operator, saw mill operator, firewood salesman, collection agent, funeral officiator and occasional crook, which he uses to inform his mostly self-penned lyrics, his talents result in something other than the "same old blues." While others are content to travel the well worn paths where evil women and bad whisky are available in equal measure, Slim takes the side roads and looks to raise some Cain by extolling the virtues of whistleblowers as he does in the liner notes or by adding a blues twist to folk classics like Woody Guthrie's "Vigilante Man". Elsewhere, on "A Wrench In the Machine" and "The Foreign Policy Blues", he advocates protesting and gumming things up rather than going with the flow but finds time to regret some of his actions on "Prison Walls". His long stints as a truck driver get a visit on "Blue Freightliner" and "Trucking Class" which scrub any romance for the road with a hard dose of the lonely reality of the daily grind and its impact on the family. Occasionally, he rejoins the blues mainstream to good effect with raucous covers of the instrumental showcase "The Wobble" and the well travelled duo of "I'm a King Bee" and "Baby Scratch My Back". Two a cappella numbers, "Take My Mother Home" and "Northwest Passage" may test the patience of traditional blues fans but these steps too far are easily forgiven when everything else here is such a great detour from the normal bill of fare. Smitty

DAMON FOWLER

SOUNDS OF HOME

Feb 16, 2014

On his third Blind Pig solo release, Damon Fowler, a Tampa Florida native who sings and plays guitar, lap steel and dobro steps away from his other gig as part of blues super-group Southern Hospitality and lays down 11 tracks that range from the J.J. Grey style grungy swamp groove of "Thought I Had It All" to the Stonesy rock riffs of the title cut, the Z.Z. Top boogie of "I Grit My Teeth" and the straight up reading of Elvis Costello's "Alison". The darkly mysterious "Trouble" has some jazzy riffs worth of a Steely Dan disc while Spark and Johnny Winter's classic "TV Mama" hue closer to the blues. "Old Fools, Bar Stools, And Me" is infused with both nostalgia and regret with Fowler's lap steel dicing his pain into small slices as he laments the fact he can't be with people but can't stand being alone either. "Where I Belong" and the traditional "I Shall Not Be Moved" find Fowler at the other end of the emotional spectrum with buoyant riffs and upbeat vocals. Joining the core band of Fowler, Chuck Riley on bass and James McNight on drums, producer Tab Benoit contributes harmony vocals and guitars on a number of the tracks and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux makes a brief appearance on the title cut. Another solid disc from Fowler's burgeoning catalog of top notch tunes. SMITTY

PAUL RODGERS

THE ROYAL SESSIONS

Feb 15, 2014

One of rocks greatest voices Paul Rodgers {Free, Bad Company} pays homage to the musicians that dominated the Memphis soul sound in the 1960's. The Royal Seessions were recorded at the legendary Royal Studios, that brought us the timeless recordings released on Stax/Volt, Goldwax & Hi Records. Assembling a all-star band of veteran Memphis R&B musicians as well as back ground singers and recorded 100% on analog tape, Paul captures both the feeling and sound of these classic recordings. The Royal Sessions begins with Paul tackling the soulful Isaac Hayes track "I Thank You" and then moves into the bluesy sounds of the Albert King track "Down Don't Bother Me". Paul breaths new life into three different Otis Redding treasures. "I've Been Loving You Too Long", "Any Old Way' and one of the ultimate classics "I've Got Dreams To Remember". Paul is joined by a the gospel sounds of the Royal Singers for the Burt Bacharach favorite "Walk On By" which may be my all time favorite recording of this track. Most of the tracks on this Disc were originally recorded 50 years ago, but Paul makes them sound as fresh, new & timeless as when they came out of Memphis and Royal Studios five decades ago. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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ANDRE CYMONE

The Stone

Feb 9, 2014

 Having worked in past with such notables as Prince and Jody Watley,  Andre Cymone considers himself "one of the architects of the revolutionary MInneapolis sound that permanently changed the face of popular music in the 80's". The Stone is the fourth release from the singer/songwriter/producer and just because he made his name in the eighties doesn't mean that this sounds anything like that musical period.  The Stone consists of mild rock guitar and slow to mid-tempo drums with soulful vocals, often reminding me of a toned-down Lenny Kravitz.  There is nothing here to make note of as The Stone offers bland songs that are easily dismissed.     Rebecca Ruth  

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THE MAINSTAYS

The Mainstays

Feb 9, 2014

  The Mainstays is based in Kalamazoo and for its debut, the band has made a self-titled album. Three-fifths of the group are alumni of the band Funktion and this sounds, not surprisingly, like a Funktion release.  Singer/songwriter, Andrew Schrock's distinctive vocals are what gives it away; but the placid R&B sound is similar as well. The Mainstays is an album of light neo-soul that doesn't demand much of its audience.       Rebecca Ruth 

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TOMMY CASTRO & THE PAINKILLERS

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

Jan 12, 2014

In 2012 Tommy Castro retired his long time horn-driven soul blues line up and hit the road with the Painkillers, a stripped down three piece drum, bass and keyboard crew including Randy McDonald who held down the bass guitar slot in the original 1991 version of the Tommy Castro Band. This disc features the harder edged sound of the new line up. While Castro's voice still has a soulful edge, it is employed in the service of tunes that are a lot closer to Texas or Chicago than Memphis or Muscle Shoals as has been the case with most of his discs. "I'm Tired" sets the stage with Castro's proclamation that he's tired of trying to be something not true to himself or to live up to someone else's expectations. So, out with the old, in with the new. The title cut and "She Wanted To Give It To Me" are grinding blues rockers while the riff heavy "When I Cross The Mississippi" pays lyrical homage to southern blues but musical tribute to jam band specialists such as the North Mississippi All-Stars compliments of the guitar fireworks laid down by Castro and guests Tab Benoit and Mark Karan. "Medicine Woman" is just as riff heavy but with equally hard vocals by Castro and Samantha Fish. Although the overall edge is harder, Castro has not transformed himself into a mere three chord hard rocker as evidenced by the rollicking duets with pianist Marcia Ball on "Mojo Hannah" and vocalist Tasha Taylor on J. B Lenoir's "The Whale Have Swallowed Me" as well as the funky cover of the Wet Willie Classic, "Keep On Smilin'". "Two Steps Forward" starts as a crunchy Zeppelin style rocker before The Holmes Brothers step in on gospel vocals and Magic Dick lays down harmonica straight from his J. Geils Band days. The two cuts that the band released as a 45, "That's All I Go"t and "Greedy" close out the disc with a good summary of the Painkiller sound- nail hard blues rock with Castro's solid, soulful vocals adding the special ingredient that separates these tunes from the countless other bands that make a living at the glorious intersection between rock and blues. Smitty

GRAND MARQUIS

Blues and Trouble

Nov 16, 2013

Blues and Trouble is the fifth studio album of Grand Marquis, a Kansas City based band. Bryan Redmond's sax dominates the album, especially on Bed of Nails. Along with Redmond Chad Boydston plays trumpet, Ryan Wurtz on guitar, Ben Ruth on the upright bass and sousaphone, with Lisa McKenzie as percussionist. The trio of tunes 3-4-5 are the best on the CD: "Reputation," "Empire of Dirt" (the horn is a treat) and title track with its hooky beat. "Ironclad Alibi" starts out so cool with bass--gets a little muddled in the middle--and returns to that vibe near the end while maintaining background melody. You'll hear strains of God Bless America in "You're Still My Baby" with Dixieland-style sousaphone. "Two by Two" is all about swing dancin' and is the most upbeat song on the disk. At 7 minutes, "Easy to Be the Devil" is in no hurry to get the point across. A nice laid back, slow burn. Blues and Trouble blends old school blues, prohibition-era jazz and swing influences while letting each musician shine. Can't pass on Jason Bays' design of the album cover and liner notes--superb graphic arts. Reviewed by Pam VandeKerkhoff

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ROOMFUL OF BLUES

45 LIVE

Oct 13, 2013

The biggest, baddest blues band in the land is back with a live recording to commemorate its 45 years as one of the top purveyors of the little big band sound of the likes of early B.B. King and the Buddy Johnson Orchestra. While it has had more turnover in membership than the French fry slot at McDonald's on a soccer Saturday, (over 50 to date including the likes of Duke Robillard, Lou Ann Barton, Curtis Salgado, Sugar Ray Norcia, Ron Levy, Al Basile, Bob Enos, Al Copley, Porky Cohen and Ronnie Earl) the band has always recruited great talent and maintained its wailing, horn-driven sound despite the tough economics of putting eight or more musicians on stage each night. This set features the current version of the band working its way through 14 cuts selected from throughout its career including such gems as Big Bill Broonzy's Somebody's Got to Go which it often performed with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Crawdad Hole which it recorded originally with Big Joe Turner and It All Went Down the Drain which it recorded with Earl King. As great as these tunes are the band shines brightest on originals such as Dressed Up to To Get Messed Up, guitarist and band leader Chris Vachon's Just Keep Rockin' and Turn It On, Turn It Up as well as longest serving member Rich Latille's horn driven instrumental tour de force Straight Jacquet. The band also breathes surprising new life into the Hank William chestnut Jambalaya with Lataille leading the way on clarinet. While renowned for its sparkling horn section, which provides both background spice and attention grabbing solos, the band has always also had top notch guitarists starting with founding member Duke Robillard. Current guitarist Chris Vachon continues that tradition with his incendiary soloing on Magic Sam's Easy Baby and his own Blue Blue World.  While the vocalist slot probably has the largest alumni club, Phil Pemberton acquits himself extraordinarily well on this recording with his big lunged vocals that provide a perfect foil for the swinging groove of the horns. This is a top notch release that every lover of classic  R & B and blues should own. SMITTY

MIKE ZITO & THE WHEEL

GONE TO TEXAS

Oct 13, 2013

After a tough stretch fighting drug addiction and other assorted demons, guitarist Mike Zito finds himself in a much better place than when he last checked in on 2011's Greyhound. With a dream gig as the dueling guitar counter-part to Devon Allman in the supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood, and with his own top-notch band The Wheel backing him when the Brotherhood is on break, he's gaining some space on his demons. On Death Row and Gone to Texas he lays it all on the line and reveals that a higher power and the right lady in Texas saved him from an ugly fate but on I Never Knew A Hurricane he admits that he continues to dread having his heart stomped flat and on Hell on Me and Voices in Dallas he finds the drug demons are still hot on his heels. While his time in the Lone Star state may have saved him, he's still on the move and finding roadblocks, Rainbow Bridge (where he trades riffs with Sonny Landreth) and still finds relationships to be befuddling at best, Subtraction Blues, but mostly touch and go, Don't Think Cause You're Pretty and Don't Break a Leg where he foolishly can't understand why he's in trouble for commenting favorably on his lady's sister and then trying to make up by asking her to be more sensuous. While his sentiments might be clunky, at least he has insight into his failings. On the low key ballad Take it Easy he pleads with his lover not to waste too much emotional energy trying to change him since it will only end badly. The roadhouse rock duet with Delbert McClinton, The Road Never Ends finds him echoing his Greyhound disc and acknowledging wanderlust to be a major factor in his problems: "The road never ends it just goes on and on/ by the time I get home I'm already gone."On Wings of Freedom he finally realizes that always flying away from his problems is his problem. While Zito's tales are deeply personal they strike a universal chord and are made compelling by his great guitar work and the spot on work of his band. Smitty

 

 

BRYAN LEE

PLAY ONE FOR ME

Oct 13, 2013

Veteran New Orleans blues man Bryan Lee spreads his wings for the most soulful release of his career.  Joined by the Fabulous T-Birds Kim Wilson and guitarist Johnny Moller as well as Chicago Blues Man Willie Henderson arranging a seven piece horn section and four piece string section  Play On For Me is definitely the most diverse disc this sixty eight year old veteran has ever released. The opening track Aretha {Sing One For Me} is a great cover track about a relationship gone bad and looking for healing in an a Aretha Franklin song. "It's Too Bad" the Freddie King standard as well as the Willie Dixon classic "Evil"  and Bryan's original "Poison" are the most pure and traditional sounding blues found on this disc. Bryans voice has never sounded better, his guitar has taken on certain BB King Lucille quality's and this is one of the best blues releases of 2013.

 

Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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PETE ANDERSON

BIRDS ABOVE GUITARLAND

Oct 12, 2013

After a long career backing and producing the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Michelle Shocked, Lucinda Williams and Rosie Flores, guitarist Pete Anderson took the roll of bandleader and launched his solo career as a bluesman.  This is the fifth disc in that adventure. As always he's slinging a Telecaster and singing up a storm but he also spends some time on the baritone guitar, bass, harmonica and percussion. Joined by Michael Murphy on a variety of keys, a couple of horn players and a host of drummers, Anderson works his way through a batch of well crafted originals by himself and a number of co-writers. On 36 Hour Day his twangy guitar groove is propelled by rocking horn accents as he works through the reasons he needs 36 hours to be with his lady. The country inflected Talkin' Bout Lonely is a cry in your beer weeper while Talkin' My Baby Down is an upbeat bluesy number with the bouncy music in stark contrast to the warning shot he throws out to anyone dumb enough to mess with his baby. For You is a sophisticated, jazzy, number that features a fat guitar tone and lyrical grooves that would make Santana envious. Big Money is a funk/jazz number featuring a well-timed indictment of those making the big money while sending work overseas. While many guitarists tend to fall into a range of predictability, Anderson keeps the listener guessing. On Empty Everything he avoids the jazzy leads of some of the other tunes in favor of brittle single string guitar notes that stand out not only for their difference from other tracks but because of their stark contrast to the warm b3 grooves that carry the melody. In contrast, Red Sunset Blues could come from a spaghetti western with its reverb drenched groove and Rock in My Shoe, has a deep, swampy groove that could come off a Tony Joe White or CCR disc. As a bonus, the later tune gets reprised at the end of the disc with Bekka Bramlett on vocals. All killer, no filler. This is a terrific disc.SMITTY   

 

 

 

BUDDY GUY

RHYTHM & BLUES

Oct 12, 2013

Let's get this out of the way, right up front. At the age of 76 Buddy Guy has still got it. The two disc release features one side of Rhythm and the other of Blues. With his voice still ringing clear and his prowess on guitar fully intact, Guy gets right to it on the Rhythm disc with Best in Town where he doesn't shy away from the title. While some may be put off by that bold sentiment, his well deserved confidence is tempered by his acknowledgment that no matter how good you are that lasts only until the next best in town comes along. On the reflective I Go By Feel he reveals that his gifts are the result of feel more than design and that he uses the same sense of feel to find the right woman. Guy's old partner Junior Wells' classic Messin' With the Kid is reprised here on a duet with Kid Rock that is more bombast than blues but a fun listen nevertheless. Other highlights on Rhythm include the nod to Guitar Slim on the guitar showcase, Well I Done Got Over It, the show stopping duet with vocalist Beth Hart, What You Gonna Do About Me, and the country inflected One Day Away where he trades vocals with Keith Urban and urges that no time be wasted in telling parents and loved ones how much they mean to you lest you be a day too late to share your feelings.  Blues starts with Guy's homage to his adopted hometown, Meet Me in Chicago, which features not only Guy's fleet fingered fret work but a name-dropping tour of the City's big attractions. The standard blues shuffles of Too Damn Bad  and Never Gonna Change could be the soundtrack of any blues bar on a Saturday night- as long as the blues bar featured an on-fire Buddy Guy! Evil Twin features Aerosmith's Steven Tyler swapping vocals with Guy and its guitar duo of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford having fun trading leads on something other than classic rock. While much of the material is high intensity electric blues Guy gets down and dirty on the slinky I Could Die Happy where he makes a valiant run at a younger woman and on All That Makes Me Happy is the Blues where he trots out well-worn insights about the redemptive power of the blues. Even though Guy spends a lot of time walking down a bumpy memory lane on My Mama Loved Me and I Came Up Hard he ultimately admits the blues will get you no matter how rich your life and memories, Blues Don't Care. The disc ends on the upbeat Poison Ivy where Guy continues to extol his many gifts to the ladies. As great as it is to discover the next big thing, it is even better to discover that storied musicians such as Buddy Guy still have their gifts intact and deserve reverence not only for what they've done in the past but for what they continue to do today. SMITTY

DANA FUCHS

BLISS AVENUE

Oct 12, 2013

Dana Fuchs is a powerful vocalist often compared to Janis Joplin for her gutsy growl. While the comparison is not unfair it is also incomplete. While Joplin's music was rooted in late 60's/early 70's blues rock, Fuchs also dips into gospel, Livin' on Sunday, soul, So Hard to Move, modern rock that wouldn't be out of place on a Pretender's disc, Daddy's Little Girl, some revved up rock reminiscent of Johnny Cash's Ghostriders, Rodents in the Attic and even some straight up Country, Nothin' On My Mind. That said, Fuch's can flat out rock with the best of them as evidenced by the title cut, Keep On Walkin' and How Did Things Get This Way. In addition to her skills as a vocalist, Fuchs does a fine job with the pen on the 12 cuts collected here. For the most part, the songs rip into clueless lovers, How Did Things Get This Way, warn old news boyfriends to stay away, Keep On Walkin' and So Hard To Move, find her relishing the revenge when a departed mate finds himself all alone instead of in the land of milk and honey, Bliss Avenue and weave cautionary tales about living too fast and free, Daddy's Little Girl and Baby Loves the Life. Handful Too Many doesn't hit as hard musically as some of the other numbers but the harsh judgment of straying lovers is just as sharp: "All the colors in the world could paint you/far away from that same dark corner/I saw the light in your wicked words/truest colors I ever heard".  This smack down is made all the heavier by the LaGrange era ZZ Top "how, how, how" kiss off at the end. Great stuff. Smitty

 

HANS THEESSINK

WISHING WELL

May 7, 2013

65 year old Dutch guitarist and vocalist Hans Thesssink has been one of the most proflic writers and performers in the acoustic blues music releasing over twenty discs and telling thousands of stories. On this new solo release the laid back {But Impeccable} sounds of his guitar and baritone voice shines through brightly. This CD is stripped down to Hans guitars, banjos, mandolin and harmonica. The magic in this disc is how Hans conveys his stories of climate change, singing with Johnny Cash and gambling with ones life on Hellbound. Hans storytelling and vocals strongly resemble one of music's best pickers and storytellers Greg Brown. This is not the blues you will play to lift you up, but the next time you are in a reflective mood or enjoying a cup of coffee on a nice Sunday morning "Wishing Well" may be the perfect fit. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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GINA SICILIA

IT WASN'T REAL

May 7, 2013

Gina's earthy smoky vocals breathe life into every track on this disc that blends blues, jazz and roots to make one of 2013's most compelling releases. The CD begins with the title track "It Wasn't Real" a story of betrayal that draws you in on the first sound of her voice. "Don't cry Baby" is an Etta James classic & Gina would make this late great happy with her take on this track. "Walkin' Along The Avenue" is a laid back jazz track and shows the bands & Gina's versatility. On "City By The Water" & "Write A Little Song With You" Gina captures a little of the sound and feeling that was found on KD Lang's "Ingénue" release. Gina ends this disc with the country blues sounds of "Walkin' Shoes" where she sings about having a long way to go. In my books, Gina has already reached the top with this fine release. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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THE MIGHTY MOJO PROPHETS

FLYIN' HOME FROM MEMPHIS

Apr 23, 2013

On their sophomore release release, the Mighty Mojo Prophets continue the tradition of West Coast Blues with a feeling. Led by vocalists Tom "Big Son" Eliff and guitarist Mitch Dow the great harmonica of Alex "Lil A" Woodson the band continues to draw comparisons to Rod Piazza & The Might Flyers as well as the late great William Clarke. The Prophets were nominated in 2012, for the best new artist debut and performed and competed against some of the greatest in the blues industry. On their flight home from Memphis, this California outfit knew this was just the beginning. In addition to west coast blues the prophets swing with tracks like "California", they may have taken a few liberties with the king of the blues B.B King's "Caledonia" on this track. "The One For Me" includes some terrific boogie piano from Mike Malone and could defiantly cause some havoc on the dance floor. Mitch Dow's guitar on strong medicine made me think he had been taking lessons from David Lindley. The instrumental "Jo's Jive" showcases Mitch "Da Switch's" guitar playing and proves he is one of the finest guitarist in the industry. "She's Gone" is pure country blues and proves if it is Memphis, California or somewhere else in the Country the Mighty Mojo Prophets are a force to be reckoned with. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

LISA CEE

My Turn

Apr 8, 2013

Singer/songwriter, Lisa Cee, has been part of the west coast blues scene for quite some time. However, Lisa really earned her stripes leading the house band since 2008 for the Gibson Guitar Lodge at the Sundance Film Festival. There, she performed with many prolific musicians, such as Ray Manzarek, Sting, John Legend and Billy Gibbons. My Turn is Lisa Cee's debut. It opens strong with a cover of the 1960's soul tune "What Good Am I", bluesing it up admirably. The rest of the disc is mostly originals, with Lisa on vocals and her band doing a respectable job on guitar, bass, and drums. Guest artists add their two cents on harmonica, keys, and saxophone. The funky "Fire", the burner "Good-Bye Baby", and "Evil Mind" with its gospel backing vocals are all worth a listen. "Lost You" is a decent slow burner and the sax replacing the electric guitar on "White Rabbit" makes it one of the most interesting covers of that particular song I've heard. Rebecca Ruth

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SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY

EASY LIVIN'

Mar 31, 2013

Putting their own bands on hold, Lap Steel player Damon Fowler, guitarist JP Soars and keyboardist Victor Wainwright have joined forces for the first blues supergroup of 2013. Producer Tab Benoit melds their collective talents into a diverse collection which includes everything from early Little Feat style funk, "Southern Livin'", to road house rockers, "Come Back Home", to Asleep at the Wheel influenced country swing, "Mile After Mile", to a gypsy jazz meets Santana instrumental, "Fried Neck Bones and Home Fries", to a West Coast style boogie, "Shoestring Budget", where the three trade leads like a hot potato, and even a touch of reggae, "Don't Feel Like Going There Today". As might be expected given their individual talents, each of the three capitalize on the talents of the others to produce songs that often are greater than the sum of their parts. For example, Wainwright's ballad, "Certified Lover", seems pretty low key and straight-forward until you realize that just beneath the surface there is all kinds of incredible guitar jamming going on between Fowler and Soars. Likewise, "Don't Boogie Woogie" features Fowler's slippery slide and Soars' beefy guitar riffs circling all around Wainwright's rollicking piano which in most bands would command all of the attention. While many supergroup efforts like this rely on the common ground of well known covers, this group invested time in its own original tunes with two group co-writes and several credited to individual members. Not to be a glutton, but here's hoping we get more of Southern Hospitality and that each member maintains his own terrific career. SMITTY

JJ GREY & MOFRO

THE RIVER

Mar 31, 2013

Kicking things off with the tough, sinewy "Your Lady, She's Shady", which features an expose of a buddy's lady as little more than a dog in heat, JJ Grey & Mofro weigh in with another slab of swampy southern-fried soul, blues and rock. With a soulful horn section and keys adding color to the grooves, the disc treads the back roads between Memphis and Muscle Shoals with Booker T & the MG's, The Stones, The Black Crowes, the Drive By Truckers and even Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers as mile markers along the way. That's not to say that this crew is derivative of any of them: only that they lay down grooves that would fit in well with some of their best work. Throughout, Grey turns a sharp eye towards situations that strike a common chord. "Tame a Wild One" is a horn driven look at the tragic waste of a relationship that comes from trying to impose an iron fist on a free spirit while "99 Shades of Crazy" is a first person account of someone who isn't willing to agree to disagree and is ready to settle the issues in dispute with whatever force is necessary. He's not just a fighter though: "Write A Letter" starts as a low key ballad but morphs into a majestic anthem as Grey attempts to will a letter home to his baby. "Florabama" is a slinky ode to the infamous bar that straddles the Florida and Alabama state lines in the Gulf of Mexico where the parties get fueled by the sticky gulf breezes. "Harp & Drums" is just plain sticky with its distorted vocals and chattering horns, harmonica and guitar. Turning reflective, on The "Ballad of Larry Webb", Grey sticks up for a simple man who lacked the trappings of success but lived happily, honestly and fully. The title track finds Grey latching onto a home town river as a centering point for the craziness in his life. With solid writing, terrific grooves and earnest, emotion-laden vocals this is another top notch set. Smitty

DEVON ALLMAN

TURQUOISE

Mar 24, 2013

Devon Allman son of music Legend Greg Allman is back with his fist solo release & first release since the supergoup Royal Southern Brotherhood. Turquoise is a mixture of southern rock, blues & soul. The CD begins with one of the most rock oriented tracks that chronicles Devon's life since leaving home for music at the age of 17. This track also features some great slide work form Luther Dickinson. "Stop Draggin My Heart Around" is the only cover track on the disc where Devon rocks the Tom Petty part and features blues front gal Samantha Fish as Stevie Nicks. "There's No Time" has a Latin beat and had a Santana feel to it. "Into The Darkness" is a beautiful track written for Devon's son and has a jazzy feel with some nice saxophone from Ron Holloway. "Key Lime Pie" is a love song written for Devon's Cuban girlfriend & may be the inspiration for the title Devon quotes "Her and I like nothing more than spending the day on the beach, swimming in Turquoise water and soaking up the sun". "Yadira's Lullaby" is a sparse but beautiful guitar solo piece and the CD concludes with my favorite track "Turn Off The World" Who hasn't wished this at one point in our life. If you are looking for a heavy guitar jam session release, this CD will disappoint. If you are looking for a CD that features some great songwriting and incorporates different musical styles this will be a real treat. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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GURF MORLIX

Gurf Morlix Finds the Present Tense

Mar 20, 2013

Destruction. Brokenness. Just another day for Americana artist Gurf Morlix. His latest album, Gurf Morlix Finds the Present Tense, finds the singer quietly reflecting on all things apocalyptic. With the twang of guitar strings and quiet drum beats, Gurf Morlix lays out the brokenness of the world, and our ourselves. "Present Tense" acts as the best sampler of the album. Gurf narrates the irreconcilable relationships between children, a la Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers," and expands to apocalyptic imagery. Locusts and darkness ensue. Like "Present Tense" itself, the album tries to find the stability within the brokenness, but never quite finding the answer. The album eeks mortality, especially with "These Are My Blues," an 8 minute track with the occasional wisp of ambient noise reflecting the sad strange life one can lead. The album ends on a bittersweet note, the duet "Empty Cup," describing the bittersweet longing for another. The album is compelling enough for at least one listen, and though the album may make you ache, sometimes that just might be a good thing. - Jacqueline Ristola

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CASH BOX KINGS

BLACK TOPPIN

Mar 11, 2013

The Cash Box Kings have been billed as the "Young Turks" of the Chicago blues scene and on their second release on Blind Pig Records, these young Turks take old school Chicago and Delta blues and make it sound fresh today. On the title track "Black Toppin" vocalist Oscar Wilson captures the essence of John Lee Hooker's delta blues sound and on "Oscars Jump" he will fill the dance floor with a 1950's jump blues sound. "My Tiani" has a traditional Chicago sound and features special guest Barrelhouse Chuck on organ and some hot harmonica from Joe Nosek.Although most of these tracks are Kings originals, they do great justice to the Willie Dixon original "Too Late" and a big surprise cover of the Lou Reed & Velvet Underground track "Run, Run, Run". The Cash Box Kings preserve traditional blues sounds, but after one listen to "Black Toppin" you will remember how great that sound was. Reviewed By; Gregg Saur

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JESSE DEE

ON MY MIND/ IN MY HEART

Feb 26, 2013

While Alligator is a standard bearer for down-home blues, it has broadened its menu in the past few years with releases by the likes of New Orleans roots rocker Anders Osborne and the ever soulful Curtis Salgado, both of whom mix up the blues with other genres. This disc ups the ante with nary a straight blues song on the track list. Old school soul a la Otis Redding and Sam Cooke but with a funky modern polish that would be at home on a Raphael Saadiq disc is the bill of fare on Jesse Dee's Alligator Records debut release. And what a wondrous release it is. With a voice that effortlessly glides up and down a range of vocals that take most of the Four Tops or The Temptations to cover, Dee works his way through the eleven original tunes included here with exuberance, passion and grit. Backed by a massive cast of musicians including all manner of horns, keys, guitars and backing vocalists, Dee evokes summer-time shag grooves, "From the Start", testifies to the power of a new love, "The Only Remedy", takes you back to the 60's with the innocent "What's A Boy Like Me To Do?", begs for an early warning that his love days are numbered, "Tell Me (Before It's Too Late") lays down a guitar and horn fueled rocker worthy of Tower of Power, "Sweet Tooth", and throws water on the ashes of a burned out relationship with the heartbroken "Boundary Line". While Dee can bleed despair with the best of them, he is equally adept at upbeat encouragement to hang in through the tough times, "Stay Strong", and bubbles with glee at the thought of his lover, "On My Mind, In My Heart". On the strength of this disc, look for great things from Jesse Dee. Smitty

REVEREND FREAKCHILD

Chaos and Country Blues (The Best of Reverend Freakchild)

Jan 19, 2013

Don't let the words "The Best of" included in this album title deceive you into thinking that this is a greatest hits album. It is all new stuff. Chaos and Country Blues consists of covers and traditional blues arranged by Reverend Freakchild. Don't let the fake obituary on the inside cover fool you, either. Reverend Freakchild is currently living in New York. Chaos and Country Blues is acoustic blues, performed by Reverend Freakchild (Floyd Graves) on resonator guitar and harmonica, with occasional guests on bansuri (track 12), and upright bass (tracks 3, 4, 5, 6). If you like traditional acoustic blues, this might be the album for you. Rebecca Ruth

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JASON VIVONE AND THE BILLY BATS

Lather Rinse Repeat

Nov 17, 2012

Guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, harmonica blower, Jason Vivone doesn't take himself too seriously. Just listen to his latest release with the Billy Bats, Lather Rinse Repeat. It's full of tongue in cheek lyrics about some of the blues' favorite subjects, drinking and sex. It opens up strong with the burner "I Hear A Heartbeat", before it settles into the upbeat mid-tempo blues that packs the rest of the disc. For the last song the band slows it down for the banjo-inflected "Medusa Blues". This Kansas City band has left me impressed. Rebecca Ruth

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HANS THEESSINK & TERRY EVANS featuring RY COODER

DELTA TIME

Sep 12, 2012

This cross-Atlantic collaboration between Dutch native Hans Theessink and Mississippi born soul/gospel singer Terry Evans is a delight from beginning to end. With Theessink's deep baritone vocals laying down the bottom end and Evans soaring through the mid and high end range, the duo work their way through old classics including "Pouring Water On a Drowning Man", Bobby Charles' "How Come People Act Like That?", J. B. Lenoir's "Down In Mississippi", and Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do" along with a number of Theessink originals. Sometimes harmonizing, other times trading verses the duo's voices merge into a nearly perfect mix. In addition to melding their voices, the two also weave an effective musical backdrop with their acoustic guitars playing off one another as if they have shared the same stage forever instead of only occasionally. "Mississippi", "Heaven's Airplane", "Build Myself a Home", "Shelter From The Storm" (not the Dylan song) and the title track, get an added boost from guests Willie Greene, Jr and Arnold McCuller who add warm gospel harmonies. Ry Cooder (who frequently featured Evans and duo partner Bobby King on his own releases) also guests on a couple of cuts creating a rich tapestry of guitar sounds. While a number of the tracks are very low key traditional blues, the duo lets loose on "I Need Money" which percolates with the energy of a Keb' Mo' number and on the old Turnarounds classic, "The Birds and the Bees", which the two threw into the mix to honor the fact it was the source of Evan's first real money when he sang it over 50 years ago. Smitty

SCRAPOMATIC

I'm A Stranger

Aug 23, 2012

Scrapomatic call themselves the Great American Blues Machine. Originally from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Mike Mattison and Paul Olsen started their band in the mid 90s. Olsen is an ASCAP award-winning songwriter and Mattison joined the Derek Trucks Band in 2002 as lead singer (and helped garner a Grammy for Tedeschi Trucks with Revelator in 2010). Swamp blues tune "Alligator Love Cry" is a new song (not to be confused with their 2006 CD of the same name) and I love the sassy 'hoo-aah'! "Rat Trap" is a rocker with tight lead guitar lines and percussion. Mattison takes his time with "Crime Fighter" sung in falsetto---it's a tasty piece of ear candy. Track 10 "How Unfortunate for Me" is a nostalgic take with Kevin Hyde featured on trombone. With Dave Yoke on guitar, Ted Pecchio on bass, and Tyler Greenwell rounding out the rhythm section, Scrapomatic continues to hone their music-making, but the dynamic-duo's lyric-writing is what surfaces in their 4th release I'm a Stranger. Recommended tracks: (1) Alligator Love Cry; (3) Rat Trap; (8) Crime Fighter; (4) Night Trains, Distant Whistles. - Pam VandeKerkhoff

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VOKEL STRIFLER

Let The Music Rise

Aug 9, 2012

Nick's Picks: 01 Going To Brownsville; 02 The Great Escape; 07 It's Getting Late; 09 When Daylight Comes

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Vokel Strifler Let The Music Rise :

Although this is the third cd release by German-born Vokel Strifler, he and his band have been playing blues, jazz, fusion, rock & roll for many years. The first cut ("Going To Brownsville" - originally written by Sleepy John Estes) is arranged in a Memphis style by Vokel. I have read that he is a producer/arranger extraordinaire, and I cannot quibble with the experts - at least according the this cut. And herein, the horns in the arrangement make all the difference, as well as Vokel's hollow-body riffs. The next cut ("The Great Escape") really brings back some deeply buried memories. Some people compare Vokel Strifler to Duane Allman; however, this cut here clearly is more evocative of Duane Eddy. The same comparison holds for track ten ("Hoogie Boogie") - this guy can really make an arpeggio riff sound as if it is taking flight!! I just cannot mention enough the sheer brilliance of the songwriter and arranger. This guy (Volker Strifler) is a musical genius! The third cut ("Redemption") takes a little side trip from Memphis to New Orleans for this and the next little Blues ditty ("Jigsaw Puzzle Blues"). Speaking of Blues - the next cut ("Wait A Minute") is a virtual trip down South jukin', as is the title cut ("Let The Music Rise"). Keepin' it real in the ole South, the band takes us on a trip to Beale Street ("It's Getting Late"). The only description I can come up with for this next cut is velvet hammer ("Last Night I Had A Dream"), for the smooth and easy segue from the hammerin' intro, as well as the velvet smooth playing of the whole band. The penultimate cut starts off with a hauntingly finger-picked solo, and leads to a full-blown rock & roll cut. Although this cd needs a few listens to stick, I have no hesitation in giving this the Nick's Picks seal of approval. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

Bio:
Volker Strifler, a long time member of the Ford Blues Band, is achieving recognition as a musician, singer, songwriter, band leader, and record producer. His solo CD, The Volker Strifler Band, released in 2002, and The Dance Goes On, released in 2006, received critical acclaim from the blues press, musical peers, and fans around the world. Today it's clear that Volker Strifler is a unique musician in his own right. He has synthesized many years of American music study and the lessons learned as a longtime sideman to Robben, Patrick, and Mark Ford, Lowell Fulson, Chris Cain and others into his own unique musical style and sound. Volker Strifler was born in Heidelberg, Germany and started playing guitar when he was a teenager. Like most young German musicians at the time, Volker played in local bands at US Army and Air Force clubs as well as local German venues. About this time, Volker had an opportunity to meet the American blues singer, Lee Reed. The meeting was life-changing, for it was Lee Reed who introduced Volker to the blues. After meeting Lee, Volker dove into local record stores and began voraciously listening to everything he could from Howling Wolf and T-Bone Walker to B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Peter Green. In 1986, Volker moved to the US with his wife where he had the opportunity to intimately learn about the music he loved. His musical exploration included both jazz players and blues artists. Both styles greatly influenced Volker's playing. Over the next years, he developed a unique style that blended his musical experiences into the consummate guitar player he is today.

The Musicians:

Volker Strifler: Guitar and Vocals

Gary Silva: Drums

Don Bassey: Bass

David Schrader: Saxophones

Carl Bowers: Trombone

(Chip) Roland Condon: Organ and Piano

The Songs:

1. Going To Brownsville

2. The Great Escape

3. Redemption

4. Jigsaw Puzzle Blues

5. Wait A Minute

6. Let The Music Rise

7. It's Getting Late

8. Last Night I Had A Dream

9. When Daylight Comes

10. Hoogie Boogie

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LIL' CLIFF & THE CLIFFHANGERS

THE LOVIN' KIND

Jul 30, 2012

Hailing from New York and winning a top ten place in the 2006 International Blues Talent Competition in Memphis, Lil' Cliff & the Cliffhangers excel in the rollicking sound of Jump Blues and old school R& B. This four piece outfit is fronted by Lil' Cliff Bernard on vocals and harmonica. With a big booming voice and a twinkle in his eyes, Bernard works his way through the 15 tracks with an infectious zeal that pulls you into the fun. While upbeat fare such as the title cut with its call and response chorus, George Smith's harmonica driven "Oopin' Doopin' Doopin'", Willie Dixon's "Twenty-Nine Ways (To My Baby's Door)", Little Walter's "Up The Line" and the party ready "Down In Louisiana", make up much of the disc, the band also gets into a lowdown blues groove on "Heaven Can Wait", George Smith's "Rockin'" and Doc Pomus' "Lonely Avenue", and even lays down a Robert Gordon style countrified lament, "Ace Don't Ace Me Out", and a jug band style ode to a "Creole Belle". Adding some spice to the mix is the sly, slinky Leiber & Stoller classic, "Three Cool Cats", the double entendre' gem "Spank That Monkey", which features a percussion driven beat and monkey howls over Cliff's incessant harmonica and guitarist Dennis Phelps' wild guitar, and the innocent sounding beach tune "Queen For a Day" which has more saucy nighttime than innocent daylight built into the schedule. Fun from beginning to end. Smitty

THE 44S

Americana

Jul 16, 2012

Nick's Picks: I swear to God I cannot decide - it is all so good

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of The 44sAmericana :

As I have mentioned many times, there really is no ego in the Blues business. What makes blues music so great is the sense that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts - in this case, a collection of four extremely talented musicians playing vintage instruments and channeling roots blues artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Albert Collins - to name a few. I am seeing a growing trend of talented artists (the key words here) recording on vintage instruments. (I recently reviewed The Fuzzrites, a talented local band). This band has taken those instruments and turned the blues scene upside down. It is difficult to believe that all that big sound comes from such a small band (IMHO)! That couldn't be more explicit by the recordings on this cd. First up, we are treated to some tight and spitfire fast smokin' jump-style blues ("Hanging Tree") led by gritty vocals and and equally gritty harmonica. And from there it just gets better and better, as witnessed by the next cut ("Lady Luck") featuring special guest and benefactor, Kid Ramos (The Fabulous Thunderbirds) on guitar. We can count on solid rhythms from upright bass/Fender Bass and the traps on all songs - no matter what the tempo. From the start, this true blues album exhibits all that is great about the genre. From the wonderful guitar solos and smooth vocals of singer Johnny Main, through the classic and blowsy harmonica accompaniment to rock solid rhythms and occasional mournful sax parts, this is simply an outstanding presentation. As is so often the case with the blues , their pain is our gain ("Hard Times"). Having been a fan of the blues for many, many years, I am often surprised by the number of best bluesmen I had never heard of. Such is the case here, and this is only this band's sophomore album! Rarely do I give an resounding recommendation on first listening, but I have no hesitation in giving this the Nick's Picks seal of approval. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

Bio:

The 44's are a Los Angeles-based band who play blues-roots-rock music. The 44's are one the brightest rising stars on the American blues roots scene. Make no mistake about it. The raw rough and tough sounds generated by these four expert musicians during live performances and in the making of their Sophomore album, Americana, on the Rip Cat label, demands to be heard by Blues music fans World Wide. They evidence a genuine gift for creating blues in the moment while at the same time showing loyalty to a remarkable blues-and-r&b tradition that goes back decades through the James Harman Band and the Red Devils to storied greats like Howlin' Wolf, Albert Collins, and Muddy Waters. They've become a favorite band of club and festival crowds across North America. The 44's seem to be literally exploding across the Blues scene as a fully formed and functional unit commanding audiences with their in your face, yet highly contagious musical sound. Their first Release "Boogie Disease", Was self produced for $800 with the Help of Guitar Great Kid Ramos (The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Mannish Boys) and was quickly snatched up and issued on Rip Cat Records, hitting a peak position of No. 12 on the national Living Blues radio charts and No.2 on BB King Bluesville Sirius/XM Satellite Radio. Critical praise and industry recognition from the blues community soon followed. American Blues News Awarded the Band with The Best Blues Band of 2011 and Blues Underground Network Awarded the Band with Best Debut Album. They play vintage instruments and channel a blues style of days past, but there is a distinct Rawness to this blues award winning quartet. Each band member is in fine form. Johnny Main grounds his outstanding singing and guitar playing in real experience--his talent's as honest as the day is long. Tex Nakamura has forged his own stirring voice from studying Little Walter and other legendary harmonica mentors. Bassist Mike Turturro with his Gut String Bass and drummer J. R. Lozano's Vintage Ludwig Kit are as solid a team as any you'll hear, calibrating rhythmic flow with alertness and intelligence, never calling undue attention to themselves. For their one-of-a-kind blues, The 44's successfully mine the tension. Kid Ramos say's of his experience with The 44's "They play like their life depends on it and you can quote me" American Blues News Says "One of the Hardest working, hardest playing blues outfits anywhere." Touring Non-stop since 2010, they've garnered a whole new generation of first-time young blues- roots fans, as well as older ones who recognize the talents of these four musicians. The 44's are at the top of their game and with the much anticipated Sophomore Release "Americana" on Rip Cat Records. They have brought together a top notch cast of characters. Kid Ramos joins the band in the producer's chair and Guest Guitar Appearances. The Mixing Chair is being filled by the Legendary David Z (Credits Include Buddy Guy, Etta James, John Mayall).

The Musicians:

・ Johnny Main - vocals, guitar

・ Mike Turturro - upright, electric bass

・ Tex Nakamura - harmonica

・ Jason Lozano - drums

Special Guests:

・ Kid Ramos - kickass guitar, slide guitar

・ Ron Dziuba - horns, sax

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MARION JAMES

Northside Soul

Jul 16, 2012

Marion James has been making music for over forty years. In 1966, she even had a top ten hit with "That's My Man". (In fact, here's a little tidbit...in the early sixties, Marion's touring band included Jimi Hendrix!) Nothside Soul is just the latest release from this Nashville blues artist. Consisting of mostly original compositions, Northside Soul offers heart-felt blues and funky soul. Ms. James must really feel it when she sings "Crushing My Heart" or the Ray Charles piece, "I Believe To My Soul". Marion, however, is at her best when she gets a little bit naughty. "Smokin' Hot", "Candy", and "Man Size Job" are all great songs that only a mature performer could pull off. The highlight of this release, though, is the Willie Dixon classic, "I Just Want To Make Love To You". Ms. James gets downright funky with it! It might, in fact, be the best version I've heard! Rebecca Ruth

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TIM "TOO SLIM" LANGFORD

Broken Halo

Jul 13, 2012

Tim Langford (of Taildraggers) has created his second solo effort. It's a poignant album that weaves stories of women, down-on-their luck musicians, and the homeless, ending with a song of grandma Gracie. Track 1 "La Llorona" is a soulful instrumental electric slide; track 5 "Princeville Serenade" is a sweet little ukele instrumental. "Three Chords" is the best tune on the album. Langford has a style that's simple and straightforward where he lets the melody carry the feeling through his sparse arrangements. "Shaking a Cup" is bluesy but vocally weak. Track 6 "40 Watt Bulb" is a great blues story-song about being a down and out musician. Bring on the fantasy in "Dollar Girl" with Langford's slow syncopated guitar beat - "she dances for me, I think she really likes me" as his dollars disappear. Langford's solo effort Broken Halo resonates the Americana blues style that's developed from his years with the Taildraggers but has allowed him to experiment in a musically intimate manner. - Pam VandeKerkhoff FCC Alert: Track 6 "40 Watt Bulb"

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LIZ MANDEVILLE

CLARKSDALE

Jul 12, 2012

Kicking her career into its next phase with her own record label, Chicago based blues singer, writer and guitarist Liz Mandeville uses the occasion to launch 11 new tunes that feature her adroit mix of traditional blues, saucy double entendre gems and poignant ballads. While she has spent a good share of her career behind the microphone, this release also finds her flexing her guitar chops on every track. Joined by Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on drums and harmonica, Eddie Shaw on sax, Donna Herula on slide guitar, Darryl Wright on bass, Nick Moss on guitar and Leandro Lopez-Varady on grand piano, Mandeville has the necessary instrumental firepower behind her to add interesting dimensions to each cut. "Clarksdale/Riverside Hotel Blues" is a loping shuffle with tinkling piano propelling Mandeville's tale of reconnecting with the roots of the blues. "4:20" is a low key, traditional acoustic blues tune lambasting the wasteful war on drugs while "Sweet Potato Pie" is a rocking double entendre number with plenty of heat compliments of Shaw's wailing saxophone. Willie "Big Eyes" Smith's always perfect drumming and wailing harmonica add down home authenticity to the salacious "Roadside Produce Stand" and the Jimmy Reed style shuffle of "Walking & Talking With You". While most blues discs travel the same lyrical path with bad love, bad luck and bad whiskey getting most of the attention, Mandeville takes interesting detours into the perils of springtime floods, "Sand Baggin'", the hardships and angst faced by spouses of combat troops, "A Soldier's Wife", the lessons passed down from earlier generations, "Mama & Daddy Blues" and even the new found role of women in the Military, "My Mama Wears Combat Boots". While Mandeville's rich voice powers every tune, the a cappella delivery of "No Fear/Everything" demonstrates the terrific ability she has to go from low register gut-bucket blues to wailing gospel sweetness. After a number of discs that focused more on the party hearty side of the blues, this release reflects a more introspective mood and, as suggested by the title, takes Mandeville back closer to the roots of the blues. SMITTY

HERITAGE BLUES ORCHESTRA

AND STILL I RISE

Jul 12, 2012

While this is their first disc as a group, the Heritage Blues Orchestra is a well travelled ensemble of seasoned pros who have all manner of movie credits and stints with the likes of the Allman Brothers, Robert Randolph, Toshi Reagon and Odetta on their resumes. With guitarists and vocalists Bill Sims, Jr and Junior Mack joined by Chaney Sims on vocals, Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith on drums, Vincent Bucher on harmonica and a full horn section, the band has a broad range and versatility that earns the Orchestra moniker of its name. Kicking things off with the Son House classic "Clarksdale Moan", the band quickly seizes the moment and fleshes out the spare, acoustic groove of the original with simmering harmonica and horn accents that add just the right amount of heat to light the song up. "Going Uptown" is likewise a wondrous mix of traditional blues and brass. While bands like Roomful of Blues use their horn sections to lead the way through jump blues and R & B flavored numbers, HBO uses its horns in more traditional fashion: instead of a bass they use a tuba and the balance of the horn section adds color but seldom steps to the front of the mix. Just when you think you've got the band pegged as a mostly acoustic outfit with splashes of brass to jazz things up they rip into a full out electric take on Muddy Waters' "Catfish Blues" and power their way through Eric Bibb's "Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down" with a passion that will leave your spirit with no option other than tapping its feet. Slowing things down a bit, Junior Mack's "Chilly Jordan" is straight acoustic blues while "Big- Legged Woman" sounds like a Keb' Mo' tune with great harmonica licks added by guest Matthew Skoller. But the band has more tricks in its bag than straight out acoustic and electric blues. Gospel enters the mix on "Get Right Church", which features both smoking slide guitar and big three way harmonies, and on "In the Morning" which features not only a vocal rave up but a wailing trombone solo. Ledbelly's work song, "Go Down Hannah", Alan Lomax' "Levee Camp Holler" and the traditional "C-Line Woman" get a mostly cappella treatment with Chaney Sims leading the vocal charge over a cool tuba and drum rhythm groove on "C-Line". Rounding things out is Hard Times which plays almost like a highlights tour of the disc with a spare acoustic and vocal intro that gives way to a slice of Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way" which, in turn, surrenders the floor to a massively funky horn driven jam. Traditional, yet fresh and invigorating at the same time, this is a terrific disc. SMITTY

SHAKURA S'AIDA

Time...

Jul 9, 2012

Nick's Picks: 1-01 (don't try to lay no boogie woogie on the) Queen of Rock N Soul; 1-07 Devil Only Knows My First Name; 2-02 Geechee Woman; 2-08 Halfway Blues

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Shakura S'AidaTime... :

I have heard this opening line somewhere, and it dawned on me that it came from a rollickin' gospel song (can I get a witness?). Aside from an upbeat subject, this is one kick-ass boogie, woogie, cut - probably one of the best I have heard in awhile ("don't try no boogie woogie on the Queen of Rock N Soul"). It's a get-down, jump around cover of a revered British rocker - Long John Baldry I mean, everyone is crankin' it up and hittin' on all cylinders. (Lord have mercy)! Shakura slows it down just a tad with the title cut ("Time") to a mid-paced, hard-driving rock & roll. This is a two-record collection, and most of these cuts are co-written by Shakura and her terrific guitarist - Donna Grantis. This collection has been two years in production, but you can tell it took a lifetime of livin' to get the songs to resonate with such realism. At the risk of repeating myself, I have to note that this band has been playing together for awhile, and it is evidenced by the tight rhythms on the snare and B3 that lend the beat, as well as the themes of love gained, love lost, life's ups and downs ("Devil Only Knows My First Name", "Ya Ya", "Tell Me Baby"). Shakura does not ignore her vocal strengths, and her magnetic presence. This is a fine release from a fine artist. I would love to see this artist live in concert. Shakura SAida dives head first into the rock and soul music waters and executes a flawless entry into the deep end. Smokin' hot, this is music for both lovers and those just out for a one-niter. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

Bio:
Shakura S'Aida is a Canadian blues and jazz vocalist, songwriter and actress. She is sometimes credited as simply Shakura, and should therefore not be confused with the Colombian pop star Shakira. She was born in Brooklyn and lived in Switzerland before moving to Canada.[1] S'Aida was lead singer of the 13-piece world music ensemble Kaleefah[1] before embarking on her solo career. She has also performed as a backing vocalist for Rita MacNeil and Patti Labelle, as well as with jazz musicians such as Jimmy Smith and Ruth Brown. She has also been nominated for several Juno Awards for her music. As an actress, she starred in a Toronto production of George Boyd's Consecrated Ground in 2004, as well as Sudz Sutherland's Doomstown in 2006 ------ Wikipedia Shakura S'Aida has been performing since the tender age of 13, and now has a quarter of a century of onstage experience to back her up. Shakura S'Aida (pronounced Shack-oora Sigh-ee-da) began performing at a young girl. Her first steps into music began with a Toronto community band called Mystique, which found her belting out tunes alongside Deborah Cox, and then became the lead singer in a 13-piece world music band, Kaleefah, that would later be nominated for a Juno Award. She's performed at the Apollo Theatre in New York and has also been featured with such legendary artists as Jimmy Smith and Ruth Brown; she's sung backup with Patti Labelle, and is equally at home singing material with a Ray Charles tribute band, or presenting a one-woman show of the music of Nina Simone. She's just played her first show with a symphony orchestra. S'Aida's long-simmering career initially moved into high gear in 2008 with a triumph at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, when she earned the runner-up position, competing against more than 100 bands from more than 20 different countries. ------AgassizHarrisonObservor.com

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PRISTINE

Detoxing

Jun 18, 2012

Nick's Picks: 01 Damned If I Do; 02 You Don't Know; 08 Detoxing

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Pristine Detoxing :

Pristine is a group hailing from the arctic region of Norway, so I am finding it difficult to believe that a band coming from such a cold area creates such a smoking hot presence. Doubtless, it must be the band itself, but it helps to record at the famous Juke Joint Studio in Notodden, Norway. Pristine, with the charismatic redhead Heidi Solheim in front, forges on with power, passion and intensity. This cd blends and transcends rock, blues, soul, prog-rock, and funk. The first cut on this cd ("Damned If I Do") takes a page from the Joe Bonamassa style of blues, and it just soars - higher and higher! And throughout this first cut we are treated to Heidi Solheim's haunting vocals. On the second cut ("You Don't Know"), we are treated to a funky high-performance guitar solo, accompanied by driving percussion, 'just under the radar' B3 background, and gritty, heartfelt vocals. The third cut ("Breaking Bad") comes straight from the Stevie Ray Vaughn genre of Texas Blues - complete with driving back-beat. This is one of my favorite styles of blues, and Heidi and company deliver in spades. The next cut ("Whipping Post") is a cover of a song written by the prolific Greg Allman - what an awesome cover! The bass, the B3, and the guitar just reverb, and Heidi gives it that he-done-me-wrong-so-I must've-done-somethin'-wrong-song a gritty, bleary feeling. Even though there are only nine (9) tracks on this cd, each song averages a lengthy five (5) minutes, with the title cut ("Detoxing") cruising along at a psychedelic eleven minutes, sixteen seconds (11:16). This cut just begs a Door's comparison, simply because of the parallels of beat/rhythm, singsong build-up, and the existential content. (I am referring here to that excruciatingly drawn-out "The End" performance by The Doors). From wonderful guitar solos and smooth vocals of singer/songwriter Heidi Solheim, through the classic keyboard accompaniment to rock solid bass and percussive rhythms, this is simply an outstanding presentation. As the title of the disc suggests, Detoxing is what I'll have to do after listening to this for a few hours. (And perhaps a little decompression wouldn't hurt, either). And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

Bio/Media:
Pristines music has strong roots in blues and 70s rock. In addition to traditional blues, Heidi & Pristine draw inspiration from the likes of The Faces, Grand Funk Railroad, Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers Band, The Black Keys, Cream, Led Zeppelin. Which is very noticeable on the 2011 debut album "Detoxing". The album was barely released before the accolades from the national press started pouring in: "Pristine is so self-confident that it borders on arrogance", "Detoxing" is a record that is both true to the genre and innovative enough to rejuvenate a genre that can be experienced as rigid and old-fashioned." (iTromso.no, 5/6) "A very convincing debut (album)." (Dagbladet, 5/6) Heidi has frequently been compared to Beth Hart, Dana Fuchs and Janiva Magness.

The Musicians:

・ Heidi Solheim - savant songwriter, vocalist par excellence

・ Espen Elverum Jakobsen - guitarist extraordinaire

・ Anders Oskal - Hammond and clavinet genius

・ Asmund Wilter Eriksson Ericsson - driving bass

・ Kim Karlsen - drums, pacing percussion

Special Guest Musicians:

・ Knut Reiersrud - guitar (tracks 7, 9)

・ Petter Marius Gundersen - trumpet

・ Andreas Mjos - percussion

The Songs:

(Note: all except track 4 written by Heidi Solheim)

1. Damned If I Do

2. You Don't Know

3. Breaking Bad

4. Whipping Post (G. Allman)

5. The Countdown

6. Damage Is Done

7. The Last Day

8. Detoxing

9. The Blind

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CATFISH KEITH

Put on a Buzz

Jun 17, 2012

You probably never heard of Keith Kozacik [pronounced Ko-zah-chick], but all WYCE programmers ought to know Catfish Keith, since this is his 14th recording and the station has most all of them. Catfish grew up in the Midwest and was early on captured by blues music and wanted to make his living playing these tunes. He got his name while spending time on the crew of a Virgin Islands sailboat, from a West Indian lobster diving partner who, after seeing him swim, dubbed him "Catfish-Swimmin'-Around" and "Catfish-Steel-Guitar-Man." Catfish is a two-time W.C. Handy winner and a member of the Blues Music Hall of Fame and strums, growls, sings, hums and toe taps his way through another set split pretty evenly between originals and blues chestnuts from the like of Leadbelly and Bukka White. On this record, he also records his background vocals; he's pretty pleased about that. Check out "On a Monday," "Paying For It Now," "Can't Be Undone" and another version of the unique classic "Hawaiian Cowboy." Listen with much joy. 06/12 Michael J.

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CHRIS WATSON BAND

Pleasure and Pain

Jun 15, 2012

The second release from Chris Watson, Pleasure and Pain mixes both originals and covers by Sean Costello and Bobby Womack. Watson honed his skills while growing up in Texas, playing lead guitar in his dad’s UpAllNight Band. Although Watson’s skill as a blues rock guitarist is unmistakable, one shouldn’t underestimate the craft of songwriting which is painfully evident on the title track (many clichés are woven into the lyrics). The track “Mama Told Me” cooks; it is reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s fretwork. “Going Home” is a traditional gospel song which showcases Chris’ vocal ease but his guitar outshines. On “Hard Luck Woman” the guitar licks are brighter and the bass more purposeful on this late Sean Costello tune. “Wanted Man” powers through with its authentic blues sound---it’s the best tune on the album. Yeah, this album’s aptly named. Recommended tracks: 11, 8, 5, 6. – Pam VandeKerkhoff

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CHUCK LEAVELL

BACK TO THE WOODS

May 31, 2012

While probably best known for his long stints with the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton, pianist Chuck Leavell has played with such a wide swath of blues and rock giants that it’s almost true to say that if a band or musician is well known he has played with them. This, his fifth solo release, features Leavell and a host of guests including, amongst others, Randall Bramblett, Keith Richards (Evening Train and Boots and Shoes), John Mayer (Wish Me Well), Candi Staton (The Blues Is All Wrong), Danny Barnes and Col. Bruce Hampton, working their way through the tunes of piano blues legends like Leroy Carr, Otis Spann, Skip James, Memphis Slim and Little Brother Montgomery. Since so many blues tunes focus on guitar or harmonica as the lead instrument, it can be easy to overlook the role played by these early pianists in the evolution of the blues from the fields to the clubs where their pounding keys could be heard over the din of the crowd. Here, Leavell gets a prominent place in the mix but this is far from a piano solo disc as the other musicians add plenty of wood to the fire. Highlights include Leavell’s syncopated lead on "Naptown Blues", the bright and sprightly solo that follows the rootsy guitar work on the title track, the juke joint urgency of "I Got to Go Blues", the rollicking boogie woogie of "Southern Casey Jones" and "Memphis Town", the gospel tinge of "The Blues is All Wrong", the interplay between Leavell and Richards on "Boots and Shoes" where their long time sharing stages shines through and the low down blues of "Mean Mistreater". A great lesson in blues history and a fine listen as well. Smitty

RJ MISCHO

Make It Good

May 31, 2012

RJ Mischo got his first harmonica at age 12 and after watching Muddy Waters play live, he became enamored with the blues. He’s been playing the regional blues circuit here and abroad, and recording albums since 1991. Make It Good is his 10th album and according to liner notes, was recorded in two days. All-instrumental “The Frozen Pickle” is a treat to the ears with harp distortion, guitar and organ solos. “Papa’s S.T. Special” is a fast-paced, toe-tapping exercise in breath control. “Elevator Juice” is an old-fashioned rocker featuring Nick Curran on drums and the pedal effects on guitar kick it up a notch—this track has been deemed “a good driver.” On “Arumbula” parts 1 and 2, Mischo gets playful with his mic but that beat leaves you wanting more—this half-tune has so much more potential. Favorites include tracks 2-4-5-9-11 - Pam VandeKerkhoff

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TORONZO CANNON

Leaving Mood

May 29, 2012

Nick's Picks: 03 She Loved Me; 04 Meant To Be; 13 Baby Girl

FCC ALERT: "Clean"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Toronzo CannonLeaving Mood :

Chances are you never heard of Chicago blues guitarist Toronzo Cannon, but that’s okay because he’s probably never heard of you either. When it comes to blues, he’s a relatively late bloomer, having grown up in a blues-endowed South Chicago neighborhood where an uncle occasionally subbed on drums for Buddy Guy and Junior Wells at Theresa’s, a nearby, now legendary blues outpost. It wasn’t until Cannon was close to 30 when he played his first blues gig and has been increasingly more active on the scene ever since. Like Grandma Moses, Toronzo Cannon talent can be expressed at a later age – and Torronzo has jumped into the talent pool with both feet!! What is most impressive (IMHO) is his songwriting genius, which he combines with amazing axe slinging! Of course, it certainly helps his cause to have seasoned and talented band members (plus guest performances by the legendary Carl Weathersby and Matthew Skoller). This is Toronzo's third commercial release, and his first on his own (Delmark) label, but the quality and smooth meshing of the instruments and vocals bespeaks a band with considerably more experience than I had come to expect from a Bluesman I had never heard of. What's most eye-opening for me is the focus on telling a short story in each song that he writes; yet, there is still room for some powerful, gritty, and soaring solos (“She Loved Me”), sandwiched between some tight sets. Also, I have to credit Steve Wagner for his part in producing, mixing, and arranging. Most of the arrangements on this cd have a rhythmic, hypnotic funky edge to them (“Baby Girl”). I have to quote Dan Willging of Denver, CO for the following spot-on (read as “I couldn't have said it better”): “The fact that he doesn’t overplay his solos keeps the listener locked into the engaging story lines (“Earnestine”), some of which stem from observing life in a bus driver’s seat, his day job (“She Loved Me”). On “Open Letter (To Whom It May Concern),” Cannon cleverly uses an attention-getting dirty mic as if he were speaking through a distorted megaphone at a street rally. “Leaving Mood” is even better— Roosevelt Purifoy’s suspense-mounting keys hints at a showdown, only to end with thundering gunshot as the suicidal protagonist pulls the trigger for the last time. “Chico’s Song” pays homage to the late great Chico Banks, whose friendship meant a lot to a young budding bluesman in a dog-eat-dog scene. With this solid release in hand, Cannon’s a bluesman worth knowing”. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

Bio:

Growing up in the shadows Chicago's blues mecca, Theresa's Lounge, had a lasting effect on Toronzo Cannon. As a kid, Toronzo would listen to the raw, soulful sounds of legends like Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. "It wasn't just the music that got me, but the effect on the people. I knew right then, that was what I was gonna do." These experiences led him to pick up his first guitar as a teenager and begin to learn to sing and play the sounds he heard. Inspired by the three Kings (Freddie, B.B. and Albert), a little Hendrix and some 70's R&B/Soul, Toronzo soon developed his own sound. "If I wasn’t gigging I was hitting every jam session I could find. I couldn’t get enough." It was during this time that he developed his own powerful, gospel-flavored vocal style and electrifying stage presence. After playing rhythm guitar with local artists like Wayne Baker Brooks and Joanna Connor, Toronzo decided to form his own band, The Cannonball Express. He immediately was in demand, playing some of Chicago’s greatest blues venues like Buddy Guy’s Legends, House of Blues, Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S, Blue Chicago, Lee's Unleaded as well as shows from Kentucky to Delaware and Iowa to Indiana. He also became a popular festival attraction, playing The Chicago Blues Festival for 8 consecutive years and the 2008 San Jose Blues Festival with other local young guns Chico Banks and Mike Wheeler. Internationally, Toronzo has been flown into Latvia as a featured solo artist three times over the past few years and has just completed a successful tour in Mexico, Durban South Africa and France 2011.

The Musicians:

・ Toronzo Cannon – songwriter, vocals, lead guitar

・ Lawrence Gladney – rhythm guitar

・ Roosevelt Purifoy – piano, organ, Rhodes

・ Larry Williams – bass

・ Marty Binder – drums

Special Guest Musicians:

・ Carl Weathersby – guitar (tracks 5, 11)

・ Matthew Skoller – Harp (tracks 2, 6, 9)

The Songs:

Disk I:

1. She Loved Me (T. Cannon)

2. Chico's Song (T. Cannon)

3. Come On (L. Gladney)

4. I Believe (T. Cannon/L. Gladney)

5. Hard Luck (T. Cannon/L. Gladney)

6. Open Letter (To Whom It May Concern) (T. Cannon/L. Gladney)

7. I Can't Take Her Nowhere (T. Cannon/L. Gladney)

8. Leaving Mood (T. Cannon/L. Gladney)

9. She's Too Much (T. Cannon/L. Gladney)

10. You're A Good Woman (T. Cannon/L. Gladney)

11. Earnestine (T. Cannon)

12. Do I Move You (N. Simone)

13. Baby Girl (L. Gladney)

14. Not Gonna Worry (M. Wheeler)

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WILLY MAY

Stone Blue

May 25, 2012

Nick's Picks: 03 Stranger In My House; 05 Brand New Story; 06 Where Did We Go Wrong; 09 Hola Teresa

FCC ALERT: "clean, mean, smooth machine"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Willy MayStone Blue :

As I have mentioned many times, there really is no ego in the Blues business. That couldn't be more explicit by the recordings on this cd. First up, we are treated to some tight rhythms on the snare and B3 that lend the beat, as well as the tune (“I'm A Stone”). The strings are elegantly stretched on the next cut (“Don't Do That No More”), and we get a solid rhythm from upright bass and traps. From the start, this true blues album exhibits all that is great about the genre. From the wonderful guitar solos and smooth vocals of singer/songwriter Willy May, through the classic keyboard accompaniment to rock solid rhythms and occasional mournful sax parts, this is simply an outstanding presentation. As is so often the case with the blues his pain is our gain (“Brand New Story”). Having been a fan of the blues for many, many years, I am often surprised by the number of best bluesmen I had never heard of. Such is the case here, as this is May's TWELFTH album! Perhaps my confusion rests in the amazing cross-genre talent of him and all the session musicians on this cd. Although predominantly blues, there is a sprinkling of rock and roll (admittedly a “child” of blues) in the mix (“Showtime”), as well as some memorable “lonesome” Creedence-type cowboy blues (“Where Did We Go Wrong?”, “So Long Ago”), and a touch of “Reggae” blues (“Made In The Shade”). The only instrumental (and best I have heard in a long while) is awesomely reminiscent of the Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club (“Hola Teresa”). Rarely does one give an unequivocal recommendation on first listening, but I have no hesitation in giving this the Nick's Picks seal of approval. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

Bio:

Willie May has performed in basements, barns, garages, street corners, speak-easies, house trailers, preschool, high school, colleges, radio, television, bars, concert halls, outdoor festival arenas, and inside Attica prison. Willie has taken his original blend of music to the blues clubs, Willie May has performed back to back on stage with Alvin Lee, Steve Marriott, John Kay and Steppenwolf, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Otis Clay, The Climax Blues Band, Zorra Young, Jerry Portnoy, The Legendary Blues Band, Buddy Guy, Lonnie Brooks, Johnny Clyde Copeland, Sue Foley, L.A. Jones, Chris Duarte, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Stan Szelest, Chris Beard, Rock Bottom, James Cotton, Big Jack Johnson and many more. The Willie May Band featuring Ron Kain, Tom E. Corsi, Randy Corsi and, of course, Willie May is a 5 time Buffalo Area Music Award winner voted Western New York Blues Beat Magazine's Band of the Year. from The LaFayette Tap Room in Buffalo to Antones in Austin, TX, The Black Swan in Toronto, The Penny Arcade in Rochester, The Dinosaur BBQ in Syracuse, The Slippery Noodle in Indianapolis, Fat Fish Blue in Cleveland, Bflo Blues in Pittsburgh, and to countless other venues on thousands, yes thousands, of occasions.

The Musicians:

・ Williw May – songwriter, vocals, guitar, bass, kalimba

Special Guest Musicians:

・ Carl Eddy – guitar (track 6)

・ Evan Laedke – organ (tracks 1, 8)

・ Jim Bohm – trumpet (track 6)

・ Jim Whitford – upright bass (tracks 2, 3, 6)

・ Ken Parker – saxophone (tracks 3, 7)

・ Kenny Peterson – pedal steel guitar

・ Kevin Espinoza – harmonica

・ Mark Garcia – drums

・ Owen Eichensehr – drums, organ, guitar (tracks 4, 5)

・ Randy Bolam – drums (track 6)

・ Randy Corsi – drums (track 10)

・ Ron Kain – guitar (track 10)

・ Tom E. Korsi – Bass (track 10)

The Songs:

1. I'm A Stone

2. Don't Do That No More

3. Stranger In My House

4. Made In The Shade

5. Brand New Story

6. Where Did We Go Wrong

7. Showtime

8. So Long Ago

9. Hola Teresa

10. Old Friends

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JIMMY BURNS BAND

Stuck In The Middle

May 21, 2012

Nick's Picks: 03 Cadillac; 09 Feelin' Kinda Bluesy; 11 Incidental Lover

FCC ALERT: "clean"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Jimmy Burns Band Stuck In The Middle :

Having listened to this cd for a few hours, I have come to the conclusion that this is (IMHO) an opportunity for Jimmy Burns to play some music written by someone else such that he can put his unique spin on these tracks. Some songs sound like the original (“Halo”, “Stuck In The Middle”), some have that sound I'm sure that Jimmy was looking for (“How Close Is Your Love”, “Early Morning Blues”), and some that just don't seem to fit in the way I was expecting (“Get Back”). His original songs on this cd have varied DNA, such as R&B (“Reach For The Sky”), Detroit Blues (“Won't Be Too Long”), Shuffle Blues (the instrumental “Feelin' Kinda Bluesy”). Jimmy includes a couple of top-notch musicians: Mr. Ariyo Ariyoshi on keyboards, and Mr. Dave Herrero on guitar. We get a treat when Ariyo san gets down on his piano, offering up some riffling arpeggios that are light and airy, but big and sassy (“Cadillac”). All in all, this is a listenable cd. Would I buy this? Probably not. Would I go to a concert by the band? Maybe. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

The Musicians:

・ Jimmy Burns – songwriter, vocals, guitar

・ Bryan Tee - drums

・ E.G. McDaniels – bass

・ Ariyo Ariyoshi – keyboards, piano

Special Guest Musicians:

・ Dave Herrero – guitar

The Songs:

1. Halo (M. Powell)

2. Won't Be Too Long (J. Burns, D. Herrera F. Reyes)

3. Cadillac (M. Powell)

4. Hard Love (J.T. Murphy)

5. Reach For The Sky (F. Reyes)

6. Early Morning Blues (R. Hammersma)

7. Stuck In The Middle (J. Egan G. Rafferty)

8. How Close [(Is Your Love)] (R. Hammersma)

9. Feelin' Kinda Bluesy (J. Burns)

10. Get Back (P. McCartney J. Lennon)

11. Incidental Lover (R. Hammersma)

12. Feels Like Rain (J. Hyatt)

13. Cold As Ice (L. Grammatico M.L. Jones)

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STUDEBAKER JOHN

OLD SCHOOL ROCKIN'

May 21, 2012

From the first greasy notes of "Rockin’ That Boogie" which hits with the punch of a prime time Foghat disc it is clear that Studebaker John Grimaldi can bring the same passion to rock that he has devoted to the blues over the years. Unlike his last release, That’s the Way You Do, which featured traditional South Side Chicago blues, this release ventures towards George Thorogood or ZZ Top territory with its blues background, rock overtones and lyrical bravado. Throughout, Grimaldi’s rocket fueled slide guitar and energetic harmonica work keeps the party in high gear. The title track is a mid-tempo shuffle with plenty of slide guitar and Grimaldi’s promise that he has just what the ladies need to forget why they were blue. "She Got It Right" is a scorcher about the visual benefits of a dress so tight and a fine lady “who don’t make dinner but sure can cook”. "Rockin’ Hot" pays homage to the ladies and way they can make his rocket hot. With fine John Popper style harmonica adding extra spice to the mix, "Fire Down Below" isn’t the Bob Seger hit but, instead, is a cautionary tale about the fate that awaits those who take the wrong path. "Deal With the Devil" walks much the same path but sounds much more ominous with Grimaldi’s guitar leading the way. "I Stand Alone" features intertwined guitar parts that would be impressive if played by two guitarists but is simply awe-inspiring when the liner notes reveal Grimaldi is the only guitarist on the disc. While most of the material is upbeat, "Disease Called Love" and "Dark Night" slow things down a bit providing a respite from the scorching guitar lines that fill up so much of the disc. The other big change up is "Tumblin’ Down the Road" which has a hill-country trance vibe to it. If you like big doses of electric slide guitar with a rock edge, this one’s for you. Smitty

JAMIE MCCLEAN BAND

Sunday Morning

Apr 26, 2012

Nick's Picks: every one

FCC ALERT: "Family Friendly"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Jamie McClean BandSunday Morning :

Most blues bands start out playing the blues because that is what allowed them to express their feelings musically. Or because they were moved by a particular type of blues sound or artist. Those that stick to their blues roots, though, know how tough the life can be, yet how rewarding when you can connect with your audience. Back in 2006, Jamie McClean had to make a decision which path to follow, and he chose a blues path – which most listeners would agree was the right choice. A live performance by Jamie McClean Band and whichever additional artists join onstage is where that connection is made. Although the band has only been around since 2006, Jamie had spent a number of years touring with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, so he has had time to hone his skills. And hone he has! Every song on this EP is an original, and all are well-written and performed – especially when you throw the savant-like harmonica prowess of John Popper (“Cinderella”), and the keyboard mastery of Nigel Hall. Since there are only seven (7) songs on this EP, I don't see much reason to highlight any as outstanding, because they are all written and performed with an enthusiasm and virtuosity one can expect from this group.......And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

The Musicians:

・ Jamie McLean – songwriter, vocals, acoustic guitars,electric guitar

・ Brian Griffin – drums, vocals

・ Ben Mars – bass, vocals

Special Guest Musicians:

・ John Popper (Blues Traveler) – harmonica,

・ Nigel Hall (Govt. Mule) – Hammond B3, piano, vocals

The Songs:

1. I Been Low (J. McClean)

2. Open Up (J. McClean)

3. Cinderella (J. McClean)

4. Crazy About You (J. McClean)

5. Box of Memories (J. McClean)

6. Country Living (J. McClean)

7. Summertime On Main Street (J. McClean)

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JON CLEARY

OCCAPELLA!

Apr 22, 2012

For the uninitiated, Jon Cleary is an Englishman who found his way to New Orleans three decades ago and quickly became an in demand session man for his stellar piano skills. Along the way he’s played with most everyone who’s anyone in the New Orleans scene and served a long stint recording and touring with Bonnie Raitt. In addition to his sideman skills, he’s fronted his own band, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, for a number of years which regularly packs New Orleans clubs with fans that can’t get enough of the band’s hard hitting blues and funk. This, his sixth release, marks a departure from his prior work, by skipping self-penned tunes in favor of the music of the legendary Allen Toussaint (who also wrote under the pseudonym Naomi Neville thus explaining those tracks on this release) Self-recorded and featuring Cleary on keys, guitar, bass and drums, it is obvious from beginning to end that he is having a ball with these 12 classics. With vocal help from Bonnie Raitt and Dr. John, "Let’s Get Low Down" kicks things off with some hard hitting funk. The Absolute Monster Gentlemen join the fun on Occapella, Wrong Number and Popcorn Pop Pop where they lay down glorious vocal harmonies. Poor Boy Got to Move is recast into a reggae tune while the well travelled Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky gets a tougher, more elastic treatment than typical of the countless covers played night after night in clubs everywhere with the added bonus of vocal help from Walter Wolfman Washington. What Do You Want A Girl To Do gets a much different reading than the version popularized by Boz Scaggs and Southern Nights loses the county pop treatment associated with the Glenn Campbell version. The oft covered Fortune Teller gets delivered as a solo piano piece that renders it a brand new tune. While I’m a bigger fan of Cleary’s own brand of funk than the limiting constraints of a tribute disc, you can’t go wrong with the songs of Allen Toussaint and there’s no one better suited to a project such as this than Jon Cleary. SMITTY

GHOST TOWN BLUES BAND

Dark Horse

Apr 21, 2012

Ghost Town Blues Band is a Memphis-based group with Matt Isbell on guitar including cigar box guitar (which he constructs and sells), harmonica and vocals; Dusty Sikes on bass, Preston McEwen on drums with Chris Dabbo on keyboard. Dark Horse is their second release. “Memphis Train” (a Rufus Thomas cover from ‘63) is the best heavy-hitting blues tune on the album with an Allman Brothers vibe. “Finish What You Started” has vocalist Isbell straining unbelievably similar to Dr. John. “Meet Me at the Juke Joint” is billed as a New Orleans-flavored classic with lyrics that will make you grin: “that Mississippi woman is nothing but an IOU.” This track features Carl Wolfe on clarinet. Old fashioned piano and distorted harp rule on track 7 “Memphis Blues.” “Biscuit Test” is a great guitar instrumental cut to end with…and might possibly get you in the mood to fire up your grill! Recommended tracks: 2-5-7-12 -- Pam VandeKerkhoff

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TIP OF THE TOP

From Memphis to Greaseland

Apr 19, 2012

Nick's Picks: 05 She's Too Much; 08 Fattening Frogs For Snakes; 10 My Baby's Gone (And I Feel Good); 13 The Sportin' Life

FCC ALERT: "a couple of bleeped words – FCC clean"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Tip of the Top From Memphis to Greaseland :

Some of the best blues riffs ever heard have most likely never been recorded. That happens when you get a group of talented musicians together to jam. The music gets tighter and tighter, and the air becomes electrified, and all of a sudden...........there it is, comin' right from the fingertips/pursed lips/smokin' guitar licks of the (bass) guitar/mouthharp (harmonica/sax)/lead/steel guitar player. And then it's gone. BUT sometimes, the audience/adroit listener catches the moment, and then everthin's right with the world. That's what the blues is about – catching the moment. Tip of the Top represents just such a collection of musicians. Most of the cuts on this cd are original songs by one or more of the band members, and the balance are classic blues standards. We start off with an original jump (or juke) song from Jon Lawton (“I Ain't Worried”), and then we segue into a faster-paced, re-worked Sonny Boy Williamson tune (“One Way Out”), which is a good lead-in for another jump blues original by Frank DeRose. (“The Night Is Young”). The identifying style of this band can be characterized as “foot stompin” music, and given one listen, I think you will agree with me – particularly on tracks seven (“Rocker”), all instrumental track eight (“Slidin' Home”), and track eleven (“Hard To Get”). Thrown into the mix is one real sweet and slow basic 'she-done-me-wrong-so-I'm-drinkin'-myself-to-death-song'. All things considered, this band personifies the blues. And that says it all. Now the test:

Would I buy record? Yes! But would I catch a live show? You bet! And that's my two nickels' worth................Nick


The Band Musicians:

・ Jon Lawton – songwriter, vocals, guitar

・ Frank DeRose – songwriter, bass

・ Aki Kumar – songwriter, harmonica, vocals

・ Carlos Velasco – drums


Session Musicians:

・ Johnny “Cat” Soubrand – guitar

・ Kris “Kid” Anderson – guitar

・ Sid Morris – piano

The Songs:

1. I Ain't Worried (J. Lawton)

2. One Way Out (S.B. Williamson, M.Sehorn, E. James)

3. The Night Is Young (F. DeRose)

4. Mean Ol' Frisco (A. Crudup)

5. She's Too Much (J. Funchess)

6. I'm Lost (J. Lawton)

7. Rocker (W. Jacobs)

8. Fattening Frogs For Snakes (S.B. Williamson)

9. Slidin' Home (J. Lawton)

10. My Baby's Gone (And I Feel Good) <(J. Lawton)p>

11. Hard To Get (A. Kumar, R. Kumar)

12. She's Fine (F. DeRose)

13. The Sportin' Life (B. McGhee)

Quick Links:

TOBY WALKER

Shake Shake Mama

Apr 19, 2012

Nick's Picks: 02 Crazy 'bout An Automobile; 08 I Got To Love Somebody; 09 Midnight Special; 11 Can't Be Satisfied

FCC ALERT: "squeaky clean, but with many double entendres"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Toby Walker Shake Shake Mama:

Typically, musicians join a group of like-minded individuals and then form a band from which (fill in your genre here) music emanates. Sometimes, a brilliant/genius/savant is discovered and the route short-circuits; thus, a single individual decides to embark on a solo musical career. Although the journey can be lonesome, such an individual has complete control over the content of the music played, as well as the specific type of music played. This can only be a successful formula for the individual if he/she has: 1. awesome talent, and 2. an audience that appreciates the awesome talent. Such is the story of Toby Walker. Each and every song on this cd is played by a different guitar, and in a sub-classification of the blues that highlights the specific guitar and player. This is one of those cds that can be raw and gritty – due to the sparse instrumentation (just a man and his guitar – and his woman accompanying on bass); yet is rife with get-down blues that can be toe-tappin' and hand-clappin'. Although I would buy this cd, I would be more inclined to see this genius/savant live. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

Bio: Toby’s passion for blues, rags, folk, and other traditional American music drove him to leave an apartment crammed full of recordings, books and instruments for the Mississippi Delta, Virginia and the Carolinas where he tracked down some of the more obscure - but immensely talented - music makers of an earlier era. He learned directly from Eugene Powell, James "Son" Thomas, Etta Baker, and R.L Burnside, among others. The talent, passion, and soul of a Toby Walker performance reflects these travels. Whether it is telling the humorous and heartwarming tales of other masters, talking about his inspirations, or astounding you with his mastery, his performances are a feast for the senses. The audience is moved in ways that delight them long after the encores. You can catch a taste of these stories on his Web site in "The Masters” section. But make no mistake about it - he is to be experienced live. Those fortunate enough to attend one of his shows will vouch for that. The love Toby has for his craft pushes him to share his history and experience where he has performed his Blues In The School program, allowing others to share the sounds, sights, and emotions of his unique abilities. His teaching credits include, among others, Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch in Ohio and a DVD release with the prestigious Homespun Tapes label called 'Blues Fingerpicking Freedom.' In 2006, Carnegie Hall acknowledged his rare talents and hired him to augment and teach in their "American Roots" program aimed at honor level middle school students. This one-of-a-kind series demonstrates the history of blues music and traditions, while teaching the history of African Americans as they migrated from the south into the north. His mastery of the blues was recognized in Memphis when he won the International Blues Challenge Award. Toby Walker has performed with the following: Richie Havens, Taj Mahal, John Mayall, Bo Diddley, John Hammond, James Cotton, Johnny Winter, Paul Oscher, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Bob Margolin, Charlie Musselwhite, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Vaughn, Kenny Neal, Robert Lockwood Junior, Lonnie Brooks, Hans Theesink, Doc Watson, David Bromberg, Mike Dowling, Johnny Copeland, Bobby Radcliff, Savoy Brown, Sonny Landreth, John Sebastian, Chuck Brodsky, Chris Smither, Cliff Eberhardt, Eric Bibb, Roy Bookbinder, Christine Lavin, Cheryl Wheeler, Jack Williams, Pat Wictor, The Kennedys, Rich Furay, G.E. Smith, Woody Mann, Jorma Kaukonen, Larry Campbell, Rory Block, Corey Harris, Tracy Grammer, Laura Love, Duke Robillard, The Kingston Trio and J.J. Cale.

The Musicians:

・ Toby Walker – nine hundred (I exaggerate – but not by much) guitars

・ Carol Walker – Upright bass

The Songs:

:

1. Shake Shake Mama (Mance Lipscomb)

2. Crazy 'Bout An Automobile (Traditional)

3. Mama Tain't Long For The Day (Blind Willie McTell)

4. Travelin' Riverside Blues (Robert Johnson)

5. Keep On Truckin' Mama (Blind Boy Fuller)

6. Tootie Blues (Blind Blake)

7. Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burnin' (Blind Willie Johnson)

8. I Got to Love Somebody (Muddy Waters)

9. Midnight Special (Huddie Ledbetter)

10. Shuffle Rag (Big Bill Broonzy)

11. Can't Be Satisfied (Muddy Waters)

12. What's The Matter Now (Fred McDowell)

. 13. Meat Shakin' Woman (Blind Boy Fuller)

14. Broke Down Engine (Blind Willie McTell)

15. She's 19 Years Old (Muddy Waters )

16. Cigarette Blues (Bo Carter)

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KILBORN ALLEY

Four

Mar 25, 2012

Kilborn Alley was nominated by the BMA in 2007 as Best New Artist. This is their fourth album, with four band members: Andrew Duncanson (vocals, guitar), Josh Stimmel (guitar), Chris Breen (bass), and Ed O’Hara (drums). The band has been described as moving through different components of the blues and Four showcases many sub-genres, although the acoustics are a little boxy. Track 1 “Rent House Boogie” is fast-paced and full of harp with Duncanson yellin’. Track 3 “Couple of Days” is sweet and soulful with its lyrics “you know I’m not the kind of guy who’ll smile when it’s a lie” and “I’ll change my ways for a couple of days.” Track 9 “Sitting on the Bank” rumbles along the rural blues road with stomping good harmonica and “Dressed Up Messed Up” is a be-bop number that recalls that 50s vibe. The last track, “Going Hard,” is a 10 minute slow burn work of art. - Pam VandeKerkhoff

Quick Links:

MAC ARNOLD

Mac Arnold's Blues Revival; Live at the Grey Eagle

Mar 8, 2012

Nick's Picks: Every One

FCC ALERT: "as sweet and pure as 'Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin's guitar playin' "

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Mac Arnold Blues Revival: Live At The Grey Eagle :

There are people who listen to blues, people who play the blues, people who live the blues, and people who write about it. Those who live it generally become the best blues musicians, because their music comes from deep down in their very soul – and that is what Mac Arnold is all about. Blues music generally includes a she-done-me-wrong-so-I'm-drinkin'-myself-to-death-song, a she's leavin' me fer good song, as well as hell-raisin' and git down stompin' music, life in the ghetto, life as a dirt poor sharecropper, and variations of the above. In that sense, Mac Arnold and company do not disappoint. They cover the gamut of blues tales, as well as play some very tight blues other than Mac's traditional Chicago-style Blues. This is a live recording at the legendary Grey Eagle Tavern and Music Hall in Asheville, NC, and we are treated to some very special guest artists. We start off our musical journey with an impassioned sax performance by Charles Twilly, which almost steals the show from Mac Arnold and his singing (“Gitty Up”). Track two (“Back Bone and Gristle”) offers up some steamin' mashups of Texas and Chicago style Blues. I mean, I'm sitting here trying to write while both feet are jumping all over the place. Give a listen to Track four (“Drivin' Wheel”) to best appreciate the genius of Bob Margolin in concert with the staccato sax stylings of Mr. Charles Twilly. Probably the best example of Chicago-style Blues is Track six - the semi-autobiographical “Ghetto Blues”. This whole track smokes!! Track nine (“Big Boss Man”) delivers the gravelly vocals of the legendary Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. The last track on this album is a real toe-tapper, and one of the more popular blues songs to cover (“Got My Mojo Workin'”). Would I buy this album? Most likely. And I would definitely go to a live concert – God willin'. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

ARTIST BIO:

Mac Arnold must have known at an early age that his music career would read like a “Who’s who” of Blues/R&B Legends. His high school band “J Floyd & The Shamrocks” were often joined by none other than Macon, Georgia native, James Brown on piano. After deciding to pursue a professional music career, he joined the Charles Miller group until 1965 when he made the move to Chicago to work with recording artist/saxophonist A. C. Reed. In late 1966, at age 24, came the opportunity of a lifetime to join the Muddy Waters Band and help shape the electric blues sound that inspired the rock and roll movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Regular guests of the band included Eric Clapton, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, and Elvin Bishop. The Muddy Waters Band (as a unit) shared the stage with the likes of Howlin’ Wolfe, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, Junior Wells, Big Joe Williams, and Big Mama Thornton just to name a few. During this time, Mac played on John Lee Hooker’s “live “album, Live at the Café Au Go-Go, as well as Otis Spann’s classic recording “The Blues is Where It’s At”. After more than a year with Muddy Waters, Mac formed the Soul Invaders which backed up many artists, including The Temptations and B. B. King. In the early 70’s, he moved (to) Los Angeles to work at ABC Television and LAFF RECORDS (Redd Foxx). This led to working on the set of Soul Train from 1971 to 1975 and then working with Bill Withers (“Lean On Me”) before moving back to South Carolina in the 80's. Mac now resides in Pelzer, SC.

The Man:

・ Mac Arnold – songwriter (tracks 1,2,3,5), vocals, gas can guitar, bass

The Band:

・ Austin Brashier – songwriter (tracks 1,2,3,5), guitar, vocals

・ Max Hightower – songwriter (tracks 1,2,3,5), guitar, keyboards, harmonica, vocals

・ Dan Keylon – songwriter (tracks 1,2,3,5), bass, vocals

・ Mike Whitt – songwriter (tracks 1,2,3,5), drums, percussion

The Guest Musicians:

・ “Steady Rollin” Bob Margolin – rhythm, solo guitar, vocals (tracks 4, 6-10)

・ Charles Twilly– alto saxophone (tracks 3, 4, 5)

・ “Fabulous” Kim Wilson – harmonica, lead vocal (track 8)

・ Willie “Big Eyes” Smith – drums, lead vocal (track 9)

The Songs:

1. Gitty Up

2. Back Bone And Gristle

3. True To You

4. Drivin' Wheel

5. Ghetto Blue

6. Screamin' And Cryin'

7. Sloppy Drunk

8. Love Attack

9. Big Boss Man

10. Got My Mojo Workin'

Quick Links:

JANIVA MAGNESS

STRONGER FOR IT

Mar 8, 2012

On her third disc for Alligator, singer Janiva Magness continues her exploration of American roots music. While the blues make an appearance now and then, those looking for another collection of boogies and shuffles need not apply. Instead, Magness applies her wondrous voice to a collection of roots tunes penned by the likes of Tom Waits, Grace Potter, Shelby Lynne, Gladys Knight, Ike Turner, Paul Thorn, Buddy and Julie Miller and even Matthew Sweet. With a large band including a couple of keyboardists and background singers, Magness employs a broad musical palette to add deep swampy textures, "Dirty Water", 70’s soul grooves, "I Won’t Cry", and rousing gospel to the mix, "Whoop and Holler". Magness’ voice is equally broad; open and vulnerable one moment, "Things Left Undone", sassy and confident the next, "Make It Rain", and as capable of a throaty, angry growl as a tender come-on. While the liner notes cryptically state the disc is an outgrowth of an intensely difficult period in her life, the lyrics are much more direct. On the self-penned "There It Is" Magness makes it clear there is a man she really wants to hurt and on "I Won’t Cry" she refuses him the satisfaction of her tears. She also throws some jabs as he moves on, "Thought I Knew You" and "You Got What You Wanted" where she spits nails over a bed of funky guitar and greasy b3. The notable absence of husband Jeff Turmes from the credits (where she literally thanks even the garbage man) and as a member of the band points to him as the source of her turmoil and as the subject of her scorn. As the title of the disc suggests, Magness found a survivor’s strength and the rest of the disc is spent contemplating life on her own, "Ragged Company", looking for courage in the face of uncertainty, "Whistlin’ In the Dark", reveling in coming out intact on the other side of the turmoil, "I’m Alive", and hoping she can restrain her darker side, "I Don’t Want To Do Wrong". As is so often the case with the blues her pain is the listener’s gain, as she publicly exorcises her demons and makes peace with the future. Another flat-out terrific release. Smitty

JOE LOUIS WALKER

HELLFIRE

Feb 17, 2012

With 20 plus discs to his name since his 1986 debut, guitarist Joe Louis Walker could be forgiven if picked the best of the lot and simply toured on his catalog. Instead, as evidenced by his debut on Alligator Records, Walker continues to write new material and to explore the intersection between traditional blues, gospel and blues rock. With a large store of blues licks and styles learned at the feet of blues legends including Fred McDowell, Ike Turner, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Albert and Freddy King and polished with the help of friend Michael Bloomfield at the dawn of blues rock, Walker has all the fire power he needs to take his tunes wherever his muse leads him. On "Ride All Night" that means the big hooks and harmonies of a classic AC/DC style rocker while the title track reaches back to the keyboards and psychedelic rock of the late 60’s and early 70’s and "Too Drunk To Drive" is a road house rocker. In contrast, "What It’s Worth" and "I Won’t Do That" are low down dirty blues with plenty of sustained bent notes that reveal producer Tom Hambridge’s stint as Buddy Guy’s producer of late. "Soldier for Jesus" is a gospel rave up made all the much sweeter by the harmonies of the Jordanaires who also make an appearance on "Don’t Cry". While most electric bluesmen stay a mile away from big rock and soul ballads, Walker has no problem taking that trip on "I Know Why" where his vocals shine brightly over the stellar keyboard work of Reese Wynans. Throughout this release, Walker is simply fearless on guitar mixing fleet fingered solos with long bent notes and an ample use of dynamics. Individual guitarists may be technically adept in one style of the blues or another but few can play as successfully on as broad a range of material as included here. Overall, this disc reveals Walker to be a seasoned bluesman with plenty left to offer. Smitty

Big James and the Chicago Playboys

The Big Payback

Feb 12, 2012

James Montgomery’s horn-based blues band Big James and the Chicago Playboys recorded The Big Payback live at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club in Paris in 2010. James raspy voice is second only to his trombone. Little Milton gave him his start but he also backed Albert King. The “playboys” band members are Mike Wheeler, Larry Williams, Joe Blocker, Charles Pryor, and Cleo Cole. Not a bad track here…but 8 and 6 are standouts blues-wise. In “The Blues Will Never Die” Joe Blocker adds a bit of funk via keyboard and Wheeler brings in a sweet guitar solo. Big James brings that same James Brown attitude on the title track cover, “The Big Payback.” Track 3 is a tribute to his dad in “Coldest Man I Ever Knew” as in the coolest man. Each guitar line provides perfect backdrop to every phrase James sings. Track 6 “That’s Why I’m Crying” features an awesome guitar flight courtesy of “Money.” I can’t say enough about “I’ll Stay” which is a slow-burn harmonized blues number with keyboard, trumpet, and guitar each providing wonderful solos. Fast-paced bluesy cover “Smoke on the Water,” last in the set list, allows for introduction of band mates to the Parisian audience, with Big James also stating, “If you don’t know, now you know.” Pam VandeKerkhoff

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THE RUSTY WRIGHT BAND

Live Fire

Jan 27, 2012

Nick's Picks: 01 World Upside Down; 03 Groove Medley/Ain't From Mississippi; 06 Someday After Awhile; 07 Lost Souls

FCC ALERT: 02 "Alarm Clock Blues”

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of The Rusty Wright Band Live Fire :

Contemporary blues is proving to be a whole different wild ride and this series of live performances leaves no doubt The Rusty Wright Band (or RWB as Rusty affectionately introduces himself and his band) has hung in there for their 8 seconds. Well done. Sticking to my avowed love of the blues, I would highly recommend this live cd. As opposed to most other genres (excepting Celtic, bluegrass/crabgrass and virtuoso artists) the blues are at their best when seen live. Recorded live blues are not the same, but they are (for the most part) an acceptable substitute, and this band comes as close as can be without the listener actually “being there”. The arrangements and musical writing are laudably matched (as well as the blues can be matched, anyway) with the lyrics – and some of the guitar solos are some of the best I have heard from a regional band, Oh, and did I mention that this is a Michigan-based band? Yep, right out of the Flint area. This band is so talented that they have no trouble playing through any blues tempo, from lonesome Mississippi Delta (“Messin' Round”, “Someday After Awhile”, “Lost Souls”) to 'so tight they squeak when they walk' Chicago Blues (“World Upside Down”, Pretty Little Lies”) to blues-influenced heavy duty Rock & Roll (“Day of the Eagle”) to a whimsical Jump Blues (“Whole Lot of Rosie”) all the way to Texas Blues (“Alarm Clock Blues”) one of the best songs of the whole collection; it's unfortunate that one little word prevents this hard-charging smokin' song from getting any airplay. And that's my two nickels' worth........................Nick

ARTIST BIO:

This is a Michigan-based band from the Flint area.

The Musicians:

・ Rusty Wright – songwriter, vocals, slide guitar

・ Laurie LaCross Wright – rhythm guitar, vocals, harmony vocals

・ David Brahce – keyboards, Hammond B3

・ Andrew Barancik – bass

・ Peter Haist – drums, harmony vocals

・ Eddie Lusker – saxophone

The Songs:

1. World Upside Down

2. Alarm Clock Blues

3. Groove Medley_Ain't From Mississippi

5. Man On Fire

6. Someday After Awhile

7. Lost Souls

8. Pretty Little Lies

9. Day Of The Eagle

10. Whole Lotta Rosie

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DICKY JAMES AND THE BLUE FLAMES

Hard Rain

Jan 6, 2012

Nick's Picks: 06 It's All True; 07 Low Down Dirty Dog Blues; 11 We Git To Play;

FCC ALERT: ("nothing here)"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Dicky James and the Blue Flames Hard Rain :

The band opens with an original blues tune. It has a catchy beat, good lyrics, but the arranger should have left out the electric organ, as it adds nothing to the song. The selections get progressively better, though. Track two (“Hard Rain”) tones down the organ, amps up the rest of the instruments, and makes the song virtually jump. From there we slow down the pace for an delta blues style cover of a B.B. King song (“Rock Me”) including an excellent harmonica contribution by Bob “Icehouse” Freeze); however, we are again “treated” to some more 1-chord organ playing, which (IMHO) muffles the gritty playing and singing of an otherwise excellent song. “Bulldog Talkin'” sounds kinda like an old juke joint song – complete with what sounds like an old National Resonator for the guitar parts – and well-played, I might add. From there, the band slows back down to some more delta-influenced music (“It's All True”), as well as a couple of inspired solos (guitar, harm onical, organ). I have to admit that Dicky James surely represents the blues lifestyle in his songwriting and lyrics. So many excellent bands have covered “Born Under A Bad Sign” that it wouldn't be fair to compare this band's interpretation; however, they do a favorable job of covering it. Another turn at delta blues with the next song (“Low Down Dirty Dog Blues”) exemplifies this band's talents in this genre – and the organ actually makes an excellent accompaniment on this well-written song by Dicky James (Wagster). On this disk's only instrumental cut we are treated to an outstanding harmonica solo, as well as a very tightly controlled contribution by the rest of the band – definitely one for the record books! One of the very few jump (boogie) blues cuts, “Game On” highlghts the bands' versatility, as well as Dicky James' writing chops. The next cut (“Special To Me”) just threw me for a curve. At first I thought that perhaps someone accidentally patched in a rap/reggae song – nothing like the rest of the cd; however, when I checked the label I found it was definitely a part of the cd. It is just so differen from the rest of the cuts that my only comment is that the inclusion here is simply a mystery. The very last song on this cd – another jump blues song (“We Git To Play”) is one of the best representations of the jump (boogie) genre, and Mr. James & company really strut their stuff here. Although I don't know if I would go see this band live, I do strongly recommend purchasing this band's premier cd.. And that's my two nickels' worth.......................Nick

ARTIST BIO:

Richard “Dicky James” Wagster was born in 1956 in Gary, IN and raised in Calumet City, IL. As a boy Dicky watched his older brother, Bear, play guitar and immediately fell in love. At age 12 he got his first guitar, a Stella acoustic, and began learning by ear from whatever blues and Motown records he could pick up. He was finally on the way when his brother brought him his first electric from the px in Vietnam. Around age 18 he began performing in clubs from coast to coast and opening for numerous major recording artists. In 1994 he relocated to the Wabash Valley where, in 2008, he and rest of the boys formed Dicky James and the Blue Flames.

The Musicians:

・ Dicky James Wagster – songwriter, vocals, guitar

・ Bob “Icehouse” Freeze – electric harmonica, sax

・ John “Lightning Boy” Beeson – Hammond Organ, vocals

・ Mark “P Funk” Ford – bass, arranger

・ Will Cox – drums, percussion

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BIG PETE

Choice Cuts

Jan 3, 2012

Pieter [Big Pete] vanderPluijm plays harmonica infused with the echoes of a distinguished line of blues masters. Pete, from the Netherlands, enlisted help from a number of special artists on this debut album. The Blues Foundation has nominated Choice Cuts for Best New Artist Debut. He has gained fame throughout Europe as frontman in the Lester Butler Tribute Band. Top tracks include 2-6-9-12-13 but all are truly Choice Cuts. Authentic-sounding “Can’t You See What You’re Doin’ to Me” showcases Alex Schultz’ lead guitar and the background picking keeps pace just like Albert King’s original piece. In the Jimmy Rogers tune “Act Like You Love Me” Pete employs the same vibrato technique as its creator. Al Blake’s sweetly-paced harmonica shines through with Alex Schultz on lead in “I Got My Eyes on You.” Listen to “Hey Lawdy Mama” and you’ll agree why Jimi Bott has been nominated by The Blues Foundation as one of the best instrumentalists on drums. Big Pete has taken Howlin’ Wolf’s “Rockin’ Daddy” to a higher plane with rough-edged reverb and lots of guitar and piano support from Kid Ramos and Rob Rio. “Chromatic Crumbs” is a tribute to the late William Clarke and it resonates with identical soul. In “I’m a Business Man,” you can HEAR the Mississippi Delta in Pete’s harp along with Paul Oscher’s melodica. You can’t miss on this album. After years of honing his skill, Big Pete will be known for Big Pete, not for the footsteps he has followed and now stepped beyond. – Pam VandeKerkhoff

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FIONA BOYES

BLUES FOR A HARD WORLD

Oct 25, 2011

Fiona Boyes strips things bare for her third American release, which features 16 tracks of traditional Delta Blues, Country Blues and even her trademark Barrelhouse on tracks like "Guys Be Wise". This CD really showcases Fiona's skills on both the acoustic and resonator guitars where her finger picking skills are unmatched by most of today's blues performers. The songs on this disc are all stories which Fiona calls "classic themes of church house versus barrelhouse, drinking redemption, lust and fun." Fiona really explores the virtues of god and religion on tracks such as God and The Devil", "The Preacher" and "Jesus Took Possession". "Baptized in Muddy's Sweat" may be a musical religious moment about a friend pressed against the stage during a Muddy Waters concert and felling the legendary performers sweat. The tracks "Drink To Your Health" and "Guys Be Wise" are upbeat tracks and showcase some of the humor captured on her first Lucky 13 disc. Fiona's voice has never sounded better and this CD is a testament to a blues woman that is both on top of her game and the blues world. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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WHITEBOY JAMES AND THE BLUES EXPRESS

EXTREME MAKEOVER

Oct 24, 2011

The easiest way for me to describe this disc is West Coast Blues meets Phil Alvin and the Blasters for one rocking good time party. This CD is a celebration of Women, Booze, and a rowdy good times. Whiteboy James is a very talented harmonica player who has a voice for the blues and stories to tell. The first track "Big Butted Women" sets the tone for the disc as a west coast blues feast celebrating women who may just have a little extra junk in the trunk. "Stay Out Late at Night" could easily be mistaken with the punk rockabilly sounds of the Blasters. "Zerg, Shotgun and You" sounds like a musical union of Johnny Cash and the Reverend Horton Heat. Whiteboy James kicks up the rocking blues sound again with "Gold Brick Bar" a place where I am sure you can buy some of that Night Train Wine. "Slow Down And Let Me Love You" is a blues harmonica track where the harp is as hot as the girl Whiteboy is trying to seduce. The Blues Express also does a cooking version of the Willie Dixon classic "I'm Ready" a song popularized by George Thorogood which features some great guitar from Scott Abeyta. This CD is actually a remake of Whiteboys debut album from 1992 a disc I completely missed but am thankful almost 20 years later that this talented band has kept the party going. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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THE BOTTOMS UP BLUES GANG

HANDLE IT

Oct 18, 2011

Raise a glass and toast the Bottoms Up Blues Gang's new release Handle It. This CD mixes St. Louis blues along with the sounds of the Crescent city to make for an acoustic stew of blues, folk and jazz. Lead Vocalists Keri Litson has a very distinct voice that at times shows shades of Michelle Shocked especially on the politically tinged track "New World Blues" and the duet "Lover Foe" with guitarist and band partner Jeremy-Segel Moss who makes up the nucleus of the BUBG.The track "If Only" is one of the slowest and most heartfelt tracks that features Kari's soft vocals Jeremy's acoustic guitar and harmonica from Adam Andrews , asking the long term relationship question If Only? The CD picks up steam again with the track "Show Your Love" That features a swinging piano from Matt Murdick and trumpet and fugal horn from Dawn Webber. "Quick Fix For Livin" is a straight ahead blues track that features an incredible down and dirty pairing of Jeremy's guitar matched again with some smoking harmonica from Adam Andrews. This CD concludes with its only cover track "Drown In My Own Tears" the classic Ray Charles track that includes guitars from the late St. Louis blues man Bennie Smith. This CD was recorded in both St. Louis and New Orleans, but should be enjoyed by lovers of great blues & jazz music anywhere. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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EG KIGHT

Lip Service

Oct 14, 2011

Nick's Picks: 03 That's How A Woman Loves, 04 Lip Service, 05 Savannah, 09 It's Gonna Rain All Night, 11 Married Man

FCC ALERT: "Squeaky Clean" "

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of EG Kight Lip Service: EG Kight has been compared to the late, great Koko Taylor; however, after listening to her latest release, I am of the opinion that she has her own unique styling - kinda like Southern Fried Blues, with her own smokey voice, and her passion is her own. I'm inclined to include her in the same class as Big Mama Thornton, Betty Padgett, Etta James, and Mavis Staples. Granted, the field of women blues singers has historically been small (and even smaller for women blues songwriters), but her work is heartfelt, and shows great talent. Her tribute to Koko Taylor ("Koko's Song") is true to Koko's form - particularly on "Lip Service". EG (what exactly do those initials represent?) writes all her material - consequently, her songwriting seems to have no basis for comparison to other female songwriter/performers. (I can detect a whiff of Otis Redding and Ray Charles on "Somewhere Down Deep", James Brown on "I'm In It To Win It", Nat King Cole on "It's Gonna Rain All Night", and Percy Sledge on "That's How A Woman Loves"). Although she may not be as prolific as some of the other female blues songwriters, I think the quality and arrangements make a big difference. I look forward to hearing more from this gifted blues artist. And that's my two nickels' worth.........................Nick

ARTIST BIO: EG Kight’s career began in country music, and early on she was dubbed “The Georgia Songbird”. Over the years she has broadened her musical scope to include americana, southern rock, blues, pop, jazz, gospel and funk. Kight has shared the stage with a wide array of artists, including Koko Taylor, Hubert Sumlin, Foghat, Pinetop Perkins, Lee Roy Parnell, Phoebe Snow, Delbert McClinton, Gregg Allman, Robert Cray, Merle Haggard, Taj Mahal, Little Feat, the Bloomsburg Symphony Orchestra; and the world renowned Garrison Keillor, among others. Born and raised in a small town in rural Georgia, Kight still lives on the land that’s been in her family for four generations. Her roots go deep, and that comes through in her music. More than just a strikingly rich vocalist, from a family of gospel singers, Kight has also mastered the guitar, gaining the attention of Taylor Guitars, who supplies her with the tools of her trade Kight’s brand new release, LIP SERVICE, debuted at #23 on the Living Blues chart, is garnering great reviews, and is already getting airplay worldwide. Her 2008 release, "It's Hot In Here" climbed to #1 on the roots blues charts, and on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Honored with six BMA nominations, twice for Song of the Year, her songs have a universal reach.

The Musicians:

・ EG Kight – songwriter, vocals, producer, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, piano

・ Tommy Talton – lead guitar, rhythm guitar

・ Randall Bramblett – B3 Hammond, piano, wurlitzer

・ Marshall Coats – bass

・ Bill Stewart – drums

・ Cliff Meyers – baritone sax

・ Kimberly Welch – background vocals

・ Ken Wynn – lead guitar

・ Johnny Fountain – bass

・ Gary Porter – drums, tambourine

・ Marcus Henderson – alto sax

・ Jerry Mullins – trumpet

・ Earl Ford– trombone

・ Paul Hornsby – producer, B3 Hammond, piano, bass

・ Gil Gillis – producer, guitar, piano, bass, percussion

・ Steve Brewster – drums

・ Adam Mewherter – trombone

・ Willie Morris –background vocals

・ John Nemeth – special guest

The Songs:

Sugar Daddies (EG Kight, Tom Horner)

I'm In It To Win It (EG Kight, Tom Horner)

That's How A Woman Loves (EG Kight)

Lip Service (EG Kight, Tom Horner)

Savannah (EG Kight, Gil Gillis)

Koko's Song (EG Kight, Tom Horner)

Somewhere Down Deep (EG Kight, Tom Horner, Bonnie Tallman)

I Can't Turn Him Off (EG Kight, Tom Horner)

It's Gonna Rain All Night (Paul Hornsby)

Goodbye (EG Kight)

Married Man (EG Kight)

I'm Happy With The One I Got Now (EG Kight, Joanna Cotten, Johnny Neel)

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CAROLYN WONDERLAND

PEACE MEAL

Sep 27, 2011

Carolyn Wonderland was recently heralded as "Best Female Vocalist" at the Austin Music Awards. After one listen to the raw energy that pours out of both her voice and guitar this is hard to dispute. The CD begins with a cover of one of the only female blues vocalists that could reach this raw energy level, the late great Janis Joplin on "What Good Can Drinkin' Do". The track "Only God Knows When" begins with a Little Feat feel to it and builds to a full gospel sound. "St. Marks" begins with soft visions of walking through strawberry fields and finishes with a vocal performance that will bring you to your knees at the alter. Carolyn dusts off the Elmore James/Robert Johnson classic "Dust My Broom" and is sure to bring her to the crossroads with the blues greats. Carolyn also would make Muddy Waters very proud on her cover of the classic "Two Trains" a song that has been covered by many, but with the pure power and energy that comes from Carolyn's vocals there may be none finer. The CD ends with the track "Shine On" a song that provides the warm peaceful feeling that is the signature of Carolyn Wonderland one of today's blues music's shining stars. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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ANA POPOVIC

Unconditional

Sep 21, 2011

Ana Popovic is the total package: guitar, voice, looks. She loves her Fender. Popovic is from Serbia, Yugoslavia where she grew up listening to dad’s jam sessions and longing to learn blues guitar. She founded her first band at age 19 and began opening shows for Junior Wells. Unconditional is her fifth studio album. Sonny Landreth has been her musical inspiration since her Belgrade days and he contributes on track 5. It is interesting that tracks 6 & 9 were written with Ana’s husband Mark van Meurs—songs that ooze with sensual lyrics you can visualize. Hmmm. In “Fearless Blues” she appears to be trying to find her voice; it is a bluesy big sound like Tommy Castro. “Count Me In” features Jason Ricci who rips on harmonica! It is unrelenting; screaming guitar licks—the song cooks! The title track Unconditional has a nice pace which showcases her vocal range. “Slideshow” instrumental is a pretty damn good tune with brilliant slide guitar prowess of Ana and Sonny Landreth interplay. It’s the best tune on the CD and highly recommended. “Work Song” again features a big blues sound of working the chain gang with bluesy organ and heavy bass lines. It’s the second best song on the album. “Summer Rain” contains sweet sexy lyrics with guitar solos that keep climbing higher and higher. “One Room Country Shack” is a slow-burn blues number: “I’m gonna find me some kind of good man, even if he’s dumb, deaf, crippled or blind” that’ll put a smile on your face. “Soulful Dress” will appeal to the ladies with pounding on the ivories! Unconditional shows Ana takes her time with guitar solos--she’s not trying to prove herself because she knows she’s got the talent. - Pam VandeKerkhoff

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SUGAR BLUE

Threshold

Sep 21, 2011

Grammy Award winning Sugar Blue (born James Whiting) has created another album full of blues harp virtuosity in Threshold. Blue has contributed to, or collaborated with, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, the Stones—the list is endless. Sugar Blue has said that he incorporates their subtleties, complexities, power and passion into his instrument which has made his blues harp sound like no other. “Living Your Love” starts slow but develops into a cool vibe with an underlying guitar hook and expressive harmonica. “Noel News” is an ode to the spirit of New Orleans with a zydeco feel and sousaphone at the end. Track 4 is an interesting viewpoint; “Stop the War” has powerful lyrics with snippets of political sound bite overdub. “Ramblin” is a deep, soulful harmonica solo prelude to “Cotton Tree,” paying homage to the legendary James Cotton, another mentor. “Messin’ With The Kid” is a Junior Wells cover that has been rearranged with solid rock beat and flow. “Trouble” is an Elvis Presley tune but the Sugar treatment shows it doesn’t get any sweeter than this! How odd that tracks 1-3-5-7-9-11 showcase Blue’s phenomenal talent for harmonica! These are highly recommended. – Pam VandeKerkhoff

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SENA EHRHARDT BAND

LEAVE THE LIGHT ON

Sep 15, 2011

With bands like the Butanes, The Lamont Cranston Blues Band and Davina and the Vagabonds making the twin cities a northern bright spot for the blues, soul and R &B, it should come as no surprise that Blind Pig Records found its attention focused on Minneapolis area vocalist Sena Ehrhardt who is working hard to make a splash on the national blues scene. On this, her debut recording, Ehrhardt makes a strong case that she deserves widespread attention. Joined by her father Ed Ehrhardt on guitar, Steve Hansen on bass and Tim Hasler on drums, Ehrhardt powers her way through ten original tunes that cover the gamut from the slow, moody, "Last Chance", to the funky mid-tempo rocker, "You’re the One", to the boogie infused, "Hear Me", to the upbeat West Coast blues of "On the Clock" and the aching longing of "Leave the Light On" as she leave a lover behind. With a voice that can be as powerful as rocker Pat Benatar or as playful as Candye Kane, Ehrhardt pulls you into the tales she weaves about no good men, failed relationships and lost chances. With father Ed laying down all manner of guitar histrionics, the overall feel of this disc is closer to blues rock than traditional blues but it will certainly find favor with the bulk of blues fans. Smitty

JIMMIE VAUGHAN

PLAYS MORE BLUES, BALLADS & FAVORITES

Sep 15, 2011

The story is well known by now. Guitarist Jimmie Vaughan toiled in the blues trenches for years with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and finally got a taste of national fame in the MTV era with such rock oriented hits as "Tuff Enuff", "Wrap it Up" and "Look At That". He then saw younger brother Stevie Ray grab the fame comet that took him to the top of both the blues and rock worlds only to die tragically in 1990 after Jimmie had left the Thunderbirds and the two had collaborated on "Family Style". Stevie’s death put Jimmie into a several year commercial no-man’s land as the T-Birds were no longer home for him and his roots oriented guitar style didn’t have the wide spread commercial appeal of his brother’s much harder rocking chart toppers. He persevered though and continued to bear the torch of the raw, classic blues, country and R &B that had marked his earlier work with the T-Birds. The last few years have seen him paying homage to Jimmy Reed, "On the Jimmy Reed Highway", and to the tunes on which he cut his teeth, "Plays Blues, Ballad & Favorites". This disc finds him dipping into the same well. With cuts by Jimmy Liggins, "Teardrop Blues", Gene Autry, "I Hang My Head and Cry", Huey Meaux, "Breaking Up is Hard To Do" and "The Rains Came", Jimmy Reed, "I’m a Love You", and a host of others, this disc showcases Vaughan’s uncanny ability to take a large band (bass, drums, two guitars and a pair of horns) and distill the sound down to little more than grease and grit. A closer listen though reveals a lot going on as Vaughan exchanges instrumental jabs with the rest of the band. With spare leads and fills around the groove Vaughan, who never overplays, aims all of the cuts at that primal spot that has to move with the music. As a result, even though a number of the cuts tend to lope along without much urgency, they all satisfy. Even though Vaughan will never earn much of his supper as a singer, his vocals are serviceable and he gets a boost on three of the cuts from fellow Texan, Lou Ann Barton. Overall, no new frontiers discovered here. And that’s the point. SMITTY

GRACE ASKEW

Grace Askew & The Black Market Goods

Sep 14, 2011

Nick's Picks: 01 Jupe, 03 Been Broken Too, 09 Howl

FCC ALERT: "Squeaky Clean"

Review by Steven "Nick" Nickelson of Grace Askew Grace Askew & The Black Market Goods

The sultry-voiced Grace Askew has one of the sexiest voices I have heard in a long time, and the songwriting is definitely of the award-winning ilk. This is how I opened my previous review of Grace Askews inaugural LP. I still stick with my assessment. At the time I felt her songwriting skills were a cut above most songwriters output; however, I feel that this sophmore release may have been a tad rushed. Most songs still showcase her songwriting acumen ("Tennessee Got The Best of Me", "Been Broken Too"), but a couple just didn't seem to be up to her usual standards ("Uh Huh Huh" sounds suspiciously like "Ode To Billie Joe", "Go My Way" just seems to be filler), Granted, there are still some moments of brilliance, as in the segue into a tejano-flavored, haunting melody ("Jupe" - complete with Spanish verbage), as well as some truly inspired playing by her band members("Before It Dies"). After listening a few hours to this most recent release by a very talented songwriter and an equally talented backup band, I still stick by my earlier assessment - get her more national exposure, and she should be able to take it from there. The only fly in the ointment is how to categorize her music. I mean, one track she is singing in a lazy, bluesytempo ("Midtown"), and the next she might take the role of a torch singer ("Bullseye Baby"), to a melodic, haunting red dirt girl singing a sad country song ("Howl"). Whatever genre she takes on, though, she seems to own it. And that's my two nickels' worth.............................Nick

ARTIST BIO: "Sultry, atmospheric singer-songwriter Grace Askew is a striking presence on the local scene as something of a bluesier answer to Cat Power, and a female version of Tom Waits, whom she counts as key influences." - Elizabeth Cawein, Memphis Music Foundation Based out of Memphis, Tennessee, Askew has substantially established herself throughout the Southeast, United States, and has organized and promoted her own small tours since her teens. She now continues to serve as her own agent on a grander scale, booking her shows and traveling vigorously throughout the U.S., spanning tours as far West as Santa Fe, New Mexico, as far North as Chicago, IL and as far East as Asheville, NC. Back home in Memphis, Grace plays a slew of steady gigs with her abundantly talented accompanying 5-piece group, The Black Market Goods, made up of all prominent musical figures in the local scene. National singer-songwriter festivals have also kept her prominently placed in a tight circle of renowned regional writers who have served not only as mentors, but also as staunch patrons of her talent; including Keith Sykes (co-writer of the popular "Volcano" with Jimmy Buffet and "I''m Not Strange, I'm Just Like You" recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker), Grammy Award winning writer Richard Leigh, and Austin, Texas' Larry Joe Taylor, host of the largest privately owned music festival in the South. Grace has released two EP’s (Wasted Lipstick, Hawthorne) under renowned produced (sic) Pete Matthews, both of which were recorded at Memphis’ famed Ardent Studios. Her third and newest release 'Until They Lay Me Down to Rest'' is the first full-length album to be solely produced and written by Askew. The bulk of the album was recorded by Memphis musical veteran Richard Ford, who is also featured on several tracks playing such various instruments as banjo, lap & pedal steel guitars, and a mandolin offshoot- the 'jangletron'. Whether stirred by the moaning of a distant freight train, the barking dog across the street, or the whoosh of a car passing by on a rainy Memphis night, the intimacy and rawness of the recordings takes you right into the room with Grace and gives you a pure, powerful reach into the heart & mind behind each and every composition. A select few tracks were also recorded in nearby Oxford, Mississippi at acclaimed Tweed Studios includes her entire ensemble of accompanists, in addition to the sound engineering of studio proprietor Andrew Ratcliffe. (Mastering done by Kevin Cubbins and Jeffrey Reed).

The Black Market Goods:

・ Grace Askew – lead and background vocals, rhythm guitar

・ Jesse Williams – drums, percussion

・ JD Westmoreland – bass guitar

・ Logan Hanna – lead guitar

・ Richard Ford – pedal steel/lap steel

The Songs:

Jupe

Tennessee Got The Best Of Me

Been Broken Too

Go My Way

Before It Dies

I Remember

Midtown

Bullseye Baby

Howl

The Road

Uh Huh Huh (f. David Coen)

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RUTHIE FOSTER

LIVE AT ANTONE'S

Aug 31, 2011

Texas singer/songwriter Ruthie Foster, winner of the 2010 Blues Music Award for Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year for her Truth According to Ruthie Foster release, follows that milestone with this live disc recorded in front of a rightfully enthusiastic crowd at Austin’s blues Mecca, Antone’s. Backed by a versatile band that knows its way around a groove, Foster flexes her broad ranging musical chops. While she’s clearly comfortable with the blues as evidenced by her smoking vocal duet with guitarist Hadden Sayers on "Back to the Blues", her own hard shuffle, "Runaway Soul", the oft covered O.V. Wright show piece, "Nickel and a Nail", and the traditional "Death Came A –Knockin’" (well worth the 11 minute listen!)she really shines when she flexes her gospel and soul roots. Her takes on Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s "Up Above My Head (I Hear Music in the Air)", the traditional "Woke Up This Mornin’" and the Ann Peebles R & B classic "(You Keep Me) Hangin’On" On bristle with soulful energy. She can also get plenty funky as evidenced by "Heal Yourself" where she shares the spotlight with Papa Mali who does a guest turn on guitar. Slowing things down a bit, Foster also does an effective turn as a roots rocker on Lucinda William’s "Fruits of My Labor" and Patti Griffin’s "When It Don’t Come Easy" which she delivers with nuanced power that recalls any number of Bonnie Raitt hits. Of course even great vocalists can get let down if their band misses the mark. That’s not a problem here. While the entire crew does a great job of bringing these performances to life, keyboardist Scottie Miller adds deft keyboard touches that carry the instrumental load on many of the soul and gospel tunes, with guitarist Hadden Sayers really shining on the blues numbers, where his tough solos add as much heat as Foster’s vocals. Solid from beginning to end, this disc makes me wish I was at the show. Smitty www.ruthiefoster.com www.bluecornmusic.com

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ERIC LINDELL

WEST COAST DRIFTER

Aug 30, 2011

West Coast Drifter is a combination of two earlier self released titles "Between Motion and Rest" released in 2010 and "Cazadero" released earlier this year. It is our great fortune that MC Records discovered these soul drenched crescent city treasures and released them as this terrific 18 track double disc. Eric's voice is perfectly suited to cover the soul of New Orleans, mixed with some R&B that can shame most of today's popular artists. In addition to the soul pouring from his voice, Eric's guitar can also deliver some incredible heart felt and soulful licks. Eric brought some of his friends along for this disc including Delbert McClinton on the opening track Sentimental Lover and the great Ivan Neville on all tracks of Disc two. Eric has been a favorite of the New Orleans music scene for many years and with this release the blues man who can deliver a musical roots stew should find his way into your home as a musical guest you wont want to leave. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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GARY CLARK, JR.

The Bright Lights EP

Aug 29, 2011

This is the guy that many critics believe will be the next great blues guitarist. Clark burst on to the scene last year at Eric Clapton's "Crossroads" blues festival in Chicago, and since then all eyes have been on his live concerts--which are reportedly other-worldly. This early taste of his work underscores his talent, with two scorchers--"Bright Lights" and "Don't Owe"--and two remarkably exquisite acoustic numbers--"Things Are Changin'" and "When My Train Pulls In." He's credited with using diverse influences from blues, rock and folk that he melds into a unique sound. No question, the man has it. What he will do with it is the question. I'm looking forward to a full release from him. 08/11 Michael J. B-Various

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MORELAND & ARBUCKLE

JUST A DREAM

Aug 29, 2011

This is the second release for Blues Dual Aaron Moreland and Dustin Arbuckle for the Telrac label and is pure unpolished blues rock that keeps the energy flowing through all 12 tracks. It can best be described as taking a trip to the Crossroads and finding the 100 amp fuse. That may be the reason why they find themselves in Purgatory which guitarist Aaron Moreland describes as a riff -driven declaration of primal need. The CD begins with the rocking "The Brown Bomber" which sets the stage for Aaron Moreland's driving guitar and Dustin Arbuckle's edgy vocals and down and dirty harp. The Title track "Just A Dream" reminded me of a rocking Los Lobos track. "Heartattack and Vine" is a well done Tom Waits cover from his 1990 classic disc and just like Tom, Dustin provides his own heartfelt vocals. "Gypsy Violin" is a fun track that features a conversation between the two about trading a chicken for a violin with Moreland's guitar making the backdrop. "Shadows Never Change" could be described as Robin Trower meets Pink Floyd. I would also be remiss to not mention the excellent drums and percussion from Brad Horner who provides a rock solid backbeat through the entire disc. If you are a fan of bands such as the Black Keys, this disc should be an instant classic. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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ARNOLD MC CULLER

Soon As I Get Paid

Aug 28, 2011

Arnold McCuller has made a pretty nice living as a musican doing background vocals for James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, Phil Collins and a bevy of other superstars. He's occasionally released a few little-known side projects along the way, but this release seems intent on testing the waters for more solo appearances. He has a great voice and puts it to good use in this set, made up of originals, covers and new interpretations. The title track and "Gods and Monsters" are well-crafted originals. The gospel tinge to "The River Knows Your Name" and "The Whale Have Swallowed Me" is just right. And check out the funk of "Don't Go Nowhere," the closing track. The most recognizable of the tunes are the remakes, "Lonely Teardrops" and "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man"--both professionally done, of course, but I'll take Arnold's own creations. 08/11 Michael J. B-R&B

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GEORGE HARMONICA SMITH

Teardrops Are Falling

Aug 22, 2011

Nick's Picks: 05 I'm A Man, 06 Crazy 'Bout You Baby, 07 Big Boss Man, 10 Harp Stomp

Review of George Harmonica Smith teardrops are falling

This previously unreleased "live" recording with Buddy Reed and the Rocket 88's is an attempt to introduce a much under-appreciated, but extremely talented harmonica player and compleat showman - George Harmonica Smith. I am familiar with Little Walter, but I had not heard much of this artist; however, when I checked the amount of published recordings on which he performed, this legendary West Coast Blues Harmonica had been one perpetual motion machine! He was the first harmonica player to amplify the harmonica, and he was the first harmonica player to play two notes at the same time an octave step between them ("Teardrops Are Falling", "Crazy 'Bout You Baby", "Goin' Down Slow") - a difficult maneuver often attempted, seldom accomplished by many except the extraordinary (Larry Adler, Rod Piazza, William Clarke). He held such a high regard for Little Walter that he recorded few solo albums; however, as mentioned previously, that didn't affect his collaborations with great blues legends - Muddy Waters and Big Mama Thornton come to mind. George Smith’s chromatic playing style has impacted the modern-day approach to blues chromatic playing more so than any other traditional blues harp artist’s style, even including Little Walter’s. His mother was his initial musical influence ("I'm A Man" seems ,almost prophetic), and the blues world is so much better for that. George Harmonica Smith was not one to hog the stage (humility is a mark of a true blues talent), and he would take great delight in "playing off" the other talents in whatever band he was in (Buddy Reed's guitar in "Big Boss Man" and "Woke Up This Morning"). This live recording took place shortly before his death, so I am fortunate to be able to review some of his last works. Lastly, I must confess I'm not much for instrumentals, but the last cut ("Harp Stomp") on this cd really got my foot tappin'. And that's my two nickels' worth.......................Nick.

FCC ALERT: "Clean"

ARTIST BIO:

Welcome to the official George "Harmonica" Smith tribute page. Allen George "Harmonica" Smith was born on April 22, 1924 in West Helena, Arkansas. His family moved to Cairo, IL soon afterward, where he was raised. Starting harp at a young age under the tutelage of his mother, George played at local parties, juke joints, and in the streets. By his teens, he moved away from home traveling through the south. 1949 saw George move to Chicago where he started working with a young Otis Rush, both playing in a style similar to the Muddy Waters band at the time. In late 1954, the blues harmonica world would never be the same after "Little" George Smith recorded his landmark records on the RPM label. Classics such as the chromatic masterpiece "Blues In The Dark", the slow third-position techniques of "Telephone Blues", "Oopin' Doopin' Doopin'" which featured some more swinging chromatic harp, and "Blues Stay Away". Third position on chromatic and diatonic harmonica has been done before, but nothing like this. Little Walter, the unofficial king of blues harmonica, had played third position on chromatic and diatonic harmonica, but his techniques were different. George made full use of the harmonica's tuning by his incorporation of the use of playing "octaves", especially on the chromatic. George took his blues influences and met them with his other harmonica influences (he often cited Larry Adler as his favorite) and ran with it until he developed his own approach to tone and phrasing. Besides his classic RPM sides "Blues In The Dark", "Oopin' Doopin' Doopin'" and "Down in New Orleans", other chromatic features of his include "Hawaiian Eye", "Blue Fog" and "Soul Feet". His mastery of the chromatic harmonica influenced every blues player that has picked up the instrument since, either directly or indirectly, arguably even more so than Little Walter's chromatic technique. The late 1960's saw George coming into the spotlight a bit more after a quiet period in the early/mid 60's. Contemporary players like Charlie Musselwhite and Rod Piazza would learn as much as they could from George, and Rod even would perform in the band Bacon Fat along with George. Several great albums came out of this period, including "Tribute To Little Walter", "...of the Blues", "Arkansas Trap" and "No Time For Jive". In the 1970's, another young harp player came into George's life that would go on be another of his greatest students - William Clarke. For the remainder of his life, George continued to perform with his band, as a sideman, or with one of his protégés, and made some great recordings even in the 70's and 80's. His influence can still be heard in the playing of the top harp players on the contemporary scene, such as Rod Piazza, Kim Wilson, Rick Estrin, Paul deLay and Mark Hummel.

The Band:

George Harmonica Smith: Vocals, Harmonica

Buddy Reed: Guitar, Vocals

Jerry Smith: Bass

Roger Rotoli: Drums

Bullet Bill Tarsha: Harmonica

The Songs:

Intro By Spider

Teardrops Are Falling

Love That Woman

Key To The Highway

I'm A Man

Crazy 'Bout You Baby

Big Boss Man

Juke

Going Down Slow

Woke Up This Morning

Harp Stomp

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GEORGE THOROGOOD & THE DESTROYERS

2120 South Michigan Avenue

Aug 1, 2011

Nick's Picks: 01 Going Back 02 High Heel Sneakers 03 Seventh Son 04 ..... shucks, you can't go wrong with any of them!

George Thorogood may not be the most popular musician around; however, his song and video of "Bad To The Bone" is one of the most-recognized and most borrowed song of any musician - bar none. Of course it helps to be well-versed in the blues, and this man (and his band The Destroyers) knows the blues. The basis for this cd, in fact, is the address of the old Chess Records label- a label which many of the great Chicago blues players owe their recording careers. George and his band pay tribute to this legendary recording studio, and are joined by a few "graduates" of same. A few of the songs on this record were written by the most prolific writer and (some say) the founder of the Chicago Blues - the great Willie Dixon ("Seventh Son", "Spoonful", "Help Me", "My Babe"). George and his band do Willie quite proud on these cuts - abetted on "My Babe" by the great Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica. Right out of the box we hear a most-definite Thorogood-penned tune that pays a rollicking tribute to the Chicago Blues - "Going Back" to 2120 South Michigan Avenue. And then we jump jive right into "High Heel Sneakers", with a righteous assist by none other than the current King of Chicago Blues - Mr. Buddy (so tight he squeaks when he walks) Guy. If you don't think it gets better than this - keep listening. Although George Thorogood has a very distinctive singing voice, his axe slinging is nothing short of awesome! ("That Spoon", "Let It Rock"). From there we hear one of the few slow songs on the record ("Two Trains Running"), but even on the slow ones (a Muddy Waters tune, no less) George and his axe still dominate. And the axeman cometh ("Talk To Your Daughter", "Help Me"). Lest we forget - it takes a whole band to make the lead guitar and singer shine, and The Destroyers have four of the best and tightest: Jeff Simon on drums, Billy Blough on bass, Jim Suhler on guitar, and Buddy Leach on piano & sax. And they get their opportunity to strut their stuff on the only instrumental cut of the album - accompanied, again, by the great Charlie Mussellwhite on harmonica ("2120 South Michigan Avenue"). Whew, I need a cigarette. And that's my two nickels' worth...........................Nick

FCC ALERT: "None here"

ARTIST BIO:
George Thorogood (born February 24, 1950) is a blues rock  vocalist /guitarist  from Wilmington, Delaware  known for his hit song "Bad to the Bone " as well as for covers of blues standards  such as Hank Williams ' "Move It On Over " and John Lee Hooker 's "House Rent Boogie/One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer ". Another favorite is a cover of Bo Diddley 's "Who Do You Love? ". George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers have released 16 studio albums, including two that were certified Platinum  and six that have been certified Gold . The band has sold 15 million albums worldwide. The band is credited with the early success of Rounder Records .[1]

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THE MIGHTY MOJO PROPHETS

THE MIGHTY MOJO PROPHETS

Aug 1, 2011

On their first release, the Mighty Mojo Prophets serve up a platter of West Coast blues that a times swings and at others will take a slow lowdown beat that will touch your inner core. Led by vocalists Tom "Big Son" Eliff and guitarist Mitch Dow and harmonica great Alex "Lil A" Woodson the Mojo Prophets will draw comparisons to Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers as well as the late great William Clarke and James Harman. The Track "West Coast Blues" highlights the feeling of this disc and makes you believe that these prophets will really live this life until their dying day. "Da Switch" is swinging instrumental features some great guitar work from Mitch Dow. "My Baby" has a 1950's-60's laid back R&B sound to it and would make every good looking girl at the soda fountain melt. In addition to their West Coast blues sound you will also here echoes of Jump blues, western swing & the Chicago styling's of bands like Little Charlie and the Night Cats. My advice for you is to put some Boogie Woogie Rhythm in your traveling shoes and take in the Mojo that that these prophets are laying down as it will take you to places that can only be discovered on the thirteen tracks of this fine disc. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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THE BO-KEYS

Got to Get Back!

Jul 20, 2011

This outfit of veteran Memphis musicians are back again, this time with a set that pretty much alternates between funky instrumentals in Booker T. terrain and soul-stew vocal blues numbers featuring a solid list of stalwarts at the microphone: Otis Clay (#2 and #12), Percy Wiggins (#4), William Bell (#7) and Charlie Musselwhite (#9). Lead guitarist "Skip" Pitts goes all the way back to the famous licks he played on "The Theme from 'Shaft'" by Isaac Hayes and he's lost nothing over the years. Also memorable is organist Archie Turner, who gives many of the songs that "Green Onions" feel (check out "Jack and Ginger" for the proof). Musselwhite's "I'm Going Home" may be the peak of this disc, with an impassioned vocal, great rhythm support and Charlie's wailing harmonica. Can't sit still and listen to this stuff. 07/11 MJVD B-Rhythm & Blues (Memphis)

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LAURIE MORVAN BAND

BREATHE DEEP

Jul 5, 2011

Laurie Morvan continues to show that she is a force to be reckoned with in the Blues world. On her new disc "Breathe Deep" Laurie lights up her guitar and your imagination with eleven self written and produced tracks. The CD begins with the after work anthem "No Working During Drinking Hours". This is a rocking guitar track with lyrics that will make you want to grab your favorite adult beverage. On "Saved By The Blues" Laurie explains how she went looking for Jesus but found her own redemption after meeting Robert Johnson at the crossroads. "It Only Hurts When I Breathe" is a slow burning blues track which features Laurie's best guitar work on this disc and heart felt vocals and lyrics that can make you feel her pain and still enjoy every note. The only issues I have with this disc is after a couple listens many of the tracks begin to sound similar which makes me wonder if it is time for Laurie to work with a producer that can help vary her sound. I also missed some of the double entendres that were found on her excellent "Fire It Up Release". That being said I still recommend that you breathing in deep and enjoy the sweet sounds of the Laurie Morvan Band. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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RAY MANZAREK AND ROY ROGERS

TRANSLUCENT BLUES

Jun 30, 2011

As a member of the Doors where his keyboards played a pivotal role in hit after hit, it is safe to say that Ray Manzarek has been heard by almost every person who has ever tuned in to rock radio. While not as regular a presence on the radio, slide guitarist Roy Rogers has also been heard by the masses not only backing the likes of John Lee Hooker, Santana, Bonnie Raitt and Steve Miller but as a band leader in his own right. This release pairs the two of them laying down deep grooves behind poets and lyricists such as Michael McClure, Jim Carroll, Michael Ford and Warren Zevon. Instead of trying to fit their diverse talents into a standard blues mold, the two grab liberally from classic rock, jazz and blues rock. Those yearning for a taste of the Doors without hearing "Light My Fire" for the millionth time should head straight to "Game of Skill", "New Dodge City Blues" and "Fives and Ones" which feature the icy cold organ charts that fueled so much of the Doors sound and Manzarek’s gruff vocals which have grown to uncannily resemble Jim Morrison. "As You Leave" is a mysterious sounding instrumental that could easily find its way onto a movie soundtrack with its powerful imagery of both regret and a new beginning. "Kick" is a semi spoken groover that sounds right out of the drug-addled 60’s with McClure’s wild flight of a story about “demons on the razor sucking on the blade” while he is high and trying to ditch the powder. "River of Madness" is a piano driven number that develops a vaguely eastern feel as the song goes on. "Tension" has a pretty standard swamp rock beat until the mid-song bridge when it switches gears for a brief acoustic interlude before jumping back into the swampy stew. "Blues In My Shoes" and "New Dodge City Blues" give Rogers the chance to shine brightest with his slide guitar slithering and snaking around Manzerek’s keyboard work while "Greenhouse Blues" gives him the chance to lead the vocal charge on a tale about life in the burbs where the excitement of uptown is traded for the greenhouse. "Those Hits Just Keep on Comin’" isn’t about tunes on the radio; instead, it’s about hits to the heart from an errant lover. The instrumental closing cut "An Organ, a Guitar and a Chicken Wing" treads the closest to traditional blues with its wailing sax solo and shuffle groove. It would be the perfect end to a hot club set and is the perfect end to this great disc. Smitty

HADDEN SAYERS

Hard Dollar

Jun 26, 2011

Review of Hadden Sayers Hard Dollar by Steven "Nick" Nickelson:

Did I ever mention I am a fan of the blues? I just like the sheer range of musical styles all speaking the same language - of lost love, hard drinkin', hard livin', and more troubles than even Jonah could bear. This cd is a culmination of all that pain, coupled with a certain joi de vivre. Hadden has always played the soulful side of the blues, and this album demonstrates his prodigious song-writng skills, as well as his command of the electric guitar ("Flat Black Automobile", "Crush On You"). Coming from Texas, he is capable of holding his own with most ax slingers. He is at home, as well, when it comes to hard-driving Texas-style Blues a la SRV on "Burnin' Up". I think this is one of his best licks on the album, and that is no mean feat. On this cd, he is accompanied by his fellow travelers, Steven Wills on Bass Guitar, “Niko” Leophonte on drums, and featuring Ruthie Foster ("Back To The Blues"). On the only instrumental on this go-round ("Money Shot"), Hadden and company get that Blues Train goin' , and I can't help tappin' my toes to it. It's quite catchy, as well as tightly played. I had never heard this artist before, and frankly, I am surprised - given all the talent in him and his bandmates.

That's my two nickels worth........................Nick

FCC Clean

FCC ALERT: "Nothing happening here, folks"

ARTIST BIO:

Hadden Sayers, Lead Guitar/Lead Vocals Hadden was born in Nacogdoches, Texas and has lived all of his life throughout the state. He graduated from Clements High School in Sugar Land, Texas, and attended Texas A&M on an Ag Scholarship where he graduated with a degree in Agricultural Journalism. He moved to Austin and joined “Silent Partners,” a blues band on the Antones record label featuring famous blues sidemen Russell Jackson and Tony Coleman, both of whom played for B.B. King for many years and now lead their own groups. In August of 1993 he started his own band and never looked back. Today, The Hadden Sayers band performs in Clubs and festivals all over the world including Canada, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain and Russia. Hadden has performed, played or jammed with many others including: Kenny Neal, The Neville Brothers, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Susan Tedeschi, Double Trouble, Ian Moore, Marcia Ball, The Doobie Bros., Los Lobos, Bryan Adams and many, many others! The Hadden Sayers Band tours and records continuously. Watch for the release of our 5th CD entitled “12 Bars and the Naked Truth.” Steven Will, Bass Guitar Steven Will was born in Pasadena, Texas, and raised in the South Houston area. Hadden Sayers, Lead Guitar/Lead Vocals Hadden was born in Nacogdoches, Texas and has lived all of his life throughout the state. He graduated from Clements High School in Sugar Land, Texas, and attended Texas A&M on an Ag Scholarship where he graduated with a degree in Agricultural Journalism. Nicolas “Niko” Leophonte, Drums Niko Leophonte was born and raised in the South of France in the City of Toulouse. He became increasingly drawn to American blues and roots music until he decided to relocate to Austin, Texas, in 1996. His drumming skills quickly brought him to the attention of many of Austin’s top musicians including Derek O’Brien, Roscoe Beck and others. When he’s not touring with Hadden you just might find him down at Antone’s on a blue Monday jamming with Tommy Shannon or David Grissom. Or maybe you’ll see him cruising down South Lamar in his vintage 1964 Cadillac.He has played for many bands in the Houston and Austin area – most notably The Sheila Marshall Band, where he traveled extensively throughout the U.S. including Hawaii and also to Japan. He also played for Austin’s “Soapbox” and “Last American Virgin”. He was first associated with the Hadden Sayers Band in 1996 when he replaced founding member Charles Richard Knight on bass guitar. Steve went on to perform on the HSB album “Swingin’ from the Fabulous Satellite” before moving on to perform with other Texas notables. He has been back on the never-ending tour since January 2003.

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TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND

REVELATOR

Jun 23, 2011

After numerous guest stints with each other’s bands and on each other’s discs, husband and wife team Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks have finally joined forces as the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Eleven members strong, the band features Tedeschi and Trucks on guitar, twin percussionists, a Wurlitzer and B3, as well as a large horn section and numerous harmony vocalists. With the abundance of talent sharing the sonic stage there was a danger of all the musical space being filled like one of the end of the evening jams at the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony where everyone is playing but the songs lose the punch that made them great in the first place. That isn’t the case here. Instead, Tedeschi and Trucks occupy the central role and the balance of the band uses its collective talents to add color and texture to the 12 original tunes found on this set. Tedeschi’s rich, soulful vocals are seldom short of sublime, alternately sensual and steel hard gritty. For his part, Trucks’ guitar work displays all the mastery that keeps him busy as a member of the Allman Brothers Band and as the first call guitarist for bands looking to add roots rock authenticity to their release. Like Clapton, with whom he’s shared the stage numerous times, Trucks can lay down a strong lead but his skill is revealed most when he circles around the groove, echoes the vocals or throws in a quick taste of an Indian Raga to add just the right color. His touch, tone and fiery fret work stands virtually unchallenged in the blues and roots rock world. While the disc is a treasure trove of hooks and musical magic, standout tracks include the simmering "Midnight in Harlem", the rocking "Learn How to Love" and "Bound for Glory" which starts with a funky B3 groove before giving way to Truck’s slicing guitar and a wailing horn section. Bluesy, soulful, funky and passionate, this is a compelling release that will get lots of spins. Make sure to check out the funky hidden track, Ghost Light. SMITTY

Steve Cropper

Dedicated

Jun 9, 2011

The 5 Royales started as a gospel group in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. After switching to secular music, guitarist Pete Lowman Pauling penned several frequently covered. giant hits as varied as "This Is Dedicated to the One I Love" and "Monkey Hips and Rice." The band recorded for Apollo and then King Records. When Duck Dunn, little brother of a King Record employee turned his high school friend, Steve Cropper, on to the Royales, the Mar-Keys were born. Cropper and Dunn became legendary in the Stax Records House Band: Booker T and the M.G.'s. Steve Winwood, Bettye La Vette, Willie Jones, B.B. King, Shamekia Copeland, John Popper, Delbert McClinton, Sharon Jones, Buddy Miller, Dylan Leblanc, Brian May and Lucinda Williams join Steve Cropper in this celebration of the 5 Royales' legacy. Those that weren't familiar with the band were simply pulled along by Cropper's enthusiasm. A fitting tribute to R&B ancestors infused with the inimitable Steve Cropper and his Memphis roots. Lucinda on "Dedicated to the One I Love" is transcendent. Bettye La Vette is simply plaintive on "Say It." Check Winwood, King & Copeland, McClinton, or Jones. Not a bad track in the bunch. Reviewed By: Todd Townsend.

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TAB BENOIT

MEDICINE

Jun 7, 2011

Joined by such first call New Orleans based musicians as Anders Osborne on guitar, Ivan Neville on Hammond B3 and Michael Doucet on Fiddle, Louisiana guitarist Tab Benoit checks in here with 11 original tunes that showcase not only his prowess on guitar but his sharp eye for detail. On "Long Lonely Bayou" he laments his inability to catch a break in matters of both love and luck over a musical backdrop that has a traditional Cajun feel compliments of Doucet’s fiddle work. "In It to Win It" has a slow, stewing groove that propels Benoit’s tale of wanderlust and redemption as the prodigal son returns. "Mudboat Melissa" is an upbeat rocker that is more fun than the fate that awaits the unlucky soul that gets caught by troublesome Melissa. The title track features a guitar duel by Benoit and Osborne over a thumping bass and drum groove that adds an evil edge to the tale about seeking help through a fix that will either kill or cure you. Benoit’s activism in support of saving Louisiana’s embattled bayous and coastline is front and center in "A Whole Lotta Soul" where he suggests that those who don’t think the loss of the bayous is a big deal will change their tune when he demolishes their property in the same way the bayous have been destroyed in the name of progress. While many of the tracks simmer rather than burn, "Come and Get It" is a positively buoyant party track about ripping loose and letting the consequences catch up tomorrow. The Augie Myer’s penned "Can’t You See" hits a similar fun groove with Doucet’s fiddle work luring you to the dance floor. The presence of Anders Osborne is felt all over this disc with his guitar work continually pushing Benoit to stretch himself and his co-writing credits adding a bit more darkness to the mix than found on prior releases. Smitty

ROD PIAZZA AND THE ALL MIGHTY FLYERS

ALMIGHTY DOLLAR

Jun 7, 2011

Ditching the Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet label used for the last two releases, Rod Piazza and crew emerge on this disc as the All Mighty Flyers. The change is more than cosmetic as the band is accompanied here by a whole cast of guests including Johnny Dyer on vocals, Rusty Zinn on guitars, Jonny Viau on tenor sax and Norm Gonzalez and Hank Van Sickle on bass. This expanded crew fits seamlessly with the core band (Rod Piazza on harmonica and vocals, Miss Honey Piazza on keys, Henry Carvajal on guitars and Dave Kida on drums) and pushes it in directions that it doesn’t often explore on its own. For example, the classic "Ain’t Nobody’s Business" gets a slow, moody, Kansas City piano twist from Miss Honey instead of the upbeat West Coast swing style normally employed by the band. The Muddy Waters classic, "Loving Man", features Dyer’s delta fueled vocals over a soundtrack that sounds straight from Rosa’s Lounge on the South Side of Chicago. "We Belong Together" and "What Makes You so Tough" have a 50’s doo-wop and early rock vibe while "Wine, Wine, Wine" prominently features Viau’s Saxophone on the track ending solo after Rod’s “Mississippi Saxophone” has set the tone, an honor not lightly given by most harp men. That’s not to say that Rod keeps his harp in his pocket. The Little Walter gems, "That’s It and Confessin’" The Blues as well as his own "Con-Vo-Looted" feature massive doses of his drop dead great harmonica work. "Baby Don’t Go" has some great fireworks between Carvajal and Zinn before Piazza takes the band home with another great solo. As always, Piazza’s assured vocals add sly charm to the proceedings. The title track features Piazza’s tale of how hard it is for a musician to make a buck while Jimmy Liggins’ "Move Out Baby" features everything fans have come to love about the instrumental fireworks that fly between Rod and Miss Honey as they take solo turns. Speaking of fireworks, while there are few of the show stopping solos featured in the band’s live sets Miss Honey plays a more prominent role on this disc than on the last couple of efforts as the addition of the bass players frees her from holding down the groove as she’s been forced to do since the departure of long time bassist Bill Stuve a few years back. Her work on "Blue Shadows", adds immeasurably to what otherwise could be just another blues guitar showcase. Overall, this is one of the better discs in the band’s long discography. Smitty

TRACY NELSON

VICITIM OF THE BLUES

Jun 7, 2011

On her 26th disc since her 1964 debut, Deep Are the Roots, singer Tracy Nelson returns to her blues roots. Skipping the fake enthusiasm often displayed by those reuniting with the past (think 15 year high school reunion), Nelson by-passes the air kisses and exaggerated back stories and instead greets the blues with the warm embrace of someone falling into the natural rhythm of an old friendship. With tunes that have kicked around so long that they are part of her natural vocabulary, Nelson has no trouble making you believe they are her own. Nelson’s voice remains a wondrous instrument capable of morphing from a Koko Taylor like growl to a purring soul sister with stops at every shade of blue in between. Kicking things off is a rollicking rendition of the Howlin’ Wolf classic, "You’ll Be Mine", which is propelled as much by Jimmy Pugh’s piano work and Mike Henderson’s slicing guitar as by Nelson’s rich, deep vocals. Another Wolf great, "Howlin’ for My Baby", finds Nelson accompanied by Angela Strehli on vocals for a party ready rave up. Percy Mayfield’s "Stranger In My Own Home Town" is a classic slice of soul blues with plenty of B3 grease to keep things moving. The Ma Rainey penned title cut has a jug band feel that adds a nice counterpoint to the Jimmy Reed shuffles, "Shoot My Baby" (featuring piano and vocals from pal Marcia Ball) and "I Know It’s a Sin". Earl Thomas’ "Lead A Horse to Water" has a great swampy feel, rousing gospel overtones and the great line “you can lead a man to knowledge/but you can’t make him think” The Muddy Waters penned "One More Mile" cut by Otis Spann in the 60’s has haunted Nelson since she first heard it. Her version here showcases her rich voice, revealing nuance and complexity that can get lost in the faster paced tunes. This is a terrific release that is a welcome reunion between Tracy Nelson and the blues. Smitty

AL BASILE

THE GOODS

Jun 7, 2011

While the Cornet has a well established place in Jazz and occasionally finds its way into the blues as part of a horn section, it seldom gets featured as the main counter-point to the guitar as the lead instrument. East Coast horn man Al Basile has worked tirelessly to change that. On this, his eighth solo disc since leaving the original line up of Roomful of Blues in the mid-70’s, Basile continues to make the case for the Cornet as a peer of every other instrument that finds its way to the blues bandstand. Jumping in where a sax or harp would normally appear, Basile uses his Cornet to add a brassy texture to the 13 originals featured here. As well as that works, it isn’t really the whole story here. In fact, as with his past discs, it is Basile’s strong skills as a writer that carries the day. Flexing his master’s degree in creative writing and his long tenure as a poet and teacher, Basile, has crafted compelling tales of love stopping the clock of time, "Time Can Wait", the scourge of the telephone, "Mr. Graham Bell", a bank robbery gone way bad, "1.843 Million", a lust that can’t be cured, "The Itch", and a one way woman, "She’s A Taker". Despite his high brow credentials, Basile has no trouble taking a trip down the traditional blues path with some witty double entendre songs including "Don’t Sleep on Santa" and "I Want to Put it There". Nasty! Most of material here would fit nicely on a Tower of Power disc with hot- wired horn charts and soul blues grooves compliments of the Duke Robillard Band. "Lie Down in Darkness (Raise Up In Light)" follows a different path with The Blind Boys of Alabama adding their gospel touch to the proceedings. If you haven’t taken the plunge, it’s time to take a break from the Little Walter and Eddie Shaw wannabes and add some brass to your life. With great charts, strong songwriting and expert delivery, there probably isn’t a better place to start than with this disc. Smitty

TRAMPLED UNDER FOOT

Wrong Side of the Blues

Jun 3, 2011

What kind of blues can three white-bread siblings from Kansas City possibly produce? Well, one listen to this new disc by Trampled Under Foot answers the question--rockin' blues with soulful vocals and signature electric guitar punctuation. Nick, Danielle and Kris Schnebelen were raised by blues-loving and blues-playing parents in K.C. and the gene pool produced another generation of bluesologists who upped the ante on mom and dad. This is rockin' set of tunes, with Danielle's smoky vocal chords a clear highlight. Etta James's B-3 guy, Mike Finnegan, adds some nice keyboard action and Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson blows the harp on "She's Long, Tall and Gone." But the sibs themselves are the show here, with brother Nick showing his guitar prowess in a number of places throughout the set; in 2008, Nick won the Albert King guitar award and the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Danielle's voice scorches "It Would Be Nice" (written by her dad, by the way). Good job, kids--and they even let mom (Lisa) sing background vocals on "Get it Straight" and the title track. 06/11 MJVD B-Rock

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ELVIN BISHOP

RAISIN' HELL REVUE

May 31, 2011

Recorded live on the 2010 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, Elvin "Bad Boy" Bishop was determined to raise a little hell. The CD begins with the Cajun sounds of one of Elvin's signature tracks "Callin' All Cows." Elvin recreates his 1976 hit "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" replacing the original vocals from Mickey Thomas of Starship fame with the more roots and soulful sounds of John Nemeth. "What The Hell Is Goin' On" ask the question of what is happening in the world today and along with the bluesy "Dyin Flu" and the rocking soulful feel of "Rock My Soul" represent the only tracks on this disc which feature Elvin on vocals. The Ray Charles classic "The Night Time Is The Right Time" and the blues R & B classic "It Hurts Me Too" which was originally recorded by Tampa Red in 1949 certainly represent two outstanding rhythm and blues cover tracks. The 1950's sounds of "Bye Bye Baby" featuring John Nemeth on vocals certainly bids ado to what had to be one magical evening on the high seas. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur.

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BRAD VICKERS & HIS VESTAPOLITANS

Traveling Fool

May 26, 2011

FCC ALERT: "nothing here, folks"

ARTIST BIO: "Of particular note, I should add, is the equal importance of his Vesapolitans line-up: Bill Rankin on percussion; Margey Peters, who adds her rich and sonorous playing on bass and fiddle; the great Jim Davis on clarinet and tenor saxophone; Matt Cowan on baritone saxophone; and one of my favorite guitar (and piano!) pickers, Arne Englund. The estimable V.D. King also makes an appearance with this fine ensemble.

I can't say enough about Dave Gross's production on this CD. As a guest myself on this session, I had the opportunity to observe him in the production/engineer capacities. All I can say is this: I had one of the best times in years being involved with the making of this recording. A great captain at the helm always gets the best out of musicians. I'd put him up with my favorites, Hammond Scott (Black Top), Peter K. Siegal, and Chris Matheos. All of this said, if you're in the mood to spend some time listening and dancing-don't forget, Mister Vickers is a rocker to the core!-to some downright incredibly hip music, then slap this in your favorite player and tear it up!" -Bobby Radcliff

[5:43] 1. Traveling Fool [3:34] 2. Because I Love You That Way [4:37] 3. Diggin' My Potatoes [4:07] 4. Don't Take My Cadillac [2:43] 5. Uh Oh! [2:54] 6. No Baby, No [5:39] 7. Leave Me Be [3:58] 8. Low Down Dirty Shame [2:43] 9. Glad Rags [3:42] 10. In My Dream [4:05] 11. Fourteen Women [3:26] 12. Skeeter Song [3:35] 13. Without Moolah [5:58] 14. How Long Blues [3:33] 15. Rockabilly Rumble

Nick's Picks: 01, 03, 10

Review of Brad Vickers & His Vestapolitans by Steven "Nick" Nickelson:

The very first jump jive song out of the box ("Traveling Fool") elicits that primal urge to toe-tap or more. Really tight group, and the sax just smokes. Arne Englund' piano playing is spot on, and his smokin' hot arpeggios keeps the audience in awe. The unique thing about Brad Vickers is that hs musical stylings are a throwback to earlier days when there were no mixing boards or synthesizers. It makes for some "authentic" sounds. Much of this cd reminds me of the time we spent in "Nawlins" in the French Quarter. We stayed on Bourbon Street and our room was on the second floor overlooking Preservation Hall. I can still hear that music coming out the doorway and wafting its way across the street. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band was cranked up until the wee hours! Listening to Brad Vickers and His Vestapolitans took me right btack in time to that Mardi Gras of twenty years ago. "Diggin' My Potatoes" is an old blues standard, but Brad and company surround it and make it their own. Most of the cuts on this third release by Brad Vickers are, in fact, penned by Brad; however, I just have to say that the arrangements and instrumentation sound SO classically delta-style blues. A lot of the work that went into making this realistically raw and tight sound accrues to producer Dave Gross (who produced a recent release by another talented artist - Gina Sicilia). I can confidently state that if Dave Gross is your producer, then you already have a leg up on all the other talent out there. I digress, though - this is about Brad Vickers and His Vestapolitans. On one of this cd's instrumentals, we are treated to a really fast-paced sax duet between Jim Davis on tenor, and Matt Cowan on baritone - followed briefly by a lead guitar, bass guitar duet. Although it was a short little tune, it was a toe-tapper ("Uh, Oh!"). From there, we segue into a blues cut as slow as Mississippi mud, but thick with masterly tunes from all band members. This is one band that should be a must-see-live band. That's my two nickels worth..............Nick

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JAMES KINDS

Love You from the Top

May 25, 2011

James Kinds learned to play guitar as a youngster in Mississippi, and later moved to Chicago, as many bluesmen did before him. What James did that was against the grain was to wind up in Dubuque, Iowa and hold court week after week as the resident blues guru at a place called the "Mississippi Mug," earning an induction into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame. He always had the blues-making stuff, but always flew under the radar until Chicago blues label Delmark decided to give the man his due. James's jangly-guitar blues and pleading tenor vocal give him a distinctive sound--check out the title track, "Oo Wee Baby," "Body Slam" and "I Can't Take It." He basically tells his life story in "Mason Dixon Line Blues." Who knew the blues was alive in Dubuque? 05/11 MJVD B-Electric (Chicago) TRACKS #3 and #15: After 10 p.m.

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GINA SICILIA

Can't Control Myself

May 10, 2011

Nick's Picks: 01 Addicted , 03 Members Only

FCC ALERT: Not on this cd

Review of Gina Sicilia can't control myself

This is the third release for this 25-year-old singer/songwriter offering excellent music and listenable lyrics. After listening for awhile, I am really impressed with the level of sophistication (musically speaking) from this talented chanteuse. Right from the start we are treated to a a he-done-me-wrong-so-I'm-drinkin'-myself-to-death-song with a wry sense of humor, sung in a smokey, deep-throated, "so hot, I'm on fire" voice ("Addicted"). If I didn't know better, I would swear that Gina sounds exactly like Grace Potter (and that is a compliment) on the third cut ("Members Only") - I almost get the impression that she is making love to the mic - so into the music and lyrics does she go. "Before The Night Is Through" sounds an awful lot like a reggae derivation of a song performed by The Drifters ("Under The Boardwalk"), but I like her music better. I also like her twist on a classic Stevie Wonder song ("A Place In The Sun"), with the full instrumental vibrato. Gina is really developing some awesome songwriting skills, and this album is full of some of the best writing I have heard in awhile. "Can't Control Myself" is a very good example of her ability to not only write great music, but to perform it equally well. And now that she has mastered the blues, she has dipped her toes in the country waters ("As Long As You're Here"). After listening to this cd, I have not been able to pigeon-hole her singing style, either. One time she sounds remarkably like Amy Winehouse ("Wish The Clock Would Stop"), a deep breath, and she comes on like a suburban Crystal Gayle ("Once In A While"). With the exception of the subject matter ("Crazy 'Bout You, Baby"), Gina Sicilia sounds like a female version of CCR's John Fogerty. I can only say that I fully expect to hear much more from this talented young lady.

That's my two nickel's worth...................................Nick

ARTIST BIO: Gina Sicilia: Vocals Dave Gross: Background vocals, acoustic & electric guitar, slide guitar, electric & upright bass, drums, piano, wurlitzer, B3, accordion, toy piano; Matt Cowan Bariton & tenor saxophones Jon-Erik Kellso: Trumpet; Sean Daly: lap steel; To be sure, Philadelphia-based vocalist and songwriter Gina Sicilia has come a long way in a relatively short time in the blues world. This is not to say that she's some new up-and-comer, either, as this woman in her mid-twenties has been actively singing the blues and writing her own songs since she was an adolescent.  Exposed to blues and roots music by her parents, Sicilia began writing her own songs as a 12-year-old. By the time she was 16, she would have some of the songs that would be included on her debut album. She graduated in 2007 from Temple University in Philadelphia with a degree in journalism. It was during her sophomore year in college that she began attending the weekly blues jams at Warmdaddy's in Philadelphia. She cut her teeth there and began to learn and develop as she associated with blues veterans, some of whom would help her record her first few demo discs. When her debut album, Allow Me to Confess , was released in 2007, the critical reaction was positive. She was talked about as an important new voice in the blues with a maturity far beyond her years, evident in her choice of covers, where she interpreted oft-overlooked rhythm & blues classics. In the spring of 2008, her album was nominated for "Best New Artist Debut" at the W.C. Handy/Blues Music Awards in Memphis.  Her second release, Hey Sugar , let fans know that while she was only in her early twenties, she could also tackle alternative country and Americana tunes with virtuosity and aplomb. Her third release is the powerful Can't Control Myself , released on March 1, 2011, just days before her 26th birthday. Sicilia  widens her stylistic palette even more with this disc, fusing classic blues, classic R&B, soul, and Americana tunes into a cohesive whole. She includes three covers made famous by Bobby "Blue" Bland , Stevie Wonder , and Ike & Tina Turner . Her third album was recorded and engineered by her VizzTone labelmate, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriterDave Gross , at his home studios in northern New Jersey.  Blues Revue magazine said of Sicilia 's 2007 debut, "Not since Susan Tedeschi has a young female blues singer made such a strong impression….a remarkable voice." Coupled with good management and a good booking agency, Sicilia should be touring the U.S., Canada, and Europe for years to come. And given the current paucity of truly good female blues singers, this would not be a bad thing.

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SHAUN MURPHY

TROUBLE WITH LOVIN'

May 2, 2011

Shaun Murphy has been the voice of Little Feat, worked and toured with the likes of Bob Seger and Eric Clapton. On her second solo release and follow up to her terrific 2009 release "Livin The Blues", Shaun has added a large dose of soul to her blues. As the title suggests, This CD is filled with tracks that deal with the heartaches associated with relationships gone wrong and the emotions that dig deep into the soul of a women. This is especially evident on the title track, "Blue Tears", "Did You Call" and the slow heart wrench of the "Rio Esperanza". For those looking for the roots sound found in her work with Little Feat work you may be disappointed as Shaun has gone full circle and gone back to the blues that made so many take notice at the 1969 Ann Arbor blues fest and as a blues artist in the early 1970's. This CD places Shaun Murphy as one of the best female blues artists recording today and she really makes you feel the emotions associated with love and the trouble it can bring. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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Smithereens

2011

Apr 23, 2011

Whenever you ever return to New York City, the first thing you feel is the throbbing beat. The familiar thrumming background noise is almost comforting. It's the pace, it's the commerce, it's the trains. It's the music pouring out of tenements and taxis. The Smithereens are back with their first new material in over 10 years. Though they hail from New Jersey, the familiar beat of the Smithereens evokes the unique space they created; black leather, cigarettes, Times Square and well crafted guitar rock. The album, called "2011," is as comfortable as an old leather jacket and thrums like The Big Apple. Its a warm, welcome blast of energy, like the one you can feel before you're even halfway across the George Washington Bridge. Tapping into Stateside roots like Buddy Holly and the Byrds, plus the fertile orchards of the Beatles and the British Mods, the Smithereens staked out their own sophisticated East Coast sound. They can rock out with the best of the power chord addicts, like on "What Went Wrong" and "Sorry." Their jangling evocative Byrds and Beatles sounds show through on "Goodnight Goodbye," "One Look at You," "A World of Our Own" and "How Can I Turn it Around." "Ring On Her Finger" and "Viennese Hangover" will fill your head with rich imagery. Songs like "Keep On Running," "Nobody Lives Forever" and "Bring Back the One I Love" are chock full of all these influences and distilled to the pure power and prowess of The Smithereens. Reviewed by Todd Townsend

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LARRY TAYLOR

They Were in This House

Apr 22, 2011

A great German import release featuring the West Side Chicago blues of little-known (outside of the Windy City) Larry Taylor and his family. Little Larry grew up in a literal house of the blues as famous bluesmen such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Elmore James were regular visitors, jamming with Larry's stepdad and chowing down on his mom's legendary soul food cooking. Larry got the blues deep down and played as a kid and young man, in bands led by other Chicago greats. In 2000, he began to lead his own bands. This release is a bit of "greatest hits" package, pulling from Taylor's work from 1987 to today. With all of the hype South Side Chicago blues music gets, it is easy to overlook the West Side -- just as gritty, just as soul-stirring, just as excellent. Check out the Howlin' Wolf tune "I Didn't Want to Hurt Your Feelings," "Knocking at Your Door" and "Green Line Blues" (I took that same "L" train line as a kid). Cool blues from an amazing house. 04/11 B-Electric (Chicago) Michael J.

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JOHNNY AND THE MoTONES

NOTHIN' TO LOSE

Apr 12, 2011

Next to milk and cheese, Johnny And The MoTones may be favorite export from Wisconsin. Keyboardist Johnny Altenburgh has assembled a twelve piece band that includes hot horns, great guitar and a rhythm section that explores the essence of jump blues, contemporary blues and a large dose of R&B. The CD begins with the swinging sounds of the title track "Nothin' To Lose" and "Baby Don't Jump" both these tracks would fill any dance floor. After working up a sweat on the dance floor, the band slows things down with the contemporary blues sounds of "That's Why I sing The Blues" The Johnny Altenburgh original "Wish You Were Young Again" showcases his writing talents and can touch every nerve of your fiber. "The White Cliffs of Dover" is a classic that is set to a jump blues sound and features some amazing vocals from Kevin Moore. The band then sets into three tracks that show their talents at modern day R&B before ending with the classic Hendrix track "Hey Joe". You have Nothin' To Lose by experiencing this great disc, but everything to loose if you don't. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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RORY BLOCK

SHAKE 'EM ON DOWN- A TRIBUTE TO MISSISSIPPI FRED MCDOWELL

Apr 5, 2011

After taking on the legacy of Robert Johnson and Son House Rory Block turns her attention to Mississippi Fred McDowell. Unlike those earlier efforts, which were exclusively limited to Block’s take on the artist’s own work, this set includes not only McDowell’s tunes but a number of originals that are inspired by McDowell’s hard driving style with Block’s lyrics and music. "Steady Freddy" is Block’s biography of McDowell’s evolution into a bluesman including her guess as to the origin of his oft-repeated phrase “I don’t play no rock ‘n’ roll” while "Mississippi Man" is Block’s autobiographical tale about her first encounter with McDowell when she was a 15 year old runaway who became smitten with him and his blues. "Shake ‘Em On Down" is sexy and salacious with Block’s layered vocals adding a girl group flavor. "Good Morning Little School Girl" gets gender flipped by Block and will have some wondering if she’s a dangerous old cougar in search of young prey. As she explains in the liner notes she has no such tastes but simply tried to get across a point of view from another era where today’s taboos were once the accepted norm. "Ancestral Home" stretches furthest from McDowell’s blues by skipping back to his roots for a world beat inspired take on his family being taken into slavery. One of the hardest hitting tracks here is "The Breadline" which uses classic McDowell riffs to propel Block’s timely tale of being on the wrong side of the economic line while looking up at the fat cats on the other side. Block spits out the lyrics with a passion that makes it clear that her anger has deep roots and isn’t just an abstract take on social justice. The set closes out with the raw "Write Me A Few of Your Lines" which gets its power from not only the driving guitar groove but Block’s edgy vocals. Overall, another fine addition to Block’s growing catalog of tribute discs to early bluesmen. Smitty

BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA

TAKE THE HIGH ROAD

Apr 5, 2011

Hey, you got Gospel on my Country! Hey, you got Country on my Gospel! And so it goes on this collaboration between the venerable gospel group, Blind Boys of Alabama and some of Country music’s big names including the Oakridge Boys, Hank Williams, Jr., Vince Gill, Lee Ann Womack, Jamey Johnson and Willie Nelson. Tapping into gospel’s rich tradition of high energy music and multi-layered harmonies, the results here generate enough power that even the devil could be excused for checking his options. The title cut and Hank William’s "I Saw the Light" are prototypical gospel rave-ups while "Jesus, Hold My Hand" has enough funk to make you wonder if James Brown has been resurrected to join the proceedings. The harmonica licks and Vince Gill’s bluesy reading of "Can You Give Me a Drink?" serve to propel the proceedings into a tent revival frenzy. Once you are there, you can’t help but to be swept away by the sweet testifying of "Stand By Me", "Jesus Built a Bridge to Heaven" and by the Muddy Waters penned, "Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You". "I know a Place", "Have Thine Own Way Lord" (featuring Jamey Johnson), "I Was a Burden" (featuring Lee Ann Womack) and "Family Bible" (featuring Willie Nelson) slow things down considerably and tread closer to the country side of the proceedings. Those with an aversion to hard core country need not flee these proceedings as the lap steel that appears here and there only adds season to the traditional gospel sounds. Overall, a disc that will find favor on both sides of the thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Smitty

LOS LONELY BOYS

ROCKPANGA

Apr 5, 2011

Rockpango is a word made by Henry, JoJo and Ringo Garza meaning rock party. On their fourth studio and best since their 2004 self titled release, Los Lonely Boys throws exactly that. The CD begins with the rocker American Idle a track dealing with the need to make a dollar, but how we forget to love and take care of one another. The second track "Fly Away" is an acoustic piece with some nice guitar Henry Garza and could represent this discs Heaven. The track "16 Monkeys" is the most humorous and funky disc found on this disc. The title track returns to the rock sounds with Henry definitely lifting some guitar rifts from Jimmy Hendrix. The track "Smile" showcases the Pop sounds of the brothers with some nice strings thrown into the mix. The worst track on this disc is the novelty song "Porn Star" which includes a short rap and could be dedicated to Charlie Sheen. The CD ends as it begins with a rocker proclaiming that no matter what we should never give up on love. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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STUDEBAKER JOHN'S MAXWELL STREET KINGS

THAT'S THE WAY YOU DO

Mar 25, 2011

This 15 cut disc of original tunes by Studebaker John Grimaldi finds him leaving his long time band the Hawks on the sidelines in favor of the lean line up of Rick Kreher on guitar and Steve Cushing on drums. Notice I said original tunes, not original music. And that’s a good thing. The music here is straight out of the glory days of Chicago’s open air Maxwell Street market where countless blues musicians such as Robert Nighthawk and Carey Bell paid the rent by throwing open their guitar case or laying down a hat for whatever cash their efforts merited from the shoppers on the prowl for the day’s deals. While the line up here is spare, the sound is full. Cushing lays down a rock solid foundation while John and Kreher trade stinging guitar riffs. Add John’s well-honed harmonica and nimble vocals (that uncannily mimic those of rocker John Hiatt) and you’ve got a serious jam going on. The disc starts on a strong note with John’s harmonica leading the charge through "That’s the Way You Do" where John’s woman is getting shown the door after drinking and carousing with everyone in town but him. The sinister slide guitar that propels "Side by Side" proves the perfect accomplice to someone already so far into the blues that he has nothing left to trade to the devil at the crossroads. As befitting its inspiration, "Headin’ Down to Maxwell Street" is a blues shuffle of the first order but the band shines even brighter on the instrumentals "B-Line" and "Taylor Street Boogie" and the scorching rocker, "So In Love With You", which could wind up on a George Thorogood disc with its over the top slide histrionics. Other highlights include the shuffle "Fine Cadillac" which combines some great slide with sly lyrics about a hot woman, the double entendre gem, "When Your Mule Won’t Ride" and the slow grinders "If You Would Love Me" and "Son of the Seventh Son" that showcase the ability of the crew to ride deep in the pocket using the minimum number of notes to make the maximum impact. For those that like their blues straight, no chaser, That’s the Way You Do hits all the right spots. SMITTY

MARCIA BALL

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

Mar 25, 2011

After 15 discs including her solo work and her wildly successful trio recordings with Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton (Dreams Come True) and Tracy Nelson and Irma Thomas (Sing It) Marcia Ball has reached the point in her career where she could make a decent living by just hitting the festival circuit with her greatest hits in tow. Instead, she’s writing and recording some of the best material in her career. This disc features 12 cuts that are all self-penned with the exception of a quartet of tunes she co-wrote with the legendary Dan Penn and producer Gary Nicholson including the soulful duo of "Look before You Leap" and "Believing in Love" and the house party anthem "The Party’s Still Going On". While there are ample doses of Ball’s signature piano driven dance floor numbers, "We Fell Hard" and "Sugar Boogie" she also turns reflective on "This Used to Be Paradise" where she recounts her grandfather’s sad review of “progress” brought to the bayou country by the oilmen and weighs in on the universal quest for love, "Everybody’s Looking For the Same Thing". Speaking of love, things go really badly first for Ball, then for her lover, when she listens through a cheap hotel wall and catches him apologizing to his wife for his affair, "I Heard it All". Things are much better for all concerned at her beloved home on "Between Here and Kingdom Come" and on the title cut where she admits that all the kitschy cement dinosaurs, balls of twine and other highlights of the world pale in comparison to getting home to her man. Changing things up a bit, "Mule Headed Man" is a slow blues about a man who’d rather listen to the siren song of the bottle than to reason while "That’s How It Goes" is served up with a gospel fervor and a reminder to treasure each day as it comes. Ball has been so consistently good over her career that it is easy to take her for granted at the end of the year when ranking the best releases. This one deserves being remembered all year long. Smitty

KILBORN ALLEY

Four

Mar 16, 2011

Kilborn Alley was nominated by the BMA in 2007 as Best New Artist. This is their fourth album, with four band members: Andrew Duncanson (vocals, guitar), Josh Stimmel (guitar), Chris Breen (bass), and Ed O’Hara (drums). The band has been described as moving through different components of the blues and Four showcases many sub-genres, although the acoustics are a little boxy. Track 1 “Rent House Boogie” is fast-paced and full of harp with Duncanson yellin’. Track 3 “Couple of Days” is sweet and soulful with its lyrics “you know I’m not the kind of guy who’ll smile when it’s a lie” and “I’ll change my ways for a couple of days.” Track 9 “Sitting on the Bank” rumbles along the rural blues road with stomping good harmonica and “Dressed Up Messed Up” is a be-bop number that recalls that 50s vibe. The last track, “Going Hard,” is a 10 minute slow burn work of art. - Pam VandeKerkhoff

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BIG HEAD BLUES CLUB

100 YEARS OF ROBERT JOHNSON

Mar 7, 2011

Everyone that has listened to the blues has heard it. Almost everything in the blues owes something to it. Every rock and blues guitarist worth his six strings has done it at least once. Clapton did a whole album of it. Rory Block and John Hammond did whole albums of it as well. Big Head Todd and the Monsters do it here. What is “it” you ask? Simple: The music of Robert Johnson. Given that the mere 29 songs Johnson recorded in his all too short life have been performed more times than almost anything in the blues one can be forgiven for approaching this disc by a Colorado rock band with some sense of skepticism. What twists can they possibly add to these tunes that makes them any different than the countless and often tired covers done by those who travelled this road before them? It turns out that by adding legendary bluesmen including Charlie Musselwhite, B.B. King, Honeyboy Edwards and Hubert Sumlin, who have travelled the road before and know where the potholes and detours lie, the band is able to get a few more miles out of these old warhorses of tunes. Avoiding the hard rock slam that Led Zepplin, The Dead, Cream, Canned Heat and others used in their own attempts at reinvention as well as the note for note homage that more often is the approach to Johnson’s work, the crew assembled here takes a middle road. Neither hard rocking nor bare bones acoustic, the tunes are mostly electric but often use Jeremy Lawton’s cool keyboard work in lieu of guitar histrionics to add something new. Highlights include B.B. King cutting loose on "Crossroad Blues", Ruthie Foster laying down some Bessie Smith style vocals on "Kind Hearted Woman", Lightnin’ Malcolm and Cedric Burnside trading guitar and drum beats on "If I Had Possession over Judgment Day" and the mysterious sounding "Last Fair Deal Gone Down". Smitty

TOM PRINCIPATO

A PART OF ME

Mar 7, 2011

Washington DC based guitarist and vocalist Tom Principato has a forty year plus career and jam-packed resume to his credit. With more than a dozen solo discs and stints with everyone from Geoff Muldaur to Big Mama Thornton, Sunnyland Slim and guitar virtuoso Danny Gatton, one would think he’d be on cruise control by now contentedly rehashing old blues chestnuts. But that is hardly the case. This new disc finds him in possession of a full slate of original material and surrounded by musical royalty including Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones) on keys, Sonny Landreth on guitar, Wayne Jackson (Memphis Horns) on trumpet, Willie Weeks (Eric Clapton) on bass and a solid core band of fellow DC musicians. Of course new tunes and hired talent don’t mean anything if the music just fills space. From the first wailing notes and hot-wired guitar duel with Sonny Landreth on "Don’t Wanna Do It" there is little doubt that Principato is still playing for keeps and has no use for recycling tired old riffs or letting his guests do the heavy lifting. He also has no use for musical ruts. The horn-driven "Part of Me" sounds like a lost soul classic, while "Back Again & Gone", "Down the Road" and "Stranger’s Eyes Pt. 2" are inventive, jazzy instrumentals that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Lee Ritenour or John Scofield disc. "Down In Lou’siana" is a hard-chugging rocker with second line grooves propelled by Leavell’s greasy b3 and Principato’s dazzling fretwork: his solos before the last chorus and on the fade out are pure electric guitar bliss. "Sweet Angel" sounds straight out of the Clapton songbook circa 461 Ocean Boulevard or No Reason to Cry due in no small part to Principato’s vocals which sound uncannily like Slowhand throughout this disc. This is a terrific disc from a musician deserving of wider acclaim. Smitty

POPA CHUBBY

ESSENTIAL

Mar 7, 2011

This 16 song set features cuts from eight of the 10 discs that Popa Chubby has cut for the Blind Pig label. As is to be expected from an “essential” collection, many of Chubby’s signature tunes make an appearance including "Daddy Played the Guitar and Mama Was a Disco Queen", "How’d a White Boy Get the Blues", "Sweet Goddess of Love & Beer", "Slide Devil Man Slide" and his roaring live version of the Hendrix classic, "Hey Joe". While most know of Chubby’s incendiary electric guitar work this set also showcases his ability to craft songs such as "Like the Buddha Do" and "Back in My Baby’s Arms" that in a fair world would find their way onto mainstream radio with their friendly pop hooks. Those that haven’t gotten past Chubby’s tattooed bad boy image and the party-hearty titles of some of his biggest tunes will be surprised to discover that he also has the ability to be downright serious as on his cover of Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah" and even good heartedly playful as revealed on the Carter family classic "Keep on the Sunnyside of Life" which he wrests from its bluegrass roots and turns into a rock anthem. With so many great songs to his credit it is easy to quibble with what was left off this release but the solid line up that does appear will hopefully send newcomers to the source discs to see what they are missing. Fans will simply enjoy this as a one stop tour of some great musical moments. Smitty

JOE BONAMASSA

Dust Bowl

Mar 3, 2011

Nick's Picks: 04 “Meaning of the Blues”, 02 “Dust Bowl”, 07 “The Last Matador of Bayonne” Review by Nick Nickelson of Dust Bowl by Joe Bonamassa Joe who? “Qne of the greatest living blues guitarists you've never heard of” will be playing DeVos Performance Hall the day before this album is released to the public. Billboard Magazine ranked him as #1 Blues Artist of 2010 (listen to “The Last Matador of Bayonne” for a sample), William Morris Agency represents him, and he is the Music News Correspondent for Channel One (the largest in-school TV News Network). I think all that super-talented obscurity has turned the corner. Having heard this album for about six hours, now, I am eager to catch the live show. For those of you who don't go to his concert on March 21st, you will be missing some of the hottest blues licks this side of Stevie Ray Vaughan, whose influence can be noted on “You Better Watch Yourself” (also on a cover of John Hiatt's “Tennessee Plates”). The influence of Eric Clapton is all over this album, too, but most notably a cover of Paul Rodgers' “Heartbreaker”, and also “Sweet Rowena”; however, you can't help but notice the velvety voice of the author, Vince Gill, on this cut (as well as his unique guitar stylings). Over half these songs on this cd were written by Joe Bonamassa, so the guy is not only a great axeman, he is a great songwriter. He has stated that the blues he writes about are not your typical topics (no baby leavin', etc.), but they are about experiences in his life. I'm not sure where he encountered the “Dust Bowl” but it must have been a mind-blowing experience – at least his playing and the arrangement are. Another original song is “Slow Train”, which emulates the movement of a train. It starts off slow, then builds in speed and volume to some truly inspired and unbelievably faster than a speeding train guitar playing. Again, the arrangement of this song is just amazing. “Black Lung Heartache” is another great (IMHO) song, that demonstrates the versatility of this amazing singer/songwriter. The transition from bluegrass to hard rock and back to bluegrass is just incredible! If you don't own any of his cds, this is the one to buy! And don't miss the concert!! Just my two nickels,. --------Nick

ARTIST BIO Early life Bonamassa was born and raised in Utica, New York to parents that owned and ran a guitar shop. As a fourth-generation musician, he recalls knowing he wanted to be a musician as early as age four. With a great-grandfather and grandfather who both played trumpet, and a father who plays guitar, Bonamassa credits his parents in fostering an appreciation of music in his life as early as he can remember. When he was a young child, he would listen to his parents' large record collection. He recalls at age 7, sitting with his parents on Saturdays and listening to Guitar Slim, Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Eric Clapton, and Jethro Tull. Thus, he sees his music as an amalgam of all the various rock and blues he heard as a child. He received his first guitar from his father at the age of 4, and by age 7 he was playing Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix tunes note for note. At the age of 11, during a short period of being mentored by Danny Gatton, he learned such styles as country and jazz as well as heavy rock. During this time with Gatton, Bonamassa sat in with Gatton's band whenever they played in New York. He first opened for B. B. King at 12 years of age. After first hearing him play, King said, “This kid's potential is unbelievable. He hasn't even begun to scratch the surface. He's one of a kind.” At 14, he was invited to attend a Fender guitar event; during that trip to the West Coas he met Berry Oakley, Jr. Bonamassa and Berry founded the group Bloodline with Miles Davis' son Erin and Robby Krieger's son Waylon. They released one album which produced two chart singles — "Stone Cold Hearted", and "Dixie Peach." He has since played with other music greats including Buddy Guy, Foreigner, Robert Cray, Stephen Stills, Joe Cocker, Gregg Allman Steve Winwood, Paul Jones, Ted Nugent, Warren Haynes, Eric Clapton, and Derek Trucks.

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JOHN-ALEX MASON

JOOK JOINT THUNDERCLAP

Feb 25, 2011

While he’s joined here on a number of tracks by the likes of Cody and Cedric Burnside, Gerry Hundt and Lightnin’ Malcom, John-Alex Mason often plays as a one man band laying down percussion, rhythm and lead guitar to back up his roots stained vocals. His last effort, "Town and Country" split its time between hot-wired electric numbers (town) and spare acoustic tracks (country). This release trends towards the relentless groove associated with the Jook Joint of its title. "Rolled and Tumbled" is a slinky number with the mid-song breakdown on the Stone’s "Midnight Rambler" coming to mind. "Gone So Long" features some testifying by Cody Burnside while "Diamond Rain" gets a bit of an Appalachian twist by virtue of Lionel Young’s fiddle work. Oscar Brown’s "Signifying Monkey" is pulled from is soul roots and is rendered dark and almost ominous here. "Free" is a rocking number featuring Mason in his one man band format laying down a groove so Fat that lots of three piece outfits would have trouble duplicating it. That said, Fred McDowell’s "Write Me a Few of your lines" benefits from interplay between Mason, Lightnin’ Malcolm and Gerry Hundt’s fleet fingered blues mandolin. The major change up here is the spare, acoustic "Whisper" where Mason leaves the Jook Joint behind in favor of a sincere ode to his lover. Unlike Town and Country which was made more to listen to than to heat up the dance floor, this set has the goods necessary to make the party happen. Smitty

ALBERT KING WITH STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN

In Session

Feb 15, 2011

Review by Steven “Nick” Nickelson of In Session...By Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. This weighty duo explodes with sounds right from the “git-go” that seem to span thirty years and make it seem like it was recorded yesterday – this music and these masters are simply timeless. Recorded on December 6th in 1983 at the Hamilton, Ontario (Canada) independent radio station CHCH, the student (Stevie Ray Vaughan) and mentor (Albert King) and his solid backing band of Tony Llorens on keyboards, Bub Thornton on bass and Michael LLorens on drums, deliver a tight set of songs that rock the house right from the get go with the opening scorcher “Call It Stormy Monday.” Classic hits like “Don't Lie To Me” and Vaughan's signature song, “Pride and Joy,” are opened up for extended jamming between the musicians. The latter clocks in at over eight minutes as King/Vaughan decide to riff off each other on what blues rock guitar sounds like. While the album may appear to look short with just 7 songs on it, in actuality, none of them clock in at under five minutes. I'd have to say one of my favorite cuts on this remastered cd (and the longest, clocking at over 15 minutes) is “Blues At Sunrise”; but I get so absorbed into the music that I completely lose track of the time. What you get on In Session... is a real concert experience (albeit in the CHCH studio). You may not be able to see each pained expression King gives when making his upside down Gibson Flying V sing, but you can feel the passion from his playing on every track. Even though it is half as long, the jump jive “Overall Junction” is so hot that I don't even need earmuffs when I'm out in the cold walking. This is one tight set! Another bonus: between scorching tracks there is some back and forth banter between the student (now deceased guitar god from Texas), and the mentor (now deceased member of the blues King triumvirate {Albert, B.B., Freddie} from the cotton fields of Indianola, Mississippi). Although Albert was never recognized as the King of the Blues (that title belonged to B.B.), his string bending and blues stylings have influenced the next generation of rock and blues axemen. --------------- Nick

Artist Bio: Albert King signed with Stax Records in 1966. Albert's records for Stax would bring him stardom, both within blues and rock circles. All of his '60s Stax sides were recorded with the label's house band, Booker T. & the MG's, which gave his blues a sleek, soulful sound. That soul underpinning gave King crossover appeal, as evidenced by his R&B chart hits -- "Laundromat Blues" (1966) and "Cross Cut Saw" (1967) both went Top 40, while "Born Under a Bad Sign" (1e967) charted in the Top 50. Furthermore, King's style was appropriated by several rock & roll players, most notably Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, who copied Albert's "Personal Manager" guitar solo on the Cream song, "Strange Brew." Albert King's first album for Stax, 1967's Born Under a Bad Sign, was a collection of his singles for the label and became one of the most popular and influential blues albums of the late '60s. Beginning in 1968, Albert King was playing not only to blues audiences, but also to crowds of young rock & rollers. He frequently played at the Fillmore West in San Francisco and he even recorded an album, Live Wire/Blues Power, at the hall in the summer of 1968. King was a left-handed "upside-down/backwards" guitarist. He was left-handed, but usually played right-handed guitars flipped over upside-down so the low E string was on the bottom. In later years he played a custom-made guitar that was basically left-handed, but had the strings reversed (as he was used to playing). He also used very unorthodox tunings (i.e., tuning as low as C to allow him to make sweeping string bends). Some believe that he was using open E minor tuning (C-B-E-G-B-E) or open F tuning (C-F-C-F-A-D). A "less is more" type blues player, he was known for his expressive "bending" of notes, a technique characteristic of blues guitarists. Stevie Ray Vaughan was born on October 3 1954 ,in the Oak Cliff Section of Dallas Texas. He was the younger brother of Jimmie Vaughan (born March 20, 1951) and the son of Jim and Martha Vaughan. In 1963 at the age of 8, Stevie began playing the guitar (under brother Jimmie's influence ), and was playing in local teen combos a few years later. Stevie didn't do well in high school, as He would sit at the back of the classroom and doze off due to his playing music all night. As a result, his grades suffered. In 1972, Stevie dropped out of high school and moved to Austin Texas to play music full-time. Doyle Bramhall, a songwriting partner of Stevie's and longtime friend, was the first one to tell Stevie that he had potential as a guitar player. On December 20 1979, Stevie married Lenora (Lenny) Baily in between sets of a gig at the Rome Inn in Austin Texas. Sometime later Stevie wrote an awesome instrumental song and titled it "Lenny". 1982 proved to be Stevie's most eventful year. David Bowie saw him at the Montreaux Festival and asked him to play on Bowie's LET'S DANCE album. Also, Jackson Browne gave him studio time at his Studio in Los Angeles. In addition,John Hammond from Epic Records signed Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble to their label. This was the beginning of Stevie's worldwide touring and international stardom. In 1986, LIVE ALIVE was released. Later that year, Stevie entered rehabilitation to rid himself of his drug problems. He stayed away from people who could supply him with drugs, and rebuilt his relationship with his mother Martha. Stevie remained sober and drug free for the rest of his life. In 1987, Stevie appeared in a movie called Back to the Beach as himself. In the movie, he played a duet with Dick Dale and they performed the song "Pipeline". Also in 1987, Stevie filed for a divorce from Lenny. In 1989, IN STEP was released. Stevie also toured with Jeff Beck, and recorded his 2nd Austin City Limits performance. Both Austin City Limits performances were released some time later on a single video called LIVE FROM AUSTIN TEXAS. In 1990, Stevie toured with Joe Cocker, and recorded FAMILY STYLE with his brother Jimmie. On August 27 1990 Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash right after leaving a concert he performed with Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and his brother Jimmy held at Alpine Valley, Wisconsin. His music and spirit will live on FOREVER.

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KELLEY HUNT

GRAVITY LOVES YOU

Feb 13, 2011

Kansas blues women Kelley Hunt continues to grow and establish herself as one of the finest female vocalists in the industry today. On this her fifth release Kelley crafts her songs as a writer and vocalist and surrounds herself with an all-star band who have worked with the likes of Van Morrison, Johnny Cash, Shelby Lynne and her friend Delbert McClinton. It will be easy for listeners to make comparisons to blues great Rory Block on tracks like "These Are The Days" and "Music Is The Thread". On some of the more up-tempo tracks such as "Too Much History" Kelley shadows some of Susan Tedeschi finest work. "I'm Ready" is a full throttle gospel track that will bring you right to your feet shouting Halleluiah I'm Ready. "When The Deal Comes Down" is a captivating track that features Kelley on piano and a vocal performance that is so good it is almost haunting. "Shake It Off Right Away" has a boggie back beat featuring Kelley's fingers heating up the ivories in the way that were prominent on her first two releases. Gravity Loves You showcases an artist who has grown into one of the best blues performers today. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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LYNWOOD SLIM & THE IGOR PRAD0 BAND

BRAZILIAN KICKS

Feb 4, 2011

West Coast based vocalist and harp man Lynwood Slim is paired on this disc with the youthful (they are all younger than 24) Igor Prado Band from Sao Paulo, Brazil. While they don’t have geography in common, Slim and the band share the same musical DNA. This is a rollicking, swinging effort that will have you moving from the first note to the last. Surprises abound on this release. First, there’s a hard swing to Slim’s vocals that he’s kept mostly under wraps on his prior solo efforts. Then there’s the music: simply put, these cats have chops. "Blue Bop" is an exhilarating instrumental ride taken at a break-neck pace that would be the perfect way to climax any barroom set. Another instrumental, "Bill’s Change" also gives the band a chance to flex its musical muscles with Prado and saxophonist Donny Nichilo trading leads in an old-fashioned cutting contest. The Wynonie Harris jump/swing classic "Bloodshot Eyes" gets a wailing sax solo that could come off one of the great Honkers and Bar Walkers compilations. "Little Girl" and "Show Me the Way" find Slim and crew taking a visit to the south side of Chicago for some low down blues compliments of Slim’s rich harmonica and Prado’s understated, but just right, guitar. Buddy Guy’s playful, yet ominous, "Shake it Baby", gets a unique twist by virtue of the unexpected flute outro while Dave Bartholmew’s "Is It True" benefits from its authentic New Orleans groove. The band also reveals it knows how to turn off the amps and lay down low key supper-club jazz on the simmering "Maybe Someday" where the music lays the perfect framework for Slim’s pleading vocals. "The Comeback" finds the band shifting time throughout with complicated jazz phrasing keeping things interesting. While tradition has the grizzled delta blues picker showing a new generation the blues ropes this set reveals that a middle-aged white guy from the West Coast can do a fine job as well. A terrific release. Smitty

BIG JOE & THE DYNAFLOWS

YOU CAN'T KEEP A BIG MAN DOWN

Feb 4, 2011

Big Joe Maher is a mainstay on the East Coast Blues scene having spent time in the Uptown Rhythm Kings and the Tom Principato Band before fronting the Dynaflows for the past couple of decades and releasing several discs. As both the drummer and singer of the band, Maher is a natural focal point and always stirs up a big batch of fun. On this release the Dynaflows are mostly borrowed from Delbert McClinton’s band and include Kevin McKendree on keys (who also produced this set), Rob McNelley on guitar and the late saxophonist Dennis Taylor. The twelve cuts included here cover a lot of blues ground with everything from the upbeat boogie groove of Delbert McClinton’s "What the Hell Were You Thinkin’?", to the piano driven Kansas City blues of Jay McShann’s "Confessin’ the Blues", to the lowdown dirty blues of the original "Nothin’ But Trouble", which features some tasty guitar licks, to the horn accented rework of B.B. King’s "Bad Case of Love", to the funky tale of neighborhood woe, "Property Line", the swinging "Whatcha Gonna Do?" and the party ready title cut. Throughout, Maher sings like a sly hipster who is having a load of fun. While his vocals are as much spoken as sung they serve the songs well and meld this diverse collection into a solid disc. Smitty

VARIOUS

LOUISIANA SWAMP STOMP

Feb 4, 2011

While New Orleans is the hard partying John Belushi of the Louisiana music scene, the bayous and swamps are the frat house where the real serious stuff goes down. This disc, recorded to support the Northern Louisiana Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Foundation, shines a light into rooms that would send the Bourbon street crawlers screaming for their mamas. Deep, dark and often sinister, the blues that lurk around every corner on this disc conjure up visions of voodoo goddesses, howling hounds and shotgun welcomes. While there are nods to zydeco, "Traveling Man", (Dwayne Dopsie) dance hall rock, "Swamp Stomp", (Sonny Landreth) and soul, "Send Me Someone to Love", (Charlene Howard), and "First You Cry", (Percy Sledge- yes, the "When a Man Loves a Woman" guy) the bulk of this release focuses on raw blues delivered with a swampy flourish. Omar Coleman slinks his way through Slim Harpo’s "Scratch My Back" and Lightning Hopkin’s "Mojo Hand" while Larry Garner lays down a deep groove on "It’s Killing Me" and "Ms. Boss" that gets a little grease from Buckwheat Zydeco on organ. Little Freddie King’s guitar lines add loads of spice to the straight shuffle groove of "Can’t Do Nothing Babe" which seems positively modern compared to the timeless piano blues laid down by Henry Gray on "Times Are Getting Hard" and "How Could You do It". Guitarist Buddy Flett who’s medical plight inspired this set, lays it all out on the solo track "Livin’ Ain’t Easy" with lyrics that show his strong spirit in the face of adversity- he lost his ability to walk, talk and play guitar when stricken with encephalitis but worked his way back to not only play on this disc but to lead the charge. And what would the blues be without the lure of sex to lift the spirits? Not much, a point that Carol Fran makes that real clear on "I Need To Be Be’d With". Take a trip into this swamp. You might emerge a bit bloody and battered but you’ll have a smile on your face. SMITTY

ROOMFUL OF BLUES

HOOK, LINE & SINKER

Jan 25, 2011

Most bands that have been together for almost 44 years begin to rest on their laurels and loose the creativity that once made them great. It is just the opposite for New England's Roomful Of Blues as this new CD is like opening a swinging party where veteran member and guitarist Chris Vachon lays down some stinging guitar rifts and their horn section led by saxophonist Rich Latalle has never been hotter. The other difference is once again the band has a new lead vocalist Phil Pemberton who's vocals at first listened reminded me of what Etta James would sound like if she came back as a man. It will also be easy to make comparisons to Big Joe Turner the boss man of the blues. His fun and energetic and multi octave vocal ranges suit the swinging styles of this veteran outfit perfect. The 12 tracks on this disc could have been swinging blues hits of the 1950's but still sound fresh in 2011 and this CD caught me Hook, Line and Sinker from it's opening note and still had me on the line at the end. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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CATHY LEMONS & JOHNNY ACE

Lemonace

Jan 13, 2011

Review of Lemonace by Steven “Nick” Nickelson: Back in the 90's, blues was kind of poo pooed, and it was tough going for most blues artists – but that's what the blues is all about, right? Several artists carried the torch until the rest of the music world woke up from their hairspray-induced coma and rediscovered the blues. Then the world “discovered” blues artists like Cathy Lemons (“the finest female vocalist with straight hair”), who joined up with bassist Johnny Ace to form LemonAce, picking up lead guitartist Pierre Le Corre, and Artid “Stix” Chavez on drums to round out the sound. This is the first cd that was co-written mostly by Cathy & Johnny (mostly Cathy), and there are some moments of real brilliance (“Used To These Blues”, “Shoot To Kill”, “I'm Not The Woman I Used To Be”); however, there are more not so brilliant cuts (“Sink Or Swim”, “Brand New Day” seem to be the most in need of work). Cathy really knocks it out of the park on “When Bad Luck Looks Good”, and her most capable bandmates jump right in and make their presence known. If you look up the bio on this couple (Cathy Lemons and Johnny Ace), you can see that their history goes back to the 1980's, so they have certainly been steeped in the blues. I have to wonder, though, why it has taken so long to release a record – particularly when you hear the mournful piano playing by pianist David Maxwell, who so ably carries the day on “Gimme A Penny”. I might add that this cd is blessed by having not only David Maxwell, but also, Tommy Castro and Ron Thompson, who contribute fabulous guitar licks (Ron is particularly resonant with his slide). It seems that most albums (with very few exceptions) lately have a few great of possibly great cuts, a few mediocre cuts, and a couple forgettable – this cd is no different. “I Got It” falls into the mediocre category, as does “Stay”, “Get This Thing Offa My Back”, and “Move On”. Having watched a few videos, I have to categorically state that this band is much more of a live show band than a studio band,. If they are in the area, you owe it to yourself to go see them. Just my two nickels. ----Nick

ARTIST BIO Cathy Lemons was born August 13, 1958 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She would move 15 times before the age of 13 before settling in Dallas, TX. "You have to be tough just to survive the Texas heat--110 degrees 6 to 7 months out of the year." Commenting on what the blues scene was like in Texas when she was growing up, she says, "It was a great place for blues . I had a chance to see many fine talents in their early stages of development like Anson Funderburg, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Lou Anne Barton. . In Dallas and the surrounding towns, there were not many clubs to play, and many of us were just struggling so hard to make a dime. So, Texas musicians tended to really stick together back then. There weren't too many freelance type players. You made a band--and you worked with only that band. I liked it that way. California players fail to see their greatest weakness, which is in my opinion, not enough knowledge of the roots of blues, and not enough respect for what a band is--when you work together as a whole for the greater good of that whole. If you let ego get in the way, the music somehow dies. Music is about giving." Since 1995 Cathy Lemons with her fabulous bass playing partner Johnny Ace, have worked with some of the finest musicians on the scene: Ron Thompson, Paris Slim, Steve Freund, Rusty Zinn, David Maxwell, Paul Oscher, Danny Carron (guitarist for Charles Brown), Anthony Paule, and Johnny Talbot (guitarist for Bobbie "Blue" Bland). Cathy Lemons and Johnny Ace recorded their first CD "Dark Road" on The Saloon Recordings label in late 1999 and received fabulous reviews from all the major blues magazines. Then they re-formed their band in 2006 to include Pierre Le Corre on guitar and Artie "Stix" Chavez on drums and began to write songs on a serious level.

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DEVON ALLMAN'S HONEYTRIBE

SPACE AGE BLUES

Jan 4, 2011

With a name derived from their “sweet like honey, fierce like a tribe” dichotomy, Honeytribe is a three piece outfit featuring Devon Allman on guitar and vocals, Geroge Potsos on bass and Gabriel Strange on drums. Joined here by guests including Huey Lewis on harmonica and Ron Holloway on saxophone, the band lays down 10 original tunes and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s "Sir Duke". While Allman comes from music royalty as the son of Gregg Allman and nephew of Duane Allman, he doesn’t spend any time trying to mimic their sound and, instead, focuses on blues channeled through 70’s era arena rock. Bands like Journey and Foghat come readily to mind when listening to this disc with their big riffs and sing along choruses. "Endless Diamond", "I’m Ready" and "Could Get Dangerous" are great examples of the band’s hard hitting approach while the delicate "Blue Est Le Vide", the mysterious sounding instrumental "Insh’ Allah", and slow grooving ballads, "Salvation" and "Warm in the Wintertime", showcase the band’s ability to use subtle dynamics to hit just as hard as the rocking tunes. The title track doesn’t take much from the standard blues cannon but the melding of heavy rock with moody, jazz fueled saxophone breaks makes for a fine listen. The psychedelic breakdown on "Take Me to the Bridge" and the straight pop read of "Sir Duke" don’t fare as well but do showcase the band’s refusal to be shackled by expectations. This refusal is helped along by the fact that while Allman’s rich voice shares his father’s ability to stretch from a whisper to a shout without sounding strained on either end it lacks the southern seasoning that makes his father so instantly recognizable. Having his own voice frees Allman and Honeytribe from pointless comparisons to the Allman Brothers and lets it explore its own future which appears to be bright. Smitty

REVEREND RAVEN AND THE CHAIN SMOKIN' ALTER BOYS

SHAKE YOUR BOOGIE

Jan 4, 2011

With a voice that evokes memories of Rick Estrin of the Nightcats and some righteous blues guitar chops Reverend Raven could make a good living as a solo artist. Instead, he puts his prodigious talents to even better use in the company of a hot wired band that features wailing saxophone compliments of Big Al Groth, top notch harmonica and vocals from Madison Slim and a revolving line up of drummers, bass guitarists and keyboard players. (Drummer Bobby Lee Sellers adds vocals on a couple of tracks as well). Recorded live and raw at the Miramar Theater in Milwaukee (but without an audience) this disc features everything from straight electric boogies, "Stomping and Shouting", to jazzy groovers, "You Didn’t Even Say Goodbye", to mid-tempo scorchers, "Just Count the Days" and "Bricks in My Pillow", slow grinders, "I Can Do You Right" and Southside Chicago style blues harmonica showcases, "She’s Murder" and the title track. While the multiple vocalists and changing line up would sabotage a less experienced crew, the Chain Smokin’ Alter Boys are up to the task with each track fitting seamlessly into the mix. Standout tracks include Hound Dog Taylor’s "The Woman I Love" which gets a rocking treatment worthy of George Thorogood’s Delaware Destroyers, the rollicking instrumental, "PT’s Home Cooking", which gives various members of the band the chance to strut their stuff, and the slinky, "Mail Box Blues". Righteous blues, done right. Give the Reverend an “amen” for this one. Smitty

GREGG ALLMAN

LOW COUNTRY BLUES

Jan 4, 2011

Gregg Allman certainly believes that good things take time and after 14 years since his last solo record he has released his finest solo release to date. Produced by now legendary producer T Bone Burnett and joined by Dr. John on piano and Doyle Bramhall II Gregg gives us a dozen gems that cover many facets of the blues. The CD begins with the Sleepy John Estes acoustic track "Floating Bridge" this certainly fits the sounds of low country blues. On the Bobby Blue Bland track "Blind Man" Gregg introduces a laid back horn section for a track that resembles Bobby Blue Bland meets Roomful Of Blues. "Just Another Rider" has a classic Allman Brothers sound to it and was co wrote with fellow band member Warren Haynes. On the BB King track "Please Accept My Love" Gregg gives this classic a 1950's R&B feel. You can also covers from the likes of Muddy Waters and Otis Rush on this disc, but after only one listen you will agree that this is a rock and blues veteran at his very best. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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VARIOUS

Louisiana Swamp Stomp

Dec 30, 2010

Inspired by Louisiana blues artist, Buddy Flett's near-fatal bout with encephalitis, musicians from all over Louisiana (and Omar Coleman from Chicago) conspired to support the Northern Louisiana Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Foundation with this compilation album. Indeed, funds raised from the sale of "Louisiana Swamp Stomp" go to support the NLBSCIF. This album includes contributions from Buddy Flett, himself, performing his "Livin' Ain't Easy" and also contributing "First You Cry" for Percy Sledge to perform. Other notable songs included are Sonny Landreth's instrumental, "Swamp Stomp" and Omar Coleman performing "Mojo Hand". Regional favorite, Carol Fran, who dealt with her own neurological issues having suffered a stroke in 2007, offers "I Needs to be Be'd With" and the zydeco piece "Tou' Les Jours C'est Pas La Meme". This is a worthy collection of bayou blues. Rebecca Ruth

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GRACE ASKEW

Until They Lay Me Down to Rest

Dec 20, 2010

Review by Nick: The sultry-voiced Grace Askew has one of the sexiest voices I have heard in a long time, and the songwriting is definitely of the award-winning ilk. “Song for Tom” makes terrific use of the slide guitar prowess of legendary Memphis sideman Richard Ford, who also offers up delicious slices of other stringed instruments (from banjo, lap- and pedal-steel guitars, and a mandolin offshoot – the jangletron). Even though her earlier two EP releases were produced by the renowned Pete Matthews at Memphis' famed Ardent Studios, Grace Askew took the production reins on this LP. Her blues-based influences can be tracked on a number of tunes (“Beautiful Mess”, “But Gone”), and her stutter-step rhythm on “Toasting for Two” seems to be just perfect for the lyrics. Then the subtle segue into country and back to blues in the same song just blows my mind! The haunting instrumental strains of “Until They Lay Me Down to Rest once again perfectly match the lyrics note for note. I have this much to say about Grace Askew: if she ever lost her ability to perform (God forbid), she would have a natural outlet in songwriting and musical arrangements – this woman has talent! Just my two nickels -----Nick. ARTIST BIO Based out of Memphis, TN, Askew has substantially established herself throughout the Southeastern U.S., and has organized and promoted her own small tours since her teens. She now continues to serve as her own agent on a grander scale, booking her shows and traveling vigorously throughout the U.S., spanning tours as far West as Santa Fe, NM, as far North as Chicago, IL, and as far East as Asheville, NC. Back home in Memphis, Grace plays a slew of steady gigs with her abundantly talented accompanying 5-piece group, The Black Market Goods.

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THE HOMEMADE JAMZ BLUES BAND

THE GAME

Nov 29, 2010

When you think of great Mississippi blues artist you probably think of BB King, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Willie Dixon, Otis Spann or Charlie Musselwhite. On their third release "The Game" you can add The Homemade Jamz Blues Band to this list. This is quite an accomplishment since guitarist and vocalist Ryan Perry is only eighteen, his brother and bassist Kyle Perry is sixteen and drummer Taya Perry who doesn't miss a beat is only twelve. All ten tracks for this disc were composed by their father Renauld Perry which keeps these songs of loss betrayal and hard times authentic and true. This CD easily gets my vote for the best traditional sounding Delta Blues CD for 2010 and that's quite an accomplishment when the oldest member is still only eighteen. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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EDEN BRENT

AIN'T GOT NO TROUBLES

Nov 23, 2010

Pianist Eden Brent ventured to New Orleans and recruited numerous “A” list musicians to add some Big Easy spice to this release including Colin Linden on guitars, George Porter, Jr. on bass, Jon Cleary on Hammond B3 and a swinging horn section. The willingness of such first call musicians to lend their talent to a relative newcomer like Brent reflects the stature that she has gained since making a huge splash with her 2006 International Blues Challenge win and her 2008 release, Mississippi No. 1. Tutored by Abie “Boogaloo” Ames, Brent has wide range of piano skills that make her as comfortable with the Kansas City Swing of Jay McShann as with harder pounding boogie woogie that gained her the nickname “Little Boogaloo.” While this disc features plenty of her piano chops it never serves as a mere vehicle for her to show her prowess on the keys. Instead, her strong songwriting and compelling vocals are what will keep you coming back for more. With a delivery that recalls Bessie Smith or Maria Muldaur in her jug band days, Brent pulls you into her tales of men who need to make up their mind, "Someone to Love", life without a purpose, "Ain’t Got No Troubles" and gold-digging ladies with their eye on her man, "In Love With Your Wallet". Standout tracks include the rollicking "Let’s Boogie Woogie", the swinging "Later Than You Think" and the road house blues of Delbert McClinton’s "Right To Be Wrong". Smitty

DR. TEQUILA

DR. TEQUILA

Nov 16, 2010

Take a shaker and mix in one part Jimmy Buffett, one part Santana, a Jigger of Dr. Loco's Rockin Jalapeño band and a splash of the blues and you have a good description of Dr. Tequila. Dr. Tequila other wise known as Richie Barron resides from the San Francisco California area and has put together a rocking band that he calls the Mission "D" Project as this recording was made in the mission district of San Francisco. The title track has a Latin beat that could jump start any party. "See You Next Summer" sounds like it could have been recorded as a Jimmy Buffett theme song. "Dream World" is the most traditional blues track on this disc and "No Trouble Tonight" is a rocking tune that may just funk you up. The only let down track I felt on this disc was the "Who Dat? Bayou Medley" where Dr. Tequila mixes Credence Clearwater's "Born On The Bayou" with Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" , in simplistic terms Dr. Tequila is not a John Kay. This CD may not win a lot of awards, but it sure is fun. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD

LIVE! In Chicago

Nov 15, 2010

For a while back in the 60s and 70s, blues was kind of treated as an ugly stepchild. During that period, several artists carried the torch until the rest of the music world woke up from their hairspray-induced coma and rediscovered the blues. The two most prominent were Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robert Cray. On their heels came child prodigies Jonny Lang, Shawn Colvin, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. While each has grown up in the blues arena, Kenny Wayne Shepherd seems to stand out as the torch bearer of his generation. This guy (and his kick-butt band - Noah Hunt, Chris Layton, Scott Nelson and Riley Osbourn) can play any type of blues you can think of – witness his most recent release, Live! In Chicago, recorded in the legendary House of Blues. Right from the getgo we get treated to a raucous “Somehow, Somewhere, Someway” and “King's Highway” (penned by KWS). “True Lies” is another Shepherd creation, and all three songs seem to carryover from the Stevie Ray Vaughan genre (which they should to some extent, since Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon were originally with SRV's Double Trouble band). Judging by the audience response, I think Kenny and his band just raised the bar! From the beginning to the end, the album is full of excitement and energy. The Band is really "into it", and the crowd is definitely loving it. It gives you one of those "almost like being there", feelings. The live performances allow the band to stretch their respective talents, and stretch they do! Elsewhere throughout the album, we get treated to some of the legendary Chicago session men, as well as former members of Howlin' Wolf's Band and Muddy Waters' band. Right here is where I have to say that this is one of the “I can't believe I am not there” albums. “Deja Voodoo” starts off soft and slow, then builds to a riveting and rocking crescendo – I almost got up and clapped with the audience! One thing I can definitely state is that this collection of artists (Buddy Flett on guitar, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on harp, Hubert Sumlin on guitar, and Bryan Lee on guitar) DO NOT play backup! These guys each make significant contributions to the entire concert – from the mournful harp on “Eye to Eye” from Wille Smith to Hubert Sumlin's hot licks on the tight-as-a-drumhead “Feed Me” and on to Buddy Flett's swinging shuffle licks on B.B. King's “Sell My Monkey” (and reprising Buddy Flett's “Dance For Me Girl”). I have to say that I have listened to this cd over and over, and I cannot find a disappointing song. All I can say is that if you don't go out and get a ticket for this LIVE! In Chicago cd, then shame on you! --- Nick

ARTIST BIO First off, Kenny Wayne Shepherd was 33 years old at the release of this album, so he’s not a kid playing hot guitar anymore, he’s a grown man doing it. And he does play a hot lead guitar -- that, in a nutshell, is what he does. But over the years he’s also learned that the blues isn’t just about blazing lead licks, it’s also about letting the song say its say -- and on Live! In Chicago he does that. This is a concert full of songs and not just a bunch of guitar leads broken up by someone singing for a bit. Shepherd is also fully aware of the history of the blues and he honors some of his heroes here by playing with blues legends like Hubert Sumlin, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Bryan Lee and Buddy Flett and he doesn’t step all over them with his guitar playing -- he supports them. The concert grew out of the tour Shepherd put together in support of 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads project, a DVD/CD documentary that featured Shepherd traveling around the country on a ten day trip interviewing and playing with icons from the blues world, including the surviving members of Muddy Waters' and Howlin' Wolf's bands, making this show, recorded at the House of Blues in Chicago, a kind of culmination. It’s all crisp and sharp, full of fine keyboard work by Riley Osbourn and, of course, stinging guitar from Shepherd, but there’s a lot of love and respect here, too. This isn’t just about the blues -- it’s about living to play it. The whole disc is really of a piece, but among the highlights are a jaunty version of B.B. King's "Sell My Monkey," the blues ballad “Deju Voodoo,” and the scorching take on Slim Harpo's “I’m a King Bee” which closes things out. This isn’t a live album from some teenaged savant -- it’s an album from a grown man proud and honored to be playing the blues with some of his heroes. It also rocks.

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THE STEVE WIGGINS BAND

Precious Cargo

Nov 3, 2010

Review by Steven “Nick” Nickelson of Precious Cargo by The Steve Wiggins Band (Recommended: 01, 02, 10) ARTIST BIO Steve's own musical career began by teaching himself to play the piano and joining the school band playing the trumpet. At the age of sixteen, Steve joined the touring band "Foolstar" and he began living out his musical ambition. After the band dissolved, Steve moved back to Panama City and played with several local bands and performed in many successful solo engagements. Steve released his first solo CD, "Serenity by the Sea," in 2003, followed by "Spirit of the Momsen" in August 2004. His newest cd "Mesa Verde Moments" was released in December 2007. In the winter of 2005 Steve formed the Steve Wiggins Blues Band. During the summer of 2007 Steve played several gigs with blues artist Zac Harmon. Steve has played onstage with blues artists such as Curtis Salgado, Kirk Fletcher, Fionna Boyes and Tab Benoit among others. His supporting cast in this live recording are his regular drummer and lead singer, Lenwood Cherry, Jr., bassist Bruce Hebert, and saxophonist Wally Tirado. Steve is a veteran of the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, 7 cruises in the last 5 years, he has played with some of the worlds best blues musicians!! Steve has recorded his live debut BLUES CD Aug. 2009. "Precious Cargo" was released Nov.2009 It has entered the Blues Charts July 2010. Review of The Steve Wiggins Band Precious Cargo by Steven “Nick” Nickelson: Right out of the box, the audience (and listener) is treated to a smokin' hot keyboard shredding cut, penned by the leader of the band (01 Steve's Boogie). It is not so much boogie as Jump Jive; however, it is really one that I could envision the audience out on the dance floor. This number elicits that primal urge to toe-tap or more. Really tight group, and the sax just smokes. Steve's piano playing is spot on, and his trips up and down the keyboard keeps the audience in awe. Even though the next cut, (02 Cold Shot) is dedicated to the legendary guitar maker and player, Les Paul, the slowed down tempo still doesn't hide the Stevie Ray Vaughan influence in the song. From there we are treated to a slowed-down James Taylor cover (03 Steam Roller) wherein Steve gets down on the arpeggios. Lenwood does his thing on the live next cut (04 Doin My Thing), as well as the studio recap (11 Doin My Thing). Then we jump back into Lenwood's territory with a song he wrote (05 Black Cat Woman), and for which everyone gets to demonstrate their prodigious talents. The only instrumental on this record (06 Roosterfish), seems to be more jazz-oriented than boogie; however, it demonstrates the musical versatility of the band. But then, lest we forget, we get a smokin' hot demonstration of boogie by the gang (07 Dimples). One of my favorite songs on this cd is an old Bill Withers' classic (10 Ain't No Sunshine). Wally Tirado really digs way down into his basket of mournful tunes to bring this one home, and Steve's heartstring-pulling organ playing seals the deal; this is underscored by the audience's appreciative applause. There is one track on this cd that, although it has a blues beat, I just cannot seem to get my head around it (08 My Last Tear). To me, it sounds as if they were still working out the kinks in it. has a raw sound; however, that may be the intent of the songwriter (Steve Wiggins). Like the previous cut, the next cut (09 Watermelon Man), seems out of place on this album. It is a jazz tune, (written by Herbie Hancock). The band does an admirable job on the cut, and since this is not a mainstream blues album, then (perhaps) the choice of this song is apropos of the band's talents. Having used up all my big words for the day, I will now sit back and spin that cd one more time. --- Nick

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DUKE ROBILLARD

PASSPORT TO THE BLUES

Oct 28, 2010

Guitarist Duke Robillard has been a lifetime traveler through the world of the blues. Not content to follow a single path, Robillard has followed the blues into side trips including swing, jazz, pop, big band, rock and even tiki lounge exotica. While at first blush, these various styles won’t strike many blues fans as having much in common with their beloved shuffles and boogies, one need only to give Robillard’s side trips a listen to find the blues at the core of virtually everything he does. A bent note here, a quick reference to T-Bone Walker in a solo there, and even the supper club stuff finds itself in the world of blues. For those without the wanderlust to follow Robillard down the many paths he is willing to follow to find the blues, this new disc will require no work at all. The 13 cuts included here feature whopping doses of electric blues guitar and straight blues lyrics about working for the taxman, "Workin’ Hard For My Uncle", pleasing the ladies, "Rhode Island Red Rooster", still having plenty of mojo even as age creeps in, "When You’re Old You’re Cold", finding new ways to hook up, "Text Me", and wanting to keep a safe distance from trouble on two legs, "Fatal Heart Attack". In addition to those blues gems, those that have only heard Robillard’s recent jazz and lounge oriented discs will be surprised to hear him getting way down and dirty on slow burners like "Grey Sky Blues", taking on a straight boogie on "Bradford Boogie" or ripping off taut solos worthy of Albert Collins on "Blues Train". While he sticks to the blues on this effort, that’s not to say that the road is completely straight. On "Duke’s Evening Blues", Robillard takes a curve and semi-talks his way through a late night vibe that gets a bit of jazz spice compliments of Doug James on sax, who also lights up the raucous "Girl Let Me Tell Ya". As this disc makes clear, while Robillard cleans up well and could easily fit in with tuxedoed jazz cats, he can just as easily get into the trenches and go head to head with anyone that dares call himself a blues guitarist. With Robillard as your guide your blues passport will show you to be well travelled. Great stuff! Smitty

ELECTRIC WIRE HUSTLE

Electric Wire Hustle

Oct 11, 2010

This debut album from New Zealand trio, Electric Wire Hustle, features deceptively handsome self-production. Combining heavy bass and synth with old-school vocals and hip-hop beats, Electric Wire Hustle has forged a modern soul album that only ocassionally sounds retro. This is fine inaugural work from a band that I look forward to hearing more from. Rebecca Ruth

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CHRIS HARPER

Four Aces And A Harp

Oct 5, 2010

Review by Nick of Chris Harper Four Aces and a Harp I have been to the dimly lit Chicage Blues clubs in my youth, as well as having heard some of the best the genre has produced, so when I say that Chicago Blues is one of the “tightest” of the Blues genres – I mean it's SO-O-O tight that it squeaks when it walks. Parts of this cd do just that. Coming right out of the box, we get treated to one of the best and tightest cuts of the electric side of the offering - “Hand Me Down My Cane”. From there we segue into an acoustic cover of Willie Dixon's “Down In The Bottom”, then onto another acoustic cover of Lucille Bogan's “Sloppy Drunk”. “I Smell Trouble” is an electric and gritty collaboration sung so masterfully by Jimmy Burns in such a way that makes the listener feel that they are in the same room, just feeling the misery and trouble pouring out. “Blues Is My Life” is written and performed by Swississippi Chris Harper (who actually blows harp on all the cuts on this cd). Ironically, the style of the song itself is more speakeasy jazz than blues. Same goes for the cover of the old Ellington number, “Don't Get Around Much Anymore”. Speaking of harp – it gets played over the top on “Next Time You See Me”; otherwise this electric version would have sounded as well in acoustic mode. Same goes for an electric cover of Lightnin Hopkin's “Mojo Hand” - way over the top on harp. Another Chris Harper tune, “You Make Me Fly” plays off the mouth harp versus the piano, and I have to say it was really good. “Fattening Frogs For Snakes (Took Me A Long Time)” is a foot-tapping and tight number, with some tasty (albeit brief) solos on guitar, harmonica, and duet by the same. “What's Wrong” makes me want to stand up and shout out the nswer – practice!. This sounds like it was recorded on the first take, and would have been much tighter after a few more tries. “Born In Arkansas” highlights Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, where the songwriter sings, plays drums (he is revered as one of the greatest shuffle drummers of all time), and duels his countrified harp against Chris' urban mouth harp. “Evil Going On” brings out the growling Tail Dragger in a tasty rendition of an old Willie Dixon classic. Another great acoustic cut is the classic “Forty And Forty Nights”, as is the cover of Sonny Boy Williamson's “Eyesight To The Blind”. “Long Distance Call” is a misnomer, for if you close your eyes and just listen, you'll hear almost surely what sounds like Muddy Waters playing slide right in front of you (it isn't, of course, but an outstanding reproduction by Little Frank Krakowski). “Worried Life Blues” is an excellent showcase for Little Frank Krakowski as well as Swississippi Chris Harper, with an ear to the backup musicians on drums and fender bass, as well as piano – all well-played. I take off my hat here. – Steven “Nick” Nickelson

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RONNIE EARL AND THE BROADCASTERS

SPREAD THE LOVE

Sep 21, 2010

The problem with reviewing a Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters disc is that you run out of accolades before you run out of disc. Stunning Guitar work! Great use of dynamics! Unmatched tone! Telepathic interplay with the band! Virtuosity in both jazz and blues! Mesmerizing tunes! Hot, Hot, Hot! This one is no different. Featuring Ronnie Earl on Guitar, Dave Limina on Piano and b3, Jim Moradian on bass and Lorne Entress on drums, the disc kicks off with the Albert Collins scorcher "Backstroke" which is delivered complete with Collins’ brittle guitar sound and a set- opening urgency. Just when you get ready to rock, Earl and crew pull way back on the reins for the moody, introspective "Blues for Dr. Donna", which takes advantage of the old Buddy Guy trick of taking the sound down to a whisper to force you to listen. And, as usual, the effort is worth it, especially as it takes you to "Chitlins Con Carne" which features lots of smoky b3 grooves. "Cristo Redentor" will strike a chord with Pat Metheny fans with its heady jazz runs. "Happy" has a bouncy wide open feel befitting its title while both "Patience" and "Miracle" feel almost reverent with churchy organ and an unhurried pace. "Spann’s Groove" strikes out in an entirely different direction with its Otis Spann inspired barrel house piano boogie and Earl’s firery fretwork. Hard hitting blues get a nod on "Blues for Slim" and "Tommy’s Midnight Blues" which are just as raucous as other tracks are tasteful and restrained. The contrast is as stark as the bumpkin Gomer Pyle suddenly becoming the sophisticated Jim Nabors! With 11 out of the 14 cuts exceeding 5 minutes Earl has plenty of time to make sure his vision of each song is fully realized. Since the quieter, jazzy side of the street gets more play here than houserockin’ party tunes this is the perfect backdrop to your more sophisticated gatherings. Instead of putting on some schmaltzy lounge music, grab this disc and treat yourself to some real music. Mark Smith www.ronnieearl.com www.stonyplainrecords.com

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THE BMF BAND

Blurring The Line

Sep 16, 2010

Review by Nick of Blurring the Line by The BMF Band “For over 20 years, Bryan Michael Fischer has been singing and entertaining crowds big and small with his larger-than-life personality, winning charm, and powerful vocals. Bryan is a true showman, and creates an event for the crowd, not just another band experience.” After you give the cd a listen, you can begin to believe the promo material. This is one tight band, and the guitarists (lead - Bryan Blowers of K'zoo, bassist – Bill LaValley) certainly are up to the task of keeping up with the lead vocals. Drummer Allen “Spider” Hill keeps the rhythm tight. The group takes off right from the get-go with “I Don't Need No Doctor” - a perfect homage to Texas Blues great Stevie Ray Vaughan. (“Bryan started out his career as a hard rock singer, and after discovering Stevie Ray Vaughan, changed his focus to the blues. Like SRV, Bryan brings the rock n roll attitude and excitement to the soul of the blues to create a high-energy, powerhouse sound and style.”) “Treat Me Like The Dog I Am” is a great example. Another SRV-influenced song “Cold Sweat” really highlights the powerful vocal styling of Bryan Michael Fischer, and the rapid-fire guitar riffs of Bryan Blowers. Bill LaValley and Spyder Hill hold the rhythm tight and fast on this, as well as “Shaky Ground”. “Every Day I Get The Blues” follows the same rapid-fire SRV stylings, and Bryan Fischer throws his heart into this one (as well he should if he wants to keep pace with the terrific guitar playing). Bryan Michael Fischer pulls out all the stops on “Poor Man's Dream”, a song he is credited with penning. This song gives all band members an opportunity to showcase their particular talents. The same goes for BMF's interpretation of Robert Cray's “Back Door Slam”. This is truly a top-notch cut, and I definitely hope to hear some more from this band with the talented songwriter and arranger. And now for the bad news – I cannot for the life of me figure out why “Willy The Wimp” is lumped in with the other great covers on this cd. (Unless, like “Gravity”, and “Slippin' In”, it is used to demonstrate the versatility of the band). The pace also slows down for a really beautiful rendition of John Waits' “Feels Like Rain.” Based on the music on the cd, I would have to say that this is one blues band you don't want to miss live. Lucky for us this is a local band. Catch them soon, before they go international! – Steven “Nick” Nickelson

CHRIS JAMES/PATRICK RYNN

Gonna Boogie Anyway

Sep 8, 2010

This duo has been around forever, but they never seem to drift far from their blues roots – be it hard-driving electric Chicago blues (“Little Girl”), Delta blues (“Headed Out West”, “You Can't Trust Nobody”), get-down Texas blues (“H.M. Stomp”), or swinging jump blues (“Life Couldn't Be Sweeter”, “Can't Stand to See You Go”, and the title cut, “Gonna Boogie Anyway”). This cd of (mostly) original music and a few covers is another example of their tight music (“Dearest Darling”) and hot licks , at times reminiscent of Buddy Guy, other times a rough-edged Stevie Ray Vaughan. There are a few cuts that grind a little more slowly (“Black Spider Blues”, “The Tables Have Turned”), but guitarist Chris James still manages to make them his own. His partner, bassist Patrick Rynn seems to be connected to him at the hip – the way they play so well together. They should, though, because they were both members of the Blue Four band, and have played backup for fellow blues musicians for the past quarter century. This is their sophomore effort as a duo, and they kick it off in high gear right out of the box with with a smokin' hot “Money Don't Like Me” (also, part 2). With backing pianists Henry Gray and David Maxwell, harp masters Rob Stone and Bob Corritore, as well as a pair of saxophonists in Johnny Viau and Allen Ortiz, and drummers Eddie Kobeck and Sam Lay sharing beats, this group cannot miss, and I know they will be around for some time to come. Steven “Nick” Nickelson

MITCH WOODS

GUMBO BLUES

Aug 2, 2010

Mitch Woods has always been on of my favorite boogie piano players and New Orleans remains one of Americas greatest city's, so combining the two on this disc provides a Gumbo that is so good you will be asking for more. This CD is a tribute to Smiley Lewis a jump blues master who's songs have been recorded from the likes of Elvis Presley, Dave Edmunds, Room Full Of Blues and Aerosmith. Mitch who has adopted New Orleans as one of his home city's incorporates members of Allen Toussaint's band as well as members form the Dr. John Band, Bonearama and Cornell Williams the bassist for John Cleary to give this disc an authentic crescent city feel. These songs may be familiar, but Mitch has added enough spice in his Gumbo to keep your feet tapping and the dance floor hot. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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ERIC LINDELL

BETWEEN MOTION AND REST

Jul 5, 2010

It has always been said that is best to keep your audience wanting more and on this new release from Eric Lindell he certainly achieves that goal. This CD is a short 28 minutes of soul drenched blues and R&B from one of the finest voices of the crescent city. After three CD's with Alligator records, Eric has branched out on his own label and brought along with him some great musicians including Mr. Ivan Neville on organ and electric piano. Eric's vocals bring at times a slow sensuous sound throughout many of the tracks on this disk but still knows how to heat things up as on the track Matrimony. If you think about it if you can keep an upbeat sensuous feel even through matrimony you know you have a winning combination. If you are looking to find some of the finest New Orleans soul of 2010 look no further then Between Motion and Rest. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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THE DEREK TRUCKS BAND

ROADSONGS

Jul 5, 2010

I had the great opportunity of seeing the Derek Trucks Band live on this tour and this CD captures all the magic of that evening. This very talented guitarist has gotten better with each release and hearing him stretch out on this release is no exception to the rule. This CD captures the driving improvisation of his guitar on the Dylan Cover "Down in The Flood". The track "Key to The Highway" has a bluesy jamming Allman Brothers sound and on "Sailing On" Derek shows slowhand that he has learned from the masters. The two biggest highlights for me on this disc were the cover of John Coltrane's "Afro Blue" this is a jazz track which features Derek's guitar as well as some terrific flute from Kofi Burbridge and saxophone from Mike Mattison. The "Rastaman Chant" as expected has a given reggae feel to it and proves you don't need dreads to feel the spirit. This CD is certainly one of the finest live recordings capturing a band at the peak of their creativity. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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OTIS REDDING

LIVE ON THE SUNSET STRIP

Jun 29, 2010

Most people these days know Otis Redding by his pop hit, "Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay". This disc is a reminder of Redding’s solid Soul credentials which had crowds sweating from coast to coast rather than simply whistling along with that great cut. Recorded in 1966 just a year before his unfortunate death this disc captures Redding in his prime in an intimate live venue, The Whiskey A Go Go. Featuring three complete sets recorded during the last two nights of a four night appearance Redding lights up the crowd with a number of his own hits as well as wild-eyed covers of the Rolling Stones, "Satisfaction", the Beatles, "A Hard Day’s Night" and James Brown, "Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag". With a ten piece band laying down the smoking grooves Redding took his audience to both church and the bedroom. Hearing his original version of "Respect" before it was co-opted by Aretha and his vocals pushing the hot horn charts of "I Can’t Turn You Loose" makes you realize just what a powerful performer he was. While the inclusion of three separate sets results in repeated performances of many of the tunes it is interesting to hear his consistent enthusiasm regardless of whether he was in first set or last set mode. The multi-set format of this release also gives you the chance to hear him mix up the pace and song selection from set to set to capture the maximum amount of audience enthusiasm. Thankfully, this release gives us a chance to share in the fun. Smitty

TAD ROBINSON

BACK IN STYLE

Jun 29, 2010

Singer/harmonica player Tad Robinson has always played the soulful side of the blues. On this new disc he dives head first into the Soul music waters and executes a flawless entry into the deep end. With a big horn section including Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns and an all star crew of back up musicians (including Robb Stupka on drums, Steve Gomes on bass, Kevin Anker on B3 and other keys, Alex Schultz on guitar and a host of others) Robinson has all the groove he needs to propel his rich vocals to dizzying heights on track after track. Sounding like Al Green, Sam Cooke or even Otis Redding with a silky smooth voice that emotes both power and vulnerability, Robinson plays the boastful lover one moment, "I’m in Good", a thankful but still errant boyfriend the next, "Sunday Morning Woman", a man on the outs, "Rained All Night", and, finally, a man on the chase again on the slow, funky "Half Smile". While a number of the cuts burn with a slow passion, "Full Attention Blues" and "Just Out of My Reach", label mate Darrell Nulisch’s "Turn to the Music" as well as "I’m In Good" and "On and On" burn a bit brighter with the horns and Schultz’s stinging guitar adding vibrant color to the mix. Smoldering hot, this is music for both lovers and those with nothing more between them than lust. Even though I’m not sure Soul has ever really gone out of style, this release certainly makes a strong case for it being a vital part of our musical fabric. SMITTY

TAD ROBINSON

BACK IN STYLE

Jun 15, 2010

With the release of this disc, Tad Robinson puts his stamp on being one of the finest Blues & Soul vocalists alive today. The vocals on this release will rival some of the finest Al Green, Otis Clay or even the late great Ray Charles releases. This CD begins with the track "Rained All Night" in my book an instant soul classic. The remaining nine tracks continues with Tad's laid back soul feeling and feature great performances from the likes of guitarist Alex Schultz {formerly of Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers} as well as Wayne Jackson and the Memphis horns. This disc should deservingly be nominated as one of the best soul/blues releases for 2010. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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MISSISSIPPI HEAT

LET'S LIVE IT UP

Jun 14, 2010

Let's Live it up is the ninth full CD release from one of Chicago's premier blues outfits Mississippi Heat. Even though this band has seen many changes in their 19 years, the one constant has remained the extraordinary harp playing of Pierre Laccocque. Moving from Belgium to Chicago in 1969 Pierre was deeply influenced by the blues great Big Walter Horton. Big Walter entered blues heaven in 1981 but his sound and soul lives on through Pierre. This CD is a mixture of Chicago style blues, gospel, blues shuffles and some terrific boogie. John Primer lends his vocals on this disc on the tracks "Steadfast, Loyal and True", "Betty Sue" and "I Got Some News Today". His vocals mix it up with one of the strongest voices in Chicago Blues today, the great Inetta Visor. Innetta has the vocals that would stand out in a Baptist church choir or in the middle of a Smokey blues bar. The veteran blues man and guitar great Carl Weathersby also lends his signature sound to most tracks on this disc. It is truly the mixture of the different vocal styles with the leadership and harp playing of Pierre Lacocque that makes this band one of the finest blues outfits playing today. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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JOHN NEMETH

Name the Day

Jun 7, 2010

“Name the Day” is John Nemeth’s 3rd release for Blind Pig Records. Nemeth has figured out how to mix blues and classic soul still making it feel fresh. The man has a VOICE and it almost overwhelms at times like in “I said too much” but I guess if you’ve got it you otta use it. He sounds like he’s channeling Sam Cooke or Otis Redding accompanied by a tough Chicago-style blues band with a great horns section. All the songs are original except “Home In Your Heart” written by Otis Blackwell, recorded by Solomon Burke. One of my favorites is #8 “Save a little love”. Nemeth’s is a great harp player and he uses it in just the right amount as in #10 “Why not me?” Weak tracks for me are “4 and #5 but they might hit the sweet spot for you. – Anne Lamont

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BETTYE LaVETTE

Interpretations – The Great British Songbook

May 31, 2010

Ms. LaVette, a Muskegon native raised in Detroit had her first hit at age 16. Now after a career that spans 50 years she has again found some well deserved attention. By taking Pink Floyd, Rollingstones and other British musician songs she has complete a circle that began with the likes of Jagger and Clapton loving American blues music and taking it to a wider audience. Even though all these songs don’t always hit the mark for me, her voice is amazing. With Pete Townshend confessing her version of ‘Love Reign o’er me’ “…made me weep” you know Music’s power is being channeled to us through Bettye for our benefit. Favorite tracks were: 1. The Word, 4) All of My Love (loved the guitar!) 7. It Don’t Come Easy and 13- Love Reign O’er Me. Some of the others are pretty slow paced but have an energy you don’t want to miss. Anne Lamont

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OTIS TAYLOR

Clovis People, Vol. 3

May 30, 2010

You have to approach an Otis Taylor record with more than an ear for the music. He's always reaching into the past and coming up with stories -- many based on fact, his own life or others from the rich history of African-Americans -- and bringing them into a context relevant for today. He calls his music "trance blues," described by one reviewer as full of "chugging, hypnotic rhythms, slowly changing harmonic patterns and passionate lyrics." This set is named after the Clovis People, so-named after an archeological find just yards from Taylor's property near Boulder, Colorado. The Clovis People apparently lived 13,000 years ago and then mysteriously vanished. The scientific discovery launched Taylor on another journey into the past, which he links to today's society. Great banjo and guitar playing with exquisite cornet lines by Ron Miles making appearances in strategic places. I think he;s one of the finest blues musicians in America today; he certainly has to be the among the most thoughtful. Some highlights are "Rain So Hard" (#1), "Little Willie" (#2), "She's Ice in the Desert" (#6), "Harry, Turn the Music Up" (#8) and "Babies Don't Lie" (#10). 05/10 MJVD B-Roots (Electric)

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ANDERS OSBORNE

AMERICAN PATCHWORK

May 13, 2010

Guitarist Anders Osborne’s new disc on Alligator marks the label’s first real venture outside straight blues and marks a new beginning for Osborne who has been a mainstay of the New Orleans music scene but seemed destined to be a well kept secret. The ten fantastic cuts featured here should serve both Alligator and Osborne very well. Joined by Robert Walter on keys, Pepper Keenan on guitars and Stanton Moore (Galactic) on drums, Osborne has crafted a disc that explores not only his rebirth from personal dark times but serves as a path forward for his musical peers who are still seeking direction in the aftermath of their enormous loss at the hands of hurricane Katrina. As he sees it, it’s ok to acknowledge the past but to move forward you have to refuse to be trapped by it. Kicking things off is the insistent, rocking, cautionary tale of self destruction, "On the Road to Charlie Parker", which Osborne knows plenty about as explored in gut wrenching detail on "Darkness at the Bottom", where his lyrics cut as deep as the raw edged guitar, and on "Echoes of my Sins" where he comes to the slow realization that he owes his existence and success to the support of others as much as to his own efforts. All isn’t perfect though: Even as Osborne emerges from his walk through hell he gives half a thought to simply disappearing and starting over with a clean slate rather than to face up to those burned along the way, "Acapulco". Fortunately, he has chosen to stick around and is looking beyond his own issues as evidenced by the heartfelt homage to a fallen friend, "Standing with Angels". While he is obviously pleased with his new found sense of peace and is even willing to risk it by placing his heart in another’s hands as evidenced by the buoyant reggae tinged "Got Your Heart" and the funky, popish "Meet Me In New Mexico", he resists the easy proselytizing of claiming he’s got all the answers and, in fact, rails angrily against those who dare to turn their opinions into religion, "Killing Each Other". With his creative guitar work propelling these tunes and a voice that occasionally recalls Don Henley but with more grit, Anders Osborne has delivered the disc that should make him known well outside the confines of New Orleans. Smitty

CHRISTINE OHLMAN & REBEL MONTEZ

THE DEEP END

May 11, 2010

This may be the CD that doesn't leave my changer in 2010. There are so many "wow" moments on this disc that it would be impossible to say enough good things about it. Christine Ohlman otherwise known as the "Beehive Queen" from the Saturday Night Live band has never sounded better. This is Christine's first release of new material since 2004 and during that time she lost her friend and long time producer Doc Cavalier and Rebel Montez guitarist Eric Fletcher. Out of this loss Christine went back to the studio and recorded 15 tracks of some of the best blues, rock, R&B, and old time Do-Wop sounds being played today. This CD also features many special guests such as Ian Hunter on tracks 1&2, Catherine Russell on track 6, Marshall Crenshaw on Track 7 and Levon Helm on track 11. My advice is to dive into the Deep End and hold your breath for one great musical journey. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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JAMIE LIDELL

Compass

May 10, 2010

Having teamed with Mocky to produce his three previous albums, Jamie Lidell developed a new fan in Beck after opening for him on tour. After the tour, and at Beck's suggestion, they worked together at Beck's home studio in L.A. to produce Compass, Jamie's fourth album. Other notables had their fingers in this too, including Feist, Nikka Costa, Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, and Pat Sansone of Wilco. Mixing Motown vocals with electronic beats, Jamie Lidell has created an interesting combination. Often the songs here involve attention-provoking percussion (Completely Exposed, The Ring). There is even a song that is reminiscent of The Jackson Five (Enough's Enough). I like this release and have to wonder why I've never heard of this guy until now. Perhaps now that he's moved to New York (by way of Brighton, UK and Berlin), we'll be hearing more of him here in the States. Rebecca Ruth

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SEASICK STEVE

MAN FROM ANOTHER TIME

May 7, 2010

Steve Wold a/k/a “Seasick” Steve has one of those resumes that seems made up by a marketing firm looking to promote a rags to riches story: He left home at 13, hopped freight trains, worked as a carnie, a cowboy and a migrant farmer, busked on street corners, spent three decades on a succession of marriages with a passel of kids, opened a studio and recorded with punk and grunge bands, had a heart attack and recuperated by recording a disc that went on to sell 200,000 units in the UK. He then released a second disc that sold even more and soon found himself playing the storied Royal Albert Hall. The cool thing is that the story is true and his music rocks! Like Watermelon Slim, this storied resume gives Steve a rich palette of personal experiences from which to draw his songs. "Big Green and Yeller" sounds like a classic blues double entendre, but it really is just about a John Deer Tractor. "Wenatchee" tells the tale of a migrant farmer while "Happy (To Have a Job)" is how a busking musician gets through the day. The title cut finds Steve worrying that by looking at the past he’ll turn into the kind of “boring old fart” that used to dampen his younger days. "That’s All" is a prisoner’s dream of an elusive freedom, a sentiment repeated in "Never Go West" where he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. With a vocal delivery somewhere between Ry Cooder and Omar Dykes and a penchant for hill country blues grooves, Steve plays with the skill of his many years but with the energy of musicians a fraction of his age. Most of the cuts are mid to up-tempo and hit hard despite the spare instrumentation of just Steve’s rattlesnake guitar and Dan Magnuysson’s percussion. It just doesn’t get much hotter than on "Diddley Bo" which features the Bo Diddley beat and razor sharp one string grooves. Change ups include the forlorn "The Banjo Song", the simmering "Dark" and the gentle "Just Because I Can (CSX)" where he takes a last chance to hop a freight train and ride for free. Oh, did I mention that I dig this disc? Smitty

JIMMY THACKERY AND THE DRIVERS

LIVE IN DETROIT

Apr 27, 2010

It has always been that Detroit is one of the original Rock & Roll city's, after Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers comes to town it is a Rock and Blues city. Jimmy is a master of the power three piece blues and recorded live he mixes his masterful, and at times relentless guitar with the bass and drums provided by the drivers who have become one of the tightest units in the industry. Jimmy's guitar during some of the instrumentals on this disc are so energized and hot it would be advisable to keep the fire extinguisher next to the CD player. This also is Jimmy's first release on his own label as he not only shreds his guitar but also throws out all the rules of the record companies. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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SOLOMON BURKE

Nothing's Impossible

Apr 26, 2010

Everyone associates long-time Memphis producer Willie Mitchell with the Rev. Al Green, and well they should since those two rewrote the book on satin-smooth soul during a productive partnership at Royal Recording Studios in the '70s and '80s, with a recent reunion this decade. But it was always the dream of both Mitchell and another king of soul, Solomon Burke, to partner up, too. That planned collaboration never happened -- until 2008, and now the CD's here. It is interesting to listen to those trademark Willie Mitchell strings and rhythm tracks come in and then, instead of the high-register voice of Al Green your hear the lower tones of Mr. Burke. It works, for the most part, although I still can't figure out their love for the Anne Murray weeper "You Needed Me" (can we make that a 'No Play"?). Good thing these R&B giants finally got together, since Mr. Mitchell passed away this January, making this set an unique treasure. Michael J. 04/10 B-R&B

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JOHNNY MOELLER

BLOO GA LOO

Apr 26, 2010

Johnny Moeller is the newly crowned Austin guitar wizard. His guitar playing is certainly one part Stevie Ray, one part Anders Osborne and another Freddie King. Johnny is a current member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds where fellow member Kim Wilson describes Johnny as a "monster and should be recognized as one of the worlds top musicians". Johnny mixes electric blues with rock and plenty of soul on this disc to keep his audience on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the next note that is going to be played. Johnny has also assembles a first rate band on this disc which includes special guests Kim Wilson of the T-Birds, fellow Texans Louann Barton and Shawn Pittman. It is still early, but this will be an easy pick as one of the best blues discs for 2010. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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GUITAR SHORTY

BARE KNUCKLES

Apr 13, 2010

With a career that includes stints with blues/soul luminaries such as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke and, in his earlier years, a stage show that included mid-solo back flips and somersaults, Guitar Shorty has always been a force to be reckoned with. While the theatrics may have helped put him on the map, his guitar skills are what caught the attention of both a young Jimi Hendrix and a well seasoned Willie Dixon with Hendrix going AWOL from the army to catch his club shows and Dixon bringing a young Shorty to Chicago to record with the great Otis Rush as his backup! Shorty’s new release reveals that his guitar chops have remained inventive and hot-wired even as many of his mentors have passed on and his contemporaries have mellowed. Like Buddy Guy, Shorty spends most of his time in the higher registers with fluid, yet intense bursts of guitar adding spice to the 12 tracks collected here. With topical lyrics addressing the recession’s impact on the man on the street, "Please Mr. President" and the unfair hardships visited upon our veterans (Viet Nam vets take note: different war, same post-war crap), "Slow Burn", Shorty strikes a populist chord. He also ventures down the well worn blues highway where he’s got something for the ladies, "Temporary Man", and "Texas Women" are the best but there are plenty of others who will cheat, "True Lies", and break your heart, "Betrayed". Most of these tracks move at a solid mid-tempo pace with the rollicking "Get Off" kicking into a higher gear that wouldn’t be out of place on a Little Richard disc. Shorty’s vocals are not as adept as his guitar work but work well in the service of the hard rocking blues found on this set. As the title suggests this is an unadorned effort that packs a pretty good punch. Smitty

ELMORE JAMES, JR AND THE BLUESDUSTERS

BABY PLEASE SET A DATE

Mar 3, 2010

As one of nearly 30 children fathered by legendary slide guitarist, Elmore James, Earnest Johnson got to spend time with first generation blues masters such as Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon, Walter Horton and even Robert Johnson. Capitalizing on his linage and education in the roots of the blues, Johnson has made a career of touring as Elmore James, Jr. Of course having the right name doesn’t mean a thing without the chops to back it up. This disc reveals he was an adept student of the barb-wire taut licks that were his father’s stock in trade. While he plays with more restraint than his father, he certainly knows how to charge hard when the song demands it. Joined here by a hard charging band with keys and a saxophone to spice up the guitar oriented mix, Johnson gives a 13 song lesson in traditional electric Chicago blues. The only downside is that he includes a number of his father’s hits such as "Dust My Broom", "The Sky is Crying" and "Mean Mistreater", that have been covered so often that even his blood connection to the tunes can’t shake off the weariness of hearing them yet another time. Apart from that, his originals have a spark to them that keeps them interesting even though the musical path they follow is pretty well worn. Smitty

THE HOLMES BROTHERS

FEED MY SOUL

Mar 2, 2010

Brothers Sherman and Wendell Holmes, along with drummer Popsy Dixon otherwise known as the Holmes Brothers have been recording together since 1980. In 2008 Wendell faced with what appeared to be incurable cancer and it appears we may have hears the last of their great harmonies. The powerful track “Fair Weather Friend” addresses the feelings how people may run or disappear when hearing about cancer and treating their friends as if they had some kind of plague. With this release, the Holmes Brothers have fed all of our souls with an uplifting platter of Blues & R&B that shows the power of the human spirit. Most songs are originals with the exception of their excellent cover of the Beatles “I’ll Be Back” and the R&B sounds of “Pledging My Love”. Produced by the great Joan Osborne, if this disc does not lift your soul and spirits please seek professional counseling. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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SISTA MONICA PARKER

SOUL BLUES & BALLADS

Feb 3, 2010

Sista Monica Parker calls Soul Blues & Ballads her tribute disc to three of her heroes, the late greats Koko Taylor, Ruth Brown and Katie Webster. On this disc she brings the best of these three artists to life with one of the best female vocal performances of 2009. Her voice has all the soul and grace you would discover on a 1950’s or 1960’s Ruth Brown soul recording for Atlantic Records. The power of Etta James or Koko Taylor when she sings the Willie Mitchell classic “Come to Mama” or “A Chance To Breathe” a track originally released on Sista Monica’s 2000 release “People Love the Blues”. On “Never Say Never” Sista Monica leads you into the sensuous side of the blues and ends with a powerful blues explosion. “Pussy Cat Moan” is a blues jewel that Katie Webster performed and made her own, with the powerful vocal delivery Sista Monica gives to this gem it would make the queen of the Louisiana swamp blues proud. It doesn’t matter if Sista Monica Parker is singing Soul, Gospel, Ballads or Blues her voice will warm you and make you feel oh so good inside. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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JEFF HEALEY

SONGS FROM THE ROAD

Feb 2, 2010

This live disc features Jeff Healey working his way through eleven well known cuts that range from blues standards, "I’m Ready", "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Stop Breaking Down", to classic rock, "White Room" and "Whipping Post", folk rock, "Teach Your Children Well" and even a couple of Beatles related tunes, "Come Together" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Throughout, the tracks are propelled by Healey’s fluid guitar chops and rich, emotive voice. While he doesn’t have the vocal grit to be anything other than a decent cover artist on the early blues numbers, and wisely abdicates the microphone to others so as to focus on his smoking guitar riffs on "White Room" and "Whipping Post", his voice is well suited to most of the material here and is spot on for his signature tune, the John Hiatt penned "Angel Eyes". Even though Healey’s recorded output for the several years preceding this release explored other genres, most notably jazz, it is clear that he was never far from the blues rock that first brought him to the international stage. Listen to him cutting heads with BTO’s Randy Bachman on "Hoochie Coochie Man" for a great example of his blues rock prowess. Sadly, Healey passed away from cancer within a year of these recordings. Unless a cache of unreleased material finds its way onto disc, this release will serve as his epitaph. Not a bad way to go out. Smitty

LAURIE MORVAN BAND

FIRE IT UP!

Jan 26, 2010

I couldn’t think of a better title to this disc then “Fire It Up” because it sizzles from the opening note. The opening track ‘Nothin’ But The Blues” expresses the joy that only the blues can bring. “Come On Over To My BBQ” is saucy blues at its very best filled with double entendres such as “I’m gonna put up my tenderloins and let you fire up my grill” It left me wondering what would be left for dessert. “Skinny Chicks” may be Laurie’s answer to the Fiona Boyes track “Celebrate the Curves”. “Let Me Carry Your Troubles” has an almost Rory Block sound to it and certainly represents the heartfelt sensitive side of Laurie Morvan. This Gal from California certainly can play a screaming’ guitar, write great blues songs, and lead her top notch band through twelve tracks of sizzling blues. My recommendation is grab this disc and Fire It Up!!! Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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DARRELL NULISCH

JUST FOR YOU

Dec 14, 2009

Combine an eight piece horn section, three back ground vocalists, a solid rhythm section and one of the best blues soul singers alive and you have a combination that will not disappoint. Darrell returns to his more soulful roots after his Blues Music Award nominated “Goin’ Back to Dallas”. Combining six original tracks and four covers Darrell has made a CD that would make his influences Otis Redding and Al Green proud. The track “Work for Love” originally recorded by Lou Pride in the 1970’s is the soul highlight on the disc, while “Just a Little Blues” you can feel Darrell channeling the blues of Robert Cray. Whether singing the blues or R&B Darrell Nulisch has one of the finest voices in music today. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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Eugene "Hideaway" Bridges

LIVE IN SAN ANTONIO

Dec 7, 2009

Recorded live at Chango’s Havana Club in San Antonio, Texas, this disc features singer/guitarist Eugene Hideaway Bridges backed by a swinging band including keys and a horn section. With a guitar sound that draws on the smooth lyrical styles of B.B. King and Robert Cray but with fleet fingered flourishes thrown in to add a sonic punch, Bridges makes each of the 15 cuts collected here an enjoyable listen. Far from just another night of 12 bar blues, (although straight blues gets is due on "Real Hero" and several other tracks), Bridges and crew treated the audience to everything from shades of Otis Redding style soul, "Learn How To Let You Go", to Roadhouse rockers a la Delbert McClinton, "Giving Up On Love", to Sam Cooke’s "Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day" to jump blues, "Jump the Joint" and even a bit of East Coast beach style music, "Movin’ and a Groovin’". Interestingly, Bridges shares more than a guitar style with B.B. King: he also has a big, expressive voice that, like King, can sound notes of despair one moment and outright glee just as effectively the next. While Bridges is clearly the star of the show he gives the band plenty of room to shine throughout the disc but most prominently on the smoking "I Know That you Love Me" which features punchy solos from each band member that show their skills but don’t overstay their welcome. With one hot tune after another there’s no doubt that the crowd at this show were sweat soaked and happy at the end of the night. Smitty

CLARENCE BUCARO

NEW ORLEANS

Dec 7, 2009

While New Orleans is ground zero for some of the most upbeat party music you’ll ever hear, it is also home to plenty of great Soul and R & B. The likes of Irma Thomas, John Boutte, Johnny Adams and Aaron Neville provide a welcome respite from the hip-shaking dance floor with songs that burn low, slow and sweet. Ohio native Clarence Bucaro became smitten with the soulful side of New Orleans and joined forces with Anders Osborne (guitar and vocals), Kirk Joseph (Sousaphone), Mike Burkart (B3/keys) and Doug Belote (drums) from the local scene to lay down the 10 tracks collected here. Like all good Soul music, this set is intensely personal and lures you into its emotional web. While most of the cuts are low key and focus more on the vocals than the groove, there are a few semi-upbeat exceptions including "Light in Your Eyes", "The Other End", "Let me Let Go of You" and "Red Herring". While Bucaro has a ways to go to be mentioned in the same breath with long term members of the scene, his supple voice and the well crafted tunes collected here have him on the right path. A good bet when it’s time to move the party from the dance floor to the dark and quiet corner. Smitty

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DIAMOND JIM GREENE

HOLDIN' ON

Nov 24, 2009

Chicago blues man Diamond Jim Greene offers a dozen delta style blues tracks mixed with some gospel. The CD begins with his covering of the classic Percy Mayfield track “Please Send Me Someone To Love”. It is Diamond Jim’s best vocal track on the disc, as many of the others reminded me of what would happen if Leon Russell released a blues disc. “Oh Glory {How Happy I Am} is a cover of Reverend Gary Davis gospel track and leaves you feeling that you have just attended a southern Baptist church service. “Girlfriend Blues” is the tale of a mans girlfriend discovering his girlfriend also has a girlfriend, it may be catchy but seems a bit clicheé. This certainly is not a diamond standard offering in the world of blues music, but it is good to see musicians like Diamond Jim Greene continue to bring the sounds of Delta Blues to a new generation. Reviewed By; Gregg Saur

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DEBBIE DAVIS

Holdin’ court

Nov 13, 2009

Debbie Davies’s new cd “Holdin’ court” lets the electric blues guitar goddess shine. I’ve always enjoyed her music but not her vocals so much. Davis’s music heritage includes her father working with people like Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra, her mother a classical pianist, and Davis spent 3 years with Albert Collins in his Ice Breakers band. Since 1991 she’s been on her own. After 22 years of performing, Davies brings her road tested licks and music appreciation to her 12th solo offering. This VizzTone release is a collection of originals songs packed with homage’s to electric blues players of the 1960s including Otis Rush, Albert Collins, and Gatemouth Brown. I think this cd has something for everyone from the opening horns backed blues tune “Fishnet” to the last “Zoom-in” surf guitar style song. I recommend you Play Often!

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SHELLEY KING

Welcome Home

Nov 13, 2009

Shelley King was the 2008 Official State Musician of Texas; she was the first woman to hold that honor. "Welcome Home", her 5th cd shows why. This solidly Delta Blues cd started out as an informal gathering of friends to record a few demos. Her friends are the Subdudes; John Magnie, Tim Cook, & Steve Amedee and together they took this cd to a Texas style, bigger than life, recording. King has a VOICE and adding the harmonies from the Subdudes creates a WYCE perfect cd. I loved the first song “Summer Wine” best - maybe after the fall we had it just hit me right. I hope you’ll find something that is as appealing to you. Anne Lamont

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GRANDPA ELLIOT

Sugar Sweet

Nov 13, 2009

Grandpa Elliots cd “Sugar Sweet” produced by Playing For Change, which is based on the simple idea that the world can find peace through music. Mark Johnson, the founder said “Grandpa Elliott embodies everything the Playing For Change project is about,….Soul, Talent, and perseverance.” I agree. The title to this cd is just right. “Sugar Sweet” is a sweet sounding blues cd. This man has been performing since he was 6 on the streets of New Orleans and I heard ‘Orleans in each song. He adds good harmonica licks and lights up the music with his resonant voice. “This little light of Mine” medley is perfect for Sunday morning. If there was a church you could find this music being played I’d be there every week. His voice reminds me somewhat of Keb Mo’ but I don’t want to sell this man short. His style is his own. Start to finish this is a gem. Sweet indeed! Anne Lamont

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DAVID MAXWELL & LOUISIANA RED

YOU GOT TO MOVE

Nov 2, 2009

David Maxwell & Louisiana Red take you deep into the heart of the Delta on this release which is sure to move you. This is a raw recording between two blues masters who met on a warm afternoon with no pre fabricated song list and only a small baffle separating the guitar and vocals of Louisiana Red and the piano of David Maxwell. The result of this session was “You Got to Move”. This CD is pure honest, raw Delta style blues recorded and preformed the way it was done decades before the studios added all the polish and if that won’t move you, please check your pulse. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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MR. GROOVE BAND

ROCKET 88 TRIBUTE TO IKE TURNER

Oct 19, 2009

Nashville’s Mr. Groove Band led by producer, arranger and bassist Tim Smith has released a 13 track tribute CD that would certainly make the late great Ike Turner proud. The CD begins with the track many consider the first rock and roll single originally recorded in 1951 “Rocket 88”. The CD is primarily composed of tracks that were made famous during the Ike & Tina Turner days, including their hits “Proud Mary” and their signature track “Nutbush City Limits”. Mr. Groove Band also proves it knows how to lay out the funk on “Gold Soul Sister” and the Sly and the Family Stone classic “I Wanna Take You Higher”. Vocals and this disc are shared between Darryl Johnson and two Ikette’s. The first white Ikette Bonnie Bramlett from Delaney and Bonnie fame who worked with a who’s who of musicians for Stax records as well as a young Eric Clapton. Audrey Turner is the other who joined as an Ikette in the 1990’s and eventually became Ike’s wife. This tribute disc should prove to be a hit with fans of Ike Turner as well as those unfamiliar with this classic soul man. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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VARIOUS ARTISTS

Things About Comin' My Way: A Tribute to the Music of the Mississippi Sheiks

Oct 19, 2009

The Mississippi Sheiks were one of the most popular blues groups of the 1930s, centered around the duo of Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon (with other members, mainly Lonnie's brothers Sam and Armenter). The Shieks' most famous tune, "Sittin' on Top of the World," has been recorded by everyone from Howlin' Wolf to Bob Dylan to Jack White. Canadian musician Steve Dawson assembles a predominately Canadian line-up of guests in this set to give the Sheiks' catalog either a straightforward or fresh delivery. The North Mississippi All-Stars get things rocking from the get-go with "It's Backfirin' Now" and there are solid entries from Bruce Cockburn, Kelly Joe Phelps and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Two women on this disc deliver the best renditions: Madeline Peyroux's sultry "Please Baby" and the relatively unknown Ndidi Onukwulu on the title track. A great set and a fitting tribute to an important, yet overlooked, blues legacy group. Michael J. 10/09 B-Roots (Delta)

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BRYAN LEE

SIX STRING THERAPY

Oct 17, 2009

Guitarist Bryan Lee, the “Braille Blues Daddy” has long been a mainstay of the New Orleans blues scene turning out blues for the tourists on Bourbon Street night after night. What sets him apart from the over-amped, paint by numbers, cover bands that mar that scene is the fact he avoids the standards and plays mostly original tunes or unknown gems. He’s also an adept guitarist with big gruff voice and a knack for a compelling story. Joined on this effort by a host of all-star guests, Lee weaves his way through the 12 cuts here like another night on the band stand with shouts of encouragement to the band interspersed with the lyrics. While the horns and keys added by the guests provide a dimension that doesn’t exist in his normal live shows there is still plenty of room for Lee to shine with stinging guitar work that is a treat from beginning to end. Albert Collins and the three Kings (Albert, B.B. and Freddie) can all take credit for the sounds that pour out of his guitar. Well worth the listen. Smitty

IRMA THOMAS

THE SOUL QUEEN OF NEW ORLEANS 50 Th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION

Oct 12, 2009

It is almost impossible to sum up the past 25 years of wonderful music the undisputed soul queen of New Orleans Miss Irma Thomas has brought us on one disc, but this release certainly makes a valiant effort. The 15 tracks on this disc are pure music magic showcasing Irma’s finest work for Rounder records since 1985. In addition to the classics Irma recorded three new tracks for this release including “Got To Bring It With You”, “Let It Be Me” and “Your Ship Has Sailed”. For anybody unfamiliar with Irma Thomas this is an excellent place to start, for fans of Irma you may wish this release would have been a four disc box set. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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CAROLYN WONDERLAND

BLOODLESS REVOLUTION

Oct 3, 2009

After a couple of mid-90’s discs fronting the Imperial Monkeys, Houston, Texas native Carolyn Wonderland moved to Austin and laid down her stake as a solo artist. This release is the first of her three to date. One listen and you’ll understand why she’s shared the stage with the likes of Bob Dylan, Buddy Guy, Los Lobos and most blues musicians who call Austin their home. Vocally, she’s a combination of Janis Joplin, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald with big brassy rock and roll roars followed by a taste of soul stew and then sweet jazz runs. She’s also a social activist who’s not afraid to cut right to the point. "Annie’Scarlet Letter" uses a spare acoustic backdrop to rail against the injustice of a young single mother that is jailed for selling a little pot to make ends meet. "Homelessness in Austin" is a jazzy number that is far more upbeat than Wonderland’s real life tale of having to live in her van and busk on street corners to keep her belly full. The title track has a fun, mysterious groove that almost sounds like an outtake from the Rocky Horror Picture Show but tells a hopeful tale of a change in the status quo based on “love, not fear” (Remember, this was released during the Bush/Kerry election cycle- another shattered dream). Her ballads hit hard as well. "Unbroken" finds her too scared by the fear of rejection to express her love while "Heart" focuses on the need to abandon false hopes. Both give her a chance to shine vocally with an uncluttered musical backdrop and lots of room to soar. While she’s most often cast as a blues musician, many of the tracks here including "Smile", "Judgment Day Blues", "He Said, She Said" and "From a Waffle Booth Six" tend more towards raucous bar room rock in the style of the Faces or Stones. Great stuff that regrettably didn’t earn Wonderland the accolades that were deserved upon its release. Smitty

FUNKTION

Funk Prelude

Sep 6, 2009

Out of Kalamazoo, Funktion offers soul-tinged blues on this, their debut release. Andrew Schrock does a nice job with the vocals, sometimes doing it soulfully, such as on "Hypnotyze" and sometimes doing it hip-hop style, such as on the title track. Horn solos abound, but are kept tastefully short, such as Terrence Massey's trumpet solo on "#4". Funky soul can be had on the track "Funk Spot" and on the slightly slower "Make You See". All in all, this is a fine debut album of dance floor-filling, radio-friendly blues. Rebecca Ruth

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GEOFF MULDAUR AND THE TEXAS SHEIKS

TEXAS SHEIKS

Sep 6, 2009

This is acoustic front porch blues at its finest. American roots musician Geoff Muldaur the Ex-husband of Maria & father to Jenni Muldaur has put together the Texas Sheiks an musical all-star ensemble that is sure to captivate the hearts and ears of all its listeners. Joining Geoff as a member of the Sheiks is the great Suzy Thompson on fiddle, Cindy Cashdollar who is now both a Sheik and a Guilty Women on both slide and steel guitars and the Texas legend the late great Stephen Bruton on guitar and mandolin. Geoff describes the Sheiks as old time back woods rhythm and soul. I couldn’t agree more. The Sheiks are all serious musicians but after the first listen it is easy to tell the fun that was had while making this recording and the sense of humor shown on tracks like “Under the Chicken Tree” and “Blues in the Bottle”. It is my hope that the Texas Sheiks will ride into your living room, take control of your stereo and be enjoyed on every front porch from Texas and beyond. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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DELBERT MCCLINTON

ACQUIRED TASTE

Sep 2, 2009

With a career that spans fifty years, a top 40 hit, "Giving It Up for Your Love", and a Grammy® to his credit for his 2005 release Cost of Living, Texas native Delbert McClinton has not only had a successful career; he’s covered a wide swath of the musical landscape with rock, country, blues and even a little gospel thrown into the mix. McClinton’s twangy, roughed up voice, adds a lived in feel that makes everything he does sound stone cold authentic. This release finds him raw and bruised by love gone sour with a number of ballads serving as the emotional touchstones. "On Never Saw It Comin’" he’s befuddled at missing the signs of a romance on the rocks. On "Until Then" he’s crushed by the reality of “lying alone in bed like butter without any bread” while on "Out Of My Mind" he’s haunted about not being able to get over a lost lover and on "Wouldn’t You Think (Should’ve Been Here By Now)" he’s stunned to find he’s the lover being dumped. "Starting a Rumor" is also a ballad but this time around his soulful croon is used plant the seeds of a new romance. While there’s also a Country weeper, "Can’t Nobody Say I Didn’t Try", there’s plenty of upbeat material here as well. "Willie" is rollicking tale of a hen-pecked buddy who’s just glad to have a woman after a long drought. "When She Cries at Night" is a soulful rocker with sweet background vocals that hide the sorrow of a woman who can’t get out the door. "Mama’s Little Baby" uses the old plantation tune "Shortnin’ Bread" as a musical backdrop to a tale about a woman so hot “she could pop corn just hold it in her hand.” "I Need to Know" has a tough John Lee Hooker beat while "People Just Love to Talk" is a jazzy tale about speculation run wild and "Do It" is a funky Muscle Shoals style soul work out. "She’s Not There Anymore" is a mid-tempo number with a cha-cha beat and the rocking "Cherry Street" finds McClinton regretting getting lured by alcohol and women into a set up that leaves him in the emergency room. While the musical backdrop covers much the same ground as prior releases, McClinton’s sharp eye for emotional detail and ability to make each tune a first person account make this worth adding to your collection. Smitty

KELLEY HUNT

MERCY

Sep 2, 2009

Singer, songwriter, piano player Kelley Hunt’s new release finds her mixing up the blues that were the bedrock of her prior three releases with gospel, blues, rock and heartfelt ballads. The disc starts out strong with the moody, atmospheric intro to "You Got to be the Vessel" which gives way to a mid-tempo gospel groove and then seamlessly shifts gears with the solid bass groove that propels the semi-spoken vocals of "Lone Star Road". Church is also in session with the big gospel delivery of "Mountain to Move". The big production number, "Freedom Day", has all the earmarks of a U2 cut with its intricate instrumentation, big vocals and build up to a majestic peak. The ballads "Love", "Mercy", "Drowning Man" and "You Can’t Fool Me Anymore" give Hunt a chance to showcase her lush vocals with the later of the four getting added heat from a tough sax solo and sounding as if it could have come from Angela Strehli or even Marcia Ball. Turning up the heat are the mambo tinged "Give Me A Sign" and the blues rock scorcher "Emerald City" which mixes references to Wizard of Oz characters with politics. Straight out blues and boogie make a welcome appearance on the funky "That Ain’t Love" and "Wig Chalet". With a voice equally comfortable belting out the blues or negotiating tender ballads with no instrumental cover to hide behind, Hunt is an easy listen no matter what musical muse strikes her. SMITTY

RICK ESTRIN & THE NIGHTCATS

TWISTED

Sep 2, 2009

With the departure of namesake Little Charlie Baty, this well seasoned West Coast blues band has morphed from Little Charlie and the Nightcats to Rick Estrin and the Nightcats. For occasional listeners, this isn’t much of a change since Estrin has been the band’s lead singer, harmonica ace and primary lyricist throughout the band’s history. Estrin’s top notch harmonica skills remain intact as evidenced on the rocking "Big Time" and "P.A. Slim Is Back", the aptly titled instrumental, "Cool Breeze" and the simmering "Take It Slow". His trademark wit and sly vocals have made the transition as well with "Back from the Dead leading" the charge with its tale of surviving all manner of debauchery. Those with more than a casual acquaintance with the band will notice a major change by virtue of the switch in guitarists. While Baty was an inventive, jazzy player in the vein of B’nois King, replacement Kid Andersen is more of a roots rocker with a taste for Rockabilly. The guitar fueled "ack From the Dead"could easily find a home on a Southern Culture on the Skids disc while the chicken scratch riffing on "UBU" is more Elvin Bishop than B.B. King. Andersen also proves to be comfortable in the spotlight: the instrumental "Earthquake" features dense slabs surf guitar worthy of Los Straitjackets while "Bigfoot" sounds like an homage to Link Wray. That’s not to say that Andersen is all rough and tumble. The slow grinding "Catchin’ Hell" and "Cool Breeze" both feature some restrained, yet tasty, string stretching. While Baty will surely be missed, this revamped version of the band stands tall against his legacy. Smitty

JOHN HAMMOND

ROUGH & TOUGH

Sep 2, 2009

John Hammond has made a career of covering first generation blues players. This disc features him not only covering their tunes but emulating their straight up and simple recording style as well with no overdubs, no production and a “what you play is what you get” performance. Recorded live, but without an audience, at St. Peter’s church in New York, Hammond applies his considerable instrumental skills and vocals to Muddy Waters’ "Still a Fool" and "I Can’t Be Satisfied", Howlin’ Wolf’s "My Mind is Ramblin’" and "No Place to Go", Little Walters’ "Up the Line" and "Got to Find My Baby", Jerry McCain’s "She’s Tough", Blind Willie McTell’s "Statesboro Blues" and a host of others. While recording live knowing that the safety net of studio tweaks isn’t going to be used to save the day causes many an artist to play it safe, Hammond seems inspired by the risk and plays with the abandon that makes live performances shine compared to over-scrubbed studio efforts. Hammond’s intricate National Steel guitar work is captivating throughout and age has added an edge of hard won wisdom to his voice. When he throws harmonica into the mix the interplay with his guitar is so tight that you could be forgiven for assuming that someone else must have jumped in to accompany him. While the tunes collected here have mostly been covered to the point that their names alone could evoke a "Mustang Sally" flinch by blues fans, Hammond has stripped them of their electric city roots and presents them as mesmerizing acoustic numbers. While you’ve heard them all before, most come across as almost new. Adding to the sense of new discovery is the re-imagined "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and the hard charging take on Tom Waits’ "Get behind Mule". You owe it to yourself to give these old tunes a new listen. Smitty

JENNI MULDAUR

DEAREST DARLIN'

Aug 20, 2009

Backed by an all star cast including Sean Costello on guitar, Brian Jackson on keys, Lenny Pickett on sax, Catherine Russell, Teddy Thompson and Joseph Arthur on vocals, Jenni Muldaur, daughter of folk and blues icons Geoff and Maria Muldaur, has crafted a disc worthy of her rich linage. With most of the 12 cuts pre-dating the early 60’s you get the sense that Muldaur is channeling the soundtrack of growing up with parents immersed in music and having fun. The mostly upbeat tone of this disc is established from the opening notes of Big Maybelle’s classic, "I’ve Got a Feelin’", which is given a high energy reading that is matched by the jumping swing of Lee Dorsey’s "You’re Breaking Me Up", the girl group rave-up, "You’ve Got Me Uptight" and the rhythmic bounce of the Bo Diddley penned title cut. Vintage rock makes a fun filled appearance on "I’d Rather Live like a Hermit" which has a smoking sax chart straight off from L.A.’s Central Avenue and on the Charlie Rich classic, "There’s Another Place That I Can’t Go" which sounds like a first cousin to Sonny & Cher’s "Beat Goes On". In a different vein but still brimming with energy is the acapella field chant "Hopali". Even though soul numbers like "Just Ain’t No Love" have a percolating groove that leaves the crying to others while Muldaur shakes her tailfeather she can also pull out the Kleenex box as evidenced by "Lost Someone" and gets downright sultry on the bluesy "Just Kiss Me Once" and on the jazzy "Comatose Town". NRBQ’s "Blame it on the World" is somewhat of the odd song out with its popish sound and 70’s vibe. With a vocal style that sounds uncannily like her mother’s early work and occasionally like Rickie Lee Jones, Muldaur imbues every cut with sass, swing and, most importantly, honest emotion. Absolutely terrific from beginning to end. SMITTY

FIONA BOYES

BLUES WOMAN

Aug 20, 2009

Australian blues guitarist/vocalist Fiona Boyes follows up her successful 2006 stateside debut, Lucky 13, with another top notch release. With a core band featuring Derek O’Brien on guitar, Jimi Bott on drums and Ronnie James on bass, she has all the support she needs for a stellar effort. But, she doesn’t stop there: adding the colors and spice that separate this from the typical blues are special guests Watermelon Slim, Marcia Ball, Kaz Kazanoff, the Texas Horns and Pinetop Perkins. Boyes uses this massively talented crew to take a trip through a wide variety of blues styles. "Look Out Love!" is a hard hitting shuffle that gets added flair from Watermelon Slim’s cool dobro riffs. Slim also shows up as a crazed fire and brimstone preacher who condemns the deceased and all his mourners to a fiery grave on "The Barrelhouse Funeral". On the other end of the spectrum is the upbeat "Train to Hopesville" which features big horn grooves and rollicking piano from Marcia Ball. "Got My Eye on You" is a sexy, salacious number where Boyes’ lust for the boys in tattoos is almost as hot as Kazanoff’s guttural sax grooves. "Do You Feel Better" is a slow weeper with a 60’s girl group vibe while "Place of Milk and Honey" is a straight forward acoustic blues that features Boyes yearning for that hunk of easy street that blues musicians dream of but seldom reach. "Howlin’ At Your Door" has a tough, sinewy beat straight out of the Mississippi hill country while JB Lenoir’s "I Want to Go" is a romping stomping affair that gets plenty of propulsion from Jimi Bott’s bongos and heavy hand on a plastic trash can. Throughout, Boyes not only plays some hot wired guitar but also sings with both nuance and authority, sounding at times like a gritty version of Maria Muldaur and at others like a semi-tamed Robert Plant. It’s hard to imagine there will be many blues releases this year that hit so many bases so well. Smitty

THE TWISTERS

COME OUT SWINGIN'

Aug 17, 2009

The Twisters remain one of Canada’s hottest exports. Mixing west coast jump blues, rockabilly, reggae and gospel the Twisters can really shake things up. The CD opens with their signature swing sound that will fill the dance floor after the first note. The track “Doghouse” combines western swing with rockabilly and sounds like a meeting of the Love Dogs and the Stray Cats. “Take My Own Advice” departs from the jump swing sounds and lays down a cool reggae beat. “I Refuse To Get Old” could be many of our theme song and showcases the talents of Dave Horel on harmonica. It will be easy to make comparisons of Dave to Rod Piazza or Magic Dick throughout this entire release. “Party Goin’ On” has a full blown high energy gospel sound to it and will have you in the aisles in a full sweat begging for more. The Twisters have truly Come Out Swingin’ on this disc and blew this kid away. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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CHARLES WILSON

Troubled Child

Jul 25, 2009

On the blues/soul circuit since 1964, Charles Wilson seems to have hit his stride with Al Green-ish soul sets, with this disc following up on his award-nominated "If Heartaches Were Nickles." The nephew of the late Little Milton, Wilson knows his way around a song, as evidenced by the opener, "Where My Baby Went," a Bobby Bland tune or "The Good Side of My Girl." He gives homage to his departed uncle on "Somebody's Tears" and does an soul cover of Bob Marley's "Is This Love." Wilson has talent and pedigree, and most of this set is pleasingly smooth R&B. B-R&B 07/09 Michael J.

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DUKE ROBILLARD

STOMP! THE BLUES TONIGHT

Jun 23, 2009

It is said that everything old is new again and Duke Robilard is bring back the Rockin R&B sounds of the 40’s and 50’s with vengeance. Joined by roomful of blues alumni Doug James, Rich Latiaille and Carl Querfurth on horns this could have been released as the finest Roomful CD in years. Sharing vocals with the terrific Sunny Crownover Duke plays homage to some of the finest vocalists of the era including Wynoie Harris, Roy Milton, Big Joe Turner and Helen Humes’ who originally recorded the “Million Dollar Secret”. Most of the tracks on this disc were originally recorded 40-60 years ago, but Duke brings them back to life and makes them sound as fresh as the day they were recoded. My advice is put on your dancing shoes and Stomp the Blues Tonight! Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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BJ ALLEN & BLUE VOODOO

HEARTLESS

Jun 22, 2009

Kirksville Missouri musician BJ Allen and her band Blue Voodoo is certainly a force to be reckoned with. BJ has a dynamic vocal quality and range that could easily be compared to Ellen White, Liz Mandville or even Grand Rapids own Roberta Bradley. You can feel BJ pour her entire soul into each track on this fine release. The first track “Don’t Know What You’re Missin” is sure to fill the dance floor with its swinging sound. The track “Borderline” shows the funkier side of BJ and her excellent cover of Janis Joplin’s “Get It While You Can” has a certain gospel feel to it. BJ also slows things down a bit on Dinah Washington’s classic track “Sunday Kind Of Love” displaying her more sensitive side. The name of this CD is Heartless but after one listen you will discover that this Musician and her excellent band from Missouri have a whole lot of heart and lots of soul. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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GREG NAGY

WALK THAT FINE THIN LINE

Jun 19, 2009

Greg Nagy is well known to mid-western audiences as the guitarist and occasional vocalist for Lansing, Michigan based Root Doctor. This disc reveals that if his main gig ever ends, Nagy will land quickly on his feet. Joined by Jim Alfredson (Root Doctor and Organissimo) and Al Hill (Bettye Lavette) on keys, Jen Sygit and Rachael Davis on vocals and a host of others, Nagy and crew rip through 10 mostly self-penned tunes that cover a broad range of blues styles. The Don Nix classic, "For The Love of A Woman" is not only funky, but has some scorching guitar work. The title cut plays closer to the Soul side of the spectrum while "M & O Blues" has a Hill Country feel to it and "You Can Love Yourself" will have Keb’ Mo’ smiling at Nagy’s adept cover. On "Sunrise", Nagy channels the Doobie Brothers with his supple vocals propelling the rocking groove. Closing things out is the ballad, "She’s My Baby" which showcases Nagy’s sensitive side. Overall, a fine release. Smitty

The Living History Band

Chicago Blues: A Living History

May 11, 2009

This looks like a greatest hits compilation but it’s actually a retrospective performed by a modern Chicago collective calling themselves The Living History Band. They’re joined by 4 of Chicago’s great blues traditionalists – harp masters Billy Boy Arnold and Billy Branch; and guitarists Lurrie Bell and John Primer. Extensive liners explain the significance of the honored artists, none of whom, it could be pointed out, were born north of the Mason-Dixon.

LUBRIPHONIC

Soul Solution

May 11, 2009

Lubriphonic plays upbeat blues, oxymoron, or not. Out of Chicago and boasting a talented and experienced horn section, this band will get your booty on the dance floor. Except for four songs (Walls, Mexico City Blues, Depression Suite, and Waiting for a Change…all slow) this is a danceable and fun album. The song, Another Patch of Ground, in particular, starts out slow, but it works itself into a tight groove and features a nice trumpet solo.

THE MYSTIX

Down to the Shore

May 11, 2009

The Mystix's second album "Down to the Shore" is refreshing look at American roots rock. Down to the Shore is hard-edged enough to present a modern feel while still digging into the history of roots music. The album has a driving groove accompanied by gritty vocals. The band members (Jo Lily on guitar and vocals, Bobby Keyes on guitar, Marty Ballou on bass and vocals, Marty Richards on percussion, and Tom West on keyboards and vocals) have been playing together for three years, and individually long before that. This album is likely to become a standard as The Mystix gain fame across New England and the world.

WALTER TROUT

The Outsider

May 11, 2009

Walter Trout's new album, The Outsider, is an amazing combination of lively blues and invigorating rock, but is confined to neither. It is hard to tell whether his music is a well orchestrated masterpiece or an inspired jam session. Trout draws from 35 of experience touring and recording in Europe and America, and enlists the help of Kenny Aranoff on drums, Hutch Hutchinson on bass, John Clearly on piano, Skip Edwards and Samuel Avila on the Hammond B3, and Jason Ricci on harmonica. This soulful outpouring of music cannot be taken lightly.

Seth Walker

Leap of Faith

May 11, 2009

Seth Walker's Leap of Faith is a rainy-day, jazzy americana record. With horn-inflected, poppy tunes like "Rewind" and the title track, Walker's music leaves the listener with visions of downtown jazz clubs and smokey blues joints. He clearly wants this record to conjure up nostalgia for a certain era, and often he delivers, like on the fun bluesy opener, "Can't Come With You". Walker isn't all Blues/Americana though, as he shows his range on slower numbers like the soulful "I Got a Song" and folky "Lay Down (River of Faith)". Still, Walker's forte is Jazz and Blues, like the New Orleans influenced "Falling Out of Love." Leap Of Faith is a perfect record for those looking for a laid-back, rootsy set of tunes on a spring afternoon

SHIRLEY JOHNSON

Blues Attack

May 11, 2009

I remember seeing Shirley Johnson at the famous Blue Chicago club so many years ago in the windy city and thought she belted out some of the finest Chicago style blues I had ever heard. After 6 years between recordings the Killer Driller returns with a set that combines the great sound of Chicago blues with some hot R&B. Shirley’s voice has certain smoothness to it with the ability to still deliver a blues gospel that would make a church choir stand up and sing Hallelujah. Most of the tracks on this disc are Chicago originals, several were written by Shirley’s good friend and fellow musician Maurice Jon Vaughn. Shirley also delivers an excellent cover of Eddie Floyd’s “654-5789” and “Unchain My Heart” a track recorded by both Ray Charles and Joe Cocker. My advice is if you are under the influence of a Blues Attack consider yourself lucky.

COLIN LINDEN

From the Water

May 11, 2009

Chalk up another great CD from our Canadian friends. Legendary, prolific and veteran singer/songwriter/musician Colin Linden's From the Water is a terrific sound. And the crazy thing, this is the first I heard of him!! Colin is multiple Juno and Maple Award winner and a nominee for the Grammy's. He is one of the most in demand producers and players in Nashville- having worked with artists such as Bruce Cockburn, Emmylou Harris and Colin James. His songs have been recorded by The Band, Keb' Mo', The Blind Boys of Alabama and Michelle Wright (just to name a few) This CD has a lot of flavor. Sounds of The Band on tracks, #6 Between the Darkness and Light of Day (shades of a young Levon Helm!!!!) and #12. The CD also features some lowdown blues (#4) and a little Commander Codyish (# Trouble Only Comes In 3) . The CD ends with a soulful ( #14) God Will Always Remember Your Prayers. Highly recommend. Check out all the tracks, but #6 and #12 are my favorites.

LUBRIPHONIC

Soul Solution

Apr 26, 2009

Lubriphonic plays upbeat blues, oxymoron, or not. Out of Chicago and boasting a talented and experienced horn section, this band will get your booty on the dance floor. Except for four songs (Walls, Mexico City Blues, Depression Suite, and Waiting For a Change...all slow), this is a danceable and fun album. The song, Another Patch of Ground, in particular, starts out slow, but it works itself into a tight groove and features a nice horn solo. Rebecca Ruth.

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JOHN SCOFIELD

PIETY STREET

Apr 15, 2009

Jazz guitarist John Scofield has channeled his long time desire to do a blues disc into this effort which is billed as a gospel release. Featuring songs by the “father of gospel music”, Thomas A. Dorsey, who first combined gospel with jazz and blues, "The Old Ship of Zion" and "Never Turn Back" as well as Dorthy Coates’ classic "99 and Half", Hank Williams, "The Angel of Death" and even a couple of self-penned numbers this set does, indeed, have gospel roots but for the most part isn’t driven by the high energy “testifying” you find at the House of Blues’ Gospel brunch. Instead, Scofield has joined forces with some of the funkiest musicians in New Orleans including Jon Cleary on keyboards and vocals, George Porter, Jr. on bass, Ricky Fataar on drums, John Boutte on vocals and Shannon Powell on tambourine and drums to craft a disc that will get your mind, body and soul all shaking at once. Ever the consummate musician, Scofield lays down impeccably tasty jazz oriented riffs that evoke George Benson and add rich sonic counterpoints to Cleary’s rollicking piano and the thoughtful lyrics. But this isn’t all just tasteful reserved stuff: Those who can’t imagine gospel without a bit of hand-clapping should proceed directly to the Rev. James Cleveland’s "Something’s Got a Hold On Me" while those who need that Gospel Brunch high should check out the upbeat "It’s a Big Army". Can I get an Amen!! Smitty

VARIOUS- TRIBUTE TO DOUG SAHM

SAVE YOUR SOUL

Apr 15, 2009

The late, great Doug Sahm was a musical juke box of sorts playing everything from British Invasion style pop as epitomized by his 1965 hit, "She’s About a Mover", to Country, Rock, Tex-Mex, blues and a side of Psychedelic Cowboy thrown in for good measure. This heartfelt tribute by roots rock “A” listers collects songs from every stage of his career including his solo releases and stints with the Sir Douglas Quintet, Freda & the Firedogs (featuring Marcia Ball) and the Texas Tornadoes. Highlights include Alejandro Escovedo’s rocking rework of "Too Little Too Late", which has a bit of an Elvis Costello snarl to it, Flaco Jimeniz and the West Side Horn’s Tex-Mex groover, "Ta Bueno Compadre (It’s Ok Friend)", Dave Alvin’s honky-tonk take on "Dynamite Woman", Delbert McClinton’s straight country take on "Texas Me", Freda and the Firedog’s soulful, "Be Real", Terry Allen’s rootsy "I’m Not That Kat Anymore", Joe “King” Carrasco & the Texas Tornados’ reprise of the Tornados’ 1990 hit "Adios Mexico" and Sahm’s son Shawn’s dead on version of "Mendocino" which, as in the original, is driven by Augie Myer’s timeless Vox organ. Dig this then go buy the originals. Smitty

SHIRLEY JOHNSON

BLUES ATTACK

Apr 7, 2009

SHIRLEY JOHNSON BLUES ATTACK I remember seeing Shirley Johnson at the famous Blue Chicago club so many years ago in the windy city and thought she belted out some of the finest Chicago style blues I had ever heard. After 6 years between recordings the Killer Driller returns with a set that combines the great sound of Chicago blues with some hot R&B. Shirley’s voice has certain smoothness to it with the ability to still deliver a blues gospel that would make a church choir stand up and sing Hallelujah. Most of the tracks on this disc are Chicago originals, several were written by Shirley’s good friend and fellow musician Maurice Jon Vaughn. Shirley also delivers an excellent cover of Eddie Floyd’s “654-5789” and “Unchain My Heart” a track recorded by both Ray Charles and Joe Cocker. My advice is if you are under the influence of a Blues Attack consider yourself lucky. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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ELLEN WHYTE

FOUR WAY STOP

Apr 1, 2009

On her fourth disc, Portland, Oregon based multi-instrumentalist (guitar, accordion, percussion) and vocalist Ellen Whyte unleashes 11 original cuts that explore remorse, fear, love and strength. Joined by the ESP Horns (Renato Caranto, Pete Petersen, Greg Garrett and Mike Kelly) and a large band Garry Meziere and Dave Mullany on guitars, Gene Houck on bass, Jean-Pierre Garau on organ, clavinet and piano and Reinhardt Melz on drums, Whyte delivers insightful, thought-provoking lyrics against a broad musical palette. There’s everything from dark rootsy rockers reminiscent of Eagle Glenn Frey’s solo work, "No One Knows Better Than Me", to upbeat soul on the title cut to spare ballads, "Last to Know", Tower of Power style funky horn grooves, "Thanks for the Ride", and straight up rock, "Falling". Whyte matches the band’s ample hooks with lyrical hooks that dig deep. While she mines the normal blues vein of heartache, despair and working under the thumb of the man, she does so without resorting to the tired clichés we’ve heard way too many times. On "Over My Shoulder" an errant lover is admonished that “you’re doing too much thinking/you ain’t got enough time to feel” as she relegates him to the scrap heap. "Jack & Jokers" not only rocks, but is a timely call to action against the havoc wrecked by “Men in fine suits/suiting just themselves.” "When You Walk Away From Love" is a tender ballad about making the right choices in love and making sure the “when you walk away from love/Just remember… move slow/Take a look around you/you will miss it when you go.” These pointed lyrics get delivered by Whyte with a voice of incredible depth ranging from the sophisticated jazz stylings of Nina Simone on "Last to Know" to the husky swagger of rockabilly queen Rosie Flores on the upbeat number about finding love, "Lucky in Love", to the sly sexiness of Maria Muldaur on the seductive, "Wide Awake Woman". Overall, a fine release that deserves plenty of attention. Smitty

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J.C. SMITH BAND

DEFINING COOL

Apr 1, 2009

Hailing from the San Francisco Bay area, the J.C. Smith Band is a versatile six piece outfit (J.C. Smith on guitar and vocals, Donnie Green on drums, Paul Smith on B3 and keys, Robert Green on bass, Tommy Maitland on trumpet and Abraham Vasquez on tenor, alto and baritone sax) that can handle everything from straight guitar driven blues, "Bluezeman", to saxophone and b3 fueled funk, "Rite on Time", to jump/swing on the Roy Brown classic, "She Walks Right In", to mid-tempo scorchers care of Duke Robillard, "Lonesome Blues/Duke’s Blues" and Louis Jordan, "Outskirts of Town", to groove heavy reworks of the oft covered Don Nix tune, "Going Down", to a guitar and piano driven version of Albert King’s "I Walked All Night Long" to a slide laden version of Muddy Water’s "Satisfied". What holds this wide ranging set together is Smith’s powerfully elastic voice that swoops and glides with ease through not only the low down gritty numbers but also the ones that push the high end of his vocal chords. While this set is heavy on covers there are a couple of well done originals and the band adds enough new instrumental spark to the rest to make it an enjoyable listen. Smitty

ERIC LINDELL

GULF COAST HIGHWAY

Apr 1, 2009

On his third Alligator release guitarist Eric Lindell is joined by members of funk band Galactic (Stanton Moore on drums, Robert Mercurio on bass) and a host of other New Orleans based musicians including Marc Adams on Hammond b3, Jimmy Carpenter on Tenor sax, Derek Huston on Baritone sax, Chris Mule on guitars and Shelia Sanders, Tara Doughty and Sean Carey on backing vocals. Normally, getting more than two New Orleans based funk or jazz musicians together at a time results in long-winded jams and six songs to a disc. Not so here: five of the 15 tracks clock in at less than three minutes and none of the rest pass the four minute mark. So, does that mean that there isn’t much going on here musically? Not a chance. Sounding at times like a classic Delany and Bonnie disc or even a countrified Rolling Stones this is hard hitting soul and funk driven blues with hot horn charts, slamming rhythms and plenty of booty shakin’ fun. Rather than keeping a lid on the talents of the musicians, paring the songs to their essence allows Lindell and crew to keep your attention from cut to cut. Like John Fogerty’s short but catchy solos that drove the great Creedence Clearwater singles, Lindell has a knack for getting to the point with a few well placed guitar riffs and then getting out of the way for the horns, keys and vocals. While the charts are hot, Lindell is always cool with a vocal approach that alternates between the urgency of Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes and the unhurried vibe of mellow surf dude Jack Johnson. Lindell’s skill with the pen equals his prowess on guitar and vocals. With thirteen originals that fit seamlessly with classics by Waylon and Willie, "I Can Get Off on You", Buck Owens, "Crying Time", and Delbert McClinton, "Here Come the Blues Again", Lindell has crafted a disc that will stand the test of time. SMITTY

THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA

LIVE IN NEW ORLEANS

Mar 23, 2009

THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA LIVE IN NEW ORLEANS Recorded live at the legendary Tipitina’s during the 2008 New Orleans Jazz and heritage festival this disc shows this legendary group in a high energy set that is sure to captivate and lift any listeners spirit. Joined on stage with the Blind Boys are the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Henry Butler, Dr. John & others covering Norman Greebbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky”, Tom Waits “Down In The Hole” as well as other classic covers including their amazing version of “Amazing Grace”. Fans of their last release will also reveal in their version of the Crescent City classic “Bourbon St. Parade”. The Blind Boys have been putting out great music for 75 years and after one listen to this disc you can tell that some things just get better with age. The only complaint I have regarding this disc is it is only 31 minutes long and is missing four tracks from the store release of this disc. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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WSNB

OKTIBBEHA COUNTY

Mar 9, 2009

WSNB OKIBBEHA COUNTY This is WSNB {We Sing Nasty Blues} second release and like the first one is a full platter of delta soul drenched blues rock. The best description I can use for WSNB would be to take the Texas sounds of Omar and the Howlers and bury them in the swamps of Mississippi. This CD is pure unadulterated blues rock that lacks all polish but will certainly grab its listeners. My advice is get some good greasy southern food, a cold beer and turn this CD up real loud. You won’t be disappointed. After one listen you will understand why WSNB is one of North Carolinas hottest acts and why they too will have you singing the nasty blues. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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David Egan

You Don't Know Your Mind

Mar 9, 2009

2008 Rhonda Sue Records David Egan is a Lafayette, LA piano man who covers a lot of territory on the 11 tracks collected on this, his second solo release, after a career playing for the likes of Lil’ Band O’ Gold, File′ and Jo-El Sonnier. While the title track has a straight forward cadence that would fit into a military March that only serves to highlight the second line groove of You’re Lying Again, the boogie of Money’s Farm and Smile and the rollicking good times of Proud Dog. While there isn’t much here to tie the disc to its bayou roots, the influence of the area is inescapable. The funky Love, Honor and Obey has a strong percolating beat that would fit nicely on a Radiators disc while the horn grooves of Sing It and the second line feel of You’re Lying Again reminds you that New Orleans is only a couple of hours over the horizon. As a tunesmith who’s written for Percy Sledge, Johnny Adams, Etta James, Joe Cocker and, most recently, for the Marcia Ball, Tracy Nelson and Irma Thomas collaboration, Sing It, Egan knows his way around the lyric sheet as evidenced here by the 11 original tunes including, most notably the scathing indictment of an errant spouse on Love, Honor and Obey and the pep talk for the down and out on Smile. With a voice that morphs from the soulful croon of Charles Brown on Bourbon In My Cup to a light Louis Prima style duet with Jennifer Nicely on If It Is What It Is (It’s Love) and then to a Paul Thorn style stuffy croak on Best of Love Turned Blue, Egan always finds just the right tone to get his point across. Based on the strength of this release, Egan is an artist deserving plenty of attention. - Smitty

DAVID EGAN

YOU DON'T KNOW YOUR MIND

Mar 6, 2009

David Egan is a Lafayette, LA piano man who covers a lot of territory on the 11 tracks collected on this, his second solo release, after a career playing for the likes of Lilf Band Of Gold, FileŒ and Jo-El Sonnier. While the title track has a straight forward cadence that would fit into a military March that only serves to highlight the second line groove of "Youfre Lying Again", the boogie of "Moneyfs Farm" and "Smile" and the rollicking good times of "Proud Dog". While there isnft much here to tie the disc to its bayou roots, the influence of the area is inescapable. The funky "Love, Honor and Obey" has a strong percolating beat that would fit nicely on a Radiators disc while the horn grooves of "Sing It" and the second line feel of "Youfre Lying Again" reminds you that New Orleans is only a couple of hours over the horizon. As a tunesmith whofs written for Percy Sledge, Johnny Adams, Etta James, Joe Cocker and, most recently, for the Marcia Ball, Tracy Nelson and Irma Thomas collaboration, Sing It, Egan knows his way around the lyric sheet as evidenced here by the 11 original tunes including, most notably the scathing indictment of an errant spouse on "Love, Honor and Obey" and the pep talk for the down and out on "Smile". With a voice that morphs from the soulful croon of Charles Brown on "Bourbon In My Cup" to a light Louis Prima style duet with Jennifer Nicely on "If It Is What It Is (Itfs Love)" and then to a Paul Thorn style stuffy croak on "Best of Love Turned Blue", Egan always finds just the right tone to get his point across. Based on the strength of this release, Egan is an artist deserving plenty of attention. Smitty

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DAMON FOWLER

SUGAR SHACK

Mar 6, 2009

As one of the newest members of the Blind Pig records stable of artists, Damon Fowler brings more than blues to the party. The rollicking guitar licks of "Some Fun" that introduce the disc set you up for the fun that follows. Mixing things up between guitar and lap steel, Fowler conjures up a Lynyrd Skynyrd twist on the Merle Haggard classic, "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down", a funky, Little Feat style take on the Amazing Rhythm Aces’ "Third Rate Romance", a couple of Chuck Berry style rockers, "VFW" and "Lonely Blues", and a host of other well-penned original numbers. Throughout, Fowler steadfastly avoids the predictability of most blues discs by skipping boogies and shuffles in favor of mostly upbeat southern fried roots rock and road house stomps that would fit nicely on a Delbert McClinton disc. "Sugar Shack" is a swamp rock ode to an after hours club while "Sugar Lee" is a happily ever after tale about a failed romance that blossoms anew after the cleansing effect of time does its magic. "Wrong Side of the Road", on the other hand, is a tale of a woman gone bad with $50 placed in the right hands leaving someone dead. With a smooth lap steel groove, the cut lacks only the overproduction to make it something from an Eagles disc. Slowing things down a bit, Fowler wraps some sacred steel licks around the lyrics of "James", a sympathetic ballad of a man who gets knocked around his entire life, adding just the right amount of anguish to pull you into that tale. While those looking for straight blues won’t find a whole lot here, they will find some well played guitar, soulful vocals and rocking tunes. And sometimes, that’s just what you need. Smitty

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THE NIGHTHAWKS

AMERICAN LANDSCAPE

Mar 6, 2009

The Nighthawks have been turbo-charging band stands around the world for over 36 years. Based in Maryland/Northern Virginia, this four piece outfit has always kept one foot in the blues but has never shied away from roots rock, country, R & B and soul, both on stage and on record. Johnny Cash, Elvis, Patsy Cline, James Brown, Leiber & Stoller and Frank Zappa are as likely to find their way into a Hawks set as Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Pinetop Perkins, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James or Otis Rush. Featuring original members Mark Wenner on Harmonica and vocals and Pete Ragusa on drums vocals and percussion as well as new members Paul Bell on guitar and vocals and Johnny Castle on bass, vocal and percussion this disc skips covers of the first generation blues legends and focuses more on the rock and roll era. As always, the Nighthawks cast a wide net for their material. Things start out blue with a Jimmy Reed style shuffle on "Big Boy" which features Wenner’s wracked out vocals and fine harmonica work along with plenty of Bell’s tasty guitar work. The blues also get a spin on Ike Turner’s "Matchbox" where Ragusa’s elastic vocals convey the tough minded defiance of being down but not out over some of the best harmonica work found on the disc. Steve Cropper’s "Don’t Turn Your Heater Down", featuring soulful vocals by Ragusa and the instant classic cheatin’ song, "Where Do You Go", which was penned by bassist Johnny Castle and features the great line “where do you go when you go where you go without me?” both dip into the Soul/R& B well. Keeping the stylistic juke box spinning, Castle’s "Jana Lea" takes the band into rockabilly territory and they even take a turn into the Tom Waits songbook with an atmospheric run through "Down in the Hole". But they don’t stop there: As befitting the inclusive title of the disc, cuts by Dan Penn, "Standing in the Way", Berry Gordy, "Try it Baby", and even the Mayberry RFD theme, "Fishin’ Hole Theme", are included along with rocking takes on Bob Dylan’s "She Belongs to Me" and "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine" both of which benefit from getting roughed up from their folk roots. As always, the Hawks play all these cuts on that thin edge between just right tight and overly polished to great effect. If you’re not hip to the Nighthawks this isn’t a bad place to start. If you like what you hear, and you will, check out the one of the many live releases by this crew. Your only regret will be that you let so many years go by without the adding the Nighthawks to your musical diet. Smitty

SHEMEKIA COPELAND

NEVER GOING BACK

Mar 6, 2009

When Shemekia Copeland burst onto the blues scene from Harlem in 1998 she was a 19 year old with a voice that could shout down a freight train. While she still has all that power, the ensuing years have taught her how to restrain it in service of her songs giving her the ability to deliver a broader range of material. This collection finds her taking on everything from Joni Mitchell’s jazzy "Black Crow" to Buddy and Julie Miller’s swampy "Dirty Water" to Paul Thorn’s rocking "Rise Up" to her father, Johnny Copeland’s, blues drenched "Circumstances". Copeland’s new found control also pays dividends in the service of her own tunes. On "Sounds Like the Devil" her disgust is evident as she takes an unflinching look at the use of God for political ends or as a tool for personal financial advancement. Her producer, John Hahn and guitarist Oliver Wood, who contribute several numbers here, give her a great vehicle to try out some edgy funk on "Never Going Back to Memphis". As good as these cuts are it is the R & B/Soul numbers where she shines brightest. "Broken World", "Born a Penny", "Big Brand New Religion" and Percy Mayfield’s 'River’s Invitation" reveal an upbeat sass to her voice that conjures up thoughts of Aretha. This one will get lots of spins. Smitty

JOHN NEMETH

LOVE ME TONIGHT

Mar 6, 2009

After a couple of independent discs and stints with the likes of Anson Funderburgh and Jr. Watson, harmonica player/vocalist John Nemeth hit the national scene with his 2007 release Magic Touch earning immediate accolades from critics and fans alike for its classic soul blues sound. This release follows the same path with Nemeth and crew laying down heaping doses of southern fried soul blues on "My Troubled Mind" and the Delbert McClinton style ballad, "Fuel for Your Fire". Soul isn’t the only trick in Nemeth’s bag: he charges through rootsy rock on "Love Me Tonight", "Just Like You" and "Too Good to Be True" with enough conviction that you know he’s not just filling space on the disc. He also dips into East Coast style beach music with "She’s My Heart’s Desire" which gets as much heat from Bobby Welsh’s fret work as Nemeth’s soaring vocals. While Nemeth spends the majority of this disc leading the charge with his elastic vocals that mimic the anguished plea of Buddy Guy one moment and the rollicking fun of a young John Fogerty or even Tommy Castro the next (look out American Idol!) he demonstrates his harmonica chops to great effect on "Love Gone Crazy", "Where You Been?" and "Daughter of the Devil" where he heats things up with special guest Elvin Bishop. With 10 of the 11 tunes written by Nemeth this disc is as fresh as its sounds are classic. Smitty

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DAN AUERBACH

KEEP IT HID

Feb 23, 2009

DAN AUERBACH KEEP IT HID As half of the blues rock group the Black Keys, Dan Auerbach has released a solo release that won’t disappoint. This CD begins with one of its slowest and best tracks “Trouble Weighs a Ton” This track has a given gospel feel to it. The next track “I Want Some more” is a full throttle rock tune with fuzzy guitars that will certainly please fans of the early Keys works. “Beautiful I should” is a short instrumental that reminded me of the Tom Waits track What’s He Building In There. “Whispered Words” starts slow & picks up steam and hits full throttle by the end. “ When The Night Comes” and the CD’s bookend “Goin Home” are both acoustic style blues tracks that show the softer side of this talented musician. This CD grows on me more after every listen and offers everything from Psychedelic rock, hard driving blues & beautiful acoustic tracks. This CD should not be Kept Hid but should be shared with lovers of music who are looking for something more. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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GUY DAVIS

Sweetheart Like You

Feb 7, 2009

The son of famous actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Guy Davis has always been a performer -- at times pulled toward the stage, other times to the road as a gritty bluesman. Both interests combine to give him a dramatic delivery, whether he is interpreting the material of others (Bob Dylan title track), a tongue-in-cheek ditty ("Slow Motion") or telling his own story ("Words to My Mama's Song"). His compelling vocals and fine guitar work draw the listener in; his records almost always make you listen and pay attention rather than enjoy as background music. Great work here on Leadbelly's "Follow Me Down" and the Muddy Waters tune "Can't Be Satisfied" (performed here live). Fine new originals: "Words to My Mama" and "Angels Are Calling." The artistic genes lined up for this musician in the right places. B-Acoustic 02/09 Michael J.

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RUTHIE FOSTER

The Truth According to Ruthie Foster

Feb 7, 2009

After a killer CD last time out ("The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster"), could the Texas-based blues-and-soul-woman deliver another great set? The answer is simply yes. "The Truth According" covers acoustic, electric and gospel blues with equal expertise, lyrically and musically. Her originals are great, starting with the opening organ strains of "Stone Love," through the tough title track and on to gospel of "Joy on the Other Side" and the straight blues of "Tears of Pain." If that weren't enough, she serves up some Patty Griffin and Eric Bibb covers. Foster has a great sense of phrasing, both vocally and with the instrumental accompaniment. Everything works. And that's the truth. B-Soul 02/09 Michael J.

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ALICE RUSSELL

Pot of Gold

Jan 12, 2009

On this her fourth album, albeit only the second in-studio effort, Alice Russell seeks to showcase "her boys," as she affectionately refers to her band, coupled with her lavish and soulful voice. While some might label her music as "bluesy and soul lament," that would be too simplistic as much of her sound moves into the realms of funk, gospel, and even jazz. Teaming with producer T.M. Juke (a.k.a. Alex Cowan), who also happens to play guitar on all of the tracks, Russell undoubtedly offers her listeners a wide variety to feast upon. On the Motown influenced "Hesitate," the English songstress offers up something that you'd swear the Jackson 5 could have easily sung. Then, on the more subdued "Crazy," the band takes a backseat allowing Russell's voice to come to the forefront on the one track that Russell and Cowan didn't write. On "Let Us Be Loving," the influence of Aretha Franklin is markedly evident as the soulful tinged voice of the singer/songwriter cries out the need for love. Still, the best two tracks are arguably the first two, which pack a pretty remarkable one-two punch. The album gets out to a nearly perfect start with "Turn and Run" - a fast paced R & B mix followed by "Two Steps" - a song that brings back memories of Marvin Gaye's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." Overall, each song on this effort is well-done and the entirety of the album offers enough variety to keep the listener waiting for more. While it may never garner Gold status in record sales, let's hope someone takes notice of Alice Russell and this wonderful "Pot of Gold." ~ Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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RORY BLOCK

BLUES WALKING LIKE A MAN- A TRIBUTE TO SON HOUSE

Dec 2, 2008

RORY BLOCK Rory Block has built a long and successful career channeling the tracks of first generation bluesmen. Playing solo as they most often did, Block willingly puts herself under the microscope for examination by the purists who know every note laid down by the sadly under-recorded fathers of the blues. This disc features her taking on the legendary Son House who taught none other than Robert Johnson and inspired a young Muddy Waters to play the blues. As Block notes in the liner notes, his sound is simple but the process of producing it is not. House was not a conventional guitarist in any sense of the word. Rather than simply strum the guitar with an easy progression of chords, he was all over it with slaps, string snaps and unpredictable strums. Block takes us back all the way to House’s 1930’s era Paramount 78’s with "My Black Mama", "Preachin’ Blues" and "Dry Spell Blues", the later of which she warms up with layers of vocals. Also included are an acappella rendition of "Grinnin’ in Your Face" as well as stone classics "Death Letter", "Country Farm Blues" and "Shetland Pony Blues". While blues is the order of the day, Block also dips into House’s gospel well with "I Want to Go Home On the Morning Train". Each cut is delivered by Block with a preservationist’s skill, a fan’s passion and a master’s touch. While Son is sadly gone, his legacy is clearly in good hands. SMITTY

SUSAN TEDESCHI

BACK TO THE RIVER

Dec 2, 2008

Thirteen years, several discs, a husband (Derek Trucks) and two kids separate Susan Tedeschi from her 1995 debut Better Days. So how has time treated her? Very well, thank you. The gloriously versatile voice that takes her from a sly, sexy Bonnie Raitt disciple to a raucous Janis Joplin lioness remains in full throttle. This time around she applies it to mostly self-penned or co-written tracks that stay pretty far away from the standard blues cannon of hard times and cheating, no good, lovers. Instead she looks at a whole host of topics including the need to move on despite disaster, "700 Houses", getting whipsawed by advice from everyone when the only true answer to her issues is love, "Love Will", a theme that gets reaffirmed on "Butterfly", and the need to get your priorities in line, "Revolutionize your Soul". While many enjoy the gruff side of Tedeschi’s vocal range, tracks like "People" and "True", which feature her softer side, are a more natural fit and bring out her inner-hippy. But Tedeschi isn’t just another writer with a great voice. She’s also a kicking guitarist who surrounds herself on this release with the likes of Doyle Bramhall, II, who helps her move the disc into high gear on "Talking About", a soulful horn section and her husband who adds his steamy slide guitar to several tracks. With plenty of blues for the faithful, there’s also a few change ups including a soul infused take on Allen Toussaint’s, "There’s a Break in the Road", the jazzy Learning the "Hard Way", co-written with the Jayhawk’s Gary Louris, and the title cut which reverberates with funky atmosphere befitting co-author Tony Joe White. This disc is sure to please Tedeschi’s fans and may even add a few new ones. SMITTY

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PAUL REDDICK

SUGAR BIRD

Dec 2, 2008

Joined by the likes of Colin Linden, Hutch Hutchinson, Garth Hudson, Darrell Leonard and Joe Sublette, harmonica ace Paul Reddick has crafted a disc that continues the trend of his 2006 release "Villanelle", focusing on the edges of the blues rather than the well worn Little Walter path. There’s everything from "Morning Bell", which sounds like an outtake from a session with the Band, to slinky, atmospheric roots numbers, "I Will Vanish", to acoustic folk blues, "Breathless Girls", to big band style blues on the catchy "It’s Later than you Think". This rich musical backdrop serves to highlight Reddick’s finely honed writer’s eye for detail with tales of a woman as thin as turpentine, "Devilment", and a first person account of "John Lennon in New Orleans" where he imagines Lennon seeking anonymous comfort from loneliness with a Cajun girl. While Reddick made his initial splash as a harmonica player he unleashes it here more as an accent piece than a lead instrument with only the straight blues of "Block of Wood" featuring more than a quick flourish. Reddick’s nuanced vocals take center stage on most of the songs and weave a spell-binding web that the all-star musical cast pulls tight around the listener. Colin Linden’s production adds polish where needed but leaves enough edges to make these tunes stick. Smitty

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JOE LOUIS WALKER

WITNESS TO THE BLUES

Dec 2, 2008

With a long and storied career that has included stints with John Lee Hooker, Thelonius Monk, Steve Miller, Jimi Hendrix and others, singer/guitarist Joe Louis Walker has had the opportunity to soak up lots of influences which he shows off on this disc. Joined by numerous guests including Duke Robillard (guitar), Bruce Katz (keys), Doug James (sax) and Shemekia Copeland (vocals), Walker lays down some horn driven funk, "It’s a Shame", rockabilly, "Midnight Train", jazzy ballads, "Witness", blues filtered through the Rolling Stones, "Rollin’ & Tumblin’", acoustic blues, "I Got What You Need", harmonica driven shuffles, "Sugar Mama", and bluesy torch songs, "Lover’s Holiday". As if this diversity isn’t enough, the call and response of "Keep on Believin’" allows Walker to revisit his gospel days while the salacious "100% More Man" puts him firmly at the other end of the righteousness scale with the saucy lyrics made all the more potent by a smoking slide guitar that would have Muddy Waters grinning. Each of these cuts is delivered by Walker with a voice that evokes comparisons to Buddy Guy when he’s having fun and John Hiatt when he wants to get gruff. But, Walker doesn’t have to sing a word to take you on a musical journey: "Highview" is an instrumental scorcher that gives Walker and Robillard a chance to jam on guitars and Katz a chance to get the pot boiling at full steam with his scorching b3 breaks. Worthy of much play! Smitty

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JIMMY THACKERY & THE DRIVERS

– Inside Tracks

Oct 20, 2008

Jimmy Thackery and the drivers may simply be the finest 3 piece blues band recording today. This is Jimmy’s seventh release for Telrac and one of the finest from a blues man that has been a staple of the industry since the 1970’s. Jimmy mixes Blues, Rock, and Country & Jazz on this disc and keeps it interesting throughout all 10 tracks. This CD begins with a more laid back blues track “All Because Of You” & progresses into a rocking version of the “Promised Land” a track that could have easily been recorded by John Fogerty. Jimmy pens of his most political tracks on “Change the Rules” while Land Locked” is a terrific blues instrumental. On the” Blinking of an Eye” Jimmy explores his more sensitive country side. The ending track “{You got Me} Now What You Gonna Do” is a classic jazz instrumental with a real Chet Atkins feel to it. On this disc it doesn’t matter what genre Jimmy is playing you are listening to a guitar player, singer & song writer at the top of his game. - Gregg Saur

BOB BROZMAN

– Post-Industrial Blues

Oct 20, 2008

Must give credit to the Dobro playing, however, the Captain Beefheart style of singing needs to go. I found myself laughing at them, mostly when he was trying to make his most serious points. Track 7 Let's Get It,Boy's is cool, well played. Track 14 a remake of People Are Strange is very strange, maybe disturbing even. – John Hardy

ROOT DOCTOR

- Live at the Cadillac Club

Oct 20, 2008

Driving it home at the Cadillac Club, Root Doctor puts the pedel down and hits cruise control. One of Michigan’s longest running touring bands the fellas decide to crank out a recording for the reverence of their home town crowd and make a well executed piece of sound. Greg Nagy guitar is in good form breaking in and out of Jim Alfredsons organ soulful work. Meanwhile Williams and Bole hold down the bottom for all the feet moving natives with Motor City Horns let nothing go missing. The night wakes up with Booker T & the M.G.’s “Hip Hug Her” and keeps the JuJu flowing from there. Track three “Keep Our Business of the Streets” brings Root Doctors authenticity out in the open while warning us to keep it under wraps. These guys really sweat it out for the likes of us on this super fine release. Give it up for them one more time. – While Lee Notable Tracks: 1. Hip Hug Her, 3. Keep our Business of the Streets 6. It’s Too Late To Try To Do Right

CEDRIC BURNSIDE AND LIGHTNIN’ MALCOLM -

2 MAN WRECKING CREW

Oct 20, 2008

Cedric Burnside: drums and Lightnin’ Malcolm: guitar Deeply rooted in the rich musical legacy of Cedric's Grandfather, Legendary R.L. Burnside and JR. Kimbrough, Malcolm and Burnside create a unique sound of their own. All original music, drums , guitar, dual vocal harmonies fusing Soul, Hip-Hop, and Funk with electrifying Blues power that's contemporary and traditional at the same time This album is a new brand of blues that really has an edge for a younger crowd. This sound is what considered the “Delta Blues” and Cedric Burnside was actually along side Samuel L. Jackson in the movie “Black Snake Moan”. “2 Man Wrecking Crew” is what I would peg a “hip-hop blues” with a spice of soul and funk on top. Some noteworthy tracks that I like are (1) R.L. Burnside, (3) My Sweetheart, (5) “Don’t Just Sing about The Blues”, (10) She Don’t Love Me No More, (11) “World Full of Trouble” and (12) Mad Man Blues. Lightnin’ Malcolm’s guitar playing is phenomenal and I really enjoyed the harmonica on the tracks. The lyrical content is pretty simple and that’s commonplace with the blues genre but I was just amazed at the guitar and drums on these tracks. Overall “2 Man Wrecking Crew” is a great display of young blues musicians with a new sound for the younger generations. –Corey Jones Note: (13) Trying Not to Pull My Gun has references to drug use in the lyrics.

TAJ MAHAL

MAESTRO

Oct 15, 2008

With a career that has passed the four decade mark and with countless albums and a couple of Grammy’s ® to his credit, Taj Mahal is a bona fide icon of American music. This wide-ranging disc is another stellar part of his legacy and includes guest appearances by a number of “A” list bands and performers as well as frequent collaborators, The Phantom Blues Band. Kicking things off with the soulful "Scratch My Back", a track most often associated with Otis Redding, Mahal moves easily through Reggae on "Never Let You Go" (featuring Los Lobos) and "Black Man Brown Man" (featuring Ziggy Marley) , funk, "Dust Me Down", (featuring Ben Harper) R & B, "Further On Down the Road" (featuring Jack Johnson), complex African rhythms, "Zanzibar" (featuring Angelique Kidjo and Toumani Diabate), blues, "Diddy Wah Diddy" (featuring the Phantom Blues Band) and "TV Mama" (Los Lobos) and percolating New Orleans second line grooves on the Fats Domino classic "Hello Josephine" and "I Can Make You Happy" (both featuring the New Orleans Social Club). The broad range of material allows Mahal to try on different voices ranging from the Omar Dykes style gut bucket growl of "I Can Make You Happy" and "Strong Man Holler" to the smooth, laid back drawl that makes him almost undistinguishable from Jack Johnson on "Further On Down the Road". The breadth of Mahal’s talent is evident as he moves through these various vocal styles, genres and musical pairings without ever sounding out of place. You would think that he’s spent his life with this material rather than just visiting it on his way to another musical frontier. Let’s hope the journey continues. Smitty

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JACKIE PAYNE/STEVE EDMONSON BAND

OVERNIGHT SENSATION

Oct 15, 2008

On their follow up to the terrific debut, "Master of the Game", singer Jackie Payne and guitarist Steve Edmonson together with the Sweet Meat Horns and a cast of guests including Jeff Turmes on sax and Mitch Kashmar on harmonica lay down thirteen tracks of Soul, R & B and blues. The title track kicks things off in fine fashion with Payne’s autobiographical tour through the blues. The amazing list of artists that Payne has accompanied foreshadows the diversity of vocal styles he brings to the party and the driving horns set an up-tempo pace that set the stage for the rest of the disc. "Can I Hit It Again" sounds like a marriage between the swinging funk of Tower of Power and the hot-wired shrieks of James Brown. On the Gene Barge classic, "Mother-in-law Blues", Payne delivers the blues in a frantic voice that recalls Buddy Guy but soon morphs into the Reverend Al Green on "Take a Chance on Me" where his thoughts are decidedly more secular than the godly. That theme continues on "Uptown Woman", "Downtown Man" and "Midnight Friend" which find Payne on the prowl looking for a bit of nocturnal companionship. "I Got a Mind to go to Chicago" and "No Money, No Honey" are straight forward blues with Kashmar’s harmonica laying on thick doses of Southside grease to accompany Edmonson’s stinging guitar. Deep soul makes an appearance on Isaac Hayes’ "Your Good Thing (Is About to Come to an End)" which finds Payne testifying about heartache with enough conviction that you know these aren’t just lyrics for him. He’s walked the walk as evidenced by "Bag Full of Doorknobs" where he recounts how his mate changes the locks every time he leaves. "She’s Looking Good/I’ve Never Found A Girl(Medley)" is a “wedding reception” cut with bits and pieces of several tunes. Overall, a solid disc of smokin’ soul blues. Smitty

MARC BROUSSARD

– Keep Coming Back

Oct 13, 2008

On his latest recording titled Keep Coming Back, Marc Broussard serves up quite a mix of Blues, R & B, Rock, and even some hints of Country on the final track Going Home. Here, the Country elements are evident mostly through the inclusion of the steel guitar which makes for a rather lush and beautifully written song about the complexities of life and relationships while on the road. However, aside from this, the singer/songwriter Broussard turns more toward the Blues and R& B sound beginning with the opening track, Keep Coming Back. On this song, Broussard's voice sounds like a mixture of Harry Connick, Jr. and Lenny Kravitz which further serves to confirm his wide-ranging vocal capacity. If there was another Rocky film coming out, Broussard's second offering, the blues/rock tinged Hard Knocks would definitely fit the soundtrack quite well as it delves into life on the streets and learning things the hard way. Another piece that deserves repeated listens is the soulful, organ-laced, and up-tempo love song Real Good Thing. However, probably my favorite song on the album is the piano driven composition Evil Things which really showcases Broussard's writing and vocal talents the best. It's a hope-filled song about love that looks at the past with some measure of regret but also towards the future with a larger dose of hope. Here, Broussard soulfully sings: "The evil things that I've done, wash away in the warmth of your sun." Overall, while some songs on this recording are less stellar than others, such as the LeAnn Rimes accompanied When It's Good, the majority of this recording is really well done as characterized by Why Should She Wait which features the singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles, whom Broussard is touring with this fall. In this reviewer's opinion, then, Keep Coming Back will definitely keep the listener coming back for more and more. – Jeff Bouma

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VARIOUS ARTISTS

– Les Paul and Friends: A Tribute to a Legend

Oct 13, 2008

This album featured a melting pot of great musicians paying tribute to Les Paul, and I liked the mixture of genres represented on this album. From Blues to Rock, this album doesn’t disappoint. My favorites tracks are 2-“The Walls Came Tumbling Down” (feat. Hiram Bullock) a bluesy piece with that patented Les Paul sound, (6)-69 Freedom Special, (7) Vocalise (feat. Slash), (8) I Love You more than You Know (feat. Mick Hucknall), and (9) How Long (feat. Jeff Golub) with just the collaborations alone on this album, you have a plethora of flavor for the listener. From lick to lick on the strings left me wishing I could play guitar like that and I actually enjoyed this album from top to bottom and would recommend it to anyone who loves guitar. –Corey Jones, WYCE Intern

RAPHAEL SAADIQ

– The Way I see It

Oct 13, 2008

RAFAEL SADDIQ HAS BEEN AROUND THE INDUSTRY SINCE THE MID 80’S WITH HIS BROTHERS IN THE R&B GROUP TONI TONE TONY. HE’S WORKED WITH ARTISTS SUCH AS JOSS STONE, ANGIE STONE, D’ANGELO, Q-TIP AND MANY MORE. I HAVE TO ADMIT THAT AT FIRST I FELT THAT THE SONGS ON THIS ALBUM PRETTY MUCH SOUNDED THE SAME AND THE MUSICAL CONCEPTS JUST SEEM SO SIMPLE. THEN I REMEMBERED WHAT THE SOUND WAS BACK IN THE 60’S AND 70’S ON THE R&B SCENE AND THIS ALBUM REPRESENTS WHAT WAS THE BEST OF THAT ERA, JUST GO MUSIC TO LISTEN TO WITH A DIRECT MESSAGE OF WHAT THE SONG IS ALL ABOUT AND PEPPY BEATS MIXED IN WITH A FEW LOVE SONGS. AFTER LISTENING TO THE ALBUM A FEW TIMES I HAVE TO SAY THAT THIS IS A KEEPER AS A CLASSIC “NEO SOUL” ALBUM. RAFAEL REALLY CAPTURED THE SOUND OF THAT ERA AND HE WROTE EVERY PIECE WITH THE HELP OF OTHER WRITERS. TRUE ARTISTRY IS WHEN YOU CAN GO BACK IN TIME AND ACTUALLY RE-CREATE YOUR OWN CHAPTER IN THAT ERA OF MUSIC AND RAFAEL SADDIQ HAS DONE JUST THAT! FROM THE SIMPLE HOOKS AND HARMONIES, TO THE INSTRUMENTATION, I FELT LIKE I WAS WARPED BACK WHEN I WAS A KID IN THE 70’S LISTENING TO MY MOM’S RECORDS. IF YOU THINK THAT YOU’LL GET THE SAME TONI TONE TONY SOUND BEFORE YOU PUT THE CD IN, YOU MAY BE DISAPPOINTED AT FIRST UNTIL YOU CLOSELY LISTEN AND REMEMBER WHAT THE ALBUM WAS TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH. RAFAEL ACCOMPLISHED HIS MISSION WITH THIS ALBUM AND IT’S GOOD TO SEE HIM STILL IN THE GAME! – Corey Jones, WYCE intern

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MARC BROUSSARD

Keep Coming Back

Oct 8, 2008

On his latest recording titled Keep Coming Back, Marc Broussard serves up quite a mix of Blues, R & B, Rock, and even some hints of Country on the final track Going Home. Here, the Country elements are evident mostly through the inclusion of the steel guitar which makes for a rather lush and beautifully written song about the complexities of life and relationships while on the road. However, aside from this, the singer/songwriter Broussard turns more toward the Blues and R& B sound beginning with the opening track, Keep Coming Back. On this song, Broussard's voice sounds like a mixture of Harry Connick, Jr. and Lenny Kravitz which further serves to confirm his wide-ranging vocal capacity. If there was another Rocky film coming out, Broussard's second offering, the blues/rock tinged Hard Knocks would definitely fit the soundtrack quite well as it delves into life on the streets and learning things the hard way. Another piece that deserves repeated listens is the soulful, organ-laced, and up-tempo love song Real Good Thing. However, probably my favorite song on the album is the piano driven composition Evil Things which really showcases Broussard's writing and vocal talents the best. It's a hope-filled song about love that looks at the past with some measure of regret but also towards the future with a larger dose of hope. Here, Broussard soulfully sings: "The evil things that I've done, wash away in the warmth of your sun." Overall, while some songs on this recording are less stellar than others, such as the LeAnn Rimes accompanied When It's Good, the majority of this recording is really well done as characterized by Why Should She Wait which features the singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles, whom Broussard is touring with this fall. In this reviewer's opinion, then, Keep Coming Back will definitely keep the listener coming back for more and more. ~ Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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THE IGUANAS

If You Should Ever Fall On Hard Times

Oct 8, 2008

Described by some as R&B, Conjunto, and Chicano Rock - meshed together with various Latin styles - The Iguanas undoubtedly carry with them such an eclectic sound on their latest and Katrina influenced release. With their first effort since 2003's Plastic Silver 9 Volt Heart, the foursome from New Orleans begin on a high-note with the Rock N' Roll infused title track, If You Should Ever Fall On Hard Times. Led by Rod Hodges on vocals, this song has a certain "flair" to it that warrants no small amount of attention while it showcases Hodge's vocals as kind of a Dylan/Springsteen hybrid. Another strong piece is Okemah, arguably the best sounding track that again shows the diverse sound of Hodge's voice that sounds something like Mark Knopfler meets Tom Petty. The Instrumental The Beep has a fun and yet mischevious sound to it that reminds one of the theme from Pink Panther. Another standout on this album is the accordion driven Back in the Limelight that highlights the opportunity for second chances in life as the lyrics imply with the following line: "I've done my time, it's my time to shine." Like their former release, The Iguana's also offer their listeners three Spanish language songs with the strongest of these being Celos Con Mezcal. However, neither one of these three is especially exciting enough to warrant repeated listens. Pelican Bay is another track worth mentioning as it offers up a care-free and electric piano laced ode to a place near and dear to ones heart. Rounding things off, the recording ends on a rather positive and hopeful note on the love song titled Warm Sun. While not their greatest set of music, considering what the group went through post-Katrina, The Iguanas do provide their fans with a noble effort and should be commended for it. ~Reviewed by Jeff Bouma

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Various Artists -

The Champions of R&B

Oct 6, 2008

This CD brings together artists who were legendary in the Nashville, Tennessee blues scene years ago. The 18 cuts are all rather banal down-home-blues style tunes (think Z.Z. Hill or Clarence Carter without their spunk) and many of the tunes are disappointingly predictable. For example, on track #12, Girlfriend Blues, Johnny Jones describes discovering his girlfriend in bed with another woman (who “ironically” is a woman he was having an affair with) and of course, he wraps up the song with the hope of joining in.

BB KING

– One Kind Favor

Sep 29, 2008

King shows the strength and maturity of his voice, along with an excellent backing band and quality song writing such as the intimate lyrics in "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and "Blues Before Sunrise," and the classic blues track "Waiting On Your Call". -Jon Lewandowski

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B.B. KING

One Kind Favor

Sep 25, 2008

King shows the strength and maturity of his voice, along with an excellent backing band and quality song writing such as the intimate lyrics in "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and "Blues Before Sunrise," and the classic blues track "Waiting On Your Call". -Jon Lewandowski

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LIZ MANDEVILLE

RED TOP

Sep 12, 2008

On her long delayed fourth release, Liz Mandeville not only displays her new found guitar chops but rolls out fifteen self-penned tracks that showcase her versatility as both a vocalist and a songwriter. Joined by an all-star cast of Chicago musicians including Eddy Shaw on saxophone and Allen Batts on keyboards, Mandeville is by turns a tough, no-nonsense former victim who declares her independence, "Dog No More" and "Bad Man Blues", a woman who isn’t afraid to lay down the rules, "So Smart Baby", a sexy blues mama who makes her desires well known, "Spanky Butt", "Rub My Belly", "Scratch the Kitty", "Little Queen" and "Home Cookin’" (all “PG-13” to “R” rated) and a mistress with eyes on a married man who’s not going to leave his family, "My Baby’s Her Baby Too". A listen to these cuts leaves no mistake regarding her strong sense of self assurance. It’s a surprise, then, when she gives us a peek behind the strong front on "Hold Me" where her desperate plea for comfort against a painful world is heightened by Eddy Shaw’s wailing tenor sax. While the joy, pain and lust tied up in relationships fuel many of her songs, she also chronicles the perils of over consumption that lead to missing moments and a night compliments of the county jail, "Corner Bar Blues", the joy of escaping a close call, "Whoa, Whoa, Whoa" and the pain of choosing between unemployment and benefits that could get you killed, "Illinois National Guard Blues". Throughout, Mandville displays a voice that is sexy, sly, powerful and laden with honest emotion. For the most part, this is an upbeat, rocking effort with horns and a gospel choir adding ample doses of sanctified soul sweetener that will surely have even the most leaden foot tapping along. "Guilty of Rockin’ All Night" ups the party ante even further with scorching solos from Shaw that serve as the perfect fuel for Mandeville’s tale of over the top fun. Miss this party at your own risk. Smitty

STEVE GUYGER

RADIO BLUES

Sep 12, 2008

Steve Guyger is an old school harmonica player who has played with everyone from blues icon Jimmy Rogers to rock legend Levon Helm. Backed on this disc by Johnny Moeller on guitar, Steve Gomes on bass, Robb Stupka on drums and Bill Heid on piano and organ, Guyger reveals his deep roots and varied influences. The disc kicks off with "Lookie Here" where Guyger dips back into another era where men didn’t waste time on proposals but simply announced to their chosen mate that they were getting hitched the next day. Fortunately, the adept interplay between Guyger’s harmonica and Moeller’s guitar make the Fred Flintstone approach to courtship seem almost incidental to the fun being had. The tables get turned on the soulful, "I Can See by Your Eyes", where Guyger catches the “goodbye look” from his partner. "On Blues Won’t Let Me Be" Guyger channels Jr. Wells on vocals and any number of Chicago harmonica players with some hot wired runs up and down the scale. "Won’t You Come on Out Tonight" is equally charged with Moeller’s guitar adding considerable heat to the mix. Changing things up considerably, the slow, loping beat of "Cool in the Evening" is accompanied by an equally low key vocal from Guyger that brings Charlie Musselwhite to mind. "Little Rita", on the other hand, substitutes Guyger’s rocking harmonica for the accordion that could have easily taken the lead on this upbeat rocking number that would fit right in on a Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone disc. "Afghan Rumble" is a big instrumental showcasing Guyger’s harmonica chops while Rudy Toomb’s classic "I’m Shakin’" gets a pretty straight forward rock and roll treatment. The stuttering, dance floor beat of "Hey Little Baby" sounds like Buddy Holly should get a cut of the royalties but does feature some pretty fine harmonica work. Rounding things out are a reverential take on Muddy Waters’ "Let Me Hang Around" and a quick instrumental blast through the Big Joe Liggins classic "Honeydripper". If radios still played blues like this, people would still listen to the radio! Smitty

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MARIA MULDAUR

YES, WE CAN

Aug 22, 2008

Maria Muldaur has been a lot of things over the year: a hippie love goddess, a bawdy blues mama, a jug-band folkie and, in more recent years, a jazz chanteuse. This disc features her debut as a protest singer. Surrounded by a cast of sympathetic souls such as Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Odetta, Phoebe Snow and even Jane Fonda and a smoking hot band, the Free Radicals. (David Torkanowsky on keys, Tony Braunagel on drums, Hutch Hutchinson on bass and Shane Theriot on guitar), Muldaur applies her well seasoned pipes to songs of both protest and hope. Picking three anti-war, anti-violence gems from the Dylan songbook, "John Brown", "License to Kill" and "Masters of War" and Edwin Starr’s "W.A.R." Muldaur gets right to the heart of her despair over current events. She also looks to Marvin Gaye’s classic, "Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)" and Timothy Thomas’ "Why Can’t We Live Together" to catalog other issues weighing her down. After staking out the problem, she affirms her sense of hope with Earl King’s "Make A Better World", Allan Touissant’s "Yes We Can", Buddy & Julie Miller’s "This Old World" and Garth Brook’s "We Shall Be Free". And what would a protest disc be without a couple of good old sing alongs? "Pray for the USA" and "Down by the Riverside" give the assembled mass their "We Are the World" moments. Muldaur delivers all this material with a sense of conviction that sounds as heartfelt as any role she has occupied over the years. While the original versions of many of these songs are so well known that their message glides right past without much impact, the re-worked, often funky, treatment given to them by Muldaur and friends allows them to be heard in a fresh light making many of them powerful all over again. Smitty

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TONY JOE WHITE

DEEP CUTS

Aug 21, 2008

With a career that extends back to the 60’s and his hit "Polk Salad Annie", Tony Joe White, has long been the master of the slow, swampy groove. While recent projects matched White’s rich baritone with the cream of the female roots rock world (Shelby Lynne, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Jessi Coulter and others on 2004’s "The Heroines") and with fellow guitar slingers ( Eric Clapton, J.J. Cale, Mark Knopfler and others on 2006’s "Uncovered") this set returns White to his roots with ten tracks from throughout his career given the re-mix treatment by his son, Jody White. With electronic loops and effects adding a sonic back drop to the live instrumentation, the songs simmer and crackle with funky energy. In keeping with White’s style, the cuts develop over time and get their punch from their deep bottom end and trance inducing groove. While this approach will certainly appeal to those who dig the raw, electric Hill Country work of the likes of Junior Kimbrough or RL Burnside, which is laid out to best effect on "Soul Francisco" and "Swamp Water", it can grow wearisome over the course of the disc or, in some cases, in the course of an individual cut. The instrumentals "Run with the Bulls" and "Homemade Ice Cream" break this mold with their light, almost cheerful, feel. "Aspen, Colorado" is also a change up by virtue of the strings and acoustic piano that help paint White’s word picture of a place and time. Smitty

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KENNY NEAL

LET LIFE FLOW

Aug 21, 2008

On his Blind Pig debut after discs on Alligator and Telarc, and a three year health induced hiatus, Louisiana bluesman Kenny Neal calls upon his stints playing with a who’s who in the blues world to break out the wide arsenal of blues styles featured on this release. With a rich, expressive voice that recalls a younger Solomon Burke or even Rick Estrin of the Nightcats, Neal leads a horn heavy band through a number of self penned tunes as well as covers of material by Willie Dixon, Ivory Joe Hunter and his father, Raful Neal, Jr. "Let Life Flow" is an upbeat number with Neal’s stinging guitar adding a nice counterpoint to the saucy horn charts. "Louisiana Stew" and "Starlight Diamond" return Neal to his early swampy roots as a harmonica player while "Blues, Leave Me Alone" and "Another Man’s Cologne" are straight blues numbers featuring ample doses of Neal’s hollow body electric guitar. Ditto for the string laden "Fly Away" where Neal channels the smooth picking of B.B. King and Robert Cray. "Broken Dreams" features Neal with a gruffer voice lamenting the cruel turns of life over a sympathetic horn chart. On "You’ve Got to Hurt Before You Heal" Neal dips deep into southern soul for a smoldering ballad that covers old ground but still strikes a responsive chord. Despite its title and forlorn lyrics about a lost love Bleeding Heart is saved from the bummer bin by Lucky Peterson’s buoyant piano work. The biggest change up comes at the end with the latin tinged "It Don’t Make Sense You Can’t Make Peace". Smitty

MICK HUCKNALL

TRIBUTE TO BOBBY

Aug 21, 2008

Mick Hucknall, who found his fame as lead singer of English pop band, Simply Red, returns with this homage to Memphis R & B artist, Bobby “Blue” Bland. The result is a bit of a mixed bag with Hucknall’s versions of some of Bland’s better known tunes falling short against better known versions such as Eric Clapton’s take on "Farther Up the Road" or the Allman Brothers’ definitive take on "Stormy Monday Blues" which over the years have eclipsed even Bland’s own versions. On the other hand, Hucknall successfully takes other tracks into new places that work just fine. "Ain’t That Lovin’ You" plays like the Spinners spent some time with Bland while "I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way you Treated Me)" and "Cry, Cry, Cry" evoke their R & B roots and "Yolanda" is a spirited funk work out. "Pity the Fool" combines the anger of Bland’s lyrics with a venomous delivery that erases the self-pity party of "Chains of Love". Like Steve Winwood, Hucknall has an elastic voice that fits quite well with this type of material even though he doesn’t redefine any of it in any major way. Overall, you’re better off sticking with the original. Smitty

IRMA THOMAS

Simply Grand

Aug 12, 2008

"Simply Grand" -- a simply great concept for a simply great blues artist. Irma Thomas pairs up with 12 accomplished blues/jazz pianists and allows their keyboard work to gracefully adorn her signature vocals. Highlights include the songs with Henry Butler(#1, doing a John Fogerty tune), Dr. John (#2 and #8), Jon Clary (#3), Norah Jones (#7) and John Medeski (#11). Medeski's relentless piano pounding is particularly well done and I think the Butler and Jones cuts are also mighty fine. Irma is finally getting her due. After an early overlooked career, the "Soul Queen of New Orleans" was brought back into the spotlight by Rounder in the late '90s. We're all musically better for that. 08/08 MJVD B-Diva

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INDIGENOUS

Broken Lands

Aug 1, 2008

Indigenous was originally made up of members who grew up on an Indian reservation in South Dakota. After several albums, the band broke up in 2006. Singer/guitarist, Mato Nanji, gathered new musicians and continued to make music under the same moniker with this album. This album is technically good, with well-played guitar, nice vocals, and a good mix. It's your basic blues-rock album and really nothing exceptional. I would have to choose the rocker, "Place I Know" as a highlight as well as the electric blues of "Just Can't Hide". Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth

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AL BASILE

THE TINGE

Jun 25, 2008

Trumpet player Al Basile delves deep into musical history in the liner notes of this set by recalling Jelly Roll Morton’s explanation that jazz grew out of the Spanish Tinge which places the accents on the first, fourth and seventh beats of an eight beat pattern. Using this as a base, Basile applies the tinge to the thirteen self-penned cuts collected on this fine new disc which blurs the already fuzzy line between jazz and blues. Sounding uncannily like his old band mate Duke Robillard on vocals (who also produced and played guitar on this set) Basile applies his Master’s degree in creative writing to tales of bridging the gap between lovers, "Airlift My Heart", where the muted trumpet evokes the painful divide, as well as tales of finding just the right woman, "Not the Wrong Woman", where he boasts “I asked for a Jackson, she gave me three bighead Bens” over a rollicking horn driven soundtrack that recalls his early stint with Roomful of Blues. Warm organ grooves compliments of Bruce Katz fuel the thoughtful "Can I Trust You with a Kiss" while a buoyant beat propels "Give me a Rainbow" giving Basile a chance to echo Tony Bennett’s upbeat side. On "Too Slow Basile" and Robillard are joined by former Roomful band mates Rich Lataille and Doug James for a slow burning jazz number that pays tribute to the time the band spent working with Eddie “Cleanhead’ Vinson. The torch keeps burning on "While We’re Dancing" which features Basile’s rich trumpet work behind lyrics about the simple joy of traditional cheek to cheek slow dancing. Basile turns up the heat considerably on "Daddy Got a Problem" where the syncopated groove and Katz’s swirling organ propel his tale of a troublesome mate who soon finds her way down the road on the slide guitar propelled, "You’re Still Right (and I’m Still Gone)". Also included are gems about people who are their own worst enemy, "She’s in Love with Losing", and succumbing to the allure of the opposite sex, "Losing My Cool". In addition to the finely honed lyrics, what really sets this disc apart from other blues discs featuring horns is that Basile uses his trumpet as a lead instrument instead of just another part of the horn section competing for attention with the sexy saxophone. With everything from bright jazzy runs to heavily muted, low-down smoky accents, Basile recaptures the role of the trumpet as the meat of the sound, not just the gravy. With strong, thoughtful lyrics, a crack band and a master’s touch on trumpet, Basile has crafted a terrific release. SMITTY

MISSISSIPPI HEAT

HATTIESBURG BLUES

Jun 25, 2008

You can always count on the Delmark label to turn out rock solid blues discs. Mississippi Heat’s new disc, its second for the label, is no exception to that rule. Lead by harmonica player, Pierre Lacocque, and given an extra kick by the Chicago horns and guest vocalists/guitarists, Carl Weathersby, Lurrie Bell and Devin Thompson, the band travels not only the well worn blues path, "Chicago Is My Home", "Soft Hearted Woman", "Light from Within" and "Hell and Back" but also some new territory with the Latin-tinged "How Much Worse Can It Be?", "Hattiesburg Blues" and "Calypso In Blue". While many blues bands wouldn’t have a light enough touch to handle the fleet syncopation of the Island rhythms, Lacocque and crew jump into the groove as if they belong no where else. New guitarist Giles Corey stands tall against the marquee talent of Weathersby and Bell with his Santana inspired chops on Calypso in Blues and his righteous vocals on Say Something Good. While the entire set is solid Inetta Visor’s salty, salacious vocals on "Tiger Man", the rollicking piano and high energy harmonica work of "Gone So Song" and the socially conscious lyrics of "Nature Is Crying’" are highlights. Smitty www.delmark.com

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THE MYSTIX

BLUE MORNING

Jun 25, 2008

The Mystix are an East Coast based outfit that combines the funkiness of Little Feat with roots rock, jazz and the blues. Leading the charge through a cornucopia of musical delights on this disc is vocalist Jo Lily who has a gravelly, yet elastic, voice that is reminiscent of Omar Dykes (Omar & The Howlers). This disc hits high gear right away with the slide guitar drenched "Yolanda" and then wanders comfortably through Country style weepers, "Which Side of Heartache", J.J. Cale style mid-tempo rockers, "Rattled", unhurried, jazzy tales of heartache, "Without You", big Springsteen/ Seger style story pieces, "Blue Morning", tough, sinewy, funky rock, "New Orleans" and the slinky, mysterious, "Another Kind of Love". The cover of Jimmy Reed’s "I’m a Love You" adds nothing to that oft covered number but the next number, "Change in Jane", quickly redeems things with piano and a fluid guitar solo creating a cut that could have fallen off a Cat Stevens disc. Smitty

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SOLOMON BURKE

LIKE A FIRE

Jun 25, 2008

The king of rock and soul returns with a star-studded collection (Keb’ Mo’, Ben Harper, Jesse Harris, Steve Jordan, Eric Clapton, Danny Kortchmar) that gives his “A” list guests a chance to use his storied voice to propel their tunes. While the songs bear the lyrical and rhythmic sense of their authors, Burke’s voice adds a visceral punch. Clapton’s easy, loping, "Like a Fire" and "Thank You" probably wouldn’t get much attention on his own discs but get enough extra heat from Burke to pull the listener into the lyrics. On the other hand, Burke’s read on the Keb’ Mo’ penned "We Don’t Need It" isn’t enough different from the author’s own style to elevate it to new heights. That’s more a tribute to Keb’ Mo’s terrific delivery on his own discs than a criticism of Burke’s take on the cut. Elsewhere, Burke tears through Ben Harper’s funky "A Minute to Rest and A Second to Pray" and Steve Jordan’s soul gem, "Ain’t That Something" with a relish that reveals a hunger to dip into classic R & B. Jesse Harris’ "What Makes Me Think I Was Right" flirts with Country while the courtship is consummated on "The Fall", a country style weeper with pedal steel guitar leading Burke through the heartache. Smitty

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JAMES HUNTER

THE HARD WAY

Jun 25, 2008

James Hunter is a major exception to the “you can tell a book by its cover” school of disc reviews. While the cover of this disc shows him as a white guy guitar slinger, a spin through this disc reveals him to have the sensibilities of a 50’s era black soul and R & B singer with a day job singing rock and roll. Hunter starts things off with "The Hard Way" and "Tell Her", which could have fallen off the Animal House or American Graffiti soundtracks, and evoke memories of the shag, cruising and beach parties, and then moves into Van Morrison territory with the soul blues of "Don’t Do Me No Favours". Early rock enters the party with the driving guitar of "Jacqueline" and the loping cha cha beat of "Class Act", where the echo in the mix evokes a time long past. "Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere" has an urgency that, when coupled with Hunter’s yowling vocals, sounds straight off the Stax Records mixing board. "She’s Got A Way" and "Til the End" also play on the soulful side of the street with steamy guitar, cool organ and greasy horn charts. Throughout this disc, Hunter’s elastic vocal delivery evokes memories of giants like Otis Redding, James Brown or even Al Green. Remarkably, despite the decidedly retro sound, every cut on this disc is an original. Like Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone, Hunter has brought the British Invasion to the new millennium by recycling classic States’ sounds and reintroducing them to their homeland. You need this disc for your summer party. Wow! Smitty

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AL GREEN

Lay It Down

Jun 7, 2008

The pride of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Rev. Al Green releases his third disc on Blue Note as he continues with his resurrected (no pun intended) career as American's premier soul singer. What's new on this set is the replacement of longtime producer Willie Mitchell with the acclaimed Roots-men Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and James Poyser. Interestingly, Thompson and Poyser bring Green back to the '70s with more pin-point accuracy that Mitchell did on the latest two Blue Note discs -- and I'm not sure that's completely a good thing. This is wall-to-wall silky Al Green music, and as such it pleases the ear and heart, so out of the gate that's worth three out of four stars. But unlike the Mitchell-Green collaborations of earlier this millennium, no song stops you in your tracks. "Take Your Time" pairs him with Corrine Bailey Rae: cool. The two songs I found myself listening to the most are "Just For Me" and the closer "Standing N in the Rain." 06/08 MJVD B-Soul

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CLARENCE SPADY

Just Between Us

May 29, 2008

In the mid-1990s, Spady was going to be the next big thing in blues when he released his first cd. However, this being the blues he ran into trouble and when he got dropped no other blues-oriented label would give him a chance. Enter Severn Records and ‘Just Between Us’ becomes Spady's second recording 10 years after his debut. This cd has a retro/soul sound that I really enjoy. There is the after dark "I'll Never Sell You Out," the funky "Enough of You" to get us started. Adding ballads like "Just Between Us" and "Be Your Enough" gives Clarence’s skills as a songwriter and guitarist a chance to rise above. This is good blues music for the 21st century - spirited, stylish, and proud of its roots. - Anne Lamont

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EDDIE "THE CHIEF" CLEARWATER

WEST SIDE STRUT

May 6, 2008

From the hard hitting intro to the first track, "A Good Leavin’ Alone", 73 year old Chicago blues guitarist Eddie “The Chief” Clearwater announces he’s not ready to grab the easy chair and go quietly into old age. With producer and second guitarist Ronnie Baker Brooks cutting him no slack, Clearwater attacks his guitar with the fury of someone a quarter of his age but with the skill of someone who has performed everywhere from street corners to the finest blues clubs in the world. While hard hitting Chicago blues is the primary menu item here, with Muddy Waters’ "Walking Through the Park" getting a hot wired treatment by virtue of Clearwater’s guitar work and Billy Branch’s classic harmonica sound, there are a few changes of pace such as the soul drenched ballad, "Gotta Move On", which gets plenty of background heat from a solid horn section, "A Time for Peace" with its gospel choir and "Do Unto Others" which finds Clearwater sharing vocals with special guests Lonnie Brooks, Otis Clay and Jimmy Johnson. Other side trips include "Too Old To Get Married", where Clearwater tries on his Delbert McClinton R & B shoes and trades hot licks and vocals with long time buddy Lonnie Brooks, and "They Call me the Chief" where he veers into 70’s rock territory. Smitty

ALBERT COLLINS

LIVE IN MONTREUX, 1992

May 6, 2008

Recorded just a year before his death, this live disc features ample doses of Collin’s ice toned guitar with spice added by keyboards, a saxophone and a trumpet. "Iceman" and "Honey Hush" kick things off with short, economical, solos setting the stage for the longer work outs featured on many of the other cuts. While Collins’ guitar work is certainly a prominent element of the band’s sound, sax player Jon Smith gets plenty of time to shine on a wailing solo on the slow grinder, "Lights Are On (But Nobody’s Home)" from Collins’ 1986 Cold Snap release and on the testifying blues of "Too Many Dirty Dishes" where he leads the band through the slow groove with a ferocious solo that segues into an equally steamy solo by Collins. Bass player Johnny Gayden gets his own turn to shine with some righteously funky grooves on "Put the Shoe On the Other Foot" while Collins is walking through the crowd tethered to earth by only his guitar cord. While most modern guitarists play within a limited range of volume, this set also reveals Collins’ affinity for luring the audience into his web by dropping the volume to a whisper, stretching the space between notes to the breaking point, and then blasting away the tension and taking them to new heights as he cranks back into full volume overdrive. Appropriately rounding out the set is Collins’ signature tune, "Frosty" which is, ironically, smoking hot with fire-drenched keyboard work and trumpet blasts chasing the groove all the way to the end. Great blues from a man sadly taken too soon Smitty

MACK EVANS

LOWDOWN

May 6, 2008

Mack Evans has a Ph.D. in the blues as American Literature. On this, his debut, he applies his smarts and chameleon like ability to take on different personas to 13 original, mostly acoustic tunes that mine everything from the blues to soul to stone cold country. On "Elvis When He Was Elvis," Evans reminisces about the King “before the movies and the pills” over a bluesy backdrop. When "Scotty Moore Played" features Evans in a Johnny Cash mood and gives credit to Elvis’ long time guitar player as one of his seminal influences. "Wrong" is a country style weeper which makes the Tone-Loc rap like delivery of "Shakespeer" all the more surprising. Keeping things off kilter, Evans lays down a Boz Scaggs style soul tune on "Three Between the Sheets" and seemingly channels Dylan on the blues shuffle, "T.V. Mama". "Lowdown" is a swampy Tony Joe White style number with saxophone adding just the right amount of grease to the groove. Overall, a nice change of pace for acoustic blues. Smitty

HONEYBOY EDWARDS

ROAMIN' AND RAMBLIN'

May 6, 2008

On the eve of his 93rd birthday and with a disc chock full of “A” list guests like Bobby Rush, Billy Branch, Sugar Blue and Walter Horton providing cover it would be easy for Honeyboy Edwards to slide through this disc with a few lazy strums on his guitar and to take advantage of the “boy, how does he still do it?” accolades that usually follow projects like this. But Edwards will have none of that. As befitting a hard scrabble bluesman who literally followed the blues from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago, jumping rails and walking trails with the likes of Robert Johnson and Little Walter, Edwards doesn’t hide behind either his guests or his age. Instead, he goes head to head with his guests with slinky interplay between his well honed guitar chops and their traditional sounding harmonica licks. Aiming to duplicate the blues as it sounded between the 30’s and 60’s before it went through a shot gun wedding with rock and roll this disc is rough, raw and brimming with Edwards’ undiminished talent as a first rate guitarist. Proof of Edwards’ long run and his immunity to the ravages of age comes from the wide span of time represented by the 19 tracks included on this release. Edwards’ 1942 track, "The Army Blues", doesn’t sound dated and, remarkably, doesn’t cast a youthful shadow over the mid-70’s tracks recorded with Walter Horton, "Smoky Mountains" and "Jump Out", or the balance of the tracks recorded in 2007. Adding to the sense of living history that permeates this disc is the inclusion of three spoken blues tales including one with blues historian Alan Lomax, "Freight Train Tale". Smitty

TOM PRINCIPATO BAND

RAISING THE ROOF

May 6, 2008

Tom Principato is one of those musicians who has won countless awards in his region of the country (in this case the Washington D.C. area) but has for the most part failed to click with national audiences. As the winner of 22 Washington Area Music Association “Whammy” Awards for his numerous discs as well as his prowess on guitar and vocals he is clearly doing something right. While one would be tempted to chalk off this impressive track record as “a big fish in a small pond” anyone familiar with the music scene of the Potomac knows that it is not only intensely competitive but is where the North meets the South with gritty rock from Boston, Jersey and New York clashing head on into both big band sophistication and southern soul blues producing a musical hybrid that doesn’t really exist elsewhere. Jump blues bands like Big Joe and the Dynaflows play alongside guitar innovators like the late, great, Danny Gatton or hard rocking guitar slingers like Jimmy Thackery and his former band the Nighthawks. Ironically, this musical diversity is both a blessing and curse for someone like Principato. On the one hand, his mastery of the numerous styles of blues necessary to play alongside these varied performers has given him a rich and varied career. On the other hand, it has kept him from having a clearly identifiable sound like, say, Stevie Ray Vaughan or Buddy Guy and is likely the reason his name doesn’t evoke knowing nods outside of his home base. Simply put, he’s too diverse to be easily slotted into a neat blues category. This disc won’t change that with its inclusion of everything from reggae grooves, "In the Middle of the Night", to guitar and horn driven blues, "Lock and Key" to straight out funk with a dollop of greasy organ, "Too Damn Funky", to roots rock by way of J.J. Cale’s, "Lies", and even a bit of Jump blues with a reworking of Louis Jordan’s classic "Fish Fry". While it is the top notch musicianship that will keep this disc in rotation, the hilarious "They Called for “Stormy Monday” (But “Mustang Sally” is Just As Bad)", where Principato name checks the songs every working musician dreads to hear called out in the middle of a set, (Freebird anyone?) is alone worth the price of this disc. Each of these cuts is well done, but the overall mix is more a musical juke box than a blues disc leaving blues fans with the uneasy choice of abandoning their comfort zones in the Delta, Chicago, Memphis or Texas in order to take a chance on someone unique. The shame of all of this is that unadventurous blues fans are left out in the cold with no clue what a treat they are missing by not taking Principato’s discs for a spin. Take a chance. You’ll agree this disc is worth the adventure. Smitty

TAB BENOIT WITH LOUISIANA'S LEROUX

NIGHT TRAIN TO NASHVILLE

May 6, 2008

Like his Whisky Store Live release with Jimmy Thackery, this disc, recorded live at the Place on Second Street, Nashville, TN, brings out the best in guitarist Tab Benoit. While his studio efforts are solid and workmanlike they are sterile and stiff compared to the emotion laden performances Benoit brings to the stage. Backed by his long time touring outfit, Louisiana’s Leroux, and a host of guests including Kim Wilson (Fabulous Thunderbirds), Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie), Johnny Sansone, Jim Lauderdale and Waylon Thibodeaux, Benoit takes a musical tour through the blues, soul and the rich heritage of Louisiana with a taste of down home Cajun music and New Orleans second line grooves. Benoit’s guitar chops are on bright display despite the big guest list, most notably on the slow, sizzling, blues of "Darkness" where Benoit channels Buddy Guy and "Muddy Bottom Blues" where Clapton and Cream come to mind. "Too Sweet for Me" features Kim Wilson and Benoit trading harmonica and guitar solos that blister the stage one moment and then take things down to a mere whisper the next. "Lost In Your Lovin’" drips with soul but is merely an appetizer for "Rendezvous with the Blues" where Jimmy Hall channels Bill Withers on vocals on top of Benoit’s steamy guitar grooves which segue from soul to stone cold blues. "Fever for the Bayou" is a loose, celebratory romp through swampland blues with Sansone’s harmonica providing a prickly counterpoint to Benoit’s guitar. Slowing things down a bit, the band does a cheek to cheek version of Louisiana Leroux’s hit, "New Orleans Ladies". Wrapping things up is "Stackolina" where the stripped down combo of Benoit, Kim Wilson and Waylon Thibodeaux generate more heat than three men should with amazing instrumental interplay that is the highlight of this set. Smitty

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JR CLARK

Getaway

Apr 22, 2008

JR Clark is a virile man and he wants you to know it. Most of the lyrics on this album involve JR getting a little somethin'-somethin', if you know what I mean. From the earnest vocals on "Lookin' for Love Tonight" to the ballad about infidelity, "Lady of the Night", most of these songs are lyrically laughable. I do have to say, though, that the musicianship on this disc is very good, such as Tim King's saxophone work on "Let's Go Out Tonight". Timson Taliaferro is great at keeping the beat with some nice high hat thrown in here and there. Ray Burke provides sweet organ licks throughout. Of course, I have to mention JR himself on guitar. This album was well-put-together also. Jon Ster did a nice job of mixing and engineering it in St.Joseph, Michigan. Reviewed by Rebecca Ruth in April 2008.

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Various Artists

Soulsville Sings Hitsviile

Apr 1, 2008

Various Artists: Soulsville Sings Hitsville : Stax Records Seeing as Stax co-founder Estelle Axton would often play Motown’s latest hit singles to her artists in hopes that they would craft similar tunes, this album should have been called The Soul Instruction Manual. It is well known that the two labels played off of each other in hopes of garnering more chart success with their releases. However, what isn’t known is that some of these amazing renditions of the Motown classics will make you think they were Stax tracks to begin with all along. If David Porter’s take on Stevie Wonder’s “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” doesn’t convince you of this, then I don’t know what will. All tracks suitable for airplay Reviewed by Trevor Edmonds : April 2008

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Various Artists

Stax Does The Beatles

Apr 1, 2008

Various Artists: Stax Does The Beatles: Stax Records Musicians are no strangers to reciprocity. Most anyone can think of at least a handful of tunes that have been covered my multiple artists, sometimes to greater effect. If you know a bit about Stax, the dynamic Memphis-based soul label, you probably know that a lot of reputable musicians wouldn’t shy away from gushing about the label’s wiz-bang roster and musical output. Most highly noted of those is none other than the Beatles. That said, what better show of mutual respect could exist than this set of Beatles covers performed by Stax’s finest. From Booker T. & The MGs instrumental takes on the songs to David Porter’s show-stopping vocal chops on ‘Help!’ you’ll realize the respect was most definitely mutual. All tracks suitable for airplay Reviewed by Trevor Edmonds : April 2008

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DONA OXFORD

Step Up

Apr 1, 2008

Dona is making the piano her blues transporter. It takes her voice and band on an all original 13 song trip all over the blues landscape. From soulful slowburners to gospel influenced blues to rollicking, rolling, rockers she backs her vocal talents with her excellent keyboard skills, whether on piano, Wurlitzer, organ or clave. All are worth a listen but her a capella “I Am” is a wonderful tribute to being a women. - Anne Lamont

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MARKUS JAMES

Snakeskin Violin

Mar 14, 2008

Markus James has been dubbed "The Unofficial Dean of the Roots-World-Blues Movement." This disc makes him official. Recorded in Mali, the Mississippi Delta and California, James teams with Malian musicians such as Vieux Farka Toure, Tamashek women vocalists from Timbuktu and delta drummer Calvin Jackson to merge American blues with African roots music. The lines are so blurred that you can play this CD as either blues or worldbeat. "Weather Vane" (#7), "O.M. Boogie" (#8) and "Soon" (#15) are examples of brilliant merging of the genres. A remarkable effort that shows the seamlessness of Mali and Mississippi music. MJVD 03/08 B-Roots (or W-Fusion depending on your ears)

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OTIS TAYLOR

Recapturing the Banjo

Feb 17, 2008

Otis Taylor's latest is not only great music, it educates and entertains as well. Taylor seeks to "recapture" the banjo for black artists and he gets help from Alvin Youngblood Hart (#2, #7 and #11), Keb Mo (#4 and #14), Guy Davis (#8) and Corey Harris (#5) -- and those songs are simply when they have the lead vocal (they play on many other cuts, too). The excellent liner notes explain that although the banjo was invented by African and African-Americans, whites took over using the instrument and the banjo's appearance in racist minstrel shows turned many blacks away from taking it up as an instrument of choice. Taylor resurrects the banjo's use through some fine numbers, including some you may know, but didn't know the origins ("Walk Right In" and "Hey Joe"). Otis is great as a musician and vocalist; Keb Mo's "Live Your Life" (#4) is a highlight, with Ron Miles doing a cool turn on the cornet. 02/2008 MJVD B-Roots

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BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA

DOWN IN NEW ORLEANS

Jan 26, 2008

Take the exquisite gospel harmonies of the Blind Boys of Alabama and mix them with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Hot 8 Brass Band and keyboards compliments of David Torkanowsky and Allen Touissant and you’ve got all the ingredients you need for one fine release. With everything from tent revival style rave ups, "Free at Last", "You Got to Move", "I’ve Got a Home" and the Earl King classic, "Make a Better World", to standard issue mid-sermon gospel numbers, "You Better Mind", "Prayer" and "Uncloudy Day" to a bluesy take on Mahalia Jackson’s "How I Got Over" and even a bit of straight up Dixieland jazz, "I’ll Fly Away", this disc is an infectious romp sure to add a little spring to your step. A testament to the strength of this combination of gospel and the second line grooves that are at the core of New Orleans music is the sterling rendition of "Down by the Riverside" which should make you forget every by the numbers version of the song you’ve endured over the years. Amen, Brother! Smitty www.blindboys.com

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POPA CHUBBY

DELIVERIES AFTER DARK

Jan 26, 2008

The big man from the Bronx is back with another wild and wooly disc of hard hitting blues rock. Falling on the heels of last year’s superb Electric Chubbyland releases, where he played tribute to Hendrix, this disc reaffirms Chubby’s well deserved status as an extraordinary guitarist. Playing with the same fluid ease as Carlos Santana but with a blues rather than Latin foundation, Chubby cranks his amp up to 11 and lays down riff after riff of guitar driven sonic nirvana. "Let the Music Set You Free" and the title track will be the first choice of those looking to rock hard. Those looking for a replacement for the dreaded Mustang Sally will enjoy "Sally Likes to Run" with its catchy chorus and big hooks. Elsewhere, Chubby reveals he’s not just a high speed string bender by throwing in some interesting curve balls with a surf rock version of the "Theme from the Godfather" and with some deep down reggae on "Woman in my Bed Dub". On "Money Isn’t Everything (It’s the Only Thing)" he inches close to Southside Johnny R & B territory while on "I’ll Piss on Your Grave" and "You Never Loved Me" the bitter lyrics identify Chubby as the first place the cops should look if someone in his life comes up missing. The blues make an appearance in "Grown Man Crying Blues" and in the reverb drenched, autobiographical "Man of the Blues". A fine addition to Chubby’s growing list of strong releases. Smitty

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NICK GORDON

CHRONIC BLUES PARTY

Jan 16, 2008

Nick Gordon has crafted a disc that plays at the three way intersection between the blues, pop and rock. While many of the cuts have a blues structure and dynamite guitar or harmonica solos they also have a decided lightness that separates them from standard blues fare. A case in point is "Tapcity" which has some fine harmonica work alongside Gordon’s breezy vocals about people who look rich but are all tapped out. Elsewhere, as on Baltimore, the blues take a vacation while Gordon does his best Dan Fogelberg imitation. Gordon also channels the Classic IV’s Spooky on "Bluesman" where the light percolating groove seems at odds with the boastful lyrics about his prowess on guitar and the old black cat bone, which also makes its obligatory appearance on "Black Cat Bone". On "The Wheel" Gordon lays down a heavy rocking groove and cosmic lyrics straight out of the 70’s- Journey, Kansas and Styx fans raise your lighters! Those looking for a more traditional blues sound should go straight to "Hellhounds" where Tom “T-Bone Steak” Mollinelli’s harmonica evokes John Popper and the fleet fingered guitar work could fall from Buddy Guy’s hands. "Let’s Make a Deal" and "The Bitch" are also straight blues cuts with the former featuring salacious lyrics about trading love for money. Overall enjoyable, albeit far from a straight blues release. Smitty

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DOWNCHILD BLUES BAND

LIVE AT THE PALAIS ROYALE

Dec 5, 2007

This 11 cut live disc of all original material reveals that the blues don’t stop at the border between the United States and Canada. A Canadian blues institution, the Downchild Blues Band has numerous discs to its credit and regularly performs to packed houses. A quick listen reveals why: this band is versatile and performs with passion. While there are ample dose’s of Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh’s guitar, vocalist/harmonica player Chuck Jackson, keyboardist Michael Fonfara, and the horn section of Pat Carey on saxophone and Peter Jeffrey on trumpet get equal billing and, equally important, push him to excel lest he be left in the dust by their well oiled chops. Featuring everything from the rocking "(I Got Everything In Need) Almost", which received international attention by virtue of the Blues Brothers’ performance of the tune, to the slyly sarcastic spoken word blues of "I’ve Been A Fool" to the jump blues of "When I Say Jump" this disc never lets the energy wane. There’s not a weak track in the entire set. If you are looking for a smoking blues party on a single disc throw this one into the player, grab the beverage of your choice and get ready for some fun. Smitty

HOPE WAITS

HOPE WAITS

Dec 5, 2007

Singer Hope Waits does to the blues and jazz what the Cowboy Junkies do to rock. Like that band, Waits spends a good deal of her time evoking the essence of a sound without playing any of the obvious notes. Joined by a host of “A” list players including Peter Malick on guitars, Butch Norton on drums, Jeff Turmes and Marty Ballou on bass and Phil Parlapiano on keyboards and accordion, Waits covers a wide swath of musical styles on this, her debut release. "I’ll be Satisfied" kicks things off with a sideways jazz twist that suggests Rickie Lee Jones without the drama. She doesn’t stay in that groove very long before she takes on the barbed wire guitar groove of "You Crossed the Line" and then morphs her way into Billie Holiday’s "Yesterdays" which features horns that could fit neatly into a Woody Allen period piece. Tom Waits’ "Get Behind the Mule" is a slinky little gem while the two Ray Charles covers, "Drown in My own Tears" and "Come Rain or Come Shine", are played under the late night torch when the lights are low, the drinks are running out and everyone is weighing their options. Wait’s own "The Ballad of Judith Anne" is a heartfelt ballad about discovering a secret side to her mother who was murdered. "Cigarettes and Coffee" gives Waits a chance to stretch her vocal chords a bit as she pours plenty of emotion into the tale of contentment at the simple pleasure of sharing late night cigarettes and coffee with her lover. Seeming almost out of place is the Don Robey penned straight blues number, "Mother in Law Blues" which is well done despite feeling like an uninvited guest amongst the cooler jazz cats who inhabit most of the rest of the cuts. Throughout, Waits’ voice draws you deep into the material with her compelling ability to be bold but languid at the same time. Lesser singers would simply overpower the material by pushing too hard. Overall, a disc of subtle, sexy charm that reveals itself over repeated listens. Smitty

NAPPY BROWN

LONG TIME COMING

Dec 5, 2007

Singer Nappy Brown has been around the R & B block several times in his long career. On this release he reprises some of his earlier hits like the rocking "Don’t Be Angry" (where he first launched the rolled l’s that became his trademark) the future Ray Charles hit, "Right Time", the gimmicky "That Man" and the jump blues scorcher "Bye Bye Baby" and also takes a crack at tracks more often associated with his contemporaries such as Big Joe Turner’s "Cherry Red" or the Willie Dixon penned, "Who". With a voice that belies his 78 years, Brown rips and roars his way through this set as if he were still the young lion that turned heads in the mid 1950’s. A good share of the credit goes to the swinging back-up band including Bob Margolin, Junior Watson and Sean Costello on guitar, Big Joe Maher on drums, Mookie Brill on bass, Jim Pugh on b-3 and the Mighty Lester horns. With a keen ear to the juxtaposition of swing and R & B that marked Brown’s seminal work, the band sounds as if it has just crawled out of a time capsule that left it unexposed to the harder edged rock sound that infuses so many modern blues recordings. Fun stuff. SMITTY

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LAURIE MORVAN

CURE WHAT AILS YA

Dec 5, 2007

The third cut of this disc, "Where are the Girls with Guitars?", lays things out real plain: Laurie Morvan has had enough of the music business cliché that relegates women to the microphone while the men rip it up on guitar. She’s ready to grab six electric strings and take her turn with the power chord. I know what you’re thinking: there are plenty of women guitarists so what’s her beef? Well, with few exceptions many women guitarists strum along on rhythm while they sing without really taking on the lead guitar role. So is she up to the challenge? The answer is an unqualified “yes!!” Whether she’s throwing down fluid runs with a crystal clear tone as on "One Little Thing", ripping things up on the rocking instrumental "Wiggle Room" where she mixes rock and big doses of funk or works her way through a slow grinder, "Keep On Believin,’" Morvan demonstrates a feel for the guitar that puts her toe to toe with the majority of her male counterparts. But that’s only part of the story. While she has undeniable talent on guitar she’s also adept as a singer/songwriter. "Kickin’ Down Doors" foreshadows the potential for revolution as the fat cats keep their thumb on the common man. "A Long Time Ago" is a reflection on the uncertainty the creeps in as youthful truths give way to middle age doubts while "When I’m Queen" lays down just how right things would be if she could take charge. Her other self-penned tunes take on a variety of topics including satisfying relationships, "My Baby Says", and the heartbreak of not being able to have children, "Family Line". With a voice that sometime recalls Marcia Ball while other times evoking a harder rocking version of Deborah Coleman (another lady who knows her way around the guitar!) Morvan captivates your attention just as much on vocals as on guitar. Joined by special guests James “Hutch” Hutchinson on bass, Dona Oxford on piano, Sammy Avila on B3 and a host of others Morvan has crafted a fine disc of rock oriented blues. Smitty

RICHARD RAY FARRELL & MARCO PANDOLFI

Stuck on the Blues

Dec 3, 2007

Richard Ray Farrell and Italian harmonica virtuoso Marco Pandolfi keep it pure in this long overdue acoustic blues extravaganza. The duo have been playing together on and off for the past decade and this features shows the depth that a phenomenally tight partnership can produce. Drawing from many of the early blues, this self-produced album features a wide variety of tracks from some of blues most prestigious founders. Showcasing his wide vocal musings, the duo stands at the crossroads in Robert Johnson's "Phonograph Blues." "Honey Babe" shows off Pandolfi's talent in this first-take of the 1948 John Davis recording. Three Farrell originals cap things off in this long anticipated feature. If you love the simplicity of blues roots, this album of the 21st centuries new fathers blazes refreshing ground on some old-time standards. - Daniel J. Graeber

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THE PHANTOM BLUES BAND

Footprints

Nov 30, 2007

The Phantom Blues Band emerged from its spectral presence as long-time backer of Taj Mahal to make their own recipe of blues gumbo. The twice Grammy awarded band features the seasoned session players who've backed notables such as Joe Cocker and Bob Dylan. While the Phantom Blues Band continue to work with Taj Mahal, this 2001 W.C. Handy "Band of the Year" recipient serves up a savvy slice of groove. Highlights include Freddie King's "See See Baby" and the Ray Charles tune "A Fool for You." The Phantom Blues Band's "Footsteps" continues the work of sleeping giants. - Daniel J. Graeber

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DION

SON OF SKIP JAMES

Nov 27, 2007

Best known for early rock and roll hits like "The Wanderer," "Run Around Sue" and "Abraham, Martin & John," Dion is way off the radar screen of the average blues fan. He sought to change that with his 2006 release, Bronx in Blue. This disc should move him further along the path. With covers by the likes of Chuck Berry, "Nadine," Willie Dixon, "My Babe", Junior Wells, "Hoodoo Man Blues", Sleepy John Estes, "Drop Down Mama", Robert Johnson, "Preachin’ Blues" and "If I Had Possession (Over Judgment Day)" and Skip James, "Devil Got My Woman", lending an air of familiarity to the proceedings, Dion slips into the role of blues singer as if he’s been doing it all his life. While the fit is comfortable, there is nothing particularly revelatory about his versions of these well worn classics that will cause anyone to pick them over the original or even other, more inspired, versions. Dion’s own "The Thunderer" and the title track fare better with Dion shining as his own man rather than trying to grab the reflected glow of his blues heroes. Smitty

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NICK MOSS & THE FLIPTOPS

PLAY IT 'TIL TOMORROW

Nov 27, 2007

This two disc release is a cornicopia of delights for fans of Chicago blues. The first disc is a rocking, rollicking effort featuring the full band while the second is a stripped down, mostly acoustic, affair frequently featuring only Moss and mandolin/harmonica ace Gerry Hundt. While Moss is known as a Chicago bluesman, disc one strays furthest from the traditional Chicago blues sound by leaving the harmonica in the box and featuring a broader, less cluttered sound. Tracks like "Bad Avenue" leave Chicago completely in favor of raw-boned Texas blues. Shuffles are the fare of the day here and allow the band to showcase its considerable chops. With two discs there is plenty of room to stretch out. "Tend to your Business" and "Peculiar Feeling" are Hound Dog Taylor style scorchers while "Too Many Miles" is a stomping slab of straight forward blues. The "Rump Bump" is an instrumental number that likely gets the dance floor doing just that. Disc two puts the band back in Chicago with plenty of slide guitar, harmonica and piano propelling the 14 tracks. While skipping the amped up roar of disc one, there is no lack of energy here as the band tears into songs like "Wild Imagination" with gusto. Smitty

HANS THEESSINK

SLOW TRAIN

Oct 24, 2007

Traveling the same rootsy highway as J.J. Cale, Ry Cooder and Steve James, Dutch bluesman Hans Theessink has crafted a large body of work that is mostly unknown to American blues fans. Avoiding the boogies, shuffles and standard 12 bar blues laid down by most bands Theessink instead focuses on intricate acoustic tunes with a low key vibe that are just as powerful in their intricacy as the amped up blues competition. Theessink also focuses on a broader range of topics than the standard blues canon of bad luck, bad women and bad whisky. Driving the point home all the more is the decided gospel slant of this disc. The title track and "Love you baby" could have fallen off a Blind Boys of Alabama disc with the rich back up vocals adding heat to the fire. Theessink also joins the long line of those who can’t understand spouting God’s word of peace and harmony all the while bombing the snot out of each other, "God Created the World". Elsewhere, Theessink takes a run at traditional spirituals with his bitter take on how the poor got screwed again, this time at the hands of "Katrina". A bit of World Beat enters the equation with "Thula Mama (Oh mother don’t you weep)" which could have fallen from a Ladysmith Black Mambazo disc (who clearly inspired the sound of this track as acknowledged by Theessink’s reference to the Graceland Tour as a point of reference in the lyrics). On "Let Go" and "Run on for a Long time" Theessink not only travels the J. J. Cale highway but with his simple, yet burning, guitar lines and dead pan delivery channels Cale so closely that you’ll be checking the liner notes to see if he’s sitting in on the session. A slow trip but worthwhile nevertheless. Smitty www.theessink.com

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ROBERT LIGHTHOUSE

Deep Down in the Mud

Oct 23, 2007

Robert Lighthouse - Deep Down in the Mud is both Electric and Acoustic Using a Bob Dylan-like scorn, circa the early '60s, bluesman Robert Lighthouse turns social critic in "Deep Down in the Mud," on the Bush administration and other powers that be, for the feeble response to Hurricane Katrina. Mostly, though, Lighthouse's CD is saluting the likes of Robert Johnson, Dr. Ross, Elmore James, R.L. Burnside, Magic Sam, Muddy Waters, George Clinton and Jimi Hendrix(really mimics Hendrix, it’s the weakest track here). His best bet’s on this cd are seldom-covered tunes, for example: Dr. Ross's "Cat Squirrel Blues" and "Turkey Leg Woman". Lighthouse moves easily between the acoustic and electric settings and gets a lot of mileage out of his voice, guitar and harmonica. Not every song is a gem but this is good solid blues. Anne Lamont

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SAMUEL JAMES

THE RETURN OF SUGAR SMALLHOUSE

Sep 11, 2007

With a voice that sounds like a cross between George Thorogood and Magic Dick (of J. Geils Band fame) Samuel James delivers twelve self- penned cuts of classic sounding acoustic blues. Fueled by his slide ripping all over his national resonator guitar each of the tunes leads you through the many trials and tribulations of his life. The writing is so rich that you don’t know whether to crumble with empathy or to laugh at the seeming absurdity of the situations in which he finds himself. Things don’t get more low down than when your baby leaves you a kiss off note but steals your glasses so you can’t read it as on "The Thief" or when you sneak back into your own empty house out of long habit on "Sneakin’ Back In". James brings out the harmonica on "Stomp", a track that doesn’t do much on its own but serves as a nice change up from the guitar oriented material when you are listening to the disc from beginning to end. The other change up is the Leon Redbone style rag, "The“Here Comes Nina” Country- Ragtime Surprise". Overall, a well done effort that is worthy of much airplay. Smitty.

JAMES BLOOD ULMER

Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions

Sep 7, 2007

Returning from last year’s side trip with Odyssey the Band, James “Blood” Ulmer has crafted a disc that takes its inspiration from the blues but doesn’t spend much time in the 12 bar shuffle rut. Joined by Vernon Reid of Living Color fame on guitar and a host of other musicians who add color and texture with electric fiddles and mandolins, Hammond b-3, clarinet and other assorted instruments Ulmer lays down a polyrhythmic stew reflecting both the African roots of the blues and its metamorphosis into a many headed creature when channeled through the American South. Junior Kimbrough’s "Sad Days, Lonely Nights" is lifted from its hypnotic roots and re-imagined with a complexity that would not be out of place on a Mamadou Diabate disc while "Let’s Talk About Jesus" finds a gospel center with its energetic background vocals and "Backwater" distinguishes itself from the standard slow blues grinder with well placed harmonica and electric violin accents. Elsewhere, Willie Dixon’s "Dead Presidents", Howlin’ Wolf’s "Commit a Crime" and his own "There is Power in the Blues" strike a more traditional blues pose. With a voice that alternates between the bullfrog croak of Randy Newman and a well worn version of Taj Mahal, Ulmer delivers lyrics that, among other things, encourage those impacted by the devastation of hurricane Katrina to take it up with the President, "Katrina". Ulmer isn’t afraid to take on controversy, a point he drives home with conviction on John Lee Hooker’s "This Land is Nobody’s Land" and on "Slave Master" where he likens the “help” provided in the wake of Katrina to the “keep in line” mentality of the old boss man. A captivating disc that digs deep. Smitty www.hyenarecords.com

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OMAR KENT DYKES WITH JIMMIE VAUGHAN

ON THE JIMMY REED HIGHWAY

Sep 7, 2007

After numerous discs with his long time band The Howlers, Omar Kent Dykes decided to take a side trip and pay homage to fellow Mississippi native, Jimmy Reed. Like all good highway trips, Dykes picked up friends along the way so that the travel ended up being more important than the destination as the fellow travelers reveled in the shared experience. In this case Dyke’s front seat passengers included the likes of Jimmie Vaughan, Kim Wilson, Lou Ann Barton, James Cotton, Delbert McClinton, Derek O’Brien and Gary Primich. Filling up the back seat and keeping things in order are Ronnie James, Wes Starr, George Rains and Dyke’s son, Jake Dykes. And the trip? Well, as advertised, it’s all about the simple, yet biting blues crafted by Jimmy Reed and his life long guitar foil, Eddie Taylor. While some of Reed’s classics are here such as "Big Boss Man", "Baby What You Want Me to Do" and "Bright Lights, Big City" this isn’t simply a re-cast greatest hits collection as the highway detours around such obvious stops as "Honest I Do", "You Don’t Have to Go", "Going to New York" and "Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby". That’s a good thing as it allows one to linger over the lesser known tracks like "Aw Shucks, Hush Your Mouth" or "Hush Hush" rather than simply nodding along to yet another version of songs heard a million times. Since the Jimmy Reed highway has been traveled in one form or another by anyone calling himself or herself a blues musician the question is whether this trip is different enough to merit your attention. One listen and you’ll not only answer “yes” but will likely get caught up in the fun. From Lou Ann Barton’s soft mimicking of Reed’s wife Mary’s practice of whispering the lyrics into his ears while he was recording his vocals to Jimmie Vaughan’s elegantly underplayed guitar leads this disc pulls out the essence of Reed’s music while never stooping to note for note duplication. Highlights include Barton’s honeyed drawl on "Good Lover", James Cotton’s piercing, lonesome harmonica on the low down and dirty "Caress Me Baby", Vaughan’s deft picking as a counter-point to Dyke’s gruff growl on "Bad Boy", Gary Primich’s harmonica wrapping all around the vocals on "Baby What’s Wrong" and Dyke’s own "You Made Me Laugh" which uses the classic Jimmy Reed sound to accompany his heartfelt tribute to his wife Lyn who sadly passed away in 2004. While this trip may feel familiar it has the possibility of taking you to places you haven’t been in a while. Road Trip!! Smitty

PATRICK SWEANY

Every Hour Is a Dollar Gone

Aug 10, 2007

Loud blues, soft blues, aggressive blues, old timey blues, acoustic blues, delta blues, instrumental blues…mercy, this guy covered a lot of ground on this disc. I was set to dislike this album with extreme prejudice, but very shortly into the first track, I was reminded of the words of Marge Simpson concerning “toe-tapping fun!” Sweany is an Ohio native, and this is his fourth release. My favorites were “After Awhile” (Blues rock), “Burma Jones” (Instrumental), and “Mom and Dad” (great acoustic track). Kindly Old Mr. Tilapia

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THE TWISTERS

After the Storm

Aug 9, 2007

This disc marks The Twister’s return to the studio after a three year period that saw their original drummer leave with a disabling case of tendonitis and the rest of the band getting involved in a horrific traffic accident that killed their bass player. Now re-tooled and reformed the band is ready to take on the world on their Northern Blues debut. While billed as a Jump and Swing band, that isn’t the primary focus of this disc. "I’m Your Man" lays down a slow, classic Chicago blues sound as does the instrumental number, "Second Wind", which showcases Dave Hoerl’s tasteful harmonica licks and Brandon Isaak’s upbeat guitar work. "Thick or Thin" falls more squarely into the jump blues camp (compliments of a kick in the rear by guest pianist Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne”) while "She’s Krazy" is more folk than blues with ample doses of dobro pushing the groove. On the low key, late night side are "When Your Memory Goes Away" and "Honest To Goodness". While "Harp Player" name checks numerous harmonica legends such as James Cotton and Little Walter, Hoerl doesn’t really do much on the track to merit sharing their spotlight. Shifting gears again, the band also takes on a bit of early Atlantic Records soul with ballad, "Where’s the Woman". While this disc has its bright moments, overall it is a bit too low key to fit with the high energy imagery that the band’s name evokes. Smitty

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BIG AL JANO

Some of My Best Friends Have the Blues

Aug 8, 2007

Big Al Jano is a bass player and indie producer. This 24 track collection features 23 different lead singers with Jano’s bass lines being the only common denominator. With tracks dating back to the late 50’s the collection covers a lot of ground. There’s everything from Jano’s own 1987 novelty hit, "The Condom Man", to heavy metal type blues rock, "I Don’t Want to See You Cry Anymore", to southern blues rock, "Through the Rain", to supper club blues, "We’re Only Fooling Ourselves", to Chicago style blues, "Lucille", to jump blues, "Give it Everything We’ve Got" and even hints of New Orleans style funk that recalls Delany and Bonnie, "Oh Linda". While most of the singers here won’t be familiar to the mainstream blues fan (Luther “Houserocker” Johnson being the sole exception) there’s plenty of talent evidenced here. There are a couple of misfires, "I Don’t Want to See You Cry Anymore" the gimmicky "uld Lang Syne Hip Hop"and "isco Disaster Blues Strut"and a track that could have come from the Rocky Horror picture soundtrack, "ilver Grill Blues" but by and large this is far better than the scattered pedigree would lead you to expect. Smitty

Duke Robillard

Duke Robillard's World Full of Blues

Jul 13, 2007

This two cd release features blues guitar master Duke Robillard taking a stylistic tour through the world of the blues. Joined by a who’s who of the East Coast blues scene including Doug James and Gordon “Sax” Beadle on sax, Al Basile on cornet, Sugar Ray Norcia on harmonica and Bruce Bears on keys Robillard has all the support he needs to take on everything from original jump blues, "Jump the Blues For You" and Motown, "Sweet Thing", to the songs of Bob Dylan, "Everything is Broken", James Cotton, "Slam Hammer", Buddy Johnson, "You Won’t Let Me Go", T Bone Walker, "Treat Me So Lowdown", Bo Diddley, "Who Do You Love", Tom Waits, "Low Side of the Road", Jimmy Reed, "Bright Lights, Big City" and Memphis Slim, "Steppin’ Out". Jazzy one minute, and deep down into the gutbucket blues the next, Robillard’s command of styles is simply astounding. As befitting someone of his talent, Robillard’s original tunes are informed by the classics without being overly derivative while his versions of the covers add a sparkle and sheen and interpretive twist to them that lifts them from their recycled roots. Fearless on guitar, Robillard also exhibits a rare humility amongst hot shot guitarists as he regularly shifts the spot light to his band mates when it serves the tune. Drop the needle, err, laser anywhere on these two discs and you’ll find top notch blues Smitty

Darrell Nulisch

Goin' Back to Dallas

Jun 23, 2007

This stripped down affair finds singer/harmonica player Darrel Nulisch ( formerly of Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets and Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters) throwing down a number of originals and dipping into the songbooks of Sonny Boy Williamson, Freddie King and Jimmy Reed. With low key, but right in the pocket, instrumental back up compliments of Jon Moeller (guitar), Kevin Anker (keyboards), Steve Gomes (bass) and Robb Stupka (drums), Nulisch takes the opportunity to wrap his warm voice around the lyrics like a sweater around a Vargas girl. The effect is perfect for slow, languid nights with scotch, big cigars, your squeeze and a bed only steps away. Those looking for a blues party may have trouble finding the ignition switch here amongst the slow simmering stew but will find some respite in Sonny Boy’s upbeat "Too Young To Die", Jimmy Reed’s "Shame, Shame, Shame" and in Nulisch’s own "Straight’n Up". Like slow roasted meat, there’s lots of flavor here but don’t expect it to hit you on the first bite. Smitty

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Jimmy Hall

Build Your Own Fire

Jun 23, 2007

Former Wet Willie vocalist Jimmy Hall has crafted a terrific tribute to Rhythm and Blues songwriter and guitarist Eddie Hinton. Joined by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Collective and Kentucky Headhunter guitarist Greg Martin, Hall lays down soulful, rocking vocals that have the same blue-eyed punch as Delbert McClinton who guests on "Still Want to Be Your Man". The sampling of Hinton’s vast catalog included here reveals why he’s been covered by everyone from Aretha Franklin, Tony Joe White, Gregg Allman, Dusty Springfield to UB40. Simply put, he wrote great material that hits all the right emotional chords. Highlights include "Here I Am", which he delivers as a funky groove fest that is at least a first cousin to Stevie Wonder’s "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" while both versions of "Coming After You" (the second is Greg Martin’s raw boned version) feature the gritty, rough edges of early Muddy Waters or even ZZ Top circa Tres Hombres. "Build Your Own Fire" is an atmospheric rock fueled number that trumpets the importance of self sufficiency. Also included are plenty of deep soul ballads to tug at your heartstrings. In Hall’s capable hands Hinton’s material should reach a whole new generation of fans looking for authentic deep south R & B. Hall’s rich vocals should also turn some heads and earn new fans for him as well. Smitty

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Eugene "Hideaway" Bridges

Eugene "Hideaway" Bridges

Jun 23, 2007

It is apt that the cover of this disc features singer/guitarist Eugene Hideaway Bridges holding a microphone instead of a guitar. While his reputation was forged as a first rate guitarist, this disc focuses instead on his rich, soulful vocals in a variety of settings including gospel, "Piece of the Mountain", folk, "Life Has No Meaning", and late night blues, "Love Got the Best of Me". Charles Brown and occasionally Al Green come to mind as his melted butter voice caresses the songs to life. Breaking the soul vibe is the gritty "Ain’t Got Time", the saucy "Big Legged Woman" and the T-Bone Walker inspired guitar work out, "Man and His Guitar". Smitty

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Rick "LA" Holmstrom

Late in the Night

May 24, 2007

After tearing up the band stand from coast to coast during his long stint as the guitarist for Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers, Rick Holmstrom embarked on a solo career that has given him the chance to stretch in directions only hinted at in the context of that band’s sound. His 2002 release, Hydraulic Groove, confounded some blues fans with its tape loops and sonic experiments but was hailed by many as the most interesting thing to hit the blues racks in some time. This release is a return to more traditional fare. Playing in a stripped down trio format, Holmstrom visits familiar T-Bone Walker style territory on the string scorching instrumental "Peculiar Hop" and on the rip roaring "On the Vine" which could have dropped straight off a Mighty Flyers disc. From there he moves on to everything from muscular rock, "Tutwiler", to atmospheric Doors-like groovers, "77 Red V8", to loping shuffles, "Better Way", to moody instrumentals straight from a gritty Western, "Descanso" and a track that channels Warren Zevon, "Hey Johnny". He even takes a shot at Dylan’s oft covered classic "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" and reinvents it with Jeff Turmes’ wailing saxophone doing the heavy lifting. While he isn’t the strongest vocalist in the world he has improved considerably over the years and sounds most comfortable when he follows the lead of fellow West Coast artist, James Harman, and semi-talks his way through tunes as on "Dig Myself a Hole". Overall, while straight blues are hard to come by here, this is an inventive, fun disc that reaffirms Holmstrom’s decision to strike out on his own. Smitty

Maria Muldaur

Naughty, Bawdy & Blue

May 24, 2007

The last several years have seen Maria Muldaur taking on everything from the love songs of Bob Dylan, Heart of Mine, to the Peggy Lee catalog, A Woman Alone with the Blues, as well as torchy jazz, Love Wants to Dance and acoustic roots tunes, Sweet Lovin’ Ol’ Soul and Richland Woman Blues. While this wild stylistic journey would crush many an artist, it’s all in a day’s work for Muldaur who started her career playing old timey fiddle in jug bands and soon found herself on top of the pop world with the massive 1973 hit, "Midnight at the Oasis". After that left field hit, Muldaur slipped out of the mainstream but continued to record disc after disc that mined the great American songbooks of blues, soul, gospel, jazz and ragtime. The early 90’s found her connecting with the blues audience with a pair of releases on the now sadly defunct Black Top label, Meet Me at Midnight and Louisiana Love Call. Having made that connection, she forged full steam ahead on the wide ranging musical journey that brings her full circle on this release by taking a trip back to the free wheeling jazzy blues that first caught her ear during the folk revival that brought many like minded souls into her home stomping grounds of Greenwich Village. Joined by James Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band, Muldaur applies her sultry voice to classics by mentor Victoria Spivey, "TB Blues" and "One Hour Mama" as well as blues pioneers such as Maimie Smith, "Down Home Blues", Sippie Wallace, "Up The Country Blues" and "Separation Blues" (where she is joined by Bonnie Raitt), Alberta Hunter, "Early Every Morn", and Ma Rainey, "Yonder Come the Blues". In her capable hands, these well worn tunes remain as sexy and sassy as the title of this disc. Hip hop nation take note: it doesn’t take explicit lyrics or profanity to steam things up. As any blues fan knows a well chosen turn of a phrase or a sly double entendre can be far more naughty and bawdy than telling it straight. Overall, this will likely find more favor amongst blue fans than some of Muldaur’s other musical journeys. Smitty

Watermelon Slim & The Workers

The Wheel Man

Apr 17, 2007

Bill Homans picked up the name “Watermelon Slim” during his tenure as an Oklahoma Watermelon farmer which is only one of the dozens of jobs he’s held over the years including stints as a truck driver, fork lift operator, saw-miller, firewood salesman, collection agent and street musician. Along the way he also managed to pick up two undergraduate degrees and a master’s degree and became a member of the genius IQ group, Mensa. So what does this have to do with the blues? Plenty as it turns out. While most bluesmen have a pretty limited set of experiences, which forces them into the “Baby done me wrong” and “The boss man is a jerk” school of writing, Slim’s storied history gives him a rich and varied base from which to craft his songs. His tales of hustlers making a living as preachers, Jimmy Bell, card sharks, Fast Eddie, and women who take charge, Truck Driving Mama, are welcome changes from the standard blues fare. Slim also works in a few tales about his own detours into truck driving, The Wheel Man, writing for a living, Newspaper Reporter, and into the “there goes the fingers” world of sawmill operators, Sawmill Holler. Politics find the way into the mix as well as he delivers a scathing indictment of the Washington politicians who have ignored the plight of the flooded out south, Black Water. Even when Slim turns to more standard fare, such as on the tale of a stripper girlfriend, Peaches, he reveals his broad range by resisting the easy cliché’s about the profession by noting that she’s no victim as she clears the isles “like a Mako Shark” Likewise, he turns a tale about a woman who drinks too much, Drinking and Driving, into a clever play on the many ads that discourage such activities. Musically, Slim and the Workers take on everything from Foghat style blues rock on the title track to harmonica and piano fueled shuffles, I’ve Got News, to street corner busker style acoustic blues, Jimmy Bell, to a cappella work songs, Sawmill Holler, to Chuck Berry style rockers, Rattlesnake, and down and dirty Chicago style blues, Got Love If You Want it. Overall, a terrific release that will likely land Slim a whole bunch of new fans. Smitty

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Debra Farris

Gotcha Covered

Mar 27, 2007

West Michigan native Debra Farris, brings her blues style to her new CD, Gotcha Covered. With her eloquent interpretation of 12 of the 14 songs. Covering the classics from jazz Route 66 and Stromy Monday too pop rock of Van Morrison, Moon Dance and the earliest Beatles, I Saw Her Standing There. Also paying tribute to Bill Withers with, Use Me Up and Ain't No Sunshine. I have the feeling that this is a very personal project for Miss Farris adding 2 original songs to the mix as she uses music to express her deep feelings and emotion. With her band of Michael Hallstrom creamie lead guitar leads and the steady rhythm of Chris Hansen on bass and Chris "CJT" Thomas on drums, Debra has got it all covered. Slip

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Bob Margolin

In North Carolina

Mar 22, 2007

Guitarist Bob Margolin has spent a long career as a sideman for the likes of legendary first generation bluesmen such as Muddy Waters, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins and Carey Bell and has also waxed numerous solo discs. This disc marks his first “homemade” effort having been recorded entirely at his home studio and featuring only his own instrumental tracks and vocals. Freed of the constraints of having musicians on the clock and a studio meter running, Margolin uses the opportunity to romp through many different styles of blues. Kicking things off with the raucous slide frenzy of "Tell Me Why" Margolin takes a run at everything from slinky, swampy blues, "In North Carolina", to old-timey, front porch acoustic blues, "You Rascal You", to County & Western style lap steel blues, "Floyd’s Guitar Blues", to hot wired electric Chicago blues, "Lonely Man Blues" and even some T-Bone Walker style West Coast blues, "Natural Blues". Throughout, his guitar playing reflects lessons well learned from his masters. He never overplays and hits just the right sweet spots to make the tunes stick. His vocals are another matter. While Margolin’s voice is perfectly fine for the more upbeat electric numbers it has nowhere to hide when things slow down and go acoustic. Ouch! Overall, the vocal deficiencies are a minor complaint given the strength of Margolin’s guitar chops. Smitty

Fillmore Slim

The Legendary Fillmore Slim

Mar 22, 2007

The blues by its very nature attracts a host of colorful characters who inhabit the shadowy margins between good and evil, love and hate and night and day. Fillmore Slim has made a life in this intersection of extremes having spent years as not only a hard working blues man but as a high end pimp in San Francisco who had his ladies working the streets as he worked the stages. After the feds treated him to a vacation from the streets he claims to have quit “the life” and now focuses his efforts on the blues. Joined here by Rick Estrin (Little Charlie & the Nightcats) on harmonica, and hotshot guitarists Paris Slim and Joe Louis Walker, Fillmore weaves tales about his notorious past on the harmonica fueled "The Legend of Fillmore Slim" and reflecting his taste in women on the funky "Love For the Third Time". While Fillmore takes a stab at combining rap and the blues on a duet with his son, "Hey Little Brother", he fares better with slower traditional blues cuts such as "Trapped by the Devil" and "My Friend Blue". While his view of women is, shall we say, traditional, as revealed by his declaration of independence from his woman on "Jack You Up" he is savvy enough to balance the scales with a taste of his own medicine on "She Don’t Love Me" where his woman manages to keep busy while he’s on the road. Other notable cuts include "Blues from the Heart", which is Fillmore’s shout out to all the blues guitar legends who inspired his entry into the blues and "Tired of My Old Lady" which features some smoking slide work from Joe Louis Walker. Smitty

The Phantom Blues Band

Out of the Shadows

Mar 22, 2007

The Phantom Blues Band is a star studded amalgamation of musicians (Denny Freeman and Johnny Lee Schell on guitars, Larry Fulcher on bass, Tony Braunagel on drums, Darrell Leonard on Trumpet, Job Sublett on Sax and Mike Finnigan on keyboards) who first made their individual marks contributing to the releases of numerous rock and blues discs by the likes of Hendrix, Little Feat, the Band, Bonnie Raitt, the Stones and Stevie Ray Vaughan. First joining forces to back up Taj Mahal on a couple of Grammy winning discs they have remained together as a band and finally have a disc where they are the main course rather the side dish. So how do they fare in the spotlight? Quite well, thank you. As befitting their broad pedigree, the band chooses to mix things up with everything from Leo Nocentelli’s funk number, "Do the Dirt", to gospel, "I’m Looking for a Miracle" and "Yield Not to Temptation", to Memphis soul, "Let Them Talk", to bright, almost popish numbers, "Who’s been Sleeping In My Bed?" to reggae, "Book of Rules", to a latin tinged take on Chuck Berry’s "Havana Moon", to straight out blues on "Part Time Love" and Lowell Fulson’s "My Aching Back". While this tour of styles would be a potential mess in the hands of lesser musicians everything holds together here for a fine listen. Smitty

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Doug Cox & Salil Bhatt

Slide To Freedom

Mar 14, 2007

On this disc, Canadian Doug Cox melds his Mississippi Delta resophonic guitar grooves with the other worldly sounding Mohan Veena (a 19 string guitar like instrument) and Satvik Veena (featuring 20 strings- 3 for the main melody, 5 for drone and 12 sympathetic strings) played by the father and son team of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Salil Bhatt. Add Ramkumar Mishra on Tabla (a percussion instrument) and you have a fully realized fusion of East and West. While there’s nary a boogie, shuffle or blues rock lick to be found, traditional blues fans who relish deft acoustic picking and slides burning up the strings will find plenty to like here. Those who want to ease slowly into the fusion of sounds should first check out the somewhat straight forward takes on Blind Willie Johnson’s "Soul of a Man", Mississippi John Hurt’s "Pay Day" and Cox’s own, "Beware of the Man (who calls you Bro)" which feature Cox’s soulful vocals and a more prominent place for his resonator licks. While these cuts certainly feature some Eastern sounds they are accents instead of being the primary sonic palette. Those willing to jump straight into the mystical sounds of the East should light the incense, crank up the stereo and get ready for the hypnotic interplay amongst the musicians on the 10 minute plus "Bhoopali Dance" which reveals the many facets of the Satvik Veena by starting with an unhurried delicate trance inducing groove before igniting into a string sizzling, note bending delight. Keeping the Eastern mood intact, "Arabian Night" transports you to a far away desert scene that is as sweltering as the dense heat of the Delta that is at the core of so much of the traditional blues while the quieter, more reflective, "Fish Pond", suggests an easy afternoon with a cane pole. The oddly named Meeting by the Liver conjures up a sinister movie plot made all the more menacing by Cox’s wild attack on his guitar while a modal groove is percolating in the background. Adventuresome blues fans will have something to chew on with this interesting release. Those stuck in the Delta will be wondering who stuck the sound track to the curry joint down the street in their disc player. Mark Smith

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Frank "Paris Slim" Goldwasser

bluju

Mar 12, 2007

Paris isn’t the first city that usually comes to mind in the list of birth places for bluesmen. Hell, it isn’t even in the top hundred. This release reveals that the blues can sprout up anywhere the sweet sound of a blues guitar can land. In this case, Hound Dog Taylor’s classic "Natural Boogie" found its way into the hands of young Parisian Frank Goldwasser who fell under its spell. By the time he was 21 Goldwasser was gigging with Sonny Rhodes and moved to the states where he perfected his blues craft alongside Lowell Fulson, Percy Mayfield, Jimmy McCracklin and a host of others. The 15 cuts collected here demonstrate a gift for the blues that many a stateside bluesman would envy. With raw, fearless takes on two Hound Dog Taylor cuts, "She’s Gone" and "55th Street Boogie", straight up covers of Elmore James’ "Twelve Year Old Boy", Jimmy Reed’s "I’m a Love You" and Philip Walker’s "Playing in the Park", as well as a host of originals, Goldwasser covers a lot of blues territory. The disc gets off to a banging start with the monster groove of "Feels Like Home" which features ample doses of smooth guitar and sly, sexy background vocals. Elsewhere, Goldwasser mixes things up with guest guitarists Alex Schultz and Kirk Eli Fletcher who push him in inspired directions as they work each other over with riff after stinging riff. Goldwasser is also willing to turn down the heat a bit: check out his eerie, electrified acoustic work on "Don’t Take Away My Love" or his homage to Oakland’s late night blues scene, "Three Sisters", which will have you reaching for the nightcap and lighting the last smoke of the night. While this is certainly a guitar disc, Goldwasser’s vocals fit in nicely and there’s enough soulful horn charts, b-3 grooves and background vocals to hold the attention of those who don’t live or die by six strings. Keep an eye on this guy. Smitty

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Minmae

835

Mar 11, 2007

Although uncanny resemblances to Pavement and Mogwai (at times) are apparent, Minmae create a sound that is generally their own, especially when they let the saxophone come to the forefront. Combining the usual rock outfit instruments with random bursts of short wave radio, Minmae can be quite ambient sonically, at times. However, they aren't all about the dynamic troughs, though. Look out for those crests, folks.

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Daniel August

Swallowed A Star

Mar 11, 2007

The former Gus Gus frontman stays in beautiful form on Swallowed A Star. With a voice that sounds like a cross between Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan and David Gray, Agust delivers rather catchy melodies atop of some fine electronically-tinged programming courtesy of Bix. Music-wise, think of Mark Bell's (of LFO on Warp Records) productions for Bjork and Depeche Mode. Combine the two (production and voice), and you have an album that is surprisingly fresh and worthy of another (many) listen (s), often times a rarity these days.

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Big Ron Hunter

Pouring Out The Blues

Feb 5, 2007

Just after starting this album, I had to do a double take, must have been something else playing, cuz this didn’t sound like the blues. Sweet, gentle acoustic guitar full of folk and then the voice: easy listening, slightly gravelly gospel feel. A few tunes into the recording and some flute sneaks in like a butterfly being lightly tossed in a gentle breeze. The lyrics are telling a story…a story of this man’s life, perhaps, a bluesy life, one that knows the blues, blues that pour out like water from a deep artesian well. Hunter calls them the New Blues. “What I’m trying to do is develop a new, original sound in blues…just adding some freshness to the blues.” If the blues can be refreshing and still speak to the soul, this is what they might well sound like. Note: This album is being listed around and about as Pounding Out the Blues: same guy, same album, wrong title. – Mostly

Eric Bibb

Diamond Days

Jan 25, 2007

Acoustic guitarist Eric Bibb travels the road where the blues and folk .music intersect. Like Chris Smither and Keb’ Mo’, he uses his guitar as fuel for his lyrics rather than simply shoe horning some words around a riff. With everything from thoughtful tales about the redemptive power of faith, So Glad, to the reflective title track which laments the feast or famine nature of life, to the sly sexual come on of Storybook Hero and even a cover of Bob Dylan’s Buckets of Rain, Bibb crafts tales that escape the routine subjects that are the fodder of all too many blues discs. While the lyrics play a central role to these songs thinking there isn’t much going on musically would be a mistake. Bibb has a number of tricks up his sleeve to keep things just as interesting musically as lyrically. The lead off track, Tall Cotton, features Congolese Guitarist Kahanga “Master Vumbi” Dekula whose rhythmic style brings a taste of Africa to the proceedings. Elsewhere, Bibb employs a tuba to propel the bottom end of his call out to not only his blues heroes, Still Livin’ On, but to his favorite shoe shine man as well, Shine. The live track, In My Father’s House, utilizes Janne Peterssson’s skills on Wurlitzer to instill an urgency to it that would fit nicely on an early Doors disc. Coffee House blues at its best. Smitty

Tommy Castro

Painkiller

Jan 25, 2007

TOMMY CASTRO Painkiller Blind Pig, 2007 Continuing his metamorphosis from full time bluesman to one of the finest soul and R & B artists taking the stage today, Tommy Castro has crafted a disc that you could easily slip into your Delbert McClinton collection without missing a beat. Always a good singer, Castro ups the ante this time around with expert takes on everything from bouncy, R & B that could have come straight from a McClinton disc, I Roll When I Rock and Goin’ Down South, to pop, Big Sister’s Radio, to slick 70’s style soul, Err On the Side of Love. He also holds his own against one of the gold standards of blues vocalists, Angela Strehli, on the Freddie King cut, If You Believe (In What You Do). A listen to the lyrics reveals why Castro can sing with such conviction here. This is a disc about being dumped and looking for a way to get back in the love game. Virtually every track finds Castro trying to figure out his relationships. The lyrics are delivered with a passion that lets you know that Castro isn’t a mere outsider to heartache; the break in his voice on Lonesome and Then Some speaks volumes. While big brassy horns, keyboards and sassy background vocals are sprinkled liberally across nearly every track, Castro nevertheless unleashes enough guitar to keep his core blues fans along for the ride. The Albert Collins classic, A Good Fool Is Hard To Find, features Castro and special guest Coco Montoya ripping off dueling leads that will bring smiles to the faces of blues guitarists everywhere. Love Don’t Care and Painkiller rock with a fervor that recalls Castro’s harder hitting tracks on his classic disc, Right as Rain. A terrific release that you need to own. Smitty

CURTIS SALGADO

Clean Getaway

Dec 31, 1969

CURTIS SALGADO CLEAN GETAWAY After receiving the news 2 years ago that Curtis needed a complete Liver transplant & a cancerous growth had been found in his lungs many had left this great soul singer for dead. His doctors told him he would die within 8 months without the operation. The music community knew how much of a loss this would be & rallied to raise the funds for Curtis to have this procedure. On Clean Getaway Curtis pays his fellow musicians & his listening audience back with the best CD of his career. This is pure Soul and R&B magic. The title track is a dedication to one of Curtis inspirations the late great Johnny “Guitar” Watson”. “Alone” exemplifies the sounds of Memphis soul & no other singer can cover Al Green the way Curtis does on “Let’s Get Married”. “20 Years of B.B. King” is a catchy track where the entire song is made up of titles of B.B. King Songs and expressions. The ending track is a rocking version of Eric Clapton’s “Bottle of Red Wine” The backing band on this Disc is the Phantom Band that has recorded with many including Taj Mahal & Bonnie Raitt. The Great Jon Cleary from New Orleans adds some excellent piano on most tracks. Let’s all celebrate that Curtis Salgado made a Clean Getaway & has given us an album that celebrates life itself. Reviewed By; Gregg Saur

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GARY ALLEGRETTO

MANY SHADES OF BLUE

Dec 31, 1969

The title tells the story; On Many Shades of Blue Gary Allagretto takes you to Chicago, Memphis, West Coast swing, New Orleans & the country all in one disc. This disc Cooks from the first track to the last & features many great special guests including Ivan Neville & Janiva Magness on one of the finest Katrina tracks to date “Four Days Late” and Doug MacLeod’s national resonator guitar on “Somerset”. Gary may be a blues newcomer but his harmonica & great vocals are as honest & pure as any blues artist recording today. By not locking into just one category of the blues, this disc has something for all fans of the blues & for this reviewer 14 tracks of pure blues magic. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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JIMMY THACKERY AND THE DRIVERS

Inside Tracks

Dec 31, 1969

JIMMY THACKERY & THE DRIVERS INSIDE TRACKS Jimmy Thackery and the drivers may simply be the finest 3 piece blues band recording today. This is Jimmy’s seventh release for Telarc and one of the finest from a bluesman that has been a staple of the industry since the 1970’s. Jimmy mixes Blues, Rock, and Country & Jazz on this disc and keeps it interesting throughout all 10 tracks. This CD begins with a more laid back blues track “All Because Of You” & progresses into a rocking version of the “Promised Land” a track that could have easily been recorded by John Fogerty. Jimmy pens of his most political tracks on “Change the Rules” while Land Locked” is a terrific blues instrumental. On the” Blinking of an Eye” Jimmy explores his more sensitive country side. The ending track “{You got Me} Now What You Gonna Do” is a classic jazz instrumental with a real Chet Atkins feel to it. On this disc it doesn’t matter what genre Jimmy is playing you are listening to a guitar player, singer & song writer at the top of his game. Reviewed By: Gregg Saur

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LADY DOTTIE & THE DIAMONDS

LADY DOTTIE & THE DIAMONDS

Dec 31, 1969

LADY DOTTIE & THE DIAMONDS Lady Dottie & her band the Diamonds describe their sound as a full tilt rock & soul dance party. After one listen to this disc I couldn’t agree more. Lady Dottie “Dorothy Mae Whitsett” reminds me of the early Peter Wolf days with the J. Geils Band. This sixty something blues gal may not be a centerfold but after one listen you will be grabbing a fifth of whisky & heading straight to the dance floor. There are many covers on this disc including classics like the Rufus Thomas track “Walking the Dog”, and “Wang Dang Doodle” a blues track I never need hear again. The disc ends with an interesting rendition of the Jefferson’s theme song “Movin’ on Up”. Something tells me the live act may be better then this disc, but if you cant make the trip to San Diego throw on this disc, grab a drink and join the party. Reviewed By; Gregg Saur

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The Billy Gibson Band

Live at Rum Boogie Cafe

Recorded in December 2004, at the bar where they were the house band for over 6 years, this disc showcases the four piece Billy Gibson Band ripping its way through a couple of originals and covers by the likes of Tony Joe White, "Polk Salad Annie", Willie Dixon, "Pretty Thing", Eddie Taylor, "Bad Boy" (warning- long drum solo), and John Lee Williamson (Sonny Boy I), "Early in the Morning". Things kick off quickly with the funky original, "What is Love?", giving a taste of the harmonica party found on the rest of the disc. Gibson is a first rate harmonica player (his gymnastics on "Polk Salad Annie" are particularly impressive) and an adequate vocalist sounding somewhat like Rick Estrin of the Nightcats. All of the cuts clock in at over five minutes giving the band plenty of time to find the groove- and in some cases to beat it to death!! This is particularly true of the covers which isn’t surprising given the fact that most club patrons are drawn to the dance floor by the spark of recognition of old favorites. Once they are there it’s hard to let them go. While this leads to a fun night at the bar it can get a bit tedious for the home audience. But what the hell, a live disc is supposed to capture what it was like at the club and this one does just that. Smitty Links: www.myspace.com/thebillygibsonband

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DOUG COX & SALIL BHATT

Slide to Freedom 2

The second installation in the “Slide to Freedom” blues/Indian fusion music series, “Make a Better World” is an interesting listen. Hearing a sitar make noises that blues or slide guitars usually make is disorienting and fun. Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt’s collaboration here is a fine presentation which can be riveting at times, as Indian music often is, but it can also seem forced at times. Weak lyrics and reused rhythms on some tracks take away from the strength the production, but interested listeners may be willing to overlook these deficiencies. Others may not notice such troubles at all, as the performances by all of the contributors are believable and competent. “Slide to Freedom 2: Make a Better World” is available from Northernblues Music in 2009.

Tim Woods

The Blues Sessions

The Blues Sessions by Pennsylvania bluesman Tim Woods is 12 tracks of serious guitar blues tradition. With a strong “blues bar band” sound, Woods expertly utilizes thumb picking into his playing to execute leads and rhythm simultaneously. All of the songs on this album are well established and authentic blues tunes written by the masters themselves. Blind Willie Dixon, Big Jack Johnson, David Honeyboy Edwards each have at least 2 tracks on this disk. Songs by Roosevelt Sykes and Chester Burnett round out what is essentially a respectable album of blues classics. Best Tracks: #5 SPOONFUL, #4 BAD WHISKEY & COCAINE FCC Naughty List: NONE Other points of interest: David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Ike Stubblefield, Terry “Big T” Williams and Aaron Moore make guest appearances Who would like this cd: fans of Delta blues, blues guitar aficionados, Billy’s Lounge patrons

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