Blues Blast Magazine

The Patrik Jansson Band – So Far To Go | Album Review

6 hours 12 min ago

The Patrik Jansson Band – So Far To Go

www.patrikjanssonband.com

Sneaky Foot Records

9 songs time-43:33

Just what the world needs another guitar slinging blues-rocker, right? When you are this good and have great style, great chops and arrangements, ok I’ll take it. Sweden’s Patrik Jansson and company deliver the goods. He puts his effects pedals to good use with talent. His voice is strong and confident throughout. With some outside help his outfit of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards execute some riveting guitar rock. Well constructed songs all from the hand of Mr. Jansson and well thought out guitar solos make all the difference in this type of music being “hum-drum” or pleasurable. This guy definitely falls into the second category. Having a capable band in the studio is the icing on the cake.

Starting off an album with a duet can be a chancy proposition for most, but here when the partner is someone of the quality of Therese Thomsson, it works just fine. It’s a cool romp with jazzy guitar and organ. What’s a blues-rock CD without a bit of Stevie Ray Vaughn inspired guitar rhythm under the lead guitar part. Gustaf Andersson’s organ adds to the funkiness of the song. Oh yeah, these guys are just as effective on the slower stuff as in “Keep Taking Your Chances”. Electric piano is a nice addition on this one along with organ. The piano adds a soothing texture.

The title track is an inspired and upbeat rockin’ gem with Patrik’s omnipresent guitar goodness in fine form as usual. “Those Days Are Gone” is another slow-burner fueled by organ and horns. The funky instrumental “That 70’s Thing” gives the horn section and organ a chance to shine along with the guitar. Patrik puts his wah-wah pedal to good use here. Patrik once again dusts off his wah-wah pedal for the harmonica-guitar-horn driven “Too Blind To See”. Mikael “Mike” Fall sure knows his way around the “Mississippi Saxophone”. The haunting melodic instrumental “Sweet T” brings the recording to a lovely ending with its’ ethereal guitar and organ sending the listener off on a cloud of joy.

Guitar based rock and blues-rock doesn’t get any better than this. From the high energy cuts to the slow pensive moods this music deserves to be heard. Good music crosses the world over. Seeing music this passionate from distant lands makes one feel a oneness of musical spirit.

Do yourself a big favor and seek this CD out.

Third Coast Music Collective – Music Friends | Album Review

18 November 2017 - 1:44am

Third Coast Blues Collective – Music Friends

Self-released

www.3cbc.org

12 Tracks/52:48

Put together by producer Kurt Koenig, who also plays bass throughout, this release shines a spotlight on the Milwaukee blues scene. More than thirty musicians and vocalists made contributions to the twelve tracks that were primarily composed by some of the participants. The opening cut shines the spotlight on Jim Liban, the legendary harp player who once fronted the band, Short Stuff. Joined by his son Matt on drums and Todd Merriweather on Hammond organ, Liban delivers a succinct assessment of life as seen through the rear-view mirror. The noted guitarist, Greg Koch, contributes some stinging licks, then Liban treats listeners to a subtle harp coda. Vocalist John Sieger co-wrote “Voodoo Rain” with Koch, who lays down a twisting, enthralling solo that is a vivid testimonial to his acknowledged guitar skills.

“Do You Duty Judy” was penned by Perry Weber, another veteran currently playing guitar for the Jimmys. His boss, Jimmy Voegeli, adds some rollicking piano on the hearty shuffle that includes another Liban appearance as Weber does his best to convince his wife to give him some good loving. The brothers Pruitt – David & Dick from the BelAirs – turn in a fun vocal duet on a cover of “Farmer John,” urged on by Aaron Gardner and Mike Pauers on saxophone and flute plus Jamie Breiwick on trumpet. Koch shines again on the languid take of Little Richard’s “Directly From My Heart To You,” beautifully sung by Robin Pluer, once a member of the R&B Cadets with Sieger and Paul Cebar. Steve Cohen pulls plenty of sounds out of his harp to wrap around her voice. Named the Best Guitar Player in 2016 by the Sheperd Express Reader’s Choice Awards, Andrew Koenig is compelling on Prince Conley’s dark tale of love’s obsession, “I’m Going Home”.

The second half of the disc offers some widely disparate styles. Bill Camplin utilizes the perfect vocal approach for Cohen’s “Comeuppance,” giving the barroom tearjerker the right amount of country pathos. “Song For Everything” features Sieger and Pluer plus the horns on a track that flows from contemporary R&B through jazz and back. Another highlight is “Spanish Wine,” with the dynamic Susan Julian on vocal plus a robust interlude from Gardner on sax. “Boogie Sol Hoopli” was written by guitarist Pete Roller, who uses his slide guitar to add many dimensions to the standard boogie riff with help from Cohen, Koenig on bass, and Bob Mueller on drums.

Any song that Michael Ledbetter sings typically rises well above the norm as his operatically trained voice commands your attention. On Koch’s “Sho Nuff,” the singer uses his meticulous phrasing and impressive range to create an intimate performance, backed by a swinging small group complete with horns. Equally fine is the closing number, “Recession Blues,” written by Jim Liban, featured on harp. Also contributing is Ledbetter’s former boss, guitarist Nick Moss, and Marc Wilson on percussion. The rhythm section lays down a rolling foundation for the singer, his voice gliding through the taut assessment of the nation’s financial plight. The last three minutes feature Liban at his best, his harp dancing around the melody, saying plenty with just a few notes.

Add it all up and you have a fine celebration of the Milwaukee blues scene and a number of the key players. If most of these names are unfamiliar to you, make a point to get a copy of this one. It holds up over repeated listens – and just might make you add Milwaukee as a musical destination the next time you are traveling through the Midwest.

Roy Book Binder – In Concert: Road Songs & Stories | Album Review

18 November 2017 - 1:14am

Roy Book Binder – In Concert: Road Songs & Stories

PegLeg Records

www.roybookbinder.com

18 songs – 60 minutes

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and teacher, Roy Book Binder has cemented his place in the world of American roots music and particularly acoustic blues over the last nearly 50 years.  He took lessons from and toured with the Rev. Gary Davis in the 1960s, a time when he also “re-discovered” the great Medicine Show Entertainer, Pink Anderson (whose given name Syd Barrett combined with that of Floyd Council to produce the appellation of one of the world’s greatest rock bands). He has played with everyone from Robert Lockwood Jr. to Jorma Kaukonen. And the release of In Concert: Road Songs & Stories, his first live album in over a decade, is a wonderful reminder of what a fine performer he is.

Featuring a fine mixture of originals and covers, In Concert: Road Songs & Stories was recorded in 2009 at the Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in North Bethesda, MA. The album opens with the original “St. Pete Blues” before launching into high speed ragtime of “Black Dog Blues” from which it is immediately obvious that Book Binder’s adroit finger-picking skills remain in fine fettle. The influence of the Rev. Gary Davis remains discernible throughout in the alternating thumb bass-lines and finger-picked melodies of Book’s own compositions such as “What You Gonna Do?” as well as covers of songs like Davis’s classic “Candyman”.

Book Binder has never been the greatest of singers, but his half-spoken, half-sung approach fits the songs well and he delivers each track with a wry intelligence and wit. Indeed, sharp humor remains an essential element of any Book Binder concert. In the introduction to “New Age Woman Blues”, he dryly notes “This one here is one I wrote for my first wife, may she rest in peace…. in Biloxi, Mississippi, with her new husband.”

The 18 tracks on In Concert : Road Songs & Stories include three standalone spoken introductions (presumably to enable radio stations to cut straight to the music), which range from the hilarious (such as his tale about Jazz Gillum and his own brother-in-law, Rock Bottom) to the historically fascinating (his story about the Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Boy Fuller and Peter, Paul and Mary).

It is probably worth noting that In Concert: Road Songs & Stories is a different concert recording from the Book’s great DVD In Concert at the National Storytelling Festival, even though both releases share some of the same tracks (like “Rag Mama”, “CC & O Blues”, “Keep A Knockin’” and “Electricity”). This is no doubt to be expected given that the concerts were recorded only two years apart.

Book Binder introduces “It’s Gonna Be Alright Someday” with a mock-apology about the “happy little optimistic song” and how he wrote it one morning when he woke up in a good mood: “Usually a blues guy doesn’t wake up feeling that happy.  And if he does, he tries to suppress it.  Can’t be too cheery.” But when all is said and done, his music is happy music. It is uplifting and life-affirming, rather like the man himself. And with crystalline production, In Concert feels like you’re  sitting in the front row at a Book Binder concert. Great stuff.

Dudley Taft – Summer Rain | Album Review

17 November 2017 - 1:12am

Dudley Taft – Summer Rain

www.dudleytaft.com

American Blues Artists Group Label

11 songs time-52:31

Think Deep Purple without the organ pyrotechnics, Blackmore’s Rainbow, Golden Earring, a touch of Robin Trower or any of the 70’s hard rock guitar centered bands. Then have I got a guy for you. Dudley Taft is the name and crazy raging guitars is his game. Heavy killer chords, distortion, wah-wah, fuzz pedals…Pick your poison. His youthful sounding rock and roll hero voice doesn’t jive with his outlaw-hillbilly look. You get meaningful lyrics and sometimes it’s “lyrics smirics”. His rhythm sections supplies the necessary muscle to power this hard rockin’ beast. Reese Wynans of Stevie Ray Vaughn fame provides organ.

Spacey guitar kicks off “Fly On Love”. I have no idea what “Dark Blue Star” is all about, but it doesn’t really matter here in guitar-land. Trade mark Robin Trower “floaty” guitar permeates “Live Or Die” along with some heavy beat you over the head drums. “Edge Of Insane” comes off sounding like Deep Purple with the emphasis on guitar over organ. Acoustic guitar fights it out with an electric on the dreamy “Moonbeam”. It also features a bit of some nicely textured slide guitar.

If you are a card carrying air guitar geek just drop your ears anywhere on this disc and you’ll find yourself in the mist of guitar nirvana. The guitars are heavier than Popa Chubby on “Come With Me” as opposed to the slow, pensive and deliberate guitar on “I Lost My Way”. “Find My Way Home” crunches along with acoustic guitar mingling with electric. It probably has one of the better set of lyrics. The title track “Summer Rain” features melodic string bending in a lovely stylized rock setting.

If you miss the guitar glory of the seventies you can bask in this album and bring back memories of Uriah Heap and such cosmic guitar-drenched rock gods. Dudley does do right on the guitar(pun intended). Thundering drums and bass propel this powerful music. Ok the words can tend to dwell a tad on the rock and roll cliché side, but it’s all in the spirit of good rockin’ fun. Ok sports fans, break out those air guitars and knock yourselves out.

Corey Dennison Band – Night After Night | Album Review

17 November 2017 - 1:07am

Corey Dennison Band – Night After Night

Delmark Records – 2017

13 tracks; 62 minutes

www.coreydennisonband.com

Originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Corey Dennison is now a fixture on the Chicago club scene. The band’s second release on Delmark continues the successful blend of blues, soul and Rn’B shown on their self-titled debut, a CD that garnered several nominations including a Blues Blast nomination for Best Debut release in 2016. Corey wrote seven songs in tandem with Gerry Hundt, one by himself and there are five covers, including one by Carl Weathersby for whom Corey played guitar for twelve years prior to setting up his own band in 2013. Corey plays lead guitar and handles the vocals; Gerry Hundt plays guitar, organ and harp with Nik Skilnik on bass and Joel Baer on drums.

The band sets out its stall with an opening run of six originals that demonstrate the range of their talents. Opener “Hear My Plea” rolls along over a core riff as Corey begs for forgiveness in heart-rending style, a mix of soul, gospel and blues in his voice and some tasty licks from his guitar. “Misti” appeared on the last Kilborn Alley CD The Tolono Tapes but here is sung by Corey and is an early highlight, full-on soul-blues as Corey plays delightfully over warm organ while “I Get The Shivers” is a rocking shuffle which gets you moving and must be terrific live. “Better Man” is a slow and soulful piece that opens with Corey talking of those who have gone before him, and how those influences have made him what he is today. Possibly autobiographical, it is a strong song that delivers an emotional punch. We then move into soul/funk territory with the infectious “Phone Keeps Ringing” and “Nothing’s Too Good (For My Baby)” which sounds like a Motown track with its steady rhythm and tambourine but is Corey and Gerry’s take on the Motor City style, albeit with Memphis name-checked in the lyrics.

Carl Weathersby’s “Love Ain’t Fair” is a classic slow blues, beautifully played by Corey on guitar and Gerry on organ before the band’s eclecticism is well demonstrated with a lovely version of “Are You Serious”, a 1982 hit for Tyrone Davis, Corey getting great tone on guitar over funky bass and delicate percussion. “Nightcreeper 2 (Still Creepin’)” is a sequel to a title from The Tolono Tapes and the spoken intro is a conversation between Corey and an uncredited Andrew Duncanson before the band gets down and dirty on the funky tune. The last original finds Corey and Gerry exchanging licks on the extended slow blues “It’s So Easy” before three covers: The Cate Brothers’ “Stuck In Chicago” is another soulful piece; “Troubles Of The World” was most famously sung by Mahalia Jackson and Corey plays it in an upbeat style with a touch of funk but still retaining the gospel core of the song; “Down In Virginia” closes the album with a swagger as the band rock out on the Jimmy Reed tune. On each of these three cuts Corey’s guitar work is outstanding and suits the different styles of the three tunes perfectly.

This album is a strong follow-up to the band’s debut and should further underline their status as one of the leading young bands on the Chicago scene, as well as enhancing their reputation in the wider blues world. Readers can buy this one with confidence!

Issue 11-46 November 16, 2017

16 November 2017 - 9:29am

Cover photo © 2017 Bob Kieser

 In This Issue 

Bill Dahl has our feature interview with Billy Boy Arnold. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Corey Dennison Band, Dudley Taft, Third Coast Blues Collective, Roy Book Binder, The Patrik Jansson Band, Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers, Jesus on a Tortilla and Johnny Oskam.

We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

Corey Dennison Band – Night After Night

Delmark Records – 2017

13 tracks; 62 minutes

www.coreydennisonband.com

Originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Corey Dennison is now a fixture on the Chicago club scene. The band’s second release on Delmark continues the successful blend of blues, soul and Rn’B shown on their self-titled debut, a CD that garnered several nominations including a Blues Blast nomination for Best Debut release in 2016. Corey wrote seven songs in tandem with Gerry Hundt, one by himself and there are five covers, including one by Carl Weathersby for whom Corey played guitar for twelve years prior to setting up his own band in 2013. Corey plays lead guitar and handles the vocals; Gerry Hundt plays guitar, organ and harp with Nik Skilnik on bass and Joel Baer on drums.

The band sets out its stall with an opening run of six originals that demonstrate the range of their talents. Opener “Hear My Plea” rolls along over a core riff as Corey begs for forgiveness in heart-rending style, a mix of soul, gospel and blues in his voice and some tasty licks from his guitar. “Misti” appeared on the last Kilborn Alley CD The Tolono Tapes but here is sung by Corey and is an early highlight, full-on soul-blues as Corey plays delightfully over warm organ while “I Get The Shivers” is a rocking shuffle which gets you moving and must be terrific live. “Better Man” is a slow and soulful piece that opens with Corey talking of those who have gone before him, and how those influences have made him what he is today. Possibly autobiographical, it is a strong song that delivers an emotional punch. We then move into soul/funk territory with the infectious “Phone Keeps Ringing” and “Nothing’s Too Good (For My Baby)” which sounds like a Motown track with its steady rhythm and tambourine but is Corey and Gerry’s take on the Motor City style, albeit with Memphis name-checked in the lyrics.

Carl Weathersby’s “Love Ain’t Fair” is a classic slow blues, beautifully played by Corey on guitar and Gerry on organ before the band’s eclecticism is well demonstrated with a lovely version of “Are You Serious”, a 1982 hit for Tyrone Davis, Corey getting great tone on guitar over funky bass and delicate percussion. “Nightcreeper 2 (Still Creepin’)” is a sequel to a title from The Tolono Tapes and the spoken intro is a conversation between Corey and an uncredited Andrew Duncanson before the band gets down and dirty on the funky tune. The last original finds Corey and Gerry exchanging licks on the extended slow blues “It’s So Easy” before three covers: The Cate Brothers’ “Stuck In Chicago” is another soulful piece; “Troubles Of The World” was most famously sung by Mahalia Jackson and Corey plays it in an upbeat style with a touch of funk but still retaining the gospel core of the song; “Down In Virginia” closes the album with a swagger as the band rock out on the Jimmy Reed tune. On each of these three cuts Corey’s guitar work is outstanding and suits the different styles of the three tunes perfectly.

This album is a strong follow-up to the band’s debut and should further underline their status as one of the leading young bands on the Chicago scene, as well as enhancing their reputation in the wider blues world. Readers can buy this one with confidence!

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

Dudley Taft – Summer Rain

www.dudleytaft.com

American Blues Artists Group Label

11 songs time-52:31

Think Deep Purple without the organ pyrotechnics, Blackmore’s Rainbow, Golden Earring, a touch of Robin Trower or any of the 70’s hard rock guitar centered bands. Then have I got a guy for you. Dudley Taft is the name and crazy raging guitars is his game. Heavy killer chords, distortion, wah-wah, fuzz pedals…Pick your poison. His youthful sounding rock and roll hero voice doesn’t jive with his outlaw-hillbilly look. You get meaningful lyrics and sometimes it’s “lyrics smirics”. His rhythm sections supplies the necessary muscle to power this hard rockin’ beast. Reese Wynans of Stevie Ray Vaughn fame provides organ.

Spacey guitar kicks off “Fly On Love”. I have no idea what “Dark Blue Star” is all about, but it doesn’t really matter here in guitar-land. Trade mark Robin Trower “floaty” guitar permeates “Live Or Die” along with some heavy beat you over the head drums. “Edge Of Insane” comes off sounding like Deep Purple with the emphasis on guitar over organ. Acoustic guitar fights it out with an electric on the dreamy “Moonbeam”. It also features a bit of some nicely textured slide guitar.

If you are a card carrying air guitar geek just drop your ears anywhere on this disc and you’ll find yourself in the mist of guitar nirvana. The guitars are heavier than Popa Chubby on “Come With Me” as opposed to the slow, pensive and deliberate guitar on “I Lost My Way”. “Find My Way Home” crunches along with acoustic guitar mingling with electric. It probably has one of the better set of lyrics. The title track “Summer Rain” features melodic string bending in a lovely stylized rock setting.

If you miss the guitar glory of the seventies you can bask in this album and bring back memories of Uriah Heap and such cosmic guitar-drenched rock gods. Dudley does do right on the guitar(pun intended). Thundering drums and bass propel this powerful music. Ok the words can tend to dwell a tad on the rock and roll cliché side, but it’s all in the spirit of good rockin’ fun. Ok sports fans, break out those air guitars and knock yourselves out.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

Third Coast Blues Collective – Music Friends

Self-released

www.3cbc.org

12 Tracks/52:48

Put together by producer Kurt Koenig, who also plays bass throughout, this release shines a spotlight on the Milwaukee blues scene. More than thirty musicians and vocalists made contributions to the twelve tracks that were primarily composed by some of the participants. The opening cut shines the spotlight on Jim Liban, the legendary harp player who once fronted the band, Short Stuff. Joined by his son Matt on drums and Todd Merriweather on Hammond organ, Liban delivers a succinct assessment of life as seen through the rear-view mirror. The noted guitarist, Greg Koch, contributes some stinging licks, then Liban treats listeners to a subtle harp coda. Vocalist John Sieger co-wrote “Voodoo Rain” with Koch, who lays down a twisting, enthralling solo that is a vivid testimonial to his acknowledged guitar skills.

“Do You Duty Judy” was penned by Perry Weber, another veteran currently playing guitar for the Jimmys. His boss, Jimmy Voegeli, adds some rollicking piano on the hearty shuffle that includes another Liban appearance as Weber does his best to convince his wife to give him some good loving. The brothers Pruitt – David & Dick from the BelAirs – turn in a fun vocal duet on a cover of “Farmer John,” urged on by Aaron Gardner and Mike Pauers on saxophone and flute plus Jamie Breiwick on trumpet. Koch shines again on the languid take of Little Richard’s “Directly From My Heart To You,” beautifully sung by Robin Pluer, once a member of the R&B Cadets with Sieger and Paul Cebar. Steve Cohen pulls plenty of sounds out of his harp to wrap around her voice. Named the Best Guitar Player in 2016 by the Sheperd Express Reader’s Choice Awards, Andrew Koenig is compelling on Prince Conley’s dark tale of love’s obsession, “I’m Going Home”.

The second half of the disc offers some widely disparate styles. Bill Camplin utilizes the perfect vocal approach for Cohen’s “Comeuppance,” giving the barroom tearjerker the right amount of country pathos. “Song For Everything” features Sieger and Pluer plus the horns on a track that flows from contemporary R&B through jazz and back. Another highlight is “Spanish Wine,” with the dynamic Susan Julian on vocal plus a robust interlude from Gardner on sax. “Boogie Sol Hoopli” was written by guitarist Pete Roller, who uses his slide guitar to add many dimensions to the standard boogie riff with help from Cohen, Koenig on bass, and Bob Mueller on drums.

Any song that Michael Ledbetter sings typically rises well above the norm as his operatically trained voice commands your attention. On Koch’s “Sho Nuff,” the singer uses his meticulous phrasing and impressive range to create an intimate performance, backed by a swinging small group complete with horns. Equally fine is the closing number, “Recession Blues,” written by Jim Liban, featured on harp. Also contributing is Ledbetter’s former boss, guitarist Nick Moss, and Marc Wilson on percussion. The rhythm section lays down a rolling foundation for the singer, his voice gliding through the taut assessment of the nation’s financial plight. The last three minutes feature Liban at his best, his harp dancing around the melody, saying plenty with just a few notes.

Add it all up and you have a fine celebration of the Milwaukee blues scene and a number of the key players. If most of these names are unfamiliar to you, make a point to get a copy of this one. It holds up over repeated listens – and just might make you add Milwaukee as a musical destination the next time you are traveling through the Midwest.

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

Roy Book Binder – In Concert: Road Songs & Stories

PegLeg Records

www.roybookbinder.com

18 songs – 60 minutes

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and teacher, Roy Book Binder has cemented his place in the world of American roots music and particularly acoustic blues over the last nearly 50 years. He took lessons from and toured with the Rev. Gary Davis in the 1960s, a time when he also “re-discovered” the great Medicine Show Entertainer, Pink Anderson (whose given name Syd Barrett combined with that of Floyd Council to produce the appellation of one of the world’s greatest rock bands). He has played with everyone from Robert Lockwood Jr. to Jorma Kaukonen. And the release of In Concert: Road Songs & Stories, his first live album in over a decade, is a wonderful reminder of what a fine performer he is.

Featuring a fine mixture of originals and covers, In Concert: Road Songs & Stories was recorded in 2009 at the Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in North Bethesda, MA. The album opens with the original “St. Pete Blues” before launching into high speed ragtime of “Black Dog Blues” from which it is immediately obvious that Book Binder’s adroit finger-picking skills remain in fine fettle. The influence of the Rev. Gary Davis remains discernible throughout in the alternating thumb bass-lines and finger-picked melodies of Book’s own compositions such as “What You Gonna Do?” as well as covers of songs like Davis’s classic “Candyman”.

Book Binder has never been the greatest of singers, but his half-spoken, half-sung approach fits the songs well and he delivers each track with a wry intelligence and wit. Indeed, sharp humor remains an essential element of any Book Binder concert. In the introduction to “New Age Woman Blues”, he dryly notes “This one here is one I wrote for my first wife, may she rest in peace…. in Biloxi, Mississippi, with her new husband.”

The 18 tracks on In Concert : Road Songs & Stories include three standalone spoken introductions (presumably to enable radio stations to cut straight to the music), which range from the hilarious (such as his tale about Jazz Gillum and his own brother-in-law, Rock Bottom) to the historically fascinating (his story about the Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Boy Fuller and Peter, Paul and Mary).

It is probably worth noting that In Concert: Road Songs & Stories is a different concert recording from the Book’s great DVD In Concert at the National Storytelling Festival, even though both releases share some of the same tracks (like “Rag Mama”, “CC & O Blues”, “Keep A Knockin’” and “Electricity”). This is no doubt to be expected given that the concerts were recorded only two years apart.

Book Binder introduces “It’s Gonna Be Alright Someday” with a mock-apology about the “happy little optimistic song” and how he wrote it one morning when he woke up in a good mood: “Usually a blues guy doesn’t wake up feeling that happy. And if he does, he tries to suppress it. Can’t be too cheery.” But when all is said and done, his music is happy music. It is uplifting and life-affirming, rather like the man himself. And with crystalline production, In Concert feels like you’re sitting in the front row at a Book Binder concert. Great stuff.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

The Patrik Jansson Band – So Far To Go

www.patrikjanssonband.com

Sneaky Foot Records

9 songs time-43:33

Just what the world needs another guitar slinging blues-rocker, right? When you are this good and have great style, great chops and arrangements, ok I’ll take it. Sweden’s Patrik Jansson and company deliver the goods. He puts his effects pedals to good use with talent. His voice is strong and confident throughout. With some outside help his outfit of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards execute some riveting guitar rock. Well constructed songs all from the hand of Mr. Jansson and well thought out guitar solos make all the difference in this type of music being “hum-drum” or pleasurable. This guy definitely falls into the second category. Having a capable band in the studio is the icing on the cake.

Starting off an album with a duet can be a chancy proposition for most, but here when the partner is someone of the quality of Therese Thomsson, it works just fine. It’s a cool romp with jazzy guitar and organ. What’s a blues-rock CD without a bit of Stevie Ray Vaughn inspired guitar rhythm under the lead guitar part. Gustaf Andersson’s organ adds to the funkiness of the song. Oh yeah, these guys are just as effective on the slower stuff as in “Keep Taking Your Chances”. Electric piano is a nice addition on this one along with organ. The piano adds a soothing texture.

The title track is an inspired and upbeat rockin’ gem with Patrik’s omnipresent guitar goodness in fine form as usual. “Those Days Are Gone” is another slow-burner fueled by organ and horns. The funky instrumental “That 70’s Thing” gives the horn section and organ a chance to shine along with the guitar. Patrik puts his wah-wah pedal to good use here. Patrik once again dusts off his wah-wah pedal for the harmonica-guitar-horn driven “Too Blind To See”. Mikael “Mike” Fall sure knows his way around the “Mississippi Saxophone”. The haunting melodic instrumental “Sweet T” brings the recording to a lovely ending with its’ ethereal guitar and organ sending the listener off on a cloud of joy.

Guitar based rock and blues-rock doesn’t get any better than this. From the high energy cuts to the slow pensive moods this music deserves to be heard. Good music crosses the world over. Seeing music this passionate from distant lands makes one feel a oneness of musical spirit.

Do yourself a big favor and seek this CD out.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers – Live At Fleetwoods

Big Mo Records – 2017

CD1: 8 tracks; 47 minutes

CD2: 9 tracks; 60 minutes

www.themightyflyers.com

Now here is a great surprise, a vintage Mighty Flyers set from 1994, previously unreleased. Recorded at Mick Fleetwood’s short-lived club in Alexandria, VA, this is the same band that released Live At BB King’s and the CD makes a good pair with that set, having an almost completely different set list. The band at that point was Rod on harp and vocals, Honey Piazza on piano, Alex Schultz on guitar, Bill Stuve on bass and Jimi Bott on drums, for many fans the strongest incarnation of the band with outstanding quality in every department, Jimi and Bill providing a real pulse to the music that allows the three front line players to fly. Although there is no introduction to the band the two discs appear to cover the entire show, Disc 1 closing with the usual “Rockin’ Robin” and a promise that they will be back; Disc 2 also includes a shorter “Robin” and an encore designed to send the crowd away buzzing.

Disc 1 opens with “Talk To Your Daughter” (attributed to Jimmy McCracklin) which provides a solid start to the show, a relaxed pace with solos for everybody, allowing Rod to introduce the band to the audience. Audience noise on the discs is limited and unintrusive but the appreciation for Rod’s efforts in his extended solo can be heard. An early piece of Little Walter follows in “Aw Baby” before a superb “Hydramatic Woman” (Joe Hill Louis) which is a close relative of Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88” but also seems to show the influence of The Red Devils’ “She’s Automatic”, a band that Rod was sure to have heard back in LA. Alex gets an instrumental guitar feature with his own “Westside Lex”, reminding us of what a great player he is and that we don’t hear him often enough these days. After the Rn’B of “Hear Me Knockin’”, Honey is featured on one of her legendary boogie piano and drum duo pieces, “The Stinger” – fantastic stuff! Rod pays tribute to his mentor on an extended, semi-spoken “Tribute To George Smith” before the usual set closer, “Rockin’ Robin”.

Disc 2 has two extended jams: a rocking take on Big Joe Turner’s “Low Down Dog” swings terrifically with Alex and Honey taking extended solos before Rod takes the tune home with impressive staccato drums from Jimi; Percy Mayfield’s slow blues “Are You Out There” is the vehicle for a long harp exploration that also finds Rod using the harp mike to sing the opening line of each verse, creating an impressively loud sound. Rod’s “Love And Money” is labelled as running nearly 11 minutes but in fact the track also includes reprises of “Hear Me Knockin’” and “Rockin’ Robin” that signals the end of the show, the exciting “Tangled With A Woman” then appearing as the encore. Honey’s twinkling piano work is exceptional on Rod and Honey’s “Bad Bad Boy” and “T-Bone Jumps Again” is another feature for Alex’s sublime guitar playing. Rod returns to Little Walter on “Mellow Down Easy” and a relaxed take on “Key To The Highway” works well. Roy Brown’s “Ain’t No Rockin’ No More” is a definite highlight with Rod on top form vocally and the whole band rocking superbly (check out Rod’s lung-busting single note effort in his solo).

The sound quality is excellent throughout the two discs and this is a must-buy for all fans of Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

Jesus on a Tortilla – Tonite is the Night

Self-Produced

www.jesusonatortilla.com

CD: 12 Songs, 36:09 Minutes

Styles: Chicago Blues, Blues Covers, Harmonica Blues, Mono Recording

“You’ve never met this kind of music”, says the tagline of Tonite is the Night, the sophomore CD from Chicago’s Jesus on a Tortilla. No, that wasn’t a typo, and yours truly doesn’t have aphasia. That’s really the name of this energetic but unseasoned band, presenting four original songs and eight popular covers. The good news is that JOAT shines on instrumentals. The bad news? It can be summed up in two words: “mono recording.” This is intentional, according to their webpage: “Through the choice of our instrumentation and recording techniques, we tried to faithfully reproduce the typical sound of the early electric blues recordings. You will hear a true mono live recording, like a blues ensemble would have done at that time.”

Okay, but that’s only half the story. The other half is that modern musicians know mono is very tricky to pull off. If a band’s overall sound isn’t full-bodied enough, the results sound tinny and imbalanced. My headphones, which still Beexcellent™, proved this point. I had to turn the volume almost all the way up, because I forgot this CD wasn’t recorded in stereo. My ears are ringing at this moment. I could hear the great harmonica loud and clear, though, even on my headphones’ lowest setting, so that’s a plus. The heavily-accented vocals and their deadpan, conversational tone might make one think something got lost in this translation of classic blues. You’ll hear “BB Boogie”, “I’m Leaving You” by Howlin’ Wolf, and “Flying Saucer” by Little Walter, among other standards, but these renditions could leave you blinking in bewilderment.

Their bio on the Web says, “Jesus On A Tortilla is a project born in 2011. Across time, thanks to the growth of the group members, we embraced the Chicago Blues style, reproducing as closely as possible the main lines of the genre. The tracks selected for this album have been carefully chosen and represent a true example of the postwar Chicago blues scene from late 40’s to 50’s.” JOAT’s promotional info sheet reveals that they’ve played in clubs in Italy, France and Switzerland, and have performed as an opening act for such blues greats as Lurrie Bell, Hein Meijer and Marco Pandolfi.

Jesus on a Tortilla is a quirky quartet consisting of Lorenzo “Mumbles” Albai on vocals and harmonica; Kevin “Blind Lemon” Clementi on guitars; Matteo “Evans” Ferrario on drums, and Massimiliano “Ximi” Chiara on double bass. Special guest Henry Carpaneto stars on piano.

The following song is one of the band’s original instrumental tracks, displaying their chops.

Track 05: “Marvellous Swing” – “Mumbles” Albai is killer on the harmonica, as yours truly stated earlier. Even through the mono recording’s limitations, it shines through with brassy brilliance. “Ximi” Chiara is also fantastic on the double bass, which adds a unique touch to this number. Sometimes in the blues, the bass doesn’t get enough credit for the hard work it does.

Hopefully, with vocal training and more experience, Jesus on a Tortilla will be to more fans’ taste. Alas, to answer the claim that “you’ve never met this kind of music,” the truth is that, if you’re an aficionado of the blues – yes, you have, and from more polished ensembles. Tonite is the Night to give them a listen, for sure, but will they merit multiple play-throughs? You decide.

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 38 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

 

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

Johnny Oskam – In My Shadow

Self-Produced

www.johnnyoskam.com

CD: 9 Songs, 47:39 Minutes

Styles: Guitar Monster Rock, Ensemble Rock, All Original Songs

True confession – I’ve only used this tagline once, and hope never to do so again. This is NOT a blues album. California’s Johnny Oskam is a rocker, pure and simple, along the lines of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Don’t let the quotes on his website, from blues rock greats like Coco Montoya and Jonny Lang, fool you. (“I wasn’t expecting all that,” said Lang, and “He can play, man!” was what Coco commented.) From start to finish, In My Shadow is a hard rock CD with a touch of acoustic flair on one particular number.

Ms. Wetnight knows that she’s listed “Guitar Monster Blues” as a descriptor for quite a few albums lately, but this one tops them all. It takes the cake. It exemplifies the old adage that “some folks like to hear themselves talk,” although in this case, Oskam’s shredder does the speaking (and shrieking). An unspoken rule of our genre is that one can’t put the word “blues” in a rock song and magically transform it into a blues song. However, that’s just what our hero does on track two, “Deep in my Bones.”

The big upside to this release is that it’s great for what it is: a take-no-prisoners thrash rock showcase. On vocals, Johnny is average but amiable. On guitar, he’s above-average, but more B- than B+. In these days of techno-synth savagery, scales and arpeggios don’t impress crowds like they used to.

His well-designed corner of the Web reveals some promotional praise: “Drawing his influence from the likes of blues greats such as Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as rock acts from Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin to Soundgarden and Rival Sons and everything in between, Johnny Oskam fuses together elements of rock and blues from all over the spectrum to form an altogether original sound. The most notable feature of this young, undiscovered talent is his songwriting ability, which easily competes with the top writers of today’s industry. His songs can be hard-hitting and heavy, yet dynamic and soulful at the same time. His influences can be heard in all of his songs, but he is by no means just a derivative…Some young guys write songs to get chicks [more on this later/brackets mine], but this young man has a truly honest and real soul. ‘I’m not trying to be anyone else but myself,” Oskam says. “Why would I want to copy somebody else when nobody else can be me but me?’”

Along with Johnny on lead vocals and guitar are Katin Burns on drums and percussion; Marc Encabo on bass guitar; Kyle Schafer on keys and background vocals; Jonathan Eastly on keyboards; Michael Oskam on background vocals, and Emilio Tello on rhythm guitar and background vocals.

The following song, the raw opener of this album, shows listeners exactly what they’re in for.

Track 01: “Badlands” – For those of you unfamiliar with the U.S. landmarks, the Badlands of North and South Dakota are foreboding, barren hills and plateaus where almost nothing grows. Traversing them is very difficult, and Oskam has found these same obstacles within his mind. “I don’t care what the doctor said. I’ve gone crazy in my head. I can’t cross that begging wall. Slip my fingers and I fall.” With an introduction that would set Hendrix’s teeth on edge, this song is a sliver of madness, allowing us a glimpse into our protagonist’s tormented, unrelenting state.

A close friend of mine, the Purest Purist when it comes to the blues, once told me, “I don’t like what these young folks are doing to [it].” He won’t like In My Shadow, but hard rockers will!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 38 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

 Featured Blues Interview – Billy Boy Arnold 

Attendees at this year’s storm-shortened Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans were treated to a very special set from Billy Boy Arnold. The Chicago blues harmonica legend blasted out a non-stop parade of his seminal mid-‘50s singles for Vee-Jay Records, backed by a band that knew his repertoire intimately.

The set was prompted by Stomp boss Ira “Dr. Ike” Padnos. “It was great,” says Arnold. “Ira’s a fan of the Vee-Jay stuff, so that’s what he wants me to do. I love to do it.”

Those Vee-Jay classics form a sizable part of Arnold’s legacy. Arnold was working as Bo Diddley’s harpist when he waxed “I Wish You Would” for Chicago’s “other” great postwar blues label, Vivian Carter and Jimmy Bracken’s Vee-Jay Records, in May of 1955 at Universal Recording Corporation.

“I was playing with Bo Diddley at the time. We were doing a thing at the Trianon Ballroom with Ruth Brown. And I had wrote a song called ‘Diddy Diddy Dum Dum.’ I was playing the same riff on the harmonica that I (would) on ‘I Wish You Would.’ Bo Diddley only played the guitar behind it. I did the singing and the playing. And Leonard Chess heard the song. He was there that night. He told Bo, ‘That’s your next record!’” Behind-the-scenes machinations scuttled that.

“Bo told me, ‘I’d better take you to another record company, because Leonard don’t particularly like you!’ And that was because he thought I was a smart-alecky kid,” says Billy.

“So I went to Vee-Jay and told Jimmy Bracken, ‘I’m Bo Diddley’s harmonica player, and I’ve got a song, and Leonard Chess don’t particularly like me.’ So he said, ‘Well, come by tomorrow and I’ll have Calvin (Carter, Vee-Jay’s A&R man) listen to it!’ So I went by and I talked to Calvin, and they set up the session. I went and got Jody Williams on guitar, and the rest of the band was there in the studio when I got there: (pianist) Henry Gray and Howlin’ Wolf’s drummer, Earl Phillips. And then they had a bass player named Milton Rector, who was the first electric bass player that was in Chicago.

“Calvin Carter told me, ‘Write a new lyric on the song. We don’t want no competition with Chess, so write a new lyric.’ That’s why I wrote a new lyric, which came out ‘I Wish You Would.’ I wrote it right there on the spot. ‘I Wish You Would’ really established me and put my name on the map.”

Even though he recorded a variation of the song as “Diddley Daddy” with Little Walter on harp (Billy played on the hypnotic flip, “She’s Fine, She’s Mine”), Bo wasn’t happy. “He thought that I betrayed him. But I didn’t betray him. I was going to sing the song. The song would have come out with me singing and playing harmonica, and Bo Diddley just playing the guitar,” says Arnold. “After that, we went back in the studio to do some stuff with Bo, and Leonard told me, ‘You know, when I first met you, I didn’t like you. When I first met Little Walter, I didn’t like him!’ Because Little Walter was cocky, young and cocky.”

Williams brought in “I Was Fooled,” the rolling blues on the other side of Billy’s first Vee-Jay single. “That was Jody’s song. I was caught off guard. I didn’t have a lot of material ready,” says Arnold. “When we went to Vee-Jay, Jody was going to record for them. He had a song called ‘I Was Fooled,’ and I had ‘I Wish You Would.’ So the people at Vee-Jay asked Jody, ‘Well, let Billy Boy do this song, because he’s suited to that type of material.’ So Jody let me do ‘I Was Fooled.’ They did two sides on Morris Pejoe, two sides on me, and two sides on Earl Phillips. That’s how the session went down. Henry Gray was Morris Pejoe’s piano player.”

“I Wish You Would,” issued under the handle of Billy Boy with no last name, did well enough regionally to earn Arnold several more Vee-Jay sessions. The first transpired that October. Arnold penned “Don’t Stay Out All Night,” the blazing shuffle that formed half of his encore single. “I used to like ‘No More Doggin’’ by Rosco Gordon. So I kind of liked that beat,” says Billy. But it was the other side of that Vee-Jay platter that really had legs.

“Calvin wrote ‘I Ain’t Got You,’ and they recorded it on Jimmy Reed,” says Arnold. “But they didn’t like Jimmy Reed’s take on it. It was sort of draggy and slow, you know. So he asked me to do it.” Williams dreamed up the distinctive break lick. “Jody was a very creative young guitar player. He had a beautiful tone on the guitar, and he was very creative. Now if I had have made those records with some of the ordinary blues guys around Chicago, they wouldn’t have been effective,” says Arnold. “Jody did his best work on my sessions.”

The Yardbirds, with Eric Clapton on lead guitar, revived both “I Wish You Would” and “I Ain’t Got You” in 1964, testifying to Arnold’s influence on the British blues explosion. “It really gave me a boost all the way around,” says Billy. “It was a great compliment.”

That same date also spawned Arnold’s next Vee-Jay outing, “Here’s My Picture,” sporting a storming two-chorus Gray piano ride. “That came from Sonny Boy’s record, ‘Black Gal Blues,’” says Billy. Songsmith Jesse Cryor was responsible for the tough flip side, “You’ve Got Me Wrong.” “They would have different guys come by as writers, and they would have some material and (we’d) record it,” says Billy.

Williams was supplanted by young guitarist Sylvester Thompson, later known as Syl Johnson, at Arnold’s next Vee-Jay date in November of ‘56. “I went to Oklahoma and stayed about a month with Earl Hooker. And I came back, I didn’t have a band or a gig. So Shakey Jake said, ‘You’re looking for a band? I know two young guys, Syl (Thompson) and Odell Campbell. I know two great young guitar players!’ So he introduced me to them,” says Arnold. “‘I Ain’t Got You’ had just came out, and it was pretty hot around Chicago. So I started playing at 2711 Wentworth, and I got Syl on guitar and Odell Campbell, and a guy named Duke Tyus on drums.”

Syl’s clippity-clop boogie guitar groove fueled “Kissing At Midnight,” half of Billy’s next Vee-Jay offering (Magic Sam would later borrow its groove for his instrumental “Lookin’ Good”). “I wrote the song, and Syl Johnson came up with that beat that he had heard down in Mississippi,” says Arnold. “I gave him half of the writers’ on that. But I wrote the song.” Arnold also wrote the other side, “My Heart Is Crying.”

Billy waxed his last Vee-Jay session in September of ‘57. Syl’s slashing licks were all over the vibrant “Prisoner’s Plea.” “This guy, C.L. Hawkins, took it there,” says Billy. “Vee-Jay asked me to do it.” The churning “Rockin Itis” brought Billy full circle to the elastic underpinning of “I Wish You Would,” but he had nothing to do with penning it. “Theodore Twiggs was a writer for Vee-Jay,” says Billy. “Him and Calvin Carter and Al Smith got together on all of that.”

Vee-Jay’s braintrust didn’t measure up to that of Chess when it came to production. “They were nice people, but they didn’t have what Leonard Chess had. If you recorded in Chicago, you’d be better off to record for Leonard Chess,” he says. “(Vee-Jay’s bosses) weren’t really deeply into blues. They brought blues guys in and took them down to the studio and let the blues guys record what they were going to record. They didn’t have much input. Leonard was trying to milk the cow of every drop of milk that was there. He was hands on. He would tell you what to do.”

Arnold wouldn’t return to the studio until two days prior to the end of 1963, but it was a historic occasion. More Blues on the South Side, produced by Sam Charters for Prestige Records, appears to have been the first electric Chicago blues album (as opposed to a collection of hit singles) cut in a studio. And for the first time, record buyers learned Billy Boy’s last name.

“Sam Charters was in Chicago, looking for somebody to record. And somebody mentioned Junior Wells,” says Arnold. “But Bob Koester said, ‘Well, Billy Boy Arnold would be a good guy to record!’ And Sam Charters got in touch with me. I wrote all that stuff on there that’s original in a couple of days, because I knew that if you make a record, nobody wants to hear you keep singing Muddy Waters stuff, and Fats Domino. You’ve got to come up with some material of your own. So I got all that together in a couple of days and selected the musicians—my brother (Jerome Arnold) on bass, Lafayette Leake on the piano, Junior Blackmon on drums, and Mighty Joe Young, who was my guitar player for a couple of years, on the guitar.”

Arnold had been gigging steadily on the South and West Sides in the years between label hookups. “We were playing all-black clubs at that time. The white people hadn’t started coming into the clubs,” he says. “Club Columbia I was playing on 63rd, and the Rock and Roll, right across the street from it. I played Sylvio’s, co-starring with Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters at Sylvio’s in 1957.

“They had three bands. Each band would play an hour. Continuous entertainment. They had Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and my band. Elmore James was playing there, but he had had a heart attack, and he was kind of taking it easy. But to play Sylvio’s and to be opposite Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf was a great honor. It really was a lot of prestige. The people liked me because I had charisma. I wasn’t probably as good or had the experience that they had, because I was much younger. But I had the charisma, and the young women liked me. The younger people catered to me. And I was singing all the blues—I was singing everybody’s songs.”

A serious student of blues since he was a lad, Billy was probably the first Chicago-born blues artist of note. He encountered no interference from his family regarding his love for blues—specifically those of harmonica pioneer John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. “My grandfather had a hotel and a restaurant in Toledo, Ohio, and he would send my mother records from the jukebox,” he says. “One record he sent her was called ‘G. M. & O. Blues’ by Sonny Boy Williamson.

“I was just fascinated how to make the harmonica sound like that. So I asked my mother. She said, ‘That’s that guy that made ‘Mattie Mae.’ We had the record by him when I was seven years old, my aunt did,” he continues. “My father was talking to my mother casually. And he said, ‘That guy came in the Club Georgia the other night, and everybody was hollering, “Hey, Sonny Boy, and throwing money to him!”’ I thought a guy like that would be out in California, like a movie star somewhere. And I realized that he lived in Chicago. My father’s brother had a butcher shop at 31st and Giles, right a couple of doors from the Plantation Lounge, where Sonny Boy played at the night he got killed. I was at the butcher shop, and a guy passed with a guitar, and I flagged down anybody with a guitar. I ran outside, and I asked him, ‘Did you know Sonny Boy?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I know Sonny Boy—he lives at 3226 Giles!’”

On the first Saturday afternoon in 1948 after he came into possession of the harpist’s address, Billy convinced his cousin and their pal to accompany him in an unscheduled visit to Sonny Boy’s home. “We rung the doorbell, and this well-dressed guy came to the door, and he said, ‘Can I help you?’ I said, ‘We want to see Sonny Boy!’ He said, ‘This is Sonny Boy!’ I said, ‘We want to hear you play your harmonica!’ He said, ‘Come on up–I’m proud to have y’all!’ He lived on the second floor. So we went upstairs, and the pianist Johnny Jones and a young lady were there as guests. And he told them, ‘They came to see Sonny Boy!’ So I said, ‘Sonny Boy, how do you make the harmonica say “wah-wah-wah?”’ He said, ‘Well, you have to choke it.’ So he started demonstrating to me how to choke it.

“I said, ‘Well, I can sing just like you, if you play one of your records!’ So he put the record on. I thought I could. I couldn’t even play, but I knew all the words. So I’m standing there tooting on the harmonica and singing his song, and he got a big kick out of that. And he told Johnny Jones, ‘He’s gonna be better than me!’

“I met with him two more occasions before he got killed. The third time I went by there, I rung the doorbell, me and my cousin, and the lady said, ‘Who are you looking for?’ I said, ‘We’re looking for Sonny Boy!’ She said, ‘Haven’t you heard? He got killed! They crushed his brain!’ So that a blow to me. But that wasn’t going to stop me from trying to learn how to play the harmonica.”

Little Walter’s early ‘50s emergence, first with Muddy Waters and then on his own, next captured Arnold’s ear. “He became my idol then, because Sonny Boy was gone,” he says. “I knew that Walter was a magnificent harmonica player.” Walter’s use of amplification on his harp wasn’t quite as innovative as it appears. “Sonny Boy played amplified harmonica in the clubs,” notes Billy, who called the Club Georgia to speak to his idol shortly before they met and got an earful. “That was a big, huge sound,” he says. “It was like violins and everything. And it didn’t sound nothing like he did on record.”

Billy made his own recording debut in 1953 for Collenane Cosey’s minuscule Cool label. “Her brother-in-law recorded for M-G-M Records under the name of Peach Tree Logan. And Blind John Davis and Peach Tree Logan were buddies for years. Peach Tree would sing, and Blind John used to play the piano with him occasionally. So they were starting up a little independent record label. Blind John told ‘em, ‘Well, I know a boy that plays the harmonica.’ They said, ‘Well, bring him over!’ So they brought me over there. I had a song called ‘Hello Stranger,’ and ‘I Ain’t Got No Money.’ So they heard me and they were impressed with me.”

That platter gave Arnold his lifelong nickname. “When the record came out, they said, ‘We have you a new name! We called you Billy Boy!’ Well, I didn’t particularly like that, because I’m in an adult setting,” he says. “Billy Boy sounds too immature. But what could I do?” Mrs. Cosey’s son Pete became a ‘60s Chess Records session guitarist.

Billy joined forces with Bo Diddley in 1951, when the guitarist still answered to Ellas McDaniel. “I was walking past this restaurant, and I saw two guys with a guitar and a washtub with a stick on it. Of course, I knew they were musicians. So I walked in and I introduced myself, and they said, ‘We’re going to the Midway Theater, right up the street, and do an amateur show. Come on and go down there with me!’ They didn’t invite me to participate, just go down there to hear them do it. I told him I played harmonica, and Ellas said, ‘Well, we play on the street corners every Saturday. Come by my house in the morning and play on the street with us!’” says Arnold. “So I went down there that Saturday morning, and we started playing on the streets.” Jody Williams eventually joined them on guitar.

Arnold’s ongoing desire to be a recording artist spurred him to bring a dub of several of Bo’s songs to United Records (where they rehearsed for two weeks in Al Smith’s basement to no avail) and Vee-Jay (a secretary declared she didn’t like their sound after a few seconds of auditioning their disc).

“So we go across the street to Chess. Little Walter was packing some records for Leonard, because Leonard had to go up to the bank to take care of some business,” says Billy. “He said, ‘We don’t need nothing right now!’ He tried to shoo us off. Just as he was saying that, Phil Chess came out of the back. And he knew me. He didn’t know Ellas or nobody else. He knew me. He said, ‘Hey, man! What’s up? What you got?’ I said, ‘Well, we’ve got a dub here!’ He said, ‘Well, let me hear it!’” Phil dug it. “He said, ‘Well, I tell you what—I want my brother Leonard to hear this. Can you bring your equipment by tomorrow at two o’clock?” So we said, ‘Okay!’”

One song with a very unusual beat really impressed Leonard. “He said, ‘Well, we’ve got to get a song together on this hambone thing!’ Bo was saying, ‘Papa’s gonna buy his baby a diamond ring.’ I said, ‘Why don’t you say, “Bo Diddley’s gonna buy his baby a diamond ring?”’ And Leonard looked at me and said, ‘What does that mean? I don’t know. Wait a minute! I don’t want to put nothing on the record that’s gonna offend the black public!’ I said, ‘No, it just means a little comical guy.’

“When I first met Bo in 1951, we were playing on the street corner. And the bass player said, ‘Hey, Ellas—there goes Bo Diddley!’ A little short guy on the opposite side of the street, about four feet tall, and he was extremely bowlegged. Well, he was a comedian at the Indiana Theater.” The lyrical changes were made and the groundbreaking song was committed to tape.

“We didn’t come in there with a song called ‘Bo Diddley,’” says Billy. “His name was Ellas McDaniel & the Hipsters. To our surprise, the record came out ‘Bo Diddley’ by Bo Diddley. That was Leonard that did that. And it was a smash hit. ‘I’m A Man’ was the flip side.”

Bo Diddley’s thundering hambone rhythms made him a star. And more than 60 years later, Billy Boy Arnold’s career is still going strong too, as his more recent tribute CDs to Sonny Boy and Big Bill Broonzy elegantly underscored.

“I’m always working on stuff to record,” he says. “I want to do an album with a few Muddy Waters songs that you don’t hear, and a few Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup songs. I’ll call it My Type of Blues, (or) My Favorite Blues.” And you don’t have to travel all the way to New Orleans to see him play.

“I didn’t ever intend to stop,” says Arnold.

Interviewer Bill Dahl is a lifelong Chicago resident who began writing about music professionally in 1977. He’s written for Vintage Rock, Goldmine, Living Blues, Blues Revue, Blues Music Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the Reader, and is the author of The Art of the Blues, a 2016 book published by University of Chicago Press, and 2001’s Motown: The Golden Years (Krause Publications). Bill was awarded the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award in journalism in 2000.

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Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society will be hosting their Annual Member Party December 2, 2017, at the VFW Hall, 2784 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA. 7:00 – 11:00 PM. The IBC runner-up, the Zach Waters Band, will open followed by the award winning Ben Rice Band from Portland, OR.

Admittance is free to all SBS members. Go to www.sacblues.com to join in advance or membership can be obtained at the door. Wheelchair accessible. 21+.

Washington Blues Society – Seattle, WA

Washington Blues Society presents the 2017 Snohomish Blues Invasion! Since 2009 the Washington Blues Society has presented the Snohomish Blues Invasion; a one-day mini festival pub crawl event in historic downtown Snohomish. The event has become so popular among blues fan that the event was voted the “Best Non- Festival Event,” at the Best of the Blues awards in the spring of 2017.

The Blues Invasion returns to Snohomish Sunday November 19th 2- 10 PM. Over 25 acts will appear in venues on historic first street, including the newly remodeled Stewart’s tavern, the Piccadilly Circus Pub, along with two all ages venues, The Oxford and the First and Union Kitchen. The event also includes a silent auction of music memorabilia and a 50/50 raffle. $10 donation for a wristband to gain entry to all the venues.

Proceeds go to the IBC fund to send entrants to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN. The 2018 entrants representing Washington state are The CD Woodbury Trio and the Benton /Townsend duo.www.wablues.org.

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.

Blue Monday Schedule: Nov 20 – Joe Asselin Trio, Nov 27 – Black Magic Johnson, Dec 4 – Studebaker John, Dec 11 – Ed Selinger and Edmopolitans, Dec 18 The Mary Jo Curry Band. For more information visit www.icbluesclub.org.

P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2017 Blues Blast Magazine (309) 267-4425

Bette Smith – Jetlagger | Album Review

15 November 2017 - 1:48am

Bette Smith – Jetlagger

Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess Records

https://www.bettesmith.net/

CD: 10 Songs, 36:41 Minutes

Styles: Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues

As a society and a world, we love our comparisons. We not only ask who’s better than whom, but also who is similar to whom. It’s the reason why the acronym RIYL (Recommended If You Like) is such a thing on the Internet. In her promotional materials, NYC’s Bette Smith has been compared to Betty Davis, Betty Wright, Lauryn Hill, Bessie Smith, and, of course, Etta James. We all need a baseline to go on when we discover new artists – “who do they sound like?” – but this tactic is overused. If everything tastes like chicken, then what, exactly, does the proverbial chicken taste like?

In a word, Bette Smith’s voice is particular to herself and herself alone. It has a glinting, almost girlish edge that adds a touch of the unusual to the usual vibrato and belted notes. This joyful Jetlagger sounds like she’s having a ball, even in the midst of dealing with a “Manchild” and enduring the “Shackle & Chain” of too much romantic closeness. On four covers and six originals that should climb the Billboard charts in no time, she and some of Fat Possum Records’ best musicians show that they’re one of a kind. Sometimes it’s hard to understand their lyrics, but their spirit (along with the Holy Spirit) comes through loud and clear.

Bette Smith grew up in the rough Bedford-Stuyvestant neighborhood of NYC, where she sang gospel, soul and blues.

Accompanying her as she sings lead vocals are Jimbo Mathus on guitars, keyboards, and background vocals; Bronson Tew on drums and background vocals; Matt Patton on bass and background vocals; Scott “Pako” Goolsby on second guitar; Starlin Browning on guitar for “I Found Love”; Jamison Hollister on violin; Marc Franklin and Kirk Smothers on horns, and Susan Marshall on additional background vocals. (Sometimes Bette harmonizes with herself, and Ms. Marshall’s vocals team up with hers in this situation.)

The following three selections are some of the best of soul blues that this year has to offer.

Track 01: “I Will Feed You” – The first thing that will jump out at listeners, and send shivers down their spines, is this song’s intro. A chorus of wailing voices climbs the scale, slowly and mournfully, as if grieving the loss of a loved one. “Whatever you want, whatever you need, the love that you want, I will feed you,” Bette informs her paramour, sounding coquettish and sincere at the same time. Jimbo Mathus’ lead guitar soars, too, robust and strong as an eagle.

Track 03: “I Found Love” – I found a sticker on the front of this CD that suggested lucky number three as one of its premiere offerings. A cover from the band Lone Justice, starring Steven Van Zandt, it speeds along like a bullet train, hard-driving and exhilarating. Dig those drums by Bronson Tew – not everyone can hold that pace or keep the energy constantly high-octane. The powerhouse background vocals have great harmony and tempo, all voices perfectly equalized.

Track 08: “Moaning Bench” – We all need to repent of our reckless, wanton ways sometimes, but some people have no concept of this concept. “Your mama was a [stripper] dancer, and your daddy was a guitar man. You grew up in the back of a bar,” Bette tells the target of this lecture. “Well, the bloom has left the rose, and the rose is falling off of the vine.” Who, specifically, is she talking about? “You a shameless wench! Go down…on the moaning bench!” Baptist churches used to have them, and this song’s subject is long due for a visit.

Who does Bette Smith sound like? Bette Smith, of course: a jubilant Jetlagger!

Brian Carmona – This Is Me | Album Review

14 November 2017 - 1:31am

Brian Carmona – This Is Me

Self-produced CD

10 songs – 41 minutes

www.briancarmona.com

Based in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia for the past 15 years, Brian Carmona is a Brooklyn-born guitarist/songwriter who delivers his own brand of blues rock with Latin, R&B and funk influences on this all-original, self-produced debut CD.

A first-generation American whose mother hails from Colombia and the product of a musical family, Carmona’s a soulful vocalist. He picked up the six-string at age 11 and developed his own distinctive style, influenced most by the three Kings — B.B., Freddie and Albert, Carlos Santana, Albert Collins and Jimi Hendrix while also playing drums, bongos and other percussion instruments along the way.

Carmona composed all ten of the tunes and handles guitar and lead vocals on This Is Me, backed by Shannon Leggete on drums and backing vocals, Von Jose Roberts on bass and Cal Hamlin on keys. Nate Delesline sits in on drums for one cut. Although new tunes, the music is rooted in the sounds of the ’60s and ’70s.

“Once Again” opens the action with pleasant simple guitar hook as Carmona recounts repeated attempts to contact a lady who drives him wild. He’s got a strong, clear baritone, and remains in complete control on the guitar as he provides chords and rhythm behind the vocals, filling in the gaps with steady single-note leads, most prominent in the last 45 seconds or so. “By Myself” is a loping blues set atop a steady four-note rhythm pattern that describes the singer’s pain in realizing he should have kept his lady to himself.

The title song, “This Is Me,” is a bittersweet rock-fueled love ballad. In it, Brian demands that his lady pack her bags and leave, this time for good. A medium-fast shuffle, “Blind,” lopes out of the gate next and deals with a woman so beautiful that the singer’s unable to see anyone else. It features a solid organ solo mid-tune.

Next up, “Makes Me Wonder Why” kicks off with a double-note guitar riff that echoes The Allman Brothers and continues the relationship theme. This time, Carmona realizes he can’t survive with the lady’s love and touch even though he tells her he’s doing fine without her. The music gets funky for “Nothing Is Wrong” — this time, the singer professes there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for the lady — before the straight-ahead slow blues “Baby Girl” features some tasty fret work as it describes the title woman as he watches her from a window as she’s walking down the street.

Carmona’s background is evident in “Tell Me Baby (What You Want),” a percussive pleaser with a Latin feel, before two more love songs — the uptempo rocker “You’re The One For Me,” which picks up the window theme, and “Be Mine Tonight,” an aurally different, swinging, stop-time blues — bring the album to a close.

An interesting first offering from someone worthy of a follow-up, This Is Me is available only through the artist’s website (address above), but it’s definitely worth a listen.

Steve Howell and Jason Weinheimer – A Hundred Years from Today | Album Review

13 November 2017 - 1:42am

Steve Howell and Jason Weinheimer – A Hundred Years from Today

Out of the Past Music

www.stevehowell.ws

CD: 10 Songs, 35:16 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Acoustic Blues, Duo Album, Pre-War Blues

Dear Constant Readers: For those of you who’ve never perused my reviews, you should know something. For those of you who have, you’ve heard this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. I’m not partial to blues CD’s full of covers, and review them as “picks” if I absolutely must. Why? I’m interested in artists’ own creations, their new takes on a genre born of timeless adversity.

However, Texan Steve Howell and Arkansas’ Jason Weinheimer have found a clever loophole. The ten selections on their newest album might well be played A Hundred Years from Today. They’re classics any aficionado would recognize, from Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Goin’ Back to Florida” to Mississippi John Hurt’s “Got the Blues/Can’t be Satisfied” to the title track by Joe Young, Ned Washington and Victor Young.

Performing as a duo, Howell and Weinheimer pay homage to pre-war blues and a vintage style that never goes out of style. For some, especially those new to the genre, it might be underwhelming and too reminiscent of folk music. Steve Howell’s dry talk-singing, combined with Jason Weinheimer’s melodic but understated acoustic guitar, is an acquired taste. One might ask: Where’s the juice, the oomph, the pizzazz? In truth, this kind of music doesn’t rely on such things, but on a “peaceful, easy feeling,” as the Eagles said. This is kick-back-in-your-“Rocking Chair” blues, not boogie-and-chug-a-beer blues.

This duo’s Internet biographies, provided by Blind Raccoon, provide some revealing details: “When Steve Howell first heard Mississippi John Hurt’s happy style of finger picking country blues in 1965 at the age of thirteen, he immediately knew that the tame, folksy style of strumming the guitar was a thing out of the past for him. As his journey progressed, Mississippi John Hurt begat Blind Willie McTell and Leadbelly, who begat Robert Johnson, Son House, Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Blake and a host of other black acoustic guitar players and vocalists. His interest in rural, folk-blues styles and the history of the music led him to learn more about how this music came to town and melded with the horn-oriented bands prevalent in the cities, creating a strong affinity for him with the traditional jazz and New Orleans music of the first half of the twentieth century.” As for veteran performer Jason Weinheimer, he “has recorded albums by John Moreland, Buddy Flett, and Jim Mize, among many others. In addition to his studio work, he plays bass in a few bands, most notably Steve Howell & the Mighty Men. His solo album Skies Are Grey was released in 2016 under the name The Libras.”

The following song is a very, very oldie (1929), but a goodie, originally by Hoagy Carmichael.

Track 10: “Rockin’ Chair” – “Fetch me that gin, son, ‘fore I tan your hide.” These ten words woke yours truly up from a trance, making her blink in disbelief. However, what’s more unbelievable is the transformation Time can wreak upon a body – and a mind. Howell’s guitar is at its slowest and most contemplative, and his voice hoary with years. “Old rocking chair got me, cane by my side,” our narrator begins. “Can’t get from this cabin, going nowhere.” When the thrill of life and youth is gone, and “Judgment Day is near,” what else is left to celebrate?

Blues lovers, if you enjoy songs that’ll be played A Hundred Years from Today, check this CD out!

Mike Brookfield – Brookfield | Album Review

12 November 2017 - 1:40am

Mike Brookfield – Brookfield

www.mikebrookfield.com

Golden Rule Records

11 songs time – 48:26

Dublin Ireland based blues-rock guitarist Mike Brookfield would make recording innovator Les Paul very proud as he utilizes Les’ over dubbing technique to the nth degree with his layering of guitar parts to create a very satisfying guitar album. His arranging skills produce very pleasing textures in his music. His more than adequate voice seals the deal. The only other musician on the CD is drummer Andrew Lavery. Mike composed all the music while former drummer-lyricist with the legendary Celtic rock band Horslips, Eamon Carr contributed the imaginative lyrics. The songs are an amalgamation of blues-rock, rock, pop and a smattering of blues.

Multi layered acoustic and electric guitars inform the spiritual bent of “A Message For Willie Johnson. The electric leads just sing out clear as the proverbial bell. “Beaten To Death By The Blues” seems to be an ode to an unspecified tragic music figure delivered with blues-rock grit. If you haven’t had enough of zombies, have we got a zombie song for you-“Zombie Craze”. Some blues feel shows up in “Suitcase Blues”. It’s not over until it’s over is the sentiment of “Don’t Close The Gates”, a song empowered by some nifty slide guitar. Atmospheric crazed guitars serve as the intro to the wah-wah infused “Living In A Better World”.

“Letter From The Devil” touches on corrupt politicians and such. Ladies and gentlemen it’s crunch time-welcome to “Hi Class Shoes”. Distorted rhythm guitar underpins some wicked slide guitar. Sadly “Gun Crime” is a fitting song for our current state of affairs. I don’t quite get the lyric-“Gun crime is outta control, I still shoot ’em full of rock and roll”. Comes off kind of flippant to me. “Written In Chains” begins life as a slow dirge then goes out in a blaze of guitar glory.

You say you’re looking for a slice of guitar heaven? No need to look any further. This guy has an arsenal of guitar licks that just won’t quit. It’s all put together so well. Not only is Mike a guitar wiz, he handles the production chores. Even when things get a bit heavy, the music never sinks into muddled guitar noise. This guy has got a definite handle on how to piece together guitar parts in just the right way. Drummer Andrew Lavery supplies the necessary “oomph” to support the guitar assault on your senses. Blues-rock in the right hands can be a powerful force, Mike Brookfield has the right hands.

Jason Buie – Driftin’ Heart | Album Review

11 November 2017 - 1:36am

Jason Buie – Driftin’ Heart

Self-release

www.jasonbuieband.com

11 songs – 39 minutes

Jason Buie is a Vancouver Island-based singer, guitarist and songwriter who has been around playing across Canada, the USA, Japan and Europe for over 20 years.  Driftin’ Heart is only his third album, following 2002’s Urban Blues and 2009’s Live At The Gator, but it is a highly impressive slab of modern blues-rock, with much more blues than rock on display.

Driftin’ Heart opens with the hard Texas shuffle of “Fool From The Start”, with Dave Webb’s great organ playing nicely backing up the T-Birds-style guitar riff. Buie sings with a gruff, road-worn voice that suits both the music and his own muscular lead guitar playing. It is also a cleverly written song, sitting squarely within the blues tradition but with subtle digressions away from a standard 12-bar structure.

Buie handles all the singing and guitar playing on the album. He has also assembled an excellent band with John Hunter on drums, George Fenn on bass and Dave Webb on piano and B3. Hunter and Fenn are a rock-solid rhythm section who give the music real drive while Webb’s musicality and understated contributions help to smooth off some of the rockier edges from the songs, keeping them very much within the blues field. Buie’s guitar playing is fluid and brawny, with a pronounced Stevie Ray Vaughan influence, particularly on tracks like “Fool From The Start”, “Suits Me To A Tee” and “Government Man”. He keeps his solos short and punchy, often smartly but briefly nipping outside the traditional blues scales, for example on the title track.

Buie and Hunter co-wrote seven of the tracks on the album, which take in a broad range of classics blues styles, from the Howlin’ Wolf-esque “Government Man” to the West Coast jump blues of “West Coast Daddy”, the swamp pop ballad “Stay The Night” (which contains one of Buie’s most heart-felt vocals and an utterly impassioned guitar solo) and the Texas grind of “Last Love Affair”.

The five covers are all relatively well-known but are played with high energy and none is played as a straight copy of the original. Amos Milburn’s “House Party” is played sans horns but benefits from the upbeat backing vocals of Rick Salt and Marisha Devoin. Sue Foley’s “Annie’s Driftin’ Heart”, re-named here “Driftin’ Heart”, was originally recorded with just Foley and her guitar. Buie’s version is given a full band treatment with more delightful piano from Webb. Jimmy Rogers recorded a number of versions of “You’re Sweet”, but none with the modern punch of Buie’s version. And Jesse Mae Robinson’s “Cold Cold Feeling” is played as a Magic Sam-esque major/minor key ballad.

Driftin’ Heart is a relatively short album, with 11 clocks clocking in at 39 minutes, but there really isn’t any filler here.  If you like the modern blues-rock of Stevie Ray Vaughan or Kenny Wayne Shepherd, you will definitely want to check out Jason Buie.  Let’s hope it isn’t another eight years until his next release.

Desert Legend Sean Wheeler – Sand In My Blood | Album Review

11 November 2017 - 1:33am

Desert Legend Sean Wheeler – Sand In My Blood

https://facebook.com/seanwheelerodc/

Little Village Foundation

11 songs time-35:36

Now for something completely different…On this his first solo release self proclaimed desert legend Sean Wheeler has managed to create something that is at once riveting, stark, gritty and moving. A lifelong resident of California’s Coachella Valley low desert he was previously in the hardcore punk band Mutual Hatred and the punk n’ roll band Throw Rag. He brings his gruff voice and punk sensibilities to this extraordinary CD. The main thrust here is Sean’s voice along with the spy movie-meets-The Adams Family guitar tone of Billy Pittman. Much here is just them alone with the occasional percussion, keyboards or harmonica. His voice set against the atmospheric guitar is a match made in musical heaven. The two original songs along with nine covers from various genres of music blend together to create an experience that is as unique as possible.

Adams Family guitar adds an ominous tone Reverend Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”, the only other instrument being bass. Sean’s gruff growl of a voice fits the feel perfectively. A Captain Beefheart song I’m not familiar with, “I’ Glad”, has normal lyrics and is calm, not a typical Beefheart song. Only guitar and bass with a yearning vocal. The original “Hey Cowboy” lopes along with the addition of some basic drumming. The guitar tone is wonderful here as it is throughout the CD. Sean’s rougher than an outhouse corncob on chili night voice fits right in here. Gil Scott-Heron’s funky “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” is backed solely by guitar and finger snaps.

“Wayfaring Man Of Grief” a poem by James Montgomery set to music has a serious, haunting quality to it. Kid Andersen contributes harmonium to “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today”, about as quiet as Sean gets. Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” receives a maniacal and sinister vocal assault. It works just fine thank you very much. A song with the lyric “Tell your heart’s tenants I’m moving in” is alright in my book, that’s what you get in “Now That You Know(Funky Wicked World). Aki Kumar adds his harmonica to the toe-tapping “Men Like Me Can Fly”. Clifton Chenier’s “I’m Coming Home” is a soulful and moody slice of rhythm and blues.

Less is definitely more in the case of this recording. A deeply felt voice, guitar, spare percussion, occasional keyboards and harmonica are all this special rough hewn music need. Open your mind and broaden your horizons with this lowdown masterpiece.

Featured interview – Billy Boy Arnold

11 November 2017 - 12:43am

Attendees at this year’s storm-shortened Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans were treated to a very special set from Billy Boy Arnold. The Chicago blues harmonica legend blasted out a non-stop parade of his seminal mid-‘50s singles for Vee-Jay Records, backed by a band that knew his repertoire intimately.

The set was prompted by Stomp boss Ira “Dr. Ike” Padnos. “It was great,” says Arnold. “Ira’s a fan of the Vee-Jay stuff, so that’s what he wants me to do. I love to do it.”

Those Vee-Jay classics form a sizable part of Arnold’s legacy. Arnold was working as Bo Diddley’s harpist when he waxed “I Wish You Would” for Chicago’s “other” great postwar blues label, Vivian Carter and Jimmy Bracken’s Vee-Jay Records, in May of 1955 at Universal Recording Corporation.

“I was playing with Bo Diddley at the time. We were doing a thing at the Trianon Ballroom with Ruth Brown. And I had wrote a song called ‘Diddy Diddy Dum Dum.’ I was playing the same riff on the harmonica that I (would) on ‘I Wish You Would.’ Bo Diddley only played the guitar behind it. I did the singing and the playing. And Leonard Chess heard the song. He was there that night. He told Bo, ‘That’s your next record!’” Behind-the-scenes machinations scuttled that.

“Bo told me, ‘I’d better take you to another record company, because Leonard don’t particularly like you!’ And that was because he thought I was a smart-alecky kid,” says Billy.

“So I went to Vee-Jay and told Jimmy Bracken, ‘I’m Bo Diddley’s harmonica player, and I’ve got a song, and Leonard Chess don’t particularly like me.’ So he said, ‘Well, come by tomorrow and I’ll have Calvin (Carter, Vee-Jay’s A&R man) listen to it!’ So I went by and I talked to Calvin, and they set up the session. I went and got Jody Williams on guitar, and the rest of the band was there in the studio when I got there: (pianist) Henry Gray and Howlin’ Wolf’s drummer, Earl Phillips. And then they had a bass player named Milton Rector, who was the first electric bass player that was in Chicago.

“Calvin Carter told me, ‘Write a new lyric on the song. We don’t want no competition with Chess, so write a new lyric.’ That’s why I wrote a new lyric, which came out ‘I Wish You Would.’ I wrote it right there on the spot. ‘I Wish You Would’ really established me and put my name on the map.”

Even though he recorded a variation of the song as “Diddley Daddy” with Little Walter on harp (Billy played on the hypnotic flip, “She’s Fine, She’s Mine”), Bo wasn’t happy. “He thought that I betrayed him. But I didn’t betray him. I was going to sing the song. The song would have come out with me singing and playing harmonica, and Bo Diddley just playing the guitar,” says Arnold. “After that, we went back in the studio to do some stuff with Bo, and Leonard told me, ‘You know, when I first met you, I didn’t like you. When I first met Little Walter, I didn’t like him!’ Because Little Walter was cocky, young and cocky.”

Williams brought in “I Was Fooled,” the rolling blues on the other side of Billy’s first Vee-Jay single. “That was Jody’s song. I was caught off guard. I didn’t have a lot of material ready,” says Arnold. “When we went to Vee-Jay, Jody was going to record for them. He had a song called ‘I Was Fooled,’ and I had ‘I Wish You Would.’ So the people at Vee-Jay asked Jody, ‘Well, let Billy Boy do this song, because he’s suited to that type of material.’ So Jody let me do ‘I Was Fooled.’ They did two sides on Morris Pejoe, two sides on me, and two sides on Earl Phillips. That’s how the session went down. Henry Gray was Morris Pejoe’s piano player.”

“I Wish You Would,” issued under the handle of Billy Boy with no last name, did well enough regionally to earn Arnold several more Vee-Jay sessions. The first transpired that October. Arnold penned “Don’t Stay Out All Night,” the blazing shuffle that formed half of his encore single. “I used to like ‘No More Doggin’’ by Rosco Gordon. So I kind of liked that beat,” says Billy. But it was the other side of that Vee-Jay platter that really had legs.

“Calvin wrote ‘I Ain’t Got You,’ and they recorded it on Jimmy Reed,” says Arnold. “But they didn’t like Jimmy Reed’s take on it. It was sort of draggy and slow, you know. So he asked me to do it.” Williams dreamed up the distinctive break lick. “Jody was a very creative young guitar player. He had a beautiful tone on the guitar, and he was very creative. Now if I had have made those records with some of the ordinary blues guys around Chicago, they wouldn’t have been effective,” says Arnold. “Jody did his best work on my sessions.”

The Yardbirds, with Eric Clapton on lead guitar, revived both “I Wish You Would” and “I Ain’t Got You” in 1964, testifying to Arnold’s influence on the British blues explosion. “It really gave me a boost all the way around,” says Billy. “It was a great compliment.”

That same date also spawned Arnold’s next Vee-Jay outing, “Here’s My Picture,” sporting a storming two-chorus Gray piano ride. “That came from Sonny Boy’s record, ‘Black Gal Blues,’” says Billy. Songsmith Jesse Cryor was responsible for the tough flip side, “You’ve Got Me Wrong.” “They would have different guys come by as writers, and they would have some material and (we’d) record it,” says Billy.

Williams was supplanted by young guitarist Sylvester Thompson, later known as Syl Johnson, at Arnold’s next Vee-Jay date in November of ‘56. “I went to Oklahoma and stayed about a month with Earl Hooker. And I came back, I didn’t have a band or a gig. So Shakey Jake said, ‘You’re looking for a band? I know two young guys, Syl (Thompson) and Odell Campbell. I know two great young guitar players!’ So he introduced me to them,” says Arnold. “‘I Ain’t Got You’ had just came out, and it was pretty hot around Chicago. So I started playing at 2711 Wentworth, and I got Syl on guitar and Odell Campbell, and a guy named Duke Tyus on drums.”

Syl’s clippity-clop boogie guitar groove fueled “Kissing At Midnight,” half of Billy’s next Vee-Jay offering (Magic Sam would later borrow its groove for his instrumental “Lookin’ Good”). “I wrote the song, and Syl Johnson came up with that beat that he had heard down in Mississippi,” says Arnold. “I gave him half of the writers’ on that. But I wrote the song.” Arnold also wrote the other side, “My Heart Is Crying.”

Billy waxed his last Vee-Jay session in September of ‘57. Syl’s slashing licks were all over the vibrant “Prisoner’s Plea.” “This guy, C.L. Hawkins, took it there,” says Billy. “Vee-Jay asked me to do it.” The churning “Rockin Itis” brought Billy full circle to the elastic underpinning of “I Wish You Would,” but he had nothing to do with penning it. “Theodore Twiggs was a writer for Vee-Jay,” says Billy. “Him and Calvin Carter and Al Smith got together on all of that.”

Vee-Jay’s braintrust didn’t measure up to that of Chess when it came to production. “They were nice people, but they didn’t have what Leonard Chess had. If you recorded in Chicago, you’d be better off to record for Leonard Chess,” he says. “(Vee-Jay’s bosses) weren’t really deeply into blues. They brought blues guys in and took them down to the studio and let the blues guys record what they were going to record. They didn’t have much input. Leonard was trying to milk the cow of every drop of milk that was there. He was hands on. He would tell you what to do.”

Arnold wouldn’t return to the studio until two days prior to the end of 1963, but it was a historic occasion. More Blues on the South Side, produced by Sam Charters for Prestige Records, appears to have been the first electric Chicago blues album (as opposed to a collection of hit singles) cut in a studio. And for the first time, record buyers learned Billy Boy’s last name.

“Sam Charters was in Chicago, looking for somebody to record. And somebody mentioned Junior Wells,” says Arnold. “But Bob Koester said, ‘Well, Billy Boy Arnold would be a good guy to record!’ And Sam Charters got in touch with me. I wrote all that stuff on there that’s original in a couple of days, because I knew that if you make a record, nobody wants to hear you keep singing Muddy Waters stuff, and Fats Domino. You’ve got to come up with some material of your own. So I got all that together in a couple of days and selected the musicians—my brother (Jerome Arnold) on bass, Lafayette Leake on the piano, Junior Blackmon on drums, and Mighty Joe Young, who was my guitar player for a couple of years, on the guitar.”

Arnold had been gigging steadily on the South and West Sides in the years between label hookups. “We were playing all-black clubs at that time. The white people hadn’t started coming into the clubs,” he says. “Club Columbia I was playing on 63rd, and the Rock and Roll, right across the street from it. I played Sylvio’s, co-starring with Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters at Sylvio’s in 1957.

“They had three bands. Each band would play an hour. Continuous entertainment. They had Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and my band. Elmore James was playing there, but he had had a heart attack, and he was kind of taking it easy. But to play Sylvio’s and to be opposite Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf was a great honor. It really was a lot of prestige. The people liked me because I had charisma. I wasn’t probably as good or had the experience that they had, because I was much younger. But I had the charisma, and the young women liked me. The younger people catered to me. And I was singing all the blues—I was singing everybody’s songs.”

A serious student of blues since he was a lad, Billy was probably the first Chicago-born blues artist of note. He encountered no interference from his family regarding his love for blues—specifically those of harmonica pioneer John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. “My grandfather had a hotel and a restaurant in Toledo, Ohio, and he would send my mother records from the jukebox,” he says. “One record he sent her was called ‘G. M. & O. Blues’ by Sonny Boy Williamson.

“I was just fascinated how to make the harmonica sound like that. So I asked my mother. She said, ‘That’s that guy that made ‘Mattie Mae.’ We had the record by him when I was seven years old, my aunt did,” he continues. “My father was talking to my mother casually. And he said, ‘That guy came in the Club Georgia the other night, and everybody was hollering, “Hey, Sonny Boy, and throwing money to him!”’ I thought a guy like that would be out in California, like a movie star somewhere. And I realized that he lived in Chicago. My father’s brother had a butcher shop at 31st and Giles, right a couple of doors from the Plantation Lounge, where Sonny Boy played at the night he got killed. I was at the butcher shop, and a guy passed with a guitar, and I flagged down anybody with a guitar. I ran outside, and I asked him, ‘Did you know Sonny Boy?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I know Sonny Boy—he lives at 3226 Giles!’”

On the first Saturday afternoon in 1948 after he came into possession of the harpist’s address, Billy convinced his cousin and their pal to accompany him in an unscheduled visit to Sonny Boy’s home. “We rung the doorbell, and this well-dressed guy came to the door, and he said, ‘Can I help you?’ I said, ‘We want to see Sonny Boy!’ He said, ‘This is Sonny Boy!’ I said, ‘We want to hear you play your harmonica!’ He said, ‘Come on up–I’m proud to have y’all!’ He lived on the second floor. So we went upstairs, and the pianist Johnny Jones and a young lady were there as guests. And he told them, ‘They came to see Sonny Boy!’ So I said, ‘Sonny Boy, how do you make the harmonica say “wah-wah-wah?”’ He said, ‘Well, you have to choke it.’ So he started demonstrating to me how to choke it.

“I said, ‘Well, I can sing just like you, if you play one of your records!’ So he put the record on. I thought I could. I couldn’t even play, but I knew all the words. So I’m standing there tooting on the harmonica and singing his song, and he got a big kick out of that. And he told Johnny Jones, ‘He’s gonna be better than me!’

“I met with him two more occasions before he got killed. The third time I went by there, I rung the doorbell, me and my cousin, and the lady said, ‘Who are you looking for?’ I said, ‘We’re looking for Sonny Boy!’ She said, ‘Haven’t you heard? He got killed! They crushed his brain!’ So that a blow to me. But that wasn’t going to stop me from trying to learn how to play the harmonica.”

Little Walter’s early ‘50s emergence, first with Muddy Waters and then on his own, next captured Arnold’s ear. “He became my idol then, because Sonny Boy was gone,” he says. “I knew that Walter was a magnificent harmonica player.” Walter’s use of amplification on his harp wasn’t quite as innovative as it appears. “Sonny Boy played amplified harmonica in the clubs,” notes Billy, who called the Club Georgia to speak to his idol shortly before they met and got an earful. “That was a big, huge sound,” he says. “It was like violins and everything. And it didn’t sound nothing like he did on record.”

Billy made his own recording debut in 1953 for Collenane Cosey’s minuscule Cool label. “Her brother-in-law recorded for M-G-M Records under the name of Peach Tree Logan. And Blind John Davis and Peach Tree Logan were buddies for years. Peach Tree would sing, and Blind John used to play the piano with him occasionally. So they were starting up a little independent record label. Blind John told ‘em, ‘Well, I know a boy that plays the harmonica.’ They said, ‘Well, bring him over!’ So they brought me over there. I had a song called ‘Hello Stranger,’ and ‘I Ain’t Got No Money.’ So they heard me and they were impressed with me.”

That platter gave Arnold his lifelong nickname. “When the record came out, they said, ‘We have you a new name! We called you Billy Boy!’ Well, I didn’t particularly like that, because I’m in an adult setting,” he says. “Billy Boy sounds too immature. But what could I do?” Mrs. Cosey’s son Pete became a ‘60s Chess Records session guitarist.

Billy joined forces with Bo Diddley in 1951, when the guitarist still answered to Ellas McDaniel. “I was walking past this restaurant, and I saw two guys with a guitar and a washtub with a stick on it. Of course, I knew they were musicians. So I walked in and I introduced myself, and they said, ‘We’re going to the Midway Theater, right up the street, and do an amateur show. Come on and go down there with me!’ They didn’t invite me to participate, just go down there to hear them do it. I told him I played harmonica, and Ellas said, ‘Well, we play on the street corners every Saturday. Come by my house in the morning and play on the street with us!’” says Arnold. “So I went down there that Saturday morning, and we started playing on the streets.” Jody Williams eventually joined them on guitar.

Arnold’s ongoing desire to be a recording artist spurred him to bring a dub of several of Bo’s songs to United Records (where they rehearsed for two weeks in Al Smith’s basement to no avail) and Vee-Jay (a secretary declared she didn’t like their sound after a few seconds of auditioning their disc).

“So we go across the street to Chess. Little Walter was packing some records for Leonard, because Leonard had to go up to the bank to take care of some business,” says Billy. “He said, ‘We don’t need nothing right now!’ He tried to shoo us off. Just as he was saying that, Phil Chess came out of the back. And he knew me. He didn’t know Ellas or nobody else. He knew me. He said, ‘Hey, man! What’s up? What you got?’ I said, ‘Well, we’ve got a dub here!’ He said, ‘Well, let me hear it!’” Phil dug it. “He said, ‘Well, I tell you what—I want my brother Leonard to hear this. Can you bring your equipment by tomorrow at two o’clock?” So we said, ‘Okay!’”

One song with a very unusual beat really impressed Leonard. “He said, ‘Well, we’ve got to get a song together on this hambone thing!’ Bo was saying, ‘Papa’s gonna buy his baby a diamond ring.’ I said, ‘Why don’t you say, “Bo Diddley’s gonna buy his baby a diamond ring?”’ And Leonard looked at me and said, ‘What does that mean? I don’t know. Wait a minute! I don’t want to put nothing on the record that’s gonna offend the black public!’ I said, ‘No, it just means a little comical guy.’

“When I first met Bo in 1951, we were playing on the street corner. And the bass player said, ‘Hey, Ellas—there goes Bo Diddley!’ A little short guy on the opposite side of the street, about four feet tall, and he was extremely bowlegged. Well, he was a comedian at the Indiana Theater.” The lyrical changes were made and the groundbreaking song was committed to tape.

“We didn’t come in there with a song called ‘Bo Diddley,’” says Billy. “His name was Ellas McDaniel & the Hipsters. To our surprise, the record came out ‘Bo Diddley’ by Bo Diddley. That was Leonard that did that. And it was a smash hit. ‘I’m A Man’ was the flip side.”

Bo Diddley’s thundering hambone rhythms made him a star. And more than 60 years later, Billy Boy Arnold’s career is still going strong too, as his more recent tribute CDs to Sonny Boy and Big Bill Broonzy elegantly underscored.

“I’m always working on stuff to record,” he says. “I want to do an album with a few Muddy Waters songs that you don’t hear, and a few Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup songs. I’ll call it My Type of Blues, (or) My Favorite Blues.” And you don’t have to travel all the way to New Orleans to see him play.

“I didn’t ever intend to stop,” says Arnold.

Shaun Murphy – Mighty Gates | Album Review

10 November 2017 - 1:52am

Shaun Murphy – Mighty Gates

Vision Wall Records

www.shaunmurphyband.com

13 Tracks/50:06

Most people have some experience with the adage, “Life ain’t fair”. Often invoked as a way of accounting for situations that seemingly defy reality, those three words remind us that sometimes there is no explaining some of the twist and turns along life’s highway. That sentiment certainly applies to Shaun Murphy’s solo career. While other singers with only a shred of her talent wail, warble, and scream their way into the spotlight, Murphy has received little acclaim for a series of recordings featuring her amazing voice. Despite doing backing vocals for Bob Seger over the decades as well as several Eric Clapton tours, and fifteen years as the lead singer for Little Feat, she continually seems to be overlooked and under-appreciated for her solo efforts.

Her latest kicks off with solid shuffle, “I Don’t Need Nobody,” courtesy of Tom DelRossi on drums and John Marcus on bass. The song was written by guitarist Kenne Cramer, who’s tasty licks ride the swells played on the organ played by Kevin McKendree, who also produced the project. Cramer also penned “Blues In The Morning,” a track sure to be a hit with the dancers as McKendree gives his piano keyboard a thorough workout.

Murphy had a hand in composing seven tunes, starting with “Out Of My Own Way,” is a rueful lament that could be Murphy’s theme song, as she knowing relates the value of pushing on through all that life throws at you. The band kicks it into another gear on “Slightly Free,” and Murphy’s voice easily matches the tougher sounds, unleashing several primal cries in response to Tommy Stillwell’s galvanizing guitar work. His efforts are a focal point as the singer maintains a sense of emotional restrain, mourning a broken heart on “I Never Loved You”. On “A Night Like This,” Murphy captivates listeners as she caresses each note, building layers of emotional texture in a performance that amply illustrates the extent of her talent. Another standout is the ballad, “I Never Stopped Loving You,” her voice beautifully rising over McKendree’s delicate piano accompaniment. “That Kind Of Time” finds Murphy making it clear that she no intentions of waiting around, hoping for a lasting relationship. Once again, Stillwell’s playing is first-rate.

It is great to hear someone crank it up on several Frankie Miller tunes. Miller was a brawny Scottish singer and songwriter who had a major impact on Seger, eventually falling victim to a brain hemorrhage that left him unable to perform. “Down The Honky Tonk” features ringing guitar chords and a driving beat with Murphy’s gritty nature on full display. The pace may slow on “Be Good To Yourself,” but the singer’s voice soars over the guitar-driven arrangement with the greatest of ease. Cramer and Stillwell join forces on “Walk In My Shadow,” a crunching rocker from Free, the band Paul Rogers fronted. Murphy once again achieves the perfect balance between tone, articulation, and a muscular vocal presentation. The title track is a Dobie Gray composition with gospel overtones that allows Murphy to lift up an impassioned, eloquent plea for a better world.

Blues, rock, ballads, it doesn’t matter – Shaun Murphy takes each song and gives it a personal touch, her voice never failing to touch some part of your musical soul. It is time for listeners to start paying attention to this outstanding vocalist.

Peter Ward – Blues On My Shoulders | Album Review

10 November 2017 - 1:28am

Peter Ward – Blues On My Shoulders

Gandy Dancer Records

13 songs – 51 minutes

www.facebook.com/Peter-Ward-Electric-Blues-528200010587280/

When New England-based singer-guitarist Peter “Hi-Fi” Ward decided to step into the limelight after decades playing in support of other musicians, he didn’t mess around. He enlisted the aid of Ronnie Earl, a former roommate, Gordon “Sax Gordon” Beadle and Sugar Ray And The Bluetones, including his brother, bassist Michael “Madcat” Ward, to get the job done.

A native of Lewiston, Maine, he, Mudcat and younger brother Jeff played the blues in a family band as teenagers after schooling themselves with LPs and exposure to Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, Hubert Sumlin, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells in concert. Still underage, he played bass behind legendary drummer Ola Dixon in New York before moving to Boston, where he backed several major touring artists, including Jimmy Rogers, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Lowell Fulson. And he commuted on weekends to Rochester, N.Y., where he worked with guitarist Joe Beard, the man credited with influencing Son House to perform after going “missing” in the late ’30s.

In the early ’80s, Peter toured with the Legendary Blues Band in a lineup that included several of Muddy’s former sidemen, appearing on their first two albums, Life Of Ease and Red Hot ‘n’ Blue. Always working, but in the background, he stages an annual fundraiser for breast cancer research in memory of his late wife, blues deejay Mai Cramer, with headliners who’ve included Lurrie Bell, Jody Williams and Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson. In 2010, he and Herb Remington, an original member of Bob Wills And The Texas Playboys, co-produced the album Goodbye Liza Jane: Hello Western Swing.

An avid, often humorous, songwriter and stylish guitarist, he’s penned all but one of the 13 tunes on this disc, delivering a solid set of traditional, old-school blues in the process. Peter handles guitar and vocals backed by a rhythm section that includes Mudcat, Bob Berry and Joe Delia on bass and George Dellomo and the Bluetones’ Neil Gouvin on drums. Neil’s bandmates — harp player/vocalist Sugar Ray Norcia, guitarist “Monster” Mike Welch and keyboard player Anthony Geraci — all contribute on multiple cuts, as does Beadle. Eric Kilburn sits in on mandolin for one song, and Rusty Scott provides Hammond B3 organ on two others.

Ward’s laid-back vocals play call-and-response with Norcia’s harp to open “She Took It All,” a steady-walking blues that describes a woman walking away with just about everything — even his goldfish. But he insists he’s not bothered at all. “Which Hazel” is up next and has nothing to do with the topical astringent. Instead, the medium-fast rocker, a tip of the hat to Chuck Berry, deals with a romantic interest in two women as different as night and day but sharing in the same name.

The feel continues for the title tune, “Blues On My Shoulders,” with the distinct contributions from Welch and Norcia before Sugar Ray takes command of the mike to deliver the melodic slow blues “Collaborate,” Peter’s tribute to Lonnie Johnson and Robert Lockwood Jr., which is loaded with truly tasty, smooth lyrics that could have come straight out of the ’50s and features stellar horn and harp solos.

The instrumental “Shiprock,” a tribute to his late wife influenced by a trip they took to Navajo land, puts Ward’s guitar skills on display before he questions “What Can I Do To You?” as a clerk just hired to work in a downtown store surrounded by beautiful female customers. Earl makes his distinctive first appearance for “It’s On Me,” a horn- and guitar-propelled promise to pick up the tab even though the singer has very little money.

The keyboard work of Scott is featured throughout the instrumental, “Southpaw,” Peter’s ode to lefthanded swing guitarist Dickie Thompson, before the slow blues, “A Little More,” features a full arrangement featuring Monster Mike as Ward sings about realizing why his woman left — because she always wanted more than he could deliver. Earl and Geraci trade licks on “On The Ropes,” an instrumental with a Duane Eddy feel, before the acoustic “Colletta” recounts a bad marriage. An uptempo cover of Jim Johnson’s familiar “Kansas City Blues” follows before “Drummin’ Willie,” Peter’s aural slow-blues tribute to Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, who kept the rhythm for Muddy and Legendary and drove the band across country before fronting bands as a harp player, brings the CD to a close.

Available through Amazon, CDBaby and other retailers, Blues On My Shoulders is a pleasing taste of what music used to be before pyrotechnic guitarists took command of the airwaves. Strongly recommended for both its original material and musicianship throughout.

Issue 11-45 November 9, 2017

9 November 2017 - 1:50am

Cover photo © 2017 Roman Sobus

 In This Issue 

Bill Dahl has our feature interview with Smiley Tillmon. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Shaun Murphy, Peter Ward, Brian Carmona, Sean Wheeler, Jason Buie, Mike Brookfield, Steve Howell and Jason Weinheimer and Bette Smith.

We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

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To get this special rate you must reserve and pay for your ad space before December 15, 2017. Ads can be booked to run anytime between now and October 30, 2018 for your 2018 Blues festival, album release or other music related product.

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

Shaun Murphy – Mighty Gates

Vision Wall Records

www.shaunmurphyband.com

13 Tracks/50:06

Most people have some experience with the adage, “Life ain’t fair”. Often invoked as a way of accounting for situations that seemingly defy reality, those three words remind us that sometimes there is no explaining some of the twist and turns along life’s highway. That sentiment certainly applies to Shaun Murphy’s solo career. While other singers with only a shred of her talent wail, warble, and scream their way into the spotlight, Murphy has received little acclaim for a series of recordings featuring her amazing voice. Despite doing backing vocals for Bob Seger over the decades as well as several Eric Clapton tours, and fifteen years as the lead singer for Little Feat, she continually seems to be overlooked and under-appreciated for her solo efforts.

Her latest kicks off with solid shuffle, “I Don’t Need Nobody,” courtesy of Tom DelRossi on drums and John Marcus on bass. The song was written by guitarist Kenne Cramer, who’s tasty licks ride the swells played on the organ played by Kevin McKendree, who also produced the project. Cramer also penned “Blues In The Morning,” a track sure to be a hit with the dancers as McKendree gives his piano keyboard a thorough workout.

Murphy had a hand in composing seven tunes, starting with “Out Of My Own Way,” is a rueful lament that could be Murphy’s theme song, as she knowing relates the value of pushing on through all that life throws at you. The band kicks it into another gear on “Slightly Free,” and Murphy’s voice easily matches the tougher sounds, unleashing several primal cries in response to Tommy Stillwell’s galvanizing guitar work. His efforts are a focal point as the singer maintains a sense of emotional restrain, mourning a broken heart on “I Never Loved You”. On “A Night Like This,” Murphy captivates listeners as she caresses each note, building layers of emotional texture in a performance that amply illustrates the extent of her talent. Another standout is the ballad, “I Never Stopped Loving You,” her voice beautifully rising over McKendree’s delicate piano accompaniment. “That Kind Of Time” finds Murphy making it clear that she no intentions of waiting around, hoping for a lasting relationship. Once again, Stillwell’s playing is first-rate.

It is great to hear someone crank it up on several Frankie Miller tunes. Miller was a brawny Scottish singer and songwriter who had a major impact on Seger, eventually falling victim to a brain hemorrhage that left him unable to perform. “Down The Honky Tonk” features ringing guitar chords and a driving beat with Murphy’s gritty nature on full display. The pace may slow on “Be Good To Yourself,” but the singer’s voice soars over the guitar-driven arrangement with the greatest of ease. Cramer and Stillwell join forces on “Walk In My Shadow,” a crunching rocker from Free, the band Paul Rogers fronted. Murphy once again achieves the perfect balance between tone, articulation, and a muscular vocal presentation. The title track is a Dobie Gray composition with gospel overtones that allows Murphy to lift up an impassioned, eloquent plea for a better world.

Blues, rock, ballads, it doesn’t matter – Shaun Murphy takes each song and gives it a personal touch, her voice never failing to touch some part of your musical soul. It is time for listeners to start paying attention to this outstanding vocalist.

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

Peter Ward – Blues On My Shoulders

Gandy Dancer Records

13 songs – 51 minutes

www.facebook.com/Peter-Ward-Electric-Blues-528200010587280/

When New England-based singer-guitarist Peter “Hi-Fi” Ward decided to step into the limelight after decades playing in support of other musicians, he didn’t mess around. He enlisted the aid of Ronnie Earl, a former roommate, Gordon “Sax Gordon” Beadle and Sugar Ray And The Bluetones, including his brother, bassist Michael “Madcat” Ward, to get the job done.

A native of Lewiston, Maine, he, Mudcat and younger brother Jeff played the blues in a family band as teenagers after schooling themselves with LPs and exposure to Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, Hubert Sumlin, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells in concert. Still underage, he played bass behind legendary drummer Ola Dixon in New York before moving to Boston, where he backed several major touring artists, including Jimmy Rogers, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Lowell Fulson. And he commuted on weekends to Rochester, N.Y., where he worked with guitarist Joe Beard, the man credited with influencing Son House to perform after going “missing” in the late ’30s.

In the early ’80s, Peter toured with the Legendary Blues Band in a lineup that included several of Muddy’s former sidemen, appearing on their first two albums, Life Of Ease and Red Hot ‘n’ Blue. Always working, but in the background, he stages an annual fundraiser for breast cancer research in memory of his late wife, blues deejay Mai Cramer, with headliners who’ve included Lurrie Bell, Jody Williams and Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson. In 2010, he and Herb Remington, an original member of Bob Wills And The Texas Playboys, co-produced the album Goodbye Liza Jane: Hello Western Swing.

An avid, often humorous, songwriter and stylish guitarist, he’s penned all but one of the 13 tunes on this disc, delivering a solid set of traditional, old-school blues in the process. Peter handles guitar and vocals backed by a rhythm section that includes Mudcat, Bob Berry and Joe Delia on bass and George Dellomo and the Bluetones’ Neil Gouvin on drums. Neil’s bandmates — harp player/vocalist Sugar Ray Norcia, guitarist “Monster” Mike Welch and keyboard player Anthony Geraci — all contribute on multiple cuts, as does Beadle. Eric Kilburn sits in on mandolin for one song, and Rusty Scott provides Hammond B3 organ on two others.

Ward’s laid-back vocals play call-and-response with Norcia’s harp to open “She Took It All,” a steady-walking blues that describes a woman walking away with just about everything — even his goldfish. But he insists he’s not bothered at all. “Which Hazel” is up next and has nothing to do with the topical astringent. Instead, the medium-fast rocker, a tip of the hat to Chuck Berry, deals with a romantic interest in two women as different as night and day but sharing in the same name.

The feel continues for the title tune, “Blues On My Shoulders,” with the distinct contributions from Welch and Norcia before Sugar Ray takes command of the mike to deliver the melodic slow blues “Collaborate,” Peter’s tribute to Lonnie Johnson and Robert Lockwood Jr., which is loaded with truly tasty, smooth lyrics that could have come straight out of the ’50s and features stellar horn and harp solos.

The instrumental “Shiprock,” a tribute to his late wife influenced by a trip they took to Navajo land, puts Ward’s guitar skills on display before he questions “What Can I Do To You?” as a clerk just hired to work in a downtown store surrounded by beautiful female customers. Earl makes his distinctive first appearance for “It’s On Me,” a horn- and guitar-propelled promise to pick up the tab even though the singer has very little money.

The keyboard work of Scott is featured throughout the instrumental, “Southpaw,” Peter’s ode to lefthanded swing guitarist Dickie Thompson, before the slow blues, “A Little More,” features a full arrangement featuring Monster Mike as Ward sings about realizing why his woman left — because she always wanted more than he could deliver. Earl and Geraci trade licks on “On The Ropes,” an instrumental with a Duane Eddy feel, before the acoustic “Colletta” recounts a bad marriage. An uptempo cover of Jim Johnson’s familiar “Kansas City Blues” follows before “Drummin’ Willie,” Peter’s aural slow-blues tribute to Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, who kept the rhythm for Muddy and Legendary and drove the band across country before fronting bands as a harp player, brings the CD to a close.

Available through Amazon, CDBaby and other retailers, Blues On My Shoulders is a pleasing taste of what music used to be before pyrotechnic guitarists took command of the airwaves. Strongly recommended for both its original material and musicianship throughout.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

Desert Legend Sean Wheeler – Sand In My Blood

https://facebook.com/seanwheelerodc/

Little Village Foundation

11 songs time-35:36

Now for something completely different…On this his first solo release self proclaimed desert legend Sean Wheeler has managed to create something that is at once riveting, stark, gritty and moving. A lifelong resident of California’s Coachella Valley low desert he was previously in the hardcore punk band Mutual Hatred and the punk n’ roll band Throw Rag. He brings his gruff voice and punk sensibilities to this extraordinary CD. The main thrust here is Sean’s voice along with the spy movie-meets-The Adams Family guitar tone of Billy Pittman. Much here is just them alone with the occasional percussion, keyboards or harmonica. His voice set against the atmospheric guitar is a match made in musical heaven. The two original songs along with nine covers from various genres of music blend together to create an experience that is as unique as possible.

Adams Family guitar adds an ominous tone Reverend Gary Davis’ “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”, the only other instrument being bass. Sean’s gruff growl of a voice fits the feel perfectively. A Captain Beefheart song I’m not familiar with, “I’ Glad”, has normal lyrics and is calm, not a typical Beefheart song. Only guitar and bass with a yearning vocal. The original “Hey Cowboy” lopes along with the addition of some basic drumming. The guitar tone is wonderful here as it is throughout the CD. Sean’s rougher than an outhouse corncob on chili night voice fits right in here. Gil Scott-Heron’s funky “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” is backed solely by guitar and finger snaps.

“Wayfaring Man Of Grief” a poem by James Montgomery set to music has a serious, haunting quality to it. Kid Andersen contributes harmonium to “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today”, about as quiet as Sean gets. Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” receives a maniacal and sinister vocal assault. It works just fine thank you very much. A song with the lyric “Tell your heart’s tenants I’m moving in” is alright in my book, that’s what you get in “Now That You Know(Funky Wicked World). Aki Kumar adds his harmonica to the toe-tapping “Men Like Me Can Fly”. Clifton Chenier’s “I’m Coming Home” is a soulful and moody slice of rhythm and blues.

Less is definitely more in the case of this recording. A deeply felt voice, guitar, spare percussion, occasional keyboards and harmonica are all this special rough hewn music need. Open your mind and broaden your horizons with this lowdown masterpiece.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

Jason Buie – Driftin’ Heart

Self-release

www.jasonbuieband.com

11 songs – 39 minutes

Jason Buie is a Vancouver Island-based singer, guitarist and songwriter who has been around playing across Canada, the USA, Japan and Europe for over 20 years. Driftin’ Heart is only his third album, following 2002’s Urban Blues and 2009’s Live At The Gator, but it is a highly impressive slab of modern blues-rock, with much more blues than rock on display.

Driftin’ Heart opens with the hard Texas shuffle of “Fool From The Start”, with Dave Webb’s great organ playing nicely backing up the T-Birds-style guitar riff. Buie sings with a gruff, road-worn voice that suits both the music and his own muscular lead guitar playing. It is also a cleverly written song, sitting squarely within the blues tradition but with subtle digressions away from a standard 12-bar structure.

Buie handles all the singing and guitar playing on the album. He has also assembled an excellent band with John Hunter on drums, George Fenn on bass and Dave Webb on piano and B3. Hunter and Fenn are a rock-solid rhythm section who give the music real drive while Webb’s musicality and understated contributions help to smooth off some of the rockier edges from the songs, keeping them very much within the blues field. Buie’s guitar playing is fluid and brawny, with a pronounced Stevie Ray Vaughan influence, particularly on tracks like “Fool From The Start”, “Suits Me To A Tee” and “Government Man”. He keeps his solos short and punchy, often smartly but briefly nipping outside the traditional blues scales, for example on the title track.

Buie and Hunter co-wrote seven of the tracks on the album, which take in a broad range of classics blues styles, from the Howlin’ Wolf-esque “Government Man” to the West Coast jump blues of “West Coast Daddy”, the swamp pop ballad “Stay The Night” (which contains one of Buie’s most heart-felt vocals and an utterly impassioned guitar solo) and the Texas grind of “Last Love Affair”.

The five covers are all relatively well-known but are played with high energy and none is played as a straight copy of the original. Amos Milburn’s “House Party” is played sans horns but benefits from the upbeat backing vocals of Rick Salt and Marisha Devoin. Sue Foley’s “Annie’s Driftin’ Heart”, re-named here “Driftin’ Heart”, was originally recorded with just Foley and her guitar. Buie’s version is given a full band treatment with more delightful piano from Webb. Jimmy Rogers recorded a number of versions of “You’re Sweet”, but none with the modern punch of Buie’s version. And Jesse Mae Robinson’s “Cold Cold Feeling” is played as a Magic Sam-esque major/minor key ballad.

Driftin’ Heart is a relatively short album, with 11 clocks clocking in at 39 minutes, but there really isn’t any filler here. If you like the modern blues-rock of Stevie Ray Vaughan or Kenny Wayne Shepherd, you will definitely want to check out Jason Buie. Let’s hope it isn’t another eight years until his next release.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

Mike Brookfield – Brookfield

www.mikebrookfield.com

Golden Rule Records

11 songs time – 48:26

Dublin Ireland based blues-rock guitarist Mike Brookfield would make recording innovator Les Paul very proud as he utilizes Les’ over dubbing technique to the nth degree with his layering of guitar parts to create a very satisfying guitar album. His arranging skills produce very pleasing textures in his music. His more than adequate voice seals the deal. The only other musician on the CD is drummer Andrew Lavery. Mike composed all the music while former drummer-lyricist with the legendary Celtic rock band Horslips, Eamon Carr contributed the imaginative lyrics. The songs are an amalgamation of blues-rock, rock, pop and a smattering of blues.

Multi layered acoustic and electric guitars inform the spiritual bent of “A Message For Willie Johnson. The electric leads just sing out clear as the proverbial bell. “Beaten To Death By The Blues” seems to be an ode to an unspecified tragic music figure delivered with blues-rock grit. If you haven’t had enough of zombies, have we got a zombie song for you-“Zombie Craze”. Some blues feel shows up in “Suitcase Blues”. It’s not over until it’s over is the sentiment of “Don’t Close The Gates”, a song empowered by some nifty slide guitar. Atmospheric crazed guitars serve as the intro to the wah-wah infused “Living In A Better World”.

“Letter From The Devil” touches on corrupt politicians and such. Ladies and gentlemen it’s crunch time-welcome to “Hi Class Shoes”. Distorted rhythm guitar underpins some wicked slide guitar. Sadly “Gun Crime” is a fitting song for our current state of affairs. I don’t quite get the lyric-“Gun crime is outta control, I still shoot ’em full of rock and roll”. Comes off kind of flippant to me. “Written In Chains” begins life as a slow dirge then goes out in a blaze of guitar glory.

You say you’re looking for a slice of guitar heaven? No need to look any further. This guy has an arsenal of guitar licks that just won’t quit. It’s all put together so well. Not only is Mike a guitar wiz, he handles the production chores. Even when things get a bit heavy, the music never sinks into muddled guitar noise. This guy has got a definite handle on how to piece together guitar parts in just the right way. Drummer Andrew Lavery supplies the necessary “oomph” to support the guitar assault on your senses. Blues-rock in the right hands can be a powerful force, Mike Brookfield has the right hands.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

Steve Howell and Jason Weinheimer – A Hundred Years from Today

Out of the Past Music

www.stevehowell.ws

CD: 10 Songs, 35:16 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Acoustic Blues, Duo Album, Pre-War Blues

Dear Constant Readers: For those of you who’ve never perused my reviews, you should know something. For those of you who have, you’ve heard this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. I’m not partial to blues CD’s full of covers, and review them as “picks” if I absolutely must. Why? I’m interested in artists’ own creations, their new takes on a genre born of timeless adversity.

However, Texan Steve Howell and Arkansas’ Jason Weinheimer have found a clever loophole. The ten selections on their newest album might well be played A Hundred Years from Today. They’re classics any aficionado would recognize, from Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Goin’ Back to Florida” to Mississippi John Hurt’s “Got the Blues/Can’t be Satisfied” to the title track by Joe Young, Ned Washington and Victor Young.

Performing as a duo, Howell and Weinheimer pay homage to pre-war blues and a vintage style that never goes out of style. For some, especially those new to the genre, it might be underwhelming and too reminiscent of folk music. Steve Howell’s dry talk-singing, combined with Jason Weinheimer’s melodic but understated acoustic guitar, is an acquired taste. One might ask: Where’s the juice, the oomph, the pizzazz? In truth, this kind of music doesn’t rely on such things, but on a “peaceful, easy feeling,” as the Eagles said. This is kick-back-in-your-“Rocking Chair” blues, not boogie-and-chug-a-beer blues.

This duo’s Internet biographies, provided by Blind Raccoon, provide some revealing details: “When Steve Howell first heard Mississippi John Hurt’s happy style of finger picking country blues in 1965 at the age of thirteen, he immediately knew that the tame, folksy style of strumming the guitar was a thing out of the past for him. As his journey progressed, Mississippi John Hurt begat Blind Willie McTell and Leadbelly, who begat Robert Johnson, Son House, Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Blake and a host of other black acoustic guitar players and vocalists. His interest in rural, folk-blues styles and the history of the music led him to learn more about how this music came to town and melded with the horn-oriented bands prevalent in the cities, creating a strong affinity for him with the traditional jazz and New Orleans music of the first half of the twentieth century.” As for veteran performer Jason Weinheimer, he “has recorded albums by John Moreland, Buddy Flett, and Jim Mize, among many others. In addition to his studio work, he plays bass in a few bands, most notably Steve Howell & the Mighty Men. His solo album Skies Are Grey was released in 2016 under the name The Libras.”

The following song is a very, very oldie (1929), but a goodie, originally by Hoagy Carmichael.

Track 10: “Rockin’ Chair” – “Fetch me that gin, son, ‘fore I tan your hide.” These ten words woke yours truly up from a trance, making her blink in disbelief. However, what’s more unbelievable is the transformation Time can wreak upon a body – and a mind. Howell’s guitar is at its slowest and most contemplative, and his voice hoary with years. “Old rocking chair got me, cane by my side,” our narrator begins. “Can’t get from this cabin, going nowhere.” When the thrill of life and youth is gone, and “Judgment Day is near,” what else is left to celebrate?

Blues lovers, if you enjoy songs that’ll be played A Hundred Years from Today, check this CD out!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 38 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

Brian Carmona – This Is Me

Self-produced CD

10 songs – 41 minutes

www.briancarmona.com

Based in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia for the past 15 years, Brian Carmona is a Brooklyn-born guitarist/songwriter who delivers his own brand of blues rock with Latin, R&B and funk influences on this all-original, self-produced debut CD.

A first-generation American whose mother hails from Colombia and the product of a musical family, Carmona’s a soulful vocalist. He picked up the six-string at age 11 and developed his own distinctive style, influenced most by the three Kings — B.B., Freddie and Albert, Carlos Santana, Albert Collins and Jimi Hendrix while also playing drums, bongos and other percussion instruments along the way.

Carmona composed all ten of the tunes and handles guitar and lead vocals on This Is Me, backed by Shannon Leggete on drums and backing vocals, Von Jose Roberts on bass and Cal Hamlin on keys. Nate Delesline sits in on drums for one cut. Although new tunes, the music is rooted in the sounds of the ’60s and ’70s.

“Once Again” opens the action with pleasant simple guitar hook as Carmona recounts repeated attempts to contact a lady who drives him wild. He’s got a strong, clear baritone, and remains in complete control on the guitar as he provides chords and rhythm behind the vocals, filling in the gaps with steady single-note leads, most prominent in the last 45 seconds or so. “By Myself” is a loping blues set atop a steady four-note rhythm pattern that describes the singer’s pain in realizing he should have kept his lady to himself.

The title song, “This Is Me,” is a bittersweet rock-fueled love ballad. In it, Brian demands that his lady pack her bags and leave, this time for good. A medium-fast shuffle, “Blind,” lopes out of the gate next and deals with a woman so beautiful that the singer’s unable to see anyone else. It features a solid organ solo mid-tune.

Next up, “Makes Me Wonder Why” kicks off with a double-note guitar riff that echoes The Allman Brothers and continues the relationship theme. This time, Carmona realizes he can’t survive with the lady’s love and touch even though he tells her he’s doing fine without her. The music gets funky for “Nothing Is Wrong” — this time, the singer professes there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for the lady — before the straight-ahead slow blues “Baby Girl” features some tasty fret work as it describes the title woman as he watches her from a window as she’s walking down the street.

Carmona’s background is evident in “Tell Me Baby (What You Want),” a percussive pleaser with a Latin feel, before two more love songs — the uptempo rocker “You’re The One For Me,” which picks up the window theme, and “Be Mine Tonight,” an aurally different, swinging, stop-time blues — bring the album to a close.

An interesting first offering from someone worthy of a follow-up, This Is Me is available only through the artist’s website (address above), but it’s definitely worth a listen.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

 

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

Bette Smith – Jetlagger

Fat Possum/Big Legal Mess Records

www.bettesmith.net

CD: 10 Songs, 36:41 Minutes

Styles: Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues

As a society and a world, we love our comparisons. We not only ask who’s better than whom, but also who is similar to whom. It’s the reason why the acronym RIYL (Recommended If You Like) is such a thing on the Internet. In her promotional materials, NYC’s Bette Smith has been compared to Betty Davis, Betty Wright, Lauryn Hill, Bessie Smith, and, of course, Etta James. We all need a baseline to go on when we discover new artists – “who do they sound like?” – but this tactic is overused. If everything tastes like chicken, then what, exactly, does the proverbial chicken taste like?

In a word, Bette Smith’s voice is particular to herself and herself alone. It has a glinting, almost girlish edge that adds a touch of the unusual to the usual vibrato and belted notes. This joyful Jetlagger sounds like she’s having a ball, even in the midst of dealing with a “Manchild” and enduring the “Shackle & Chain” of too much romantic closeness. On four covers and six originals that should climb the Billboard charts in no time, she and some of Fat Possum Records’ best musicians show that they’re one of a kind. Sometimes it’s hard to understand their lyrics, but their spirit (along with the Holy Spirit) comes through loud and clear.

Bette Smith grew up in the rough Bedford-Stuyvestant neighborhood of NYC, where she sang gospel, soul and blues.

Accompanying her as she sings lead vocals are Jimbo Mathus on guitars, keyboards, and background vocals; Bronson Tew on drums and background vocals; Matt Patton on bass and background vocals; Scott “Pako” Goolsby on second guitar; Starlin Browning on guitar for “I Found Love”; Jamison Hollister on violin; Marc Franklin and Kirk Smothers on horns, and Susan Marshall on additional background vocals. (Sometimes Bette harmonizes with herself, and Ms. Marshall’s vocals team up with hers in this situation.)

The following three selections are some of the best of soul blues that this year has to offer.

Track 01: “I Will Feed You” – The first thing that will jump out at listeners, and send shivers down their spines, is this song’s intro. A chorus of wailing voices climbs the scale, slowly and mournfully, as if grieving the loss of a loved one. “Whatever you want, whatever you need, the love that you want, I will feed you,” Bette informs her paramour, sounding coquettish and sincere at the same time. Jimbo Mathus’ lead guitar soars, too, robust and strong as an eagle.

Track 03: “I Found Love” – I found a sticker on the front of this CD that suggested lucky number three as one of its premiere offerings. A cover from the band Lone Justice, starring Steven Van Zandt, it speeds along like a bullet train, hard-driving and exhilarating. Dig those drums by Bronson Tew – not everyone can hold that pace or keep the energy constantly high-octane. The powerhouse background vocals have great harmony and tempo, all voices perfectly equalized.

Track 08: “Moaning Bench” – We all need to repent of our reckless, wanton ways sometimes, but some people have no concept of this concept. “Your mama was a [stripper] dancer, and your daddy was a guitar man. You grew up in the back of a bar,” Bette tells the target of this lecture. “Well, the bloom has left the rose, and the rose is falling off of the vine.” Who, specifically, is she talking about? “You a shameless wench! Go down…on the moaning bench!” Baptist churches used to have them, and this song’s subject is long due for a visit.

Who does Bette Smith sound like? Bette Smith, of course: a jubilant Jetlagger!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 38 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

 Featured Blues Interview – Smiley Tillmon 

It’s a reasonably safe bet that if you live anywhere in the Chicagoland area—the Loop, outlying neighborhoods, far-flung suburbs, any side of town—the Smiley Tillmon Band will find its way to your neck of the woods for a gig before too many weeks pass. They’re that busy.

“A couple of weeks ago, I did five in a row, but I can’t do that,” says Tillmon. “At my age, I can’t hack it because it takes too long to recuperate. But we do very well. We do about two or three nights a week. It’s good.”

There’s an obvious reason why the guitarist’s booking schedule is so jam-packed. As his nickname indicates, Smiley knows how to have a good time and makes sure his audience does too. After 55 years of playing the local blues scene, he remains happy to serve up the blues and soul standards that people never seem to stop craving. Tillmon does them his way, and his band—guitarist Kate Moss, bassist Tom Rezetko, and drummer George Baumann—provides just the right grooves to make Smiley smile.

Rezetko has been with Tillmon for a decade, serving in a variety of essential roles. “He’s my buddy and my manager,” says Smiley. “It’s like a chemistry. He seemed to understand where I was coming from, and I could understand where he was coming from.”

“It’s went really, really fast,” says Rezetko of their time together. “It’s been great. He’s just such a good friend.”

The two joined forces in 2007. “I met him through a guy named Marco. He’s a drummer. And he was working at Guitar Center out in Country Club Hills in the suburbs. I was strumming on a guitar, and he noticed when I was strumming. He said, ‘Hey, man, I like what you’re doing!’ So he invited me to a place in Blue Island called the Hideaway,” says Tillmon. “So I went by there. They had a jam session there. And Tom was playing there with a guy named Ronnie Prince and a guy named Kevin.

“I came up and started playing with Tom and Kevin and Ronnie. So me and Tom liked the way we sounded together. We did a few gigs with this guy named Marco, and after a while it looked like me and Tom had a little more in common than me and Marco did,” says Smiley. The deal was cemented when Tillmon and Rezetko dropped by another local jam. “We looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, man, let’s see if we can take this thing to another level!’”

Guitarist Kate Moss has been with Smiley’s combo for nearly five years, her slashing Freddie King/Magic Sam-influenced leads contrasting strikingly with Smiley’s fluid fretwork. “She just put another level on it. She took us places that I can’t give enough gratitude to Kate,” says Tillmon. “We like to complement each other, because she has a certain style of playing, and I have a certain style of playing. And it wouldn’t be a benefit if we all played the same thing. You need an off-and-on and a wet-and-dry, that kind of thing. I think the contrast makes it pretty good. She’s such a great player.

“Kate and Tom gave me the exposure so I could be where I needed to be.”

Tillmon was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame on October 15. “You never expect this. You just try to do the best you can,” he says. “Thinking that I was deserving enough to be a part of it, now that really caught me by surprise. But you appreciate things like that, because you work hard and try to do good. So if somebody recognizes you trying to do good, that makes it all worthwhile.”

Smiley’s path to that honor has been singular. He was born Moses Tillmon in rural Jefferson County, Georgia. “In the cotton fields, because I wasn’t born in the city,” he says. “When you’re born in the woods like that, they just name the county because there wasn’t no town. And there’s no hospital, so you’re born in the house, the midwife, that kind of thing. But I survived.

“I stayed there in Georgia ‘til I was about ten years old, picking cotton and stuff in the meantime. Then my mom moved to Florida, Fort Lauderdale. So when I got to Fort Lauderdale, I went to school there and started picking beans down there in the beanfields. So one field to the other field,” he says. “I loved to sing. My mom was a pretty good piano player. I always wanted to play. So I finally went to the pawn shop and bought a guitar for ten dollars and bought a little chord book to try to figure out what to do. Eventually things started to happen for me. So I just kept working at it.”

There wasn’t much blues in the air where Tillmon was growing up, but he dug other genres. “I heard a lot of church music,” says Smiley. “I used to listen to country music, really. There was a lot of country music—the Grand Ole Opry, stuff like that. Because there weren’t too many black stations down there, so you could hear country music and stuff like that. And every once in a while, you would hear stuff out of Gallatin, Tennessee. There was a station that played a lot of stuff.” Hoss Allen’s broadcasts over Nashville’s WLAC-AM were eagerly anticipated. “He would play stuff by Louis Jordan, the guys out of the ‘40s and ‘50s,” Smiley says. “Every once in a while, you would hear it. His theme song was ‘Swanee River Boogie.’ I never forgot that.”

When he was old enough to get into the local clubs, Tillmon watched some of the greatest R&B performers on the planet perform live. “There weren’t too many places a lot of black artists could go at the time. This was in the ‘50s,” he says. “But there was a place between Fort Lauderdale and Miami called the Palms of Hallandale. And every time a good artist had a hot record, you could be sure that’s where they were going to come, because that was one of the big spots. I saw guys like Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. I liked that group. The ‘5’ Royales, and Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland when he was a young guy. B.B. King. All the guys came there. Little Willie John.

“You were inspired by all these guys. The ladies liked them. They had a lot of pretty ladies, so I wanted to be a part of that too! So hey, man, it looked like a pretty good idea,” says Tillmon. “The Palms of Hallandale, that was a hotbed where I heard a lot of the great players play.” The “5” Royales’ amazing guitarist Lowman Pauling mesmerized young Tillmon. “Oh, man, that guy that had that guitar hanging down low. He could pick it, man,” Smiley says. “He had this thing where he played those hot licks on it called ‘Think.’ I thought that was so cool when he hit those hot licks. I was impressed by him, man. And that (guitarist) with the Midnighters, Cal Green. He could play too. So those were the ones that really inspired me.”

Then there was the flamboyant Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones, who would dye his hair to match his brightly colored suits and shoes and stroll through the audience thanks to a cord that was several hundred feet long. “I never met him, but I saw him. That’s when he had ‘The Things That I Used To Do.’ He could get it, man. He could really play,” says Tillmon. “He had that sound that nobody else had. It was sort of funky and jazzy, and he played real melodic, not just beatin’ on the guitar. He played lyrical kind of solos. That’s what I liked about him,” says Smiley. “He was saying something. He wasn’t just up there making noise. Guitar Slim was the man. He could get it. I was exposed to a lot of good people. I just sucked it all in, because I liked what they were doing.”

Pauling, Green, and Slim weren’t Tillmon’s only influences on guitar over the years. “I love B.B. I never like to copy his style, but I like the way he plays, and he was a good player,” he says. “I really love jazz too. I like George Benson. I like Wes Montgomery, but I actually like George better than Wes. And a guy named Grant Green. He’s a heck of a player. It’s like fixing a stew. You take something from everybody and put it in the pot and stir it up. So my pot is stirred up with some of everybody.”

Smiley’s first experience in a recording studio was with Miami singer Billy Miranda, possibly the session that produced Miranda’s explosive 1960 rocker “Run Rose” for Chicago’s Checker Records. “There used to be a club in Fort Lauderdale. It was a great club called the Downbeat,” he says. “I actually saw James Brown there, when he started out back in the ‘50s. Those guys used to come through there. I worked with Billy Miranda there, and then I worked with him in Miami at a place called the James Club.

“We did some stuff for a (producer) that lived in Miami Beach called Bobby Dukoff. It wasn’t my record. I was just on a session with this guy named Billy Miranda,” he continues. “You’re trying to get started, you don’t know what you’re doing. So you take it where you find it.”

Living in sunny Florida exposed Tillmon to an exotic musical strain. “When I went to school in Fort Lauderdale, a lot of kids’ parents were from Nassau. So there were a lot of Nassau kids around there, and they always liked to play calypso, do the limbo, and all that kind of thing,” he says. “At that time, Harry Belafonte was really popular, so everybody wanted to be like Harry Belafonte, that ‘Day-O’ kind of thing, and ‘Island In The Sun.’ So that’s what you could hear on the radio a lot. Naturally, you hear things on the radio you like, you try to do it.”

Tillmon left Miranda to join Sammy Ambrose & the Afro-Beats, who specialized in calypso. Ambrose was a Miami singer who doubled on drums; the rest of the Afro-Beats consisted of Charles Wright on the other guitar (not the fretsman who later fronted the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band), bassist Sammy Williams, and Joe Sanders on percussion.

“You know how you go to clubs and see people, and you talk and see what happens?” says Smiley. “I lived in a place called the Sir John Hotel. I moved to Miami after I graduated school in Fort Lauderdale. We just started playing, man. And I went to the see their show. They did the limbo and all the Caribbean stuff, and I liked that too. Because I’ve always liked everything. I don’t like to be labeled, because I love all kinds of music. You just sort of do good with what you do. But calypso was an amazing thing. I really enjoyed that.”

The Afro-Beats toured widely, venturing as far north as Montreal and Quebec City. They cut a 45 in New York that came out on the West Side label in the states and CMI north of the border. Coupling “Nitty Gritty” and “The Canadian Twist,” it was a lot more R&B than calypso. The band even had managers with an office in the Brill Building. “Our managers at the time set that up for us,” says Tillmon of the single. “We got some mileage out of it. We got some gigs out of it. I didn’t get no money, but we got some gigs!” When the Afro-Beats broke up in 1962, Ambrose stayed in New York (he would cut the original ‘64 version of “This Diamond Ring,” covered in pop chart-topping form by Gary Lewis and the Playboys). Smiley set his sights on a different metropolis.

“I didn’t want to go back to Miami, and I had met some people in Canada that knew people in Chicago. You know, you get off and you go to breakfast with different people, and you talk to people and ask them about whatever,” says Tillmon. “I knew one person in Chicago. I had got his number: Phil Upchurch. I met him when I was in Miami. I kept that number. He used to work with this guy called Dee Clark. You remember ‘Raindrops’? Before it came out, Phil gave me that record. (Phil) had one really big record called ‘You Can’t Sit Down.’

“When I left Canada, I had talked to a guy called Jump Jackson,” he says. “He was a drummer. He lived in Chicago. So when I decided to come to Chicago, I called those people to let them know I was in town. Jump Jackson hooked me up with this guy called Singing Sam.

“I went to this place called the Trocadero on the South Side of Chicago. It was about 47th and Indiana,” says Smiley. “Matt Murphy used to play with this band called Singing Sam & His Sparks. Singing Sam, I’ll tell you who his dad actually was, was Sam Chatmon. the guy (from the) the Mississippi Sheiks–‘Sitting On Top Of The World.’ That was his dad. I used to see him every summer. He used to come up here to Chicago.” That’s when Moses Tillmon received his lifelong nickname. “We were on the bandstand, and everybody used to call me Moses. And I like to have fun and laugh. (Singing Sam) said, ‘I ain’t gonna call you Moses. I’m gonna call you Smiley!’ That was in 1962. So I’ve been wearing it ever since.

“When I got to Chicago, everything was a lot of blues and a lot of soul music, that kind of thing. But blues was kickin’,” Tillmon says. “I ran into guys like Jimmy Johnson, Jody Williams, Lefty Dizz, Lonnie Brooks—he was Guitar Jr. then. So you know, I learned from those guys. They helped me out. A guy named Lacy Gibson. All these people, man. I’m in a debt of gratitude to all the people that helped me out.”

Tillmon worked during the mid-‘60s with keyboardist Billy “The Kid” Emerson, by then a South Side fixture but a Sun Records artist in Memphis a decade earlier with his Sam Phillips-produced classics “When It Rains It Pours” and “Red Hot.” “I worked some places with him. I worked some places in Waukegan, I can’t think of the name of ‘em, and some places in Chicago Heights. There used to be a hotel down there. And around the city,” says Smiley. “No big deal. Because he didn’t have no record then. He was just out there jobbing like everybody else. He had the name from ‘Red Hot.’ That’s where he had his little name from. We were all just out here, trying to make that little $15 a night. Lucky to get that!”

Smiley’s rhythm guitar was overdubbed onto “A Dancin’ Whippersnapper,” one of Emerson’s mid-‘60s singles on Billy’s own Tarpon label. “I wasn’t really that good a musician to be a session player, but he just liked what I was doing,” Tillmon claims. The song was penned by Emerson and newcomer Denise Craig, soon to find stardom as Denise LaSalle. “She used to work with Billy. She used to work with Singing Sam. She was always good, but she just needed a little tweaking up and a little nurturing. Billy really got her going,” says Smiley. “We started out with her in ‘64, ‘65, something like that.” The South Side was Tillmon’s primary stomping grounds. “I didn’t play the West Side a lot. I really liked to play the South Side,” he says. “But I used to work the West Side with Lee Shot Williams. I used to work over there with him a lot.”

Smiley’s first bout with full-time status as a musician ended in 1977. “My family came first,” he says. “I’m a family man. I had five kids, so I couldn’t be going nowhere.” So Tillmon found himself a day job. “I worked at a school district, maintenance and special ed, for 30 years to 2007, when I retired,” he says. “I took gigs, but that wasn’t my main thing at the time. I was working at the school. I was still playing though, when I had a chance to, when the job would allow me to.”

Sometimes that meant turning down very tempting offers. “Dick Shurman wanted me to play second guitar for Albert Collins. He brought me all the records and the albums that my buddies were on—Allen Batts was on there, and Johnny B. Gayden. I couldn’t do that because I was still home at the time. But Dick Shurman has always looked out for me,” says Smiley. “He helped me a lot. He always believed in me.”

Tillmon’s retirement from his day gig a decade ago resulted in a renewed commitment to playing his blues, this time as the leader of his own band. “I’m full speed ahead trying to play music now,” he says. “It was time to get back on the trail. Things have been going well since then, since I hooked up with Tom. He’s the best.”

Maybe that’s why Smiley is smiling more than ever these days. “That’s my whole attitude,” he says. “To play and have fun.” But those one-liners that he occasionally trots out to serve as between-songs patter? That’s another issue entirely.

“Sometimes the joke’s on me, because they’re sort of shaky,” he laughs. “I’m trying to get through the night. That’s all I’m trying to do. Man, I don’t know how good it is. But whatever helps me make it through the night, I’ll do it as long as it’s positive. I need a writer for some jokes. Do you know a good writer? I need it bad, man!”

Check out Smiley’s website at: http://smileytillmonband.com

Interviewer Bill Dahl is a lifelong Chicago resident who began writing about music professionally in 1977. He’s written for Vintage Rock, Goldmine, Living Blues, Blues Revue, Blues Music Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the Reader, and is the author of The Art of the Blues, a 2016 book published by University of Chicago Press, and 2001’s Motown: The Golden Years (Krause Publications). Bill was awarded the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award in journalism in 2000.

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Washington Blues Society – Seattle, WA

Washington Blues Society presents the 2017 Snohomish Blues Invasion! Since 2009 the Washington Blues Society has presented the Snohomish Blues Invasion; a one-day mini festival pub crawl event in historic downtown Snohomish. The event has become so popular among blues fan that the event was voted the “Best Non- Festival Event,” at the Best of the Blues awards in the spring of 2017.

The Blues Invasion returns to Snohomish Sunday November 19th 2- 10 PM. Over 25 acts will appear in venues on historic first street, including the newly remodeled Stewart’s tavern, the Piccadilly Circus Pub, along with two all ages venues, The Oxford and the First and Union Kitchen. The event also includes a silent auction of music memorabilia and a 50/50 raffle. $10 donation for a wristband to gain entry to all the venues.

Proceeds go to the IBC fund to send entrants to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN. The 2018 entrants representing Washington state are The CD Woodbury Trio and the Benton /Townsend duo.www.wablues.org.

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.

Blue Monday Schedule: Nov 13 – Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat, Nov 20 – Joe Asselin Trio, Nov 27 – Black Magic Johnson, Dec 4 – Studebaker John, Dec 11 – Ed Selinger and Edmopolitans, Dec 18 The Mary Jo Curry Band. For more information visit www.icbluesclub.org.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Nov 14 – Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club. More Info at: http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues.

P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2017 Blues Blast Magazine (309) 267-4425

Little Roger & The Houserockers – Good Rockin’ House Party | Album Review

8 November 2017 - 1:03am

Little Roger & The Houserockers – Good Rockin’ House Party

9a Records

www.rogerwade.de

13 songs – 41 minutes

Well, this was a delightful surprise.  I had not heard of the Anglo-German Little Roger & The Houserockers before, although Good Rockin’ House Party is their fifth CD.  The magnificently retro cover certainly raised hopes: An old photograph from the 1950s of a mythologized America, vintage-style typeface, period-correct colour schemes – somebody obviously has a good eye for detail. And that impression is reinforced by the opening track, “To The Bone”, a glorious 50s-style Chicago shuffle. T-Man Michalke’s guitar tone is distorted in the best kind of way, Marion Wade’s piano dances merrily over the swinging rhythm laid down by Roffi Roffmann on bass and Chris Seidel on drums. And singer Roger C. Wade has a wry vocal style in addition to contributing a fine harp solo. Before you can catch your breath, the second track, a raucous cover of Little Milton’s “It’s Later Than You Think”, almost explodes out of the speakers. This is retro house party music at its best.

The CD proudly notes that the album was recorded the old-fashioned way – all in one (not so) big room, through tube amps, via old mics, straight onto analogue tape, and the result is a resounding success. There is what sounds like vocal bleed through the harp mic on the low-down boogie of Willie Nix’s 1953 classic “Just Can’t Stay”, but it just adds to overall atmosphere of the song.

The Houserockers take delight in unearthing some rare gems, such as “Glad I Don’t Have To Worry No More”, originally written by Robert Lockwood Jr and recorded by The Fat Man with the Sunnyland Slim Trio in 1951. Both Lil’ Son Jackson’s “Get High Everybody” and Tampa Red’s “Midnight Boogie” are played pretty close to the originals (albeit with harp replacing the horn section on the former and with some seriously funky additional guitar from Michalke on the latter). Other covers however are cleverly turned on their heads.  Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Little Girl” is re-imagined as a guitar-led slow blues, while Jimmy Reed’s “I Don’t Go For That” benefits from some tubo-charged harp from Little Roger and modern propulsion from Roffmann and Seidel rhythm section.

The band’s original songs bear comparison with the covers. The slow blues of “Alternative Facts” is a case in point, where Wade wryly skewers certain ill-thought out defences of recent political pronouncements by singing “It seems like I’ve been wrong and a dog is just a cat. I’ve finally realised that’s just an alternative fact.”

The album contains two instrumentals on which the musicians are able to stretch out a little. Michalke’s “Crabs” is an upbeat Gatemouth Brown-style rocker, while “Rocket Fizz (For Fred)” is a piano-driven rave-up written by Marion Wade that one suspects is a homage to the great Fred Kaplan.  Indeed, the great (and still criminally under-rated) Hollywood Fats Band seems to be a major influence on Little Roger & The Houserockers.

Good Rockin’ House Party is a very enjoyable, very well played combination of 50s-style Chicago blues and West Coast swing. Recommended listening.

Paradise Kings – Controlled Burn | Album Review

6 November 2017 - 1:38am

Paradise Kings – Controlled Burn

http://paradisekings.net

self release

8 songs time-35:02

Santa Barbara, California’s Paradise Kings offer up a stew of rockabilly, fifties rock, jump and bar band style blues music. Lead singer Henry Garrett has a gruff voice that is passable, but the lyrics can use some work. They tend to be mediocre. The rhythm section of drummer George Lambert and bassist Michael Robertson are fine along with keyboard man Chris Ulep. The saving grace of the band are the outstanding guitar skills of Jeff Gring. His tone, dexterity and taste make me await his every solo. The guy is just that good. To use the tired old cliché, the songs tend to go down a bit easier after each listening.

Jeff’s rockabilly-meets Chuck Berry-meets fifties rock guitar leads into the opening track “’69 Chevy”. Oh, that tone! It’s an ode to a beloved car. The lyrics to “I’d Sing The Blues If I Had ‘Em” are cringe worthy. Piano and sorta blues guitar salvage the song. Funky guitar and organ propel the upbeat “Three Strikes”. “Slow Down” lives up to it’s title, it’s a slow blues that bares a resemblance to the late, great Robert Lucas’ gritty style in tune and voice.

Jan Ingram fills in for Henry as she handles the vocal capably on “Butter Me Up”, a funk filled romp. “Patience” is another slow blues with some nifty blues guitar by Jeff. “Poor Me, Poor Me Pour Me Another Drink” offers a similar sentiment to the blues classic “One Bourbon, One Scotch And one Beer”. It features the heaviest guitar of the CD. The ambiance of Soho Music Club gives the vocal an echoed sound on the live take of “Money Ain’t My Friend”.

Good intentions don’t necessarily make a good record, such is the case here. A few tweaks such as more creative lyrical content and improved vocals would do a lot for this band. Jeff Gring’s guitar skills surely can’t be faulted. His pickin’ is worth the price of admission. This music probably would fare better in a bar full of inebriated patrons. You really can’t fault these guys for trying.

Eli Cook – High Dollar Gospel | Album Review

6 November 2017 - 1:36am

Eli CookHigh Dollar Gospel

C.R.8. Records – 2017

11 tracks; 47 minutes

www.elicook.com

Raised in rural Virginia, Eli Cook started playing guitar early, opening for BB King at 18. Still relatively young, High Dollar Gospel is his seventh CD, with a title intended to evoke images of the south. Eli is on vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, lap-steel and electric bass, with Peter Spaar on double bass and Nathan Brown on drums. Eli wrote eight of the songs here with three covers from diverse sources.

The opening track “Trouble Maker” has a raucous rhythm section behind Eli’s slide work and offers a first introduction to his voice. Some singers are described as sounding like they gargle with razor blades; Eli sounds like that plus a serious tobacco habit! “The Devil Finds Work” finds Eli in country blues mood with the band joining in on a sweeping chorus and “Mixing My Medicine” takes things down a notch as Eli plays some gentle acoustic with echoey electric guitar and sound effects that would not be out of place on an early Pink Floyd record. The lyrics sound ominous: “Well you’ve been mixing my medicine, now I know my time ain’t long”. The sound effects continue on “Pray For Rain” with Eli also playing some solid electric over some strangely off-beat drumming. “King Of The Mountain” has a moody feel with plenty of slide from Eli and the gentle “Mother’s Prayer” is sung in a really deep voice although the sense of the lyrics of both songs eluded this reviewer! “Month Of Sundays” has some great picking and “If Not For You” (not the Dylan song) starts with a riff that could be from The Stones, albeit played on acoustic, making it probably the most accessible original song in the set.

Eli takes a slow, stripped-down approach to the three covers: Muddy’s classic “Can’t Lose What You Never Had” works well though the howling guitar effects in the background outstay their welcome; Roosevelt Sykes’ “44 Blues” works very well as a country blues that Eli plays solo on slide with what sounds like a foot stomp; Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” was always a country tune and works OK in this quieter format.

A difficult album to summarize. Eli is clearly a talented player but the songs failed to move this reviewer though hopefully they will appeal more to other ears.

Bridget Kelly Band – Bone Rattler | Album Review

5 November 2017 - 1:23am

Bridget Kelly Band – Bone Rattler

Alpha Sun Records – 2017

CD1: 13 tracks; 69 minutes: CD2: 9 tracks; 44 minutes

www.bridgetkellyband.com

Gainesville, North Florida’s Bridget Kelly Band returns with another offering, hot on the heels of their 2016 CD Outta The Blues. That CD and its predecessor Forever In Blues were both all original and Bone Rattler maintains that tradition though this time the band had so much material that two CDs were required! Bridget handles lead vocals with husband and co-writer Tim Fik on guitar and vocals, the rhythm section remaining Mark Albrecht on bass and Alex Klausner on drums; the only additional musician is RB Stone who plays harp on two tracks.

CD1 opens with Bridget singing strongly on “Ain’t Missin’ You”, an energetic rocker with lots of Tim’s guitar. “What You Need” has that classic blues-rock slower number feel with the bass pulse behind Bridget’s vocal and “Levee And The Bridge” is dedicated to the victims of Katrina with Tim playing fast riffs. “Boom Boom” is a catchy little number with RB Stone’s harp work breathlessly impressive and “I Ride Against The Wind” is a standard blues chugger with some wild guitar flourishes. “Goin’ To Chi-Town” is great fun with Tim double-tracking some Elmore James-style slide over his rhythm work and Bridget doing a good job on the vocals as she name-checks some of Chicago’s blues highlights. Tim hits the wah-wah for “Leavin’ On Sunday”, a song that particularly suits Bridget’s voice as she sings of heading away from the relationship; maybe it was the “Same Bad Attitude” that caused the issues? “Outbound Mississippi” has some effective slide work with Tim sharing vocals with Bridget on a lengthy tune which finds the protagonists leaving Mississippi by train for the sunnier south of Florida, the final section being played at blistering pace over some frenetic drumming. “Ghost Train” keeps up the railroad references on a slower blues-rock piece which works well.

CD2 puts the emphasis on Tim’s vocals, not his strong point, but he does play some great guitar on the slow blues “The Dark Night” which contains the ‘Bone Rattler’ line that gives the album its name. “Mr Gaines” has RB Stone’s harp adding to the blues side of the equation though “In My Sorrow” is more rock with plenty of Hendrix-style guitar. The shuffle “I’m So Tired” works well with Tim more relaxed on vocals and producing a very good, ringing solo and he also plays some very nice stuff on “Hambone”, a relaxed affair on which he duets with himself on guitar. The fast-paced “Bad Tornado” finds Tim confronting a wild woman with some suitably manic guitar and Bridget’s first appearance on Disc 2 with some brief backing vocals. “Cell Phone Blues” concerns a very 21st century problem, people spending more time on their cells than with their partners, a slow blues played with panache by Tim before the band ups the pace for the swinging “Cat’s Out The Bag” with Bridget adding a touch of jazz to her vocals.

Why the band decided to feature Bridget’s vocals on one CD and Tim’s on the other is not known but it is clear that Tim is far more a guitar player than singer. The overall effect is a rather bloated set with simply too much frantic guitar and you wish that the band had been more selective in what was issued. A single disc with the best tracks here would have been better, in this reviewer’s opinion.

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