Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Fabulous Thunderbirds -- Strong Like That

The Fabulous Thunderbirds have been around for over 30 years now, which in musical terms is a very long time; and, in my humble opinion, they have never sounded better than now.

For this new cd, the focus seems to be a mix of blues and old-time soul music--Motown and Stax--and this combination works really well.  The band is just wonderful, tight where they need to be tight, smooth where they need to be smooth, and loose enough to dance to. The key is, of course, Kim Wilson, who shows again on this outing why he must be counted among the very best singers, harp players and band leaders anywhere. The band is Kim Wilson (vocals and harmonica) Johnny Moeller (guitars) Kevin Anker (keyboards) Steve Gomes (bass) and Robb Stupka (drums). Special guests include Aason Funderburgh (lead guitar on "Don't Burn Me") Roosevelt Collier (steel guitar on "I Know (I'm Losing You)") Wes Watkins (drums on "I Know (I'm Losing You)") and Sara Mia (background vocals on "I Know (I'm Losing You)" and Christal Rheams and Caleb Green (background vocals on "Don't Burn Me," "Somebody's Getting It," "Where's Your Love Been" and "I've Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)".

Every song here is worth your time, your money, and more importantly, the investment of your ears.
You can buy this cd at all your usual cd outlets.  

01 – (I Know) I’m Losing You (Feat. Roosevelt Collier & Wes Watkins)
02 – Don’t Burn Me (Feat. Anson Funderburgh)
03 – You’re Gonna Miss Me
04 – Drowning On Dry Land
05 – Smooth
06 – Somebody’s Getting It
07 – Meet Me On The Corner
08 – Where’s Your Love Been
09 – I’ve Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)
10 – Strong Like That

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Lurrie Bell -- "Can't Shake This Feeling"

Lurrie Bell is one of the greats of Chicago Blues. The son of the great Carey Bell, he began playing guitar at the age of five. Now, many years later, this new release is a shining gem.  This Delmark Records cd features Lurrie on vocals and guitar and his regular band: Willie Hayes on drums and Melvin Smith on bass, writing partner Matthew Skoller on harmonica, and the great Roosevelt Purifoy on piano, organ and Rhodes.
Six of the thirteen songs are originals, along with "Drifting" by Eddie Boyd, "I Get So Weary" by T Bone Walker, "One Eyed Woman" by Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis, "Sit Down Baby" by Willie Dixon, "Hold me Tight" by Little Milton-Oliver Sain Jr, "Sinners Prayer" by Lowell Fulson-Lloyd C Glenn, "Born With The Blues" by Buster Benton, "Do You Hear" by Carey Bell, and "Hidden Charms" by Willie Dixon. I print out the names of these covers to illustrate one point--Lurrie pretty much covers the waterfront--they are all great songs brought forward and played with reverence and respect.The originals fit in well with the covers--Lurrie is a veteran bluesman now. His singing and guitar work are both personal and warm, and his songwriting is an extra special bonus.

This is a really good cd, pure Chicago blues by some of the best musicians out there. Belongs in any 2016 Top Ten list. Any time you are shopping for blues music--if you see the name Lurrie Bell on something, go ahead and buy it. You will never be disappointed.

You can buy this cd at

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers -- "Heal My Soul"

Let me state right at the beginning that I love this cd! It is by turns old-timey, un-traditional and post-modern blues and rock. This is their sixth album, with ten terrific songs, nine of which are originals.

The band includes Lex Grey on vocals, Vic Mix on guitars and production, Kaia Updike on Hammond organ violin and accordion, Leo Binetti and Adam Price on bass and John Holland and Matt Messenger on drums. Walter Tates Jr guests on saxophone. Anthony Michael guests on clarinet. Adam Price guests on violin and bass. Brian Dewan guests on zither, auto harp, toy piano, and theremin. "Piano" Pete Mttei guests on piano. Greg "Hornhog" Holt guests on fiddle.

The feel of the album is similar, style-wise, to the last two or three albums from Sunday Wilde, who mines the rural Canadian blues tradition. But Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers are bringing forth music from the urban folk-blues rock stew. A New York version of an eclectic band not dissimilar to Jason Vivone & The Billy Bats here in Kansas City. The singing and playing here is uniformly excellent and there is plenty of stylistic variety to please a listener. All the songs here are blues radio-worthy. I especially enjoy the songs "Factory" and "Ghost." I could imagine "Ghost" being an outtake from an early Jefferson Airplane session. "Survive" is also quite good, with an Amy Winehouse style vocal wrapped around an old Steppenwolf guitar track. The title track. "Heal My Soul," is a 7+ minute jam and everybody seems to really let loose. While I was writing this review I have been  listening to a lot of Leon Russell and The Shelter People from 1970-1973, and I can readily imagine Mr Russell smiling from the side of the studio at this song. It is all by itself worth the price of the set.  
Lex Grey and The Urban Pioneers are a group you and I need to get more familiar with, especially their back catalog. Highly recommended. You can buy this cd at or on I-tunes.  

Monday, July 4, 2016

Diana Rein -- Long Road

"Long Road" is Diana Rein's second release, following 2007's "The Back Room." This time around Diana wrote and recorded and produced everything and she sings and plays all the lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, and EZdrummer. It took her 18 months to complete this project, and I for one am glad she has delivered it--this one is a candidate for "Bruce's Top 10 Releases of 2016," mostly because Diana can really sing, and she's really good on the guitar, and she is a really good songwriter. It's the whole package!

The twelve songs here cover pretty varied territory. Things start out with the title track, which has the singer holding fast to her dream, with a c all-and-response between the vocals and guitar that just pulls you in. "Wild One" is a rocker with top-notch lead guitar work--this is the kind of music I was hoping Joan Jett would grow into, name-checking Stevie Ray Vaughan. "Livin' Loud" slows things down just a bit, but with a 60ish lead guitar, it reminds me of Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac. "Green Light" is an answer song to Doyle Bramhall II's "Green Light Girl" and it has just a splash of surf music in the rhythm guitar. The singing is spot-on too. "Rebel With A Cause" is a meditation on a photo of James Dean with crunchy guitars and a seductive vocal. "The Real Thing" features a funk/rock groove and lyrical sass. "Done Me Dirty" is a tell-off with guitar-venom and maybe the best lyrics of any song on the cd. "Don't Walk Away" is a soulful spin on the lover-take-me-back story with beautiful guitar work. "Come Back Home" is addressed to the singer's dream, and filled with Duane Allman-esque guitar work. "Wicked" is a melancholy song, and the guitar sings of regret and sorrow. Again, the guitar reminds me of early Peter Green or maybe Jeff Beck. "Down Down Down" starts out slow, but it soon becomes a full-tilt rocker. The closing song is "Peace," which was written after the death of Diana's dog Zoe.

Throughout the dozen songs there is nowhere a clunker, nowhere to take a breath, no false steps. All of these songs are radio-ready.  An individual's work filled with talent and passion, a fine fine release.

You can buy this cd at Diana's website:



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The New Blues Revolution -- "To Hellendale And Back"

The New Blues Revolution kind of snuck up on me. At first, they weren't on my radar--I was plenty happy playing other music. I didn't think these guys from LA had very much to say--but I was seriously wrong, people. This is high quality, very necessary, important blues music for right now. You gotta check this out!

You'll meet Bill Grisolia, the front man, singer, piano player, along with guitarist Chap Copper. They both write the songs here. Roger Beall is the drummer, and Bob Burns is on bass.  No additional players, no mechanical sweetening, nothing but these 5 solid songs.

 Like I said, this cd had to grow on me a while, but soon I got to where Grisolia's bass heavy gravelly voice was exactly what I needed in my cd player. He really is a good singer. Cooper's guitar is a wonderful vehicle for these songs, which is the way I judge guitar players. I have very limited use for guitar-wankers, so for the most part I avoid them. Cooper is more my style--he has got tons of chops, and he can deliver a fill or an idea with economy and style. Beall and Burns have the unenviable task of creating the pocket inside which the vocal and the piano and/or the guitar tell these blues stories. Their playing is solid and rich, rooted in the traditional blues rhythms.

"Souls On Fire" starts things off, and promptly reminded me of equal parts Billy Idol (back when he was good!) and Chris Rea. "Whiskey Town" reminds me of an unreleased song by The Doors, and I mean that as a high compliment. This one wears its' Los Angeles roots well. "Black Widow" might be the best song here--it throws all those influences into a blender and the result is a damn good song. Well written, well sung, well played. "Baby Blue" might be just a tad weak by comparison--but almost anything would have come across that way after "Black Widow." It also might be that title. If they had called this song "Sara's Blues" it might have gotten a fresher hearing. The last song here is "Sunset Psycho Twang," the only song here not written by Cooper/Grisolia. This one is written by Cooper/Resch, and it is a more atmospheric song, an instrumental, recalling perhaps a lost Pink Floyd cut circa 1971. Very beautiful. Whenever I hear this one I want to hear it again.

I've played every one of these songs on my Mo' Blues radio show on the internet radio station Caldonia's Crossroad Radio, ( and this is a strong but brief set.
You can buy this cd from the band website: Http://


Friday, April 8, 2016

Jeff Chaz -- "Sounds Like The Blues To Me"

I first became acquainted with the music of Jeff Chaz in 2006, when I was the Sunday night DJ at KJLU 89.5 fm in Jefferson City MO. One week in September I stumbled across his song "Morning Coffee." The thing that hooked me on Jeff Chaz, besides his obvious chops, was his sincerity--listening to him it sounded like he didn't take himself too seriously. "Morning Coffee" sounded great that night in a playlist next to songs by Geoff Achison, Blue Soul, Sugar Ray & The Bluetones and Shemekia Copeland. 

Jeff Chaz has been a blues guitarist for half of his life. Based in New Orleans, he started out playing trumpet and then trombone, but soon switched to guitar. Chaz also sings and writes songs. On this cd, he wrote all the songs, one with Steve Lowry. Everything was recorded at Radionic Studio in Jefferson Louisiana. This time out Chaz sings and plays guitar, joined by Doug Therrien and David Hyde on bass, Doug Belote, Allyn Robinson and Willie Panker on drums, John Autin on Hammond B-3 organ and piano, A J Pittman on trumpet and Ward Smith on saxes. 

In 2013 Chaz released a cd "Chronicles" which revived some of those old songs, including "Morning Coffee." This is the first cd of new music since 2006's "Jeff Chaz In Exile." The guitar work is top notch, as it usually is with Jeff Chaz. The band is tight and loose at the same time. Regular readers here will know I love a band with a horn section, so I like hearing that. But the best thing about this release are the songwriting and vocals. They are what sets Chaz apart from most everybody else. Two examples--there's a song here "I'm Goin' After Moby Dick In A Rowboat" with a line "...and I'm bringing the tartar sauce." He might be setting off on a hopeless mission, but still, if he is successful he will be ready. Another example is in a song "Will You Be Mine" where the lyrics are nothing very special but he sings in the upper part of his range--just a simple thing like that. It communicates the anxiety and fear behind the title question without a doubt. And on both these songs, the guitar is just terrific.

One listen and you'll be glad you bought this cd.

Buy it at

Friday, April 1, 2016

Mark Cameron -- "Playing Rough"

From the very first few notes of the first song, "Doctor In The House," Mark Cameron lays down a winner with his new cd "Playing Rough." Of course, with a 30 year track record of making music based in Minneapolis, Cameron knows what he is doing...and he does it so good. This is his fourth blues release, following “Life Of Illusion” (2009) “Built To Bust” (2011) and "One Way Ride To The Blues" (2014). I took the tour to give all of those releases a listen, and "Playing Rough" is both a continuation and a fresh start. 

The band this time out includes Cameron on guitar, Bill Keyes on harmonica, Scott Lindberg on bass, Dan Schroeder on drums, and Sheri Cameron on flute. Additional musicians include Sara Renner and Tonia Hughes on background vocals, Scott Sansby on washboard and bones, Jason Craft on keyboards, and Greg Schutte and Nick Salisbury. All the songs were written by Cameron. One song, "Bluesmans Lullaby," is dedicated to BB King. 

I don't know where to start, trying to describe this cd. Every song reels you in. Sometimes it is a guitar lick, or a harmonica break, or the flute, or the vocal, and the band is always deep in the pocket. Lyrically, this is a very strong release. And musically, the band sounds like they have played together for years--because they have. I wish I had been a fly on the wall in the studio--it sounds like it was a great time! 

My favorite song here is "Rusty Old Model T." It sounds like it could be a song from another one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Dick LeMasters, from Texas. His new cd "Gasoline And Fire" should be reviewed here pretty soon.        

You can buy this cd on cd or vinyl at