Saturday, September 19, 2015

Clarence "The Blues Man" Turner -- "The Caster Blaster"

Clarence "The Blues Man" Turner's second cd, "The Caster Blaster" (2015) is a strong follow up to his debut "Pay Day." (2012) Turner is a true triple threat--singer, songwriter, guitarist, bass player, drummer--and this disc is a big step up from "Pay Day." This time  around, the Washington, D.C. area artist and winner of numerous awards presents what will be his deserved breakthrough release. Eight songs are Turner originals and there are three covers There are three covers, Chuck Willis' "CC Rider," Ray Charles' "Black Jack," and Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready." The band with Turner are  Sean Graves (drums), Charles Pearson (keyboards), David Satterwhite (bass), Gene Meros (saxophones) and Gary Hendrickson (trumpet).

Turner has earned the title "The Blues Man" and he shows himself an excellent ear as a songwriter throughout. He is also a fine singer, and a very good guitarist too. He can play the fast blues as well as anyone, and he when he slows things down, as on "Black Jack," he makes every moment shine. Pearson has several fine moments on keyboards, most impressively on "Nadine." Graves and Satterwhite keep everything effortlessly moving in the pocket. And I think any artist who makes an entire cd with a horn section must have plenty for them to do--and this cd is no exception. Meros and Hendrickson add great color, depth and intensity to "Sabrena," "Fender Bender," "Happily Married Man."

Everything here is well done and the result is a fine cd. Equally good as music for a party or for quiet introspection, this is one I highly recommend. The fact that Clarence is a real good guy--that's just an added special bonus.  

You can buy this one at      

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Crooked Eye Tommy -- "Butterflies And Snakes"


Crooked Eye Tommy releases their debut effort,
Butterflies And Snakes, eleven memorable songs written by Crooked Eye Tommy front-person and band namesake Tommy Marsh and Tommy's brother, guitarist-vocalist, Paddy Marsh.

These brothers are the creative force that is Crooked Eye Tommy. Paddy Marsh sings and writes three of the eleven tunes on the record including “Come On In”, “I Stole The Blues”,  and “Tide Pool.” Tommy Marsh sings on the other eight songs. The other members of the band are Glade Rasmussen, on bass; Tony Cicero, on drums; and Jimmy Calire, on saxophone/piano/Hammond B3.

This band came out of the Santa Barbara Blues Society in 2013 and the album is a rocking blues powerhouse. These guys do Southern style blues with chops and taste, and, as you can guess from the name of the album, several of the songs deal with the relationships between the sexes. The title track drew me in right off the bat with an excellent balanced ensemble sound featuring strong vocals and stinging guitar work. I like a blues band that wants to sound like a blues band, not a group of guys just waiting to get the next screamin' solo. These guys get it done--it sounds like they all turned down the volume just a little and they all play together beautifully.

Another favorite to me was the rocking number, "Time Will Tell," which is "the source of the album's name," states Marsh. "The second verse talks about the duality of women:

Women are made of butterflies, butterflies and snakes
Trying to please a woman can give a good man the shakes

"Somebody's Got To Pay" is a sexy Blues shuffle where Marsh laments in song, "the way the world is today, somebody's got to pay." He explains: "I wrote this song while dealing with a tax issue...I was very frustrated with the whole government and how no matter who is in office, it's always about who has the money."

Another really good song, IMO, is "I Stole The Blues," which features Paddy Marsh singing over a solid rhythm section and really good guitar by brother Tommy. This one has all the elements of a good blues radio friendly number--in fact, I have played it several times on my Mo' Blues Show and it always gets a good reaction. There is a hot sax solo by Jimmy Calire on this one.

Crooked Eye Tommy has made a really fine debut album. Santa Barbara and Ventura County California have a lot to be proud of here. Scorching performances and original music firmly rooted in traditional blues, which feels at once both familiar but somehow new.

You can buy this cd at

Friday, September 11, 2015

Brad Wilson -- "Blues Thunder"

"Blues Thunder" is the latest from Brad Wilson. It follows 2014's "Hands On The Wheel" and it is fine blues and blues-rock. Brad Wilson is on guitar and sings. He also wrote all 12 songs. Brian Beal is on bass. Amrik Sandhu is on drums. Kirk Nelson is on keyboards. Tumbleweed Mooney is on harmonica. 

Things open with Is It Any Wonder, which sounds radio-ready. Wilson, who takes lead vocal and guitar, sings smoothly in quiet pop form but with tasty guitar riffs throughout.  The next song, Change It Up, is an uptempo song with a kind of Santana feel. The next song, Blue Shadows, is a 50s style ballad featuring clean piano work by Nelson. I could imagine this one sung by Sinatra. Quite tasty! The next two songs, Step By Step and the title track, are a return to blues-rock. Tumbleweed Mooney shines on harp on Step By Step. On the title track Wilson burns up the fretboard. Some readers will love this one, some will think it overwrought, but the guitar work is top-notch. The next song, Let's Go Barefootin' It, starts out as a blues with a Bo Diddley rhythm, but soon gets around to cooking. Mooney's harp work here is excellent. The next song, My Faith Has Been Broken, is another shift in style, this time towards classic rock. The guitar on this one reminds me of the great Terry Kath of Chicago. Next up, Cool Runnin', is a radio-ready understated song featuring Wilson's vocals. The guitar work here is hot from beginning to end. The next song, Home, is another stylistic move featuring acoustic guitar. The opening reminds me of Led Zeppelin's Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, but it morphs into something like an unreleased Bruce Springsteen song. The next song, Black Coffee At Sunrise, is probably my favorite. This one is a 50s style jump blues with very sweet jazzy guitar. The next song, Sugar Sweet, features jazzy guitar but weak lyrics. Last up, Never Again, is a solid rock song. Wilson really wails on this one. A nice conclusion.

Brad Wilson's new cd is a strong follow up to his 2014 release. He shows a number of styles in both his songwriting and guitar. I enjoyed this one.

You can buy this one at

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Billy Hector -- "Old School Thang"

Billy Hector's "Old School Thang" is his 11th release for the Ghetto Surf label, and this one is good stuff! Hector is one of New Jersey's guitar treasures, and after 35 years he sounds better than ever. This time out Hector is on guitar and vocals, backed by a core band of veterans Tim Tindall on bass and Sim Cain on drums, along with a number of other musical guests.

Here's the way they describe it on his website:

“She’s Gone” is a story of heartbreak, sugar coated by a sumptuous layering of fierce blues guitar and horns on a bedrock Latin groove. “Goin’ Down” is Billy Hector’s tribute to Freddie King’s interpretation of the Don Nix iconic tune with horns and piano.“Old School Thang” , a funkified fan favorite, showcases the expertise and high level of musicianship the Billy Hector power trio delivers every night it performs.  “Fake I.D” is a sly and humorous ode to taking life as it comes and letting the chips fall where they may. This track also features Billy’s signature killer slide guitar work with a sparkling assist from Mickey Melchiondo on guitar. “Vitamin Big Daddy” is a healthy dose of bawdy horn driven blues that meets or exceeds the recommended daily intake of musical nutrients.  Just what the doctor ordered. “Come On Home” is an infectious slide driven groove accented with the harp stylings of Ken Sorensen."Evil, Slick ‘n Sly”, is a slow grinder with a sexy groove that conjures up the pitfalls of amorous relationships.“Hammer” grabs you in with it’s funky foot tapping intro. If your love needs fixing,  Hector’s Albert Collins-esque guitar work gets the job done. “Rita” is a rowdy old time barroom blues in the tradition of St. James Infirmary that tells the tragic tale of a fading barfly.  “Short and Sweet Blues” is just that. Two and three quarter’s minutes of slow blues bliss. “People of the World” is a funk-drenched plea for peace on earth featuring a soulful sax solo by Stax recording artist Mel Taylor.

You can read all that and you may be be convinced, but if you listen to "Vitamin Big Daddy" once I know you'll find a place for this cd in your collection. Billy Hector has been a top-notch guitarist for a long time, and this is a very fine album. Turn it up!

You can buy this cd at

Monday, May 25, 2015

Dave Specter -- "Message In Blue"

Dave Specter's 10th album, "Message In Blue" is a soulful and compelling collection of the Chicago blues he has played for the past 15+ years, and a solid serving of soul blues, and some great moments of R&B. It was released on May 20, 2014 on Delmark Records.

Specter is in wonderful form. His guitar work is clean and assured. And the veteran band--Harlan Terson (bass) and Marty Binder (drums) back him flawlessly. Guests on this set include the great Otis Clay (vocals) and Brother John Kattke (keyboards and vocals) and Bob Corritore (harmonica). Theresa Davis and Diane Madison add backup vocals on one song.

Things kick off with "New West Side Stroll," an updated version of Specter's 1995 instrumental track. The next two songs feature Otis Clay's soul vocal style on covers--he brings glorious life to Harold Burrage's "Got To Find A Way," featuring horns and that great Otis Clay magic. Then Clay adds sweet soul to "This Time I'm Gone For Good," a slow minor key blues recorded here as a tribute to Bobby Blue Bland. Then comes the title track, a very tasty instrumental in which Specter channels some melodic Jimi Hendrix. The next song is the name-dropping "Chicago Style," which features Kattke on piano and vocals, a full horn section and a very strong guitar break. From there, things return to Otis Clay and a great cover of Wilson Pickett's "I Found A Love," which is one of the highlights of the cd--everything about this track is superb--worth the price of the cd all by itself. Then a Specter original, "Funkified Outta Space," which he channels The Meters sound in all their New Orleans glory. Next up is a cover of the Don Nix-penned "Same Old Blues." I didn't really think  I needed another version of this one, but with vocals and piano by Kattke and killer guitar work by Specter--this one is better than Eric Clapton's version.

There are still five tracks to go, but I think you all get the idea--this is a great cd. You can buy this at


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Johnny I. Band -- Johnny I. All Star Blues Revival EP

I've been enjoying this EP for long enough--I should share this gem with you as well. This little EP has three songs which were written by the team of John A. Ingrassia and his father John E. Ingrassia.
Johnny A. plays guitar on all the songs. Johnny E. sings on two songs and plays bass on one. They play just fine, but the real treat is the rest of the musicians. An impressive group--on "Avery's Tune" Johnny A. and Johnny E. are joined by Glen Graham (from Blind Melon) on drums, and Doug Ferrara on Hammond B3 organ. It is mixed by Brad Smith (also from Blind Melon). This instrumental starts things off with a bang! The guitar on this track is strong--it clearly illustrates that Johnny I. has a fine melodic style, and he can also rip it up when that is needed. It starts out sounding a little bit like Blind Melon, but about halfway through the song Graham's drums break in and right after that things get moving in the right direction.

The next song is "Life Is Better ( 2nd Time Around) "  and here Johnny I. (guitar) and Johnny E. (vocals) are joined by Billy Cox on bass (yes, that Billy Cox--he played with Jimi Hendrix) and Chris Layton on drums and Reese Wynans on the Hammond B3 organ (both from Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble). Johnny E.'s vocals are quite good--he reminds me a little of Doyle Bramhall, but without Bramhall's Texas accent. The rhythm section pushes the pocket and Johnny I. on guitar doesn't try to imitate SRV--he just plays great from beginning to end. Wynans on organ here is very good--he fills everything out with style. A fine song. Mixed By Jim Gaines.

The third song is "Late Nite," and it is probably my favorite of them all. Here Johnny I. (guitar) and Johnny E. (vocals) are joined by Bruce Katz on Hammond B3 organ, Tommy Shannon on bass (Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble), and Jaimoe on drums (The Allman Brothers). This song features strong work by Bruce Katz at the opening before Johnny I. does some great (but brief) stringbending fretwork before the vocals and the rhythm section take it away. The vocals are good. This song is also mixed by Jim Gaines.  

I really like this EP, and I think all three songs are strong solid work in a rock/blues style. Johnny I. says in an email that he is in rehearsals with Jaimoe and writing to add more songs.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Top Cds From 2014

This time of year I always post the best of the best cds from the previous year. 2014 was a tumultuous year in the blues, a year marked with highs and lows--new bands and new releases. How did we get along before Gary Clark Jr's "Live!" and John Nemeth's "Memphis Grease"? We also saw a bunch of important artists dying in the blues community. This year we lost three of my favorites in Johnny Winter, Finis Tasby and Joe Cocker. And I even changed my DJ gig to a new internet radio station-- Come by and check it out.  

Don't worry about the numbers. Almost any of these cds could have been listed as # 20 or #1. But in my opinion these were the best blues releases of 2014:

20. (tie) Otis Clay & Johnny Rawls -- Soul Brothers" Catfood Records
This is a great soul blues record from two veteran singers with a talented sympathetic band and a full horn section. I love the way they cover Dave Mason's "Only You Know And I Know," but the other nine songs keep that high level of heart and skill.

20. (tie) No Refund Band -- "Current State Of Blue" Self Release
This is the second release from this Texas band, and CSOB is a big step up. Ricky Jackson & Mike Crownover wrote 8 of the 12 songs here--the originals are really good, and the covers include Eric Clapton's "Bell Bottom Blues," Leslie West's "Mississippi Queen," Gary Moore's "Still Got The Blues" and Jim Brady's "I Gotta Play." Any band brave enough to cover those 4 has major cojones, and this is a great band. Favorite track is "St Louis Bound."        

19. Too Slim And The Taildraggers -- "Anthology" Underworld Indie Records
This is a band that has been out there making great music for almost thirty years. Stop and think on that for a second. The songs on this set are from the past 15 years. The quality of these 34 songs is staggering. Cudos to Tim "Too Slim" Langford for writing almost all these songs and playing guitar and singing like a banshee sometimes and an angel other times. Fabulous. Favorite track is "Cowboy Boot."      

18. Low Society -- "You Can't keep A Good Woman Down" Icehouse Records
A happy surprise. This is a Memphis primer of how to do the blues right. Gut bucket blues vocals, blistering slide guitar, a solid rhythm section. Vocalist Mandy Lemons is going to be a big star. I'll bet Low Society is a terrific band to see live. Favorite track is "Crammed & Jammed."  

17. George Taylor -- "Rain Or Shine" Self Release
Let me say up front I don't know if this is blues or country music. Doesn't matter--one listen and it belongs on this list. The most beautiful music I heard in 2014 no matter what you call it. As Texas as Buddy Holly, as honest as Hank Williams. Favorite track is "Harvest Moon."   

16. Dave Fields -- "All In" Self Release
The number one blues-rock cd of the year. Eleven songs--only three covers--and Dave gives the deepest grittiest performances of his career on both guitar and vocals. A live cover of Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog," has been extensively re-imagined to expose its blues roots. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in the studio--those walls were COOKIN'. Favorite track is "Black Dog."

15. Little Mike And The Tornadoes -- "All The Right Moves" Self Release
See my review June 2.

14. Tweed Funk -- "First Name Lucky" Self Release
See my review June 27.

13. Damon Fowler -- "Sounds Of Home" Blind Pig Records
See my review Dec 16.

12. Selwyn Birchwood -- "Don't Call No Ambulance" Alligator Records
This is such a fresh-sounding and energetic release--I hear it in all the reasons I got excited about the blues way back in the day. Selwyn comes out of Florida, and he was born in 1985. (I have socks older than that!) In 2013 he won the IBC and since then he has exploded on the blues scene. He plays a real good guitar and lap steel, and his voice is gritty and good. He was signed to Alligator Records last July. Favorite track is "Overworked And Underpaid," with great harp work by RJ Harmon. Joe Louis Walker guests on “The River Turned Red.” Looking forward to his next steps. 

11. Walter Trout -- "The Blues Came Callin'" Mascot Music
This one makes a place on this list for two reasons--the playing on the cd is terrific, and the human interest story of Walter's liver transplant. The surgery was on May 26, and the cd was released on June 10. You can read about the liver transplant in detail at his website Read the story, but also go immediately and buy this cd. Walter has been a great blues musician for 25 years, and I hope he can share his gifts with us for 25 more. Great guitar playing, great singing on this one. John Mayall guests on Hammond B-3 and harp.

10. Robert Cray -- "In My Soul" Mascot Music
This is the first Robert Cray Band release since back in the 80s that grabbed my ear. Robert has been making great blues music for 4 decades now. The opener "You Move Me" and "Nobody's Fault But Mine" just blast my head wide open, and I can't stop listening until the cd is over. The band includes Cray (vocals/guitar), Richard Cousins (bass), Les Falconer (drums), and Dover Weinberg (piano/keyboards). An American treasure.    

9. Old Grey Mule -- Have Mercy" Cotton Patch Disco Music
This is not your father's old school blues--this is a modern blues tornado duo. CR Humphrey (vocals/guitar) and JJ Wilburn (drums/vocals) mix a lot of Mississippi Hill Country blues with some zydeco. They make electric blues dance music. In previous years this spot on the countdown might have been filled by Moreland & Arbuckle or JJ Grey & Mofro. Like them, Old Grey Mule make great music. Favorite track is "Have Mercy."   

8. Dick LeMasters -- "One Bird Two Stones" Self Release
Texan Dick has released a real home run--he says One Bird Two Stones "includes what I consider to be my best 11 original songs." Depending on the setting, he works as a solo artist, as part of an acoustic duo with Douglas Greer, and with the band Longneck Road. The guitar work, the songwriting and the singing here are all top notch. This record is a favorite of all the DJs at  Favorite track is "Three Fifty Seven." 
7. Albert Castiglia -- "Solid Ground" Ruf Records
The best release from Albert so far in his career. Every time I put together one of these lists he's on it, and every year the cd is better than the one prior to it. Dave Gross produced, mixed and recorded, in addition to guesting on guitar and bass and mandolin. Other guests include Jeremy Baum on keyboards, Lou Bevere on guitar, and Debbie Davies on guitar and vocals. Throughout, the stars are Albert's guitar and his voice. An underrated songwriter. Favorite track is "Little Havana Blues (Arroz Con Mango)."
6. Gary Clark Jr -- "Live!" Warner Brothers
One of the anticipated releases of 2014 was this killer set. The Texan came through in a big way with "Live!" This is a seriously hot 2 cd set, and his guitar work burns and cooks every step of the way. Gary will have a long and glorious career and he might never touch these high moments again. Favorite track is "When My Train Comes In."

5. Ruthie Foster -- "Promise Of A Brand New Day" Blue Corn Music
I have been a fan of Ruthie Foster's gospel-influenced blues americana ever since 2006's "The Truth According To Ruthie Foster." Like Albert Castiglia, she gets better with every release. Evidently I am not alone in my admiration. Ruthie has been Best Female Vocalist in 2007, 2008 and 2013 from the Austin Music Awards, a 2012 and 2009 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, the 2010 Living Blues Music Award Critic’s Poll for Female Blues Artist of the Year and recent Blues Music Award wins for Best Contemporary and Best Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year. Favorite track is "Let Me Know" featuring Doyle Bramhall II on guitar. 
4. Alexis P Suter Band -- "Love The Way You Roll" American Showplace Music
This cd has been at the top of Blues Charts since it came out in August, and it led to the discovery of a major new vocal talent. Alexis has a one in a generation voice, and the APS Band can seriously play any kind of blues right alongside her. As BB King said, "It's a rare thing to share the stage with great talent like that young lady." 

3. Keb' Mo' -- "Bluesamericana" Kind of Blue Music
Bluesamericana is my favorite cd in Keb' Mo' career. These songs came out of some troubled times in Kevin Moore's life, and the resulting cd seems to have brought forth both more sharpness in his playing and songwriting and more inner peace to share with his audience. Favorite track is "The Old Me Better."   

2. John Nemeth -- "Memphis Grease" Blue Corn Music
This set is recorded in Memphis with the Bo Kays. Great band, great horns, and John brings great soulful singing and harp. Favorite track is the cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying." Sure it's over the top. But when John almost hits those high notes and the horns come in it gives me chills. Every time.    

1. Johnny Winter -- "Step Back" Megaforce Records
The Texas guitar great left us in July, but this cd shows he left us with all his skills intact. Johnny's singing and playing are strong on every track. Favorite track is "Can't Hold Out (Talk To Me Baby)" with Ben Harper. Absolutely deserving of the top spot.

Before I stop writing, let me name my song of the year. It is "All Night Long" by Pork Chop Willie from the cd "Love Is The Devil" (2014, Self Release).