Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Damon Fowler -- "Sounds Of Home"

Damon Fowler's new "Sounds Of Home" is a smorgasbord of great guitar work and fine singing and songwriting. Recorded at Tab Benoit's studio in Louisiana--and with Tab's typically understated production work--this is Damon's sixth cd and his third for for Blind Pig Records. It is also his best.  Fresh from a year touring with the Southern Blues-Rock Royal Southern Brotherhood, Damon has raised his game in every direction---and he has been pretty doggone good for several years already.

Nine of the songs here are Damon originals, sometimes with the help of writing partner Ed Wright and Tab; and there are two covers: Johnny Winter's "TV Mama" and Elvis Costello's "Alison." The album closes with the traditional "I Shall Not Be Moved."

Damon's voice is country-ish, clear with an agreeable roughness on some songs, and his writing shows plenty of pop-music smarts. But my favorite part of this set is Damon's guitar--he gives the entire fretboard a good workout with an endless supply of razor sharp hooks.

Favorites? The centerpiece of the cd is "Old Fools, Bar Stools, and Me," which sounds like it should have been written by John Hiatt or Willie Nelson. One of the best songs of the year, for sure."Thought I Had It All" is an excellent song, as is the title track. "Trouble" has a tasteful solo around lyrics about being addicted to a lover. "Spark" is an energetic rock song--back in the good old days of real radio, every song here would be on a playlist somewhere. This is a Top Ten cd of the year candidate.

You can buy this cd at http://www.blindpigrecords.com


Monday, December 15, 2014

Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson -- "For Pops"

Those of us who have been connected to the blues for a long time will hear all they need to know when I say that this cd is a tribute to the 100th birthday of Muddy Waters by his son Mud Morganfield & Kim Wilson backed by an all-star band of Chicago blues players.

But those of you whose love for the blues may have developed rather recently--like maybe beginning in 1995--may need some more encouragement. This is a cd of really great old school songs and music. Like twenty years older than The Black Keys. Older than the Blues Brothers movie.

But not old like a museum exhibit. This music is not stodgy or creaky or stiff. This music roars out of the gate and burns from beginning to end. Part of that is Kim Wilson's doing--his Little Walter styled harp work here very nearly raises the dead--and part of it is that Mud Morganfield is one of the better singers out there, especially when singing Muddy's songs. And a huge part of it is the band that brings these songs to full, uproarious life: Rusty Zinn and Billy Flynn on guitar, Barrelhouse Chuck on piano, Steve Gomes on bass and Robb Stupka on drums. The album was produced by David Earl and Steve Gomes and recorded in four days at Severn Sound Studios in Annapolis, Maryland. 

Everybody plays together with the same sense of balance and taste that you hear in those great Muddy Waters bands from back in the 50s. Every note of every song is blues perfection. Nothing extraneous, nothing out of place, no showing off. Love it.

You can get this cd at http://www.severnrecords.com/

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jim Suhler -- "Panther Burn"

Let's skip over the fact that this was released last February. I need to say how terrific it is, and I need for you to hear how terrific it is. I have loved Jim Suhler's work for over 15 years now--in fact, two cds he made, one with Alan Haynes, "Live At Blue Cat Blues," (2000) and the solo acoustic "Dirt Road," (2002) are among my all time favorites. 

And this new cd is as good as anything he has released over the twenty-plus years he has been making Texas music.

The band this time out includes Carlton Powell and Buddy Momed on bass, Beau Chadwell, Kevin Schermerhorn and Jimmy Morgan on drums, Tim Alexander on piano, organ and accordian, and Shawn Phares on organ, Jim Elmore on guitar, Kim Wilson on harmonica, and Carolyn Wonderland and Ray Benson on vocals, along with Suhler on guitar and vocals. There are thirteen original songs and one cover, "Remember Mama" from To Kill A Mockingbird.

My favorite song here is the wonderful gospel "Amen Corner," which segues into "All God's Children Get The Blues Sometimes." Great organ work by Tim Alexander and great acoustic slide guitar by Mr Suhler. Carolyn Wonderland and Ray Benson add some great vocals.

Jim Suhler is a great singer, songwriter and guitarist. Give "Panther Burn" a listen, and you'll be hooked. You can buy this cd at http://www.jimsuhler.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Finis Tasby & Kid Andersen -- "Snap! Your Fingers"

I have fallen in love over the years with some things in the blues--BB King's guitar intro on "Three O'Clock Blues," the great Boz Scaggs/Duane Allman & The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section "Loan Me A Dime," T Bone Walker's "Call It Stormy Monday," JJ Cale's languorous guitar on "Crazy Mama," Sean Costello's cover of Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist Of Fate," a few others. But one of the things I fell in love with wasn't as well known as those others, and it wasn't even on his own album. Back early in 2006 I listened to Kirk Fletcher's cd "Shades Of Blue" (2004, Delta Groove). That was the very first time I had heard Kim Wilson or Janiva Magness or Finis Tasby sing, and I fell in love with Finis Tasby's voice. He sang "The River's Invitation" with Kirk Fletcher on guitar, Ronnie James Weber on bass and Richard Big Foot Innes on drums and I was hooked. Hooked!

Finis started out in Dallas Texas in 1962 with a band called The Thunderbirds, playing bass and singing behind ZZ Hill. In 1973 Finis left Dallas and moved to Los Angeles, where he played and recorded with the Finis Tasby band and had some success until his chance came--his debut release was "People Don't Care" (1995, Shanachie Records). Following that, Finis released "Jump Children!" (1998, Evidence) and "What My Blues Are All About" (2005, Electro Fi). Since about 2004 Finis has been one of the vocalists for The Mannish Boys, many of whom played on that great Kirk Fletcher cd "Shades Of Blue." 

This is what it says about Finis on the BlueBeat Music.com site about this new cd "Snap! Your Fingers." (BlueBeatMusic):

Finis Tasby has been a fixture on the Southern California blues scene for over 4 decades.  Originally from Dallas Texas, Finis first made his mark on the Bihari Brothers BIG TOWN label in the 70's and has continued recording for labels as diverse as ACE- EVIDENCE- ELECTRO-FI & DELTA GROOVE.  As the lead singer of the MANNISH BOYS, Finis has added his authentic soulful singing to their many fine releases over the past few years.....This set is reminiscent of  early 70's radio blues with hit's originally recorded by the likes of BB KING- ZZ HILL & BOBBY BLAND.  Kid Andersen's production is clear and crisp with just the right touch of sweetness for Finis' gritty style........

The band on this new cd include Finis on vocals, Kid Andersen on guitar, Kedar Roy on bass, June Core on drums.  There are also a passel of guests, like Elvin Bishop on guitar, Lisa Leu Andersen (who adds a great vocal on "Ghetto Woman,") Lorenzo Farrell on organ, Bob Welsh on piano, organ and guitar, Sid Morris on organ, Scott T Miller on rhythm guitar, Butch Cousins on drums, Derrick Martin on percussion and a crack horn section of Jack Sanford on tenor/bari sax, Terry Hanck on tenor sax, and Ed Early on trombone.

I probably need to say that after this cd was recorded, in December 2013, Finis Tasby suffered a massive stroke. Since then he has been paralyzed on his left side, and he is residing at a long term care facility in California. Buying this new cd not only gets you some great blues music by one of the best vocalists around and a band of all-stars, but it provides Finis with an income when he could really use a hand. I hope everybody who reads this review will buy at least one cd. I paid for my review copy myself. 
Finis Tasby, the Original Mannish Boy and award winning vocalist suffered a massive stroke Dec 6, 2012 and remains paralyzed on his left side.
He is currently in a long-term care facility in Santa Ana, Calif.
- See more at: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/blues-legend-finis-tasby-needs-a-lil-help-from-his-friends-/154297#sthash.WcvRezCu.dpuf
Finis Tasby, the Original Mannish Boy and award winning vocalist suffered a massive stroke Dec 6, 2012 and remains paralyzed on his left side.
He is currently in a long-term care facility in Santa Ana, Calif.
- See more at: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/blues-legend-finis-tasby-needs-a-lil-help-from-his-friends-/154297#sthash.WcvRezCu.dpuf
Finis Tasby, the Original Mannish Boy and award winning vocalist suffered a massive stroke Dec 6, 2012 and remains paralyzed on his left side.
He is currently in a long-term care facility in Santa Ana, Calif.
- See more at: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/blues-legend-finis-tasby-needs-a-lil-help-from-his-friends-/154297#sthash.WcvRezCu.dpufFinis Tasby had a massive stroke--and since then he is unable to perform. The new cd is terrific, and buying it gives one of the great blues singers over the past 40 years an income when he really needs a hand up. 

You can buy this cd at http://http://www.bluebeatmusic.com/

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bernie Pearl -- "Take Your Time"

If you love the great blues and folk music from the early 60s through the early 70s, go to you tube and search for "Live at Ash Grove Los Angeles." You can hear music by Mance Lipscomb, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and Muddy Waters, Freddie King, Albert Collins, and Big Mama Thornton. Well, when all those great musicians were playing at the Ash Grove, Bernie Pearl was there too. Bernie's brother Ed ran the Ash Grove from 1958 to 1973, and many of the musicians that played there also taught Bernie as they passed through.

Bernie Pearl is one of my favorite guitar players. When Bernie plays and/or sings, he is not a retro player--he uses everything he has learned along the way to the service of the songs. Bernie has been releasing his own cds at least as far back as 2002, and his newest cd, "Take Your Time," (Bee Bump Music, 2013) is a complete blues' lover's delight. "Take Your Time" is nominated by the Blues Blast Music Awards for "Best Acoustic Album." Featuring Bernie on guitars and vocals along with long-time bassist Mike Berry, this disc also features the extraordinary Barbara Morrison on vocals and Albert Trepagnier Jr on percussion and Bobby "Hurricane" Spencer on tenor sax.

Everything is clear from the first song, "Worried Life Blues." Great finger picking by Bernie, his warm and relaxed vocal this time in a duet with Barbara. Albert adds just the right amount of percussion and Mike's bass is clean. There's no star turn, no rushing, no note out of place--what you hear are professional musicians presenting a great song. You feel like you're right there in the room with them.

And that's the way it rolls for all of the 14 songs. Excellent, just excellent. After you hear it all once I'm sure you'll listen to it again. This cd is dedicated to the memory of Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson. 

You can buy this cd, and all of Bernie's cds, at http://www.cdbaby.com/



Monday, June 30, 2014

Lisa Mann -- "Move On"

Portland Oregon-based Lisa Mann has a fine release in "Move On." She and the Pretty Good Band have been stalwarts of the blues scene around Portland for several years, and from the first funky notes to the end of the disc, they make music with life, passion and style.

Lisa plays bass and sings. The Pretty Good Band is Jeff Knudson on guitars, Michael Ballash on drums and Brian Harris on keyboards.   

From the website: Lisa is a proud inductee into the Cascade Blues Association’s Hall of Fame after winning the Muddy Waters Award for Bass Player of the Year three times in a row. In Nov of 2012, Lisa took home the Muddy for Bass yet again, and to top that off, she took home Female Vocalist of the Year and her “Really Good Band” won Contemporary Blues Act of the Year.  In 2011, she and her Really Good Band represented the CBA at the International Blues Challenge, where they made it to the semi-finals.  Her latest CD, Satisfied, was the CBA’s choice for the Best Self-Produced CD competition through the Blues Foundation.  Lisa also won the Portland Music Award for Outstanding Achievement in Blues in 2012.

Quite a resume, huh? Lisa wrote nine of the 12 songs here, and the covers are "The Blues Is My Medicine" written by Sonny Hess and Paulette Davis, "Ain't That Lovin' You, Baby" written by Jimmy Reed, and "The Blues Is Alright" written by Milton Campbell.    

And there are some stellar musicians here as guests--a big chunk of them from the Portland blues scene--Sonny Hess plays guitar and sings backing vocals on one song, Mitch Kashmar plays harmonica on two tracks and backing vocals on one, Larhonda Steele & Arietta Ward bring backing vocals to two tracks,  Dave Melvan plays drums on three tracks, Alex Shakeri plays piano on two tracks and organ on one, Rae Gordon does backing vocals on one track, and Richard Arnold brings backing vocals to two tracks. The synopsis is there are some great players and singers on this cd, and pretty good songs too.

And the result is that Lisa Mann is back with a vengeance. After a seriously rough patch which included the death of her mother and losing her voice for six months, this really is a triumphant return for all involved.     

you can buy this cd at http://www.lisamannmusic.com

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tweed Funk -- "First Name Lucky"

Tweed Funk formed in 2010 in Milwaukee, and their debut release was "Bringing It." That put them on the map, and their next cd, "Love Is" just kept them climbing. This is their third cd, and this time out, Tweed Funk wanted to make something in the style of those great Memphis soul records. Recorded mostly live in the studio of first or second takes. This is one great cd--just smoking from track one to track eleven! 

Of course, all the members of Tweed Funk have talent and abilities in spades, and they have won awards to prove it. Tweed Funk won the 2012 Wisconsin Area Music Industry award for R&B/Soul Artist of the Year.  For 2013 frontman Smokey took home the WAMI for Male Vocalist of the Year and Bassist Eric Madunic for Bass Player of the Year.  Additionally, Tweed Funk was nominated in 2013 for R&B/Soul Artist of the Year and Kevin Klemme for Brass/Reeds Player of the Year.  In 2011 the band was nominated for a WAMI for New Artist of the Year.  Frontman Smokey was nominated for a 2012 WAMI for Best Male Vocalist. And Kevin Klemme took home the 2014 WAMI for brass/reeds Player Of The Year.

Smokey Holman sings, JD Optekar plays guitar, Eric Madunic plays bass, and Nick Lang plays drums. The horn section is Jon Lovas on sax and Kevin Klemme on trumpet. Rounding things out are Brian "Looper" Lucas on harmonica on "Get It On," and Chrissy Dzioba and Sara Moilanen on backing vocals on three tracks. Seven songs are new Tweed Funk originals, with four covers--a hot reading of "Let The Good Times Roll" that takes it back to its blues roots, a truly amazing "Sugarfoot," with maximum R&B spilling on the floor, an inspired take of "I Got Loaded" that threatens the Los Lobos version, and a cover of "Knock On Wood" sung by Eric Madunic that my wife in the next room thought was Sam and Dave. I really enjoy "Blues In My Soul," an original that, the first time I heard it, made me get up from the computer and dance. 
Sometimes all your heart needs is a guy with a guitar. But there are other times when the sound your heart is looking for is a full band with horns. These guys play it hot and greasy, and the Memphis soul/R&B focus was an inspired choice. It's like listening to Booker T & The MGs again when those guys were all in their prime. 

I could go on and on, but suffice to say this is my new favorite band. You can buy this cd at http://www.tweedfunk.com/