Saturday, February 18, 2017

Michael Hornbuckle -- "SoulRepo"

Michael Hornbuckle is a blues lifer. He started playing drums behind his father, the legendary Denver bluesman Bobby Hornbuckle, at the age of 13. After Bobby passed Michael picked up his Gibson guitar and carried on in the family business, developing over the years into a fine songwriter, an even better vocalist, and a pretty terrific guitarist. The triple threat! The music on SoulRepo is brought to life by Michael Hornbuckle on guitar and vocals, Andras Csapo on harp, Jeff Andrews on bass, and Desmond Washington on drums. Dave Fox plays drums on "Backseat" and Sarah Snead appears on backing vocals.

What I like best about SoulRepo is the way the songs are all well-written, well-played, and intelligent. Hornbuckle doesn't go for the too easy riff, or the ridiculous over the top guitar solo. Every song is presented on its own, and it gets whatever backing or solo or instrumentation it needs. As a result, this is blues music for grownups, with taste and style in abundance. It starts with "Sweat," a blues rocker. "Me And Melody" gets your attention with a nice drum riff and a strong melody hook. "Risin Sun" is the song I have been playing on my Mo' Blues shows--it has really good guitar work and a soulful vocal. "Candle For Mary" is another soulful blues rocker. "Angel" will be the next single for my show--it is an excellent soul song with a lot of swing and a great groove. "Backseat" closes things down with an easy blues shuffle. A very solid release.

Every few weeks, it seems, we hear of another blues artist passing on. That is sad, and those artists will be certainly missed. I still miss BB King and Johnny Winter. But there are a few up and coming folks out there who know how to keep the blues going, and they are doing it the right way. Michael Hornbuckle is one of those, and his music deserves your time and attention. Pick up SoulRepo.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Best releases of 2016 (Better late than never!)

I've been writing this blog since 2007, and in all that time I have never had so much trouble writing a post. Normally the annual "Best Of" post starts nearly writing itself in October-November, and I touch it up a bit in December and there you are. I might polish it a couple more times, but the hardest part is done long before I post it. But two things--first, this year I took a class from early September until January 11, and there just hasn't been the free time I am accustomed to. That's not just an excuse, but it's the truth. And this year I have been doing 8 hours live DJ-ing per week at (Unabashed plug: Two hours of blues music on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2:00-4:00pm eastern time, Mondays 8:00am-noon, also eastern time.)

Anyway, here's my top fifteen for the year...

15.) Trudy Lynn -- I'll Sing The Blues For You (Connor Ray Music) The veteran Houston native has brought forth an excellent album. From the first notes of "Alright Baby" to the last notes of "Down On Bended Knee" Lynn displays a great R&B sensibility and class and style.

14.) Frank Bang & The Cook County Kings -- The Blues Don't Care (Cleopatra Blues) I loved this one. The first blues release by Frank Bang after spending 25 years with Buddy Guy--with strong songs, strong playing and singing. He said "I have been waiting to make this record my whole life."

13.) Sari Schorr & The Engine Room -- A Force Of Nature (Manhaton Records) This came out in September, and it has all the feel of a debut--it seemed to me that they were going for broke with every note. When I first heard it I was exhausted before the end of the first song. There's a lot of energy here--vocal power, great guitar work, interesting songs. They have a world of promise ahead of them.

12.) Diana Rein -- Long Road (Self) This release took Diana eighteen months to create--she wrote everything, plays all the guitars, bass and sings all the vocals. The result was worth every bit of that effort. She channels a bit of Stevie Ray. The title track was the most played song on my Texas Blues Show in 2016.

11.) The Fabulous Thunderbirds -- Strong Like That (Severn Records) See review 1-4-17.

10.) Lex Grey & The Urban Pioneers -- Heal My Soul (Self)  See review 11-19-16.

9.) Lurrie Bell -- Can't Shake This Feeling (Delmark) See review 1-1-17.

8.) The Lucky Losers -- In Any Town (Self) Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz and Kid Andersen and a top-notch rhythm section equalled a terrific release. Great songs, great singing, and great music.

7.) The Joey Gilmore Band -- Respect The Blues (Park Lane Productions Inc) This band of veterans made another very strong album. The best thing about this cd are the covers, especially "Night Time Is The Right Time" with lead vocals by the seriously talented Edlene Hart. In my mind Joey's vocals on this cd push this one just barely ahead of Biscuit Miller's Wishbone at the top of the Band category.

6.) Tweed Funk -- Come Together (Tweed Tone Records) One terrific high-powered horn driven ensemble from Milwaukee. This is their best release so far, although everything they have made since 2010 has been worthwhile. This was the feel bad/feel good story of the year with vocalist Joseph "Smokey" Holman's cancer scare--but with things looking up for the band in this new year, I toast Tweed Funk's strength and resilience.  

5.) Toronzo Cannon -- The Chicago Way (Alligator) For one of the few times, I agree with the rest of the blues world. This is a terrific release. That first vocal "Woooooo" in the song "Walk It Off" makes it Bruce's Song Of The Year.

4.) Guy King -- Truth (Delmark) Wonderful jazz-influenced blues. Guitar and vocals to enjoy in any mood or occasion. Would have almost made this list for the opening track along, the Ray Charles song "The Same Thing That Makes You Laugh (Can Make You Cry)." In my mind, this release stood out as the antidote this year to losing B B King.

3.) Dave Keller -- Rick Back Atcha (Self) This one has been in my cd player an awful lot last year, mostly just for the joy of Dave Keller's voice. Tied with Guy King for best vocals of 2016. Special shout out to the Mo' Sax Horns--I love horns on a blues album.

2.) Albert Castiglia -- Big Dog (Ruf) This one came out at # 3 in the annual Roots Music Report, behind only Tedeschi Trucks Band's "Let Me Get By" and Janiva Magness' "Love Wins Again." I liked Albert's cd better than both of those. This cd is the best work Albert has done so far. Cudos to Mike Zito for helping Albert achieve just that little bit extra. My pick for best blues-rock cd of the year.

1.) Deb Ryder -- Grit Grease & Tears (Bejab Music) Deb Ryder's wonderful vocals and a cast of terrific guest artists make this a stellar release. "Prisoner Of War" is my favorite song here, but they're all simply excellent. 

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://