Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Review: Jon Paris "Blue Planet" Blues Leaf Records

The thing about blues music is there are always deeper roots to be explored. Before James 'Blood' Ulmer there was Howling Wolf. Before Howling Wolf there was Elmore James. And before Elmore James there was Robert Johnson. And before Robert Johnson there was Charley Patton.

Well, lately I've been listening to newer stuff, particularly Chris James & Patrick Rynn and Ian Parker and Matthew Stubbs and Todd Wolfe--and all this listening seems to lead me back to Albert Castiglia and Michael Bloomfield and Peter Green. And to one other guitar slinger, who may not be as well known as these others I've mentioned: Jon Paris.

Jon Paris is well known as a guitar ace to blues fans around New York City, but he might not be as familiar to those of us out in the "flyover zone." He played with Johnny Winter for ten years. He also toured with Mick Taylor, who was with a little band you might remember called Rolling Stones. Well, after all that, Jon Paris put out a great cd in 2002 called "Blue Planet." The band is Jon Paris–guitar, harp & vocals; Amy Madden– bass; Sandy Gennaro-Drums. Yessir Mark, this is a slammin' three piece, and they lay down some of the heaviest blues yet done in this 21st Century! The guitar and vocals are double heavy, the drumming kicks, and the bass is rock solid. I've listened to this cd a bunch lately and it gets better every time through. The opener "Good To Go" could have been a radio hit in 2002--it sounds a little like The Fabulous Thunderbirds tune "Wrap It Up." Then Paris does the John Lee Hooker number "The Boogie" and "Til I Lost You" which sounds like Robin Trower should have done it. There is a Muddy Waters number, "the Blues Had A Baby" a Sonny Thompson number, "the Sad Night Owl" and an Elmore James number "Talk To Me, Baby" and several fine originals. Paris does an especially fine Bo Diddley-styled treatment of "Big Big City." Even though this cd shows its roots, two things stand out--it sounds like great stuff, and it does a great job of blowing on those embers to make the fire HOT!

You can buy this cd at Blues Leaf Records. http://www.bluesleaf.com Pick it up--you'll see what I'm talking about.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Matthew Stubbs and Ian Parker

I have a couple of artists I want to tell you about--some really good new players coming on the scene and bringing an energy and craft to their music. Matthew Stubbs and Ian Parker both have new cds out--Matthew Stubbs' cd is "Soul Bender" and it is on Vizztone, and Ian Parker's new cd is "The official Bootleg" and it is as best I can tell an Indy release.

Let me talk about each cd a bit. Matthew Stubbs may only be 25 years old, but he is a fine electric guitarist. "Soul Bender" is my introduction to this artist, and this cd is a rarity--all original instrumentals played over a tight solid rhythm section and with soulful horn accompaniment which includes "Sax Gordon" Beadle. He starts things off with an uptempo surf-ish workout on the title cut, and then he does a nice Bo Diddley-ish number, and then with "Rivelli's Mood" things start getting GOOD. I keep thinking I'm listening to a Steve Cropper record. "Jacksonville Jerk" and "20 Gallons of Beadle Juice" wouldn't be out of place on a mid 60's soul record coming out of Stax--& that's high praise. There's a sax and guitar number "Stomping on Thru" that could be from an old Boots Randolph record. "Stubbs Sauce" burns smooth and sweet like the BBQ sauce it's named after. This cd just pulls you in--there aren't any extra notes, there aren't any any cliched riffs--all there is here is good cool instrumental music. Matthew Stubbs is now playing in Charlie Musselwhite's band, as well as playing with the "Soul Bender" band. A real good cd. An up and comer.

Now let me talk about Ian Parker. He is a fine young English guitar player with taste and touch rare for anyone twice his age. "Bootleg" is recorded live in the UK February 2008. Seven of the ten songs here are originals--there are also covers of Memphis Slim's "Everyday (I Have The Blues)" and Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" and perhaps most curiously, a cover of U2's "With or Without You." It's a 4 piece band--Ian on guitar, 'Morg' Morgan on keyboards, Steve Amadeo on bass, Wayne Proctor on drums. They make up a really good band--they play tight like they've played together for years, yet loose enough for Parker to twist the melody here and there without kurfluffle. The band just pulls you along with their fine playing. Several of the songs are near 9 minutes; "Don't Hold Back" is the longest cut here, just over 11 minutes, and it is the only one that might have improved with some editing. But things pick up when the band kicks off "Everyday"--this song has been a guitar showcase forever--before this I always thought Robben Ford's version was my favorite. But Ian Parker here floats like a young BB King, flat out burning it up. After that comes a beautiful version of "Little Wing." I know there are great versions of this song--Jimi's original, Stevie Ray, Eric Clapton--but it is amazingly beautiful here. I found myself leaning towards the speakers just to hear Ian better. Following these two great performances the band does two nicely played but generic boogie blues tunes, "If It Must Be" and "In The Morning" which has a terrific guitar solo. Then they close with the U2 cover on Ian on acoustic guitar. It's a breathtaking moment--I can almost see the lighters swaying over the crowd.

I really like both of these cds--and I urge you to go hear these guys live. Both deserve your support.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chris James and Patrick Rynn--"Stop And Think About It"

This is my favorite cd right now. When I had friends over the other evening, I slipped this cd into the player and conversation just stopped and smiles appeared all around the room. Chris James (vocals and guitar) and Patrick Rynn (bass and 2nd vocal) put a lot of good energy into these songs, an energy that's infectious. They are both stellar musicians in their own right--half of the Blue Four--and they have played together for 18 years. On this disc James and Rynn are both in top form. Here's how well it goes over--my friends couldn't tell whether it was a new cd or a slice of obscure late 50s Chicago Blues. Quite a compliment.

This disc is mostly original songs, and they are good. Then there are some outstanding covers. Bo Diddley's "Confessin' The Blues" and "Mona" are here, along with two from Elmore James--"Hawaiian Boogie" and "Got To Move." And there are several top-flight guests here as well--including Bob Corritore playing harp on five songs, Sam Lay and and Eddie Kobek splitting up the drum chores, David Maxwell and Julien Brunetaud splitting up the piano duties. If you are a fan of the blues and read the credits on the back of your blues cds all of these names will be familiar. This is an all-star quality band making some really good blues music.

This cd is on Earwig Records--you can access it online at http://www.earwigmusic.com/