It’s time again for Bruce’s famous end of the year list. Let me begin by noting that there were LOTS of good blues discs in 2009, some from expected sources, some from newer artists, some from the dead. (Thank you to Landslide Records for “Sean’s Blues.”) Each of the following discs are worth your time and money. These are the discs that have stayed in my cd player and on my mind all during this year.
10. DAVID MAXWELL & LOUISIANA RED -- “YOU GOT TO MOVE” (Blue Max/Vizztone)
Essential tracks of terrific guitar and piano blues by two of the coolest blues cats on their respective instruments. Louisiana Red may not be the fanciest guitar player around, but he sings and plays and tells blues stories as well as anybody. David Maxwell has been at the top rank of blues piano players for several years now. He reminds anybody who forgot that the piano can play lead or follow or anything in between. Old school music-making by masters of the art. These guys could have made this record in any year between 1952 and now and they still would have earned a spot on this list. Special note--the last two tracks on this disc are Red talking about blues in the old days, and I need to give the record company cudos for putting this on the cd. Red talking about the blues, talking anything about the blues, is well worth having. This is history first hand.
9. HAMILTON LOOMIS -- “LIVE IN ENGLAND” (Ham-Bone Records)
Live disc of the year. Recorded at Famous Monday Blues in Oxford and Liverpool Marina in Liverpool. Loomis on guitar and harmonica and vocals, and Stratton Doyle on tenor sax, keyboards and vocals, Kent Beatty on bass and Jamie Little on drums and vocals all together make a joyous, lively, warm and happy blues sound in front of a small and very enthusiastic audience. Loomis shows his fine guitar work, and his singing is the best I’ve ever heard from him. Stratton Doyle gives clear evidence throughout --especially on “What It Is” and “Best Worst Day” -- that a saxaphone should ALWAYS be part of every blues band playing live. Part of why I like this disc is that it reminds me of another one of my favorites cds that at the time seemed to come out of nowhere and make listening to music enjoyable again--the cd by Billy Vera & The Beaters from 1981.
8. MARSHALL LAWRENCE -- “THE MORNING AFTER” (Indy)
Marshall Lawrence is a fine acoustic guitarist and blues singer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and on "The Morning After" he continues his successful formula: fiery slices of delta-flavored acoustic slide guitar with just enough backing to fill out the sound. Lawrence writes nine of the 13 tracks here, and the originals are wonderful--modern, bluesy, inviting, expressive. The tone is exactly right--and the covers are very fine, including Blind Willie McTell's "Blue Sky Is Fallin'," Tommy Johnson's "Bye Bye Blues," Charlie Patton's "Moon Goin' Down," and Taj Mahal's "Light Rain Blues." The Tommy Johnson track is the highlight of the disc, as Lawrence absolutely reinterprets the classic number. It's still delta-style country blues, but new. This disc has been my Sunday morning soundtrack most of the year.
7. MAC ARNOLD & PLATE FULL O’BLUES -- "COUNTRY MAN" (Vizztone Records)
Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’Blues have “it”--they play together with a big full blues sound. This is the 3rd cd by Arnold’s latest band, made up of Austin Brashear (guitar), Max Hightower (harmonica), Mike Whitt (drums), and Danny Keylon (bass), assisted by producer Bob Margolin. Twelve of the 13 tracks are originals. The band plays the hell out of every song, and Arnold’s voice is a national treasure. Mac Arnold should be heard on every radio station in America. Special credit for "If Walls Could Talk," my favorite blues song of the year.
6. GEOFF ACHISON -- “ONE TICKET TO RIDE” (Jupiter 2 Records)
This new cd "One Ticket One Ride" is Geoff's response to the experience of living in the US. He wrote all the songs, and he recruited the recording band, which included the red hot rhythm section of Ted Pecchio & Tyler ‘Falcon’ Greenwell with guest spots by Oliver Wood and legendary drummer Yonrico Scott. It's a really wide-ranging cd, stylistically, and the highlights are many. My favorite so far might be "Bootbanger," which is a powerful instrumental blues a la Jeff Beck, but all the songs here feature great song writing and great playing. This is Geoff's best cd so far--it keeps slipping into my cd player while I’m not looking.
5. JOHN NEMETH -- “LOVE ME TONIGHT” (Blind Pig Records)
John Nemeth brings the goods on this, his second cd on Blind Pig. His previous disc, "Magic Touch," was one of my favorites from 2007. Here he is more confident....and tougher. In the blues these days the guitar is front and center. But as Nappy Brown showed us, this music is first and foremost made up of songs, stories made believable by the singing. And how many blues artists out there WANT the microphone in their hands at crunch time? Nemeth sings the hell out of everything here, and he plays an awesome overdriven harmonica. All the songs on this disc but one are originals, even though everything here sounds on the edge of familiar. Bobby Welsh (guitars and keyboards), June Core (drums), Dmitry Gorodetsky and Kedar Roy (bass), help Nemeth spin out every song so that it is powerful and believable. I especially enjoy "Fuel For Your Fire" and "Blues In My Heart," two tracks that would just sound silly if sung by lesser singers. in Nemeth's hands they are highlights. Elvin Bishop guests on guitar on two tracks.
4. BIG PETE PEARSON “FINGER IN YOUR EYE” (Vizztone Records)
Big Pete Pearson may be the finest living blues shouter out there. He has been making great music snce back in the 50s, but this is no nostalgia act. "Finger In Your Eye" is produced by Bob Corritore. Pearson wrote all ten songs here. Backing Pearson is the Phoenix-based Rhythm Room All-Stars--Bob Corritore on harp, Chris James on guitar, Patrick Rynn on bass, and Brian Fahey on drums--along with guest appearances by a who's who of great players: Duke Robillard, Johnny Rapp, Eddie Taylor Jr and Billy Flynn on guitars, Pinetop Perkins, Henry Gray (whose piano work almost steals the show on "Heartaches"), Matt Bishop, Michael Kocour, and Bruce Bears on piano and organ, and Doug James on bari saxophone. Everybody plays great, and every song is a timeless slice of Chicago style blues.
3. NICOLE HART -- “TREASURE” (Blues Leaf Records)
Nicole has always had a great voice, and a way to "sell" a song, and a really good band leader in Lance Ong. I've always thought that the key for her is strong material. Well, "Treasure" is her major label debut, and she has captured all that Nicole Hart magic on one disc. Nicole sings her ass off, and she gets strong musical support from a group of New Jersey's A-listers, including Sonny Kenn, Ron Rauso, and Marc Shulman on guitars, Swami and Ian Carroll on drums, and Sandy Mack on harmonica on two tracks. She covers a wide range of styles, and the strongest songs here include a hot cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground," featuring the aforementioned Lance Ong on keyboards, and Albert Castiglia brings his tasteful guitar to one track, a wonderful Patsy Cline-ish cover of Percy Mayfield's "You Were Lyin' To Me,” and Hart does a bravura take on the Fletcher Henderson/Henry Troy song "Gin House Blues," and there is a sweet cover of Paul Kennerley's "Heart Trouble" which cuts the take by Martina McBride. And there are two Hart/Ong originals, including the title track, which fit right in.
2. LEVEE TOWN-- “LEVEE TOWN" (Indy)
Levee Town’s third release in a career that goes back to only 2002 has to be good to make this list. These guys are good enough to be International Blues Challenge Finalists in 2007 and 2010 from Kansas City. The quartet consists of Brandon Hudspeth (guitar & vocals) Jimmie Meade (harmonica & vocals) Jacque Garoutte (bass & vocals) and Jan Faircloth (drums& vocals). They wrote these 14 tracks that sound like a bunch of old guys--and then they all sing and play them like a band of brothers. When I hear these guys I think of NIck Moss & the Flip Tops, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones and a dozen other bands that travel the land, telling the blues truth on stage every night.
1. SEAN COSTELLO -- "SEAN’S BLUES” (Landslide Records)
My number one disc of the year because of the dozen songs here that were previously unreleased. There are five tracks from 1998, including a great "Walking Blues" featuring Susan Tedeschi on vocals and Paul Linden on harmonica. There are three exceptional live tracks, "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" and "Mojo Boogie" from a show in Marquette Michigan in 2000 and "Motor Head Baby" from a show in Chicago in 2001. In fact, "Motor Head Baby" might be not only the highlight of this disc but of Sean's entire recorded output so far. Incredible. And then there are four studio tracks from 2002, including a marvelously understated and passionate "You Don't Know What Love Is" and two songs that appeared on later cds in re-arranged form--"Feel Like I Ain't Got A Home" and "She Changed My Mind." When the last notes of this disc fade away I am sad all over again at what we have lost, but I am grateful for what we have. Thank you Landslide Records, for a wonderful addition to the Sean Costello discography.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
On "Driving Blues" Texas Slim brings his authentic Texas blues guitar and vocals! This is Slim's second cd, after 2002's "I Have Arrived," and it is great to get another slice of Slim's top-notch rockin' blues guitar styling. Slim sounds great--every track shows the variety of that smoking Texas blues, with all the grit and growl and that great Texas guitar sound. The band is Aaron Comess from the Spin Doctors on drums bass and production, Alan Comess on keyboards, Pat Daughery on electric piano on "Deville," and Todd Horton on trumpet on "Cool With The Flow" and "Deville" and they give Slim a great sympathetic backing throughout. Every song is hot--things start off with "Welcome To The Game" and it just keeps going. The title track and "Three Bridges Blues" are big time SRV homage--they would fit in with any set of SRV songs, on every radio station in the country. "You're Hip" sounds like the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and "Funky Love" sounds like the master himself--Johnny Winter. On "Deville" Slim nods toward Tom Waits, just a bit, a fine soulful ballad featuring great work by the Mr Daughery and Mr Horton and a guitar solo that Jeff Beck would be proud to claim. And that's just the first half of the disc! Believe me, it's all good--check out "Coffee Shop Girl" and you'll have that tune running in your head all day long.
In my humble opinion, this is one of the best cds of the year, and the best cd to come out of Texas since Jim Suhler's "Dirt Road" in 2002. Top Cat Records has another winner. You can buy this disc at http://www.topcatrecords.com
Thursday, November 5, 2009
This is the best disc Todd Wolfe has made, and that is saying quite a lot. Again Todd Wolfe brings the guitar fire and the searing vocals he is known for, although everything here is better than I expected it to be. It's a blues trio disc with Todd Wolfe's regular band--Todd on guitars and vocals, Suavek Zaniesienko on bass and backing vocals, and Roger Voss on drums and percussion. The only guests on this set are Sarah Ayers on vocals, (and she adds a great Bonnie Bramlett-style vibe) and Rich Frikkers on percussion. It was recorded and engineered by Theo Aronson at The Bang Palace in Bethlehem, PA. It is obvious that Todd Wolfe and the band feel very comfortable in the space--things are smooth and powerful and tightly musical throughout.. Highlights include a great version of Muddy Waters' "She's Nineteen Years Old" that updates the original, a spooky "Black Night" that would have been perfect for Halloween, a very fine version of Howlin' Wolf's "Evil" that is like the proverbial watched pot--it's a slow boiler, but it gets there. There's a fine cover of BB King's "Three O'Clock Blues," and a soulful Delaney & Bonnie duet style take of "Come In My Kitchen," and a fun cover of the old Mountain chestnut "Mississippi Queen" with Wolfe playing what sounds like an acoustic National steel body slide guitar. There's a powerful cover of "It's All Over Now" that sounds like it could be by Tommy Castro--and shows just how far Todd Wolfe has grown from his days as Sheryl Crow's guitar player. And he throws in these little touches--a bit of the Allman Brothers on "It's all Over Now," a bit of Led Zeppelin on "Roll Over"--that remind me how this music is supposed to be fun.
Todd Wolfe is big time already--he makes great music. This disc is on the Blues Leaf label, and it comes out next Tuesday November 10. Grab this one!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Readers of this blog will know that I love the music of Sean Costello, and it was an immense loss when he died in April 2008 one day short of his 29th birthday. Luckily there is this release from Landslide Records, which is a retrospective of Sean's career from 1996 to 2002. Of the 20 tracks here, three come from the disc "Call The Cops" (1996) three from the disc "Cuttin' In" (2000)" and two from "Moanin' For Molasses" (2001) and the remaining dozen are previously unreleased, including three live cuts from 2000 and 2001. I hope you already have the official releases--they are really good--and if you don't, go grab them immediately. This was one artist who knew the blues, who played and sang with talent and taste and authenticity. Sean was one of the very brightest players in blues.
So when I picked up this disc I was nervous--is this a cleaning out the vault, a package of second rate material trying to capitalize on Sean's untimely death? In a word, is it worthy of his legacy? YES YES YES! This is a wonderful addition to the Sean Costello discography. The re-released songs are all fine, and the other dozen are all absolutely wonderful. There are five tracks from 1998, including a great "Walking Blues" featuring Susan Tedeschi on vocals, Paul Linden on harmonica. There are three exceptional live tracks, "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" and "Mojo Boogie" from a show in Marquette Michigan in 2000 and "Motor Head Baby" from a show in Chicago in 2001. In fact, "Motor Head Baby" might be not only the highlight of this disc but of Sean's entire recorded output so far. Incredible--Sean's ability to sizzle and burn are here on full display! And then there are four studio tracks from 2002, including a marvelously understated and passionate "You Don't Know What Love Is" and two songs that appeared on later cds in re-arranged form--"Feel Like I Ain't Got A Home" and "She Changed My Mind." When the last notes fade away I am sad all over again at what we have lost, but I am grateful for what we have. Thank you Landslide Records.
All in all, a really nice package. I hope this is not the last disc of Sean Costello music--I'm hoping for a companion disc or two (or three) of material from 2003-2008, hopefully including an entire live concert. Hey, a guy can hope, can't he?
A portion of the royalties from this disc will benefit the Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bi-Polar Research. To learn more about that, go to http://www.seancostellofund.org
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Dave Riley and Bob Corritore have made another old-fashioned blues record, the kind of guitar and harmonica record you just don't find out there very much anymore. Their first cd together, 2007's "Travelin' the Dirt Road" was a Blues Music Award nominee for Acoustic Album of the Year and Blues Blast Music Award nominee for Best Traditional Blues Recording. This one takes off right where that one left off, and that's a high compliment. Again it's mostly an acoustic outing, rich and deep blues, full of love and loss and infectious joy. There is a big dose of Jelly Roll King music here--four of the songs here are by Frank Frost. Riley's guitar and vocals and Corritore's harp are all perfectly together like one three-part musical monster--that guitar, those deep as a well vocals, and the harp all fit together seamlessly, every part helps tell the story. Other members of the Rhythm Room All Stars Chris James (guitar), Henry Gray (piano), and Patrick Rynn (bass), guest on various tracks, but the whole disc feels like Riley and Corritore just sitting on the front porch and playing. It's MUSIC, friends--good real music. If you want to make yourself deeply happy, get both this cd and The Jelly Roll Kings cd "Rockin' the Juke Joint Down." You will not regret it. A wonderful treat.
The cd release show for this disc is October 10 at the Arkansas Blues and Heritage festival in Helena, Arkansas at the Delta Cultural Center. The cd is on Blue Witch Records, and you can buy it at http://www.bluewitchrecords.com
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Dennis Jones' "Pleasure & Pain" marks a big step forward for this blues guitar slinger. File this one with Todd Wolfe and Corey Stevens--all are rising guitar aces following in the considerable blues-rock shadow of Stevie Ray Vaughan. But unlike the hundreds of wanna-bees playing the same thing over and over again, Jones has the goods to break through. He writes all the songs here, and he has FUN featuring enough variety of styles in the 11 songs to hook fans of all kinds of blues. I can hear a little Jeff Beck, a little ZZ Top, a little Jimi Hendrix--but not so much that listening becomes an dull exercise in recognizing sources. There's a lot of Dennis Jones in every song here, a lot of Jones' inventive guitar work and good singing. This cd stays in the "hot stack" near my cd player way after the review was written. I especially enjoy "Kill The Pain," which has an especially fat guitar hook, and "Home Tonight," which has nice harmonica work by guest artist Jimmy Z, and "Hot Sauce," where Jones' burns it up like a demented Johnny Cash singing over stinging hot guitar work and that wonderful rockabilly beat from way back in the day. Every song here is worthy of your time, and those three are recommended for radio play.
I like Dennis Jones, and I enjoy this disc. I look forward to his next steps. You can purchase this disc at http://www.cdbaby.com
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Fairly often I come across someone who has the idea that "The blues are dead!" I've always responded by playing some great music for them--music by newer artists like Albert Castiglia, Ruthie Foster, Dave Gross, the Insomniacs. Well, I have a new disc to add to that list--J P Soars' "Back Of My Mind." J P hails from Boca Raton Florida, and he surely has the chops--he & his band, The Red Hots, won the 2009 IBC in Memphis last February, and he also won the Albert King award there as best guitarist. So it is comes as no surprise that "Back Of My Mind" is a fine cd, with a full compliment of great swinging guitar moments. Soars is joined here by A J Kelly on bass, and Chris Peet on drums. Together, this trio makes up J P Soars And The Red Hots. Other musicians on the project include: Gary Rimmington on electric and upright bass, Terry Hanck on saxophone, Billy Burns on harmonica, Greg Kingsolver on piano, John Epstein on Hammond organ, and Guillermo Lojo on backup vocals. Four of the songs are J P Soars originals, and they fit in quite well with a wide-ranging batch of cool covers, including T Bone Walker's "Low Dirty Deal," J B Lenoir's "Been Down So Long," and Johnny Guitar Watson's "Gangster Of Love." My favorite tracks are the superb Muddy Waters' "Gypsy Woman," with great guitar work, and the original "Baby I Used To Love You" which features an old-timey acoustic feel. The focus throughout the disc is on the whole band, playing music as an ensemble, and some great solos are taken by sax man Terry Hanck and harp ace Billy Burns. Soars brings the great guitar playing that he is known for, and his singing is pretty good too. I'm not sure we really needed another cover of Willie Dixon's "29 Ways" or the Reverend Gary Davis's "Cocaine," but that's just a quibble. Everything here is terrific--top ten nominee for 2009.
You can buy this disc online at http://www.myspace.com/jpsoars
Monday, August 3, 2009
Missy Andersen's debut cd came out last January, and it is as cool and welcome on my cd player as a wintery breeze in August. She is from San Diego, and she got her start working there with Earl Thomas. This disc, recorded in Copenhagen Denmark, features Missy singing with a full band--Heine Andersen on guitars, Asmus Jensen on drums, Soren Bojgaard on bass, and Jeppe Juul on Hammond B-3 organ, along with Robbie Smith on trumpet and Bob Mathes on saxaphone for five tracks. The results are sometimes Lou Rawls smooth, as on "Tell Mama," sometimes sublime, as on "Same Old Blues," sometimes too busy, as on the O V Wright tune "Ace of Spades," and sometimes too cautious, as on Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain," where the arrangement seems just a tad too stock. The standout tracks here are "Same Old Blues," the Nix-penned classic, on which Missy makes a joyous and righteous noise, and her cover of the Junior Wells' classic "Little By Little," which she changes around and makes fine indeed. Those two songs alone make this disc worth seeking, and all eight songs show a lot of promise. I'm looking forward to Missy Andersens's next steps. You can hear more of Missy Andersen's music at http://www.myspace.com/missyandersenlive
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Big Pete Pearson is the King of Arizona Blues. This is only his 3rd cd in a career that began back in the 50s, but this is no nostalgia act. "Finger In Your Eye" is a fine disc, produced by Bob Corritore. Pearson wrote all ten songs here. Backing Pearson is the Phoenix-based Rhythm Room All-Stars--Bob Corritore on harp, Chris James on guitar, Patrick Rynn on bass, and Brian Fahey on drums--along with guest appearances by a who's who of great players: Duke Robillard, Johnny Rapp, Eddie Taylor Jr and Billy Flynn on guitars, Pinetop Perkins, Henry Gray (whose piano work almost steals the show on "Heartaches"), Matt Bishop, Michael Kocour, and Bruce Bears on piano and organ, and Doug James on bari saxophone. I would have LOVED to be a fly on the wall at these sessions. Everybody plays great, every song is a timeless slice of Chicago style blues, and Big Pete may be the finest living blues shouter out there. If you hesitate because you haven't heard of Big Pete before, it's time you got wise. What else can I say? If you have even one drop of blues-loving blood in your veins, you will love this disc. A welcome addition. You need to buy this cd at http://www.vizztone.com
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The Mojo Roots are a really good 'n hot 4 piece band that hails from Columbia Missouri. They came together in the summer of 2008 and have been playing together since then all around mid-Missouri. Thanks to my friend Chris Puyear I recently came into possession of their EP, five tracks that show a lot of energy and potential. The members are: Andy Naugle on drums, Peter Bermudez on bass, Trevor Judkins on lead and slide guitar, and Jordan Thomas on vocals, harp and guitar. These guys play an ear-friendly twin guitar and harp blues with a big fat back beat. It sounds like they have listened to The Bel Airs and learned a lot--the Mojo Roots' sound is perfectly made for live performances. The songs are all originals, written by Jordon Thomas--kicking things off is "Green Eyed Baby," a twist on the jealousy angle--sample lyric: "you better think twice before you chase me, because it just might get you killed." The next couple of songs are about different types of addiction: "Can't Quit Cigarettes" and "Fishnets." The rest of the EP is filled out with "She's Got A Smile," a love song with some especially fine harmonica playing. Last but not least is the best song on the EP, "Ain't New To The Blues," sample lyric "I may be a young man, but I ain't new to the blues." All together a very fine start indeed. On my next trip to Missouri I want to make sure I get to catch these guys live. The band is currently unsigned. Check them out at http://www.myspace.com/themojoroots
Monday, July 6, 2009
If you like the music of Patsy Cline or K D Lang or Norah Jones you need to check out this cd. Mia Vermillion's cd "Alone Together With The Blues" features two terrific talents--the vocals by Mia, and the guitars by Orville Johnson. They both come out of the Seattle, Washington area, and from the liner notes it appears that most of this disc was recorded in one or the other's living rooms. The combination of Mia and Orville is quite magical. It's not a loud or rushed presentation. It's a fine acoustic music cd, rounded out with a gentle and perfectly swinging rhythm section by Chuck Deardorf and Ben Smith. The tempos are relaxed, the vocal is front and center--and the guitar is sweet and grooving. The resulting music is tasteful and richly rewarding. Vermillion writes only two of the songs here, but they fit the overall vibe very well--and one of them, "Love's Lost And Found," might be the best track on the disc. The covers are well-chosen: a terrific take on Lil Green's "In The Dark," Leroy Carr's "In The Evening," Big Bill Broonzy's "When I Have Been Drinkin'" and a really well-done take of "I'm Going To Copyright Your Kisses," Mary Lou Williams' "Walkin.'" The cd's last track is another winner--the Lew Pollack/Paul Francis Weber classic "Two Cigarettes In The Dark" with a wonderful guest turn by Hans Teuber on clarinet that wraps up the song and the cd just beautifully.
This one may not appeal to the folks who love loud guitar pyrotechnics, but in its quiet and winning way this is a really good cd. Available online at http://www.miavermillion.com
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I didn't really know what to expect with this disc. I have seen Big Bill Morganfield live, and on stage he is a big powerful bluesman--a powerful singer, perhaps a little one dimensional. But I was wrong. On this cd he continues his transformation from Muddy Water's son to becoming his own artist. "Born Lover" is a very fine disc of Chicago style blues--Big Bill's best disc so far. Big Bill has an unerring ear for blues songs which suit his big voice well--his baritone has a lot more nuance than I expected. He sings the blues with truth, a dose of heart and soul. Big Bill wrote three songs here, "High Gas Prices," "Who's The Fool?" and "X-Rated Lover," and he and the band bring to life Willie Dixon's "One Kiss," Buddy Guy's "My Love Is Real," Howling Wolf's "My Last Affair," and his father's song "Born Lover." I think Big Bill's take on "My Love Is Real" is even better than Buddy's original. Of course, Big Bill doesn't do it all by himself--he is backed by a great band consisting of Chuck Cotton on drums, Mookie Brill on bass, Clark Stern on keyboards, Brian Bisesi and Bob Margolin on guitars and Steve Guyger on harmonica. The band sounds absolutely spot on throughout--this is the living Chicago blues, y'all! I want to recognize the great harp work by Guyger on "Born Lover" and great piano work by Stern on "Who's The Fool?" There are moments such as when Stern and Guyger weave piano and harp around Morganfield's slide guitar on the ending of Snooky Pryor's "Peace of Mind" when I am reminded why I love this music.
A very good disc. Available 7-7-09 from Vizztone, at http://www.vizztone.com and at http://www.bigbillmorganfield.com
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Geoff Achison has carved out quite a niche as a guitar player and as a singer over the past dozen years. Originally from Australia, he moved to Decatur Georgia for a couple of years, arriving at about the same time I moved to Decatur from Missouri. I knew his music with the Souldiggers, and I had played him on my show "The Sunday Night Blues Project" on KJLU--but in person he is such an incredible guitarist and such a great songwriter that he still impressed me. While he was in town I must have heard him play half a dozen times--electric, acoustic, solo, with a band--and each evening was a treat. Those in the know about Geoff already know how great he is. What I'd love to do is get him better known by the rest of you. The music Geoff plays is not exactly blues music, not exactly folk music, not exactly rock music or jazz--but he plays all of those genres and he weaves a powerfully personal music. This new cd "One Ticket One Ride" is Geoff's response to the experience of living in the US. He wrote all the songs, and he recruited the recording band, which included the red hot rhythm section of Ted Pecchio & Tyler ‘Falcon’ Greenwell with guest spots by Oliver Wood and legendary drummer Yonrico Scott. It's a really wide-ranging cd, stylistically, and the highlights are many. My favorite so far might be "Bootbanger," which is a powerful instrumental blues a la Jeff Beck, but all the songs here feature great song writing and great playing. This is Geoff's best cd so far, and that's saying something profound. Right now he is on a six week tour of the Southeast United States, and I'm going to go see him this Thursday at The Melting Point in Athens, Georgia with the Yonrico Scott Band. Check him out!
You can buy this cd directly from Geoff at: http://www.geoffachison.com/
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Joe Price's cd "Rain Or Shine" should be in the hands of every bottleneck slide guitar blues lover--and every slide guitar blues student, and every blues lover. This guy lays it down with passion and exuberance and taste. He has been playing the blues in and around Iowa for over 35 years, beginning with the Rocket 88s (through 1974) and continuing with Mother Blues (from 1975-1981) opening shows for Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Koko Taylor and a host of others. He reminds me of Bernie Pearl and Geoff Achison--really good guitar players who have paid their dues for years and years despite never getting their props, players that the national media have never heard of, players who can and do take the stage and bring the real-deal blues out of a lifetime of experience and give their listeners a joyous good time with playing that is always new, always old, but most of all true to life. Price should be wayyyyy more well know than he is. So what if his singing voice reminds me a little bit of Leo Kottke? Blues is not about notes, it's about FEEL and LIFE. On this disc Joe, along with his wife Vicky on vocals and second guitar, brings old-school blues to clattering, rocking, screeching LIFE, built around that acoustic and/or resonator guitar slide sound, full of joy and lament, alternating between instrumentals and vocals. Highlights for me include the songs "Steel Guitar" and "Blues On Twelve" and "Beer Tent Boogie Woogie." But my favorite song is the last one, "Rock Slide," when you actually get to hear what Joe & Vicky can do working with a band--and Keni Ewing on drums and Al Naylor on trumpet really add a funky spice to the proceedings. I hope next time out the whole disc is a full band outing!
It all makes me wonder--why does this guy languish in relative obscurity while we get a seemingly endless parade of crap singers on the radio?
You can buy Joe Price's cd at http://www.cdbaby/cd/joeprice4
Thursday, May 28, 2009
John Nemeth brings the goods on this, his second cd on Blind Pig. His previous disc, "Magic Touch," was one of my favorites from 2007. Here he is more confident....and tougher. In the blues these days the guitar is front and center. But as Nappy Brown showed us, this music is first and foremost made up of songs, stories made believable by the singing. And how many blues artists out there WANT the microphone in their hands at crunch time? Nemeth sings the hell out of everything here, and he plays an awesome overdriven harmonica. All the songs on this disc but one are originals, even though everything here sounds on the edge of familiar. With a touch of Sam Cooke's spirit, Bobby Welsh on guitars and keyboards, June Core on drums, Dmitry Gorodetsky and Kedar Roy on bass, Nemeth spins out every song so that it is powerful and believable. I especially enjoy "Fuel For Your Fire" and "Blues In My Heart," two tracks that would just sound silly if sung by lesser singers. in Nemeth's hands they are highlights. Elvin Bishop guests on guitar on two tracks.
I have been looking forward to this release for a long time, and "Love Me Tonight" is worth the wait. An impressive disc.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
I need to thank my friend Mark Smith for telling me about The Insomniacs. Mark is the longtime "blues pilot" on KJLU at Lincoln University in Jefferson City Missouri, and back in August of 2007 Mark handed me the Insomniacs' first cd and told me "Listen to these guys. They've got the goods." That same night I sat in the dark and listened to "Left Coast Blues" through the headphones--and I heard smooth swinging west coast blues, the authentic real deal. Ever since then I've been looking for the next disc by these guys. Well, it's here and "At Least I'm Not With You" is even better! That debut disc was recorded on a shoestring budget, but this one has the clout of Delta Groove behind the guys. Since 2007 the Portland, OR-based band, led by 27-year old vocalist/guitarist/songwriter VYASA DODSON, together with bassist DEAN MUELLER, keyboardist ALEX SHAKERI and drummer DAVE MELYAN, has been on the road playing and honing and shaping their sound. This disc just jumps from the very first notes, and it never lets up! The Insomniacs bring to life a lively, jumpy, energy-packed bunch of originals and a few selected covers, aided by special guests Al Blake and Mitch Kashmar on harmonica, Joel Paterson on pedal steel guitar, and Jeff Turmes on tenor/baritone sax. The highlight is "Hoodoo Man Blues"--the first time I heard this take of that tune I had to get up and dance around the room! To my mind, the Insomniacs are soon to be THE premier West Coast blues band--the Mannish Boys, Kim Wilson and all the rest better start looking in their rear view mirror. The Insomniacs remind me of The Hollywood Blue Flames when the Blues Flames were starting out, and I mean that as the very highest compliment.
Monday, May 4, 2009
I should have reviewed this cd several months ago, but maybe late is better than never. This cd is crunchy rock-blues, with really strong vocals and playing. And a great band! Backing Fontaine Brown on vocals, guitar, harmonica and piano--are Jim Brock on drums, Don Dixon on bass, Mitch Easter on guitars, Kelly Ryan on backing vocals and Peter Holsapple on Hammond B-3 and keys. You've heard of all those guys before--those guys are all stars, veterans of making great music. And here they deliver a tight lithe supple sound that supports and carries the songs, all written by Fontaine Brown.
Mr Brown has been writing songs and making music since 1962, and the experience shows--these songs are uniformly tight and loose and fun all at the same time. Things kick off with "Ain't No Brakeman" which sounds like it should have been a hit on college radio back in the mid 80s. Then the title track, a fun blend of mandolin and Hammond B-3 with the vocals floating light. Then "Detroit Saturday" which hangs together around a greasy harp riff and a fat drum thump. Then "Closer To The Flame" a Stax keyboard riff with Wet Willie-style vocals. By now you begin to get the idea--this is a wide melange of styles, rooted around those great vocals and that great band. Special points go to "Lost In The Sensation" which is a sweet ballad in the style of "Bare Trees" era Fleetwood Mac.
There are no great surprises here, but it is a joy to hear this cd. You can get it on Manatee Records, or at www.cdbaby.com.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Shirley Johnson, along with Eddie C. Campbell, are being announced as the headliners of the 2009 Chicago Blues Festival--and I just received Shirley's most recent cd "Blues Attack" in the mail. Seems like a good time to give her a spin and review. This disc sounds both new and old at the same time--it is blues with a healthy dose of R&B and splash of gospel. I first listened to it on a Saturday morning drive through the country, and it was perfect company. Johnson is a SINGER--her voice is rich and wide and deep. She is a 15+ year veteran of the Chicago blues club scene, and on this disc the arrangements harken back to that classic soulful Delmark sound of the mid 70s. Musicianship is top notch throughout--the combination of Cordell Teague on drums and Lovely 'JR' Fuller on bass, along with Roosevelt Purifoy on piano/Hammond B-3 organ, are simply, solidly perfect. On song after song the guitars cook, the horn section sings, the backing vocals are exactly where you think they should be. This may not be cutting edge music making, but it is a solid tight ensemble. On "Just Like That" I had to stop the car and look at the liner notes to see that it wasn't Magic Sam on that great guitar solo! No, just the combination of Luke Pytel and Herb Walker ripping note after great note. Then Johnson revives and torches the Cropper/Floyd "Unchain My Heart" and completely takes it back from Ray Charles and Joe Cocker. This one song is worth the whole cd.
If you are a fan of Chicago blues, or a fan of great female vocalists, or a fan of classic soul, this cd belongs in your collection. Great work Shirley. Thanks! You can buy it direct at http://www.delmark.com
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
There's just something about 3rd cds--by the time an artist has gotten to their 3rd cd they either have it figured out or they don't. Well, Dave Fields has it, that magic something that makes him a major talent, a musician to reckon with. In this, his third solo release, Fields shows off a bundle of blues styles with taste and talent. Fields wrote all these songs, and he plays guitar and organ and bass and piano and sometimes drums. He brings the hot and heavy rockin blues in Hendrix style on "Train To My Heart" and the energetic party blues on "Let's Have Ball" and the slow heavy blues Robin Trower style on "Cold Wind Blowin'" and the in your face screaming guitar style on "Screamin'" and in the New Orleans combo style on "Still Itchin'." And there are a couple of great guests here too--Ada Dyer brings her great gospel-flavored voice to "Ain't No Crime" and "Guide Me To The Light" and Billy Gibson brings his great harmonica playing to four songs including "Big Fat Ludus." But throughout this is a Dave Fields' showcase, and it cooks from beginning to end. This is a great cd--it needs to be played loud and often. Every time I have sat down to listen to it I find I'd rather listen to it than write about it. Go listen to your favorite blues radio station for one hour, and if you don't hear one of these songs call up your DJ and say "Why are you not playing this?" It deserves to be there--this is one of the 4 or 5 best discs I've reviewed in the entire time I've had this blog, along with "Hope Radio" by Ronnie Earl, "These Are The Days" by Albert Castiglia, "We Can Get Together" by Sean Costello, and Mavis Staples' "We'll Never Turn Back." Dave Fields is somebody every blues fan needs to know about. You can buy this cd at: http://cdbaby.com/cd/davefields2
Sunday, March 22, 2009
This is Reddick's fourth cd for Northern Blues, following Rattlebag (2002) and Villanelle (2006) and Revue (2007). It is a really delicious cd. Paul Reddick's work reminds me of the great music by The Band--and this disc, like "Music From Big Pink," shines with a deeply burnished musical wisdom. The first two or three times you hear this you might not be impressed--but then when you keep listening you'll make connections and you'll see the links and you'll began to notice that there is a lot going on under there, a lot of good stuff going on. Speaking on intelligent musical types, this disc is produced by Colin Linden, who also plays guitar and contributes two of his own songs. Players here include The Band’s Garth Hudson on accordion on three tracks, LA bass player extraordinaire Hutch Hutchinson from Bonnie Raitt’s band, Nashville drummer Bryan Owings (Emmylou Harris, Shelby Lynne), and the core of Blackie & The Rodeo Kings’ rhythm section, Gary Craig (drums) and John Dymond (bass). Alternate bassist Dave Roe, from Dwight Yoakam’s band, worked with Johnny Cash for 12 years. Arrangers Chris Carmichael and Darrell Leonard are also make significant contributions on strings and horns respectively. And the songs--the songs are the best part of it all! Reddick fills out this cd with a truly Dylanesque set of songs. He is a songwriter of rare ability--he should be declared a national treasure in Canada.
A special treat--the lyrics are available at: http://www.northernblues.com/cd_sugarbird.html
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I have been a fan of Nicole Hart for several years--I used to play the NRG Band Live disc at KJLU nearly every Sunday night when I was on the radio. Nicole has always had a great voice, and a way to "sell" a song, and a really good band leader in Lance Ong. I've always thought that the key for her is strong material. Well, "Treasure" is her major label debut (on Blues Leaf Records) and she has captured all that Nicole Hart magic on one disc. Nicole sings her ass off, and she gets strong musical support from a group of New Jersey's A-listers, including Sonny Kenn, Ron Rauso, and Marc Shulman on guitars, Swami and Ian Carroll on drums, and Sandy Mack on harmonica on two tracks. She covers a wide range of styles from country to R&B to hot blues to mid tempo ballads. The strongest songs here include a hot cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground," featuring the aforementioned Lance Ong on keyboards. Albert Castiglia brings his tasteful guitar to one track, a wonderful Patsy Cline-ish cover of Percy Mayfield's "You Were Lyin' To Me." And Hart does a bravura take on the Fletcher Henderson/Henry Troy song "Gin House Blues." There is a sweet cover of Paul Kennerley's "Heart Trouble" which cuts the take by Martina McBride. And there are two Hart/Ong originals, including the title track, which fit right in.
Do you get the idea I like this cd? It's real good. Give it a spin and you'll agree with me. You can buy this cd at http://www.BluesLeaf.com.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Marshall Lawrence is a fine acoustic guitarist and blues singer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. "The Morning After" is his second release, following the 2003 cd "Where's The Party?" Here he continues that successful formula: fiery slices of delta-flavored acoustic slide guitar with just enough backing to fill out the sound. Lawrence is backed by Russell Jackson on bass and the combined harmonica talents of John Wilds and Sherman "Tank" Doucette. These are the last tracks John Wilds recorded--he died during these sessions. Wilds' mastery of the harp is evident here, but Doucette does a fine job of filling his shoes.
Lawrence writes nine of the 13 tracks here, and on the originals he gets the tone exactly right--they fit among a fine set of covers, including Blind Willie McTell's "Blue Sky Is Fallin'," Tommy Johnson's "Bye Bye Blues," Charlie Patton's "Moon Goin' Down," and Taj Mahal's "Light Rain Blues." The Tommy Johnson track is easily the highlight of the disc, with an infectious joy--like his take of Big Bill Broonzy's "Key To The Highway" on "Where's The Party?" Lawrence uses his guitar and absolutely reinterprets the classic number in a new way. It's still delta-style country blues, but new. In fact, I think Lawrence is following in the footsteps of some very important artists like Bernie Pearl and Corey Harris and Taj Mahal in the way that he is at once historical musicologist and contemporary interpreter.
This is a fine disc and shows the growth of an emerging artist. "Where's The Party?" was a good debut, but this one is even better. I look forward to Lawrence's next steps. You can buy this cd at http://www.doctorblues.com
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The DELTA WIRES website starts its description of the band with this:
"The DELTA WIRES is a big, high-energy harmonica and horns blues band from the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area. They were Finalists out 100 blues bands from all over the world, in the Blues Foundation's 2008 International Blues Challenge held in Memphis TN, and were voted "BEST BAND" 2008 Oakland/East Bay in Oakland Magazine's annual readers' poll. The DELTA WIRES have recorded 5 CDs, were voted Best Live Band by readers of the East Bay Express in 2002, played the San Francisco Blues Festival in 2008, have appeared at the Monterey Bay Blues Festival 8 times including 2007, headlined the Shasta Blues Society’s Redding Blues by the River Festival in 2005, have played Crescent City Blues Festival, Central Valley Blues Festival, Oakland Blues and Heritage Festival, Napa Valley Mustard Festival, and many others...."
Quite a start, eh? What else do you need to know? Go buy this disc--you're going to love it! When I started listening to Delta Wires' latest cd I heard one tight, hot blues band! They are a 7 piece band: Ernie Pinata on harmonica and lead vocals, Richard Healy on guitar, Tom Gerrits on bass guitar and vocals, Tony Huszar on drums, and a 3 piece horn section: Jim Orsetti and Danny Sandoval on saxophones and Larry Jonutz on trumpet. This disc was recorded at Northern California Blues Festival on June 21, 2008, Fair Oaks California. Things start out strong with Willie Dixon's "Monkee Man." Right out of the box the band is a powerhouse clicking on every cylinder. The disc's sound is an updated Louis Jordon west coast jump blues sound, but I mean that in the most complimentary way. "Monkee Man" is followed by a fine band arrangement of Rice Miller's "Pontiac Blues" and the Chuck Blackwell/Leon Russell song "Big Legged Woman." With each tune I am more and more impressed. Ernie Pinata is a strong singer and harp player, and the band is tight and full. You can tell these guys have spent lots of time together on stage. (They have played together since 1970.)
The more I listened the more I began to think of Delta Wires as a west coast version of the Canadian band Fathead. Maybe they're just a notch below the top echelon of blues talent, but these guys are good at what they do, REALLY GOOD at what they do, and these guys put it all out there when they're on stage. They give good value for time spent with them--especially if you see them live. I notice that this cd is predominately covers, which may be part of why Delta Wires isn't given their due. But then again, aren't most of the songs on the Mannish Boys cds covers too? I like Fathead, and I like Delta Wires, and I liked Omar & the Howlers. A LOT.
Next time you have a hundred mile drive in front of you pick up this Delta Wires disc. It will make a great soundtrack for your next road trip. And you'll find that it will be an enjoyable trip no matter where you might be going.
You can and should buy this disc from the band's website: http://www.deltawires.com/
Friday, January 16, 2009
Nelson Adelard's most recent disc is a treat. Nelson was on the West Coast for a number of years, and he recently relocated from Southern California to Mississippi. Here he plays harmonica, guitar, piano and sings -- and he does each with an abundance of energy and joy. The first two cuts here "One More Mile To Go" and "Rocket 88" were recorded live back in 2006 by the West Coast Band--Nelson and John Duzik on bass, Uncle Ben Beckley on drums, Mikey Mo on guitar and Mark Norris on sax--and they set a high standard for the new band to follow on the rest of the disc. But it soon becomes obvious that moving has lubricated Adelard's song writing in really good ways. These new songs stick in your head. And the band--Nelson with Louisiana natives James Slaughter on bass and Greg Worley on drums--is surely up to the challenge. Nothing is fancy, but these guys splash love and chops all over this disc. There are songs here from "I Ain't Gonna Miss LA" which wouldn't sound out of place on a Randy Newman disc. "Sweet Home In McComb" sounds like Fats Domino, and "Do What You Do" sounds like Dr John, and "Rock It Right" sounds like a Memphis-style swing boogie. "Boogie Down The Road" is my favorite song here, an especially sweet driving song--I'd really love to hear this on the radio, but it would be hard for me to stay under the speed limit! My only quibble is I wish there were a few more songs here.
This is a fine disc, and an artist that many people would like. This is uplifting happy blues music. This disc is on Blue Track Records, and you can buy this disc from Nelson's website: http://www.nelsenadelard.com/