Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review: Marshall Lawrence "The Morning After"

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

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Review: Delta Wires "Live at 105 Degrees"

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: