Thursday, May 28, 2009

John Nemeth: "Love Me Tonight" *****

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

The Insomniacs: "At Least I'm Not With You"

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

Fontaine Brown "Tales From The Fence Line"

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