Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rocky Jackson "Testify!" and Chainsaw Dupont "Acoustified Electrified"

Two guitar players, they both sing. Rocky Jackson brings 13 songs on his Texas-based "Testify!" and 5 covers--by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Robert Johnson, Traditional, and Willie Dixon. Chainsaw Dupont brings 18 songs on the live from Chicago "Acoustified Electrified" and 3 covers--by Mel London, Albert King, and Howlin Wolf. If it's Mel London that must mean another cover of "Messin With The Kid," right? Right--that's one mark against Chainsaw. But Rocky Jackson's covers include another overdone song--Willie Dixon's "I Just Want To Make Love To You." That's one mark against Rocky.

But other than one over-obvious cover each, I like both these cds. Rocky Jackson and Chainsaw Dupont both have plenty enough talent and ability, they both can play and sing and write, they have have made solid listenable cds, I'm sure they both can put on a good live show. In the pantheon of the blues these guys are in the same position as middle inning relief pitchers in baseball. Nobody goes to the ballpark to see the middle relief pitchers. But we blues lovers, we need to be applauding these guys--because every day that goes by BB and Buddy and Hubert and Honeyboy are all one day older and closer to leaving us. Someday soon the top rank of living bluesmen is going to be Bernard Allison and Big Bill Morganfield and Corey Harris and Albert Castiglia, and when that day comes Rocky and Chainsaw and a dozen others just like 'em are going to be standing on that mound with the game depending on them, and they will be holding the ball.

If you love this music like I do, and you've loved it for over 40 years like I have, then seeing cds from Chainsaw Dupont and Rocky Jackson is a very good sign. These guys can play guitar pretty good, and they each front bands that sound good. Chainsaw and Rocky write good songs, and they sing pretty well. If pressed to choose I might say that Rocky is a tiny bit better singer, and Chainsaw is a tiny bit better guitar player. I think Rocky writes songs a tiny bit better, and I think he's a tiny bit more disciplined. Chainsaw has a little more marketing vibe going for him. (Yes, that is me listed on the inside cover among those Chainsaw would like to thank for their help. The only help I can give him is this review.) I would be very glad to go to my local blues venue and hear either one of them--and I urge everyone who reads this review to do the same. It'll be worth it to hear the joy in Chainsaw's voice when he rips into "Soul Check" and it'll be worth it to hear Rocky's solo on "Early In The Morning."

You can buy these cds at

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stringbean -- Layin Low

Ken Sorenson is a musical icon in New Jersey--whether on his own or in a band setting as the leader of Stringbean and the Stalkers. Over the past couple of dozen years Stringbean and the Stalkers have played everywhere and with everybody. Though this is billed as a solo disc, this cd features regular Stalkers Dan Mulvay on stand-up bass, Joe Murphy on guitar, Sim Cain on drums, and Neil Thomas on accordion and organ. Stringbean plays guitar and harmonica and sings. One of the things I have always appreciated about Stringbean is that he puts a lot of songs on each cd. Here he brings the goods on 15 songs, mostly originals, and as might be expected from a group who play sometimes with the great New Jersey guitarist Sonny Kenn, lots of styles are evident. The title track ("Lay Low") sounds like it would fit on an Albert Castiglia cd, and it features a guitar figure that I can't quite place. There are Chicago style songs ("Heart Has Been Broken," "Going Over The Hill," "Mean Red Spider") an acoustic song ("The Rain Outside") Texas style shuffles ("Kill Me (Baby)," "Pain Killers") some funk ("Funky Mama") soul blues ("Live Till Tomorrow," "How Can I Be So Stupid") a fast harp and guitar boogie ("Showplace Boogie") and there's even a reggae number, "Off My Back," which may be my favorite song here. There's also a nice cover of Leadbelly's "On A Monday" that reminds me of Johnny Cash or Ry Cooder.

This is a very fine release--it belongs in my top 10 of the year so far. Every time I listen to Stringbean's music I get hooked by his great harp work, but on the second listen I'm just as impressed with the guitar playing. Then I'm listening to the singing. Every time I put it in the cd player things just move right along--I keep finding myself at the end of the disc and I need to hit start over. I tell myself "One more time." Buy it and see if you don't end up doing the same thing.

You can buy this disc at

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jimmy Warren Band "No More Promises"

Jimmy Warren may be the best guitar player you never heard of, and this cd "No More Promises," is a very tasty introduction to his tremendous talent. This is Jimmy's second release following "Live At Last" from 2009. Prior to that he took a decade off from the music business to help his wife Lynn raise their family. For this review I listened to both discs, and there are moments when I think I'm hearing Roy Buchanan, and that is very high praise. Jimmy Warren has it all down--a wonderful thick expressive guitar tone, incredible touch, a perfect sense of timing, and a good voice--and he uses it here to share a dozen original songs. There are fast songs and slow songs--but all all the songs are meat--no filler, no waste. The band is really good. Jimmy Warren is on guitar and lead vocals, John DiGregorio is on rhythm guitar, Mike Boyle is on bass and Charles Price is on drums. In addition, Warren's son Jimi Dill plays a great slide guitar solo on "Mean Mistreater" and Bob Margolin adds a guest spot on "It Ain't Fair." The best song here in my opinion is "Darker Shade of Grey," which has an entire encyclopedia's worth of great guitar work packed into less than four and a half minutes--but listen to it yourself.

This release is on Electro Glide Records. You can buy it at