Tuesday, September 21, 2010

J W-Jones "Midnight Memphis Sun"

J W-Jones is the # 1 blues artist in Canada. He has released 6 cds since 2000, and as always the draw is his remarkable guitar playing. This time out Jones recorded much of the cd at Sun Studios in Memphis. He also wrote eight of the twelve tracks--and the originals hold up well alongside covers of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee's "Burnt Child" and a Chicago-style cover of Jimmy Reed's "I Don't Go for That" and a Jump Blues cover of Lowell Fulson's "Love Grows Cold." Jones' songs on this cd exhibit a variety of blues styles, from the Stax/Volt style opener to the ‘50s R&B sound for "Kissin' In Memphis" to a blues-ish cover of fellow Canadian Bryan Adams' "Cuts like A Knife" to the Delta-flavored "Mean Streak" and the keyboard-fueled "Right On Time" and the B.B. King-styled "Make a Move." The core band features Jones on guitar and vocals, Jesse Whiteley on organ and piano, Brian Asselin on sax on three tracks, Nick Cochrane on trumpet on three tracks, Martin Regimbald on bass and Jeff Asselin on drums. Guests include Hubert Sumlin on three tracks, Charlie Musselwhite on three tracks--and they are both terrific, bringing great fire to every track--and the esteemed rhythm section of Larry Taylor on bass and Richard Innes on drums are here on 7 tracks.

This is a good cd and the guitar work is really good. The song writing is strong. The only weak link is Jones' voice. It's not bad, just that when he sings he sounds like a guy from Canada. When on "Make A Move" Jones turns the microphone over to Lisa-Gaye Pryce you get a hint of what might be possible here--she is terrific.

Check this cd out at http://www.jw-jones.com

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Joe Lewis Band "Good News Blues"

I've been enjoying this disc for wayyyyyy too long--I should have written about it months ago, but every time I put it on I forget to write about it! The Joe Lewis Band is a three piece blues band based in central Missouri. They play the instruments and use the structures and flavors of the classic blues songs, but the lyrics are all pure gospel. You really have to hear them to see how well they make this work. The band is Joe, who sings and writes and plays guitar, and Ken, who plays bass, and John, who provides the solid back beat on drums. These guys are a very fine band! It's the sort of music you wish got played in church, and the lyrics are all pretty theologically sound. No, they don't play your father's gospel music. This is current and fun and energetic music. The Joe Lewis Band has played at the United We Sing Fest in Jefferson City MO, the Mid Missouri Biker Blessing in Centralia MO, and at the Blue Note in Columbia MO, and each time they have made a righteous impression, tearing down the house with their great playing and testifying. This is my all-time favorite cd to listen to with headphones on while I'm writing a sermon in the middle of the night and the rest of the family is all asleep. I have shared some of these songs in church, in bible study with senior adults, in ministry with teenagers and college students, one on one with other blues lovers--and I always have received a very positive response. My favorite song here is "If Not For Mercy," which starts out pure Chicago blues and then Joe and his guitar and the band take things straight to church. It's wonderful.

This is an indy release, but you can buy it by contacting the band at http://www.joelewisband.com

Tell them Bruce sent you.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Grant Dermody "Lay Down My Burden"

Grant Dermody plays harmonica and sings. On "Lay Down My Burden," his third solo recording, he brings together a wonderful set of acoustic country blues songs and a great group of players. The mood is gentle, but the playing is top-notch on every song. It's a Sunday afternoon kind of set, and it is Sunday afternoon as I write this review. The talent of the guests here is mind-blowing, and includes John Cephas (his last song is a great cover of Skip James' "Hard Times Killing Floor Blues") Eric Bibb, Darick Campbell, Rich Del Grosso, Rich Hill, John Dee Holeman, Orville Johnson, Louisiana Red, Del Rey, and a host of others. The songs range widely as well, from Rev Gary Davis' "I'll Be Alright" to Steven Gomes & Ronnie Earl's "It's My Soul" to a very nice cover of "Amazing Grace" to Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More" (done a cappella in 4 part harmony) to Jimmy Reed's "You Don't Have To Go" and a Tibetan prayer "Vajra Guru Mantra" with a few traditional songs and three Grant Dermody originals. Louisiana Red sings and plays guitar on his original "Where Is My Friends?" There are a grand total of two songs here which feature drums--played quite well by Dale Fanning. Instead of the drums most of the time there are a few instruments, a few voices, and these great songs come to life. I think the best things here are a great spin on Dick Powell's "Waterbound" with Richie Stearns on banjo and Grant's harp and voice, and the traditional instrumental "David's Cow," with very fine violin by Scott Meyer, guitar by Forrest Gibson and Grant on harp. Both of those songs are as good as anything done by anybody I have heard this year. The cd is engineered by Garey Shelton and produced by Orville Johnson, who also plays dobro on "Amazing Grace" and "Vajra Guru Mantra" and mandolin on "Evening Train" and "First Light." Liner notes are by Phil Wiggins.

This is a terrific cd, full of humanity and dignity and art. Every time I play it I am reminded of the beauty of music played well.

You can buy it at http://www.bluebeatmusic.com/

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mitch Woods "Gumbo Blues"

Mitch Woods' latest, "Club Gumbo," is a tribute to Smiley Lewis and the pioneers of New Orleans R&B, but this is no nostalgia trip. Instead, this is a ready-made party in a jewel box. Every song is guaranteed to get your ass swinging. Mitch Woods is one of the very best boogie-woogie piano players on Earth, and he and the band tear through a slice of the great music from the Big Easy. The immortal Dave Bartholomew wrote most of these songs, and the great singers Smiley Lewis and Fats Domino sang them way back in the day--they must all be smiling to hear this cd. Woods is ably assisted in this tribute project by a great band--the talent on this set is shockingly good. Herb Hardesty on sax--he was Fats Dominos' tenor sax man for over 60 years. Amadee Castenell and Brian "Breeze" Cayolle on baritone and tenor sax--they play horn in Allen Toussaint's band. John Fohl on guitar--he is Dr. John's guitar player. Cornell Williams on bass--he plays with Jon Cleary. Eric Bolivar on drums--he's the drummer for Bonerama. Even a casual fan of New Orleans music will recognize these names--and these guys can ALL flat out play this music. From the first note things are PUMPING and the level never drops off.

I played this cd for my friend, a New Orleans native, and you should have seen the smile on his face. He said "Just like going home again--and cheaper than a bus ticket!" If you love the city of New Orleans, or New Orleans music, or that great 50s style Rhythm & Blues, this cd will make your ears and your heart happy. You need this cd in your collection.

You can buy this cd at http//www.mitchwoods.com

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Two-fer Reviews: Chris James & Patrick Rynn "Gonna Boogie Anyhow" AND Rob Stone "Back Around Here"

Today we share the good news about two fine cds from a 3 man writing team that lays down the Chicago Blues in all its glory. Chris James & Patrick Rynn play guitar & bass respectively for the Rhythm Room All Stars in Phoenix. Rob Stone is a bandleader in Chicago. These three guys first got started together co-founding a band called the C-Notes in 1990. They continue to write together, and now James/Rynn and Stone have each released new cds on Earwig Records at about the same time. Both good cds, too, each built from many of the same elements. Both cds feature the James/Rynn/Stone writing team. Both cds have the James/Rynn duo on guitar and bass, and both cds feature Rob Stone and sometimes Bob Corritore on harmonica, David Maxwell and sometimes Henry Gray on piano, and the great Sam Lay and sometimes Edie Kobek on drums. On the James/Rynn disc Chris James handles the vocal chores. On his disc, Rob Stone sings and plays harmonica.

I really like these guys. They make good mostly up-tempo blues music with no pretense. I hope these partnerships continue to grow and develop. If these three guys could spend enough time together they could be the Chicago version of the Mannish Boys on the west coast--an all star ensemble with chops and taste and flair to spare. Highlights abound. On Rob Stone's disc, "I Need To Plant A Money Tree" has a real infectious groove, and "Lot To Love About You" is a wonderful harp workout with Aaron Moore on piano helping things move. On the James/Rynn disc the best songs are "Money Don't Like Me" (Parts 1 & 2) where the whole band swings and roars and everybody hits the mark. Another highlight is "Headed Out West," featuring only James & Rynn, on electric guitar and upright bass, showing another side of their massive talents.

Two winning discs--snap 'em up at Earwig Records. You'll be glad when these discs land in your mailbox.