Sunday, January 31, 2010

Steve Howell "Since I Saw You Last"

Steve Howell is back with this, his third cd of country acoustic blues, and I think it's his best work yet. His first two discs, 2006's "Out Of The Past" and 2008's "My Mind Gets To Ramblin'" lay out the formula--Howell on guitar and vocals backed by a small combo consisting of some combination of Joe Osborn (bass and 12 string guitar), Darren Osborn (drums), Chris Michaels (electric guitar and bass), Dave Hoffpauir (drums and vocals), Arnie Cottrell (mandolin and guitar), and Brian Basco (keyboards). This disc was recorded between September 07 and September 09, so it surrounded the "Ramblin'" set. I listened to both of them in preparing this review, and I discovered again that I like Steve Howell's sound--it feels like everything was recorded in somebodys living room, relaxed and quiet. Each of Howell's discs has great playing and good singing--the quality rises or falls depending on the songs. This time around, he records songs by, among others, Mance Lipscomb, Frank Stokes, Blind Lemon Jefferson, John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, Buddy Johnson and Gus Kahn--it's a strong collection, and Steve's playing with Arnie Cottrell is terrific throughout.

On his last disc the highlight was when Steve brought in Buddy Flett for Robert Johnson's "Steady Rollin' Man." There is nothing on this disc as superlative as that, but this set of 12 tunes are stronger. You can't go wrong buying a Steve Howell cd, but be prepared to discover the disc will burrow its way into your brain with happy results. Nowadays I can't listen to Robert Johnson's tune or Rev. Wilkins' "Prodigal Son" without hearing Steve Howell's warm, winning way with the melody.

This disc is available on Out Of The Past Music.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Derek Davis “American Blues Box” (2006)

For this disc I need to thank my new friend Don de la Leaumont, a fellow fan of Bob Dylan and a good singer-songwriter. Don showed up at my house last Thursday with a cd in his hands--the “American Blues Box.” He told me I would love it, and after I listened to about 45 seconds of the opening cut “Mississippi Mud” I knew he was right. This is some fine rockin’ blues! The band is made of Derek Davis on vocals and slide guitar, James Pacheco on drums, Kyle Bates on lead guitar, Eric Pacheco on bass, Charlie Knight on harmonica and Rob Lansing on bass. The band was formed by Davis & Pacheco in late 2004 and they are based in the San Francisco Bay area. The music feature some great guitar playing, gruff but powerful vocals, fine rocking percussion and some wailin’ harmonica. If you love old early Aerosmith or more recent Kenny Wayne Shepherd this is right up your alley--it sounds like primo J. Geils Band, seriously blues AND rock and roll. And this disc includes the best version of “Some Kind of Wonderful” by any band ever.

This cd is on Apocalypse Records. You can buy it at

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Juke Jumpers "Villa Acuna, 1963"

Man o man, this is a great band! Where do I start? I've been working on this review since New Year's Day and I can't stop listening long enough to write anything down! The Ft Worth based Juke Jumpers have been making great Texas music since 1977. They are back on this disc with their original members--Michael Bartula on drums, Sumter Bruton on guitar and vocals, Jim Colegrove on guitar harmonica pedal steel and vocals, Jim Milan on bass, Johnny Reno on saxophones, and Craig Simcheck on keyboards. Of the twelve songs here, eight are originals including the title track, which is done up in true Tex-Mex style. "Pink Heart Days" starts things off with a rockin' instrumental with super guitar and saxophone work. The band follows that with "Luck in a Hurry," which sounds old and new at the same time, and "Standing at the Crossroads Again" by Mickey Jupp, then the evergreen "Dr Feel Good" by Curtis Smith, then two by Jim Colegrove, "I Wonder What She Looks Like Now" and "Nowhere City Night." After "In Walked You" comes "Go Ahead On" by Tommy Cassel, then "Screen Door Jesus" by Johnny Reno and "Red Light" which if it doesn't make you smile you might be in a coma. Then (finally) we get the title track, and then they wrap up this great disc with a cover of "Rock n Roll Ruby" written by Johnny Cash and recorded by these guys back in 1980. There is no loss of sizzle, no drop off at all in the intervening nearly 30 years. Everything here is energetic, fun and it is all played great! Check out the effortless dance groove by Bartula and Milan, the great guitar work by Sumter Bruton, the amazing musicianship of all star Jim Colegrove, the list goes on and on. Every time I put this cd in the player I am knocked out. These guys are Texas sized legends.

Pick up this disc at Cool Groove Records,