Monday, April 26, 2010

Fathead "Where's The Blues Taking Me?"

This is the second Fathead cd I have reviewed. I loved 2007's "Building Full Of Blues." It won a Juno award in 2008 for best blues cd--the second one for the band. The first time I heard "Building" I actually laughed out loud for pure joy. Since I started blogging in 2007 there have been three cds that stand out--when I want to listen to get joyful with the blues these are the discs I go to--Fathead's "Building Full Of Blues," Sean Costello's "Cuttin' In," and John Nemeth's "Magic Touch." Well, Fathead's new disc includes what I loved about the previous release. Again John Mays is on vocals, Al Lerman is on harp and tenor sax, Lance Anderson is on B-3 organ and piano, Omar Tunnoch is on bass. On "Building" Darran Poole was on guitar and Hayden Vialva was on drums--this time around long time member Teddy Leonard is back on guitars and Bucky Berger is on drums. (Poole does deliver a sizzling guest turn on lead guitar on the title track.) So how does it sound? Well, everything still sounds like Fathead, and that's a very good thing. There are 15 tracks here, courtesy of the long-time writing team of Omar Tunnoch and Al Lerman--and again the band executes a wide variety of blues styles. The Electro-Fi Records web site says it like this: "The release demonstrates that the Fathead sound is constantly evolving and provides a generous supply of everything within Fathead’s wide musical sphere including straight up Blues, R&B, 50’s framed Rock & Roll, Funk, Gospel, and even some cabaret Soul/Blues. All selections are delivered with the warmth and accessibility listeners have come to identify with the band." That sounds about right to me. And the band closes things out here with a wonderful cover of Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops."

Fathead is one of the very top blues bands anywhere. Spend some time listening to the Fathead catalog, and you'll remember why you fell for this music in the first place. This new disc is as good as anything they have ever done.

You can buy this cd at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Billy Lavender "Memphis Livin"

This disc came out in January/February while I in the doldrums and somehow it got buried under the other stuff on my desk. I overlooked it then, but I have been enjoying it a lot lately! Billy Lavender brings together an all-star cast of Memphis' finest musicians and great singing and playing ensues on a batch of mostly Lavender/Brad Webb originals. The backbone of the band is Russell Wheeler on Hammond B-3 organ, Brad Webb and Billy Lavender on guitars, Vince Johnson on harmonica, Dan Cochran on bass and Tony Adams on drums. If you have read the back of nearly any cd that came out of Memphis over the past twenty years you have seen these names, and if you have listened to any cd that came out of Memphis over that same time period you know these guys can seriously bring the goods. This great band is augmented here by some great guest talents--Reba Russell sings on three songs, and Blind Mississippi Morris plays harmonica on one, "Let's Party." The first four songs set up the rest of the disc--everything starts off with the Rolling Stones-ish "Singin The Blues" written and sung by Tony Adams. That is followed by the aforementioned "Let's Party" with strong harp work by Mr Morris and vocals by Reba Russell. That's followed by "Tonight" sung by Ken Dinkins and featuring dynamite guitar work by Lavender. Then comes my favorite tune of the bunch in "Just Chillin," which I have been listening to back to back four or five times in a row every day for weeks. After that opening 15 minutes the rest of the cd just flows out seamlessly, just as together and smooth as butter.

I really wish I could have been a fly on the wall when these sessions took place--it sounds like it must have been a great time.

You can buy this cd by going to:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Johnny Charles "Stratified"

Winner of the 1995 W.C. Handy Award for best blues guitarist in the NYC Metro area, New Jersey’s guitarist extraordinaire Johnny Charles is no newcomer to the blues. This latest "Stratified" is a his third disc, and his second for Blues Leaf Records. This is a guitar lovers' tour de force, with burning lowdown blues interspersed with rockin' blues and The band is Johnny Charles (guitar, keyboards); Nasty Ned (vocals on two tracks); Rob Kondor (keyboards); Charlie Blackwell, Bill Blum, Chris Epler, Ron Howden (drums). Everything starts with "Stinger," a cooking instrumental that gives Charles plenty of room to show off. That's followed by "Step On It," a tidy rockabilly number, and then the classic "Take It Easy Baby" with vocals by Nasty Ned and loads of passionate and tasty guitar work. "The King Shuffle" is another instrumental with lots of Albert King styled blues work, and that is followed by "You Move Me" with great guitar by Charles, great vocals by Nasty Ned, and great uncredited harmonica. Then we make a stylistic shift to mid 70s Jeff Beck "Blow by Blow" era guitar jazz for "The Cat" before returning to the bluesy "Texas Blues" which takes that Johnny Winter style for a walk, and "Yardbird Stroll," which tips its hat to the jazz work of Jim Hall, before wrapping things up with the jazzy "Metro City" and then title track returns to the blues strat work we started with on "Stinger."

Johnny Charles has made an enjoyable and interesting record--i wish there were a couple more songs here, (there are only 10 songs) and the jazzy forays seem a bit dated, but overall the guitar work is terrific. I think Johnny Charles should be much better known--there is plenty here to nourish the blues lover who values musical taste above pyrotechnics.

You can buy this cd at: