Friday, December 31, 2010

Five more great CDs

Ok, I'm going to admit it--I wrote up my TOP TEN BLUES RELEASES of 2010 the other day, and ever since then I have been kicking myself. I think I left out about 5 other great cds from artists who deserve your attention, artists who made great music in 2010......and artists that should get recognized but did not appear in the Top Ten I posted the other day.

So if you'll give me another chance, here are FIVE MORE GREAT CDs. In no particular order:

Robin Rogers -- Back In The Fire. See Rick Harmon's review Dec 16.

Buddy Guy -- Living Proof. See my review October 24.

Nick Moss -- Privileged. See my review March 30.

The Delta Flyers -- Sixteen Bars. See my review November 22.

John Nemeth -- Name The Day. I am sorry I really missed this one in 2010. I've been a fan of this guy since 2006. John Nemeth has set such a high standard over his past 3-4 cds, and this time out his singing, harp playing, and songwriting are all TOP NOTCH. Nemeth has always been one of the best singers around, and this time out he continues to cook. John leads a first-class band through his strongest batch of songs. Best song here could be "Heartbreak With A Hammer," which features great harp work AND a great guitar solo AND nice piano work AND a smooth horn section all riding atop a great groove, or it could be "I Said Too Much," which features a great old school R & B call-and-response vocal with the spirit of Otis Redding.

Ok, so now in my mind, anyway, I have suggested a Top Fifteen of 2010. These are all worthy of your purchase. I promise I'm not going to suggest 5 more next Monday.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Top Ten Blues releases of 2010

It's time for the traditional end-of-the-year Top Ten list for 2010. This year has seen a lot of great music released. Some of these I reviewed earlier this year, and some of them are newly listed--anyway, in my humble opinion, this is the best of the good stuff. Support your favorite blues artists, and go buy these cds. Furthermore, if you have the chance, go see these artists live.

1. Ronnie Earl -- Spread The Love. Ronnie Earl is the most important blues guitarist alive, and this is his most beautiful release in a career of making great music. Fits equally well on Saturday night or Sunday morning. On Stony Plain Records. Any Top 10 Blues List that doesn't include this cd by Ronnie Earl is completely bogus.

2. Grant Dermody -- Lay Down My Burden. See my review September 12.

3. Cee Cee James -- Seriously Raw (Live at Sunbanks). See my review July 12.

4. Retro Deluxe -- Watermelon Tea. Featuring Bobby Joe Owens on vocals, Zach Sweeney on lead guitar, Jimbo Mathis on drums and songs written and/or arranged by Robert J Thompson, this one is more fun than anything else I heard all year. On the Rinkled Rooster label.

5. Peter Parcek 3 -- The Mathematics of Love. This one is for all you rock 'n blues lovers--a fantastic release, from a top-notch guitarist who has paid his dues for a long time in Boston. Starts off with a burning "Showbiz Blues" and never lets up. This one has turned up on several other Top 10 lists. No problem. It really is that good. On Vizz Tone Records.

6. Moreland and Arbuckle -- Flood. See my review Feb 23. Includes my favorite song of the year "Don't Wake Me," which will teach your soul everything there is to know about the blues in less than 4 minutes. Don't believe me? Listen to it again.

7. Jay Gaunt -- Harmonicopia. I am shocked that I did not review this earlier this year. A fantastic journey through the world of harmonica styles. Harmonica played with taste and chops, and the band surrounding Gaunt plays as well as he does. Includes a cool bluesy version of "Greensleeves." Yeah, that Greensleeves, the classical song. I love it, but I'm pretty sure than Jay could do a version of Kermit the frog's "Rainbow Connection" and I'd love that too. On JBG Music.

8. Albert Castiglia -- Keepin On. See my review August 19. Runner up for my favorite song of the year is "My Baby Is Now On My Mind," which is so good it reminds me of the late great Sean Costello.

9. Jim Byrnes -- Everywhere West. See my review December 15.

10. Studebacker John's Maxwell Street Kings -- That's The Way You Do. A great big Valentine to the early days of Chicago Blues on Maxwell Street. Studebacker John Grimaldi wrote all the songs, and he plays slide guitar and vocals and harp, with Rick Kreher on guitar and backing vocals, and Steve Cushing on drums. This three piece brings the classic Chicago Maxwell Street blues scene to throbbing greasy life. On Delmark Records.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Robin Rogers "Back In The Fire"

(Note: The review following appeared on the yahoo group "Match Box Blues." I am re-printing it here because I couldn't write it up any better. Thanks Rick. The day after I posted this review Robin died. RIP Robin.)

by Rick Harmon

Robin Rogers new album for blues label Blind Pig records could not be a more bittersweet triumph. The recording is beautiful, powerful and probably the last she will ever record.

"Back in the Fire" is the follow up to "Treat Me Right," the 55-year-old singer's first recording on Blind Pig, which when it was released two years ago gave the performer her first smash hit in a professional music career that began in Miami in 1979.

She gave a wonderful performance in Montgomery a few months after her album debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard blues charts, where it remained for years. At the time she made it clear that while the newfound success was wonderful, she considered her true success freeing herself of a drug and alcohol habit that had once plagued her.

With the help of Tony Rogers, her musical partner and husband, she thought she had put those years behind her. But just months ago she was diagnosed with liver cancer, a complication of the hepatitis-C she contracted in the 1970s. The cancer is untreatable, and she is not a candidate for a transplant.

"Back in the Fire" is an even stronger recording than her first. It combines lyrics that represent a life full of hard lessons and courage but manage never to be preachy. The production is lower key than on her last album, reminding you less of a painstakingly recorded studio album than a stunning live performance.

Whether singing about others' mistakes ("Baby Bye-Bye) or her own ("I Know I Done Wrong") she sings with the sort of sultry experience that one associates with the great torch singers of old.

There are also deeper and sometimes more painful songs such as "What We Are Worth," which sums up some of the wisdom she has fought so hard to gain, and "Don't Walk Away Run," a warning to domestic violence victims to leave while they can.

Throw in some gorgeous covers - Little Willie John's "Need Your Love So Bad," Allen Toussaint's "Hittin' On Nothin'," a well-known Irma Thomas standard, and the Big Maybelle song "Ocean of Tears," -- some nice instrumentals from pianist Mark Stallings, guitarist Tony Rogers and a guest appearance by Bob Margolin to Tony Rogers on guitar -- and "Back in the Fire" is a passionate, powerful tour-de-force.


Blind Pig recording artist Robin Rogers has been diagnosed with liver cancer. She was hospitalized for complications caused by Hepatitis C, and a CT scan prior to surgery revealed an untreatable cancerous tumor on her liver. She is not a candidate for a liver transplant so she has been sent home for hospice care.

There has been a major outpouring of support and care since the announcement of the hospitalization by her husband Tony on Robin's Facebook page. Announcements were made of the establishment of a Robin Rogers Medical Trust Fund to cover medical expenses.

However, while this fund will help with astronomical hospital and medical bills, it does not cover other expenses such as hospice care and basic living expenses. Robin will not be able to return to the stage, and Tony, her musical partner, will be out of work for the foreseeable future. Like most musicians, Robin and Tony do not have health insurance and depend on touring income for their livelihood. Expenses for hospice care, medicine, and everyday living will be extremely high.

Fans who are interested in providing help directly to the family can donate by sending a check (made out to Tony Rogers) to: Robin Rogers c/o Piedmont Talent Agency, P.O. Box 680006, Charlotte, NC 28216. In addition, the Charlotte Blues Society has set up a PayPal account, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Robin. PayPal donations can be made on the PayPal webpage.

Fans can also help by purchasing CDs from her website, Benefits and fundraising efforts are also being organized, and fans can follow developments on a newly created Facebook page: Robin Rogers Benefit Central.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jim Byrnes "Everywhere West"

Jim Byrnes is a guitarist, a singer, songwriter and a musicologist--and he is terrific at all. He is originally from St Louis, but he has been a Canadian blues treasure for more than 30 years. His latest cd "Everywhere West" is his fourth for Black Hen Music and his eighth overall. This marks the fourth collaboration between Byrnes and producer/multi-instrumentalist Steve Dawson, and this may be the best work they have done together so far. The band includes Byrnes on guitar and vocal & Dawson on slide guitar, banjo, and dobro, Chris Gestrin on organ, and Dawson studio regulars Keith Lowe on bass and Geoff Hicks on drums. On four songs they are augmented by a 3 piece horn section featuring Daniel Lapp on trumpet, Bill Runge and Jerry Cook on saxes. Lapp also plays a beautiful fiddle lead on "No Mail Blues." Four of the songs are Byrnes originals ("Hot As A Pistol," "Storm Warning," and "Me And Piney Brown"), three are traditional songs ("Bootlegger's Blues," "No Mail Blues," and "He Was A Friend Of Mine"), one is by Steve Dawson ("Walk On"), and there are covers of Jimmy Reed ("Take Out Some Insurance On Me"), Robert Johnson ("From Four Until Late"), Louis Jordan ("You Can't Get That Stuff No More"), and Lowell Folsom ("Black Nights"), and the Bass/Thompson "Yield Not to Temptation."

I listened to this cd four of five times before I even started thinking about writing a review of it. Now thatb I've written the review, I expect I'll be listening to it a lot more. Each song spins out and captures my ears. This is good music in a variety of blues styles, timeless music well played. As Byrnes writes in the liner notes, "Everywhere West" is dedicated to 'those who came before,' but this music doesn't belong in a museum. Check it out for yourself --this is the best cd to come out of Canada this year.

You can buy it at