Thursday, February 24, 2011

Big Joe & the Dynaflows "You Can't Keep A Big Man Down"

After an eleven year absence due to various illnesses, Big Joe is back! One of the great blues drummers and a super vocalist, Joe Maher & his band the Dynaflows were one of my favorites back in the 1990s-2000s. Their 1994 Black Top release "Layin' In The Alley" and the 1998 Severn releases "I'm Still Swingin'" and "All Night Long" (2000) were part of the soundtrack for my life. When this new disc arrived, it was like re-discovering an old friend! I've got to tell you, these guys can play that 40s-50s jump blues and boogie woogie like nobody else--they've been doing it for 30+ years. It may never have been the fashionable blues, but in Big Joe's hands it's an effective way to life people's spirits and get butts up and moving on the dance floor.

This new set of Dynaflows include keyboardist Kevin McKendree from Delbert McClinton's band, guitarist Rob McNelley, bass by Bill Campbell, and even a few honks from the vault of the late great Dennis Taylor on saxophone. They make a great full upbeat sound and everybody gets chances to shine. Big Joe writes or co-writes six of the 12 songs and they are uniformly excellent. Covers include BB King's "Bad Case of Love," Johnny Green's "Someday," Jimmy McCracklin's "I'm To Blame," Jay McShann's "Confessin' The Blues," and Delbert McClinton's "What the Hell Were You Thinkin'." It's a great and varied set. Right now I think "Someday" is the best song on the cd, but it only barely edges out "Face The Facts" and "Supercharger" and "Evangeline." Yesterday I was thinking "Confessin' The Blues" was the best song here. Tomorrow I'll fall in love with another one.

Anyway, this is a HOT cd, great music to minister to your spirit. You can buy it at

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

John-Alex Mason "Jook Joint Thunderclap"

John-Alex Mason's new release came out on February 15. This is the sixth full-length release for this Boulder, Colorado based one man band. Yes, I said one man band. According to his website, Mason started out as a singer, then learned guitar, then learned to play drums to get people dancing. On this self-produced disc Mason plays guitar and kick drums and harmonica, and fully 6 of the ten songs are played on his one man band rig. Mason is also assisted by Andy Irvine on bass, Gerry Hundt on harmonica and mandolin and nine-string guitar, Cedric Burnside on drums, Cody Burnside on vocals, Lightnin' Malcolm on guitar and bass, and Lionel Young on fiddle and bass. Of the ten songs, six are either written or co-written by Mason. He also covers Robert Johnson's "If You've Got A Good Friend," Oscar Brown's "Signifying Monkey," Fred McDowell's "Write Me A Few Of Your Lines," and rearranges and adds lyrics to the public domain song "Rolled and Tumbled."

So how does it sound? I really like this cd. It's played in Mississippi hill country style--fans of Moreland and Arbuckle or JJ & Mofro or Otis Taylor will find much here that speaks to them. Mason brings a freshness and an energy to the proceedings. The playing is crisp and tight, but never stiff or fussy. Special cudos go to Gerry Hundt's harmonica floating over a deep bed of great percussion in "Riding On," (which includes about 10 seconds of rapping and might be the best song here) Lionel Young's fine fiddle work in "Diamond Rain" and Cedric Burnside's very good drumming in "Write Me A Few Of your Lines."

By the way, there are two free bonus tracks available at Mason's website that are well worth picking up--he calls them tracks "zero" which is the song "Delta Bound" and "eleven" which is "When You've Got A Good Friend."

You can buy this cd at John-Alex's website

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pete Anderson "Even Things Up: The Deluxe Edition"

This is a good cd you might have overlooked in January when it came out. It comes from Grammy-winning producer/guitarist Pete Anderson. All those great guitar lines snaking through those songs by country/rockabilly artist Dwight Yoakum, that was Pete Anderson. They worked together from 1986-2003. Now Anderson has re-released this "Deluxe" version of his fourth solo cd, with 4 additional songs cut live at the Starry Plough in Berkeley California last August.

Anderson sings, plays guitar and harmonica. He also plays drums on "Stop Me." He is backed by co-producer Michael Murphy on keyboards, drummers Herman Matthews and Jeff Donovan, and horn section Lee Thornburg and David Woodford, among others. All the songs are written or co-written by Anderson except "Room With a View," written by Michael Murphy & Lynn Coulter and sung by Murphy. The flavor of the disc is agreeably eclectic, veering from straight blues on "One and Only Lonely Fool" and the live "110 In The Shade" and "Live in Mississippi" to a jazzy turn on "Wes' Side Blues" to the Steely Dan-ish "Booker Twine" and the Tonight Show band-sounding "Dogbone Shuffle." Anderson acquits himself masterfully throughout--I like his vocals, and his guitar work is delicious. I love the instrumentals here, where the band gets to play and they all make some truly beautiful music. But the best song here is "Still in Love" presented twice--once in a studio setting with Anderson on vocals, and once in a live setting with Bekka Bramlett singing. I've played this song for three or four friends and their first response is to love it, then they all want to hear it again.

If you like recent releases by Dave Gross or Robben Ford, or if you liked Steely Dan, this record might be right up your alley. There's a lot here to like. Good musicianship, tasteful playing. I have a feeling this one will be in my cd player for quite a while.

You can buy this cd at

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Junior Wells & the Aces "Live in Boston 1966"

This Delmark release is a showcase for Junior Wells & the Aces as a FABULOUS live act. Junior Wells on vocals and harp, Fred Below on drums, and the Myers brothers Louis on guitar and Dave on bass--this is a great band, a band of professionals, and they play for an hour, bringing to the concert stage a dozen songs, and every one is a gem. The result is simply awesome. If you love the blues you need this cd in your collection just as a historical document--but it's a lot more than that. I think Fred Below is the best drummer Chicago ever produced, and Junior Wells belongs on the short list of the greatest harp players of all time. Here you get the chance to hear these great musicians at their peak, making the music they love. The set list is tremendous, including "Messin' With The Kid," "Look On Yonder's Wall," "Worried Life Blues," and "If You Gonna Leave Me." And Delmark smartly leaves in the between songs banter--the set is studded with Junior Wells' personality. And the whole set is covers. Please notice that Junior didn't write a single song here--all he does is play them all with passion and fire and power.

You end up wishing you were there. Many thanks to Delmark for putting this one out. l dream of hearing a similar set by Magic Sam and his band. Does that exist in a tape vault somewhere?

You can buy this at But when you do, go ahead and buy Junior Wells' "Southside Blues Jam" like I did. I know you've already got "Hoodoo Man Blues." Simply great music, and essential to every blues lover. You know, one of these days I should put together on this blog The Essential Blues Recordings-- according to Bruce.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rich DelGrosso & Jonn Del Toro Richardson "Time Slips On By"

This is a great disc by two great players! Rich DelGrosso and John Del Toro Richardson have made a very good mellow Texas-flavored cd in "Time Slips On By." DelGrosso gets to show off his mandolin skills and Richardson gets to show himself as a very fine guitarist. They both sing. Eight of the 14 songs here are by DelGrosso and six songs are penned by Richardson. The band around them is top-rate: Carl Owens on drums and percussion, Ed Starkey on bass, Nick Connolly on keyboards, Joel Guzman on accordion, Sonny Boy Terry on harmonica, and the great Texas Horns--Mark 'Kaz' Kazanoff on tenor sax, John Mills on baritone sax, and Al Gomez on trumpet. The band makes a backing for the two feature players.

I was hooked by the first 10 seconds of the opened "Baby Do Wrong," a Texas shuffle played great. And after that things never drop off--the level stays hot all the way thru. DelGrosso does a mandolin history lesson in "Mandolin Man" and a very fine turn on the 'Yank' Rachell-inspired "Hard To Live With." Richardson burns up the guitar frets on "Baby Please" and does a very fine soulful vocal turn on the love song "Katalin." About halfway thru the set they play a great song for those of us blues lovers stuck in the cold and ice of wintertime, "Summertime Is Here." I've been listening to that one about 5 times a day for the past week, and it really does seem to help. Other highlights include the Richardson song "Where's Laura?" and DelGrosso's opening on "Good Rocking Johnny" and Sonny Boy Terry's great harmonica break on "She's Sweet." Things wrap up with the "Please Don't Go," with DelGrosso on acoustic mandolin and Richardson on acoustic guitar. Wonderful. Give this one a chance and it will grow on you--or you could get hooked by the first 15 seconds. Either way, this is a disc to enjoy and treasure.

You can buy this cd at or at