Friday, November 25, 2011

Big Joe Fitz -- "This Is Big"

I know this is a bit of a detour for me--an indy disc that came out in 2010 which I should have jumped on a long time ago, but for various reasons I missed it then. Please forgive me, Big Joe! This is a very fine disc--if you missed it, too, then let's get caught up! Big Joe Fitz is a New-York-area based blues singer and dj at WDST over the past twenty plus years. On "This Is Big" Big Joe is backed by his jumping band, the Lo Fi's: Big Joe on vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica, Jumpin' Jack on piano, Mark Dziuba, Pete Hop, and Billy Hunt on guitar, Robert Bard and DeWitt Nelson on bass, (Bard is also listed as producer) and Tim Whalen, Phil Nestor and Steve Brown on drums. These guys play a disc full of smooth rich and deep blues. Big Joe's singing reminds me of John Hiatt--he knows how to sing with soul and taste and "put a song over." The songs are all covers, but they are NOT all safe choices--Fitz tackles Ray Charles' "Hard Times," Howard Harlan's "The Chokin' Kind," Eddie Vinson's "Kidney Stew," Delbert McClinton's "Leap of Faith" and Jerry Ragavoy/Mort Shuman's "Get It While You Can" best known in the version by Janis Joplin. These are not necessarily songs I might look forward to hearing by this or any other middle-aged guy, you know? But Big Joe plunges in, backed by a very good band, and he makes everything work out--even better, he actually makes these songs jump and move! My favorite here is the Doc Pomus/Dr John "Imitation of Love," on which Mark Dziuba, Tim Whalen, and Robert Bard make a beautiful creamy smooth groove for Big Joe to sing above. A fine song, part of a fine cd. Big Joe has been singing these blues all over New York & New Jersey for a long time, and his voice and his taste and this band all combine to make "This Is Big" a very worthwhile listen for any blues lover. There is a quote from Duke Robillard on Fitz' website, "I really like your version of "You Mean Everything To Me". Good Work!"

How could anything I say top that? You can buy this disc or individual songs at

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Duke Robillard Band -- "Low Down and Tore Up"

This is another fine disc from the great Duke Robillard and his band, their 18th release on Stony Plain Records. The players include Duke on guitars and vocals, Bruce Bears on piano, Brad Hallen on acoustic bass, Mark Teixeira on drums and vocal. This time around the core band is assisted by DRB alumni Matt McCabe on piano and Sax Gordon on tenor and baritone sax. Everything is engineered/mixed by Jack Gauthier. Dick Shurman wrote the liner notes. The music here is simply wonderful, honest, and deep, featuring songs by Pee Wee Crayon, Eddie Jones, Dave Bartholomew, Sugar Boy Crawford, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Eddie Taylor, Jimmy McCracklin. It's like Duke & the band are trying to re-create a great jukebox that might have been in a Chicago club circa 1951--track after track that captures everything that went into that authentic, raw and real blues sound of the 40s and 50s.

This is an absolutely essential part of every blues lover's library. Actually, every Duke Robillard disc is terrific, guaranteed to be worth the price of admission. His 2006 cd, "Guitar Groove-A-Rama" was a Grammy nominee, as was 2009's "Stomp! The Blues Tonight," and he won the Best Traditional Male Artist at the IBC in Memphis last year. This guy is not coasting--he is still making great discs, touring, and creating great blues every time out. Go buy this cd. You'll love it. Play it for your friends. They'll love it too!

You can buy this disc at

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Maria Muldaur -- "Steady Love"

Maria Muldaur is an American musical treasure. There are few out there who have as extensive a history--maybe Dr John or Bob Dylan, both of whom have shared a stage with Maria over the years. Maria has now made 38 records, a magnificently broad collection, including a few records of children's music, some Jazz, some Big-Band swing, some Bluegrass, way too few R&B, and some wonderful Gospel. I have loved Maria's music for thirty years--I wish she might have recorded with Ray Charles, and I still hope that she might make some music with Dolly Parton. A wonderful singer, a song stylist, an honest and real voice.

Anyway, this cd marks Maria's return to the music of New Orleans. She sings a beautifyul set of songs with passion and spunk and taste, backed by an "A List" of New Orleans musicians: Dave Torkanowsky on keyboards and musical director, Shane Theriot on guitar, Johnny Allen of the subdudes on bass, drummer Kenny Blevins from John Hiatt’s all-star backing band, The Goners, on drums. There's also an impressive set of guests, including New Orleans traditional jazz’n’funk drummer Shannon Powell, local guitar ace Cranston Clements, an appearance on slide guitar by Rick Vito, an appearance by "Mighty" Mike Schermer on guitar, backing vocals by daughter Jenni Muldaur, Jolinda Kiki Phillips and Yolanda Windsay, and horns by Jimmy Carpenter and Ian Smith, all wrapped together in the final mix by veteran producer (and multi-Grammy winner) John Porter.

Especially notable on this disc are Maria's covers of Bobby Charles' "Why Are People Like That?" and Henry Glover's "Rain Down Tears." Either of those are, alone, worth the cost of the entire cd. And no other singer I know could cover Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Somebody To Love" and make it live and cry like she does here.

An A+ project all the way. You can buy this cd at