Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 20 Blues cds of 2012

Before I begin with this annual rite of passage, I need to say a few thank yous. Thank you to Deb and everybody at Goldradio.net for letting me play the blues on your internet radio station every Thursday. Thank you to the Promotors and Record Company folks who have sent me some wonderful music this year. And thanks most of all to the artists who make the music.

I've reviewed more music this year than I ever have before, and I still haven't reviewed but about half of what I've received. My plan in this humble blog all along has been to point you in print, dear readers, towards the best of the good stuff. So here is my Top 20 for 2012. And remember if you might like something I've listed here, on Thursday January 3, 2013 from 4-7pm EST I'll be playing selections from these cds on my show at the internet radio station http://www.goldradio.net

21.   Ian Siegal and The Mississippi Mudbloods -- Candy Store Kid (Nugene Records)
        A really good blend of English and Hill Country blues--blended but not smooth. Loads of
        invention, passion, and soul. Even better than 2011's "The Skinny."

20.  John Nemeth -- Blues Live (Indy)
        A  souvenir from seeing him live back in the summer. It was funny--I  lived in Atlanta GA for
        five years and he was never there. Then I move to a small town in Missouri and he came
        here and did a great show for about 20 people. 

19.  James Buddy Rogers --  My Guitar's My Only Friend
       Would be higher on this list if I had gotten it earlier in the year. Great singer, great guitar player.
       Review forthcoming.

18.  Zac Harmon -- Music Is Medicine (Urban Eagle)
       I've loved Zac Harmon's music ever since 2005's The Blues According To Zacariah. This is his
       best work yet, but I look forward to the next one. This just barely edged out Robert Cray's
       "Nothing But Love" which was a terrific return to form.

17.  Otis Spann -- Someday (Silk City Records)
       These previously unreleased performances jump out of the speakers. One of the greatest blues
       piano players of all time. Otis played in one of the greatest bands of all time--with Muddy
       Waters--from 1952-1968. A big thanks to Silk City Records for releasing this.       

16.  Delta Moon -- Black Cat Oil (Indy) 
       See my review August 17.

15.  Fred Kaplan -- Hold My Mule (Regal Radio Records)
       Best piano blues music I heard all year. With Junior Watson, Kedar Roy, Richard Innis and
       the terrific Gordon Beadle. See my review August 25.

14. The 44s -- Americana (Rip Cat Records)
      Got this one from my friend Chris Puyear. Thanks Chris. See my review December 11.

13. JoAnne Shaw Taylor -- Almost Always Never (Ruf Records)
      See my review November 16.

12. Altered Five -- Gotta Earn It (Conclave Records)
      This came to me late in the year but it deserves to be on this list. Jeff Taylor has a great voice,
      Jeff Schroedl plays guitar like he is earning his next meal, and the rhythm section of Scott
      Schroedl and Mark Solveson drive the music with power and taste. Music like this is why I love
      the blues. 2012's version of Root Doctor's 2007 release "Change our Ways." Review forthcoming.

11.  Omar & The Howlers -- Too Much Is Not Enough (Big Guitar Music)
       See my review of "I'm Gone" October 17. These guys have been a staple in my life for over 25
       years, and since November 2011 they have released the 2 cd set "Essential" and single cds "I'm
       Gone" and "Too Much Is Not Enough." Omar Kent Dykes is the best singer of Jimmy Reed
       songs out there--nobody can touch him.    

10.  Janiva Magness -- Stronger For It (Alligator Records)
       See my review April 3.

9.   Chris Watson Band -- Pleasure And Pain (Gator Music)
      The best Texas style blues cd of the year. These guys are on the RISE. See my review July 7.

8.   Shemekia Copeland -- 33 1/3 (Telarc)
      This is the best cd so far from Shemekia, backed by Oliver Wood on guitar, Ted Peccio on
      bass, and Gerry Hanson on drums. Buddy Guy and J J Grey guest. Could easily be rated higher. 
      Nominated for Grammy Blues Album of The Year. Review forthcoming.

7.   Cee Cee James -- Blood Red Blues (FWG Records)
      A staple in my cd player. Cee Cee is terrific, backed here by a really good band including Chris
      Leighton on drums, Dan Mohler on bass, Susan Julian on keyboards, Rob "Slideboy" Andrews
      and Rocky Athas on guitars. See my review July 28.

6.   Albert Castliglia -- Living The Dream (Blues Leaf)
      I looked forward to this cd for a long time, and it lived up to the anticipation. Saw him in concert
      locally in September--he and his band played for over 2 hours for about 15 people. I hope Blues
      Leaf will add the live single "Drown In My Own Tears" to this cd. See my review June 19.

5.   Rory Block -- I Belong To The Band (Stony Plain)
      A wonderful presentation of songs of Rev Gary Davis. See my review June 20.

4.   Chris O'Leary Band -- Waiting For The Phone To Ring (Fidellis Records)
      A very fine release. These guys' career should be taking off now. See my review Dec 16.

3.   Mud Morganfield -- Son Of The Seventh Son (Severn Records)
      The best Chicago style blues cd of the year. Just barely beat out Big James & The Chicago
      Playboys "The Big Payback." See my review March 5.

2.   Michael Burks -- Show Of Strength (Alligator Records)
      This posthumous release is even better than "Iron Man." The best work of Burks' career, which
      makes his passing even more sad. Strong singing, strong guitar, strong songs. Review
      forthcoming.   
   
1.   Maria Muldaur et all -- First Came Memphis Minnie (Stony Plain)
      I love Maria Muldaur. A terrific set. Great songs, great singers, great playing. See my review
      November 14.     

Now that Bruce's Top Twenty is out there, I guess I should announce Bruce's Song Of The Year.
I heard more than 540 songs this year, many of them more than once, and a certain few of those stayed in my head in a good way.  The final list of top contenders include these great songs:

Michael Burks' "Feel Like Going Home,"
Ian Siegal & The Mississippi Mudbloods "Green Power,"
Maria Muldaur "Me & My Chauffeur Blues,"
Shemekia Copeland's "Can't Let Go,"
Nathan James & The Rhythm Scratchers "What You Make Of It,"
Chris Watson Band "Hard Luck Woman,"
Lance Lopez's "Black Cat Moan."

But after giving it a lot of thought, my song of the year is Albert Castiglia's "I Want Her For Myself."  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones AND Dennis Gruenling "Rockin' All Day"

 Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones and Dennis Gruenling have spent the past five or six months touring the east coast together supporting these two new cds. Doug Deming hails from Detroit and now resides on the Gulf Coast of Florida. He plays guitar and sings. Dennis Gruenling is from New Jersey, and he plays harmonica and sings. The Jewel Tones have been around since 1991, and the current members are Andrew Gohman on upright and electric bass, and Devin Neel on drums. Both these discs are on the Vizztone label.  
Let me take them in alphabetical order--on "Wht's It Gonna Take" Doug Deming wrote six of the 11 songs. Anthony Smith guests on harmonica on one track, "No Big Thrill." The covers are Willie Mabon's "Poison Ivy," J Hendricks' "I Want You To Be My Baby" and B Johnson's "A Pretty Girl (A cadillac and Some Money)" and Dennis Gruenling's "Bella Boogie." Of the originals, several merit notice--"Think Hard" sounds like a Jimmy Reed song. "One Good Reason" is a showcase for Andrew Gohman's swinging standup bass, and Deming lays a smooth jazzy guitar break. "Stay Away" is a powerhouse, starting with a big drum beat and lyrics that sound like Duke Robillard is singing and a great guitar break. Doug's singing and guitar with The Jewel Tones and Dennis Gruenling are a fantastic compliment--throughout, this seems like a hot 4 piece band, playing a set of blues stylistically featuring jump, rockabilly and swing blues. There are moments when this comes across as old-fashioned, like on "I Want You To Be My Baby," and on "Poison Ivy," but on the rest of the songs here the feel is surprisingly contemporary. Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones are making a new thing out of the old-skool blues, and the results are highly addictive.

Let me pick up "Rockin' All Day." On this cd Dennis Gruenling plays all the songs with Doug Deming on guitar and vocals, and half of the songs they are backed by The Jewel Tones. The other half of the songs Gruenling plays with members of his sometimes road band, Scot Hornick on bass and Tom Papadatos on drums. Dave Gross is in the producer's chair, and he plays piano on one track. Dennis even sings on one song. He has been playing harmonica since he released his debut cd in 1999, and let me tell you, he has plenty of chops to spare. Here he wrote 4 of the 12 songs, and Doug Deming wrote one.  Things start off on a high level, a harmonica showcase of "Jimmy McCrackin's "Rockin' All Day (Reelin' & Rockin')" There's no letdown after that either. The next song is Jimmy Harris's "Roll Your Moneymaker," and when they had these two in the can, they knew for sure this was going to be a strong release. On the third song, Gruenling's original "The Rev," one of three instrumentals here, Dennis rips the roof off with a chromatic harp workout...and Deming brings a seriously great guitar break in the middle. Then we get two hot swinging covers, "Saturday Night Fish Fry" followed by "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer." Those songs might be over 50 years old, but the band is so hot the songs simply don't feel old.  Everything here and for the rest of the disc just swings with loads of energy and style. Seeing these guys live would be a treat!

Let me finish with a couple of quotes:

"Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones deliver the sound and styles of Blues and Swing fresh way past the expiration date."   Bob Margolin

"Dennis Gruenling is a leading light among a new generation of blues harp players...a true innovator..."                Blues Revue

Don't buy just one--buy them both. These cds can be bought at http://www.vizztone.com

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chris O'Leary Band -- "Waiting for The Phone To Ring"

I sincerely apologize for the lateness of this review. The Chris O'Leary Band released this cd last June, and I have been playing it regularly on my radio show ever since, and in all that time I never got around to writing this review.

Do I need to tell you, dear reader, that Chris O'Leary was the singer/frontman for Levon Helm's Barnburners for 6 years? That the Chris O'Leary Band won the 2011 Blues Blast Music Award for "Best New Artist Debut CD" for their first cd, "Mr. Used To Be"? That this follow up was recorded at his Fat Rabbit Studios with Dave Gross sitting in the producer's chair? That this disc is dedicated to the memories of Jeff Sarli, Bill Perry, Hubert Sumlin and Levon Helm?

All these clues point you toward the stellar quality of the music captured here. The COB is an all-star combo, with Chris O'Leary on vocals and harmonica, Chris Vitarello on guitar & vocals, Sean McCarthy on drums, Frank Ingrao on upright and electric bass, Willa McCarthy on vocals, Andy Stahl on tenor sax, Chris DiFrancesco on bari and tenor sax on two tracks, and Jeremy Baum on piano, B-3 organ and accordian on two tracks. In addition, Dave Gross plays guitar, drums and percussion on six tracks, Michael Bram plays drums and percussion on four tracks, Scot Hornick plays upright bass on eight tracks, and Vinnie Nobile plays trombone on two tracks. This is a big band with a full sound, and lot of depth and talent. And the coolest thing about this cd is that everything here has that great ensemble flavor like the very best blues always has. Everybody plays together--no egos anywhere, just great playing by everybody on track after track.  All the songs are written by Chris O'Leary. And no matter what kind of blues you favor, these 13 tracks can hook you--the band covers the proverbial waterfront of styles--West Coast blues, Chicago blues, New Orleans gumbo.

Here's how Mark S Tucker, from The Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange describes it:
“Chris O’Leary’s got it, man, he’s got it. From rol­lickin’ rock (Give It) to week­end stomp (With­out You) to slinkin’ down-lo back-alley swank (Louisiana Woman) to bar­rel­house bal­ladry (Pic­tures of You) and well beyond…and, lord, that’s only the first four of thir­teen cuts [on his sec­ond CD, Wait­ing for the Phone to Ring,] deliv­ered with piz­zazz, panache, plenty of pig’s feet n’ gumbo, and more than a lit­tle pugilis­tic punch-up all through the blues’ back yard. His ace band knows how to cen­ter O’Leary’s vocals while parad­ing all around him, hot and hip but per­fectly in con­trol, ac-cen-tu-atin’ the pos­i­tive, the neg­a­tive, the ques­tion­able, and even the down­right nasty.“


I can't add anything to that. A very fine cd. You can buy it at Amazon and I-Tunes.
   

Friday, December 14, 2012

The No Refund Band -- "The No Refund Band"

This is the debut recording for the No Refund Band, but don't confuse that with inexperience. Collectively, the band members have toured and recorded full time for multiple decades. The No Refund Band was formed in 2007 by guitarist Mike Crownover and they had some success, especially around Dallas/Fort Worth. But they really found magic in a bottle 2 years ago when Ricky Jackson (vocals, lead guitar) and Rik Robertson (bass) joined forces. In 2010 those three connected with Anthony Terry (sax) Diamond Jim Brady (trumpet) and Walter Cross (drums), and the No Refund Band was underway.
Special guest on this cd is Tommie Lee Bradley, and you can't call what she adds "background vocals"--she has never been in anybody's background.

The No Refund Band members have strong songwriting abilities in addition to instrumental prowess. Of the 12 songs on this cd, six are written either by Ricky Jackson and/or Jackson-Crownover-Robertson. The remaining six are covers. The originals are good. I especially like "Come Down Slow," "Top Side" and "Got Whiskey"--those three would fit in any playlist anywhere for any occasion. And the covers are strong and interesting--they range from the classic blues standard "Blues Is My Business" through "MacCartney-Lennon's "Eleanor Rigby," done in a fresh blues arrangement, to Warren Haynes "Soulshine," which seems like a natural for Terry's sax and strong sweet vocals by both Jackson and Bradley, and Hoyt Axton's "Never Been To Spain" including the original "Spain Prelude," and a burning "Willie The Wimp," which features an all too rare trumpet solo by Jim Brady. On the cover of my copy of this cd I wrote in sharpie: "All are fine for airplay."

The blues sometimes can get a bit stale. There's a lot of follow-the-leader stylings, and all too often a kind of paint-by-numbers approach. Only rarely do bands feature both top-notch musicianship and risky arrangements. The No Refund Band is a breath of fresh air, a band that can bring the goods and always come across as interesting and thoughtful. Texas Blues at their very best.    

You can buy this cd at http://www.norefundband.com

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The 44s -- "Americana"

Lately I've been looking back over the music I've heard this year, with an ear towards working on my end of the year top 12 or 15 or 20--that list will be posted here on December 27. One of the cds I've really liked was the 44s "Americana." I am actually surprised that I didn't review this cd in this space back in April or May, but it's amazing how many times I keep finding this cd in my car cd player.

So consider this a make-up review. The 44s started up in 2007 in Los Angeles. This is the 44s' second cd, after "Boogie Disease," and it is on City Hall Records. The band is Johnny Main (vocals, guitar), Tex Nakamura (harmonica), Mike Turturro (bass), and J R Lozano (drums). This time out the 44s have Kid Ramos in the producer chair, and he also plays guitar, and Rob Dziubla also guests on horns on several songs. 10 of the 13 songs here are originals--they also cover Howling Wolf's "My Highway Man" and Willie Dixon's "You'll Be Mine." 

The flavor of the cd is West Coast and Chicago blues, and these guys get every detail absolutely right, communicating sizzling blues on track after track. I love the way Johnny Main and Kid Ramos weave the vocal and their guitars around the harp work by Nakamura over the great rhythm work by Turturro and Lozano. The opening track, "Hanging Tree" starts things off with a great boogie, and the next two numbers, "Lady Luck" and "Cocaine," (not the JJ Cale song, by the way) just keep that great vibe going. "Dixie" is an all-too-short rockabilly romp, and "Hard Times" is a standout--really good vocals, and guitar, and harmonica. The band does justice to the covers, and they burn the place down with "99 To Life." And when they unleash Dziubla on horns, on "Hold On," the intensity is off the charts.

Highly recommended. This is a really good cd by the 44s, and I look forward to their next one. They play the old blues with authenticity and passion, and they update the sound with soul and taste. The 44s remind me of another West Coast based band that does Chicago blues very well--a band called the Insomniacs, on Delta Groove Records--and that is a big compliment. With really good music coming out like this, I am optimistic about the future of the blues.       

You can buy this cd at http://www.the44sband.com

Friday, November 23, 2012

David Maxwell -- "Blues In Other Colors" and Mitch Woods -- "Blues Beyond Borders: Live In Istanbul"












David Maxwell and Mitch Woods are both really good piano players, and they both released albums within two weeks of each other, and these albums each push the boundaries of the blues in interesting and different directions. So I thought I'd try to talk about both of these fine albums together in one review.

So let's start alphabetically, with David Maxwell. He is an award winning piano player, with a Grammy and several Blues Music Awards. He has been playing piano for over 25 years, mostly in the Chicago style, backing some of the greatest and well-known musicians in the blues. He has played with Freddie King, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rogers, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, Bonnie Raitt and Hubert Sumlin. So this is a guy who knows his way around the piano, and this time he is trying "a melding of traditional blues with music from other countries to which I've been drawn."

Maxwell is backed by Harry Manx on Mohan Vina and Guitar, Jerry Leake on Indian and West African Percussion and Balafen, Fred Stubbs on Turkish Ney, Boujmaa Razgui on Oud and Moroccan Raita, Troy Gonyea on Guitar, Eric Rosenthal on Drums, Marty Ballou on Double Bass, Paul Kochanski on Electric Bass, and Andy Plaisted on Congas. Together Maxwell and these great musicians make a beautiful album chock full of Eastern textures and African rhythms alongside some traditional blues--and the reader should notice there are no vocalists listed. It's a 13 track instrumental release, and it's beautiful. There are moments when it sounds like The Beatles, and moments when it sounds like Chicago blues, and moments when it sounds like you're in a whole other country, and moments when it sounds like nothing you've ever heard before anywhere. But every moment here is absolutely gorgeous. On my internet radio show, Bruce's Texas Blues, at http://www.goldradio.net I've played a few tracks from this disc--specifically "big Sky" and "Cryin' The Blues" and "Rollin' On," and the response was encouraging. Those are the most traditional sounding blues songs here.

In short, I think it's a really important cd, and a really good cd. As Maxwell says in the liner notes, "Relax and enjoy the trip!"

Now let's shift gears and talk about Mitch Wood's new release, "Blues Beyond Borders."  This one features Mitch Woods and His Rocket 88s, recorded in Istanbul, Turkey. Woods is one of the premier boogie woogie piano maestros anywhere, and this release is a CD and a DVD of that tour. In the liner notes Woods writes about how the Republic of Turkey is a secular nation with 99% Muslim population that straddles East and West..... and how Woods saw themselves as "musical ambassadors, able to cross cultural, religious and national borders that most people cannot." It looks like Woods played shows that stuck pretty much to the great boogie woogie music he has been playing for years--a mix of well-seasoned originals and traditional songs, jump blues, swing and New Orleans Rhythm and Blues. Woods' piano and vocals are backed by The Rocket 88s: Amadee Castenell on sax, Cornell Williams on bass, Adam Gabriel on guitar, and Larry Vann on drums, with everybody on backing vocals. The CD contains 14 songs, the DVD contains 18.  The concert feels like the band and the audience had a great time--the playing is tight and loose at the same time, the set list inspired, the audience joyful and enthusiastic. I remember way back when Eric Clapton did a live album from Japan and the Japanese audience sang along on the chorus of the song "Cocaine." In English! They might not have known all the lyrics, but they were having a good time. On this cd Mitch Woods and The Rocket 88s are playing before a lively and excited audience in Istanbul.

In the liner notes Mitch Woods writes "as they say in Turkey--"Bastan basa Blues" --the blues is everywhere!"  

You can buy these cds at:
David Maxwell: http://www.shiningstonerecords.com/
Mitch Woods: http://www.mitchwoods.com/

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Al Basile -- "At Home Next Door"


Al Basile is having a great year in 2012. After spending 40+ years as a poet, playwright, and fiction writer, his career retrospective of poetry "A Lit House" was published this year, and now he has also released his ninth solo CD "At Home Next Door." Produced by Duke Robillard, this 2 cd set includes one disc which is a retrospective of his 14 year tenure on his own record label, Sweetspot Records--along with a second disc which is a collection of new songs in a 60s Memphis style.

Both discs feature Duke Robillard on guitar, and Al Basile singing and playing cornet. The look back is disc one, and it includes songs from 1998 to the present. Featured in addition to Basile and Duke are Bruce Katz on keyboards on seven tracks, Matt McCabe on piano on two tracks, Jerry Portnoy on harmonica on two tracks, Sugar Ray Norcia on harmonica on one track, and Marty Ballou and John Packer on bass along with many alumni members of Roomful of Blues. It is a terrific look back at Basile's wide-ranging talent as a writer and a singer and a horn player--lifted out of their original releases these thirteen songs shine with a new luster. There is also an acoustic blues duet with Al and Duke Robillard on "80 Bells," which is kind of like having these guys singing and playing in your living room. Very nice.

The second disc is the new material, and it features Al Basile and the Duke Robillard Band playing in a 60s Memphis R&B Stax-Volt vibe, with the addition of great jazz tenor sax player Scott Hamilton on three tracks. And let me tell you, this disc is primo stuff! Track after track, I am swept away by a horn riff, a vocal phrase or the keyboard or the guitar, the horns and or the drum--and next thing I know I've gotta go back and listen to that again. Basile is a great songwriter with a great musical feel for presenting a song, and he is backed by a terrific band that has played with him for nearly 25 years. I think this is the best music Basile has made so far in his career--his ease and strength as a vocal storyteller continues to grow with each release, and his cornet playing is rich, nuanced, and succinct. I still remember "Too Much Like Fate" and "Stony Ground" hours after hearing them. "It Is What It Is" gets a big boost from Hamilton. But the best song on this IMO is "A Mystery To Me." Just terrific--a candidate for Bruce's song of the year.

You can buy this cd at http://www./albasile.com

Friday, November 16, 2012

Joanne Shaw Taylor -- "Almost Always Never"

Joanne Shaw Taylor's third cd, Almost Always Never, is the sound of a guitar player growing into a songwriter and a fine artist.  On her first two releases, Diamonds In The Dirt and White Sugar, she was a good and growing better guitar player, but her songwriting had not yet caught up with her fretwork. This time out, she writes all the songs, and she sings and plays guitar better than ever. Part of what makes this such a success is the presence of ace Mike McCarthy in the producer/recording/mixing chair--his past work with Patty Griffin and Spoon lend power to the proceedings. I'm not knocking the esteemed Jim Gaines, who produced Taylor's first two cds, but McCarthy does a real good job at the board here. And the backing musicians are equally terrific: David Garza on keyboards and mandolin, Billy White on bass and acoustic slide guitar, and J.J. Johnson on drums. They play consistently great, especially Garza's work on keyboards. Everything is tight in the pocket, and the band gives Taylor the opportunity to deliver her songs with power and passion on both vocals and guitar.

For years I have watched for good artists to make their third cd--by that point they begin to reach their potential. I remember Dire Straits' third album, Making Movies was a great leap forward from what they had done before--as much as I liked the earlier albums, Making Movies was to me the best album of 1980. Almost Always Never is like that too--from the first ripping notes of "Soul Station" you know this is a quantum leap forward, and there is no letdown--the entire cd delivers that on that promise. This time out, Taylor blows the roof off whatever you thought before of "that white girl guitarist from England."

Highlights include the already mentioned "Soul Station," the terrific title track, and two songs that deal honestly about love--"You Should Stay And I Should Go" and "Lose Myself To Loving You." "You Should Stay..." has some of that beautiful Mark Knopfler fingerpicking guitar sound, and "Lose Myself..." has some wonderful piano, the best singing and lyrics on the entire set, and it wraps up the album and leaves me wanting more.

This release is a terrific accomplishment. If she continues on this trajectory Taylor soon won't have to take a backseat to anybody. You can buy this cd at http://www.rufrecords.de/

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sunny Crownover -- "Right Here Right Now"

Sunny Crownover's third release, Right Here Right Now, is her best to date. As on her previous two cds, this one is a collaboration with Duke Robillard and his band, but this time Sunny is singing from her roots--unlike the earlier cds they did together, "Introducing Sunny And Her Joy Boys" in 2009 and Duke's "Stomp! The Blues Tonight" and "Takes From The Tiki Lounge," this is a contemporary blues/roots and R&B outing. Enjoy the ride as Sunny is singing great on great songs, just like she has been doing for the past 15+ years, first in Dallas/Fort Worth Texas, then in Austin Texas and now in New England the last dozen years. 

Right Here Right Now was recorded by John Paul Gauthier at Lakewest Recording. The band was stellar, including Duke Robillard on guitar, Bruce Bears on keyboards, Brad Hallen on bass, Mark Teixeira on drums, and a horn section that includes Doug Woolverton on trumpet, Mike Tucker on tenor sax, Doug James on baritone sax, and Billy Novick on clarinet. The fantastic Sugar Ray Norcia guests on harmonica.

The songs are all well-written by great songwriters to show off Sunny's vocal strengths. Five of the songs are by Gary Nicholson, one by Duke Robillard, one by Sandy Atkinson, one by Madeleine Hall, one by Brenda Burns, one by Joy Tiven and one by Al Basile.

I like this release. Highlights abound, including, of course, Duke Robillard's guitar playing throughout. I also like the Chicago blues of "Roll Me Daddy," the funky, rockin' "Cook In Your Kitchen," the horn-fueled cautionary tales "Warned" and "I Might Just Change My Mind," the old timey piano and clarinet on "Hi-Heels And Home Cookin'," and everything about the beautiful title track.

In his review for BLUES & RHYTHM (UK), Phil Wight got it exactly right: "If you are a fan of Sunny Crownover, or indeed Duke Robillard, you can't afford to let this album pass you by. A big thumbs up from this reviewer."

Every song here is radio-play worthy, and I hope that Sunny gets a lot of exposure from it. I'm already looking forward to her next cd!

You can buy this cd at  http://www.shiningstonerecords.com/artists_crownover.html
  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Maria Muldaur -- "First Came Memphis Minnie"


For her 40th album, Maria Muldaur presents a loving tribute to blues pioneer Memphis Minnie. This is a wonderful cd, and Memphis Minnie surely deserves to be lifted up in this fashion. Memphis Minnie was the reigning queen of mid-20th century blues, a blues singer, songwriter, entrepreneur and guitar player-par excellence; a colorful, larger-than-life character who was one of the first blues musicians to record with an electric guitar. In a career that spanned over 40 years, she released over 200 songs, many of which are still classics today. This tribute cd features special guests Rory Block, Ruthie Foster, Bonnie Raitt, Phoebe Snow, and Koko Taylor. Other musicians on this cd include Del Ray, David Bromberg, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Roy Rogers, Steve James and Steve Freund.

Several of the songs included here were previously-released from two of Maria's Grammy-nominated albums. Two of the songs are previously recorded by artists who are no longer with us. Koko Taylor's cover of "Black Rat Swing" is from her cd "Old School" from 2007 and Phoebe Snow's cover of "In My Girlish Days" is from her cd "It Looks Like Snow" from 1976. Some of the songs on this new tribute cd are also new recordings from Rory Block, Ruthie Foster and Bonnie Raitt.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of Maria Muldaur. Well, with this release you get great singing by Maria Muldaur, AND great singing and playing by Bonnie Raitt and Ruthie Foster and Rory Block and Phoebe Snow and Koko Taylor--all accompanied by great musicians in really wonderful arrangements. Each song here is presented with a mix of reverence and passion, featuring the talents of the artists at hand and lifting up Memphis Minnie.

My favorite song here changes every time I listen to it--but this afternoon I am really taken with the cover of "Me And My Chauffeur Blues" by Maria Muldaur with Roy Rogers on guitar and Roly Salley on bass. Fabulous in every way. 

This is one of the most accessible, joyful and soul-satisfying releases of Maria Muldaur's career, and it is one of the top cds I have heard in 2012. Highly recommended.

You can buy this cd at http://www.stonyplainrecords.com  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Leo Hull & The Texas Blues Machine-- "Bootleggin' The Blues"






Leo Hull has been playing the blues in and around Dallas Texas since the early 60s, and that road-won experience and wisdom shows in every song of "Bootleggin' The Blues," Leo &  The Texas Blues Machine's fourth cd since 2003. All nine songs here are Leo Hull originals. The band backing Leo's singing and guitar are all authentic Texas blues road dogs, including Buddy Whittington on guitar, Ron DiLulio on keyboard, Jerry Hancock on bass, Larry Randall on saxophone, and Chuck 'Popcorn' Lowden and Warren Dewey on drums. In the words of the immortal Donald 'Duck' Dunn from The Blues Brothers movie, "these guys can turn goat piss into gasoline."

And the songs here are not goat piss. Leo Hull writes and sings like a man who has watched the world with a sharp eye for a long time, and his observations are spot-on. The title track is a biography wrapped around riffs from Stevie Ray and Jimmy Reed. "The Hustle" name-checks Jimmy Reed and tells a cautionary tale: "Jimmy was a hustler, hustle you for a dime....he brought a gun to a knife fight, now that boy's doing time." "Road Hard" is a hot rockabilly boogie tune which has Hull boasting "Yeah, it's good to be on the road, man, trying hard to be number one," while Whittington fills between vocals with a sweet silvery tone. "Blowtorch Baby" is a boogie number featuring Larry Randall's hot saxophone. The next three songs, "Whiskey And Women," "The Road," and "Pistol 69" shine a light on different elements of the good and bad of being on the road and away from home. "Running Away Again" is my favorite song here--it balances great guitar work by Whittington and great saxophone work by Randall with good lyrics and fine singing by Leo. This one is reminiscent of early George Thorogood but better. Things wrap up with "Between You And Me," which takes a fond look back over years of playing and says "If you ain't played the blues in Texas, then son, you ain't played the blues."

A very fine cd, and every song is solid and authentic. You can buy this cd here: http://thetexasbluesmachine.com

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Omar & The Howlers -- "i'm Gone"

I have been meaning to write a review of this great cd ever since it came out back in June, but something was always coming up. I'd listen to it and get about halfway through, and then have to stop listening and do something else. I love the music--I've loved all of Omar & the Howlers music since I first heard them in 1981--but finally today I get to write about them.

You should get this cd, (and the even newer cd from the band "Too Much Is Not Enough" which came out yesterday) and here's why: after 50 years Omar Kent Dykes is still making great music. His singing and guitar playing are take-no-prisoners tough, and his songwriting is still super cool. It has been 8 years since the last new cd from Omar & The Howlers, and these both have endless grooves and great musicians playing great music. Like Casper Rawls and Derek O'Brien on guitars, Ronnie James and Bruce Jones on bass, Mike Buck and Wes Starr on drums. This lineup is Texas All Star quality. There are blues songs, rockabilly songs, ballads, rockers, country songs, but everything has that special Omar spark of quality. Great music.

Here's what you need to do--go get this cd, and after you've heard it a few times, go back to the store or the website and get a couple more Omar & The Howlers cds. Repeat as often as necessary until you have a shelf full of their music. Listen to them often. You will thank me.

This cd is on Omar's own label, Big Guitar Music, and you can buy it at http://www.omarandthehowlers.com/

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dennis Jones -- "My Kinda Blues"

Blues artists like Dennis Jones are the reason I started this blog. If you loves the blues and stumble around a while in cd stores, you will eventually find BB and Freddie and Albert King, Muddy Waters and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and you might be satisfied. But the blues doesn't just live in the past--it is also here and now. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share a public endorsement of Dennis Jones. He is really good, and he deserves your support.

He started playing guitar in Baltimore when he was 13 years old. He has fronted the Dennis Jones Band since 1996. Dennis was part of the Zac Harmon Band that won the International Blues Challenge in 2004. "My Kinda Blues" is his fourth cd. I reviewed his last cd " Pleasure And Pain" when it came out in 2009. It was good, but this one is even better. All but one of the 13 songs here are originals--the cover is "You Took My Baby" by Dave Thompson. The band this time out features the same drummer, Michael Turner, and Samuel Correa on bass. Jones plays guitar and sings. Guests are Kenny Neal, who sings and plays harmonica on "Two Trains," and Guitar Shorty, who brings two honking solos on "You Took My Baby."

Things start with "Jesus Or The Bottle" which blends a hard charging boogie opener and actual news sound bites about hypocrisy of televangelists. Then Jones & Neal join forces for my favorite track, Two Trains." Next up is the title track, which is a kicking blues rocker with dynamic stop-time, dramatic "call and response" and an explosive solo. "Text Us Girl" is a lament bemoaning "We used to have sex, now we just text...." The next song is the cover featuring Guitar Shorty, and then "I Want You," which has killer guitar that reminds me of the great Gary Moore. Then "Never Go Away" which has really funky lyrics and yet another hot guitar driving things forward. Then, taking a turn away from the raucous, Jones presents a jazzy, minor key guitar progression on "Best That I Can," about the emotional cost of life on the road. This track shows Jones' awesome guitar abilities in a fine light. "They Say" is a jump blues, and the whole band just shines--Turner and Correa make every line just pop, and Jones' guitar reminds me of Duke Robillard.

AND released in conjunction with the cd is a DVD "Dennis Jones Band: Live at Temecula Theater," with 18 songs spanning Jones' career. The next best thing to seeing Dennis Jones live! The cd and the DVD show all of Jones' talents to full effect--he is a very fine guitarist, and a very strong singer, and his songwriting is top-notch. Dennis Jones brings it all on "My Kinda Blues." Check it out!

You can buy this cd at http://www.dennisjonescentral.com/     



Friday, August 31, 2012

Scrapomatic -- "I'm A Stranger (And I Love The Night)"

I'm kind of surprised that "I'm A Stranger (And I Love The Night)" is the fourth release by Scrapomatic, and that Mike Mattison and Paul Olsen have been writing and playing together for thirteen years. I did not think they would last thing long, especially after Mattison took the gig singing for the Tedeschi Trucks Band. But the collaboration between Mattison and Olsen continues to bear fruit, and the writing of Mattison and Olsen continues to make Scrapomatic an interesting and evolving band. Now the duo has expanded into a trio with the addition of Dave Yoke on guitar. The rhythm section is Atlanta-based Ted Peccio on bass and Tyler Greenwell on drums.

The songs are all Mattison-Olsen originals, and they are all well written. The two-guitar direction by Olsen and Yoke is impressive--there is still a lot of really good guitar on this cd, especially on "Rat Trap" and "Night Trains, Distant Whistles." "Don't Fall Apart On Me, Baby" sounds like a great unknown Taj Mahal song, and "I Surrender" sounds like a song Bob Dylan might have written for "Together Through Life," but with a great guitar solo. "Crime Fighter" may be the most ambitious song here--with Olsen singing falsetto over a bed of sweet but tough guitars. Mattison sings great on "Alligator Love Cry" (old title, new song) and on "The Mother of My Wolf;" Olsen sings great on the title track, which he wrote. Mace Hibbard on tenor saxophone and Kevin Hyde on trombone guest and add some horn soul to "How Unfortunate For Me." "The Party's Over" features a sing-along chorus and great guitar by Yoke.

These guys are not a traditional blues band--probably they never were. But they are a terrific roots & blues & rock band. This one is not quite as gritty as their last disc, 2008's "Sidewalk Ceasars," but it is still my favorite of their four releases, and I'm excited to see where they go next.

You can buy this cd at the I-Tunes or Amazon--it is on the Landslide record label.   
 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kerry Kearney -- Ghosts of the Psychedelta"

You may not have heard of Kerry Kearney, but that's one of the reasons I have a blog. Here's a tip--you need to get this cd, and you need to discover this artist. Why? Well, because Kerry Kearney is one of the very best slide guitar players out there. If you love the slide guitar work of Sonny Landreth, Johnny Winter or Duane Allman, that's fine--each of them is very good--but Kerry is as good as any of them. He plays with a musical, sweet tone with a nice swinging style. This guy should be a huge star, but he is only well-known in the New York area. Kerry lives in Far Rockaway on Long Island, and, other than a 5 year span playing with Marty Balin from 1988-1993, he has been there forever. Kerry has released a dozen cds beginning in 1996, but he has largely escaped notice outside the NY area.

On this cd Kerry presents one original song and songs by Arthur Crudup, two by Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Lennon/MacCartney, Elmore James and Bob Dylan. He is backed by Frank Celenza on bass, Mario Staiano on drums, David Bennett Cohen on keyboards, Ken Korb on harp, and Nydia Liberty Mata on percussion. Things kick off with "Mississippi River Stomp" which is a high energy number and sounds similar to Sonny Landreth's slide work in the 80s. The second number is the standard "Mean Old Frisco" and here Kerry and the band cut Eric Clapton's version in every way. A knockout acoustic slide treatment! Next up is "Stop Breakin' Down" and here Kerry and the band just smoke the Rolling Stones' version. Kerry's guitar work is really strong here, with a sweet turn on piano by David Bennett Cohen, good vocals and harp too! Elmore James' "Louise Blues" keeps everything cooking along at a good steady boil--here Kerry really really leads it out over a fat back beat. Next up is The Beatles tune "One After 909." The is a full band tour-de-force with Kerry's guitar and singing and David Bennett Cohen's piano weaving a wonderful tapestry of song. I really enjoy the energy on this one. Next up is "The Last Fair Deal Going Down," another Robert Johnson song, and it's a strong effort with really nice guitar. I'm getting tired of hearing every band covering this one, but KK and band still do it way better than ok. Next up is "Baby Set A Date," and this one has a nice showcase harp solo by Ken Korb, strong work by the rhythm section, and a hot electric slide solo by Kerry. My favorite song on the cd is "Girl From The North Country." Kerry takes things in an acoustic direction, and is accompanied by Maria Fairchild on banjo & vocals, Dana Tillinghast on harmony vocals, Sly Geralds on bass, and Chris Cangeleri on shaker. One of the best Dylan covers I have ever heard--I especially love the penny whistle.

"Ghosts of the Psychedelta" will be available September 1st.You can buy this cd at http://kerrykearneyofficial.com  There are also several songs on you tube that you can check out. I hope people will get excited about Kerry Kearney and his music--he's really good.

   

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fred Kaplan -- "Hold My Mule"


Blues music goes through phases. This isn't a criticism, just stating a fact. Lately it seems like we have been in a phase where the guitar is everything--we have guitar players, and people who sing and play guitar, men and women who play guitar and sing--and sometimes it seems like that's all there is. Well, this new Fred Kaplan cd is a wonderful journey through a style of blues that mostly doesn't exist anymore--piano based blues music in the style of the 1940s. That might sound old-fashioned to you, dear reader, but don't think this is a sepia-toned museum piece. This is lively music to dance to, music to cuddle up with, music for all occasions. Fred Kaplan is a wonderful pianist/organist, and after spending a bunch of years playing piano for the Hollywood Fats Band, most of that time with Richard Innes on drums, Fred is releasing his third solo cd. All the seventeen original songs here were written by Kaplan. They are all instrumentals. The longest song here is 5 minutes and seven seconds, and there are no overdubs. Fred Kaplan plays lead piano, and there's tenor saxophone played by Gordon Beadle on nine songs, and the guitar is by Junior Watson, and Kedar Roy is on bass and Richard Innes on drums. David Kaplan plays congas on one song. All of them are great players, and more importantly than their individual abilities, they each listen with a musical depth to the songs and they play the music that each song needs, and not one note more. The notes they don't play are every bit as important as any that they do play.

From the liner notes: "These recordings were an accumulated effort, completed over a two year time period. All the tracks were recorded live, with no over-dubbing whatsoever. Most of the compositions are first takes, never to be duplicated again. These musical friends are a living testimony to their high-caliber skill levels, both individually and as a collaborative group. The artistic love, mutual respect and musical integrity that became evident throughout this project was due, in large part to the passion of my gifted friend Bharath Rajakumar's creative and forward thinking. It is my hope that you will enjoy the magic as much as we did."   Fred Kaplan

Do you remember Booker T & the MGs? Steve Cropper was their lead guitarist, and do you remember his famous little solo on Sam & Dave's "Soul Man"? 6 notes at the most, but the most  perfect 6 notes. That solo is what made Steve Cropper's whole career worth hearing. On this disc nearly every song has a moment like that.

Let me give you just one example: in "Jumbalaya Jump" Junior Watson just kills it on guitar--he kills it--and then Gordon Beadle picks up the lead, and he just makes the song jump, and then Fred Kaplan kind of slides to the front on the piano, and I realized each of these three guys has been playing beautifully for the whole song, weaving in and out, front and back, with great support from Kedar Roy and Richard Innis, and this is a brand new song I've never heard before & I honestly didn't miss the lyrics at all. In fact, I listened to the cd twice all the way through before it dawned on me that they were all instrumentals.

There's some swing blues here, and some jump blues, and great musicianship throughout. Fred Kaplan is a wonderful piano player, and this is a terrific release. I highly recommend it.

You can buy this cd from Fred Kaplan's website: http://www.fredkaplanmusic.com

Friday, August 17, 2012

Delta Moon -- "Black Cat Oil"




Thanks to my friend the Blues Pilot Mark Smith, I started as a DJ on Sunday nights at KJLU at Lincoln University in Jefferson City Missouri in 2005, playing the blues from 8pm-midnight. This blog is named after that radio show. I would borrow armloads of old blues cds from the station's basement and listen to find a gem or two to share that next Sunday night. In the beginning I would listen to 50 or 60 cds each week--ten or twelve a day--and I actually listened to every minute of every song on every cd. Well, one of the first bands I found and really liked in those days was Delta Moon. They were based in Atlanta Georgia. I liked them because they had lots of things going on--on those early records they had a female vocalist, and a tough twin-guitar attack, and a killer rhythm section, and they wrote good and sometimes funny songs too. Tom Gray wrote most of the songs, and Gina Leigh sang with him on a lot of them. Well, from 2002 until now, and over the course of six good releases, many things changed with Delta Moon. For a while I heard that they had even whittled it down to just a slide guitar duo. But still they had the great songwriting skills of Tom Gray, and those guitars, and I kept loving them. And I still do.

Black Cat Oil was released on May 22, featuring founding members Tom Gray (vocals, guitar, steel guitar, keyboards, dulcimer) and Mark Johnson (guitar), along with Franher Joseph (bass, backing vocals) and Marlon Patton (drums). Joseph & Patton have been on board since 2007. Tom Gray wrote ten of the songs. There is a cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "Write Me A Few Of Your Lines" that fits in perfectly. On this their 7th release, Delta Moon does what it always has--make good rootsy/bluesy music built around really good lyrics, great guitar lines, and swinging rhythms.

Everything starts off with "Down And Dirty" and "Blues In A Bottle" which are primers on what Delta Moon has been doing for the past decade. If you like these songs, do yourself a favor and go pick up the early Delta Moon catalog. "Walk Out In The River" is a little less bluesy and a little more rootsy but still really good. There are a lot of roots bands that wish they could make just one song as good as this. Then the title track, which features super solid bass work by Franher Joseph, and "Wishbone," which is a traveling song. (That's kind of like saying Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" is a put down song, but you'll get the idea.)  Then "Black Coffee," another song about traveling--this time about driving from New York City to Atlanta to be with someone you love. "Neon Jesus" is my favorite song here, and it is a riveting experience. If I ever had to testify why Tom Gray is such a good songwriter, this is exhibit # 1. Just listen to it--the chorus may stick with you for quite a while.

I could walk you through the rest of the songs--they're each just as good as the ones I just described--but the bottom line is that is a very fine release. Delta Moon has been around for a  long time making tough, smart, good music. You ought to check them out. I still regret that I didn't hear that first cd when it came out in 2002, and I remember how it blew me away when I finally heard it in 2005.

You can buy Black Cat Oil and all of Delta Moon's cds at: http://www.deltamoon.com        

Monday, July 30, 2012

Another BBQ Post--


My friend Bob Herndon asked me to share the differences between Georgia BBQ and Missouri BBQ. Well, I spent 4 years eating and judging BBQ in the Georgia BBQ Assn, the National BBQ Assn, the Memphis BBQ Network, the Florida BBQ Assn and the Kansas City BBQ Society, and I loved every minute of it. The BBQ at contests I judged in GA was amazing, some of the best I've ever had. I still remember every detail of a piece of chicken I had at Dublin in 2010--fabulous. And the brisket that Glen smoked in Duluth. And the ribs at Jackson in 2009. I judged about a dozen contests every year from 2008-2011, and I was lucky enough to get to eat something great nearly time I went out. I can sincerely say that there never was a contest I regretted being a part of. But even better than the food were the people I got to meet and spend time with--Glen & Melanie Musick, Bob Herndon, Mr K, Gregg Snyder, Rod Brown, David Gellin, Kell and Carlene Phelps and at least half a dozen more. BBQ people are the very best people on Earth. As far as BBQ at GA restaurants, I ate at a bunch of 'em. I had to--within 5 miles of my house I could get great BBQ at Fox Brothers, Community Q, Burnt Fork, Big Daddy Z's, or Pig & Chick. One of the very best things I did when I first moved to Decatur was join the Atlanta BBQ Club. Eat BBQ once a month with a bunch of other BBQ lovers? Where do I sign up? And then every so often I would drive up to Sam's # 1 or The Big Shanty or Fresh Air just because I could, and the BBQ was always the highlight of my day. I'll always remember meals with my friends Bob Saye and Leslie Raymer and David Schakett and Don de Leaumont. The BBQ was always great, but eating with friends was especially wonderful. I just remembered when Jane & I stopped by one late evening at Southern Soul BBQ at St Simon's Island--that was great too. Whenever somebody wanted to know where the best BBQ could be found, I was glad to have an answer. I'm glad I got to do the homework, and I thank 'em for asking.

All these memories are making me sad, because I moved away from all that great BBQ and came back to my home state of Missouri on June1st. We live in Columbia now, and the BBQ here in town is pretty limited. The # 1 BBQ here is not even at a BBQ place--it's at D Rowe's. I got a great pulled pork sandwich there the other day, and I got to see their Old Hickory pit and talk BBQ with David (he is the D of D Rowe's) for a while. But to get great BBQ here it looks like I'll have to go to Pappy's Smokehouse in St Louis and or Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City. Those are both awesome BBQ destinations, but they're both 2 hours from my house in different directions. In my BBQ eating lifetime here I have eaten at Arthur Bryant's, Gates & Sons, Roper's Ribs, and five or six more spots that were all very good--and I'll get back to them all as time permits. I did judge at a couple of nice KCBS contests nearby since we arrived, and I ate very well at those. I'm signed up to judge at 2 or 3 more even ts as the summer progresses.

The difference between BBQ in Georgia and Missouri? I guess good BBQ in Georgia is just a little bit too far away for me now, and good BBQ in Missouri mostly hasn't been located yet. But I still have my car window cracked and my nose sniffing the air for that great aroma of wood and meat. When BBQ is prepared with love and passion and knowledge, the results are terrific wherever you happen to eat it. When I find what I'm looking for, I'll be sure to let y'all know.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cee Cee James -- "Blood Red Blues"






Cee Cee James is a wonderful singer and songwriter, and "Blood Red Blues" is a terrific release. For those not familiar with Cee Cee, she comes from the great state of Washington, with a stopover in Nashville for a year, and now she lives in St Louis, Missouri. She has released three previous records--her first, "Spiritually Wet" in 1999, was a pop/funk disc, then came two blues releases: "Low Down Where The Snakes Crawl," (2008) and "Seriously Raw: Live at Sunbanks" (2010). Both the blues discs are quite good, but I only call your attention to these earlier releases to say that "Blood Red Blues" is the best thing she has done so far.

Check out the band on this: Cee Cee on vocals, Chris Leighton on drums, Dan Moeller on bass, Rob 'Slideboy' Andrews on rhythm and slide guitar, Rocky Athas on lead guitar, Susan Julian on keyboards. Jim Gaines produced, engineered and mixed everything, so you know the band is absolutely killer--they support Cee Cee solidly in the pocket--and her singing is outstanding throughout. Cee Cee wrote all the songs with Rob 'Slideboy' Andrews, and they did all the arrangements. It may sound like she has suddenly burst forth from seemingly nowhere, but this cd has been growing and in development for over 20 years. The life-journey has not always been smooth, but it has been worth it. Everything here is, as it says on the website, "deeply rich in human emotions expressed in lyrical and melodic vulnerability." That's true, but it doesn't really get to the heart of the matter. I will say that Cee Cee and her band tell the story, in twelve songs, of a real woman's life--stories of real happiness, real despair, real pain and pleasure and joy and sorrow.

"Blood Red Blues" is in my personal top 2 or 3 releases of 2012 so far. If you are a woman, or if you love a woman, then you need to listen to this music. Listen close. You can buy this cd and all of Cee Cee's music at her website: http://www.ceeceejames.com but even better than that, buy this cd and then go see her LIVE! That is when she really shines, when she sings these stories with passion and sweat and a lot of love.

You will thank me.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chris Watson Band -- "Pleasure & Pain"

This Chris Watson Band release was an answer to prayer for me--this, along with the Omar & The Howlers release "Essential" and J T Coldfire's "Always And Never," gave me the material I needed to start out on my latest "job:" Bruce's Texas Blues Show on the internet radio http://www.goldradio.org

I was contacted by Downtown Deb and agreed to do a Texas Blues Show. Now I had about 600 blues cds in my personal library, so I started pulling and downloading my Texas blues. That gave me a start, but I knew I would soon need a lot more new Texas Blues to really get the internet radio show off the ground.  I started praying for new material.

And that's how J T Coldfire, and Omar & The Howlers, and Chris Watson Band came to be answered prayers. I have already blog-reviewed both the others--so let me take a few lines and say that the Chris Watson Band has made a very strong cd. It's nothing fancy, just a guitar-centric blues affair by a band that has been together and touring in the Dallas/Ft. Worth clubs since 2006. This is their second release, following their debut "Just For Show," which was released in 2010. The band is Chris Watson on guitar and lead vocals, ably backed by Billy Acord and Chris Gipson on bass, Jon Zoog and Jason Thomas on drums, Scott Morris and Eric Scortia on keys, Justin Barbee on trumpet, Jeff Dazey on sax, and Kristin Major on backing vocals. Nine of the 12 songs are originals, and they are all wonderful. They range from "Heart On My Sleeve," which is lightly funky, through "Heartache," which is a slow bluesy ballad and my favorite song here, to "Mama Told Me," which has Watson showing off his chops with both blazing leads and chunky slashing rhythm work. The covers are all great songs, and they are done very well here--they were all staples from Sean Costello's live sets: "Going Home," "Hard Luck Woman," and Bobby Womack's Check It Out." (For more on Sean Costello, the Atlanta-based blues guitarist, check in my back reviews--he was a tremendous talent who died way too soon.)

Everything here is melodic, tight, soulful--and well done. They may be young, but the Chris Watson Band has all the ability in the world. Keep an eye on these guys. They have a very bright future ahead of them.

You can buy "Pleasure & Pain" at http://www.chriswatsonband.com/fr_merchandise.cfm

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Geoff Achison & the Souldiggers -- Little Big Men (remastered)

 
Geoff Achison is a wonderful Australian blues/roots guitar player and singer/songwriter. His music combines elements of blues, funk, and jam band music, and he has a unique and distinctive style.

Back in 2006 I stumbled across some music by Geoff & the Souldiggers, including this album, in the blues library at KJLU. I listened to it, and fairly soon I decided that I didn't care if this was blues music or folk music or soul music or whatever--but I knew this great music needed to be on the radio. I didn't know then that Geoff's music was not widely available in the US. Then eighteen months later I moved to Atlanta, and I discovered that Geoff had just moved there too--on a two year work visa. So from 2007-2009 I got to meet him, I got to hear him with the Souldiggers, with Randall Bramblett, in solo, electric, and acoustic settings. I bought every cd he had ever made from him in person, still not knowing that this great music was pretty rare in the US. Anyway, to make a long story short, back in February of 2012, I got this cd in the mail with a bunch of other cds, and I looked at it and frowned and threw it aside--"What's this? This is not new!" Well, it really is sort of new--this is the remastered re-released "Little Big Men," and it is now getting the big push in the US. Now you can discover this terrific musician.

They picked a great cd to present Geoff to new fans. This is one of Geoff's strongest albums from start to finish. The songs here are all terrific--the original 14 songs are all just as I first heard them back in 2006, plus three bonus tracks. Geoff wrote all the songs. He is an amazing guitar player, completely unlike anybody else, and he can play everything you hear on this cd without effects pedals, without computers. And the Souldiggers (here consisting of Mal Logan on keyboards, Roger McLauhlan on bass, Gerry Pantazis on drums, Nikki Nichols on backing vocals, and James Mack on percussion) are all in top form too, and they make razor-sharp music great for listening to at home, in the car, at the beach, anywhere. On two of the bonus tracks the Souldiggers have a horn section (Paul Williamson on sax, Tibo Gyapjas on trumpet, and David Palmer on trombone) and those songs are really good too. I think my favorites songs here are "Bit By Bit" and "Boy," but everything is really good. Some cds get put in the player and immediately programmed to skip the clams. You know the drill. Well, when I put this one in the player I listen to it all. There are no skunks here.

The result is is this is a wonderful cd. Don't miss it. Give Geoff Achison a listen and you will want to buy more of his music. Everything can be bought at http://www.brilliant-productions.com/

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Johnny Rawls -- "Soul Survivor"


Johnny Rawls has a new cd out, which is cause for celebration! "Soul Survivor" is the follow up to 2011's "Memphis Still Got Soul" which received three Blues Music Awards nominations--Soul Blues Male Artist, Soul Blues Album, as well as Song of The Year for the title track. In my review, I called "Memphis Still Got Soul" Rawls' best album so far, and let me say it right up front, "Soul Survivor" is even stronger. Again the focus is on soul blues, and the band is terrific. On nine of the songs the band includes Richie Puga (drums, congas) Dan Ferguson (keyboards) Johnny McGhee (guitar) and Bob Trenchard (bass) and Jessica and Jillian Ivey (background vocals).  They are often joined by a horn section of Andy Roman (sax) Mike Middleton (trumpet) and Robert Claiborne (trombone). But as is always true with a Rawls record, the vocals and lyrics lead the way. Nine of the ten songs were recorded at Tornillo, Texas; the other one, "Yes," was recorded in Helena Montana with Dan Nichols (drums) Michael Kakuk (dobro, harmonica) Doug Skoogs and John Moore (keyboards). Nine of the ten songs are originals, mostly written by Rawls and Bob Trenchard, with some contributions from other band members, as well as Catfood Records artist Sandy Carroll, who co-wrote one song. The one non-original here is a song written by Rawls' mentor, the late great soul music legend O. V. Wright, "Eight Men, Four Women." Rawls does one O. V. Wright song on each album.

This time out my favorite song changes every day. It is either "Soul Survivor," which features Rawls smooth vocal name-checking O. V. Wright and Little Johnny Taylor, or "Yes," which has a sweet acoustic guitar intro, (maybe by Rawls himself?) a cool harmonica solo, and lyrics which recall Otis Redding over a solid beat.

Johnny Rawls started out as while in his early 20s as the band director for O. V. Wright, and after O. V. died in 1979, Rawls kept the band together and toured with Little Johnny Taylor and others. By 1985 Rawls was touring and recording as a solo artist. I tell you these things to say that Johnny knows what he is doing, and he has been doing it very well for a very long time. Every new cd is a cause for celebration!

You can buy this cd at http://www.johnnyrawlsblues.com

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rory Block -- "I Belong To The Band: A Tribute to Rev. Gary Davis"

There are many styles of blues out there, from Howlin' Wolf's physicality to Mississippi John Hurt's gentleness, from John Lee Hooker's soulfulness to BB King's urbane embrace. Well, nobody will ever mistake Rory Block for anybody else. Rory has been a singer/acoustic guitar player for over 45 years, and she is without a doubt at the top of the heap of those playing in her style. Furthermore, she has spent a good portion of her career and talent as a musicologist, preserving the delta blues tradition.

This new cd is the third in what Rory calls her "mentor" series saluting blues masters she met in person and greatly influenced her as a musician. It follows the release of similar tributes to Son House and Mississippi Fred McDowell, for which her "Shake 'Em On Down" earned Blues Music Award nominations in the Acoustic Artist and Acoustic Album categories for Rory at the event in Memphis last May 10th. These songs come from a deeply personal place in Rory's own life--she met Rev. Davis at his home in the Bronx, New York, and took lessons from him with Stefan Grossman when she was 14 years old. The liner notes are fascinating as they describe those days.    

This collection is a personal treasure to me, as well, because I have been a fan of the songs of Rev. Gary Davis for my entire ministry. Over the past 25+ years I've sought out these songs, I've listened to them sung by Rev. Davis and Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead and Dave Von Ronk and Jorma Kaukonen and Hot Tuna and a host of others. In good times and difficult times I've clung to the mixture of hope and discovery and faith contained in these songs. Well, let me say it--Rory Block has nailed it here--NAILED IT. Solo guitar and voice, and with both instruments she does beautiful versions of "Sampson and Delilah" and the title track and "Death Don't Have No Mercy" and "I Am The Light Of This World" and "Twelve Gates To The City" and a bunch more. Rev. Gary Davis is smiling from heaven--probably still smoking that cigar, but smiling. 

I love the way Rory Block has done these songs. One great artist carrying forward the words and music of another. You can buy this cd from Rory Block at her website: http://www.roryblock.com/ Better still, see her in person as she tours the US this summer. Her itinerary is at the website.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Albert Castiglia -- "Living The Dream"



Albert Castiglia's sixth cd, and fourth on Blues Leaf Records, is "Living The Dream." It is a massive leap forward from my first contact with him, 2002's self-released "Burn." On the earlier disc there are flashes of promise, some good performances such as "Can't Be Satisfied," "The Day The Old Man Died" and "Cadillac Assembly Line," but most of that could be attributed to Graham Wood Drout's writing. Albert's promise still had a long ways to go. But in the past week I've gone back and listened to all of Albert's cds, and in the ten years since he released "Burn" Albert has gotten better as a songwriter, guitar player and as a singer. And not a little bit better. A lot better!

Let me say it this way--in my opinion, at this point, Albert is second to only a very few when it comes to playing the guitar, and he is one of the best blues singers anywhere on the scene.

And Albert has developed into a pretty good songwriter. He has always written songs--he wrote five songs on 2010's "Keepin' On"--but this time out he writes five of the 12 songs on "Living The Dream," including the title track and "The Man," and his writing is strong. Albert's road band is backing him on this cd, and it's strong, too, featuring Bob Amsel on drums and A J Kelly on bass, along with guests Sandy Mack on harmonica, Juke Joint Jonny Rizzo on acoustic slide guitar, John Ginty on piano and B-3 organ, and Emedin Riveras on percussion. When they cover Freddie's King's "Freddie's Boogie" it is good, damn good, with guitar bombs going off everywhere, but it isn't a highlight of the cd. When Albert covers Little Richard's "Directly From My Heart To You" he sounds like what he is--a good singer singing a good song. "Sometimes You Win" is an acoustic song written by the aforementioned Graham Wood Drout. "Public Enemy # 9" is one of my favorites here--it's a cooker. "Lovin' Cup" is written by Paul Butterfield, and shows the greatness of Sandy Mack. Albert began his career playing behind Junior Wells, and he has a talent for showcasing great harmonica players. "Fat Cat" is a hot instrumental, and "I Want Her For Myself" is 3 minutes of pure acoustic musical magic by Albert & Juke Joint Jonny Rizzo & Sandy Mack--a candidate for best song I've heard in 2012. After that, there are still three more songs--almost 20 minutes of good music, including 9 minutes of "Walk The Backstreets," and a cover of "Parchman Farm" that ranks up there with Johnny Winter as the best by anybody ever.  

Is this a rave review? You betcha. This cd was released on June12. You can buy this cd wherever good blues music is available.





Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Nighthawks -- "Damn Good Time"



The Nighthawks have been on the road playing great blues music for over 40 years now. think about that for a second, and give thanks. Forty years! And the current band of Mark Wenner (harp and vocals, although everybody in the Nighthawks sings) and Paul Bell (on guitar) and Johnny Castle (on bass) and Mark Stutso (on drums) is playing better than ever and finally getting some much-deserved recognition.

From the website: In 2009, Sirius XM’s Bill Wax, having heard that The Nighthawks were playing some acoustic shows, invited the band to record some live tracks for his “B.B. King’s Bluesville” channel. In less than two hours, the band cut almost a dozen tunes. A week later, Bill handed them a mixed version with permission to release. After Bill Wolf's magic-touch in the mastering, "Last Train to Bluesville" was released on RipBang Records. With the able assistance of publicist Mark Pucci and radio promoter Todd Glazer, the CD won Acoustic Album of the Year at the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards in Memphis in May 2011.

I really liked "Last Train To Bluesville" and I like "Damn Good Time" even more. These guys have paid their dues and it shows--there's a moment in nearly every song here where I just lean a little closer to the speakers to hear the magic getting made. An early favorite for Bruce's Album of the Year, this disc just cooks throughout. Every song shows a different flavor, but like barbecue, every flavor is spot-on, rich and tasty. Highly recommended.

More from the website: “This album represents the next chapter, after American Landscape,” Mark Wenner says, “and it’s still true to the fundamental blueprint laid out in 1974’s Rock & Roll.

Mark goes on to talk about some of the songs on the CD and how they were developed for the recording:

“Why not start with ‘Too Much,’ the Elvis tune my grandma bought me at Sam Goody's in New York for my 8th birthday? Taking it back toward its R&B roots, the song is now channeled through the ghost of Jimmy Reed.

“Next up is one we learned working behind blue-eyed-soul monster Billy Price, ‘Who You’re Workin’ For.’ I thought I'd take a crack at a different vocal interpretation. Billy wrote this one with the late, great Glenn Pavone.

“'Damn Good Time,’ the title cut, started as a country song. When the late Warren King brought it to Mark Stutso, it had been taken to Soulsville. Mark took it from there, and he and Johnny finished it. The title does say it, doesn't it?

“’Minimum Wage’ comes out of Mark Stutso's Pittsburgh musical brain-trust with the mad genius, Norm Nardini. ‘Down to My Last Million Tears’ and ‘Heartbreak Shake’ are also products of the Nardini/Stutso mob. ‘Tears’ is the perfect R&B grinding shuffle and ‘Heartbreak’ rocks it on out.

“'Bring Your Sister’ shows how much Johnny, already the king of garage rock, has learned hanging out with the boss of power pop, Nick Lowe.

“’Send for Me,’ Nat King Cole's most rockin’ cut, is lightened into the perfect follow-up to our version of the Buddy Johnson classic and crowd favorite ‘Pretty Girls and Cadillacs.’

“Jimmy McCracklin wrote ‘Georgia Slop’ about an actual joint, Peg Leg Lee's, that was about a mile from present-day Atlanta blues haven Blind Willie's. ‘Nightwork’ is another tune we learned backing Billy Price. People like to holler on that one”

After 40 years, The Nighthawks are still having a Damn Good Time. And so will you. Listen up!

You can buy this cd at: http://www.thenighthawks.com/merch.html

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

J T Coldfire -- "Always & Never"


J T Coldfire is a fine guitarist and singer and songwriter, and if you like blues, this is a cd you need to pick up. J T is based in Austin Texas, and if you know anything at all about the music scene in Austin you know that to stay there you have got to bring it. J T can hold his own with the best Austin has to offer. He wrote all the songs, and he arranged and produced everything here. And let me tell you, everything POPS! The ten songs cover the waterfront from party blues to acoustic to everything in between. The band is JT on guitars and vocals, Roland 'Woe' Guajardo on harp and backing vocals, Pelle Sundquist on drums and backing vocals, Magnus Edland on bass and backing vocals, Ingemar Rogefeldt on guitar and backing vocals, Anna-Carin Borgstrom on duet vocals owith J T on "Let's Go For A Drive," Per Eric Johannsson on piano, Bjorn Lexelius on organ, Kaj Sundqvist on sax, and Glas-Goran Dahlberg on accordian. It's a big band, with an upfront blues sound, and they all play and sing just fine. In fact, "Let's Go For A Drive" is my favorite song on the cd. But throughout, JT leads the band with his fine vocals and rip-roaring guitar. "Party Lovin Pappa" sounds good like Roomful of Blues, with hot harp work. "Get It On (In The Back of the Bar)" is the closest you're likely to come to the Stray Cats rockabilly sound, including a hot piano driving the beat and a great sax solo. There's good lyrics about life and love in "I'm The Best Thing You Ever Had." You could hear "Tired Man's Blues" on a polka radio station, as it features a hot accordian.

J T has been a well-kept secret, but I'm glad to blow the lid off that. Get this cd and see if, after hearing it once, you'll play it again. By the third or fourth time you listen, you'll be carrying this cd with you so you can play it for your friends. Listen for these tracks to start turning up on your favorite blues radio station. J T is that good. Trust me.

You can buy this cd at http://www.jtcoldfire.com

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Phantom Blues Band -- "Inside Out"

The Phantom Blues Band was originally formed as a studio band to back up Taj Mahal on his 1993 cd "Dancin' The Blues." They backed Taj Mahal for over a decade, traveling all over the world and winning two Grammys and a W.C. Handy Blues Award. "Inside Out" is their third cd with the group on their own--their previous efforts are "Out Of The Shadows" (2006) and "Footprints" (2007), both on Delta Groove Records. This new disc is on Vizztone, and it features the same core band members--Tony Braunagel on drums and percussion, Larry Fulcher on bass on vocals, Mike Finnegan on keyboards and vocals, Darrell Leonard on trumpets, Joe Sublett on saxes, Johnny Lee Schell on guitar and vocals. Special guests on "Inside Out" include Lenny Castro on percussion, Joe Sample on keyboards, Denny Freeman on guitar, and Reed Noble on vocal. As is true every time the Phantom Blues Band makes a cd, everything is tight and soulful and the songs are in a variety of styles. The band members wrote the majority of the songs, and there are some interesting covers: Smokey McCallister's "I Can't Stand It," Charlie Rich's "Feel Like Goin Home," Dave Bartholomew's "Little Fernadez," Doc Pomus's "Boogie-Woogie Country Girl," and Jimmy McCracken's "Shame Shame" all receive the Phantom Blues Band treatment and come out sounding great. Only on the Son House song "Death Letter" does the band struggle a bit--and I think that is because there's not enough for everybody in the band to do on this so-often-overplayed song. I think my favorite song changes with each listen--but today I really like the way everybody in the band seems to dig in and give a great performance on the Fulcher/Sublett song "So Far From Heaven." The first time I heard it I wasn't all that impressed, but with each additional listen I get more impressed. I don't know any other band who could play it as well. Other than that slight stumble trying to do Son House, this is a really great record. As Sirius/XM BB King's blues channel's Bill Wax says in the promo sheet, "One of the best I have heard in the last few years. I could comfortably play all the songs on it." You can buy this cd at http://www.phantombluesband.com

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Playlist: Bruce's Texas Blues Show

PLAYLIST PLAYLIST PLAYLIST Here's the playlist for Bruce's Texas Blues Show last Thursday, May 3rd. I got a bunch of good used cds from Decatur CD a week ago today and those allowed me to play a bunch of new (to me) songs. One thing I really enjoyed about this show was I got to play Joe Medwick singing "I Pity The Fool." Joe Medwick wrote that song! I had always thought it was a Bobby Blue Bland song. Anyway, I hope you will listen to the Texas Blues with me--it's live every Thursday from 4-6pm eastern time at http://www.goldradio.org Anyway, here's the playlist. I've marked the new songs: T-Bone Walker--Blues Is A Woman Freddie King--Have You Ever Loved A Woman Bobby Blue Bland--Turn On Your Love Light Lowell Folson--Reconsider Baby ZZ Hill--Down Home Blues Big Walter Horton--Trouble In Mind Diunna Greenleaf--Sunny Day Friends Ray Wiley Hubbard--Snake Farm Ray Wiley Hubbard--Coricidin Bottle (new) F&G Band--You Don't Sing The Blues, The Blues Sing You Slim Harpo--So Many Roads, So Many Trains Cee Cee James--Watermelon Lucy Doyle Bramhall--I'd Rather Be (Blind, Crippled & Crazy) Ruthie Foster--Aim For The Heart (new) Lightnin' Hopkins--Give Me Central 209 (Hello Central) Joe Medwick--I Pity The Fool Lowell Folson--Come Back Baby Johnny Nicholas--Hey Hey Buddy Flett--Done Somebody Wrong Texas Slim--Expresso Girl U P Wilson--Hold On Baby Robert Cray Band--On The Road Down Johnny Winter--Last Night Peter Karp/Sue Foley--We're Gonna Make It (new) Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble--Wham The Reverend Payton's Big Damn Band--Mississippi Bolweavil Blues Nathan James & The Rhythm Scratchers--Chosen Kind (new) J T Coldfire--It's Alright With Me (new) Junior Brown--Guit-Steel Blues Phantom Blues Band--I Can't Stand It (new) Jimmy Reed--Big Boss Man Howlin' Wolf--Spoonful

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bob Corritore & Tail Dragger -- "Longtime Friends In The Blues"

Bob Corritore & Tail Dragger have made a very fine cd together. They have a history both as friends and blues players--they met when they played together at a tribute show in 1976 to honor Howlin' Wolf, who had died the day before. Tail Dragger hired the young Corritore to play with him many years ago. Now Corritore has returned the favor, hiring Tail Dragger for this cd. Bob is one of the very best Chicago harmonica players around; Tail Dragger (aka as James Yancy Jones) is one of the best blues singers anywhere. Together here they make beautiful blues music. In addition to Tail Dragger on vocals, & Bob Corritore on harmonica, "Longtime Friends In The Blues" features a great band made up of Kirk Fletcher and Chris James on guitar, Patrick Rynn on bass, Brian Fahey on drums and the wonderful Henry Gray on piano (and vocals on "Sugar Mama"). Howlin' Wolf's influence becomes apparent on "Longtime Friends In The Blues", when only a few short seconds into the opening track, Tail Dragger blasts out the words, "I'm Worried, Babe I'm Worried About You" sounding just like the Wolf. From that moment on we are on a great Chicago Style Blues ride. The next song is the Sonny Boy Williamson song "Sugar Mama," which opens with a sizzling harp wail from Corritore and continues with vocals by Tail Dragger and Henry Gray. Following "Sugar Mama" there is no letdown, as we hear "Birthday Blues," which is simply wonderful. Special kudos to the rhythm section here--they push things along real well here and on all the songs. This is not a nostalgia tour--this is a real fast ride! Next we hear "She's Worrying Me," which may be the best song here. Tail Dragger's vocals here are truly amazing. Tail Dragger wrote that one, and he also wrote "Cold Outdoors," another chance for Henry Gray to shine on piano. The next track, "So Ezee" is a message song about getting people to wake up. If all moralizing came wrapped in this sort of hot blues, I'd be a fan of protest music for sure! This song is also a showcase for Bob Corritore's driving harp, along with great guitar work from James and Fletcher. Henry Gray especially shines on the boogie-woogie number "Boogie Woogie Ball." The closing track "Please Mr Jailer" is the longest of the ten songs on "Longtime Friends In The Blues," and another great performance by the entire band. "Longtime Friends In The Blues" is a wonderful Chicago Style Blues Album. Great vocal work from Tail Dragger, great harp work from Bob Corritore, plus outstanding performances from Henry Gray, Kirk Fletcher, Chris James, Patrick Rynn, and Brian Fahey. Special note for those who read the liner notes--Chris James & Patrick Rynn are becoming, together, about the best players you can get to make a great blues record. Many thanks for his help with this review to John Vermilyea. You can buy this cd at http://www.deltagrooveproductions.com/

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ian Siegal and The Youngest Sons -- "The Skinny"

First, a few lines of apology to you, dear readers--I have been focused elsewhere for about the past three weeks. As I indicated in my last post here, I am now presenting two hours weekly of Texas Blues on the internet radio station http://www.goldradio.org It can be heard every Thursday from 4-6pm eastern time. There have been many things I had to learn to make this project work--mostly having to do with figuring out how to load and store enough Texas Blues music into my Dell laptop that I could do a show from it. My personal blues library totals about 400 cds, but only part of those could be classified as Texas Blues. So it was great earlier today when I wandered into my local independent record store, Decatur CD, and when I left a little while later I had a sack of GOOD STUFF for the radio show. (And no food money for the next week, but sometimes that's the price you pay.) I've built up almost a thousand songs in the laptop, and I feel pretty good about the progress of the radio show. It was amazing to discover that I am investing about 8 hours a week to do a 2 hour radio show, but I am loving the results. So the frequency of my blogging has fallen some--but I want to jump back on that horse starting today, and I want to showcase a cd that deserves your ears: Ian Siegal and the Youngest Sons "The Skinny." I mean, after all--it was the #2 cd of 2011 according to Mojo magazine and the Nugene Records website! This is one of those cds that takes a few listens to show its true power. I listened to it once last winter & it didn't move me...but that was my fault. As I kept circling back around and listening to it I finally began to "get" Ian Siegal's vocals. On his previous records I've had trouble with his singing style, but starting with "2009's "The Dust" he is growing on me. Let me tell you, "The Skinny" is a really good cd. Siegal sings his ass off here, and he is backed by a truly great band--Cody Dickinson (on drums, bass, boogie board, backing vocals and percussion, and he produced the cd), Garry Burnside, (on bass, vocals, rhythm guitar), Robert Kimbrough (on rhythm & lead guitar), and Rodd Bland (on drums). Without a doubt, these guys can all flat out play the deep blue Hill Country Mississippi blues music like no one else--they have been playing it since they were children--and their work on this disc is TIGHT, with a side dose of telepathic. The cd was recorded at Zebra Ranch Studios at Coldwater Mississippi. Add to the mix Mr Siegal on guitar and vocals and talents like special guests Alvin Youngblood Hart, Andre Turner and DuWayne Burnside, and you've got a band who can, to quote a man who ought to know about it, (the honorable Donald "Duck" Dunn) "turn goat piss into gasoline." And they do. If you are a fan of the Hill Country blues, this is a natural choice. But if you love Moreland and Arbuckle, or if you love Derek & the Dominos, or almost anybody in between, this cd will find a home in your cd player. I'm just sorry I didn't catch on to it several months ago--I could have had "Natch'l Low (Coolin' Board)" in my head, especially Robert Kimbrough's wicked good guitar solo. I could have been enjoying "Garry's Night Out," with Garry & Ian on dueling acoustic slide guitars, sounding exactly like this year's equivalent to the great duet by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman on "Mean Old World." Oh well, better late than never. Highly recommended. You can buy this cd at http://www.nugenerecords.com/

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Playlist: Bruce's Texas Blues Show

PLAYLIST PLAYLIST PLAYLIST I have recently begun presenting a weekly Texas Blues Show on http://www.GoldRadio.org This is the playlist from show # 3, which aired earlier today. The show airs on Thursdays 4-6pm eastern time. Give it a listen! Artist--Song T-Bone Walker--Blues Is A Woman Leadbelly--Midnight Special Lightnin' Hopkins--Sat Down On My Bed And Cried Lonnie Mack & Stevie Ray Vaughan--Oreo Cookie Blues Johnny Ace & Cathy Lemons--Move On Jim Suhler--Dallas Danny Barnes--Too Long Lil' Cliff & the Cliffhangers--Twenty-Nine Ways (To My Baby's Door) Albert Collins/Robert Cray/Johnny Copeland--T-Bone Shuffle Jim Suhler/Alan Haynes--Oh My Baby's Gone Johnny Winter--Further On Up The Road Albert King--Born Under A Bad Sign Hadden Sayers--Take Me Back To Texas Omar & the Howlers--Jimmy Reed Highway Cee Cee James--Watermelon Lucy Willie Nelson & Francine Reed--Funny How Time Slips Away Jelly Roll Kings--Look Over Yonder Wall James Hinkle--Rolling Up The Sidewalks Peter Karp & Sue Foley--You've Got A Problem T-Bone Walker--Call It Stormy Monday Johnny Copeland--Old Man Blues Nathan James & the Rhythm Scratchers--Later On Marcia Ball/Irma Thomas/Tracy Nelson--Yield Not To Temptation Stevie Ray Vaughan--Cold Shot Stevie Ray Vaughan--Couldn't Stand The Weather Kay Kay & The Rays--Big Bad Girl Albert Collins--Conversation With Collins Lazy Lester--Five Long Years Anthony Gomes--Everyday Superstar Volker Strifler--Let The Music Rise

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Janiva Magness -- "Stronger For It"



Janiva Magness has made the finest record of her career, and one of the most powerful blues cds of the past decade. Ten years from now, I think we will remember 2012 as the year of Janiva Magness. This is the same way I felt when I first heard Springsteen's "Nebraska." It's simply the best cd I've heard in the entire 4 years I've been writing this blog.

Magness is an eleven-time Blues Music Award nominee, and she won the coveted 2009 Blues Music Awards for B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year (she is only the second woman to ever win this award, Koko Taylor being the first) and for Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year, an honor she also received in 2006 and 2007.

This cd follows Magness's BMA nominated albums on Alligator Records, "The Devil Is An Angel Too" (2010) and "What Love Will Do" (2008). Quite an impressive set.

After struggling through what she has termed "the most personally challenging year that I can ever remember" in 2011, Magness threw herself into the music and come up with a gem of an album. "Stronger For It" was a cathartic experience for Magness, and the way she sings on each song of loss and recovery, pain and redemption, hurt and healing her story becomes our story as well. Her singing is clear, powerful, and deeply emotional. This is not a cd for background music.

Production is by Dave Darling. The band includes Matt Tecu on drums, Gary Davenport on bass, Zach Zunis and Dave Darling on guitars and Jim Alfredson on keyboards. For the first time since her debut album in 1997, Magness wrote three songs with Dave Darling. Her three autobiographical songs stand out here, even among covers by top-notch songwriters like Tom Waits, Grace Potter, Shelby Lynne, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Matthew Sweet and Julie Miller.

Just invest the time to listen to "There It Is" or "I Won't Cry" (written by Magness & Darling, as is "Whistlin In The Dark") or "I'm Alive" or "Dirty Water" or "Whoop And Holler." Listen to one song and I can only believe that you will buy the whole cd, and one listen to "Stronger For It" and you will understand what I'm trying to say. Five Stars.

This cd was released on March 13th. You can buy it at http://www.alligatorrecords.com