Monday, February 27, 2012

Allow me a brief change of gears--great BBQ!!

I know, this is a blues blog, with well over a hundred posts pointing you in the direction of the good blues cds as they come out. Well, this time out I want to say a few things in praise of a couple of great BBQ places. Thanks to my son Chris & his fiance Erin, I recently was able to eat dinner at Oklahoma Joe's BBQ in Kansas City, Kansas. Now I knew it was a Saturday night, and I knew Oklahoma Joe's was famous for their BBQ and they drew crowds that meant everybody has to wait to get in. It was 9 degrees out there with a strong wind! But God smiled on us, and we were seated in less than 20 minutes! And OMG, the BBQ was superlative. I had a plate of ribs with BBQ beans and spicy cole slaw on the side, and wow, for nearly an hour I was absolutely transported to BBQ nirvana. On the way home I proclaimed it one of the top 3 BBQ experiences I have ever had.

Now, this is not my first rodeo. I was raised in Missouri, and I've been eating BBQ and loving it for over 30 years. I am a certified BBQ judge (in KCBS, MBN, GBA, NBBQA) in four different associations for over 5 years. I have eaten some extraordinary BBQ in my life. And Oklahoma Joe's was truly that--extraordinary. Extraordinary that they could pump out the BBQ this good for this many people every day for month after month. I've always believed that excellence should be rewarded, in blues or in BBQ, and the guys at Oklahoma Joe's do a VERY excellent BBQ. If you are ever within 100 miles of Kansas City you really ought to get there around mealtime.

I came back from Kansas City and settled back into Decatur Georgia, and thought "Ok, that was great. I won't get to eat BBQ that good again anytime soon." Well, within 10 days I was able to go to the Big Shanty in Kennesaw, Georgia. Guess what? I was treated to another great plate of great BBQ!! (The websites for both these places are at the end of the review) I met my friend Jarrod at the Big Shanty and I was loaded down with another plate of ribs. This time the sides were Brunswick stew and green beans. And wow, those ribs were really good!! I had been to the Big Shanty once before, with the Atlanta BBQ Club, and I thought it was pretty good, but that day it was so much better than i remembered it! Those ribs were cooked perfectly, the sauce was awesome--every part of being great was there in these ribs. Like Oklahoma Joe's the Big Shanty makes great food every day. The Brunswick stew might have been the best I ever had anywhere. And the ribs were nearly as good as Oklahoma Joe's.

A couple of fantastic meals. Check them out if you are ever in the neighborhood--you will not be disappointed.

(Oh, and for those of you who might be keeping track--the other 2 Top BBQ Experiences I ever had were at Charlie Vergo's Rendezvous in Memphis, Tennessee and at Craig's in DuVall's Bluff, Arkansas. Most marvelous meals.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mac Arnold's Blues Revival -- "Live at the Grey Eagle"

Here's a great blast from the past, AND a great blast of the present. Mac Arnold has a great career. Starting out in South Carolina in a band that sometimes included James Brown, he made his mark in the 1960’s as a Chicago Bluesman, playing and recording with giants like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Otis Spann, James Cotton, Tyrone Davis, Otis Redding and B.B. King. In 1969 he moved to Los Angeles where he worked with his friend Don Cornelius on Soul Train, played bass on the Sanford & Son TV show, and branched out to do production, camera and editing work at major studios. In 1990 he moved back to South Carolina, where he took up organic farming and eventually hooked up with the musicians who would become Plate Full O’Blues.

In April, 2010, Mac and Plate Full O’ Blues kicked off their fourth annual Collard Greens and Cornbread Blues Festival to benefit their Foundation, which supports music and art in the schools. LIVE AT THE GREY EAGLE is a record of that magic night.

The first half of the show is Mac with Plate Full O' Blues, Mac's regular touring band, and it is terrific. The guys completely live up to the potential they hinted at on their last disc, 2009's "Country Man." Then comes the second half of the show, and it is a BIG treat--Mac Arnold on bass, Bob Margolin on guitar, & Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on the drums, all from Muddy Waters band in the late 60s, along with the great harmonica ace Kim Wilson. Hearing these guys ride that old school Muddy Waters groove on "Screamin' An' Cryin'" alone is worth the price of the cd. These guys are in for some deep, classic blues. The crowd was exuberant, the musicians were having a ball, and the spirit of the Blues was a palpable presence in the room.

Mac Arnold is one of the signs that God wants us to learn the blues right--his love for this music pours out every time he sings a line with that raspy voice, every time he picks up a bass or a guitar and shows how it's supposed to be done. The blues here are presented in all their raw, urgent glory.

You can buy this cd at

The following written by Bob Corritore:

RIP Iverson Minter AKA Louisiana Red March 23rd, 1932- to February 25, 2012. It is with a heavy heart that we report the passing of one of the greatest and most beloved traditional blues artists. Louisiana Red died this afternoon at a hospital in Germany (Note Europe is 9 hours ahead) after a few days in a coma brought on by thyroid imbalance. He was 79. Louisiana Red was a powerful downhome blues artist who could channel his teachers (among them Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Robert Nighthawk, Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker) into his own heartfelt musical conversation, delivered with such moving passion and honesty that it would leave his audiences indelibly touched. He was fine singer with a distinctive voice, and an amazing guitarist who could play all of the traditional blues styles and excelled as one of the world's greatest slide guitarists. He could create moods and textures, both musically and spiritually, and had the ability of falling so deep into his own songs that he would go to tears, making his audience cry with him. That was the gift of this great artist.

Wikipedia lists Louisiana Red as being born in Bessemer, Alabama but his own reports have fluctuated from various Southern towns and cities. Red lost his mother at birth and his father was killed in a Ku Klux Klan lynching when Red was just 5 years old. He lived in an orphanage in New Orleans for a few a his childhood years until his grandmother took him to Pittsburgh to live. A few years later she bought him his first guitar, a $12 Kay. Red would play along with records and the radio and begged some guitar lessons from his first mentor, Crit Walters. It was early in life that Red made the decision to become a blues musician. In the late 1940s Red would follow his passion to Detroit where he would become friends with Eddie Burns and John Lee Hooker. He would make his first recordings in Detroit for producer Joe Von Battle under the moniker of Rocky Fuller, a pair of these recordings were leased to Chess records. He would accompany John Lee Hooker on a session forModern Records and you can hear Red shouting "Lord Have Mercy" in the middle of JLH's "Down Child". Red would also land a 1953 recording session in Chicago for Chess in which he is accompanied by Little Walter on the brilliant "Funeral Hearse At My Door" which remained in the vaults unreleased for decades. Red's next stop would be New York where he would record for producer Bobby Robinson and for Atlas Records. But it was Louisiana Red's 1962 Roulette label recordings that garnered him national recognition as a bluesman. His single "Red's Dream" with its humorous political commentary became a major hit and was followed by the Roulette album The Lowdown Back Porch Blues. This was followed by the 1965 release of Louisiana Red Sings The Blues on Atco. In the mid 70s he became the cornerstone of the Blue Labor label cutting two excellent solo acoustic albums; Sweet Blood Call and Dead Stray Dog and also appearing on that label as a featured sideman on albums by Johnny Shines, Roosevelt Sykes, Brownie McGhee, and Peg Leg Sam. He was romantically involved with folk legend Odetta for a small period of time in the 1970s. European promoters and booking agents took an interest, and Red found a new audience with his annual overseas tours. Labels such as L+R from Germany and JSP from England began recording Red, the latter debuting their catalog with Red, Funk and Blue, a duet album with Sugar Blue. Red appeared as himself in the movie Come Back featuring Eric Burdon of Animals fame. Red lived in Chicago for awhile in the early 1980s where he worked at the Delta Fish Market. He would then move to Phoenix in late 1981 where he lived and played with Bob Corritore for about a year.

Red left Phoenix for a European tour in late 1982, and it was then and there that he met his true love, Dora, who he married and spent the rest of his life with. Dora gave Red an uncompromised love and the constant companionship and protective looking-out-for that Red needed. Dora also provided the family situation that Red yearned for in his life as Red took great pride in his love and adoption of Dora's sons. The positive impact and dedication that Dora provided Red was simply amazing. Red would live in Hanover Germany for the rest of his life with Dora and each year in January, the two would vacation in Ghana, Africa, Dora's country of origin. He found work so plentiful in Europe that for a period of time he rarely would come to the USA. In 1995 Earwig Records would releaseSittin' Here Wondering. which had been recorded by Bob Corritore in 1982 and sat on the shelf for over a decade. This CD created a relationship between Red and Earwig label chief Michael Frankwho would record 2 more records by Red and book annual US tours. Releases followed on High Tone and Severn as well as a documentary DVD released only in Europe. In 2009 Little Victor struck gold with his production of Red's Back To The Black Bayou CD released first on the Bluestown Label and then picked up by Ruf Records. Victor had idolized and studied under Red for years and lovingly coaxed this brilliant album from his mentor. Back To The Black Bayou swept Europe and the US with awards and nominations. Simultaneously, Red's collaboration with pianist David Maxwellproduced You Got To Move, and in 2010 Red would go to the Blues Music Awards with 5 nominations and receive 2 wins! Little Victor also produced Red's final critically acclaimed CD Memphis Mojo.

It is sad to say goodbye to the loving persona of this great bluesman who's music warmed our hearts Louisiana Red's vulnerability became his strength and he filled his heart with an unstoppable passion for music and acceptance. His legacy is great and his friendships are many. He can now rest in peace after a lifetime of giving us everything he had through his amazing blues. God bless you Red.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Roy Trevino -- Self Titled

Roy Trevino's self-titled debut disc is a knockout. It came out last November 29 on Troubadour Records, and just in case it slipped your mind during the holidays, I thought I should write it up. Roy is based in south Texas, and he has been playing guitar and loving the blues since he was young. Early on, Roy was studying guitar with Ronnie Earl. This disc is produced by Jim Gaines. All the guitars and lead vocals here are by Roy. The rest of the band is JJ Johnson on drums (all but one track), Chris Maresh on bass, David Boyle on keyboards, Kyle Thompson on drums, (on the track "Little Girl,") Ed Hobizal on piano on two tracks ("La Luna" and "Little Girl."), John Nelson on percussion, and Robert Bailey and Vicki Hampton on background vocals. With the exception of Bob Marley's "Lively Up Yourself," all the songs were written by Roy.

The other nine songs all have some autobiographical background to Trevino's upbringing in South Texas. The bluesy, gospel opener "Gloria" is not the 60's rock song--this "Gloria" was the result of Roy wanting to write a blues mass. On "The Boy Can Play" he name-checks a host of his guitar influences, including Robert Johnson, Son House, through the three "Kings" and British guitarists Clapton, Beck Page and Green, and Texas homeboys Billy Gibbons, Johnny Winter and the Vaughan brothers Jimmie and Stevie Ray. Throughout, Trevino also showcases his Mexican and Latin influences, especially on the songs "Sin Ella," "Trinidad," and "La Luna." In fact, the middle of the disc, from "Sin Ella" thru "La Luna" works as the emotional center of the disc, and these four songs show off Trevino's blues chops and his South Texas/Latin heritage big time. But the best blues guitar playing, I think, is on "Hurricanes" and "Going Away." The playing on "Hurricanes" reminds me a lot of early Johnny Winter, and I hope you know that is high praise. And "Going Away" is a powerhouse song--great lyrics and singing, and the guitar reminds me of Stevie Ray Vaughan. It is beautiful, lyrical and rooted in the South Texas blues.

This cd is on Troubadour Records. You can buy it at I-tunes, cdbaby and many other outlets. For more info on Roy Trevino, go to