Thursday, March 29, 2012

Eric Bibb -- "Deeper In The Well"

Eric Bibb is now on Stony Plain Records. This cd will be released by them on March 27. Bibb is a vocal treasure, truly one of the best vocalists in either folk music or blues. This cd has Bibb on vocals, guitars and banjo, backed by multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell, creole fiddler Cedric Watson, drummer Danny Devillier and harmonica ace Grant Dermody. Special guests include Michael Jerome Browne, Michel Pepin, Jerry Douglas and Christine Balfa. Everything was recorded at Dirk Powell's Cypress House Studio in Pont Breaux, Louisiana, and everything sounds acoustic and analog. The sound is deep and wonderful. As usual with Eric Bibb, the song list features a number of Bibb originals, and it also has a few interesting covers--including Harrison Kennedy's "Could Be You, Could Be Me," Roger Dale Bowling & Martha Jo Emerson's "Dig A Little Deeper In The Well," Taj Mahal's "Every Wind In The River," and Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A Changin'." The Bibb originals are fine, and the playing on the covers is terrific--if this was your introduction to the music of Eric Bibb you might believe he has always been a Louisiana bluesman. He isn't, but this time out the music is really good swamp folk-blues. Bibb may be the only blues vocal artist out there (with the possible exception of Rory Block) who could interpret Leadbelly, Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan and make them all "work."

The emotional centerpiece of the cd, though, is the two traditional songs in the center of the disc--"Boll Weevil, best known perhaps from Leadbelly's version, and "Sinner Man," best known perhaps from The Swan Silvertones' version. On "Boll Weevil" Bibb and Dermody and Powell weave a rich cajun gumbo with guitars, harmonica and fiddle while Bibb sings passionately about the current economic situation. On "Sinner Man" Bibb's vocals and Dermody's harmonica and Powell's fiddle float above a deep bed of guitars, telling the story of the ultimate human question, "Where You Gonna Run To?"

On these two songs, both standouts, and on every other song here, Bibb delivers the goods on every song. This is my favorite Bibb disc since 1997's Grammy-nominated "Shakin' A Tailfeather" children's album.

You can buy this cd at

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Omar & The Howlers -- "Essential Collection"

Omar & The Howlers have been around Austin, Texas since the late 1970's, which makes it about time for a collection like this. This is a twin-disc package, comprised of one cd titled "The Best Of," while the second cd is called "Omar's Picks," which are songs that "represent a snapshot of influences and heroes throughout my career and are special to me for one reason or another," says Omar.

This set will catch up the new fans to the good-time feel-good blues that Omar & the Howlers have laid down for these past 30+ years, and it will make the long-time fans happy too. These two discs display in full measure the talent and passion and hard work of Omar Kent Dykes. He is a fine vocalist, a good guitarist, an underrated harmonica player and a really good songwriter.

Looking at it song-by-song would be an impossible task, but highlights on the Best Of cd include four songs from 1991's "Live at Paradiso," a wonderful early set I've been looking for in used record stores for 25 years, two songs from Omar's debut "Blues Bag" from 1991, the title track from 1994's "Muddy Springs Road," featuring Gary Primich on harmonica and Nick Connolly on keyboards. The sound of that incarnation of The Howlers is probably my all-time favorite. The Best Of disc also includes two songs from 2007's "On The Jimmy Reed Highway" with Jimmy Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton. Highlights on the Omar's Picks cd include two songs from 1994's "Courts of Lulu," two songs from the underrated "Southern Style" from 1996, and another song from "Muddy Springs Road," a terrific take on the Leiber/Stoller "Alligator Wine" with Kaz Kazanoff on sax, Nick Connolly on organ and Derek O'Brien on guitar, and a really nice 2008 cover of Willie Dixon's "Built For Comfort" with Magic Slim on guitar.

This is a top-notch collection, well worth your blues buying dollars. Highly recommended.

You can buy this set at

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Volker Strifler -- "Let The Music Rise"

Volker Strifler is on the way up in the blues world, and this cd is his latest step. "Let The Music Rise" is his second solo release after many years as the frontman & sideman with Robben Ford in the Ford Brothers Band. Here Volker really comes into his own, showing off his talents as a song writer, guitar player, singer and producer.
The music is heavily infused with Volker’s unique style of Blues roots, taking the listener to the outer limits of the genre while combining the traditional with more modern, diverse musical styles. The traditional instrumentation of guitar, bass, keyboards and drums are augmented by a horn section, mandolin riffs, tuba and “the sounds of pots and pans.” Attempting to slot him into a single genre is futile! Influenced by original blues icons like Robert Johnson and Hound Dog Taylor to Muddy Waters, Peter Green, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robben Ford, Volker Strifler has forged a style of his own.

Things open with a hot, horn-driven cover of Sleepy John Estes' "Going to Brownsville," which gives way to my favorite song here, "The Great Escape," which has a big spaghetti western guitar sound and those horns and a great vocal. Next up is "Redemption," which rides a Cuban groove and nicely apt lyrics and sweet sounds-like-Santana guitar. Only three songs in and I'm already impressed by this disc! Then the next song is the old Fleetwood Mac "Jigsaw Blues." one of my favorites, and Volker delivers a cool smoooooth cover, with a horn section, a piano, and a super cool guitar. If we lived in a perfect world this would be in heavy rotation on the radio. And after "Jigsaw Blues" things just continue to cook along--I really like the title cut, and "It's Getting Late" features acoustic guitar and Salvation Army-style horns, and "Last Night I Had A Dream" features electric guitar and top-notch vocals. The entire cd is terrific--no weak links anywhere.

With "Let The Music Rise" Strifler has grown--even though I liked his "Volker Strifler Band" cd, (2007) and it looked promising, this new disc takes a bigger leap forward. Volker has pushed his musicianship in an innovative direction, drawing from a broad palate of musical color to experiment with the blues — keeping it fresh. “My goal is to give the listener a sense of hearing something they won’t hear anywhere else.”

You can buy this disc at

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mud Morganfield -- "Son Of The Seventh Son"

Larry 'Mud' Morganfield is the eldest son of Muddy Waters. "Son Of The Seventh Son" is his national debut. Mud came to singing the blues professionally rather late--he made his debut at the 2007 Chicago Blues Festival. Since then he has been getting ready for this cd. He proves to be a chip off the old block with a set of songs in the classic Chicago blues style. Morganfield wrote seven of the songs; he also covers his father's "You Can't Lose What You Never Had." There is an original song by Billy Flynn "Money (Can't Buy You Everything)" and one song by Bob Corritore, "Go Ahead And Blame Me," and the title track is written by John Grimaldi, who you may also know as Studebaker John. The cd was recorded in Chicago and produced by Bob Corritore. The band is made up of blues all-stars, including Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith on drums (son of long-time Muddy Waters' drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith), Rick Kreher and Billy Flynn on guitar, Barrelhouse Chuck on keyboards, E.G. McDaniel on bass, and Harmonica Hines and Bob Corritore on harp. With Mud’s earthy, soulful vocals, he really does sound like his father when he sings, and the songs sound like an updated Muddy Water set--Corritore calls Mud's sound "a contemporary version of traditional Chicago blues."

This is a good fun cd--the singing and playing are fantastic. Special notice to Bob Corritore's harp work throughout--he is playing music he has played for nearly 40 years, but every note here sounds fresh and new. And wow, Barrelhouse Chuck--his work here really hits the mark, especially when he plays piano. Check him out on "Go Ahead and Blame Me." It cooks!

Mud's entry into "the family business" means now there are two of Muddy's sons out singing blues on the road--Mud and Big Bill Morganfield. They are both very good at what they do--if they weren't they could never have stood the comparisons to their father. Consider this cd a primer on how to make the real deal Chicago blues.

This cd will be released March 20. You can buy this cd at

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Microwave Dave & the Nukes -- "Last Time I Saw You"

Microwave Dave & the Nukes are a Huntsville, Alabama based trio, with 20+ years on the road and 6 previous albums under their belts. Microwave Dave Gallaher was born in Chicago, raised in Texas, served in Vietnam, studied at Berklee School of Music, and was mentored by Johnny Shines. The Nukes are Rick Godfrey (on bass and harmonica) and James Irvin (on drums and percussion). Dave is the principal writer, penning ten of the 13 tracks here. There are two covers and one joke track.

The sound and vibe are similar to classic Omar & the Howlers fare, with driving and intelligent lyrics over energetic heavy guitar work. They open with "Drinking Since Nine," which gets things off to a rousing start and leads into “Jesus Was Smart,” which has clever lyrics and has a Stax/Volt Memphis sound. It may be the best song on the disc. The cover of “I’ve Got A Bet With Myself” sounds like ’70’s Savoy Brown blues. Then the band changes speeds to pull out a vintage Delta-style ballad titled “The Worst Thing,” with Gallaher playing Cigtone guitar. Then the band covers Billy C. Farlow’s “Alabama Saturday Night,” which features Godfrey's harmonica. “Last Time I Saw You,” the title track, follows and has a a cool Buddy Holly-ish garage feel to it. “All Night Boogie” is exactly what it sounds like it should be--a ripping good time with everybody playing full out. This one will translate great to the stage. “Time to Romp and Stomp” and “Goin’ Downtown” are both gems of the boogie blues. They show that Dave & the Nukes have learned how to entertain an audience from all those years on the road. Then the guys swing the blues on the Memphis-style “Cadillac Ride,” with Gallaher on Lowebow guitar. “Vagabundos” marks a shift as Dave channels Dick Dale and sings in Spanish about "vagabonds." Things wrap up with the final track, “Rafferty,” which is a long melodic instrumental that sounds like a lost track by the Butterfield Blues Band.

All in all, a fine outing. If you love your blues loud and passionate, this disc is right up your alley. The press sheet I got quotes none other than Stephen King, who writes about Microwave Dave: "That electric slide guitar will change your way of life."

You can buy this cd at