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  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:

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: