Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Matt Baxter and Jake Sampson -- "Haunted"

Matt Baxter & Jake Sampson are both excellent musicians with long track records of playing with other artists. Baxter has played with Price Buster and Longhorn Slim and Procol Harum's Gary Brooker and Donnie Osmond. Sampson has played with  Barry Levenson and many others. They are now based in San Francisco.

On this release, Sampson plays bass and sings, Baxter plays guitar, slide guitar and dobro. Guests include Tony Coleman on drums on one track, Dave Pellicciaro on Hammond B-3 organ on one track, and Simon Russell on piano on one track. The ten tracks, all written by the artists, are contemporary acoustic delta style blues. If you like the old Robert Johnson songs, or Son House, or the first Hot Tuna album, you will like this--these guys have re-created the good stuff, without using a hundred year old recording techniques or really old microphones. Instead of making it sound old, they make it sound great.

Sampson sounds like a younger John Lee Hooker or Taj Mahal. His bass playing is rich and deep, augmented by great playing Coleman and Pelliciaro on "Don't It Make You Feel Good" and by Simon Russell's piano on "Take Me Back Home." Baxter is a great guitar player throughout, and he never overplays. This release shows both musicians to great advantage, without any artifice or ego. Everything is direct and simple, but to truly unwrap the talent of what has been created here, you might have to turn it up a little--and listen a little harder than usual.

My favorite tracks here are the title track, with great guitar and vocal, and "Highway 54," which drew me in at first listen. "Jaime Lynn" stands out with a country feel, and "Dusty Mule" may be the best song--with everything absolutely perfect.

You can buy this cd at or at Amazon. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Solomon King -- "Train"

I just wrote a review of David Egan's latest cd, took a break for lunch, and here I am again, writing a review of Solomon King's "Train."

Solomon King is both a man and a band--the man sings and plays guitar in the band--and he does both with an extra measure of grit and soul. This is King's third release, after "Buy The Medicine" (2011) and "Under The Sun" (2009). On "Train" King writes all the songs. The band includes Johann Frank on additional guitars, Steven "Styxxx" Marshall on drums, Princeton Arnold on bass, Buddy Pierson on Hammond B-3, Nate Laguzza on additional drums and percussion, Jimmy Powers and Glenn Doll on harmonica, and a bunch of people contributing background vocals: Maxayn Lewis, Connie Jackson, Gaby Teran and Jorge Costa.  

They make a very attractive blues music together. For months I have been talking it up, playing this cd for people everywhere. Once they hear it everybody loves "Baby Does Me Good" and "Coffee Song." I have played them on my blues show at "Country Song" might be my favorite song on the cd. There's a great (but brief) guitar solo on "My Baby's Love." If I ever could learn to play the guitar--which would only happen by either a miracle or by osmosis--one of the very first things I would want to play is "Slo Blues"--which has a very tasty guitar solo. Special cudos to the rhythm section--Marshall & Arnold lie down interesting and captivating work on every song here. And those background vocalists? They are used to good effect--making an inviting pocket to surround the lead vocals and guitars.  King's vocals mark him in the top rank of blues artists--he sings great.

Solomon King's new release "Train" is the sign of an artist on his way up. This is his best music so far--with great singing, strong songwriting, and a selfless maturity--and yet I sense even bigger things ahead. This cd reminds me of early Dire Straits or The Band circa "Music From Big Pink," great music following an artistic vision all in service of each individual song. One of the best albums so far of 2013.  

You can buy this cd at

David Egan -- "David Egan"

David Egan is a piano playing, blues singing man from Shreveport Louisiana, and this cd is his best in a career that spans 30+ years.

This is David Egan's third release, following 2003's "Twenty Years of Trouble" (Louisiana Red Hot Records) and 2008's "You Don't Know Your Mind" (Out Of The Past Records).

Egan wrote all 12 songs. The band is Egan on piano, electric piano, organ, and vocals backed by Joe McMahan on guitar, Ron Eoff on bass, Mike Sipos on drums, assisted by guest artists Dickey Landry (bari sax), Bruce MacDonald (guitar), Lil' Buck Senegal (guitar), Buddy Flett (guitar), Mike Dillon (congas, percussion), and Roddie Romero  and Caleb Elliott on backing vocals.  

Egan cruises smoothly through these songs, telling his stories with a wonderful warm touch on the keys and a relaxed voice that is a salve for your soul. It is wonderful music-making throughout--everybody on this cd plays beautifully. Just to hear Lil' Buck Senegal and Buddy Flett laying down some guitar wizardry, along with Dickey Landry's sax on "Call Your Children Home"--my favorite track here, and by itself, worth the price of admission. And there are six or seven other songs here that are every bit as good. If you find yourself ailing in the spirit, this cd can seriously help minister to you. Strong contender for my list of top 10 of the year.

Buy it. You won't regret it. You can buy it at

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Janet Ryan -- "Mama Soul"

Two things before I get started--first, I apologize to you, dear readers, for not posting any reviews for the entire month of August. I am now so far behind that I can never die. I fear I may never catch up, but let's get busy and see what happens. Second, and this really needs to be said, I am tremendously grateful to the promotions people. The fact that I have about 30 cds waiting to get reviewed is a great testimony to those of you who continue to believe in me.

Ok, enough about me. Let's talk about Janet Ryan's latest release "Mama Soul." On this cd she sings the blues just right, like the great soulful blues singers she learned from as a teenager in Chicago. Over the years on the road Janet and her band, Straight Up, played all over the East Coast--and now, as of August 2012, she has landed in Texas. This cd is from CSP Records, and is mostly produced by Jimmy Rogers & Paul Osborn. THe cd was mostly recorded in Garland Texas. Here her band includes Ray Chaput on guitar, Dennis LeBeau on bass, Joe Elliott on keyboards, and Billy Klock on drums. Several tracks feature members of the Dallas-based band Crosscut: Jerry Sartain on guitar, Terry Vieregge on bass, Chuck Mabrey on keyboards, and LaVell Jones on drums. (Crosscut has a new cd out too, but I haven't heard it yet.) Several songs feature horns, which are used to good effect. Five of the songs are written by Ryan and the rest by members of the band with one exception--a fabulous cover of Sippie Wallace's "Woman Be Wise," which features terrific piano by Joe Elliott.

But the best thing about this fine disc is Ryan's singing, which is awesome throughout. Her voice can belt the blues when that is needed, and she has a soulful croon when she needs it. I especially like "Mr Misery," on which Ryan's vocals tell a powerful story over great organ work by Chuck Mabrey and a really strong guitar (one of the best solos I've heard this year) by Jerry Sartain. Other great songs include "What Was I Thinking," with great horn work, and "He Burned That Bridge," with sweet piano by Mabrey and fine trumpet by Steve Howard.

Mama Soul is an apt title for this release. Janet Ryan belongs near the top of female blues singers out there. You can buy this cd at 


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Buddy Guy -- "Rhythm & Blues"

I am not going to write a long detailed review of this--you can read about it in too many other places. It is Buddy Guy, one of the top 4 or 5 guitar players of the past 50 years. He's a six-time Grammy winner, a 28 time Blues Music Awards winner, and he got Kennedy Center Honors. He is in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. He was the first to receive the Great Performer of Illinois Award. (Ponder that for a second--Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Sam....all the greats that played in Chicago over the years, and the first award goes to  Buddy Guy. Good job Illinois.) He got a Billboard Music Awards' Century Award for distinguished artistic achievement. He just turned 77 years old, so there won't be too many more cds coming. And on this set he is still at the top of his game, with a great set of musical guests helping him out. Buddy truly knocks this one out of the park.

Think of it this way--if somebody 26 years old came out with these cds, this release would be the talk of the blues world. Buddy will be feted for this, and he deserves every accolade. He has made over 50 other albums, and this one is easily in the Top Ten of his long career.

Buy this as soon as you can. You'll never regret it. Listen to it often. Available wherever you can buy cds.   

Monday, July 22, 2013

The F & G Band -- "Pass It On"

This second release by The F & G Band is a big success! Following on the heels of their 2011 cd "Grease Up Yo' Strutt" (which was in my Top Ten list for that year) this disc features a new lead singer--Sandra Taylor, the daughter of Sam 'Bluzman' Taylor. Edlene Hart moved to Atlanta in an amicable separation from the band, but Sandra Taylor stepped in. With her father's blessing from The Beyond, Sandra seems born to sing the blues--and she sings great on every song here. The songwriting team of Suzanne Foschino and Sly Geralds--the F & G in the band's name--still remain, this time with a batch of new original songs. And so does that funky, slinky, supremely musical band--Sly Geralds on bass and vocals, Tom Foschino on drums, Chuck Russell on guitar. Guest artists include Tim Mitchell plays organ (7 songs) and rhythm guitar (two); Anne Harris from the Otis Taylor Band, plays fiddle on "I'll Find My Way Home; "jazz guitarist Dave Parker lays down a delicious guitar part on "Love...And Other Unfortunate Things;" and Gregory Harrison adds the second vocal on "Let Yo' Feet Stink." My favorite song? "Untie That Knot," which starts out with BB King style slow guitar break, and Sandra's vocal sounds like a younger Koko Taylor. 

The F & G Band is most truly a band, in the most musical sense of the word. They can play any kind of blues, and on this release they pretty much do--fast blues, slow numbers, blues about relationship, about life, about circumstances, both modern and traditional, some laced with gospel, some laced with rock, some laced with a touch of country. Every member contributes to the music this band makes--Sandra sings Sly and Suzanne's great songs with heart and soul, Tom is a great drummer to dance to, and Chuck's guitar work is a blessing. The music on this cd will heal whatever ails you.

"Pass it On" touches on all edges of the blues genre, pushing the envelope just enough to keep things exciting, at the same times as remaining traditional yet fresh.  There is no doubt that this is a blues album to it's core, and you will definitely feel the roots entrenched solidly in blues...but you will hear the newness shining through as well, with each song being a new experience in itself. It is an interesting journey through this American based music, from traditional roots and swampy slide guitar blues and swinging shuffles, through the funky sound of Stax, touching on gospel and even flirting a bit with country.  Reflective and personal, this  is The F & G Band at the peak of their musical influences, including the songwriters, Suzanne Foschino and Sly Geralds. Each song is a story in itself, an individual experience, some a message and some a lesson...some just a tribute.

This is a really good cd--you can buy it at

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ruff Kutt Blues Band -- "That's When The Blues Begins"

The Ruff Kutt Blues Band is several things--a band with all-star players, from Texas, made up of people whom I have great love and respect for.

Let's start at the beginning. I fell in love with Finis Tasby's voice when I first heard it on Kirk Fletcher's cd "Shades of Blue" (Delta Groove, 2004). That was also where I first heard Janiva Magness, but that story will wait for another article. Shortly after that I stumbled over The Mannish Boys' cd "Lowdown Feeling" (Delta Groove, 2008) where Finis sings on three tracks. Ever since then I have been a fan of Kirk Fletcher and The Mannish Boys aggregate, and seeking Finis Tasby's name on liner notes for cds. I just love the way the man sings--he has a swinging delivery and a passion that helps sell every song to my ears. Well, this cd is the last one Finis Tasby will sing on. He had a debilitating stroke in December 2012.  

Luckily, this is a very fine cd to go out on. The band is top-notch, seasoned pros everywhere. Zac Harmon is on guitar and vocals, and Anson Funderburgh plays guitar and produced the cd, James Goode plays bass and wrote or co-wrote all the songs, with Wes Starr on drums, Ron Jones on sax, Gentleman John Street on keyboards, Steve Richardson brings harmony vocals, and Eric Przygocki plays upright bass. When you have that level of talent in the studio, the results almost have to be terrific--and this is a great one. Things start out with "Deep Elam Blues" and from that strong beginning all the way through to "When A Bluesman Goes To Heaven" the listener is taken on a wonderful ride through the blues.

The Ruff Kutt Blues Band has made two great cds--this one and 2011's "Mill Block Blues." In my own selfishness I'd love for them to keep on, but if because of the loss of Finis Tasby's singing voice this is all we get, I give thanks for the music they have made. In my mind, the Ruff Kutt Blues Band is already a true Texas treasure.

You can buy this cd at One dollar of every cd sold will be donated to the Finis Tasby Medical Fund. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch -- "Tell You What"

"Tell You What" is the second release by Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch--it follows and builds on their debut, 2010's "Upside Your Head." The band came together in 2008 in Dallas, Texas, and they have been building a following every since. I really liked "Upside Your Head"--I thought Elmore had the potential to become a big-time guitar player, and I liked his singing voice. This time out, both Elmore's guitar playing and singing are out of sight--and "Tell You What" is a huge leap forward.

The band is still a trio--Elmore on guitar and vocals, Chris Waw on bass, with Mike Talbot now on drums, replacing Beau Chadwell, who played drums on the first cd. Guests this time out include Tommy Young on Hammond B-3 and Ron Jones on horns. Jim Suhler is on slide guitar on Rory Gallagher's "Country Mile," and Kirby Kelley is on lap steel on William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water." Elmore wrote eight of the 12 tracks, and there are four covers: the two previous mentioned, along with Sean Costello's "Don't Pass Me By" and Buck Owens' "Buckaroo."

Everything gets underway with "Sharecropper Shuffle," a nice upbeat instrumental. "Southbound" is a heavyweight blues-rock number. "Cold Lonely Dawn" was the first song that caught my ear--an eight minute R&B ballad. It sounds great in a set of Texas blues by Anson Funderburgh and Jimmie Vaughan. "When The Sun Goes Down" is a great country-rock blues. "Bottom Feeder" is an ominous grinding number where Elmore can show off his singing, and "Dirt Ain't Enough" is a minor key slow blues with a nice touch of Jimi Hendrix in the guitar work. "Buckaroo" is another of my favorites--here the band shares the love for Buck Owens & The Buckaroos, one of the great country bands of all time. "Country Mile" is a rip-roaring triumph. Top track on the cd. Elmore and Suhler   
push each other and literally burn the house down. "Don't Pass Me By" is a fine effort, with good guitar work and good singing. "Good Foot" is a slower jazzy song, giving Elmore a chance to show his versatility on guitar. "She Fine" is a Texas swing number, well done. Elmore and company close the set with the Otis Redding, William Bell penned classic "You Don't Miss Your Water." Kirby Kelley's lap steel here is terrific.  

Everything here is smooth, swinging and energetic. The playing and singing are all first-rate. This is a great cd, and I see a great future ahead for these guys. This cd is dedicated in memory of Bugs Henderson.

You can buy this cd at most major retailers. Go to to read more about the band, see their concert calendar, or to view videos recorded live from the road.   

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Robert 'Top' Thomas -- "The Town Crier"

Robert 'Top' Thomas's debut "The Town Crier" on Wild Root Records is terrific, all Florida swamp blues and delta roots. For those who might be unfamiliar with Thomas, over the past 10-12 years he has toured and/or recorded with Noble 'Thin Man' Watts, Lazy Lester, Victor Wainwright, The King Snake All Star Revue, Alex Taylor, Bill Wharton, Blue House and Mark 'MuddyHarp' Hodgson. Thomas may be best known, however, as a founding member of King Snake recording artist "Smoke-House" who recorded 4 ground-breaking cds in the 90s that defined the genre of Florida swamp blues. Their 1995 cd "Cadillac In The Swamp" was listed among the best blues cds of that year.

And now Thomas releases "The Town Crier," on which he sings lead and plays lead guitars, backed by The WildRoots rhythm section--Stephen Dees on bass, guitars, backing vocals and percussion, Billy Dean on drums--and Stephen Kampa (winner of the 2012 Florida Harmonica Championship) on harmonica. Guest musicians include Victor Wainwright on co-lead vocals on "Bad Seed," and piano and organ, Damon Fowler on dobro on "I'm A Freight Train," Brandon Santini on harmonica on "Blues Grass" and "Daddy's Gone," and Beth McKee on accordion on "The Same Thing Could Happen To You." Stephen Dees produces and arranges. All the songs are by some combination of Robert Thomas/Stephen Dees/Victor Wainwright/Bob Greenlee except the Jerry West song "The Same Thing Could Happen To You."

Thomas has a perfect gruff blues voice. He sounds a little like Watermelon Slim to me, which is a compliment. The songs are all a terrific balance of storytelling and drive. Nowhere on this cd do I hear a 6 minute pointless guitar solo--every note is played in the perfect place for the sake of the song, and time I hear one song I want to hear the whole cd, and every time I hear the cd I want to hear it again. Highlights include the title track, which features a nice "crying" vocal and guitar solo by Thomas and a really good harp solo by Kampa. Santini's harp riding over Billy Dean's drum work on "Daddy's Gone." Damon Fowler's dobro sparkles on "I'm A Freight Train."

On every song you can hear a very good band playing with joy and taste. This cd is a terrific effort. Buy this one, and watch for whatever Robert 'Top' Thomas does next.

You can buy this cd at  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Big Bill Morganfield -- "Blues With A Mood"

As I continue to play catch up from last February, I want to share a few words about the latest cd from Big Bill Morganfield, "Blues With A Mood." 

Big Bill's last cd (2009's "Born Lover") was terrific, and this one is even better. The songs are all really strong--7 of them are originals, and the others are by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Peter Chatman, and Doc Malone. The band Big Bill has assembled is absolutely all star caliber. How about Big Bill on guitar and vocals, and Augie Meyers on piano, and Eddie Taylor Jr on guitar, and Colin Linden on guitar, and Mookie Brill on bass, and Chuck Cotton on drums, and Doc Malone on harp? AND add to that core the guest musicians--Bob Margolin on guitar, Steve Guyger on harp, Chuck Stern on piano, and Brian Bisesi on guitar. What a great lineup!

This cd documents the continuing musical journey of Muddy Water’s son, Big Bill Morganfield. Indeed, he contributes yet another solid disk to keeping the blues flame burning bright. Bill recorded this, his 5th record, in Nashville Tennessee with Colin Linden in the producers' chair Big Bill said, "I wanted to put together a set of tunes with heavy grooves and deep moods which stay close to the musical genre of Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Junior Parker, Robert Johnson, and several other of my musical heroes." He has done that, and made the best cd of his 15 year career.
My favorite song here is "No Butter For My Grits," a true-to-life and very funny song.

You can buy this cd at

Friday, May 3, 2013

4 Jacks -- "Deal With It"

Continuing with my project of catching up with some great cds that came out in the depths of last winter, I present to you a blues "Supergroup."
The 4 Jacks release "Deal With It" came out last February, and this is a great cd! The band consists of Anson Funderburgh, Big Joe Maher, Kevin McKendree, and Steve Mackey.

The "J" of Jaks, Big Joe Maher is a great drummer and bandleader. His band the Dynaflows has been a standout on the blues scene for many years. The "A" is Anson Funderburgh is one of the very best guitar players around, and he and his band The Rockets have been active for over 30 years.The "K" is Kevin McKendree, who has been Delbert McClinton's bandleader for many years, along with being a great keyboard player. He also had toured with Brian Setzer. Kevin recorded, mixed and produced this cd at his studio "The Rock House" just outside Nashville. And the "S" is Steve Mackey is the bass player in this band, and he has recorded and toured with a long list of great bands and artists. Steve is one of Nashville's first call session players. Additional musicians include Yates McKendree piano on "Ansonmypants" and Rob McNelley rhythm guitar on "I Don't Want To Be President" and "Thunder And Lightning. "

Eight of the twelve songs are originals on "Deal With It" have Big Joe Maher involved in the writing. Maher also is the chief vocalist. The covers are Percy Mayfield's "I Don't Want To Be President," Gil Caple's "Your Turn To Cry, " L Cadden's "Bad News Baby," and "Ansonmypants," by Joe Maher and Yates McKendree.  The songwriting is all uniformly strong, and the singing and playing are everywhere crisp and solid. Every song here should be in serious radio rotation. The title track is a smoking instrumental, and "Have Ourselves A Time" sounds like a Roomful Of Blues track. "I Don't Want To Be President" is timely and it has great guitar. "She Ain't Worth A Dime" is marvelous--Kevin McKendree rips it up on piano, and the song shows these guys can bring that old-school jump blues just like Louis Jordan. "Love's Like That" features Anson Funderburgh channeling his inner Duke Robillard over a smooth jazzy rhythm. "Bobcat Woman" may be the most Texas-styled song in the set--Anson wrapping the melody around the core of Kevin's piano and Joe's drumming. "Your Turn To Cry" is the requisite slow blues, showing off Big Joe's vocals and McKendree's B-3 organ and Anson's guitar. "Thunder And Lightning" picks up the tempo again, and may be my favorite song on the cd--all involved give their best on this one. "Texas Twister" is an Anson Funderburgh showcase, and he truly flies with the opportunity. "Ansonmypants" features Laura McKendree's vocals in a marvelous duet with Big Joe.  "Bad News Baby" sounds like it could be an old Ray Charles song--it really is that good. And "Painkiller" wraps things up with a flourish--the first time I heard this instrumental I thought is was Booker T & The MGs, and the next time I heard it I thought it was from the movie "Shaft." Really nice R&B cooker.

You can buy this cd at                       

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Hitman Blues Band -- "Blues Enough"

I want to review some great music that I missed earlier in the year, back when I was depressed about winter. Let's start with The Hitman Blues Band. "Blues Enough" was released back on January 31, and there is plenty of really good music here--enough to be worth your $10. (that's the price if you buy it from the band's website, which is at the end of this review.)

This is the fifth cd from the HBB, and the songs are all written by the Hitman, Russell Alexander. He also sings and plays guitar. Kevin Rymer is on keyboards, Mike Porter is on bass, and Guy LaFountaine is on drums. This cd shows off their new three piece horn section (Michael Snyder on saxes, Eric Altarac on trumpet, and Al Alpert on trombone) along with special guest appearances by Neil Alexander on harp and backup vocalists Victoria Anyah and Joanna Alexander.

This cd is dedicated in loving memory of Sam 'The Bluzman' Taylor.

The addition of the horn section gives the HBB an even fuller sound. These guys make beautiful rocking blues music. A word of warning to those old-school blues purists--beware! But for those with a more tolerant love for the joy of music, please check out this cd. It is an exciting, energetic set for people who want to have fun listening to music. The songs are well written.  Beginning with the title track, the CD jumps right into the heat with call and response action: “Is it blues enough for ya?” Followed by a tribute to the late, great Sam “The Bluzman” Taylor, the beat stays happy with beer soaked advice to go “Fishing Where The Fish Are”. The double entendre “Backhand Drive” gives way to the raw emotion of “Every Piece Of Me”, a real crowd favorite. The flat tire shuffle of “Everything You Do” picks up the smiles again, followed by “Streets Of Downtown”, a visit with street people familiar to far too many of us. The swing influenced “Life’s Too Short” gets your blood pumping, then the band declares a change of attitude: from now on, they’ll hang out with a “Better Class Of Bums”. The wistful song of loss, “Deaf, Dumb & Blind” leads into the boastful finale, “Tough Street”.

Good playing, good writing, good singing--what else do I need to say? The last cd I heard that was this much fun to listen to was George Thorogood & the Destroyers' "Bad To The Bone." Snap this one up. You won't regret it. 
You can buy this cd at:  You can also sign up on the band's website and receive a FREE 9 song sampler of the HBB's music. I just signed up a few minutes ago--after I finish this review, I'm going to listen to even more great music by the Hitman Blues Band.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Stevie DuPree & The Delta Flyers -- "Dr DuPree's Love Shop"

Stevie DuPree & The Delta Flyers started out in Texas in 2007 as an acoustic duo. Since then they have represented the Houston Blues Society in the solo/duo category at the International Blues Challenge in 2008, 2009, and 2010.  They have also released two cds--2007's "On The Levee Road" and 2011's "Sixteen Bars." This is their third cd.

The twelve original songs spotlight DuPree's vocals backed by Travis Stephenson on guitars, Quentin "Q" Calva on bass, Steve Bundrick on drums. Guest artists include Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff on production, tenor sax, harmonica, backing vocals and percussion, Mark Connolly on keyboards, the Texas Horns (Kazanoff, John Mills, Al Gomez) along with guest turns by Derek O'Brian on guitar, Marcia Ball on piano, and vocalists Alice Stewart and Lisa Tingle.

Every song has hooks galore. The opener, "Broke Up," borrows that Credence slide break, and tells a redemptive story of life after loss. "First Dance" has Marcia Ball's N'Awlins style piano leading the Texas Horns in a hot jump blues number. Hearing this song, I have to admit I would love to hear Marcia Ball do an entire acoustic album with The Texas Horns. The title track is a rawkin' slice of r&b featuring Stewart and Tingle on vocals and Kaz on sax. "St Paul's Bottoms" is a driving country blues featuring Stephenson's guitar and a really good break by Kaz on harp. "My Angel Of Mercy" slows everything down to tell a story of love and loss, but things pick up again on "Soulbilly Music" as the band rips out over a funky groove. "Ain't Gonna Be Your Dog" and the next track, It's My Life" are powerful examples of what this band is capable of, as everybody plays great and they burn down the house. It's songs like these that make it so much fun seeing The Delta Flyers live. "The Witness Tree" is my favorite song on the cd, a gospel-tinged ballad over Connolly's great piano playing. I've played this one a lot on my radio show, Bruce's Texas Blues, (on Thursdays 4-6pm eastern time at   "That Ol' Mule" is a showcase for Kazanoff's harmonica and DuPree's best singing on the cd. "Lucky Seven" is a fast number that shows off Bundrick's drum talents and yet another hot guitar solo by Stephenson. "Hard Act To Follow" opens with very nice organ by Connolly and wraps things up over a funky Motown riff.

There is a ton of talent in the band, and DuPree is a really good singer and songwriter. The potential that was obvious on "On The Levee Road" and "Sixteen Bars" has grown and developed into a top-notch band.   

You can buy this cd at




Saturday, March 30, 2013

Jason Vivone And The Billy Bats -- "Lather Rinse Repeat"

Jason Vivone And The Billy Bats came to my attention at the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival in Columbia MO in 2011. That Saturday I stumbled out of the BBQ judging tent with a serious meat overdose, sleepy and overstuffed by eating LOTS of ribs and brisket. On the stage down the street there was this band playing. As I drifted closer, I began to hear and feel an electric guitar and three vocalists and a banjo all ripping it up, all energy and loudness, humor and joy. The crowd was literally going crazy. My plan after judging BBQ was for a long nap, but I ended up staying and listening to this great band for their entire set. And ever since then, this Kansas City-based band has been a favorite.

The nine songs on Lather Rinse Repeat are originals by Jason, who also produced. The band is made up of Jason on vocals, guitar and harp, Matt Bustamante on drums, Jeremy Clark on bass, Paula Crawford on vocals and guitar, Imani Glascow on vocals and percussion, and Ben Hoppes on vocals and banjo. They employ several different styles--from the ominous boogie of "I Hear A Heartbeat" through old timey hokum blues of "Baby Fat" through an Elmore James-type slide number "The Nina, The Pinta, The Santa Maria." Over a Muddy Waters "Mannish Boy" vamp the band does "The Black Lone Ranger," a tribute to the Chicago legend the late James Ramsey, the blues singer who dressed, acted and lived like the mythical Lone Ranger. After that Vivone pays tribute to his baby in "One Hot Mother," and leads The Billy Bats through a Tex Mex number, "Photograph," and a hilarious Bo Diddly-esque turn on "Do The Nod." Then there is a short and off-the-wall drinking song rap number, "Liquid Diet," and then everything is wrapped up by the seven minute guitar and banjo "Medusa Blues," with a bass line that will recall Steely Dan's "Rikki, Don't Lose That Number."  

This band has serious chops, and they have made a really good cd, and a really funny one too, a quality sometimes missing in the blues. The more you hear it, the more you'll get the sly smiles and lyrical jokes. The instrumentation is unique because of the inventive ways Vivone and Crawford use their guitars and the presence of the banjo, and having three good vocalists makes for a lot of variety.

Well worth the purchase price. You can buy this cd at

In addition, you can hear Jason Vivone And The Billy Bats along with The Mojo Roots from Columbia (see my review March 18) and The Bottoms Up Blues Gang from St Louis all together in the Missouri Blues Caravan on Thursday April 25th at Knucklehead's in Kansas City, Friday April 26 at Mojos in Columbia, and Saturday April 27 at BB's Jazz, Blues And Soups in St Louis. A unique opportunity to see the "next generation of Missouri blues talent" all on stage at one time--sponsored by the Kansas City Blues Society, the MO Blues Society, and The St Louis Blues Society.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jake Lear -- "Diamonds And Stones"

Jake Lear's "Diamonds And Stones" is a top-notch slice of hot blues guitar & folky lyrics & rock 'n roll sensibility.  To tell the truth, the Vermont born and Memphis resident Lear and his trio have made a great, stripped down, musically adventurous cd. This is the best electric sounds-like-Dylan disc since Chris Bergsen Band's 2011 "Imitate The Sun."

The trio is Jake Lear on guitar and vocals, Roy Cunningham on drums, and Carlos Arias on bass. All the songs are written by Lear except for John Lee Hooker's "Jack O Diamonds"and Junior Wells' "Work Work Work." Production is by Jake Lear and Rafael Yglesias.

There's nothing very fancy here. The sound is mammoth, with a big guitar chugging and clanging, chasing a runaway freight rhythm section, while the lyrics wind around your brain. Every song here invites the listener in, and then either the guitar, or the lyrics, or the kick ass drums, something hooks you. Turning it up only adds to the fun. The opener, "Strange Things," is a throbbing minor key 12 bar blues. "Going Back Home (North Mississippi Bound)" was the first song that got me--I dug everything that went into that pot of delta blues soup.

"Wasting Time" really reminds me of mid-60s Dylan--the drive and the lyrics, the style of the master is on full display. "Diamonds And Stones" and "Down By The River" continue the Dylan-fest, with wonderful grooves and guitar work that I swear sounds like Mike Bloomfield. The next two songs are the covers, and "Jack Of Diamonds" doesn't work as well--instrumentally the single chord guitar is right there, but there ain't nobody alive who can get that John Lee voice quite right. But "Work Work Work" is just great, a Jimmy-Reed type shuffle that cuts like a machete. "I See A Train Coming" borrows that Bloomfield style guitar again, and there's a touch of Robbie Robertson over the Texas shuffle of "I Quit." "Boogie Time" is an instrumental closer, with Lear's guitar ripping it up and reminding me of more than a little of Duke Robillard. Very cool.
I wish there was a lyric sheet--other than that, there's nothing to complain about. Well, I could wish for a few more songs too--there are only ten.  But this is a very good cd, and if you like good guitar, or if like me, you love those old Bob Dylan albums, give this one a listen. Highly recommended. I have a feeling that Jake Lear is someone to watch. An early contender for cd of the year.

You can buy this cd at

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Mojo Roots -- "What Kind Of Fool"

There was a time when I wasn't very happy about moving from Decatur Georgia to Columbia Missouri last summer. On the good side I would be closer to family, but on the other side I was going to lose my friends in Georgia--in particular my BBQ friends and my blues friends. Well, the move is completed and everything is going to be alright. I am making new BBQ friends all the time, and I am happy to report that Columbia has a blues band as good as any I heard in metro Atlanta--the Mojo Roots.

 These guys are terrific.  Jordan Thomas is on vocals, harp and rhythm guitar, Trevor Judkins is on lead and sometimes slide guitars, Jim Rush is on bass, and Andy Naugle is on drums. Guesting is ace keyboardist John D'Agostino, who  contributes some great Hammond B-3 organ.

Jordan is the primary songwriter--he wrote six of the 11 songs--and he produced the cd. The originals are uniformly good, especially the title track, "Deaf, Dumb And Blind" and "Green Eyed Baby." The 5 covers are pretty good songs too--Leo Nocentelli's "I Got The Blues," Jerry Butler & Otis Reddings' "I've Been Loving You Too Long," the traditional "Hush, Somebody's Calling My Name," John Mayall's "It's Over," and  Johnny Jones' "Hoy Hoy Hoy."

One thing I especially like about this cd is Jordan's singing. There are times here when I think I'm listening to Curtis Salgado. And tackling an Otis Redding song? That's pretty brave. His work there won't make you forget the original, but he in no way embarrasses himself.

Another thing I like is Trevor's lead guitar work. He reminds me of an Atlanta institution on the guitar, Jim Ransome, of The Breeze Kings, and that is a very good thing. Like Ransome, Trevor is a soulful player, who likes to play with the tone and touch that each song needs and not one note extra. He looks young, but he must have been playing the guitar for 30 years to get this good.
And the rhythm work of Jim Rush and Andy Naugle is terrific. Space does not allow me to list all the bands that Jim Rush has played with over the years, but take it from me--he is the dean of Missouri bass players. He has been playing in the pocket for over 30 years, and here he and Andy make every song swing and jump. And Andy Naugle plays everything so clean and tastefully--on "Hush, Somebody's Calling My Name" everybody is working in harmony, and the result is a powerful gospel blues, but the foundation of it all is Andy Naugle.   

All together, the Mojo Roots make a rich, deep bluesy sound--it is a combo sound which is respectful of blues history and yet all new. They remind me of Sean Costello. Nobody overplays and nobody gets left behind. No egos.

The Mojo Roots made it to the semi-finals of the IBC in their first attempt earlier this year, and the truth is they deserved it. They really are that good. Check them out before they get BIG. I just found out they have been invited to play the Chicago Blues Festival on June 7th, on the WCBS stage. 

This is an independent release--you can buy it for $10 at

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lucky Peterson Band -- "Live at The 55 Arts Club Berlin"

This 2 cd + 3 DVD set is a massive achievement, showcasing one night at the end of the Lucky Peterson Band's 2012 tour of Europe.  Lucky Peterson is one of the most versatile blues musicians on the international blues scene: blazing lead guitarist, fantastic organist and a first class singer. He has been playing music since he as 3 years old. Under the tutelage of Willie Dixon, he made his first album when he was 5 years old. Now After 12 albums and a lifetime of playing the blues, Lucky Peterson has absolutely no trouble filling three hours with his supercharged personality and great music.

The band is a perfect match for him. Shawn Kellerman on guitar, Tim Waites on bass, and Raul Valdes are a rootin' tootin' blues powerhouse band. They tear the house down and build in back up again on song after song. Lucky plays Hammond B-3 and guitar and sings, and he is joined on vocals by the supremely talented Tamara Peterson.

I'll tell you how good this set is: if the only thing they released was the portion of the show from Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble" and "Blues Medley" and "You Shook Me," that 32 minute section alone would be in the running for CD of the year. Similarly, if the only thing they released was the portion starting with "Knocking" through "How Do I, Why Do I" and "I Don't Like You But I Love You" and "Been So Long," that 23 minute section alone would be in the running for CD of the year.....for Tamara Peterson. Luckily, those two sections come one right after the other and that's not even all of the first half of the show. In the second half of the show there is a similar section from "I'm Ready" to "Who's Been Talking?" to "Dust My Broom" and "The World's In A Tangle" and Prince's "Kiss" that is even stronger than all that has gone before--everybody is on fire. It is truly superlative music-making. This is a career highlight set for Lucky Peterson, the best he has ever played, and that's saying a lot. And if you are tempted to save a few $$ and just get the cds, please don't cheat yourself. The first two DVDs are the same as the cds but with the addition of visuals, and the third DVD includes a number of songs with just the band of Kellerman/Waites/Valdes. Those three guys by themselves are worth seeing--you watch that DVD and you understand that Lucky and Tamara had to be on top of their game or the band would blow them right off the stage. 

This release has earned The Lucky Peterson Band a 2013 BMA nomination in the DVD category.       

You an buy this set at in either the 2 cd set, or in the deluxe 2 cd + 3 DVD sets.

Friday, February 22, 2013

James "Buddy" Rogers -- "My Guitar's My Only Friend"

Vancouver native James "Buddy" Rogers began playing in public when he was 11 years old. By the time he was 15 his band Texas Storm was well-known all over Canada opening for headliners. He spent 5 years touring all over the US and Canada with BB King's bassist Russell Jackson. In 2000 he formed his own band. Now he is 37 and this is his debut release.   

The cd is produced by Tom Lavin. The songs are all originals by Rogers/Lavin. The band is James "Buddy" Rogers on lead guitar and vocals, Bill Hix and Ivan Duben on drums, Bill Runge and Tony Marryatt on bass, Mike Kalanj on Hammond organ, and Tom Lavin on rhythm and bass guitar. 

Rogers' guitar and vocals sound like Robert Cray, which is a high compliment. With every song here Rogers shows he has a ton of talent. There are a variety of styles on display--from the Albert King-style opening song "My Guitar's My Only Friend" to the party song "Let's Get Loose" to traditional blues songs "I'm On The Road Again,” “Disappearing Baby Blues,” “Sweet Little Girl,” and “Blame It On The Blues.” "Guitar Sue" sounds like it was written 40 years ago, maybe a lost Chuck Berry song? But no, everything here is new--it just sounds like these songs should have been around for a long time. That's how well-written it is. The whole band plays top-notch throughout, and the whole cd has that great "Loan it out & people will like it" thing going on. Maybe my favorite song is the instrumental closer “Buddy’s Walk," which gives Rogers a chance to just play his guitar--and he plays it great. On the jewel box of my copy of this cd is a note that says "All are fine for airplay."   

James "Buddy" Rogers is a real triple threat--strong on guitar and vocals and songwriting. I'm looking forward to whatever he does next.  

You can buy this cd at

This is post # 200 on the Sunday Night Blues Project. I'm proud of that, and I'd like to thank you for reading these reviews. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Altered Five -- "Gotta Earn It"

Altered Five are one of my favorite new bands of 2012. They come out of Milwaukee Wisconsin, they have been together since 2002, and they have been playing the upper Midwest ever since. Still, I didn't know anything about them until last November. This is their 2nd cd, after 2008's "Bluesified" (Cold Wind Records). Nowadays Altered Five is stepping out under their own banner, and I like the way they wrote it on their website--"After nearly a decade of molding the music of others into their own image, the group began to apply its sound to original songs and other lesser known blues and soul tunes." I wish I could catch these guys live. I'll bet they are dynamite in a live setting. 

The band is made up of Jeff Taylor (lead vocals), Jeff Schroedl (guitar and background vocals), Mark Solveson (bass and background vocals), Raymond Tevich (keyboards), and Scott Schroedl (drums and percussion). The band wrote seven of the ten songs here. The three covers are all remarkable: a driving, bluesy take on the early Smokey Robinson-penned Motown hit “Ain’t That Peculiar”; a revved-up reading of Willie Dixon’s 1961 Buddy Guy Chess recording “Watch Yourself”; and another Smokey Robinson-penned Motown original, “You’ve Got to Earn It.” The originals are all terrific, too, featuring the big voice of Jeff Taylor, really good guitar work by Jeff Schroedl, cool keyboards and top-notch rhythm work by the powerhouse duo of Schroedl and Solveson. Every time I play this cd I find myself focusing on a different element--today I'm digging the great bass work on "Older, Wiser Richer." I think my favorite song here is "You've Got To Earn It," which I have played several times on my Texas Blues Show on (It airs every Thursday 4-7pm EST if I am allowed to make a shameless plug on my own blog.) I know these guys are not from Texas, but good music is good music, no matter where it comes from.

This is a terrific cd--I only wish I had discovered these guys years ago, so I could have been telling people about them all this time.

This cd is on Conclave Records. You can buy this cd at the band's website, and you can also see several concert performances. Go to

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Shemekia Copeland -- "33 1/3"

I won't be the first or the last to say it, but Shemekia Copeland has made a great cd. 2009's "Never Going Back" was really good, and it might have been difficult for a lesser talent to follow it, but Shemekia has made an even better cd in 33 1/3. This is a tough set with powerhouse vocals and music, featuring some great songs and great songwriters.

There are some carry overs from "Never Going Back." Again, the cd is produced by Oliver Wood, and the executive producer is Copeland's manager John Hahn. And Wood/Hahn co-wrote 4 songs here. Other songs are from Sam Cooke, ("Ain't That Good News") Bob Dylan, ("I'll Be Your Baby Tonight") Randy Weeks, ("Can't Let Go") Earl Bridgeman-Philip Wooten, ("I Sing The Blues") Chris Long, ("Hangin' Up") and Johnny Copeland ("One More Time"). The core band is Shemekia on vocals, Oliver Wood and Arthur Nielson on guitar, Ted Peccio on bass, Garry Hanson on drums. Guests include Buddy Guy, guitar on "Ain't Gonna Be Your Tattoo;" JJ Grey, vocals on "Mississippi Mud;" Roosevelt Collier, pedal steel on "Lemon Pie" "Mississippi Mud" and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight;" Jon Liebman, harmonica on "I Sing The Blues" and "One More Time;" Neil Wauchope, organ on "Mississippi Mud" and "Hangin Up;" Charlie Starr, pedal steel on "A Woman" and background vocals with Sarah Dugans on "Somebody Else's Jesus."

Just for me, one of keys here is "Mississippi Mud." The songs kicks off with the rhythm guitar of Oliver Wood locked in tight with Ted Peccio and Gerry Hanson. Then Shemekia just pours her great voice into the mix, and on the second verse she is joined by JJ Grey's vocals, and the organ and pedal steel keep things percolating along. Shemekia has grown so much--now she knows she doesn't have to shout or push the vocals--all she has to do is sing this good song, and she sings it with tenderness and care. And she does the same thing with every song here. The cd is built on good songs, the production has great balance and warmth, and Shemekia sings well. Her father's song "One More Time," has never been sung better. Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan both get a sympathetic reading by a woman who can sing their songs with intelligence and taste.

Bravo, Ms Copeland.

You can buy this cd at I-Tunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Read more about Shemekia and this cd and check out her tour schedule at                     

Monday, January 21, 2013

Michael Burks -- "Show Of Strength"

The coldest day of this new year, Martin Luther King Jr day, January 21--even though MLK Jr's birthday was last Tuesday January 15. The President was inaugurated yesterday, even though he will reproduce that effort today and give a speech. I am drawing abundant warmth and sustenance from a great LP my sister Teri gave me for Christmas--Marshall Tucker Band's "Greatest Hits." (1978 Capricorn Records) Actually she gave me a box of records that once belonged to Aunt Loretta. After Aunt Loretta died about a year ago at a great old age, Teri thought I would want her records. I did, and I was shocked to find the Marshall Tucker Band in the box next to The Longines Symphonette Society. Wow what a great band Marshall Tucker Band was! Thanks Teri. And thanks Aunt Loretta.

But I digress only briefly--this is supposed to be a review of Michael Burks' "Show Of Strength." This cd was his 4th for Alligator Records, following "Iron Man (2008)," "I Smell Smoke (2003)," and "Make It Rain (2001)." The final mixes were complete and at his home waiting for final approval when he died of a heart attack at the airport in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 6, 2012. While his death was a great loss to the blues world, this is a terrific record. Burks' abilities as a songwriter, singer and guitar player were all in fine condition when recording these songs. The band was Burks on Guitars and Vocals, Wayne Sharp on Organ, Piano and Background Vocals, Terrence Grayson on Bass and Background Vocals, Chuck 'Popcorn' Louden on Drums and Background Vocals. Also guesting on this set were Roosevelt Purifoy on Keyboards on "Feel Like Going Home," additional keyboards on "24 Hour Blues" and "Take A Chance On Me, Baby" and Scott Dirks on Harmonica on "Little Juke Joint." The singing and playing is full and deep--throughout, this is the best work of Burks' career.  Special cudos for "Storm Warning," a crackling good song with great guitar and singing by Burks and wonderful backing by the band. "Little Juke Joint" is Michael telling his own story--raised in his father's club, The Bradley Ferry Country Club in Camden Arkansas. My favorite song is "Feel Like Going Home," which features heartfelt lyrics and a piano/organ backing that would sound right at home in church, and a tasteful, emotional guitar solo.

A lot of blues artists whose work I love have passed away--many of them far too soon. I took a long time to grieve Michael Burks' passing before I wrote this review. I will miss him, and the music he never got a chance to make, the stages where his fans never got to hear him play. But it is a comfort that we have this last cd, and his music does live on. RIP my friend.    

I'm going to let Bruce Iglauer have the final word:
"It was my decision to leave this album as we intended it, not as a memorial to a friend and bluesman gone, but as a living, breathing statement, sent straight from Michael's heart and soul. Although Michael is not here, the music he recorded is indeed his show of his immense strength and spirit. It will live on, confirming forever his status as one of the greatest bluesmen of his generation."

You can buy this cd at