Saturday, November 19, 2016

Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers -- "Heal My Soul"

Let me state right at the beginning that I love this cd! It is by turns old-timey, un-traditional and post-modern blues and rock. This is their sixth album, with ten terrific songs, nine of which are originals.

The band includes Lex Grey on vocals, Vic Mix on guitars and production, Kaia Updike on Hammond organ violin and accordion, Leo Binetti and Adam Price on bass and John Holland and Matt Messenger on drums. Walter Tates Jr guests on saxophone. Anthony Michael guests on clarinet. Adam Price guests on violin and bass. Brian Dewan guests on zither, auto harp, toy piano, and theremin. "Piano" Pete Mttei guests on piano. Greg "Hornhog" Holt guests on fiddle.

The feel of the album is similar, style-wise, to the last two or three albums from Sunday Wilde, who mines the rural Canadian blues tradition. But Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers are bringing forth music from the urban folk-blues rock stew. A New York version of an eclectic band not dissimilar to Jason Vivone & The Billy Bats here in Kansas City. The singing and playing here is uniformly excellent and there is plenty of stylistic variety to please a listener. All the songs here are blues radio-worthy. I especially enjoy the songs "Factory" and "Ghost." I could imagine "Ghost" being an outtake from an early Jefferson Airplane session. "Survive" is also quite good, with an Amy Winehouse style vocal wrapped around an old Steppenwolf guitar track. The title track. "Heal My Soul," is a 7+ minute jam and everybody seems to really let loose. While I was writing this review I have been  listening to a lot of Leon Russell and The Shelter People from 1970-1973, and I can readily imagine Mr Russell smiling from the side of the studio at this song. It is all by itself worth the price of the set.  
Lex Grey and The Urban Pioneers are a group you and I need to get more familiar with, especially their back catalog. Highly recommended. You can buy this cd at or on I-tunes.  

Monday, July 4, 2016

Diana Rein -- Long Road

"Long Road" is Diana Rein's second release, following 2007's "The Back Room." This time around Diana wrote and recorded and produced everything and she sings and plays all the lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, and EZdrummer. It took her 18 months to complete this project, and I for one am glad she has delivered it--this one is a candidate for "Bruce's Top 10 Releases of 2016," mostly because Diana can really sing, and she's really good on the guitar, and she is a really good songwriter. It's the whole package!

The twelve songs here cover pretty varied territory. Things start out with the title track, which has the singer holding fast to her dream, with a c all-and-response between the vocals and guitar that just pulls you in. "Wild One" is a rocker with top-notch lead guitar work--this is the kind of music I was hoping Joan Jett would grow into, name-checking Stevie Ray Vaughan. "Livin' Loud" slows things down just a bit, but with a 60ish lead guitar, it reminds me of Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac. "Green Light" is an answer song to Doyle Bramhall II's "Green Light Girl" and it has just a splash of surf music in the rhythm guitar. The singing is spot-on too. "Rebel With A Cause" is a meditation on a photo of James Dean with crunchy guitars and a seductive vocal. "The Real Thing" features a funk/rock groove and lyrical sass. "Done Me Dirty" is a tell-off with guitar-venom and maybe the best lyrics of any song on the cd. "Don't Walk Away" is a soulful spin on the lover-take-me-back story with beautiful guitar work. "Come Back Home" is addressed to the singer's dream, and filled with Duane Allman-esque guitar work. "Wicked" is a melancholy song, and the guitar sings of regret and sorrow. Again, the guitar reminds me of early Peter Green or maybe Jeff Beck. "Down Down Down" starts out slow, but it soon becomes a full-tilt rocker. The closing song is "Peace," which was written after the death of Diana's dog Zoe.

Throughout the dozen songs there is nowhere a clunker, nowhere to take a breath, no false steps. All of these songs are radio-ready.  An individual's work filled with talent and passion, a fine fine release.

You can buy this cd at Diana's website:



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The New Blues Revolution -- "To Hellendale And Back"

The New Blues Revolution kind of snuck up on me. At first, they weren't on my radar--I was plenty happy playing other music. I didn't think these guys from LA had very much to say--but I was seriously wrong, people. This is high quality, very necessary, important blues music for right now. You gotta check this out!

You'll meet Bill Grisolia, the front man, singer, piano player, along with guitarist Chap Copper. They both write the songs here. Roger Beall is the drummer, and Bob Burns is on bass.  No additional players, no mechanical sweetening, nothing but these 5 solid songs.

 Like I said, this cd had to grow on me a while, but soon I got to where Grisolia's bass heavy gravelly voice was exactly what I needed in my cd player. He really is a good singer. Cooper's guitar is a wonderful vehicle for these songs, which is the way I judge guitar players. I have very limited use for guitar-wankers, so for the most part I avoid them. Cooper is more my style--he has got tons of chops, and he can deliver a fill or an idea with economy and style. Beall and Burns have the unenviable task of creating the pocket inside which the vocal and the piano and/or the guitar tell these blues stories. Their playing is solid and rich, rooted in the traditional blues rhythms.

"Souls On Fire" starts things off, and promptly reminded me of equal parts Billy Idol (back when he was good!) and Chris Rea. "Whiskey Town" reminds me of an unreleased song by The Doors, and I mean that as a high compliment. This one wears its' Los Angeles roots well. "Black Widow" might be the best song here--it throws all those influences into a blender and the result is a damn good song. Well written, well sung, well played. "Baby Blue" might be just a tad weak by comparison--but almost anything would have come across that way after "Black Widow." It also might be that title. If they had called this song "Sara's Blues" it might have gotten a fresher hearing. The last song here is "Sunset Psycho Twang," the only song here not written by Cooper/Grisolia. This one is written by Cooper/Resch, and it is a more atmospheric song, an instrumental, recalling perhaps a lost Pink Floyd cut circa 1971. Very beautiful. Whenever I hear this one I want to hear it again.

I've played every one of these songs on my Mo' Blues radio show on the internet radio station Caldonia's Crossroad Radio, ( and this is a strong but brief set.
You can buy this cd from the band website: Http://


Friday, April 8, 2016

Jeff Chaz -- "Sounds Like The Blues To Me"

I first became acquainted with the music of Jeff Chaz in 2006, when I was the Sunday night DJ at KJLU 89.5 fm in Jefferson City MO. One week in September I stumbled across his song "Morning Coffee." The thing that hooked me on Jeff Chaz, besides his obvious chops, was his sincerity--listening to him it sounded like he didn't take himself too seriously. "Morning Coffee" sounded great that night in a playlist next to songs by Geoff Achison, Blue Soul, Sugar Ray & The Bluetones and Shemekia Copeland. 

Jeff Chaz has been a blues guitarist for half of his life. Based in New Orleans, he started out playing trumpet and then trombone, but soon switched to guitar. Chaz also sings and writes songs. On this cd, he wrote all the songs, one with Steve Lowry. Everything was recorded at Radionic Studio in Jefferson Louisiana. This time out Chaz sings and plays guitar, joined by Doug Therrien and David Hyde on bass, Doug Belote, Allyn Robinson and Willie Panker on drums, John Autin on Hammond B-3 organ and piano, A J Pittman on trumpet and Ward Smith on saxes. 

In 2013 Chaz released a cd "Chronicles" which revived some of those old songs, including "Morning Coffee." This is the first cd of new music since 2006's "Jeff Chaz In Exile." The guitar work is top notch, as it usually is with Jeff Chaz. The band is tight and loose at the same time. Regular readers here will know I love a band with a horn section, so I like hearing that. But the best thing about this release are the songwriting and vocals. They are what sets Chaz apart from most everybody else. Two examples--there's a song here "I'm Goin' After Moby Dick In A Rowboat" with a line "...and I'm bringing the tartar sauce." He might be setting off on a hopeless mission, but still, if he is successful he will be ready. Another example is in a song "Will You Be Mine" where the lyrics are nothing very special but he sings in the upper part of his range--just a simple thing like that. It communicates the anxiety and fear behind the title question without a doubt. And on both these songs, the guitar is just terrific.

One listen and you'll be glad you bought this cd.

Buy it at

Friday, April 1, 2016

Mark Cameron -- "Playing Rough"

From the very first few notes of the first song, "Doctor In The House," Mark Cameron lays down a winner with his new cd "Playing Rough." Of course, with a 30 year track record of making music based in Minneapolis, Cameron knows what he is doing...and he does it so good. This is his fourth blues release, following “Life Of Illusion” (2009) “Built To Bust” (2011) and "One Way Ride To The Blues" (2014). I took the tour to give all of those releases a listen, and "Playing Rough" is both a continuation and a fresh start. 

The band this time out includes Cameron on guitar, Bill Keyes on harmonica, Scott Lindberg on bass, Dan Schroeder on drums, and Sheri Cameron on flute. Additional musicians include Sara Renner and Tonia Hughes on background vocals, Scott Sansby on washboard and bones, Jason Craft on keyboards, and Greg Schutte and Nick Salisbury. All the songs were written by Cameron. One song, "Bluesmans Lullaby," is dedicated to BB King. 

I don't know where to start, trying to describe this cd. Every song reels you in. Sometimes it is a guitar lick, or a harmonica break, or the flute, or the vocal, and the band is always deep in the pocket. Lyrically, this is a very strong release. And musically, the band sounds like they have played together for years--because they have. I wish I had been a fly on the wall in the studio--it sounds like it was a great time! 

My favorite song here is "Rusty Old Model T." It sounds like it could be a song from another one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Dick LeMasters, from Texas. His new cd "Gasoline And Fire" should be reviewed here pretty soon.        

You can buy this cd on cd or vinyl at  


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Annie Piper -- "More Guitars Than Friends"

Annie Piper is no stranger to this blog. She has produced four cds now, including this new one "More Guitars Than Friends," and each one has been a strong, melodic and passionate slice of the blues. Piper was originally from Australia, but she relocated to Cocoa Beach Florida in 2014. 
'More Guitars Than Friends’ (Sugar Daddy Records) is the first on her own label. 

Already an internationally acclaimed recording artist, her latest achievement is becoming a 2015 finalist in the UK Songwriting Contest.  

Piper wrote seven of the ten songs here--many of them are from AFTER she moved to the US. There are three covers: "Just A Little Bit" by Wolfman Washington, "Cold Pizza And Warm Beer" by Lonnie Pitchford, and "I'm Lost Without You" by Sam Chatmon. Piper is a strong singer, songwriter and bass player--and the rest of the band is Dave Kury on guitar, Frank Hetzler on drums and percussion, Mike Franklin on keyboards, and a horn section of Charlie de Chant on saxaphone (from Hall and Oats), Sam Zambito on trumpet, and Tim Franklin and Dave Kury and Frank Hetzkler on backing vocals. The cd is produced by Annie Piper and Mike Franklin.

As on previous releases, Piper shows off different styles of music. Wonder Woman features her bass playing, and Just A Little Bit shows off her vocals. Buckle Bunny could almost be a country hit. It features great piano work from Mike Franklin and a killer guitar solo by Dave Kury. The title track is a wonderful slow old style blues. Paper Bag is a feature for the horns, and Cold Pizza And Warm Beer is my favorite song on the cd. Everybody plays great here, and Piper's vocals and bass hold it all together. Shotgun Wedding features a steel drum and a lot of Caribbean percussion. I'm Lost Without You is given a lively treatment, and great guitar by Dave Kury. Eugene shows Piper singing over the Franklin's piano--I'd like to hear this one live. The closer is Blackberry Brandy, and this one slips nicely into K.D. Lang torch song territory. It's flat out cooks!

This is the best cd Annie Piper has made so far. I liked her earlier releases, but with this one, her gifts as a songwriter and singer and bass player continue to develop. You can buy this one from her website:   


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Best Blues of 2015

A few words towards the blog post I would like to write--

Dear readers, I have woefully neglected this blog in 2015, and I have no excuses. I got out of the habit of writing it is all. There was a lot of great music made in 2015, and I loved a lot of it--so let me take a stab at sharing my favorites of 20-15.

12.  Billy Hector -- Old School Thang  (reviewed May 26)

11.  Jeff Jensen -- Morose Elephant  (Swingsuit Records) This cd illustrated for me all the potential of the great city of Memphis. When a good songwriter and a good batch of songs come together with the great talent of that city,  powerfully good music can be the result. The seven original songs and four covers are all excellent. Jensen is on vocals and guitar--abetting him are Victor Wainwright on piano and vocals, Ann Harris on violin, long-time bassist Bill Ruffulo, Reba Russell on backing vocals, Kirk Smothers and Mark Franklin on horns, Eric Hughes and Gary Allegretto on harmonica and Christ Stephenson on additional keyboards, along with James Cunningham on drums. A top-notch effort all around. My favorite song is "What's The Matter With The Mill," a duet featuring Jensen and Wainwright over a rollicking piano.

10.  Jim Singleton -- Eight O'Clock In The Afternoon (reviewed May 25)

9.  Steve Earle & The Dukes -- Terraplane  (New West) I have loved the music of Steve Earle since 1986's Guitar Town. Early on, it was obvious to me that the man would eventually make a blues album--and when he did, it was going to be stunner. Well, this is that album. On his website is a review that puts it all well: " Terraplane is his Texas blues album, an homage to the likes of Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb, Robert Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughn, Freddy King and ZZ Top." My favorite song is "King of The Blues," on which Earle comes closer than he ever has to sounding like the son of Ray Wylie Hubbard. 

8.  Samantha Fish -- Wild Heart (Ruf) When I moved from Atlanta to Colombia Missouri in 2012 I had to give up a lot of things. My old stomping grounds included Blind Willie's, where I could see incredible blues talent up close and personal on a regular basis. And then when I moved to metro Kansas City in 2014, I knew Samantha Fish was one of the highlights of this fine city. Blues Music Award for 2016 Nomination for the Best Contemporary Female. I have watched her from the beginning of her career, and with Chris Alexander on bass and Go Go Ray on drums, Samantha has her best band ever. As a result, Wild Heart is a BIG step forward. There is no telling how high and how far Samantha Fish can go. My favorite song is "Go Home," a heartfelt acoustic story-song.

7.  Rusty Wright Band -- Wonder Man  (Sadson) The Rusty Wright Band have made a string of strong albums, but Wonder Man is the best thing they've done so far. Rusty Wright writes all the songs. The band consists of Rusty Wright on guitar and vocals, Laurie LaCross-Wright on guitar and vocals, Dennis Bellinger on bass and vocals, Robert John Manzitti on organ, piano, synth, and vocals, and Marc Friedman on drums. They get additional cudos for being road warriors--they are best live and they're on the road almost all the time somewhere. My favorite song here is "Corvette Sunday," which features a beautiful Allman-esque twin guitar break that will make your heart soar.

6.  Dave Spector -- Message In Blue  (reviewed May 25)

5.  Eddie Cotton --  One At A Time (DeChamp) Eddie Cotton won the 2015 International Blues Challenge in 2015, which illustrates the level of talent the man possesses. A lot of that talent can be heard on One At A Time. Like Samantha Fish, this is his second terrific release in a row after 2014's Here I Come. Cotton wrote all the songs, and he is again backed by Myron Bennett on bass and Samuel Scott Jr on drums and percussion Guests include Grady Champion and Carlos Russell on harmonica, James "Hotdog" Lewis on organ, The Jackson Horns, and JJ Thames on backing vocals. My favorite song is "Dead End Street," a soulful tour de force that reminds me of the great ZZ Hill. In my opinion, Eddie is one of the top talents anywhere in the blues right now.

4.  Sonny Landreth -- Bound By The Blues (Mascot Music Productions) Sonny Landreth has developed over the past 15+ years into the most amazing slide guitar player around. Assisted this time out by drummer Brian Brignac and bassist David Ranson, Bound By The Blues is a stripped-down, back-to-the-blues set that lets Landreth's talents shine. I've never been a fan of his voice, but this time that is not as much an impediment as it was on earlier albums. Whenever people want to brag about how great Joe Bonamassa is, I just point them to Sonny Landreth. Favorite song is "Key To The Highway."

3.  Gary Clark Jr -- The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim  (Warner Brothers) It feels like Gary Clark Jr has made a whole stack of super good music in 2014 and 2015--the Live set was prime, and to follow that up with this album really boggles my mind. Add in that he played Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival, and The White House, and it looks even more monumental. Take some time off, already! Judging all that music together, Clark has taken giant steps towards fulfilling the potential that was laid on him several years ago. His work incorporates elements of gospel, and rock, and jazz--and because of that he annoys the blues purists--but Gary is a terrific musician and quickly growing into a national treasure. And he is only 31 years old. Favorite song is "Church" or maybe "The Healing."  

2.  Buddy Guy -- Born To Play Guitar (Silvertone) Buddy Guy released my number 1 cd of 2013 with "Rhythm & Blues" and this set is superior to that one. The man is a six-time Grammy winner. He has made God knows how many albums, and he has a career of over 50 years, and he seems to still be getting better. God bless you, Buddy. Thanks for all the great music. He probably doesn't need my review to sell his music--but he deserves to be listed here.
1.  Shemekia Copeland -- Outskirts Of Love (Alligator) Speaking only a few words about Shemekia Copeland's music will take a great deal of restraint on my part. She has a Grammy nomination for Best Blues Album for this one. I agree. My favorite cd of the year since the day I first heard it.