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December 17, 2009           

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Hey Blues Fans,

The holiday season is upon us. In many areas it is COLD outside. What is the best way to beat the cold? Find some HOT blues to warm your soul.  That is easy to do at our website where you will find a a complete gig listing for all 50 states.

If you are a band or club looking to let folks know about the great Blues shows you are having, this is also a great place to post your Blues shows for the Blues world to see. To visit the calendar now, CLICK HERE.

Blues Wanderings

We made it out to Blue Monday this week to hear Reverend Raven & The Chain Smoking Altar Boys.  These guys are one hot band! Featuring Reverend Raven on guitar and Big Al Groth on sax they had the crowd going. When it comes to rocking Blues, these guys can't be beat.


If you haven't heard them, make a point to. Check out their website to see when they are playing near you.  Click HERE to visit their website now.

In this issue - Blues Reviews and MORE!

James Walker reviews a new CD from Terry Davidson & The Gears. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by Mare Edstrom. Belinda Foster reviews a new CD from Maria Muldaur. Steve Jones reviews an new CD by Chocolate Thunder.  All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 Featured Blues Review 1 of 4

Terry Davidson & The Gears - Damnation Blues

Bangshift Music

12 songs; 47:10 minutes; Meritable

Styles: Rock, Rock and Roll, Rockabilly, Blues-Rock, Blues

To paraphrase Too Slim & The Taildraggers, this CD is “Ground Poundin,’ Nitro Burnin’ Blues-Rock, Baby!” This recording reminds me of earlier times when cars and racing were well featured in songs like “Little Deuce Coup,” “Little GTO,” “409,” and “Dead Man’s Curve.” I can imagine NASCAR champion Jimmy Johnson turning off his 2-way radio headset during a race and, instead, listening to this album for inspiration to bring home another checkered flag. Even the name of their record label, “Bangshift,” brings humorous thoughts of hard shifting hotrods before Hurst patented their synchronized shifters (“Shift as hard as you want, but don’t break your arm!”).

Ohio’s Terry Davidson & the Gears are veterans of the Heartland's music scene. They have been playing around the Eastern U.S. for over twenty years. Terry's first band formed in 1965. The Barracudas were hailed as Columbus, Ohio’s youngest professional Rock and Roll band. Today, Terry’s love of the Blues and Blues-Rock are at the forefront of his music. Busier than ever, Terry finds not only his band shows but also his solo and duo shows are in demand. He played at the 2007 International Blues Challenge in Memphis with long time bandmate Bob “the Wrench” Hanners. With The Gears, formed in 1983, Terry Davidson has released six albums with each CD containing more original material. Ten of the twelve songs on “Damnation Blues” are Davidson written or co-penned.

Starting this CD in the player is like popping the clutch and burning down the tree in a cloud of smoke at a NHRA drag race. The entire band launches the track one, title song simultaneously. It is a rip-snorting number with layers of lead guitar and slide guitar courtesy of Davidson. Nate Hollman on keyboards was not about to be hole shot as his pounding races right beside Davidson all the way down the track. Bart Jenkins on bass and Larz Raymond on drums are clearly the motor and the oil propelling this romp.

And, if you thought all that racing lingo was just metaphor, wait until you hear the opening of “Rat Rod,” the second track.

Actual rumbling hot rod engine sounds, courtesy of Ray Gosnell, vibrate the speakers for eight seconds before Davidson’s guitar lines serve as the shifter to engage the drive train. This smile inducing, fast tempo number is done Rockabilly style with some top string twang and plenty of thumping bass and rhythm.

Their cover of Jimmy Reed’s mid-tempo shuffle “High & Lonesome” brings the first taste of Blues and the addition of Ray Fuller on warbling harmonica. Davidson demonstrates his complete familiarity with the fret board throughout and on a tasty mid song guitar solo.

According to Davidson in the liner notes, “World’s Last GTO” was inspired by Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Pontiac Blues” and Ronnie and the Daytona’s “Little GTO.” Davidson sings, “...we’re cruisin’ in the world’s last’s bad on gas, but it sure is fast....” You just don’t hear those fun kind of songs anymore written for fans of friends, fast cars, cold beer, and cruising road trips.

“Quittin’ Time” is an absolute slide guitar stomp replete with a lyrical list of things in the narrator’s life, like smoking, than need to be quit. The mood of the song, however, is not one of surrender, and at the end, he says, “Anybody got a light?”

The most unique, surprising, and pleasing song of the set is an acoustic instrumental, titled “Three Angels,” dedicated to the memory of three women listed in the liner notes. Davidson makes the strings sing and soar with his slide on what sounds like a National steel bodied guitar. Some side-tracked mandolin adds interesting harmony.

“Black Cat Boogie” gives a nod to John Lee Hooker in a mid-tempo number lush with layers, while “Little Abigail” throws back to good ole 1960s Rock and Roll.

Davidson chose a very appropriate set closer in “High Test Love.” It is a Rocking number full of lyrical car racing metaphors (starting with the title) that really burns up the strip. Matt Stuber throws down a saxophone solo at mid song that fits perfectly in the “no traction; no action” theme.

While this Rocking and rousing set is obviously perfect for motor-heads and gear-jammers, I can not imagine any baby-boomer not enjoying these songs and sounds. It hearkens me back to the days of underage, illicit beers, back seat necking, clandestine drag racing, and Sunday afternoons helping your buddies tune those V-8 engines and getting your fingers all covered with “erl” (oil).

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Thursdays from 7 - 8 pm and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL

To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE 

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 Featured Blues Review 2 of 4

Mare Edstrom - Mare’s Blues

Spiritone Records

14 tracks/57:18

This collection gathers tracks from three solo releases by Mare Edstrom, a singer and keyboard player from Wisconsin who has an extensive background, including classical training in college while at the same time playing in local rock bands. Edstrom possesses a strong voice that can float over a quiet arrangement or deliver a powerful statement backed by a hard-charging band. Her classical training is evident as Mare easily slides throughout her vocal register, each note delivered cleanly and perfectly executed.

There are five tracks culled from Inside the Blues, a 2004 release. Jimmy Roger’s “That’s Alright” makes a great opening cut as Edstrom belts out the lyrics over a driving rhythm sparked by some fine harmonica playing from Steve Cohen. The following track shifts the instrumental focus to Kenn Fox on guitar and Randy Green contributes on organ on a T-Bone Walker tune, “Treat Me So Low Down”. Edstrom’s pushes her voice hard in the upper register but stops just short being too strident. “Statesboro Blues” alternates between low-key passages with sparkling vocal work from Edstrom and amped-up band sections featuring Fox on slide guitar. “Cherry Wine” is a brief rocker with Edstrom on piano.

Edstrom’s next release, Shake ’Em on Down, came out in 2006. She delivers a dark, stirring rendition of Blind Willie McTell’s “Broke Down Engine” while “Bring it Back Home” reworks Barbecue Bob’s tune into a Jimmy Reed-style piece complete with loping rhythm and more of Cohen’s excellent harp playing. “Pitch a Boogie Woogie” is bogged down by the backing chorus, which also appears on “Walkin” Blues”. The collective weight of the extra singers tends to bury Edstrom’s work. Fox lays down a strong slide guitar part on the latter track and does his best work on “Trouble Blues”, from the pen of Scrapper Blackwell. Edstrom proves that she has the chops to deliver a convincing performance on a slower blues piece.

The remaining four cuts were part of the 2007 release, Sugar Sweet. One highlight from this group is “Big Road Blues”, with Fox on acoustic guitar and Dave Finley on fretless bass guitar. Edstrom’s voice rings out true and clear, yet retains an edge in her phrasing that highlights the alternating feelings of hope and resignation in the lyrics. Ma Rainey’s “Travelin’ Blues” adopts a n old-time jazz feel with Jon Peik on banjo and Cohen shining again on the harp. “Breakfast in Bed” is a Fox original with Edstrom taking on a tougher tone. The collection closes with “Fixin’ to Die”. Edstrom opens with an acappella section before Fox adds a menacing guitar line. The track steadily builds in intensity as the rhythm section and backing chorus join in . Edstrom closes the song with another brief solo voice passage.

One oddity of this release is that the packaging has three photos of Edstrom with a guitar in hand, yet she confines her playing to piano and organ on the disc. Otherwise, this collection highlights her vocal talent in a variety of settings. Fox, in the roles of producer and arranger, updates the approach to this batch of mostly well-known blues tunes and provides Edstrom with a challenging musical framework for her lustrous voice. She is a singer worth a listen..

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 4

Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy - Good Time Music for Hard Times

Stony Plain Records

12 Tracks, 46 minutes 20 secs

Rating: BUY IT!

Styles: Classic Depression Jug Band Era made humorously contemporary, fresh and light

I confess, I write reviews because I learn. Reviewing music forces me to research music; and once you peel back the blue layers to the early 1900’s through about the 1950’s, you realize there’s this little sweet spot called the 30’s. Well Maria Muldaur doesn’t have to do research. She grew up in NY City’s Greenwich Village at a time of the intersecting root music cacophonies of blues, jazz, country, western, bluegrass, folk, jug band, gospel and plain ole old-timey music! No, she didn’t grow up in the 30’s; she grew up during a revival of all the great music genres.

Ah, back to the 30’s--where root music flowered like a garden—blues, jazz, big band, swing, ragtime, and (yes) jug band music. So someone is literally playing a jug, you might ask? Yes, it’s true—that, plus a mix of other various and numerous traditional and home-made instruments. And here in Maria Muldaur’s latest release, you’ll find a most skillful delivery by the most skillful of players reminding us blues lovers of our roots music ethnomusicology. Oh, and I should mention Maria’s CD has been nominated for a 2010 Blues Music Award in the category of Acoustic Album of the Year.

Look at this amazing line up: we have the one and only “America’s First Lady of Roots Music” vocalist and producer, Maria Muldaur; John Sebastian is on baritone guitar, 6-string banjo, guitar and harmonica; David Grisman is on mandolin, mandola and “retro banjo”; Taj Mahal is on banjo and guitar; (the late) Fritz Hammond is on jug Track 6; Kit Stovepipe is on National guitar, jug, and washboard; Alex Anagnostopoulos is on banjo and provides harmony vocals Track 4; Jim Rothermel is on clarinet, slide whistle and provides musical direction; Danny Caron is on guitar; Ruth Davies and Tim Eschelman are on bass; Suzy Thompson is on fiddle; Bowen Brown is on drums and percussion; Pete Devine provides percussion; Bob Schwartz is on trumpet, Kevin Porter is on trombone and Dan Hicks provides vocal fun with Maria on Track 7. Yes, you got it: that’s 17 players. Can someone say HOUSE PARTY! Gosh, I only hope I didn’t miss anyone. I can see why she aptly used ‘garden of joy’ in the title.

I have to say as a North and South Carolina gal, how pleasing it is to know that in her early days, Maria journeyed to the rural South to ‘sit at the feet of and play with SC’s very own (the late and great) Reverend Gary Davis, as well as the great Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Victoria Spivey and Doc Watson & the Watson Family. There with the Watson’s, she crafted her fiddle skills while soaking up Appalachian music and culture. It all comes together here in her own revival (with several former jug band mates) with Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy release.

My track highlights include all of the Dan Hick tracks starting with Maria’s rendition of his original Track 1, “The Diplomat”--a thigh slappin’ foot tappin’ ‘is it me or what?’ ditty. Dan’s Track 5 original “Let It Simmer” has Maria delivering a wonderful ole-timey sound and message where she demonstrates her expertise in knowing there’s no need to oversell phrasing and delivery of a good tune—she just lays it down bluesy smooth. Next would be Dan and Maria’s traditional medley style duo in Track 7’s “Life’s Too Short / When Elephants Roost in Bamboo Trees”. Ah, this one conjures nostalgic 30’s-40’s classic movie sound track and The Cats and the Fiddle thoughts! You’ll love Dan and Maria’s sexy teasing tosses, ‘scattin’ monkey impersonations and their harmonic vocal blend. Track 11’s “Bank Failure Blues” is as down-to-the-Delta depression era blues as you can get with a message and mood that’s timeless and applicable to today’s bank and financial crisis. The opening acoustic solo is beautifully performed (as in all the tracks—just take your pick). And last but not least of my personal favorites is Track 12, “The Panic Is On”. Just like Track 11, we’re reminded that the more things change, the more they stay the same. To summarize, you won’t find a more enjoyable jug band root music acoustic CD than this one.

If you want high-powered electric blues-rockin-rifts, vocals and arrangements, then don’t come here. But if you want a light-hearted nostalgic excursion with someone I’d call “The WC Handy of Female Blues-Root Heroes”, then pick yourself some flowers from this garden. Talk about cleverly positioning this timeless traditional music genre for a contemporary decade-ending revival. Honestly, I put this CD in my car’s player, what—a month ago? And had it not been for a reminder ‘hey, Belinda, review please?!’, I’d still be driving down root music highway with it. When I find a favorite, it stays in my player for months at a time, and this one definitely goes into my ‘proud to own/favorites’ collection. So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy today. See you and your garden of joy flowers at the Blues Music Awards in May, Maria!

Reviewer Belinda Foster is a Columnist and Contributing Writer for Greenville SC Magazine “Industry Mag” and former manager of Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’Blues. She currently books blues-rock-jam musicians and is a devoted promoter and supporter of live blues root music and history, making frequent trips to “The Crossroads” and Clarksdale Mississippi, birthplace of the blues. Her column “The Upstate Blues Report” can be found on line at

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Blues Society News

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Mid North Michigan Blues Society - Petoskey, MI

Mid North Michigan Blues Society is holding a fundraising event for Thornetta Davis to send Her to Memphis TN to compete in the 2010 International Blues Challenge. The event is at 7:00pm December 31, 2009 at UAW Local 21 Hall, 703 Rose St. at Hannah, Traverse City MI. Thornetta Davis will provide entertainment after an opening set by Juke. Tickets are $30 per person or $50 per couple. Bring your own food and drink. For more information go to or call (989) 370-8334.

The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society - Marietta, Ohio

The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society will hold its 18th Annual Blues Competition on February 19 and 20, 2010, at the historic Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, Ohio. Blues Bands and Solo/Dou blues acts will compete for cash prizes and BJFMS sponsorship to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis.

First-place will receive $1,000. dollars in cash and BJFMS sponsorship to the IIBC in January, 2011. Second place wins $200 and third-place wins $100. NO geographic restrictions apply. Any serious blues musician is invited to apply. Winning this preliminary competition gets your ticket punched to Memphis. Gain valuable exposure to record labels, A&R representatives, blues industry professionals and festival promoters capable of providing real career advancement.

Complete information, format, application & rules are available online at Deadline for application submission is January 9, 2010. More information: contact Steve Wells at 304.295.4323 or

Blues Blowtorch Society – Bloomington, IL

The Blues Blowtorch Blues Society presents 3rd Friday Blues - The Treehouse Lounge, 2060 Ireland Grove Rd, Bloomington, IL (309) 662-5231 A blues show the 3rd Friday of every month at 7:00 PM. December 18th – Kilborn Alley Blues Band

Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL

BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $2 cover.  Dec 21 - The Suns of Circumstance, Dec 28 - Sally Weisenburg

 Featured Blues Review 4 of 4

Chocolate Thunder - Ear Candy

Self Released

12 tracks

Linda Rodney, aka Chocolate Thunder, is a singer from South Carolina with a high powered voice who exudes lots of electricity. “Ear Candy” is her second self released album, packed with 12 original songs that Rodney wrote. It is available (along with her first album from 2002) on CD Baby. Fans of funk, blues, R&B, soul, jazz and even disco will find something here that appeals to them; she is a talent songwriter and performer with a tight backup band!

She kicks off her set with a funky track called “Love Thang” where she sings about her devotion to her man being driven by her love thing. The keyboard playing a vibraphone sound that really funks this one up fine, but it’s Rodney’s vocals front and center that are the focal point of this and every song. What’s also quite cool is how she has used different instruments on the songs to provide a different coloring and flavoring to the tracks.

Tom Kennedy’s sax work on “Other Side of Memphis” and “Ever New (I Loved You)” have great smooth sax solos along with responses to Linda’s vocal calls. She blends in Rodney Godfrey’s clavinet and the big 70’s styled funked out guitar on tracks like “Love Caused It” to deliver a new take on a retro style of Rick James-like music. And then she uses a jazzy trumpet and a swing guitar sound as a centerpiece on jazzy tracks like “My Georgia Pine”. In “Ain’t Gonna Cry” she brings in all the pieces for a big and funky number. It’s all well done and it’s all so good!

There is a list of players too long to list here (e.g. six background vocalists, three different keyboard, trumpet and guitar players, a couple of drummers and more), but suffice it to say that the sound that they and Rodney create is harmonious and clean. They navigate well from genre to genre and give us a refreshing take on all the soul and funk styles of the last 40 years. But as noted above, what sells this album is Ms. Rodney. She’s got a great set of pipes that can be down and funky, soulful, or bold, brassy and bright. Like Aretha, Koko and all the great singers before her, she can stand up in front of any band and impress a crowd with that voice. Couple that voice with an outstanding set of backup musicians that she has chosen and we have a mighty fine sophomore self release by a talented lady and her band! I recommend you check out Chocolate Thunder at your earliest opportunity!

Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.

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