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Hey Blues Fans,
This week we feature a review of the Juke Joint Fest by Boston Blues Society president Karen Nugent. The report includes some great photos like this one of James "Super Chikan" Johnson from Kim Welsh.
As one of the best "real deal" Blues festivals anywhere, it showcased some of the best Blues musicians Mississippi has to offer. Check out the story and all the photos of the fun below in this issue.
Also this week we feature an interview with legendary music producer, Dick Shurman. WHO?? Never heard of Dick Shurman?
Well you would be in the majority on that but interviewer Terry "Gatorman" Lape investigates why this guy may be the best music producer you have never heard of.
With a long list of CD credits and awards including a Grammy, A "Keeping The Blues Alive" Award and much more, Dick Shurman is one of those behind the scenes guys who make others sound good.
Albert Collins, Johnny Winter, Roy Buchanan, Otis Rush, Jody Williams, Fenton Robinson, Charlie Musselwhite and many others want Dick Shurman behind the counsel when they record their music.
How does he do it? Why is he in demand? Check out Terry's interview in this issue! SCROLL DOWN!
In This Issue
James "Skyy Dobro"
Walker reviews a new CD from Sandy Mack. George "Blues Fin Tuna"
reviews a new CD by Woodleg Odd . Steve Jones reviews a new CD by
Blue Lunch. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD from Sandy Mack. George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish reviews a new CD by Woodleg Odd . Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Blue Lunch. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
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Magazine Seeks Summer Festival Reviewers
Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good men (Or Women)! Over the 2010 summer season we are looking for folks who attend Blues Festivals and take GOOD photos for festival reviews. If you attend multiple Blues Festivals or Blues shows and could volunteer to send us 500 to 1000 word reviews and a few good photos, please reply to .
Reviewers are needed for the Midwest, Southwest and Texas area, the Florida and Gulf area, The West Coast, The Pacific Northwest, Canada, the Eastern coast area and also on the European, Asian and Australian continents. A short sample of your writing, a sample photo and info on your Blues background would be helpful. Please include your phone number with the reply.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 3
Sandy Mack - Still Going Strong
14 songs; 58:10 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Chicago Blues, Jump Blues, Rock and Roll, Boogie, Jazz
I have been wanting to write a song in the worst way. So far, I have been completely successful (“in the worst way”). Initially, I struggle with subject matter. How can a writer avoid cliché (my woman done left me....again) and be innovative? Each week, I review a new CD and am constantly amazed and entertained by what writers create.
This week, here comes Sandy Mack with a song about two ghosts fighting, in “Ghost Stories.” Why couldn’t I think of that? First, that takes unusual wit, and secondly, who knew that ghosts fight? To moodily showcase the clever and humorous story told by the lyrics, Mack puts Ira Kaye on pounding drums and allows producer John Pittas to play “cheesy organ” sounding like a 1950s horror movie soundtrack. Mack sings in his patented, never rough or jagged, smooth, nasal vocals and adds harmonica accents. Says Mack, “I try to make music that doesn’t sound like everybody else’s.”
My radio partner “Shuffle Shoes”, who rarely likes any new CD, first discovered this follow-up to Mack’s 2001 debut recording “That's What I'm Talking About.” Described by “Shuff” as “warm and professional sounds of a veteran,” this fourteen track disc features four classic blues covers along with ten strong Mack original songs, which highlight his versatility as a blues based singer/songwriter/harp player.
Besides “Ghost Stories” demonstrating Sandy’s versatility, there is “Life Boat,” a wonderful, jazzy original. It opens with earworm-catchy ethereal “wooo - ooo - oo” vocals courtesy of Sarah Mack. The middle is highlighted by solos: Sandy’s studied chromatic harmonica, John Pittas’ electric piano work, and an attention-demanding guitar solo by Andy Reidel.
New Jersey shore’s Mack (McCuiston) has put together an impressive who's who guest list of the State’s top blues musicians, plus a special guest, legendary guitarist Kid Ramos on six tracks. First played on our “Friends of the Blues Radio Show” was “Never Enuff Rockin’” in which Ramos really picks his so-clean lines in the mid song solo on this Jump Blues styled Rock and Roll number.
Our next play was the first track, “Drunked,” a gentle Blues about the world’s worst hangover. “I got up; daylight knocked me back down! ...I [had] drunk a whole lot of beer - then a lot more gin. My buddy came in the bar and set me up again...,” the lyrics report as Mack's harp, Kid Ramos' guitar, and Jumpin' Jack Strobel's organ are all low and slow, like they really were playing for someone with a bad hangover.
Last week, we played “Boogie Now” featuring a false harmonica start followed by Mack’s slicing, hipster voice saying, “Ummm, that ain’t it!... It’s more like this.” Then the band rips into an original boogie that would make John Lee Hooker proud. Filthy Rich McPherson lays down the rhythm rumble guitar track. Future plays will include “Get Right,” Little Walter’s instrumental “Shake Dancer,” and “Love Explosion.”
“Still Going Strong” easily switches styles many times, which is a testimony to Mack’s dedication to the broad genre and to his ability to surround himself with talented musicians. Active in the New Jersey Shore music scene since the early 1970s, Mack’s vocals and harp playing are clearly “Still Going Strong” enough to win over any Blues fan.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL
To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Featured Live Blues Review
Juke Joint Festival - April 17th, 2010 Clarksdale, Mississippi
The grin on Red’s face said it all – along with the big wad of cash in his hand.
As he sat outside of his famed juke joint, near that huge smoker full of ribs, folks literally squeezed themselves into a sweating, packed to the rafters crowd grooving to the swampy harp playing of the great Big Jack Johnson.
And this was the night before the official start of downtown Clarksdale’s 7th annual Juke Joint Festival. Apparently, the authenticity of this event, so different from your usual blues festival, has caught the attention of many.
Downtown Clarksdale encompasses only about three pretty depressed looking city blocks (a revitalization effort is under way, and its organization sponsored a few events)
But that’s the point—this festival is perhaps more about the venues and their history than the music. Although not entirely, because there was phenomenal music. Admission for all of Saturday’s venues was only $10 for a wristband.
With at least 20 venues, more if you include the solo musicians who played on a train that went back and forth between the historic Clarksdale Station and Hopson’s plantation Saturday night, there was a heck of a lot to hear.
At night, there were 17 different joints with live music – from the well- known Ground Zero Blues Club at the heart of the festival, to Hick’s Hot Tamales and BBQ, a little way out of the downtown. Further out was Hopson’s, site of the Shack –Up Inn’s renovated shotgun shacks, with three different venues.
In town, there was music in a bakery, a pizza parlor, and an art gallery, along with the authentic juke joints.The day time line-up was just as impressive: A total of 10 outdoor music stages, all brilliant in the bright Delta sunshine. In fact, the point of the festival is to celebrate the arrival of spring. The music is combined with a sort of country fair, complete with racing pigs, funnel cakes, and something called “Monkeys Riding Dogs” which I never did get to see.
You could also spend your money on blues art work, CDs and records, and T-shirts.
The stars of Saturday’s outdoor shows included many of the Delta favorites, including Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, a Delta-born guitarist with his own juke joint; Louis “Gearshifter” Youngblood, Eddie Cusic, Blind MS Morris, L.C. Ulmer, and, of course Clarksdale’s own Super Chikan.
Two Delta blues legends, T-Model Ford and Honeyboy Edwards, were on hand, with 80-something-year-old T-Model just relaxing outside Cathead blues store, one of the best venues, during one of Cusic’s gigs. T-Model, one of the friendliest guys you’ll ever meet, chomped on potato chips, doled out cash to his grandkids, and greeted just about everyone who walked by – especially the ladies.
Cusic, by the way, did a tremendous version of “Big Boss Man.”
Edwards, in his mid-90s, was the subject of a live hour-long interview inside the Delta Blues Museum. While the room was filled to capacity, one could hear a pin drop as Honeyboy recounted stories of the old days, including a bout with yellow fever.
On the nearby Delta Blues Museum Stage, an older bluesman ran a session featuring museum students, some younger than 10, as spectators relaxed on a grassy field.
One of the more popular street acts, and this band seemed to be all over the place, was the Porkchop Willie Band. Their driving North Mississippi hill country sound, a style becoming increasing popular, was made all the more interesting with Melissa Tong on fiddle, and David Kimbrough – of the Jr. Kimbrough family - on bass. The band will surely become more well-known.
Another pleasant surprise was the 19th Street Rhythm band, whose guitarist-singer had a Howlin’ Wolf thing going on. They were outside of the Ground Zero all afternoon.
The Scissormen, another hill country band, based in Nashville, featured the entertaining Ted Drozdowski on guitar and vocals, backed only by a drummer.
Surprisingly – or maybe not- it was a lesser known joint, “Pete’s Grill,” on the outskirts of the downtown, that featured one of the hottest bands—and I never did get their name.
Nighttime stars included Big George Brock, Johnny Rawls, Stacy Mitchhart, Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm, and Rev. Peytons’ Big Damn Band.
The headliner Saturday at the Ground Zero, Morgan Freeman’s acclaimed club, was—of course-- homeboy Super Chikan and his very , very high energy band, the Fighting Cocks (all women, by the way.) The chicken, aka James Johnson, also played outside during the day, in front of Miss Del’s General Store, where one could also have a grand old time shopping for unusual food and other items. (I got a jar of “mayhaw”jelly. I have no idea what it is.)
On Friday, it was the flashy guitarist Stacy Mitchhart packing the Ground Zero, opening, appropriately enough, with “Too Much Weekend.” Indeed it was.
Speaking of that song -- it was recorded a few years ago by Watermelon Slim, who was playing outside of Cathead earlier in the day. Slim, AKA Bill Homans, is an Oklahoma native who moved to Clarksdale in October.
Back to Super Chikan’s set Saturday night at Ground Zero. At one point, it suddenly became so packed with young people, (who were obviously not blues fans because you could see they were paying more attention to their drinks and friends than the music,) it became necessary to get on outta there.
So we headed back to Hopson’s “Juke Joint Chapel” for an absolutely red hot set by Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm.
I think it was the best performance of the festival, and included Delta, hill country, and Chicago blues—a super way to end the festival, although things continued Sunday morning with the free Cat Head Mini Blues Festival featuring T-Model Ford, Honeyboy Edwards, Bilbo Walker, Big George Brock, and more.
Cat Head owner Roger Stolle, an enormously enthusiastic promoter and supporter of Delta blues, is the entire festival’s music organizer.
A big shout out and thanks goes to him for bringing a very special event to the rest of the world. I would make reservations now for next year! www.jukejointfestival.com www.cathead.biz .
Roving reporter Karen Nugent is President of the Boston Blues Society. Photos by Kim Welsh.
Blues Society News
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West Virginia Blues Society has teamed up with Tomahawk’s Smokehouse and Saloon to present an all-day Miner’s Memorial Fundraiser, Saturday, May 1, 2010 beginning at noon. Over twelve hours of live blues music, a hog roast and fixin’s – all for the price of $15 per person or $25 per couple, no charge for children. Proceeds will be donated to the WV Council of Churches to be distributed to the Upper Big Branch miners’ families.
Jason Ricci and New Blood will be the headliner along with a host of other great performers - Crossroads Blues Band, Robert Altmann, Holy Cow, Leon Waters, Hunter Wolf and ARE, Six Kinds of Crazy, C & S Railroad, John Taylor, Washboard Jo and others.
West Virginia Blues Society is
in need of Sponsors to help off-set the production costs of this event
to benefit the coal miners in West Virginia. Everyone is welcome to join
in and experience the healing powers of the Blues. For information on
how you can help, call Jack Rice at 304-389-1439 or visit
The Washington Blues Society’s local competitions for the 2011
International Blues Challenge will be held on Sunday, June 20th and
Sunday, June 27th at the award-winning Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle.
Depending on the number of entries received, there may be an additional
competition on July 11th or July 25th. The preliminary solo/duo
competitions will be held on either Sunday, June 27th or one of the July
dates above. Competition finals will be held on Sunday, August 22nd at
the the Snohomish Taste Of Music Festival.
Any Washington State blues act may enter, and the act must include at
least one who is a member of the WBS. Band entry fee is $30.00 and
solo/duo entry fee is $15.00. Entry deadline is Thursday, June 10th. For
complete info see the website at:
www.wablues.org or email
The Washington Blues Society’s local competitions for the 2011 International Blues Challenge will be held on Sunday, June 20th and Sunday, June 27th at the award-winning Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle. Depending on the number of entries received, there may be an additional competition on July 11th or July 25th. The preliminary solo/duo competitions will be held on either Sunday, June 27th or one of the July dates above. Competition finals will be held on Sunday, August 22nd at the the Snohomish Taste Of Music Festival.
Any Washington State blues act may enter, and the act must include at least one who is a member of the WBS. Band entry fee is $30.00 and solo/duo entry fee is $15.00. Entry deadline is Thursday, June 10th. For complete info see the website at: www.wablues.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Saturday, May 1st, the Alabama Blues Project presents Blues Extravaganza 2010. It is a free, family-friendly blues festival and will be held in historic downtown Northport from noon to 7 p.m. The live show features three After-School Blues Camp student bands as well as Alabama blues greats Microwave Dave, Bettie Fikes, Lil' Jimmy Reed and more! This event is hosted by the Northport Downtown Merchants Association. The Blues Extravaganza is in its third year as a unique musical celebration, bringing seasoned blues talent together with the young ABP After-School Blues Camp students and showcasing their combined Alabama blues power to the community at large. The 60+ students have been studying the blues all spring and are looking forward to sharing the fruits of their hard work and performing along side professional Alabama Blues Performers.
The After-School Blues Camp brings Alabama's rich blues heritage to the next generation of budding musicians and combines hands-on music instruction with a life-skills curriculum and blues music history. Students and audience alike will also be treated to performances by the Blues Instructors, whose members have been teaching our young students throughout the semester. These great musicians include B.J. Reed, Bruce Andrews, Debbie Bond, Jesse Suttle, Brad Guin and more. It's going to be a party!
Crossroads Blues Society is producing their very first Blue festival this year. The Byron Crossroads Blues Festival will run from noon to midnight on Saturday, August 28, 2010, in downtown Byron, Illinois.
The festival lineup includes The Resistors, noted artists Filisko and Noden, The Cashbox Kings, Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band and Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames. For more information visit the Crossroads website at: www.crossroadsbluessociety.com
Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials will be in town on Saturday, May 1, at Rascals--1414 15th Street, Moline. This is your chance to see one of the headliners for BluesFest 2010 in an intimate setting. Admission is only $5.00, and the show starts at 9 p.m.
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents Little Bobby and the Storm will perform for a Mississippi Valley Blues Society-sponsored event at Rascals (1414 15th Street in Moline) on Thursday May 6 starting at 6:00 p.m. Admission is $7.00, $5.00 for MVBS members. Little Bobby’s show will be followed by the regular Thursday night blues jam hosted by the Steady Rollin’ Blues Band. The band, from North Dakota, will be stopping in the Quad-Cities on their way down to Clarksdale, Mississippi. The last time they played here, Little Bobby and the Storm appeared on the street stage at the 2008 IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival.
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the Holmes Brothers on Friday May 7 at the Capitol Theatre, 330 W. 3rd Street, Davenport. The show starts at 8:00 p.m., with doors opening at 7:00. Admission is $20, $15 for MVBS members or in advance through the Capitol box office (www.thecapdavenport.com or 563-326-8820). The Brothers are touring the Midwest for the first time in three years to advance their recent release on Alligator Records, Feed My Soul.
For more info call the MVBS office at 563-32-BLUES or visit our website at: http://www.mvbs.org .
Columbia College - Chicago, IL
Free Blues Camp Audition - Saturday, May 22, 10:00 AM - Noon, Columbia College Chicago Music Center, 1014 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago. This is an opportunity to audition for this great youth Blues Camp held at Columbia College July 4 – 9, 2010 by Artistic Director, Fernando Jones.
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Spring 2010 Friends of the Blues shows- May 6 - Ivas John Band, 7 pm , Legacy Bar & Grill, May 11 - Chicago Blues Angels, 7 pm , Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, May 27 - Moreland & Arbuckle 7 pm , Kankakee Elks Country Club, June 15 - Albert Castiglia 7 pm , River Bend Bar & Grill, June 22 - Al Stone, 7 pm , River Bend Bar & Grill and August 10 - ean Chambers, 7 pm , River Bend Bar & Grill For more info see: http://www.wazfest.com/JW.html
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 $3 cover. April 26 - Rockin'
Jake, May 3 - The Mojocats, May 10 - Steve the Harp
River City Blues
Society - Peoria, IL The River
City Blues Society has started booking more of their weekly Blues shows.
The shows start at 7:00pm at Good Fellas Pizza and Pub, 1414 N 8TH St
Pekin, IL. Admission for all shows is $4 or $3 for RCBS members. Shows
currently scheduled are: Wednesday May 19th, 2010 - Hounds Tooth
BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. April 26 - Rockin' Jake, May 3 - The Mojocats, May 10 - Steve the Harp
River City Blues Society - Peoria, IL
The River City Blues Society has started booking more of their weekly Blues shows. The shows start at 7:00pm at Good Fellas Pizza and Pub, 1414 N 8TH St Pekin, IL. Admission for all shows is $4 or $3 for RCBS members. Shows currently scheduled are: Wednesday May 19th, 2010 - Hounds Tooth
Featured Blues Review 2 of 3
Woodleg Odd - One Step Ahead
Woodleg Music Norway
12 tracks - Total time: 47:32
In my time as reviewer for Blues Blast I’ve learned just how much the blues is now an international music. I’ve listened to 1950s Chicago blues rendered with a Brazilian touch by the Robson Fernandes Blues Band, and jazz-blues and down-home stylings rendered with a Greek feeling by Paul Karapiperis. Now comes Woodleg Odd, rendering the hard-edged urban soul-blues with a Norwegian feel on their fifth self-released CD, One Step Ahead. As with the other artists mentioned above, the song lyrics are in English, and combines both an American fealty to the original blues while adding and elaborating them with feels drawn from their own creative approaches; they are interpreters, not copycats, and although interpreters from lands far removed geographically from Chicago or the Delta, one with them in soul, expressiveness and feeling.
Now comes Norway’s hot band, Woodleg Odd, taking its unusual name from the band’s drummer, Odd “Woodleg” Lie, whose right foot is made of wood. But the band’s personnel has a strong U.S. connection through its lead vocalist and slide guitarist Adam Douglas, who moved to Norway two years ago after stints with Watermelon Slim and the Midwest soul band, The GrooveHogs. Rounding out Woodleg Odd are guitarist Frank Utgaard and bassist Arne Moe. One Step Ahead was recorded in Memphis, Tennessee however, and produced by veteran producer Jim Gaines. All tracks are originals, ten of them written by Frank Utgaard and Adam Douglas; one, “Long Distance Love,” by Frank Utgaard and Knut Eilefsen, and the instrumental, “Walk Of Shame,” written by all the band members together. The music is solid contemporary soul-blues in the tradition of Curtis Salgado, Average White Band and my fellow Hoosier Tad Robinson, who lives in nearby Greencastle—from where he frequently commutes to blues-playing jobs in Europe!
But it’s not all that—while for the most part One Step Ahead is soul-blues, there are three tracks that are not, which are departures from the soul-blues genre. With all of the music quite satisfying, well-done, and ear-catching throughout—Woodleg Odd is comprised of quite substantive players, with the additional musicians on the CD top-notch as well. The original songs are all well-written, with arresting lyrics that capture the darker, more pensive and poignant, side of the human condition. Lead vocalist Adam Douglas, only in his twenties, has an edgy, emotion-drenched delivery perfectly fitted to the music he sings, with that note of desperation in his expression resonant with that of the late, great lead singer of the Four Tops, Levi Stubbs. Frank Utgaard provides plenty of delicious lead guitar work throughout, lead work perfectly fitted to the songs he’s playing it on, with strong, supportive underpinning from the rhythm section of drummer Odd “Woodleg” Lie and bassist Arne Moe—whose bass drives the fourth cut, “Reason & Rhyme.” Further, all the band members join together well in vocal harmonies.
musicians help round out the sound with their supportive accents. The
horns of trumpeter Marc Franklin and saxophonist Art Edmaiston grace the
opening track, “Forever And A Day,” and track 3, “Back To My Old Tricks
Again,” with solid R&B riffs that immediately brought to mind the
horn-driven power of the Average White Band that I loved to listen to in
the 1970s. Larry Byrne’s Hammond organ is an understated, but
appropriately insistent, presence on eight cuts, with Svein Erik Aamaas
accenting with keyboards on track 10, “At That Time.” Background singers
Jackie Wilson and Reba Russell especially grace track 7, “Find A Way To
Get Rid Of You” with their call-and-response vocals, and Frode Sundes
adds supporting drums on two tracks.
Now to the three surprises, which are as high-quality as the songs mentioned above. Track 8, “I’ve Been Down This Road Before,” is a down-home electric blues with a distinctively country feel that’s supported instrumentally by Adam Douglas playing slide guitar, and Ronald Ottessen amplified blues harp. Ottessen’s sparse yet expressive harp is also demonstrated on “At That Time” in middle and ending harp solos, again in tandem with Douglas’s slide guitar. The next cut, “Walk Of Shame,” travels a different musical road altogether, as it is a bouncy jazz instrumental of several distinct yet interwoven parts, with Marc Franklin’s and Art Edmaiston’s horns doing 1940s-style swing riffing behind Frank Utgaard’s elegant, lacelike single-string jazz guitar that’s later overlaid with second-guitar playing of a blues-rock nature—while Larry Byrnes joins in at the middle with a funky Jimmy Smith/Jimmy McGriff-like Hammond organ solo. The final track, “A Thousand Times Before,” is different yet from the above two—it’s a late 1960s-early 1970s rocker that owes its musical inspiration to the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” As with the above soul-blues tracks, the “surprise” lyrics are poignant, meaningful and philosophically expressive, and the musicianship first-rate throughout the whole of One Step Ahead. Nothing odd or out of place when it comes to the artistry OF Woodleg Odd!
One Step Ahead is available through CD Baby and Amazon.com. !
Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish hails from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr. He has written a regular music column for several years. He wrote the liner notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has been a blues and pop music contributor for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Featured Blues Review 3 of 3
Blue Lunch - Sideswiped
\This CD is hot. Like really hot. Blue Lunch is a tight band who mix and match their sounds oh-so-well and really deliver an eclectic sound. Hailing from the Cleveland, Ohio, area, this is their fifth CD and it’s a good one. Led by Bob Frank on guitar, vocals, and harp, they offer a sound similar to Roomful of Blues. His vocal style is jumping and in the style of Duke Robillard. Pete London on vocals and harp offers up a different, echoing higher pitched vocal style that reminds me of our buddy from Madison, Jimmy Voegeli. He and Frank are both superb front men. Raymond DeForest on bass and occasional vocals and Scott Flowers on percussion are solid throughout. Mike Sands keyboard work ranges from elegant and harmonious to full throttle barrelhouse. The horns and brass make these guys larger than life. Keith McKelly on tenor sax, Bob Michael on trombone, and Mike Rubin on trumpet (with Gordon Beadle on the tenor lead on a couple of tracks) add a really nice dimension to the tracks.
The title tracks is an instrumental and they open with it with great success. It sets a hot and fiery mood. The driving guitar and horns backed up by the drums and bass are great. At first I was taken aback by not featuring vocals to start, but they were toying with me. Frank offers a solid, clean sound on the swing track “Which Way to Go?” Very, very solid, perhaps my favorite track overall. They throw in a little Hammond B3 to thicken up the already rich sound. London fronts the band next on “Always Pickin’ on Me”, which is a bouncy, fun and lively track. By rack four they’ve slowed things down with the ballad, “All Things Come”. From fiery hot to low down and sentimental all in 15 minutes, and there are 11 tracks left! They show their versatility and range to start and then aptly continue to showcase their talents.
They offer some eclectic originals and covers. “Monkey Hips and Rice”, “36-22-36”, “Mother-in-Law”, “Don’t Point That Thing at Me”, “Chinese Knockoff” and Too Much Boogie” that offer a lighter side of humor, novelty songs and just enjoyable stuff, all delivered with their big, solid sound. They threw in a second instrumental with a jazzy Bill Doggett/Illinois Jaquet cover of “Doggin’ With Doggett”; it is a swinging number that showcases all the instruments and their talented wielders.
Whether it is traditional blues, swing, boogie woogie, rollicking barrelhouse or down tempo stuff, it is well done and quite professional. I can’t find anything to complain about in this Cleveland band except they need to get on the road and showcase their stuff so more people can find out what great band they are!
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Featured Blues Interview
Dick Shurman - An Interview with an Iconic Blues Man.
by Terry "Gatorman" Lape
Ronnie Baker Brooks, Koko Taylor, Elvin Bishop, Magic Slim, Richard Shurman, Roger Naber
Dick Shurman hails from Seattle, Washington. He came to Chicago in 1968 became enthralled with the Blues scene, and stayed. As a producer, he has worked on recordings by many major Blues artists and received a Grammy award for his work on the album, Showdown! Dick has worked with such greats as Albert Collins, Johnny Winter, Roy Buchanan, Otis Rush, Jody Williams, Fenton Robinson, Charlie Musselwhite, Johnny Heartsman, Larry Garner, Magic Slim, Andrew Brown, Little Smokey Smothers, Lee “Shot” Williams, Louis Myers, Earl Hooker, Eddie C. Campbell, Lacy Gibson, and Eric Sardinas
He is Living Blues’ 1996 “Producer of The Year” and a 2005 “Keeping the Blues Alive Award” winner as a Blues record Producer. Dick has been nominated about fifteen times for Grammy Awards in the record producer category. He has compiled numerous re-issues including Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Junior Parker.
As a journalist he has annotated over 100 albums and contributed chapters of books, feature articles, reviews and an ongoing news column to Living Blues. He is a member of the Chicago Blues Festival Advisory Committee and has moderated programs for various arms of the City of Chicago. Dick Shurman has always been involved in the Blues community in a mixture of ways. We had a chance to conduct the following interview with Mr. Shurman.
Johnny Winter Pointblank session, Streeterville Studio, Chicago, 1992
Mark Enders (JW's roadie), engineer David Axelbaum, John Gabrysiak , Edgar Winter, Johnny Winter, Richard Shurman
Blues Blast: Why the Blues?
DS: When I first heard it from friends, my parents’ records and the radio, it sounded different, powerful, great beats, vivid and exotic lyrics, passionate music and more adult than the Top 40 stuff pop culture was trying to feed me and every other adolescent. Then came the British Invasion and the white blues revival in the U.S. gave it more historical significance; I wanted to trace the songs back, and often the original versions and artists moved me more than the cover versions.
Blues Blast: Who was the artist that turned you on to the blues?
DS: Among the first I heard on record were Big Bill Broonzy and Lightnin’ Hopkins. When I really started getting into it, it was mostly the postwar Chicago blues greats; Howlin’ Wolf’s Crown LP and More Real Folk Blues had a huge impact, as did The Best Of Little Walter. And of course the Three Kings.
I also heard Little Johnny Taylor, Bobby Bland and John Lee Hooker in the early ‘60s on the rock and roll radio station in Seattle where I grew up; “Boom Boom” by John Lee was actually #1, as was Lonnie Mack’s “Memphis.” The first Chicago blues band I met was Junior Wells, with Louis Myers on guitar. They told me to look them up when I got to Chicago (for college); they should have known better!
Blues Blast: I know you have produced many blues artists over the years. Do you have a favorite? If so why?
DS: I have happy memories of every artist who trusted me enough to give me a chance and this answer could take all day. But I did seven albums each with Johnny Winter and Albert Collins, so naturally they mean a lot to me. They all have different appeals, but a project always brings some bonding.
Roy Buchanan was an awesome guitarist and we had great rapport. Johnny Heartsman was a terrific musician and close friend, and doing his Alligator CD The Touch in Sacramento was a dream come true, thanks to Bruce Iglauer. I was really happy to be a part of Jody Williams’ comeback via the two CDs we did for Evidence, and Return Of A Legend was a peak experience, all the more so because he cut his masterpiece song (for me, anyhow) on the dreaded 9/11/01. The two albums I did with Andrew Brown for Dutch labels meant a lot personally and were well received. Fenton Robinson was also a close friend so working with him was big for me.
Magic Slim played my wedding reception, so you know we had fun doing the two for Blind Pig. Cold Shot! By Lee “Shot” Williams got awards and a lot of praise and helped Shot’s career; that was a great band too. I really enjoyed producing Larry Garner’s Once Upon The Blues in Memphis.
Eddie C. Campbell and his family have basically taken me into the family; both King of the Jungle in 1977 and Tear This World Up last year were highlights for me, as was the honor of doing a Delmark project.
I’m fortunate that I can pretty much pick and choose (subject to available opportunities, of course) so I tend to work with people I like a lot. Little Smokey Smothers is another buddy, working with Charlie Musselwhite was a major treat, Cal Green is too forgotten but was one of the great guitarists and working with him was my one time as a Hollywood Producer (later the studio burned during the Rodney King riots)… I could go on and on.
Blues Blast: How did you start as a producer and who was the first artist you produced?
DS: I started by the seat of my pants, like most blues producers. The first session I get credit for is running the tape recorder for Big John Wrencher’s Barrelhouse LP in September ’69; I really had nothing to do with the production of that one.
Some Earl Hooker live material I recorded at Pepper’s and Theresa’s that same month has been reissued on Arhoolie. Delmark and other labels let me hang around a session or two and I tried to learn by observation. My buddy, Wes Race, who discovered Son Seals and was Hound Dog Taylor’s best buddy, recommended me to Delmark to help with Otis Rush in ’75 and Cold Day In Hell was my first serious studio project. There’s an unissued track where Otis sings about my then-recent first marriage: “he just got his neck in the noose, he just joined the union…”
After that I started doing stuff with Steve Wisner for Mr. Blues Records including King Of The Jungle, and when I brought Albert Collins to Alligator, Bruce dealt me in as co-producer (Albert told me later he took a low advance because he thought I had a piece of the label), and Bruce and I went on from there to do 11 albums together and he issued three more of my productions without him. I learned more from Bruce than from anyone else and will always be grateful for the many ways in which he has elevated and enriched my life.
Blues Blast: Can you tell our readers what a blues recording producer does?
DS: Whatever is necessary to bring the project to completion with high quality. In some ways I like it better the less I have to do, because that means the artist has it together. But it can include pitching the project until a label takes the plunge (more often the deal is in place when I get hired), organizing the band, material (choosing it and sending out dubs), schedule, studio and budget, rehearsing, running the sessions, mixing and editing, mastering, and my favorite part: turning it over to someone else to sell it.
A lot of it is about organization, psychology, and teamwork; a lot of it is being the one designated to make decisions that have to be made like how long a solo should be, who should take it, etc.
The mixing and editing part, where you work out the basic sonic envelope like what kind of room feel and how much mustard to put on it is a lot like being a portrait painter; that’s where subjective tastes and the producer’s and engineer’s hands and ears get to be more of a factor.
Blues Blast: What would you consider the best instrumentation for a blues group?
DS: There’s no one answer to that; blues comes in too many forms. I love B-3 (organ) and a kicking horn section, but I wouldn’t put them with Honeyboy Edwards or a Muddy Waters-type ensemble with a jazzy singer.
Blues Blast: How difficult is it to produce a new artist?
DS: In some ways easier; they probably haven’t recorded all their licks and bandstand staples and may not be as cynical (yet). But sometimes they’re less tuned into the recording process and how to make it work for them, or more distrustful about the business aspect.
And the first time with anyone always includes some mutual adjustment, understanding each other’s approach, likes and dislike, terminology, etc. Often the first one is exhilarating and fresh; the second is more comfortable based on familiarity and better understanding.
Blues Blast: How much does a producer help in the song selection?
DS: Depends on the artist. Some always have plenty of good candidates; others come in pretty much empty-handed. I encourage artists to write; sometimes that means helping them tighten up the words, structure or arrangement.
Sometimes it just means being the arbiter and making sure there are a good balance of strong material with good lyrics and a solid mix of tempos, textures, keys, etc., to sustain a listening experience, especially with the greater length of a CD vs. an LP. Pacing means a lot and involves various aspects of variety, along with some underlying consistency.
Blues Blast: Do you have a favorite studio you like to use and favorite sound engineer?
DS: It varies, but if I have to pick one, I’ll follow an engineer I trust to a studio he likes.
I’ve done a lot of stuff over the years with Freddie Breitberg engineering; Justin Niebank was also an excellent engineer who did a lot of Alligator classics. I really enjoyed working with Steve Wagner at Riverside for Delmark, and doing Johnny Winter projects with David Axelbaum, plus various projects with Julian Herzfeld who’s in Philadelphia now.
Some of the best times of my life happened at the late lamented Streeterville Studio at Ohio & St. Clair. I’ve also done a lot of work at Studiochicago on Clybourn and at Chicago Trax’s various locations over the years. Other than high quality and affordable pricing, I like studios with nice folks, good free parking and good convenient food!
Blues Blast: How did you like working with Howlin’ Wolf?
DS: I didn’t work with him (other than compiling and annotating some posthumous reissues), but he’d invite me over for a great dinner and then drive me to his gig to tape record him all night, then drive me home. This was in ’69-’70. He was great to me and treated me as a young man who could use his fatherly guidance.
His wife and daughters were wonderful; the daughters and I remain friends and often do programs commemorating Wolf at the Chicago Blues Festival. We have three programs coming up this May and June in connection with what is commonly (though perhaps wrongly) regarded as wolf’s centennial: at the Harold Washington Library, the symposium at Dominican University and the usual Blues Fest birthday cake cutting on June 11.
Every minute I was around Wolf, I was aware that I was incredibly blessed and in the presence of greatness, and even in declining health, no blues artist ever had more charisma than Wolf, including the chit-chat between and during his songs. I’ll be putting together the complete Chess Wolf for release next year. His kindness to me is one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me and I jump on any chance to honor and preserve his memory and fantastic legacy.
Blues Blast: Can you share any stories about him?
DS: Not enough space and time here; come to a blues program. He said and did a lot of very amusing things; some were humorous and some reflected a lot of hard-won wisdom. It always struck me how middle class he lived when I knew him; I’m sure things were different before he settled into family life as a successful foundation block of Chess, but when I’d visit him he had a nice bungalow at 88th and Cottage Grove with plastic furniture covers, a big picture on the wall that lit up, etc., and drove a Pontiac station wagon. (By the way, I can’t ever imagine him driving a beater like the truck they had him driving in the movie “Cadillac Records.”)
He was on orders to listen to his blues records in the basement; upstairs his daughter Barbra would play me Temptations, Jackson Five, etc. It was so different from anything I expected when I was first discovering those incredibly atmospheric early recordings; I figured he’d be a feral beast who lived in a cave back in the woods. It also always struck me that he and Muddy Waters both stayed listed in the Chicago phone book under their real names; not many blues artists did.
Blues Blast: I heard a story that Muddy Waters carried a gun in his guitar case. Is that story true?
DS: I have no idea. Of course he was known for having a shaken-up can of Coke hidden in his pants where he could open it at a strategic moment while singing about his manhood.
Blues Blast: If you had to pick a song that best represents Chicago-style blues, what would it be?
DS: Although for tourists it would probably be “Sweet Home Chicago,” Chicago blues covers way too much ground to be summed up in one song. For some it would be the pioneers like Big Bill Broonzy, Tampa Red, Big Maceo, John Lee Williamson, etc. For maybe most people around the world, it means Delta blues influence, a pounding beat, electrified slide guitar and harmonica, epitomized by Muddy, or the genius of Wolf, Jimmy Rogers or Little Walter who came up mostly after World War II like Muddy did.
For a lot of folks it’s the post-T-Bone Walker guitar styles and impassioned, gospel-influenced vocals of Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Buddy Guy, etc. Of course there have also been a lot of outstanding artists coming down the pike in the half century since all these styles were defined and peaked in popularity. And I personally think that when Gene Ammons played the blues on his tenor sax, it was as powerful a statement of what Chicago blues means as the gutbucket stuff.
Blues Blast: Tell us a little bit about The Howlin’ Wolf documentary. Is it still available and where can our readers purchase it?
DS: It’s called The Secret History of Rock And Roll and I assume it’s still available via Amazon or can be found elsewhere online or maybe even at an actual brick-and-mortar store. I was interviewed for it and people still come up to me all over the place to say they saw me in it, but my part was minor. It’s very well done, although I wish they’d given Wolf’s first truly great guitarist Willie Johnson (another friend of mine) his due.
A filmmaker named Josh Hecht has another Wolf documentary coming out this year which should be quite nice; he’s interviewed a lot of good sources and had better luck with Wolf’s widow Lillie than the makers of the first one.
Blues Blast: Do you have any other projects in the works?
DS: Other than some liner notes and reissue projects, I’m in “hurry up and wait” mode as far as producing. Budgets these days aren’t as conducive to hiring independent producers as they used to be, and I’m fairly picky. My time is limited and I want it to be spent joyously.
Blues Blast: What upcoming artists should we keep our eyes and ears open for?
DS: I’m not necessarily the best person to ask because I love people with a strong sense of tradition like Guy King, Billy Flynn, Rockin’ Johnny, Lurrie Bell, Magic Slim, Lil’ Ed, etc. I’m glad to see Smiley Tillman playing out again after a long period of inactivity; he was an awesome singer and guitarist 30 years ago and still sounds great. I’m sure I’m slighting a lot of people here… the well is nowhere near dry!
Blues Blast: What number one thing really bugs you about the recording process?
DS: I don’t know that it BUGS me, but in some ways projects get more tedious as they evolve. The planning and tracking with the band are exciting, sociable and energetic. But the mixing and editing involve being really finicky and micro-listening, plus a lot of repetitive listening. It takes focus and discipline and you can’t indulge enjoyment as much as I’d like because you’re trying to catch the flaws that need correcting while they can be corrected.
That doesn’t mean the goal is perfection, but you want to clean up the major issues and give the artist (and label) a record they feel represents them well. Recordings live forever and helping to make them measure up is a major trust and responsibility; not having kids, they’re also as close as I come to leaving footprints on the sands of time.
Blues Blast: What tips can you offer for musicians recording their own music?
DS: Leave room for spontaneity, but be organized and efficient. Come to the studio prepared and don’t use it as a rehearsal hall. Don’t pinch pennies to where it really hurts the results; if it’s that tight it’s better to wait. And naturally, from my point of view, consider whether a producer can be sufficiently helpful to make it worth hiring one.
Producers get vilified as being basically corrupters of the artist’s vision, but the right one can help the artist achieve that vision by allowing them to focus more on making the music and bringing out the best in it and them in the studio.
My goal is never to have people say “wow, Dick Shurman did a great job again,” it’s to have them say the ARTIST did a great job.
Blues Blast: Thank you for your time.
Interviewer Terrance Lape AKA “Gatorman” is a 35 year veteran of the Chicago Blues scene. He is songwriter, blues guitarist, founding member of the American Blues News, owner operator of Chicago Blues News and is the publicity director for Electro Glide Records.
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