Issue 5-23 June 9, 2011
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From The Editors Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
This weekend really kicks of the summer festival season in a big way
for us at Blues Blast. The Chicago Blues Fest starts Friday and runs through
Sunday in Grant Park in Chicago. Music runs from 11:00am to 9:20pm each
day. Admission is free.
Some of the great performers include, Nora Jean Bruso, Guy King, James
“Super Chikan” Johnson, Eddie Cotton, David “Honeyboy” Edwards and
Hubert Sumlin on Friday, Dave Herrero, Zac Harmon, Carl Weathersby and
Billy Branch on Saturday and Jimmy Burns, Nellie “Tiger” Travis, John
Primer, Shemekia Copeland plus the 40th Anniversary celebration of
Alligator Records featuring Lonnie Brooks with guests Michael “Iron Man”
Burks, Rick Estrin Ann Rabson and Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater on Sunday.
And did I mention that this great entertainment is FREE!
And if that isn't enough for you our good friends at
Chicago's Windy City Blues Society
have their own stage that will feature Steepwater Band, Will Jacobs, Joe
Moss, JB Ritchie, Bob Riedy, Bob Corritore, Sam Lay and the Kilborn
Alley Blues Band on Friday, Lurrie Bell , Kenny Smith,
Nick Moss, Curtis Salgado, Rob Blaine’s Big Otis Blues and
Peaches Staten on Friday plus Fernando Jones, Eric “Guitar” Davis,
Cashbox Kings, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Toronzo Cannon on Sunday.
If you still haven't had enough great Blues at the end of each night,
well you are in Chicago, the Blues Capital of the world and there are
tons of great performers playing at Blues clubs all over the city. The
list of possibilities is huge and the Windy City Blues Society has
compiled a great list to help you find out where all the late night
actions is. To see their list
Blues Blast Magazine will be there covering all the Blues fun. Look for
the folks in the Blues Blast t-shirts and say hello if you make it to
this great event!
Good Blues To You!
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Teeny Tucker.
Photographer David Horwitz has a photo essay on
the 2011 Cajun & Blues Festival. Our
featured video of the week is a clip of Otis Clay.
We have eight CD reviews for you this week! Steve Jones reviews a new CD by
Nellie "Tiger" Travis.
James "Skyy Dobro" Walker
reviews a new CD from Jesse Anderson. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews
a new CD by Billie Thompson.
John Mitchell reviews a new CD by Brad Vickers and his
Vestapolitans. Mark Thompson review a new release from Trampled Under Foot
and also a new one from Doug McLeod.
reviews a new CD by Sterling Koch.
George "Blues Fin Tuna"
reviews a new CD from The John Ivas Band.
All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
This weekend really kicks of the summer festival season in a big way for us at Blues Blast. The Chicago Blues Fest starts Friday and runs through Sunday in Grant Park in Chicago. Music runs from 11:00am to 9:20pm each day. Admission is free.
Some of the great performers include, Nora Jean Bruso, Guy King, James “Super Chikan” Johnson, Eddie Cotton, David “Honeyboy” Edwards and Hubert Sumlin on Friday, Dave Herrero, Zac Harmon, Carl Weathersby and Billy Branch on Saturday and Jimmy Burns, Nellie “Tiger” Travis, John Primer, Shemekia Copeland plus the 40th Anniversary celebration of Alligator Records featuring Lonnie Brooks with guests Michael “Iron Man” Burks, Rick Estrin Ann Rabson and Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater on Sunday. And did I mention that this great entertainment is FREE!
And if that isn't enough for you our good friends at Chicago's Windy City Blues Society have their own stage that will feature Steepwater Band, Will Jacobs, Joe Moss, JB Ritchie, Bob Riedy, Bob Corritore, Sam Lay and the Kilborn Alley Blues Band on Friday, Lurrie Bell , Kenny Smith, Nick Moss, Curtis Salgado, Rob Blaine’s Big Otis Blues and Peaches Staten on Friday plus Fernando Jones, Eric “Guitar” Davis, Cashbox Kings, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Toronzo Cannon on Sunday.
If you still haven't had enough great Blues at the end of each night, well you are in Chicago, the Blues Capital of the world and there are tons of great performers playing at Blues clubs all over the city. The list of possibilities is huge and the Windy City Blues Society has compiled a great list to help you find out where all the late night actions is. To see their list CLICK HERE.
Blues Blast Magazine will be there covering all the Blues fun. Look for the folks in the Blues Blast t-shirts and say hello if you make it to this great event!
Good Blues To You!
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Teeny Tucker. Photographer David Horwitz has a photo essay on the 2011 Cajun & Blues Festival. Our featured video of the week is a clip of Otis Clay.
We have eight CD reviews for you this week! Steve Jones reviews a new CD by Nellie "Tiger" Travis. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD from Jesse Anderson. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new CD by Billie Thompson. John Mitchell reviews a new CD by Brad Vickers and his Vestapolitans. Mark Thompson review a new release from Trampled Under Foot and also a new one from Doug McLeod. Ian McKenzie reviews a new CD by Sterling Koch. George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish reviews a new CD from The John Ivas Band. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Story - Teeny Tucker
All apologies to those that stood before Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler at an audition this past season, but folks – you really had it easy.
Easy compared to the trial by fire that Teeny Tucker went through back in 1994.
Because Tucker didn’t earn her stripes by belting out a Lady Gaga tune in front of three past-their-prime celebs.
She had to win over the notoriously tough – and sometimes downright cruel – critics on hallowed ground, at the very venue where Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin, to name just a few, had their big breakthroughs.
At 253 West 125th Street.
At Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater.
And if you think belting one out on American Idol is something, try digging your heels in and singing your way onto an episode of Showtime at the Apollo.
“When you try out for the Apollo, they literally give you just seconds,” Tucker said. “Either they like you or they don’t. And so you may start singing and they say, ‘next.’ So there are no feelings (spared) there.”
Good thing then, that the daughter of famed pianist/composer Tommy Tucker was well-equipped with the right stuff.
“The girl that was singing right before me, they cut her off quick. When I got in there, I kept wondering how long it would be before they stopped me. I sang the song “Home” from The Wiz album,” she said. “And I literally sang the entire song. I got a standing ovation at the end. And I ended up singing at the Apollo three times. That was a nice experience.”
Pretty impressive, especially considering Tucker and her friend had to drive several long hours through inclement weather just to make it to the auditions.
“It’s really interesting – something you’ll never forget,” she said. “When I went to audition, it was snowing and sleeting – really bad out. So when we got there, there were thousands of other people there to do the same thing I was going to do. So I got up there (to the front) by telling them I was from Ohio and had to drive through the snow and bad weather to get there.”
With the success that her father had enjoyed in the music business – writing the iconic “High Heel Sneakers” and hanging out with the likes of Donny Hathaway and Willie Dixon – it was no big surprise that entertaining an audience came naturally to young Teeny Tucker.
“I guess I realized I could sing when I was about six years old,” she said. “Company would come over and my mom used to say, ‘I’ll give you a quarter if you sing for our company.’ But I really knew I wanted to be a singer about the time I was 10. That’s when I really knew what I wanted to do.”
But singing the blues wasn’t necessarily at the top of Tucker’s list.
“There was a promoter over in Germany who used to book my father for shows over there. And one day (in 1996) he and I started talking and he said, ‘do you sing blues?’ And I said, ‘no, not really. I sing gospel and R&B,’” Tucker said. “He said, ‘I’m going to send you a tape and if you learn these ladies’ songs, I’m going to bring you over to Germany and let you perform.’ So I really kind of did it on a dare. But I really do believe it opened up where I should have been all along – with the blues. So I learned those songs and never looked back. And now I’m doing what I love. Is it (blues) all I can do? No. I can do all kinds of music. But blues is my love.”
To say that Tucker’s love of the blues fits like a hand in a glove would be an understatement.
See was nominated for the prestigious Koko Taylor Award at this year’s Blues Music Awards, an honor bestowed annually for the top traditional blues female performer.
Just the fact that her name appeared under the heading of the late, great Koko Taylor held deep special meaning for Tucker.
“The last time I played with Koko was at Island Park in Dayton, Ohio, before she had taken real sick. She had just gotten out of the hospital and I opened up for her at a fund-raiser for domestic violence in Dayton, which is also where I was born,” Tucker said. “I had spoken with her before, but something about this day made me feel really special with her. I could tell she didn’t feel well, but I just learned so much from her that day. At the end of her show, she called me up to sing with her and that was just so special to me. There were things that she said to me that day that really stuck to my heart. She was just such an inspiring person. She gave her fans what they want and that day she gave me more than she gave her fans. I really look up to her.”
Fitting then, thatTucker found time in 2008 to tip her hat to another pair of larger-than-life blues pioneers – Big Maybelle and Big Mama Thornton – on the excellent Two Big M’s CD.
And while the name of Koko Taylor easily rolls off the tongue of most blues lovers, according to Tucker, the names of Maybelle and Thornton are not as well known as they should be.
“That’s the reason that I did the Two Big M’s CD. To give those ladies recognition, especially Big Mama Thornton,” Tucker said. “You find some people that you really connect with in life, and those are two ladies whose music I really like. You might have someone say, ‘well, Big Mama Thornton was an alcoholic, or she was this or she was that. But everybody’s a whole lot of things. She was a very good talent and I learned a lot from her. She was just very unappreciated.”
Two Big M’s was ranked for 22 weeks on the International Blues Roots Chart and was nominated for best self-produced CD by the Blues Foundation. It also helped Tucker earn a nomination in 2008 for Blues Blast magazine’s Best Female Blues Artist.
In addition to cuts associated with the two queens like “Hound Dog,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’” and “Bumble Bee,” Tucker and her guitar-playing, song-writing foil, Robert Hughes, also penned the powerful title track on the CD, a song that laments that Big Maybelle and Big Mama “never won a Grammy, never went gold” and had “hits which someone else stole.”
But rest assured, in Tucker’s hands, the work that (Koko) Taylor, Maybelle and Thornton did will never go unrecognized. Not for a minute.
Logging more worldwide road miles than a fleet of UPS trucks, Tucker and her band - Hughes (guitar and vocals);
David Gastel (harp and keyboards); Darrell Jumper (drums); Robert Blackburn (bass and vocals); Mary Ashley (background vocals); Paula Brown (background vocals) - have but one mission, spread the gospel of the blues to as many people as possible.
And as anyone who has witnessed the dynamo on stage knows – the line between audience and performer is completely blown away at a Teeny Tucker show.
“I’m like the preacher that delivers the sermon. If you don’t get the sermon across, you haven’t done your job,” she said. “I get up there and get into another spirit – another mind, body and soul. That’s what I have to do in order to work from the stage in a divine kind of way. Anybody can get up on stage and just stand there and sing a song. But that’s not what I like to do. I like to get up there and not only bless my soul, but bless everybody’s soul. And the band knows me and I know them, so we’re all on the same page. We know that when we get up there we have to bring it. Even those times when we’re tired or feel like we have no energy left.”
That revival-like atmosphere of a Teeny Tucker show, which often times leads her off the stage and into the audience as she belts out the blues, can have a powerfully long-lasting effect on those who witness it.
“I’ve had people come up to me after a show and say, ‘you know what? I didn’t even like blues, but I like your blues. I love blues now. Is this really what blues is?’” Tucker said. “And that’s when you’ve touched someone. People might say, ‘well, you’re singing the devil’s music.’ But you know what? The devil don’t have any music. Music is too beautiful for the devil to own.”
Whether they’re on the road in Germany or Canada – or at home in Columbus, Ohio – the process of laying down new tracks are always at the top of Tucker’s and Hughes’ to-do-list.
The duo is currently busy at work on a follow-up to Tucker’s Keep the Blues Alive CD from last year.
“I’m constantly thinking about music. Bob and I get together three or four times a week and do something about our music,” Tucker said. “So we’re always thinking about that. And we’re working on a new project. I’m not sure what the theme will be yet, but we’ve got some things in mind. It’ll have a couple of original tunes and some cover tunes that haven’t been done in a while, or some that have never been done. Some stuff from way back.”
Since emerging on the scene with her first album in 2001, reaching the
finals of the International Blues Challenge in 2005 and playing at major
festivals like the Monterey Blues and Poconos Blues Festivals, Tucker
has maintained a non-stop pace. A daily pace that could begin to wear on
a person, turning something a person loves doing into something a person
“Hey- I always say waking up in the morning is a good thing,” she said. “My mother used to say, ‘how’s your day?’ And if you’d say it was bad, she’d say, ‘try missing one.’”Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He's also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 1 of 8
Nellie "Tiger" Travis - I'm Going Out Tonight
Ms. Travis is a blues lady with an attitude and this CD let's us hear all about it. She sings with a gritty charm that is a throwback to famous blues women of yesteryear, and yet she also approaches her music in a modern way. She sings with a street-smart sense of a woman who knows that life is hard an what it takes to be successful in life. A protege of Koko Taylor, she does not copy Koko but puts her own spin on the Chicago blues scene and is one of the stalwart females keeping the blues alive in Chicago.
The CD was produced by Max V who also plays lead guitar on the CD. The sound is clean and natural, never overdone. Travis' vocals are up to the task throughout. She can burn when a fire is needed to be lit and she can take it down when she needs to. Dujuan Austin is on drums and Kenny Hampton plays bass. roosevelt Purfoy adds depth on keyboards. Precious Taylor is on backing vocal and Yuko Kido does the harp work. There are four other artists who fill also in here and there.
The title track is a gutsy Chicago blues where Nellie give it her all about going out and having fun and telling her man that if he isn't there she's still going to have a great time. Max V and Purifoy trade guitar licks and some mean piano work here, and Kido's harp chimes in appropriately to add to the mix. Nellie wrote this one and Dylann Deanna wrote the following song and two other tracks. "Tornado Wrapped in Fire" follows the tile track, a funky number where Travis sings about how powerful her feelings are, and how that is good news if you are the object of her desire. The guitar and keys are sweet here, as are Travis' vocals. "Grab a Tiger by the Tale" and "Ain't Gonna Raise No Grown Ass Man" are the other two by Deanna and they are also pretty darn good. The first is sort of a theme song for Nellie and the latter is a great story about how her man changed from something she thought respectable to essentially being someone she needs to raise like another child. Nellie and the band burn through that one in a funky and fired up style.
Nellie wrote the other six songs (in addition to the title track). They range from a touching tribute to Koko Taylor (simply entitled "Koko") and slow blues like "I Cry the Blues" to big electric stuff like "You Must Be Lovin' Someone Else" and "Born in Mississippi". She winds her way through the songs telling us short stories wrapped up in catchy and effective tunes. This is a nice album of traditional Chicago blues done by a classy lady who knows how to bring it. If you want to hear one of the top female vocalists in Chi-town, then get out to hear her and buy this CD! If you are a fan of updated classic Chicago blues delivered by a vocalist who knows her stuff, you will not be disappointed!!
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Video
Featured Blues Review 2 of 8
Jesse Anderson - Funk ‘N’ Blues
14 songs; 37:07 minutes; Suggested
Styles: 1960s & 70s Chicago Blues; Rhythm And Blues; Funk
Last year at Helena Arkansas’ King Biscuit Blues Festival, I was stage side for the award winning best Blues entertainer, Bobby Rush. After a couple of numbers, Bobby started singing "I Got a Problem," and the guy next to me yelled, "Only one?" Bobby then did a back up and said/sang, "Oh yeah ........ I got THREE problems: my woman, my girlfriend, and my wife!” It was too funny. Jesse Anderson along with Gene Barge wrote the original song that inspired Rush’s version.
On this CD, Chicago's legendary "Ow-Wow" man, Jesse Anderson, releases all of his Funk & Blues from the 1960s thru the 70s including his biggest hit, "I've Got A Problem" and his scorching ballad "What Will I Say." Now a 69 year old resident of Wichita KS, Anderson says in the liner notes, “This album has been produced for the preservation of my contribution to Funk and Blues. It was mastered from the original vinyl recordings of their era and digitally reproduced with state of the art equipment.” It should be noted that, while very listenable, the tonal quality can not be expected to match contemporary technology’s. Sadly, the liner notes do not reveal the song’s other players.
Unfamiliar with Anderson, I asked free-lance record producer and Blues historian Dick Shurman about him. “He’s a singer and saxophonist who’s been around for a long time. His biggest song, recorded for Curtis Mayfield, was “I Got A Problem” which has been covered by a lot of artists [e.g. Buddy Guy, Albert Collins], but he also has some tough songs (including “Your Letter” and “I Got a Feeling”) under his own name and with Willie Wright & the Sparklers on the Ace Records anthology of Federal material “Welcome To The Club.”
“I Got a Problem” -- Leaning toward the blues side of “Funk 'n' Blues,” this popular song was re-titled by Bobby Rush “I've Got Three Problems” on 2007’s “Raw.” However, it’s Jesse Anderson’s original lowdown, “Sometimes it takes two, now, y'all, just to satisfy a man.” Jesse explains, “The way my problem started: I started fooling around with #3!” One of the ultimate “guilty pleasure” blues classics, liner notes from Bill Dahl’s 2001 interviews reveal, “Jesse’s romantic liaisons provided the inspiration.”
“Your Letter” -- This love song to every listener is a perfect slice of the 1960's: a crispy chorus crust (“Don't you know that I love you?” Jesse Anderson raves), a rich and buttery horn section, and a tart cherry filling of affection mixed with angst. Once one takes a bite, one will savor the flavor of this bygone era. Anderson proves that the Beatles were influenced by Chicago musicians who knew how to compose a delicious dance number!
“Mighty Mighty” -- Quirky instrumentals such as this one are the quintessential prototype of 1970s music. Just like the rainbow swirls of color on people's T-shirts and disco dance floors back then, “Mighty Mighty” is an eclectic mix of bright orange wah-wah pedal, fiery red guitar, black rat-a-tat drums adding their percussive splotches to the musical palette, and a pale blue flute solo providing relaxation. If you want to return to the era of Free Love, fall in love with this song! It's psychedelic and groovy.
“Send Me Some Lovin' COD” -- Even if one can’t remember what the acronym stands for (Collect on Delivery), one will find this raunchy rendition delivers! The vocals here are reminiscent of Motown, but with a tangy twist. The fourth word of this song's title is often shouted in the refrain, wittily serving to underscore just what the narrator is presently craving. Check out the attention-grabbing scat solo in the middle: “Send me some tender, tender feeling, right now, right now, right now-now-now!”
For serious collectors who do not already possess these songs, here is an indispensable time capsule of a Chicago music era from an incredible singer and songwriter.!
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 Fridays from 10 pm - Midnight and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL. Amy Walker contributed to this review.
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
Cajun & Blues Music Festival
Simi Valley, CA - May 28-29
Photos & Commentary by David Horwitz
Memorial Day Weekend – A busy time for the blues! All around the country blues fans had their choice of festivals this holiday weekend and California, both north and south, were no exceptions. Santa Cruz in the north, Simi Valley in the south – the Simi festival, known as the Cajun & Blues Music Festival, is in its 22nd year. It started out as the Cajun Creole Festival, but three years ago a blues stage was added. This year and last Randy Chortkoff and the Delta Blues Team booked and produced the blues stage. He uses the festival to showcase many of his Delta Groove performers, but he also books acts not associated with Delta Groove. This festival reminds me of the T.A.M.I. shows of the 60’s, or the Stax festivals of the 70’s: more than a festival, it’s an all-star review.
It’s 18 hours of non-stop music with short set changes, a highly
efficient stage crew, excellent sound and sight lines which made this
very enjoyable. The music ran the gamut from young up-and-comers like
The 44s, Mikey Jr. and Stone Cold Blues, and Cadillac Zack, to veterans
Arthur Adams, Finis Tasby, and the star power of Elvin Bishop, Kid
Ramos, Tracy Nelson, and the Mannish Boys.
This festival illustrates the point that bigger isn’t always better. No Golden Circle for people with the extra bucks so they can get close – if you come early you can get the prime spots. You can bring food and drinks but most people take advantage of the Cajun treats. For the weekend you may think you are in New Orleans as the food is all about New Orleans cuisine. Patterned after the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival there are so many food vendors it’s hard to make a decision about what Louisiana food to eat. Plus, the many craft booths also have a Louisiana theme – it’s as if you were transported to New Orleans, if only for the day.
Both stages have a shaded wooden dance floor, with plenty of tables and chairs to sit, eat, drink, and relax. On the Cajun side the dance floor must be 30x100’ and it seems it’s always filled with dancers. Around 18,000 people attend the festival over the two days, but it never feels crowded as it is held in a large city park, and things are spaced in such a way that there is plenty of room for everyone.
Since Blues Blast is a blues magazine I’m not going to report in any detail on the Cajun side of things except to say that Buckwheat Zydeco (Stanley Dural, Jr.) was the headliner both Saturday and Sunday, and he’s no stranger to blues fans. With Lil‘ Buck Sinegal on guitar he put on his usual solid performance on accordion and B3.
The Cajun side of things was a major surprise for the fans. Budweiser is a major sponsor, so they brought the famous Clydesdales to pull the beer wagon through the crowd and over near the blues side on both days.
The 44s are a perfect example of local up-and-comers – these guys do straight ahead blues, classic material with some originals, workmen like music with harp, guitar, bass, and drums. This was a perfect way to set the tone for the 18 hours of blues this weekend. Randy’s a harp player and understandably tends to favor groups with harp players. This group was no exception: near the end of their set they called up Kid Ramos to sit in. Now Kid is a local guy but has played worldwide with James Harman, the T-birds, and his own group Los Fabulocos. As I said, The 44s set the tone for this festival, calling up players to sit in and treat the crowd to some improvised blues.
What do you get when you mix blues/norteña/roots and rock? Los Fabulocos of course. OK, we know some guys from east LA (Los Lobos) may have done this before, but this is no copycat band. Their music jumps from pure blues to norteña to cumbias, from electric to acoustic in a seamless fashion. Button accordion, bass, drums, guitars, and percussion drive this generation of musicians with a Mexican flavor. This is all American music – sometimes a bit country, at other times hard driving blues. This group was magical in English or Spanish!
All the way from New Jersey, and rumor has it they paid their own way, Mikey Jr. and Stone Cold Blues were a prime example of giving newer performers a chance to show the southern California crowd what they can bring to the party, and maybe try and convince Randy to give them a slot on his label. If you like your blues guitar shredded not sliced, this 4 piece group is for you. Bass, drums, guitar, harp: a bit more rock than blues with lots of high energy.
Here we go again – another local guy, Kirk Fletcher, with a special band. Kirk has played with and on too many groups and sides to list – let’s say he’s world class. On keys, Benny Yee (and I thought he was retired!), long time player with Coco Montoya, Janiva Magness and others. If that was not enough, bring up Alex Schultz, part time southern California resident now living in Germany. Throw in Scott Dirks for a few harp tunes and you have a super tasty set! It seems when there are two guitar players it brings out the best in each. These two were on top of their game, but not over the top, each trading licks, each listening to the other – no ego trip, just sublime playing, and a delight for all to hear.
As you can see, various people were playing with one another, mostly unplanned. The sound crew and the stage manager Cholo constantly had to scramble to supply mics and amps that were up to the task. Bands were taken care of and the sound was excellent. Helping hold this all together was ringmaster/master of ceremonies Bubba Jackson.
Ana Popovic was just one of the women highlighted this weekend. Tracy Nelson, Maria Muldaur and two backup singers for the Mannish Boys and the Hell Raisin’ Review were a welcome relief from all the guys. Ana is a true guitar slinger. She plays a high energy rock tinged set. Her band (bass, drums, keys) were an animated group that adds to the visual appeal. If you close your eyes, you wouldn’t believe a slim young mom was tearing up the stage pumping her wahwah pedal in high heels. We all know it is about the music but sometimes the performer gives us a bit more to enjoy!
The Mannish Boys revue could have been a festival all on its own. This is Delta Grooves revue/showcase which is just too big for a 90 minute set – it just doesn’t let this group show off all its talent. Here’s a list of who played on this set. Jimmy Bott (drums); Willie J (bass); Kirk Fletcher (guitar); Randy Chortkoff (harp); Rob Rio (keys) – they were The core band. Then ADD Tracy Nelson, The King Brothers, Rusty Zinn, Peter Dammann, Bob Corritore, John Nemeth, Terry Hanck, Paris Slim, Finis Tasby, John Marx, and Sugar Ray Raful. To top it off, Kenny Neal was hanging backstage, and he came up and did a few songs. This was 90 minutes of music that could have gone on for 3-4 hours. Terry Hanck, Tracy Nelson, John Nemeth and Bob Corritore have or are about to have solo CD projects. All the others have stuff out there; these are seasoned players, stars in their own right. It’s dicey to put so many players on stage at once: it’s asking for a train wreck. Hats off to Randy for coordinating the talent and for Cholo for his stage generalship in getting folks on, and more importantly off the stage on time. Needless to say the music was great; the only complaint was the 90 minute set wasn’t enough time to do justice to this showcase.
After the last showcase I was feeling sorry for the closing act John Nemeth. My concerns were misplaced. From the first note to the last, John was on fire. Early in his career John was tapped to replace Sam Myers in Anson Funderburgh’s Band. But John was destined to lead his own band. About halfway through his set he called up Kirk Fletcher and Terry Hanck. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better they turned it up a notch. John’s band is perfect letting John highlight his vocals and harp playing. John’s voice is truly an instrument with control through the full tonal range plus unique phrasing. The set ran a bit long as Terry, Kirk and John just kept trading riffs, each enjoying what the other was playing. It seemed that no one wanted the set to end – this was one of the tastiest of the day. I was drained, the crowd was drained – and this was only Day One.
Sunday, 11:00 a.m. seems too early for the blues. On stage was Cadillac Zack, another local, with some special guests. The core band consisted of two guitars, bass, and drums, playing classic blues. Guest vocalist Mississippi Bo and bass vocalist Chris Jones, plus another harp player covered many standard blues tunes. This group hosts jams and plays the LA area. This mix of young and old was a good way to kick off Day Two.
Mitch Kashman has been around for 25+ years. I first saw him some years ago fronting a group called “The Pontiacs” backing William Clarke at the Hollywood Blues Festival in 1988. He’s a harp player/vocalist that personifies the West coast style. Mitch was doing mostly originals, with help from John Marx. This was a solid set with a hint of what was to come.
Arthur Adams, at 67 years old is a throwback to the generation of musicians who believed you were there to put on a show, not just play music. It took him about 10 minutes into his set and he was off the stage and into the crowd. His band made up of veteran players (key, sax, bass, drums) and his powerful guitar leads were a driving mix of R&B, soul, and blues. They could do it all and do it well. After his second dash into the crowd the crowd went wild - one of the highlights for this photographer – I couldn’t get enough and neither could the audience.
The next set was a tribute to Lester Butler, a legendary harp player on the southern California blues scene. Lester died way too young, a classic case of a star burning too bright to last. Big Pete, a harp player from Holland, is carrying the torch for Lester so that his music lives on. Helping Pete was Alex Schultz, one of Lester’s last guitar players, plus Jimmy Bott and Willie J on bass. An all-star band was created for this tribute, and if that wasn’t enough, Al Blake, southern California harp player extraordinaire sat in for some of the tunes. It was a fine tribute to Lester who left us too early.
For you guitar guys and gals, Shawn Pittman should have sent you over the moon. For the gals, this good looking guitar slinger was just what the doctor ordered: smoldering good looks combined with a vocal and guitar style to match. For the guys, pure in-your-face guitar licks. A rare trio – no harp, no keys, just vocals and guitar backed up by who else? Jimmy Bott and Willie J. It was 60 minutes of guitar slinging at its best.
The Elvin Bishop “Hell Raisin’ Review” could have been/should have been a festival by itself. I mean, how much talent can a crowd stand? The core band was made up of keys/accordion/drums/bass/guitar/sax/trombone and two female back-up singers plus Ed Earley on trombone, Terry Hanck on sax, both doing extra duty at singing lead vocals. Elvin carried the heavy load on vocals and guitar but he had help from Finis Tasby. I’ve seen Elvin many times but this show was so full, so solid that I can say without hesitation if they come to your town, don’t miss it!
How to close out 18 hours of music? Who can carry that load? It was up to a woman, and not any woman but a true trooper who has been around the folk, blues and jazz scene for many years. Maria Muldaur has the chops and experience to keep her cool and focus on the task at hand. Her stripped down unit of keys, drums, guitar, and her vocals seem too light to compete with the “Hell Raisin’ Review,” but Maria and her band were more than up to the challenge. Her set was a blend of old and new – Maria had the crowd at her beck and call. It was a perfect way to close the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival.
This festival is what festivals started out to be, a fun, inexpensive way to see and hear your favorite artist, and to be exposed to the up-and-coming artists. No special admission fees, music for the working folks by working musicians. This festival is unique in many ways – no photo pit, no special seating, with a hang factor where many Southern California players just listen and watch. Rusty Zinn hung out all weekend but only played one song. There was lots of food, beer, crafts, covered dance floors and plenty of shade, without long lines. Family friendly, so bring the kids! More music than you can stand, free parking with shuttle service, and all staffed by over 300 friendly, knowledgeable volunteers.
If you live in southern California or you’re a looking for a destination festival, mark your calendar for the 2012 Cajun & Blues Festival in Simi Valley. Find out more at http://simicajun.org/2011. You will see some of the same acts that appear at some of the “BIG” shows, plus you are doing your part to support various charities. Don’t miss it! .
Photos and commentary by 1999 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award recipient David Horwitz - David Horwitz Blues Images 4243 E. 6th Street, Tucson AZ 85711-1921 DavidHorwitzBluesImages@msn.com
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Blues Society News
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Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Crossroads Blues Society is featuring two great shows in June. The first is Bryan Lee and the Blues Power Band at Mary's Place, 602 N Madison St, Rockford on Monday June 13th at 7 PM. Admission is only $10 and advanced ticket purchase gets reserved seating. This will be a hot time for all!
Later in the month on Friday, June 24th Doug MacLeod will be at the Just Goods Listening Room on 201 Seventh Street in Rockford at 7:30 PM. This great solo acoustic musician sold out his show there last year- tickets are only $10 in advance at $15 at the door. Call 779-537-4006 for tickets and information. www.crossroadsbluessociety.com
Topeka Blues Society - Topeka, KS
The Topeka Blues Society presents the Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival 2011 July 4th at Reynolds Lodge, 3315 SE Tinman Circle on the east side of Lake Shawnee in Topeka, KS. Music is from noon to 9 p.m. followed by fireworks. Admission is FREE!
The lineup includes 2011 Grammy and BMA award winner (with Kenny Wayne Shepherd) Buddy Flett, 2011 IBC Runner-Up and "Love, Janis" star Mary Bridget Davies Group, 2011 IBC finalists Grand Marquis, The Bart Walker Band with Reese Wynans (Double Trouble) on Hammond B3 and Paul Ossola (G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band) on bass, Mike Farris (Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies) with the McCrary Sisters and 2010 BMA Song of the Year winner Mike Zito.
There will also be food, arts and crafts and a car show. For more information go to www.topekabluessociety.org or find us on Facebook. Discounted hotel rooms are available at the Topeka Ramada Convention Center. Call (785) 234-5400 and ask for the Blues Society Group 6617.
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the 2011 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival July 1 -3, 2011 in Davenport, IA.
Artists scheduled to perform include Linsey Alexander, Jimmy Burns, Eric Gales, Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, RJ Mischo with Earl Cate with Them, Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King,“Way of Blues” Revue from Mississippi on Friday July 1st, Chocolate Thunder, Kevin Burt, Lionel Young Band, Johnny Nicholas, Ryan McGarvey, Peaches Staten, Mississippi Heat, Joe Louis Walker and a Koko Taylor Tribute featuring Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Chick Rogers, Jackie Scott and Delores Scott on Saturday July 2nd, and The Candymakers, Winter Blues Kids, Studebaker John and the Hawks, Harper, Chris Beard, The Paul Smoker Notet, Rich DelGrosso and John Richardson, Sherman Robertson, Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88s and Otis Clay on Sunday July 3rd.
For more information or to purchase tickets visit www.mvbs.org or call (563) 322-5837
The Santa Barbara Blues Society - Santa Barbara, CA
The Santa Barbara Blues Society is the oldest existing blues society in the U.S. The next SBBS show will be on June 11 with dynamic band Café R&B!
The SBBS has purchased a $4200 ocean view cabin for 2 on the October Pacific Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. Raffle tickets to win the cabin are available for only $20 per ticket, or 5 for $100, by mailing us a check. A maximum of 500 tickets will be sold. Send to P.O. Box 30853, Santa Barbara, CA 93130-0853. Check www.SBBlues.org for more info.
The Henderson Music Preservation Society - Henderson, KY
The Henderson Music Preservation Society presents the 21st Annual W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival in Henderson on June 11-18. The festival will host performances in a wide variety of blues styles, from gritty Chicago blues to smooth soul to Delta blues. The lineup includes Preston Shannon, The Amazing Soul Crackers, The Cold Stares on Wendesday June 15, Matt Schofield and Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience on Thursday June 16, Dana Fuchs, Guitar Shorty, Deanna Bogart, Mightychondria, Beasley Band, Damon Fowler on Friday June 17 and John Primer with special guests, Lurrie Bell and Eddie Shaw, The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker, Carolyn Wonderland, Lionel Young Band, Eden Brent and Damon Fowler on Saturday June 18.
For more information about the festival, go to www.handyblues.org or contact: Christi G. Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org, Marcia Eblen at email@example.com or call 1-800-648-3128.
The Blues Blowtorch Society - Bloomington, IL
The Blues Blowtorch Society presents the 2011 Central Illinois Blues
Challenge on July 15 & 16, 2011 at The GE Employees Club 1750
General Electric Rd, in Bloomington, IL during the Ain't Nothin But
The Blues Festival. The winner will be sent to Memphis in early 2012
to compete as our representative in the International Blues
Challenge. To be considered bands must apply by June 18, 2011. The
solo/duo acts competition is to be determined based on interest.
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
2011 Friends of the Blues shows - June 23 - Sean Chambers, 7 pm, River Bend Bar & Grill, July 13 - Reverend Raven & C.S.A.B., 7 pm, River Bend Bar & Grill. For more info see: http://www.wazfest.com/JW.html
Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club presents "Blue Monday" every Monday night for the last 25 years - BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. June 13 - Frank Herrin & Blues Power, June 20 - Roger "Hurricane" Wilson, June 27 - Jim Shuler & Monkey, July 4 - Deb Callahan, July 11 - Rockin' Jake, July 18 - Chris Bell & 100% Blues, July 25 - Bill Evans Birthday Party, August 1 - Lionel Young Band, August 8 - Ben Prestage, August 15 - Bryan Lee, August 22 - Grady Champion, August 29 - RJ Mischo. icbluesclub.org
Featured Blues Review 3 of 8
Billy Thompson - A Better Man
Papa Lee Records
Pardon the cliché, but Billy Thompson is a force of nature. Funky gospel infused Memphis-style soul oozes from his very being. His husky soulful voice wrapped up in a blues-hipster delivery is hard to resist, especially when it’s propped up by a grooving band of A-list musicians such as Mike Finnigan, Kenny Gradney, Hutch Hutchinson, Johnny Lee Schell, Lenny Castro, The Texacali Horns and producer-drummer Tony Braunagel. The blues part of the equation is delivered by Billy’s slithering electric slide work, that at times is so locked in with his voice that it’s coming from one place. Finnigan’s organ provides a groove-filled cushion for Billy’s workouts to float atop. The percussion one-two punch of Braunagel and Castro beef-up the attack. The music possesses such freshness that it comes off as always being there. Nothing sounds forced. Billy’s slide moves the tunes along effortlessly.
I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite here, as brilliant touches abound at every turn. The lyrics in this batch of originals are of the reflective, positive and spiritual type. After a listen, you feel as if you’ve been to a funky-soul church. The revival feel of the opener “Are You Ready” is a gospel-drenched affair, which quickly displays the power of the snaky slide work. It sounds churchy, but it’s a profession of love to a woman. This song slips right into the cool-groove jazzy-boogie shuffle of “A Better Man” that benefits from Finnigan’s jazzy organ. Thompson also shows he is no slouch at playing regular guitar on this tune and others. A herky-jerky rhythm brew of slide and percussion make “Noreen” fit like a glove. “Just like a ballgame and a hotdog” is one of the many analogies used to describe the muse of “Met My Match”, which puts the punchy Texacali Horns to good use. The slide-master once again comes to the rescue as it skips along in the brisk “Downside Up”. The band is just as adept at a more relaxed pace, as witnessed on the R&B-gospel inflected love song “Born Again” and the soulful “Oneness”. A harsher tone is applied to his slide playing on the ominous “Bleed” which speaks to the world’s dire state. The haunting background vocal of Niki Morrissette completes the atmosphere. The device of playing what he sings is used here, owing a debt to the old school country-blues masters. “As If” has the feel of a cool day chillin’ in the park. “Up In The Morning” the only real blues song wraps things up with acoustic slide and harmonica propelling this easy country blues.
Music as uplifting, life reassuring and seamless as this is a gift that deserves to be enjoyed by the masses. It sounds as fresh at each additional listening as it does the first time around. Musical or lyrical gems continue to jump out at you. If this music experience doesn’t move your feet and soul, seek help NOW!
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta. He is the proprietor of Bluesdog’s Doghouse at http://bluesdog61.multiply.com.
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The Moon Is Rising:
From the uproariously funny to the beautifully dramatic, Chicago blues singer and slide guitarist, Donna Herula, performs the neglected songs of slide guitar master Robert Nighthawk in a country/Delta Blues acoustic style. Solo slide guitar; duets with harmonica, guitar and violin.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 8
Brad Vickers And His Vestapolitans – Traveling Fool
15 tracks; 60.14 minutes
Brad Vickers And His Vestapolitans return with their third CD. The New York based band gained a lot of positive reviews and airplay with their second effort “Stuck With The Blues” last year and that success has resulted in a quick return to the studio, again with Dave Gross in the producer’s chair. That in itself is interesting as Dave is a busy guy, with his own band, playing bass with Bob Margolin on the last Blues Cruise and producing and playing on Gina Sicilia’s recent CD. Dave’s guitar skills are not required here, but he does play some upright bass on a few tracks and his colleague in the recording and mixing studio, VD King, plays guitar on two tracks. The other notable guest is guitarist Bobby Radcliff who plays on four tracks this time round, doubling his output on “Stuck With The Blues”, as well as providing some enthusiastic sleeve notes. The core band remains Brad on guitar and vocals, Margey Peters on bass and occasional fiddle, Arne Englund on piano and occasional guitar and Bill Rankin on drums. Jim Davis and Matt Cowan play sax and clarinet on most tracks.
Brad is the
main composer with eight solo compositions as well as two in partnership
with Margey Peters. Margey has one solo composition and there are four
covers. The style is varied but if I had to attempt to categorise Brad’s
music the word ‘retro’ might come to mind. We get a good deal of 50s and
60s rocking blues, some jump tunes and some with a folky feel, but the
keynote here is fun. The beat never lets up, the piano pounds and the
saxes honk out the riffs, so it’s real foot tapping material that
invites the listener to dance.
The pairing of clarinet and fiddle is also an effective way of getting that old time sound, very effectively done on “Glad Rags” and the cover of Sonny Terry’s “Diggin’ My Potatoes” which comes across as a country hoedown! However, my favourite track has to be the rocking “Without Moolah” in which Brad asks the age-old question that concerns most guys – will she still love me if I don’t have any money! The dual tenor and baritone saxes are back, both taking a short solo, with the piano twinkling and Brad’s guitar sending out some stinging notes. A short track, but an absolute treat!
I have only mentioned some of the songs here, but frankly you could put any track on the player and enjoy it. This is a fun CD and comes highly recommended.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
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Featured Blues Review 5 of 8
Trampled Under Foot - Live at Notodden Blues Festival
7 tracks/49 minutes
Up until I got this disc to review, I had never listened to Trampled Under Foot. Somehow the trio of siblings from Kansas City had escaped my attention. I knew that they had won the 2008 International Blues Challenge and that Nick Schnebelen had won the Albert King Award as the best guitarist in that year’s competition. His bass-playing sister, Danielle, has been receiving praise for her vocal skills and brother Kris fills the chair behind the drum set.
It didn’t take long for this live set to convert me into a fan of this dynamic band. One listen to Nick’s blistering performance on Johnny Winter’s “Mean Old Town” will answer any questions you might have about his highly touted abilities as a guitar player. His yearning vocal and slide guitar work give the opening tune “Too Big To Carry”, a melancholy vibe.
Things heat up even more when Danielle uses her husky voice to strut her way through “Fog”, another band original tune with a grinding rhythm. The pace picks up a bit on “No! I Ain’t Gonna Let You Go” as Danielle shouts out her declaration of love with a powerful voice that makes it clear that she is in no mood for arguments. Kris supplies the propulsive beat on “Love My Baby” while Danielle’s big voice rings out over more impressive guitar work from Nick.
The spotlight shifts on “Johnny Cheat”, with Nick delivering a hard-edged vocal over a boogie beat as he tells the tale of the consequences of love and betrayal. Kris and Danielle get locked in tight on the rhythm while Nick unleashes several mesmerizing guitar solos. The band finishes up their set with another one of their tunes. “May I Be Excused” is a showcase for Danielle, singing in manner reminiscent of her favorite vocalist, Etta James. Nick’s solo hits the same intensity level as his sister, maintaining the energy that makes this the perfect tune to end the set.
The band learned about blues music from their parents, who were very active in the Kansas City blues scene. Recorded on July 31, 2009, this disc speaks volumes about how well the Schnebelen siblings learned their lessons. Throughout the disc you can hear the crowd shouting out their appreciation and encouragement. As good as their performance was that day, one has to wonder how the band has developed over the last two years. One thing for sure – I’ll be paying a lot more attention to the band in the future.
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Featured Blues Review 6 of 8
Sterling Koch - Slide Ruler
Full Force Music
Available at CD Baby, itunes, Amazon.com
12 Tracks 48mins 33 secs
There was a time when steel guitars were rarely heard outside country music although blues music has had its share of guitarists (the Black Ace, Kokomo Arnold) who played six sting guitars placed flat on their knees. Since the 1990’s there has been an upsurge of lap-steel music with blues roots. This, I think emanates from the appearance (actually identification is a better word as the music has existed in “House of God” churches since the 1930’s) of the genre of gospel music known as Sacred Steel and the off-shoot from that of the likes of Robert Randolph and the Campbell Brothers.
Steel guitars come in many forms – six string, eight string and ten-string – some with double necks, some with pedals and electronic gizmos (pedal steel guitars are the core of 20th century country music). There are some ace players around: Robert Randolph and Darrick Campbell of course; Aubrey Ghent and Sonny Treadway; the winner of this year’s Blues Foundation Award for the Instrumentalist (other) Sonny Rhodes; and the winner of last year’s British Blues Award also for Instrumentalist (other), Alaskan born Son Henry. All these musicians bring a special, and very welcome sound to the blues, for the instrument is capable of great subtlety and in skilful hands, much “Make-the-hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-stand-up” passion and emotionality. Sterling Koch is right up there with the best!
This CD shows off Sterling’s skills to a tee. The music ranges from the standard instrumental “Sleepwalk” to out and out rockers like, “Taylor Rock” ( a cover of a Hound Dog Taylor original), “If You Want To Rock and Roll” (a song written by 1950s and 60s popster Dion DiMucci) and a Koch original “I’m A Bluesman”. There are shuffles like Peter Green’s “Stop Messin Round” and slow blues like Otis Rush’s “Double Trouble”, Roosevelt Sykes’s “Driving Wheel” and another Koch original, “The Sun Will Shine” all of which are delivered with panache, fire and considerable skill (Koch plays an 8 string steel). Koch is supported throughout by the superb drumming skills of Chet McCracken and by the outstanding bass work of SRV and Johnny Winter alumnus, Tommy Shannon. And, did I mention Koch (pronounced ‘Cook’) sings too. He has a great voice, well suited to his music. His voice reminds me of a cross between Delbert McClinton and Jimmie Vaughan.
This is Sterling Koch’s third solo CD and it deserves the biggest audience it can get. So get on the computer and find a copy. You won’t regret it!
Review Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian is also a blues performer (see www.myspace.com/ianmckenzieuk) and has a web cast regular blues radio show on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central, 10am Pacific).
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FUNK 'N' BLUES
legendary "Ow-Wow" man,
Visit Jesse at his website:
See more about Jesse Anderson on CD insert.
Good Blues to ya'!
Featured Blues Review 7 of 8
Ivas John Band - Look Who’s Crying Now
Live at BB’s
10 tracks Total time: 46:15
Look Who’s Crying Now is the first CD of the Live at BB’s label, a product of BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups music venue in St. Louis, Missouri.
St. Louis, and across the Mississippi River, E. St. Louis, Illinois, have distinguished blues traditions: St. Louis was, of course, the home of St. Louis Jimmy, as well as that of Henry Townsend, while Yank Rachell lived there in the early 1940s; this area later gave forth with Chuck Berry and Albert King. The Ivas John Band, playing here as a quintet in a live setting, admirably carries on this tradition. Bandleader/ singer/guitarist John is joined by Brad Bell on keyboards, with guest Rytas Vygantas on tenor sax, while comprising the rhythm section are Charlie Morrill on drums and background vocals, and Mike Alderfer on bass. Eight of the ten tracks are originals written by Ivas John and Edward John Bambrauskas. Of the other two, one is a straight-ahead modern Chicago blues, Willie Dixon’s “Who,” rendered in a driving, churning way on track 8; while the final track is a Blind Willie McTell traditional country blues, “Come Around To My House Mama,” that’s been delightfully and effectively re-arranged and rendered as a modern ensemble blues.
The Ivas John Band is one tight ensemble with very able players, and guitarist/vocalist John appropriately uses the keys of Brad Bell and the sax of Rytas Vygantas to good effect, giving each ample space to do their thing as both accompanists and soloists, while also adding appropriate guitar support and solo work himself. His vocals are a gritty, high pitched semi-shout that works effectively throughout. Vygantas, like many modern blues sax players, incorporates elements from modern jazz sax into his blues playing, and gives forth with some elegant solos. Brad Bell is more traditional in his approach to piano and organ, but both sax and keys complement each other well throughout. Extended solos that embrace guitar, sax and keyboards, with each playing a solo part, grace track 3, a “Got My Mojo Workin’”-inflected slide number; and again grace Willie Dixon’s “Who,” with its John Lee Hooker-like elemental churning feel that combines both rawness and sophistication.
There’s a good mixture of up-tempo and slow-tempo numbers on Look Who’s Crying Now, with strong showings on the slow ballad side from track 2, “High Society Woman,” a fairly extensive re-write of “Society Woman,” which Otis Rush did on his Cold Day in Hell album for Delmark; and two pouring-out-the-heart soul ballads reminiscent of Percy Sledge and Otis Redding, track 5’s “Don’t Say I’m Runnin’,” and track 7’s “Good Girl Gone Bad.” “Lucille Lucille,” track 4, is a medium-tempo steady rockin’ number, while “Boo Hoo Baby,” track 6, built as it is around the rock ‘n’ roll-like John Lee Hooker “Boogie Chillun”/Z.Z. Topp “Lagrange” riff, just shakes the house down. Track 9, “The Streetlife,” has an ominous, surrealistic ruefulness in the lyrics that’s accentuated by the darkly moody Latin-beat cast of the music; and “Halfway With You” opens the CD on a solid modern blues note. All these songs on Look Who’s Crying Now are solid in their craftsmanship and are all well-arranged as contemporary urban blues numbers. Further, the Ivas John Band effectively uses the long instrumental introduction on several numbers to nicely set up and lead into the opening vocal lines. Look Who’s Crying Now is a strongly positive, enjoyable live CD from a band that demonstrates very real strengths.
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.
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Featured Blues Review 8 of 8
Doug MacLeod - Brand New Eyes
Fresh! From RR – Reference Recordings
Doug MacLeod is the consummate acoustic blues musician – a gifted songwriter, expressive vocalist and superb guitar player. Once again, he has been nominated by the Blues Foundation in the Acoustic Artist of the Year category, the fourth year in a row MacLeod has been considered for that Blues Music Award. On his latest release, the sixteenth of his career, the full scope of his talent is on display throughout the program of original tunes that illuminate MacLeod's honest appraisals of the road he has traveled.
His intricate fingerpicking creates a jaunty rhythm on “Zu-Zu Woman”, an upbeat country blues that celebrates the affections of a sweet lover. “Something Dark is Walking” is a foreboding look at the concealed danger that lies all around us. But MacLeod also has hope for mankind, a sentiment expressed on “The Train of Change” with Denny Croy on string bass and Dave Kida on drums. The lone instrumental, “Somewhere South of Somewhere”, finds MacLeod spinning dazzling embellishments on a delicate melody. He switches to slide guitar on “I Rolled a Nickel”, his voice crying out in anguish over lost love.
“One Eyed Owl” is a highlight of MacLeod's live shows. The tune is based on conversations Doug had with George “Harmonica” Smith's wife Christine, mixing folk wisdom with a touch of the mystical realm. Doug’s warm, expressive voice describes the warnings he received from the all-knowing owl concerning a failing relationship. Another stellar track is “Midnight in Memphis” with a heart-wrenching vocal from MacLeod that shakes you deep in your soul. MacLeod's wry humor is expressed on “The Nature of the Man” over the easy-going groove he establishes with his complex guitar lines.
The title track finds him picking out a sprightly rhythm as he encourages listeners to take a fresh look at the wonders of the world. Son Seals recorded a MacLeod tune on Bad Axe under the title “I Can Count on My Blues”. Here it is done under the original title, “Same Old Blues Song” with MacLeod delivering a riveting performance. The closing song, “Welcome in Your Home”, features a soaring vocal and a taut rhythm on the slide guitar as MacLeod acknowledges the healing power of love.
MacLeod uses his ability as a storyteller to enable us to briefly see the world through his eyes. His spellbinding performances will captivate you, just as he does on a live stage. And the superb sonic qualities of this recording are exactly what you would expect from a label that is part of the Reference Recordings group, a label with a long history of audiophile-quality releases. No questions here – this one comes highly recommended!!
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