Issue 6-42, October 18, 2012
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Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Blues Singer Zora Young. Mark Thompson and Tom Carter have photos and commentary from the Sarasota Blues Festival.
We have six music reviews for you! John Mitchell reviews a new release from The Blues Society Of Western Pennsylvania. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new release from Dave Fields. Steve Jones reviews a new release from Bees Deluxe. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new album from Johnny Boots. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Al Lerman. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new release from Linsey Alexander. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues fans,
Blues Blast Magazine is growing again! Starting next week you will see some new features. One is called our Blues Overdose Issue. The Blues Overdose Issue will be last issue of each month and each Overdose issue will feature FREE music downloads. So Blues Blast subscribers will get great Blues music tracks FREE in each months Overdoes issue. Be sure to check it out starting next!
Speaking of great Blues, our good friends at the Deep Blue Innovators Blues Festival have a great show planned for this Saturday October 20th in Monmouth, IL. The lineup includes four acts for a solid day of Blues enjoyment including The Matthew Skoller Band, Blue Mother Tupelo, Scott Ainslie and the great duo of Hayes and Fleming. For more info visit their website at www.gomonmouth.com or see their ad below.
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
We made it to the King Biscuit Festival in Helena Arkansas last week and it was a great event. There were more than 80 Blues acts over 3 days including Bobby Rush, Earnest "Guitar" Roy and Taj Mahal shown below.
We will have a complete review of all the Blues fun in an upcoming issue.
Featured Blues Interview - Zora Young
As a child, the power of the church flowed through Zora Young’s blood with as much force as the mighty Mississippi River itself.
Involved in matters of the church on a daily basis, that time spent in the House of the Lord would also help to shape the adult that Zora Young grew to be.
But there was also another factor – conscious or not - that helped determine the path that Zora Young would travel down when it became time for her to choose a vocation.
For you see, Zora Young also had a touch of The Wolf coursing through her veins.
So if you take the true essence and spirit of gospel music, poured over a stiff dose of Howlin’ Wolf on the rocks, what you get is the immensely-talented Zora Young - a true purveyor of Chicago blues in the finest sense.
Born in West Point, Mississippi before relocating with her family to Chicago when she was 7 years old, Young’s formulative years where a lot like those of other would-be blues artists at the time – especially those in Mississippi – and included healthy doses of time in church, while also keeping the ‘evil blues’ at bay and out of the family homes.
“My mother took me to church every day. I went to church a lot,” Young said. “Some of the people that I was around, like my babysitter and some of my friends, young and old - they really liked this music (the blues), but they tried to hide it because their parents didn’t allow it. The theory was that if you didn’t go to church, you didn’t go anywhere.”
So go to church is just what Zora Young did. And while spending plenty of time at the Greater Harvest Baptist Church, Zora Young also found that she had an undeniable talent for singing.
“My mom and dad met in the choir when they were kids and they sang in church,” Young said. “And everybody in my family was a good singer. I think it’s just in my background and my blood, being able to sing.”
While it wasn’t like she wanted to pull against her family’s wishes at the time, Young could not help but be intrigued by the powerful spell of the blues, oddly enough, also because of family ties.
In this case, it was a distant relationship with the one-and-only Howlin’ Wolf.
“I do remember seeing him come to visit us (in West Point, which was also the Wolf’s stomping grounds) when I was a very little girl,” said Young. “I also remember him working down there on the corner at a little blues club.”
And just like Young’s mother, Chester Burnett’s mother didn’t approve of blues music, either.
But that didn’t mean that either family was not happy with all the success that Howlin’ Wolf was working so hard to achieve.
“They were kind of proud of him, because he was doing his thing,” said Young. “Even today, my daughter is a minister, but even today you ride one or you ride the other. In other words, you don’t quite get the respect from the family unless you come all the way over to the Lord’s side. But no, Wolf’s family was proud of his success.”
When Young was old enough to do some things on her own, one of the first things she did was to start singing R&B. And she found the experience totally liberating.
“It was freedom … free at last. I really think I just wanted to rebel, to do something different,” she said. “Not that I didn’t like singing gospel, but I had spent so much time doing that, I was ready to see what was on the other side of the fence, maybe.”
Once she did put singing gospel and R&B on the back-burner, instead choosing to unleash her considerable vocal prowess on the word of the blues, Young did not totally abandon playing the music she grew up on; instead, she just simply incorporated those styles into her new musical love – the blues.
“I tell you what, if you listen real close to some of the tunes I’ve written, you can probably tell that I come from a church background,” she said. “A lot of my songs deal with morals and that’s what you get a lot of in church – morals.”
Sunnyland Slim probably has never really gotten all the credit that is due him when it came to taking a young blues player under his wings and helping them find their way. While a lot of the older bluesmen at the time where concerned with losing their gigs to an up-and-comer, Sunnyland was just the opposite and went out of his way to offer help and advice to anyone who asked – including to Zora Young.
“He cut my first 45 (RPM), as he did with a lot of people. I wanted to sing the blues and I wanted to go to Europe. And I knew he played the blues and produced people,” she said. “And I knew he tried to help the young ones coming around. He was the grand-daddy of the blues. He taught me some important things, like how to treat your band and things like that. But people had a great deal of respect for him. He was the oldest cat around back then. You know, he took Muddy Waters to Chess Records. He helped Little Walter, J.B. Lenoir … the list goes on and on.”
Sunnyland did help get Young on the path to becoming an established blues artist and he also helped show her that for a blues player, time spent in Europe was indeed time well spent.
On 2009’s Sunnyland (Airway Records) Young expressed her appreciation for all that the late, great blues-playing piano man did for her.
Her last studio CD, 2009’s The French Connection (Delmark Records) is a tip of the hat to her love affair with the country of France.
“They just let me do what I wanted to with what I had to work with (on The French Connection). I had French musicians playing on the album, so that meant that I played pretty much the stuff that they knew,” she said. “And they had some pretty nice things goings on. By that, I mean they knew a little gospel, a little country … some blues, things like that.”
Taking her supporting cast into account, it’s poetic justice, indeed, that the finished product was named The French Connection. “They let me come up with the title and that’s what I came up with,” laughed Young. “It does make sense though, because for years I’ve been going over to Europe and playing.”
At first glance it may seem a bit odd for a Chicago blues player to cut an album of tunes with French musicians, but for Young, that was not the case at all.
“They have a lot of respect for American blues music. And they know everything – they really do their homework,” she said. “They can tell you who played on what and what artist cut what track, so I’m impressed with that.”
“The guy that produced the record for me (Bobby Dirninger) really loved Bob Dylan, so that’s how the Dylan tune (“Tonight I’ll be Staying Here With You”) came about. I’ve known Bobby for over 20 years and we’ve played a lot of shows together over the years and have developed a great relationship over that time.”
Young has really worked to earn the adoration that she rightfully gets from her European fans by touring the continent an astounding 30-plus times. She is also quick to point out why all her trips to Europe to play the blues have been made possible.
“Cats like Sonny Boy Williamson and Willie Dixon, they really helped pave the road for Americans to go over there and play the blues. There’s just always been something about the way the Europeans really love and have great respect for the blues,” she said.
Young has had a long-standing working relationship with Chicago’s Delmark Records and it is obvious she has a special reverence for the label’s founder and guiding light.
“Bob Koester is just a walking encyclopedia. Sunnyland introduced me to him many, many years ago. But to talk to him …he just knows so much. I wish I could have a tape recorder when I talk to that man,” Young said. “He’s a historian in the way that he keeps tracks of things, plus he’s got records that nobody else has. If you can’t find something, just try him. He’s just an amazing man.”
Delmark issued 2000’s Learned my Lesson, along with Tore Up From the Floor Up in 2005 and also The French Connection.
Always with a writing pen nearby, Young is currently concocting material for her latest project.
“I’m writing stuff … I’m getting ready to put a function at the junction, if you know what I mean,” she said. “I’m definitely going to be recording some of them, but I don’t know the names of them and all that stuff right now.”
Also an accomplished actress, Young took to the stage and played the role of the legendary Bessie Smith in the production of The Heart of the Blues.
And as she later learned, Smith - the “Empress of the Blues” - was a particular favorite of one of Young’s closest family members.
“My grandfather, who would have been about 85 then, walked across my dining room and saw a Bessie Smith record and I thought he was going to have a heart attack. He said, ‘That’s Bessie! That’s Bessie!’ But he knew her from down around Memphis when she was a big star,” said Young. “So I was impressed with that. But I always had a big respect for Bessie Smith and all that she had to go through. They were some rough girls back then.”
The state of Mississippi has not been able to claim Zora Young as one of its residents for a good long time now. However, that doesn’t mean that memories, and lessons of life learned down south, are not still a big part of her daily routine.
“The biggest migration of all (from Mississippi to Chicago) started in the 50s, with people heading north. It all really started in the 1920s when the river (Mississippi) flooded. They moved north out of necessity because they didn’t have anything left down south. Plus, they needed jobs and thought this (Chicago) was the land of plenty and promise,” she said. “But it seems like most of the people living in Chicago have roots coming from Mississippi, even if their generation has never been to Mississippi. I always say we moved it (state of Mississippi) up here with us. That means your kids have habits and traits from your culture in Mississippi, even if they have never saw the actual state of Mississippi. My own kids have never seen Mississippi in their life, but if you met them, you might think they were born and raised there. It’s in them. It just is.”
Young, who is on the eve of a five-week tour of Turkey with Billy Branch is no stranger to cultures all across the globe, having spent the biggest part of her blues career singing all over the world.
And that kind of lifestyle suits Young to a T.
“That’s what I really love about traveling – learning the different cultures and adopting some; just seeing the difference in people and welcoming it,” she said.
With the kind of voice that can at once both move mountains with its majestic force and also bring tears to both eyes with its gut-wrenching sincerity, blues fans should consider themselves lucky that Zora Young long ago decided to share her talents with the masses.
But even if she had never been a featured former at the Chicago Blues Festival numerous times, nor had she ever played on a stage anywhere in the world, Zora Young would still be singing.
After all, it is etched in her very DNA.
“I always say that singing is therapy. You sing and when you finish, you don’t have the problems you had when you started,” Young said. “And I don’t even mean singing professionally. Singing will definitely keep you off the therapist’s couch.”
Visit Zora's website at http://www.zorayoungmusic.com
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2012 Blues Blast Magazine
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.
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Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Various Artists – Blues From The Burgh III
Blues Society Of Western Pennsylvania 2012
15 tracks; 64.45 minutes
I had never heard any of the acts featured on this compilation and it demonstrates that Pittsburgh must have a lot of blues going on, given that this is the third edition in this series of snapshots of the local blues scene in Pittsburgh! Whilst there are inevitably some acts that are not to one’s individual taste there is a wide variety of material here. I’ll pick out a few that appealed to me.
Pick of the bunch for me was Jill West And Blues Attack whose track “Bye Bye Baby” is the longest on the album, a bonus as the band has lots going on that we want to hear. The two guitarists bring some T-Bone Walker riffs to the party and there is some superb piano too. Vocalist Jill has that classic, smooth approach of the great singers of yesteryear and the whole piece is terrific. Another quite retro sound comes from the wonderfully named Rumpshakers whose “Shake It Up” has that jump sound backed with some excellent horn charts. The other track with horns finds an extended band called Wayne And Wild Root on “I Can’t Change”: the band has three horn players and two background vocalists and the track has some great sounds but was marred for me by a fake opening with scratchy sound (trying to sound like an old 78 perhaps) for the first 45 seconds before we shift to modern sonic values and a tough production with lots of horns and harp.
There is plenty of blues rock material here too and I liked opening act Shot O’ Soul whose “Blues On A Budget” has some clever lyrics about coping with the current tough economic times and an insistent guitar riff. In similar vein The Igniters discuss “Food, Phone And Gas”, the key requirements for the working blues band trying to get along. Some good harmonies were an added bonus on this one.
Acoustic blues is not
forgotten. These range from the solo efforts of Chris Yacopcic in a real
country blues “Done Lost My Freedom” to Gary Prisby whose “Put The Blame
On Me” has some nice electric guitar supporting Gary’s acoustic work.
Harp and guitar duo Izzy And Chris produce “Steady Rollin’ Daddy” which,
in its laid back way, has some clear links to Robert Johnson’s “Steady
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Dave Fields - Detonation
Field of Roses Records
12 songs; 63:13 minutes
Styles: Modern Electric Blues Rock
One of the most perplexing, and perennial, questions surrounding blues music is: “Who can truly discern the difference between what blues is, and what it’s not?” So far, there’s no clear consensus. Consider NYC native Dave Fields. On the one hand, his blues credentials are impressive. Hubert Sumlin commented, “When I first heard him, I knew he had something special. When Dave plays, he plays with such passion.” Also, on May 20th of this year, he was inducted into the NY Blues Hall of Fame. On the other hand, his third CD, “Detonation,” is primarily a rock album according to this blues-protegee reviewer. Several of his nine original rock songs are quite clever, especially the Scientology indictment “Dr [sic] Ron” and reggae-influenced “Bad Hair Day.” However, they pale in comparison to Fields’ three original blues numbers. Joining him for the first time are Andy Huenerburg on bass, Kenny Soule on drums, and Russian sensation Vladimir Barsky on keyboards.
Track 03--“Doin’ Hard Time”--Blues maverick Joe Louis Walker guest-stars on guitar and vocals with Dave on this gritty ballad. It begins with four sensational pieces of guitar phrasing, then launches into a tale of a “prisoner of the heart.” Ultimately, eerie images of execution prevail: “In the prison yard they swear: the inmates and the jailors say he’d be happier in the electric chair.” What’s our narrator’s capital offense? “I admit to be guilty of loving you….” Undoubtedly, this is the best blues selection on “Detonation”.
Track 07--“Better Be Good”--This tongue-in-cheek track is a lament on the present state of our world, and a take on the Golden Rule. Oddly enough, the printed liner notes to this album contain a lyrical error: “And you better be, better be good to yourself, and you better be good to everyone else. ‘Cause if you don’t know, one will.” It should be, “‘Cause if you don’t, no one will,” putting responsibility for reciprocity on the listener. Once again, Fields’ rip-roaring guitar combines with savvy lyrics to form a wickedly fun blues shuffle.
Track 09--“Pocket Full of Dust”--Dave’s vocals are showcased to their fullest effect here, as are Barsky’s haunting keyboards. Our narrator compares himself to “a ghost on a midnight train to nowhere” since he lost his true love. When it comes to slow blues, listeners will be hard-pressed to find flaws in this gem. Did an engagement ring once occupy the “Pocket Full of Dust”?
“Detonation” was produced by Grammy-winning David Z, who has promoted household-name stars such as Prince, Government Mule and Johnny Lang. Even though nine out of its eleven offerings may not be blues songs, one thing’s clear: Fields’ guitar shines through on every one!
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 33 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Live Blues Review - Sarasota Blues Festival
The 22nd annual Sarasota Blues Festival was held on Saturday, September 22, at the Ed Smith Stadium complex in downtown Sarasota, FL. A large and enthusiastic audience enjoyed a spectacular day of music on a hot, sunny day. Partial proceeds from the fest were donated to this year's designated charity. The All Faiths Food Bank Backpack program.
Opening the day was a band from Columbus, OH – Pett Crow. The band features fourteen year old Wes Crow on vocals, guitar and harmonica backed by his twelve year old sister, Julia, on bass and eleven year old Brandon Pettiford on drums. The band was invited to play the festival after a representative saw their performance at the Youth Showcase in Memphis earlier this year, part of the international Blues Challenge sponsored by the Blues Foundation. They didn’t disappoint as they played their set like savvy veterans, easily winning over the audience.
Paul Thorn was an immediate hit with his intoxicating blend of American roots music based on Thorn’s sly insights into life and love with plenty of humor mixed in. His crack band – Bill Hinds on guitar, Michael Graham on keyboards, Ralph Friedrichsen on bass and Jeffrey Perkins on drums – brought to life the material from thorn’s last two critically acclaimed recordings.. A large portion of the crowd had never seen Thorn live. By the end of the set, many had been converted to fans as witnessed by the lengthy line over one hundred people waiting to buy Thorn CDs after the set.
Hearing Curtis Salgado’s soulful voice grab hold of the audience, it was hard to believe that he had major lung surgery due to cancer just 2 ˝ months ago. He sang with the passion that stems from getting another chance, featuring songs from his superb Soul Shot release on Alligator Records. One highlight was his gospel-tinged call-and-response with the band on “A Woman or the Blues”. Salgado is simply one of the best!
Royal Southern Brotherhood hit the stage with a vengeance and delivered a high energy set that showed that this powerful aggregation deserves all of the attention they have received. With Devon Allman and Mike Zito blazing away on guitar anchored by Charlie Wooten on bass and Yonrico Scott on drums plus Cyril Neville adding a dose of spice on percussion, they burned through tracks from their debut release and jammed on an extended versions of “Fire on the Mountain” and “One Way Out”.
Ana Popovic continued to stoke the musical fire with an impressive set that featured her skillful guitar playing and alluring vocals. And, yes, she is no slouch in the looks department either. Expertly mixing her blues and rock influences, Ana and her tight backing band received a tremendous response from the crowd for their efforts.
Headliner Delbert McClinton shows no signs of slowing down after a career that has spans five decades. He served up a potent mixture of his hits like “One of the Fortunate Few” and “Givin’ It Up For Your Love” mixed with classic tunes like “Linda Lu” and “Seven Nights to Rock”. His veteran band – Bob Britt on guitar, Mike Joyce on bass, Dennis Wage on keyboards, John Bryant on drums, Quentin Wright on trumpet and Dana Robbins on sax – added plenty of the Texas roadhouse feel to each song. Etta Britt joined Delbert for a spirited duet on “Leap of Faith” before McClinton brought the festival to a close with a rockin’ version of “Every Time I Roll the Dice”.
Thanks to General Manager Bill Haggett and his staff for a wonderful festival and all of the fine music.( and the Poor House Bistro too) for your inspiration and hard work and to all the sponsors and volunteers for another great festival!! See you next year!!
Photos and comments by Mark Thompson & Tom Carter © 2012.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Blues Society News
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Southeast Iowa Blues Society - Fairfield IA
The Southeast Iowa Blues Society is bringing "The Scott Holt Band" to the Fairfield Best Western on Saturday Oct. 27th at 8pm. Scott played with Buddy Guy for 10 years before making a name for himself as a Blues guitarist and keeper of the Blues. Also,help SIBS bring in the Blue Year with Samantha Fish at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center on January 4th, 2013...more details later on this up and coming Blues artist...for more information contact www.southeastiowabluessociety.org
Suncoast Blues Society - Tampa, FL
The members of the Suncoast Blues Society are proud to join the many sponsors, including the Realize Bradenton organization in sponsoring the first annual Bradenton Blues Festival. The inaugural fest will be held on Saturday, Dec.1, in downtown Bradenton in the newly redeveloped Riverwalk area along the Manatee River. Gates open at 10 a.m and music starts at 11 a.m. with the Steve Arvey Horn Band. Additional acts include Ben Prestage, Homemade Jamz, Southern Hospitality, Johnny Sansone, Dave "Biscuit" Miller, Kenny Neal and Ruthie Foster. Tickets are only $25 and can be purchased at the festival website. For more information, please go to : www.suncoastblues.org
River City Blues Society - Peoria, IL
The River City Blues Society presents John Primer at 7:00 pm Wednesday November. 7th at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois Admission: $7.00 general public or $5.00 for Society Members For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
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 8:00pm $3 cover. • Oct 22 - James Armstrong •Oct 29 - The Mojo Cats More info available at icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society - Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
Prairie Crossroads Blues Society of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois will present its 2nd Annual International Blues Challenge on Saturday, October 20th at Memphis on Main, 55 East Main St., Champaign. Admission is $5 and the doors will open at 3 p.m. Bands will begin competing at 3:45 p.m. We will have food available from Holy Smoke BBQ. Bands taking part in the event will be able to sell their CDs.
The winning band will receive $1000.00 in travel assistance and go
on to represent our blues society at the 2013 International Blues
Challenge scheduled for January 29-February 2, in Memphis,
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Bees Deluxe - Space Age Bachelor Pad Blues
I don't know where to start my review. I am not usually at a loss for words when listening to and reviewing albums, so let me begin with how Bees Deluxe describe themselves. "Bees Deluxe is a full-tilt, acid blues/funk/rock collective comprised of Boston-based musicians."
So I guess I can begin with who they are. A trio of Boston-based musicians. Patrick Sanders (drums and percussion), Bruce Mattson (keys), and Conrad Warre (guitars) comprise this trio of eclectic fellows. Sanders is from Illinois, did a stint with the Marines, played in their Drum & Bugle Corps, studied at Berklee School of music and graduated in 2005. Mattson teaches at Framingham State University, graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music and studied under and played with a plethora of jazz and music greats. Ware crossed the pond from England and has worked in music with a number of greats including Zappa, Bowie and Yoko, just to name a few artists recognizable only by surname or given names. So we have three guys who have a lot of talent, education and training in the art of music.
The music they play is not blues, per se. It's not any one genre of music. They blend jazz, blues, funk, rock, and more into a very suave and cool sound. One can picture the sounds they make emanating from a grooving bachelor pad or swank hipster joint, and yet there is a realism and purity to the music that makes it transcend from cool background sounds to something to sit up and listen to.
What sort of stuff do they play? Well, their web site answers, "Their unique repertoire include over three sets of floorboard-stomping originals and 60s, 70s, and 80s covers from Little Feat, The Meters, Billie Holiday, Derek Trucks, Donny Hathaway, Steely Dan, B.B.King, ZZ Top, Robben Ford, Muddy Waters, Bonnie Raitt, Curtis Mayfield, Albert King, Bobby 'Blue' Bland, Jimi Hendix, SoulLive, Roy Buchanan, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Herbie Hancock, Derek & the Dominoes, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band." Well, that says a lot!
The set list here is predominantly original music. The album opens with "3454 Miles," a short, down tempo, jazzy piece where the organ soulfully blends with drum and cymbal sounds that emulate rain or the rushing sound of wind. Very cool. This leads into "Kidnap," where the guitar opens for a hollow distorted vocal solo and then a more vibrant chorus. It was not clear from the lyrics whether they were planning a kidnapping, that their love was so intense that they wanted to figuratively kidnap their girl or what was going on. I decided it did not matter. It sounded good. I was a little worried, but what the heck?
The big cover is next up. "God Bless the Child" stems from Billy Holliday and moves through Sonny Rollins, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Whitney Houston, to today. The song has had covers galore: soulful, hopeful, and minimal approaches to big time sounds. Given they are a trio, the approach here is closer to the minimalistic approach and there is an eerie ethereal nature to the vocals, sort of like a Steely Dan song, or at least like the style of their vocalist (David Palmer) with a New England twist. I liked, it, though. Not overdone but different. The other cover follows, "Hot Cha." Here the boys take another Massachusetts-based alternative bands' song and turn it into an instrumental; effective, different. They Might Be Giants were eclectic and different and so are these gents.
So by now you can see that a third of the way into the album. The guitar sounds at times like a subdued Mark Knopfler. Add some interesting vocals and a variety of keyboards, mix in some eloquent yet odd lyrics an you have Bees Deluxe. The songs are all good. They mix up a lot of sounds and make it work.
"Not the Sopranos" could be Gregg Allman or someone like him rocking out his B3. I don't understand the Sopranos reference; it does not resemble their theme in any way, shape or form. Another instrumental: "Rooster Shoes;" why roosters and shoes? Who knows? But it all sounds good. Nice funky beat and B3 organ, and the drum and guitar add flavor and interest. "The Girl With Green Hair" is instrumentals with static filled radio sounds; odd, but cool. The CD even ends with an Allman Brothers-escue acoustic guitar song in "Byrdland." It's all over the place, yet the songs and album is very cool and fun to listen to and appreciate.
It is not blues. There are blues riffs here and there is occasionally some bluesy stuff. Jazz predominates, yet the blues, funk and lots of rock are there. If your taste in music is broad and have an open mind to new stuff, you will enjoy this CD as I did. You may not understand it, but I am not sure that understanding it is actually required. One has to go with the flow and accept it; once you do, it's a fun ride.
Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Johnny Boots – All or Nothing
13 tracks / 57:09
Johnny “Boots” Giannicchi is the real deal: a fabulous blues- rock guitarist and singer who has gigged and worked hard to get where he is today. Besides these roles, this Connecticut gentleman is also the band leader and producer of his latest release, All or Nothing. This CD is a blues-rock juggernaut that includes nine original tracks and four well-chosen covers. There is a definite Stevie Ray Vaughan vibe to this work, with occasional forays in the directions of delta blues and country.
Johnny is joined on this release by Peter Bennett on bass and Darro “Sparkie” Sandler on drums. This power trio is augmented on occasion by the tremendous Hook Herrera on the harmonica and co-producer Paul Opalach, who sits in with various instruments on many of the tracks. All of these folks are more than capable musicians, and any changes in personnel are not obvious as there is good continuity throughout.
“Stone Cold” is the lead-off track for All or Nothing and right away the listener can hear that Johnny Boots has a masterful grasp of blues and rock guitar. This is an uptempo 12-bar blues song that uses some great kitchen metaphors to describe the inevitable swings of a grown-up relationship. Johnny’s voice proves to be strong with just the right sound for this genre. It was a wise choice to position this song up front on the CD.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is the title track, “All or Nothing,” which has a lot of 1970s psychedelic blues rock in it. Lots of soaring guitars and ride cymbal on this one take me back to my youth. I am picturing a smoky concert arena with oodles of red stage lights when this one is playing through my headphones.
They managed to sneak a ballad into the mix and “Actions Speaks Louder than Words” is a great song with heartfelt lyrics. This track is a perfect opportunity chance for Johnny to slow down and show off his voice. His guitar work is sublime on this track, and shows that he knows enough to not have to play every note just because he can.
Stacy Williams provides vocals for “It Takes a Big Girl to Cry,” which is a duet that comes straight out of the 1950s. Ms. William’s voice meshes perfectly with Johnny’s, and this slower tune is a nice change of pace. Opalach brings the bass guitar and keyboard parts, and Boots gives the listener some tasteful picking on his electric guitar.
Johnny Boots does not limit his songwriting to temporal subjects, and feels comfortable expressing his eternal views in “Hosanna.” I had not expected to find a Christian rock anthem on this album, and this one is a neatly-crafted song, with many layers of acoustic and electric guitar. There are some nice backing vocal harmonies, as well.
The cover tunes run the gamut of blues, and include Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” Son House’s “Death Letter Blues” and “John the Revelator,” and Elmore James’ “Shake Your Moneymaker.” “Crossroads” is the funkiest version I have ever heard, and Hook gets to tear loose with his harp. Things don’t go too far astray, and the spirit of the original is still there. Both of the Son House songs start in a more traditional delta blue style, but electrify quickly. House’s lyrics surely stand the test of time, and would make these tunes work no matter what you do to them. “Shake your Moneymaker” is one of the faster versions around and is chock full of crazily distorted guitar, in a good way.
The album ends on a fun (and patriotic) note with “Rodeo Girl” which features Paul Opalach on bass guitar, baritone guitar, keyboards and percussion. He is a jack of all trades, apparently. This song has a countrified sound to it, and the sound of the guitars and the layout of the story give this one a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers feel.
All or Nothing is a slickly-produced CD with plentiful guitar chops and thirteen very listenable tracks that provide almost an hour of musical entertainment. It is a great follow-up to Johnny Boots’ previous release, Everybody’s Got to Eat, and any fan of blues or rock will find something to like on this one. I recommend that you give it a listen; you will certainly get your money’s worth!
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician. His blog can be found at rexbass.blogspot.com
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Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Al Lerman - Crowe River Blues
You would think that a musician who has been nominated for several blues music awards and twice won major awards as the leader of acclaimed band would have attained some level of recognition in the US. But receiving nominations for the Maple Blues Awards and winning two Juno Awards, Canada's version of the Grammy, or a career that spans four decades has left Al Lerman flying under the radar for the vast majority of blues listeners.
And that is a shame, as Lerman quickly establishes on his first solo recording. Considered one of the finest blues harp players in Canada, Lerman also plays guitar and saxophone in addition to handling the lead vocals. Over the lazy rhythm of “Suitcase Blues”, he takes his time describing the abrupt end of a love affair, punctuating the proceedings with some fine blowing in the upper register of his harp. The original “Gypsy Feet” is a folk/blues piece about a man with a wandering mind, with Lerman on acoustic guitar. Lerman's skill as a songwriter is on full display on “Blues So Bad I Could Write a Country Song”. The tune works because of the understated humor and some fine piano from Lance Anderson.
“Chugging the Blues” has Lerman overdubbing three distinct harmonica parts to create a mesmerizing instrumental that leaves no doubt that he deserves accolades for his playing. On “Harmonica Gumbo”, he spins a savory batch of variations on the melody of “Iko Iko”. Alec Fraser slaps away on his upright bass on another highlight, the rockabilly-tinged “You're the One” with the leader singing with gusto and laying down some excellent country blues-style harp licks. Anderson's swirling organ chords elevate the funky blues feel on “She Calls Me a River”, which also benefits from some fine cymbal work from drummer Bucky Berger and Lerman's ringing electric guitar licks.
Snooky Pryor's “Judgement Day” is all Lerman on acoustic guitar and harp, singing like a man ready to face the end. The band shows they can rock with an exhilarating romp through “Nobody But Myself To Blame”, complete with Fraser on backing vocals on the catchy refrain while Lerman shows off his skill on the sax and the harp. “Flush Side of Broke” and “Solar Powered Man” suffer a bit in the lyric category but “Broke” is still compelling due to the touch of zydeco created by Anderson on the accordion. Lerman is at his best on “I'm Gone”, another confessional dealing with a break-up.
Throughout the disc, Lerman and his associates inject the music with plenty of enthusiasm and vitality. They make a strong case for paying attention to musicians north of the border, lest we miss out on other outstanding discs like this one. This is a very impressive debut for Al Lerman – one that you should check-out with delay!
Reviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.
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Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Linsey Alexander - Been There Done That
After a lifetime of paying his dues in the small blues clubs of Chicago after moving there from his adopted town of Memphis; Holly Springs, Mississippi native Linsey Alexander finally got around to releasing this, his first CD on an established label. Prior to this he recorded a series of CDs that he produced and distributed himself. At times his vocal approach is more akin to talking than singing, but when he gets invigorated his throaty delivery sounds uncannily close to the late Son Seals and his hard-charging Chicago blues. His distorted tone on guitar also hints at Son Seals’ style at times. The CD was recorded live in the studio, except for two guitar overdubs. A sturdy group of musicians is employed, including first-call keyboard man Roosevelt Purifoy, Billy Branch lending his topnotch harmonica skills to three tracks and Linsey’s horn section The L.A. Horns. Ten of the twelve songs here are originals.
“Going Up On The Roof”, “I’m Moving” and “Saving Robert Johnson” best exemplify the Son Seals comparison, with the former’s guitar attack coming very close to Son’s style. Billy Branch gives takes us to school on Chicago blues harmonica playing in “My Mama Gave Me The Blues” along with Linsey’s fine turn on guitar and pleading vocals. Southern soul blues is nicely represented in the title track and in the late Willie Kent’s “Looks Like It’s Going to Rain”. The title tune boasts support from the horn section, including a tasty trumpet solo from Ryan Nyther. Roosevelt shows his skills with the electric piano on “Rain”. Linsey slices through the stratosphere with his distorted guitar tone solo on “I Had a Dream”. His “Big Woman” “smells like butter, but tastes like cream” as he proceeds to rattle off a litany of her “attributes”. She broke all his furniture and he had to forgo a new car and buy a bus to accommodate her dimensions. The “crossroads” myth is revisited and brought into the future as the narrator is intent on “Saving Robert Johnson”-“I want you to e-mail the devil, I want you to poke him on Facebook.” It also includes another burning Son Seals-style workout.
Minor flaws aside, this effort by an unsung “upper statesman” of the blues has much to recommend it in the way of musicianship. Some of the vocals and lyrics veer towards the mundane, but Linsey’s guitar skills light a spark. For my taste he could stretch them out a bit more at times, but what is here is finely executed. Italian axeman Breezy Rodio and “up and comer” Mike Wheeler contribute guitar support. Linsey really doesn’t need it, but it adds variety to the sound. This CD won’t make him a household name, but it reveals more and more with each repeated listening.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
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