Issue 6-26, June 27, 2012
Scroll or Page Down! For news, photos, reviews, links & MUCH MORE in this issue!
Cover photo bySuzanne Foschino © 2012
In This Issue
We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. Suzanne Foschino has our feature interview with John Lee Hooker Jr. Bob Kieser and Marilyn Stringer have Part I of our 2012 Chicago Blues Fest coverage.
We have six music reviews for you! James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new release from Tim “Too Slim” Langford. John Mitchell reviews a new release from JT Coldfire. Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Ronnie Shellist. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new release from Sauce Boss. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new CD from The 44s with Special Guest Kid Ramos. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD from Eric Bibb. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans
If you are in the Illinois or Iowa area you have a tough choice to make this weekend. There are 2 great fests this weekend put on by our friends at The Blues, Brews and BBQ Fest in Champaign, Illinois and another great one put on by more great friends at The Mississippi Valley Blues Fest in Davenport, IA.
The Blues Brews and BBQs Fest features The Royal Southern Brotherhood, Ronnie Baker Brooks, The Nick Moss Super Jam honoring recently deceased Bluesman Michael Burks and featuring Hadden Sayers and Lil Ed and a few surprise guest, plus John Nemeth, Eddie Turner and several other great artists.
The Mississippi Valley Blues Fest lineup includes,The Brooks Family Dynasty featuring Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Wayne Baker Brooks, Bobby Rush, Kenny Neal, Coco Montoya, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Guitar Shorty, Moreland and Arbuckle, Trampled Under Foot and many other great Blues acts.
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
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Featured Blues Interview - John Lee Hooker, Jr
Born into blues royalty in 1952, John Lee Hooker, Jr carries the legacy of his name with responsibility, love and respect. As the son of arguably the greatest bluesman of all time, it’s no easy task to balance moving his father’s legend forward, while trying to forge his own way and become an artist with his own identity. His name is synonymous with The Blues...and like his father, John Lee Hooker, Jr is a Bluesman to his core.
Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, he learned the business of the blues early in life, performing with his father by the age of 8 and eventually touring regularly with his father throughout his teen years. By the time Jr. turned eighteen years old, he was already featured on one of his father’s recordings, “Live at Soledad Prison”. As a teenager, John showed great promise as a blues artist, singing and telling stories through song. John considers himself more of a storyteller than a lyricist and stated, “When I was a kid, I made up stories. People called me a story teller...they didn’t call you a liar back then because liar was a real insult...so they’d say, “don’t trust Johnny Hooker because he’s a ‘story teller’. I’d make up stories to get out of trouble, or to get other people into trouble, or to get money or to get girls to like me...my mother used to say to me, “how do you tell all these stories, Junior?”. As an adult, I’ve taken that negative and turned it into a positive and now my songs are telling my stories. And the story has to be good, I mean, I can do just typical stuff in songs, with typical lyrics. But, that’s not me....I’m a story teller and the story has to be good.” John’s writing is influenced by real life...by things that have happened to him, things that have happened to others, and of course, he was influenced greatly by growing up in the heart of the blues world, being tutored by his legendary father.
But, it is not only his father's music that influences John Lee. Developing as an artist during the early days of the Motown sound, John grew to love and be inspired by that distinctive soulful and funky sound of the music coming out of Detroit at the time. To this day, those Motown influences can be found solidly residing in John's music, popping with strong, powerful horns and heavy thumping bass lines. John has a way with funk that would make even George Clinton proud.
Early in life, John became a victim of his dark side and for some 25 years, he found himself addicted to drugs and alcohol, divorced, overdosing a few times and eventually finding himself in prison. But, John found a way to turn his time in prison into a positive experience by saying, “if I didn’t go to prison, I probably would have died.” He expressed that he would most definitely have succumb to the demons that had possessed him, and prison essentially saved his life. It is in prison that he promised God that he would change his life around forever, and he did...in a big way. He holds God fully responsible for his recovery from addiction and his subsequent success. John believes that “through God, all things are possible”.
He now has a new sense of purpose, he is drug free and sober and is fully entrenched in his career, having released several albums and DVDs since his release, and even endorsing a few products.
When I said to him “John, you don’t seem to run from your past, it’s more like you embrace it and learn from it. How did you manage to hit the ground running so quickly after being released from prison?”
John said, “I found out that I don’t need drugs to survive and I don’t need drink to survive...I’m a praying man and I always had the music in me. Being in prison didn’t stop me from being an artist or being creative. So, when I was in prison, I wrote and wrote...I mean, I wrote an entire record while I was in prison! When I got out, I had already written “Keep It Real” and “Blues Aint’ Nothing But A Pimp” and so many more songs...I was READY! I put out my first album “Blues With a Vengeance” (2004 release, Kent Records) right out of prison, and when it was nominated for a Grammy, I almost passed out!!! And then my first CD on a record label got another Grammy nomination, so I was blown away!”
He continues, “See, when I was in prison, I was sitting in a cell on the bottom floor writing my songs, no freedom. Then, they moved me to a new cell and I had a little more freedom...I was free to go from dorm to dorm and I was able to interact with other people and I got to know some artists who would draw and paint during the day, creative people like me. I swore to God I’d change my life around, and that gave me strength and I was inspired, I felt that I was ‘all hooked up’ with God...that gave me the idea to hire one of the artists there to draw a portrait of me sitting on a telephone and I paid him with a $3 bag of coffee. And I still have that portrait with me today, and it reminds me to never forget...I took it with me when I was released and it hangs in my office still. And, it’s actually what inspired the cover design of my next CD called, “All Hooked Up”.” And, now it’s all coming to reality. My dreams took a long time to get here, but I didn’t forget them...I’m all hooked up.”
“Blues With A Vengeance” was critically acclaimed as well as a personal redemption of sorts. Not only was it nominated for a Grammy, it was also nominated for a W.C. Handy Award for “Best New Artist Debut”. The album won a California Music Award for “Outstanding Blues Album of the Year”, and Junior was also named “Comeback Artist Of The Year” by the San Francisco Bay Area Blues Society. This is the stuff that kept his dream alive and exactly what John needed to keep his focus targeted like a laser on his career.
Listening to Junior’s album, “All Odds Against Me” is like reading a book of true to life short stories because all of the songs on this disc are written by Jr. and are based in some way on true life experiences. "All Odds Against Me" is the first of John’s albums on which he does not cover any of his father’s music. But, rather he makes a personal stance and proclaims his own identity as an artist, powerfully demonstrating through music how difficult his real life struggles have been from the very first note of "Dear John", another song he says, "is a true story". In the story, he is running from the police, getting caught with drugs, being incarcerated, finding himself alone in a jail cell, and left to deal with the reality of his life. The story expresses how John was forced to reflect upon the direction his life had taken and what got him to that low point in his life.
He knows that it can be very difficult to earn a living playing the blues, and says, “all blues artists need to diversify”. So, John has found other ways to spread the blues and capitalize on his music, turning his “Bluesman” status into “Businessman”. “A highpoint in my career” John says “was being a spokesperson for the US Open Tennis Tournament in 2010. I felt like I was introducing some blues to people who didn’t know the blues.” John was the star in 9 video shorts (which can still be found on You Tube) that feature his version of his father’s original song, “Boom Boom” playing in the background, while John introduced the stars of the tennis world.
Recently featured on the cover of Healthy Living magazine, and proud to endorse a number of natural products and vitamin supplements, John explains how being healthy is a major component to his ability to sustain a continuously growing and tenuous career, and helps with his ability to be on the road for long periods of time. His recent tours have brought him from all corners of the US, including Alaska, through Europe, Turkey, Tel Aviv and even Moscow. John has also recently embarked on a partnership with Vysoka Vodka, out of Poland and has written and recorded more than a full album’s worth of original songs that will ultimately be featured as the “soundtrack” to their series of European TV spots...also featured in those TV spots is Johnny Depp! Junior is excited about his recent venture with Vysoka, stressing the importance of that kind of universal exposure. He pointed out, “if you really pay attention when you watch TV or listen to radio, you’ll notice that many or most of the songs in TV and radio commercials are blues songs. As a matter of fact, Viagra has recently replaced the Howlin’ Wolf song on their TV and radio commercials with one of my father’s songs.”
I asked John about his song writing process. John said, “When I write, I go to my “lab”, my little office...I imagine I’m in a laboratory, in a white lab coat, mixing up a vile of this and a vile of that, coming up with a new blues song, thinking what I want something to sound like. Then, I go to the band with a melody or a bass line and my lyrics. I need these songs to sound like “ME” so I give the band everything they need. But, the story in the song is the most important thing.”
I asked John about the animated character Bluesman, his “blues superhero alter ego” and star of award winning animated video shorts created by Callicore Productions out of France. Laurent Mercier, who John refers to as his “French Brother”, is the creator/co-producer of the Bluesman animation at Callicore. “Callicore came to me with a video for “Blues Ain’t Nothing to a Pimp”...I loved it. They were fans of mine and now we’re great friends and business partners. Callicore takes my ideas, my songs, my stories and they follow the story line to create these animated videos. They’ve really gotten good because he knows it’s got to be the story line...like, our newest video is for my song, “Dear John” and he knew he had to show the real life battle between good and evil in the animation. I had those battles, I have them still today...you know, and the Lord always prevails in my spirit. The video shows the real inner personalities battling each other to win, those are true life struggles, good and evil, and the guy in the white suit won...and that’s who I am today, I’m the guy in the white suit...and the bad guy went off into inhalation.” He continues, “I’m proud to say with all thanks to God that there isn’t another artist out there with this kind of product.”
I asked John, “if you could choose any artist in the music world to record with, blues or other wise, who it would be?” He briefly paused and said, “Van Morrison...this guy is so soulful. Van did a song with my dad called “Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive”. These guys went into the studio together with nothing on paper. My dad did that his whole life because he couldn’t read or write, so he would go into the studio only with a feeling and he would remember all this stuff in his head, so van didn’t have any paperwork, or lyrics...nothing. But, he knew not to come in and ask for anything. So, my dad kicked it off and Van just sat and listened and then he jumped right in. My dad started singing (John sings) “never never never never get out of these blues alive”...and, then he sang, (John sings) “Oh, Van, whoa Van” and that was Van’s cue to kick in and he so just started singing, (John sings) “I read the same thing, every day, and every night”, and it just sent goose bumps...he hit a note that was nothing but the blues. My dad threw him that pitch and Van just followed along...i got goose bumps right now just thinking about it.”
John’s been busy in the studio throughout the winter of 2012, working on his 5th release to be entitled, “All Hooked Up”. On this CD, his good friends Lucky Peterson and Kenny Neal make cameo appearances on one song with John as well as the "Clean Up Woman" herself, the legendary Soul Queen, Betty Wright., and there are also another dozen or so original songs. He is also working with well known producer Larry Batiste (previously worked with Charlie Wilson/Gap Band among others), who will undoubtedly add his signature production flare to this new body of work and help to “round out the sound”. John says, “Larry helps bring out my ideas and bring them to life” and he hopes this next work will “widen the scope of the audience and reach all kinds of music lovers, not just strictly blues.” John continues to proudly boast about his new CD by saying “We’ve included a Motown sound, a New Orleans Bayou sound, some extraordinary funk and soul...some straight forward blues...and a great blues song called “Tears In My Eyes”, which is a song that I point to and blame God for, because I didn’t know I was capable of something like that...I actually started crying when I was recording the vocals of that song.” So, on a personal note, this writer is really looking forward to hearing the new CD when it does come out.
John also wanted to make sure that he recognizes the musicians that he works with almost on a daily basis, on the road and in the studio...Will ‘Roc’ Griffin (keys) Mike Rogers (drums), Frank Tebo (bass) John Garcia, Jeffrey James, Dwayne Wiggins, Alvon Johnson and Wilton Rabb (guitar), Dave Barrett (harmonica), Eddie Minifield, Doug Rowan, Tony Bolivar, Fil Lorenz (sax) Tom Poole, Louis Fastman, and David Hardiman (trumpet), Ric Feliciano (trombone) John R.Burr (piano) Gig Anderson (organ), Jennie Tracy, Sakai, Larry Batiste (backing vocals).
All in all, life has ended up being pretty good for John, a Bluesman who seems to be on a real life mission from God. All the twists and turns his life has taken, however negative or trying they may have been, seem to have ended up creating a strong man with a great will to survive and an undying need to create and entertain. He’s happily married now to the lovely Magdalena, who is a multitalented lady in her own right. He is a proud and involved father, has been nominated for two Grammys, and he is about to release his 5th CD...he’s finally got it all...and as he says, “my mind is clear and my brain is clear now.” John continues to say, “The good Lord Jesus Christ is fulfilling all of my dreams, and through God all things are possible”...and it appears there is no end in sight for him.
Visit John Lees's website at www.johnleehookerjr.com
Photos by Suzanne Foschino © 2012
Interviewer Suzanne Foschino is a Toy Designer, Artist and Photographer whose photos of blues artists can be seen on the CDs and tee shirts of blues artists ranging from Bernard Allison and Shemekia Copeland to Lonnie and Ronnie Baker Brooks, and whose "non blues" photos can be found at many retail stores. She is a song writer & producer who's current works with The F&G Band have been heard on radio all over the world, including on Sirius/XM's Bluesville. She is the mother of two young, budding musicians and is married to drummer, Tom Foschino.
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Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
Tim “Too Slim” Langford - Broken Halo
11 songs; 41:27 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Modern and Traditional Acoustic Blues, Instrumentals, Country Folk, Patented Too Slim Music
What’s on a serious songwriter’s mind when he or she puts pen to paper? Tim “Too Slim” Langford, leader of Too Slim and The Taildraggers, gives listeners a glimpse into the creative thought process in “Three Chords,” the second song on his newest release, Broken Halo. For only the second time in Langford’s 18 albums recording career, he has put forth a solo, acoustic, studio set with Tim playing all instruments and handling all vocals. From a songwriter’s perspective, Slim sings, “You never know if they will care what you write down from your pen ... You get three chords to tell it all ... Three chords to make them weep three chords to make them think....” Like all artists who put their work on display, self doubts and anxiety naturally creep in: “The writers thoughts, are on display, for all to judge or criticize / Digging deep, into your mind, is such a lonely place sometimes.”
Across this wonderful and amazing, eclectic set of eleven original songs, Langford’s maturity is reflected in songs of compassion for others, contemplation, pathos, hope, and heart felt emotion. Gone are the earlier hard-partying songs calling for “One More Shot” and self-centered songs like “Dat’s Right.” Present, beyond the lyrics, is intricate guitar work from a master who has honed his chops over almost 40 years of playing. One hears his custom Dobro, acoustic six string guitars, slide tenor ukulele, and harmonica accompanied by programmed drums and electric bass. Again working at home with co-producer Conrad Uno in Seattle’s Egg Studios, Langford was comfortable and relaxed affording his full artistry to bloom unrestricted from the outside pressures of some earlier CDs.
“La Llorona” (The Weeping Woman) --The slow, haunting and mysterious opening instrumental track on Broken Halo will stop listeners cold in their tracks. It sets the mood for the rest of the album informing that this is not a Too Slim and The Taildraggers Rock fest. “La Llorona” will make Too Slim fans ask questions: Why does “La Llorona” weep? What is she mourning, in order for so much raw pain to pour out in her tears? Too Slim’s guitar is no longer an acoustic instrument here, but a woman of flesh and blood, her body dissolving with wracking sobs. This would be a perfect opening number for the soundtrack of a movie involving ghosts. One thing’s for certain: “La Llorona” will haunt you long after the closing chords of her wordless ballad are finished.
Track 4 “You Hide It Well”--We all have our secrets, but in this gritty acoustic, 12 bar stomp, Too Slim wants to tell an inebriated friend that his secret’s out: “I know you like to party, have a lot of fun. You could look me in the eye and say you were not drunk. Make me believe every word you said, and explain away all those nasty bumps on your head. You hide it well….” Is that last statement a compliment or a criticism? From the wry tone of how Slim repeats his pal’s alibi, it’s probably the latter: “Yeah, you’ve got it all under control….” This Blues-radio-ready song ends on a hopeful note, with a heartfelt plea for redemption in the face of addiction. The richly melodic slide guitar solo at mid-song reflects that hopefulness rather having the scolding tone his inebriated friend had earned. Blues-radio programmers will also want to include the other 12 bar Blues song, a spirited rendition of “Long Tail Black Cat,” which was one of Langford’s earliest creations.
Track 6 “40 Watt Bulb”--This song could be considered a dark follow-up to “Three Chords,” especially when those Chords fail to work their magic on a drunken crowd with a belligerent heckler. The Bluesman narrator’s situation is desperate: “In a crack hotel and it’s 20 below, warming my hands on a 40-watt bulb. The heater don’t work, and they don’t give a [expletive]. The blues don’t get no bluer than this. Well, I thank you, Lord, for the musical gift, but the devil’s in control of the rest of this [expletive].” “40 Watt Bulb” reminds blues fans that life on the road isn’t as glamorous as they might imagine. Even though this song is unsuitable for radio airplay, it tells the truth about the underside of a blues musician’s life. It’s not pretty or bright.
Across this stellar set, Langford has put his “Three Chords” to ultimate good use. When fans are ready to take a breather from dancing to the hard charging music performed by the full Too Slim and The Taildraggers band, they can sit back, listen, and appreciate Tim “Too Slim” Langford on a whole new level. It is a pause that’s richly rewarding! Amy Walker contributed to this review.
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 Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL.
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Live Blues Review - Chicago Blues Fest Part I
The 2012 Chicago Blues Fest was held in Grant Park in downtown Chicago Friday June 8 through Sunday June 10, 2012. With five official stages and an artist roster of more than 150 musicians and more than 65 separate performances over three days, it remains one of the premier Blues events of the world.
Chicago is also the Blues Capital of the world. This is the only city where you can go to hear top notch Blues talent 7 nights a week, 365 days a year! So when the City of Chicago throws a free Blues party in a city of more than 2.5 million people, it is a wonderfully authentic Blues event. This is "Real" Blues! And folks come from all over the world to attend this great event.
The fest kicked off on Friday and some the the great acts that performed including one of my favorites, Quintus McCormick!
Quintus' latest album release is on Delmark Records and is called Still Called The Blues.
Next we caught Eddie C. Campbell and his band for an authentic set of Blues
Our friend Fernando Jones took over the Front Porch stage and shared a few moments closely interacting with the audience.
We then had the pleasure of hearing a great set by Zora Young. We don't get to hear this great Chicago based artist nearly often enough. What a treat!
I first caught Vasti Jackson at the Mississippi Valley Blue Fest last year and his set on the Juke Joint stage again impressed me that this artist knows his Blues and his audience.
Chicago harmonica ace Matthew Skoller had a great set with a band that included Kenny Smith on drums and Felton Crews on bass.
Joe Louis Walker hit the Crossroads stage as the afternoon zoomed by. This was our first chance to catch this huge star. Joe and his band had the crowd going.
The Cash Box Kings had a cool set at Chicago's Windy City Blues Society tent. Below are Joel Paterson, Billy Flynn and Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith
Johnny Rawls had a great set on the Mississippi Juke.
Big James and The Chicago Playboys finished off my assignment of the first day covering the fest.
Photos and commentary above by Bob Kieser.
Blues Blast contributing writer and photographer Marilyn Stringer covered the headliner acts on the Petrillo Music Shell on Friday. She writes:
"With so many choices and a jam going on, I missed the first set at the Petrillo stage but was pleasantly surprised to see my old friend, Jeff Stone, blowing out the blues on his harmonica in his high-energy fashion, with the The Rev. K. M. Williams' Texas blues & gospel band.
The band included Washboard Jackson on percussion and Andrea Dawson & Blue Lisa on vocals.
Closing out the first night was Milton Hopkins & Jewel Brown. Both performers come from a long line of well-known blues, soul, and jazz including Jewel's long-time career as a vocalist with Louis Armstrong. They had a great time on stage and it was a thrill to hear these masters of blues.
They were followed by Texas Johnny Brown.
Thus ended the first day of one of the best Blues fest in the world. Stay tuned for Part II of our Chicago Blues Festival coverage next week!
Photos by Bob Kieser and Marilyn Stringer as marked © 2012.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
JT Coldfire – Always & Never
10 tracks – 34 minutes
JT Coldfire is a stalwart of the Austin music scene and has travelled extensively playing his music. This CD was in fact recorded in Sweden with an all-Swedish cast of supporting musicians, but the songs and performance are definitely Texan in feel and were all written by JT himself. Opener “Get It On (In The Back Of The Bar)” is a real roadhouse rocker, complete with a honking sax solo, boogie piano and frantic harp and makes a lively opener to the CD.
JT’s voice has that touch of grit that suits this type of rock and roll and “It’s Alright With Me” shows his voice off well against a lighter production whilst “Rather Die In My Sleep” is a slow blues with plenty of guitar and harp to support JT’s anguished vocal on a song that tells of tough and violent times.
“Let’s Go For A Drive” is another change of pace with an opening guitar figure that recalls John Hiatt’s “Riding With The King” before the drums enter and the song develops with catchy guitar and harp accents plus a female voice to add color. “Feelin’ The Muisc” is an acoustically-based piece with some nice harmonies on the chorus – more Americana in feel than Blues. “Toast To A Bluesman” has something of a John Lee Hooker feel to the music and a distorted vocal and was perhaps my least favorite track though the chorus of “I’d rather be swimming in whisky and women and, Lord, may I never come up” did make me smile.
“I’m The Best Thing You Ever Had” sounds quite a boast as a title and JT explains through this slow blues how his girl has missed her opportunity by ending their relationship. In contrast “Party Lovin’ Pappa” does exactly what the title suggests in a frantic piece of rock and roll that packs in four verses and a harp solo in just over two minutes! “Tell Me Mama” is a more relaxed affair with the harp of Roland “Woe” Guajardo again to the fore. Roland is also credited in the sleeve notes with ‘always bringing his Mexican kitchen with him’! Closing track “Tired Man’s Blues” is a fast shuffle which adds a further Texan touch to the mix with accordion.
Overall I enjoyed this CD. There is nothing startlingly new or original here but JT has a good voice and plays guitar competently. There is a good degree of variety in the material and the Swedish backing musicians acquit themselves well throughout.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and enjoyed the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in April.
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Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
Ronnie Shellist - 'til Then
I have been wanting to listen to this harp player for awhile now and I was excited to get the CD in the mail for review. Harp greats Charlie Musselwhite and Kim Wilson have glowing words to say about this young harmonica ace and they certainly are correct- Shellist is the real deal.
Two of the tracks are covers and the rest were written by Ronnie. The songs are all well done and done well. Joining Shellist on electric guitar and mandolin (and on one track acoustic guitar) is Gerry Hundt, who arranged 4 of the tracks. Also on electric and acoustic guitars is Jeremy Vasquez who, along with Hundt, co-wrote the opening track with Shellist. These two guitar players are superb accompaniment to Shellist's outstanding harp, and I love to listen to Gerry Hundt play mandolin and welcomed that opportunity, too. The backline of Todd Edmunds on bass and Bob Carter on drums is solid throughout.
The opening track is entitled "Knockin" and Shellist's harp blows hard and strong. The beat and groove is reminiscent to Slim Harpo's "King Bee", but the melody line and harp work is very original and intensely cool. Shellist practically blows the reeds out of the harp. "Mook" is an instrumental take off on Little Walter's Juke with a nice boogie woogie backdrop and some hellacious harp work by Shellist. He certainly is a great harmonica player. The two guitars going back and forth also add nicely to the cut. The title track also features Ronnie and band giving it their all. "Shoes" is a superb instrumental with Hundt's mandolin, Vasquez's acoustic guitar and Shellist's harp intertwining and weaving a very cool sound that was thoroughly fun and totally enjoyable.
Little Walter's "Last Night" and Sonny Boy Williamson's "Eyesight to the Blind" are the covers that Ronnie pays homage to the greats of Chicago harp with and his playing is quite up to the task. I love to hear his over blows and bending- so well done. He certainly is a bright spot in the harmonica world. and Hundt's mandolin makes Sonny Boy's song sound even better.
What I would offer for criticism are Ronnie's vocals. The passion and intensity of Shellist's harp work is huge, yet his singing style seems to lack that same level of passion. He sings quite well, but it's just not tripping my trigger from an emotional standpoint. The vocals come off at times like he's going through the motions and not into it, but then he stops singing and begins to play and his heart and soul show through so very clearly with his harmonica playing. As I said, the vocals are not bad, but it's far from the inspirational feeling levels I get from his amazing harp work.
This is a great harmonica CD with some fine, traditional blues, both old and new. I was blown away by Shellist's harmonica work and the duo of Hundt and Vasquez on guitar are super accompaniments to Shellist's harmonica virtuosity. If you want to hear a "new" great harp player, you need go no further than this disc.
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.
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Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Sauce Boss - Live At The Green Parrot
Floridian Bill “Sauce Boss” Wharton has been spreading his gospel of slide guitar and gumbo for many years now. For those not in the know, he prepares a big pot of gumbo during his show and serves it at the end. He uses his “gumbo gospel” to provide money for the various homeless shelters he visits as he tours the country. This feeling of giving also translates to the upbeat nature of his live shows. His music comes from the blues well, but it is more of his own invention. His noisy, skittering slide guitar sound owes a lot to Lil’ Ed. His voice is something akin to a less “horse” sounding Johnny Winter. With the aid of another guitarist, bass and drums they manage to make quite a stir…no gumbo pun intended. If this live recording is any indication, his shows sound like one rowdy time.
He testifies that all the trials and tribulations he has had throughout his life don’t matter because his guitar has “Killer Tone”. This leadoff song introduces his gritty and slashing slide work. The opening riff of “Smuggler’s Cove” sounds very similar to “Rollin’ And Tumblin’”. Having served over 180,000 bowls of gumbo during his career, it only seems fitting that he offers his “Gumbo Recipe” to the faithful. Later he gives the gumbo update-“Chicken In The Gumbo”. “Lonesome Rider” and “What Was I Thinking” are hard-charging slide vehicles.
Spirits are called up in the slow and simmering “Out In the Night”. The second half of the song is a churning whirlpool of guitar noises creating the appropriate spooky effect. His signature song, “Let The Big Dog Eat” is one of two extended tracks. It was featured in Jonathan Demme’s movie “Something Wild”. “The Goog” portrays Google as a scary monster out to getcha. A heartfelt eulogy is given to an old friend in “Paco’s Garden”. Praises are sung to food glorious food as Sauce Boss testifies in “Cathead Biscuit Gospel”, a lead in to serving the gumbo.
A blues inflected, slide-driven old-fashioned good time is had by all. This music isn’t brain surgery, but it is infectious and good for the soul and what ails ya. The band never misses a beat. If you need music for your next gumbo party, have I got the ticket for you.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
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Blues Society News
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River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL
River City Blues Society presents: Bringing The Blues To You with the following shows at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St, Pekin, Illinois - July 18th • Peter Karp and Sue Foley: Wednesday , Time:7:00 pm – 11:00 pm Admission: $5.00, July 25th at 7:00PM • Laurie Morvan, Aug 8th at 7:00PM • Chris Beard Admission: $5.00 or $3.00 for members For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
Long Island Blues Society - Centereach, NY
The Long Island Blues Society will be hosting the following events:
7/18/12 IBC Symposium & with LIBS General Membership Meeting.
Discussion on going to Memphis as a competitor, fan & supporter.
What to expect & what is expected of you. Location TBA.
8/12/12 Tas Cru. Frank Celenza opening, at 2PM Bobbique in Patchogue NY. LIBS Members $8, all others $10.
9/16/12 Long Island Blues Talent Competition (LIBTC) to select a representative for IBC. $10 donation to help defray winners expenses in Memphis. Location TBA. Now accepting applications for Band, Solo/Duo categories. Requirements on website www.liblues.org
Topeka Blues Society - Topeka, KS
The Topeka Blues Society presents the 3rd Annual Spirit of Kansas Blues Festival 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!
Headlining is Royal Southern Brotherhood along with 2012 BMA Best New Artist Debut winner Samantha Fish, Southern Hospitality and Biscuit Miller and the Mix. Also appearing are the Nick Hern Band, the Terry Quiett Band and the Solo Hogs.
There will also be food, arts and crafts and a car show. Bring your lawn chairs, tents and coolers. 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 SOK group rate.
Dayton Blues Society – Dayton, Ohio
The Dayton Blues Society will be holding our “Road to Memphis” Blues Challenge on July 22nd at Gilly’s Nite Club in downtown Dayton. We are now accepting applications for our Band and Solo/Duo categories. Please go to www.daytonbluessociety.com for complete details.
The Blues Kids Foundation - Chicago, IL
The Blues Kids Foundation presents Fernando Jones’ Annual Blues Camp. This fun-filled experience awards scholarships to over 120 Blues Kids (ages 12 to 18), affording them a “priceless” fun-filled experience. They will learn and perform America’s root music in a fully funded, weeklong program with like minded others under the tutelage of national and international instructors. Blues Camp is in residence at: Columbia College Chicago, Huston-Tillotson University (Austin, TX) and the Fender Center (Corona, CA). This series is designed for America’s youth and educators. To be a sponsor call us at 312-369-3229.
CAMP DATES & CITIES
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa is June 29th & 30th, and July1st. Scheduled performers include Mathew Curry and The Fury, Earnest ‘’Guitar’’ Roy, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Liz Mandeville and Donna Herula, Kenny Neal and Super Chikan Johnson on June 29th, Terry Quiett, Bryce Janey, Ray Fuller and the Blues Rockers, Doug MacLeod, Preston Shannon, Ernest Dawkins Quartet, Guitar Shorty, Moreland and Arbuckle, Coco Montoya and Kelley Hunt on June 30th. Lady Bianca, Paul Geremia, Johnny Rawls, Trampled Under Foot and the Brooks Family Blues Dynasty featuring Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Wayne Baker Brooks, plus Bobby Rush with “The Double Rush Revue” on Sunday July 1st. http://www.mvbs.org
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. 7/2/2012 - Peter Karp & Sue Foley • 7/9/2012 - Stone Cold Blues Band • 7/16/2012 - Bill Evans Birthday Party • 7/23/2012 - Chriss Bell & 100 % Blues • 7/30/2012 - Brandon Santini • 8/6/2012 - Matt Hill • 8/13/2012 - Rockin Johnny • 8/20/2012 - Deak Harp • 8/27/2012 -Dennis Gruenling • 9/3/2012 - Eric Guitar Davis • 9/24/2012 - The 44s • 10/1/2012 - Levee Town • 10/8/2012 - Rich Fabec 10/15/2012 - Jason Elmore. Other ICBC sponsored events at the K of C Hall, Casey’s Pub, 2200 Meadowbrook Rd., Springfield, IL from 7:30pm - Midnight - Jun 30 – Matt Hill . icbluesclub.org
The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Friends of the Blues present 2012 shows:
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
The 44s with Special Guest Kid Ramos – Americana
13 tracks / 54:44
I do not get many blues CDs from local bands, so it was cool to get Americana from The 44s, whose record company, Rip Cat Records, is in my hometown of Long Beach, California. But though this is a Southern California band they have a post-war Chicago sound, and they definitely exude a rough and raw old-school rock and blues vibe.
You will notice on the cover of their CD that it says “with Special Guest Kid Ramos”, and this phrase says a lot about what to expect from The 44s sophomore release. Kid Ramos produced Americana and provided various supporting guitar parts for many of the tracks. He became a pro when he joined James Harman in 1980 as his guitarist, and he has since worked with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Bobby Jones, and is a founding member of Los Fabulocos. But besides his guitar chops, he also brings a great ear to this project, and he is a fabulous producer.
The 44s formed in 2007, and over the past five years have matured into their own sound. They gained a lot of momentum when their first album, Boogie Disease, was released last year. This earned them a lot of attention and provided them with the opportunity to play more than 200 shows all over the U.S. and win some new fans. By the way, Boogie Disease was also produced by Kid Ramos, and supposedly cost only $800 to make.
Americana is another step forward for The 44s, and with eleven
original tracks and only two covers, there is plenty of new stuff to
hear. The originals are well-written and cover the expected subjects of
woman trouble and the consequences of poor life choices. The songs are
played by a tight 4-piece group, with Johnny Main on vocals and guitar,
Tex “The Weeping Willow” Nakamura on harmonica, Mike Turturro on bass
and J.R. Lozano on the drums. And for good measure, Ron Dziubla appears
on a few of the tracks with his saxophone.
second track, “Lady Luck”, Ron Dziubla adds his horns into the mix, and
his tasteful contributions made me wish that he had more of a presence
on this album. This track is full of rich reverb-soaked guitars, which
are a great counterpoint to the saxophone parts.
The two covers are wisely-chosen: Willie Dixon’s “You’ll Be Mine” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Mr. Highway Man”. These are both good times rocking tunes, and I hope they include these in their live set, as I plan to see them at the upcoming 4th of July festival that Rip Cat Records is putting on in Long Beach.
My favorite track on Americana is “Hard Times”, which is one of the slower and more bare bones parts of the album, because it takes the blues back to its roots. It is mostly acoustic guitar and harmonica, along with some light drum work. Main provides soulful lyrics, and he and Ramos trade some licks and have some fun guitar interplay towards the end of the track.
Americana shows that The 44s first album was no fluke, and proves that they are one of the most potent blues bands in Southern California. I hear something new every time I listen to it, and highly recommend that you get a copy of this CD (or download it from iTunes or Amazon) at your earliest convenience.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 6 of 6
Eric Bibb - Deeper in the Well
With over twenty recordings that span a career that now extends over forty years, Eric Bibb continues to search for new sounds that will satisfy his musical curiosity. He has a deep appreciation for the blues but his music has always mixed a variety of influences including folk, gospel and soul music. Bibb's songs venture into the deep, dark places that inspire many blues songs but his music always seems to move you in ways that lift the spirit without turning a blind eye to the issues of modern life.
The starting point for this recording occurred in Scotland where Bibb collaborated with the multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell on a segment for the BBC's “Celtic Connections” program last year. Using Powell's Cypress House Studio in Point Breaux, LA, Bibb brings together an impressive cast of musicians that includes Powell on a variety of string instruments, accordion & harmony vocal. Other support comes from Cedric Watson, a founding member of the Pine Leaf Boys, on fiddles & backing vocals, Danny DeVillier, a professor in the University of Louisiana music department, on drums while Christine Balfa lends a hand on the Cajun triangle. The Seattle-based harmonica player Grant Dermody has teamed up with Bibb in the past, his subtle work a fine match for the leader's music. Bibb plays numerous guitars, including a cigar box diddly bow, and a six-string banjo.
The disc opens with a swampy feel as Bibb sings about his admiration for his “Bayou Belle”, with a rolling beat from DeVillier. Harrison Kennedy's “Could Be Me, Could Be You” addresses the plight of the homeless with Watson and Dermody setting the mood with mournful tones on their respective instruments. Their fine work continues on the traditional spiritual “Sinner Man”, with a restrained vocal from Bibb. The original “Movin' Up” has a light-hearted country feel as Bibb encourages listeners to keep pushing ahead as fiddle strings dance behind his vocal. Another original, “No Further”, issues a veiled warning about the downward spiral of drug addiction.
Balfa's triangle is the driving force on “Dig a Little Deeper in the Well”, which Bibb refers to as a “hokey anthem” in the liner notes. There isn't anything hokey about the group's rendition with Bibb laying down a vocal fill of hope and encouragement. Powell and Watson supply the dueling fiddles that spark another Bibb original that finds him proclaiming his personal philosophy on “Music”. The haunting tone on “Money in Your Pocket” is in vivid contrast to Bibb's celebration of the blessings in his life, with mournful accompaniment from Powell's accordion. “Sittin' in a Hotel Room” is a gentle ode to the peace and beauty that is all around us if we just take the time to soak it all in.
Two songs honor a couple of Bibb's musical inspirations. “Every Wind in the River” was recorded by Taj Mahal in 1991. Bibb adopts a gentler approach to the vocal as the musical accompaniment steadily builds around him. Bob Dylan once encouraged a youthful Bibb to “..keep it simple, forget all that fancy stuff.” Eric does just that on a stripped-down take of “The Times They Are A Changin'”, showing that Dylan's poetry still resonates in this day and age. At the end, there is a brief pause before Dermody provides a coda, playing a tender jig on his harmonica.
The peaceful nature of Bibb's music is a welcome respite from the cacophony of noise in our daily lives. Multiple listens allow you to slowly unveil the understated power in the music and gain a true appreciation for the outstanding musical accompaniment. This one might be the best recording yet in Eric Bibb's illustrious career. Give it a listen and decide for yourself.
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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