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Issue 7-3, January 17, 2013

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Cover photo by Bob Kieser © Blues Blast Magazine 2013

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 In This Issue

Jim Crawford has our feature interview with Studebaker John. Jim Kanavy has photos and a review of a recent tribute show titled The Three Kings Of Blues by the band Gov't Mule.

We have 5 music reviews for you! Marty Gunther reviews a new retrospective album by Louisiana Red. Mark Thompson reviews a new release from Mark Robinson. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new release from Slim Butler. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new album from The Bopcats. Steve Jones reviews a new release from Mike Gray. We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!


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 Featured Blues Interview - Studebaker John

It’s a well-known fact that many of the world’s best Bluesmen have honed their chops in Chicago.

Studebaker John Grimaldi is among those who were fortunate to learn the Blues trade from the Chicago legends the rest of us read about. Grimaldi grew up listening to Chicago Blues and still makes his living doing what he does best, playing slide guitar and harmonica with his band of many years, The Hawks.

Not too many living Bluesmen can say they saw or played with or knew the legends of Chicago Blues. John mentions Buddy Guy, Jr. Wells, Big Walter, Little Walter, Muddy, Elmore James, Albert King, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield and many others in casual conversation. He’s not being pretentious; he was merely in the right place at the right time in his life and is able to talk about his experiences to an awe struck reporter.

“The Blues in Chicago goes back to Mississippi,” John says. “It’s a cross between the Delta or as some people call it, the hill country Blues, and the big city. It became electrified in the city and changed the sound completely.

“Guys started out playing solo acoustic in the Delta and when they came to Chicago looking for work they were able to play in a group with each other instead of alone,” he explains. “They were used to playing by themselves at a party or some juke joint and here the electricity created a new form. Nothing has ever been the same since. There weren’t any rules back then. By rules I mean there was no set structure to the music.

“One of the best quotes was when Sonny Boy (Williamson) went to England and those British cats complained that the songs didn’t have the right number of bars. He said ‘It’s my song and it’s gonna have any number of bars I say it’s gonna have.’ That’s the best part about the Blues. There are no rules.”

Studebaker John was born and raised in Chicago and developed an interest in music at a very early age. His father used to have a harmonica he kept around the house to play at parties and family gatherings.

“When he would go to work, I would pick it up fool with it,” John recalls. “I started playing the thing in grade school before the British invasion and then all those English guys came over here. We played surf music and instrumentals in a little band we had put together.

“Our family business helped me discover the Blues,” John says. “We were in construction plumbing and one time we had a job on Maxwell Street. I was a helper. Me and the guy I was with were down there working on an emergency call. He decided he wanted to get something to eat and I wasn’t hungry. I heard this music coming from the alley because they had Maxwell Street blocked off for a great big street fair or flea market. There were wall to wall people. The farther I went down the alley toward the street, the louder the music got. I finally got to this spot where me and about 15 other people were watching Big John Wencher playing his harmonica along with a drummer and a guitar player.”

“What made Big John so unique was he only had one arm having lost the other one in a car accident in the ‘50s or something like that. They were all plugged into the same amp. If you ever look at pictures of Jimmy Reed and some of the others onstage during that time, they were all plugged into one amp and it served as the PA, too,” he said with a laugh. “I wish it were that simple today. But that was the turning point for me is when I heard that music on Maxwell Street. I was just a young kid, 9 or 10 years old and I was just awe struck. It was so dramatic.”

“John had this little harp he was playing,” Studebaker John said. “I didn’t know they made them like that. The one my father had was one of the chromatic ones. It was a big thing and here’s this guy playing this little harmonica. I went home and forgot about it. Well, I didn’t really forget it; I just put it in the back of my mind. It took me a while to put two and two together before I saw what the harmonica could do for a band. I saw the Rolling Stones and some of those guys playing them and it just clicked in my mind. That’s when I got serious.”

Grimaldi played drums in junior high and high school and branched out into other instruments gradually.

“I finally became proficient enough on drums and the harmonica that me and a couple of other guys put a band together and I’d play the drums with one stick and the harmonica with the other,” he says. “This would only be for about two or three songs a night but you get the idea. Then I started doing vocals for some of the songs and it went from there. This was long before there was very much money involved.”

“I started fronting my own band after high school when I went to a little two-year junior college there in Chicago,” John recalls. “During that time the Blues took over and I never made it through the college. I didn’t have time for school. I’d found what I wanted to do with my life.”

“I come from a big Italian family that thought music was supposed to be played just for fun,” he says. “My parents were dead set against me playing music full time. They didn’t think you could make a living at it. I’ve often wondered if they weren’t on to something with that thinking.”

Often artists will say the Blues chose them to be a messenger. John says he chose the Blues out of love of the music.

“I always loved music,” he explains. “There were just certain songs and artists I liked and they happened to play Blues. Back then you would hear guys like Slim Harpo or Jimmy Reed on the radio. Then way over on the far right side of the AM dial there was a jazz station that played a lot of Blues. I didn’t need to listen to anything else.”

“On TV at first it was only VHF and there wasn’t much in the way of music on,” John remembers. “Then they came along with UHF and there was a program called “Red, Hot and Blue” which was kind of the black people’s answer to “American Bandstand.” They would have black artists on there a lot sometimes singing and sometimes lip-synching the lyrics. That’s just what they did in those days. It was great.”

“It wasn’t easy recruiting players for a Blues band in those days,” John says.

“Some of my friends liked the music,” he says. “Some of them started playing rock ‘n’ roll and country. It wasn’t easy keeping a band together. We used to play coffee houses and different parties and functions. Then the fraternity houses started hiring us up around Northwestern University in Chicago. Here we were kids playing for these older college students and they really dug us. They paid us a lot better than any other places we were playing. It was great.”

Then the biggest turning point happened in Studebaker John’s short career that would set the stage for the rest that followed.

“I went to an all-ages club for a show put on by Alligator Records,” John recalls. “I saw Hound Dog Taylor for the first time, and JB Hutto came in and jammed with him. The slide just blew me away. That’s when I decided to start playing the guitar. I just got to thinking what could be done with a slide guitar and a harmonica. It could be a devastating duo. The harmonica is primarily a lead instrument and it’s hard to write songs for the harmonica. I already knew a little bit about the guitar. I’d been fooling around with it for a while but after hearing the slide for the first time, I was hooked. I love the sound of the open tuning used on the slide. I guess I’d always loved that sound and never really knew what it was.”

After establishing himself as a bona fide player on the Chicago scene, John started appearing at the black clubs on Maxwell Street and other places around town.

“I was a novelty in the black clubs,” he says. “But they were very open to a white boy coming and playing their music. They just couldn’t understand why. They said “That boy must be from California. They do things like that out there.” They figured out I was serious and accepted me with open arms.”

As with every talented artist, there are highs and lows that happen along the way that either helps define them or cause them to fold their tent and go to the house.

“I guess one of the highest parts of my career is getting to play The Checkerboard Lounge, the club Buddy (Guy) had long before Legend’s,” he says. “Buddy and Jr. Wells were there and I sat in with them. Hearing Hound Dog Taylor play for the first time. Hearing and playing with Big Walter, Big Walter! I was just lucky enough to be in Chicago during the time when all of these guys were in their prime. The competition was fierce. A young guy ain’t gonna get much work with that kind of talent everywhere you went. I was around James Cotton, Jimmy Reed, Magic Sam. I sat in with Muddy’s band when they were booked into the clubs. Muddy had pretty quit much playing the clubs and was playing the big shows.”

Studebaker John also was taken in by shysters who only wanted his name on the bottom line without regard to the artist’s wellbeing.

“I regret not being a better businessman,” he says. “I made a lot of mistakes down the road. I could name a few of the people who took advantage of me but I’m not going to get into that stuff. That was then. You’d recognize their names, though. Other than that I tried to play and learn anything I could.”

“Big Walter gave me the best advice I ever got,” he says. “He pointed at himself and said “This Walter don’t sound like nobody but this Walter.” He always had a few drinks in him. He said “You got to develop your own style.” I figured out what he meant because I was imitating Little Walter. It all made sense when I thought about it.”

“It’s the same with these young guys today who all want to sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan,” John says. “There’s nothing wrong with that. Stevie was a fine player but he learned from Albert King and created his own style. Too many of these cats today mimic what they’ve heard. The young guys need to study and get the real knowledge about where this stuff came from. That’s the key. Al least in my mind.”

“I’ve had people come up to me in the clubs with a real disgusted look on their face and ask me who that was on the stereo trying to sound like Stevie Ray and it would be Albert King. That’s when I have to set them straight.”

John says he decided to start writing his own material after hearing and playing the same 13 songs night after night.

“Sweet Home Chicago,” “Mustang Sally,” I got sick of playing them,” he said. “They’re not particularly hard to play and they’re not bad songs, they’re just boring. You can’t be yourself. Right now I’m playing with two bands, The Hawks, where we do some Blues, Blues rock and straight ahead rock ‘n’roll. ”

“Then there’s The Maxwell Street Kings and we play straight up Blues, nothing else. On each of the Kings’ songs I try to put a little flavor of some of the guys who have played on Maxwell Street. I’ll put some Big Walter on one and some Elmore James on another. I want to keep their music alive. ”

“The absolute best compliment I can get is when somebody comes up to me and tells me when he hears me on the radio he knows it’s me without having to be told.”

Mission accomplished!

Visit Studebaker John's website at

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine

Interviewer Jim Crawford is a transplanted Texan and the current president of the Phoenix Blues Society. He’s a fan of lots of different types of music but keeps his head mostly planted in the Blues today. He received his first 45 rpm record, Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” at about age 8 and it stuck. He hosted the “Blues Cruise” on KACV-FM 90 in Amarillo for many years and can be found on many nights catching a good show at the Rhythm Room, Phoenix’s Blues Mecca.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Reviews 1 of 5

Louisiana Red – When My Mama Was Living (1932-2012)

Labor Records LAB 7085

16 songs – 66 minutes

When the world lost Louisiana Red at age 79 on Feb. 25, 2012, it lost its last true link to the first generation of blues superstars. His was a blues life from beginning to end. His mother died of pneumonia shortly after his birth in Bessimer, Alabama, and he was orphaned at five, when his father was hanged by the Ku Klux Klan. He bounced from orphanage to orphanage before his grandmother moved him to Pennsylvania and took him in. Like his musical forefathers, however, he didn’t stay long. By his late teens, he was already an itinerant bluesman, traveling the back roads, drifting from town to town, playing wherever he could.

And when he sang, accompanying himself eloquently on harmonica or guitar, he transported you to the Delta from the first note. Close your eyes and listen to his strong, plaintive raw-boned vocals and you can almost smell the heat cooking the fertile soil under a hot summer sun and hear the Mississippi River rippling in the background. Despite working with Eddie Burns and John Lee Hooker in Detroit in the mid-1940s and recording for the Chess label in 1949, he didn’t release his first album, “Lowdown Back Porch Blues,” until 1963. Fifty more LPs followed in his lifetime. But he grew so frustrated, he abandoned the music business in the 1970s and took a job with the Bayonne Barrel Company in New Jersey.

It was during that period that Red, born Iverson Minter, met producer/songwriter/label owner Kent Cooper during a period when he didn’t even own a guitar. The friendship produced two LPs for a subsidiary of Labor Records, predominantly a classical label, and re-launched his career. This CD is a chilling treasure trove of unreleased and alternate acoustic takes from those mid-’70s sessions. The recording captures Louisiana Red at the top of his game, and the sound quality is exceptional. Like most of the material he recorded, it’s deceptively simple in format, but extremely rich in texture. He’s accompanied on a few tracks by medicine show performer/comedian Peg Leg Sam on harmonica and Lefty Dizz, one of Chicago’s best, but most overlooked guitarists.

Among covers Rev. Gary Davis’ “You Got To Move,” the traditional “John Henry” and an acoustic version of Slim Harpo’s “King Bee” are several originals, some by Red, some by Cooper and some by the partnership they produced. Among the standouts are “Walk All Over Georgia,” “Got A Girl With A Dog Won’t Bark,” “Cold White Sheet” and “When My Mama Was Living.” As an added bonus, Peg Leg Sam is featured on two solos – “Little Susie Jane” and “I’ll Be Glad When You Are Dead You Rascal You.”

There will probably be a flood of reissues of Louisiana Red CDs in the next few months, but it will be difficult to top this one.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 2 of 5

Mark Robinson - Have Axe – Will Groove

Blind Chihuahua Records

11 tracks/43:05

For his second solo project, guitarist Mark Robinson looks to build on the success of his first recording, Quit Your Job – Play Guitar, released in 2010. That disc took a walk through the American roots music landscape, showcasing Robinson's talents as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Featuring a batch of originals and three covers, his new release finds a more confident Robinson reaching for a wider audience.

He seems to be most comfortable on the slower-paced tracks. The cover of the Doc Pomus classic, “Lonely Avenue” builds a dark mood with Robinson effectively switching between rock and jazz modes during his solo. “Blue Moon Howl” is a primal dirge that makes you feel like the Devil is right around the corner. Robinson utilizes a specially-tuned electric resonator guitar to create the eerie guitar tones. Another highlight is “Lifetime Prescription” with Robinson's sorrowful voice rattling off the trial and tribulations of his life, punctuated by his clean, fluid guitar lines. Even better is the soulful ballad “Angel of Mercy”, written by Slats Klug. Robinson sings with a laid-back, yearning intensity over an organ-drenched arrangement.

The other tracks range from the over-driven boogie riffs on the opening cut, “Drive Real Fast” to a nice tribute to Johnny Otis, “Cool Rockin' Daddy”, sparked by some hard blowing by Ben Graves on alto sax. The backing band includes a rhythm section comprised of Daniel Seymour on bass and Paul Griffith on drums, with Justin Amaral taking over on one cut. Randy Handley plays piano on four tunes while Michael Webb appears on five tracks on Hammond organ.

Robinson shares his passion for Elvis on “Baby's Gone to Memphis”, a cover of a dark, rockabilly-tinged tune about losing your woman to the ghost of the king of rock-n-roll. “Rhythm Doctor” ventures into Little Feat territory complete with a second-line beat plus fine backing vocals from Vicki Carrico and Jonell Mosser. Robinson's staccato guitar licks impress on “What's the Matter Baby” as he attempts to figure out what it will take to keep his woman happy. His musings are answered by Roguie Ray LaMontagne on harmonica.

The hard-driving “Broke Down” is one of several songs that would have benefited from stronger lyrical content. The upper register harp licks from T.J. Clay offer a fitting contrast to the jagged slide licks Robinson pulls out of his instrument. The hurtful edge in his vocal on “Pull My Coat” captures the anguish in the lyrics while his guitar drives the point home.

There are enough strong performances on this one to merit a listen. Mark Robinson once again clearly articulates his musical vision. For the most part his original material holds up to repeated listens, primarily due to his dynamic singing and his restraint from overplaying on guitar. Offering a variety of styles to hold your interest, this one is worth checking out.

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.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Live Blues Review

Gov’t Mule Pay Tribute To The Three Kings Of The Blues

Gov’t Mule is known for its New Year’s Eve shows which usually take on a theme for the second set. Past years have featured an R&B tribute called “Mule-A-Go-Go”, a Woodstock generation theme called “Winter Of Love,” and last year’s Joe Cocker tribute called “Mad Mules & Englishmen.” This year’s theme was “Three Kings” as in Albert, B.B., and Freddie.

Gov’t Mule is no stranger to the blues. They have been playing blues tracks like “Look On Yonder Wall,” “How Many More Years,” and “The Hunter” since their inception in 1994 and continue to add blues to their repertoire nearly 20 years on. For their 1999 New Year’s Eve show, the band brought out the legendary Little Milton for a hot set of greasy blues to ring in 2000. Guitarist and vocalist Warren Haynes is also a member of the Allman Brothers Band – a band that continues to expand the blues through jazzy improvisation, dueling guitars, and reconstructed song frameworks. Warren’s 2011 solo album Man In Motion is a bluesy take on Stax and Albert King style R&B which garnered him a Grammy nomination.

The second of two nights at New York City’s Beacon Theatre kicked off with a spirited first set that began with “Bad Little Doggie” and ended about an hour later with the slide guitar tour-de-force of “Brighter Days.” After about a 30 minute break, Kirk West, long time Allman Brothers Band tour mystic and historian, and friend of the Mule since 1994, introduced the second set with some history on the first King – Freddie. The band, joined for the set by the Chronic Horns – featuring Buford O’Sullivan, Pam Fleming, Jenny Hill and Steve Elson – tore into a set of five tracks from Freddie’s Burglar album. In true Gov’t Mule fashion the band avoided the obvious and went for some stellar deep tracks including “Pack It Up,” “I Got The Same Old Blues,” “Only Getting Second Best,” “Texas Flyer,” and “She’s A Burglar.” Freddie’s style on this album obviously influenced Warren Haynes and is solo band, but the Mule collective, with co-founder Matt Abts on drums, long time member Danny Louis on keyboards and relative newbie Jorgen Carlsson – who joined in 2008 – on bass, added an extra helping of grit to these “same old blues.” The audience was clearly not familiar with many of the tunes but was soon cheering as Warren channeled the spirit of Freddie King vocally and through his guitar.

The highlight of the Three Kings tribute came next, once Kirk West again shared some biographical information. Kirk also shared that Albert always knew his name and he couldn’t be more proud. They say Stevie Ray Vaughan learned a lot from Albert King but any guitar playing student of the bent note has been influenced by Albert King whether they know it or not. Warren Haynes is no exception and he poured it all out and left it all on the stage for 30 minutes of pure blues power. Armed with a Flying V guitar and a band that is capable of keeping up with him and every turn he delivered a Masters level course in Albert King that raised eyebrows, spirits, and goosebumps. Warren’s energy overflowed into the crowd which went into a frenzy brought on by wild string bending abandon. The Albert King set included a blistering 12 minute versions of “Blues Power” and “Crosscut Saw” as well as “Down Don’t Bother Me” and closer “Born Under A Bad Sign.”

The countdown to midnight came just before the B.B. King set and the ceiling erupted with balloons and confetti. The band welcomed the new year with a high-energy rendition of the U2 & B.B. King classic “When Love Comes To Town.” Nigel Hall, keyboardist for the Warren Haynes Band and who was later playing with his own band at the Blue Note, came out to sing the duet and play keyboards as Mule multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis switched to guitar. The B.B King set included more less-than-obvious choices of covers like “To Know You Is to Love You” and “I Got Some Help I Don’t Need.” The Mule rendered molten lava on “How Blue Can You Get?” as all the styles of the Three Kings oozed from Warren’s hands turning the Beacon Theatre into a Royal Pleasure Dome of Blues Guitar. It may have seemed like the apex of the set but the band brought Nigel Hall back out along with fellow Warren Haynes Band member Alicia Shakur and singer Machan Taylor – a trio affectionately dubbed the “Ass-ets“ for the evening. Together with the Chronic Horns this 11-piece Gov’t Mule soared to the heavens with a show-stopping “Hummingbird.” They brought out the influence of spirituals in B.B. King’s music offering this heartfelt tribute, showing once and for all that the blues is not for the downtrodden; it is music of inspiration, aspiration and perspiration. It was a highpoint of any Gov’t Mule show from any era.

For the third set of the night, Gov’t Mule brought out more friends to jam after a few a of their own tunes, the roaring instrumental “Thelonius Beck” and the stinging ballad “Beautifully Broken.” The Chronic Horns returned along with guitarist Oz Noy and harmonica ace Hook Herrera to keep the blues alive in the wee hours of the night closing the set with blistering versions of “The Hunter” and “How Many More Years” during which Warren accepted the harp mic from Hook Herrera and started singing through it to approximate that authentic Howlin’ Wolf rasp. The encore started around 2 am and the Mule closed the show with a Three Kings medley of “I’ll Play The Blues For You,” “The Thrill Is Gone,” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” before a closing portion of “The Thrill Is Gone.” This show was an electric blues lover’s dream and it was great way to send 2012 on its way and welcome 2013.


As with all Gov’t Mule shows, this one is available at for download. Fans of incendiary guitar, powerful rhythms and punchy horns will love this show. Happy New Year everybody!

Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 5

Slim Butler - Slim Butler’s Inner Blues

SlimCuts 1001

10 songs with bonus track; 44:22 minutes

Styles: Traditional Blues, Modern Electric Blues, Rock and Roll

When one imagines Finland, the first things that might come to mind are frigid temperatures, Scandinavian accents, and fish. Add “ hot blues” to the list as a welcome surprise, especially from songwriter and guitarist Jarmo “Slim Butler” Puhakka. As with B.B and the Blues Shacks from Germany, listeners will not surmise which country Slim’s from thanks to the international popularity, spread, and impact of this American art form.

Slim Butler’s true gifts are the flair with which he plays guitar and gifted songwriting, showcasing “Inner Blues.” The album’s two vocalists are both from U.S.A. The incredible Sugar Ray Norcia is best known for being the front man and vocalist for Boston´s legendary bands – Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, Roomful Of Blues and his own The Bluetones. Also sharing the vocal duties is a rising new star, Andrew Black from Atlanta who adds a soulful southern flavor to the mix. A scintillating guest star, Otis Grand, produced and mixed this album and added some guitar parts.

Also featured here are Butler’s native compatriots (keyboardist Juhani Vitikka, bassist Hannu Lehtomma, and drummers Markku Orislahti and Henry Valanne). The album simmers with the perfectly-balanced ingredients of up-tempo blues (Albert Collins-esque “Mr. Big Shot”), slow blues (“What You Have Done”), and blues rock earworms (“Mexican Tears”). The songs below are stunners, some of the choicest tracks of the New Year:

Track 03: “Never Lose My Soul (Over You)”--This big-band ensemble number hits all the right notes, especially with Sugar Ray Norcia on vocals. “Your face tells a story,” he slyly croons to a cheating inamorata. “Ain’t that the way it ought to be?” Playing both electric and acoustic, Slim Butler’s acoustic-guitar chords fall like summer raindrops upon listeners’ ears in the middle of the song, as do Juhani Vitikka’s musings on keyboard. The best thing about this CD’s third track is that no one musician outshines the others. All collaborate equally in this sultry gem of mid-tempo blues.

Track 07: “Hey, Bartender! (Give Me Back My Fender)”--“I hate to see you leave, but I love to watch you go.” So sings Norcia, again taking vocal lead. This oxymoron is emphasized by his request to the bartender, who has apparently confiscated his weapon of choice against heartbreak. “Let me play my blues away!” he rages, followed by the title’s ultimatum. Blues fans might involuntarily find themselves playing Stevie Ray Vaughan style (air) guitar along with Slim Butler or stomping their feet to Hannu Lehtomma’s bass backbeat.

Track 10: “I Can’t Imagine Why”—An alternate title for the final, officially-listed song on “Inner Blues” could be “Pedestal,” because that’s where slow-blues aficionados might put it once they hear it. “I Can’t Imagine Why” achieves the musical trifecta of meaningful lyrics, Andrew Black’s haunting vocals, and superb instrumentation bed-rocked by Juhani Vitikka’s organ. More than anything, this melody sets a mood of passion and despair in equal parts.

One question: Why is the album’s title track included as a bonus selection only? The instrumental may be short and sweet, running only two minutes and thirteen seconds, but Grand and Butler’s string interplay certainly deserves more than an honorable mention.

Sit back, relax, and let Slim Butler help you tap into your “Inner Blues” through this wonderful CD!

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

 Blues Society News

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Cincy Blues Society - Cincinnati, OH

Cincy Blues Society Announces 2013 Winter Blues Fest - On February 8 and 9, 2013, Cincinnati will be rocking with more than 25 blues bands. The Cincy Blues Society's Winter Blues Fest celebrates over two decades of supporting the Blues. This year's festival showcases the best local and regional Blues musicians for two nights, from 7:00 pm to 1:00 am at The Phoenix in downtown Cincinnati.

More than 25 local and regional blues bands will perform over two nights. Headlining Friday night is award-winning guitar player Sonny Moorman. Saturday night features a Cincinnati homecoming for the Nashville-based Stacy Mitchhart Band.

Buy Advance Tickets Online at the Brown Paper Tickets website for $20 (plus a $1.69 service fee per ticket) per night, or a weekend pass for $30 (plus a $2.04 service fee per ticket). Tickets will be available at the door for $20 per night, or $35 for a weekend pass. More information is available on Cincy Blues Fest's website:

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. January 21 - Groove Daddies, January 28 - Alex Jenkins, Feburary 4 - Robert Sampson & Blues Gumbo, Feburary 11 - Victor Wainwright, Feburary 18 - Hurricane Ruth, Feburary 28 - Lionel Young, March 4 - Brandon Santini, March 11 - Eddie Snow Birthday Tribute w/ Bill Evans, March 18 - TBA, March 25 - JP Soars. More info available at 

West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, W.V.

The West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. presents the return of its rockin’ annual event, the 6th Annual Charlie West Blues Fest (CWBF), Friday, May 17th and Saturday, May 18th at Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston, WV.

This free event, which has gained national attention throughout its five year history, will play host to some of the most talented and up-and-coming blues artists in the country and from around the world. The return of the legendary Ava Popovich as well as Davina and the Vagabonds will surely get you moving, and other highlighted artists include Kim Wilson & The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Magic Slim & The Teardrops and Mojo Theory, just to name a few.

The CWBF is an annual event dedicated to support wounded service members through the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP)—a nonprofit organization whose mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors. For information on sponsorships and donations contact Jack Rice, West Virginia Blues Society at (304) 389-1439or Visit

Nashville Blues Society — Nashville, TN

The Nashville Blues Society and Galaxie Entertainment are presenting a very special showcase at B.B. King's Blues Club during the IBC in Memphis, TN, on Thursday, January 31 — free to IBC badgeholders. The showcase begins at 11:30 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. and will feature internationally touring artists the McCrary Sisters, Etta Britt, Scissormen, the Andy T — Nick Nixon Band, Jesse Black, Boscoe France, Tom Buller and Just Plain Trouble. This is the third annual "Nashville Showcases the Blues" concert during the IBC presented by Galaxie and the NBS. B.B. King's is at 143 Beale Street, in the center of the action.

The River City Blues Society - Pekin, IL

The River City Blues Society (RCBS) presents Jimmy Nick & Don’t Tell MaMa on Friday January 25 from 7:30 pm – 11:00 pm at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois. Admission: $6.00 general public or $4.00 Society Members. Also RCBS presents Harper & The Midwest Kind on Wednesday February 8 from 7:00 pm – 13:00 pm at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois. Admission: $6.00 general public or $4.00 Society MembersFor more info visit: or call 309-648-8510

The West Michigan Blues Society - Grand Rapids, MI

The West Michigan Blues Society in cooperation with community supported radio station WYCE 88.1 present the 2013 Cabin Fever Blues Series. The Series will be held at Billy's Lounge 1437 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI. 616-459-5757. Music starts at 9:30 PM. The band participating this year are: February 9 - Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, February 16 - Damon Fowler, February 23 - Sena Ehrhardt, March 2 - Peaches Staten. Cover for the shows are $10.00 per show.

South Florida Blues Society - Coral Springs, FL

Annual South Florida Blues Society Pre-LRBC (Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise) party!!will be held on Saturday at 8:00pm, January 19, 2013 at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport Hilton Hotel, 1870 Griffin Road Fort Lauderdale, FL (954) 920-3300 Doors and Cash Bars open @ 7:30 pm Admission: $10.00. The party features The 44'S from10:00 pm – 1:00 am and Otis Cadillac & The El Dorados with the Sublime Seville Sisters from 8:00 - 9:30 pm.

There is also a Pre-party "Happy Hour" Poolside w/Clay Goldstein & Julius Sanna Duo (aka ToST “The Other Side Of The Tracks) from 5:00 - 7:00 pm.

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society - Champaign/Urbana, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society presents Jerry Lee & The Juju Kings on Saturday, January 19th at Memphis on Main, 55 East Main Street in Champaign, Illinois. The band is scheduled to take the stage at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $5 or $3 for blues society members.

The event is a fundraiser for the band who won our local competition and will represent PCBS at this year’s International Blues Challenge January 30 thru February 2 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Based out of Dwight Illinois, Jerry Lee & The Juju Kings is a four piece band consisting of guitar, bass, drums and piano whose high energy performances feature a combination of traditional blues and rock mixed together to create one incredible sound. The band released “Mojo Palace,” a few years back and is busy working on material for their next release.

Local favorite The Susan Williams Band another proud PCBS supporting band will open the show at 8 p.m. For more information about this event or the blues society go to

The Great Northern Blues Society - Wausau, WI

The Great Northern Blues Society is having our annual fundraiser known as the “Blues Café” on 3/9/13 in Rothschild, WI (near Wausau, WI)

Doors to the Rothschild Pavilion (1104 Park Street, Rothschild, WI) open at noon, music starts at 1:00PM with 10 hours of non-interrupted Music featuring Donnie Pick & the Road Band, Kilborn Alley Band, Grady Champion, Magic Slim & The Teardrops. Corey Stevens and Robert “One-Man” Johnson will be playing Acoustic Sets between main stage acts. There will be 4 Food vendors on site, with Cold Adult Beverages.$17 in advance - $22 at the door.  For general information, and Ticket information go to –

Minnesota Blues Society, St. Paul, Mn

Road To Memphis Fund Raiser @ Whiskey Junction (901 Cedar Ave S., Mpls, Mn, 612-338-9550) Sunday, January 20, 2013, 3 - 7 pm.

This is our last big push to raise money to help Crankshaft & the Gear Grinders and Kildahl & Vonderharr offset their travel expenses when they represent Minnesota at the 2013 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN. Harold Tremblay has assembled a musical lineup of past IBC participants including: Good Time Willy w/ John Franken, Papa John Kolstad& Hurricane Harold, Javier & the Innocent Sons, Kildahl & Vonderharr and Crankshaft & the Gear Grinders. $10.00 suggested donation More info @

There will also be a silent auction event. If you would like to help with the silent auction, please contact

The Dayton Blues Society – Dayton, Ohio

The Dayton Blues Society presents the 5th Annual Winter Blues Showcase January 26th at Gilly’s in downtown Dayton. Featured acts are 2012 DBS Blues Challenge winners The Dave Muskett Blue Show (Solo/Duo) and Blue Sacrifice (Band). This year’s headliner will be none other than The Kinsey Report. Tickets are $15 for members and $20 for non-members. For more details and to purchase tickets go to

Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford/Northern Illinois

On Sunday, January 27th Crossroads is holding a fund raiser for Hurricane Sandy and the Blues Hall of Fame. It will be at 3 PM in the American Legion Hall, 116 N Union St, Byron, IL. This will be a fun day of music, auctions, raffles and fun. Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys along with Westside Andy Linderman will be performing. $10 suggested donation to get in. Come support the hurricane relief and HOF.

Then on Monday January 28th, Reverend Raven and Westside Andy will be performing for two area schools as part of Crossroads Blues In The Schools program. They will spend and hour at each of two schools in the AM and PM. For more info see

DC Blues Society - Washington, DC

Keep your dancing shoes handy because ObamaRama II: The Final 4 takes place on Saturday, January 19 at 8 PM at American Legion Post 41, 905 Sligo Ave. Silver Spring, MD 20910 (entrance on Fenton by public parking garage). Our red, white & Blues pre-inaugural blow-out features Fast Eddie & the Slowpokes (DCBS' 2013 IBC entrant), the DC Blues Society Band and special guests. Tickets: $10 members (advance)/$12 (door) ~ $12 non-member (advance)/$15 (door). Proceeds help defray travel expenses to IBC for Fast Eddie & The Slowpokes. Info & tickets: or call 301-322-4808.

 Featured Blues Review 4 of 5

The Bopcats – 25 Years of Rock & Roll

EllerSoul Records

17 tracks / 53:24

Lindy Fralin is a household name amongst guitarists, as his custom guitar pickups are well-regarded by players that are looking to upgrade the tone of their axes. Heck, I have bought a few of his products over the years too, and they were all worth the money. But they may not know that the reason his pickups sound so good is because he is an accomplished guitarist in his own right, so he knows exactly what kind of tone is needed for live and studio performances.

Lindy formed The Bopcats a quarter of a century ago, and they have been playing out of Richmond, Virginia ever since. His current band includes Paul Hammond on drums and Steve Hudgins on bass, but over the years he has been joined by his brothers John and Gary Fralin on the keyboards, and a retinue of great bassists, drummers and horn players. They have been making their bread as a gigging band, with their recording efforts limited to a few albums in the 1980s and demo tapes for their press kits. But they recently released a neat CD, 25 Years of Rock and Roll, and it is a great overview of their work, which is rooted firmly in genuine 1950s-style rockabilly.

This CD includes seventeen tracks, eleven of which are originals. The balance of the material is carefully selected covers from the likes of Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, and the Blasters, and there is not a clunker on the album. The band’s overall sound and tone was pulled straight from the early days of rock and popular country music, and is just as pleasing fifty years later. In keeping with the vintage vibe there is only one tune that clocks in longer than four minutes.

The CD starts off with two original tracks, “I Don’t Want to Be Alone” and “Dark Train,” and right away you will hear that that these guys are adept at writing, and have nailed the rockabilly vibe. Fralin’s guitar is tight, the drums are snare-heavy, the bass is round and the keyboards support the songs well. The vocals are lightly soaked with reverb and their harmonies are spot on, making this the real deal.

The rest of their original songs are also very good, and my favorite of the bunch is “Wheels of Mine.” This tune has everything I am looking for: fun guitar parts, an upbeat tempo, and nice vocal harmonies. As an added bonus it is about cars, so what is there not to like?

Their cover tunes run quite the gamut. Even though Dave Bartholomew’s “Who Drank My Beer?” uses raging honky-tonk piano instead of horns, it still captures the spirit of the original. The Bopcats also include a respectful version of Bob Luman’s “Red Cadillac” that includes some of the most killer vintage guitar tone ever. Their cover of the Stones’ “Ventilator Blues” actually comes off better than the original, and the vocals are strikingly Jagger-esque. Dave Alvin’s “Marie Marie” plays very well, and reminds me of how much I miss the Blasters. One song that I never saw coming was a pumped up version of Johnny Cash’s “Get Rhythm.” The band managed to convert one of my least favorite songs into something that I actually like listening to. Bravo!

The best thing about The Bopcats’ 25 Years of Rock and Roll is that this collection of songs is timeless. They could have been recorded in the 1950s, during the first rockabilly renaissance in the 1980s, or today. You owe it to yourself to check out what these great musicians have put together here. It will surely put a smile on your face!

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at

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 Featured Blues Review 5 of 5

Mike Gray - Middle Distance


13 tracks

Mike Gray was born in the Boot heel of Missouri on the northern edge of the Mississippi Delta where blues, roots and gospel music were ingrained in his soul. He plays a straight up blend of electric blues with an earthy emotion. The guitar work is well done and the vocals are homey and authentic. All 13 tracks were penned by Gray.

The songs have a darker tone to their themes. “Demons” start the set, where Gray sings of the demons in the bottle, in smoke and in women that take possession of his soul. I guess you could classify this a “blues meets revival meeting” theme. “Shake Shake” follows and tells us about the dancer he follows home who he entices to continue to shake, shake. “Up To No Good” is another story about women with bad intentions and reputations who tell men what they want to hear. More lying women follow in “Don’t Know the Reason Why” and then we get to “Good People Done Bad,” a slow tune that builds into how those good people messed up. Dark themes, for sure; I was not keen on it to start but it grew and grew on me.

A twangy guitar takes over next on “Blind on the Inside” and Gray continues his dark trip. “The Struggle” is more of the quest for the promised land. “Get Loud” is a cool big boogie woogie cut while “Bad Luck” tells us more of misfortunes. “Comin’ Home” offers a little upbeat topic about going home to his woman.

“Lonely”, “We’ll Be Runnin” and “Bag of Evil” end the set for Mike. “Lonely” features more driving guitar while “We’ll Be Runnin’’ is somewhat the same as Joy announces here of his intents. The final songs has Gray with a throbbing beat where the evil right behind won’t leave him alone.

Gray seems afflicted with demons, relations gone bad, and the struggle of good over evil. The theme here is clear and his approach to the tunes has him along with a bass and drum offering simple yet effective melodies. As I said, this album grew on me but it’s not something to listen to if you wanted to be lifted up high, although one can feel better in that Mike is singing of people and relations far worse than most are in so we can take some solace.

Mike sings of troubles running deep and he does so effectively. I could have used some bigger, more upbeat breaks here and there, but he perhaps uses beat and tempo to do that in his model. All in all, it’s a dark and interesting 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

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