Issue 7-15, April 11, 2013
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Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2013
In This Issue
Jim Crawford has our feature interview with Rory Block. Bob Kieser has Part 2 of the review from the memorial tribute show for Magic Slim.
We have eight music reviews for you! Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Italian sensation Linda Valori. John Mitchell reviews a new release from RJ Knapp & Honey Robin. Mark Thompson reviews a new album from Richard Studholme. Jim Kanavy reviews a new live release from Eric Gales. Marty Gunther reviews a new release from Jimmy Wolf. Gary weeks reviews a CD from Freddie Roulette. James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new album by David Maxwell. Rhys Williams reviews a new CD from Grady Champion. We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Interview - Rory Block
After reading accounts of the life of iconic Blueswoman Rory Block, it becomes evident her story would make the basis for a good movie.
Her life has all of the elements: raised by bohemian parents in New York; rebellious teen years; wanderlust that carried her to the West Coast during the height of the hippie or counter culture revolution; trials and tribulations of a female musician trying to make it in a man’s world in the 1970s; struggles for recognition for her work, not her good looks; and finally ascending to the top of the Blues charts and being recognized as one of the leading ladies in a genre normally dominated by men.
It’s been a long road and Rory Block is still determined to “keep on keeping on.”
Rory was born in New Jersey in 1949 to bohemian parents who preferred living an unconventional lifestyle off the grid deep in the woods. The family struggled financially but survived and after a while her father moved the family (now consisting of Rory and her older sister Mona) to the historic SoHo (then called Little Italy) section of New York City.
There her father set up a leather goods shop where he made sandals, belts, bags and other assorted leather goods. She said her father’s shop was so small he spread his goods on the sidewalk and made his wares outside in front of the store. After a while be became famous in the city for his craftsmanship. Rory relates in her story about how exciting and intoxicating the sights and sounds of the big city were to two young girls in the 1950s.
“We mustn’t forget that the times were really different,” Rory recalls. “We didn’t have all the restrictions that we have today. We didn’t have to have helmets when we rode bicycles. We didn’t have to have this. We didn’t have to have that.
“It was really comparatively, very free, she says. “I would walk out the door and nobody knew where I was. There was no cell phone. There was no way to check in. And no one asked me what time I was coming home. In that day and time I had so many adventures that most people can’t have now.
“They have different types of adventures now. They have web site adventures. Or their thing on You Tube got 4 million hits. Those could be called adventures I suppose. I also know that people try to come up with extreme adventures now that make them hip.
“You can’t have the adventures like we did any more. You couldn’t have Jesse James or Stack Lee because they would be under surveillance before they stepped out their front door,” she says with a laugh. “You can have the historic brothers’ gang doing what they did and then we write big songs about them. Those things can’t happen anymore because everything is technology based. Or it’s getting reported on Facebook and you getting arrested.”
The ‘50s also saw the advent of the beatnik culture and her parents were included because they wore sandals in a world of shoes.
“Other people called them beatniks,” Rory recalls. “I didn’t even know what that word was. My father was a leather craftsman and he happened to have sandals for sale and belts for sale and bags that he made. And somehow or other that got judged as beatnik. At that time, the stereotype of a beatnik was the first image of a hippie.
“At that point a beatnik was somebody with a beret, bongos, sandals with a striped shirt on,” she says. “It was a very silly stereotype. Compared it to my dad, it didn’t fit him at all, but that’s what people said because he had sandals that he made. We wore the sandals that our father made and those things were unusual in the 1950s along with the fact that we were wearing them.
“People were saying ‘Oh, you’re a beatnik.’ And I’m like ‘What is that?’ Looking back it guess is was fun.”
The arts were always part of Rory’s family life. She spent her spare time roaming the streets playing a $4 guitar her mother bought her. She said nothing mattered more to her than her music.
“The guitar was an instrument of wonder and joy, a best friend,” she says in her life story. By the age of 14 she was jamming with various pickers at regular gatherings, some of whom would become famous in their own right during the folk music boom in the early ‘60s. Then Rory heard the music that changed her life -country Blues- and she became obsessed.
By the middle of her 10th grade she decided she was done with school and she and three others headed for the West Coast meeting with initial resistance from her parents in a futile attempt to keep her in school.
“Nobody was restricting me,” she says. “They were busy with their own lives. Yeah, they tried to stop me from quitting school. They tried to stop me at first, but then they just couldn’t do it. I just ran away. I left town with my boyfriend and we hitchhiked and we made it to the West Coast. Bottom line is, we made it to the West Coast and back and I never came back home after that. That was it.
“It was easy but yet, it wasn’t an easy life to live. It was easy to leave.”
She and her boyfriend spent time in Berkeley where all sorts of music, political opinions, art, and poetry gatherings were on every corner and in every coffee house. Also, the drug culture was very prevalent during those times and young Rory chose not to involve herself in that part of the scene.
“I wasn’t interested in drugs and that’s the bottom line,” she says with finality. “If that seems amazing all I can say is I was never interested in drugs. Understandingly, there was a huge drug scene, and I was watching it, but it wasn’t for me. I’ve always thought reality was the greatest high of all.”
Rory says there had been little or no support while she was growing up for actually having a career... it was all part of being trained that there was something inherently wrong with being female and driven, female and talented. Girls weren't obsessed with music. That was masculine. But she was determined to show them that she could make it in a male-driven industry.
The glass ceiling was a huge obstacle she had to encounter to prove herself.
“It was a big problem, especially in the ‘70s when I first started out,” Rory recalls. “Here’s an example of the bias. I had an album before Rounder (Records, her label of many years) and I learned that if you’re a “chick” singer, as were called in those days, you had much less opportunity to be played on the radio because the general attitude was you can play male singers all day long but you can only play one female singer and then you have to go back to male singers. To play three or four back to back by females that would somehow not work for your programming. It was a weird bias. I noticed this from the beginning.
“It was even worse when a female wanted to get into the production side of the business,” she said. “I started producing my own when I got with Rounder but before that there was a huge objection to that. If a woman would say ‘let’s do another take, that wasn’t quite what I’m looking for,’ then the “B” word came in to describe you. If you were a man you could to all the takes you wanted. There was nothing wrong with that. To this day there is still a bias. (It’s) still there. Still alive.
Back in the day Rory says female sexuality and attractiveness played an active role in advancement in the business. Female artists were pressured how to act and look. Females were supposed to be a “babe” with radio people, DJs, production people, publicity people.
“I thought I’m never gonna make it because I’m just not into that sort of stuff,” she says. It came to me right away, ‘I’m not cool.’ I didn’t want to smoke a joint with the DJs or hang out with them. With me it’s what you see is what you get.
“Today we have the internet for publicity but I still see too much focus on the wrong issues in many ways, Rory says. “Then there are artists like Bonnie Raitt who only goes for the real thing and has always been that way. As female artists we fight back and can only give you what we do and love to do. Nothing else.”
Throughout all the trials and tribulations Rory has remained true to her roots despite rejections and perceived failures.
“I’ve been discouraged many, many times,” she reflects. “Then I have to take stock of things. Wait a minute. There are so many ways to get famous now that bypass the power of work and the route that a lot of us took who are in my age generation. So may artists out there, and I won’t name any names, who have worked since the early ‘60s and have now become well known. And they had to put in all those years. It’s not like that anymore. Now we can become an overnight sensation.
“I noticed when videos first came out however many years ago that was, that if you heard the song without seeing the video it was one thing, she said. “Then the video changed it completely. The Hollywood image became involved. Things that were not music were used to promote music. I was put out by that. I was like ‘Hey, not every one of us has the dollars to put out there to do that stuff.’ Unless we could get into the video thing we could get left behind. And there’s some truth to that but if you keep plugging and keep doing what you do for the reasons that you do it and you keep faithful in that, it works out. I have to remind myself of that. I have to remind myself,, ‘Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Just keep doing it the way you do it. Look at the reward you’ve gotten. Look at the wonderful people that come to your shows. (Look at) the way you feel when you record music. When you play it. When you perform. Do what you do. You’re lucky. Don’t fret about anything.’ That’s when I’m better off. Even when you get discouraged, I don’t know a better way to keep on keeping on.”
Rory spent many years with Rounder Records before parting ways with them and now records for Stony Plain Records. She said her years with Rounder were some of her most productive and rewarding, especially in the earlier parts of her career.
“Things started to turn around I would say when I got the hit song in Europe,” she said. “I was recording for a wonderful label. They gave me total artistic freedom. I had had experience with bigger labels where artistic freedom was severely limited. If I even had any at all. All of the decisions, from the music to the background singers came from the executives of the label.
Then I went to Rounder Records thinking ‘OK, my career’s over.’ There’s been many times I thought my career was over and that was a biggie. It was way back in the ‘70s that I thought my career was over but then when I talked to Rounder I said ‘Should I give you a radio-friendly album?’ They said ‘Don’t worry about that. We just want an album you think is beautiful. Record whatever you want and hand it in.’ And I handed it in and they said ‘We love it.’
“And I thought ‘This is too good to be true. I don’t care if I sell two records to have this kind of relationship with my record company.’ As it happened, that record did very well. It was called “High Heel Blues.” John Sebastian produced it and it got a wonderful review in Rolling Stone. So you just never know what’s gonna happen. I just decided I’m gonna do my thing. I’m not going to worry about trying to be this or trying to be that. If I try I probably can’t be someone I’m not anyway. I stayed with Rounder and they kept giving me support for giving them artistically honest records. I went back to my roots, back to my Blues. I was happy.
“Next thing I know one of my originals got big in Europe, Rory recalls. “And then it was ‘Congratulations, you have a gold record.’ And that was like, ‘I don’t believe it.” I flew to Europe and did a tour in Holland. When I got there it was like the whole world, the fan base was absolutely wonderful. Respect. And when I came back home everything went up a notch. The record company started selling all of the previous records and we went into the black after we’d been in the red. It’s very hard to get into the red when you’re on a label and now when you do it yourself at home on the computer that’s a different entity. You spend a lot less and you can do whatever you want but we didn’t have those options in those days. We had studios that charged you by the hour. It cost a lot of money. People were out there making records and by the time they were done it might have cost them a half a million dollars. And the idea of paying that back was minute even if you had a hit, some of the artists from the ‘70s or ‘80s will tell you, you might not pay back the budget of a recording even with a hit. This is the way things were in those days.
“When I got back home with my gold record from Holland I got a check from my label,” she says now still with a touch of wonder in her voice. “Now that was something, and I had paid back four earlier records. The budget for four in a row was paid back and there was a check. It was like, hard to believe, but it happened. Then I had to keep on keeping on, making more records, I started getting nominated for awards. The record company continued to stand behind me and told me to just keep doing what I was doing. They told me not to change because the music was coming to me. I started getting nominated for WC Handy Awards and then I started winning them.
“Over time things just came. And that’s what I’ve learned. Just hang on there and do what you do and do it because you love to do it and the end result will take care of itself. If we made other people happy in the process, that’s very, very nice.”
Currently Rory is working on her fourth installment of a box set entitled “The Mentor Series” where she features the music of some of her heroes.
“The first record won Acoustic Blues Album of the Year,” she said. “It’s called “The Lady & Mr. Johnson”. Although I never met Robert Johnson, I consider him a. mentor. I met Son House who was a mentor and teacher to Robert Johnson. With those two you can trace to all of the major types of Blues styles. The first two records planted a seed in my head. My label is really into it. We’re working on the fourth CD.
“At the time I thought ‘Everybody knows Mississippi John Hurt. Everybody knows Skip James.’ It became a thank you process that I was embodied with my Mentor Series. And I was also very, very lucky to have known those players. I thought ‘this is really my life’s work.’ It’s really a culmination of my life’s work. I may never do another CD after my Mentor Series but it feels like a very important completion of who I am and to say think you to Son house, Fred McDowell, Rev. Gary Davis. The latest one I’ve just started is Mississippi John Hurt. We’re about two thirds through that recording. I’d like to get up to about six recordings before we think it’s a good representation for a box set.”
The ever-humble Rory Block said she doesn’t think she’s qualified to comment on future of the Blues or music in general.
“Everything that has happened has been unpredicted change,” she says. “I will say this, I decided to do my part into turning Blues into a major revival. It’s my own personal motive started way back with the “High Heel Blues” recording for Rounder records. Everybody said ‘This is not commercial. You’ll never make it doing Blues for Rounder, why don’t you do rock ‘n’roll?’
“I am going to say that this music is in a state of revival,’ she declares. “I’m going to believe in this. I’m going to tell people the Blues is experiencing a revival. I’m going to act like a star. I’m going to raise my hands up at the end of the night when I bow. I’m going to make this thing be important. Not just me, but acoustic music. I’m going to do my part. I’m going to say who wrote the song before I do it. I’m going to make this as important as I can to as many people as I can reach.
“I will not give up on it…ever. That’s the only thing I can tell you for sure.”
Visit Rory's website at www.roryblock.com.
Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2013
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.
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Featured Blues Review 1 of 8
Linda Valori - Days Like This
LeART World Music
What do you get when you mix a little bit of jazz and blues divas Martha Reeves, Ruth Brown, and Sarah Vaughn together with old school Pier Angeli and opera’s Cecilia Bartoli together with an good amount of original talent? Well, you just might get something like this young lady, Linda Valori.
Valori is 34, was born in San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy, and she continues to live in that area today. Her father is Italian, her mother Romanian, she has a degree in teaching psychology, but her passion is singing. Competing in bigger and bigger vocal competitions since 1995, she was “discovered” at the San Remo festival in 2004 and has gained popularity in Italy and across Europe singing blues, opera and a host of genres in between.
Working with Larry Skoller in Chicago, she has produced her first album, a collection of Chicago blues and very old-school R&B. One can hear the passion and feeling in her voice as she opens the CD with the title track, a Van Morrison piece that is transformed into an early 60’s girl group R&B classic by Valori. Her voice is powerful, husky, and filled with emotion, just wanted to declare that when things are not going wrong we can revel because “there will be days like this.” Shifting gears, the second track is where Valori attempts to overcome the aches of a lost lover in “Pain.” With her voice blazing like a trumpet, one believes her every statement. Mike Wheeler joins in on a big guitar solo on “I Idolize You” and again on “I Smell Trouble.” His guitar is as passionate as Valori’s intense vocals, whether jumping to the former tune or growling out slow blues in the latter. I smell trouble for Bobby Rush; move over, Linda Valori is in the house!
Janis Joplin’s “Move Over” get’s an R&B makeover and Linda is convincing with a voice that grabs your lapels and your head is moving up and down when she says “Come on baby, let me be, let me be!” There is also some solid harp here and a nice solo, too. The Ike Turner classic “The Way You Love Me” gets a swinging cover and Valori’s voice growls and makes a statement. She gets quite soulful in “So Doggone Good” and Luca Giordano adds a nice guitar solo. The final track “If I Can’t Have You” is spectacular and features Linda in a duet Mike Avery and is one of the tracks featuring fabulous the horn section of Marqueal Jordan on tenor sax and Doug Corcoran on baritone sax and trumpet.
All of the above and the few other tracks make for a vibrant and beautiful initial effort. Valori’s vocal are like butter when she needs to be, but they can also bowl you over and flatten you like a bluesy steamroller when she wants to. This girl can sing! Her band is up the task, too, providing a great backdrop for this singer. Keith Henderson on guitar, Tim Gant on keys, Billy Dickens on bass. Khari Parker on drums and Joe Rendon on percussion are the core group who provide a great framework for each song. Vincent Bucher’s harp is poignant on his tracks and Larry Skoller on guitar along with the other soloists are solid and add great depth.
I’m sold on this gal. As I write this, I found out she is currently in the Chicago area, so I am trying to figure out when I can get to see her live. This is a great new artist who will light the blues world on fire. I am sure that America will fall in love with her as her homeland and Europe already have. Highly recommended!
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 2 of 8
RJ Knapp & Honey Robin – Don’t Blame The Dynamite, If You Can’t Light The Fuse!
Critical Sun Recordings
15 tracks; 60 minutes
RJ Knapp was born in Chicago but has been on the Seattle scene for 30 years. This CD is almost entirely original material written by RJ with occasional assistance from Honey Robin Mahaffey (‘The Canary’) who sings backing and some lead vocals.
RJ (‘Blast Master’) handles most of the lead vocals and the guitar. The rhythm section also sport nicknames and provide b/v: Rob Baker (‘Powder Monkey’) is on bass and Rick J Bowen (‘Dr. Demo’) plays drums.
Lead-off track “I Call It The Bluz” is blues-rock with some powerful chords heralding the lyrics which demonstrate some touches of humour: “Don’t call me no rock and roller, I ain’t some funky white boy. Call it what you want to; me, I call it the blues”. Similarly “Don’t Let Your Mind Be Writing Checks” has the line “…that your mind can’t cash” after the title. Indeed, RJ demonstrates an ability to turn an amusing line on several of the songs here and “If The Blues Was Money” has some excellent opening slide work.
However, RJ’s deep, gruff voice (think Omar And The Howlers) does not always make for easy listening. Robin takes over the lead on just two songs, both quieter ballads. Her clear and deep voice sounds as if she was trained in the classical traditions and offers a contrast to RJ’s.
“Bus Stop Bluz” was a frustrating listen as RJ’s lyrics produce some very forced lines, allied to some irritating sound effects (boats, seagulls, planes, buses, etc). “Kirkland Krawl” is about a traffic black spot with a very repetitive riff and chorus; unfortunately the band decided that perhaps the title would not be meaningful to all, so a bonus track appears under the title “Concrete Crawl (for those outside the great NW)”!
RJ produces some strong guitar riffs across these 15 tracks, there are some nice touches of humor in the lyrics and it is always good to see bands producing original material.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. Current favorites from recent releases include Michael Burks, Little Feat, Sugar Ray and The Bluetones, Albert Castiglia, Johnny Rawls and Doug Deming.
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Featured Blues Review 3 of 8
Richard Studholme - Life
While the advances in recording technology and lower prices for cd production allow almost anyone to release a recording, the downside of these advances is that the amount of available music has expanded exponentially. There are plenty of talented musicians in the world, each working hard to find an audience for their music. The sad fact is that no matter how much you buy or listen to, there will be deserving recordings that slip by unnoticed.
It would be a shame if the latest by British guitarist Richard Studholme was one of the releases that fell on deaf ears. A self-professed product of the musical revolutions that ranged from the 1950's until the early 70's, Studholme spent the 90's working for the JSP label on recordings by the likes of Hubert Sumlin, Louisiana Red, Eric Bibb, and Carey Bell. His third solo project is a loving tribute to the music that captured his heart and inspired his career.
The opener, “How Ya Doin' “, establishes a easy-going groove that Studholme punctuates with some stinging guitar licks. The arrangement is bolstered by a strong statement from the horn section comprised of Kevin Robinson on trumpet & flugelhorn, Patrick Clahar on tenor sax & flute and Trevor Mires on trombone. All three are alumni of the acid jazz group Incognito. Next, Studholme tackles the instrumental “2120 South Michigan Avenue”. Powered by Andy Newmark's driving beat, the track takes off during Josh Phillip's's organ solo only to lose a bit of steam as Studholme's solo fails to go anywhere.
The leader shows his soulful side on Roy Lee Johnson's “Love is Amazing” with a wistful vocal that floats over Jim Leverton's thick bass line and Phillips' lush organ chords. The band rocks harder on another Johnson tune, “She Put the Whammy to Me”, with Studholme firing off a hearty solo. Throughout the disc, additional vocal support comes from Leverton, Nico Ramsden, Aloma Reid, Tom Jaworski, and Hamish Stuart. Their presence is particularly notable on a solid cover of the Smokey Robinson classic, “You've Really Got a Hold on Me”. One of Studholme's strongest performances comes on “I Just Go”, a Boz Scaggs ballad that he sings with a world-weary tone over a bleak musical landscape.
Studholme's other originals include the hypnotic “Gotta Get Right” with another dynamic horn chart while “Little Mystery” boasts a seductive rhythm and plenty of the leader's subtle guitar work. “Working on the Bottom” adopts a soulful strut as Studholme bemoans his inability to make his way in the world. Once again, tight ensemble work by the horns spark the proceedings. Studholme tries to balance those thoughts with a Leverton composition, “New Day”, a ballad that looks forward to a better day.
While the disc only has a few blues influences, it does a great job of presenting the many facets of American roots music. Studholme resists the urge to make this a “guitar” disc with lots of lengthy solos. Instead he stays focused on vibrant material with tight arrangements that certainly pay homage to the music he loves. Plenty to enjoy on this one!.
Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years - just ask his wife!
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Featured Blues Review 4 of 8
Eric Gales - Live (CD & DVD)
Blues Bureau International
12 tracks; 74 minutes
About 22 years ago, Eric Gales was heralded as a child prodigy on guitar and the second coming of Jimi Hendrix. While the former is accurate, the latter is not. No one will ever be the second coming of Jimi Hendrix unless they completely change the way guitar is used, recorded, and played in the context of modern music. It’s an unfair label at best, impossible to live up to, and a heavy weight to carry especially for a 16 year old kid. The comparison certainly says something about his chops and inventiveness though, and through the ups and downs of his career, Eric has developed his guitar playing and songwriting to a point that his own personality and spirit are shining through. He has become Eric Gales.
Eric’s latest set is a live CD and DVD on Blues Bureau International, simply titled LIVE. The label has been spotlighting some its brightest talent with recent live collections and providing video evidence that these guys really are that good. “The Open Road” starts the album slowly with some distorted warm-up guitar licks that morph into a loping shuffle that continues for a few minutes until the three minute mark when Gales kicks it into high gear and with a withering solo that flashes bright, leaves spots on your eyes and then drops right back into the shuffle. It proves that Gales is there to play and that he is not just a one trick pony who plays as fast and flashy as he can leaving scorched earth behind and nothing more. He can be flashy, he can be fast, but he is tasteful, plays with restraint when needed and becomes unhinged when the spirit moves him.
The spirit moved him intensely on his personal tale of woe “Freedom From My Demons.” This slow blues confessional is from the heart and soul. He desperately tries to stomp the demons to death with his guitar playing. These blues don’t soothe the savage beast; they incinerate it in a blast of fretboard fire. Gales go from the lowdown blues to the upbeat funk of “Make It There” without losing a step and “Wings Of Rock And Roll” is a nine minute exploration of the Eric Gales school of guitar. The clean tones, the raunchy grit, the flash, the deft chorded riffs, and searing bent notes are all here. This is a decidedly un-rock and roll tune. It is a blues prayer through and through, and Gales plays and sings for all he’s worth.
Jimi Hendrix comparisons will probably always be made in conversations about Eric Gales, and one comparison that isn’t so daunting is their singing styles. Jimi had a talk/sing style and capitalized on the strengths of his limited vocal abilities. Eric Gales does the same. He is not a bad singer, but he is not in the league of Bobby “Blue” Bland either. His voice is adequate. He gets his point across and the songs he writes, often with producer Mike Varney, suit his style. He doesn’t over-reach or over-sing, and he doesn’t force it. He sounds natural and comfortable with his own voice and he lets the guitar do most of the talking anyway.
For those who have never seen Eric Gales play, the DVD is a great way to absorb his technique. Eric is right-handed but learned to play left-handed from his brothers. He also plays with the guitar strung for a right-hander, with the low strings on the bottom ala Albert King and Otis Rush. Perhaps because he’s right-handed, his left hand never looks too comfortable yet he picks and strums incredible patterns and he is truly a wonder to watch.
The CD/DVD set contains fourteen songs in all, with eleven songs overlapping. Only the DVD has “Railroaded” and “Transformation” but not “Wings Of Rock And Roll” – which is a shame, I’d really like to see that one. Altogether, this live set is a comprehensive summation of Eric Gales’ music to date. He mixes styles from slow burning blues like “Dark Corners Of My Mind” to rollicking riff rockers like “The Liar” and ‘Retribution” without becoming disjointed. He mixes up his tones and attack, creating moods as much as he is music. The moods of Eric Gales on LIVE are sure to move you. Eric is in fine form and LIVE should please his fans and guitar fans of all shapes and sizes around the globe.
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 http://jimkanavy.com.
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Featured Blues Review 5 of 8
Jimmy Wolf – A Tribute to Little Johnny Taylor
Red Reverend Records
10 songs – 45 minutes
Guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Wolf delved deeply into the treasure trove of soul/blues legend Little Johnny Taylor for this lovingly self-produced CD. A member of the Turtle Clan Mohawk nation from Rome, N.Y., Wolf spent five years immersed in the Memphis blues scene, where he was a Beale Street regular. He toured with two guitar legends – St. Louis’ Larry Davis, author of “Texas Flood,” and Chicagoan Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins – in addition to backing Taylor on the six-string and appearing regularly in Handy Park with Big-T, Jimmy Ellis, Fred Saunders, Ringo Jukes, Levi Williams and others. This is his eighth CD on the Red Reverend imprint.
Little Johnny was one of the most distinctive song stylists of ‘60s and ‘70s. An Arkansas native who was a former member of the Mighty Clouds of Joy gospel group, he possessed a strong, nasal tenor attack and displayed perfect timing behind the beat. He’s often confused with the Windy City singer of the same name -- whose hits included “Who’s Making Love To Your Old Lady,” but he was an outstanding songwriter himself, contributing the classic “Part Time Love,” which was the No. 1 R&B song in the U.S. in 1963, as well as “You’ll Need Another Favor” and “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing.”
Jimmy Wolf, meanwhile, is a four-time nominee as best blues artist in the Native American Music Awards. He’s was a featured performer at the Smithsonian Institute’s opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in 2004, and he’s shared the stage with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Millie Jackson, Albert King, Johnny Copeland and Albert Collins, among others. He’s also a former recipient of the First Nations Composer & American Composers Forum Grant for outstanding performance and lasting contribution.
Backed by Thomas “T.C.” Carter on bass, Joe “Lawd Deez” Cummings on keyboards and Stephen “Rhythmcnasty” Bender on drums, he covers all three of those Taylor classics on this disc, as well as seven more: “Walking The Floor,” “Hard Head,” “Zig Zag Lightning,” “Junkie For Your Love,” “Sometimey Woman” and “On My Way Back Home.” The only classic he’s omitted is the chittlin’ circuit favorite, ”Open House At My House.”
Don’t expect a note-for-note cover on this one, however. Wolf is a blues/rock guitarist with a down-and-dirty Delta feel. His chainsaw guitar attack replaces all of the horn fills on the originals, giving the entire work a fresh, modern approach. And his voice is in overdrive for the entire session while maintaining a soulful edge.
In a music scene dominated by B.B. King, Rufus Thomas and many more, Little Johnny Taylor flew under the radar as one of Memphis’ true treasures. Jimmy Wolf has served him well in this tribute.
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.
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Featured Blues Review 6 of 8
Freddie Roulette – Jammin With Friends
Release – Self Independent
One of the benefits of being a musician who releases a self-independent release is coming out with material that satisfies them and not catering to the demands of a major record label. Not to mention they can have any major league or obscure players that can help put them in the spotlight.
Lap steel guitarist Freddie Roulette may not be a familiar name to the blues community. With his aptly titled CD “Jammin With Friends,” he is able to come out with a solid piece of work that not only reflects his love for the blues but proves to be an enjoyable listening experience and it’s a piece of work that can have many repeated listening’s and truth be known there’s not a duff track among the lot.
Essentially it’s a covers album and of course there are some tracks that the world has a heard a million times over. With a wide ranging ensemble cast of players casting their bread on the waters it won’t make much of a difference because musical quality wins the day.
The list of players making their appearance is too long to list here. There are a few names some might be familiar with. Guitarist Harvey Mandel who appears on several tracks was thrust into the spotlight when he played in Canned Heat (You can catch his appearance forever immortalized in the legendary Woodstock film). Barry Melton who guests on “Key to the Highway” is another legendary figure and you can also catch in the Woodstock Movie playing with Country Joe and the Fish. Keyboardist Pete Sears who has credentials playing with Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship also shows up lending support.
The intent of these players is not to outshine Roulette. This is akin to any blues jam you can catch across the country: A loose knit session of a gang getting together to having some fun in the studio.
Against many records coming out with strong endorsements from major labels such as Ruf Records, Alligator Records and Blind Pig, this might have to bear the brunt of not being too strong a blip on the radar. But an optimist keeps their fingers crossed that someone like Roulette will catch someone’s attention. The man can make a lap steel sing and can do it damn well. Its greasy well-oiled groove works nicely with the late Kathi McDonald’s vocals in the sultry glowed “Directly From My Heart to You.” Roulette himself as a vocalist isn’t a bad one but it’s those sinewy crawling lap steel lines that captivate you and they are wreathed in thick hickory smoke in a laid back version of “Key to the Highway” and really come to life in the chicken house boogie of “Mojo.”
Another name that might ring a bell is vocalist Davey Pattison. Pattison got his taste of fame singing with guitarist Ronnie Montrose and has sung with British guitar legend Robin Trower on and off throughout the years. Pattison might have already hit senior citizen status but you would never know it as he belts out the Lowell Fulson classic “Reconsider Baby” with enough youthful gusto to make you realize why Trower hires him as his lead vocalist.
The constant fixture in these sessions is drummer/producer Michael Borbridge who appears on all tracks but one. Sure it’s a lot of musical chairs being played and plenty of rotating personnel to give a slight migraine. That’s all forgiven as this piece of work more than proves to be relaxed listening for blues lovers who are not looking to get catapulted into the heavens with over-driven blues rock. This is one blues jam you wouldn’t mind coming to town.
Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
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Featured Blues Review 7 of 8
David Maxwell - Blues in Other Colors
Blue Duchess / Shining Stone Records
13 songs; 56:58 minutes; Meritable
Styles: Fusion Music; World Music; Blues
When it comes to contemporary Blues pianists, David Maxwell ranks among the top. Now in his fourth decade as a solo artist, composer, band mate, and session player, the Grammy and multi-award winner has recorded with and appeared with Blues legends like Otis Spann, Louisiana Red, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Freddie King, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker, Lowell Fulson, and Junior Wells.
“Blues in Other Colors,” however, is an eclectic foray into foreign musical cultures that isn’t for the Blues purist, but one worthy of Maxwell’s endless ambition. It is an all-instrumental album of 13 original tracks that represents a respectful and inventive melding of traditional Blues with the clearly-Blues styling from other countries. Instruments used, in addition to piano, guitar, bass and drums, hail from West Africa, India, Turkey and Morocco bringing their influences with them helping to transcend the traditional boundaries of the Blues. Joining Maxwell in the studio is Canada’s multi-instrumentalist artist Harry Manx, noted for study of Indian music, who contributes string work on a Mohan Veena on five tracks, including the ethereal "Harry's Raga."
Maxwell reported, This album “represents a snapshot of the melding of traditional Blues with music from other countries to which I've been drawn." "There is a Blues sensibility in the vocal and instrumental folk and classical music from many places around the world. For instance, one can 'feel the Blues' in some of the traditional music of Spain (flamenco), Northern and Western Africa, many countries in what is referred to as the Near and Middle East, as well as parts of Asia, India and Japan. This album came together when I approached Harry Manx from British Columbia about doing a project together. He was touring in the Northeastern US and we arranged for some studio time. Harry is a stellar singer and songwriter with award-winning CDs, who plays, among other instruments, the Mohan Veena, a kind of hybrid guitar/sitar. I fleshed out a few arrangements and called up some friends who live in the Boston area, too. So, we have an Oud and Raita player from Morocco (Boujmaa Razgui), a Turkish Ney player (Fred Stubbs), a master percussionist of West African and Indian styles (Jerry Leake), an inventive blues guitarist who is a regular member of my blues band (Troy Gonyea), a drummer (Eric Rosenthal) and a bass player (Marty Ballou), with whom I've played many gigs from blues, jazz and beyond. Paul Kochanski (electric bass) and Andy Plaisted (additional percussion) completed the picture."
The result is an unusual collection that flows from free-form Indian trance meditation music to a couple of recognizable Blues tunes, “Cryin’ the Blues,” with Maxwell and electric guitarist Troy Gonyea, and “Rollin’ On” – an up tempo number with the usual guitar/piano/bass/drums format. Listeners need an open mind and a sense of adventure away from standard sounds, for example Chicago Blues, or danceable boogies. If you are an appreciator of originality and are in the mood for something different, then this is an album for you..
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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Featured Blues Review 8 of 8
Grady Champion – Tough Times Don’t Last
Grady Shady Music
12 tracks – 50 minutes
Grady Champion kicks off his new album with the classic 12-bar shuffle “My Time Baby”, a song about leaving his lover (“It’s my time baby, you have done all you can do, well, you’ve had too many chances and you know what? I’m done with you.”). It would also however serve equally well as the title of this album, his seventh. Everything about this release suggests an artist who is ready to step up to the Major League. The 12 self-penned songs cover a wide range of styles, from the modern soul of “Missing You” to the Chic-influenced “Ghetto” and the Howlin’ Wolf-esque one-chord stomp of “Cookie Jar” in which Champion asks the rhetorical question: “Who’s had their hand in my cookie jar?” There are also 12 different musicians who appear on the recording, but there is a coherence and consistency to the songs and their performances that ensures the differing styles do not clash but rather blend together into a magnificent gumbo.
Champion has been making waves for some time, including winning the 2011 Blues Critic Awards for Best Down Home Blues Song for “Make That Monkey Jump”, and this album highlights a number of the reasons for his success. He is a fine guitar player (his solo on “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” is particularly lovely) and his Rice Miller-influenced virtuoso harmonica is featured heavily throughout. He even plays bass on one song. In addition, he has a warm, subtle voice that sounds not dissimilar to a younger Taj Mahal and he writes songs that successfully manage the delicate balancing act of sounding traditional whilst raising modern social issues. Just as Champion updated “Going Down Slow” on his 1999 album Payin’ For My Sins to address AIDS, so in “Trust Yourself” he sings: “I see my sister down the street, she’s got blisters burning through the sole of her feet, working for her man who treats her like a piece of meat.” Like many of the songs on the album, however, there is an ultimately uplifting message to the song. The chorus reminds the listener to “Trust yourself, you gotta trust yourself.”
It is this overwhelming sense of hope, of new possibilities and of redemption that lifts this album well above the average. The beautiful ballad, “Mississippi Pride” has lyrics that appear to be autobiographical as Champion remembers the joys of eating cornbread and catfish as a child, while wearing “hand-me-down pants, with holes in the knees, magnolia blossoms on a sweet, summer breeze.” And despite the bad times, his love of his home state and the music it has produced means “I can’t hide… my Mississippi Pride”.
The album is well produced by Caleb Armstrong, who also plays guitar and arranged the strings. Other musicians include Nathan Keck, Chris Gill and Granard McClendon on guitars, Marquis Champion on bass, Lil Cal Jackson on drums, Larry Addison on piano, Kevin Culver and Steve Wilkerson on keys and Thomasine Anderson on backing vocals. In addition, Amy Lott plays a lovely clarinet solo on the title track.
Perhaps the only slight miss-step is the final song, the distinctly seasonal “What Would Christmas Be Without You?” Given that the album was recorded in December 2012, it is perhaps understandable that the musicians recorded a Christmas song. However, it feels anachronistic listening to it outside of the Christmas season. This is a pretty minor issue with what is otherwise a cracking album.
If you like your blues to only rarely deviate from the 12-bar format, this CD may not be for you. If however you like your blues to cover a range of emotions and a variety of styles, to be well-constructed and played with passion, this one is well worth checking out.
Reviewer Rhys Williams is a blues guitarist who lives in Cambridge, England. He is lucky enough to be married to a beautiful American wife and he speaks American fluently, if with a slight accent.
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Blues Society News
Maximum of 175 words in a Text or MS Word document format.
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford/Northern Illinois
Crossroads Blues Society is proud to be bringing Italy's female
blues sensation Linda Valori to Rockford for two great shows. Linda
has a brand new CD entitled "Day's Like This" with some scorching
hot vocals that amazes all listeners! She was "discovered" in 2005
at Italy's huge San Reamo Festival and has gone on to fame in
Italy's music and television scene. This new CD introduces her to
the American market and Crossroads is proud to be among the first to
host her here.
Crossroads Blues Society is planning some other hot stuff for local blues fans too! Friday May 3rd: BITS with Bobby Messano; evening show at Adriatic Bar in Rockford. Start time 8 PM, $5 admission. Bobby brings his brand of big rock and blues back to the Rockford area!
Saturday May 18th: Navy Blues Band Horizon at Byron American Legion, 6 PM for our Red, White and Blues Celebration on Armed Forces Day. Hailing from the Great Lakes Navy Training Center, these guys (and one gal) give a whole new meaning to Navy Blue!
Friday May 24th: Ana Popovic at the Adriatic in Rockford. Start time 9 PM. $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Tickets printed and available for purchase for this great guitar diva's first show ever in Rockford!
Wednesday June 12th: Dave Fields at the Adriatic. Info TBD, in the works. Saturday June 22nd: Inaugural Field of Blues Festival at Aviators Stadium. Gates open at 11 AM, music Noon to 10:30 PM. $10 advanced tickets, $15 at the gate.
Saturday August 24th: 4th Annual Byron Crossroads Blues Festival in downtown Byron IL. Gates open at Noon, music 1 PM to 10:30 PM. $7 advanced tickets, $15 at the gate. For more info see www.crossroadsbluessociety.com.
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, Iowa
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society is seeking bands to participate in the inaugural Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge. The first Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge will be held July 5, at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. The first of three bands will start at 3 PM and each will perform 20‑minute sets with 5 judges making a decision on which band is the best.
Bands within a 175 miles radius of the Quad Cities will be eligible to compete, but before a band can progress to the final round at the festival, they must first surmount a preliminary round on April 28, at The Muddy Waters, Bettendorf, IA, to decide on the top three bands for the final competition at the festival.
The winner earns the right to compete in the International Blues Challenge held in Memphis, January 21-January 25, 2014. The prize package also includes cash, travel expenses, and the opportunity to perform July 6, 2013 at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa.
The deadline for applications is April 20. All interested bands can find applications at www.mvbs.org
River City Blues Society - Pekin. IL
The River City Blues Society presents
the following shows at Goodfellas 1414 N.
8th St. Pekin, Illinois.
The Piedmont Blues Preservation Society - Greensboro - NC
The Piedmont Blues Preservation Society’s 27th Annual Carolina Blues Festival presented by YES! Weekly is being held in downtown Greensboro, NC, May 18, 2013. We’re excited to announce Janiva Magness and Kenny Neal will be headliners for the day-long event.
Janiva Magness has been nominated for five Blues Music Awards: B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year Award, Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year, and Song Of The Year. The Awards Ceremony happens just 9 days before our festival.
Kenny Neal, 2011 Louisiana Music Hall of Fame Inductee, is an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and is widely renowned as a modern swamp-blues master. His new release, Hooked On Your Love, follows the triumph of his multi-award-winning 2008 comeback album, Let Life Flow. The CD raked in the accolades: three Album Of The Year awards, two Song of The Year awards for the title track, and Kenny himself garnered two Artist of the Year honors. More Info at http://fest.piedmontblues.org
Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Now in their seventh season, The Friends of the Blues present 7 pm early shows: April 16 – Matt Hill, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, 2672 Chippewa Drive, Bourbonnais IL (815) 937-0870; May 2 – Biscuit Miller, Kankakee Moose Lodge, N State Rt 50 (Kinzie Ave), Bradley IL (815) 939-3636; May 16 – James Armstrong, Venue TBA; May 30 – Bryan Lee, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, 1600 Cobb Blvd., Kankakee IL 815-939-1699. More information: www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues or email@example.com
Ventura County Blues Society- Ventura, CA
The Ventura (Calif.) County Blues Society presents the 8th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival (formerly the Simi Valley Blues Festival) on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at Moorpark College in Moorpark, Calif. starting 11 a.m. and featuring headliners the legendary Johnny Rivers; Savoy Brown featuring Kim Simmonds; and Kenny Neal; plus regional acts Dona Oxford, Preston Smith & The Crocodiles, and Michael John And The Bottom Line. Tickets $25. in advance, $30. day of show; kids 12 and under free (with adult). Proceeds benefit The American Diabetes Association and local charities. Info./Tickets: (805) 501-7122 or log onto www.venturacountyblues.com
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. Apr 15th - Matt Hill, Apr 22nd - Brad Vickers & His Vestopolanias, Apr 29th - Stone Cold Blues Band. More info available at icbluesclub.org
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, Tinsley Ellis, Mud Morganfield, Kristine Jackson, Grand Marquis Band, Southern Hospitality, Bryan Lee & The Power Blues Band 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.wvbluessociety.org.
Featured Live Blues Review - Magic Slim Memorial Show Part 2
When we left off from part one of this great show review last week, I had already told you that I was fortunate to see performances by Shawn, Holt, Nick Moss & Michael Ledbetter, Steve Cushing (From Blues Before Sunrise fame), Zac Harmon, Linsey Alexander, Koko Taylor's bass player Melvin Smith, Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater, Dave Specter, Marty Sammon, drummer Willie "The Touch" Hayes, Grana Louise and John Primer.. (CLICK HERE to see Part 1 of this review from last week)
Not a bad start but the show was just getting started. The next Blues legend to perform in Magic Slim's honor was Bill Boy Arnold. Billy came up to sing and play some great harmonica.
Next up were Wayne Baker Brooks and his brother, Ronnie Baker Brooks. These guys really know how to entertain! Their guitar playing turned up the heat quite a bit.
Next Slim's longtime manager, Marty Salzman came up to say a few words about his relationship with Slim and to encourage the crowd to bid on the silent auctions items donated to raise money for Slim's wife Ann Holt and her family.
After that short break the action started again as Blues Hall of Famer Otis Clay took the stage. His bass player was joined by Ronnie Baker Brooks on guitar and Marty Sammon on keys.
Then both Grana Louise and Big Time Sarah joined in with Otis for a saucy number with some serious Blues butt shakin!
After that another great legend Eddie Shaw took the stage.
Eddie's set had lots of talent in the guitar accompaniment area including his son Van Shaw, Zac Harmon and Chicago Blues All Star's own, Doctor Dan "Chicago Slim" Ivankovich.
Then a person who had traveled the farthest to perform at this show to honor Slim, a singer and harmonica player from the Netherlands named Nalle played a couple tunes with one of my favorite guitar players, Mike Wheeler. Many know Mike as the guitar player for Big James & The Chicago Playboys.
Next came the great Jimmy Johnson to play and sing a couple songs. He was joined by both Mike Wheeler and Dave Specter. That's a lot of guitar power!
Next another Chicago great, Jimmy Burns, joined in for a couple songs.
But we were not quite done yet! Billy Branch and some members of his Sons of the Blues took the stage with guitar legend Carl Weathersby to the delight of all.
Next up came another great Chicago harmonica player, Matthew Skoller. Joining him were Marty Sammon on keys, Melvin Smith on bass and none other than the great Lurrie Bell on guitar. Wow!
The final appearance on stage of the night was Chicago Blues diva Zora Young, She is a treat to see! Her backing band included another great Chicago guitar player Billy Flynn and Matthew Skoller on harp.
This was one great show in honor of one of Chicago's greatest, Magic Slim! I am sure somewhere up there Slim was smiling and singing along with all these great artists paying their respects. This has to rank as one of the best shows anywhere this year! It was an honor to see this.
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2013
Reviewer Bob Kieser is editor and publisher of Blues Blast Magazine. He loves his job!
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