Issue 7-21, May 23, 2013
Scroll or Page Down! For news, photos, reviews, links & MUCH MORE in this issue!
Cover photo by Bob Gatty © 2013
In This Issue
Jim Crawford has our feature interview with Ellersoul recording artist, Andy Poxon
We have seven music reviews for you! Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Kelly Richey. Marty Gunther reviews a CD from Andy Poxon. John Mitchell reviews 2 news release from Blind Lemon Records. Jim Kanavy reviews a new CD from Blindside Blues Band. Rhys Williams reviews a new release from Ramblin' Steve Gardner. Steve Jones reviews a new album from Big Papa And The TCB. We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Interview - Andy Poxon
It’s refreshing to know that there are young players out there playing the Blues for the love of the music.
Young Andy Poxon , a mild-mannered 18-year-old college sophomore from Maryland, has been making quite a name for himself in the Northeast of late with his three-piece Andy Poxon Band.
Both of Andy’s parents as well as his grandparents are classically trained musicians who didn’t push him in any particular musical direction in his earlier years.
“It’s funny, but my family wasn’t doing much music then,” he says. “For the first couple of years I was into rock, AC DC’s “Back In Black.” That sort of thing. One day I was in the basement with my Grandma and we found this old guitar under the stairs. My brother and I have always been interested in music so we took it upstairs and started fooling around with it.
“I was 9 then and had started out on the violin,” he recalls. “It wasn’t really expected of me but in a way it was because my parents wanted me play something. After I found the guitar there was no more violin. I just didn’t enjoy the violin music and I never wanted to practice. The guitar changed all that in a hurry.”
Many stories relate how a young, emerging player obtains his inspiration from his parents’ record collection. Not so with the Poxon family.
“When I started getting into it my parents probably knew about as much about the Blues as I did,” Andy says. “We learned together. We started listening to 12-bar Blues, Chicago Blues, all kinds of Blues. When I was about 11 or 12 I discovered Albert King, and BB King. My parents learned right along with me. They’ve been totally supportive.”
Besides BB and Albert, Andy lists a variety of artists including Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Charlie Christian, Hank Williams, the late Sean Costello and Nick Curran, Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, and The Beatles as influences.
In high school, Andy was involved in all aspects of his school’s music program taking theory classes, performing in the school chamber choir, men’s chorus, and the jazz band with still enough time to practice the Blues on his Telecaster.
Fast forward to 2009 and we find the formation of the Andy Poxon Band, established when Andy was 14. The three-piece group has been together since May 2009, and the guys play regularly in various live music venues around Maryland/DC/Virginia area. They play a wide variety of originals written by Andy and covers, ranging from traditional Blues to rockabilly and even some country.
One of the highlights of Andy’s career so far has been a fruitful collaboration with Blues legend Duke Robillard.
“One of my first music teachers turned me onto Duke,” Andy says. “I’d heard a lot of Roomful of Blues music because they are very popular in this area. He’s one of my favorite guitarists. I finally got a chance to meet him when my band opened for him at a show in Baltimore. Then, towards the end of the night, I got to go onstage and play with him. Later he asked me if I’d like for him to produce my next album. It was awesome.”
That collaboration resulted in the recently-released Andy Poxon Band’s “Tomorrow” on the EllerSoul label. All of the songs on the disc are Andy originals except one co-written with Robillard. Some more famous than Andy never write a line of original music so the sky’s the limit.
“Andy Poxon is a complete and mature musician at the ripe old age of 18 years old,” Duke writes in the liner notes of the new CD. “How he arrived where he is musically at this time is, in part, derived from intense listening and research of the American musical traditions of blues, early R&B, classic country, hillbilly, rockabilly, swing and jazz. That's a lot for an 18 year old. Of course his parents, both being classical musicians explains, genealogically anyway, the possible musical intelligence factor here. But he's also a normal teenager and a very well mannered, likable guy with a great slant on roots guitar, an uncanny talent for songwriting and a voice that, although it is reserved and unstrained, is able to emit the emotion needed to put across the lyrics he writes so convincingly.
“To say Andy has a bright future is an understatement to say the least,” Duke says. “Andy is an extremely talented guy who really deserves the title "Artist" as guitarist, singer and songwriter and it will be really fun and interesting to see his development. This album of songs represents a young roots musician already developed past his years, and ready to lead us all into the future of pure American blues and roots music.”
Like Duke says, Andy is a normal teenager who does think about the future and his part in it. He’s currently enrolled as a sophomore in the jazz program at Towson University in Maryland.
“Towson is the second biggest college in Maryland,” Andy says. “They have a great sports program, especially basketball. I graduated from high school when I was 17 and was able to start classes early. They have a great music school. One of the requirements for my degree was a course in classical guitar. After I got into it I love it. It takes a totally different skill set. I changed my major to classical guitar.
“I figured I could play a wedding with a four-piece band for $1,000 and we’d make $250 each or I can play the same wedding by myself for $500 and keep all of the money,” the practical Andy says. “It costs the people half the money and I make twice as much.”
You can’t argue with that kind of logic.
The “Tomorrow” CD is Andy’s second offering. His first CD featured all original tunes with the title, “Red Roots.” The title is an obvious reference to Andy’s brilliant red hair done up in a cool Afro that makes him instantly recognizable and surely unforgettable. “Red Roots” was nominated for Best New Artists Debut in the 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards,
“I liked all these rock bands growing up, and so I wanted to have longer hair, but when I started growing it out, I realized that it didn’t go down like normal hair; it goes up,” Andy says.
Some of Andy’s originals speak of heartache and deep-seated Blues often attributed to Blues artists many years his senior. In other words, Andy ain’t old enough to have suffered this much.
“I get my ideas from various places,” he explains. “I might read a phrase or hear something somebody says and think that would work in a song. No, I haven’t personally experienced a lot of it but maybe one of my friends or someone in my family has, and it inspires a song. All it takes is one emotion or one idea and if I can hang onto that for the half hour it takes to write the song then hopefully it comes across. Usually it flows pretty quickly. Some songs take a lot longer to write than a half hour. I might start on one and put it away for months before I finish it. They’re all different.”
Andy’s two band mates are considerably older than he is but he says it’s no problem since the common denominator is the music.
Mike O’Donnell plays drums in The Andy Poxon Band. O’Donnell holds a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s in jazz studies.
O’Donnell says he met Andy in late 2008, when the then-high school student came to a blues jam O’Donnell’s band was hosting.
“In early 2009 he approached me and asked if I would be interested in playing drums with a band he was putting together,” O’Donnell told Hannah Anderson in an interview in March. “We had seen each other a couple times at blues jams. I was in a band, Idle Americans, and Andy came to see us play a couple times and would sit in with the band.”
O’Donnell, who teaches beginner guitar, piano, and drums says Poxon’s talent and dedication to his music set him apart as an artist.
“He plays and sings better than some guys that are three or four times his age and have been doing it forever,” O’Donnell says. “People might think he’s just gifted, but that’s not true. It is, but he spends a lot of time studying, listening, and learning. He devotes hours and hours to getting better.”
Russ Wasson provides the bottom for the band on bass. His musical beginnings stretch as far back as 1966 when he was 14. He has played with a variety of artists including Percy Sledge and Frankie Ford.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t have a lot of friends my age,” Andy admits. “I get along better with adults. I’ve mostly played with adults since I started so I don’t think about age at all.”
Hard work and dedication are keys to success and Andy is more than aware of what it takes.
“I don’t have a full time publicist so not a lot of people have heard of me, but my goal is to have a career in music,” he says. “I don’t really care in what capacity but I just want to be prepared for anything. I don’t have any definite plans yet. I’m just going to keep gigging around as much as possible.”
At the rate young Andy Poxon is going it won’t be long before everybody knows who he is.
Visit Andy's website at www.andypoxon.com. The most recent video we found of Andy was recorded March 15, 2013, see it HERE. To see an entire set from the 2011 Baltimore Maryland Book Festival CLICK HERE and to see Andy's rockin introductory music video when he was 16 click HERE.
Photos by Bob Gattyr © 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.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 7
Kelly Richey - Sweet Spirit
Sweet Lucy Records
10 songs; 31:37 Minutes
Styles: Electric Hard Rock, Blues Rock, Funk
Looks can be deceiving, and so can the titles of blues albums. From seeing the mystical cover art of “Sweet Spirit,” the latest release from Lexington, Kentucky native Kelly Richey, one might expect to hear gentle melodies interspersed with the sounds of nature. Au contraire: This is a guitar album. Richey’s guitar style is more reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix than Joan Jett, and her vocal style like Janis Joplin rather than Janis Ian. Her whiskey-gravel vocals bear the wear and tear of the 800,000 miles she’s traveled in her thirty-five year career, and her electric shredder is lush with raucous riffs, sans long guitar solos on this outing. She is a masterful guitarist, but one would be remiss to call her a pure-blues musician. The ten songs on “Sweet Spirit” are take-no-prisoners hard rocking tracks, infused with blues and funk. Out of the three original selections below, two are most representative of the blues, and the third is a poignant ballad with a funky bass beat:
Track 02: “I Went Down Easy”--This tale of recovery from sweet love gone sour isn’t fit for Oprah or Dr. Phil. It’s a growling, wailing blues-rock anthem whose final guitar notes are an ominous death rattle. “I once fell to pieces,” Kelly admits with no sugar coating her vocal cords. “I fell so hard that I cried and cried. But I learned what I had to learn, and thank God I didn’t die.”
Track 05: “Everybody Needs a Change”--Listen very closely to the lyrics on this fifth song, a moving plea for reconciliation in the face of violence. Richey almost whispers this chilling refrain: “People are fighting all around the world, killing each other and I don’t know why. Tell me what it’s going to take to make us see. Tell me what it takes to even make us cry.” Bringing eighties rocker Alannah Myles of “Black Velvet” fame to mind, Kelly cools her usual tempo down a bit without losing one bit of her passion. She tenderly reminds us that “What’s been wrong can be right, even if it takes a fight.”
Track 10: “Workin’ Hard Woman”--More than any other offering on “Sweet Spirit,” this one sums Kelly Richey up: “I’ve no rings on my fingers, I’ve got no bells on my toes. I’m just a workin’ hard woman, and I know what I know.” She also plays the best blues guitar solo out of all ten songs, while keyboardist Robert Lee Carroll and percussionist Dave Farris back her up.
Also accompanying Richey are Freekbass on bass guitar, Robby Cosenza on drums, Duane Lundy on percussion, and guest keyboardists Bernie Worrell and J. Tom Hnatow. She may have a “Sweet Spirit,” but it manifests itself through the hardest rocking Lexington has to offer!
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
Featured Blues Review 2 of 7
Andy Poxon – Tomorrow
14 songs – 58 minutes
Andy Poxon looks like a baby-faced cross between comedians CarrotTop and Jim Carrey, but don’t judge this book by its cover. He’s natural-born killer on guitar and vocals who’s teamed up with legendary guitarist/producer Duke Robillard to release this powerful CD, his second, while still a tender 18 years old.
A college sophomore majoring in jazz studies at Towson University in Maryland, he’s the son and grandson of classical musicians who picked up his first axe from behind the basement stairs at age nine. Influenced by a wide variety of stylists ranging from jazz legend Charlie Christian to B.B. King and even country superstar Hank Williams, he was so proficient at age 14 that he formed his own pro trio, fronting a band that includes bass player Russ Wasson and drummer Mike O’Donnell, both of whom are old enough to be his father and grandfather. They work regularly around the District of Columbia.
Poxon’s first CD, Red Roots, recorded shortly after he formed the trio, earned him a fistful of honors, including Washington Area Music Association Wammie Award nominations for Best New Artist Of The Year and Best Traditional Blues/R&B Recording. The Blues Underground Network identified him as the “Future Of The Blues” in its 2012 year-end review. And he earned a BluesBlast nomination for Best New Artist Release.
This CD came about after Poxon opened for the Robillard’s band in Baltimore. Duke immediately recognized Poxon’s talents and offered to produce his next release. Like the first offering, this one features straight-ahead blues, jazz, rockabilly and country. All of the material was written by Poxon, with the exception of the last instrumental, on which Robillard shares credit. And Robillard’s award-winning regular band – Bruce Bears (keyboards), Brad Hallen (electric and acoustic bass) and Mark Teixeira (drums) -- provide backing augmented by Rich Lataille (tenor and alto sax), Mark Earley (baritone and tenor sax), Doug Woolverton (trumpet), Frankie Blandino (steel guitar) and Anita Suhanin (backing vocals). Robillard contributes acoustic and electric guitar, but the leads are in the young man’s hands.
A simple guitar riff followed by a Memphis-style horn line kick off “Too Bad,” which deals with the end of a romance after the singer catches his girlfriend on the dance floor with another man: “Too bad, little girl, all my love for you is gone.” Poxon shows off highly developed guitar chops with a stinging mid-song solo backed by the horn section. His vocal delivery, which is full-bodied and slightly behind the beat, drives the song forward. Relationship themes dominate throughout the disc. “You Lied” is a cleverly constructed tune with a lyrical twist. It begins by accusing his woman of being a liar and ends with the singer admitting he’s been a liar, too. The horns and keyboard dominate until a short guitar break with a country feel. “College Boy” is an uptempo, two-minute rocker. This time, the singer’s simply too young for his ex, who leaves him to suffer and runs off with a “mean old college boy.” Poxon’s songwriting talent is displayed full-force in “Why,” a middle-of-the-road ballad in which he asks: “Why do you treat me like you do/After everything I’ve done for you?/Why?/Put yourself in my place/Stop lyin’ to my face/Won’t you just try?” In the swinging “Don’t Come Home,” which has a jump feel, he confronts his woman after she’s been out all night only to return and tell him she’s found another man. A rich, jazzy guitar solo fills the middle section.
Poxon slows the session down with “Tomorrow,” a keyboard- and saxophone-rich ballad, in which the singer reflects on a difficult day buried in bills. But he insists: “It’s gonna be a long night/But it’ll be all right/Tomorrow will be a good day.” A Dixieland feel carries the next tune, “All By Myself,” but includes a country-tinged lead guitar break. “Without Me” is a nervous little song about a long-distance romance. “You Don’t Love Me” features the keyboards and another stinging guitar solo. “Please Come Home” is a burning torch song for a distant love. “Fooling Around” is a fast-paced shuffle singing praise for a night of lovemaking. Poxon addresses his real-life girlfriend in “Carol Anne,” a six-minute rocker that also deals with separation. “One More Time,” a straight-ahead country ballad, precedes the instrumental closer, “Jammin’ At Lakewest,” in which Poxon holds his own as he trades jazz licks with Robillard.
Andy Poxon displays talent far beyond his years both as a songwriter and instrumentalist. His vocal range is somewhat limited right now, but that should expand with age. However, that doesn’t detract from the product one bit. His musicianship sparkles. This one’s definitely a keeper.
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 3 & 4 of 7
David Evans – Live At Alte Post
Tom Shaka – Delta Thunder – The Field Recordings
Blind Lemon Records
David Evans 13 tracks; 51 minutes; Tom Shaka 20 tracks; 78 minutes
I have grouped these two CDs together for several reasons. First, they are the second and third releases from a new German blues label; second, both albums were recorded in Germany; third, they are both acoustic blues albums from veteran American performers. The final link is that David Evans also appears on three tracks on Tom Shaka’s album.
David Evans started his interest in the blues in the 60’s. A friend and contemporary of Al ‘Blind Owl’ Wilson, David did intensive field research in the southern states, often assisting and playing with some of the remaining blues artists from the 20’s and 30’s. He has been a professor at the Memphis University School of Music since 1978, an author on the blues including a Grammy Award for his work on Charley Patton and, since the 1990’s, a performer of the work of the artists he has long studied. This CD finds him recorded solo and acoustic in Germany.
The CD opens (appropriately for this label) with two Blind Lemon Jefferson tunes, “One Dime Blues” and “Match Box Blues”. The other artist to get two songs is Tommy Johnson with whom David performed in the 60’s. Here he plays a sprightly version of perhaps Tommy’s most famous song, “Big Road Blues” and “Lonesome Home Blues”. Of course Robert Johnson appears, in an excellent version of “Kind Hearted Woman Blues” and David dips into more ‘modern’ blues with Muddy’s “Long Distance Call”, but this is really all about the bluesmen of the 20’s/30’s – Sonny Boy I (“Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”), Babe Stovall (“Candy Man”), Yank Rachell (“Mellow Peaches”) are amongst those covered. David’s world-weary voice and acoustic playing convey the spirit of these songs very well.
Whilst David Evans was recorded in Germany, Tom Shaka lives there. Tom was interested in producing a series of ‘field recordings’ of his own music and renowned German blues researcher, Axel Küstner, agreed to get involved. Over two summer 2011 days they recorded Tom at his home solo and with a young German guitarist on two tracks. Three tunes were recorded with David Evans backstage after a concert in Bremen and two tribute songs were also recorded in memory of recently departed blues friends. The material is a mixture of originals and well-known pieces, as with David Evans’ CD, very much in keeping with the traditions of country blues though Tom also brings in some other styles such as the version of pop hit “Babyface” and Cuban classic “Malagueña”– after all, itinerant blues musicians would always include a variety of material to please their audiences.
Tom is clearly an excellent guitar player as can be heard on the opening instrumental “Tom’s Barrelhouse Boogie”. He also plays mandolin, ukulele, harmonica, resonator guitar and ‘1-string git-fiddle’! Tom’s voice is deeper than David’s and he has more of the ‘growl’ that is often associated with blues singers. The CD draws its title from the track “Delta Thunder” on which a thunderstorm can clearly be heard on the recording, one of two on which Ferdinand ‘Mr Jellyroll’ Kraemer supports Tom on second guitar. Of the originals the two tributes are particularly worthy of mention, both being quite personal songs: “He Came From Behind The Sun” was actually recorded at Louisiana Red’s graveside immediately after his funeral, Tom on resonator and fellow expat American Keith Dunn on harp; “Mighty Powerful Wisdom” is just Tom on a heartfelt farewell to Honeyboy Edwards, with whom Tom often played. The covers range across Muddy Waters’ “Country Boy”, Robert Johnson’s “Rambling On My Mind” and Tommy McLennan’s “61 Highway Blues”. Final word has to go, however, to the final track, Boogie Bill Webb’s “Drinkin’And Stinkin’”, a song that Tom’s wife calls ‘disgusting’ but which Tom says is still part of life and the blues!
Both these CDs will be of interest to those who enjoy traditional country blues and the authentic feel of live recordings.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. Current favorites from recent releases include Chris Antonik, Shaun Murphy, Barbara Carr, Johnny Rawls, Andy T/Nick Nixon, Otis Grand and Doug Deming.
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Featured Blues Review 5 of 7
Blindside Blues Band - Generator
Blues Bureau International
11 tracks; 65:06
Brash, aggressive and in your face. Loud, blustery and burning. Blindside Blues Band. I hope you didn’t come here to be mellow. Mike Onesko, Jay Jesse Johnson, Emery Ceo, and Kier Staeheli turn it up to 11, snap off the dial, and crush it on the roadhouse floor. Blindside Blues Band has been a somewhat fluid entity based around guitarist and vocalist Mike Onesko since its inception in 1993. Their goal has been to create hard edged blues in the tradition of late blues-rock artists Cream, Mountain, and Robin Trower and they have largely succeeded. Along the way Mike Onesko has worked with Davey Pattison from the Robin Trower band and Leslie West from Mountain, as well as recording an album with Tim Bogert from Vanilla Fudge/Cactus/Beck, Bogert & Appice.
Blindside Blues Band called several labels home in the past including Shrapnel/Blues Bureau, and has counted Shrapnel’s owner Mike Varney as a member from time to time. The band recently returned to Blues Bureau and unleashed Generator, their latest disc. The label is known for incredible musicians expressing themselves freely through their instruments and Blindside Blues Band is no exception. Generator continues their mission with big riffs, searing slide, and mammoth jams.
Generator starts off with a slippery slide guitar riff that brings to mind Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time Of Dying” but eventually kicks into overdrive and never lets up, similar to the “Gravy Train” to which the title and lyrics refer. The words and music evoke the endless grind of working for success. Onesko rails against lazy people of the world who expect success without effort. He sings from the heart and a perspective of a man who has fought hard for his rewards and the resentment of the listless and lazy is evident in his voice. The guitars of Onesko and Johnson underscore the feelings. These guys trade licks at break neck speed, daring listeners to get on the train.
Mike Onesko and Jay Jesse Johnson are a ferocious guitar team. Johnson’s Strat tones add to the collective’s fuzzed-out sonic palette. This is undeniably a guitar fan’s record. If you’re looking for subtlety, breezy melodies, or smarmy ballads this isn’t what you’re looking for. The amps are on 11 most of the time. Occasionally the tunes seem like an excuse to jam; but, oh, the jamming! Generator is a perfect title because the band generates a ton of electric heat. Onesko and Johnson play so hard you’ll get calluses on your fingers just from listening. Johnson has been a guest on previous Blindside Blues Band recordings but on Generator he is fully integrated and incredulously turns up the intensity of this powerhouse band.
Although the intensity level is high, that’s not to say they never switch gears. “Bluesin’” has funky chords mixed with fat slide guitar riffs and female back-up vocals that give this track a genuine soul feel. “Loving You” is a Texas shuffle featuring white-hot strat magick from Jay Jesse Johnson and impassioned vocals from Mike Onesko. Onesko is an effective singer. He sings with heart and his gravelly voice is suited well to the style of Blindside Blues Band. Onesko has a good blues holler too, which is put to good use on “Gonna Leave This Town.” This track is a stomping acoustic number that almost comes close to mellow, but the bass-drum beat and the slide guitar keep the tempo cruising along.
The final song on the disc is simply titled “Bonus Jam.” The relentless deep groove provided by the rhythm section serves as a launch pad for the fearless Blues Angels strapped in for some fret board high jinks. Pilots Onesko and Johnson push the jam over the edge of excess until it plunges gracefully around the 4:25 mark into a Robin Trower style jam that slowly rebuilds until they raise it from the ashes of the scorched Earth below. For blues-rock guitar freaks this is the track you want to hear.
Obviously, Generator is not for every blues fan. It’s a high octane guitar orgy that could be equally reviled or adored for its indulgences. Blindside Blues Band is not a one trick pony. They know a lot of tricks and tend to cram as many as possible into every song. Generator is 65 minutes of unapologetic, no holds barred pentatonic blues wailing gone wild. Beautiful in its excess, bold in its abandon, Generator beguiles and pulls you in spin after spin.
ReviewerJim 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 6 of 7
Big Papa and the TCB - Six Pack of Cool
Inland Blue Records
I first heard this band at the now closed restaurant and seafood Shop in Redlands, California. This was my regular stop every trip to Redlands, which was a frequent event in my life for over four years. I had heard a couple of piano players there, but one day this band starts setting and they began to swing and bop and make some great sounds. I picked up their homemade CD and I have been on their mailing list since that first day I saw them. I saw them one more time, but being a Socal, Inland Empire fixture with my business there now complete I figured I probably would not run into them again soon.
Well, the CD came in the mail for review and I immediately knew who these guys were. Think a slightly stripped down version of Roomful of Blues with a little West Coast flair and you have Big Papa and the TCB, Chris Thayer fronts the band, plays guitar and wrote all or part of all but one track. He’s got a great presence and his vocals really sell each cut. Steve Brown on bass, Ray Wilson on drums, John Mila De La Roca on piano, Maurice Oliva on sax, and Marques Crew in trumpet really deliver a tight and solid sound; I love these guys!
Tracks like “A Lil Bit O’ Somethin’” showcase each artist as they jump and swing. The solos are great, their “togetherness” is impressive and they just make you want to dance. “Papa’s in the House” opens the album and serves as a great intro to these guys; the call and response, vocals and solos showcase the great talents here. Very T-Bone Walker-like stuff, yet fresh and cool. “Drink Drank Drunk” bemoans a bad night on the town that ends in the slammer, but it’s a fun ride; the sax on this cut is really sweet. “Big Bad Blues” adds a trombone to the horns and they just blow a big and groovy sound, more great solos all over the place! “My Way Back Home” closes; very scaled down with just vocals, piano and cupped trumpet. Quite moving. “Showtime” has the boys in an all-out instrumental, no holds barred– superb! The one cover is Honey Piazza’s “Murder in the First Degree” and they take the Mighty Flyers song and make it their own– great cover!
If you like jump blues then go buy this CD. The horns are great, the piano is outstanding, the guitar is spectacular and the vocals are superb. You won’t regret “discovering” this band!
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 works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
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Featured Blues Review 7 of 7
Rambling Steve Gardner – Hesitation Blues
Black Cat Records (Tokyo)
20 songs – 1.2 hours
Rambling Steve Gardner is a fascinating character. Born in Mississippi in 1956, he learned the blues from (and sometimes played with) the likes of Sam Chatmon, Jack Owens and Jessie Mae Hemphill. His work as a photographer took him to Japan in 1980, where he still lives but where he now focuses on playing and teaching the music, songs and stories of late 19th and early 20th century American music.
Recorded in July 2012, Gardner’s new CD, Hesitation Blues, is his sixth release for Black Cat Records (Tokyo) and his fourth solo recording project. Hesitation Blues is a collection of 20 acoustic tracks, some performed solo by Gardner, some featuring duo and trio arrangements, but also three full band pieces.
Other than the occasional use of B-3 organ, this album could have been recorded before the invention of electric instruments. In addition to singing in his rough-hewn but versatile voice, Gardner plays steel guitar and harmonica and adds hambone percussion. Bill Steber contributes saw, banjo ukulele, mandolin and steel guitar. Hisa Nakase plays up-right bass, Yu Ojima plays drums and Gardner’s co-producer, Nick Vitter, adds up-right piano and organ. Other featured instruments include the accordion, tuba, trombone and fiddle. The musicians also add claps, hollers and stomps in addition to backing vocals.
Gardner is a fine finger-picker on his National Reso-Phonic guitar, equally adept with a bottleneck on pieces like “St Louis Blues”. He also wrote two songs for the album, “Mississippi River Blues” and “Bill Bailey Rag”, both of which sit comfortably with the cover songs (which were themselves all written before 1946 and several of which date to the 16th and 17th centuries). A number of the cover songs are very well known indeed (“House Of The Rising Sun”, “Froggy Went A-Courtin’”, “Love In Vain” and “I Shall Not Be Moved”), but Gardner gives many of them a fresh re-working. For example, “Hesitation Blues” sounds nothing like the Reverend Gary Davis or Hot Tuna versions, but does sound like it has been given a serious bath in New Orleans waters. Equally, “House Of The Rising Sun” sounds like a wholly new song, with a funky drum beat, lonesome trombone and driving bass. At times I found myself wondering if Gardner was deliberately re-interpreting the songs to give them a different (and more modern) perspective, or whether his arrangements are actually closer to how the “original” versions might have been performed.
One of several highlights on the album is “I Shall Not Be Moved”, which opens with Gardner’s solo National guitar, before he is joined by a full band including accordion and trombone and a lovely gospel chorus.
Gardner is an educator as well as a musician, running workshops and seminars on American roots and blues music, often sponsored by educational institutions in the USA and Japan. Hesitation Blues is a musical companion to those seminars and workshops. As such, it is not surprising that Gardner has selected so many pieces that are central to the evolution of American (and world) music, and hence also extremely well-known. In some ways that could be seen as the raison d'être of the album: to point listeners towards the giants who first created this music.
But this album is not a dry, dusty exercise in academia. It is immediately obvious from the music that the musicians had a blast playing together and, despite the absence of electric instruments, the rhythm and groove established on several songs rock at least as hard as many “modern” bands. This is not a cautious, overly-worthy homage to the past. It is an invigorating reminder of why early American music has had such long-lasting and far-reaching influence. It is a celebration of some wonderful songs, played and sung with real power.
If you are a fan of other modern National guitar masters, such as Steve James, Paul Rishell or Terry Garland, you will thoroughly enjoy this album.!
Reviewer Reviewer Rhys Williams is a blues enthusiastic based in Cambridge, England. One of the few times his children have seen him cry was when his then-two-year-old son knocked over his prized National guitar, breaking the headstock clean off.
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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. May 27th - Gina Sicilia http://www.ginasicilia.com/fr_home.cfm, June 3rd - Hard Rock Blues Band, June 10th - Jarekus Singleton http://artistecard.com/jarekussingleton, June 17th - Laurie Morvan Band http://www.lauriemorvan.com/, June 24th - Reverend Raven & Chain Smoking Altar Boys Http://www.reverendraven.com. More info available at icbluesclub.org
Madison Blues Society - Madison, Wisconsin
The Madison Blues Society will host their 11th Annual Blues Picnic on Saturday, June 22, 2013 at Warner Park in Madison, Wisconsin, with headliner Matthew Skoller. This free public festival will feature the Boys and Girls Club's “Blues Kids” and a fantastic line-up of popular local and regional blues bands.
Dave Potter & the Alley Kings - 12:00PM
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford/Northern Illinois
The Inaugural Rockford Field of Blues Festival will be held on Saturday, June 22nd at Rockford Aviators Stadium, 4503 Interstate Drive, Loves Park, IL. The event features Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials as headliners and also has Willie Buck and Taildragger with Rockin’ Johnny Burgin to celebrate Delmark Records 60th Anniversary. Delmark’s Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames and Toronzo Cannon are also featured on the bill as are Madison’s Aaron Williams and the HooDoo and the Flaming Mudcats from Auckland, New Zealand!
Advanced tickets are only $10; gate admission is $15. Attendees can bring a lawn chair and sit on the field or relax in the stands; there is a large, covered pavilion on the stadium promenade for shade. This event is conducted by Crossroads Blues Society and all proceeds support their Blues in the Schools Program. They have done 116 programs for over 35,000 students in Northern Illinois since May 2002.
Crossroads is excited to bring a blues festival back to the Rockford area. There has never been an annual blues event in the Forest City, but Crossroads aims to fix that. They hope to keep this going and even expand to two days next year if this is successful. Local response has been superb and there is a great buzz for this deep blues event that they have planned.
Tickets are available on line at http://fieldofblues.blogspot.com and information on mail order sales is also available there. Local Rockford area venues selling tickets include Aviators Stadium, Guzzardo’s Music on Charles Street, the Adriatic Bar on West Jefferson Street, Kryptonite Bar on West State Street, CD Source on East State Street, Toad Hall Records on Charles Street, Just Goods Fair Trade Store on 7th Street and the Cumulus Broadcasting Office on Brendenwood Road. Call 779-537-4006 for more information.
Also Crossroads Blues Society is planning other hot stuff for local blues fans! 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. And 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.
River City Blues Society - Pekin. IL
The River City Blues Society presents the following shows at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St., Pekin, Illinois - Laurie Morvan Band: Wednesday June 19th 7:00 pm, Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin Altar Boys: Friday June 28th 7:30 pm. Admission for all these shows is $6.00 general public or $4.00 Society Members. For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Now in their seventh season, The Friends of the Blues present 7 pm early shows: May 30 – Bryan Lee, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, 1600 Cobb Blvd., Kankakee IL 815-939-1699. Thur, June 6, Ori Naftaly Band from Israel, Kankakee Valley Boat Club www.orinaftaly.com, Tues, June 25, Laurie Morvan Band, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club www.lauriemorvan.com, Thur, July 18, Jerry Lee and the Juju Kings - Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club - Outdoors! www.jujukings.com/index1.htm, Thur, July 25, Albert Castiglia w/ Donna Herula, The Longbranch Restaurant in L’Erable, Outdoor show www.albertcastiglia.com www.donnaherula.com, Thur, Aug 15, Ivas John Band, Moose Lodge www.ivasjohn.com, Thur, Aug 29, Little Joe McLerran, Venue To Be Announced www.littlejoeblues.com, Thur, Sept 19, Reverend Raven and Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, Kankakee Valley Boat Club www.reverendraven.com, Thur, Oct 3, Too Slim and The Taildraggers – “It’s Everybody’s Birthday Party” - Kankakee Valley Boat Club www.tooslim.org, Tues, Oct 22, Kilborn Alley Blues Band - Venue To Be Announced www.kilbornalley.com, Thur, Nov 7, Terry Quiett Band - Venue To Be Announced http://www.terryquiettband.com More information: www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues or email@example.com
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