Issue 7-18, May 2, 2013
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Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2013
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Hamilton Loomis.
We have eight music reviews for you! Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Melvin Taylor. Marty Gunther reviews a CD from The Crippled Frogs. John Mitchell reviews a new release from Lookin' For Trouble. Rhys Williams reviews a new album from Chris Antonik. Steve Jones reviews a new live release from Lisa Cee. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new release from Fabrizio Poggi & Chicken Mambo. Ian McKenzie reviews a new album from Dick Farrelly & Matt Walklate. Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony reviews a new album by Bottleneck John. We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
Featured Blues Interview - Hamilton Loomis
Give it Back.
While that is indeed the name of Hamilton Loomis’ forthcoming album on his own Ham-Bone Records label, it’s much more than just three random words thrown together.
Sure, it’s also the title cut off his new disc, a funky romper that is awash in a ton of smoky soul and features the incredible bass playing of Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck and The Flecktones).
But Give it Back goes way deeper than that.
Call it a mission statement, a philosophy, or just a way of life, but ‘giving it back’ is something that the Lone Star State-based bluesman fervently believes in.
“I find myself in a situation these days where I feel compelled to share and pass on the knowledge and the information that was passed on to me. That’s one of the reasons that we like to do workshops for schools when we’re on tour,” Loomis said. “We just did one up here (Houston, Texas) in the Woodlands for the School of Rock and we just did one in Topeka, Kansas and taught some middle school students how to play harmonica and it was absolutely a blast. So any opportunity we get to do that, I feel not only an obligation, but also a duty to do it. And that’s kind of where the idea for (the new song and album title) came from. It’s kind of like a nod to the pay-it-forward, hand-it-down kind of thing.”
The title cut off Give it Back can be heard at www.hamiltonloomis.com.
At one time in the not too distant past, it was Loomis who was the willing student, eager to lap up all that he could handle where the matters of the blues were concerned. And lucky for him, he too, had a host of ‘teachers’ that were more than happy to spread the lessons that they had been taught.
“I grew up around the Houston blues scene and I’m on the tail-end of that generation that got to learn from some of the blues masters before they passed away. In my area, it was Johnny Copeland, Albert Collins, Joe Hughes, Gatemouth Brown … all those guys were still alive and kicking and doing their thing,” the Galveston-born musician explained. “And I didn’t really realize it at the time, but they were kind of grooming us ‘young white boys’ to carry on the torch once it was passed to us. It was an amazing education. And it wasn’t just me, there was a lot of us like Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Sheppard – we’re all kind of the same generation. And now there’s another generation of young musicians coming along and I feel compelled to share all that knowledge that was shared with me.”
One thing that the forefathers of the blues never had to deal with was this rapid explosion of high-tech, new-age gadgets that have seemingly been falling out of the sky on a regular basis the past decade or so. They did, however, jump all over the advent of taking a guitar and plugging it into an amp, but can you picture Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson or Howlin’ Wolf on Twitter?
Loomis, however, is no reluctant stranger when it comes to these new-fangled tools of the trade.
“Well, you’re never going to fight technology; I learned a long time ago you’re going to have to embrace it. And it can be a huge benefit, because the next few generations are going to be all about social media. That’s how everyone is doing everything,” he said. “I have a publicity team and we don’t even go after television anymore. It doesn’t work. When I’m on like a local Good Morning America type show, I’ll ask the people in the audience that night how many of them saw me on the TV that morning and no one will raise their hands. But when I ask how many saw my Facebook post, every hand in the crowd goes up. Times are changing, you know? That’s why I’m not even looking for a (record) label right now.”
Loomis released a pair of critically-acclaimed studio discs for Blind Pig Records – 2003’s Kickin’ It, along with Ain’t Just Temporary in 2007.
“Blind Pig was a great label to work with during my six years with them. They were awesome and I had a great relationship with them, but I felt like I wanted to sort of branch out. I feel like I’m a little bit outside their box,” said Loomis. “I’m kind of funky and progressive … just outside the box. And I realized since technology is in the artist’s favor now, you can do so much of that stuff for yourself now.”
That do-it-yourself attitude started early in Loomis’ recording career with impressive results. His first album, 1994’s Hamilton, garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Album of the Year; not too shabby for your first time out of the box.
And Loomis is certainly on to something when he labels his music as ‘progressive.’ Blues are definitely a major part of his music’s DNA, but it also has a raft of crossover appeal with plenty of rock, soul and funk tucked inside of it, as well.
“Well you won’t find a straight 12-bar blues in any of my stuff, but it all does nod to the blues. Those (the blues) are my roots and I have a great reverence for it, but at the same time, I want to add to that,” he said. “My parents had a fantastic record collection when I was growing up. I’m on the tail-end of the vinyl generation and their collection had a lot of blues, a lot of soul, a lot of funk and a lot of classic rock. But then simultaneously I grew up in the 80s with MTV, so pop music was huge. When I started writing music as a teenager, I guess I sort of gravitated towards those sounds that I’d been listening to since I was in the womb. And while I have a huge reverence for the blues and all that it encompasses – that’s one of the things that I teach in my workshops, that all music comes out of the blues – I’ve always had a fondness for R&B and funky music, like the stuff on Stax. And that’s one reason why I like arrangements and horns so much, because of all that great music on the Stax Records label.”
Mix all his instrumental influences together, add his soulful and highly under-rated vocal chops and what you get is the patented Hamilton Loomis sound. That sound has not only found a home in the CD players of hard-core blues lovers, it’s also been helping turn on some newcomers to the magic of the blues.
“Well, I just sort of struck upon a sound. I mean, it’s not like I go - ‘Here’s a blues song, here’s a funk song, here’s a rock song.’ It’s kind of like a hybrid,” he said. “I try to make it homogenous, so there’s a sound there. And a by-product of all that is, it’s a little bit more progressive, so you get some of the younger generation digging it, too. It’s changing some nowadays, but most young people won’t seek out a blues show, because the ‘blues’ has a stigma attached to it. They think of ‘antiquated’ music when they think of the blues, but I’m hoping to change that.”
One thing that is most certainly not ‘antiquated’ is the palpable energy that Loomis radiates when he climbs onto the concert stage. An audience can’t help but be positively energized at a Loomis show. He is a non-stop turbo of power, one minute moving from side to side of the stage, and then taking on his horn player in a head-cutting contest on the apron of the stage the next minute. And as if that’s not enough, Loomis has also been known to jump off stage and take a prolonged stroll through the audience while ripping off an extended guitar solo.
“Stage presence is something that comes completely natural to me; I don’t have to work on it at all. At some point, when I was starting to mature and grow as an artist and player, it just started happening and I think that’s divine intervention or some kind of spiritual thing where I’m channeling … I don’t know …,” he said. “But I feel joy when I play music and it literally moves me. It moves my body. And I learned a long time ago that whenever music is coming from you – from deep inside your soul and it comes from the right place – people will feel that on a deeper level and might not even know what’s going on; they just know there’re feeling it. But as far as going out into the crowd, it’s just something that people will remember. It engages them. A show should be an interactive thing. It’s like, you came to see me, well, I’m going to come see you for a minute. It’s togetherness; it’s synergy, that’s how I look at it.”
In addition to the feeling they have attended a full-contact event, those that have seen Loomis live and in person have also undoubtedly seen the beautiful red guitar that the iconic Bo Diddley personally gave to Loomis. The relationship between Loomis and the late, great Diddley goes way beyond just the exchange of a guitar, and it all started when Loomis was a mere teenager of 16.
“It was partially luck, partially preparation when I met him. My mom took me to see his show at a place called Rockafellas when I was 16 in Houston. I was sitting right up front and during intermission, I just went backstage to get an autograph and I had my guitar with me. So when I got back there, I played some Bo Diddley for him and he took notice. And then he asked me to play some more for him and when he got back up on stage, he called me up to play with him. That was so generous of him. It was a packed house at one of the premier concert houses in Houston – I couldn’t believe it. And then after that, he gave me his home phone number – no joke.”
Diddley and Loomis kept in touch after that initial meeting and every time the man in black came to the Gulf Coast to do some shows, Loomis was invited to get up and play with the legend.
“There again, that began my education. Listening to him tell those stories … it was just amazing,” said Loomis. “He was just so generous. He was always trying to give people stuff. He was such a giver. Most people don’t know this, but he was really a philanthroper. I think that’s important for people to know about him and his legacy. He routinely gave free concerts around his hometown to help homeless shelters and schools and whoever needed help. He had moved back to Florida for the last 10 years of his life and whenever we were on tour and in Florida, he would invite me and the band over. He let us sleep in his camper and he would cook barbeque for us – he called it Bo-B-Q. He was just always giving and that’s another thing that planted that Give it Back seed in my mind. It’s all coming full circle.”
Diddley’s last known recording appears on a tune called “You Got to Wait” off Loomis’ Ain’t Just Temporary.
“I’m completely honored. I mean, I look back now (Diddley passed away in 2008) and here’s this larger-than-life legend that goes, ‘Here, let me give you my phone number’ to a young, white kid. I mean, you can’t even believe that could happen,” said Loomis. “The first time I called his house as a teenager, someone answered and I was like, ‘Hello … is Bo there?’ It’s just unreal.”
As unreal as his first encounter with Bob Diddley must have been, Loomis, although still a teenager, was probably about as ready to show off his guitar licks to the Gunslinger as he could have ever been.
Music has always been something natural, something of a given, for
Loomis. After all, his parents were both musicians and instruments
strewn around the house was just a way of life during his formulative
years. That led to young Loomis developing a quick knack for knowing his
way around a harmonica, the drums and the piano, as well as the guitar.
“When you’ve been given a gift, you should share it, you know? If you’re fortunate enough to have been given a gift, keeping it to yourself is a sin,” he said. “What’s the point of that?”
As he went from being merely proficient on the guitar, to later being able to copy Albert King, Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and then onto his search for the ‘Hamilton Loomis sound,’ three strong words of advice from Diddley has been Loomis’ constant companion - “Innovate, don’t imitate.”
“Hell, I’m still trying to get there (to find his own sound). We all are. You stumble upon something that you dig and maybe other people dig it, too. I mean, I like funk and pop and rock and you mix all that up and then you get feedback from people …and when they like it, you begin to think maybe you’re on to something,” he said. “And then you keep going and keep adding to it. And on this new album, I’ve been writing with a little more pop sensibility in my melodies and people have been grabbing those melodies and responding a little more than they have in the past, so I thought maybe I’m onto something here. But it still sounds like me, whatever it is that I sound like.”
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2013
Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He's also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 8
Melvin Taylor - Taylor Made
Eleven East Corp. (BMI)
6 songs; 23:55 minutes
Styles: Jazz-Influenced Blues; Jazz
“Too much of a good thing” is a proverb even older than the blues, but within this genre, sometimes there’s not enough. Consider Melvin Taylor’s newest album, which is “Taylor Made” for relaxation. Clocking in at a meager 23 minutes and 55 seconds, this might more aptly be called an EP than a CD. With only six songs in which to strut his stuff, Taylor goes all out on lead guitar and vocals, along with Rick Jones on keyboard, Bernell Anderson on vocals for the third track, and Lou Dupont on drums. Five of these selections are originals, plus an inspired cover of Isaac Hayes’ “Do Your Thing.” All songs bring back the jazz-influenced magic of Taylor’s 2004 “Rendezvous with the Blues,” by Melvin Taylor and the Slack Band (also reviewed for Blues Blast).
On Taylor’s website, his biography states, “Melvin Taylor was born in 1959 in Jackson, Mississippi. His musical roots, however, have always been in Chicago, where he moved with his music-loving, guitar playing family when he was just three years old. By the time he was a teenager, Melvin's incredible ability and unique style was already grabbing attention on Maxwell Street. And indeed when Joe Willie ‘Pinetop' Perkins needed a great guitarist to play his European tour, he invited Melvin to join the Legendary Blues Band.” Since then, he has proven himself an innovative musician in his own right, as these three tracks most clearly show:
Track 01: “Whenever I See You”--This is the quintessential Melvin Taylor melody: mellow yet full-bodied, with intricate guitar riffs. “Whenever I see you, it’s still like the first time we met. Don’t look so surprised, baby, because I still haven’t gotten to know you yet. Our love is so strong; that’s what keeps me holding on.” Listeners might relate these lyrics to the artist himself, because even though his is not a household name, Melvin has devoted fans (this reviewer included). Their love for his music keeps them holding on.
Track 02: “Blue Moon”--Taylor puts his fingers to frenetic fretwork on this lilting and atmospheric jazz instrumental. It’s perfect for a summer night under the stars, especially a rare one when the moon is like the one in the title.
Track 06: “Time Out”--Kick back and enjoy this crisp finish, perfect for a late-night jam session with friends or playing in a jukebox at the bar. This time, Taylor lets Rick Jones take the instrumental lead on keyboards, putting listeners in mind of a modern jazz club.
If you don’t have much time in which to wind down from a long workday, yet love jazz-influenced blues, then this (too)-short CD is “Taylor Made” for you!!
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.
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Featured Blues Review 2 of 8
The Crippled Frogs – So Far, It’s OK
13 songs – 42 minutes
This fun, tongue-in-cheek country blues release from The Crippled Frogs comes straight from the banks of the Rhone River in France, not the Mississippi, where the band’s been croaking up a storm for the past five years. The three-piece unit invokes the spirits of Robert Johnson, Skip James and other forebears with this upbeat collection of 13 original tunes, all filled with images of loose women, wanderlust, strong booze, physical labor and oppression.
Formed in 2008 and with one prior disc to their credit, the Frogs -- Michael Dumaine on resonator guitar and vocals, Julien Garcia on guitar, banjo and ukulele and Romain Reina on vocals and slide -- opt for a simple, yet effective acoustic sound, while adding a wide variety of percussion instruments, including a washboard and Peruvian cajon, to drive their music home. Dumaine penned most of the tunes, with his bandmates filling out the bill. Etienne Roche (trombone), Fabrice Bon (clarinet) and Andrezej Brych (trumpet) provide backing on two songs.
Dumaine and Reina play call-and-response for many of the vocals, including the finger-picked “Outsider Blues,” which kicks off the album. The singer’s a yellow rubber boot wearing homeless flute player who knows life is hard, especially when he has to sleep on the ground during a snowy night. “Nobody wants to talk to me/Neither do I,” he jokes. Despite the dour them, “Smile For My Funeral” serves as a tribute to a poor black field worker who started “saving nickels/and at the age of 21/as other kids bought jewels/he bought himself a gun.” He serves a stint in prison for a failed bank robbery, but learns his lesson, lives a good life and makes an argument for a place in heaven. The band takes aim at gypsy fortune tellers next with “Clairvoyant Blues.” Sadly, the seer correctly predicts that the singer will starve as a blues musician. And he holds a grudge with her after she adds that “I sucked.”
For A Gig” may be a little autobiographical, as many musicians can
attest. It’s a combination of joy and stage fright when the booking
finally comes and the singer’s dazzled by the bright lights. The funky
“Remorse” follows with a strong, simple statement against littering,
greed and laziness. “Targets And Spears” speaks of inescapable
melancholy, which is a perfect lead-in to “Death Row Blues,” the tale of
a man who can’t think of anything worse than the year he’s spent
awaiting the executioner.
“Papa Joe’s House” sings the praises of a pimp, complete with a reference to James Brown’s band, the JBs, playing on the stereo. “Swindler’s Blues” is another song of regret from the view of someone who’s been fleeced by a stranger. But the pain there is nothing compared to “Devil With Blue Eyes,” which follows and states: “Since the first time I saw her I was blinded/She faded all the colors of the sky/But every time I thought that she was splendid/She tried to make me suffer ’til I die.” The disc concludes with “The Cripple Ball,” a banjo-driven spirit-lifting tongue-in-cheek dance number with a melody suitable for a “Beverly Hillbillies” soundtrack: “Now you might be in trouble/As you might see in double/Your Ma might be the cousin of you Pa/You may’ve been born in Chernobyl/Convinced that you’re Buffalo Bill/I’ll teach you how to dance/Come follow me.”
This isn’t your grandfather’s old-time country blues to be sure, and some of the lyrical are a little odd to a native English speaker’s ear. Even so, the Crippled Frogs keep you hopping while having a whole lot of fun. Jump on board for a good time.
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 of 8
Lookin’ For Trouble – Look Out!
7 tracks; 23 minutes
For the second time recently I have an EP to review! This time it’s California quartet Lookin’ For Trouble, led by guitarist Greg Conte who wrote five of the seven tracks here, three in collaboration with vocalist April Snow. They are supported by the rhythm section of Don Romine on drums and David May on bass.
April’s voice can become a little strident at times. Greg’s guitar playing has something of the same approach which works fine on the cover of Buddy Guy’s “I Smell Trouble” but less so on opening track “Baby Get Ready” where his distorted solo went well over the top. Title track “Lookin’ For Trouble” is an uptempo stomper with aggressive guitar and a clear statement form vocalist April: “if you want a little heartache, I’ll understand; if you’re looking for trouble you’re my kind of guy”.
The band drops the pace for “Look Out” and Elmore James’ “It Hurts Me Too” is given a fairly torrid mid-paced treatment with plenty of slide. Closing track “Blue Shadow” is a breakneck instrumental which certainly gives Greg the freedom to express himself with lots of strong riffs and use of the whammy bar.
For me the standout track on this short album was “Thunderbird”, another Greg and April co-write with an amusing lyric: “I’ll take a ride in a Chevy or a Dodge, but honey, don’t be absurd, the only car that’s parking in my garage is a slick red Thunderbird.” One of the reasons for the track’s success is that both vocalist and guitarist keep their histrionics under control and let the song breathe. Personally I would like more of that approach and less of the loud approach.
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 4 of 8
Chris Antonik – Better For You
11 songs - 49 minutes
Canadian guitarist, singer and songwriter Chris Antonik’s sophomore release, Better For You, follows his well-received self-titled 2010 debut. The new album, co-produced by Antonik and Ted Onyszczak at Toronto’s Canterbury Studios and engineered by Jeremy Darby, contains 10 original songs either written or co-written by Antonik and one cover.
This is a blues-rock album, rather than a blues album, but is none the worse for that. Antonik is a fine guitar player and singer, with a husky Knopfler-esque vocal style. A number of guest vocalists also feature on the CD, with the multi-talented Josh Williams (from Canadian jamband, The Fat Cats) singing three songs, Shakura S’Aida providing the vocals on “Come From A Good Place” and Mike Mattison of The Derek Trucks Band on “Broken Man”.
The album opens with “Long Way To Go”, a chugging 12-bar blues in which Antonik’s guitar trades licks with Steve Marriner’s harmonica, and which sets the tone nicely for the rest of the album. The band (which features Chris Chiarelli on drums, Andrew Taylor on bass and Josh Williams on Hammond organ and piano) lays down a dirty but irresistible groove before the horns and harp kick in on the second verse. Crisp production ensures that all instruments can be clearly heard.
Antonik’s highly personal songs often deal with openly auto-biographical issues such as his relationship with his wife and the impact on his life of the birth of his son. There is a warmth and openness to his lyrics however that ensures they have a wider resonance. In Antonik’s tribute to his wife, “Turn To Shine”, for example, Josh Williams sings: “I met an old woman today, who gave all her winnings away. She said ‘What you never had, you’ll never miss’, and she reminded me of you.” Antonik produces a lovely, soaring outro solo on this song, reminiscent of Dickie Betts.
blues underpin all the songs, the Memphis Soul/Stax sound is evidently
also a major influence on Antonik, both in the chord progressions of his
songs and in the stabbing horn parts that appear on several songs
(courtesy of Richard Underhill and Perry White on sax, William Sperandei
on trumpet and William Carn on trombone), such as “Come From A Good
Place.” This does not mean that Better For You sounds like an Albert
King or Robert Cray album, however. A more salient reference point is
Eric Clapton, especially in Antonik’s warm, thick guitar sound, which
often sounds in both tone and note selection like mid-to-late 1980s
Clapton, around the time of Journeyman.
Another high point is “Tell Me What You Need”, which (perhaps surprisingly) utilises programming for all instrumentation other than bass and guitar. It is a tribute to Ted Onyszczak’s programming skills that the electronic background does not distract from the song itself and Antonik turns in one of his best guitar performances on this song. Understated and melodic one moment, exchanging over-dubbed licks with himself the next.
The album finishes with the gospel blues of “I’ll Help You Through”, which has more than an echo of Freddie King’s “Same Old Blues. It is a fitting closer, however, telling the story of Antonik’s wife having to be separated from their infant son for the first time. It also reflects the overall theme of the album, both lyrically and musically: the importance of putting others first. This is one of those albums that grows on you. It is warmly recommended.
Reviewer Rhys Williams plays blues guitar in Cambridge, England, which was named after Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a shameful attempt to get the likes of Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Ronnie Earl, Roomful of Blues and Kid Bangham to play over there.
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Featured Blues Review 5 of 8
Lisa Cee - My Turn
The inaugural release for this blues, rock, roots and soul singing woman is a good one. Hailing from Southern California, Lisa Cee has led the house band at the Gibson and Fender Guitar Lodge at the Sundance Film Festival and now has worked with Rip Cat to release her first album. Interestingly, it features an old picture of Lisa on the cover in a gogo cage in a zebra striped outfit and fishnets, so I was not sure what was going to be inside.
Lisa wrote nine of the songs for this CD. There is an interesting mix of new and old here and the covers are slick, eclectic and pretty cool. “White Rabbit” has Cee taking it to a new place; she replaced the guitar lead with horns and gives a great vocal performance. “Good-Bye Baby” gets re-vamped quote sweetly in a boogie woogie style. “I’ll Take You There” features an acoustic guitar intro and lead with a sultry performance by Cee. 60’s soul tune “What Good Am I” (Mickey Champion) opens the CD as a jumping blues tune with a great vocal performance.
Cee notes that she is on a journey to ex-press herself with her songs here. It’s not like some of her live sets where she comes our with six shooters blazing. Cee is working to blend her vocals and backing into a whole and I’d hae to say she did a good job. The first we get to here is “Fire In The Sky,” where she blends her voice with some cool guitar licks by he r band mate BR Million. Blues ballads like “Lost You” show her emotions and the pain of grief and loss of friends. “Fire” funks it up with a great groove and horn solo by Ron Dziubla. She takes a rootsy, country turn with “My Turn” while “Right Man” featured producer Johnny Mastro with some wicked harp work and Cee belting out about how her “right man” treats her so well. “Stop Tryin’” features Cee soulfully wailing while “Cold Hearted Woman” has Cee telling us to stay away or we’ll get burned. “Evil Mind is another funk tune where Cee shows her stuff. She closes with an acoustic number, Already Free.” More great lyrics and some cello make this even more poignant and haunting
I’m sold– I liked this CD. Not having seen her live, I have nothing to contrast her studio performance with, but suffice it to say there is a lot of depth, meaning and feeling in her work. I was impressed with the songs, her performances and the cast of characters supporting her. Mike Hightower and Albert Treagnier Jr. are the bass and drum backline and those who stop in for a song of two also do a great job. A very nice first effort by this California blues woman!
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 6 of 8
Fabrizio Poggi & Chicken Mambo – Spirit of Mercy, a Collection
14 tracks / 57:18
A friend of mine is writing a book about the history of the harmonica in music, and when I mentioned I was writing a review of a new CD from Fabrizio Poggi, he nodded his head and smiled. He allowed that he was a fan of Mr. Poggi, and that his skills are certainly top notch, but that his feel for the instrument and his respect for its role in music is what really sets him apart. It turns out that Fabrizio has also written books on the history of folk harmonica, which is quite a coincidence. Maybe I should introduce them.
Fabrizio Poggi has played with what seems like every notable blues performer that has been active over the past few decades. He has released fifteen albums (if I counted them right), and though he is based out of Italy, many of them were recorded in the United States. Two of his more spiritual efforts have been 2008’s Mercy and 2010’s Spirit & Freedom; his latest album, Spirit of Mercy, is a compilation of the highlights from these two albums, with a few alternate takes. This ends up being a neat combination of blues and spiritual tunes.
Not surprisingly, Fabrizio takes care of the harmonica chores, as well as many of the vocals – but keep in mind there are plenty of featured artists sharing this role. Joining him are Roberto Re on bass, Stefano Bertolotti on the skins, Bobby Sacchi on accordion and vocals, and the trio of Maurizio Fassino, Gianfranco Scala and Francesco Garolfi on guitars and vocals. You will find that these are all first-call artists, and there is not a missed cue or clunker note on this CD.
The other thing you will find is that although Poggi is a harmonica virtuoso, this is not a harmonica album: it is all about the lyrics, as is befitting of a spiritual work. This is brought home by songs such as “I Heard the Angels Singin’” which features none other than Eric Bibb (who recorded this song back in 2001) and the inimitable Garth Hudson (formerly of The Band) on the keyboards. Their great vocal harmonies, combined with Hudson’s spooky keys and Fabrizio’s harmonica gives this song a wonderful Louisiana feel. Hudson appears on two other tracks, including the brief opener, “Mercy” and “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me.”
There are plenty of other guest artists on this collection, including Tejano accordionist Flaco Jimenez on “Jesus on the Mainline.” This is a live track, and there is a lot of great stuff going on in this countrified blues song. An uncredited female vocalist tears this song apart as she harmonizes so well with Fabrizio. Flaco is given plenty of room to work and he shows exactly why he is a living legend of the squeeze box. If this song is any indication of what Poggi’s live show is like, I will have to try to see one of his live shows some time.
Another featured artist is one of my favorite singer/harmonica players, Rob Paparozzi, who appears on “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” He trades vocals and harmonica licks with Poggi and it is great to see that Fabrizio is willing to share his stage with so many great talents.
My favorite tune is the most intimate song in the collection, “Precious Lord,” which highlights Fabrizio’s emotionally wrought vocals over a base of beautifully-picked acoustic guitar. He uses his harp well too, and this song is so well recorded that all of these elements come together perfectly. Poggi also does a mean rendition of “Amazing Grace” on his harp, with the sound of a hammer driving nails into a cross in the background. We get to see a piece of the man’s soul here.
I admire the cleverness that Fabrizio showed by taking the best parts of two good albums, and combining them into Spirit of Mercy. Though this work is a fine example of harmonica talent, the bigger story is the excellent cross section of blues and blues-based spiritual music that is found within. If you do not have any Fabrizio Poggi albums yet, listening to this one would be a great way to experience his music, and possibly to start your own collection of his catalog. Check it out.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at www.rexbass.blogspot.com.
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Featured Blues Review 7 of 8
Dick Farrelly & Matt Walklate - Keep it Clean
Ten tracks - 33:52
and Walklate first got together in Amsterdam in 2011 when they played
together in a bar. Fast forward to 2012 when they booked a studio and in
a non-stop nine and a half hour session, laid down these ten tracks.
Pretty good going, as that included learning, on the fly, the three
original songs included here alongside seven blues/jazz standards.
The opener (also the title track) is Charlie Jordan’s word-play song Keep It Clean, a jolly little number that is, like much of the CD, highly entertaining fun. Walklate’s voice is well suited to this type of hokum stuff. Next up is a version of Arthur Blake’s You Gonna Quit Me Blues, here listed as Good As I’ve Been To You, more a blues than the songster repertoire song Keep It Clean, it is, nevertheless, a delightful song with an unusual melody and a clever lyric.
Stepping outside the traditional blues, the boys give a nice rendition of Milt Jackson’s (MJQ) Bags Groove one of three instrumentals, the others being an adaptation of Duke Ellington’s C-Jam Blues, taken at a nice boogie pace and with some outstanding harp and guitar work and a self penned original, Sunday Rhumba a smooth, jazzy piece giving great opportunity for both men to show off their chops. Another original (with lyrics) 24 Hours, comes with a super slide break from Farrelly; delightful.
All in all this album, rounded out by a stirring version of Bottle Up And Go and a laid back version of Hop Wilkson’s Black Cat Bone, is a wonderful example is what can be achieved when two musicians experience that rapport that sometimes happens whilst playing together and pushes each to new musical heights. More please gents!!
Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian also produces and presents three web cast blues radio shows; one on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central, 10am Pacific) and two on KCOR (www.kconlinereadio.com) on Fridays at 12noon Central (Blues and Blues Rock) and Mondays at 4pm Central (Acoustic Blues).
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Featured Blues Review 8 of 8
Bottleneck John - All Around Man
Opus 3 Records
If you heard this recording without the benefit of background information, there wouldn’t be anything to tip you off that Bottleneck John hails from Lit, Sweden. His big booming voice and warm voice contains no hint of his origins. His primary choice of instrument being resonator guitar lends a real blues authenticity to this recording. He adds mandolin, banjo, electric guitar and kazoo to his arsenal at times. His support musicians contribute keyboards, acoustic bass, fiddle, tuba and spare percussion. His cover tunes and three originals are delivered with a heavy dollop of soul.
Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” is quite faithful to the original, bolstered by “meaty” resonator guitar and atmospheric harmonica. Mattias Nordqvist’s hearty piano work drives “No Matter How She Done It” along at a spritely pace. John’s husky, throaty voice is given complimentary backing by some moody Hammond organ on Tony Joe White’s “Out Of The Rain”. Who would have known that rocker David Coverdale of Whitesnake and Deep Purple fame could have written such a moving blues anthem as “Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues”? It’s given a nice casual reading here, cushioned in the lap of country-blues style guitar. John highlights his skills on resonator mandolin and slide mandolin on the original instrumental “Mandolinferno”, a toe-tapping workout. John and Mattias on guitar and piano respectively, do Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell proud on their signature song “How Long, How Long Blues”.
Slide guitar and fiddle intertwine on the original “Autumn Rime”, that sounds like it could be a blues chestnut from the thirties. “Only A Woman”, another original, carries a similar old time vibe. Tuba plays the bass lines under guitar, piano, harmonica, mandolin and kazoo on their lively version of “You Can’t Get That Stuff No More”. This guy can even coax emotion out of the one string on a diddley-bow on the closing traditional spiritual “Wade In The Water”.
This highly enjoyable and authentic sounding blues recording truly shows that the blues are international. It doesn’t matter what corner of the planet the artist comes from, you either have a blues soul or you don’t. This man has one in spades!
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
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Blues Society News
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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 6th - Black Magic Johnson http://blackmagicjohnson.com, May 13th - Tombstone Bullet http://tombstonebullet.info, May 20 - Peter Karp & Sue Foley http://www.karpfoley.com, 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
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford/Northern Illinois
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!
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 presents its last Blues in the Schools artist-in-residence for the 2012-2013 school year, Gary Allegretto, the week of April 22 to 26. The founding director of Harmonikids (a humanitarian organization that gives music therapy with harmonicas to special needs kids worldwide), and recipient of the Blues Foundation’s 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Award in Education, Gary will be teaching harmonica classes in area schools. He will also present two open-to-the-public performances are Tuesday April 23, 7:00 p.m.—Moline Public Library, 3210 41st Street, Moline IL and Friday April 26, 9:00 p.m.—The Muddy Waters, 1708 State Street, Bettendorf IA
The MVBS Blues in the Schools program is made possible by a generous grant from the Riverboat Development Authority. We also thank our other sponsors the Iowa Arts Council, the Moline Foundation, The Lodge Hotel, Alcoa, and KALA radio. 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: 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. 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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com. Visit www.wvbluessociety.org.
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