Issue 7-25, June 20, 2013
Scroll or Page Down! For news, photos, reviews, links & MUCH MORE in this issue!
Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2013
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with guitar wizard, Junior Watson. Bob Kieser and Marilyn Stringer have Part 1 of the photos and commentary from the 2013 Chicago Blues Fest.
We have six music reviews for you! Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from The Hitman Blues Band. Marty Gunther reviews a CD from Cassie Taylor. John Mitchell reviews a new release from The Kid Ramos and Bob Corritore. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new CD from Big Al & The Heavyweights. Mark Thompson reviews a new album from Devon Allman. Steve Jones reviews a new release from Sena Ehrhardt. We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor's Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
We are days away from announcing the 2013 Blues Blast Music Award Nominees. Stay tuned for a special press release with the nominees and info on the 2013 Blues Blast Music Award Ceremonies.
Tomorrow is the first day of summer and we are well into the thick of it with summer Blues festivals and events. This weekend there is a great Blues festival in the Southwest, The T-Bone Walker Blues Fest. It features some fantastic Blues artists including Duke Robillard, Zac Harmon and Doug McLeod at the Texas City Music Theater in Linden Texas. For tickets and complete info visit www.tbonewalkerfest.com or click on their ad below in this issue.
Also this weekend is the first annual Field Of Dreams Blues Festival at the Rockford Aviators Stadium in Loves Park, IL. This fest features a bunch of great artist including Lil' Ed And The Blues Imperials, Willie Buck and Tail Dragger, Dave Weld and The Imperial Flames, Toronzo Cannon, Aaron Williams And The HooDoo and The Flaming Mudcats. For tickets and info visit http://fieldofblues.blogspot.com or click on their ad below.
Finally there is a great event on the East Coast in Charlotte, NC called the Pam Jam. It features Damon Fowler Band, The Pam Taylor Band, Moses Jones, The Cazanovas and Junque Gallery. Tickets and info are at http://bit.ly/PamJam1 or just click on their ad below.
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
We made it to Bloomington, IL last week end for the Matthew Curry and The Fury CD release party. Matthew is a real impressive artist who is releasing his second album. The new album titled, Electric Religion, will be reviewed in an upcoming issue.
This show followed a fantastically received set at the Chicago Blues festival the weekend before. His first CD, If I Don't Got You, was nominated for Best New Artist Debut in the 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards. Not bad for a young man who just turned 18 two weeks ago! Keep your eye on this one.
Featured Blues Interview - Junior Watson
Let’s face it – a nickel has never really been worth a whole heck of a lot.
Sure, back in the mid 60s, you could score a fistful of bubble gum with one and, if you could manage to scrape four of them together, you could buy yourself a loaf of bread.
The afore-mentioned notwithstanding, it’s safe to say that a nickel has never really done much more than just take up space at the bottom of a dresser drawer.
However, ass-kickin’ and name-takin’ blues guitarist extraordinaire Junior Watson, has a different opinion on the value of the coin that features Thomas Jefferson on it.
“It was the best nickel that I’ve ever spent, for sure. I went to this yard sale (as a youngster) and this guy had this record for sale – “Bed Bug Blues/Too Close Together” by Lightnin’ Slim. It was a 45 (rpm) that I paid a nickel for and it completely changed my life,” he said. “I thought, ‘What is this? This stuff is so mysterious.’ You know, when you’re playing (guitar) to it, there’s not a whole lot going on, but there is something going on above it all … just the way the whole thing is put together.”
Already in love with the surf and instrumental music of the day he heard while growing up in Tulare, California, once Watson was bit by those “Bed Bug Blues,” there was no turning around.
Since that fateful day all those years ago, Watson has worked his way into becoming the guitar player’s guitar player and not only does he sound the part – at times sounding like he’s channeling a beat-box blast from some other dimension – he also looks the part, too. From his cleanly-shaven dome serving as the launching point for his extended, shoulder-length goatee and with his vintage Harmony Stratotone slung down low and ready to go, Watson is the very epitome of a suave, West Coast Hepcat.
His latest effort is the appropriately-named Jumpin’ Wit Junior (Royal Regal Records; available at www.juniorwatson.com). It’s a scorcher from the get-go, filled with all the elements of the old-school jump/swing vibe that Watson has been tinkering with and expanding on like a mad scientist in a tweed lab, for the biggest part of his career. And with his own twisted take on a pair of classic TV themes (“Bo-Nanza” and “Beverly’s Hillbilly”) the disc is full of all the creativity, essence and personality that have made Junior Watson one of the most sought-after guitarists on either coast.
“Well, that (Jumpin’ Wit Junior) was a brainstorm of an East Indian guy from Montreal, Canada named Bharath Rajakumar. This guy is the closet harmonica player there is to Little Walter, and I’ll tell you what – I’ve played with all of them,” said Watson. “This guy captures all the stabs and subtleties … first off, he plays really quiet … and he knows the kind of amps that Walter used … he just knows all of that stuff. He’s a genius.”
And, apparently, Rajakumar also knows how to kill three birds with one stone.
“Well, what we did was go into the studio and basically cut three guys’ material at one time. Fred Kaplan’s (pianist) CD, which is all instrumental, and my CD, which is all instrumental except for three cuts that I do the vocals on, and then Rajakumar’s thing,” Watson said. “There’s some really amazing things that came out of those sessions. But that guy (Rajakumar) really knows how to get that Chess Records sound, man. To me, it sounds really close to the old stuff.”
While the goal was to come as close to the old-school sounding blues as they could get, Watson wanted to end the similarities there on Jumpin’ Wit Junior.
“I really tried not to play anybody else’s stuff, which is tough to do, you know? I did one thing on the first song and that’s it. All the other stuff is pretty much me,” he said. “And some of it’s great, some of it is pretty good and some of it is just mediocre. You just can’t create stuff every second.”
While they do come around more regularly than Haley’s Comet, considering that he’s just issued three in about three decades, a Junior Watson solo album is still viewed as an infrequent visitor. And based upon the experiences he’s had in the past, it should be as no surprise that Watson isn’t exactly in a huge rush to churn out a string of CDs.
“Yeah, it’s like one every 10 years,” he laughed. “When I did the first CD (1994’s Long Overdue), I hardly got any money from Black Magic (record label), which was over there in Holland. I think I got $2,000 to do the whole thing, including paying everybody that played on it and things were cheaper back then, but not that cheap. So I added about $700 of my own money. So then what happened was – I owned all the masters from it – so they leased it from me and put it on Black Top Records (in New Orleans). And from that point on, they didn’t give a shit about me …they just stuck it out there, didn’t advertise it and they never even paid Black Magic – they burned them. But that wasn’t actually the big, crucial thing; they also burned them (Black Magic) for a Magic Sam CD that sold a lot of units, so they basically drove them out of business. And I got left high-and-dry. But you know what? I’m still doin’ it; I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
Although he’s been primarily a solo artist since the dawn of the new millennium, Watson did log a couple of decade-plus stints in a pair of bands known for their relentless road work over the years – The Mighty Flyers (the outfit that now bears harpist Rod Piazza’s name – Watson was a founding member of the group) and Canned Heat. After being entrenched in a group for so long, Watson says a musician can usually recognize when it’s time to pack up and move on down the road on his own.
“Well, the reason (for leaving a band) is always different. With Canned Heat, Henry (‘The Sunflower’) Vestine died on the road in a hotel room in Paris (in 1997), so that was kind of an omen for me, because it was getting to the point that there was hardly anybody original left in that group,” he said. “And with Rod … after 10 years, it was just time to go. I did a lot of driving in that band – me and Bill Stuve (longtime bass player for the Mighty Flyers) was living up in the Bay Area and we were coming down to L.A. every weekend to play for like two years. We were wearing out cars. That really takes a lot out of you. We were doing (loading and moving) all of our own equipment at that time – it was really low scale – and I was getting sick all the time. So you’re getting all the elements out there, no matter what time of year it is. But I had a good time, a good stint in there.”
The West Coast blues scene has had no shortage of stars – back in the day or even in current times – but as a whole, it often gets overlooked as a breeding ground for killer blues music. And just like Chicago, Mississippi or Texas, the West Coast blues has a style and personality all its own.
“The West Coast scene, to me, means back in the 40s and 50s when all the guys migrated from Texas to here. Guys like Pee Wee Crayton, Lowell Fulson … all those kind of guys,” he said. “To me, it’s almost more of a sophisticated-type of blues, more … what’s the word they used to use; society. You know that was a term they used for a lot of the trios; Nat King Cole Trio, Johnny Moore, all that kind of stuff. In the case of a lot of those old guys, they played with real musicians, horn players, piano players, and that’s where a lot of those guitar players got their ideas from – the horns.”
Watson has long been associated with the West Coast sound, and if it seems like he’s played with everyone who has ever set foot in California over the years, that’s because he has; guys like Shakey Jake Harris, George ‘Harmonica’ Smith, Snooky Pryor, Mitch Kashmar and William Clarke … to name just a few.
Sometimes it can be a tough deal to juxtapose your own personal style into the groove or setting that another musician prefers, but for Watson, that has never been a big problem.
“I’ve always been one of those guys that like to try and play something a little different from what the other guys play. And when you’re playing with other musicians, you just have to change your stuff up some,” he said. “And a lot of times, that can be a hard thing to get, because people always want to rely on clichés and stuff they’ve heard a thousand times. So the real challenge for me when playing with other guys is if I’m really not familiar with what they’re trying to go for … but I’ve got a lot of options - a lot of different options that I can use.”
Unlimited as they are now, when he first set out on the road to play the blues as a young man back on the Golden State’s central coastal area, Watson’s repertoire was – naturally – a bit more minimal.
“Well, I tried to get a little band going and believe it or not, it was called Double Trouble – after the Otis Rush song. And I think we played two gigs and we had to repeat four or five songs because I didn’t have enough songs to sing,” he laughed. “But back then, I couldn’t sing nuthin.’ But we were playing in a club, even though we were underage.”
But things quickly changed and picked up steam for young Watson.
“Then about two years after that, Gary Smith, who was this harmonica player in San Jose, got wind that we had this band and he was going to just come and steal my drummer. So he brought his buddy Robben Ford over there with him and they came to the house where we were rehearsing and said, ‘Hey, you’re sliding on chords like Robert Lockwood. Do you listen to him?’ And I went, ‘Who?’” laughed Watson. “Then he goes, ‘You got to come over to the house.’ So I ended up moving over there with Steve Gomes (one-time bass player for Ronnie Earl and who also just produced the new Fabulous T-Birds album) and those two guys had record collections from Hell, man; all the real-deal, no filler-stuff, whatsoever. And I dove into that like a madman and it’s been like that ever since.”
One of the many things that set Watson apart from a lot of other guitar players on the crowded scene is his never-ending quest to constantly find new and sometimes even obscure sounds to inspire his creative juices.
“I’m always looking for stuff that nobody’s ever heard. I remember going and getting on a bus one time in 1979 in Long Beach and going to this little junk shop place downtown. And in the back, they had a box of old records, so I siphoned through and found Joe Houston’s Rockin’ at the Drive-In on Combo Records,” he said. “And I knew even back then that was a $100 record and I got it for a buck. But money aside, I mean, what a great record that is, and it’s one that most people haven’t heard of.”
His quest for stuff off the beaten path doesn’t end with strictly the songs he coaxes out of his guitars. It includes the instruments themselves, from his trusty Stratotone to the one he calls ‘The Spaghetti Western Guitar’.
“This guy, Dan Dunham (guitar builder and restorer), and I, were looking for ideas and I said, ‘You ever seen a Wandre Guitar?’ They’re an Italian guitar from the 50s and 60s and they’re like nothing else you’ll ever see. They’re like pieces of art, made out of fiberglass with like aluminum necks,” said Watson. “So, our guitar was sort of modeled after that and the name, of course is an homage to Ennio Morricone, the composer of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,’ and those Clint Eastwood westerns. He (Dunham) didn’t copy the Wandre exactly, but he got all the elements to it. It’s real easy to play, because I don’t have long fingers.”)
Regardless of just how long his fingers actually are, one thing’s for sure – those fingers have hardly slowed down one bit over the course of the last four-plus decades. And don’t count on them getting many days off going forward, either.
“Most people hate their job – I love mine,” Watson said..
Visit Junior's website at www.juniorwatson.com. You can watch a bunch of videos of Junior playing on his YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/juniorfats?feature=watch
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine
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 6
The Hitman Blues Band - Blues Enough
11 songs; 48:35 Minutes
Styles: Blues Rock, Modern Electric Blues, Jazz-Influenced Blues
When one first hears the name “The Hitman Blues Band”, one might imagine a gritty posse with an in-your-face vocalist who sounds like Marlon Brando from “The Godfather”. Even though Russell “Hitman” Alexander and his sound squad make listeners an offer that they can’t refuse (listening to their latest album), their music couldn’t be further from the Hollywood image of a hitman. Their exuberance, high energy, and good-natured vocals assassinate bad moods, not Mafia bosses. Together, this ensemble (guitarist and vocalist “Hitman” Alexander, Kevin Rymer on keyboards, Mike Porter on bass and backup vocals, Guy LaFountaine on drums, Michael Snyder on saxophones, Eric Altarac on trumpet, and Alan Alpert on trombone) presents eleven original numbers that they hope will be “Blues Enough” for fans to add to their permanent collection. The following three are especially potent:
Track 01: “Blues Enough”--Some opening tracks on studio albums are also fantastic to start off live blues shows. “Blues Enough”, an infectious chance for the crowd to sing along, proves this point. Its chorus pointedly asks: “Does it make the score? Do you want some more? Is that blues enough for ya?” On the Hitman Blues Band’s lyrics website, “Hitman” reveals: “Okay, so I got shanghai'd into judging a ‘King Of The Blues’ contest. I was given a list of qualities to check off - ability, presence, orginality, versatility, and...in capital letters. Bolded. Question 5 - Blues Content. Is it blues enough for you? The criteria sheet must have been written by a frustrated music critic…”
Track 02: “Sam the Bluzman”--Written in fond memory of Sam “the Bluzman” Taylor, this should be a prime selection for live shows. The horn section is especially hot here, as are the harmonic backup vocals by guest star Victoria Anyah. “Hitman” tells blues lovers who miss Sam what to watch for during a performance: “And the band begins to cook, you might want to take a look, 'Cause you just might see a glow up on the stand…”
Track 09: “Better Class of Bums”--Especially when they’re starting out, traveling blues bands play in places they consider disreputable. However, the Hitman Blues Band is moving on up: “I'm with a better class of bums. I drink a fancy kind of booze. I'm smoking big cigars and drive expensive cars, but I still can't get to you…” The lesson is that even though success may elevate one up the social ladder, one can’t impress some people. Nevertheless, the smooth groove of the saxes and piano will.
No matter what score it may rate in purists’ books, the Hitman Blues Band’s latest effort is more than “Blues Enough” for eager fans!
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 6
Cassie Taylor - Out Of My Mind
12 songs – 50 minutes
Cassie Taylor’s the bass-playing daughter of inventive trance blues superstar Otis Taylor. Lithe, model-pretty and a veteran of 10 years on the road backing her dad, Carrie makes her solo debut with this powerful release. Otis likes to mine historical themes for his work, which he layers with textures both ancient and new. In contrast, Cassie presents a thoroughly modern work. Like her dad, though, she’s an innovator, fusing fuses everything from New Orleans funk to West African psychedelic rock to create all of the material contained on the disc. And she provides a few musical surprises along the way to keep things entertaining.
“I’m drawn to interesting sounds,” says Carrie, who’s a member of The Blues Foundation’s board of directors and leads the organization’s Generation Blues initiative for young musicians. “I love melodies, but they have to have a strong backbone of music and lyrics to support. I’m really eclectic, and can find the blues in all kinds of music. I’m a 26-year-old woman with very light skin living in the 21st century. Had Muddy Waters grown up when I did, perhaps his music would sound a lot like mine. I listen to everything from old blues to punk to drum ’n’ bass to my father’s music, and it’s all become part of me.”
Cassie doubles on bass and vocals and contributes some work on the organ, accompanied by Steve Mignano (slide guitar) and Larry Thompson (drums) on all tracks. Steven Vidiac plays keyboards on three songs, Owen Tharp bowed bass, Jon Gray trumpet and Todd Edmunds tuba on two. A simple drumbeat kicks off the two-part “Ol’ Mama Dean.” It’s quickly joined by Cassie on one of the strangest instruments ever to grace a blues album. It’s the theremin, the odd electronic instrument that provided many of the sound effects for the original “Star Trek” TV show. Inspired by a documentary Cassie saw on the tube, it’s the story of a woman imprisoned for murdering a violent husband. Her voice is strong and haunting, as she sings: “She screamed: Free-dom!/Lord have mercy on me.” Slide and drums parry throughout the minor-key “Spare Some Love,” a plea to end homelessness, one of the singer’s favorite causes, delivered in first-person point-of-view. “Out Of My Mind” is an uptempo love song with soft, sensual overtones: “Let the fools rush in/Let the blind lead the blind/Cause I can’t get him out of my mind.” The spirit of the song and Cassie’s light delivery are reminiscent of a young Diana Ross with the Supremes -- warm and very danceable.
“Lay My Head On Your Pillow” is another love song, written to celebrate her parents’ 23rd wedding anniversary and how, even though every day is a struggle, her mother loves looking after her dad. It’s a slow, sweet grinder. The tempo picks up dramatically with the funky “New Orleans,” featuring Gray’s horn lines and paying tribute to the Big Easy for all of the good times, good food and sleaze that it has to offer. Cassie wrote the next tune, “No Ring Blues,” after her boyfriend/road manager Chuck Haren asked her to write something about him. The harangue includes references to Cassie cleaning his clothes and scrubbing his floors. He listened to her sing it on stage for months before proposing.
bass line drives “No No,” which was written after Cassie had been dissed
by a friend who stood her up for a dinner and spent the night elsewhere.
Mignano’s guitar comes to the fore during the instrumental break as
Thompson propels the song from the bottom. “Forgiveness” is a song of
praise for having friends at her side, while “Gone And Dead” is a song
of remembrance, written after the passing of Otis’ friend and blues
legend Gary Moore. “Dad told me he bought a piece of land where he’ll
have a monument for his fans after he dies,” Cassie says. “He’s always
told me and my sister: ‘When I’m dead, you’ll still have the music.’
It’s what he is and what he does.”
The album was a leap of faith for Cassie and her husband, who sold his 2008 Volvo to fund the project, which she produced. It was a voluntary, loving act for which she thanks him in the album notes. Fortunately, it’s a pretty safe bet that his gamble’s going to pay off. This one’s a winner.
Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
The Kid Ramos/Bob Corritore - Phoenix Blues Sessions
South West Musical Arts Foundation Records
10 tracks; 41 minutes
When Kid Ramos was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in September 2012 the blues world rallied round with a number of benefit concerts to raise money to support Kid during his treatment. Phoenix club owner and renowned harp player Bob Corritore had another great idea and dug through his recorded archives to find a number of unreleased sessions from around the turn of the millennium on which Kid played guitar. The result is this CD which finds Kid with Bob Corritore on harp, Chico Chism on drums, Paul Thomas or Mario Moreno on bass, Johnny Rapp on guitar and either Henry Gray or Tom Mahon on piano. Vocals come from Nappy Brown on four songs, Chief Schabuttie Gillame, Big Pete Pearson and Henry Gray on two each. The result is a selection of classic Chicago blues, all in a good cause. Of course it also provides an opportunity to hear a number of departed blues greats once more as several of the cast have passed since these recordings.
Nappy Brown was a wonderful vocalist and a genuine blues ‘character’ with his sometimes crazy stage antics which he continued to perform even at the end of his life. His four tracks here are all standouts: “Long Time Coming” is a slow blues with sensitive accompaniment from Kid, Bob and Henry Gray on piano; “Aw Shucks” is terrific fun as the band ups the pace and Bob blows some Chi-Town harp – no keeping still to this one! Equally fun is “Baby Don’t You Tear My Clothes” on which Nappy clearly relishes singing the slightly risqué lyrics and the lengthy version of “Nappy’s Driftin’ Blues” (a close relative of Johnny Moore’s song) gives everyone plenty of space to shine - shimmering dual guitar playing, Nappy’s vocal and ad-libs, Bob’s subtly understated harp.
Henry Gray sings and plays piano on “Talkin’ About You” and “I Held My Baby Last Night”. The former is an uptempo romp, the latter a slow rolling blues with Henry’s piano and Bob’s harp playing a strong element on both cuts. Big Pete Pearson, for many years a stalwart of the Phoenix scene, sings “Natural Ball” in a short and sweet version of the T Bone classic. He also leads on the interestingly titled “Possum Up A Tree” on which Kid plays some nice slide. Chief Schabuttie Gillame has a deeper voice than the other three vocalists that works well on the slow blues and rather threatening sound of “Snakes Crawl At Night”. Opening track “No More Doggin’” is played in a John Lee Hooker style rather than the more loping ‘flat tire’ rhythm that I associate with Rosco Gordon’s original.
The overall quality of the album stands in its own right as well as being a welcome fundraiser for Kid’s medical treatment.
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.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Big Al And The Heavyweights – Sunshine On Me
Self Release through Blusiana Records
11 tracks / 39:01
New Orleans is a mixture of different cultures, sensation and vibes, and it is cool that a few of Louisiana’s native sons have formed a band that is producing diverse music that any Crescent City native would be proud to call their own. That band is Big Al & the Heavyweights, which had its genesis in 1992 as the Unknown Blues band with founding members Warren Haynes and Al Lauro. After Dickey Betts tapped Warren on the shoulder with an invitation to be in the Allman Brothers (how could one resist?) Al pushed on and changed the band’s name to its current moniker.
They have earned a stout fan base by sticking to a solid game plan: making good music and getting out there to prove themselves to live audiences. The band has cut six well-done albums and is on the road more often than not, playing regularly around the Gulf States with occasional forays into the Midwest and points beyond, including the Chicago House of Blues. It does not hurt that they have staunch celebrity advocates (Dan Ackroyd and Emeril Lagasse) who are in their corner and are who do a stand-up job of getting their music out to the masses.
The Heavyweight lineup for Sunshine On Me includes New Orleans native Al on vocals and drums, bassist Dean Galatas from Bayou Liberty and two guys from Baton Rouge: Harmonica Red on the harp and James Bass on vocals and lead guitars. John “The Colonel” Fuhrman plays the harmonica and provides background vocals and Wayne Lohr plays the B3 and accordion as well as handling the lead vocals on a few of the tracks. This is an impressive line-up, and their talent is outshined by their ability to bring out the best in each other.
This most recent release includes eleven tracks, and you will find that their recordings have become more eclectic over the years, integrating element of blues, rock, jazz and Zydeco. The band has arrived at a place where they have their own sound, and it is a marvelous thing to behold. This is evident from the first track, “Don’t You Want Me,” which is hard to categorize in only one genre. It has an obvious blues foundation, but the hand percussion gives it a Cajun / roots music feel, and the break at the end of each verse is a real kick.
“What’s Up With That” has a more traditional blues feel, with a driving bass line and some nice work from James Bass on the sax and vocals. His voice is versatile, sounding very different from the opening track. You will find that their songwriting is mature, with this song constructed well to sync with the clever lyrics.
In the title track you will hear the heavy sounds of producer Anders Osborne’s electric guitar and the familiar tone of guest artist Warren Haynes’ slide guitar. This southern rock feel is seasoned with a tasty bit of Wurlitzer piano from Wayne Lohr. He takes over the vocal chores on “Money Matters,” a slow low-down blues song with wonderful harp playing from Fuhrman. Lohr also whips up his accordion for “Dance With Me,” a short Louisiana-fueled dancehall tune.
The Heavyweights pull out the stops with two down home Zydeco songs: “Pass a Good Time” and “Zydeco Boogie.” The combination of squeeze box, fiddle and washboard on these tunes provide a fun contrast with the road house and blues elements found throughout the rest of Sunshine On Me. Osborne did a fabulous job of producing this album and integrating all of these different styles, and all of the tracks play perfectly due to the engineering work of George Cureau and mastering by Parker Dinkins.
My favorite track on this disc is “Midnight Train to Memphis,” a blues rocker with some fine bass playing from Dean “The Bass Machine” Galatas. He does an admirable job of doubling Bass’ guitar work as Lohr belts out the throaty vocals while working the Hammond organ. The Colonel brings everything together on this one with his groovy harmonica stylings.
Big Al & the Heavyweights have come a long way since their first album, and Sunshine On Me is a just reward for two decades of hard work. It is a great listen and you should check it out for yourself. Also, make sure that you look through their website to see when they will be in town next so you can catch their live performance. With over a hundred shows per year the chances are good they will be near you at some point. I will surely be keeping an eye out for them during my travels!
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at www.rexbass.com.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Devon Allman - Turquoise
It is tough
enough to make your way in this world without the burden of trying to
live up to the accomplishments of one of your parents. The weight of
expectations can be crushing if a parent has achieved legendary status
in their field of endeavors – and if their offspring decides to follow
in their footsteps, it could seemingly be a recipe for disaster.
For his new solo recording, Allman handles the vocals and most of the guitar parts, enlisting Scott on drums and Myles Week on bass to complete the basic line-up. The Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines is on-board to create some sonic magic for Allman's original songs, including two co-written with Zito.
The opening track, “When I Left Home”, finds Allman waxing philosophically about lessons learned after twenty years on the road chasing his dreams, complete with ringing guitar chords and smooth slide licks from guest Luther Dickinson. “Homesick” takes a hard look at the less-than-glamorous aspects of a decade of touring, with Allman dedicating the tune to his family for all of their support. He eases his pain of separation with pensive vocal and a measured solo that briefly lightens the dark mood.
Allman co-wrote “There's No Time” with Tyler Stokes, a former neighbor and promising guitarist. The track features an organ-drenched arrangement, courtesy of Rick Steff on the Hammond B3, and a distinct Latin feel that recalls the sound of Santana, particularly during Allman's solo sequences. The two songs written with Zito are thematically similar with “Don't Set Me Free” examining the painful breakdown of a relationship while “Strategy” features an emotive vocal from the leader celebrating his plans to keep love growing while Bobby Schneck Jr. takes over on lead guitar.
Samantha Fish joins Allman for a spirited duet on Tom Petty's “Stop Draggin My Heart Around”, one of the disc's highlights, the voices bristling with anguish and grief, cushioned by lush chords from Steff on organ. “Into The Darkness” has another passionate performance from Allman on a song written for his son, Orion, with Ron Holloway's saxophone creating a mellow atmosphere. The lone instrumental features Allman on a three string cigar box guitar serenading the love of his life on “Yadira's Lullaby”. The gentle ballad, “Time Machine”, works because Allman's gripping vocal makes you care about the watered-down lyrics. The same isn't true for “Key Lime Pie”, which never catches fire despite some wistful guitar lines. Allman closes with another reflective piece written after he returned from a vacation to Curacao, reminding all of us of the value of those moments when you “Turn Off the World.
If you have been reading carefully, you have probably noticed that the word “blues” has not been part of the discussion. This is a rock album – and a well-done recording that hangs together nicely. But you will not find anything but the faintest blues influence. That said, Devon Allman is to be commended for resisting to the urge to wail away on guitar and instead, treating listeners to his thoughtful, melodic examinations of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Definitely one to consider if you are looking for a change of pace.
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 Live Blues Review - Chicago Blues Festival - Part 1
The 2013 Chicago Blues Festival started out on Thursday night at the Millennium Park – Jay Pritzker Pavillion – one block away from the festival grounds at Grant Park. The night was beautiful and the park is always a wonderful adventure to explore, especially the city reflections at The Bean sculpture.
There were three acts Thursday night to start off the festival and they were well chosen to get the large crowds in the mood for the rest of the festival. The first set was Fernando Jones’ Blues Kids of America. It is very inspiring and exciting to see the perpetuation of our beloved blues in the young kids who are learning to play the music we so dearly love. The huge talent that these kids display is beyond their years. Although we did not catch all of the names of the performers, the stage was full of the future of the blues. Two of the performers were Logan Layman on bass – who belted out the blues while she played, and Ray Goren – an up & coming seriously talented blues guitar player and singer from California.
Next up for “the kids” was Jamiah On Fire & The Red Machine. Jamiah Rogers has been playing the blues in Chicago for a few years now. All three band members are young, extremely talented, and very comfortable on stage. The band included Jamiah Rogers 18 on guitar and lead vocals, Jalon Allen 14 on drums And Kenyonte Dilworth 12 on bass. Eventually Kenyonte will be bigger than his bass but that doesn’t stop him from mastering it now!!
The final “kid” on stage (just quoting the MC) was Chicago’s own Shemekia Copeland, who has grown up in the blues world and is the daughter of Johnny Copeland. Shemekia has become a premier blues singer in her own right, and was crowned Chicago’s Queen of The Blues last year at the Chicago Festival by Koko Taylor’s daughter, Cookie, and was presented with Koko’s tiara. Shemekia and her band were the perfect ending to the first night of the blues festival. She also had a special guest join her band, Quinn Sullivan, a young guitarist who has been training with Buddy Guy for a few years now.
And thus ended night one of the 2013 Chicago Blues festival. And of course, a stop at The Bean on the way out of the park to admire the city skyline reflections from all sides was a must!
On Friday the Chicago Blues Fest moved down the block to Grant park and the Blues fun started before noon. We split up the five stages to cover this monster fest. Marilyn Stringer covered the Crossroads Stage and the Windy City Blues Society Street Stage. At the Crossroads Stage (aka Bud Lite stage), the second band of the day was the ever flamboyant Toronzo Cannon. His style includes influences from R&B, soul, and gospel, all delivered with style and flair and a unique blues sound he has developed over many years playing in the Chicago area.
Next up was The Mississippi Heat. Powerful & passionate harmonica player and band leader Pierre Lacocque was joined by equally powerful blues singer Inetta Visor. Their sound is both traditional and unique as Pierre writes many of their songs. Other members of the band included Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums, and Johnny Iguana on keyboards.
The final act on the Crossroads Stage was Chicago’s Kevin Purcell & The Nightburners. Kevin’s style is a cross between Chicago Blues & Southern Rock and pure fun. The band includes Kevin Purcell-vocals, Don Laferty - Lead Guitar, Andy "Anj" Ohlrich – Violin &Vocals, Tony Root – Bass, Bill LeClair-Keyboards, and Pete Kruse - Drums, Percussion, & Vocals (I am guessing as the drummer was barely visible on the deeply shaded stage).
Over at the Windy City tent, hosted by the Windy City Blues Society, the crowds are always thick and the shows are intimate and popular. The first show we caught was Jimmy Nick & Don’t Tell Mama. Jimmy is one of the most animated and talented young guitar players I have witnessed and his energy is off the charts. Jimmy’s band includes: Jimmy Nick - guitar/vocals, Lowell Todd – bass, Joel Baer – drums, and Ben Thompson – sax. Yes, the blues is alive and thriving.
Winner of multi awards for his solid bass playing, Chicago’s Bob Stroger headed up the next band “Bob Stroger & Friends”. His friends included Billy Flynn – guitar, Omar Coleman – harmonica, and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums. (Note: I believe Kenny had to be running from stage to stage, as usual, as he is a very popular drummer in Chicago! And Billy Flynn, in demand guitar player, could be spotted on many stages throughout the weekend also!! But they are the best of Chicago blues so no complaints about that! )
I missed one band at the Windy City tent – Mojo Roots. Apologies and I am sure they were good – as are all the bands scheduled by the WCBS. And after that was The Koko Taylor Celebrity Aid Foundation presentation: Joe Barr & Soul Purpose. More great blues!
The final act we caught at the Windy City Stage on Friday before heading to the Petrillo Stage was Smiley Tillmon Band with Billy Flynn & special guests. What a treat to see Smiley! Great blues guitar, entertainer, and dancer too! Some of the band members included Smiley Tillmon – guitar & dancer, Billy Flynn – guitar, and Mike Brown – drums.
Meanwhile the first act we saw on the Mississippi Juke Joint Stage was Terry "Harmonica" Bean from Pontotoc, Mississippi. We have seen Terry in many situations, solo, with a band, on the main stages or side stages or busking on the street but he always puts on an entertaining show!
Next up was Lightning’ Malcolm. He plays what some call Mississippi Hill Country style with only a guitar and a drummer. This style is all about the groove!
Nest up was Bill “Howlin Madd” Perry. Bill was born in 1947 in Tula, Mississippi on land where his ancestors had worked as slaves. His music is real Blues and the crowd enjoyed his set.
The final act we caught on the Mississippi Juke Joint Stage on Friday was none other than Blues legend, John Primer and his Real Deal Blues Band
Over on the Front Poarch Stage on Friday we started off with Donna Herula and Tony Nardiello. Donna has been playing various small stages at the Chicago Blues Fest for the last 5 or 6 years quietly gaining skill and confidence and finally got her due with this set on one of the major stages of this great fest.
Next up we saw The Jimmy Burns Band. Jimmy is a guitar player and singer who is a long time Chicago favorite that can be seen playing in many of the Chicago Blues clubs year around.
The final act we caught on the Front Poarch Stage on Friday was Cicero Blake. A favorite vocal performer for more than 5 decades, he had a great set that went over quite well with the crowd.
The headliner acts for the Chicago Blues Fest all perform in the evening on the Petrillo Music Shell Stage. First up on Friday evening was Earnest “Guitar” Roy and his band. Ernest was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi and was steeped in the Delta Blues scene from the time he was a small boy. He played around Clarksdale with Ike Turner, Big Jack Johnson and others. His deep experience showed as he played a long set and repeatedly had the photographers in the pit hopping to catch all his great stage antics.
The next headliner was Irma Thomas. Irma has been performing for more that 50 years and her ability to win over the crowd is second to none. She brought a full band and horns for a great sounding set. She performed her big hit song, "You Can Have My Husband (But Don't Mess With My Man)" and got an amazing response from the crowd.
The final performer of the night was Mr. Entertainment himself, the incredible Bobby Rush Band. He brought his famous "butt dancing" girls and 4 guitar players.
It was a fitting performance to close out the second night of the 2013 Chicago Blues Fest. Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of this great Blues festival!
Photos by Bob Kieser and Marilyn Stringer as indicated.
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Featured Blues Review 6 of 6
Sena Ehrhardt - All In
The number of successful and talented young women on the blues scene today may be unparalleled at any time in recording history. This one is one of the best. What separates Sena from the rest are a few important things. First and foremost, she has a powerful and expressive voice. Second, she has maturity in her performing that is well beyond her years. Third, she has a great band which includes her Dad Edward on guitar. Lastly, she and her Dad write some great songs, 8 of which are featured here.
Sena’s been singing since she can remember. She and her Dad have made music almost all of her life. It is this familiarity and teamwork that makes Sena, her dad and the rest of the band a great act. She belts out songs that can chill your bones or warm you up to hellish heat. I think she is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
The title track is a funky number where Edward opens to a cool groove and Sena come in all sultry and tells us her iffy love in this relationship needs to be all in or she’s out; she wants a decision and her musical demand is quite impressive. She opens with “Buried Alive,” a breathy and sexy tune that she delivers and hooks the listener in. “Live and Learn” shuffles cooly as Sena croons about life’s realities.
The three covers are by Tom Hambridge (“I Want To Get You Back”), Jesse Mae Robinson (“Cold Cold Feeling”) and Bert Russell (“Cry to Me”). The Hambridge cut is superbly orchestrated and features a powerful performance by Sena. Her vocals are strident and the guitar solo is impeccable. “Cold Cold Feeling” gives us some deep and beautiful slow blues with thoughtfully picked guitar work and an anguished and very bluesy Sena. Russell’s cut is a bouncy tune that lets Sena build up to a huge vocal crescendo in the chorus. Really nice cover songs!
“Man Up” is a bold and rocking song with a driving beat where Sean shows she can rock with the best of them. Big guitar, big vocals here. (The promotional video for this track can be seen HERE.) “She goes back to slow blues in “Storm’s Comin’” and shows us again that she is comfortable with all tempos and moods. She builds from thoughtful to bold and back again as she works her magic here. “Baby Valentine” is a little down tempo but is followed by “So Excited” and we go from dark and sad to upbeat and funky as our emotions are taken to both extremes. She closes with “Dreamin’ or Dyin’” which is more country than blues but she sells it well. She pours her heart out for us as she sings about this relationship that has failed. Sad and mournful, she is really expressive and Edwards guitar adds to the mood in the solos and throughout.
I’m impressed. The first time I listened to this I was not sold. I listened again and got more interested. After a few listens, I became a fan. This is a really good CD. Blind Pig has an outstanding group of young artists who will keep the blues alive for years to come. Sena is the real deal and so is this CD! I recommend it to all blues fans who want to preview the next big female star in the blues world. I think she is on the fast track to the top!
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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Blues Society News
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Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
MVBS is sponsoring Get on the Party Bus! Brews & Blues Cruise Thursday June 20! With the BluesFest only a few weeks away, it’s time to start the pre-fest activities!! The Mississippi Valley Blues Society is sponsoring a Brews and Blues Cruise on June 20, 2013. We will start at Martini’s On The Rock in Rock Island beginning at 4:30 p.m., where they will be offering a Blues Burger for only $4.00 At 6:00 p.m. we will leave Martini’s on the party bus and head to the first microbrewery, Bent River in Rock Island, then to Great River and Front Street in Davenport. At each stop, two free samples and $1.00 off pints will be available.
You will receive a commemorative glass. Door prizes will be drawn between each of the microbreweries including, but not limited to, fest tickets and MVBS merchandise. We will return to Martini’s On The Rock for blues music with Chris Avey and Detroit Larry till 11:00pm. All this for only $25.00!! Tickets are available at the Blues Society office (Harrison and River Drive in Davenport) Monday, Wednesday, or Friday from 11:30-5:30 to pay for the event. (Call first: 563-32-BLUES.) The bus only holds 34 people, so don’t delay in getting your seat reserved!! For more information, contact Andrea Vallejo at 309-737-6863.
And finally, MVBS also announces Discount Blues Festival Tickets For Active Military and Veterans! The MVBS and R.I.A. Federal Credit Union recognize the great contribution to our country’s freedoms made by active military personnel and veterans, who should be celebrated on the most American of holidays, July 4, Independence Day—the first day of the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. To honor them, we are offering discount BluesFest tickets in advance; These special tickets will not be available at the gate.
Active military personnel and veterans can get BluesFest tickets for only $10 (gate admission is $20) by showing official military ID at the R.I.A. Federal Credit Union locations listed here through June 30. Tickets are limited to two per military ID.
Arsenal Island, Building #61—Rock Island IL, 1522 46th Ave.—Moline IL, In the Hy-Vee at 750 42nd Ave. Drive—Moline IL, 110 E. 10th Ave.—Milan IL, In the Hy-Vee at 2001 5th St.—Silvis IL, 4217 Utica Ridge Rd.—Bettendorf IA and 3509 Harrison St.—Davenport IA.
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. 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 - 12:00PMbr>
Joe's Blues Kids - 1:15PM
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. 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 - 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: 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 www.terryquiettband.com More information: www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues or firstname.lastname@example.org
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