Issue 7-27, July 4, 2013
Scroll or Page Down! For news, photos, reviews, links & MUCH MORE in this issue!
Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine
In This Issue
Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Delbert McClinton. Tim and Becky Richards have photos and commentary from the 2013 Ft Wayne Blues Fest. Bob Kieser has photos from the Field of Blues Festival.
We have five music reviews for you! Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Tommy McCoy. Steve Jones reviews a book about Blues from Terry Abrahamson. John Mitchell reviews a new release from Corey Harris. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new CD from Tokyo Tramps. Mark Thompson reviews a new album from JJ Grey And Mofro. 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 have loaded music selections from the 2013 Blues Blast Music Award Nominees onto a listening page on our website. Voting in this years awards starts on July 15th but in the meantime you can hear 2 or 3 songs from each artist and release nominated to be an informed voter! To check it all out, CLICK HERE. When you get to the page just click on the button by each of the 10 nominee categories to hear selections from the artists nominated.
Also we are announcing that The Essex Inn is the official hotel sponsor for this years awards. The awards ceremonies will be held at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago on October 31st, 2013. The Essex is one block from Legends and they will offer affordable rates (OK it IS Downtown Chicago so the definition of affordable may mean different things to different people).
So far there have been 17 artists that have confirmed they will attend, so it should be a good show! We will announce all the artists and provide ticket information in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
There is a great Blues festival this weekend put on by our friends at the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival lineup includes Eddie "Devil Boy" Turner, Chris O'Leary Band, Southern Hospitality and Walter Trout today July 4th, Samantha Fish, Anthony Gomes, John Primer and Mighty Sam McClain on Friday and Reverend Raven and the Chain-Smokin' Altar Boys, The 44s, Ironing Board Sam and Kenny Wayne Shepherd on Saturday. For the complete lineup including all 27 of the great artists at this festival CLICK HERE, or see their ad below.
Blues Blast Magazine will be there covering all the great music for you. Be sure to say hello when you see the Blues Blast Magazine logo on our shirts! See you there!
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
We made it to the 2013 Champaign Blues, Brews and BBQ Festival last weekend to see some great Blues. Some of the acts we saw included Chicago Blues diva Shirley Johnson on Friday and Blues rocker Kelly Richey on Saturday.
We will feature complete coverage of all the fun in an upcoming issue.
Featured Blues Interview - Delbert McClinton
At this point in his career, which has stretched out over more than fifty years, Delbert McClinton has reached the point where he can do whatever he wants. There isn’t much that he hasn’t accomplished – three Grammy Awards, hit records like “Givin’ It for Your Love” and “Every Time I Roll the Dice”, and a steady stream of headlining slots at festivals all over the world. So, he decided it was time to make another record with his musical compadre, Glen lark.
The two singer/songwriters grew up in Ft. Worth, TX, sharing a lot of the same musical influences. Their first collaboration was released in 1972, full of original material that blurred the lines between blues, rock & roll and country. The cover for that album had their first names wrapped around a picture of steer. The second duo record, Subject to Change, was released the following year. Neither album sold and the pair went their separate ways.
Now, forty years later, they are reunited on a project titled Blind, Crippled and Crazy. While the song by the same name, a hit for legendary soul singer O.V. Wright, is not on the new disc, it is special for McClinton.
“I’ve known about that song forever and I always thought it was the best title I had ever heard. I told myself that someday I would find a place to use that. It just seemed very apropos for this thing because, metaphorically, Glen and I are blind, crippled and crazy. And well-earned!”
After cutting their two records in California, both men returned to Texas. Delbert steadily built his career while Clark returned to Los Angeles after a few years. His skill as a songwriter is apparent when you look at a partial list of singers who recorded one of his songs – Etta James, Loretta Lynn, Wynonna Judd and Kris Kristofferson. Also a strong keyboard player, Clark has toured with Bonnie Raitt and Kristofferson. But there is something special going on when he sings with McClinton.
“We both sing real strong. And we figured out when we were younger that it was fun to sing together. And the way we sing together has always been interesting to me because we are liable to jump one another’s part and the other one just instantly goes to another part. We just know what the other one is going to sing. It’s always been that way. I sing it like I would anyway and Glen comes up with the harmony part. It is always an easy thing for us to sing together.” Each singer gets to do a couple of songs on their own and the rest feature the duo’s intuitive harmonizing.
A number of the songs on the record take an often humorous look back at life’s experiences and the lessons learned.
“That’s a pretty prevalent thing in people my age. By this point you have a whole lot of memories and hopefully they are all good ones. And looking back, that’s pretty much the case for me. I like every song on this record. We worked hard at trying to write good songs with lyrics that weren’t stupid. We tried to make them into a good story. Everything I ever do pretty much comes out as a short story. I have no tolerance for stupidity anywhere. It’s important to me to write good lyrics, as it is to all of us. I’ve had songs around for two or three years before I got the right line. If you ever have any doubt about it, then it’s wrong. You’re done when you’re happy with it.”
Songwriting credits on the project are split between Clark and McClinton plus another of Delbert’s kindred musical partners, co-producer Gary Nicholson.
“Gary and I work together on just about every project that I do. We’ve been doing that for over fifteen years. It is a real comfortable thing to people not only as a friend but someone who’s ears you can trust. They know what you can do, so it sweeps away a lot of uncomfortable moments. We all just think so much alike. But there are times when do butt heads with and that’s ok, because sometimes you do come up with better lines.”
Delbert points with pride to one of the album’s highlights, “Oughta No”, a tune his son Blake had a hand in writing and features another Texan, Anson Funderburgh, on lead guitar. Another stellar track is the hard rocking “Peace in the Valley”, written by the trio and featuring a killer guitar solo from Nicholson in addition to some rollicking piano from Kevin McKendree.
While it is common knowledge that McClinton played harmonica on Bruce Channel’s hit “Hey, Baby” from 1962 – and gave John Lennon some pointers on playing the harp – many fans may not be aware that McClinton started out as primarily a harp player in a band called the Straitjackets. The group found regular work in the Ft. Worth club scene, often backing touring blues legends.
“We were very fortunate. It was a good place in time. I learned to play harp from Sonny Boy (Williamson), Jimmy Reed, Buster Brown and Junior Parker. We would work for these guys a lot and that’s where I picked up on-the-job training for harmonica.”
Delbert learned other valuable lessons from the more experienced musicians, paying a high price for some of the education.
“I didn’t drink at all in those days. One night I was sitting around with Buster Brown and Jimmy Reed before the show. They were passing a fifth of Granddad and I was sitting in between them, double hittin’ it. I never saw the show. I passed out in the office and stayed there until the end of the night. It was not one of my better moments. I was just trying to fit in – and learned a great lesson. .Jimmy Reed was my hero and amazing – still is today. I still love listening to him. That’s where my heart beats. Nobody could do songs like he did.”
Another usual twist in the McClinton career is his poor track record with the labels he has recorded for. There wasn’t anything wrong with the music that he was making. Every time he started to build some momentum on a label, fate would rear its ugly head.
“Every label but one that I have ever been on went out of business while I was on the label. Five different times. (chuckles) It was discouraging but it is what it is. There’s nothing you can do so I don’t worry about it. I still feel like I am trying to make it in this business. I think that is a good thing because having that feeling means that I am not satisfied. And it keeps propelling me rather than casting me backwards.”
“My current label, New West Records, is the only record company that I ever worked for I made any money. The only one! And I own the rights to the master recordings and the publishing.” Even today, musicians or bands will trade the rights to their music in order to pursue their dreams of stardom on a major record label. “That’s horrible. Human beings are funny things. There people out there that will take anything they can get from you. You’ve got to know that.”
It looked like Delbert’s annual Sandy Beaches Cruise was going to end with this year’s voyage as the logistics of organizing the details had become too much to handle. But fate intervened in a positive way.
“The night before the last cruise we did, these guys from the Sixthman group out of Atlanta came on our cruise and made us a deal on a partnership. That took a whole lot of the heavy work off of my wife and the people that help us run our business. Now I have to do is be the host and hire the talent for the cruise. It makes things easier and we couldn’t turn it down.”
The 20th Anniversary Cruise will set sail in January with an all-star line-up including Richard Thompson, Marcia Ball, Paul Thorn and of course, Clark, Nicholson and son Blake.
“I know so many people who are so incredibly talented that don’t have a radio career. When I first starting doing this cruise, I thought it would be a great opportunity to turn people on to music they might otherwise never hear. These are people who do an awesome live show. I have a deep well of really talented friends and once a year we get together and spend a week making music and having a good time. There are no prima donnas in the mix.”
When asked about career highlights, McClinton switches gears. “I appreciate the whole thing – the fact that I have been able to do what I wanted to do my whole life and get better at it. That’s the best part. There has been one wonderful time after another. Trying to pick one is like asking me to pick my favorite child!”
“Right now is the most exciting part because we’re really having fun with this new release. The best part of the whole thing is that this still rings my bell. I’ve got songs going on in my head all of the time. It’s still as good as ever and it gives me back so much. I’m a pretty fortunate guy. I plan to keep doing this as long as I am able. I do have a bunch of songs for a solo record I plan to start doing in the next couple of months. I have been writing a lot. I’m ready now to go in and do another record.”
Thanks to Cary Baker for making the arrangements for this interview and to Delbert McClinton for taking time to talk with Blues Blast.
You can get information on Delbert’s tour dates, the Sandy Beaches tour and purchase his recordings on his website at - www.delbert.com. We found some cool videos of Delbert for you. He is playing a smoking guitar lead HERE, a great piano solo HERE and with his band the Montegos HERE.
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine
Interviewer 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!
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 5
Tommy McCoy - Late in the Lonely Night
CD: 11 songs; 41:44 Minutes
Styles: Blues Rock, Modern Electric Blues
As devoted fans know, the blues has different varieties, and Ohio native Tommy McCoy is best at what this reviewer would like to call “party blues!” Some music in this genre is meant to alleviate pain, and some is meant to obliterate it. As stated on his website, McCoy has performed with such legends as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mark Hummel, and three former members of the Gregg Allman Band. On his most recent album, “Late in the Lonely Night,” he proudly presents nine originals and two covers (Eddie Corneleus’ “Too Late to Turn Back Now” and Eddie Lee Corneleus Jr.’s “Treat Her like a Lady”). As mentioned earlier, his finest selections are those meant to put listeners into a dancing and drinking mood, with these three in particular:
Track 03: “Never Shoulda Listened”-- Co-written and performed with Liz Pennock on smooth ragtime piano and Karyn Denham on duet vocals, this is the album’s first earworm. It slyly skewers politicians: “I never should have listened to the Democrats. I never should have listened to that social crap. I never should have listened to Republicans, I never should have listened - should have got a gun!” Bob Saccente’s sultry sax also proves this point.
Track 07: “Cars, Bars and Guitars”-- Why is our narrator broke? He spent all his money on the three luxuries mentioned in this song’s title. “I should have saved a little buck instead of that old truck. Why’d I buy that vintage Les Paul? I used to buy them cheap, but now they’re getting steep. No wonder what happened to it all.” Special guest stars are Pug Baker on drums and Al Razz on bass.
Track 09: “Dance Your Pants Off”-- Sing it loudly and proudly, but not in the presence of any prudes. More than any other track on the album, this ninth number goes all out as it encourages listeners to P-A-R-T-Y: “You better not drop your drawers; you just might cause a scene. I’ll drop mine and you’ll drop yours, now everybody scream! Are you willing to pay the cost? I’m gonna dance your pants off….” Rick Hatfield’s howling harmonica is priceless, and the lyrics make this song one of the most hilarious of 2012-13.
Other featured artists are pianist Karen Caruthers, drummer Glenn Evans, bassists Mike Chavers and Rob McDowell, Hammond B3 organist Tim Heding, drummer Dave Reinhardt, and Joel Tatangelo on slide guitar. If one is bored and listless “Late in the Lonely Night,” the solution is to hit the “play” button on Tommy McCoy’s latest musical blues bounty. “Like the man himself,” says liner note author Bill Dahl, “this album is the real McCoy.”
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 BluesReview 2 of 5
BOOK REVIEW - In The Belly Of The Blues - Chicago to Boston to L.A. 1969 to 1983. A Memoir.
Book and Photos by Terry Abrahamson
Terry Abrahamson grew up on the West Side of Chicago and finally discovered the blues at age 18. As with most kids of his generation (and mine, although he is a “whole” 4 years older than me), he claims that bands like the Beatles, Yardbirds and Blood, Sweat and Tears shaped his youth and musical appreciation. Like many of our generation, the exposure to the music of blues royalty quickly aligns your musical reference plane. Howlin’ Wolf exposed to him the roots the music from the Yardbirds, Cream, Mountain, Jimi Jendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Stone. “Howlin’ Wolf was big and Black and primitive and scary and like nothing I’d ever seen,” writes Abrahamson as he introduces his book with two shots of The Wolf.
The book is a beautiful collection of photos and Terry’s remembrances of the scenarios that the photos captured. Taken with a Kodak Instamatic with flashcubes, a Minolta SLR and a mini-Chinon camera (“with Lincoln Continental suicide doors,” as he called it), the photos were taken somewhat randomly throughout the 14 year period he interacted with many of the gods of the blues. I met and chatted with Terry at the 2013 Chicago Blues Festival and told him I was pleased to have the opportunity to review his book.
A word of note…Terry is also a songwriter, having penned “Electric Man,” “Unk in Funk” and “Bus Driver” for Muddy Waters. Joan Jett, Geroge Thorogood and many others have also recorded Terry’s songs. But it is his wonderful collection of photographs encapsulated in this book along with the stories behind them that are truly incredible and historical.
The photo trail begins at Alice’s from 1969 to 1971 in Chicago. A small, 20 foot wide club where you sat on the floor with a two foot high stage at one end, he writes of his experiences there and shows us some shots of Muddy Waters and his band there at Alice’s where he would pay a $2 cover to get in.
In 1971 he and his friends in the Cooperative Bluespower produced blues shows at the U of I in Champaign. They were determined to bring this music to the students who were used to seeing shows like he Stones, Jethro Tull, Jefferson Airplane and the Temptations. They “captured” artists enroute to and from Chicago to expose students to the blues.
He reminisces about first meeting B.B. King in 1971 at Mr. Kelly’s on Rush Street. He tried to sell B.B. a song but sadly all Mr. King wanted was Terry’s boom box.
He goes on to talk about Not-Totally Blind Jim Brewer, who really only had cataracts and was not totally blind. Brewer was the one who pushed Abrahamson to get Muddy to record Terry’s song “Electric Man.” The song was inspired by Brewer’s desire to “plug-in to one of the female fans at his show as Abrahamson wrote the lyrics to describe Brewer’s desires.
In 1973 he left for Boston and wanted to hold a blues fest. He needed an opening act for Jim Brewer and “discovered” George Thorogood playing at Joe’s Place. Working with George and George’s mother in Delaware, he got Thorogood via train to appear at many of his events in Boston, an audience of mostly college kids. During all this, George recorded the Celtic’s theme song “Champs Again.” Written by Terry and Herb Fuerstein, the song was played at every home game for at least two years.
Muddy came to Boston and Abrahamson marveled how well Waters and other bands were treated in comparison to Chicago where they were based. He writes and depicts Hollywood Fats and Bob Margolin who played with Muddy and has a plethora of great shots of Muddy with band mates Pinetop Perkins, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, George “Mojo” Buford, Calvin “Fuzz” Jones and others.
Terry shows us shots of Joe Spadora’s Place where Joe reintroduced blues fans to an aging Howlin’ Wolf. Accompanied by the likes of Hubert Sumlin and Eddie Shaw, there are some priceless shots laid out in the book.
Hound Dog Taylor and his band are also shown, but Abrahamson expresses some remorse he never got any shots of Taylor frying chicken in motel rooms in the electric frying pan he toured with. He shows us and talks a lot about many great sidemen, too.
Johnny Winters has a pre-eminent spot in the book during the era he resuscitated Muddy Water’s career and vaulted Muddy to real stardom and the money and recognition he deserved as an artist. There are some great shots of Johnny taken in 1975 at the Bottom Line in NYC.
The 1975 Rhode Island Blues Festival is recorded in photo and text. Koko Taylor, Muddy, Paul Butterfield, Freddie King, Taj Mahal, and John Lee Hooker make appearances in the pages of Abrahamson’s book.
1979 has a photo of Muddy and his kids from then-wife Marva which is quite touching. It is also the evening his manager Scott Cameron comes over, whispers to Muddy and Muddy puts on a three piece suit and goes to a waiting car. Willie Dixon is waiting in the car (shortly after losing a leg to diabetes) and the group makes way from Westmont to the Quiet Knight in Chicago. The big deal was the Stones were supposed to show up and they did, captured by Abrahamson’s camera.
The book closes with a photo of an invoice and the amusing story of the royalties listed that Terry got from Muddy and a great shot of John Lee Hooker who had done the music for a Levi’s ad Terry had written the music for. The final page shows Terry, Bob Margolin and Muddy’s friend Karen Dagmar in October 2011 in Evanston.
This book is a piece of blues history. Sometimes blurry, sometimes stellar, the photos show candidly and behind the scenes shots of some of the legends of the blues. The book makes for a great coffee table piece to show off to your friends or one to just savor over and over to relive some great blues history. I loved the book, as any real blues fan would. I strongly urge you to get one of these for your coffee table or book shelf- it is a wonderful set of photos and the stories behind them! Bravo to Terry Abrahamson for putting this together!
Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Review 3 of 5
Corey Harris – Fulton Blues
Njumba - 2013
14 tracks; 45 minutes
Corey Harris has been recording since the mid-90s and is probably best known for mixing acoustic blues with world music influences. Those who like their blues to provide a fun party atmosphere can look away now though as his latest CD delivers stories about the lives, loves and deaths of African Americans in the town of Fulton, a suburb of Richmond Virginia where black men and women were brought to be sold as slaves. The album features Corey on vocals, guitar and banjo with Gordon Jones on horns, Chris Whitley on keyboards, Ken Joseph on drums, Jayson Morgan on bass, Joshua Achalam on percussion and Hook Herrera on harmonica. The music ranges across solo acoustic, duo and full band productions. Corey wrote most of the material, collaborating on a few numbers with Gordon Jones or Chris Whitley; there are also three covers.
The CD opens with a full band production “Crying Blues” co-written with Gordon Jones whose horns are a prominent feature. Corey’s deep voice conveys the sad lyrics about a man whose woman has gone out on the town without him. A similar lyrical feel is found in the solo acoustic piece “Underground” where the narrator is “laying down a pallet on the station floor” having fallen on hard times.
Those looking for some light relief will not find it in “J Gilly Blues” a harrowing tale of the life and violent death of Johnny Gilmore, told in guitar/harp duo format. “Black Woman Gates” is more cheerful as Corey is determined to get back to his girl in an effective solo piece.
The full band returns on “Tallahatchie” where Gordon Jones’ horns are again a prominent and pleasing element here, the music being really far too attractive for the depressing tale of the death of ‘brother emmett’ who was chased down and died in the river, apparently wrongly accused of attacking a woman. The title track is a jaunty piece which sounds like it was written in the 1920’s but is actually a Corey original, with Hook Herrera’s harp embellishing the song. “House Negro Blues” is another very attractive full band piece, the music belying the theme of the song which recounts how the black servant in the ‘big house’ still has to “pay his dues” just like the black man working the fields, both may get whipped if they step out of line.
“Black Rag” finds Corey solo on banjo, a traditional ragtime piece about looking for a girl on a night out, with just a little of Gordon Jones’ sax towards the end. “Lynch Blues” is, as one might expect, about hangings: “they want to hang you if you don’t bend at the knee”, the song creating a mood akin to Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit”. This is another guitar/harp duo piece, as is “Maggie Walker Blues”, a rather sad piece about a black woman who made a success of her life but is now “buried up at Evergreen Cemetery, no one come around”. The final track on the album is a full band instrumental “Fat Duck’s Groove” with Corey on electric guitar and sax and keys both to the fore.
The three covers all appear in the second half of the CD. Blind Blake’s tale of one man’s misfortunes over women “That Will Never Happen No More” is a solo acoustic performance, Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman” is a sedate slow blues in guitar/harp duo mode and “Catfish Blues” (Robert Petway) is a full band production which reminds us from where Muddy got “Rolling Stone”!
This CD will undoubtedly delight all Corey’s fans. For those unfamiliar with his work this is a solid set of blues which tackles many of the familiar themes from the very earliest days of the music in authentic style.
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 5
Tokyo Tramps – Rollin’ Rockland Blues Hour
Self - Vagabond Entertainment
12 tracks / 52:23
During my travels to Japan I have had the opportunity to hear quite a few Japanese blues and jazz groups over the years, and one thing is consistently true: they are among the most technically proficient musicians I have ever run across. The professionalism and work ethic of these bands is amazing, and it humbles me each time I see them perform in a festival or some obscure off-street club.
Well, you do not have to strap yourself into an airplane seat for twelve hours to experience this phenomenon for yourself, as the Tokyo Tramps have made Boston their home base. Their latest release is a real peach and I really enjoyed getting to know this piece of work.
All of the members of the Tokyo Tramps are from Japan, and until recently they performed as a trio with Satoru Nakagawa on guitars, vocals and accordion, his wife Yukiko Fujii on bass and vocals, and Kosei Fukuyama on drums, vocals and percussion. They all came to the United States with different musical dreams, and in 1998 they met up in Boston where their energy and abilities clicked and turned into something special. With the addition of saxophonist Junpei Fujita, they are now a quartet, and they play about 100 shows per year around the Tri-state and New England area.
Their sixth release, this is named after Rockland, Massachusetts, where the project was recorded. All twelve tracks are originals that were penned by Nakagawa, and each is very well-written. This release kicks off with “Good Morning Marietta,” which is a hammering good time with a Louisiana-style drum beat. The vocals are a treat, with Nakagawa’s throaty roar contrasting with Fujii’s sweeter voice. The bass and drums are perfectly in sync and Nakagawa lays down one heck of a good guitar solo.
Fujii takes over the lead vocals on “Empty Pockets,” and I guess this is a good time to point out that though the Tokyo Tramps are from Japan, all of these songs are in English. There is a slight accent to be heard, but I find this characteristic makes the music more interesting and helps it stand apart from what other groups are recording today. Anyway, this song is also the first appearance of Fujita’s horns, and overall this song has more of a sparse feel which allows the listener to hear the traditional blues lyrical themes of lost love and not enough money to go around.
“The Ghost of Old Love” is a slow blues rocker with Nakagawa howling the lyrics with true feeling. Under this, Fujii and Fukuyama set up a tight groove to act as a foundation for the impressive melodic guitar solo work. I had to listen to this song over and over to get all of the nuances, which gave me an appreciation for all of the work that went into cutting this track.
The style and tone of the southern rocker “I’m Moving On” pays homage to the time that Nakagawa spent in Louisiana when he first moved to the states. It goes without saying that you will hear these influences in the lyrics of “Going Back to New Orleans” as well. If you are a musician and have the luxury of picking an American hometown, the Big Easy would be a great choice.
My favorite track on the album is “Papa’s My Number One Fan,” a fast-moving rock and roll song which contrasts nicely with the sweet message of Fujii’s lyrics. I hope this is autobiographical because it is a heartwarming story! Nakagawa and Fukuyama go all out on this one, giving it a super groovy beat.
Evening” is the final track on the CD and is a nice laid-back way to
bring the album to a close. Nakagawa’s voice and distorted slide guitar
are the stars on this song, which has a mellow background of brushes and
a spare bass line. This mood and sad lyrics are exactly what the blues
should sound like, and defines what this album is all about.
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 5
JJ Grey & Mofro - The River
With his latest release, JJ Grey reaffirms that he is at the top of his game. Using his crack band Mofro to perfection, Grey spins out a scintillating batch of songs that explore some of life’s darker corners without losing faith and hope that happiness is right around the corner.
Mofro has undergone a number of personal changes over the years but Grey is adamant that the current line-up is the strongest of the bunch. Band members include Andrew Trube on a variety of guitars, Anthony Farrell on keyboards and guitar, Todd Smallie on bass, Anthony Cole on drums and organ, Art Edmaiston on tenor & baritone sax, Dennis Marion on trumpet, and guest Stan Lynch on shaker. In addition to his ever-so-soulful vocals, Grey plays acoustic and electric guitar, bass, harmonica, and tambourine.
“Your Lady, She’s Shady” is smokin’ opener, with Grey laying down a sordid tale about double-dealing, making it clear that the guy involved needs to turn his attentions on his own actions rather than worry about what his woman is up to. He follows that up with “Somebody Else”, complete with a tight arrangement prominently featuring the organ and horn section. The singer takes us inside the head of a man whose anger builds, taking him to a dark place with tragic consequences. Grey is at his best on “The Ballad of Larry Webb”, a poignant rendering of a man struggling to get by, yet still able to find the joy in life.
Mofro rocks hard on “99 Shades of Crazy” with the leader belting out the title line with the horns riffing behind him. Grey’s sweltering performance paints a descriptive portrait of a man barely hanging on. Even better is “Tame a Wild One”. Forty or fifty years ago, tunes like this ruled the radio airwaves. Over a strong hook, Grey wraps his distinctive voice around a cautionary narrative about holding on to love too tightly, wringing every bit of emotion out of each syllable.
A native of Jacksonville and the uninhabited regions of northern Florida, Grey brings a touch of the swamp to “Florabama”, adding a slinky groove to get the party going. After a fitful stop-start opening, “Harp & Drum” brings plenty of dance-floor funk with the members of Mofro getting a chance to strut their stuff. On “Standing on the Edge”, Grey’s vocal builds from a quiet intensity to an all-out roar at the end. “Write a Letter” is as strong lyrically as the other songs but you won’t care once you hear Grey’s emotionally-charged vocal.
The reflective title track was written about the St. John’s River near Jacksonville. Using every bit of the enormous depth of his voice, Grey again finds a lifeline in nature to ward off the spirit-destroying, mind-numbing aspects of life. It is a fitting close to what may very well be the pinnacle of Grey’s career up to this point. He may be in a class by himself as a singer and with Mofro matching his every move, every song draws you in with expert storytelling or irresistible rhythms that make you want to get up and dance. An engrossing listen from start to finish, this one comes highly recommended!
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!
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Live Blues Review 1 of 2 - Field Of Blues Festival
On June 22nd we made our way to the Rockford Aviators Stadium in Loves Park, IL for the Inaugural Field Of Blues Festival put on by the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford Illinois. The festival started off with a band all the way from New Zealand, The Flaming Mudcats. The band included Craig Bracken on harmonica and vocals, Doug Bygrave on guitar, Sean McCarthy on bass and Ian Thomson on drums
It is great to see that Blues is a world wide phenomena and that even people on the other side of the earth love this American art form.
Next up was Toronzo Cannon. Toronzo is one of Chicago's best up and coming Blues artists. He was the first in this festival's remaining lineup of all Chicago Blues.
He played a great set of real Chicago Blues. If you get a chance to see him, don't miss it!
Next Up was Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames. His band included Abb Locke on sax, Jeff Taylor on drums, Monica Myhre on vocals, Dave Kaye on bass and of course, Dave Weld on guitar and vocals.
This is one great band! Another one for the "must see" list.
Next up was a band of Chicago musicians including many session players for Delmark Records including Rockin' Johnny Burgin and Rick Kreyer on guitar. The band was for a couple of Chicago Blues singers.
First up was Willie Buck!
Willie got things off to a great start by performing a few numbers off of his recent Delmark release Cell Phone Man.
Next up was Chicago legend, Taildragger.
If you have never seen this artist then it is kind of hard to describe his style. It is kind of a "shouter" vocal style that folks either really like or not. At this show, the audience really got into the set as Taildragger left the stage and wandered amongst the crowd singing and interacting with the fans.
The last act of the day was Lil' Ed Williams and the Blues Imperials. His band included bassist James "Pookie" Young, guitarist Mike Garrett and drummer Kelly Littleton. Of course the crowd went wild when Ed kicked off his set. He has so much fun playing that it is infectious and impossible not to have fun at his shows.
This first attempt at a Blues festival in Rockford was a great show in spite of heavy rains the night before and cool temps during the fest. Many thanks to Crossroads Blues Society president and Blues Blast writer Steve Jones and all the volunteers for all the hard work that went into making this a successful first year event. Can't wait till next year!
Photos and commentary by Bob Kieser © 2013
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Live Blues Review 2 of 2 - Ft. Wayne Blues and BBQ Festival
We were headed back to this festival after a four year absence, and I was looking forward to feasting on BBQ, hearing some great blues and seeing old friends again.
Headwaters Park is one of the many downtown Ft. Wayne jewels that you’ll discover when you visit. Plenty of green spaces with a kids’ play area, but the focus is the pavilion where the music is presented. It’s a huge covered area that guarantees music rain or shine, of which we had both.
Thursday we first caught former Nashville musical vets Kat Bowser and the Band of Blues. They kicked it with covers like Chain of Fools and a great version of Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart proving Kat’s vocal prowess.
Texas has produced another “lighting in a bottle” guitar player in Will Owen Gage. A player I wasn’t familiar with, but it wasn’t that way for long. Smooth runs and gravelly vocals with a driving rhythm section consisting of Samuel Tallchief Snavely and Rob Edwards on bass and drums respectively. Fine covers of Bill Withers’ Use Me and the Meters’ Sissy Strut fit well with Will’s own originals.
ended with Cincinnati based Kelly Richey. Known for her power trio
format and driving guitar work, Kelly was no disappointment. With
Freekbass and Jyn Yates providing the bottom end, they tore through a
nice blend of covers and originals from as far back as her 2007 release
Eyes of a Woman. Electrifying guitar work to end the day.
Then came Left Lane Cruiser. Something totally different, but in a good way. Think White Stripes, Black Keys with Lightin’ Malcolm and Cedric Burnside. These two tore it up with high energy songs from R.L.Burnside and the oft recorded Lead Belly penned Black Betty. Trading vocals in what sounded like a whiskey fueled frenzy was Joe Evans on guitar and Brenn “Sausage Paws” Beck on drums and washboard. I liked it!
A tough act to follow, but local musicians BC Fuzzz did a good job of it. Led by guitarist and vocalist Dan Mihue, the trio with Tim Beeler on bass and Bryan Nellums on drums worked their way through a set of covers that got changed after Dan’s rack of effects pedals quit working but, like the musicians that they are, they continued with covers of the Buffalo Springfield classic Stop, Warren Haynes’ Soulshine and The Meters’ Sissy Strut.
Yet another Texas guitar player took the stage and let it all hang out. The Harless Brothers consisting of Nick on guitar and vocals and brother Tony on bass and vocals and Kacy Perry (not a brother) on drums. They wasted no time in setting the bar high with blazing guitar work on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Scuttle Buttin’ and Pride & Joy along with originals like New Man from their soon to be released disc, Warfield.
Now we were getting down to the nitty gritty. The RUF Caravan with Bart Walker and Joanne Shaw Taylor was one act I really looked forward to seeing. I’ve been a fan of Joanne for a long time, but have never seen Bart live before. What a treat! Both are exceptional guitarists with similar, but different styles. Helping lug equipment and selling their merchandise was none other than RUF Records owner Thomas Ruf. A truly nice man with a passion for blues, willing to do what it takes. Opening with the Ike & Tina Turner version of the classic Proud Mary, the fireworks didn’t take long to start. Joanne left the stage after that and it became the Bart Walker show. Pulling songs from his first release Who I Am and his latest release Waiting on Daylight, Bart didn’t wait long to establish his virtuosity on both guitar and vocals. Backed with the rumbling rhythm section of C.J. Wilder on bass and vocals and Austin Curcuruto on drums, they tore it up. After Bart’s guitar onslaught, Joanne took the stage and proved once again that as Classic Rock Magazine states, “Joanne Shaw Taylor is the nation’s favorite Blues goddess.” Amen! Joined for the end, the two were cutting heads like there was no tomorrow. It was better than an A ticket ride at Disney World.
To end the night, Eliminator, a ZZ Top tribute band not only looked the part, but sounded the part as well. Many were singing along to their favorite ZZ songs into the wee hours.
Saturday kicked off with something totally different. Trackless is a unique combination of jazz, funk, R&B, and folk. They found one another while attending Ball State and have been performing for a year and a half now and are pretty much flawless. Band members include Will Smith on guitar, Jesse Gaze on bass, Jordan West on drums and vocals, Don Nelson on keyboards and vocalist Jeremy Jones. A nice blend of originals such as I Want You to covers of Bill Withers, Ain’t No Sunshine, Gershwin’s Summertime and yet another, but very different version of The Meters’ Sissy Strut. After what seemed like a glut of three piece power trio, this was a refreshing change of pace.
Sad Sam Blues Jam. The name gave no clue of what was to come. As I watched the band unload equipment, I was surprised to see girls in “daisy dukes” and cowboy boots. I figured it was the Dixie Chicks play blues. I’m happy to say that these girls made me eat my words. Sisters Sadie and Sam Johnson (hence the Sad Sam), Krista Hess and Kip Harris kicked some major butt. With Sadie and Krista trading lead guitar and vocal duties as Sam and Kip (the only guy in the band) held down the rhythm section, they literally set fire to everything. Songs included some originals to covers of classics like Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor, Chuck Berry’s Johnnie B. Goode and B.B. King’s The Thrill is Gone. If you were at the IBCs in Memphis this year, you may have caught them at the Blue City Café as part of the Youth Challenge. After talking with them and seeing their unabashed love and excitement for the blues, I humbly apologize for any doubts I had of their musical abilities. This is the future of blues.
Speaking of the IBCs, Mojo Theory has been to the IBC twice, finishing in the top ten both times. With the stinging guitar work of David Warnock, the flying fingers of keyboardist Jeff Morris and the freight train rhythm section of C.J. Justus on bass and Todd Mollette on drums, the icing on the cake is the vocals of Mark Richards. It’s plain to see that they are here to stay, playing a set that was 95% originals with only a couple of covers like Ben E. King’s Stand By Me.
From Kalamazoo, MI, the Out of Favor Boys are always crowd pleasers with their high energy stylings that encompass originals and covers. Singer and sax man Tony Sproul trades vocals duties with guitarist Joel Krauss, while bassist Tim Bouhard and drummer Mike Porter provide a solid platform for the other lead guitarist Dan Quellette. Known for his crowd walk and playing twice saxes, Tony didn’t disappoint on either aspect while each member took turns laying down some tasty grooves. I’m liking it!
Now was the moment I was waiting for. The Royal Southern Brotherhood shredded the stage with a flurry of music fueled by the dueling guitars of Devon Allman and Mike Zito over the majestic playing of bassist Charlie Wooten, drummer Yonricko Scott and the tempered vocals of percussion master Cyril Neville. Each took a share of the spotlight with vocals, solos and jammin’ with each other, much to the delight of the crowd. Playing most of their debut self-titled CD, each also played songs from their individual endeavors. With each member having a pedigree longer than most others’ entire career, it’s just not possible to produce bad music. It was a mesmerizing set of music.
The unfortunate task of following the Brotherhood fell to Pennsylvania guitarist Eric Steckel. With his first paying gig at age 9 and the release of his first CD at age 11, Steckel has impressed some of the blues royalty such as John Mayall. His style is likened to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Joe Bonamassa. From the cover of Jimi’s Little Wing to Eric’s own Southern Skyline, the ace of both finger picking, slide and flat picking lead his power trio through a thoroughly entertaining set.
So, with a belly full of beef ribs thanks to the Carolina Rib Kings and a mountain of musical memories, we had to leave. Many thanks to the hard working stage crew under the supervision of Graham for making us feel like a part of the family and to Mark for his hospitality.
Photos and commentary by Tim & Becky Richards © 2013
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE
Blues Society News
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Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL
Crossroads Blues Society has more great stuff coming up! July: We have a show with IBC winner Selwyn Birchwood for the 10th at the Adriatic Bar on 327 W Jefferson St in Rockford with just a $7 cover. Don’t miss this!
August: the 4th Annual Byron Crossroads Blues Festival is Sat., Aug 24th from Noon to 11 PM. $7 advanced tickets. Check it out at: http://byroncrossroadsbluesfestival.blogspot.com. The Nighthawks, Dave Specter with Sharon Lewis, Doug Deming and Dennnis Gruenling and te Jewel Tones, Bobby Messano and Tweed Funk make up the lineup. There is also a harp work shop with Dennis and a guitar workshop with Dave.
September: Storm Cellar, top blues and roots band from Australia is at the Byron IL American Legion for our post-fest party, 3 PM on Sunday September 22nd. Free for Fest Volunteers, $10 cover otherwise. Fall Blues In The Schools (BITS ) are in the works with Gerry Hundt and Ronnie Shellist for September 25th with a 7 PM evening show at Just Goods, $5 cover, free for Crossroads Members, Students and School Staffs.
October: We are working to have Eric Noden and Joe Filisko back for two days of BITS sometime TBD in October. More to come! www.crossroadsbluessociety.com/
DC Blues Society - Washington D.C.
DC Blues Society presents its 9th Annual Hotter Than July Fish Fry 'n' Blues Saturday, July 13 ~ Blues bands perform 4:00 - 11:00 PM ~ Fish Fry 4:30 to 9:00 PM ~ Cash Bar American Legion Post 41, 905 Sligo Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910 (entrance on Fenton by parking lot) Bring a potluck dish & get a copy of the DC Blues Society cookbook: “Blues in My Kitchen” All Day Blues – All Day Fun. For info & tickets: www.dcblues.org
And mark your calendar for the 25th Annual DC Blues Festival, August 31, Noon – 7:30 PM
Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA
MVBS 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. July 8th - The 44s www.the44sbluesband.com/bio.php, July 15th - Chris O’ Leary http://thechrisolearyband.com, July 22nd - Bill Evans Birthday Jam, July 29th - Andrew Jr. Boy Jones www.reverbnation.com/andrewjrboyjones, Aug 5th - Roger Hurricane Wilson http://hurricanewilson.com/bio, Aug 12th - Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones featuring Dennis Gruenling http://dougdeming.com, Aug 19th - Rusty Wright www.rustywrightblues.com. More info available at icbluesclub.org
Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Now in their seventh season, The Friends of the Blues present 7 pm early shows: 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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