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Issue 7-32, August 8, 2013

Scroll or Page Down! For news, photos, reviews, links & MUCH MORE in this issue!

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine

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 In This Issue

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Lazy Lester. Our new video of the week series features Eddie Shaw.

We have 10 music reviews for you! Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD from Ten Foot Pole Cats. Mark Thompson reviews a new album from John Primer and Bob Corritore. John Mitchell reviews a new release from Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band. The Rex Bartholomew reviews a CD by Dudley Taft and also reviews a new release from Nigel Mack. Steve Jones reviews a new CD from Matthew Curry & The Fury and also reviews a new album from Bobby Messano with Deanna Bogart. Marty Gunther reviews a CD from Anthony Gomes.  Rhys Williams reviews a new album from Kirsten Thein and also a new release from David Egan. 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,

The voting in the 2013 Blues Blast Music Awards continues until August 31st. We have more than 4,700 votes, so far! Let your favorite artists know you support them by voting now, CLICK HERE!

Tickets for the Thursday October 31st Blues Blast Music Awards show at Buddy Guy's Legends on  in Chicago will go on sale on our website on Monday, click HERE. Artists who have indicated they are coming include Albert Castiglia, Eddie Shaw & The 757 Allstars, John Nemeth, Doug MacLeod, Andy Poxon, Mannish Boys, Andy T & Nick Nixon Band, Anson Funderburg, Bob Corritore, Brandon Santini, Cee Cee James, Shaun Murphy Band, Doug Deming, James 'Buddy' Rogers, Teeny Tucker Band, Sena Ehrhardt, Little Joe McLerran, Mike Wheeler Band, Mud Morganfield, Paula Harris and Kevin Selfe.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music! 

Bob Kieser


It was not a good week for correctly identifying bass players in our last issue. In our cover story on James Cotton, The James Cotton Blues Band bass player was Bobby Anderson and of course the bass player for John Primer in the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest review photos is Melvin Smith.

Also we had the name of the song performed by Janet Ryan in last weeks video of the week incorrectly named. It should be "Take Your Shoes Off. Sorry for the errors.

Be An Informed Voter

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 continues until August 31st. Make sure you are familiar with all the artists music to be an informed voter.

You can hear 2 or 3 songs from each artist and recording 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.

 Featured Blues Interview - Lazy Lester  

Blues Hall of Famer Lazy Lester is carving out his own piece of heaven these days at the northern end of the Central Valley in Paradise, California, far away from South Louisiana, where he built his legendary career.

Lester has been one of most prominent voices in South Louisiana, contributing hit after hit for the legendary Excello Records label, including “Sugar Coated Love,” “I’m A Lover, Not A Fighter,” “I Hear You Knockin’,” “You Got Me Where You Want Me” and “Pondarosa Stomp.”

At 80 years old, however, he’s not rocking and whittling his life away. Known best as a harmonica player, he was a guitar player first, and he’s still traveling the world, having survived six decades on the road, two “retirements” from the music business, a horrendous house fire that left him burned over much of his body and a heart attack a couple of years ago.

He frequently works either a solo act in Northern California, accompanying himself with foot percussion, or with a band. It might surprise you to read this, but when he does work with a group, he prefers the six-string, which was his first love, instead of harp. “I’m 50 percent gitar and 50 harmonica -- I like to play gitar behind a harmonica player,” he says. “I know exactly how I want him to sound, and I know how to play to get ‘em to sound that way.”

That attitude would have served him well on last January’s Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, in which he was part of Mark Hummel’s Harmonica Blowout, along with East Coast reed-bender Sugar Ray Norcia. But it was his harp-blowing that most of the passengers expected to hear. He spent a good deal of his free time in the shade at the aft end of the pool deck, however, picking his acoustic guitar and chatting with whoever strolled past. He’s always been in high demand, especially in Europe, where he was headed for a three-week Scandinavian tour when this interview took place.

Not bad for someone who got into the music business by chance. Born Leslie Johnson in Torras, La., in 1933, and raised in the Baton Rouge suburban of Scotlandville, he never was lazy, having worked as a gas station attendant, woodcutter and grocery store clerk. He learned to play guitar, picking it up from an older brother.

Influenced by Jimmy Reed and Little Walter’s hit, “Juke,’ he picked up the harp, too. Not long after, he was proficient enough to play high school dances as a harp player with his first band, the Rhythm Rockers, before picking up club dates with Guitar Gable, the North Carolinian bluesman who recorded for the Excello label. Later, he replaced Buddy Guy on guitar when Guy left another band to move to Chicago.

His life changed for good one day in the mid-‘50s, when he was riding a bus to his home in Rayne, La., and happened to sit down beside another Excello artist, guitar great Lightnin’ Slim, and struck up a conversation. The official story has been that Johnson was curious about the recording process and that Slim offered an invite to watch him work in the studio, which was only a few miles down the road in Crowley. That’s where producer Jay Miller recorded most of his sessions for his Nashville-based label. When Slim’s regular harp player, Wild Bill Phillips, failed to show, the story goes, Leslie volunteered to fill in.

But that’s NOT the way it went down, says Lester today, revealing the details to Blues Blast Magazine for the first time.

“I didn’t tell him I was a harmonica player because I wasn’t,” Lester says. “ I wasn’t gonna come up and start lyin’ from jump street…you know. A lot of guys’ll tell you how good they are and you put ‘em on a stage and, oh, you’ll be so glad when they get to the end of that song.”

The truth of the matter is that when he and Slim got to the studio and Phillips failed to appear, they got into a car and started searching for him or Henry Clement, also known as Big Chief Takawaka, the Swamp Doctah. He’s the Crowley native who recorded one session with Lightnin’ at age 19, when Wild Bill wasn’t available, and is featured on the song “New Orleans Bound.”

After a couple of hours on the road, they returned to the studio minus either harp player and Slim was ready to abandon the session. “I said: ‘What’s so special about these guys?’” Lester recalls. “’I can play better than that.’”

“What’d you say?” Slim responded. Lester repeated himself and asked for harps keyed to A and G. While Lightnin’ was getting them, Lester also tuned Slim’s guitar to be in harmony with the reeds. “That’s what made it so good,” he says today. They hit the first few notes to “Sugar Mama,” an old Lightnin’ Hopkins tune, and Slim was convinced. “Let’s cut it, son,” he said, emphatically adding: “You mean to tell me I’m ridin’ around here all over hell and Texas, looking for ‘em, and I got ‘em right here with me? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You didn’t ask,” Lester replied. “And from then on, that was my job. He never looked for another one.” It was always him who responded when Lightnin’ spoke his trademark words: “Play your harmonica, son.”

Leslie Johnson became “Lazy Lester” in 1957, when Miller decided to record him as a featured artist with Gable’s band backing him up. He figured the moniker had more of a ring than Johnson’s given name when the company pressed “I’m Gonna Leave You, Baby,” backed by the instrumental “Lester’s Stomp.”

The nickname derived from Johnson’s slo-o-ow way of talking rather than his work habits. But, he adds, “I was never in a hurry to do nothin’.”

His first hit, “I’m A Lover, Not A Fighter” backed by “Sugar Coated Love,” struck gold for Excello in 1958. And Miller started using him extensively as an arranger, singer, harmonica player and guitarist in the studio with other Excello artists. The list includes a who’s who of blues superstars of the day, including, but not limited to Katie Webster, Lonesome Sundown, Henry Gray, Tabby Thomas, Whispering Smith and Silas Hogan. And he laid the groundwork for his one-man band routine by providing percussion with whatever he could lay his hands on – from his feet to wooden blocks to newspapers and even banging on the wall. “All that chicken scratch you hear – that was me,” he says.

He was an instrumental part in what became known as the “Excello sound,” which encompassed everything from swamp blues -- a term that Lester coined -- to zydeco, rock and country.

Lester claims he knew the country material better than the white musicians coming into the studio to record. In truth, country was his favorite, having grown up listening to Hank Williams and Jimmie Rogers on the radio.

“I just lo-o-ove country music,” he says. “I listen to all of ‘em. I got a lot of Merle (Travis). I got a lot of George Jones. Charley Pride was a bad boy, too.”

But his favorite is baritone Texan Don Williams, who’s recorded 17 No. 1 country hits. “Man, I don’t see why they don’t put him on top of everything,” says Lester, who usually includes country songs in his act. Even though he often taught the artists arrangements before they put them to tape, however, it took years and -- finally -- pressure from the musicians themselves for Miller to allow him to record with them. He feared that if the buying public found out that a black man was part of the session, they wouldn’t buy the record.

Lester stayed with Excello into the mid-‘60s, producing several more hits, including “Patrol Blues,” “Whoa Now” and “If You Think I’ve Lost You.”

He and Miller parted company in 1966, with Lester quitting the music business entirely in favor of a variety of backbreaking day jobs, ranging from truck driving to logging to road construction.

Like many musicians of his era, he felt the industry was ripping him off, and for good reason. It was common practice back then that the label owner or producer would demand part of the writing credit for a song before he’d record it. Don Robey, who owned Duke-Peacock in Houston was notorious for it. The Chess brothers claimed songwriting credit on some of their material. And even Dick Clark, the TV host who later became known as “America’s Oldest Teenager,” was the target of a federal investigation in his recording and publishing operations that he launched following the success of “American Bandstand.” It took dozens of lawsuits and government action before artists finally received their due.

Jay Miller was no better than the rest. “He put his name on a lot of my stuff,” Lester says. “He put Jay West on it. Anything you see with ‘Jay West’ – anybody’s tunes, like Lightnin’ Slim, Lonesome Sundown, that was him. He did write some stuff hisself though. But you can’t sue somebody that don’t exist. They all had a thievin’ name. That’s what that was all about.”

Fortunately, Lester was one of the lucky ones when the truth came out, and justice was served. Unlike many of his peers, he lived long enough to receive a settlement.

Lester played off and on for about a decade, moving briefly to Chicago, then back to the Delta before following Lightnin’ Slim, who’d moved to Pontiac, Michigan.

He gave up the business for good, he thought, after settling down with Slim Harpo’s sister, who’d also moved to the region. Occasional gigs in Detroit followed before he realized that he had an audience around the globe that wanted to hear him. After a 20-year absence from the studio and after releasing the “True Blues” LP for Excello in 1967, he returned with “Lazy Lester Rides Again” for Britain’s Blue Horizon label. That release won him a W.C. Handy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album – precursor to the Blues Music Awards -- when reissued Stateside by Kingsnake later in the year.

He’s been a powerhouse ever since, with a dozen solo pressings to his credit on labels that have included Alligator, Antone’s, APO and AVI/Excello in the U.S., P-Vine in Japan, Ace and Flyright in the United Kingdom and about 40 more compilations.

Sadly, though, Lester isn’t writing any new material these days. “I haven’t written anything in ages,” he says. “But I could if I put my mind to it. I got enough stuff out there now that’ll play for ever, you know.”

Today, he works when and where he wants to. And he’s looking forward to returning to England for a tour in the fall, and is planning a Florida tour next spring, when he’s booked for a festival in Gainesville.

Meanwhile, he’s enjoying life with his galpal, Pike, about 175 miles north-northwest of San Francisco. But life in Paradise has its perils, too, he warns:

“We got yellowjackets here, and snakes, too – and the yellowjackets, they eat everything. Some people call ‘em ‘meat bees.’ Way out here in California, we got poisonous snakes and things like that. They always tell you, if you kill a rattler or copperhead or cottonmouth, somethin’ like that, always bury the head real deep…so those yellowjackets won’t get to it. They eat that, get the venom from that, and – bam! – they hit you and the snake does, too, even though he’s dead!”

Visit Lester's website at

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2013

Interviewer 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 1 of 10

Ten Foot Polecats - Undertow

Hillgrass Bluebilly Records

CD: 11 songs; 48:21 Minutes

Styles: North Mississippi Hill Country Blues, Drone/Trance Blues

According to their website, Boston’s Ten Foot Polecats’ music has been described as “punk-blues” and “gutbucket soul.” It may also be deemed “North Mississippi Hill Country blues,” because they’re artistic descendants of one of that sub-genre’s practioners: T-Model Ford. After passing away recently at the age of 93, it’s apropos that “Undertow” has been unleashed so recently. The Polecats, whether they know it or not, carry on T-Model’s legacy of blues that can put listeners in a trance through its droning rhythms (hence its other name in this reviewer‘s “Styles” list). They are a high-octane trio of Jay Scheffler on vocals and harmonica, Jim Chilson on guitar, and Chad Rousseau on drums. Seeing that this album is their sophomore release, a follow-up to 2010’s “I Get Blamed for Everything I Do,” they’re hitting their groove just right. These three melodies, out of eleven originals, prove it:

Track 01: “Do That Thing”--Since the opening number is short, running only three minutes and thirty-four seconds, one might not notice its trancelike qualities very easily. Also, it’s more rock-and-roll than blues, featuring stuttering guitar from Chilson and hyperactive harp from Scheffler. Mincing no words, the latter threatens: “But I’m going to tell you something that you ain’t gonna like. I’m gonna steal your honey just like I stole your wife!” Scheffler’s voice is reminiscent of George Thorogood’s on “Bad to the Bone,” and that’s what this song is: low-down, dirty, and danceable.

Track 02: “Lost at Sea”--Track two strikes the perfect balance of pointed lyrics and a hypnotizing hook, repeating like the waves of the sea upon the sand: “I was out in the ocean, and I couldn’t find the shore. Didn’t think I’d ever see my home anymore. Out on the highway, my gas is getting low. Don’t think I’m gonna make it to where I gotta go.”

Track 06: “Prescription”--In our present-day American society, where there’s a pill for every ill, “Prescription” hits too close to home: “Doctor, give me something for the pain: some kind of medication to keep me from going insane!” Snicker as one might, when one sees Big Pharma’s record profits, one might wonder if Scheffler’s not onto something (and not just “on” something). Dancing to this ditty might be difficult, but if so, take a cue from some giddy young people and jump up and down frenetically instead.

Drone or trance blues might not “float everyone’s boat.” Nevertheless, the Ten Foot Polecats provide a wild and energetic (re-)introduction to music that legends such as T-Model Ford engineered. Rest in peace, James Lewis Carter Ford, and in his honor, let the Polecats’ “Undertow” sweep you away!

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 Video Of The Week

This week we continue a new series of weekly videos of advertisers. This week we feature a video of Blues legend Eddie Shaw performing the classic Little Red Rooster. Eddie Shaw played sax in Muddy Waters band before switching to Howlin' Wolf's band where he served as band leader until Wolf's death. . Eddie is playing on Saturday August 31st at the Marquette Area Blues Fest in Marquette Michigan. See their ad below in this issue. To see the video, click on the image below.


For information on this great performer visit


 Featured Blues Review 2 of 10

John Primer & Bob Corritore - Knockin' Around These Blues

Delta Groove Music, Inc.

10 tracks/55:37

If you are growing tired of discs that promise blues music but really offer some variation of rock/blues that seldom resembles the classic styles, this disc is sure to put a smile on your face. Guitarist John Primer learned the ropes while working with Junior Wells, Muddy Waters and Magic Slim. Harmonica ace Bob Corritore used to frequent the same Chicago clubs, studying at the feet of the masters before settling out west in the Phoenix area. As a club owner, host of a long-running blues radio show, and producer of outstanding releases by the likes of Taildragger and Mud Morganfield, Corritore has a wealth of knowledge about the music that is equal to Primer's exceptional background.

Their pairing adds up to a magnificent treatise on the classic electric Chicago blues style. Primer's robust vocals grab your attention on a rousing version of Jimmy Reed's “The Clock” before leaving no doubt about his anguish on “Little Boy Blue”. His stirring performance on “Cairo Blues” is another highlight, as is the superb interplay between Primer and Billy Flynn on guitar along with Barrelhouse Chuck on piano. Corritore spins out mesmerizing harp lines that fill out the arrangements behind Primer. His solos are concise statements that elevate the emotional intensity on tracks like “Leanin' Tree” and “Blue & Lonesome”, the latter cut done on the chromatic harp. The lone instrumental, “Harmonica Joyride”, gives Corritore a brief chance to stretch out.

“When I Get Lonely” is a shuffle featuring a forlorn vocal from Primer that gives way to a wailing harp solo from Corritore. Not to be outdone, Primer fires off an impressive solo of his own. He probably played Robert Kelton’s “Man or Mouse” many times during his tenure with the late Magic Slim. The latest version has a rolling rhythm that spotlights Barrelhouse Chuck’s sparkling accompaniment.

There are two backing groups. Seven tracks have Chris James on guitar, Patrick Rynn on bass and Brian Fahey on drums. The other three cuts feature Billy Flynn on guitar, Bob Stroger on bass and Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums. As noted, Barrelhouse Chuck's piano provides an added spark throughout the disc, laying down a rollicking solo on “Just Like I Treat You”.

The closing tune, “Going Back Home”, settles into a deep groove with Primer's stark vocal playing off the superb interplay between Chuck's driving piano and the taut guitar work from Primer and James. And it offers one final example of what you get throughout this recording – great songs interpreted with enormous depth by musicians who truly understand the blues. Don’t miss this one!!

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years - just ask his wife!

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 10

Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band – Down The Tangled Road

Independent Release 2013

12 tracks; 50 minutes

Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band won third place in the 2013 IBCs, a fact that you can’t fail to appreciate as it’s plastered on the CD artwork. Indeed, the CD looks as if it was rushed out to exploit that achievement, the CD cover having several spelling mistakes and a complete omission of the writing credits for a well-known Willie Dixon song.

Dan Treanor is a long-standing fixture on the Colorado blues scene and the Afrosippi Band is made up of experienced players from the area, including the surprise package of the band, lead singer Erica Brown, whose voice is sensational throughout. Dan plays harp and some guitar and vocals, Mike Wysocki is on bass, Gary LaDuke on drums, Michael Hossler on guitars and vocals and another female singer Merrian Johnson supporting. There are also a number of guests adding percussion and keyboards to four tracks, accordion to two and violin to one. Dan wrote most of the material with four songs from outside the band and one composed by Erica and guitarist Michael.

The music on the CD is certainly varied but not all the material works equally well. The title track starts with a spoken intro about the origins of the blues in Africa, then morphs into a gospel/slide field song. Later on Erica and Michael’s “Give Me My Roses” is a mainly spoken poem which was not for me at all. “Tell Me Daddy” is a straight blues, an uptempo, harp-driven piece with familiar themes about the man staying out all night. “Hey Mister” offers a Cajun feel with percussion, accordion and Lionel Young’s violin (another former IBC winner). Toussaint McCall’s “Nothing Can Take The Place Of You” has been covered many times (Brook Benton, Isaac Hayes, Johnny Adams) and Erica certainly matches those performances with a heartfelt rendition. The backing is restrained and supports the vocalist well with soft organ, gentle guitar and atmospheric harp – a very strong cut.

“Dynamite” is a routine mid-paced song, “Bridges” a fast-paced piece about choices in life: “The hardest lesson in this life to learn, what bridge to cross, what bridge to burn”. “I Want Love” drops the pace right down for a blues on which the tune is so slow that Erica’s vocal is almost spoken. Accordion and slide provide a moody backing but the track did not work well for me. “3 O’Clock In The Morning” was right up my street, however, the harp setting a fast pace at the start and guitarist Michael Hossler adding some Latin flourishes which are accentuated by latin percussion – great stuff! “Love Is Just For Fools” offers a similarly uptempo piece with more strong guitar work from Michael and another outstanding vocal performance from Erica. Indeed, throughout the album Erica’s voice reminded me at times of Koko Taylor and it was not surprising to find two Koko-associated tracks towards the end of the CD, Koko’s own “Ernestine” which is superbly executed and a routine version of “Wang Dang Doodle”, a song covered so frequently that it is hard to find a new angle .

This was my first acquaintance with this band and I really enjoyed Erica’s voice. The material was a mix but there was certainly enough good stuff to entertain most blues fans, some of whom will probably disagree with my likes and dislikes here!.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. Current favorites from recent releases include Michael Burks, Barbara Carr, Johnny Rawls, Hadden Sayers, Andy Poxon, Chris Antonik and Doug Deming.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 4 of 10

Dudley Taft – Deep Deep Blue

Self release through American Blues Artist Group Records

11 tracks / 48:49

I have been waiting for a new release from Dudley Taft ever since I heard his 2010 debut solo album, Left For Dead. Though he started solo work only a few years ago, this does not mean that he is just arriving at the party. This guitar master has paid his dues for over 30 years, and this musical journey has taken him to interesting places that give him a unique sound and vision.

Dudley has lived all over the United States, growing up in the Midwest and attending prep school in Connecticut in the 1980s with none other than Trey Anastacio, who would later be in Phish. He moved on to Los Angeles to explore the hair band scene, and finally found his place after moving to Seattle in 1990. He became a fixture in the northwest, and spent twenty years there writing, recording, and performing his music with a few different bands. A few years ago he decided to form his own blues band after being inspired by Freddie “The Texas Cannonball” King, and he recently set up shop in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Deep Deep Blue is Taft’s second solo release, and its eleven tracks include eight originals and three unexpected covers. Dudley wrote the original songs and handles the guitar work and vocals. He is joined by a capable band that includes Eric Robert on keyboards, Chris Leighton, Scott Vogel and Jason Patterson on drums, Ashley Christensen on backing vocals and John Kessler on the bass. Kessler also handled the production chores. Sticking close to his roots, this album was mostly recorded in Seattle, with overdubs and guitar tracks completed in North Carolina.

Though he is inspired by classic blues artists, he does not copy what they did, but instead interprets it through a more modern blues rock context. “Meet Me in the Morning” is the opening track, and I must say that I have never heard of anyone covering this Bob Dylan song before. Thankfully he did not stick true to the original, instead turning it into a guitar-centered blues rocker with a solid riff. At its core this is a guitar album and it is refreshing that he is not aping anybody else’s tone or feel – he has spent years defining his own sound and it is to die for.

Things really get rolling after this with the fast driving original rock tune, “The Waiting.” His lyrics mirror the guitar line and it is hard not to notice the rock solid backline. The bass and drums are perfectly in sync, so it is obvious that these are first-call musicians he is working with here. By the way, his voice has a raw and weathered tone that works perfectly with this harder-edged music.

“God Forbid” is a southern rocker that showcases Taft’s deft songwriting skills, as its clever lyrics continue the story started in the title track Left for Dead. He also uses his writing skills to give a short history lesson in “Bandit Queen,” the story of Pearl hear, the stagecoach robber. I had to Google her after hearing this song to see what she was all about, and it is a fascinating story.

Lou Reed’s “Sally Can’t Dance” is another neat cover choice and it includes some nice organ work, and as a Lou Reed fan I whole-heartedly approve of Dudley’s interpretation of this classic. It is upbeat and funky, and shows that these musicians can take on any genre that they choose. The final cover is a hard rock re-do of Freddie King’s “Palace of the King.” This version has a driving beat, screaming guitar work and well-done backing vocals.

Taft can play the slow blues too, as he proves in the heartfelt “Deep Deep Blue.” Slowing him down does not lessen the tension that he is able to create with his guitar. He leaves no doubt that he is a fabulous musician and I get a Jeff Beck / Robin Trower vibe from him on this one.

“Feeling Good Now” starts with a great hook, and then surprises the listener as a tight horn section pops in to double the guitar line. There is a little bit of everything in this album, but he never strays far from the guitar and once again he lights a fire in this funky track. This is followed up by my favorite song from Deep Deep Blue: “Wishing Well.” This country rock song starts with some very pretty acoustic work and makes liberal use of the backing vocalists during the verses and chorus. I like the way this tune swells and builds with electric guitars and then tapers off to finish acoustically.

Deep Deep Blue is a fabulous effort from Dudley Taft, and it is notable that all of the tracks are solid and well-integrated with each other. It is apparent that he did not focus on writing a few hit singles, but instead worked to write a very good album. So, this is not a disc to cherry-pick tracks from, and it is better to listen to it as a whole so you can get the full experience. I really enjoyed it and look forward to hearing more from him soon!

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at

For other reviews and interviews on our website CCLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review 5 of 10

Matthew Curry and the Fury - Electric Religion


10 tracks

Matthew Curry at 18 years of age has released his second CD. His first was outstanding and Crossroads Blues Society nominated it for consideration in last years’ IBC competition for best self-produced CD. Would the sophomore jinx come into play on Matthews’ second release? Hell no!

Curry along with his band mates wrote all ten tracks offered up here, so it’s all original music. A purist would not call it a “blues” album, but the music is certainly steeped heavily in the teapot of the blues. Curry is again on guitar and lead vocals. Greg Neville is on drums, percussion and vocals while Eric Nelson is on keys and vocals and Jeff Paxton is on bass and vocals. Curry is an unassuming, humble young man with a huge talent; I think is going to make a huge mark on the music world.

“Love Me Right” opens the set and it is a big, rocking tune. Curry opens with some slick guitar, the keys layer over it and then he breaks into the first verse. His vocals belie his age; he sounds years older in his singing than he really is. A little edge, some polish and a good dose of grit resonate through his delivery. He complements his guitar which also has the same characteristics. He effortlessly moves up and down the fret board and puts on a show here and throughout. He goes into “Set Me Free,” a slower cut where he tells his of his woman whose gunshot killed him (but set him free). It’s a big and dramatic piece; Nelson goes off on an almost sentimental solo, Curry returns for a chorus and then finishes with a huge guitar solo. “Six String Broken Heart” is a ballad of sorts where Curry sings to Nelson’s piano. The guitar and backline tie it all together and Curry and the band behind him sing their hearts out. The relational pain in all his songs cannot have been experienced by him and yet he sells the emotion and pain of lost lovers and relationships. He picks it up a bit with “Put One Over” that is done pretty much in a traditional SRV mode. He builds into huge guitar solos with a driving beat and an emotional and gutsy set of lyrics; it’s a damn good song. Curry blows us away on his solos and Nelson stays right there with him, blending his keys into the fracas.

Curry next breaks into “Hundred Dollar Friend,” the story of a girl who is driven to an occupation through desperation. He tells how she lives with her demons “in a filthy one room shack” and then breaks into a stunning guitar solo that is over the top and yet effective and superb. In “JMH” Curry begins with record static to give it a dusty, old field and then Curry goes off on a huge, wild six string ride. Very impressive! “Genevieve”is a love song with a little happier theme. He does a big, rocking tribute to this girl/woman both vocally and on his ax. The guitar sings as he picks and does riff after riff of classic stuff.

He then gives us real, slow Chicago blues in “Bad Bad Day.” Curry begins with a guitar testimonial that stings and tears at you. He then breaks into a gutsy vocal about a minute into it; the title tells it all. He sings of having to drive around in his car to get away from all the things he’s endured. Nelson offers up a nice electric piano solo here for us, too, and then switches to organ for more. He goes “Down The Line” next; Nelson adds a funky line on keys to spice things up and Curry sings of moving on down the road and getting away. A cool song for the road and it’s about the road. He concludes with “Louanna,” another blues rock ballad of sorts with a Marshall Tucker sort of feel to it. His guitar work is precise, balanced and fluid with clear and well done vocals.

Curry has done a very good job here and also in paying tribute to his Dad who recently passed away. Paul Curry left his family and this world far too soon (he was only 46) and was instrumental in supporting Matthew and his musical career. Curry endures and continues his career with his mother’s support, the support of his more than able band, and the fine work of publicist/booking agent Dr. Karyl Carlson (who is also the Director of Choral Activities at Illinois State University). I met Curry earlier this summer and he is a very focused person who takes his music seriously. This would be a very impressive album for a seasoned and more accomplished musician; given that he recently turned 18 only makes it more impressive. Curry is the real deal. He is perhaps bridging out into rock based blues a little more, but he remains solid in his conviction as a blues musician. His second album is an outstanding set of tunes and I can’t wait to hear the next one and many, many more! He writes songs with intense emotion and delivers them with even more. Highly recommended!!!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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 Featured Blues Review 6 of 10

Anthony Gomes – Before The Beginning

Up 2 Zero Entertainment

12 songs – 38 minutes

Canadian-born guitarist Anthony Gomes is no stranger to success, with three previous hard-edged CDs appearing on the Billboard blues charts immediately after their debut. But few folks realize he’s a blues scholar, too. He earned a master’s degree from his hometown University of Toronto, writing his thesis on “The Racial Evolution Of Blues Music.” Up to this, Gomes’ music has been high-energy blues-rock. On this effort, however, he definitely takes a risk and journeys forward into the past.

“I wanted to show that there is more to our music than loud, ripping guitars,” says Gomes, who is taking a one-album break from the music style loved by fans and critics alike. He was involved in a horrific van fire last fall in which he lost everything and barely escaped with his life. He produced this concept album dealing with the cycle of life as a way of healing. “In awakening the sounds of Muddy Waters or Robert Johnson, I hear the future of the blues tradition,” he insists. “This time, we went way back. By stripping everything down, we could feature the voice and songs. I wanted to capture the spirit of the old field hollers and get back to where the music came from. We only used acoustic guitars and acoustic bass. The most powerful of all the acoustic instruments is the human voice. When you put the harmonies in there, it’s just soul-shaking.”

The result is a stellar production that features his outstanding voice. The fire in his guitar playing has been replaced with single-note picking and sensitivity remindful of the old masters. It takes a back seat to the message in his lyrics, and leaves the listener yearning for more. Joining Gomes on this disc are Michael Rhodes (bass), Greg Morrow (drums), Kevin McKendree (piano) and Dan Dugmore (guitar). Angie Primm, Jerad Woods and Gale Stuart provide background vocals, and Glen Caruba percussion. Minnie Murphy provides the second voice for a duet on “Let’s Fall In Love.” All of the material was either written by Gomes alone or in partnership with Jim Peternik, who’s worked with .38 Special, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sammy Hagar and Survivor.

The album kicks off with “…Before The Beginning,” a powerful, 56-second field chant in which Gomes’ vocal is backed by handclaps and a choral response. Background vocals also drive “Blues Is Good,” which is faintly reminiscent of Little Milton’s “The Blues Is Alright.” Upbeat and uptempo, it swings with the same fervor: “I gotta tell somebody/I gotta tell somebody/I’m gonna tell somebody/I’m gonna tell everybody/The blues is good.” Gomes’ guitar fills are simple and tasty. “Lady Soul,” a tribute to Aretha Franklin, follows. “Her music helped me through some rough times,” Gomes says. It’s a soulful send-up: “Down in the Motor City/By the New Bethel Baptist Church/Reverend Cleveland’s little girl/She’d sing up on her perch/And she could take everybody/Higher and higher/She could make sweet heaven from hellfire.”

Gomes’ voice is light and sweet for “Love Is Everything,” a celebration of the happiness found in a good relationship. His tasty, clean guitar makes a strong appearance to drive the theme home. The mood becomes somber for “Sinner’s Song,” a contemporary spiritual seeking absolution before death. If you’re familiar with Ruthie Foster’s ventures down this path, this tune has the same feel and power. McKendree’s keyboards shine on “Golden Wings,” which deals with the near-death experience and the higher power that helped him escape the blaze. “Let’s Fall In Love” brightens things up dramatically. The song that follows, “Rescue Me,” is not the Fontana Bass classic. It’s a powerful, straight-ahead slow blues about someone marooned in a sea of misery whose only hope is to win the love of a good woman to set him free. Listeners will welcome the brief solo Gomes provides midway. “Beautiful Goodbye” is a simple tribute to his late grandmother: “Your love falls from the sky/Like a beautiful goodbye.”

“Blues In Technicolor” swings from the jump as it provides a strong statement about race relations: “Deep down inside/We’re all the same/The shade of your skin don’t make you my brother/’Cause I see the blues in technicolor…/Deep down inside/We’re all the same.” Call-and-response verse returns for “Old Ten-Wheeler,” Gomes’ remembrance of leaving his parents behind at age 18 when he hit the road. Another brief hint at a field chant, “The End Comes – Before The Beginning,” draws the album to a close.
This CD is a simple, spectacular treasure that certain will rank high on “best of” lists when the year comes to a close. If you’d like to read more about the imagery Gomes used throughout the project, he’s written a very entertaining entry on his blog. You can access it at

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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 Featured Blues Review - 7 of 10

Nigel Mack – Devil’s Secrets

Self Release through Blues Attack Records

12 tracks / 45:36

The technology to record and produce your own music has been available to the masses for years now, and though I have found the results to be mixed, often times it turns out to be really great art that otherwise would not have made its way to my headphones. When scrolling through the seemingly endless list of independent CDs on my computer, Nigel Mack’s self-produced Devil’s Secret stands out as one of the gems.

Nigel Mack (Mackenzie) is originally from Saskatoon, Canada, but in 1988 he relocated with his band to Vancouver, as it is a fantastic city with a thriving arts scene. But Professor Eddie Lusk hooked him up with the Chicago scene in the early 1990s, and he ended up touring across the United States for the next ten years. Finally, in 2003 he decided to call the Windy City his home.

All twelve of the tracks on Devil’s Secrets are originals, and they were recorded in Vancouver and Chicago, with different musicians at each location -- I guess he never lost those Canadian connections! Besides assuming the roles of writer and producer, Nigel also took care of the vocal chores, as well as contributing harmonica, guitar and slide guitar parts. Working with two bands, two recording studios, a mixing studio in Nashville, and a guest artist that was recording in Texas must have been difficult, but this CD still turned out to be a nice piece of work.

The first track up is “King for a Day,” and right away it is apparent how slick this album is. Though this is a blues-based song, there is almost a samba feel to the bass line, and the band is as tight as can be. Most notable is the Chicago-sourced horn section of Lise Gilly on sax, Johnny Cotton on trombone, and Victor Garcia on trumpet. Lise and Nigel did a top-notch job of arranging the horns and integrating them into the tune (and three others on this disc).

The title track is a more basic blues rocker. Things really get into the groove here, and this where I noticed Nigel’s strong voice. He imparts a touch of humor to its tone that fits in well with the clever lyrics of a man torn between right and wrong. Mack’s slide guitar is also very good and it contrasts nicely with the popping bass from Vic Jackson and the rich organ tones of Brian James.

“Here’s to You” is a slow tempo number which features a return of the horn section and some nice lead guitar work from Nigel. This drinking-man’s ode to the love of his life is followed up by a Creole-tinged tune, “Come Back Baby.” This one is a treat as Mack switches over to harmonica and we get to hear some wonderful accordion work from guest artist CJ Chenier, straight out of the Lone Star State. I think I heard a little washboard in there too!

There is plentiful word-twisting to “Dead Presidents (Don’t Tell No Tales)” as he details the woes of a man who finds out the hard way that it is better to not leave a paper trail when stepping out on his old lady. This is a classically constructed tune with a decidedly “Mustang Sally” vibe to the backline. By the way, this is the first of the three Vancouver tracks on Devil’s Secrets; I do not see any real difference in the recording or engineering between the different studios, so the progression of songs is seamless.

“Chicago Bound” is a live recording from Pete’s Place in Chicago, and it turned out to not be the Jimmy Rogers version that I had been expecting. It is an original tune with Nigel masterfully playing a well-mic’d National steel guitar, stomping his foot and howling the vocals. This bare-bones blues song is a real gem, and I love that he snuck this one into the mix.

Nigel shows a strong grasp of many different genres on Devil’s Secrets, and “Meet Her Funk” shows that he was paying attention during the 1970s. This Vancouver-based track features some first-rate horn playing from saxophonist Steve Eisen while David Webb tears thing up on the organ. There are at least three guitar parts in this one, and though Mack is credited for the vocals, I had to listen to it a few times before I realized there aren’t any words to be found.

He snuck another instrumental in, and “Strut Your Stuff” has a driving Chicago blues feel to it and some astounding harmonica tone. Nigel trades his harp with some awesome guitar work from Todd Taylor and James Rogers. And finally, “Let’s Make a Date” leaves us with no doubt that those years on the road working with so many great artists honed his skills and gave him a solid understanding of the blues.

Devil’s Secrets is a very good album of original material, and this work proves that Nigel Mack is a force to be reckoned with. He has set the bar high with first-rate musicianship, writing, arranging and production; I expect great things from him for his next release. If you check out this album, you will become a believer too!

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at

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 Featured Blues Review 8 of 10

Kirsten Thien – Solo Live From The Meisenfrei Blues Club

Screen Door Records

15 songs – 66 minutes

When Kirsten Thien graduated from Georgetown University Business School, she had a choice. She could follow many of her fellow graduates into a job on Wall Street or she could follow her heart and write, play and sing blues and roots music for a living. Luckily for us (but sadly for Wall Street), she choose the latter option.

This album is the New York-based, New England native’s fourth album, but whereas her previous releases featured her singing with a full band, Solo Live (as perceptive readers might have inferred from the title) is a recording of just Thien and her guitar, recorded in one night on 30 October 2012, in Bremen, Germany.

The 15 songs on Solo Live include pieces from Thien’s own catalogue, but also a wide range of covers from artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Ida Cox, Sippie Wallace, Elvin Bishop, Bill Withers, B.B. King and Freddie King.

Blessed with a voice of rare power and emotion, Thien is clearly a masterful performer and she has the crowd eating out of her hand well before the end of the well-structured set. In terms of comparison, Thien’s voice sits somewhere between Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt: not as wild and ragged as the former, but with a little more gravel than Raitt. And it is the perfect instrument for taking on the roots-blues songs on Solo Live. Sometimes, she is as blue as blue can get, for example on her self-penned “Please Drive” (previously recorded with the late and much-missed blues legend Hubert Sumlin). Another time, she explains that her “definition of the blues is pretty broad”, before launching into Sheryl Crow’s “Leaving Las Vegas”. “If you were just to listen to the music,” she explains, “you’d never think this was a blues song. But the words make it so.” And her reading of “Ain’t No Sunshine”, her final encore, is stunning in its simplicity and emotional power. Her choice of covers complements her own songs, which do not pale in comparison to classics such as Sippie’s Wallace’s “Women Be Wise”. Indeed, one of the highlights of the album is Thien’s own “Nobody’s Ever Loved Me Like You Do”, in which she sings achingly that “If a ship needs an anchor to keep from drifting at sea, I’ll hold onto you my love, you provide that stability. I don’t mean to get too existential about what you mean to me, but nobody’s ever loved me like you do.”

Thien accompanies herself on acoustic guitar, usually strumming chords, rather than finger-picking, which gives some songs something of a “camp-fire/busking” feel. At other times, however, for example on “The Sweet Lost And Found” (“a place you can go when every place else is out of reach”) where she backs the verse with off-beat rhythm reminiscent of the start of Ike and Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary”; or her upbeat version of Freddie King’s “I’d Rather Be Blind”, her guitar provides a driving rhythmic support to her voice.

One of the nice things about the album is that it isn’t just a selection of songs played live. Many feature either a spoken introduction or commentary, which are often entertaining and provide illuminating insight into Thien’s choice of the various songs she plays. Unfortunately, each introduction is seen as a separate piece by MP3 players, so if you play the album on shuffle setting, Thien gives the audience the background to one song, then plays a entirely different song (or goes into another introduction). This is not a criticism of Thien, of course, but it really shouldn’t be difficult for CD producers to either tie an introduction to a particular song, or provide a simple method of cutting the introductions entirely.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable album and I look forward to seeing Thien’s career develop and blossom. It is obvious that she is a natural performer, creating an easy camaraderie with her audience. At the end of the album, she promises to return to the Meisenfrei Blues Club with her full band. This reviewer, for one, would like to be in the audience.

Reviewer Rhys Williams is a blues guitarist based in Cambridge, England, which is Britain’s attempt to copy Austin, Texas – a liberal, University town with a surprising number of blues musicians.

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 Featured Blues Review 9 of 10

David Egan – David Egan

Rhona Sue Records

12 songs – 55 minutes

If you didn’t know that David Egan was from Louisiana, one listen to his new, eponymously-titled CD would quickly set you right. The distinctive rhythms of the Sugar State ooze through every song, as thick and syrupy as a Gulf Coast Bayou.

Backed by Joe McMahan (guitar), Mike Sipos (drums), Ron Eoff (bass) and a number of guest artists (including Bruce MacDonald and Buddy Flett on guitar, Mike Dillon on congas and percussion, and Roddie Romero and Caleb Elliot on backing vocals), the 12 original compositions radiate warmth, intelligence and wit. Egan’s songs have previously been recorded by artists such as Joe Cocker, Irma Thomas, John Mayall, Percy Sledge and Johnny Adams and it is not difficult to understand why. Although firmly rooted in the blues, Egan does not restrict himself to the traditional 12-bar format. There are also hints of jazz (“Sad, Sad Satisfaction”), Memphis soul (“Dead End Friend”) and even a little Nat “King” Cole pop (“Blues How They Linger”) in the songs on the album. And his lyrics tell intriguing stories in a sophisticated yet conversational manner. The first lines of the opening song on the album, “That’s A Big Ol’ Hurt”, instantly draw the listener into the narrator’s world of pain: “I knew I was in trouble when your big feet hit the floor. You ricocheted that bottle off the side of my head and broke the sliding glass door.” He also has a keen ear for unusual slant rhymes, which helps to give his songs unexpected twists: “I walked in on you and Freddy - and I knew that I was ruined. You gave me that stinkin’ grin and kept right on what you were doing.” On this album, he wrote 11 of the songs himself, and co-wrote “Dance To The Blues With Me” with Chris Belleau.

Egan sings in a sly, whisky-soaked voice with that distinctive habit of emphasizing unusual consonants that is common to many Louisiana singers. He convincingly conveys the pain of the characters in his songs: sometimes wistful, sometimes angry, but always somehow conscious of their own failings as individuals. At times, there is a Faulkner-esque depth to Egan’s lyrics, such as in “Outta Mississippi” when he warns: “Once you start to get a little older, you won’t be a belle in lace. You won’t make twenty-one ‘fore that Mississippi sun’s burned forty years onto your face.”

Although Egan’s jazz-influenced piano playing drives a number of the songs, he also provides ample space for the other musicians to shine. Zydeco star Lil’ Buck Senegal adds lovely guitar solos to “Call Your Children Home”, “Funky Dreams” and “Dance To The Blues With Me” and the outtro to “Outta Mississippi” features some frankly off-the-wall improvisation from Dickie Landry on alto sax and Joe McMahan on guitar. But this is not an album for the musicians to show off: the emphasis is always on the songs, first and foremost.

This release has a very “live” feel, expertly produced by Egan and McMahan, with a number of songs being counted off with a “one-two-three-four” that has been left on the released recording, which helps add to the feeling of a band recording the songs in one take. This is highly enjoyable CD that transports listeners to a hot, humid nightclub on a Louisiana summer night. You can almost hear the katydids singing in the background. Warmly recommended.

Reviewer Rhys Williams is a blues enthusiast based in Cambridge, England, where the only sounds on a summer night are the chattering teeth of under-dressed teenagers.

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 Blues Society News

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Prairie Crossroads Blues Society - Champaign, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society presents Carolyn Johnson, Celebration of Life, Sunday Aug. 18th, 2013, 2pm-6pm at Memphis on Main, 55 E. Main St., Champaign. Kilborn Alley, The Painkillers, Josh Spence, A.J. Williams, Bruce "Bruiser" Rummenie, Isaiah Johnson and others will be performing.

Monday, September 23, PCBS presents Jiggy & the Source at Louie's Dixie Kitchen & BBQ, 1104 N. Cunningham Drive, Urbana, IL. For more info visit

South Skunk Blues Society - Newton, IA

The 21st annual South Skunk Bowlful of Blues festival will be held Saturday August 31st at the beautiful, and recently refurbished, Maytag Park “Bowl” in Newton, Iowa –Newton is about 40 miles east of Des Moines on I-80. The South Skunk Blues Society is planning to throw a party like they are turning 21 (which in fact they are). The Bowlful of Blues will kick off at noon. An after fest jam with the Terry Quiett Band is planned at the local VFW hall. Here is the schedule: 12:00 - Poppa Neptune featuring Detroit Larry Davison, 2:00pm - Terry Quiett Band, 4:00pm - Walter Trout, 6:00pm - Shaun Murphy Blues Band and 8:00pm - John Primer. We are also pleased to have Denny Garcia from Dubuque providing the acoustic sets between the bands.

Bring a lawn chair…coolers are welcome too but please no glass. Food vendors will have food for sale on site. This is a family friendly event, but please leave pets to home. For more information or to purchase advance tickets go to  Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the gate the day of the show.

Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL

Crossroads Blues Society presents the 4th Annual Byron Crossroads Blues Festival Sat., Aug 24th from Noon to 11 PM in downtown Byron, Illinois. $7 advanced tickets. Check it out at: 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.

Also in September from Crossroads Blues Society: 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!

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. Aug 12th - Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones featuring Dennis Gruenling, Aug 19th - Rusty Wright More info available at 

Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL

Now in their seventh season, The Friends of the Blues present 7 pm early shows: Thur, Aug 15, Ivas John Band, Moose Lodge, Thur, Aug 29, Little Joe McLerran, Proof Lounge (former America's Bistro), 110 Meadowview Center, Kankakee, Thur, Sept 19, Reverend Raven and Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Thur, Oct 3, Too Slim and The Taildraggers – “It’s Everybody’s Birthday Party” - Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Tues, Oct 22, Kilborn Alley Blues Band - Venue To Be Announced, Thur, Nov 7, Terry Quiett Band - Venue To Be Announced More information: or

 Featured Blues review 10 of 10

Bobby Messano with Deanna Bogart - Welcome to Deltaville

Prince Frog Music

10 tracks

Deltaville is a small town in Virginia, situated on the Chesapeake Bay. It is an almost surreal spot, with boats floating on the waters of the bay, sea shore styled homes, and small inns and restaurants ready to serve both locals and the occasional weary traveler looking for respite. It is an idyllic setting, a place to come to, get absorbed into, relax and enjoy. And so, too, is this new album from Bobby Messano. It is a blues and rocking locale where the listener can park themselves, absorb the wondrously fresh sounds and revel in interesting songs offered up that are both new and old.

Joining Messano on this endeavor is his ever-staunch and steady band mate Steve Geller on bass. Geller is a rock solid bass player who is intense yet subtle, a man who you sometimes don’t notice that he’s there but if he were not things would quickly go askance. On drums is Mel Watts from the Little River Band, another backline specialist whose approach is professional and top notch. That is the core of Messano and his band: he and Steve and Mel, one of several drummers who support Bobby in his travels. They alone are formidable and exciting, but adding so much to the mix here is Deanna Bogart. Her sax and keyboard work along with some vocals are stellar and make this a richer and lusher sounding CD overall. Ivan Neville also appears on B-3 and clavinette as does Tracy Nelson on a duet and backing vocals. What a superb cast of characters!

Messano begins the set with a gutsy version of Otis Rush’s “All You Love I Miss Lovin’”. His guitar really stings and Bogart’s sax wails like a banshee as he and the band set the stage for a great set of tunes. I’ve seen Bobby open recent shows with this cut, but the addition of Bogart is exceptional and the overall mix is superb. Up second is “The Invisible Man,” where Messano’s sings of the hidden hell of being visibly seen yet remain unnoticed. It is a mid tempo, driving rock tune with huge guitar and organ lines that solidify the cut. One can almost feel the strings bend on Messano’s guitar here. He transitions into the title cut, a ballad that Messano floats vocally through with backing vocals echoing the welcome to the near-mystical place of Deltaville. The song drifts with purpose over waves of comforting sounds and builds to a big finish with a nice slide backing the vocals.

Messano follows with the bouncy reggae and calypso sounding “That’s the Way of the World.” The keyboards add all sorts of levels of support, but it is Bogart’s sax that dirties things up nicely. Messano and she go back and forth a bit on guitar and sax and the gang background vocals just exude musicians having a good time together. “My Crazy Dreams” is a slow, bluesy number where Messano laments about all the things that have happened in life and how we must go to a safer place on occasion to escape with those crazy dreams that never let you down. Messano offers up a poignant guitar solo and the piano fills in sweetly. In “I Ain’t Got Diddley” Bobby pays a little homage with a driving Bo Diddley beat as he tells his former love just what the title says. The band sneaks into the cover “The Way You Do the Things You Do” as Bogart gently tinkles out a little intro and then Messano sticks it in your face as he swings through this classic with great aplomb. Bogart’s dubs in as a horn section and the song just rollicks and rolls along coolly. Messano testifies to us on his guitar as we get schooled by this master, and then Bogart changes keys and gives us another nice solo on sax to add to the charm.

The last of the original cuts is “Lonely Town,” a jived up and swinging tune where Watts’ percussion work adds so much subtlety and Bogart haunts us on the sax. Messano sings and plays poignantly and shows us he is also a superb songwriter with this and his other original songs. Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” is offered up next as Messano breathes life into this old classic. Bogart on piano adds richness and depth, but the star of the show is Messano’s fretwork. What a show he puts on here along with the rest of band, making it sound larger than life. Messano builds up and attacks the strings of his guitar and leaves us breathless, they takes it back down a few notches to allow us to recover. Outstanding stuff, but then Messano really gives us a treat with the Traffic cover. Bobby pays tribute to the man he traveled with and covers this Winwood number as few, if any, could. “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” (as those of you in Bobby’s age group and mine who love music from our youth know very well) is from the Traffic album of the same name. Stevie Winwood wrote and played this song with his band Traffic and made it a unique remembrance from our teens, showing brilliance and musicianship at levels we were in awe of then and remain in awe of today. Messano delivers this to us with power and depth, transitioning from one part to another seamlessly. Bogart on sax and keys is other-worldly; she delivers a unique and wonderful performance. Messano’s vocals can get up there like Winwood could and sells this to us. The up and down of emotions is amazing. Messano builds it up, Bogart takes us down and the team of musicians goes back and forth with this in a cacophony of musical emotions. Gellar’s bass is sublime and primal, adding continuity and flow to this superb cover; he is a really deep monster here. Jazz, rock, blues and whatever else is mixed in there blend to make this final cut a song to remember!

This is easily Messano’s best effort to date. His last CD was super and he’s raised the bar even higher with this album. Go look for the CD with the take-off of the old John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers album cover with Eric Clapton, buy it, spin it and relish it- you will not go wrong. I most highly recommend this!.

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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