FREE Blues Internet Magazine


April 4, 2008           

© 2007 - 2008

News, photos, reviews, live Blues links & MUCH MORE in this issue! - Scroll or Page Down!

Happy Birthday Blues Blast!

Hey Blues Fans,

In celebration of our first birthday, this issue of the Blues Blast is a DOUBLE issue with twice as much Blues fun for you. Yes, time really flies when you're having fun. The first Blues Blast issue was last April!

Fifty-Three issues later we are amazed to realize we have published over 120 CD, DVD and performance reviews, plus photos from 32 Blues shows, and lots of book reviews, videos, interviews and more. All brought to you for FREE!

We thank our Blues reviewers and staff including  James "Sky Dobro" Walker, Ben Cox, Rob Paullin, August "Lordy" Lord, Karen McFarland, Dale Clark, Bill Porter, Brian D. Holland, Dan Klefstad and others. We also thank our advertisers and the Blues artists and record companies who have sent us CD's to review.

But most of all we thank YOU, our readers, for Keepin' the Blues Alive!

DOUBLE The Blues Wanderings This Week

The Blues Blast made it out to see a great Blues show for a great cause last weekend. Ronnie Baker Brooks made to the New Lafayette Club in Bloomington, IL for a show to benefit Cystic Fibrosis. Also on the bill were the opening bands II Ton Heavy Thing and the Bill Porter Project.

The more we hear Ronnie play, the more we realize he is one of the most (If not THE most), talented guitarists in this music called the Blues. It was a great show and for an encore Ronnie asked both Bill Porter and 12 year old Matt Curry to sit in for a few songs. GREAT Stuff! We have pictures of the fun. CLICK HERE


We also made it to back Blue Monday in Springfield, IL last week to hear a very talented guitarist from Tennessee, Scott Holt.

Scott and the band played some amazing sets blazing through some of his own tunes as well as songs by guitar greats as diverse as Stevie Ray, Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy.  CLICK HERE for pictures of this great show.






Last but not least we made it to Peoria, IL last night to see our good friends from Wisconsin, The Delta Jets.

Dale Anderson is a great guitar/dobro player who can really lay the Delta Blues on thick. Drummer Mark Riggenbach provided the backbeat that makes the sum total of this unique duet much more than the individual parts.
To see photos of the fun, CLICK HERE




It's Year Two! DOUBLE the Blues!

We wanted to start off the second year with a BANG so this week we have TEN Blues reviews for you! James Walker reviews the new CD by Roomful of Blues.  Ben Cox reviews new CD's by Buddy Flett , Catherine Russell, Albert Collins and Moreland & Arbuckle plus the DVD, Born In the Honey.

Dale Clark reviews the latest CD by The Phantom Blues Band and Chicago editor Lordy reviews a show by Joanna Conner at Chicago's Kingston Mines. Rob Paullin reviews a new CD by Tab Benoit and Brian Holland reviews the upcoming CD release by Jeff Healy completed just before his recent tragic death. 

We also are doubling the fun on Blues Streaming Link of the week with 2 great links this week. First a link to a great new group of young players, Back Door Slam that you gotta check out. (Especially you club owners and fest promoters!)

Plus we take a look at Blues streaming radio from "Down Under". All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!

DOUBLE Festival Announcements

A couple of our Blues friends and supporters have announced their Blues Fest lineups.

Bluesfest International in Windsor Ontario July 10 to13 has a great line up that includes Taj Mahal, John Nemeth, Rick Derringer, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Richie Havens, David Wilcox , Ana Popovic, Steve Burnside & the Marquis, Larry McCray, Eric Sardinas and more. 

The Briggs Farm Blues Festival in Nescopeck, PA on July 11 to 13 features Nora Jean Bruso, Johnny Rawls, Bobby Kyle, Kelly Richey, Big George Brock, Colin John & Michael Hill, The Sarah Ayers Band  and much more. Look for more information on these great fests coming soon.

 DOUBLE Streaming Blues Link of the Week

Don't know if you caught these guys on Jimmy Kimmel Live the other night but you need to check this out. We like to promote young Blues players and this trios ages are 22, 21 and 20 years old!

The guitar player Davy Knowles is the baby of the bunch but there is nothing childish about his guitar playing. Think Cream, Zeppelin, Stevie Ray, ZZ top and Luther Allison, all rolled into one amazing mix. We predict you are going to be hearing a lot more from these guys.

The link above takes you right to their media page where you will hear an audio radio interview that has them playing acoustic in a couple songs. We also have an amazing video of them playing electrified on our website.


So what is "Blues" to folks "down under"? This site may give us a good idea.  Salty Dog Blues N Roots is a weekly 2 hour podcast/radio broadcast featuring "the best Australian and world blues, roots and alternate country".  The show is produced by Salty Dog in Melbourne, Australia.

Simply click on the play button to stream the most recent show on their homepage. You will hear about 30 seconds of what sounds like didgeridoo music before the show theme music starts. If you are not familiar with this Australian Aboriginal instrument, relax and just wait for the Blues!

You can listen to previous weeks shows as you scroll down their page. You can access their entire show archives by clicking on the "Podcast"  button on the left side.

You can listen to their shows as streams by clicking the play button, but what is cool is you can also download these podcasts and put them on your IPOD.  (EDITORS NOTE: That is IF you ever get yours working Mikey!)

Enjoy, and tell them the Blues Blast sent ya!

Check out other great Blues Music Streams Click HERE

 Other IMPORTANT News   Help Save the music! CLICK HERE to Keep Blues Radio Alive!


The Rutledge Youth Foundation’s Annual Harley Raffle
Kickoff Party

A Night Of The Blues

 Friday, April 25th, 2008 - 7:00 PM – 12:30 PM

 Capital City Bar and Grill
3149 S. Dirksen Parkway - Springfield, Illinois

FREE Admission

Rutledge Youth Foundation 217-525-7757


Tombstone Bullet

With special guests

(Guitarist for Koko Taylor’s Blues Machine)

Elizabeth Eckert (of American Idol)

Luca Giordano (Italian Blues Artist)

Brother Ray and the Blades
(Former Tonguesnatcher Review members and


 Blues Want Ads

 Place Your Blues Musician Want Ad here for FREE

Keyboardist Wanted

Established blues-soul band near Round Lake, IL (Northern IL) seeks pro keyboardist for gigs and some recording. We are a working band with very solid musicianship and a decent following. The ideal candidate will play both organ and piano, sometimes simultaneously. Only acoustic piano, Rhodes and Hammond organ sounds needed. We do blues, soul, some funky jazz and some eclectic, rootsy originals. Please contact  for more information.

Equipment wanted

Want to buy a 14 or 16 inch floor Tom , must be champagne color. Would like it to be Ludwig , but interested in other. Need it to match a set. Contact 

Guitar for Sale

I have a Kay old Kraftsman hollow body electric jazz guitar nearest I can date is in the 1940's but it reeks of blues.  Body has no cracks that I can see. Neck is straight as an arrow.  I have pictures of this beautiful piece of history.  $600.00 OBO For more info contact  Junior Thomas 251-580-8008

Guitar Player Wanted

Wanting a lead Guitarist w/the tone/style/stage presence and professional musician looks (I.E. NO T-Shirts, Jeans etc. Rag Muffin' look!) that can front and sing lead! MUST play in the style of SRV, Chris Durante', Wes Jeans, Lance Lopez, ETC., Etc.! Must live in Texas or move here and get a day {flexible} gig OR, have a supporting Ol' Lady! This IS Really Da' Bluz'! A Big equipment van is a plus! NO junkies, or sexual deviants! Contact  (972) 790-5172

Musicians Wanted

My name is Herbert Bass and I write blues lyrics and sing. I have only song in church and the blues around my friends. If there is a band that needs a good blues singer and writer contact Herbert Bass 

"workin Blues performers" can place Want Ads here for FREE.  NO Commercial Ads! 
Buy or sell equipment , musicians wanted, gigs wanted etc. Limit 100 words.

All ads submitted will be used if space allows. If space is limited, ads will be randomly selected to appear in the Blues Blast. Ads may be edited.  Send your ad submission to

  Thursday, May 22 - Saturday, May 24, 2008


Phone: (708) 524-6050

A Symposium on the Legacy of Blues & Gospel Music

Dominican University (located just minutes from the Chicago Loop) hosts the Blues and the Spirit Symposium, emphasizing the heritage of African-American Chicago and exploring the shared roots of Blues and Gospel.

  • Panels and presentations with Timuel Black, Portia Maultsby, Horace Maxile, Paul Garon, Sterling Plumpp, Gayle Dean Wardlow, Barry Dolins, Jim O’Neal, Marie Dixon, Bob Davis, Bob Koester, Fernando Jones, Bob Marovich, David Whiteis, Scott Barretta, Salim Muwakkil, Sandra Pointer-Jones, Suzanne Flandreau, Bob Riesman, Stephanie Shonekan, Morris Phibbs, Bob Jones, Billy Boy Arnold, Stan Mosley and others

  • Blues Workshop with Billy Branch and Gospel Workshop with James Abbington
  • Multimedia Presentations, Raeburn Flerlage Photography and Outsider Art Exhibits
  • Musical Appearances by Larry Taylor, James Wheeler and Bob Stroger
  • Bronzeville Tour with a stop at the Blues Heaven Foundation, located in the former Chess Records
  • Chicago Blues Club Crawl
  • Otis Clay and Sharon Lewis in Concert      CLICK HERE to see schedule and registration information


 Blues Link of the Week

Karin Braun and Heinrich Theobald in Germany have created a great Blues website for Blues fans and players. It looks really simple but it includes extensive listings for Booking Agencies, Blues Artists, Blues Societies, Blues Directories, Portals, Learning to Play the Blues, Blues Record Companies and a category called Blues and Science. You can type in a search string and find some great stuff too.

We typed in Luther Allison and got 7279 hits both on their website and everywhere else. Check out this great site. Tell them the Blues Blast sent ya!

For more Blues links, CLICK HERE to visit the Links Page

 Blues Society News

 Send your Blues Society's BIG news or Press Release to:  

Max of 125 words, Text or Word file preferred.

Illinois Central Blues Club Springfield, IL - Blue Mondays

Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $2 cover
April 7 - The Blu Tonz, April 14 - Pleasure Chest with Robert Sampson, April 21 - Bryan Lee,  April 28 - Kilborn Alley Blues band

Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the Quad-City Round of the Iowa Blues Challenge on Saturday April 12 at 8 p.m. at the Rock Island Brewing Company in Rock Island, IL. Admission is $8, $6 for MVBS members. The four bands entered this year are—Pocket Deuces, Slim and the Bulletproof Boys, The Smokin’ Mojo Kings, and Blues Explosion.

Also The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents John Nemeth featuring Junior Watson on Saturday April 19 at Blueport Junction in Davenport, IA. The show starts at 8:30 with the Chris Avey Band; admission is $10, $8 for MVBS members. For more information contact Steve Brundies at 563-508-7660

Mississippi Action for Community Education - Greenville, MS

31st Annual Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival - Poster Contest. (MACE) is accepting entries for the poster design for the 31st Annual Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival to be held on September 20, 2008. The theme for this year’s festival is: "Rollin’ Goin’ Home to da Blues".

Winning entry will receive $500 cash.  Entry deadline is April 30, 2008. Mail entries to: Mississippi Delta Blues Festival Poster Contest, 119 South Theobald Street, Greenville, MS 38701. Contact William Brown at 662-335-3523 or for more info. Visit , for contest rules and application form.


May 9th & 10th - Fort Madison, IA
For tickets and details visit: 
Simply The Blues Website

Friday May 9th

Magic Slim & The Teardrops

Eddie Turner

Leon Redbone

Louisiana Red

Second Skinny Blues Band

Saturday May 10th
Sean Costello

Diunna Greenleaf

Zach Harmon

Shawn Kellerman

Trampled Under Foot

Alvin Jett

Rich Berry

Matt Wood & The Thunderbolts


 DOUBLE Featured Blues Reviews 

Roomful of Blues - Raisin’ A Ruckus
Alligator Records

14 songs; 53:58 minutes; Splendid
Genre: Jump blues; Big Band jazz-blues, Swing, Rock and Roll, R&B, Soul

How many bands have an absolutely perfect name? Chalk up one for sure: Roomful of Blues. Not only does one get a “room full” of sound, but a venue also gets a room full of players. I can not think of another current blues band sporting as many as eight members.

Roomful of Blues was born in Westerly, Rhode Island in 1967 when guitarist Duke Robillard and keyboardist Al Copley combined. They soon began exploring the swinging, jumping blues, R&B and jazz of the 1940s and 1950s, and added a dynamic horn section including current longest running member Rich Lataille in 1970. Robillard and Copley eventually departed, and the band’s membership has continued to change and evolve over the years with, at least, 46 Roomful of Blues members (like Lou Ann Barton, Curtis Salgado, and Sugar Ray Nocia) providing great musicianship. They joined the Alligator label in 2003 with That’s Right, which earned a Grammy nomination.

On a sad note, the second most tenured member Bob Enos, trumpet, died in his sleep in his hotel room in Douglas, Georgia, early Friday morning, January 11, 2008 of suspected heart failure. He was 60. Bob passed just four days before the release of their latest album, Raisin’ A Ruckus. Roomful had played the Douglas Country Club the previous night. The band was on its way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday to perform on The Legendary Blues Cruise. Enos joined Roomful Of Blues in September, 1981. He appeared on every album that Roomful made apart from its first three releases, including the new CD. Roomful is continuing its current tour with former band member John Wolfe taking Enos’s place.

Since 1977 and 15 albums, the group has earned five Grammy Award nominations and a slew of other accolades, including seven Blues Music Awards (with the nod for Blues Band of the Year in 2005). With a non-stop performance and touring schedule for almost 40 years, Roomful of Blues has earned critical, popular and radio success and a legion of fans around the globe.

Currently an eight-piece unit led by guitarist Chris Vachon, singer Dave Howard took over the singing duties in 2007, bringing his wonderfrully gritty and soulful vocals. New members are bassist Dima Gorodetsky and drummer Ephraim Lowell joining long-time members keyboardist Travis Colby, baritone and tenor saxophonist Mark Earley, and tenor and alto saxophonist Rich Lataille.

Raisin’ A Ruckus brings plenty of variety to the table with originals and covers, opening with full horns on “Every Dog Has His Day.” A catchy, upbeat horn-hook of pom-pom---pumpa-pompa-pom kicks off with Vachon providing guitar counter-point rhythm. 22 seconds in, they are joined by Howard’s deep vocals over rat-a-tat drums and bottom organ and bass. At one minute, the saxophone takes a 25 second solo followed by Vachon on a 15 second screaming guitar solo. The song only logs 2:39 in length, but in that time hearts are jumping, and we get an idea what an tight-and-right eight piece unit can do.

Guitar freaks fear not: “Round It Down” opens with Chris Vachon on blazing six string as does “Solid Jam.” For piano fans, how about some Travis Colby boogie woogie keyboards on “Boogie Woogie Country Girl” written by Reginald Ashby and Doc Pomus. Even Gorodetsky’s bass eventually gets a brief lead helping to open the title track and taking a mid-song solo.

Some real fun is found on “Big Mamou” and the Gary U.S. Bonds Rock and Roll classic, “New Orleans”. The good times are infectious as the band members have arranged their parts to coincide and complement each other and then join in on the “Hey, hey-hey, now” chorus.

“Sweet Petite” and “Life Has Been Good” have a sound right out of the Benny Goodman big band era, “sha doo be doop, bah-dah!”

Roomful of Blues has once again excelled in recording their variety-laden horn, and guitar, fueled music for audiences around the world. Add their non-stop touring schedule, and long-time fans and new converts alike can see for themselves why this group consistently receives nominations and wins awards.

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

Buddy Flett - Mississippi Sea
Out of the Past LLC

Run Time: 50:57

Buddy Flett is a storyteller. Laboring on as a regional sensation for over 36 years, Flett’s stock rose in the international market last year with the huge success of Kenny Wayne Sheperd’s Ten Days Out: Blues From the Backroads album in which he and Kenny played the AAA-radio success “Honky Tonk.” Thriving on this new found popularity, Flett produced this CD with Steve Howell and what we get is a talking book of musical influence from the South.

Flett throughout the 12 tracks (9 of which are Flett’s own) of this disc blends country & western, country blues, ragtime, blues-rock, and singer-songwriter-like storytelling of how the South was and is for him throughout his life. Kenny Wayne Shepherd makes a guest appearance on the highly touted Flett tune “I Hear Ya Callin’” but for the most part the arrangements are laid bare with just Flett and some minor accompaniment.

The first track “Baby’s Back In Town” blurs the lines between country & western and country blues, showing that indeed a bluesman taught Hank Williams Sr.  and probably Jimmy Rogers how to play guitar and sing songs about everyday people and their troubles. “Done Somebody Wrong” is Flett’s interpretation of another slide guitar giant; Elmore James and he does it with ease without bordering on mimicry. On the aforementioned, “I Hear Ya’ Callin’” Flett’s vocals soar over the top of an acoustic-fied Kenny Wayne Shepherd solo. Flett’s love for Texas-style blues is demonstrated perfectly on the lone acoustic reworking of Freddie King’s “Hideaway.” The autobiographical album title track and “Mama’s Kitchen” are obvious very intimate personal looks into Flett’s own life and don’t sound dull or too “folky” not to please a blues crowd. The acoustic blues-rock of “Run To the Levee” is a personal favorite and shows that when blues-rock is done right, it can make even a die-hard traditionalist perk up their ears and enjoy themselves. Flett also rollicks through Leadbelly’s “Linin’ Track” and doesn’t give the over-produced feel that Aerosmith’s reworking “Hangman’s Jury” gave to the song, but instead traces back to the roots of the song and arranges it from there. Flett doesn’t try to be something he’s not or stray from his roots, either.

Flett’s continued touring and working with Shepherd along with the strong songwriting and musicianship that goes along with playing anything for 36 years has paid off for Flett and as the comfort level and confidence displayed here, he doesn’t make it sound like its success that’s come too late.

Visit Buddy Flett on MySpace or visit him at Steve Howell’s website at:  The CD is available from major music outlets.

Reviewer Ben Cox is a Blues Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Journalist.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

Tab Benoit - Night Train to Nashville
Telarc records

What do you get when you mix New Orleans with the Cajun swampland, the Mississippi Delta, a bit of Beale Street and even a touch of Nashville?  How about the newest CD from rising blues star Tab Benoit, Night Train to Nashville.  Benoit and his Louisiana’s Leroux band recorded the 11-track CD live over two night at Nashville’s The Place On Second Street, just before picking up a couple of awards at the 2007 Blues Music Association confab in Music City.

Nine of the 11 cuts are Benoit originals, co-produced by David “Z” Rivkin, who also produced for Prince, Billy Idol and Etta James, among others.  These cuts reflect not only the Houma, Louisiana, influences of Benoit, but also those of his bandmates, guitarist Jim Odom, Tony Haselden on banjo, Nelson Blanchard behind the keys, bassist Leon Medica, David Peters on drums and percussionist Mark Duthu.

Here’s a review of what I discovered when I cued up Night Train To Nashville: 

The disk kicks off with the title cut, a pure bluser highlighted by some John Lee Hooker style gravely lyrics.  Next up is “Solid Simple Things,”  with it’s country-flavored Nashville-style picking.  “Darkness” is a raw sampling of old fashion Delta blues, dominated by some stinging guitar work.

With the fourth cut, “Too Sweet for Me,” Benoit share vocals with Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, before bouncing some stylish guitar licks off Wilson’s harp.

“Moon Comin’ Over the Hill” starts slowly but quickly builds to a bouncy dance beat.  Some nice tremolo guitar work enhances Benoit’s vocal duet with Jim Lauderdale.  Benoit spices up the next cut, “Lost in your Lovin’,” a rowdy Cajun original that features some peppery guitar work and some swampy down-home lyrics.

Wet Willie’s Jimmy Hall grabs the microphone for his own “Rendezvous With The Blues,” a song that will remind many of both the vocal and guitar stylings of B.B. King and his often pained lyrics.  This one probably works well live—or in the bedroom—but on disk it’s a bit repetitious.

Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone adds his virtuoso harmonica work to Benoit’s “Fever For The Bayou,” a rockabilly-style song Benoit accurately describes as a “three people sitting on the porch kind of song.” 

Organist Nelson Blanchard stands out on “”New Orleans Ladies,” a song that appears to have been heavily--but not negatively--influenced by the late ‘60’s psychedelic band, Procol Harum and their “Whiter Shade of Pale.”  Following is “Muddy Bottom Blues,” a gritty night moves blues number that reflects the heat and humidity of the south Louisiana swamplands.

Benoit wraps up with “Stackolina.”  I’m not sure who—or what—Stackolina is (girl, dog, stack of gumbo?), but with Waylon Thibodeaux’ washboard undercurrent and Kim Wilson’s choo-choo train harp, it’s a fun song to wrap up an excellent effort.

With great songs, a great band and some great guest artists, this one just about has it all.   But, it would have been nice to add a guest zydeco player, especially on “Fever For the Bayou.”

One and seven-eighths Jax bottle up for Night Train to Nashville

Reviewer, journalist and educator Rob Paullin has worked and sampled the blues everywhere from Chicago, New Orleans and Memphis to Kyiv, Beijing and Venice. 

The Phantom Blues Band - Footprints
Delta Groove Productions

Review by Dale Clark

I would hire this band in a heart beat to do a television theme or popular movie soundtrack, to back a pop singer in a Vegas show, or to lay the sound under a commercial.  But I wouldn’t walk a block to the nearest city park to hear them play for free on a warm summer evening, and I certainly wouldn’t tell a friend to buy this album or spend any of her or his finite lifetime listening to it.

This is the kind of music you hear all the time inadvertently, the soundtrack of our commercial lives.  This is “industrial music” in the sense there is a music “industry” and elite members just beneath the celebrity echelon get called on when someone needs a “professional” music job and needs it fast without any “creative” hassles.

Need a classic (the Nat King Cole “A Cottage for Sale,” for instance)?  Check.  Can you prove you are paying attention to the blues trends with a bit of a stomp (“When Malindy Sings”)?  Bank it.  Want to show you’ve got a sense of humor (Rufus Thomas and B.B. Cunningham’s “Fried Chicken”)?  Done.  How about a keyboard plaint (“A Fool For You”)?  You bet.  Can you do a pseudo-spiritual, a kind of Blind Boys from Alabama thing (“Chills and Fever”)?  Amen.  Need a washed out, de-politicized reggae (“When the Music Changes” sounds like a cleaned up “Small Axe“)?  Can do.

And when you are through recording don’t even bother to thank your mom, girlfriend, and God Almighty; but instead compose some soothing words to your label head and thank the likes of Fender, Ampeg Amps, Sabian Cymbals, AKG Microphones, Protection Racket Cases, etc.

On this album every guitar phrase is turned just right, each horn line is crisp, the keys are sparkling, the vocal moans are in strategic places, the ensemble timing is almost machine precise-- all as if effortless.  Phantoms are now you see them, now you don’t phenomena, perhaps with supernatural powers or at least with the power to trigger our own wild imaginations. The name “Phantom Blues Band” seems a most deliberately chosen evocation of the invisible sideman.  Being highly regarded studio musicians and backing players (notably, the Phantom Blues Band is Taj Mahal‘s band) has to give a person a here and gone ego, an economic existence dependent on the ability to suggest things that may or may not be so, and then vanish.

On this album these phantoms try to spook up the notion we have heard that authentic blues thing, the intangible “real deal.”  But some of us do not believe in phantoms and are pretty sure the authenticity thing is tangible enough, though the difference does have a great deal to do with what the band can get the audience to imagine.  Popular music consists of familiar codes.  Recite the codes, make glib associations to good times, trigger the pleasure centers of the brain, and win the appreciation of the happy crowd.  Invisible players, gifted phantoms, can do these things.

But the authentic artist addresses us as human beings, stimulates far more than the pleasure centers of our brains, throws us some unfamiliar code to decipher, gets us re-living our lives, and in some way-- however indirectly-- makes herself or himself vulnerable to our response.

There is not one thing about this album that suggests this band could possibly care what we think, that they are in any way susceptible to being changed by our response, or even that they believe we are capable of thought.

Catherine Russell - Sentimental Streak
World Village Music

Run Time: 47:05

Do you miss gals like Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Alberta Hunter, and Lena Horne? I know it’s a large comparison to make and some pretty huge shoes to fill but Catherine Russell comes pretty darn close to all these ladies. Blending swing, jazz, ragtime, and blues, Russell’s voice is golden, pure, and any other adjective you can add to compliment this young lady from New York.

Her lineage is quite astounding and no surprise. She’s the daughter of the famed Luis Russell who was Louis Armstrong’s long time band leader and arranger. Her mother Carline Ray, is a world-reknowned and superbly educated bassist. Catherine herself has some accolades, too. She’s toured the world with some of the big names in the music industry, including Paul Simon, David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, Steely Dan to name a few. This her eponymous second release on the World Village label is a pure delight in its sound quality and purity of origin. Russell’s voice soars far and above a lot of ladies who label themselves jazz singers these days. And when she wants to, she can give you some heartfelt big band blues that almost makes you want to cry.

Most of the source music comes from her father that Catherine admits to in the liner notes that she really started to discover a few years ago after Doc Cheatham’s passing in New Orleans. You can’t really tell it, but it seems like she’s been singing these songs for years. Try out the sassy and almost sexually-explicit but not lyrics that she turns with force and sultry power on Bessie Smith’s “Kitchen Man” or Alberta Hunter’s “My Old Daddy’s Got A Brand New Way To Love.” Lena Horne’s “Thrill Me” also flies above the accompaniment. The song that really soars above and beyond for me is the jazzy-blues of the only original on the disc from Russell’s own pen called “Luci.” Stretching out to 5:02, it’s the longest track on the disc and gives the 4-piece band behind her led by Brian Mitchell on piano and Larry Campbell on guitar to space out and show us the improv that jazz fans know and love.

If you are a jazz fan or a fan of some blues-influenced jazz, this disc is for you. If you are a pure music fan, than this is one of the best chill out albums I’ve heard since Norah Jones Come Away With Me from a few years back. Russell’s a rising talent and is bound to jump into the spotlight very soon. She’s a woman to be reckoned with and should be on any music fan’s radar. The CD is available from major music outlets.

Reviewer Ben Cox is a Blues Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Journalist.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

Born In the Honey: The Pinetop Perkins Story
DVD with bonus Audio CD On the 88’s Live In Chicago

VizzTone Label Group

60 minutes - Highly Recommended

Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins is an American musical treasure, a direct link to our musical heritage’s past, and above all a fabulous musician. This documentary traces the journey of the 95 year old legend from the cotton fields of the Honey Plantation in Belzoni, Mississippi to the streets of Chicago and then solo. This candid look at Pinetop’s life and struggles firsthand from his own mouth and his contemporaries is a complete must for any blues fan, musical historian, or first-time listener to Pinetop’s music.

Pinetop documents his struggles from being chased away from his own home as a young boy at the age of 10 to the cotton fields of Clarksdale, MS where he met the likes of early partner Robert Nighthawk, Charlie Patton, and many of the Mississippi Delta’s fabled blues legends. As Pinetop directly relates, “You got the blues if you can’t sing ‘em” on how times were hard running a tractor in pre-WWII era Delta plantations. However, Pinetop was passed over and gives a first hand account of missing the draft board because of his services being needed on the farm. The documentary also goes on to show first hand accounts from Sam Carr, Bobby Rush, and Ike Turner’s stories about Pinetop bouncing around as a musician in Helena AK with Sonny Boy Williamson II’s King Biscuit Time and KFFA with Robert Nighthawk. It was Nighthawk who first recorded Pinetop in 1950 on “Jackson Town Gal.”

Interspersed between concert footage and recorded footage is some finely acted montage by Cedric Burnside is the stories from Pinetop’s closest friends. The documentary includes interviews with Bubba Sullivan the proprietor of Blues Corner in Helena AK, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Lonnie Brooks, Paul Oscher, Hubert Sumlin, Dr. John, Kim Wilson, Eddie Clearwater, Marcia Ball, and Koko Taylor.
You’ll find out first hand why Pinetop Perkins was well-deserving of his Grammy Award this past February and all accolades before and since. As Hubert Sumlin aptly puts it: “He got some of God in him.” Perkins personality and amazing story from the Delta to Chicago is a history lesson and a treat all in one.

DVD Highlights:

Bobby Rush’s story about Pinetop Perkins at the Havana Club setting a friend up with a transvestite. You’ll laugh your head off at this one.

The concert footage, period.    The interview footage with Pinetop himself.

Paul Oscher’s obviously heartfelt recount of Muddy Waters’ car accident in which Pinetop was injured in outside of Champaign IL in October 1969.

Pinetop’s diet of 2 double cheeseburgers and 4 apple pies from McDonalds every day!

This DVD is available from major music outlets.

Reviewer Ben Cox is a Blues Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Journalist.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

Jeff Healey - Mess Of’ Blues
Ruf Records

Jeff Healey’s latest release, “Mess of Blues,” is slated for an April 22nd release on Ruf Records (internationally) and Stoney Plain Records (in Canada). His first blues-rock release in eight years, it was recorded live at his Roadhouse club in Toronto and at the Islington Academy in London this past year.

Though some like to think that great musicians are elevated to a status of eminent legend once they’re deceased, that announcement would be redundant in Jeff Healey’s case. He was already an authentic legend before the fact. Back in 1988, when he released his debut album, “See the Light,” listeners knew immediately that they were hearing greatness for the first time. The fact that he rested his Fender Stratocaster on his lap like a lap-steel and played all of the chordal and fretboard formations in an approach all his own rendered him truly innovative and courageous to guitar players and music fans everywhere. He became an authentic six-string hero instantly. The fact that he was blinded before the age of one from a rare cancer, the sole significance in forcing him to develop such an atypical playing style, shed a light of reverence on his amazing talent. Though he went on to live a rewarding and fruitful existence, garnering respect and admiration from fellow musicians and fans worldwide, cancer once again surfaced, taking him at the age of 41, on March 2nd, 2008. The shining light to this story is that his musical legacy will live on, and his memory will fill the minds and hearts of many for years to come. “Mess Of Blues” is very much a part of that legacy as well.

“Mess of Blues” is a collection of classic blues songs and a few good old bluesy rockers, most of which were live favorites of Jeff Healey fans. The album opens with a rollicking rendition of “I’m Tore Down,” with Jeff’s scorching lead work adorning most of the song. The band then slows it down for an eight minute version of “How Blue Can You Get.” They display an ability to connect in this slow blues classic, and show that they’re at home in authentic blues territory. The rhythm guitar playing of Dan Noordermeer and the keyboard work of Dave Murphy are prominent here. Healey drives it home in the latter part of the song with a sweet and terse lead solo, an attribute of a genuine bluesman. They take the audience out of Toronto and down to bayou country in “Jumbalaya,” with bassist Alec Fraser on the vocals. The classic Americana song segues nicely into the earthy “The Weight,” a respectful cover that would easily appease The Band and writer Robbie Robertson.

“Mess of Blues” comes across as the pivotal blues song on the album, as solid musicianship completes this concise, vibrant number. Jeff’s licks flow fluidly alongside his spirited voice. Pianist Dave Murphy is all over his own composition, “It’s Only Money,” vocally and instrumentally. His piano phrasing, in a Jerry Lee Lewis vein, is truly electrifying. Jeff cuts loose in the latter part of the song with an emotional lead solo. Though it's one of a mere couple of songs on the album to stray from blues territory, their rendition of Neil Young's "Like A Hurricane" is melodic and heartfelt. The band enters slow blues mode for “Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” which highlights the talents of both Healey and Murphy once again. The album is complete with a rollicking “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.”

“Mess of’ Blues” is an exciting live set from the Jeff Healey Band. In the liner notes, Jeff wrote: “I am most grateful to Thomas Ruf for making it possible for me to record this CD, a straightforward, straight-ahead collection of performances by a band of which I’m very proud to be a part.”  We all thank you, Jeff, for bestowing upon us a lot of wonderful music over the years. Thanks for the memories.

Hear a stream from the album at:

Reviewer Brian Holland is a music journalist who resides in Massachusetts.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

Albert Collins - Live at Montreux
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Run Time: 58:21

I was first introduced to Albert Collins when I was a small kid from his work on the “Adventures in Babysitting” Soundtrack from 1987 (“Babysitting Blues” anyone? Hey I was a product of the 80s!) I didn’t remember him very much except for the reverb-drenched chicken-picking sound he made on the guitar. I wasn’t quite a blues fan at four or so, but I do recall Albert’s trademark sound very vividly. Many years later I would discover after listening to his Alligator Records discography and later his Imperial Recordings, why Collins is considered the “Master of the Telecaster.”

This album/DVD finds Albert near the end of his life forces, recorded close to a year before he died, but not at the end of his guitar powers. Up and until the end, Albert was still as fiery, loud, in your face, and energy-packed as he was when he first recorded the seminal “Frosty” which appears here.

Backed by an amazing horn section and the driving funky bass lines of blues bass masters Johnny B. Gayden, Collins is allowed to soar and roar through a virtual greatest hits set list here. Taking us on some long strolls through his slow-burning blues numbers of “The Lights Are On (But Nobody’s Home)” which finds Albert scatting along with his guitar lines and “Too Many Dirty Dishes.” Collins vocals are a bit weak at times as compared to the fire of his early recorded works. However, Collins’ playful usually soft delivery on vocals is traded for a gruff, road-tested growl at some points. Yet, the playful and oft-smile bringin’ lyrics of “Honey Hush” and “If You Love Me Like You Say” are still delivered with believability and gregarious fun.

The fifteen minute romp through the funk-induced “Put the Shoe on the Other Foot” allows the band to space out and jam, giving Gayden one of the coolest and funkiest bass solos you’ve ever heard and highlighting the punctual rhythm section that is bedecked with a searing saxophone solo, as well.

The DVD adds 4 tracks from 1979 which shows Collins at the zenith of all his powers. Truly die-hard fans of Albert Collins will want the DVD more so than just the audio disc here. It’ll truly demonstrate how Albert was not just a legendary guitarist but a genius bandleader who, as all know helped many fine young musicians in his ever-changing Icebreakers band move on to later solo success.

To any blues lover this would be an integral part to any collection if you can only snatch up the Audio CD. You can still hear the raw power and emotion of a man fully in tune with his instrument and the blues. Also available on DVD.

Reviewer Ben Cox is a Blues Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Journalist.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

Moreland & Arbuckle - 1861
Northern Blues 

Run Time: 50:22

This Kansas duo formed in 2005 and after only playing together for three years reached the finals of the 2005 IBC Competition. It was this national stage that allowed the duo to break out of their regional confines and this album, titled after the year their native Kansas joined the Union, is their label debut to the world. 1861 is a Jayhawk romp through acoustic Pre-War Blues, Hill Country stomp, and countrified blues rock that indelibly produces one of the finest newest releases of 2008.

The band explodes through the Hound Dog Taylor signature “Gonna Send You Back To Georgia” in the very beginning, making you wonder how two young fellows from the farthest confines of Kansas can peg the juke joint sound of Hound Dog so well. Backed by the blue-eyed soul sounding vocals and roaring harp of Dustin Arbuckle the delta guitar sounds of Aaron Moreland and rounded out by Brad Horner on drums, the unit is tight and concise and consistent. From the back porch southern rock of “Fishin’ Hole” to the acoustic tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell “Tell Me Why” down to the Allman Brothers’ inspired B-3 solo by Chris Wiser on “Diamond Ring;” the album is ablaze from start to finish. However, it’s the covers and the traditional blues tracks here that are the bands penchant.

Check out the stomp of RL Burnside’s “See My Jumper Hangin’ Out On the Line” with Arbuckle’s scorching fire of a harp solo over top the solid juke guitar of Moreland. Then, the resonator slide of “Teasin’ Doney” comes straight out of a pre-war songbook somewhere. Then, Arbuckle on harp and the chunky guitar of Moreland conjure thoughts of Jimmy Reed on “Please, Please Mammy.” Another one that conjures thoughts of past masters is the John Lee Hooker boogie of the Ryan Taylor “Pittsburgh in the Morning, Philadelphia at Night.” The mournful gospel-blues guitar and vocal add a touch of drama and depth to the album with the song “Wrong I Do.”

Honestly, for me, the album could’ve finished there and been great, but once in a while a song choice is made that some don’t agree with. This would be the case for me with the final track instrumental “Wiser Jam” in which Chris Wiser returns to the Hammond organ and this six and a half minute long song seems disjointed, out of place, and a bit self-indulgent. I screamed at my CD player and shook my head, “We know you’re good. Why?” However, this lone track and my own personal tastes shouldn’t prevent you from buying this record. It’s well worth the price. My suggestion would just be to skip the final cut and judge the album by the rest.

Reviewer Ben Cox is a Blues Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Journalist.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

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Live Blues reviews by Chicago Blues editor Lordy

Blues Beat: Chicago (Photos by August Lord)

Joanna Connor at Kingston Mines

Déjà vu happens here, again. When you come to Chicago, of course you make your pilgrimage to one of our fine blues venues. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose, there is a good chance you will get to see Joanna Connor’s show. She holds down pretty regular gigs at venues around town, and is generally recognized by out of towners as a party machine.

Kingston Mines was my last stop on this particular evening, and a great last stop it is. The music goes until 4 am. Some out of town revelers were telling me that “This chick rocks” and that “We seem to see her every time we come to Chicago”. Joanna’s scorching slide work alone qualifies her for the rocking chick label. Joanna taps and slides with her best rock diva scowl, which subtly becomes a smirk as the fans respond with their own guitars.

Next she turns to her guitar player Nick Peraino for some sparring. She turns from the crowd and squares off with Nick like a gunslinger at draw time. She squeezes out a slide riff, and he answers it with his Kort six string. Her rock and roll scowl is now a full-on blues smile. Bassist J.R. Fuller and drummer Lance Lewis provide the groove for this volley. Enough dueling? Well don’t they just move into some sweet harmonizing lead parts ala the Allmans? Everyone is on their feet on this, the last set of the morning. Joanna teases the party with introductory licks from the blues rock party book. Somehow she seems to know what the crowd’s favorites are. It’s almost as if they have been here before.

I know at least the three guys from Akron who were standing near me were professing their love for Joanna. A booming loud voice from the right said “You’re the man Jo!” A quick glance to the woman who shouted that helped me agree to disagree. While Joanna is a girl, she takes some pleasure in showing the boys how it’s done. The emcee and the voice of Blues Alley, Mr. Frank Pellegrino steps up to add his pipes to All Along the Watchtower, and then after his last intro for the band members, he directs us to a safe and sober departure into the winter Chicago morning.

Leaving the mines at 4 am and it feels as if it has already happened. In a previous life? No probably last night.

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