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January 28, 2010           

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Hey Blues Fans,

We made it to Memphis, Tennessee last week for the International Blues Challenge (IBC). 110 bands and 82 solo/duet acts from 39 states, 12 countries and 5 continents competed for the top honors as the "Best Unsigned" Blues band and solo duet act.  You can see photos from some of the semi-finals, plus all the band and the solo duo finalists on our website, CLICK HERE now.

Grady Champion
Band Winner
Karen Lovely Band
Runner Up
Cheryl Renee & Them Bones
Third Place

Here is how it works. Blues Societies all over the world hold local Blues challenges to find the best band in their area. The best acts at the local level then go to Memphis to compete in the international competition. They perform for judges on Thursday and Friday in a semi-final round. Ten acts perform at each each club on Beale Street. A single act from each club advances to the finals on Saturday. On Saturday eight Solo Duet finalists and 11 Band finalists perform again for the final round of judging and then winners are chosen.

Matt Anderson
Solo Duet Winner
Alphonso Sanders & Bill "Howl-n-Madd" Perry
Solo Duet Runner Up

With such a high competition level, there were some great acts that never made the finals. On Thursday night we enjoyed The Twisters, South Side Cindy & The Slip Tones and Eric "Guitar" Davis& The Trouble Makers.

Brandon Isaak - The Twisters South Side Cindy Eric Guitar Davis

On Friday we liked Will Jacobs & Dirty Deal in the youth showcase and Paul Miles and Robert Sampson in the solo category.

Will Jacobs Paul Miles Robert Sampson

This was the 26th year of the competition and it is a very organized event with professional caliber talent. Many of the bands competing are "regional"  level  bands who have been around for many years and are well known at major Blues festivals and venues in their home state or countries

Check out those photos, CLICK HERE. And put this event on your calendar for next year!

In this issue - Blues Reviews and MORE!

James Walker reviews a new CD from Arthur Adams.  Bruce Williams reviews a new CD by Darrell Nulisch . John Mitchell reviews a new CD by The Jeff Jensen Band. John Piott reviews a new CD by Shaun Murphy. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by Billy Lavender. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 Featured Blues Review 1 of 5

Arthur Adams - Stomp The Floor

Delta Groove Music

12 songs; 46:46 minutes; Splendid

Styles: Rhythm and Blues; Blues

Let’s leave the south pole from last week and head up to the north pole for this week’s review. I can’t remember two consecutive reviews with near polar diversity. From the rough and raw to the silky smooth, from 100 proof whiskey to Bailey’s Irish Cream, from stomp to strut, last week’s Moreland and Arbuckle and this issue’s Arthur Adams allow the listener to choose a CD for distinct and separate moods.

Having written or co-written all twelve songs on the new CD, Arthur Adams has been a popular mainstay of the blues scene in Los Angeles for many years. “As the featured house bandleader at B.B. King’s blues club in Universal City, Arthur exposed patrons night after night to his soulful blend of silky rhythm & blues combined with his searing guitar and buttery smooth vocal delivery,” reports the Delta Groove Music website.

And, check Adams’ accomplishments: Arthur has played and recorded with B.B. King, writing the songs "Mean and Evil" and "Something Up My Sleeve" for B.B. King. He also wrote the song "Love and Peace" for Quincy Jones' Grammy award-winning "Walking In Space" album, "Somebody Is Gonna Miss Me" for Sam Cooke on the "Twistin’ the Night Away" album, and "Truck Load of Loving" for Albert King. He played guitar on the "Nick of Time" album for Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Smith's album, "Root Down," Jerry Garcia's "Garcia," the Crusaders' "Street Life," and he played for Johnnie “Guitar” Watson, Dr. John and many more. Arthur appears in the movie "Town & Country," starring Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn where played and sang the song "I Can't Stand the Rain."

The title track comes first, and while, indeed, as intended, the opening bass and organ notes plus hand claps make me want to get on the dance floor, the music does not make me want to “stomp.” Perhaps there are different definitions for “stomp” (meaning dance), but Adams’ song entices me to slide and glide with my baby in my arms. It was last week’s “Flood” by Moreland & Arbuckle that invited doing a liquor fueled stomp until a hole is kicked through the floor. It’s “watch my footwork” vs. “watch out.” At two minutes into the song, Adams’ solo shows off that impeccable guitar work.

“You Can’t Win For Losing” seems the perfect song for the Great Recession in which we are mired. The lyrics tell many a sad tale, but the horn laced music is upbeat throughout to carry the theme and final line of each verse: “...But, you got to keep trying - if you want to get by.”

In the Bluesiest number, “Don’t Let The Door Hit You,” Arthur uses a polite version of that old humorous saying used when you are eager to see someone go. It’s usually expressed, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.” Most doors have automatic pneumatic closers and would hit a person if he / she left too slowly. So, Adams explains to his misbehaving mistress what the phrase means, “Don’t Let The Door Hit You - that means you got to get out quick, baby ... go on lickety split....” This mid-tempo guitar and horn fueled smoker will get air-play first on our “Friends of the Blues Radio Show.”

My first earworm that I caught my self singing later is “Callin’ Heaven.” Adams’ sweet, soulful vocals are at their finest here as he implores for Divine help in life’s earthly injustices.

There are also wonderful harmony vocals, but only Adams is listed in the liner notes as singing, so perhaps he is harmonizing with himself through multi-tracking.

To allow concentration solely on Adam’s guitar work and his competent studio band’s contributions, there are three instrumentals. “You Got That Right,” “Around the Sun,” and “Blue Roots” are all mid tempo numbers full of catchy, melodic hooks, bass lines, and classy arrangements that invite more dancing. These three are definitely headed for air play, possibly one to open the show.

The choice is yours, but, fellas, when it’s date night, as opposed to a night out with the boys, then Arthur Adams’ latest CD will enhance your chances of the evening ending up the way you hope it will.

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Thursdays from 7 - 8 pm and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL

To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE 

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Review 2 of 5

Darrell Nulisch  - Just For You

Severn Records

Darrell Nulisch has been around for awhile, paying his dues and obviously doing what he loves. He has recorded several albums over a 20 year span, but from the opening song of his latest effort, “Just For You”, longtime fans will quickly recognize that this album may be one of his very best. If there was ever any doubt about his identity as an artist, his new release asserts his natural strength as a soul man. Before he a was maybe perceived as a ‘R&B- Blues guy’, but “Just For You” separates him from the blues artists and puts him in the category he belongs in.

 “You Don’t Know Me”, the first cut of this album was written by Nulisch and Steve Gomes, and is arguably the best song here. The horn section and the Memphis groove grab the listener immediately, and by the time the chorus comes around with that little hook, you’ll either be stomping your feet or dancing. I played this song on my radio show last week and by then I had already listened to it  at least 6 times and yet I still couldn’t wait to hear it again. I also love the guitar tone on this song, meshing perfectly with Darrell’s sweet vocal delivery.

The next cut, “The Woman Don’t Live Here No More” brings more of Nulisch’s smooth vocals and another dose of very cool horns. Like many of the songs on this album, the listener will hearken back to the days of old soul and R&B, and I got that familiar feeling several times with this album, hearing something similar to maybe something I’ve heard before.  Once “Work For Love” gets going it takes on a kind of Tyrone Davis vibe, as does “Natural Thing” later on the album. Legendary baritone sax man Willie Henderson is the man doing the horn arrangements on this album, and the fact that he used to work with Tyrone and The Chi-Lites may partially explain the nostalgic feeling that you get when you listen to this music. This album will appeal the most to lovers of those old sounds, and one senses that the artist is paying homage here to his old influences.

“Just For You”, written by Slim Harpo is done here in a style reminiscent of Sam & Dave, until Nulisch’s harp playing comes in and gives it a different twist. “It’s A Shame” (J.J. Malone) is another standout cut that makes you want to dance and shake it. It has a kind of Staple Singers groove and reminds me of Ben E. King a bit. The only straight blues song on the album is “Just A Little Blues”, (written by Nulisch and Gomes) featuring a simple but effective organ bit by Benjie Porecki, more impressive horns, great guitar licks by Johnny Moeller (Fabulous Thunderbirds) and more of Nulisch’s impressive vocals.

The songs in this collection cover a number of different tempos, rhythms and grooves, and they are intermixed perfectly, giving an added enjoyment to the experience. After the swampy feel of “Just A Little Blues” the producers insert “Far Too Lonely”, an upbeat and bouncy R&B number with a tight little groove and a classic 60’s sound.

Ballad lovers will dig “All The Love We Had” and Willie Henderson’s familiar horn parts lend a ‘Chi-Lites/Earth, Wind and Fire’ facet to the production. While not one of the stronger songs on the album, it does serve to showcase Nulisch’s versatile singing abilities. The best ‘organ song’ on the album has to be, “Let A Woman Be A Woman” (Nulisch and Gomes) which starts out like a Jack McDuff or Booker T. instrumental but morphs into a catchy vocal number with organ and guitar adding tasty licks throughout.

The Tyrone Davis sounding finale, “Natural Thing” is a fitting ending to a great album. I especially dig the piano track and the really strong rhythm guitar which really drive the song home.

The musicianship on this album is very good, and the recording production is top notch with a rich and full mix. Steve Gomes on bass and Robb Stupka on drums lay down a solid foundation essential to the success of this session. Kudus to the horn players and the background vocalists, and Victor Williams’ percussion playing adds a bunch to this record (I love the conga parts on “You Don’t Know Me” and “It’s A Shame”, and the tambourine on “”All The Love We Had”, ”Let A Woman Be A Woman” and “Natural Thing”).  

Darrell Nulisch and Steve Gomes have to be respected as songwriters, even if they do borrow song structures and chord progressions from their idols from the past. Let’s face it, that old music by those old artists influenced so many of us but most of them are gone now. Darrell Nulisch has picked up the torch and is keeping the music alive for future generations, and at the same time proving that a white guy can perform this stuff. On both his interpretations and his original songs, Nulisch stays close to tradition but adds little creative elements to the music, enough to give a fresh and new quality to an old and respected genre. I plan to keep playing this album on my radio show and I recommend it to all music lovers, especially connoisseurs of that old 60’s and early 70’s R&B and soul.

Reviewer Bruce Williams is seasoned Blues musician (Junior Wells, Lefty Dizz and The Chicago Fire, Jimmy “Fast Fingers” Dawkins, Mark Hannon Blues Band). He learned the blues from some of Chicago’s masters and has shared the stage with legends such as Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers, Sammy Lawhorn, Hound Dog Taylor and Jimmy Johnson. His band appears at clubs and festivals throughout the Midwest. He hosts a weekly radio program on WRLR FM Public Radio and produces music out of his home based Highland Lake Records Studio.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

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 Featured Blues Review 3 of 5

The Jeff Jensen Band - I’m Coming Home

Swing Suit Records

11 tracks; 49.55 minutes

First of all, a big thanks to Blues Blast for introducing me to Jeff Jensen who was a new name to me. This is a superb CD which I would recommend highly to all blues lovers.

Originally from California, 28 year old Jeff is now based in Portland, Oregon and gigs mainly on the West Coast. This is his second CD and was recorded in LA and Santa Clarita and features a five piece band (two guitars, keys, bass and drums) plus a three man horn section which gives something of a Stax sound to the album. Jeff handles the vocals, with second guitarist Nate LaPointe also contributing backing vocals. A number of guests add to the mix, the most notable being Marcy Levy (AKA Marcella Detroit formerly with Eric Clapton and Bob Seger) who sings on two tracks. Jeff writes or co-authors 6 tracks, with covers including BB King, Big Maceo and Muddy Waters.

The album has an excellent, well produced sound throughout and starts impressively with a cover of BB’s "Ask Me No Questions", driven along by the horns and featuring a slide solo. Jeff’s voice here reminds me a little of Curtis Salgado (a huge compliment, by the way!) and suits the song to a tee. Next up is the title song "I’m Coming Home" which has a funky feel and is graced by a delightful Hammond solo.

Jeff clearly has a good sense of humour and the third track "Living in Los Angeles" demonstrates that well, with a song about the ups and downs of life in SOCAL. Opening with a nice trumpet feature the song talks of “Hollywood folks with plastic hearts” – now perhaps we see why Jeff moved to Portland! Big Maceo’s "Worried Life Blues" is one of two tracks that exceed 6 minutes and is a solid version with a nice guitar solo. "Doing The Right Thing" returns to the funky side of things, with Marcy Levy’s second vocal well featured in the mix.

Another change of style sees Jeff in a swinging mood on a cover of Louis Innis 50’s comic song "Good Morning Judge" – “I didn’t know her Pop was a city cop and she was just 15”. The horn section also features strongly on "Cocaine Spiked Whisky" before Jeff’s humour returns to the fore on "Skinny Girls". Jeff is looking for a slim girl, like in the ads and has concluded that she must weigh less than his Fender amp! This tune also features the only harp on the CD, well played by Gary Allegretto.

"She’s Evil" is a duet between Jeff and co-author and label stable mate Kyke Culkin, a tune that swings along well and features a great guitar solo (Kyle?). The cover of Muddy’s She’s 19 years old takes the song in an unusual direction, with a jazzy feel to the playing and lots of trumpet featured. At 6.47 it’s the longest track on the album, but like everything on display here it does not overstay its welcome. "Please Don’t Go" closes the album, Marcy Levy testifying behind a wild guitar solo at the end of an uplifting tune penned by the late Stephen Sorenson, another SOCAL guitarist who sadly died of cancer in early 2009.

My conclusion is that this is a first rate CD and for anyone in the West coast area this sounds like a band to catch when they are in your area. First class recording, good variety of styles, strong vocals and a sense of humour – what else do you want from a CD?

Reviewer John Mitchell is a Blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live Blues music.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Blues Society News

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Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents guitarist Jim Suhler and his band, Monkey Beat, on Sunday Jan. 31 at Creekside Bar and Grill, 3303 Brady Street in Davenport, IA. The show starts at 5 p.m. and admission is $8, $6 for Blues Society members. For more info call the MVBS office at 563-32-BLUES.

The Arkansas River Blues Society - Alexander, AR

The Arkansas River Blues Society & Juanita's will present Chris Duarte on February 2, 2010. The Joe Pitts Band will open this event at 9 p.m. Juanita's is located at 1300 Main Street in Little Rock. There is $12 cover. For more info check

Blues Kids of America  - Chicago, IL

Blues Kids of America is offering a free Professional Development Workshop Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 3:30PM at Columbia College Chicago Music Center, 1014 S. Michigan Avenue Chicago IL 60605. The session "Use the Blues to Improve Literacy & Help Close the Achievement Gap: Music as a Second Language" is designed for Teachers, Administrators and LSC staff. Participants do not have to be musically inclined and can earn CPDUs

The Workshop is hosted by Fernando Jones, Columbia College Chicago, Blues Ensemble Director and Illinois State Board of Education Professional Development Provider. The workshop is designed to engage administrators and teachers (pre-K through university), by demonstrating how to improve literacy, attendance, discipline and academic success using America’s root music, the Blues.

Some participants will receive harmonicas and classroom resources. Jones is also a “Keeping the Blues Alive Award” recipient in education. For further information go to  or confirm your reservation by contacting Fernando at  or (312) 369-3229

 Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford, IL

Crossroads Blues Society and Big Cities Lounge present Kim Wilson Thursday, February 11, starting at 8 pm at Big Cities Lounge, 905 E. State St., Rockford, Illinois . The band will include Billy Flynn on guitar and Barrelhouse Chuck on keyboards.  Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. The other two past shows were sold-out, so don't wait - get your tickets now at Big Cities - or by contacting Mark Thompson at

The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL

Spring 2010 Friends of the Blues shows- March 16 - Shawn Kellerman, 7 pm , Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, April 13 - Perry Weber & DeVilles, 7 pm , Kankakee Elks Country Club, April 17 - Joel Paterson Trio, Kankakee Valley Boat Club (“Rockin’ the River”), April 20 - Too Slim and the Taildraggers, 7 pm , Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, June 22 - Al Stone, 7 pm , River Bend Bar & Grill. For more info see: 

The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society - Marietta, Ohio

The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society will hold its 18th Annual Blues Competition on February 19 and 20, 2010, at the historic Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, Ohio. Blues Bands and Solo/Dou blues acts will compete for cash prizes and BJFMS sponsorship to the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis.  More information: contact Steve Wells at 304.295.4323 or

Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL

BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover.  Feb 1 - Delta Highway, Feb 8 - James Armstrong, Feb 15 - The Sofa Kings, Feb 22 - Rev Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys

 Featured Blues Review 4 of 5

Shaun Murphy - Livin’ the Blues

Vision Wall Records

WORLD TAKE NOTICE!!!  There is a new lady in the room. One of impeccable talent. Strength, power and confidence is ever present in her style. Clearly a new force that should be noticed and enjoyed by Contemporary Blues lovers. She will flat lay you out A woman who is very comfortable within her self and her talent. Her love and dedication to her music has created her legacy.

Her list accomplishments reads like a who’s who in the today’s music world. All of it generated from her love, desire, and conviction to Rock/Blues music. From sessions with Eric Clapton, Little Feat, Bob Seger, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh , John Hiatt and many more she has honed her craft. It appears she has had the opportunity to play with a lot of my favorite musicians. You do not earn such a list without good reason.

The years of learning, and earning such pedigree are clearly evident in her strong confident vocals. A very clear clean approach that gives emotion and power to each of her chosen songs. Her voice has a wide range. Smooth as velvet yet sharp as a razor at times, she is in complete control. She can be a Maria Muldaur one minute and Tina Turner the next. Just outstanding in her range ability.
Here is now a refreshing energetic, entertaining solo release we should all have in our libraries to enjoy. Her band is well balanced, fits well and gives her the sound she wants and matches her energy. The piano/organ is authentic, the guitar work is crisp and connected. Very supportive but not too out there.

A enjoyable collection of songs all that follow this genre will enjoy. “Ocean of Tears” and “Someone Else is Steppin in” are very well done. While listening to “Livin the Blues” I got this crazy thought “I wonder how her version of Bobbie Gentry’s 60's hit "Ode to Billie Joe" would sound like” My bet is it would be fantastic.

On “Come to Mama” she does a strong soleful effort on a song made popular by long time friend Bob Seger. I particularly enjoyed John Hiatt’s “It Feels Like Rain” a great version of a great ballad.

Her style has me sold. Her years, her pedigree, her talent had me on my first listen, the enjoyment only increased each time I listened. Shaun is a great representative of today’s Blues music. It is talent such as hers that is so good for the future of Blues music. I can only imagine what a live performance would be like. I’m sure I would be there in a heart beat, howlin’ and caring on I have no doubt.

All and all a wonderful effort by Shaun Murphy that she should be very proud of, congratulations Shaun.

Reviewer John Piott writes "Blue Collar" Blues reviews that look at today's Blues music from the perspective of a long time lover of the Blues.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Review 5 of 5

Billy Lavender – Memphis Livin

I55 Productions LLC

14 tracks/57:38

Billy Lavender may not be a familiar name to many blues fans, but he is considered to be one of the best guitar players involved with the Memphis music scene. He has been playing for over forty years – and was part of the generation of left-handed guitar players that simply turned a regular guitar upside-down and never missed a beat, despite the strings being in reverse order. Taking the role as leader on this collaborative project, Lavender has gathered together a cast of veteran musicians and vocalists and turned them loose on a batch of original material that serves as a primer on the diversity of the Memphis musical tradition.

Lavender turns in a solid vocal on the roadhouse rocker, “Get Along” but his fiery guitar work really makes an impression. “All the People” is a soulful plea for love and understanding with a multi-tracked vocal from Lavender. Brad Webb joins Lavender for an acoustic duo take on the brief “If I Could”, with Webb’s dobro setting the mood for some fine vocal harmonizing.

Drummer/percussionist Tony Adams takes the vocal lead on the opening track, “Singing the Blues”. His deep, gritty voice is a great match for this raucous tune, with Lavender matching the singer’s intensity on his guitar. “Bad Boy” gives Adams the opportunity to show his skill as a blues singer while “Delta Time” finds him belting out the lyrics on a blues theme with a heavy rock-influence.

The energy level skyrockets when Reba Russell digs into “Let’s Party”, her vocal raising the roof with help from Blind Mississippi Morris on harmonica. Even better is her performance on “Blue”, a slow blues tune. Russell’s voice adopts a sultry purr before easily sliding through her impressive range to belt out the chorus with conviction. She also takes the lead on “Bottom Line” and delivers another strong performance on this ballad, salvaging some interest on what is the weakest cut on the disc.

With his gritty vocal style and some down-home harp playing, Vince Johnson makes the most of his time in the spotlight. “Cold As Ice” finds him pleading with his woman to come back home and using his harp to convey just how strong his feelings are for her. Lavender contributes a concise guitar solo. Johnson and Lavender tear through the up-tempo “Shake It”, contrasting Johnson’s simple harp phrases with Lavender’s cool, precise guitar licks. Another highlight is “3AM”, another slow blues with a soulful vocal from Johnson and more of Lavender’s impressive guitar work.

Ken Dinkins handles all of the vocal arts on “Tonight”, a rock ballad that conjures up memories of Jimmy Hall and Wet Willie. “Just Chillin” has a brief vocal refrain over a deep, funky groove with Johnson’s harp taking the lead.

While the assorted vocalists get much of the attention, the success of this project also rests on the stellar accompaniment. The unsung hero is Russell Wheeler, whose work on the Hammond B-3 organ consistently delights as he breathes life into each arrangement. Dan Cochran and Mike Stoker share the bass guitar duties while Brad Webb covers the rhythm and slide guitar parts. Additional vocal help comes from Maria Spence and JoJo Jefferies.

Collaborative projects like this can often fall short of the mark due to the difficulty of melding so many different styles and personalities into a coherent package. The fact that Billy Lavender makes it look easy is a testimonial to the lessons he has learned over his lengthy career. And he certainly has a talented group of musical compatriots helping him achieve his musical vision. This debut recording is a delight from start to finish. Can’t wait to hear more from Mr. Lavender !!!

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

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