Issue 7-10, March 7, 2013
Scroll or Page Down! For news, photos, reviews, links & MUCH MORE in this issue!
Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine
In This Issue
Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Billy Boy Arnold. Bob Kieser reviews Blind Willie's Blues Club in Atlanta.
We have 6 music reviews for you! John Mitchell reviews a new release from 4 Jacks and also a new CD from Danny Kalb And Friends. Mark Thompson reviews a new album from The City Boys Allstars. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new album from Altered Five. Marty Gunther reviews a new CD from Dalannah Gail Bowen. Jim Kanavy reviews a new release from David Hidalgo, Mato Nanji and Luther Dickinson. 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,
It is that time again to let publicists, artists, labels and Blues industry contacts know that submissions for consideration in the 2013 Blues Blast Music Awards are now open.
We are again offering you the opportunity to put your eligible Blues music releases directly into the hands of our 30 nominators for consideration in this years awards. Submissions are free and can be sent until 4/15/2013.
Please note we have added 2 new categories for this years award series, Best Soul Blues Recording and Best Rock Blues Recording.
Complete information, eligibility dates, submissions forms and instructions are at the link below.
Also, we want to remind all artists and labels that having your music included in our our monthly Blues Overdose issue as free song downloads is free of charge! To get complete information on being included in our next Blues Overdose issue visit http://thebluesblast.com/bluesodinfo.htm
And speaking of Free downloads, the tracks from last weeks Blues Overdose issue are still available. To get your free downloads now, Click Here.
And last but not least I wanted to mention that we added two more video interviews to our Blues Blast YouTube site. One is with Ironing Board Sam and the other is with Theodis Ealey. Be sure to visit us at http://www.youtube.com/BluesBlastMagazine to check out all the great interviews there.
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
Morris "Magic Slim" Holt - August 7, 1937 to February 21, 2013
"With the passing of Magic Slim we say farewell to one of the greatest traditional Chicago blues artists of our time. Magic Slim died of complications from a breathing disorder after weeks of hospitalization. He was 75.
Though a great singer, guitarist and band leader, it was Magic Slim's undeniable personality that set him apart. He could play heartfelt, rough and tumble Chicago blues with a zest that was unmatched. Every part of Magic Slim's being was the blues - his geographical path, his hard partying, fun loving personality, and his far traveling, dedicated lifestyle.
Magic Slim's patented two guitar driven Chicago blues sound was both a concert hall pleaser and a dance floor filler. He had, perhaps the largest repertoire in the blues, knowing thousands of songs that he could call upon at any time. Living Blues Magazine put it this way; "Magic Slim consistently offers no-frills houserockin’ blues. He and his band are a national treasure."
Born in rural Mississippi to a farming life, Slim lost his little finger in a cotton gin accident at a young age, but that did not seem to hinder his guitar playing. He arrived on the Chicago blues scene in the mid 1960s initially to a luke-warm response, but after recruiting his brother Nick to play bass, Magic Slim & the Teardrops were formed, and in 1966 their first single "Scuffin" was released. Some years later, Slim's 1975 single "I Wonder Why" produced by Steve Cushing (then a drummer in Slim's band) won high praise for it's raw, gutsy sound. Throughout the mid 1970s Slim and his tough band worked the south and north side clubs every night of the week, gaining a huge following and getting the attention of promoters and record labels.
Europe embraced Slim with numerous tours and record releases on labels such as MCM, Black & Blue, Isabel and later Wolf Records for whom Slim would record many albums. Magic Slim was also part of the highly celebrated 1978 Alligator Records compilation series Living Chicago Blues earning much US airplay among blues DJs. Slim's band became noted for the second guitarist who would play an essential role in the Slim's sound and who would open the sets before Slim took over the microphone. This guitar role was defined early on by the great work of Junior Pettis AKA "Daddy Rabbit. After Pettis left the band a long legacy of artists served as the Teardrops' second guitarist including Pete Allen, James Wheeler, Jake Dawson, Jon McDonald, and of course John Primer who's 13 year tenure with this band starting in 1983 is highly celebrated, and served as a launching pad for John's own powerful career.
In 1994 Slim moved from Chicago to Lincoln, Nebraska where he had played for years prior as a popular attraction at the Zoo Bar. In 2009 Slim's beloved brother and longtime musical partner, Nick Holt passed away. Slim's son, Shawn "Lil' Slim" Holt has emerged as a great young talent and has been a feature of some of Slim's more recent shows. Slim's last release, Bad Boy on the Blind Pig label was released in mid 2012. A movie called "We Be Kings" was in the works that would have featured Magic Slim as it's lead character in a fictional story of a rediscovered blues man. We can look back at Magic Slim's long and fruitful career and see a man who has lived his dreams. After humble beginnings, working hard to garner his respect, Slim's persistent and consistent work earned him a rightful place as one of the greatest blues artists of his time.
Slim's recordings will live as a permanent testament to his greatness with over 30 albums released on labels such as Alligator, Wolf, MCM, Black & Blue, Candy Apple, Rooster Blues, Red Lightnin', Delmark, Evidence, Isabel, Storyville, Tone Zone, and most recently, Blind Pig Records who have annually released top quality albums by this great artist. He received numerous awards and nominations for his recordings. his band and for his role as a uncompromising traditional blues artist.
Thanks to Slim's manager Marty Salzman and road manager Michael Blakemore for their amazing behind the scenes support work. Also thanks to the booking work of Max Cooperstein, Concerted Efforts, Adrian Flores, and Jillina Arrigo for their contributions over the years. Slim always lived his life on his terms and he met and exceeded his dreams. We can look back and think of all the times that he brought a smile to our face. He was the consummate bluesman and we will always love him for that. May he now rest in peace after his tireless work here on earth. We thank God for blessing us with the blues of Magic Slim." Reprinted with permission of Bob Corritore www.bobcorritore.com
Featured Blues Interview - Billy Boy Arnold
Three-thousand, nine-hundred and sixty-three miles.
That’s the one-way distance from Chicago, Illinois to London, England.
Double that figure and that’s the relative distance that it took for a lot of music lovers in the United States to realize that something special was laying almost untouched right in their own backyards.
And although he had no idea of it at the time, the day teen-aged and future harp ace Billy Boy Arnold penned “I Wish You Would,” America was one step closer to realizing that a trove of shining treasure had been right under our noses for years.
But thanks to some long-haired young Englishmen, along with some inspiration from Arnold, we finally woke up on this side of the pond and discovered what we had.
Hungry for blues material from the States that they could dig into in the mid-60s, the English group The Yardbirds found Arnold’s “I Wish You Would,” along with his recorded version of “I Ain’t Got You” on Vee-Jay Records, and instantly made those tunes crucial parts of the British Invasion.
“I appreciated the fact that those guys liked the music and were recording it, but I didn’t know it was going to have a big impact – personally, I didn’t think of it that way,” the recently-inducted Blues Hall of Famer said. “But the people that should be thanked for that are Vee-Jay Records and Chess Records. Those two independent labels did an excellent job of getting their music exposed to outside audiences, like those overseas.”
Years later, “I Wish You Would” also left its mark on glam rock (?!!), with both David Bowie and The Sweet honoring the track with their own takes of it.
“I was lucky because “I Wish You Would” went over there (England) before B.B. King got widespread. Had it not made it over there before he got world-famous, who knows?” said Arnold. “But I have the highest regard for Eric Clapton and all those young white guys that exposed that music to the world. They wanted people to know where the music came from and where it all started.”
Where Arnold’s journey into the blues started was when the Chicago native fell in love with the music of John Lee (Sonny Boy I) Williamson.
“Well, John Lee (Sonny Boy) Williamson was the guy that inspired me to want to play the harmonica and sing the blues,” Arnold said. “I was playing around on the harmonica before I heard him, but that’s when I knew what I really wanted to do.”
Years before a young Arnold even knew Sonny Boy existed; he was a major fan of Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and his hit tune, “Cherry Red.”
“When I was about 9 years old, I used to go into this restaurant with my cousin and my sister and I’d put nickels in the (juke) box to play “Cherry Red” because I really liked the way he sang and I liked the big band arrangement of the horns,” he said.
Arnold’s first exposure to the big band sounds that would later capture his attention and fire his imagination started even earlier than that, at age 5.
“There used to be this sound truck that came through the neighborhood, driving about five miles an hour. And they would advertise different products. Well, this truck would play Tommy Dorsey’s “Boogie Woogie” or “Summit Ridge Drive” by Artie Shaw. And when I would hear those songs, I would just follow the truck as far as I could,” he said. “I just loved that rhythm.”
Arnold’s harmonica styling has always had a quality that’s hard to exactly pinpoint. Sure, it’s bluesy and gritty as all get-out, but there’s also a beautiful sophistication to his playing, with elements of a rich jazziness and grace that’s not usually associated with the blues harp.
“I never thought of being inspired by jazz, but I liked the muted trumpet and I liked the way that Shaw played the clarinet. It sort of had a bluesy favor to it,” he said. “But I liked the low-down country blues, too, the kind that the black folks called the ‘cotton-picking blues.’”
Arnold’s earliest introduction to the blues came from the records of the day, via artists like Tampa Red, Charles Brown and T-Bone Walker.
“I listened to all those records and I liked all those records. But more than that, I wanted to be a blues singer, as well,” he said. “I didn’t just want to listen to the blues; I wanted to be a part of it. And that’s why I got involved in making music.”
It’s been said that listening to Leroy Carr records is what inspired Sonny Boy Williamson I to want to play the blues and it wasn’t long before Arnold discovered Sonny Boy – along with the fact that he also called Chicago home.
“By the time I was 11 or so, I had gotten familiar with Sonny Boy Williamson and loved the way he played the harmonica. I had heard one of his records when I was about 7, but I didn’t know who he was then. I just liked the way he played the harmonica and the way he sung. There was just something about his voice – the way he delivered – that I liked more than most of the singers.
”Prior to the late 40s and early 50s, blues – and most other forms of music, as well – was played acoustically, without the aid of a whole lot of amplification. But as guitarists began to plug in and turn up, so too did harmonica players, paced by Sonny Boy.
“When I went to Sonny Boy’s house in 1948, a few weeks before he died, he played the harmonica through an amplifier. As a matter of fact, the last time I saw him, he was getting into a cab with his amplifier, on his way to work, to play a club,” Arnold said. “He played amplified harmonica in the clubs, but he never recorded using the amplified harmonica. I even heard him playing the amplified harmonica on the telephone one time, too. He was playing Club Georgia and I called there and left my aunt’s phone number, saying I wanted to talk to him. Well, he didn’t know I was just a kid and he called my aunt’s house. And I asked him what his latest recording was and he said, ‘Sugar Gal/Willow Tree.” But when I first called the club, he was on the bandstand and I could hear this great big wall of sound … just a huge sound. And it was from the amplified harmonica. And of course now everybody plays the harmonica through an amplifier. And of course could sing through there (amp), too, and really reach the people in the audience.”
Given away by the fact that he was known to shout out, ‘Take it away, Big Bill,’ Big Bill Broonzy played guitar on several sides by Sonny Boy Williamson I, leading Arnold to call him one of his favorite guitarists.
“I liked guys like T-Bone Walker and B.B. King, too, but I really liked the way that Big Bill’s guitar went with Sonny Boy’s harmonica playing. And then I also liked the way Big Bill sang, too,” he said.
Last year, Arnold tipped his hat to the late, great Big Bill Broonzy with an album appropriately titled Billy Boy Arnold Sings Big Bill Broonzy (Electro-Fi). Also featuring Billy Flynn and Eric Noden, by the sounds of things, it was pure bliss for those involved in the project.
“I enjoyed it and the other musicians seemed to have a good time with it,” Arnold said. “It was really a lot of fun.”
A person would be hard-pressed to tell today, based on the kind of albums that are currently being released, but at one time, the piano was the primary instrument associated with the blues. In fact, it was THE instrument of the blues for many years.
“Back in the 20s and 30s, piano players were a dime a dozen because people had house rent parties and if you could play a piano back during the Depression, you could maybe make three or four dollars a night. And you’d get free food and liquor and there were plenty of women if you were a piano player,” said Arnold. “So the piano was the dominant instrument back then, even on records. The guitar was the second instrument. Piano was number one, guitar number two. Then, in 1937 when John Lee Williamson went in the studio and recorded “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” that song put the harmonica on the map and then there were three instruments in the blues – piano one, guitar two and harmonica three. And then in the hands of T-Bone Walker and Riley B.B. King, the guitar graduated to number one. And then, Little Walter Jacobs took the harmonica to a higher level, with the harp moving up to the number two spot in blues music. And in 1947 or ’48, the piano became almost obsolete in the blues. And today, the guitar and the harmonica are still the number one and number two instruments in blues music. They dominate the blues.”
While he may not have been strictly a blues player, Ellas Bates ‘Bo Diddley’ McDaniel sure did know a thing or two about the guitar. And early on in their careers, several years before Diddley became known as a ‘Gunslinger,’ the paths of Billy Boy Arnold and Bo Diddley crossed, with Arnold eventually playing on the demos of “I’m a Man” (also covered by The Yardbirds, among others) and “Bo Diddley” in 1954.
“Well, I was walking down 63rd Street and saw two guys with two acoustic guitars and a washtub with a string on it. So I started talking to them and they were going to play an amateur show at the Midway Theater. At that time, they were called Ellas McDaniel and The Hipsters,” said Arnold. “So they invited me to come down to the amateur show just to hear them play. And then he (Bo) told me to come by the street corner on Saturday morning, because they played out there on the weekends. And Jody Williams was his rhythm guitar player. That’s how I first met Jody. And we played together sparingly in the summer time out on the street corner – you couldn’t do that in the winter.”
When Diddley classics like the afore-mentioned “I’m a Man” and “Who Do You Love” came out, it signaled a new era, one of chugging guitars and an exciting new backbeat.
And according to Arnold, back then, if you didn’t have some new and original, you really didn’t have anything at all.
“When you went to the major record companies, like RCA Victor, Columbia and Decca, you had to be able to write your own songs. You couldn’t walk in there and say, ‘I can sing, somebody give me a song.’ You had to come up with your own sound and you had to be able to write a song that they thought they could sell,” he said. “Guys like Tampa Red and Sonny Boy, they wrote their own material. But today, most artists that go to a label will sing stuff like “Got My Mojo Working” and “Baby Please Don’t Go.” They don’t come up with original material. Back then, you had to come up with your own stuff if you wanted to break into this business. When I took “I Wish You Would” to Vee-Jay, most of the guys in Chicago were playing Little Walter and Muddy Waters’ music. And some of them were very good. But they didn’t have anything original, anything of their own, with their own sound.”
That doesn’t mean that Arnold is against covering other artist’s songs –see his tribute to Big Bill – but that he doesn’t want songs that are not his own to dominate and overtake his own studio records.
“I do a lot of cover songs, but when I record, I’ll have at least a half-dozen of my original songs on there. When I first started out, I knew two things. One, I wanted to play the harmonica and sing like John Lee Williamson. And two, I had to write my own songs. So when I recorded my first two songs at age 17, they were two songs that I wrote – “Hello Stranger” and “Ain’t Got No Money.” But all those guys that really made it big, like Bo and Chuck berry and Fats Domino - Jimmy Reed, they all wrote their own material and that’s what I wanted to do, too. But back in those days, there was no Willie Dixon around. Now, if you could get your foot in the door and then he thought you had something going, Leonard (Chess) would get Willie to write you a hit and try to get onto the charts. But he wouldn’t do that for no up-and-coming guy with no name or no status.”
But talent is still talent, and sometimes, that status was earned sooner, rather than later.
“When Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup first came to Chicago, he was playing on the street, right around the corner from Tampa Red’s house, trying to get an audience. Well, Melrose (record producer, Lester) heard him and told him to go around to Tampa’s house,” Arnold said. “He went over there and was singing Big Bill’s songs. And Melrose told him, ‘Look, you got something going, but you’ve got to come up with your own sound and your own songs.’ And then of course, Crudup’s first session was dynamite and produced “Mean Old Frisco” and he was an immediate hit.”
Crudup was not the only blues artist who ever moved to Chicago to hit it big. Looking back on it, a large part of the legends that would go on to define the Chicago blues were actually from somewhere else – mostly Mississippi -and didn’t really make a name for themselves until they blew into the Windy City.
Not Arnold, however. He was born and raised in Chicago.
“Chicago was the place to be. So I always say that I’m from the place that everybody wanted to be,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with the south. This music started in the south; it sure didn’t start in the north. The blues was born in the south out of different experiences.”
But in the end, the north just had too much going for it, economically and socially, to keep it from being hailed as the new land of the blues.
“All the blues singers came to Chicago because the record companies were here. And there were clubs with audiences that they could play at,” he said. “But most all of the people in Chicago came from somewhere else – know what I mean? My father came from Georgia and my mother’s father came from Mississippi. And my mother’s mother came from Tennessee – but my mother was born in Toledo, Ohio after her family left the south. But everybody was coming to Chicago; they called it the Promised Land. There were plenty of jobs … they may not have paid much, but when you could only make a dollar a day picking cotton down south, you’d come here and make 50 cents an hour working in a factory. And then when you’d get off factory work for the day, you could go see Sonny Boy, Tampa Red, Big Bill, Memphis Slim … those people were playing in the clubs.”
It may be hard to fathom in 2103, but at one time – specifically before the 1950s, blues music was not only commercially unpopular, the music also went largely unnoticed by a big segment of the population here in the United States.
“When I was a kid, I used to love the blues so much that I used to fantasize that if I was a millionaire, I’d pay Tampa Red and Sonny Boy and all those guys big money to play. The type of money I thought they deserved. At that time, the wider audience – the white one – didn’t hear those kinds of blues, because they weren’t privy to them,” said Arnold. “But I always thought that if people ever heard the blues, that they would like them. I knew the blues would be more widespread once these record labels found ways to get their music to a wider audience. So I wasn’t surprised at all in the ‘50s when guys like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry and Little Richard and Fats Domino broadened the horizon of the blues that white audiences took to them. But before that, the record labels didn’t think that the white audience even wanted to hear the blues. And now, the blues are popular all over the world. But at first, blues was just for the black audiences that knew about them. There’s just something special about the blues, out of all the music there is, the blues is the most emotional, it brings out sexual feelings … you can be high and get happy on it, you can dance to it … and when you hear that boogie beat, you have to move your feet.”
Two thumbs up to Bob Corritore for his help with this feature.
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine
Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He's also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
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Live Blues Review - Blind Willie's - Atlanta, Georgia
I visited Atlanta, Georgia last week to check the famous Blind Willie's Blues club. We visited on the first of a 2 night celebration in honor of the 27th anniversary of this great venue. On March 1st they had a trio of great keyboard players a "Kings Of The Keyboards" show featuring, Ironing board Sam, Eddie Tigner and Barrelhouse Bob Page. They were backed up by a group called The Shadows.
First up on the bill was Ironing Board Sam. Ironing Board Sam is an electric blues keyboardist, singer and songwriter, who has released a number of singles and albums.
He was Born Samuel Moore in Rock Hill, South Carolina in 1939 Sam initially concentrated on playing on boogie-woogie and gospel. He later learned the electric organ before graduating to playing the blues in Miami, Florida. After relocating to Memphis, Tennessee in 1959, Sam organized his own band and got his stage name from his habit of strapping his legless keyboard on top of an ironing board when performing.
In 1962, he was backed by a band containing a youthful Jimi Hendrix. He moved around the United States trying to get a recording contract, eventually issuing a handful of singles with Atlantic, Styletone and Holiday Inn in the late 1960s and early 1970s.He also performed on Night Train in the mid 1960s.
In 1990, Ironing Board Sam toured Europe, and in 1996 his debut album, Human Touch was released. He joined the Music Maker Relief Foundation in 2010, and moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His latest album titled Going Up was released in 2012. We did a quick video interview with Sam that is posted on our Blues Blast YouTube page at www.youtube.com/BluesBlastMagazine
Next up was Eddie Tigner. Eddie was back up by The Shadows on bass, guitar, sax and keyboards. They played a kicking set that was entertaining and fun.
Eddie was born on Aug. 11, 1926, in Macon, Georgia. After his father died from mustard gas in World War I, his mother married a coal miner who moved the family to a mining camp in Kentucky. Eddie fondly remembers listening to bluegrass and country and western music as a child. When he was 14, the family returned South to Atlanta, and Eddie started following his piano-playing mother to house parties, breakdowns, fish fries, and barbecues, where she was in demand as an entertainer.
Eddie didn't learn to play the piano himself, however, until he began his service in the Army in 1945 and was taught by a friend, Edward Louis, at a base in Maryland. Eddie was in charge of booking entertainment at the special service hall each weekend, and often drove to Baltimore to pick up Bill Kenney (of the original Ink Spots) and his group to perform for the servicemen.
Returning to Atlanta after his discharge, Eddie joined the Musicians' Union in 1947 and put together his first group, the Maroon Notes, in which he played vibes. They performed in vaudeville shows at theaters in Atlanta, and often toured through small towns as far as the West Coast of Florida. Eddie also played with legendary blues guitarist Elmore James during the early '50s, when James was living in Atlanta. They performed on weekends at the Lithonia Country Club, which featured all-black motorcycle and stock car races each Saturday.
In 1959, a version of the Ink Spots--one of several that traversed the country playing hotel lounges using the name of the original group-- had a show in Atlanta and needed a pianist. Eddie joined the band and performed steadily as an "Ink Spot" until 1987, booked throughout this entire period by T.D. Kemp of Charlotte, N.C.
These days, Eddie "feeds the children" at his job in an elementary school cafeteria, but he's also been playing in small clubs around Atlanta since 1991. Atlanta guitarist Danny "Mudcat" Dudeck introduced Eddie to the Music Maker Relief Foundation, and he has since appeared at major events including the Chicago Blues Festival and the Blues to Bop Festival in Lugano, Switzerland. You can visit Eddie's website at www.eddietigner.com.
The last act up was Barrelhouse Bob Page. This guy is really something. He is a master at boogie woogie and stride style piano.
Bob Page (born August 14, 1953) is an American blues, stride and boogie-woogie piano player. Originally from Damariscotta, Maine, Page moved to Atlanta, Georgia in the early 1980s, and continued a career of recording and live performance in the southeast United States, as well as elsewhere in the US and Europe.
In addition to his solo and band performances, Page has toured with the southern rock band The Georgia Satellites. He also regularly performs in a duo with the jazz pianist John Cocuzzi. He has written numerous songs and performed with musicians including Francine Reed and Maria Muldaur. You can visit his webpage at bobpageblues.com. Check out this video of him to see a sample at http://youtu.be/SbZrJmgVfmY.
Blind Willie's is located at 828 N Highland Ave NE.
Blind Willie's is a small venue seating just enough patrons to make sure everyone has a great view of the performers. The walls are lined with photos of Blues performers past and present and other memorabilia providing a comfortable and interesting atmosphere for a Blues lover like me.
Our hat is off to any venue that can make it to a 27 year anniversary. In the current economy any business that can survive is doing somethng right.
Owner Eric King was a gracious host (On right in the photo). In talking to him it was obvious why his club has flourished all these years. This guy loves the Blues! He made sure we were taken care of and even sent us home with a free t-shirt. What a guy!
If you ever make it to Atlanta, be sure to check this venue out.
I promise that you will see some real Blues! Check out their website at www.blindwilliesblues.com to see their upcoming Blues shows.
Photos and comments by Bob Kieser © 2013 Blues Blast Magazine
For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.
Featured Blues Review 1 of 6
4 Jacks – Deal With It
12 tracks; 41 minutes
The term ‘Super Group’ sounds like 60’s and 70’s rock but if you wanted to put together a Texan Blues Super Group the members of the 4 Jacks would make a pretty convincing proposition. On guitar we have the great Anson Funderburgh, now recovered from ill health and the loss of his long-time musical partner Sam Myers, on drums and vocals Big Joe Maher takes time off from his own band Big Joe And The Dynaflows, on keyboards we have Kevin McKendree, long-time player with Delbert McClinton and one of the most in-demand session players around and on bass is Steve Mackey, a top Nashville session player and another Delbert player. Delbert’s regular guitarist Rob McNelley also adds rhythm guitar to two tracks. Most of the material here was written by Big Joe who had a hand in nine of the twelve tracks and there are three covers. The album was recorded at Kevin McKendree’s studio in Tennessee.
The album opens with the title track, an instrumental credited to the whole band with Anson leading from the front on twangy plucked guitar notes and the organ responding over a steady, foot-tapping beat. It’s a nod back to those funky little instrumentals of the 60’s and sounds wonderfully retro. Big Joe offers “Have Ourselves A Time” which carries on the style from the opener, a touch of jazz in the rhythm section, Anson’s swinging guitar and Kevin’s twinkling piano. It’s a short track, but a beauty! Percy Mayfield’s “I Don’t Want To Be President” is the first cover and there’s some nice guitar from Anson while Rob McNelley supports him on rhythm. Big Joe’s vocal is half spoken, half sung and works well.
“She Ain’t Worth A Dime” features some great piano work from Kevin and swings like crazy before the pace drops for “Love’s Like That”, Anson bending the strings to get some plaintive blue notes, supported by Kevin’s piano. “Bobcat Woman” sounds like it should be more of a romp and indeed it is, another swinger with Kevin on both organ and piano and Anson producing another typical performance. Big Joe’s vocals are also excellent, as they are throughout the album. This was one of the highlights for me though there are no weaknesses apparent anywhere. The previous three tracks are all originals but “Your Turn To Cry” is a Gil Caple/Deadric Malone piece once recorded by Otis Rush, a slow blues with another strong vocal, stately piano and guitar.
“Thunder And Lightning” is a Big Joe rocker with Rob again adding rhythm guitar so that Anson can unleash some sparkling guitar runs. The whole band is credited on “Texas Twister”, this time with a definite touch of Freddie King who was such a master of these guitar-led instrumentals. “Ansonmypants” is not only a punning title but has some great lyrics (“I’ve got ants in my pants, but you sorta put me down”) and it’s something of a family affair as Kevin’s wife Laura adds some short vocal lines to the opening section and his son Yates adds piano (and gets a co-writing credit with Big Joe). Kevin brings some Jimmy Smith organ along for good measure and with Anson’s guitar joining in the fun this one is a dance floor filler for sure.
The third cover is “Bad News Baby”, credited to L Cadden on whom I was unable to track down anything. It’s another classic slow blues and is also the longest cut at 5.26. That gives a little more space for extended solos and Anson grabs the spotlight although Kevin’s understated piano accompaniment is well worth listening to carefully. The album ends with a return to the instrumentals with a whole band composition, “Painkiller”, another short and sweet piece, this time in a subtly funky style.
As a long-time fan of Anson Funderburgh And The Rockets I was always likely to enjoy this album, but all the participants are on top form. Big Joe sings well and his songs fit the project very well; Kevin’s keyboards are everywhere and the rhythm section is rock solid. Anyone who enjoys well-played Texas blues should enjoy this one.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. Current favorites from recent releases include Michael Burks, Little Feat, Sugar Ray and The Bluetones, Albert Castiglia, Johnny Rawls and Doug Deming.
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Featured Blues Review 2 of 6
Danny Kalb And Friends – Moving In Blue
Two CDs: 25 tracks; 98 minutes
Danny Kalb will be remembered by those of us of a certain age as one of the founding members of The Blues Project, a 1960’s New York band that gathered a strong reputation before two of its key members (Al Kooper and Steve Katz) departed to form Blood, Sweat And Tears. Sojourn, an independent New York label, is run by Mark Ambrosino who has recorded with Danny over quite a few years, previously releasing two albums. The material gathered here is beautifully presented in a triple gatefold sleeve with extensive notes about Danny and the recordings which include tracks originally planned as a Blues Project reunion, solo acoustic material and collaborations that include Danny’s brother Jonathan, himself a blues guitar player and Mark Ambrosino who plays a variety of instruments across the album, notably drums. Bass duties are shared between Jesse Williams (on The Blues Project reunion material where original drummer Roy Blumenfeld sits in), Bob Jones and Lenny Nelson. Danny handles all lead vocals and guitar parts throughout.
The two CDs present a varied range of material across blues, gospel and Americana. As well as Danny’s original songs there are covers of Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Leadbelly, Son House, John Lee Hooker, St Louis Jimmy Oden and Muddy Waters – quite a selection! The general style of the music is gentle and reflective though there are some catchy tunes included. Danny’s deep, world-weary voice is very well suited to some of the ‘darker’ pieces and there are a number of those here such as “Death Comes Creeping” and “In My Time Of Dying”, both traditional pieces about passing through this life to the next.
With such a wealth of material it is impossible to comment on everything so I will concentrate on some of the highlights for this reviewer. On Disc 1 “Black Coffee” (Webster/Burke) still carries some of the hallmarks of its origins as a hit for Peggy Lee but Danny’s tired voice gives the song’s lyrics that late night feel, combined with some exquisite guitar stylings. In complete contrast Johnny Cash’s “So Doggone Lonesome” is a real country romp and Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” an excellent rendition of one of Bob’s most wistful songs, complete with a lovely solo from Danny. All three of these were originally slated for the Blues Project reunion record but Danny’s own “Waitress At The Troubador” was not. It’s an amusing song played in a gentle style with his brother Jonathan on bass, harp and backing vocals, the lyric telling of a chance romantic encounter: “Was it wrong to enter sweet heaven before I give someone my name”! Danny’s voice was made for Jimmy Oden’s tragic tale of death from over-indulgence in the pleasures of the flesh “Goin’ Down Slow”, here in a slow solo acoustic version. Muddy’s “Can’t Be Satisfied” is taken at a jaunty pace, Danny’s voice really deep and his fingers sprinting across his acoustic guitar while Mark uses brushes on drums and Lenny Nelson sets a fast pace on bass. “Sally Go Round The Roses”, a 1963 one-hit-wonder by The Jaynetts is another Blues Project cut. I don’t know the original, but this version sounds like a return to the flower power era, lots of ringing chords on the guitars and an almost folk style underlying the music.
On Disc 2 the range of material remains attractively varied. A second Dylan tune is covered, “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry”, far from the first cover of that song, but it’s a good version, in slow-paced country style. Big Joe Williams’ “Baby Please Don’t Go” was once covered by Dylan himself and Danny’s acoustic trio version works well with a funky feel to the song. One of the highlights of the set is Danny’s own “Mourning At Midnight”, a very attractive upbeat song with a rather sad lyric. Brother Jonathan adds slide and producer Mark plays a wide variety of other instruments to give a full sound to the cut. JLH’s “Louise” is well worked in an electric trio version while Tim Hardin’s “Yellow Cab” is a fast-paced acoustic trio version. Danny’s solo take on “In My Time Of Dying” is stately and sad, as befits the song and offers a complete contrast to the slide-fest of the Led Zep version! “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You” (a tune covered in the past by Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Holiday amongst others) gives Danny a chance to demonstrate some fine acoustic picking in a restrained jazz mode.
I hope that my selection of tracks gives a flavour of the wide variety of material included in this package. From solo acoustic picking to full band productions, from traditional blues to the great writers of our era, this CD covers a lot of ground and makes a great late evening listen.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.
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Featured Blues Review 3 of 6
The City Boys Allstars - When You Needed Me
City Boys Mike Productions
No matter how much music a reviewer manages to hear, and despite the best efforts to keep up with new releases, there are always going to be recordings that float by without ever making a dent in your consciousness or getting a good listen. Everyone has had that amazing experience of “discovering” a fine recording that appears out of left field with little fanfare, the kind of stuff that you can't wait to tell your friends about.
Well, if you enjoyed the days when groups like Earth, Wind and Fire or The Whispers dominated the charts and airwaves, the City Boys Allstars will quickly bring a smile to your face and get your body in motion in no time. Opening with the instrumental “Funky Peaches”, they quickly showcase their powerful horn section. Comprised of veterans who have played with Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Blues Brothers band and many of the late-night talk show orchestras, this potent crew includes Tony Kadleck and Lew Soloff on trumpet, Andy Snitzer and “Blue Lou” Marini on alto & tenor sax's , and Tom “Bones” Malone on baritone sax and trombone. It takes confidence to open a disc with an instrumental and the Allstars pull it off with aplomb.
Now that they have your attention, the band turns things over to one of their noteworthy vocalists, Horace Scott II, who wrote the title song. His stirring delivery encapsulates the feelings of doubt and loss that occur when death takes a loved one. From that point, the vocals rotate between Scott, Angel Rissoff and Bill Kurz without any drop in quality. They trade leads on “The Vow”, a song that takes a harrowing look at the break-up of a marriage. “Snows of July” sports a dynamic horn chart and some fine lead guitar from Mike Merola.
“Casanova” has touches of the Santana sound with Merola's guitar playing off the robust horn chart. The aptly named “More Where That Came From” sports a soulful vocal, bright horns and Robbie Clores on keyboards filling out the arrangements. Drummer Nick Saya sets up a driving beat on “Testimony” with help from Daniel Sadownick on percussion that sets up more excellent interplay between the vocalists and the horn section. Robert guests on lead vocal and guitar on his original, “Last Night the Bottle Let Me Down”, giving the band a chance to show that it knows how to rock
Things falter a bit on the three covers. The Freddie King medley, “The Stumble/Hide Away”, has some fiery licks from Merola egged on by the horns while “Drift Away” stays close to the original version. Neither track packs the same amount of punch of other tracks on the project. The opposite occurs on “God Bless the Child”, as the dense arrangement overpowers the message of the Billie Holiday classic.
The closing number starts off with a poppin' bass line from Al McDowell before the band erupts with another high energy mix of exciting vocals and biting horns over the deep rhythmic groove. This certainly isn't a pure blues recording. The Allstars do display some blues influences but they primarily are a contemporary R&B band. Don't let any labels stop you from checking this one out. This is one fine band that knows how to create outstanding music – and comes highly recommended!
Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years - just ask his wife!
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Blues Society News
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Mississippi Valley Blues Society - Davenport, Iowa
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society is seeking bands to participate in the inaugural Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge. The first Mississippi Valley Blues Challenge will be held July 5, at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. The first of three bands will start at 3 PM and each will perform 20‑minute sets with 5 judges making a decision on which band is the best.
Bands within a 175 miles radius of the Quad Cities will be eligible to compete, but before a band can progress to the final round at the festival, they must first surmount a preliminary round on April 28, at The Muddy Waters, Bettendorf, IA, to decide on the top three bands for the final competition at the festival.
The winner earns the right to compete in the International Blues Challenge held in Memphis, January 21-January 25, 2014. The prize package also includes cash, travel expenses, and the opportunity to perform July 6, 2013 at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa.
The deadline for applications is April 20. All interested bands can find applications at www.mvbs.org
Also, The Mississippi Valley Blues Society will present guitarist extraordinaire Bobby Messano on Sunday, March 10th, at The Muddy Waters (1708 State Street, Bettendorf IA) at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $10, only $8 for Mississippi Valley Blues Society members.
Messano, hailing from New Jersey, is best known for touring for a year as Steve Winwood’s guitarist as well as being the only guitarist with a featured solo on a Clarence Clemons’ (Bruce Springsteen’s sax player) release. He also was the lead guitarist for Frankie and The Knockouts and recorded with Peter Criss (of Kiss). Messano’s latest release, in 2012, That’s Why I Don’t Sing The Blues, even made it through to the first round of a Grammy nomination. Don’t miss your chance to catch this blues-rocker in his first appearance in our neck of the woods.
River City Blues Society - Pekin. IL
The River City Blues Society presents Alex Jenkins & The Bombers at 7pm on Wednesday March 13th at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois Admission: $6.00 general public $4.00 Society Members.
Also appearing on Friday March 29th at 7:30pm at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois will be JP Soars & The Red Hots. Admission $6.00 general public or $4.00 for Society Members For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510
The Piedmont Blues Preservation Society - Greensboro - NC
The Piedmont Blues Preservation Society’s 27th Annual Carolina Blues Festival presented by YES! Weekly is being held in downtown Greensboro, NC, May 18, 2013. We’re excited to announce Janiva Magness and Kenny Neal will be headliners for the day-long event.
Janiva Magness has been nominated for five Blues Music Awards: B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year Award, Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year, and Song Of The Year. The Awards Ceremony happens just 9 days before our festival.
Kenny Neal, 2011 Louisiana Music Hall of Fame Inductee, is an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and is widely renowned as a modern swamp-blues master. His new release, Hooked On Your Love, follows the triumph of his multi-award-winning 2008 comeback album, Let Life Flow. The CD raked in the accolades: three Album Of The Year awards, two Song of The Year awards for the title track, and Kenny himself garnered two Artist of the Year honors. More Info at http://fest.piedmontblues.org
Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL
Now in their seventh season, The Friends of the Blues present 7 pm early shows: March 19 – Harper, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, 2672 Chippewa Drive, Bourbonnais IL (815) 937-0870; March 28 – The Sugar Prophets, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, 1600 Cobb Blvd., Kankakee IL 815-939-1699; April 4 – Shawn Pittman, Kankakee Moose Lodge, N State Rt 50 (Kinzie Ave), Bradley IL (815) 939-3636; April 16 – Matt Hill, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, 2672 Chippewa Drive, Bourbonnais IL (815) 937-0870; May 2 – Biscuit Miller, Kankakee Moose Lodge, N State Rt 50 (Kinzie Ave), Bradley IL (815) 939-3636; May 16 – James Armstrong, Venue TBA; May 30 – Bryan Lee, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, 1600 Cobb Blvd., Kankakee IL 815-939-1699. More information: www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues or email@example.com
The New Mexico Blues Society - Rio Rancho, NM
The New Mexico Blues Society will be holding it's 3rd "Cused of the Blues" festival on March 16th, 2013 @ 1521 Broadway SW, Albuquerque, NM featuring local, New Mexico talent. Hillary Smith & Friends will be headlining the show. So far the lineup, still under construction, consists of The Kenny Skywolf Band, Twisted Mojo, The Jake Jones Band, The Memphis P-Tails with Joanie Cere, The Albuquerque Blues Connection, Hillary Smith & Friends, plus an hour long All Star Jam to close the show which will run from 1:00pm until 9:00pm. Admission is $5.00 for NMBS Members and $7.00 for nonmembers. We will be holding raffles and a silent auction. All proceeds will go toward our Youth Scholarship Fund, Blues In The Schools Program (BITS), and sending a couple of kids to music camp this year.
As part of our current membership drive, those joining NMBS between now and March 16th will receive a free ticket to this event. Memberships are as follows: Individual Membership = $20.00/year, Family Membership = $30.00/year, and Band/Business Membership = $40.00/year. Please check us out on Facebook and go to our web site: nmbluessociety.com for the latest listings of Blues Gigs in New Mexico. Blues are happening here and growing by leaps and bounds each and every year. If you are a die hard Blues Fan/Musician and looking for a change, please consider relocating to new Mexico, "The land of Enchantment." http://nmbluessociety.com/
Crossroads Blues Society - Rockford/Northern Illinois
Crossroads Blues Society has two upcoming shows in one week plus we
have to Blues In The Schools (BITS) Programs set to go in two area
On Thursday the 14th they will be conducting a morning BITS session at Harlem Middle School in Loves Park, IL and then in the afternoon they will be in Rockford at Haskell Elementary School. These will be the 111th and 112th programs done in area schools and they will have served to bring the blues to close to 34,000 students in the last 10 years.
On Friday, March 15th Bobby Messano returns to Rockford after too long an absence. Bobby will be playing at Mary's Place on 602 North Madison Street at 8 PM. Cover charge is only $10 and if you pay in advance you get limited reserved seating. Bobby is a virtuoso guitar player who has been around and played with many of the greats. His passion is blues and that has been the focus of his career. His albums have received great levels of acclaim, including Grammy nominations for 2007's "Live in Madison" and the the latest from 2011 "That's Why I Don't Sing The Blues." This will be a great show! For more info see www.crossroadsbluessociety.com.
Ventura County Blues Society- Ventura, CA
The Ventura (Calif.) County Blues Society presents the 8th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival (formerly the Simi Valley Blues Festival) on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at Moorpark College in Moorpark, Calif. starting 11 a.m. and featuring headliners the legendary Johnny Rivers; Savoy Brown featuring Kim Simmonds; and Kenny Neal; plus regional acts Dona Oxford, Preston Smith & The Crocodiles, and Michael John And The Bottom Line. Tickets $25. in advance, $30. day of show; kids 12 and under free (with adult). Proceeds benefit The American Diabetes Association and local charities. Info./Tickets: (805) 501-7122 or log onto www.venturacountyblues.com
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. March 11 - Eddie Snow Birthday Tribute w/ Bill Evans, March 18 - Mojo Cats, March 25 - JP Soars, Apr 1st - Shawn Pittman, Apr8th - Blues Deacons, Apr 15th - Matt Hill, Apr 22nd - Brad Vickers & His Vestopolanias, Apr 29th - Stone Cold Blues Band. More info available at icbluesclub.org
West Virginia Blues Society - Charleston, W.V.
The West Virginia Blues Society, Inc. presents the return of its rockin’ annual event, the 6th Annual Charlie West Blues Fest (CWBF), Friday, May 17th and Saturday, May 18th at Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston, WV.
This free event, which has gained national attention throughout its five year history, will play host to some of the most talented and up-and-coming blues artists in the country and from around the world. The return of the legendary Ava Popovich as well as Davina and the Vagabonds will surely get you moving, and other highlighted artists include Kim Wilson & The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Tinsley Ellis, Mud Morganfield, Kristine Jackson, Grand Marquis Band, Southern Hospitality, Bryan Lee & The Power Blues Band and Mojo Theory, just to name a few..
The CWBF is an annual event dedicated to support wounded service members through the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP)—a nonprofit organization whose mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors. For information on sponsorships and donations contact Jack Rice, West Virginia Blues Society at (304) 389-1439or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.wvbluessociety.org.
The Great Northern Blues Society - Wausau, WI
The Great Northern Blues Society is having our annual fundraiser known as the “Blues Café” on 3/9/13 in Rothschild, WI (near Wausau, WI)
Doors to the Rothschild Pavilion (1104 Park Street, Rothschild, WI) open at noon, music starts at 1:00PM with 10 hours of non-interrupted Music featuring Donnie Pick & the Road Band, Kilborn Alley Band, Grady Champion, Sena Ehrhardt Band. Corey Stevens and Robert “One-Man” Johnson will be playing Acoustic Sets between main stage acts. There will be 4 Food vendors on site, with Cold Adult Beverages.$17 in advance - $22 at the door. For general information, and Ticket information go to – www.gnbs.org.
Featured Blues Review 4 of 6
Altered Five – Gotta Earn It
Self-produced through Conclave Records
10 tracks / 40:56
There is a lot of great music that comes out of the Midwest, and I find that many of my favorite rock bands and blues artists come out of that part of the States. I don’t know if it is the long cold winters, the flat land, or something special they add to the water, but I am not questioning the results. Altered Five comes straight out of Milwaukee and lives up to my expectations for a fine Midwestern blues and soul band!
Altered Five has been together since 2002, touring and playing festivals with material that consisted mostly of gassed up and funky versions of cover tunes. You can hear their takes on songs from artists such as The Pretenders, Sting and Prince on their 2008 debut album, Bluesified. But as of late, they have been focusing more on writing their own songs, as you will hear with their follow-up effort, Gotta Earn It.
Seven of the ten songs are originals, with just a few wisely chosen cover tunes from Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, and Buddy Guy. This quintet (Altered Five, get it?) includes Jeff “JT” Taylor on vocals, Jeff Schroedl on guitar, Scott Schroedl on drums, Mark Solveson on bass and Raymond Tevich on keyboards. These guys are all very good musicians, and all of those gigs have formed a very tight connection as they are perfectly in sync and groove marvelously with each other.
They start the CD off with a cover tune, and by their song choice, you can tell right away that they changed their game plan and no longer cover the tops hits of the past few decades. “Ain’t that Peculiar” is a 1965 song from Marvin Gaye that was written by Smokey Robinson and the other guys from the Miracles. This was a popular song from Marvin Gaye back in the day, but it is certainly not as popular (or catchy) as “Heard it through the Grapevine.” The band has turned up the rock and tempo knobs on this version and cleverly arranged it so it sounds edgy but not harsh or too complicated. Taylor’s voice is powerful and raw, and it is perfectly suited to the blues rock that Altered Five creates.
The other two cover songs are also pretty cool, and the band went to a lot of trouble to make them their own. “You’ve Got to Earn It” is another Smokey Robinson song that was a Temptations B-side from 1964; though the words are the same, Altered Five’s version is a lot funkier. And Willie Dixon’s “Watch Yourself” is faster and edgier than the version that Buddy Guy recorded back in 1961.
You will find that their original songs are very solid, too. The lyrics are not terribly complicated and mostly use predictable rhymes, but in each case they do a good job of painting a complete musical picture. In the course of the album they are able to provide a little bit of something to interest most average blues or rock fans.
“Three Wishes” is a mournful soul ballad with a lot of gospel sound to it and truly bummed-out lyrics. Scott Schroedl and Mark Solveson are hold down a steady and restrained bottom end while dual piano and organ parts play under scorching guitar riffs and solos. There are also a few nice blues pieces, but none of them are in the same style. Though “Keep the Best,” “Older, Wiser, Richer,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Tight Spot” are all different types of blues, they all have the Altered Five sound to them. This unique sound is more noticeable because of the way this album was mixed, as every instrument really jumps out at you. If you don’t like the music in your face, this might not be for you…
While everything this band plays has a little funk to it, they went all out on “Dynamite.” This song is covered with distorted guitars and vocals, and fairly simple lyrics to elicit thoughts of a truly deadly lover. And to finish things up they ended the CD with “Bounce Back,” which is the most pop-oriented of the bunch. Taylor smoothes his vocals out and tones things down, showing that his vocal skills are multi-dimensional. I would be slacking off here if I did not provide an honorable mention for Tevich’s funky organ work -- it is really quite amazing.
Altered Five has avoided the sophomore slump and in fact this is a better album then their debut due to the inclusion of their own material. They have an original sound while providing entertaining blues-based music and you will find that it is certainly worth the time to take a listen.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at www.rexbass.blogspot.com.
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Featured Blues Review 5 of 6
Dalannah Gail Bowen – Them Menz
10 songs – 48 minutes
Dalannah Gail Bowen, a 40-year veteran of the Canadian blues, rock and soul scene, squarely hits the mark with this smolderingly soulful set, a welcome follow-up to her widely acclaimed 2007 release, “Mamma’s Got The Blues.” A socially conscious powerhouse of African-Canadian and Cherokee descent, she’s based in Vancouver, where she overcame homelessness and addiction to launch a long career as an activist for some of the poorest folks in the Pacific Northwest as well as a music career. “I promised myself that I would live in gratitude for the second chance and share the gift I’ve been given,” she insists. “I have the opportunity to use my voice to share my journey, and I love it.”
A powerful, energetic performer, Bowen possesses an earthy, yet dynamic voice that instantaneously reveals her gospel roots. She uses an old-school approach in delivering the nine modern, self-penned originals and one cover in this set. She’s backed by an all-star cast, including Grammy-nominee Michael Creber (piano and Hammond organ), Victoria (B.C.) rock-and-roll hall-of-famer Brian Newcombe (bass), multiple Maple Leaf Blues Award nominee Chris Nordquist (drums), founding member of the award-winning fusion-jazz band Skywalk Harris Van Beckel (lead guitar on four tracks, rhythm on two more) with special guests Steve Dawson (lead guitar on four tracks), Jim Salmon (percussion), David Say (saxophone), and Jane Mortifee and Candus Churchill, the Sojourners and the Bakerstreet Gang (background vocals). And the Ocean Side Dakota Drummers – Ben and Veronica Gonzales, Darcy Damas and Greg Dimmer – provide rhythm and traditional vocals on the last cut, “The Spirit Within.”
The set swings from the jump with the churchy, organ-driven title cut, “Them Menz,” in which Bowen wonders if there will be any good ones waiting when she gets to heaven: “I don’t mean to bother/I’m a mother hen, it’s clear/But there’s somethin’ I need to make me happy/If I’m gonna be stayin’ here!” The song features a searing guitar solo by Van Bickel, followed by a detailed order for the gentleman she desires. “Loved By That Woman,” featuring Dawson on guitar, reveals how the affection of the title character changed a series of men in different ways. Bad “Timin’” is the subject of the next, jazz-tinged cut, in which Bowen reflects on synchronicity problems with her male companions.
A uptempo cover of the B.B. King classic, “Move Too Soon,” follows before Bowen slows it down and launches into the haunting “You’re Not There,” in which she feels and sees her former lover present on a dark, stormy night even though he’s gone and no one can compare. But the disc turns dramatically on the next tune, “Mean Man,” another organ-rich, soul fest about never wanting a liar or a cheat, drug or juiced man… ”Honey, that was you!” A drum solo kicks off the rapid-fire “Who’s Foolin’ Who,” which Bowen uses to deliver a message from her life’s work: Take a stand and try to do your best no matter what the circumstances because there’s no one to blame but yourself if you don’t.
In “Just For Today,” Bowen pleads for a little space in a hectic life. “I don’t want to make nice…or shake your hand/I don’t wanna do nothin’/I hope you understand…I need time, yes, I need some time./I hope you’re cluein’ in.” She follows with the introspective “Just Don’t Like The Deal,” in which she returns to her socially conscious roots and reflects upon the ways of the world and how people have got to work together to bring about change. And she drives the message home with the last tune, “The Spirit Within,” in which she urges folks to listen to match their words with their actions and listen to the drum and the spirit within. “If you make that choice and start that walk/You’ll have a Powerful Hand to hold,” she insists. “Some people will pick you up/Some people will stand beside you/Some people know the way of the world/They’ll teach and they’ll guide you.”
Let’s hope Dalannah Gail is right! She’s got a message that deserves to be heard – and she delivers it in a delightful way. A very enjoyable CD..
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 6 of 6
David Hidalgo, Mato Nanji, Luther Dickinson - 3 Skulls And The Truth
Blues Bureau International
12 tracks; 65 minutes
David Hidalgo, Mato Nanji, and Luther Dickinson all met while participating in the Experience Hendrix tour which features a wide variety of Jimi’s musical descendants bringing his music to the masses. David Hidalgo has been singing and playing guitar with Los Lobos for over 30 years and has collaborated with a myriad of musicians from Tom Waits to Gov’t Mule. Mato Nanji is the leader of Indigenous who just released an eponymous album last year. Luther Dickinson is apparently applying for “Hardest Working Man In Show Business.” Beyond his work with North Mississippi Allstars and shows with his brother Cody, he has been busy working on several recording projects. This is the fourth release for which he has been the main contributor, collaborator or focal point in the last year. One day last May Luther issued there new recordings: a solo album called Hambone's Meditations, a recording in collaboration with the South Memphis String Band, and Go On Now, You Can't Stay Here by his new side project The Wandering. These three busy, talented and driven musicians found a mutual respect and musical kinship and took the time to explore intersection of their musical tastes and the result is raucous, rough and rugged.
3 Skulls And The Truth has been released on Blues Bureau International, a subsidiary of Shrapnel Records which is famous for its virtuoso guitar-centric releases. Blues Bureau is home to Eric Gales, Indigenous, Leslie West, Rick Derringer, Chris Duarte, and The Blindside Blues Band. When you see the Blues Bureau logo you know the guitar playing is going to be front and center and it’s going to be hot. The Hidalgo, Nanji, Dickinson triumvirate delivers with classic grooves, vintage tones, and seamless guitar interplay. For liner notes enthusiasts, the packaging contains a breakdown of who solos and sings when in each tune which adds to the fun of listening and picking out each style to see if you’re right. Some of the results might surprise you.
“Have My Way With You” is almost a mission statement, with the “you” in question being the listener, as these guys are going to put you through the wringer for the next hour or so. It starts off the record as a low key, down home hill country blues tune and kicks into a fierce sexual grind that leaves you sore, stunned and satisfied. Hidalgo and Nanji certainly show why they were chosen for the Experience Hendrix tour. Their playing is fluid, dynamic, expressive and above all interesting. The ghost of Hendrix matriculates through several tracks on 3 Skulls And The Truth, popping up in legato licks, stereo panning, and Band Of Gypsys style riffing as on “Make It Right.”
All the songs were written specifically for this collaboration with four by Mato & Leah Nanji, four from producer/label founder Mike Varney, and four from Luther Dickinson by himself or in collaboration with others including Mato Nanji, Lightnin’ Malcolm, and Jimbo Mathus. Together they created a cohesive compendium for blues rock enthusiasts. It’s easy to think a guitarfest like this would lack in the song writing department but all the musicians involved have learned, throughout their careers, to put the songs first.
There are plenty of standout songs including the rough and tumble revved-up John Lee Hooker style boogie of “Coming Home,” the brooding, smoldering and somber “Cold As Hell” and the relentless groove of “Woke Up Alone.” “The Worldly And The Divine” has a thick, bottom-heavy riff, memorable lyrics and tremendous playing from drummer Jeff Martin. This song and others feature the tantalizing richness of voices when these guys sing together. The songs benefit from the range of styles and emotions the three individuals bring to them, but the timbre of the voices meld seamlessly. It’s perhaps more noticeable because it is unexpected, especially on what could be considered a contrived guitar showcase.
Luckily 3 Skulls And The Truth is more than that. It’s a musical experiment by three kindred spirits which rendered magnificent results. The record gets better with each listen. Hopefully these three skulls will put their heads together again sometime soon.
Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit http://jimkanavy.com.
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