Jon Gindick

“When We Die, We All Come Back As Music”

Old Chimney Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © January 2017


"When We Die, We All Come Back As Music" is Jon Gindick's debut release. Having said that, he is certainly no newcomer to the scene.  He's a harmonica virtuoso who, as an instructor as well, runs several harmonica camps a year in Clarksdale, MS and Ventura, CA.  These camps are world renowned and the coaches who assist him include many harmonica "A" listers.  Having sold over a million copies of his instructional books, he's undoubtedly the force behind many harp blowers.  
 
All ten of the disc's tracks are Jon Gindick originals and they are a blend of folk, jazz, funk and blues.  Joining Jon - on vocals, harp and guitar are: Ralph Carter - the disc's producer - on bass, keys, percussion and backing vocals; Louie Broussard on drums; Chuck Kavooris on slide guitar; Brad Rabuchin on electric guitar; Ken Stange on piano and organ; Bill Bixler on saxophone and clarinet; Bobby Loya on trumpets; and Al Walker on tenor sax.
 
So with the 2017 Blues Music Awards nominations having just been released, I'm going very far out on a limb with my thoughts on this song.  That said, they are my thoughts and I'm sticking with them.  I honestly believe that right now I'm listening to an odds on favorite for a nod in the 2018 "Song of the Year" category -  "When We Die, We All Come Back As Music".  According to Jon, "what else can we be?"  As Jon soulfully sings about the various types of music he may come back as, those thoughts are accompanied by highlighting that music's instrumentation.  Very well done track with great rhythm, trumpet, sax and piano work by Ralph, Louie, Bobby, Bill and Ken, and killer vocals and harp work by Jon.  Just for the record, I want to come back as a very long and sultry tenor saxophone lead.
 
Yes, "Ghost Dance" is a song about dancing.  And to help you along with that, Jon will tell you so many reasons for dancing you'll "keep on dancin' till the dancin's through" - which when you think about it, that can't really happen.  Great up tempo track with some serious rhythm, percussion, and hand clapping and bang up slide guitar by Chuck.    
 
Some of us - me for sure - may share Jon's recollection of things he learned in that place called "School".  Especially the non-academic things like learning to carve your initials into an old wooden desk; learning the art of aimlessly staring out the window; unhappily learning what soap tastes like; and of course, something many of us majored in - learning how to fight.  Jon's got a lot more and tells it a lot better.  It's a funky number with the rhythm and horn sections on top of their game.  Easily one of my personal favorites.   
 
So Jon's detailed description of "Maxine" had me thinking I might know what her profession is.  Then he confirmed it with "Maxine, honey is that you?  In the clothes you wear when the rent is due?" Hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  Once again, outstanding harp blowin' from Jon and more remarkable rhythm led by Ralph, who's at disc's best on bass.   

I think it's interesting to mention that Jon did something on the liner notes of this CD that I have never seen before on the countless thousands of albums and CDS I've read those notes on.  After each song he lists all the different keys in which he played his harps.  Now that's a consummate teacher for you.
 
To find out much more about Jon Gindick, and maybe even look into attending one of his harmonica camps, just go to www.jongindickband.com.  And as I always ask you to do, please tell him the Blewzzman sent you.  

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



Various Artists

“Various Artists”

Produced by Bobby BlackHat Productions
Distributed by Mary4Music



By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © January 2017


"Virginia Blues Showcase" is a compilation CD featuring eleven original songs by eleven different bands from the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Since all of the tracks are worthy of mention, I will give a brief description of each.  On the other hand, because I do not have access to the names of all the talented performers, I won't always be able to give credit where credit is due.
 
The disc opens with "My World Did Not End" (Bobby BlackHat Walters, ASCAP) and it's performed by it's producer, Bobby BlackHat Walters (www.bobbyblackhat.com).  By now, that should be a familiar name to most of my readers - Bobby's had songs on several Mary4Music "Keeping the Blues Alive" compilation releases and I've had the pleasure of reviewing all of his releases.  As with most of his work, this one features well sung, soulful, baritone vocals; rich rhythm; and a few hot harp, guitar and piano leads.  The line "My world did not end when you walked out the door and honey now that you're gone I smile a whole lot more" makes it quite obvious that although this IS a song about his woman leaving him, unlike others of that nature, it ISN'T a sad song. 
 
Next up is "Can't Shake it" (Tom Euler, BMI), by Tom Euler (www.tomeuler.com).  The first minute of this six minute plus track was pure, unadulterated, scorching blues guitar licks that had me thinking "Oh yeah, I can happily go for five more minutes of this".  Then Tom started belting out some emotionally charged slow blues on the vocals and something good just got better.....way better.  The purpose of these compilation discs is to introduce the listener to an artist he or she may want to hear more of - and in this case, mission accomplished.  I want to hear a lot more of Tom Euler. 
 
If you're the kind of person who likes to "Kick Up Yo' Heels" (Cecil, Moss, Folks, Davis, Burgess, BMI) here's one to do, it to.  From start to finish, this smoker by The Bush League (www.thebushleague.com) is an all out three alarmer. 
 
"Flyin' Blind" (Murray Miller & "Doc" Robin van Tine, BMI) is by another band who has been a part of what we do at Mary4music - the Doc Robin Band (www.docrobinband.com).  It's a rhythm fueled smoker led by Doc's wizardry on the organ and piano.
 
"I Can't Lose These Blues" (Ron Fetner, BMI) is beautifully done ballad by BlueHouse Project (www.bluehouse-project.com).  It's highlighted by tender, story telling style vocals backed by silklike rhtyhm and sultry sax leads.  
 
"My Well Run Dry" (Herbie Desseyn & Christopher Gifford, ASCAP) is done by yet another Mary4Music alumni - Herbie D & The Dangermen (www.herbiedandthedangermen.com).  This band is an acoustic blues band and had I not seen them perform live, I'd call anyone who told me that a liar.  Their sound is LARGE, to say the least.  The combination of the standup bass, acoustic guitar, percussion and saxophone create a completely unique vibe.
 
Not knowing them, if Cole Layman and Logan Layman were introduced to you as Barbie and Ken, you'd have a much easier time believing that than being told they were the nucleus of a blues band called In Layman Terms (www.3inlaymanterms.com).  Yet, these two young, very good looking, well mannered, intelligent, sports playing, Ivy League looking siblings can get as low down and dirty as some of the best in the genre.  Take it from me, there is no faking it at all on "Fake it Til I Make It" (Cole & Logan Layman, ASCAP).  I've been a fan of theirs since I first saw them a few years back.  It was in a club on Beale Street and the duo - maybe 14 & 15 at the time - handled the room like 60 year old seasoned veterans.
 
"Money" (Johnny Ray Light, BMI) is a song from a band that's been in the Mary4Music family since they formed back in 2008 - Planet Full Of Blues
(www.planetfullofblues.com).  The bands blues of choice is high energy, rhythm driven, horn powered blues backing up equally high energy, very soulful vocals.
 
Not only is "Good Man Gone Down" (Julius Ray Pitman, BMI) by Julius Pitman and the Revival (www.juliusrpittman.com) the disc's longest track but it's the most mesmerizing as well.  It's nearly seven and a half minutes of a trance inducing conglomeration of: melancholy lyrics delivered by smooth yet riveting vocals; trippy organ chords; bewitching rhythm; and sensuously soft saxophone leads.  I suggest you listen to this one by sitting back with your headphones on after you've poured yourself a snifter full of Grand Mariner (or whatever it is you take the edge off with).  Feel free to thank me later.
 
The CD ends with the most humorous track of the bunch - "In Law Blues" (Shelly Thiss & The Mike Lucci Band, BMI) by The Mike Lucci Band (www.mikelucciband.com).  So right about now, those of you who can't stand you in-laws are probably thinking this one may be somewhat relatable... WRONG!  You see, Shelly's met several very wonderful men and women who she felt would have made excellent mothers and fathers in law. That said, it's the process of them becoming her in-laws that has her petrified and that's having to marry their son.  
 
Since this disc is for promotional purposes only, and the amount pressed was limited, it's not likely that many of you will be able to get your hands on a copy.  On the other hand, please feel free to contact the individual bands about the possibility of obtaining a copy of their current releases. 
 
Additionally, any day now, over 200 radio stations will be receiving a copy of "Virginia Blues Showcase" for airplay.  Should you be one of those lucky recipients, we hope you'll give many of the tracks many amount of spins.  When that happens, please send airplay lists to the disc's producer - Bobby BlackHat Walters - at bobby@bobbyblackhat.com.
 
As usual, should you make contact with any of this talented bunch, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Ty Curtis

“Blame Me”






By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © December 2016


Although he now resides in Austin, TX, Ty Curtis' roots are in an area of the country that has an abundance of outstanding blues artists.  No, I'm not talking about the Delta, I'm talking about the Pacific Northwest - and to be more specific - Oregon, the blues.... er, I mean the beaver state.  Over the close to twenty years I've been doing reviews, Oregon is by far the state that I've received the most submissions from.  They've certainly got a good thing going on up there.   
 
"Blame Me", is the fifth release by Ty Curtis.  The disc contains ten original tracks that vary in blues styles, with most having one foot in rock.  The players include: Ty Curtis on guitar and vocals; Tony Valdez on bass; Jerry Jacques on drums; Nick Jay on bass & Hammond B3; Dane Farnsworth on Hammond B3 & Moog; Jeff Bryant on Hammond B3 & Rhodes; and Carmelo Torres on percussion.
 
"Heaven Save Me" is one of the more relaxed tracks.  It's a beautiful ballad that - coming from an artist not know for ballads - was beautifully sung and flawlessly done. This very soulful vocal performance put the spotlight on Ty's tender and emotional sides.  Musically, Ty shines on several stinging guitar leads and the track's heartbeat comes from the velvety smooth B3 grooves by Nick. 
 
The very next track starts off in a similar way but it doesn't take too long for Ty to "Shake it Up".  It opens with Nick, Jerry and this time Dane on the B3, providing a soft rhythm behind Ty's vocals, but as the track progresses, it aggresses as well.  By it's end, it's become an all out smoker with a much more profound rhythm and blazing guitar licks.
 
Wanting to be about as diverse as one can be, Ty apparently had an "Urge And Temptation" to give Reggae a shot - and it was a heck of a good shot at that.  With the help of some very impressive synthesizing by Dane, the guys pulled this one off quite nicely.  
 
So for something to blow you away it's got to be pretty powerful, right?  And from the rhythm, to the vocals, to the guitar leads, powerful is exactly the word I'd use to describe what I just heard on "Blow Me Away".  This one's just Ty, Nick and Jerry giving you an audio definition of the term power trio.     
 
The disc closes with what is surely it's most eclectic track - "Never Get My Love".  Jerry and Nick have the opening rhythm giving it an R&B feel, which eventually gives way to Ty's guitar riffs turning it into an all out rocker, only to have Dane and Carmelo - on synthesizer and percussion - turn it into a good old disco beat.  Call it what you will, as long as you're dancing.  
 
If Blues Rock is your blues of choice then you need to heed the words of BluesRockReview.com when they say "Blame Me" is a "great addition to any blues rocker's collection. 
 
For more on Ty Curtis just go to www.tycurtis.net.  Once there, you know the drill - as you always do, you're going to tell him the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



Marty Stokes

“Pick Up The Phone”

Lakehouse Records & Publishing




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © December 2016


Marty Stokes calls the area around Sanibel and Captiva Islands (on Florida's Gulf Coast) home, and it's also where he grew up and has been playing the blues since he was a kid.  As a member of the states' many blues societies, The Marty Stokes Band spreads its blues all over the sunshine state.  One would be hard pressed to find a club or festival in Florida where the band has not played.  When you think about it, there's something to be said for that – the band is constantly working!
 
On "Pick Up The Phone", the band consists of: Marty Stokes on vocals, and lead, rhythm, slide & acoustic guitars: Jennifer Mazziotti on tenor and all harmony saxophones; Darryl Best on bass; and Carveth Clauson on drums.  Special guests on the project include: John McLanne on B-3 keyboards; Summer Kilgore Mendez on lead and backup vocals; J P Soars on lead and cigar box guitars; and Chris Peet on drums.  The album is Marty Stokes' third release, is self-produced and his first on the Lakehouse label. It features thirteen tracks of which nine were penned by Marty.
 
"Pick Up The Phone", the opening and title track, is the only track on the disc that features just the four members of the band.  Basically, this fast paced shuffle is what those of us familiar with the band get to hear on a regular basis - tight and intense rhythm from Darryl and Carveth, with lots of smokin' sax and guitar leads by Jennifer and Marty. 
 
The sixty second scorching guitar work Marty lays down on the intro to "Take A Little Time" immediately had me loving this one.  Then shortly afterwards Jennifer blows out a similar scorching riff on her sax and that was it, I was in slow blues heaven.  When these two team up on these tandem burning blues leads, it just doesn't get any better.  Then again, with Chris Pete (J P. Soars & the Red Hots and Southern Hospitality) and John McLane running your rhythm it kind of does.
 
Since the song was made famous by a powerful female vocalist - Tracy Nelson -  it was a smart production move to have another powerful female vocalist - Summer Kilgore Mendez - sing it.  Between her lead and Marty on backup vocals, Summer nails this version of  "Livin' The Blues".  
 
"Whiskey Drinking Woman"  and "Do You No Harm" are two tracks that are all about the guitars.  With Darryl and Carveth in their usual rhythm groove behind them, these consecutive tracks feature a collection of phenomenal lead, slide, guitar box and rhythm guitar work by Marty Stokes and J P Soars.
 
All aboard the “Morning Train”... next stop, church!  This spiritual, Gospel track was pleasantly unexpected.  Not being able to recall Marty ever doing this type of thing, I'm already looking forward to the next time he does.  His acoustic guitar work is as moving as it is masterful and the harmony vocals between him and Summer are heavenly.  Great track!     
 
For more on Marty Stokes, you can go to his website at  www.martystokesband.com and the record label's website at www.lakehouserecords.com.  When you do, please tell Marty and Reno that the Blewzzman sent you.  FYI, Marty and the band will be performing in the 2017 IBC in Memphis.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Buddy Blues Band

“Wrong Side of the Blues”

Lakehouse Records & Publishing




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2016


"Wrong Side Of The Blues" is the debut CD from the Orlando, FL based Buddy Blues Band.  The band consists of: Buddy Blues on guitar and vocals; Ward (Wa Du) Dumigan on upright and electric bass; Glenn (Jammin') Kastrinos on drums: Chris Nordman on Hammond organ and piano; Satch Dixon on percussion; Carlos Hernandez on congas; and guest vocalist Bunky Garrabrant.  The CD contains eleven original tracks that feature a very impressive fusion of blues, jazz, rock and funk.

So when a song starts off with "You call this love, I call it the blues", I'm thinking this may not be one of the best relationships in the world.  Although Buddy claims to be trying hard at making it work, it appears to him as if he's doing nothing more than working on an "Assembly Line".  The very obvious first impression this opening track makes is that the rhythm on this disc is not only going to be stellar but is going to be dominant as well.  The vibrant use of the shakers, the deep beats of the congas, the rich bass lines, the outstanding drum and cymbal work, and the masterful organ leads equally highlight this one.

This one's titled "Listen To Me Baby" but I'm stretching it out to say "Listen to me baby, you'd better prepare your body for some serious shaking".  Now you've been warned!  This fast, furious and funky track is a dance floor filler if there ever was one.  Of course, the rhythm section is again on fire but this time it's running rampant.  Then you add in a few exuberant organ leads by Chris and a feverish guitar solo by Buddy and by now you may very well be out of control.          

No one likes waking up on the wrong side of the bed but when you wake up on the "Wrong Side of The Blues" - as Buddy is finding out, you're really in a world of trouble.  With no other tracks even being a close second, this one's the disc's rocker.  You air drummers get your sticks ready, you air guitarists pick up your ax and you faux front men let the pony tails down 'cause it's time to rock out.  Buddy and the guys sure did.

Once this one starts, you'll definitely have a "Move On".  The smooth yet smoking beat, fueled by the magnificent percussion and rhythm, have It sounding like a jazzed up version of something out of the Ricky Ricardo song book.  This one's got air play and movie soundtrack written all over it - think Copacabana - but better..
           
Except for a very well done, aggressive guitar lead in the middle of the track, "Lately" is one of the disc's jazzier tracks.  It features a softer and more relaxed rhythm, some exquisitely beautiful keyboard work by Chris and very soulful vocals by Buddy.  It's also another one of the many tracks where the production, mixing and engineering is noticeably masterful, and kudos need to be given to Reno Mussatto and Chris Short, as well.         

Because of it's many changes and because of the way that everyone in the band was so involved, "Hear Me Screaming" is the disc's most interesting track.  At times I was hearing straight up funk, other times I was hearing pure rock and other times I was hearing jazz.  Throughout all that, along with some powerful vocals, Buddy was getting in amazing guitar highlights; Chris was fascinating - first on the piano, then on the organ and then on the piano again;  Glenn and Ward, on the drums and bass, were all over the rhythm  - especially on their solos; and not as if any help was needed but the added percussion support from Carlos and Satch took it all up a notch.  With this type of instrumental interaction having been heard throughout, this is obviously signature Buddy Blues Band music.   

For more information on the Buddy Blues Band, you can go to the bands website - www.buddybluesband.com or the record label's website - www.lakehouserecords.com.  Once you do, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Terry Robb

“Cool On The Bloom”

Niasounds, Inc.




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2016


I thought I'd take a quick look at Terry Robb's website to see how many other releases he's had prior to "Cool On The Bloom".  Well that quick look became a very educating visit. Between his solo, duo and compilation albums there are close to twenty, and then there are another fifty-five - that's right, no typo there - 55 more that he has produced and been featured on. 
 
Throughout his career, Terry has been praised by the likes of "Rolling Stone", "Guitar Player", "Living Blues", "Southland Blues", "Blues Revue", Downbeat",  "Jazz Now" and pretty much every other magazine, periodical and newsletter you could think of, and here I am with the unenviable task of having to follow that lot.  Well, here goes.
 
"Cool On The Bloom" features twelve tracks, ten originals and two covers.  They include: solo performances; duets; and quartets; and some are  instrumentals while others feature Terry's outstanding vocals.  Joining Terry Robb, on guitar and vocals, are: Doug Smith on guitar; Albert Reda on acoustic bass guitar; Jeff Minnick on percussion; Dave Kahl on bass guitar; and Dennis Carter on drums.
 
The CD opens with back to back solo instrumentals titled "Soc Hop" and "Cool On The Bloom".  They're both about two minutes in length, and those four minutes were three more than I needed to realize I was listening to a guitar guru.   
 
I was told by the record label that "Christmas In Istanbul" is the albums lead single and from what I'm listening to I'm getting why.  It's one of just three tracks that feature the full quartet and the musical chemistry going on between them is melodiously evident.  Though I'm not hearing "Christmas" in the song, I'm certainly hearing "Istanbul".  Turn it up, sit back and let yourself get carried off to a Turkish hookah lounge.  In addition to being one of the best tracks, at 4:16 it's perfect for airplay.      
 
Five tracks into the disc and I was "So Glad" to finally hear Terry singing.  This is another of the solo efforts but in addition to his instrumental magic we now get to hear his magnificent voice as well.   
 
So how does an instrumental be a great sing-a-long as well?  It's easy when the song is a cover of a classic you know every word to.  Lyrics or not, this is one of the more compelling renditions of The Byrds' "You Showed Me" (Mcguin, Clarke) you'll ever hear.  The gripping guitar work on this one is the collaboration of Terry and Doug Smith.
 
The disc's other cover is "Ham Hound Crave" (Rube Lacey).  It's also another solo presentation and the discs other vocal track.  Hearing Terry's singing skills has me curious as to why most of his tracks are instrumentals.  Perhaps, as I discover more of his music - which I intend to do - I'll find that out. 
 
"Late Night Kahl" might just be one of the better acoustic blues instrumentals I've ever heard.  With Dennis Carter providing a soft drum rhythm behind them, the tandem guitar work of Terry Robb and Dave Kahl was mesmerizing.  The blues licks they were laying down were as good as any I've heard on the electric guitar.
 
To learn more about Terry Robb - and take it from me, there is a lot to learn - just go to www.terryrobb.com.  Additionally, more can be found at www.niasounds.com as well.  Once you get there, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



The Joey Gilmore Band

“Respect the Blues”

Mosher St. Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2016


Like a fine wine, Joey Gilmore gets better with age.  At 72 he's sounding as good as he did when he was 36.  That's right, I'm happy to say that Joey and I have been friends for exactly 36 years now.  When I first moved to Florida in 1980, Joey was - and still is - the king of the local blues scene.  As a matter of fact, I saw him one week ago today - just five days after he was released from the hospital - and he was still electrifying the audience as he came down from the stage playing stinging guitar licks while walking amongst them.  
 
If you were to read Joey's bio, you'd see that he's performed with most of the genres legends, past and present.  That said, you can read all that on your own because I'm here to tell you about "Respect the Blues", Joey Gilmore's eighth release. The disc features eleven very soulful and very well done tracks.  Joining Joey Gilmore, on lead & rhythm guitar and lead vocals, are: Robert "High Hat" Carter on bass; Raul Hernandez and Maurice Dukes on drums; Sonny Boy Williams on keyboards; and Ivan Chopik on lead & rhythm guitar.  Guest artists include: Rockin' Jake on harmonica; Drew Preston on lead guitar; Edlene Hart and Domino Johnson on lead vocals; Arlene Coutee on background vocals; and Yoel Hyman on horns.   
 
Being a "Man Of My Word" (D. Walker), when I tell you that on this opening track you're going to hear some of the best gravely voiced, heartfelt and soulful vocals you've ever heard, you can place a bet on it.  This is classic and signature Joey Gilmore.  Musically, the track's a monster as well:  there's Joey killing it on lead guitar; intense rhythm, led by Sonny on the organ; ear opening horn arrangements by Yoel; and it all culminates with Ivan closing it out with a delirious sixty second lead guitar highlight.  Wow!
 
According to Jerry Blum, the disc's executive producer, the writers of "Brownskin Woman" (A. Espre & A. Luandrew) have assured him that Joey's rendition of their song is the first and only time the song has ever been covered.  That, along with the way he's emotionally belting it out, could be a few of the reasons Joey's sounding like he owns this one. Once again the rhythm, with some of the disc's best drum work by Raul, is phenomenal; on his only appearance, Rockin' Jake takes things up a notch with some beautifully done blues harp blowin'.  It's no wonder this song is nominated for "Blues Song Of the Year" at the Independent Music Awards taking place in NYC later this month.   
 
On "This Time I'm Gone For Good" Joey totally turns his attention to making his guitar do his singing while Domino Johnson, with his silky smooth voice, his exquisite range and his ability to endlessly stretch his notes, handily takes on the vocals.   Equally impressive is the quality of Sonny's piano playing.  Another great track.
 
Covering a song made famous by the great Aretha Franklin is not an easy task and making it sound quite good is even harder.  That said, the dynamic vocal duet of Edlene and Joey seriously nailed their version of "Chain Of Fools".  As a matter of fact, the band did as well with another amazing rhythm effort.
 
"The Night Time Is The Right Time" but on the other hand, this is the kind of song I can listen to all day, everyday.  Everyone in the band's on fire and once again, Joey and Edlene - with a whole lot of extra help from Arlene - are absolutely singing their hearts out on this one.  
 
I applaud Jerry Blum's decision to have several other vocalists and several other guitarists accompany Joey on this project.  By himself, Joey Gilmore is already a force to be reckoned with but supplying him with this kind of support took him up another notch.  
 
Now I'm not making any predictions here but I'm willing to bet that Joey Gilmore could move that IBC award over a bit should he need to fit a BMA award on the mantel.  Good luck my friend.
 
To get your hands on a copy of "Respect the Blues", and other releases on Mosher St. Records, just go to www.parklaneprod.com.  Once you do, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



Jason Elmore

“Champagne Velvet”

Underworld Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © October 2016


Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch are a three piece band out of Dallas, Texas.  They consist of: Jason Elmore on vocals, guitar and tequila; Mike Talbot on drums and vodka; and Brandon Katona on bass and jagermeister.  They describe themselves as a high energy trio who's styles of blues include jump, rock, soul, R&B and country, which they feel gives them the flexibility to please any demographic in any venue.  Versatility = Longevity.  
 
Their third release, "Champagne Velvet", features fourteen all original tracks.  The disclaimer written inside the jacket states that "All sounds on the album were made by real people with guitars, bass, drums and vocals.  No digital tricks or nonsense". Just the way I like it.  Also in the liner notes are listening directions and they suggest "In order to dig this record the most, get your head right, kick back, and put the damn thing on loud.  Best of all, strap on some headphones."  Since that's exactly how I listen when I write these reviews, I'm now going to put my seat belt on and get started.
 
Spread the word from New York to L. A. the guys are gonna boogie to the break of day, and on the opening track - "House Rockin' Boogie #7" - they're certainly off to a fast start.  This is smokin', jump blues taken up a notch. 
 
It's probably too late for me, but thanks to Jason's grandmother, I now know how to "Double My Money".  Just like she told him, "you fold it in half and put it back in your pocket".  Similar to my comment above, this is a shuffle - also taken up a notch.  I hear a pattern here that I'm starting to like - things being taken up a notch.
 
While reading the one sheet accompanied with the disc, I saw a reference to the bands earlier releases that, unlike this one, were heavier on the rock side.  That said, "Maybe" I'm listening to one of those rockers right now.  Actually, there's no maybe about it - this is the disc's rocker.        
 
Jason has a "Cross Eyed Woman" and although they get along quite well, they "just don't see eye to eye".....and that's just the start of the cunning comments on this cleverly written, humorous track.  Musically, it's a monster as well.  The guitar and rhythm work are some of best the disc offers.       
 
From what I'm hearing on the title track, "Champagne Velvet", I think the guys need to add Jazz to the list of styles their music is comprised of.  This one's a velvety smooth instrumental featuring a masterful guitar performance from Jason, very deep bass lines by Brandon and sublime snare and brush work from Mike.  I'm no longer in my office because this one took me back some 40 years ago to "Sonny's Place For Jazz" in Seaford, New York.  Wow!  Thanks Jason. 
 
Somewhere between track two and track thirteen, Jason seems to have stopped heeding grandma's financial advice.  All of a sudden he's down on his luck and barely has a buck, his money now just goes from "Green To Gone".  It's the only acoustic track of the bunch and between the fine pickin', soulful down in the Delta vocals, foot stompin' percussion and melodic hand claps, the guys have this thing down pat.  I could take a few more of these, for sure.             
 
To find out more about Jason Elmore and Hoodoo Witch, check them out at www.jasonelmore.net and just search Jason Elmore on Facebook.  Once you find them please tell them that the Blewzzman, on keypad and bourbon, sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



MOJOMAMA

“MojoMama”






By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2016

"Mojomama", the CD, is the third and self titled release from Mojomama, the band.  In 2015, the CD was presented the prestigious "Best Self Produced CD" award by the Colorado Blues Society.  The disc contains eleven all original tracks with a mix of songs influenced by blues, funk, rock and reggae. 
 
Mojomama consists of Jessica Rogalski on vocals, husband Paul Rogalski on bass, Bob Murnaham on guitars and Paul Christiansen on drums.  Additionally, three very special guests on the project include Janiva Magness on vocals, Anne Harris on violin and Tim Davis on keys.
 
Musically, "Eternity" is a most interesting track.  Adding Ann Harris' skillful violin playing to the very cool reggae vibe the rhythm section has going on, makes the song take on quite a captivating sound.  For lack of a better word I guess exotic might be the best way to describe this one.     
 
Before you're halfway through "Tell It Like it Is" you'll be singing along with the chorus line as I'm doing right now....."You've got to tell it, tell it like it is".... This one's a fun, catchy, pop style, top 40, sing-a-long that's all Jessica.  It's easy to tell that she's having as great a time singing the lead and three part harmony vocals as I'm having listening to and singing along with her.  Good stuff.           
 
"Be A Legend" is a song about creating the legacy you'll one day leave behind.  Not only does it make reference to many musical legends but it includes one singing on it as well.  Just as Jessica starts singing about some legendary blues artists, the legendary Janiva Magness joins in and the powerful duo - who each make several switches from lead to backup - turn the song into a vocal smoker.  Although the ladies stole the show on this one, the band's doing a heck of a job driving them on.
 
"Liberation" rocks.  The Pauls - that's Paul R. on the bass and Paul C. on the drums - are fueling the pace with some fiercely funky rhythm; Bob's goin' off on some smokin' guitar riffs and Jessica's in the thick of it with all with some killer lead and back up vocals.  Great one for dancing.    
 
The disc closes with "Night After Night" and when you do slow blues this good, and you do it for seven minutes, you know you've made me a very happy listener.  Not only is it the disc's best song but Jessica and Bob are at disc's best on it as well. Then there's the two and a half minute guitar solo that had me shaking my head in awe.  Bob did on his guitar everything that Jess did with her voice.  From his slow and very soft notes and chords to his blistering blues guitar licks and back, the man is absolutely masterful.  Of course, keeping it all together behind them, Paul R., Paul C. and Tim have the perfect rhythm groove going on.  Monster track!     
 
To learn a lot more about Mojomama, find out their schedule in the Colorado area and purchase some of their music, just go to www.mojomama.net.  As usual, when you do, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



The King Brothers

“Get Up and Shake It”

Club Savoy Entertainment Group




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2016


King.  Has there ever been a surname more synonymous with the blues than that?  Of course not!  Why just telling you a little bit about the many Kings of the genre would take me well over an hour, but since you already know about most of them, let me introduce you to two that you may not yet be that familiar with - they are Lee and Sam King, a.k.a. The King Brothers.  Now should you be wondering about their blood lines, the answer is "Yes"!  They are second cousins of the late and great Freddie King.
 
"Get Up And Shake It", the siblings' third release, consists of ten songs.  Three of those are written by Lee and Sam and the other seven - as "Nothing But The Blues" radio show host Gary "The Wagman" Wagner states - are "Blues standards done King Brothers' style".  The lineup on the project is: Lee King on guitar and lead & background vocals; Sam King on drums and background vocals; Ellis Hall on keyboards; Al Threats on bass; and Michael Fell on harmonica.
 
The first of the original tracks is a jazz influenced instrumental titled "Just Driving Around".  It's a six and a half minute long jam that's an outstanding introduction to the bands musical talents.  There's absolutely nothing flashy about it, and from what I'm hearing, no flash necessary.  It's just four (I believe Michael sat this one out) musical maestros doing their thing.  I've actually played this one four times so far and since I can't type while snapping my fingers, I've been on this paragraph for over 30 (very pleasant) minutes.  As the saying goes, "this's one's worth the price of admission".  
 
As he tells his lady "Everything you do to me is 'Just The Way I Like It"', you can clearly hear the happiness in Lee King's voice.  Sounds to me like he's one lucky guy.  This is another original track and it features Lee being back up with a whole lot of funk.  That said, Sam, Ellis and Al are smokin' it on the drums, keys and bass.
 
On Willie Dixon's "Close To You", I'm now understanding what "The Wagman" meant.  This is a traditional blues song done in a partly traditional, partly contemporary and partly funky way.....a.k.a "The King Brothers way".  Lee's soulful and gritty vocals, Michael's smoking harp leads and the straight up and very tight rhythm that Sam and Al are locked into, are all right out of Chicago; Then there's Ellis, with his wonderfully contrasting piano and organ leads, taking the song elsewhere.  Another great track.
 
The title track is the last of the three originals.  For the dancers, this has to be the bands best song.  It's seven and a half minutes of rapid rhythm guitar licks, fiercely funky bass lines, hard drivin' drum beats, and outrageous organ leads that will surely cause you to "Get Up And Shake It".  Not just a smoker but a three alarmer at that.
 
The disc closes with a cover of cousin Freddie King's "Tore Down".  Having toured with him, the King Brothers have the song down pat and more than did it justice.  As with all the other tracks, the rhythm section is once again a highlight, but it's Lee's straight up, ass kickin' guitar licks that steal this one.
 
To learn more about the King Brothers check out their website...
www.kingbrothersplaytheblues.com. You can also follow the band on Lee King's Facebook page at  www.facebook.com/lee.king.bluesman.  Once you do, please tell him the Blewzzman sent you.  
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Rev. Billy C. Wirtz

Featuring The Nighthawks
“Full Circle”

EllerSoul Records



By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2016


Like the Reverend Billy C. Wirtz, Oscar Levant (1906-1972) was an American pianist, composer, author, comedian and actor.  With that said, they have much more in common than that.  You see, Oscar was the person who proudly proclaimed that "There is a fine line between genius and insanity and I have erased the line".  Now, Billy may not have erased the line but he sure does cross it a lot. 
 
On "Full Circle", Billy's twelfth release and first on EllerSoul Records, the legendary wild man is joined by the legendary Nighthawks as well as several other stars.  The complete ensemble consists of: Reverend Billy on vocals and piano; Bob Driver on guitar and vocals; Steve Riggs on bass and backup vocals; Lil' Ronnie Owens on harmonica and backup vocals; and a bunch of amazing artists you know as the Nighthawks: Mark Wenner on harmonica and backup vocals; Mark Stutso on drums and backup vocals; Johnny Castle on bass and backup vocals; and Paul Bell on guitar and backup vocals.   
 
Living not all that far from Billy, I'm occasionally able to catch some of his live shows.  However, the times I have, those shows have always been solo.  When I heard that the guys at EllerSoul teamed Billy up with this stellar lineup I immediately thought this was genius –or insanity – at work.  Either way, I knew it would be a hell of a good time. 
 
The CD opens with one of Billy's originals, the classic and rockin' "Too Old".  Although what I'm listening to totally contradicts him, Billy seems to think he's "too old to rock and roll but he's just right to sing the blues". Bull Shit, Billy.  With that Jerry Lee thing you've got goin' on piano; the Chuck Berry thing Paul's got goin' on guitar; the way Mark's wailing on harmonica; and some of the rocking-est rhythm these ears have heard coming from Mark S. and Johnny; this is rock 'n' roll at it's very best.   
 
Because his zany antics and hilarious lyrics usually command most of my attention, it's on an instrumental where I get to fully appreciated the maestro that Billy is on the piano.  On "Smokie Part 2", a Bill Black song, the Reverend's sounding as good as any of those players who's names I keep seeing on "piano player" award ballots.
 
So with Johnny Castle co-writing "Rockin' Up To Gloryland", it's quite obvious  Reverend Billy's bizarreness can be contagious.  On this smoker it's Saint Peter putting on his blue suede shoes, Sodom rolling over and telling Gomorrah the news and a whole lot of shaking in the angel band.  This is exactly what you'd expect from this match up....The Nighthawks crankin' out the straight up kick ass blues they're know for and Billy killing it on piano while belting out witty and wacky lyrics.
 
On an absolutely beautiful rendition of Floyd Cramer's "Your Last Goodbye", the insane guy took a break while the genius returned to the stage.  The difference between these two altar egos is staggering.  This instrumental features Mark S. and Johnny laying down a very relaxing rhythm while Billy and Mark create an amazingly enchanting sounds on the piano and harp.  
 
One of the best parts of this song is the story Billy tells about how he came to write it.  There's a waitress in Billy's favorite dinner who always likes to tell Billy stories about her father, who was also in the music business.  Upon seeing her after not having been there in awhile, Billy asked about her father.  Her reply was "Daddy Passed Away" and she continued on to say "then mama turned gay".  Of course, Billy saw this as a neon sign saying: “Write a song, Billy” – which he apparently did.  Enough said, you'll just have to listen for the rest of the story.
 
"Mennonite Surf Party" is another furious and chaotic track.  It's indeed a party song and the guys sound like a choir singing some kind of a drinking song.  On the other hand, the middle third of the song features some of the discs best instrumentals.  Billy, Mark and Paul take turns doing piano, harp and guitar leads that I literally wanted to go on forever.  
 
To get in touch with the Reverend Billy C. Wirtz you can check out his website - www.revbillycwertz.com and just search his name on Facebook. And please, tell 'em that the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



Hard Swimmin' Fish

“True Believer”





By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2016


So here it is, some twenty plus years and five CDs in and I'm just discovering Hard Swimmin' Fish.  If there was ever a time for a WTF, this is it.  That said, better late than never.  
 
Should anyone else need an introduction, Hard Swimmin' Fish are: Demian Lewis on vocals, guitar and banjo; Waverly Milor on vocals and harmonica; Jason Walker on drums and percussion; Randy Ball on upright and electric bass;  and special guest John Sharrer on organ.  "True Believer", their fourth release, contains twelve tracks of which eight were written by the guys. 
 
The thing that most impressed me with this band was the fact that they reminded me so much of... absolutely no one.  How refreshing!  Sure, they have their influences - and they're even mentioned on the one sheet - but musically, they do a good job of not mimicking them. That's originality!
 
Hard Swimmin' Fish didn't take very long to make me a "True Believer", they did it with the original, opening and title track.  The rhythm is rugged, the guitar leads are feisty, the harp leads are spirited and the vocals (Demian) are scrappy.  With those descriptions all being synonymous with this word, gritty is the best way to describe Hard Swimmin' Fish. 
 
Don't let the title of this original, "Five Years Hard Labor", fool you.  It's got nothing at all to do with breaking rocks on a chain gang.  The labor referred to here is a labor of love - in actuality, a lack of it - from the woman Demian spent five, obviously miserable, years with.  Another hard driven track sung and performed with the intensity I'm starting to realize I'll be hearing throughout the whole disc. 
 
This Wolf/Willie cover called "Howlin' For My Darlin'" should be a hint as to who those aforementioned influences may be.  It features Waverly on the vocals and although he and Demian don't look that much alike, with their gritty and grittier vocal styles, they sound like identical twins.  Musically, it's Randy's upright bass and Jason's drum and percussion work that make this one work.
 
"Ooh, That Was Close", isn't a reference to nearly getting hit by a runaway train, but the song's certainly got the energy of one.  With so much musical diversity taking place between the guitar, the banjo, the harmonica and the rhythm & percussion, this is one heck of a genre crossing track.  
 
Another of the disc's straight up blues tracks is a cover of "Need Your Love So Bad".  For several reasons, this was by far my favorite track:  One of those is that with Waverly's powerful and emotional deliverance, along with his broad range and note holding ability, this is the disc's best sung track;  Another is the fact that Demian, also at disc's best, is just killing it with his down and dirty, string bending attack on his guitar; and lastly, but certainly not least, throw in John - with his mesmerizing organ work propelling this already potent rhythm section up a notch and all I can say is "WOW". 
 
To learn more about Hard Swimmin' Fish, as I needed to and happily did, just go to www.hardswimminfish.com and you can also like their FB page at www.facebook.com/hardswimminfish.  Please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



The Incorruptibles

“Leave It At the Door”





By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2016


The Incorruptibles are not a crime fighting task force in Chicago and no one in the band is named Elliot Ness.  What they are is a three piece band out of Milwaukee, WI.  Since "Every picture tells a story" and "A picture is worth a thousand words", then take a quick look at the album cover.  Alrighty then, now you know what to expect.  So put on your dancin' shoes and get ready to shake, rattle and roll.    
 
The Incorruptibles are; Jimmy McCarthy on guitar and vocals; Amy Ashby on upright bass and vocals; and Bill Siebert on drums.  And with a collective 100 years of music experience between them, I'm comfortable with telling you they are indeed a bunch of seasoned veterans.  Joining them are special guests Andrew Spadafora on saxophone and Leroy Deuster on pedal steel.
 
"Leave It At the Door" is the bands debut release and it contains fourteen all original tracks of which eight were penned by Jimmy and the other six by Amy.  Let's go have a listen...
 
The opening and title track is a song about a place most of us will relate to.  It's that place you go to when you just need to de-stress and get away from all of the days BS.  Once you get there you take all that jive and just "Leave It At The Door".  It's a swingin' shuffle that, as with twelve of the tracks, features only Jimmy, Amy and Bill - and quite frankly, that works just fine.  Unlike other trios that all too often lean toward working the word "power" into the mix, these three are smooth.  Outstanding vocals and guitar highlights by Jimmy and something I'll probably mention many more times - lots of smokin' rhythm.     
 
"He's Mine", and Amy sure sounds very happy and quite convincing when she tells you that.  Amongst all the things she likes about him, I think his '55 Chevy is right up there on the list.  With that said, from start to finish, this one will have you putting the pedal to the metal.  
 
Another woman you need to be careful of - and this time it's on the advice of Jimmy - is the one with the face of an angel and the "Devil In Her Eyes".  Speaking of Jimmy, he's rockin' the vocals on this one.  Additionally, this is the only chance you'll get to hear Andrew wail on sax, and now that I'm doing just that I could handle a lot more of him.
 
"Come Hell Or High Water" is a smokin' instrumental and this one could very well be the inspiration for the cover art.   That said, other than the very next track - "Nothin' But The Blues" - featuring Amy belting the hell out of the vocals - not much is different.   If you're not rockin' when these two are on, immediately call a doctor!   
 
The disc closes with a track that's got a very cool Latin beat.  Other than Jimmy and Amy taking turns saying the songs title a few times throughout, it's pretty much an instrumental.  Although it's an interesting piece, it had me somewhat confused - especially at the songs end when the loud sound of someone putting "ten in the pit" on a bowling alley, followed by that familiar sound that a beer being poured into a glass makes, and then an outburst of laughter all takes place.  That's when I looked up the translation of "Estoy Borracho" and then it all seemed to make sense.  Cute!      
 
From the looks of their schedule, it seems to me that The Incorruptibles are pretty much sticking around the WI area.....for now.  Once the word gets out on this talented group, I'm sure that will all change.  You can view that schedule and learn a lot more about the band at  www.theincorruptiblesband.com .  Of course, like you always do, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



Kat Riggins

“Blues Revival”
Bluzpik Media




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © August 2016


The first time I ever saw Kat Riggins perform I was totally blown away.  It was as one of the Seville Sisters, the three piece backup singers for Otis Cadillac and the Eldorados.  I recall thinking that I couldn't remember the last time anyone left as strong a first impression as she did - and no one has since, either.  Immediately after the set ended I walked up to her and said - in these exact words - "You need to get yourself a good agent because young lady, you are a star. Be it as a singer, a model or an actress, you have a bright future ahead of you." Kat Riggins is an incredibly talented, stunningly beautiful woman who's stage presence flat out demands, and gets, attention.  
 
Blues Revival, the band, consists of: Kat Riggins on lead and background vocals; Darrell Raines on guitars, keyboards and background vocals; George Caldwell on bass; Doc Allison on drums; and guest artist Stephen Hooper Lombardelli on sax on the opening track.
 
Blues Revival”, the CD consists of ten outstanding songs, of which eight are Kat's originals.
 
As Kat did way back when, the opening track, "Now I See (Ooh Wee)", is doing exactly what it's supposed to do - make a great first impression.  Kat's vocals are powerful and soulful; Darrell's got me deciding if I like him better as a pianist or guitarist - but it's actually both; George and Doc have already established the fact that there will be lots of smokin' rhythm ahead; and the way he's blowing the hell out of that sax, Stephan has me disappointed that this is the only track he's on.  
 
At their live shows, Kat explains that she wrote this song for Darrell because on it, he gets to "Wail Away" on his guitar... and man he sure does a hell of a job of it.  Lyrically, the song is being sung by a woman watching and listening to the guitar player.  She wants to leave because she doesn't have a lot of money but if he's going to keep playing like that, she'll just stay and start a tab.  You see, she knows his blues are going to touch somebody but she just don't know who they are.  Then, by songs end, she knows just who they are.  Real good stuff right here.
 
Although this song is indeed a cover, let me tell you here and now, Kat Riggins takes Sam Cooke's "Change Is Gonna Come" and makes it her own.  With the band making beautiful music behind her she just takes this one and runs with it.  There's a part in the song where Kat sings about changes in the world that have come that have directly affected her, and those of us who know her know exactly how happy she is for those changes having come.  I can't hear this song without a tear appearing in my eyes, a lump appearing in my throat, then a smile appearing on my face.  By far the best song on the disc and the very best seven minutes I'll have all day.  
 
The other cover track, "Blues Is My Business" has become Kat's signature song.  Simply because the blues IS her business and not only is business good but she's good at the business of blues as well.  As mentioned earlier, George and Doc are again nailing the rhythm and Darrell is still wailing away on guitar.  
 
Now some of you Netflix fans may think that orange is the new black but Kat knows that "Blues Is The New Black".  Musically it's fast, furious and funky and vocally it's sassy as hell.  I know the band had fun with this one and I'm sure the dancers will as well.   
 
Now I know that eventually, you will be hearing a lot more about Kat Riggins and Blues Revival so why not get a head start and be ahead of the game.  You can do that by checking out her website - www.katriggins.com, liking her FB band page by searching Kat Riggins & Blues Revival and friending her on her FB page.  Whichever you do, please tell her that her friend the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 


 



Tracy K

“What's The Rush?”





By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © August 2016


Just about two years ago, while writing about some of her acoustic work, this is a line I used to describe Tracy K...

"This is old school... I'm talking Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee kind of stuff... acoustic blues at its best. Tracy K has certainly done her homework, 'cause she nails this type of stuff - vocally, musically and more importantly, mentally. Her scrappy, scratchy voice, her masterful harp skills and her intensity all excel".

Now she's back with her fourth release - "What's the Rush?" - and although she's added a full band on some of the tracks, none of what I said back then has changed, I've just got more to add.
 
On "What's the Rush?", Tracy - on vocals, guitar and harmonica - is joined by: Jason Nowicki, Terry Barnett and Tony Desmarteau on guitar;  Leonard "Lewsh" Shaw on keys & horns; Vaughan Poyser and Nenad "Keza" Zdjelar on bass; George Demeduk and Ty Rogers on drums; Jamie "Snakeman" Steinhoff on Dobro & acoustic guitar; and Travis Haugen on organ.
 
"What Tomorrow Brings" has quite the interesting sound.  Musically, with Vaughan and George in a tight rhythm groove and Jason nailing the scorching blues guitar leads, it's easily one of the disc’s most traditional blues tracks.  On the other hand, with Tracy adding a bit of twang and sass to a whole bunch of grit and soul, I found myself enjoying the country feel all of that added to the track.
 
Everything may have "Done Gone Wrong" as a result of Tracy writing this song but on it's performance, with everyone peaking, everything's done gone damn good.  In addition to belting the hell out of the blues vocally, Tracy's doing it on the harp as well.  Also pulling double duty is Leonard, who's keyboard and horn work are equally exceptional. Throw in Jason's ferocious guitar leads and the ruthless rhythm of Vaughan and George and now you're listening to the disc’s best track.        
 
"Time Machine" is the second of the discs two acoustic duet tracks.  It's a jazzy number that features Tracy sounding quite skillful at singing a bunch of improvised, meaningless and nonsensical syllables made cool by the famous scat singers of years gone by, and Tony - the songs co-writer - doing a masterful job on acoustic guitar.    
 
The disc closes with it's only cover - a spine tingling, bone chilling, hair raising rendition of Randy Newman's "Guilty".  It features Nenad and Travis creating the heartbeat on the bass and organ and is highlighted by Tracy singing her heart out while Jamie puts on a pristine performance on acoustic guitar.  At nearly six minutes long, the recording was about ten minutes too short for me.  If you're a music teacher and the lesson is about putting your heart, soul and your mind into the song, just stop instructing and play this track.  In addition to a four chair turn, a performance like this would create havoc amongst "The Voice" judges. 
 
An interesting side note about this track is that it starts off with footsteps (apparently walking over to the turntable) and leads into the sound of a needle being dropped onto a record.  Then, as the song begins, and ends, you can actually hear the scratches so commonly associated with that mode of listening.  Tracy explained to me that as a youngster, she actually wore out the needle listening to Bonnie Raitt's version of the song and she just felt right adding it to her version, in tribute to her greatest influence.    
 
To look into getting your hands on a copy of this excellent disc and to find out more about Tracy K, just go to www.tracyk.ca.  And as I always ask you to do, please tell her the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Mick Kolassa

“Taylor Made Blues”

Swingsuit Records



By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © August 2016


"Taylor Made Blues" is Mick Kolassa's third release in as many years and just as he did with his first two, he is donating 100% of the profits it generates to The Hart Fund and Generation Blues - two very worthy programs sponsored by The Blues Foundation. 
 
On "Taylor Made Blues" Mick - on vocals and acoustic guitar - is joined by: Jeff Jensen, the discs producer, on electric and acoustic guitars; Bill Ruffino on bass; James Cunningham on drums and percussion; Chris Stephenson on organ and piano; Colin John on lap steel, resonator and baritone guitars, and baby sitar; Deb Landolt on solo and backing vocals; Eric Hughes on harmonica; Reba Russell and Tullie Brae on backing vocals; Victor Wainwright on piano and Castro Coleman (a.k.a. Mr. Sipp) on guitar.
 
The opening track is titled "Baby Faced Louise" and it's an original that sounded to me like it was about Mick's wife... except her name is Molli.  Then I saw the explanation of the song at Mick's website and it cleared things up...NOT!  As Mick explains it, the song started out being about a fishing fly and ended up becoming a love song about the Mrs.  Alrighty then!  Anyway, it's one of the few tracks that feature Eric on harmonica and that right there makes it worthy of mention. Between him and the rhythm section, there's plenty of smokin' going on. On top of that, Mick's having a good ol' time telling us just how in love he is with that fishin'... I mean that lady of his.
 
The title track, "Taylor Made Blues", is another of Mick's works and it's about his hometown of Taylor, MS.  Everything about this song came together so perfectly.  It's a laid back song, about a laid back town, sung in a soft and relaxing style, with the band in an equally soft and relaxing groove.  Excellent song, performance and production.
 
Very recently, I got to hang out with Mick at the Bradfordville Blues Club in Tallahasee, FL.  While talking to him about this album, I mentioned that I heard a pattern where a few of the songs seemed to be about him getting old.  To that he very mater-of-factly said "I am".  This is the first of those several original songs and as you hear Mick say 'It's tired and "I'm Getting Late"', you kind of know exactly what he means.   Unfortunately, along with the rest of the lyrics, those words are all too relatable.  This one features Victor's only appearance and it's highlight is his one and a half minute N'awlins piano style solo midway through the track.
 
"Left Too Soon" is a song Mick wrote about losing his best friend of forty years.  From the melancholy lyrics and heartfelt vocals, to the deep rhythm and solemn organ, to the mind blowing guitar tirade that Jeff goes on, this track just reeks of the blues.  Being nearly six minutes long, with every second of them drenched in the blues, I'll give this one my ultimate compliment and say that Mick just may have himself a "song of the year' nomination with this one. 
 
"My hurry died" and "My hurry expired" are the other two ways Mick has of telling people "My Hurry Done Broke".  This hilarious track was inspired by a true story in which Mick, while walking with a cane, was poked by someone behind him and told to hurry up.  Mick's acoustic guitar pickin' and Eric's lazy harp give this one a good ol' Delta blues feel.
 
Mick's informed me that he's putting together a tour to promote this CD and from what I just heard, along with having seen him perform a few songs at a recent jam, you just might want to catch his show.  You can get more information on that, as well as finding out a lot more about "Taylor Made Blues", by visiting him at www.mimsmick.com.  When you do, please tell him his buddy the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Robert "Freightrain" Parker

“Freightrain Live”





By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © July 2016


Although "Freightrain Live" is Robert "Freightrain" Parker's debut release, by no means is he the new kid on the block.  Quite the contrary, this seasoned veteran bassist has: toured with Rock Bottom, Sherman Robertson, Paul Reddick, Big Bill Morganfield and more; he's been the go to guy for the likes of Joe Beard, Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne, Mike Morgan and many others while they performed in the Western New York area; and he's appeared on well over a dozen recordings by various artists.  Now he's moved up front and center and doing a damn good job in the spot.
 
For this live performance, the band consists of: Robert on bass and vocals; Grace Lougen on guitar; Greg Leech on organ; and Damone A-Miracale Jackson on drums.  Throughout the show, special guests include: Willie Haddath and Jony James on guitar; Robert's brother, Ken Parker on sax; Jim Bohm on trumpet; and Jeremy Keys on harmonica.  The disc includes eight cover tracks recorded live at The Sportsmen's Tavern in Buffalo, NY and an original, bonus studio track.  Averaging over eight minutes per track, the nine tracks total over seventy-five minutes of pure listening pleasure.
 
The opening track is an instrumental titled "Cannonball Shuffle".  It's a perfect way for the band to introduce themselves to their live, and listening, audience.  It's a basic shuffle, with everyone in a tight groove and being individually highlighted as the lead gets passed around.  And right about now, we're all wanting more.
 
Next up is "Up The Line" and on it we get to hear some lengthy individual skills in action.  With it being quite the funky track, it's a gimme that Robert and Damone are just killing it on the bass and drums.  With that said, it's the middle of the track where the sparks start to really fly.  It begins with Greg cutting loose with over a two minute organ lead that turns into an all out organ/bass/drum orgy.  Then, not to be outdone, Grace cuts loose with her own two plus minute guitar highlight and things just got even hotter.  Super track.
 
When I saw that the credits listed Robert Parker as the writer of this next track I actually contacted him to dispute that fact.  In an email, I expressly said "Robert, I don't believe you were the writer of "Barefootin".  His reply was "You are right, it was written by the other Robert Parker and when I write a song I use Robert C. Parker".  Funny!  Now, about the performance.  It's one of the two tracks that feature both Ken on the sax and Jim on the trumpet and adding those guys to this already monster rhythm section is crazy good.  It's also one of the tracks that features Jeremy blowin' smoke out of the harp and Willie Haddath smokin' it on guitar.  More great stuff. 
 
So, "Live My Life Too Fast" being the last song of the live performance, ya think it rocked?  Of course it did.....for the whole thirteen minutes.  Along with it's usual masterful rhythm - still including the fabulous horns, what I'm hearing from Jeremy on harp has me searching the Internet so I can find out more about this maestro; and now, Jony James has joined the band and is doing tag team leads with Grace on several killer guitar leads.  This had to be one hell of a show and I'm sure that everyone in the audience agreed.  FYI, for those of you who may never have known his real name, this track was written by David York, a.k.a Rock Bottom. 
 
Thinking aloud here, should Robert "Freightrain" Parker take the steps to make this disc eligible for BMA consideration, we could very well see a name we've never seen before on the "Instrumentalist Bass" list. 
 
For more on Robert and the band just go to www.robertfreightrainparker.com.  As usual, please tell him his friend the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



The Jordan Patterson Band

“The Back On Track Recording Project”
Flamingcheese Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © July 2016



While Listening to "The Back On Track Recording Project" by The Jordan Patterson Project, just as the music was arousing my senses, the albums title was doing the same to my curiosity as well.  I couldn't help but wonder that if this was the project that got him back on track, what was it - if anything - that caused him to get off track in the first place?  As it turns out, there is a story line here.
 
With his career on the rise and his first release getting rave reviews from writers at all of the top blues publications, Jordan decided - in the middle of a tour - that he preferred a more stable life versus being on the road and never looked back... until now.
 
Here it is, exactly twenty years since that first release and Jordan Patterson - much to our pleasure - is back on track with the "The Back On Track Recording Project".  The album contains ten, all original tracks of rocking, contemporary blues.   
 
Along with himself, on vocals and harp, The Jordan Paterson Band consists of: Darryl Romphf and Bobby Thompson on guitar and background vocals; Mark McIntyre on bass; and Benjamin Rollo on drums, percussion and background vocals.  Special guests include: Skyler Jordan on background vocals; Darius McKinley on bass; Scott Galloway on keys; and Shawn Kellerman on guitar.
 
The disc opens with "Favourite Boy" and on it the guys came out swinging and never let up.  From start to finish this one rocks.  It's a song about a "toy" his obviously insightful mother got him as a little boy. 
 
Hoping to also get a past relationship 'back on track', Jordan finds himself asking "Can We Fall In Love Again?"  It's a ballad featuring soulfully sung sincere lyrics, harmonious backup vocals, tight rhythm and stinging guitar leads.
 
I won't do it, but if I were to use just two words to tell you why "You're My Girl"  is my favorite song of the lot those two words would be Skyler Jordan.  Her powerful backup vocals – more like a duet on this one – added to Jordan's powerful vocals, totally take the song to a much higher level. With that said, the band – with killer guitar and keyboard leads – is kicking it as well.  I cannot play this disc without replaying this track four or five times.
 
Blues lyrics don't get any more serious than these: "If You'd Help Me Please, I'd be in debt to you for my life.  See, I got myself a bad, bad break and I think I might take my life".  Indeed, "If You'd Help Me Please" is the most serious blues song of the bunch.  It's the closest thing you'll hear to traditional Chicago Blues and on it, Jordan's blowing harp as good as some of the best traditional Chicago Blues harp players.
 
If you'd like to check it out, Jordan Patterson's website is www.jordanpatterson.ca.  That's where you'll be able to find out what he's been doing for the last twenty years and some of the interesting  people he was doing it for.  And don't forget - please tell him the Blewzzman sent yo

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 
 



Sammy Eubanks

“Sugar Me”
Underworld Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © July 2016


Since this is his fifth release, it appears that Sammy Eubanks has managed to fly under the Blewzzman's radar.  With that said, “Sugar Me” impressed me enough to make sure I do try get my hands on the other four. 
 
The album consists of ten tracks that include three originals and seven re-arranged covers.  On it, Sammy Eubanks on vocals and guitar, is joined by: Darren Theriault on bass; Bob Britt and Matt Hauer on guitars; Chris Kimmerer on drums; and Reese Wynans and Scott Saunders on keyboards.
 
On the opening track, one of Sammy's originals, he tells us how - as a young boy - he was influenced by the records he heard his father playing.  Artists like: BB King; Elvis; Johnny; Jerry Lee; Ray Charles; and his father himself, Jesse James Eubanks.  As Sammy says it, "It's All Blues To Me".  The guitar worshippers will love this one.
 
Having experienced most of the sexual revolution as a single man, I thought I pretty much heard - and even used -  some of the craziest pick up lines of all time.  With that said, when it came to walking up to a woman and saying; "You ought to 'Stop That Grinnin', drop some denim, let's get it on";  Sammy, and the late Skeeter Brandon (the songs writer), obviously had bigger balls than I do.  Tell me Sammy, exactly how did that pan out?  Fun, frolicking shuffle with Matt, Chris and Reese killing it on rhythm.
 
"No Excuse For The Blues", is not only one of the discs best blues tracks but it features several performers at discs best as well.  Using some diverse vocal range, Sammy's on top of his game right here; rhythm wise, Chris is killing it on the drums; Reese is showing you why everybody wants him playing piano in their band; and although the guitarists are making no excuse for the blues, they're certainly cranking it out.
 
With country being another one of his favorite music genres, Sammy does a stellar job on Mark Collie's top ten hit, "Born To Love You".  From the songs familiar, sing along lyrics; to the way they're being sung; to the outstanding acoustic picking; to the masterful slide guitar chords; this one is absolutely beautifully done.  
 
Another of Sammy's originals is a track called "I'm Gonna Leave You".  It's a clever track that plays on the "You can't fire me because I quit" and "You can't quit because you're fired" routine.  You see, Sammy's woman is threatening to leave him but the way he sees it, he's leaving her if she doesn't come back... and if he leaves she won't be coming back. My advice?  Get right to the make-up sex and move on.
 
Sammy's website is  www.SammyEubanksLive.com.  Please pay him a visit and as usual, tell him the Blewzzman sent you.  
     
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



Crooked Eye Tommy

“Butterflies & Snakes”
Crooked Eye Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © June 2016


"Butterflies & Snakes" is the debut release from Crooked Eye Tommy.  When I first heard it, right after it's release in August of 2015, had I been a betting man my money would have been on it getting a BMA nomination in the "Best New Artist Debut" category and I was shocked when it didn't.  Since the rules in that category were changed, allowing other than actual debut discs to be eligible, I guess that's become a tough nut to crack. 
 
Crooked Eye Tommy consists of brothers Tommy and Paddy Marsh on guitars and vocals; Glade Rasmussen on bass; Tony Cicero on drums; Jimmy Calire on saxophones, piano & Hammond B3; Bil Bilhou on the Hamond B3; Becca Fuchs and Dan Grimm on backing vocals; and Jesse Siebenberg on steel guitar.  "Butterflies & Snakes" contains eleven tracks of all original Marsh brothers music. 
 
The opening track is the bands namesake, "Crooked Eye Tommy".  It's a partially true and partially embellished story about a medical condition Tommy was born with which became the inspiration for the bands name - Amblyopia - or more commonly, Lazy Eye.  The mythical part of the story tells of the laughter Tommy's condition drew at the hospital when he was born; and the truthful part of the story tells of six year old Tommy having to deal with getting rabies shots for thirty days in a row with that dreaded long needle.  In each case, the moral of those stories is that someday the world will see just what a crooked eye can do.  Excellent, well sung track featuring the brothers on acoustic, electric and slide guitars.
 
"I Stole The Blues" is a confession by Paddy as to how he learned to play the blues - he stole them. The larceny started the first time he heard "Hard Again" - the Muddy Waters album featuring Johnny Winter, Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin and James Cotton and it didn't stop there.  He continued to pilfer from the likes of Albert King, T-Bone Walker, Jerry Garcia and more. The upside to this thievery is that although Tommy stole the blues, he's now ready to give them back, and from what I'm hearing he's doing that in spades. This one features some of the killer guitar leads you'd expect to hear from some of his victims - which we'll call his inspirations; outstanding rhythm from Glade and Tony on the bass and drums; and smokin' tenor saxophone riffs from Jimmy.    
 
"Somebody's Got To Pay" is a modern day protest song. It's about government corruption and big money not only running the country, but ruining it as well. Along with a whole lot of us, the Marsh brothers know that "The way the world is today, somebody's got to pay".  Besides the very true lyrics being very well sung, this one features Jimmy getting in several real keyboard and sax highlights.    
 
Unquestionably, this is my favorite track of the bunch so I'm sure I'll listen to it "Over And Over" again.  The slowly sung, sensuous lyrics are delivered with intensity and emotion beyond compare; the rhythm is soothingly soft; the saxophone roams from a smooth, mood setting backdrop to a sultry, pulse rising lead; the guitar leads are chillingly arousing; and for about the last minute of the song, Becca's titillating background vocals take the song to a Pink Floyd level.  This song of the year caliber track was seven plus minutes of pure blues ecstasy.  
 
Since Paddy didn't confess to stealing from Jimmy Buffett, Duane Allman or Merle Haggard, I may have busted him right here because this one's got a bit of all of them in it.  Growing up on country music and southern rock, Tommy and Paddy have always had a "Southern Heart" and they're doing a heck of a job showing it right here with excellent guitar, slide guitar and vocal harmony. 
 
To find out more about Crooked Eye Tommy, simply go to www.crookedeyetommy.com.  And as usual, please tell them that the Blewzzman sent you.    
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Bill Johnson

“Cold Outside”
Oxborough Music Co.




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © June 2016


Prelude
Back in 2010 we reviewed Bill Johnson's "Still Blue" CD. That same year Bill was awarded a "Blewzzy Award" for "Half the Man". In 2012 that same song appeared on the debut "Keeping The Blues Alive Volume One" CD. In 2015 a song of Bill's titled "Another One" appeared on "Keeping The Blues Alive Volume Seven". Now Bill's back with another dynamite disc and I just can't wait to tell you about it...
 
Review
On "Cold Outside" - his fourth release - Bill Johnson, on guitars and vocals, is joined by: Rick Erickson on bass; Darcy Phillips on piano & organ; Ross Hall on drums; Joby Baker on drums plus song on bass: and David Vest on piano.  The disc contains eleven original tracks that include a well rounded mix of  traditional, swing, rock, funk, soul and roots blues.
 
The disc opens with "Baggage Blues" and as the title seems to indicate, it's about a relationship involving some past hardships.  To his regret, Bill's woman keeps handing him the baggage that someone else has given her... and it's starting to get quite heavy.  Musically, it's one of the more straight up blues tracks.  Rick and Ross are right in the pocket on the rhythm, David's smokin' on the piano and Bill slammin' out some blues on both the guitar and the vocals.  Real great track. 
 
Hit the floor dancers!  As Bill say's "Don't call it jazz, it's my west coast blues.  Ain't no outside notes, like Charlie Parker used".  Yeah, he may be "one buck short of ten" but "Nine Dollar Bill" – and everyone else, for that matter – are killing it on this one.  Relentless from start to finish.       
 
His wife was sick while his mother was dying.  He's at the end of his rope he's nearly finished tryin'.  He couldn't find a job and he was close to hitting bottom.  He tried to call his friends but it seems he hasn't got 'em.  He even called his preacher but the preacher never called him back.  The bank took his house he's bust and he's broken.  He's in desperate need of a soul healer but the only friend he has is a drug dealer.  Nobody really knows you when you're down, it's "Cold Outside".  If any of these, or the rest of the bone chilling lyrics are true - and I happen to sadly know that some are - is it any wonder Bill Johnson sings the blues?  Although there's somewhat of an eerie melody going on behind him, this track's pretty much all Bill.  From the somber and heartfelt delivery of the melancholy lyrics to the intriguing sound of his slide guitar, Bill puts his heart and soul into one hell of a performance on this one. 
 
This song opens with Bill saying "I've got an inclination for the blues and a natural ability to lose".  Now that may be true but the man also has a "Natural Ability" to belt the hell out of the blues as well.  He's at disc's best right here.  His soulful vocals are as convincingly painful as his stinging guitar leads.  Also at disc's best is Darcy.  His seventy second piano and organ intro immediately had me knowing I'd be listening to some amazing blues....and indeed I did.  Here's the Blewzzman's ultimate compliment Bill - not only do I think this song's the one to beat for this year's Blewzzy but it's song of the year material as well.  You nailed this one, my friend.
 
This one's called "Makes A Fella Nervous" but it had this fella rockin & rollin'.  Lyrically it's a song about paranoia and musically its a song about.....well.....paranoia.  Rick, Joby and David are rockin' the rhythm on bass, drums and piano, Bill's rockin' out on guitar and the whole song just screams rock & roll.  Rockin' good job guys.
 
"Driftin' and Driftin'" is easily the most beautiful song of the lot.  It's a love ballad with a fifties and a bit of a country feel, and everything about it is perfect.  The rhythm is totally relaxing, Bill's soft and emotional singing is transcending and his pickin' and strummin' on the National Resonator are flawless and masterful.  At five and a half minutes, it's one of the disc's longer tracks but man I could have handled it being an hour and a half.  
 
Right about now is when you should be going over to www.billjohnsonblues.com.  While you're there, make sure you read his bio.  The guy has played with so many of the genres giants you'll think you're reading the lineup of a month of blues festivals.  And please, don't forget to tell him the Blewzzman sent you.  
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient
                 


 



Billy Hamilton & The Lowriders

“Pay Some Money”
AMI Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © May 2016


During his forty-five years in the business, Billy Hamilton's been around the block his share of times.  As a matter of fact, he's been around the world a bunch of times as well.  After releasing his first three albums in the states, in 2006 Billy packed his bags and headed off on a European tour and he didn't return until 2011.  Now that's one heck of a road trip.  During those five years he wound up touring the European continent twelve times and releasing his fourth album over there as well. 
 
His newest recording, released in March of this year, is titled "Pay Some Money."  The disc contains fourteen tracks and other than just two covers, the rest are all originals.  It features: Billy Hamilton on vocals and harp (plus rhythm guitar on one track); Jeff Long on piano and Hammond organ; Tommy Long on guitar; Don Hacker and Steve Schmitt on bass; Lynn Long on drums and percussion; William Brian Hogg on sax solos; Emily Sierra on baritone, alto and tenor saxes; and Angela Combs on backing vocals.
 
The lyrics on the opening and title track are brutally honest and they go something like this: "Well we don't want to play no benefits, we take all the money that we can get. The old bus needs some gasoline, I ain't got no more guitar strings. You got to 'Pay Some Money' to let me play the blues."  They continue to describe that a big tip jar is nice and so are beers at half price along with selling merchandise.  But the bottom line is that Billy's tired of making do with the same amount of money he made in 1972, so pay him some damn money and let him play the blues.  Amen!  Musically, it's a swingin' shuffle that features hard driving rhythm, smokin' sax and piano leads and very well done lead and harmony vocals.  This is what's called making an impressive first impression.  
 
Seeing a fine-ass thing in a tiny skirt with a silly boy in a white T-Shirt has Billy wondering what ever happened to the "Fancy Man?"  As a matter of fact, heed his advice: "When that boy comes to get you for the high school dance, you better peak out the window and sneak a glance.  Pants falling down and shoes untied, you tap on the glass and wave goodbye".  Another cleverly written track with Billy and Angela nailing the lead and back up vocals and the band laying down a funky dance beat led by the rhythm and percussion from Don and Lynn.                
As the Diamonds said back in 1958...

"Come let's stroll, stroll across the floor. 
Come let's stro-oh-oh-oll, stroll across the floor".


Now that's not how this one goes lyrically but from the opening notes I was wanting to stro-oh-oh-oll, stroll across my floor.  This fifties sounding flashback is actually called "Don't Waste Your Time" and I didn't waste any of my time when it came to hitting replay oh-oh-over and oh-oh-over again.  Amazingly, Don, Lynn and Jeff aren't doing anything fancy on the piano, bass and drums and yet they make "not doing anything fancy" sound so masterful.  Once again - and at the risk of sounding redundant - Billy and Angela are magical together on the vocals.  Side note to Billy - keep her around for the next CD... PLEASE!    
 
They can put you in a school house, a university or a big academy; but you don't know nothing until you pay some dues; You ain't "Never Gonna Learn (Until You Lose)."  Yet, more good advice from Billy.  Until now, I haven't heard much harp blowin' but I'm liking what I'm hearing on this one.  What?  What did you say?  I didn't say anything about the vocals?  Yes, they're nailing them. 
 
"Bad Man's Babies" is the disc's most traditional, slow blues number.  With that said, in addition to Billy belting out the blues on the vocals and the harp, Tommy's kicking ass on some scorching blues guitar licks.  
 
Since he's here singing about it, I'm guessing that the woman Billy's singing about on "Bar Room Gasoline" isn't or wasn't his woman.  Either that or he's a real light sleeper.  You see, it's a song about a woman who gets a bit ornerey.... errrr make that a bit murderous.... once she has a drink or two.  With this smoker being about a raucous woman in a rowdy environment, the bands in the right frame of mind creating a ruckus of their own.
 
This is the part of the review where I give you the bands website -
www.thelowridersband.com - and suggest you head there to find out more about the band, get your hands on some of their music and ask you to tell Billy that the Blewzzman sent you.  With that said, I'm heading there right now myself.  Since this was my first Billy Hamilton & The Lowriders CD, I want their others as well. 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



L.C. Williams and The Driver

“In Another Bar”
Self Released




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © May 2016


L. C. Williams and The Driver are a four piece blues band from Maine who now spend a good share of time in Florida.  "Snowbirds", as us Floridians would say. They consist of L. C. Williams on harp and vocals, with the members of The Driver being: Trent Souder on guitars and vocals; Ben-jamin Sudano on bass; and Jim Mackey on drums.  Any "Maine-iacs" reading this may remember that back in the day, the band started out as The Blood Orange Martinis... Sure, I'll have one.
 
The bands' debut album is titled "In Another Bar", and at a fast glance of the CD cover, those of us familiar with Beale Street in Memphis can probably name a dozen of those bars.  The disc features twelve tracks of which eleven are originals penned by Trent Souder and Lauren Williams. 
 
"Let's Ride" sounds like something Lauren might say to The Driver to kick off the song, but it's also the title of the disc's opening track.  BTW, if it was indeed a command, the band delivered.  The rhythm's hard driven, the guitar leads sizzle and Lauren is firing from both barrels with her blazing harp and powerful vocals.
 
Unlike above, "Stop For A While" is not something the band's being told.  On this one, the pace switches gears to a slower groove and the vocals switch over to Trent and a deeper sound.  Being a more traditional style song, it includes killer blues guitar licks and smokin' harp leads.
 
"Missing Lester" is an intense instrumental with everyone right on the musical mark.  Besides killing it on the bass and drums, the mix on this one is so good that it sounds like Ben and Jim are right here in the room with me; saying Trent's dazzling on the guitar is a gross understatement; and from what Lauren's blowing through the harp, I'm thinking this is what harmonica maestro and instructor Adam Gussow may have been listening to when he claimed that "L. C. Williams has the best tone of any female harp player I've ever heard".  This one's the disc's replay special - I'm on number six right now.
 
With this next track I could easily tell you it's name and be able to forego any further commentary.  Although I won't, I will keep it short and sweet and you'll get the point.  Whammer Jammer had a baby and they named it "Harp Thing".  End of story! 
 
"Paradise" is another dynamite track.  It's a five and a half minute track that's kind of broken down into several different parts.  The first portion is all Lauren blowin' the hell out of the harp, and with the band in a killer groove behind her, I was actually hoping the song was an instrumental.  Then she starts singing and all of a sudden, with all of her style changes and vocal range, I was now happy it wasn't.  The next portion is all Trent.  With the rhythm guys having never left the pocket, he unleashes a lengthy assault on his ax which I also never wanted to end - that is until Lauren started belting it out once again and ultimately closing with a second harp attack.  Wow!

Although I'm not familiar with the blues scene up in Maine, I do know that it's thriving in Florida.  With that said and from what I just heard, L. C. Williams and The Driver will soon be right in the thick of it.
 
To learn more about the band, their website is the place to go: www.lcwilliamsandthedriver.com.  As usual you'll tell them it was the Blewzzman who sent you.  

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Guy King

“Truth”
Delmark Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2016


Prelude
For months, David Ritz sat in the upstairs office of Legends working with Buddy Guy on his autobiography – all while one bluesman or another played downstairs.  One night, in the middle of a conversation, Buddy cut David off and said "There's someone playing I want you to hear".  When asked "Who?", Buddy replied with "A cat from Israel.  He's got all Albert King’s licks down with licks of his own as well. Man, you gotta hear him, his name is Guy King". After going down and watching him bring down the house, Buddy turned to David and said "Told you so". 
 
Review 
Since 2009, "Truth" is Guy Kings fourth release.  Spanning nearly eighty minutes, the album contains fifteen songs of which four are originals - with three of those co-written by David Ritz.  The music is indeed blues but don't let Buddy's Albert King reference point you too far in that direction.  The songs are a mix of soul, pop, jazz and of course some good ol' straight up styles of blues. 
 
Joining Guy King, on vocals and guitar are: Amr Marcin Fahmy on Rhodes & B3 organ; Jake Vinsel on bass; George Fludas on drums; Marques Carroll on trumpet; Christopher Neal on tenor sax; Brent Griffin Jr. on baritone sax; with Sarah Marie Young, Kiara Shackleford and Jihan Murray-Smith on background vocals.
 
"My Happiness" (G. King, D. Ritz) is a wonderfully done vocal duet between Guy and Sarah Marie Young.  If there was ever a more hybrid presentation of a song, I've not heard it.  The vocals have a pop vibe, the instrumentation has a jazz standard feel and it's sung like something you'd hear at a theatrical performance. I could listen to a dozen more like this, Guy...hint...hint...hint!   
 
"It's About The Dollar Bill", is a similar but more soulful style number.  Guy - with his smooth, cool singing style and amazing range - is once again impressive on the lead vocals.  Then in come the ladies on the melodic background vocals and it all goes up another notch.  In the meantime, with some excellent guitar leads, tight rhythm and fiery horns, the band's creating some magic as well.  
 
First thing in the morning and the blues are on your tail.....thus starts "A Day In The Life With The Blues" (G. King, D. Ritz).  This one's about as upright as straight up blues can get.  As a matter of fact, I'm thinking it's even money that this may have been the song that sent Buddy and David bolting from the office down to the stage.  Slow and passionate vocals; scorching blues guitar licks; piercing trumpet notes, sultry sax chords; and a steady, relaxed rhythm; sounds to me like the ingredients to a perfect blues song.  It was!   
 
Sandwiched in between Guy and the ladies opening and closing the track with their amazing lead and harmony backup up vocals, it's the band that are "Cooking In Style" on this one.  That's where an amazing two and a half minute instrumental takes place that I'll put up against any jazz ensemble.  Jake and George are nailing it on the bass and drums; Marques' trumpet leads are jolting; Amr is electrifying on piano; and Guy's got his own guitar concerto going on.  After replays, this phenomenal four minute track turned into a phenomenal forty minutes of pleasure for this listener.  
 
When Guy King says "I Got A Right to Sing The Blues", it won't take  more than to listen to him sing this one to make you a believer.  
 
One of Guy's most impressive vocal performances is on a track titled "There Must Be A Better World Somewhere".  It opens with the band softly playing behind him as he boldly, confidently, soulfully and articulately belts the hell out the vocals.  It was reminiscent of the way a younger B. B. would send chills through your body as he stood there shouting out the blues.  It probably wasn't a coincidence that his guitar work was reminiscent of that other King as well.  Wow!
 
As amazing as the vocals have been throughout the disc, the instrumentation has been as well.  With that said, this is the perfect time to mention "King Thing", an instrumental.  Although there's nothing "basic" about it, it's basically Guy and the guys doing what they've done all disc long - make absolutely wonderful music.  It's a swinging shuffle where Guy could arguably be at disc's best on guitar.
 
Other tracks on this must hear album include: "The Same Thing That Can Make You Laugh (Can Make You Cry)", "Truth", "See Saw", "Hey Now", "Bad Case Of Love", "Something's Wrong", "If the Washing Don't Get You (The Rinsing Will)" and "One Hundred Ways".
 
If, like me, you've been unfamiliar with Guy King, then you need to hurry over to www.guyking.net and change that.  When you go, please tell him his newest big fan the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Val Starr

“Woman on a Mission”
Sandwich Factory Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2016


From way back when I was a kid listening to my dad play his Ella, Dinah, Sarah, Nina and Billie records, right up through my current involvement with the National Women In Blues organization, I have always been an avid fan of the ladies of song.  And with so many excellent female blues artists out there, that list of ladies continues to grow.  With that said, having recently discovered Val Starr, I'd like to officially welcome her to that list.
 
On their third release - "Woman On A Mission" - Val Starr and the Blues Rocket consist of Val Starr on vocals and rhythm guitar; John Ellis on bass and backup vocals; Frankie Soul on lead guitar; and Pat Farman on drums.  Special Guests on the project include: Guyle Tabor and Rick Meyer on drums; Marty Deradoorian on sax; Todd Morgan on Keys, electric piano and organ; and Horacio Socarras on congas.  The CD contain's twelve all original songs (plus a bonus Christmas song) that encompass a wide range of blues styles.
 
Reasons for having the blues are generally gender-less.  Your lover leaving you; money; whiskey; gambling; and even stormy weather, are common causes for the blues that affect men and women alike.  But there is a reason for having the blues where the ladies seem to have cornered the market.  I'll let Val explain... Listen up ladies to the story I tell, all about the night I was in high heel hell.  They sure look pretty, yes they do, but everyone of you has had the "Bad Shoes Blues".  The rest of the clever and painfully truthful lyrics easily fall under the "you've got to suffer if you want to sing the blues" umbrella. Musically is a smoker.  John and Paul are tighter on the rhythm than those shoes Val’s complaining about and Frankie's killing it on the blues guitar leads. 
 
Having just mentioned whiskey as an inducer of the blues, this next song - "The Boozin' Blues" - makes for a perfect segue.  With the Blues Rocket doing pretty much the same thing musically - blasting the hell out of the blues - it's Val's convincingly painful and range roving vocals that highlight this one. 
 
On the title track, Val's a "Woman On A Mission"; and with that mission being to rock you tonight, this is just the song to do it.  Trust me - it had me rockin'.  From start to finish, John -  who's at discs best on the bass - and Guyle on the drums, are absolutely relentless on the rhythm.  That, along with Val - who's got her motor running on vocals - will definitely complete the mission.  
 
Since you're already up and rockin', don't sit down just yet.  If that last one didn't kick your ass, then "My Baby" will.  This one's an all out, no holds barred, roof raiser.  With Frankie flat out destroying it on guitar, along with Todd fanning that fire with some crazy organ chords, this one's not for the faint of heart.
 
Would you like to hear a song with some great lead and backup vocal harmony and a catchy chorus line (Val & John); smooth, toe tappin' rhythm (John & Paul); dynamite piano playing (Todd); and several hot guitar leads (Frankie)?  Then just pop in the disc and go straight to track six.  Yep, "It's As Easy As That".   
 
It's probably because of my belief that adding a saxophone or a piano to an already good blues band makes the band even better that "The Blues Is Not A Color" is my favorite track - it has both.  With that said, Marty and Todd - who are kicking it on the sax and piano - are a welcomed addition to an already very talented bunch.  Vocally, Val's got this very cool stuttering effect going on as she's belting out the bababababalues. 
 
For more on this dynamic, contemporary blues artist just go to www.valstarrandthebluesrocket.com or like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Val-Starr-and-the-Blues-Rocket-278412808856955/timeline.  Once you do, please tell her the Blewzzman sent you. 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Shaun Murphy

“It Won't Stop Raining”
Vision Wall Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2016


"It Wont Stop Raining" is Shaun Murphy's latest release and although Shaun's boundaries have been without borders when it comes to genres, this one is all about the blues.  It's a collection of eleven songs that include a handful of covers and a handful of previously unrecorded tracks written by current band members and members of a band the disc's producer - T C Davis - was once a part of.  Although Shaun didn't have a hand in penning the songs, she performed them like she owned them. She knows no other way.

Joining Shaun, on the vocals, are: Tom DelRossi on drums; John Marcus on bass; Kenne Cramer & Shawn Starski on guitar; and Larry Van Loon & John Wallum on keys.

The disc opens with a smoking shuffle called "Spreadin' The News" (Al Jacquez).  With everyone nailing it, there couldn't have been a better way to kick things off.  Tom and John M. are so on the rhythm that I'm expecting I'll be hearing a lot more like this from them, Kenne and Larry have the guitar and keyboards on fire and Shaun - who's range roaming in sometimes smooth then sometimes scratchy styles - is belting the hell out of it vocally.  Oh yeah!

"Running Out Of Time" (Corky Newman) totally rocks and that's got a lot to do with the feverish beat Tom's laying down on the drums, the ferocious guitar licks Shawn's putting out and Shaun's intensely powerful vocal delivery.  Damn, can she hold those notes!

You may own the moon and stars or your own money tree, you're still gonna pay with pain and scars 'cause nobody rides for free. Everybody "Pays The Price Of Love" (S. Starski, K. Cramer).  Sadly realistic lyrics beautifully song by Shaun with Tom and John W. providing the pulse on drums and organ.

The answer to this question - "Hey Baby (Don't You Remember Me)" (T. Szell, M. Osborn) would probably be "No" - even if it's a lie. Leaving a woman with a mortgage and four hungry mouths to feed is something every loser would surely want to try to forget.  Fiery rhythm and fiery guitar leads by Kenne are quite the accompaniments for Shaun's fiery vocals. Sounds like she's ready to kick this losers ass...and rightfully so.

This one's called "That's How A Woman Loves" (EG Kight) and this is how a tender ballad like this is supposed to be sung.  I may have said this in one of my reviews of another of Shaun's releases, but heck, it's worth repeating - I'd love to hear a complete album from Shaun featuring nothing but slow, bluesy, love and/or torch songs.  This is as good as it gets.

It took exactly the first three seconds of the song and the first three notes on Kenne's guitar to have me thinking I was about to hear what could be my favorite song of the bunch - and I was right.  Slow blues with a few scorching guitar leads, precision rhythm and powerful, soulful, emotional vocals. There's no questioning Shaun's sincerity as she pleads "I Need Your Love So Bad". This is how you play and sing the blues.

To get your hands on a copy of "It Wont Stop Raining", find out where she's playing, read her storied bio and tell her that her friend the Blewzzman is once again raving about her, visit Shaun Murphy at www.shaunmurphyband.com.   The album is also available on iTunes and Amazon.   

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Shari Puorto

“My Obsession”
Little Lightning Productions




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2016


Shari Puorto's fourth release is titled "My Obsession", and it doesn't take more than a quick peek at the jacket's photos of her very fashionable and flamboyant accessories - especially the one on the disc itself - to know what that obsession is.
 
Along with Shari, on lead and background vocals, the album features some monster music makers: Tony Braunagel, the projects producer, on drums; Johnny Lee Schell on lead & rhythm guitars, bass & background vocals; Jimmy Vivino on lead guitar; Steve Fischer on lead & slide guitar; Johnny Hawthorne on guitars and lap steel; Mike Finnigan on B3 organ, piano & background vocals; Barry Goldberg and Jim Pugh, also on piano; Bob Glaub on bass; Raymon Yslas on percussion; Darrell Leonard and Joe Sublett on horns; and Kenna Ramsey and Julie Delgado on background vocals.    
 
The recording contains eleven original songs co-written by Shari and a cover of one of the most beautiful songs ever written - "When A Man Loves A Woman". 
 
Seven rooms of misery, seven rooms of gloom; a room painted black with a feeling made of doom; the devil joins her as she opens the door and there's a black cat moving across the floor......and it gets worse.  Welcome to the "Home Of The Blues".  From start to finish, the pace is frantic.  Shari's belting the hell out of the eerie lyrics, Tony and Bob have an intense rhythm thing happening and Mike and Steve are creating a riveting, spooky effect on the organ and slide guitar.  That's okay Shari, I don't need the address.
 
The word sobriety is generally associated with an addiction, and most commonly those addictions are to alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex.  With that said, when Shari boasts of being "Six Months Sober", it's a man she's no longer addicted to.  And from the tone of her energetic and confident vocals, it's obvious that kicking this bad habit is having a positive effect.  Once again, the rhythm is powerful and Mike, Bob and Johnny are killing it on the organ, piano and guitar. 
 
"My Obsession" starts out soft and slow as Shari seductively tells us that the way to her heart is basically through her feet.  If you want to be with her and never lose all ya gotta do is buy her a pair of shoes.  Then the pace picks up and as the band's rockin' out behind her, Shari points out that her obsession is possession.....of every pair.  She even wants the one's she'll probably never wear.  BTW guys, should you want to give her a pair at her next show, she's a size seven.  
 
This one's about a place from Shari's past, where everything moved so slow and life was so much simpler.  Like all of us who have a similar place, the sincerity and emotion in Shari's voice makes it quite evident she dearly misses "Old Silo Road".   I absolutely loved this beautifully written and beautifully sung song.
 
When you're "Working The Room" you'd better be on top of your game and on this one, that's exactly where Shari and the whole band are.  Johnny Lee and Tony are bangin' it on bass and drums, Johnny and Barry are smokin' it on guitar, the background singers are kickin' it and Shari is - in her own words - "in heaven 'cause I'm working the room".
 
Although Percy Sledge set the bar quite high with his version of "When A Man Loves A Woman", there have been a handful of others who have nailed it as well and Shari Puorto is now a part of that group.  I could listen to her sing this one all night long.  As a matter of fact, between the intensity in her vocals here and the emotion in them on "Old Silo Road" this listener would welcome a full disc of these type songs.  Musically, Mike's B3, Jim's electric piano and the horns of Darrell and Joe are all spectacular.
 
Other tracks on the album include: "It's A Damn Shame", "Sugar Daddy", "Better Left Unsaid", "What's The Matter With The World?", "All About You" and "Turned To Stone".
 
To learn more about Shari, find out where her next gigs are taking place (remember, size 7) and look into getting your hands on a copy of "My Obsession", just go to www.bluesrockmusic.com.  While you're there, please tell her the Blewzzman sent you.  

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



Tony Torres

“A Real Gone Time”
Dave Costarella & Company




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2016


Having been a sideman for decades, Tony Torres decided it was time to go front and center with his own band and, on his debut release - “A Real Gone Time” - he actually did it twice (I'll explain that soon).
 
"A Real Gone Time" contains sixteen tracks of which thirteen are originals of Tony's or collaborations with Dave Costarella, the albums producer.  Ten of the songs are performed by Tony Torres and Real Gone - his touring rhythm section.  This trio includes; Tony on guitar and vocals; Steve Shenberger on bass; and Tom Webb on drums.  The remaining songs are performed with a different rhythm section and these "three cats" call themselves Tres Gatos.  They are: Tony on guitar and vocals; Jonathan Godinez on bass; and David Santana on drums.
 
One of the disc's three covers is the classic J. Geils smoker, "Whammer Jammer".  Now when I think "Whammer Jammer", I think phenomenally bad ass harmonica blowin'.  On the other hand, I think Tony's take on that might just be "Harmonica?  What harmonica?"  On his version, blistering, bad ass guitar playing will just have to do.  And it does.  Excellent take!
 
So the Latin beat on this one transforms this sexy, sultry "Surf Queen" from the beaches of Southern California to the Mexican Riviera where she's probably spending more time flamenco dancing in the sand than hangin' ten on the board.  Great vocals, guitar, rhythm and percussion highlight this one. 
 
"5 O'clock Blues", with it's "Smokestack Lightening" style groove, is one of the more roots type blues tracks.  With Steve and Tom in a mellowed down groove behind him, Tony, with a deep and scratchy vocal delivery, is sounding like a seasoned down home blues man. 
 
So Rowdy Yates joins the Ventures and together they walk, don't run, to re-record the theme from Rawhide.  But along the way they decide to change the name of the song to "Cowboy Surfer" and totally make it their own.  I loved this instrumental so much I must have listened to it at least a dozen times.  Great job, guys!         
 
Another one by the three cats is an instrumental version of Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon In The Sky" and it's totally on the other end of the spectrum from the way they just rocked the last one.  It's four magical minutes of beautiful and masterful music.  It's not like anything else on the disc but it's certainly one of the best on the disc. 
 
For a real good time, you need to get your hands on a copy of "A Real Gone Time" and you can do that by going to www.cdbaby.com.  Of course, to learn more about Tony himself just go to www.tonytorres.com. While you're there, as usual, you'll tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



The Truth featuring Cat Rhodes

“Knee Deep In The Blues”





By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2016


Remember Denise LaSalle's attitude as she belted out lines like "your husband's cheating on us" and "you can have my husband but don't mess with my man"?  Remember the fierce energy Tina Turner generated as she wailed "rollin', rollin'....rollin' on the river" during her wild renditions of "Proud Mary"?  How about those famous growls you'd hear on just about every Koko Taylor song?  Well if you can relate to all of those vocal characteristics, you now have a good idea of what you might expect to hear while listening to Cat Rhodes. 
 
 "Knee Deep In The Blues" - the second album from The Truth, featuring Cat Rhodes - contains nine original tracks on which you'll hear some blues, some funk, some R&B and a whole lot of soul.  The band consists of Cat Rhodes on lead vocals, Bob Erickson on guitars & vocals, Jojo Morris on bass & vocals, and his brother Bryan Morris on drums & vocals.  Joining them is special guest Avery Green on harmonica. 
 
The title track describes a situation Cat finds herself in as a result of a bad relationship - "Knee Deep In The Blues".  It's a slow, soulfully sung track with tight, laid back rhythm and several excellent guitar leads.
 
The smoke you're hearing on "Coat And Hat" is a result of the two alarm fire the rhythm section's got going on.  The brothers Morris - Jojo on bass and Bryan on drums - are unquestionably at discs best right here.  Now that I'm further into the track, so is Avery - the flames erupting out of his harp just made it a three alarmer.  Of course, vocally it's a monster Cat(egory 5).         
 
"Moan", is pretty much all Bob.  With Jojo and Bryan laying down a smooth rhythm behind him his guitar work and deep, raspy vocals - a nice contrast to Cat's - are both highlighted here. 
 
"Should Have Known Better" is the discs most straight up blues number, and that always makes it a highlight for me.  And showcasing some crazy vocal range, it also features some of Cat's best vocal work.  Ditto for Bob on the guitar, who's cranking out some real deal blues licks.  Real good stuff right here.   
 
On this track, Cat shows us what an understanding and cooperative woman she is.  Normally, a man who drinks too much wine would catch hell from his lady, right?  But you see, Cat's not like that.  As she tells it, she has a "Wine Headed Baby" who drinks wine all the time.  He goes down to the corner store and buys his wine by the pint, but she tells him to buy it by the gallon so he won't have to go all the time.  Very humorous lyrics accompanied by Bob doing a heck of a job pickin' and slidin' on acoustic guitar and Avery blowin' some good blues on the harp.     

Now, if some of you are thinking you recognize the names Cat Rhodes and Bryan Morris, think Kenny Neal.  Bryan was part of the Neal Family band for many years and Cat toured as a guest with the band for three of those years.  As a matter of fact, if you were on the 2012 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise - and I was - you probably saw this...
KBSOUL and the Kenny Neal Band on Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise Jan 2012.
 
For more on the band, just go to www.catandthetruth.com.  When you do, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 

 



Mac Arnold & Plate Full o' Blues

“Give It Away”
Plantation #1 Productions




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2016


Although "Give It Away" is his first release in five years, by no means has Mac Arnold been resting on his laurels.  And knowing him as I do, I'd be willing to bet that won't ever happen.  Between writing music, touring and recording with the band, putting on his annual Cornbread and Collard Greens Blues Festival, owning and operating an organic farm and being the proprietor of Dr. Mac Arnold's Blues Restaurant, Mac - who seems to have discovered the fountain of youth - is having the time of his life.  I gotta get me some of those collard greens. 
 
Mac Arnold and Plate Full O' Blues include: Mac Arnold - of course - on bass guitar, vocals & gas can guitar; Austin Brasher on guitars & vocals; Max Hightower on harmonica, keyboard, vocals & bass guitar; and Scotty Hawkins on drums & percussion.  Of the albums thirteen tracks, eleven are various band member originals.
 
The disc opens with a song Mac wrote about an earlier time in his career, when he spent most of his life on the road.  It's titled "Nickel and Dime" - and because of dealing with some unscrupulous shysters back then, Mac unfortunately had neither.  The sincerity spoken through Mac's scratchy vocals is evidence that these blues were truly lived. Musically, Austin and Max sound great on several guitar and piano leads.      
 
"I ain't tryin' to put other music down, but if it wasn't for the blues it would not be around.  You may think I'm talkin' silly, but the blues is the real "Nitty Gritty" (Max).  Well Said Mac!  This is a fun (and Mac's having a lot of it himself) up tempo rocker that pays tribute to some of the genres legends and the thieves that stole their music.
 
"I need you like a drunk needs whisky" may not be one of the more traditional love lines but it does make a point.  Especially since when Max wrote "How I Need You", it wasn't just about someone you love but someone you're also addicted to.  Musically, it appears to be a duet with Mac and Scotty performing magic on the gas can guitar and the percussion while Mac sings his heart out.  
 
It's interesting the way it came about that Mac would do a version of a Brook Benton song made popular by Bobby "Blue" Bland.  While hanging out at the Blues Music Awards, Mac told Bobby he wanted to do one of his songs.  Never being quite satisfied with the way he did it himself, Bobby urged Mac to do - "I'll Take Care Of You".  Now although I have to disagree with Bobby (yes, I just went and listened to his version on the "Two Steps from The Blues" CD), Mac does nail it.  Anyone having never heard the song before would be hard pressed to believe that Mac didn't write it for - and is singing it to - someone in his life.  Right here is where the term "making it your own" comes into play.  Musically, the song gets it's heartbeat from Mac's precision pickin' on the gas can guitar and Max's masterful organ chords.  Since it's been some forty-something years since Bobby did it, this listener is happy to have heard this beautiful love song once again beautifully done.  Thank you, Mac!       
 
Speaking of some precision pickin', Austin's doing some of his own on a track he wrote called "Memories".  It's a duet with him on acoustic guitar and vocals and Max on harmonica.  As I was with Max, I'm equally impressed with Austin's powerful and compelling vocals as well.  With the vibe I'm feeling from this one, I'm thinking if Austin can get the song in the right country singers hands he'll have himself a hit.
 
Since I'm done here, you should now be heading to www.macarnold.com.  That's where you'll be able to find out a whole lot more about the band, pick up some of their music and of course, tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Darryl Ellyson

“It's Such a Shame”
Ellysong Publishing




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2016


After close to forty years as a singer, songwriter and performer, the time was right for Darryl Ellyson to release his debut CD.  The disc is titled “It's Such A Shame”, and as you'd expect from an artist who over the last six years has received several awards for his songwriting - including a "Songwriter of the Year" nod - all twelve of the tracks are original music.
 
With the exception of several featured players on a handful of the songs, all of the music pretty much comes from Darryl and Bill Roberts, of whom Darryl had this to say: "Bill plays all instruments and without him, all my songs would still be acoustic songs I'd only play at solo gigs". 
 
The complete list of credits is: Darryl Ellyson on vocals, rhythm & acoustic guitar and percussion; Bill Roberts - the albums producer - on lead & acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards; Todd Ellsworth on bass; Carlos Chafin on drums and keyboards; Kip Williams on drums and percussion; and Ronnie Owens on harmonica.
 
Although it was repeated seven times, and nicely stretched out on a few of them, it took exactly one word of the opening track for Darryl to impress me with his vocals.  The song is titled "Caused My Heart To Bleed" and Darryl's emotionally soulful vocal style is perfectly suited for the song’s melancholy lyrics.  Musically, Carlos and Bill are nailing the rhythm on the drums and organ and Ronnie's blowin' some serious blues through that harp. Great first impression. 
 
Combined with the opener, this next track created an interesting segue.  You see, one of the things that caused Darryl's heart to bleed was waking up one morning and finding his lady had not come home.  Seeing the apparent silver lining in that cloud, on "My First Day (Without You)"  he's now sounding happy and planning to paint the town.  Nice recovery, Darryl!  This is one of the tracks that - due to Bill's amazing and versatile musical talents - is a duet with a full band effect.
 
One of my favorite vocalists of all time is Darrell Nulisch and on "Take It Back", this Darryl is sounding as good as that Darrell. It's interesting how similar their smooth, soulful swagger is.  And then there's Bill.  He's not only killing it on rhythm but he's tearing it up on lead guitar as well.  Unreal!
 
One of the disc's several acoustic tracks is a beautifully sung ballad titled "Love Refugees". After hearing the sad and sullen, then happy and cocky styles of his vocals on previous tracks, this one features his heartfelt, tender style. On it, Darryl and Bill both put on masterful performances on the acoustic guitar. 
 
"I'm So Worried" is one of Darryl's award winning songs.  In 2015 it took best song honors in the Mid-Atlantic Songwriting contest.  Hearing him sing these songs the way he does it's no wonder that anything you read about him includes praises of his vocal and writing talents.  As with the vocals, Bills rhythm and Carlos piano playing is also silky smooth.            
 
When perfection happens, just go with it.  "I Don't Know", which was recorded live in one take, closes out the disc as impressively as it opened.  It's another acoustic track featuring Darryl on vocals and guitar, Ronnie on harmonica, Kip on drums and Todd on standup bass.  From what I just heard I'm suggesting this quartet just pack up the van and go on tour. 
 
In place of a website, Darryl Ellyson uses Darryl Ellyson | ReverbNation but should you want to contact him it's probably best to do so by liking his Facebook Page.  As usual, please tell him the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



TIME GAP

“Flashback”
Time Gap Music




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2016


Time Gap is a four piece teenage blues band who recently represented the Philadelphia, PA area in the Youth Showcase at the International Blues Challenge.  The group includes: seventeen year old band leader and guitarist, Radka Kasparcova; fifteen year old vocalist, Sophie Griffiths; seventeen year old bassist, Miles Burger; and seventeen year old drummer, Noah Bryant.  Their debut release is a seven song EP titled "Flashback", and in the words of Radka; "all of the songs are originals, composed by the group as a whole, filled with passion and ambition".  Well said, young lady!
 
Taking into consideration that collectively these four talented musicians just about add up to the average age of the baby boomers who make up a large portion of the blues community they'll appeal to, it's way too early to tell what may be in store for them in their musical futures. But with that said, if Time Gap sticks to this genre they already seem to have down pat, the blues won't only be in good hands it will have an opportunity to reach the younger audience it needs to survive. 
 
Making a very good first impression is a shuffle titled "So Many People".  As I'm listening I'm thinking I could make a very good argument that I'm not listening to a bunch of seventeen year olds but rather a bunch of seasoned veterans.  Miles and Noah are a natural on rhythm, Radka's graceful on the rhythm guitar and stinging on the leads and Sophie is melodically belting out the vocals.  Excellent job!
 
In a note to me stating that "Rain On My Parade" was one of her personal favorites, Radka uses the words "upbeat and lively" in her the description of the track.  That, my dear, is a bit of an understatement 'cause this one is an all out, full throttle, smoker.  Miles and Noah are deliriously wreaking havoc on the bass and drums, Radka's literally trying to break strings and Sophie's singing as hard and fast as all of that.....and it all sounds crazy good.
 
"New and True" is a testament to Time Gap's versatility.  It's a soulful ballad on which Sophie showcases tremendous range and intensely emotional vocal skills while Radka mesmerizes with a guitar solo as good as ________ (fill in your favorite guitarist).  Wow!
 
"Two Way Street" is all about the ladies.  It's an acoustic track on which Radka's pickin' and strummin' and Sophie's sassy vocals perfectly compliment each other.  Since just over three minutes of this perfection didn't cut it for me, several replays were in order here.
 
There are several segments on "THURSDAY" where the rhythm is so profound I felt a need to stress the title of the song and go as far as to say it could have just as well been called "THUMPDAY".  The gals are doing their usual excellent stuff but Miles and Noah pretty much steal the show right here.  Right about now I'm wanting to once again address that argument I referred to earlier.

To learn more about Time Gap just go to www.radkamusic.com and like them on Facebook by clicking the link.  Not only will their bios impress you but they may just surprise you as well.  By the way, please make sure you tell them the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient


 



George Stephen Kelly

“The Power, The Glory & The Monkey Time”
Ace Sleeve Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2016


"The Power, The Glory & The Monkey Time" is George Stephen Kelly's latest release and it features a well rounded combination of straight up blues, soul blues, rock blues and retro rhythm & blues.  On it, George - on vocals and guitars - is joined by: Michael Jenkins on guitars; Motor City Josh on guitars & tambourine; Kevin Tubbs and Chris Codish on the Hammond organ; Ryland Kelly on bass, piano & guitars; Antonio Johnson and Todd Glass on drums; De'Sean Jones, Marcus Elliot and Keith Kaminski on tenor sax; John Douglas and Jimmy Smith on trumpet; Alex Lyon on bass; and Caleb Ford on background vocals.  Eight of the albums ten tracks are originals.  
 
On the one sheet accompanying the disc, a quote from "All Music Guide" states that George Stephen Kelly is "an artist and writer to watch".  Had I written that I may have said he's an artist and writer to watch and listen to as well.  Now let's do some of that listening...
 
It's only the second track so this statement may be premature, but from what I'm hearing the smokin' "Morning After Pill" should be the hottest, rocker of the lot.  Between George and Josh mixing it up on lead, rhythm, slide and solos, the guitar work on this one is ferocious.  On top of that, the horns and Hammond are on fire and Todd is out of control on the drums.  Whoa!   
 
I'm a sucker for a beautiful ballad and "My Forever, Your Always" may very well be the most relatable song I've ever heard in my life.  One of the best ways for me to tell you how I feel about it is to tell you what I emailed George after hearing it for the first time.  Here are my exact words: "My Forever, Your Always" literally brought tears to my eyes.  I know you wrote it for your lady but man, I want to tell my wife those exact words.  As a matter of fact, I'm going to burn the song onto a disc and put that disc in her Valentine's Day card.  It's funny, just yesterday we posted the 2015 "Blewzzy Awards" at our website and that song is probably going to be next years' winner.  I cannot say enough to you about how I feel about that song, thanks for writing it." The intense rhythm, led by the powerful horns, make it musically masterful as well and vocal delivery of the emotional lyrics could not have been more sincere and heartfelt.  Since I first heard this song about two weeks ago, until I sat down to write about it today, I've easily listened to it well over a hundred times.     
 
Should you not be aware of who Sisyphus is, after you look him up you'll have a much better idea of what it's like to have the "Sisyphus Blues"... day in, day out, over and over again.  As what is apparently going to be the case on many of these tracks, the rhythm – this time led by some amazing organ playing by Chris – is once again a track highlight.  Another is George's monster two minute plus guitar lead encompassing the last half of the song.     
 
Many songs are written from true stories and sadly this is one of them.  It's about George's friend Jon who, as a result of having to constantly work two jobs, is always tired and exhausted.  According to Jon, there's just "Too Much Month At The End Of The Money".  This funky number features De'Sean wailing on a sax solo and Josh kicking it on lead guitar.
 
One of the two covers on the disc is the classic Wilson Pickett hit "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You".  This great sing-a-long is one of my favorite R&B songs and this rendition is right up there with Wilson's.  As I said in my description of an earlier song, I did indeed speak too soon, 'cause this one's another ass kicker. 
 
Could it be a coincidence that a song about whiskey is the bluesiest song on the recording?  It could be but not likely.  It's just a fact that "Bad Whiskey" has and does cause the blues.  For that matter, so does good whiskey.  As is generally the case with slow and low down blues like this, the rhythm is tight and the guitar licks George is laying down are scorching.  
 
The second of the two covers is another former hit - this one is Boz Scaggs's "Runnin' Blue".  With all four horns blowing support his way, George sounds phenomenal on the vocals here.  To paraphrase a TV networks slogan, this one's "must hear music".     
 
George's website, is www.georgestephenkelly.com.  Please check him out, and when you do make sure you tell him the Blewzzman send ya. 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



Benny Turner

“When She's Gone”
Nola Blue, Inc.




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © February 2016


At the very bottom of this review will be a link to where you can read Benny Turner's biography - and when you do, like me, I'm sure you'll be wondering why this music veteran of fifty plus years isn't headlining blues festivals and having his name appear on any music awards ballots.  With that said, I'm going to go on record as saying that "When She's Gone", his fourth release, may just open enough ears to change all that.
 
"When She's Gone" consists of six original, re-released tracks from Benny's 1997 debut disc titled "Blue And Not So Blue", and four classic covers.  The long list of performers, some of whom are no longer with us, include: Benny Turner on vocals, lead guitar, lead bass and bass; Marva Wright on vocals; Samuel "The Bishop" Berfect on keyboards, piano, organ and background vocals; Keiko Komaki on keyboards & organ; Josh Paxton on keybpards;  Davell Crawford on organ, Fender Rhodes and background vocals; Charles Brown on piano; Mark Adams on clavinet; Sean Lewis on harmonica; Alonzo Johnson on bass; Jeffery "Jellybean" Alexander, Larry Williams and Herman Ernest III on drums; Dr. John, Mark Stone and Derwin "Big D" Perkins on rhythm guitar; Bob Margolin on lead guitar; Jason Mingledorff on saxophone; Barney Floyd on trumpet; and Diane Lotny, Yvonne Washington, Tanya Jarvis, Craig Adams, Carla Davis, Yvette Whittler, and Charles "Chucky C" Elam all on background vocals.
 
The perfect way to open a disc is with a perfect song and "I Can't Leave" is just that.  Besides Benny, Diane and Yvonne being absolutely masterful on the lead and harmony vocals, the contagious chorus line will have you singing along while the smooth rhythm groove - led by the incredible keyboard work of "The Bishop" - will have you swaying as you do.  By no means is it a coincidence, but I can't leave either - I've been replaying this one for the last twenty minutes. 
 
"Have Pity On This Lovesick Fool" is a duet with Benny and the "New Orleans Blues Queen" - the late, great Marva Wright.  With that said, it's mandatory listening.  Musically it's the funkiest track of the lot and since many of these songs do not include the use of guitars, it's the rhythm section making it all sound so good.
 
At the opening of "Because Of You", Samuel's soft piano chords and Herman's mellow percussion work were literally carrying me away... then Benny started to sing; Tanya joined in; the piano and organ leads got more and more intense; and the song took me to a whole other level.  As it sent me to church, Benny's Gospel roots clearly shone through on this one.  Beautiful!  Beautiful!  Beautiful!  This song will be in my head for days.
 
"So Deep" is another of the many tracks that (as mentioned above) does not include a lead or rhythm guitar, but Benny - on the lead bass - is one hell of a good substitute.  It's also another of the many tracks that features vocal excellence.  Although Benny's voice is extremely soulful, and quite powerful as well, he clearly appreciates the extra touch a strong supporting cast of backup vocalists can add.  This listener also appreciates it. 
 
Although there hasn't been a lot of it, "Reconsider Baby" (Lowell Fulson) is one of the few tracks that feature a guitar -  and not just one.  Bob Margolin, with his stinging blues guitar leads, and "Big D", with his accompanying rhythm licks, highlight this one.
 
The one sheet accompanying this disc refers to the closing track as "the final gem"... no argument here.  It's a compelling, six and a half minute version of "Black Night" (Jessie Mae Robinson) on which Benny belts the hell out of the blues.  It also features the late and great Charles Brown playing some killer piano, and more of the amazing rhythm I've been hearing all disc long - this time with the addition of a fabulous horn section.
 
To find out more about Benny Turner just go to www.bennyturner.com.  After you read that legendary bio I told you about earlier, please tell him his friend the Blewzzman sent you. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



Joe Survival Caruso

“You Never Had These Blues”
Lakehouse Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © February 2016


If I had not read in the liner notes that Joe Survival Caruso's latest release - You Never Had These Blues - was recorded live at Orlando Brewing, I may not have ever realized it was indeed a live recording.  Happily, it has none of the annoying background noises, none of the distracting out of time hand clapping by hundreds of uninterested hand clappers and none of that performer/audience banter that is sometimes entertaining at the actual show but mostly displeasing on the recording.  With that said, those involved in the performance, mixing, recording, engineering and production deserve some kudos for making this sound as close to a studio recording as possible
 
On You Never Had These Blues, Joe Survival Caruso - on vocals and lead guitar - is joined by: Herb Ransberg on guitar; August "Auggie" Antoine on bass; and the disc's producer, Reno Mussatto on drums.  All eight of the disc's tracks were written by Joe Survival Caruso.
 
The title track, You Never Had These Blues, is typical of what Joe and the band are all about.  They just get up there, lock themselves into a tight rhythm groove and belt out good old fashion blues, both musically and vocally.   
 
Calling Yearnin' And Burnin a smoker is an understatement for sure.  As a matter of fact, because I couldn't sit still enough while it was on, I had to wait for the song to end before I could write about. Joe and Herb are killing it on the guitars and Reno is totally on fire on the drums. Whew!    
 
Unlike Delbert McClinton, Joe Survival Caruso is Standing On Solid Ground.  And although he's been knocked in the head and left for dead; abused and misused; betrayed, heart broken and made a fool of; he intends to stand on it till the day that he dies.  That pretty much leaves no question as to why he uses "Survival" as his middle name (by the way, reading his bio provides a lot more insight on that).  Musically, this is one hell of a fiercely funky track with some wild guitar and intense rhythm work.      
 
This disc closes with possibly it's best number - Things Ain't Been The Same.  Although Joe belts the hell out of the short, repetitive vocal versus, it's the long instrumental breaks that highlight the track.  The tandem rhythm guitar work had me swearing I was hearing an organ, Joe's lead guitar break outs are the best on the disc and Reno & Auggie are just tearing it up on the drums and bass.  Great work!       
 
www.lakehouserecords.com is where you now need to go. That's where you'll be able to pick up the disc, find out a lot more about Joe (do read his bio), and be able tell him and Reno that the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



Allen-Lamun Band

“Maybe It's A Good Thing”
Mad Left Music
Louisville's Tribute To Muddy Waters



By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © January 2016

Since I communicate with Dave Allen and Laura Lamun on a regular basis, they've told me many times just how happy they are about having recently relocated to Nashville, TN.  Now I'm hearing it through their music.  On their second release, "Maybe It's A Good Thing", Dave Allen - on lead, background & choir vocals; drums; percussion; and harmonica; and Laura Lamun - on lead, background & choir vocals; joined forces with some of the "Music City's" finest blues musicians.  They are: Jake Hill on piano, strings and Hammond B3 organ; Randy Coleman on bass; and Kenne Kramer on electric guitar.  Other special guest musicians include: Steve Boynton and Donnie Miller on electric guitar; Larry van Loon on piano and Hammond B3 organ; Miqui Gutierrez on tenor sax; and Matt Workman on choir vocals.  All twelve of the recordings are Dave Allen and Laura Lamun originals.
 
"Half Of Me" is a perfect way of describing those indecisive moments all of us have experienced in some way or another.  It's about those times when half of you really thinks you want to do something but half of you is also thinking you really shouldn't do it.  Although Dave and Laura never actually figure out which half wins, their indecisiveness sure sounded great.  On the other hand, both halves of Jake and Steve know what they want 'cause their tearing it up on the keyboards and guitar.
 
Some of the disc's best vocals can be heard right here on the title track - "Maybe It's A Good Thing".  After hearing the track for the first time I mentioned to Laura how much I loved her sound on it and she replied back with "yeah, I got to stretch it out a bit on that one".  A bit?  No!  A lot?  Yes!  Her lead solos, her harmonizing with Dave, her own background vocal support, her range and her very impressive note s...t...r...e...t...c...h...i...n...g... are all absolutely magnificent.             
 
"I Don't Love My Baby" (she don't love me too).....hmmmm, sounds like some couples I know but I'll not go there.  Musically, this one rips.  In addition to sharing the vocals, Dave's killin' the kit and blowin' the hell out of a harp, Kenne's smokin' the guitar leads and Jake's wailin' away on the piano.  Excellent track!
 
"Breath Of Fresh Air" has so much FUNK going on I just felt I needed to enlarge the word.  Of course, Dave and Randy are all over the rhythm on the drums and bass, but it's the horn section that stands out on this one.  And by the horn section I mean Miqui leading the way on sax with all the rest of the horn blowin' actually being provided by Jake's magnificent Hammond skills.
 
"I Love You Pretty Baby" is this disc's track that automatically gets the "Blewzz Approved" stamp.  That happens when the song that's the best slow blues is also the disc's longest track - thereby doubling my pleasure.  You've probably already figured it out that the rhythm is right and tight - thanks to Jake's finesse on organ; Steve's guitar leads are ever so soft and slow but yet quite stimulating as well; and Dave's sounding about as soulful as I've ever heard the smooth vocals.  Very good stuff!
 
Wouldn't it be nice if you could tune into a "Good News Channel"?  According to Laura, you can - and knowing her like I do - I know she truly believes that.  Just give this spiritually uplifting song a listen and I'm sure that her, and the choir, will have you believing it as well.  This beautifully sung, beautifully written and beautifully performed song needs to be heard by all of humanity.....and often.          
 
If you'd like to get to know more about Dave Allen and "Little" Laura Lamun, just go to www.allenlamunband.com.  While you're there, please tell them that their good friend the Blewzzman sent you.  Oh yeah, also tell them I said there's no "Maybe" involved - "It's a good thing"!

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



Various Artists

“The Blues Had A Baby”
Down In The Alley Records
Louisville's Tribute To Muddy Waters



By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © January 2016


Prelude
The following is a word for word reprint of the One Sheet that accompanied the CD.  I felt it makes a statement that needed to be heard...

"This is a cross genre project featuring some of Louisville's best musicians and bands. The idea behind the record is that many say the blues are dying, that younger music fans are not listening to or interested in the blues as a music form. 
    We felt that bringing together bands with different backgrounds and tastes would introduce the blues to a different set of fans. What better way to do that than to introduce them to the artist most responsible for electrifying the blues!
    Our hope was that they would hear their favorite band cover a Muddy song and wonder about Muddy and the blues. Maybe even do a little research and buy a blues record.
    The twelve songs are covered by a Latin group, a Bluegrass band, a jazz duo, two rock groups, an Americana quartet and six blues bands.  The songs include some of Muddy's best known and others that are not as well known.
    The record was released on October 2nd and is available through CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon and Google Music. We hope you like it."
– Mike Suttles, Down In The Alley Records.

 
Review 
Because I believe that anyone participating on a disc of this magnitude deserves merit, although I may not touch on all of the songs, I'm going to do my very best to list all of the over fifty participating musicians.
 
After a short intro, the disc opens with "Forty Days And Forty Nights"  (Bernard Roth), performed by Lamont Gillispie's 100 Proof Blues.  The band consists of a bunch of musicians who have played with the late band leader and they are: Bruce Lively on vocals; Steve Holmes on drums; Jimmy Brown on bass; Dave "Spooney" Witherspoon on guitar; Bill Dean on piano; Mark Bright on saxophone; and Rick Cain on harmonica.  The best way to describe this performance is to say it's done in the classic style of Muddy.  Great vocals, great rhythm and as expected, outstanding harp, sax and piano highlights.  This one was definitely done by seasoned blues veterans.          
 
"Rollin' And Tumblin" (Muddy Waters), is performed by the Latin band very cleverly called Appalatin.  They are: Yani Vozos on guitar & vocals; Fernando Moya on charnago; Luis deLeon on harmonica, timbales & cowbell; Steve Sizemore on congas; Jose Oreta on upright bass; and Alex Molina on surdo drum & tambourine.  This is not only the most interesting track of the lot but it's also the most surprising.  The result of a bunch of musicians of various Latin cultures, playing a bunch of exotic instruments - on a song from a genre outside of their wheelhouse, in a style all their own, is absolutely masterful.  I must have played this track about 6-7 times and was mesmerized each and every time.  Great track. 
 
It would be a sacrilege to listen to a compilation of Muddy songs and not mention "Got My Mojo Working" (Preston Foster).  This one's done by the 10th Street Blues Band who's members include: a legendary bluesman who actually played with some of Muddy's buddies - Sonny Sitgraves on drums; Billy Bird on vocals & harmonica; Pen Bogert on guitar; and Matt Swenson on bass.  This is another track that's quite obviously done by another bunch of very talented blues veterans. 
 
We all know that the Blues' baby is known as rock 'n' roll but the blues also has a famous cousin known as jazz.  Sometimes they're so very different and other times - like right here on "You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had" (Muddy Waters), by Carly Johnson and Craig Wagner - they're so very much alike.  Carly's angelic voice and unrestrained range along with Craig's total guitar mastery make this one of the most musically pure and beautiful tracks.  Wow!    
 
Us blues fans know better, but to most of the world "You Need Love" (Willie Dixon) is a Led Zeppelin song.  Here it's nicely done by  Laurie Jane and The 45s, who are: Laurie Jane Jessup on vocals; Cort Duggins on guitar; Jason Embry on bass; and Scott Dugdale on drums.  This smoker features hard drivin' rhythm, rockin' leads and kick ass vocals.  I'm already a blues fan but this one made me a fan of this blues band.
 
"Same Thing" (Willie Dixon) was recorded back in 1977 by the late Jim Rosen on vocals & harmonica and Rob Pickett on guitar.  As far as acoustic blues goes, this duet obviously had it down pat.  I'm always amazed when I hear this type of blues - which with all due respect, is not my blues of choice - and end up getting blown away by what I just heard.  And here I sit, amazed and blown away by phenomenal harmonica blowin' and guitar pickin'.      
 
"She's Into Something" (Carl Wright) is done by Da Mudcats and they are: Susan O'Neil on vocals; Doug Lamb on vocals & piano; Gene Wickcliffe on drums; Rob Pickett on vocals & guitar; Mike Lynch on vocals & bass; and Screamin' John Hawkins on vocals.  Sandwiched between the excellent opening and closing lead vocals, shared by Susan and Doug, the awesome piano and guitar leads really make this one pop.      
 
"Diamonds At Your Feet" (Henry Morganfield), is performed by the bluegrass band called The Bibelhauser Brothers.  They are: Aaron Bibelhauser on vocals & piano; Adam Bibelhauser on vocals & bass; Tavis Conley on drums; Chris Rodafaffer on guitar; and the world renowned, multi award winning Michael Cleveland on fiddle.  This track is so good and so well done that in addition to hopefully turning some bluegrass fans into blues fans, it actually turned this blues fan into a bluegrass fan.  Thanks guys!     
 
Although "The Blues Had A Baby" is primarily aimed at recruiting new members to the blues community, it's my opinion that the ones already here should hear it as well.  To get your hands on a copy just go to www.downinthealleyrecords.com.  As usual, please tell Mike that the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



JIMMY ADLER

“Grease Alley”
Sprucewood Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © December 2015


"Grease Alley" is Jimmy Adler's fourth release and although I haven't yet had the pleasure of hearing the previous three, just looking at the monster talent he's assembled for this project has me believing it's probably his best as well.  Joining Jimmy, on guitar and vocals, are: Kid Anderson on upright and electric bass; June Core on drums; Jim Pugh on piano and keyboards; Eric Spaulding on tenor sax; and, on two of the disc's thirteen original songs, special guest Chris Cain on guitar and vocals. 
 
The opening lines to the opening track describe the song to a T (as in T-Bone), and they go just like this..... 'I'm not one for chit chat my phone bill's too much.  I don't send out post cards to keep in touch.  I'm a guitar man, that's what I am.  I try to tell it like T-Bone and "Say It Like Magic Sam".  It's a perfectly done shuffle on which Jimmy - through his dynamite guitar and vocals - lives up to the statement.  Great track!
 
This songs title is probably something all of us have said at least once in our lives.  It's called "Drank Too Much" and it's about waking up with a wicked hangover.  Can you relate?  It's highlighted by Jimmy's smokin' slide guitar licks, several sax and piano leads, and words you'll hear often here - absolutely amazing rhythm.  
 
"No Pain" is one of the two tracks that the incomparable Chris Cain appears on therefore easily making it one of the disc's best.  Reminiscent of the way B B did it on "How Blue Can You Get", it's blues played the way I like my blues to be played - slow and scorching.  Flip flopping back and forth on the lead guitar and the vocals, Jimmy and Chris completely nail this one.
 
Many songs have lyrics that convey such a strong message when it comes to expressing someone's feelings for another.  Some of the strongest I've ever heard are "I'd rather go blind than to see you walk away from me".  Imagine loving someone that much....if you can.  And now I'm hearing Jimmy Adler's "Love Was Worth These Blues" I'm thinking the same thing.  A love that's worth the pain it caused had to be an incredible love.  On this melancholy ballad, while being backed by the smoothest of rhythm - led by the incredible piano and organ work of Jim Pugh - Jimmy absolutely sings his heart out.       
 
"Put down your dress Cordelia, they already had last call. 
Put down your dress Cordelia, you don't have to show it all.
You got to shake it baby but you don't have to show it all."
Alrighty then. Sounds to me like Cordelia needed to be cut off about five or six drinks ago. Although Cordelia may be looser than most, I'm sure that when this smoker comes on, the dance floor is full of others getting loose as well. I'm blaming Eric and those sexy sax leads.
 
"What Will You Do?" is the other track featuring Chis Cain.  It's a lively number with more blazing rhythm, led by some of June's best drum work, and Jimmy and Chris once again going toe to toe on alternating guitar leads. 
 
You can get in touch with Jimmy Adler by going to his website at www.jimmyadler.com.  When you do, in addition to telling him the Blewzzman sent you, check out his calendar.  For those of you in the in the Western Pennsylvania area that New Years Eve show with Brandon Santini sounds like a plan.     

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



BOBBY BLACK HAT

“Accidental Blues”
Bobby Blackhat Music




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © December 2015


"Accidental Blues" is the fifth release from Bobby BlackHat Walters and since I've had the pleasure of working with him on all five, that makes him the most reviewed artist at Mary4Music.com.   
 
On "Accidental Blues", the Bobby BlackHat Band consists of: Bobby BlackHat Walters on harp and vocals: Brian Eubanks on bass and background vocals; Tom Euler on guitar and background vocals; and Michael Behlmar on drums and background vocals.  Additional guest artists include: Joy Walters (Bobby's wife and inspiration for track one) on background vocals; Rob Martin Walters (Bobby's son) on drums; Shonya Carlock on vocals; Cal Hamlin, Lucy Lawrence Kilpatrick & Tyler Bevington on keyboards; Von Jose' Roberts & Rich Ridolfino on bass; and Johnny Terrell, Larry Berwald & Ron Fetner on guitar.  The disc, which features well over an hour of good music, contains fifteen original tracks on which Bobby Blackhat Walters showcases his outstanding writing skills. 
 
Apparently, the opening track is inspired by Bobby's wife Joy.  You see, when he first met her, he wasn't just swept off of his feet, he was literally floored - sort of like being struck by a "Two By Four".  As he says it....."The first time I laid eyes on you, I was struck by a two by four".  Midway through the track there are several alternating duels between the guitar (Tom) and the piano (Cal), then the harp (Bobby)and the piano (Cal), ultimately giving way to one hell of a guitar solo by Tom.  Real good job on a real good song.
 
"From the day you were born, to the day you go to glory, everybody has a "Blues Story".  Bobby's slow baritone vocals perfectly suit this melancholy track, which is a dedication to his late good friend, Tony Lucero.  With Von Jose` and Michael in a tight mellow rhythm behind them, Bobby, Tom and Cal all get in some scorching leads on the harp, guitar and piano.  Another great track.
 
"Come Home Blues" opens up with Bobby nailing a very rare falsetto vocal run.  I was so impressed I actually called him to tell him so.  During the conversation I was assured that this is just a taste of things to eventually come.  Now he's got me already looking forward to disc six.  In the meantime, this track also features some of his best harp work and ditto for Tom and the guitar. 
 
"They'd sound good singing the alphabet" and "they'd sound good singing nursery rhymes" are compliments that have been said of singers who'd basically sound good singing pretty much any song.  Well add Bobby BlackHat to that list.  On "Nursery Rhyme Shuffle", Bobby kills it with a medley of "Old Mother Hubbard", "Little Miss Muffet", "Hey Diddle Diddle", "This Old Man", "Jack & Jill", and "Humpty Dumpty".  Of course, with this being an all out smoker, the rest of the band has a lot to do with that, as well.  Von and Michael, on the bass and drums, are tearing up the rhythm; Tom's rhythm guitar is right there with them; and in between verses, Bobby is blowing the hell out of the harp.  Phew!
 
You all already know the Blewzzman is all in when it comes to a track that's the slowest, hottest blues song that is also the disc's longest.  With that said, I'm loving all of these nearly seven minutes and I'll most likely love them several more times.  This one starts out with Tom all over a killer blues guitar intro which gives way to Shonya sultrily singing 'It's been a long day, and I sure need a break.  I need to ease my worried mind, just a few moments to clear my head.  Would you be so kind... "Please Mr. BlackHat"... play some blues for me'.  Right on cue, Bobby unleashes a mind blowing two minute harp solo as good as these ears have ever heard.  Following Shonya's second plea for the blues, Lucy goes into an equally stunning two minute solo on the organ.  This one's so good, I'm sure I've just listened to the 2015 "Blewzzy" winner for song of the year.  Wow! 
 
Right now, you should head on over to www.bobbyblackhat.com where you can learn more about Bobby and pick up a handful of his CDs.  While you're there, please tell him his friend the Blewzzman sent you and that I'm looking forward to seeing him at the IBC in January.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



LITTLE BOYS BLUE

“Bad Love”
JP Cadillac Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2015


Although I haven't been living under a rock the past twenty-something years, every once in a while a band who's been around at least that long comes by that I'm just discovering for the very first time.  Enter Little Boys Blue, who - with varying ensembles - have been playing clubs and festivals in the southeast since 1993.  
 
On "Bad Love", their third release, Little Boys Blue founders J. D. Taylor, on vocals & harmonica and Steve Patterson, on lead & slide guitar, are joined by; Alex Taylor on rhythm & lead guitar; Mark Brooks on drums; Dave Mallard on bass & backup vocals; and Dave Thomas on keyboards.  Additional Little Boys, and girls, include; Justin Dudley on B3 & keyboards; Ralph Thomas and Chuck McGill on saxophones; David Kyles on trumpet; and Lindsay Patterson, Kimberlee Helton and Josh Smith on backup vocals.  The disc features eleven tracks, of which nine are band originals.  When I tell you that the bands' influences range from Sleepy John Estes to Muddy Waters to the Allman Brothers, I think you'll get a pretty good idea of their broad styles.
 
The CD opens with the title track, "Bad Love".  On it, as soon as I heard JD's vocals, Brian Lee immediately came to mind.  He's got a similar sounding raspy, gravely voice that's tailor made for singing the blues.  The track also features precision harp blowin', several nice guitar leads and a constant B3 pulse.  Great opener.
 
"Treat Me Like You Used To Do" is a funky, soulful number done with a flare reminiscent of Delbert McClinton.  With the horns blowin', the B3 smokin', the bass lines pounding and the harp ripping, this one's all about the hot rhythm... and the dancin'.  And then there's JD and the backup singers killing it with the lead and harmony vocals.  Another good one.
 
JD wrote this one, and is singin' it as well, to help him "Forget These Blues".  As he says it, "sing me a song to help me forget these blues".  It's the slowest of the tracks and about as close to a ballad as Little Boys Blue get.  The soft guitar and harmonica leads, the mellow rhythm and the steady background organ provide a hymnal effect behind JD's somber and melancholy vocals.  Wanting more of this under three minute track several replays were in order.  JD sings his heart out on this one.
 
"Go Back Home" may very well be the the disc's best track with everyone on it being at disc's best as well.  Could it be that I'm saying that because it's the most straight up smoking blues song of the lot?  Hell yeah - this is my kind of blues!  Between his belting the hell out of it vocally and him actually trying to blow up his harp, JD is killing this one.  Then there's the mid song, mind boggling, ninety second guitar frenzy that Steve gets into followed by the harp and horns orgasmic crescendo and my jaw is totally dropping.  Even it's nearly six minutes left me thirsting more.....much more.  I'm sure this one got replayed a dozen or more times.  WOW!
 
If like me, you were unfamiliar with Little Boys Blue, then you need to quickly go to www.littleboysblue.bandzoogle.com/home and immediately change that.  While you're there, please tell them that their newest fan - the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



THE KNICKERBOCKER ALL-STARS

“Go Back Home To The Blues”
JP Cadillac Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2015


"Go Back Home To The Blues" is the second release for the Knickerbocker All-Stars.  Both releases include more than a few hands full of all star musicians from that geographical area that I like to call "Roomful of Bluesville".  This particular batch of all stars include: Mark Teixeira on drums; Brad Hallen on standup & electric bass; Al Copley on piano; Monster Mike Welch on guitar; Doug James on baritone & tenor sax; Gordon Beadle on tenor sax; Rich Lataille on alto & tenor sax; Doc Chanonhouse on trumpet; Al Basile on cornet; Carl Querfurth on trombone; and Sugar Ray Norcia, Brian Templeton, Willie J Laws & Al Basile on vocals.  The disc contains thirteen tracks, of which four are Al Basile originals.    
 
With "You Know That You Love Me" being a song popularized by Freddie King, betting that this one will be guitar heavy would indeed have you cashing in a winning ticket.  From start to finish, with the rhythm and horns giving him excellent support, Monster Mike is all over this one.  Vocally, on one of his four tracks, it's Willie J belting out some soulful blues.
 
With a roomful of horn players (pun intended), and great one's at that, "Cadillac Baby" is just one of the many wicked wind driven tracks.  It's hard to tell exactly who's doing the tenor leads but when it's either Doug James, Sax Gordon or Rich Lataille, it shouldn't matter.  This time, on one of his three tracks, it's Brian Templeton making the beautiful noise up front.
 
"Brand New Fool", one of Al's creations, features Sugar Ray on one of his three vocal appearances, and for some reason I feel like I've heard these guys do stuff like this thousands of times... oh wait, it's because they have.  In between some killer vocals and horn blowing, there's an instrument getting the hell beat out of it and that would be the stand up bass with Brad showing absolutely no mercy.  This one totally rips. 
 
This one's going to knock you for a loop – especially if you try to dance to it - so be prepared and "Take It Like A Man".  With Mark at disc's best on the drums - and wildest as well, Al Copley beating up on the piano keys, the horn guys blowin' their brains out and Sugar Ray killing it on vocals, this one smokes more than an out of control five alarm fire.  Easily one of the disc's best tracks.
 
"Don't You Ever Get Tired Of Being Right?"  No Al, I don't!  Seriously now, and not that I think there's any doubt in anyone's mind but just for the record, the question being asked in the title of the song is being asked from a man to a woman because us men are never right.  Right?  This is another penned by Al Basile and unfortunately, it's the only one that features him on the vocals and cornet.  Too bad, 'cause he's nailing it.
 
In the midst of all this swinging, jumping and smoking music, the band decided it was time to "Go Back Home To The Blues" and damn, did they!  This, the title track and another of Al Basile's originals, is certainly the most straight up blues track of the lot and songs like this always make my highlight lists.  Scorching guitar licks; high end, soft piano highlights; deep, sultry sax backgrounds with an occasional tenor lead; a tight rhythm groove; and soulful, powerful vocals.  What's not to love?
 
With just a few weeks left in the year, "Go Back Home To The Blues" is an obvious contender for the 2015 "Blewzzy" and since this is the time of the year when the Blues Music Awards Nominations are being considered as well, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see it get a nod.
 
For more information on The Knickerbocker All-Stars just go to www.jpcadillacrecords.com.  When you do, please tell Jack Gauthier and John Sheerar, the disc's producers, that their friend the Blewzzman sent you. 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

    

 



THE JIMMYS

“Hot Dish”
Brown Cow Productions




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2015


The Jimmys latest release is titled "Hot Dish" and it contains thirteen all original and all very hot tracks.  The band consists of: band leader Jimmy Voegeli - the only Jimmy, by the way - on piano, Hammond organ & vocals; Perry Weber on guitars; Mauro Magellan on drums; John Wartenweiler on electric & stand up bass; with Darren Sterud on trumpet, trombone & vocals; Peterson Ross on tenor & alto saxophones; and Mike Boman on trumpet - who are collectively, but certainly not literally, know as the Amateur Horn Stars. 
 
The disc opens with "Lose That Woman" - a fast paced, Latin style smoker that's sure to fill the dance floor.  Since the track features smoking rhythm, fierce guitar licks, wailing piano leads, blaring horns and powerful vocals, the Jimmys waste absolutely no time individually introducing themselves and this listener is happy to have met them all.
 
Very reminiscent of the forty and fifties R&B sound, "I Wonder", is another hot one.  From start to finish The Amateur Horn Stars are all over this one and about midway through the track, Mike goes into about a ninety second trumpet lead that totally steals the show.  With that said, Jimmy nails it on possibly the best vocal track as well.
 
"What Gives" is a shuffle that starts off with an impressive guitar intro by Perry.  Before long the horns are at full tilt eventually giving way to Jimmy and Mike going toe to toe on a piano vs trumpet battle. Unbelievably good stuff!
 
On this song Jimmy's telling his lady "What Chur Doin" ain't doing nothing for me.  However, what the Jimmys are doin' here is sure doin' it for me.  Although the horns, as usual, are once again playing a big part - led by Darren on the slide trombone - it's the other Jimmys that are rockin' this one.  John and Mauro - on the bass and drums -and doing some of the disc's best rhythm work, Perry's killing it on the guitar and Jimmy - with a gravely growl - is belting the hell out of it vocally.
 
With a relaxed rhythm, soft guitar chords and soothingly mellow horns backing him up, "Saddest Man" is all Jimmy. His smooth and somehow commanding deliverance of the melancholy lyrics is as masterful as his piano playing. The song may be sad but it is quite beautifully done.
 
I've got to tell you that other than Roomful Of Blues, I've not heard a band in which the horn section plays such a balanced role as the Amateur Horn Stars do with the Jimmys. Their constant presence alongside the rest of the band made for a very interesting sound.  Already a familiar name in the mid west, it's not going to be long till The Jimmys becomes a name known throughout the worldwide blues community.
 
Check them out at www.thejimmys.net and when you do, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



MITCH WOODS

“Jammin' on the High Cs”
Live from the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise
Club 88 Records



By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © October 2015


If your idea of a piano bar is a solo pianist entertaining a bunch of sophisticated martini drinkers who request – and sometimes sing-a-long to – songs that are referred to as "the standards", then you've never been on a blues cruise.  That's where Mitch Woods single handedly reinvented the process and turned the whole piano bar experience into an actual happening. 
 
When Mitch is at it - in what has become known as "Mitch Woods' Club 88" - there's no telling what the heck will happen.  Oh sure, he'll be joined by sing-a-longers, but not the likes of those other boring piano bar crowds. These will be a bunch of blues lovers who have been partying their asses off all night long and are not quite ready to stop - even at 4:00 AM.  Another difference is this pianist will most likely be joined by drummers, bass players, guitarists, harmonica players, full horn sections and whom ever else happens to drop in.  "Jammin' On The High Cs" was recorded live, under those exact conditions, on the January 2015 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.
 
During these sessions, pianist, emcee and virtual ring leader Mitch Woods was joined by: Members of Roomful Of Blues; Victor Wainwright; Julia Magness; Tommy Castro; Lucky Peterson; Dwayne Dopsie; Billy Branch; Poppa Chubby; Coco Montoya; and literally hundreds of blues cruisers who were treated to one hell of a good time.
 
"Jammin' On The High Cs" consists of close to seventy partying minutes of rockin' good music, over seventeen tracks, and I'm going to make sure I say something about enough of those as to mention all the players.
 
"Tain't Nobody's Bizness" features Victor Wainwright, Mitch Woods and Julia Magness taking turns belting out some very soulful vocals....in between several of Mitch's piano interludes and verbal shenanigans, of course.
 
With Tommy Castro - belting out the vocals and tearing it up on guitar - and the guys from Roomful of Blues - wailing away on the horns -   joining him, Mitch and crew absolutely "Rip It Up" on this one.
 
The "Story Of Club 88" is one of several conversational interludes by Mitch.  In this one he tells of how Club 88 came to be.  Although Mitch doesn't remember who "put up a hand painted sign: "Mitch Woods Club 88", I happen to know that it was Dr. Mike and Karen Ancona.
 
In addition to the members of Roomful once again joining Mitch, "Bright Lights Big City" features Lucky Peterson sounding like the blues man he is on the gravel voice vocals.
 
The party atmosphere is still strong but with Chicago blues man Billy Branch belting it out on harp and vocals, the music's now gotten down in the gutter a bit.  Since members of Roomful are again credited on this one, I'm thinking it must be Chris Vachon doing the excellent accompanying guitar work on "Eyesight To The Blind".
 
OK, so Mitch is rockin' on the keys, Coco Montoya is rockin' on guitar, the audience is rockin' to the music and the ship is presumably rockin' in the ocean.  What better song for this to all happen to than "Rock Me Baby"?
 
So you've got Mitch going crazy on the piano and Dwayne Doopsey Zydecoing crazy on the squeeze box and the crowd going crazy in the background.  You'd be right to think there's a "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On".
 
You can get a hold of Mitch Woods, read the rest of the story about "Jammin' On The High Cs" and even purchase a copy of it, by  going to www.mitchwoods.com.  When you do, please tell him his buddy the Blewzzman sent you.
 
Also, for more information about the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise just go to www.bluescruise.com - and you can also tell Roger his friend the Blewzzman sent you as well.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 



JOHN CLIFTON

“Let Yourself Go”
Rip Cat Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © October 2015


It doesn't matter how many times these west coast record companies go to the well that produces this "So cool, So Cal" sound because this well is obviously never running dry.  The latest sharp looking, sharp sounding entity coming out of that pool is Rip Cat Records recording artist, John Clifton.  In addition to being a part of the west coast blues scene since the eighties, John - a singer, songwriter, harpist, guitarist and producer - has also played all over the world as a member of the MoFo Party Band.
 
On "Let Yourself Go" - which I believe is his first solo release - John Clifton, on the vocals and harmonica, is joined by quite an impressive group of musicians that include: Rusty Zinn, Bob Welsh, Roger Perry, Kid Ramos, Bill Clifton and label boss Scott Abeyta on guitar; Mike Turturro, Jake Finney and Matt Moulton on bass; Marty Dotson and John Shafer on drums; Bartek Szopinski and Bob Welsh on piano and organ; Mike Miller, Ed Burke, Mystique Steward, Alex Ayala, Debbi Ruud and Roger Perry on background vocals; and Mystique Steward, David "Big D" Fields, John Shafer and Peter Wolf on bongos, congas, tambourine and hand claps.
 
My normal routine when I do these reviews is to listen to the disc a few times and figure out which songs I enjoyed the most then say something about those songs.  Having said that, the ultimate compliment I can give "Let Yourself Go" is to say that was easier said than done.  From the start to the finish, these thirteen tracks are all worthy of praise.  Since that's the case, I think I'll go with a handful of the seven originals.
 
The first of those is a song named for a place that's dear to many of us blues folk, it's an instrumental called "Beer Joint".  This house rocker starts off with John and Bartek fiercely dueling it out on the harp and piano before giving way to Scott and Bill who then take over on an equally fierce guitar duel.  Naturally, Mike and Marty are fueling these duels with their own frantic rhythm pace.  Damn, all I did was listen and I even need a rest. 

 
'It's "Garbage Day" baby, woman I've just got to put you out.  Put you out like a dog in the morning, put you out like the trash at night.'  Whoa!  With an opening line like that you'd be right to guess that this one is good old, low down, raunchy blues and the more low down and raunchier the better I like it.  With the band playing scorching blues behind him, John takes this one and runs with it.  Over it's five plus minutes, he's either belting the hell out of it vocally or blowin' the hell out of it on harp.   
   
Another of the tracks penned by John is "Every Time You Come Around".  This is the kind of stuff us baby boomer blues buffs - well this one, anyway -  could listen to all day long.  It's right out of the fifties and although it contains musical instrumentation, I could probably name a few dozen street corner a cappella groups the background singers reminded me of.  Hearing him singing this one, I know John knows just what I'm talking about.  Musically, Rusty and Bob are masterful on the smooth guitar work; and Bartek's piano playing is telling me he may have experienced the era as well as I did.  I can't even begin to fathom a guess as to the number of times I replayed this one.    
 
Of the approximately fifty reviews a year I do, I occasionally hear a few that I say "short of giving you your money back I guarantee you are going to love this CD" - this is one of them.  To learn a bit more about John Clifton, go to www.johncliftonmusic.com and to get your hands on a copy of  "Let Yourself Go", go to www.ripcatrecords.com.  And, of course, please tell John and Scott that the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



MIKE BROOKFIELD

“Love Breaks the Fall”





By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © October 2015


In addition to "Love Breaks The Fall" being Mike Brookfield's debut release, it's also the debut of Ireland becoming a part of the Mary4Music worldwide family.  Welcome Mike! Welcome Ireland!
 
On "Love Breaks The Fall", Mike Brookfield - on guitar,vocals and background chants - is joined by: Keith Duffy on bass; Jason Duffy on drums; Cian Boylan on piano and Hammond organ; and his wife Grainne Brookfield on backing vocals. 
 
Although most of what I've read about Mike pretty much includes: the words blues rocker; compares him to Joe Bonamassa; and lists his name with the likes of Paige, Clapton, Gallagher, Frampton and more; a lot of what I'm hearing on these ten original tracks is telling me that there's much more diversity to his music than all of that would lead you to believe. 
 
The opening and title track - "Love Breaks The Fall" - is exactly one of the styles of songs responsible for the above statement.  It's a slow soulful ballad with Mike singing his heart out and smokin' on some very serious, straight up blues guitar licks.
 
"Catfish Missle" sounds like something right out of the songbook from the band America.  When this one came on I immediately stopped typing, sat back in my chair and simultaneously proceeded to tap my foot and sway from side to side.  Had I known the words, I surely would have been singing along as well.  Mr. and Mrs. Brookfield sound positively amazing on the vocal harmony and Grannie had me wishing this wasn't her only appearance on the disc (side not to Mike - more of her on the next release, please).  Musically, Keith, Jason and Cian are in a beautiful rhythm groove and Mike is all over the rhythm and lead guitars.
 
All I'm going to say about "No Candle Burns In The Rain" is that this is the definitive track on which Mike sounds as good as - and certainly deserves to be mentioned with - all of the guitar gods mentioned earlier. 
 
Feel like dancing?  Then go straight to this one - "Golden Rule Girl".  The rhythm - led by some of Jason's best drum work - will make it nearly impossible to sit through it. 
 
The CD closes out with a song called "Peace For Joe" and it's an instrumental that should be mandatory listening for any student of the guitar.  It's basically a five and a half minute lesson in technique mastery.  After several listens my jaw was still dropping from amazement.  This was such a pleasurable 25 minutes that I feel compelled to say "Thanks Mike".      
 
I wish I could tell you that you heard it here first, but since it says it on the one sheet that accompanied the CD I'll just repeat it and say that I agree 100%......"This train's leaving the station.  So grab your tickets now 'cause you won't want to be trying to explain how you missed out.  Especially since we gave you a heads-up".  Amen!
 
Mike Brookfield can be found at www.mikebrookfield.com.  While visiting, please tell him the Blewzzman sent you. 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



EDDIE COTTON

“One at a Time”
DeChamp Records




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2015



"One At A Time" is Eddie Cotton's second release on DeChamp Records.  His first - "Here I Come" - garnered a nomination for Best Soul Blues Album at the 2014 Blues Blast Awards and the very next year Eddie and his band won the 2015 International Blues Challenge.  Based on what I'm hearing, I think he may continue to keep that roll he's on going right into 2016.  If you happen to see Eddie's name pop up in a category or three on the BMA nominations remember who told you to look for it.   
 
On "One At A Time", In addition to his guitar, vocal and background vocal work, Eddie Cotton also wrote all fourteen of the album's tracks.  Musically he's joined by:  Myron Bennett on bass and background vocals; Samuel Scott Jr. on drums; Grady Champion and Carlos Russell (also on BG vocals) on harmonica; James "Hotdog" Lewis on organ and keyboards; J J Thames and John Genous on background vocals; and The Jackson Horns who consist of Kimble Funchess on trumpet, Jessie Primer III on tenor sax and Mike Weidick on trombone.
 
Being one heck of a soulful singer and a serious blues guitarist as well, "One At A Time" features a good mix of soul and enough straight up traditional blues to keep even the staunchest purists happy.  Those of you who know me already know which one's I'll talk about most.
 
No matter what the situation is, when it comes to pretty much anything, everyone likes getting a "Better Deal".  But where your wife is concerned, it's not a good thing when it's the back door man who's getting that better deal.  That's troublesome indeed.  This is good old slow blues as good as it gets.  Soft and steady rhythm led by the solemn sounds of the organ; scorching, pain describing guitar licks; and heartfelt, melancholy vocals that tell of a blues inducing situation.  Good track.  
 
Well, Eddie seems to have gotten over the above situation quite well because he's now singing about his next catch.  He's got no problem saying it may not be the "Catch I Wanted" but he also goes on to say "but I will not throw it back".  This one's a funky, up tempo track that features Myron, Samuel and "Hot Dog" smoking up the rhythm on the bass, drums and organ while getting lots of help from The Jackson Horns.
 
Maybe I couldn't name the song in two notes but that's all it took for me to know I'd be loving this one.  "Fair Weather Lover" opens up with a fifty second guitar solo - that's second to none I've heard - with several more similar leads throughout the track.  With excellent supporting rhythm behind him, Eddie shines on this one.  Easily the disc's best guitar work can be heard right here.
 
Another hot number is a tribute to the birthplace of the Blues and Eddie's home state -  "Mississippi".  As they sing about it, Eddie and the backup singers harmonically use that method in which we all learned how to properly spell the word back in grade school..... repeatedly saying M - I - S - S - I - S - S - I - P - P - I.  Damn, if my teachers played a ripping tune like this when I was learning to spell, I'd had been a spelling bee champ.
 
Although Eddie's doing his usual outstanding vocal and guitar work, it's the band behind him highlighting "My Money".  Myron's leading the profound rhythm with some of his best bass work, James is living up to his "Hotdog" nickname tickling the hell out of the ivories and Grady Champion is doing what he always does - blowin' heat into the harp.
 
"Ego At Your Door" is R&B at it's best.  This one's got it all going on: Eddie sounding like the master soul singer he is; the backup singers are sounding masterful on the harmony; the rhythm - with the organ and horns on fire - is rockin'; and it makes you feel like there's a partying going on.  I challenge you to try and sit still through this one.  
 
For more on Eddie Cotton, and to get your hands on a copy of the disc, just go to www.eddiecottonjr.com.  And you know the drill, please tell him the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



D'Mar & Gill
 
“Take It Like That”
Earwig Music Company, Inc.




By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2015


"Take It Like That" is the second release for D'mar & Gill.   On that earlier release - "Real Good Friend" - the guys were indeed a duet but on this particular project they've added a few other 'real good friends', and although the cast has changed, the music has not.  The 13 original tracks have stayed loyal to the unique and individual style of Delta style blues D'mar & Gill are recognized for.
 
Joining Derrick "D'Mar" Martin on the drums and Chris Gill on guitars are; Jerry "Groovemaster" Jemmont on bass; "Kid" Andersen on bass and guitar; Lisa Andersen on background loveliness; Bob Welch on piano and B-3; Aki Kumar on harmonica; and Frankie Ramos on sax.
 
The opening track - a smooth swinging shuffle -  describes something that has happened to everyone in the blues community and then makes a statement declaring how we all feel about it.  The song is "I Fell In Love With The Blues", and the declaration is "I'll be in love till the day that I die".  Amen!  In addition to the very true lyrics, being beautifully sung by Gill with equally beautiful back ups from Lisa, this one's highlighted by: D'Mar and Kid sounding like they've been playing rhythm together forever;  excellent harmonica and piano accompaniments by Aki and Bob; and Gill nailing a mid song guitar lead.  This may sound premature but I'm going ahead and saying the opening track could very well be the disc's best. 
 
"Song For Honeyboy" tells a story of a man and his traveling companion - his guitar.  That traveling, of course, was done on the rails and the beat will testify to that.  This time it's Jerry who teams up with D'Mar, as they create that barreling choo choo train rhythm.  And along with some outstanding vocals, Gill is killing it on the slide guitar.
 
As blues songs go, many of them describe a dire situation.  Gill calls his - being broke down and laid out in an alley - a "Souvenir Of The Blues".  Along with the melancholic lyrics, the slow and dark rhythm make this one sound all too realistic.  Let's hope this souvenir isn't part of a large collection of them.  Guitar wise, the tandem work from Gill and Kid is some of the disc's best.  Great track!
 
With D'mar and Kid locked into a laid back rhythm behind him, this one's all Gill.  From his stimulating description of the "Dancin' Girl" in the juke joint, to his Howlin' Wolf style of singing the thought-provoking lyrics to his masterful picking on the cigar box guitar, Gill nails it all. 
 
"Must Be Love" is a honky tonk style song about voodoo, spells, and getting hoodooed in N'awlins.  Needless to say it's loaded with funky rhythm, fancy guitar leads and a hell of a job of barrelhouse piano playing by Bob.
 
"Since I Saw You" is a lyrically uplifting song about someone having a beneficial effect on another someone who really needed it to happen.  With everything he's been through going wrong, Gill's now hearing a newer song - one that's obviously making him a happier man.  As a matter of fact, this song could have that very same affect, just hearing it made me feel good.  A big part of that had to be the joyful noises Frankie's making on the sax.
 
You can visit D'Mar and Gill simply by going to www.dmarandgill.com.  Once you're there, get familiar with them, they're going to be around for a long time.  BTW, when you're there, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 



Liz Mandeville, Mary Lane and Shirley Johnson

with Johnny Drummer and the Starliters 
“Angels Sing The Blues”
Earwig Music Company, Inc.

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2015


"Angels Sing The Blues" is not only loaded with lots of outstanding talent, it's loaded with lots of outstanding music as well.  Including intros, the album contains seventeen tracks that total approximately seventy-five minutes of listening pleasure.  Those responsible for that pleasure include: Johnny Drummer on lead vocals, keyboards & harmonica; Walter Scott and Fernando Jones on rhythm guitar; Anthony Palmer on lead guitar; Kenny Hampton on bass; Tino Cortes and Dave Jefferson on drums; Alvin "Guitar" Short on lead guitar and lead & background vocals; Mike Pappas on lead guitar & background vocals; Danny O'Connor on bass and lead & background vocals; Liz Mandeville, Mary Lane and Shirley Johnson on lead & background vocals; Amber McMillan and Taniesha Brock on background vocals; and John "Elwood" Migliaccio & Scott Harper on tenor sax.  

Along with several studio tracks, the CD also contains tracks recorded during a 2007 live performance at the Taste Entertainment Center in Chicago.
 
The 'angels singing the blues' portion of the show opens with Mary Lane doing her version of the raucous "Just As Grown As You" and by songs end she turns it into "Kansas City".  Mary does an excellent job on the vocals as well as getting the crowd alive.  This one's full of rhythm with Johnny leading the way on the organ.   
 
There are a few songs that include a line that 100% of the time will get a howl out of 100% of the ladies in the audience: one is from "How Blue Can You Get" when B. B. says "I gave you seven children and now you want to give them back"; another is when Irma Thomas states that "You Can Have My Husband But Please Don't Mess With My Man".  Of course these songs were done by many others and regardless of who, when and where, they still get the same howls.  This time it's Shirley Johnson, live in Chicago, and yes, the ladies are all howling.  Although the lyrics are supposedly intended to be tongue in cheek, you'd never know that when you hear the way Mary soulfully and sincerely belts them out.  This one's really good slow blues and features Alvin on impressive scorching blues guitar leads.
 
One of the lines in the one sheet accompanying this disc refers to the range of songs the ladies sing, and that line includes the words "from rowdy and risque to sweet and soulful...".  Reading that, I immediately knew that the "rowdy and risque" stuff would be from Liz –  and of course I was right (luv ya Liz).  On this live track, one of her originals, Liz singles out the men in the audience and sings about those late night infomercials that address male enhancement - which she calls "adding lumber to a tree".  After many more of these metaphors - of which one is that she "doesn't want a pole vaulter, she wants a marathon runner" - Liz finally cuts to the chase and just tells the guys to "Use What You Got" - because it ain't the size of the package, it's when it goes pop that really hits the spot.   
 
"Gonna Sell My Cadillac, Buy Me A Mule" is one of the live tracks and it's one of the three songs that feature Johnny on vocals - which right there makes it one of the disc's many highlights.  On just about everything he sings, hearing Johnny do so leaves no doubt as to the good time he's having doing it.  Other highlights include smokin' lead and rhythm guitar from Alvin & Mike, profound rhythm from Danny & Dave, and some striking harp leads also by Johnny.
 
There are a few songs that I have heard performed by so many different people and yet have pretty much liked all of them - "Angel From Montgomery" is one of those songs.  This studio track features Liz, Mary and Shirley sharing the lead and background vocals along with additional background help from Amber and Taniesha on background vocals.  Although the name of the song and the name of the disc both include the word angel, it's certainly not a coincidence that the singing on this track has an angelic sound.  Musically, the song is beautiful, as well.   Johnny, Anthony and Fernando shine on the piano and guitars and on the only track they appear on - John and Scott are sensational on the saxophones.  With that said, the ladies absolutely stole this one.  I've been listening to this nearly five minute song for nearly twenty-five minutes now and I still want more.  This one's a masterpiece!   

To get your hands on a copy of "Angels Sing The Blues" just go to www.earwigmusic.com.  That will also give you an opportunity to check out many of the labels' other great releases.  Once you're there, please tell my friend Michael Frank that the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 




TOMMY McCOY

“25 Year Retrospect”
Earwig Music Company, Inc.

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2015


This is definitely the first CD I've ever written about where numbers involved with the music are almost as compelling as the music itself.  The first number is the most obvious, it's the title of the CD - "25 Year Retrospect".  It's a collection of songs that Tommy McCoy has recorded over the last  twenty five years; it's a two disc set that includes thirty tracks - of which twenty-four were written by Tommy; twenty-seven of those tracks appeared on his previous  seven releases and three were penned for this project; there are  forty-seven musicians, playing fifteen different instruments; and the songs were recorded in ten different cities spanning three different countries (The United States, The United Kingdom and Greece).  A few other interesting numbers are; eight, the age Tommy was when he started playing guitar and the grade he was in when he joined the musician's union; five, the grade he was in when he started his first band; six, the grade he was in when his band started playing paying gigs and the number of bands Tommy's performed as a member of prior to his solo releases.  Interesting, to say the least.

With all this music, and all these music makers, it's going to be impossible to go into too much detail on both.  Therefore, since you may recognize many of these names, I'm going to give all the contributors their due and just say a bit about a few songs.  After all, you'll hear them when you get your copy.

In addition to Tommy McCoy on guitar and vocals, you have: Theodore Alexiou, Branson Welsh, Pat Brogan, Jimmy Bennett and Joel Tatangelo on guitars; Al Razz, Mike Chavers, Rob McDowell, Bruce Waibell, Joel Brodsky, Dimitrius Georgopoulous, Mark McCFoy, Tommy Snannon, Mondo Bizarro, William Harris, Jr, Ed Lanier, Chris Lomas, Mark Bennett and Ken West on bass; John Dinoulas, Calvin Cratic, Chris Layton, Chaz Trippy, "Popcorn" Chuck Louden, Tony Baylis, Levon Helm, Tony Coleman, Pug Baker, James Vernardo and Dave Reinhardt on drums; Kostas Tenezos on harmonica; Babis Tsilivigos, Charlie DeChabt, Larry Mergillano and Tim Eddy on horns; Mariano Longo on horn charts; John Street, Pat Geoffrey, Lucky Peterson, Fred Skidmore, Garth Hudson, George Tricomi, Tim Heding, Karen Caruthers and Commander Cody on keyboards; Anastasia on bells; and Karen Denham on vocals. (Note - names in bold are listed on package cover as "special guests")
 
 "The King Is Gone" Is the first of the three songs written especially for this project.  It's a skillfully written tribute to the king himself - Mr. B.B. King.  Note for note, it's done to " The Thrill Is Gone" with the lyrics incorporating many titles of the late legends songs.  This previously unreleased track was performed and recorded in Athens, Greece.  It features heartfelt vocals by Tommy - who's backed by a great Greek band - with excellent guitar leads by Theodore Alexiou, tight rhythm from Dimitrius Georgopoulous & John Dinoulas and smooth harp highlights by Kostas Tenezos.
 
"I've Got A Reason" is the second previously unreleased track and it's also the second of the two tracks done in Greece.  It's a soulful, up tempo number with Tommy belting out much livelier vocals and Babis Tsilivigos adding some smoking saxophone highlights.
 
The final of the three new and original songs is about quite a topical subject in Florida.  Being a Floridian, as is Tommy, I also know all too well about the situations involving "Sugar Cane".  As Tommy tells it, in addition to our blue skies being destroyed by the smoke from the burned down fields, "that sugar cane's got us all insane, ain't it a shame that God damn sugar cane."  This is a solo, acoustic song with Tommy doing some excellent pickin' and singing his heart out as he tells of the perils of the product.  As good as it's done I just don't see "Big Sugar" wanting to adopt it as their jingle.

So now you have a really good choice.  You can either pick up a copy of "25 Year Retrospect",  a few of those above mentioned albums or a combination of both.  To do all that, just go to www.tommymccoyblues.com.  Once you're there, please tell Tommy that the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 


 




CHRISTIAN COLLIN

“Spirit of the Blues”
C-Train Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2015


So the liner notes inside the jacket of Christian Collin's latest CD - "Spirit Of the Blues" - introduced his style of music to me as "Rock with an explosive blues flare".  And on certain tracks, that description pretty much nails it.  Yet, with that said, there is still enough traditional blues to his sound to satisfy this purist's ears.  As a matter of fact, throw in some tasty pickin' on an acoustic number, and a ballad or two, and the disc's got quite an enjoyable mix of blues styles.

The nucleus of the band is Christian Collin on vocals and guitars, Alex Evans on bass and background vocals and Chris Morrow on drums and percussion.  This particular project also includes; Johnny Iguana on B-3 organ and piano; Matthew Skoller and Billy Branch (1 track) on harmonica; Jen Williams on background vocals; Brian Leach on clavinet; Pete Galanis on slide guitar; Rodney Brown on saxophone; Kenny Anderson on trumpet; and Bill McFarland on trombone.

On "Without You", I was totally blown away by the vocals.  This soulful track features Christian's powerful and emotional lead vocals accompanied by Jen's melodic, range defying backups and they work incredibly well together.  Musically, this could be the track on which drummer Chris Morrow may be at disc's best.  This one had me giving the replay button a workout.

Being one of the more straight up, in your face, gut wrenching blues songs, the title track is perfectly named.  In my spirit, this is how the blues should sound.  Lyrically the song opens up mentioning well know places in the country where the spirit lives, then turns to doing the same with some of genres guitarists who have had that spirit living in them.  However, it's about midway through the song - when Christian goes into his nearly two minute relentless attack on his axe - that you'll actually feel the "Spirit Of The Blues".  Not only will this be some of the best guitar playing you'll hear on the disc, but it might just be up there with some of the best you've heard anywhere.

"Blues For You" is pure power and I'm sure it's one of the tracks that George Seedorff had in mind when he wrote the liner notes referred to in the opening paragraph.  It didn't just have me tapping my foot, it had me doing it with force.  During Christian's monster guitar solo, Jen sums it all up when she interjects with "That's what I'm talkin' about". Creating the profound rhythm, Alex, Chris and Johnny are all over this one on the bass, drums and organ.  Turn this one up real loud and just get crazy with it.....that's what the band did.

"Old 109" is a song about running away... on a train.  And the way the band's tearing it up, make that running away on a runaway train. Christian's belting the hell out of the vocals and teaming up with Pete on slide, the guitars are screeching; Alex and Chris are just barreling that rhythm down those tracks; and Matthew is doing what harmonica players usually do on train songs - he's blowin' steam through his harp.          

"The River" Is definitely Christian, Alex and Chris doing something outside of their wheelhouse... or is it?  For several aggressive, hard driving, rocking blues musicians they sure sound great on this acoustic track.  Sounding like they're out of South Mississippi instead of South Chicago, the guys have this front porch thing down pat.  Of course having Billy Branch blowing some down home harp didn't hurt.  Good stuff guys!

"Spirit Of the Blues" closes out with it's slowest and softest track, once again showcasing the band's immense versatility.  It's the only track that featured the horn section and their presence was a welcomed treat.  "Friends Forever" has a sound that's reminiscent of the American Bandstand era - you know - that song with the slow dancers tightly holding each other but barely moving.  Thanks for the pleasant flashbacks gents.

To find out more about Christian Collin, and get your hands on a copy of the CD, just go to www.christiancollin.com .  And as I always ask, please tell him the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient


 




BARRY LEVENSON

“The Visit”
Rip Cat Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © August 2015


As he visits his past, by paying tribute to some of the people and places that influenced him through his musical career, Barry Levenson's latest release - "The Visit" - also features several firsts:  The four covers he includes are the very first time he's ever recorded covers; and as he makes his singing debut on four of the tracks, it's also the first time we get to hear his vocal skills as well.  With that said, this could possibly be one of Barry's most interesting projects. 
 
On "The Visit", Barry - on guitar and vocals - is joined by: Hank Van Sickle on bass; Mike Sandberg on drums & percussion; Mike Thompson on keyboards; Phil Krawzack on horns; Jay Edward on harmonica; and Billy Price on vocals.  As mentioned earlier, four of the discs's twelve tracks are covers with the other eight being originals.  Additionally, six of these twelve tracks are instrumentals. 
 
On the opening track, it took all of five notes to recreate the excitement I experienced when I opened the package from Rip Cat Records and saw a Barry Levenson disc inside.  It's one of the instrumentals and it features no one doing anything out of the ordinary - it's just five master musicians doing what they do - making masterful music.  Barry's guitar work is so mind boggling that right about now I'm tempted to say that this track may feature some of his best guitar work, but c'mon.... this is Barry Levenson and there are eleven more tracks to go.
 
On one of his originals, "Ice Cold Kiss", Barry doesn't just sound comfortable in front of the microphone - he sounds quite good as well.  It's a laid back song on which his soft, smooth and soulful vocal style are actually one of the tracks' many highlights. 
 
The title track, "The Visit", is another penned by Barry and it's an instrumental that's seven minutes of pure blues bliss.  Put your head phones on, turn up the volume, sit back, close your eyes and enjoy the trip as you listen to what could very well end up being some of the best guitar work you will have ever heard.
 
"Steel City" is a jazzed up original instrumental on which Barry pays homage to the city of Pittsburgh.  It's where, earlier in his career, he frequented many of the city's jazz clubs and was obviously strongly influenced by the music.  This is as good as any jazz I've heard.  Helping that along is the smooth rhythm groove Mike and Hank are in and the impressive piano and organ leads of Mike Thompson.  I'm thinking all these cats spent their fair amount of time in some jazz clubs as well. 
 
So what might you think a song called "Talking To Myself" might be about?  Bingo!  Since Barry wrote this one it sounds to me like it might be about a real life experience - and it definitely involves a woman.  This one's a well done shuffle with a few nice blues guitar leads and it's one of the few tracks where we get to hear Jay blow some smokin' harp.
 
This one's called "You're Gonna Need Me", and I actually did.  With it being an Albert King song and the second of only two songs Billy sings on, I needed to hear it.  It's slow blues at it's best, featuring: scorching guitar licks; gut wrenching, heartfelt vocals; piercing organ leads; tight rhythm; and soulful background horns.  Super track to close out a super project with.
 
To find out how to get your hands on what I'm saying is going to be a Blues Music Award nominated CD, just send an email to Barry at barry@barrylevenson.com.  When you do, please make sure you tell him the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 




APRIL MAY & THE JUNE BUGS

“Grease It Up and Go”
with Mike Mettalia

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © July 2015


Apparently, after pulling an all-nighter, a few of the June Bugs ran into some of the guys from The Midnight Shift.  Obviously, they hit it off pretty well.  I can't recall if it was April Mae or Mike Mettalia who used it, but that pick up line of "I think we should grease it up and go" really worked.  The result turned out to be a very good collaboration between the bands on the appropriately titled CD - "Grease It Up & Go" - by April Mae & The June Bugs with Mike Mettalia.  I'm not absolutely sure that it happened exactly like that, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it. 
 
The band consists of: April Mae on lead & background vocals, washboard and kazoo; Mike Mettalia on lead & background vocals and harmonica; Dave "Catfish" Fecca on Telecaster, Stratocaster & cigar box guitars, and background vocals; Christopher Horner on upright bass; and Tim Smith on drums.  And simply because he's a maestro, Dave Gross deserves mentioning for his mixing and mastering expertise.  Inside information also has it that on one of the tracks Dave jumped around the studio with a rattle on his ankle - thus the liner note credit for "multifarious rattle mojo".  Of the disc's fourteen tracks, nine are originals and five are covers.  Now let's go listen to some of this crazy stuff.
 
Since I always get excited when I'm "Memphis Bound", from it's name alone I just knew I was going to love this track.  As it turns out, the band seems excited as well, 'cause this original is a no holds barred, roof raiser.  April's all over the vocals, guitars are rippin', harps are wailin' and the rhythm is rockin' and rollin', and it's all fueled by some fancy percussion work with Tim pounding the hell out of the snare drum....and it's rim.  This right here is what the term "making a good first impression" translates to.  BTW, this coming January, the band will actually be "Memphis Bound" as 2016 IBC participants.  If I were to offer any advice it would simply be "PLAY THIS ONE".
 
The title track, "Grease It Up & Go", is another track that totally rips, and quite honestly, you should get used to hearing that - or similar words - to describe these songs.  The word relent isn't part of anyone in this bands vocabulary.  This is one of those tracks where everyone is peaking and yet somehow they manage to take each other even higher.  Since I need much more than two and a half minutes of this incredibility, I may just listen to this one about a dozen more times.  
 
Uttering the words "Good Morning Judge" doesn't sound like a fun way of starting off the day.  Yet, after a raucous night out on the town for April and a bit of tax fraud by Mike, that's exactly what they found themselves doing.  What is fun is listening to them try to talk.....make that sing their way out of it - first April, then Mike, then in tandem.  I'm not sure about Mike, but I'm betting with all that sass she's tossing at him, the judge just may cut April some slack.  Another fast paced, frolicking number with great harp and guitar leads and more intense rhythm led by Christopher punishing that big ol' standup bass. 

"Miss Celie's Blues" could have also been called Miss April's Blues, because this one is all her.  If April's voice was a calendar it would probably be one from the early 1940's.  Her unique sound, unique style and unique sassitude definitely comes from old school influences.
 
I'd be disowned back in the hood if I didn't have something to say about a track called "Brooklyn City", so here ya go.  This one's loaded with more of what's basically typical for this talented bunch: phenomenal lead and harmony background vocals, extremely hard driving rhythm and gutsy guitar leads.  Since it's another original, I'm thinking they just might include this one on their IBC set list.  I'm also thinking this is the kind of stuff that will take them to the next round.     

With everyone behind her in a subtle, yet somehow commanding groove, April absolutely shines on this slow sultry number called "Midnight Sun".  If they haven't yet submitted this track to the movie industry I strongly suggest Mike and April do just that.  This has being the score for a mystery movie written all over it.    
 
This is usually where I send you to a website to meet the artists but this time I'm sending you two:
Check out April Mae & The June Bugs @ www.AprilMae.com and
Check out Mike Mettalia @ www.MNightShift.com
Of course you'll please tell them both that the Blewzzman sent you. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 




MADISON SLIM

“Close But No Cigar”
All About Blues, Inc.

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © May 2015

Madison Slim is one of those guys that everyone in the blues community should be familiar with, yet few are.  In spite of a notable resume, he's managed to fly under the radar.  As a matter of fact, other than a mention on a blog, and a listing on a few other musician's releases, there isn't even much to be found on him on the Internet.  Although his inspiration is a legend and he's played with legends, until now, he's kind of been the svelte bomber of the blues.    

Thinking that his career was winding down, Madison Slim did what most people intending on retiring do - he moved to Florida... a hotbed of the blues.  That's where he ran into Doug Deming and before long, Slim was hanging out and playing with the Jewel Tones – arguably one of the best bands in the state, and then some.  It was at one of the Jewel Tones' live shows where Dr. Mike Ancona, the disc's executive producer, decided to put this project together.  Thanks to him, and a super supporting cast, I'm thinking that "Close But No Cigar" - the first release under his own name - is going to give Madison Slim the recognition he so deserves. 

On "Close But No Cigar", Madison Slim - on harmonica and vocals - is joined by: Barrelhouse Chuck on piano; Billy Flynn and Doug Deming on guitars; Andrew Gohman on upright and Fender bass; Devin Neel on drums; and Terry Hanck on saxophone.  Put that cast together with their respective bands and right there you've got a heck of a one day festival.

"Close But No Cigar" features one Slim original along with twelve well done covers that fit just right into Slim's vocal and harp style wheelhouse. 
 
As you'd expect with an ensemble of this caliber, the disc immediately opens with everyone at top form and in the tightest of grooves and it all sounds as smooth as a "Big Town Playboy" (Eddie Taylor).  It features Slim sounding equally as good on the vocals and the harp and getting in some sharp, high end Jimmy Reed kind of riffs with the rest of the guys just doing their wonderful thing behind him.  I'm already loving this recording.
 
"Bread Maker" (James Moore) had me chair dancing from start to finish.....all of the many times I replayed it.  This smoker features great rhythm and percussion from Andrew and Devin, Doug stepping up with great guitar lead and Slim sounding quite soulful on the vocals.  This is surely one of the disc's best.
 
"New Leaf" (Jimmy Reed) is one amazing harp player paying tribute to another amazing harp player - Slim playing Reed.  You just can't not love it.  My only regret is that at under 3 minutes, I wanted a lot more.  I'm sure I could have easily foot tapped for another hour or so.  Slim's at disc's best here.
 
This song sounds like it could have been written by countless numbers of people.  It's kind of the anthem for those who've had that so called "one that got away".....often.  It's about that feeling of being close but yet so far, "Close But No Cigar" (Jim Liban).  Slim's subdued deliverance of these melancholy lyrics appear to give the impression he could have written it himself. 
 
Okay, so since having a song by the one of the greatest N'awlins singer, songwriter and piano players of all time - on a recording that features Barrelhouse Chuck and Terry Hanck - and not saying something about it would be a sacrilege, here goes.  "Let the Four Winds Blow" (Fats Domino) is a classic song from one of the biggest legends of our time - the always smiling, always exciting Mr. Fats Domino.  Slim's got the fat man's delivery down pat, the rhythm - along with the rhythm guitars and wailing sax - is masterful, and although Chuck isn't singing it, somehow this image of him playing sideways like Fats did came to my mind and I just couldn't stop smiling.  I'm crazy about this one. 

In addition to saying this is the one to beat in the 2015 "Blewzzy" competition, I'm thinking you just might hear "Close But No Cigar" making some noise at the 2016 Blues Music Awards as well. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 

 





DELTA MOON

“Low Down”

By Rhetta Akamatsu © May 2015


Delta Moon has been setting the bar high for a long time now, but they reach new heights with the just-released Low Down. They offer nine original compositions here and three fantastic covers.
Frankly, the cover of Bob Dylan's "Down In The Flood" was enough to send this reviewer into raptures. There are few better treats than one of my favorite groups doing one of my favorite songs really well, and with Francine Reed to boot! But the album has much more to offer.

The other covers are equally strong. Tom Waits' "Low Down" benefits from Mark Johnson's awesome slide guitar and is a perfect match for Gray's gravelly voice and sly delivery. Skip James' "Hard Time Killing Floor" gets an appropriately dark take with eerie steel guitar and resonator enhancing the classic lyrics.

The original songs are just as strong.  Delta Moon has gotten its following on the strength of original material and Tom Gray is at the top of his form as a writer here. The album opens with "Wrong Side of Town," a rocker that proves Gray can not only sing but play a great lap steel as well. "Afterglow" has a New Orleans feel, tasty guitar from Johnson and Gray and great drumming and  bass from Marion Patton and Franher Joseph.

The inimitable voice of Francine Reed provides backup on the delightful "Nothing You Can Tell A Fool." This funky number also features great tom tom from Patton and slide work from Johnson. "Mean Streak" is a tough little number with lots of gravel and attitude.

"Open All Night" is the sort of party song that Delta Moon does so well, with a very cool and danceable rhythm and Gray's fine harmonica. Voice and guitar follow and complement each other perfectly on the spiraling "Spark In the Dark."  "Mayfly" is a great country-flavored rocker with Anna Kramer providing a smooth duet partner for Gray. "Jelly Roll" has such an authentic classic blues feel that I was surprised to see that Gray wrote it, and "Jacky Ray" is a cool little closer with an early rock and blues feel and some cool bass  from Patton and organ from Gray.
Altogether,this is a completely enjoyable release from the band that is  perfect for summer. Expect it to find a home on your playlist for months to come.



 





Too Slim and the Taildraggers

“Blue Heart”

By Rhetta Akamatsu © April 2015


My husband and I had the privilege of seeing Too Slim and The Taildraggers Saturday night and he gave me a copy of his CD, Blue Heart, which actually came out before last year's Anthology, but which I somehow missed. If you did, too, you need to  get this CD in your collection right way!

Too Slim refers to the music he and  his band make as "Straight whiskey blues with a Southern rock chaser" and that is an appropriate description for this CD. It contains songs about sin and redemption like "Wash My Hands" and "When Whiskey Was My Friend" that are surely not in the Gospel tradition but which have a powerful impact with the fiery guitar, bass and drums and fervent vocals from Slim (whose real name is Tim Langford) The mystical theme also fuels "Angels Are Back," which features some marvelous slide guitar and a somewhat creepy lyric.

Other songs, like "Minutes Feel Like Hours," "Blue Heart," and "Good to See You Smile Again" deal sensitively with relationships. "Minutes Feel Like Hours" is a slow, hypnotic blues while "Blue Heart" is about a woman with a "blue heart made of glass" "Good to See Your Smile Again" has the great Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie as guest vocalist and features scintillating guitar from Too Slim. Hall also provided tasty harmonica on "Blue Heart."

The rest of the songs rock and soar and glide, with magic guitar. mesmerizing vocals, and a fantastic supporting lineup that includes former Delbert McClinton guitarist Rob McNelly, bassist Tommy MacDonald, Tom Hambridge on drums and Reese Wynans of Stevie Ray Vaughn's Band on Hammond B3.

This was the 19th studio release in Too Slim's career and it shows a seasoned entertainer with a kicking band and some very talented associates making muic at the top of his game.




 





Bobby BlackHat Walters

“Hot Blues Mess”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2015

"Hot Blues Mess" is Bobby's fourth release and I'm thrilled to have worked with all of them.  On this project, Bobby BlackHat Walters - on lead and background vocals, harp & percussion - is joined by: Larry Berwald on guitars and background vocals; Tony Lucero on drums & percussion; and Brian Eubanks on bass.  Special guests include: Cal Hamlin on keyboards; Clifford Clark on saxophone & background vocals; Martin Walters on drums; Akeylah Walters, Shayna Walters and Resa Gibbs on lead & background vocals; and Ellie Bell on background vocals.  The recording contains eleven originals and a cover of the classic "Fever".

So I'm going to start this review by simultaneously commenting on the opening AND the closing track... actually, they're the same song.  The short version (4:02) is Track 1 and the long version (6:12) is Track 12.  That just means you get to hear over ten minutes of the discs best track.  The song is a duet between Bobby and Resa in which they take turns badgering each other in search of a " Good Explanation" as to each other's wrongdoings.  Ultimately, there are none.  The contrast of Bobby's deep and serious voice with Resa's power and versatile range makes this one hell of a vocal track.  With that said, the music is by no means taking a back seat.  Led by hefty drumming and substantial organ leads from Tony and Cal, the rhythm is robust; and between Bobby and Larry, the heavily blues induced harp and guitar leads are as serious as the songs accusations. 

"Fever" is one of those songs that have been recorded by artists in just about every genre of music. I've always liked the song and my preference leans towards the slower, jazz infused, bluesy versions, like the one I'm listening to right now.  With Bobby's two daughters switching back and forth on the lead vocals, it's obvious that these leaves did not fall far from the tree.  Akeylah and Shayna Walters pretty much nail it on this one.  Soothingly soft snare drum and ivory tickling provide the perfect musical background for the ladies.  Real smooth. 

Although Bobby claims to have collaborated with his band mates on the composition of this song, I could swear I've told my wife this many, many times....."I work hard each and every day, never drink, bring home all my pay.  I rub your shoulders, and your tired feet, and when you're hungry I cook you something to eat.  "I'm A Good Man", a damn good man, yes I am".  If all of us men could say - and mean - the well written, well sung lyrics on this song, there'd be a lot more happy women in the world.  Well said, Bobby.   

Having heard some forty plus songs by Bobby, I've come to know that he loves singing soft, beautiful ballads that tell a true story and that works for me, because I love hearing him sing them.  " Empty House" is one of those songs.  Sure, there's some great music going on but this is Bobby doing what Bobby does best.  Put the song on, pay close attention, and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. 
    
There is a line in "Blues Praise" that says "There's a thin line, between Gospel and the blues." And while Bobby's singing it, Larry's laying down some serious country blues slide guitar licks.  Add to that some runaway train type rhythm from Tony and Brian, very soulful and spiritual melody vocals 'tween Bobby and Resa, and background vocals from Ellie, Akeylah, and Shayna and I don't know if I'm at a hoedown in a barn or a revival under a tent.  But what's cool is I really don't care 'cause all I want to do is dance, dance, dance.  Woo Hoo!         

If Bobby BlackHat is one of those artists who's been flying under your blues radar, you can do something about that by going to www.bobbyblackhat.com.  In addition to telling him I sent you, please tell Bobby the Blewzzman sends his love.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient


 





Laura Cheadle

“Where the Blues Hangs Out”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2015


Besides being fun to listen to, Laura Cheadle is fun to look at as well.  And although she is indeed quite cute, that's not the basis for that statement.  I'm talking about her aura, and the fact that she always appears happy - and knowing her as I do, it's not just an appearance.  She exudes a feeling of Zen that's totally contagious.  Oh yeah, and she's a talented, multi instrument playing, singer, songwriter with a bio that someone twice her age - or more - would be happy to boast.

"Where the Blues Hangs Out" is Laura Cheadle's fifth release - a most impressive number for someone who I know is not yet thirty years of age.  The disc contains thirteen tracks of which ten are written by Laura and/or J. S. Cheadle - her band mate and dad.  The complete list of musicians - which is affectionately referred to as the Laura Cheadle Family Blues Band - are: Laura Cheadle on lead and background vocals & acoustic guitar; J. S. Cheadle on piano, organ, guitar, drums, bass & background vocals; brother Jimmy Lee Cheadle on electric guitar; B. W. Smith and Paul Golonsky on drums; mother Sue Cheadle, Madi Hart and Maddie Brewer on background vocals; Mikey Jr. and Steve Guyger on harp; Bobby Michaels on saxophones; Jeff "Blondie" Van Stenz on trumpet; and Tony Sailer on violins.

Where there's somebody crying, where there's somebody dying, where there's a two timing woman or where there's a two timing man, these are just some of the places "Where The Blues Hangs Out".  Very true, well written and well sung lyrics on this impressive opening and title track.  With a large part of this short song being instrumental, I'll address Laura's amazing vocal talent and range on many of the next few songs - that's for sure - because what's taking place in the middle of this track is musically incredible.  You've got Mikey Jr... excuse me, that's Monster Mikey Jr. wailin' on harp, Jimmy Lee doing the same on lead guitar riffs and papa Cheadle nearly stealing the song on piano, organ, drums, rhythm guitar and bass.  What a way to kick things off.

"This Love Looks Good On Me" is an absolutely beautiful and inspiring song about an obviously perfect relationship.  It tells such a happy story that I found myself hoping it was written from a real life experience.  From baritone to falsetto - and everywhere in between - Laura vocally nails this one.  Although the track features full instrumentation, it's actually a duet with J. S. once again doing it all.  His piano and lead guitar highlights are exactly that - highlights.
 
Starting off uncharacteristically slow, this rendition of "Rock Me Baby" sounded like Laura turned it into a soft, sultry ballad - and with her beautiful voice, that would have been a good thing.  Then, a minute into the track, all hell breaks loose and The Cheadle Family Blues Band -  with Jimmy Lee on guitar, pops on bass and keyboards and B. W. on drums - are all rockin' me baby.

"Change (It's Alright)" is another absolutely beautiful and beautifully done song and this ballad stays a ballad for all of it's wonderful seven plus minutes.  It opens with a very mellow and melodic harp solo, compliments of Steve, that leads into what may be some of the discs best vocals.  What Laura does - first solo, than in harmony with J. S. - is phenomenally flawless.  Work like this needs to be a part of any singing 101 class.  My God, I got so lost in the singing of this song that I almost didn't mention the consummate rhythm and string  accompaniments by J. S. on bass, Paul on drums and Tony on violin, and the continued smooth harp interludes by Steve.  This one's a masterpiece.

This next track is a live recording and it opens with Laura telling the audience that it is one of her favorite tunes.  That's true of T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday" for many of us.  More strong rhythm - this time with B. W. on the drums and J. S. on the bass and organ - back up Laura as she growls, howls and generally belts the hell out of the blues on this one. She says it at the end of the track and I'll say it now as well....PHEW! 

To find out more about Laura, and the rest of the Cheadle Family Blues Band, head on over to www.lauracheadle.com.  While you're there, read the bios, check the schedule, buy some discs and tell her the Blewzzman sent you. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 


 





Celso Salim Band

“To the End of Time”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2015


It's just a few months shy of eight years since Celso Salim's last release and it's impressive that the nucleus of his band, and some of the special guests as well, are still in tact.  I guess Celso is a firm believer in not fixing something that isn't broke.  Actually, the only change of any significance is the addition of a horn section and that's always a way of making something good become something better. 

On "To The End Of Time", the Celso Salim Band consists of course, of: Celso Salim on acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, dobro and vocals; Rodrigo Mantovani on electric and acoustic bass and harmony vocals; and Jason Sterling on drums.  Special guests include: Hunberto Zigler on drums and percussion; Ari Borger on piano and Hammond B3 organ; Darryl Carriere on harmonica; Bia Marchese & Rafael Cury on lead and harmony vocals; Denilson Martin on saxophones; and Sidmar Vieira on trumpet.  Of the discs eleven tracks, eight were penned by Celso.

Musically, "Fool Of Me" is one of the discs best tracks.  Rodrigo, Jason and Ari are in a real smooth rhythm groove on the drums, bass and organ and Celso, in addition to belting it out of the park vocally, is killing it on the guitar leads.  Real deal blues right here.

Making his only appearance on the harp, Darryl brings a lot of life to a shuffle called "Red Light Blues".  Between his harp leads, Celso ripping guitar leads, Ari's piano highlights and the well done lead and harmony vocals, this one's another great performance.       

Celso, Rodrigo and Humerto do an absolutely masterful job on the cover of the Sleepy John Estes track titled "Liquor Store Blues".  This acoustic track features amazing pickin', profound bass and dazzling drumming.  The simplest of the ensembles and yet one of the most impressive tracks.    

Seven and a half minutes of slow blues, done just the way I like it, easily makes "Devil In You" a double highlight for me.  When it comes to this kind of stuff, the longer the better.  The contrasting high notes of the piano backed by the deep notes of the sax at the opening of this track immediately had me lost in the song.  Then Ari steps in with his highly emotional lyrics, followed by stinging guitar leads and full blown, scorching blues is now in session.  Oh yeah, bring it on.   

One of the three covers is the Elmore James classic "Talk To Me Baby".  As with Bia, this is the only track on which Rafael does the lead vocals and that right there makes it worthy of mention.  With that strong and raspy voice of his he nails this one.  Along with absolutely amazing slide guitar work from Celso, torrid piano playing from Ari and strong backup from Denilson on the sax, this rendition rivals any I've heard. Great job.

If you'd like to learn a lot more about Celso Salim and listen to some of these tracks, please go to www.celsosalim.net.  Of course, you will tell him the Blewzzman sent you, right?

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





Big & Tasty Blues Band

“Big & Tasty”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2015

When I went to the IBC in January, I was on a mission to see, meet and network with as many bands as I possibly could.  I had it all planned out that with the exception of some bands from Florida, who's members are all good friends of mine, that I would not see any one band more than once.  Then Big N' Tasty came along and that plan went right out the window.  After a dose of this act I was craving more and happily I got lots of it.  Since the band did make it into the semifinals - and as a testament to how much I enjoyed watching and listening to them - they are the only band of the 120 plus participating bands that I saw all three times they performed.  
 
Big N' Tasty are: Caryn Schroeder on lead and background vocals, saxophone and percussion; Keith Beechtree on lead and background vocals & lead, rhythm and slide guitars; Keith Cottrell on lead and background vocals & lead and rhythm guitars; Brad Skenandore on harmonica and background vocals; Paul Exworthy on bass and background vocals; Larry Phillips on keyboards; and Eric Farah on drums.  The self titled CD is the bands first and it includes all original music penned by Brad Skenandore, Keith Cottrell & Keith Beechtree
 
With a voice as big as her beautiful being, Caryn is immediately impressive on "Hard Livin", the disc's opening track.  Quite frankly, she is pretty much the main reason I was mesmerized by this band.  Her powerful vocals, that can sometimes sound as smooth as silk and other times as rough as gravel, were given to her for one reason - to belt the hell out of a song.  That, combined with her sassy facial expressions, the rolling of her eyes and her flirtatious glances - to the audience and the other band members as well, are all a part of her wonderful magnetism.  This is one of the disc's smokers that's got everyone cranking.  Driving rhythm, gutsy guitar riffs and alternating piano and harp leads all pushing Caryn along.  Excellent track.
 
"Big Daddy And Little Darlings"  is a track in which the lyrics actually describe the song.  One of the lines is "Now the joint in jumpin' and you don't want to go.....so we got no choice but to stay out on the floor".  And the reason the joint is jumpin' is because the band is playing swing music at it's best.  Paul and Eric are at disc's best on the rhythm, Larry's got some crazy things happening on the organ, Caryn's slammin' it on the sax, the guitar guys are on fire and the lead and harmony vocals are spectacular.  Easily the discs best track and surely worth the many replays I just gave it.
 
This track caused flashbacks of me sitting in the Hard Rock Cafe watching Big N' Tasty blowing the roof off of the place while performing this track - "Little Blue Top".  I can still hear the crowd going nuts.  This is a hard driving track about... driving.  Play it loud and play it often.  Be advised, listening while you're actually driving might just earn you a speeding ticket.  Wow!
 
It's my opinion that Big N' Tasty have a bright future in the blues and you should do all you can to get to get to know more about them.  They are currently working on building a website but in the mean time, you can friend them at Facebook.  Just search Big N' Tasty or click right here - www.facebook.com/BigNTastyBlues.  When you do, please be sure to tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





Chuck Strong & SRBQ

“It's About Time”
30 Year Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2015


Every once in a while - or as in this case, every thirty years or so -  I come across a CD having quite an appropriate title.  Since it's been thirty years since Chuck Strong's last release, saying "It's About Time" kind of hits the nail right on the head.  With that said, an alternate title of "Good Things Are Worth Waiting For" would have been quite appropriate as well.
 
On "It's About Time", Chuck Strong - on vocals, drums & percussion - is joined by: Michael Stanton, the discs producer, on rhythm guitar, bass & vocals; John Menzano, also on bass; Dave Morgan on piano and organ; Jimmy Powers on harmonica; Chris Cardenas, Alan Wright, John De Vos, Dallas Hodge and Bunky Spurling, on guitar; Jim Gustin on guitar and vocals; Jim Scimonetti on saxes & flute; Skip Van Winkl on organ; Jeri Goldenhar and Gigi Worth on background vocals; and Terri Villani on fiddle.  The disc contains ten outstanding tracks of which nine are written/co-written by Chuck.
 
"Mary Anne" not only kicks the disc off but it kicks ass as well.  Starting off with a smoker is always the way to go.  This is only one of a few tracks on which Jimmy gets to blow his harp and he's making sure he gets his share of hot licks in.  And to my delight, so is Dave on the piano.  One of my rules of thumb is "Ya wanna make a three piece band better, ya gotta add a harp, a keyboard player or a sax".....or better yet, several of those.
 
Then there are songs that are exceptions to the rule and "Working Man" is one of them.  This is your basic three pieces mastering some slow, blistering blues.  Vocally, Chuck's at discs best with his scratchy, soulful performance and Alan is putting out some of discs hottest blues guitar licks.  This is my kind of stuff.
 
"Lord Have Mercy", here's one the dancers will go crazy over.  In order to write this paragraph I actually had to wait for this swingin' shuffle to end.  Have you ever tired typing while your feet are tappin' and your fingers are snappin'?  This one features John De Vos doing some fine pickin' on guitar and along with some smooth vocals, Chuck  getting in a few very cool drum solos.         
 
The CD closes with one of my favorite tracks, "God, Love And Rock & Roll".  After the first listen - on which I got to know most of the words - I gave this addictive track several replays just so I could sing along with it.  What a great song.  The rhythm Chuck, Michael, Skip and Dave create on the drums, bass and keyboards rocked, Jim had the saxes smokin' and the Gospel feel the lead and background vocalists put forth sounded as good as any large choir.  
 
Deserving mention is the fact that Chuck has dedicated this project to his late grandmother, Helen Trudeau.  Unlike other grandmothers who prod their grandchildren about going to college, getting married, having babies and what have you, she kept asking Chuck when he was going to make another CD.  Helen - God bless your soul - I know you're with me on this.....I'm hoping it will be way before I'm 96 when his next one comes out.
 
To learn some more on Chuck Strong & SRBQ, please go to www.srbqrocks.com (and they do rock).  Once there, you know the drill, you'll tell him the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





Duffy Bishop

“Find Your Way Home”
Lil' Spinner Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2015



"Find Your Way Home" is Duffy Bishop's eighth release – a very impressive number at that.  Another impressive number is 22 - the number of talented musicians appearing on the project.  Joining Duffy Bishop, on vocals, are: hubby Chris Carlson on guitar & vocals; Henry Cooper on slide guitar; Kelly Dunn and Dave Jette on drums; Keith Lowe and Dean Mueller on bass; Jim Wallace on harmonica; Joe McCarthy on trumpet, vocals & horn arrangements; Chris Mercer on tenor sax & horn arrangements; Bradley Ulrich on clarinet & baritone sax; Ben Medler on trombone; Dave Heschner on keyboards & vocals; Mary Flower on acoustic guitar, lap steel & vocals; Jon Goforth on horn arrangements; Carlton Jackson on percussion & heartbeat; and Karen Bergstresser, Rebecca Kilgore, Claudia Knauer, Jo Lett, Gretchen Rumbaugh and Terre Schussman on vocals.  Of the disc's ten tracks, seven are originals.
 
The opening track is pure heat.  This original composition starts off with Chris' smoldering guitar licks, followed by Kelly and Dean's fiery rhythm then Dave's burning organ chords and as it all kicks in, it just never relents.  Then with a serious - and I mean very serious attitude, Duffy tells you "I Don't Want to Hear About It" and you'll clearly know she doesn't.  The songs message strongly defies hypocrisy and it couldn't have been more strongly defied the way Duffy did it.  Warning: If you're the person this song is about, BEWARE!
 
"Black Mangrove" is a song Duffy wrote after the passing of both her parents in a short period of time.  Although it comes from a sad place it seems to be quite soothing to listen to.  Maybe that was the idea.  Unlike the other tracks I've commented on, this one shows the soft, tender side of Duffy's vocal versatility.  Mary's magic on the lap steel, Carlton's mystical percussion vibes, the melodic background vocals and the soft hand claps all create the peacefulness of a spiritual hymn.  Easily the most beautifully performed track of the lot. 
 
"Fingerlickin" is not about BBQ... if you get my drift.  This is one of those fun tracks that sounds like it was recorded live, in the middle of a party.  There's a lot of carrying on going on in the background and even though they sound great, the vibe the background singers give off as they join in is that of a bunch of party goers spontaneously deciding to randomly chime in.  In the meantime, the musicians are knocking out some good ol' raunchy blues and Duffy's virtually putting on a clinic in vocal range.  Good stuff.
 
Something that deserves mention as much as some of these excellent tracks is the CD jacket's artwork and design.  Inside, besides listing all of the 22 musicians involved, Duffy also lists the photo takers, the picture drawers, the technical people and some advice givers as well.  By each of their names is a number that corresponds with a picture of each one of them - when they were all small children.  As were the pictures, the idea was quite cute.
 
To learn more about Duffy Bishop just go to www.DuffyBishop.com.  As usual, please tell her the Blewzzman sent you. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





Galloway & Kelliher

“Wild Dogs”
Lakehouse Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © February 2015


Just as blues bands from other regions have a style of music that's sometimes associated with their names; homegrown Florida bands do as well.  The one that I've heard used is "funky swamp boogie blues" and I'm thinking that's a heck of an accurate description of Galloway & Kelliher's sound.  Having individually been involved with many bands, "Wild Dogs" is their second release together.  On the project, Mike Galloway - on harp & vocals and Tim Kelliher - on guitars, bass & vocals are joined by: Danny Walters on bass, drums, Hammond B3 & background vocals; Juan Perez and Reno Mussatto, (the disc's producer) on drums; Barry Dean and Jerry Wilhelm on bass; John Tegethoff on Hammond B3; and Mark Emerick on slide guitar.  In addition to a Lazy Lester and a Robert Johnson cover, “Wild Dogs" features ten original/collaborated tracks. 

The opening track is a relaxing, laid back, down home Florida, acoustically done song.  As a matter of fact, even the lyrics are all about relaxing. As Mike and Danny so melodically tell it on vocals, if you don't take care of yourself you could end up six feet "In the Ground".  Great pickin', harp and rhythm all done by Tim, Mike and Danny.

With seven more tracks yet to come, my ears want me to say that right now I'm already listening to the disc's best track.  As a matter of fact, "Catch Me When I Fall" may actually cause it to be a while before I even hear the other tracks... I just cannot listen to this kind of stuff only once.  Slow, soulfully sung heartfelt lyrics, piercing harp leads (both by Mike), smokin' blues riffs on the lead guitar, intense and tight rhythm led by the steady pulse of a Hammond B3 (Danny) - all done exceptionally well - are all what floats my blues boat and I'm telling you, right now it's high tide for the Blewzzman.    
   
So let me ask you something.  If on the day that your woman leaves you it happens to be raining whiskey, would you have the "Broken Hearted Blues"? Tough one, huh?  Kind of like I got bad news and I got good news.  The bad news is my baby left me yesterday and the good news is it was raining whiskey.  With a bit of a country swagger, Tim does a heck of a job on this one - vocally and on slide guitar.  Once again, more good rhythm - this time by Barry on Bass and Juan on drums.  Give this one to Toby Keith and it's a number one hit on the country charts - ain't no doubt about it. 

The title - and quite gritty - track, "Wild Dogs" is another winner.  Again, it's Tim on the vocals and in between fiery guitar licks; he's snidely belting the hell out of this one.  Meanwhile, partner Mike on the harp along with Barry, Reno and John on rhythm are all providing him with musical support as wild as those dogs. 

If you're not already there, you now need to go to www.LakehouseRecords.com  and get your hands on a copy of "Wild Dogs".  And while you’re caught up in the excitement, please don't forget to tell them the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





D. A. Foster

“The Real Thing”
Shaboo Productions, Vizztone Label Group

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © February 2015


Not being familiar with the name D. A. Foster, I decided to check out his website to see what I might learn about this stranger.  As it turned out, a lot of what I learned made me realize that D. A. was not that much of a stranger at all.  For nearly fifty years he's been an integral part of many parts of the music business and many of his associates, and some of his projects, were very recognizable.  As a matter of fact, his bio was such interesting reading I was very tempted to just copy and paste the whole thing right here.  However, I'll just stick to talking about the disc for now, and later on I'll tell you where to find that bio.
 
"The Real Thing" is indeed the title of the CD but listeners will unquestionably agree that those are words which could easily describe D. A. Foster as a vocalist and performer, as well.  Joining him on this release are: Mike Finnigan on B3 organ, piano & background vocals; Tony Braunagel on drums; Larry Fulcher on bass & background vocals; Johnny Lee Schell and Josh Sklair on guitar; Lenny Castro on percussion; David Garfield on piano; Darrell Leonard on trumpet; Joe Sublett on saxophone; Lee Thornberg on flugelhorn, trombone and trumpet; and Julie Delgado and Nita Whitaker on background vocals.  Tony Braunagel and Mike Finnigan are also the project's producers.

"The Real Thing" opens with a track that most of us men, at one time or another in our lives, may have quoted a line from - I know I have.  The song is "Good Man Bad Thing" and the line is "I'm just a good man who's done a bad thing".  The track opened with a short fifteen second rhythmical lead in and in that little bit of time I knew the next hour was going to be quite pleasurable.  Mike, Tony, Larry and the horn section were already all over this one.  Then D. A. started singing and it took exactly one verse for him to validate his vocal credentials.  His smooth, strong, soulful, slightly scratchy and superbly articulate vocal attributes all add up to an absolutely perfect singing voice.  

As I'm listening to the title track - "The Real Thing" - I've come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I try, it's going to be virtually impossible to not sound redundant.  You put a bunch of world class musicians together with someone I already said has a perfect voice and you come up nothing short of excellence on every track.  With that said, this is one of the better guitar and piano tracks with Larry and Mike on top of their game.

On a slow jazzy love song titled "Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You", D. A. sounds as good as any crooner this listener's ever heard.  As I listen to him I hear some of Lou Rawls, some of Brook Benton, and some of Big Joe Turner - not exactly a bad bunch to be associated with.  Also, this is one of just three tracks that David appears on and his piano playing is as beautiful as the song itself.   

Every year, usually in late January, I present the Blewzzy Award to my favorite CD of all those I reviewed the prior year.  With that having just been done, and next year's still eleven months away, I'm going out on a limb and saying that in 2015, this is the one to beat. 

Now, about that D. A. Foster bio I mentioned earlier.  You can read that and much more by going to www.dafostermusic.com.  When you do, please tell him his new fan, the Blewzzman, sent you. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient


 





Shaun Murphy

“Loretta”
Vision Wall Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © February 2015


Prior to doing sitting down to write a review, I like to give the CD another listen so that I can make notes as to which songs I may want to address in the review.  So with a pen nearby and a sticky note on the cover of the disc, I gave it a listen.  When I saw that I was on track six and the sticky note had 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 written on it, I chuckled and asked myself "What the heck you I doing, Pete?  This is Shaun Murphy!"  That's just the way it is with her.  Song after song, CD after CD, regardless if it's an original or a cover, regardless of the song style and regardless of the music's genre -  the woman never sounds anything less than great.  As a matter of fact, while reviewing her last release, I recall saying that "I'd enjoy hearing Shaun Murphy sing nursery rhymes".  Amen! 

On her newest release - "Loretta" - Shaun Murphy, lead vocalist extraordinaire, is joined by some very recognizable performers; Randy Coleman on bass; George Lilly on drums; Kenneth Michael Kramer on rhythm guitar; Jack Pearson, Jimi Fiano and Rob McNelley on lead guitar; Mark T. Jordan and Larry Van Loon on keyboards; and along with Shaun herself, Randy Coleman and Matt Workman provide the background vocals.  The CD contains twelve tracks of which seven are Shaun Murphy originals. 

Having worked with many of the masters in the world of rock, Shaun's ability to blow the roof off with a smoker is second to none.  Making an awesome first impression, she opens with an aggressive original titled "Don't Lie To Me".  Randy and George are fueling this powerful production with some relentless rhythm and it's got Jack jammin' out savage guitar licks.      

The discs title track, "Loretta", is another of Shaun's originals and with it's runaway train type rhythm, and more of Jack's unrestrained guitar leads it's another of it's rockers as well.  Loretta, be her real or fictitious, is the kind of woman every man likes to meet but no man wants to marry.  That's because all of her sneaking around and cheating ways are sure to give you a fatal case of the blues - or as Shaun refers to it - "dead man's blues".  Musically, this one rocks, but lyrically - in the hands of a Carrie Underwood or a Miranda Lambert - it's a country hit.      

Being a scorching ballad, "Strange Life" is obviously my personal favorite of the bunch.  I'm just a sucker for a slow blues song being belted out by a woman with an emotional and powerful voice....enter Shaun Murphy.  I know I said earlier that I could listen to this lady sing anything, and I can.  With that said, should she ever ask me, I'd be happy to tell Shaun I'd love nothing better than to hear a CD full of these.  Musically it's spot on as well.  Randy, George and Larry have the rhythm right where it should be and Jimi's at disc's best with his ferocious guitar leads.  The songs about to end and I'm about to hit replay... again.  Great song, greatly done.  

The title of this original track includes words that I get to say twice and year, and I wish it were more - "24 Hours From Memphis".  As Shaun sings about returning home, part of her emotional lyrics include words that anyone who has ever been there can relate to -  "All the music you can feel is right down on Beale...".  George leads this tracks funky rhythm with brilliant drum work and it's Jack making the joyful noise on the lead guitar.

She may not be known as the queen of the blues but as far as this listener is concerned, Shaun Murphy is the "Queen of Music".  Check her out at www.shaunmurphyband.com or if Bob Seger happens to be playing in a city near you, check her out as part of The Silver Bullet Band.  Of course, you will tell her the Blewzzman sent you. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient


 





Matthew Robinson & The Jelly Kings

“Work That Jelly”
One Man and His Dog Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © January 2015


I love the fact that as much as I feel like I know a lot about the blues there's still so much I don't.  That just means I'll never stop learning, and that's a beautiful thing.  Here's a good example.  I'm not that far away from being able to say that I've been into this music for nearly fifty years and yet I just discovered a real deal Texas blues man who has been playing it for over fifty years.  Cool, right?  After performing since the mid 1960s, having six albums to his credit, having headlined in Europe, Asia and South America, having opened for the likes of Jimmy Reed, Big Mama Thornton, James Brown and more, and having shared the stage with Albert Collins, W.C. Clark, Lazy Lester and more, Matthew Robinson has finally arrived at the House of Blewzz.  Matthew, I am very pleased to finally meet you, sir.  
 
"Work That Jelly" is Matthew's long awaited return to recording, and on it he's aligned himself with some of the best musicians in Austin, TX.  Joining Matthew, on vocals and guitar, are: Jeff Hays on bass, Steve Power (the discs producer) on Harmonica, and Pete "The Beat" Langhans on drums.  Collectively, they are The Jelly Kings.  Also appearing on the disc are  Ron D'Argenio on piano and organ, and very special guest W.C.  Clark on guitar.  
 
The CD opens with a Taj Mahal classic, "Strut", and the guys certainly do it justice.  The songs intro is so recognizable that it's one of those "I can name that tune in 1 note" songs.  During it - and throughout the track as well - Steve's harp work is outstanding.  Vocally, Matthew h-h-h-has t-t-t-the s-s-s-stuttering p-p-p-part so down pat you'd think it was his natural way of speaking.  Add to that some of W C Handy award winner W C. Clark's guitar licks and throw in Ron's smokin' organ solo about midway through the track, and I think the guys may have opened with some of their best work.   
 
There are some songs that no matter how many times you hear them, and no matter who you hear them by, you always seem to enjoy them.  For me, "Rack 'Em Up" is one of those songs.  Backed by strong rhythm from Jeff and Pete, a nice piano solo by Ron, several robust harp leads out of Steve and a few of his own hot guitar leads, Matthew belts out an excellent rendition of the song.
 
"That's What Love Will Do" is the funkiest of the discs tracks.  In spite of this being another of the three tracks that features W.C. Clark's outstanding guitar work and another of all the tracks that feature Steve blowin' the hell out of a harp, it's the rhythm section causing this one to smoke.  Jeff, Pete and Ron are all on top of their game right here.  And then there's Matthew, just belting out the blues.
 
The day that she got married she was all dressed in white, but when the preacher came she had to keep the bottle out of sight.  Now that sounds like a "Whiskey Drinking Woman" if I ever heard of one.  This is my kind of stuff - down and dirty slow blues with scorching guitar,  piercing harp leads, and growling, gut wrenching vocals.  With perfectly paced rhythm behind them, Matthew and Steve are all over this one.
 
Other tracks on "Work That Jelly" - which contains 100% Austin, Texas Blues - include: "Going To New York", "It Takes A Long Time Baby", "I Didn't Know", "I'm Gonna Stop You From Giving Me The Blues", "Your Today, My Tomorrow", and "I Asked For Water".  
 
If Matthew Robinson has been missing from your life, as he was from mine, you can change that by looking him up at www.matthewrobinson.us.  While you're there, tell him his new friend Pete the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient


 





Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers

“Love Whip Blues”
Juicy Juju Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © January 2015



Depending on how you look at it, this is either the first, the third or the eighth release for Erin Harpe.  Now before you go saying "what the heck are you talking about, Pete?" Let me explain.  Before releasing "Love Whip Blues" – the debut CD by Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers – Erin had two prior acoustic blues releases and five more with a world-funk electro-dance band called Lovewhip.  With that in mind, and the fact that the band is self described as "playing a unique brand of dance music rooted in 1930's Delta Blues, then shaken and stirred with some soul, funk and reggae", I can honestly say that you might just never know what you're about to hear from this very versatile performer.  Let's go find out...
 
The Delta Swingers are: Jim Countryman on bass; Richard Rosenblatt on harmonica; Bob Nisi on drums; and, of course, they are led by Erin Harpe on vocals and acoustic & electric guitars.  Adding to the music are the following guest swingers: Dave Gross on guitar, piano, upright  and electric bass, Wurlitzer, percussion and background vocals; and Bob Margolin & Sonny Jim Clifford on slide guitar.  "Love Whip Blues" contains four Harpe/Rosenblatt originals and six - as you might expect - "uniquely interpreted" covers.
 
The opening track, one of the four originals, starts off with Erin singing "Come on baby, let's do the "Delta Swing".  And along with the relaxed and groovy beat the band immediately slips into, I'm sure that invitation fills the dance floor in no time flat.  It's one of those style of songs that even the non dancers will be swaying back and forth with.  This one's highlighted by outstanding rhythm from Jim and Bob, a few nice harp leads by Richard, and Erin - who obviously grew up on the south side of DC - wonderfully sounding like a true southern belle on vocals.  Excellent track. 
 
With this track being called "Love Whip Blues" and remembering the style of music the band Lovewhip played, you've got to know this one's going to rip.  Once again, it's the rich and funky rhythm fueling this one.  From the sounds of it, I'm getting the impression this is one of Erin's favorite songs to sing.  She's snickering, snarling, squealing and cracking those vocals out just like she's cracking that whip.   
 
"Pick Poor Robin Clean" sounds as if just a bit of the Rio Grande splashed in with some of that Mississippi mud.  This Delta style front porch picker, with a light dose of some country twang, is a real knee slapper.  Listening to Erin's vocals once again had me smiling and the combination of her and Dave playing the heck out of the acoustic guitar and mandolin together was quite pleasing.  
 
I know this song has been done by many, but the first time I ever remember hearing "Angel From Montgomery" was hearing EG Kight sing it and I was blown away by her rendition of the song.  Since then I request the song at every EG show I attend.  With that said, after hearing her version, I'll now do the same at any of Erin's shows.
 
Other tracks on Love Whip Blues include: "Future Blues", "Good Luck Baby", Virtual Booty Blues" and "Charles River Delta Blues".  
 
To learn more about Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers, just go to www.erinharpe.com.  There you'll be able to get your hands on "Love Whip Blues" as well as some of her earlier acoustic discs.  Once you're there, please tell her the Blewzzman sent you and let her know I'll be there hootin' and hollerin' during her upcoming performance at the International Blues Challenge.  If you're in Memphis for this event, this is one performance you need to circle on your schedule.  
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





Dave Sadler

“Matchbox”
Bluezart Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © January 2015

Dave Sadler is one of those musicians who grew up in a musical household and, as his biography states, he's even got some of Johnny Cash's blood running through his musical veins.  Regardless of how artists like Dave learn to do what they do - and in Dave's case, he's self taught - I still refer to it as learning through osmosis.  Or more commonly, being a "chip off the old block".   
 
Growing up on the edge of the Delta, in Pine Bluff, AR, Dave had an opportunity to be exposed to the regions predominant music - the blues - and once he was, there was no looking back.  With early influences such as B. B. and Elmore, and later on the likes of Clapton, Cray and SRV, Dave's style of blues tends to be an excellent blend of straight up blues and blues rock.   
 
"Matchbox" is Dave's third release and of its ten tracks, five are originals.  On it, Dave Sadler - on guitars, bass, vocals and harmonica - is joined by: Jim McCarty, Frank Briggs, Mel Sarreal and Jesse Rocha on drums; Randy Landas, James Ryan and Dave Grant on bass; Phil Clarke on keyboards; Roly Platt on harmonica; Pat Murdoch on guitar; Dan Cipriano on horns; and Marvin Taylor on drums, bass and guitar.  Sounds to me like there should be some smokin' rhythm coming up, let's go check it out.
 
"Junior's Jam" is one of four instrumentals that can be heard on "Matchbox" and as I expected, this original track is full of solid rhythm.  This track appeared on Mary4Music Presents: Keeping the Blues Alive - Volume Six and I'll just stick with what I had to say about it then..."Junior's Jam is an all-out, full throttle instrumental with everyone kicking ass.  Led by some seriously intense guitar work by Dave and a drummer - Jim Mcarty - who's totally trying to wear himself out, this one totally rocks.  Good old smokin' blues".
 
On "Satisfaction Guaranteed", another original, Dave turns the bass duties over to James Ryan and along with some monster drum work by Mel Sarreal, they once again keep the rhythm smoking.  Add to that Dave belting out some of the discs best vocals, and blowing the hell out of a harp, and you've got another of the discs many highlights.
 
The fierce musical energy these guys are putting out remains at full tilt on "You Put Me Out", yet another Dave Sadler original.  This one features Dave showcasing some amazing harmonica skills, Phil doing the same with some freaking crazy piano and organ work and with what's become every tracks common denominator - more rockin' rhythm.    
 
"Fourth Street Ruckus" is another of Dave's original instrumentals and this track appeared on Volume One of the Mary4Music compilation CD series.  Once again, what I had to say then is what I'll say now.... "Fourth Street Ruckus could have also been called Fourth Street Melee, Fourth Street Free For All or Fourth Street Donnybrook.  Basically, they all mean that all hell is breaking loose and that's exactly what's going on musically on the five minute instrumental.  Leading the way with relentless guitar playing, Dave and the band are kickin' ass".
 
Having had lots of smokers before it, the disc closes out with a very relaxing instrumental.  It's a cover of one of the best songs ever written.  As a matter of fact, Rolling Stone magazine named it the 24th greatest song of all time, it's 20th on their list of the one 100 greatest guitar tracks and it's been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.  I'm talking about Curtis Mayfield's Gospel influenced composition titled "People Get Ready".  On this rendition, Dave - who's also playing bass on the track - surely does his part in living up to the reputation the song has for it's guitar work.  His playing is immaculate and flawless.  Other highlights on this one include hymnal organ effects and perfectly subtle drum and cymbal work.  Thirsting for more, this 2:57 masterpiece received many replays.
 
Other tracks on "Matchbox" include: "I Got All You Need", "Matchbox", "Cissy Strut", "You Should'a Known" and "Killing Floor". 
 
If rock'em, sock'em, rhythm fueled, smokin' blues lights your fire, then you need to get your hands on a copy of "Matchbox".  You can do that by going to www.davesadlermusic.com.  While you're there, please tell him his friend the Blewzzman sent you.  While you're at it also tell him I'm looking very forward to that beer... and the shot of tequila.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 






Sabrina Weeks & Swing Cat Bounce

“Live”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © December 2014


"Live" is the third release from Sabrina Weeks & Swing Cat Bounce and I'm quite happy to have written about them all.  Aside from all of them being excellent discs, I'm very impressed with the facts that they were all released within a short four year period and that the members of Swing Cat Bounce have remained constant.  That kind of stability, in such a volatile industry, deserves to be mentioned. 
 
With that said, the stable cats that make up Swing Cat Bounce are Bill White on rhythm guitar, Mike Hilliard on lead guitar, Terry Studwick on bass, and Ed Hilliard on Drums.  Of course, they are all led by the stunningly beautiful Sabrina Weeks on the vocals. 
 
Characteristically, most live recordings are largely a collection of songs that bands have performed before - and since most of those songs have probably appeared on previous releases as well, this type of a disc usually turns into a "best of" product.  Not the case with "Live". Of these twelve songs - of which seven are originals - only two have appeared on prior releases and five more made their debut during this performance.
 
The show opens with Sabrina asking “Do I got any ‘Bad Boy’s' in the house?” and with that sultry tone she asked it in I'm betting every guy in the place had their hands up.  Damn, I'm only listening to the disc and I even raised mine.  On this smoker, the band was peaking right from the get go.  The rhythm was fast and furious, the guitars were cranking and the sass was just flowing out of Sabrina.  If the crowds' exuberance was any indication, this is going to be one hell of a show.   

In the early part of this song Sabrina's urging some lucky guy to "Slide Over Here" - and by the end of the song she's breathing a little heavier and the line has changed to slide out of here.  I knew that line would work.  This original track features Sabrina being her usual sexy, sultry and sassy self on the vocals and some real good lead guitar by Mike.  
As hot as Sabrina's belting it out on this original track, "Happy Home" is all about the Swing Cats.  During the several lengthy instrumental interludes the guys are nailing it.  Mike and Bill are teaming up on what's some of the discs best guitar work and the same could be said for Ed and Terry pounding it out on rhythm.  From the sound of the audience, they agree.

"Hound Dog" is another of the type of songs that Sabrina Weeks and Swing Cat Bounce are perfect and famous for - energetic, bouncing boogie blues the band has fun performing and the crowd loves listening and dancing to.     
Unlike other versions, this is about the funkiest rendition of "Big Boss Man" these ears have ever heard.  And considering that it's a song in which Jimmy Reed - who made the song famous - blew the hell out of the harp on, I'm quite happy with this harmonica-less version.  Of course Terry and Ed are rockin' out on rhythm but it's Mike's smokin' guitar leads that make you forget the harp is missing. 

If you like what I had to say and you'd like to hear some of what I just heard, then you need to go to www.sabrinaweeks.com and get your hands on some of her music.  While you're there, please let her know her friend the Blewzzman sent you.  Also tell her I'd love for the band to come to Florida because they sound like a hell of an act to catch "Live".

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 


 





Howard and the White Boys

“Rosa’s Lounge”
3011 Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © December 2014

Right about now, most military personnel, firefighters, police officers, municipal workers, postal workers and some others would be preparing for retirement.  That's usually what you do after plugging away at those type of gigs for twenty five years.  Then there are musicians.  Just like the Energizer rabbit, they keep going, and going and going.  Howard And The White Boys have been at it for twenty five years now and from what I'm hearing they sound energized enough to go another twenty five.
 
Shortly after forming, back in 1988, Howard And The White Boys opened for B B King and after that, there was no looking back.  Legend after legend followed.  The boys have played with Koko, Albert, Otis, Lonnie, Junior, Luther, and countless other "no last name needed" superstars.  They regularly perform at Legends in Chicago and have toured and recorded with Buddy as well. 
 
Howard, of course, is Howard MCCullum and he's the bassist and lead vocalist.  The White Boys are guitarists Rocco Calipari and Pete Galanis, and drummer Jim "Bucka" Christopulos.  Joining them on "Rosa's Lounge" are special guests Steve Asma on slide guitar and Neal O'hara on organ.  The disc contains eleven all original tracks and was obviously recorded live at... yeah, you guessed it... Rosa's Lounge, in the band's hometown of Chicago.    
 
The band immediately turns on the heat on the very fist track... in more ways than one.  The lead and rhythm guitars are both on fire, the rhythm is fierce and funky and then there's Howard telling some woman that he's got a "Heat Seeking Missile" and it's locked right on her.  Now there's a pick up line if I ever heard one.
 
If you've got to be strung out on something, then being strung out on the blues is the way to go.  And this is the track to make it happen - nearly eight minutes of straight up, unadulterated, gut wrenching, Chicago blues.  As you listen to Howard testify you'll know he's strung out on the blues.  As a matter of fact, there's a point in the song where he turns to Rocco and Pete for an intervention and that's when you'll find out just how badly strung out on the blues these cats are.  And with Jim at discs best on the drums, it's unanimous - Howard And The White Boys, along with the exuberant audience as well - are all "Strung Out On The Blues ".  Excellent track, to say the least.
 
"What Would I Do?" is another slow blues track and they always make my highlights list.  However, with Howard And the White Boys, no matter how slow and no matter how low these guys get, they just don't stay there very long.  This one opens real slow with ballad type vocals and lowdown blues guitar riffs and somehow - without even noticing it happened until it did - the song builds up to an all out smokin' jam until it closes with some of the softest, silkiest vocals.  Great song, great musical versatility.
 
"Black Cat" features special guest Steve Asma on slide guitar.  At just under five minutes it's one of the discs shorter tracks and the only one Steve appears on.  Nevertheless, he earned his pay.  He just takes this one and runs with it. 
 
The disc closes with one of it's hottest tracks, "That's Alright".  Everyone is all over this one.  The guitars are rockin', Jim's cymbal work is absolutely scintillating and his drum work is totally crazy, special guest Neal O'hara's organ gives the song a Gospel feel and then his solos bring the song to whole new levels, and Howard's belting it out of the park with his robust, soulful vocals.  This is absolutely monster music.  You've got to play this one loud and often.  
 
Having seen Howard And The White Boys about fifteen years ago, and having several of their previous releases, I can honestly say that I've never heard the band sound better.  You need to definitely go to www.howardandthewhiteboys.net and grab yourself a copy of "Rosa's Lounge".  While you're there, please tell them the Blewzzman - their old friend from Alligator Alley - sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 

 





Bobby “Hurricane” Spencer

“Hurricane Unleashed”
R Music, Inc.

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2014


Long before making a deal with the devil to become the Blewzzman, Jazz was my music of choice. As a matter of fact, back in the Seventies, I used to go to Sonny's Place in Seaford, Long Island, so often that I paid yearly membership dues so I'd get discounts on cover charges and drink prices. Yeah, back then the Blewzzman was the Jazzman.  Hence my love for the saxophone. When I moved to Florida in 1980, I recall lugging about 1500 LPs of which close to half were jazz and of which half of those were probably by saxophonists.  Before BB, Albert and Freddie were the kingpins in my music life there were Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Stanley Turrentine, Grover Washington Jr, Sonny Rollins, Tom Scott, Charlie Parker and countless other masters.  Although the genre has changed, I still enjoy good sax as often as I possibly can.  And thanks to the likes of guys such as Eddie Shaw, Terry Hanck and my newest discovery - Bobby "Hurricane" Spencer - there's certainly lots of it to be heard.
 
On "Hurricane Unleashed", his second release, Bobby "Hurricane" Spencer - on vocals and tenor sax - is joined by: Andrea Balestra and Lester Lands on guitar;  Matias Alvear Fall on bass; Dario Benzoni on drums; Mo Beeks on keyboards; Albert Trepagnier, Jr. on congas; Tyler Combs on vibes; Josh Agular on trumpet; Wesley Smith on alto sax; and Kelly Chappue, Bosa Mora and Dominique Toney on background vocals.  With that said, it sounds to me like this is going to be some jazzed up blues at that.  Let's go listen...
 
I've been saying these words since going there for the first time three years ago and Bobby, who obviously feels the same way, actually wrote a song about it - seems like we've both "Gotta Get Back to Chicago".  Being the funky track that it is it's rhythm driven, and Matias, Dario and Mo are all over it on the bass, drums and organ.  That, added to the smoothness of Bobby's vocals and his smokin' sax leads make for a very impressive opening track.
 
Although "Camarillo" is a mental institution in California, Bobby makes it sound like one heck of a swingin' joint.  Interestingly enough, he references Charlie Parker in the song as I did in my opening paragraph.  However, Bobby's reference is to Charlie's history of mental illness as he suggests being "checked into Camarillo and being placed into Charlie Parker's old room.  That's where he'll lay his head on the pillow and hum an old bebop tune".  With the band in a really cool groove behind him Bobby placed himself right in the midst of my favorite vocalist list with his work on this one... and then came the scat... wow!  Great track.
 
"Honky Tonk" - need I say more?  One of the most classic and most recognized instrumental saxophone songs of all time and Bobby does a classic job on it.  I especially enjoyed Lester going toe to toe with him on a prolonged sax vs guitar bout in which the listener turns out to be the winner. 
 
A wailing harmonica lead, a B3 player going totally wild, scorching guitar licks,  barrelhouse style piano, and a blaring horn section are many things I love to hear in a blues song.  On the other hand, it takes a slow, sultry and bluesy ballad with soulful, heartfelt vocals that will get me to say "Whoa! That's song of the year material."  This was that song.  "You Make Me Crazy", just made me crazy.  Everything about this song is beautiful.
 
One of the few covers on "Hurricane Unleashed" is "Mr Magic".  Now that's just not the name of the song, it's the name of the man who made the song a monster: Mr. Magic, a.k.a. Grover Washington, Jr.  In spite of this one featuring some of the disc’s best sax, there's a whole lot else going on.  Some of Dario's best drum work is heard here as well as he heads up the superb rhythm featuring Mo, Albert and Tyler all contributing intensely on the keyboards, congas and vibes. Magical music for sure.
 
"I Got The Blues" is about as smooth as sleeping on satin sheets in silk pajamas.....have I made my point?  This is one of the four tracks on this disc that also appeared on Bobby "Hurricane" Spencer's first release "I Got the Blues".  After hearing this, I've got to get my hands on that one soon. 
 
If like me, you want to know more about Bobby "Hurricane" Spencer, check him out at www.bobbyhurricane.com.  After you tell him the Blewzzman sent you, please tell him I said "WOW"!
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 

 





Various Artists

“The Healing Blues”
Healing Blues Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © October 2014


Prologue
 
Once in a great while I'll come across a project that I don't only feel excited about working with, I feel honored working with it as well. This is one of those projects. The Healing Blues Project is a collaborative effort to raise money for the Interactive Resource Center in downtown Greensboro, NC, for people experiencing homelessness, poverty, post-traumatic disorder and other common stressors. Greensboro college students and faculty, primarily professors Dave Fox and Ted Efremoff, have worked to match up local songwriters and musicians with local people who have experienced such stressors. The stories they told were turned into songs by a group of talented writers and performed by an equally talented group of musicians. 

Credits
 
The songs you will hear on "The Healing Blues" were the product of stories told by: Isiahm Wardlow, Shannon Stewart, Anita Gilmore, Treas Scott, Ryan Lennon, Mike Schumacher, Kris Schumacher, Yolanda Butts, Walter Jamison, Chris Ward, Necole MacDonald, Eric Barnes and Forrest Willis. They are performed by: Lawyers Guns & Money, which consists of Terry VunCannon on guitar, Steve Headon on bass & vocals and Mike Thomas on drums: Big Bump and the Stun Gunz, which consists of Bubba Klinefelter on guitar, Eric Smith on drums, Shelia Klinefelter on bass and vocals; and Logie Meachum on vocals; The Fairlanes, which include Mark Harrison on guitars and vocals, Chip "Memphis" Click on drums, Ken "Lil Kenny" Graham on bass and Glen Bickel on piano; Haymarket Riot, which consists of Jon Epstein on bass, Doc MacNab on drums, Jim O'Gara on guitars and Charlotte Whitted on vocals; and The Healing Blues Band (the core group that performs nine of the discs fifteen tracks), which consists of Sam Fraizer on guitar & vocals, Benjy Johnson on guitar & vocals, Chuck Cotton on drums, Roger Kohrs on bass, and Dave Fox on keyboards & vocals. The band also features Bob Margolin on guitar with Chris Carrol, Kristy Jackson, Evan Olson, Jessica Mashburn and Mikle Wesolowski on vocals. The horn players on various tracks include Wally West, Neil Clegg, Daniel Bogan, Chris Hankins, Eli Fribush and Ben Espinoa. The background singers on various tracks include Marika Manda, Kenya Hailey, Molly Fox, Chuck Martin, Stan Bullock and Doug Dennis. And now that I've mentioned everyone in three of the greater Greensboro area's fourteen zip codes, let's get on to the music. 

Review
 
Being a Vietnam era veteran, and one who cringes at the sound of the words homeless and veteran being used in conjunction with each other, "Bitter Route" really hit me hard. This is the story of Mike Schumacher, a U S Marine Corps Scout Sniper who during his sixteen years of service once roamed the darkest and most dangerous areas of Bosnia, Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq, and now he roams the streets of Greensboro, NC. Lyrically, the song tells a dark and sometimes eerie tale and the music and vocal presentation could not have been more perfectly matched. The rhythm and piercing guitar leads create a vividly accurate and scary picture while Dave Fox's commanding and sincere vocal performance sounded as if it was he himself who had been through the hell he describes. From the first to the last word and from the first to the last note, the Healing Blues Band did one hell of a job with this compelling song.

"Forrest's Song" is the story of Forrest Willis and it's performed by Big Bump and the Stun Gunz. It's not an uncommon story.....a poor kid grows up in the inner city projects, turns to crime and drugs and ends up on the streets. Tell me you haven't heard that one yet and I'll call you a liar. Musically it's an upbeat track and a bit on the funky side with lively rhythm and some excellent keyboard work. Again, the vocals - this time by Logie Meachum - sound amazingly associable.
"I Come From A Place" is a very uplifting story about the life of Anita Gilmore. In spite of her misfortunes, she "held on to her faith that there's help from above" and she always "kept her head up high knowing she'd land on her feet." Great outlook, great inspiration, great song. The Healing Blues Band, with the help of the excellent horn section, its smokin' sax leads and the angelic sounds coming from the background singers do one heck of a job on this inspirational and spiritually motivating Gospel type track.

On "I'm Walking", Shannon Stewart tells a story of hitting the streets at the age of ten. Eventually that led to being passed around from foster home to foster home where the common bond was what everyone could take from each other. All that did was head him back to "walking" the streets. This very well performed track, featuring intense guitar leads, deep rhythm and more realistic vocals, was performed by Lawyers Guns & Money.

Claiming "I'm Gonna Build Me A Home", Eric Barnes' story seems quite optimistic. That home is gonna have a garage so he'll also get himself a car. He's gonna live there all alone and smoke those cigarettes that make him feel so real 'cause in his own home it won't matter if it's legal. Good luck Eric, I hope it all happens for you. With Bob Margolin sitting in, this one by the Healing Blues Band features outstanding guitar work.

The story of Yolanda Butts is about thinking you can run away from life but as it turns out, you can't run away from "What's Inside". Musically, this smoker by Haymarket Riot, is one of the discs best. The rhythm is profound, the guitar leads are stunning and Charlotte Whitted does a heck of a job on lead and her own backup vocals. This one could be a hit.

In his story, "God Help Us All", Chris Ward is hoping for a miracle. He's got a lot to give, now all he needs is a place to live. This track, performed by the Fairlanes, is reminiscent of the folk songs of the sixties and sort of reminds me of something Country Joe and The Fish performed at Woodstock. The pace is quite fast and the guitar and piano playing are frantic. Sad lyrics yet it's a fun sounding performance. 

Epilogue
 
Never before, in my forty five years of living in the blues community, has a project taken me as close to understanding what the blues is actually about as this one has. These songs aren't by some clever writers singing songs about their man running off with their sister or a woman leaving someone and taking his Muddy Waters records with her. These are all very real, very sad and unfortunately very common stories by and about dire situations in very real peoples' lives.
Please visit www.thehealingblues.org to find out more about the organization, the project, the people it helps and most importantly, how you can get involved and help as well. When you do, please tell them that the Blewzzman sent you and he sends his thanks and love to everyone involved. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 





GRADY CHAMPION

“Bootleg Whiskey”
Malaco Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © October 2014


First of all, with 10/10 being his birthday, I'd like to wish Grady Champion a very Happy Birthday!.  As the saying goes, "Like a fine wine, he's gotten better with age".  Now by no means am I insinuating Grady's old - and as a matter of fact, his forty-something years categorize him as a teenager by blues standards.  What I am saying is it's my opinion that "Bootleg Whiskey" is the best of his eight releases and I'm betting that teaming up with Malaco Records may have just had something to do with that.

With nearly three dozen talented artists performing them, "Bootleg Whiskey" consists of eleven tracks with a pretty even mix of originals and covers.  On it, Grady Champion on vocals and harmonica, is joined by: Forrest Gordon, Murph Caicedo and James Robinson on drums;  David Hood and Ray Braswell on bass; Clayton Ivey, William Purvis and Michael Thomas on keys; Barry Leach, Maurice Morgan, Stevie J, Jimmy Johnson, Mike Griffin, Castro Coleman, and Taylor Scott on guitars; Darrell Luster, Ray Braswell, William Purvis, Vick Allen, Sonya Allen, JJ Thames and members of The Crowns Of Joy Gospel Group all on background vocals; and the horn section of Kimble Funches on trumpet; Micah Brown on sax and William Brown on trombone, eaturing the arrangements of Harrison Callaway.  Now let's go have a listen.

Wasting no time at all, the disc opens with a smoking version of "Beg, Borrow and Steal".  This one features Forrest and David just tearing it up on the drums and bass and although this is just the opening track, I'm going out on a limb and saying it may be some of the discs best rhythm.  Add some scorching guitar licks and rippin' harp leads out of Barry and Grady and strong backups support of his vocals and I know I just heard one of the discs best tracks.

"Don't Waste My Time" playing me any of that blues rock kinda stuff, it's the slow, low down blues like this that I want to hear.  Belting it out as good as any blues man these ears have heard, Grady tears this one up vocally.  Add to that the heartbeat coming out of Gary on the organ and the intensity of the outstanding horn section and this one's a huge hit.

"Who Dat" - one of the originals - has a sound that would be perfect for a movie score, more specifically, a mystery movie.  The slow groovy rhythm with the accompanying sultry, yet somewhat eerie organ and sax highlights combined with Grady's raspy, somewhat spooky vocals and JJ Thames contrasting back ups and vocal sound effects had me picturing several different scenes.  And I liked them all.   

Although this is a cover, Grady does "White Boy With The Blues" like he owns it.  The songs lyrics tell a sad enough story but Grady's soulful and very heartfelt vocals define them.  Without needing it, he gets some incredibly wonderful support from The Crowns of Joy and all of a sudden the track goes from being a song to a hymn.  The producers used this track to close the disc but I wasn't onboard with that - I just kept playing it over and over and...

To find out more about "The Mississippi Bluesman", Grady Champion, check him out at www.gradychampion.com.  When you do, please tell him the Blewzzman sent you and also tell him I have a feeling I may just be seeing him at the Blues Music Awards. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 





KENNY ACOSTA

“Justice Blues”
Bluzman Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © October 2014

It's not uncommon for many blues artists to temporarily step away from their bands to play solo gigs and to put out solo albums.  Some artists have actually made these breaks permanent.  With clubs closing at an alarming rate, and the rest not wanting to pay a lot for gigs, the process seems quite sensible.  

One of those artists is Louisiana blues man Kenny Acosta.  I've had the pleasure of enjoying several recordings, and a few live shows as well, by Kenny Acosta and the House Reckers and now on this latest release, Kenny has become one of my favorite solo acoustic players.  Other than featuring Kenny Neal's harmonica and Robert Heym's congas on a few tracks, "Justice Blues" is ten all original songs about Kenny's soulful vocals and intricate guitar picking. 

Most of us think having our ducks in a row means we've got our stuff together.  On the other hand, down on the Bayou, Kenny sees those ducks in a row as an ingredient for a good gumbo.  Them, along with some fish, oysters and turtles, are all "Groceries From The Bayou".  Kenny's use of some very clever writing reflects his thankfulness to mother earth.  Excellent track.

"Maybe Tomorrow" is when a lot of things get put off to.  In this case, that's when Kenny 'thinks' he'll have the courage to tell this lovely woman about how he feels for her.  Musically, this gypsy style track is one of the discs best.  Together, Kenny's guitar playing and Robert's percussion are absolutely magnificent. 
 
As a young boy playing out in the field in Jackson, Louisiana, Kenny ran into an escapee from the Feliciana Institution for the Criminally Insane. The one thing he remembers the old man telling him is that "It's a crazy world and you can do anything you, want".  Then just before running off he turned around and said "that is, unless of course, you get caught."  That's when you'll have a real bad case of the "Justice Blues". This is storytelling at it's best and, as is the case in anything he helps out on with his harp playing, Kenny Neal takes it up a musical notch. 
     
Other tracks on this outstanding disc include: "Hog For Ya' Baby", "Funkiest Man Alive", "Hot Dog", "It's All Good" and "Shake That Thang". 
 
Be it as a solo act or with the House Reckers, if you haven't yet done so, Kenny Acosta is a blues man you need to become familiar with.  You can learn more about him, check out his schedule and purchase his CDs by going to www.kennyacosta.com.  Once you're there, please tell him that the Blewzzman sent ya.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient


 





Generation Blues Experience

“Private Angel”
R. Music, Inc.

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2014


Each year, The Blues Foundation presents the Keeping The Blues Alive (KBA) Awards to individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the blues world in various different categories. The KBA Awards are generally presented to non-performers and more often than not, these recipients are middle aged - or older - men and women. With that said, inasmuch as these awardees are vital to the genres existence, the truth of the matter is it's life lies in the hands of our youth. It's young blues musicians like fourteen year old Ray Goren - who at the age of twelve co-founded the Generation Blues Experience with Sammy Lee and Jamie Powell who were in their seventies and eighties - that are truly going to keep the blues alive.

In just two short years, "Private Angel" is already the bands third release. On it, Generation Blues Experience members include: Jamie Powell on rhythm guitar and lead vocals; Sammy Lee on harmonica and lead vocals; Ray Goren on rhythm & lead guitars and lead vocals: Lester Lands on bass & rhythm guitars and lead & background vocals; Albert Trepagnier, Jr. on drums; Tadg Galleran on keys; and last but certainly not least, Bobby "Hurricane" Spencer - musical director and horn arranger.

"The whole world knows that you're "Crazy" but only the Lord knows that you ain't nobody's daisy." Phew! Sounds like Jamie Powell has his hands full with this woman. With his raspy voice and his growling deliverance of his heartfelt vocals he even sounds scared as he sings the songs lyrics. Another very well sung song which also features Ray Goren at discs best on the lead guitar.
"Rainin'" is probably the most beautiful song of the lot. Everything about it is perfect: the relaxed rhythm; the horns softly playing in the background; the finessed guitar rhythms; the tickling of the ivories; and the silkiness of the lead and backup vocals. This is the type of song, sung by a recognizable pop artist, would top the charts.

Anyone that's ever read a review of mine knows how excited I get when the discs best blues track is also the discs longest track. "Sugar Mama" is both of those and I loved all 6:15 of this low down blues. Put me in a room with Sammy Lee on the vocals & harmonica and Ray Goren on the blues guitar playing this kind of stuff and you can just lock me in and throw the key away. I'm listening to song of the year material right here.

Considering it's in the top 300 songs of all time, "Ain't No Sunshine" was obviously a monster hit for Bill Withers. The song's been done by soul, rock, pop, country, jazz, rap and even heavy metal artists. With that said, this version - featuring Ray Goren on vocals - is as good as any that these ears have heard. At his age, I doubt that he can actually relate to the story that the songs lyrics tell, yet hearing him sing them would make one think differently. On top of that his lead guitar licks take the song to a whole other level. Great stuff!

Admittedly, listening to this disc was my first exposure to the Generation Blues Experience and I'm quite happy having been exposed. Hopefully some of what I had to say here will help expose the band to others as well. Short of offering you your money back, I'm guaranteeing any avid blues fan will love "Private Angel".

To learn more about the band and to get your hands on the phenomenal CD just go to www.generationblues.com. While you're there, please tell them that their newest best fan, the Blewzzman, sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient


 





Jeff Dale and the South Woodlawners

“Good Music”
Pro Sho Bidness Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2014

Naming this CD was probably one of the easiest things Jeff Dale ever had to do.  Kind of like when the Beatles put out an album with an all white cover it was simply called "The White Album", Jeff Dale puts out an album full of good music and it's simply called "Good Music". 

Born and learned on the south side of Chicago and now living in Los Angeles, Jeff Dale has a large talent pool to draw from when it comes to assembling top notch blues musicians.  On this, his third release, Jeff - on guitar and vocals - is joined by: Tim Austin and Mark Mack on drums; Chef Denis Depoitre, Glen Doll and Jeff Stone on harmonica; Andre Howard, Andre "Big Perm" McCottry and Orlando Wright on bass; Jim Jedeiken on saxophone; Dane Little on cello; Charlie Love on guitar & vocals; Derek Phillips on keyboards; and Marilyn Schram on oboe; with Andre Howard, Charlie Love and Mark Mack also helping out on backup vocals.  As with all of his previous releases, all this 'good music' was penned by Jeff.

The discs title track, "Good Music", starts off with Jeff quoting Louis Armstrong by stating that "there are only two kinds of music - the good and the bad".  How true.  No matter what the genre; blues; country; pop; rock; etc; all that matters is that the music "makes you feel glad and doesn't get you mad".  Jeff's guitar leads and raspy lead vocals, the backup harmony vocals, the powerful rhythm from Andre and Mark and the great piano playing from Derek all highlight this one.

When the trains conductor told him that this ride was going to be all about paying his dues Jeff knew his "Final Destination" would be the blues.  This deep and dark track features some of the discs best blues.  Derek gets in an absolutely beautiful piano solo but it's Dane's cello that musically steals this one.  It's a perfect accompaniment for Jeff's melancholy mood and sullen vocals.
 
It's no coincidence that this, the discs most chilling blues track, is titled "Cold Wind" - something all of us have had blow through us.  Jeff's was hearing his woman cheated on him with his best friend, watching his father die, and being laid off by a greedy corporate boss.  These are what sent a cold wind through his life, time and time again.  His scorching guitar riffs help describe his pain while Glen does an amazing job on the harmonica as he creates an eerie backdrop to Jeff's soulful and heartfelt vocals.

Although this track was presumably written to be humorous, I'm going with the proverb that "many a true word is spoken in jest".  I for one, and being the betting man that I am, I'm sure many others as well could actually remember several - if not many instances when "My Brain Took The Whole Night Off".  Now with a title like that, is there a need for me to tell you this song is about a woman?  Of course not!  What I will tell you is that Jeff and the backup singers sound great on the catchy vocal harmony, and that Glen and Jim do one hell of a job blowin' on the harp and sax.      
 
To learn more about Jeff Dale just go to www.jeffdaleblues.com.  When you do, please tell him his buddy the Blewzzman sent you. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 

 

 





Blind Lemon Pledge

“Evangeline”
Ofeh Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © August 2014

Starting with the artist's name, some of what you'll read here is going to be satirical.  So much in fact, that you should find yourself smiling – if not actually laughing out loud.  With that said, the satire stops once the music starts.  These are ten very real, very well written and very well performed songs.   

"Evangeline" is the fourth album by critically acclaimed singer/composer/producer/arranger, multi-instrumentalist and often bizarre yet sometimes genius, Blind Lemon Pledge.  It features all original music that includes jump jive, deep blues, New Orleans beats, salsa heat, heart tugging ballads and chain gang chants.  As Blind Lemon  says, "Prepare to take a music journey through the soul of America". 

The people responsible for this fine batch of music are: Blind Lemon Pledge on guitar and vocals; Hugh Jorgan on keyboards; Gene Poole on bass; Morris "Moe" Skeeder on guitar; Isaac "Izzy" Cumming on drums; Alvin "Albee" Bakatcha on percussion; Otto F. Tewne on banjo; Alex Blaine-Laydor, Lauralyn Hardy, Willie B. Hardigan, Don Menchinet, Anita Moorehead and Bess Twishes on harmony vocals; Barbara "Barb" Dwyer on marimba; Gil T. Azell on vibraphone; and Xavier Munnie on harmonica.  Additional background singers include the Mississippi State Prison Farm Jubilee Singers courtesy of Warden Ben Downsalong.  

"Buley's Farm" is some good ole field hollerin', chain gang music.  This one's all about Blind Lemon.  With some strong support from the Jubilee Singers his heartfelt, pain stricken vocals and acoustic guitar pickin' highlight this one.

Right from the lyrics to their sincerely delivered vocal style, "Jennie Bell" is an absolutely beautifully done ballad.  It's a bittersweet song about a musician pursuing his dream but having to leave the woman he loves behind in order to do so.  The love song was written in place of the so called "Dear Jennie" letter.  I absolutely loved this song. 

If you've ever strolled down Bourbon Street in N'awlins, the honky tonk, ragtime, Dixieland beat of "Brimstone Joe" will have a familiar ring.  Excellent rhythm from Gene and Isaac and some fancy piano playin' by Hugh all highlight this one.

"Language Of Love" sounds like something out of the Ricky Ricardo songbook.  And although the background singers weren't singing "Babalu", they did one hell of a job with the vocal harmonies.  As you might expect, Alvin's percussion is absolutely profound.  That, and Gil's vibes, sounding like a steel drum, are just a few of this tracks highlights.  With it's mandatory dance beat, this lively Latin number is sure to get you going.

"You Had Me At Goodbye" is the type -  and caliber - of a song that had America performed it back in the early seventies it would be a chart topper.   As a matter of fact, give it to Trace Atkins now, and I'll bet that with it's folksy, country vibe it could very well top the country charts.  Wonderfully melodic vocals and guitar strummin' by Blind Lemon and soothing, relaxed rhythm by Gene and Isaac make this sound so good.    

The disc closes with the title track, "Evangeline".  This one's a true blues song right from it's melancholy lyrics and somber vocals to the sharp acoustic blues guitar pickin' and profound slide guitar work.  Real good stuff.

And now comes the disclaimer.  As some of you may have guessed, Blind Lemon Pledge, Lauralyn Hardy, Hugh Jorgan (my favorite), et al, are all figments of the imagination.....or better yet, clever characters from from the creative mind of James Byfield.  James wrote all the songs, sang all the vocals and played all the instruments.  Impressive, to say the least. 

To find out more about the very interesting James Byfield, check him out at www.james-creative.com and www.blues.james-creative.com.  Of course, you'll tell him the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 


 





The Knickerbocker All-Stars

“Open Mic At The Knick”
JP Cadillac Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © August 2014


"Open Mic At The Knick" is not your typical open mic event.  I promise you that you will not be hearing from the woman who shows up over and over again and sings "Stormy Monday Blues" - over and over again, or that annoying guy who carries a harmonica in his pocket and plays it - in the audience and out of key - at every show he goes to.  
 
"Open Mic At The Knick", by The Knickerbocker All-Stars, is a tribute to all the great blues musicians who ever played at the Knickerbocker, in Westerly, Rhode Island.  It features top notch musicians - some of whom are Blues Music Award nominees and winners - performing some of the greatest blues songs ever written.  Those performers are: Bobby and Fran Christina on drums; Ricky King Russell and Nick Adams on guitar; Bob Worthington on electric & stand up bass; Bobby "Breeze" Holfelden on trombone; Rich Lataille on tenor & alto sax; Dennis Cook on baritone sax; Al Copley and Dave Maxwell on piano; and Willie Laws, Malford Milligan, Johnny Nicholas, Sugar Ray Norcia, Mike O'Connell, Curtis Salgado, J. P. Sheerar, Brian Templeton all on vocals.  By now, you've got to be thinking Roomful Of Blues as the common denominator for most of this ensemble and of course, you'd be right.      
 
"Turn On Your Love Light" (Deadric Malone/Joseph Scott) is one of the two tracks sung by Malford Milligan.  Although this one's been done by two of my favorite vocalists (and many others) Bobby Blue Bland and Van Morrison, the opening notes of the song immediately brought the Blues Brothers to mind.  On this rendition, Malford blows it out of the park vocally, leaving no doubt as to his Gospel background.  With all the horns blaring and the piano wailing, it's Fran and Bob leading the way on the drums and bass.  This one's hot stuff.   
 
"Five Long Years" (Eddy Boyd/Lohn Lee Hooker) is one of the two tracks sung by Willie Laws.  You wouldn't miss too many letters creating an A - Z list of performers who covered this one.  Willies's version is right up there with some of the best.  As smooth as he sounds, there's still no doubt as to the pain he's feeling from his mistreatment.  With this being one of the discs most serious blues tracks ya gotta know there's going to be some smoking guitar licks and they don't get any more smoking than what Ricky's laying down.  Real deal blues right here.
 
I just love listening to Johnny Nicholas, so deciding on one of the three songs he sang was a tough choice.  But then hearing him growl out the name of the song - "Along About Midnight" (Eddie Jones) - on the opening notes, just did the trick.  Beside him belting the hell out of the blues, his accompaniment on this one is amazing.  Everyone's locked into a smooth groove behind him - sounding great - but just letting Johnny do his thing. 
  
Other outstanding tracks on this monster disc include: "You Upset Me Baby" (J. Josea/Maxwell Davis), "Mother-In-Law Blues"  (Gene Barge), "Love Disease" (Brother Gene Dinwiddle), "Jelly Jelly" (Billy Ecstine/Earl Hines), and "Reconsider Baby" (Lowell Fulson).
 
For more information on The Knickerbocker All-Stars and to get you ears on a copy of "Open Mic At The Knick" just go to www.jpcadillacrecords.com.  And as usual, tell J. P. that the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient





 





The Silvertones

“Silvertone Avenue”
Deep South Productions

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © July 2014

     

With varied ensembles, the Silvertones have been together for over twenty years now.  And as you'd expect, that length of time has taken them down many roads.  As a matter of fact, the title of their fifth CD is symbolic of those roads because it's no different than any of them.  Over the years "Silvertone Avenue" has presented many twists and turns and lots of obstacles for the guys.  Yet, according to them, one thing never changes - the desire to keep driving down that road.  Keep on truckin' guys.  I'm sure the people you've passed on those roads are happy you made the drive.  

On "Silvertone Avenue", the Silvertones consist of: Randy Ball on vocals, tambourine, washboard and drums; Leo De La Vega on vocals and electric & acoustic guitars; Rob Donavan on vocals, backup vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, dobro and slide & baritone guitars; and Brian Wicker on vocals, backup vocals and bass.  Other riders on this trip include: Chuck Ward on piano, organ and horns; Joanna Ramirez on backup vocals; George Coyne on guitar; Ponty Bone on accordion; Mary Ann Broussard on tambourine; and Jamie Connally on laughs.  The CD contains thirteen tracks with all being band originals.

With a first impression carrying the weight it does, opening up with a smoker is always a good idea and it doesn't get much more smokin' than this.  "Knockin' On My Baby's Door" is good old rockin, rollin', fast dancing music at it's best.  Asked to name this song I may have called it "Speeding Down Silvertone Avenue".  Real good stuff.                

It's songs like "All Night Corner" that make me love the blues. Being the disc's most serious blues track, you know I'm loving this one. Randy's belting out the lyrics sounding as melancholy as one can possibly sound, the rhythm's tough and tight and the lead guitars are scorching hot.  Make this one forty-five minutes and I won't care that's it's the discs only track. 

"Dallas, Austin, And Back Again" is a perfect title for this song.  With Randy having that locomotive thing going on the drums and Chuck rolling right along on piano, it's got the perfect beat for a traveling song.  With Joanna giving him strong support, Rob's sounding good vocally, and the guitars are adding an appropriate country feel.       

Surprisingly, the title track - "Silvertone Avenue" - is an instrumental.  From what I read in the liner notes, and paraphrased in my introduction, I'd have bet it would have been a story about all those roads and obstacles.  Regardless, the track's done quite well.  Randy and Brian are in a solid rhythm groove on drums and bass and one of the listed players is killing it on lead guitar.   

"Hoedown Jones" is one of the discs two acoustic tracks.  This one features Randy on the vocals and I gotta tell you, he's got this hollerin' thing down pat.  That, and the amazing acoustic guitar pickin' between Leo and Rob make this one of the discs best.  Additionally, the perfect timing between Randy and Mary Ann on the tambourines was admirable.....and that's coming from someone who is not a big fan of the tambourine.     

Although it's been a while, this is the second time I've had the pleasure of working with the Silvertones.  Back in 2006 I reviewed another of their great CDs titled "Ride In My Cadillac".  Now, having heard "Silvertone Avenue", I'm hoping to be hearing from them on a more regular basis.

The Silvertones can be reached by going to www.thesilvertones.com.  When you check them out, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





Carmen Grillo

“A Different World”
Big Surprise Music

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © June 2014

     
Some of what I read on the one sheet that accompanied "A Different World" pointed out that Carmen Grillo has a deep history in the world of music.  Wanting to know just how deep, I did some snooping.  What I found just blew me away.  In one form or another, he's appeared on about 65 recordings, some of which I have and many that I've heard of, that pretty much cover the gamut of genres.  I'm talking Rock, Jazz, Blues, Pop, Funk and even Disco.  In addition to his solo career, Carmen is now playing with The Sons Of Champlin and The Max Weinberg Band and he's played with the likes of Tim Weisberg, Donna Summer, Tom Scott, Rita Coolidge, Chicago, Tower Of Power, and Finis Tasby, just to name a few... very few.    
 
"A Different World" consists of twelve mostly original tracks and as you'd guess from what you just read, they include a tasteful mix of musical styles.  On it, Carmen Grillo - on guitars and vocals - is joined by: Mark Meadows, Rocco Prestia and Bobby Watson on bass; Tony Braunagel, Herman Matthews and Steve Stephens on drums: Marc Hugenberger, Mike Finnigan, Rob Mullins, Bob Emmet, Dale Ockerman, Bill Champlin and Ruben Valtierra on keyboards; Greg Adams, Lee Thomburg, Johnnie Bamont, Stephen "Doc" Kupka, Tom Scott, Dave Boruff and Tom Saviano on horns; and Curt Campbell on harmonica.  Phew!  I'm wondering how they all fit in the van?
 
On the opening track - "Come And Gone" the powerful horns intro immediately grabs your attention and never lets go of it.  Greg (trumpet), Lee (trumpet/trombone) and Johnnie (tenor/baritone saxes) are all outstanding throughout the track.  Carmen's equally outstanding on guitar and vocals which include some quite sarcastic lyrical lines with one of them being "If lovin' you is a job, I've just retired"... Ouch!    
 
On an original instrumental track titled "I Got The Sauce", you'll immediately hear the Tower Of Power connection... minus the horns.  The funk's all coming from Rocco, Steve and Rob on the bass, drums and Hammond B3.
 
On the jazzy sounding "Trying To Make It Happen" Carmen does a masterful job of providing his own background vocals.  In doing so, the harmony he creates on the chorus lines sound incredibly like the harmonically great Steely Dan.     
 
Getting topical, on an original track titled "Different World", Carmen - sounding like most of us - voices his displeasure by stating that "the world we live in ain't like it used to be, you won't find a solution in Washington, DC".  Amen!  Along with his proprietary vocals once again sounding sharp - and the whole horn section doing the same - this track features some of Carmen's best guitar work.
 
In addition to it being the truest blues song on the disc, it's also the longest and when those two things come together I'm always happy.  Along with the crying of his guitar and his gut wrenching deliverance of seriously melancholy lyrics, Carmen clearly establishes that its a "Sad State Of Affairs".   
 
Another original, "You're The One", is like no other song of the bunch.  It's a tender love song that Carmen excels on.  His vocals, backup vocals, acoustic guitar picking and songwriting skills all highlight this one.  I'd love to hear him do a whole CD of these.      
 
To find out more about this amazingly talented and diversified artist - and there is a heck of a lot to learn - check out his website at www.carmengrillo.com.  When you do, please tell him the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





Johnny Drummer

“Bad Attitude”
Earwig Music

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © June 2014

     

With musicians like Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Otis Spann and Eddie Shaw, as members of some of his bands and with those bands having backed up artists such as Z. Z. Hill, Denise LaSalle, Willie Mabon and Junior Wells - just to name a few - it's a wonder that Johnny Drummer isn't a better known artist within the blues community.  After all, the guy's been a part of the Chicago blues scene for the better part of six decades now.  It's my opinion that it's time for this guys time to come.  And from what I'm hearing, "Bad Attitude", may very well be the vehicle to deliver it to him.

On this CD, his fourth release for Earwig Music, Johnny Drummer sings all the vocals, plays harmonica and organ, puts forth a whole lot of personality and displays one hell of a sense of humor.  Joining him are: Kenny Hampton on bass guitar; Anthony Palmer on lead guitar; Sir Walter Scott on rhythm guitar; Jeremiah Thomas and Terrence Williams on drums (Johnny gave them up some time back); Ronnie Hicks on keyboards; Rodney "Hotrod" Brown on saxophone; and Kenny Anderson on Trumpet.  The disc contains thirteen all original tracks. 

"Another Rooster Is Pecking My Hen", and it's causing Johnny quite a problem in his barnyard.  Every time poor ol' Johnny goes out to make some money, when he returns his hen is walking funny.  Well sung amusing lyrics, a smoking harp interlude, one from the guitar as well, and strong horn back ups all highlight this one. 

The laughable lyrics continue on a funky track called "Bit Her In The Butt".  The story and the punch line are just too hilarious to give away so you're going to have to give this one a listen.....more than once.   Rhythmically, with just about everyone contributing, it's one of the discs best.  The groove that Kenny, Walter and Jeremiah are locked into on the bass, rhythm guitar and drums along with timely keyboard and horn inserts by Ronnie, Rodney and Kenny are absolutely masterful.  Mandatory replays on this one.

Johnny's got what you need whether you're short or tall, be it winter, spring, summer or fall - because as he says, "One Size Fits All".  This one's intense.  Through the glaring horns and wild piano and ripping guitar leads, Kenny Hampton seems to steal this one.  From the opening to closing notes, his bass lines are downright profound.  Great stuff!

"Ain't No Secrets In A Small Town".  Amen!  Anyone who's ever lived in one knows that's the truth.  This is straight up blues the way it's supposed to be done.  Being asked what my favorite style of blues is, I'd say nothing and start playing a song like this.  Nothing funny, nothing fancy and nothing funky, just low down gut wrenching heartfelt vocals, soft rhythm,  slow blistering blues guitar riffs, a steady pulsation on the organ, and soft, background horns.  It doesn't get any better than that.  This is song of the year material right here.
 
You can find out a whole lot more about this very interesting, very clever and very good artist by simply going to his website - www.johnnydrummer.com.  When you go, please tell him the Blewzzman sent you.
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 





Back Porch Blues Band

“One More Before You Go”
Floyd Dog Music

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2014

     

Don't let the name Back Porch Blues Band fool you.  These guys are not a bunch of laid back blues men sitting around the "back porch" pickin' and strummin' acoustic blues.  Instead, they're a bunch contemporary Midwestern musicians kickin' up a storm with a mixed bag of blues styles that include Chicago, Texas and West Coast Swing....just to name a few. 

The band consists of Greg Spreer on guitar and lead vocals, Rod Peterson on harp and lead vocals, Joe Fontenot on bass and background vocals and Rick Bruner on drums and background vocals.  "One More Before You Go" is the band's debut release and it contains eleven, all original tracks. 
 
"If You Dance With Me", this is going to be the track you'll do it to.  It's one of those songs that, if you aren't moving at least one or two of your limbs, you're probably in a body cast.  This is genuine, house rockin' music at it's best.
 
You might not want to leave the dance floor just yet because this next one - "Love Me Tonight" is another smoker.  This one features rampant rhythm and some of Greg's best guitar work, and when Rod's not blowin' the hell out of the harp, he's belting the hell out of the vocals.  More very good stuff.
 
On this one, the guys are going somewhere most of us probably need to go as well - "Down To The Church House".  And according to the beat it sounds like they need to get there fast and it's Rick - at disc's best on drums - who's taking care of that. 
 
Once you hear the opening line to this one, you'll want to sing along with it the next time it comes around.....I'm going down.....down to the "Wishing Well".  Although the lyrics are somewhat melancholy, the way they're sung is magnificent.  Rod, with some nice harmonic backing, does a great job on the vocals.  One of the disc's best tracks. 
 
As legend has it, Robert Johnson once made a deal with the devil.  Now we have Rod Peterson making a deal with the "Reaper Man".  One sounds like myth, yet the other sounds like fact.  With one hand on a coffin and one foot in a grave, Rod told the reaper man to go to hell.  It seems to have worked because he's still here and  living each day the best he can......till the reaper man comes around again.  Very uplifting track.
 
If you want to hang out with the guys, the place to do it is www.backporchbluesband.com.  Once you make yourself at home, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
 
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient 


 





Allen-Lamun Band

“All in the Numbers”
MadLeftMusic

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2014

     

Although the band's namesakes are both long time veterans of the music scene, "All In The Numbers" is the duo's debut CD.  The team of Allen and Lamun are Dave Allen on vocals, harmonica, guitars, drums & percussion and Laura Lamun on vocals.  The rest of the band consists of: Willie Samuelson on a whole lot of basses; Steve Boynton on electric guitars; Paul Potyen on Hammond B-3; and Kenyon Brenner a.k.a The KB Horns on tenor sax.  The disc contains twelve tracks of which eight are band originals.
 
 "All In The Numbers" opens with an original track called "Delta Dream" and it's sort of an updated version of the classic "Crossroads Blues".  Basically, Dave and Laura want to head down to the Delta where they hope to meet Riley B. King, play a little place in Clarksdale, get themselves a mojo hand and bury the devil alive in the blues.  It seems that doing those things will earn them their bluesman's shoes.  From what I'm hearing, they're already wearing those shoes and they sound like a perfect fit.  Fun and well sung lyrics, good harp leads and B3 led rhythm all highlight this one. 
 
"Never Know Blues" is this discs track where everyone's on top of their game.  On this smoker Laura's vocals are her most dynamic, Dave, Willie and Paul are rockin' the rhythm on drums, bass and the Hammond organ and Steve's tearing it up on lead guitar.  Good one.    
 
"Too Blue Not to Come Back Home" is the kind of stuff I can listen to all night long.  It's an old style jazzy blues ballad that by just closing your eyes can cause you to transcend to an intimate little club with a crammed dance floor where other than hearing the band you'd actually hear a pin drop.  Oh man, I wanna go right now.  Soft steady rhythm led by Paul on the B3, very steamy sax leads by Kenyon and compelling vocals by Laura all make this one of the disc's best tracks.          
 
Living with that woman feels like I'm riding on a "Tiltawhirl".  Well said Dave, excluding me (because my wife reads these reviews), I'm sure there are many men out there who can relate to that statement.  This one's pretty much all Dave Allen.  With Wille giving him some bottom and Laura backing up his vocals, he's your basic one man band singin', strummin', drummin' and blowin' harp and doing a damn good job on 'em all. 
 
To get to know more about the Allen-Lamun Band, hear the songs and maybe even buy the disc just go to www.allenlamunband.com.  As usual, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you. 
 
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient


 




Li'l Ronnie & the BlueBeats
featuring Claudia Carawan

“unfinished business”
ESP/EllerSoul Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2014

     

The Scoop...
 
This aptly titled CD 'unfinished business' has been a long time in the making.The Blues Beats were a very popular regional band in the 80's and early 90's and were in serious negotiations with a well known record label. With all of the songs written, and eight of them already recorded, this CD was supposed to be released in 1991. However, life got in the way and things just didn't go as planned. Fast forward twenty-three years and, with a release date of April 15th, 2014, the project is finally finished. As the saying goes, good things are worth waiting for.
 
The BlueBeats consist of: Claudia Carawan on vocals and alto sax; Ronnie Owens, a.k.a. "Li'l Ronnie", on harmonica and vocals; Jim Wark on guitars; Stu Grimes on drums & percussion: Mike Moore on acoustic & electric bass; Eric Holt on keyboards; Roger Carroll on tenor sax; and Almeta Ingram-Miller & Cheryl Beaver (both from The Ingram Gospel Singers) on backup vocals. 'unfinished business' features fourteen tracks, of which twelve are band originals, and as the subtitle proclaims, they are a mix of styles that include soul, funk, ballads & blues.

"Too Fast For Conditions" is one of those songs that immediately hooks you and you just can't wait for the chorus line to come around so you can start singing along with it... too fast... too fast for conditions, too fast... too fast for conditions... It's amazing, I'm just into the second sentence about the song and I've already listened to it at least five times. I just love this kind of stuff - a hot shuffle with great vocals, ripping rhythm, smokin' piano and guitar leads, lots of sharp harp blowin' and a groove that you just can't sit still. Great track.

Needless to say, "I Feel A Heartache Coming On" is a scorcher of a torch song. With the band providing the perfect groove behind them the ladies run away with this one. Claudia's soulful and heartfelt vocals had me feeling her pain and with Almeta & Cheryl behind her, the song was taken to a whole new level. This one defines what a blues ballad is.

It was twenty years ago today, the band was there to play, and right when we were hitting the stage, life got in the way.....we've got some 'unfinished business'. This, the title track, is an excellent vocal duet between Li'L Ronnie and Claudia and it sort of explains...well...the title track. This one's rich in rhythm and features some of Ronnie's best harmonica work.

"Thick & Thin" may very well be the disc's best track - musically. It's fast, furious and very funky. Of course Mike and Stu are at discs best on bass and drums - with Stu adding some fancy cymbal work, Eric's wailing away on the keys, Roger's blowing the hell out of the tenor sax and Claudia - is belting the hell out of the vocals -  Very hot stuff.

"That's What A Girl Wants To Hear" is another slow bluesy ballad, and that always means it'll be one of my favorite as well. Vocally, this is easily Claudia's best. The changes she makes and the range she spans are absolutely masterful. This should be mandatory listening for aspiring, young female vocalists. Somewhere in this track were a few beautiful piano leads, several strong sax interludes and some great guitar riffs as well but I was just swept away by Claudia's commanding vocals. Wow! The track may be called that's what a girl wants to hear but it's that kind of stuff that this man wants to hear.

A man's home is supposed to be his castle and that's where he's the king bee, but the way Li'l Ronnie's gal is treating him it's been more like a penitentiary. That's because, as Ronnie puts it, "I Had A Warden For A Woman". This one's the disc's smoker. Led by Ronnie on harp, everyone's at their wildest on this full throttle jam.

For more on Li'l Ronnie And The BlueBeats and to get a copy of this, as well as other CD's by him and many of the labels other outstanding artists, just go to www.ellersoulrecords.com. And please remember to tell him the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 





Big Al and the Heavyweights

“Sunshine On Me”
Blusiana Music

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2014

     

Inasmuch as this band is well know in some circles, and their existence spans some twenty years, it's my opinion that Big Al And The Heavyweights are still somewhat of a secret to the mainstream blues community... and it's about time that changes.  "Sunshine On Me" is the band's sixth release and as with all of their previous releases, pretty much all of the music is original.

Big Al And The Heavyweights are: Big Al Lauro (no relation to yours truly) on drums and background vocals; James Bass on guitar, saxophone, fiddle, piano and lead and background vocals; Dean Galatas on bass and background vocals; John "The Colonel" Fuhrmann on harmonica and background vocals; and Wayne Lohr on accordion, piano, Hammond B3 organ and lead vocals.  Special guest musicians on this project include: Warren Haynes on slide guitar; Anders Osborne - the disc's producer - on guitar and percussion; Warren Riker on tambourine; Tom Larson on washboard and percussion; Lance Caruso on squeezebox and washboard; Susie Leger on washboard; and Dennis Sarchet  as  Chief of Heavyweight Security.  Sounds like there's a lot of interesting music ahead...

"What's Up With That" is pretty much all about James.  When he's not belting the hell out of the vocals, he's switching back and forth between several killer sax and guitar leads.  Of course, Big Al and Dean are laying down the tight rhythm behind him.  Real good and real smooth stuff.

Before The Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule, Warren Haynes - along with Big Al Lauro - were the founding members of the Unknown Blues Band, the predecessors of Big Al And The Heavyweights.  His only appearance on this disc is on the title track - "Sunshine On Me".  With James and Anders on lead guitars and Warren on slide guitar, I'm pretty sure it's needless to say much more.  Get those air guitars ready.

The preacher will save your soul, the doctor will save your heart, and the lawyer will keep you out of jail... but it's not because they care, it's because "Money Matters".  This is a slow, dark track with extremely melancholy, yet truthful and realistic lyrics.  After all, you might love what you do but the money's gonna matter to you.  The sullen rhythm, piercing harmonica leads and moody guitar riffs all provide the perfect music for the track and song's lyrics and Wayne's deliverance of them are absolutely outstanding.  Very well written and well performed piece.        

"What Was I Thinking" has that fifties beat that always seems to put a smile on my face.  It's the kind of song that always flashes me back the early days of American Bandstand... back when all the things I now worry about were my parents' problems and I hadn't a care in the world.  Once again, James is all over this one.  During his sultry sax leads, steady piano chords and melodic vocals - all backed up by a soft rhythm led by the pulse of the B3 - I couldn't stop thinking of a bunch of teenage couples doing the stroll.  This one's worth of many replays. 

As with most songs about a train, "Midnight Train To Memphis" is a smoker.  Big Al and Dean are relentless on the rhythm, John and Al - on the harmonica and drums - do a super job on the powerful locomotive simulation, James is as fast and furious on the guitar and Wayne's deep, gravely vocals are perfect for the track.  Good stuff. 

For more on Big Al And the Heavyweights just go to www.bigal.net.  And as usual, please tell him his friend with the same last name - Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro - sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 





MICK KOLASSA

“Michissippi Mick”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2014

     

Prelude
New Artist - New Album - Great Cause.  Michissippi Mick is Mick Kolassa, a lifelong musician and hardcore blues fan.  He's also on the Board of Directors of the Blues Foundation and he is donating 100% of the gross sales of this album to the Hart Fund and Generation Blues - two very important programs of The Blues Foundation.  To learn more about those programs, and the organization as well, just click the links.  Thanks Mick!

For the last fifteen years I've been going to Memphis at least once, and sometimes twice a year, and not one of those times have I ever not seen Mick Kolassa hanging out on Beale Street supporting the local musicians and the venues that hire them.  It wouldn't surprise me if they make him the first moving Blues Trail Marker because you can bet that wherever Mick is going, the blues are going on.

As a matter of fact on "Michissippi Mick" - his debut CD - many of those musicians he follows are now his band mates.  As fitting as that is, it's also an intelligent move on Mick's part as well.  After all, every good musician knows that in order to be better you surround yourself with the best musicians.  In doing so, Mick's hit a home run on his first at bat.

Joining Mick Kolassa, on the vocals and guitar, are: Jeff Jensen - the disc's producer - on lead guitar; Bill Rufino on bass; Doug McMinn on drums; Chris Stephenson on organ.  Additional special guests include: Brandon Santini and Eric Hughes on harmonica; Victor Wainwright on piano; Reba Russell and Redd Velvet on vocals; Dedrick Davis on trumpet; Danny Banks, Ted Todd, and Preston McEwan on backing vocals; and James Cunningham on percussion. 

In addition to Mick writing eight of the disc's tracks, his and Jeff's creativity give the four covers quite a renewed sound.
 
The disc opens with "New Beale Street Blues" and it's about some of the goings on that take place on one of the most famous streets in America.   According to Mick, "If Beale Street could talk, married men would have to pack their bags and walk."  Sounds to me like what happens on Beale Street should stay on Beale Street.  This one's front porch, Delta style blues with good pickin', strummin', drummin' and blowin' by Mick, Doug and Eric.
 
You could probably search the bios of every blues man, woman or band and I doubt you'd ever see The Box Tops listed as an influence.  Furthermore, whoda thunk anyone would ever turn their hit song "The Letter" into a Gospel style, Delta blues song?  Well, Mick did and I'm loving it.  This slow blues version of the song features soulful and heartfelt vocals by Mick, heavenly sounding organ chords by Chris, and angelic sounding backup vocals by Reba.  This rendition of this track defines the phrase "making it your own".  Great job!
 
With no pun intended, "Burned That Bridge" is one of the disc's smokers.  In the middle of the track there's a short one minute instrumental segment that's killer.  It starts out with Victor breaking out into a killer piano lead then Bill, Doug and Chris quickly passing the lead from bass, to drums, to organ with Brandon closing it out on a monster harp lead.  As good as Mick and Reba were on the vocals, I would have loved another five more minutes of that.  Another great track.
 
"Baby's Got Another Lover" is well over seven minutes of slow and low down blues and whenever you give me that much time of this kind of blues it automatically becomes one of my favorites.  This one features the nucleus of the band with Bill, Doug and Chris in a lazy, laid back rhythm groove, Mick softly and slowly singing the blues with feelings and Jeff mastering his guitar from those piercing one note picks to those long blistering riffs.  Great stuff.
 
This one's called "WPD" and it's the abbreviation for something that Mick hates to see....White People Dance.  He admits that "it's not right to be bad mouthing his own peeps, but he can't help it 'cause watching just gives him the creeps".  The lyrics to this one are hilarious with one line making me laugh more that the last.  Ironically, it's musically a great dance number.  I'm betting it took a lot of takes to get this one recorded.  
 
Think about this.  How cool would it be if a member of the Board of Directors of the Blues Foundation puts out a CD with the purpose of raising money for the organizations projects and it garners him a "Best New Artist Debut" nomination?  I'm just sayin'.
 
Please go to www.mimsmick.com to find out more about "Michissippi Mick" - the CD - and Michissippi Mick - the man as well.  Be sure to tell him his Buddy the Blewzzman sent you, please.
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





TERRY DAVIDSON & THE GEARS

“Sonic Soul Sessions”
Bangshift Music

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © February 2014

     

After listening to "Sonic Soul Sessions" - the seventh release by Terry Davidson & The Gears – I heard a lot of different blues styles and as I was deciding how I wanted to describe them this quote from the one sheet jumped right out and grabbed me... "Styles and influences range from raw, blistering Texas blues to low down traditional Chicago blues to scorching high-octane blues rock with the end result being a ferocious rockin' blues blend".  So there you have it.  Since that's exactly what I heard, that's exactly how I'll say it.

The Gears consist of: Terry Davidson on guitars, mandolin and vocals; Bill Geist on bass, backing vocals and percussion; Bob Hanners on drums, percussion and backing vocals; and Mike Gilliland on harmonica, guitar and vocals.  Guest musicians on the project include: Todd Brown on keyboards; Fred Gablick on saxophone; John Bonham on trumpet; Lee Ohmart on whistle and Long Tall Deb Landolt, Angie Davidson, Terry Sheeley, Bobby Benton and Lily D. on backing vocals.  "Sonic Soul Sessions" features twelve originals out of thirteen tracks.
 
"Sweet Deceiver" is the perfect opening track.  This funked up smoker features everyone getting in some licks,  therefore it's a great introduction to the complete ensemble.  The harp and the horns are blaring, the guitars are wailing and the rhythm is rousing.  Surely a delight for the dancers.

"Chicagoland" is another high energy hit with everyone on top of their game.  The tightness between these 7-8 musicians is really starting to impress me.  Bob could be very well at discs best on drums, the same could be said for Terry on guitar and Mike on the harp, as well.  And Deb's just killing it on backup vocals.  Another monster track. 

It took exactly five notes of the slow and low down guitar intro for me to decide that "Too Late To Change" would be one of my personal favorites.  This is blues the way it's supposed to be done... melancholy lyrics sung with sincere emotion, soft and soothing rhythm, slow and scorching guitar leads and very high end piano highlights.  Very well done and easily discs best track.  It's ironic that it's the discs only cover.  Obviously, these blues rockers have the traditional thing down pat as well. 
 
With the Gears rocking behind them, Terry and Mike take charge on another very well done track called "Hound Dog Blues".  Belting the hell out of it on the vocals, this is easily Terry's best effort and when he breaks, Mikes right there with some wicked harp blowin'. 

Downshifting several gears, the Gears fall into a real nice groove on a smooth track called "Deep In The Blues".  More great vocals backed by smooth rhythm and percussion.  This one took me from bouncing around the room to sitting back, bobbin' my head and tappin' my toes.  This may be a good time to fasten my seat belt 'cause something smoking's got to be coming...
 
Sure enough, here it is – the pedal's down to the metal, the tires are screeching, rubber's being burned and the Gears have the "Three Ninety Six" in high gear.  Trust me when I tell you this: the "409", the "Little Deuce Coupe",  the "Rocket 88", the "G.T.O" and even the "Hot Rod Lincoln" are all eating this one's dust.  A classic car song with a great track announcer simulation. 
 
Terry Davidson & The Gears can be found at www.tdavidson.com.  I'm highly recommending you go there and get your hands on a copy of this CD that reminded me of the Energizer rabbit... it just kept going and going and going... By the way, when you do, please remember to say "the Blewzzman sent me". 
 
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient 

 

 





SHAUN MURPHY

“Cry of Love”
Vision Wail Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © February 2014

     

The best way to describe what "Cry Of Love" is all about is to use the explanation Shaun Murphy included in the liner notes; “After the first 4 CD's I decided that I wanted to make an album with some of my favorite Blues, R&B & Gospel songs that I've been wanting to do for a long time, have my band mates join in, and have a really fine sounding recording.  I hope you enjoy listening as much as I had recording them.”  To that I say: Shaun, with your voice, I could listen to you sing Children's Music, Goth Rock, Reggae or Rap and I'd enjoy every note of it.
 
On this album, vocalist extrordinaire, Shaun Murphy is backed up by: Kenne Cramer and Shawn Starski on guitar, Randy Coleman on bass & background vocals, Tom DelRossi on drums, John Wallum on keyboards and Tim Gonzalez on harp.  
 
As I'm quite sure this will be the case with them all, the disc's opening track, "I Wouldn't Treat A Dog (The Way You Treat Me)", was perfectly done.  With some excellent drum work by Tom leading the way, the tracks rhythm is intense.  Vocally, as she repeatedly tends to do, Shaun nailed it.  Her smoothness, range and sound changing ability are incomparable. 
 
On this smokin' version of "Gotta Mind To Travel", it's the guitar that's the star.  And the star playing that guitar is Shawn Starski, one of the hottest of the younger generation of blues guitarists.  Another of the ever growing group of talented players coming out of South Florida.  
 
You can have my heart if you don't mind "Broken Things".  As sad as that sounds, it doesn't end there.  This melancholy Gospel ballad's lyrics, along with the emotional way Shaun presents them, are enough to bring a tear to one's eyes.  The saving grace is that the broken heart, the broken dreams and the broken life are all being offered to the higher power that's capable of making things new. It may just be a song but Shaun made it sound as real as it gets. A truly inspirational masterpiece.        
 
If there's anyone who can righteously do a song made popular by Koko Taylor, the late Queen of the Blues, it's Shaun Murphy, who many feel should be the current Queen of the Blues.  Sung from her gut, with lots of guts, Shaun belt's the hell out of "I'm A Woman".  
 
Listening to Shaun singing "Somewhere Between Right And Wrong" was transcending.  Until the songs end shattered it, I was completely under a spell.  Not wanting to leave that zone I'm sure I replayed this one at least a dozen times.  On top of the angelic vocals, the band added hymnal qualities to the music.  Absolutely amazing stuff.  
 
To pick up a copy of this, and many of Shaun's other excellent discs, and to learn more about this wonderful person and the fantastic career she's had, go to www.shaunmurphyband.com.  While you're there, please tell her that her dear friend - the Blewzzman - sends his love.
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 





ROOT DOCTOR
Featuring Freddie Cunningham

“NEW ATTITUDE”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © January 2014

     

If this, my first review of 2014, is any indication as to the quality of music I'll be working with this year then bring it on. Since 2006 this is Root Doctor's fifth release, and having all but the very first one, I do believe I'm qualified to say that "New Attitude" could very well be their best.

Although the band has had a few minor changes over the years, vocalist Freddie Cunningham and bassist James Williams seem to be the common denominators on all of the bands recordings. "New Attitude" features both of them along with: Mike Skory on keyboards; Bill Malone on guitar; and Bob Gardner on drums. Additional artist appearing on certain tracks include: Dave Matchette on harmonica; Mike Lynch on accordion; Andy Wilson on trumpet; Len`i Glenn on baritone sax; Jerrick Matthews & Michael Dease on trombone; Chad Bement on tenor sax; R. Gardner on washboard; and Lisa Bonotto & Glenn Brown on additional vocals.

"New Attitude" contains nine original tracks and a cover of a track that those of you who have seen the band live will recognize - Denise LaSalles, "Someone Else Is Steppin' In".

"Rear View Sight" is the perfect opening track. It's well sung vocals, sharp rhythm, and outstanding guitar and keyboard leads do a perfect job of introducing the listener to the very talented nucleus of the band. It's also - and from what I'm hearing, I'm somewhat sad to say this - the only track that you get to hear the Dave Matchette's wonderful harp work.

"Pay The Rent" is one of those soft blues numbers that allow the piano and percussion vibes to carry it over into a jazzy mood. It's that perfectly sung, perfectly played attention commanding type of song that other than the music itself, one should be able to hear a pin drop in the room. In spite of everyone putting on a flawless performance, I can't help but feel that it's Mike's piano playing that steals this one. By the way, back in the early nineties, Mike was one of the bands founding members but until returning in 2010, had not appeared on any of their first three releases. Welcome back, Mike!

"The Other Way" is just one of several tracks that establish why "Featuring Freddie Cunningham" deservedly appears after the bands name. If I'm a vocal instructor, this is mandatory listening for my students. Monster rhythm from James, Bob, Mike and the whole horn section and a few scorching sax and guitar leads by Chad and Bill make it a killer musically as well. Play this one LOUD and play this one OFTEN.

It took exactly one note of this track and I knew Root Doctor was "Louisiana Bound". Leading the way on the accordion, with lots of help from Bob on the drums, Mike's got the band in party mode and as soon as you hear it, this Zydeco grooves going to put you into dancing mode.
"Baby You're Bad" is the disc's slowest and truest blues track and that right there makes it one of my favorites. Torch style, soulful and heartfelt vocals, high end piano notes that just tickle your ear drums, slow, gritty guitar leads that make your gut wrench and rhythm that just causes you to settle back into one of those relaxed finger tapping trances. Oh, yeah! It just doesn't get any better than this.

With this years Blues Music Awards already in the hands of the voters, I'm going out on a limb and saying that in a year from now, you may very well see this band and this CD on the ballot. I've already noted it as a candidate for the 2014 Blewzzy's. To get your hands on this must-have disc, go see the guys at www.rootdoctorband.com. And you know the drill, you're going to tell them the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

 





TOUGH DEAL

“Don’t You Fold”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © December 2013

     

Although the band is loaded with seasoned veterans, "Don't You Fold" - which features fourteen all original songs - is Tough Deal's debut CD.  Tough Deal are made up of Kathy Gregory on vocals, Mark Saurs on guitar, Mike Souder on guitar and vocals; David Aldrich on bass and vocals and Carl Taylor on drums.  Additionally, John Howe is featured on the harp on "Been So Long".          
 
"Two Doors Down" is one of the disc’s several shuffles - a style that features what appears to be the band’s forte: sassy, melodic and wide ranging vocals, tight rhythm grooves and two outstanding guitarists tossing the rhythm and lead back and forth. 
 
"Enough" is another track which features something I just can't get enough of - Kathy's voice.  On this one, she backs up her velvety soft leads with her own even softer, whispering back up harmony.     
 
The only thing more sultry than this tracks lyrics are the way they're sung.  If you think hearing Kathy say "Put Your Hands On Me" sounds suggestive, just wait till you hear what else she has to say and how sexy she sounds while saying it.  Phew!  Saying this is one hot track now takes on a whole new meaning.  As a matter of fact, everything about this song is sexy.  David and Carl have a sensuous slow dance groove going on rhythmically and Mark and Mike are doing things on guitar that range from slow and steamy to scorching and spine chilling.  Several replays of this seven and a half minute song have just given me one of the best hours of my week.  With this being my last review of the year, "Put Your Hands On Me", has just joined my list of song of the year contenders. 
 
I have no clue as to why, but this instrumental is called "W. C. Fields".  Maybe it's because of the fun it sounds like the guys are having on this frolic like jam.  One thing is for sure, as the lead gets passed around everyone's sounding sharp - especially David who gets in quite a nice bass solo.      
 
Although not an instrumental, "Again" is all about the instruments.  Musically, the guys are all at the top of their game.  Carl's whacking the drums at a pace like I may not have ever heard before, David's beating up his bass and Mark is killing it on the slide guitar.   
 
It's not like Tough Deal needs it, but John adds some snap with some smoking harp playin' on "Been So Long".  This is one of a few tracks that features Mike on vocals and with everyone in full jam mode, it's a rocker.       
 
Other tracks on "Don't You Fold" include: "Almost Here, Almost Gone", "Don't You Fold", "Love On The Line", "Lost My Job", "Someone Special", "Had Me Some Money", "The Truth" and "O Baby Please". 

When it comes to the blues, Tough Deal is the real deal.  To find out more about the band just go to www.toughdealbluesband.com.  Once you do, please be sure to tell them the Blewzzman sent you. 
 
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





BILL BLUE

“Mojolation”
Warmfuzz Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © December 2013

"Mojolation" is the first studio release in thirty years from blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Bill Blue.  As the story goes, Bill tired of life on the road and moved to Key West, FL.  However, it wasn't to retire.  At nearly seventy, Bill still performs six nights a week at the local venues.  It was there where he met Ian Shaw, an award winning British record producer who had also relocated to Key West from London.  And, as the saying goes.....the rest is history.
 
Along with Bill Blue on electric & acoustic guitar, resonator, harmonica & lead vocals, "Mojolation" features many world class musicians who have played with the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Steve Windwood, Joe Cocker, Reba McEntire and many more.  They are: Richard Crooks on drums; Mat Backer, Michael McAdam, "Caffeine Carl" Wagoner, and Larry Baeder on guitar; Francois Gehin, Dan Simpson, and Drake Leonard on bass; Ericson Holt on piano and Hammond organ; and Deb Hudson on backing vocals.  Also featured are: Rob Cutts on tenor sax; Jason Chapman on trumpet; Adam Seely on alto and baritone sax; and Ed Leone & Christian Kollar on trombone.  Collectively, they are known as the "Funky In The Middle Horns".
 
"Mojolation" opens with a track titled "It's Gotta Change" and from what I'm hearing, I don't want it to.  This is downright unadulterated, raunchy and rocking blues at it's best.  Bill's raspy, scratchy and gritty vocals seem to be a perfect match for his spirited slide guitar style.  I'm sure his vocals, accompanied by Deb's melodic backup, are apparently going to highlight many tracks.  
 
This track features a total of three guitarists.  Sounds to me like a hell of a good reason to call it "Guitar Whore".  When they all get cranking things get pretty steamy.  Michael and Matt are slugging it out on slide and lead respectively and Bills rockin' out on rhythm.  Somewhere in there you can actually hear a few harmonica riffs outta Bill as well.
 
I think this could be another one of the tracks Ian was referring to when during a conversation between us he mentioned that "some of the tracks are a little guitar heavy".  Yes, this one has four guitarists, but no, it's not called "Guitar Orgy".  It's title is "Sing Like Thunder".  Oddly enough this track does features some of the disc's best rhythm with Richard and Drake creating some of that thunder on drums and bass.  Guitar wise, the one-two punch of Michael and Carl are a knockout.  Michael sets it up beautifully with his lead slide work then the "Caffeine" kicks in and kills it with scorching blues guitar licks.  Bill?  With all the goings on around him he's belting the hell out of the vocals.  An absolutely great track.
 
"Who Do You Think You Are?" is one you won't be able to stay still for.  The rhythm's rockin', the guitars are smokin' and the horns are blarin'.  I'm sure this one always fills the dance floor.  
 
The owner is so mean and the place has the worst barbecue you've ever seen.  And that's exactly why Bill won't be going to that "Barbecue Store" no more.  However, that mean old bastard who can't cook was a great influence for a hell of a song.  No pun intended, this one's another 'smoker'.  Bill's at his best on vocals, is again tearing it up on slide guitar and gets a lot of help with the heat by some fiery piano playing from Ericson.
 
Other tracks on "Mojolation" include: "Brand New Man", "Poor Boy Blues", "I Ain't From Mississippi", "Ain't It Funny", and "On The Road For Big Boy".  
 
If, like myself, you are a member of the blues community who had never heard of Bill Blue before, then you need to do as Ian Shaw did and 'discover him'.  You can do that by going to www.facebook.com/BillBlueMusic and liking his page.  And then you'll tell him the Blewzzman sent ya.     
       
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient





 





BUCK 69

“No Medicine Like the Blues”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2013


It's been six years since I've last heard from Buck 69, and as the saying goes – good things are worth waiting for.  The band is back with their second release and it's title is something I'd like to hear my doctor say one day...“No Medicine Like The Blues”. 
 
With minor personnel changes, the nucleus of the seven piece blues rock-band has pretty much stayed in tact over the years.  However, this particular project includes several special guests.  On "No Medicine Like The Blues", Buck 69 consists of: Tom Clawson on vocals & rhythm guitar; his son Alex Clawson on lead & rhythm guitar, bass, drums, vocals and back up vocals; Candice Coleman Lange on vocals and back up vocals; John Sevilla on lead & rhythm guitar, bass, drums and back up vocals; Randy Paredes on lead and slide guitar; B.J. Love on keyboards; and David Alan on drums.  The special guests include: Johnny Neel on keyboards; Ryan Sondergeld, Stan Stahl and Olaf Gerhardt on horns; Betsy Cranston on cello; Brian Davidson on guitar; Dennis Gulley on bass; Daryl Burgess on drums, and Bobbie Clawson on back up vocals. 
 
Lots of good musicians, playing lots of different instruments, making lots of good music - sixteen tracks and seventy minutes of it to be exact.  Now let me tell you 'bout a few...  
 
The CD opens with your basic full throttle smoker called "These Blues".  It features a ferocious rhythm pace led by David on drums with John not only helping the cause on bass but tearing it up on lead guitar as well.  Stealing a title of a movie, this one's fast and furious.
 
I always enjoy it when one of the best songs on a CD also happens to be the longest.  I feel like it's a double treat - something very good and lots of it.  This is the case on the title track, "No Medicine Like The Blues".  It's mostly a slow blues song - which makes it even more enjoyable - on which Tom does an excellent job of belting out some very soulful lyrics.  Midway through it's nearly nine minutes, John picks up the pace from his absolutely amazing, slow, scorching blues leads to an even more amazing two minute lead that's mind blowing hot.  Very good stuff!
 
"Without My Baby" features the lovely, melodic and wide ranging vocals of Candice.  It's a gentle song with delicate - yet wonderfully done guitar and keyboard highlights by Alex and B. J. and soft, mellow rhythm by David and John.
 
This track contains some very topical and very true lyrics.  As Tom sees it, 'There ain't no "Hard Times" coming, they're already here'.  Hungry people in the cities, politicians lie and steal, no jobs to find since they've been moved overseas... and on and on.  Very well done vocally and the slide guitar adds a bit of a country sound to it.  As a matter of fact, it's my thought that given to an artist such as Trace Atkins, this one could be a smash hit on the country charts.  I'm already considering it for a song of the year "Blewzzy Award".   
 
"Just An Old Blues Man" features cool, well sung lyrics, outstanding rhythm, scorching lead guitar and melodic back up vocals... and yet it's a duet.  With Tom belting out the vocals, it's the extremely talented John Sevilla doing everything else.  Pssst, Tom – John needs a raise.
 
With all the different musicians who play many different instruments, it's the music that's pretty much been the highlight of many of the songs I've mentioned.  However, on "I Pray For Me", it's the vocals that steal the song.  The contrast between Tom's powerful, deep and slightly graveled voice and the equally powerful, higher pitched, angelic sounds of Candice and Bobbie on back up is a perfect blend.  This is the kind of song that listening to once is like being teased.  It just leaves you wanting to hear it again and again... which is exactly what I've done.  Easily one of the disc's best.  
 
Here I am, over an hour later and I'm still hearing lots of smoking music.  It's the closing track - which I think may sum up how long Buck 69 is able to endure this frantic pace - "All Night Long".  Musically it's similar to the opening track but only much faster and a lot more furious.  David and John are rhythmically out of control and the guitar slugfest between Alex and Randy on lead and slide is some of hardest rocking tandem playing these ears have ever had the pleasure of hearing.     
 
To find out more about Buck 69, just go to www.buck69.net.  While you're there, I strongly suggest that, besides telling them the Blewzzman sent you, you look into getting your hands on a copy of "No Medicine Like The Blues".  
 
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





Herbie D And the Dangermen

“Dangerous with Blues”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2013


Herbie D and The Dangermen are an acoustic driven band who play genre crossing music while leaving little doubt as to their influence - a mixture of blues traditions.  The band consists of: Herbie Desseyn on acoustic guitar, resonator and lead vocals; Chris Gifford on upright bass and backing vocals; Art Martin on saxophones, flute and backing vocals; and Michael "Sal" Salazar on drums and percussion.  Additionally, on one track each, are Erin Fossa on backing vocals and Jay Shenk on viola.  "Dangerous With Blues" is the bands second release and it contains seven originals and a cover.
 
On the opening track titled "I'll Have Another", the band does quite a good job of creating the mood for the songs story.  It's closing time at the juke joint and with the smell of cigarettes and bourbon filling his nose, all Herbie wants to do is pick up his pay and go home.....until she walked in.  As one thing leads to another, going home becomes the furthest thing from Herbie's mind.  As Herbie tells the story his tone of voice pretty much makes his carnal intentions quite clear and each time Erin says "I'll have another", the sexiness of her voice sounds like a seal of approval.  From the very high alto and flute notes to the very deep sounds of the baritone, Art is all over this one.
 
"Three Of A Kind" is an instrumental that features Chris and Michael in a tight bass groove with Art and Herbie taking turns on Alto and Acoustic Guitar leads.  Real good stuff.
 
Although the song contains a vocal verse, "Franklin County Shine" is pretty much a concerto performed by Herbie and Jay - virtual maestros on the acoustic guitar and the viola.  I think the guys may just have created a whole new style of blues.....classical. 
 
During one of their gigs, Herbie finds himself attracted to this pretty little thing in the audience.  So he slides on over and with each line of crap he starts to give her the band goes into a chorus of "He's Full Of It".  Lyrically it's a riot but musically it's a smoker.  Outstanding rhythm behind some amazing guitar picking and several hot tenor leads all highlight this one.
 
"Danger Man” is a cover of a song by one of my very early blues influences - David Bromberg.  With some good backing, Herbie does a great job vocally describing just how dangerous he is.  Once again Art is magnificent on the horns.
 
Other tracks on  "Dangerous With Blues" include: "All The Guys Want To Be Your Man", "Dance Your Blues Away" and "Devil On My Shoulders".  
 
Herbie D And The Dangermen will be representing the River City Blues Society in the 2014 International Blues Challenge in Memphis and since I'll be going, this is one of the bands I'll be on the lookout for.  You should as well.  You can find out more about them at www.herbiedandthedangermen.com.  When you check them out, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
 
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





ZOE SCHWARTZ Blue Commotion

“The Blues Don't Scare Me”
33 Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2013


Over the dozen or so years we've been doing this, there have been many artists that have had multiple CDS reviewed by us. However, I believe Zoe Schwarz is the first artist to ever have two done in the same year. As long as they're as good as this, Zoe, you just keep 'em coming as fast as you can.

With the exception of an additional bass player and back up vocalist, the members of Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion have remained in tact and they are back with their second release titled "The Blues Don't Scare Me". Those musicians are: Zoe Schwarz on vocals; Rob Koral on guitars; Si Genaro on harmonica, backing vocal and rap; Pete Whittaker on Hammond organ; Pat Davey and Rodney Teague on bass; and Paul Robinson on drums & percussion. Also appearing on several tracks are: Ian Ellis on tenor sax; Andy Urquhart on trumpet; and Sue Hawker on backing vocals. This project contains eleven original tracks and, as with their first CD, a Billie Holiday cover.

"I Believe In You" is such a well sung, well performed and well produced song that it's sound had me thinking I was listening to the opening of a new James Bond movie. It's a song of that caliber. Had that been the actual case, it could have been as big a smash as Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger". Zoe's vocals are compelling, the rhythm is intense and what Rob and Pete are doing on the guitar and organ is mesmerizing. This was the most enjoyable six and a half minutes of my week.....so far.

For many reasons, "I'll Be Your's Tonight", is obviously going to be this discs 'replay special'. I'm barely finishing the second sentence and I'm already on the third listen. Everyone in the band is in such a relaxed groove and as they feature each instrument they are all meticulously played. Every note of this song is absolutely perfect. And then there's Zoe....WOW! I could listen to her sing this song all night long.....especially the part where she sultrily says "Kiss me now, and I'll be yours tonight". Her range is complete and everywhere, her style is moving, her emotion is convincing and her voice is immaculate. With the 2013 "Blewzzy Awards" just a few months away, this is the one to beat for song of the year.

"Billie's Blues" is another monster track. As a matter of fact, because I may be starting to sound redundant, I'm going to have to make this the last track I mention. How many more times can I say how magnificent Zoe's voice is or how she repeatedly blows me away? By the same token, there just isn't enough praise that I can give these wonderful musicians.
To use an aforementioned song as a reference, this was certainly not a "boring and unfulfilling shift" for me and this was, by far, not "just another review". I can't ever remember being this satisfied while working on a review.

To learn more about Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion - and American blues enthusiasts really should - just go to www.bluecommotion.com. I already know you'll tell her the Blewzzman sent you but also tell her he can't wait for the American tour.

Here's a little extra treat I'm sure you'll enjoy... www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1hNHjhGPaw&noredirect=1
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient




 





GEORGIE BONDS

“Stepping Into Time”
8th Train Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2013


If there's any truth to the expression "You've got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues", then Georgie Bonds should be given a receipt stamped "Lifetime Member - Paid In Full". Without getting into a word for word description of his bio, saying he's got as many lives as a cat pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. Prison, redemption, budding career in music, near death experience, resurgence of career, another severe illness, another recovery. Sounds to me like rather than calling this comeback disc "Stepping Into Time", that Georgie should have gone with "Stepping Into A Better Time". In any event, Georgie's back, he's feelin' good and sounding great.
On "Stepping Into Time", Georgie Bonds - on the vocals - is joined by: Neil Taylor on lead, rhythm and slide guitars; Andy Haley & Russ Joel on drums; Kenny Githens & James White on bass; Walter Runge on organ and piano; Buddy Cleveland on harmonica; Harry Jacobson on lead guitar; Joey Stout on piano; Dave Renz on tenor sax, and Randy Phister on congas. The CD contains twelve tracks of which ten are originals written by Georgie (4) and bandmates (6).

The opening track is a two minute a capella version of "St. James Infirmary" and the strength, emotion and style associated with Georgie's vocals had me thinking I could listen to a whole CD of this. Very well done.

This track's a tale from Georgie's redemption period. Singing with some grit and some growl, he tells a true story about the years he spent as "The Blacksmith". The rhythm section are all over this one with Andy doing a hell of a job making the bass drum sound like a hammer repeatedly pounding on an anvil. A few heated harp leads also highlight this one.

Mother kills her children, a husband kills his wife. Brother killing brother, cut down in the prime of life. People keep on asking what's giving me the blues, read all about it, pick up the "Daily News". Powerful lyrics, powerfully sung. With his highly emotional deliverance and amazing range on the vocals, Georgie nails this one. Led by the constant pulse of the organ, the rhythm section creates that perfectly eerie sound that's a masterful accessory to the songs sullen lyrics. Add in some slow bluesy harp leads and a few scorching blues guitar riffs and this one's easily the discs best track.

This song may very well be about a time in Georgie's life where he had a near fatal reaction to a prescribed medication. Apparently, ready to meet his maker, he got sent back being told to get on with living because "Dyin' Is The Easy Way". On this percussion fueled, funk filled smoker everyone in the band's on fire. Andy and Walter are duking it out on the drums and organ, James and Randy are toe to toe on the bass and congas and Neil's wailin' away on lead guitar. Musically, this one's a monster.

Using hot sauce as a guide, "Calling Your Name" would be labeled 'mild' while everything else I've heard so far would be labeled 'lava'. However, that's not a bad thing. This is an absolutely beautiful song featuring some soft guitar notes, subdued rhythm, gentle piano playing, and mellow and very melodic vocals. Excellent track.

Another incredibly good track is "Out Of the Fryin' Pan". With Andy and James providing him with some rich rhythm Neil kills this one with some of his best work on the lead guitar. One of the discs slower, bluesier tracks.

Here's to hoping that Georgie Bonds stays healthy and keeps on singing the blues, for his sake, and for the blues community as well. For more on Georgie, check him out at www.georgiebonds.com. And when you do, please tell him the Blewzzman sends his regards.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





JOOK BOURKE

“Up All Night”
Independent release

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © 2013

Jook Bourke is certainly no stranger to us here at www.Mary4Music.com. In addition to having worked with him on two of his three previous releases, last year a killer track of his was also part of our Mary4Music Presents: Keeping The Blues Alive - Volume Two Compilation CD and back in 2007 his song titled "Just A Minute" - off of the CD with the same name - was the winner of our website's Blewzzy Award. With that said, it was with great anticipation that I awaited the arrival his fourth release - "Up All Night".
 
As with his previous releases, "Up All Night" features all original music. As a matter of fact, recalling how his wonderful songwriting skills have impressed the hell out of me in the past, I can't wait to be hear these twelve. But let's first give credit where it is certainly due: Jook Bourke on vocals, backup vocals, guitar, saxophone, keyboards and harmonica; Mike Wilps on drums; Ron Grkman on bass; Donn Overly on Hammond organ, piano, percussion and guitar; and Tim Renshaw on piano.
 
Although the strong bass lines, led by Ron, and swinging sax leads by Jook, jazz this one up nicely, it's the vocals that make the track. Hearing Jook so coolly and so melodically sing the chorus on "Precious Eyes" is what did it for me.
 
The thirty second sultry sax intro into "What Am I Gonna Do" already had me, then Jook's vocals and background vocals kicked in and I was groovin' to an absolutely beautiful song that just kept getting more and more beautiful. Done in a style reminiscent of some of the classic fifty's hits, this one had a great beat and would be a hell of a song to dance to.
 
The very first few notes of this track had me swaying in my chair and the very first line had me wanting to quickly learn the chorus because I couldn't wait to sing along with Jook on "Two Will Nicely Do". Since I've been listening to this 2:36 song for over 20 minutes now I guess I'll tag this one the 'replay special'.
 
I can't help sounding like I'm gaga over the vocals on this disc, because I obviously am. However, the musicianship on all of these songs is quite good as well. As a matter of fact it's downright smokin' on "Ain't No Body Knows". Mike and Ron are rhythmically at the disc's best and Jook's showing his mastery over his guitar and sax equal that of his vocals.
 
"A Gift For Everyday" was obviously written for someone special in Jooks' life. That kind of someone who just by being themselves makes others feel good. We could all use a few dozen more of these kind of people in our lives. This song was beautifully written, beautifully sung and beautifully performed. Soft sax leads, relaxed rhythm, with soothing organ and piano backgrounds highlight this slow dancers delight.
On this particular track Jook's quite upset that in spite of being a handsome guy and real good guy who's a great provider he can't seem to get any of that "Toby Love". Cat people will enjoy the hilarious lyrics on this one.
 
Other tracks on "Up All Night" include: "Up All Night", "Come On Man", "Capable Woman", "There She Goes" and "Thunder Comin'".
 
It's such a sad fact that in this wide, wonderful world of music there are literally an uncountable number of outstanding writers, singers and performers that will never be heard by the masses. Allowing Jook Bourke to be one of them would be a travesty. Please check him out at www.jookbourke.com where you can read about the stories behind his music and give it a listen as well. And don't forget to tell him the Blewzzman sent ya.

 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro 
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com 
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





KING KING

“Standing In The Shadows”
Manhaton Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © 2013



Don't let the title of King King's second release make you think any different - this band stands in no one's shadow. As a matter of fact, in spite of their debut release - "Take My Hand" - receiving rave reviews, garnering various British Blues Awards and creating a frenzied touring schedule, it wasn't a tough act to follow. "Standing In The Shadows" is just going to compound the furor. One listen will attest to that.
 
Not messing with perfection, "Standing In The Shadows" features all the bands original members: Alan Nimmo on vocals and guitars; Lindsay Coulson on bass; Wayne Proctor on drums & percussion; and Bennett Holland on keys and backing vocals. Additional backing singers include: The Butler Family; Mike & Elayne Forster; and Liz & Egly Lucas. The disc features eight original tracks plus two covers from several of the bands neighbors - Scotsman, Frankie Miller and English rockers, Free.
 
I love it when my favorite track on a disc happens to also be the longest track and "A Long History Of Love" is just that. It's over seven minutes of blues bliss. It's a slow ballad that starts off with great lead and backup vocals backed by mellow rhythm led by steady and ever present organ chords. About halfway through the song, Alan unleashes an intense two minute barrage of guitar licks that take the song to a whole different level. The song then settles back into it's earlier relaxed mood and closes with Alan singing his heart out and sending me directly to the replay button for seven more minutes of blues bliss.
 
"Jealousy" is another striking track. Alan's nailing it with earnest, soulful vocals and scorching, red-hot guitar leads and what Lindsay, Wayne and Bennett are doing with the rhythm is nothing short of masterful. Great rendition of a truly great song.
 
The deeper I get into this disc the more it seems to excite me. Song after song I'm getting more and more blown away. "What Am I Supposed To Do" is another hit. Being excellent musicians is one thing, but writing songs that sound so good - track after track - is uncanny. As is the case with everything I've listened to so far, this is another very well sung song with amazing rhythm. This time it's Wayne's drum and percussion work that's the catalyst.
 
Other outstanding songs on "Standing In The Shadows" include: "More Than I Can Take", "Taken What's Mine", "One More Time Around", "Can't Keep From Trying" and "Heavy Load".
 
As I mentioned in the opening of this review, King King's first CD - "Take My Hand" was the winner of various British Blues Awards. Those awards were for "Best Band" and "Best Album". From what I just heard, this release - "Standing In The Shadows" - should have no problem repeating. And, if enough of the right people here in America get to hear it, there may just be a few other "Blues Music Awards" in their future.
 
For more on King King just go to www.kingkingblues.com. While you're there, please tell them their newest best fan the Blewzzman sent ya.



 





Dan Treanor's Afrosippi Band
with Erica Brown

“Tangled Road Again”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © 2013


Listening to any of Dan Treanor's music makes it quite obvious that he is as equally knowledgeable, as he is fond, of the history of the blues. As a matter of fact, just last year he was presented a Keeping The Blues Alive Award, in the Educational Category, for his work with the Blues In The Schools Program. With a Masters Degree in American History; outstanding vocal, harp, guitar and songwriting skills; and the knowledge and love he has of this genre, this was easily a no brainer for the Blues Foundation.
 
On "Tangled Road Again", the latest in a long line of Dan Treanor releases, The Afrosippi Band consists of: Dan on harp, guitars, Khalam and vocals; Erica Brown on lead vocals; Michael Hossler on guitar, lap steel, gitjo and vocals; Mike Wysocki on bass and vocals; Gary LaDuke on drums and percussion; and Merriam Johnson on lead and backup vocals. Guest Afrosippians include: Lionel Young on Violin; John Magnie on accordion; Dan Haynes on organ; Chuck Smith on keyboards, and Gary Flori on percussion.
 
The CD opens with the very intensely produced and presented title track, "Tangled Road". As Dan's narration goes: "Blues came from Africa a long time ago. Based in the African tradition of ring singing and call and response. Oldest kind of blues there is, it's called a field holler or a work song". With that said, Erica's vocals - with some tremendous help on backup vocals - then transcends you right to the middle of that field. Bordering on bizarre, the culmination of the intense voices combined with the profound instrumentation and percussion create a near maddening effect. To say this was one hell of a moving song would be a severe understatement.
 
"Hey Mister", whatcha gonna do? shouts Erica on the opening line of this track and from what I'm hearin', my answer is "PAAAAAAARTY"! With Lionel wailin' away on the violin, John squeezin' the hell out of the accordion, Gary LaDuke making various noises on various percussion type things, and Dan blowin' hell through the holes in the harmonica, it's sounding a lot like Fat Tuesday in my house.
 
"Nothing Can Take The Place Of You" and nothing can take the place of good, slow blues. This beautifully done ballad's filled with whispering rhythm, delicate harp tones, mellow guitar notes and wonderfully soulful and emotional vocals. The slow dancers will be in heaven with this one.
 
This time it's Merriam with the explosive voice on a track called "Dynamite". It's one of those head bobbin', toe tappin' shuffles that just reeks of blues. Gary and Mike are in the right spot rhythmically, the guitar leads smoke, Dan's blowin', suckin' and even grunting on intense harp leads and while that's all going on Merriam's belting the hell out of the blues. So much music - so little time. I never wanted this one to end.
 
If "Ernestine" knows what the hell is good for herself she'd better heed Erica's advice and find her a man of her own. As mean as this vocal whooping is sounding I wouldn't want to be her if Erica gets physical. Damn girl, you're belting the hell out of this one. Dan and Michael are also all over this one with the harp and guitar as well. Great stuff!
 
You really should check out Dan Treanor at www.dantreanorband.com. There you'll be able to learn a lot more about this interesting man, purchase some CD's and tell him his buddy the Blewzzman sent ya.
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 






The Healers

“Live At Knuckleheads”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © May 2013


If you aren't yet aware about Blue Star Connection you really should be. For blues lovers, it's such a good charity to be involved with. The people who run it and the people who are involved in helping it are all lovers of the genre as well. In addition to very generous donations, a lot of the money raised by, and for, the organization is raised from the proceeds of live concerts featuring some of our favorite blues artists. Basically, it's a win - win - win situation when you donate that way. You get to see a great blues show, while making a donation to an amazing charity and writing the event off on your taxes. How cool is that?

Now I'm not going to spend a lot of time telling you about the actual organization because you can find all that out for yourself by going to www.bluestarconnection.org. However, I'm here to tell you about the CD + DVD set that's available from them. The band is appropriately called The Healers and they are: Jimmy Hall on vocals and harmonica; Reese Wynans on piano and B-3 organ; Samantha Fox on guitar and vocals; Danielle Schnebelen on bass; Kate Moss on guitar; and Kris Schnebelen on drums. The performance was recorded live on 11/11/2012 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City, MO.

I'm going to tell you a little bit about some of my personal favorite highlights from the DVD, which includes two bonus tracks not on the CD.

The show opens with "San-Ho-Zay". It's supposed to be your typical opening instrumental which gives the band a chance to feel each other out and get into just the right groove. However, this crew locked in immediately and turned the number into a three alarm smoker led by Reese pumpin' fuel on the fire from the keyboards.

"Messin' With The Kid" is another one of my favorites. With Jimmy beltin' it out on vocals, Kate, Dannielle and Kris are rockin' it on rhythm. Then Jimmy, Reese and Samantha pass the lead around as they take turns kickin' it on harp, piano and guitar. Oh yeah!

Next at the mic is Samantha, and she gets the place "Rollin' & Tumblin'" with a version of... yeah, you guessed it. Vocally - by singing her heart out, Musically - by rocking out on guitar, and Visually - by looking absolutely stunning, Samantha - while leaving them roofless - treats the Knuckleheads to one hell of a show.

"As The Years Go Passing By" has always been one of my favorite songs. Probably because it's slow, gut wrenching blues and that's just the way I like it. Although everyone does a heck of a job making this one hell of a rendition of the song, it's pretty much Jimmy who nails it. Vocally he's about as emotional and soulful as a singer can get...and then there are the long, scorching and sultry sax leads...OMG. He's on a high right here and he's bringing me right up with him. Incredible stuff!

It's Danielle's turn to shine and shine she does on a rockin' version of "Love My Baby". Watching her is a treat and I'm not even referring to her good looks. Danielle's enthusiasm, vocal prowess and perpetual smiles just light up a stage. She likes having fun at the show as much as we do and it truly shows. What a vibe! One of this tracks highlights is the way Damielle features the whole group for individual highlights. Kate and Samantha each get in some scorching guitar leads, Jimmy and Reese take turns going nuts and in addition to singing, Danielle and her brother Kris are rhythmically on fire. Another gem.

Hopefully I've whet your appetite for more and you can get all you want by going to www.bluestarconnection.org and clicking on the link that says Purchase Healers CD/DVD. It's just $30 + $5 for S&H and in addition to the many hours of pleasure it will give you, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you helped a worthy cause. And don't forget, it's tax deductible. And please tell my friends at Blue Star that the Blewzzman sent ya.
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 






The Cazanovas

“Just gettin' by...”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © May 2013



I can't believe that it's been over six years since I reviewed The Cazanovas' first CD. Punning the title of that release, I can't help but wonder where has the "Borrowed Time" gone?
 
Their second release - "Just Getting' By" - still features front men Maurice Nazzaro on harmonica and vocals and Danny Vinson on guitars along with the new rhythm section of Jacob Holliday on bass and Theron Peterson on drums. Guest Cazanovas on the project include: Jeff Baker on harmonica and vocals on "Who's Foolin' Who"; Sal Padillo on percussion on "I'm Tired"; and Matt Wauchope on piano & organ on several tracks. As was the case with disc one, disc two also features all original music.
 
Although the opening track is extremely traditional musically, it's topical lyrics make it quite contemporary. The song is about a situation that way too many people are struggling with these days - "Just Getting' By". As Maurice says "Day after the day it's the same old game, money goes out faster than it came". And those of us "paying yesterday's bills with tomorrow's money" know just what he means, we're "just getting' by with what we've got". So true. So sad. This shuffle features the new guys putting out some hot rhythm behind several smokin' harmonica and guitar leads.
 
From a pure precision point of view,"Walk With Me" may very well be the disc's most perfect track. The rhythm is profound, the harp and guitar work are some of the disc's best and the vocals are outstanding. This was the point in production where everyone was on top of their game. Excellent track!
 
"Worried Mind Blues" is good old slow and lowdown blues and that's just the way I like it. The rhythm guys are right where they should be on a song like this - in a tight and mellow groove, while Maurice and Matt switch back and forth on smooth piano and harp leads. Add the magnificent way that Maurice is singing the song and as far as I'm concerned, I'm listening to the disc's best track.
 
"Who's Foolin' Who" had me fooled. Who knew that The Cazanovas - known for their incomparable kick ass style blues - were capable of some slow pickin' acoustic blues with soft harmonious vocals? Not me! This very interesting and very well done track features excellent string pickin', lazy harp blowin' and great harmony 'tween Maurice and Jeff on the vocals. Somebody get me a rockin' chair.
 
The disc closes out with an all out, no holds barred, whammin' jammin' instrumental called "Boppin' at Bakos". The plan on this one was for each musician to take his instrument and kick it's ass and the plan was followed well. Very hot stuff! FYI, Bakos is the name of the recording studio.
 
For more on The Cazanovas check them out at www.cazanovas.com, Reverbnation or become their friend at Facebook. Once you find them, please tell them the Blewzzman's the reason you did.
 
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





Donald Ray Johnson

"These Blues / The Best Of Donald Ray Johnson"

By Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro © May 2013

"These Blues" is a compilation of songs that are the best of Donald Ray Johnson's work from his previous six releases. How he narrowed it down to only thirteen tracks beats the hell out of me. Had the task been mine to pick which songs should be included, this would be a double, or maybe even a three disc set. Of the four albums I have: "Don Johnson", "Travelin' Man", "Pure Pleasure" (Blewzzy Award Winner, 2008) and "It's Time", there isn't a bad song on any of them.
The title track, "These Blues", is off of Donald's "This Time" album. As with a lot of Donald's music, especially since he is the drummer, this one features profound rhythm from him and the bassist. Add some smoking guitar leads and a scorching sax solo by Ralph Moncivais and this one sizzles.

It's going to soon be apparent to you why "Pure Pleasure" - the album this song first appeared on - was my choice for the 2008 "Blewzzy Award". The song is titled "Slow Down" and - trust me when I tell you this - none of the musicians did. This one smokes.

Musically, "Here To Stay" has it all going on: piercing sax leads, great guitar riffs, monstrous rhythm and yet it's Donald's vocals that steal the song. If you thought Barry White sounded soulful and sexy, forget about it, you haven't heard nothin' yet.

About thirty years, or so, ago I heard a song done by a local Ft. Lauderdale Blues musician named Junior Drinkwater (and The Thirst Quenchers). Although the song wasn't an original I couldn't recall having ever heard it before. However, after hearing Junior singing "These Last Two Dollars", it became one of my all time favorite blues songs. Now I'm listening to Donald do it and I'm thinking I'm hearing my favorite version of all time. With the band in a slightly funky groove, Donald and the backup vocalists are belting this one outta the park. I could easily listen to this one for the rest of the afternoon. Incredible stuff!

If there was ever a 100% radio friendly CD, this is it. As a show host all you've got to do it put it in and pick a number. Regardless of your selection, your listeners will love it.

Check Donald out at www.DonaldRay.com, but before you do, try to guess what late seventies Grammy Award winning group he belonged to. Then after you do, please tell him his buddy the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient



 





Sabrina Weeks & Swing Cat Bounce
“Got My Eye On You”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © May 2013


Indulge me for a minute, while I deviate from the music, please. Being from the old school, I remember the days when gentlemen were able to compliment a woman on her beauty and, in addition to it being acceptable to do so, it was well received as well. Having said that let me now compliment Sabrina Weeks on being a stunningly beautiful woman. Additionally, I’d like to send kudos to Brittany Santos for taking such an intense picture for the disc’s cover. The photo is so compelling it will make you want to insert your name at the end of the title…..as in, “Got My Eye On You, Pete”.

Since it’s been two and a half years that Sabrina and the cats blew me away with their first release, I have to say that I’m quite impressed that everyone who appeared on that disc, in one way or another appears on this disc as well. As the expression goes – don’t mess with perfection.

“Got My Eye On You” features Sabrina Weeks on vocals, Bill White on rhythm guitar, Mike Hilliard on lead guitar, Terry Strudwick on bass and Ed Hilliard on drums. Additionally, “Friends of Swing Cat Bounce” include: John Lee Sanders on piano & organ; Linda Kidder on background vocals; Jerry Cook on saxophones; Vince Mai on trumpet; Dave Webb on keyboard; and Jack Lavin on percussion. The disc contains ten tracks that are all band originals.

The title track kicks things off with Sabrina sassily and sultrily warning “(I’ve) Got My Eye On You”. As rich as it is in rhythm, I’m thinking I’m already hearing some of Terry & Ed’s best work on bass and drums. Blaring horns and scorching guitar leads out of Mike help heat this one up.

“Burn That Boogie” is a song that truly defines this band. When they strike this one up you’ll start “swinging” if you’re standin’ and “bouncing” if your sittin’…which won’t be for very long. From the sounds of it, everyone in the band is peaking on this one. It’s a musical masterpiece and a vocal virtuosso. How else can I explain the fact that I’ve been listening to a two and a half minute song for over twenty five minutes now? This is some unbelievably good stuff!

On “This Lady Sings The Blues” the title becomes a testament to Sabrina’s vocal artistry. The changes on this track are interestingly varied. During the vocal verses it’s a slow steamy ballad with the steam provided by Vince and his wonderfully muffled trumpet leads, then between them there are two smoking instrumental interludes with the rhythm section providing the heat on one and the lead guitar providing it on the other. Another very impressive and well produced track. Jack Lavin, take a bow.

Having just presented the 2012 “Blewzzy Award” let me now say that this is one of the ones to beat in 2013. Vocally, instrumentally, lyrically, photographically and production wise “Got My Eye On You” has got it all going on. Do yourself a favor and add this one to your collection.

To do that, just look Sabrina up at www.SabrinaWeeks.com. When you do, in addition to telling her the Blewzzman sent you, please tell her he said she needs to take the band to Florida….soon!

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

  LIVE CONCERT REVIEW





Curtis Salgado
at Blind Willie's in Atlanta

By Heaven Davis

I witnessed Curtis Salgado at Blind Willie’s… Were you there?

There is something about music that soothes the savage beast. When preformed well, music can change your life and urge your inner soul to come forth and breathe life.

Do you know what happens when old skool soul and blues collide? You get Curtis Salgado. If you have never experienced Curtis Salgado live, put it on your Bucket List, 12 times, arrive early and do not leave until the very last lyric has left his lips and the very last note is played. Be certain that you don’t miss a thing. It is an experience that you will probably want to share with someone.

I guess every generation has its favorites but rest assured there’s two things that out shine everything else in entertainment; a great voice and a live performance done extraordinarily well. Salgado has both covered.

When I left Mr. Salgado’s performance at Blind Willie’s I felt like I had been to a country church revival and suddenly wanted to be baptized.

When Salgado and his band performed the song “A Woman or the Blues” every woman in Blind Willie’s was on her feet doing a holy ghost dance,(including the waitresses) shouting with our hands raised in agreement even thought he was somehow shedding some disparaging comment on us, the music and harmonic back ground vocals smoothed it over. HA!

When you see and hear this guy perform you will understand why it is so important to keep live music ALIVE. Needless to say, I’m hooked and I will not be set free.

Time restraints would not permit us to do an interview at the time of the performance but we do have a telephone interview scheduled for very near future. You’ll see it here on ABS Blues Notes first!

 





The Red Wagons Blues Band
“Jumpin’ with Friends”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2013

The Red Wagons are a blues band from Rome, Italy and “Jumpin With Friends” is their second release. The CD, which was recorded in various studios and took several years to complete, is a compilation of jam sessions with some of their special “friends”. Ovviamente, gli azzurri sono vivi e vegeti in Italia.

The core members of The Red Wagons include: Marco Meucci on piano; Simone Crinelli on baritone sax; Roberto Marocchini on tenor sax; Riccardo Boni on alto, tenor & baritone sax; Alessandro Angelucci on guitar; Lucio Villani on upright bass; and Carlo Del Carlo on drums. And those friends they’re jumpin’ with are: Mitch Woods on piano & vocals; Junior Watson on guitar & vocals; “Sax” Gordon Beadle on tenor sax; Lynwood Slim on vocals; “Sugar” Ray Norcia on vocals & harp; Igor Prado on guitar; and Mario Caporilli on trumpet.

It didn’t take long at all to get things “Jumpin”. “Huckleboogie” – the disc’s opening track – is a swingin’ instrumental, and I do mean swingin’. It features all the regular members of The Red Wagons along with Igor Prado on guitar and Mario Caporilli on trumpet. As for passing out the compliments I’m clueless as to where to start. The rhythm – led by Lucio on the upright bass – is beyond phenomenal, the horn section – led by Mario on the trumpet – is ridiculously good and Igor is an absolute monster on guitar. Without exaggeration – I’ve listened to this track a dozen times before completing the paragraph and I may go back for a few more. WOW!

When the next track – “Big Mamou” – came on, I thought to myself that this was one of the songs that featured Sugar Ray… until I looked at the track’s credits. It’s actually Marco, with the beautiful singing voice so reminiscent of Mr. Norcia. This time it’s Junior mastering the guitar and Gordon leading the horn section on tenor on another very impressive number which also features harmonious full band backup vocals.

OK, now this IS Sugar Ray singing “My Baby’s Quit Me”. By far one of the smoothest and coolest vocalists ever to sing a song, and he’s living up to it right here. Another great track highlighted by Marco killing it on piano. There are still thirteen tracks to go and I’m already thinking I’m listening to the best CD I’ve heard in years.

“Blue Light Boogie” features Mitch Woods on piano and infamous ad-libs. Leave it to Mitch to sneak words like Mama Mia, Ruffino Chianti, Lasagna, Limoncello, etc into a song he’s performing in Italy. Mitch takes the expression “When in Rome…” to new heights. Oh yeah – the track did feature his signature exceptional piano playing as well.

“Girl From Idaho” is another track with Sugar Ray on vocals and it’s the only track that features the harp. That right there makes it one of the disc’s highlights.

“I Want A Little Girl” is one of only two tracks that feature just the members of The Red Wagons and inasmuch as it’s fun having “friends” perform with them, this is one hell of a band without them as well. Listening to Marco sing and play piano on the same song makes it impossible to decide which he’s more talented at and ditto for Riccardo on the alto and baritone saxes. Another beautiful song.

Put this one on at a party and everyone will “Jump With You Baby”. Another of many great dance songs on “Jumpin’ With Friends”. This one features excellent guitar leads from Alessandro, deep rhythm from Lucio and Carlo on the bass and drums and suave vocals from Lynwood Slim.

Short of offering to pay for it if I should be wrong, I’m guaranteeing any blues fan will love this disc. As a matter of fact let me just say it’s “must have music”. Right now, go to www.redwagons.it and buy it. While you’re there, please note: “Amici Italiani che vi ha mandato il Blewzzman”.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

TEXARILLO
“Black Satin Blues”
StarBrite Productions

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2013

I’ll take “Bands Home Towns” for $200, Alex. Answer: A three piece powerhouse trio who was influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughn and Johnny Winter, Texarillo – the “ultimate roadhouse band” – whose sound is steeped in the tradition of American Blues & Roots Rock.

What is Austin, TX? Buzzzzz! Sorry, the correct answer is Montreal, Canada. Go figure!

For a country that is cold most of the year, Canada is certainly a hotbed of very good blues bands. I’ve not counted, but I think that about 20% of the music I receive comes from the Maple Leaf Country.

Texarillo consists of Dwane Rechil on guitar & vocals, Ricardo Bacardi on bass & backup vocals, Ken Loudman on drums & percussion, and – having absolutely nothing to do with the music but surely making the CD cover look sexy – Tetyana Martyanova on incredibly gorgeous legs. “Black Satin Blues” is the bands debut release and it features thirteen original tracks all written by Dwane.

The 20 second guitar lead in on “I’d Rather Get Shot Down”, the discs opening track, leaves no guessing as to what’s ahead – hard driving, rock ‘em sock ‘em blues. Any doubts about that are quickly squashed as Dwane attacks the instrument for another minute and a half mid song. You wannabes better get those air guitars blown up.

Fans of rock blues, especially those that bow to the guitar gods, are going to love this one. Check Texarillo out at www.texarillo.com. In addition to telling them the Blewzzman sent ya, please tell them he also wants to meet Tetyana.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

BRANDON SANTINI
“This Time Another Year”
Swing Suit Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2013

One of the highlights of my many trips to Memphis is having made friends with, and becoming a fan of, several of Beale Street’s finest local blues artists. Besides friendship and music, Blues Music Awards are another of their common denominators. One of them – Billy Gibson – has already won a Blues Music Award, another – Victor Wainwright – is a 2013 Blues Music Award nominee and this one – Brandon Santini -was a 2009 Blues Music Award nominee as part of his long time band, Delta Highway.

On this, his second release, Brandon Santini displays the harp ability of a Hummel, the soul of a Salgado, and the pizzazz of a Piazza . The way I see it, that could all add up to several Blues Music Award nods “This Time Another Year”…. oh, say 2014 to be exact.

On “This Time Another Year”, Brandon Santini, on vocals and harmonicas, is joined by: Jeff Jensen on electric & acoustic guitars and hand claps; Bill Ruffino on electric bass and hand claps; James Cunningham on drums, tambourine and hand claps; Victor Wainwright on piano and vocals; Chris Stephenson on organ; and Preston McEwen on hand claps. Of the discs twelve tracks, ten are written or co-written by Brandon.

The title track, co-written with Charlie Musselwhite, is about Brandon wondering just where he might be “This Time Another Year”. Although no one ever knows the exact answer to that, I’m hoping that wherever it is it involves him belting out some blues and blowin’ the hell out of a harp…..which he’s doing right here.

On “What You Doing To Me”, Brandon joins the list – led by the fat man himself – as one of my favorite performers singing a song about one of my favorite places. This one brought back fond memories of Fats Domino singing “Walking To New Orleans”. Highlighted by some of the discs best harp and piano playing from Brandon and Victor, along with them nailing it as a vocal duet, this one absolutely blew me away.

I always love when one of my favorite style of blues songs also happens to be the longest song on the disc. “Late In The Evening” is over seven minutes of down and dirty blues at it’s best. Brandon’s harp leads and vocals are saturated with soul, and the guitar and piano leads by Jeff and Victor are completely absorbing.

Backed by a soft rhythm groove coming from Bill, James and Chris on the bass, drums and organ and mellow guitar leads by Jeff, this shuffle highlights Brandon’s vocals skill. Oh yeah, he also blows the hell out of the harp, but it’s his cool, smooth singing style that steal the show on“Things You Putting Down”.

As far as pure coolness goes, it’s my opinion that it doesn’t get any cooler than Rod Piazza. C’mon, he looks cool, sounds cool, acts cool and basically defines cool. Listening to Brandon on “Been So Blue” has me believing I’m listening to the heir apparent.

When Brandon says “Help Me With The Blues”, the band immediately gets on it. Turn this one way up then hold on real tight. This one’s a lightning fast race to the finish and from the sounds of it, no one wants to finish second. Bill, James and Victor are delightfully delirious on this three alarm, rhythm fueled smoker.

“Fish is Bittin’” are words you might hear at a back woods hoedown full of country bumpkins.. Hmmmm…. that’s exactly what I thought of the song as well. Fun stuff that you just might catch yourself singing along to. Brandon and Jeff, on harp and acoustic guitar, work this out real well together.

More tracks on “This Time Another Year” include: “Got Good Lovin’”, “Dig Me A Grave”, “Bye Bye Bird”, “Coin Operated Woman”, and “Raise Your Window”.

Brandon Santini will be in my area in just a few short weeks and I’m stoked about it. You can check him out at www.brandonsantini.com/. While you’re there, in addition to telling him the Blewzzman sent you, also thank him for going to the Middle East and entertaining our troops as part of Bluzapalooza.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

ANDRE’ BISSON
“Till The Real Thing Comes Along”

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2013

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That proverb certainly holds true for Andre’ Bisson’s music. It’s been exactly four years since I wrote about his first release – “Rhythm And Blues Experience” and now he’s back with his fourth release and a totally new band on “Till The Real Thing Comes Along”, and yet – other than the names – nothing has changed. As a matter of fact, I’m going to use the same line I used to open the first review by saying “If soulfully sung blues, backed up by hot rhythm, with a full, and very funky, horn section do the trick for you, then “Till The Real Thing Comes Along” by Andre Bisson will surely work some magic for you.”

This time around Andre’ Bisson – on vocals, guitar and piano – is joined by: Matt Burns on drums & percussion; Brad Cheeseman on bass; Jesse O’Brien on B3 organ & Wurlitzer; Loretta Hale on trumpet; Francis Smith on alto, tenor & baritone saxophones; and Darcy Hepner on tenor saxophone. “Till The Real Thing Comes Along” features ten songs of which eight are written, and all are arranged, by Andre’.

Kicking things off – and I do mean kicking, as is kicking ass – is the title track, “Till The Real Thing Comes Along”. This one’s a funk filled, rhythm fueled, smoker. With Jesse leading the way on the B3, Matt, Brad and full horn section are all in hot pursuit.

You might not get “One More Chance”, so you’d better hurry to the dance floor when this one comes on. This jazzy, swinger will surely have everyone jumpin’ to their feet. Matt on the drums and Brad, possibly at discs best on the bass, are absolutely on fire here. So are Francis and Loretta who’s horn blowing are absolutely blowing me away – be it on solos or in rhythm. Of course, with all this going on behind him, Andre’s sizzling on vocals and getting in a few strong guitar licks. This is easily the discs best – or as I often call it – the “replay track”…..I’ve already lost count.

It’s a “Real Bad Feelin’” when your baby loves you no more, and sadly, that’s what Andre’s feelin’. The upside to all that is it makes for a great blues song and that’s just what this one is. Andre’s gut wrenching, heartfelt vocals clearly reinforce his melancholic mood. This time it’s Darcey’s tenor leads highlighting the horn section.

Other songs on “Till The Real Thing Comes Along” include: “Save Your Love For Me”, “Two Way Street”, “Ode to Mr. Jangles”, “Don’t Mess With Cupid” and “You Give Love A Bad Name”. You can check Andre’ out at two different websites: www.andrebisson.ca (and) www.andreandthejtones.com At either one you’ll be able to tell him the Blewzzman sent ya.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

Andrew “Jr Boy” Jones
“I Know What It’s Like”
43RD Big Idea Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © March 2013

If you haven’t yet heard of Andrew “Jr Boy” Jones, you might just be listening to too much rap and not nearly enough blues. “I Know What It’s Like” is his sixth release and during his 50 years in the business he’s been the lead guitarist for many other musicians. As a matter of fact, during his stint with Charles Musselwhite, the band won a Blues Music Award in the Band of the Year category. What I’m wondering is why haven’t I heard the name Andrew “Jr Boy” Jones…..on a hell of a lot more blues festivals’ lineups?

Along with Andrew on guitar and vocals, the musicians appearing on “I Know What It’s Like” are: Kerrie Lepai on vocals; Lewis Fuellen, Jr on keyboards; Chris Gipson and Christole on bass; Larry Clemon, Jr and Jamil Byrom on drums; Cheryl Arena on harmonica; Larry Clement on trumpet; and Ron Jones on sax. The CD consists of all original music – of which eleven of the tracks were penned by Andrew and the other two by Kerrie – that cover all styles of blues.

The discs opener is the title track – “I Know What It’s Like” – and that knowledge is exactly what’s giving Andrew the blues. Sadly, all of the situations he refers to are those I’m sure he’d rather not know what it’s like. This very impressive opening track certainly does it’s job of leaving the listener wanting more. Backed by a strong rhythm section featuring both horns and some awesome organ leads by Lewis, Andrew kills this one on vocals and guitar.

When “Whiskey Drinkin’ Blues” came on, she wasn’t done with her opening line and I was already doing an Internet search for more information about Kerrie Lepai. Damn, this gal can sing. With it’s four and a half minute length being just a tease, this one deserved several replays. Sorry guys, I know you’re all back there doin’ your thing, but on this one it was a struggle to hear past Kerrie’s attention commanding voice.

Now “G Thang” is a whole other story. On this instrumental, all the applause – of course – goes out to the four guys creating this wonderful sound. This jazzy tune features some of the discs best rhythm from Christole and Jamil on bass and drums, along with prominent piano leads by Lewis, and smooth guitar riffs from Andrew. Musically, this is one of the discs best tracks.

“Moving From The Dark Side” is one of the slower, more straight up blues tracks of the bunch. It’s pretty much Andrew belting out some very soulful and emotional blues – both with his voice and his guitar.

On this particular track Kerrie, and everyone else as well, are pumped up and “Ready To Play”. This smoker is your basic all out jam. Christole and Jamil are rockin’ out the rhythm, Cheryl and Lewis are wailin’ away on harp and piano, Andrew’s tearin’ it up on guitar and Kerrie, along with lots of help from everyone with back up vocals, is knocking it outta the park. As the song ends a voice can be faintly heard in the background saying “Man that was fun”. My thoughts exactly.

“Midnight” is another instrumental that’s four minutes of musical bliss. It’s a guitarist, a bassist, an organist, and a drummer, making magic out of music. The researchers who discovered that music is therapeutic may very well have been listening to something just like this. Sit back, close your eyes, take a deep breath and let this one soothe your soul.

Apparently, Andrew, Kerrie and the band agreed with me that four and a half minutes of “Whiskey Drinkin’ Blues” IS just a tease, because here they are closing out the disc with a very pleasing eight minute version. That’s double the dose of Kerrie’s volatile voice, double the dose of Andrew’s scorching guitar, and double the dose of our listening pleasure.

Other tracks on “I Know What It’s Like” include: “I’ve Got You On My Speed Dial”, “Let The Child Be Wild”, “You Gotta Be Foolin’ You”, “Younger Women”, “The Party Is Getting Started At Midnight”, and “Mixed Beans”.

To get your hands, and your ears, on a copy of “I Know What It’s Like”, just give Jr Boy a shout by going to www.andrewjrboyjones.com. Once you’re there, you know the drill, ya gotta tell him the Blewzzman sent ya.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

ZOE SCHWARZ – Blue Commotion
“Good Times”
33 Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © February 2013

Exactly 40 years ago, in 1973, a record was released that featured many British artists – most of whom went on to become legends in several music genres, all while keeping in touch with their blues roots. That recording was called the “History Of British Blues” and Long John Baldry, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and Steve Winwood are just a few of the approximately sixty musicians who participated on the recording.

Now I’m not quite ready to put Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion in with those music masters just yet, but “Good Times” is surely some of the best blues I’ve heard come out of Great Britain in decades. As a matter of fact, this group would certainly fit into the category of the “Future Of British Blues”.

The band consists of Zoe Schwarz on vocals, Pete Whittaker on Hammond organ, Si Genaro on harmonica and backup vocals, Rodney Teague on bass, Paul Robinson on drums and percussion, and Rob Koral on guitars. Several tracks also include Ian Ellis on saxophone and Andy Urquhart on trumpet. “Good Times”, the bands debut recording, contains fourteen tracks of which nine are band originals.

One of the few covers is a nicely done version of Billie Holiday’s “Fine and Mellow”. It’s six minute length is the perfect amount of time for featuring everyone in the band. Being rich in rhythm with a mind blowing organ lead by Pete, with piercing harp and horn interjections, amazing guitar riffs and vocals by Zoe that are sometimes soft and sultry and at other times powerful and commanding, this is easily one of the discs best. Hearing this as an audition song, I’d immediately hire the band.

The appropriately titled “Beatitudes” is the most beautiful song of the bunch. The song’s moving lyrics, Pete’s heavenly sounding Hammond and Zoe’s angelic voice come together and just carry you away. The notes she hit closing out the song gave me goosebumps. This track’s proof that you can get high on music – I just did.

Unfortunately, I’ll never know if there’s such a thing as being “Too Darn Rich To Be Happy”. Then again, the way Zoe tells it, I may actually be quite fortunate in not knowing. The rhythm section smokes on this one. Rodney, Paul and Pete – as he’s been on every track so far – are all on their mark, and Si’s right with them wailing away on harp. Great dance song.

It’s been so long since I heard Koko Taylor’s version of this song I just went and gave it a quick listen to on You Tube. I was curious as to which version of “Voodoo Woman” was more funky – this cover or the original. And the winner is……Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion, by way of Pete Whittaker on Hammond organ. Give him the chance and I’m betting he could funk up Irish folk songs – what a talent!

Zoe’s best vocal performance can be heard on “I’m Leaving You”. The range she covers, along with the style changes she makes are remarkable. Be it soft, high notes or low down, growling low one’s – she’s all over this one. Lots more great organ, guitar and harp leads highlight this one as well.

“There’s Only You” is another of the disc’s best. It features the rhythm section tightly tuned in while Rob and Si get in several strong harp and guitar leads. Of course, Zoe’s doing what she’s been doing all disc long – belting the hell out of some blues.

Other tracks on “Good Times” include: “If I Didn’t Sing I’d Cry”, “Take Me Back”, “You Shook Me Baby”, “I’ll Do Anything”, “That’s Why I’m Crying”, “Blues Get Off My Shoulder”, “Give Him Up Girl” and a shorter radio friendly version of “Beatitudes”.

Take this statement to the bank – Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion are about to create a big commotion on the blues scene.

To find out more about the band just go to www.bluecommotion.com. While you’re there, do yourself a big favor and get a copy of “Good Times”. Do me a favor as well and tell Zoe that the Blewzzman is her newest biggest fan.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

The KING BEES
“Carolina Bound”
Original High John Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © February 2013

Twenty Five years! That’s a long time, right? Well, it might not be that long a period of time based by blues standards, but it’s a hell of a length of time for getting some dues paid. That’s how long The King Bees – husband and wife team Hound Dog Baskerville and Queen Bee Zamagni – have been at it. Traveling the highways and skyways of the world, they’ve performed in venues from the back woods juke joints of the south, to the Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts in New York City, to stages and festivals all over Europe, and all types of venues in between. I guess you might say the family that makes good music together stays together.

According to the King Bees, “Carolina Bound” is a collection of songs “celebrating 25 years of stingin’ & swingin”. On it, they are joined by some of the many notable friends and music associates they’ve made along the way. Joining Queen Bee, on bass and vocals and Hound Dog, on guitar are: Phil Stinson on piano, Chuck Cotton, Mark Henderson, and David Barbour on drums; with special friends Roy Roberts on guitar solos, Jerry McCain on harp; Nappy Brown on vocals; Carey Bell on harp & vocals; and Chick Willis on guitar & vocals.

“Carolina Bound” is a collection of ten songs – of which seven are originals – and six of them that include their very notable friends.

Without even knowing what words may precede or follow the words “You Were There”, those three words convey an obvious acknowledgement. And hearing Queen Bee sing the rest of the song will clearly validate that thought. These are the kind of lyrics that make you wish you had someone in your life like the person she’s singing the song to. Sandwiched between two very emotional and heart warming vocal verses are some very nice guitar leads by Roy.

“Run Your Reputation Down” is a hot number that features Hound Dog, Phil and Jerry joining forces to kick some blues ass on guitar, piano and harp… sometimes individually and sometimes collectively. Of course the rhythm sections’ smokin’ along with them.

“Natchez Burning” features the late and incredibly great Nappy Brown on vocals, need I say more? Those of you who know Nappy know I don’t. This one was recorded live which means Nappy was up to his usual shenanigans. Hound Dog and Queen Bee sounding real good on guitar and bass as well.

Featuring none of the legendary guest stars, “Send Me To The Jailhouse” is actually one of the discs better tracks. Instrumentally and vocally, Hound Dog and Queen Bee are at their best. This is one of those low down dirty blues songs that once you feel the groove you never want it to end. Great stuff!

Featuring another late and great blues man – one of the original Chicago Blues Allstars – Carey Bell, it’s basically needless to say “What Mama Told Me” is the most traditional and most serious blues track of the bunch. The band is doing just what it’s supposed to do, get into a tight rhythm and just sit back and let the master do his thing. Hearing Carey belting out the blues vocally and blowing the hell out of his harp is what this one’s all about. After this track you’ll be looking for an old Carey Bell CD to put on…..but try to wait till this disc is done.

“Yonder Wall” features the vocals and guitar of fifty plus years blues veteran, Chick Willis. Being another live track and being another performer who steps it up several notches in front of a live crowd, Chick’s magnificent on this one…. in spite of keeping the lyrics clean. What makes this track even more enjoyable is it’s nearly seven minute length.

Other tracks on “Carolina Bound” include: “Carolina Bound”, “Under My Skin”, “It’s Tight”, and “Party Shoppe”.

To find out more about Mr. & Mrs. Baskerville, The Hound Dog & The Queen Bee or as they are more commonly known – The King Bees, just look them up at http://www.facebook.com/penny.zamagnikingbees. As usual, don’t forget to tell them the Blewzzman sent ya.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

SHAUN MURPHY
“Ask For The Moon”
Vision Wall Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © January 2013

When TC Davis – the producer of the CD and operator of Lonesome Road Agency – called me up to tell me he was sending me a copy of Shaun Murphy’s latest release, “Ask For The Moon” he included a disclaimer in the conversation. Knowing what a blues snob I am, TC felt the need to warn me that “the disc is not all blues”.

Now there’s no question in my mind that I’ll probably enjoy the tracks that are blues the most, but having listened to Shaun Murphy sing, and having worked on several of her earlier releases, I also know that with her voice and vocal abilities – I’d enjoy hearing her sing nursery rhymes.

Joining Shaun on this project are: Johnny Neel on keyboards; Jim Horn on sax; Kenny Greenberg and Shawn Starski on guitar; Daryl Burgess on drums; Boyd LeFan on bass; Tim Gonzalez on harp; two duets are shared with Bekka Bramlet and Burton Gaar, Jr; and along with Shaun, Bekka Bramlett and Vickie Carrico contribute with the background vocals. Additionally, Bekka & Shaun – with five and four respectfully – combine for having written sixty percent of the discs fifteen tracks.

Now let’s go listen to these good songs – regardless of what genre they may be…

Now if you heard an attractive woman singing a song called “Ugly Man Blues”, you might think it was being sung out of the frustration of having one, right? Maybe! You see, this versions being sung in anticipation of actually finding one. That’s right, us ugly guys do have a chance. According to Shaun, “there’s nothing sweeter than the love of an ugly man”. Based on her reasoning it does make sense. With excellent rhythm work behind them, Shaun on the vocals with an attitude, and Tim on the harp, highlight this one.

The title track, “Ask For the Moon”, is surely one of the crossovers. To use a phrase I know I’ve heard somewhere before – “It has a good beat and is easy to dance to”. Due to it’s funky nature, Johnny, Boyd and Daryl are the heat makers on this one.

“Let’s Talk About Love” has all the ingredients of a pop / soul hit. It’s a vocally skillful duet between Shaun and Bekka that gets extra help from the well placed background vocals. With Daryl adding just the right amount of powerful bottom and perfectly timed sax and piano interjections it all comes together quite nicely. You can tell from the chuckle at the end that the ladies were happy with it. I was as well.

The first indication that I was going to like this track came with the ear perking opening guitar chords from Shawn Starski. Then Shaun Murphy chimed in with a powerful vocal verse that stole my attention. Seconds later Johnny rolled in with some good ol’ barrelhouse piano blues, the rhythm section then kicked in and bam – Jim starts wailin’ away on the sax. Need I say more? Oh yeah – the name of the song – “Mighty Long Road”, and it’s easily the discs best track.

I’m a sucker for slow, bluesy, ballads with sultry sax and/or piano interludes that are sung by a powerful female vocalist, so you might say I’m having a good time right about now. “It’s My Own Tears” is the kind of song I can listen to Shaun Murphy sing all day long. Not since the late great Koko Taylor have I heard anyone make those growling, squirming, gasping, raspy sounds sound so good. This is great stuff.

Some of the discs best vocal harmony can be heard on the song called “Big Wheels”. Adding the collective background vocals of Bekka, Vickie and Shaun to the power of Shaun’s own lead vocals and this one takes on the sound of a Gospel song being sung by a full church choir. Amazing!

Other tracks on “Ask For the Moon” Include: “Just Enough”, “Heartless Man Blues”, “Forget About Me”, “When It Rains”, “Go Home”, “Chained”, “Why You Hurt Me So Bad”, “What’s In It For Me?” and “Get Away”

If you’d like to learn more about Shaun Murphy – and you should, because her biography is amazing – check her out at www.shaunmurphyband.com. While you’re there please tell her not only did that blues snob the Blewzzman send you but that he loved the disc as well.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

James “Buddy” Rogers
“My Guitar’s My Only Friend”
Blue Wave Productions


By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2012

Reading the one sheet that accompanied the disc, I’m somewhat shocked that “My Guitar’s My Only Friend” is James “Buddy” Rogers’ debut CD. Although a child by blues standards, this thirty-six year old musical talent has been at it since he was a child. By age eleven, his band was already gigging; by age thirteen, he was a regular at local blues bars in his area; by age fifteen, Canada’s top agency was booking him into concerts; and by the time he turned nineteen, he was a veteran who had shared the stage with many blues headliners. And from what I’m hearing, he’s well on his way to becoming one himself.

On “My Guitar’s My Only Friend” – which features all original music – James “Buddy” Rogers, on lead guitar and vocals is joined by Bill Hix and Ivan Duben on drums, Bill Runge and Tony Marryatt on bass, Mike Kalanj on Hammond organ, and Tom Lavin on rhythm and bass guitar.

On the opening and title track,“My Guitar’s My Only Friend”, it doesn’t take very long for James to introduce us to one of his influences. His very impressive guitar highlights scream out Albert King…..and that’s always a good thing. Inasmuch as we all know that he’s got other friends, James and his guitar do have a thing going on. Add some great vocals and intense rhythm from Ivan and Tony and this one’s a real winner.

“I’m On The Road Again” is a smoker that features that hard driving, relentless style of rhythm reminiscent of ZZ Top. Once again, it’s Ivan and Tony dispensing the heat. Real good stuff.

Going somewhere with your lady then watching her leave with someone else can’t be fun. From the sound of things, this is exactly the situation that caused James to come down with a severe case of the “Disappearing Baby Blues“. After what pursued, as a result of pursuing her, James now offers this advice – just do some disappearing yourself. As sullen as it sounds, this is actually a fast paced track that will surely make the dancers happy. James and Tom are all over their guitars and, as it appears to be the case regardless of who the rhythm guys are – this time it’s Bill Hix and Bill Runge – it once again scorches.

Pretty much every song I’ve heard with this name in it was from the good ol’ days of Rock N Roll and “Guitar Sue” fits right in with the rest of ‘em. This hot one will have you thinking Chuck Berry.

I’m sure that James “Buddy” Rogers does not remember American Bandstand, but this baby boomer sure does. And one of the things I’ll never forget about the show is it’s theme song – “Bandstand Boogie“. From the opening note, that song made you want to do just that – BOOGIE! Ditto for James’ “Lovin’, Kissin’, Huggin’”. This somewhat reminiscent smoker will have you hitting replay…..between dances.

The CD closes with it’s only instrumental - “Buddy’s Walk”. With Tom, Mike and both Bills polishing up the rhythm, James and his “friend” shine on this one. This is a stupor inducing shuffle if there ever was one.

Other songs on “My Guitar’s My Only Friend” include: “Let’s Get Loose”, “Sweet Little Girl”, “Blame It On The Blues”, and “Dawg”.

With the new year just just about five weeks away, it shouldn’t be much longer than that before we’ll be hearing about the 2013 Blues Music

Award Nominations and it wouldn’t shock me in the least if I saw “My Guitar’s My Only Friend” by James “Buddy’ Rogers as a nominee in the Best New Artist Debut Category. Be that as it may, I do know for sure that it’s a contender for a “Blewzzy”.

To introduce yourself to James, purchase the disc and tell him the Blewzzman send his regards, just go to www.jamesbuddyrogers.com.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient


COLDTRAIN BLUES
“ColdtrainBlues II: Funkin’ Da Blues”
Rizing Sun Records

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © October 2012

On one hand, ColdtrainBlues consider themselves to be – and I quote – “one of the funkiest blues bands in the world”, but on the other hand they really don’t consider themselves to be – in the true meaning of the word – a band at all. In a conversation with producer and musician Earl J. Foster, it was explained to me that ColdtrainBlues is a conceptual conglomeration of world class musicians. They come from different genres including jazz, country, pop and rock. They come from different eras including “old man” Earl – a term he used to described himself – who started out on American Bandstand. And some of them even come from different bands. However, they all share a common love for the blues.

Basically, Earl assembles different ensembles for live shows, different ensembles for recording sessions and even after a track is recorded, he assembles different guitarists to work solos into the song. The results are masterful and although they can be confusing as to who is playing when, Earl likes it that way. His exact words to me were “it’s about the music, not who’s playing it”. As a matter of fact, other than some mentioned guests, the players of ColdtrainBlues all use alias nicknames. My God! Did I discover a bunch of musicians with no ego?

Now let’s talk about them, and their music, on “Funkin’ Da Blues“. The ColdtrainBlues Crew consist of: “Big Daddy” Payne on keyboards & vocals; Will “Big Willie” Biscuit also on keyboards & vocals; Vincent “Big Bad Vinny” LaBauve on lead guitar; Earl “Slick” Siler on drums, Duane “One Take” Laskey on keyboards; and Eric “Uncle Funky” on bass. Additional guest soloists on several tracks include: David T. Walker; Ray Bailey; Doug Scott’ Z’Andre Yarborough; Murray Middleman; Jeff Colbert; and Ron Dixon.

The first track, “Buck Wild” makes a great first impression. It puts forth the idea that if the rest of the tracks were as good, this would be a hell of a good disc. The rhythm is robust; the vocals are powerful and soulful; the backup vocals are quite complimentary; and “Big Bad Vinny” kills it on guitar. Yep, I’m ready for more…..

… And more is what I’m hearing on “Don’t Make Me Pay For His Mistakes.” It’s more great vocals and back up harmony, more tight rhythm, more kick ass guitar – this time with added solos by Doug, and killer piano and organ highlights by one of the several keyboardists.

As big Big Daddy Payne tells it, he’s about to get quite cozy with Betty Lou. With a drink and a dance already under his belt, he’s ready to take it to the next level. That is until a friend whispers into his ear that “Her Boyfriends In Jail“…..and he just made bail. If you want to know the outcome of his predicament, you’ll have to give a listen for yourself. All I’m gonna tell you is the music’s as cool as the story.

“Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” and as far as “Big Willie’s” concerned, that’s not a good thing. It seems that no matter who he talks to – the mailman, the neighbors, the butcher – they all know just a bit more about her than he cares to hear. This one features some of the discs best and bluesiest vocals and this time it’s special guest guitarist, Ray Bailey, tearing it up on seriously scorching solos.

I may not know “Who’s The Fool?” but I do know it’s another of my favorite tracks. “Slick” and “Uncle Funky” are right on with the rhythm, “Big Bad Vinny’s” wailin’ on guitar and “Big Willie” – a most incredible blues singer – is belting the hell outta this one on vocals. I’ll be slammin’ the replay button at the end of this one.

“I Think You Ought To Know” that this is another monster blues song. It’s a live recording so I’m assuming it’s the six piece ColdtrainBlues crew who are makin’ all the noise…..and such beautiful noise at that.

Now if you asked “one of the funkiest blues bands in the world” what they like doin’ most, I’m betting they’d say “We Love Funkin’ Da Blues“. Aha! I’m right. As you might expect. “Slick” and “Uncle Funky” are playing a key role on the drums and bass right here. And as Earl obviously knows, when you want to get real funky you gotta have a sax. Enter Murray.

Other tracks on the “Funkin’ Da Blues” include: “Crabs In A Barrel”, “Hot Rockin’ Mama”, “I’m So Worried”, “Makin’ Me Feel” and “Dead Meat” .

Now that you’ve probably decided you’d like to have a copy of ColdtrainBlues II: Funkin’ Da Blues”, you can get one by going to www.coldtrainblues.com. When you go, please be sure to tell Earl that the Blewzzman sent ya.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

Mike Mettalia & Midnight Shift
“Midnight Sun”
Lost World Music

By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2012

Midnight Shift bills themselves as a “Rhythm, Rockin, Boogie” band and indeed they are all that. However, on “Midnight Sun” – their third release – they are a hell of a lot more. Besides the songs you’ll be boogieing to, their are others that you can swing dance to, line dance to and maybe even square dance to. Some may cause Beethoven to consider rolling over and others could possibly make you shout out exclamations such as “Great Balls Of Fire!” or “Yee Haw!”. And yet they never really wander from their genre – the blues.

This very diversified, very talented and very good band consists of: Mike Mettalia on vocals & harp; Mike McMillan on electric & acoustic guitars, maracas and backup vocals; Paul Pluta on electric & standup bass and backup vocals; and Tim Smith on drums. Special guest include Jimmy Cavallo on sax & vocals; Steve Guyger and Mikey Junior on harp; April Mae on vocals; Chicago Carl Snyder and Dan McKinney on keyboards; and Jim Callan on pedal steel guitar.

“Calabash”, one of nine originals, immediately put me in motion. Imagine Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis in an all out free for all with a smokin’ harp player doing his best to blow them both away. Get my point? Rock ‘n’ Roll, baby. The whole band, with the addition of Carl on piano, are all over this one.

I’m on my sixth play of this song and during the first five all I did was sit here with a big smile on my face. Thank you, April. Listening to your voice – even as it sings about when “The Blues Come Around” – is a totally pleasing experience. Together, April Mae and Mike Mettalia nailed this duet. Throw in a tight rhythm groove, a few choice guitar leads and monster job on pedal steel by Jim and I think even Hank Williams himself would have enjoyed listening to the way his song was covered here.

The title track placed me on the set of a mystery movie. It gave me the feeling of being on one of those dark, foggy, cobble stone streets where you see a trench coated private eye with a fedora, leaning against a pole that’s casting off the dim light of a “Midnight Sun”. Instead of a saxophone, it’s Mettalia’s singing; McMillan’s guitar; and April Mae’s soft backup vocals that create the sultry, steamy effect. Great stuff.

Generally I’m bothered when a really good song is too short but thank goodness this one was. After it’s two minute run, “Mama’s Little Baby” had me exhausted….. and that was just from listening. Fierce rhythm, ripping guitar and vocals faster than a tongue twister had this train totally running away. Phew!

“Leave Married Women Alone” – it’s not just the song title but good advice as well. This is Jimmy Cavalllo’s song and hearing him sing it makes me think he should have followed his own advice. As a matter of fact, the pace these guys are keeping actually sounds like they’re running from a furious husband. More great rhythm and of course, with Jimmy featured, vocals and sax highlight this one.

“Built For Speed” could easily be Midnight Shift’s logo – these guys are relentless. On this one Mike Mettalia shares the harp playing with the completely capable Mikey Junior. Knowing Mikey’s style, he probably volunteered as soon as he heard the song title. This is a match of musical maniacs.

The closing track, “What Have I Done” was recorded live at the Lehigh River Blues Jam – an annual blues festival in Catasauqua, PA, that’s put on by the Second Story Blues Society. It features smokin’ harp by not just one, but two extraordinary masters of the instrument – Mike Mettalia and Steve Guyger, also on vocals.

Other tracks on “Midnight Sun” include: “Work Don’t Work”, “Magic Touch”, “The 796″, “Sun Record Sleeve”, “Love Reaction”, “Heartsick”, and “Cheat You Fair”.

As I looked back to a review I did of Midnight Shift’s last CD – “Rhythm Rockin’ Boogie” – a line I wrote jumped right out at me. I had stated that “If there was ever a CD you bought just on my recommendation, let it be this one”. To that I’d now like to add this…..Ditto! You can do just that by going to www.mnightshift.com. When you go, please tell the guys the Blewzzman sent you.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

Mark Sells Band
“Missin’ You”


By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2012

Should the musicians who make up the Mark Sells Band – Mark Sells on guitar and lead vocals, Bill Leyva on bass and vocals and Andy Mendoza on drums – sound familiar to my regular readers then you’ve got one heck of a good memory. This talented trio were part of Brothers N’ Blues when I reviewed an EP of theirs called “That’s Right”, back in June of 2005.

Apparently, other than being seven years older, not much seems to have changed for this talented trio. “Missin’ You” features the same gritty, scorching, hard rhythm driven blues with the same enlightening and inspirational lyrics that they impressed me with back then. I’m comfortable saying that these nine original songs are basically spiritual music on steroids.

Writing about a world class three piece band is not an easy task. Redundancy sometimes becomes commonplace. It’s almost like being stuck between a “Rock N’ Hard Place” which, of course, is this songs title. On it, Bill and Andy may very well be on top of their rhythm game. Need I say what Mark’s doing? Read on…

Although masterful guitar work is a common denominator on all the tracks, this one features some of the raunchiest, scorching blues guitar licks. This is my kind of stuff. I’ve already replayed it more times than sentences I’ve written. Mark’s use of gutsy and gritty vocals to describe his journey from going the wrong way to the right way down a “One Way Street” are as amazing as his guitar work. Great song!

Adversity doesn’t bog down Mark because with the help of the Lord, he just keeps “Movin’ On”. Obviously the Lord’s inspiration has been felt by the rest of the band as well, because the whole track is movin’ on with the speed of a powerful locomotive.

“Mark’s Groove” literally took me to the edge of my musical comfort zone. I had that feeling like you get when you’re on a roller coaster and in spite of being scared to death you’re equally wild with excitement. Phew! Get your pumps out because you air guitar players are gong to need lots of extra fuel playing along on this one. With Bill and Andy pounding out some vicious rhythm behind him Mark is totally in the hands of the guitar gods.

Unlike anything else on “Missin’ You”, “Bye-Bye” is a very mellow, quite relaxing instrumental. Any longer than it’s three and a half minutes could very well have been trance inducing. Soft brush stokes and ever so faint bass notes accompany Mark seducing the strings of his guitar similar to the style of a harpist.

Other tracks on “Missin’ You” include: The title track – “Missin’ You”, “So Cold”, “Before I Met You” and “Trials And Troubles”.

Before I close, I’d like to make one additional comment. I think, but I hope I’m wrong, that the use of words such inspirational and spiritual may have some readers thinking this is a CD full of hymns. To them let me say this – if this is the kind of songs I’d hear in church I’d start attending……and not just on Sundays. This is some of the rockinist, sockinist blues you’ll ever hear.

For more information on Mark Sells and the band just go to http://www.marksellsband.com – this will take you directly to his Facebook page. Once you’re there, “like” the page, then tell him the Blewzzman sent ya. Oh yeah, one more thing……..also tell him I don’t want to wait another seven years.

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient


JOE BONAMASSA SHOW
By Heaven Davis

Remember when I told you I ended up on the bus with Joe and Steve? NOOOO!! You guys…. Here’s what really happened….

November 26, 2011, started out like any other Saturday after the Thanksgiving holiday. I woke up late due to the party that has been going on at my house since in addition to my husband, two other Brits arrived at our house. But that’s another story.

We (the ABS) had managed to get available members of our Youth IBC winners into the Meet & Greet with Joe Bonamassa at the Cobb Energy Center. For some reason I thought the time was 4:00 pm but it ended up being 4:30. UGH! Anywho… The kids showed up with their parents, they met Joe (see photos) and that part went well.

For some reason, our press passes were not at the Will Call window but tickets to the show was. That was a problem. The whole reason for being there was for the interview. We (Steve and I) had been working on this interview for weeks. Luckily I had a contact number for emergencies. We ended up with back stage access and the tickets. WHEW!



 


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