Issue 10-17 April 28, 2016

Cover photo by Ryan Nicholson © 2016

 In This Issue 

Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. has our feature interview with Rich DelGrosso. We have 5 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Too Slim and the Taildraggers, Big Harp George, Jonn Del Toro Richardson, Scottie Miller Band and Benny Turner. Roger Stephenson has photos and commentary from the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, MS. Our video of the week is Rich DelGrosso with The Ragpicker String Band.

We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

Too Slim and the Taildraggers – Blood Moon

Underworld Records

www.tooslim.org

10 tracks / 44:37

If you have not heard of Too Slim and the Taildraggers it is not their fault, as they have done a great job of getting their music out to the masses over the past 30 years. Their efforts have included countless shows, 13 studio albums, 5 live albums, and 2 compilations, so there is plenty of their music out there for you to choose from.

Originally based in the Pacific Northwest, this trio now works out of Nashville, with Tim “Too Slim” Langford on guitar, Robert Kearns on bass, and Jeff Fowlkes on drums (Kearns and Fowlkes also contribute backing vocals). This group has a distinctively hard blues-rock vibe, and though there are some pretty obvious influences in play here, the sound they end up with is all their own.

By now these guys have figured out how to put together a solid record, and Blood Moon is a slick piece of work. All ten tracks are originals that were written by the band, and a few of the tunes fall into the album rock 7-minute range. This project is mixed and mastered well thanks to Michael Saint-Leon who took care of the recording at The Switchyard in Nashville, so all of the basic stuff is taken care of.

The band’s 45-minute set starts strong with “Evil Mind” which sets the tone for the rest of the CD. Though there are only three members in the group they do a great job of filling the stage with a sweet bass ostinato over heavy drums, and background vocal harmonies on the chorus. Langford is a searing guitar hero, and he tears off a couple of epic solo breaks. After this ends there is a neat bit of 1970s-inspired psychedelic AOR blues-rock, and Too Slim does a fine job of channeling his inner Robin Trower with the slow grinding “Blood Moon.” This blues jam has all the right components, including distinctive doubled guitar and bass and a healthy dose of heavy ride cymbal.

“Twisted Rails” brings a lot to the table. It is heavy funk with a touch of psychedelia and strategically placed harmonizing. The lead vocals dig a little deeper and are more aggravated, and Langford brings his wah pedal into play as he lays down more killer guitar leads. This is all good, but the real story is Fowlkes’ drum kit, as at times the final product is more like a drum solo that has a song written over it. After five minutes of this, the tune changes into a more traditional blue rocker for the final few minutes, which is a pretty cool change-up.

But there is more than British invasion blues rock and 1970s sounds going on here, as the Taildraggers also nail down a respectable country rocker with the highly contagious “Get Your Goin’ Out On.” Then there is the bluesy power rock ballad, “Gypsy,” with its heavy backbeat, and the hard-rocking “Good Guys Win” with its insane bass parts from Kearns. Then there is the final track, an instrumental reprise, and “Twisted Rails (Slight Return)” proves to be an interesting coda to an impressive collection of tunes.

These songs are all solid, but there are a few standouts on this disc. The first is “My Body” with its layers of acoustic and processed electric guitars. It has a softer feel with melodic Gary Moore-esque leads that contrast nicely with the raspy vocals. The other is “Letter,” which defies attempts to stick it into any one genre. It is a hard-driving tune with a raunchy intro over a 12-bar blues base and vintage rock do-wop backing vocals. Intermittent surf rock themes give it a fun vibe, which may seem weird on paper but it works marvelously through the speakers.

It should also be mentioned that the band has included liner notes complete with lyrics for the songs, which is almost unheard of these days. This is a nice touch that a lot of bands no longer bother to deal with, and the Taildraggers’ efforts are appreciated.

Too Slim and the Taildraggers’ Blood Moon is a hard set with blues, rock, and country influences, and the songs are well integrated into a single entity. It is some of their best studio work yet, and their live show is equally enthralling. Be sure to check out their website, as they have a lot of gigs coming up throughout the spring and summer, as this trio has to be seen to be believed!

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



 Video Of The Week – Rich DelGrosso 

Here is a video of Rich playing some acoustic country Blues from his latest CD, The Ragpicker String Band.

The Ragpicker String Band features Rich DelGrosso, Guitarist Mary Flower and multi-instrumentalist Martin Grosswendt. The CD is nominated as Best Acoustic Blues Album in the 37th Blues Music Awards. Click on the image above to see the video.



 Featured Blues Interview – Rich DelGrosso 

When we think of the blues, our thoughts often conjure up the scratchy acoustic blues of Mississippi John Hurt or Reverend Gary Davis, the scorching electric lead riffs of Freddie King and screechy leads of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the juicy harp of Sonny Boy Williamson, or the rollicking piano rolls of Otis Spann and Ivory Joe Hunter.

But mandolin? Blues on the mandolin? Isn’t the mandolin the instrument that stands front and center in bluegrass bands, made famous not by bluesmen but by such famous high and lonesome crooners as Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, and Sam Bush? Or by musicians who started in jug bands—David Grisman—or in bluegrass—Chris Thile—but who’ve created innovative styles that feature the mandolin in jazz (Grisman) or classical (Thile, who has an entire album devoted to playing Bach on mandolin).

Well, Rich DelGrosso joins a long and distinguished line of mandolin blues players, showing us through his own innovative acoustic runs and rippling riffs that the mandolin was born to play the blues. As a matter of fact, he joins a long line of mandolin bluesmen such as Yank Rachell, Howard Armstrong, Johnny Young, and others whose careers he has been instrumental in recovering for us not only by recording his own versions of their songs on his records but also by writing about them as a music journalist and as the author of Mandolin Blues: From Memphis to Maxwell Street (Hal Leonard), where he traces the history and music of American mandolin blues.

Like many young bluesmen, though, DelGrosso first came to the blues through his love of guitar. “My folks really encouraged me to play, and eventually I got together with friends in the neighborhood [in Detroit where he grew up], and we were all into the Amboy Dukes, Cream, the Rolling Stones.” DelGrosso recalls that his journey into the blues really started when he looked at the credits on the Stones albums and saw that their songs were written by people like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. “I really learned how to play guitar listening to Son House, Muddy, and the Wolf,” he says; “their music was far more powerful to me than the Stones, who were trying to copy them.”

“Then I got to see John Hammond live at a folk festival, and, man, I really wanted to do what John Hammond was doing; as a solo performer, Hammond has no equal.”

It wasn’t until David Siglin, the then-manager of the famous Ann Arbor folk club, The Ark, asked DelGrosso if he’d ever heard Johnny Young doing blues mandolin. “He turned me on to a recording of Otis Spann and Young playing this duet on piano and mandolin, and I started looking up people who were playing blues on mandolin.”

Hearing that one recording led DelGrosso on a journey he’s still traveling today. When he started doing some research into the mandolin, he found out that individuals in the land of his ancestry—Italy—firs produced the instrument in the eighteenth century and carried it to American shores in the nineteenth century. “By 1890,” he says, “colleges had mandolin clubs and shop girls even carried empty mandolin cases to convince people that they were society ladies.” The mandolin became huge again in the 1920s. “It was a parlor instrument, and it was a popular instrument in both the black and white community. Gibson produced a whole family of mandolins during those years.”

He calls the 1920s an invention-rich era. “Once records were created,” he points out, “you started to lose the regional aspect of the music; New Yorkers could easily listen to Southern blues.” During that time the resonator guitar—”National Resonator became known as the ‘Jaminator”—became a big instrument. Mandolins had to compete with the loudness and richness of Resonators, but the unique quality about mandolins, DelGrosso points out, is the rich tremolo technique and sound developed especially among Memphis jug bands. “The mandolin stood out because of what the jug bands could do with it to develop a very different tempo and rhythm from the emerging electric sound. Of course, Gibson also added a resonator to its mandolins, and that gave the instrument even more nuance and passionate sound.”

DelGrosso was so hooked on mandolin that he started writing for Mandolin World News, which David Grisman started. “I wrote a regular column for Mandolin Magazine from its beginning and covered folks like Young and Rachell.” One day Grisman called him and asked DelGrosso if he could find Yank Rachell, who was then supposed to be living in Indianapolis. “I found his name in the phone book and called him up; he was very gracious. We started jamming, and he showed me many of his secrets, including various tunings to give my mandolin some richer, stronger sounds. Of all blues mandolin players, Yank has the biggest discography of mandolin blues players that stretches from the 1920s to the 1990s.”

DelGrosso discovered the enduring power of blues mandolin when he saw Howard Armstrong at the Mariposa Folk Festival. Armstrong acquired the name “Louie Bluie,” says DelGrosso, a nod to his exuberant style. In fact, The Armstrongs—which included Armstrong, Carl Martin, Ted Hogan, and Martin Hogan—were billed as the last of the black string bands, according to DelGrosso. “They turned any gig into a party,” he laughs, with songs like “State Street Rag.”

Back then, and even now, acoustic blues bands were the perfect setting for blues mandolin players. “Memphis jug bands were the key. You can hear that mandolin tremolo technique that rises above the sound of the resonator guitar. The Dallas String Band—almost nobody has ever heard of them—and the Mississippi Sheiks—they did the original ‘Sitting on Top of the World,’ which Robert Johnson used as the basis for his own ‘Come on in My Kitchen.’ I love introducing those bands to folks because they’re so important to hearing where this music comes from.”

DelGrosso teaches both through his records and through classes and workshops all around the country. In February he taught in the camp program at the annual Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, as well as entertaining one evening in an official showcase among five other acts. “I love to teach mandolin blues not only because I get paid well but because I get to meet other mandolin players, and I’m keeping the mandolin blues alive. I teach different approaches to the music, so I get to teach classes on Rachell, Armstrong, and Johnny Young.”

DelGrosso also offers lessons online through his website, and he offers a variety of instructional books through his website that include CDs and that can be used to master mandolin. His Mandolin Method: Book 1 (Hal Leonard) has introduced new players to the instrument for over thirty years now. “At gigs, people still come up and tell me that they learned how to play using my book,” he laughs.

On his newest album, The Ragpicker String Band (Yellow Dog), DelGrosso, Mary Flower, and Martin Grosswendt return to that model of acoustic string bands of which DelGrosso has grown so fond. “I decided to record an acoustic record and the other albums were a bit more electric and band oriented. I’ve got to get back to my roots. I had been working at the Centrum in Port Townsend with Mary Flower and Martin Grosswendt. We only had a short time together, so we went over to Austin to record with some of my favorite people.”

Featured on the album are tunes by the great blues mandolin player Sleepy John Estes—”Clean Up at Home,” “Black Mattie,” and “Milk Cow Blues”—the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Lonely One in the Town,” and the traditional tune, often attributed to the Reverend Gary Davis, “Trimmed and Burning.” The album’s rootsy flavor has earned it a nomination for a 2016 Blues Music Award as Acoustic Album of the Year.

DelGrosso pens two songs on the new album—”By Your Side” and “Street Doctor Blues”—and Mary Flower pens a pair, too—”Bruno’s Dream” and Baby Where You Been.” “I don’t think of myself as a very good songwriter,” DelGrosso says, “though I do want to get better at it.” As a songwriter, DelGrosso does write on mandolin. He starts with a groove and often asks himself what kind of groove he can do solo, since he’s often playing on my own. Then a lyric might emerge and give more to the groove.

“You know, the key to the success of country music today is that those songs tell stories; the blues tells the same old story, and I look for certain ideas that come up over and over again in that story: ‘Hard to Live With, Easy to Love’, ‘A Gig is a Gig’.” When John Del Toro Richardson and I were making Time Slips By, we wrote our own songs because getting royalties is one of the driving forces for writing and performing your own songs. We also realized that women buy records, so when I am writing I often think about what a woman would want to hear,” he laughs.

These days DelGrosso spends more time in the folk world than in the blues world, even though neither of the worlds understands the other very well. “Folk people don’t know about the blues world, and the blues world doesn’t know about the folk world. What’s different about the folk scene now is that there’s a huge percentage of singer-songwriters; that’s different from the 1970s when there was more emphasis on diversity—blues people, fiddlers, you name it. Now the folk clubs aren’t interested in blues artists and blues festivals seldom hire acoustic acts and are notorious for not hiring women acts. If John Hammond were starting out today, there would be very few opportunities for him to do what he did.”

When he reflect on the current state of the blues, DelGrosso expresses some bewilderment about today’s sounds and about the future of the music. “Seems like we’re losing a definition of what the blues is,” he says, “and I’m disappointed that there is a blurring of the lines between blues and rock and roll.”

He says that he has no idea where the blues is going. “You know, Elijah Wald said that the blues is alive today in the music of kids banging on their trash cans and doing hip hop. People don’t know what it is any more. I’m not hearing what I think of as the blues; for example, I don’t think blues radio is playing Brad Vickers anymore,” DelGrosso declares.

In spite of his uncertainty about the future of the blues, DelGrosso plans to stay busy. “I have thought about some other writing projects,” he says; “I should probably do some more method books.” DelGrosso has a big dream: “it would be the highlight of my life if I could be in that stage at the Mariposa Folk Festival in front of which I first sat to see John Hammond and where this all started.” DelGrosso “would love to get together contemporary blues mandolin players like Gerry Hundt and Billy Flynn to do another mandolin blues album,” and more and more he “wants to write a lot of songs and do an album of my own again like the one that John Del Toro Richardson and I did together, Time Slips By.”

Yet, for DelGrosso, there’s something about those jug bands and string bands, and the acoustic blues of Rachell, Young, Armstrong, and others that calls him more and more to the roots world. “I’m a roots person. I’m lost in the roots and I don’t want to leave it. I’m a 1920s blues mandolin player who got caught in the wrong time.”

We’re wise to accompany DelGrosso on his journey back down to his roots.

Visit Rich’s website at: www.mandolinblues.com

Interviewer Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. writes about music and music books for No Depression, American Songwriter, Country Standard Time, and Wide Open Country.



 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 5 

Big Harp George – Wash My Horse In Champagne

Blues Mountain Records BMR CD 02

13 songs – 56 minutes

www.BigHarpGeorge.com

It took an eternity for Big Harp George to emerge from the shadows to put his prodigious talents on the chromatic harmonica on display for the world to see, but it was definitely worth the wait.

His well-received 2014 release, Chromaticism, a nominee for last year’s Blues Blast Awards for best New Artist Debut Album, clearly demonstrated, he’s a player of the first order. With the release of the equally satisfying, all-original Wash My Horse In Champagne, it’s clear that he wasn’t a one-trick pony.

Now in his early 60s and a longtime law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, George Bisharat developed his talent as a hobby, making his recording debut on one cut of the Otis Grand-Joe Louis Walker album, Guitar Brothers, in 2002. Grand called him back into the studio again in 2006 for his Hipster Blues CD, George’s only other release before exploding out of the blocks as a front man.

In a world where anyone who picks up a harmonica thinks he can play the blues, Big Harp George is a rarity, eschewing the diatonic — with its simple 10-hole, 20 reed set-up – for the chromatic, which uses a button to switch between the double set of reeds that exist for both blow and draw notes, something akin to having an entire piano keyboard in your mouth with the ability to play all keys without changing instruments. His playing style – playing in front of a microphone instead of holding it against the instrument – has more of an acoustic than electric feel.

Like his first release, this album was engineered by Kid Andersen at Greaseland Studios. Produced by Chris Burns, who doubles on keyboards, it features Raja Kawar on drums with Andersen sharing guitar duties with Little Charlie Baty and bass lines with Kedar Roy. J Hansen adds percussion while Michael Peloquin (sax) and Mike Rinta (trombone) comprise the horn section and Loralee Christensen and several of the musicians provide backing vocals.

While all of the material here was written by George, it comes across with a warm, familiar feel. “Home Stretch” opens the action as it borrows from the Nat King Cole classic, “Straighten Up And Fly Right,” and promises his lady to quit drinking and other vices on the home stretch of his life. “Road Kill” is a call-and-response rocker about being run over by a lover even though the singer saw the car approaching. Andersen’s guitar work is stellar, and the tune has the feel of a number that could have been produced with his regular unit, Rick Estrin And The Nightcats, with whom Baty and Hansen have featured prominently.

The cover tune, “Wash My Horse In Champagne,” is a major change of pace, a minor-key, Latin-flavored complaint about being educated well, but have learned nothing. It features a stunning guitar solo from Baty. The upbeat jump blues “Cool Mistake” swings from the get-go as it describes the joy of stumbling on treasures of one sort or the other. The equine references continue with “never look a gift horse in the mouth.” Next up, “My Bright Future” is a slow blues ballad about the realization that the title is really in the singer’s past.

The horns are in play in concert with the harp for the jazzy “I Ain’t The Judge Of You” before the action slows for “I Wasn’t Ready,” a bluesy ballad with a ‘60s feel about not being ready to say goodbye. It’s dedicated to George’s mother. The theme of remorse in other areas of life continues in the New Orleans-flavored rocker “If Only” before the funky “Light From Darkness” sings praise for inner strength against adversity.

The instrumental “Mojo Waltz” features horns and another nice Baty solo. It precedes the blues “What’s Big?” a lesson dedicated to George’s son that stresses “big” doesn’t involve muscles, it’s more about having a heart of gold. Another swinging instrumental, “Size Matters,” follows before “Justice In My Time,” concludes the set.

The world is full of skilled diatonic players, but chromatic players are a rare commodity, and Big Harp George is a master, lilting over the comb of his instrument with an uncompromising ability to produce big, sweet tone as he runs his progressions, seemingly with no effort. And his lyrics are a treasure throughout. Pick this one up. Available through most major marketers, and strongly recommended.

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



 Live Blues Review – Juke Joint Festival 

Music Maker Relief artists Albert White left who played with Piano Red and Sam Frazier Jr. entertain the crowd on Yazoo Ave.

Austin “Walking Cane” “Damn Fine Blues!” Original & classic delta blues featuring slide guitar and baritone vocals.

Mississippi’s Bill “Howlin Mad” Perry sings with daughter Shy on keys and Jesse Cotton Stone on second guitar outside the Rock and Blues museum.

Butch Mudbone (L) on the Quapaw Canoe stage with the legendary chess recording artist Cash McCall (R) on bass dish out some funky R&B influenced blues.

Clarksdales 17 year old phenomenal guitar sensation Christone “Kingfish” Ingram dishes out electric blues on the Delta Blues Museum stage.

Country bluesman Davis Coen performs original songs outside the Rock and Blues Museum.

Singer, songwriter and bassist Heather Crosse played to a packed house at Ground Zero.

One of Nashville’s best known bluesmen Stacy Mitchhart filled the air at Ground Zero with hard driving electric blues.

95 year old Henry “Gip” Gipson owner of Gip’s juke Joint in Bessemer, Alabama sang old style Delta blues skillfully plating the melody and keeping the bass beat going at the same time.

Robert Lee “Lil Poochie” Watson hailing from Natchez Mississippi deserved a larger audience for his soul tinged blues.

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes proprietor of Bentonia’s Blue Front Cafe on the Mississippi Blues Trail and a true country bluesman played to a large crowd outside civil rights leader the late Wade Walton’s barbers shop.

John Paul Keith (L) plays some blistering rocking guitar riffs and performs original songs.

Multiple BMA nominee Johnny Rawls sang his smooth soul blues with passion to a large crowd in front of the Rock and Blues Museum.

Lightnin’ Malcolm duo played his Mississippi Hill Country blues at full volume to a full house at the Old Roxy: his new drummer Trina Raimey keeping a perfect beat.

Earl “Little Joe” Ayres from Holly Springs, Mississippi played with Junior Kimbrough for 30 years playing old school songs including Please Baby Don’t Leave Me Baby to the early crowd outside Cathead Delta Blues & Folk Art store.

Singer songwriter Liz Mandeville (L) sang blues with some raunchy lyrics to the delight of the crowd.

Blues Man McKinney Williams was selected as Blues Artist of the Year for 2015 on the Mississippi BBQ Trail. Here he plays on the street at Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival.

Songwriter Ray Cashman playing some lively Texassippi roots music at Hambones.

Como, Mississippi authentic bluesman RL Boyce gets the folks up dancing at the Bluesberry Café.

Robert Kimbrough Sr. keeps up the family music tradition playing the Hill Country music of his father RL Burnside to a packed house at the Dreamboat.

Birmingham’s Sam Frazier Jr. and Music Maker Relief foundation recording artist plays his harp Slim Harpo style sitting out on Yazoo Avenue.

Sean “Bad” Apple playing some mean slide in front of the Delta furniture store.

Young Stud Ford is T-Model Fords grandson. He drummed with Lightnin’ Malcolm for a couple of years but has now branched out forming his own Stud Ford Experience. Here outside the Delta Blues Alley he is accompanied by guitarist and vocalist Jesse Cotton Stone.

The flamboyant multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Tullie Brae from Memphis held a large crowd captivated in front of the wade Walton stage as she switched from keys to vocals to guitar and back to keys while dancing!

Vauthier Ghalia from Belgium may perhaps have travelled the farthest to the Juke joint festival. Bright and energetic at 10am on the Delta Furniture stage she sang mostly originals taking the time to describe often in a lighthearted way how she came to pen the lyrics.

Photos and commentary by Roger Stephenson © 2016



 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 5 

Jonn Del Toro Richardson – Tengo Blues

www.deltoroblues.com

VizzTone Label Group

13 songs – 49 minutes

Well, this is a treat. Houston native Jonn Del Toro Richardson seems to have been around for a while, winning the Albert King Award for most promising guitarist at the 2005 Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge, working as a sideman to the likes of Otis Taylor and mandolinist Rich DelGrosso as well as performing on Pinetop Perkins’ Grammy winning record, Last Of The Mississippi Bluesmen with Robert Jr. Lockwood, Henry Townsend and Honeyboy Edwards. Tengo Blues, however, is Richardson’s first solo CD and it is an absolute ripper.

Richardson wrote all 13 songs on the album as well as singing and playing guitar. Backed by a crack band of Wes Starr on drums, Nathan Rowe on bass, keyboardist Nick Connoly, and Lawrence Del Toro (Richardson’s uncle) on percussion, together with Anson Funderburgh on guitar for two tracks and the always-bang-on Texas Horns on seven tracks, he has produced a first class slab of smoking modern Texas blues that contains more than a hint of swinging Latin influence.

Opening with the horn-driven soul-blues of “Behind the Curtain”, Richardson sings with warmth and passion, while his guitar solo perfectly echoes the uplifting message of the lyrics, initially sounding uncertain but growing in confidence and purpose to reach a place of strength and comfort. Likewise, on the upbeat blues of “I’m Her Man”, Richardson’s muscular yet punchy soloing style perfectly reflects the lyrical content of the track. Indeed, his guitar playing is a joy throughout, never over-playing but always playing with beautiful tone, melody and emotion. Check out “Wild Ride”, a song into which most guitarists would cram as many notes as possible but on which Richardson displays admirable restraint whilst still sounding as if he is flying by the seat of his pants (which, given the lyrics, is particularly apt).

But Richardson is not just about the guitar playing. His songs are equally impressive. He dips his toes into some light jazz-influenced swing on the instrumental “Triple Lindig”, which also contains some tasty organ from Connoly, and goes back to his ancestral roots on the Latin groove of “The Moment” with some typically stellar horn work from Messrs Kazanoff, Mills and Gomez. He even combines hints of both jazz and Latin on the instrumental title track. Tracks such as “Can’t Run From Love” and “Tell Me Do You Love Me” straddle the line between soul, blues, pop and rock. But the foundation stone and heartbeat of the album is modern Texas-style blues, as exemplified by the likes of “Get Me Back To Texas”, “Love If You Want It”, “Tall Pretty Baby” and “This I Know”.

Tengo Blues is produced by Anson Funderburgh, who achieves a wonderfully warm, spacious feel on every track. Funderburgh’s contribution is worth commenting upon, given that his involvement in a project seems to carry with it the imprimatur of quality, from his own recordings to his recent work with Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone Star Review or the Andy T-Nick Nixon Band’s last two unmissable releases. Tengo Blues sits comfortably alongside such lauded company.

Tengo Blues is a thrillingly enjoyable debut from Richardson, who is clearly a serious talent. This is one of this reviewer’s favourite albums of the year.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.



 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 5 

Scottie Miller Band – Reciprocation

Self-produced CD

13 songs –54 minutes

www.scottiemiller.com

Festival-goers are probably most familiar with Scottie Miller thorough his work on the keyboards as a touring member of Grammy winner Ruthie Foster’s band for the past nine years, but he’s also an outstanding singer and songwriter, too, as this intense and incendiary all-original blues-rock effort clearly shows.

A former International Blues Challenge finalist and Minnesota Blues Hall Of Fame inductee with eight previous solo albums to his credit, Miller is a Minneapolis native who attended Boston’s prestigious Berklee College Of Music. As a member of Big John Dickerson’s band, he was invited to play at a memorial service in St. Louis for legendary keyboard player Johnnie Johnson. A chance meeting with Bo Diddley at that event led to an invitation to become a member of what was Diddley’s last touring band. When not working with Foster, he tours the world with his own ensemble.

Despite being a gifted blues player, Scottie’s originals are difficult to peg because they incorporate everything from rock and classical to New Orleans funk, gospel and Latin jazz, too. The mélange of sounds blend together in a powerful stew of emotions that further enhanced here by his equally skilled vocals. His tight, electric backing unit consists of new members Patrick Allen on guitar and Dik Shopteau on bass as well as the familiar Mark O’Day on drums.

Miller uses Wurlitzer or Hammond organ as he delivers a succession of tunes with references to hope and preservation. The funky “Where You Been Hiding?” kicks off the disc as it questions the previous whereabouts of the woman of the singer’s dreams. It introduces the consistent use of rhythm patterns throughout that propel each song intensely as Scottie and Patrick rip and run through their solos. A reggae rhythm drives “Bring It On” as it describes someone who’s coming on “like a shining star.”

The bluesy “Nothing Can Stop Us” details a search for answers to solve ethnic killing as it attempts to find a way to tear down the walls before “Selfish” describes someone who “won’t do what your mama told you/Won’t do what your daddy said” as it drives home the message: What we need is more love. “Keep On Walking,” the first solo to emerge from the disc, is a powerful number with the message: “There are times, when you are hurting/…and the bottom is where you fall/ Well keep on walkin’./Cut through hatred and heavy stones/Heal these wounded, broken bones.”

“Wreckage” starts off as a ballad but evolves into a rocker as it uses seafaring imagery as it seeks salvation from the shards of a damaged relationship. A tasty drum pattern kicks off “Reciprocation” with Miller and O’Day exchanging instrumental phrases before an extended, minor-key number that about the interaction between a band and the audience on one level and between human beings on another that results in emotional healing.

Two blues numbers follow. “Too Far Gone” is an autobiography that includes lessons about the effects of drinking that Miller learned from Big John and Henry Townsend before “Get Some” is a warning that the singer’s had a bad day and is looking for trouble. “I’ve Been Made” comes across with a country feel before the blues-rocker “Walk A Mile” suggests that folks need to stroll in the singer’s shoes before passing judgment about him. The Spanish flavored “Gold Dust” precedes the rocker “Revelation,” about finally being able to find your way after getting help, which concludes the set.

Available through most major outlets, Reciprocation is an excellent effort full of modern, original material. Pick it up today if your taste runs to blues-rock. One warning, though: It’s pretty intense. You might need a nap after its played its course.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 5 

Benny Turner – When She’s Gone

Nola Blue – 2016

www.bennyturner.com

10 tracks: 50 minutes

Benny Turner’s 2014 release Journey was well received and in the wake of that success he has now released a follow-up that combines previously released and newly recorded material. Benny’s 1997 debut Blue And Not So Blue was mainly sold from the bandstand and here six of its tracks are reprised with a recording from the same sessions not previously released plus three new tracks. Benny is, of course, Freddie King’s younger brother and his main instrument is bass (he played in Freddie’s band as well as for Mighty Joe Young and Marva Wright) and he is also a solid vocalist.

On the 1997 tracks Benny shares bass duties with Alonzo Johnson, drums are by Jeffrey ‘Jellybean’ Alexander, Larry Williams and Herman Ernest III with keyboards from Samuel ‘The Bishop’ Berfect, Davell Crawford and Marc Adams. You will note the absence of guitar on these six tracks, Benny preferring to rely on the keyboards or on using the bass as a lead instrument which he does on a couple of occasions to good effect. The only exception to the ‘no guitar’ rule is that Dr John plays guitar on one cut, simply because he was in the studio and thought it would fit well with the track! There are a large number of backing vocalists including several of the backing musicians. The three new tracks feature Bob Margolin and Derwin ‘Big D’ Perkins on guitar, Josh Paxton and Keiko Komaki on keys and Jeffery Alexander reprising his role on the drums.

Taking the 1997 tracks first the album opens with “I Can’t Leave”, a shuffle with plenty of jazzy tones from the organ and piano combo. Benny’s voice is great and the female backing vocals add to the soulfulness of the track. “If I Can’t Have You” is a classic song of the guy who has lost the love of his life but Benny provides some nice lyrical flourishes: “Without your sweet love, baby, I’m like a dog without a bone; and a dog without a bone is like a singer without a song”; harp is added to this one by Sean Lewis. The slow blues of “Have You Ever Been So Lonesome” features Benny on lead bass which is highly effective set against keys that give an almost orchestral sound.

Benny’s former employer Marva Wright duets with Benny on “Pity This Lovesick Fool” which sounds a little dated with the funky clavinet but it’s still a strong song and the two singers’ voices complement each other well. Another musician no longer with us is Charles Brown who plays piano on “So Deep” with more lead bass from Benny and a choir of five backing vocalists to add a gospel feel to the song. Charles’ piano and the churchy organ by ‘The Bishop’ work well together and the song is another winner from Benny. “Because Of You” is a lovely ballad with caressing keys and that appearance by Doctor John on rhythm guitar; this is a song that sounds so much like a classic of yesteryear that you check who wrote it – and the answer is Benny.

Indeed, Benny wrote all six of the tracks from the 1997 album but one track was left on the shelf. The idea was to make an album that was all original compositions, so the band’s take on “Black Night” (Jesse Mae Robinson) was not issued although it was a second number featuring Charles Brown in what may well have been his final recording session. Damaged in the Katrina floods, the tape was transferred just in time before it fell apart and we can now enjoy it. Opening and closing with storm sounds, Charles’ piano is right up front with Benny’s anguished vocal and horns add additional quality to the track – thank goodness it was rescued so we can hear it now.

The three remaining tracks are all covers recorded recently, each one very familiar to blues fans as they have become a staple of many bands. Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” is one of those songs that one has heard far too often, but Benny’s take on it is still excellent. The band play the familiar tune a little more slowly than usual and the combination of Bob Margolin’s expressive slide, ‘Big D’s rhythm work and the string sounds from keyboardist Keiko all works really well.

On Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby” the band again plays slightly slower than is often the case and Benny’s voice conveys the familiar lyrics very well. The final cover is Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s All Right”, a rolling blues on which Benny not only plays bass but also guitar (presumably not simultaneously!) to good effect. It sounds as if there is a harp on this one also but it is not credited.

Overall this is a very enjoyable album. I suspect that very few fans will have a copy of the 1997 album so the fact that most of this album is a reissue will not put off people who like well-played blues, soul and gospel.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.



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The Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents “New York Boss Man” Dave Fields and his band at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 8, at Kavanaugh’s Hilltop Tap, 1228 30th Street, Rock Island, IL. The cost to see this performance will be $8 if you are a Mississippi Valley Blues Society member, or $10 if you have not joined the Blues Society (application will be available at the door).

For more information visit our website at: http://mvbs.org

DC Blues Society – Washington, D.C.

Enjoy the Reggie Wayne Morris Blues Band at the DC Blues Society’s Festival Fundraiser, May 7, 2016 7:30 pm to 12 am. American Legion Post 41, 905 Sligo Avenue, Silver Spring MD 20910. Entrance on Fenton Street near large public parking lot. Tickets $20 door ($15 DCBS members); $25 door ($20 members). Purchase tickets at http://dcblues.org or call (301) 322-4808.

Reggie Wayne Morris was influenced by Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King, but he’s created his own unique “Boogie Woogie Rhythm & Rockin’ Blues” style. The guitarist, vocalist and songwriter co-wrote all of the songs on his latest CD Don’t Bring Me Daylight. He has appeared at the Baltimore Blues Society Festival for nine consecutive years.

This event will raise funds for the free 28th Annual DC Blues Festival which attracts a diverse, family-friendly crowd of old and new blues fans every year to the Carter Barron Amphitheatre on Saturday, September 3, 2016. Unfortunately, the DC grant that helped to fund the Blues Festival for many years is no longer available.

Kansas City Blues Society – Kansas City, MO

Kansas City Blues Society has inducted these charter members of its new Hall of Fame: Song Jim Jackson’s Kansas City Blues, Part 1 & 2 ( Vocalion Records,1927, composed and performed by Jim Jackson); historical band leader Bennie Moten; historical promoter Winston Holmes; promoter Willie Cyrus; performers Millage Gilbert, Priscilla Bowman, Provine “Little” Hatch, Julia Lee, Jay McShann, Jimmy Rushing, and Big Joe Turner.

CEO Terry Swope has announced that his award-winning local business Lynxspring, Inc., a provider of smart building ware, has donated $10,000 to the Kansas City Blues Society for Blues in the Schools and the KCBS Hall of Fame.

Kansas City Blues Society is part of the West Bottoms Heritage week, which includes a blues festival on Saturday, April 30th. The event is held in conjunction with 100,000 watt community radio KKFI 90.1fm (KKFI.org) and The Historic West Bottoms Association. The West Bottoms is the former site of Kansas City’s famous cattle stockyards and turn-of-the-century industrial district. It’s experiencing a revival of its old warehouses as antique and arts markets, restaurants, and lofts. More info at http://bluessocietykc.com.

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for the Blue Monday live performances and jam sessions held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. May 2 – Joe Tenuto, May 9 – Skyla Burrell, May 16 – Holland K Smith, May 23 – Lazer Lloyd, May 30 – Gracie Curran and the High Falutin, June 6 – Joel DeSilva and the Midnight Howl, June 13 – Brandon Santini, June 20 – TBA, June 27 – Laurie Morvan. www.icbluesclub.org

Additional ICBC and ICBC partnered shows: April 30 – Rockin’ Blues Soul Revue @ Capital City Bar & Grill, 8 pm – Johnny Rawls, James Armstrong, & Mary Jo Curry, May 5 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, w/Noah Williams, May 19 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm w/William Marsala Band, June 2 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, June 16 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm.

The Colorado Blues Society – Boulder, CO

The Colorado Blues Society is entering our 21st year with our Annual Members Party at the Buffalo Rose in Golden, Colorado on April 2. Our Headliner that evening is the Ghost Town Blues Band, a 2-time Finalist at the IBC in Memphis and took 2nd Place in 2014. The Zakk Debono Band is opening for GTBB. The show starts at 8PM and is Free to CBS members, but the public can purchase tickets for $10 and are welcome to attend. CBS received the 2013 KBA for Blues Organization of the Year.

CBS is kicking off our local IBC competition the next day, April 3rd with the opening round at the Buffalo Rose in Golden. Round 2 will be April 17th at the Dickens Opera House in Longmont. The Finals will be back at the Buffalo Rose on May 1. All IBC events start at 2pm with a cover charge of $10 at the door. All funds will go to eventual Colorado Blues Society winners in the Band and Solo/Duo competitions to help with expense at the 2017 IBC in Memphis . Go to www.coblues.org for more information.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area

The Friends of the Blues announce their 2016 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm and are open to the public – and – Food and Beverages available at all Friends of the Blues shows. May 10, Skyla Burrell Band, Moose Lodge, Bradley IL,Tues, May 24, Lazer Lloyd, Moose Lodge, Bradley IL,Tues, June 7, Frank Bang & Cook County Kings, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, Manteno IL, Thur, June 16, Nick Harless Band, Moose Lodge, Bradley IL, Thur, June 23, Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue (Mark Hummel, Anson Funderburgh, Little Charlie Baty), Moose Lodge, Bradley IL, Tues, June 28, Cash Box Kings, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Kankakee IL, Thur, July 14, Joe Moss Band, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Tues, July 26, Nikki Hill, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Thur, Aug 4, Albert Castiglia w/ Opening Act: Maybe Later, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Fri, Aug 12, Polly O’Keary & The Rhythm Method, Watseka Elks Club, Watseka IL, Tues, Aug 16, Too Slim & the Taildraggers, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Thur, Sept 15, Danielle Nicole Band, Moose Lodge, Bradley IL.. For more info visit http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues

Ventura County Blues Society – Ventura, CA

The 11th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival on Saturday, April 30, in a new, bigger location at Studio Channel Islands in Camarillo, benefits Food Share and other local charities in Ventura County. Also features a Festival-ending All-Star Jam Tribute to the late BB Chung King. Info: www.venturacountybluessociety.org.

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

The Central Iowa Blues Society is now accepting applications for the 2016 Iowa Blues Challenge. This includes entries for both the Blues Band and Solo / Duo categories. Preliminary rounds begin April 24, 2016 and this year the finals will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at the Downtown Marriott in Des Moines.

Prize packages to the first place winners in each category include cash, 8 hours recording time courtesy of Junior’s Motel, opportunity for paid performances at area events and festivals throughout the year, and entry into and travel expenses for the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN.

For more information, go to www.cibs.org.

The 2016 Iowa Blues Challenge is sponsored by Budweiser, Summit Brewing Co., Junior’s Motel, Rieman Music, Zimm’s Food and Spirits, Lefty’s Live Music, River Music Experience, Cityview, Central Iowa Blues Society, Mississippi Valley Blues Society, South Skunk Blues Society and Southeast Iowa Blues Society.

Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, IL

Crossroads has lots of great blues events planned for 2016!

The Hope and Anchor English Pub in Loves Park, IL features shows on the second Saturday of each month from 8 pm to midnight. May 14th – The Jimmys

Friday Night Blues at the Lyran Club in Rockford continues mostly on the third Friday of the month with a few other special dates to boot. Currently booked are: May 20th – Dave Fields. Shows are free from 7 to 10 PM.

 

Stay tuned for more upcoming events! www.crossroadsbluessociety.com


P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2016 Blues Blast Magazine (309) 267-4425

 

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