Issue 10-38 September 29, 2016

Cover photo by Joseph A. Rosen © 2016


 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with The Godfather of British Blues, John Mayall. We have 7 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Jay Willie Blues Band, Mac Arnold and Plate Full O’ Blues, Consonance, Debbie Bond, Delta Generators, Keb Mo’ and Paul Filipowicz.

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


barrelhouse chuck award photo From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

Last week we had a grand time at the the 2016 Blue Blast Music Awards. 22 amazing performances by the best in today’s Blues music. And the winners are……?

Scroll down to the bottom of this issue to see all the 2016 winners that YOU voted for!

Blues Blast Magazine also gave a record 3 Lifetime Achievement Awards to some VERY deserving Blues folks at the show including 91 year old legend Henry Gray, Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records and Chicago’s own keyboard master, Barrelhouse Chuck.

Chuck was not able to make it to the award show to accept but here is a blurry cell phone photo of the big smile on his face when Dave Katzman personally delivered it to Chuck at his home the very next day.

Smiling is good and we are honored to be able to put a smile on this Chicago legend’s face!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 7 

jay willie blues band cd imageJay Willie Blues Band – Hell On Wheels

Zoho Roots music

www.jaywilliebluesbandhome.com

13 tracks/43:44

Mixing four originals with a wide variety of covers, the Jay Willie Blues Band’s fourth release on the Zoho Roots label covers a wide range of musical styles, starting with a straight-forward cover of the Johnny Otis hit, “Willie And The Hand Jive,” that grabs your attention thanks to guest Jason Ricci’s mesmerizing harp blowing. Next up is a cover of “The Horse,” a surprise instrumental hit in 1968 for Cliff Nobles. He recorded a rare vocal version that the band reprises with Malorie Leogrande on lead vocal. Blessed with a voice that can span a five octave range, she exercises some restraint in order to project a sultry attitude while Ricci fills in admirably for the horn section featured on the original. The “bonus” instrumental version of the song at the end of the disc is anti-climatic since it is the same version with the vocal track removed.

Reaching back to the 1950s, a cover of Little Sylvia’s “A Million Tears” features Leogrande’s striking voice with Steve Clarke on bass as the sole accompaniment. Leogrande stars again on the obscure “This Is The Thanks I Get,” utilizing the power of her voice to steadily build the emotional heat. Willie does his best to encourage her with some taut slide guitar licks. Barbara Lynn’s “You”ll Lose A Good Thing” finds Leogrande adopting a more soothing approach while tenor saxophonist Ted Yakush blows some hearty fills. The singer and Ricci work hard on “The Hunter Capture By The Game” to elevate the band’s colorless backing. A heavy-handed rendition of “Take Me To The River” has Willie pushing his voice to the point of breaking. Even Leogrande can’t rescue a disjointed run-through of the soul classic, “You Left The Water Running”.

The band sounds more inspired on “Alive Again,” written by drummer Bobby T. Torello, formerly of Johnny Winter’s band. His growling vocal works well with the tandem guitar attack of the leader on slide and Bob Callahan on rhythm. On his original “Everybody,” Callahan leads listeners through a “Hey,Hey, Yeah” chorus that echoes the Ramones. Those comparisons end once Willie cuts loose with the slide. The title track sports a muscular beat behind Willie’s thin voice. Ricci impresses one more time, inspiring Willie to deliver a fiery slide solo to finish things off. The band delves into some uptown funk on Willie’s “21” as Leogrande becomes the sultry songstress one more time.

When you add it all up, Hell On Wheels has enough compelling tracks to make it worth a listen. If they can come up with more original material – or select lesser-known songs to cover – the Jay Willie Band, with Malorie Leogrande leading the way, have a chance to distinguish themselves in a very crowded field of blues bands struggling to gain traction in the marketplace.

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!.


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 7 

mac arnold cd imageMac Arnold and Plate Full O’ Blues – Give It Away

PFOB Music/Plantation #1

www.macarnold.com

13 tracks/50:28 running time

As stated in the Max Hightower composed tune “Train Smoke,” band leader Mac Arnold indeed goes back like train smoke. James Brown was the piano man in his first band. Mac Arnold was also the bass player in the 1966 lineup of the Muddy Waters band that included Luther Johnson, Sammy Lawhorn and Muddy on guitars, Francis Clay on drums and Otis Spann on piano. After moving on from Muddy Waters (with a standing invitation to come back anytime), Mac’s next band, the Soul Invaders, backed B.B. King, Jr. Wells, Tyrone Davis and many others. When Mac moved to Los Angeles in the early ’70s, he joined the house band at Don Cornelius’s Soul Train television show. He moved back to his native South Carolina in the ’80s. After a period of relative musical inactivity, Arnold returned to the fore in 2005 with Plate Full O’ Blues. Give It Away is their 5th album to date.

Mac and the guys are serving up a Blues Plate Special here. The band’s other members are Austin Brashier on guitar and vocals, Max Hightower on harmonica, keyboard, bass and vocals. Scotty Hawkins helps out on drums. He is not listed as a band member in the liner notes.

Give It Away grows on you. On the fourth listen, for this reviewer, the fluid aspects of the production suddenly gelled and the recording went from just good to superlative. This album gives you many different auditory looks, but musically and thematically the gist seems to be country Blues. Even track 2,”Don’t Burn My Cornbread,” with it’s laid back reggae backbeat and motif, conjures up images of perhaps lounging in the hammock on the porch as those aromas coming out of the kitchen entice you to admonish your sweet cook to cook it right. The guitars most assuredly swing gently throughout.

Mac Arnold’s husky vocal on track 3, “Uncle DeWitts Cafe,” is also a storytelling treat. Arnold’s phrasing will turn your head around. Listen as he elongates his Uncle’s name into three syllables. The story line is a joyful romp into Mac’s past. He ain’t gonna tell it all just yet. The liner note states there are more juke joint stories to come.

Max Hightower handles the vocals on tracks 4 and 10, “Damned If I Do,” and “Relationship Man,” respectively. Hightower’s tenor inflections and phrasing suggest the late Stevie Ray Vaughn. Hightower’s harmonica work is consistently on point.

The guitar work of Austin Brashier is economic and tasteful. The fact that all the members of Plate Full O’ Blues sing capable lead, write individually and collectively for the band, enhances their creative worth. Brashier wrote tracks 5 and 13. Tracks 4,5,7,8 and 9 are written by Max Hightower. Bandleader Mac Arnold wrote tracks 1,2, and 3. The 4 page cd insert explains fully the creative interplay between the members for each song. A valuable addition to the package.

If you’re ever in Greenville, South Carolina, check out Dr. Mac Arnold’s Blues Restaurant. The Dr. title was bestowed upon him by USC Columbia for an Honorary Doctorate Degree in music. He’s also an organic farmer. If you can’t make it to Greenville, grab this CD for your collection.

EDITOR”A NOTE – As the title of the album states Mac and the band are literally “Givin It Away”. The album is a free one for Mac’s fans. You can download you copy (for free) at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/macarnold3

CyberSoulMan Tee Watts is music director at KPFZ 88.1 fm in Lakeport, California. His radio show, The CyberSoulMan Review airs Tuesday afternoons from 3-5 PST. He is road manager for Sugar Pie DeSanto, the last Queen standing from the glory years of Chess Records.


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 7 

consonance cd imageConsonance – Come On In This House

www.consonancegospel.com

Heritage Record Company

15 songs time-74:41

Consonance is a black gospel group from Richmond, California in the San Francisco Bay Area that performs all original songs from the pen of member Mack Williams. They present a traditional gospel sound with a few modern twists thrown in here and there to create a fresh sound with their energetic vocalizing. They interject the sounds of soul music, blues and a bit of rap among others.

“Come On In This House” and “Shake Loose Christians” are two of the more traditional sounding gospel tunes. “Do the Right Thang” with it’s synth-strings is almost soul music with its’ “Sound Of Philadelphia (TSOP)” sound. The bluesy guitar of Lloyd Gregory features on “Good News Blues #3”, a song that borrows a bit of the tune and lyrics from Robert Johnson’s “Dust My Broom”.

Funky bass and the distorted guitar of Levi Seacer on the powerful “Close To You”, that is otherwise a traditional gospel song. The party feel of Sly And The Family Stone seeps into the enthusiastic “Surely God Is Real”. The breeze of the Caribbean sweeps into “Cover Me”, a bright and sprightly excursion featuring keyboard “steel drums”. Things are slower, but no less intense on the soulful “My Song”. Levi takes the song out with a heartfelt and soaring guitar solo.

Ms. Lisa Shah lends her beautiful voice to “U Gotta Stay Holy” with assistance from Saeed Williams. Bass and hand clapping keep the beat throughout. It also features a brief rap interlude.

Consonance has a grip on traditional gospel music while adding some modern touches to make their message sound fresh. They surely have the spirit of the Holy Ghost, something the world definitely needs during these trying times. Mack Williams has crafted songs here that sound like you’ve heard them forever, no small feat. The message is pretty much the same throughout, but the diverse touches thrown into the mix keep things interesting. If gospel music is your thing or you just yearn for some refreshing and inspiring music, you’ve come to the right place. Come on in this house.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.



 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 7 

debbie bond cd imageDebbie Bond – Enjoy The Ride – Shoals Sessions

Blues Root Production – 2016

11 tracks; 46 minutes

www.debbiebond.com

Alabama’s Debbie Bond has spent many years running the Alabama Blues Project and seeking to promote the music of the area. In particular Debbie was mentored by the late Willie King and this is her fourth release under her own name. Debbie handles lead vocals and guitar with partner Rick Asherson on keys, keyboard bass and harp, Dave Crenshaw on drums and percussion, Rachel and Carla Edwards on backing vocals; Brad Guin plays all horn parts, Will Macfarlane plays guitar on four tracks and Spooner Oldham Hammond on one track. The album was recorded in Muscle Shoals and features six originals by Debbie and Rick and five covers in a pleasing mix of soul and blues influences.

Opening strongly with the title track, Debbie sings about making the most of the short time we all have in this life with plenty of solid support from the backing singers, the slinky slide and percussion adding a Bonnie Raitt feel to the track. Eddie Kirkland is the source for “Rainbow”, a melodic tune with lovely guitar work from Debbie whose breathy vocals fit the sentiments of the song perfectly. Ann Peebles’ “Love Vibration” ups the soul quotient, Debbie and Will exchanging some beautiful sounding guitar work and Debbie producing probably her best vocal of the set – a fine track indeed. Jody Williams’ “Left Me In The Dark” combines the blues with some latin rhythms before “Find A Way” finds Debbie backed by horns and the backing singers on a tale of getting back to love.

Rick’s harp work is heavily featured on Willie King’s “I Am The Blues” before Debbie gives us two slices of homespun philosophy: the funky “Humble Pie” reminds us to not take things for granted, aided by some great horn work, including a fine tenor solo; in “Wishbone” Debbie confesses that “I got a wishbone where my backbone should be” when it comes to her guy, Rick’s harp and the backing vocalists driving home the message. The final cover, Colin Linden’s “Remedy”, comes from a source well away from Alabama but receives the Shoals treatment, giving it a soulful makeover with plenty of backing vocals and more good interplay between the guitars. To conclude Debbie offers two songs of contrasting styles: “Start With Love” is a fine ballad framed by Rick’s echoey piano and “Train Song” has that familiar railroad rhythm courtesy of Rick’s harp and Debbie’s slide in a stripped down performance, just Debbie and Rick with the vocal support of Rachel and Carla, the pace quickening as the train gathers speed.

There is plenty to enjoy on this album which is well worth a listen.

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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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 7 

delta generator cd imageDelta Generators – Hipshakers & Heartbreakers

Self-released

www.deltagenerators.com

10 tracks/36:35

Set up like a record album, the back panel of the CD packaging for the fourth Delta Generators release lists the first five tracks under the heading, Hipshakers. The disc disc opens with some beefy harp tones and cutting slide guitar. Lead singer Craig Rawding adds his sturdy voice to the mix, turning “Day That I Met You” into a rousing celebration of love. The follow-up track, “Elephant In The Room,” centers on Charlie O’Neal’s tough slide licks and Rawding’s multi-tracked vocal.

If the dance floor hasn’t filled by now, the super-charged “Two Headed Snake” will definitely stimulate some frantic hip-shaking. When Keri Anderson’s sweet voice joins Rawding, the duo deliver a soulful rendition of “Feel No Pain,” an ode to relaxing at the end of the work day. The energy level cranks up again on “Strike The Bells,” a fervent love song featuring a Rawding vocal that approaches Kim Wilson-like intensity with Dan Kenney pounding the piano to keep the singer motivated. The rhythm section of Rick O’Neal on bass and Jeff Armstrong on drums is rock-solid through out the disc. O’Neal had to learn a new manner of playing bass in order to deal with the effects of a major stroke he suffered as the band was starting preparations for recording the new project.

The pace slows on “Tumble Away” leading off the Heartbreakers half. John Cooke on organ plays with the requisite feel that is matched by Charlie O’Neal’s tender guitar picking. Rawding is at wits end on “Bastard’s Lament,” a man contemplating the arc of a life that has left him alone, shunned by family and friends. The disconsolate spiral continues on “Way Down,” full of menacing slide guitar and mournful harp blasts matched by the singer’s agonizing cries. The cleverly titled “Tom Waits For No One” is a countrified bar-room weeper that is a wide departure from the rest of the disc’s material. The closing tune, “Something Good,” is a touching ballad featuring another strong vocal turn from Rawding, using the harp to echo his voice.

To their credit, the Delta Generators keep the focus on their interesting batch of original songs. Solos are short & succinct – truly a rarity in this day & age. The rocking cuts are delivered with a palpable sense of energy while Rawding draws listeners in on the ballads, consistently generating a genuine emotional reaction. A fine mixture of American roots music, played by a band that respects the music. Make a point to check this one out……

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!.


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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 7 


keb mo cd imageKeb Mo’ – Live – That Hot Pink Blues Album

Kind Of Blue Music – 2016

CD 1: 8 tracks; 40 minutes. CD2: 8 tracks; 40 minutes.

www.kebmo.com

This beautifully packaged (all, indeed, in pink) two disc set was recorded at a range of North American venues during Keb’s tour to promote his BLUESAmericana album and features tracks from that album together with some of his best known songs from across his career. Keb wrote everything here, with some co-writers here and there and the band is Keb on vocals, guitars and harp, Michael B Hicks on keyboards, Stan Sargeant on bass and Casey Wasner on drums; everyone adds backing vocals and Casey also produced and engineered the record. Keb switches effortlessly between acoustic, slide and electric guitars and the whole disc is relaxed, pleasant listening. Acoustic opener “Tell Everybody I Know” provides possibly the closest comparison with Keb’s early inspiration, Taj Mahal and “Somebody Hurt You” finds Keb on electric on a blues with call and response vocals from the band. Keb picks up his resonator for the old favourite “Henry” which looks back to a world long gone and maintains the gentle mood for “Life Is Beautiful” on which Michael’s string effect keys support Keb’s vocal on a song that is achingly beautiful. If that one is too sweet for your taste the uptempo “She Just Wants To Dance” is bound to please with Keb’s slide set against some bouncy bass and is followed by two tunes that show off his sense of humour, the rocking “The Worst Is Yet To Come” and “Government Cheese” before closing with the title track of one of his earlier albums “The Door”.

Disc 2 follows a similar pattern. “Come On Back” again features strings courtesy of the keyboard and “France” is always a fun tune to hear with its loping rhythm and amusing lyrics which are well received by the audience. The lyrical “More Than One Way Home” has an uplifting chorus and room for a short bass feature before we get two songs which share similar titles: “A Better Man” is a lively tune with some Caribbean lilt and some brief audience participation whereas “The Old Me Better” is an acoustic tune with Keb on kazoo and some more comical lyrics in which Keb finds that his new lady may not have improved things: “I liked the old me better, I was a lot more fun, I liked the old me better, I didn’t take crap from anyone”. The groove of “Rita” sounds a little like vintage Steely Dan (especially in Keb’s tricky solo) before an extended reading of what is undoubtedly Keb’s best known (and most covered) tunes, “Dangerous Mood” allows Keb space for his electric guitar work, the audience following every lyrical twist of this engaging tale of seduction. “City Boy” closes the album in reflective mood as Keb’s gentle lyrics are brilliantly supported by Michael’s piano.

Long-time fans will lap up this album and anyone whose collection is short on Keb material can buy this one without hesitation as it takes the best of his work and presents it very sympathetically.

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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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 7 

paul flipowicz cd imagePaul Filipowicz – Rough Neck Blues – Live!

Big Jake Records – 2016

11 tracks; 60 minutes

www.paulfilipowicz.com

Paul Filipowicz returns with his ninth album, recorded live on home territory in Madison, Wisconsin. The all-original program finds Paul on vocal and guitar, accompanied by Benny Rickun on harp, Brian ‘Tito’ Howard on drums and Rick Smith on bass. The general style is tough blues with Chicago influences and the band sets out its stall on the opening “Gambling Woman” with Paul’s guitar high in the mix, Benny’s harp at times struggling to be heard. The rocking “Black Spider” works well with Benny’s harp acting as a counterweight to Paul’s chunky riff. The extended “Santa Fe Windows” is a slower tune with some solid guitar in the opening section which elicits some appreciative ‘whoops’ from the crowd before allowing Paul the space to show us some Hendrix licks.

One of the issues will be whether you enjoy Paul’s gruff vocals; for this reviewer the pounding instrumental “Junk In The Trunk” works as well as anything here but on “Jackson Transfer” (introduced by reference to Muddy Waters) Paul’s vocals become indistinct. Based round a riff that sounds a lot like “Feeling Good”, “Midnight At The Nairobi Room” offers a second instrumental and Paul channels John Lee Hooker on “Chickenwire” on which Benny plays some tough harp against Paul’s riff. Paul’s echoey guitar and Benny’s harp mesh together very effectively on “Hootin’ And Hollerin’” and on the final cut “Where The Blues Comes From” Paul gives us his definition, an extended tune with plenty of space for Benny and introductions for the rhythm section.

Paul’s fans will enjoy this album which seems to give a clear impression of what his live shows must sound like. Those who like their blues served up ‘rough and tough’ will also find something to enjoy here.

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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 Featured Blues Interview – John Mayall 

john mayall pic 1John Mayall’s fabled biography reads like a fairy tale about the blues baron mentor of British Invasion rock stars who went on to re-introduce blues to a generation of Americans. Himself a guitarist, keyboard player, harp player and songwriter, The Godfather of British Blues is best known for introducing a steady stream of guitarists who went on to become rock royalty: Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor later of Cream, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones, respectively.

Other graduates included Fleetwood Mac’s John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, Cream’s Jack Bruce, Free’s Andy Fraser and blues stalwarts Walter Trout, Coco Montoya, and Buddy Whittington. He’s the poet laureate, the full professor who was 20 years ahead of the curve half a century ago and remains an innovator in the genre today with unbelievable energy and creativity at age 82.

I’ll never forget the look on Eric Clapton’s face when I pulled out an album cover for him to sign in 1990. I’d just done an interview with him for my biography on Buddy Guy deep in an Adirondack retreat. He was obviously relieved that our subject was someone other than himself. We’d spent more than an hour talking about Buddy Guy’s influence, and I’d come away with the impression that Clapton was trapped in a bubble of fame, numb and bored with a world that looked at him as superhuman.

The album I had him sign was Bluesbreakers John Mayall with Eric Clapton recorded in 1965, when Clapton was 19 years old. It’s known as “The Beano album” because it pictures a blasé Eric Clapton reading a British Beano comic book while the rest of the band stares into the camera. It was Clapton’s first release since leaving the Yardbirds in disgust over their abandonment of real blues on the song “For Your Love.” It was as if I’d shaken Clapton awake, burst him out of his bubble. I got it! I understood it was about the music, not the myth.

Fifty years after the release of that album, The Blues Magazine in England has done a 12-page cover story on the Beano album proclaiming that it “was this album above all others (even the work of Paul Butterfield and Canned Heat) that raised awareness and ultimately led to a resurgence in the careers of many black blues artists who hit hard times as their music was overtaken b

For 50 years the spotlight has always been about Clapton and the other rising stars Mayall has mentored more than it has been about Mayall himself. Nobody in the press ever seems to zero in on what makes Mayall tick. “I mean it’s still an acquired taste for my listening public, and they’re not of sufficient numbers to put me on the charts or put me in the news in any way, so I’m still pretty much of an outsider in that respect, so I just go my own way and hope for the best, but we just have a great time playing which is just an enviable situation because people in big hit groups and everything, they’re kind of stuck with what they’ve made famous, and they’ve lost the opportunity to improvise and explore.”

So, what is it about Mayall that inspired all these guitarists to greatness?

John Yeule, former Bluesbreaker drummer, told me in 2003, that part of Mayall’s magic was his childlike attitude toward music. “These guys want to play with him ’cause they have a chance to really blow. It’s wide open. He encourages it. Let’s have fun. They love when we’re out there and really stretching. I think that’s important in his attitude.”

john mayall pic 2“Improvisation is the main thing,” says Mayall today. “You have your structure of the musical piece, and then you embellish it in whatever direction that evening’s performance entails. So, it’s always been the bedrock of everything I’ve done. The whole idea is to create music as you’re playing. The improvisational thing is the main part of it. You’re exploring the music.”

At 82, Mayall is more than a decade older than Clapton and his other fellow British Invasion cohorts. He was a graphic designer by profession and sees the fundamental 4/4 blues form as simple, which suits him because he doesn’t read music, but creates a template for improvising and jamming, going into the zone on a variety of instruments: keyboards, guitar, harmonica, and a voice that’s unsanded mahogany as instantly recognizable as Gregg Allman’s. Clapton lived with Mayall for months studying his blues record collection before making the Beano album.

“Eric Clapton was the main one that pioneered (the love of blues),” Mayall explained to me in 1996. “He was the first person I met that actually did have an understanding of where all this music came from. But of course, once he set the standard, the word spread and people like Peter Green came along and subsequently Mick Taylor. So, you know, one thing leads to another, really.

“Until Eric came long, there wasn’t anybody who understood the history or background or the whole thing, what it was really all about. Up to that point they were just really copying. The better musicians were able to copy certain solos and licks and things, but the heart and soul of it were a very elusive thing. And like I say, Eric was the first one to come along to have that.”

In his memoir “Blowing the Blues,” the late Bluesbreakers sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith writes, “(Mayall’s) modus operandi seemed to be: get the right players and leave them to it. The only musical instruction I ever got from him was that ‘Right then, on you go!’ In fact, the whole band was totally hassle-free to a man.”

“The reason I choose musicians is what they bring to the table, and I enjoy their work, and I want to give them an opportunity to express themselves because that’s what I hired them for,” says Mayall. “So I enjoy their playing and fortunately, being a bandleader, I get to choose who I want to play with. So, I indulge my own musical enjoyment.

On the average, it takes Mayall three days to do all the backing tracks on an album and then a couple of days to put on his own “bits and pieces” and do the lead vocals. “It usually takes us over a week to do the whole thing. There’s no reason for it to be any longer than that because we like to capture things like you would do on a live gig. You just do the thing in a couple of takes or one take in most cases. “

Perhaps the most amazing thing is that Mayall is still as vibrant in 2016 as he was with Clapton on the Beano album, and on his current tour that includes a headlining gig at the King Biscuit Blues Festival on Friday, October 7th, he is playing for the first time in his storied career without a lead guitarist.

Mayall’s latest rising star guitarist Rocky Athas – a seven-year veteran of the band – has parted ways with the Godfather of British blues, and the current band has been pared back to a trio. In a September letter to his fans, Mayall writes, “Having never performed anywhere or at any time without a guitar sidekick, I found that I was able to explore new territories in a trio configuration playing organ, keyboards, harmonica and guitar. Needless to say I was surprised at how different and stimulating the experience was for me as a performer.”

john mayall pic 3In a ragged but right performance September 16th at The Egg in Albany, New York, Mayall came across with a show that was more Son House than Eric Clapton, more Sonny Boy Williamson than British Invasion rave up. Yes, he’s lost Rocky Athas whose credits include touring with Black Oak Arkansas and a childhood friendship with Stevie Ray Vaughan, but the remaining two members’ credits are much more rooted in blues legacy.

Greg Rzab became Otis Rush’s bass player at 21. He played with Buddy Guy from 1986 to 1998. He has toured with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Warren Haynes’ Gov’t Mule. He’s also recorded and played with Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and the Allman Brothers Band. He’s been with Mayall since 2009, and this is his second time around.

Jay Davenport on drums was mentored by Bo Diddley’s drummer Clifton James and played the Chicago scene with Junior Wells, Valerie Wellington, Pinetop Perkins and Jimmie Johnson. He was in Melvin Taylor’s West Side band before Greg Rzab brought him to Mayall in 2009.

The Albany show was a tour de force of Mayall’s career including “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Albert King from his 1967 LP Crusade, a jamming version of Mose Allison’s “Parchman Farm,” Charles Brown’s “Drifting Blues,” “Moving Out and Moving On” that had Mayall playing guitar with one hand and keyboards with the other, and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me.” They encored with “Room to Move” with Mayall practically eating his harp alive.

“Sonny Boy Williamson was my idol of course as opposed to Little Walter who was amplified harp. I lean more towards the acoustic harp the way Sonny played it, and Sonny Terry, people like that. So, I got on really well with him as well as anybody could really because he was definitely a very cantankerous character.”

While Clapton had a contentious relationship with Sonny Boy Williamson having recorded a live album with Sonny Boy as at 17-year-old guitarist with the Yardbirds, Mayall had a much more cordial friendship with the Delta blues giant.

“I might have been dissatisfied with my own attempts being far short of the idols of the songs we were covering, people like Otis Rush and Freddie King,” Mayall told me in 1994. “We were in awe of these people and Sonny Boy Williamson. Our attempts seemed rather feeble by comparison. We were developing our own style. And yet to me I was trying to learn those licks. Being a different person, of course, they came out differently.”

Today, he’s more sanguine. “We were all doing the best we could, and we loved he music, but we hadn’t understood really the roots of it sufficiently enough to be convincing or whatever, but he was glad to get the opportunity to get an audience, but he didn’t really have too much respect for the Yardbirds, so he made it quite known that he didn’t appreciate them, but Sonny Boy was a cantankerous character, and luckily he enjoyed talking to me, so we got along pretty well.

“He took me down to the Hohner Harmonica Headquarters in London,” recalls Mayall today, “and he got me fixed up with (harmonica) keys that weren’t really available to the public. He was very helpful. They weren’t available to the public in certain keys, and if you tried to find out how he did it you wouldn’t be able to find it. He had Hohner make them up in those particular keys. They weren’t for general distribution. I came away with those I needed.”

john mayall pic4Yet Sonny Boy’s contempt for Clapton may have had as much to do with Sonny Boy’s own demons. “He was the king of drinking. There was a benefit thing at the Flamingo Club in London, and he was one of the performers on that with the Yardbirds, but he was so drunk by 2 o’clock in the morning when we heard him that he couldn’t find the harmonica. He was just standing there searching through his pockets while the band was standing there behind him. And he was saying, ‘What the devil did I do with that thing? Don’t know.’ He was pretty out of it most of the time.

The Wall Street Journal calls Mayall “a pioneer granting PhDs in blues.” The Blues Foundation inducted Mayall into the Blues Hall of Fame this year, two years after Clapton’s induction. Incredibly agile and fresh more than 60 years into his career, he almost always writes and records his CDs in under two weeks. His latest CD Find a Way to Care was recorded in seven days and includes five originals.

Since coming out of a semi-retirement in 2008, Mayall has released two albums, A Special Life and Find A Way to Care with Let’s Talk About That scheduled for January. The AllMusic Guide describes him as being on “a late career tear” with A Special Life receiving “wide approval from fans and critics alike.” In his career he’s put out 60 records total, and has 130 world tour dates planned for 2017. John is not on his second wind. He’s on his fifth wind as a creative blues innovator.

Mayall doesn’t drink, he’s a vegetarian, and in his prime he often performed naked to the waist, showing off his physique. His 83 is most people’s 50. “As long as I have my health and the energies needed to give a storied performance, that’s what I do, and I love playing, and as long as I have my health and energy as I say to be able to do a good job I think that’s what’s most important. I really love to play with these guys, and we have a great time together on the road. So, that’s it. So as long as that continues, I don’t see anything about slowing down.

“Next year we have a massive tour. I mean, we usually do up to 100 shows every year, but I think next year we’ll exceed that because we have a big tour of the U.K. at the end of the year, and all the festivals in the summer. So it’s probably going to end up being about 130 shows next year, so I’m looking forward to that.”

Visit John’s website at: www.johnmayall.com.

Interviewer Don Wilcock has been writing about blues for nearly half a century. He wrote Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues, the biography that helped Buddy Guy jumpstart his career in 1991. He’s interviewed more than 5000 Blues artists and edited several music magazines including King Biscuit Time.


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 2016 Blues Blast Music Award Winners 

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Contemporary Blues Album

Victor Wainwright – Boom Town

Traditional Blues Album

Bob Margolin – My Road

Soul Blues Album

Curtis Salgado – The Beautiful Lowdown

Rock Blues Album

Walter Trout – Battle Scars

Acoustic Blues Album

Guy Davis – Kokomo Kidd

Live Blues Album

Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys – LIVE At The Big Bull

Historical or Vintage Blues Album

Bobby Rush – Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History Of Bobby Rush

New Artist Debut Album

Danielle Nicole -Wolf Den

Blues Band Of The Year

Lil Ed & The Blues Imperials

Male Blues Artist

Bob Margolin

Female Blues Artist

Shemekia Copeland

Sean Costello Rising Star Award

Amanda Fish


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The Atlanta Blues Society – Atlanta, GA

The Atlanta Blues Society Proudly Announces, The Georgia Blue & Roots Festival Saturday Oct 1, 2016 at the Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre in Mableton, Georgia, From 11am-11pm

This year’s event will feature, Alligator Records recording artist, Jarekus Singleton, and legendary blues man Big Bill Morganfield, son of the late great Muddy Waters who will be performing with Grammy award winning harp player Frank Latorre from The Johnny Winter Band. Also appearing will be local Atlanta artists Delta Moon, Donna Hopkins, Caroline Aiken, Diane Durrett, The John Pagano Band, Georgia Flood and No Solution. As well as Tas Cru, and Voo Davis.

In addition, there will be several educational programs presented throughout the day including “Blues Dancing” Lessons and a Beginners Harmonica Workshop where up to 100 participants will receive a FREE Harmonica! There will also be a Kids Zone and various vendors and will be fun for the whole family!!

For more details go to www.GaBluesNRoots.org or write the the Atlanta Blues Society at theatlantabluessociety@gmail.org

Mississippi Valley Blues Sociey – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society is proud to present Tommy Castro and the Painkillers at The Establishment, 220 19th Street, Rock Island, IL. The show will take place on Saturday, October 8, 2016. Doors will open at 9:10 p.m. and show will start at 9:30 p.m. The cost to see this performance will be $22 in advance, or $25 if you wait to purchase your tickets at the door.

Advanced tickets can be purchased at HTTP://EMBED.SHOWCLIX.COM/EVENT/TOMMY-CASTRO-THE-PAINKILLERS

For more information contact: Kristy Bennett – 563-349-0594 or Kristy@mvbs.org or visit www.mvbs.org

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. October 3 – The Green Mcdonough Band, October 10 – Joe Metzka, October 17 – Laura Rain, October 24 – The 24th Street Wailers, October 31 – Big Jon Atkinson & Alabama Mike. www.icbluesclub.org

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. Thur, Sept 29, Reverend Raven and CSAB, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Wed, Nov 9, Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, Manteno IL. For more info visit http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues


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