Issue 10-48 December 8, 2016

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Cover photo by Roman Sobus © 2016


 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Guy King. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Bobby Rush, Lil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials, Matthew Skoller, Bob Gardner, Bill Phillippe, Paul Dougherty, Al Basile and Alabama Mike.

Photographer Joseph A. Rosen has photos and commentary from the recent Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.

Plus CLICK HERE to read a report about the Soul Of Blues In South America by photo journalist Lorena Jastreb on our website.

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


 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

Don’t miss the chance to get 50% more advertising than our usual “Best Value – Combo Ad Packages”. These ads can be used anytime in 2017 and are perfect for a new album release or advertising your 2017 Blues festival.

Details are available in our ad below or by clicking HERE. But hurry as these great rates expire NEXT WEEK on 12/15/16!

The 2017 Grammy Nominations were announced this week. Here are the nominations in the Blues categories:

Best Traditional Blues Album

Can’t Shake This Feeling – Lurrie Bell
Live At The Greek Theatre – Joe Bonamassa
Blues & Ballads – Luther Dickinson
The Soul Of Jimmie Rodgers – Vasti Jackson
Porcupine Meat – Bobby Rush

Best Contemporary Blues Album

The Last Days Of Oakland – Fantastic Negrito
Love Wins Again – Janiva Magness
Bloodline – Kenny Neal
Give It Back To You – The Record Company
Everybody Wants A Piece – Joe Louis Walker

Winners will be announced on February 12, 2017.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


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50% OFF – THE LOWEST PRICES FOR 2016 – 2017 SEASON!!!

Blues Blast Magazine is offering a fall advertising sale. This special pricing will be our lowest pricing of the 2016-2017 season.

This combo advertising package normally includes an ad in 4 issues of Blues Blast Magazine and an ad on the sidebar of our website for a month for a discount price of only $375. During our Fall Advertising Sale we are giving you six issues of Blues Blast Magazine and a 6 week ad on our website for the same low price (50% more for FREE!) This package affordably adds significant impact to your Blues advertising and promotion campaign. It is a great way to kick up the visibility of your new album release, Blues event or music product around the globe!

Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote the Blues. More than 36,000 opt-in Blues fans read our magazine each week. They are located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries. We get more than 2,000,000 (That’s TWO MILLION) hits and more than 65,000 visitors a month on our website.

Normal 2016 ad rates are $150 for an single issue and $175 per month for website ads. BUT, for a limited time, you can advertise in six issues of Blues Blast Magazine and on our website for a month and a half for only $375. This is a $1160 value based on single issue rates!

To get this special rate simply reserve and pay for your ad space NOW! (Offer ends December 15, 2016.) Ads can be booked to run anytime between now and September 30, 2017 for your 2017 Blues festival, album release or other music related product.

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

bobby rush cd imageBobby Rush – Porcupine Meat

Rounder Records – 2016

12 tracks; 57 minutes

Everyone in the blues community knows Bobby Rush, recipient of a Blues Blast Awards for Lifetime Achievement in 2014 and Historical album of the year in 2016. After several albums released on his own Deep Rush label Bobby has teamed up with Rounder for this release and the collaboration with veteran producer Scott Billington at the controls is excellent. Bobby wrote all the material with a helping hand from Scott and his wife Johnette Downing on three songs and the album was recorded in New Orleans with a crack team of Louisiana musicians: Jeffrey ‘Jellybean’ Alexander, Shane Theriot, Cornell Williams, Kirk Joseph, Barney Floyd, Jeff Albert, Khari Allen Lee, Jeff Watkins, Roger Lewis, Charles “Chucky C” Elam, III and David Torkanowsky, with Bobby’s long-time collaborator Vasti Jackson helping on arrangements and adding guitar. Guests include Joe Bonamassa, Dave Alvin and Keb Mo’ who contribute guitar to one track each. Throughout the album Bobby sings and plays harp like a man half his age and this may just be his strongest album yet, at age 82.

Several of these songs take tried and tested blues themes and recycle them effectively: opener “I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around” finds Bobby worrying about who might be with his woman while he is out; suspicions include the mailman, milkman – just about anyone in fact! The funky tune is embellished with horns and Bobby delivers a fine harp solo mid-tune. The slow blues “Got Me Accused” mixes parts of “Third Degree” and “Bad Avenue” and uses some of the same lyrical themes as well as comment on racial injustices, Bobby’s vocal very strong alongside some lovely guitar work.

The title track “Porcupine Meat” delivers a great line: “Porcupine meat – too fat to eat, too lean to throw away” which Bobby explains is his interpretation of his lady rejecting him but not wanting him to look elsewhere. “Funk O’ De Funk” gives us a an autobiographical take on Bobby’s life and music that matches the title perfectly, the horns used to underline the lyrics which here take from “Mannish Boy” mixed with “Everything I Do Gotta Be Funky”.

“Snake In The Grass” and “Catfish Stew” are co-writes with the Billingtons, the former a slinky funk tune that offers a cautionary warning, the latter an uptempo dance tune with the horns back in force with some more of Bobby’s well-known double entendres. The three guest guitarists all make good contributions to their tracks: Joe Bonamassa turns in an exceptional solo on the slow-burning “Me, Myself And I”; Dave Alvin features on a jazz-inflected “It’s Your Move”, his angular solo sitting above the twinkling piano and Keb Mo’ adds slide to the uptempo stomper “Nighttime Gardener”, another of Bobby’s boastful and risqué songs.

The horns are back again on “I Think Your Dress Is Too Short” in which the lady in question causes disruption wherever she goes, in the street, on the front row at Sunday church, etc! “Standing On Shaky Ground” is a familiar title but a different song, this one having something of a Memphis feel with the horns giving a real boost to the chorus. Final track “I’m Tired” is more of a front-porch piece. Bobby double-tracked on two harps over Vasti’s resonator slide work, and closes the album in a style different to most of this album but still unmistakably Bobby Rush.

There seems to be no stopping Bobby Rush and, on this form, why would any of us want to!

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 – 2 of 8 

lil ed cd imageLil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials – The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials

Alligator Records ALCD 4972

14 songs – 53 minutes

When Lil’ Ed Williams and his Blues Imperials hit the stage, fans around the world know they’re in for a treat. Now in their 27th year with the same four-man lineup, they consistently please audiences with their rough-hewn brand of West Side Chicago blues and balls-to-the wall passion, and this CD, the ninth release in their lengthy Alligator Records catalog, is as consistently pleasing as the many award-winning albums that preceded it.

Ed was born into the blues. This writer met him for the first time when he was 17 and working at the Red Carpet Car Wash. Still wearing a yellow, rubberized jumpsuit, he was on stage at the legendary Sylvio’s bar, home to Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush and many others, and backing Lee Solomon, aka Little Wolf, one of several artists to share that moniker.

Williams learned to play from his uncle, slide master extraordinaire J.B. Hutto, and carries his memory forward today, delivering a brand of what label founder Bruce Iglauer terms “houserockin’ music,” picking up where Hutto left off and seamlessly carrying his tradition forward, honoring him by wearing a fez, like J.B., and occasionally playing one of Hutto’s reconditioned Airline guitars.

But Ed’s no copycat. He’s a larger-than-life, humorous, energetic showman of the highest order, and his musical family – half-brother James “Pookie” Young on bass and Detroit natives Michael Garrett and Kelly Littleton on guitar and drums – provide what seems to be effortless support, but which couldn’t exist without three decades of rehearsals and thousands of gigs together. They fit together like hand to glove.

Williams and his wife Pam wrote 12 of the 14 songs here and, as he does regularly, he pays tribute to J.B. by incorporating two of his tunes to fill out the disc. Flushing out what already is a powerful sound is Japanese-born, Chicago-based Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi on keyboards.

The disc kicks off innocently enough with casual, straight-ahead blues, “Giving Up On Your Love.” But things heat up quickly. “Raining In Paris,” which follows, features Ed’s slide work as he compares the tears of desire he’s shedding for a distant love with the precipitation he’s experiencing in the French capital. Single-note guitar runs are prominent on “Poor Man’s Song,” which recalls another sleepless night because he’s woman’s split because she was tired of living in poverty. It seems like the pawnbroker is his only friend.

A cover of Hutto’s “Shy Voice” cranks up the speed and intensity of the band’s performance even more before the loping “Black Diamond Love” eases the pace as it describes a bright night and catching the eye of beautiful woman while recalling something that Louisiana Red had told Ed – about the stars pulling diamonds out of the sky.

The up-tempo “Whiskey Flavored Tears” delivers more powerful slide work as Williams sings about the discovery that his woman’s been cheating before “I’ll Cry Tomorrow,” an intense slow-blues J.B. cover, puts the waterworks on hold. In this one, he’s manning up, helping the lady pack and transporting her to her train because he knows she doesn’t care anymore.

Next up, the syncopated “Is It You?” kicks off with a stop-time intro as it asks if the object of Ed’s affection is responsible for keeping him awake at night. The stops are off for the rocker “I’m Done,” a rapid-paced shuffle, before “Deep In My Soul” features Ariyo and delivers a dose of burning single-note Chicago blues.

Slide action returns for “I Want It All,” another up-tempo shuffle, before the band delivers another food-related tune that fans have come to love. Like predecessors “Chicken, Gravy & Biscuits” and “Icicles In My Meatloaf,” “I Like My Hot Sauce Cold” is a winner. The blues “Troubled World” scorches before “Green Light Groove” brings the album to a close.

The Blues Imperials are one of the best bar bands on the planet, and this disc captures them at their best. Available everywhere, and highly 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.


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 Legendary R&B Cruise 

Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise – October 2016

Twice a year in October and January Roger Naber and his crack staff (from landlocked Kansas City; go figure!!), dozens of musicians and well over a thousand music fans take over an entire ocean liner and head to sea for the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.

This October the cruise set sail from San Juan Puerto Rico for a week of sun, fun, music and general merriment. The line up of artists was over the top; Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal w/ the Phantom Blues Band, Los Lobos, Keb Mo, Tommy Castro, Trampled Under Foot, John Hammond, Kenny Neal, Johnny Rawls, Ana Popovic, Roomful of Blues, Chubby Carrier, Lil Ed, Selwyn Birchwood, Tinsley Ellis, Super Chikan, Southern Hospitality and many more.

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Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Tinsley Ellis

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Selwyn Birchwood, Eden Brent, Albert Castiglia

There’s everything from big bands on big stages, to solo acoustic acts, to an intimate piano bar. Jam sessions, both planned and spontaneous, featuring pros and cruisers occur regularly.

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John Hammond, Tommy Castro, Keb Mo

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Roomful of Blues Jam w/ Sugaray Rayford, Roomful of Blues, Kenny Neal w/ dancers

While this set of photos features portraits and moments, there are also workshops, film screenings, costume parades, culinary demonstrations, not to mention four ports of call with great beaches, excursions and shore concerts.

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Darnell Neal, Cesar Rojas of Los Lobos, Victor Wainwright

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Ana Popvic, Lil’ Ed Williams, Debbie Davies

The LRBC is something every fan of Blues, R&B should try at least once, but be warned, if you go once you are going to want to go again!!

Photos and commentary by Joseph A Rosen


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

matthew sxoller cd imageMatthew Skoller – Blues Immigrant

Tongue “N Groove Records

http://matthewskoller.com

11 tracks

Chicago blues harp great emigrated to Chicago from the Big Apple (Brooklyn to be specific; that’s important to New Yorkers) to Chicago in 1987. That technically makes him an immigrant to Chicago blues which he celebrates with this fine CD. Featuring a lyrical insert with a tricked up passport from Brooklyn, Skoller wrote eight of the eleven songs on this CD. His soulful vocal and vibrant harp make him a fixture in the Windy City Blues scene, and he showcases his talents on this album.

Joining Skoller on the CD are Johnny Iguana on keyboards, Giles Corey on guitar except for one of the two with Carlos Johnson, Eddie Taylor, Jr. on guitar except for the other track with Carlos, Felton Crews on bass, and Marc Wilson on drums. Backing vocals are by Mike Avery and Stevie Robinson and it was produced by Vincent Bucher and Matthew Skoller.

The songs are very cool and offer many comments on modern life. “Big Box Store Blues” decries the destruction of local business by the Costco’s and Sam’s membership stores and the mega food and department stores like Walmart. Skoller blows some mean harp and Iguana’s piano backs him up sweetly. It is a take off of Sonny Boy’s “Welfare Store Blues.” Following it is “The Devil Ain’t Got No Music.” This is a great cut he wrote for Lurrie Bell’s super album of the same name. He sings that devil can tempt you and that he’s got everything that you need, but as the title says, “The Devil Ain’t Got No Music.” It’s a swampy sort of cut with a tasty groove and Skoller and Company offer another fine performance. The title track follows, an autobiographical piece by Skoller. He sings of his grandparents coming here to Ellis Island and then him emigrating to play the blues. He claims influence by the late 1960’s and 1970’s social upheaval that began his trek, He goes on to the environmental issues and Reagan in the 1980’s which solidified his dissent and precipitated his move to Chicago. Great and thoughtful lyrics and a nice beat along with good musicianship make this a winner. “Only In The Blues” jabs at the blues music world where he sings that foundations and clubs keep the blues alive with suppressed wages, nine year olds get the press over long time musicians, and record producers get all the profits. As Skoller sings, “It’s a funky situation found only in the Blues.”

A song of relational woes follows; “Tear Collector” is a somber cut about the icy woman that stole his heart. “Story of Greed” is next, a cut about the rich getting richer. This is Carlos Johnson’s first cut of two and he and Brian Ritchie on shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) and the tribal drums make this very cool sounding as Skoller tells us of corporate greed and the erosion of the world in perhaps a darkly humorous way. Cool Papa Sadler’s “747” is a great cover of a song popularized by Joe Louis Walker. Skoller’s harp adds flavor from prior versions where the piano and guitar did many of the harp parts. This is the second cut with Carlos Johnson, one of my Chicago guitar favorites. The instrumental “Mouth Organ” opens with a real organ intro and then Skoller takes over. He and Iguana trade licks and have a lot of fun with this.

“My Get It Done Woman” offers a driving beat and wickedly hot harp blowing. Skoller sings of his woman who gets things done on all fronts. Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson’s “Get Down to the Nitty Gritty” is the other cover, a hard core 1970’s Chicago blues cut that Skoller does well. Johnson was a protégé of Muddy Waters; Skoller stays true to the big guitar sound and then adds his harp to the mix. Iguana’s piano also give good Chicago flavor to the cut. Taylor’s guitar solo is sweet, too. The album closes to “Blue Lights,” the final cover which is a Papa Lightfoot cut. This is a beautiful slow blues that slips and slides sweetly with ample grease and grime to dirty things up. Thoughtful guitar work, a nice harp lead and piano fills make this a fine instrumental piece.

Skoller is a true presence on the Chicago blues scene. Approaching his 20th year in town, his impact on other’s music and the production of his own excellent stuff truly make him one of the great blues music acts of today. His harp is poignant and tasteful, with traditional phrasing that he tweaks to make his own. His vocals are gritty and authentic and his song writing is top notch. This is an outstanding album that should garner a lot of attention! Most highly recommended!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

bob gardner cd imageBob Gardner – Lucky Man

www.bobgardnermusic.com

Self release

10 songs – 40 minutes

Lucky Man is the debut release from Las Vegas singer, Bob Gardner. Recorded at Audio Arts in Las Vegas (and hats off to organist and producer Brett Hansen for capturing such a pristine yet cutting sound), it features 10 songs all written or co-written by guitarist Eric Walters that nestle in the category of modern electric blues, with hints of soul and blues-rock thrown in.

Kicking off with the upbeat shuffle of “Aint’ Gonna Worry No More”, there is a confidently assertive authority to the music that provides a solid foundation to underpin Gardner’s muscular vocals. Equally comfortable on the rumba of “Dallas”, the funk of “Shotgun Shack” ballads such as “Not Gonna Let You Go” and “Johnny’s Door”, or even the Huey Lewis and The News-esque “What’s Your Name”, the musicians exhibit a tangible maturity and control, whilst still tapping into the emotional essence of each song.

The core band on the album comprises drummer Aziz Bucater, bassist Rick Champion, and guitarist Walters. Keyboard duties are shared between Hansen (who also contributes masterful tuba bass on the New Orleans-esque closer, “Ain’t Dead Yet”) and organist/pianist Jack Myers, while the great Bill Holloman (formerly with the late, great Danny Gatton) contributes superb horn parts to a number of tracks – his saxophone solo at the beginning of “Shotgun Shack” is eviscerating. Rich Steele guests on guitar on “Johnny’s Door.”

Bucater and Champion are a top drawer rhythm section, providing the primer over which Walters, Hansen, Myers and Holloman lay down a series of short, melodic and highly effective solos as well as thoughtful, distinctive rhythm parts (Walters’ rhythm guitar on “Shotgun Shack” is both original and toe-tappingly memorable), whilst never losing sight of the need to support the song and the singer. Gardner himself has a rough-hewn, bar-room brawler of a voice, reminiscent of the likes of Joe Cocker and Paul Cox that still conveys an emotional vulnerability.

Lucky Man is a very impressive first offering from Gardner, who benefits from Walters’ well-constructed songs and the band’s sparkling performances. Indeed, the release feels very much like a “band” offering rather than a singer with backing musicians. It is perhaps unfortunate therefore that the CD was provided for review with negligible background or biographical information. At the time of writing, Gardner’s website, as listed on the CD cover, is awaiting ICANN verification and there is very little other information about Gardner easily accessible online. As such it is difficult to know how the album came to be produced or what Gardner’s next steps will be. Let’s hope however he builds on this highly enjoyable release. It’s a debut to be proud of.

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.


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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

bill phillippe cd imageBill Phillippe – Parade

Self Released

http://billphillippemusic.com

11 tracks

Somber and depressing – this is blues that will give you the blues. Bill Philppe is a San Francisco-based artist with a very nasal vocal style. His take on music is a little odd and very, very dark. The playing is interesting as he and the band blend the guitar, clarinet, upright bass, accordion with his vocals into a mélange of darkness and depression. Grab a bottle of whiskey and keep the sharp objects away.

“The Blues Come Callin’ (Home)” is an interestingly odd number where Phillippe’s voice blends with clarinet, bass and accordion. “Proper Sorrow” is another depressing number as in “14th Street.” “If I Should Lose My Mind” continues in that vein. “Solitude/A Kinder Voice” is a reflective cut , but it, too, continues in the somber and depressing vein. I did not recognize “Solitude” as a Duke Ellington cut until I read the liner notes. “Everything I Have is Grey” is next and at this point I’m hoping Phillippe’s home is also devoid of sharp objects.

“Parade” is the most upbeat of the tunes as Phillippe sings how life can be looked as a a parade passing by. “Tonite” is a dark-sounding folk ballad and musically is ok. “Little Zion” clearly features the guitar, the first time it is not blended into the mélange. Again we have a depressing and dark cut. “Red Beret” with a very weird vocal delivery style The album concludes with “Take It With Me,”.a Tom Watts song that is depressingly interesting.

Phillppe does the vocals and guitar. Ivor Holloway is interesting on clarinet. Swen Hendrickson plays bass while Glenn Hartman is on accordion. Each seems to do well with their instruments, playing into Phillippe’s style. Phillippe’s vocals are not my cup of tea nor is his approach to music; I need something a little more upbeat. If you want something very different and think life is raining on your parade then this might be your cup of tea. The album has it’s moments; perhaps this was therapeutic for Bill to create. If so, I hope it helped.

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

paul dougherty cd imagePaul Dougherty – Keep It in your Pocket

Self-Produced on Bake it Black Records

http://www.pauldougherty.org

CD: 12 Songs, 51:09 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers

Not too long ago, this reviewer was an avid writer of “fanfiction,” where authors use established game and movie settings to posit new adventures. For instance, what if one created one’s own Jedi Knight in the time of Episode VII, or were another apprentice wizard at Hogwarts? I often wondered why more people weren’t reading my stories, after I poured hours of effort into them. One of my fellow writers commented, “They’re too original. Fanfic is all about familiarity and tropes. Readers want to see the same characters they’ve seen a thousand times, with the same plots they’ve seen a thousand times, only written in someone else’s distinctive voice.” When I recalled this statement recently, a light bulb went off in my head: “Aha! The blues is just like fanfiction. No wonder CD’s full of covers make their way into the market year after year.”

Keep this in mind, blues fans, as you peruse Paul Dougherty’s Keep It in your Pocket. It may not have any original material on it, but if what you want is the soul-food comfort of “Stormy Monday,” “The Thrill is Gone,” and “Spoonful,” look no further. In terms of instrumentation, it’s above average, but Paul’s vocals could use some fine-tuning. Remarkably, he plays all the instruments – horns, drums, and all guitars, among others. Yours truly honestly thought this was an ensemble album, but her jaw unhinged once she re-read Dougherty’s promo sheet. Since Paul has hit the blues scene once more, a tribute release might seem more than fitting. His 2013 album River Pearl featured thirteen original blues, roots, and Americana tunes, dominating the #1 spot on the Roots Music Report for the international charts for 8 weeks.

Paul Dougherty was born in Houston and grew up in Nashville. His father, Tommy Dougherty, was a blues and soul singer/Hammond organ player and extensive vocalist in the Nashville studios, including the 1970s releases Touch My Soul on Emerald Records and Tommy Dougherty on Guinness Records. Paul sang and played guitar in various original Nashville bands, including the regional touring group The Uninsurables. After moving to Munich, Germany, he’s continued playing and recording, writing all of the songs for his CD’s until this current one.

The following cover is the one Ms. Wetnight has heard the least, and is therefore the freshest:

Track 06: “Me & the Devil” – Every blues fan worth their salt knows the Robert Johnson legend: “Early this morning, when you knocked upon my door, I said, ‘Hello, Satan. I believe it’s time to go.’ Me and the Devil was walking side by side…” Dougherty’s slide guitar, marvelously melodic yet understated, permeates this tale of being the Adversary’s companion. It’s one of the shortest tracks on the album, yet it’s one of the best.

Hey, blues aficionados, if you’re searching for a soulful one-man-band’s take on the classics, this CD is for you. However, if you’re looking to dish out dough for some original songs, then Keep It in your Pocket.

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 37 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.


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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

al basile cd imageAl Basile – Mid-Century Modern

Sweetspot Records – 2016

13 tracks; 52 minutes

www.albasile.com

Al Basile was an original member of Roomful Of Blues and has kept close contact with the members of that band, several of whom feature here. On this set Al was inspired by his role in writing and producing the Knickerbocker All Stars’ Go Back Home To The Blues which I had the pleasure of reviewing last year, writing songs that recall the classic blues and Rn’B material that early Roomful performed, backed by an A-list team of musicians: Doug James (baritone and tenor sax), Bruce Bears (keys), Brad Hallen (bass) and Mark Teixeira from Duke Robillard’s band (Duke produced and adds guitar to two tracks), Mike Welch (guitar) from Sugar Ray & The Bluetones, Rich Lataille (alto and tenor sax) from the current Roomful line-up and Jeff ‘Doc’ Chanonhouse is on trumpet, Al playing his distinctive cornet and handling the vocals.

Opener “Keep Your Love, Where’s My Money” sets the standard with Bruce’s twinkling piano set over a rhumba rhythm and a fine horn arrangement, Al delivering some deeply cynical lyrics and a lyrical solo. An early highlight is the Stax-sounding “Midnight Blue Persuasion” in which Al seems to be a reluctant lover, his baleful tone on horn fitting the mood perfectly. Al is adept with a comic lyric: “Tickle My Mule” gives us a new expression to ponder as the band rocks along with a great solo from Mike before Al’s confession that “I’ve Got To Have Meat (With Every Meal)”, a song sure to infuriate the average vegetarian!

We also get some more serious songs such as “Big Trees Falling” and “Listen To The Elders” which both honour the greats that inspired him and urge the young to learn from Al’s own generation while there is still time.

Through the album all the main players get solo opportunities and every solo is worthy of attention, but as we rarely hear the cornet in the blues it is fascinating to study Al’s work here: listen to his solos on “Night Crossing” to get a feel for his quality which has been recognised by multiple BMA nominations. 1950’s big-band blues with acutely modern lyrics, a brilliant combination.

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 – 8 of 8 

alabama mike cd imageAlabama Mike – Upset the Status Quo

Self Release through Jukehouse Records

www.alabamamikeblues.net

11 tracks / 59:25

Alabama Mike adopted his nickname as he was born in Talladega, and that is where he got his first experience as a vocalist in the church choir. But for the last thirty years he has made his living on the left coast of the United States: in the military, as a truck driver, and now as a bluesman. The latter has been very rewarding, as he has earned two BMA nominations, both as a solo artist and with his acoustic blues trio, The Hound Kings. Mike (a.k.a. Michael Benjamin) writes and plays traditional-sounding blues songs with more modern lyrics that connect well with today’s listeners. This is one of Mike’s ways of pushing the edge of the envelope, so the title of his third solo album, Upset the Status Quo, makes a lot of sense!

This record is a slick piece of work, with production credit going out to Kid Anderson, who recorded this project at his Greaseland Studios in San Jose. Eight of the eleven tracks were written by Mike, and he provided all of the soulful lead vocals in his distinctive tenor voice. Thirteen fantastic musicians joined him in the studio, and the result of their labor is an hour-long set of blues, soul, and rhythm and blues, with a little funk thrown in for good measure. These folks include Ali Kumar on harp, Bernard Anderson on sax, Sid Morris on piano, Derrick D’mar Martin and Ronnie Smith on drums, Jerry Jemmot and Kedar Roy on bass, Jon Lawton on slide guitar, Jim Pugh on the Hammond B3, Bob Welsh on guitar and piano, and Kid Anderson on B3 and guitar.

Mike and his friends kick off the show with the title track, and “Upset the Status Quo” is a mid-tempo shuffle with a rich feel thanks to Kumar’s harmonica and Anderson’s sax. The backline has a neat feel with a conventional bass line and a dry snare tone that kills (in a good way). The lyrics poke at things that modern man spends too much time focusing on, such as the pursuit of material gain and the allure of giving in to the pervasive influence of social media, and Mr. Benjamin howls about these things with gusto.

Modern themes are also visited in “Identity Theft,” “Restraining Order,” and “SSI Blues,” and it is cool that Mike can take the stuff that people have to deal with today and put it into a musical form that is timeless. The latter has a sweet old-time feel with raunchy harp from Kumar and plenty of barroom piano over a foot-stomping beat. Mike shows off a great range as he takes thing up a register to tear this song apart. This is one of the standout tunes on the disc, in my opinion!

There are also three cover tunes on this disc, including Jimmy McCracklin’s “Think,” John Lawton’s “Rock Me in Your Arms,” and Little Johnny Taylor’s “Somewhere Down the Line.” “Think” is my favorite of these as the gang turns up the funk knob with Anderson’s sax, plenty of organ and wonderful guitar leads – this is all top-shelf material. The final product is a respectful and talented re-do of a classic tune, and the band really nailed it.

The set closes out with “God is With You (Benediction),” and it has a gnarly intro that is driven by a heavy dose of the mighty Hammond B-3. It settles down pretty quickly into a conventional rhythm and blues song, and Mike’s voice is at his best here as he has soul down to his very core. There are lovely backing vocals from Loralee Christiansen and Lisa Leuschner Anderson and this song of faith and love is beautiful; it is a sweet way to finish the set.

Upset the Status Quo contains some of Alabama Mike’s best work, and it is a very well engineered and mixed album that is entertaining from start to finish. Check it out for yourself, and if you like conventional blues this might just be a nice breath of fresh air for you. Also, if you follow his Facebook page you will find announcements for his upcoming gigs in the Bay Area, and if you come to one of his shows you might even get to see a few of the guest artists from this disc sitting in too!

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


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 Featured Blues Interview – Guy King 

guy king pic 1Since just after the second World War, there has been a steady parade of bluesmen making their way from the deep south up to the hallowed grounds of the epicenter of the blues, Chicago, Illinois.

There’s probably no accurate way to count just how many have made that trek over the course of the past six decades.

However, that number narrows considerably when you start listing those that have made that journey after being born in a country thousands of miles from the United States to begin with.

Enter Israeli-born Guy King, who after having lived in the United States for a scant period of time, boarded a train and headed for Chicago from New Orleans with little more than a few clothes and his guitar as his traveling companions. King had no master-plan at the time. Heck, he didn’t even have a place to stay. All he knew was, he was headed to the home of the blues.

And that my friends, is the truth.

“I came up to Chicago (from New Orleans) on a train when I was 21 years old. And in one of the cars on that train, there was a young guy that was a few years older than me. He told me that there was a couple of spots that I should hit in Chicago. One was Buddy Guy’s Legends – which was at the old location. He said they had a jam session there on Mondays. He also said that Rosa’s Lounge had a jam session on Thursdays that I should check out. I didn’t even know what a jam session was. I literally had a guitar and a suitcase with me. But I took the guy’s advice and went and enjoyed the music,” King recently said.

Fast forward a few years and there’s not hardly a club standing anywhere in Chicago that has not had Guy King take to its bandstand and deliver the real-deal blues.

King – who was nominated for the Sean Costello Rising Star Award at this year’s Blues Blast Awards – saw his latest release, Truth (Delmark Records) hit the streets late last February.

It may not have been an overnight success, but it sure didn’t take long before the album was receiving extensive radio play on blues programs all over the globe and was the talk of blues cognoscente in all directions. Truth was also nominated for Contemporary Blues Album of the Year at the recent Blues Blast Awards.

That’s an awful lot to take in, so was King at all surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Truth?

“I was so involved with coming up with the concept and then recording it … so to me, the release of the record was just like another phase of the process,” he said. “As far as being surprised, I was more glad than anything else. I really believed in the concept and the finished album. It was really a joy to make. From the wonderful producer to Steve Wagner and Bob Koester and all the crew at Delmark Records, to all the amazing musicians that played on the record, I really believed in the whole process it took to make. So I don’t want to say that I was surprised (by the reaction it received all around the globe), but when we finished it and finally listened to it, we felt that it was something good, something special. But sometimes things can get lost in the translation and other people that ultimately listen to the record may not experience that same special feeling, that audio quality that you as one of the musicians that played on it experienced. So I was glad when I heard people talking about the finished product. I think I was able to transfer the way that I was feeling to the public and I was happy to see people relating to it like I had hoped they would.”

Manning the boards for the Truth sessions was none other than the legendary Richard ‘Dick’ Shurman. Actually, the term ‘legend’ is probably not potent enough when talking about all that the Blues Hall of Famer Shurman has accomplished during his lifetime. Just looking at the tip of the iceberg, Shurman has worked with iconic artists such as Johnny Winter, Robert Cray, Roy Buchanan, Magic Slim and Otis Rush, none of which is lost on King.

guy king pic 2“I have to be honest. I knew of the work that Dick had done and I was a fan of his first. I knew of the caliber of artists that he had worked with … some of them, a long time before I was even born. Some of those artists have been a big influence on me, such as Albert Collins and Otis Rush and a few others. But I also have to elaborate that Dick is a personal friend, and a good friend. He’s a friend that I can consult with and is a person that I can trust and respect on a personal level,” said King. “It became a powerful experience (working with Shurman on Truth), but it was also a very natural one, at that. I was very free to let him know what I think, what I felt and want I wanted to accomplish. He told me exactly the same when he had something to say. It was wonderful. Up until this point, most of the things that I’ve done, I’ve relied upon myself and my musicians. Having Dick there, I knew that I had another pair of ears that I could trust. That allowed me to take a break from trying to take care of everything. I think that made a big difference for me to be able to execute my musical abilities better. He also helped pitch me some wonderful tunes that I might not have otherwise thought about. He said to me, ‘Guy, you play great blues. We should try and stick to that a little bit.’ He helped me make the songs into an album, which was important to me. He helped me focus into making this an album – from start to finish – rather than just a collection of songs.”

Shurman was also instrumental in making sure that King’s guitar playing – which is some of the most inventive in the world of the blues – was first and foremost the focal point of Truth.

“Yes. That was another thing that he did. He wanted to show some more of my guitar playing. People that have seen me live know that I play quite a bit of guitar. And I ended up playing more guitar than I was really going to showcase on the album, because of Dick,” King said. “He heard the material in rehearsals and he extended a lot of the guitar passages, saying that it sounded good and that he wanted for people to hear on the album what I could do in a live performance.”

It’s not like an astute pair of ears like the kind that Shurman has needs any kind of validation, but the venerable one sure did hit the nail right on the head with his intentions to make sure that King’s six-string abilities shined like a pretty penny on Truth. There’s also little doubt that Shurman picked up on all the subtle twists and nuances found in King’s guitar playing, which is built on a solid bedrock of the blues, but also features liberal amounts of jazz, along with some elements and flashes of world-beat, as well. All-in-all, it doesn’t take long to understand that King really knows his way around the fretboard of his trusted Telecaster.

“I think there’s a few things (to his guitar style). I was born and raised in Israel, and I was schooled in music from listening to a lot of it from a very, very early age. A lot of that thanks goes to my parents – who have passed away – and my older brother and sister. They were listening to a lot of music around the house and I absorbed and soaked a lot of that up. At a very young age, I was playing the clarinet, but as far as the guitar, for the most part, I was self-taught,” he said. “I did take a few lessons from friends and a couple of teachers, but I stopped very quickly and taught myself by listening to a lot of music. Everything that I heard, I tried to play to the best of my ability.”

Partly due to where he grew up, there was not a lot of visual support to help nurture King’s budding appetite as a guitarist. That left him to rely on what he heard with his own ears, as opposed to what he was able to see with his own eyes.

“There were not a lot of videos on guitar playing that I could watch, because of where I grew up. And I did not have the advantage of going to see people play live, also because of where I grew up. So it was all based on my ears … what I heard. The albums that I heard, I did not know all of the tricks of the trade at that point. Things like tuning the guitar down, or using a pick, or whether they were using a Fender guitar or a Gibson, or what kind of amps they were playing,” he said. “I was from a very small village – a little country town – and there was just no way for me to find these things out. So I trusted my ears and the touch and feel that I had to try and learn from the wonderful things that I heard.”

A big part of King’s listening regimen from an early age was centered around big-band, classical and jazz music, which helps to explain the wonderful concoction of sounds and tones that he is able to generate these days.

“When the blues hit me, I already knew something about music, and that music made me feel very much at home. Very comfortable. When I heard the blues, I started putting those other forms of music to the side and began to focus on the blues,” he said. “Because I had been listening to and playing some jazz up to that point, I understood that jazz and the blues were kind of one and the same, with the extended harmony and melody. After arriving in Chicago, I got exposed more to Ray Charles. That opened the door for me to listen more to artists like Errol Garner and Oscar Peterson and Charlie Parker and of course, the great Wes Montgomery. Those people are big influences on me.”

In addition to growing up in Israel and now calling the Windy City his home, King also spent a few years living in Brazil.

guy king pic 3“I had listened to Brazilian music as a child and later on, I had the chance to do some tours in Brazil and I even stayed there, on-and-off for a couple of years, spending time and being exposed to another form of music that I really like, which is bossa nova, or salsa. The blues are very important to me and are deeply felt in my heart. But music in general, if it’s played right and you can tap into that authenticity, then you can really experience things on a deep and personal level, no matter what the genre might be. When you hear me play, it’s more about music and feeling than about anything else. If it’s played with conviction and you feel what you’re playing, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing just one chord, or you’re changing 25 times. That conviction and playing what you feel, that’s what I call the blues.”

That behind-the-scenes peek into King’s philosophy goes a long way into explaining why the music that he creates is so deep and carries so much emotion with it. Label it what you will, but understand that King’s blues are anything but one-dimensional.

“There are many feelings that the blues can give you, such as sadness and joy. It can make you want to get up and dance, or it can make you want to sit down and reflect,” he said. “A lot of greater people before me, including some wonderful bluesmen, have said that there’s two kinds of music – good music and bad music. I really agree with that. There’s great music and there’s some not-so-great music. Blues is great music and has really affected me and will continue to affect me … forever, probably.”

King’s initial arrival in the United States came when he was just 16 years old and was on a three-month tour as part of a vocal group. However, a few more years would pass before he ultimately moved here from his country of birth.

“I came over here to perform and then I went back to Israel and completed high school and then served in the army in Israel. When I got out of the army after completing my three years, I came to the United States. I started my journey over here in the south – in Memphis. I spent a shot time there, but I did learn a lot in that short time,” he said. “I continued on through Mississippi into New Orleans. I knew that a lot of my influences were from that region (Mississippi and Louisiana) and it was important for me to explore things first-hand and listen to the music and view it up close.”

Much more than just an interested tourist – or someone looking to make a fresh start in a brand-new country – King’s motivation for choosing to relocate to the United States had everything thing to do with his burning desire to live and breathe blues music, up-close and personal.

“Yes. That is why I moved over here. I knew that Robert Johnson was from Hazlehurst, Mississippi and I knew that B.B. King and Albert King were also born in Mississippi. So there were places that I made it a point to go explore and listen to the music and feel the earth and know what it’s about,” he said. “It’s a very different thing from where I grew up. There, I could only read the liner notes to the albums and imagine. Then, I came over and could hear the music and experience it first-hand, which was very important to me. There was a period in this country when country music and jazz was the popular music of the day. It was pop music. There were also communities back then – especially in the south – where the blues were considered to be pop music. My personal opinion is that in the last 30 years or so, the blues takes more from rock, trying to survive. But we shouldn’t forget that every form of music that comes out of the United States is rooted in the blues. I would like to think that when played with conviction and when played with authenticity, with a deep feeling, the blues will always live. It’s true; it’s real. Whether played in huge amphitheaters or in small bars, when the blues are played like that, the blues will always live and continue to grow. And that’s a wonderful thing.”

King’s stay in New Orleans just lasted a short while, before the lure of the mighty city called Chicago pulled him northward.

“I wanted to perhaps see something a little bigger on my travels, which led me from Memphis to New Orleans and then on to Chicago. I knew it was a big place, but at that time, I did not know what to expect,” he said. “I would be lying if I told you that I did.”

Knowing the rich and fertile history of all the amazing guitar players that have called Chicago home from the 1950s until today might have been enough to dissuade a shy young man from Israel from ever entering the city limits with a six-string slung across his back. But that didn’t seem to hamper King one little bit.

guy king pic 4“No, but it probably should have. To be honest, at that time, I did not know of a lot of the players that we call legends. Where I came from, you could barely even get a B.B. King album and he’s the king of the blues. I knew of B.B. King and Albert King and Robert Johnson, because I heard of them in interviews with rock and pop stars such as Eric Clapton. I knew of T-Bone Walker, because I heard B.B. King speak of him in the liner notes of an album. This is how I knew of those people,” he said. “And I knew of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and Albert Collins and Buddy guy – the more known people in the blues. When I got to Memphis, for example, I thought there would be a lot of B.B. Kings and Albert Kings there, in every club. I just thought that was how everybody in the States played. I did not realize that those guys were so innovative with what they did with their music that they affected everybody. You do not find those kind of guys in every club that you go into. They are originals and true innovators. That’s much the same way that you don’t find Duke Ellington or Count Basie or Wes Montgomery in every juke joint that you go into. All those guys are one-of-a-kind. But I thought that I had to be able to play just as good as those guys and execute on my instrument to even play out. I sat in my room, thinking that I needed to play that good. If not, what’s the point?”

That woodshedding that King did quickly began to play dividends and in short turn, he went from playing open jam sessions at Buddy’s and Rosa’s to finding steady employment. He also discovered that there was a welcoming sense of family among Chicago’s guitar slingers, even some of the most notorious ones.

“One night I stopped in B.L.U.E.S Etcetera and nobody was there and I was shooting pool, just enjoying myself. Otis Rush and his wife came in and we started shooting pool together. I had to stop and catch myself … it was Otis Rush. We shot for three or four hours and they were very kind to me,” said King. “I had just came to town not long before that and I thought, ‘Wow. Is this how it’s going to be in Chicago?’ After that, one thing seemed to lead to another.”

One of those integral ‘one things’ was when the late, great Willie Kent saw King playing one night. That encounter led to King joining Kent’s band as lead guitarist and eventual band leader for over half a decade.

“From him, I learned to always give your best and to sing from your heart. Do it … just get into it, when it comes to performance. I played a lot of shows with Willie over a period of six years; we played pretty much every night. We all have better nights than others, but there was no one night when you couldn’t feel what Willie was playing; not one night when you couldn’t relate to the story he was telling. That’s something that’s rare,” King said. “That’s something that I cherished when I was 21 years old and that’s something I confirmed after playing with him for six years. When he got sick, he laid a lot of responsibility on me at a young age. Things like what to do and how to lead a band. He made me band leader and had me to take care of a lot of things inside the band. We were very close. We played over 300 nights a year and left our souls every time that we took the stage. I would like to think that has stuck with me today. I hope that’s something that I picked up from him that I can carry on.”

Carrying on the journey that he began in earnest the first time that he set foot in Chicago is something that King is focused on like a laser beam, with a burning desire to get better every time he steps on stage or enters the recording studio.

“I would like to continue to record and continue to improve. I’m proud of Truth, as is everybody that was a part of it, but I will probably always think that my best work is ahead of me,” he said. “Right now, Truth is my best work, in my opinion. I know Dick (Shurman) was proud of the record, because he told me he was, but he also wants me to think that I can do better. And he is right, because I do want to do better. That’s how I would like to continue, thinking that my best work is still ahead of me.”

Visit Guy’s website at: www.guyking.net

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He’s also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.


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Crossroads Blues Sociey – Rockford, IL

The Jimmys return to the Hope and Anchor for the December 10th show which will also be Crossroads Annual Christmas Party with a gag record exchange! December 16th we feature Dave Fields from NYC to do some Blues in the Schools and an evening show at the Lyran Club Fish Fry! Our big and special treat for December is the amazing Duke Robillard, who will be at the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center in Rockford on Thursday, December 8th starting at 7 PM. Advanced tickets are $15 and entry at the door is $20. The Mendelssohn PAC is located at 406 North Main Street in Rockford, IL. Tickets and information are available at www.crossroadsbluessociety.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. December 12 – Hurricane Ruth, December 19 – Mary Jo Curry, December 26 – James Armstrong.

Additional ICBC and ICBC partnered shows @ The Alamo, 6 pm: December 15 – James Armstrong Presents – Susan Williams. www.icbluesclub.org


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