Issue 10-6 February 11, 2016

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2016 Blues Blast Magazine


 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Bob Margolin. We have 6 Blues music reviews for you including reviews of music from Kim Simmonds And Savoy Brown, Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band, Deb Callahan, Robert Hill, Bees Deluxe and Little Boys Blue.

Nate Kieser and Bob Kieser have photos and commentary from the 2016 International Blues Challenge finals.

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



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 Featured Blues Music Review – 1 of 6 

Kim Simmonds And Savoy Brown – The Devil To Pay

Ruf Records RUF 1220

13 songs – 58 minutes

www.savoybrown.com

One of the longest enduring bands in blues history, Savoy Brown celebrates 50 years in the business with the release of The Devil To Pay, the 45th album in leader Kim Simmonds’ catalog, and it delivers a rock-solid collection of original material with a familiar feel.

A self-taught string-bender, Simmons formed the band in London as a teenager after a chance meeting with harp player John O’Leary in 1965. Along with original vocalist Bryce Portius, keyboard player Trevor Jeavons, bassist Ray Chappell and drummer Leo Manning, they quickly moved to the forefront of the British blues revival alongside John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream and Eric Clapton, scoring hits with such classics as “I’m Tired,” “Tell Mama,” “Hellbound Train” and “A Hard Way To Go.”

The band’s gone through dozens of revisions through the years, and has featured at least 22 different percussionists, 20 bassists, 11 vocalists, nine guitarists, three harmonica players and one sax player through the decades, including future Foghat founders Tony Stevens, Dave Peverett and Roger Earl. But the one constant has been lead singer/guitarist/harmonica player Simmonds. He’s joined here by bandmates Pat DeSalvo (bass) and Garnet Grimm (drums), who’ve worked behind him since 2009.

The Devil To Pay kicks off with “Ain’t Got Nobody,” a slow, relaxed five-minute grinder that gives Simmonds plenty of space to deliver straight-ahead single-note guitar runs as he delivers a plea for the return of the best love he’s ever had. The blues runs like blood from his strings as he relates his torment. The pace quickens and brightens for the walking shuffle “Bad Weather Brewing,” which features steady triplets from Grimm and a funky, complimentary bass line from DeSalvo.

The autobiographical “Grew Up In The Blues” leads into the loping “When Love Goes Wrong,” a warning that when your lover leaves you, tears will fall. “Oh Rosa” features Simmonds on harmonica, an instrument and sound usually missing from recordings on the Ruf label. He works the high reeds before launching into another song of departure. This time, he’s leaving and requesting that his lady always keep him in mind because, when he returns, he’ll “walk a straight line.”

The cover tune “The Devil To Pay” is a high-energy blues-rocker that brings to account all the misdeeds the singer’s responsible for in life. The band gets funky again for “Stop Throwing Your Love Around,” a catchy warning to a woman who’s treating the singer “like a clown.” “Snakin’” gives Simmonds a chance to stretch out on the six-string in an instrumental delivered in a style that’s reminiscent of Texas guitar legend Freddy King before another burner, “Got An Awful Feeling,” delivers unspecified fears about loneliness and poverty. Simmonds’ slide work is featured on “I’ve Been Drinking” before “Watch My Woman,” “Whiskey Headed Baby” and “Evil Eye” conclude the set.

Tasty, polished and available everywhere. It won’t matter if you’re a new fan or someone who’s been there from the beginning: You’ll like The Devil To Pay.

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.



 2016 International Blues Challenge Finals 

We made it to Memphis last week to cover the finals of the 2016 International Blues Challenge. The last few years they have put both the solo/duet competition and the band competition together in one LONG finals competition show. (7+ hours!) We were fortunate to have the best seats in the house photographing the finals with other photographers from the orchestra pit right in front.

First up was The Mighty Orq, a solo act from The Houston Blues Society

Next up was the band Southern Avenue from the Memphis Blues Society. It featured Memphis local and Israeli born guitarist and band leader Ori Naftaly with a new lineup that includes an impressive new vocalist, Tierinii Jackson. Keep your eye on this gal. You haven’t heard the last of her.

They alternate between solo/duet and band performers in the finals so Sonny Moorman, a solo act from The Cincy Blues Society was next. This was not Sonny’s first time in the finals of the IBC. In 2010 The Sonny Moorman Group made the finals in the band category. Sonny also took 2nd place in the 2007 solo duet category.

The Delgado Brothers were up next. They were representing the Ventura County Blues Society. I thought they would place based on the performance. (They won!)

Up next were Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons, a duet from Washington Blues Society. While they did not play what many thought was a bluesy or original set, (They played mostly covers!) their incredible harmonies and musicianship won the the solo/duet championship.

Next was the Bobby BlackHat Band representing the Natchel Blues Network. Bobby is a singer and harmonica player from Ohio. His band also made the semi-finals last year in 2015.

Trey Johnson and Jason Willmon representing the Arkansas River Blues Society performed next. Trey had great stage presence and Jason played some great harp.

Tee Dee Young representing The Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society was next to perform. He is from from Lexington Kentucky.

The Blues Jazz and Folk Music Society made a great showing at this years IBC as their acts both made the finals. Micah Kesselring was their solo/duet act.

The Hector Anchondo Band were up next representing the Blues Society of Omaha

Dave Muskett, a solo/duet act from Indy Crossroads Blues Inc was next.

The Paul DesLauriers Band representing the Montreal Blues Society was the sole “international” act in the finals. Paul is a very talented slide guitar player.

InnerVision, a solo/duet act from Columbus Blues Alliance were up next. InnerVision is Genene Blackwell and Sam Shepherd, life-long friends who both lost their vision as infants. Their show was inspiring. They took 2nd place in the solo/duet category and Sam won the award for best harmonica player.

The Norman Jackson Band from the Lake of the Ozarks Blues Society were next. They took 3rd place.

Bing Futch, a solo/duet act from Orange Blossom Blues Society was the act with the best hair! He also had the most unique approach to blues playing original songs on the mountain dulcimer. He won the best “solo guitar” player award.

The final erformance of the finals was A Different Shade of Blue, a band from the Vicksburg Blues Society.

This was the 33rd year for the International Blues Challenge. If you have never attended this great event, put on your bucket list. I promise you wont be sorry!

Commentary by Bob Kieser. Photos by Nate Kieser and Bob Kieser as marked © 2016



 Featured Blues Interview – Bob Margolin 

Half the reviews “Steady Rollin’” Bob Margolin is getting on his new album My Road mention Muddy Waters’ name before it does his.

“It will be on my obituary, too.” He says. After all, Margolin was Muddy Waters’ lead guitarist from 1973 to 1980. He’s featured prominently playing with Muddy in The Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz. He’s on all four of the Muddy Waters albums produced by Johnny Winter. Margolin also produced and consulted on the Blues Sky Muddy Waters releases for Sony/Legacy, and as a Keeping The Blue Alive in Journalism recipient he has written for a couple of decades on Muddy’s legacy.

Asked if that association is both a blessing and a curse, he doesn’t hesitate a moment to say that it is. “Absolutely it is! I learned a lot from Muddy. I loved his music more than anyone. He was the one for me. He was the one who inspired me the most before I met him, and I have those credentials, and people come to me and hope to hear something about Muddy both musically and in my writing and in person and in conversations, and I’m thrilled to do it. I know it would make Muddy happy. Sometimes you can do something for somebody even after they’re gone, and it’s the right thing to do.

“I know Muddy would love that I’m telling stories about him that they wouldn’t hear in other ways that carry on the spirit of his music. He’s so heavy. He truly is. He was one of the greatest at his profession ever in the world, and because he’s that strong, people tend to associate me with him before they associate me with myself.

“It’s a blessing and a curse, and there’s nothing you can do but deal with the duality of it. I’m not going to stop or abandon the incredible gift that Muddy gave me, and I’m not going to deny people who want to know about it. I really want to do that, but at the same time, and especially on this album, there are plenty of songs that have nothing to do with it.”

The new album he refers to is My Road. Thirty-three years after Muddy’s death, Margolin is at the second tipping point of his post-Muddy career. The first came in 1989 when he decided to first record his own albums. Now, he’s poured his soul into My Road to the point of selling two priceless guitars to pay for the CD. Of course, everything has its price, and he got $35,000 for the two guitars, but that’s when his problems began.

“Recording today often combines the best of the old and the new. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of recording now. On the album I just did I spared no expense and no amount of time. I spent a lot of time writing the songs and making the demos. I got a producer. I used a studio and a golden-eared engineer and did not skimp on it for money.

“I actually sold a couple of my oldest guitars that mean a lot to me to make the album. They were two guitars from 1956 that I used when I was in Muddy’s band. One was a Stratocaster, and that one brought a lot of money, and then the other one was a Gibson Archtop. I never played them anywhere, and maybe the reason is I bought a guitar in 1991, a Telecaster, that just in the last few years has become like a monogamous love relationship.

“It’s the first guitar I’ve had that actually cares if I spend the night with another one. If I try to play another one, it goes, ‘Me, me, me!’ It’s true. So I use it on just about everything like in situations where people would normally use an acoustic guitar like the song, “Goodnight” on my album where I just played by myself. But that guitar has such a beautiful sound, and I feel so at home on it I use that, and I felt like it was ok to do it.

“I got like $35,000 for the two guitars, and I intended to use it for the album and to pay off some credit card debt and just make life a little bit clearer as well as do this album with no compromise at all. Then it turned out the weekend I started recording in the studio, my wife’s car died, so I had to buy her a new old car, and then afterwards when we were mixing and everything, I went to the Notodden Festival in Norway, and I called home, and my wife sad, ‘It’s raining ……in the living room.’ And I had to have a new roof put on my house, and that was $13,500.”

His investment was worth it. Of all the albums Margolin has recorded for Powerhouse, Alligator, Blind Pig, Telarc and VizzTone since leaving Muddy, My Road differentiates him from his work with Muddy without denying that incredible legacy. And that’s not an easy trick bag.

One year I brought a friend, Bill Graham, down to King Biscuit Blues Festival. Graham had written for me in BluesWax. We were running around as we do, and he’d never been to a festival before. I said, “Now, look. You gotta see Bob Margolin. The band he has and what the does is as close to Muddy Waters 1954 in Chicago as anything you’re ever going to hear.”

On that album Margolin captures the tone and simplicity of Muddy, but he does it with his own voice. That’s a tightrope to walk and he’s done it very adroitly.

“It is (a landmark album) for me. I hope the rest of the world might enjoy it that much. I very deliberately tried to write songs that were from deep inside of me, but tht other people could enjoy the stories, too. People like it when you tell a story, and I try to play some hot guitar on it. I have good arrangements, make it swing. I’m working with musicians I’ve worked with a lot in the past 20 years, and we don’t ever have to talk about music. They just know how I’m going to do any time we’re on stage together. That would Be Chuck Cotton on drums and Tad Walters. On this album he’s on either guitar or harmonica.”

Ironically, the best cut on the album is the last, and the liner notes mistakenly neglect to give Margolin co-writing credits. “My friend Terry Abrahamson and I co-wrote that. I’m not sure if this was written anywhere, but he’d written that song and asked me to do a demo for B. B. King’s single-string playing and another that was reminiscent of Muddy’s Delta blues slide guitar.

“I liked the song so much, and it tragically became obvious that B. B. was not going to record again, and this was more than a year before he passed, but I knew that he was not doing well, and I said, ‘The whole concept of the song is something that I could change the word to and do myself.’

“So I kinda rewrote the lyrics pretty drastically from what (Abrahamson) wrote, but it was still his idea of Muddy suddenly appearing when I was sleeping. There’s a lot of personal things in it. (In the song) Muddy’s taking me to his house in Clarksdale, and it’s not clear if it’s happening now, and that really is where heaven is. At least it would be for me.

“But Muddy told me a story living in Clarksdale when he was 17 and having a wedding in his house, his first wedding and a big party, and he said people were dancing so hard, he thought the floor of the cabin was going to break, and it was Robert Nighthawk playing.”

My Road is the third tipping point in Margolin’s career. The first was joining Muddy Waters’ band. The second came in 1989 when he decided that recording would afford him the necessary added visibility and cache needed to keep his career from faltering as a regional musician in North Carolina where he still lives today.

“We were mostly regional except for sometimes I would end up with a gig that came through my Muddy connections, or else somebody would just like my music a lot, give us a good festival or something, but mostly I was riding around leisurely in the south and having a good time doing it. It’s not as crazy as things are today where everybody is connected all the time, and you have a gigantic opportunity to take a lot in, but everybody I know these days you say, ‘How are you?’ They say, busy whether they’re doing well or not.

“I was starting to realize the musical world was changing a little bit whereas clubs in the ’60s and ’70s used to hire a band like Muddy’s or other people for a week at a time. The gigs even during the time I was with Muddy there were less of those week-long gigs which were fun and easy and more two-day gigs and then by the end of the ’80s there were hardly any nights where you played two nights in a club and just had to find concerts, festivals and one-nighters.

“I was opening a show for George Thorogood, and his manager Mike Donahue who became a friend of mine – Mike stopped working on them just a couple years ago retired from managing George but a real, real nice guy, and I see him in Memphis almost every year at the Blues Music Awards, but he said to me, ‘You really need to record.’ I went, ‘Oh, yeah, I guess I do.’ Get out beyond these little clubs in a regional scene that was tightening up a little more and get back out on the world scene and do it.

“So I started doing that, recorded that and recorded a couple of albums for Powerhouse Records, Tom Principato’s label. I did three for Alligator, one for Blind Pig, one for Telarc, and then since 2006 been doing them on my own. Then I did one working with Rosie Rosenblatt. He used to have the ToneCool label, but we put that one out, and it worked so well that we decided to form the VizzTone label group, and be able to do it for other artists, too, with a whole different business model from regular record label, and we got about 50 releases out, and this new one is the latest one, and I guess I’ve done two more for the label, but that works pretty well for me in the middle of all that.”

One of the most notable advances in Margolin’s work is in his voice. Twenty years ago, he tended to slur his words like an old Delta singer. Today, he articulates so clearly that every word is understandable.

“I don’t think I’m naturally as good a singer as a lot of other people I know. I’ve had to try to unlearn some bad habits and try to learn from listening to people that I really like, but I believe in this one and especially with the help of producer Michael Freeman that I’ve definitely done my best recorded vocal performances on this album.

“I was coached not to over-sing sometimes. On one hand, blues is supposed to have a lot of passion in it, and it should be expressed in the singing. On the other hand, you have to pick and choose your spots because if everything is just yelled or screamed or growled, it gets old real fast even on one song to use a lot of vocal chops as spice rather than the main ingredient. I once produced an artist and tried to tell him in a nice way the way he was singing was too much frosting and not enough cake. He understood.

“(Michael) said to me at the beginning of the recording, ‘If I make a suggestion to you, instead of discussing it, please just try it and see what happens. I think it will take a lot less time, and we can figure out whether it was a good suggestion or not later.’ And I said, ‘That’s a good suggestion, and I’ll do that.’

“I give him the respect to do the job that I hired him to do, and we didn’t always agree on everything, and actually the vocal on “Heaven Mississippi” he really worked me very hard on that line by line and at the end of it I said, ‘Thank you very much. I think we got a good performance. I’m too close to it to judge, but I never want to hear that f**king song again.’

One of Margolin’s originals on the album is “Young and Old Blues” about looking at the age issue in blues from both side of the time line. Margolin is 66. “Fortunately, I’m healthy and I don’t seem to be suffering physically. I’m still learning things on guitar and think I deliver better performances than I ever did. I think I’m an entertainer, a better entertainer than I ever was and seem to be from the response I’m getting, and there’s plenty of people older and younger than me that kick my ass of course, and I sure wouldn’t want to try and kick Buddy Guy’s ass – ever.”

Who else does he look up to in that way?

“Well, I did with Otis Clay that we just lost, but I was pretty close to Nappy Brown. We met in about 1985 or so when I was playing at a roadhouse where I live, and the club owner said, ‘You know, Nappy Brown was just here. Do you mind if I put him with your band sometime?’

“And It began a real friendship and plenty of recordings and a lot of gigs until his death in 2008, and he was somebody who was an entertainer that would do whatever to drive a crowd crazy all the while he was singing as good as humans sing, and he was also an entertainer that would do whatever it took to drive the crowd crazy whether walking out into the audience or rolling around on the ground. He would get their attention.

“He had come from that scene in the 1960s where he had 20 minutes to do a show with Sam Cooker and James Brown and Muddy and lots of other great people and Chuck Berry. And he had to prove himself that way. So he was very inspiring to me and great stories and just what he did on the bandstand gave me a window back into that time that Muddy didn’t have so much. By the time I was with him, he was sitting on a stool and playing every night.

“The first word everybody uses about Muddy was dignity, but Jimmy Rogers told me a lot of stories about when they were playing in the ’50s in Chicago with Little Walter that they used to do all kinds of wild things. Jimmy used to tell me they used to walk through the crowd with Muddy sitting on his shoulders, and both of them playing guitar.”

I reminded Margolin of the stories about Muddy taking a beer bottle and shaking it up and putting it through his pants so it looked like he was ejaculating in the crowd.

“I have heard that story, but there is another story that I heard from Nappy about Muddy and B. B. King. The way B. B. told it is the other people playing on the show were backstage at the Paramount Theatre when they heard the crowd going completely insane, and he looked out to see what Muddy was doing, and apparently he was doing “Mannish Boy” with his dick out.

“Nappy told me the same story except I guess he kind of play acted it or something. He kinda showed what it looked like swaying in the breeze, but Muddy said, ‘I didn’t realize my pants opened up when I was doing that song, and I went, “I’m a man, I’m a man,” and I looked down and saw I’m a man.’

Bob Margolin keeps more than the Muddy Waters legacy alive. His performances and the album My Road almost bring Muddy back. It’s almost as if he weren’t gone. I can’t think of another artist who’s done that any better for a postwar legacy artist. He has done more to continue that feeling, that emotion, that wonder, that joy of Muddy than any other artist I can think of. And he’s done it in his songwriting and his music journalism, too.

“It would be very easy for me to say, ‘Deliberately, don’t put anything on here that will remind anyone of Muddy,’” explains Margoilin. “I felt it would be dishonest to do that. At the same time I wanted to go beyond what I’ve done before singing and playing and songwriting with depth and telling my own stories.

Visit Bob’s website at bobmargolin.com

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2016

Writer 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.


 


 Featured Blues Music Review – 2 of 6 

Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band – Born to Love the Blues

Self-Produced

www.dantreanorband.com

CD: 12 Songs; 52:22 Minutes

Styles: Traditional and Contemporary Electric Blues, Blues Rock

“2013 International Blues Challenge 3rd Place.” So states the back cover of the latest album from Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band, while the front proclaims they were Born to Love the Blues. Indeed so, for as blues promoter and writer Skyy Dobro says, “I’ve played Dan Treanor a lot on the Friends of the Blues Radio Show [now in syndicated reruns].” When artists’ reputations precede them, the result is a double-edged sword. Will they surpass their fans’ high standards once again? Treanor and his posse deliver a musical guarantee. This ensemble achieves what I call the “Blues Trifecta” – vibrant vocals, laudable lyrics, and innovative instrumentation.

The band’s website states: “Born in 1947 and raised in Pueblo, Colorado, Dan Treanor began playing guitar at the age of fifteen. Discovering the blues and R&B through a local radio station, KAPI, he developed a lifelong passion for the root of all popular American music…” His current offering with the Afrosippi Band features two dynamic divas named Erica Brown and Merrian Johnson (known as MJ) on lead vocals. They propel this album through the stratosphere on eight original songs and four covers. The only flaw is on the back cover of the CD itself: tracks 10 and 11 should be switched around. “Mississippi Fred’s Dream” comes first, with a running time of 6:02, and then “Missing”, running time 5:38.

Along with Treanor, as he plays harp, guitar and an African instrument called the khalam, are Michael Hossler on guitar and lap steel guitar, Scott Headley on drums, Jack Erwin on bass guitar, Gary Flori on congas, and Bill Shannon on bass guitar for selections five and nine. As mentioned earlier, Erica Brown and MJ sing their souls out, and then some!

Picking the “best” out of twelve fantastic songs is nearly impossible, but here’s a good shot:

Track 02: “Done Got Old” – People react differently to the passing-by of Father Time. Some get sad; some get mad; others get downright furious. Need proof? Listen to Treanor’s raging harp. Erica Brown ruefully lays it on the line: “When the 10:00 news comes on the TV, I’m sitting on the sofa with my aching knee, ‘cause I done got old. I done got too old. I done got too old to boogie-woogie all night long.”

Track 05: “A Change is Going to Come” – Merrian Johnson takes spectacular vocal lead on this heart-rending Sam Cooke cover. “I was born by a river, in a tenement. My poor mother, she could hardly pay the rent. It’s been a long, long time coming, but I know a change is going to come.” What a perfect song to listen to on MLK, Jr. Day, celebrating his unrealized dream.

Track 11: “Missing” – Mistakenly listed as track ten, this hard-bitten accusation with a serpentine beat (to which one could belly-dance) minces no words: “You said, you said, you said you would come back home. I’m waiting, I’m waiting, I’m waiting. I’m here all alone.” This is MJ’s finest display of her vocal talents, especially on a mid-tempo, grinding stomp that other artists might downplay.

Were they Born to Love the Blues? Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band knows it, and shows it!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 36 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.



 Featured Blues Music Review – 3 of 6 

Deb Callahan – Sweet Soul

Blue Pearl Records – 2015

13 tracks; 57 minutes

www.debcallahanband.com

It has been four years since Deb released “Tell It Like It Is”, the gap being partly explained by her becoming a mother and this album is dedicated to her son Elijah. For her fifth release Deb took her new songs to California to record with producer Tony Braunagel at Johnny Lee Schell’s Ultratone Studios. As with most projects in which Phantom Blues Band members play a significant role this is a good album: Tony plays drums with Reggie McBride on bass, fellow Phantom Mike Finnegan on keys and Deb’s regular guitarist Allen James on all tracks, Johnny Lee Schell adding slide to one track; harp is added by Jimmy Powers and an array of backing singers help out: Teresa James, Leslie Smith, Lydia Hillard, Mike Finnegan and Johnny Lee Schell.

Deb brought eight songs to the sessions, mostly written with Allen or Chris Arms who produced her earlier albums. The five covers were suggested by Tony Braunagel to fit the upbeat mood of the record and come from Candi Staton, Doctor John, Tom Waits, Sonny Boy Williamson and David Egan – quite a diverse set.

The album opens with four originals, starting with the funky “Big Love”, Deb singing of her feelings towards her “new love and it feels just right”. The crisp and funky rhythm section is brilliantly supported by Mike’s organ work and Allen steps out to nail the solo on guitar. Juggling motherhood with everything else in a busy life takes careful planning and Deb seems to have managed that well, to judge by “I Keep Things Running”: “If you want something done, I’m the girl to go to. I’m in the know, I run the show, I carry the weight, never hesitate”. However, there are some aspects of modern relationships that don’t seem to work for Deb as she states in “Shackin’ Up”. A rocking tune with Johnny Lee Schell’s slide and Mike on both piano and organ underpins Deb’s account of several romances in which she concludes that “shackin’ up ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, feels so good until you get fed up”, concluding that greater stability and longer term commitment may bring more honesty and stability to the relationship.

Dropping the pace, “I Am Family” is a superb song with some moving lyrics: “Out in California again, don’t have a dime and you don’t have a friend. Somebody somewhere did you wrong, how many times have I heard that song. I tried to help you for all those years, been a lot of anger and a whole lot of tears; been here before, this crash and burn is feeling real old.” Mike’s piano work here is terrific and supports Deb’s emotional vocal really well, the backing vocalists also doing a great job on the choruses.

Deb is just as happy singing soul as the funkier blues and rock elements of the first few tracks and the first cover is “Sweet Feeling” (Candi Staton/Clarence Carter/Marcus Daniel/Rick Hall) and it works just fine before the gospel-toned “Born To Love You” finds Deb confessing her love for someone – perhaps her son Elijah? “Seven States Away” is a shuffle that recounts a tour down south and Deb really missing her family, counting down the states until she gets home.

Tom Waits’ “Way Down In The Hole” adds some menace to the set with Jimmy Powers’ harp combined with Mike’s organ work providing an almost horn-like accompaniment while the original “Step Back” is a slow, moody piece with some gospel parts and finds Mike on echoey electric piano and moody organ with Deb producing a particularly fine vocal. David Egan has written songs that have been recorded by artists such as Tab Benoit, Marcia Ball and Etta James and his and Buddy Flett’s “You Don’t Know Your Mind” fits perfectly into the groove and style of this album in a relentlessly funky version. “Crazy ‘Bout You Baby” is a Sonny Boy Williamson song but has been sung by Tina Turner (in her days with Ike) and more recently by Gina Sicilia. Deb’s take on the song is quite fast, almost rockabilly, with more fine piano and guitar work. Deb’s final original is “Slow As Molasses, Sweet As Honey”, a slow blues with an excellent, sultry vocal and a well-poised solo from Allen and more stellar keyboard work from Mr Finnegan. The album closes with Allen working the wah-wah pedal hard on a swampy take on Dr John’s “I Been Hoodoed”.

Deb continues to progress both as a singer and songwriter and this latest album 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.



 Featured Blues Music Review – 4 of 6 

Robert Hill – Have Slide Will Travel

Wild Animal Ditch Music (ASCAP)

www.roberthillband.com

CD: 14 Songs; 47:05 Minutes

Styles: Electric Slide Instrumental Blues, Ensemble Blues

What distinguishes the illustrious Guitaris slidis from other members of its instrumental genus? Why is it considered a “whole different animal” from its electric and acoustic kindred? For starters, it sounds different.. The defining factor in many other guitar solos is, “How fast can one play?” Slide solos prompt listeners to ask, “How skillfully can one make strings sing?” New York blues veteran Robert Hill answers the latter question with rowdy barroom flair on his new album, Have Slide Will Travel.

Hill, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, has been performing in and around the Big Apple for over twenty-five years. His songs have been used extensively in TV shows and commercials, such as ads for Smirnoff Ice, All My Children, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Dexter, and the Canadian reality show Hell on Hooves. Robert has also shared the stage with artists such as Rory Block, Debbie Davies, and numerous others. To cap everything off, he was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame in 2014 – a high honor.

He certainly deserves it. Over the course of fourteen original tracks, Hill takes blues fans on a musical journey through a rugged landscape of feelings – joy, sadness, lust, irritation, and laughter in “The Good, the Bad, and the Unattractive” (reviewed below). The success of any instrumental album depends on how well it conveys – and elicits – emotion without words. Fortunately, Robert has a ton to say. His preferred medium is slide guitar rather than vocal speech, but communication is communication.

Alongside the multitalented Hill (guitars, bass, keyboards, mandolin and harp) are drummers Eric Puente, Jerry Krenach, and Frank Pagano; percussionists Puente and Steve Jordan; bassists Mark Murphy and Doug O’Conner; Derrik Jordan on violin, and Art Labriola on accordion.

The following three songs showcase the best of an already-great CD:

Track 02: “Big Daddy Stomp” – Look out, ladies and gentlemen: this song is larger than life, even though it runs two minutes and twenty-six seconds. It’s a man-cave melody, a beer-and-potato chips tune. Will it put crowds in the mood for being footloose, fighting or feeling romantic? Robert’s wicked intro and nuanced solo might induce all three states at once. Yow!

Track 05: “Bubba’s Boogie” – Fabulous number five is why yours truly listed “Ensemble Blues” in the “Styles” category. Robert Hill, Bob Hoffnar, Jerry Krenach, and Mark Murphy go all out on this 1950’s-esque number, which should be slated for an entry on jukeboxes and radio stations nationwide. It’s long enough for couples and singles alike to get their rears in gear and on the dance floor, but short enough not to get tedious. Hoffnar’s pedal steel is especially bright.

Track 09: “My Babe” – Take a trip down to the New Orleans bayou with this zesty, zippy musical appetizer. Art Labriola nails the art of Zydeco accordion, as does Hill of mandolin and harp. It’s like a single spoonful of gumbo: blazing hot and spicy.

Without a doubt, Robert Hill’s slide guitar is an untamable BEAST!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 36 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.



 Featured Blues Music Review – 5 of 6 

Bees Deluxe – A Can Of Bees

www.beesdeluxe.com

Self-release

7 songs – 26 minutes

Boston-based Bees Deluxe play what they describe as “acid-blues” and they may be right. From the evidence of A Can Of Bees, it certainly isn’t traditional blues and it isn’t easy to categorise it within any other genre either. What can be said about it, however, is that it is modern music with a big chunk of blues at its core, which is played with energy and no little virtuosity. It is also challenging, different and highly entertaining.

The album is not long – clocking in at only 26 minutes – but the band pack a lot of music into seven short songs. Four of the tracks are instrumentals, allowing the band, which comprises Conrad Warre on guitar and vocals, Carol Band on keyboards, Allyn Dorr on bass and drummer Patrick Sanders to demonstrate their not insignificant chops. Warre himself wrote four tracks, and the band also covers “Mercy Mercy Mercy”, Tinsley Ellis’ “A Quitter Never Wins” and Etta James’ “Damn Your Eyes”.

Along with the blues, a multitude of other influences are on display in A Can Of Bees. Cannonball Adderly’s “Mercy Mercy Mercy” starts with a melodic, cleanly-picked guitar part that could have been taken straight from a 1960s Stax recording session. “Zoe’s Chromatic Blues” is an upbeat jazz-rock workout, with more emphasis on the chromatic than on the blues (and great Hammond B3 playing from guest Bruce Mattson). “Letter From Jail” is a mid-paced rocker that hints at Eric Clapton’s mid-80s output with its compressed drum sound and heavily chorused guitar (although it is a significantly better song than most of Slowhand’s turgid work from that period). “Roll Over Stockhausen” (brilliant title, by the way) really has little to do with either Chuck Berry or the late, modern German composer but is another fast-paced jazz-rock track, which sounds like what might happen if Freddie King took a lot of acid then wrote a song with Pat Metheny and asked a strung-out Stevie Ray Vaughan to take a solo. Dorr also takes a fine bass solo on this track. The slower “Damn Your Eyes” is played as a blues-rock song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dire Straits album, albeit with a Hendrixian wah-wah guitar solo. By contrast, “I’m A Corpse Part 2” is reminiscent of Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow/Wired period, complete with a madly overdriven slide guitar melody that floats in and out of the broader melody.

Warre’s songs are well-constructed, with vocal melodies that often take unexpected twists, aided and abetted by some intriguing lyrics. In “Letter From Jail”, he dryly notes that “This is a letter from jail. And I send it to you. And every letter begins with “Each day is the same”.”

Demonstrating a both a wry sense of humour and a novel understanding of the laws of copyright, the CD cover contains a warning that unauthorized copying “will result in being punished by our sticking burnt matchsticks in your banana.” This irreverent, no holds barred approach is extended to the music on A Can Of Bees. You are strongly advised against unauthorised copying of the album. If your tastes extend towards the acid-rock end of the modern blues and jazz spectrum, however, you will find a lot to enjoy in this release.

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



 Featured Blues Music Review – 6 of 6 

Little Boys Blue – Bad Love

Jaxon Records

www.littleboysblue.bandzoogle.com

11 tracks; 48 minutes

Little Boys Blue was founded over 20 years ago by Tennessee natives JD Taylor (lead vocals and harp) and Steve Patterson (slide guitar). They have released two previous albums and competed in the IBC’s, placing third in the solo/duo category in 1997. This new release is a full band effort with JD and Steve joined by JD’s son Alex on guitar, Dave Thomas on keys, Dave Mallard on bass and Mark Brooks on drums. Justin Dudley adds some extra keyboards and a horn section of Ralph Thomas and Chuck McGill (sax) and David Kyles (trumpet) appears on three tracks. Backing vocals on one cut come from Dave Mallard, Lindsay Patterson, Kimberlie Helton and Josh Smith. There are nine originals across a range of styles written by JD and Alex plus two covers.

The album opens with the title track, a mid-paced rolling blues with everyone getting a chance to shine: JD’s gravelly vocal and harp are excellent, Alex plays a sinuous solo and Dave’s organ provides a lovely warm blanket throughout. JD is ‘under the influence’ of a woman who has “powerful stuff – but we got some bad love”, so all is not well. “She Put Me Down” might be a lyrical follow-up but stylistically is a fast shuffle with more good harp work from JD and a solo feature for Dave’s Hammond.

The style shifts again as the horns feature on the soulful “Treat Me Like You Used To Do” which transports us straight to Memphis, the rhythm section demonstrating a real feel for this type of soul music. JD’s voice adapts very well to the demands of this type of music and his harp is the featured solo instrument (unusual for a soul tune); the backing vocalists also provide added depth to this outstanding track. In a slinky arrangement, the cover of Son House’s “Death Letter Blues” is also superb with Steve’s expressive slide making this sound like a long-lost Allmans tune. Another change of pace and style finds Steve again playing some lovely slide on the gentle, country-tinged “Forget These Blues”. The slide work again recalls the Allmans (think “Blue Sky”) and the harp interludes work really well as the band plays over an acoustic rhythm guitar part – another excellent track. JD’s throaty vocal equally suits “Howling At Your Door” which has some tough slide and harp work.

Another shift in style finds the band hitting a Louisiana groove on the appropriately titled “Cajun Girl”, a really catchy piece with Dave T on piano. The shortest tune here is “You And I”, a shame as the horns are back on another lovely soul tune! JD sings it well and the blend of insistent, ringing rhythm guitar and slide embellishments works excellently as a sax takes the solo honors. JD’s harp opens “Go Back Home” before the band joins in on a slow blues on which the horns reinforce the choruses as Steve stretches out in his extended solo before JD adds his solo contribution and the horns return to close out the tune.

“Ain’t No Use In Crying” rolls along well as JD again starts things off well supported by Dave’s organ work. You can tell that JD and Steve have played for many years together throughout this album but probably nowhere better than the closing run-through of Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Be Satisfied” which is a simple arrangement of the classic blues with the rhythm section setting the pace as Steve plays slide and harp and JD provides a very convincing vocal for the song.

Overall this is a very enjoyable album with a wide variety of material ranging from country and urban blues to soul with a taste of Louisiana and classic Allman Brothers thrown in along the way. The two covers sit well among the original material and the band can feel proud of what they have laid down here. The band has recorded a follow-up album which should be released in 2016 but meanwhile this one is recommended listening!

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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Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society has announced a Blues Movie Night on Thursday, February 18, 2016, from 5:00–8:00 p.m. at the River Music Experience, RME Hall, 129 N. Main Street, Davenport, IA. The all-age show admission is $20.00, which includes admission to the 90-minute film, one complimentary drink, and heavy hors d´oeuvres.

The movie Cheat You Fair: The Story of Maxwell Street is a documentary produced, written, and directed by Philo Ranstrom. The 2006 film details the history of Chicago’s Maxwell Street community, including the partnerships between blacks and Jews on Maxwell Street and how they influenced modern music.

Funds raised from the movie night will be used to further the Mississippi Valley Blues Society’s mission of “keeping the blues alive” in the Quad City area. After funding shortfalls forced MVBS to cancel their annual Blues Festival in 2015, events such as Blues Movie Night will increase the possibility of Blues Festival in 2016.

Also The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents blues harp player/vocalist Chris O’Leary and his seven-piece band on Sunday, February 14, at Harley Corin’s, 1708 State Street, Bettendorf, IA (formerly Muddy Waters). The evening of blues will start at 5:00 p.m. The cost to see this performance will be $10 if you are a Mississippi Valley Blues Society member, or $12 if you are have not joined the Blues Society (applications will be available at the door). www.mvbs.org

The Lowcountry Blues Society – Charleston, SC

The Lowcountry Blues Society is pleased to announce the 12th annual Blues By the Sea featuring MIssissippi Heat Mac Arnold & Plate Full of Blues and Randy McAllister, Sunday, April 10, 230-7 pm at Freshfields Village Green, Kiawah Island, SC. (40 mins SE of Charleston)

The event is FREE and is brought to you by the Kiawah Island Cultural Events Fund. Rain or shine (we are tented) Bring a lawn chair or blanket, coolers OK! A great time for the entire family! http://lowcountrybluesclub.blogspot.com

Blues Society of Central PA – Harrisburg, PA

The Blues Society of Central PA proudly presents the Mississippi Delta Blues of 83 year old Leo “Bud” Welch with Dixie Street on Saturday, March 5th 8:00 PM EST at Champions Sports Bar 300 2nd Street Highspire, PA 17034 Admission $10.00

Also, the Blues Society of Central PA welcomes Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone Star Revue featuring Mark Hummel, Anson Funderburgh, Little Charley Baty with Wes Starr and R.W. Grigsby on Sunday, April 17th 8:00 PM EST at Champions Sports Bar 300 2nd Street Highspire, PA 17034 Admission $15.00.

The Blues Society of Central PA hosts an open blues jam every Thursday evening for 17 years running at Champions Sports Bar, 300 2nd St. Highspire, PA 17034 8:00 PM EST FREE Please drop by and join us if you’re in the central PA area! www.bscpblues.org

The Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau, WI

The Great Northern Blues Society presents the 17th Annual Blues Café on Saturday 3/12/16 in the beautiful Historically Registered Rothschild Pavilion near Wausau, WI. Five Great Bands, plus an acoustic act to perform near the large stone fireplace between main-stage acts.

Acts include Aaron Williams & the HooDoo, Left Lane Cruiser, Ray Fuller & the Blues Rockers, The Lionel Young Band and Albert Cummings as the headliner.

Dan Phelps will be entertaining acoustically during changeovers. Cold Beverages of your choice, and multiple food vendors on site all day.

Come shake your tail-feathers, warm your cockles by the fireplace, and kickoff Spring 2016 at our 17th Annual Houserockin’ Blues Party! $15 in advance, and $20 at the door. Children under 12 free if accompanied by an adult parent, or guardian. See www.gnbs.org for details. (Tickets will be available for purchase on the website after the first of the year.)

Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, IL

Crossroads has lots of great blues events planned for 2016!

The Hope and Anchor English Pub in Loves Park, IL features shows on the second Saturday of each month from 8 pm to midnight. March 12th – Tweed Funk, April 9th – Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, May 14th – The Jimmys

Blues in the Schools is also scheduled for February, Dan Phelps will be doing a two week in school BITS residency with East HS teaching song writing and guitar.

Friday Night Blues at the Lyran Club in Rockford continues mostly on the third Friday of the month with a few other special dates to boot. Currently booked are: February 19th – Ron Holm’s Roy Orbison Tribute, March 18th – Smilin’ Bobby, April 15th – Breezy Rodeo, May 20th – Dave Fields. Shows are free from 7 to 10 PM.

Stay tuned for more upcoming events! 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. February 15 – Chris O’Leary Band, February 22 – Dave Lumsden Factor. www.icbluesclub.org

Additional ICBC and ICBC partnered shows: Feb. 18 James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm w/ guest host Mary Jo Curry, March 26 ICBC 30th Birthday Celebration @ Knights of Columbus on Meadowbrook – Shawn Holt, headlining, w/opening act Robert Sampson.


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

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