Issue 11-38 September 21, 2017

Cover photo © 2017 Bob Kieser


 In This Issue 

Bill Dahl has our feature interview with Carl Weathersby. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Polly O’Keary And The Rhythm Method, Chris ‘Bad News’ Barnes, Jimmy Carpenter, Bruce Mississippi Johnson, Dutch’s Basement Blues Band, Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers, Martin Goyette and Tucci.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

polly o'keary cd imagePolly O’Keary And The Rhythm Method – Black Crow Callin’

www.pollyokeary.com

self release

10 songs time-47:07

Washington State’s singer-bass player Polly O’Keary’s blues-rock power trio is a force to be reckoned with. Her sassy and powerful pipes drive this band to the top of the blues-rock peak. Her rock steady bass playing along with the energetic guitar skills of David Miller and the energetic drums of Tommy Cook make for a band to watch. Various guest artists drop by supplying horns, backing vocals, keyboards and harmonica. The band switches gears occasionally to slow down and vary the pace of the proceedings.

Eric Robert creates a Jerry Lee Lewis vibe with his hard driving piano on “Hard Hearted World”, a commentary on the sad situation of the world today. Polly’s forceful vocal along with David’s guitar push this track along. Polly’s voice once again reins supreme on the slow and strong “A Man Who Can Stand”. Polly bemoans rushing through traffic to go see her man in “Red Light”. Great blues rock-guitar and Norm Bellas’ Hammond B3 organ add to the urgency.

The title track is a slow burner featuring a dramatic guitar solo and some bluesy harmonica from Jim McLaughlin. The Powerhouse Horns(Rich Cole and Pete Kirkman) punch up the groove on the funky “Yours To Lose” along with some nicely distorted guitar playing. Things get slowed down again on “One Life”. The guitar tone on this one is a thing of beauty. It features a brief reggae section about mid way through.

“Reconciled” refers to judgment day. Hammond B3 fleshes out the sound under Polly’s very powerful vocal delivery. She provides a particularly strong bass line on “I Don’t Understand”. Another tight bass line appears on “Plan B”, another horn driven funk fest. Great guitar here as usual here. The slow and deliberate “I Am The One” wraps things up on a forceful note.

If you are looking for a tight and rockin’ power trio, you’ve come to the right place. Well crafted songs and tight ensemble playing, it’s all here. You get rip-roaring guitar dynamics, sturdy drumming and a strong bass foundation to hold it all together. All the songs are written by the threesome. Do your stereo a favor, pick this puppy up and blow the dust outta your speakers.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

chris barnes cd imageChris ‘Bad News’ Barnes – Hokum Blues

Vizztone Label Group – 2017

14 tracks; 52 minutes

www.ChrisBarnesNYC.com

Chris Barnes has appeared on many TV shows in the States, including Saturday Night Live and Seinfeld, where his stock-in-trade is taking a humorous look at life using the blues as the musical medium. This album is therefore perfect for him as he tackles a series of songs associated with the Hokum style of the 20’s and 30’s. Chris puts his distinctive style to songs about booze, gambling and loose women and you can almost hear Chris winking as he sings the lines. Of course, merely taking a few old songs would be OK but here Chris has the benefit of a first-class band, many of whom play in regular TV slots: Jimmy Vivino is on guitar, Will Lee on bass, Shawn Pelton on drums, Bette Sussman on piano and Steve Guyger on harmonica. Horns are added to some tracks by Steve Bernstein (trumpet), Charlie Pillow (sax and clarinet) and Clark Gayton (trombone). Will produced the album which was recorded in 48 hours with everyone in the same studio. The songs are all drawn from the repertoire of the Hokum Boys, Tampa Red, Big Bill Broonzy and Georgia Tom, the CD package giving details of where the originals can be found.

We open with two well-known songs: “It Hurts Me Too” is stripped back with Jimmy’s slide and Steve’s harp while “Let Me Play With Your Poodle” has the horns added and Chris’ vocal really brings out the double entendre nature of the song. “I’m Gonna Get High” has Jimmy playing what sounds like banjo and Bette playing a storm on the piano and Chris updates the lyrics a little to include a reference to ‘tweets’ and exclaims ‘Don’t blame me, I voted for her’. “It’s Tight Like That” sounds very modern with slide and harp on another risqué song but the less familiar “I Had To Give Up Gym” is very twenties with the muted trombone giving a wah-wah sound behind Jimmy’s plucked banjo. The tune of “Things About Coming My Way” sounds very similar to “It Hurts Me Too” and is one of the few songs here that takes a serious look at life, Chris sounding appropriately relieved that the tide seems to have turned for him. Back to the funny stuff with “You Can’t Get Enough Of That Stuff” which takes us right back to the days of Prohibition, understandably poking fun at the law which many flouted anyway, hence the title.

The second half of the album has fewer familiar songs but just as strong a performance level. Instrumental highlights include Steve’s harp lead on “Hokum Blues” and Jimmy’s down-home slide on “Somebody’s Been Using That Thing” which has a relaxed feel with a full band and more amusing lyrics. “Keep Your Mind On It” has a latin feel with great drum work from Shawn and Spanish guitar from Jimmy while “Let Me Pat That Thing” features the clarinet and piano on a series of dubious tales. The uptempo “Caught Him Doing It” finds people continually getting caught in compromising situations, Jimmy taking a very rock and roll solo though the sleevenotes identify the song as dating from 1939. “Gin Mill Blues” returns to the booze theme and the album closes with Tampa Red’s “Christmas & New Year Blues”.

The band does a terrific job in recreating this old-time music and Chris gives the lyrics a ‘nod and a wink’ approach as well as adding a few sly references to contemporary issues. Overall a fun listen.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

jimmy carpenter cd imageJimmy Carpenter – Plays The Blues

Vizztone Label Group – 2017

10 tracks; 40 minutes

www.jimmycarpenter.net

Jimmy Carpenter spent many years playing sax with Tinsley Ellis, Jimmy Thackery, Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington and Mike Zito before he started making records under his own name. His 2014 album Walk Away was excellent and this follow-up is also very good, albeit that Jimmy is mainly covering the music he knows and loves: blues, soul and Rn’B, with just two originals this time around. Recorded in his adopted city of New Orleans Jimmy was able to use an excellent band, the late Marc Adams on keys, Matthew Johnson on drums, Bob Bridges on bass and producer and Jimmy’s former bandleader in The Wheel, Mike Zito, is on guitar, Jimmy handling all the sax work and sharing vocals with Mike. Guests include another former Wheel member Lewis Stephens on keys, Dave Keyes on piano and a slew of guitar slingers who get a track each: Anders Osborne, Tinsley Ellis, Jonn Del Toro Richardson and Tony D (MonkeyJunk).

Magic Sam’s “You Belong To Me” works really well with Jimmy demonstrating solid vocals as well as great sax work, Tony D playing sympathetically off Jimmy’s sax. If you are going to record a blues album you should always include a Willie Dixon tune and “Too Late” barrels along in fine style with Dave Keyes’ piano to the fore and Jimmy taking a great solo. “Jimmy Plays The Blues” is an original instrumental that does what the title suggests as Jimmy really cooks on the sax with subtle organ and guitar support from Marc and Mike respectively. In total contrast Jimmy’s other original is “Kid In My Head”, a wonderful two and a half minutes with Lewis’ pumping piano and Mike’s rock and roll guitar as Jimmy states what many of us feel – that in our heads we are still kids, it’s just the body that ain’t! A warm take on Little Walter’s “Blues With A Feeling” has some great piano from Marc and Jonn’s understated guitar work, Jimmy singing the familiar lyrics particularly well and giving us another storming sax break.

Three instrumentals follow. First we get one of Sonny Thompson and Freddie King’s less well-known tunes, “Surf Monkey” on which Tinsley Ellis and Jimmy duel brilliantly before a fine reading of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” reminds us of just what a beautiful melody lies beneath the familiar lyrics, Jimmy ‘voicing’ the song on sax and Anders Osborne playing some gentle chords behind him – an outstanding version of a classic song. King Curtis’ “Preach” has a gospel feel in the opening solo sax section before the band joins in and the tune develops into a soulful strut. Mike Zito sings Otis Rush’s “All Your Love” very well, reproducing that familiar riff on guitar, Jimmy plays a sort of call and response with his sax and the ending is great, just listen to the way the band urges each other forward to the conclusion. The last song is another nod to sax players in the soul arena with Junior Walker’s “Shotgun” to close a great album that really showcases Jimmy’s playing. Recommended!

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 Review – 4 of 8 

bruce mississippi johnson cd imageBruce Mississippi Johnson – The Deal Baby

www.brucemississippijohnson.com

self release

12 songs time-43:41

Mississippi native transplanted to Europe, Bruce Mississippi Johnson delivers a CD steeped in R&B, soul and funk. His singing is fine. Their are no musician credits, so no idea who is playing what. There is a lot of electric piano, keyboards, horns and rhythm guitars. Some of the lyrics refer to the blues, but there is no blues music here per se.

The first track “Let It Rain(Intro)” is spoken word over electric piano, acoustic guitar, drums, bass and organ. “The blues is love, love is blues”, but the music sure isn’t. The funky soul-R&B “That’s The Deal Baby” is next and pretty much fore shadows the rest of the CD. “I Can’t Shake The Blues” or sing them. Sex play and sex toys is the subject matter of “Freak On Or Die”. “I’ll Bleed” stands out for it’s forceful energy. “See You Tomorrow” is a classic R&B slow burner.

The funky and rhythmic music here is well produced and played with crystal clarity and it would serve best as party dance music. You can’t fault Bruce because he hasn’t pedaled this disc as a blues recording although blues is mentioned occasionally. He possesses a strong, warm and powerful set of pipes. Lovers of old school soul will find much to like here. As for me this type of slick, funky soul has no appeal. Nothing new or that original is presented. There aren’t any real solos of any type here, mostly just rhythm. A few slower songs are included to vary the mood. Heck, it’s only my opinion, some people may find this is just what they are looking for.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

dutch's basement blues band cd imageDutch’s Basement Blues Band – In the Basement

Self-Produced

www.facebook.com/DutchmansBand

CD: 11 Songs, 51:28 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, All Original Songs, Debut Album

Question, blues fans: Are you also fans of Louis Armstrong’s vocal style? Don’t dismiss this. Your answer is the fulcrum upon which your opinion of Pennsylvania’s Dutch’s Basement Blues Band, and their album In the Basement, will balance. Was that last sentence too long? Yes. Is it true? Also yes. No doubt about it, Mr. Armstrong was THE jazz musician of the 20th century, the one everybody remembers if the names of Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie don’t ring a bell. His unique singing skills are worth imitating, but can also be grating. In the Basement might have been better if lead vocalist Daniel ‘Dutchman’ Diefenderfer had let a female guest star take a turn at the mic for a couple of songs. As is, it’s “Louis Louis” all the way. On the plus side, the Dutchman plays great harmonica, and his sense of humor is the absolute best Ms. Wetnight has seen in all the CD’s she’s reviewed this year. This one’s worth having in your blues collection, just for that. Keep your mind sharp so you can pay close attention to his lyrics.

The group’s rather sparse promo info sheet states: “The first thing that hits you when you listen to this band is the Dutchman’s voice.” (No kidding: I wrote the above paragraph before reading this.) “Any description would have to include the word ‘gravel.’ He also plays harmonica, but the next thing that will jump out at you is the lead guitar work. Locals are still perplexed as to why a blues performer putting together a blues band would turn to an international punk rocker, famous for lighting guitars on fire, to work with…The result is a symbiotic team that is both energetic and entertaining…They wrote all the material for their first CD release, which includes an impressive eleven original songs.”

Performing along with the Dutchman on lead vocals and harp are Matt Roman on electric guitar, Pat Allen on drums, and Adam Roberts on bass.

The number below is not only the best one on this quartet’s first release, but also the funniest.

Track 06: “My Shoe’s Untied” – “Hey! My shoe’s untied! (“Hey! Your shoe’s untied!”) This call-and-response had me busting up laughing as soon as they blurted out of my computer’s CD/DVD player. Another good one is, “Eh, my shirt’s undone!” (“Dude! You look like a slob!”) Our narrator’s point? His life is just as messy as his appearance. We’ve all had one of those days, months, years, or even decades. What’s to console us in the midst of them? The blues, of course. This slow burner showcases Matt Roman’s terrific lead guitar and the Dutchman’s harmonica to greatest effect.

Love Louis Armstrong? Give Allentown’s Dutch’s Basement Blues Band and their debut the old college try. Down In the Basement, there’s lots of down-and-dirty fun and laughter to be had!

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 – 6 of 8 

Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers – The EastWest Sessions

www.mindiabair.com

Pretty Good For A Girl Records

11 songs – 48 minutes

It is 2017. Women are the elected leaders of 17 countries around the world, including Germany, the UK, Norway and Switzerland. A female candidate came very close to becoming President of the USA last year. Women lead international corporations, global law firms and world-leading Universities. We even have a female Doctor Who. Yet the gender pay gap continues to widen. And women in the arts continue to be treated like second class citizens. It is nearly 300 years since Samuel Johnson’s famous line about women: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” In 2017, do we still have to listen to the same old sexist bull that tells us that Laura Chavez is a great “female guitarist”; or be enticed to see live blues music on the basis that there are girls with guitars? Haven’t we learned anything from the lessons laid down by Sister Rosetta Tharpe or Big Mama Thornton?

Apparently not, because here we are in 2017 and a talent as shining as Mindi Abair is still so frustrated with the system that she named her production company Pretty Good For A Girl Records and included a song with that name on her new, utterly essential album, The EastWest Sessions.

Singer/saxophonist Abair released eight solo albums before teaming up with The Boneshakers in 2015 to record and release Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers LIVE in Seattle. Named after the Hollywood recording studio where the tracks were recorded, The EastWest Sessions is the band’s second album and features 11 blistering R’n’B-rock-blues-soul tracks, nine of which were written by Abair and the band.

From the funky opener, “Vinyl” to the closing acoustic country-pop joy of “I Love To Play The Saxophone”, there isn’t a duff track on this album. The anthemic rock of “Play To Win” and “Had To Learn The Hard Way” feature choruses that lodges in your brain and just won’t let go. The slow blues grind of the title track contains top class dueling between Abair and guest guitarist, Joe Bonamassa. Former Was Not Was and Bonnie Raitt singer, Sweet Pea Atkinson, provides ageless lead vocals to the old Sly Stone soul ballad, “Let Me Hear It From You” and takes the song to a different place. “I’m Not That Kind Of Girl” and “Freedom” are riotous instrumentals while “Live My Life” alternates instrumental verses with funky vocal choruses. Fantastic Negrito guests on his own dark and brooding “She Don’t Cry No More”.

Abair is a fine singer and an outstanding sax player, and she is backed by a band of rare power and finesse. Featuring Randy Jacobs on guitar, Rodney Lee on keyboards, Derek Frank on bass and Third Richardson on drums, the Boneshakers suit their name well. Equally happy playing funk, soul, blues or rock, they display an uncommon level of dynamism and energy.

If you like joyous, upbeat blues-rock, with large chunks of old-fashioned soul and funk, all played with technical prowess and emotional power, you’ll love The EastWest Sessions. It’s an uplifting album that will bring a smile to your face and a tap to your toe.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

martin gpyette cd imageMartin Goyette – (MG’s) Big Beets

Ad Litteram, SODEC Quebec

www.martingoyette.com

CD: 10 Songs, 49:39 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues, Soul and Jazz, Harmonica Blues, All Original Songs

You know who popped into my head yesterday, for no obvious reason? Ray Charles, specifically singing “What a Wonderful World.” Keep that image in your mind, Constant Readers – or, in this case, your ears – as you take a taste of Martin Goyette’s Big Beets. Although he’s from Quebec, my ears could definitely hear Charles’ gravelly influence and good-natured humor. You know how one of the most common French phrases that English speakers know is laissez le bon temps rouler? Goyette sure knows how to let the good times roll, whether in English or his native tongue. The nine original tracks on his tangy album with a punny title are mostly about having fun, whether on a “Night Out” or “As Long as We’re In Town”. For those of you who crave harmonica blues as much as pizza and nacho chips, this album will suit your tastebuds. One big plus: For an artist who has only released two albums, to nail the second one as well as Martin does is a near-impossible feat. We blues fans expect him to ascend higher, and soon.

“Born in St. Henri,” reads his promotional biography, “Goyette started listening to Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, which inspired him to start playing the harmonica at 18 years old. In 1997, he shook the Quebec blues scene with his group, the Dirty Blues Band, and in 2002 he won Le Prix de la Relève at Festiblues International de Montréal, leading the formation Riverside Blues. Then he toured France as an opening act for another Quebec blues artist, the legendary Bob Walsh…Martin Goyette is also known throughout Quebec as a participant on the TV show La Voix (The Voice).”

Performing along with harpist and lead vocalist Goyette are Jarrod Atkinson on bass; Chris Tauchner on keyboards; Jim Bland on guitar; Louis-Etienne Drouin on drums, and Mary-Pier Guilbeault on background vocals.

The following three songs are guaranteed to liven up any party, whether they’re in French or English.

Track 01: “St. John Morning Blues” – Jim Bland’s electric guitar intro is to die for, calling images of back alleys on rainy nights to mind. The song’s a ballad about being down and out, only having “thirty-seven dollars” and having “women on my mind.” Some people accuse the blues of being depressing, and listening to this album’s opener, they’re only half-right. Things may not be going swimmingly for our narrator, but he’s not about to give up by a long shot. Having “one of those days?” Goyette and his posse are, too, and they’re right beside you.

Track 03: “Mirza” – Full disclosure: The only parts of this song I could understand were its title and “La-la-la-la-la-la.” Never fear! Get out of your seat and on your feet, because this is one of Martin’s biggest “Beets”! It has a funky 1970’s vibe, courtesy of Jarrod Atkinson’s bass beat and Chris Tauchner’s keyboards. The tempo is a nice, swinging medium, neither too fast nor too slow for those who want to dance. Even if it’s not Mardi Gras, give “Mirza” a top-volume try.

Track 06: “Bottle of Champagne” – What goes well with the adult beverage in the title? “A seafood platter,” according to our Quebecois (say this instead of “Quebeckian”) hero. Mary-Pier Guilbeault performs sassy background vocals on this ode to relaxation. It’s another danceable number, but in the case of a certain blues reviewer, it made her hungry instead of hyper…

Martin Goyette and his Big Beets sure are tasty!

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 – 8 of 8 

tucci cd imageTucci – Olivia

Hideaway Music

www.tucciband.net

CD: 11 Songs, 61:01 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Horn Blues, All Original Songs

Ms. Rainey Wetnight would like to propose a bargain with the Universe. For every destructive, senseless disaster like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, there has to be at least one work of art – especially musical – released to lift our spirits twice as much as they were lowered during said natural disaster. It’s a perfect time to pay tribute to a band that encapsulates all that is Florida: Tucci, from Sarasota, and their latest album Olivia. Its cover art features a bright orange hibiscus, and their brand of blues rock is just as colorful. Granted, they lean far to the “rock” side of this subgenre, but their endless-summer energy suits it just fine. Ever seen one of those multi-hued shirts male tourists wear with straw hats in the heat of those months (or in the movies)? Olivia’s eleven original tracks are like that: flashy, exploding with color, sensory overloads. Pro tip: When you’re an ensemble band, it’s a good idea to balance the instrumentation on a more-than-occasional basis. That way listeners can admire particular chords, refrains and solos. (I may not be a musician myself, but I have two close friends who make the best sound-crew duo ever.) Regardless, Tucci encapsulates what makes Florida great: sunshine, high energy, and good times.

According to publicist Marc Pucci Media, “The Sarasota-based Tucci band has been a mainstay of the Florida festival and club circuit over the years, developing a solid fan base…Steve Tucci summed up the band’s direction thusly, ‘I believe a quote from [the late, great] Dan Toler is appropriate: ‘It is the duty of the dedicated musician to educate the listeners as to what high- quality music is. This task should not be the role of the music business industry, which is more financially-oriented as opposed to creatively-oriented’.”

The core band consists of Steve Tucci on guitar and vocals; Michael Tucci on drums; Shawn Murphy (male) on vocals and sax, and Harry DeBusk on bass and vocals. Special guests include Larry McCray on guitar and vocals; guitarist Dan Toler; Donnie Richards on Hammond B3 organ; Ira Stanley on slide guitar; Dan Ryan on keyboards; Al Owen on vocals, and Bob Dielman on guitar.

The following three songs showcase the brightness of this posse and the Sunshine State as well.

Track 02: “Olivia” – Featuring horns to die for, combined with Ira Stanley’s sassy slide guitar, it’ll make crowds in person or at home get up and dance. The verses are poetic and evocative, but the chorus boils them down to their love-struck essence. “My heart – your smile – Olivia! My soul – your grace – Olivia!” Her name is a cry of triumph, the moniker of a goddess instead of a mere mortal woman. May we be so lucky to find one like her in our own lives (or an “Olivier”, as the case may be).

Track 06: “Hey Florida” – Fans of the Allman Brothers will be fans of this number. Switching on a dime from minor-key mystery to a major-key rock fest, its lyrics are paradoxical: “Hey, Florida, you’ve got to try that blues,” Steve Tucci sings, extolling the virtues of his home state. “Well, plenty of sunshine and white-sugar beaches, too.” Dig those bongos in the background!

Track 09: “Play by the Rules” – Three words: Wicked good guitar. Dan Toler is the superstar featured here, along with Tucci for company. Out of all the blues rock tracks on this CD, this is the bluesiest by far. I found myself swaying back and forth in my chair to this one.

Looking for Florida fun, even at home? Olivia will give you a great blues-rocking time!

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 Interview – Carl Weathersby 

carl weathersby photo 1Chicago lost one of its top blues guitarists a little over a year-and-a-half ago when Carl Weathersby relocated to a little town outside of Austin, Texas. If you weren’t aware of his exit, that’s understandable–Weathersby frequently comes back to his old stomping grounds for gigs.

This month he returned for several shows in Indiana and the Chicago suburbs. He’s booked to appear on October 13 at B.L.U.E.S, and the next evening headlines at Rosa’s. On October 15, Carl will be inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame as a Blues Legend during ceremonies at Buddy Guy’s Legends. Weathersby first made his mark alongside harmonica master Billy Branch in the Sons of Blues/Chi-Town Hustlers from 1982 to 1996 before embarking on a solo career that’s encompassed a series of acclaimed CDs and frequent European touring. He goes back overseas in November, and there’s also a new recording project in the works with Bobby Rush and Blinddog Smokin’, tentatively titled Rush Through History.

Blessed with a richly burnished vocal delivery, Weathersby never uses a pick when he plays his axe, the fingers on his right hand creating greater dynamic range. “I played with a pick for a long time,” he says. “Then all of a sudden I got put in a band with Billy Branch. Billy wanted me to essentially play two parts at once. Because he wanted the lump, the same thing the bass was doing, but he also wanted chords. And that involves using two, sometimes three fingers to get that done, and the thumb. So there’s no room for a pick.

“I found out that I could get a lot stronger playing with my fingers without messing around with the knobs, because it’s touch. I could feel my thumb a whole lot better than I could that pick, so it’s to the point now that if I had to play with a pick, they probably wouldn’t want to hear me playing a solo. I can leave my guitar at a certain volume, and I can be loud, or I can be quiet. “

Like his heroes, Weathersby prefers the sound and feel of a Gibson guitar. “A 345, one of those like Freddie King used to play,” he says. “I’m a Gibson humbucker type guy. I don’t like Strats. I have a Telecaster, but it’s got humbuckers in it. It has a heavier sound, and for me, although there’s a wealth of guys that play blues, the main people were Albert and B.B. King, Little Milton for me. And all of those guys play humbuckers or Gibson guitars. So when you’re trying to imitate those guys, that’s the sound that you’re always looking for. You can’t do that with a Stratocaster unless you buy pedals, and if you pay up to $1000 for a guitar that you’ve got to do something to it to make it sound like you want, I think you probably bought the wrong guitar.”

Developing his own sound was paramount. “That’s always been my goal,” Weathersby says. “A long time ago, I started to notice that guys, no matter what label it was, when you listened to them, there was only a few of them that you could really tell who it was when they first started playing. A lot of people, you had to wait until they started singing to tell who it was. And I just wanted an identifiable sound so people would hear it and say, ‘Hey, that’s Carl!’ I mean, two or three notes, and ‘Hey, wait a minute! That guy’s guitar is angry!’”

Weathersby’s ongoing affinity for soul music helps to inform his contemporary blues attack. “That’s kind of natural for me, because during the time when I was forming my musical talent, when I left Mississippi and moved to East Chicago, Indiana, the musical focus for people my age was on R&B, the soul music from the ‘60s,” he says. “And being around it, seeing the guys doing it, I just wanted to be in there with them. So I had to learn how to play it. Therefore, I got a spot where sometime I just say, “Hey, I sing that stuff!’ If there were a bunch of places that would support me doing that, I’d sing them a little blues in there, just so people wouldn’t forget about it, but I could do the R&B thing because I know how to play it.”

carl weathersby photo 2Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Weathersby spent his early childhood in Meadville, 84 miles southwest of the state capitol. “My grandfather ran a beer joint,” says Carl. “I heard blues. Some Motown crept on his jukebox. A lot of the stuff out of Memphis was on there. So I was around it. My uncle Robert played. Mr. Jim Brown played. There were a lot of musicians around there.” There were guitars around too. “I picked one up down there,” he says. “I had an uncle that was really big on Elmore James. He used to always listen to this song by Elmore James, ‘Pickin’ The Blues.’ And I mean, he would play it 20 times in a row. He just liked it. And I’m starting trying to learn how to play. I figured how to do it without that slide, and I’d come over there. He’d say, ‘Boy, get that box down and play me that “Pickin’ The Blues!”’ So I knew how to play the Elmore James/Jimmy Reed-type stuff.”

Carl’s family moved to East Chicago when he was eight years old, though there were trips back South during the summers. “When I moved to Indiana, my father was a mechanic, and then he worked on cars on the side. So one of his buddies—they had a shop together—his name was John Scott. Mr. John, I have yet to hear anybody play as much like B.B. King as him. He was almost a carbon copy of B.B. King. There was a song out. The song was in a minor (key), and I knew how to play it, but it was a song that young people liked. And John said, ‘Hey, man! If you learn me how to play that song, I’ll learn you how to play the blues!’”

“I showed him how to play that song, and like he said, he didn’t teach me how to play the blues. He learned me how to play the blues! Down in Mississippi, they’d always tell us, ‘Boy, you can be taught something, but if somebody learns you something, you ain’t gonna forget it!’ He showed me a few licks. And I came down there with a Jimi Hendrix album, Band of Gypsies. I asked him if I could play it on his record player. He said, ‘Yeah, go ahead!’

“John Scott said, ‘Man, I don’t know who that is, I don’t know what he did to his amplifier, but he’s playing the blues!’ I said, ‘That ain’t no blues.’ He said, ‘Oh, man, that’s the blues! I learned you that just the other day.’ I was like, ‘You showed me that?’ He said, ‘Yeah, he’s just playing it faster than I did, that’s all.’ So he stopped what he was doing and he went over there and got his 355 Gibson and plugged it up, and he played. He played that lick. He said, ‘Whoever that is is playing the blues.’ When he showed me how that lick was the same lick that Jimi Hendrix was playing, the light bulb came on a little bit.

“Before long in my little neighborhood, in the city of East Chicago, they had to be grown men to mess with me on that guitar! They couldn’t believe it. They said, ‘Man, how the hell you learn all that?’”

Albert King’s heavy influence was enhanced by an early first-hand encounter (young Carl was already a huge fan of his Born Under a Bad Sign album on Stax). “I was about 11 or 12, somewhere around there,” says Weathersby. “Something was wrong with his bus, and I guess my father was going to go with him to see what it was. My father could fix anything—diesels, cars, machines, whatever.” Young Carl had no idea who his dad’s well-built pal was. “They didn’t put black people on the album covers,” he says. “The only one I’d ever seen on TV was B.B. King. So there was no way of knowing who this guy was.

“I was sitting there with the record, wearing it out, picking up the needle and putting it back. I was trying to play, I said, ‘Daddy, I got it!’ It was the song ‘Crosscut Saw.’ And Albert King was standing over there.

“‘That ain’t the way I played it!’

“‘What you mean, the way you played it?’

carl weathersby photo 3“‘Boy, that’s me on that record!’

“And he got my guitar and started playing it, and I was trying to see how he did it.

“It kind of brought me down, because here I thought I had picked it up and had it note for note. Then I watched him do it, the way he did it in different positions. Everything that I tried, he did it in different positions. It was like, ‘Man, I don’t know nothing.’ But at the same time, I remembered what I saw him doing, most of it. And then after that, every time he’d come around, he always told me, ‘Don’t quit playing that guitar. I don’t give a shit what nobody say! You keep playing!’

“I had a few people that I could look up to and set examples,” says Weathersby. “I met Bobby Womack while I was in high school. I got a chance to talk to him. I learned a lot of stuff just by talking to him. His guitar player, his appendix burst. I was recommended to take that guy’s place, but I wasn’t ready at that point. I could play solos and stuff, but if you called off a chord, I didn’t know the name of the chord. So it was too hard. But Bobby was trying to show me stuff and tell me some things. Talking to him, I learned how to play all my chords in a couple different spots. He said, ‘Hey, man, the more you keep playing, you’ll learn how to play ‘em in more spots!’ And he was right.”

Music ran in the extended family. Weathersby was forced to turn down a promising offer from his cousin, Motown A&R man Leonard Caston, Jr., whose father, pianist Leonard “Baby Doo” Caston, had once played with Willie Dixon in the Big Three Trio. “I met him down in Mississippi at a funeral,” he says. “My father told his father, who was called Baby Doo, he said, ‘You’ve got to hear my boy sing, hear my boy play the guitar!’ My father turned around and went back to his father’s house, and I played for him. Little Leonard gave me a card. He was up in Detroit at the time.

“He wanted me to come to Motown, because he said on first days of the week, they let people audition. And during those days, they had Robert White, Joe Messina, and Eddie Willis playing the guitars, but they were looking for guys that could play anything remotely like Jimi Hendrix. I was pretty good at that too. That’s what he was saying: ‘Come to Motown, man, and audition! You could audition, because he’s looking for guys that can play like that.’

“I told him, ‘Well, I can’t come up there because I’m going in the Army,’” says Carl. “So I missed that.” Instead of sessions at Hitsville (Caston wasn’t his only Motown connection; ex-Spinners lead singer G.C. Cameron is also his cousin), Weathersby was dispatched to Vietnam, serving a year in the trenches. When he got out of the military, Carl was hired as a guard at a Louisiana correction facility. After a few years of working in the penal system, he came back up to Indiana and got a gig as a guard at a steel mill. “It was a good paying job,” he says. “I left work one night, came back the next morning, and the mill was shut down.”

When his unemployment ran out, playing music looked like an excellent idea. Carl did three stints as Albert King’s rhythm guitarist in 1979, ‘80, and ‘82, never staying on the payroll for too long. “I had little kids,” he says. ““I never got fired, but I quit. I quit three good times.” A permanent gig with a band a little closer to home was a priority.

carl weathersby photo 4“I had a cousin that was playing for Little Milton. He was telling me to come to Chicago,” he says. “It may as well been the moon. I didn’t know where none of that stuff was up on the North Side. So my cousin brought me over there to see Billy Branch and them. I got there too late the first time. The second time, I made it on time and I played. (Bassist) J.W. Williams and (drummer) Mose Rutues, Jr. kind of pushed Billy’s hand a little bit because Billy didn’t like what I was playing. J.W. told Billy, ‘Well, look, man. This band is called the Sons of Blues and the Chi-Town Hustlers. If you don’t hire this guy, me and Mose are the Chi-Town Hustlers. We’ll go and get a horn or something else to complement the band, and we’ll use him!’

“I played two weeks. Billy went to California to visit his mother. My car wasn’t running, but I was still getting to Chicago on time. J.W. said, ‘Two weeks this man don’t even have a car that’s running, he was not late for one gig. He was at every gig, and how I don’t know. When I got there, he was there!’ J.W. said, ‘Well, I’ll keep your amp for you.’ And that’s what happened. They’d give me the address, I’d get on the train, I’d go over there, and after awhile I got where I could figure my way around Chicago.” The foursome made some incredible blues.

“I equate another harmonica player having to deal with Billy Branch like a guy that knows he’s got to guard Michael Jordan all night. He ain’t looking forward to that, you know what I mean? Billy had that kind of talent on the harmonica. Mose could bring emotion by hitting those drums. We used to call him ‘the Man with the Gasoline Voice,’” says Weathersby. “I was able to play whatever they wanted to play. Whatever J.W. decided he wanted to do. I could play the R&B, I could play the B.B. and Albert-type blues, I could play the Sonny Boy stuff, the Little Walter blues. So we were kind of like the Bar-Kays of Chicago. We could play behind anybody, and we had all these different personalities in that one little group. When it called for fire, we could get it from J.W., or we could get it from Billy, or sometimes I could bring it. So that’s what I think made the band good.”

Weathersby contributed some of the strongest selections to Branch’s 1995 Verve album The Blues Keep Following Me Around as both singer and composer and also appeared on Billy’s followup, Satisfy Me. Before long, Carl was on his own. “April 1, 1996 was when I kind of made the decision that I needed to be in control of what I was doing,” remembers the guitarist, who waxed his own debut CD that year for Evidence, Don’t Lay Your Blues On Me. Cut at Dockside Studios in Maurice, La., it featured four strong originals, his band including his cousin Levy Wash on rhythm guitar. Evidence subsequently released Looking Out My Window (1997), Restless Feeling (1998), and Come to Papa (2000), the latter done in Memphis. “I didn’t have anybody telling me what to do,” he says. “(Evidence owners) Jerry Gordon and Howard Rosen, they just said, ‘Hey, bring me a good CD back!’ That was pretty cool, seeing how I didn’t have a whole lot of records under my belt.”

2004’s In the House, issued on the German Crosscut imprint, was captured live at the Lucerne Blues Festival. One track, “Hobo Blues,” featured two special guests from the Windy City, Branch being the first. “We called him out to play the harmonica,” says Carl. “Otis Clay was there watching us. When he walked out on the stage, I couldn’t believe it. It might not be the same to a lot of other people, but to me, that’s my Million Dollar Quartet!” Hold On came out in 2005 on Louisiana Red Hot, and Carl’s most recent CD, 2007’s I’m Still Standing Here on the Magnolia label, was cut in Michigan with rhythm guitarist Hollywood Scott in tow and opened with a sizzling reprise of O.V. Wright’s classic “Ace Of Spades.”

Weathersby has also spent plenty of quality time in recent years with harpist Pierre Lacocque’s Mississippi Heat, appearing on their Delmark sets Hattiesburg Blues (2008), Let’s Live It Up! (2010), Delta Bound (2012), and Warning Shot (2014). “They needed a guitar player, so they wanted to know if I would play with them. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll play with you!’ I sat in and played, and things must have went pretty good because when they needed me, they would call me,” says Carl. “The Lacocque brothers, there’s no finer, better people.”

The guitarist has learned that living in Texas is very different from his former home. “If you’re in Chicago, you really don’t appreciate the value of that environment that we were in when B.L.U.E.S. Etcetera was open,” says Weathersby. “Everywhere you go in Texas, the country people, I’ve got people asking me, ‘Can you play Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire”?’ I say, ‘Miss, how in the hell do you think I would even know that song?’

“I’m from Chicago. I play blues!”

Visit Carl’s website at: http://carlweathersby.org/

Interviewer Bill Dahl is a lifelong Chicago resident who began writing about music professionally in 1977. He’s written for Vintage Rock, Goldmine, Living Blues, Blues Revue, Blues Music Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the Reader, and is the author of The Art of the Blues, a 2016 book published by University of Chicago Press, and 2001’s Motown: The Golden Years (Krause Publications). Bill was awarded the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award in journalism in 2000.


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Triangle Blues Society – Raleigh, NC

Triangle Blues Society presents the 3rd Annual Big Buggs Island Blues Bash, at the Lake at Robbins Ballpark, in Clarksville, Virginia, Saturday, September 30 from 2pm-10pm. Headlining acts include Bruce Katz Band; Anson Funderburg (with Stern and Cotton); Jon Spear Band; James-Pace and Preslar; Parker and Grey; and more. $30.00 General Admission (until September 29), $35.00 at the gate. Limited number of $75.00 VIP Tickets available. Also a Swing Dance Competition, food trucks, and Vendors Village. www.bbibb.org to purchase tickets and additional info.

The SWF Center for Social Justice – Oakland, CA

The SWF Center for Social Justice presents the world premiere of the documentary Film – Evolutionary Blues…West Oakland’s Music Legacy. It is a poignant film that traces the roots of music played in postwar Oakland on 7th Street. The regional sounds of the South came together in Oakland as migrating Blacks answered the call of the war effort, finding work at Bay Area shipyards. Background narration is provided by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson, author Robert Self and Bay Area historian and author, Rickey Vincent.

The film includes a compelling soundtrack, images from the collections of E.F. Joseph, The Library of Congress and film clips from Riggs’ and Webster’s Long Train Running. More than 30 local musicians appear in the film including Sugar Pie DeSanto

Evolutionary Blues is a project by the City of Oakland/KTOP in association with the SWF Center It is produced and directed by Cheryl Fabio. Tickets are available only at www.tinyurl.com/evolutionaryblues.com. This event happens Wednesday September 27, 2017 at 7 pm at the Grand Lake Theatre, 3200 Grand Ave., Oakland, CA. For more information, contact Cheryl Fabio at 510-206-4407

Blues Society of Central Pennsylvania – Harrisburg, PA

Saturday, October 7th, the Blues Society of Central PA welcomes the Billy Price Band w/ special guests, Charlie Owen & Pocket Change to Champions Sports Bar 300 2nd St. Highspire, PA 17034.

Admission is $20, $15 for BSCP members. Doors open at 7PM, 8PM showtime. For more info visit www.bscpblues.org

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.

Blue Monday Schedule: Sept 25 – Wicked Grin, Oct 2 – The Chris O’Leary Band, Oct 9 – The Drifter Kings, Oct 16 – Levee Town, Oct 23 – Bex Marshall, Oct 30 – Lionel Young.

Additional ICBC partnered shows: Sept 21 James Armstrong Presents ~ King T’z @ 6:00 PMSept 22 – Hurricane Ruth, CD Release Party @ Third Base, 8 pm, Sept 30 – Rockin’ Johnny Burgin @ Third Base, 8 pm, Oct 5 – James Armstrong Presents ~ Kingdom Brothers @ 6:00 PM, Oct 19 – James Armstrong Presents ~ Soundfire @ 6:00 PM. For more information visit www.icbluesclub.org.

Central Iowa Blues Society -Des Moines, IA

Central Iowa Blues Society 25th Anniversary Party is Sunday, October 22, 2017 from noon to 9:00 pm

Come celebrate 25 years of smokin’ blues at the Des Moines Social Club, 900 Mulberry Street. Free admission and open to the public! Featuring Malcom Wells & the Two Timers, Bob Pace Band, Soul Searchers JC Anderson Band Revisited, Bob Dorr, Dan “DJ” Johnson, Tom Giblin, Jeff Petersen, Del “Saxman” Jones, Sam Salamone and more. Keep an eye on the calendar at www.cibs.org

Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

It is with great pleasure that we announce the 2017 Sacramento Blues Society Hall of Fame Inductees. They are: Bill Scholer, Fred “Deacon” Baker, Kenny “Obie Dee” Van Cromphaut, Stan Powell, and Tim Wilbur. And special HOF Induction Presentation for the late Jay Peterson by 2010 SBS Hall of Fame Members Rick Estrin and Charles Baty.

Please join us for the Induction Ceremony on Sunday, September 24, 2017 from 1 pm – 5:00 pm at Harlow’s, 2708 J St, Sacramento, CA (SBS members $10, non-members $15) followed by an after party from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the nationally known Torch Club, 904 15th St, Sacramento, CA.

For more additional information: www.sacblues.com.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Oct 3 – Annika Chambers with Igor Prado Band, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Nov 14 – Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club. More Info at: http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues.


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