Issue 11-39 September 28, 2017

Cover photo © 2017 Bob Kieser


 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Anson Funderburgh. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Benny Turner, Oscar Wilson, Doug MacLeod, The Gordon Meier Blues Experience, SaRon Crenshaw, Antry, Stew Cutler and Friends and The Mustangs.

Our video of the week is Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

benny turner cd imageBenny Turner – My Brother’s Blues

Nola Blue Records

www.bennyturner.com

www.nola-blue.com

11 tracks / 51:12

When Benny Turner chose the title for his latest album, My Brother’s Blues, it was not just a clever phrase to him as this disc pays homage to his older brother Freddie King, one of the “Three Kings” of electric blues guitar. Forty years ago Freddie died far too soon, but his music is still with us, and in this set Benny runs through eleven of King’s tunes that are all stone-cold winners.

Though Benny spent a portion of his career in his brother’s band, he has a full resume of top-shelf artists that he has recorded and gigged with, including Memphis Slim, Mighty Joe Young, Otis Clay, and the NOLA legend, Marva Wright, whose band he led for 20 years. After Marva passed on from this world, Turner started cutting his own albums, including the exceptional 2014 release, Journey, and the 2015 Blues Blast Music Award-nominated When She’s Gone. He is an outstanding frontman, and earned his chops and stage presence through countless gigs on at least four continents over the last 60 years.

For My Brother’s Blues, Benny laid down the lead vocals and the bass parts, and pitched in on guitar as needed. He was joined by a slew of fine musicians including some big names and a bunch of A-list New Orleans talent. He was very fortunate to have Grammy and Emmy-winner Jack Miele onboard as the studio engineer, and Miele also contributed some of the guitar parts. Jack knows his way around the studio, and the results are a consistently clean and lively sound with excellent balance.

The set kicks off with “Big Legged Woman,” a bawdy piece of funky blues that can be found on King’s 1972 album, Texas Cannonball. Turner’s vocals are smoky and soulful, and he has a nice feel for the bass as he syncs up with Jeffery “Jellybean” Alexander, whose drums are heard on every one of My Brother’s Blues tracks. Making this song complete is the horn section of Jason Mingledorff and Barney Floyd, who slyly punctuate each sexy phrase. This is followed up by one of Benny’s favorite tunes, “It’s Your Move,” a mid-tempo charmer that gives Turner the chance to show off his impressive vocal range, and there is a tasteful dose of Hammond B3 courtesy of Joe Krown (Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band) for good measure.

Freddie King’s musical talents also extended to songwriting, and the track list includes a pair of songs that were written by him: “You’ve Got to Love Her with a Feeling” and “See See Baby.” The former is a slow grinder with honkytonk piano from Krown and understated guitar leads from June Yamagishi. The latter was on King’s 1961 debut album, and the band does a stand-up job of capturing the vibe of the original, though the sound is better on this version (understandably) and the sax is a little less raunchy.

All of the tracks are solid, but there are a few standouts, and one is a sentimental favorite, “I’m Tore Down,” which was written by Sonny Thompson, a frequent collaborator of Freddie’s. This song features a triple threat on vocals, as Benny trades riffs with Marva Wright and the late Otis Clay; it is so cool to hear the three of them together. This is a joyous romp with wonderful instrumentation, including Keiko Kamaki’s B3, Yamagishi’s tight guitar leads, and the horns of Floyd and Mingledorff. The other killer groove is “Mojo Boogie,” which features the slide guitar of Carolyn Wonderland, a super-talented Texan.

My Brother’s Blues is a respectful and loving tribute to Freddie King, and perhaps Benny Turner’s feelings are best described by the back of the CD sleeve, which includes these simple words: “big brother, bandmate, best friend.” On this project, Benny once again proves that he can hold his own with the best of them in the music business, and if you like classic soul blues with horns and righteous keyboards. This album will certainly tickle your blues fancy.

If you would like to see Mr. Turner in person, you are in luck as he still gets around quite a bit, so check out his website for upcoming show dates in New York, Georgia, North Carolina, and Chicago, the home of the blues!

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

oscar wilaon cd imageOscar Wilson – One Room Blues

Airway Records AR-4769

13 songs — 47 minutes

www.airwayrecords.com

Vocalist Oscar Wilson and Airway Records owner/tenor saxophonist Sam Burckhardt couldn’t have picked a better name for this release, which gathered four of the top musicians in Chicago in one room for two days and captured all 13 cuts together without benefit of overdubs, something totally inconceivable in the music world today.

Burckhardt co-produced One Room Blues with Joel Paterson, the virtuoso guitarist who partners with Wilson in The Cash Box Kings, the tastefully talented Alligator Records artists who’ve been a Windy City favorite for more than a decade. They’re joined by keyboard player Pete Benson, upright bassist Beau Sample and drummer Alex Hall, who captured the CD at his Reliable Recorders studio in Chicago.

The album is quite a departure for Wilson, who grew up on the city’s South Side in the company of David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Junior Wells, Elmore James and others who often attended Friday night fish fries and jams at his family home. Now in his mid-60s, he’s a burly, affable man who possesses stage presence that’s just as powerful as his voice, Oscar’s well-versed in the blues songbook — as his work with the Kings clearly shows, but this release enables him to spread his wings in jazz and R&B stylings, too.

A native of Switzerland who emigrated to the U.S. in the ’70s and played behind Sunnyland Slim — the founder of the Airway imprint — for 20 years, Burckhardt took over the label as a tribute to his close friend and former boss. A popular musician himself, he regularly delivers a fusion of jazz, blues and jump at A-list Chicago clubs and appears annually in his hometown at the world-famous Basel Music Festival, often in the company of Paterson.

This intimate album debuted in the U.S. in June, just prior to this year’s event, at which Wilson and most of the other musicians here were also in attendance. It gives Oscar a chance to channel some of the artists who influenced him most, including Percy Mayfield, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Ray Charles, Jimmy Reed and B.B. King. While all but two of the cuts are covers, the musicianship breathes new life into everything.

Benson’s piano riffs echo Sunnyland to open Slim’s original, “When I Was Young.” But the song reaches different heights, propelled by a jump blues beat that’s powered by Sam’s horn and Joel’s classy guitar lines. And Oscar’s powerful tenor delivers lyrics often obscured by Sunnyland’s own voice. Burckhardt’s smooth horn opens Mayfield’s “Lost Mind” — on which Wilson’s delivery is smooth as silk.

A propulsive, funky beat drives Reed’s familiar “Found Love” before a winning take on Charles’ 1958 hit, “Blackjack.” A suave cover of Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider Baby” is up next before the Paterson original, “Texas Turnaround,” puts the band’s talents on display and gives Wilson a chance to rest his pipes. His version of “River’s Invitation,” another Mayfield classic, powerfully builds tension as it flows deliberately, aided by sweet solos.

Memphis Slim’s “I’m Lost Without You” picks up the pace and fits perfectly into Bland’s “Farther Up The Road,” which follows. Written by the Bihari brothers of Modern Records fame, “Your Letter” is delivered as a slow blues with Paterson’s crisp, single-note runs supporting Oscar’s soulful delivery before “Every Day I Have The Blues,” the standard penned by Memphis Slim and a hit for B.B. Mercy Dee Walton’s “One Room Country Shack” is up next before the Burckhardt instrumental original, “Happy Reunion,” brings the set to a close.

Available through Amazon and other online retailers, One Room Blues hits on all cylinders for anyone with a love for music that’s polished and sophisticated throughout. Strongly recommended.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

doug macleod cd imageDoug MacLeod – Break The Chain

Reference Recordings RR-141

12 songs – 48 minutes

www.doug-macleod.com

Beloved acoustic bluesman Doug MacLeod is an anachronism in the modern world, a troubadour in the songster tradition who delivers extremely personal tunes that vary from insightful and intimate to humorous or soulful, as he proves once again in this 12-tune, all-original collection that feels like he’s playing in your living room and just for you.

It was captured live and in real time by Grammy-winning engineer Prof. Keith O. Johnson at George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound in Marin County, Calif., without the benefit of overdubs, special effects or other studio tricks. The performance varies from solo, spoken word, duo, trio and quartet formats with MacLeod assisted by his guitarist son Jesse, percussionists Jimi Bott — the Blues Music Award-winning drummer — and Oliver Brown — a founding member of KC And The Sunshine Band who’s worked with Fleetwood Mac, Al Jarreau, Nancy Wilson and others, and famed bassist Denny Croy, director of McCabe’s Music School in Santa Monica, Calif., who cut his teeth jamming with T-Bone Walker as a teenager.

Now in his early 70s, Doug is a New York-born child of abuse who suffered with a chronic stutter. He turned to music as a teen to overcome those issues — with resounding success. His homespun vocal delivery belies his birthplace and hints at other lengthy stops along the way, which includes time spent in St. Louis as a youth and Naval service in Virginia.

One of the most honored acoustic players in the blues, he toured as bass player for George “Harmonica” Smith — the legendary chromatic player who also schooled Rod Piazza — for years before launching a solo recording career in 1983. And his guitar play, augmented by his left foot, still displays a steady, heavy beat.

MacLeod’s in open D tuning on his ax called Moon on the opener, “Goin’ Down To The Roadhouse.” It’s an uptempo shuffle with Bott and Croy on the bottom and promotes leaving the house to hear live music. They’re also present for “Mr. Bloozeman,” a no-so-tongue-in-cheek, humorous stream of consciousness about blues music poseurs, guys who “have 32 harmonicas strapped around your chest and waist/But can’t play one of them with any taste” and guitarists who play “wa-a-ay too loud/Spewing a lot of empty notes/Trying to thrill the crowd.”

Next up, Doug turns to a National Steel guitar he calls Buckwheat and a tuning he terms “Too Many D’s” for “Lonesome Feeling,” a solo ballad about losing at love because of a foolish mistake. It dovetails into the uptempo “Travel On,” which brightens the mood, aided by Croy and Brown, as it states that, in life, every mountain has a valley; you simply have to keep moving.

The ultra-personal “L.A. — The Siren In The West” is delivered on 12-string aided by bass as it recounts a time when MacLeod had abandoned the blues only to realize he wasn’t being true to himself as he watched on as other folks destroyed themselves in similar manner. “One For Tampa Red,” a tribute to the blues superstar of the ’30s and ’40s, follows before “What The Blues Means To Me,” a three-minute monologue that details Doug’s history and the necessity of packing your sense of humor each day to overcome adversity. The syncopated “This Road I’m Walking” provides another lesson — not to look for the perfect woman — before “Who’s Driving This Bus?” questions all of the things happening in the world today that simply don’t make sense.

MacLeod tips his hat to the good times he experienced in Norfolk, Va., with “Church Street Serenade” before delivering “Going Home.” It’s basically a field holler that deals with the reality that everyone on Earth is simply visiting and our time to depart is drawing near.

Another deeply personal number, co-written with Jesse, who recently beat a bout with cancer, accompanies Doug on guitar with Oliver and Denny on the bottom. Entitled “Break The Chain,” it deals with child abuse and the realization MacLeod achieved through therapy that youngsters who’ve been victimized often do the same to their children when they become adults.

Available through Amazon and other online retailers, Break The Chain is another gem in MacLeod’s long chain of recorded jewels if you’re a fan of intimate acoustic blues. If you’re a fan of the musicians Doug describes in “Mr. Bloozeman,” however, you’d better off looking elsewhere — this one’s definitely not for you!

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


 Featured Blues Video Of The Week – Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials 

Our featured video is Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials performing “Icicles in my Meatloaf”. (Click image to watch!)

Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials are performing at the Logan Center Bluesfest on Saturday, October 14th, 2017 in a session called “Bringing the Blues Back to the South Side” along with Billy Branch, Jimmy Johnson, Eddy Clearwater, Corky Siegel and Melody Angel.

For info and tickets to all the great performances at the the Logan Center Bluesfest October 13th – 15th visit www.loganbluesfest.org or click on their ad in this issue!



 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

gordon meier cd imageThe Gordon Meier Blues Experience – Magic Kingdom

Reverberocket Records

www.gordonmeierbluesexperience.squarespace.com

CD: 12 Songs, 55:14 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Contemporary Electric Blues and Blues Rock, Debut Album

When I was a kid and teenager, two of my favorite places to go were Disney World and Disneyland. My family and I would visit the former in even years and the latter in odd years, from 1984 to 1995. Each of those parks had a Magic Kingdom, my favorite “land” of all. The thrill lay not so much in the new stuff, as awesome as it was, but seeing the same places and riding the same rides year after year: Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Cinderella’s Castle, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the Jungle Cruise. Nostalgia was the name of my game, not so much novelty. Think about that as you pop The Gordon Meier Blues Experience’s debut album into your CD player. It’s got “Howlin’ for my Darlin’,” “In the Open,” “Gypsy Woman” and “The Stumble” on it, but the blues is nothing if not nostalgic. Debut albums, as this one is, are often tributes to the old masters, showing what bands can do in terms of classic appeal before they unleash their new musical rides on audiences. On two original songs and ten covers, Gordon Meier and his posse give their all, but don’t have the “Disney sparkle,” so to speak. Not yet. With time, their musicianship will gain more razzle-dazzle. Vocally, Meier, who is Caucasian, almost sounds African-American, but not quite.

On his website, Gordon himself waxes nostalgic about his blues roots: “Every musician is a product of their influences. It would be dishonest for me to deny the influence of B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and others. However, the two profound ‘game changers’ were Freddie King and Magic Slim. A quote from B.B. or Muddy may come at any time in my performance, but the giants who take me to the gig and stand with me are Slim and Freddie…I became very close to Slim and his band and played with them many times through the years. John Primer was the last guitar player in Muddy’s band, and when Muddy passed, John went with Slim. In the thirteen years that John spent with Slim, we also became good friends.” He bestowed this album with its title in honor of his magnificent “Buddy Buddy Friends.”

Along with lead vocalist and guitarist Meier are Lester Veith on drums and vocals; Mark Freidman on bass and backing vocals; Joe Taino on slide guitar for tracks two and four; Dean Shot on rhythm guitar; Dennis Gruenling on harmonica, and Tom Hammer on organ and Wurlitzer electric piano.

As you can guess, those of you who’ve read me for some time, the following song is one of the two originals on this album. It’s worth noting because it is a fresh attraction:

Track 04: “Just Keep Ridin’” – One of the best things about Disney parks is that the new rides blend in so well with the older atmosphere that they don’t seem out of place. Such is the case with “Just Keep Ridin’.” Its themes are as familiar as “It’s a Small World” – heartbreak, love, wanderlust, and what every blues musician knows s/he must do. “I just keep riding, trying to drive my blues away. I’ve got the highway in my face; I’ve got to move from place to place. While I’m shifting through the gears, I let the wind blow away my tears.” Great guitar here.

Gordon Meier’s Kingdom may not be Magic, but with more Blues Experience, it will be!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 38 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 Review – 5 of 8 

saron crenshaw cd imageSaRon Crenshaw – Drivin’

Self-Produced/OneTrickDog Records

www.saroncrenshaw.com

2 CD Set: CD 1: 5 Songs, 40:25 Minutes; CD 2: 5 Songs, 41:12 Minutes

Styles: Soul-Influenced Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues, First Studio Album, WOW!

What better time to listen to the blues than when you’re Drivin’? Guitar maverick SaRon Crenshaw’s first studio album proves this point extremely well. Its ten songs, which come on two CD’s, demonstrate why War and Peace came in three volumes: it’s a saga, not a story. Likewise, Crenshaw’s album is a soul blues saga, and deserves such length. Several of the tracks run over ten minutes, but – holy smokes – once you hear their first notes, you won’t care. This is NOT a pretentious display of what I call “guitar flogging” and other purists call something worse. Most of all, this is NOT an amateur’s work, though it’s self-produced. SaRon knows what Eric Clapton does: guitars speak, and wasting notes means wasting words. With a voice as swoon-inducing as his riffs, Crenshaw will be on top of the scene in no time.

What I wish I could do is go on for pages about how fantastic these CD’s are, but in the interest of giving credit where credit’s due, I have to cut myself short and let our hero’s online bio do the talking. “SaRon Crenshaw learned to play guitar at the age of ten. He is an extremely talented guitarist who travels the country playing Jazz and Rhythm and Blues. In the 70’s and 80’s he made his living playing bass for several bands in New Jersey, New York and South Carolina. He has shared stages with talented recording artists such as Lee Fields, Roy Roberts, Denise Lasalle, Bobby Rush, Jessie James, Tyrone Davis, and Chuck Roberson…SaRon plays a Gibson ‘Lucille’ model guitar signed by B.B. King himself.”

Along with lead vocalist and guitarist Crenshaw are Tom Larsen on rhythm guitar and featured solos; Eric Finland on C3 Hammond organ; Jimmy Odum on bass guitar; Jordan Rose on drums; Wayne Tucker on horns; Thomas Hutchings on saxophone, and Richard Lee on trumpet.

It’s truly impossible to pick the best three selections out of this set, but here comes my best shot.

Track 01: “Drivin’” – The title track begins with a guitar intro that will start any trip with plenty of zip. “Man! I’m spending a fortune on this car,” SaRon exclaims, and who among us drivers can’t relate? “That daggone salesman, I think he done got over on me, man.” Bummer, but this song definitely isn’t. It’s peppy and salacious, a guilty-pleasure number if there ever was one. The instrumentation is perfectly balanced, shredder solos notwithstanding. It’s a “gas” for sure.

Track 02: “World of Misery” – My mother recently said that if you want to know what Jesus and Christianity are all about, read the book of John. If you want to know what the blues are all about, listen to this lovely litany of woe. “My father passed away this morning; oh, my mother’s on her deathbed, and I got no one to care for me. I’m living in this world of misery. Oh, nobody seems to care, baby, living in this world.” The highlight here is Jimmy Odum’s understated-yet-sinister bass guitar.

Track 01 on Disc 2: “Jailer Blues” – No one likes to go to the Gray Bar Hotel, especially not our protagonist. Nevertheless, that’s where he’s ended up on this tongue-in-cheek track. With a laid-back, old-fashioned feel, it’s a warning that “I hate to tell you, fella, but you’ll never, never pay me.” Eric Finland’s tinkling piano, echoing the era of ragtime, is the flash in this musical gem.

SaRon Crenshaw’s Drivin’ is Rainey Wetnight’s indisputable Pick of 2017, and the year’s not even over!

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 

antry cd imageAntry – Devil Don’t Care

www.antrymusic.com

Tres Lobas Enterprises

10 songs – 42 minutes

The close relationship between blues and gospel on record dates at least as far back as Thomas A Dorsey and Blind Willie Johnson. Primarily secular blues artists like Charley Patton, Skip James and Blind Lemon Jefferson all recorded gospel songs. Son House struggled for years with what he perceived as the inherent conflicts between the Devil’s music and the music of the Lord, while the Rev. Gary Davis and more recently the likes of Pops and Mavis Staples have happily embraced the best of both genres. Devil Don’t Care, the debut album from Tulsa vocalist and harmonica player Steve Antry, aims for a similar niche, with gospel lyrics feeding into blues, rock and pop songs. And, on the whole, he succeeds admirably.

The eponymous opening track features some wonderful lead guitar over the top of a grinding shuffle. Antry has assembled a stellar band for Devil Don’t Care, packed with A-list players including bassist Michael Rhodes, steel player Dan Dugmore, drummer Greg Morrow, keyboardists David Smith and Mike Rojas, and guitarists Rob McNelley, Pat Buchanan, Danny Rader and Bret Mason (as well as Antry himself).

Guest artists on the album include the great Shaun Murphy, who adds magical vocal ad libs to three tracks (perhaps most notably on “Prince Of Peace”, which recalls Merry Clayton’s apocalyptic contribution to “Gimme Shelter”) and blues/rock guitarist Anthony Gomes who contributes raucous electric guitar to the 80’s pop-rock of “Devil Gone Fishing”.

Antry himself has a superb voice. The pop ballad of “Always With Me” accentuates its warmth whereas the heavy blues-rock of tracks like “How Far Down” demonstrate his muscular power and three-octave range (there’s also some beautiful a capella outro vocals from Murphy on that track).

Antry also co-wrote one song on the album, the title track (with producer, Peter Carson). The other songs are all covers, including a lovely reading of Frankie Miller and Jerry Lee Williams’ “Sending Me Angels”, as well as Leon Russell’s “Prince Of Peace”. The pop ballad “Always With Me” was written by Babyface and former Hootie & The Blowfish singer, Darius Rucker, while Jimmy Duncan’s 1957 mini-hit, “My Special Angel”, is given an 80’s-style heavy keyboard makeover. Gary Nicholson contributes two typically belting blues-rock songs, “How Far Down” (originally covered by John Mayall) and “Devil Gone Fishin’” (previously covered by Fortunate Sons).

If there is a conflict inherent in this album, it is not between blues and gospel. Rather, it is between the blues and rock leanings of “How Far Down”, “Devil Don’t Care”, “Get Up” and “Devil Gone Fishin’” and the anodyne, vapid pop of “Always With Me”, Dianne Warren’s “Borrowed Angels” and “Special Angel”. Antry and his band are significantly more effective in the former genre, laying down a series of powerful grooves. The poppy ballads, in comparison, come across as either too saccharine or too studied.

Overall however Devil Don’t Care is a very impressive debut release from Steve Antry. There is more than enough evidence here of a solid talent and it will be interesting to witness his next steps.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

stew cutler cd imageStew Cutler and Friends – Every Sunday Night

Cogna, NYC and the Michael J. Media Group

www.stewcutler.com

CD: 9 Songs, 43:28 Minutes

Styles: Eclectic Electric Blues, Electric Blues Rock, Instrumental Blues

“Eclectic” is one of those adjectives that makes some people go “Yay!” and others go “Uh-oh…” whenever it refers to a blues artist. Those who construe it as a synonym for “hodgepodge” may find NYC’s Stew Cutler and Friends’ music too unstructured for their taste. Where are the eight-bar, twelve-bar, and lump-de-lump rhythms? Where are the repeated couplets and refrains? Few and far between on his latest CD. Yet, for those who consider “eclectic” a compliment, Every Sunday Night will be a refreshing reprieve from the same-old, same-old. It has the right amount of weird, the right amount of woe, and the right amount of wonderful for it to be one of this reviewer’s top ten blues picks of 2017. Whether one’s preferred style of blues is roadhouse or nightclub, the nine featured songs (four originals and five covers) run the full gamut of energy and pizzazz. Those unfamiliar with Stew Cutler might be a bit skeptical of how this album got so many kudos from Ms. Rainey Wetnight, but get this. They’re from New York City. If you’re going to make it in the Big Apple, you’ve got to be more than good.

Their promotional information sheet reveals the inspiration behind this CD’s name. “‘I wanted to do a live recording in the place we play every Sunday – Arthur’s Tavern in NY’s Greenwich Village,’ [Cutler] explains. ‘However, since it became clear that it was going to be impossible to do it that way, I brought the band out to Queens and we basically played live. The overdubs and edits were kept to a minimum.’” Sometimes on live albums, their lack of polish is clear, but not here. Each track on this CD is as clean and invigorating as a late-summer rain.

The “Friends” alongside lead/slide guitarist and background vocalist Stew Cutler are Bill McClellan on drums and background vocals; Bobby Harden on vocals; Nick Semrad on organ; Julian Pollack on organ for “Brookline” and “Gumbo Trane”, Chulo Gatewood on bass, and JT Bowen on lead and background vocals.

The following three tracks are not only out of the ordinary, but ready for national airplay as well.

Track 01: “The Grind” – Here we get a taste of the “weird” part of “eclectic,” and it’s a blast. Move over, Jimi Hendrix. Stew’s got his own psychedelic intro to top yours and then some. Running over seven minutes, this song is perfect for zoning out while consuming one’s favorite adult beverage and/or recreational substance(s). I myself can imagine it being played in a bar in the movies, one of those sketchy places that has a clock with a neon-red rim. It’s groovy and gritty all at once, never grating.

Track 05: “Brookline” – Dig this smooth jazz/blues instrumental’s atmosphere. Julian Pollack’s organ adds an old-timey vibe to the mellow guitar stylings in the forefront. Stevie Ray Vaughan would also be proud if he heard this song, a “Riviera Paradise” for the NYC crowd.

Track 07: “When Something is Wrong with my Baby” – Okay, this is a cover, and you-know-who doesn’t review covers on principle. Confession: Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville’s version of the song made her cry, and this one comes the closest to bringing back those tears. “And if I know she’s worried,” JT Bowen croons, “then I would feel that same misery.” Truer words were never spoken – or, in this case, sung with masterful aplomb ‘right in the feels’.

Stew Cutler and Friends play Every Sunday Night, and they still want to – in your CD player!

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 

the mustangs cd image The Mustangs – Just Passing Through

Trapeze Music

www.themustangs.co.uk

13 tracks/46:29

Based in London, England, the Mustangs latest recording has some tenuous connections to the world of blues music. One track features a slide guitar while others use Derek Kingaby’s rudimentary harp licks as accents. With nine previous releases under their belts, the band has honed their sound to a polished sheen, giving each track a lush soundscape.

The ballad “Beautiful Sleeper” starts off as a slow blues, then steadily transforms into more of a pop tune, with only guitarist Adam Norsworthy’s guitar providing a link back to the blues world. “Just The Way It Is” sports a rolling rhythm from drummer Jon Bartley and some smooth acoustic guitar picking. Ben McKeown’s driving bass is the foundation for “Saturday Night,” a power pop tune that probably would have been a radio hit forty years ago. The four members show off their vocal skills on “Cry No More,” a brief acapella vocal excursion that mixes work song and gospel elements. Ringing guitar chords behind Norsworthy’s minimal slide guitar work push him to lay down a strong vocal on “Hiding From The Rain”.

The guitar intro on “Fingerprints” sounds like it was borrowed from “My Sweet Lord”. The cut finds Norsworthy lamenting a broken heart while “Because It’s Time” and “What Lies Within” introduce some country elements to the band’s sound while staying true to their contemporary rock approach. “Vinegar Fly” has a tougher sound with Kingaby’s harp cutting through the tight arrangement. The band incorporates a familiar blues progression into “Save My Soul,” as Norsworthy catalogs his shortcomings in an attempt to gain redemption.

“One Way Ticket” opens with a lush acoustic interlude behind Norsworthy’s delicate singing, echoed by his slide guitar once the band joins in. The band is at their best on “From Somewhere To Nowhere,” a meandering folk ballad sparked by a brief guitar solo and the group vocal on the chorus. Norsworthy switches to piano on “How Short The Stay.” another brief, moody piece that closes the recording with a tolling bell.

There may be some alternate universe where the Mustangs might be considered a blues band. Or perhaps this style is what is accepted in the U.K. as blues these days. What they do, they do quite capably. Instrumental solos are not the focus, kept brief in favor of the vocal presence and ensemble playing. But what they do likely falls well short of having enough blues content to satisfy many of the Blues Blast Magazine readership.

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


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 Featured Blues Interview – Anson Funderburgh 

anson funderburgh photo 1There’s a yin and a yang to Anson Funderburgh. His electric guitar burns with Texas fire that Guitar Player Magazine compared to Otis Rush and Magic Sam. But his guitar can also soothe as the subtle support for Delta blues vocalists who have included Sam Myers, Nick Nixon, and Alabama Mike. Anson has that Austin strut, but his Delta creds are highlighted by being the only artist to have played all 31 of Arkansas’ King Biscuit Blues Festivals and is scheduled to make four appearances at the 32nd annual edition of that iconic Delta showcase on the banks of the Mississippi River the first week in October.

He will be the second annual honoree at the Biscuit’s Warmup Wednesday (October 4) following in the footsteps of Bobby Rush who took home the traditional blues Grammy months after accepting last year’s honors at the Biscuit. On Friday night, October 6th, he performs with his own band The Rockets, and on Saturday, October 7th he will be one of my guest panelists for the seventh annual Call and Response Blues Seminar at noon and will be a featured performer on Andy T. and Alabama Mike’s set Saturday night.

Anson is best known for his work with Mississippi vocalist Sam Myers. A veteran of the chitlin circuit who had accompanied Elmore James and Robert Junior Lockwood, Myers cast a towering shadow over Funderburgh’s band. He was blind and carried his harmonicas in two bandoleros across his chest. His soft-spoken vocal delivery was the perfect complement to Funderburgh’s slow burn on guitar, and his words hung heavy in the air in way that brought to mind a male Odetta or Nine Simone. The two worked together from 1986 to 2004, two years before Myers died. Collectively, they took home nine W.C. Handy Awards and recorded eight albums.

“He died the 17th of July and my daughter’s birthday is the 18th,” says Anson. My son was born in January 2nd of ’06 and Sam died in July of ’06. In ’07 I found out that I had cancer. So, I had a lotta things I was thinking about, you know? Thinking about my family, thinking about my two kids, my wife, my own mortality. Yeah, I probably was a lot out to sea.

“I took care of Sam because about midway through ’05 he couldn’t sing anymore. So, I finished up the year using John Nemeth. Some things I had done, and I just of kind spent most of my time either taking him to radiation or doctors’ appointments or just trying to figure out what was the best thing for us to do for Sam, and then when he passed away, my wife wanted me to stay home and be with the kids and I did do that. It was hard, not because I didn’t want to be with my family, but I didn’t know what to do. I sorta lost my feet with what I wanted to do.

I mean I put in 20 years into that with the Rockets, but my wife wanted me to be home. I wanted to be home, but I didn’t know how to be anything but a musician because that’s all I’d done all my life. So, it was a hard transition for me. I mean, most musicians, Lord have mercy, you don’t make tons of money. You kinda live off the feedback you get from other people lovin’ on ya, and enjoyin’ what you do. I really have been blessed. I’ve actually been somebody who’s made a living playing music. That’s a feat in itself.”

Funderburgh grew up in Plano, Texas, near Dallas. “I’ve got pictures of me holding one of these Roy Rogers guitars when I was three (in 1958), but it’s something I’ve always been drawn to. I’ve been playing in nightclubs since I was 15 years old I guess, a long time. My mother bought an old hollow-bodied guitar, just a round hole acoustic guitar from her co-worker at the school. She was a cook, and when the lady brought me the guitar, she brought me a box of 45s. In that box of 45s there was Freddie King’s “Hideaway,” “Hold It” by Bill Doggett and “Snow Cone Part I and II” by Albert Collins. There was some Wynonie Harris. There was some Jimmy Reed records, and when I heard “Hideaway” and “Snow Cone” I was home. Man, what a sound that was.”

anson funderburgh photo 2“I mean, I was 10 years old, and there was a band down south around the Dallas area called The Nightcats. “Wine, Wine” with “Thunderbird, “Have you heard, thunderbird?” I think ZZ Top covered it, but anyway, there was a dance around the Texas area called the North Texas Push. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the coast down in the Carolinas where they dance the shag.

“The push looks like the shag. The man’s the only person that leaves the slot. In Texas, to dance this dance, the shuffles and ballads and stuff are just to shuffles that are 100 to 120 beats a minute which is Jimmy Reed, honky tonk. It was all those little shuffles. So, I grew up playing to all these people that danced this dance and “Linda Lou” by Ray Sharpe was like “Honky Tonk” were like anthems to the pushers, the people that danced this dance.

“So, I came to it a little bit of a different way. It always moved me, but I also came to it from playing to people having fun and dancing. It was a history lesson or just listening to the music, if you will. It was party music. It was just music to have fun. It was music to blow off steam and have a good time.

“I used to listen to country music, too. My father loved country music. He loved blues. He loved all of it. So, I mean you know, it’s kind of an interesting twist. I love music that moves me. George Jones singing a country tune can move me and so does B.B. King, and so does hearing John Coltrane.

How about Merle Haggard?

“Absolutely. I’ll be rolling down the hill like a snowball headed for hell. (Laugh) Are the good times really over? I love it. I mean true.”

Funderburgh is unusually shy and humble for a Texas guitar slinger who has played with Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Darryl Nulisch in his band and has production credits with John Nemeth, Nick Nixon and Andy T. His guitar work appears on CDs by Delbert McClinton, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Nick Moss, Barrelhouse Chuck and Eric Lindell.

“I feel very honored and very blessed and lucky that I’ve been able to achieve some of the things that I’ve done. I’ve been all over the world playing music, and I don’t read music. I know very little about music, but I know music. I just can’t speak the language of music. It’s kind of a hard situation to be in, and sometimes it makes it a whole hell of a lot more difficult than it should be. (It would help) if I had some sort of education. The fact that you don’t have the parameters sometimes can create limitations, but when you think about jazz music sometimes the more education, the more limitless it becomes. Does that make sense?”

I think that’s sometimes true, and sometimes just the opposite.

“Well, the catch for the jazz people is whether it’s a mental exercise or if it’s really an emotional piece of music. I mean, my only heads up is it has to be some sort of emotional piece of music to me personally. There’s no thought much about it if it’s sort comes out the way that it comes out. Yeah, that sort of is a twist.

anson funderburgh photo 3“Somebody asked me in a press seminar, a guitar seminar that I did, ‘What do you think about right before you solo, or while you solo,’ and I said, ‘I don’t think about anything.’ I know it’s awful to say that and maybe that’s not very helpful, but if you’re thinking about it, now the music’s coming from your head and not from your heart.”

So, what in Funderburgh’s background gives him the ability to go from breathing to burning and from Texas to the Delta?

“Uh, (pause) I’m not sure, really. I’m not sure I know how to answer that to be honest with you. I’ve always liked both. I’m certainly more of an electric guitar player and I always have been.”

Catching up with Funderburgh on the road for a phoner is like trying to hold mercury in a sift on a roller coaster. He is one of the ultimate blues road warriors. “I’m up against it, but that’s ok. I’m always up against it. I mean, you need it done. Our last show was on Saturday (The interview was the following Thursday) in Calgary, and we drove and played last night. We had three days to get here, but I mean we were in Calgary, Canada. Now I’m almost to Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Minneapolis, and then I’m headed to Rochester which is about three hours away.”

He’s currently touring with Andy T. and Alabama Mike. He’s produced and played guitar on all of (the Andy T.’s albums). “There was Drink, Drank, Drunk, and then I produced The Numbers Man, and then I produced Living It Up. I produced those three with Andy T. Band featuring Nick Nixon, and then this one is called Double Strike. When Nick got sick half way through this one, we brought Alabama Mike on board to actually finish it, so and that’s why Double Strike has two singers on it.”

He doesn’t feel that Andy T. is following in his footprints as a southwestern blues guitarist teaming up with a seasoned Delta blues vocalist. “I don’t think so. I mean I just think both of those people were great singers. I had a great singer before Sam. His name was Darrell Nulisch, and we made two records together. H e was with me 10 years. So, I mean I think he and I agree that making great records depends on a great song and a great singer, and we both try to build wonderful foundations for singers to sing. I mean, I think we share that concept on how to make music. Do I think Andy T’s trying to do what Sam and I did? I don’t think so. I just think he’s found a couple of great singers. I mean Nick Nixon was a great singer.”

Is Funderburgh touring with some of the same people that are on Double Strike: Larry von Loon, Mike Flanigan, and Johnny Bradley?

“No, actually his bass player just left, so we hired Johnny Bradley, but on this record it is Jim Kramer that’s on the other records except for The Drink, Drank, Drunk and Larry von Loon. Mike Flanigan’s out touring with ZZ Top. Kaz (Kazanoff) and John Mills will be there to play horns. So, it’ll be fun. I think on my set with the Rockets I’ve got Big Joe Mayer from D.C. from Big Joe and the Dynaflows. He’s coming to play drums and sing for me, and I’ll have Christian Dosier from Austria on piano and the accordion, John Street on B-3, and Eric Przgoski on the bass and me on guitars.”

Funderburgh is the only artists to have played every King Biscuit Blues Festival since the first one in 1985. It’s that kind of thread with a heritage that sets this festival apart. The festival’s lineage goes back to 1941 when Sonny Boy Williamson became the first black band leader to have his own radio show, King Biscuit Time on KFFA in Helena, Arkansas. That goes back further than the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, it’s almost as old as the Grand Ole Opry, and it makes Sun Studios look like a newcomer.

anson funderburgh photo 4I asked Funderburgh what it is about him and the Biscuit that gives him that cache, making him the only one that’s played all of them. His answer was predictably humble. He says there were others who did the gig every year as long they were alive. “The rest of ’em just died. I mean, Robert Lockwood Jr. did all of them, Sam did all of them. Pinetop did a bunch of ’em. I think he missed a year or two because of some sort of hiccup – I don’t know exactly. I don’t wanna say. In my mind, I think he had trouble and had to stay home or something or maybe it was help. I don’t remember, but Frank Frost did a whole bunch of ’em ’cause he was there. I don’t know if you remember, but Frank actually had a club in Helena for a while.”

He was with the Jellyroll Kings. They played there a lot.

“Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. I think Frank Frost played a bunch of ’em, too. I’m friends with all of those people. It’s kinda become a big family in some ways at least for a certain amount of ’em. I’m just one of the lucky ones that have been able to be a part of it. I don’t do the Rockets a whole lot in the states anymore. I do some fly-in festivals, and I do the King Biscuit, but most of my touring with the Rockets anymore has been in Europe. So, I guess they feel I still have enough of a draw that helps ’em out, that people still want to see me there. I think people plan on seeing me there.”

It wouldn’t be King Biscuit without Anson.

“Well, it would, but you know what I’m saying. Stuff goes on, but I certainly am honored to be a part of that family that does get to come back every year. I think the thing about King Biscuit is there wasn’t any other festival that has a legacy, and people don’t forget. In other words, the people that go and the people that put it on remember who their friends are, and who the great acts are, and they want to see them again, and it’s like old home week.

“I have great friends there: Bubba, Sterling, they’re all close friends of mine, Jerry Pillow, I mean I love Jerry Pillow and Ray. I miss Ray Galloway, the gentleman that died, In the early days, they were really the pioneers. I guess is the way I’d say it.

“The very first one I’ll never forget it. It was on that little trailer that looked like you could sell hotdogs out of it or something. It was kind of a foldup stage, and that’s where we played and Robert Jr. played guitar. Johnny Shines played guitar. Sam played drums and Pinetop played piano. Now, that was one cat that was there. It doesn’t get any better than that. Just blues. Just straight ahead. I’ve seen so many great people there. I mean we’ve lost so many great pioneers of the blues. Buddy Guy’s played there. Albert King’s played there. I mean there’s tons of people that were awesome. I think in my opinion, it’s probably a real challenge to keep finding and having people play there.”

Yes, there’s a challenge, but I think that’s one of the things the Biscuit does very well is look at the past, the present, and the future.

“You have to look to the future ’cause we can’t just live in the past. If you do, it stops. So, you’re absolutely right. And they have done an awesome job of doing this, of promoting this kind of music and letting it sort of grow.”

Anson Funderburgh is just one of nine artists scheduled to appear at the Call and Response Seminar in The Malco Theatre on Cherry St. three blocks from the main stage. Roger Stolle hosts the first hour with his guests Robert “Bilbo” Walker, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Libby Rae Watson, and Lucious Spiller. I will be hosting the second hour from noon to 1 with Anson, Larry McCray, Sterling Billingsley and Veronika Jackson.

Funderburgh is not quite sure how to handle Warmup Wednesday, a whole day dedicated to him. “Last year they honored Bobby Rush, and Bubba wanted to honor me this year somehow. I don’t exactly know what all is gonna happen, but I know I have to be there around 4 o’clock on Wednesday, and we’ll just have to see what they’ve done. I don’t know I ’m not really good about all that stuff. I’m more shy than that. I don’t know about being honored. I’m just happy to be in the mix. I don’t need to be honored on nothin’. I just don’t wanna be left out. That’s all.

How is he going to handle Warmup Wednesday when everybody comes up to him and the focus is on him as person and not just his playing?

“Uh, (pause) I don’t know. I break down and cry when you say that.”

Check out Anson’s Facebook at: www.facebook.com/anson.funderburgh

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


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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.

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: 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 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

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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