Issue 12-12 March 22, 2018

Kingfish Ingrim magazine cover image

Cover photo © 2018 Joseph A. Rosen


 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with young Blues sensation, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Long Tall Deb and Colin John, Curtis Salgado And Alan Hager, Ronny Aagren & His Blues Gumbo, BluezAura, Eric Johanson, Cargo & The Heavy Lifters, Ilya Portnov and Bobby Kyle.

We have 2 great videos of Kingfish this week including one with Samantha Fish and Ty Curtis.

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



 Blues Wanderings 


Blue Monday at the Alamo in Springfield Illinois had another great show this week with Maurice John Vaughn, Freddie Dixon and Joe Morganfield tearing it up on some classic blues.


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 Featured Interview – Christone “Kingfish” Ingram 

kingfish ingrim photo 1Christone Ingram’s mom Princess loves the lessons her son has learned in the Delta Blues Museum Arts and Education Program in Clarksdale, Mississippi, but she’s not quite sure she likes the way bluesman and instructor Bill Howl – N – Madd Perry called him out at the guitar classes.

“He gave every child in the program a nickname because they had to play Ground Zero quite a bit. So, they had stage names. That’s how he came up with “Kingfish.” He would just stop in the middle of the program and say, ‘Let me say something. Now, while the rest of y’all are gonna be here playing basketball, listening to rap or whatever, Kingfish is gonna be all over the world.’ And then the kids would kinda get mad at Kingfish afterwards, but he did that. He said that.”

Kingfish was a character on “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” an African American situation comedy that was the most popular radio show in United States in the late ’20s and early ’30s and later became a favorite on television in the early ’50s. Amos was naïve and hard-working. Andy was a gullible dreamer with overinflated self-confidence. George “Kingfish” Stevens was the leader of their Mystic Knights of the Sea lodge who always had a get-rich-quick scheme that inevitably involved getting Amos and Andy into some kind of trouble.

“I’ve never watched it before, and I wanted to see his character,” says Christone’s mom. “I wanted to see how this character was on the show and you can’t find it.”

Christone doesn’t quite fit the moniker Perry has given him. At age 19, this Clarksdale, Mississippi native’s advanced guitar playing is far more than a get rich scheme. In fact, he’s poised to become the biggest act to break out of the Delta into international acclaim in decades. He has finished his debut album with producer Tom Hambridge of Buddy Guy and George Thorogood fame. Hambridge also plays drums. “There’s a bass player and two guitar players on the album,” says Christone.

The young firebrand is playing major festivals from Florida to New Hampshire including upcoming dates at the Chicago Blues Festival, Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, Beale St. Blues Festival, and Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco. And a musician of no less renown than Bob Margolin has called him a force of nature proclaiming, “I truly believe that Muddy Waters and the other blues ghosts who haunt the Mississippi Delta where Kingfish lives are proud that he carries on the spirit of the blues music they pioneered. Kingfish conquers time — past, present, and future.”

I asked Christone what he thought Margolin means by conquering time past, present and future. He took a long pause and then said, “Well, it means I have a traditional sound, but I can carry it on the next generation and come on to it and move it forward but not forgetting the past.

“With my culture, I really need to know this (blues) history. I’m not only in it for the love of playing, but I’m in it learning about the history. We really need to know it, especially my generation. I’m grateful to have this history here.”

His co-manager, Ric Whitney, is charged with seeing that Christone’s first album does just what Margolin hears in him: “When people hear this album, they’re going to think that it comes from his heart and his soul. There’s something about him, where he came from, who he is, and his upbringing that allows him to convey music in the way that it does, and the hope is consumers will hear it and it will resonate. It can only be good.

kingfish ingrim photo 2“I do think that at the minimum it will help people understand that there’s a plight that every musician has, and that plight can be presented in a way that is very authentic regardless of what genre it comes from. There’s a beauty in Christone’s history of his coming from the Mississippi Delta and being raised in the way he was raised. Him being able to speak, there may be other pop musicians who have their own thing. His own history definitely allows him to speak their genre of music.”

For a 19-year-old, Christone’s interest in traditional electric blues is just that, traditional. He reels off his influences: “Oh, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin Hopkins, Son House, Robert Johnson, Johnny Shines. Do I need to go on? Albert Collins, Albert King, Freddie King. Albert King was my favorite, though.”

He did get to meet B. B. King. “We got a chance to open his homecoming festival, and we hooked up meeting him about five minutes before he got to go on stage, and we all shook his hand and got a picture with him. He was concerned about practice, practice, practice.”

Christone says B.B. King’s drummer, Tony T. C. Coleman, saw one of his YouTube videos that went viral and connected him up with Hambridge. Coleman has toured with Otis Clay, Bobby Blue Bland, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, Albert Collins, Etta James, James Cotton, Katie Webster, Z.Z. Hill, O.V. Wright and Buddy Guy.

“We played a gig together in Portland, and that’s how we became acquainted. I’d say we (Hambridge and I) wrote about six songs in the first day, and with each one I was telling him the story, and he brought more out of it and added to it. And that’s how that goes. In a way (it shocked me) because very few people have succeeded bringing more out of me ’cause I can disappear and be isolated so that I won’t come out with my ideas.”

One of the songs that’s been recorded is called “Outside This Town.” “One day I was in my room, and I wrote a song about growing.”

kingfish ingrim photo 3The album tentatively titled Been Here Before is due out later this year pending a label deal. It’s all original with classic blues flavor but reflecting Christone’s gospel roots and disparate influences his website claims include Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, B.B. King, Albert King, Big Jack Johnson, Albert Collins, Freddie King, Lefty Dizz, Lucky Peterson, Little Jimmy King, Buddy Guy, Lance Lopez, Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales, Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Allman Brothers, Jonny Lang, Steve Marriot, Prince, and Michael Burks. Whew!

He was born into music. “I’m a Pride,” says his mother. “Charlie Pride is our first cousin. It was country music and gospel in my dad’s side of the family, and there’s gospel on my mother’s side of the family. I got the opportunity to meet Charlie Pride when I was younger. I thought it was neat being his cousin, you know.”

As an African American country singer, Charlie Pride had a tough row to hoe. “Absolutely. He did. There were racist people that he just ignored and became what he was.”

His mom reflects on how her son’s musical interests started very early. “He had an interest in playing the drums at first. After he got there for a while, he started playing the bass really well, and I thought maybe the bass would be the instrument that he would really play. That wasn’t the case. So, around 11, we bought him a guitar, and we put him in the program. He’s still in the program, but we started learning cords and all that from Bill Howl – N – Mad Perry, and he took an interest in it.”

Christone picks up the story. “I was around music a lot when I was a toddler, and that was the music I was seeing around because there was a blues band that stayed right next to me, so I was liking it. When I got older, I found out what it was, and I was (more attached) to that than young kids and rap and that. I started learning about rap when I was 10 or something, but everything then was like Johnny Taylor, stuff like that.

“From age eight, my parents enrolled me into the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, the arts and education program. What they do is they pretty much teach kids in how to play blues and everything, and it gives the kids something to do after school, and I’ve been with them since I was eight, and I was under the (tutelage) of Richard “Daddy Rich” Crisman and Howl – N – Madd Perry.

“My parents at first thought it wasn’t going to last. Some of my family members actually thought I was going to grow out of it. They thought I wasn’t going to take it seriously. They didn’t think it was going to be like it is now, but my inspiration was actually looking at my mom’s side of the family because that’s where I get the whole music from because of all my uncles can sing. Gospel music was also an influence. “I was never in the choir, but I played in my school choir and I played for my church.”

One YouTube video shows Christone jamming with Samantha Fish on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ classic hit “I Put A Spell on You.” He knocks the song out of the ballpark on his solo guitar run. “I was familiar with the song, but that was my first time ever playing it on stage. I was a real Screamin’ Jay Hawkins fan. So, I already knew how to play it, but that was just my first time playing it on stage.”

He says he’s on the road about 95% of the time now that he’s graduated from high school. “We’re on the road a lot. Mostly, before the album comes out, it’s like little towns in Mississippi all across the southern region. We just got back from Florida. We played the Bonita Blues Festival, in Bonita Springs, Florida. It was a 14-hour drive for us. That’s not the longest one, though. The longest one was 24 hours. That’s when we went to New Hampshire.”

kingfish ingrim photo 4Christone has an answer for anyone who still thinks blues is for old people who are the only ones who have “paid their dues to play the blues.” “Those were the songs that got us through the hard times. When those guys sang those old songs, that was getting them through the hard times, and more on to a (better) time. (Young people) should be happy to learn about that.”

Who’s his favorite person he’s ever jammed with?

“Wow! I would have to say (pause) I would say Eric Gales. Or Robert Randolph because he’s from the south, and Eric’s in a town just like an hour and a half away from me. His whole style of approaching blues is very different when I found him. I also played on his record as well. Oh, that was cool. He called while I was in school (chuckle). He called me in school to tell me he wanted me to play on it. I just recorded the solo on weekends. I just recorded like on a Saturday.”

After the interview with Christone was over and I was winding up with his mom, she mentioned that his early interest in blues was a symptom of something else.

“He started learning things on his own. He started listening to the different songs, and he could play the songs, just listening to them. That’s when we realized it was something different with Christone. we later found out he has Asperger’s Syndrome. Anything he hears in music is in his head all the time. It’s music all the time, It’s like his comfort zone. Music is his escape where he can go and hide and be himself because sometimes he’s been in that position where some people don’t like him and that’s his (right) to go into that zone and be himself and escape.”

Asperger’s Syndrome is defined as a mild form of autism that according to one New York Times article “causes people to be socially awkward and often physically clumsy, but many are verbal prodigies, speaking in complex sentences at early ages, reading newspapers fluently by age 5 or 6 and acquiring expertise in some preferred topic that will astonish adults and bore their playmates to tears.”

Princess feels that her son’s Asperger’s by and large is a plus, especially as it relates to his musical ability. “There are somethings he doesn’t like to do. Believe it or not, he doesn’t like crowds, and I think Asperger’s has really been an advantage. Apserger’s makes him great, makes him unique. Yeah, so it’s an advantage and disadvantage, but I try to look at it as being more positive than negative. I’m very comfortable talking about it. We travel and I have parents come up to me crying and saying, ‘I have a child like that. What do I do?’ I don’t mind sharing. I don’t mind. I love to talk about it.”

Ric Whitney: “People say they always (need) something to bring the blues back. I believe and his mother believes it’s a matter of getting people to hear it and understand it and have that history of what it is and what it means for modern music. Christone has grown up with it. Being from Clarksdale, being around his mother, there is music in their blood, and I think there is something about the way he stretches himself out musically that ties so well to the idea of blues is still a very, very strong thread. It’s just a matter of being able to present that in a way that people hear it.”

“I’m real blessed, real blessed,” says Christone. “The old ones went through some really hard times for us. and I didn’t see what any man would want to live like that. So, I’m blessed that my generation (doesn’t have to).”

Where does he think he’ll be 50 years from now? “Oh, wow. Man! In a nice house doing music, man. Hopefully, I’ve got things situated Yeah, man.”

Visit Christone’s website at: www.christonekingfishingram.com

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


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 Christone “Kingfish” Ingram “The Thrill Is Gone” Video 

If you have ever heard someone cover the signature B.B. King tune “The Thrill Is Gone” then you may hesitate to hear another attempt. But this is not your ordinary cover tune. This is no imitation, Kiingfish is all original and he makes this his own. (Click image to watch!)

This is classic! A tour de force of electric blues lead guitar playing by young Kingfish playing with some of the best blues musicians in the business and owning it.


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Samantha Fish, Ty Curtis & Christone “Kingfish” Ingram Video 

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Here is a video of Samantha Fish, Ty Curtis and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram killin’ it on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins 1956 tune “I Put A Spell On You”. Check out Kingfish’s lead break at about 4 minutes. (Click image to watch!)


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

long tall deb cd imageLong Tall Deb and Colin John – Dragonfly

Vizztone Label Group

www.longtalldeb.com

http://colinjohnmusic.com

11 tracks

Long Tall deb and Colin John have collaborated to make an intriguing and delightfully evocative album. Their web site says, “Following up on the themes of their 2015 EP, Streets of Mumbai, Dragonfly incorporates a bedrock of blues and soul sensibilities with rock and roll, surf, spaghetti western, noir jazz, pop, Americana and world roots influences gleaned from their travels throughout America, Europe, India and Nepal.” That kind of sums it up. Blues, soul. and all sorts of cool stuff woven into an interesting album!

Deb is on lead and backing vocals. Colin does a duet on the first and fourth tracks and also does backing vocals while playing many forms of fretboard instruments and even piano on one track. On drums are mostly Jimmy Castoe; James Cunningham and Jo El also so a track each on drums. Michael Hill is on slide for “Trouble.” Nate Hofman is on organ for 5 tracks and Chris Stephenson is on another. Jeff Jensen plays rhythm guitar on “Lungs.” Mick Kolassa backs up vocals on a few tracks and Claudia Hernandez provides spoken Spanish on track 6. Bass s provided by Melvin Powe, Bill Ruffino, ad Cliff Starbuck.

Things begin with a spooky and spiritual intro to the song entitled “On The Way Down.” The intro is deep and dark, reeking of swamp and dark and mysterious places. Deb and John sing on this and then the song is the second track with Deb handling vocals and John and the band driving an intense beat. John’s guitar is forceful and blazes as the rest of the folks provide a throbbing and cool performance. The title cut follows with a feel and sound like a theme song to a spaghetti western mixed with a Debbie Harry song. The big, hollow electric guitar sound evokes old soundtracks and Deb’s vocals really made me feel like this was Blondie Goes West. It’s an odd combination but it’s cool. Rocking, not really blues, but cool nonetheless. Very ’60’s like and they use the transformational symbol of the dragonfly to describe what they’d been going through and feeling for a couple of years. “Lungs” is the lone cover, a thoughtful and introspective sort of piece with some killer guitar work and vocals by both parties.

“I’ll Be The One” follows, a soulful rocker with inspiring vocals. Psychedelics and sitar make this another one that is out there yet restrained. Cool stuff. Next us is “Pull The Pin,” a dark song about a relationship gone so bad Deb pleads for the pin to be pulled on the grenade or the trigger pulled on the gun. They might call this noir jazz, but it’s hard to pin a genre on “Pull The Pin” (no pun intended). Bluesy, perhaps a little country, entirely slick. “Trouble” comes up next; big, thumping beat, stinging guitar and strident vocals. A nice blues rocker for sure!

The next cut is “Horizontal Lightning,” jazzy with a sort of tango feel to it. Slow, deliberate, mellow and subtle. The guitar and vocals both are restrained and interesting. “Lights That Shine” emotes Americana. Cool slide and a small guitar riff that had to be from The Stylistics woven into it (from “You Make Me Feel Brand New”). The final cut is “Dragon Fly, Slight Return.” It could easily be and instrumental from an Ennio Moriconi soundtrack from the 1960;s or 1970’s. Very cool.

There is some blues here, but this is more than the blues. So many influences and genres get fleshed out here. There is something for everyone, delivered by an outstanding singer and superb guitar player. I enjoyed this a lot and if you want to hear a band just give it their all and enjoy making music of all sorts then jump right on board!

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


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2018 Blues Blast Music Award Submissions Are Now Open

The Blues Blast Music Awards honor contemporary Blues artists and their recordings. Artists with major labels and independent artists are eligible to be considered.

The eligibility period for specific recordings is music released from May 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018. Categories such as Male Blues Artist, Female Blues Artist, Blues Band and the Rising Star Award are not tied to these specific dates but instead are based on our nominators recent observations of performances of touring artists over the past year. Submissions must be received by April 15th.

For Complete information on submitting your music for consideration click HERE

2018 Blues Blast Music Award Submissions Are Now Open

Contemporary Blues Album

Traditional Blues Album

Soul Blues Album

Rock Blues Album

Acoustic Blues Album

Live Blues Albumr

New Artist Debut Album

Historical or Vintage Album

Male Blues Artist

Female Blues Artist

Blues Band

Sean Costello Rising Star Award

Save the date! – Blues Blast Music Awards September 29th, Tebala Event Center Rockford, IL


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Early Bird Advertising Special

Blues Blast Magazine’s Early Bird Special is our lowest priced advertising of the 2018 year. It offers an affordable & effective way to get the Blues word out!

This 8-issue discount ad campaign allows you to add significant impact to your Blues advertising and promotion campaign. It is a great way for artists to solicit festival gigs or can be used to kick up the visibility of your summer Blues festival, new album release, Blues event or music product all around the globe! This is perfect for a new album release, a festival advertising campaign or any new music product.

Normal 2018 Advertising rates start at $150 per issue of Blues Blast magazine. BUT, for a limited time, this special gives you eight issues of Blues Blast Magazine for only $400. (A $1200 value!)

Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote anything Blues. 36,000 opt-in subscribers read Blues Blast Magazine. Our subscribers are located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries giving your products global coverage at an affordable price. Weekly issues of Blues Blast Magazine are also posted on our popular website. We get more than 2,000,000 (That’s TWO MILLION) hits and 65,000 visitors a month at our website.

To get this special rate simply buy your ad space by APRIL 15th, 2018!!!! Ads can run anytime between now and December 2018. So get your ad package now for that fall album release!

With this special rate, your ad can be viewed more than 370,000 times by our readers who want to know about your Blues events and music! Reserve your space today! Space is limited and will be sold on a first come first served basis.

Other ad packages and options, single ads, short run ads or long term bulk rates available too! Visit www.BluesBlastMagazine.com. To get more information email info@bluesblastmagazine.com or call 309 267-4425 today for an ad plan that fits your needs.

Ads must be reserved and paid for by April 15th, 2018!!!


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

curtis salgado cd imageCurtis Salgado And Alan Hager – Rough Cut

www.curtissalgado.com

Alligator Records

13 songs time-50:27

Long time soul-bluesman Curtis Salgado forgoes the full band approach here for a more sparse sound that harkens back to the hey day of acoustic blues. The funkiness in the delivery and content is here in abundance. In fact Curtis’s voice here occasionally easily passes for that of an old black blues singer from back in the day. It’s not an affectation. If I didn’t know who it was I would swear it was an old African-American blues icon. His harmonica playing drips with authenticity as well. From this starting point of a truly authentic sound, the album just draws you in and encircles you with blues goodness. Band mate Alan Hager provides the acoustic or mellow electric guitar accompaniment. It’s either this twosome or unobtrusive drums, bass and piano. The song selection is just about half originals by Curtis and Alan along with carefully chosen blues chestnuts. I just can’t get enough of this stuff.

Even on originals such as “I Will Not Surrender” they manage to conjure up a haunting and eerie vibe that takes one back to a dark blues place. Alan’s guitar perfectly compliments Curtis’s way cool vocal. That haunting quality continues on “So Near To Nowhere”. Curtis’s harmonica skidders all over the place. “One Night Only” sounds like it comes straight from a funky juke joint. Jimi Bott’s drums and Jim Pugh’s piano add to the vibe. The original “(I Want My Dog To Live Longer(The Greatest Wish)” owes a bit to the hokum tradition of the blues.

Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied” is an excellent interpretation of this classic tune. The drums and slide guitar skip along just nicely. Curtis captures the essence of Sonny Boy Williamson’s(Rice Miller) vocal and harmonica nuances on Sonny Boy’s “Too Young To Die”. Curtis captures the world weariness Son’s voice in Son House’s “Depot Blues”. Larhonda Steele adds secondary vocals to the gospel flavored traditional “Morning Train” to great effect.

In the original “Hell In A Handbasket” you can sense the beer soaked saw dust on the floor of a classic juke joint. Curtis accompanies himself on barrel house styled piano along with his cantankerous lyric delivery. The guitar instrumental “The Gift Of Robert Charles” starts off as a mournful tune then morphs into an upbeat gospel-tinged groove. You can hear the reverend preaching in the guitar notes. Upbeat harmonica, guitar and bass enliven Big Bill Broonzy’s “I Want You By My Side”.

Curtis and Alan take you as close to the hey day of funky old time blues as you can get without the use of a time machine. It’s hard to discern the real stuff from the spot-on originals without a score card. The crudeness in the playing of the old masters is captured here. That laid back feel good vibe permeates the entire recording. You can’t miss with this stuff. Put this on the player and close your eyes and transport yourself back to the old days in the Mississippi Delta.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

ronny aagren cd imageRonny Aagren & His Blues Gumbo – Close To You

Hunters Records HRC012017

11 songs – 45 minutes

www.ronnyaagren.com

Much like countryman and former band mate J.T. Lauristen, Norway-based guitarist/vocalist Ronny Aagren proves without a doubt that the mighty Mississippi has a branch that flows through Scandinavia with this rich gumbo of New Orleans, Texas and Delta blues.

Based in Raelingen and a 30-year veteran of the music business, Aagren’s influences range from Robert and Blind Willie Johnson to Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. He’s worked and toured with several top bands in Europe, including Lauritsen’s Buckshot Hunters, Billy C. Farlow, Little Andrew and Larsen Last Chance, and formed this band for a 2016 stint on a European blues cruise.

Producing a sound that would fit comfortably in East Texas or the Louisiana bayous, their show – and subsequent gigs in their homeland – went so successfully that they’ve been touring ever since.

A skilled slide guitarist, Aagren possesses a distinctly recognizable sound on the fretboard and a pleasant, lilting voice, although he also delivers tasty single-note runs throughout most of the material. He’s backed by keyboard player Alexander Andre Johnson, bass player Roar Paulsberg and drummer Ole-Christian Rydland, all of whom sing, too.

Issued on Lauristen’s Hunters Records imprint, the disc swings from the jump. Although some of the song titles appear to be covers, all are originals. A solid single-note guitar solo opens the straight-ahead blues, “Trying To Get Close To You,” which deals with a one-way relationship in which the singer’s full of desire and the lady flirts, she repels him every time he tries to move things forward. Johnson’s organ solo mid-tune shines, as does the stop-time chorus.

The rhythm section and keys kick off “Walking With The Devil,” a modern treatment of standing at the crossroads, trying to decide which way to go. This time, the singer’s so drunk that his mind has a will of its own and the devil’s incarnate in a woman with “fire in her eyes and a body of stone.” He realizes his time’s up the next morning when he awakens beside her, sees her as Satan and realizes that all her beauty has gone. Aagren proves he can whistle as he brings the song to a close.

The medium-fast jump blues “I Don’t Care” follows and is guaranteed to have you up and dancing aided by more nice work on the 88s. The two-step “There Is Hope” keeps the action going as it comes across with a true Arcadian roadhouse feel, as does the Southern rocker, “I Love That Lady.”

“Silence” describes the bittersweet emotions the singer deals with when thinking happily about a lady while, simultaneously, his heart feels blue, realizing he’s lonely and chasing shadows to fight the pain. The love theme continues with the percussive “After Midnight,” which finds him visiting another lady who urges him to stay, and the old-school rocker “A Question Of Time,” in which he realizes he’s going to get what he desires.

The instrumentation quiets for a solo guitar opener for the gospel-tinged ballad “Precious Lord” while ba military drumbeat opens the slide-driven “Bring Me Home,” which asks the Lord to lead the way. The action ends with the slow-blues ballad “Sometimes,” in which Aagren wonders how to handle a relationship in which he fears the lady’s found someone else, but doesn’t care because he realizes that they’re through.

Available through Amazon, iTunes and other retailers, Close To You is a great debut album. The musicianship shines, and the material is fresh despite familiar themes. 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 – 4 of 8 

bluezaura cd imageBluezAura – Everything but the Blues

Self-Produced

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/bluezaura

CD: 12 Songs, 56:01 Minutes

Styles: Guitar Monster Blues, Hard Rock, Debut Album, All Original Songs

Some perennial conundrums: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” “Is Russia part of Europe or Asia?” “Does Jimi Hendrix qualify as a blues or a rock artist?” Granted, not everyone will puzzle over that last one, but the target audience of this e-zine sure will. Genre fans who say “yes” to the Hendrix dilemma are slated to go gaga over Oklahoma City’s BluezAura and their debut album, Everything but the Blues. Those who don’t – well, won’t. The latter group might say, “Hendrix’s and BluezAura’s tunes are based on the blues, but using traditional eight-and-twelve-bar rhythms in hard rock songs won’t transmogrify them into blues songs.” The former group might say, “Hey! It’s guitar monster/guitar hero blues, and that’s a legitimate category.” In this reviewer’s book, it is, and it’s one she uses quite often. No matter which way you slice it, BluezAura’s brand of music is high-energy and intense, perfectly fit for live outdoor concerts. Volume alert: On twelve original tracks, they bring the house down and blow the roof off.

Lead man Robby Swihart provides laid-back, breezy vocals, letting his flaming shredder do most of the talking. He also plays keyboards, while bassist Kenny Goodwin and drummer Vann Swihart provide background singing.

“Like most musicians do early in their careers,” reveals Kenny Goodwin in their promotional materials, “I worked with a few different cover bands, playing hard rock, blues and progressive-country music…[Later,] after a very long hiatus from the music industry, I decided to slowly ease back in and see if there was anything left in the ‘musical tank’…I began writing until I had several songs that I believed were demo-worthy. Now it was time to pull in some real talent and lay down a few of the tracks. The plan was simple: record a few songs for a demo and see what happens. However, after jamming with Robby and Vann, somehow we decided to record enough tracks for an album, and the next thing you know, here we are…Regardless of the circumstances, we recorded all twelve tracks in the span of two days. Afterwards, Robby overdubbed a few guitar tracks, one keyboard track and then replaced the scratch vocal tracks.”

The title track of BluezAura’s debut release demonstrates exactly what’s right, and/or what’s wrong, with including the likes of “The Wild Man of Borneo” in the ranks of blues legends.

Track 05: “Everything but the Blues” – “Although very embellished, this is based on my own personal experience with divorce.” So Goodwin says about number five, the most traditional-sounding of the band’s twelve selections. It’s raucous, down and dirty, taking no prisoners and mincing no words: “I should have known things aren’t always as they seem. But I never believed you’d be the one to crush our dream. She got it all; she got the kids, the home the car. She got it all; she got my clothes and even my shoes. She got everything, everything but the blues.”

Hendrix fans will love BluezAura, but others may think their debut album offers Everything but the Blues.

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.


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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

eric johanson cd imageEric Johanson – Burn It Down

Whiskey Bayou Records

11 songs – 54 minutes

www.ericjohanson.com

Guitarist/vocalist Eric Johanson has the right to sing the blues. He was a fixture in the music scene of Louisiana for years, but emigrated to New Zealand in 2006 after he lost everything he owned when Hurricane Katrina destroyed the home he established in New Orleans.

Born and raised in a musical family, Johanson possesses a beautifully rich voice that plays off well against his down-and-dirty six-string sound. His maternal grandfather was a piano tuner and jazz clarinetist, his grandmother was a pianist who sung in church choirs and aunts played cello and bass. His paternal grandfather owned a music store, and Eric started playing guitar at age five.

Eric began jamming in the Crescent City at age 15 after playing with a band at home two years earlier, frequently traveling from his home in Alexandria, and he lived in the big city for several years before tragedy struck. He returned the U.S. in 2010, quickly reestablishing himself in the bands of a trio of legends — Cyrill Neville, Terrance Simien and Corey Henry’s Treme Funktet.

“Cyril taught me a ton about New Orleans history, culture and music – especially funk,” he says. “When I started with Terrence, I didn’t know much about zydeco music, despite growing up in it.”

Both those influences and lessons learned come through loud and strong on Burn It Down, Eric’s debut CD as a bandleader. He bears his soul about the hardships he’s endured in music that blends everything from Delta blues to funk, blues and rock in 10 originals and one cover here, playing in a power trio format that includes Whiskey Bayou label owner Tab Benoit on drums and his longtime bandmate Corey Duplechin on bass.

The album remains blues-based despite not built on traditional structure, Johanson notes. “While it was my intention to make a ‘blues’ record, Tab encouraged me to do more of the songs with something unique and different about them.”

A haunting guitar line opens “Burn It Down,” a Delta-infused lesson that deals with Eric having nothing left to lose as he weeds elements from his life that are holding him back as he works to set new, healthier goals. The music percolates under the lyrics and builds tension throughout. The sound brightens and tempo quickens for “She’s In Control,” a rocker that describes a woman who enters a bar in overdrive and makes the singer high for no reason. He quickly realizes she’s in full control of his personal demons.

The rhythm section opens the powerfully autobiographical “Bang Against The Wall” in which Johanson states that he was born restless and that nothing has changed in a life dealing with high hopes and plenty of frustration, while “Graveyard Queen,” a slow blues co-written with Benoit, paints a dark picture of a woman who leaves a path of destruction as she dances slowly, leaving people she touches wary of trusting anyone again.

The funky “4 In The Morning” describes being in a barroom and not wanting to go home, while “Live Oak” is an image-filled message about life in the South. It cautions to watch your step because the roots run deep. A repetitive eight-note riff drives “Till We Bleed,” which describes a relationship that needs to undergo a major change.

Johanson puts an interesting spin on unconditional love in “The Fugitive” – the singer’s a man on the run who’s taken in by a lady willing to give him a second chance at life — before the only cover number in the set, “Oh Louisiana,” written by Charles Edward Anderson and first recorded by Chuck Berry, gets a major makeover as it sings praises for The Pelican State. The funky “So Cold,” which describes the end of a romance, is up next before “On My Own” gives space for Eric to reflect on his past as he realizes he’s got to build his own dreams going forward.

Aurally different and available through most major retailers, Burn It Down is a winner on all counts. It’s bluesy, modern and full of interesting themes. True blues for modern times.

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 – 6 of 8 

cargo and the heavy lifters cd imageCargo & The Heavy Lifters – Live At Jammin’ Java

www.cargoheavylifters.com

self release

9 songs time – 47:14

Randy McCargo(Cargo) And The Heavy Lifters from Virginia cover rock favorites and a few blues numbers in this live set with a basic singer, guitar, keyboard, bass and drums line up. They are an above average bar band featuring two talented guitarists with one of them doubling on keyboards. The rhythm section offers up tight support. Cargo’s gruff voice fares better on the rockers. The guys are good, but this kind of music goes over better in a live setting.

Cargo’s husky voice does a fine version of Fats Domino’s “Hello, Josephine”, that includes some cool organ playing from Jim Wilson. He plays more latter in the album. I could of went for even more. Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright?” is given a good workout featuring Jim’s piano and John Sterling’s fine guitar skills. The old AM radio chestnut “Vehicle” stays close to the original with the keyboard “horns” not sounding out of place.

The Allman Brothers Band “Don’t Want You No More/Not My Cross To Bear” features guitar that would make the brothers proud. Cargo’s graveling voice fits in just right on this number. They turn in an ok treatment of John Hiatt’s “Feels Like Rain”, but Cargo’s voice isn’t quite flexible enough to pull this one off. John O’Connor turns in a nifty bass solo. Buddy Guy’s “What Kind Of Woman Is This?” is funky with a dual guitar attack and a bit of wah-wah.

John Mayer’s “Gravity” is an ok bit of light and soulful pop music. Willie Dixon’s “Let Me Love You Baby” breaks out a bit of that organ on a lively rendition. Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying” gets a blues-rock guitar treatment to good effect.

Feel good music by a crack bar band, what’s not to like? Cargo’s vocals work 95% of the time. Let’s see…two good guitarists, great keyboard man and a super tight rhythm section. From the crowd reaction they seem to be a local favorite. Crack open a couple of cold ones and make them one of your favorites as well.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

ilya portnoc cd imageIlya Portnov – Strange Brew

Self-released

www.ilyaharmonica.com

9 Tracks/40:50

Greaseland Studios has become the go-to place to get a quality recording, with producer Kid Andersen at the helm. Not only does Andersen deliver killer sound, but being a musician, he also understands the intricacies of the music. That allows him to provide more detailed guidance in helping an artist shape their musical vision in the studio. It helps the cause when he contributes his formidable guitar skills, as he does on this release, in addition to playing bass on eight tracks. Other key contributors include June Core on drums and percussion plus Chris Burns on piano and keyboards.

But the real star is the Russian-born harmonica ace, Ilya Portnov. Now based out of Los Angeles, Portnov has fashioned a diverse instrumental offering that deftly mixes his wide-ranging musical interests. Blues fans will certainly welcome “Behind The Wall,” a riveting tribute to Little Walter with plenty of fat tone and over-blows, with Robby Yamilov on bass. “Sunny Afternoon Blues” is a light, swinging tune that features some fine violin accompaniment from Ben Andrews and an equally striking piano solo before Portnov dances around on the upper register of his diatonic harp.

Portnov switches to chromatic for a waltz through “Dance Of A Lovely Doll,” with Burns once again impressing on piano. The arrangement for “In A Town Garden” is centered on the organ, generating a late night feel behind dazzling solos from the leader and Andersen on guitar. The title track is another original that combines the blues with some Eastern European folk influences, highlighted by Portnov’s heady improvisations. “Surfin’ The Baltic Sea” is a thrilling, high-energy romp sparked by Andersen’s sparkling fills. Rob Vye adds acoustic guitar to jaunty cover of the Rev. Gary Davis tune, “Cincinnati Flow Rag”. Andrews is back on a piece based on the tango, “1928,” his mournful violin tones playing off the melancholy that Portnov generates on the chromatic harp. The band gets loose on the closing track, “Till The Early Morning,” with Portnov and Andersen wailing away on their instruments over an infectious Bo Diddley-style beat.

This is Ilya Portnov’s first release under his own name, following a band project from several years ago that featured Brazilian choro music. You can be sure that we will be hearing more from this fascinating artist with a unique musical outlook. Anyone that loves harp playing of the highest order needs to hear this recording, as does anyone with an adventurous set of ears.

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!



 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

bobby kyle cd imageBobby Kyle – It’s My Life

www.bobbykyle.com

Juicy Baby Records

12 songs – 45 minutes

Bobby Kyle has led a long and storied life in the blues, learning from Lonnie Mack in the 1970s, being part of Bill Dicey’s band from 1979 to 1981, touring with Eddie Kirkland in the early 1980s and being a key part of Johnny “Clyde” Copeland’s band both on record and on the road from 1989 to 1997. For the last 20 years, he has led his own band as a singer, guitarist and songwriter.

It’s My Life is Kyle’s first release since 2004’s Last Call For The Blues and it is immediately obvious that he is still firing on all cylinders. Roaring out of the blocks with Copeland’s own “Daily Bread”, Kyle and his top class band, The Administrators, display a muscular authority and confidence. The Administrators comprise Joel Perry on acoustic and electric guitars, Everett Boyd on electric and upright bass and Marc Copell on drums and percussion. Sadly, Perry passed away in September 2017 and It’s My Life is dedicated to his memory. Guest musicians on the album include Dave Keyes on piano, organ, wurlitzer and accordion, Joey Simon on harmonica, Fred Scribner on nylon string guitar on “Tomorrow Night”, Laron Land and Alex Harding on tenor and soprano saxophone and baritone saxophone respectively, and James Smith on trumpet. Little Sammy Davis adds harmonica to “Tomorrow Night”.

Kyle has a warm, weathered voice that has echoes of Delbert McClinton, especially on the pop-blues-rock of the title track. He is also a fine guitarist, with a powerful, melodic style that reflects the influence of the likes of Mack and Copeland. His solo on “Highway Man” is particularly memorable in its less-is-more approach. Kyle’s songs touch on rock, soul, jazz-rock and even country, all underscored by the blues. He contributed six of his own songs to the album. The six covers are all well-chosen and well-executed. The most well-known is probably Robert Lockwood Jr’s “Little Boy Blue”, which closes the album and which on which Kyle backs himself with just a resonator guitar and a bottleneck.

Having acknowledged his debt to Copeland in “Daily Bread” (originally recorded by the Texas legend on his Boom Boom album), Kyle tips his hat to another former employer on “I’ve Got My Bloodshot Eyes On You” which keeps the acoustic guitars of Kirkland’s original but adds Simon’s harmonica to the front of the mix. Denise La Salle’s “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In” is played closer to the blues-rock cover by Buddy Guy on 1994’s Slippin’ In, rather than LaSalle’s funky original. “Tripping Out”, by Philly soul legend, Bunny Sigler (who also sadly passed in late 2017), features some fine piano from Keyes. “Tomorrow Night”, originally written in 1939 by Sam Coslow and Will Grosz and since covered by everyone from Lonnie Johnson and Lavern Baker to Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bob Dylan, harks back to the earlier versions with the acoustic instrumentation and even features some static at the start and end of the song, reminiscent of a needle being placed on an old record.

It’s My Life is a fine release of modern blues and blues-rock from Kyle. Let’s hope it won’t be 14 years until the next one.

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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Ventura County Blues Society – Ventura, CA

The 13th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival, Southern California’s Longest-Running Yearly Big Blues Event, returns on Saturday, April 28, to Studio Channel Islands, 2222 E. Ventura Blvd., in Camarillo. Gates open 10:00 am, music begins at 11:00 am. Tickets $30. (Pre-Sale), $40. (Day of Show). Kids 12 and under, free with paid Adult General Admission. V.I.P. Tickets $125. (online only). Festival proceeds benefits Food Share, Safety Harbor Kids and other local charities (please bring a nonperishable food item to donate to Food Share). Info: (805) 501-7122 or visit http://venturacountyblues.com. Benefiting Safety Harbor Kids and other local charities. Donations welcome.

This year’s lineup features multiple former Grammy nominee, vocalist Earl Thomas; harpist-vocalist extraordinaire, John Nemeth; SoCal native daughter and longtime festival favorite, Deb Ryder; past International Blues Challenge semi finalists, Alan Wright Band; Sandy Scott & Blues to The Bone, featuring powerhouse vocalist, Sandy Scott. As per yearly tradition, the Ventura County Blues Society All-Star Jam closes out the festival, with special, unannounced guest performers

The Sacramento Blues Society – The Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society will host a performance by the Johnny Rawls Band on May 25th, 2018. Doors at Goldfield Trading Post @ 1630 J St. Sacramento, CA will open at 3:30. For tickets visit: www.sacblues.com/event/johnny-rawls.

Johnny Rawls is a soul blues legend. In fact, the term “soul blues” was invented to describe his music. With a career spanning more than 50 years, he’s done it all. He’s an internationally recognized recording artist, music producer, and songwriter who tours extensively throughout North America and overseas.

The Blues Music Awards, Blues Blast Awards, Living Blues Critics Poll Awards, and the W. C. Handy Awards have all acknowledged Johnny with multiple awards and nominations, including Soul Blues Album of the Year and Soul Blues Artist of the Year. Living Blues Magazine described him as a “soul-blues renaissance man”

Johnny’s latest CD “Waiting for the Train” on Catfood Records was released in September 2017, and has been recognized as one of the top 50 blues albums of the year by Roots Music Report

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society announces its April Blues Bash, 1 April (no April fool’s joke here) featuring Joseph Michael Mahfoud, also at the Rabbit Hole, 7:00 doors, 8:00 show, with jam to follow.

As always, both shows are free to card-carrying members, only $5 for others. We are asking for donations of canned food or household paper products to benefit Loaves and Fishes. Hope to see you there! www.charlottebluessociety.org

Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

Sacramento Blues Society is proud to present the legendary Johnny Rawls, Nominee for 2018 Soul Blues Male Artist and Soul Blues Album of the Year for “Waiting for the Train”, on Sunday, March 25, 2018, Goldfield’s Trading Post, 1630 J Street, Sacramento.

Doors open 3:30 p.m. ~ Show: 4 to 7 pm. Purchase tickets Advance Online: $29 Members, $34 Public at www.sacblues.com or at the Door: $30 Members, $35 Public.

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Monthly shows at the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park, IL are on the second Saturday of the month. They are from 8:00 to 11:30 PM and there is a $5 Cover Charge. Scheduled shows: April 14 – Chicago Wind featuring Matthew Skoller and Dietra Farr, May 12 – Cash Box Kings.

The Lyran Society in downtown Rockford hosts first and third Friday blues along with a fish fry. No cover, shows 7 to 10 pm. Scheduled shows: April 6 – Bobby Messano.

Contact Steve Jones at sub_insignia@yahoo.com for more info on any of these events or go to http://crossroadsbluessociety.com/.

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 e 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: March 26 – Kilborn Alley Blues Band, April 2 – The Brother Jefferson Band, April 9 – Bruce Katz, April 16 – Harper and the Midwest Kind, April 23 – Paul Bonn and the Bluesmen, April 30 – The Joe Tenuto Band. For more information visit www.icbluesclub.org.


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P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2018 Blues Blast Magazine (309) 267-4425

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