Issue 12-18 May 4, 2018


 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Johnny Tucker. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including a book by Twist Turner plus new music from Victor Wainwright, Meg Williams, Red’s Blues, Kid Ramos, Robbert Fossen Band, The Bush League and Move On.

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


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 Blues Wanderings 

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We made it to the Alamo in Springfield Illinois to catch a show by Albert Castiglia. Albert is touring in support of he latest release Up All Night on Ruf Records.

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The crowd loved the show! Albert even took my new Delaney custom guitar for a test drive. Sounded a hell of a lot better when he plays it than when I do!


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 Featured Interview – Johnny Tucker 

johnny tucker photo 1“You don’t keep the blues, you play it.”

Johnny Tucker recorded his new album Seven Day Blues old school like Sonny Boy Williamson did. He invents it as he goes along. “I ain’t the kinda cat that walks in the studio with papers and all this shit, this song, that song. I don’t do it like that. I don’t have no nuthin,’ no pencil, no paper, no nothing.

“When I walk into the studio, the band is already there. I want ’em to play a blues song in G, and I count off. Now, we can’t do it but one time. I say, ‘Y’all, we can’t do this song but one time because I forget it ’cause I’m remembering it as I do it.’ I’m doing the words, all that stuff, the music, the words, the timing, the stops and the goes.”

One of 16 children, eight boys and eight girls, including two sets of twins, Tucker’s played the blues for 58 of his 72 years, including decades with Texas bluesman Phillip Walker. Nothing much gets by him.

“A lotta people say they love playing the blues, but a lotta people might love playing it, but it’s hard to play, man, ’cause if you ain’t putting everything where it’s supposed to be, you’re not playing the blues.

“When I was with Phillip Walker you come to a Phillip Walker show you got to meet Johnny Tucker. You a bass player or guitar player, you got to meet Johnny Tucker. We talking about good times. Boy, we gonna have some fun. We had some good times. We playing 100%. Ain’t no messin’ around. Ain’t no jokin.’ We get together, we gonna play 100%. Whatever you play, it’s gonna be played 100%.

The son of a sharecropper and his wife, Johnny was the first of seven to be born after the family moved from Texas to Fresno, California. His mama had a knack of making things look – and smell – better than they were.

“We had a good time, man. Mama’d cook a big pot of beans. She’d cook those beans and make it smell like there’s a bag of meat there, but we’re looking for the meat, you ain’t got none.

There’s no meat in the damn beans. I found out what was happening was the way she was doing it, and the whole kitchen was smellin’ like ham hocks. Nothing but ham hocks. She would take the ham hocks and put it with the beans and put it in the freezer and freeze it.”

Then, she’d cook the beans separate from the ham hocks. “Man, we had every kid on the black. Everybody want to eat some of those beans. She fed the whole block, man. She was just like that all the time, Yup.”

Asked what it was like growing up with so many brothers and sisters, Johnny answers in one word, “Busy! So busy!” Daddy played guitar on the front porch for Johnny’s mom, and the kids made the best of their hard scrabble condition.

johnny tucker photo 2“We was all into music, but we had to make our instruments. I was beatin’ on cans and shit. My brother played guitar, but he didn’t have a real guitar. So, we’d be pickin’ cotton early in the morning, and we’d take some tires and throw them on the fire. We burning those tires ’cause it’s foggy. And you cannot pick the cotton early in the morning ’cause the cotton get wet, and we’d have to wait until it kind of dries off. So, we burned the tire, and that tire got some wire in it.

“So, my brother got a flat board. He nailed three nails up at the top and three down at the bottom, and we got that wire off of the tire. That kind of wire expands. You can really tune it up. And he made a guitar out of it, man. And he was playin’ it with a match book to keep his hands from hittin’ the wire. Oh, man, he musta played that for a year before he got a real guitar.”

Johnny’s father told the boys not to worry about the chores. “He told us, he said, ‘You guys go on and play,’ and my ex-brother-in-law asked me, he wanted to get me some drums. I ain’t heard of no drums in my life. I was beatin’ on cans, and it took me two days to set them drums up. I see it wasn’t but four pieces, but it took me two days to set those drums up. It didn’t feel right.

“Then, I put on James Brown. No, Lowell Fulson, Tramp, that record, Tramp. I put that record on. I got behind those drums, and I played that record just like I heard it on the (phonograph). I said, ‘I could play this all year.’ My daddy said, ‘You all play in a band and play down at the club. Y’all gonna make about $12 a night.’ You make $12, and y’all don’t have to go pick no cotton.’ Whoa. That was the treat of our life. We was the happiest kids in the world during that time.”

It certainly beat picking cotton.

Johnny met his childhood hero James Brown when he was 19. “James had an unusual style, man, ’cause he had three drummers, and back during that time you didn’t have no band. No band didn’t have no two or three drummers. They only had one drummer, and James Brown was the first cat that came out with three drummers. He just (plucked) one at a time, and that’s where I got – when I left California and learned how to play when I got to New Orleans and places like that, I played altogether different kind of (drums). The sound was different and everything.

“I met James back in ’65 in Nashville, Tennessee. I was with the Five Royales. I stayed on the road for a long time singing the backup and, harmony.”

A seminal rhythm ‘n’ blues vocal group first formed in 1953, The Five Royales influenced many rock groups. Their “Dedicated to The One I love” went top 40 when covered by the Shirelles and the Mama and Papas. Ray Charles covered “Tell The Truth.” James Brown and Mick Jagger covered “Think” and Memphis’ premiere guitarist Steve Cropper released Dedicated: A Salute to the 5 Royales in 2011 featuring vocalists Lucinda Williams, Sharon Jones, Bettye LaVette, Delbert McClinton, Willie Jones, B.B. King, Shemekia Copeland, Buddy Miller, Dan Penn, Brian May, Steve Winwood, John Popper, and Dylan LeBlanc.

Johnny would go on tour with Texas bluesman Phillip Walker for much of his career, starting off as a featured singer doing a James Brown act singing top 10 hits of the times. “I wasn’t a drummer all the time. I started off being a singer. I went to do the James Brown show with Phillip and Be Bop.”

johnny tucker photo 3But necessity is the mother of invention. “Phillip’s drummer called his wife in Dallas, Texas, and she told him if he don’t get home now, he can’t come home. (Laugh) He told Phillip, ‘Hey, man I gotta go. You can have the drums, and I don’t know. Find somebody who can play ’em, but I gotta go home. I gotta go home right now.’

“I’m sitting around waiting, ’cause I’m a singer. That was my job. So, we get through rehearsal, we ain’t got no drummer. Phillip didn’t know I knew how to play drums. So, he asked me, ‘I heard you play drums.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I play good as I can play with y’all.’ So, he says, ‘You think you can keep up?’ I says, ‘Yeah. Man, I played with Phillip for 18 years.”

The newly released Seven Day Blues is only Johnny Tucker’s third album following his 1997 Stranded CD with “Broadway” Thomas and 2006’s Why You Lookin’ At Me? It contains 15 originals, all shuffles in a Muddy Waters vein with a Lazy Lester/Slim Harpo Excello looseness about the production. Most of the songs are about women and the yin and yang of loving them and trying to deal with them at the same time. It was recorded live at Big Tone Studios in Hayward, California on new-retro Sun Studios-styled tube amps. Artists appearing include: Big Jon Atkinson, Troy Sandow, and Scott Smart, who traded off on guitars and bass along with drummers Malachi Johnson and Marty Dodson. Bob Corritore is listed as “project assistant” and shares harp duties with Sandow on half the album. Bob Welch added organ and Kid Ramos and his guitar make an appearance for one cut, “Tell You All.”

Johnny had never worked with any of these artists before recording this album, and none of the songs were written out in advance.

“If I cut it off somewhere I even forgot what I was going to say. I even forget the words I was gonna do. What I have to do is I have to go ahead and do the whole song. Don’t stop it, not one time. And when I get through with the song, then we listen to it.

“We did a good job. The cats played good. They sound good, and we all got along. We got to breathe. Nobody had nothing’ to say. That’s all they did was play and enjoyed what they was playin’. We were all having fun. That’s one thing we did have is fun.

“I can do bass lines with my mouth and those are just regular bass lines. Know what I’m saying? It’s real easy for a band to play with me ’cause I give ’em the bass line, and then I just get the guitar player to play what you feel and that’s the whole song right there.

“I didn’t play no drums. No drums in it. I just told ’em, to do me a song in G and counted it off for ’em. One thing about blues. Blues only got so many changes. It ain’t no complicated thing. You got so many changes you gonna hear every time you play the blues. You gonna go to these spots.”

Johnny particularly enjoyed working with Bob Corritore who seems to play harp on half the CD releases of the last five years. “He’s the easiest cat in the world. Lord have mercy. He’s the easiest cat in the world I ever worked with. I think I looked up at him one time when he was doing his solo. All the rest of the time he already knew who I was. Man, we got along. He’s a beautiful cat, too, man. Yeah, we had a good time. We had a good time. Yeah, I loved every minute of it.”

Kid Ramos plays guitar on one cut. “We did shows together a lotta times when I was with Phillip. Yeah, we did a lotta concerts together, blues festivals and stuff like that when I was with Phillip Walker.”

Johnny’s been writing songs “all my life, all my life. I’ll sit down, and before you know anything, I’ll put it on my song, Put some words down.” And though he may create the songs on his album extemporaneously, once they’re recorded, the words are set. He never changes the lyrics. “No, no, no, no. I gotta learn it. I gotta learn this whole CD. I have to listen to it and listen to it and listen to it until I learn it, the whole CD. I gotta sing the whole CD. It’s mine. That’s the time I listens to it when I’m by myself and stuff like that. Once I learn the words, it’s a piece of cake ’cause it’s my song.

“I’ve learned one thing. When you’re real about yourself, they gonna hear you. You can’t make believe yourself.”

Johnny’s wife is his manager. He told me he was having a CD release party on April 27th. His wife corrected him. It’s May 27th. “She say May! You don’t say no to your manager. We all right. I tell her all the time. I say, ‘Baby, we the happiest people in the world. Nobody in the world is no happier.’ It’s good. My wife told me. (I said) I’m kinda tired.” She said, ‘How can you be tired when you be layin’ up there sleepin’?’ She took a picture of me in my sleep while I was makin’ up a song in my head.”

Right.

For more on about Johnny’s new album visit http://highjohnrecords.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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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

vivtor wainwright cd imageVictor Wainwright And The Train

Ruf Records – 2018

12 tracks; 62 minutes

www.victorwainwright.com

New band name, new record label, Victor Wainwright has gone for a blank canvas while retaining the best elements of his previous music. Perhaps the intention is there to see on the clever cover where all manner of musical instruments have been formed into an old-fashioned steam train. The result is an excellent disc with many strong songs, all written by Victor (with assistance on three songs from previous band members Stephen Dees and Nick Black). The core band is Victor on vocals, all keyboards (and, on one track, ‘belly tambourine’), long-standing drummer Billy Dean, Terrence Grayson on bass and Pat Harrington on guitar. Roomful of Blues horn players Mark Earley (sax) and Doug Woolverton (trumpet) appear on eight tracks, Nick Black, Patricia Ann Dees and the fabulous Reba Russell are on B/V’s, co-producer Dave Gross plays varied guitars/percussion, Jeff Jensen acoustic guitar and there is a trio of guest lead guitarists: ‘Monster’ Mike Welch, Josh Roberts and Greg Gumpel. Several of those names will be familiar as members of Victor’s previous band The Wild Roots. Recorded in Memphis in January 2017, mixed by Dave Gross in New Jersey, it looks as if Victor waited until he had the right label to release the album but the wait was worth it.

Opening track “Healing” sets off at tremendous pace pushed by the horns, Victor urging us to all “board the train” and find salvation, the gospel overtones laid bare for all to hear as Victor pounds the piano, a ‘churchy’ middle section before Pat’s guitar, Victor’s wild organ and the choir take us home – quite a ride! “Wiltshire Grave” has a New Orleans flavour with Doug’s growling trumpet and Billy’s odd assortment of percussion effects, including bicycle bell, baseball bat and knife, before the rollicking title cut “Train” delivers a dose of Victor’s trademark boogie piano, the horns adding even greater propulsion to the frantic pace – just try sitting still to this one! Victor then shows a completely different side to his music on the soulful ballad “Dull Your Shine” (with Greg Gumpel’s delicate guitar work) before Victor recounts the humorous tale “Money” in which he is pursued for payment by the IRS and several shady characters.

Mike Welch lends his talents to the touching BB King tribute “Thank You Lucille” as his very appropriate guitar fills complement Victor’s heartfelt vocals on another highlight of the album: “Thank you for giving my mentor’s hands a place to rest, a place to call home. The thrill will never be gone, your music will always live on. That’s just the way I feel – thank you Lucille”. After that we probably do need a touch of Victor’s wit and energy which he delivers on “Boogie Depression” – “playing the piano to cure my depression”. Victor strikes a more serious note on the affectionate ballad “Everything I Need” before his rolling left hand starts up the gospel stomper “Righteous” with Josh Roberts’ slide and the backing vocalists helping Victor to whip up a storm. Victor’s great sense of humour comes to the fore on the hilarious “I’ll Start Tomorrow”, his response to advice on cutting back on his excesses, complete with boogie piano and a superb sax solo by Mark Earley.

The album closes with two extended tracks: “Sunshine” opens with Pat doing his best Derek Trucks impression over percussion effects and Mark’s flute before the tune develops into Jamband/Allmans territory, Victor even sounding like the late Gregg Allman on his short vocal part; “That’s Love To Me” is a heartfelt ballad over soulful backing with Victor on organ and Pat again showing why he is such a highly-rated young guitarist with a soaring solo.

There are several strong songs here that will doubtless grace Victor’s live shows. Probably best known for his larger-than-life personality and boogie piano, this album shows several sides to Victor’s music and should take him to the next level. Recommended!

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

meg williams ep imageMeg Williams – Maybe Someday

Self-produced

6 songs – 20 minutes

www.megwilliamsmusic.com

Full-throated songbird/songwriter Meg Williams made a name for herself on the music scene of Rochester, N.Y., earlier in the decade, but she’s been elevating her game since relocating to Nashville about 18 months ago.

Folks in New York know her from her work as a solo and duo artist and bandleader at such venues as Lovin’ Cups and Sticky Lips BBQ Juke Joint as well as area festivals and songwriter showcases, often accompanied by bassist and music educator Danny Ziemann. Not to be confused with other artists with similar names, this Meg released her first full-length CD, Troubles To The Wind, in 2014 and followed it up with a previous EP, entitled For Now.

Often compared with Susan Tedeschi or Bonnie Raitt, Williams has been working seven nights a week since landing in Music City. A 2016 competitor in the local International Blues Challenge competition, she’s toured Southern California three times in the past year in addition to playing at B.B. King’s in Memphis, at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days and has already made an impact in Nashville songwriting circles, headlining multiple showcases that included name talents.

She’s penned all of the tunes on this EP, which displays her strong alto voice with pleasant, but limited range. She’s backed here in a full-band arrangement, accompanied by Dan Wecht on electric and slide guitars, Greggory Garner on bass, and Kyle Law on drums. Additional vocals are provided by Sara Rogers, and a choir composed of Sam Gonzales, Chase Walker, Wilson Harwood and Skylar Gregg adds to the mix.

All of Meg’s songs are rooted strongly in blues rock and soul without the slightest hint of country despite her new home base. The opener, “Not My Problem,” is a soulful funk that puts problems in a relationship solely on the shoulders of her man, giving him the opportunity to “stay if you wanna, leave if you wanna/I don’t care one way or another.”

Williams channels Magic Sam as she shows off her guitar skills on the loping, stop-time blues shuffle, “Bad Lovin’,” before Wacht’s featured on slide for the swamp rocker, “Little Bit Of Devil,” a warning about a woman with a troubled past, while “Maybe Someday” comes across with strong gospel overtones and a blue-eyed soul feel as it advises being optimistic and taking your time no matter what you’re facing in life.

Meg’s New York roots come to the fore in the hard-edged “You Let Me Down,” which is built atop a heavy East Coast rock beat. She can’t get the guy out of her head or give up on him despite continuing disappointments. The theme continues on the pop-flavored set ender, “I Feel A Heartache Coming.”

Short, but sweet, this EP should establish Williams on a bigger stage. Available from Amazon or CDBaby and worthy of a spin if you’re on the hunt for a new artist who delivers quality fresh tunes.

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 

reds blues cd imageRed’s Blues – You Knock Me Out

Self-Produced/Little Red Records

www.facebook.com/redsbluessac

CD: 14 Songs, 44:17 Minutes

Styles: Traditional Electric Blues, Blues Covers

In this age of ultra-personal customization and “having it your way,” why are chain restaurants still so popular? Why visit Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s when there are family cafés, exotic ethnic eateries, and gourmet “fusion”-related places to try? Simple: When you’re tired and hungry from a long day on the road or at work, you want to know exactly what you’re getting. At chain franchises, your favorite meals taste familiar whether you’re in Maine or California. The sophomore album from Sacramento band Red’s Blues, You Knock Me Out, contains good, solid music – no overblown instrumental solos, avant-garde tunes, or prestidigitation on vocals. These are chain-franchise-style genre entrees containing eight covers (“There’ll Be a Day,” “Lonesome Road Blues,” “Mother Earth” et al.), and six originals. Leading lady Beth Reid-Grigsby’s singing is casual and laid-back, lacking pizzazz yet possessing quiet dignity. The to-die-for highlights are the band’s special guest stars, including Anson Funderburgh, Mark Hummel and Rick Estrin. Red’s Blues knows it doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, or the genre, to play satisfying music.

Beth Reid-Grigsby, thanks to her older brother, grew up listening to Huddie Ledbetter, Muddy Waters and Mississippi John Hurt records. She and RW met through the local Santa Barbara blues scene in 1977, and have lived in his home state of Georgia and then Texas before heading back to sunny Sacramento in 2006. 2014 Grammy-nominated and Blues Music Award winner RW Grigsby, a bassist, has been playing since he was fourteen years old. He’s toured the U.S., Canada and Europe since the 1980s, and currently juggles playing with Red’s Blues, Mark Hummel and the Blues Survivors and The Golden State/Lone Star Blues Revue.

Along with Beth and RW are Dave Earl on guitar and harmonica. Guest musicians include guitarists Anson Funderburgh, Steve Randall, Robert Sidwell and Mike Keller; Rick Estrin and Mark Hummel on harmonica; James Pace, John Cocuzzi, and Kid Andersen on B3 (Cocuzzi also plays piano), and Larry Carr and Wes Starr on drums and percussion.

The following original song showcases what Red’s Blues can do playing their own material.

Track 02: “Poor Girl” – “Inspired by RW and Beth’s time managing a ghetto bingo hall in Montgomery, Alabama and a girl with a gambling problem.” That’s what Red’s Blues reveals about the origins of their second track, featuring a slinky beat and a stunning character portrait. “Spun out on a stool, reaching for another round, throwing back a shot of gin, trying to tamp her losses down. What’s a poor girl gonna do?” Robert Sidwell’s guitar solo is spectacular.

You Knock Me Out might not be a knockout in terms of introducing new flavors in the genre. However, when what you want is hearty, down-home fare, you can’t go wrong with Red’s 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 – 4 of 8 

kid ramos cd imageKid Ramos – Old School

https://www.facebook.com/KidRamosMusic

Rip Cat Records

13 songs – 47 minutes

There are a lot of very good guitar players out there. There are very few however who belong in the category of Grade-A virtuosos, and Kid Ramos is one of them. One thing that distinguishes him from other members of that small but distinguished club, such as Jimmy Vaughan, Ronnie Earl or Anson Funderburgh, is that he has spent nearly all of his career as a sideman or band member, acting as an integral part of acts such as the James Harman Band, the Fabulous Thunderbirds or The Mannish Boys, rather than leading his own band. His ability to be a band-leader is not in doubt (just check out his performance as Musical Director of the all-star band that backed Floyd Dixon, Pinetop Perkins and Henry Gray on 2006’s Time Brings About A Change – A Floyd Dixon Celebration) but he appears to be happiest in a band setting.

Over the course of his career, Ramos has released five solo albums, each of which has demonstrated his ability to play every kind of blues in a variety of settings. His first two albums, 1995’s Two Hands One Heart and 1999’s Kid Ramos, were predominantly celebrations of West Coast blues with nods to Kid’s primary influences (T-Bone Walker and BB King) as well as to a host of lesser-known artists. The first album featured vocals primarily from the much-missed Lynwood Slim (as an aside, the 2014 re-master and re-issue by Rip Cat Records improved the sound immeasurably) . The second album had vocal slots for ex-boss James Harman, then-current boss Kim Wilson as well as Cesar Rosas, Janiva Magness, Willie Chambers and Slim. Ramos also made his own vocal recording debut with a memorable version of Charles Sheffield’s swamp-pop mini-classic, “I Would Be A Sinner”. Both albums highlight Ramos as band-leader, selflessly supporting the singers while still flaying his guitar in his inimitably muscular way. With support from A-listers such as Richard Innes, Tyler Pedersen, Fred Kaplan, Gene Taylor, Willie J Campbell, Rob Rio, Jeff Turmes and Stephen Hodges (to name just a few), the music flows as irresistibly as the Sacramento River and Kid is not shy to share out the solo slots with the musicians whilst still laying down plentiful helpings of his reverb-drenched guitar.

In 2000, Ramos released West Coast House Party, a glorious carousal of infectious jump blues but this time with a new twist. Harman, Wilson and Slim all re-appear to handle the vocal chores together with James Intveld and Robert “Big Sandy” Williams but Ramos also invited a host of like-minded guitarists to guest on the album, with Little Charlie Baty, Gatemouth Brown, Rusty Zinn, Rick Holmstrom, Duke Robillard and Junior Watson all going head-to-head with Ramos in a superb collection of upbeat guitar-led dance tunes. 2001’s Greasy Kid Stuff saw Ramos shift focus to release a set of old school, greasy, harmonica blues. Guests included Rick Estrin, Paul de Lay, Lynwood Slim, Johnny Dyer, James Harman, Charlie Musselwhite and Rod Piazza. While still laying down a series of superb solos, Greasy Kid Stuff showed that Ramos was equally as effective at backing harp players as he was playing with horn sections.

Ramos’s new release, Old School is his first solo album in seventeen years. Much credit must go to Big Jon Atkinson for tempting Ramos back into the studio (as well as for providing his typically warm, vintage engineering skills). The resulting album, recorded live to tape on two tracks using only analogue equipment and vintage microphones, is a fine addition to Ramos’ oeuvre. As with his previous releases, Ramos has pulled together a top class band, with Bob Welsh on piano and organ; Kedar Roy on bass; Marty Dodson on drums; and Danny Michel on rhythm guitar for two songs. The vocalists include Ramos’ son, Johnny Ramos, Johnny Tucker, Kim Wilson and Big Jon Atkinson. Kid himself also makes a welcome return to the vocal mic for a couple of tunes. Like his previous albums, Kid has adroitly combined well-written original songs with a selection of well-chosen and not over-played covers.

The album opens with “Kid’s Jump”, an upbeat tribute to BB King (even opening with BB’s classic single note line from “Ain’t That Just Like A Woman”) and ends with T-Bone Walker’s “Society Woman”. In between, Ramos runs a gamut of blues styles, from an Albert King-styled slow blues (“I Can’t Wait Baby”), some Magic Sam (“All Your Love”), an old gospel tune (“Jesus Come By Here”), a lesser-known Nat King Cole song (“Mona Lisa”), and even some ’50s pop (Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat”), all tied together by Ramos’ guitar playing.

There are three instrumentals: the aforementioned “Kid’s Jump”, the smooth Wes Montgomery tribute “Wes Side” and the top-tapping 60s-esque “Mash Potatoes And Chilli”, each of which highlights Ramos’ immaculate taste and tone.

Each singer brings something different to the songs he sings. Johnny Ramos clearly has the talent to succeed in what his father describes in the liner notes as “the family business”. Atkinson and Wilson both excel on the slow blues of “Weight On My Shoulders” and “Society Woman” respectively. The most striking contributions however come from Johnny Tucker’s old-as-dirt croak, particularly on the old spiritual “Jesus Come By Here”, the upbeat shuffle Tucker co-wrote with Ramos, “Tell Me What You Need” and the haunting minor key “I Can’t Wait Baby”.

Recorded in just two days, this is timeless music, despite (or perhaps because of) the vintage approach taken in recording it. Rough, raw and unadulterated, it doesn’t get better than this.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

twist turner book imageTwist Turner – Blues With A Twist

Over Fifty Years of Behind The Scenes Blues Adventures

Self-released

www.twistturner.com

181 pages Available in paperback or Kindle edition

For more than five decades, drummer Twist Turner – Steve Patterson – has been one of a cadre of blues musicians who devoted their lives to the music, their contributions often unrecognized by all but the most knowledgeable fans. In addition to backing a veritable who’s-who list of blues artists, the drummer also made a mark as a producer and songwriter. This autobiography finds him sharing his story, flavored with telling stories from his extensive personal experiences.

Originally from Seattle, Turner admits to having a love for music at a young age, beating on pots and pans to relieve his “drum crazy” feelings. Hearing a neighborhood band play “Wipeout” cemented his desire to pick up the sticks, culminating in his parents arranging for lessons on a rented drum set. He encountered the blues through records in his father’s collection, with Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, and Pinetop Smith among his favorites. But it was an appearance by Albert Collins at a local high school that firmly solidified Turner’s desire to be a blues drummer.

Eventually he ends up in the Issac Scott Trio. One of the few African-American blues artists in the Seattle area, Scott is described as a good singer and a “guitar playin’ fool” who was a big hit with the white audiences. There are several remembrances of Scott’s live shows, particularly the time the big man and his guitar ended up stuck in a phone booth. In 1975, Turner finally gave in to the siren call of Chicago, a move that require total immersion in a thriving blues scene. On his first night in town, producer Dick Shurman takes him down to Louise’s South Park Lounge where the Aces, with legendary drummer Fred Below, were holding court. The small club was full of people drinking, dancing, and celebrating life in a manner rarely seen in Seattle clubs.

Turner wastes no time in heading out to shows and jams at more than 200 clubs that featured live blues bands in those days. He ends up meeting artists like John Brim and Hound Dog Taylor, attending the regular Monday jams at venues like Eddie Shaw’s 1815 club and Buddy Guy’s Checkerboard Lounge. His efforts pay off when he gets a coveted spot in Junior Well’s band.

The drummer does an outstanding job of describing life on the road, where freezing temperatures coupled with broken heaters in broken-down cars are the norm. The scant pay is offset by the camaraderie of friendships with musicians like Hip Linkchan (Linkchain), Sunnyland Slim, and Byther Smith, who once shot dead a rat running across his living room floor. Chapters on Maxwell Street, the Delta Fish Market, and Florence’s club give readers a vivid picture of a bygone era. An 1,800 mile road trip with George “Wild Child” Butler nets the drummer a whopping $50 in pay for three gigs. Finances and apartments in buildings one step away from being condemned eventually prompt one of several returns to Seattle, where Turner regroups before the lure of the Chicago scene prompts a return, giving him another chance to experience the “social club” experience, where a loosely organized group of African-American women meet an assigned blues club to let their hair down.

Throughout the book, Turner highlights the extensive number of blues musicians he associated with over his lengthy career, names like L.V. Banks, Scotty & the Bad Boys, Johnny Dollar, Little Johnny Christian, and Porkchop, who played washboard on a number of early J.B. Hutto records. He also includes a chapter on the many Howlin’ Wolf imitators that frequented the clubs, including Necktie Nat, Taildragger, and the Highway Man. His journey includes a stop in New Orleans before finally settling down in the Oakland area, where he remains living off the proceeds from some real estate transactions.

If you have ever wondered what life is like for a working blues musician, this book will definitely set your mind straight. Turner’s book also celebrates his career as he brings to life the many characters and mentors he encountered along the way. It is a story well told, definitely recommended for anyone with an interest in blues music, especially in the history of the Chicago community.

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!


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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

robbert fosser band cd image Robbert Fossen Band – Get Off On It!

Self-Produced

www.robbertfossen.com

CD: 14 Songs, 60:08 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Ensemble Blues

Paradoxes affect our lives in countless ways, though we may not realize it. For example, the more choices we’re offered in a certain situation, the less able we’ll be to make what we think is the right decision. Just go to any grocery store and see what I mean – or search for blues albums. Speaking of which, Netherlands bluesman Robbert (that’s not a typo) Fossen’s new release, Get Off On It!, is a paradox in and of itself. On the one hand, it was nominated Best Dutch Blues CD of 2017, praised by well-known critics in Holland and Belgium. On the other hand, out of its full hour of music (fourteen songs), more than half of it consists of covers. One might think that the finest blues release from an entire country, not just a city, would possess more original material. Again, on the other hand, perhaps the reason it won was because it had so many familiar tunes, like Eric Bibb’s “Don’t Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down” and the title track by T.J. White.

The greatest paradox of all when it comes to this album is Fossen’s singing. He’s trying to sound like a deep-baritone American R&B crooner from the ‘50s and ‘60s, but can’t quite manage to keep his native accent in the background. Check out “Believe to my Soul,” a Ray Charles number, for proof of this. The overall effect is pleasant, but a bit jarring nonetheless. Backed by crisp, clear instrumentation and background vocals sweeter than roasted marshmallows, the band’s music will stick to the insides of listeners’ ears long after the CD is over.

On the English version of their website, a brief blurb states that the band has existed since 2006 and has had various line-ups. Their style and repertoire were mostly based on Chicago blues, but they’re now performing in a broader variety of styles. Whereas the Fossen & Struijk Band is a pure Chicago Blues band, there are also soul, gospel and R&B influences in the Robbert Fossen Band. Basically the band is a sextet, but it can be expanded to twelve people for live shows.

Along with Fossen on lead vocals, guitar and harmonica are Lothar Wijnvoord on guitar; Pascal Lanslots on Hammond B3 organ; Ivan Schilder on piano, Rhodes and Wurlitzer; Jan Markus on bass, and Eduard Nijenhuis on drums. Cosmea Panka, Ramona Nelom and Tamara Spithorst provide background vocals. The horn section consists of Robbert Tuinhof on tenor sax, Annemieke Loog-Henrichs on trombone, and Pier Borkent on trumpet.

The original song below describes a Mean Girl, but as you’ll discover, Mother Nature can also be one.

Track 03: “Katrina” – More than ten years after the worst hurricane in U.S. history, her name still makes people shudder. With a roaring guitar-and-piano intro and lyrics that’ll make you think, its end packs a wallop: “Went for Biloxi and everything in between. Well, please, please tell me, sweetie, why you’re being so mean. Now I remember, remember your name, but the memory will never be the same.” Ivan Schilder’s solo is fantastic, pouring down notes like rain.

Blues fans all over the world will find themselves hitting Replay again and again on their stereos, wondering just what it is that makes Get Off On It! tick. Even yours truly can only say that the answer is another paradox: It’s as American as apple pie, but it’s also Dutch apple pie, and the proof is in the slightly unusual taste.

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 – 7 of 8 

the bush league cd imageThe Bush League – James RiVAh

Self-produced CD

12 songs – 56 minutes

www.thebushleague.com

Based out of Richmond, Va., along the banks of the James River, The Bush League are 11-year veterans of the modern Southern chittlin circuit who deliver their own commanding version of soul blues that incorporates Hill Country and rock stylings into a pleasing mix that they like to call “Mississippi meets Memphis.”

This release – the fifth CD in the band’s catalog – was recorded at one of the most famed recording complexes on the planet, the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, and delivers a hard-hitting mix of 10 originals and two covers that don’t hold back anything as they deliver several love tunes as well as a couple of easy-to-understand messages about issues affecting the world today – all wrapped within music that will definitely keep you up and dancing.

The band formed in 2007 when powerful baritone vocalist JohnJason Cecil and driving bassist Royce Folks started jamming on a porch in the neighboring countryside. Cecil and founding guitarist Shane Parch competed as a duo at the 2010 International Blues Challenge and the full band participated the next two years, representing three different blues societies in the process. Known for their energetic live performance, they’ve become regional favorites at clubs and festivals extending to the Deep South.

The Bush League made their recording debut in 2010 with Live At The National, the first of two consecutive albums captured before an audience at a theater in downtown Richmond. Although both are now out of print, they’re available as free downloads from the band website. Their most recent effort was 2015’s Didn’t See This Coming.

A four-piece unit, the band now includes Brad Moss on lead and rhythm guitar with Wynton Davis on percussion and Folks on bass. They’re augmented here by guitarist Trenton Ayers, Jeremy Powell on keyboards and trumpet, Suavo Jones of Ghost Town Blues Band on trombone, Paul Biasca on saxophone, Ari Morris on synthesizer, Vince Johnson on harmonica and Calvin Lauber, Andrew McNeil and Kenya Watkins on stomps, handclaps and hollers.

A driving Hill Country beat opens “River’s Edge.” It’s a rock-edged love song that finds Cecil wanting to take his lady both to the water and to the church to exchange wedding vows. Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Kokomo Me Baby” retains its acoustic feel, but with a funky, stop-time feel propelled by Davis’ percussion before the mood quiets for the ballad, “Say Yes,” which describes a workplace love affair, but one in which the singer still hasn’t gotten up the never to pop the question.

The beat heats up once for the soulful “Show You Off,” which urges the lady to dress up for a night on the town, before a traditional version with rock overtones of Robert Petway’s 1941 tune, “Catfish Blues,” erroneously credited here to Muddy Waters, who recorded and frequently performed it. “Kick Up Yo Heels” follows with an uptempo North Mississippi beat. “Long Gone” opens as a field holler, but rapidly evolves into an extended entreaty for a lady to stay close through the night because the singer knows she’ll split before daybreak because she’s wearing a ring that was given to her by another guy.

A heavy bass line opens “Hearse,” the most interesting song in the set. Sung from the perspective of someone sentenced to a long prison stretch after following through on the promise to rob and steal for the woman he loves, it’s a plea to borrow the title vehicle because he plans on killing the woman as soon as he’s released because she’s hooked up with another man.

“Tuxedo Blues” is an unhurried request for a ride to the mall to return to return the title suit after being left at the altar, while “Moonshine” comes across as a medium-tempo funk. It praises the homebrew hooch from the perspective of someone driving around in his car and offering it up for sale. The disc concludes with “Cold Shower,” a rocker about a lady who fails to deliver on her promises, and “What’s Wrong With You,” a rapid-fire funk about another woman who still treats the singer poorly despite being showered with gifts.

Available through iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby and other outlets, James RiVAh is right in your comfort zone if you like traditional soul blues. While different than the sounds emanating from music strongholds in Memphis, Chicago and elsewhere, it’s highly danceable and true to the beat. I liked it. I think you will, too.

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 – 8 of 8 

move on cd imageMove On! – Vernacular Dances Of The Dance Track

Koko Mojo Records

28 songs time-64:17

This installment from Koko Mojo Records is devoted to obscure dance music and songs about dance crazes that never made it. An interesting and enjoyable collection of rhythm & blues oriented tunes it is. It’s crazy and at times wacky fun.

“St. Louis Sunset Twist” by Benny Sharp & His Orchestra is a short but lively instrumental romp featuring horns and bluesy guitar. “Louisiana Twist” by June Bug Bailey is another case of bands jumping on “The twist” band wagon back in the day. Its’ just ok. Celestine’s “Shake Baby Shake” is a worthy R&B effort. Here’s a blues dance craze that never took hold…Mabel Franklin’s “The Wiggle”. With her rough vocal and crude blues guitar, it’s no wonder it never took off.

“The Twirl” by Little Luther” is pretty much a dud. “Charles Walker Slop” by none other than Charles Walker is a fine harmonica and guitar based blues instrumental. “The Coffee Grind” by the creator of “The Twist”, Hank Ballard is no great shakes. We get another pretty cool blues instrumental in “Slim’s Twist” by Binghampton Blues Boys. Hank Ballard penned “Cha-Cha Twist” performed here by Brice Coefield, a song that doesn’t fare much better than Hank’s own effort.

Bill Doggett & His Combo offer up a tasty instrumental in “Pony Walk”, a “B” side release. Bill’s claim to fame was the immortal “Honky Tonk”. “The Whip” by Billy The Kid Emerson contains clever lyrics describing what he would do to other dances. Seems like J.J. Jackson is obsessed with nonsense words as in “Oo-Ma-Liddi”, a truly wonderful slice of musical joy. “Double Freeze” by David Dean’s Combo is an instrumental with a talking narrative that borrows a bit from “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie”. A cool sax bopping tune.

George Young’s screaming vocal has him sounding a bit like Little Richard on his “Can’t Stop Me”. The Coasters-like “Go Go Gorilla” by The Ideals is an upbeat fun fest. A “The Freeze” again, this time a single one by Fention & The Castle Rockers. A great instrumental with biting blues guitar and the ubiquitous sax. A male-female conversation takes place over an upbeat groove on “Topless” by Rolls Royce & The Wheels, a song about convertible cars.

Little Sonny And His Band deliver a harmonica-guitar-piano blues instrumental “The Mix Up” that is…well, nifty. Finney Mo’s “Shake That Thing” is a classic fifties rocker. “The Boogie Twist, Part 1” by Cal Valentine & Texas Rockers is just that, a boogie instrumental. A good one at that. “Move On” the title track by Jeanette Washington curiously is a dance song without a mention of dancing in the lyrics.

Koko Mojo Records has done it once again, offering up obscure songs that are for the most part delightfully entertaining. It’s fun uncovering these gems that you never knew existed, at least by me.

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



 Blues Society News 


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Blues Society of Western New York – Kenmore, NY

Blues Society of Western New York presents the 5th Annual Buffalo Niagara Blues Festival July July 14, 2018, noon to 11:30pm at Silo City, 92 Silo City Row, Buffalo, NY 14203. Tickets are $30.00 advance/$40.00 day of the show; members receive significant discount.

This event is a fundraiser for educational, community outreach efforts to support the Blues Society of Western New York’s Blues in the Schools (BITS) educational programming for K-12 students and other community outreach programs including Nursn’ Blues, a Blues music therapeutic program for those suffering from addiction in conjunction with Horizon Village and Music Is Art (MIA). More info at http://buffaloniagarabluesfestival.com.

The Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society presents Too Slim And The Taildraggers at the Powerhouse Pub, 614 Sutter St, Folsom, CA on June 9, 2018 from 4:00-7:00 PM. Cover $15 public $12 SBS Members.

This Pacific Northwest band, consisting of Tim Langford, Jeff “Shakey” Fowlkes and Zach “The Kid” Kasik, has been performing and recording their rock-blues sound for over 30 years and still going strong! Their album “Shiver” was the Blues Foundation’s 2012 nominee for Best Rock-Blues Album of the Year and was followed by “Blue Heart”, which reached #3 on Billboard’s Top Blues Album Chart in 2013. Each of the last four studio album releases have charted in the Top 10 and Heat Seeker Chart. Tim Langford has received Lifetime Achievement and Hall of Fame Awards from three Northwest Blues Societies, as well as more than 40 Regional and National Music Awards. More info at www.sacblues.com.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Shows start at 7 pm, and are open to the public. Food and Beverages available at all Friends of the Blues shows. Tuesday, May 15, Too Slim & the Taildraggers, CD Release Party, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club ‘ 2672 Chippewa Drive, Bourbonnais IL, Tuesday, July 10, Brandon Santini, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, 851 N Main St, Manteno, IL More Info at: http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues.

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society announces our May Blues Sunday with the King Bees May 6th, at 8:00 pm (doors at 7:00) at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205. Admission is only $5, free to members with valid membership card. We are requesting canned food or donations of other non-perishable household items (or cash) for Loaves and Fishes. 1 can? I can! Hope to see you there!

The Charlotte Blues Society announces our June Blues Sunday with talent to be announced shortly on June 3rd, at 8:00 pm (doors at 7:00) at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205. (Original talent Geoff Achison had to cancel to extend tour in Australia.) Admission is only $5, free to members with valid membership card. We are requesting canned food or donations of other non-perishable household items (or cash) for Loaves and Fishes. 1 can? I can!  More Info at www.charlottebluessociety.org.

The Blues Society of Central Pennsylvania – Steelton, PA

The Blues Society of Central PA. invites you to join us for our Mom I Picnic ( formerly known as the BSCP Treasurers Picnic ), advanced tickets now available for $20. ( Admission at the gate picnic day will be $25 ) Sunday, May 27th Noon- 8PM Mechanicsburg Club Picnic Grounds 199 Glendale Rd. Mechanicsburg, PA 17050.

Includes live blues music all day, Bar B Q Chicken, Burgers, Hot Dogs and tons of side dishes and desserts, coffee, bottled water, assorted can sodas and 3 beers on tap. Details at 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 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: 5/7 – Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch, 5/14 – Too Slim & The Taildraggers, 5/21 – Billy Galt & The Blues Deacons, 5/28 – TBA, 6/4 – TBA, 6/11 – Rockin’ Johnny Burgin, 6/18 – The 44’s with Tex Nakamura, 6/25 – Laurie Morvan Band. For more information visit www.icbluesclub.org.

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

Central Iowa Blues Society presents the Second Annual SpringFest will be May 27, 2018 at the Jasper Winery, 2400 George Flagg Parkway in Des Moines beginning at 2:00pm . This free event a great way to kick-off the Memorial day weekend with great music featuring four acts from Iowa, Minnesota, and Florida – including International Blues Challenge Winner Kevin “BF” Burt, Ducharme-Jones Band, Paul Mayasich with Benderheads and Lauren Mitchell Band.

Bring your blankets and lawn chairs, enjoy the music, relax, and unwind with wines from Jasper Winery, beer from Madhouse Brewing, BBQ as well as other food vendors. (In accordance with state law, any alcohol must be purchased from the winery – attendees are not allowed to bring in their own.)

SpringFest is brought to you by the Central Iowa Blues Society, Jasper Winery, and Fat Tuesday Productions. For more information visit www.cibs.org, or contact Scott Allen (prez@cibs.org).

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: May 12 – Cash Box Kings.

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

The Blues Society of Central PA – Steelton, PA

The Blues Society of Central PA will host performances of the Skyla Burrell Band and Chicago’s John Primer on Sunday, April 22 at Champions Sports Bar 300 2nd. St. Highspire, PA . 2PM -6 PM.

$20 admission at the door. Doors open at 1 PM. www.bscpblues.org.


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

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