Issue 12-29 July 19, 2018

Cover photo © 2018 Bob Kieser


 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Marquise Knox. We have 11 Blues reviews for you this week including a a book of fiction about Robert Johnson and the Mississippi Delta in 1938 plus new music from Kenne Cramer, Mike Zito, Daniel Eriksen, Bob Corritore & Friends, Billy Price, Little Boys Blue, Shakedown Tim And The Rhythm Revue, Kara Grainger, J.T. Lauritsen and the Buckshot Hunters and Grand Marquis.

Bob Kieser has Part II of photos and commentary from the 2018 Chicago Blues Festival.

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


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2018 Blues Blast Music Award Tickets On Sale Now

This years awards are being held at the Tebala Event Center in Rockford, IL on September 29th, 2018 beginning at 6:00pm. (Doors open at 5:00pm) Confirmed appearances so far include Karen Lovely, Benny Turner, Shaun Murphy, Ghost Town Blues Band, Markey Blue and Ric Latina Project, Casey Hensley Band, Ben Levin, Ivy Ford Band, Heather Newman, Orphan Jon & The Abandoned, Partick Recob, Ilya Portnov and Joyann Parker.

Advance tickets are $35. Tickets will be $40 at the door.
Tables for ten are only $250. To get your tickets now click HERE!

Information on travel, lodging, tickets and sponsorships is available on the Blues Blast Music Awards website at www.TheBBMAs.com.

 

WHERE TO STAY – We have chosen La Quinta in Rockford as the host hotel for fans and artists. La Quitna is about a mile from the venue. La Quinta is offering a special rate of only $89 for those attending the Blues Blast Awards. Simply call them at (815) 227-1300 and ask for the “Blues Blast Fan Rate”. First come first served.

Please note that there are a limited number of rooms available, so get your tickets and rooms booked now!


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 11 

kenne cramer cd imageKenne Cramer – All Day Long

Self-produced CD

11 songs – 44 minutes

www.kennecramer.com

Best known recently for his lengthy stay backing of Shaun Murphy, Nashville-based singer, songwriter and guitarist Kenne Cramer makes a welcome return to center stage with the release of All Day Long, his first album as a band leader since his first, well-received album, Midnight Ride, in 2004.

One of the top sessions musicians in the Music City, Cramer is a graduate of Los Angeles’ Guitar Institute Of Technology. After working locally with Pete Anderson, Jennifer Batten and Jesse Gresse, he started touring the world in support of other musicians in 1989, when he began a three-year stint with country/soul/gospel singer T. Graham Brown.

He joined Texas-based blues and country superstar Lee Roy Parnell in 1992, and also spent extensive time with Bobby Bare, Dr. Hook, Ronnie Milsap and Engelbert Humperdinck, with whom he recorded a pair of albums.

Cramer delivers eight tasty originals and three covers on this one, mixing blues, soul, rock and jazz and which features guest appearances by Murphy and Brown as well as indie-folk singer/songwriter Ellen Starski. Rounding out the mix are a group of top-notch musicians, including keyboard players Mark T. Jordan (Bonnie Raitt and Dave Mason) and Larry Van Loon (The Andy T Band), bassists Randy Coleman, John Marcus and Tim Fortin, drummers Andy Peake, Rodney Ledbetter and Chip Abernathy, saxophonist Mitch Reilly, trumpet player Steve Hermann and choral contributions from Dennis Gulley, Laura Lamun and D. Allen.

The opening chords of “The Itch,” a bluesy rocker penned by Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Famer Gary Nicholson, you know instantly that Kenne knows what he’s doing and that he means business. It swings from the jump, and he holds his own on vocals. “442,” the first of three consecutive originals, is a swinging boogie in which Cramer offers to trade anything he owns for a ride in the supercharged Oldsmobile of the title.

The title tune, “All Day Long,” is an unhurried blues instrumental that puts Kenne’s stellar guitar chops on display while giving his band space to shine. It flows neatly into “Someday A Change Is Gonna Come,” a truly welcome tune in a nation full of turmoil. Brown handles the vocals as Cramer delivers a little optimism for folks living in a dog-eat-dog world.

A pair of covers — Ray Davies and The Kinks’ “Who’ll Be The Next In Line” and Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” – follow. While the former remains true to the original, the latter, which features a duet with Murphy, takes on new life, delivered in an ear-catching, blues-based jazz format. Kenne’s guitar lines soar as he takes the tune to levels it’s never traveled before.

The balance of the disc are all originals. The Latin-flavored “Blue Tears” features a duet with Starski, who possesses a unique, smoky voice. “She’s Trouble” is a rocker that uses a familiar, repetitive guitar hook to drive a description of a real female problem child, while the loping blues, “Built For Lovin’,” paints a picture of a lady who’ll “put you six-feet deep” if you aren’t ready for her. Another instrumental, the soulful “Kenne C’s Triumph,” follows before “Livin’ Ain’t Cheap,” another timely tune about rising prices, swings the album to a close.

The world’s full of talented musicians, and many of them – like Kenne Cramer — prefer the background to the limelight despite their skills. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, albums like this one often come as a complete surprise, but are a real treat. Available through most online retail outlets, and highly 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 – 2 of 11 

mike zito cd imageMike Zito – First Class Life

Ruf Records – 2018

11 tracks; 45 minutes

www.mikezito.com

2016’s album Make Blues Not War was an album that took Mike’s music clearly into blues-rock territory but here he returns to a far more blues-based album of nine originals and two covers. From the opening bars of “Mississippi Nights” it is clear that slide is a key element on this album as drummer Matthew Johnson and bassist Terry Dry set the pace, Lewis Stephens pounding the piano and Mike conjuring up familiar images of the Delta where “the Devil’s at the crossroads, you can sell your soul for the blues”. The title track is classic Zito, a catchy tune with Mike’s sinuous slide and very personal lyrics celebrating how he pulled back from addiction and excess to appreciate a second chance with his family – an outstanding track that replays in your head for days afterwards. Bobby Bland’s “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog” has been covered many times but rarely better than in this version with Mike’s subtle guitar and Lewis’ warm keyboard work the perfect foil for Mike’s excellent vocals. “The World We Live In” is a slow blues with some fine BB King style guitar which bemoans the stark differences between the top and bottom of our society and “Mama Don’t Like No Wah Wah” amusingly recounts guest Bernard Allison’s experience of playing with Koko Taylor who definitely did not want her guitarist to use any effects, all of which she referred to as ‘wah-wah’!

Mike double tracks moody guitar and slide on “Old Black Graveyard” which graphically describes one of those broken-down old cemeteries you find in the Delta (often while searching for the graves of old bluesmen!), apparently inspired by a forgotten and untended graveyard near his home in Beaumont, Texas. The swinging shuffle “Dying Day” pays tribute to Mike’s wife who “will be mine until my dying day” and “Back Problems” references Albert Collins’s funky blues as Mike sings tongue-in-cheek of how much he has bearing down on him. “Time For A Change”, however, is a more serious song with lyrics that bemoan how we have lost our way, set over another very attractive tune with Lewis’ piano to the fore, Mike delivering some ringing guitar lines. “Damn Shame” provides a second slow blues along the classic theme of ‘my woman done left me’ with some nice guitar work from Mike, again double-tracked, over warm organ washes. Mike reprises an obscure Earl Hooker fast-paced rocker “Trying To Make A Living” to close a fine album with pounding piano and rock and roll guitar.

Make Blues Not War did well for Mike and received nominations for several awards but, in this reviewer’s opinion, First Class Life takes things to another level. Do not miss this terrific album which comes highly 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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 35th Annual Chicago Blues Fest – Part II 

On Saturday of the Chicago Blues Fest we started out at the Crossroads Stage to see a few songs by Dave Herrero. Dave is well known in the Chicago area and played a great set of blues. Herrero had the amazing Annie Harris sitting in on blues fiddle adding to the fun.

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Then we headed over to the Harris Theater Rooftop Terrace stage to catch this years winner of the International Blues Challenge Solo-Duet category, Kevin “B.F.” Burt. This guy has it going on! Check him out if he is playing near you.

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Next up was Jackie Scott back on the Crossroads Stage. We first heard Jackie in the finals of the 2010 International Blues Challenge. I have been a fan ever since. She keeps getting better and better every time I see her! Jackie had the Mike Wheeler band backing her up for the show. It doesn’t get any better than that!

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Following Jackie we got to see the Chicago R&B Kings in a tribute to Gene Barge. Gene was amazing on sax. Easy to see why he is a Chicago legend..

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Then we headed back to the Harris Theater Rooftop Terrace stage to catch Harmonica Hinds.

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Then it was back to the Crossroads Stage to see an acoustic set by Sonny Landreth. Sonny’s latest album is called Recorded Live In Lafayette and it is nominated for a Blues Blast Music Awards in the Acoustic Blues Album and Live Blues Album categories.

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Then we headed over to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion stage for the night’s headliner performers starting with Selwyn Birchwood

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Next up on the stage was soul-blues singer and songwriter Willie Clayton.

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The final show of the night was a gigantic tribute set to Little Walter which began with Billy Branch backed by The Sons of Blues.

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Then out came Corky Siegal who played a few songs with the great Sam Lay.

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Next up was Magic Dick, the legendary harmonica player for The J. Geils Band.

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Closing out the set and the evening’s show was Chicago’s own Sugar Blue.

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The next day we got to hang for a few more hours of the Sunday performances starting off with Studebaker John on the Harris Theater Rooftop Terrace stage.

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Next up on the same stage was new Chicago blues sensation Melody Angel. This lady rocks!

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Then we decided to had over to the Crossroads stage but we caught a few songs by soul man Johnny Rawls on the Mississippi stage on the way.

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At the Crossroads stage we first heard Terrance Simien and The Zydeco Experience. It is hard to beat Zydeco music for a toe tappin’ good time!

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Then we got to hear a set by the incredible bluesman Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. If you have not heard him, you should try to see him soon. He is a real young shining star in the blues world.

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Next up was Diunna Greenleaf. Based out of Texas, Diunna has been prominent in the blues world since she won the International Blues Challenge in 2005. She will be the subject of a feature interview in an upcoming issue real soon!

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The final set we got to see before heading out of Dodge was Joe Louis Walker.

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If you are one of those folks who always say you want to sometime make it to the Chicago Blues Festival, put it on your calendar NOW for next year. I promise you won’t regret it! It will be held June 7th, to June 9th 2019. Get there!

Photos and commentary by Bob Kieser.


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 11 

daniel eriksen cd imageDaniel Eriksen – Narrative Boogie

Pzydeco Records PZYREC0117

14 songs – 46 minutes

www.daniel-eriksen.com

Daniel Eriksen is an acoustic slide guitarist who’s spent plenty of time in Mississippi to study the masters and perfect his sound, so much so, in fact, that he was runner-up to Kevin “B.F.” Burt at this year’s International Blues Challenge.

Even though he’s based out of Langesund, Norway, where he was born, Eriksen possesses a genuine Delta feel, which he delivers through a unique sound. A 20-year veteran of the international blues circuit, he spent years studying the techniques of first-generation masters Blind Willie Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt and others.

But he developed a technique that’s all his own through sitting at the feet of several modern masters, including Roy Rogers, John Mooney and the late Bob Brozman, the world-traveling author and ethnomusicologist who spent his life working to find a common thread among the world’s varied musical cultures.

This is the fourth CD in Daniel’s catalog, following the New Orleans-flavored Ya Ya and Muddy Days and the gospel-rich Moonshine Hymns, all of which received high praise. The inspiration for this one comes from his extensive travels around the Magnolia State and includes contributions from musicians from both sides of the Atlantic.

Eriksen handles guitar and vocals on all tracks with assistance from Stig Sjostrom on drums and percussion for eight of the 14 songs, the last of which was recorded by Belzoni, Miss., based guitarist Bill Abel who sits in on two other cuts. Revona, Miss., based harp player Cadillac John Nolden and Aisha Joof, a female vocalist from Porsgrunn, Norway, lend their voices to one track each in what Daniel proudly declares is “old-school Delta-style blues, gospel and boogie.”

A cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Kokomo” kicks off the action with Daniel delivering the standard atop with a pronounced electric Delta feel and his warm, rough-edged baritone delivering the lyrics in perfectly unaccented English. His slide stylings amplify the percussive beat. A bare-bones version of Son House’s “Pearline” follows before a run of three originals. The funky “Lula Looks Dangerous” sweetly describes a woman with “that look in her eye,” accompanied by equally sweet picking, while “Refugee Camp Moan” is unhurried lyrically, but rapid-fire everywhere else. Featuring Abel on second guitar, “Footprints” is a plea for a father to stay and tell stories instead of packing up to go.

A cover of Paul “Wine” Jones’ “Rob & Steal” is next before Eriksen enlists Aisha to share vocals and dips into the catalog of country music hall of famer Roy Acuff to deliver “Wreck On The Highway” with a distinct Hill Country feel. Daniel rips and runs as only he can for the instrumental title cut, “Narrative Boogie.” It flows smoothly into a take on T-Model Ford’s “Cut You Loose” before three more originals — “My Poor Skinny Pony,” “The Blood You’re Worth” and “Barrel Of Crabs.”

A pair of gospel flavored numbers bring the album to a close. Eriksen gets a helping hand from Cadillac John for the familiar “12 Disciples” before a medley that begins with the traditional “Blind Fiddler” and concludes with the original “Bye & Bye I’m Going To See The King.”

Available through CDBaby and several other online outlets, this CD is nominated for a 2018 Blues Blast Music Award. If your tastes run to acoustic country blues, you’ll love this one. The spirit flows through it strong and deep.

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 11 

bob corritore cd imageBob Corritore & Friends – Let the Devil Ride!

VizzTone Label Group

http://bobcorritore.com

12 tracks

It’s always a pleasure to get a new Bob Corritore release and this one stay true to form- it’s another goody! Here Bob gives us a dozen treats he recorded this year with all-star artists who graced his studio for ten tracks and Big Jon Atkinson’s for the other two.

Bob does all the harp work here and is joined on vocals by Alabama Mike, Oscar Wilson, Sugar Rayford, Willie Buck, Bill Perry (who also does guitar on his track), George Bowman and Tail Dragger. On guitar is Big Jon Atkinson, Danny Michel, Junior watson, Mojo Mark, Jimi Smith, Johnny Rapp, Chris James, Illinois Slim and Rockin’ Johnny. On piano are Henry Gray, Bob Welch (who also plays guitar on another track), and Fred Kaplan. On bass are Troy Sandow, Kedar Roy, Patrick Rynn, and Bob Stroger and on drums are Marty Dotson, Brian Fahey, Rene Brewers and Malachi Johnson. Whew! What a cast of fine musicians!

Willie Buck starts us off with his cut “Went Home This Morning.” He’s spot on with his vcals and Big John and Mojo Mark blaze on guitar. Corritore offers us some fantastic harp and sets a high bar for the remaining songs. Little Walter’s “Tell Me Mama” keeps the bar high with Oscar Wilson on vocals and Jimi “Primetime” Smith and Johnny Rapp on Guitar. Bob’s vocals get so,me nice effects added to grease things up along with Henry Gray on piano, but it’s Oscar in front that is driving this train! Sugar Rayford then gives us “The Glide” which is his song. He growls out the lead and Fred Kaplan offers some nice piano filler. Junior Watson offers the guitar work for us to enjoy and gets a cool solo later in the cut and Corritore offers up one on harp earlier for us. Sugaray is also up to the task here vocally- well done shouting! “Laundromat Blues” follows with Alabama Mike driving. Big Jon gets the call on guitar and it’s prime evil -ly cool stuff. Mike is ready to grab you with his vocals on this pretty slow blues. Greasy and gritty stuff and Corritore just makes it all more so. Smith and Rapp return with Oscar for Bob’s own “Fork In The Road.” more slow blues offered up Chicago style for all to savor. Corritore blows a mean solo for us and Oscar is always a fantastic front man. “Lovey Dovey Lovey One” is up for us next, a Mel London penned cut that Junior Wells made famous. Mixing blues a bit of rock, Alabama Mike delivers the goods as does Corritore on harp and Bob Welch on guitar.

The title track is next and again Alabama Mike gets the call. He shouts out and testifies on this sweet slow blues. Atkinson offers up some very stinging guitar to enjoy, too, and he and Corritore parry to great effect. “Willie Mae” features Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Parry on vocals and guitar. He offers up his spin on this classic with his signature howlin’ vocal style. Corritore solos backed up by Perry on guitar; a very enjoyable song. Sugaray returns for his “Steal Your Joy,” a mid tempo blues with his shouts and moans making for a nice cut. Atkinson and Mojo Mark reprise their guitar work from cut one and Chris James also appears on guitar as Rayford testifies for us. “So I Was a Fool” follows with George Bowman fronting on his own song and Big John on guitar. Dirty, slow blues done up right- there are no throw away songs here, and of course Corritore makes his mark to help things out. “?” is up next and we have Alabama Mike on vocals with Atkinson on guitar. Mike offers us another winner and Corritore makes sure his harp is a special treat as they all testify passionately. The next track is also Alabama Mike singing for us on his “Blues Why You Worry Me.” Atkinson is on guitar and gives us a special solo. Rockin’ Johnny plays the guitar as does Illinois Slim on the final cut “Thundering and Raining” in support of front man and song writer Tail Dragger. Johnny plays a lot with Tail Dragger; they and everyone here deliver a superb performance on this one. Corritore gives us a pretty final solo that drips with greasy cool blues and Tail Dragger’s classic vocals in the style of Howlin’ Wolf are always a treat.

A dozen great tracks, Bob Corritore and a superb cast of musicians and a great mix make this album a real treat. I loved it from start to finish and anyone wanting to hear classic blues done right will, too. This one needs to be added to your blues music collection- great stuff.

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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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 11 


billy price cd imageBilly Price – Reckoning

VizzTone Label Group


http://billyprice.com

13 tracks

Billy Price is a blues soul singer who toured the East Cost extensively and won a BMA in 2016 for Best Soul-Blues Album with This Is Real. Since that album, his stock has risen quickly and here he teams with Kid Andersen at his Greaseland Studio to produce his 16th recording. This CD features Price on vocals along with Andersen on guitars, keys and vocals, Alex Petersen on drums, Jerry Jermott on bass, Jim Pugh on keys, Johnny Bones on various saxes, Nancy wright on tenor for track 10, Konstantis Jemeljanovs on trumpet, Derrick “D’Mar” Martin on congas for track 7, Martin Winsted on congas for track 3, Courtney Knott, Lisa Leuschner Andersen, Rusty Zinn, Sons of the Soul Revivers, and Robby Yamilov on backing vocals, Marcel Smith preaching on track 3, Don dally Orchestra on strings for track 2 and Kim Kistler on cello for that same track.

The album opens with “39 Steps,” a gritty and cool track about the number of steps needed for him to tack stock of his stuff and get to his Crown Vic to attain his freedom from an oppressive woman. The tune has a nice groove along with Price and team on vocals. The organ provides a church like feel and it’s a nice start to a sweet CD. “Dreamer” is next up, a sultry and slow cut about foolish dreaming about a woman. Nice guitar work and the woman backing Price add a lot to the performance. The title track opens with some revival styled preaching and then breaks into an old school Philly soul-styled sound about reckoning coming with his woman. Very suave and cool stuff and the trumpet really makes things better. Nice fuzzed up guitar work also makes this nice and Price delivers another beauty. “No Time” is a J.J. Cale tune that has a jumping beat and some grooving horn work. The guitar and horn trade off in the solos to good measure. The Eddie Floyd/Booker T. Jones cut “I Love You More Than Words Can Say” follows. Soulful, slow and sweet blues are testified by Price throughout and the band punctuates nicely as he really delivers the goods. Johnny Rawls’ “I Keep Holding On” is next, picking the pace up as Price sings about trying to mend things in his relationship. A little instrumental bridge mid song by the band makes for a cool break as Price delivers another great cut for us. Price helped write the next tune, “One and One,” a smooth and pop-like soul tune with a great sound.

Denise LaSalle’s “Get Your Lie Straight” blasts off to a rousing start and the horns add loads to the mix. a funky bass groove leads the horns and Price through this song with a nice guitar and organ solo to boot. Price and Company’s “Never Be Fooled Again”is a darker and somber piece about a relationship he’s surviving. Andersen offers a stinging guitar solo and Proce again emotes sweetly on vocals. Price also has his hand in writing “Expert Witness.” It begins with a little testifying by the Sons of the Soul Revivers and then Price comes in for the kill. A big sax solo and the Sons backing really sweeten up the pot for this number. “Love Ballad” has the feel of the late 1970’s to it along with a modern twist with Price’s vocal lead. Lisa’s backing vocal is pretty and so well done to complement Billy. “Synthetic World” is a Jerry Williams Jr. cut and Price and the bass lead sell this nicely and the backing vocalists play a really nice role behind Price here. “Your Love Stays With Me” concludes the set, a beautiful and soulful ballad. The song builds and there is a nice tenor solo mid song. A pretty conclusion to a very, very nice album overall.

Soul and soul blues lovers will eat this up. Price delivers to us another great CD that will garner some accolades. This one gets better and better every listen so pick it up and enjoy it!

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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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 11 

little boys blue cd imageLittle Boys Blue – Hard Blues Space w/Kid Memphis

VizzTone Label Group

https://littleboysblue.bandzoogle.com/

10 tracks

JD Taylor on harp and John Holiday (Kid Memphis) on guitar joined forces for 10 original tracks of fin southern blues laced with Americana. It’s a great album that I listened to over an over again traveling to blues festivals this summer!

Joining Taylor on harp and vocals and Holiday on guitar are Alex Taylor on guitar, Andrew White on guitar and slide, Brad Webb and Andrew White also on slide, Dave Mallard on bass, James Buster Cherry on bass for track 10, Mark Brooks on drums and Dave Thomas on B3 and piano. These guys are tight and are a superb band.

Starting us off is “Six Foot Down,” a traditional blues with a harp solo to start us off. The band comes in and they Taylor begins his growl. The song builds and builds; Taylor delivers a gritty harp solo. The band gets into a nice groove with the guitar making things interesting along with the organ. Next up is “Loving Kind” where we get the first great guitar solo along with well one vocals and harp. A medium paced groove keeps things going in a very nice cut. Following that is “Blues Bug” where we get some pretty slow blues as Taylor testifies to us behind a simple back line. The B3 comes in and then Taylor delivers a fine harp solo and then Kid Memphis adds a thoughtful one of his own on guitar; beautiful stuff. The title track is up next. The boys start this funky track off and Taylor adds some effects on vocals as the song wails and moans for us oh-so-well. Superb harp and guitar work also abounds here and the band in support fills in nicely. “Morning Train” is another grooving and sweet number. A big and greasy harp solo is followed by a stinging guitar solo and again the band is awesome in support and the song closes with the guitar firmly leading the charge.

“Cold Inside” gets the second half started, a swinging piece with the B3 adding much to the mix. A distinctive beat drives things along; here Kid Memphis gets the first solo and then Taylor follows on harp. The two of them also lead up to Taylor taking us out. Jump blues with “Might As Well” comes along next. The band rollicks and rolls with piano backing here along with a first solo. Kid then gets his in and Taylor gets one after the next verse and then Kid takes another; well done! The boys get a little funky with “Got A Mind Of Our Own.” The organ gets featured here and the harp and guitar give us a couple of shirt solos as the B3 plays behind them. Taylor gets down and dirty on the vocal lead here; a fine, fine song. Taylor’s harp takes us home with support as the funk winds down to a pretty finish. Distortion abounds as “If The Blues Start Calling” kicks off. An impassioned slow blues with all sort of dirty and sweet stuff is offered up here. Kid gives us a big solo and then JD offers one up later that is equally greasy and cool and Kid punctuates that with another of his own. “Going Back to Memphis” concludes the set, a tune that JD starts us off with his harp and then gets into his final set of vocals. A slow little boogie keeps us going. Taylor solos mid-song for a good long piece and Kid echos him a bit to boot. The guitar and harp take us out after the last chorus.

I have to say I listened to this a lot more than I needed to for my review. I truly enjoyed this CD and played it many times as I traveled early this summer and at home. It really is a CD where each song grabs the listener and say, “Look here and pay attention, Buddy! This is some killer stuff!” Well, it is and so far this summer this has to be my favorite of all the summer releases. Go get this one- you won’t regret it except for the fact you won’t be able to get it out of your CD player. Most highly recommended!

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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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 11 

shakedown tim cd imageShakedown Tim And The Rhythm Revue – Shakedown’s Th’owdown

www.shakedowntim.be

Rhythm Bomb Records

12 songs – 45 minutes

Shakedown Tim And The Rhythm Review are a Belgian band who play a mix of uptown jump, blues and rock‘n’roll with absolute authority, an infectious groove and an irresistible enthusiasm. Shakedown’s Th’owdown is their second album and is a pretty essential purchase for anyone who enjoys top notch West Coast jump blues.

The band makes clear its intentions on the cover of the album, with a black and white photo of the band, suited and booted in appropriately retro garb, with a minimal drum kit, a double bass and saxophone, and a guitar player in foreground wearing a pork pie hat and shouldering an old Espanada hollow body. The music itself delivers on the cover’s promise, tearing out of the blocks with the primal rock’n’roll of “Drop You Like A Bad Habit” before essaying a range of blues styles across the rest of the album. There is a rawness and an immediacy to the music that would put most punk bands to shame.

Shakedown Tim And The Rhythm Revue is led by Tim Ielegems on vocals and guitar. Ielegems also wrote or co-wrote all but three songs on the album. The rhythm section of Dennis “Tubs” de Gier on drums and the mononymous but magnificently-named Boss on upright bass perfectly tread the fine line between being tighter than a clam with lockjaw while still swinging and grinning. Bart Stone’s raucous tenor and baritone saxophones add appropriate punctuation to the songs as well as providing a cool second solo sound to complement Ielegems’ top class less-is-more guitar playing.

To add to the fun, the mighty Gene Taylor guests on piano on six songs, Kathleen Vandenhoudt adds vocals to the duet “The Way It’s Going To Be” and the nonpareil James Harman adds harmonica to three songs (including his own instrumental, “Icepick’s Shakedown Th’owdown”) as well as producing the album.

The songs range from funky “Rollin’ On” to the dirge-like “No More Fightin’”, the finger-picked country blues of “Let’s Get A Life” and the “Rollin’ And Tumblin’”-esque “I Wanna See You Baby” and the shuffle of “Drop You Like A Bad Habit” (a more low-down version of the opening rock’n’roll track). Ielegems is a sharp songwriter, using traditional structures and melodies in his music while addressing thoroughly modern themes in his lyrics. “I Will Unfriend You” finds the song’s protagonist threatening ostracism on social media, while “Let’s Get A Life” contains the catchy chorus: “Let’s go some place where we can get high. Maybe a bar with no WiFi. No Instagram or Twitter. No dirty Snapchat litter. Come on, let’s get a life.”

The two covers on Shakedown’s Th’owdown are Kerry Wilson’s “Did The Best I Could”, which is played as a grind with some typically spot-on piano from Gene Taylor, and Pee Wee Crayton’s classic instrumental “Blues After Hours”. It’s a superb interpretation with more great piano from Taylor and some outstanding guitar from Ielegems. Primarily however its power comes from the dynamics of the entire band as the track repeatedly builds up the tension then brings it back down.

Harman contributed the harp-driven instrumental boogie of “Icepick’s Shakedown Th’owdown” as well as sitting in the producer’s chair and he deserves much credit for capturing some fabulous performances.

If you like the West Coast sounds of Junior Watson, Lynwood Slim and Rick Holmstrom, you’ll find much to enjoy in Shakedown’s Th’owdown. It’s a little gem of an album.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 11 

kara grainger cd imageKara Grainger – Living With Your Ghost

www.karagrainger.com

 

Station House Records

12 songs – 50 minutes

Australian singer-guitarist-songwriter, Kara Grainger, has been based in the USA for nearly a decade now, releasing two albums to add to her 2008 debut recording in Australia, Grand And Green River. Her latest release, Living With Your Ghost, was recorded at Wire Studios in Austin, Texas with co-producer, Anders Osborne (who also contributed guitar and vocals) and engineer Stuart Sullivan, together with a high calibre backing band including Ivan Neville on keys, The Texas Horns (Kaz Kazanoff, John Mills and Al Gomez), Mark Rudin and George Stanford on trumpet and trombone respectively, J.J. Johnson on drums and Dave Monsey on bass.

Living With Your Ghost is an entertaining album of Americana, blending folk, rock and blues with the merest hint of country and soul into an enticing gumbo. The album opens with the title track, an upbeat rock number that recalls Sheryl Crow or even Pat Benatar until the glorious, uplifting slide guitar solo elevates the song onto a different plane. The Led Zep-esque funky blues-rock of “Working My Way Back House” (with nice driving drums from Johnson) follows more slide guitar, both in the main verse riff as well as the solo.

“Man With Soul” has echoes of Paul Rodgers while “Nowhere To Be Found” opens with acoustic slide guitar before the entire band kicks in and Grainger pulls out another delightful electric slide solo.

The band is top class throughout. When the chorus erupts on the joyous “You’re In New Orleans”, the music certainly puts you there. The Texas Horns add irresistible impetus to the funky “Groove Train”. The Johnson and Monsey rhythm section is rock solid throughout, and especially impressive on the flat-out rock of “Favourite Sin”, the JJ Cale-esque “Love Will Get You Through The Door” and the threatening closing track, “Freedom Song.” And Neville’s keys add delicious flourishes to the likes of “Nowhere To Be Found” and “Reason To My Verse.”

Grainger’s voice is quite some instrument itself: technically formidable but equally comfortable expressing warmth, vulnerability, longing and pain. She also writes smart, well-structured songs. Six tracks on the album are Grainger compositions and five are Grainger co-writes with Trevor Manear, Anders Osborne, Andrew Duhon or Julie King. The sole cover is Jackie Bristow and Mark Punch’s powerful “Broken Record” (interestingly, the 2016 Bristow album that contained that song, Shot Of Gold, looks like it may have served as an inspiration for the cover of Living With Your Ghost).

Any female blues-rock singer who plays slide guitar is going to attract comparisons to Bonnie Raitt and there are similarities between the two artists. Indeed, if you are a Raitt fan, you will definitely want to check out Grainger. But Kara Grainger is very much her own person and Living With Your Ghost is an enticing introduction to what looks to be a major talent.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 11 

j.t. lauritsen cd imageJ.T. Lauritsen and the Buckshot Hunters – Blue Eyed Soul Volume 1

Hunters Records

www.jtlauritsen.com

CD: 10 Songs, 39:15 Minutes

Styles: Soul, Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues

Soul and blues, on the surface, appear to be two different animals. One is light, the other dark. One is congenial, the other “mean,” as Stephen King characterizes it. One is loving; the other is lustful. One is meant to lighten, to lift up; the other is meant to channel feelings of hurt, rage, and betrayal. These two species seem to have nothing in common, but share an ancestor all the same. Its name is longing; what the Germans call sehnsucht, a form of being-sickness. On the surface, Blue Eyed Soul Volume 1, by Norway’s J.T. Lauritsen and the Buckshot Hunters, is all sweetness and light. Hearing certain songs, however, midnight blue seeps in and begins to take the place of azure. The balance and tension between the two is what makes this album so easy and enjoyable to listen to. It’s short but scintillating, elevating one’s mood instantly. J.T. and the Buckshot Hunters know not only how to bare their souls, but how to nourish ours, harmonic voices blending as seamlessly as ingredients in a smoothie. Over ten tracks, five originals and five covers, they feed us a musical feast that goes down easy.

According to his website, Jan Tore (J.T.) had his first paying gig at the age of 14, which resulted in a steady flow of jobs for him on the organ – his instrument of choice for many years. He was searching for his own style on the instrument, when he had to admit that a B3 Hammond was too heavy to lug from gig to gig. He thus compromised by taking up the accordion…In 1991, he started Buckshot Blues Band with the now well-known guitarist, Vidar Busk.

Alongside J.T. Lauritsen are the rest of the Buckshot Hunters: Ian Fredrick Johannessen on rhythm and solo guitars; Arnfinn Tørrisen on rhythm and solo guitars; Jon Grimsby on drums, percussion and backing vocals, and Morten Nordskaug on bass and backing vocals. Special guest stars include Mike Zito on rhythm and solo guitars; Dave Fields on backing vocals, rhythm and solo guitars; Paul Wagnberg on Hammond B3 organ; Børge-Are S. Halverson on baritone and tenor saxophone; Jens-Petter Antonsen on trombone and trumpet; Ronny Agren on backing vocals, and Deanna Bogart and Jimmy Carpenter on tenor saxophone.

The following three songs are catchier than a cold, and are perfect for trying to recover from one.

Track 02: “Back Pain Shuffle” – Okay, this short ditty is about a different ailment, but Lauritsen wants fellow sufferers to know he feels their pain. “My back is killing me, my baby, but my love is treating me good. The pain is like the Devil, but I’m stronger than him,” he comments. If there’s one thing you’ll dig, and even dance to, it’s the wicked guitar solo by Dave Fields.

Track 09: “Be My Girl” – With Lauritsen’s best vocals and the hottest of the horn section’s offerings on hand, number nine has a naughty twist: “We can try to be strong if she don’t let me down – on a circle of fire, on a circle of fire.” Johnny Cash would certainly agree.

Track 10: “Sweet On Me” – The album’s closer is a bittersweet Mike Zito cover featuring Zito himself on rhythm guitar. “Loving you ain’t what it used to be,” J.T. laments. “Sometimes you just let me be…I’d rather have you sweet on me.”

Blue Eyed Soul Volume 1 will leave soul-blues fans ravenous for the sequel!

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 – 10 of 11 

greg yawman book imageGregory Yawman – The Summer Of The Terraplane Blues

www.gregyawman.com

Self-published

246 pages

Author Gregory Yawman has written a fictional account of a young college student’s venture into the Mississippi Delta in 1938, a journey that is as much about escaping a domineering father as it is about studying the impact of blues music on the Negro culture.

Having finished his second year at the University of Pennsylvania, James Howard desperately wants to escape a stifling future in his father’s seafood business. But he has never been able to stand up to his father’s domineering presence. Leaving his Baltimore home, Howard heads to Memphis to pick-up an automobile his father has arranged for him to use for the summer through one of his business associates. The vehicle turns out to be a 1932 Hudson-Essex Terraplane, immortalized in the first record Robert Johnson released, complete with multiple bullet holes that add character to the appearance. The plan is for Howard to travel to Biloxi, where he will get experience at a seafood plant. But our hero has other ideas on how to spend his summer vacation.

Once Howard heads on down the road on his big adventure, the story picks up steam. Stopping in Robinsonville, MS, the collegian gets a chance to hear Robert Petway, one of many real blues musicians that Yawman weaves in his story line. Also joining the action is Franklin, an aspiring teen-aged harmonica player who volunteers to guide Howard around the area to the best music spots. In short order, Howard finds himself in the presence of Robert Johnson and David “Honeyboy” Edwards. Imagine the thrill of being able to hear these two legends live in their prime, which the author works hard to describe. Much to Howard’s dismay, Johnson and a lady friend disappear into the night in his borrowed Terraplane without even a word. Soon Howard, Honeyboy, and Franklin take off in pursuit to reclaim the car and Howard’s cash stashed away inside it.

The author puts the trio in peril with a local sheriff, ending up on a work gang. Honeyboy figures out a plan to extricate them from clutches of the law, and the journey continues deeper into the Delta. Yawman expertly mixes in factual details of the lives of various blues artists with his imagining of how they actually lived. The specter of racism is never too far away, providing the impetus for several plot twists. One weakness of the plot is that Howard seems almost oblivious to racist attitudes initially, which seems far-fetched for that time period, even for a young black man raised in an affluent home in the north. But he is quickly schooled on the insidious attitudes prevalent in Mississippi in the 1930’s.

Yawman is able to humanize the musicians, and create some feel for what life was like in that region eighty years ago. It is a coming-of-age tale for Howard, who in one short summer deals with loss, death , the girl that got away, and reaching the inevitable point where a child strikes out on their own, despite the hopes and dreams their parents may have for them. The Summer Of The Terraplane Blues holds your interest as Yawman creates a believable plot infused with characters that feel real to the reader. One of the better books of fiction centered on blues music – definitely worth reading!

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 – 11 of 11 

grand marquis cd imageGrand Marquis – Brighter Days

www.grandmarquis.net

Grand Marquis Music

9 songs – 42 minutes

Grand Marquis are something of a Kansas City institution now. Formed in the late 1990s, their swinging, rich, horn-driven sound has been blending blues, jazz and roots music into a sound that is both traditional and timeless for nearly twenty years. Brighter Days is the combo’s eighth album, recorded at Element Recording Studios in Kansas City, and it follows in the highly impressive footsteps made by the band’s previous release, 2013’s Blues And Trouble.

The first track on the album, “Another Lover”, opens with just a light snare drum and a funky descending minor key guitar riff before Redmond’s voice is joined by the full band. It’s a sharply written song, which builds in intensity and power behind a clever lyric of the certainty of love but the uncertainty about how to express it. Both “Another Lover” and the title track, which follows, successfully tread that fine line between modernizing the music while still respecting the genre’s strictures. Without the horns, both songs could fall into a pop-rock categorization. With the horns and the backing vocals (contributed by all but one of the band), a very different sound emerges. Indeed, the backing vocals are probably as important to the band’s sound as the horns, helping to emphasize the key vocal melodies of each song. “Brighter Days” itself also benefits from one of Ryan Wurtz’s top drawer electric slide guitar solos, something he also dropped into songs on Blues And Trouble, to great effect.

Grand Marquis comprises Bryan Redmond on lead vocals and saxophones, Chad Boydston on trumpet and backing vocals (and flugelhorn on “Bad Seed”), Trevor Turla on trombone and backing vocals, Fritz Hutchison on drums and backing vocals (and Wurlitzer on “Many Rivers To Cross”), Ben Ruth on upright bass, sousaphone and backing vocals, and Ryan Wurtz on guitar.

There are seven original tracks on the album, all co-written by the band, together with a delightful cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross”, transforming the reggae ballad into a soul torch song, and the closing track, “Down By The Riverside”. The old spiritual is dunked in the waters of New Orleans and giving a swinging, ragtime treatment. The original tracks stand up against the classics. There is the swinging rhumba of “I’m On Fire”, the New Orleans bounce of “Night Shift” with great trombone from Turla, and the funky instrumental, “It Don’t Matter”. “Ain’t No Spark” is distinguished by Wurtz’s clever guitar lines following the vocal melody in the chorus, while the shuffle “Bad Seed” highlights the top drawer engine room work of Hutchison and Ruth. All the musicians are first class, but it would be remiss not to mention Redmond’s excellent voice as well.

With nice packaging (including an insert with all the lyrics), cracking recording quality (hats off to engineer Joel Nanos), and sharply-written songs played with gusto and no little skill, Brighter Days is a highly enjoyable release. This isn’t a museum-quality facsimile of dusty, antiquated music. It is vibrant, exultant party music, informed by the best of the past, but with one foot squarely in the modern day.

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

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 Featured Interview – Marquise Knox 

marquise knox photo 1Throughout the recent history of the blues, dozens of players who are barely into their teens have emerged from the masses, attempting to stake their claim as stars for future generations. Most of them streak across the heavens and disappear into the void from which they emerged. But virtually no one is making the impact of St. Louis-based singer/guitarist Marquise Knox.

Catch him in performance and you’ll quickly realize that this gifted young man who’s spent more than half of his life on stage truly is a modern-day bluesman with old-school temperament and stylings. But he’s far more than that.

Now 27 and a highly respected international recording artist, renowned for his stylish guitar playing and booming baritone voice, he’s one of the deepest thinkers on the circuit today, someone who’s not afraid to speak out against injustice when it comes to current events, civil rights and other matters as he voices support and encouragement for his own community and the blues world in general.

“The world don’t owe me nothing,” he says. “I ain’t never felt no kind of privilege in this world. Mules have kicked me, but didn’t damage my pride. The rattlesnake bit me, but just crawled off and died. I represent St. Louis blues like no other. I am the blues.

“I get inspired by the people and the struggle and the stuff I see.”

Marquise speaks the truth. Unlike the multitude of poseurs filling the blues world today, Knox’s roots run as deep as any person of color who’s ever made a name for himself in the industry. Anyone who’s ever caught his act knows that he’s an accomplished acoustic guitarist whose style comes straight out of the Delta. And when he goes electric, his music his modern, but squarely tied to the past – even when he jumps from the stage to deliver an occasional verse or two acapella and hip hop. And once in a while, he shows that he’s a rock-solid blues harp player, too.

Although he was born in the Gateway City on Feb. 8, 1991, Knox’s grandparents, parents and uncles hail from the cotton fields in the country near Grenada, Miss. Unlike many of their peers, the family has a real understanding of its roots, which extend to New Orleans and South Carolina and can be traced to the early 1800s — long before the Civil War or the birth of Memphis Jug Band founder Ace Cannon and Magic Sam, both of whom came into the world in the city. Bukka White, Mississippi John Hurt, piano great Walter Davis and more recent transplants Magic Slim and Big George Brock, a Knox cousin, also plied their trade there before moving on.

marquise knox photo 2Knox’s great uncle Clifford, whose social circle Boo Boo Davis, Big George and other Grenada bluesmen, was a talented amateur in his own right. He captured Marquise’s attention during frequent visits with guitar in tow. When Marquise started playing seriously, Clifford showed him the ropes. But that was only after other relatives had hands in starting to put him on the path he walks today.

“My great uncle Joe brought me my first guitar – a plastic Mickey Mouse guitar — when I was three,” Marquise recalls. “I played around with that, but busted it up against the wall. After that, my father, who had seen how interested I was, told my grandmother’s brother: ‘If that boy had a guitar, he’d learn how to play.’ Those words stayed on my uncle’s heart.”

But the young boy didn’t really learn how to play until a few years later. “I was in the third or fourth grade and doing a black history program,” he recalls, “and I told my teacher I knew how to play the guitar – but I didn’t! And she wanted me to perform at the concert. I went home and told my grandmother Lilly Mae: ‘I’m in trouble!’”

After he explained the situation, she admonished him for lying and chased him out of the house. A few minutes later, however, he was watching from the yard as she opened a chifforobe. A skilled musician in her own right who, like Clifford, played in a country blues style, she brought out a six-string and started picking as Marquise watched through an open window from the backyard.

Soon, she started teaching him the basics. You can still hear their influence in the way he attacks R&B and other material that’s not traditionally country blues. “I put those twists on it because that’s where I come from,” Knox says, noting that “the official song I learned was ‘You Don’t Have To Go’ by Jimmy Reed. That’s a family nickname they have for me. Some of them call me Jimmy because of it.

“My great uncle went from there and told my mother: ‘All right, let’s get him a guitar.’ And I went on…2002 until now.”

Knox received his first paycheck as a pro at age 13 after playing at a senior citizens’ complex near St. Louis’ DePaul Hospital. Before long, he says, he was hustling gigs in the thriving underground blues community in the city. While it’s played home to the legendary Chuck Berry, Larry Davis and Henry Townsend and served as one to Albert King, Little Milton and Lonnie Johnson, dozens of other local talents toiled off the beaten track, including Frank “Spanky” Perry, Charles Harris, Dan Taylor and Charles Taylor as well as Charlie Sweet, who gave Marquise his first recording gig with his Mississippi Delta Boys.

Knox played with Perry in his group, Spanky And The Gang And The Secret Weapon when he first started out. “I was the secret weapon,” he says. “One night, Spanky’s wife told him: ‘One day, Marquise is gonna branch out on his own.’ After that, he and I talked and we agreed it was time for me to start my own band. I told him: ‘I’ve gotta go make me some money!’”

marquise knox photo 3It was Townsend who was the first major blues artist to take the teenager under his wing. Born in Mississippi and raised in Cairo, Ill., Townsend ran away from home at age nine in 1918 and began his career under the tutelage of Walter Davis. A Grammy honoree affectionately known as Mule, he was a national treasure. Of all the bluesmen who recorded in the 1920s, he was the last man standing, playing guitar and piano without a career break for the better part of eight decades before passing at age in 2006.

Marquise met Henry at a birthday party. “The next thing I knew, Mr. Townsend says: ‘Come over to my house,’” Knox recalls. “I did, and we got to talkin’ – and he liked me. We sat down and played guitar for hours on end.

“That’s how I learned how to write songs. I’d just listen to him, and he’d make up songs about anything. We’d play one 10 or 20 or 30 minutes if we wanted to.”

The pair played the Kansas City Street Blues Festival and a couple of other gigs together, but spent far more time together talking to each other in what became an intimate friendship. “He said: ‘There’s a lot of blues out there now,’” Marquise recalls, “’but what I’m gonna teach you is how to make sure that they don’t screw you over.’

“I didn’t listen to it all. I wish I would have. That makes the lessons even more important to me now – not only to listen to, but to pass it on.

“He was the first guy who told me I was worth $2,500 (laughs). I got to talking to (Earwig Records owner, harmonica player and longtime David “Honeyboy” Edwards manager and partner) Michael Frank one day in Dallas. We were talking about Honeyboy. And Henry had made me feeling so good about myself, I told Michael that Honeyboy should make $2,500 at least every time he shows up. We laugh about that. But I’ve never lost sight of the fact that I’ve got to make some money out here.

“Henry also taught me how to form the music…not necessarily just play it, but make sure you sing about something worthy, make sure the second and third verse go with your first verse.”

Townsend also taught Marquise sound lessons about the business side of the music. “When recording, I always try to hold on to the masters,” he says. “If not that, then I make sure that I own the publishing, the copyrights…so much stuff. Eventually, I started my own publishing company.”

Another lesson came in the form of album construction with Townsend advising that it’s always a good idea to use your own tunes and limit the number of covers – a practice Knox has maintained since releasing his first CD, Man Child, which received a Blues Blast Music Award nomination in the best new artist category along with nomination in the the Rising Star Award category. “There are some guys out here that don’t even write,” he says. As a result, they limit themselves financially.

marquise knox photo 4Another musician who took Marquise under his wings was the Michael Burks, the burly Alligator recording artist known for his intense two-hour sets that earned him the nickname The Iron Man. Burks — who was based out of Little Rock, Ark., where Marquise has kin — mentored Knox for years until his untimely death at age 54 when he succumbed to a heart attack in the Atlanta airport while returning from a European tour.

“We met when I was playing down at B.B.’s Blues And Soups (one of the top clubs in St. Louis),” Marquise says. He’d just won a competition with his new band and was booked for a 30-minute showcase with other groups. It was past time for his unit to break their set when Burks approached.

“He told my bass player: ‘Get your ass off the stage right now.’ The bass player was so scared said: ‘I can’t do that,’ and I looked at Mike and I looked at the crowd. They were bringing all that money up (to the tip jar).”

When Marquise finally did come down, Burks approached him again. “’Kid, you got some balls,’ he said. ‘I didn’t like it…but I admire it!’

“I loved Michael so-o-o much,” Marquise says. “He took me in the studio and showed me how it’s done. He taught me that sometimes what you hear and the band hears, they can compete. So you’ve got to make sure that you give him (the producer) what he wants while it’s still sounds good to you and you have your groove. After all, it’s your product at the end of the day.

“If he saw me uncomfortable doing a song, he told me not to do it at all. He taught me how to speak up. When we lost him, we lost somebody who was really reaching out to the younger guys like me and Kingfish (Ingram). He would call you. He had a presence.

“The first time I drove down to the King Biscuit Blues Festival on my own, I didn’t have enough money to get back. He reached in his pocket, gave me $200 and said: ‘I know you’ll get back now. He was like that. It wasn’t just about the music.”

On his part, Knox takes a lot of things seriously, first and foremost, family and the importance of having a good work ethic, something he learned at home from childhood. “My family’s hard-working people, and they passed it to me,” he says. “I look back on the fact that they worked in the cotton field and ate cornbread every day. Now they have a house they own.

“Grew up in the house that they built and became a man. That’s what I try to relate in my story: that it’s not easy for black people to do that and have that. And it’s definitely not easy for these blues guys that they love so much to obtain that and have a relationship with their families while, at the same time, be out here trying to make a living.”

marquise knox photo 5A proud man, Marquise is concerned about the state of the blues today. “I just want to make sure that the blues community understands that you have to reach back into the black community – the people who gave you the music in the first place. Don’t just use their resources and stories as people without directly understanding that you’re gonna have to go back to the inner cities to support them.”.

In essence, he says, the music is a living, breathing entity that needs to be fed at its source, not blues meccas like Clarksdale, Miss., or the 32-mile stretch of highway leading to Helena, Ark. While the artists make good money at those venues, they can’t be expected to have to support their families off of the proceeds of one or two good paying nights a year – a lifestyle that, for many, exists today. It’s vital to support them on their own home ground, and it’s essential that people in the blues world work to establish artists’ communities where the musicians live and work.

It’s something even more important now than ever. With the passing of so many great, elder bluesmen during the past few years, we need to nurture the younger generation of future stars.

“We have to stop the exploitation instead of building multi-million dollar businesses off of their contributions by making bad deals with the musicians and taking 80 per cent of the profit,” Marquise says. “We have to do right by those artists. Some of them they find in poverty or want loans, and people don’t want to do business with them. It might be a hard axe to grind in the beginning. But once that ship comes to dock and everything belongs to him, he’s gonna feel much better!

“Playing music is novelty for some and a way of life for others. The blues is about life, love and death of black folks. It means that you must have respect for the craft and its people. Simple. Any man claiming to know the blues should automatically know that.”

Despite being a professional musician literally since youth, Knox is a deep-thinker who’s both well-read and experienced beyond his years. From childhood, he’s been fascinated by the life histories of U.S. presidents and political science in general, a curiosity that continues today. He’s shocked that so many folks in the blues world support an administration that is working to erode all of the social progress America has been making since the 1960s.

“I’m completely torn that we have people inside this community – a promoter or whatever — that have a certain undertone about this President that they defend him. When President Obama was in office and I disagreed with him, I made it known.

marquise knox photo 5“But you can’t overlook what this man stands for. I don’t mind a fan saying something. But when it comes to promoters or blues society member doing it, it makes me worried.

“I fear that they might not use me – not because I didn’t play worth a damn. You might not use me because I might bring too much realness, too much real blues to your people. You just can’t be talking about this guy the way they do and be supporting the blues. The two just do not go together.”

And don’t get him started about the current administration’s attempt to throw religion into the mix. “I haven’t seen this much hate in my lifetime,” Marquise observes. “I’ve seen tears in my grandmother’s eyes and my great uncle get upset, but there are times now that I want to grab something and twist it or break it to keep from exploding.”

Even so, Knox maintains friends on both sides of the political spectrum and urges that they talk to – not at – each other. “There’s nothing wrong with spirited debates,” he insists. “Never lose sight that that’s the American way. You might want universal health insurance and military spending. I want universal health insurance and affordable college. But we should still want to be friends at the end of the day.”

And he urges caution when you’re scrolling through social media. “Don’t let these fake profiles and memes destroy what little common sense we have,” he says. “Do your own research on anything you share. Period. The trolls are out in full force and the end goal is chaos amongst the people. It’s important for folks to educate themselves.”

The lessons about life and music continue for Marquise. Even though he’s established himself as one of the top young bluesmen in the world today, he surrounds himself with seasoned bandmates who continue to pay what they’ve learned forward. His bass player, Gus Thornton, is a St. Louis Blues Hall Of Famer who toured and recorded with Albert King for years and appears on albums with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnnie Johnson and Katie Webster. His drummer, Michael Battle, one of the top percussionists in St. Louis, recently started a non-profit organization that aims to point troubled youth in the proper direction. Rounding out the sound is the talented Matthew Lawder, a stinging, stylish guitarist in his own right.

And Marquise is attempting to pay it forward himself. He recently formed a record label, Knox Entertainment, in partnership with Alonzo Townsend, Henry’s son. They’re currently in negotiations a St. Louis radio station, planning to make use of a studio to produce album for deserving, but underexposed area musicians – either for local distribution or to take them to the next level.

“When that news finally breaks,” Marquise says, “folks are going to be taking what we’re doing more seriously.”

And he just announced plans for a dinner styled after a block party to honor Big George Brock in order to give the city of St. Louis a chance to honor the 86-year-old legend and show their appreciation for his longevity in the blues.

Fortunately for music lovers everywhere, Marquise will be carrying his tradition on for decades to come. When he says “I am the blues,” he isn’t kidding!

Visit Marquise Knox’s website at: www.marquiseknoxblues.com

Interviewer 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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Southeast Iowa Blues Society – Fairfield, IA

The 5th Annual “Blue Ribbon Blues Fest” presented by Fairfield’s Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Southeast Iowa Blues Society will be held August 4th, 2018 at the Jefferson Fairgrounds in Fairfield, Iowa. Gates Open at 4:30pm and music begins at 5:30pm with the Riverdogs Blues Band, followed by Chris Antonik at 7pm and featuring John Nemeth at 9pm with Tony Blew between acts.

There will be an Iowa Beer Bus, BBQ and Kettlecorn…No Outside food or Drinks. Camping will be available. Tickets are $25 and $20 for SIBS members, call 641-919-7477 for more information or go to http://www.southeastiowabluessociety.org

Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

For July, there will be no Charlotte Blues Society Blues Bash, but on August 5 we come back strong with James Armstrong! The show begins at 7:30 with an open blues jam followed by James at 8:45. After James’s set, there will be another blues jam. As always, the show will be at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave, Charlotte, and admission is free to card-carrying members and $5 to all others. We continue to collect donations of canned food, household items, and cash for Loaves and Fishes. 1 Can? I Can! Help end hunger in Charlotte!

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: 7/23 – Southside Jonny Clausing, 7/30 – Big Mike Aguirre, 8/6 – Mark May Band. For more information visit www.icbluesclub.org.

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Lyran Society’s monthly Friday fish fry – July 27 – Paul filipowicz, August 17 – New Savages, Shows free, run 7 to 10 PM.

The Ninth Annual Crossroads Blues Festival at Lyran Park is Saturday,August 25th. Noon to 10 PM, gates open at 11 AM. $5 advanced tickets,$10 at the gate. Free parking. Primitive camping $20 per night, available Friday and/or Saturday http://crossroadsbluessociety.com  or http://www.crossroadsbluesfestival.com has all the info!

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.

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.  Thur, July 27 – The Nouveaux Honkies, Inside Out, Gilman IL, Thur, Aug 23 – Albert Castiglia, L’Erable IL, Tues, Sept 11 – Frank Bang & Cook County Kings, Venue TBA, Tues, Sept 25, Ivy Ford Band, Kankakee Valley Boat Club. More Info at: http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues.

The Long Beach Blues Society – Long Beach, CA

The Long Beach Blues Society presents the “6 String Showdown,” a head-to-head series of regional blues guitar competitions to crown Southern California’s best blues guitar player, the winner getting to perform on the Main Stage of this year’s New Blues Festival V. Bracket rounds to determine regional winners to be held at Campus Jax, Newport Beach, Saturday, July 21, 3-11 PM and Arcadia Blues Club, Saturday, August 4, 6 PM to Midnite.

Four semi-finalists face off on the Golden Groove Stage at New Blues Festival V Saturday, September 1. Two finalists go head-to-head on the NBF Main Stage, Sunday, September 2. More info at www.6stringshowdown.com.


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