Issue 12- 5 February 1, 2018

Cover photo © 2018 Michael Kurgansky


 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Erin Harpe. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music by John Mayall, FreeWorld, Norman Beaker Band, Johnny Tucker, Konstantin Kolesnichenko Quartet, R D Olson, Leo Maier and Will Porter.

Our video of the week is Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

john mayall cd imageJohn Mayall – Three For The Road

Forty Below Records FBR 018

9 songs – 60 minutes

www.johnmayall.com

Sometimes, even the best recorded music comes about by chance. That’s the case with his new, live set from British blues legend John Mayall. He was all set to kick off a tour in Europe last March when his plans were derailed.

Weather problems cancelled plane flights and kept his longtime guitarist Rocky Athas back home in America when the rest of Mayall’s band were in Dresden and Stuttgart, Germany, all set to lay down a follow-up to his star-studded 2017 studio release, Talk About That, for Eric Corne’s Forty Below Records imprint.

“We opted for recording in East Germany purely as a convenience and availability of a company (All Orange Music) that specialized in live recordings,” Mayall says. Instead of scrapping his plans, he decided to go ahead as a three-piece with John on vocals, harmonica and keyboards and backed solely by rock-steady Chicagoans Greg Rzab on bass and Jay Davenport on drums.

Far less formal than his prior release, which included Joe Walsh, and a full horn section, this CD, the 66th album in Mayall’s illustrious career – not counting compilations – delivers a polished, but laid back set of the Blues Hall Of Famer’s favorite songs: two of his own and others culled from the catalogs of old-timers Eddie Turner, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Henry Townsend and Lionel Hampton as well as 21st Century superstars Gregg Allman, Sonny Landreth and Curtis Salgado.

It’s actually a new chapter of his recording career, which began with a live LP, John Mayall Plays John Mayall in 1965 after a fistful of singles, because the alignment forced him into the spotlight far more than in normal performance. A brief introduction brings him to the stage as he launches into Taylor’s biggest hit, “Big Town Playboy,” accompanying himself on harp, delivering runs in his own style rather than the upper-register lines laid down by Jimmy Reed. He turns to the keyboard for a mid-tune solo and finishes the tune in instrumental duet with himself.

Hopkins’ “I Feel So Bad” is up next with Mayall filling the vocal breaks with techniques on the ivories he picked up after studying the work of Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis, doubling down on harp and keys in the extended break, displaying far more energy than most folks his age.

A silky smooth keyboard intro kicks off Salgado’s “The Sum Of Something” and shines throughout as John makes the tune his own, giving space for Rzab and Davenport to put their talents on display during the break. The familiar Mayall anthem “Streamline,” first recorded with the Bluesbreakers in 1967, is up next with John at his funky best on the organ. An unhurried, traditional cover of Townsend’s “Tears Came Rollin’ Down” follows before a rock-steady version of Hampton’s big-band era classic, “Ridin’ On The L&N.”

Mayall’s back on organ for the Allman mainstay, “Don’t Deny Me” – penned by Jerry Lynn Williams – before covering “Lonely Feelings,” a song John first recorded in the ‘80s, and launching into an 11-minute version of Landreth’s “Congo Square” to bring the show to a close.

There have been so many high points in Mayall’s career that it’s all but redundant to claim another. But Three For The Road is special in its own right, giving listeners ample space to appreciate his skill as a keyboard player, something that’s often lost in the mix in full-band set-up. Available wherever fine music is sold, and a disc guaranteed to keep you grooving from the jump. This one’s most definitely going to go down as one of the top live-performance CDs of the year.

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.



 

 Music Reviewers Wanted 

Do you really know your Blues and enjoy telling others about it?

Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good writers to volunteer to help us out. We need reviewers who know Blues and can write a minimum of one review each week. We will provide access to downloads or physical CDs, DVDs and books for review. The writer keeps the album, book or DVD for doing the review. We get music submissions from all over the world. We publish music reviews each week so there is a steady flow of things that need to be reviewed.

These are volunteer positions that need a person who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word! Must have good writing and composition skills, good grammar and spelling!

Must be familiar with WordPress software to enter the reviews or be willing to learn. (If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, it is similar. Very easy to use!)

Experienced writers are encouraged to send samples of previous work. All Blues Blast staff started out as volunteers like this. We have kept those with dedication on as staff writers afterwards.

If you are interested, please send an email to info@bluesblastmagazine.com and tell us about your Blues background. A resume is always appreciated too.

Please be sure to include your phone number in your email reply.


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

freeworld cd imageFreeWorld – What It Is

www.freeworldmemphis.com

Self-release

11 songs – 57 minutes

With a history stretching back over 30 years, FreeWorld is something of a Memphis institution, having been awarded a coveted Brass Note on the Beale Street Walk of Fame back in 2012. The band cites influences as wide-ranging as Booker T. & the M.G.’s, John Coltrane, Frank Zappa, The Grateful Dead, Steely Dan, and The Meters, and these names give a fair indication of what can be found on FreeWorld’s seventh album, What It Is.

Opening track, “Deeper By The Minute”, sounds like a soul-funk band have kidnapped Robbie Williams’ “Let Me Entertain You” and added groove and an emotional pulse, while “Find A Better Way” goes down a rockier route, with its Deep Purple-esque chorus riff and Andy Tate’s rock guitar solo. “Dinja Babe”, by contract, with Big Star’s Jody Stephens guesting on drums and backing vocals, has a Beatles-esque vocal line in its verses. Throughout, the wall of sound produced by the horn section adds real emphasis and power.

After a number of personnel changes over the years, the current line-up features Richard Cushing on lead vocals and bass; Dr. Herman Green on tenor saxophone; Peter Climie on tenor, baritone and alto saxs; Andy Tate on guitars, electric sitar, glissintar, mandolin, dobro, cuatro and keyboards; Chris Stephenson on Hammond B-3, piano and keyboards; Jared Dover on trumpet; Greg Lundy on drums and Freedman Steorts on trombone. With ages ranging from 20-years-young to the 87-year-old jazz saxophone legend Dr. Herman Green, FreeWorld reaps the benefits of combining the energy and passion of youth with the power and muscularity of maturity.

The majority of the tracks are upbeat and positive, both musically and lyrically. Even the ballad “Believe”, with lovely lead vocals from guest, Stephani McCoy, carries an uplifting message. 10 of the 11 songs on What It Is were written by various band members. The sole cover on the album is a nailed-on take on The Band’s classic “The Shape I’m In”.

There are four instrumentals on What It Is: the funk-rock of “Shrimp N’ Grits” with its gloriously over-the-top guitar solo from Tate, the closing “Eve Waits” and the jazz-fusion of “Free The Moment” and “Sideswiped”, neither of which would have sounded out of place on one of Jeff Beck’s late 70s albums.

Indeed, the entire album has something of a late-70s feel to it, with the easy virtuosity of the musicians and the willingness to let the soloists stretch out (only one track clocks in at under four minutes). The influence of the great horn-driven pop-rock bands of the era, such as Lighthouse or The Tower of Power, is self-evident throughout.

Of course, the 1970s was not a perfect decade, and some of the self-indulgence of the era can be detected in the drawn-out introspection of the near nine-minute, “Eve Waits”, which is a slightly curious way to end an otherwise very impressive album.

Produced and recorded at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, What It Is isn’t a blues album by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, a joyous soul-funk-rock album that will put a smile on the hardest of faces. What It Is is what it is and should be enjoyed as such.

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 – 3 of 8 

norman beaker band cd imageNorman Beaker Band – We See Us Later

JNR – 2017

16 tracks; 68 minutes

www.normanbeaker.com

Manchester’s Norman Beaker will probably not be a familiar name to US audiences but in Europe he is synonymous with good blues, whether with his own band or backing singers like Larry Garner and Chris Farlowe. He was inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 2017, finding himself among a small elite of Brits thus far honored – Jack Bruce (with whom Norman played back in the 1990’s), Peter Green, John Mayall and Eric Clapton being some of the others! Norman’s recorded output is probably not as extensive as it should be – but he’s a busy man, touring a lot, especially in Europe, so time in the studio is at a premium. However, this time he has gone the extra mile and delivered a very full album with lots of solid tunes.

Norman wrote all the material here and handles lead vocals and guitar throughout, apart from two tracks where guests Larry Garner and Steve Ellis (Love Affair) sing. The long-standing rhythm section is John Price on bass and Steve Gibson on drums, Nick Steed is on keys and Kim Nishikawara on sax; Steve ‘Howie’ Hallworth adds trumpet to three tracks. The quirky album title follows a tradition of Beaker titles, previous ones including The Older I Get The Better I Was... and Who’s He Calling Him?

The album starts with a bang with a full-on rocker entitled “Only I Got What The Other Guys Want”, Norman, Kim and Nick all in fine form and the lyrics displaying a keen sense of humor as Norman brags that although he has no job or money the others are still envious! The contrast with “Where Does Acting Start” is not only in the seriousness of the lyrics (“We fell in love, we thought forever; at our age we should’ve known better. When it all falls apart, tell me, where does love end and acting start?”) but also in Norman’s guitar which moves from the Stones-like rock of the previous track to some delicate stuff here; Kim’s solo and Nick’s twinkling piano are also excellent, making this an early highlight. “Details” takes us back to the days of British Rn’B with an early Stones/Animals feel, Norman even adding some harp and “Cheating Love” plows a familiar blues furrow with a churning riff and lyrics about the proverbial ‘cheating woman’. Album closer “Love Me Tonight” also employs that churning rhythm and plenty of Norman’s guitar, both rhythm and lead overdubbed.

Not all of the album is blues, “I Believe In You” and “Thanks But No Thanks” (with superb sax work) fitting more into a pop style but there are still plenty of blues highlights. Norman delivers a scintillating solo on the outro of “Railway To Roam”, an upbeat tune driven by Nick’s organ and a funky rhythm, as is “Nothing Changes” which has a great horn riff that must be Kim doubling up as no other horn players are credited on the track.

The two songs with guest singers appear next to each other: “Time And Tide” is a blues ballad that sounds a little like “Need Your Love So Bad” (even string effects) and Steve Ellis sings it well, Norman adding a Freddie King sounding solo; the band is at its very best behind Larry Garner’s commanding vocal and guitar on “I Don’t Want A Lover”, one of the songs boosted by Howie’s trumpet. “Thursdays Off” is given a Spencer Davis feel courtesy of Nick’s Winwood-esque organ work and the horns blare along behind the chorus. Norman shows that he can turn his skills to a country style on “If I Could Turn Away” and “Bottom Of The Slide”, both very catchy tunes. The remaining two songs are both slow blues in “Hard To Be Somebody” and “Nobody Knows Where The Time Goes”. To be fair, Norman’s voice is not as strong as his guitar and songwriting but he delivers the lyrics satisfactorily. With strong originals and fine playing this is a good opportunity to discover Norman Beaker’s talents.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

johnny tucker cd imageJohnny Tucker – Seven Day Blues

HighJohn Records

15 songs – 57 minutes

It is something of a mystery why Johnny Tucker isn’t better known. He has been making music professionally since he first moved to Los Angeles back in 1964, singing in a James Brown tribute act before joining Philip Walker’s band as the drummer before moving on to play with the likes of Johnny Otis, Floyd Dixon and Robert Cray. His first album for HighJohn Records, Why You Lookin’ At Me?, was released in 2006, the same year as the wonderful Floyd Dixon Celebration, Time Brings About A Change. Tucker turns in engaging performances on both the CD and the DVD recordings of the two-night gig held to honour the legendary pianist and singer. He is a talented singer, with a warm, rough-hewn voice that straddles the border of blues and soul, as well as being a sharp-witted songwriter – all 15 tracks on Seven Day Blues were composed by him.

For his long-overdue second album on HighJohn, label chief Bob Auerbach put the singer together with Big Jon Atkinson and a hand-selected band of musicians. The tactic of pairing a veteran singer with younger acolytes doesn’t always work, especially when the backing musicians overwhelm the singer they are meant to support (viz, The Howlin’ Wolf Album). But when it does work, on albums like Nappy Brown’s 2007 Long Time Coming (with superb support from Sean Costello) or on Muddy’s 1977 Hard Again, the results are magical, with the authority and maturity of the older singer given a shot of the energy and excitement of youth. Seven Day Blues is very much in this latter category.

The core band comprises Atkinson and Scott Smart (who play both guitars and bass on different tracks), Troy Sandow on harmonica and bass, and Malachi Johnson and Marty Dodson and drums. Bob Welch contributes organ to the Sam Cooke-styled soul of “Love And Appreciation (To Georgia)” and the jump blues of “Tell You All”, which also features the guitar talents of Kid Ramos. Bob Corritore also contributes harp to five tracks. From the opening Howlin’ Wolf-esque, “Talkin’ About You Baby”, it’s obvious that the musicians understand how to bring the best out of Tucker’s voice. They know when to step forwards for their solo spots, but they never get in the way of the song.

Each song on the album was recorded live at Atkinson’s BigTone Studio in Hayward, CA, with all the players in one room, playing vintage gear and recorded on vintage equipment, and this commitment to authenticity comes through on every track. From the uptown Chicago shuffle of “Tired Of Doing Nothing” to the aching slow blues of the closing “You Can Leave My House”, via the primeval funk of the title track and the echo-drenched slide of “Do-Right Man”, each song reeks of deep emotion and well as a true understanding and appreciation of the way music used to be made.

Packing 15 songs into 57 minutes, there is no room for filler or fat on Seven Day Blues. Indeed, whilst it is dangerously presumptive to make predictions in January, it is not foolhardy to suggest that Seven Day Blues is an early contender for one of the albums of the year.

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 – 5 of 8 

konstantin kolesnichenko cd imageKonstantin Kolesnichenko Quartet – Minor Differences

Self-produced

6 songs – 28 minutes

www.kolesnichenko-harmonica.com

As a reviewer, every once in a while, a CD will come to you completely out of left field and knock you for a loop. That’s the case with this delightful instrumental work that reached America from the last row of the upper deck in the blues ball field.

A native of Dnipro, Ukraine, Konstantin Kolesnichenko is a refreshingly different harmonica player who’s proving once again that you don’t have to be born in Chicago, Memphis or the Mississippi Delta to play the blues with understanding, emotion and feel. His growing legion of fans in the U.S. boasts a host of harp luminaries, including Jason Ricci, Adam Gussow, Mississippi Heat front man Pierre Lacocque and Guy Davis, and he’s a popular draw in Russia and several of its former republics.

Now in his early 30s, Kolesnichenko picked up the instrument for the first time at age 19 and began his career with the Bullet Blues Band, which delivered its music in a Windy City style. As a soloist, however, he fuses blues and jazz into an art form that would fit comfortably in the cool jazz era of the ‘60s on one hand, but is bright and modern on the other.

Kolesnichenko plays in a style unfamiliar to most blues lovers in the Western world. He plays low-register instruments in what’s called a “half-valve” technique, which was advanced by American harp master PT Gazell. A 2011 Grammy nominee, Gazell uses a model of Seydel diatonic harmonica that’s built with valves, which enable the musician to approach a chromatic sound in his play. The resulting sound is similar, yet different, from overblow techniques.

This is Konstantin’s fourth release as a band leader, following If You Want To See This Blues in 2014 and follow-ups Sweeten It Up (2015) and Hypnotized! (2016). He’s backed here by Mikhail Lyshenko on organ, Dmitriy Lytvynenko on percussion and Paul Seedorenko on guitar to deliver two originals that fit tightly with four slick covers. As the title infers, much of the material is minor-keyed and blue.

The disc opens with a cover of the Johnny Hodges/Wild Bill Davis 1965 classic, “Joe’s Blues.” Kolesnichenko slides smoothly into horn lines once laid down by Hodges, but takes them up to a fresh level in fluid, almost unbelievably honeyed 21st century runs. Billy Strayhorn’s “Johnny Come Lately” kicks off with percussion before Lyshenko joins in with a traditional sound on keys that would make Jimmy Smith or Fred McGriff smile. Konstantin’s lead floats, giving way to Seedorenko for a sweet single-note solo mid-tune and another by Lyshenko later on.

The original “Clockface” kicks off with a different take on a three-note, Chicago style harp turn-around before Kolesnichenko swings sweetly for the rafters. “In The Wee Hours,” a hit for organist Bill Doggett and recorded by Junior Wells on the classic album Hoodoo Man Blues, is an unhurried delight, as is an instrumental take on Italian crooner Domenico Modugno’s 1958 hit, “Volare,” which would be welcome to ears on the Via Venito.

The disc ends with the sprightly title tune, “Minor Differences,” with Konstantin and Seedorenko sharing the musical load.

Available through Amazon and CD Universe and highly recommended. This one’s basically flawless, although he might get some harmonica players thinking about other careers. It’s that different and that good!

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

r d olson cd imageR D Olson – Keep Walking Woman

Self-Release – 2017

9 tracks; 44 minutes

www.facebook.com/rdolson53

RD (The Real Deal) Olson is from Arizona where he has twice represented local blues societies at the IBC. RD has been around since the 70’s but this is his first release of mainly original material. RD plays harp and handles the vocals with Darryl Porras on guitar, Eric Williams keys and sax, Jamie Waldron bass and Robert Sellani drums. There are a few issues with the copy of the CD sent for review as sound levels are rather low, requiring an increase in volume but the final track, a cover of Muddy’s “Can’t Lose What You Never Had” is far louder, necessitating an urgent downward adjustment to volume levels! Despite that technical issue there is some good music here as all the players are featured across the album and RD has written some interesting songs, some drawn from personal experiences.

RD has a ‘conversational’ singing style, almost spoken at times, but it works effectively, especially on a slower tune like “I Miss New Orleans”, RD’s tribute to the Crescent City, Eric’s bubbling baritone sax and twinkling piano giving great support to RD’s harp. In a simple arrangement Darryl’s clean guitar lines are excellent on another NO-inspired tune “Petie Reed”, about a former girlfriend about whom RD sounds quite bitter (“looks as faded as worn-out jeans, girl stole her lines from the movie scene”). “Sheila” is a real toe-tapper as RD’s harp leads us into another song about a girl but this one seems to be out of his reach; great music here with piano, guitar and harp all to the fore. “Bleed Baby Bleed” is another rocker with strong sax and guitar.

Two songs utilize an element of rap in the vocals: opener “Baby Boomer Blues” discusses the crash in 2007 when RD lost his home, the song using “going down, down, down”, name-checking Freddie King, Luther Allison and members of the band, as a theme for the crash. The title track is about a girl who is being encouraged to keep walking away, RD using a rap approach to the chorus refrain. This device does not really appeal to this reviewer but other aspects of the songs work fine, notably the bubbling sax on “Keep Walking Woman”.

At the heart of the disc is “Johnnie Walker” which does reference the brand of Scotch but is in fact about the suicide of a friend. This tragic tale has some great playing from the whole band, Eric’s sax bringing a brooding tone to the extended slow blues and Darryl’s solo providing a dazzling centerpiece. I really enjoyed this track! To close the disc RD gives us covers of two of his influences: Little Walter’s “Up The Line” is an uptempo shuffle with a hint of latin rhythm and the Muddy Waters cover is played as a slow back-porch dialogue between slide and harp, RD’s vocals sounding distant and a little distorted, combined with the volume issue previously mentioned.

Apparently RD and his band are now backing Beverley ‘Guitar’ Watkins, so it may be a while before there is any sign of a follow-up to this disc but there is enough here to be of interest to blues fans.

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 – 7 of 8 

leo maier cd imageLeo Maier – I Choose The Blues

Self-Release – 2017

11 tracks; 45 minutes

www.leomaier.com

Leo Maier is a 33 year old Brazilian guitarist who has previously released two EPs but this is his first full album, all original material and very good it is too. Leo plays guitar throughout, bass on two tracks and handles the vocals (though half the material is instrumental). Backing Leo are Davyk Martins and Eduardo Martorano who share the drum stool, either Fernando Mueller or Emerson Mainhardt on bass, Junior Marques on keyboards and Helio Reichert who plays sax on five tracks. Cristiano Ferreira contributes guitar to three tracks and backing vocals on two cuts come from Willian de Andrade and Willard Ribeiro.

The album opens with “Good Luck Socks”, a swinging instrumental with Leo’s T-Bone style guitar and Helio’s smooth sax; perhaps the superstition implied in the title is real as the tune appears also as the final track, without the sax! “You’ve Been Drinking Too Much” has a Texas feel to the guitar and rhythm and our first acquaintance with Leo’s vocals which are fine. The amusingly titled “South To North Slide” finds Leo playing some lively slide over a latin rhythm with Junior’s piano featured. “Partying With The Band” is a solid shuffle that swings with guitar and sax though lyrically the song rather runs out of steam with repetition of the title towards the end. “Blumenau Boogie” pays tribute to Leo’s home city in South Brazil where the album was also recorded, Leo tipping his hat to Albert Collins with the rhythm of the tune.

Another fine instrumental “Blues For Mr Jody Williams” references Bo Diddley’s guitar player whose comeback albums in the early 2000’s are well worth discovering if readers are not familiar; Leo’s tune picks up from one of Jody’s most famous tunes “Moanin’ For Molasses” and is a standout track as Leo plays beautifully with subtle support from Emerson’s bass and Helio’s sax. We then get three extended tracks, each clocking in at around six minutes: the title track is apparently the first song that Leo wrote and in it he explains his love for the blues in a lilting slow blues that provides lots of opportunities for Leo to play his heart out in impressive style; “That Crazy Girl” has more of a Southern feel with echoey guitar and “We Miss The King” is a tribute to BB on which Leo and Cristiano both play beautifully, avoiding trying to emulate BB’s unique style but still giving us an elegant tune that captures something of his majesty. “I’m Travelling” is a rocker as Leo explains how he has to travel to meet up with his girl.

Leo’s hallmark is a clean style of playing and he gets to show off his abilities across a pleasing range of tunes here, aided by sympathetic backing. An impressive debut and a disc well worth seeking out.

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


 


 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

will porter cd imageWill Porter – Tick Tock Tick

Gramafono Sound – 2015

11 tracks; 46 minutes

This CD is a bit of an oddity, having been initially released in 2015 and now being promoted again. It must have been recorded even earlier as producer Wardell Quezergue passed away in 2011. It would therefore seem that the tracks we hear may have been recorded around that time but what really matters is whether what we have here is of merit – and it certainly is!

The sessions were intended as a means of recording a series of previously unreleased Dr John songs and to spotlight his piano playing in particular, though he is only on two tracks here. [Apparently there are other recordings in the can to be released in the future.] Wardell wanted to produce these sessions and brought in Will to sing as they had worked together successfully on Will’s earlier Happy CD.

Recorded in New Orleans, the album includes background vocals from The Womack Brothers (aka The Valentinos), superb horn playing from Mic Gillette, Johnny Bamont and Don Pender and guest appearances by Leo Nocentelli (The Meters, guitar on two tracks), Jimmy Haslip (The Yellowjackets, bass on two tracks) and Bettye Lavette (duet vocals on one track). The core band is Todd Duke on guitar, Thaddeus Richard (TREME) on keys, Brian Quezergue (Wild Magnolias) on bass and the late Bernard ‘Bunchy’ Johnson or Doug Belote (Tab Benoit) on drums. Producer and arranger Wardell Quezergue’s introductory comments have been left in as he counts in some of the numbers, a suitable reminder of the essential contribution he made to these recordings.

The CD opens with the title track, one of two Dr John compositions and Mac plays piano as well as making some rap-like vocal interjections. With a full band arrangement over a slinky NO bass line this is a splendid opener and “When The Battle Is Over” is also excellent, a song that many will recall from Delaney & Bonnie’s version. Those two songs are separated by Will’s ballad “Why Do We Get Blue”, Will’s vocal rising from a deep baritone to deliver the poignant lyrics superbly. Will’s duet with Bettye Lavette turns Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” into a soulful ballad, the string arrangement and the vocalists’ performance bringing out the emotional quality of Dylan’s lyrics. Things get funkier on the cover of Ike Turner’s “I’m Blue” and the Womacks’ vocal contribution stands out.

Will’s “This California Sun” is a gorgeous ballad and, in this reviewer’s opinion, Will’s finest hour on vocals as he puts some real emotion into the words: “When I told her ‘I have to go now’ she didn’t try to change my mind. She said, ‘if the place you’re living won’t let you grow now, you’ve got to leave that place behind’”. Leo Nocentelli’s guitar adds drama to the brooding original “I Can Do Bad By Myself” before Will tackles a song once recorded by the New Orleans ‘Tan Canary’, Johnny Adams. “Don’t Go To Strangers” is in fact a classic song whose string-heavy arrangement would suit someone like Tony Bennett; Will does a good job but it is the track that is furthest removed from the soul feel of most of the record though Jimmy Haslip’s wonderful bass solo is well worth hearing.

“Treadin’ Water”, on the other hand, is great soul music, as much Memphis as New Orleans, with the horns pushing things along and a short tenor solo to savour. Will changes things up with “Tear It Up” a 1961 rockabilly hit for Johnny Burnette, here transformed into a funky number with more great horn work. “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” makes an ideal close to the album; the 1970 gospel song from writer Bill Moss and The Celestials set against another horn-heavy arrangement with the Womacks in full flow behind Will’s gravelly tone.

Of course this is not a blues album per se and is better described as a soul release but it has an awful lot to commend it. Those of us who love soulful music and great horn charts will enjoy this one and it stands as a fine tribute to several fine musicians who are no longer with us.

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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 Video Of The Week – Erin Harpe and The Delta Swingers

Erin Harpe and The Delta Swingers with Rosey Rosenblatt sitting in on harp performing “Love Whip Blues” (Click image to watch!)


 Featured Interview – Erin Harpe

erin harpe photo 1When I told Erin Harpe that I love the way she colors outside the lines, she responded by saying, “I don’t even know what the lines are.”

On their 2017 VizzTone CD Big Road Erin Harpe’s Delta Swingers jump from Slim Harpo’s Louisiana swamp rock classic “Shake Your Hips to California songwriter Randy Newman’s “Guilty.” There are four originals, Mississippi John Hurt’s Delta chestnut “Frankie,” and the 10-cut album opens with Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Kokomo.” I thought most of the air had been taken out of that old crowd pleaser when it was re-tinkered as “Sweet Home Chicago.” But she almost convinces me she has just written the song.  Fifteen seconds into the cut which opens the album, I’m ready to throw off my shoes and let her take me anywhere for the next 10 songs. And she does!

This guitarist/singer/songwriter and band leader has released solo blues albums, won a Boston Music Award in the category of world music, and fronts Lovewhip, an Afro-pop band her fans refused to let her abandon when she formed The Delta Swingers. She credits her husband Jim Countryman who is manager and bass player in her band with channeling her muse. “He’s very interested in music,” she says. “He’s read every music book out there. I’m not a genius, but I’m like a creative genius type off in the clouds. Like, ‘Oh, what day is this?’ You know? But I found out after being married to him for 10 years that I have ADD. It’s like, ‘Oh, ok, now we understand why I’m just so good at focusing on anything musical is that it comes to how are we going to get that UK tour going? He’s a lot better at that than me.”

Wikipedia says she switched from flute to guitar when a “love interest” in high school inspired her to learn how to play “Alice’s Restaurant” for a school event. And you know how reliable Wikipedia is. Turns out they were right.

“In 12th grade the boy I liked was an actor, and I tried acting, and I couldn’t do anything because I was way too shy and actually a teacher had said to me, ‘Take the flute. You’re not really that great of a singer.’ I was trying to be in the musical, and I was like ‘I’ll show you.’ (My would-be boyfriend) knew all the lyrics to “Alice’s Restaurant,” and I was, ‘Oh, my dad knows that song,’ thinking I can impress him if I go and learn that guitar part, and then we can perform it together. We were gonna perform it at lunch time or something.

“So, I went home and said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to teach me the “Alice’s Restaurant” song,’ and he was like, ‘Gee, you haven’t really been playing a lot of guitar, so it could be difficult. I don’t know if you know the finger picking guitar parts in depth. It’s an intermediate song.’

“He started showing it to me, and I just picked it up right away. So, we did the performance and after that it was the guitar for me.”

Dad was in a band called Franklin Harpe and Usilton that was a big influence on her blues guitar playing. “Somewhere I have a list of all the songs that he knows. He is fantastic.”

Erin grew up in Washington D.C. and met Archie Edwards, John Jackson, Eleanor Ellis and Cephas & Wiggins who played with her father via the Archie’s Barbershop collective. In 2008, she released Delta Blues Duet, her second solo LP including duets recorded with her dad.

Her Afro-pop influences stem from a year in Kenya when she was a student at the Quaker run Earlham College. She graduated with a degree in anthropology. “I had wanted to go to Oberlin (in Oberlin Ohio). Every artistic person that I knew wanted to go to Oberlin. I did not make it into Oberlin, and I had friends who were a year ahead of me who said, ‘Oh, you should try Earlham, really cool.’ I grew up Unitarian. So, that (Quaker religion) was not that much different. It’s not a religious school, but I did go to some of the meetings. I thought they were fantastic. You just stood there and annunciated with a group of people, and if you felt like standing up, you stood up and said something. It’s kinda neat.

erin harpe photo 2“I also loved they’re also big on peace, peace studies. One of their big things is you can go abroad easily at that school. So, I went to Kenya and did my studies abroad in Kenya. And it was really fantastic. That is why I ended up starting Lovewhip because Lovewhip is originally based around Afro-pop which I learned of when I went to Kenya.”

It was small leap from studies in Kenya to winning the 2004 Boston Music Award for World Music Act of the Year with her band Lovewhip especially for a woman with ADD. “I wanted to do a rock band with a lot of influences, but I think what happened was there was a certain authenticity about us. We would always have African guys joining our band. We had a talking drum player for a while.  We had a guy who wanted us to change our band’s name to the Love Stars, and he was going to market us in West Africa somewhere.

“We just loved this old ’60s, ’70s Afropop, and we loved it so much that I guess we came out sounding kind of authentic even though it was always our own take, but I felt bad because we wanted to be like the Talking Heads as Afro-pop. Or you have the Police with reggae, but they were not a reggae band.

“That’s what I was trying to do, but I think at times we were just too authentic without meaning to be, but also Boston didn’t know where to put us. When they started doing the Boston Music Awards, we were up for punk one year. We were up for World Music one year. We were not making it easy for them to put us in a box. The thing I loved about Afro-pop, by the way, was guitar playing, the hybrid picking. When you pick you get a pick in your thumb and forefinger and then you use your other two fingers to pick.”

Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers would go on to win the Boston Blues Challenge in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. They were the 2012 Boston Music Awards Blues Act of The Year in 2012 and were semi-finalists in the Blue Foundation’s International Blues Challenge in 2011, 2013 and 2017. (Lovewhip won a Boston Music Award in 2004)

To me Erin is the latest in a long line of Boston-based roots musicians who have in the 50-some years since the Harvard Square folk scare produced great music that mixes the best in traditional influences with strong originals. The home of Berklee College and a hotbed for collegiate players, the town has long percolated with acts stimulated by the environment. But to the rest of the world, the city is much better known for its rock acts like Aerosmith, The Cars, Geils, and the band Boston.

“Boston was an influence, but not really on my blues because I lived in D. C. I graduated college and basically I moved to Boston because A. I couldn’t find a job. And B. there just weren’t a lot of venues around that I could find where I could get a gig. When I came to Boston there were open mikes and lots of gigs you could get, but they were just somebody who was just starting out like me. There were more other musicians who were just starting out. I did get some gigs with people in D.C. I just thought it was a fun place and was music friendly.”

Johnny D’s in Somerville, Massachusetts a stone’s throw from Rounder Records’ early headquarters was one Boston area club that did make a difference in Erin’s development as an artist. “They closed last year and knocked the old building down. That’s where I saw Susan Tedeschi. She did the blues jam once. I could never play the blues jam because just old-style blues I couldn’t tell you when the changes would be or what they were, so the band could never follow me.

“So, the guy that was running it happened to be dating Susan Tedeschi at the time said, ‘Oh, why don’t you just play a couple of songs solo and that’ll be it. ‘Oh, great. Thank you so much,’ because I had no idea how to lead a band or play with a band at that time. After my set, Susan Tedeschi said, ‘Oh, you’re great. Would you like to open for me sometime? Here’s my number.’ And I did not call because I was too shy. (Laugh) I’m like a people person. I love talking to people. Talking to a group of people is a totally different thing.”

erin harpe photo 3Erin credits her husband Jim Countryman with developing her into a professional touring musician. He’s the bass player in both Lovewhip and The Delta Swingers. “I met him in his living room. His roommates were friends of mine, and one night after one of his rehearsals I was there with a friend of one of his roommates, and he asked me for my phone number. I wrote it down on a matchbook, and that was it. We have not really spent any time apart since then.

“It was almost love at first sight. Jim has really encouraged me to get out there and be in the public eye, starting a band, being a band leader. He’s like my rock. I don’t think I’d be doing this. I might be doing some promo gigs here and there like I was back in the day, but he’s my partner (as an artist) and my manager. I’m the artistic director, visual and musical.”

Big Road is Erin’s first self-produced album, and it did not come about without bumps and bruises. “I was going for a live feel. The name Big Road has a lot to do with what I’ve been doing the last few years, just traveling, touring. Our last album (Lovewhip Blues, 2014) was produced by Dave Gross, and I love that album. It’s great, but I feel it didn’t quite capture what we sound like live. So, I wanted to do that, and I also decided I would just do all the guitars myself. So, that was really fun, too.

Several songs have the second slide part: “Big Road” and “Stop and Listen.” So, those are the main ones (that were overdubbed). Mostly when I play finger picking style that I do love, I can’t really ever stop.  I just thought it would be cool to have another layer.”

Her harmonica player Matt “Charles” Prozialeck is her secret weapon on the album and on tour. He has a unique delivery that adds to the energy of the mix. And he saved her butt last year on tour. “We had a slide guitar player (“Sonny Jim Clifford) who was with us. He was amazing, but he just wouldn’t listen to me. Like don’t play here, do play there. Then, this particular guy quit the band when we were on our first seven-week tour in Utah.

Some people just aren’t up for touring the way I am. He was really a pain, but some musicians just don’t know what it’s like to tour until they’re out there and then they’re like, ‘This doesn’t work for me.’ So, I’m trying not to have hard feelings about it, but what came out of it was so good.

“It was like wait a minute. The three of us that were left on the tour said, ‘Hey, you just be the guitar player.’ I’ve always been very shy, so I shied away from that, but finally in our seventh year of being a band, I’m like, ‘Ok,’ and now finally people are noticing that I’m playing guitar ’cause when there was another guitarist, people were, ‘Oh, look at that soloist. Let’s talk about them.’

“What happened was Sonny quit. We had a couple of days where we were just a trio, and then I was like racking myself. There’s five weeks left on this tour. Who’s going to go on the tour with us and just be the fourth member? We asked all our friends. ‘Oh, I can do two dates.’ ‘Oh, I can do one date.’ Oh, my gosh, we were in trouble.

“So, Matt had sat in with us once, and I called him up, and he said, ‘Yes, I am there.’ We’re getting the band together. Caution to the wind. He only knew like 10 of our songs ’cause he just had the one album we did, but yeah, while he was on the tour, he decided to move to Boston, and after he moved here we just worked together. 

“At first, he was trying to sound like Rosy (Rosenblatt, CEO of Vizztone and former harp player with the band). He’s on my first album. It took us a while to figure out, ok, Matt’s more Chicago style, and he’s got a different thing with his tone. He’s a very young player, but he’s got a lot of knowledge about the blues.

erin harpe photo 4“I can’t believe that at his age he knows so much about blues from almost any era. So, basically my favorite thing about him is that he was willing to work with me to make the pieces fit tougher. He wasn’t just going to come in and play over everything like almost every soloist I’ve got. What I was going for is a group sound. I’m not looking to like highlight even myself. This all has to come together as on the early Bonnie Raitt album I love so much, the first two albums.”

Check out the cover of Big Road. Erin may be a shy graduate of a Quaker College but she’s got some Bessie Smith in her, too. “The first time we went to South by Southwest I was playing solo acoustic blues and getting a lot of attention. People were there from Europe and started playing my first blues album Blues Roots on the blues shows in Europe.

“So, we went back every year, and then one of those years I said, ‘I want to start a band. I was thinking about the feeling I get from my dad’s band. And that’s what I wanted, a Delta blues band and Piedmont blues-based country blues band. And that’s how we started out the band in 2010. So, a lot of our material was from what my dad taught me. In fact everything almost except a few songs that were taught to me by other people like Eleanor Ellis who was another collaborator with my dad, an excellent guitar player and singer who was brought up in Louisiana.

“(African American women singers in the 20s) were kinda under the radar, and I guess Bessie Smith was playing to black audiences. Whose gonna say anything if you’re playing at the juke joint? ‘Hey, that’s too risqué!’

“When I did South By Southwest I did this festival called Not Festival South by Southwest. It was at the same time as Southwest, but it was all Americana, and I had taken this Lovewhip song “Virtual Booty Machine” which was kinda crazy. It’s a song written about this thing we did where we set up this screen, and behind it was a light and me and the other girl in the band went back there and stripped down naked and had a light behind us and you could only see our silhouettes, and it was real cool, and that was called the “Virtual Booty Machine.””

Perhaps Erin’s most prestigious credential is the DVD she did for Stefan Grossman’s instructional series on playing blues guitar. “He was looking for somebody to do a Women of the Blues Country Blues DVD, and he was on some on-line forum and he said, ‘Who out here plays Memphis Minnie,’ and I think somebody might have suggested somebody that was a lot more well known than I am and then somebody said, ‘Oh, how about Erin Harpe’ because I’m a huge Memphis Minnie nut. When I first got started, I first (was into) Memphis Minnie.

“I’ve listened to Bonnie Raitt for a long time. I don’t know if you can guess that by the (sound of my albums), but I’ve been a big fan of hers since I was a kid so, yeah, she’s one of the people who did it early on and (another woman) I look up to are also Rory Block and Memphis Minnie. I think people are not used to seeing women play the lead. We’ve gotta change that.”

Check out Erin’s website at: www.erinharpe.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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The Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau, WI

The Great Northern Blues Society of Wausau, WI (GNBS) is Proud to announce the lineup for our 19th Annual Blues Café fundraiser to be held at the Historically Registered Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI) on 3/10/18.

The stellar Lineup will include Big N’ Tasty Blues Band, The Norman Jackson Band, Southern Avenue, Victor Wainwright & the Train, and The Jeremiah Johnson Band. Cathy Grier will be playing acoustic sets near the fireplace between main stage acts. Doors open at noon, and Music will start at 1:00PM and continue non-stop until 11:00PM. Chairs, Food, and Cold Beverages will be available on-site. Special Hotel Rates available at the nearby Stoney Creek Inn utilizing the Code: “BLUES Cafe”. Limited supply of rooms available so make your reservation now.

Please come, sit by the huge stone fireplace, with a beverage of choice in hand, and join us for 10 hours of non-stop glorious Blues Music on 3/10/18. Artist Biographies, directions, and Tickets are available on our Website at –www.gnbs.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: February 10 – Ray Fuller and the Blues Rockers, March 10 – John Primer, April 14 – Chicago Wind featuring Matthew Skoller and Dietra Farr, May 12 – Cash Box Kings.

The Lyran Society in downtown Rockford hosts first and third Friday blues along with a fish fry. No cover, shows 7 to 10 pm. Scheduled shows: February 2 – Recently Paroled, February 16 – Donna Herula, March 2 – Olivia Dvorak Band, March 17 – Ivy Ford Band, April 6 – Bobby Messano.

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

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society announces our February Blues Bash, featuing Heather Gillis, with Funky Geezer opening, on the 2nd Sunday in February, the 11th, at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28205. Doors at 7:00, Music at 8:00. Jam session follows.

All year, we are collecting canned food for Loaves and Fishes; donations are requested, to help the less fortunate in our community.

For more info visit Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/58888876959/  or Website:www.charlottebluessociety.org

Trinity River Blues Society – Dallas, TX

The Dallas/Fort Worth based Trinity River Blues Society announces a benefit concert for the Hart Fund, a charity by the Blues Foundation that helps musicians in need.

The concert features non other than the great Jimmie Vaughan with special guest Janiva Magness. The concert is February 11 and will be held at the Kessler in Dallas. For more information www.trinityriverblues.com

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

The Central Iowa Blues Society presents the 24th Winter Blues Fest at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott, 700 Grand Ave on Friday, February 9 and Saturday, February 10, 2018.

TWENTY blues acts under one roof and out of the cold! Featuring Bryce Janey, Eric Jerardi, Anthony Gomes, Jason Ricci, Reverend Raven & the Chain Smokin Altar Boys, Heath Alan Band, Aaron Earl Short, Malcolm Wells & the Two Timers, Amanda Fish Band, Grand Marquis, Kilborn Alley, Steepwater Band, Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal. Iowa Blues Challenge Winner, Avey Grouws Band and the Solo Winner, Kevin “BF” Burt will perform along with regional Blues Challenge winners, Taylor Smith – Kansas City, Ken Valdez – Minnesota and the Omaha Winner, Rex Granite Band featuring Sarah Benck.

Andy Cohen will again provide the Saturday afternoon guitar workshop. Scotty & the Wingtips will host the After Hours Jam on Saturday night.

Admission – Friday $20 advance or $25 at door, Saturday $30 advance or $35 at door, both days $45 advance or $50 at door.

There is a special Blues Fest rate at the Marriott hotel. Book online or call 515.245.5500. Information and tickets at www.cibs.org or through Midwestix.

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

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

Blue Monday Schedule: February 5 – The Scott Ellison Band, February 12 – Dave Lumsden & Friends, February 19 – The Scottie Miller Band, February 26 – The Good, The Bad and The Blues. For more information visit www.icbluesclub.org.


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