Cover photo © 2019 Marilyn Stringer
In This Issue
Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Rick Vito. We have 4 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Coco Montoya, Holly Hyatt, Carlo Ditta and a new compilation from the Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania.
Our featured video of the week is Altered Five Blues Band.
We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!
From The Editor’s Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
We had an amazing party last week at the 12th annual Blues Blast Awards. Here are artists Mary Lane, Ben Rice, Teeny Tucker and Doug Deming. We will post more photos soon!
It was one of the best shows I have ever seen! Thanks to all the great musicians, guest presenters, our Blues Blast staff and all the fans attending for making this a wonderful night.
I appreciate what you do for the Blues!
Featured Video Of The Week – Altered Five Blues Band
Official music video for “Ten Thousand Watts,” the third track off Altered Five Blues Band’s album Ten Thousand Watts, on Blind Pig Records.
Link to order: https://orcd.co/tenthousandwatts
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Featured Interview – Rick Vito
In a world dominated by guitarists who value pyrotechnics over whole notes and dynamics, Rick Vito stands out from the crowd. A friendly, soft-spoken man, he’s one of the most in-demand fret masters in the world with a track record that includes work top talent in multiple fields.
You’ve definitely heard him play even if, by some stretch of the imagination, you don’t recognize his name – a talent who’s served long stints as one of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and a member of both Fleetwood Mac and Bonnie Raitt’s band. And his rich tone and slide skills have been an essential part of Bob Seger’s recordings for more than 30 years.
Casual fans might overlook him despite his background as a top sessions player in both Los Angeles and Nashville, but his peers aren’t shy about heaping praise. Steve Miller says he’s “my favorite blues guitarist…the real deal.” Adds Mayall, he’s “a master of the instrument.”
Blues Blast caught up with Vito recently while he was at home in suburban Nashville and taking a brief break from the road, where he’s been promoting his most recent release, Soulshaker, on the VizzTone imprint, the tenth sapphire-to-cyan colored album in his catalog.
Born in Darby, Pa., in 1949, Rick grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs. His desire to be a musician began early. “My parents weren’t stodgy or anything, so we watched everything that came on television,” he remembers. “Dick Clark was living in the next town over in Drexelbrook — a local fixture, not a national star.”
Clark’s American Bandstand got its start hosted by Bob Horn on Philly’s WFIL-TV in 1950, mixing short musical films with studio guests. When Clark took over the reins in 1956 and the theme changed to a teenage dance show, its popularity – and his career – exploded overnight. Like many folks of that generation, the Vitos tuned in weekdays to catch regular appearances by chart-toppers at the height of their fame, and they dialed in Clark’s popular Friday night musical variety show, too.
“We watched Bandstand every day,” Rick remembers. “It was just a heightened musical experience. There was a lot going on. Philly kids were all influenced by the local black culture. So we were all good dancers with more rhythm than kids from other places.
“And, like everyone else, when Elvis hit, we were all excited.
“My grandfather, Augustine, was an Italian immigrant, a tailor and a gambler,” Vito notes. “But he finally got into the taproom business in Wildwood, N.J. He being Italian with a nickname of Gus, all of his Italian friends would say: ‘Hey, Goose! Hey Goose!’ So he called the place The Big Goose.
“When he passed away, my grandmother took it over. And when my brother and I were a little bit older, my father gave us the job of comin’ in in the mornings and cleanin’ up the place.”
Working there had major benefits, Rick recalls. In the early ‘60s, the bar’s Seeburg jukebox was always loaded with the top hits – everything from Chuck Berry and James Brown to Del Shannon, Sam Cooke and more.
Vito’s mother was a huge music lover who’d taken lessons on Hawaiian guitar – which was extremely popular in the ‘30s — and played in an all-girl group as a child that made radio appearances. As an adult, she and her sons collected hundreds of 45s from the bar, cashing in on new platters when they lost their spots on the jukebox. Rick still owns many of those discs today, and spins them at home on his own ’50s-vintage Seeburg model juke.
The first live show Rick ever saw was the Everly Brothers at the pier in Atlantic City. Today, he doesn’t remember much, but he was fascinated because the lead guitarist was jumping around all over the stage – something he could relate to – and because the band was playing at high volume through amps.
He was a little more than a month short of his seventh birthday when Presley debuted on Ed Sullivan and set the music world – and the world in general — on its ear. “There was a lot of blues in his music,” Rick says, noting that that’s probably when his love for it began. I liked his bluesy songs the most without realizing it.
“When Elvis came out, I used to take out by mother’s Oahu acoustic and bang on it.”
His folks quickly discovered that he was playing along by ear with songs on the radio. Realizing that he had an innate talent, they rented an inexpensive Stella six-string – an instrument once favored by everyone from Robert Johnson and Charley Patton to Doc Watson and Willie Nelson – for him and put it under the tree at Christmas one year. Lessons soon followed.
“Ever since then, the guitar’s always been my friend,” he says.
The Vitos were avid The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet viewers, too, and Rick quickly became enthralled with the six-string stylings of James Burton, the Louisiana-born rockabilly artist and future Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer who played behind Ricky Nelson.
“Ricky had a wonderful baritone-ish voice,” Vito recalls. “His voice was big, and filled up the track really well. He sang on pitch, and he was cool lookin’ – and smart enough to have good musicians playing with him.”
Ranked No. 19 in Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists, Burton rose to prominence a year earlier on the strength of his fret work on Dale Hawkins’ chart-topper “Suzie-Q.” Ricky actually charted more hits than Elvis in 1958-59, and Burton was on most of them during Nelson’s life, after which he served as Presley’s bandleader for the final nine years of Elvis’ life. He’s also been a member of Phil Spector’s famed Wall Of Sound and toured with John Denver, Emmylou Harris and Elvis Costello.
As time progressed, Duane Eddy and Chuck Berry joined Burton on equal footing as major influence, Vito says, adding: “I’m close to James now. I got to know Rick a little bit. And I’ve just recently started a friendship with Duane Eddy. It’s really an honor to get to know some of my early idols.”
As Vito’s skills advanced, he graduated to a Harmony f-hole model then a Gibson ES 125 electric with a single P-90 pickup. He discovered that ax along with an accompanying small Alamo amplifier by browsing want ads. “My parents bought ‘em for me for $100,” he says. “But they told me: ‘This is all we’re ever gonna buy you musically.
“’If you ever want somethin’ else, you’ve gotta figure out a way to sell this, get the money you need and go from there.’
“That was a good deal, and I’ll always be grateful. It was a big investment — and a great guitar. I still have a soft spot in my heart for both those guitars.”
But his affair with the Gibson didn’t last long. Sometime around his 14th birthday, Vito sold it and replaced it with a 1961 Gretsch 6109 Peppermint Twist Corvette electric. In the early ‘60s, which really stood out from the crowd. Today, it’s one of the rarest models the company ever produced.
“I was walkin’ down the street past this music store – Skip’s in Media, Pa.,” he recalls. “I got many guitars from Skip’s through the years. He had this red Gretsch with a red-and-white striped pick guard (it ran from behind the knobs at left to the base of the neck) in the window. This was the height of the Twist crazy – Chubby Checker and Joey Dee & The Starliters and everybody. And this was a solid-body guitar, whereas the Gibson was a fat-body, the thicker one.
“I wanted somethin’ that was more rock-‘n’-roll. I was gettin’ better at it, and I wanted to play it. So I swapped out the Gibson for it. I played that for a couple of years — until I got a real early ‘60s Telecaster, the first really great guitar that I could play pretty well.”
Rick’s love for the blues grew dramatically because of the Rolling Stones. By studying the song credits on their early LPs and trancing the tunes back to their creators, he discovered Muddy Waters, Elmore James and Jimmy Reed. And through another short-lived TV show — The !!! Beat, which ran in syndication out of Nashville in 1966, he was exposed to Freddie King, Otis Redding, Little Milton, Percy Sledge, Joe Tex and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, who fronted the house band.
His other major influences include bluesmen Robert Nighthawk and B.B. King, jazz master Alvino Rey, the legendary Les Paul, George Harrison and Keith Richards.
Vito’s career began when he backed a doo-wop group, Johnny & The Inspirations, during his freshman year in high school. “It was five guys in leather jackets and me on guitar,” he says.
About the same time, his father opened a nightclub of his own in Wildwood, where Rick, his brother and a couple of neighborhood friends soon started playing to patrons when the pros came off the stage for a break.
“The older guys used to play in the afternoons and evenings,” he recalls. “They’d play 40 minutes and take 20 off. We’d jump up there and play what we knew: instrumentals, the Stones, that kind of thing.”
After graduation, he attended Kutztown State College – now Kutztown University Of Pennsylvania. An aspiring artist, he says, he wasn’t good enough to qualify for the school’s strong art program, and studied speech and theater instead, playing music semi-professionally on weekends.
His first big break came through a friendship he developed with Delaney & Bonnie, who rocketed up the charts in the late-‘60s with a band that occasionally included Duane Allman, Bobby Whitlock, Leon Russell, King Curtis and Eric Clapton.
“When Delaney & Bonnie came out, I was really enamored of those records,” Rick recalls. “I learned a lot from all the guitar playing, and I knew all the material. When they came nearby, I went and introduced myself. They were very nice to me, and encouraging. I played ‘em some things I’d tried to record.
“After the third or fourth time of going to see them, they invited me to bring my guitar and come on stage and play with them. It was the moment,” he says. “I brought the house down, and I knew I was good.
“They kinda turned around and looked at me and said: ‘Who’s this kid?’
“They encouraged me to move to Los Angeles if I was serious about wanting to get into the music business, which I did about six months later in 1971.”
On the West Coast, he did everything he could think of to survive. He formed his own band, performed session work and played in a wide range of musical styles on the road with prominent artists whenever he could to make a good buck.
“I got to work with tons of people,” Vito recalls. “It was an exploding music scene. Everybody was there – living, recording or passing through, so it was really easy to network.”
And there was a vibrant blues scene, too, giving Rick the chance to work with Albert Collins, Lowell Fulson, Big Joe Turner, George “Harmonica” Smith and others who came through the Topanga Canyon Corral, the go-to place for the blues in L.A. in the ‘60s until 1986, when it went up in flames. Canned Heat, Spirit and Spanky And Our Gang all cut their teeth there, and legend has it that The Doors used the bar as their inspiration for one of their most popular songs, “Roadhouse Blues.”
Collins remains a personal favorite.
“I had all the records I could get on Albert Collins, and just studied ‘em,” Vito says. “I just loved his style. I was in a group called the Juke Rhythm Band, and a friend knew Albert and had played with him a couple of times. He said: ‘Look, we’re gonna start backin’ up Albert at the Corral and branch out from there.’
“Albert showed up with his Cadillac, his Telecaster and his Quad Reverb amp. The first thing you got was what a nice guy he was, how much he truly enjoyed bein’ there and playin’ with the guys.
“We had songs worked out that were really funky, and Albert just loved that about our band. We knew all his stuff. So if he said: ‘Frosty’ or somethin’, we knew exactly what to play. He loved it when he could turn it over to me and I could take off and do a little thing back and forth with him.
“But the thing about Albert was that he was unlike anybody else. He wasn’t like B.B. He wasn’t like Freddie. He wasn’t like Albert (King). He really just had his thing down – and it was powerful and funny and entertaining.
“You were watching all of this when you were playing with him,” Rick says, “taking it all it and wondering: ‘How can I glean something from this?’ But whatever it was, you got it! He was a mighty force of nature. Just to be able to stand on the stage with the guy and have him smile at you, point at you to take a solo – you can’t buy that, man!”
Fulson made a major impression, too.
“We always played ‘Blue Shadows Falling’ and all those things,” Vito remembers. “On one gig, he called out ‘Tramp’ (his biggest commercial hit). So I started playing what I knew as the ‘Tramp’ lick and he turns around — very serious — and says: ‘Don’t Joe Tex me, boy! Don’t Joe Tex me! (laughs)
“He didn’t want it too funky. He wanted to keep it blues.”
Rick hooked up with Mayall during those Topanga years through his friendship with bassist Larry Taylor, who was on vacation from his work as a founding member of Canned Heat and holding down the bottom as a Bluesbreaker.
“I was on the road with somebody and Larry finally tracked me down,” Vito remembers. He says: ‘You gotta get back to L.A. — Mayall wants to hear you. I told him about you, and you’re kinda what he’s lookin’ for.’”
Upon his return to Southern California, Rick went to Mayall’s house in Laurel Canyon and jammed with him and Taylor on a couple of songs John was working on.
“At the end,” Vito recalls, “he said: ‘All right! You’re it!’
“Three weeks later, we’re in the studio, cuttin’ an entire record. Two months later, after the record came out in January 1975, we’re over in Europe tourin’. That’s how fast John worked!”
A man who began life as a graphic artist, Mayall’s “very creative,” Rick insists. “His house was filled with his paintings, and he’d do things with his guitar – carve ‘em all up and put stones on ‘em. But I think his genius through the years has been his ability to recognize how other musicians could not only benefit from being in his band, but how he’d benefit from the association as well.
“How many other 85-year-old guys are out there travelin’ the schedule that he is?”
Vito recorded three albums as a Bluesbreaker in 18 months, including Notice To Appear, which featured Allen Toussaint, was captured in New Orleans and featured the piano master’s songs on seven of the 10 cuts.
His run with Mayall lasted four years, during which he was also working locally with his own band. After that, he joined Bonnie Raitt for a tour before recording and with Thunderbyrd, the band fronted by Byrds co-founder Roger McGuinn. Even though McGuinn’s music went in a much different direction, he gave Rick the space to play a couple blues numbers during his roots-based sets.
During the next few years, Vito spent time with Maria Muldaur, Leon Russell, Screaming Jay Hawkins, and donned a purple Spandex jumpsuit to back Little Richard during an episode of TV’s Midnight Special. Today, he occasionally entertains audiences with his equally colorful description of that event.
More work with Raitt and a two-year run with Jackson Browne followed in the early ‘80s, during which he started working with Bob Seger. He’s appeared on all of Seger’s albums since 1986. It’s probably difficult to find anyone who hasn’t heard his fret work on the song “Like A Rock,” which peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks charts and served as the theme for a Chevy truck advertising campaign that ran for a decade.
“At the time,” Vito says, “I was so naïve, I didn’t know what a huge star this guy was! He was like Bruce Springsteen out there for his bands. We’d wind up playing huge arenas two, three, four nights in a row in some cities. It was a shock.
“I should have asked for more money,” he jokes, adding: “That song cemented me in folks’ minds. Even if they don’t know that it was me, I try to remind them!”
While some of the twists and turns his career has occasionally taken Vito away from the music he loves, Rick says, “one thing I’ve learned from being in L.A. is how to take basic blues style and stretch out a little bit to play other things that aren’t too far from blues.
“At least that’s the way I play. I never got into wild sounds or overdrive or all that stuff. I try to keep it real.”
It’s something, he remembers, that beloved guitarist Jesse Ed Davis — who worked in support of Taj Mahal, Eric Clapton and a pair of Beatles before an early, untimely death – talked about in a magazine interview – words that still have weight today.
The interviewer mentioned Davis’ economical playing style, “which I absolutely loved,” Vito says. “And he (Ed) said: ‘Man, I listen to some of these young guys. They’re just playin’ a mile a minute, a million notes. It just sounds so frantic to me.’
“That word always stuck in my mind. That’s what it sounds like to me – and don’t ever want to be that guy!”
It’s that mindset that probably helped Rick being recruited to join Fleetwood Mac.
Begun in London in 1967 by drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, the band exhibited deep blues roots in the first years of their existence thanks primarily to Green’s sensational fret work.
After he departed in 1970 with serious mental health problems, the group went through several personnel changes. By the time they relocated to L.A. in 1974 and incorporated Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who’d made their mark as a folk-rock duo, their sound veered away from the blues. They were at the height of their success in 1987 when Buckingham left the lineup.
“I came off that Seger thing and had this funny feeling that something was gonna happen,” Vito recalls. “I always thought that Bob would ask me to join his band, but I never heard anything from that camp. But then, one day, I get a call from Mick Fleetwood, who I’d worked with informally a couple of times on a Billy Burnette session and again when he sat in with my band and jammed.
“Mick knew I liked the Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac, that it was a big influence. Not only was it a great British blues band, but it was also one of the best bands I’d ever seen. Peter Green was a knockout – the epitome of taste, tone and technique. He had it all!
“Fleetwood asked me if I’d like to learn a dozen songs ‘cause Buckingham had been let go and they were about to embark on a tour. I learned the tunes, went down there and hit it off with everybody. And at the end of the day, they said: ‘Obviously, this has been great. We want you.’
“We all went out to dinner, and I was there for four years.”
Vito handled lead guitar duties with Burnette coming aboard on rhythm, and he recorded four albums and a concert video with the band before separating to devote his career to his own band and the blues. The last time he appeared with the group was two years later, when he rejoined them to perform at Super Bowl XXVII.
“That was Billy’s deal,” he says. “He knew someone connected to the Super Bowl, and they asked him if he could get the band to do the opening show.
“It wasn’t the big lollapalooza center (halftime) show we have now. It was a pregame show held out in front of the stadium (the Rose Bowl in Pasadena). Albert Lee was a part of it. Gary Busey showed up. But Stevie (Nicks) wasn’t.”
Vito launched his own solo career in 1992 with the release of King Of Hearts on Atlantic, and hasn’t looked back despite studio work with Seger, Browne, Sawyer Brown, McGuinn, Rita Coolidge, Mayall, John “Juke” Logan, Hank Williams Jr., Teresa James, Glenn Frey, Delbert McClinton, Muldaur, Boz Scaggs, John Prine and others.
As a songwriter, he earned a 2001 W.C. Handy Award for “It’s 2 A.M.” Recorded by Shemekia Copeland, it was one of the highlights of her Wicked CD, which garnered contemporary female artist of the year and album of the year honors, too. His original material has appeared in several Hollywood productions, including Without A Trace, Everwood, Memphis Beat and Blue Bloods.
Prior to the release of his latest CD, he’s issued eight others for the Streamliner and Hypertension imprints. And two more – Blue Again! and Live At The Belly Up – were the result of a reunion with Fleetwood and are billed as The Mick Fleetwood Band Featuring Rick Vito.
“After being apart for about 15 years, we somehow reconnected in 2006,” Rick says. “He liked this record that I’d done called Bandbox Boogie, which had some jump blues. We’re both big fans of that kinda music. He said: ‘Man, maybe we oughta put a little thing together that does your songs and the old Peter Green-era songs.’
“I said: ‘I’m all about that!’”
The pair teamed as a blues band on and off for the next decade, during which Blue Again! earned a Grammy nomination for traditional blues album of the year. They parted company amicably in 2017 when Mick’s renewed work with Fleetwood Mac took him in different direction.
A guitar designer in his own right with several prototypes, Vito has been working and touring out of the Nashville area for the past 24 years. He’s been playing Reverend guitars exclusively for two decades, during which they’ve released three different signature models bearing his name.
“I was attracted to them at first because they were really well-made, sounded great and were light weight,” Rick says. “And all three of the signature models were a combination of my ideas from my prototypes and a couple of ideas that they had.
“The second one was very art deco-inspired, real pretty looking. And now there’s a new one called the Soulshaker, which has a kinda antique white pearloid finish like some drum sets, some rope binds and art deco appointments, too.
“Art’s still very important in my life,” he notes. “But the prime focus of my life since 1998 has been to make solo records.”
He’s delighted with his latest VizzTone release and that he was brought into the fold by co-owner Bob Margolin, who’s been a friend since first meeting when Bob was playing in Muddy Waters’ band in 1977.
“I got to do some songs that I’m pretty happy with, and it’s all slide guitar, which has been one of my trademarks,” Rick says.
Check it out by visiting his website at www.rickvito.com . And if you’re a guitar player seeking tips from a master, check out his latest instructional DVD. Entitled Soulshaker, like the CD and guitar, it’s available at www.truefire.com
Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.
Featured Blues Review – 1 of 4
Coco Montoya – Coming In Hot
Coco Montoya can take a mundane tune and turn it into a gem of his own. He takes a nice mix of covers and originals on this new Alligator release and turns them into a beautiful “stew” of blues that the listener can truly savor.
Montoya began his professional career as Albert Collins drummer and then went on to play guitar with John Mayall, following Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor and joining Walter Trout in the band. Folks took notice of his guitar prowess and he began to venture out on his own in the 1990s and then released his first Alligator Album Suspicion in 2000. He cut Can’t Look Back in 2002 for Alligator. He released Dirty Deal in 2007. He returned to Alligator in 2017 with Hard Truth and continues with this hot new album.
Joining Coco are Mike Finnigan on all things keyboard, Johnny Lee Schel (and Billy Watts on three cuts) on rhythm guitar, Bob Glaub on bass (Mike Mennell on four tracks) and Tony Braunagel on drums and percussion. These guys have played with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Buffett, John Fogerty, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Etta James, Jerry Lee Lewis, Taj Mahal, Eric Burdon, and more. Finnigan is especially impressive on piano, Wurlitzer, and Hammond organs.
The album starts with a great cut entitled “Good Man Gone” featuring some stinging and poignant guitar work and some gritty vocals. A good driving beat from the back line and organ and some great solos by Coco grab the listener. Next is the title track, another hot number with more fantastic soloing on the guitar. Montoya is blazing as he plays and sings about coming in hot for his girl at 500 mph! It’s a cool and jumping cut. John Cleary appears on piano here to spice up the mix even more. “Stop Runnin’ Away from My Love” slows things way down as Coco testifies to his woman about making up her mind who she will choose. Montoya also offers a slick solo mid song and then later takes us home on guitar as the song fades. “Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home” is from Albert Collins and it’s a dirty, slow blues with some wickedly hot guitar backed up by Hammond organ. It’s an impressive piece. The following cut is “Stone Survivor” with a little honky tonk piano, nice backing vocals. It’s a mid temp blues rocker with more great guitar licks and a solid beat. “What Am I?” is a pretty ballad written by Warren Haynes with some pretty cool guitar to spice up the flavor of the tune. Very Allman Brothers-like here. Montoya howls on vocals and the organ fills in behind he and his vocals and guitar.
The classic Bobby Bland cut “Ain’t It A Good Thing” is next and Montoya gives it his own spin with a bit of a tempo uplift and some great backing and then lead vocals by Shaun Murphy and another great guitar solo bu Coco. More special organ work is supporting the piece, too- Murphy and Montoya nail this as a duo. Up next is the pensive “I Wouldn’t Want to Be You.” This one’s got a little funk going and has a nice groove to it. Montoya sings and plays with both precision and artistry as he covers this one. “Trouble” is a bouncy mid-tempo blues rocker with more stinging guitar and cool organ work. Allison August’s “Witness Protection” comes from her 2016 CD Holy Water and it’s a great blues cut for Coco. Piano backs the musical progression as Montoya sings with authority and plays his axe as few can. “Water To Wine” concludes the set; it’s a great shuffle mixing blues an gospel and the has some more fantastic piano work in support and Finnigan finally gets a solo to let it all air out– well done!.
Whether kicking in the after burners or offering restraint, Montoya shows us he is a brilliant and special talent on the guitar. He plays and sings with authority and offers here a great CD that will garner lots and lots of attention in the next cycle of blues awards. II really enjoyed this CD and most highly recommend it for your enjoyment!
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.
Featured Blues Review – 2 of 4
Holly Hyatt – Wild Heart
12 songs time-45:52
Out of British Columbia, Canada comes Holly Hyatt the blue-eyed soul sister singer-bassist delivered a Kumbaya-A-Thon of soul-r&b pop fluff stuff. Holly possesses a hearty soulful voice combined with good bass skills. Co-producer and one man horn section Clinton Swanson along with Holly create a cohesive sound. Positivity abounds in many of the lyrics. Not a guitar solo to be found. Guitars are used solely for rhythm here. Holly wrote or co-wrote all songs.
The title track reveals Holly’s soulful and yearning voice. “River Flows” contains her sturdy bass line. Clinton delivers a blazing sax solo on the funky horn driven “It’s Time For Love”. “So Close” features a hushed vocal and “Sound Of Philadelphia” flute over the horns. “Midnight Moonsong” is funky with the nice inclusion of electric piano. Holly lays down a solid bass line on the soulful ballad “If I Called You”.
Reggae rhythm guitar underpins the self explanatory “Create Unity”. “Get Funky” is what else. Oh there is a bit of a brief guitar solo. More “Sound Of Philadelphia” in the radio friendly seventies through back “Sunny Day In January”. Acoustic guitar and electric piano infuse the slow soul ballad “Rainbows”. More of the same on the closing track “With You Now”.
Strong soul-fueled vocals, background vocals galore, funky rhythm guitars, horns, atmospheric keyboards and feel good lyrics it’s all here along with clean production values. If this is your groove you’ve come to the right place.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review – 3 of 4
Carlo Ditta – Hungry for Love
10 songs, 35 minutes
Record producers and professional recording studios are very important. Music is an experience, a communion between artists and listeners. To capture the musical magic to a solid artifact is important, and to do it in a way that is real and moving is difficult. With the rise of modern technology that allows anyone to record in their homes regardless of the results and the devaluing of recorded music through streaming services, recording studios are dying and producers are scrambling for work. New Orlean’s native son, Carlo Ditta is one of the producers with ingenuity who has been able to adjust and carry on. A talented songwriter and producer with style and aesthetic, Ditta has parlayed his decades of producing and songwriting into a moving and affecting solo career. His second solo outing in the last 4 years, Hungry for Love, is a vital and exciting expression of love, loss, and mysticism through his unique New Orleans lens.
New Orleans music has many flavors and textures. There is the syncopated second line; the boogieing stroll exemplified by Professor Longhair; the rocking accordions and washboards of Zydeco; and, the deep pocket Funk made modern by bands like Galactic. The NOLA music Carlo uses to interpret his thoughts and feelings on Hungry is the raw ragged R&B indicative of Slim Harpo or James Booker. Ditta and company (see the musician list below) have a visceral and up-front sound. There is the sound of a room in these recordings, nothing is disembodied or isolated. The mixing of this record is essential. Greasy horn fills, jagged guitar, burbling keys, and ruminating drums fill the sonic landscape in places that one doesn’t expect. The production makes the excellent performances that much more interesting and compelling.
This record is diverse and at 10 songs and 35 minutes the variety makes for an engaging ride. Funky come-ons like the title track, “La MuChaCha Cha Cha” and “Pass the Hatchet” slink along with a junk yard stroll. The 50’s kitsch of “A Gypsy Woman Told Me” has a killer keyboard that feels like a cross between the British Invasion and the Texas twisting of Augie Meyers. More introspective are the deep cult classic cover of “Agnes English” and the mournful “I’m Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail.” It’s not clear that the world needed another cover of “The House of the Rising Son” but Ditto rips into the worn-out chestnut with lively gusto.
Carlo Ditta is not really a singer. He is more a vocalist with a ragged cracked delivery that is all Captain Beefheart. This technique is especially effective on the more jive spoken tracks like “La MuChaCha” and “Hatchet.” For the softer songs Ditta takes a low spoken tact a la Leonard Cohen or Lou Reed. The vocals are distinct and at times grating while highly affecting. But, they are never sweet, or smooth, or silky. The raw R&B power of the music and production fit Ditta’s howling and wailing very well.
Orleans Records, the label that released Hungry for Love, is Carlo’s business. Ditta started Orleans to record the often forgotten artists of Louisiana such as Little Freddie King, the Original Pinstripe Brass Band, and Rockie Charles among others. Ditta and his crew are keeping a strain of Louisiana music alive, R&B that is dirtied by the swamp, made rough by the fields and polished, only a little bit, in the city. Hungry for Love is a great introduction to this music and a clear musical statement by a sensitive and idiosyncratic artist.
Musicians: Carlo Ditta – guitar and vocals; Anthony Donado – drums; Chewy “Thunderfoot” Black – drums; Earl “Stereo” Stanley – bass, maracas; David Hyde – bass; Rick Stelma – wurlitzer, organ; Jerry Jumonville – saxophone, horn arrangements; Andrew Bernard – saxophones, arrangements, wurlitzer; Johnny Peninno – saxophone; Angelamia Bachemin – congas; Dave Easley – pedal steel; Mark Trentacosta – guitar; Trea Swindell – background vocals; Deanna Bernard – background vocals; Freddy Staehle – percussion
Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman based in Boston who spreads his brand of blues and funk all over New England. Bucky has dedicated himself to experiencing the Blues and learning its history. As a writer, Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Eric Nisenson, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Featured Blues Review – 4 of 4
Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania – Blues from the Burgh 5
CD: 13 Songs, 59:00 Minutes includes various artists
Styles: Blues Compilations
Blues from the Burgh 5 is the fifth compilation of Pensylvania area artists from the Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania. Albums like this fill a special niche for showcasing artists old and new. It’s also perfect to play at a party, or at a live venue between live bands, when one wants to offer a smorgasbord of different songs from different groups. It is a mixed bag, so take your pick. Some people like “coconut” blues songs. There’s a wide assortment here, from the traditional-sounding opener “Accidental Theft” to the upbeat “Lady of the Blues” to the gospel homily “We Walk On.” Sample as many of these as you can, because before you know it, your mind and your ears will be gorged with the blues.
In order, the artists presented are Barbara Blue, Jill West & Blues Attack, Max Schang, Stevee Wellons Band, The Jeff Fetterman Band, The Delta Struts, The Aces, Miss Freddye, Jimmy Adler, Hoodoo Drugstore, Lori Russo and the Uppercuts, The Nied’s Hotel Band, and the Aris Paul Band. Several of the songs were written by Mike Sweeney, and number twelve, “Down To Memphis,” features several co-writers. Together, they form a solid if not always stellar whole. For more information on the members of each individual band, check the album’s liner notes.
The following number should have been the opener instead of the closer, folks. It’s a winner.
Track 13: “You Can’t Fix Lonely” – The Aris Paul Band cuts loose and takes no prisoners with rocking number thirteen. From the chugga-chugga guitar intro to Johnny Rooster’s howling harmonica to Aris’ pointed vocals, “You Can’t Fix Lonely” takes the cake. When the band combines postmodern angst with classic sentiment and blues-rock rhythm, dynamite results.
If Blues from the Burgh 5 were a box of chocolates, it would be a Russell Stover or Whitman’s Sampler with a few pieces of Godiva mixed in. Its blues are sweet, regardless of flavor!
Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 39 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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Blues Society News
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Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA
The Sacramento Blues Society is proud to announce the 2019 Inductees to the Sacramento Blues Society Hall of Fame are: Kenny Marchese, Leo Bootes, Marty Deradoorian, Robert Nakashima and from our Gone but Not Forgotten Gary “Walin” Black. Join us at Harlow’s, 2708 J Street, Sacramento, on September 29th from 1:00 – 5:00 for the Induction Ceremony and awesome entertainment by 2016 SBS Hall of Fame Inductee Marcel Smith w/Bob Jones & The Chosen Few. Tickets $15 for SBS Members, $20 for Non-members. HOF All-Star Showcase after the Ceremony at the nationally known Torch Club, 904 15th St., Sacramento, from 6-8 pm. For additional information, please contact www.sacblues.com
Multiple System Atrophy Coalition – Peoria, IL
My wife was a blues fan. Not an artist, but pretty good with an iTunes mix. It was blues music that helped her battle multiple system atrophy (MSA.
MSA, nicknamed “Parkinson’s on steroids” by a patient and “the Beast” by another, is rare, sporadic and terminal within 7-10 years from onset. During her MSA journey she and her husband Larry (Doc) Kellerman brainstormed how to best raise awareness. They decided to to “recruit” blues artists, fans, supporters and college basketball teams and fans to the cause.
This year the Beat MSA! Event is October 3rd, 5:30 – 9:30 pm at the Monarch Music Hall in Peoria, IL. Visit www.msabgon.org to learn more, make a donation or bid on a silent auction item donated by blues artists, college basketball teams and businesses. All proceeds benefit the Multiple System Atrophy Coalition. This is the third year of the event. Over 70 blues artists and untold blues fans have contributed to beating this disease. We will Beat MSA! with your help. Please join us.
Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL
The monthly shows at the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park continue $5 cover, 8 to 11:30 PM: 10/12/18 The Jimmys
The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL
The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances and other shows held at the Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 7:00pm to 11:00pm. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request. Sept 23 – Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones, Sept 30 – Rich McDonough & The Rhythm Renegades, Oct 7 Murray Kinsley & & Wicked Grin, Oct 14 Hector Anchondo, Oct 21 Mark Hummel, Oct 28 Brother Jefferson Band.
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. November 6 – Mike Morgan & The Crawl – Kankakee Valley Boat Club. More Info at: http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues.
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