Issue 13-42 October 17, 2019

Cover photo © 2019 Jennifer Noble


 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Donald Kinsey. We have 4 Blues reviews for you this week including a book from Stanley Booth detailing his writings about the Memphis music scene the last 50 years plus new music from Jersey Swamp Cats, Les Copeland and The Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling.

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


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 Featured Interview – Donald Kinsey 

donald kinsey photo 1Any student of the blues knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s the root of all forms of Western music. Its tendrils nourish country, jazz, rock – and reggae, too. Just ask Donald Kinsey, who carries forward the blues tradition laid down by his father, Lester “Big Daddy” Kinsey.

The leader of The Kinsey Report – the family band he established in Gary, Ind., Big Daddy left us in 2001 with Donald picking up the baton in a unit that also includes elder brother Ralph and younger brother Kenny.

They’ve been quite successful through the years with releases on Rooster Blues, Alligator and Capitol’s Point Blank imprint. But there’s a much larger part to Donald’s story. Not only has he served as bandleader for Albert King and toured and recorded with the Roy Buchanan, but he’s also one of the most important musicians the world of reggae has ever known.

That’s no understatement.

You’d have to be living in a monastery for the past 45 years not to have heard his work. The albums he produced as a member of Bob Marley & The Wailers, Peter Tosh and other giants have spread the message of peace and love atop a rock-steady beat.

Talk to Donald today – as Blues Blast did recently while he was in the midst of a major tour with the current incarnation of The Wailers — and he remains both humble and grateful.

And despite having made major contributions to some of the most life-altering music the planet has ever known, he still has a blues man’s heart even though his approach has undergone subtle changes because of the world vision that’s enhanced his life.

His back story is one of the most interesting in the blues world.

Like many folks in the industry, his family’s roots were planted in the soil of Mississippi. Big Daddy grew up in Pleasant Grove, the son of a Pentecostal pastor. He played gospel in his father’s church and caught the blues bug after sneaking out of the house one night and seeing a very young Muddy Waters captivate an audience.

Newly married, Big Daddy relocated to Gary in 1944 in his 20s. He worked in a steel mill and developed his career as a guitarist and harmonica player in the clubs scattered among the factories at the southern end of Lake Michigan. His parents eventually joined him. In later years, he supported his wife and three sons by operating a charter bus service that brought folks to Southern casinos.

Donald was born to play the blues on May 12, 1953. By the time he was six or seven, he was already playing guitar with Ralph on drums in a band billed as Big Daddy Kinsey and His Fabulous Sons, a unit formed before Kenny came into the world.

“We played Elks lodges, Ramada Inns — the hotel circuit back durin’ that time was goin’ good – and juke joints, ya know,” he recalls with a chuckle. “And then on Sundays, I’d go to this radio station, WWCA. They did live gospel broadcasts, and I’d play behind a few different vocal groups. I would leave there and go to my grandfather’s church, the Church of God in Christ, and play there, too.”

Like most musicians who grew up in families with deep spiritual beliefs, both Big Daddy and Donald experienced some backlash for walking with one foot in the church and the other in the blues., noting: “At the time, the only problem was with my grandparents, mainly my grandmother. She had a big problem with my brother and I out playin’ clubs and stuff at such a young age.”

They were doing the Devil’s work with gifts bestowed by God, she believed. “That was somethin’ I had to hear in my younger days, and I was confused about it because I was really too young to understand what she meant. It always stuck in the back of my mind to find out what she was talkin’ about – and, eventually, I did.

“It was even harder on my dad,” he says, “because he was the only child. I remember when my dad recorded his first record (the 45 “Can’t Let Go”/”Movers and Shakers” on Stormy Turtle Records). He was very proud of it and wanted his father to listen to it and give his blessin’s.

“I remember that day very well. My grandfather stopped by the house, and my dad, he had a couple of friends over. My dad put the record on. The next thing you know, my grandfather’s boppin’ his head and pattin’ his feet. After a couple of songs, he said to my dad: ‘Ya know, that’s really good, son!’

“I think that’s all my dad really wanted to hear. You always want your parents’ blessin’s.”

Big Daddy was both a friend and huge fan of B.B. King, whose LPs frequently played on the Kinsey family turntable. The Kinsey home was filled of photos of them together, and Big Daddy caught King in action whenever he was in town. Donald learned B.B.’s songs note-for-note at his father’s insistence.

About the time Donald was ten or 11, he started being billed as “B.B. King Jr.” – a moniker he picked up while gigging on the road during a summer break.

“I was in elementary school still – in fifth or sixth grade, and in the summertime, we’d go down to Mississippi – Pleasant Grove, Crenshaw, Sardis, Marks — where my mother’s parents and my dad’s family still lived,” he remembers. “My dad would load the station wagon full of equipment and stuff, and he’d try to get us a few little gigs.

“We were in Memphis, and this lady, Mrs. Walker, was related to B.B. King some way, somehow. She owned the club where we were playin’. I used to play a lot of B.B. songs when I was young. She comes up after we played and told my dad: ‘Big Daddy, you oughta call that boy B.B. King Jr.’

“That was it, man! That went on until I was close to graduatin’ from high school.”

Not long after Donald walked the stage to accept his diploma, Albert King recruited him to join his band. “He used to come to Gary quite a bit,” Donald recalls. “I think he had a girlfriend that he was comin’ to see from time to time.”

The Kinseys played the Zodiac, which frequently hosted major acts one night, and – unbeknownst to Donald – King Albert stopped in for a listen. After they returned home, Big Daddy told Donald that he’d been in the audience – and that he was in the market for a rhythm player.

donald kinsey photo 2“Albert liked the way I played…he axed my dad about me comin’ out and playin’ with him,” Donald remembers. But the offer came as quite a shock.

“I’d never played with anybody outside of the family at that point. So my dad said: ‘I think that’ll be a good thing for ya — but they’re leavin’ in the mornin’. You gotta go upstairs and pack some clothes,” he remembers with a big laugh. “I was like…whoa, man!

“That was a drastic change in my life right there.”

As scary as the move might have seemed, young Kinsey was ready. He’d already decided that his life would be a career in music. There was no question in his mind after graduation. He’d taken a steel mill job, but quit suddenly with his father’s permission after his boss wanted him to leave the day shift and work nights.

Before Donald knew what was happening he was literally circling the globe with one of the world’s top artists of his era and living out his dream. The transition was smooth because, like Big Daddy, Albert was a very powerful presence – so much so, in fact, that people were sometimes frightened simply to be in close proximity to them.

Kinsey recalls many incidents where folks would come up to and ask if it would be all right to approach both men for their autograph. “I’d say: ‘Just axe ‘em,’” he says, noting that they were very accommodating to fans despite the perceived wall.

“For me, workin’ with Albert, man, it was somethin’ else. After six months, he appointed me as his band leader because, one thing about me: if I’m a part of somethin’, I’m 150 per cent part of it.

“I was all the way into the music, and I wanted things to be right.

“My dad had trained me in that band leader position growin’ up. I’ve always had older guys around me, and got a lot of great teaching from them. They might not have been big names, but they were great teachers.”

Several characters who lived and played in the Gary and Calumet City area made major impressions, he says. “There was one guitarist named Trudy Austin, Blojo Evans, Baby Boy – his real name was Fred Robinson – who played harmonica with my dad a long time, Big Daddy Rogers, Big Daddy Simpson – there was quite a few Big Daddys floatin’ around! (laughs)”

Many of them would show up at the Kinsey home after a long week at day jobs. “They’d have a little wang-dang-doodle, man. They’d move the furniture back in the dinin’ room and set up shop. It was literally a Mississippi-style house party in northern Indiana.

Kinsey and King parted company in the best of terms after about three years. “I knew that, when I joined Albert, this was gonna be an educational experience for me,” he says. “But I knew it wasn’t somethin’ that was gonna be long-term.

“He took me into the studio to record, and I traveled abroad and did the Montreux festival (in Switzerland). I did quite a bit, but felt that I’d pretty much got the lessons and it was time to do somethin’ else.

“Albert and I had a real great relationship, but I gave him my notice, and he gave me his blessings. He was truly like a godfather to me.”

The two men kept in close touch until King passed in 1992, often appearing unannounced at each other’s shows whenever they had the chance. “Whenever he popped in to one of my gigs, it made my whole night,” Kinsey says.

Now out of Albert’s orbit on a daily basis, Donald hooked up with brother Ralph — who’s one year his senior and had just separated from the Air Force — to form a blues-rock band they named White Lightnin’. The lineup also included bass player Michael “Buster” Jones, who’d immigrated to England after playing alongside Kinsey in the King band for a year.

Their rise was both meteoric and tragic – and a good lesson for anyone with dreams of a music career, too.

“The three of us came together and started writin’ some new material,” Donald remembers. “We made a cassette, which was the thing at the time, and saved a l’il taste of money – and jumped on the Amtrak and went to New York, lookin’ for a deal. We was determined and believed in what we were doin’.

“You gotta have that attitude or you don’t stand a chance. And we were blessed. After knockin’ on about four or five doors, man, one of ‘em let us in. And it was Island Records!”

Formed in Jamaica in 1959 by Chris Blackwell, Graeme Goodall and Leslie Kong and now a wing of the Universal Music Group, Island was one of the largest independent labels ever. Its roster included the Spencer Davis Group, Fairport Convention, King Crimson, Free, Cat Stevens and Traffic as well as best lineup of reggae artists imaginable.

“There definitely wasn’t no lookin’ back after that, man,” Kinsey says. “I definitely landed on a rollercoaster then, man.”

White Lightnin’ only put out one self-titled LP, which was laid down in Memphis at Sam Phillips Recording Studio and produced under the direction of Felix Pappalardi, who’d risen to fame as the bassist, songwriter and vocalist for the band Mountain in the ‘60s before launching a production career that included Cream’s Disraeli Gears and plenty more.

Before they knew what was happening, White Lightnin’ – which made a name for itself with big musical hooks and huge solos — was touring as the opening act for ZZ Top, Uriah Heap, Black Oak Arkansas and Aerosmith.

“Immediately, we was on William Morris booking agency,” Donald says, a little surprise still in his voice today. “We was flyin’ all over the place. We were movin’ so-o-o fast – but we was as green as green can be.

“We was developed in our craft as a musician, but never really had anyone there to direct us in the business of this thing. And the guy who opened the door for us, Gary Kurfirst, when we signed that contract, we signed him up as our manager, as our publisher.

donald kinsey photo 3“It was such a conflict of interest, man, but…

“The real sad thing about that is…instead of somebody seein’ you have a gift for the music, man, and helpin’ you, directin’ you in the right way, instead, they try to take advantage of everything you don’t know.”

Kurfirst, who’s now deceased, was lining his own pockets at the band’s expense – something that became evident as they hopped, skipped and jumped across the country and played in front of huge arena crowds. Their run came to a sudden, dramatic end when the band touched down in Santa Cruz, Calif., for a gig.

“This guy, Gary Kurfirst, met us at the airport – him and somebody else,” Donald recalls. “We came down into baggage claim, and this guy walks into the airport with a bi-i-ig watermelon in his arms, man, to greet us.

“Ralph and I looked at each other, man: What the hell is this dude…what’s with this… That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Not only were the Kinseys offended and shaken to the core by the offering, which in retrospect was an unstated, but still obvious expression of slavery and racism. In that moment, they finally came to terms with the conditions they’d been enduring for the previous 12 months.

“I said to my brother: ‘You know what, man? We’ve been goin’ through all this stuff and we don’t even have a dollar for a meal. All this money’s bein’ spent around us, but we ain’t seein’ nothin’.’

“It was time to get a lawyer – and time to do somethin’ else!”

Today, however, Kinsey still appreciates the positive aspects of the experience and notes that, years later, he encountered Kurfirst again in L.A. “He was at the pool, and I walked behind him and scared the shit out of him, man! He was shakin’ like a leaf on a tree. (laughs)

“But I told him: ‘The price I paid to learn from that experience, I don’t think it was all that bad, bro. But it really could have been a good thing if you had just not tried to take advantage of what we didn’t know.’”

Donald literally discovered reggae by chance because of his relationship with Island Records, an event that’s changed his life dramatically ever since.

He was walking down the hall in their offices one day when he noticed all the Bob Marley posters peering down at him from the walls. Curious, he picked up several Marley cassettes for a listen, and was instantly hooked. His sound, he quickly discovered, was somewhat similar to what Kinsey felt in gospel, but very different. The rhythm was refreshing, and the lyrics were packed with spiritual messages and a heightened sense of spiritual consciousness.

Donald subsequently met Bob, who was already a god in Jamaica, and on the verge of world fame, at a New York City press conference, but the meeting was fleeting.

That wasn’t the case with Peter Tosh, a founding member of The Wailers. Kinsey had befriended Tosh’s manager, Lee Jaffee, who insisted Donald accompany him when he stopped at Peter’s home.

Tosh was cooking a meal when they arrived and about to head to the studio where he was working on what would be his debut album. After breaking bread, he insisted that Kinsey join him and lay down cuts. The end result was Legalize It, the blockbuster LP that turned Peter into a star overnight and which is still getting airplay today.

“It was quite a shocker,” Donald says, “because I hadn’t really gotten my fingers wet with reggae yet. But reggae, to me, has a touch of country-and-western flavor – especially when you’re approaching it from a lead guitar standpoint.”

Kinsey toured with Tosh to promote the album for about a year before returning home to Indiana, where, out of the blue, he received a call from Marley and another invitation – this time to come to Criteria Studios in Miami to record what would become the album Rastaman Vibration, still one of the biggest selling reggae albums of all time and the vehicle that propelled Marley and his band into international sensations.

At that point in their career, The Wailers were going through a major transition. The original lineup emerged in the ‘60s, anchored by Marley on guitar, Junior Braithwaite on vocals, Tosh on keys and Neville Livingston – better known now as Bunny Wailer — on percussion. They were joined by multi-instrumentalist Aston “Family Man” Barrett and his percussionist brother Carlton – aka “Carly” – in the early ‘70s.

As the culture in Jamaica became more volatile, The Wailers transitioned from a band that played innocuous ska and reggae tunes to others, including “Get Up, Stand Up,” which delivered a political, counterculture message. They disbanded in 1974 after some members started believing that their continued participation would violate tenets of their Rastafarian faith. In essence, Bunny refused to play what he termed the “freak clubs” they were now booking as a result of their heightened popularity.

donald kinsey photo 4The Wailers reformed with Kinsey in the lineup, and Rastaman Vibration went on to earning them Rolling Stone magazine’s band-of-the-year honors. In Kingston, they were in the absolute eye of the hurricane of political strife that swirled around them.

Despite it all, Donald says, “I really feel blessed. I remember lookin’ into the mirror one day and wonderin’ ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ (laughs)

“I never witnessed anything like that in my life, man. Police walkin’ around with submachine guns, curfews and all that – just because of an election. I got involved in a time period, an era that was very important in these artists’ careers. I’m so thankful to have played on some of their recordings. I came around in a time when it (the music) really made a difference.”

And what a career it’s been in both the reggae and blues worlds.

Kinsey’s blues credits include Albert’s Blues at Sunset and Roadhouse Blues LPs, Roy Buchanan’s Dancing on the Edge and Hot Wires as well as multiple albums with his own family. In the reggae scene, he’s been featured on a handful of Marley releases, Peter’s extremely popular Live & Dangerous and Bush Doctor albums as well appearances with Mick Jagger, Burning Spear, Heavy Manners and others.

Probably the best part of it all, though, is that he finally got the approval from his grandmother that he’d been seeking for years. Like scores of other folks, she came to appreciate the spiritual quality inherent to the music he played.

Despite being an anthem for cultural change, it was much, much more.

As experts have come to understand, it’s the first example of the black culture reclaiming as their own the birthright they established during slavery. A combination of African rhythms and elements of blues, soul, jazz and country, reggae has proven to be a vehicle that, for the most part, conveys positivity and light.

“A lot of people don’t understand that,” Donald insists. “Some people still consider it to be a fad. Fortunately, almost every night, I have someone come up to me and tell me: ‘Man, you don’t know how your music changed my life…for the better.’

“For someone to tell you that, it makes you feel that what you’ve been doin’ is really worthwhile, ya know. Music that touches your soul…that energy can’t be beat. I’m just thankful that I do it, recognize it and I can share that.

“At a blues show…a reggae show, the spirit that comes on out from that music is so-o-o overwhelming, so full of emotion. It’s almost like bein’ at a revival. That’s the best way I can describe it.”

The music also changed his approach to blues, too.

“When I got introduced to reggae music,” he says, “it kinda broadened my vision and my whole attitude toward writing. I hadn’t been introduced in another direction (from blues) other than straight-ahead gospel. But when I ran into reggae music, there’s somethin’ there. It all comes from the same source.”

As Donald’s mindset changed, so too did his approach to songwriting. He no longer includes many of the common, deleterious themes that appear in the blues tradition.

“I’m comin’ with the truth,” he says, “and not writin’ music that will ‘kill my next-door neighbor’ or to ‘screw his old lady’ – I didn’t want to be a part of anything like that any longer. I didn’t want to write any songs like that or be a part of any straight-up negative lyrics.

“It helped me find myself as a writer – just tryin’ to be conscious of what my grandmother was always sayin’. It really helped me feel really good about myself. I was really happy when I crossed that path.

“That’s been my rock and my foundation ever since then. I’m not gonna have anything to do with any lyrical content, man, that’s full of real negative energy.”

It’s a message he conveys to anyone seeking him out for a recording session.

“I tell people that if you want me to do somethin’ with you, it’s gotta be enlightening and positive,” he says. “That’s it!”

Kinsey’s run with Marley ended abruptly shortly after being present in Bob’s home when six gunman stormed the residence two days before the free Smile Jamaica concert Marley had scheduled to help quell the violence raging in the streets as rival gangs raged war after choosing sides with the two top political parties prior to the 1976 Jamaican elections.

One gunman made it into the home, shot Marley in the upper arm and left his manager, Don Taylor, fighting for his life. The bullet was still lodged in Bob’s body when he died years later. But that pre-election show went off without a hitch.

Bob went into an extended period seclusion after the incident and stopped touring altogether. Donald hit the road with the Staple Singers for a while and toured with Tosh for three years while The Wailers were on a break. He didn’t see Marley again until 1979 when a Tosh tour ended in Southern California and Bob started what would become his lengthy, final world tour in the Bay Area.

donald kinsey photo 5Donald played The Wailers’ West Coast gigs and split, knowing inside that there was something seriously wrong with his band leader. Today, he remains deeply affected by Marley’s death, which came about after he developed melanoma between his toes. It metastasized throughout his body after he refused doctors’ insistent suggestions that he undergo an amputation of his foot to save his life.

“It was sad for me, man, when Bob got sick,” Kinsey recalls. “I felt so good when Rastaman Vibration hit the streets. I picked up a copy of Billboard magazine every stop we went and saw that (the song) ‘Roots, Rock, Reggae’ had hit the Hot 100 because it meant that reggae had become mainstream after bein’ underground for such a long time.”

In the decades that have followed, Donald has split his time between the blues and reggae worlds. When Big Daddy reformed The Kinsey Report in 1984, he rejoined the family, and has been a key member ever since. He also was very close to Arkansas-born bluesman Roy Buchanan, who was one of the most vastly overlooked guitarists of his generation.

With Donald in tow, Buchanan started drawing the attention he deserved after releasing two sensational CDs on the Alligator label. A deeply emotional man, however, he committed suicide in a jail cell in Virginia in 1987 after being arrested for public intoxication.

For the greater part of this year, however, Kinsey has been reliving a part of his youth, touring the planet with the current incarnation of The Wailers. It’s normally led by Family Man, but he’s currently in rehab, recovering from a stroke.

The band’s currently crisscrossing the U.S. after extensive work overseas with a lineup that includes keyboard player Tyrone Downing, Donald’s bandmate when he joined Marley, as well as Fam’s talented son Aston Jr. on percussion and his American-born cousin Josh Barrett on vocals. A talented group of newcomers round out the lineup to help pass the torch to a new generation.

“We just finished doing a recording with Emilio Estevan,” Kinsey says proudly. “He’s totally behind the band and into producing the next Wailers album, which should be hittin’ the streets sometime around the New Year.”

The Kinsey Report hasn’t done much lately, but fear not, Donald says. They’ll be back better than ever. “It’s sad to say, but it’s a cycle, man, and we’ve been there before. It gets slow, and then, all of a sudden, it gets some more juice in the arm and BAM! Here we are again! We’re still in the game!”

To that end, Donald is working on a new Kinsey release, which is long overdue. And he’s also involved in a solo album as well as book and film documentary projects.

“There’ll be some news,” he assures fans. “You’ll be hearin’ about it.”

After six decades in the music business, Kinsey says, there are certain rules he follows – guidelines that also serve as solid advice for anyone trying to get in the game: “Be honest with yourself. Always challenge yourself. Don’t be satisfied. If you get to the point where you’re satisfied, things are pretty much over.

“I always put myself in a challenging position. And you have to keep doin’ that, man, to keep yourself goin’. You can’t give up. And the most important thing: Do what you love. If you don’t love this thing, don’t get in it – because the sacrifice is so deep, you have to question yourself.

“But it can be so rewarding. And most of all, that feelin’ you get when you play…everything you do, you’re workin’ for that moment when you hit the stage, where you can express yourself, release yourself. That’s the moment for me!

“If you don’t love that, you’re in the wrong business!”

There’s no question Donald loves what he’s doing. Check out where he’s appearing next by visiting the Donald Kinsey fan page on Facebook or by visiting www.thewailers.net

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.

For other interviews on our website CLICK HERE


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 4 

jersey swamp cats cd imageJersey Swamp Cats – Go Cat Go!

Self-Release – 2019

9 tracks; 29 minutes

www.reverbnation.com/jerseyswampcats

The Jersey Swamp Cats hail from New Jersey and on their debut album they mix jump jive, New Orleans R&B, rock and roll and blues. The band is Gerry Gladston on piano, Don Leich on guitar, Larry Ghiorsi on bass and Chris Reardon on drums. Gerry handles most of the lead vocals but everyone chips in on B/Vs and Larry and Don each take the lead on a number apiece. Horns are added to three tracks by Anthony Salimbene Jr on tenor and Patrick Dudasik on trumpet.

The band skilfully alternates five familiar tunes with four of their originals. Louis Prima’s “Jump, Jive And Wail” bounces along well to open proceedings as the band shows they know their way round a jump blues classic. The first original is “Cupcake!”, a number in Rn’B style driven by Don’s fluid guitar and a call and response chorus. Fats Domino’s “Blue Monday” is a great vehicle for Gerry’s piano work and is immediately followed by more New Orleans flavours in “I Don’t Mind” which is effortlessly catchy with the horns and piano to the fore.

Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s “Too Tired” has been frequently covered since Gary Moore’s version on Still Got The Blues and the band does a solid version with Don on vocals, with good guitar work and rolling piano. Pianist Gerry has a smooth vocal style that particularly suits the strolling shuffle rhythm that underpins ‘Dance All Night’, the horns adding some good accents to arguably the pick of the four original tunes. The horns stay on board for the traditional Cajun tune “Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing” which is delivered by bassist Larry before Don shows us how well he has absorbed Albert King’s guitar style on “I Get Evil”. The band closes with the pure rock and roll punch of “Shiny Gray Corvette” on which Gerry attacks his piano with glee.

This is an enjoyable listen and makes you want to hear more of this band in the future. 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.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 4 

Les Copelamd cd imageLes Copeland – One More Foot in the Quicksand

Earwig Music Company CD 4973

18 songs – 72 minutes

www.lescopeland.com

One of the most respected blues artists in Western Canada and based out of Vernon, B.C., Les Copeland proves once again that he’s a skilled guitarist across multiple platforms with this release, his third under the auspices of Chicago’s Earwig Music.

A lifelong musician who cut his teeth on pre-War Piedmont blues as a child, his stylings on the six-string are deeply influenced by Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Blake, Barbecue Bob and Furry Lewis. He also had a close relationship with the legendary David “Honeyboy” Edwards, frequently serving as the first-generation acoustic blues superstar’s opening act and later traveling across Europe in his trio, which also included Michael Frank, Edwards’ longtime harmonica player and manager as well as the founder of his current label.

Copeland’s also served as front man for pop, jazz and mainstream blues bands, too, something that comes across loud and clear on this lengthy, diverse album. Les switches off on electric, acoustic and slide guitars here, accompanied by Cameron Ward on bass and Scott Grant on drums. Frank makes the only guest appearance, sitting in on harp for a single cut.

A collection of seven originals and 10 covers, the disc opens with a funky, modern uptempo take on Albert King’s “Change of Pace.” Copeland’s stylish single-note solos breathe new life into it. His attack is solo and the six-string’s electric for a powerful take on Big Bill Broonzy’s warhorse, “When I Been Drinking,” before exhibiting his acoustic picking skills on Sleepy John Estes’ “Drop Down Mama,” reworking it with a sprightly dance groove.

Copeland’s picking skills on Freddie King’s ‘70s powerhouse, “Woman Across the Water,” are prodigious, but his vocals are somewhat wanting prior to a run of four originals, which follow. “Gone” is a top-notch acoustic pleaser that’s a bittersweet announcement that someone dear is departing, while the walking blues, “Perfect Man Like You,” features Les solo on both electric and slide. “Uncle to Aunt,” an electrified instrumental in trio format, is up next before “This Fool Will Never Know” is a sentimental, melodic ballad on which the guitarist trades licks with himself as he sings about lost love.

A cover of Broonzy’s “Treat Everybody Right” provides some good advice before the original, “Tiny People,” revisits the sound of Santo & Johnny, Brooklyn-born brothers whose steel guitar instrumental, “Sleep Walk,” topped the charts in the late ‘50s. Copeland’s joined by Frank for Shannon Lyons’ “Soggy Bottom Breakdown” next. A new tune with a ’60s swamp-pop feel, it moves forward sensually before “Let’s Get Together Again” delivers a message of friendship atop a medium-slow dance groove.

The pleasant, true blues shuffle, “Good Friends,” moves the message forward before a take on Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Her So” and four more originals – the acoustic Piedmont styled “I’d Be Nothing,” “Lost Sheep Out in the Woods,” which has a ‘50s Chicago feel, and the funky “Just Another Foot in the Quicksand” and “Gotta Get Up” – bring the action to a close.

Available through most major retailers, One More Foot in the Quicksand will have you tapping your toes throughout, and Copeland’s a great picker. He would have been better served, however — and the album would have been much stronger with the omission of a few weaker tunes from its 72-minute run.

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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 4 

stamley booth book imageStanley Booth – Red Hot And Blue

Fifty Years of Writing about Music, Memphis, and Motherf**kers

Chicago Review Press

394 pages

Author Stanley Booth has been writing about music for most of his life. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, Esquire, and Playboy magazines, plus he has authored several music-related books. His 1984 work, Dance With The Devil: The Rolling Stones And Their Times, covered the band’s 1969 American tour as an insider, including the notorious Altamont festival appearance. (The book was issued in a revised edition in 2000, titled The True Adventure Of The Rolling Stones.) He also published a book on Keith Richards and a collection of essays entitled Rhythm Oil: A Journey Through The Music Of The American South.

For his latest work, Booth centers his focus to the musical mecca of Memphis, where he has lived at various stages in his life. Eight of the chapters are taken from Rhythm Oil, including his award-winning piece “Furry’s Blues”, chronicling Booth’s first encounter with bluesman Furry Lewis. The original piece on the favorite son of Memphis, “Situation Report: Elvis in Memphis, 1967” finds the author doing an end-around past manger Tom Parker by way of noted DJ Dewey Phillips to get close to the singer, writing a marvelous piece on the many facets of Presley’s life up to that point.

A short article finds the author recognizing a kindred spirit in the music of Gram Parsons in “The Gilded Palace Of Sin: The Flying Burrito Brothers”. Booth is at his best in a piece on jazz pianist Phineas Newborn Jr., a tragic figure who never received the acclaim to match his prodigious talent. Booth describes Newborn playing a concert with a number of the top jazz piano players, dazzling the audience with his technique and creativity. The concert was recorded but was never issued as most of the players would not sign release forms, leading Booth to speculate that they did not want listeners to hear their work side by side with Newborn’s impressive efforts.

Not one to pull punches, Booth is a joy to read, issuing insightful perspectives with irreverent humor and a keen eye for detail that most writers miss. In the opening piece, “Blues Dues,” he expresses his disdain for the casual blues fans, referred to as “Blues pukes,” who claim understanding based on limited exposure to the roots of the music. “The King Is Dead! Hang The Doctor!” is another standout chapter, telling the story of Presley’s personal physician, from the perspective of a writer deep in the throes of addiction to pain killers brought on by a broken back, injured in a fall from a Georgia mountain. His pieces on Ma Rainey and Blind Willie McTell encapsulate the reasons why both were so influential in the development of the music.

Later pieces dig into the on-going popularity of singer Bobby Rush and how Marvin Sease maintains a spot in the top rank of the southern soul blues genre. Booth’s examination of Mose Allison at age seventy, who describes the blues as a person’s reaction to, and the motivation generated by, humiliation. ”The Godfather’s Blues” puts a new perspective on the legal issues that dogged soul legend James Brown throughout his life. Booth provides a touching tribute to his late wife, Diann Blakely, with “Distant Thoughts,” built around e-mail messages they shared. And in the lead-in to “Why They Call It The Blues,” he reminds readers of a quote from the comedian Flip Wilson, “I like the blues, because when the record wears out, it still sounds the same!” Another piece offers his reflections on the outlaw country music sound while “Dixie Fried” is a short glimpse at James Luther Dickinson’s place on the pantheon of Memphis music legends.

Across twenty-nine sketches, Booth weaves a stirring narrative with music at the center, and the influence of Memphis, summed up in “Where The People Smile,” which the author states is a realistic glimpse at the Memphis no one tells you about. The book takes it’s title from the final piece, named after Dewey Phillips’ famed radio program and the man who created Elvis, along with other musical high points before burning out in a slow fade into the mists of time. Booth makes them all come alive, helps you to feel their joy, and particularly the humiliation that fueled their artistry. A truly remarkable volume that deserves a wide audience of music enthusiasts!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 4 

nick mossband cd imageThe Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling – Lucky Guy!

Alligator Records ALCD 4993

14 songs – 57 minutes

www.nickmossband.com

The Nick Moss Band was already riding high when this album was released. Not only did both Nick and Dennis Gruenling win a Blues Music Award for traditional artist and harmonica player of the year, but the entire band and their most recent previous CD, The High Cost of Low Living, garnered nominations, too.

But if you think that the Chicago-based quintet set a bar too high for themselves to overcome in the next awards season, you’re sorely mistaken. Lucky Guy! Is even better!

Nick enlisted the big guns for this one, which was dedicated to the memory of former bandmate, best friend and “li’l brother” Mike Ledbetter, who died suddenly and unexpectedly earlier this year after rocketing to stardom as half of the Welch-Ledbetter Connection after the release of Right Place, Right Time and winning BMA honors last year.

The album was recorded at Greaseland Studios in California by Kid Andersen, who’s no stranger to awards ceremonies himself, and Andersen contributes guitar and mandolin on five of the 14 cuts. And Monster Mike Welch teams with Moss for a poignant tribute to his playing partner to bring the disc to a close.

Moss’ longtime, rock-steady drummer, Patrick Seals, is sitting behind the kit throughout, joined by the electrifying Taylor Streiff on keyboards. Kicking things up a notch is Brazilian-born newcomer Rodrigo Mantovani, who established himself as one of the top upright and electric bassists in the world while playing behind Igor Prado, Lynwood Slim and others.

From the opening cuts of “312 Blood,” Nick’s tribute to his Windy City home, Lucky Guy! is scorching hot. The arrangements are skintight, but leave plenty of space for attention-grabbing solos beginning with Streiff ripping and running in the opening break before Gruenling – who was also recently honored by the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of Harmonica as its international player of the year — and Moss trade eights on the second one. Midwesterners will love Nick’s description of the city as “New York done right.”

“Ugly Woman,” the only cover in the set, follows. A number recorded for Sun Records by Johnny O’Neal in the early ‘60s, but never released as a single, it’s one of the most unusual love songs you’ll ever hear. The rhythm section pulls out of the station with a brisk jump-time railroad feel as Moss describes his lady in some of unkindest, but most humorous words ever put to record. One listen, and you’ll agree.

“Lucky Guy,” an uptempo shuffle, finds Moss singing to the heavens about his lady accompanied by blazing solos before the mood darkens considerably for the slow blues, “Sanctified, Holy and Hateful,” a not-so-subtle statement about religious zealots pushing their own beliefs without any compassion or understanding of folks with different views. Nick’s extended, mid-tune solo absolutely smokes before he offers up a plea for them to open their hearts.

“Movin’ on My Way,” the first of two Gruenling originals here, is up next. An uptempo jump with choral response on the turns, it’s a parting shot after the implosion of a relationship, and it features a chunky guitar solo from Andersen. The traditional, medium-slow blues, “Tell Me There’s Nothing Wrong,” keeps the theme going before picking up tempo for “Full Moon Ache.” Delivered with a country-blues feel and propelled by Dennis’ harp, Nick’s daytime headache subsides with the moonrise.

The loping “Me and My Friends” is fair notice that the band’s heading for a boys’ night out before a tour-de-force instrumental entitled “Hot Zucchini.” The old-school Chicago blues, “Simple Minded,” describes someone who’s extremely timid before Gruenling takes the mike for his own “Wait and See,” a warning to a lady that he’s got her in his eye.

“As Good as It Gets” sings praise of a lady with an uptempo, old-school feel before “Cutting the jazzy Monkey’s Tail” swings from the jump. The action closes with Moss on vocals and Monster Mike on six-string for “The Comet,” an intimate, barebones tribute to Ledbetter, whose brief life and amazing talent soared like the celestial body and streaked across the sky before disappearing from sight.

Available through most major retailers, and highly recommended. Run, don’t walk, to pick this one up. It’s that good!

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.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE


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Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

PCBS has some exciting Blues Jams coming up in the month of October. Typically we hold two Jams a month, the 2nd Sunday of the month from 4:00 till 7:00 pm and the 4th Wednesday of the month from 7:00 till 10:00 pm. All our Jams are held at Pipa’s Pub, 604 S. Country Fair Dr. in Champaign. Thanks to our partners at Pipa’s all our Jams are free to the public, bring your instrument and Jam.

In October legendary Blues veterans Mark Hummel and Billy Flynn host the Wednesday Jam October 23 at 7:00 pm. For more info visit: http://prairiecrossroadsblues.org

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Crossroads Blues SOciety has many shows coming up in the ROckford, IL area. The monthly shows at the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park continue $5 cover, 8 to 11:30 PM: 10/12/18 The Jimmys, Sat Nov 9th – Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys featuring Westside Andy Linderman, Sat Dec 14th – Ivy Ford. The Nordlof Center, Rockford, IL – Thu Oct 17th – Coco Montoya $20 advance, $25 at door. Tickets at www.crossroadsbluessociety.com. Radisson Hotel and Convention Center, Rockford, IL, 7 to 10 PM $10 admission Sat Oct 19th – Wayne Baker Brooks, Sat Nov 23rd – Nick Schnebelen. Lyran Society, Rockford, IL, 7 to 10 PM No Cover Fri Oct 18th – Wheatbread Johnson CD Release Party, Fri Nov 1st – Harpo’s Revue, Fri Nov 15th – Ivy Ford.

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. Oct 21 Mark Hummel, Oct 28 Brother Jefferson Band, Nov 4 Mike Morgan & The Crawl, Nov 11 Susan Williams & The Wright Groove, Nov 18 Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat.

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. Texas comes to the Kankakee Valley: November 6 – Mike Morgan & The Crawl – Kankakee Valley Boat Club, November 19 – Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat – Manteno Sportsmen’s Club. More Info at: http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues.



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