Issue 14-14 April 2, 2020

Cover photo © 2020 Laura Carbone


 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with the legendary band, Roomful of Blues. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including a book about Stevie Ray Vaughan and a book about Specialty Record Company plus new music from Rissi Palmer, Fuel Junkie, Durham County Poets, Kerry Pastine & The Crime Scene, Betty Fox Band, Pass Over Blues, Roger “Hurricane” Wilson and Eddie Martin.


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NOMINATION CATEGORIES

Contemporary Blues Album

Traditional Blues Album

Soul Blues Album

Rock Blues Album

Acoustic Blues Album

Live Blues Recording

Historical or Vintage Recording

New Artist Debut

Male Blues Artist

Female Blues Artist

Blues Band of the Year

Sean Costello Rising Star Award


 

Recordings released from May 1, 2019 to May 31st, 2020 are eligible.

Complete information along with submission forms are on available our website at:
www.bluesblastmagazine.com/blues-blast-awards

Submissions accepted until May 15th, 2020.


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 Featured Interview – Roomfull Of Blues 

ImageIn the world of blues, it isn’t unusual for artists to keep audiences entertained well into their golden years. B.B. King, Pinetop Perkins, Henry Townsend, Chuck Berry and, most recently, Henry Gray all were vital parts of the community into their 90s, just to name a few.

When it comes to blues bands, however, things are quite different. Unlike Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials — who’ve had the same lineup for 30 years and counting or blues-rockers Savoy Brown, who’ve been fronted by Kim Simmonds since 1965, the great majority of groups have histories that burn out after a decade.

But not Roomful of Blues. Five-time Grammy nominees and a perennial favorite for Blues Music Awards, they powerfully stand out from the crowd.

Based in Rhode Island, where they formed in the late ‘60s by guitarist Duke Robillard and keyboard player Al Copley in a lineup that included Fran Christina on drums and Larry Peduzzi on bass, the current eight-piece horn ensemble is on the cusp of officially celebrating its 50th anniversary. And with a blistering hot new CD in their arsenal – their first collection of new material in a decade, they show absolutely no sign of slowing down as they deliver straight-ahead blues, jump and swing to enthusiastic audiences.

Now an internationally recognized blues and jazz guitarist and producer, Robillard was just 18 years old in 1967 when he conceived Roomful as a straight-ahead Chicago blues band and launched their career at the venerable Knickerbocker Café in Westerly, R.I.

Opened shortly after the end of Prohibition in 1933 and still active today, the club has been a major stop for everyone from Big Joe Turner and Eric Burdon to Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Roomful quickly established itself as an incendiary house band before spreading their wings on the regional bar scene and coffeehouse circuit, which was still in operation after the folk music revival earlier in the decade.

Rhode Island is a small state, but carries a big weight when it comes to the world of music. The festivals that have flourished in Newport since the ‘50s have attracted top artists and visitors across the globe, building new audiences for jazz, folk and blues.

Although English audiences are credited with ensuring the survival of the blues, Little Rhody is equally important because it was at the Newport festivals where first-generation artists – including Son House, Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James – received their first exposure to American audiences and critics when they were “rediscovered” after successful recording careers prior to World War II.

As solid as the nascent Roomful was a Chicago blues band, however, its members quickly started incorporating horns as they pursued their love for early jump, swing and soul – all targeted to get folks up and out on the dance floor.

Although the group existed three years earlier, it celebrates its golden anniversary today because it became a true horn band in 1970 with the addition of Rich Lataille and Greg Piccolo on saxes, augmented a year later by baritone sax player Doug “Mr. Low” James.

imageRobillard departed the group for other pursuits in 1980 and was replaced on guitar by Ronnie Earl, and the band has featured approximately 60 world-class instrumentalists and vocalists in lineups that have included up to nine members since then. But Lataille remains a key cog, a constant treasure who maintains his chair on alto and tenor sax while leading the horns and notating and safeguarding the section’s charts – a labor that’s keep continuity through multiple personnel changes.

A down-to-earth man who possesses big tone as he alternates between tender phrases or blistering hot runs, he’s managed to avoid the spotlight for the past five decades, seldom – if ever – giving interviews. But Blues Blast caught up with him and guitarist Chris Vachon — a 30-year Roomful veteran who’s led the band since 1997 – just prior to the coronavirus outbreak crippling the U.S. a few weeks ago.

Lataille grew up in Westerly and now lives in the rocky countryside of Hope Valley, a few miles to the north. He’s always had a fondness for the swing and jump bands that dominated dancehalls in the ‘30s, ‘40s and early ‘50s. He started out at age 10 as a grammar school clarinet player, but switched to saxophone in ninth grade.

“The school had what they called a ‘stage band’ that played jazz and big-band kinda stuff,” Rich recalls. “I started playin’ tenor at that point. When I was a junior, I started meetin’ people around town and playin’ in a blues band led by a guitar player, Kenny Richard. I met Duke through Kenny, and got to hang out with him, goin’ over to his house.”

A music educator today, even back then, Robillard had curious mind and deep knowledge about the blues and more, and quickly turned Lataille on to an entire new world of music he’d never imagined.

“A little later, I was in a band with Greg Piccolo,” Rich recalls. “At the time, it was mostly a rock band, and wanted to switch it to blues. I was with them for a very brief period – around the same time that Duke decided he wanted to have horns.

“Greg and I joined at the same time. After that, there was a little period where the band sorta broke up for a bit and Duke played with a band called Black Cat with Johnny Nicholas (the guitarist who recorded with Big Walter Horton in the ‘70s and was a longtime member of Asleep at the Wheel) and Steve Nardella.

“After we re-formed, that’s when we added Doug James and John Rossi on drums. That was really the beginning of what people now know as Roomful – as far as havin’ three or more horns.

“We like to stick to the feel of the ‘40s – Roy Milton, Red Prysock, Louis Jordan and the Buddy Johnson Band, which was a huge influence on the original horn section — but don’t like to copy what they were doin’ back then,” Lataille says. “Over the years, we’ve sorta expanded our styles.

“I used to be the youngest guy in the band,” he laughs. “Now (in his late 60s), I’m the oldest.”

Their complex arrangements and wall of sound soon filled clubs to the rafters, and they began drawing national attention a few years later, when they worked on the same bill as Count Basie.

The city of Newport called a halt to its festivals after a riot at the jazz festival in 1971. A crowd estimated at 12,000 people over capacity showed up for the Allman Brothers, crashed the gates, rushed the stage and destroyed equipment in the process.

For the remainder of the decade, Lataille notes, the shows moved to Manhattan and Saratoga Springs, where producer George Wein billed them as Newport in New York. It was in New York City — at the historic Roseland Ballroom, the inspiration for one of Basie’s most famous songs, “Roseland Shuffle” – where top music journalists in the world saw Roomful for the first time.

“We also opened for him at the Shaboo Inn in Willimantic, Conn.,” Lataille recalls. “And we actually produced a show with Basie in Misquamicut, R.I., at a place on the beach. It’s now called The Windjammer. But in the ‘70s, during the day, it was a skating rink, and at night, they’d turn it into a club called The George.

image“We hired Basie and opened for him on what was the hottest day of the year – it was over 100 degrees. And there was some sort of ordinance for the room that we played in that you couldn’t open the windows. We ended up losin’ money because people were hangin’ outside, listenin’, instead of payin’ admission.

“We took a bath. But we didn’t care. We got to play with Basie!”

In 1977, Roomful of Blues landed their first record deal thanks to a helping hand from Doc Pomus, the blues singer and songwriter whose creations include such classics as “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “Suspicion” and “Lonely Avenue.” Self-titled and released on the Island imprint – and later on Hyena as The First Album, it was produced by Pomus and Joel Dorn, whose credits include work with Roberta Flack, Mose Allison and the Neville Brothers.

Their relationship with Pomus began after the band gigged with his close friend, Big Joe Turner, the Kansas City-based blues shouter and bandleader who Doc always credited as being the true father of rock-‘n’-roll. “We played a lot with Big Joe and eventually recorded with him, too,” says Lataille.

That album – entitled Blues Train and released on the Muse imprint in 1983 – went on to receive a Grammy nomination – as did the label’s Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Roomful of Blues a year earlier and Glazed, a 1986 Demon Records release in collaboration with Earl King.

They also served as the backing unit for a trio of their other heroes, ‘40s and ‘50s legends Jimmy Witherspoon, Jimmy McCracklin and Roy Brown, consistently carrying their traditions forward to new audiences despite multiple alterations in their roster along the way.

“It’s pretty remarkable all the changes we’ve gone through over 50 years,” Lataille says. “The last time I counted, we’ve had well over 50 members – and that was a while ago.”

And the actual figure is somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 today.

“I still love the original band,” Rich says. “I grew up with it. I literally joined when I was a teenager and we were all learning our craft at the same time. And we still get together today and play in different settings. Everything comes back so naturally. We know what each other’s gonna come up with and follow it really easy. In that respect, that’s something that you can never replace.

“But I go with the flow. It feels like several different bands that I’ve been in under one name – especially when there’s a change in singer or guitar player. It makes a huge difference in what we do because different guys have different strengths and styles.”

The band’s first big change came in 1979, when Duke left and the horn section expanded to include legendary trombone player Porky Cohen — whose career began in the ‘40s and included stops with Tommy Dorsey, Lucky Millinder and Artie Shaw – as well as a trumpet player with native Texan Lou Ann Barton joining for a short while, sharing vocals with Piccolo, when he wasn’t playing sax.

“Unfortunately, Lou Ann moved up to Rhode Island in February,” Lataille remembers, “and she was like a fish out of water with the bad weather and all. But when she was on, she was soundin’ great, man!”

Rich shares 80 years of Roomful history with fellow elder statesman Chris Vachon, who joined the lineup in 1990. That was the same year that Sugar Ray Norcia, best known today as leader of another Rhode Island institution, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, signed on to handle vocals. He stayed for seven years before leaving to concentrate on his own band, which has been releasing award-winning albums of its own since 1980.

IMAGEIn total, nine different singers have fronted Roomful, including Robillard, Piccolo, Barton, Norcia, Curtis Salgado – like Sugar Ray a multiple Blues Music Award winner, Dave Howard, Mark DuFresne, Mac Odom and Phil Pemberton, who’s held the mike for the past decade.

A lifelong resident of Wakefield, R.I., on the western shore of Narragansett Bay near Long Island Sound, Vachon lives in a home that’s so large and old that he has to chop wood all winter long to keep his fireplace burning in order to cut down on the heating bills during the long New England winters. He also operates a nearby studio, where he records and mixes everything from rock to rap, an interest he’s had since owning a pair of reel-to-reel tape recorders as a teenager.

He’s been producing Roomful’s albums since There Goes the Neighborhood in 1998, a list that includes the Grammy-nominated That’s Right! And he’s a gifted songwriter. Since joining the band, he’s kept them on the airwaves with a string of fan favorite tunes that include “Turn It On! Turn It Up!,” “Running Out of Time,” “She’ll Be So Fine” and “Blue, Blue World” among others.

Self-taught on the six-string, Chris fell in love with music through his sister when she brought home a copy of Meet the Beatles and then the blues after receiving B.B. King’s historic album, Live at the Regal, at age 14 from a friend, Arthur Harris.

“I was into other things before, but the blues was always it for me,” he says. “I played that record constantly. The sound of the horns kinda stuck in my head. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to join Roomful” – something he yearned to do for years before getting his chance.

Vachon paid his dues in high school in Top 40 cover bands – something, he says, wasn’t much fun because you had to learn songs note-for-note instead of improvising. For a heartbeat, he attempted to make a name for himself in New York City after graduation, but returned home, where he and bandmates rented houses, threw parties and, he says, got evicted several times.

He eventually hit the road for the first time as a member of Sybilla and the Slim Buckle Band, a local favorite that eventually relocated to Florida for a couple of years, playing a steady succession of weeklong bar gigs. “The whole thing kinda imploded down there,” he chuckles. “We shoulda probably stayed in Rhode Island because we were doin’ pretty well. Plus, we weren’t doin’ disco – it was around that era – and that hurt us, too.”

Stops with a country-rock ensemble called Just Us, another band fronted by singer B. Willie Smith – a karate black belt who delivered high kicks on stage as well as swing, blues and New Orleans funk, and then regional favorite Eight to the Bar followed before Roomful finally came calling – a full seven years after he’d fallen in love with them in his early 20s when his band was booked on the same show.

“First, Ronnie was gonna leave,” he says. “They tried me out – and then he didn’t leave. Then he did leave, and they got another guy named Tommy K.”

Three years later, Vachon finally got his chance. He was invited to fill in on a tour as a fill-in for Tommy, who had taken a tumble on stage while trying to catch his falling guitar and severely breaking an arm in the process. Initially described by then-bandleader Piccolo as a six-month audition, it began with a benefit honoring Stevie Ray Vaughan, who had just perished in a helicopter crash near Chicago.

“I had a day and a half to learn 30 songs,” Chris remembers. “It’s a good thing it was blues because some of the arrangements are sorta the same when it comes to structure. But I did that for a day and a half, and then we flew off to California.

IMAGE“It took a little while for me to fit my way in there ‘cause there’s a lot of soloists and a lot of stuff goin’ on. You can’t overplay. You hafta figure out how to compliment everybody. But after a while I figured it out – and I’m still figurin’ it out!” (laughs)

Vachon took over leadership of the band in 1997 after it experienced its biggest turnover ever, noting: “They called me the bandleader ‘cause nobody else wanted to do it.”

Five members – including Norcia, James, keyboard player Matt McCabe, bassist Ken “Doc” Grace and trombonist Carl Querfurth – departed and Odom, bassist Marty Ballou, keyboard player Al Weisman, trombonist John Wolf and baritone sax player Kevin May climbed aboard. Piccolo had split three years earlier to launch a solo career.

“We’ve had ‘em come and go,” Chris says. “I miss a lot of the guys. People either can’t travel as much or can’t do it any more or they have other things they want to do. There were lineups that were great, and some that were okay. But we have a really great lineup now.”

Lataille agrees, adding that recently: “We’ve had a few different drummers, a few different bass players. The trumpet player’s only been with us for a couple of years. And, for a while, the baritone sax chair was sorta in flux when Mark Earley started doin’ a lot of other stuff and we were using a lot of subs.

“But we finally got a young guy – 25-year-old Alek Rasdan — on baritone and tenor. He’s workin’ out good, and this’ll be the first CD he’ll be on.”

He joined a roster that also includes John Turner on upright and electric bass, Chris Anzalone on percussion, Rusty Scott on keyboards and Carl Gerhard – a former bandleader in the U.S. Navy — on trumpet. He’s also been chipping in on promotions since joining 18 months ago, making sure that clubs use photos of their current lineup instead of others that feature guys that left the group years ago.

Both Lataille and Vachon agree that there’s a great camaraderie in the organization, which is run in a democratic manner when it comes to song selection and recruitment of new members. When someone leaves, the spot’s usually filled by a friend with a shared background rather than through formal auditions.

In fact, Vachon says, the only one they’ve held since 1990 Vachon was for a percussionist, and they it was a total train wreck.

“We rented this theater in East Greenwich,” Chris remembers, “and we had rock guys comin’ in with 24 drums, wearin’ gloves and all this shit. And they couldn’t play a shuffle, so I don’t know why they even showed up!”

Their new CD — entitled A Roomful of Blues and issued by Alligator, their recording home since 2003 — bares the proof. Their first release in seven years, it has same old-school feel the band’s always delivered although the lineup’s changed. The subject matter, however, is a lot more contemporary and a little darker than usual.

“The last couple of records we did, we didn’t do any originals,” says Rich. “We did the live one, and the one before that was just covers. It was great stuff, but it was still covers.”

“I started this one last year,” Chris adds. “We waited such a long time because there were a lot of years when we were just tryin’ new people. So it just didn’t make a lot of sense to make a record.

“I’ve always just written on my own. But I have a friend, Bob Moulton, who was in the Slim Buckle Band years ago. He’s a songwriter, too, and I don’t get to see him too much. But I called him up and said: ‘I wanna do a record for Roomful, but I’ve just got a bunch of pieces of stuff.’ He said: ‘I got a bunch of stuff, too.’

“So I flew down to Florida and hung out for a week. I brought down a little makeshift studio, just demoed the songs and went from there. Another one that I wrote with Phil came together at the last minute, and Alek wrote one, too.

“We’ve been lookin’ for somebody like him for almost three years. Our keyboard player, Rusty, suggested we try him out. But it turns out he’d sat in with us when he was 14 in Boston, and I’d forgotten all about it. And the kid was good then. His roots go back. He likes all the old stuff, and fits right in.”

The CD features clever tongue-in-cheek tunes, including “Phone Zombies,” which started out as a joke about people being addicted to their electronic devices, which, Lataille says. “It’s definitely appropriate for the times. There’s a lot of fun there, and a little darker edge to some of the others, too.”

imageThat includes “Carcinoma Blues,” which Moulton – a lung cancer survivor – penned with Vachon. “It was originally first person, talking about what he was goin’ through dealing with chemotherapy,” Chris says, “but we changed it to third person for Phil to sing.

“(Alligator founder) Bruce Iglauer says: ‘That’s the most depressing song title I’ve ever seen!’” – something that may or may not be true when you consider the history of the blues and all the strong, but difficult themes that run through it. But the mood brightens instantaneously with Doc Pomus’ spirited “Too Much Boogie,” which follows and is one of just three covers in the set.

Even before the onset of corona-virus, both Lataille and Vachon remarked about how difficult it is these days to keep a band the size of Roomful working.

“It’s crazy,” Rich says. “I have a real appreciation for all the fans who’ve followed us through the years. We go all over the world and, invariably, someone will come up to us and say: ‘I saw you at the Knickerbocker in 1970-somethin’. Unfortunately, some of our audience from back then is dyin’ off. But fortunately, we get some new recruits every time we play!”

On average, Roomful plays about 150 gigs a year – primarily through the Midwest with occasional jaunts overseas, Chris notes, instead of the 300 bookings they used to have. Traveling farther across the U.S. has become difficult.

“A lot of the venues don’t book weekday work anymore, which makes it really hard for us to piece together a tour because – with eight pieces — we can’t be sittin’ in hotels,” Vachon adds.

It’s a situation he blames partially on the tragic nightclub fire that occurred at The Station in West Warwick, R.I., in 2003, killing 100 people and injuring 230 more during a performance by the rock band Great White. Within months, clubs across the country were forced to close because of local ordinances demanding installation of sprinkler systems and other safety measures – sensible requests, but often far too pricey for owners operating on a shoestring to do.

“And if we have to go to California, we have to fly now, and it gets really expensive. If we were a trio, it wouldn’t a problem. We just can’t do it. If we took away anything, it would not be the band people want to see. And we definitely don’t want to go that route.”

The national lock-down wiped out dates booked for Washington, D.C., Virginia and New Jersey. But Roomful’s still planning an official record release party at the Odeum Theater in East Greenwich, R.I., on May 1 with other dates on the horizon.

Check out their new music and where they’ll be playing next by visiting their website: www.roomfulofblues.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.


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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

imageAlan Paul and Andy Aledort – Texas Flood: The Inside Story Of Stevie Ray Vaughan

St. Martin’s Press

343 Pages

Almost thirty years after his tragic death, the legacy of Stevie Ray Vaughan is still being explored nightly by guitar players on stages around the world. Just as Jimi Hendrix blew the minds of several generations of string benders, Vaughan synthesized the essence of Hendrix’s style, then added plenty of personal touches to create a new, exciting sound that vividly expressed Vaughan’s fervent passion for the music.

There are already five books available chronicling Vaughan’s career plus a multitude of books with guitar transcription to help guitarists unravel the magic of his artistry. What makes this latest volume unique is the style utilized by authors Alan Paul and Andy Aledort. Similar to his critically acclaimed book on the Allman Brothers Band, One Way Out, Paul lays out Vaughan’s life chronologically, using segments of interviews from family members, friends, and fellow musicians that were gathered over several decades. Aledort is a working guitarist with scores of instructional videos to his credit, as well as writing for publications like Guitar World.

From the start, the younger Vaughan brother idolized his brother Jimmie, leading him to start playing guitar. Jimmie also had the records that gave Stevie Ray a solid foundation to learn from, featuring Muddy Waters and Little Walter to Guitar Slim, T-Bone Walker, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Vaughan was constantly playing or listening to music, with little time for anything else. For years he relied on the generosity of friends, as he had no place of his own. Jimmie left Dallas in 1970, moving to Austin, and his brother made the move two years later. After several bad band experiences, Stevie Ray became a member of a hot local band, Paul Ray and The Cobras, who packed the Soap Creek Saloon with 500-600 people every Tuesday night, with Vaughan standing out when he played an extended slow blues. Then he was part of the Triple Threat Revue with singer Lou Ann Barton and W.C. Clark on bass and vocals.

With five strong personalities in the group, that band did not last long. Clark left and the group changed their name to Double Trouble. Still living couch to couch, and deep into substance abuse, Vaughan was not the most focused band leader. Help arrived when a friend suggested that he give Chris Layton a try on drums. With some coaching from Clark, Layton found the grooves that appealed to Vaughan. As a quartet with Barton out front, the group did a stunning set at the 1979 San Francisco Blues Festival, their first major gig outside of Texas. But by the end of the year, Barton had left to join Roomful of Blues, leaving the band a trio. The final piece was added when Vaughan rescued Tommy Shannon from brick laying to take over on bass, a job he had previously held in Johnny Winter’s band.

From there, the authors lay out Vaughan’s rapid rise to fame through interview segments with many of the key people in Vaughan’s life. They delve into many of the stories that defined the band’s career, including getting rejected by Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records for being too loud and rock-oriented, to his involvement with David Bowie’s platinum record, Let’s Dance, which served as Vaughan’s coming out party. Readers get an in-depth view of the events that transpired around plans for a world-wide Bowie tour as Vaughan’s first album, Texas Flood, was about to hit the market. Also included is a wealth of B&W and color photos documenting Vaughan’s story in vivid detail.

While many readers are probably familiar with Vaughan’s musical legacy, all but the most devoted fans will certainly gain a deeper understanding of his artistry after reading this book. The insights of family, band members, and close friends create vivid portraits of the guitarist at various points in his career while broadening the understanding of his musical genius. It is all there – the wife that constantly turned his world upside down, the two band mates who become close friends and integral parts of his musical vision, the nights when the music burned red hot, and other nights when the constant touring left him feeling beaten down and creatively drained.

By the time the band recorded their Live Alive double album, the wheels were coming off. Following a near fatal medical incident, Vaughan checks himself into a rehab facility to begin his climb back to the pinnacle he had once occupied. The final chapters chronicle his devotion to staying clean and sober, a focus that also elevate his playing to often stunning heights of virtuosity. He also teamed with brother Jimmie to fulfill the dream of making an album together, the Family Style record. And then he was gone…….

Stevie Ray Vaughan was a once-in-a-generation musician who redefined the music. Paul and Aledort have managed to capture the essence of his story, the magic in his six string excursions, and, in doing so, make us treasure even more deeply the gifts he left us. This biography comes highly recommended!

Reviewer 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 former 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!


 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 10 

imageBilly Vera – Rip It Up: The Specialty Records Story

BMG Books

177 Pages

The Specialty Records label will forever be remembered as the label that provided the launching pad for Little Richard’s ascent into rock & roll history. But the label created by Art Rupe was so much more, as multi-talented Billy Vera reminds us in his loving tribute. A noted musical historian and veteran performer, Vera adeptly mixes in his own recollections and comments to the chronicle of the label, spicing up the narrative throughout. Part of the RPM Series, done by BMG Books, Rip It Up is the second edition highlighting a label of keen interest for blues fans. The first, Shake Your Hips by Randy Fox, scrutinize the Excello Records legacy.

Rupe (Arthur Newton Goldberg) had a normal childhood, getting his love of music from his mother. He grew up in the Pittsburgh area, eventually working his way west to Los Angeles, where he earned a bachelor’s degree at UCLA. Interested in the entertainment industry, he tried to get a foot ion the door of the movie industry, but that door was slammed shut. Lacking funds to start a big venture of his own, he took a job at Atlas Records, where Vera notes “he learned how not to run a record company”. With his new name, he delved deep into the business, learning as many details as possible, including how a record pressing plant operated. He also broke down hit records in detail, striving to learn how to be commercially successful. His first label, Juke Box Records, had a strong seller out of the gate with “Boogie #1” by the Sepia Tones, but lack of distribution limited the success to a few regions of the country.

After several partnerships fell apart, Rupe started the Specialty label in 1946. His early hits came from Roy Milton and the Solid Senders. Vera devotes one chapter to the key contributions that Milton made to making the label viable. In another chapter, he covers the Liggins brothers. Joe had several hits, including “The Honeydripper”. Jimmy, a former boxer, did not fair as well but still made some fine platters, including ‘Drunk” and “Cadillac Boogie,” that in Vera’s estimation was the first real rock & roll record.

Several chapters deal with the stellar line-up of gospel artists on the label including Brother Joe May, Wynona Carr, the Pilgrim Travelers, Professor Alex Bradford, and the Soul Stirrers, featuring Sam Cooke. Rupe always wanted to make records that moved him, and he had the magic touch, especially on tracks like “Touch The Hem Of His Garment”. In the studio, Robert “Bumps” Blackwell was often the guiding light to the sound that Rupe craved. One of the label owner’s few mistakes was the inability to hear Cooke’s potential when he wanted to move beyond the gospel realm, releasing the singer from his contract to smooth the way to stardom.

One of blues finest songwriters, Percy Mayfield, had a two year run of hits before multiple injuries from a car accident sidelined his career for an extended period. Vera is an expert on the singer, having put together two discs of material for a Specialty CD reissue series, gaining a nod of appreciation from none other than Bob Dylan.

As you would expect, the longest chapter deals with the phenomenon known as Little Richard. Vera traces his early years, eventually arriving at the fateful day in New Orleans at the famed Cosimo Matassa’s recording studio, where Blackwell coached one last performance out of an exhausted singer. That song, the wild “Tutti Frutti,” took off, igniting Richard’s career that combined some of rock & roll’s best records with a flashy persona that captivated record buyers as well as movie goers for films like The Girl Can’t Help It. At the end of the chapter, the author explores a number of competing , and very interesting, theories as to what lead to the break-up between the two parties.

There were many other hit makers on the label – Lloyd Price, Camille Howard, Don & Dewey, Floyd Dixon, Larry Williams, Guitar Slim, and Jesse Belvin, on his own and teamed with Marvin Phillips as Marvin & Johnny. Vera offers highlights of their stories, always adding a personal touch that keeps the book from settling into a simple recitation of facts at hand. The connections that Rupe and Blackwell cultivated in New Orleans lead to important records with now legendary names like Art Neville, Clifton Chenier, and Earl King.

Over the years, the label made attempts to make in-roads in the blues, country, jazz, and doo wop markets. While many of these ventures failed to generate a hit record, Rupe never stopped searching for music that moved his soul. Still with us at the age of one hundred & two, Rupe proudly notes in his foreward that three of the Specialty artists – Little Richard, Lloyd Price, and Sam Cooke – have spots along with Rupe in the Rock Roll Hall Of Fame. While the hit records are an essential part of the story, Vera also enlightens readers as to the challenges that Rupe faced dealing with a variety of business associates, an ever-changing market place, and a myriad of details that must be mastered to have an hope of success in a business of razor-thin profit margins. It adds up to deftly rendered tribute to a record label that changed the course of 20th century music. Not to be missed!

Reviewer 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 former 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 – 3 of 10 

imageRissi Palmer – Revival

www.rissipalmermusic.com

self release

9 songs time – 37:38

Your first impressions can sometimes make you look foolish. Jumping to conclusions isn’t a good thing. From seeing her photo with her with angel wings with a kind of psychedelic hippie dippy background, I really didn’t know what to expect. Come to find out I wasn’t that far off the mark. I do pick up kind of a “Let The Sunshine In” “Hair” vibe from the music. Wait…This is a compliment. Strangely her website refers to her as a country singer. I see a bit of a country twinge on one track. I find her music hard categorize. Much of it has a breezy fantastical sound. The whole CD has an uplifting other-worldly quality to it. Another plus is that Rissi possesses just a lovely voice. The album credits and website give no musician credits. It is mainly bare bones lushness with strings, sparse percussion, keyboards, guitars and swirling backing vocals. Videos show Rissi playing acoustic guitar. She shares co-writing credit on all songs.

The message of “Seeds” is stand your ground. The stomping, uplifting beat makes me want to join a cause of some sort. Her voice is in my opinion is much more appealing than most of the mainstream singers out there. “Breathe In, Breathe Out” floats by on a cloud of acoustic guitar, strings and ethereal backing vocals. “Ghost” has a haunting quality to it (no pun intended). Rissi’s voice has a more pronounced yearning quality here. Whatever she’s selling I’m buying.

Trumpets add to the funk on the rhythmic tour de force of “Speak On It”. The uplifting spirit ensues on “Little Black Boy, Little Black Girl”. She laments a miscarriage she had on the lovingly moving “You Were Here”, underscored by wistful cellos. The only tune here that is country-ish. Electric guitar and organ funk up the title song, that appropriately sounds like a “Revival”. “Seeds” reappears in a stripped down version. Any excuse to enjoy that marvelous voice once again is fine with me.

Give this music any label you like, I’ll call it joyful, spirit building, wonderful music. It just seems to wash over you. The combination of feelings and lyrics is hard to beat. Rissi’s music is pretty much one of a kind and the kind I like.

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


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 10 

imageFuel Junkie – All Out

Self-produced CD

11 songs – 57 minutes

www.fueljunkieband.com

Based out of Montreal, Fuel Junkie blows the back off of it on this all-original, high-octane release, their first venture to the studio since their 2016 debut album, Injected – and one listen will have you wondering why they waited so long.

The band formed in 2014 after music student Mark LeClerc gathered together a handful of friends in an effort to combine a blues trio with a three-piece section of sax players. With their feet firmly planted in conventional blues, they deliver energetic, urban tunes with deep soul, R&B and funk overtones.

Festival favorites across Quebec, they’re led by LeClerc, who doubles on tenor sax and vocals. But the band is more of a cohesive unit who consistently trade leads in complex musical charts. Joining him on reeds are Philippe Brochu-Pellitier on tenor and Patrice Luneau on baritone sax. Antoine Loiselle handles guitar duties with bassist Jean-Francois Charest and percussionist Philippe Fleury holding down the bottom. Sitting in on five of the 11 cuts are trumpet players Lex French and Andy King as well as trombonists Jean-Nicolas Trottier and Olivier Lizotte.

All Out was recorded live at Breakglass Studios in Montreal, recorded live off the floor and mixed with limited overdubs and editing. As their name implies, several of the tunes in this set are imbued with automotive themes.

The action kicks into high gear with the title tune, “All Out,” which fires out of the gate with a drag-racing them. Luneau’s opening solo show the band is out to win with this spirited, stop-time R&B. The blues kick in strongly with “High Stress, Low Money,” which percolates as LeClerc complains about being out of work and on the verge of landing a job when his faithful auto blows a gasket.

A layered horn line opens “Can You Dig It,” a deep-in-the-pocket ballad that comes across with a Big Easy feel as it confronts critics and states clearly that the band plays the blues its own way. The horns fade quickly to allow guitars and rhythm to drive the message home. The feel continues in “Bad Luck,” which gives Loiselle space to shine before LeClerc lists the reasons he no longer feels like “the strongest man alive,” including getting drunk and having his hair cut against his will and having his brand new horn damaged when a bar owner knocks it to the floor.

The band revs up again with “V-Twin,” a swinging love song that compares the high-power engine with the beating of the singer’s heart when he and his lady touch. The message continues in the stop-time “Kiss in the Moonlight,” but takes a bad turn with “Hard Times” after an apparent late-night fight. The sounds calm dramatically for “Once or Twice,” a ballad that features LeClerc and brings the theme to a close as it delivers a plea for understanding.

The horns kick things into high gear again for the powerful “Get Out on the Road,” which brightens the mood and leads into the swinging instrumental, “TorqueFlite,” before “Push Me Away” – the only blues-rocker in the set – takes full blame for all of the relationship issues confronted previously.

Available via Amazon, Spotify and other online retailers, All Out is a pleasant surprise. It fires on all cylinders if your tastes run toward horn bands and sounds of the big city.

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 – 5 of 10 

imageDurham County Poets – Hand Me Down Blues

Fam Group California

www.durhamcountypoets.com

CD: 13 Songs, 50 Minutes

Styles: Horn Blues, Ensemble Blues, Blues Covers

At their core, songs are poems set to music. As Blues Blast reviewer Rex Bartholomew states, “[It] seems like a basic skill, but a lot of bands seem to forget about this.” Not the Durham County Poets. This band from Quebec brings poetry back to the blues, performing each of the thirteen songs on Hand Me Down Blues as if they’d make Walt Whitman proud. Leading man Kevin Harvey, along with five seasoned compatriots, invites blues lovers all over the world to savor the rhythms and rhymes of their fourth album. With clear vocals, robust instrumentation, and unique songwriting, they even make covers such as “Can’t Be Satisfied” and “With a Little Help From My Friends” sound invigoratingly new. Even if the words “poetry slam” give you a headache, fear not. The Poets’ art and their craft blend as smoothly as a creamy mocha latte.

In the CD liner notes, Kevin Harvey relates his first encounter (at nineteen years old) with McKinley Morganfield himself: “I planted my elbows firmly on the stage as if to stake my claim. I looked Muddy square in the eye, then I placed my hand on his shoe. He looked at me and winked as if to say, ‘Welcome to the blues, son!’” Two months later, Harvey would receive a life-altering spinal cord injury requiring him to use a wheelchair. The Durham County Poets came along, and with their invaluable support and musicianship, Kevin would continue to play and proclaim his love for such music. “This album pays homage to the blues and to some of our favorite artists like Muddy Waters. They handed down the blues to us, and we want to continue in their tradition by putting our own stamp on it; handing down the blues to another generation.”

The Durham County Poets are Mr. Harvey on vocals; Neil Elsmore on acoustic and electric guitars as well as background vocals; David Whyte on background vox; Carl Rufh on backing vocals, electric and upright bass and trombone, and Rob Couture on drums and backing vox. Special guests include vocalist Dawn Tyler Watson, guitarist and background vocalist Larry Cassini, Jody Golick and Mark Leclerc on tenor sax, John Kerkhoven on harmonica, and Bob Stagg on keyboard.

The title track is classic horn blues from head to toe, starting things off with some New Orleans spice. “When I was three, my mama told me, ‘If you want to have some fun, but on a Count Basie record and take off your shoes.’ She was dancing in the kitchen like she had nothing to lose, and that’s how Mama handed me them blues.” Next is a warning about a shady lady. When “The Moon Won’t Go Down,” beware. Its atmospheric combination of blues and jazz is perfect for a clear spring night. Grab a partner and take him or her for a spin – just make sure they don’t look you over “predator-style.” Later on, Dawn Tyler Watson and Kevin Harvey issue a heartfelt plea in perfect harmony: “Help Me to Change.” Number ten, however, is the best (and most hilarious) track on the album. “If the Lid Don’t Fit,” get a new toilet seat – er, “don’t put it on the pot!” You might miss the lyrics if you’re boogie-ing too hard, so keep your ears open.

The Durham County Poets bring lyrical beauty back to the genre with Hand Me Down Blues!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 40 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.


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10 

imageKerry Pastine & The Crime Scene – City Of Love

Wipe It Off! – 2019

12 tracks; 47 minutes

www.crimesceneband.com

Kerry Pastine was born and raised in Denver, CO and still calls the city home. She started out in big band jump blues outfit The Informants before setting up The Crime Scene. City Of Love is the band’s third album and they pride themselves on making vintage music for the modern age. Kerry wrote six songs for the album and involved Mark Richardson, with whom she played in The Informants, to provide five more songs and add keyboards. The final song is a cover of a BB King tune. Kerry is on vocals and percussion, Pauly Six is on guitar, Troy Robey on bass and Andrew ‘AJ’ Knight on drums. Both rhythm men also contribute some keyboards and backing vocals come from Cass Clayton and Jessica Rogalski. The album was recorded and produced in Denver by Kerry’s husband Paul Shelloe.

Opening track “Goin’ For Broke” opens with Kerry singing over enthusiastic ‘come on, here we go’ shouts and slashing guitar chords before the rhythm section joins in on a solid shuffle with piano accents, Kerry clearly ‘all in’ for this new relationship. The echoey guitar on “Leanin’ In” gives the tune a retro sound with hints of rockabilly and Kerry sings well as she confesses that “there will be nothing like leanin’ into your love”; bongos and piano give a jagged rhythm to Kerry’s portrayal of “Singapore Downbeat” and Pauly picks that tone up in his solo work, an interesting track; the title track calls for more love in this world, given a dramatic style by the dominant drums. Kerry sounds like some classic female singers of the past on “Rain Or Shine” as she delivers a dynamic lead over Mark’s steady piano and Pauly’s guitar embellishments – think Peggy Lee or Etta James on this one. Kerry’s final writing contribution is “Under Your Spell” which has a latin rhythm and nice double bass giving the tune a lighter touch as Kerry describes falling under the guy’s spell: “I let you take me to the other side, a thrill of a ride on a stallion so wild. You’re bad, they say, but they can’t take my man away ‘cos I like the high, I like the high just fine”.

Mark’s songs show a more eclectic range of styles. “Ragin’” and “Crawl” sit together mid-album: the former starts with distorted vocals over distant guitar before developing into a chug with the drums remaining heavy but rather distant in the mix; the latter has a garage rock feel with the drums way back compared with the guitar and the 60’s sounding organ. “All Night Long” is in similar vein with a spiky feel while “Down Down” has a Delta feel courtesy of slide guitar and marching drums, Kerry sounding suitably unhappy with life, a strong cut. “Tears Of Heartache” is rather the odd one out of Mark’s songs being a soulful ballad with a good vocal. The BB King cover is “My Baby’s Comin’ Home” which is in a style that is different to most of what is on offer here but may hark back to Kerry and Mark’s time in The Informants. The song was written by BB and Fats Washington and was the ‘A’ side of a 1962 Paramount single and the band do a very good version to close the album.

Overall this album is something of a mixed bag, some songs more to this reviewer’s tastes than others. The up side is that it should thereby appeal to a wide audience and will certainly be well received by existing fans of the band.

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 10 

imageBetty Fox Band – Peace In Pieces

Self-Release -2020

14 tracks; 64 minutes

www.BettyFox.net

Betty Fox has been establishing a solid reputation in her Florida base and made the finals of the International Blues Challenge in 2015. Her third album release was recorded at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, thereby fulfilling a long-held ambition as many of Betty’s favorite singers recorded there and that music has clearly been a major influence on her singing style which grew out of church and gospel singing. This very soulful album should introduce Betty to an audience beyond Florida, putting her in a national/international spotlight.

Not only is Betty a powerful singer but she also wrote all bar one of the songs here, her regular guitarist Josh Nelms chipping in with six co-writing credits and bassist Barry Williams contributing to one song; Chris Peet is on drums with Jake Winebrenner replacing him on one track. Muscle Shoals regulars Spooner Oldham and Clayton Ivey provide the keyboards, Brad Guin is on sax and Ken Watters trumpet; backing vocals are by Cindy Walker, Marie Lewey and Betty herself. The album was co-produced by Betty, Josh and Barry.

The album opens brilliantly with a really strong track, “Green Light”, full of gospel harmonies, churchy organ and an earworm chorus in classic soul style. The horns make their entrance on “Winter’s Cold”, a soulful ballad very much in the Muscle Shoals tradition as Betty states that no winter cold can undermine a couple’s love for each other and the lyrical style carries on with “Marie” which has some gorgeous harmonies. “Sweet Memories” has a memorable chorus before the title track provides sound advice for those who have had their hearts broken: “Breathe deep, let go, repeat, and I know I’ll find peace in pieces”. Do check out Josh Nelms’ guitar work here, both funky rhythm and stinging solo, and listen to how he builds his solo over his own rhythm work on “Let Go Or Be Dragged”.

Perhaps the pick of the ballads here is “Runnin’ Back To You” which builds into a luscious chorus with superb organ work by Clayton and attractive embellishments from Spooner on piano and Josh on guitar and displays Betty’s vocals at their soulful best. If you prefer more upbeat material “Feels So Good” certainly does what the title says with a lilting chorus, great harmonies and a fine horn arrangement, topped off by a short but sweet guitar solo. The short and punchy “Rising Strong” is an upbeat shuffle with positive lyrics about moving forward in life.

Things get more serious with “Sweet Goodnight” written by Betty and her stepmother as part of the healing process after the passing of Betty’s father. The two keyboards and Josh’s sensitive guitar playing provide a gentle accompaniment that recalls one of Otis Redding’s ballads as Betty gives vent to her feelings as she remembers happier times with her Dad. Another song that appears to have an autobiographical element is “Shattered Dreams And Broken Toes” which has a latin feel, one that the horns sit out.

Betty diverts from the generally soulful style of the album with the lengthy Americana tune “Fireflies” which, perhaps not surprisingly, was not recorded at Muscle Shoals but in Largo, FL. Betty returns to her church roots with the gospel tune “’Til The Storm Passes By” (Mosie Lister), accompanied just by Clayton and Spooner, to close the album and remind us of how closely linked gospel and soul music can be.

The only reservation here is that Betty’s vocals can become strained at times, particularly when she is conveying deep emotions, as on “Sweet Goodnight” or “Sweet Memories”. When she sings soulfully without over-stretching her voice she is far more effective, in this reviewer’s opinion. Having said that, this is an impressive album with many fine performances from Betty, her regular band and the FAME studio guys.

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 10 

imagePass Over Blues – Colored World

Sinnstift-Verlag

www.passoverblues.de

CD: 17 Songs, 60 Minutes

Styles: Eclectic Blues, Roots, All Original Songs

Innovation. The word conjures up images of artistic and technological marvels. It’s the drive to improve, to branch out, to push the envelope and think outside the box. Fortunately for us, Apple and Microsoft aren’t the only players in the innovation game. Consider Pass Over Blues, an eclectic ensemble from Potsdam, Germany. On their newest album, Colored World, they take American blues and roots, put it on a CD satellite and shoot it into outer space. If there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, it will embrace the welcoming vibes on the seventeen original songs featured here. Tracks such as “The Journey,” “The Secret Behind” and “Always With the Wind” are especially atmospheric. As for traditional blues, it’s rather scarce, but even the purest purists can enjoy the roots and Americana offerings. On vocals, leading man Harro Hübner is as gravelly as any seasoned blues master should be. Check out “Some Say” for his best work. He’s accompanied by a bevy of skillful guest musicians along with his regular band.

Pass Over Blues has been in business since 1991, although guitarist Roland Beeg has been performing since 1975. He’s become a fixture among (formerly) East German blues guitarists. Front man Hübner has been delighting audiences with his potent pipes since 1985. Bassist Lutz Mohri began his musical career in 1977, backing up numerous bands and even Polish singer and blues legend Mira Kubasinska. As if those credentials weren’t impressive enough, he has also been a teacher of guitar and bass for sixteen years. Drummer and percussionist Michiel Demeyere, a Flemish native, is also the painter of the band’s CD album covers.

Special guests on Colored World include backing vocalists Marion Bohn, Martin Weigel (who also plays additional guitar and piano), Christian Schwechheimer on backing vocals, additional drums and percussion; Sebastian Piskorz on flugelhorn, and the Children’s Choir of the European School Rövershagen for their background vocals on the title track.

Speaking of which, it’s an exhilarating anthem to Mother Earth with a sharp political edge. “It’s a colored world – not just black and white. It’s time to understand – no time to fuss and fight…If our world was – just black and white, then our lives would be – just sad and awful.” Another terrific tune is the blues stomp “Who Knows,” coming second in the CD’s repertoire. We humans always have more questions than answers, and what are those answers? “Who really knows?” It’s a hilarious shrug of a song, inviting listeners to laugh along with the chorus. One more standout is “Some Say,” as gentle and inspiring as Ray Charles’ “What a Wonderful World.” In a world full of conformity and standardization, it’s an invitation to “find your own way,” whether your name is “sweet Caroline” or not. You might wear out the replay button.

This band innovates the way Queen does, with its surreal sound and esoteric lyrics. It innovates the way the Beatles did in their later years, once they left their youth behind and turned their attention to what lay beyond screaming crowds of teenage girls. Pass Over Blues may not be everyone’s preferred variety, but rest assured they aim to bring a lot more color to the world!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 40 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.


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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

imageRoger “Hurricane” Wilson – I Did What I Wanted To!

www.hurricanewilson.com

Bluestorm Records

12 songs – 49 minutes

I Did What I Wanted To! is Roger “Hurricane” Wilson’s 25th CD, released in what is his 50th year as a professional musician and features 11 self-penned blues-rock tracks together with one cover. Unfortunately, neither the promotional material that accompanies the CD, the CD itself, nor Wilson’s website provide much information about the album, such as where and when it was recorded or even who performs on it. What we do know is that Wilson provides all guitars and vocals, while the drums and percussion are credited to the Singular Sound Rhythm Section and all other instruments are credited to the Triple Play Allstars. Other than that, there isn’t much information easily available about this album.

As for the music itself, it sits very much in the category of guitar-driven blues-rock, with occasional forays into guitar-driven country-rock. The opening “I’m Coming Home” is indicative of the rest of the album as it roars out of the speakers with muscular authority. The song distinguishes itself from many other blues-rock songs through the neat three-chord descending keyboard lick at the end of each verse and nearly every song on the album has a similarly distinctive element to it. It’s clear a lot of thought has gone into song structure. Tracks like the classic rock of “Solid Gold Love” and “If This Is Love” have particularly catchy choruses. Wilson is an adroit, nimble-fingered guitarist and the songs rightly highlight his fluid solos. His opening solo on the introduction to “I Did What I Wanted To” is a prime example. Ditto his slide guitar on “I’m Through With The Blues”. His voice however is less impressive, often being masked in heavy reverb, and sometimes struggling with the rhythm of the song on tracks such as the acoustic “Why Can’t It Be Like Christmas Everyday?”. To his credit, however, Wilson’s lyrics extend past the traditional love-lost, love-won subjects of many blues songs to include suicide-awareness on “Sittin’ On A Stallion” with its unusual metaphor: “Now you’re sitting on a stallion, with no idea how to ride. While you are living your dream, something’s still not right. You have it all, please don’t end your life. You’re sitting on a stallion, with no idea how to ride.” He also includes a frankly off-the-wall homage to a certain Atlanta media mogul and philanthropist in “Legacy Of Ted Turner”.

The Atlanta connection also arises on the album’s sole cover track, “Food, Phone, Gas & Lodging”, originally recorded in 1975 by the Eric Quincy Tate Group out of Atlanta.

There are plenty of enjoyable moments on I Did What I Wanted To!, but it’s difficult to shake the sense that this is something of a hurried release. The mix in particular is quite muddy in places, giving the album something of a sense of a demo. Still, it’s worth checking out if your tastes lean to the country-rock side of things and you like lashings of first class guitar playing in your music.

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 – 10 of 10 

imageEddie Martin – Thirst

Blueblood -2019

11 tracks; 57 minutes

www.eddiemartin.com

Eddie Martin has been a constant on the UK blues scene for many years and has released a steady output of albums, this being his 12th studio album, recorded on home turf in Bristol. Over the years Eddie has demonstrated an eclectic approach, recording solo acoustic, trio and big band albums. Thirst is a full electric band with Eddie on guitar, harp and vocals, showing fine songwriting craft on an all-original program and is well supported by the cast of musicians: Dan Moore or Yuki Yoshizu are on piano, Jonny Henderson (who is Kirk Fletcher’s go-to keyboard man in Europe) on Hammond B3, Tom Gilkes on drums, either Jerry Soffe or Zac Raynard on bass and backing vocalists Audra Nishita and Nadine Gingell.

The album is well packaged with a full lyric sheet and details of who played on each track, the only issue being that two tracks appear in a different order to the printed material. Opening track “One Man Band” was issued as a single and you can hear why as it’s got an uptempo boogie feel as Eddie describes life on the road for a solo artist. Because the vocals are dubbed over Eddie’s harp/slide work it is not always easy to grasp the lyrics, an issue that reappears on two other cuts where a similar technique is used. Piano underpins the slide on “Sewn Up” as Eddie looks at how we see ourselves, the futility of always wanting to be other than we actually are: “Narcissus could teach us a thing or two. His selfies on the surface of a pool, the end is more tragic than magical”.

Brooding slide/harp and a semi-spoken vocal recount the interesting story (real or imagined?) of a chance encounter with a veteran in “Free Man Blues”. Choppy wah-wah softened by warm Hammond underpins “Searching For Home”, a well written song which empathizes with those caught up in the refugee crisis in Europe.

The centerpiece of the album is a longer song running to eight minutes as Eddie uses the metaphor of love being “Like Water”. Eddie plays some lovely guitar, dubbing slide over his lead work and Jonny again providing lush support on the B3. After that a little light relief with “Run River Run”, lots of meaty slide on a tune that recalls Bobby Parker’s “Watch Your Step” while the river runs to the sea before Eddie’s tribute to Mahalia Jackson, “Louisiana Woman” which has a strong NO feel, especially from the rhythm section. Another longer cut “Imagine Us From The Sky” then examines how birds see the world and features lots of slow, elegiac slide before Eddie rails against the unfairness of poverty, asking where the “Silver Spoon” was when he was born, the song being a suitably aggressive shuffle. “Fix It” is another upbeat song with Eddie blowing some aggressive harp before the album closes with a slow, rather lugubrious, rumba with lots of twangy guitar, rather out of keeping with the rest of the album. However, you really need to concentrate on Eddie’s superbly crafted lyrics describing a “Frozen Lake”: “Sharp mid-morning has no tale to tell, the frozen sun is like a funeral bell; you can almost hear its sullen tone while fish are underneath entombed”. This is poetry set to music!

The album title refers to Eddie’s strong desire to continue writing songs and there are several here of which he can justifiably be proud – and much of the music is actually blues!

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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