Issue 14-22 May 28, 2020

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Cover photo © 2020 Bob Kieser


 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Chicago Bluesman Nick Moss. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Matteo Sansonetto Blues Revue, Laura Green, Rob Oliver, Tony Holiday, Ruthie Foster Big Band, Mark Telesca, Albert Castiglia, The BB King Blues Band, Mick Kolassa, and Jeff Fetterman.


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 Featured Interview – Nick Moss 

imageUntil capturing the award for traditional artist of the year in 2019, Nick Moss regularly referred to himself as the “Susan Lucci of the blues,” and why not? After all, in his estimation, he’d previously been nominated for Blues Music Awards about two dozen times without walking away with a trophy.

Well, he can retire that nickname for good now that he and his smoking-hot bandmates were tabbed for three more prizes in this year’s honors – band, traditional album and song of the year for the title cut on his CD Lucky Guy — which were handed out via virtual ceremony in early May.

“Who woulda thunk it?” he asked, still in disbelief more than a week after the event took place. “I’m still in shock. (Former bandmate and best friend) Mike Ledbetter’s widow, Kathy, called me about 20 minutes before the awards and asked me: ‘Are you gonna watch?’

“I said: ‘Yeah, I’m gonna watch.’ Then she asked: ‘Did you record anything?’ I asked: ‘What do you mean?’ She goes: ‘Like an acceptance speech?’

“I was like: ‘Ahhh…no.’

“She says: ‘How do you think they’re gonna do it for the winners? They probably prerecorded the acceptance speeches…’

“I said: ‘Well, if that’s what they’re doin’, then I didn’t win anything because no one asked me to prerecord anything.’ In years past (for live awards shows), the BMAs had done that for artists who’d won, but couldn’t be there to accept. So I thought that that’s what they did this year, too.

“I wasn’t expectin’ anything. I really wasn’t!

”When I won the first one early in the show — for best traditional blues album, I was like: ‘Wow! That’s f-in’ amazing!’ I said: ‘That’s gotta be it. They gave me one…I got one last year…that’ll be fine.’

“Then, at the end of the show, I was in the kitchen, and Rodrigo (Mantovani, his bass player) and Patrick (Seals, his drummer) – who are staying with me during the shutdown – were on the couch and going: ‘Holy shit, Nick! Get in here!’

“I walked in, and they were announcing the second one (song of the year). Rodrigo and Patrick were jumpin’ up and down because they hadn’t won anything before. I was just standin’ there, goin’: ‘Wait! What? What just happened?’”

Then came the big one, band of the year honors, too.

“I’m still in shock,” Moss says. “It’s great. But it would be ten times nicer to win these awards and be able to go out and play the next night.”

Life’s come full circle for Nick, who – at age 50 – is the last guitarist fortunate to have studied at the feet and tour with the men responsible for creating what’s now recognized as the classic sound of Chicago blues.

And it was also gratifying that Rick Estrin captured the BMA harp player trophy for harp player, too. After all, Estrin was on stage the night Moss made up his mind that he wanted to become a musician after his plan to pursue a career in sports came to a sudden end.

A Chicago native and the younger brother of Joe Moss, a gifted guitarist and recording artist in his own right, Nick started playing bass at age 12 and grew up with a deep love for the blues through the music of Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, Freddie King and Buddy Guy as well as proto blues-rockers Free, Blind Faith and Led Zeppelin. But he was a skilled athlete, too.

imageIn addition to playing in bands, he was a state champion wrestler and football player who was fielding major-college scholarship offers as a senior at Hoffman Estates High School in the Northwest suburbs. But those dreams faded overnight after doctors discovered he’d been born with a genetic disorder that destroyed most of his kidney function. He required immediate, extensive surgery that made visiting college campuses impossible and landed him in a bed at Children’s Memorial Hospital instead.

He was recovering and still hospitalized three months later, when Joe fast-talked Nick’s medical team into granting him permission to take his little brother out of the hospital for a couple of hours for what purportedly was going to be “a good meal.”

Today, Children’s Memorial is situated in a major medical complex north of the Loop. Back then, it was much smaller and four or mile miles further north on Lincoln Avenue, about three blocks south of B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted sits today and virtually directly across the street from both the original Kingston Mines and Wise Fools Pub, where B.B. King, Otis Rush and other stars frequently played – and where Joe brought him to see Little Charlie & the Nightcats, fronted by Estrin, who were touring to promote their debut album on Alligator Records.

Young Nick was so blown away by their performance that it became the major turning point in his life – an encounter that was detailed at length in a previous Blues Blast interview. (Here’s a link: http://www.bluesblastmagazine.com/featured-interview-nick-moss/)

After discharge, recovering at home and working on his chops, Moss finally started sitting in at the regular blues jams that flourished across the city. He was still in his late teens when he took over the bass chair in Scotty & the Rib Tips, following in the footsteps of Joe, who served as the band’s rhythm guitarist. It was a great place to start musical training because the group was fronted by Buddy Scott, a member of one of the largest and most important families in the blues and soul communities in the city.

A ten brothers, the Scotts floated in and out of several family bands. The most prominent member, Sir Walter – who passed earlier this year, was the guitarist on all of Chi-Lites’ hits. And their legacy endures today through Scotty’s son, Kenneth “Hollywood” Scott, former band leader for both Otis Clay and Mel Waiters, among others.

The lessons Nick received served him well. And the three stops that followed are even more impressive, beginning with a two-year apprenticeship beside ‘70s superstar Jimmy Dawkins, who taught him how to play with fire and passion.

Next, he joined the Legendary Blues Band, where Willie “Big Eyes” Smith – the former drummer for Muddy Waters who spent his final years as a vocalist and harp player – became like a second father and convinced Nick to switch from bass to guitar, while proving invaluable lessons about timing, style, how to play off of other musicians as well as practical instruction about what was needed to run a band successfully.

Post-graduate studies came at the feet of Jimmy Rogers, one of the top guitarists and songwriters the golden era of Chicago blues, before Nick started his own band, the Flip Tops, in the late ‘90s. His debut CD, 1998’s First Offense, featured a lineup that included two other players that went on to greatness: Willie’s son, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, on drums and Richard Duran, aka Lynwood Slim and already a rising star, on harp.

Moss launched his own label, Blue Bella, to release it, naming the imprint after his beloved car, a 1970 Lincoln Mark III, and one of the tunes he recorded, “Mistakes from the Past,” won song of the year honors in the Blues Blast Music Awards later that year.

imageThe Flip Tops’ lineup on albums through the years included a who’s who of talent, including guitarists Lurrie Bell and Anson Funderburgh, drummers “Big Eyes” and Bob Carter, vocalist Curtis Salgado, bassist Bob Stroger, Piano Willie Oshawny and harp player Sam Myers as well as a host of rising stars, among them keyboard players Barrelhouse Chuck, Harunobu “Hal” Tsushida, Bob Welsh and Brother John Kattke, multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hundt and Nick’s talented wife Kate on bass and guitar.

Primarily a straight-ahead blues outfit, the band’s sound changed noticeably with the release of Here I Am in 2011, an album that marked the debut of Ledbetter, the operatically trained singer and rhythm guitarist who – as Nick describes him – burned like a comet and before suddenly succumbing to complications from epilepsy at age 33 in 2019.

Three more interesting, well-received albums as Moss ventured into new territory, delivering more roots and extended arrangements that enabled him to attempt bookings on both the blues and jam band circuits. But his sound returned to the strong blues root in late 2016 after Ledbetter announced his pending departure.

About to initiate a new partnership with guitarist Monster Mike Welch, the former teenage wonder kid who spent 25 years as a member of Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, he planned to make his Moss band swan song when sailed on the 2017 January Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. Sadly, he didn’t live long enough to enjoy the success of Right Place Right Time, released under the name Welch-Ledbetter Connection, which earned him vocalist and entertainer of the year honors at the BMAs four months after his passing as well as band of the year honors, too.

Two days after Mike announced his planned exit, Moss received a call from harp player Dennis Gruenling that would eventually lead to the lineup they enjoy together today.

A double honoree in 2019 as both the Blues Foundation and Society for the Preservation and Advancement of Harmonica (SPAH) harp player of the year, Dennis was booked for a gig in Grand Rapids, Mich., and needed a band to back him, and Moss agreed to join him. The chemistry proved so strong that he continued touring with Moss for the band’s remaining dates that year and through the cruise, finally cementing the relationship.

“When Michael moved on and Dennis joined the band, the obvious choice was to go back and play traditional blues, which is something I’ve always loved,” Nick says.

“I’m most comfortable backing up a harmonica player and playing in a band with the traditional sound of harp and piano,” Moss says. “It was real easy when Dennis got in the band to go back to that. And then having Kid Andersen produce both CDs is, for me, the key to all the success we’ve had.”

Andersen had sailed with them, Nick says, and kept complimenting them on how well sounded together and telling them how he’d love to produce them. He was at the controls when the Nick Moss Band Featuring Dennis Gruenling recorded both of their award-winning CDs.

“When I was producing my own stuff, I was coming pretty close to what I wanted to hear in my head, but I didn’t have the equipment,” Moss notes. “When we did the first CD, High Cost of Low Living, he came here (Chicago), but brought some of his stuff with. He said: ‘I can make it work, but I’m gonna have to take it back with me and do the rest on my equipment.’”

Nick admits that he generally isn’t someone who likes to be told what to do in the studio. But Andersen, who’s a Keeping the Blues Alive honoree at age 40, is so adept that the intricacies of production, Moss says, that he’s achieved skills usually found only in professionals nearing the end of their careers, not in someone so comparatively youthful.

“I was a little worried at first that we were going to clash,” he remembers. “The first day of recording, though, things were going so smooth that by the third song, I realized: ‘Oh, man! I haven’t questioned one thing that he’s been doing!’

“I’d already forgotten that I was worried that me and him were gonna have a problem. It was like he was in my head! Then he said: ‘Oh, this is going swimmingly! I wasn’t expecting this!’

“I don’t know where Kid got the ability to store the information he has in his brain. When does he have the time to learn all the stuff that he knows? Everything he does to a record is exactly what I want without having to tell him.

“In the studio, we’d stop in the middle of something, and I’d think: ‘Maybe we should try it this way.’ Before I could get the words out of my mouth, he was already making the suggestion. And the guy plays every fucking instrument, too!

“He’s not from Norway. He’s definitely an alien!”

Moss followed Kid’s advice and laid down the next album at Kid’s home base in California. The end result proved to be three new trophies on Nick’s mantelpiece.

In addition to Andersen, Nick gives his new label big props, too.

image“You can’t discount the fact that being on Alligator Records was like bein’ a huge jump in visibility for me,” he says. “I thought throughout the years that doing my own records, havin’ my own label, we were doin’ really well. And, actually, we were. We kept building and growing and growing.

“But there’s still an old-school element out there – radio deejays, publications, promoters, club owners – that don’t consider you to be ‘bonafied’ unless you’re on what they consider to be a ‘real’ record label before they’ll give you a second glance.

“Although we had played all over the world and played some prestigious blues festivals, clubs and shows and were being distributed widely, there were still some places that wouldn’t give us a second look. But as soon as we got on Alligator, all of them started sayin’: ‘Oh, you’re on Alligator. No problem!

“The top part of the equation was that Bruce Iglauer was gonna sign us. The second part was that Kid was going to produce us. And the third part was what me and Dennis had done separately for 20 years and then puttin’ it together. All of that is the reason why the last two CDs have been so successful.

“I’ve been very fortunate with the cohesion of the group. Patrick’s been with me goin’ on 11 years now. Who has a drummer that’s been playin’ with him for that long? And now, Pat has the bass player of his dreams alongside him.

“I’ve always had wonderful bass players. But Rodrigo is the best – I don’t care what anyone says! He’s got every component. He’s dedicated, he loves the music like he was born into it, he respects where it came from. He’s highly educated about it, does his homework. He knows about all the great bass players…jazz, blues, R&B…what those guys added to the music, the little intricacies that they play that make them sound the way they do.”

Moss met Mantovani about 14 years ago at a festival gig in Spain when Rodrigo was touring with longtime bandmate and fellow Brazilian Igor Prado, the left-handed jump blues guitarist who’s now based on the West Coast. They met again years later when he visited Chicago with their mutual friend, Lynwood Slim, stayed in Nick’s basement and jammed with him while in town.

“He’s literally part of my family now,” Moss says. “His wife got stuck in Brazil because she went home two weeks before the pandemic hit to go visit her parents. Right now, they closed all the borders, and she can’t even come back.”

Mantovani has an innate ability to reinterpret multiple styles in his own way through feel and tone, Nick adds. “Some of that comes from your instrument and amplifier, but a lot of it comes from your technique and your own fingers. There are some amazing upright bass players out there, but I can’t name one guy who has better acoustic tone than Rodrigo.

“The tone and volume he gets acoustically without amplification is absolutely amazing! And he’s a wonderful person to boot.”

Moss has been busy during the lockdown on a couple of different projects. He’s teamed with Mike Zito to launch Paying the Blues Forward, a GoFundMe campaign that puts $1,000 payouts in the hands of blues artists who needed it the most. “My last road show happened on the 15th of March,” he says, “and we were in New Orleans. The mayor basically shut down the city that day, which was really surreal. There were cops on horses in the French Quarter tellin’ people to leave.”

Moss and his band spent the night hanging out at the home of Crescent City resident Jason Ricci and couldn’t help but noticing that the internet had come alive with musicians who were posting horror stories about the experiences they were dealing with around the globe.

“I saw a post from Mike that his tour in Germany had gotten cancelled and he was flying home,” Nick remembers. “They’d lost 30 dates on their tour had to turn around and come back after doin’ only four shows. Then John Primer posted almost the same thing: that he’d just gotten in to Europe and had only done two shows before coming back.”

Shortly thereafter, Zito – the co-owner of Gulf Coast Records – announced the start of a GoFundMe campaign he was calling “Quarantine Blues.” It would serve two purposes: to provide needed income and support for himself, his bandmates and their families and to fund a CD that would generate money for fellow musicians who needed it most – folks not tech-savvy enough to do online shows or streaming and/or who weren’t comfortable to ask for help on their own.

imageZito and his bandmates donated ten original tunes in exchange for the support they anticipated to receive from the blues community, compiled a list of artists in need and asked that they contribute one tune to the project for which they and their bandmates would receive $1,000 and put out a call for other potential recipients, too. And he enlisted Moss to join him in the project.

“He kinda jumped on that GoFundMe thing,” Nick says, “and me and Jason and Dennis were talkin’ about it…like…‘man, it would be great if everybody could have a GoFundMe campaign. But I don’t think that’s gonna fly.’ There’s not enough blues fans in the entire world to fund every musician.

“So I got hold of Mike Zito that week. I said: ‘How ‘bout we piggyback off your GoFundMe thing, and let’s do something to help all our friends?’

“I knew that I’d lost all my dates,” Moss says, “and – at that point – it was just for the next two months. Now it’s for the summer. Every day, there was a new post from somebody going through the same thing. Chris Cain’s girlfriend post that he’d lost his whole tour and then Josh Smith go: ‘Oops, there goes my whole European tour,’ too.”

After some brainstorming, Nick decided: “Why don’t we ask touring musicians whose only income is music to contribute a song. We’ll post it on a link that people can download after they’ve donated. We’ll try and raise money that way. We figured giving $1,000 to a musician would be ideal. It seems like a lot of money for a minute, but it doesn’t go very far at all. But it’s better than nothing.”

When Blues Blast spoke with Moss, his project had already come to the aid of 24 other artists with four more scheduled, “and we’ve had some really, really nice donors,” he says.

But with so many other folks launching other, worthy campaigns that he and Zito have come to realization that their initial goal of assisting 50 musical families was optimistic. As this story was being written, they’d stopped enrolling new artists until everyone currently on their list receives their promised benefit.

He’s also working with Patrick and Rodrigo at home and Dennis via the internet, recording music videos and other content for a series of shows they plan to launch sometime toward the end of May, beginning with a thank you for the BMA awards, which includes several songs off of the new CD and a cooking segment in which Nick shares his recipe for Italian sausage and peppers and his mother’s basil sauce. Next up will be a tribute to one of his heroes, Jimmy Rogers, followed by a planned all-Freddie King instrumental set. And Gruenling is busy planning another jump blues segment.

“I’m going to either upload them to my website (address below) or YouTube – maybe Facebook,” Moss says, “kinda like what Dennis is doin’ with his Q&A thing on Saturdays. I’m gonna have more cooking along with performances and video interviews with some of my friends.

“And I’m doing a little series of five- or ten-minute interviews with young, up-and-coming blues artists: Jontavious Willis, Sean McDonald, Jon Hay, Brooks Mason, Austin John, Brett Brandstatt, Ben Levin and McKinley James (son of Los Straitjackets drummer Jason Smay).

“I don’t know what we’re gonna call it yet…‘Blues at the Moss Ranch?’…I dunno. But it’ll be a lot of fun.”

He’s also hard at work, writing new material for his next Alligator CD getting ready for a stint as a guest deejay on SiriusXM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville.

Meanwhile, he’s got a special message for all of his fans: “Thank you for all of you who voted for us. Thank you to every fan who’s come out and seen us. I don’t want to be recording any of these videos. I’d rather just be out there playing live.

“I can’t wait to see everyone again! Like Tracy Morgan told Howard Stern the other day: ‘When this is all over, I don’t care what your religion is, what your race is, what your color is – because I just wanna go kiss and hug ya!’”

Check out Nick’s music, his new video project and where, hopefully, he’ll be playing next by visiting his website: www.nickmoss.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 

imageMatteo Sansonetto Blues Revue – I’m Still Around

Wind Chill Records WC1005

10 songs – 42 minutes

www.matteosansonetto.it

Based out of northeastern Italy, vocalist/guitarist Matteo Sansonetto celebrates his return to action after a major automobile accident with this stellar collection of modern Chicago blues, which was recorded with a lineup of some of the best musicians the city has to offer.

A serious, dedicated student of the Chicago sound, Sansonetto has been crisscrossing the Atlantic in pursuit of his passion for the better part of the past decade. And he appeared to be on the cusp of stardom with the release of My Life Began to Change, an album that received positive reviews around the globe – so much so, in fact, that Britain’s prestigious Blues Matters magazine described him as “definitely one of the brightest lights of the Italian blues scene.”

After breaking both hands in a wreck, he was sidelined for the better part of a year before picking up his ax again and resuming a career in which he was already working steadily and headlining festivals across Europe as well as appearing with Italian-born, Chicago-based compatriot Breezy Rodio at several of the top clubs in the city.

This is Matteo’s fourth CD, and like the past three, was recorded in the Windy City with backing and guest appearances from several of the brightest lights the blues world has to offer.

Produced by Rodio and captured at Rax Trax Studio after rehearsal and pre-production at Delmark, I’m Still Around features ageless wonder Jimmy Johnson on vocals for one cut and Dave Specter on guitar for another backed by keyboard wizard Roosevelt Purifoy, bassist Brian Burke, percussionist Marty Binder. They’re assisted by Ian Letts on tenor sax, Constantine Alexander on trumpet and Jen Williams on backing vocals.

Sansonetto is in full charge throughout, consistently delivering stinging guitar runs free of excess pyrotechnics and singing in a warm tenor with only the slightest hint of his Italian upbringing, as he lays down five originals – four of his own and one from Breezy — and successfully reworks five familiar covers in a manner that truly makes them fresh.

A silky smooth take on Johnnie Taylor’s familiar “Last Two Dollars” remains firmly anchored in soul, but takes on a harder edge with the rhythm higher in the mix before Specter handles lead for “Talking About Chicago,” a medium-slow shuffle in which Matteo pays tribute to Buddy Guy and the city that’s become his home away from home.

Tyrone Davis’ “Are You Serious” is up next, delivered at a slightly faster tempo than the original, but still imbued with passion throughout and includes a rock-solid solo from Sansonetto, too. Purifoy comes to the fore on the title cut, “I’m Still Around,” a bittersweet memory of the singer’s struggle to recover after his doctor told him he couldn’t play guitar after his brush with death.

“Tell Me That You Want Me Too,” an unhurried love ballad penned by Rodio and featuring Williams, continues the sound of South Side Chicago soul-blues forward before Johnson’s at the mike for a take on “Still Called the Blues,” once a mainstay for both Taylor and B.B. King. At age 91, he’s never sounded more powerful.

Two more solid originals — “Everything’s Allright (with My Baby)” and “Don’t Call Me in the Morning” – follow before Earl Thomas’ “Just Another Day in the Life” and “(If Lovin’ You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right” — a hit for both the Emotions and Luther Ingram – bring the set to a close.

Available through Amazon, and definitely worth a listen!

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 – 2 of 10 

imageLaura Green – Green Eyed Blues

Self-Produced

www.lauragreenmusic.com

CD: 11 Songs, 47 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, Torch Singer Blues, All Original Songs, Debut Album

St. Louis’ Laura Green boasts an impressive set of peepers. Her pipes aren’t far behind. She puts this reviewer in mind of another Laura famous for her “Self-Control.” The late, great Ms. Branigan would surely be proud of Green Eyed Blues, her worthy successor’s debut. With a well-balanced trail mix of soul, jazz, funk, R&B and blues rock, this CD has tasty morsels for just about everyone. It also features fourteen of the Gateway City’s finest musicians. The only possible drawback is the one-track nature of its subject matter. Torch singers often get pigeonholed into singing about love and only L-U-V. No tunes about, say, the vastness of the universe or the latest shocking headlines? Granted, this is her first release, so perhaps on her sophomore and junior offerings, she’ll tackle them. For now, enjoy the romance of her voice.

Laura Green has been performing for over a decade, performing in a variety of musical styles. Inspired by legendary women of blues such as Janiva Magness, Big Mama Thornton, Lou Ann Barton and Bonnie Raitt, Laura found her niche, coming onto the St. Louis blues scene in 2014 with the Laura Green Blues Band, writing original compositions as well as playing them.

In 2016, Laura joined forces with veteran St. Louis blues guitarist Rich McDonough and formed The Green McDonough Band. TGMB performed in Europe, was nominated for Best St. Louis Blues Band of 2016 by the Riverfront Times and won the 2017 St. Louis Blues Society International Blues Challenge, advancing to the semi-finals in Memphis. Laura had three original songs on the band’s debut album, which was one of KDHX’s top played CDs of 2016 and made the list of Alive Magazine’s Best of 2016 St. Louis Area, Blues, Jazz and Crossover Recordings.

Accompanying Laura are Art Dwyer on bass and vocals; Aaron Griffin on guitar; background vocalists Ellen Hinkle, Michele Isam, Chris Shepherd and Renee Smith; Rob Lee and Joe Meyer on drums; Bob Lohr and Carl Pandolfi on piano; Rich McDonough on guitar and vocals; Bill Murphy on piano and organ; Charlie Pfeiffer on mandolin, and Ron Roskowske on guitar.

Sometimes yours truly believes the album’s opener and its second track should switch places. Such is the case with “Bone to Pick” and “Still in Love.” The first is a pleasant jazz/blues number that establishes a light mood, but doesn’t stand out as much as the next song. In it, Laura gets down and dirty, crooning “I’m still in love with you,” sultrily repeating the last word nine times – as if she’s trying to come up with the right word to call her former lover. Is he a demon, a devil, or a doll? Wicked guitar is the icing on the cake. Want to groove to a funky beat? Check out number four, a disco-infused dance fest. “Mama Don’t Cry” is an acoustic heartbreaker featuring Charlie Pfeiffer’s poignant mandolin. If that’s too much of a downer, brace yourselves, blues fans: “That’s Right” is coming later on. It blows a Bo Diddley beat right out of the water. “Cry” does the same for a Chicago-style stomp, and “Don’t Know Why” finishes things off with classic harmony and organ courtesy of Bill Murphy.

Green Eyed Blues sparkles like an emerald – and Laura Green’s eyes!

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 – 3 of 10 

imageRob Oliver – Highs and Lows and Blues

Self-Produced/Roliver Productions (ASCAP)

www.robolivermusic.com

CD: 12 Songs, 42 Minutes

Styles: Harmonica Blues, Acoustic and Electric Blues, All Original Songs, Debut Album

Remember Julian Lennon? His 1984 debut Valotte put him on the map, containing edgy rock, mellow melodies, and laconic vocals throughout. Virginia’s Rob Oliver puts me in mind of him. His first public offering, Highs and Lows and Blues, would make John Lennon’s son smile. It sounds nothing like the hallowed recordings of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf or even Sean Costello. However, his unique twist on the blues is one that will last for a while. Combining expressive harmonica, gregarious guitar, and skillful songwriting, Oliver knows what will resonate with listeners far and wide. Traditionalists might search for something more, well, traditional here, but as his final track states, Rob is “[In With the New,] Out With the Old.”

Born and raised in Hampton Roads, VA, Oliver received his first guitar at sixteen years old and hasn’t looked back since. He developed his musical skills playing the alternative tunes of the ‘90s, as well as a vast array of rock and metal influences, ranging from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin to early Metallica. Rob has been writing and performing original music for over twenty years in both electric and acoustic settings. His listening tastes have changed throughout his career, but everything continues to be a mix of what has come before. While he’s always harbored an interest in blues music, it was the Christmas gift of a lifetime – a harmonica from his mother – that led him to truly study the genre. Its flavorful musical textures are clearly displayed on his debut, currently being played on local radio and Internet stations throughout the country.

Performing along with Mr. Oliver (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, harmonica and keyboard) are Patrick Dermody on drums, Chris Brydge on upright bass, Dave Hufstedtler on bass, Sherri Linn, Pamela Jo Sward, Holly Kirsten and Jennifer Gammill on background vox, Ben Lassiter on dobro, Carl Olson on piano, Rick Anthony on guitar and background vocals, Anthony Rosano on electric guitar and background vocals, and Jason Cale on a guitar solo. Holly Kirsten also plays violin and cello on track six, “Everything I Need.”

Track number one starts us all off “On the Same Page” with some great harp and a good message: getting in sync with someone before beginning a romantic relationship. “Think For Yourself,” a true-blues counting song, contains a catchy chorus: “Think for yourself instead of me. I’ve let you down so frequently.” “Before the Ship Goes Down” is a shuffle and surefire hit on Sirius XM. “We could always get right back together,” sing Rob and cohort Sherri Linn. “Love can last one night or stay forever.” “Everything I Need” is a perfect slow-burner with just a touch of jazz, and “That’s a Fact” will have everybody and their dog singing along. “The People I Love” is a jolt of acoustic and electric adrenaline that’ll rip through you for the entire length of the song. Last but not least comes “Out with the Old,” best experienced via headset: “We’re always trying to save our soul, we always digging a hole. We always doing what we are told. We always out with the old.” Truer words were never spoken, especially in the digital age. This song’s both a celebration of novelty and a lament that what’s past is past.

Highs and Lows and Blues is an eclectic gem, full of wit and subtle grace – like Julian Lennon.

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 – 4 of 10 

imageTony Holiday – Soul Service

VizzTone Label Group

8 tracks; 30 minutes

www.tonyholidaymusic.com

Memphis-based harmonica player Tony Holiday came to Blues Blast’s notice in 2019 with his Porch Sessions album, a semi-acoustic project in which Tony visited other musicians, notably fellow harp players, and it ended up as a nominee for the Live Album category in the Blues Blast Awards. This time around Tony has stayed home in Memphis, recording at the Dickinsons’ Zebra Ranch studio with Ori Naftaly (Southern Avenue) in the producer’s chair, alongside Landon Stone on guitar, Max Kaplan on bass/B/V’s and Danny Banks (John Nemeth) on drums; Victor Wainwright adds keys to a few tracks and Ori also adds additional guitar. The eight songs here appear to be Tony’s originals with Ori and John Nemeth mentioned as collaborators; indeed, some of the album reminds you of John in the mix of influences. Tony plays harp and handles the lead vocals capably, as producer Ori places plenty of reverb on both vocals and guitars.

“Payin’ Rent On A Broken Home” is a good Rn’B style opener with a nagging guitar riff over which Tony adds some keening harp, the sharp lyrics taking a modern slant on the age-old break-up scenario. The next track “She Knocks Me Out” shares a title with an early Anson Funderburgh song but is an original, albeit with a definite Texas feel, assisted by Victor’s great piano work and some slide accents, presumably from Ori. The album takes a turn into the country with “It’s Gonna Take Some Time” which has good harmonies on the chorus and some harp that sounds like it could fit into one of those campfire scenes in an old Western. Tony looks back at the “Good Advice” that his Grandma gave him, including some cross-references to Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover” in the lyrics sung over a rolling tune.

The CD cover shows the eight tracks divided into ‘Side A’ and ‘Side B’, the latter starting with “Checkers On The Chessboard” which has a slightly jazzy feel from the bass lines, a light guitar solo and Victor’s electric piano stylings before “The Hustle” takes us back to more of a blues/Rn’B feel. “Day Dates (Turn Into Night Dates)” opens with a gentle bass line over which harmonies are layered and the two guitars play off each other underneath Tony’s lyrics which deal with strained relationships in which “someone’s gonna get hurt”. To close the album Tony ups the pace with a pounding train song “Ol’ Number 9” which rather reminded this reviewer of John Nemeth’s “Elbows On The Wheel”. Tony blows some good harp here, as he does throughout.

As much EP as album, the title Soul Service might be considered a bit misleading as there is more Rn’B than actual soul but it is all enjoyable stuff.

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 – 5 of 10 

imageRuthie Foster Big Band – Live At The Paramount

Blue Corn Music – 2020

14 tracks; 65 minutes

www.ruthiefoster.com

Ruthie Foster has established herself on the blues scene with a succession of fine albums, regular appearances at festivals and on the Blues Cruise but this live album captures a further stage in this talented singer’s development as she is backed by a huge band of ten horn players, a four piece rhythm section and three backing singers. The personnel are Seth Carper on alto sax, Russell Haight and Joey Colarusso on tenor, Paul Baker on baritone and bass clarinet, Eric Johnson, Adrian Ruiz and Jimmy Shortell on trumpet/flugelhorn, Jon Blondell, Michael Mordecai and Andre Hayward on trombone, Mitch Watkins on guitar, Jeff Helmer on keyboards, John Fremgen on bass and Tom Brechtlein on drums; Sheree Smith, Tamara Mack and Torri Baker are the backing vocalists. The whole band was conducted by John Mills with arrangements mainly by John Beasley. Recorded on home turf at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, the album features a selection of Ruthie’s own songs, a couple of covers and two traditional gospel tunes.

After a short introduction by daughter Maya Ruthie launches into “Brand New Day”, an original but clearly based in the gospel traditions as the song starts acapella with the band joining in for the final minute. Ruthie then introduces “Might Not Be Right”, a song she wrote with William Bell and we are straight into Memphis soul territory with a lovely, gentle arrangement. A brilliant adaptation of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire” moves the familiar song from country to soul ballad before Ruthie’s own “Stone Love” which starts with a solo piano exploration before developing into a joyous soul romp with great horns and a superb vocal performance. “The Ghetto” was written by Bonnie Bramlett, Bettye Crutcher and Homer Banks and is not to be confused with Donny Hathaway’s identical title. The song was originally recorded by The Staple Singers and subsequently by Delaney & Bonnie and Joan Baez. Ruthie’s quiet version pays full respect to the socially conscious lyrics as the horns sit this one out and features the backing vocalists to good advantage.

The traditional “Death Comes A’ Knocking” develops from a gospel opening into a trumpet-heavy, full band presentation with a wild guitar solo thrown in. A run of three originals follows, starting with the lilting soul sounds of “Singing The Blues” which includes the line “a little Bobby Blue Bland never gets old” – who could disagree with that? Two songs from Ruthie’s 2002 breakout album Runaway Soul follow: the title track continues in the soul vein, the horns exuberant with sax man Joey Colarusso given an extended feature towards the end of the song; Ruthie takes us to church as the organ is the only instrument behind her vocals for the start of “Woke Up This Morning” before the band joins in for a joyous piece of gospel music. A second visit to The Staples Singers fits perfectly at this point and “Joy Comes Back” is given a New Orleans arrangement, appropriately featuring the trombones. Ruthie’s setting of Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” to music has remained a staple of her set ever since she first recorded it for The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster back in 2007. It remains a superb piece of music and this version is as good as any, the subtle arrangement fitting Ruthie’s vocal perfectly, making it an absolute highlight of this album.

When you have a band as good as this at your disposal why not take on a couple of classic songs from the great era of Big Bands? Ruthie does just that to close the show with great versions of “Fly Me To The Moon” and “Mack The Knife”, the latter preceded by her story of having to choose between heating the house or buying tickets to see Ella Fitzgerald – no prizes for guessing which Ruthie opted for!

Ruthie proves herself to be as good at this type of music as she is in soul, blues or gospel styles with her wonderful voice and warm personality. This outstanding album will also be available as a DVD though this review is based solely on the audio CD version.

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 – 6 of 10 

imageMark Telesca – Higher Vibrations

Self-produced CD

16 songs – 51 minutes

www.marktelesca.com

One of the brightest lights on the South Florida music scene, Mark Telesca celebrates his victory over cancer with this stellar collection of acoustic blues – nine originals that mix flawlessly with six blues and gospel covers culled from the pre-War era and one reinvention of a soul hit.

A singer, songwriter, guitarist, bassist and bandleader as well as an author, Telesca regularly hosts the best Monday night blues jam south of Atlanta at the Funky Biscuit nightclub in Boca Raton when not gigging regionally the rest of the week.

A survivor of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, he spent most of his downtime composing the music you’ll hear here as well as finishing his second book, Love Music Hate Cancer. Away from the stage, he’s popular on the lecture circuit, recounting the lifestyle changes brought about by his illness as well as the healing power of music.

Telesca’s been an area favorite through his early work with Blues Dragon and he’s known nationally through his work with Mick Kolassa, the Michissippi Bluesman, with whom he released the well-received You Can’t Do That CD, which reinvented Beatles tunes as acoustic blues numbers and which was released at the height of his cancer battle.

This is Mark’s second release and first solo acoustic effort, following Heavy Breathing, which appeared in 2016. A powerful, pleasant vocalist, he’s also an exceptional traditional fingerpicking guitarist and storyteller with a spot-on sense of time and rhythm. The only assistance he gets on this one is from producer Bob Taylor, who provided snare drum.

“99 Years” opens the action. It’s a new tune with timeless feel sung from the first person view of someone trapped behind bars for something he didn’t do. Telesca dazzles, mixing single-note runs and slide. The pace quickens for “Black Dress,” a plea for his lady to get dressed because they’re going to be late for a show, before slowing dramatically again for a take on Doctor Clayton’s “Murderin’ Blues.”

The mood brightens with “Lookin’ for Some Gold,” an optimistic wish for a better future, before the haunting, minor-key “Turn on a Dime” is an introspective number about how life can change in a heartbeat.

Covers of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Louise” and Robert Johnson’s “Come On in My Kitchen” and Leroy Carr’s “How Long Blues” and “Papa’s On the House Top” serve as two-tune bookends for the funky original “It’s All Right” picks up the pace and brightens the mood while putting a positive spin on death and more minor problems. The Telesca original “Life in the City” provides a sprightly, microscope view of Manhattan before things quiet again for “The Electric Chair,” which revisits the prison theme as the convict plans an appearance before a judge to request a speedy end.

Blind Willie Johnson’s familiar “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin’” feels fresh before flowing into the original song of lost love, “Been a Long Time.” The disc ends with an interesting take on Al Green’s song of desire, “I’m a Ram,” and the percussive original, “Somethin’ Just Ain’t Right,” in which the musician returns home late, finds his bed empty and clothes on the floor.

Available from Amazon other online retailers, if you’re a fan of acoustic blues, you’ll love this one. I did!

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 – 7 of 10 

imageAlbert Castiglia – Wild and Free

www.albertcastiglia.net

Gulf Coast Records

11 songs time – 72:29

Guitar firebrand Albert Castiglia has long been plying his trade and building a faithful following. When his music first crossed my path it had a stronger leaning towards more traditional sounding blues with occasional forays into super-charged blues-rock. Here the emphasis on the blues-rock end of the spectrum. All along his hearty vocal chops have been well intact. This release finds Albert in his natural live setting at The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, Florida, recorded over two nights in 2020. His core band is occasionally augmented by Mike Zito on guitar and John Ginty on the Hammond B-3 organ. Bass player Justine Tompkins is several notches above your run of the mill bassists. Following her meandering bass lines under Albert’s guitar attack is a pleasure to behold. Ephraim Lowell firmly holds down the drum seat. Lewis Stephens gives a good showing on B-3 organ and piano.

In several of the songs on the CD Albert’s voice is husky to the point of being unrecognizable. The hard charging blues-rock of “Let The Big Dog Eat” kicks off the proceedings in tough style. Rapid fire guitar ignites “Hoodoo On Me”.

“I Been Up All Night” is a gloriously noisy wah-wah fest. Here as elsewhere Justine Tompkins’ bass in an integral part of the song. Ok, on “Heavy” there is the Albert Castiglia voice that I remember. In a regular setting it is easily recognizable. It’s begins life as the closest thing to the blues here so far, then segues into blues-rock territory. Whatever the case his guitar playing is way under his control as he squeezes ever note out.

He reverts to his throaty voice on the original “Get Your Ass In The Van” and unleashes his slide guitar to wreck havoc over Lewis Stephens piano pounding. The band funks it up for “Searching The Desert For The Blues” and back to his more distinctive vocals with an assist from Justine. This song gives him the opportunity to stretch out his guitar chops. “Keep On Swinging” is a distorted guitar rocker. He dips into Johnny Winter’s catalogue with “Too Much Seconal”, abetted by Mike Zito’s guitar and John Ginty’s B3 Organ, the second longest song. The duo really cuts it up with their guitar attack. John unleashes a blistering organ solo to boot.

The band clocks in at eight minutes twenty for their longest track Paul Butterfield’s “Lovin’ Cup”. Albert’s guitar skitters hither and yon with John Ginty’s organ nipping at his heals. Wah-wah time again on “I Tried To Tell Ya”. The bass line supports the song. A staple from the late, great Freddie King’s repertoire the chugging instrumental “Boogie Funk” takes things home. Albert pulls out all the stops as he puts his axe through its’ paces.

This live CD along with all his past endeavors solidifies his the blues-rock pantheon along such slingers as Johnny Winter, Tinsley Ellis and Stevie Ray Vaughn. His reputation as a high energy live performer is well documented here. Having a top notch band makes him look even better. Get on the blues-rock train!

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


 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 10 

imageThe BB King Blues Band – The Soul Of The King

Ruf Records – 2019

13 tracks; 60 minutes

Ruf is best known for its roster of blues-rock artists but here diversifies its catalogue with this album which unites long-serving members of BB King’s band with A-list guests like Taj Mahal, Kenny Neal, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Joe Louis Walker; also featured are Diunna Greenleaf, Mary Griffin and Jonn Del Toro Richardson on vocals, Kirk Joseph on tuba and Michael Lee on guitar and vocals. However, despite the quality of the guest stars it is the horn-heavy arrangements of the band that really bring home the memory of the King. Nine strong with five horn players, this full-throated band plays superbly across a programme of four BB classics and nine songs composed by members of the band or the guests. Bassist Russell Jackson and trumpeter James ‘Boogaloo’ Bolden share seven vocal leads, sax player Eric Demmer sings one and the guests sing the rest. Also in the band are Walter King on sax, Lamar Boulet on trumpet, Raymond Harris on trombone, Wilbert Crosby on guitar, Darrell Lavigne on keys and Herman Jackson on drums.

“Irene Irene” sounds like a BB classic but in fact it’s Eric’s song with Russell’s vocals, superb horns and stunning guitar by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, a great start to the album. Kenny Neal plays and sings very much like BB on “Sweet Little Angel” before Diunna Greenleaf’s vocal and Eric’s alto sax deliver a splendid version of “There Must Be A Better World Somewhere”. Taj Mahal and Mary Griffin duet on a fun version of “Paying The Cost To Be The Boss” and Joe Louis Walker’s “Regal Blues” is a fitting tribute to BB, Joe playing in BB style and singing about how he was influenced by the great man’s playing. Michael Lee performed “The Thrill Is Gone” on The Voice and recorded it for his debut album (reviewed in the November 29 2019 issue of Blues Blast) but this version with the horns is definitely superior and a strong version of a familiar song.

The rest of the album consists of originals from the band, highlights including Kenny Neal’s mournful harp and Diunna Greenleaf’s background vocals providing a gospel feel to “Becoming The Blues” and tuba adding a New Orleans-flavour to “Low Down”. ‘Boogaloo’ is not quite as strong a singer as Russell but his lighter vocals work well on “Pocket Full Of Money” and the horn flourishes that enhance tunes like “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” recall the heyday of big band blues and act as a fitting tribute to the great man himself, making this a disc that will interest fans of BB and his brand of big band 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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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

imageMick Kolassa – Blind Lemon Sessions

Endless Blues Records MMK012020

12 songs – 33 minutes

www.mimsmick.com

An inventive songwriter and picker as well as a former member of the board of directors of the Blues Foundation, acoustic guitarist Mick Kolassa follows up on his well-received 2018 CD, 149 Delta Avenue, with a heaping helping of what he likes to call “free-range” blues – apt nomenclature when you consider that he traveled all the way from his home in Mississippi to lay the groundwork for it in Germany.

A former member of the board of directors for the Blues Foundation, Kolassa spent a lifetime in the business world. As “retirement” approached, however, he began focusing his energies more and more toward the music he’s loved since childhood. This is the sixth album he’s produced since his 2014 debut, Michissippi Mick – a labor that’s involved solo work as well as recordings with his Taylor Made Blues Band or in partnership with Florida-based guitarist/bassist Mark Telesca.

Mick plays six- and 12-string guitars as well as baritone guitar and ukulele, banjulele and provides percussion on this one backed by guitarist David Dunavent and bass players Seth Hill and Bill Ruffino on this one aided by Eric Hughes on harmonica and Alice Hasen on violin. All of the instruments are delivered throughout absent of amplification.

The project began after Kolassa was invited by Thomas Schlelken to perform in Bremen and record a few songs for a pair of compilation albums he was planning to release on his Blind Lemon Records, the European home for several top acoustic musicians, most notably American blues historian David Evans. The idea for a full CD developed as Mick’s free-range approach mixed favorite covers with new material.

Recorded at Horwek Tonstudio in Ganderkesee, Germany, and Farmhouse Studios in Moscow, Tenn., this collection mixes eight covers with four originals, a pair of which, Kolassa admits, are best considered to be Americana, not blues.

Lonnie Johnson’s “Jelly Roll Baker” opens the action with Mick’s warm baritone sprightly delivering new life into a song he’s been performing for about five decades. The blues flow strong through “Text Me Baby,” an original that deals with a thoroughly modern concept, but built atop a traditional chart, delivered on banjulele and featuring Hasen’s fiddle.

“Keep on Truckin’” – originally titled “Ja-Da” and recorded in 1918 by The Original New Orleans Jazz Band, which included a young Jimmy Durante – is up next before Kolassa moves forward to the ‘50s for Peggy Lee’s “I Want to Be Seduced,” played on baritone uke. The sexual overtones continue in the slow-and-easy original, “Mr. Right” — in which Mick insists: “I ain’t never done it wrong!” – and an acoustic take on Jace Everett’s “Bad Things,” which some folks might recognize as the theme for the HBO series True Blood.

Taj Mahal’s “Cake Walk into Town,” the traditional “St. James Infirmary” and Blind Blake’s familiar “Diddy Wah Ditty” follow before Kolassa switches gears with the delightful original ballad “Recycle Me,” a sweet request for renew a former romance that isn’t quite blues – but who cares? A cover of Lennon and McCartney’s “Help” follows before “The Space Between Us” – a 95-second reflection on folks growing apart – brings the action to a close.

Available through Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby, Blind Lemon Sessions is a perfect set for anyone who appreciates acoustic blues.

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 – 10 of 10 

imageJeff Fetterman – Southern Son

Self-Release – 2020

12 tracks; 62 minutes

www.jefffetterman.com

Pennsylvania’s Jeff Fetterman returns with his third album, this time recorded with Kid Andersen at his famed Greaseland Studios. Kid often presides over West Coast jump blues and roots music but this album is more in blues-rock mode with all the songs bar one originals written by Jeff. Jeff’s regular touring band (Jeff and Eric Brewer on guitars, Ralph Reitinger III on bass and John McGuire on drums) is supplemented by Kid on keys, guitar and backing vocals and a horn section of Doug Rowan on sax, John Halbleib on trumpet and Ric ‘Mightybone’ Feliciano on trombone appears on the first two tracks.

Opening cut “I Don’t Want To” is a full-on blues-rocker with Jeff’s gruff vocal explaining that the relationship he is in has become toxic, the horns in declamatory mode and Jeff hitting the wah-wah in his solo. Jeff revisits the story of Robert Johnson’s ‘deal at the crossroads’ in “49/61” which has an intense rhythm and lots of good interplay between the guitars, the horns underlining the chorus, before Jeff drops the pace and plays some fine guitar on a tender ballad which references Springsteen in the first verse and has something of the wide open spaces style of The Boss’ writing in lines like “if you want to take a chance go ahead baby and roll the dice, together we can dance tonight under the stars of a Memphis Sky”. The tour of the South continues with good time rocker “Goin’ Down To Nashville” which makes great use of the classic Elmore James slide riff before the slow “Living With The Blues” to which Kid adds some atmospheric electric piano.

The next two tracks have familiar titles though both are originals. “Ain’t Got You” uses the tune of “Smokestack Lightning” and the sentiments expressed are very much in line with Calvin Carter’s song made famous by Jimmy Reed, Billy Boy Arnold and The Yardbirds; “Feels Like Rain” is a mid-paced Americana rocker with a catchy tune and good guitar interplay. “Tell Me Baby” is a solid shuffle and is followed by “Blues For Charlie”, a beautifully played instrumental ballad dedicated to Jeff’s late father. When you buy the CD be sure to read Jeff’s emotional tribute to his Dad which underlines what a fine job he has done with this tribute. The sole cover is Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” which adopts a different approach with a latin-tinged intro with percussion, weeping guitar and a prominent bass line though once the familiar refrain comes in the band follows Hendrix’s approach to the song, including guitars going across your headphones. That should probably have been the finale but there are two bonus tracks, both instrumentals: “Voodoo Funk” and “Southside Blues” do pretty much what the titles suggest but do not add a great deal to the album.

This is a solid album which ranges across blues and other styles, including a couple of noteworthy songs, making it a good listen.

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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