Issue 14-45 November 5, 2020

Cover photo © 2020 Joseph A. Rosen


 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Guy Davis. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new releases from Shaun Murphy, John Németh, Henry Gray & Bob Corritore From The Vault, Danielle Miraglia, The Lizzard Kings featuring Charles Ponder and Peter Parcek.

Our Video of the Week is the Eastside Kings Festival.


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 Help Wanted – Writers 

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

Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good Blues writers to help us out. We need folks who know Blues and can write a minimum of 2 reviews or interviews a month. Our FREE weekly magazine has 42,000 subscribers and we get 70,000 monthly website visitors at www.BluesBlastMagazine.com.

These positions need a person who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word! Must have good writing and composition skills!

Experience with WordPress a plus! (If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, it is similar. Very easy to use!)

Experienced writers are encouraged to apply. Send an email to info@bluesblastmagazine.com and tell us about your Blues background. If possible send samples of previous work or links to it online.

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


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 Featured Interview – Guy Davis 

imageNo one in the world today suffers a greater sense of loss because of COVID-19 than musicians. Completely cut off from making a living, spreading joy through song and hooking up in faraway places with fans and friends alike, their frustration is boundless despite writing new material and performing the occasional virtual show online or to extremely small crowds at safe distance to break up the boredom.

The pain is palpable, and the suffering amplified with each passing month. In this world of trouble and sorrow, however, there’s one musician who’s been spreading a little joy on a daily basis: the multi-talented Guy Davis, who’s probably been the busiest entertainer on the planet as things have come to a dead halt around him.

Since the dawning of the shutdown, the native New Yorker have been serving up a welcome break for blues lovers by hosting a show called Coffee with Kokomo on his Kokomo Kidd Facebook page at 10 a.m. Eastern time every day but Saturday. He was rapidly closing in on 200 episodes – all of which are still online for you to view — as this story was being written.

Broadcast out of the safety and comfort of his home in Harlem, it usually opens with the ringing of a bell as Guy’s lady, serving as the announcer, demands: “Wake up! It’s time for coffee with Kokomo!”

Sometimes dressed to the nines and sometimes not, Davis opens the action by suggesting that you fill up your favorite mug and shares a toast before requesting that you join him in a sip. What follows is an intimate one-man shows that runs between 20 and 30 minutes and features some of the most stylish music you’ll hear this or any year. Guy accompanies himself on guitar, harmonica and banjo, peppering the action with anecdotes, personal observations and reminiscences as well as the occasional tall tale. Check out an episode and you’ll quickly realize that it’s a great stress reliever for the tension swirling around you.

“I know I’m busy, but I don’t know if it counts as ‘employment,’” Guy, now 68, chuckled recently when Blues Blast caught up with him during a whirlwind vacation in Alabama. “But it’s a lot of fun.”

The show’s title mirrors the name of his 2015 album of the same name. “I started out with this character to deal with a certain amount of corruption in Washington, D.C.,” he says, long before our shared experiences recently.

“I appropriated it,” he notes, partially as a tribute to James “Kokomo” Arnold, the Georgia-born, left-handed guitarist who was a superstar in the ‘30s. He was a major influence for Robert Johnson who refashion one of his tunes – “Old Original Kokomo Blues” – into the song we know as “Sweet Home Chicago” today. But the moniker was inspired by other references, too, including the city of the same name in Indiana, an island in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and urban slang, where it’s used as a term for a both a lover’s lane and a certain sex act performed to acquire cocaine.

A true ambassador of the music, Davis clearly relishes his morning performances, but they’re a major change-of-pace for a man who’s been somewhat of a Johnny Appleseed for the blues through his career by regularly touring the Northern Hemisphere around the globe, entertaining audiences and building new fans by performing workshops for children wherever he goes.

A 2018 Grammy nominee for Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train – a tribute to Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee that was recorded in partnership Fabrizio Poggi, the Milan, Italy-based harp player who’s appeared on his three most recent albums, Guy was riding high as 2020 began.

imageHis new project, Gumbo, Grits & Gravy, was cooking up a feast of heart- and soul-warming Americana, Celtic and Gypsy music spiced with blues, zydeco and soul in a pairing with Anne Harris — the beloved, Chicago-based fiddler best known for her work with Otis Taylor — and Marcella Simien — the multi-instrumentalist daughter of zydeco superstar Terence Simien. It was the rebirth of an earlier, similar partnership that had included bluegrass star Laurie Lewis and Christine Balfa, the daughter of the late Cajun fiddle superstar Dewey Balfa.

The new trio debuted in suburban Boston in 2019 and had released a self-titled EP prior to the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise out of Fort Lauderdale this past winter, where they quickly established themselves as one of the favorite acts on board. They disembarked to rave reviews, and were booked internationally through late November and raring to go as the world came to a sudden halt.

But Guy remains upbeat.

“Things went nuts,” he says. “One thing COVID is good for is catchin’ up. I just got off the phone talkin’ with someone I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. Somehow, though, Mother Nature has to be kind and we’ve gotta get over this hump that’s affecting all of us.”

Fortunately, Davis has always been flexible and ready, willing and able to try his hand at new things. His desire to bring the world closer together through song is the continuation of lessons he’s learned having grown in a family with deep Southern roots that’s served as a beacon of light for all Americans for generations.

The son of the late Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee — two of the most highly respected stage-and-screen actors and as actors and leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, he fell in love with the blues through his paternal grandmother, Laura, a native of Clinch County, Ga. But his road to the music came through exposure to folk music and the top artists who made it popular in its heyday in the early ‘60s.

Many folks — including this writer in previous reviews – have claimed Guy to be a national treasure like his parents before him – something that makes him chuckle. “If my mom was alive to hear you say that,” he says, “she could come up with some counter indications!”

Self-taught on guitar because he didn’t have the patience for lessons, he began playing as a youth. He’s a gifted fingerpicker today through a stroke of good fortune. He learned the technique from a musician he encountered on a night train from Boston to the Big Apple in his teens. It’s a skill that also comes in handy when playing five-string banjo, an instrument he picked up at a summer camp operated by John Seeger, elder brother of folk superstar, environmentalist, political activist and Davis’ future mentor Pete Seeger.

Today, Guy refers to himself as a “blues artist” rather than a “bluesman” because he more readily identifies with the more sophisticated artists who played in New Orleans or on the ragtime circuit in the first half of the 20th Century rather than the hard-drinking, hard-partying, danger-loving figures that most folks identify with the music today.

He draws his inspiration from Blind Willie McTell and Lightnin’ Hopkins, both of whom were great storytellers who worked in the songster tradition, as well as Big Bill Broonzy, who replaced the recently deceased Johnson at Carnegie Hall in 1938 for the famous From Spirituals to Swing concert and later helped create what we consider to be the modern blues sound in Chicago in the ‘50s.

imageGuy’s debut on record came at age 16 when Pete Seeger invited him to sing one cut — “Message of the River” — on The Greater Things: A Flexible Phonograph for Clearwater, a now rare and highly prized six-tune, eight-inch LP that includes one of the final recordings of Woody Guthrie – an amazing accomplishment for any musician, let alone a teen!

Released in 1969, it was issued by the Sojourner Truth Sloop Club, it was created to raise funds for what would become one of Seeger’s most enduring legacies, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the flagship of Woody’s effort to get youth more involved in environmental issues – a program that continues today half a century after his passing.

Davis’ first album under his own name came in 1978 on the Folkways label with Dreams about Life, a nine-song set featured eight originals that touched on blues, country and folk. Following in his parents’ footsteps, however Guy subsequently turned to acting, starring as Kenny “Double D” Kirkland in the film, Beat Street, opposite Rae Dawn Chong in 1984, as Dr. Josh Hall on the soap One Life to Live in ’85 and ’86 and landing other roles, including his Broadway debut in the musical Mulebone – which featured a score by Taj Mahal — in 1991.

Through it all, he’s pursued both fields in highly polished manner that seems effortless. “I don’t like people to see the hard work and the sweat that goes into what I do,” he explains on his website. “I want them to hear me and be uplifted.

“I want some little eight-year-old kid in the front row to have big eyes and say: ‘Hey, I want to do that!’”

Educating youngsters about the blues has always been one of Davis’ paramount interests. He enjoys regaling them with stories between tunes, although he does the talking back somewhat when working abroad. His critically acclaimed one-man play and 2012 CD, In Bed with the Blues: The Adventures of Fishy Waters, and the 2007 compilation album, Down at the Sea Hotel, both were created for children. He’s performed Fishy Waters for youngsters around the globe.

Eighteen years after he made his first record, Guy made his “official” debut as a blues artist in 1995 with Stomp down Rider on the Red Rider imprint. It featured fresh interpretations of tunes penned by Johnson, McTell and Mance Lipscomb as well as a trio of originals that fit like hand-and-glove with the work of the masters. The title tune was a clever adaptation of McTell’s song of the same title amalgamated with “Fort Worth and Dallas Blues,” a Lead Belly standard.

The success of that CD created a successful formula that Davis has used throughout a career that’s included 18 Blues Music Award nominations for acoustic album and artist as well as song and instrumentalist of the year. He’s also a BMA lifetime achievement award winner for his depiction of Johnson in the off-Broadway play Trick the Devil, a fictionalized version of the musician’s final day on earth. In his spare time, he’s also an award-winning author of short stories, too.

His harmonica skills jumped levels, he says, when he was asked to reprise the role Sonny Terry played in the debut of Finian’s Rainbow, one of the most successful plays in Broadway history. The story of an Irish father and daughter who escape to the U.S. after stealing a leprechaun’s pot of gold whose first run was in 1947, it’s laced with political and racial overtones and a score that incorporates gospel and blues elements despite its Irish overtones.

Terry played a sharecropper — coincidentally named Sunny – and provided dramatic harp interludes, and Davis was enlisted for its 2009 revival. Fortunately, Guy had always been interested in Sonny’s Piedmont-style attack.

“I got really inspired in my 30s to learn how Sonny did the whoopin’ and hollerin’ when he played the harmonica,” he remembers. “After 20 years of tryin’ to steal it, I actually found myself in the musical. I’d gone through an awful lot of failing, and I had to reverse engineer the way he made those sounds.

“I figured out some of ‘em. I haven’t got ‘em all, but I’m workin’ on ‘em.”

Despite the talent he displays on the reeds, Davis remains amazed by the harp skills of others, something that comes through clearly when he recounts an incident that took place at a festival in Europe a few years ago.

“Kenny Neal was on stage,” Guy recalls, “and he invited Sugar Blue and Billy Branch to join him. It turned into a harp blowout. Kenny was with the band playin’ his guitar, and Billy and Sugar were kinda cuttin’ each other.

image“Oh, man! It was the most amazing stuff you ever saw! These guys were playin’ things that would have put blisters on anyone else’s lips. I don’t know if I can say there was a clear winner. All I know is that I went home filled with harmonica juice!

“It would take me 40 years to play one-tenth of what they played on that stage. My God, the notes were flowing!”

In mid-October, Guy took a brief break from his Facebook responsibilities to go upstate to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where he got to stream a live performance from Caffe Lena. It was a welcome break from the steady stream of “boring” video since the onset of the virus because it was captured from three different camera angles, not the single camera that virtually everyone has become used to, and delivered to audiences from multiple angles.

“I’m such a retard when it comes to the internet,” Davis admits, referring to his Kokomo Kidd shows. “Sometimes you’ve gotta show me what button you have to push to get this and to bring that back, so I haven’t been able to see any part of it myself. But the response to that show was tremendous, and I’m told it was good stuff. I’m grateful that I had that chance.”

If you missed it, it viewable by visiting the venue’s October 2020 events calendar on its website — www.caffeluna.org. He’s also been involved in another project that — like touring — has been placed in limbo because of the virus: financing the self-production of a pair of parallel albums.

“I spent an enormous amount of money that suddenly wasn’t there anymore (i.e., his revenue stream stopped because he wasn’t out on the road working),” he says. “I was in the recording studio, and I had enough material for two CDs…two CDs…one that has more to do with the protest anthems and such.”

The other is more difficult to explain, he says, noting that the combined effort is basically two differing versions of his rich family history: one true-to-life and one fictional. And what a history it is.

Guy was a small child when his parents marched arm-in-arm with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson and other heroes in the push for civil rights. They helped organize and serve as the emcees for the groundbreaking March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, where King delivered his I Have a Dream speech. His dad delivered the eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral, and both parents are enshrined in the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame in addition to the multiple acting honors, including Oscar, Grammy and Emmy tributes they received during their illustrious careers.

Listeners will definitely be in for a treat – and a not-so-subtle history lesson too — whenever Guy’s finally able to get those projects off his plate, but he’s yearning to be back on the road, too.

“I look so forward to being out there in front of people live, eyeball-to-eyeball, with my guitar right there,” he insists, “because that’s the way this music is meant to be heard and experienced.”

Meanwhile, he’ll keep providing fans a break from their daily routine with a morning dose of Coffee with Kokomo. “I get to do a couple of songs, we drink coffee together…maybe a story or two,” he reminds you. “It’s just kind of a virtual way of meeting up in a coffee shop, talkin’, havin’ a little fun.

“If you want to get a little samplin’ of me, tune in every morning but Saturday, I’m generally on these days.”

Be sure to brew your own pot of java, grab a mug and hook up with him at https://upload.facebook.com/guy.davis.3363. Check out his music by visiting his home page: www.guydavis.com and Gumbo, Grits & Gravy at www.gumbogritsandgravy.com.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.


 Featured Video of the Week – Eastside Kings Blues Festival 

Recently the Eastside Kings Festival took place in Texas. This is an hour long real deal video. (Click image to watch!)

It was a virtual event this year without fans and broadcast via the web. This one is not your average pandemic time web video. It is high quality sound with multiple mobile cameras shooting high rez video with professional grade video equipment.

Since there were no fans this year we ask for your help! PLEASE donate to keep this great Blues festival and foundation going in this time of need.

Click HERE to donate now!

 



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageShaun Murphy – Flame Still Burns

Vision Wall Records

www.shaunmurphyband.com

14 Tracks – 57 minutes

For her tenth album since starting her solo career in 2009, Shaun Murphy wraps her powerhouse voice around fourteen songs that carry listeners from blues to rock music, and all points in-between. Anyone who has heard Murphy sing is well aware of her vocal skills, utilizing a range that most vocalists would trade their souls for without hesitation. When you combine that with meticulous phrasing and the unerring ability to convey the deepest emotions at the heart of a song, there is little doubt Murphy stands in the top rank of blues vocalists.

Listen to her rousing version “Living In The Palace Of the King,” to open the disc, as her rugged, sassy vocal shows no sign of strain as it matches the fiery intensity of her crack band on a song popularized by Freddie King. Then things shift into a slow blues mode as Murphy takes her time on the classic “Sweet Little Angel,” making it abundantly clear that the song can be an anthem for women, too.

Tackling an iconic song like Gregg Allman’s “It’s Not My Cross To Bear” might intimidate many singers but Murphy goes at at full bore with plenty of grit, wrapping things up with a piercing moan over the spirited exchange between her two veteran guitarists, Tommy Stillwell and Kenne Kramer. Stillwell shares the vocal lead on a burning take of “Soul Shake” that calls for higher volume and a bigger dance floor. Another highlight is the way Murphy commands your attention on the ballad “Stay With Me” (not the Rod Stewart hit). She delivers a searing rendition on “Old Love,” a song written by Eric Clapton, who she recorded and toured with in 1985.

The formidable twin guitar attack from Stillwell and Kramer dominate the proceedings on “Love Me Like A Man” until Murphy makes her presence felt with a snarling attitude that leaves no doubt who is in charge. The oft-covered “Little By Little” gets a boost from Eric Robert on the Hammond B3 organ and Kevin McKendree’s rollicking piano foray. Murphy conjures up some whiskey-soaked tones that breathe life into “I Can’t Quit You,” then rocks the house with a blistering cover of “Ain’t Got No Money,” perfectly capturing the essence of Frankie Miller’s hymn on the power of love, with stellar contributions from long-time drummer Tom DelRossi and John Marcus on bass.

The last three tracks offer more highlights, starting with Murphy’s bold declarations on the value of robbing the cradle on Denise LaSalle’s hit, “Man Sized Job”. Elmore James first recorded “Cry For Me Baby,” more recently given a fine cover by the Welch-Ledbetter Connection. Murphy gives the song a subtle, yet powerful treatment that is sparked by a round of taut solos from Stillwell and Kramer.

On the closer, Charlie Rich’s “Don’t Put No Headstone On My Grave,” Murphy steps into the spotlight and gives one last memorable performance, her voice straining at the edges as she makes it that she is done dealing with her mistreating man.

It is puzzling why an artist with Shaun Murphy’s skills and career achievements has not been a regular on the line-ups for many of the nation’s blues festivals. There are more than a few younger performers, who have yet to come any where near Murphy’s talent level, that are hired for one festival after another. One would think that a singer who has toured with Bob Seger for decades in addition to her work with Clapton would make her an easy sell to festival promoters. And that doesn’t take into account her 15 years as the lead singer for Little Feat!

Hopefully this rockin’ disc will finally get people to pay attention to this marvelous singer. But don’t wait for the festivals to see the light. Murphy and her kick-ass band create an intoxicating brew that renders terms like blues and rock irrelevant. In the end, all you need to know is that it is simply great music. Grab a copy, turn it up, and have a fine time – highly recommended!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer 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 – 2 of 6 

imageJohn Németh – Stronger Than Strong

NOLA Blue Records/Memphis Grease Records

www.johnnemeth.com

12 tracks

It’s been about three years now since Feelin’ Freaky was released; this new album from John Németh and his band continues to showcase the modern R&B, soul and blues that Németh delivers oh-so-well. This is a fantastic album with ten great original tracks and two super covers and, if not his best work ever, it surely rivals his best. He can belt out tunes and blow harp as few can.

Joining Németh in his band are Danny Banks on drums and backing vocals, Matthew Wilson on bass and backing vocals, Jon Hay on guitar and backing vocals and Adam Hill on tambourine. Banks and Wilson make for a stellar backline and the nineteen year old Hay truly belies his age with the skill he demonstrates on guitar. These young guys tour with John and are road warriors: they are swampy, cool and provide outstanding support for Németh .

The album begins with “Come and Take It,” a new cut where Németh tells his woman what the title says and if she can he will be her man. It’s got a throbbing, hill country sort of driving beat and cool vocal effects, plus we get to hear some of John’s fine harp play. “Fountain of a Man” follows, another original with a driving beat and some slick, in your face harp; gritty and cool stuff, for sure! Hay also adds a pretty guitar solo to enjoy. The Junior Parker cut “Sometimes” is next. Instead of the jazzy, dance hall approach to the song, Németh turns it into a slow and swampy cool blues. He wails and shouts effectively and then adds some signature harp to the mix that continues the tone and feel of the cut. “Throw Me in the Water” follows, a jumping and jiving original where Németh sings as Hay sets a nice groove on his guitar. Hay also offers up so intense soloing on his guitar that was outstanding. This is followed by “Chain Breaker” where Németh opens on his harp and gives us a sweet blues where he complains he can’t get through to his woman. He sings and shouts with emotion and blows some mean harp once again and Hay gets to let us hear some more of his excellent guitar. “Bars” is up next, a blues ballad where Németh sings about the situation in our country and uses the analogy of the various bars in our lives to talk about it. He sings, “Bars on the window to keep ups safe, bars on the corner to help us erase, bars on the door ‘til we do our time, stars and bars occupy minds.” Hay offers up another solo, this one somber and fitting the tone of the cut.

“I Can See Your Love Light Shine” takes a more positive note; we get another dose of Németh expertly blowing his Hohner and singing boldly with Hay laying out some more mean licks. Next is “Deprivin’ a Love” where John shifts into a cut that is more of a driving blues rocker that is quite cool. Hay is up to the task, too, playing his solos well. Németh also squeaks and squawks on his harp ever so nicely. The boys also do a cool call and response with John. “Work For Love” comes next, a soulful blues where Németh again does his vocal magic as he tells his woman he works for her and works for love but that’s apparently not enough because she’s leaving him. The harp is mellow and somber as it expresses emotion within the cut in a long solo with feeling. Hay gets his turn to emote instrumentally and also makes the best of it with a stinging solo. The other cover on the disc is Jesse Belvin’s 1959 soul classic “Guess Who.” Németh does a great job with it and Hay helps out with some slow and restrained work on his guitar that adds to the track so well. “She’s My Punisher” is a slower tempo-ed but swinging cut that evokes the late 1950’s or early 1960’s as Németh sings of life with little loving. Another short harp solo and sweet support on guitar round this one out. The CD concludes with “Sweep the Shack;” a romping track with slick guitar playing by Hay and a driving beat that makes you want to get up and boogie.

Wow! What a set of tunes and what fantastic work by John and his band. This is by far the best CD that I heard all summer and fall and perhaps all year. This will for sure be considered in all the next rounds of blues music awards. This is John Németh at his finest. I loved this CD and completely and unreservedly recommend adding it to your collection!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

imageHenry Gray & Bob Corritore Sessions Vol 2 – Cold Chills

Vizztone Label Group

www.bobcorritore.com

15 tracks

Bob Corritore has issued the second volume of his collaborative work with the great pianist and singer Henry Gray. Recorded over 20 or so years and spanning 1998 to 2018, Bob gives us a mix of stuff that has appeared elsewhere but is mostly newly released stuff. A host of players support Gray and Corritore here; Henry visited Bob annually at Bob’s Rhythm Room in Phoenix after visiting in 1996. Henry could no longer fly after the 2018 session due to his health and passed on January 17th this year right after his 95th birthday, so this is a fitting tribute to the great musician.

The sessions included the likes of Bob Margolin, John Brim, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Eddie Taylor, Jr. Tail Dragger, Jimi “Primetime” Smith, Chief Schabuttie Gillliame, Johnny Rapp, Chris James, Kirk Fletcher, Illinois Slim, Johnny Burgin, Chico Chism, Bob Stroger, Troy Sandow, Paul Thomas, Patrick Rynn, Pops McFarlane, Mario Moreno, Brian Fahey, Steve Cushing, and Marty Dodson. A host of talent along with the fantastic Henry Gray and Bob Corritore.

The first session they recorded at the club produced “Ain’t No Use,” which is the 10th track, and “The Twist” which follows it sequentially and was from their last session. One can contrast Gray’s aging vocals over time (never an issue and he does an amazing job even at 94) but his piano remained steady and jumping when it needed to. From the opening strains of the title track (where Henry lays out some slick piano and truly emotive vocals while Corritore blows some dirty harp and Bob Margolin hits us with some fine guitar) to “Going Down Slow” to close the album (with Johnny Rapp laying out mean licks with Henry and Bob) we get to hear some stellar tracks.

I know Bob and Henry had a wonderful relationship and Henry’s passing is something Corritore and we all regret. Thanks to Bob for capturing this great music for all eternity for us to hear!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageDanielle Miraglia – Bright Shining Stars

Vizztone Label Group

www.daniellem.com

11 tracks

Danielle Miraglia is a Boston-based acoustic blues and roots artist. She offers up here her first solo CD. She has a couple with her band, the Glory Junkies. She does have some older solo downloads, but this big release is her first solo hard copy effort. Having won awards locally in Beantown, this is her first real exposure to an national audience with this VizzTone release, so the entire country and world will get to see what New Englanders have known for years– Danielle Miraglia is the real deal.

Mixing a blue, folk, roots and Americana sounds, Miraglia has been compared to, and I quote, “Bonnie Raitt, Rory Block and a Lucinda Williams with a sense of humor.” And she phonetically spells out her name on the one-sheet that came with the CD for the masses to pronounce her fine Italian name correctly; I immediately think about, “It’s Albert Castiglia, dammit!” In any case, Danielle is an outstanding guitar player and singer. She ranges from soft and sublime to gutsy power with her vocals and offers up her a mix of originals and well-done covers.

There are four original tracks, the first, fourth and sixth ones written by Danielle. The opening is a short instrumental entitled “Sounds Like Home.” Laurence Scudder joins her on the viola here and on other tracks. It’s a pretty little piece that showcases her fingerpicking. “C.C. Rider” is next and Miraglia offers a folky blues rendition with nice emotion in her vocals that gets complemented well by the viola. The old Ma Rainey tune gets a fresh cover her with steady pacing and fine singing. Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” follows; Miraglia again gives us a little passion in this forthright cut. Peter Parcek adds some nice guitar work in support here. The second original is “Pick Up the Gun,” a Delta-styled blues with Danielle strumming and singing with more raw emotion and the viola adding some cool depth to the cut. Miraglia tells the person she addresses in the song to pick up the gun to give her a reason a shoot, apparently from some ongoing bad relationship issues. It’s dark and cool. Janis Joplin’s “Turtle Blues” comes next, and Miraglia delivers a nice and slow version of the cut with some good finger picking on the electric guitar layered with her acoustic guitar; well done! “Famous for Nothing” is the last of her own original tracks. Here she comments on today’s society, where you can be famous for nothing. She sings and plays with vigor and a slick vibe, and the viola again adds to the mix.

Keb Mo’s “You Can’t Love Yourself” had Parcek on slide offering up some wailing sounds than make for a good listen and overall effect. Danielle again sings and plays with feeling and the sound is just great. Another Dylan tune is next, this time it’s “Meet Me in the Morning.” Here VizzTone’s Richard Rosenblatt adds his fine harp to a nicely done cover by Miraglia. She growls and sings and plays with intensity. The Big Bill Broonzy version of Tampa Red’s “When Things Go Wrong (It Hurts Me Too)” is the next track. Breathy and passionate vocals and a simple and stark sound from solo guitar make this one special. Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues” gets dusted off and Miraglia again gives a fine, solo performance. She has great passion as she sings, strums and picks. The final track is the title track and was written by fellow Bostonian Tom Bianchi who sometimes shares the stage with Danielle. It’s a beautiful ballad where Miraglia spins a soft and lovely musical web for us.

All in all, this is a really good album of acoustic blues and roots music. Danielle Miraglia needs to be a household name in the blues world and this album can hopefully propel her to a larger audience who can appreciate her talents. I loved it!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.


 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageThe Lizzard Kings featuring Charles Ponder – Jim Crow’s Shadow

www.thelizzardkings.com

Inside Sounds

11 songs – 37 minutes

The Lizzard Kings have been playing around Memphis since the mid-1990s, with the occasional break for a few years. The band has long been based around guitarist and primary songwriter Wally B Ford (all the songs on Jim Crow’s Shadow were written by Ford and Eddie Dattel), although the latest version of the band assembled around 2017 with the addition of Charles Ponder as front man.

Kicking off with the classic blues-rock groove of “Love Shuffle”, Ponder’s sultry voice fits in perfectly as Adam Levin’s organ floats nicely between the vocal lines. It is immediately apparent that these boys know what they’re doing. The Lizzard Kings comprise Ponder on lead vocals, Ford and Steve Seligman on guitar, Tim Goolsby on bass and Dwayne Caudill on drums and percussion. They are joined by a variety of guests on different tracks, including Brad Webb on slide guitar, Levin on piano and organ, Taylor Orr and Jesse Branstetter on guitar, Eric Hughes on harmonica, Carl Woolfe on alto and soprano sax and Daphne Greenleaf and Melissa Van Pelt Johnson on backing vocals. This ensures a diversity of colours can be added to each song. Webb’s slide guitar and Johnson’s haunting backing vocals contribute an earthiness and life to the title track, while Wolfe’s alto sax on “Curve Appeal” emphasizes the bounce in the music and the humor in the lyrics.

Jesse Branstetter’s lyrical, melodic guitar impressively dominates “So Gone, So Long”, while the swinging “Pennsylvania Avenue Blues” benefits from more saxophone from Wolfe and a short but punchy guitar solo from Seligman. Porter’s vocal on the slower “It’s Over Now” is superb, ably supported by a weeping guitar solo from Orr and gospel-style backing vocals from Greenleaf.

Jim Crow’s Shadow is a relatively short album, clocking in at just over half an hour, but it’s a splendid collection of well-written blues-rock songs. The use of five different lead guitarists works really well, with each player bringing something different to the table, offering a broad array of guitar tones and styles, but the song is never sacrificed for the solo. Having said that, Webb’s slide playing on the grind of “Highway Blues” is probably worth the price of admission by itself.

Lyrically, the songs on Jim Crow’s Shadow range from clever twists on traditional themes of love and desire in “Love Shuffle” and “Curve Appeal” to adroit social and political commentary on tracks like “Big Money”, “Black & Blue”, “Pennsylvania Avenue Blues”, the title track and the acoustic “Red, White, Blue & Green” (with nifty harmonica from Hughes).

In addition to writing all the songs, Ford and Dattel also produced the album, with excellent engineering from Kevin Houston at Inside Sounds in Memphis and mastering by Jeffrey Reed at Taproot Studio in Oxford, MS. Jim Crow’s Shadow is top class guitar-driven blues-rock, leaning closer to the blues than to rock. Very impressive stuff.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.


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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imagePeter Parcek – Mississippi Suitcase

Lightnin’ Records 003

www.peterparcekband.com

11 songs – 54 minutes

Boston-based guitar virtuoso Peter Parcek bounces back from a wrist injury that threatened to sideline him permanently with this powerful CD, celebrating the joy of living while baring the full, bluesy depth of the pain and struggle we all endure in these troubled times.

A native of Middletown, Conn., who immigrated to London after graduating from high school with his parents’ blessing to escape service in the Vietnam War, Parcek became immersed in the British blues explosion, seeing Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Peter Green in clubs. A guitarist who was overwhelmed by the talent around him, he turned to harmonica, joined a band and played the famed Marquee Club and other rooms before being forced to return home because he lacked a work permit.

Parcek’s musical education continued by watching as many of the great bluesmen of the era – everyone from Skip James, Muddy Waters and Albert King to Buddy Guy, Albert Collins and B.B. King – at their gigs across the Northeast. He established himself as a member of the beloved Boston band Nine Below Zero before recording with Pinetop Perkins and eventually becoming his band leader.

A hybrid player who fuses blues, rock, gypsy jazz, country and folk into a distinctive style, he’s drawn high praise from Guy, who told him: “You’re as bad as Clapton – and I know Eric Clapton!” He’s released a handful of albums under his own name since the ‘90s, most recently the well-received Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven in 2017.

A powerful album of blues rock that was conceived out of his own personal struggles, the three originals and eight covers here span about 80 years of musical history, all of which has undergone thorough reinvention. Peter’s backed here by Tom West on keys, Tim Carman on drums and Marc Hickok on bass throughout with guest appearances by Willie Nelson harp player Mickey Raphael, Hill Country superstar guitarist Luther Dickinson, legendary Muscle Shoals keyboard player Spooner Oldham and additional help from percussionist Marco Giovino, bassists Dennis Crouch and Dominic John Davis and guitarist Ted Drozdowski.

The disc opens with “The World Is Upside Down,” a heavy rocker with a strong, dark blues hook. It’s a politically correct complaint about everything that’s wrong in modern society that wonders whether we’re on the verge of the Second Coming or simply the end of mankind. First recorded in the ‘30s, Sleepy John Estes’ “Everybody Oughta Make a Change” is delivered atop a regimented drumbeat as Parcek updates the suggestion first recorded in the ‘30s that it’s high time to change your ways because, after a while, we’re all going to end up in the ground. Brief, stinging runs drive the message home before he soars on six-string in the second half of the song.

The darkness continues with an updated reading of Bob Dylan’s “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’” and a searing instrumental take on Peter Green’s “The Supernatural” before dipping into the catalog of New Orleans jazz man Pleasant Joseph – better known in blues circles as Cousin Joe – for a rapid-fire version of “Life’s a One-Way Ticket” bolstered by Dickinson and Raphael. He reprises his original, “Mississippi Suitcase (Slight Return),” which appeared in a different form on his most previous recent release, before attacking the John Lennon/Paul McCartney classic, “Eleanor Rigby,” a flashy instrumental take that takes the Beatles standard in an entirely new direction.

The mood begins to brighten with a reinvention of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Until My Love Come Down,” country bluesman Frankie Lee Sims’ “She Likes to Boogie Real Low” and Velvet Underground front man LNo one in the world today suffers a greater sense of loss because of COVID-19 than musicians. Completely cut off from making a living, spreading joy through song and hooking up in faraway places with fans and friends alike, their frustration is boundless despite writing new material and performing the occasional virtual show online or to extremely small crowds at safe distance to break up the boredom.

While the subject matter here might be a little overwhelming for anyone struggling with his own personal issues, this one will please folks with a strong appreciation for guitarists with over-the-top skills and blues-rock sensibilities. That said, if your mood’s right, here’s a great deal here to appreciate. Like Buddy says, Peter Parcek’s a master.

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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