Issue 15-1 January 7, 2021

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Cover photo © 2021 Laura Carbone


 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Teeny Tucker. We have six Blues reviews for you including including new music from Fiona Boyes, Alastair Greene, Dudley Taft, Kirk Fletcher, Justin Howl and Bill Roseman.



 Featured Interview – Teeny Tucker 

imageBlessed with an impressive voice and a way with words, singer Teeny Tucker has been singing the blues in her own way for more than 25 years. She started singing as a child, but didn’t fall under the spell of the blues until much later in life, despite family ties that seemingly made the music a natural fit.

She dedicated her last album, Put On Your Red Dress Baby, to her father, singer Tommy Tucker, to honor his induction into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017 for his big hit, “Hi-Heel Sneakers.”

“I wanted to change it around a bit. I had some strong original songs like “Church House Prayer” and ‘Learn How To Love Me.”, and I love Etta James, so I covered “I’d Rather Go Blind.” My Dad is remembered for one hit, but he wrote and recorded a lot of songs. He has a huge discography. At least I could help keep his memory alive.”

Recent time have brought plenty of loss into her life, and she has been struggling to deal with the loss of loved ones.

“My son Boston was 37 years old, and very talented. He was a great chef. They still don’t really know how he died. He went to sleep one night and never woke up. That year was so rough. I had been taking care of my grandfather for seven years. He passed away in May, 2019, then in September, my godmother passed. Two months later my son died.

“And I got a divorce before my son passed. We had been married for forty years. He didn’t want it, but I did. It was final in February of last year. That was a lot to deal with. All I could do was to keep moving.”

“My whole world fell apart when my son passed. And then the pandemic came and doubled the hurt. So I started doing art. People are really surprised when I tell them that I have never done art before. When my son died, my daughter bought me a small canvas and some paint. I told her that I wanted to paint a rose for my son, although I didn’t know how to make a rose. But I just did it.

“When I put a picture of his rose on Facebook, people really liked it. It took off from there. I was getting requests to paint roses for other people who had lost loved ones. My grandson told me that I should be selling them so I could get a little bit of money back, so he set me up with an art website. I don’t want to charge a lot as people can’t afford it right now. Some of my work has sold quick. People see it, like it, and want to give them as gifts or to inspire someone.”

(You can view Teeny’s artwork here: (www.teenys.art)

A chance encounter with guitarist Walter Trout and his wife, Marie, while in Memphis for the International Blues Challenge last year, found Tucker providing the inspiration for a song.

“I was walking down Beale Street on my way to a Women In Blues workshop. I ran into Walter and Marie. As we talked, they asked how I was doing, knowing about my son passing. They let me know that they had been praying for me. I told them that my eyes were dry, but that my heart keeps crying. I saw a light bulb go off in Walter’s face.

“The next day, Marie was on a panel discussion. After it ended, she asked if we could talk. Marie told me that they both couldn’t stop thinking about what I had said the night before, and that Walter wanted my permission to write a song using those words. So Walter wrote his song, “All Out Of Tears,” based on my son’s death. When they sent it to me after it was mixed, my God, I was in tears. It is so beautiful. There are all kinds of ways you can find healing.”

While stuck at home during the last eight months, Tucker has also been teaching herself how to play piano. But as a recent retiree, her current situation was not the retirement she had planned for herself.

Tucker graduated college in 1979 with degrees in Sociology and Psychology, taking a job as a social worker. She had planned on being a geneticist, but those plans were shelved after she got married and started having babies. Finally realizing after eight years that social work wasn’t for her, Tucker applied for a position in the Federal government at the Department of Defense.

image“I figure working for the government would be less headaches, as I wouldn’t be worrying about everybody else’s problems, and it paid more money. Plus the way they scheduled vacation time gave me the opportunity to fit in some overseas tours every year. I ended up working there for 31 years, and spent the last 25 years building my music career.”

The singer has received a host of awards and nominations, including one for the Koko Taylor Award as part of the 2014 Blues Music Awards. In 2011, Tucker was honored with the Carter G. Woodson Award, named for an American historian often referred to as the “father of black history. It is a federal award that honored Tucker’s work in the community. She has also been inducted into the Department of Defense Hall of Fame, which is a rare honor for civilians or women.

When her two oldest children reached the ages of six and four, she made another change.

“I had been in gospel choirs all of my life. But I decided to start singing blues. A promoter from Europe that used to book my dad asked me if I sang blues. I told him no, that I sang gospel and some Top 40 hits for weddings and such. He started sending me cassette tapes of blues songs. Once I heard them, I realized I really liked the music. So I drenched myself in the blues and never looked back.”

Tucker first recorded when she was 14 years old, selected to be part of a gospel choir for a big event.

“I was in the United Gospel Choir. I sang lead on the hymn, “Meet Me In Heaven.” It was written by Doris Mae Akers, who was a famous gospel songwriter. She would do a lot of traveling from California, being a minister of music. She would come for our annual gospel convocation, where they joined together the choirs from the area churches. She would select some of the youths to sing lead on songs she had written. She auditioned me, and picked me to sing her song, which was recorded on an album. It was my first time in a recording studio.

“You know how some people talk about what they would do if they could live their life over? I guess I would probably do it over again, thinking about some things I probably should have done. The only thing about it is, blues music only serves so many, which limits how many people will listen to your music. It isn’t a big genre in the music business, maybe 1% of all sales of the industry.

“There are people who are out there working hard at music, but they don’t always get the recognition they deserve. The title track from my Two Big M’s album is a tribute that I wrote with my guitar player, Robert Hughes, paying homage to Big Mama Thornton and Big Maybelle. It is a pretty cool song that I played earlier today in celebration of Big Mama’s birthday.

‘I like to write, especially poems. At one point, I started using some of those poems as the start for lyrics to songs. That is what I love, writing poems, doing art, singing, playing piano. All of that right brain stuff. But please don’t give me any math problems!”

Tucker was ready with a concise answer when asked about the difference between composing poetry and songwriting.

“You can go through a whole lot of words in a poem. That probably is not in accordance with how you might want to sing it. When I write a song, I usually know what the melody is first, and that dictates how the words will flow. You are using words for both, but you think of them differently when you write them down. Either one can come from real life experiences, but if I am going to be singing it, I write it with verses and a chorus.

“We were coming home from the Pennsylvania Blues Festival one day. I told Elaine, Robert’s wife, that I wasn’t going to bring all of these shoes with me the next time we go out. I told her I had so many shoes, that I am like that old woman who had so many she didn’t know what to do! She told me I should write a song about that. I started thinking on the way home, then I picked up my little pad and started writing, “I got shoes in my closet lined across the wall, flat ones, small ones, ones that make me tall. I got shoes with my red dress, shoes with my jeans, shoes that make me dainty, shoes that make me clean”. That song, “Shoes,” still gets a lot of radio airplay.”

In 2003, Tucker released her second album, First Class Woman, a project she did with Austin promoter Tim Northcutt on his Hot Rod Records label. They had met at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. At that time, guitarist Sean Carney was part of Tucker’s band, a partnership that lasted eight years.

‘We needed somebody to do a photo to use for the cover of the CD. Someone suggested Robert Hughes, because he was a photographer who also played guitar. In the 1960 decade, Robert had the first white boy blues band in Columbus, Ohio, called Hughes Blues. So we met up with him down near Ohio State University to get the photos done.

image“A couple years later, Sean was spending more time touring overseas, so we went our separate ways. I wasn’t planning on getting another band together. I took a hiatus because my Mom was sick at the time. I was just chilling at home. Then Louisiana Red (Iverson Minter) came to town. He was a real good friend of my father, and also my godfather.

“I went to see Louisiana Red perform, and Robert had put together a little band to back Red at the show. I was watching Robert play, thinking I didn’t know he could play that good. I already knew he was a great photographer. I think he is a better player than most people give him credit for. There was a women’s Valentines Day program coming up that I was scheduled to sing at, so I asked Robert to play guitar for me at that event.

“It sounded really good being on stage together. After that we started listening to music, going way back to singers like Big Mama Thornton. That was how we came up with the idea for the Two Big M’s album. The rest is history. We have now done four releases together, including my 2018 release, Put On Your Red Dress Baby.

“But after my son passed away, I told Robert and the rest of the band that I was ready to do something different. The band has been together for about 14 years. Most of them are retired now, and they had been going their own way. Everybody gets that feeling that you have been riding this horse long enough, now it’s time to get another one! Robert & I are still very close. We are doing a virtual New Year’s Eve show that will be my last with the band.

“My mind is not there right now. I need a break. And I don’t have a clue as to where I want to go from here. But I did do a project called “Rush Through History” with Bobby Rush. It is a musical project that producer Carl Gustafson has been working on for several years. They are getting ready to release it soon. Bobby recommended me to Carl to sing the theme song. They are putting together a compilation album that will have about thirty songs on it.”

“Rush Through History” traces the story of a woman who leaves Tanzania, Africa as a little girl in the 1800s to become a well-respected woman in New Orleans.

“It takes you on a journey from her birth to her death. She goes back home to Tanzania to die, wanting to be back where she was born. So I did the main song, “Take Me Home To Die,” with a 16 piece orchestra. They flew me to California, to Jackson, Mississippi, and to Denver. I was supposed to do one song, but ended up doing a total of six songs. It is a huge production.

“I am thinking that I would like to do more projects like that as well, until I’m led to do something else. Life should be more than just making money. We in the blues community, who have stuck with it as long as we have, have to love the music. It has to be in your heart. I tell people not to come and try to sing blues just because you can’t get accepted somewhere else. It is a community, we love and respect each other. We may not be highly appreciated, but the people who know the history of the music and understand the culture, they have a deep love for blues.”

“If something happens, I might get back out there. For right now, I feel like I need some peace of mind, and I need to get through my grief. It feels like I am doing well with that. I still have some bad days, but I stay strong. I have five grand kids that my son left, so I help them a lot. My oldest grandson is taking driver’s lessons. But with this pandemic, you can’t do too much of anything”

Tucker is very proud of her two daughters. The oldest daughter is helping raise one of her late brother’s children, and recently got engaged for the first time to a brigadier general. She graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, wrote for the Chicago Tribune, then worked as a reporter for several major television networks. She is now the Public Affairs Director for the third largest all-girls school in the country. Tucker’s youngest daughter is married with a son, working in the family trucking business while doing counseling on the side.

In some moments of reflection, the singer finds herself wondering about what might have been.

“Maybe I could have gone further in my music career if I hadn’t been working another job for most of that time. I’ve probably gone over that a thousand times in my mind. But then I go back to all of the people that have been blessed with my music, my words, and my love. I have served God’s purpose for what he wanted me to do, so now let me know what you want me to do next, because I’m not sure what it is.

image“I need to be more in control of me. I’m 63 years old, and I don’t need to be controlled by anybody, not that I ever took orders from anyone. I am learning to let go. My grand kids are not my kids. I never put my children on my mother. I had a husband, a family, and I didn’t expect my mother to help me take care of my kids. I was feeling like my grand kids needed me all the time. It took me a long time to come to terms with that, to do more things for me. The sudden passing of my son made me realize that I need to do the things I enjoy while I still am able.

“Regardless of what you do or where you go, leave somebody with something. Don’t do everything in vain. Bless someone else with what you do. I remember a show we were doing. I met this little girl who was five or six years old. She had been with her grandparents for about a year. Her grandfather said she would not speak due to trauma she had earlier in her life. Once I started singing, that little girl got up, her eyes were glowing. She started dancing and never sat down.

“When we had a break, she came over, sat down next to me, and said, I like your music! That right there filled my heart. Another time there was a guy that had bone cancer, so he couldn’t stand. It was at the Slippery Noodle in Indiana. They rolled him in, I’m singing, and next thing I know he was standing up holding on to the table. Afterwards, his wife said he hadn’t been able to stand or walk, but he got up and didn’t want to sit back down. He really loved what he was hearing. That is the kind of stuff that money can’t buy!”

Tucker still goes back to her gospel roots, especially as she searches for new meaning from life.

“I remember a time in Pennsylvania. I told the audience about a woman who had inspired me when I was eight years old. She sang gospel, not blues, and appeared in a 1959 movie called “Imitation of Life.” Her name was Mahalia Jackson, and the song was “Trouble Of The World.”

(At this point in the interview, Tucker stated singing the song acapella over the phone. Then she moved over to the piano to demonstrate that she had learned to play the song, singing another verse and chorus in her rich vocal style.)

In the end, Tucker wants listeners and fans to understand a few things about the music.

“Singing the blues is not just about singing music. We need to learn the culture. I have been down in the Mississippi Delta, been to the famous Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale where many legendary blues artists stayed, been learning quite a bit about the culture. But there is much more to be learned. A heart surgeon needs to learn everything about the heart. Blues musicians and singers need to learn what the music stands for, and how many people have been blessed by it in this world. It is the American roots music, and without it, music would be sad!”

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 – 1 of 6 

imageFiona Boyes – Blues in My Heart: 20th Anniversary Edition

Blue Empress Records/Reference Recordings FR-740

16 songs – 53 minutes

www.fionaboyes.com

The blues has found fertile ground Down Under since Dutch Tilders, an émigré from the Netherlands who’s considered the godfather of Australian blues, planted the first seeds in the ‘50s, producing a wealth of talent who’ve become stars at home before venturing to America, where the music was born. But Fiona Boyes truly stands out from the crowd.

Sure, Perth-based slide guitarist Dave Hole enjoyed a long run on Alligator Records in the ‘90s, but acoustic guitarist Fiona has consistently eclipsed his success – so much so, in fact, that she’s the only artist ever to be recognized by The Blues Foundation, garnering eight Blues Music Awards nominations since bursting onto the scene from the South Pacific in 2000.

Considered to be one of the best finger-picking guitarists on the planet as well as a gifted artist who illustrates her own releases, the Melbourne native started playing out live in the mid-‘80s and helped found the Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society. She made her recording debut in 1990 with The Mojos, an all-female electric blues quintet that released a handful of well-received albums.

With a hard-to-define style that blends everything from Delta and swamp to Chicago blues and more, Fiona exploded onto the world blues scene with the original analog version of this CD, which was self-produced and released on her own label. She subsequently toured with piano giant Pinetop Perkins — who described her as “the best gal guitarist I heard since Memphis Minnie” – and captured first place in the solo/duo category at the 2003 International Blues Challenge.

Boyes has divided her time between continents ever since from her home base in Yamba on Australia’s east coast, touring the States and serving as a vital cog in the Pinetop Perkins Foundation, the non-profit that serves as a springboard for youngsters with a love for the blues.

The twelfth album in her catalog and a follow-up to Voodoo in the Shadows in 2018, this is far more than a reissue. The original release has been digitally remastered with a feel as if Fiona’s playing in your living room. And it’s accompanied by a richly illustrated 24-page booklet that recounts her first appearance at an open-mic night and provides deep, intimate background on each of the 16 cuts. Primarily a solo effort, she gets a helping hand from Mojo bandmates Kaz Dalla Rosa on harmonica, Paula Dowse on drums and Gina Woods on piano.

A collection of ten originals and six covers, Boyes’ picking skill is apparent from the jump of “Blues in My Heart,” an original that features honeyed vocals as she describes the ambivalence, resistance and acceptance of a loving relationship. A tasty take on Leadbelly’s “Pig Meat,” one of her earliest favorites, precedes “She Could Play That Thing,” a loping tribute to Minnie, before delivering a sweet love song to the music in “I Let the Blues In.”

“Have Faith,” a tune that served as a personal mantra during troubled times, follows before Fiona offers up a little fun with “Honey You Can Take My Man” and some ragtime magic with “My Say So.” Covers of Kid Bailey’s “Rowdy Blues” — first recorded in 1929, Rev. Gary Davis’ “Mean World” and “Angel” – penned by Ron Hodges, the lead singer for the roots-rock band, The Iguanas – are up next before Boyes delivers a little tongue-in-cheek hokum with “Two-Legged Dog” and a dazzling finger-picking display in “That Certain Something.”

The original “Hokum Rag” precedes a take on J.B. Lenoir’s “Mercy” and Tommy Johnson’s familiar standard “Canned Heat” before “Hotel Room” – an original that pays homage to the cheap housing most musicians face on the road – brings the action to a close.

Fiona Boyes is a world-class talent, and this release definitely deserved reissue. If you like acoustic guitar work with a heaping helping of personality, too, you’ll love this one. Available from most major retailers, and strongly recommended.

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 – 2 of 6 

imageAlastair Greene – The New World Blues

Whiskey Bayou Records

www.alastairgreene.com

11 tracks/47 minutes

Alastair Greene left his band home and went to Tab Benoit’s home in Hoima, LA with a few songs in hand and left with what he calls, “the most stripped down blues-based album I’ve ever done.” Joined in Tab’s studio by Tab on drums and Corey Duplechin on bass, they back Greene vocally and provide a more than ample backdrop to this rocking blues affair. The songs are all originals penned by Greene.

“Living Today” opens things up and is a high powered blues rocker with Greene’s signature guitar in full force. It’s a great hook for the album. “Lives and Fear” follows, and Green gets to set things on fire with some vibrant guitar riffs. “Bayou Miles” allows the listener to cool off a bit as Greene offers a more subdued cut with laid back vocals and guitar. It’s a sweet cut with a nice feel to it. Up next is “When You Don’t Know What To Do,” a cut that has a slick groove and bounces along nicely. Greene gives some more of his classic soloing here as he powers along with a big sound. “No Longer Amused” gives us a slow blues to enjoy as Greene takes on a dark tone as he sings, “you don’t give a damn for anyone,” and that “we are no longer amused.” One can only imaging whom he is addressing here in these trying times. The guitar is passionate in making a statement here as

Greene wails on it to great effect. “Back To The Poor House” is up next, a vibrant instrumental with a driving beat.

“Find Your Way Back Home” is the next track, a cut with a huge guitar solo and interesting lyrics about losing control and finding your way back home. “Heroes” is the following track, a melodic and low-keyed song where Greene sings about insoiration and that “without a hero life wouldn’t be the same.” He offers up a somewhat haunting solo on his guitar. “Wontcha Tell Me” is a bouncy cut where Greene asks what in the world is going on as he tries to feel better about what’s happening. He shreds up something of a a response on his guitar for us. Next is “Alone and Confused” where he slows things back down for us and delivers some more stratospheric guitar as he solos for the listener. The slide comes out as he concludes with the title track. Guess what” It’s another big, driving, and exciting cut.

Greene went to the bayou for inspiration and worked up his songs with Tab. The result is a huge, rocking set of tunes delivered in a no-holds-barred manner. It may be Greene’s bluesiest album but it is not for those with weak constitutions. He lets out all the stops as he and his guitar lay out a lot of mean and rocking licks. If you are a blues rock fan this will certainly tickle your fancy. The guitar work is hot, the songs are solid and the the singing and playing is inspired. Alistair Greene delivers some high powered performances that his fans will love and that will certainly garner many new ones for him, too!

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 

imageDudley Taft – Cosmic Radio

Big Woody Music/BMI

www.dudleytaft.com

CD: 12 Songs, 55 Minutes

Styles: Guitar Monster Blues, Hard Rock, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock

When it comes to parties, there are three high-water marks: Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, with the last one being the highest. On the last day of the year, you party the drunkest, the hardest, and the loudest. Enter Midwesterner Dudley Taft, whose new album Cosmic Radio would have made perfect background music for the long-awaited exodus of 2020. Blues fans beware: this is NOT a blues album, although it features a hard-hitting rock ballad called “End of the Blues.” Taft is a guitar beast, and he’s not afraid to growl. That said, his lyrics are on the reductive side, and it’s hard to decipher them over the volume – high even when it’s nearly all the way down. Who needs drugs and alcohol in their veins when they have Dudley’s scorching riffs in their ears?

Dudley’s career began in high school, when he founded the band Space Antelope with friend Trey Anastasio (of Phish). In the 1990s, he joined Seattle band Sweet Water, touring the states with Monster Magnet, Candlebox and Alice in Chains. After recording two albums for Atlantic, he left the band to join Second Coming. More touring followed with an album on Capitol Records and a taste of success thanks to the single “Vintage Eyes,” which made it to #10 on the Rock Radio charts. In 2006, Taft started playing blues rock in Seattle, and has released six studio albums and one live record: Left for Dead in 2010, Deep Deep Blue in 2012, Screaming In The Wind in 2014, Skin and Bones in 2015, Live In Europe in 2016, Summer Rain in 2017 and Simple Life in 2019. Reese Wynans, of Stevie Ray Vaughan fame, has played on three of these studio albums. Dudley has had four #1 songs on the Hit Tracks Top 100 charts, a #2 Blues Rock single (“Give Me A Song”), and Simple Life made it to #9 on the US Blues Rock Album charts.

Joining Mr. Taft (vocals, guitars, and piano) are Kasey Williams and John Kessler on bass, Walfredo Reyes Jr. and Jason Patterson on drums and percussion, and Charmae on lead and backing vocals.

The title track has good harmony and explosive energy. Note to extraterrestrials: if you can’t hear this one on your home planet, your tympanic membranes need a tune-up. Next come “Left in the Dust” and “The Devil,” two notable tracks that’ll give you chills if you’re in the mood. “One in a Billion” runs over eight minutes long, a Hendrix-style experience that lives up to its namesake in intensity and style.

Dudley Taft’s musical manner is three-pronged: play hard, play loud, and play until your fingers bleed!

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 – 4 of 6 

imageKirk Fletcher – My Blues Pathway

Cleopatra Blues

www.kirkfletcherband.com

10 tracks/45 minutes

Kirk Fletcher might be best known for his work with The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Joe Bonamassa but that is soon going to change as more and more people hear him fronting his own band. With six new tracks and four cool covers, Fletcher delivers ten fine performances that highlight his extraordinary skills.

The band supporting Fletcher, who does all the electric guitar and vocal work, is outstanding. Travis Carlton on bass and Lemar Carter and David Kida share time on drums to provide a great backline. Jeff Babko on keys is exemplary in support of this effort. The horn section of Joe Sublett on sax and Mark Pender on trumpet are superb. A couple of guests are noted for the final track.

“Ain’t No Cure for the Downhearted” opens the disc. Fletcher lays out some great licks on his guitar in this funky and slick number. The organ backs him nicely as he provides savory and tasty solo work for us. He has also become a damned good singer and songwriter– this is a great start to a fine CD. He also has done a powerful, timely and slick video that is available on YouTube of this song that highlights the themes he sings of. The horns come in and the pace slows down for “No Place to Go,” a somber cut with Fletcher singing emotionally and offering some guitar licks that really suit the mood of the song. Again, the guitar solo is a highlight.

He follows that with “Love Is More Than A Word,” a blues ballad where Fletcher sings of what he’s shared in his love. The guitar, horns and organ all set a pretty backdrop for the cut and Fletcher offers up even more sweet solo work on his axe. “Struggle for Grace” is another slower tempo-ed piece, a pretty blues with some thoughtful and impressive guitar work. “I’d Rather Fight Than Switch” is the first cover and it is an A.C. Reed song that uses the old Tareyton cigarette commercial phrase to highlight that he’s is not going to change the way he does his music. Fletcher tells us that he’s a soulful bluesman and nothing’s going to change that. It’s pretty obvious that’s he’s right– what guitar work! He builds this up to a frenzied and cool conclusion.

The second half of the album opens with “Heart So Heavy,” a slow and moving blues about loss with heavy and heartfelt guitar. It’s a heavy and very powerful cut. “”Fattening Frogs for Snakes” is an old American proverb about expending lots of energy and effort in an endeavor and not reaping benefit from it. It’s also an old Sonny Boy Williamson II/Rice Miller cut and many of the older blues men felt this way as the early rockers cashed in on the blues where they did not.

Chris Cain’s “Place In This World” is next, with Fletcher laying out guitar in the style of Cain and B.B. King with a big, ringing tone. He pulls it off and sounds cool in his ample fretwork. “D Is For Denny” is a really cool instrumental piece where Fletcher’s guitar rings clearly and with fine tone. He plays with evident enthusiasm as he strolls through the vibrant song.

The final song is an acoustic cut with Josh Smith on the National Reso-Phonic Guitar and Charlie Musselwhite on harp. Fletcher plays acoustic guitar and sings in this pretty cut entitled “Life Gave Me A Dirty Deal.” The song is dark; he sings this Juke Boy Bonner cut with real feeling. Bonner was a Texas bluesman and student of the music of Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, and Slim Harpo and played both guitar and harp. He lost a large part of his stomach to ulcers and later died in his apartment at age forty-six of cirrhosis of the liver. Fletcher takes this song to a pinnacle with super vocals and guitar with Musselwhite blowing mean harp and Smith doling out some great work on his resonator. It’s a fantastic cover.

Kirk Fletcher is an outstanding guitar player who is rapidly morphing into becoming a superb front man and leader of his own band. His vocal prowess has continually improved and he sings with great confidence and authority. I think he is destined to become one of the blues world’s top acts. My Blues Pathway is on my list of 2020’s top blues albums; do not miss 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 

imageJustin Howl – Wanderlust

www.justinhowl.com

self release

10 songs time – 37:04

Chicago based Mississippi native Justin Howl does it all as a guitarist, singer, harmonica playing songwriter and producer here on this his second CD. American Roots music with a blues undercurrent. His rhythmic guitar and harmonica are largely played in unison for maximum percussive affect. His subject matter is mainly focused on the complexities of relationships. His rustic and husky voice speed by as he spews out his creative lyrics.

“Interstate 55” is among a few of the tunes that have a close relationship to the blues here. Harmonica and guitar in sync as on most of the rest of the recording. A spoken “to do” list is inserted between choruses on “Things To Do”. He largely plays rack harmonica, but here and on a few other songs he overdubs a harmonica part over his vocal. On “Sweet Babe” the narrator professes his love only to learn that he’s been dumped for another. More of the same sentiment in “I Must Confess”, the two songs are pretty much bookends. The tribulations of a love triangle are discussed on what else, “Love Triangle”. “I’m in love with a woman who’s in love with a woman who’s in love with man”. The man turns out to be him.

He asks why his girl is leaving on “Wanderlust”. Reasons he gives are “Your mama’s a nut job. Your dad is a bore”. Justin throws slide guitar into the mix on the mysterious Delta-vibed “The Magician”. “This I Know” deals with the intricacies of a personal relationship. “Josephina” resembles a tale of pioneer life in it’s storytelling quality.

Roots and blues meet here largely covering relationships. The accompaniment is the rhythmic intertwining of acoustic guitar and harmonica that wears thin at times, but mainly achieves an energetic urgency. The approach is refreshing and a welcome relief from the usual deluge of electric music.

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


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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageBill Roseman – Outskirts

Self-Produced

www.facebook.com/billrosemantrio

CD: 12 Songs, 47 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Harmonica Blues, Zydeco, Hard Rock

Any city, any town, any area where people congregate, has its Outskirts. They’re close enough to the center to be considered part of that area, yet far enough away from the center to allow its own idiosyncrasies. The newest album from Bill Roseman (front man of the Bill Roseman Trio) is the epitome of its namesake. It’s close enough to its cobalt core to be considered blues, yet far enough away from the music of the old masters to allow for rock, harmonica, and zydeco to slip in. This allows for variation at the cost of recognition as pure blues. Never fear: it hits the spot.

On eleven original songs and one cover (Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings”), Roseman (guitar, lead vocals, and percussion), Philippe D’hautcourt (bass, backing vocals, accordion, keyboards and percussion), and Didier Fays (drums) entertain and ease one’s pain. Special guest stars include Ludo Beckers on harp, Francis Deschrijver on keys, and JP “Boule” Ghaye on piano, congas, backing vocals and percussion.

Roseman found himself inspired at an early age, via listening to rock, soul and zazz. Picking up a guitar at age thirteen, and inspired by electric bluesmen like Albert Collins and Buddy Guy, he set to learning blues guitar as his main form of expression.

Arriving in Europe in the ‘90s, Bill helped form the Medford Slim Band, which enjoyed success at the time, releasing a couple of CDs and playing the festival circuit, including the Belgium R + B festival in Peer, and the Amsterdam Blues Festival. Also during this period, he worked with the Calvin Owens Blues Orchestra and did a stint in Luke Walter Jr.’s solo group.

Roseman has played all over the Benelux, and in France, Germany, Switzerland, and the U.K., not to mention “back home” in clubs on the east coast from N.Y.C. to Philadelphia, PA.

Bill and his band play solid Chicago-style blues on the foot-stomping, hand-clapping opener, “Good Thing,” and then get “Checked Out” before they decide to “Shake It.” This third track is the perfect song to help one zone out, with a chill acoustic intro and mood-setting lyrics: “Some people stay out till the break of dawn, getting down, getting high, smoking that herb and drinking French wine. Dance to the music, thinking of a pick-me-up. Having no fear, chasing a whiskey with a beer.” Listeners will get the picture right away and even reminisce a bit, if they’ve been in the middle of such a scenario. Next comes the danceable “Sen-sa-Reedory,” featuring terrific guitar and understated piano keyboards, and “Jeanelle,” a zesty rock-zydeco blend, at number six. Perhaps their best number is twelve, their humble, heartfelt homage to Haggard himself.

Outskirts may lack the polish of other blues-rock albums, but it’s hearty, good-natured fun. Bill Roseman and his Trio know how to capture the mood of a honky-tonk and a barroom, not just sing or play about them. No wonder that they’ve made themselves at home across the globe!

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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