Issue 8-12 March 20, 2014

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine


 In This Issue  

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Big James Montgomery. Our Video Of The Week is Shemekia Copeland performing “Never Goin’ Back To Memphis”. Marilyn Stringer has a review of 2104’s first festival, the Phoenix Blues Society’s Blues Blast Festival.

We have six Blues music reviews for you.  Steve Jones reviews a new album from Bob Eike. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD by Nick Moss. Marty Gunther reviews a new album from Bill Blue. John Mitchell reviews a new release by Catfish Keith. Rhys Williams reviews a new CD from Harvey Dalton Arnold. Rex Bartholomew reviews a new CD from Pete Cornelius.

We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

ON OUR WEBSITE THIS WEEK!!

John Mitchell posts his list of The Top 10 Major Blues Record Labels. CLICK HERE to check it out and join in the conversation by posting your thoughts to Facebook. While you are there, please be sure to like Blues Blast Magazine on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BluesBlastMagazine


 From The Editor’s Desk  

Hey Blues Fans,

There are only a few days left on our Early Bird Advertising Special that gives you 50% off on a great ad package. It is a super deal for artists advertising new album releases, festivals and any other Blues related product. AND we have just added a great optional upgrade to this special advertising package. These are our lowest rates for the 2014 calendar year! But hurry because this great offer expires at the end of March. For more info, see our ad below.

Our friends at the Mississippi Valley Blues Society have begun to release some of the line up for their Mississippi Valley Blues Festival this coming Fourth of July weekend. They have confirmed Terrance Simien, Tinsley Ellis, Savoy Brown, Roy Book Binder, Lucky Peterson, Doug Deming & The Jeweltones w/ Dennis Gruenling, Deanna Bogart, George Thorogood and the Destroyers and Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch. This is a partial list as most of their tent stage lineup is still in the works. Stay tuned for more from this great Midwest Blues festival. Be sure to make your calendars to attend July 3, 4th and 5th in Le Claire Park in Davenport, Iowa.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music! 

Bob Kieser


 Blues Want Ads  

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

Blues Blast Magazine looking for a few good writers to volunteer to help us out. We need reviewers who know Blues and can write a minimum of one review or story each week. We will provide access to downloads or physical CDs, DVDs and books for review. The writer keeps the CD for doing the review. We get music submissions from all over the world and we publish music reviews each week so there is a steady flow or things that need reviewed.

We are also looking for folks to write stories for our website, blogging style, and other occasional story assignments. We will assign subjects and stories and also entertain your ideas too.

These are non-paid volunteer positions that need a persons who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word!

If you are interested, please send an email to info@bluesblastmagazine.com and tell us about your Blues background. Please be sure to include your phone number in the email.


Early Bird Advertising Special

50% OFF – THE LOWEST PRICES FOR 2014 SEASON!!!

Blues Blast Magazine’s Early Bird Special is our lowest pricing of the 2014 year. It offers an affordable & effective way to get the Blues word out!

This 6-week combo ad rate allows you to add significant impact to your Blues advertising and promotion campaign. It is a great way to kick up the visibility of your new album release, Blues event or music product all around the globe! This is perfect for a new album release, an event advertising campaign or any new product.

Normal 2014 Advertising rates are $100 per issue for Blues Blast magazine ads and $100 per month for website sidebar ads. BUT, for a limited time, this special gives you six issues of Blues Blast Magazine and a month and a half on our website for only $375. (A $750 value!)

Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote anything. More than 26,000 Blues fans read our magazine each week. They are located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries. We get more than 2,000,000 (That’s TWO MILLION) hits and more than 45,000 visitors a month on our website. 

To get this special rate simply buy your ad space by MARCH 31st, 2014!!!! Ads can run anytime between now and December 2014.

With this special rate, your ad can be viewed more than 200,000 times by our readers who want to know about your Blues events and music! Reserve your space today! Space is limited and will be sold on a first come first served basis.

NEW!!! – Upgrade the sidebar ad on our website to a top banner ad for only $50 more. (Subject to availability)

Other ad packages and options, single ads, short run ads or long term bulk rates available too! Visit www.BluesBlastMagazine.com. To get more information email info@bluesblastmagazine.com or call 309 267-4425 today for an ad plan that fits your needs.

Ads must be reserved and paid for by MARCH 31st, 2014!!!


 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6  

Bob Eike – happy little songs about futility and despair

Soul Stew Records

www.soulstewrecords.com

10 tracks

What kind of expectation does an album entitled happy little songs about futility and despair set? I immediately thought that the artist might not want to have sharp implements around. But it’s not THAT desperate. Bob Eike is a performer who took and hiatus and has been lured back into the biz by Billy Thompson. Born in Texas, he’s played with many a blues star over the years His solo work has an authentic sound with precise and clean guitar and soulful and gritty vocals.

Pictured on the cover is a swan with its’ head under water, appearing as if it is drowning. On back is Bob as a young lad, standing in front of an altar; apparently his first communion photo. Both are kind of humorous. He’s excited about the release; the CD has a quote on the inside cover, “We made Bob come out of his basement and do this..he is back in now…told us to quit bothering him.”

The 10 cuts are all originals and only two exceed three minutes. He’s apparently a terse man of few words and gets his point across quickly. Eike opens with “That’s Just Not Right.” It’s sort of a country tune where he talks about what’s not right in life. He stays on the side of religious commentary with “My God’s Better Than Your God” where he slows down a bit in his approach but stays tongue in cheek. “Had to Leave Louisiana” is the first real blues tune and Eike nails it. Slow, and methodical, Eike really annunciates cool-ly and expresses himself in the gritty vocals. “Lucifer Jesus Jones” tells us it’s all about the way a man wears his name. Slick finger picking here in this one as Eike tells us about his name, the song’s title. “That’s the Way It Goes” is a folky Dylan-esque number and is intriguing.

“My Ovens Broke” is classic blues as Eike bemoans the fact that his oven won’t warm up no more; “the old man in the kitchen can’t get any bakin’ done.” “Ain’t Nobody Here But Me” is more folky blues where Eike again finger picks extraordinarily. In “You Can’t Go Home” is even folk-ier and Eike growls out this story about life. “I Don’t Do Lies” is more down home blues and Eike gives anther good performance. He closes with “Do It By Myself,” more down home blues where he throws in some nice slide.

Eike seems to not be happy with society in his topics and lifestyle and he tells us about it. The work here is very well done. He can finger pick in an outstanding manner and his gutty and gristly vocals complement the music style. This is blues and folk with a nice original flavor. If you have a hankering for some good acoustic solo blues then this might be one to go out and savor.

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 work with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE



2014 Blues Blast Music Awards Submissions Open

It is that time again to let publicists, artists, labels and Blues industry contacts know that submissions in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards are open until April 15th, 2014.

We will again offer you the opportunity to put your eligible Blues music releases directly into the hands of our 30 nominators for consideration in this years awards. Submissions are free and can be sent from March 1st until April 15, 2014.

The Blues Blast Music Awards honor the BEST in today’s Blues music and are voted on by music fans all over the world. This years release eligibility period is April 1st 2013 to April 30th, 2014. All music released during this period is eligible for consideration.

Complete information is at this link www.bluesblastmagazine.com/2014-blues-blast-music-award-nominations-information/

2014 Blues Blast Music Awards Ceremonies Announced

Mark Your Calendars! The 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards ceremonies will be held on Thursday October 23rd, 2014 at the Fluid Events Center in Champaign, Illinois. It is a great new 10,000 sq ft facility and will be a great show!

Look for more information on hotels and artists later this year.



 Featured Blues Interview – Big James Montgomery  

The blues are the blues are the blues are the blues … pretty much.

But add a dash of East Bay grease, a pinch of Philly funk and a scoopful of New Orleans jazz to that batch of blues and what you get is?

“I like to categorize my music as Chicago soul blues and that has a lot to do with my influences,” said trombonist, vocalist, songwriter and bandleader Big James Montgomery. “I try to mix it up a little bit, that’s my intent, that’s what I came up on.”

A heady mixture of all the above is what has helped separate Big James and the Chicago Playboys apart from the pack for the last several years. Blues is definitely the central figure in the group’s sound, but it’s not the kind of blues that makes one want to hunker down in the corner of a bar, slouched over a whiskey-and-Coke. It’s the kind of blues that makes you want to grab your partner by the hand and hit the dance floor, reveling in the brass-laden boogie.

“Taking nothing away from the masters, because they’re the ones that set the stage for people like myself, but if I was to do that same kind of blues today, I wouldn’t last long,” Montgomery said. “I can do traditional blues like Muddy Waters, but I try to more or less focus on Big James’ music. I mean I do some covers, but I sure can’t sing Muddy Waters like Muddy Waters could. And at the same time, can’t nobody sing Big James’ music like Big James.”

Montgomery, who started playing the trombone his freshman year in high school, is very adamant about paying the proper respect that is due to the forefathers of the blues, but at the same time, he doesn’t want the story to simply stop with Muddy, Wolf, Otis or Koko.

“I try and put a contemporary spin on things, because when people are dancing and partying and having a good time, that helps attract younger people to this music,” he explained. “And that’s the only way we’re going to help this music to survive, is by getting the younger people into it. Then, when those younger people find out this is the blues, hopefully they’ll go back and check out some Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy and see where I got my stuff from. But you have to keep the younger people involved in the music if you want it to survive and continue to grow.”

And what if Magic Sam, Junior Wells, Little Walter and all the other stage-setters of the Chicago blues were still alive and well?

“All those cats made it possible for me to do what I do and if they were here today, I believe with all my heart that they would be putting a contemporary spin on things and wouldn’t be content to just rehash all the stuff that they had done in the past, no matter how great it was,” Montgomery said. “The bottom line is, we can never make better the stuff that they did, so we have to continue to move forward.”

Turned on as a 7-year-old when he sat on the side of the stage and watched James Brown burn up the bandstand at the Capital Theater in Chicago, Montgomery later fell under the spell of the mighty Parliament-Funkadelic, and seeing Big James and the Chicago Playboys do their thing in concert, both influences are readily evident.

While the stage show grabs all the attention because of its high-energy, no-holds-barred attack, an often overlooked part of Big James and the Chicago Playboys’ arsenal are the original compositions that Montgomery writes.

“I write about the things and the people that touch my life,” he said. “I live the songs that I’m singing … I live those experiences. That’s why when I sing my own stuff I can sing it with more feeling, because I’m singing it about my life experiences.”

One of those songs – “Coldest Man I Ever Knew” – the live version which can be found on The Big Payback (Blind Pig Records), is about the man that took Montgomery to see the James Brown concert that changed his life – his father.

“My father was a major influence on me. He wasn’t a musician … he was a hustler …but he such a major part of my life. A lot of people that I know weren’t blessed to have a father in their life,” he said. “He really molded me. I wanted to so much be like him, the way he carried himself and the way he took care of me and my brother.”

Montgomery has been busily crafting a batch of new tunes and the band has been road-testing the material, with the group poised to enter the studio at any time and cut another album for Blind Pig. And from the way he sounds, Montgomery is bursting at the seams to get started on the new project.

“I’m all ready to go (into the studio), I’ve got all my songs and stuff,” he said. “I’ve been playing them at the shows with the band, so they’re tight and ready to record. I’m excited about it (the new CD), too. I’ve got a story to tell.”

The working title for the disc is Dose of the Blues.

“The songs on there are about the things that I’ve been going through the last couple of years, the things that are on my mind,” said Montgomery. “My music is my way of expressing myself, the way that I get out what I’m feeling inside. I try not to get too political, though.”

Maybe not too political, but Montgomery has no problem addressing the issues of the day, including the trouble that the average person has when scanning the radio dial in the Windy City, looking for even the faintest hint of the blues.

“On my song, “Dose of the Blues” I’m speaking about – ‘Every time I turn my radio on, I hear the same old songs. Every time I turn my TV on, I hear the same old songs. It’s so sad but true, I don’t know what to do. But what they could really use is a dose of these blues – Chicago style,’” he laughed. “When you turn the radio on, you’re going to hear the same 10 or 20 songs every day, and none of them are blues. About the only blues station we can get is Bluesville on Sirius and I listen to it when I’m in my truck. They knocked my man that had a blues show on WXRT off the air and that was just for one hour on Monday nights … and they took him off. So Chicago is the blues capital of the world, but we don’t have a blues station that you can turn to and listen to every day and that’s not right.”

The band that Montgomery now fronts was originally called (Little) Johnny Christian and the Chicago Playboys. Montgomery joined up with Christian in the late 80s and played with him until his passing in 1993. While Christian’s passing certainly came as a shock to the group, according to Montgomery, there was something of a succession plan in place at the time.

“I already knew what I had to do, because me and him (Christian) had talked about what to do if the situation came up,” he said. “We were fishing one day and he told me that if something ever happened to him, he wanted us to keep the band going on in his memory, because the band was all he ever had. I said, ‘Oh, man, Johnny, ain’t nothin’ gonna’ happen to you, you’ll be here forever.’ Well, we didn’t know how sick he was – he must have known – but we didn’t and not too long after that, Johnny passed. Johnny was the one that really started to let me sing and do a few numbers before he came out.”

After Christian’s passing, Montgomery did just what his mentor asked him to do – keep the Chicago Playboys alive.

“The only thing I could do was to keep the band going. But believe me, I never thought about fronting the band. That was never my intention,” he said. “We started doing gigs and things and I started doing most of the singing. Well, we got booked to do the Chicago Blues Festival by Barry Dolins, but he said that I had to step out front if we got the gig. It couldn’t just be the Chicago Playboys – he wanted it to be Big James and the Chicago Playboys. So I ran it by the rest of the guys in the band and they said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s go.’ That’s how it became Big James and the Chicago Playboys. That was in 1996 and I haven’t looked back since. We put out five CDs on our own small label – Jamot Music – and then got signed to Blind Pig. I’m very blessed and very humbled to have those CDs out. If someone would have told me that I’d have CDs out under my own name, I’d have told them they were crazy. I just always thought I’d be a sideman.”

Montgomery’s first real gig with a true blues artist was with Little Milton Campbell at 19-years-old (“I lied and told them I was 21,” Montgomery laughed). He stayed with Little Milton for three years before moving on to play in Albert King’s band for a few months.

From the outside looking in, it would appear that you couldn’t find two more different bandleaders than Little Milton – who always had a big smile on his face and seemed to be happy – and Albert King – who most times favored a frown and looked like he had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. But according to Montgomery, the pair may not have been so different after all.

“I’m gonna’ tell you, that Little Milton could be tough, too. He could be hard on you, too. He had a very easy-going persona, but when it came to the band, boy, he was hard on us,” he said. “And Albert was more … well, Albert was Albert. But the big difference I remember about the two, when I was playing with Little Milton, we had a show – a revue – and it was like a machine. Then going to play with Albert, you didn’t know what he was gonna’ do or when he was gonna’ do it or what key he was gonna’ do it in. You just had to be ready.”

In addition to playing with some of the all-time great blues guitarists, such as Little Milton, Albert King, Buddy Guy and Otis Rush, Montgomery was also extremely close to a young firebrand that was just starting to leave his mark on the world of the blues before being senselessly killed in downtown Chicago late this fall – Eric ‘Guitar’ Davis.

“I’ve been blessed to play with some of the best and let me tell you, he was right up there with them. He was just a Hell of a young musician. I was the one that gave him his name, Eric ‘Guitar’ Davis. What happened was, one night I was down at the old Buddy Guy’s at a Monday night jam. I was just hanging out and there was a kid up there playing, and I was like, ‘Wow. Who’s that?’ After he came off the stage, I went and introduced myself and he said, ‘I know who you are.’ I said, ‘Who you playing with?’ He said, ‘Nobody.’ So I asked him if he wanted to play with me and he was like, ‘Hell yeah.’ So we exchanged numbers and when my regular guitar player couldn’t make it, I would take Eric with me. We played a lot of clubs and festivals and I knew back then that Eric was not going to be a sideman for very long. I knew he was going to have to be out front with his own band. One day we were playing a gig in Kentucky and onstage I just said, ‘Ladies and gentleman, Eric ‘Guitar’ Davis and that just stuck. But me and Eric was real close. His death really hurt me. It really, really, really set this whole community back. I really think that Eric was going to be one of those to take the blues to the next stage, before he was cut down like that. It’s just terrible the way things are like that these days.”

Things are certainly different in 2014 than they were back when Johnny Christian and the Chicago Playboys were the house band at the great Checkerboard Lounge. And though he’s extremely happy to be in the place that he is these days, Montgomery still has fond memories of those long-ago nights.

“We played behind whoever came up (at the Checkerboard) and that was an experience, now – a real education. We were playing six nights a week … I miss it so much,” he said. “We weren’t making a lot of money, but I really had the most fun back then. Today things are just totally different. Now, there aren’t hardly any clubs to play in and dates are few and far between.”

Check out Big James and the Chicago Playboys’ Web site at: www.bigjames.com

For booking inquires, contact Piedmont Talent: www.piedmonttalent.com

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He’s also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.

For other interviews on our website CLICK HERE.



 Featured Blues Video – Shemekia Copeland  

This is a clip of Shemekia Copeland performing “Never Goin’ Back To Memphis” on the David Letterman Show. Click the video image above to watch the video.

You can see this Blues legend at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in Florida on Friday April 11, 2014. Click on their ad below for info and tickets



 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6  

Nick Moss Band – Time Ain’t Free

Blue Bella Records

www.nickmoss.com

CD: 14 songs; 77:01 Minutes

Styles: Modern Electric Blues Rock, Soul, Rock and Roll

One of the most terrifying sounds in the world can be “tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.” Everyone knows “Time Ain’t Free,” especially Windy City native Nick Moss. Having evolved musically past the straight ahead blues of Nick Moss and the Flip Tops to just the Nick Moss Band, he releases his tenth album not wanting to lose one second of Chicago soul, funk, blues, jam band music, and rock-and-roll. Praised by such other magazines as Elmore and UT San Diego, Nick’s not going to let time get in his way of rocketing up the charts. Track number six, “I Want the World to Know,” has even debuted on Billboard.com as a soul single. He and his band are in fabulous form here, including Moss on guitar, bass, and lead vocals, Patrick Seals on drums and percussion, bassist Matthew Williams, Bryan Rogers on keyboards, and Tina J. Crawley and Lara Jenkins on background vocals. A new and explosive addition on this CD is rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist Michael Ledbetter, a descendant of the legendary Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter. Twelve out of fourteen songs are either written by Moss or Ledbetter, with the other two by Rod Stewart, Ian McLagan, and Eddie J. House, Jr. These three are addictive originals:

Track 03: “Light It Up” – Michael Ledbetter’s hot-blooded plea is perfect for those who like their blues down-and-dirty, but not gutter-crude: “You a fine, healthy thing, and all I want is a kiss. Don’t you tease me, baby. You know I can’t resist.” With a suggestive beat and high-voltage solo by Nick Moss, this is definitely a selection for late-night radio play. Insidiously, the repeated chorus seduces listeners and gets them dancing (or romancing): “Light me up, turn me on.”

Track 04: “Fare Thee Well” – The very next song details what happens when the fire dies down in a relationship: one of the ‘flames’ might depart for good. With a light 70’s funk and gorgeous harmonic vocals by Tina J. Crawley and Lara Jenkins, it’s a warning for all prospective partners: “If you don’t use it, you know you’re gonna lose it. We both know just how hard I fell. You don’t need – to say ‘fare thee well’.” Once again Ledbetter takes the lead on vocals, with Moss’s electric guitar insistently backing him up. Nick’s guitar here is bittersweet, but nowhere near maudlin.

Track 06: “Been Gone So Long” – Perhaps Moss’ greatest strength is what gives him his title of “groove master,” as evidenced in swinging number six: “I wonder why you left, wonder where you’re gone, wonder where you’ve really been gone so long.” Nick practically dismembers his instrument of choice on the flat-out best rock solo of the album. With a chorus that worms its way into your brain on only one repetition, it’ll be stuck there for at least the next week.

“Time Ain’t Free,” but the Nick Moss Band will never waste that of devoted blues rock fans!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 34 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.

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE



 Featured Live Blues Review – Phoenix Blues Blast Festival  

What a great way to start the Blues Festival Season. March is perfect weather in Phoenix, AZ, and for the third year, the new setting at the Margaret T. Hance Park proved to be a great choice for The Phoenix Blues Society’s Blues Blast festival. Perfect weather, relaxed atmosphere, and a full of day great music, with pre and after parties at the Rhythm Room, who could ask for more?

Friday Night, the pre-party started at The Rhythm Room with Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King, with Eric Smith on drums and Sheila Klinefelter on bass. Bob Corritore joined them for a few songs and melted the crowd when he added some hauntingly beautiful riffs to Bnois singing his version of George Harrison’s “Don’t Bother Me”, which is on their new album Road Dog’s Life (although not with Bob on it). The guy sitting next to me, who had never even seen Joe & Bnois, turned to me after that song and said “That song was worth the price of admission!!”

 

Saturday morning the festival began with Rhona Melsky singing the National Anthem with the VFW Post 9400 Color Guard.

In between the sets, Hans Olson entertained the crowd. Hans was one of the founding members of the Phoenix Blues Society, inducted into the AZ Blues Hall of Fame, and has toured extensively since 1973, opening and performing with rock and blues legends.

Opening the festival was Leon J’s Juke Joint. Leon and drummer, Jon Robert Leech, teamed up for a journey through the Delta and on up to Memphis and Chicago with their no nonsense blues. Leon is a great story teller and really loves to play the real, pure simple blues – especially Son House. It is a musical journey with Leon. Paul Cruize joined Leon for a few songs.

 

Next up was The Paul Cruize Blues Crew. With Royce Murray on B3 and Tim Robinson on drums, the Crew brought some great blues, soul, and funk to the stage. Originally from Detroit, and very active in the music scene there over the years, Paul and the band won the Arizona Blues Showdown and competed in the January IBC’s, making it to the semi-finals. What a great band, not to be missed.

Following them was the Mike Eldred Trio, with a short guest appearance from Big Nick. Mike, formerly from Stray Cat Lee Rocker , John Bazz (bass), formerly from The Blasters, and Brian Fahey (drums) from The Rhythm Room Allstars, tore it up. Mike was called “the best unknown guitar player” by Brian Setzer.

 

Everyone in Phoenix, and beyond, is very familiar with the Rhythm Room Allstars. Backing up so many bands at the Rhythm Room, they are everyone’s favorite band. With club owner and band leader Bob Corritore (harmonica), the duo of Chris James (guitar) and Patrick Rynn (bass), Brian Fahey (drums), and Mojo Mark Cihlar (guitar), they opened the next set with some pure Chicago blues. Midway through the set, Sugaray Rayford, a new fixture to the Phoenix area, joined in with his powerful vocals, deeply steeped in gospel, blues, soul, funk, and infectious fun.

   

The final set was Samantha Fish Band with Chris Alexander on Bass and Go-Go Ray on drums. For those in the audience who had never seen Samantha rip through the blues, they were totally captivated by her performance. Samantha rocked and closed the festival on a blues high!!

It was a great day of blues Phoenix. Thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors, and participants at this year’s blues festival.

Photos and commentary by Marilyn Stringer © 2014



 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6  

Bill Blue – Mojolation

Warmfuzz Records

11 songs – 44 minutes

Like the Prodigal Son, Bill Blue has returned from the wilderness. It’s been 30 years since he stepped into the studio, but he’s returned with a vengeance.

Blue – that’s his real name – was a young man when he met ‘50s superstar Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. That encounter changed Blue’s life forever. Instead of struggling as a guitarist in his native North Carolina, he was soon touring the world with the man who some folks considered the father of rock ‘n’ roll and who wrote a string of classics, including “Mean Ol’ Frisco,” “My Mama Don’t Allow Me” and the Elvis Presley hit, “That’s All Right.”

After Crudup died in 1974, Blue formed his own band and recorded two albums for the prestigious Adelphi label. But after 18 long years on the road, he called it quits. He headed to Key West, Fla., where he’s lived on a houseboat for most of the past three decades, occasionally leaving for festivals and tours of Europe. He’s been content with playing regular acoustic sets at Sloppy Joe’s and, later, the Green Parrot, two venerable watering holes once patronized by Ernest Hemingway.

This CD, which features Blue in a hard-driving electric setting with a full band and horn section, came about after a chance meeting with British producer Ian Shaw, who’d recently relocated to the Conch Republic. Available through Amazon and CDBaby, it includes 10 originals and features both his rough-hewn vocals and powerful guitar-slinging, aided by a stellar group of sidemen, including drummer Richard Crooks, who’s worked with Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, as well as British guitarist Matt Backer, who served as Julian Lennon’s band leader for eight years in addition to working with Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker and Emmylou Harris.

Rounding out the ensemble are guitarists Michael McAdam, “Caffeine Carl” Wagoner and Larry Baeder; bassists Francois Gehin, Dan Simpson and Drake Leonard, keyboardist Ericson Holt, vocalist Deb Hudson and the Funky In The Middle Horns: Rob Cutts (tenor sax), Jason Chapman (trumpet), Adam Seely (tenor and baritone sax), and Ed Leone and Christian Kollar (trombone).

Blue kicks off the thoroughly modern set with”It’s Gotta Change,” a steady driving message about paying one’s dues. His slide guitar propels the song forward. Next up, “Brand New Man” was written by Eddie Hinton and shouldn’t be confused with the Brooks and Dunn country hit. The horn section makes its first appearance as Blue’s distinctive, whisky-soaked vocals praise a brand new girl. The loping “Guitar Whore” delivers the message that the singer will “trade everything for that six-string gun.” It plays perfectly into the next tune, “Sing Like Thunder,” with its idea that nothing can slow him.

“Poor Boy Blues,” one of the most heavily recorded songs from the first generation of roots music, follows, with Blue on resonator, accompanied only by rhythm guitar. The tune provides a small break before the big band kicks in again with “Who Do You Think You Are,” a horn-fueled pleaser about someone who’s misused the singer’s trust, set off with a stinging guitar solo. “Barbeque Store” rips a mean old man who serves the worst food you’ve ever seen before the pace slows for the autobiographical “I Ain’t From Mississippi,” which states succinctly: “I don’t know much about nothin’/But I sure can play them blues.”

“Ain’t It Funny” takes an amusing, funky look at the wide swings we experience in life before the slow acoustic blues, “Who Let That Stranger In?” It deals with looking at one’s self in the mirror and not recognizing the person you see. The set concludes with an tribute to Crudup, “On The Road For Big Boy,” an enthusiastic anthem to continued touring.
This disc roars like a hurricane racing through the Keys…a welcome return for a true road warrior.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. 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 – 4 of 6  

Catfish Keith – Honey Hole

Fishtail Records

www.catfishkeith.com

14 tracks; 56 minutes

Catfish Keith is a throwback to a different era, a wandering troubadour who travels the globe playing solo acoustic country blues. He is a frequent visitor to Europe and the UK in particular; indeed he toured this album (his fifteenth!) extensively October to November 2013 when it was released in the UK (the US release date was early 2014). The core of his repertoire is songs from the pre-war period and here we find versions of songs from Blind Boy Fuller, Mississippi Sheiks and Sister Rosetta Tharpe amongst others. These tracks were all recorded live in one take apart from two where Keith has overdubbed a harmony vocal and second guitar. Keith plays both acoustic and National guitars and often uses a stomp board for rhythm as well as providing all vocals in a deep and expressive tone.

The album opens with Blind Boy Fuller’s “Sweet Honey Hole”, one of several songs with suggestive lyrics and Keith sings this one with relish in his voice and some twanging chords on guitar. He follows that with his own “Best Jelly In The Neighborhood” which zips along at quite a fast pace. On the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Jailbird Love Song” Keith plays two guitar parts and harmonises with himself on a song that shows that it is not only in recent times that we hear of false arrests and unfair treatment of minority groups.

Keith blends The Harlem Hamfats’ “Weed Smoker’s Dream” with Lil Green’s “Why Don’t You Do Right”, a hit for Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman. Keith uses a single rhythm for both songs and creates quite a downbeat feel. Some Hawaiian style guitar lightens the mood as Keith tackles “Tomi Tomi”, originally by Kanui and Lula, before returning to the vagaries of relationships in “Who’s Been Here?”, Bo Carter’s comic handling of his girl’s infidelities, apparently with several unknown guys! “Someday Baby” was inspired by Mississippi Fred McDowell though many of us will recognise the song as Big Maceo’s “Worried Life Blues”. Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “God Don’t Like It” is a highlight, an amusing song about the evils of drink played on a National baritone guitar.

Elsewhere Keith tackles songs from Frank Stokes, Julia Lee, Memphis Minnie, Kid Bailey, Lil Son Jackson and a pairing of two Leadbelly pieces to close the CD. If acoustic country blues is your interest, Catfish Keith is well worth investigating..

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 6  

Harvey Dalton Arnold – Outlaw

Music Maker Relief Foundation

http://harveydaltonarnold.com/

13 songs – 37 minutes

Harvey Dalton Arnold is probably best known as the bass player, songwriter and singer of southern-rock band, The Outlaws, from 1976-80, with whom he toured the world and sold several million albums. In 2005, Arnold was diagnosed with head, neck and tongue cancer but, thankfully, after a year of treatment, he recovered his health and rediscovered his passion for music. Since then, he has focussed on his first and true love, playing and singing the blues. He leads the Harvey Dalton Arnold Blues Band, based in his native North Carolina, and has now released his first solo acoustic blues album. And it’s a little beauty.

Recorded on 15 February 2013, at Music Maker Studios, Hillsborough, NC, Outlaw features a nice mix of old, traditional blues songs and Arnold’s own songs, which are themselves heavily rooted in the blues. The release was recorded by Raphaël Evrard and produced by Timothy Duffy, who have achieved a warm, clear production. Remarkably, all 13 songs were recorded in one continuous take, but the quality of the playing and singing is consistently impressive throughout.

The album opens with Tampa Red’s “Love Her With A Feeling”, sounding as if it had been recorded by Freddie King accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Other well-known songs include “Blow, Wind”, “Worried Life Blues”, and “Big Road Blues”. Some, like Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road Blues”, are pretty faithful reproductions of the original versions (albeit played a little faster). “Blow Wind Blow”, re-named here as “Blow, Wind”, however, is given a choppy, strummed rhythm that is quite distinct from Muddy Waters’ original.

The album does not come with a credit listing, which is a shame for those who enjoy digging into the minutiae of who wrote which song (this omission may apply to the press copies only, of course). On the other side of the same coin, it can be quite entertaining to expect a song entitled “Cold And Lonesome” to be a cover of the Jimmy Reed classic, but then to realise that it is a slide guitar-driven, very bluesy cover of the Outlaws’ song of the same name.

Arnold displays a sly wit in his lyrics, for example “I Got You”, which seems on first listen, to be a declaration of love for a woman. On repeated listening, however, it seems he is actually proclaiming his love for his guitar, which is why he “don’t need nobody”, as opposed to not needing nobody else.

Despite being a fine slide guitarist, Arnold does not take many solos, which is partly a reflection of the fact that there is no over-dubbing on the album: just one man, a guitar and his voice. It is also because this is a pretty traditional album where the guitar provides the rhythm and supports the voice, in particular by echoing vocal melody lines. While it may not be used as a lead instrument on Outlaw, Arnold’s guitar is a top class rhythm instrument, with songs such as “Louis McGee” or “Just Don’t Do It” establishing an irresistible toe-tapping rhythm. The icing on the cake, however, is Arnold’s voice, which convincingly conveys the pain, passion and humour of the songs, often effortlessly switching to a beautiful falsetto with a haunting vibrato. There are no false affectations here. This is the voice of man who has seen the darker side of life, but who has come out the other side.

Warmly recommended for fans of traditional acoustic blues. Certainly, it has encouraged this listener to dig out some of Arnold’s other blues-based releases. Great 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  

Pete Cornelius – Groundswell

Self Release

www.petecornelius.com

11 tracks / 54:37

Pete Cornelius has squeezed a lot of musical experience into the past 20 years, since he took up the guitar at the age of nine. This Tasmanian bluesman released his first album when he was 13, and by the time he was 15 he had his own band, Peter Cornelius and the DeVilles. Working with this band, his other band (King Cake), and countless side projects, he must spend all of his time in the studio and on stage!

For his latest album, Groundswell, Pete put together a new team of musicians and recorded most of the tracks live at his friend’s vacation house in Elephant Pass. Besides providing the guitars and vocals, Cornelius produced, recorded and mixed this CD. He is joined by the backline of Simon Holmes on bass and Henry Nichols behind the drum kit; other contributors include Randal Muir on the Hammond organ, Kelly Otaway on piano, and Susannah Coleman-Brown on backing vocals. Paul Williamson, Jeremy Williamson, Donald Bate and Lila Meleisa added their horns to the basic mix, giving this project a huge sound where it needed it the most.

Groundswell starts strongly with an original track, “Drinking the Blues” which is not the expected paean to overindulgence of adult beverages. Though Cornelius is a guitar slinger of the highest order, he does not show off, and instead submits tasteful backing guitar and well-placed clean leads. The horns are well-arranged, and with the piano added in this spooky-sounding R&B number achieves a hearty blues revue mood. This and the other five originals were all written by Pete – he is a busy guy.

The five covers that Pete selected for this disc are diverse, and when there are combined with his original songs no two tracks sound the same. This project is a refreshing blend of blues, country, funk and rock that confirms his separation from the current crop of uber-talented Stevie Ray Vaughn disciples. For example, Reverend Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” showcases Cornelius’ well-practiced vocals. His voice is strong and he sings with no trace of an accent (in case you were wondering). He doubles the organ with a few of his guitar licks, and cuts loose with a solo the likes of which you will only hear at the finest of blues jams. He follows this up with Otis Rush’s “Right Place, Wrong Time” which proves that his vocals are up to the task of taking on the most soulful of tasks.

It was surprising to hear Tom Waits’ “Cold Water” on this playlist, but it fits in well with the amalgam of genres that are to be found here. There is a hard-rocking gospel feel that plays well off of Waits’ brilliant imagery of a man of the road who has a hard life but still gets by. This is the roughest-sounding track on the album, but this jaggedness lends a gloriously live feel and it turns out perfectly.

The most impressive re-do on Groundswell is Cornelius’ searing, eight-minute take on Ray LaMontagne’s “Repo Man.” A hefty dose of funk is injected into this song by Holmes’ bass and Muir’s Hammond while Cornelius finally lets his guitar take center stage as he plays a killer solo that is equal parts Hendrix, Clapton and Stevie Ray, with a few of his own twists mixed in.

As good as these covers are, Pete displays great maturity in his own songwriting. These songs run the gamut from a sweet ballad for his young daughter (“Goodnight my Love”) to the Creole horns of “Talkin’ Bout New Orleans.” The standout track amongst his original work is “Strong Suit,” a roots tune with genuine lyrics, beautifully fingerpicked guitar, and heartfelt vocal harmonies. He chose to end the album with this song, which was a wise decision.

Pete Cornelius has done more in the past two decades than most musicians accomplish in their lifetime, and Groundswell reflects his dedication to the blues and its related music forms. It is a top-notch album with both quality original material and a unique sound, and it is worth your time to give it a listen. We can only hope that he adds a tour of the states to his busy schedule, because it would be great to see these song performed in person!!

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at http://rexbass.blogspot.com.

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 Blues Society News  


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Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society is proud to present Ryan McGarvey at 7:00 pm Tuesday, March 25th at The Muddy Waters 1708 State Street, Bettendorf, IA (563)-355-0655. Ryna was named, Guitar Player Magazine’s 2013 – Best New Talent.

Admission is $7.00 MVBS for Members and $10.00 for the general public. For more info visit www.mvbs.org

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

“2014 Friends of the Blues Concert Series to Highlight Women in the Blues and Debut Texas Guitar Slingers”

The Friends of the Blues have decided it is time to give the women their due. Of the 15 concerts scheduled so far, seven feature female headliners or lead vocalists. This is the first time the schedule has strongly reflected female artists. For example, last year’s 19 shows had only three with females in front. “There have been questioning comments in the past by folks noticing the line-up is pretty heavily weighted against the girls,” the lead talent buyer said.

Annie Mack from Rochester, Minnesota, will be the first female headliner, followed by Philadelphia, Mississippi’s Tullie Brae. Eleanor Tsaig is the dynamic lead vocalist for Israel’s Ori Naftaly Band, and two sisters, both under 21, Sadie and Samantha Johnson, front Bloomington Indiana’s Sad Sam Blues Jam. Originally from Plainfield IL, The Laurie Morvan Band has generated large audiences with many attending from her old stomping grounds. House-on-fire Rock and Rollers Nikki Hill and husband Matt on guitar hopefully will appear in August, and Blind Pig Records’ award recording artist Sena Ehrhardt tentatively will hold court late in the season.

Another new element this year is Texas guitar slingers. George Thorogood’s second guitarist Jim Suhler and, later, Jason Elmore will debut in our area. “We have been trying for 5 years to get Suhler contracted for a show,” said the “Friends.” When he is not touring with Thorogood, he has his own band, Monkey Beat. Suhler is also touring in support of a new CD, “Panther Burn.” Fellow Texan Jason Elmore (and Hoodoo Witch) play American Roots music from his latest album – everything is guitar driven, from Rock to Country to Texas Blues.

Returning favorites this season are led by Florida’s Albert Castiglia, who has just signed a record deal with Ruf Records in Europe. He will have completed two tours of Europe by the time he plays at L’Erable on July 16. Other returning crowd favorites are Australian Harper and Midwest Kind and California native, James Armstrong. Harmonica whiz, Brandon Santini from Memphis will make a second appearance as will guitar monster Terry Quiett.

The Blues Society of Central PA – Steelton, PA

The Blues Society of Central PA will be welcoming spring with our BSCP Spring Fever Show on Sunday, April 13, 2014 from 4:30 – 9:00 PM at Champions Sports Bar 300 N. Second St. Highspire, PA. Admission at the door will be $15.

Blues music will begin at 5:00 PM with a 30 minute show by Colin John, 2014 Blues Foundation IBC solo/duo semi-finalist. The music will continue with 60 minutes of blues harp and vocals by the Dane Paul Russell Band. Dane Paul was the late Bobby Parker’s harp sideman. The BSCP will prouding be featuring our headliner, Vizztone Recording artist, Long Tall Deb & The Werewolves of Alabama to heat up Champions and end the chill of winter with a 90 minute set of burning blues. More info at: www.bscpblues.org

The Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

On Saturday, March 22, The Prairie Crossroads Blues Society is hosting The Ori Naftaly Band at 9 pm at Memphis on Main, 55 E. Main St, Champaign, IL. The Ori Naftaly Band, from Israel, has been bringing their high-energy, soulful blues to clubs across the country during their yearlong visit to the U.S. This will be their first performance in the central Illinois area.

For more information, contact Bob Paleczny, PCBS President, prairiecrossroadsblues@gmail.com or visit the blues society web site, prairiecrossroadsblues.org.

River City Blues Society – Pekin, IL

River City Blues Society presents live Blues featuring Lizzi Neal Band at 7:30 PM Friday March 28th and also Ghost Town Blues band at 7:30PM Friday April 18th at Goodfellas 1414 N. 8th St. Pekin, Illinois. Admission: $6.00 general public or $4.00 for RCBS Members For more info visit: www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510:

The Ventura County Blues Society – Ventura County, CA

On Saturday, April 26 the Ventura County Blues society presents the The 9th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival at Moorpark College with its best lineup yet, featuring headlining performances by Kim Wilson’s Blues All-Stars; Delta Groove All-Star Blues Revue featuring Sugaray Rayford with Kid Ramos and friends; Sista Monica Parker; , Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers; , Michael John and The Bottom Line and friends, including vocalist Karen Lovely; and Lightnin’ Willie.

Returning as Celebrity Emcee is noted actor-musician, Mickey Jones. Food and craft vendors, guitar giveaway, and, for the first time, a Ticketed V.I.P. area. Benefits the American Diabetes Association and community charities. Presale General Admission tickets $20. in advance, $30. at the gate; V.I.P. tickets $100. (limited quantity available). More information at www.venturacountyblues.com.

The Madison Blues Society – Madison, WI

On Thursday, March 20, the Madison Blues Society will host its annual Wild Women of the Blues event. Wild Women will be singin’ the Blues at the High Noon Saloon, 701 East Washington Avenue in Madison. The show starts at 7:00PM. This year’s event will be a benefit for the Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) and MBS Blues in the Community Programs.

This year’s Wild Women will be power vocalist Blythe Gamble with the Stand Back Blues Band and world-class entertainer Peaches Staten with the Groove Shakers.

Tickets will be $15 advance / $18 day of show ($12 adv / $15 dos for MBS members). Tickets are available now at the High Noon Saloon, the Knuckle Down Saloon and the Bristled Boar Saloon. Donations to MBS programs will be gratefully accepted at the MBS table. For more info, check us out at www.madisonbluessociety.com/wild_women14.htm.

Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, Illinois

Crossroads Blues Society is proud to present the second annual Field of Blues Festival on Saturday, June 28th at Rockford Aviators Stadium in Loves Park.

Alex Wilson Band is opening beginning his set at noon. Next up is an international act, Italian blues and singing sensation Linda Valori at 2 PM along with super guitar player Luca Giordano and our own Barstool Bob Blues Band with Bob Levis on guitar, Al Terrano on bass, Link Leary on drums and Don Collins on harmonica.

The Jimmy’s will bring their swinging blues at 4 PM. At 6 PM, the ever cool Doug Deming and Dennis Gruenling will take the stage with the Jewel Tones.

At 8 PM our headliners will be John Nemeth!

Between acts we will feature local acoustic blues man Dan Phelps. 10 hours of music from noon to 10 PM (we close at 10:30 PM). Tickets will once again only be $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

Check us out at http://fieldofblues.blogspot.com/ or call festival chairman Steve Jones at 779-537-4006 for more information!

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for the Blue Monday live performances and jam sessions held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request. March 24 – The Blues Deacons, March 31 – Kilborn Alley, April 7 – Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat, April 14 – The Blues Expressions, April 21 – Brad Vickers and the Vestapolitans, April 28 – Greg Glick

Questions regarding this press release can be directed to Michael Rapier, President of ICBC, at mikerapier@sbcglobal.net at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at langdon38@att.net or by visiting www.icbluesclub.org



P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555     © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine 309 267-4425 

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2 Replies to “Issue 8-12 March 20, 2014”

    1. The CDs reviewed in this weeks issue were received in September and October of last year.

      We get quite a few and we do them in the order we receive them unless they are an advertiser.

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