Cover photoby Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine
We had a great Blues week! On Sunday we went to a fundraiser in Springfield, IL for some great Blues by Cee Cee James.
Following her set Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet put a great show for everyone.
Then on Monday we went back to Springfield for a Blue Monday show by Jeff Jensen Band. Jeff is from Memphis and is nominated for the Shawn Costello Rising Star Award in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards.
After hearing him, I can see why the nominators thought to nominate this great performer.
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Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10
The Forrest McDonald Band – Turnaround Blues
World Talent Records
CD: 14 songs; 60:42 Minutes
Styles: Traditional Electric and Harmonica Blues
Too rarely, blues artists truly excel beyond “good” in regards to their crafts of performing live and producing studio albums. The musicians’ efforts are so remarkable that although they might have been on the scene for half a century, as is prime guitarist Forrest McDonald from Austin, TX, their sound is so fresh that each new release sounds like a debut.
Forrest’s career began fifty years ago and has spawned dozens of recordings and international acclaim. He was a former Muscle Shoals Rhythm section member and the former guitarist for Kathi McDonald and Bonnie Bramlett, Bobby Womack, Jimmy Reed, Jr., Marie Franklin, Silver, Platinum and Gold, and Doris Troy. Alongside him on this twelfth release for World Talent Records are lead vocalist Andrew Black, drummer John McKnight, bassist Lee Gammon, keyboardist Tony Carey, and Jon Liebman on harmonica and vocals. They present nine original songs and five covers, along with three bonus tracks. Included with this CD is a handy booklet revealing the background stories behind each tune, three of which are mentioned below:
Track 01: “Turnaround Blues” – Originally recorded in 1972, according to the liner booklet, the up-tempo title track is an absolute killer. Fans of Stevie Ray Vaughan will beam in fond remembrance, as will devotees of Chicago blues stomps. Our narrator’s former lover has reversed his romantic fortune: “I gave you money, my milk and honey, everything a man could do. Well, you played me; you betrayed me. You said that we were through. You know, it hurts so bad to get the Turnaround Blues.” Guest star Darell Cobb’s electric shredder is stellar, as are Becky Wright and Kaylon McDonald on background vocals.
Track 03: “River of Tears” – Is this slow burner romantic or not? Even though it’s about the emptiness that comes with love’s loss, one might be inspired to hold a partner close on the dance floor anyway. Tony Carey shows the versatility of his keyboards here: mournful organ, tinkling piano, and melancholy funk. “The ground was dusty, parched and bare. First came a stream; now there’s a river there. After all these years, all I’ve got to show is a river, a river of tears.” John Schwenke guest stars on bass.
Track 09: “Woman Across the Ocean” – According to the liner booklet, “This is a moderately-paced blues initially inspired by Freddy King’s ‘Woman Across the Water’. I decided it didn’t have to have a sad ending, and after 40 years finally completed it.” What took so long? This is a fantastic homage to one of the late, great blues masters, especially Forrest’s awesome guitar and Andrew Black on lead vocals, which are slightly reminiscent of soul singer Aaron Neville.
This posse is so skilled that even their covers sound new. The Forrest McDonald Band will turn one’s blues around with “Turnaround Blues”! Highly Recommended.
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.
Featured Blues Interview – George Thorogood
There’s the X-factor, there’s the risk-factor and then there’s the king of them all – ‘the Thorogood-factor.’
That is, as in, George Thorogood.
Stretching for four decades now, that ‘Thorogood-factor’ has largely resembled the Midas touch, and has been the backbone of six gold and two platinum albums … and oh, yeah, there’s that little song called “Bad to the Bone.”
Thorogood has managed to battle through, persevere and even thrive the past 40 years as an artist, despite such adversity as disco music, tough economic times for his fans and the advent of today’s technology that has wrecked or altered the career paths of many of his peers.
And then there’s this; the little fact that his debut album (George Thorogood and the Destroyers) hit the streets just hours removed from the death of the King of Rock-N-Roll himself – Elvis Presley.
That folks, has got to be some kind of weird cosmic karma.
“Man, that’s called the ‘Thorogood-factor.’ It was August, 1977 and I got a call from Rounder (Records) and they said, ‘We just got your record’ and then I got a call from someone else (that said Elvis had passed),” said Thorogood. “So I said, ‘Well, that’s typical.’ My album comes out, but Elvis passes … who do you think got all the headlines? Oh, well. Some people are destined to stand in the shadows.”
Maybe some people; but not George Thorogood.
Some 37 years and 15 albums after his first platter found its way onto the turntables of boogie lovers across the globe, Thorogood and his Destroyers are still going strong and are celebrating their 40th year of bringing the party to wherever they may land in 2014. Four decades of rockin’-and-rollin’ may have seemed like a far-fetched idea when Thorogood was a wee lad back in Wilmington, Delaware, but when you focus on daily activities and don’t put the cart before the horse, one day leads to the next and to the next and the next!
“It’s a day-to-day thing. You can’t think about things like that (40 years into the future). I mean, I’m sure at game number 18, DiMaggio wasn’t thinking about game 56, you know what I’m saying? It’s just everyday life,” he said. “We just do what we do and we just plug, plug, plug. If I’d made the kind of money that people like Michael Jackson made, I’d have stopped a long time ago. But, you just keep going. They keep raising the taxes, so I gotta keep doing this thing. It’s certainly not some kind of blues crusade like some people might think. It’s more like, this is who I am, this is what I do and I can’t afford to quit.”
“It took me 16 years to get that gig opening for the Rolling Stones; that’s a long time. I got to meet the Rolling Stones before they ever played. How many people can say that? The first thing any of the Rolling Stones ever said to me was, ‘George, can I have your autograph?’ Charlie Fucking Watts. He had my first album and tapped me on the shoulder and asked me for my autograph. How are you supposed to act when something like that happens? Like it happens all the time?”
Thorogood has managed to perfect a brand of music that combines many elements; most notably 50’s-era rock-n-roll with a large dose of Chess-styled blues. And even though his music is not strictly blues, and even though he may originally hail from Delaware, it seems like he pulls his power from the same place that his heroes like Elmore James, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf got a large dose of their mythical properties from – the Ole Man – the mighty Mississippi River.
“Just think; right down that (Mississippi) river is where Johnny Cash wrote:
‘Now I taught the weeping willow how to cry, cry, cry;
And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you big river;
Then I’m gonna sit right here until I die.’
(from the song “Big River”)
The main money-making commerce in the world – next to drugs – is music. And the biggest music is rock music,” he said. “And rock came from the blues. So you could say that the blues jumped in the Mississippi River and swam up to New York City to Allan Freed’s Rock-And-Roll Show.”
Just as a young Thorogood was, scores of musicians across the big pond from the United States also became enthralled with the type of sounds that were emanating from the banks of the muddy Mississippi.
“You’ve really got to tip your hat to all those people that grew up in England and places like that who were playing the American stuff and playing it that good,” he said. “Unbelievable. They weren’t from here or weren’t part of this culture, but they could still play that music and play it good.”
“It stopped with me. Our band was the last one. Billy Gibbons is older than me, and so is Johnny Winter and John Hammond and Elvin Bishop and Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt (of the musicians that are still out there playing a hybrid mixture of Muddy Waters/Chuck Berry),” Thorogood said. “Jeff (Simon, drummer for the Destroyers since 1973) and I are the last ones to graduate from that school. It closed its doors after us. We got invited in at the 11th hour.”
Though he’s long been known for his impressive stage command and the way that he wields his Gibson 125 – down low and on the hip, gunslinger style – Thorogood didn’t burst from the womb as a fully-formed rock-n-roll star. Back before the Destroyers’ self-titled album breathed new life into ‘boogie rock’ Thorogood cut his teeth as a solo acoustic artist.
“I was fortunate enough that my first gig was opening for Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. That was my first gig. You know what I was doing the week before that? I was playing on the street corner. I was a street musician,” he said. “Somebody found me out there and put me in that club to do one song and they hired me that night to open for Sonny and Brownie. They had me play for two weeks and they loved me. They (Sonny and Brownie) were the greatest cats ever and they were behind me 100-percent. They were just fantastic and said, ‘You’re going to go places.’”
His prowess on the guitar rapidly began to acquire cult status around the New England area, but it also did something more than that. It also caught the eyes and the ears of some of the legends of the blues.
“Two weeks after my first gig opening for Sonny and Brownie, Robert Lockwood Junior comes to town and put me right under his arm and had me play on all of his breaks,” Thorogood said. “And then a year later, we were opening for Muddy Waters. When we played “Can’t be Satisfied,” Muddy said, ‘You play that song better than I do.’ Robert Lockwood told me when I was sitting in a hotel room, ‘Every time I turn around, you’re playing that guitar, Lonesome George, and it reminds me of Robert.’ Now, you don’t have to say ‘Robert who?’”
The elder statesmen of the blues had kind of a unique relationship with some of the younger musicians in the 60s and 70s that were starting off on the path they had helped forge, before they would branch out and start to blaze their own trail. Some of the older bluesmen were resentful of this, while others acted almost as proud parents.
“Sonny and Brownie were really proud of the bands they inspired. Check this out, Sonny went, ‘We started Canned Heat.’ They were real proud of that,” Thorogood said. “They were so proud of having all these people like the Butterfield Blues Band open for them and then go on to great success. But of course, what do Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee or Robert Lockwood or Muddy Waters know about the blues? (laughs). But those were the cats that gave me the go-ahead.”
While those accolades from the founding fathers would come after he began to establish himself, in the early days, Thorogood tried to soak up as much of the music that he loved as he could, all from a number of different sources, picking and choosing which songs he would add to his developing repertoire. As it turns out, he was somewhat shocked that some of his favorite tunes were largely being ignored by much of the masses.
It quickly became apparent that Thorogood was the precise man for that particular job.
“I found about 15 or 20 of those songs that people needed to be aware of. Of course, when I went to all the record labels, they said, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about. “Bourbon, Scotch and Beer? That’ll never catch on,’” Thorogood laughed. “I said, ‘Oh, really? Well in about two weeks Dean Martin is going to cut it and its going to be a monster hit. Or Tom Waits is going to do it, or J. Geils, and then where am I gonna be?’ So that was the struggle with those songs back in those days. But to their credit back in the 70s, everybody wanted original songs, because that’s where the money was – in the copyrights.”
So, as often is the case, necessity is the mother of all invention.
“We just couldn’t get anybody interested in doing those songs, so Jeff and I said, ‘Fuck them.’ We’ll start our own band,” said Thorogood. “‘We’ll play those songs. We’re not going to play them that good, but so what, we’ll play them.’ And the guys in Howlin’ Wolf’s band kept coming up to us night after night after night, watching us play, and they’d say, ‘Look, you got the right idea; stay with it. Don’t give up.’ We said, ‘We don’t play that good.’ And they said, ‘Don’t worry about that. You got the passion. Keep playing. Nobody plays great the first day.’”
GT and the Destroyers also became hip to another secret that those old blues cats knew; the more women, the better the gig is going to be.
“As soon as we hit “Bourbon, Scotch and Beer” the whole dance-floor would be filled and it would be all women. I mean, what made Valentino? Women. How about Sinatra and Elvis Presley … and The Beatles? I’m just following a formula,” he said. “The first time I heard John Lee Hooker do “One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer” no one was dancing to the blues at that time. They would sit there (at the shows) like there were in a temple, you could hear a pin drop. But when John Lee did “Bourbon” the dance-floor filled up with women. I said, ‘That’s it. That’s the one.’ Hooker knew what he was doing.”
Hooker also ended up with a new set of wheels courtesy of the Destroyers’ version of “Bourbon.”
“When we cut that record, he (Hooker) went to Bluesway (Records) and they never paid him any royalties. So he took them to court and got a $65,000 settlement,” Thorogood said. “He had this brand-new Cadillac with the license plate ‘Boogie 2’ on it. I called him up and asked him how it was going and he said, ‘G-G-G-George, th-th-thanks for ‘Boogie 2.’’ So much for white guys ripping off the black guys, OK? I mean, my man’s riding around in a new Cadillac and I’m riding in a second-hand Chevy.”
Thorogood’s love for the national pastime is legendary and at one time, he played semi-pro baseball in Delaware’s Roberto Clemente League. At one time it might have been a struggle to decide between the bandstand and the baseball diamond, but when he looks back on it today, Thorogood is confident he might the choice that benefitted both vocations the most.
“Picking up a guitar and deciding to do that for a career was the best thing I ever did for baseball,” he laughed.
So he may not have ever had icons like Pete Rose, Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams waxing poetic about his skills on the baseball field, but Thorogood’s name does come up often when the best of the best guitar players are discussing their peers; even though at times it must feel surreal to have his idols and influences mentioning him as being on their level.
“It’s really tough for me when someone like Stevie ‘Guitar’ Miller mentions me. I really don’t know how to handle that. It’s very strange to me, because I grew up wanting to be like those guys,” he said. “Jim Gaines and Steve Miller still call me ‘the kid.’ They say, ‘You’ll always be the kid when you’re around us.’ I had the pleasure of meeting Eric Clapton; it took me everything to go over to his table. I sat down and he gave me a big hug and we started talking and all of a sudden I was speechless. I said, ‘I don’t know what to say to you, you’re Eric Clapton.’ And he looks me in the eye and says, ‘But you’re George Thorogood and don’t ever forget that.’ How am I supposed to live with something like that, you know?”
Most of Thorogood’s heroes had a preference for Stratocasters or Les Pauls as their weapons of choice. But Lonesome George took a bit of a left turn when it came time for him to bear arms and his guitar of choice is the Gibson 125. Comfort, tone and feel may all be reasons that Thorogood favors the 125, but the crux of his choice is even more basic than that.
“When you play the blues, economy dictates everything,” he laughs. “And it was cheap. But on the technical side, I was an acoustic player that decided to go electric and when I found the 125 – in those days it was called semi-electric – with two F holes and two pickups and was a hollow-bodied arch-top, that was the one for me. So in a sense, you were playing an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar at the same time.”
And like they say, the rest is history.
“People ask me what kind of music I place and I say, ‘I play American music.’ And I don’t mean that in a patriotic way, I mean that in a technical way,” he said. “We’re a dirty band. We play loud and dirty rock. I mean, you are what you sound like. I’ve heard John Lee Hooker play a thousand different guitars and it still sounds like John Lee Hooker. I saw Freddie King pick up a Yamaha guitar with light strings and it sounded just like Freddie King. It’s all in-born and it’s going to come out eventually. If you’re clean, it’s going to come out clean and if you’re dirty, it’s going to come out dirty. And guess what? I’m dirty.”
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.
Featured Blues Review – 2 of 10
Dexter Allen – Bluez Of My Soul
Deep Rush Records
11 songs – 44 minutes
Dexter Allen has come a long way from his birthplace in CrystalSprings, Mississippi. Starting out in a variety of gospel groups, he became lead guitarist and bandleader for the great Bobby Rush, playing the blues with Rush across the world, before striking out on his own a few years ago.
Bluez Of My Soul is Allen’s third solo album, after the equally unusually-spelled Bluezin My Way and Bluezin For Life on Airtight Records, but its his first on Bobby Rush’s Deep Rush Records. Indeed, he is only the second artist after Rush himself to release a CD on the label. And Blues Of My Soul is a fine reflection of the funky, gospel-infused blues that Allen has made his own.
Allen is backed on the album by his usual (and superb) road band of the Robinson brothers, comprising Fred (bass); Joey (keys, bass, guitar); and Jeremy (drums). They provide some serious energy and drive, especially to the upbeat numbers. Joey also engineered and mixed the album, and he has done a fine job, capturing a very “live” sound whilst retaining a crystalline clarity. The venerable Mr. Rush himself contributes harmonica to a couple of songs as well as adding an entertaining vocal introduction to “Ride This Train”, as he yells “All aboard! Dexter! Are you getting on this train or not? We’re going to a gig, baby. Get your guitar and let’s get on!”
Allen himself is an assertively bold singer and a nimble, funky rhythm guitar player, adding distinctive and original backing to songs such as “Ride This Train”, “Pudding & Rice” and “Monk Donky” (the lyrics to which are appropriately salacious as Allen sings “If you want to see me play and play it real funky, let me see you shake your Monk Donky”). He is also a fine soloist, favouring a heavily over-driven lead tone on his Fender Stratocasters, giving some songs a distinctly rock overtone.
One of the centrepieces of the album is the upbeat shuffle of “Blues Party” as Allen sings: “Tell them the bald-headed bluesman Dexter Allen’s in town. Just grab somebody’s hand and come on and just move your feet… Let me tell you why, because you all make me real darn nervous when you sit down in your seat.” Allen appears to have deliberately selected lyrics from various blues songs (“The Blues Is Alright”, “People Get Ready” and “Let The Good Times Roll” amongst others) and combined them with wit, enthusiasm and with his tongue firmly planted inside his cheek.
And all three qualities are found throughout the album. In the R&B-fused “Pudding & Rice”, he tells a girl “We had a good time, and partied all night. Making love to you was outta sight. I just love the way you walk; love the way you talk. I love the way you kiss; love the way you twist. But I got another love waiting at home. I can’t keep this thing going on. I wanna tell you something, you might think it ain’t nice. Hey there girl, your pudding ain’t as good as her rice.”
Allen’s humour can also be found in the various musical nods to other tracks that he subtly drops throughout the album, perhaps most noticeably in “Monk Dunky”.
Overall, Bluez of My Soul is a very impressive album of modern electric blues, with well-constructed and cleverly-written songs played with panache and no little humour. Well worth checking out.
Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.
Featured Live Blues Review – Mississippi Valley Blues Festival Part
The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival – Davenport, IA – Photos from July 4 & 5, 2014
Friday of the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest was on the 4th of July and befitting a holiday celebration they had a great lineup of music. We started off the day at the Tent Stage with a great soul vocalist Margaret Murphy-Webb. Margret did a great job kicking off the day for us.
Meanwhile, on the main stage Dexter Allen was tearing it up.
Next up at the Tent Stage was Anthony “Big A” Sherrod. Anthony coaxed a young man from the audience to make his first stage appearance ever to lead the crowd in a sing along. Very impressive stage presence.
He was followed by Tad Robinson. Tad and his band performed a great set showing he is far more than a harmonica player who sings! Tad is a vocalist of incredible talent, who plays harmonica too!
Tad was followed by a great set from Preston Shannon
Back on the Tent Stage, Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience topped off the night with a toe tapping set to a delighted crowd!
The biggest act of the whole fest was George Thorogood and the Destroyers. George had another great guitarist backing him up too, Jim Suhler. Jim is nominated for Blues Rock Album of the Year in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards.
George brought out a huge crowd and his fans tickets looked to make this years fest another one in the black for the Blues Society! of fans
Saturday’s music started off with Little Bobby Houle. Bobby has a new album out called Showbiz. Look for a review of this new release in an upcoming issue.
Jamiah “On Fire” and the Red Machine is an act of very young Blues artists. And they do NOT play like kids, they kick butt!
Albert Castiglia was up next on the Main Stage. As usual he put on one fine display of fiery Blues rock guitar playing!
The Westbrook Singers showed the crowd what real soul singers sound like on the Tent Stage.
They were followed by Terry Bean and Jimmy Duck Holmes. Now that is real Delta Blues!
Jarekus Singleton was the final act we got to see on the main stage. With a new album at the top of the charts and full touring schedule, his performance was HOT!
The final act of the festival that we saw wasEddie Shaw and the Wolfgang on the Tent Stage. His great performance was a fitting way to end our time at the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest for 2014!
Photos by Bob Kieser and Nate Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine.
Featured Blues Review – 3 of 10
Sleepy John Estes with Hammie Nixon – Live in Japan
CD: 21 songs; 73:24 Minutes
Styles: Traditional Acoustic and Harmonica Blues
When it comes to purity, how does one know it when one sees it – or hears it? There are a few measures by which to detect perfection: pure gold is twenty-four karat, a pure alcoholic drink is 200-proof, and pure blues is that of John Adam “Sleepy John” Estes.
Born in 1899 in Nutbush, TN to a sharecropper father, he began his professional career at nineteen. According to Wikipedia, “Estes made his debut as a recording artist in Memphis, Tennessee in 1929, at a session organized by Ralph Peer for Victor Records.”
In 1974 and 1976, respectively, Sleepy John and severely-underrated harp player Hammie Nixon recorded two LP’s: “Blues Live! Sleepy and Hammie Meet Japanese People” and “Blues is A-Live”. These rare blues artifacts were only previously released in Japan in the 1970’s. It’s a shame that U.S. fans haven’t gotten to hear them until now, forty-some years later. Fortunately, Estes and Nixon more than make up for lost time, presenting twenty-one total selections (nine originals, two covers, eight traditional numbers, and two spoken-vocal tracks).
The Japanese ensemble Yu Ka Dan (translated as ‘sad song band’) accompanies the main musicians on three songs, featuring Kantaro Uchida on lead guitar, Hidekatsu Kimura on second guitar, bassist Kenji Hanaoka, and drummer Kazuo Shimada. Estes has a signature ‘crying’ vocal sound, which carries a quality of old age even on his early records. The songs below display both his and Hammie Nixon’s voices in fine form:
Track 06: “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You” – This cover of a Sam Theard tune is one of the most infectious on the album. “You asked my wife for a meal, you rascal you. You asked my wife for a meal, you dirty dog. You asked my wife for a meal, something that you tried to steal. I’ll be glad when you’re dead, you rascal you.” One might not think the kazoo to be a powerful blues instrument, but Hammie plays that earlier-days-favorite with pep here.
Track 16: “Fox Chase” – Written by Nixon instead of Estes, track sixteen is a perplexing yet persistent worm in one’s ears. It mostly consists of harmonica and howling: that’s right, the vocals are Hammie’s best hound-dog impressions. One can’t help but wonder if the Japanese-speaking audience understood what he was ‘barking’ about, but if not, they applauded anyway.
Track 19: “Love Grows In Your Heart” – This might be the one traditional ditty with which it’s asiest to sing along, even if one’s English is limited: “Love is a thing that grows in your heart, and nothing but death cause it to part.” Clap along and/or grab a dance partner, because “Love” prompts the question: How on earth did it take 40 years for American blues lovers to hear it?
Come be introduced (or re-introduced) to Sleepy John Estes “Live in Japan”!
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.
Featured Blues Review – 4 of 10
Walter Trout – The Blues Came Callin’
Provogue Records 2014
12 Tracks – 58 minutes
Walter’s current health issues are well known to all blues fans so it was great to read that he has now had the liver transplant that he needed to save his life. What we hear on this CD underlines that Walter is a fighter and it is certainly a fact that during his illness he continued to play and record until his health prevented it. This CD must have been recorded then because there is absolutely no sign of weakness here as Walter powers through a typical set of material, all original bar one cover and a jam attributed to Walter’s ex-boss John Mayall.
Opening with the appropriately entitled “Wastin’ Away” Walter gives us some personal lyrics about his condition with a typical guitar performance, supported by the B3. Walter’s albums often feature songs about issues that bug him and a typical example is the angry “The World Is Going Crazy”.
Another personal lyric appears on “The Bottom Of The River” where resonator and harp are at the heart of the music with Walter playing a searing solo on electric, a song about carrying on in the worst of times. Relieving the mood “Take A Little Time” is an upbeat Chuck Berry-style rocker with a positive message about letting love into your life. JB Lenoir’s “The Whale” (coincidentally also covered on Tommy Castro’s new album) recounts the story of Jonah, another tale of man overcoming the odds, played as a tribute to JB and to John Mayall who introduced Walter to his music.
The harp is prominent on “Willie”, Walter’s tale of being ripped off in the music business. Unfortunately the advance copy I had for review did not show the personnel so this may be John Mayall again, but I cannot be sure. What is definitely JM is “Mayall’s Piano Boogie”, an impromptu studio jam that is good fun and shows a very different side to Walter’s playing.
Time then for one of Walter’s specialties, a slow blues and “Born In The City” does not disappoint as Walter pays tribute to his early years in Philadelphia – no country retreat for this bluesman! Amazing guitar playing here with the band backing Walter to the hilt.
“Tight Shoes” is an instrumental in Freddie King style and it’s terrific. The story behind the title is hilarious but should be saved for when readers purchase the album! The title track features John Mayall on B3 over a chugging riff and another very personal lyric expressing the fears that one gets when threatened by illness but Walter overcomes those fears to remain positive.
Things get a little funky on “Hard Times” before the album closer, a slow blues message from Walter to his devoted wife Marie, “Nobody Moves Me Like You Do”. It makes a fitting finale to this fine album with emotional lyrics matched by Walter’s performance on guitar.
Walter Trout tends to divide opinion but he has always remained his own man, determined to pursue his vision of electric guitar blues. He has produced many fine albums but “The Blues Came Callin’” with its emotional as well as artistic content ranks with his best. Let us all hope that we will be able to see Walter perform these songs live in the future.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.
Featured Live Blues Review – Kalamazoo Blues Festival
21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival – Kalamazoo, MI July 10-12, 2014
For 21 years the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association (KVBA) has produced through blood, sweat, and tears, a quality festival that has become the shining star of blues festivals in Michigan. Three days of non-stop music thanks to the two stages positioned side by side. While one stage is in use, the other is being set up, providing a seamless flow of music. Through the years, the festival has seen some lean times, but the KVBA has persevered and continues to keep the blues community entertained with top notch local, regional, and national acts.
Located in the Arcadia Creek Festival Place in downtown Kalamazoo, the scene started rocking on Thursday at 5:00 PM with local favorite Sneaky Pete featuring Dennis Edwards on guitar/vocals, Joe Silver on lead guitar, Jon Boyd on keyboards/vocals, Jay Hunt on sax, Jay Anson on drums and John Morreale on bass.
Following a rousing set, the stage was taken over by Big Trouble, another fine local band led by Dana Scott on guitar/vocals, Mike Muszynski on guitar, Mike Barker on bass, Jay Hunt on sax, Joe Garcia on drums and Doug Beckman on keyboards/vocals. They played a pleasing combination of covers and originals that were enjoyed by all.
It’s not all about the bands while you are here. The KVBA is about blues education as well. They have Workshops on Friday and Saturday that cover blues guitar, blues harmonica, Slide guitar/dobro and jams. And if you want, you can learn to build your own instruments like a tub bass, cigar box guitar, boomboards, diddley-bo or canjos. You can never stop learning. Plus, on Saturday afternoon, they host a children’s play area where you can build things and tie dye t-shirts among other activities.
Another local favorite, the Big Boss Blues Band, tore the stage up and gave notice that they were ready to party. The band consists of Joe Ferguson on harmonica/vocals, Bill LaValley on bass/vocals, Charlie Schantz on guitar/vocals and Eric Busch on drums. Pulling influence from Albert King, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf and other blues greats, these guys give it all a fresh sound.
Now it’s only the first day and already we’ve seen some great music. And you only paid $5.00 to get in on Thursday. Wow! That’s pretty cheap for the level of music presented. Plus my favorite rib joint was back and I could eat my weight in ribs. Life is good.
How many people does it take to make a party? According to The Jimmys, it takes eight. And they backed up that statement with a high energy set packed with rollicking fun songs and charisma that begged the audience to join in. If, for whatever reason, you were in a bad mood, these guys just took it away. Fantastic musicians led by vocalist/keyboardist Jimmy Voegeli (who in his spare time owns and operates a 200 head dairy farm), he’s aptly backed by Perry Weber on guitar, the rumbling rhythm section of former Georgia Satellite drummer Mauro Magelian and bassist Johnny Wartenweiler. Now comes the icing on the cake and that’s the horn section of Pete Ross (alto sax), Darren Sterud (trombone), Chad Whittinghill (trumpet) and Bryan Husk (baritone & tenor sax). You don’t even need candles on this cake; there were enough sparks flying from the fingers of all the guys. Great band!
Rounding out the Thursday evening performances was multiple award winner and nominee Brandon Santini (harmonica/vocals) who was backed by Timo Arthur on guitar/vocals, Nick Hern on bass/vocals and Chad Wirl on drums. The charismatic Santini soon had the crowd eating out of his hands as he led the band on powerful journey through his musical catalog. An outstanding finish to the evening!
Thanks to local club owner Marty Spaulding (411 Club), the festival might have been over but the partying kept going. There was an after festival jam session on Thursday that drew a lot of the local and regional bands to party into the wee hours.
Friday featured a lineup I was looking forward to with a couple of artists that I hadn’t seen before. Starting off was Lansing’s favorite son Stan Budzynski & 3rd Degree. Stan’s blistering guitar is backed by the strong rhythm section of Ron Bretz on bass, Greg Hode on keyboard, and rounded out with Jerome Edmonson on drums. The band tore through originals and covers including an excellent rendition of Jeff Beck’s Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers.
Grand Rapids has a thriving blues scene and at the forefront is the Steve Hilger Band. Steve’s guitar work has been influenced by both blues and jazz and he excels at both styles. Hilger is backed by Dave Devos (bass), John Gist (sax), Steve Talaga (keyboards) and Bill Roelofs (drums). Last, but not least, is soulful singer Deborah Richmond. Every performance has an electric connection with the audience whether it’s a classic blues tunes or an original song.
Unfortunately, the act that was scheduled next, Dana Fuchs, was forced to cancel at the last minute due to some health issues with her parents. I’ve been trying to catch up with her for a few years now and thought I finally was going to see her live. Fat chance! I hesitate to call Wayne Baker Brooks a substitute, but he was. Having just gotten back from Spain, Wayne hit the stage running with Kenny Kinsey on bass and Jerry Porter on drums and they ripped it up big time. Like his dad Lonnie and brother Ronnie, Wayne has a stage presence that the crowd responds to and they did in a big way.
The KVBA next chose the Colorado based Lionel Young Band. Lionel has the honor of being the only person to win an IBC in both the solo/duo and the band categories, and his performance left no doubts in anybody’s mind as to why. Young switched from guitar to violin while the band romped and stomped behind him. Backed by Tony Black on drums, Jamie Polisher on guitar and Chris Harris on bass, the band gelled right from the first note to the last. They made a lot of new fans that night.
All this great music on Friday and the cost you ask? Just one thin ten dollar bill. That’s $2.00 a band. Can’t beat that with a stick!
Can you think of a better way to end an evening than spending some time with long tall Marcia Ball? Not me! She blew on to the stage and launched right into one of the many boogies she’s known for. Marcia was backed by long time bassist Don Bennett, who was joined by saxophonist Thad Scott, drummer Damien Eric Llanes and guitarist Mike Schermer. The question is: just how much fun can you take before kicking into overload. Marcia and crew provided a reason to exceed your quota of happy feet. And that was a perfect ending to Friday. After that, it was time to kick back, unwind and gear up for Saturday.
The first band up was Too Left Feet, another Kalamazoo based band that formed as the result of a program sponsored by Marshall Music called Rock Warriors. Because of this, the band is a combination of musicians that share a rich musical history and a passion to create a new sound. Members include Tyler Schillaci/guitar, Izzy Forester saxophone/vocals, Dave Flanagan vocals/harmonica, Mark Fricke bass/vocals, Tammy Patterson keyboards/vocals and Tonya Nash on drums. Seeing that they have only been together since last year, they have found their groove.
The Blues Shed equals happiness. Pure and simple, this band makes you want to get your boogie on. With Nathan Moore’s vocals backed by Michael Mestelle’s keyboards and vocals, to Chuck Egan on guitar and Joe Ehlert on sax, they all benefit from the underlining rhythm section of drummer Cara LaLumia Barnes and bassist Mike Walter. It all adds up to some great music from this local band.
This band had its humble beginnings in 2002, but they play like they’ve been together forever. Great tight blues with stellar vocals. Can’t ask for more than that.
The Angelo Santelli Band is relatively new to the scene, but that doesn’t mean that they are beginners. Angelo has played in several bands including Harper & Midwest Kind. Drawing from Derek Trucks and Duanne Allman, Angelo’s forte is slide guitar and he has surpassed most others that try. Together with keyboardist Ben Godoshian, Geoff Lewis on drums, Tim Brouhard on bass and Griff on guitar and vocals, the band was unrelenting in its powerhouse blues. After seeing him, it’s no wonder Michael Allman nicknamed him “Skypup” after Duane’s “Skydog”. Gives you an idea of his level of playing.
Sabin Williams Band (SWB) has been in existence since 2007 and the tightness of this band is heard from the first note. With Dave Sabin on guitar/vocals and Tim Williams on drums/vocals and the bottom being brought up by bassist Jason Barber, the band wastes no time setting a standard in the blues/rock music that Angelo had already started. They did a great job of maintaining the energy level.
Fifi & the Dogs are a pleasing mixture of gut-bucket blues, classic rock, shuffles and swing, and if anybody could keep the energy level high or make it higher, it’s these dogs. Front and center is Fifi (Lisa Mallwitz) on vocals/sax, Dougie Dog (Doug Olson) on bass/vocals, Schwer Dog (Mark Schwerin) guitar/vocals and drummer Cookie (Gary Cook). Known to throw in a few “dog howls” here and there, the band has a huge following wherever it plays.
Gee Daddy’s BIG Blues Revue was formed five years ago and has accomplished a lot in that time, including a trip to the IBC in Memphis. The Revue features Michael Gee on Guitars/Vocals, Bob Hunt on Sax/Synthophone, Jerry Lew Patterson on Guitars/Vocals, Jimi Tulk on Drums/Vocals, Terry (Hoot) Gibson on Bass and vocalist Martila Sanders. The band has a big soul/funk sound that proves the perfect backdrop for spectacular vocals from Martila. With three CD’s under their belts, it’s obvious that they are here to stay and their performance proved why.
Having the dubious task of following the Gee Daddy fell to local favorites, The Out Of Favor Boys. As the band enters its second decade, they show no signs of slowing down. The band is a staple on the West Michigan music scene and hosts a weekly jam session at the 411 Club. The guys strive to eclipse their last performance and combine the music from Tommy Castro to Albert Collins and BB King to their own compositions. Behind the rumbling rhythm section of Mike Porter and Tim Brouhard on drums and bass respectively are the dueling guitars of Joel Krauss and Dan Quellette. And it’s all held together by the fiery sax and vocals of Tony Sproul.
Tweed Funk was formed only two short years ago, but they have earned a solid following through relentless touring, excellent CD’s and rock solid performances featuring the charismatic singer Joseph “Smokey” Holman. Quick with a smile and a joke, Smokey is a natural entertainer who has surrounded himself with some of the best musicians in Wisconsin. With JD Optekar on guitar/vocals, Eric Madunic on bass/vocals, Jon Lovas on saxophone, Kevin Klemme on trumpet and Nick Lang on drums, the band will leave you limp after one of their sweat soaked sessions.
One performer that I hadn’t seen was Albert Castiglia. We’d come close but never met … I thought. While talking with him, I found out I had seen him at the Kalamazoo Blues Festival about fifteen years ago when he was touring with Sandra Hall. Albert hit the stage at a dead run and never slowed down. With his blazing guitar running at maximum velocity, he overwhelmed the crowd with his prowess and power. Backed by the talented duo of Bob Amsel on drums and Matt Schuler on bass, Albert charmed the crowd in between guitar pyrotechnic assaults. Saying he wanted to show the people that they were more than just three men full of testosterone and had a softer side, they would play a ballad titled Put Some Stank On It. A true, sensitive human being.
Atlanta native Tinsley Ellis has been pounding the miles as a tireless road warrior. Cranking out his brand of blues/rock/soul, Tinsley has been a favorite of mine since I first heard Georgia Blue in the early 1990’s. His set was filled with nuggets from is career and songs from his new Landslide Records release Midnight Blues. I’ve seen all types of band configurations with Tinsley, from a second guitar to a keyboard to Jimmy Carpenter blasting on the saxophone, and each one is as entertaining as the other. While honing his playing and writing skills, Tinsley has created a body of work that will always be in demand. Backed this tour by Johnathan Holland on bass and Erik Kaszynski on drums, Ellis had the crowd eating from his hand before the first song was done. Before he was finished, he invited Albert up to join him and gave the crowd a real treat.
Headliner Coco Montoya evokes memories of his mentor, Albert Collins, through his playing style and songs. I first saw Coco with John Mayall and he became an instant favorite of mine. He plays with an intensity that many have tried but few can achieve. Coupled with vocals that range from silky to raw, Coco shows his time with Albert Collins and John Mayall were proven training grounds for his future. Backed by Brant Leeper on keyboards/vocals, Nathan Brown on bass and Rena Beavers on drums, the tight trio wound through a set that was greeted by the enthusiastic crowd. To finish off his set, he invited both Albert and Tinsley up for an impromptu jam session.
A fitting finish to this year’s festival. That rain everybody was worried about? It started right as Coco was ending his final song. I like this festival for several reasons: 1. It is presented by the KVBA, whose volunteers are amazing; 2. Its ticket prices are reasonable ($27.00 for all three days); 3. It showcases not only national talent but local talent as well. Salute!
Photos by Tim Richards and Sue Weaver
Featured Blues Review – 5 of 10
Eden Brent – Jigsaw Heart
Yellow Dog Records – 2014
12 tracks; 48 minutes
IBC solo winner in 2006, Eden Brent has established herself as one of the leading piano players of her generation, in particular being a regular in the Piano Bar on the Blues Cruise. On her third album for Yellow Dog Eden plays piano and sings, producer Colin Linden plays guitar and mandolin, Dan Dugmore adds pedal steel and the rhythm section is John Dymond on bass, Gary Craig on drums; on two tracks they are replaced by Stephen Mackey on bass and Bryan Owings on drums. Fiddle comes from Kenzie Wetz, violin, viola and cello from Chris Carmichael, Ann and Regina McCrary add background vocals.
Recorded in Nashville, Jigsaw Heart is an interesting blend of Eden’s boogie piano style and some definite country tinges, nowhere more evident than on the title track where the weeping pedal steel and Eden’s gently rolling piano give a real country feel. The opening track “Better This Way” ploughs a similar furrow as Eden ends a relationship before things get worse: “We can’t pretend this isn’t the end, it ended a long time ago. Let’s raise a glass, toast to the past and all of the joy that we’ve known.” Between those two songs “Everybody Already Knows” is more what we might expect from Eden as she pounds the keyboard effectively on a rocking boogie.
After that opening trio of originals we get two covers of very different styles and origins. “Opportunity” is a Joan Armatrading song, much bluesier in feel with Eden’s left hand and the bass working in unison while Colin digs deep on acoustic in his solo. Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas wrote “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” and it is a song that most of us have heard in one of many covers but Eden does a great job, the McCrary sisters testifying well on both these tracks.
Eden’s “The Last Time” has many of the hallmarks of a Mary Chapin Carpenter ballad, Eden’s slightly gruff voice handling the vocals very effectively. Eden’s piano sits alongside Colin’s mandolin and Dan’s pedal steel to provide attractive backing for Jimmy Phillips’ “Panther Burn” which evokes a time now past, tales of hard work in cotton fields, looking forward to music at the weekend.
“Let’s Go Ahead And Fall In Love” is a jaunty original with plenty of excellent piano and some raunchy lyrics which should bring a smile to your face. “Tendin’ To A Broken Heart” is another ballad of broken hearts and getting through as best we can, written by Tommy Polk, Joanna Cotton and Johnny Neel, and makes a fine contrast with the previous account of ‘hot love’.
Eden’s final original is the appropriately entitled “Locomotive” which belts along with plenty of slide and piano. The song also has some fine play-on-word lyrics: “Locomotive, she’s got a motive, ain’t digging no tracks. Locomotive, she’s motivated, ain’t looking back”.
The album closes with two covers, again of contrasting styles: “Get The Hell Out Of Dodge” (Walter Hyatt/Alice Randall) is a real country piece, especially with the fiddle and plucked acoustic guitar solo; “Valentine” comes from the pen of what we might term ‘the Producers’ Guild’ – Colin Linden and Tom Hambridge. With the strings adding a gentle sheen behind Eden’s vocal, this short, romantic song is an ideal closer.
This is an enjoyable album which probably has too many gentle, country-tinged songs for the casual blues fan but will certainly meet the expectations of Eden’s fans and offers a nicely varied set for those unfamiliar with her music.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues
Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10
Tommy Malone – Poor Boy
Tommy Malone brings a long musical journey to this his third solo album. He started out in formative bands like Dustwoofie, The Cartoons and The Continental Drifters and proceeded on to more well known bands such as The Subdudes and Tiny Town. The spirit of his New Orleans home can be heard between the lines on his current effort.
He enlists a small but vital band here to execute his musical vision. What results is a mainly mellow collection of rootsy Americana music. Tommy’s rough-edged voice reveals a warm and soothing quality. His evident skills on acoustic, electric and slide guitars lend atmosphere to the ten originals and one cover song contained here.
The jangly “You May Laugh” starts things off on an upbeat note. An homage is paid to The Beatles in this tune as one of their song titles is used as a lyric-“We Can Work It Out”. The easy flowing “Pretty Pearls” refers to jewelry and “pearls of wisdom”. Mellow funk infuses the”herky-jerky” “Mineral Girl”, as well as some lilting electric guitar. Some nifty mandolin plays out at the songs end.
Tommy refers to “All Dressed Up” as “A party song for geriatrics”, although it includes some cool sounds for the older crowd. One of those songs that remains catchy listen after listen is “Bumble Bee” with its neat little keyboard riff that resides just below the surface. The tune also features a “buzzy” acoustic guitar solo.
Country-blues slide guitar is featured on the bouncy “Time To Move On”, a song about “Getting” outta Dodge”, a tune were the rhythm section really shines. Melancholy memories are the subject of the easy rollin’ “once In A Blue Moon”. The tale of a mentally challenged “man-child” is set to a nice skip=along beat in “Crazy Little Johnny”.
Tommy gets down with a soulful and pleading vocal on “Talk To Me”. The sole cover is Stevie Wonder’s “Big Brother”, where the guitars carry the main riff over a drum loop. Keyboard “flute” and a stinging electric slide guitar melody solo greatly enhance this version. This one is a bit more laid-back than the original, which seems to be Tommy’s natural approach.
What is presented here is a heartfelt slice of American music tweaked to suit Tommy Malone’s slide-driven sound. It’s an easy and soothing listening experience from top to bottom. His band provides a sturdy foundation for his moving songwriting. Tommy’s long and rich musical excursion shows no indications of slowing down or lessening in quality.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review – 7 of 10
Dave Keller – Soul Changes
11 tracks; 44 minutes
New England-based Dave Keller works in that blue-eyed soul vein, singing in a genuinely soulful voice and adding his guitar to this set of songs. His 2011 album Where I’m Coming From won the best self-produced CD at the IBCs and Soul Changes is already nominated for a BMA in the Soul Blues category, so those who enjoy sweet soul music will want to hear this one.
Working with producer Bob Perry, Dave recorded in two locations. The Memphis sessions were laid down at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios and feature the Hi Rhythm Section of Charles Hodges, organ, Leroy Hodges, bass and Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges, guitar, assisted by Bobby Manuel, guitar, Lester Snell, electric piano, Gintas Janusonis, drums and the Royal Horns: Marc Franklin, trumpet, Lannie McMillan Jr, tenor, Kirk Smothers, baritone.
In Brooklyn Dave is backed by The Revelations: Wes Mingus, guitar, Adam Klipple, keys, Ben Zwerin, bass and Gintas Janusonis again holds down the drum stool. Horns come from Geoff Countryman, sax, Joe Ancowitz, trumpet and Rick Parker, trombone. Rell Gaddis and Halley Hiatt add backing vocals to both sessions. All the songs from the Memphis sessions are originals, the Brooklyn set is all covers, but frankly it is hard to tell the difference as Dave’s songs fit right in with those from the likes of George Jackson and Smokey Robinson, originally performed by soul greats like Bobby Womack, Otis Clay and the O’Jays.
The Memphis originals open with the smooth urban soul of “Searchin’ For A Sign”, the bari sax making a significant contribution. On “17 Years” Dave collaborated with Darryl Carter who has written soul classics such as “Blind, Crippled And Crazy”, Dave possibly needing some support as he bares his soul about the breakdown of his marriage – a tender, heart-rending ballad.
Dave remains on the theme of lost love throughout these originals as the lush ballad “Old Man’s Lullabye” finds him reminiscing about what used to be: “I can hear the church bells tolling, midnight comes in this small town. You and I were meant for greater things, like wedding rings, God help me now”. The horns sit this one out but the beautiful organ playing more than compensates.
“I Wish We’d Kissed” is a little more uptempo but still ploughs the same furrow of sadness and regret; “I wish we’d kissed more often, I wish we’d listened better to each other. I wish I could find another lover to make me feel how you made me feel”. “Lonely And I” sounds like it must have been written and recorded years ago, a classic piece of soul music with a great hook in the chorus, but it’s another of Dave’s songs, a touch of reggae in the rhythm to get the feet tapping. However, the song is all about that chorus: “Go on, girl, leave me. I ain’t afraid of lonely, lonely and I get along just fine”. “One More Time” is another ballad with a fine horn arrangement and some really nice guitar features from Dave, bringing the Memphis sessions to a close.
The Brooklyn sessions open with the attractively uptempo “It’s Too Strong”, the horns featuring strongly. The gorgeous George Jackson ballad “Back In Love Again” opens with some delicate piano and Dave’s pleading vocal digs deep into the lyrics about finding love again. The horns return for a storming version of “Don’t Look Back”, once a Temptations tune, now wholly owned by Dave and his Brooklyn cohorts.
A second George Jackson tune “Heart On A String” brings a touch of funk from the rhythm section and a chorus that is all about the horns before Dave gives us a short, tasty guitar solo. “Is It Over?” provides another opportunity for Dave to show us his soul balladeer abilities, the horns embellishing the chorus superbly.
Whether Dave is singing his own emotionally charged material or covering soul classics, the result is the same; this album is superb from start to finish and is a must for anyone who likes soul-blues. Highly recommended.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues
Featured Blues Review – 8 of 10
Mark Nomad – A Real Fine Day
Blue Star Records – 2014
Ten Tracks with a total running time of 41:34
On Mark Nomad’s eighth CD, A Real Fine Day, we are taken on a musical journey that will satisfy most electric and acoustic blues lovers’ quest for solid musical ability. Nomad shows us he is a guitar virtuoso going from the rocking slide on the lead track (New Day Dawning) to the mellow delta driven title track, “A Real Fine Day”. Of the ten songs here seven are originals with three covers that Nomad has practically made his own.
Track 2 (Squeeze Me In) is a funky little ditty that is a toe tapper driven by a stellar rhythm section made up of Sturgis Cunningham (accomplished studio and road veteran) on drums and tambourine with John O’Boyle on bass.
The next stop on our journey takes us to the Delta with a stripped down acoustic treat. With inspired lyrics like “Ain’t so much in what you do but the way you do it if your heart is true…” we are given a glimpse into Nomad’s creative catalog.
For fans of Link Wray track 4, “The Friz”, provides clear evidence that Mark Nomad guitar abilities seems to know no bounds. Whammy bars abound on this tune and lovers of “surfer” style guitar should be more than happy with this dive into that genre.
Nomad’s stripped down acoustic cover of Willie Dixon’s, “Mellow Down Easy”, provides further proof that under the direction of an accomplished musician older covers can come alive with a freshness that satisfies. It is always a treat to find a musician that can entertain with just their voice, guitar and harmonica.
What musical trek would be complete without an excursion into Hendrix territory? On track 8, “Sun Worlds, Moon Worlds”, we are taken back to a time when Hendrix ruled (as if he ever stopped) the radio airwaves. This is a great instrumental piece which should be appreciated by any listener whether they are a Hendrix fan or not.
The closer, “A Real Fine Day” once again combines Nomad’s abilities as a guitarist, singer and kick-ass song writer. He somehow manages to make this song sound like it came from the Delta via the Beatles in their sitar influenced tunes with a little harmonica and background vocals thrown in. All in all A Real Fine Day is a real fine recording that would be a welcome addition to most music lovers’ collections.
Musical credits for this fine recording from Mark Nomad include Mark Nomad: vocals, guitars, and harmonica – Sturgis Cunningham: drums and tambourine on tracks 1, 2, 5, & 10 and harmony on track 10 – Peter King: bass on tracks 1,4, 7, &8 – John O’Boyle: bass on tracks 2, 5, & 10 – Dale Monette: drums on tracks 4, 7, & 8. A Real Fine Day was produced, recorded and mixed by Nicky Nice at Mountain Air Recording, Easthampton, MA.
Reviewer Tim “Bluzybiker” Petty spent 42 years building railroads and now spends his time supporting the music he loves and riding motorcycles – sometimes at the same time!
Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10
Ian Siegal – Man & Guitar
Ian Siegal is primarily known in Britain as a blues slash blues-rock based singer-songwriter that also incorporates folk and roots music influences. This solo acoustic concert, largely spurred by fan requests, was recorded by the BBC at The Royal Albert Hall during Bluesfest 2013,and broadcast on Paul Jones’ blues radio program. Given that the audience response doesn’t sound massive, although enthusiastic, it appears not to have been recorded in the huge main hall. Armed with a gravelly croak of a voice and dexterous skills on Resonator guitar as well as others, his vigorous approach is endearing. Be it in blues or singer-songwriter mode, Ian is a consummate performer.
He is all fleet-fingered guitar on his energetic “The Silver Spurs”, a song that is chockfull of cowboy and wild west references. His ragged delivery lends the necessary authenticity to the song.
His urgent vocal delivery breathes new life into the traditional “chestnut” “Mary Don’t You Weep”. Near the songs’ conclusion he pounds out the beat on the guitar without losing the song’s momentum. His original “Mortal Coil Shuffle” about meeting one’s maker could pass for an “old timey” tune. He hits a vocal “Mariah Carey note” near the end of the song that ignites a response from the audience.
His readings of Charley Patton’s “Pony Blues”, “Preachin’ Blues/Live So God Can Use You/You Got To Move” and “T’ain’t Nobody’s Business” are spot on. The latter is done ala Taj Mahal’s version, complete with the inclusion of the high-speed hipster rap.
Another original “I Am The Train” is another fast-paced gem. The slow and brooding “Falling On Down Again”, a tale of a hard-luck character, includes snippets of Otis Redding’s “Dreams To Remember” and Sam & Dave’s “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down”.
Dipping back into the singer-songwriter bag he does an interpretation of Tom Russell’s dramatic “Gallo Del Cielo”, a story-song about a legendary cock-fighting rooster. He even manages to give Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times(Come Again No More) a bluesy quality.
After hearing this “unplugged” sample of Ian’s Skills, it makes me eager to hear his usual electric band fare. The presentation here is hard to resist as the songs are delivered with a true sincerity and love of what he is doing.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review – 10 of 10
Janiva Magness – Original
11 tracks / 44:45
When folks talk about the blues they always bring up Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans, but there is also a killer blues scene in Los Angeles. One of the most talented artists in L.A. is singer/songwriter Janiva Magness, who has eleven records in her catalog and more blues awards than you can shake a stick at, including awards for Contemporary Blues Recording of the year for her album Stronger For It and Song of the Year for “I Won’t Cry” in the 2012 Blues Blast Music Awards!
But it took a long time to get to this point, and Janiva’s life story would make for an incredible book. She was born in Detroit, became orphaned as a young teen, was placed in a dozen foster homes before she came of age, and had to give up her own daughter for adoption when she was 17. This is a grim biography, but fortunately she found support from her last foster mother and inspiration from an Otis Rush concert that helped her set her sights on a career in music. After working as a sound engineer, getting gigs as a backing singer (including Kid Ramos and R.L. Burnside), and forming her own band (The Mojomatics), she made her way to Los Angeles, where she self-published her first album in 1997.
Magness’ latest CD is the self-released Original, her finest work to date. This is her first album on her own after six years with Alligator Records, and Janiva is treading new ground by stepping up and co-writing seven of the eleven tracks on the disc. This project was produced, recorded, and mixed by Dave Darling, who worked on her three previous albums as well as with an impressive list of artists that includes The Stray Cats, Brian Setzer and Glen Campbell.
From the first track the listener will know why she did not have a blues label make this record. There is blues foundation to everything she does, but this music expands into soul, roots and Americana, so it is impossible to assign it to any one genre. “Let Me Breathe” gives heartbreaking insight into the feelings of emptiness and guilt following a hard break-up, accompanied by sultry and soulful lyrics with hard blues guitar riffs. This contrasts well with the message of hope found in “Twice as Strong” an upbeat pop/soul song with neat background harmonies and the tight backline of Gary Davenport on bass and Matt Tecu on drums.
“When You Were My King” is one of Janiva’s collaborations with the Australian songwriting team of Lauren Bliss and Andrew Lowden, and they definitely clicked on this one. This bittersweet R&B tune slows things down and serves a vehicle for Magness to display her softer side. Jim Alfredson sets the background with his keyboards, and Darling contributes a sweet guitar countermelody. After mourning the loss of her love, for the next track she opines that that void needs to be filled. “I Need a Man” is an upbeat rocker with a Bo Diddley-esque beat that gives the lady a chance to tear loose and her emotion proves to be contagious.
One would think that with her tough upbringing and plenty of bad turns in recent years (divorce, deaths of friends and family, and a major surgery that could have taken her singing voice), that this could be an album of pain and bitterness. Janiva somehow puts all of this into perspective and provides a healthy dose of introspection and hope, as seen in the standout track “With Love,” which features Dan Navarro of the hit songwriting team, Lowen and Navarro, on backing vocals.
The album’s closer, “Standing,” is another group effort from Magness and Bliss/Lowden with a pretty melody (Alfredson’s piano and Zach Zunis’ guitars are lovely counterpoints) and poignant lyrics of loss and strength. Though this is a very slow rhythm and blues track it is far from dull as it builds drama throughout, even as it slowly rolls to a close. This song is the final reminder that the album maintains good pacing throughout and it is helped along with slick production, good musicians and classy arrangements. There is nothing to find fault with here, and Dave Darling fulfilled his role as producer handily.
Original is a stunning album in its honesty and craftsmanship; Janiva Magness has a hit on her hands and surely there will be a few more awards coming her way. But her live show is exceptional too, and these songs will make the transition to the stage very well. So buy the CD, but also make plans to see her on the tour as she has a staggering number of stops before the end of the year and there will surely be one near you!.
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at http://rexbass.blogspot.com.
Blues Society News
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The Columbus Blues Alliance – Columbus, OH
Celebration Time. Come on! The Columbus Blues Alliance will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Sunday, August 10 at Roadhouse 66, 480 E. Wilson Bridge Road, Worthington, Ohio 43085. Central Ohio is blessed with phenomenal blues talent. Helping us celebrate will be Blues Music Award nominees, International Blues Challenge finalists, Albert King award winners, and CBA challenge winners. The party starts at 3:00 pm. Tickets at the door are $10 or $8 for CBA and sister society members. The includes Hadden Sayers, Micah Kesselring, Sonny Moorman Group, Sean Carney Band and an All-Star Jam For more info visit http://columbusblues.com
Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents the Holmes Brothers—Saturday, August 16 at the Muddy Waters, 1708 State Street in Bettendorf, Iowa. The show starts at 8:00 p.m. and admission is $15. For more info visitwww.mvbs.org
Natchel Blues Network – Norfolk, VA
The Natchel’ Blues Network and Beach Events presents The 21st Annual Blues at the Beach Festival September 5 & 6, 2014 at 17th Street Stage – Virginia Beach VA.
Lineup includes Jarekus Singleton and Lil Ed & The Blues Imperials on Friday and Doug Deming & Dennis Gruenling w/ The Jewel Tones, Dirt Cheap Blues Exchange Dance Workshop, Damon Fowler Group, Bernard Allison and Tommy Castro & The Painkillers on Saturday.
$5.00 Daily / $8.00 Weekend Pass. For more info visit http://www.natchelblues.org/events/BluesAtTheBeachFestival.html
Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL
2014 Friends of the Blues Concert Series – All shows held in Kankakee, IL unless otherwise noted.
Tuesday, August 12, Laurie Morvan Band, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, Tues, August 19, Polly O’Keary 7 The Rhythm Method, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmens Club, Tues, August 26, Nikki Hill (& Matt Hill), Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Thursday, Sept 18, Jerry Lee & The Juju Kings, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Thursday, October 02, Sena Ehrhardt, Moose Lodge
Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, Illinois
Advanced planning: The 5th Annual Crossroads Blues Festival on August 23rd moves from Byron, IL to Lyran Park just south of Rockford Airport. http://crossroadsbluesfestival.blogspot.com/ Lurrie Bell headlines this year’s event! .
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. August 11 – Laurie Morvan Band, August 18 – Chris Duarte, August 25 -Lionel Young Band
Additional ICBC shows: August 10 – Dennis Gruenling @ Long Bridge Golf Course 3 pm, August 22 – Old Capitol Blues & BBQ with Kicked to the Curb 5:30 pm, Josh Hoyer & Shadow Boxers 7:00 pm, Harper 8:30 pm, Victor Wainright & The Wild Roots 10 pm, August 23 – 8th ICBC Blues Challenge noon, Hard Road Blues Band 5:30 pm, Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet 7:00 pm, Brooke Thomas & The Blue Suns 8:30 pm, The Lee Boys & Sacred Steel 10 pm, August 24 – Candye Kane @ The Curve Inn 4:00 pm. Music starts at 2:30 pm with Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet, Hurricane Ruth @ 6:00 pm
Questions regarding this press release can be directed to Michael Rapier, President of ICBC, at firstname.lastname@example.org at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at email@example.com or by visiting www.icbluesclub.org