Issue 8-42 October 16, 2014

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine


 

 In This Issue 

Tee Watts has our feature interview with Keb Mo.

We have 5 music reviews for you including new music from Chris Smither, The Duke Robillard Band, Dave ‘Hurricane’ Hoerl, John Frick Band and Carolyn Fe Blues Collective.

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


From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

ONE WEEK TO GO!!

The 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards is Thursday October 23rd at the Fluid Event Center, 601 N Country Fair Dr Champaign, IL (217) 359-6960.

This great show features more than 20 of the best Blues artists out there today including Bobby Rush And Blinddog Smokin’, Shaun Murphy Band, Albert Castiglia, Trudy Lynn, Too Slim and The Tail Draggers, Bernie Pearl with Barbara Morrison, Dave Riley and Bob Corritore, Tweed Funk, Adrianna Marie and Her Groovecutters, Back Pack Jones, Annie Mack Band, RB Stone, Norman Taylor, Lisa Biales, Mark T Small, Lisa Mann, Brent Johnson and the Call Up, Steve Dawson, Rachelle Coba, Sean Chambers, Josh Hoyer, an opening set by Andy T. Nick Nixon Band and maybe a few surprises!

For tickets and compete information, CLICK HERE or see our ad below.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser




 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

Chris Smither – Still On The Levee

www.smither.com

Mighty Albert/Signature Sounds

25 songs – 93 minutes

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Chris Smither is currently marking his 50th year of music-making with three separate projects: a book containing the lyrics to all the songs he wrote between 1966 and 2012; a tribute album featuring the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Dave Alvin, Tim O’Brien and Loudon Wainwright III; and Still On The Levee, a two-CD retrospective featuring his own new recordings of a selection of songs from his vast back catalogue.

Smither has long been one of the most intelligent, articulate songwriters in modern music. His philosophical lyrics are perfectly in tune with his complex, subtle, finger-picked guitar playing and gravel-voiced vocals. On Still On The Levee, Smither has given fresh perspective to a selection of songs covering his entire career, from his first composition, “Devil Got Your Man”, to several recent originals.

A deeply profound lyricist, Smither raises existential questions in his songs, whilst also displaying an abiding love of language and wordplay, not to mention a rare wit. He is also a fine interpreter of the songs of others: his duet with Bonnie Raitt on Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” on his 2003 album Train Home remains chillingly effective.

Smither’s distinctive, singular guitar playing strongly reflects two of his primary influences: Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mississippi John Hurt. In concert, his mic’ed, tapping feet provide propulsive rhythmic accompaniment. On record, as here, his songs work equally well with a full band backing.

His primary backing group is The Motivators, featuring Billy Conway on drums, Jimmy Fitting on harmonica, David Goodrich (who also produced the album) on guitars, piano and diddley bo, and Anita Suhanin on vocals. A number of other musicians also contribute to various songs, however, including Allen Toussaint, Loudon Wainwright III, Jeremy Moses Curtis, Kris Delmhorst, Ian Kennedy, Catherine Norr, Barry Rothman, Robin Smither, Dana Colley, Jeremy Lyons, and Kate and Matt Lorenz and Zak Trojano of Rusty Belle.

Given the sheer number of songs that Smither has written over the years, there will always be some personal favorites omitted in any retrospective. This writer, for example, would have enjoyed hearing re-interpretations of “I Feel The Same”, “I Am The Ride” or even Smither’s belting cover of Jesse Winchester’s “Thanks To You”. But it is churlish to raise criticisms of what is a superb release.

But why should you be interested in re-recordings of songs already released by the same musician? Because he interprets them in entirely new and fascinating ways. The best songs, like the great plays of Shakespeare, can be re-interpreted in a variety of different ways. Smither has always brought gravitas and grit to every song he has released, but now he brings the perspective of age together with the contributions of his new backing musicians. His voice may be a little more ragged than on his original recordings and his guitar may be a little lower in the mix on some songs, emphasizing the band more than the individual, but the songs themselves remain as powerful as ever.

“Winsome Smile” has evolved from a wry attempt to pass on helpful advice to a navel-gazing broken-hearted boy to become a rollicking rock’n’roll number with more than a hint of frustration at the self-centeredness and immaturity of the subject of the song. After all, as the singer himself notes: “She’ll say it’s all her fault, she’ll always be your friend, plus loads of crap too dumb to mention. I’ve been down that road and it’s paved with good intentions.”

Other songs have undergone a process of evolution over many years and reach the next stage of that process  here. “Love You Like A Man”, most famously covered by Bonnie Raitt, changed dramatically from its original version on Smither’s first album, 1970’s I’m A Stranger Too!, to his live-in-the-studio 1989 album Another Way To Find You. Smither plays the version on Still On The Levee a hair slower again, which provides the song with a deeper groove, abetted by understated percussion.

“No Love Today” and “Train Home” both benefit from Allen Toussaint’s beautiful New Orleans-influenced piano-playing, adding surprisingly melancholy-yet-jazzy undertones.

The centre piece of the album however is “Leave The Light On”, the title track from Smither’s 2006 album. Two quite distinct versions end the two discs on this release, both featuring Rusty Belle. The first is almost jaunty and upbeat, as Smither reflects on the passing of time with typical inventiveness: “If I were young again, I’d pay attention to that little-known dimension, the taste of endless time.” The second version, however, is significantly slower, tapping into the sad truth that everyone lucky enough to reach a certain age recognises: that youth is wasted on the young. “It’s like water. It runs right through our fingers. But the flavour of it lingers, like a rich, red wine.” Sung as a duet between Smither and Kate Lorenz, Smither’s inherent optimism shines through, turning the track into a love song to life itself and a clarion call to us all to look forwards as well as back. “I may live to be 100, I was born in ’44. 31 to go, but I ain’t keepin’ score. I’ve been left for dead before, but I still fight on. Don’t wait up, leave the light on. I’ll be home soon.” It is a genuinely brilliant recording, bringing out and burnishing the depth, intelligence and human warmth of the writer.

If you are already a fan of Chris Smither, you will definitely want to add this album to your collection. If you are not yet a fan, Still On The Levee is a great place to start. This is one of the best albums of 2014. Unmissable.

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 Interview – Keb Mo 

It’s almost impossible to properly explain how well Keb’ Mo’s career is currently going. If he were inclined to rest on his laurels, the accompanying crown would quite possibly be too heavy to jauntily perch upon his head like the many varied and cool hats he has worn over the years.

It’s also hard to believe that he has been around as long as he has. His nose to the grindstone work schedule and ethic seem herculean as he shape-shifts between Blues, Roots, Country, touring, producing, Grammy nods, songwriting for the best music minds in the business–The list really does go on.

On a day when his publicist had scheduled a seeming unending succession of 15 minute interviews, Blues Blast was able to talk with him close to an hour between 2 phone conversations. It could have gone longer, but Mr. Mo’ is a busy man. Here then, is our conversation:

Blues Blast: How do you separate the creative end of your music from the promotional end? Do you have to put on a different face? Do interviews become redundant and drudgery?

Keb Mo: Well It’s all part of the same thing. I make a record and I go on the road to perform it. I try to inform the public that it’s out as subtlety as I can. You have to get the word out. Hopefully in that record there is a message that is worthy of the awareness.

BB: This is a quote from Taj Mahal -“My perspective is that artists like myself have a huge audience that’s under serviced. I’m talking about Keb Mo, Guy Davis, Cory Harris, Sparky Rucker, Jerry Rix and Otis Taylor, among others.” What are your thoughts about that?

KM: Under serviced. That’s interesting, hearing it from his perspective. Taj is a very astute, relevant and aware guy. He’s witnessed and seen a lot, even before I got on the scene. Peoples interest in the roots of the Blues has waned, you know? When you say Blues, people go, “Aww, that’s that old sad stuff.” There’s a stigma about what it is and what it means. Even when Blues was in its heyday, it wasn’t as popular as Pop music.

A few artists were able to get on the charts. Jimmy Reed was probably the only one to hit the top ten. Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Otis Rush were all on the outskirts. Yet that was the music that everyone listened to. That’s the music that built Rock & Roll and Soul music, built the whole thing, you know?

So when the British came over, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck had found the Blues and said, “What’s this?” They found the stuff that we were ignoring over here. That started a raise in the level of awareness. The Blues had always been relegated to “race music.” It was the stuff that Black folks would listen to in clubs and juke joints.

I remember Johnny Otis playing Monterey. I was just standing around and I heard him say, “It’s the Black audience that makes Blues work. It’s what the Black audience thinks about the Blues that matters most.” And Johnny Otis was of Greek ancestry not Black.

Now though, that old audience has died off. The people that would go and see Bobby Bland, B.B. King, Johnny Clyde Copeland and Muddy Waters have passed. Although we still have B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal with us (and Taj Mahal is really underrated when it comes to Blues royalty. As popular as he is, he is still very underrated), my point is that not only are the Blues legends going, their audience is going as well. People don’t really say that much about that.

The last time I saw that audience in full array was at a Bobby Blue Bland concert. I had the privilege of being on the show. That’s a hard audience too. You don’t just walk up there and play anything. You’ve got to know something about the Blues. That’s the audience I grew up with in South Central Los Angeles. That’s the audience I had to get in front of in order to learn how to do what little I know what to do.

BB: Getting back to that Taj Mahal quote, it seems that the reason he mentioned you, Guy Davis, Cory Harris, Otis Taylor, Sparky Rucker and Jerry Rix is that he recognizes that you guys are cut from the same cloth and are also furthering that royal Blues legacy that you just mentioned.

KM: That’s the legacy of the plantations down south, along with the Underground Railroad, Gospel music and Jazz. That’s the beginning of African-American culture in America. Because we came here with no culture. Our culture was stolen from us. So, the Blues in America, the field hollers, the old Gospel and the Underground Railroad is the beginning of African-American culture.

I’m always encouraged when I meet young Black folks who are steeped in the traditions of the Blues. There aren’t many of them. But they pop up from time to time. Hubby Jenkins of the Carolina Chocolate Drops comes to mind. There’s also a young guy who lives in my neighborhood. He’s from Athens, Georgia. His name is Robert Eskew. He’s smart, educated and runs a very successful insurance business. But, when he digs down in his stuff and pulls out his guitar, man can he rip some Charley Patton! When I encounter young men like that, I’m encouraged because usually in our community, other people keep track of our history more than we do. Even though we are constantly making history.

It’s not that often that I get to speak to someone such as yourself. I usually have to explain this to people who don’t know the history and what this music means. I don’t claim that I know fully, but I know that it’s important. I do the Blues, I do the whole thing, but if you listen to me you know that I incorporate other things into the music, as all of the Blues guys have. Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy, B.B. King and others have infused other elements into the Blues to make it more agreeable to the American palate as well as the emerging, educated African-American palate

I have a lot of friends in Country music who really embrace the old Country and Bluegrass music. I’m not so sure about the “new” Country. I’m talking about guys from the ’90s back. If you can’t rip some Slim Whitman or Bill Munroe, you don’t get respect. But in the African-American community, you can not know a damn thing about what B.B.King does and it’s okay. I’m not sure Beyonce knows who Charley Patton is. Maybe she does and that’s alright. She’s a diva, a bad ass force to be reckoned with. Now, where all that came from was the line from Ma Rainey to Tina Turner. That’s what I see in Beyonce, Tina Turner. They all are forces, powerful forces.

BB: Back in 2007, we saw your contemporary, Otis Taylor on the Main Stage at the Chicago, Blues Festival. Then a couple of years later, at the Russian River Blues Festival, we saw him relegated to playing the Wine Stage which is the mini-stage usually reserved for up and coming artists, while they break down and prepare the Main Stage for the headline acts. We asked Otis about this seeming dichotomy, he replied very humbly, “It doesn’t matter, as long as I am playing the music and spreading the message.” What is your take on that?

KM: It’s good to get it from the side stage. It’s good to get it from the main stage. It doesn’t matter. People are checkin’ it out. I too, have been in those situations.

BB: In a conversation with Bobby Womack before he passed, he stated that he’d written a whole album of Blues tunes for the late Bobby Bland before he passed. Mr. Womack gave the lyrics and music to Mr. Bland and waited for him to put the vocals on it. He waited and Mr. Bland wasn’t getting back to him at all. He finally called and Bobby Bland said, he didn’t think he could hit the highs like he used to and seemed, frankly, not to be interested. He in fact, never finished the vocals. Mr. Womack’s interpretation was that Mr. Bland had been burned so many times in his career, coupled with the fact that he didn’t read well, and wasn’t trying to trust the contractual agreement that the project required. What is your response to that?

KM: Bobby “Blue” Bland had a remarkable career. He made one of the classic Blues albums of all time, Two Steps From The Blues. It was actually a Pop record, meaning the record label spent some money on it. They put some time and effort into it.

Today, it’s a crazy world. Now the Blues is diversified. You’ve got Italians, Irishmen and Englishmen singing the Blues. They have gotten pretty good. Color doesn’t matter. You might want to a see, say, a bagpipe band. There is something though, about being connected to the heritage of the Blues. When a Black man is singing the Blues who is connected to the culture of the Blues, when you connect in that way, the possibility is always there for something special to happen.

Not that when other people sing it, it doesn’t happen. I know a lot of White guys that can sing the shit out of some Blues. It still connects. The old, hard, Black audience, which we don’t have anymore-when they heard that, it didn’t matter what color you were.

BB: You mentioned bagpipes a moment ago. Do you remember the Black bagpipe player Rufus Harley.

KM: I met him. I got to play with him at the Playboy Jazz Festival as a member of the Bill Cosby All-Star Band. There were several incarnations of that band. The year I played, Cedar Walton played as well as Rufus Harley.

BB: Your bio talks about a low point in your career when it seemed that everything you had built seemed to dissipate. Do you mind elaborating on that?

KM: During my formative years, I guess the first twenty years of my career, I was writing songs. At the time I didn’t think I was still in my formative years even though they were professional years. I had written a lot of songs. But when I came to really know the Blues, so to speak, the light went on that things had to be real. I found that I couldn’t just be writing stuff ‘cuz it had a cute hook, ‘cuz it had a ring to it. You can have a hook, but you gotta have something you can sink your teeth into, something that you can really stand on when you’re singin’ it.

If it has validity in your life it has a better chance of resonating with other people. I wasn’t hittin’ that. I was playin’ a lot of music but I didn’t really have an identity in those first twenty years. Initially, all I wanted to be was a songwriter and a sideman. What I have goin’ now, it’s like, wow, how’d that happen? Basically, it was all based on me just wanting to be a songwriter and sideman.

That was the gift. Because I just wanted to be that, I studied about recording, practiced songwriting a lot, got very much into the technical things, how to arrange things, running a band, being a bandleader, into all those things. So when I finally got serious about communicating and got into the Blues and started to really find myself, all those skills came in handy and pushed me forward to excel in my career these days.

BB: Tell us about working with Solomon Burke.

KM: Yeah man! Steve Jordan was producing a Solomon Burke record. He called me up and asked me if I wanted to come down and play some guitar. In that situation I always bring a song or two in case there is a need. I brought a song called, We Don’t Need It, which Solomon Burke had sang on the record . (After a couple of years, I recorded it myself.)

So getting to know Solomon and working with him was pretty cool. I did a couple of shows with him as well. He was a brilliant performer who didn’t really like the studio all that much. He liked to perform for the people. He was a minister as well and had more than eighty grandchildren when he died.

BB: The last time we saw you perform was at the Concord Pavilion and your co-headliner was Bonnie Raitt. It was a great show. No disrespect intended, but it seem to me there was some sexual tension on stage between the two of you.

KM: (Hearty laugh.) No sexual tension. No sexual tension. Naw. It’s like, I’m a huge fan of Bonnie Raitt and she’s a sexy woman now, don’t get me wrong. We just love workin’ together. Now, she’s a Bluesman. I’ma tell ya. Bonnie Raitt is a Bluesman. She’ll sit down with a National guitar and knock your socks off. She’s bad ass.

When you’re working with Bonnie, playin’ and singin’ is just fun. She likes to taunt her collaborators. It’s like, “Come on, let’s go.” She’s so much fun. I did have a little crush on her, back in the day! So you got me! When I met her and her husband at the time, Michael, I remember him declaring, “The redhead is mine!” He let you know right off the bat. It was like, we got that understanding, “Let’s go!”

BB: You also worked with Amy Grant. Was it a Christian inflected record?

KM: It was a single I produced on her Best Of album called, Come Be With Me. By the way, I just finished producing a record, due to be out next year by Sweet Pea Atkinson from Was Not Was.

BB: Tell us of your association with Papa John Creach.

KM: I worked with Papa John the first four years of my professional touring life. I played with him in the band. During that time we did shows with the Jefferson Starship. I also got to work with Big Joe Turner when I was with Papa John Creach. Harmonica Fats too.

BB: Wrapping it up. How long have you been living in Nashville and how do you like it?

KM: Been here eight years and it’s good. I’ve got a lot of musician friends here. We like to hang out here and have good times…

At this point Keb’ Mo’ indicated he had to go and make preparations for that night’s show. What he coyly held back from us was that he was presenting Taj Mahal with a Lifetime Achievement Award the following night at the Americana Music Awards in Nashville.

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

Interviewer Tee Watts is music director at KPFZ 88.1 fm in Lakeport, CA and road manager for Sugar Pie DeSanto.

 



 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 5 

The Duke Robillard Band – Calling All Blues!

Stony Plain Records

www.dukerobillard.com

10 songs/39 minutes

Fans of the Duke and his old band Roomful of Blues are always on the lookout for new swinging stuff by them and this new album by the Duke won’t disappoint them or anyone looking for a good dose of swinging blues from New Englands’ blues dynasty. The Duke is joined by Bruce Bears on the keys, Brad Halen on bass, and Mark Texiera on drums and percussion. It also features his protégé Sunny Crownover on vocals and the trio of Rich Lataille (sax), Mark Early (sax) and Doug Wolverton (trumpet) as the horn section. Eight originals are featured here out of the ten songs presented.

He opens with “Down in Mexico;” that swinging groove we know and love from Duke just grabs you and makes you want to listen and shake your boogie. Nice horn and organ work here and the Duke offers a thoughtful guitar solo (as he does throughout the album). “I’m Gonna Quit My Baby” is something Duke worked out and recorded with Mark Texiera a while back. He played with the tuning, added piano and bass, and does a little slide. It’s very cool. Duke messes around with a lot of old string instruments to deliver “Svengali,” a song comparing someone close to him to the hypnotist/mystic character from the 1930’s whose shtick was to control people. Lots of cool percussion also adds to the mystique and textured string flavors. “Blues Beyond the Call of Duty” features Sonny doing what she does best while Duke plays his Strat in a very Chicago styled manner. She can croon with the best of them and Duke just blows everything away with his soulful approach to this cut. What a superb cut and not what you usually expect from the Duke!

The covers are all very thoughtfully selected and performed. Gary Nicholson and Ron Sexsmith wrote “Emphasis on Memphis” gives us a lesson in how rock and roll evolved in Memphis with Duke leading and a plethora of backing vocals and some really cool horns. He goes back to new stuff with “Confusion Blues,” Bruce Bears takes the vocal lead in this jazzy little number. His tenor tones are perfect and the jump blues are in full force here. Duke’s guitar is sweet and recorded live with great effect. The boys boogie hard with “Motor Trouble;” Robillard double tracks the vocals with a delay for a very effective sound. The guitar is sublime yet forceful and the piano strident in this mid tempo boogie. “Nasty Guitar” basically revolves just around that. He and Sonny sing as a duet here on this rocking song where Duke lays his Strat over his Airline Twin. He, as a 65 year old, is proud that his blues can still rock.

“Temptation” comes from his 1990’s album of the same name. Miles Davis meets Pink Floyd meets funk. It’s not the same song as it was 20 years ago, this delivery is quite the showcase of a band that is together. “She’s So Fine” closes the set, a Duke Coleman song from the 1960s originally performed by the Carter Brothers of Alabama. Duke growls this soulful blues while the backline furiously maintains the beat. Duke noted his voice is gone and after he performed this song he could barely talk for days. The baritone sax is used like a fog horn and the band lays down a sweet groove, leaving nothing behind and closing the album in fine manner.

Complaints? Maybe two. As Duke notes in the liner notes (and interviews): his voice is going. He still manages to growl and grit out some cool stuff. The other one is that the album is a little short, under 40 minutes. But those are minor in comparison to the pluses. The songs are really well constructed and thoughtfully arranged. The playing is impeccable. Ten fine songs with a superb band performed by the master of New England blues- Mr. Duke Robillard!

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



 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 5 

Dave ‘Hurricane’ Hoerl – Un-Twisted

Full Swing Records 2014

www.davehoerl.com

11 tracks; 38 minutes

Dave Hoerl is an American who has lived and worked in Canada for over 30 years. He was a founding member of jump band The Twisters and currently fronts a band called Hurricane And The Hooligans but this is his first solo release. He is backed by some of his fellow Hooligans as well as some invited guests.

Dave handles lead vocals and harp; Dave ‘Double D’ Dykhuizen plays guitar on all tracks bar two where he is replaced by James ‘Buddy’ Rogers (a Blues Blast nominee in 2013 for New Artist debut album) and Brandon Isaak on one track each; Roger Brant plays electric bass with Keith Picot replacing him on upright bass on two cuts; Chip Hart is the drummer and Dave ‘Cob’ Webb keyboards on all tracks; Johnny Ferreira adds sax to two tracks.

Dave wrote all the songs bar two covers, sometimes alone, sometimes in collaboration with others. The album opens strongly with “Soul Mate”, a song dedicated to his wife, Dave’s harp blasting out above some fine piano, his voice light and clear so all lyrics are immediately understandable. James Rogers supplies the guitar on this one, including a nicely poised solo with a touch of ‘twang’.

“Pure And Simple Blues” is a solid shuffle that does what it says on the tin: “when you’re by yourself alone it cuts right to the bone, play some of that pure and simple blues”. Some fine slide playing from Double D adds to the fun. The cover of OV Wright’s “I’d Rather Be Blind, Crippled And Crazy” features the organ and works fine, Dave’s voice being supported by some backing vocals on the choruses.

“Snake Charmer” opens with Dave’s harp sounding like a North African souk as he describes the lady of the title: “She’ll charm the pants off a python, she’ll rattle a rattler, she’ll addle an adder, she rubs me the right way, she’s more than meets the eye, when she does her belly dance money starts to fly.” Brandon Isaak takes over guitar duties on this one, Johnny adds a little background colour with his sax and Dave plays some nice chromatic harp. Dave is clearly a man who enjoys writing clever lyrics and does so again in “Fight Of The Century” where boxing terms are used as a metaphor for relationships.

“Don’t Think It Can’t Happen To You” moves along very pleasantly but the lyrics again contain some depressing tidings of woe which remind us that you can never tell when things may go wrong. “Grand Old Game” has a Johnny Otis style beat, the rhythm being a close cousin of “Willie And The Hand Jive” while the lyrics are that rarity, a blues song about baseball!

Difficulties with relationships are the subject matter of the next two tracks: “She Took Back Her Heart”, a quiet track with brushed cymbals and high note harp tells of how Dave feels when the girl ends things: “She took back her heart …she still has mine”. “Long Highway” is an upbeat track but the message is the same – the relationship is no longer working. After all that angst Dave feels we may need some humour and tells us about his local barber’s shop in a gentle shuffle which includes some of the typical dialogue one might hear in such an establishment. Johnny’s sax playing and some twinkling piano are features of this song alongside Dave’s harp.

To close the CD Dave revisits his native city with a short solo rendition of “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”, the second time that classic has appeared on a Blues Blast review album recently – it was also covered on Frank Bey/ Anthony Paule Band’s “Soul For Your Blues”.

This is an enjoyable album with some interesting songs that go outside the average blues lyric. The playing is good and it is well recorded and there should be material that will appeal to most blues fans in this one.

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 – 4 of 5 

John Frick Band – Urban Crossroads

Blueshine Records

www.johnfrickband.com

12 tracks / 37:16

The Hague often conjures up memories of murky high school civics lessons about international politics and possibly fond remembrances of the awesome Dutch band Golden Earring. But there is a lot more to this beautiful city in the Netherlands: it is still a major player in international affairs and it has a rich cultural history that goes back nearly 800 years. Also, it is home to a red-hot blues quintet, the John Frick Band!

The John Frick Band is relatively new on the scene, having formed in 2011 as an evolution of John Frick and the Blues Hombres. John Frick is originally from Cape Town, South Africa, but he has traveled all around Europe putting together his distinctive blues chops. He handles the vocals and guitar work for this project, and is joined by Michel de Man on drums, Leo Birza on keyboards and backing vocals, and Tom Moerenhout on horns. Rob Nagel provided the bass parts remotely from his home in South Africa, which is definitely a benefit of living in such a connected society.

Urban Crossroads is the John Frick Band’s sophomore effort, and it is a solid piece of work consisting of 12 tracks, all of them written by John. Frick and Peter Strujik produced this release, and Strujik did a wonderful job of mixing and mastering this material so that everything is clear and nothing is lost in the mix. When the first track starts there is no doubt where this album is going, as “Blinded” is a mid-tempo straight-up blues tune. There is everything you would expect: a 12-bar blues pattern, Hammond organ, thumping bass, tight lead guitar fills and a story of broken love and deception. Rob Nagel also brings his harp to this track, and his parts are tasteful and well integrated.

In fact, there is little in the music to suggest that these guys are not from Chicago or Memphis. Frick’s smooth voice has an almost Midwest accent, and the lyrics do not have the awkward phrases or misplaced words that are fairly common with discs from overseas. This crew has figured out the blues and can serve it up just as well as anyone from either side of the Atlantic.

The John Frick Band switches things up throughout while staying under the blues and rock umbrella. “Get a Load” is a country-rocker that makes good use of Moerenhout’s saxes and Birza’s backing vocals, while “Say What You Want” throws out some high-paced jump blues. “On the Radio” strays dangerously close to smooth jazz with its electric piano and subdued drums, but then the pace kicks back up again on the next track with the funky blues rock of “Recession Blues,” which tells the familiar story of how hard it is to make ends meet these days. There is a little something for everyone on this disc!

“Same Way Too” is the standout track from the album. This slow-paced blues song builds dramatically, almost like an early Led Zeppelin ballad. It is quite beautiful, with heavy organ parts from Birza and restrained guitar work from Frick combining to set the mood. Morenhout’s saxophones (and the more hopeful lyrics) put together a pretty love story that diverges from the classic Plant/Page writing template.

“Gotta be Worth It” closes out the set, and it is a neat uptempo piece with Jerry Lee Lewis-like piano accompanied with biting guitar riffs from Frick. Coming in at a mere 1-½ minutes, this song leaves the listener wanting more, which is a common theme with this album — if there is one thing to want from this Urban Crossroads, it would be more music. More than half of the tracks come in under three minutes, so this is not a terribly long release (around 37 minutes). It is better that they did not fluff up the record with substandard material, but another 15 minutes would have been fantastic. As it is, it is still a good buy and it would be a good addition to any blues fan’s library.

The John Frick band has headed back to the studio to cut a new album that will be released in 2015, and if they can keep this momentum going, it will certainly be worth checking out too.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 5 

Carolyn Fe Blues Collective – Bad Taboo

Self Release

www.carolyn-fe.com

13 songs time-51:39

On this the second full length album from Montreal, Canada based Filipino chanteuse Carolyn Fe and her excellent band it is made very evident why they have garnered so much acclaim in their hometown. She is not of the blues shouter variety of female blues singers that is often found in blues outfits. Although there is kind of an aloofness in her “matter-of-fact” delivery it possesses a definite authority. Combined with the clever lyrics and strong backing from her band and assorted guests in the all original songs every gels to create a powerful album. Guitarist Rami Cassab has a fluid, seamless, energetic and enthusiastic style that propels the songs. Keyboardist Tim Alleyne is cut from the same cloth. The rhythm section of Oisin Little and Dan Legault on bass and drums respectively lay down solid support. Dan also does double duty by being responsible for the superior recording and mixing of the proceedings. The sound quality is right on the mark.

From the first few notes of Rami’s modern blues guitar and Tim’s jazzy organ and piano on the lead-off song “All About Them”, they have got me hooked. It’s a classy song about trendy, self-centered people. As on the songs to follow the lyrics and music fit “hand-in-glove”. The next tune “Kitty Cat” seems to touch on a similar subject along with the right musical touches. Koko Taylor’s former guitarist Shun Kikuta who B.B. King declared to be “The Asian B.B. King” handles lead guitar chores on the title song. His slow and deliberate playing soars along, nicely supporting the vocal.

Slide guitar, deliberately distorted vocals and Guy Belanger’s expert harmonica skills weave in and out of the modern down-home styled foot-stomper “Life’s Just That Good”. The jaunty “Love Galore” bounces along on a cushion of piano, organ and the ever-present guitar of Mr. Cassab. “Goodbye” is a tender and beautiful “torch song” backed solely by soft guitar. Things get back to the whole band setup with a “walking bass” pattern and some sexy and slinky saxophone courtesy of Jason Luc Murphy on “Bad Thing”.

“Not Anymore” seems to be about putting an end to a cheating lover with a bullet. That must of ruined his day. The band gets “unplugged” with only acoustic guitar, Guy Belanger’s “Mississippi saxophone” and percussion on the down-home-y “Whole Lotsa Trouble”. “Not Worth The Show” might be what Debbie Harry and Blondie would sound like if they were a blues band. New Wave energy and nasty slide guitar infuse this fitting end to this well crafted CD.

A Canadian-based band rises once more to energize the state of modern blues. Carolyn Fe’s vocal delivery is a presence to be reckoned with. And “Boy Howdy!” can that Rami Cassab burn up the strings in style. This group of musicians deserve all the praise heaped on them by the Canadian press. This one is well worth a listen by any discerning blues fan.

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



 Blues Society News 


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The Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents keyboardist Bruce Katz and the Bruce Katz Band at The Muddy Waters, 1708 State Street, Bettendorf, IA on Monday, October 27 starting at 7:00 p.m. Admission to see this brilliant performance is $5 for Mississippi Valley Blues Society members, or $8 for non-members (applications will be available at The Muddy Waters door).

For more info contact: Steve Brundies 563-508-7660 or visit www.mvbs.org

The Golden Gate Blues Society – San Francisco, CA

Don’t miss the 2nd Annual San Francisco International Boogie Woogie Festival Sponsored by The Golden Gate Blues Society to benefit Musician’s Medical Relief Fund Sunday November 9, 2014 at 4:00pm Miner Auditorium SFJAZZ Center, 201 Franklin Street, San Francisco. Featuring a stellar lineup including Bob Seeley, Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne, Lluís Coloma, Silvan Zingg and Wendy DeWitt. Info at www.TGGBS.org

The DC Blues Society – Washington, DC

The DC Blues Society holds its Annual Battle of the Bands on Saturday, October 18, 2014. This popular event is from 7:00 pm to midnight at the American Legion Post 268, 11225 Fern Street, Wheaton MD, 20902. Tickets are $13 in advance ($10 for DCBS members) and $15 at the door ($12 for DCBS members). Go to www.dcblues.org to purchase tickets in advance for this usually standing room only event or call (301) 322-4808. Doors open at 6 pm; cash bar. Seven bands have entered the competition so it is sure to be an exciting event. The winner of the Battle of the Bands will represent the DC Blues Society at the 31st International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN next January and at local events including the 7th Annual College Park Blues Festival on November 8, 2014 at Ritchie Coliseum.

River Basin Blues Society – Evansville, IN

The River Basin Blues Society will host the 3rd annual River Basin Blues Blast starting at 4 pm on November 29, 2014, at the Deerhead Sidewalk Cafe, 222 E. Columbia, Evansville, IN. Bands performing at the event include the Beat Daddys, Honey Roy, Soul Creation and 103 Degrees (featuring Grammy Award winner Jeff ‘Stick’ Davis and Joe Doughtery, the road drummer for the Grass Roots).

At this year’s Blues Blast the River Basin Blues Society will award the 1st Annual Blues Heritage Award. This inaugural award will be given to Steady Wailin’ Sid Scott. Sid has been a force of music, culture, and news in the African American community in Evansville.

The event is free, but a portion of food and drink sales from the event will benefit the RBBS and 91.5-FM WUEV. There will also be prize giveaways. For more information, contact the RBBS at https://www.facebook.com/groups/riverbasinblues/

Piedmont Blues Preservation Society – Greensboro, NC

Piedmont Blues Preservation Society is holding it’s 29th Annual Blues Challenge talent competitions at the Blind Tiger live music venue in Greensboro, NC on Oct 19 and October 26. Our events have brought talent from all over the East Coast and last year we had competitors from Barcelona, Spain! On October 19, we will have our Solo/Duo Challenge and on October 26 we will hold the Band Challenge. Top three (3) places in each competition win Cash Prizes and the First Place Finalist in each competition advance to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN, January 20-24.

For more information: http://piedmontblues.org/projects/blues-challenge/

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society is holding its local IBC Band Challenge on Saturday, October 18, at Memphis on Main, 55 E Main St. in Champaign. Doors open at 4:00 and we invite everyone to come out and cheer for your favorite blues band.

PCBS will hold it’s local IBC Solo/Duo Challenge on Saturday, November 1, at Bentley’s Pub, 419 N. Neil St. in Champaign. We’re looking forward to conducting our first Solo/Duo Challenge and the event kicks off at 5:00.

For more info, visit our IBC Challenge Page;www.prairiecrossroadsblues.org/ibc_challenge15.html

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. Oct. 20—Ghost Town Blues Band, Oct. 27—Albert Castiglia

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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