Issue 8-49 December 4, 2014

Cover photo by Gary Eckhart © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine


 In This Issue 

Tee Watts has our feature interview with Blues Blast Music Award nominee, Trudy Lynn.

We have 6 music reviews for you including new music from New Orleans Suspects, Larry Griffith, Grady Champion, Blind Lemon Pledge, Jackie Venson and Micke Björklöf and Blue Strip.

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,

Only 3 more issues of Blues Blast Magazine left in 2014. Where did the time go? The year has just flown by.

And only a little more than a week left on our best advertising sale of the 2014 – 2015 season!

Our Fall Advertising Sale gives you an ad in SIX issues of Blues Blast Magazine and a sidebar ad on our website for six weeks for only $375. That is a $1160 value.

But it is only available until December 15th. For more details see our ad below or CLICK HERE.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

New Orleans Suspects – Ouroboros

www.neworleanssuspects.com

Louisiana Red Hot Records

10 songs time-53:20

An amalgamation of seasoned musicians called New Orleans Suspects delivers Ouroboros. Ouroboros is a powerful symbol, an ancient circular icon of a serpent eating its own tail-that symbolizes cyclicality and things that begin anew as soon as they end. This idea perfectly describes New Orleans Suspects, a band that represents a second chance, or a rebirth, for its veteran members. Their combined resumes include time with The Neville Brothers, Professor Longhair, The Radiators, James Brown, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Outformation and Polytoxic among others. New Orleans rhythms, grooves and cultural references abound in this musical gumbo, along with funk, soul, blues, rock and R&B influences. All of these ingredients blend to create an album of well-crafted original songs.

The proceedings kick-off with a breezy and funky stroll through the New Orleans sound of “Get Back What You Given”, featuring the excellent sax skills of Jeff Watkins as well as the talented guitar skills of Jake Eckert. Individual lead singer credits aren’t given here as elsewhere, but the vocals are always fine. More tasty funk enlivens “Cigarette Smile”, although the significance of the title escapes me. Stevie Wonder-like keyboards, organ the ever present saxes make this another winner.

The first of three instrumentals, “Pocketful Of Grits” is propelled by the percussive skills of long-time drummer for The Neville Brothers “Mean” Willie Green. Willie and the guitarist get plenty of time to stretch out in between the glorious horns. After a clattering cacophony of instruments at the intro “Hoodoos And Cunyans” settles into an atmospheric and spooky groove with some slithering slide guitar. The third instrumental “Yo Flambeaux” has “Yo Flambeaux bring that fire” chanted over the music of this electric piano and horn based party-time song.

“Soothe Me” is a feel good song that benefits from some slinky slide guitar work. Professor Longhair style piano playing bolsters the New Orleans groove of the upbeat “Things(In Your Mind)”. “Carnavale” is another in the tradition of Mardi Gras anthems. This percussive gem is well executed and chock full of the usual New Orleans references. “Walk Of Shame” has a fifties Ernie K-Doe meets The Coasters feel with some catchy King Curtis-like sax.

Another case of well-traveled musicians bringing their various influences together to create some new and refreshing. New Orleans musical goodness and a lively spirit make this recording one that reveals new musical nuances at every listening.

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



 Blues Wanderings 

We made it out to the Northside Tavern in Atlanta, Georgia last weekend to catch a set by Larry Griffith and Uncle Sugar. Very enjoyable music!

Check out Larry’s website at http://www.larrygriffithmusic.com/ Also check out the review of Larry’s latest album below in this issue.


SALE ENDS DECEMBER 15, 2014

Blues Blast Magazine is offering a fall advertising special. This special pricing will be our lowest pricing of the 2014-2015 season.

This 6-week combo rate of only $375 affordably adds significant impact to your Blues advertising and promotion campaign. It is a great way to kick up the visibility of your new album release, Blues event or music product around the globe!

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

Normal 2014 – 2015 Blues Blast magazine ads rates are $150 for an individual and $175 per month for website ads. BUT, for a limited time, you can advertise in six issues of Blues Blast Magazine and on our website for a month and a half for only $375. This is a $1160 value!

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Other ad packages, single ads, short run ads or long term bulk rates for publicists and record labels are available too. Call today for an ad plan that fits your needs.



 Featured Blues Interview – Trudy Lynn 

Trudy Lynn’s PR guy John in Houston speaks the whole truth when he states that Trudy Lynn is friendly and personable. The Saturday morning Blues Blast call finds Trudy Lynn getting her Blueswoman on tour in Europe wardrobe together. She is at home in Houston, preparing to depart for the Lucerne Blues Festival the following week. It is Europe’s largest, held annually in Lucerne, Switzerland.

“The weather is cool in Houston but Switzerland just called and said it’s colder than a witch titty over there,” she exclaims.

A Blues Festival favorite, she has easily played more than a bakers dozen of different festivals over the course of her career, not including callbacks and repeat performances.

“I’ve done this one before, ” she continues. It goes on for almost two weeks.

Trudy Lynn is on a hot streak that shows no sign of waning. In October, nominated for for the best female Blues vocalist, she set the Blues Blast Music Awards on fire in a performance with her harmonica playing collaborator, Steve Krase. Her latest release, Royal Oaks Blues Cafe, spent two weeks at number one on the Billboard Blues chart in September and through November 8th was still holding firm at number four. As November closes out, Billboard rates Steve Krase’s album Buckle Up at number three. Trudy Lynn wrote the title track.

“Steve and I have been knowing each other a long while. We became close musically ten or eleven years ago. When he first came here from New York, he was with Jerry Lightfoot, who is a well known here in Houston. Frequently back then we would share the same stage. He did all the harmonica work on Royal Oaks Blues Cafe which is on his label, Conner Ray Music. We have been working it with a band based here in Houston. Our association will probably continue for awhile after we return from Switzerland. I would like to get back in the studio by February or March 2015. We are still booking festivals and picked up three dates from the Blues Blast Music Awards performance in Champaign.”

The genesis of Royal Blues Cafe is both simple and complex. The title is derived from the name of the street she lives on. The concept is derived from obscure yet powerful Blues women who were popular in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

“My neighbors couldn’t believe I named it after our street. I told ’em, that’s right baby, it’s a lotta cafe goin’ on up in here.”

While Trudy is of course familiar with famous Blues Queens Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie, a spark was ignited when a girlfriend gave her a box of 78 rpm Blues records by obscure Blues women like Eloise Bennett, Clara Smith, Viviane Green, Wee Bea Booze and Margie Day. For six years Trudy studied these women and others in her own private Blues cafe on Royal Oaks in Houston.

“What I found was a lot of material associated with artists that came later actually originated with these women in the twenties, thirties and forties. As far as recording their songs, I’m just starting up. We’re going to do another cd. I want to record these women’s songs in volumes. They were doin’ the Blues. Let me say it again. They were doin’ the Blues. I really studied and listened to them.”

“Some of the qualities of the recordings are terrible. Oh my Lord! The tones and pitches. You really have to listen hard to understand what they are saying. They were playing and recording with what they had. Sometimes the upright bass sounds like a rubber band on a stick. They were playing the same Blues changes popular today but didn’t have the technology we have.”

“Another interesting part of Blues history is that for a time, women ruled the Blues. Musicians like Louis Armstrong worked for strong Blues women like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Alberta Hunter and Lil Hardin Armstrong.”

Trudy Lynn’s personal history places her luminously within the genealogy of the Blues. She was raised in the infamous 5th Ward of Houston from whence legends like Juke Boy Bonner, Gatemouth Brown, Ivory Joe Hunter and Lightnin’ Hopkins all came through. Don Robey founded Peacock Records in the 5th Ward of Houston and it became notorius too.

“I remember Don Robey, ” recalls Trudy. “I met him once, when I first got married, right before he shut his studio down. I remember stories about how he would try to discipline his artists. People were saying that he used to whip Bobby Bland with a belt as if he were his child. I also heard that when he went to do that to Big Mama Thornton she came out with that switchblade and told him she would cut him every which way but loose. Big Mama was another strong woman in the history of the Blues. She feared no one.”

“I know a lady in Georgia who owned a club that booked Big Mama back in the day. Big Mama was distressed and was talking about not making the gig because she didn’t have appropriate stage attire. The club owner told Big Mama not to worry and when she arrived, the woman took her drapes off the club’s windows and made her a dress to perform in.”

Trudy was born Lee Audrey Nelms. She was raised in the 5th Ward. She went to school with the siblings of another famous 5th Wardian, George Foreman. Her mother was a beautician and had a shop near the Club Matinee where many Blues and R&B artists performed. The first time she performed though, at about age thirteen, she was chaperoned by her mother at Walter’s Lounge.

“Albert Collins was a regular at the Sunday matinees. He was playing guitar in a well-known band, Big Tiny & The Thunderbirds. I remember when his first hits were released on record; The Freeze and Defrost. That’s what kicked the door open for Albert. He was a little bitty thing back when he was young wearing that process with the big pompadour. “

“They called me up with Albert at Walter’s lounge and I did two songs. I was still in school using my birth name Audrey at the time. I remember also Albert’s stormy relationship with his wife at the time. One time they got into it on the highway in Houston. Albert got so mad he was going to throw her off the bridge. They had to go get him. She was a little hell-raiser and they finally divorced.”

“After I graduated, I ended up spending the summer with my Aunt in Lufkin, Texas. While there I went to a club called Cinderella’s with my cousin. The girl that was performing there had a drinking problem or something. My cousin wanted me to go, cuz, you know in the country, everybody goes to the same place if there is only one band in town. My cousin asked if I could sing a song and they let me sing a song or two. They liked me and asked me to come to rehearsal as the other girl was not reliable. I went to rehearsal and sang Stormy Weather or something and they offered me the job. “

“Somebody said, ‘what you gonna call your self?’ I looked on the wall where there was a cartoon character named Trudy. I quickly thought about the success of Barbara Lynn and Gloria Lynn at the time and decided to call myself Trudy Lynn. Speaking of Barbara Lynn, I just did an engagement with her this summer at Discovery Green. She’s still doing good.”

The singing/songwriting die had been cast when, as a young girl she began composing poems and lyrics. By the time she had reached high school she was consistently singing in various choruses and groups. She relates that she actually predated Archie Bell in the group he took over, the Drells.

“I went to school with the group, Archie Bell & The Drells. Before Archie Bell took over in the Drells, it was myself, another girl and two guys that were the original Drells.”

At some point early on, her songwriting prowess caught the attention of Houston based guitarist and vocalist Johnny “Clyde” Copeland, who gave her valuable advice.

“I remember showing him some of my lyrics, even the ones I wasn’t satisfied with, that I had written X’s or void on.”

He asked,”Why’d you put void on this?”

“Cuz it’s not put together right.”

“That’s probably your hit right there, what you’re trying to void.”

Her tutelage under Copeland and other greats taught her the value of returning to a rough idea or hook and reworking it until the kinks smoothed out.

When asked about her material being compared to that of Millie Jackson, Trudy explains her perspective.

“I think that really started with a song I used to do called ‘Trudy Sings The Blues.’ There’s a part in the song about the dog not barking when a certain female comes around. I say I can tell the bitch has been in my house by the way the dog wags his tail. I think that’s basically the racy lyric that gets that comparison.”

As Blues Blast goes to press Trudy is back from the Lucerne Blues Festival, making preparations for her next album release and booking engagements with no end in sight. To keep abreast of her career please visit www.trudylynnblues.com

As she confidently states, “I’ve been out here a long time. You can’t lose me in the Blues.

Editor’s Note: Trudy Lynn was nominated for Female Blues Artist Of the Year in the 2014 Blues Blast Awards. To see a video of her amazing performance at the awards show this year, CLICK HERE

Visit Trudy’s website at http://www.trudylynnblues.com/

Photos by Gary Eckhart © 2014

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 6 

Larry Griffith – Hard As It Gets

Self-Produced

www.larrygriffithmusic.com

CD: 12 Songs; 46:21 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues, Contemporary Soul, Funk, Blues Rock

What does it mean to ‘live the blues’? The cover art of the great new album from Ohio native Larry Griffith is a black-and-white photograph, depicting several men in various hats, lined up to receive a “FREE Cup Coffee and Doughnuts for the Unemployed”. “Free Soup,” read two hopeful words in the shop’s window. This is about as Hard As It Gets in life, and Larry would know. According to his website, “Larry was brought up in the inner city of Cincinnati by a single parent along with nine other siblings. The dilapidated, three-tiered tenement literally shook with the radio and vinyl record sounds of everything from blues, gospel, and soul to jazz.” Now an Atlanta resident, Griffith has since produced all-new material, twelve original songs for this CD.

Alongside him are guitarists Mike Lowery, Rara Starblanket, and Delta John Harris; bassists Dustin Sargent, Rara Starblanket and Tommy Vickery; keyboardists Kevin Thomas, Rara Starblanket, and Bobby Mobley; blues harmonica player Jeff Baker; drummers Damian Lewis and Larry himself; and additional vocalists Stephanie Carll, Jon Harris and Rusty Hayes.

The following three selections contain the most traditional blues, with one having more than a trace of gospel and soul. They showcase how clearly Griffith knows and loves the genre:

Track 02: “Help I Don’t Need” – Something strange is going on between our narrator and his lover, and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what it is: “Milkman, mailman, both crowd around my door. Butcher showed up this morning with meat from the killing floor. And when the preacher got the Holy Ghost, I could swear he called your name. I bet I’ll catch you speaking in tongues; I swear I’m going insane.” Some help is the kind of help we all could do without, but Griffith needs none in the romance (or electric guitar) department.

Track 03: “Damn If It Didn’t Rain” – In this soul and gospel gem, the moral is that sometimes one’s most fervent petitions don’t get answered, even in desperate times. “Well, I prayed for something, oh, to guide my way; then I begged Almighty; then I prayed all day…Lord, Lord, Lord, damn if it didn’t rain!” Delta John Harris plays fantastic slide guitar, and Stephanie Carll, Jon Harris and Rusty Hayes also harmonize beautifully with Larry, in this tune with a tempo and melody similar to Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline”.

Track 04: “Hard As It Gets” – Everyone’s had one (or more) of those days where absolutely nothing goes right: “I go to buy groceries; ain’t got no cash. Back to my car, ain’t got no cash. I start walking; tears stain every step. Oh, can’t get much harder. It’s just about as hard as it gets.” Rara Starblanket does triple duty here on guitar, bass and keys.

Blues fans, if life’s as Hard As It Gets, pop this pepper-upper into your player and party!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 35 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 – 3 of 6 

Grady Champion – Bootleg Whiskey

www.gradychampion.com

Malaco Records – 2014

11 tracks; 46 minutes

The self-described “torch carrier for authentic Mississippi blues” (and 2010 IBC winner) Grady Champion grew up on great Malaco records by the likes of ZZ Hill, Bobby Bland and Little Milton so his signing to the veteran soul label is a natural fit, despite Grady having set up his own label Dechamp with well received albums by Eddie Cotton and JJ Thames. Malaco seems equally pleased to sign Grady who label head Tommy Couch Jr. describes as “the next big blues guy”. Truth be told, this CD is as much soul as blues as Malaco put Grady into the studio with a band that includes some great horn players, resulting in a fine collection of mainly soul-blues material.

The CD features Grady on vocals and harp, David Hood or Ray Braswell on bass, Forest Gordon or James Robinson on drums, Clayton Ivey, William Purvis and Michael Thomas on keys, Barry Leach, Taylor Scott, Stevie J, Maurice Morgan, Jimmy Johnson, Castro Coleman and Mike Griffin on guitar, Kimble Funches on trumpet, Micah Brown on sax and William Brown on trombone, with arrangements by Harrison Callaway. Background vocals are by Darrell Luster, Ray Braswell, William Purvis, Vick Allen, Sonja Allen, JJ Thames and The Crowns Of Joy. The album was recorded at Malaco’s studios in Jackson, Mississippi, recorded and mixed by Kent Bruce and produced by Tommy Couch Jr. himself. The material is a mixture of originals written by Grady wth collaborators Darrell Luster and Larry Grisham who also contribute their own songs (two from Darrell and one from Larry). The three covers from outside the wider band come from George Jackson, Ernie Johnson and Jerry Strickland.

The album opens with Larry Grisham’s brisk “Beg, Borrow, Steal” with Grady’s harp and Barry Leach’s guitar to the fore. There are no horns on this track but it swings along well before a great cover of George Jackson’s “Bootleg Whiskey” introduces the horn section to bring in that classic soul feel. Although this one provides the title track for the album one suspects that Grady would not want the chorus to be his epitaph: “Bootleg whiskey and a cheap motel really rock my world; bootleg whiskey and a cheap motel with a lil’ ole ugly girl.”! Soul singer Ernie Johnson is the source for “Don’t Waste My Time”, a track originally on Ernie’s 1995 album “In The Mood” and it’s another classic piece of soul music with the insistent piano motif and horns coming in to underline the chorus. Grady combined with Larry Grisham on “Home Alone”, a really catchy tune with the horns supporting Grady’s harp on the intro and driving the tune along superbly. Grady’s vocals are suitably lovelorn on this tale of being deserted by his lover and his harp is again a feature on “Ten Dollars”, the only song that he wrote on his own on this collection. This one is a blues in structure but with Grady’s soul-soaked voice and the baying horns it tips its hat to the soul side also.

Darrell Luster’s “South Side” is a glorious piece of pure soul music which has all the elements required for that accolade – foot-tapping rhythm, good horn chart, bubbling guitar and organ accompaniment and superb lead and backing vocals – great stuff! “Who Dat?” is Grady and Larry’s tune and is far more an urban soul style with its repetitive chorus and cool horns. JJ Thames provides some outstanding vocal support in the background and Grady’s lead vocal is excellent too. “Here We Go Y’All”, the second Grady and Larry collaboration is also repetitive but in a less convincing way, possibly revealing the influence of Grady’s period as a rapper. Darrell Lusher’s “I Tripped And Fell In Love” brings back the horns on a beautiful soul tune well delivered by Grady with solid choral support from Vick and Sonya Allen. Darrell’s final contribution is the co-write with Grady of “Mr Right” with its bright intro and shuffling rhythm though the lyrics about “settling for Mr Wrong until Mr Right comes along” break no new ground. The album closes with an interesting tune written by Jerry Strickland entitled “White Boy With The Blues”, the tale of a black boy meeting a white boy who clearly had some similar problems in their young lives, a tale that almost inevitably ends in tragedy. Grady’s vocal is virtually spoken and the backing vocals from The Crowns Of Joy include extracts from “Precious Memories” and “Amazing Grace” to add to the gospel feel of the piece.

Overall this is a solid album of soul-blues with several outstanding tracks, well worth the attention of blues fans who like to mix plenty of soul into their blues cocktails.

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 6 

Blind Lemon Pledge – Evangeline

10 songs – 42 minutes

Self-produced CD

www.james-creative.com

Anyone with the tongue-in-cheek temerity to select Blind Lemon Pledge as a stage name in the blues, melding together the memory of one of the art form’s first-generation superstars with that of a common furniture polish, better be able to deliver when he gets behind the microphone. Fortunately, that’s the case for multi-instrumentalist and songwiter James Byfield, who delivers this interesting, original take on roots music from his home base in San Francisco.

Byfield first drew international attention while still a student at San Francisco State University a few decades ago when he created “The Rock Mass,” which Time magazine identified as the first use of rock music in a liturgical setting. His deep appreciation for country blues since his early teens didn’t sway him from pursuing country, folk, jazz and even Chinese classical music. He began performing under the Pledge moniker in 2008 and issued his first CD, Livin’ My Life With The Blues, a year later. Well-received, it featured him in an acoustic setting as he delivered original material in the manner of old-time blues string bands. Two more discs – I Would Rather Go Blind with a more modern backing band, and Against The Grain, which touched on folk, swing and Southern gospel, preceded his one, which returns him to his old-timey roots.

Pledge produced sings and plays almost all of the instruments for Evangeline, although he’s created a list of humorously named sidemen: Hugh Jorgan (keyboards), Gene Poole (bass), Isaac “Jzzy” Cumming (drums), Alvin “Albee” Bakatcha (percussion) and Otto F. Tewne (banjo). Alex Blaine-Laydor, Lauralyn Hardy, Willie B. Hardigan, Don Menchinet, Anita Moorehead and Bess Twishes provide harmony vocals, and Barbara “Barb” Dwyer (marimba), Gil T. Azell (vibraphone) and Xavier Munnie (harmonica) join in.

A haunting cigar box guitar and harmonica riff alternates with the a capella delivery of “Buley’s Farm,” an a capella tribute to prison songs with the standard complaint about working conditions and the strong desire to get away. The album moves forward in time with “Jennie Bell,” a folk ballad that features some intricate maneuvers on the acoustic six-string. It’s a sweet love song delivered from the perspective of a singer who’s about to leave his lady behind to test his talents on the bigger stages of New Orleans. Next up is a bit of original Crescent City honky tonk. “Brimstone Joe” is inspired by the music of Jelly Roll Morton and describes “the guy to know” for good women and a good time on Canal Street.

Pledge picks up electric slide guitar for the blues bar rocker, “Midnight Assignation,” a tip of the hat to the legend of trading one’s soul to the Devil at the crossroads in exchange for musical talent. The styling turns to jump blues next for “Go Jump The Willie,” the singer’s tribute to ‘40s superstar Louis Jordan offset by some tasty, understated single-note picking, before he takes a turn at “Language Of Love,” a blues-tinged salsa about a trip to Puerto Rico. He moves back to the mainland next for “Ham And Eggs,” a tip of the hat to Cole Porter and the American Songbook using uptempo blues harmonies in the style of the Andrews Sisters.

The album then takes an immediate right-hand turn to a late night high society blues joint with the smoky “How Can I Still Love You” before touching on folk rock with “You Had Me At Goodbye” and finally returning to the blue root with “Evangeline,” a Delta-style slide guitar piece inspired by Son House.

Pledge’s musical journey takes you from the bottom of the blues to the top and back again. His touch is light and sweet, and the ride is a gentle departure from most of the albums you’ll listen to today. Different and enjoyable. Available from Amazon and CDBaby.com.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.



 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

Jackie Venson – The Light In Me

Self Release

www.jackievenson.com

9 songs – 42 minutes

Some people just have a little too much talent and, on the evidence of The Light In Me, Austin-native Jackie Venson certainly appears to be one of them. A singer, a songwriter, a guitarist and a band-leader, Venson also has that intangible magic that makes her music sound effortless even when it is obvious that a lot of work has gone into it.

Opening with a gently strummed acoustic guitar, the title track of Venson’s first album has hints of Tracy Chapman or perhaps Joni Mitchell in the sparseness of the arrangement and the distinctive vocal melody. Venson has a soft, airy voice, blessed with a wide range and a sharp intelligence. The dreamy track also fits in with the deliberately retro, Vaseline-tinted cover photograph of Venson laughing at something off-camera, lying on her back in a sun-soaked patch of grass, resting her head on an old-fashioned portable radio/tape player.

Anyone who labours under the misapprehension that Venson is a delicate chanteuse however will be in for a shock when the “The Light In Me” is followed by the raucous blues guitar intro to “What I Need”. A song of dramatic variety, the quieter verse leads to the near-reggae of the chorus before building up again to more over-driven guitar and a solo that sounds like an angry Gary Clark Jr.

A graduate of Berklee College of Music, where she majored in composition and studio production, Venson has put her learning to good use on The Light In Me, producing a soul/pop/R&B album of wide-ranging influences but with a strong blues element to many of the songs. Particularly impressive is how Venson often combines myriad influences in the same song, producing something very modern and very novel. “Now”, for example, features rap and pop but with tasteful acoustic guitar fills weaving in between the voices as well as some funky Carol King-esque piano from Eddy Hobizal (who also produced the album).

Venson’s backing band is adroit at following her compositional muse, providing superb understated support that highlights the song, rather than the player. In addition to Hobzial on keys, The Light In Me features the rhythm section of Gilbert Ayala (drums) and Alan Uribe (bass), percussionist Carolyn Trowbridge and Stephen Carlos Kirk on saxophone. Venson herself plays the various guitar parts.

Uribe’s deep, rumbling bass is key to one of the highlights of the album, the foot-tapping “Always Free”, with Hobizal’s keys adding a cool 1970s feel. And it’s probably fair to say that this decade also has a discernable impact on the album, especially on songs like “The Love I Give” and the R&B of “Beauty Of Your Love”.

It’s also probably fair to say that the only “pure” blues song on the album is the nine-minute long “I Don’t Cry”, which closes the CD. Featuring Kirk’s superbly fluid sax, the track also lets Venson give free rein to her electric guitar. But The Light In Me is not a “pure” blues album. Rather, it is a very impressive gumbo of soul/pop/R&B/rock with a heavy dose of blues. As a debut album, it lays down a serious marker and it will be fascinating to follow this artist’s development and evolution.

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 Blues Review – 6 of 6 

Micke Björklöf and Blue Strip – After the Flood

Blues Boulevard Records, Licensed by Hokahey Records

http://www.6luestrip.net/en/

CD: 12 Songs; 46:28 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Rock, Electric Blues Rock

As a rule, most blues musicians and groups have only one incarnation: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon Jefferson, et al. However, Finland’s Micke (‘Mickey’) Björklöf possesses two distinct stage presences: one with collaborators Lefty Leppänen and Chef Kivimäki (featured on Up the Wall) and one with the ensemble Blue Strip on After the Flood. Those who crave excellent slide guitar will be pleased to hear that Lefty is featured in both Micke’s duo/trio and this talented band. The main difference between the two is that the former focuses on vocal harmony and smooth blues style, while the latter leans far toward the ‘rock’ side of blues rock.

Blue Strip consists of Björklöf on vocals, harmonica, and rhythm guitar; Leppänen on backing vocals along with electric, slide, and National steel guitar; drummer Teemu Vuorela; bassist and background vocalist Seppo Nuolikoski, and Timo Roiko-Jokela on percussion and MalletKAT. Special guest stars include Brian Coogan on Hammond organ, Wurlitzer and grand piano, and backup singers Michaela Harrison and Alexis Marceaux. Together they’ve created three hits:

Track 03: “Water From Your Shoe” – The Russians have a proverb: “Wash [someone’s] feet and drink the water,” meaning ‘Beg forgiveness because you’re totally guilty’. That’s what our narrator is willing to do for his lover in this soulful blues ballad. What’s his crime? Being on the road too long in order to “pay the dues, play the tunes, makin’ it all right”. What’s he going to do when his travels are over? “When I come home to you, baby, I’ll drink water from your shoe, love you, love you, love you like a man.” Blue Strip meshes perfectly here, especially all the vocalists on harmony. Brian Coogan plays a dynamite grand piano finale.

Track 06: “King Alcohol” – Creepy and gritty, slow number six showcases both sides of some musicians’ favorite monarch: “Down in the alley, moonshine pass-around, all past the crazy – no fear.” Why do they imbibe, other than to erase chaos and anxiety? “Some drink to fall. Some drink to get back again. Some of them want to get sober; they just can’t tell you when.” The echoed percussive sound effects to mark the beat sound like banging trash can lids or distant punches. Sometimes potent potables are worth the price, but King Alcohol shows little pity.

Track 12: “Open Up Open” – The most traditional blues track on the album is its last one. With electric riffs reminiscent of Chris Isaak’s guitar on “Wicked Game”, “Open Up Open” is a nice closer. It has above-average vocals and a familiar theme – getting a recalcitrant partner to talk.

Overall, Up the Wall is a better and more blues-based offering from Micke Björklöf and company than After the Flood. Genre die-hards, if you only have money for one of these two, pick the previous CD.

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 35 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.



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Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents two fiery blues-rockers—Dave Fields from New York City and Bobby Messano from NJ—on Friday December 12 at The Lodge Hotel and Convention Center (Spruce Hills Drive and Utica Ridge Road in Bettendorf, IA). The show in the downstairs ballroom will begin at 8:00 p.m. with Dave Fields, followed by Bobby Messano. Admission is $10 for MVBS members and $12 for non-members, with membership applications available at the door.

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

Utah Blues Society – Salt Lake City, UT

Friday, December 19th marks the date for the Utah Blues Society Member Appreciation Holiday Party!! And it’s FREE! Join us at The State Room (638 South State Street) for a holiday hoopla of humongous proportions!!! 7 p.m. Doors – Social Hour (you’ll also be able to sign up as a member, but best to do so beforehand!). Membership not strictly required to get it but it sure is “APPRECIATED”!

8 p.m. – 9 p.m. Blues Trivia Contest w/UBS President & KRCL blues programmer Brian Kelm – prizes galore! Fun for all, increase your blues knowledge to impress that certain someone at the next blues gig!

9:15 p.m. – 10:15 p.m. Pat McEwen and Kenny Kruckenberg of River House Band & friends

10:30 – 11:30 p.m. Candy’s River House Band Special guest appearances by Utah’s stellar all-star blues musicians too!

DC Blues Society – Washington, D.C.

The DC Blues Society rings in the New Year with Severn Records’ newest recording artist, Ursula Ricks. On December 31, 2014 from 7:00 pm – 12:30 am, the “Queen of Baltimore Blues” will provide the dance groove at the American Legion Post 268, 11225 Fern Street, Wheaton MD 20902. The Party includes a southern-style dinner, party favors, midnight champagne toast & a reasonable cash bar. Seating is limited. Buy tickets at www.dcblues.org or call 301-322-4808: $35 in advance ($30 for DCBS members); $40 at the door ($35 for DCBS members). Metro accessible. Ample parking.

Ursula Ricks is a blues singer & songwriter with a rich, sultry velvety voice evocative of Etta James. She brings her soulful, deep-throated, blues-driven approach to a wide range of songs.

“Ursula’s unique vision and vocal ability made recording her debut album a real pleasure….Ursula has flown under the radar for so long. We are excited that the world will finally get an opportunity to experience her incredible music.” –David Earl of Severn Records, on Ursula’s new release “My Street”

Colorado Blues Society – Windsor, CO

Join the Colorado Blues Society for the 3rd Annual Colorado Blues Society Members Choice Awards are 2PM Dec. 22 at Herman’s Hideaway on South Broadway, Denver. Come out and see who are the favorites of CBS members, over 500 nominees in over 35 categories. The day is also a CD release party for our BSPCD entry, “JAM For Blues in the School”. Performing that day will be many of the local performers who made that CD possible including Dan Treanor and Afrosippi featuring Erica Brown, the 2013 IBC third place finishers in Memphis! Check our website for more info www.coblues.org

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. Dec. 8 – Bobby Messano, Dec. 15 – Studebaker John & the Maxwell Street Kings, Dec. 22 -Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet, Dec. 29 – James Armstrong

Additional ICBC shows: Nov. 20—James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, Nov. 22 – Hurricane Ruth CD release party at The Alamo, with special guest, Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet, 7 pm, Dec. 4—James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, Dec. 18 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm.

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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