Issue 8-6 February 6, 2014

Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue  

Jim Crawford has our feature interview with Kid Ramos.

We have six Blues music reviews for you. Mark Thompson reviews a new DVD that is a tribute show for Junior Wells. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD by Toby Walker. Marty Gunther reviews a new album from Andres Roots Roundabout. Steve Jones reviews a new release from Aaron Williams and the Hoodoo. John Mitchell reviews a new album from Layla Zoe. Rhys Williams reviews a new CD from Laura Rain and the Caesars.

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



 Featured Blues review – 1 of 6  

Various Artists – Junior Wells Tribute DVD

Featuring Koko Taylor, Billy Branch, Son Seals, Sugar Blue, Magic Slim, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Lonnie Brooks, Otis Clay

Sagebrush Productions, Inc.

75 minute run time

Filmed at the House of Blues in Chicago, this DVD has highlights from a 1998 concert featuring many of the best Chicago blues artists paying tribute to the late, great Junior Wells, who had passed away at the beginning of that year.

The Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor, starts things off by telling the packed house that Wells was one of the first people that she met after arriving in Chicago in 1953, telling Taylor that she looked like someone who has the blues. Taylor tears into “I Cried Like a Baby” with Vino Louden matching her intensity with his guitar solo. A short, close-up video clip of Wells fills the screen before Taylor takes things to the basement with a rousing version of “Wang Dang Doodle”.

Next up is Billy Branch backed by the Junior Wells Band with a three piece horn section and Ronnie Baker Brooks sitting in on guitar. Branch does an enthusiastic rendition of “Don’t Start Me to Talkin’”, blowing some mean harp licks that hint at the influence that Wells had on Branch’s style of playing. The band breaks it down as Branch and Brooks trade licks before Branch takes them home with the horns blaring behind him.

The intensity of Son Seals is on full display during his one song as he fires off taut guitar licks before giving solo space to Garrick Patton on alto sax and Johnny Iguana on the Hammond B3 organ. When Sugar Blue takes over the stage, he does “Messin’ with the Kid”, giving the first solo to guitarist Michael Dotson before taking off on several super-charged solos that finds Blue filling every space with notes. Magic Slim brings things back down to earth with his trademark driving sound on “The Blues is Alright”. Reprising “Messin’ with the Kid”, Ronnie Baker Brooks transforms the classic with a heavy reggae rhythm, helped by brother Wayne on guitar. It is one of the highlights of the program.

When Lonnie Brooks takes the stage, the energy level goes way up. After dealing with a guitar issue, Lonnie rips through “Treat Me Like Your Dog” while his sons do their familiar slide step behind him. The pace slows for a searing rendition of “Your World” with the senior Brooks singing and playing like a man possessed. The grand finale features Otis Clay backed by the Junior Wells Band. Clay’ soulful voice sounds right at home on “Don’t Burn Down the Bridge”. Guitarist Albert Castiglia gets several solo spots to show off his fleet-fingered fret work.

Throughout the video, photos and silent, brief video clips of Wells pop up as reminders of his legacy. Now that Taylor, Seals and Magic Slim have also passed, this concert footage serves as a testimonial to time when legends did indeed walk the streets of Chicago, making music that will be with us for generations to come. An excellent and worth seeing for the segments featuring Koko Taylor, Ronnie Baker Brooks and his father Lonnie, who steals the show.

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

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 Featured Blues Interview – Kid Ramos  

Get into a serious Blues conversation with the guys over a few cold ones and mention the name Kid. Chances are everybody in the room will know exactly who you’re talking about.

David “Kid” Ramos was born in Fullerton, Cal. in 1959. His mother and step-father were both professional opera singers who met while moonlighting as restaurant entertainers. There was also plenty of music in their home.

My “stepdad toured with the Metropolitan Opera so there was no shortage of music around the house,” Kid recalls. “My folks used to throw these all-night parties and all kinds of show-biz people would be there. There were musicians in the house all the time. Sometimes I would walk downstairs in the morning and find guests from the night before still asleep under the piano.”

Eventually Kid’s folks got tired of the road and his step dad bought a gas station in Anaheim. One day, a customer came in with an electric guitar and amplifier for sale, and Kid had his first guitar by age 8. From there Kid decided he wanted to become a professional guitarist, and started practicing in earnest when he was 14.

“There were a bunch of neighborhood guys who I idolized who had a garage band,” Kid says. “I really wanted to join them, but I wasn’t good enough. I rehearsed every day until I felt I could hold my own. At the time we were listening to Hendrix, The Allman Brothers. I was always curious so I found out “Stormy Monday” is a T-bone Walker song. Then I wanted to know who T-bone Walker was. That’s just the way it has been. One thing leads to another.”

A year later, Kid broke out his axe and proceeded to blow them the neighborhood guys away. This opened the door to paying gigs and parties all over OrangeCounty. In 1977 Kid played his first gig at a nightclub, and was writing and performing original material. He was barely 18 years old.

“At the time there was no real Blues in OrangeCounty,” Kid says. “I was pretty much by myself. There used to be this club in Huntington Beach called The Golden Bear. Everybody played there. And I mean anybody who was anybody in those days. We went there and hung out every chance we got.”

Kid considers himself lucky to have had his parents’ support coming up.

“They were very supportive,” Kid said. “They didn’t care what kind of music I was playing as long as I didn’t end up in jail or anything like that. One of the first albums that I remember really making an impression on me is BB (King’s) “Live at The Regal.” I loved it after I started digging into it. It was kind of like an archeological find. It really stirred something in me.”

“I always loved the vinyl records,” Kid says. “The art work. The liner notes. You don’t get that stuff today. And being able to stand there and watch that thing go round and round was fascinating. I was pretty much self-taught. I would hear something I liked and would play it over and over until I got it right. Nobody really understood what I was into. They were all listening to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. It took a while to find guys who wanted to play the Blues like I do.”

Kid continued playing local gigs in and around Anaheim until he went to see local harmonica ace James Harman’s band in 1980.

“That was the turning point for me,” Kid says. “I used to hang around this guitar store and one day the guy there told me ‘You gotta go see this band.’ It was everything he said and more. Here were these guys in sharkskin suits and slicked-back hair. I started stalking them. It took several months before James called me up. Turns out they were looking for a guitar player and it wasn’t long after that before I was in the band.”

“That’s where I got my education,” Kid says. “We were up and down the coast from San Diego to Santa Barbara seven nights a week, four sets a night. We didn’t turn anything down. We were the blues guys in the sharkskin suits. I learned almost everything I know playing with James. I stayed with him for seven years.”

“There was one night,” Kid wrote in the liner notes of his debut CD “Two Hands One Heart” on Black Magic Records, “at the Roxy in Hollywood when one guy kept hurling stuff at us. I finally told him, ‘Buddy, you’re mine as soon as this show is over.’ I was ready to throttle him. He kept it up, so I whacked him in the forehead with the head of my guitar, and he seemed to like it, so I kept whacking him while I played the song. James came over, grabbed him, and swung the guy by his hair while we dodged beer bottles. It was just nuts sometimes.”

In 1983, Harman recruited the legendary Hollywood Fats to join the band. Fats had played with J.B. Hutto, Muddy Waters, Albert King and had led his own band.

“Fats was a kind of misfit, a rich kid who only wanted to play guitar,” Kid recalls. “And he could really do it all. He could play all night and give everyone the ultimate lesson in the Blues. He played in every style while always making it his own. I had two choices, either shrink into a corner, or try to come up with something of my own. It was never a competition. We got along just fine. Fats was a friend, a mentor, a big brother to me. He never tried to intimidate me or look down his nose. When I soloed, he’d play back-up. In hindsight, he may have been my biggest influence.”

The two-guitar lineup in Harman’s band finally allowed Kid Ramos to make his name known.

Like his stepfather before him, Kid was growing weary of the road and wanted to stay at home and raise his family. He had a cup of coffee with Roomful of Blues but declined an invitation to join permanently after the departure of Ronnie Earl.

“I was just burned out from the road,” Kid said. “I hadn’t really made much money and I wanted to get married and start a family. I spent the next seven years hauling bottled water (around LA).”

Like all good Bluesmen, playing in front of a crowd was the siren song that enticed Kid back to the stage. He was watching his friends signing lucrative contracts with big labels and going places.

“Laying out helped keep my personal life in check but it wasn’t helping my career,” Kid says. “I liked being able to go home every night but otherwise I was starting to feel like I was losing out.”

Opportunity came knocking in the form of the Fabulous Thunderbirds front man, Kim Wilson.

“I met Kim back in the ‘80s,” Kid said. “We had played at different events and knew each other’s work. I’d been off the road and gotten married and have been playing around town. Then he called me and said he was looking for a guitar player. Was I interested?”

“I first saw the T-birds in DC in ’78,” Kid recalls. “They were a great band. Jimmie (Vaughan) was older than me and he set the standard for how Blues guys are supposed to act. He had the hair, the look and he played a Stratocaster. I’ve always been a huge Jimmie Vaughan fan. So, sure I was intimidated. Anybody would be. I just made up my mind that I was going to make the music my own. I’ll always be thankful to Kim for giving me the opportunity. I stayed with the T-birds for seven years. It finally ran its course. I guess seven is my lucky number.”

Until being sidelined undergoing chemotherapy and all of the awful things that go with cancer treatment, Kid had a full plate and the sky was the limit. His work with the T-birds elevated him in status among knowledgeable Blues pickers.

“East LA is such a melting pot,” Kid says of the variety of bands and music.” It’s like it’s in its own time zone. It’s a pretty cool place to be from and for making music. Things are not the same anymore in there is not as much intensity as say, the early ‘90s. There were lots of clubs offering Blues every night. It’s not like that anymore. They’ll throw your ass in jail for having too much fun. The demographics have changed. So far I’ve managed to be in the right places at the right time. I came up in a great time to be making music.”

Kid Ramos has had plenty of positive things happen to him during his trip down the Blues highway. Some of them stand out.

“Being asked to join James Harman’s band was definitely a high point,” Kid says. “Another time when I was with the T-birds we opened a show for Carlos Santana. I looked over at one point in our set and he watching me from the wings. Then it was his turn and I watched him. At one point his keyboard player had a solo and Carlos came over to me and hugged me and told me ‘I like the way you play. You play from the heart.’ He doesn’t say that to everybody. I’ll never forget it.”

It was announced recently at a 44s show in Phoenix that “Kid Ramos is now cancer free.” Much to the relief of fans everywhere. He’s spent a grueling year undergoing all kinds of hard-to-pronounce and harder-to-explain treatments to reach the point he has.

“I sure have a different outlook on life,” Kid says. “I’ve found out you don’t take anything for granted because you never know what’s going to be around the corner. I’m trying to get my life back in order. I’m just now starting to feel like a human being again so I’m going to pick up where I left off.”

Currently Kid has dates planned with The Mannish Boys and his project band, Los Fabulocos.

“We’re looking forward to going on the Blues Cruise with the Mannish Boys this summer,” he said. “For now I’m going to take it as it comes.””

Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

Interviewer Jim Crawford is a transplanted Texan and the current president of the Phoenix Blues Society. He’s a fan of lots of different types of music but keeps his head mostly planted in the Blues today. He received his first 45 rpm record, Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” at about age 8 and it stuck. He hosted the “Blues Cruise” on KACV-FM 90 in Amarillo for many years and can be found on many nights catching a good show at the Rhythm Room, Phoenix’s Blues Mecca.

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 Featured Blues review – 2 of 6  

Toby Walker – What You See Is What You Get

Self-Produced

http://www.youseeyouget.com

CD: 16 songs; 53:05 Minutes

Styles: Traditional Electric, Slide-guitar Blues

Typists and keyboardists have an acronym referring to their work: WYSIWYG, or “What You See is What You Get.” This means that in the exact way a document appears onscreen, it will appear on paper. On the cover of East Coast acoustic guitar virtuoso Toby Walker’s latest album, what one sees is a photo of Walker seated in a recording studio, strumming his instrument of choice. Three things can be deduced from this picture: 1) Walker is a solo act here (in 2002, he won the IBC solo competition). 2) His concentration runs as deep as his fretwork. 3) There is little danger of “WYSIWYG” sounding over-produced, because as its liner notes state, there are “no overdubs or second takes.” With that said, the quality of Walker’s musicianship borders on astounding.

“For the first time I’ve decided to record songs using an electric slide guitar rather than my steel [resonator] guitar,” Toby reveals in the liner notes. “It’s a whole new exciting sound so don’t be surprised if you see me playing that at upcoming gigs.” His new shredder earns its stripes from the get-go, bringing zesty life to sixteen songs (ten covers and six originals). The following three numbers are of the latter category, either written or co-written by Walker himself:

Track 03: “Everything I Want” – We all have dreams, and in our narrator’s case, they’re about a thousand times the size of his pocketbook: “I needed me a week’s vacation, and all I could afford was a Motel 6. Instead I got me a Presidential Suite at the fancy Hotel Ritz. And I knew that would put me in debt; that much I will concede. Seems like everything I want is just the opposite of what I need.” A jaunty, upbeat melody propels this song as its spendthrift subject tumbles deeper and deeper into a financial hellhole. Jeff Steinberg co-composed this tongue-in-cheek tale of woe.

Track 06: “Swing Bean” – “Although I recorded ‘Swing Bean’ a decade ago, it has since evolved quite a bit, so I decided it was time to record this new version,” reads Toby’s liner-note revelation. This uplifting instrumental might make one imagine sunny days, warm breezes and riding a bike (regular or motor) along a bustling highway. Sometimes an artist’s best work is his oldest, refurbished and reinvented. Such is the case here.

Track 14: “Put Something Stupid on the Tube” – Co-writers Tom Griffith and Toby Walker share the same nighttime ambition: to watch inane TV. “You know, the big boss man drove me half-insane. There’s nothing left to do but to drain my brain. I’ll tell you right now, I’m going to put something stupid on the tube!” Purists will dig the sensational solo in the middle, and fans of hilarious lyrics will snicker (or groan, depending on how much they’ve done the same thing).

“What You See Is What You Get” with Toby Walker: straight-up, raw electric slide.

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.

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 Featured Blues review – 3 of 6  

Andres Roots Roundabout – Three!

Roots Art Records

www.andresroots.com

11 songs – 36 minutes

Based in Tartu, Estonia, not far from the Russian border, Andres Roots Roundabout are a three-piece band – two guitars and drums – with plenty of Old World experience.

Even though his name might not be a household word in America, slide guitarist Andres Roots founded another Estonian band, Bullfrog Brown, whose solid records and stage performance earned gigs and fans across Europe in the 2000s. He’s shared the stage with Honeyboy Edwards and working in collaboration with a host of European talent, including British reed-bender Steve Lury and guitarist Dave Arcari.

This CD is the third release from his new ensemble, but the first full-length all-instrumental disc from the group, which includes Martin Eessalu on second guitar and Raul Terep on skins. As Roots points out in the liner notes, the lineup is “difficult to dissect in traditional term, for the drums are as much a lead instrument as either of the guitars. What ought to be ‘rhythm guitar’ incorporates bass and lead lines and vice versa.”

All of the material here is original. The disc kicks off with a brief, discordant on “Greengrass Stomp,” but the song quickly evolves into a driving, trance-inducing boogie with Eessalu taking the lead. The tone for “Room Service” is light and airy, variations of a simple bluesy theme with drum accents.

After strong lead-in on drums, Roots takes command for “Link To Elmore,” which features some nice octave jumps on the fret board. The pace quickens for “High Noon,” with both guitars highlighted throughout over a drum workout on toms. Eessalu’s back in command for “Orient Express,” as the sound modulates with an Eastern feel. The song unites two themes previously expressed during Roots’ Bullfrog years.

The band gets funky on “Moby Dick” with Terep taking off on a brief drum solo mid-tune before the pace quickens before returning to the root. “Saucer Full Of Cream,” another Bullfrog original, follows before “Three Sticks,” a rapidly paced number on which Eessalu is in command and Roots plays rhythm by using a drumstick like he would if playing a diddley bow. “Wagon Swing” reworks another Bullfrom theme before the catchy, straight-ahead blues “Miss Carmen James” and airy “Onion Boy” conclude the set.

Always interesting, never boring. If you like instrumental guitar works, you’ll like this one.

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

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 Featured Blues review – 4 of 6  

Aaron Williams and the Hoodoo – Live Loud Harmony

Self Released

www.aaronwilliamsandthehoodoo.com

10 tracks

Aaron Williams and the Hoodoo are a great young trio of musicians from Madison and we have reviewed their first two studio albums here in our newsletter. Recorded live in the Harmony Bar in downtown Madison, the band feeds off the lively crowd and delivers an electrifying performance.

Williams leads the band, sings and plays the guitar. Eric Shackelford is the drummer and a vocalist and Z is the bass player and also does vocals. These live songs are mostly originals and are predominantly featured on their recordings. The live versions have a great feeling to them, plus they have a few songs that are not on their CDs!

They open with “Boom Boom,” a real crowd pleaser. Williams is wailing on a cigar box guitar, Shack is beating the hell out of his drums and Z maintains a frenetic throbbing sound on his bass. It whips the crowd into a frenzy and the album listener is not far behind. They cover “Sick and Tired” next, one of their staple songs. Williams does this Elvis style and the band just delivers the goods on this great boogie woogie cut. “Supper at Night” is new to their recordings. Z does the vocals here for a change of pace and Williams fills in nicely on the guitar solos.

”Ramblin’” is another newly recorded song for them. It’s a fast paced and frenetically hot number with Williams in the lead. They slow things down and follow that with “My Turn” off their first CD. Williams croons to the crowd and they sit listening intently. Aaron breaks into a very cool and intense solo about half way through that is outstanding.

“Uncle” Shack continues with another cut from the 10:49 album, “Red Headed Woman,” a song abut one of the most dangerous predatory species in Wisconsin. It’s a lot of fun and Williams adds a slide solo to spice it up more! “No Time for Love” is from the newer CD It Ain’t Easy and the boys tell some girl “they have no time for love but they got a little time for you.” “It Is What It Is” has Z singing this one from their first CD. “Daddy” Shack is called out as Williams then follows with the Doors hit “Roadhouse Blues” Another slide guitar solo and a driving beat make this one very cool.

They finish with the title cut from their latest CD and then turn it into a medley with the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Gypsy.” “It Ain’t Easy” itself is a great song with a thoughtfully written and played big time stratospheric solo and then they go into the National Anthem a la a little bit Hendrix and a little bit of Aaron Williams. Williams introduces the band and then they break into “Gypsy,” a big time instrumental, to close things out. Fuzzy, distorted and psychedelic, it is a very sweet ending for a super album!

If you are new to these guys then this will serve as a great primer. If you’ve seen them live then this will serve as a sampling of the fantastic shows they put on. If you’ve only heard them on their studio CD’s you will hear what you are missing in not attending their live shows. It is high energy, rollicking good time that every blues fan will enjoy. I love these guys and this CD– highly recommended!

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

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 Featured Blues review – 5 of 6  

Layla Zoe – The Lily

Cable Car Records 2013

www.layla.ca

11 tracks; 65 minutes

This is Canadian singer/songwriter Layla Zoe’s seventh album and her second in collaboration with German guitarist Henrik Freischlader who plays a very significant part in this project as he plays guitar, bass and drums, adds backing vocals, wrote all the music for the original songs and produced the album. Apart from Layla’s vocals the only other person involved is organist Moritz Fuhrhop who is another member of Henrik’s band. The album was recorded in Germany and is issued on Henrik’s Cable Car Records label.

Nine of the songs here are Zoe/Freischlader compositions, the album being bookended by the two covers which may represent differing elements of Layla’s DNA. The opener is an acapella version of “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah”, a traditional gospel tune which one suspects is part of Layla’s early upbringing. The album closes with what may constitute another form of worship in Canada – a Neil Young cover! “Hey, Hey, My, My” is done well but suffers from almost two minutes of guitar feedback at the end – possibly in keeping with Neil’s live style but not the best way to close an album which is arguably more about the songs than anything else.

Layla has a strong voice which she uses to good effect on several of the songs here. She has a tendency to force her voice which can result in some strident passages, the worst example being on “Father” – a shame as this deeply personal slow blues has moving lyrics. Henrik can also suffer from overplaying and does so on “Father”, making the track fairly unpalatable. In contrast the equally long title track is beautifully played and sung and a fine example of how well Layla can use her voice in service to the song. “In Her Mother’s House” is a highlight with acoustic guitars and organ underpinning Layla’s voice which is well controlled. Henrik’s electric guitar flourishes enhance the song well and the overall result is a very attractive listen. “Gemini Heart” is one of the gentler songs here and both Layla’s world weary voice and Henrik’s subtle guitar playing work superbly.

Layla clearly grew up with plenty of rock and blues influences, as can be heard on “Green Eyed Lover” where she namechecks Peter Green (as she also does on “I Choose You”) and Gregg Allman as well as the lyrics from Lowell George’s “Willin’” (“Weed, whites, whiskey and wine”). The music here is more dramatic as Layla tells of the jealousy that can consume a relationship. Another strong track is the angry “They Lie” in which Layla rails against a society that is controlled by ruthless liars. Her voice delivers the chilling words with passion: “And they lie to you and to your children too. Soon they will own everything, and there’ll be no world to come home too”.

The upbeat rocker “Never Met A Man Like You” finds Layla bowled over by her new man: “I would crawl through the desert, baby on my hands and knees, just to feel the water of the Babylon sea”. It is a strong song lyrically but the histrionic guitar solo detracts from the overall effect. The tendency to excess is apparent on tracks like the chugging rocker “Why Are You So Afraid?” and “I Choose You” on which Henrik’s power chords introduce a song about redemption from an earlier life where things maybe did not go so well.

This is an interesting album with some very strong and personal songs. Layla clearly has a strong voice but it would be good to hear her recorded with a producer who reigns her in a little more vocally.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He had a blast at this year’s Blues Blast Awards and is already planning his next trip stateside.

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 Featured Blues review – 6 of 6  

Laura Rain and the Caesars – Electrified

Label: Self-released

www.laurarain.net

10 songs – 47 minutes

The photograph of Laura Rain on the cover of Electrified captures her with her eyes tightly shut, one hand on her head, the other holding a microphone into which she is clearly letting rip. It’s a great photo, which captures an artist lost in the moment and, as visual metaphors go, it’s a pretty accurate summation of this album. Rain is blessed with a powerful, soulful beast of a voice, and she and her band, the Caesars, bring it to the forefront on the 10 retro-modern soul pieces on Electrified. The end result is a very impressive studio debut (they also released a live four track demo in 2012).

The band comes out swinging on the first song, “Sunset”, with Rain giving her soul-soaked voice free rein at the chorus. It’s a great way to start a thoroughly enjoyable album, and by the end of the second song, the slightly more restrained “My Love”, which has the funk edge of Chic (although with the disco element diluted), the listener is in no doubt that this is a serious affair.

A wide range of influences are clearly identifiable on this release, from the Howlin’ Wolf-esque stomp of the closer “No More” to the minor key blues of “No Good Love” and the Family Stone-esque “I Don’t Wanna Play”. The blues are clearly an essential element of the band’s music, but any blues sensibilities are cleverly and seamlessly merged with equally important soul and R&B influences.

All 10 songs were co-written by Rain and guitarist George Friend, whose resume includes rockabilly legend Robert Gordon and blues goddess Janiva Magness. His playing on this album is an object lesson in how to back up a singer properly. Detroit’s answer to Austin’s Derek O’Brien or LA’s Rick Holmstrom, perhaps. The remaining Caesars are no make-weights, either, with Phil Hale on keyboards and bass and Ron Pangborn on drums. Also featured on the album are Rick Beamon on drums/percussion, James O’Donnell on trumpet, John Paxton on trombone and Johnny Evans on sax.

Apparently, Rain is a classically trained soprano, but there is little evidence of the restrictions and limitations of classical music in her voice, which soars and swoops with ludicrous ease over each melody, often bordering on the very edge of control, for example at the raucous closing of “Four Long Years” . As a result, it is not surprising that the focus of the songs is often on Rain’s powerful, expressive voice, rather than solos for the musicians, but Friend in particular is able to shine on songs such as “No Good Love”, “Lonely” and the title track, all of which feature understated yet supremely melodic guitar solos.

Some critics have compared Rain’s voice to Aretha Franklin. A closer comparison might be Amy Winehouse who, despite having more of a contralto range, had a similarly appealing catholic approach to her music. But where Winehouse mixed R&B, soul, jazz and reggae, Rain mixes R&B, soul, funk and blues.

As a result, this is not a flat-out blues album, but is well worth a listen to any blues fan, but particularly if you are partial to the funk-influenced blues of Johnny “Guitar” Watson or the funky soul of Prince.

Laura Rain and the Caesars say they are reclaiming the storied Detroit soul music legacy from the ravages of time, neglect, and electronic dance music. On the evidence of Electrified, they are doing a pretty damn good job of it. Highly recommended.

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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 Blues Society News  


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River City Blues Society – Pekin, IL

River City Blues Society presents live Blues featuring The Moonshine Brothers from Iowa, 7:30 pm Friday February 28th at For more info visit www.rivercityblues.com or call 309-648-8510

Phoenix Blues Society – Phoenix,AZ

The 23rd Annual Blues Blast, presented by The Phoenix Blues Society, 501(c)(3), will take place March 8, 2014 at Margaret T. Hance Park at 3rd St. & Moreland near downtown Phoenix. Gates will open at 10 a.m. with music starting at 11a.m. Headliners: Samantha Fish and SugaRay Rayford with the Rhythm Room All-stars will join The Mike Eldred Trio, Paul Cruize Blues Crew and Leon J’s Juke Joint. Local favorite Hans Olson will provide entertainment between acts throughout the afternoon.

Food, beverages and vendors will be on site. There will be master musicians holding a free music workshop for kids 12-18 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. There also will be an art project open for everyone’s contribution. Admission is $22 in advance and $25 day of show. Children under 16 accompanied by a parent will be admitted free. Early Bird tickets are available now until Feb.1 at www.bluesblast2014.eventbrite.com  Tickets can be purchased online until day of show.

Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

On Wednesday February 19th MVBS presents Anni Piper with Brent Johnson and the Call-up. Anni hails from Australia and began playing guitar at the age of 12. She now lays down the groove on bass. Her sultry vocals are reminiscent of Susan Tedeschi. Brent Johnson is out on his own after 10 plus years as part of Bryan Lee’s Blues Power Band! Show is at Martini’s on the Rock, 4619 34th St. Rock Island IL, Showtime is 7pm, Cover is 7 for members and 10 for non-members! Info at www.MVBS.org

DC Blues Society – Washington, DC

Join the DC Blues Society for a dance party with live music on February 15, 2014 from 8pm-12:30am (American Legion Post 268, 11225 Fern Street, Wheaton MD 20902.) Tickets are $13 in advance (www.dcblues.org) or $15 at the door. Jesi Terrell and The Love Mechanic Band will keep you warm and toasty as you dance to their blues-heavy R&B sound! Jesi Terrell brings her sultry sound to Wheaton to extend your Valentine’s celebration for one more day! Said David Whiteis of the Chicago Reader, “she can break into a ferocious, full-bodied wail, invoking the combination of lust and aggression that’s so basic to the blues…Terrell has always had a knack for conveying the sensuality of the blues”. Jesi is a seasoned Chicago music scene veteran who has opened for B.B. King and Eric Clapton. Last fall, Jesi and her tight band brought down the house at the 2013 DC Blues Society Battle of the Bands. Check out this exuberant and exciting performer! For more info visit www.dcblues.org

Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, Illinois

Tuesday, February 11th is now our first show at Mary’s Place on 602 N Madison Street in Rockford. It will be a 7 PM start time for Ben Miller and his trio. They are a great blues and blues grass roots band outof Missisippi. $10 cover. The following week on Tuesday, February 18th, we will have Brent Johnson and the Call Up also at Mary’s Place. Brent will be joined by Australia’s Anni Piper! Brent is out on his own after 10 plus years as part of Bryan Lee’s Blues Power Band! Cover is $10 and we will start early at 7 PM for this show, too! $10 cover

Our monthly Saturday blues shows at the Hope and Anchor continue in February. On Saturday, February 15th it will be the Alex Wilson Band from Milwaukee. Saturday, March 8th is back to the Hope and Anchor with guitar virtuoso Bobby Messano and his great band. Both shows are $5 cover, 8 PM start.

Tuesday, February 18th is another show at Mary’s Place on 602 N Madison Street in Rockford. Brent Johnson and the Call Up will be joined by Australia’s Anni Piper! Brent is out on his own after 10 plus years as part of Bryan Lee’s Blues Power Band! Cover is $10 and we stat early- 7 PM!

Saturday, March 8th is back to the Hope and Anchor with guitar virtuoso Bobby Messano and his great band. $5 cover, 8 PM start.

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

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

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

At 8 PM our headliners will be…well, we can’t tell you yet! We will let you know soon!
Between acts we will feature local acoustic blues man Dan Phelps. 10 hours of music from noon to 10 PM (we close at 10:30 PM). Tickets will once again only be $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

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

The Central Iowa Blues Society –  Des Moines, IA

Saturday, February 8th the Central Iowa Blues Society welcomes 10 acts on 6 different stages. This multi-band event will culminate with an After Hours Jam in Des Moines Downtown Marriott. Bands performing include Jeffco, Chad Elliott & Bomita Crowe, Rock Island Rollers, Josh Hoyer & The Shadow Boxers, Annie Mack, Katy Guillen & The Girls, Bob Pace and national touring artists Nikki Hill, Chris O’Leary Band and John Nemeth.

Wristbands for the event are only $15.00 in advance and will give you admission to all of the Ballrooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors, as well as Rock River Lounge on the 2nd floor. Tickets are available online at www.cibs.org now.

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.

Feb. 10 – The Dave Lumsden Factor, Feb. 17 – Anni Piper with Brent Johnson and the Call-up, Feb. 24 – Alex Jenkins & The Bombers,

Also on Feb. 9 there will be a special Blue Sunday with John Nemeth, Casey’s Pub in Springfielde, IL.

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


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2 Replies to “Issue 8-6 February 6, 2014”

  1. I always wonder why great blues guitarists like The Kid don’t get more coverage. Thank you Blues Blast Magazine. You just moved up on my list of top places to read about the blues.

    1. Thanks Rick! We try to cover great musicians that are well known and also ones folks might not know. If you haven’t yet, check out Joel Paterson. We covered him in our 9/12/153 issue
      http://thebluesblast.com/Archive/BluesBlasts/2013/BluesBlast9_12_13.htm

      Also be sure to check out the article and the videos of Laura Chavez in our 9/26/13 issue
      http://thebluesblast.com/Archive/BluesBlasts/2013/BluesBlast9_26_13.htm

      Both of them are monster players in their own right that many have not heard before. Likes the video on your website too!

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