Issue 9-10 March 5 2015

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine


 In This Issue 

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Liz Mandeville. James “Skyy Dobro” Walker has a story on the history of the spelling of Muddy Waters’ name.

We have 9 reviews for you including a musical compilation project to benefit the homeless called The Healing Blues and reviews of music from Empire Roots Band, Roly Platt, Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Raphael Wressnig, Rob Paparozzi and the Ed Palermo Big Band, Bernie Marsden, Mike Zito and the Wheel and Henry Carpaneto.

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,

BIG NEWS this week! Artist submissions for the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards are now open. Artists, and labels can submit their music directly to the nominators for consideration until April 15th. For complete information CLICK HERE.

The 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards nominations will be announced in early June and voting by fans all over the world will begin in July.

SAVE THE DATE
The 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards will be held on Friday September 25th, 2015 at the Fluid Event Center in Champaign, IL. To keep up with all the news about the Blues Blast Awards, visit the Blues Blast Music Awards website at www.TheBBMAs.com regularly.

Also our friends at the Bonita Blues Festival have a great show for you this weekend in sunny Florida at Riverside Park in Bonita Springs, FL. The fest features The Peterson Brothers, Old No. 5’s Band, Ori Naftaly Band, Albert Castiglia and Chris Cain on Friday and RJ Howson Ben Rice Band, Rusty Wright Band, The Jeremiah Johnson Band, Southern Hospitality with Damon Fowler, J.P. Soars and Victor Wainwright and the healiner for the night, Lurrie Bell’s Chicago Blues Band. You don’t want to miss this one! Check out their ad below or visit www.bonitablues.com  for tickets and info.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser




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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 9 

Empire Roots Band – Music from the Film Harlem Street Singer

Acoustic Sessions Recordings

www.harlemstreetsinger.com

11 tracks

The Reverend Gary Davis took the blues and gospel from the deep south to New York City. He took what he learned in South Carolina as a child and teen up to the Big Apple during the height of the folk and rock scene in the 1960’s. The film Harlem Street Singer is a biography of the great musicians life and impact on American music. Four “Noo Yawkers” provide the music for the film and it is captured here in this “soundtrack” of sorts.

Billy Sims, Jr. provides the vocal duties and does an admirable job delivering great performances with his own style and charm melded into Davis’ work. Sims pays homage but also shows what he can do with these cuts while both being fresh and retaining a period feel to the songs. Woody Mann is on guitar and sings background, Dave Keyes is on piano and also sings background, and Brian Glassman plays upright bass. The four of them do a fine job delivering an authentic feel to the music while also making the music theirs. The CD features the unedited takes from the film and previously unreleased tracks. All the songs were written or are traditional songs performed regularly by Reverend Davis.

They get things started with the classic, “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” and let me tell you that if you don’t have any spiritual feelings you might be moved otherwise after listening to this song. Sims does a superb job while Keyes, Mann and Glassman show restraint as they do yeoman’s duty in support. “Search My Heart” follows, a spiritual with some grit to it, and then they get into “Mean Old World.” Very soulful stuff! The latter is done very down tempo and subdued and it works well. “There’s Destruction In This Land” is great commentary along with being a judgement day song and “Soon My Work Will Be Done” is a great lamentation.

“Trying to Get Home” then follows, picking up the pace a bit. A Sunday church medley keeps the pace going and gets more than a bit of a groove going. “Twelve Gates to the City” is another deeper spiritual with “Hesitation” sandwiched in between it and the medley. A ool little instrumental, it’s a refreshing ditty that automatically will make your foot tap. “I Am the Light Of This World/ I Belong To The Band” end the soundtrack and are some more sweet praise songs. “Orangitang Rag” is a great instrumental bonus track with some nice finger picking by Mann and piano work by Keyes.

Gary Davis was a legend and these guys do a great job showing us why he was. Whether you went out and saw the movie or not, this is a finely crafted album by some really good musicians who deliver Davis’ work with feeling and authenticity; they go beyond giving us straight up note for note covers. I enjoyed this CD and I give it a big “thumbs up!”

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 Interview – Liz Mandeville 

This may come off like some kind of veiled attempt at degradation, or some kind of funky insult, but that’s not its intentions. It’s really meant to be a compliment of the highest order.

Liz Mandeville is a lot like an onion.

And as with most onions, there are layers upon layers upon layers to the multi-faceted Mandeville.

She’s a highly-engaging and articulate conversationalist, she’s well-read and extremely intelligent, she has a finely-tuned eye for beautiful works of art, she’s a longtime student of metaphysics, she’s a record label executive … and oh, yeah, she’s one hell of a blues singer, as well.

And maybe most importantly, she’s a living, breathing example of what determination and will-power can accomplish.

Her resume in 2014 is in stark contrast to the turbulent and dangerously-explosive childhood she was forced to endure. But more on that in a minute.

Judging by the reaction to her latest album – Heart ‘O’ Chicago (Blue Kitty Music), things are fine and dandy in the camp of the Chicago-based Mandeville these days.

“I am absolutely thrilled that people got this album. I wrote the liner notes (and explained it) and was like, ‘OK, this is what I’m trying to do.’ Maybe I should have done that with my other records, because I think in a lot of cases, people didn’t understand where I was coming from and weren’t sure how to categorize me,” she recently said. “So this record has done exactly what I’ve wanted it to do and I’m still reaping the rewards of it.”

In a way, Heart ‘O’ Chicago’s slow but steady climb into the hands of blues lovers everywhere since its release last summer mirrors Mandeville’s own climb up through the pecking order of the blues; instead of a red-hot start, it’s been more of a continual slow burn in an upward direction.

“I think that could be the case of my entire life. That French guy – Emile Coue – said ‘Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better,’ and that fits me. I basically have started out from nothing and have done a lot by refusing to give up and by putting one foot in front of the other and by falling on my face and getting up and doing it over and over again until I get it right where I want to go,” she said. “And that’s not to say that I’m where I want to go … but I do feel that Heart ‘O’ Chicago is the best work that I’ve ever done in my life.”

No new-comer on the scene, over the course of 15 years, Mandeville issued four albums on the Earwig Records label, before striking out on her own with Blue Kitty Music.

“A lot of people really like that first record (Look At Me) for some reason, although I felt there was a maturity and depth to each record that I’ve put out, because I’m living and having the life experiences – broken hearts, people dying, good and bad things happening – and each one of those things are a learning and living experience that you can bring to song-writing and performance and stage presence,” she said. “But at this point, I’m really so proud of this record and so proud of all the people that participated in making it, because I didn’t do it all myself.”

For a lot of artists, the chore of song-writing can be akin to beating one’s head against a brick wall – or at the very least – is a task to be dreaded as much as filing taxes on April 15 can be. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth for the prolific Mandeville.

“I have been a born song-writer since the day I opened my eyes and first started wailing. My family encouraged that in me – God bless them – so all I have to do is say, ‘I need to write some tunes,’ and then I sit down with a pen in my hand and it will come,” she said. “I’m also an avid reader and have stacks of books in my house. You name it … every kind of subject fascinates me. I read physical books and also have a Kindle and read books that way … I have books on discs … my band laughingly calls them ‘my stories.’”

Mandeville’s intoxicating blend of Chess-style cool with the rawness and earthy strains of Coahoma County, Mississippi mixed in, easily comes off as the genuine, real-deal blues. But the way she sees things, the blues don’t necessarily equate being downtrodden and depressed, with no hope on the horizon.

“I do not feel as though I want to be the role model for the worst possible case in history. I want to be the role model for, ‘Yes! I’m been through this and you can go through it and triumph over it, too,” she said.

A good chunk of the material on Heart ‘O’ Chicago was born out of a relationship struck up with the great vocalist Shirley Johnson, who had asked Mandeville to write the material for a project she was working on.

“I told her that I needed to know some things about her (in order to write songs for her project), so she took me out to lunch and we sat and talked about our pasts. And some of these tunes on Heart ‘O’ Chicago are directly from our conversation,” Mandeville said. “The song ‘These Blues” which is a jazzy-sounding track, is a direct quote from her. I said, ‘Shirley, where do you see yourself five or 10 years from now?’ And she said, ‘I’ll be singing these blues till I die.’ I immediately wrote that down and that was the first lyric and became the song. The song “Silver Lining” I sub-titled “Shirley’s Blues” because that was her story.”

Mandeville’s enviable prowess at turning the particular meaning of a phrase 180-degrees, along with her knack for clever word-play, is on full display on what has quickly became a crowd favorite at her shows – “My Mama Wears Combat Boots” – a track off her 2012 album, Clarksdale.

“My husband, Carl, is in the Illinois National Guard, attached to the Army. And since we’ve been involved in these unfortunate wars, the National Guard has done the bulk of the fighting. Well, my husband was called up to do a mission in the Middle East, which was a 400-day mission,” she said. “At the deployment, I’m looking at all these people in fatigues and half of them were women. And I thought about it and realized these women are facing some of the hardest challenges that any woman in any job could face. They are expected to perform just like the men soldiers. It made me think of when we were kids in the school yard and we would shout insults at each other as a way of setting up pecking orders. Stuff like, ‘Your mama’s so fat …’ or the worst one of all, ‘Your mama wears combat boots.’ That was a horrible insult back then. But you know what? Now, it’s a badge of honor. That’s how I chose that line to be the hook of the song. Things have just changed so much in the world since I was a kid. What was once considered an insult is now something to be proud of.”

Mandeville’s father was in the Army – infantry and artillery – and did two tours of duty in Korea. When he returned home, despite being terribly afflicted with PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder), he went to the Art Institute of Chicago on the G.I. Bill.

“The more I live, the more proud I am of my dad. He always said, ‘Lizzie, you can do anything you set your mind to. Go sing, go play your guitar. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t,’” she said. “There was nobody else in our neighborhood that had a dad who was an artist. When I was a little, little kid, my dad would take me to the art institute with him. And while he was there working on projects or writing papers, I would go play in the art galleries or look at the different exhibits. I learned so much about the world from looking at these paintings and I drew so much richness from that art.”

Mandeville’s roots go back to Milwaukee – actually to a small bungalow just outside of Milwaukee. “It was Milwaukee RFD,” she laughed. “There was a cow farm down the road from us and all our neighbors, their dads worked at the factory … so I’ve always felt like kind of a fringe player, kind of an outsider. We had trees and plants in our yard and they all had dirt patches in theirs.”

That early exposure to the finer things – despite being raised in a blue-collar part of the world – helps explain why Mandeville’s home is currently not only filled with books, but with paintings and objet d’art. She also regularly seeks out museums and art galleries while on the road in order to help feed her muse.

“Well, I’ve always felt this kind of ‘otherness’ in myself, because I’m not a blue collar kid. My mother was a really unique person. She was manic-depressive before they knew what it was,” she said. “There was no treatment for it at the time. She was a wonderful person, but she was also extremely ill and extremely violent and you never knew what person was going to show up. You didn’t know if you were going to come home from school and find a sweet, loving mother, or whether it was going to be the mother that would grab you by the hair, drag you up the stairs and beat you for the next six hours. I spent a good deal of my time hiding behind a chair in the dining room as a little kid. I tried to remove myself from the direct line of fire as much as I could.”

That sense of ‘Russian Roulette’ about what awaited her at home was responsible for Mandeville not only becoming introverted, but also sent her seeking insulation at places other than just her bedroom, or behind the kitchen chair.

“That did cause me to turn inward. I loved going to the library and hiding in the books, where it was quiet and no one could yell at you and no one could hit you.” she said. “It was calming and comforting there (in the library) and you had to maintain decorum. It was really, really, really calming and comforting to go inside a book and lose yourself in another universe. So now, I look at books as my great addiction. I love to visit inside other people’s realms of invention.”

In stark contrast to her emotionally volatile and physically abusive side, Mandeville’s mother enjoyed some of the more elegant and glamorous outings that society had to offer back then and she also wanted to enlighten her daughter in those matters, as well.

“My mother was the person that introduced me to the theatre. She’s the one who got me the library card … she’s the one that taught me to speak proper English, she’s the one who encouraged me to always learn and to better myself,” Mandeville said.

It was also her mother that said if Mandeville would move to Chicago and study theatre at DePaul University, she would pay for the first semester. Unsurprisingly, Mandeville did just that.

The struggles she was faced with as a child may have played a role in determining the stage on which Mandeville would settle onto as an adult, far removed from those uncertain and often unhappy times in Milwaukee.

“I think that was what caused me to seek out the blues, because the people in the blues are other people who have been hurt and are other people that have been wounded and disaffected and have found a way to express the pain and the rage and the torment of not understanding why they were born into this,” she said. “After the childhood I had with my mother, I found myself extremely depressed and in a terrible funk … I was traumatized by what I had gone through in my childhood. I had to figure out a way to deal with that. I mean, I saw my future as being a bag-lady on Lower Wacker Drive if I couldn’t get a grip on things. I had no clue how to carry on a conversation with someone or behave like a functioning adult in this world. There I was, at 17, out on my own doing a major life fail.”

That ‘major life fail’ was corrected with a visit to the Chicago Mental Health Resources.

“Thank God for them. The city of Chicago had a mental health program that you could go and seek therapy and didn’t have to have any money. I was flat-broke and had no idea how to support myself. My mother had completely dominated every one of our family’s lives. She was so ill, she was just a force of nature. She had everyone caught in her gravitational pull and it was a nasty planet to be a moon of,” Mandeville said. “Somewhere within myself, I discovered that I really wanted to live and to be successful. I wanted to choose up, instead of down. So I went to the city of Chicago Mental Health, and at the end of the six-month term there, I went to family services and did a stint with their therapist and I also went to several other clinics that would work with you on a sliding scale. I worked at getting well, because there is a history of mental illness in my family that goes back generations. I mean, I was on my own and I had to take action; it was either sink or swim; I chose to swim. I really, really support having community- and government- and city-sponsored mental health programs, because I am a walking example of how successful that can be.”

Even though she found herself in the heart of the blues when she first moved to the Windy City, Mandeville did not have intentions of becoming a blues singer when she relocated to Chicago.

“I didn’t come to Chicago to become a blues musician … blues was sort of a secondary idea. I knew that there was Big Bill Bronzy and Lightnin’ Hopkins, which I thought of as folk music. I was listening to that back in Wisconsin, when I was a little folkie kid with a guitar and playing coffee houses with my friends,” she said. “I mean, I’d play some 12-bar blues, but I didn’t really know the masters and I didn’t really even know I was playing the blues.”

It wasn’t long before Mandeville found out just what the blues were all about … or at least what the blues were all about to Willie Greeson.

“When I met my first husband (Greeson), he was a diehard blues Nazi. He was like, ‘If the song does not sound exactly like the record, you’re doing it wrong. There will be no improvisation.’ From my vantage point now, I think he had missed the point of what the blues are about,” laughed Mandeville. “But God love him, because he introduced me to the Chess sound. He was the guy who introduced me to Jimmy Reed. After that (meeting Greeson), I was completely hooked on and utterly love the Chicago blues. I mean, you’ll find a Jimmy Reed ‘lumpty-lump’ on all my records, going back to the earliest ones.”

In addition to her burning desire to not let the surroundings of her childhood form any kind of shackles on the adult she would become, it should also be noted that the quickest way to motivate Mandeville is to tell her she can’t do something; that, or attempt to make a fool out of her on the bandstand. After a particularly embarrassing and humiliating experience she went through at an after-hours jam at a jazz club – where she was talked into climbing on stage and singing, only to find a band-leader that was the very definition of unwelcoming – “He put his finger in my face on three different occasions and waged it and said, ‘OK, bluueesss singerrr …’ It was like he was calling me a M.F. or something. He was talking to me like I was a bad dog.” Never letting the situation get the best of her, she went ahead and sang her song and even though the band-leader continued to talk down and scold her every chance he could, Mandeville somehow managed to maintain proper etiquette and hold her head up high as she strode off stage as the audience gave her a hearty round of applause for her version of “Sunny Side of the Street.” Despite the fact that she was embarrassed by what happened, she didn’t run and bury her head in the sand.

“I was just so humiliated and filled with chagrin, the following Monday, I marched down to Columbia College and enrolled for classes. I earned a degree in music (with honors) and I said that I would never be humiliated like that ever again,” she said. “It will not happen. I’m highly motivated by anger. Some people would have hit him (the arrogant band-leader on a power trip at the jam) with a mic stand or threw a drink in his face, but I was raised to be a lady … but boy, have I gotten even!”

Mandeville also spent eight years training with renowned vocal coach Doug Susu-Mago.

“I did arrive on the planet with a gift – my voice – and thank you for that, God. But my voice was untrained and I had a real rapid-fire vibrato and didn’t know how to use my mechanism. I had been going to somebody else (vocal coach) who was teaching me the vocal book … I’ve always felt it’s important to continue your training and to work on your craft. I would go out and sing James Brown, Tina Turner and Koko Taylor and Etta James on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and give it my all, and by Sunday I couldn’t even speak. My voice was so blown-out and destroyed,” she said. “So I found out about Doug and I went to him and he said, ‘Liz, those screams and shouts and this-and-that is like art; they’re just colors on your palette and are not all there is to singing. You’re like an athlete and just like you can’t go out every time and pitch a no-hitter, you still need to know how to control the muscles in your arm and shoulder to be able to pitch inning-after-inning, day-after-day.’ I studied with him for eight years and I have to credit him with being one of the most amazing, fun, funny, influential people in my life. He really, really gave me an invaluable gift. Columbia College also did that. That experience that I got from Columbia College was so much more than I could have imagined. I found my place in the world of music there; I could never repay them for what they gave me. I paid my way through Columbia College by singing the blues.”

Her record label – Blue Kitty Music – was born largely from a conversation Mandeville had with one the all-time great bluesmen.

“It was Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith – God bless him – that encouraged me to start this label. My first husband (Willie Greeson) played for a short time with the Legendary Blues Band, so I was friends with Willie ‘Big Eyes.’ I really loved his in-the-pocket, traditional ‘lumpty-lump’ sound. I told him (in 2011), ‘Willie, I have wanted to make a record with you since 1998.’ He said, ‘What? You book the time, little girl. And I’ll tell you something else, Liz, we ain’t giving this record to none of them damn crooks, you’re going to start your own label and we’re going to put it out on your label,’” said Mandeville. “He said, ‘I did it (put an album out on his own label) and if I can do it, you can do it and I’ll help you.’”

With just a couple of phones calls, two weeks later, the first five tracks for what would become Clarksdale were in the can, and thus, Blue Kitty Music was birthed.

Mandeville is also a multi-instrumentalist who plays anything put in her hands – from guitar to washboard. But it’s her one-of-a-kind vocal prowess that captures attention and turns heads. Her voice is sophisticated, guttural and soulful … all at the same time.

“I love Otis Redding so much. I just absolutely love him. I have worn out The Best of Otis Redding. I have a huge vinyl LP collection of all the people that I love and adore and have taken things from to become a better singer,” she said. “Etta James is a huge, huge influence. Irma Thomas is the female side of the (Otis Redding) coin and they were singing a lot of the same material, they just changed up a few words, and of course she’s singing in New Orleans and he’s singing in Memphis. That Memphis sound just had such a huge impact on me. I spent so much time in my 20s and 30s learning to speak soul music and rhythm and blues so I could feel like I was really doing a service to the music, instead of exploiting it; that was a huge undertaking.”

Although music is what Mandeville uses to pay the bills these days, one gets the feeling that even if that was not her vocation, it would still play an essential part in her life.

“I am just in love with music. I have a deep and passionate love affair with music that goes all the way back to when I was a little kid and didn’t understand why mom was angry and why she would go on a rampage,” Mandeville said. “There was a soundtrack in my head and it would just turn up louder and I would hear the music and that would take me away from the situation. So I’m always interested in learning new music and exploring new parts of the music.”

The ever-fascinating Mandeville’s interests stretch all the way to Tarot card reading, which she uses as a form of self-meditation and way to communicate with her sub-conscious mind about the things going on in her life. She also sees a correlation between the Tarot deck and the blues.

“There are two parts to the Tarot deck; the Major Arcana cards, which are 22 cards that stand for big ideas. Then the Minor Arcana are what our modern-day playing cards are, 52 cards in the playing deck. They talk about the four aspects of your life; love, career, money and value and trouble and conflict and challenges,” she said. “And I look at the blues as the Minor Arcana. The blues is talking about everyday life. The blues is talking about your job, it’s talking about money and what you think of yourself … and troubles and sorrow and anxiety and overcoming that. That’s what the blues is talking about. That is the mission of the blues, helping people to explore that part of themselves; to help them find out how to triumph over whatever kind of tragedy or calamity they are facing. As a blues song-writer, it’s my job to explore all of this territory and give people a vehicle in which to travel through it and get to the other side.”

Mandeville and her mother – who passed away a little over 10 years ago – did heal their relationship after doctors discovered Lithium was a suitable course of treatment for her affliction.

“My mother had a chemical imbalance, but she was also the child of batterers. She was just carrying on the only way she knew how. Years of therapy have helped me understand this,” Mandeville said. “I now understand it wasn’t me; I didn’t have anything to do with her being sick. I learned (from therapy) that you build self-esteem by setting goals and then accomplishing them. I have survived an incredibly-horrible childhood and have triumphed. I survived something that could be the subject of a Charles Dickens novel and am living a very fabulous life.”

Editors Note: We had a great jam session after this years Blues Blast Music Awards. Here is a video of the second part of that performance that included Andy T Band (“Andy T” Talamantez on guitar, Larry van Loon on keyboards, Sam Persons on bass, Jim Klingler on drums), along with Vincent Hayes, Rachelle Coba and RB Stone on guitar with Liz Mandeville out front showing what she dows best (with a little help from Kaye Bohler). Check it out, CLICK HERE.

Visit Liz’s website at lizmandeville.com

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

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



 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 9 

Roly Platt – Inside Out

Self-Release – 2014

www.rolyplatt.com

11 tracks; 53 minutes

Canadian harmonica player Roly Platt has played with many top-line Canadian artists including David Clayton-Thomas (Blood, Sweat & Tears), Suzie Vinnick and Ronnie Hawkins but this is his first release under his own name. His harp takes centre stage on a baker’s dozen of tunes, five of which were written by Roly, with keyboard player and producer Lance Anderson providing one tune and contributing to two others; guitarist and singer Steve Strongman co-wrote two songs on which he sings, Roly takes the vocal mike on one of his own tunes and Jordan John sings one song but the rest of the album is made up of instrumentals from a good range of sources including Ray Charles, Hoagy Carmichael and James Taylor. The core band is Roly on harp, Lance on keys, John Tilden on guitars, Russ Boswell on bass and Al Cross on drums; Steve Strongman sings and plays guitar on the two tracks he wrote, Jordan John plays acoustic guitar and sings on one track and Neil Chapman adds guitar to three tracks.

A solid instrumental cover of The Crusaders’ “Put It Where You Want It” (written by the late Joe Sample) has Roly taking the lead part but everyone playing their part well to make a catchy opening to the album. Roly’s “Mad River” is a great vehicle for his wide-ranging harp and also features a good exchange between guitarists John and Neil. “Good Mind To Wander” (a co-write between Roly, Steve and Lance) shuffles along well with Steve providing a strong, clear vocal and Roly’s harp singing out loud and clear. Lance’s funky instrumental “Congo Strut” also provides plenty of space for Roly, Lance’s electric piano solo adding a jazz feel to the tune. An instrumental take on Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s “Over The Rainbow” is played straight with Roly’s harp the ‘voice’ of the familiar classic which is beautifully played with subtle brushwork from Al, sensitive piano from Lance and gently pulsing acoustic bass from Russ.

Roly’s “Rippin’ It Up” starts off with lonesome harp that could have been in a Western scene but rapidly morphs into a pounding rocker about having a good time on a Saturday night: “Look at Jim he’s a dancing fool, he learned to do it in Sunday School. You may think that he’s over the hill but he can twist and grind like a pepper mill. God knows he’s having a ball, rippin’ it up at the old church hall.” Rocking piano and keening harp push this one along and it’s a highlight.

The longest track here is Roly and Steve’s “Ocean Of Tears”, clocking in at over eight minutes. The band members take their time on the opening before Steve’s strong vocal recounts a classic blues tale of the river flowing just like his tears as he tells his tale of lost love. Roly’s harp sounds genuinely sad and the slide guitar in the background is very effective set against Steve’s electric solo – a fine slow blues. Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman” follows the pattern of other covers by having Roly’s harp replace the familiar vocal part on a suitably uptempo version on which Lance’s stirring organ solo makes a notable contribution.

Equally familiar is “Georgia On My Mind” and it makes another good vehicle for Roly’s expressive harp playing. Perhaps it is the spare quality of this version that made the intro on piano sound a little like The Eagles’ “Desperado”! Roly and Lance’s “Funk Shui” returns to a funk-based approach before the album closes with James Taylor’s reflective “Bartender’s Blues”, Roly’s harp adding a real touch of C&W to Jordan John’s honky-tonk vocal.

Harmonica fans will find plenty to enjoy here as Roly shows that he can operate in a number of styles. Having some vocal tracks adds variety and makes for an enjoyable debut album that has something for most listeners.

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 Story – Evolution Of A Nickname 

Did a clerical error change Muddy Waters history?

“Name McKinley Morganfield, nickname Muddy Water, Stovall’s famous guitar picker,” Muddy clearly said in his first ever recording session, August 1941. McKinley “Muddy Water” Morganfield, of course, is the most famous Blues musician ever, the father of modern Chicago Blues, and the only household Blues name – along with B.B. King. Note that “Water” is singular, and the beauty here is that one can hear him say it for himself / herself.

Wikipedia reports: “In the summer of 1941, Alan Lomax went to Stovall Plantation, Mississippi [looking for Robert johnson – by then deceased], on behalf of the Library of Congress, to record various Country Blues musicians [including Morganfield]. Lomax came back in July 1942 to record Muddy again. Both sessions were eventually released as Down On Stovall’s Plantation on the Testament label. The complete recordings were re-issued on CD as Muddy Waters: The Complete Plantation Recordings. The historic 1941-42 Library of Congress field recordings by Chess Records in 1993, and re-mastered in 1997.”

I own the 1993 CD release, and the opening quote in this article is heard in the sixth track, “Interview #3 – previously unissued.” Used copies of this CD with its landmark recordings can be found on Amazon.com for as little as $3.25, plus shipping and handling. It is a complete knockout to hear not only his 1941 voice but also the first song he ever recorded!

Morganfield’s grandmother Della, who raised him after his mother Berta was swept away by flood waters, nicknamed him “Muddy.” According to author Robert Gordon in 2002’s book Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters, Della “renamed him Muddy…” when McKinley “took to playing in the dangerous waters that were everywhere around Jug’s Corner….”

Muddy started playing music on harmonica, but by age 17 he switched to guitar and played at house parties. His style was influenced by earlier recording artists Son House and Robert Johnson. At some point, once he was becoming established in the community as a good musician, his friends added the name “Water” to his nickname and performing name, and as one can hear, he called himself “Muddy Water.”

So, how and when did the “s” get added to Water? The surprising answer is found in a book titled, Lost Delta Found – Rediscovering the Fisk University – Library of Congress Coahoma County Study, 1941-1942 by John W. Work, Lewis Wade Jones, and Samuel C. Adams, Jr. The editors are Robert Gordon and Bruce Nemerov. The editors first point out further proof of the singular “Water” in a footnote on page 51. It’s in the form of handwriting by Work on a 1943 photograph of Muddy and his mentor Son Sims, “The photo of Muddy and Son Sims is labeled in John Work’s hand, ‘Muddy Water.’” The photograph is shown with labeling on page 119.

It seems a clerical error by Alan Lomax himself added the “s” to “Water.” Again quoting from the page 51 footnote: “Lomax refers to Morganfield as ‘Muddy Waters’ (and repeatedly misspells ‘Sims’ as ‘Simms’). The first published misidentification occurs in Lomax’s liner notes that accompany the 1942 Library of Congress album Afro-American Blues and Game Songs.”

By the time Muddy was in Chicago, it seems he went with the flow and accepted his third nickname to be the euphonious appellation by which he is known to recorded history, “Muddy Waters.”

Writer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard Saturdays 7 to 11 pm on WKCC 91.1 FM and at http://www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL.



 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 9 

Sugar Ray and the Bluetones – Living Tear to Tear

Severn Records

www.sugarrayandthebluetones.com

12 tracks / 59:05

Sugar Ray and the Bluetones have been doling out their distinctive brand of blues from the Northeast for over 35 years, and they are playing stronger than ever as evidenced by their latest Severn Records release, Living Tear to Tear. Their sound is a fun blend of harmonica and piano heavy Chicago-influenced blues with some amazingly rocking guitar. The overall effect is timeless and this album could have been recorded fifty years ago, except that modern production values lend it a crystal-clear listening quality.

None of these guys have limited their careers to what they do with the Bluetones, however. The Grammy-nominated singer and harpman, Sugar Ray Norcia, did seven years with Rhode Island’s storied Roomful of Blues and has appeared on over 50 albums with artists as diverse as Ronnie Earl, Otis Grand, Ann Peebles, Jimmy Rogers, Pinetop Perkins, J. Geils, Sax Gordon and Duke Robillard. He is joined on this disc by Monster Mike Welch on guitar, Mudcat Ward on bass, Neil Garouvin on drums, and Grammy-nominee Anthony (no nickname) Geraci on the piano. These musicians have performed with Big Mama Thornton, Hubert Sumlin, John Hammond, Johnny Winter, Otis Grand, The Mannish Boys, Sugaray Rayford, and Debbie Davies, to name just a few.

Living Tear to Tear was recorded at Severn Studios in Annapolis, Maryland, and is an hour-long show of solid blues split up into 12 tracks. These are mostly original tunes penned by Norcia, Welch, Ward, and Geraci, as well as a few well-played covers. They kick off the set with one of the originals, “Rat Trap,” and right away their decades of experience shows as they proceed to tear the roof off the house. Sugar Ray’s harmonica tone and timing are perfect and it is apparent why he is a first-call harp player. His vocals are throaty and Welch’s guitar work is as clear as a bell.

The band slows things down for “Here We Go” and Monster Mike (nicknamed by Dan Ackroyd) adds a little reverb to the guitar while the rock solid backline of Ward and Garouvin (Groovin!) keeps the beat steady. Geraci cuts loose on the keys while Sugar Ray does a good horn substitute with his harmonica on “Things Could Be Worse,” which is a good reminder for all of us.

“Misery” is the longest tune on Tear to Tear, coming in at over eight minutes, and they picked a good song to cut loose on, as this slow-roller brings all of the finer elements of this quintet into play. The lyrics are indeed full of misery as Norcia promises to “…sit here and keep on drinkin’, till I drink my baby off my mind (you might have to cut me off this time).” Welch throws down his best solo of the album on this track, and that is saying something! This is the standout track of the release, with “I Dreamed Last Night” and its wonderful piano from Geraci taking a close second place.

The cover tunes are as well done as the originals. Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Ninety Nine” is a respectful take on the original and it is a delightful romp with subtle guitar work from Monster Mike behind a harmonica-heavy front end. And Lightnin’ Slim’s “Nothing but the Devil” (which was also done well by Rory Gallagher), closes out the set with distorted and growly vocals, bar room piano and the classic story of a man done wrong.

Sugar Ray and the Bluetones’ Living Tear to Tear is one of the best new albums of any genre that I have heard in the past year, with stellar performances from each of the five artists on the bill. It is a must-buy if you like classic harmonica-soaked Midwestern blues, so check it out and see for yourself — you will not be disappointed!

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



 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 9 

Various Artists – The Healing Blues

Self-Release – 2014

www.thehealingblues.com

15 tracks; 68 minutes

The Healing Blues is a collaborative project based in Greensboro, North Carolina intended to raise funds to help the homeless. A good cause, but also interesting musically as the songs were written by local musicians inspired by the stories of the homeless, several of whom are listed on the songwriting credits. A large body of musicians contributed to these recordings. The ‘Healing Blues Band’ are the ‘house band’ on nine of the tracks: Sam Frazier (guitar), Benjy Johnson (guitar), Chuck Cotton (drums), Roger Kohrs (bass) and Dave Fox (keys). Haymarket Riot play on two cuts: Jim O’Gara (guitar), Jon Epstein (bass), Doc MacNab (drums) and Charlotte Whitted (vocals). Big Bump And The Stun Gunz also play on two tracks: Bubba Klinefelter (guitar), Shiela Klinefelter (bass), Eric Smith (drums). The Fairlanes play on one track: Mark Harrison (guitar), Ken ‘Lil Kenny’ Graham (bass), Glenn Bickel (piano), Chip ‘Memphis’ Click (drums). Also on one track are Lawyers, Guns And Money: Terry VunCannon (guitar), Steve Headen (bass), Mike Thomas (drums). Horns appear on some tracks played by Wally West, Neil Clegg, Daniel Bogan, Chris Hankins, Eli Fribush and Ben Espinola.

The ‘storytellers’ (the people who supplied the stories that the musicians brought to life) are listed as: Isiahm Wardlow, Shannon Stewart, Anita Gilmore, Tresa Scott, Ryan Lennon, Mike Schumacher, Kris Schumaker, Yolanda Batts, Walter Jamison, Chris Ward, Necole MacDonald, Eric Barnes and Forrest Willis. Lead vocalists are: Chris Carroll, Dave Fox, Kristy Jackson, Evan Olson, Jessica Mashburn, Logie Meachum, Sam Frazier, Mike Wesolowski, Benjy Johnson, Steve Headen, Shiela Klinefelter, Charlotte Whitted, Mark Harrison. Backing vocals come from Marika Manda, Kenya Hailey, Molly Fox, Chuck Martin, Stan Bullock, Doug Dennis, Benjy Johnson, Mike Wesolowski, Chris Carrol and Dave Fox. The music covers a range of styles including blues, soul, funk and rock, so there will be something for most readers to enjoy. Highlights for this reviewer include the following tracks:

1.) “Walter’s Walk”. Positive lyrics about overcoming difficulties are well delivered by Chris Carroll on this fine piece of soul/blues. The soulful vocals are well supported by the house band.

2.) Kristy Jackson sings her own “So I Write” which is ‘singer/songwriter’ in style but has interesting lyrics: “My words are like an anchor that won’t let me slip away, so I write. I write for love, I write for art, I write for memories. I write for God, sometimes I write for me.”

3.) “I Come From A Place” is a great song, a full production with horns and choral backing vocals. Mike Wesolowski is not the strongest vocalist here but the song merits inclusion; at times you get a Phil Spector ‘wall of sound’ feel and there is a fine tenor sax solo too.

4.) The single offering from Lawyers, Guns And Money is “I’m Walkin’”, a real blues with gruff vocals from Steve Headen and dirty slide from Terry VunCannon.

5.) Big Bump And The Stun Gunz bring some laidback, late night blues on “Perfect Smile”; Shiela Klinefelter’s sultry vocal suits the arrangement very well.

6.) Haymarket Riot set off like a rock band on “What’s Inside”, the guitar ringing out on the opening instrumental verses before vocalist Charlotte calms things down on a tale of a character who cannot escape their inner thoughts. Not blues, but a solid track with some excellent guitar from Jim O’Gara.

The album was produced by Dave Fox of the Healing Blues Band who also assembled the many participants. Kudos to Dave for his work here, all in a very worthy cause. The CD is available from CD Baby.

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 – 5 of 9 

Raphael Wressnig – Soul Gumbo

Pepper Cake PEC 2094-2

9 songs – 53 minutes

www.zyxmusic.com

www.raphaelwressnig.com

When keyboard player Raphael Wressnig – a native of Graz, Austria – sets out to do a soul/blues/funk CD, he definitely doesn’t mess around. He’s gathered together several of the best musicians from the Crescent City and beyond to produce this smooth, stylish album.

Self-taught on the Hammond B3 organ and touring the globe regularly, Wressnig has about 20 CDs in his catalog, spread equally between blues and jazz. He formed his first band, a trio, in 2002, and one of their CDs, In Between, received honors from Concerto magazine as Best Jazz album of 2004. He followed that up as their Best Jazz Artist in 2007. Many other honors have followed.

In the early 2000s, he also teamed up with Alex Schultz, one of the foremost blues guitar players on the West Coast and a former member of Rod Piazza’s Mighty Flyers, Sax Gordon, the New England horn wizard, and percussionist Luis Ribeiro for the disc, Boom Bello! That relationship resulted in several tours, which sometimes included vocalist Finis Tasby of the Mannish Boys. In 2006, Baton Rouge-based guitar player Larry Garner also invited Wressnig to join his road band, a relationship that continues today. But the keyboard’s roots run even deeper. In his spare time, Wressnig is also a member of the popular Women Of Chicago Blues project, which features Deitra Farr, Grana Louise and Zora Young, backed by their Ladies Men, the Windy City all-star crew of Billy Flynn, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith and Felton Crews.

Joining Wressnig on Soul Gumbo are Schultz, Gordon, Garner and a dazzling collection of side men, including Indianapolis-based soul blues vocalist Tad Robinson, guitarist/vocalist Walter “Wolfman” Washington, bass player George Porter Jr. (founding member of the Meters), drummer Stanton Moore (founding member of the jam band Galactic), keyboard great Jon Cleary and a horn section that includes Antonio Gambrell and Eric Bloom (trumpet), Jimmy Carpenter, Craig Handy and Harry Sokal (tenor sax), Max The Sax (alto sax) and Werner Wurm (trombone) as well as Nigel Hall (background vocals).

Wressnig borrows the opening tune, “Chasing Rainbows,” from the catalog of the late Johnny Adams with the melismatic Robinson attacking the vocals. It swings from the jump with Raphael taking a backseat as the band brings the mix to a slow boil. The horns kick off “Soulful Strut,” a New Orleans-style funk instrumental original, providing a toe-tapping introduction before leaving Wressnig with plenty of room to have his own say. “I Want To Know” follows. It’s a slow, sultry seven-minute blues burner written by and featuring Washington on vocals and lead guitar. Porter drives home the bottom.

The keyboard master takes command on the original, entitled “Mustard Greens.” Modern in format and attack, it still manages to deliver a ‘60s-style blues/funk groove, aided by a single-note solo run from Schultz, before yielding the driver’s seat to Cleary on piano and guitar for his own tune, the soulful “Sometimes I Wonder.” Wressnig adds B3 accents as Cleary sings the song of lost love.

The band dips into the songbook of West Coast guitar great Lowell Fulson for “Room With A View.” It’s a straight-ahead blues co-written with Billy Vera that features Robinson on vocals and Schultz on six-string. Wressnig offers a toast to his late Austrian compatriot, former Cannonball Adderley keyboardist Joe Zawinul, with the funky “Slivovitz For Joe” before “Soul Jazz Shuffle,” featuring Handy, and “Nobody Special,” featuring Garner, conclude the set.

Soul Gumbo is definitely worth a heaping serving. It’s modern jazzy, and never off-base. Available through all of the major online retailers.

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 – 6 of 9 

Rob Paparozzi and the Ed Palermo Big Band – Electric Butter: A Tribute To Paul Butterfield And Mike Bloomfield

Self-produced CD

15 songs – 1 hour 15 minutes

www.robpaparozzi.com

www.palermobigband.com

Here’s an acid flashback for you folks old enough to remember: An overpowering tour-de-force tribute to two of the most important young white blues standard-bearers of the ‘60s, harmonica player Paul Butterfield and guitarist partner extraordinaire Mike Bloomfield, who was also the driving force behind the legendary band Electric Flag.

New York City-based harmonica player Rob Paparozzi conceived this project with the assistance of big band leader Ed Palermo. Butterfield and Bloomfield both met untimely deaths in the ‘80s, a decade or more before Paparozzi decided to use some of the hard-earned cash he made from performing to fund development of the charts for the project and teamed up with Palermo.

Now, 15 years later, it’s finally come to fruition and involves the participation of two men who played on the original material – Butterfield keyboard player Mark Naftalin and Bloomfield bassist Harvey Brooks – as well as guitarists Steve Cropper and Jimmy Vivino, leader of New York’s Black Italians and one of Bloomfield’s most devoted followers, and Butterfield’s eldest son, Gabriel.

Palermo served as conductor, arranger and band leader on the project with Paparozzi serving as lead singer and harmonica player. Most of the material was recorded live over a two-day period at Jankland Recording Studio in Wall, N.J., with a lineup that included Paul Adamy (bass), Ray Marchica (drums), Naftalin, Bob Quaranta and Ted Kooshian (keyboards), Cliff Lyons and Dave Riekenberg (alto sax), Bil Straub and Ben Kono (tenor sax), Barbara Cifelli (baritone sax), Ron Buttacavoli and John Bailey (trumpet), Charles Gordon, Joe Fielder and Matt Ingman (trombone). Additional tracks were provided by Steve Jankowski (trumpet), Ed Alstom (Hammond B3), Jimmy Leahey (slide and electric guitar), John Korba (keyboards) and Gabriel Butterfield (vocals, tambourine and bonus interview) in later recording sessions.

Gabriel serves as the master of ceremonies to introduce Bloomfield’s version of “Killing Floor.” Vivino dazzles on lead guitar after a brief vocal verse from Paparozzi, giving new life to the Howlin’ Wolf classic, with Straub adding an extended solo on tenor. It’s clear from the jump that the horn section is in lock step with the rhythm section to propel everything forward. Paparozzi’s vocals are warm, rich and crystal clear throughout. And his harp playing is rock solid and especially shines in the last few cuts of the disc. Next up, Leahy takes the six-string lead for a Butterfield version of Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues.” Three more Flag favorites follow — “Another Country,”“Drivin’ Wheel” with Naftalin on organ and “Texas” with Brooks on bass.

Butterfield’s rendition of the Jimmy Rogers standard “Walking By Myself” leads into the Bloomfield-penned “Wine” and a great version of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’”One More Heartache.” Cropper and Naha trade guitar licks on the Bloomfield classic, “You Don’t Realize,” before a horn-fueled send-up of Butterfield’s “Lovin’ Cup” and before Palermo contributes an alto sax solo to “Love Disease.”

Naftalin returns to the driver’s seat for a version of Charles Brown’s “Drifting Blues” before Palermo provides an original arrangement of Nat Adderley’s “Work Song.” A horn-driven version of Little Walter Jacobs’ “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” follows before a brief interview with Gabriel Butterfield laid over a version of “Buried Alive With The Blues” concludes the set.

Electric Butter comes complete with a 16-page, richly illustrated booklet, with extensive commentary from Bill Bentley, who co-produced Butterfield during his time with Elektra Records, as well as quotes from Electric Flag co-founder Barry Goldberg, Naftalin, Brooks, Cropper and others.

Available through all of the major online retailers, this album revives the Butterfield-Bloomfield legacy and more, swinging its way from one high point to the next. Strongly recommended, and definitely worth consideration as one of the best new works of the year.

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 – 7 of 9 

Bernie Marsden – Shine

Mascot Label Group

http://www.berniemarsden.com/bjm/

CD: 13 Songs; 56:59 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Blues Rock, Hard Rock, Harmonica Blues

What do Christmas tree tinsel, clean hair, oil slicks, and the blues rock of the UK’s Bernie Marsden have in common? They’re all things that Shine in their own particular way. The “shimmer” of Marsden’s music reflects the rock aspect of blues rock almost completely. Listeners will be reminded of early Joe Walsh albums, as well as those of Marsden’s hard rock band Whitesnake, with a dash of the Alan Parsons Project (on “Who Do We Think We Are?”). Marsden and his crew form a powerhouse of musical wattage, with blazing electric guitar being first and foremost. It may be great, but it’s more than slightly overpowering. There is also very little traditional blues on this CD, with the public-domain opener of “Linin’ Track” being a prime example. This is 190-proof stadium blues rock – it would blow the roof off ordinary bars. Those who are hunting for a heart-pumping treasury of party songs will surely love the whole album, but fans who want capital-B Blues are better off listening to the three tracks below. These are out of thirteen: twelve originals and one cover.

Joining Bernie Marsden are keyboardists Simon Webb, Don Airey, Dave Baldwin, Dean Ross, and Bob Haddrell; bass guitarists John Gordon and Ian Jennings; drummers Jimmy Copley, Ian Paice of Deep Purple, and Damon Sawyer; Mark Feltham on harmonica; Rob Cass and Pearse MacIntyre on backing vocals; and special guests David Coverdale, Joe Bonamassa, and Cherry Lee Mewis.

Track 01: “Linin’ Track” – “What I hate about linin’ track: this old boss about to break my back, said, ‘Oh, boy, get your line on the track. Oh, boy, get the line on.’” This stunner starts with an acoustic and a cappella lament before turning into an electrified blues rock anthem. Marsden’s vocal chops are just as strong as his lead guitar, with harmonica player Mark Feltham underscoring both. Mark doesn’t try any overproduced tricks, but his pure, unpretentious harp rhythms taste like habanero pepper sauce.

Track 05: “Ladyfriend” – Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Not in the case of this narrator and his former gal pal: “Have you seen my old ladyfriend? She’s been making a fool of herself again – driving round the town in a black limousine, leaving a whole trail of mess wherever she’s been.” Pay close attention to the smooth interaction of the keyboards.

Track 12: “Hoxie Rollin’ Time” – Number twelve is a sassy blues shuffle with timeless themes and spectacular guitar. Our jilted hero is in a town that doesn’t hold a candle to his old girlfriend Georgia: “I pulled into Hoxie down on Highway 47. Take a look around me, man, it sure ain’t no heaven.” Marsden’s smoking guitar solo will make crowds hop up and dance, or at least stomp their feet along in their seats.

Joe Bonamassa adds his famous fretboard fireworks to the title track guaranteeing that Bernie Marsden certainly does Shine in blues rock!

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 – 8 of 9 

Mike Zito and the Wheel – Songs from the Road

Ruf Records

www.mikezito.com

CD: 12 Songs; 64:58 Minutes; DVD: 13 Songs; Approximately 80 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues and Blues Rock

At first glance, the new CD/DVD set from acclaimed Texas bluesman Mike Zito is very similar to that of Dana Fuchs, recently reviewed by yours truly in this magazine. Both sets are entitled Songs from the Road; both are released by Ruf Records; both feature black-and-white cover art, and both contain more tracks on the DVD than on the audio disc. However, zesty Zito (rhymes with “Frito”) and his band the Wheel perform completely different selections from Ms. Fuchs. That’s why die-hard blues rock fans should treat these two offerings as a complementary pair, instead of a redundant one. Like red and white wine, they go together, albeit with different musical “entrées.” Dana’s blues are the “white”, crisp and sophisticated, while Mike Zito’s “red” songs are more robust and full-bodied. He performs 12 tunes on the CD and 13 on the DVD. Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” is the most recognizable cover between the two of them.

With Mike on vocals and guitar are the strong spokes of “the Wheel” – Jimmy Carpenter on vocals and saxophone, Scot Sutherland on vocals and bass guitar, Lewis Stephens on piano and organ, Rob Lee on drums and percussion, and James “The Blueshound” Nagel on introductions.

According to Mike, on his promotional info sheet, “This DVD and live album were recorded on January 10th, 2014, at Dosey Doe at The Woodlands, TX, to a sold-out crowd of crazy Texans. It was a truly magical night, one I’ll never forget.”

Track 03 (CD) and 02 (DVD): “Greyhound” – Slightly reminiscent of John Mellencamp’s “Hurt So Good” and Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty”, this is the autobiographical tale of a drug-addicted Mike in September of 2002. He had stolen his dad’s credit card and bought a one-way bus ticket to Florida: “Run away; run away. I’m leaving today. Yeah, there’s nothing like the sound, all alone on Greyhound, yeah.” Zito’s lead guitar is down-and-dirty, undeniably raw.

Track 11 (CD) and 08 (DVD): “Subtraction Blues” – In this equation of love, one and one don’t equal two forever: “Well, now, the math just don’t add up. She got the numbers way over my head…She knows I can’t subtract, not that fast, just a-lyin’ in bed. She gets the best of me.” The wry guitar refrain and smirking sax make up for the romantic deficit, as do the piano keyboards.

Track 12 (DVD): “Natural Born Lover” – “I fixed my hair tonight – two or three times,” Mike jokes before launching into this DVD-exclusive number. It’s a blues stomp that gets right down to the business of love. The crowd at the Dosey Doe sits entranced as the Wheel turns out some fantastic blues, especially Lewis Stephens on piano keys.

Enjoy Mike Zito’s Songs from the Road as a great edition in Ruf Records’ live series!

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 – 9 of 9 

Henry Carpaneto – Voodoo Boogie

OrangeHomeRecords

12 tracks / 66:23

A long path was traveled to produce Italian pianist’s Henry Carpaneto’s debut album, Voodoo Boogie. The journey started in New Orleans after a tour with famed blues guitarist Bryan Lee when the two of them headed into the studio to lay down the keyboards and Lee’s guitars and vocals. After two years, Lee sent the tracks along to Henry in Italy where the bass, drum, and saxophone tracks were recorded. The final three tracks were finished up in London with guest artists Otis Grand on guitar and Tony Coleman on the drums. The final results are very good, with a strong set of piano-driven blues that should please most blues fans.

Henry Carpaneto is the top blues pianist in Italy and is constantly working, but his reach extends beyond the European continent to the home of the blues in the United States. He appears at major festivals and shows across America, including recent gigs at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and the Blues Memphis Awards. He has worked with a fine group of solid musicians over the years including Guitar Ray & the Gamblers, Jerry Portnoy, Lea Gilmore, Sonny Rhodes, Paul Reddick, and Big Pete Pearson.

Voodoo Boogie comes in at well over and hour and is made up of eight songs written by Lee and four neat cover tunes. The first track is the original tune “Drinking and Thinking” with a heavy beat and a sweet guitar and piano intro. Lee has a very effective tenor voice to go along with his perfect guitar phrasing, and Carpaneto bangs out a complicated honkytonk piano part throughout. All of this is set over the rock-solid beat of the house band of Andrea Tassara on drums and Pietro Martinelli on the double bass.

Henry switches to the Wurlitzer for “My Brain is Gone” which is a well-written 12-bars blues track with jazz influences. Lee knows how to build a song as well as he plays the guitar, which is no small feat, and he and Carpaneto trade solos in this mid-tempo piece that will put a smile on your face. “Angel Child” brings Paolo Maffi’s saxophone into play on the album. This slow 12-bar blues song uses the age-old theme of lost love to good effect, and hearkens back to the transition of blues to rock in the mid 1950s.

The three London tracks feature classic big band blues leader and guitarist Otis Grand and B.B.King’s drummer, Tony Coleman. There is Louis Jordan’s jump blues classic “Caldonia,” so of course Maffi’s saxes are prominently featured as well as Grand’s red-hot leads. Another fine selection is B.B King’s “Rock Me Baby” and Lee does a respectable rendition of the Beale Street bluesman’s classic vocal sound as Coleman keeps time on his hi-hat.

Just to show you that Henry has a bit more in his bag than the blues, the band tears off a quick ditty, the Latin-themed “Mambo Mamma” which might not be the most politically correct tune in the world “She’s not fat, she’s just tall…” but it certainly is a fun song! They also throw a little boogie-woogie into the mix with “Turn Down the Noise,” which provides a nice break in the heavier blues action.

The album draws to a close with one last original, “Blind Man Love,” which is five minutes of slow-tempo juke joint glory. An old-time feel is attained through Lee’s dirty guitar (which features a fabulous solo) and Carpaneto’s saloon piano sound that benefits from a strong right hand. When the song is over do not pop the disc out right away, as there is a bonus track hidden at the end that provides one last taste of Henry’s piano magic.

Henry Carpaneto’s Voodoo Boogie is a testament to the value of hard work, perseverance, and good communication. It stands together as a singular body and does not sound like a mishmash of different pieces that were stuck together, which is a real danger with projects that were spread out like this one. Henry and Bryan can be proud of the work they did here, as the result is a solid set of piano-driven blues that is worthy of your valuable listening time and a bit of your hard-earned money.

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



 Blues Society News 


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Madison Blues Society – Madison, WI

Madison Blues Society will host the 8th Annual Wild Women of the Blues featuring Lisa Wenger and her Mean Mean Men on March 5, 2015, 7:00PM at the High Noon Saloon, 01 E. Washington Avenue in Madison.

This is a Benefit for Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), the only Dane County area shelter for survivors and children of domestic violence. DAIS continues to promote awareness and education to our communities through several vital programs, and has made phenomenal strides in providing necessary resources for those in crisis and need. More info: www.abuseintervention.org

Also supporting MBS Blues in the Community programs. This event celebrates the talent and empowerment of women in an environment of inspirational musical performance. An exciting national blues act and her band result in a not-to-miss event.

Tickets: $15 advance / $18 day of show or MBS for members: $12 advance / $15 day of show. More Info: www.madisonbluessociety.com/wild_women15.htm

The Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau, WI

The Great Northern Blues Society of Wausau, WI (GNBS) is Proud to announce the lineup for our 16th Annual Blues Café fundraiser to be held at the Historically Registered Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI) on 3/14/15.

The Lineup will include Left Wing Bourbon, Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders, Bobby Messano, The Chris O’Leary Band, and Samantha Fish. Doors open at noon, and Music will start at 1:00PM and continue non-stop until 11:00PM. Chairs, Food, and Cold Beverages will be available on-site. Special Hotel Rates available at the nearby Stoney Creek Inn utilizing the Code: “BLUES20”. Limited supply of rooms available so make your reservation now.

Please come, sit by the huge stone fireplace, with a beverage of choice in hand, and join us for 10 hours of non-stop glorious Blues Music on 3/14/15. Artist Biographies, directions, and Tickets are available on our Website at – www.gnbs.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. March 9 – Chris O’Leary from NY, March 16 -24th Street Wailers from Toronto, March 23 – Jeff Jensen from Memphis, March 30 – Liz Mandeville from Chicago, April 6 – The Blues Deacons from Champaign, April 13 – Jason Elmore from Dallas, April 20 – Brad Vickers and the Vestapolitans from NY, April 27 – Tom Holland and the Shufflekings from Chicago

Additional ICBC shows (all held in Springfield, Illinois): Mar. 19 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, March 21 – Ronnie Baker Brooks ICBC 29th Birthday Bash w/opening act the Blues Expressions. K of C Hall on Meadowbrook Road, Springfield, Illinois, April 2 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm. Guest hosts, Stone Cold Blues Band, April 16 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm. Guest hosts, Mary Jo Curry & Tombstone Bullet.

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     © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine 309 267-4425

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