Issue 9-11 March 12 2015

Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2015

  In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with 2014 Blues Blast Music Award nominee, Lisa Biales. Steve Jones has a review of a great Blues concert called, The Young Guns Of Blues.

We have 5 music reviews for you including a double CD collection from Ruf Records to celebrate their 20th anniversary, plus music from Donald Ray Johnson, The Hep Cat Boo Daddies, Sabrina Weeks & Swing Cat Bounce and Michael Osborn & The Drivers.

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,

Artist submissions for the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards are streaming in. Send your music directly to the nominators for consideration until April 15th. For complete information CLICK HERE.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

  Blues Wanderings 

I made it out to Blues Monday this week to catch a set by Chris O’Leary Band. Chris won the 2011 Blues Blast Music Awards with his album Mr. Used to Be.

Chris recently released an album called Live At Blues Now which we reviewed
HERE. He is also working on a new studio CD to be release in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

Various Artists – Ruf Records 20 Years Anniversary

Ruf Recoerds 1208

28 songs – 119 minutes

In November 2014, the German record label, Ruf Records, celebrated its 20th anniversary. Just as Bruce Iglauer set up Alligator Records in Chicago purely to record and release the music of Hound Dog Taylor & The House Rockers, so Thomas Ruf established Ruf Records simply to record the great Luther Allison. 20 years later, Ruf Records is one of the world’s leading blues labels and it has now released a superb double CD of music celebrating its first two decades.

The 28 songs on the album feature a startling collection of modern day blues and blues-rock masters, reminding the listener of the astonishing contribution the label has made to the current music scene. Artists featured include such household names as Walter Trout, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Spin Doctors, Jeff Healey and Savoy Brown, as well as a number of less-well-known artists. Neatly, the album also includes a new unreleased song from the latest addition to Ruf’s family, Eliana Cargnelutti. Of course, given the quality of Ruf’s roster, deciding who to leave off this compilation must have been quite a headache. As it is, however, Ruf has released a superb two-CD album that serves both as a celebration of its first 20 years but also a top-class sampler of the artists it represents.

There are several fascinating aspects to this album. First, perhaps most obviously, is the fact that half of the tracks are contributed are by women. The two CDs are actually divided by gender, with “Girls with Guitars” on CD 1 and “Guys with Guitars” on CD 2. What might at first glance appear to demonstrate casual sexism (after all, nobody would consider releasing a two-CD set divided between black musicians and white musicians, or between tall musicians and short musicians) actually reinforces a serious point about Ruf Records – the label has always been extremely supportive of female musicians, both in respect of recording their music but also in respect of organizing tours to promote their music and their brand (the 2011 Ruf Records Caravan tour was similarly titled “Girls With Guitars”, featuring the likes of Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor and Dani Wilde – all of whom appear on this album).

The international nature of the blues is also evident from the artists on the CD. In addition to American artists such as Joanna Connor and Mike Zito and British artists like Oli Brown and Aynsley Lister, Ana Popovic hails from Serbia, Meena is Austrian, Eliana Cargnelutti is from Italy, Erja Lyytinen comes from Finland and Thorbjørn Risager is Danish. While Thomas Ruf (with tongue firmly in his cheek) claims to intend to sign only artists from the USA and the UK, his continuing support for blues musicians from every country is laudable and should be celebrated.

Ruf’s slogan for many years has been “Where The Blues Crosses Over” and that crossover is plainly evident on this release. Many of the songs have a heavy rock or blues-rock influence. George Thorogood would have been delighted to have written Erja Lyytinen’s “Skinny Girl”. Kim Simmonds and Savoy Brown’s “Nuthin’ Like The Blues” has more than an echo of mid-era ZZ Top, while Royal Southern Brotherhood’s slide-laden “Rock And Roll” and Joanne Shaw Taylor’s “Can’t Keep Living Like This” are flat-out heads-down classic rock songs.

Given the number of different artists and the two decades worth of music included on the CD, however, there is a remarkably high degree of consistency in production quality across both CDs.

Highlights abound. The driving slide guitar and wall of horns on Thorbjørn Risager’s “If You Wanna Leave” rocks with irresistible force. Meena’s take on James Brown’s “Try Me” is a superb reinterpretation of an unheralded classic. And Candye Kane & Laura Chavez’s “Toughest Girl Alive” is a magnificent (if too-short) slice of swinging West Coast blues with a typically top-drawer guitar solo from Chavez (although you should ignore those people who say that Chavez is one of the best female blues guitar players currently out there. Chavez is simply one of the best blues guitar players currently out there – her gender is irrelevant).

The final song on the album, however, is fittingly from the man who inspired Thomas Ruf to establish his label in the first place. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was recorded by Luther Allison in1994 as part of Ruf’s Paint It Blue Rolling Stones tribute album. Opening with a gospel-infused Hammond organ, Allison’s interpretation is heart-breakingly powerful. As the song progresses, a funky backing draws out the optimism inherent in the music. Sadly, it would be the last song Allison would record and he succumbed to lung cancer four weeks after laying down this track. As a reminder of his genius, however, it could hardly be bettered.

Beautifully packaged in a double-gatefold sleeve, the album also includes track-by-track sleeve notes written by Thomas Ruf himself, relating the background to and the stories behind the songs and giving personal memories of the artists.

It is all too easy to overlook the contributions that folk like Thomas Ruf make to the music we all love. From John Hammond and the Chess brothers to the likes of Bob Koester, Clifford Antone and Ruf himself, these people are responsible for finding and recording some of the greatest music in the world and we should all be grateful for their work. 20 Years Anniversary is a stellar collection of modern guitar-driven electric blues and blues-rock, an introduction to some artists you may not have heard and a welcome reminder of the talents of others, and a worthy celebration of Ruf Records’ history. Here’s to the next 20 years.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

 Featured Live Blues Review 

Young Guns of the Blues Show – Limelight Eventplex, Peoria Illinois March 8, 2015

A great event was held on Sunday afternoon and evening March 8th at the Limelight Eventplex in Peoria, IL entitled Young Guns of the Blues. Samantha Fish with special guest Mike Zito, Matthew Curry and Jimmy Nick provided three sets of fantastic music by a small cadre of young artists who are diligently keeping the blues alive with their inspired and profound musical efforts. The venue is a large and very cool building in an industrial park on the north side of Peoria. The venue holds hundreds of people comfortably and offered regular and adult beverages and some lighter food offerings that completely sold out because of the large crowd. It was a well attended event and every music fan there got their money’s worth.

The day began at 4:15 PM when Jimmy Nick and Don’t Tell Mama took the stage. Jimmy hails from the Crystal Lake area in Chicago’s western suburbs. His band is comprised of “Hot Rod” Rodney Brown on sax, Lowell Todd on bass, and Joel Baer on the drums. His act is retro blues and rock with lot of great original tunes with some tastefully wild covers mixed in to boot. His original tunes like “Gonna Get Me a Cadillac” and “Sweet Potato Pie” captivated the audience as did the Eddie Shaw tune “Greedy Man” that Rodney did Eddie proud by standing in on sax.

Jimmy played to the women and crowd with each song, but none more than “Sweet Potato Pie” as he testified in the audience to many an woman. He played his custom guitar for “Bo Diddley,” a great homage song to the blues man. Jimmy’s schtick includes his being born in 1955 and as he dates his songs and artists he describes hearing them for the first time. It’s humorous and fun; some audience members here and at other shows have said, “He doesn’t look that old,” to which he and his fans get a good chuckle. “Who Do You Love” with a little ‘Let The Saints Go Marchin’ In” excited the crowd. He concluded with a “Johnny B. Goode/Let’s Twist Again/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” medley that had fans on their feet for the third or fourth time in appreciation. His antics and music held the crowd on the edges of their seats and got many standing O’s. Many new fans “discovered” Jimmy for the first time at the event and I heard many comment how he stole the show that day.

Matthew Curry took the stage next and this young man showed how he as a teen has mastered the guitar and shredded it to pieces in front of 400 or 500 people. His guitar histrionics were amazing. Featuring a set of rock more than blues, Matthew still endeared himself to the blues fans with his technique and blues infused originals and covers. One minor complaint on the vocals were that it was hard to understand him. Part of it was that the vocal levels had not been set right. Part was because the guitar levels were very high. Lastly, part of it was because Matthew was chewing gum. That’s a no-no, Matthew!

Curry mixed many originals from both his albums and some new ones with a few covers, demonstrating his great song writing skills along with his incredible guitar work. Cuts like “Electric Religion,” “Movin’ On Down the Line.” “Hundred Dollar Friend,” and others were just amazing! Tim Kramp on drums and Tin Brickner on bass were a solid backline and Mike Nellis on keys, acoustic guitar and backing vocals was also fantastic. At times we were offered a psychedelic frenzy of Rick Wakeman’s Yes mixed with Pete Townsend’s Who on organ and guitar as Nellis and Curry went off into the stratosphere. Did I mention he’s still only 19? Hold on, blues fans! This kid’s gonna make a splash!

The main act of Samantha Fish with special guest Mike Zito was utterly incredible. Two talented artists combining their skills and blending their styles turned in a show that I think was more Zito-like than Fish-like, but both artists did a superb job. Trading lead vocals from song to song and trading guitar licks throughout, the young gal from Kansas City and young guy from Texas kept us spellbound with their work. Zito had a silver Flying Vee he played most of the day and impressed me to say that he is now one of the pre-eminent ax men on the blues circuit today. His tasteful and electrifying solos were just outstanding. His dark and gutsy vocals also impressed everyone as did Samantha’s singing.

And Fish was no slouch on the six string either, holding her own as the two gave one memorable performance after another. Starting with “Run Away from the Blues” and “Roll On” through the encore of “Born on the Bayou” and “War Pigs,” Zito and Fish alternated on lead vocals and supported each other superbly throughout. Yes, that was Ozzie’s “War Pigs” from his Black Sabbath days that Sam closed with. Very odd yet very cool, even in a blues show. The crowd went wild for both encore songs! They did songs from each other’s albums and it was just one great song performance after another. “Pearl River” literally had me personally spellbound. When Zito finished Luther Allison’s “I Got the Bad News This Morning” all I could offer up in response was, “Holy shit.” It was incredible.

Fish got the cigar box out for “Piece of Mind” and later “Miles To Go,” With some artists the cigar box is a novelty. For Fish it was a weapon of mass destruction. She obliterated the crowd with her performances. “Judgement Day,” “Looking for a Cadillac” and everything they played had the crowd screaming for more. Fish took them down to the country with Tom T. Hall’s “How I got to Memphis” and showed some great emotion. Zito’s new relationship song “I Never Knew a Hurricane” also had the crowd enthralled. I might have missed listing a few songs, but suffice it to say these two artists were made for each other! Go Go Ray on drums and Scot Sutherland on bass from Sam’s band were also beyond reproach- what a talented pair of back liners! This was an incredible treat.

I could go on waxing philosophically about this and that but I can summarize that night in just one sentence. The blues are in good hands with Jimmy Nick, Matthew Curry, Samantha Fish and Mike Zito!

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine

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 reer 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 – Lisa Biales 

It is a common story – a child learning to embrace music because of a parent or other relative’s passion for music takes hold in youngster’s soul and never lets go. Music touches them so deeply that they devote much of their life to practicing, writing and performing whatever style of music captures the imagination.

For singer Lisa Biales, the exposure to music started very early. “My father played upright bass in a Dixieland jazz band. My Mom sang with his band, in Community Theater, and in a big band. She would listen to records by Billie Holiday and Lena Horne. She was always singing around the house as she was ironing or doing laundry. We didn’t have air conditioning, so everyone in the neighborhood could hear her. I am sure I heard it when I was in the womb.”

“I started recording after my parents died. I was going through a box of my mother’s things and found a tape recording of my Dad playing music and my Mom sitting in. It was recorded from so far away and she only sang two songs. I wanted to hear more – couldn’t believe that was all I had. So I started recording so that my son would not have that experience. “

About fifteen years after her mother passed, Biales found a 78 rpm record, dated 1947, credited to her mother, Alberta Roberts. Playing it at home on her multi-speed turntable, Biales marveled at hearing “Crying Over You,” a song her mother wrote in the standard style of that era. Getting to hear her mother’s voice again was a moving experience. “At a recent show, I told the story and played the record for people. It really connected with the audience. I still get choked up about it”.

An older brother who played drums provided another boost by teaching his sister basic chords on his time guitar. After learning several songs, her brother handed her his Beatles songbook complete with chord instructions. Soon Biales was playing the guitar mass at her Catholic Church as well as some weddings. She played in bands throughout high school, running the gamut of dances to the more formal homecoming and prom affairs. She also started writing songs as an outlet for her creative instinct.

“I have always played for my peers. Any time somebody would hear me sing, they would tell me they needed a singer in their band, so I ended up fronting bands as the lead singer. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that I started writing in earnest. I just didn’t want to do the weddings and corporate gigs any more. It wasn’t satisfying. So I started writing while doing the singer/songwriter circuit.”

Soon she formed a partnership with Sarah Goslee Reed, naming their duo Prairie Orchid. “We did folk music, singing and some early blues for children in schools throughout Ohio and beyond. We did hour-long programs that had the kids singing right from the start, getting them to say hello in eight different languages. Then we would talk about our instruments. I played guitar, banjo, accordion and bass. Sarah played guitar, violin, and dobro. After some learning, we became a fine-tuned machine that could really hold their attention during the program. The teachers were always amazed at our ability to reach the kids. We also did songwriting workshops with some of the classes. So while I was honing my own skills, I was teaching songwriting to young people. It was very rewarding.

Their efforts were often funded by arts grants from state and federal agencies. After eighteen years, the well of funding had dried up due to repeated cuts at all levels. When the schedule got down to one program for the year, it was time to move on. “I had still been playing with my own bands on weekends. I would interject my own songs in the sets along with popular music of the time that you needed play on the bar circuit. Nobody booed me, so I kept adding more of my material until eventually we were doing all-original music. My first seven albums are 95% my songs.”

“I was thirteen years old when I got paid for my first singing job. I used to play 150-200 shows a year. I was kicking butt! Now I have no desire to do that. It is hard work. You have to book the gig, coordinate the band, drive to the gig, figure out the load-in. It is stressful just getting to the point where you can actually play live for people. Most of the audience doesn’t grasp what is involved in the process.”

In 2003, Biales married her husband, Mark. She quit her part-time job at Ohio University after twenty years and finished her graduate degree in Theater. As she considered her options for employment, Mark suggested that she didn’t need do anything, which surprised the singer. So she spent two years being an at-home mom while her kids finished high school – and used the time to continue writing songs as well. When the couple moved to the other side of the state, they built a home that included space for house concerts. They have seating for seventy-five people, a stage, lights, sound system and a red velvet curtain.

In 2011, Biales met EG Kight on one of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues cruises. “I really liked her. Loved her playing, loved how open she was. We decided we wanted EG to do a house concert with us. We became instant friends. She makes you feel really welcome. When she did the concert, she loved my singing. I played her one of my songs, which she really liked. EG asked if I had recorded it yet and I said no. When I did another that she liked that also was not yet recorded, EG started lobbying me to record them. I had just finished album number seven and had lost some of my enthusiasm. I was tired plus I really didn’t know many musicians in our area.”

So Kight suggested that Biales make a trip to Macon, Georgia to do the recording. After further discussion, Biales asked Kight to produce the project. “EG knew the musicians and made all the arrangements. She had it all in her head and told me we were going to do a blues album! We took some time to pick out the tunes. I like the early blues styles with finger-picking guitar like Memphis Minnie, Mississippi John Hurt, and Fred McDowell. And Bonnie Raitt – I didn’t know what blues was until I heard her. So I jumped from the folk-Americana scene into the blues world.”

Their first project together, Just Like Honey, featured several Biales originals in addition to other material that Kight co-wrote plus covers of Raitt’s “Give It Up” and Memphis Minnie’s “Call The Fire Wagon”. The two singers display their skills at harmonizing on a cover of the Delmore Brothers “Blues Stay Away from Me”. With backing by veteran musicians including Tommy Talton on guitar and Paul Hornsby on keyboards, the project was the perfect vehicle to showcase her talents for a new listening audience.

Belle Of The Blues, their second collaboration was nominated for Acoustic Blues Album in the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards and shifted the focus to Kight’s original material. Biales commented,” When we went to record that album, I looked at every one of EG’s songs. I wanted to sing as many of them as I could because they are so wonderful. Seven of the eleven tunes are from her. One we co-wrote and then there is a Bessie Smith tune, one from Memphis Minnie, and one from Dalton Roberts, who wrote the tribute to Bessie Smith called “Black and White Blues”. That is the first time that song had been recorded.”

In between sessions with Kight, Biales made time to work with her friend, boogie piano master Ricky Nye. “We had Ricky over for a house concert and he did it with a band he works with from Paris. We did some songs together and it all fit really well. One of the guys said this is so good, we should record together. So the next year they come over, all ready to go. I couldn’t believe that they were serious about doing it. But I made all of the arrangements and I love the album, Singing In My Soul. It is full of the kind of toe-tapping music my Dad used to play. They are fabulous musicians. The drummer, Simon Boyer, can swing, do a shuffle, it is like sitting on a couch singing with him. He is my favorite drummer to sing with. And Thibaut Chopin on the upright bass just rocks it. Anthony Stelmaszack, the guitar player, is a superb blues player. He is the “guy” in Paris. And Rickey works more shows than anybody I know – always upbeat. It was a lot of fun to work with them.”

“I let the guys do their thing and I focused on my singing. My favorite song on that one is “Write Me In Care Of the Blues,” a song that Patsy Cline did. I was involved in a production of a two woman show, Always Patsy Cline, which had me singing twenty-seven great Patsy tunes all night. I read two books about her and watched every YouTube video there is to see how she held her mouth and pronounced her vowels to try to get it right for the show. I learned that Patsy loved the blues but her producers wouldn’t let her sing any because they didn’t want her growling or anything that would wreck her voice.”

Biales considers herself to be fearless when it comes to music. “When I do songwriting workshops, kids will often be unsure of what they are doing. I tell them that it is your song, and whatever you say and however you play it is exactly right because it is yours! Nobody can tell you how to do it. It is perfect because you wrote it”. When it comes to guitar, she is a very good rhythm player. “I could be a better guitar player which would help me be a better songwriter. I play a lot by myself, so I have been working on some licks that will make my solo sets more interesting. My biggest pitfall is thinking that I am not a good guitar player – that’s not true at all.”

Because her husband does well in business, Biales does not have the pressure of constantly touring in order to pay the bills and maintain her career. “I think music has a bad business model. I don’t know how anybody can make a living at it. Had I not met Mark, I would still be teaching and not even talking with you. I help book a few festivals and a summer music series plus music at a local pub. Everybody wants to be booked. Sometimes I take myself out of the mix. I feel bad people and worry about how they are going to make it.”

So for now, Biales is happy to ride the wave created by Belle Of The Blues. She has been working on learning slide guitar in the Fred McDowell style. In May she has booked a guitar workshop with Guy Davis at the Fur Peace Ranch. “Every year I would do some kind of workshop to see what my peers were up to or get a little shot in the arm. I haven’t done that it so long, so when I saw he was doing one, I made the decision to go. I am rekindling my love affair with the guitar.”

Biales has also teamed up with Kight to form the Peach Pickin’ Mamas, taking the name from one of EG’s songs. The duo doesn’t do many shows as it is hard to fit dates into the already busy schedules the women have. “We did a short tour in Indiana & Ohio last year. The promoter was just flabbergasted. He wanted everyone to hear us. That was a huge compliment.”

When she is home and starts getting bored or antsy, Lisa has been known to go to a club to sit in with friends on electric bass. “I am a closet bass player. I love playing it. That’s why I loved seeing Lisa Mann at the Blues Blast Music Awards show last year. She blew me away – what a bass player! I was blown away several times that night. I loved that whole event – so wonderful!”

To see a video of Lisa performing at the 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards, click HERE.

Visit Lisa’s website at

Photos by Marilyn Stringer © 2015

Interviewer 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!.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 5 

Donald Ray Johnson – These Blues: The Best Of Donald Ray Johnson

Mar Vista Music MV7

13 songs – 59 minutes

Canadian-based Grammy winner Donald Ray Johnson reprises his solo career with this hard-hitting collection of material gathered from six previous recordings.

A native of Bryan, Texas, who now calls Calgary his home, Donald Ray is a full-throated vocalist and outstanding drummer who came to prominence internationally about 35 years ago when he provided the time-keeping for A Taste Of Honey, the female R&B duo who were the first black group ever to win a Grammy for Best New Artist.

But Johnson’s blues roots run deep. His love for the drums began at age seven. By age 14, he started playing professionally behind Nate Dove, a Brazos Bottom piano legend. Before he was out of his teens, he beat the skins for local organist Joe Daniels and guitarist Lavernis Thurman, often appearing on their Saturday night radio show. A stint in the Navy with two tours of Vietnam followed, with Johnson settling in San Diego and got involved in the Los Angeles blues scene, eventually joining the Phillip Walker and Joe Houston bands. He’s also toured with Big Mama Thornton, Smokey Wilson, Teddy Pendergrass, the Isley Brothers and Maurice John Vaughn.

Now a Canadian citizen, Johnson emigrated to Calgary more than 20 years ago, and has received high honors North of the Border in the ‘90s, being named Best Canadian Male Blues Vocalist by two different organizations and being nominated for Best Blues Drummer. Recently, he was among the Alberta Recording Industry Organization’s nominees for Best Blues Artist.

This collection of Memphis and Chicago style soul and deep blues kicks off with a cover of “Ain’t No Fun To Me,” a minor hit for Al Green and includes nine originals and three more well-chosen cover tunes. Next up, the straight-ahead original blues, “Gone So Long,” which asks the question: “You’ve been gone so long/When you comin’ back.” It’s a swinging lament about a woman who spends all night with “friends” – and all of her “friends are men.”

The tempo picks up for “These Blues,” a guitar- and horn-driven tip-of-the-hat to the style of music Johnson holds dear. A cover of “Always On My Mind” leads into the smooth original “Slow Down Baby.” Donald Ray’s voice is on full display for the burner “Here To Stay,” about the return of a lost love, before the tongue-in-cheek drinking song, “Me And Jack (Daniel’s),” in which the singer’s suffering the effects of a fight with the bottle the night before.

Johnson does Johnnie Taylor proud in a silky cover of Taylor’s classic, “Last Two Dollars,” before three more powerful originals – “No Guitar Blues,” “It Ain’t Easy Being Blue” and “Thrilling You Killing Me.” The first is a complaint about getting the blues from watching the TV news; the second details why the singer has the blues; the third a straight-ahead grinder about a guy in love with a woman who has another man. A funky cover of bluegrass pioneer Hazel Dickens’ “Working Girl Blues” precedes the final tune in the package, “It’s Time,” a musical signal that romance is at hand.

Available through the artist’s website and all of the major online marketers, These Blues is total class from beginning to end. It’s a great introduction to an artist who deserves more exposure South of the Border, where his career began.

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 Video Of The Week – Ronnie Earl 

Ana Popovic and Ronnie Earl at Bull Run, Shirley, Ma – 7/29/12 – One Room Country Shack

Ronnie Earl is headlining at the Tampa Bay Blues Festivalon Saturday April 11, 2015.

For tickets and info to to see this amazing guitarist at the fest CLICK HERE

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 5 

The Hep Cat Boo Daddies – Down Right Nasty, A Tribute to Sean “Evil” Gerovitz

Mosher Street Records

11 tracks / 55:30

If you are not from South Florida you may never have heard of them, but back in the day the Hep Cat Boo Daddies played an intriguing blend of blues, rockabilly and surf music. Though the band went their separate ways in 2010, they recently put together a tribute album dedicated to their bass player who had passed away in 2013. Down Right Nasty, a Tribute to Sean “Evil” Gerovitz is a fine way to remember this departed soul.

The Hep Cat Boo Daddies came about after the demise of Sean Gerovitz and Joel DaSilva’s old psychobilly band, Underbelly. Based out of the Fort Lauderdale area, the band played almost every week at the Poorhouse Bar as a trio with DaSilva on vocals and guitar, Gerovitz on bass, and Randy Blitz on drums. The mostly played live, but they also put out two CDs and a DVD in the mid-2000s. This new album is made up of material culled from their set at the 2004 Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk Blues Fest and their 2005 session at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. In the final mix for this disc, most of the songs are from the live show.

Their set kicks off with the original studio recording of “The Fatboy Shake,” an instrumental that starts with a Bo Diddley beat and then transitions into a hard-rocking surf tune. From there they change directions and play a live version of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” with rockabilly-style vocals. On both of these songs, DaSilva shows great prowess on the guitar, so it is not too much of a stretch as they transition in a “You,” a 6-minute AOR jam that could have come from a mid-70s Robin Trower album. This trio rocks!

The rest of the album is all live material. Covers include a hard rocking version of Lazy Lester’s “Sugar Coated Love” (with smooth lounge singer vocals), a slightly sloppy version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child,” and the rockabilly fun of Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials’ “Chicken, Gravy and Biscuits.” They threw Alec Rice Miller’s “I’m Just a Playboy” into the mix, and it ends up sounding like an energetic drum solo with a 12-bar blues song laid over the top of it. There is also Ron Holden and the Thunderbirds’ 1940 song, “My Babe” with blistering guitar work, punk rock drums and a jamming bass interlude. This is the standout track of the album and it really captures what the band was all about.

Their original tunes are very solidly written, including the more conventional blues of “Evil Woman,” a nine-minute live track. Guest artist Joe Saint brings his classy organ work to “Beale St. Shuffle” which provides a fun break from the rest of the guitar-centered playlist. Lastly, they chose to wrap things up with their usual show closer, “Double Surf,” a high-energy surf rock instrumental.

As you can see, there is a little something for everybody in this CD. So, if you only listen to classic blues material, this album will surely expand your horizons. If you give it a chance you might even want to track down their previous albums, Long Time Comin’ and hotrodsexgod, as they were a seriously tight and creative trio who gave it their all in their live show and in the studio. Check it out for yourself to see if it is your cup of tea!

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 5 

Sabrina Weeks & Swing Cat Bounce – Live

Self Release

12 songs time-55:35

Canadian based Sabrina Weeks & Swing Cat Bounce are blues wannabes that come off more as a good time party-bar band. The very good lead guitar by her husband Mike Hilliard is of the blues-rock variety…lots of note twiddling. Bill White is a very exceptional upfront rhythm guitarist, not low in the mix like many others. They also have a very capable rhythm section. The songs for the most part are delivered with a calculated sense of energy and enthusiasm. Sabrina possesses a listenable voice that is mixed way upfront.

The sound of the recording has a strange separation as if the band and the audience were recorded at different times. The crowd noise drifts in quickly at the end of songs and the music seems a bit too polished for a live recording. You never hear any crowd reaction to a guitar solo or exciting section of music.

Sabrina delivers a combination of corny lyrics and a corny delivery over a loping country rhythm on the opening song “Bad Boys”. Mike Hilliard’s guitar style can go from blues to blues-rock, both containing note bending and twiddling. “Jimmy Dee” features some nice slide guitar on a song about a “ne’re do well”. A touch of Pat Benatar swagger is infused into “Slide Over Here”, a tune that moves along effortlessly. Randy Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On” gets a funky groove hung on it. They also get funky on a jumpy little obscure number from Ike & Tina Turner entitled “Strange”.

“Hound Dog” benefits from some fleet-fingered guitar runs as it gets a revved-up treatment. “Big Boss Man” has the band’s usual blues-rock delivery. The best is saved for last as “I Got My Eye On You” rolls along rather nicely.

The band is fine, but very little blues here. This music is best suited for a night out at the bar with friends. The lead guitar playing is first class blues-rock and Sabrina’s voice gets the job done. If this music is what YOU call the blues, then have I got a band for you.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 5 

Michael Osborn & The Drivers – Driven By A Sound

Checkerboard Records CBCCD103

5 songs – 23 minutes

This latest album by the Portland, Oregon-based Michael Osborn & The Drivers, is the musical equivalent of Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao: short, punchy and absolutely not to be missed.

The band is led by long-time John Lee Hooker guitarist and bandleader, Michael Osborn, on guitars and vocals, and also features KG Jackson on bass and vocals, Dave Mathis on harmonica and vocals, and John Moore on drums and percussion. Engineer Gregg Williams also adds his talents on percussion to some tracks. The music they produce is sparkling, modern electric blues, with a heavy Chicago influence.

Frustratingly short, the five songs on the album leave the listener wanting significantly more. Opening with “When I Listen To The Blues”, the band launches into a classic choppy, Chicago blues-funk rhythm, overlaid with Memphis-style horns contributed by Joe McCarthy (trumpet), Chris Mercer (tenor sax) and Brad Ulrich (baritone sax).” Moore and Jackson lay down a seriously solid backing over which Osborn is able to stretch out on guitar. Osborn himself is a top drawer player, with a distinctive style and a warm, mid-rangey tone. His solos are an object lesson in how not to over-play, whilst still keeping the audience hooked on what he is saying.

The chord structure of “I’ve Been Daydreamin’” cleverly subverts the standard approach to 12 bar blues as Osborn’s weathered voice reminisces about getting older and the inevitability of mortality. It is indicative of the overall maturity to the album, both in the lyrical preoccupations and the muscular confidence of the playing.

“Through With You” drives along to a Bo Diddley beat, and features a tremendous harp solo from Mathis.

Osborn wrote four of the songs on the album and Mathis contributed the other, the droll “Retirement Blues”, which nicely articulates the position in which many people find themselves. He sings the first couple of verses pretty straight, telling the listener that: “Growing old ain’t that easy, it’s so hard to adjust. One day you’re working steady, the next day collecting dust. I’m on a fixed income, baby. I got to really watch my bread. Every time I pay the bills, seems like I’m always in the red.” By the time the pre-chorus arrives, however, Mathis is mining the situation for humour: “Can’t find my keys, my wife says I snore. If I lose my glasses, I can’t find the front door.”

“Live Wire” is a burning slow blues instrumental, opening with yet another incendiary guitar solo from Osborn, before Mathis takes over on harp. The two players then swap solo after solo, never slipping into self-indulgence but always keeping themselves on their toes.

Driven By A Sound is way too short, but what there is, is superb. Featuring great playing, crystal-clear production and first class songs, if the band had released an entire album of a similar quality, they’d be looking at clearing up in the annual “album of the year” contests. As it is, if you like modern electric blues, with a heavy slice of Chicago-style blues, you must hear this album. Wonderful stuff.

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.

 Blues Society News 

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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 –

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area

The Friends of the Blues announce their 2015 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm. March 12 – Anthony Gomes – Moose Lodge – Bradley IL, March 24 – Marty Sammon Band – Kankakee Valley Boat Club – Kankakee IL, April 16 – Back Pack Jones – Moose Lodge – Bradley IL, April 28 – Mississippi Heat – Moose Lodge – Bradley IL, May 12 – Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat – Kankakee Valley Boat Club – Kankakee IL, May 21, The Ori Naftaly Band – Moose Lodge – Bradley IL, June 9 – Frank Bang & Secret Stash – Moose Lodge – Bradley IL, June 23 – Victor Wainwright – Moose Lodge – Bradley IL, July 7 – Brent Johnson & Call Up with Sugarcane Collins – The Longbranch – L’Erable IL, July 21 – Nick Moss Band with Chicago Blues Angels – The Longbranch – L’Erable IL, July 30 – Studebaker John & Hawks – Kankakee Valley Boat Club – Kankakee IL, August 5 – Damon Fowler Band – Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club – Bourbonnais IL, August 18 – Too Slim and Taildraggers with Polly O’Keary and Rhythm Method The Longbranch – L’Erable IL, August 27 – Albert Castiglia with Maybe Later – The Longbranch – L’Erable IL

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 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 at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at or by visiting

P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555     © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine 309 267-4425

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