Issue 9-14 April 2, 2015

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine


  In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with 2014 Blues Blast Music Award nominee Jeff Jensen.

We have 5 music reviews for you including music from Rory Block, Jerry Lee Gingery and the Juju Kings, Mike Osborn, Phil Wiggins & The Chesapeake Sheiks and a DVD called
Hot Love On Me So Strong – The Blues of South L.A.

Our Video of the Week is Carolyn Wonderland performing “Open Up and Bleed” on Last Call With Carson Daly.

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


 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

We got some exciting news about a Blues festival right in our own back yard. The Budweiser Illinois Blues Festival is Labor day weekend in Peoria, Illinois just across the river from our office.

The festival is Friday September 4 and Saturday September 5th in Riverfront Festival Park and the fest features 3 stages of entertainment and musician Blues workshops.

And man do they have a super lineup planned that includes Blues rocker Johnny Lang, Robert Randolph & the Family Band and the Blues master himself, Taj Mahal! You don’t want to miss this one.

And we have some great news of an early bird deal on tickets just for our readers, the Blues Blast Pre-Sale Ticket Special!

Blues Blast Magazine has arranged for a special pre-sale ticket buy exclusively for our readers. Buy your 2 day ticket between now and April 8th for just $30! That’s right – Get both days of the 2015 Budweiser Illinois Blues Festival for just $30!

Go to www.illinoisbluesfestival.com. Click on tickets and then Use the code word “bluesblast2015” to get your special Blues Blast discount.

Remember, to get this special pre-sale ticket price, you must purchase your tickets by April 8, 2015…. So buy them Now!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser


 Blues Wanderings 

I had a great Blues week. I made it out last Saturday to the Castle Theatre in Bloomington, IL to catch a couple of fine Blues artists. The Castle is an old movie theatre and a really nice venue. This show featured an act opening from Champaign, IL called Upshot. The duo features Sara Hill on lead vocals and Jared Manker on lead guitar. Nice!

 

Then the headliner was Tinsley Ellis. Tinsley put on a great show and did some songs from his instrumental album, Get IT and his most recent album, Tough Love. As always with this seasoned Bluesman, a great performance.

Then on Monday we made it out to Blue Monday at the Alamo in Springfield, IL to catch Liz Mandeville. Liz is a huge Chicago Blues talent!

Her band is a trio of Chicago cats that really know what the Blues is, featuring Mike Hill on lead guitar, Dwayne Wright on bass and Andy Sutton on drums. Liz is a great performer and man is this band ever smokin’! If you get the chance, check them out. Promise you wont be disappointed.



Festival Early Bird Ad Special

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Blues Blast Magazine’s Early Bird Special is our lowest priced advertising of the 2015 year. It offers an affordable & effective way to get the Blues word out!

This 8-week discount ad campaign allows you to add significant impact to your Blues advertising and promotion campaign. It is a great way to kick up the visibility of your summer Blues festival, new album release, Blues event or music product all around the globe! This is perfect for a new album release, a festival advertising campaign or any new music product.

Normal 2015 Advertising rates start at $150 per issue of Blues Blast magazine. BUT, for a limited time, this special gives you eight issues of Blues Blast Magazine for only $400. (A $1200 value!)

Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote anything. More than 33,000 Blues fans read our magazine each week. They are located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries. Weekly issues of Blues Blast Magazine are also posted on our popular website. We get more than 2,000,000 (That’s TWO MILLION) hits and more than 45,000 visitors a month at our website.

To get this special rate simply buy your ad space by APRIL 15th, 2015!!!! Ads can run anytime between now and December 2015.

With this special rate, your ad can be viewed more than 350,000 times by our readers who want to know about your Blues events and music! Reserve your space today! Space is limited and will be sold on a first come first served basis.

Other ad packages and options, single ads, short run ads or long term bulk rates available too! Visit www.BluesBlastMagazine.com. To get more information email info@bluesblastmagazine.com or call 309 267-4425 today for an ad plan that fits your needs.

Ads must be reserved and paid for by April 15th, 2015!!!



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

Rory Block – Hard Luck Child

Stony Plain Records

www.roryblock.com

10 tracks/45:45 running time

When an artist writes their own liner notes inclusive of the genesis from which each song is gleaned, and nails it, objectively, pure emotion notwithstanding, it is frosting on the fritter.

This is the case with Rory Block’s latest album, Hard Luck Child. This album is the latest in Block’s Mentor Series which are interpretive explorations of blues masters she met as a teenager. She has recorded the songs of Robert Johnson (The Lady and Mr. Johnson), Son House (Blues Walkin’ Like A Man: A Tribute To Son House), (Mississippi Fred McDowell (Shake ‘Em on Down: A Tribute To Mississippi Fred McDowell), Reverend Gary Davis (I Belong To The Band: A Tribute To Reverend Gary Davis), Mississippi John Hurt (Avalon: A Tribute To Mississippi John Hurt) and this disk, Skip James (Hard Luck Child: A Tribute To Skip James).

In a quote from her biography When A Woman Gets The Blues,  Block states, “From the beginning I have been meticulous about naming the original writers and celebrating the source of the music. That is not to be glossed over or hidden. No one can say I stole material as my own or devalued the artists who created the music. It has been a lifelong mission to honor them, play the music as it is written, and highlight the unique, historic, foundational quality of the art. But neither will I allow anyone to place rules, restrictions, or try to limit the spirit that inspires the spirit of humans. No one can control that, thank God. I will not apologize for loving blues.”

No apology necessary. The reading material here, exceedingly compliments Block’s superior playing and singing. From the poignant liner notes to the aforementioned source information on each song, this is a superior labor of love, a sonorous Ph.D dissertation, if you will, on a master of Mississippi Delta Blues groove.

That being said, one might find it hard to pick standout tracks on this disk. There is an evenness here that circumvents any track necessarily being better than the other. It’s like a concept album. It’s all one.

The references to Jesus and direct connection between Gospel and Blues are also evident. As Ms. Block states in her summary of Track one, “Nehemiah James,” “This ‘Holy Ghost’ connection is far more fundamental to the sound than many people realize today. Thus in reading about Skip James’s early life, I was not surprised to find his history featured a preaching father and time spent touring in a gospel choir. Thus unfolds the story…”

Witness the melding of vocal characteristics channeling Mavis Staples and Clara Ward inTrack 7, “Jesus Is A Mighty Good Leader.” We’re being led back up a hallowed trail here.

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


2015 Blues Blast Music Awards Submissions Open

It is that time of year for publicists, labels and Blues industry contacts to let artists know that submissions in the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards are open until April 15th, 2015.

We again offer you the opportunity to put your eligible Blues music releases directly into the hands of our nominators for consideration in this years awards. Your submissions are accepted from March 1st until April 15, 2015.

To submit YOUR music visit: bluesblastmagazine.com/2015-blues-blast-submission-information/

The Blues Blast Music Awards honor the BEST in today’s Blues music and are voted on by music fans all over the world. This years release eligibility period is May 1st 2014 to April 30th, 2015. All music released during this period is eligible for consideration.

Mark Your Calendars! – 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards Ceremonies Announced

The 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards ceremonies will be held on Friday September 25th, 2015 at the Fluid Event Center in Champaign, Illinois. This amazing 10,000 sq ft facility still has folks raving about last years event! Look for more information on hotels and artists later this year at: http://www.thebbmas.com.



 Featured Blues Interview – Jeff Jensen 

As good as they are, Jeff Jensen’s recordings do not prepare you for the first time you experience his live show. Things start out as normal as the singer and guitarist does a couple original songs. Suddenly, the spirit moves him, transforming Jensen into a whirling dervish on stage as his passion for the music is expressed through blistering guitar runs and boundless energy seldom seen from other performers.

Generating strong emotional responses from the audience makes Jensen happy. “I feel my job is more significant than just playing guitar or playing music or selling drinks at a venue. I feel my job in life is more spiritual than that. I want to make people’s lives better in whatever small way I can. I know that we aren’t capable of changing the negatives in someone’s life – but we might be capable of creating a temporary escape from it. Maybe we can fill them up with good, positive energy that helps deal with everything else they have to deal with.”

“We try to evolve our live show to keep people on their toes, keep them guessing. I hope that my shows don’t get so predictable that audience members start texting or Facebooking on their phones. The band and I talk after every show to discuss what worked and where we can do better, how we can improve the show the next time at the venue. I want the audience’s attention so we can go on a journey together filled with energy, emotion, and stories – have a good time that leaves us rejuvenated or wore out in a good way.”

The band includes Bill Ruffino on bass and Robinson Bridgeforth on drums. Jensen credits Ruffino for being the rock that he relies on to anchor whatever Jensen is trying to do. “When you think of me or the Jeff Jensen Band sound, you can’t have that without Bill Ruffino. We have played together for eleven years. The way he grooves and the melodic nature of his playing supports me so well. He can create a wall of energy and sound that lets me play whatever I need to on guitar without things sounding thin or empty. Robinson is now in his second year with us, a Memphis native, who is another amazing dude. We are at the point now where our confidence in each other is at a level where we can push our boundaries and limitations to get to the next level as musicians. It is a fabulous support group. They both deserve as much credit as I do for the success we are having.”

Growing up in a small town in rural California, Jensen was bitten by the guitar bug when he was eight years old. His supportive parents quickly rented him a large dreadnought acoustic guitar that he could barely wrap his arms around. After taking a few lessons, the allure faded as the physical challenges of playing seemed insurmountable. Two years later, he was ready to try again. Only this time, his parents gave him a different kind of support.

“My parents told me that if I wanted an electric guitar, I could get a job and save up for one. They got me a job about a mile away cleaning out horse corrals and barns. I worked all summer and most of the school year, riding my bike every morning. On weekends I would paint and do other jobs on the ranch. I saved my money and at age eleven, I purchased that first electric guitar. I have been going non-stop ever since then”.

Listening to Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix records from his parents album collection, the youthful guitarist was inspired to start writing his own songs and formed his first band, Over the Top, before going through a phase that found him shifting away from classic rock to be a part of the punk generation, complete with the requisite Mohawk hair style. Since his high school did not have a music program, Jensen earned a spot in the local junior college jazz band. At the age of sixteen, he was already stretching boundaries by alternating between jazz & punk rock, a truly bizarre contradiction.

The old rock records also led him down a familiar path of discovery. “I found Buddy Guy through Eric Clapton. As soon as I did research on Buddy, it opened things up to Muddy Waters, B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, Freddie King – all of those guys. That was very attractive to me. It wasn’t until I was nineteen that I started playing blues on gigs. I worked with a bass player who didn’t sing but had gigs booked. He hired me to front the band. It was terrifying because I had never played a four hour gig in my life.”

In 2004, Jensen decided to start his own band. Inspiration came from a concert he attended featuring John Hiatt, Tommy Castro, Buddy Guy, and B.B. King. Watching Buddy and B.B. handle the stage and win over an audience of 5,000 fans was an amazing experience. That lesson came in handy the next year when Jensen’s band was hired to open for B.B. on a short leg of King’s 80th birthday tour.

“There I was, opening for a legendary blues artist. I am on stage; look out at the audience and there is Prince, who is looking at me play guitar. It was really hard to process, playing for Prince who was waiting for B.B. King to get on stage. It was literally the most terrifying moment of my career. Talk about legitimate pressure! That was ten years ago and I still had a lot to learn. But it went great and we had a good time”.

During this same period, Jensen showed his support for the music in a different way, partnering with a friend to start the Santa Clarita Blues Society, “I was working in a music store at the time and doing gigs as a sideman. I met a blues player named Chris Sabie, who got me interested in the Blues Foundation. Chris wanted to start a blues society and being that he was older & wiser, he handled the business side of establishing the society and filing the necessary legal documents while I would promote and get the local musicians involved. We started a not-for-profit, 501C-3 organization that is still growing strong today”. Jeff served as Vice-President for five years.

Another significant event in 2004 was attending the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. “That was the big push I needed to start my own band! I saw the opportunity these bands from all over the world had, performing in front of blues fans, talent buyers, and industry people. It was so significant just being there. I went back home and in forty-five days, the first rendition of the Jeff Jensen Band was born. Our goal was to go to Memphis the next year. We would practice two, three times a week as we learned how to be a band. When it came time for the local challenge, we surprised almost everybody by being selected.”

“We competed in 2005 and did not make the finals. But it was an awesome time. To this day, I am still in contact with people I met that year. I was there three times and never made it to the finals. But I honestly believe that me being there has factored into what has happened to my career since then. I still try to be there every year. I learn things, meet people – we got multiple festival bookings by doing the showcase gigs this year. The IBC is a blues convention! If you go with an open-mind and do some networking, you will get a lot of support. You can’t go looking at the IBC as a competition.”

Feeling it was time for a change, Jensen made the decision to relocate to the Portland, OR area, which had a thriving musical community. He wanted to see another part of the country but giving up his band and the club circuit gigs he had established in southern California ultimately did not pay off. Jensen was never quite able to build a similar arrangement in the Pacific Northwest. Two years later he was in dire straits financially and emotionally, his confidence gone. He was about to head back home to stay with family when fate intervened.

“My life was in complete shambles. My friends and family were very concerned about me. My friend, Chris Sabie, had moved to Memphis. He offered me a place to stay. I was borrowing a vehicle to drive back home but at the last minute, on a whim, I decided to go to Memphis instead. I had about $600 to my name, no band, no prospects, no family, and one friend in Memphis. Being 2,400 miles away from everyone that cares about you is a risky thing to do. They all thought I was crazy. But I just felt that was what I needed to do, which is not my nature. I need a plan, a goal.”

Within a day of arriving, Sabie took Jensen down to Beale Street to hear harp player and singer Brandon Santini at Wet Willie’s. Santini had heard of Jensen and asked him to sit in. The end of the night brought an offer of two weeks of work that month playing guitar in Santini’s band.

“I came to Memphis with nothing – and in thirty hours, I had a gig. It was actually twelve shows over two weeks. That is literally unheard of! In the music world, it is not always about how good you are. There is so much more to working in a band, including personalities and availability plus how your talent fits in the group itself. To walk into a new community with nothing and have that happen is literally a miracle”.

The pairing worked out for both musicians. Over two and a half years, they played more than 450 shows together. Jensen became Santini’s bandleader and also produced the harp player’s This Time Another Year project, which was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the Contemporary Blues Album category. And it all stemmed from a chance meeting that fateful evening.

Two years ago Jensen left Santini’s band, deciding it was time to revive his band. He released his Road Worn & Ragged album, receiving plenty of positive press in addition to a Blues Blast Awards nomination in the Sean Costello Rising Star category. His latest project, Morose Elephant, has been acclaimed by one reviewer after another, leading to the band’s upcoming European tour, a first for them, and a big uptick in bookings across the US. Jensen feels that it his best work yet and is proud that listeners feel the same way.

Another aspect of Jensen’s career is his role of producer, taking the lead on his own recordings as well as titles by Santini, John Parker, and Mick Kolassa. “ I couldn’t afford a producer for my records so I tried to emulate the sound of records that I liked. I enjoy the challenge, to have the ability to create something out of nothing. Some artists know what they want but need someone to translate their vision. Some artists like your work and want to hire you to give their record that same sound. My number one goal as a producer is to create the audio version of an emotion. I don’t care about the song on a literal level. I want to know the feeling. Are we angry, relieved, sad, depressed?”

“Once I understand the emotional journey we are going on, I can then start to figure out how I can create that emotion sonically. What instrument should we use, what approach should we take. I have always liked records that have a lot of emotion. And that doesn’t mean you are crying on every song. Legitimate laughter is an emotion. Happiness is an emotion. There are plenty of emotions we can capture. Making sure the sonic qualities are supporting the emotional content of the song is everything.”

It is emotion that fuels each and every one of Jensen’s live performances, turning the stage into a place where he can find cathartic release of his own swirling cauldron of feelings, by playing sloppy & raunchy or in a fluid, melodic fashion. “I don’t play songs the same every night. I push myself to the limit of what I am doing – and then push myself past that point. I talk to the band about that constantly. I always want to be walking on that line. Sometimes I may slip a little bit over the line and I can’t quite do what I am trying to do. That is how I grow. But I am not trying to play West Coast blues, not trying to play Chicago or Delta style blues. It all circles around my attempt to create real energy and real emotional content. There are so many good guitar players out there that I sometimes feel that almost anything I play on guitar has already been played by somebody else – and probably played better. That is why being authentic to yourself is so important to me.”

Visit Jeff’s website at jeffjensenband.com.

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 

Jerry Lee Gingery and the Juju Kings – Southside of Nowhere

Mojo Place Records

www.jujukings.com

12 tracks

Hailing from central Illinois, Jerry Lee Gingery and his Juju Kings have produced a CD of all original music with a swinging, rocking blues beat. The Juju Kings are Gingery on vocals, bass, lead and rhythm guitars, Eddie Narakas on lead and rhythm guitars, Robert Aguilera Jr. on drums and “Timothy “Doc” Romanowski on piano, organ, clavinet and accordion. Mark Klak does the digital trickery and sound enhancements here and there, too. Jerry and Doc do backing vocals along with Susan Williams and Karen Brault. Brandon Santini sits in on harp for a half dozen tracks to add some of his spice to the mix.

Let’s look at the cuts with Brandon on them first. “Something’s Wrong” is quite down and dirty blues while “Must Have Been Blind’ has big, dramatic solos on harp and guitar. Good stuff. “Rich Man Blues” is an interesting lyrical cut with souls being sold to the devil because he’s too poor to pay his dues. Big, stinging guitar work abounds in this one. “Life Goes On” changes it up and is stripped down, front porch blues. Cindy Altenberger adds some washboard to make it sound even more authentic. “Hop Skip and a Jump” is a bouncy piece with a cool interplay with accordion and harp. “Sorry For Myself” is the other cut with Santini and it’s driving, straight up front blues.

The other half of the CDs has the Juju Kings unaccompanied. “Whiskey Train opens the album. The organ plays a larger role here and is featured along with Gingery’s guitar. Who doesn’t like train songs and drinkin’ songs? It’s fun and drives to a good beat. The title track features the girls and Doc prominently backing Gingery along with some nice piano work by Doc. Gingery does a good job on guitar and the lead vocals which he shares in a sort of call and response. “B&B By The Sea” is a rock ballad of sorts and Gingery and guest organist Richard “RJ” Westrick interplay together. “Mae Bea Sweet Baby” is a straight up blues love song. “Tired Of Messin’ With You” opens with a big guitar solo and then the vocals, bass and organ bleat out the beat and lyrics in a bouncy mix. The girls back Jerry as he sings of his failing relationship. Lots more guitar follows. “Daddy’s Song” closes things out. It’s a mix of blues and cowboy country in a sad little tome about Daddy’s passing Gingery sings and is solely accompanied by guitar. Introspective and thoughtful, it’s a sad but cool closer to an otherwise more upbeat set of songs. He must be singing about his own Dad as the album is loving dedicated to his Dad, Harold “Spike” Gingery, who passed in 2007.

It was interesting to contrast the half of the album with harp against the other half. Both had good songs and it was interesting hearing the mix of harp on one half versus more keyboard on the other half (minus the last cut). Gingery is a good songwriter, singly penning 10 songs and jointly writing on the other two. His guitar is solid as are his vocals. The mixes are good and the album was a fun listen. If you like blues with a little hint of a twang mixed in with traditional blues and rock, you’ll enjoy this CD.

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 Video Of The Week – Carolyn Wonderland 

Carolyn Wonderland performing “Open Up and Bleed” on Last Call With Carson Daly.

Carolyn is performing at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival at 2:30pm on Saturday April 11, 2015.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 5 

Mike Osborn – In The Dog House

JE Gagne Records MOB-CD-002

11 songs – 45 minutes

www.michaelosbornmusic.com

Illinois-born, California-raised Mike Osborn delivers an interesting mix of blues, rock and country on this album, his second release since rejoining the music industry in his 40s after taking time out to raise his children as a single parent.

Based in the San Francisco Bay area, Osborn’s previous CD, Fire & Fury, climbed high on the roots radio playlists. Like that effort, he’s in full command here, displaying soulful techniques on the six-string while delivering powerful, distinctive vocals.

Osborn turned to Grammy-winning producer Alan Mirikitani to direct this session. Mirikitani and partner Dennis Walker wrote most of the material, with Mike adding three originals. He’s joined in the studio by an interesting alignment of musicians not normally associated with the blues, but who work together fluidly. They include Johnny Griparic, the Swedish bass player who’s teamed with Slash and BB Chung King & the Buddhaheads; Lee Spath, the drummer who’s done service behind Rod Stewart and Robert Cray; and Teddy Andreadis, the keyboard player who’s assisted both Guns ‘n’ Roses and Carole King. Former Warren Zevon bandmate Randy Mitchell also makes a guest appearance on guitar.

The straight-ahead blues rocker “Love Vs. Ego” kicks off the album, with a well-modulated guitar line and the realization that the former always wins the war. Osborn’s vocals are crisp and dynamic with the slightest growl, his six-string stylings driving and clean, but not overly flashy. A single guitar riff powers “Company Graveyard” as the singer announces his intention to go out on his own rather than work himself to death in a day job.

The mood brightens and attack lightens dramatically for “Lovin’ Time.” But the romance doesn’t last long. “Cold Man Cold” sings the sorrow of dealing with a woman who’s taken off with the TV as well as her man’s booze. The contrast between the two songs carries forward to the next, with Osborn contending that being in love is like being trapped between “Fire & Gasoline.” The heat continues for “Tied Up,” in which the singer’s “heart’s tied up in chains,” the lyrics are chockfull of 50 Shades Of Grey imagery and Mike’s guitar sears during a mid-song break.

“Cheap Women” is a country-rock tribute to easy ladies in smoky bars with cheap guitars, while the bluesy “Veteran’s Song” delivers a smooth tip-of-the-hat to those folks who “cannot tell the stories to those they love/For fear they’ll be outcast and alone/The stories stay inside and gnaw them to the bone.” The funky “Satan & St. Paul,” written by John Fulbright, is an allegorical look at a painful love affair in which the storyteller’s consumed by the lies he tells himself, before “Jump In Your Fire,” in which the singer’s all set to plunge into romance. The instrumental title song, “In The Dog House,” concludes the set.

Passionate and sincere throughout. If your tastes run to the rock side of blues, you’ll enjoy this one. Available though all of the major online outlets, Osborn delivers his message effortlessly, and it comes through loud and clear.

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 – 4 of 5 

Phil Wiggins & The Chesapeake Sheiks – No Fools No Fun

Silverbirch Records 2015

www.philwiggins.com

16 Songs 1:09:47

Harmonica player Phil Wiggins is best known as half of the famed duo Cephas & Wiggins. By the time John Cephas died at age 78 in 2009, Cephas & Wiggins were the world’s most famous blues duo, approaching the almost mythical stature of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Although to casual observers, Cephas and Wiggins may have been “a couple of old blues guys,” there was actually a generation between their ages, and Wiggins has some good life expectancy remaining. The question has been about musical expectancy. A quickly recorded album with Corey Harris late in 2009 at XM Radio has had virtually no distribution. Wiggins appeared on an album by Blackwater Mojo in 2012, and cut a single with George Kilby, Jr., but this release should put Phil Wiggins firmly back on the map.

Wiggins fronts a band called The Chesapeake Sheiks, a name which he tells us in the album’s unfortunately parsimonious liner notes, is drawn from The Mississippi Sheiks, a very successful band that played all sorts of roots music and its branches in the 1930s. No Fools No Fun was recorded at a performance for a clearly appreciative audience in Laurel MD (the actual date of the show is not listed). Most of the material comes from 78-rpm-era songs from that general musical area where blues, jazz, swing, and old-timey music intersect. The band includes some solid players, especially violinist Marcus Moore.

Most of the tracks are entertaining and upbeat songs, such as “Lulu’s Back In Town,” from the 1935 film Broadway Gondolier, which was later made popular by Fats Waller, and Earl Hines’ “Rosetta” which was distinctively covered by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys in 1938, and many others since, on which Marcus Moore deftly enhances Wiggins’ vocal with his violin. The opening track “Struttin’ With Some Barbecue” (a transformation of a piece recorded by Louis Armstrong and written by his wife Lil Hardin Arnstrong) offers solid solos from all the band members except bassist Eric Shrameck, including some engaging interplay between harmonica and violin. (It sounds as if someone’s playing castanets, or some small percussion intrument, on this track, though it isn’t listed in the credits.)

“Roberta” comes from the Cephas & Wiggins repertoire, the band joining Wiggins in singing a spirited rendition of the song, one of the duo’s more popular tunes. Good solos abound in the band’s treatment of Duke Ellington’s somewhat sardonic “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me,” and the audience is clearly pleased with “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me” which comes from Mississippi John Hurt. “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” is more somber than most of the other songs, and Wiggins’ voice really isn’t quite up to the challenge of presenting the deep sadness of the song, though he counters by dropping in a little humor, joking about his French pronunciation of the word “pavement” while Moore’s violin is truly aching in keeping with the song’s mood.

The title track (apparently written by Wiggins – – there are no songwriting credits with the album) offers a funny tale of wild and sometimes violent parties in Wiggins’ home neighborhood in Washington DC. As in other party songs (including classics like “Wang Dang Doodle”) some crazy characters do some outlandish things, and Wiggins has fun describing it. “Iffy Effy” is also apparently a Wiggins song, poking fun at a gold-digging woman who aspires to higher society.

The album includes two less commonly covered songs from the 1940s from Willie Dixon’e Big Three Trio, “Don’t Let The Music Die,” a song celebrating the kind of music that this album features, and “Tell That Woman,” which offers Moore the chance to shine – – which he does. “Frim Fram Sauce,” originally recorded by Nat King Cole, is one of those funny songs with a deeper underside. The customer ordering a nonexistent “frim fram sauce with oys and fay with shofiefa on the side” is really trying to wangle a free glass of water at the restaurant.

The album ends on a dark note with Louis Armstrong’s “Do You Call That A Buddy” a song about a friend trying to steal his friend’s girlfriend. Armstrong’s version isn’t humorous, but the way Wiggins sings this, and his use of “defenestrate my buddy” in place of Armstrong’s “kill my buddy” lightens the feeling in the song. (Wiggins also “exsanguinates,” “decapitates,” and “eviscerates” him, attacking him with vocabulary, where Armstrong in his last verse just “parts” with him). As with “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying,” Wiggins seems, at least on this song, more comfortable defusing the sadness and anger with humor.

No Fools No Fun is actually quite a lot of fun, with a great band, and an excellent selection of old and old-styled songs. Phil Wiggins’ harmonica playing is superb, and his approach to the music is highly entertaining. The album will undoubtedly help Wiggins enhance his profile as he finds his way in the music world post Cephas-Wiggins.

Reviewer Jonny Meister is the host and producer of “The Blues Show” WXPN-FM Philadelphia and also host and producer of “Blue Dimensions” PRX (Public Radio Exchange)



 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 5 

Hot Love On Me So Strong – The Blues of South L.A.

Distinct Ink 2014

81 Minutes

www.hotlove.info

https://www.facebook.com/kari.fretham

The DVD starts out with an introduction by the author, Kari Fretham. She started listening to music at a very young age with the radio show “Amos and Andy’. It was the great B.B. King song, “The Thrill Is Gone” which started her blues craze. She describes what she feels when listening to the music as “emotional intensity” as well as it being real, and rough around the edges. Fretham has been hanging out in blues joints for over ten years. This film documents several popular spots of South Los Angeles.

The first stop is Downtown Bells Blues Workshop. This is an all out educational and blues jam experience. Over ten musicians are on hand to help people learn and feel the blues. One witness states that “the blues understands; it is relatable”. The Second stop is Ruth’s Fourth of July Party. Again with a main overview of brining people together, various artists play at this all day party. One visitor said, “blues that moves your innards, gotta be good!” Spade Castle is the third stop on the journey. This little place has a lot of character including an outside fire pit in all weather which people gather around to feel good. People are quoted as saying “If you want to understand music, you gotta understand blues first”. There is an obvious bond of companionship, dance, and friends.

Next comes Bobby Warrens Labor Day Party. Similar to Ruth’s Fourth of July Party, there is bonding, jamming, drinking, food and overall gathering of like-minded people. One performer that will particularly catch the viewers’ attention is Jackie Jackson. She is a harmonica-playing woman with a ton of soul and feeling. Then comes The Living Room on the track of blues in South L.A. This club is located on Crenshaw & Adams and very much sports a juke joint type feel. Patrons have been coming for years and it is noted that certain people have the same chairs and the same bar stools every time they visit. Anniversaries, birthdays, and general gatherings are celebrated here.

Up next is Jackson’s Nightspot. The owner clarifies that it took over four years to get a band to play there. With a stable band that includes Tay “Little Spider” Nixon on harmonica and Buddy Pierson on keyboard, there is plenty of feeling through music at this place. Again, the common bond of music, friends, and relaxing is key to this spot. The last venue on the road to the blues of South L.A. is the Barnyard. Located at 97th and Main, Joe Harris the owner denotes much of the clubs success by catering to the older crowd, not just the young kids. He also cites blues and spirituality as key components of the atmosphere. There are different events held here for donations, remembrance, and blues jams.

The DVD concludes by ending credits, a complete list of all musicians and songs, and a compiling list of thank yous. Having never been exposed to a different culture of blues and performers such as this, this film was an eye opening experience.

The viewer will enjoy this journey not only as an educational piece, but also as a deeper appreciation for many sounds and styles of blues in South Los Angeles.

Reviewer Shannon Courto has been a Blues enthusiast since 1999. Her favorite types include delta Blues, Chicago Blues & jump/swing. She is lucky to live in St. Louis, Missouri where the music is flourishing.



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Minnesota Blues Society – St. Paul, MN

Road to Memphis Competition, 2015. Two days. Sunday, April 12, 1:00 The Lodge, Robbinsdale, MN for Solo/Duo competition, Sunday, April 26, 1:00 Wilebski’s Blues Saloon, St. Paul, MN for Bands competition.

7 acts competing each day. $10.00 suggested donation. Be the first to support the 2016 IBC winners. More info: www.mnbs.org

DC Blues Society – Washington, D.C.

The DC Blues Society proudly announces the DC-area appearance of the Nick Moss Band on Saturday, April 18, 2015. The dance floor will be jumping when Nick and his band play guitar-fueled blues from 8 pm-midnight at the American Legion Post 41, 905 Sligo Avenue, Silver Spring MD, 20910. Doors open at 6 pm and parking is plentiful. Tickets are $15 in advance ($12 for DCBS members) and $18 at the door (no member discount). Buy your tickets early! Go to www.dcblues.org to purchase online or call (301) 322-4808.

Nick’s style uses a broad sonic palette, weaving textures of R&B and blues-influenced rock into his playing and songwriting. Time Ain’t Free, his most recent release, “reaches deeper into soul, funk, and rock ‘n’ roll,” according to Billboard.com, with shades of P-Funk, Little Feat, Faces, and world music, all filtered through Moss’s deep blue lens.

Blues Kids Foundation – Chicago, IL

Fernando Jones’ Blues Camp – For Kids 12 – 18 years Old – “Summer 2015”  The Blues Kids Foundation proudly presents, in partnership with host sites below, Fernando Jones’ Blues Camps. We will award tuition waiver scholarships to over 250 music and audio/visual students (ages 12 to 18), collectively, who attend.

Through this priceless, fun-filled experience the Blues Kid will learn and perform America’s root music in a week long program with like minded others under the direction and supervision of highly qualified instructors. Entry is competitive. Audition dates can be found at BluesKids.com under the host city’s name.

Openings for entry-level student musicians may also be available. Participants are expected to audition online at www.blueskids.com/EarlyBird. International students may audition. Out-of-town Blues Campers must be accompanied by a legal parent or guardian, and are responsible for their own lodging and accommodations.

2015 Blues Camps will be host cities include Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Nashville, Miami, Hampton, and Corona.

For more details visitwww.blueskids.com/EarlyBird or call 312-369-3229.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area

The Friends of the Blues announce their 2015 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm. 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 http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues

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. 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): 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


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