Cover photo by Rick Lewis © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine
In This Issue
Mark Thompson has our feature interview with 2011 Blues Blast Music Award nominee, Peter Parcek. Marilyn Stringer has photos and commentary from the Baja Blues Fest. We have 5 music reviews for you including reviews of music by Franc Robert and the Boxcar Tourists, Jesus On A Tortilla, Peter Struijk , John Earl Walker and Freddy and the Phantoms.
We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!
From The Editor’s Desk
Hey Blues Fans,
Have you voted for your favorite artists in the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards yet? There are only 12 days left to get your vote in! Almost 7,500 of you have already voted. But if you are one of those procrastinators who maybe thinks, “My vote won’t make a difference anyway”, history proves you wrong!
In 2011, the New Artists Debut category was won by THREE VOTES out of the 6,500+ votes cast that year. So if just 4 fans did not vote, the winner would have gone unrecognized. So don’t be the cause of your favorite artists not winning. To vote now, CLICK HERE!
For the Labor Day holiday coming up our friends at the Illinois Blues Festival have a great Blues party to help you celebrate this weekend on the Riverfront in Peoria, Illinois. Their festival starts Friday and features music by some great artists including Victor Wooten, Doyle Bramhall II and Robert Randolph & The Family Band on Friday night. On Saturday they have Jonny Lang, Taj Mahal, Tinsley Ellis, Rusty Wright Band, Nick Boettcher, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and Bret Bunton Project. Plus workshops and the River City Blues Society will have their 2015 International Blues Challenge “Road To Memphis” with 5 bands competing for a chance to compete in the 2016 International Blues Challenge in Memphis next January. For complete information and tickets visit www.illinoisbluesfestival.com.
Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!
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Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5
Franc Robert and the Boxcar Tourists – Goin’ Down to Florida
Blue Chihuahua Records
CD: 14 Songs; 52:56 Minutes
Styles: Ensemble Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock
What do the following subjects all have in common: Kissimmee, alligators, oranges, rain, “snowbirds,” and Walt Disney World? If vacationers, for example, are keen on encountering these things, they’re also keen on Goin’ Down to Florida. The title of the sixth CD by Franc Robert and the Boxcar Tourists is absolutely spot-on, since they’re based in Tampa Bay. They easily capture the fancy-free spirit of the Sunshine State, while remaining true to their darker roots in the blues. Even though Franc talk-sings through the whole album, with vocals ranging from conversational asides and complaints to near-shouts, no one will care if they’re “all in” for the instrumentation. On fourteen original tracks, Robert gives a snazzy sales pitch for FUN.
Backing Franc up as he performs on guitars and lead vocals are the Boxcar Tourists: Dave Simmons on percussion/background vocals, Sam Mudd on bass/supporting vocals, and Joe Sadowski on harmonica/backing vocals. They realize that there are two keys to being an ensemble: 1) Each member must be excellent on his/her instrument of choice, but also 2) Each member must not overshadow the others. Theirs is a team effort. Like all good sports teams, these three Boxcar Tourists know when to “throw” their all into a solo and when it’s time to “pass” their turn on to Robert for another lyrical verse.
According to the “Bio” section of Franc’s website, “I just became obsessive about playing guitar…Eventually, my mother stopped calling it noise and started calling it music… one of the better days of my life!” He has since performed for over three decades, with 2012’s Mulligan Stew bringing in extensive national airplay and rave reviews from critics.
The following three songs are fresh compositions by Franc Robert, and will catch the attention of anyone who’s looking to boogie down – especially on outdoor-festival nights:
Track 01: “Goin’ Down to Florida” – With a bouncy beat and a refrain that only the most inebriated partygoers will miss, the title track is a surefire winner. “Well, I’m going to pack my suitcase and catch a southbound train. Yeah, I’m going down to Florida, and I ain’t going back again!” Here’s a hint for singing along: The state’s name is nearly pronounced “Flawduh”.
Track 03: “Voodoo Stomp” – Florida’s not the only place with vibrant blues, as spicy track three proves. Reminiscent of Too Slim and the Taildraggers’ tunes, it features Franc’s growling, high-volume electric guitar, howling harmonica courtesy of Joe Sadowski, and persistent cowbell by percussionist Dave Simmons.
Track 08: “Cheap Cadillac” – Listen closely to this song’s intro and harp refrain: They sound like the formerly-audible signal of an old car’s blinker that the driver forgot to turn off. Such a blinker might be found on the car in the title, purchased as a lure for our narrator’s former lover. How’s it working out? It isn’t: “The brakes started failing, and I bailed out that door.”
Goin’ Down to Florida isn’t perfect on vocal technique, but it is perfect for summer parties!
For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE
Featured Blues Interview – Peter Parcek
The history of music is filled with tales of bad breaks, what-might-have-been, and the overlooked genius that never got the proper recognition. Many musicians keep soldiering on, refusing to give up on their dreams. For others, the struggle to pursue their art slowly crushes the spirit that drives their artistic vision.
Guitarist Peter Parcek experienced one of those moments after the turn of the century with the release of his first solo recording. Evolution was filled with Parcek’s quirky originals like “Café Du Monde Boogie,” “Lightnin” Hopkins Goes Surfing,” and “Tiny Moore,” a tribute to the great mandolin player with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. The release was well-received in the Boston area, quickly selling through the first pressing. The momentum came to a screeching halt with the development of some legal issues concerning the project.
Ten years later, Parcek was back with a new release entitled The Mathematics of Love on the Vizztone label… The disc offered a rousing mix of vibrant originals coupled with tracks like Peter Green’s “Showbiz Blues,” Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Kokomo Me Baby,” and Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “Lord, Help The Poor And Needy” that highlighted Parcek’s unique musical vision. Also included was a slow acoustic blues, ”New Year’s Eve,” with Ronnie Earl on guitar and a lengthy instrumental workout on the Ray Charles classic, “Busted” featuring Al Kooper on organ.
The disc received widespread critical acclaim as well as nominations for a Blues Blast Music Award and a Blues Music Award, both in the Best New Artist Debut category. The affirmation of his work still resonates with Parcek. “I am nothing if not prolific. It is always a saga that usually revolves around money, or lack of. I met the great producer Ted Drozdowski. When we became friendly, we started talking about records that we loved and artists we adored. It was great to meet someone who knew so much about the music and could articulate it. Ted also had a real vision for the shape of a record.”
“So we started talking. Ted said isn’t it time, it has only been ten years! I played him everything we had. He suggested the Jessie Mae Hemphill song and we worked out what I hope is an original, and respectful, take on it. The one regret I have is that we had hoped to go down and meet Jessie to play her the track. But she passed away before we could make it happen.”
“We had a tremendous team on the project. The engineer, Ducky Carlisle, was amazing. He just did the new Buddy Guy record. The record continues to make friends all over the world, which is wonderful. I wish I had been able to get out on tour more to support it but it still has life.”
Attending the awards shows also left indelible impressions with the guitarist. “The Blues Blast Awards show was at Buddy Guy’s Legends club. Buddy was there, which was a huge thrill along with being able to meet all of the other great artists that were there. I also got to visit with Buddy’s producer, Tom Hambridge, who I had known from the Boston area. The folks from the Blues Foundation were incredibly supportive. Even though we didn’t win an award, they had us play on the main stage. It was an amazing and inspirational opportunity. We played with our hearts for a community of people that love, understand, and deeply appreciate the music. It is a couple of years down the road but I am still buzzing from those nights.”
Parcek came from a family of music lovers. His sister bought plenty of Elvis Presley 45s while his mother liked to sing along with records playing in the house. His mother remarried, and while Parcek didn’t care much for his step-father, he bought his step-son a radio. Parcek immediately bought the biggest antenna he could find and retreated to his bedroom in small town Connecticut, where he discovered a whole new world of music on stations like WVON from Chicago and WWVA in West Virginia.
“One day I went to the local record store and order a couple of records from the very nice older lady who ran it. By pure luck, I ordered two of the greatest records ever, The Best Of Muddy Waters and Moanin’ At Midnight by Howlin’ Wolf, both on Chess Records. So the nice lady is looking at the Muddy Waters cover, with the bead of sweat rolling down his face, and asks me where I heard these records. So I told her. She replied that she knew it wasn’t on WTIC, which was the local family-oriented station from Hartford. She seemed genuinely relieved by that fact.”
“I took the records home and played the Wolf record first. All of the hairs on my arm stood up! It just slayed me. Listening to Muddy’s record, I can’t explain why to this day but at some point I started crying. I believe it was recognition of something in the music that I didn’t yet understand. I immediately told my mother that I wanted to get a guitar, telling her that I found some music that makes me want to play guitar. Mom collected and collected and collected, until she had enough Green Stamps to get me a little nylon string guitar.”
“So here I am with this guitar that I didn’t know how to play. We didn’t have money for guitar lessons, so all I did was hug the guitar. I didn’t know anybody who played, especially that kind of music. Eventually I started figuring out some stuff on my own and I met some folks were into folk music, the Beatles and Chet Atkins – lots of finger picking on guitar. It was all very different from the records I had. Thankfully there were a lot of British bands at that time who were also pointing me towards the masters of the blues.”
While he has had a few lessons over the years, Parcek is functionally a self-taught musician. His first lesson was with a jazz guitarist who was a fine player who had no respect for techniques utilized by every blues player. “He told me to never use vibrato or bend strings. But that was all I wanted to do! That didn’t go very well. I was playing with a pick as I couldn’t quite master the finger pick style. I kept wandering through the wilderness. I must have quit playing guitar several hundred times. It was so hard and frustrating.”
The reality of the Viet Nam war caused a painful rift in the Parcek household. His mother had served in the U.S. Navy while his father served in the U.S. Marine Corp. Their son had a different view of the conflict, deciding he wasn’t going to go, becoming a conscientious objector. Before he could be drafted, a family friend kindly offered a temporary place to stay in London, England.
“It was a big leap of faith but I was young and ready for a big adventure. The amazing thing was that I landed right in the middle of British blues boom. I got to see outstanding artists like Eric Clapton, Stan Webb with Chicken Shack, and Jeff Beck. Most often, I would see Peter Green at the height of his powers, when he was a force to be reckoned with. It was truly inspiring to me to hear a musician who wrote his own songs, sang them well, and played moving, emotive guitar. I saw him as many times as I could afford to. I saw him in a trio in addition various versions of the original Fleetwood Mac. I was singing and playing harmonica instead of playing guitar at that time. I did some gigs with some great musicians but soon got asked to leave the country because I thought I could get by without a permit. They take that very seriously over there”.
Returning to his home, Parcek quickly had the draft issue resolved when a physical determined that issues with his feet would prevent military service. His London experiences were the impetus to concentrate on improving his guitar skills. “Those guys were playing at such a high level. I realized that I had been messing around, not applying myself. I owned a guitar but I wasn’t really playing it.”
So he started going out to see legends like B.B. King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, and Otis Rush whenever they were in the area, often at the Shaboom club, run by Lefty Foster. You could get up close and watch the guitar player’s hands. Then I would go home, sit in my room, and try to work it all out. The guitar is a difficult instrument to be any good on. Being self-taught, it was a long process getting from knowing what to play to actually being able to play it. There weren’t any tapes or videos to study in those days.
“So I spent about 8-10 hours a day in my room for a two year period practicing. My Mom really began to worry about me, wondering if I was ever going to come out of there. At some point, if you dedicate yourself to it, music and the guitar will eventually open up to you. At the heart of it for me is the electric blues guitar. It takes time to learn how to bend notes in tune. Albert King would bend one string but get multiple tones and microtones out of it.”
Living in a college town, Parcek formed a trio to play local gigs. One memorable experience from those days occurred when some friends on the entertainment committee booked the trio for a festival that had the Grateful Dead as the headliner. “I got to meet some of the Dead, including Jerry Garcia. He was very knowledgeable about blues guitar. After we finished our set, he started talking to me and he knew all of the references, the Otis Rush stuff, and the Freddie King licks. He was very articulate and very supportive. He also was a life-saver because at the end of our talk, he told me that I really shouldn’t drink anything that was backstage!”
Soon he followed a woman to Boston, where the relationship quickly fell apart. It was another period where the guitar took a backseat to the rest of his life. But he connected with some like-minded musicians that lead to the formation of Nine Below Zero. It was a fun, forward-leaning band that was rooted in the traditions. They were a bit ahead of the times but the experience got Parcek back on the path of being a working musician for good.
He also met an engineer who was working on a new Pinetop Perkins recording project. They were looking for a guitar player for some of the tracks and approached Parcek to see if he was interested. “It took me a nanosecond to agree. They sent me three tracks to learn. Then I went in to record my parts so the record label could decide if I passed muster. The engineer stressed that I needed to learn the piano riffs because they wanted me to double some of Pinetop’s signature riffs. They liked what I did and I played on some other songs that were released on the Perkin’s album on the 95 North label.”
“I also had the honor and privilege to do a bit of touring with him. He did occasionally miss gigs when he got a better offer financially. The first couple of gigs I was trying to be respectful. He was the reason people were there, so I was sitting way back and not playing much. Pinetop became more perplexed than angry, finally walking up to me to say I hear you, I know you can play, so why don’t you play? I want you to step forward and play. He couldn’t have been kinder to me. At times he brought me to tears.”
Parcek is now putting the finishing touches on his latest project that was recorded in Nashville at the home of Marco Giovino, a drummer who has played with Parcek briefly in Nine Below Zero and has played with Buddy Miller in addition to Robert Plant’s Band of Joy. Giovino put together a killer band that includes Spooner Oldham on keyboards, Luther Dickinson on guitar on several tracks, Dominick Davis and Dennis Crouch on electric and upright bass, Mickey Raphael from Willie Nelson’s Band on harmonica, and the McCrary sisters doing backing vocals on one song. When Marco and Dennis were together, they insisted that Parcek join them in sharing some moonshine to enhance the recording experience.
“I feel that this is the next step from The Mathematics Of Love. It is essential to study the music and the master figures that we all revere. But originality also has to be part of the search. It is incumbent on all musicians to find our individual voice. That might involve going outside metaphorical boundaries, whether it is tonal or harmonic You might not play as well as the masters. But we honor those legends when we take what they did and bring something of our own to it. There are people that don’t see me as a blues artist but in my heart, that is where I am coming from.”
“The music that I love has a deep level of humanity. Whether it is a bent note on a guitar string or the sound of the human voice, I respond to the human cry. The sound of Muddy Waters’ voice and guitar was profoundly moving, seemingly creating meanings in the music beyond the actual lyrics. It gave me a way to work through the joys and the pain of life, a way to ponder what we are really doing here. There is a release when the music is nuanced at a higher level. It is a testament to the greatness of the legends I was lucky enough to hear and be inspired by”.
Photos by Rick Lewis © 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
Jesus On A Tortilla – Gone To Main Street
12 songs time-42:38
This Italian blues band chooses to record the Chicago blues from the 40s-50s era in true mono as the original blues ensembles practiced. The music is fine, but the aptly named singer-harmonica player Lorenzo “Mumbles” Albai’s often incomprehensible singing makes for one difficult listen. He brings Buhwheat from a Saturday Night Live sketch to mind as he sang-“You’re unce, ice, tree times a mady”.
What adds insult to injury is that instrumentally they are one crack outfit led by “Mumbles'” fine harmonica chops. Kevin “Blind Lemon” Clementi’s guitar takes on mostly a backing role as he lends meaty support along with the occasional solo. The rhythm section moves things along quite nicely. All of the songs included here are covers of seminal blues artists.
The unusual name is taken from various sightings of Jesus’ image burned into a tortilla. Go figure.
One of the standout tracks is Walter “Shakey” Horton’s instrumental “Easy”, as there are no indecipherable lyrics to contend with. The harp blowing here as throughout the entire CD is top notch. The other instrumental, Little Walter Jacobs’ “Off The Wall” is superb as well. Strangely it is erroneously attributed to M. Jacobs. This band would fare better if they could find a singer that can enunciate.
“Blind Lemon” delivers some nice Muddy Waters style slide guitar on Muddy’s “Standin’ Around Crying”. He also lends some tasty solos to Jimmy Roger’s “You Don’t Know”.
What could of been a thoroughly enjoyable retro-blues record turns out to be an awkward listen that could of been easily avoided. I have nothing against accents, but there is a communication breakdown when one is straining to comprehend many of the lyrics. It’s a shame because the dedication and sincerity of the effort are heartfelt and obvious.
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
Featured Blues Review – 3 of 5
Peter Struijk – Straight Blues
Blueshine Records BSR-12
12 songs – 38 minutes
Dutch singer-songwriter Peter Struijk spans the globe to enroll top-notch talent for this straightforward album of acoustic blues with an old-time feel. He enlisted the aid of Chicago diva Liz Mandeville and guitarist Rockin’ Johnny Burgin as well as musicians from his homeland to bring the project to fruition.
A native of Gouda, Netherlands, who grew up in The Hague, Struijk has worked extensively in the U.S., behind the Windy City’s Tail Dragger, with whom he recorded his first solo effort, “Human Ways,” joined by a quintet of Dutch blues superstars, including Dihl Bennick, Robbert Fossen, Hammie van Hall, Little Boogie Boy and Peter van Zon.
Since launching his own label, Blueshine Records, in 2010, he’s produced a strong catalog of home-grown talent. He and Fossen joined forces as a duo to win the Dutch Blues Challenge in 2012 and expanded into a four-piece band for the release of the album “Clubbing” a year later. In 2013 and 2014, Struijk also was a nominee as best blues guitarist in Holland.
Struijk is currently involved in a new project with vocalist Yoni Blue, but took time out to record this collection of three originals and nine covers, backed by guitarist/vocalist Riverside Jr., harmonica players van Zon and Robin van Roon and sax player Nicko Christiansen. Mandeville and Burgin make guest appearances together on one tone, and he contributes to another. Straight Blues is a laid-back production that would have pleased listeners in the ‘30s or ‘40s if Struijk had used a time machine and recorded it on acetate instead of using modern recording techniques.
Available through all of the major online retailers, the disc kicks off with a version of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Shining Moon” with van Roon providing sole accompaniment to Struijk’s powerful baritone voice and crisp, clean and classical fingerpicking and slide stylings. A comfortable rethink of Elmore James’ “Fine Little Mama” follows with Christiansen providing baritone sax assistance and a mid-song solo.
Rockin’ Johnny trades guitar licks and provides vocals for a version of John Lee Hooker’s “Big Legs Tight Skirt” before “Don’t Be So Mean,” the first original of the set. Struijk sings that he doesn’t want a fight, but advises the woman to stay out of his sight as van Roon provides another traditional harmonica fill. Furry Lewis’ “Going To Brownsville” follows before Riverside Jr. assumes singing duties for one of his own tunes, “Good Friend Feeling Bad.” It’s a stripped-bare, slow-paced lament that oozes with emotion as it describes someone revealing his feelings as he plays a bottleneck guitar.
The trip continues with a cover of Robert Johnson’s familiar “Ramblin’ On My Mind” before “Had The Blues Today,” an original that features von Zon on harp. It’s a love song in which the singer recalls feeling down after seeing his lady crying. Despite the message, his unaccompanied guitar riffs are sweet and upbeat.
The mood brightens even more as Mandeville takes to the mike to deliver one of her own tunes, “Bump In The Love,” with Rockin’ Johnny providing second guitar. A pair of old warhorses – a stirring instrumental version of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night” and tender take on St. Louis Jimmy Oden’s “Goin’ Down Slow” – bookend the original “Lowdown Woman” to conclude the set.
Straight Blues is as comfortable as an old pair of shoes. Try ‘em on today. I’m sure they’ll fit!
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
John Earl Walker – Mustang Blues
Walkright Records WR265
10 songs – 48 minutes
Veteran New York City guitarist John Earl Walker fell in love with the straight-ahead blues sound of Jimmy Reed as a 13-year-old, and has been delivering one helping serving after another of traditional blues ever since, as Mustang Blues, his sixth solo CD, clearly shows.
Now in his 60s, he played Carnegie Hall with the band Plum Nelly while still a teen, opening the show for The James Gang, and, for years, was a member of the house band at Unganos, the popular Manhattan watering hole that served as the unofficial home to many folks in the recording industry while offering up a lineup that included Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley and many mainstream blues stars.
Joining Walker for this all-original, self-produced effort are Gene Cordew on keyboards, long-time band mate Peter Harris on bass and Frank Diorio on drums. Steve Ress, who stood alongside John Earl in Plum Nelly, makes a guest appearance on slide guitar for the first cut.
The ensemble blends perfectly to deliver a set of original material with a comfortable, familiar feel. John Earl is a talented guitarist who slides effortlessly across the fretboard while never attempting to be a guitar hero. His smoky vocals solidly match his playing, staying within his comfort zone throughout, relaxed and self-assured.
A familiar loping bass line introduces “Hey Baby,” a medium-paced shuffle that gives Walker time to stretch out on guitar before delivering a warm greeting to a lady he’s loved, but hasn’t seen in a long time. “The Devil Follows Me” is a simple tune about following bad advice. The singer attempts to converse with the fallen angel in a futile attempt to break the connection, vowing that he’d been fooled once, but won’t be fooled again.
“Mustang Blues” is an autobiographical tune that hints of “Mustang Sally” and deals with the difficulties of owning a car in New York City, complete with images of policemen with radar guns, expensive tickets and girls who want to ride. A five-minute instrumental, “Funkify,” leads into a song of separation with a definite West Side Chicago feel. Entitled “I’m Already Gone,” it clearly states that the lady shouldn’t darken the singer’s door after turning her back on him when he needed her most, not wanting him anymore.
“My Mama Told Me” carries the message forward atop another loping blues pattern before Walker relives the real-life agony of losing almost all of his possessions to a severe tropical storm that battered the Northeastern U.S. a few years ago in “Superstorm Sandy Blues.” It’s an emotion-packed, burning slow blues with images of evacuation warnings, rising floodwaters and the stark realization after returning that the home was unfit for future habitation.
Two relationship songs follow. “Readjust” is a blues-rocker that deals with the aftermath of a girlfriend leaving rather than recovery from the deluge, while “One Plus One” speaks about the discovery that the woman has been cheating. The appropriately titled “Even Up The Score” concludes the set.
Available through iTunes and CDBaby, Mustang Blues is perfect for you if you’re a traditionalist with a love for rock-solid barroom blues.
Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.
Featured Blues Review – 5 of 5
Freddy and the Phantoms – Times of Division
CD: 10 Songs; 33:36 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Rock and Blues Rock
Even though advances in technology have helped our global society to become more connected than ever, these are still Times of Division. Denmark quintet Freddy and the Phantoms, while mincing no words and no guitar riffs, would do well to remember that one of the divisions that still stands for most fans is the one between rock and blues. Purists might especially fault these five for disguising a pure rock album as a blues album. One of the tracks, “Borderline Blues”, does contain the name of this magazine’s favorite topic, but that doesn’t mean it’s a blues song. Reviewed below is the CD’s finale, “Morning Sun”, which has a style slightly reminiscent of the Allman Brothers. Will that be enough to earn a spot on listeners’ playlists? Let’s let them decide. As it stands, this release is an energetic effort, with above-average vocals and powerhouse tunes.
Freddy and the Phantoms consist of Frederik Schnoor on lead vocals and guitars, harpist Rune Hansen, Trommer on tambourines and backing vocals, Morten Rahm on pedal-steel guitars, Mads Wilken on bass and background vocals, and Anders Haahr on organ and backing vocals.
According to the “Bio” section of their website, “The Danish blues-rock group Freddy and the Phantoms, from Copenhagen, are ready with their third album Times of Division. [They] have already convinced the Danish rock press, played more than 85 concerts in 2014, and received massive airplay on Danish national radio. Praised as a Danish version of the retro blues rock wave lead by Rival Sons and Graveyard, Freddy and the Phantoms are ready to conquer Europe.
“The Copenhagen based 5-piece has had a public breakthrough in 2014, with a massive tour in Denmark as house band for the famous Danish comedian Frank Hvam (known from KLOVN)… As a live act, Freddy and the Phantoms have impressed audiences all over Denmark, played at Smukfest 14 (the 2 biggest festivals in Denmark) and proven themselves as a band of international quality, and supported legends as The Eagles (US) and Rick Springfield (US).”
“The Singles “On the Sidewalk” and “Storm On the Riverside” has already made it to heavy rotation on DR P4, the biggest radio broadcast service in DK, and music journalists have praised the album.”
What’s the bottom line here? Freddy and the Phantoms have made news, but they don’t play much blues. The song below sounds the most like it:
Track 10: “Morning Sun” – With an intro and harmonic vocals to die for, this should have been the opening track instead of the closer. Anders Haahr is fantastic on keyboards, as are all the guitarists. One might imagine Duane Allman on steroids during the solo in the middle. More than halfway through, it turns into pure psychedelic rock, but that’s a minor problem.
No one should expect genre-related purity from a band that describes itself on its Facebook page as playing “classic rock, blues rock & psychedelic”. Nevertheless, rock-and-roll diehards will flock to Times of Division like ships flock into Copenhagen’s harbors!
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 Live Blues Review – Baja Blues Fest
4th Annual Baja Blues Fest August 21st, 22nd & 23rd, 2015 Rosarito Beach Hotel & Resort, Baja, Mexico
About 25 miles south of the border from San Diego, down the west coast of Baja, is the town of Rosarito. It is a clean and safe town, with beautiful clean beaches and warm ocean water, great restaurants, and friendly people. The drive across the border is easy and the coastline going south, between Rosarito and Ensenada, is beautiful. An afternoon trip to Ensenada, which was very clean and modernized, for some shopping, shrimp cocktails, and some Mexican cervezas was also part of the fun of going to Mexico for the weekend.
The Baja Blues Fest has a mission: it is a fund raiser for local Children’s charities with 100% of the ticket sales being donated to the charities. The festival is located on the back courtyard of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, one of the oldest landmarks in the town. The service, food, bars, grounds, and accommodations are nice, and having the festival right at the hotel, just a few steps from the beach, couldn’t be a better location. The vendors and food at the festival were great, along with the nice setup of tables and chairs with plenty of umbrellas, tents, and a nice dancefloor set back from the stage. This festival was voted as one of the top most beautiful festivals in North America. And as a first timer, I would also add that the people running the festival couldn’t have been any either or more organized, as well as easy going. The weekend started out with a staff get together and jam at one of the supporter’s homes. A great evening of bonding and setting the atmosphere for the rest of the festival.
The official start of the festival is the Friday Meet-n-Greet Pro Jam at the ballroom of the host hotel. With a large stage and lots of dancing area, the room was packed and all of the bands who would be performing at the festival showed up and started the jam.
The main day of music was all day Saturday, with the gates opening at 10:15 and the music starting at noon and ending at 8pm. The staging and sound were great and the atmosphere was very relaxed. Starting off the day was the band Hola Soy Lola. They come from Tijuana and are making a name for themselves in Mexico and Southern California. They head a cultural movement call Border & Blues Jam which promotes Blues, attempting to revive the Tijuana music scene. Joining the band was Mark LA Smith on percussion.
The second band of the day was San Diego’s own Missy Andersen. This girl can sing the blues! She has an incredible voice and is truly the next generation’s “real deal” for the blues. Her band includes her husband on guitar – Heine Andersen, Steve Wells on bass, and Michael Minor on drums.
The third band of the day was The Bayou Brother with guest vocalist Michele Lundeen. Another San Diego favorite, this band put on a great party of Cajun and Zydeco music. Having been together since 1995, they know how to have fun and get the crowd dancing. Halfway through the set, Michele Lundeen, aka “The Queen of Steam” joined them for some great blues vocals. Not even a broken foot can damper her spirit! And as guests are always welcome, they were also joined by Deanna Bogart on sax, Lance Dieckmann on harmonica, and Kit (the volunteer) on some extra special rubboard action. The band includes founders John “Squeezebox” Chambers – accordion, keyboards, and vocals, Ric Lee – drums, John Stephens – guitar and vocals, Danny Perez – bass, and Sista Judy – rubboard.
The fourth band of the day was San Diego’s Backwater Blues Band with guest Deanna Bogart. The set started with just Deanna on keyboards and Diego Armijo on sax. Then they were joined by Jimmy Woodard on guitar, and finally the rest of the band joined them: Jonny Viau on sax, Tom Stewart on drums, and John Simons on bass. Deanna switched to sax, Lance added some harmonica, and Ric Lee jumped on the percussion set, and the afternoon was filled with more great blues.
The final set of the day, with the beautiful sun setting over the ocean as a backdrop, was Tommy Castro & The Painkillers: Mike Emerson – keyboard, Randy McDonald – bass, and Bowen Brown – drums. These guys know how to keep the party going and finish out a great day in the best way. And party they did. And towards the end of the set, Tommy does what Tommy does best – he shares the stage and just has a ball with more musicians. Deanna has played with Tommy for years as part of his Legendary Revue – they know how to have fun. Both LA Smith and Tom Stewart took some time on the percussion set. And the day ended on the best of notes: Deanna, Tommy, and Randy having a blast center stage.
The Sunday afternoon Jam Session was held at the other end of the hotel’s courtyard and was a very casual event with most of the bands showing up and having some fun together. From 1 to 4 pm, they rotated through the bands and a few of the locals got up and played also.
Big thanks to the organizers of this event. It is truly a “hidden gem” of a festival and just a great way to relax at the beach with friends, hear great music, and enjoy life. The choice of bands was perfect! I would highly recommend coming down to the Baja Blues Fest next year for some fun in the sun. Just one tip: Plan on staying at the hotel and enjoying yourself on Sunday evening with friends, having a nice dinner at the hotel or in town, or just walking the beach. The best time to cross the border back into the US is Monday – definitely not Sunday night!! Check out the festival web page and FB page for more info and photos: www.bajabluesfest.org and mark your calendars for next year!!
Photos and commentary by Marilyn Stringer © 2015
Blues Society News
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DC Blues Society – Washington, D.C.
The free 27th Annual DC Blues Festival is Saturday, September 5, 2015 from noon-7:30 pm, featuring Sharrie Williams, “Princess of Rockin’ Gospel Blues”. Festival venue: Carter Barron Amphitheatre, 16th Street and Colorado Avenue NW, Washington DC 20011. Bring the family for a day of soulful and electrifying blues, music workshops, Musical Instrument Petting Zoo and other child-friendly activities. No tickets required.
The festival offers an exciting lineup of diverse blues. Sharrie Williams is a three-time Blues Music Awards Nominee and international performer, trained in jazz, gospel and drama. Although she credits Koko Taylor, Etta James and Aretha Franklin as influences, her style is all her own and she’s earned a reputation for outstanding vocal performances. Also appearing is guitarist, singer and songwriter James Armstrong, “The Ambassador of the Blues”. The son of musicians, James was born to play the blues and his style honors traditional blues while adding contemporary grit. Rounding out the lineup are several DCBS favorite bands.
Be a part of the excitement and spirit at the premier DC Blues event! http://dcblues.org
Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area
The Friends of the Blues announce their 2015 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm. September 8 – Laura Rain and The Caesars – Moose Lodge, Bradley IL, September 17 – Reverend Raven and C.S.A.B. – Kankakee Valley Boat Club http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues