Issue 9-42 October 15, 2015

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine


 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Chicago Bluesman Rockin’ Johnny Burgin. We have 5 music reviews for you including reviews of music by Rockin’ Johnny Burgin, Jim Singleton, Don Scott, Cheryl Lescom & the Tucson Choir Boys and Soul Suga’ & Diane Durrett.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

Rockin’ Johnny Burgin – Greetings from Greaseland, California

West Tone Records

www.rockinjohnnyband.com

CD: 11 Songs; 58:29 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Chicago Blues, Blues Covers

In Tennessee, there’s Graceland, and in the Golden State, there’s Greaseland. The first location is the estate of the King of Rock and Roll; the second is “…California’s funkiest and grittiest [music] studio.” That’s a description from the back cover of Windy City stalwart Rockin’ Johnny Burgin’s fifth CD, Greetings from Greaseland, California. Such high praise continues: “[Burgin] recorded these tracks with the cream of the crop of the thriving San Francisco Bay-area blues scene.” Die-hard aficionados may recognize famed guitarist and album producer Chris “Kid” Andersen, who accompanies Rockin’ Johnny on guitar. Even though these eleven tracks, eight covers and three originals, were recorded on the West Coast, most of them are killer Chicago blues tunes.

Their website states more kudos: “The Rockin’ Johnny Band has been one of Chicago’s most loved blues bands since 1995. Their music has been played on WXRT’s “Local Anaesthetic” and “Blues Breakers” radio shows…They regularly work in Chicagoland’s best blues clubs such as Buddy Guy’s Legends. Their CDs and live performances have drawn great reviews in Living Blues, the Chicago Sun Times, Pioneer Press, and National Public Radio’s ‘848.’”

One might wonder: With all Burgin’s credentials, why does this CD consist mostly of covers? The Rockin’ Johnny Band is no rookie ensemble – in fact, this year marks their twentieth anniversary. Even though track six is smokin’ hot, an instrumental version of “House of the Rising Sun”, it seems anticlimactic. Why not put song number nine, the original instrumental “Havana Rock”, right in the middle of this extravaganza? It would stand out more, as the album’s apex, rather than being forgotten further down the line.

Accompanying Rockin’ Johnny, as he performs on lead vocals, guitar, and harmonica, are harpist Aki Kumar, guitarist “Kid” Andersen, bassist Vance Ehlers, and drummer June Core.

The following three songs are the only three originals on the CD, bursting out like fireworks:

Track 01: “Love Me Like I Want It” – With a skillful, melodic intro to die for, this should be Exhibit A in traditional Chicago blues sound. Rockin’ Johnny’s vocals resemble a slight mixture of Steve Miller and Sean Costello: “We’ve been together a long, long time. Seems like there’s always something else on your mind.” Savor Aki Kumar’s harmonica heat in the middle.

Track 08: “Tribute to Big John Wrencher” – Sometimes the blues is a slow burn, creeping into one’s soul gradually while it consumes one’s body. Such is the essence of track eight, menacing yet subtle. “Well, now, come on, come on, baby. Tell me where you’ve been. Ain’t had no loving since I don’t know when.” Listeners know a storm is brewing; that’s why Rockin’ Johnny’s calm vocal demeanor is almost eerie.Track 09: “Havana Rock” – Dig the down-and-dirty drumbeat by June Core whilst dancing! The second word in this song’s title may be “rock”, but don’t be misled into skipping it. This instrumental features all the best efforts of all the musicians, none overshadowing any other.

Greetings from Greaseland, California. What’s been sent? Chicago blues masterpieces!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 36 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.



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 Featured Blues Interview – Rockin’ Johnny Burgin 

It may not have been as spellbinding as an episode of CSI, nor as compelling as a chapter out of a Sherlock Holmes novel, but the air was still thick with mystery and there was still a burning question to be answered.

What happened to Rockin’ Johnny Burgin?

During the early 1990s, a person would have been hard-pressed to find a hotter band on the Windy City blues scene than the Rockin’ Johnny Band. They played to jam-packed clubs and had a pair of outstanding albums issued on the venerable Delmark Records label (Straight Out of Chicago and Man’s Temptation).

And then … poof! Rockin’ Johnny just disappeared into thin air.

Well, not really.

While he was still in Chicago, Burgin wasn’t playing the blues. Heck, for eight years, he wasn’t playing anything.

He moved from front-man on the bandstand to front-man of his family, giving up music to be with his wife and raise his daughter.

“I never wanted to quit forever and it really wasn’t supposed to be a total break from music, but it did end up being that way,” Burgin said. “When I decided to come back, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to play. I had sold my stuff and didn’t even pick up a guitar for about eight years. I didn’t know if I could play … I wasn’t sure how people would respond to me coming back. At that time, I was separating from my now ex-wife and I was broke; I needed the money and I wanted to play.”

Needless to say, Burgin was welcomed back by blues fans across the globe with open arms and big smiles plastered on their faces, saying, ‘Welcome back!’

“They were really happy when I came back and that meant a lot. Blues fans are really loyal and that was gratifying,” he said. “As soon as I started playing again, this guy from the Netherlands wrote me and did an article on me and my career and I got a really-good festival gig in Holland out of that. It was a really positive experience, but I had so much rust on me, that I really didn’t know if I could handle the job, you know? But honestly, I’m a much better player this time around than I was back in the ’90s. I’ve really grown into myself.”

‘Handle the job’ he did and since returning to playing the blues in 2009, Burgin has been busily making up for lost time and this spring, he released his latest album, Greetings From Greaseland. The disc is named after Kid Andersen’s San Jose-based studio, where it was recorded.

“I think it’s the best CD that I’ve done in my career. It’s been the best-received (by blues lovers) one since my first one, which came out at the beginning of ’98,” he said. “It was a breath of fresh air to go to California and work on that disc … it was a good vibe. I’ve also really built up my audience in California, too.”

While it contains Burgin’s patented blues on the inside, the outside of Greetings From Greaseland is kind of a tip of the hat to Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings From Asbury Park album. It’s postcard-like presence was done with a purpose, because after all, Burgin did for-go recording right in his own backyard for taking a trip out west to the bright sunshine.

“I live about four miles west of Delmark Records; it’s right off Irving Park Road and I live right off Irving Park Road. But instead, I said, ‘You know what? Let’s do it (record at Greaseland). There was a CD that Paul Delay did that I played on (Delay Does Chicago (Evidence Records)) and the whole concept was, a bluesman from the northwest (Delay was from Portland, Oregon) comes to Chicago and does something fresh. He worked with me and my band and Jimmy Dawkins and Zora Young,” Burgin said. “That really helped him and there was a big reaction to that CD. It gave all of us a boost. So I thought about it and decided I should do the same thing … a Chicago/west coast CD. Aki Kumar (harp player) – who I play with a lot on the west coast and then he comes here and plays with me – suggested recording at Greaseland. He’s the one that introduced me to Kid. After that, going to Greaseland to record was a no-brainer.”

Working with Andersen turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for Burgin.

“He’s a real blues-head. He’s a genius guitar player, but deep down, he’s a blues-head and there’s not many blues-heads that can actually operate a recording studio. Most guys that can operate a recording studio are reggae-heads or progressive jazz-heads, or they’re hippies that love the Grateful Dead,” said Burgin. “Ultimately those guys will try and steer you to an ideal that’s not your ideal. It’s like this tug-of-war to get the sound you want. It wasn’t like that with Kid. He wanted what I wanted. He knew where I wanted to be and I didn’t have to explain it. I did that CD in five hours, which is my personal best. I did Now’s The Time (his comeback disc) in six hours, so I beat that by an hour and I think that’s the best I can do. I left the rest to Kid, because he’s a great engineer. It’s a nice collaboration.”

The 1990s was when Burgin seemingly broke onto the scene like a bolt out of the blue and while he may not have been your classic ‘overnight success,’ that tag wasn’t very far off the mark, either.

“I felt a lot of pressure, with everyone looking at me. Before I knew it, my first Delmark CD was out and it did pretty well, so there was a lot of attention on me,” he said. “All of a sudden, I went from playing these humble, $35 gigs in these little black clubs on the West Side to playing in a lot bigger places. It happened really fast and I think I handled it OK, but now, none of that stuff fazes me. It’s a lot easier to just enjoy it.”

Burgin and the extraordinarily-talented Kumar currently have plans in place to record a double-bill CD with split vocals, ala what Buddy Guy and Junior Wells used to do.

Burgin really begin to make his mark on the Chicago blues scene by playing with legendary cats like Sam Lay, Taildragger and Jimmy Burns.

“Playing with those guys was a huge break for me … but I did earn all those breaks, you know? For guys now, they couldn’t come up and learn the way that I did, because the people to work with are not there anymore,” he said. “They’ve got to carve their own way and I don’t know how they’re going to do that.”

Lay’s reputation certainly preceded him, as stints playing drums for the likes of Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band would indicate.

“Sam really taught me a lot about repertoire and he always gave a 110-percent. There are musicians who do a job like a plumber that’s fixing a sink. And then there’s musicians who are on the other side and it’s all about excellence and the glory and the feeling of it,” he said. “Unfortunately, it (playing music) is kind of a job and there is that element of fixing the sink in there, you know? But Sam played so hard every night and he taught so much by example. He showed me what he wanted and I concentrated on giving a really perfect performance. That was a great thing.”

While it still involved playing the real-deal Chicago blues – and was still a wonderful thing – you could say that Burgin’s time backing up the one-and-only Taildragger was at the opposite end of the spectrum from his days with Sam Lay.

“Yeah, that was a whole different thing. When I was playing with him (Taildragger), the priorities were whiskey and women … for Taildragger. It was a walk on the wild side,” Burgin said as he chuckled. “Taildragger and I are a good team, musically. I learned to make him comfortable and when we’re together, he relaxes because he knows it’s going to be good. We developed a really good relationship.”

Burgin was also Jimmy Burns’ right-hand man for quite awhile, as well.

“With Jimmy, we needed each other. He needed a good band and I needed a great singer, so it really worked out to both our benefits.”

Playing with Burns at the Smoke Daddy club in the city’s Wicker Park neighborhood was where Burgin was discovered by Delmark’s legendary guiding force, Bob Koester. That turned out to be huge for Burgin, even though his take-home pay from the club didn’t require much effort to carry.

“The first two years at the Smoke Daddy, we played for free. Jimmy Burns made a little, but the band played for free,” he said. “But you know what? I’m getting returns on that now. The Smoke Daddy was a gentrified place and all of a sudden, we were packing it. Then we started getting paid, because we were packing the place. That opened up every door in Chicago for me, because we were packing this place on a Monday night.”

Although one would be hard-pressed to tell that he’s not a native Chicagoan, Burgin was not born and raised in the Windy City. Originally from Starkville, Mississippi, Burgin came to the big city in search of an education (which he got) from the University of Chicago, after also spending time in South Carolina. Although it may not be of a conscious effort on his part, that unique southern/northern blend can most definitely be picked up in Burgin’s guitar playing.

“I came to Chicago when I was about 18 and pretty soon after that, I met some blues purists at the radio station (WHPK, the college station where he DJ’d at, and where he also picked up the ‘Rockin’ Johnny’ handle) and they kind of steered me in a way that was good for me and that’s how I met Taildragger,” he said. “I had been playing prior to moving to Chicago and had been doing some gigs, although I wasn’t that good. The first time I sat in on the West Side, I completely failed. That was a learning experience, for sure.”

That ‘learning experience’ was something that couldn’t be pulled from the bookshelves at the University of Chicago’s library, nor was it something that could be studied be simply watching others do it. It was learned by jumping into the fire with both feet.

“The cool thing about playing with Taildragger on those West Side gigs was, it re-contextualized the whole music as part of the black culture and a black experience,” he said. “It made me listen to the blues in a whole new way and I just appreciated them on a much deeper level. I think that really helped me a lot.”

It may seem like a no-brainer today that a guitarist with the immense talents of Burgin would have his sights set on becoming a professional musician from the get-go, but prior to his arrival to attend school in Chicago, he says that may have been the furthest thing from his mind.

“I really didn’t think it was possible. If such a thing were possible, I definitely wanted to do it. But I just kind of took it month-by-month after I graduated … I mean, I didn’t have any real kind of a career plan,” he said. “It was like, well I made it this month. And then I made it the next month and then the next month and then that added up to a year. Then I asked myself if I should try it for another year and I did that until I got married, which was a good 12 years or so.”

That month-by-month plan certainly worked out as well as could be for Burgin, but that didn’t mean that his immediate family actually endorsed such a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of career plan.

“No, my parents were not too happy about this. But I played the (Chicago) Blues Festival with John Brim, Yank Rachell and Big Wheeler … that’s the only time I’ve played the main stage at the festival,” he said. “And so I told my parents that I had just paid my rent in an hour. And there was nothing they could really say to that.”

One of the major reasons that Burgin has never lacked for a gig – whether with his own outfit or whether backing someone else – has to be the individualistic sound he pulls from his guitar. There are certainly touches of the 1950s Chess-era blues at the surface, but there are also embellishments of a more modern, a more non-traditional sound, to boot. Add it all up and what you have is the unmistakable sound of Rockin’ Johnny Burgin. According to the man himself, the end result of the way he sounds today may have something to do with the equipment he was using once upon a time.

“I had this Rickenbacker and a small amp and I had to develop ways of playing louder with that, just to be heard and to cut through. The bass would be so loud and the harmonica would be so loud, so I used extra-heavy picks and would pick at a certain point on the guitar, because it had such weak pickups,” he said. “So I had to cut through all that and I just developed a style in actual working conditions and out of making what equipment I had work. I’ve also had a lot of variety in the bands and the people that I’ve worked with and each one is kind of a puzzle and you sort of have to figure each one out as you go. I had to have a wide palette. How do you contribute and how do you make the person you’re working with sound good? Or how do you show yourself in the best possible light?”

A fine example of Burgin’s touch and finesse on the six-string can be found on his version of “House of the Rising Sun” from Greetings From Greaseland.

“I’m really big into Django Reinhardt – he’s one of my total heroes. I put some Django stuff into “House of the Rising Sun.” It’s like a Django/Luther Tucker kind of thing,” he said. “And as a college radio guy, I listened to a lot of indie rock and really like groups like The Minutemen. The guitars sound great on those records.”

It’s a shame that Burgin is so good on the guitar, because in a way – thanks to his prowess on the instrument – he really doesn’t get the credit that he deserves for being a first-class vocalist. He’s passionate, soulful and just downright bluesy when he steps up to the microphone.

Oh, he’s also a heck of a harmonica player, too.

“Well, I was not very good in the ’90s, which is when most people made their opinion of me (singing). I think of myself as a singer that plays guitar,” he said. “My harp playing may not be anything to really write home about, but it’s nice, because I have a good guitar player with me a lot of the time and I can put the guitar down and sing and play harp. That makes the guitar like an extra-special treat.”

Burgin’s rapport with his audience – as well as his bandmates – leaves the impression that he’s a natural up on the bandstand. Turns out that’s pretty much the truth, regardless of what he’s doing up there.

“I love to be on stage and I love to perform and connect with the audience,” he said. “The actual mechanics of how that happens is not important. I’d probably be happy if I were a magician, or something. I mean, look at Junior Wells. He was a great harp player, but he was pretty casual about it. He’d just play through the vocal mic, but what he really liked to do was to talk to the audience and tell stories. He was in complete control and I like that a lot.”

His career plan of ‘no real career plan’ has most definitely worked out and probably even exceeded expectations for Rockin’ Johnny Burgin.

But more than something that happened just over night, it’s something that he’s been working on and adding to for decades now.

“The first band I was in was the Ice Cream Men with Jimmie Lee Robinson and Big Wheeler and that was kind of concurrent with the Taildragger thing. I was either playing second guitar, or there was no bass and I played the bass lines on guitar. So I started with the more simple and basic roles and I kept adding more and adding more and adding more,” he said. “Now I can just do what I want too … and I still want to play a lot of guitar. But there’s no reason for me to just be a guitar player. That’s why I love to play harp; it gives the audience a break from being hit over the head with so much guitar.”

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2015

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



 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 5 

Jim Singleton – 8 O’ Clock in the Afternoon

Self Release

www.jimsingletonband.com

10 tracks / 42:47

Jim Singleton grew up as an army brat, so he has lived all over the world and he ended up with a hankering for American blues from the epic festivals he attended abroad. He brought this hunger for music back to the states with him, as well an understanding of how badly European players needed to get quality guitars into their hands. An export business grew from this, and now he is a respectable vintage guitar dealer and an acknowledged expert that contributes regularly to industry publications. But he is also an accomplished guitarist and singer, and he is not afraid to head into the studio to lay down some ambitious tracks!

8 O’Clock in the Afternoon is a self-produced effort by Jim Singleton, and he provided guitars and vocals for the project. He called on some amazing talent to join him in the studio, including legendary bassist Joe Osborne, Grammy-winner Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, and guitar maven Bernie Marsden. It is a testament to his talent and extensive industry connections that he was able to make this happen. This disc has ten tracks, with three original and seven covers that include a few crazy surprises.

Jim starts the set with Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 hit “Rattlesnake Shake” which is arguably one of the best songs that Peter Green ever wrote. It provides a good dose of gnarly blues-rock and Singleton plays a mean guitar and his hearty voice really shines through the mix. This is followed up by Jerry Lynn Williams’ “Nothing to Do With Love,” which was cut from the same cloth. This song, most famously recorded by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, is a hard rocker with killer organ from Michael “the Professor” Hensley and a driving drums from John Martin.

The work of Irish blues man Rory Gallagher is also represented on this CD and Singleton’s crew captured the raw energy of this legendary performer. “What’s Going On” is all raucous guitars and emotional vocals, and “A Million Miles Away” gives Jim the chance to show a little more versatility on the axe. The latter is a killer British blues jam with plenty of layered tracks that gives plenty of room for Jim to do his thing on the vocals. This song is one of the stronger ones in the set, and it was a wise choice to finish off the record.

A few of the covers really come out of left field. Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” has been re-imagined into a slow paced country ballad with some beautiful lap steel work, and it turns out very well. Though it is also very well done, the same cannot be said for Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” which follows a bit too closely to the source material. With its fairly faithful arrangement it is just too hard to disconnect it from the original, and Singleton’s voice is just too different from Isaak’s to pull it off.

In the midst of all of these cool covers, there is a sprinkling of well-written originals, too. Bernie Marsden contributed “Place in My Heart,” a slow and moody blues tune that includes some marvelous interplay between the guitars and Musselwhite’s harp. And guitarist Gary Vincent contributes a touch of country with “Don’t Take” (including some neat squeezebox from Mark Yacavone) and the blues-rock of “Place in My Heart.” Vincent delivers the goods here with strong songs from two different genres, and it is fortunate that he was included on this project.

8 O’clock in the Afternoon is a solid effort from Jim Singleton, and it is a great album for fans of blues and British blues-rock. The songs are all very good, and they were completed with fine musicianship and good production values. Hopefully Jim and his friends will be heading back to the studio again soon, as they provide cool music that can be listened to more than once!

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



 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 5 

Don Scott – Slidin’ Sideways

Self Release

www.donscottblues.com

10 tracks / 40:31

Minnesotan Don Scott has been playing the blues for five decades, and his current blend of roots and blues is unique as it brings the music down to its most basic levels. He has toured the world, both as a solo artist and with numerous bands that include the Dust Bowl Blues Band (a founding member!), Lazy Bill Lucas, Mighty Joe Young, and the magnificent Janiva Magness.

Over the years, Don has cut six CDs, the latest of which is Slidin’ Sideways. This is a cool release with six originals, four covers and the bare minimum of instrumentation. Scott takes on the vocals and guitars, with pianist Raul Altamirano joining in on a few tracks. So, there are no drums, bass, keyboards, or harmonica to be found and because of this, these arrangements wind up with a raw roots mood and sound.

This ten-song set is book-ended by live tracks that Scott and Altamirano recorded at Loot in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. This beach town is the perfect setting for Don’s kind of blues, and he kicks off the album with the title track, an original instrumental. He cranks out five minutes of righteous slide work on his National guitar as Raul adds a bit of his best honkytonk. And the set finishes up with Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle” which gives Raul a bit more room to stretch his legs as Scott belts out the vocals.

The standout cut on Slidin’ Sideways is “Some Other Day,” a song about the plight of the modern soldier. Scott plays a heavy Spanish guitar under heart-wrenching lyrics of how much more we should be doing for those that have given so much of themselves to our country. This song is followed up by the jaunty “Blue Blake Rag,” which is a jolting transition. Don does some amazing guitar work on this one over the steady beat provided by Raul’s hammering left hand.

The roundup of covers is pretty cool, and they include cool stuff like Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson’s “Kidney Stew,” and Roosevelt Sykes’ “Persimmon Pie” (how risqué!). But the coolest of these is Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys’ “My Shoes Keep Walkin’ Back to You,” which has also been done very well by Ray Price, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Costello. This is heady company and Don Scott holds his own with just his hard-hitting guitar to back up his plaintive wails of loneliness.

You will find that all of the songs are neat, but there are a few production issues with noise and volume levels that mean this might not be the slickest CD that you have heard recently. Despite these nit-pickings, Slidin’ Sideways is a fun album, and Don Scott has talent galore that translates into a wonderful live show. It would be a great idea to head over to his website to check his gig schedule, as he gets all over the country. There are gigs in six states from Arizona to New York on his schedule right now, and you can be sure that more will be added soon.

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



 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 5 

Cheryl Lescom & the Tucson Choir Boys –1953

www.cheryllescom.com

www.tucsonchoirboys.com

Busted Flat Records

11 songs – 39 minutes

Some CDs have that happy knack of sounding like some classic record you have loved and played for years whilst at the same time offering something fresh and new. 1953 by Cheryl Lescom & the Tucson Choir Boys is one such release.

Only 39 minutes long, Cheryl and her band pack in 9 self-written (with two more by singer-songwriter Lynn Jackson) heavily retro-blues/pop songs that will have you tapping your feet to an irresistible groove whilst enjoying well-written songs with clever lyrics, all played with authority and drive.

The opening song, “Dime Store Lover”, features Les Graham’s atmospheric slide guitar floating over a Tom Waits-esque groove with lyrics that could even have come from the master (“You’re my dollar store hope and my dime store ring. Take my heart and soul and I will make you my king”). The early rock’n’roll of “Soul Shakin’ Romance” and “Surrender” by contrast demonstrate the sweeter, more playful side to the band. Throughout, Lescom’s voice amply demonstrates why she has been noted as having “one of the best and biggest voices in Canada”. Ranging from weary to assertive to teasing to heartbroken, she inhabits each song with convincing emotion.

The Tucson Choir boys are an impressive outfit, providing first rate support to Lescom’s voice. Using primarily acoustic instruments, they often sound like an early rock’n’roll band transported from the 1950s to the present day. Featuring Dave The Cat and Robert Reid on lead acoustic guitars, Sameday Ray on acoustic rhythm guitars and backing vocals, Les Graham on upright bas, slide guitar and backing vocals, Kristine KK Walsh on rub-board and percussion, Jim Boudreau on drums, Steve O’Connor on keys, and Michael J Torbay on backing vocals, the Choir boys repeatedly demonstrate the power of tight ensemble playing where the solos are kept short, punchy and melodic. Special mention should also be given to the superb backing vocals, which again add a 50’s tint to music recorded with modern in-your-face attitude.

Songs styles range from the upbeat modern rock’n’roll of “Party Girl” to the gentle introspection of “It’s Not You, It’s Me” and the Bo Diddly-via-Dave Edmunds jungle drums of “Nice Mix Of Crazy”.

Graham’s slide resonator appears again on “Just Pressed Send”, a hilarious modern tale of danger and lust: “I told him all about my life. He told me he never had a wife. He said he was handsome and tall, and that he used to play professional football. He likes movies and walks in the park. He likes picnics but only after dark. The man’s so handy that he could build me a home. Well that was it. I told that man to phone. I wish I could take it back to where it all began, before the words got on the keyboard and I just pressed send.”

1953 is Cheryl Lescom’s fifth CD, but she has been touring and performing with the likes of Ronnie Hawkins, Long John Baldry and Jeff Healey for over 40 years. She and her band bring all that experience to bear in 1953, whilst still retaining the essential adolescent abandon that fuels all the best rock’n’roll. Really enjoyable release.

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 Blues Review – 5 of 5 

Soul Suga’ & Diane Durrett

Blooming Tunes Music

www.dianedurrett.com

11 tracks

Soul Suga is Diane Durrett’s seventh album since 1993. With all originals except for one song, she shows her creative song writing and musicality in this CD. Younrico Scott provides much of the percussive help and Melissa Massey fils in the rest. Bass is mostly Ted Pecchio, with a little of Chris Price and hen one song each with Charlie Wooton and Gregg Shapiro. There are several guitar and keyboard/organ players as I will note below. Backing vocals are also varied and play a big partin setting the tone of the album.

“Show Up Sexy” gets things started. It’s a very deep and steamy song with some funked-up guitar by Durrett and Critter Critenden and organ by Yoel B’nai Yehuida. Durett groans and moans to set a very intimate tone. “Butter’s In The Skillet” follows and keeps the heat on. Nice horn work here by Lil’ Joe Burton, Daryl Dunn and Miko Bowles and Diane delivers more good vocals. The ballad “All Is Well” is next. Brandon Bush does nicely here on organ (as he does on the next cut) and Durrett’s vocals remain solid. “Be Somebody’s Angel” follows, a breathy sort of mid-tempo rock/soul cut; the tenor sax impressed me here.

“Push the Push Back” opens the “Soul Suga”portion of the album as the DJ announces at the start (a little cheesy, but fun). It reminded me a little of the Philly funky sound of the late-70’s/early-80’s/ Vibraphone, flute and a lot of support sweeting things up. “Let Go & Let Groove” continues the retro soul. They pull it off pretty well but then it goes sort of Donna Summer disco-like for a bit, which is not my cup of tea. Outside of that, I liked the cut. ”Sassy Laurue” gets off to a New Orleans-like brassy start and is story of a big woman singer with an even bigger voice who predated Aretha. The song is fun and the horn section from the second cut gets to show off and Oliver Woods’ guitar also shows off for us. Tinsley Ellis makes an appearance on the bawdy “Woohoo” as Durrett tells of her issue where she’s “got a little woohoo in her hoohoo.” Ellis gives us a subdued but still very cool solo. “I Know Your Nothings” is a very melancholy ballad and Durrett delivers this with emotion. Restrained and reserved all around, it’s really well done piece. Eric Frampton’s piano helps set the mood. “Bright Side” is the last original cut. Durett shows optimism in her lyrics and delivery. She builds a bit as the song goes on and concludes with a flourish. The album closes with the Lennon-McCartney classic “Let It Be.” At first I thought, “Really?” Randall Bramlett plays piano and sax and the cut works. It remains somewhat true to the Beatle’s approach until the sax comes in. Ike Stubblefield adds some Hammond B-3 to go along with all this and I enjoyed it.

At first listen I was a bit unimpressed. I must say that the album grew on me and after a few listens I really began to enjoy it. Durrett is sometimes more of a rock than soul singer but the album takes us through a variety of styles. If you want to hear some soul done in an approachable way with great accompanying musicians, give this a spin!

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


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Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society is proud to present our local IBC Challenge, 6:00 pm on Saturday October 17th at Memphis on Main, 55 E. Main St. in Champaign. Our judges will choose the best band to represent us at the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge which takes place in Memphis, TN, in January of 2016. Bands scheduled to compete include; Blues Expressions, The Squires, The Paper Route, and Jerry Lee Gingery & the Juju Kings.

Admission is only $5.00. The winners will be announced shortly after the last band finishes at 9:00. A cash prize is awarded to the winning band to help with their travel expenses to Memphis. Come out to Memphis on Main and cheer for your favorites and help raise money for their trip. For more information visit our website at; www.prairiecrossroadsblues.org

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

Central Iowa Blues Society and Lefty’s Live Music are proud to present Selwyn Birchwood, Alligator recording artist, from Tampa, FL., appearing at Lefty’s on Sunday, November 1 at 7:00 PM, all ages until 9:00 PM, $10 general admission.

This rising, young blues guitarist, lap steel playing vocalist and songwriter has won the 2013 International Blues Challenge, 2015 Best new blues album and the Albert King Guitarist of the Year awards. Selwyn will feature some hits from his latest release, “Don’t call No Ambulance”. You can’t miss this special show!

Check out Selwyn’s bio, band info, photos and tunes at www.selwynbirchwood.com  For more information go to www.cibs.org

Minnesota Blues Society – St. Paul, MN

The Minnesota Blues Society presents the Blues Studio For School fundraiser will be held on Sunday, November 15 from 12:00pm – 5:00pm at Minnesota Music Cafe 499 Payne Ave. St. Paul, MN. 100 percent of the proceeds benefit MN Blue Society’s Blues for Kids program. The suggested donation is $10. The “Blues Studio for School,” is a six-week workshop that seeks to instill in children a deeper appreciation and awareness of blues music, its history, and influence in contemporary culture. The event will feature live performances by Joe Filipovich’s band. The Blue Cities. Squishy Mud, Armadillo Jump and Joyann & Sweet Tea are also scheduled to perform. In addition to live music, there will be a bake sale, auction and a cash lottery. Support for the Blues for Kids program can also be shown by contributing to the Kickstarter campaign https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1932846301/blues-for-kids     For more info: mnbs.org

Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, IL

Crossroads Blues Society is working hard to keep the blues alive. Starting with our first two Blues in the Schools programs and an evening show after them and a great show by Liz Mandeville, this fall will be an exciting time in Northern Illinois

Our second Saturday monthly blues at the Hope and Anchor English Pub in Loves Park, IL go on. The Jimmy’s are in on November 14th and our annual Christmas Party and show will feature Jimmy Nick and Don’t Tell Mama at the Pub. $5 cover after 7 PM.

First and third Fridays at the Lyran Society Club on 4th Ave in Rockford: 11/6 and 12/4: The New Savages, 10/16: Roy Orbison Tribute, 11/20 Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames (CD Release Party), and 12/18 The Blues Hawks Acoustically. All shows are 7 to 10 PM and there is a fish fry or steak dinner available. No cover, open to the public.

The AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs will once again feature blues bands from 5:15 to 6:45 PM prior to every Friday home game. 10/23 is the New Savages, 10/30 is Recently Paroled, 11/27 is Dan Phelps and 12/11 is Macyn Taylor. There are 7 more Friday games in 2016.

First Sunday Blues at All Saints are from 4 to 6 PM. The Blues Hawks are 11/1 and Macyn Taylor on 1/6. Shows are free, donations go to People Helping People, the local food pantry.

Planning for 2016 include brining Tad Robinson, John Primer and many others into the Rockford area for shows. Stay tuned for more upcoming events! www.crossroadsbluessociety.com

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. Oct. 19 – The 24th Street Wailers, Oct. 26 – Rockin Johnny

Additional ICBC shows: Oct. 15 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6-9 pm Guest host: Steve the Harp Blues Band

Questions regarding this press release can be directed to Michael Rapier, President of ICBC, at mikerapier@sbcglobal.net at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at langdon38@att.net or by visiting www.icbluesclub.org



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

 

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