Issue 9-43 October 22, 2015

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2015 Blues Blast Magazine


 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Chicago Blues singer Melvia “Chick” Rodgers. We have 5 music reviews for you including reviews of music by Slackjaw, Al Grigg, Arlen Roth, Travis Haddix and Omar Coleman. Steve Jones and Bob Kieser have commentary and photos from the 2015 Rockford Crossroads Blues Festival.

Our video of the week is of two of our favorite guitar players who both happen to be female, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Laura Chavez.

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


 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

Our good friends at the Deep Blue Innovators Blues festival have a great show planned for you this weekend! Their fest is this Saturday October 24th at the historic Rivoli Theatre in Monmouth, Illinois. The show features Moreland & Arbuckle, Davina And The Vagabonds, delta guitarist Ben Prestage, Micah Kesserling and Charlie Hayes and Detroit Larry.

You don’t want to miss this one! For tickets and information visit http://gomonmouth.com or click on their ad below

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser



 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

Slackjaw – It’s Always Something

Self-Produced

www.slackjawbluesband.com

CD: 10 Songs; 41:06 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Contemporary Electric Rock

If people consult a thorough dictionary, one that lists a word’s etymology as well as its definition, they’ll find out something interesting about the word “ambivalent”. It was coined in 1910 by Swiss psychologist Eugen Bleuler, from the prefix “ambi-” (meaning “both”), and “valentia” (meaning “strength”). Therefore, both conflicting feelings that constitute ambivalence are equally strong. In terms of Bridgewater, New Jersey’s Slackjaw band, and their second album It’s Always Something, blues purists might well be ambivalent about its ten original songs. On the one hand, there’s lots of electric guitar razzle-dazzle, and songs that’ll excite partygoers. On the other hand, only one sole track is traditional blues. The rest are either amalgamations of blues and rock (“Carried by Six”, “New Addiction”) or straight up rock-and-roll (“Cold Day in Hell”, “Whiskey Lane”). Slackjaw’s sound is likable, and the band has good flow and chemistry when it comes to their musicianship. The ambivalence comes in when one wants Muddy Waters’ sound and hears tunes that resemble John Mellencamp’s and Blues Traveler’s.

Their promotional info sheet reveals: “Slackjaw has managed to turn quite a few heads in the past couple years, after their debut self-titled CD was released in 2011…John Thompson, Randy Marinelli, and Carl Capodice have been weekend warrior veterans of the local music scene for years, and have joined forces to create a sound that is all their own. These guys have gone beyond their ‘local legend’ status, performing and sharing the stage with such artists as Johnny Winter, the Edgar Winter Group, Billy Cox from the original Band of Gypsys [no, that’s not a typo, merely artistic license], The Pat Travers Band, Rick Derringer, Bernie Worrell, Vinnie Lopez from the E Street Band, Samantha Fish, Eric Steckel, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, Indigenous, and more. The airwaves are also starting to get a taste of Slackjaw, especially Centenary College Radio WNTI, and WDVR in Sergeantsville. The stations want more, and so do the listeners. Slackjaw is cultivating a fast-growing popular demand!”

As mentioned above, the members of Slackjaw are John Thompson on lead guitar and vocals, Carl Capodice on bass guitar, and drummer Randy Marinelli.

The following song is the only one that sounds traditional, pleasing purists:

Track 05: “Don’t Give Me No Jive” – This slow burner features excellent fretwork and a killer bassline. “Don’t give me no jive, baby. I’ve got a bone to pick with you. You’ve been running your mouth, honey, with things that just ain’t true.” For example: “You go to church every Sunday, wearing your favorite dress, but when I asked where the church was, you forgot the [expletive] address.” For some betrayed lovers, truer words were never spoken.

Oddly enough, the catchiest track on the album is “Bottle of Whiskey”, a country-rock sing-along. “I’m going to drink this bottle of whiskey ‘cause I want to,” the trio sings with more regret than glee. Even though it’s not blues, it’ll get people tapping their toes.

It’s Always Something – in this case, it’s more rock than blues!

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.



 Video Of The Week – Joanne Shaw Taylor and Laura Chavez 

Click on the image to see this video – Joanne Shaw Taylor and Laura Chavez killin’ it at the Byron Bay Blues Fest in Australia in 2014. These two ladies are smokin’ guitar players. Might just make some of the male guitar slingers want to play like a girl!



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 Featured Blues Interview – Melvia ‘Chick’ Rodgers 

It may not qualify as the eighth wonder of the world, but there’s still something amazing … almost mystical … about it, leaving it as a question that has yet to be answered.

Just how does Melvia ‘Chick’ Rodgers summon such incredible depth and power from her voice, when she’s built on such a slight and diminutive frame?

It’s almost equal to looking at the Venus De Milo while being struck squarely in the face by hurricane-force winds.

“Well, I’ve been tiny all my life. My father’s a tiny man and he has a deep voice,” Rodgers explained. “It’s hereditary … I’m been small all my life and it makes me feel good that I’ve been blessed with such a talent. It’s definitely not Memorex – it’s live.”

More than just sheer power, Rodgers is one of the most soulful singers around and she has the remarkable ability to transfer emotion from her voice straight to the heart of her audience.

Her version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is guaranteed to induce chill bumps just a few seconds into the venerable tune. When she lists off the singers that she admired as a young woman trying to find her own voice, that power is fully understood.

“Aretha Franklin, of course. And from the gospel side, Shirley Caesar. Also, there’s Diana Ross and as far as male singers, it’s always been Stevie Wonder and Sam Cooke for me,” she said. “I just open my mouth and it comes out. It’s like a blend of all my influences.”

Rodgers has busily been sharing her amazing gift with music lovers everywhere in 2015, from right in her own backyard to way, way across the high seas.

“It’s been a great year. I did the Chicago Blues Festival again this year and I was also in Italy and got my first chance to go the Canary Islands in Spain,” she said. “I’ve worked more this year than I’ve worked in a long time. God is good all the time, but He’s really been good this year.”

In addition to hopping all over the globe, Rodgers has also begun work on a new recording project.

“We’ve not gotten too far into it yet, it’s still in the first stages,” she said. “We’re working on getting all the songs together.”

There’s long been an old saying along the lines of ‘you are what you eat.’ That’s probably true for all of us, but for Rodgers, you could probably tweak that phrase into something like ‘you’re named for what you eat.’

“I love fried chicken. In high school, from 10th to 11th grade, everyday – Monday through Friday – I was at Church’s Chicken for lunch,” she said. “Everybody just started calling me ‘Chick’ Rodgers because of that. That’s how it happened and it stuck.”

The daughter of a minister, Rodger’s first real exposure to music – and to performing in front of a live audience – came via the church.

“Absolutely it did. And my father was a quartet singer. Me being the oldest (child), sometimes he had to take me to his shows with him,” she said. “I just admired how he moved people (with his songs) and how the women would be shouting in the church. That made me want to sing. As a family, me and my brothers and sisters used to sing as a little group. My mom and dad used to put us on the Easter program and have us sing.”

That path of singing and performing went from the church to high school for Rodgers.

“I did a lot of singing in high school for assemblies, then I went to west Tennessee for vocal competitions,” she said. “That was when I realized that this is what I want to do. My very first trip to Germany was my first professional show. I didn’t want to have no kids, I didn’t want to get married, I wanted to be able to go and sing at any moment.”

Although she’s called Chicago home for several years now, Rodgers’ formative years were spent down south in Memphis.

“I used to work on Beale Street at this place called the Club Royale. There was this guy from Chicago that came to Memphis twice a year, because he had a farm in Mississippi. On his way back to Chicago from Mississippi, he would stop in Memphis to hear me. He did that for five years,” Rodgers said. “One time, he asked me if I would come up (to Chicago) for either his 40th or 50th birthday and sing at it. I said that I would. The club I sang in there was the Sandpiper and they received me so well that they asked me to stay another week.”

That one week quickly turned into a whole lot more and Rodgers has been a fixture on the Windy City scene ever since. Once she hit Chicago, her boundaries really started expanding at a rapid rate.

“Chicago has so many different opportunities. I got into theater and started doing plays … there was just so much to do,” she said. “I really do think that Chicago was just where I was supposed to be.”

When Rodgers hits the stage, fireworks are bound to go off. She’s part ministry, part night club and one limitless bundle of energy on the bandstand. it’s usually not long before she has her audience eating out of the palm of her hand. This is even more remarkable when Rodgers reveals a part of her personality that many may have missed.

“I used to sing all the time, but I was shy. When I got ready to audition for the USO tour of Germany (on her first professional gig), this guy (involved in the tour) came up to me and said, ‘Chick, you have a beautiful voice, but you need to get off that microphone stand and engage your crowd.’ He told me what to do, and ever since I saw that it worked, that’s what I’ve been doing,” she said. “He told me to make sure to find someone in the crowd to sing to and to take that mic off the stand and move around the stage. I mean, it didn’t happen overnight – it took years of experience for me to get where I am. It’s something I’ve had to work at.”

The incident that really set the wheels in motion for Rodgers to become one of the brightest stars on the soul scene took place back in the late 1980s in Memphis. It was there that she went from being a face in the crowd to the talk of the town, overnight.

Rodgers was in the back row at a Patti LaBelle concert when the star of the show innocently asked if there was anybody in the audience that could sing.

That led to …

“I was way, way in the back and was with my God sister and her husband. When she (LaBelle) asked if anyone could sing, three guys (out of the audience) went up there. She was like, ‘No, no. I need some real singers,'” explained Rodgers. “So my God brother picked me up and literally put me up on the stage. He pushed me, so I had no other choice … I had to do what I do or fall-out.”

Rodgers didn’t ‘fall-out’; instead, she delivered a rendition of LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade” that left everyone in attendance – including LaBelle herself – speechless.

“I took the mic and she looked at me like, ‘You can sing? You’re too little.’ I opened my mouth and sang and then I got nervous and tried to give her the mic back and she was like, ‘No! Hell No. You go ahead and finish this !#*! song!’ So I did,” Rodgers said. “That’s how that happened. I was not going to go up there, because like I said, I was shy. If my God brother had not picked me up and put me up there, I just would have sat quietly in the back. It hit the newspapers the next day with an article about what happened.”

One of the things that has sat Rodgers apart from other talented vocalists is her refusal to get pigeon-holed into one style or one form of music. Sure, she can belt out the blues with the best of them, but when you get down to brass tacks, she really doesn’t consider herself to be a ‘blues singer.’

“I didn’t want to be considered strictly a blues singer, because I love and can sing so many other different styles. I just didn’t like the idea about singing about how pitiful my life has been,” she said. “I didn’t want to sing that kind of blues. I wanted to sing soul music. So I was able to mix different styles and still be able to work on the blues circuit.”

It was when she first hit Chicago and started trying to find a steady gig that Rodgers learned that her mix of styles was welcomed with open arms by the movers and shakers on the scene, although a few other artists didn’t share that same thought process.

“It was when I first went and auditioned at the Kingston Mines for a job when I first got here. My first songs at the audition were “Dr. Feelgood” and Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train To Georgia.” He (the club owner) heard those songs and hired me on the spot,” she said. “I got a lot of mouth about that from some of the other female blues singers who said, ‘She ain’t singing no blues … that’s soul music. How is she going to get a job in a blues club singing that stuff?’ Well, I told them up front, I’m not a blues singer, per-say. I can sing the blues if that’s what the job calls for, but I can do so much more than that, too. Just don’t look for me to do a whole set of the straight delta blues … no way. I don’t sing like that.”

According to Rodgers, the message contained within the song is what matters most at the end of the day.

“Blues has a message, too, but soul music is just powerful … I mean, I really can’t explain it. But let me say this – what comes from the heart, reaches the heart. And if you sing soul music, it has to come from the heart. That’s the way I relate the power of soul music,” she said. “I sing from the heart and in order to get it over, it has to have a message. Nobody wants to hear about people being depressed. People want to hear songs that are uplifting and talk about love. People want to hear inspirational music. That’s what I sing.”

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 Live Blues Review – Crossroads Blues Festival 

The 2015 Crossroads Blues Festival was held on August 29th, 2015 in Lyran Park. Lyran Park is a privately owned facility located on the Kishwaukee River and Kilbuck Creek in Rockford, Il.

The weather very early on Saturday morning was awful. Torrents of rain fell from the sky and the noise woke me hours before I planed to rise. Around 8 AM the torrents became a sprinkle and by 9 AM it was essentially done. The skies remained grey and temperatures only reached the mid 70’s but we took it because the following week temperatures soared. It was comfortable and about 2,000 blues fans made their way to Lyran Park to appreciate the myriad of sounds presented to them.

The beer was flowing with a great selection of regular and craft beers, ciders, wines, and more. Food vendors sold out of some items due to the great demand and crowd, but there was plenty of “good eats” to go around! We also raffled off another cigar box guitar. Opening the day was Jimmy Nick and Don’t Tell Mama, setting the bar high for the other bands that followed. Jimmy was great, doing his high energy act for the fans while playing his great blues, rock and rockabilly. Rodney Brown on tenor sax adds a great dimension to Jimmy’s band.

Dan Phelps added his great Delta blues between sets and Justin “Boots” Gate led our harmonica workshop. I think we sold out of harmonicas!

Stormcellar from Australia is led by the great harp and vocal front man Michael Barry. Joining him on lead vocals was the six foot chanteuse Jo Fitzgerald; she is an imposing figure on stage who sings sweetly and with great emotion. Rosie and Mr. Wizard on dual guitars, Theo on drums and the quiet Bill on bass give their roots blues country rock a savory sound that all enjoyed.

The Mike Wheeler Band put on a funk filled set of Chicago blues that showcased his fine guitar work. Mike worked the crowd and built things to a frenzy with his stellar axe work. He showed everyone why his band is one of the hottest acts in Chicago!

Dave Specter made his second appearance at a Crossroads outdoor event. Sharon Lewis joined him again and Brother John Kattke was on keys and vocals. The back line was star studded with Harlan Terson on bass and Kenny “Beady Eyes” Smith on drums. Dave had them on the edge of their seats and up dancing, playing stuff from his great 2014 release Message in Blue. He mixed up some classics and some of Sharon’s stuff to create a marvelous set of music that was greatly appreciated by the crowd.

Albert Castiglia headlined; things were about a half hour late by then and Albert ran until after 10 PM with a superb set. With Matt Shuler on bass and Chris Schnebelen on drums, they are a tight power trio with a ridiculously wonderful sound. The crowd went wild for them, loving each song and filling the dance area on each song.

The 2015 festival is over. What a great day of music! The weather cooperated; it was cloudy but the rains departed and we had a dry day. Right around 2,000 people attended and all of them seemed to have a great time. Thanks to them and all who support live music! See you in 2016! Save the date- August 27, 2016 for the Seventh Annual Crossroads Blues festival at Lyran Park!

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2015

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



 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 5 

Al Grigg – Blues and Other Things

Self Release

www.algrigg.com

7 tracks / 29:52

Al Grigg has enjoyed a pretty cool music career since his 1975 debut album with one of the pioneer indie bands, The Flying Dogs of Jupiter. Since then he has done a little bit of everything, from playing with a 50s/60s tribute band, to traveling to three continents while living overseas for a decade. Al returned to the United States in 2010 and formed The Fine Line, who he still plays with in the New York / New Jersey area. He gets out on his own too, with an upcoming tour abroad and a new solo CD to entertain his fans.

Blues and Other Things is the latest self-produced album from Grigg, and he did all of the heavy lifting on this one. Al wrote all seven of the songs (some of them from Flying Dogs of Jupiter albums), took the lead on all of the vocals, and played all of the guitar and drum parts. Guest artists Greta Tristram (harmonica) and Frank Kaiser (rhythm guitar) joined him on this project.

Looking at the sleeve for this disc, it appears that Al Grigg is a bit of tone junkie, as he made notes of the different guitars and amplifiers that he used to get the desired sounds in the studio. It certainly worked out well, as you will hear in the opener, “All the Way Home.” This is a country rocker with hard and crunchy overdriven guitars, and Al’s voice goes all the way from smooth to jagged — he can really howl out the lyrics! This is followed up by a more straight-up blues tune, “Your Meal Ticket (I Ain’t Gonna Be),” which uses two or three layers of guitars to achieve a fun and bouncy beat under Griggs smorgasbord of double entendres.

Keeping thing moving, the next tune is “It Just Don’t Have to Be That Way,” which provides a healthy dose of smooth rhythm and blues to accompany the heavy lyrics. Grigg lays down a very tasteful guitar solo on this one, and he has a wonderful feel for the instrument. Then the mood turns to country blues with “Dead End Boogie” which has some well-placed harp from Tristam and plenty of catchy guitar licks.

There are a also a three rock (or maybe even pop) tracks. “I’m Gonna Jump Right Into the Fire” and “In Cecelia’s Garden” are well constructed, as their lush instrumentation and vocal harmonies go well with the lyrics which are thoughtful with good imagery. Finally, the set finishes up with seven minutes of “American Dream,” a hard-hitting Flying Dogs of Jupiter rocking jam where Grigg and Tristam get to finally cut loose with everything they’ve got.

So, after listening to the whole thing it turns out that the album title is true: this CD really is full of blues and other things!

As this release comes in at a bit under 30 minutes it would have been nice to squeeze in a few more tracks. This being said, all seven of the songs are solid; Al Grigg did a fine job with Blues and Other Things, and it is an entertaining listen for fans of blues and blues-related music. Check out his website for winter tour information as there are shows listed for the UK and Ireland, with more dates to be announced soon.

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 

Arlen Roth – Slide Guitar Summit

Aquinnah Records

www.arlenroth.com

14 tracks/61:05 running time

Celebrated guitarist Arlen Roth’s latest album offering is a virtual primer for the current state of practitioners of the art of slide guitar. This collaboration includes nine, (count ‘em, nine) skilled summiteers in the disciplines of slide, lap steel and rhythm guitars.

The production is anchored around the memory of (and dedicated to) guitar giant Johnny Winter who’s contribution was one of his last recording sessions. Hence, Roth writes in the liner notes, “This album is dedicated to the memory of the late great JOHNNY WINTER, who was an inspiration to us all. Thank you Johnny, for being a part of this project that is so close to my heart.

The album also boasts appearances by Sonny Landreth, Lee Roy Parnell, Cindy Cashdollar, David Lindley, Greg Martin, Jack Pearson, Rick Vito and Jimmy Vivino. Roth’s song selection is stellar, combining writers from the Pop canon ; Acker Bilt, Laura Nyro, Smokey Robinson, Jackie Brenston and Lowell George with Country; Jimmie Rodgers, Blues; Robert Johnson, Professor Longhair and Western Swing; Leon McAuliffe. Mr. Roth also includes a couple of original compositions.

The opening track “Do What’s Right,” penned and sung by Allman Brothers Band Alum Jack Pearson sets a good rockin’ tone for what is to come. Robert Johnson’s “Dust My Broom” embellishes the Elmore James mold, recasting it with a double dose of slide for a driving, point and counterpoint effect. “Sonny Skies” written by Roth in deference to the great Sonny Landreth who also plays on the track. evokes along with the similarly themed “Stranger On The Shore,” that Santo & Johnny early Rock & Roll, lap steel feel.

Other standout tracks include the traditional “Poor Boy Blues” with vocal by Jimmy Vivino, Roth and Rick Vito’s suprising take on the Motown grinder, “You Really Got A Hold On Me. David Lindley and Roth do credible work on Professor Longhair’s “Her Mind Is Gone.” “Amazing Grace” with Greg Martin lends a spiritual touch to the proceedings.

Other players rounding out the participating musicians are Producer Tom Hambridge on drums on tracks 1 ,2, 6, 9, 10, 12 and 14. Shannon Ford and Tyger MacNeal contribute drums on racks 3 and 4 respectively. Tommy McDonald plays bass on tracks 1 ,2 ,6, 9, 10, 12 and 14. Scott Spray plays bass on track 5. Eddie Denise plays upright bass on tracks 3 & 4. He plays bass guitar on track 11. On track 6 Kevin McKendree lends piano support along with backup vocals by Bob & Etta Britt.

Speaking of vocals, a nice touch might’ve been to have Johnny Winter sing the vocal on “Rocket 88.”

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



 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 5 

Travis Haddix – It’s My Turn Now – The Best Of

www.travishaddix.net

Blues Critic Records

18 songs – 74 minutes

Like a fine wine, Travis Haddix continues to provide great pleasure as he matures. If anything, he might be still improving. Now approaching 80 years old, he shows no signs of slowing down his relentless touring and recording – hot on the heels of his latest studio CD, Love Coupon, which was favorably reviewed in the 14 September 2015 issue of Bluesblast Magazine, comes It’s My Turn Now – The Best Of.

As the title indicates, It’s My Turn Now is a retrospective of Haddix’s career, although when you have released 20 albums as a solo artist, selecting the tracks for a “Best Of” album cannot be a simple task. Perhaps reflecting the consistency of his recordings over the years, Haddix has selected one track from each of 12 different albums, together with two from Winners Never Quit and four new recordings. And the consistently high quality of his songs and performances over the years is striking.

Long time listeners to Haddix’s music will know what to expect: funky modern blues, well executed, with clever (and often risqué) lyrics sung in that sly, half-spoken style that recalls the great Albert Collins. The four new songs feature the crack band of Ed Lemmers on bass, Gil Zachary on piano and keys, Jeremy Sullivan and Derick Cooley on drums, David Pritchett on organ, Bob Frank on rhythm guitar and the wonderful horns of David Ruffin (tenor sax), Norm Tischler (alto sax), T.J. Fortunato (baritone sax) and Scott Tenney (trumpet). Each song sits perfectly with the other tracks on the album. “Go On From There with Prayer” is a gospel-infused ballad with lovely organ from Pritchett. “Two Heads Are Better Than One” is an upbeat, one-chord funky little number with nice horns in which Haddix (with tongue firmly in cheek) blames his outré lyrics on his wife. The slow blues of “It’s My Turn Now” is classic old-school Chicago blues, with a belting solo from Haddix and “Put Your Finger In It” is a fine mid-paced blues with a guitar riff that hints at Hubert Sumlin’s famous “Killing Floor” lick, if it had been played by Steve Cropper.

Highlights abound. The BB King-esque solo on “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” is outstanding. It’s impossible to listen to the wry lyrics of “Cialis Before I See Alice” without a smile, as Haddix laments over a stop-time verse: “I know a lady named Alice, she lives way across town. I know what Alice wants every time I come around. I’m almost as old as sin and I’m running out of pep. Every now and then, I need a little help. I need Cialis before I see Alice.” And the pop groove and restraint on “Winners Never Quit” is simply glorious.

For his fans, It’s My Turn Now – The Best Of is a fine reminder of the consistently high quality of Travis Haddix’s music over the years, and is worth picking up for the four new tracks. If you haven’t heard Haddix before, this is a great place to start.

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 

Omar Coleman – Born & Raised

Delmark Records

14 tracks

Omar Coleman’s sophomore release is a nice set of all-original tunes done up in a great Westside manner and shows us that the blues remain alive and well in the Windy City. Backed by Pete Galanis on guitar, Neal O’Hara on piano and organ, Ari Seder on bass, Marty Binder on drums, and three great guest guitar players, the album is a tight and jumping set of cuts.

“Tryin’ To Do Right” is a nice uptempo Chicago blues with some great guitar solo work by Galanis and harp by Coleman. It’s a great kickoff to the CD. “Man Like Me” features Toronzo Cannon on guitar and he comes in for his big distorted solo after a big harp solo by Omar. Coleman growls and the backline drives a hot beat here. “Sit Down Baby” funks it up a bit. O’Hara’s organ and Galanis’ fuzzy tones add to great vocals by Coleman. He gives a dirty harp solo to add to the mood here. The tempo drops for “I Was A Fool,” a nice little soulful blues ballad. Thoughtful performances and restraint are the key here. One of only two songs to exceed 5 minutes length, Coleman uses the pace and phrasing to fill that time effectively. Mike Wheeler has an extended one and then he and Coleman trade vocals for licks to close things out. “Wishing Well” is a tune where Omar talks about eating crow and working two jobs and perhaps even having to get some assistance via a wishing well to get his girl back. Another set of nice efforts by Wheeler on his solos.

“Slow Down Baby” opens with a dirty harp intro and then Coleman and the band get into a driving boogie woogie. O’Hara has been solid throughout and here he really nails the piano boogie. Coleman lays out some decent harp and later David Herrero offers a big solo with some mean echo for effect. “Lucky Man” is a forthright cut where Coleman tells us how lucky he is in his relationship. Galanis offers some huge guitar in support and the band builds up into a big finish for Coleman’s last chorus and his harp takes us out. “I Don’t Want No Trouble” is a mid-tempo blues with a forthright performance by Omar. He explains to his woman he will give his woman what she wants to keep things cool. He dirties it up again on harp, continuing to offer a very distinct tone that blends grease and dirt from the West Side of Chicago. “You Got a Hold on Me” again starts with the harp intro and then Omar shouts out the lead. Bouncy and rocking stuff in this cut- it’s made for dancing. Toronzo Cannon solos again in a big way. “Born and Raised” is a bio song of sorts, blending funk into the mix again as Coleman testifies he needs to make ends meet and the Mayor ain’t helping. A big harp solo and a driving beat sell this one. Simple lyrics, yet they are direct and effective and the band pushes this along. Galanis offers a magnificent solo near the end, too.

Things slow down for “One Request,” another soul ballad. Coleman explains to his woman how he wants to have and raise a child with her. He’ll take the lead with a boy and she can do so with a girl, but either way he begs his woman to enter into this partnership. Galanis nicely solos late in the song again and O’Hara’s piano helps set the emotions here. It’s the longest cut on the album at almost 6 minutes. “Tell Me What You Want” goes back to funkiness. Omar begins with a like spoken suggestion and then breaks into asking his girl what she wants and needs. Nice harp solo with organ and guitar backing and then the guitar gets to lead with the organ in support. Dave Herrero is on guitar again here. “I Know You Been Cheating” is a samba of sorts with Omar telling his woman off. A big harp solo/lead lets Coleman set the tone. Galanis comes in later for his solo and then Coleman closes with another nice one. The set concludes with “Raspberry Wine,” a nice mid-tempo blues with a great guitar and then an organ solo. The band takes us out on the vocals as Coleman testifies about the wine.

Coleman and company do a very good job here. The songs don’t drag, the pace is brisk and the musicians are together. The regular band is great and the addition of Cannon, Wheeler and Herrero add some of Chi-Town’s best blues guitarists to an already great mix. I liked the album a lot. The mix is dirty and real, perhaps trying to get an old school sound to the album. It works. If you want to hear original Chicago blues done well, then go no further and pick this one up!

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


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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: 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. 26 – Rockin Johnny

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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