Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2016
In This Issue
Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Otis Taylor. We have 4 Blues music reviews for you including reviews of Laura Rain And The Caesars, Husky Tones, Kai Hoffman and Kim Nalley. Marilyn Stringer has photos and commentary from the Phoenix Blues Society’s Blues Blast Festival.
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Featured Blues Review – 1 of 4
Laura Rain And The Caesars – Gold
12 songs – 49 minutes
Laura Rain And The Caesars went old-school to record this album, their third release, which seamlessly blends vintage blues, soul, R&B and funk for the New Age while guaranteeing to keep you on the dance floor. Based in Detroit, they headed to nearby Pontiac, Mich., to lay down all of the originals you’ll hear here on a 16-track analog tape recorder.
Rain, who possesses a powerful voice with exceptional range, and band leader/producer/songwriting partner George Friend, a veteran of Janiva Magness’, rockabilly legend Robert Gordon’s and the Soul Messengers bands, tied the knot since the release of their previous album, the well-reviewed Closer.
They’re aided here by several of the best musicians in the Motor City as they bring this album chock full of retro soul to fruition. Joining in on the fun are Duncan McMillan (keyboards), Johnny Evans (tenor sax), Mark Kieme (baritone sax), John Douglas (trumpet) Darryl Pierce, Scott Veenstra, Leonard King and Rich Beamon (drums and percussion), and James Simonson and Gwenyth Hayes (bass).
While they’re based in the Motor City, their music is more of a throwback to what was termed Northern soul. It was a musical style that originated in the discotheques of Northern England, based primarily out of Manchester’s Twisted Wheel Club, and was popular from about 1963 through the early ’70s. It delivered a style of R&B that included artists that delivered music with a harder edge that the smoother, stylized offerings of Detroit. The sounds came from bands in Chicago, Memphis and Atlanta as well as local bands as depicted in the movie, “The Commitments.”
A catchy rhythmic hook kicks off “Work So Hard.” As it percolates and quickly gains intensity, it offers a glimmer of hope for folks who have to toil in a job for an uncaring boss: “You work so hard, hard, hard every day/There’s a better way…They can’t see the shine in your eyes/They don’t know how hard you will try.” The message carries over with a Latin feel as it focuses on the plight of musicians in “Hard Times.” Despite the struggle, Laura vows to continue to “break all the rules” as she sings the blues.
The rhythm section drives “You Can’t Stop,” a dark, terse complaint about a lover who repeats the same mistakes while the vocalist searches for a way to make her escape. The sensual “Pay To Play” is a medium-tempo grinder with a heavy bottom that details dealing with another problem child of a man whose terse words cut to the bone despite the vocalist’s labor to make the relationship work.
The mood brightens for the horn-propelled “Gold.” Laura sings praise for an easy-going lover’s strength as he steadfastly deals with adversity. The relationship theme continues with “Guilty Me,” a slow shuffle about one’s struggle to maintain sanity while dealing with the choice of having fallen for someone else while still in a union with another man. Friend’s guitar play is at its bluesy best throughout.
Next up, “Raise Your Hand” isn’t the Eddie Floyd classic song from the ‘60s, but a funky statement that you’ve got to labor on when “your foundation cracks and you lose your ground.” The blues ballad “Lonely Girl” deals with lies from two-timing lover, while “Cherry Pickin’” echos ‘60s Detroit soul as it delivers a message with heavy sexual overtones. The singer feels the heat when a certain man is near, but knows he doesn’t deserve her. She warns him: “Don’t pick my cherries!”
“Ring On The Table” follows and is head-and-shoulders my favorite song in the set. It’s an instant-classic break-up ballad set up by a spoken-word introduction. “You don’t have to yell any more to make your case,” Rain insists. “My tears are dry and I’m not looking to save face…My heart has bled, and my soul has cried.” She simply leaves the ring behind and walks away.
Two more originals conclude the set. “Better Than Me” is a realization that an ex is better off with his new woman, while “Ready To Love” brings things to a positive end despite all the woes described earlier on the disc. Finally, the singer’s learned her lessons and is eager to start over again.
Available through all of the major retailers, Gold glistens from the jump. It’s bluesy R&B with a modern message and familiar feel.
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.
2016 Blues Blast Music Award Submission Are Now Open
The 2016 Blues Blast Music Awards series has begun. Submissions are open until April 15th, 2016. The Blues Blast Music Awards are the largest fan voted Blues awards on the planet. But hurry! Submissions end April 15,2016!
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2016 Phoenix Blues Blast Festival
This year’s Blues Blast Festival in Phoenix couldn’t have gone off any better – perfect weather, perfect sound, great crowd, and a great lineup. Held at Margaret T. Hance in downtown Phoenix, the Blues Blast has plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy the day, with vendors lining the perimeter, food booths, and Four Peaks brewery pumping out great craft beer all day. One of the greatest ideas they do is to cover the entire length of the festival fence with white paper and all day long the kids, and adults, paint whatever they wish. By the end of the day the blues graffiti mural is pretty enjoyable.
The festival is one day but it actually begins the night before at The Rhythm Room. Bob Corritore usually books a pretty big act for the Pre-Party and this year was no exception. Also, it was John Primer’s Birthday Party and he was joined by Henry Gray and The Rhythm Room All-Stars, which include Brian Fahey (drums), Troy Sandow (bass) and Big Jon Atkinson (guitar). With a guest appearance by Bob Margolin, and Bob on harmonica, it was a night of great Chicago Blues.
The Blues Blast always begins with the National Anthem, the VFW Post 9400 Color Guard, and this year Ray DeSylvester played a beautiful harmonica rendition of the anthem.
Singer/songwriter Eric Ramsey started out the festival with his solo set. Eric won the solo/duo competition at the Blues Showdown in 2015 with his downhome, country blues, and competed at the IBC’s in January.
Celebrating 25 years of blues in the Phoenix area, the next few hours were a showcase of Phoenix bands. With nine bands rotating on/off the stage for 15 minute sets, it was a great way to get a taste of the talent the area has to offer. All the bands were great!
Band 1: Toolshed with Gypsy: Gypsy/Genevieve Castorena- vocal/harmonica; Darryl Porras-guitar; Anthony “Bluesdog” Smith-drums; Hooter’s Blues-Bass; Rick Carr-guitar.
Band 2: Hoodoo Casters: Big Mike Simpson-guitar; Boyd White-harmonica; Hooter’s Blues-bass; Michael Hutchison-drums; Mike Dotson-Guitar.
Band 3: J Powers Band: Joann Powers-vocals; John Hobart-keys; Michael Black-bass; Mike Mattingly-drums; Rick Henry-guitar.
Band 4: JC & Juke Rockers: JC/John Chavez-guitar; Curt Arndt-bass; Vince Curtis-drums.
Band 5: Tommy Grills & Tom Dukes: Tom Dukes-guitar; Tommy Grills-guitar; Brian Bookman-bass; Delmar Stewart-drums.
Band 6: Nina Curri & Dan Rutland.
Band 7: Jim Glass Band: Jim Glass-guitar; Mike Ghornley-bass; Tom Molton-sax; Warren Senyk-vocals; Chris Welk-Percussion; James Baily-rubboard.
Band 8: Sistas Too: Rochelle Raya-harmonica; Lila Sherman-vocals; Jim Robertson-guitar; Mike Lewis-guitar; Ricky Lockhart-drums; Rocky Heyer-bass.
Band 9: Bob Corritore/Dave Riley & Juke Joint Blues Band: Bob Corritore-harmonica; Dave Riley-guitar; Johnny Rapp-guitar; Joni Riley-bass; Brian Fahey-drums.
The next full set was Smokestack Lightning who are all members of the Gila River Indian Community and have been together since 2009. They were nominated in 2011 for a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Blues Recording for their album “Soul Left Blind.” In 2014 they took second, and in 2015 took first, in the Arizona Blues Showdown and competed at the IBC’s this January. The members are: Mark Leos – Bass; Pat Antone – Drums; Rik Leos – Guitar; and Robert Jackson – Harp.
One of the tightest, most energetic bands on the West Coast, the Laurie Morvan Band, hit the stage with a bang and never let up the whole set. Laurie is a true blues master on the guitar and the crowd loved her. The whole band always has a great time and unable to hold herself back, Laurie grooved her way through the audience, ending up doing a duet with an air guitar player in the audience! The band includes: Pat Morvan-bass; Lisa Morvan-vocals; Tommy Salyers-keys; and Lonnie Jones-drums.
Closing out the day was Canned Heat. 50 years have seen a few changes in the members but original band leader/drummer Fito de la Parra and original bassman Larry “The Mole” Taylor are still going strong. New Orleans legend Dale Spalding covers the guitar, harmonica, and lead vocals, and John “JP” Paulus is filling in for Harvey Mandel on guitar. True to form, Canned Heat put on a great show and the festival ended with some the best, classic blues and Americana music we all have loved our entire lives.
Big thanks and congratulations to the Phoenix Blues Society for another great, well run, friendly festival!! The volunteers and board members are some of the most committed people in the blues community who continue to serve Arizona with great shows and blues news all year long!! (www.phoenixblues.org)
Photos and commentary by Marilyn Stringer © 2016
Featured Blues Interview – Otis Taylor
Otis Taylor is fun to write about because he’s so unique. He’s always changing his game. He doesn’t fit any of the stereotypes we associate with blues. It’s impossible to grade him on the authenticity scale, because it’s irrelevant to his sound, and it doesn’t matter anyway because if you like blues, you’re going to love Otis. He’s African American, but that defines him about as accurately as it did Jimi Hendrix. In other words he transcends all the boxes journalists and record company A&R guys like to stick on musicians.
Not only is he unique, but he’s a character to boot. A couple of examples: he used to ride to high school in Boulder, Colorado, on a unicycle playing a banjo. His wife, a librarian, told him his first album would be his last. Fifteen albums in, she’s still telling him that. After all, when she married him he was an antique dealer. He calls his music trance blues, but its psychedelic strains owe nothing to drugs because he’s never taken any even though his mother was a heroin dealer.
Guitar Player magazine has labelled him the hardest interview they ever did. He’s great on small talk, but sometimes he treats serious questions as if you’d just asked him his favorite color. I booked him for a gig with my blues society in 1999 after When Negroes Walked The Earth came out. He drew about 45 people, but nearly all of them bought the album.
When I called this time for our scheduled interview, he asked if I could call him back because he was in the bathroom. I did and we spent 10 minutes talking about everything from Donald Trump to silverware which he says is the best antique value in the current market. Finally he asked, “Anyway, you want to ask me something,” and we were off.
Hey Joe Opus Red Meat was my favorite album of 2015. On it Otis takes the ’60s, chestnut “Hey, Joe,” vamps on it with such sophisticated arrangements, you have to keep reminding yourself that this isn’t Miles Davis slumming in psychedelia. “This is the hardest album I ever did,” he reveals.
“Because I had to work from both ends into the middle ’cause it’s an opus. It continues. Did you listen to the whole thing all in one sitting? It just keeps on going. If you don’t look at the whole thing and just close your eyes, you don’t know where you are sometimes.”
Did he jam the whole thing at once?
“No, but I had to work on it. It was hard. Wasn’t easy. Releases were hard. Everything was hard. I had to just figure it out. I tried to do something different. I always do “Hey, Joe” live, so what the hell? Why not do it? It’s the only cover I do. So, I thought you know, I just try to think of something different, but I lost my record company (Telarc) over it because they weren’t too excited about it.”
Turns out Otis liked Love’s version of “Hey, Joe” better than Hendrix’s. “When I was a kid, I was upset that Hendrix did it so slow. I didn’t understand it. That’s like this is really slow. Then I got into it later, you know.”
Love was a mid-60s pop rock band led by a charismatic British singer Arthur Lee. “In ’64 or ’65 I wanted to be a mod just like Arthur Lee because the band had two black guys and two white guys. I thought that was really cool because you didn’t have that many black rockers. That was really rare. I was so into Love. I was a kid, still a teenager, you know. I liked pop stuff. I liked folk music. I liked all kinds of music. I wasn’t just a folk blues guy. I liked old timey. I wasn’t so much into jazz, but I liked soul music. I like pop music, certain pop music. I wasn’t a big Beatles guy. I was more Stones.”
Our interview took place just after six days in the studio recording his next album. He was in the mood to talk process which is really private territory for a man who may be one of the most outré musicians since the Haight Ashbury cats changed the definition of rock in the 60s.
“There are two types of people who listen to records: the ones who are very technical like the engineers, the guys who work in the studio, or the audiophile guys that super listen for everything. Then, there’s people that just hear the emotion of the song. I make songs for the emotion of the songs, not too much for the audiophile. I don’t make records for other engineers or other producers. I go for the emotion. So, if there’s a mistake, I’d rather keep the emotion than sacrifice being perfect. It’s just a style.”
Most of the musicians were recorded live on Hey, Joe except for guitarist Warren Haynes.“We sent him the tapes. Warren was the only one not in the studio with me.I did that with the last two albums. I had Gary Moore play on the first one. I had Gary Moore in the studio in England because I didn’t know him too well. After that, I’d just send him the tapes. So, I just sent Warren the tapes. They’re incredible musicians. They know what you want. I give everybody – every lead guitar player to play what he likes, what he feels.
“You would have thought he was in the studio with us the way he played with Ron Miles who was in the studio. Everyone was there except Warren Haynes.He was blending with Ron Miles, the cornet player. So, you know, I thought he would go crazy, but he took a different look at it, but he was cool. What he did was like very subtle, very beautiful, you know. He gave me more textures in the album. You just tell stories and let the listener decide.”
Otis has been quoted saying, “Nobody records like me, so I don’t want to divulge anything, but it doesn’t sound like a song until I put all the parts together. I do the arrangements, but there’s always input from others. It’s always done in the moment. That’s why my records have a live feel.”
He confirmed that in our interview. “That’s’ true. That’s still the same. It’s like building a clay model. You get excited when you put all the parts together. I like playing in the studio the best in some ways ’cause I can control it, but a live concert if your amp blows up you’re f***ed. You have no control. A studio you can really control what you’re doing. Things come to me like dreams in the studio. It’s easy. I just hear things that other people don’t hear. It’s just really cool. It’s just a gift that I have. It’s just weird. And I haven’t lost it yet.
“I think I’m excited about the new album. I’ve just got to listen to it more. It’s not completely finished, and Todd, my bass player, he’s really excited about it, and I’m always worried about trying to go to like a new form.”
I remind him that he does just that every time.
“I know, but every time it gets harder. I kind of went into the studio with one idea, and I kinda went in a different direction and saw I’m very nervous about it because I had a couple of songs, we were messing around. I go, “God, this is cool.” This is what I was doing. I kinda switched directions somewhat from what I was gonna do. So now I have to figure it out.”
Otis takes on some hot racial issues, and some of his material approaches Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” in terms of taking one’s breath away, but he never passes judgment.
“Because I don’t want to be a hypocrate. I’m not a protest singer. I’m a story teller. I don’t want to be hypocritical. The tribes in Africa would kill each other, take their land and then they’d go and sell their prisoners to the Arab slave traders. The Arab slave traders would sell them to the Europeans. The Europeans would take them over and sell them to the people in America. So there’s still slavery in Indonesia.
“We just don’t know about it ’cause they keep indentured slaves, whatever. They have ways of enslaving people without saying you’re slaves. So, I just say there’s no clean dollars. I just don’t want to get too high and mighty. I always tell people I want to make enough money to have a Porsche. But now it’s an Audi. Audis are one of the sponsors of my festivals. So we have to say Audi. Can’t say Porsche anymore.”
When Otis first learned to play the banjo he was unaware the instrument originated in Africa. “I was scared that I was playing banjo. My banjo teacher had just passed away. I got to play at a party with this bluegrass band called the Dillards, and the guy I was playing in front of said, ‘Hey, you’re a really good picker. You could win one of those contests and go down south.’ I go, ‘Down where?’ It’s like late ’64, ’65. Kill me. I said, ‘I’d be dead. I didn’t want to play this f***ing music. It would kill me,’ and I stopped.
“My idol has always been Charlie Pride. He did more inroads in racism and never got any credit for it. Crossed more bridges and never got any credit. And those were hard bridges to cross. Charlie Pride was a phenomenon. People just didn’t realize it.”
Born in Chicago in 1948, Otis moved with his family to Denver after his uncle was shot to death. His father hung out with jazz people, smoked pot and was “a real bebopper.” His mom was “tough as nails.” Otis calls himself “the black sheep of the family.” Straight as an arrow, he hung out the Denver Folklore Center playing banjo and listening to Mississippi John Hurt.
“I was straight, but I was hanging out with all the hippies and beatniks. I wasn’t doing drugs. My parents smoked pot. My father hung out with jazz musicians. It was subterranean. I just lived a different lifestyle, more like beboppers. You know what I mean?”
He has no idea if his “trance music” enhances a high. “I can’t tell ya if it does or not ’cause I don’t do drugs. So I really don’t know, but I know you don’t need that to get into a trance. You’ve seen my music. There’s people that listen to songs as we play em. That’s what jazz is. It’s repetition. Voodoo music is the ultimate trance music, and there’s no chord changes in drums. Voodoo, voodoo. That’s Haitian music. That’s just drums. Know what I’m saying? It’s all repetition.”
Otis rushed into the studio in 2010 record Clovis People Vol. 3 (Three is no Volume 1 or 2) after he was diagnosed with cancer, not knowing if he would survive his operation. “I had a heart attack, too, you know.I had a heart attack eight days before I went on the Blues Cruise. I had a stint put in my heart.”
Did it change his approach to creating music?
“I was in a lot of pain. So that was one problem You know, pain has no memory, so I don’t have the same memory as I had at the time. It’s like I’m not having that pain right now, so I don’t really relate to it. It’s like I just said, “F***, this could be my last songs I ever write or sing.”
So, if Otis gives some one-word answers to journalist questions, perhaps it’s just who he is. “What’s wrong with one word? I’m not a man with a lot of words in my songs. It’s funny, people say I write about very uncommercial, very edgy things, and then they want to edit me like Mary Poppins. Listen to my f***ing music. I’m not trying to depress anybody. I’m just trying to make interesting music.
Otis lives in many worlds, and he’s comfortable in all of them. His first professional musical work was with Tommy Bolen of the rock group T Rex. He became an antiques dealer after a proposed deal with the British blues recording company Blue Horizon fell through. His daughter Cassie, herself a blues musician, is now married, has a baby and is living in Kansas. But Otis’ body of blues recordings is impressive and his live concerts are always transcendent .
“People work hard for their money. We try to entertain people. I’m like the Sammy Davis Jr. of the blues. My idols in performing are two people, the Pointer Sisters and then Buddy Guy. They’re great performers – then James Brown. They dare to entertain people. I come from a history of black people who get on stage and entertain people. So, I’m very conscious of entertaining people when I get on stage.”
Visit Otis’ website at www.otistaylor.com
Photos by Bob Kieser © 2016
Journalist Don Wilcock has been writing about blues for nearly half a century. He wrote Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues, the biography that helped Buddy Guy jumpstart his career in 1991. He’s interviewed more than 5000 Blues artists and edited several music magazines including King Biscuit Time.
Featured Blues Review – 2 of 4
Husky Tones – Time For A Change
Husky Tones Music
10 songs – 50 minutes
It isn’t unusual for Bristol, England, to produce musical talent – it’s the hometown of Acker Bilk, the first Brit ever to top American pop charts in the early ‘60s, as well as Bad Company, Tears For Fears and dozens of punk and New Wave bands – but the Husky Tones, a four-piece ensemble led by a singing female drummer, are a blues band rarity.
This is the debut release for the group, which began formation about 10 years ago when guitarist Chris Harper met singer/percussionist Victoria Bourne and was overwhelmed by her voice, range and versatility. The pair formed a lasting partnership on stage and off that resulted in bands in several different genres. But their love for the blues always bubbled beneath the surface when then where performing in groups that followed in the footsteps of Radiohead, Tim Buckley and others.
Husky Tones came about after the pair made a venture into musical theater. Despite being influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Buddy Guy, they deliver a relentless onslaught of modern blues, aided by Matt Richards on bass and Liam Ward on harmonica. All three men provide backing vocals on Time For A Change, which features 10 originals. Making a one-song guest appearance is Ken Pustelnik, drummer for the legendary British blues band, the Groundhogs.
The band’s sound is husky in name only, however. Bourne, who recorded the vocal and drum tracks simultaneously, is definitely more of a soprano and her voice becomes quite shrill when attacking notes in the upper register.
Ward’s harp line swings warmly to introduce “I’m So Happy I’ve Got The Blues,” in which Victoria explains that she’s better off after having lost everything and now has nothing to lose. The tune features an interesting stop-time hook that hangs on a whole note. Harper’s guitar playing is solid, but there’s a failure to sync when Ward provides backing rhythm. That memory fades quickly during a shining harp solo.
“I Dare You” races out of the gate before evolving into a blues-rocker as it delivers a six-minute challenge for a lover to change his lousy ways. “Uncle Walter” is a straight blues that describes a ne’er-do-well relative who’s a forger, thief and wife-beater. “Shelter” describes a relationship in which the singer feels more alone when in her lover’s company than when she’s all by herself.
“Fortune Seeker” offers a vow to keep trying to succeed despite seeming being immune to good luck, while “It’s A Bitter Love With You Every Time” offers up the realization that the singer’s been seduced by a smile and strong drink only to discover that she never should have given the man the time of day. The theme carries forward in “Give Me Love.” This time, the man gives her chills when he’s around, but he withholds affection.
The band touches on a familiar blues theme with “Rent Party,” the cycle of having to host a regular jam literally to keep the roof over their head, before the instrumental “Daybreak” and title tune, “Time For A Change,” conclude the set.
Available through the band’s website or the Microsoft store, Husky Tones offers up an interesting, albeit it flawed first effort. But it will be interesting to hear what they have to say on their next go-round.
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 – 3 of 4
Kai Hoffman – Luckiest Girl Alive
Broad Reach Records – 2015
14 tracks: 45 minutes
Kai Hoffman is an expat American living in London and this is her fourth album. Kai plays largely on the swing and jazz circuits (she has a regular gig at the famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London). On her fourth album Kai is backed by a combo of experienced players: Dan Faulkner on sax, Simon Picton on guitar, Liam Dunachie on piano, Dave O’Brien on bass and Mez Clough on drums; Nina Ferro adds backing vocals to three tracks. The material is a blend of ten 1950’s jazz and Rn’B tunes and four Kai originals but it is quite hard to tell which are which without the sleevenotes, all credit to Kai and her band for creating such authentic sounds.
The CD opens with Lieber and Stoller’s “Lucky Lips”, a hit for Ruth Brown in the USA and (perhaps less obviously) Cliff Richard in the UK! It’s a great tune with which to open as the sax underpins the sassy vocal – it must be guaranteed to get the dancers on to the floor live! Two Wynona Carr tunes follow, in contrasting styles: “Jump Jack Jump” is what one might expect from the title and features an excellent solo from Simon while “It’s Raining Outside” is a doo-wop piece with the band offering some good backing vocals and a fine sax solo. Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke were the writers of “Pennies From Heaven”; their less well-known “The Night Is Never Long Enough” is a jazz lounge ballad with late night piano and Kai sounding very seductive. Most of the songs here are quite short in length, none more so than the first original, the title track, a fast-paced rocker with plenty of piano and an exciting sax break. “TV Is The Thing This Year” is great with lots of double entendres – obviously from the title a song of a certain age, written by Phil Medley and William Sanford and originally recorded by Dinah Washington. “Star Of Fortune” is a jazz tune written by Bernie Bierman and has the same sort of exotic rhythms as Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” together with lyrical references to the Arabian Nights.
Kai and bassist Dave’s “Late Night Joints” is a classic jazz ballad with Kai describing the scene in the club: “Disappointment etched deep in the green tinged light of a late night bar where you can drink all night”. It’s the longest tune here and affords the opportunity for superb piano and sax work in the middle section. Lifting the mood is the classic “I Want You To Be My Baby”, Jon Hendricks’ song given a solid reading by the band, the rhythm section swinging like crazy and Kai handling the tongue-twisting lyrics very well. Another Kai/ Dave composition “Seat Of Your Pants” is a strong vehicle for Kai’s vocals and her solo tune “Hot Rockin’ Diva” does what the title suggests with hand claps and rocking piano accompanying Kai. Jesse Stone’s “Lies Lies Lies” was a vehicle for Annisteen Allen, a song in which the singer has discovered the truth and realises that she has been led astray; in “Deep Sea Ball” Kai returns to the rock n’ roll/doo-wop style, Scott Winfield’s song (recorded by Clyde McPhatter) running through some amusing images of the sea creatures present at the ball and sax player Dan having some fun. The album closes with a good interpretation of Henry Glover’s much-covered “Drown In My Own Tears”; not as dramatic as Ray Charles but excellently sung by Kai with the band in fine form as ever.
This is not strictly a blues album but will undoubtedly appeal to those who enjoy that musical place where vintage Rn’B and jazz intersect. This reviewer certainly enjoyed it!
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.
Featured Blues Review – 4 of 4
Kim Nalley – Blues People
14 songs time-71:29
Kim Nalley, a San Francisco, California based chanteuse presents a deep musical interpretation of African-American history and culture. Her songs touch on musical history as well as current events. The program is essentially that of a cabaret singer. The presentation has the feel of an intimate live performance. The band composition is pretty basic-keyboards, drums, guitar and bass used in various configurations. Kim’s voice is very versatile and enjoyable, although at times she draws more attention to her vocal gymnastics, veering away from the songs intended structure. That’s only a minor quibble as she possesses a very attractive and seductive voice. Her backing band handles blues, jazz, ballads, gospel and everything else with great talent and taste.
The classic “Summertime” receives a dramatic and drawn out delivery accompanied solely by Tammy Hall’s effective piano. Kim’s sensual vocalizing is fine, but she deconstructs the song to where the melody is nowhere to be found. The song is more about her showing off her voice.
Two songs, “Big Hooded Black Man” and Ferguson Blues” comment on the recent killings of unarmed blacks boys. In her impassioned pleas for justice in the latter song she fails to explain the reasoning behind the justification of the rioters destroying the property of innocent people.
The Eddie Harris and Les McCann medley of “Listen Here/Cold Duck/Compared To What?” is a refreshing jazz excursion utilizing the entire ensemble to great effect. She offers up two version’s of Mahalia Jackson’s spiritual classic “Trouble Of The World”, one with piano only and the other with the full band.
Kim Gives a gospel-y rendition of The Jeffersons television show theme song “Movin’ On Up”, turning it into an African-American anthem. A blues meets jazz treatment is given to “Never Make Your Move Too Soon”, a song associated with the late B.B. King. Guitarist Greg Skaff manades a close approximation of B.B.’s guitar style, then turns to a jazzier approach later in the song.
She gives an extra sexy double entendre delivery to Bessie Smith’s classic “Sugar In My Bowl”. Next up in this trio of bawdy songs is Dinah Washington’s “Trombone Song(Big Long Sliding Thing)” that is given a nice jazz ensemble reading. Lastly in the trio is Ruth Brown’s “The Chair Song(If I Can’t Sell It)” that clocks in at just over nine minutes, featuring solos by most of the band members.
Etta James’ “Sunday Kind Of Love” is done up in a lovely fashion. “Amazing Grace” is given a similar treatment as “Summertime” were the melody is nowhere to be found, accompanied only by Tammy Hall’s organ. Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” is treated to a nice gospel-y version, closing out the record.
Kim’s years of performing and collaborating with the likes of David “Fathead” Newman, Houston Person, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra among others has paid off, as she has created a rich tapestry of music associated with African-American culture. She has chosen top-shelf musicians to prop up her musical vision. The listener is treated to a live sounding night club performance in the privacy of their own living room…Nicely done!
Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.
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Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area
The Friends of the Blues start their 2016 Concert Series with Eleanor Tallie (and band) Thursday, March 24, 2016 7 pm, Moose Lodge 730 N Kinzie Ave (State Rt 50), Bradley IL Phone: (815) 939-3636 http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues
Madison Blues Society – Madison, WI
The Madison Blues Society Presents the 9th Annual Wild Women of the Blues Saturday April 2, 2016 at 8:00 P.M. at Badger Bowl 506 E. Badger Rd in Madison WI (608)274-6662.
This show features opening act: Maggie Alliotta & the Paul Filipowicz Band, and head liner- Katherine Davis & the Cash Box Kings with special guests Price- $15 advance/$18 dos, members $12 advance/$15 at the door.
In addition to recognizing and celebrating Blueswomen, this event is also a fundraiser for both MBS’s Blues in the Community programs, and for this year’s chosen beneficiary. For the past few years we’ve paired with an organization in the community that provides critical services to women. This year we’ve chosen the Dane County Rape Crisis Center as our beneficiary. Event details at our website: Info: www.madisonbluessociety.com/wild_women16.htm.
Ventura County Blues Society – Ventura, CA
The 11th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival on Saturday, April 30, in a new, bigger location at Studio Channel Islands in Camarillo, benefits Food Share and other local charities in Ventura County. Also features a Festival-ending All-Star Jam Tribute to the late BB Chung King. Info: www.venturacountybluessociety.org.
Santa Barbara Blues Society – Santa Barbara, CA
The Santa Barbara Blues Society, the oldest existing U.S. blues society, founded in March 1977, is proud to present award winning Bob Margolin and his trio at the Carrillo Recreation Center, 100 E. Carrillo St., on Saturday, March 12, 2016.
Margolin was lead guitarist in the band of the legendary bluesman Muddy Waters for seven years. He has released many albums of his own, played on many others, and is a renowned blues writer and educator as well as performer. He has been nominated for multiple Blues Music Awards (BMAs) by the Blues Foundation, and won twice as Best Guitarist of the Year.
Special guest at the show will be highly regarded harmonica player Bob Corritore, also a multiple BMA nominee.
Doors will open at 7:00 PM. From 7:15 to 7:45 Santa Barbara’s own lauded guitarist, Alastair Greene, and his band will play an opening set. Margolin, Corritore, and band will play 2 sets starting at 8:00 PM, with an intermission. There will be free BBQ snacks, an outdoor patio, and a large, spring-loaded dance floor.
For further information, log onto www.SBBlues.org, or leave a message at (805) 722-8155.
Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA
The Central Iowa Blues Society is now accepting applications for the 2016 Iowa Blues Challenge. This includes entries for both the Blues Band and Solo / Duo categories. Preliminary rounds begin April 24, 2016 and this year the finals will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at the Downtown Marriott in Des Moines.
Prize packages to the first place winners in each category include cash, 8 hours recording time courtesy of Junior’s Motel, opportunity for paid performances at area events and festivals throughout the year, and entry into and travel expenses for the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis TN.
Don’t delay! All entry material must be delivered to the Central Iowa Blues Society before the deadline on Friday, April 8, 2016. For an application and more information, go to www.cibs.org.
The 2016 Iowa Blues Challenge is sponsored by Budweiser, Summit Brewing Co., Junior’s Motel, Rieman Music, Zimm’s Food and Spirits, Lefty’s Live Music, River Music Experience, Cityview, Central Iowa Blues Society, Mississippi Valley Blues Society, South Skunk Blues Society and Southeast Iowa Blues Society.
Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA
The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents Alligator Records recording artist Selwyn Birchwood, and his band at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 10, at Kavanaugh’s Hilltop Tap, 1228 30th Street, Rock Island, IL. The cost to see this performance will be $10 if you are a Mississippi Valley Blues Society member, or $12 if you have not joined the Blues Society (application will be available at the door).
The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival is returning to LeClaire Park, Davenport, Iowa for the 31st year on July 1 and 2, 2016. More than 10 acts will be booked, bringing the audience an array of Blues music for 2-days starting at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 1 and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 2. Admission tickets will go on sale soon.
The acts for weekend are still being scheduled and the full lineup will be announced shortly. “We want the 2016 lineup to reach a wide audience while maintaining our Blues roots,” says Steve Heston, President of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. “We’re confident this year’s lineup, featuring local, regional, and national Blues acts, will do just that and we look forward to celebrating our thirty-first year with music fans from around the world.”
In 2016, guests can expect the return of favorite attractions such as Blueskool along with some new experiences which will also debut at the festival this year. MVBS is still seeking corporate and individual sponsorship to help offset this year’s event expenses. Individuals can give monetarily during the months leading up to the festival through attending the scheduled fundraising events and by donating through a Go-Fund-Me campaign. For additional corporate and individual sponsorship information visit www.mvbs.org.
MVBS’ mission is to present a 2-day Blues music experience along the Mississippi River that will maintain the integrity of the festival from the past 30 years.www.mvbs.org
The Lowcountry Blues Society – Charleston, SC
The Lowcountry Blues Society is pleased to announce the 12th annual Blues By the Sea featuring Mississippi Heat, Mac Arnold & Plate Full of Blues and Randy McAllister, Sunday, April 10, 230-7 pm at Freshfields Village Green, Kiawah Island, SC. (40 mins SE of Charleston)
The event is FREE and is brought to you by the Kiawah Island Cultural Events Fund. Rain or shine (we are tented) Bring a lawn chair or blanket, coolers OK! A great time for the entire family! http://lowcountrybluesclub.blogspot.com
Blues Society of Central PA – Harrisburg, PA
The Blues Society of Central PA welcomes Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone Star Revue featuring Mark Hummel, Anson Funderburgh, Little Charley Baty with Wes Starr and R.W. Grigsby on Sunday, April 17th 8:00 PM EST at Champions Sports Bar 300 2nd Street Highspire, PA 17034 Admission $15.00.
The Blues Society of Central PA hosts an open blues jam every Thursday evening for 17 years running at Champions Sports Bar, 300 2nd St. Highspire, PA 17034 8:00 PM EST FREE Please drop by and join us if you’re in the central PA area! www.bscpblues.org
Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, IL
Crossroads has lots of great blues events planned for 2016!
The Hope and Anchor English Pub in Loves Park, IL features shows on the second Saturday of each month from 8 pm to midnight. April 9th – Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, May 14th – The Jimmys
Blues in the Schools is also scheduled for February, Dan Phelps will be doing a two week in school BITS residency with East HS teaching song writing and guitar. The residency will culminate in an evening show on March 17th at East HS at 630 PM. Dan and the students will be performing the songs they wrote and showing the music videos they created based on the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” This event is free and open to the public.
Friday Night Blues at the Lyran Club in Rockford continues mostly on the third Friday of the month with a few other special dates to boot. Currently booked are: March 18th – Smilin’ Bobby, April 15th – Breezy Rodeo, May 20th – Dave Fields. Shows are free from 7 to 10 PM.
Coco Montoyo comes to Rockford on Friday, March 25 at 8 PM. The Rockford Park District’s Nordlof Center is home to the J.R. Sullivan Theater where the show will be held. Tickets are available at the box office or on line at http://crossroadsbluessociety.blogspot.com; advanced tickets are $15 and the cost will be $20 at the door if not sold out.
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. Mar. 21 – 24th Street Wailers, Mar. 28 – Kirk Brown Band, April 4 – Joe Moss Band, April 11 – Kilborn Alley Blues Band, April 18 – Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch, April 25 – The Bruce Katz Band. www.icbluesclub.org
Additional ICBC and ICBC partnered shows: Mar. 17 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, w/ guest host Back Pack Jones, April 7 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, April 21 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm
Also March 26 is the Illinois Central Blues Club 30th Anniversary Celebration @ Knights of Columbus on Meadowbrook – Shawn Holt, headlining, w/opening act Robert Sampson.
P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2016 Blues Blast Magazine (309) 267-4425