Issue 10-19 May 12, 2016

Cover photo by Bob kieser © 2016

 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Blues legend John Primer. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Luca Giordano Band, Michael Packer Blues Band, Jerry Johnson, Bonnie Lee, Nick Holt, Earl Howell and the Teardrops, Lewis Hamilton and Hector Qirko.

Our video of the week is a recent video of John Primer and the Real Deal Blues Band.

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

 2016 Blues Music Awards Winners 

1. Acoustic Album: The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard – Duke Robillard

2. Acoustic Artist: Doug MacLeod

3. Album: Born to Play Guitar – Buddy Guy

4. B.B. King Entertainer: Victor Wainwright

5. Band: Victor Wainwright & the Wild Roots

6. Best New Artist Album: The Mississippi Blues Child – Mr. Sipp

7. Contemporary Blues Album: Born to Play Guitar – Buddy Guy

8. Contemporary Blues Female Artist: Shemekia Copeland

9. Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Joe Louis Walker

10. Historical: Soul & Swagger: Buzzin’ the Blues by Slim Harpo (Bear Family Records)

11. Instrumentalist-Bass : Lisa Mann

12. Instrumentalist-Drums: Cedric Burnside

13. Instrumentalist-Guitar: Sonny Landreth

14. Instrumentalist-Harmonica: Kim Wilson

15. Instrumentalist-Horn: Terry Hanck

16. Koko Taylor Award: Ruthie Foster

17. Pinetop Perkins Piano Player: Allen Toussaint

18. Rock Blues Album: Battle Scars – Walter Trout

19. Song: “Gonna Live Again” written and performed by Walter Trout

20. Soul Blues Album: This Time for Real – Billy Price & Otis Clay

21. Soul Blues Female Artist: Bettye LaVette

22. Soul Blues Male Artist: Otis Clay

23. Traditional Blues Album: Descendants of Hill Country – Cedric Burnside Project

24. Traditional Blues Male Artist: John Primer

Congratulations to the winners!

 Blues Want Ad 

Do you really know your Blues and enjoy telling others about it?

Blues Blast Magazine is looking for a few good writers to volunteer to help us out. We need reviewers who know Blues and can write a minimum of one review or story each week. We will provide access to downloads or physical CDs, DVDs and books for review. The writer keeps the album, book or DVD for doing the review. We get music submissions from all over the world. We publish music reviews each week so there is a steady flow of things that need to be reviewed.

We are also looking for folks to write stories for our website, blogging style, and other occasional story assignments. We will assign subjects and stories and also entertain your ideas too.

These are volunteer positions that need a person who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word! Must have good writing and composition skills, good grammar and spelling!

Experienced writers are encouraged to send samples of previous work. All Blues Blast staff started out as volunteers like this. We have kept those with dedication on as staff writers afterwards.

If you are interested, please send an email to and tell us about your Blues background. A resume is always appreciated too.

Please be sure to include your phone number in your email reply.

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

Luca Giordano Band – Off the Grid


13 tracks

Italian blues ace Luca Giordano and his band offer up a great new album with nine super original cuts and two thoughtful and well-done covers. Blending blues, jazz and funk in a very soulful manner, Giordano shows us he is one of the premier bluesmen from the European continent and that he can hang with the best of them in the blues world. This album was Crossroads Blues Society’s submission for Best Self Produced CD for the 2015 IBC.

The album starts off with a little swinging original instrumental tune called “Jumpin’ Eye.” Giordano picks out a beautiful melody on his guitar and Fabrizio Ginoble musically tussles with him as he nimbly offers up some sweet lead and accompaniment on the Hammond organ. “Never Enough” follows and introduces us to the horn section of Sax Gordon on tenor sax, Mark Earley on baritone sax and Doug Woolverton on trumpet. They and Luca provide listeners with a nice little intro before Luca takes the lead on vocals. Walter Cerasani on bass and Alessandro Svampa on the drums lay out a great groove here and throughout the album. Ginoble appears on organ again, too; it’s a well-crafted and bluesy swinging song! The title track is next; Luca gives us a soulful delivery and Ginoble is again very impressive on the organ and keys. Blending blues and jazz themes, the song has a great solo by Giordano on his guitar. “When I’ll Be Gone” is another tasty instrumental featuring the duo of Giordano and Ginoble again. These two guys are really in synch and can really deliver the goods when they play together!

A beautiful cover of “Since I Met You Baby” is soulfully rendered by Giordano on guitar. Ginoble’s piano and the horn section add a sinfully sweet set of musical layers to this cut, but Giordano is the star here with a great guitar lead. “Curly Hair Woman” is a jumpy original where Giordano grits out the lead on vocals and spars with the keys and horns in this rocking blues song. The instrumental “Cold Valley” follows. Organ and horns give us a really grooving intro as the bass also picks out a big groove and the drums punctuate and drive the cut along smartly. Luca comes in for a dramatic solo about halfway through; another impressive cut! “One Way Road” is a funked-up song with Luca looking for a way out of life’s one way road. More great work on the organ and another well crafted guitar solo demonstrate Giordano’s songwriting and the talents of this fine band. The dreamy “Pami” blends jazz and blues as Giordano’s guitar and Ginoble’s organ wistfully interplay on this song that seems specifically made for slow dancing with your woman.

The final two cuts are labeled “Organ Trio Session” and feature Giordano, Ginoble and Fabio Colella on drums. “Flyin’ Back To My Baby” features Giordano crooning (with a little call and response from the other two guys) in this swinging tune. The three really hit things off well and Colella makes the snare an intimate part of the proceedings along with Ginoble’s organ work. Giordano does not leave us dry; he gives us another savory solo on his six-string. Singing to his woman about coming back home, we get the feeling this is Giordano and the band talking and playing to us in a heartfelt manner about going home after a long tour in the US or Europe. It builds to a nice, big and beautiful instrumental finish. They close with a slow Carlos Johnson blues tune. A very cool, long instrumental intro starts things off thoughtfully, and then Luca guts out an impassioned vocal lead as he also picks out some dirty blues on his ax. Ginoble offers another outstanding solo as he, too, bares his soul for us. The minimalist sound of the trio is just spectacular.

This is a really great album showcasing Giordano and the fine musicians he has surrounded himself with. Singing in his lilting Italian accent, we get some great vocals and playing by Luca and his band. This is Luca’s best album to date. His songwriting shows maturity and complexity. His musicianship is faultless and the band is up to his challenge as they, too, deliver each song with gusto and intense feeling. I highly recommend this album to blues lovers who want to hear what the blues is all about and what the blues can be!

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

 Blues Want Ad 

Social Networking help needed!

Blues Blast Magazine is seeking a volunteer to help us out with our social media efforts each week.

We need someone experienced with Facebook and Twitter to post about the reviews and interviews in the magazine to the artists and labels social media accounts so their fans can read about our writers coverage of these artists and their work each week.

This volunteer positions that need a persons who really loves the Blues and wants to spread the Blues word! Must have good writing and composition skills, good grammar and spelling!

If you are interested, please send an email to and tell us about your Blues background. A resume is always appreciated too.

Please be sure to include your phone number in your email reply.

 Video Of The Week – John Primer 

John Primer and The Real Deal Blues Band playing a couple great Blues tunes on Iowa’s KWCI 23 TV Great Day Sound Stage program in Des Moines, Iowa this past February. Click on the vidoe image above to start the video.

 Featured Blues Interview – John Primer 

Blues music has long suffered through something resembling an identity crisis when it comes to its appreciation in the ears of the mainstream public.

A vast portion of society has refused to acknowledge the blues’ immense impact on all other forms of music and they even go so far as to cite a general disinterest in it because – the way they hear it – the blues are, either:

A. ‘Slow and sleepy’;

B. ‘Just plain boring’.

Blues music has even gone so far as to be tagged as ‘sad music’ by much of the masses.

But the way that veteran Chicago bluesman John Primer sees it, that’s all a bad and unfounded rap. Especially the part about blues being ‘sad music’.

“A lot of people don’t recognize the blues and what they’re all about. A lot of the younger generation calls it sad music, and some of the older generation call it that, too. But it’s not sad music. Blues music is joyful. You, the person listening to it, might be sad when you go hear it, but that’s the person – not the music. Those same people will go listen to the blues and then go home and they suddenly feel better. They go home and they sleep really good. I hear that a lot,” Primer said. “So, there’s always room for the blues. Blues comes straight from your soul – today, just like it did generations ago. That’s why the blues will never go away … it’s not going to die.”

No doubt Primer is an authority on the blues and it’s amazing healing properties. He’s been knee-deep in the scene in Chicago ever since blowing into town from Mississippi in the 1960s when he was just 18-years-old. There’s also no doubt that Primer has never played ‘slow and sleepy’ or ‘just plain boring’ music.

Not only did the Grammy Award-nominated singer, songwriter and guitarist cut his teeth with incredible stints in both Muddy Waters’ and Magic Slim’s bands, he’s also shared the bandstand with everyone from Lonnie Brooks to Buddy Guy to Junior Wells … just to name a few. Oh, and lest we forget, he was also up on the bandstand at the Checkerboard Lounge that magical night in late November, 1981, when The Rolling Stones breezed into town and played a few numbers with Muddy and the guys.

Primer recently returned from a trip overseas, where he played the blues in Geneva, Switzerland. Turns out that jaunt was a win-win situation, as the fans there ate up Primer’s music with a spoon, while the man himself also enjoyed the atmosphere and scenery that Switzerland provided.

“I had a great time. It was nice, warm weather while I was over there. It wasn’t too cold, but it did snow one morning in the mountains while I was there,” he said. “But I had a great time. The fans over there really love the blues, just like they do here (in the United States). People just seem to love the blues, no matter where you go or where you’re at; they really appreciate this music.”

Blues fans have long appreciated the effort that Primer puts forth up on the bandstand. He’s long been known for wringing every ounce of energy out of not only his guitar, but his body, as well, when on stage. You don’t have to have a front row seat to feel the power and heat that Primer and his band generate.

A shining example of this was unearthed a couple of years ago in the form of You Can Make It If You Try! (Wolf Records), a live recording from the 1990s when Primer was still a member of Magic Slim & The Teardrops. In those days, Primer would open the show with a couple of numbers with The Teardrops, before Magic Slim made his way onstage, and a selection of those songs are what are captured on this live disc.

The performances on You Can Make It If You Try! are red-hot and are all classic Primer. It would have been too bad had songs like “Don’t You Hear Me Crying” and “Big Fat Woman” had remained buried in a vault any longer than the near two decades that they were.

“The guy from Wolf Records (Hannes Folterbauer) always has a lot of great stuff and he just dug that stuff up. He’s got a lot of blues music that he’s recorded over the years,” the 71-year-old Primer said. “Besides Magic Slim, I was one of his favorite guitar players.”

No doubt.

Not only was Folterbauer the first person to record and issue an album from Magic Slim & The Teardrops (in the mid-80s, when Primer was in the band), but he also recorded Primer solo for the first time in 1991, resulting in Poor Man Blues (Wolf Records).

“He (Folterbauer) was very easy to work with and I appreciated the chance he gave to me, when all the other record labels didn’t,” Primer said. “I was able to promote myself and share my music with the world … that was one of the biggest moments of my musical life.”

It’s a real shame, but Nick Holt (bass) and Earl Howell (drums) – the rhythm section for The Teardrops when You Can Make It If You Try was recorded, never seem to get all the just deserts they should when it comes to being a truly dynamic and first-class duo.

“We all know there were great. We were very, very tight at playing those ole’ lowdown Delta-styled blues, mixed with the Chicago sound. We were just like a family, like brothers. There was never any fighting or arguing or anything like that between us,” said Primer. “I mean, sometimes I would get mad when Magic Slim wanted me to play too many leads. I was supposed to be the rhythm player and I’d think, ‘Why is he making me play all these leads?’ Of course, I just thought that to myself. I sure didn’t say anything to him about giving me all those solos. I just didn’t realize what he was doing.”

And just what was the late, great Magic Slim doing?

“He was getting me ready to go out on my own. I didn’t know that at the time, but that’s what he was doing,” he said. “He was pushing me to be a complete guitar player for when I got out on my own. I won’t say he was like my daddy, but I will say that Magic Slim was like a big, big brother to me.”

A couple of years ago, Primer got the opportunity to help give a tip of the hat back to the big man, when he played on Shawn (Little Slim) Holt and The Teardrops’ Daddy Told Me (Blind Pig Records). Primer sang lead on “Before You Accuse Me” and also played guitar on that cut, as well as on “Buddy Buddy Friend.”

“That was great for me to have a chance to help out Magic Slim’s son. You know, Magic Slim really helped me out a lot, so when they called and asked me to play on Shawn’s record, I was very excited to do it,” he said. “His son is trying to carry Magic Slim’s style and music onward. Shawn always said that he studied my music more than he did his dad’s … he just liked the way that I played. But to me, he sounds more like his dad than he does me. He plays with his thumb, just like his dad did. But when he sings, he doesn’t sound like his dad, he sounds like his uncle Nick (Holt).”

Last year saw Primer playing an integral role in the celebration of Muddy Waters’ 100th birthday. Primer was part of an All-Star band that closed out last year’s Chicago Blues Festival with a Centennial Tribute to Muddy Waters. He also played on the highly-acclaimed and Grammy nominated Muddy Waters 100 album, a disc that also featured James Cotton, Derek Trucks, Bob Margolin, Johnny Winter, Gary Clark Jr. and Shemekia Copeland.

It was through another larger-than-life Chicago bluesman that Primer initially caught the attention of Muddy Waters, way back in the day.

“I came to Chicago in 1963 and I was around here for a few years and I finally got into a band called the Willie Dixon All-Stars. We were down in Mexico and Muddy heard me playing and he asked Willie who that young man playing the guitar was. Willie said, ‘That’s John Primer.’ Muddy said, ‘Hum, that man knows my music.'”

That paved the way for Primer to enter Muddy’s fold, where he remained until Waters passed in 1983. The way Primer sees it, Muddy’s music is every bit as powerful – and every bit as an important teaching tool – now, as it was back when he played with the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Famer.

“One thing about Muddy Waters’ music is, it’s music that tells a story and has feeling. You know, Muddy’s music is really the beginning of learning how to play music and how to play slide (guitar). A lot of people will listen to Muddy to learn how to play slide guitar, still to this day,” Primer said. “And the chords and stuff that Muddy did back in the day were phenomenal, man. His music is a learning project (for upcoming musicians) and will probably be that way forever. The words in his songs still have the same meaning and feeling today that they did all those years ago when he first sang them.”

Recently, Primer has picked up a new recording foil – harpist extraordinare Bob Corritore. The two got together and recorded Knockin’ Around These Blues (Delta Groove) in 2013.

“Bob and I go way back, man. He’s from Chicago and that’s where we met. He knew me before I knew him back in the ’70s. He used to see me play at Theresa’s Lounge (when Primer was in the house band). I remember seeing him there, but I didn’t know him then,” Primer said. “Then of course, he moved to Phoenix, Arizona and has that club, The Rhythm Room. I went out there and played with Magic Slim a few times. And then I played at a blues fest there in the day and then at his club that night. It went on and on like that and then we finally hooked up to record. He liked what I did and I liked what he did.”

Knockin’ Around These Blues is not the end of their partnership, by any means. It looks like a new collaboration involving Primer and Corritore is on the horizon.

“I was just over there finishing up some songs on my birthday (March 3) with him and Henry Gray on piano and Big Jon Atkinson,” he said. “Bob’s a great guy and I love working with him. He’s always trying to help the music. It don’t matter what kind of music it is, he’s always trying to help it.”

It looks as though Primer and Corritore also have their bags packed and are on the verge of traveling to Central America to play some music and spread the gospel of the blues through some classroom sessions.

“Yeah, him and I are going to Belize to do a little school project and stuff. They asked me who I wanted to bring and I thought and said, ‘Let me take Bob.’ He’s always helping me out so this is a chance for me to pay him back,” Primer said. “And, he knows how to teach and to do harmonica workshops and stuff. We’re going to go there for about seven days.”

He’s long been acknowledged as a masterful classic Chicago blues guitarist, and rightfully so. One thing that makes Primer such an inventive player is his slide technique. And according to the man himself, it was a technique that took a while to develop, after initial attempts at playing slide ended before they really started.

“Yeah, I tried and tried (to play slide), but I couldn’t stand all that scrubbing (sound) on the guitar. It would get my nerves going bad. Well, I made my way down to Theresea’s Lounge in 1974 and Sammy Lawhorn was in Junior Wells’ house band then. Sammy used to always play slide, in Elmore James’ style – not in the Muddy style. So I got the idea to play slide in regular A440 (tuning). He just dropped one string on the guitar and then played in A440 … so that’s how I started out and then I learned the rest on my own,” he said. “It’s note-to-note. I kind of learned that from Johnny Winter, listening to Muddy’s albums that he was on. I learned a lot from him (Winter), too. I don’t have to tune the guitar in an open key to play slide. I can play slide in any key when I’m tuned to A440. I can play slide just like I can pick or play in any key … its’ all the same way. That’s kind of how B.B. King started. He couldn’t play the slide, so he started playing that one note and using tremolo with his finger … he came up with that shakin’ style. He could make a sound just like a slide.”

A lot of budding young guitar players are turned on to the instrument after seeing a friend or neighbor pecking away on one at an early age. Still others fall under the magical spell of the guitar after receiving one as a birthday or Christmas gift. However, that was not the case with Primer. His first encounter with a guitar was a homemade affair and came on the side of his grandmother Laura Nell’s house.

“I started out as a young kid (in Camden, Mississippi), five or six-years-old and my uncle and them had one string (a broom wire) on the side of my grandmother’s house with two bricks under it. Him and my cousin used to play that all the time and when they’d go, I’d play it myself,” he said. “They had a bottle and I’d get that bottle and go sliding it on that string, playing it that way. That’s how I really got started.”

Some six decades later, Primer is still ‘sliding it on that string,’ playing the blues to faithful fans all over the globe. Not surprisingly, it never dawned on him back then that playing guitar would turn into his life’s passion and would end up being his vocation of choice.

“Man … I never could have imagined back then that I’d be going all these places and playing the blues. I never thought it could have come to this,” he said. “But I always did want to be a musician. I guess if I wasn’t musician I’d just be working a regular job and trying to pay bills. It’s easier now (to make money playing music than it was when he hit Chicago in the early ’60s) then when I first started. I played, played, played back then and didn’t make no money. It was hard back then, but I’m still not making much these days, either.”

Visit John’s website at:

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 6 

Michael Packer Blues Band – 35th Anniversary

Iris Music Group IMG-645

10 songs – 45 minutes

New York Blues Hall Of Famer Michael Packer dips into his catalog of 13 previous releases featuring some of the best musicians in the business to celebrate his lengthy career. And well he should, considering the troubles he’s seen.

As honestly and painfully described previously in the aural history he provided between cuts of his most recent previous release, the two-CD set I Am The Blues – My Story, Packer has lived a bluesman’s life after emerging from Albany, N.Y., as a country rocker with the bands Papa Nebo and Free Beer on the Atlantic and RCA labels in the ‘70s.

Always a fan of Lightnin’ Hopkins, B.B. King and future friend Paul Butterfield, he moved on to the blues and relocated to New York City in the early ‘80s, working with Richie Havens’ drummer brother Lenny, before his troubles began. His life devolved quickly, resulting in homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction and a lengthy stint in jail.

For the better part of the past three decades, however, the guitarist/vocalist has been producing his own brand of country rock-tinged blues. He’s a major player in the Blues For Peace movement, and he’s backed by his regular rhythm section of Ed Jackson on bongos, Guy Powell on drums and John Becton on bass, plus a dazzling cast of old-timers and future stars that include David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Big Bill and Mud Morganfield and pianist David Maxwell.

And Packer’s cast of characters also original Blues Brothers sax player Blue Lou Marini and multi-instrumentalist Tom “Bones” Malone, B.B. King bassist Jerry Jemmott, Foghat drummer Roger Earl, Johnny Winter harp player Jon Paris, Conan O’Brien guitarist Jimmy Vivino, Free Beer mandolinist Sandy Allen and Cuban-born, New York-based harp player and composer Felix Cabrera. While specific credits are absent from the packaging, it’s a good bet that most of, if not all, of these musicians listed above make an appearance somewhere in the 35th Anniversary mix.

A sprightly version of Canned Heat’s “Bullfrog Blues” kicks off the proceedings as Packer delivers the vocals in a clear, pleasant tenor interspersed with several harp breaks. “I’m In Love,” a slow shuffle about traveling the country in an attempt to escape heartbreak, but never achieving the goal. Maxwell’s piano and the horns are featured on a version of the Sam Cooke classic “Somebody Have Mercy” before a cover of Butterfield’s “I’ve Got A Mind To Give Up Livin’,” which comes across with a jazz/Latin feel because of the use of flute and bongos.

The autobiographical fast shuffle “Born In New York City,” possibly an original based on Butterfield’s “Born In Chicago,” precedes a traditional country blues version of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” before an uptempo cover of Robert Johnson’s warhorse “Sweet Home Chicago” and a searing version of B.B.’s “Thrill Is Gone.” The horns are back in command for “Gotta Go (Chicago, New Orleans)” before a version of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “61 Highway,” recorded live and featuring Honeyboy on guitar and vocals.

Available through Amazon, iTunes eMusic and other vendors, 35th Anniversary is rock-solid throughout. While there are some great examples of straight-ahead blues, this one will appeal more to folks with more eclectic tastes because of the pleasant diversity of the musicians involved.

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 6 

Jerry Johnson – Listen To That Howlin’ Wind


9 songs – 40 minutes

Burlington, TX-based Jerry Johnson is an impressive guitarist/singer/songwriter with an ear for a wry lyric and a melodic guitar lick. His new album, Listen To That Howlin’ Wind, is an excellent introduction to his eclectic talents.

From the opening track, “Eco Friendly”, with its tremolo’ed, Hendrixian rhythm guitar and ribald lyrics (“There’s a drought, no sign of rain. We need to save some water to ease this pain. We all gotta do something to help. So don’t make me shower all by myself”) to the lonesome echoes of the Resonator instrumental that closes the album (“For Everr(ett)”), Johnson displays great facility on both electric and acoustic guitars, ably supported by Steve Negus on drums and Garvey Crescent on bass, as he essays a range of styles, all deeply routed in the blues, with large dollops of rock, r’n’b and funk mixed in with a hint of country.

Johnson wrote all nine songs on the album, as well as playing lead and rhythm guitars and singing. “Mystic Meera”, “The Sounding Of The Gate Swinging Shut” and “For Ever(ett)” are all instrumentals featuring Johnson finger-picking a solitary acoustic or Resonator guitar. By contrast, the other instrumental track, “Screechin’ Wheels” is a mid-paced funk-blues with bass string bends and violin-like volume swells that recall Roy Buchanan’s “Slow Changes” before Johnson launches into a wah-wah solo that nods to Hendrix. “Through These Eyes” is a slow blues with a spoken vocal that comments on the inherent subjectivity of life. “Walk With Me” displays a hint of country in the major scale soloing and the bass vocals that are reminiscent of Johnny Cash.

Johnson wears his Texas influences proudly, with the CD cover photo depicting him at dusk, holding a Firebird and leaning against a dilapidated stone building, with the Lone Star flag projected alongside him. He also nods to the State in his lyrics on the hilarious slow blues of “House in Texas” when he sings: “On Monday, I bought a house in Texas. On Tuesday, I bought a gun. On Wednesday, I shot a man in Texas. Every day now, I’m on the run.”

He also uses his sense of humor to raise serious issues, however. A long-time supporter of blood donation organisations, Johnson cleverly subverts the listener’s expectations on the funky blues of “Not My Type as he sings: “’You’re not my type’, she said to me. ‘Not your type? Well, we’ll see. Because if you ever have a need, it’s me you’ll be happy to see.’” He then explains: “Don’t be saying ‘oh no, not for me.’ Because I’m everyone’s type, you see?” Johnson’s own O negative blood type is relatively rare compared to other blood groups, but it also makes him a universal donor and the song is a sharp reminder of the importance of blood donation to hospitals and medical centers worldwide.

Although quite short in length, Listen To That Howin’ Wind is a very enjoyable release. It will particularly please fans of guitar-driven trios such as Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter and Walter Trout.

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 – 4 of 6 

Bonnie Lee, Nick Holt, Earl Howell and the Teardrops

Classic Chicago Blues/Live & Unreleased

Wolf Records International

CD: 13 Songs; 1 Hour and 15 Minutes

Styles: Traditional Chicago Blues, Blues Covers, Live Albums

Once in a blue moon, a contemporary blues CD comes along that has such incredible traditional sound, one might think it’s 1960’s-vintage. Not only that, but the cover art of Classic Chicago Blues/Live and Unreleased might fool fans into believing so. It features four African-American icons – Bonnie Lee, Nick Holt (Magic Slim’s brother), Earl Howell (famous Teardrops drummer), and the renowned John Primer on guitar. Austria’s Wolf Records has released a live album recorded during the Magic Slim and the Teardrops tour in the 1990s. Over the course of one hour and fifteen minutes, this quartet presents eleven timeless covers and two original tracks. Their only flaw is that the covers they play here have been retreaded so often (like “Wee Baby Blues”). Yet their blues is so pure and crystal-clear, it might as well have gushed forth from a mountain stream.

The CD liner notes give much-appreciated background info – which I paraphrase – on each of the performing artists. Lead vocalist Bonnie Lee was born in Bunkie, Louisiana, in 1931 and raised in Beaumont, Texas. Her biggest claim to fame was touring with the Famous Georgia Minstrels Show, which she joined in 1950. Bassist Nick Holt was the younger brother of Morris Holt, who was more commonly known as Magic Slim. He got his first bass-playing experience in Robert Perkins’ ensemble, Mr. Pitiful and the Teardrops, along with his equally-talented sibling. Drummer Earl Howell, a Chicago native, has played with Koko Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, A.C. Reed, Louis Meyers and Son Seals. Guest stars include guitarist John Primer on all tracks but three, with Michael Dotson on songs two and ten, and Jake Dawson on song number thirteen.

As fantastic as this album is, an effective method to pick the best songs might be to draw three numbers out of a hat! Nevertheless, this reviewer chooses its two originals, and one cover:

Track 01: “I’m Good” – “Let’s give it up one time for Miss Bo-onnie Lee!” So announces John Primer, lighting the fuse on this rocking rocket of a blues song. Co-written by Bonnie and Bill Collins, it details the delight of being lucky in love. “I’m good in the morning, I’m good every night. I’m good in the evening when I turn down the light…”

Track 02: “You Better Watch Yourself” – An old saying goes, “With friends like that, who needs enemies?” Sometimes, one’s best pal steals one’s best gal. “Let me tell you about the woman,” says Nick Holt on his original number. “Little girl ain’t no good. Can’t keep a man of her own. What it’s so plain to see: she’s trying to break up your happy home.” Holt’s vocals are the perfect mix of angry and melancholy.

Track 03: “Tryin’ to Make a Livin’” – “Well, I’m standing on the corner with a nickel and a key, waiting on some man to come and go along with me…” So begins this gritty cover of an Eatmon and Daniel number, sizzling with sass and disdain. It’s either a trip to the pawnshop or the bedroom for this song’s protagonist, and no one portrays her better than the lusty-voiced Lee.

What could be better than Classic Chicago Blues, Live and Unreleased?

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

Lewis Hamilton – Shipwrecked


9 songs – 40 minutes

21-year-old singer/guitarist Lewis Hamilton has led his own eponymously named band since 2010, which might be enough to make most of us feel like under-achievers, but it doesn’t end there. He runs his own recording studio in Scotland and writes his own music, which he records, produces, mixes and masters himself. And, as if that weren’t enough, he also produced the cover art and album graphics for Shipwrecked, his new album on his Lewis Hamilton Music label.

Listeners who have heard Hamilton’s previous three solo releases (such as Ghost Train, favourably reviewed in Bluesblast Magazine in February 2014) will have a fair idea of what to expect from Shipwrecked – traditional blues-rock played with old-fashioned soul and no little technical ability and sung in a smokey, world-worn voice. It’s great music, taking you straight back to the early 1970s in both mood and attitude, albeit with a modern edge.

The opening track, “Old Faces”, has a single-note riff that is reminiscent of Mountain; “Long Way Home” recalls Bad Company in their pomp; and “Water’s Edge” has a finger-picked acoustic motif with over-dubbed electric guitars and harmony vocals that hints at the Doobie Brothers in their gentler moments. At times, tracks like “Head For The Hills” recall the great Rory Gallagher in both structure and musicianship. But Hamilton is significantly more than a mere copyist, showering fearsome leads over each song and singing with real passion while adding fascinating individual kinks to each track keep listeners on their toes.

“Iceberg Blues” contains some searing electric slide guitar (as well as excellent guest harp from Jim Harcus). The ballad “StormySeas” features a curiously discordant slide backing and an unexpectedly stuttering bassline in the bridge that is not what one might usually expect to hear. One of the highlights of the album is the acoustic “Blame” in which Hamilton masterfully blends single notes and strummed chords under a lyric asking how the blame should be apportioned for the singer’s behaviour.

Hamilton’s approach is perhaps best exemplified in his cover of the Son House classic “John The Revelator”, which he starts in a relatively traditional fashion, accompanying his voice with just simple resonator chords, before the rest of the band piles in to create a heavy, grinding, mournful groove. In his solo however he cleverly bypasses the note-heavy solo that many others would have produced, slowly bending strings, enjoying microtonal variations between notes.

Hamilton is well-supported throughout by Nick Hamilton on bass (father to and manager of Lewis) and Ben O’Reilly on drums. Together they create a superb groove that enables Hamilton Jr to overlay his voice and guitars.

Shipwrecked benefits from warm, full-sounding production. One suspects, however, that these songs will really come alive in a live setting. In meantime, Hamilton’s upwards trajectory continues. It will be fascinating to see what he does next.

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 – 6 of 6 

Hector Qirko – Field Notes

HQ and Blind Guru Recordings

CD: 13 Songs; 45:15 Minutes

Styles: Roots, Americana, Contemporary Acoustic and Electric Blues

Birdwatchers (now called “birders”) and other naturalists often take Field Notes to document the wildlife they find. Music can definitely be compared to nature. Hear the crashing thunderstorms of heavy metal, the sunshine of gospel and soul, the blazing heat of rock, and the twilight cool of blues. The Southeast’s Hector Qirko records several aspects of music’s essence on his new mellow and low-key album. None of it is pure blues. Even the artist says so in a personal letter sent with his promotional info sheet: “I guess it’s roots, Americana, or what have you. Made it mostly in Charleston, SC, where I’ve lived for the last few years, but with players from all over.” This release contains eleven original songs, one cover (J. Clement’s “Guess Things Happen That Way”), and one public-domain number (“More Pretty Girls than One”). Overall, it’s a relaxing stroll through the woods of acoustic country, blues and bluegrass.

Biographically, our Notes taker says this in his letter: “My name is Hector Qirko, and I came up musically playing in the mid-‘70s with (now Blues Hall of Famer) Lonnie Brooks, mostly out of the old Pepper’s Hideout but touring as well with him and Little Mack Simmons. I guess that makes me, in a way, a Chicagoan, although I’ve been living in the Southeast for many years now. But it definitely makes the blues, especially Chicago blues, an essential part of my musical perspective no matter what kind of music I’m playing.”

Along with Hector, who performs on vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, are Roger Bellow on fiddle and mandolin; Jack Burg and Ron Wiltrout on drums; Kevin Crothers, Mark Fain, and Daniel Kimbro on bass; Steve Horton and Sarah Pirkle on harmony vocals; Johnny Spell on lap steel; and David Johnson on banjo, dobro, fiddle, gut-string guitar and mandolin.

The three songs below are the most interesting “specimens” on this unique CD:

Track 03: “Last Real Cowboy” – This yearning ballad tells the tale of days and a lifestyle gone by, and a nonagenarian who embodies them: “Well, now he’s nearly 100, and he doesn’t ride no more. He hung up his saddle a good long while ago. But he’ll wear his old ranch buck-clothes until his dying day. He’s the last real cowboy that’ll ride this way.” The multi-talented David Johnson plays melodic dobro and fiddle.

Track 05: “One Cup” – Time for some percolating acoustic blues! A swinging shuffle describes a jilted lover’s plight: “The TV is on; it’s that same old show – of people with friends, yeah, and places to go. But I sit up, all alone in the dark. All I want to know, is, baby, where you are.” Dig Roger Bellow’s fiddle and Steve Horton’s smooth harmony vocals.

Track 11: “Christmas in Bethlehem” – This qirky (ha) yet haunting fable describes a couple who takes refuge behind the stable where Christ was born. Reminiscent of “The Death of Queen Jane” from Inside Llewyn Davis, once it’s inside your head, it’ll never get out. “Like a wise man told me, ‘Gotta watch your feet. When you bring it up, you’ve got to keep it neat. If you get too close, you won’t know where it’s at, and if you look away, you might not get it back.” The moral here? Spiritual enlightenment can happen in a split second, so be watchful, but don’t force it.

Hector Qirko’s Field Notes are refreshing reminders of Americana’s nature!

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.

 Blues Society News 

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Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation – Red Bank, NJ

Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation presents Point Pleasant Boro Jazz & Blues Festival Saturday, June 18, 2016 at the Riverfront Park, Corner of Maxon & River Rd. Point Pleasant Boro, NJ from Noon to 8:00 PM. Headliner is Billy Hector Experience Featuring The Midnight Horns plus Food, Crafters, Beer & Wine Garden, Kids activities. FREE Admission!

For more information, go to

Grand County Blues Society – Winter Park, CO

The 14th Annual Blues From The Top Festival, presented by the Grand County Blues Society, happens June 25/26 at Hideaway Park in Winter Park, Co. Features a special Trampled Under Foot Reunion, plus headliners including Eric Gales, Samantha Fish Band, Jon Nemeth, Kara Grainger and more. “Keeping The Blues Alive” Stage features young up-and-coming Blues artists. Portion of the festival’s proceeds benefit Blue Star Connection, which provides access and ownership of musical instruments for children and young adults with cancer and other serious challenges, as well as providing music therapy departments with instruments.

For more information, go to

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. May 16 – Holland K Smith, May 23 – Lazer Lloyd, May 30 – Gracie Curran and the High Falutin, June 6 – Joel DeSilva and the Midnight Howl, June 13 – Brandon Santini, June 20 – TBA, June 27 – Laurie Morvan.

Additional ICBC and ICBC partnered shows: May 5 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, w/Noah Williams, May 19 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm w/William Marsala Band, June 2 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, June 16 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm.

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee IL area

The Friends of the Blues announce their 2016 Concert Series. All shows start at 7 pm and are open to the public – and – Food and Beverages available at all Friends of the Blues shows. Tues, May 24, Lazer Lloyd, Moose Lodge, Bradley IL,Tues, June 7, Frank Bang & Cook County Kings, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, Manteno IL, Thur, June 16, Nick Harless Band, Moose Lodge, Bradley IL, Thur, June 23, Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue (Mark Hummel, Anson Funderburgh, Little Charlie Baty), Moose Lodge, Bradley IL, Tues, June 28, Cash Box Kings, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Kankakee IL, Thur, July 14, Joe Moss Band, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Tues, July 26, Nikki Hill, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Thur, Aug 4, Albert Castiglia w/ Opening Act: Maybe Later, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Fri, Aug 12, Polly O’Keary & The Rhythm Method, Watseka Elks Club, Watseka IL, Tues, Aug 16, Too Slim & the Taildraggers, The Longbranch, L’Erable IL, Thur, Sept 15, Danielle Nicole Band, Moose Lodge, Bradley IL.. For more info visit

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.

For more information, go to

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.

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. May 14th – The Jimmys

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: May 20th – Dave Fields. Shows are free from 7 to 10 PM.


Stay tuned for more upcoming events!

P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555 © 2016 Blues Blast Magazine (309) 267-4425



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