Issue 10-20 May 19, 2016

Cover photo by Bob kieser © 2016

 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Mike Wheeler. We have 9 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Trudy Lynn, Sugar Blue, RB Stone, Cousin Harley, Blue Largo, Murray Kinsley & Wicked Grin, L Wood Joy, Mighty Sam McClain & Knut Reiersurd and Georgie Bonds.

Our video of the week is The Mike Wheeler Band.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 9 

Trudy Lynn – Everything Comes With A Price

Connor Ray Music – 2015

10 tracks; 41 minutes

Trudy’s live album Royal Oaks Blues Café earned a Blues Blast Awards nomination in 2014 for the veteran Houston, Texas singer. For this follow-up Trudy is in the studio, again with producer Steve Krase on harp, Randy Wall on keys, Terry Dry on bass and several guitar players; The Mighty Orq and Lil’ Buck Senegal are the main players but James Henry also contributes to two tracks. The sleeve notes do not state who plays drums. Trudy wrote four of the songs alongside six covers of songs made famous by female singers of yesteryear.

Trudy composed the title track which is a pleasant shuffle with Lil’ Buck on lead guitar and Steve’s high-pitched harp work which will not appeal to everyone but is certainly distinctive. Trudy’s lyrics explain that everything we do has consequences: “Like a roll of the dice, everything comes with a price”. “Fat Daddy” is a classic Trudy song with plenty of sexual innuendo over a rolling blues rhythm and plenty of Steve’s harp work. Trudy’s vocal is supported by some uncredited harmony work (perhaps Trudy multi-tracked?) on the catchy “Just A Little Kiss” on which James’ lead guitar is featured and she takes the pace down on the slow blues “Yesterday I Was Lonely” in which she celebrates a new and considerate lover in her life, Randy’s cascading piano solo being the main instrumental feature.

Alberta Adams is credited with “Messin’ Around With The Blues” and she certainly recorded the song but it is in fact a Memphis Slim tune, a slow blues with stately piano and solid harp work. Opening track “I’m Gonna Latch On” is also credited to ‘Adams’ but this time it’s Marie Adams who recorded the song with Johnny Otis in 1953, this version having Orq’s excellent guitar work behind Steve’s wailing harp. Trudy clearly enjoys the raunchier side of the blues, witness her reprise of Lucille Bogan’s “My Alley Boogie” in which she is clearly relishing the lyrics, supported by a rumba groove and some understated fretwork from Orq who also performs solidly on the similarly suggestive Hattie Hart’s “Let My Daddy Do That” which rocks along superbly with barrelhouse piano and is probably this reviewer’s pick of the tracks here. The eponymous “Ella Johnson’s Blues” is a churning blues with some tough harp from Steve before Trudy closes the album with Clara Smith’s gospel tune “Living Humble”, complete with handclaps and backing vocals to leave us with an impression of a church service.

Trudy’s latest album has everything we expect from her, running the gamut from sacred to secular. With some solid playing behind her this is an album worth hearing.

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 – 2 of 9 

Sugar Blue – Voyage

MC Records MC 0079

12 songs – 49 minutes

International harmonica virtuoso Sugar Blue takes listeners on a deeply personal, spiritual journey on his latest CD. Recorded in Chicago and mixed and mastered in Switzerland, Voyage delivers layer after layer of emotion as it provides a glimpse of the artist today, having overcome the inner demons that plagued him through much of his career despite his success on stage.

A two-time Grammy winner whose precise musical runs on the reeds come at you with hurricane force, but the precision of a tornado, Blue straddles several genres, having recorded acoustic blues with Louisiana Red, avant garde jazz with Archie Shepp and rock with the Rolling Stones, in addition to a long stint as featured harp player in the last incarnation of Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues Allstars. As frontman on his own records, he’s never shied away from revealing his emotions, with lyrics that described dealing with the inner conflicts that troubled him, including a long addition to cocaine.

Now, on Voyage, he finally gets the chance to share his victory over the drug and related darkness and deliver images of the positive new life he now enjoys. Dedicated to the memory of the late James Knowles, a sensational drummer who traveled the world with Blue for years, this disc features several familiar faces and a few new ones as it delivers 11 originals and one cover.

Longtime bandmate Rico McFarland, who’s worked with a who’s who of Chicago blues superstars, handles guitar duties with assists from Harry Hmura, Sergio Montaleni and Max De Bernardi. Keeping the rhythm are bassists Joewaun “Jay Red Bass” Scott, Bill Dinkens, Johnny B. Gayden and Sugar’s fulltime wife and band leader Ilaria Lantieri, as well as percussionists Brady Williams, Michael Weatherspoon and T.J. Tucker. Damiano Della Torre handles keys with guest appearances by saxophone legend Eddie Shaw, Broadway star vocalist-actress Maya Azucena and Sonix The Mad Scientist, the reknowned multi-instrumentalist and producer. Augmenting the sound are a chorus that includes Curtis Lindsey, Brandon Love, Tina Love and Michelle Lindsey.

The disc kicks off with the sweet “On My Way (Sarah’s Song).” It’s a ballad directed to Blue’s grown daughter that both admits past errors and proclaims clearly how he’s “in a hurry to find my way/Seems like nothin’ can wait today…/I like the person I found inside/There was no reason for me to hide.” His solo mid-tune is just as tender and sugary as his words. An impossibly difficult harp run kicks off “One,” which delivers the familiar refrain that “one man’s pleasure is another man’s pain” as it describes internal struggles, before “Sugar Blue Boogie,” a super-fast shuffle with great stop-time breaks that only a top-notch band can deliver. It’s the only instrumental in the set.

Next up, “New York City” is a lyrical, acoustic autobiography that features De Bernardi on guitar. Blue details being a country boy despite being born in Harlem with glimpses of playing at the Bitter End folk club in Greenwich Village as well as meetings with Victoria Spivey, with whom he recorded, Muddy Waters and Memphis Slim, among others, who invited him to Paris, where he hooked up with the Stones. “12 Steps” is another tender song of gratitude, this time for rebirth, before the equally touching “Love Is Everywhere,” which carries the message forward as Sugar describes waking up to see his wife smiling at his side. It includes a vow “to be my baby’s dad,” a theme reinforced by giggles from Sugar and Ilaria’s two-year-old son, James.

“Mercedes Blues” is bittersweet love song that describes being driven into the ground after buying the car for a cheating lover while “Sunshine,” a jazzy ballad, questions whether the singer’s worthy of the woman he’ll love for the rest of his life. “Cyber Blues,” about being an analog man in a digital world, precedes a new take on the Ray Charles classic, “Mary Ann,” Ray Charles before Azucena and Sonix lend a hand for “Life On The Run,” a plea for sanity in a world where innocent people are being shot dead in the street, before “Time” delivers a message that life is fleeting and we all have to act now to determine our fate.

As someone who’s known Sugar Blue for more years that either one of us probably don’t care to admit, Voyage leaves me smiling broadly, both for the quality of the disc and all of the positives expressed within. Available through all of the major retailers, it will have you smiling, too.

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 9 

RB Stone – Some Call It Freedom

Middle Mountain Music

11 tracks

RB Stone is a blues man with a rocking, country, and hill country tinge to his blues. He and his band here (Terence Houston on drums, Larry Van Loon on the keys, and Randy Coleman and Josh Fairman sharing the bass work) do a great job giving us a nice CD of all original cuts, RB plays the guitars, sings and adds the harp to the mix.

“Hill Country Stomp” is an RL Burnside sort of tune that starts things off with that wonderful rhtymic and hypnotizing hill country beat. The title track follows, comparing freedom to the blues. Stone does some nice slide work here. “35 Miles to Mobile” is a big, honky-tonk, and rocking song. Stone chants out the lyrics as the piano and guitar blaze. “Mid Your Business” is a song about a relationship with some separation needed. Guitar and harmonica solos add well to the cut overall as this mid-tempo rocking country blues progresses. Full out rocking blues follows in “YoYo Lover” (credited earlier on the packaging). The backline carry the big beat and Stone is effective on vocals and guitar. “Another Thief” starts out with and features what I’d call a native American sound beat within this blues rocker.

“Nickajack” returns to the hills and the acoustic guitar sells this one nicely. A shorter instrumental, we get the throbbing hill country beat with some well done picking by Stone. Another short, driving rocker follows with a ZZ Top sort of beat and sound. “You Don’t Want Me” is a one way love affair with Stone’s guitar on top of the beat driving this home. “Won’t Stop Rockin’” is another big country blues rocker that Stone seems so comfy with. The honky tonk piano and organ add some sweet layers to the song as Stone just rocks out for us.

The final two cuts feature guest guitar players. “Weapons of Mass Persuasion” has Tim “Too Slim” Langford doing some very mean slide guitar while Austin Young takes the guitar lead on “Standin’ On Top of the World” as Stone blows some dirty harp. He’s not sitting on top of the world, he’s standin’ on it, a nice rocking blues tune to close the set.

Stone has done a great job here. Nice original songs, a good variety and well done vocals and musicianship all around. Kudos on delivering a really great album!

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 9 

Cousin Harley – The Dutch Sessions

Little Pig Records – 2015

10 tracks; 28 minutes

Cousin Harley is Canadian guitarist Paul Pigat’s rockabilly project and this is their fifth album since 2002. The band is based in Vancouver but plays worldwide, this recording being made during a weekend off on a tour of Europe. As befits rock and roll from the classic era this is short and sweet with only one song passing the 3.30 time mark. The material is all drawn from the repertoire of the great rock and roll and country performers such as Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, Buck Owens and Jim Reeves. Blues fans should note those names because while this album is great fun it contains no actual blues content. Paul is on ‘git box and hollerin’ (guitar and vocals) with Keith Picot ‘bull fiddle’ (upright bass) and Jesse Cahill ‘tubs’ (drums).

Opener “I’m Coming Home” fairly rattles along with plenty of twangy guitar over a frenetic rhythm section. “Glad All Over” was the last song that Carl Perkins recorded for Sun and runs less than two minutes, Paul’s guitar recreating the Sun sound perfectly. Rudy Toombs wrote “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” and “One Mint Julep” as well as “5 – 10 – 15 Hours” for Ruth Brown but “Teardrops From My Eyes” is one of his less celebrated songs, played here with a fine rocking solo from Paul at its heart. I was unable to discover anything about “I’m Feeling Bad” or “Rock Therapy”, the former another classic rockabilly tune, the latter a great rock and roll anthem in which the singer needs treatment and ‘rock therapy’ appears to be the answer – great stuff! Quebec’s Les Jaguars is the source for the melancholy instrumental “Mer Morte” (Dead Sea in English), originally a regional hit in 1963.

The band takes a country detour with Jim Reeves’ “Yonder Comes A Sucker” which encourages cries of “Yee-Hah” from the outset whereas “Whatcha Gonna Do When There Ain’t No Swing” is a complete contrast with its elegant approach that recalls 1920’s Django Reinhardt, Paul playing subtly over Jesse’s brushes and Keith’s gentle bass pulse. Buck Owens’ “Rhythm And Booze” returns to a more raucous approach with more twanging guitar before the album closes with a run-through of “Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie”, best known from Eddie Cochran’s 1958 hit version.

Not blues but plenty of rocking fun!

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.

 Video Of The Week – Mike Wheeler Band 

Mike Wheeler Band doing the BB King classic Sweet Sixteen at Banana Peel Blues & Jazz, in Ruiselede, Belgium last fall. Click on the vidoe image above to start the video.

 Featured Blues Interview – Mike Wheeler 

Doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a head of state, a multi-national oil baron or a heavily-worshiped professional athlete.

The truth is still the truth.

And the truth is, behind every successful man, there stands a strong, wise and hardworking woman.

That applies to veteran bluesmen, as well.

Chicago Blues Hall of Fame member Mike Wheeler is quick to point out this truth.

“All these years that I’ve been doing what I’m doing, my wife Jeannie has been my number one fan and she will be there and will always support me. She’s never doubted me,” Wheeler recently said. “For you to reach your full potential, I believe that you have to have somebody with you that believes in you. When you want or need to do something, you have to have someone there that says you can, as opposed to someone there that doesn’t think that you can. My wife has never doubted me. We’ve been together for over 30 years and she’s always been understanding when it comes time for me to buy equipment or to do this or to do that. She’s never given me any problems. With a partner like that, the sky’s the limit.”

Wheeler is flying especially high these days, as his second album for the venerable Delmark Records label – Turn Up!! hit the streets with a gale force on national Tax Day. Although it’s still in its infancy, he says the response has been so far, so good.

“Yeah, people that have heard it, like it. The club owners have been playing it in their clubs and they have been getting a great reaction to it,” he said.

Blues music has long been a comfortable home for double-entendres of all kinds and Wheeler’s latest album will surely make a person stop and think a bit, especially when it comes to the title track. The song – “Turn Up!!” – is a smoky, horn-bolstered tune that’s filled with the essence of a strong physical attraction between opposite sexes. But when you take the title of that song – Turn Up!! – and plaster it on the front cover of your album, it almost becomes like a call-to-arms for the listener; almost like, ‘Hey! Here’s our new album, people. Turn Up!!’

“It can sure have more than one meaning. You know, in urban areas, ‘turn up’ means to go out and have fun and to have a good time. ‘Turn up’ means I’m enjoying myself tonight,” said Wheeler. “And it also means that when I’m with my woman, I’m turned up – I feel better. So even though it has more than one meaning, it’s still kind of the same thing.”

Wheeler’s first release for Delmark – Self Made Man – came out in 2012. With as fast as things move in these days and times, an almost five-year wait between albums can sometimes seem more like 10 or 15 years. But the 54-year-old Wheeler says that between new tunes being created and a big European tour, Turn Up!! just simply had to wait for its sweet time to come.

“Well, this CD was supposed to have been done in 2014. But we just kept delaying it because we kept coming up with new and more material for it,” he said. “So it wasn’t really delayed on purpose; that’s just how it happened. It could have been done in 2015, but we did a European tour last year and that kind of got in its way. Our producer, Steve Wagner, just told us to wait until we got back (from the tour) to start recording it.”

So that’s just what they did.

Wheeler is quick to give props to the entire Delmark Records family for the role they have played in helping to establish his as a household name in the homes of blues lovers all over the globe.

“Steve Wagner and Bob and Sue Koester have believed in us and backed us from the beginning,” he said. “Without them, we’d probably just be some guys out there that were still trying to make it.”

Wheeler is intent on making sure that his legacy is firmly in place when he’s through playing the blues. And the way that he sees it, a lynchpin of that legacy will be found in the songs that’s he created for himself. That goes a long way in explaining why Turn Up!! is filled with his original compositions and is lite in the cover-song department.

“As a musician and as a song-writer, you have to do stuff that defines you as a person. I mean, I like playing cover songs, but the way that life works is, when you leave here, you have to leave something behind that defines who you were as a musician,” he said. “And that’s what I try to do. For years I played covers and other people’s stuff, so that’s one reason why right now, I prefer to do my own stuff.”

It’s not like Wheeler is in possession of some mystical water-spout that spews out completed songs when the nozzle is opened. No, just as it is with just about every other musician, song-writing is an intense process and can sometimes be difficult, at best. However, when it comes to finding inspiration for the material that he will hone into a tune, that part is not so hard, says Wheeler.

“A lot of times, they’re (his songs) based on things that I’ve seen people go through or things that I’ve gone through in my life. Sometimes I’ll get an idea from something that I hear someone say. There’s just so much stuff that goes on in everyday life that has the potential to be used in a song,” he said. “Then if you write about it, maybe somebody else can relate to it, because they may be going through the same thing themselves.”

He can play shuffles and 12-bar blues with the best of them, but one thing that has helped to set Wheeler apart from a large part of the blues-playing pack is the eagerness in which he incorporates a host of other elements into his songs. They can transition from a whisper to a scream, from a jazzy passage to a complete heavy metal breakdown and from passionate to powerful, a lot of times, all within the framework of the same song. Wheeler explains that is by no means an accident.

“The thing with me is, even though I’m a bluesman, I do listen to a lot of different kinds of music. In the household that I was raised in, we listened to everything,” he said. “I think that your influences and the stuff that you like to listen to should come out in the music that you make. Hopefully, other people will like it, too. But I try to put something for everybody on all the CDs that I do. Even when we’re playing live shows, I try and read the room and put something for everybody into what we play up on the bandstand. As much as I love the blues, I just don’t sit and listen to the blues all day long; I listen to everything and I think a lot of people are like that, too. That comes out in the music. If you play the same shuffle or the same groove throughout your whole record, when you’ve heard the first song, you’ve heard it all. That’s not how I want my music to be … that’s just the way I am.”

Maybe Wheeler is not quite on par with Brett Favre’s NFL record streak of 297 consecutive games started at quarterback, but his work ethic is every bit as legendary as the former Green Bay Packer’s was. It seems like Wheeler and his bandmates – Brian James (keys), Cleo Cole (drums) and Larry Williams (bass) – rarely ever take a night off from gigging around the Windy City. Their weekends are filled with shows at Harlem Avenue Lounge, Rosa’s, Buddy Guy’s Legends or the House of Blues. On Mondays, they’re at Blue Chicago. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the Mike Wheeler Band can be found at Kingston Mines. And on the other couple of days that make up a week, you can bet the crew is plugged in and ready to turn up somewhere around Chicago.

“Well, first of all, you’ve got to love your job (to do it almost every night of the week, for hours on end). I worked a day job for 30 years and I did not love that job, but I did it because I had to. But I love playing music, so for me, it’s really not like a job – even though it is,” he said. “It’s something that I love to do, so I don’t ever have trouble getting up and playing music. If I can find a way to fit three shows into one day, that’s what I’m going to do. And the band’s the same way. When we together, to me, it’s magic. I really look forward to playing with those guys. I really do think I was born to play music. It’s a privilege to play music and it’s an honor when people want to pay money to hear you play your music.”

Those that are familiar with Wheeler’s guitar works as a part of Nellie Tiger Travis’ or Peaches Staten’s bands – or from the numerous times that he’s shared the stage with Shemekia Copeland, Buddy Guy or Koko Taylor – can attest to, the man is definitely well-versed when it comes to finding his way up-and-down the neck of a six-string. Those same folks might also be a tad bit surprised to learn that Wheeler considers himself a singer first and a guitarist second.

“Well, there’s a lot of other guys out here playing guitar that are better than me … but everybody has their thing and singing has always been my thing. I always wanted to play guitar equally as good as I could sing. I’ve sang ever since I was a little boy and started off singing in church,” he said. “I think it would be a fair assumption to say that I’m a singer that plays guitar. I love listening to guys like Sam Cooke, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, Al Green, B.B. King, Michael Jackson … there’s just so many great vocalists that I love. That’s how I developed my style, from listening to all those cats and putting it all together. Anybody that could sing, I was intent on listening to and trying to emulate what they were doing.”

One of those ‘great vocalists’ that touched the life of Wheeler (along with many millions of others), was also a masterful guitarist. It’s no wonder then, that Wheeler had a strong admiration for the recently-departed Prince.

“Oh, man, he was a major influence on me. His first album was more of an R&B record, but when his second record came out, he had a couple of rock cuts on there, like “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “Bambi.” I said, ‘Oooh, he’s good.’ Then after that, to find out he was playing all the instruments and stuff … wow! And then you add in his song-writing; I mean, he was just good at everything and he didn’t limit himself to just one genre. He did it all and I’ve got a DVD where he’s playing the blues on it. He was a big influence on me. I’m got everything he did and even met him a couple of times. He influenced everybody, even bluesmen. Him and Michael Jackson had an enormous influence on all forms of music, especially with guys that are my age – including those that play the blues.”

He had formed his own group way back in 2001, but it really wasn’t until he left the employ of Big James & The Chicago Playboys in 2011 – after the group’s The Big Payback (Blind Pig) hit the streets (Wheeler’s fifth album with the band) – that Wheeler buckled down and decided the time was ripe for him to devote the lion’s share of attention to his own budding career. As it is in most cases, the timing was just right for the events that were about to follow to get started.

“Yeah, the timing of it was just right. I had worked a day job at the University of Illinois for 30 years and I retired from that in 2010. When you get up in age, you don’t know how much more time you’ve got in your life, so you have to start doing the things that you want to do,” he said. “I love Big James like a brother and the exposure that I got from playing with him kind of sent me on my way to what I’m doing now. But yeah, it was just time for me to play the music that I wanted to play and focus some on me … not in a selfish way, you see, but in the kind of way where, ‘Hey, it’s my time now.'”

With the biggest part of his career still remaining in front of him, there’s still plenty of shows to play and a lot more albums to do before Wheeler decides to call it a day and slow down the nightly pace that he’s currently keeping. But his induction into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame as a Master Blues Artist a couple of years ago did offer up an opportunity for Wheeler to pause a bit and reflect, especially on those that came before him and may not have quite earned their just deserts.

“Well, when I got inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame, I was certainly flattered and definitely excited. But at the same time, I was kind of sad, because I know there’s some more guys that have been doing it longer than I have, that should have went in (to Hall of Fame) before I did,” he said. “But I’m not the one that makes those decisions … I just want to help sing the praises of all the guys that have paved the way for us to be able to do what we’re doing today. But anytime someone acknowledges that they like something that I do, that makes me happy.”

Visit Mike’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 – 5 of 9 

Blue Largo – Sing Your Own Blues

Self Release

14 tracks / 60:44

The story behind the third Blue Largo album, Sing Your Own Blues, is inspiring, to say the least. This San Diego, California group has been together since 1999, fronted by Alicia Aragon on vocals with Eric Lieberman on guitar. They have a passion for the sounds of the 1940s and 1950s, and their first two albums were tributes to classic blues tunes. Eric had a major setback in 2006 when a disorder seriously hindered his ability to play guitar, but by practicing five hours a day for over eight years he was able to re-train himself how to play again, which is inspiring no matter how you look at it.

As their previous albums were recorded around the turn of the century, Alicia and Eric decided it was time to return to the studio. But in their back pocket they had seven original songs that Lieberman had written, so this time they are indeed singing their own songs. They were joined in the Oceanside studio by quite a crew of musicians, including their regular members: Jonny Viau on sax, Taryn Donah on piano, and Art Kraatz on the bass. But there are also plenty of guest artists, and with this roster the vibe is big and bouncy.

The set kicks off with four of these original tunes, and the first one, “Walkin’ on a Tightrope” a hopping 12-bar blues song with smoky vocals from Aragon and some fabulous roadhouse piano from Donah. This is followed up by “Kindness Love and Understanding,” an up-tempo song with a tasteful guitar break from Lieberman, and “Sing Your Own Song,” which has the feel of a gospel revival. Then, “Tears of Joy” tugs at the heartstrings with its heartfelt message of hope over an easygoing island beat. These latter three songs include Rafael Salmon on organ and backing vocals from San Diego’s Missy Anderson, a Blues Blast Music Award nominee from 2015.

The cover tunes are also cool, with a smoky jazz club rendition of “Evening,” which was previously recorded by artists as diverse as T-Bone Walker and Tony Bennett. Alicia proves to be quite the chanteuse, and Eric trades reverb-soaked guitar licks with Viau’s aggressive sax. In a similar vein, there is Willie Dixon’s “You Know My Love,” which was also recorded very well by Otis Rush in 1960. But the standout of the re-dos is Magic Sam’s “I Need You so Bad” from the late 1960s. Lieberman can rock out on the guitar just fine, so he does this song justice, but it is Aragon’s vocals that take this song to the next level, as she gives the tune a whole different character to this song of longing.

Proving that he last lost nothing in the chops department, Lieberman’s guitar takes center stage on three instrumentals. From 1957 there is “Guitar Rhumba” by Earl “Zeb” Hooker, which starts with a slick Latin beat and transforms into a cool surf rock odyssey. There is also the “Okie Dokie Stomp” as done by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, with some nice punctuation from Viau’s sax and Joey Jazdzewski’s double bass. And lastly, Herb Remington’s “Remington Ride” is presented as a rollicking classic country tune (just like Freddie King did it!) with some awesome barroom piano from Donath and a little help on rhythm guitar from Nathan James. By the way, James also acted as co-producer, recording engineer, and mixer for this project, besides filling in on backing vocals and bass where needed.

After all of this, the album closes out with Walter Vinson’s blues standard, “Sitting on Top of the World,” a neat acoustic track with a Delta/roots vibe. Once again, Aragon takes the lead, this time with call and response backing vocals from Lieberman. Eric handles the acoustic guitar (including a nicely finger-picked solo), with James providing a healthy dose of his slide talent on a resonator guitar. This song has a completely different sound than the rest of the tracks on the album, but the feel is the same and it is a neat way to finish up the set.

It took thirteen years to get a new album from Blue Largo album, and Sing Your Own Blues was worth the wait. Their new songs are very good, and the classic tunes they chose are not ones that other bands usually cover. The end result is an hour of positive messages with a cool vintage vibe, and after hearing it you might wish you lived on the left coast so would be in a better position to catch one of their shows!

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

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 9 

Murray Kinsley & Wicked Grin – Stormy Water

Phoenix Records

11 songs – 48 minutes

Ottawa-based Murray Kinsley & Wicked Grin have been making waves in the Canadian blues community for a few years now, including winning the Maple Blues Award for New Artist of the Year in 2014. Their third album, Stormy Water, follows on from 2013’s Shame On Me, and features 11 roots rock/blues songs, 10 of which were written by Kinsley himself (with the sole cover being Sleepy John Estes’ “Everybody Ought To Make A Change”).

Leaning more towards roots rock than blues, Stormy Water is a very impressive release. The band attacks the material with serious intent, focussing primarily on up-tempo numbers, such as when they come roaring out of the blocks on the first track, “Dance Pretty Mama”, with its hints of Aerosmith’s “Let The Music Do The Talking” both in attitude and also in the in-your-face production. Rod Williams’ swooping harmonica playing is particularly effective, helping to set the tone for the rest of the album.

In addition to being the main songwriter, Murray Kinsley also supplies lead vocals and guitar. The rest of the band comprises Rod Williams on harmonica and vocals and the impressive rhythm section of Leigh-Anne Stanton on bass and vocals and Liam Melville on drums and vocals. Guest musicians on the album include Alain McCann on piano and Hammond organ, Jason Jaknunas on percussion and Vivian Kinsley on additional back-up vocals.

Kinsley is a fine guitarist but it is his distinctive, world-weary voice that really sets Murray Kinsley & Wicked Grin apart. On a track like the throwback rock’n’roll of “Fast Fast Car”, Kinsley sounds more beaten up than Jim Rockford at the end of an unusually violent episode of the Rockford Files. Even on the upbeat “Shine”, with its entwining slide guitar and harp stretching out over the jungle beat of the drums, Kinsley’s voice sounds like it has come from a harsher altogether more brutal time and place, even as he exhorts the subject of the song to “Shine, beauty, shine.”

Estes’ “Everybody Ought To Make A Change” is perfectly suited to the band. Played as an upbeat dancing song, the last line of the stanza is all the more effective for its casual brutality: “Everybody, they ought to make a change sometime. Because sooner or later they’ll go out in that lonesome ground.”

Wicked Grin play everything with a biting edge. Even a love song such as “Let Me Love You” sounds ominously threatening, with its hints of the great John Campbell in the groove, with another fine harp solo from Williams. The shuffle of “I’m Mad” highlights Kinsley’s distinctive and winning voice and “Death If You Find Me” sounds like the bastard love child of Muddy’s “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and some early Led Zep. The ostensibly acoustic “You’re Gone” still carries an unmistakable air of foreboding menace.

Stormy Water is a very enjoyable slab of blues/rock, benefiting especially from Kinsley’s voice and Williams’ haunting harp. If your tastes extend to the rockier end of the blues spectrum such as early Aerosmith or George Thorogood, you will find much to enjoy on this release.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 9 

L Wood Joy – Gumbo

self release

songs-11 time-44:11

Who would think that the influence of New Orleans’ life style and music would reach its’ arms to Denmark and New Orleans aficionados L Wood Joy, a piano, drums and bass trio that get occasional assistance from a horn section, backup vocals and organ. There isn’t a guitar any where in sight. Piano and horns take the along side the vocals. Lasse Skov handles the vocal and piano chores. Jakob Riis on bass and Morton Lyngsae on drums comprise the very able rhythm section. The New Orleans sound visits the songs at times and many New Orleans references pop up. On the whole the songs veer more to a slick pop music sound, often times bringing to mind for me George Michaels and WHAM!.

Things jump right off with the New Orleans-centric “Lost In New Orleans”, a snappy little ditty that uses almost every New Orleans reference and word you can possibly think of. It comes off sounding like an advert for The Big Easy…But a very good one at that. The song finds Lasse Skov in good voice with a tad of an accent along with his top notch piano playing. They definitely “Finally Got The Beat” as this tune is empowered by catchy piano and bass.

The horn and piano driven “Dance All Night” sounds like it came out of a 40’s production number. It’s basically pop fluff. They attain a close approximation of the New Orleans sound, replete with second line drumming leading a jumpy beat. The basic premise of the song is that the hubby does the household chores in exchange for sex. What appears to be one of their biggest influences rears its’ ugly head in Move To Stay Alive”…George Michaels and WHAM!…No, really! It’s repetitious pop candy taken to the nth degree. You can’t make this stuff up.

The band’s slow and bluesy side pops up on Baby I’m Your Man”, featuring lovely piano and organ. A nice late night bluesy ballad. Some really nifty and rhythmic piano brings back the New Orleans groove on a tune about jamming with long gone New Orleans musicians “In My Dreams”. Rest assured it’s jam packed with New Orleans references. It includes a New Orleans funk horn section and a nice trumpet solo. The George Michaels vibe comes out again.

Jerry Lee Lewis style piano and a WHAM! overdose causes “House Of Blue Lights” to push the hokey meter into the red zone. Tuts Washington style piano playing is showcased in the smaltzy “Friday Night, a tune that features a nice big band horn sound. The ghost of Tuts Washington once again tickles the ivories on “I Could Be Your Man”. Lasse never captures Professor Longhair’s piano style anywhere on this record.

You can’t fault these Danes for trying to emulate the iconic New Orleans sound. They hit the mark a few times, but often they come off a bit too slick and over produced. They get a blatant pop sound too often for my taste, but there are many musical elements to recommend the band such as tasty piano and a tight horn section. A rougher edge and tougher and more creative lyrics would benefit the band. There are things to like here and they are a band to watch.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.

 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 9 

Mighty Sam McClain & Knut Reiersurd – Tears of the World

Act Music

12 tracks

Mighty Sam McLain suffered a stroke and left this world on June 15th of 2015. He has collaborated with Norwegian guitarist Knut Reiersrud for several years prior to his death. A great supporter of those less fortunate, Sam’s legacy with the Give Us Your Poor Project will help them to continue on.

This album was put together just prior to Sam’s death and was released in September 2015. He and Knut selected the songs which created Sam’s final album. It’s a damn good one.

The title track starts things off. It’s a soulful and hopeful cut where Sam tells us, “Tears of the world keep fallin’, oh one day you won’t have to cry any more.” The organ and bass supplement the guitars and make this a big and cool intro. “Please Mr. Foreman” is an assembly line blues where McClain gives us a very traditional rendition of slow blues in an AAB format. The organ takes us to church a bit as the duo and band give us some cool blues. “Jewels” gives us a down tempo and mournful songs with some poignant harp by Reiersurd. “Living in the Key of G” has Mighty Sam singing to us again about hope in the face of Armageddon. Nice guitar picking and an upbeat tempo are featured here. Can you take a song by Doris Day and turn it into a blues and soul masterpiece? Well, with “Que Sera Sera” Knut and Sam do that! Suffice it to say that the soulful slow blues that they turn it into will make the hair on your arms standup! Knut does the verses and Sam wails on the choruses. Beautiful stuff!

“Friends” offers up a funky mid-tempo beat and Sam testifying to us as few can. And a flute is added for an interesting bit of spice. “Too Proud” brings things down again. June Carter’s daughter Carlene wrote this country song; Sam turns it into a minimalistic spiritual of sorts. With “Apples Don’t Fall Far from The Tree” takes a bit of a Gospel approach with a big choir behind Sam, although the topic is not Gospel-like. “I Wish I Had a Girl Like You” follows on the same topic of women. Another funky cut with Sam doing his thing. “Somebody Help Me” is a a bit of a slow country ballad with thoughtful guitar and vocals. “Things Ain’t what They Used to Be” is a full frontal soul and funk assault. The album closes with “Promised Land” with a full scale musical production and a huge intro that turns into a long, slow, mournful soul blues song. The conclusion builds with all the players and church-like bells and then song ends with a big flourish.

The players in addition to Sam and Knut (who does some piano along with harp and occasional vocals) are Bjorn Holm on guitar, David Wallumrod on organ and keys, Nikolai Haengsle Ellertsen on bass, Andreas Bye on drums, Hakon Kornstad on saxes and flute and Martin Horntveth on timani and tubular bells. Strings and backing vocals were also added here and there.

Sadly, we lost Sam as this was in production. Oddly, the tone of he album often seems to be a tribute by Sam to a life passing by. This is a beautiful and well done album. If you are a fan of Sam’s you will love this. If you like bluesy soulful stuff this will be right up your alley. If you want to listen to beautifully done songs with emotion and feeling, this needs to be in your CD player. Most highly recommended!

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 9 

Georgie Bonds – Hit it Hard

Roadhouse Redemption Records

11 tracks / 54:46

Georgie Bonds knows a thing or two about the blues, even though this was not the music he was brought up with. Blues grows from adversity, and Bonds has had more than his share of medical troubles, and growing up in Philadelphia he managed to find himself a bit of trouble too. These things have made him the man he is today, and he discovered a path in life that included learning the blacksmith trade and becoming a member of the Black Cowboys, an organization that helps kids from tough neighborhoods. His career as a blues singer came later in life and he has done well with it, earning a well-deserved place in the Pennsylvania Blues Hall of Fame in 2012.

Georgie’s third album, Hit it Hard, is mostly filled with originals that were written by Bonds and his friends; these guys include producer and guitarist Neil Taylor, and the harp-playing executive producer, Buddy Cleveland. These songs cover quite the gamut of subjects, but a few of them draw directly from Georgie’s life experiences. This trio was joined in the studio by a core band of Andy Haley on drums, Rick Prince on bass, and Walter Runge on keys.

First in the set list is “Pickin’ Your Bones,” which was featured on Sonny Rhodes’ 1996 album, Out of Control. Rhodes is Bond’s mentor, and this is a tasty piece of funky blues. You will find that Georgie has the strong voice of a younger man, with just a touch of weathering to keep things interesting. The backline is tight, with Haley hitting the drums hard and Prince keeping perfect time. On this song Cleveland shares the leads on his harmonica and Taylor throws down a well-crafted and slightly distorted guitar solo. These guys can rock!

There are just a few other covers on Hit it Hard. Sam Taylor’s “Not Tired of Living” is a bouncy rocker with slick organ fills from Runge and a scorching guitar solo from Neil Taylor, not to mention a fun vocal finale that brings everybody into the act. The other is “The Soul of a Man,” written by Blind Willie Johnson, and this is a healthy dose of slow rolling southern blues-rock that is sung with passion and clarity.

As you will hear, Georgie brings many different genres to this disc, and the fun and funky dance track, “Let’s Get Down,” works on many levels. He recruited a pair of talented local sax players, Vanessa Collier and Dave Renz, and they do a sweet job of completing the picture for this track. There is also a well-placed call and response that contributes to the rowdy party vibe. The sax team comes back for “Blues Job” lending a little jazz feel to a tune that is peppered with fat bass and nifty electric piano. Though he is a jack-of-all-trades, Georgie is no stranger to the 12-bar blues, and his team knocks out “Come Back Baby,” featuring brief but tasty piano and harmonica breaks.

On the more serious side of things, Mr. Bonds includes a couple of tunes about being incarcerated: the slow grinding “Paid Vacation” and “Another Year,” a song of reflection. The latter closes out the set, and it turns out that this was the first song Georgie ever wrote (in a federal prison, actually). He howls the lyrics out over a slow-rocking melancholy melody with Cleveland providing just enough harp to make the mood. For a song that comes in under three minutes there is a lot going on here, as there are plenty of tempo and dynamic changes until it abruptly ends. This is both cool and dramatic.

Georgie Bonds’ Hit it Hard is a solid effort of blues-based music, and his honesty and upbeat spirit are quite engaging. He has a few shows coming up, but you will have to be around the City of Brotherly Love to take advantage of them. Head on over to his website to see what is going on with him and to support a local bluesman who is doing good work!

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

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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 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 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 began 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!

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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