Issue 10-41 October 20, 2016

tim langford cover photo

Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2016

 In This Issue 

Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. has our feature interview with Tim “Too Slim” Langford. We have 7 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Mighty Sam McClain, David Bromberg Band, Rogue Johnsen, The Mike Eldred Trio, Kaz Hawkins Band, The Kat Kings and Jake Chisholm.

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

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 Blues Wanderings 

Blues Blast made it to the King Biscuit Blues Fest recently. Here are a few of the amazing artists that performed there.

sonny landreth photo bob margolin photo andy t photo toronzo cannon photo beverly watson pgoto

Above are Sonny Landreth, Bob Margolin, Andy T, Toronzo Cannon and Beverly “Guitar” Watson. We will have a complete photo review of the 2016 King Biscuit Festival in an upcoming issue.


Blues Blast Magazine is offering a fall advertising sale. This special pricing will be our lowest pricing of the 2016-2017 season.

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 7 

sam mcclain cd imageMighty Sam McClain – Time and Change (Last Recordings)

City Hall Records

11 tracks

The passing of Mighty Sam McClain last June marked the end of five decades of beautiful vocal work by this blues and soul legend. Blending deep soul and blues, Sam’s last new CD contains 10 originals and one song penned by his longtime friend Melvin Underwood. As the liner notes state, this is not a somber memorial album, it is the final work of a man who wanted us to remember what he and his music were all about. Sam performed in over 60 countries, one of the few to visit Russia. He also toured with Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat for the last 8 years. He was truly a Renaissance man.

The album features Sam on vocals, Pat Herlehy on guitars, bass, alto sax, keys, strings, and more, Michael Rossi on bass, Rick Page on drums, Joe Deleault on keys and B3 organ, Barry Seelen on B3 organ, Scott Shetler on tenor and baritone sax, Russell Jewel on trumpet and trombone and Matt Rivero on trumpet. Recorded at Jama Man Studio in Raymond, NH. It is a work that took 12 years to produce. Sam and Pat Herlehy finally got together and produced it themselves, writing songs, doing arrangements and working together in the studio. The album is dedicated to Sam’s mentor and friend Melvin Underwood (Little Melvin) who passed away in 2014.

“Let’s Talk” kicks off the set. It’s a sweet cut where Sam tells us, “We’ve got to love one another” with a clipped delivery that just funks things up nicely. The horns layer over the sex appeal of McClain’s vocals as the guitar tickles senses. It’s a very cool opening. McClain slows things down with “Sweet Love,” where he soulfully expresses himself about a love that makes you cry, that will make you high and that will never die. There are some stirring emotions expressed here. In “Let’s Do Something” McClain sings about working to find love in a cool cut. The title cut follows where McClain sings about the changes we see over our lives if we live long enough. slow tempo funky groove is laid down for Sam to groove with effectively. The guitar is stinging and very well done here. “Bad Dreams” follows and McClain stays in a melancholy down tempo where he’s having bad dreams about his baby. Things perk up a bit with “Around Every Corner” where Sam sings about learning a lesson around every corner. His love is being tested and his light is growing dim, making it hard to see what’s coming next. Another emotion-filled cut delivered so well.

“You Broke My Heart” is a song of lost love where we get a funky delivery by McClain. The thoughtlessness of the breakup, the heart break from the breakup; all of it was apparently intentionally hurtful. McClain expresses hope despite the breakup: love is gonna come again! In “Touch Somebody” we have McClain wanting to reach out and touch someone to help with their pain and the pain he sees all around him. If we reach out and touch somebody we can all help. It’s got a great groove and message. “Here I Come Again” takes it way down as he laments and tells his baby he needs to see her one more time and come back home to stay, The horns play off the vocal line as the organ provides a base for the lyrics. There is a very well done guitar solo in this one, too. “Praise” follows, picking up the beat as the guitar and organ give us a steady groove to move and dance to. We all need to stand up and praise, according to Sam. He tells us that God gives him and all of us hope, so we need to praise! He closes with some deep soul in “You Worry Me.” His long love for his baby makes losing her worse. He worries he’ll lose his mind if his baby leaves him. The B3 organ solo is silky and luxurious. The vocals are emphatic and convincing. He layers vocal tracks over his own to back himself up and it’s just very cool and well done.

Sam’s wife Sandra indicates there is another album to come in late 2017 of some of McClain’s acoustic work and later a 2013 recording from New Orleans. McClain is a superb soul and blues man who has written and recorded many outstanding songs that I love. I can’t wait to hear these new recordings when they come out. In the meantime, I will savor this and his earlier works. This is just beautifully done. original soul and blues. 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 career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 7 

david bromberg cd i,ameDavid Bromberg Band – The Blues, The Whole Blues, and Nothing But the Blues

Red House Records

13 tracks

David Bromberg has had a fifty–five year recording career and his music still sounds fresh and new. His 1971 self-titled album on Columbia began his recording career after he received acclaim working with many famed artists. Bromberg has had a great solo career over the years and has added his talents on stringed instruments to notables like Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Carly Simon, the Eagles, Bonnie Raitt, and Willie Nelson (to name a few). He went on hiatus for many years to learn how to play and repair violins. He is now regularly recording again, mixing his great musicianship, charm and humor in his recordings and their packaging.

Living in Wilmington, Delaware, this CD was recorded by Bromberg at Milan Hill Studio in New York with other work in Woodstock and Rhinebeck, NY. Mark McKenna got the idea for the album and Mark Cosgrove joins Bromberg on guitar for each track. He and Butch Amiot (bass), Josh Kanusky (drums) and Bill Payne (keys) make up the primary quintet for this production. Nate Grower on fiddle is a phenomenal addition for his tracks as are the horn section arranged by Larry Campbell (who produced the album) and Peter Ecklund on track 9. The horns are Steve Bernstein (trumpet), Lou Marini (sax; clarinet on track 9), and Birch Johnson (trombone).

Bromberg starts us off with Robert Johnson’s “Walkin’ Blues,” stridently showing off the results of his voice lessons along with some stellar solo guitar work. He follows with “How Come My Dog Don’t Bark When You Come Round,” an old blues classic that Bromberg handles with great chops. The guitar solo is clean and crisp, the fiddle solo is gritty and cool, and the added horns are slick. George “Little Hat” Jones’ “Kentucky Blues” takes us acoustic with the fiddle crowing and the mandolin added for an authentic front porch or jug band sound. “Why Are People Like That?” is a Muddy waters tune written by Bobby Johnson which gets a nice cover by Bromberg, the organ and the big horn sound. Bromberg picks out some dirty electric guitar while Payne’s organ adds a great touch. David goes solo acoustic on Ray Charles’ “A Fool For You,” a tasteful and interesting take on this standard. He sets things up with beautiful guitar picking and then gives an emotional vocal performance. Sonny Boy Williamson #2’s “Eyesight to the Blind” gets a nice jumping cover with great organ, fiddle and guitar work.

“900 Miles” is a driving and vibrant cover of the old tune; Bromberg really has a feel for stuff like this, and a little slide makes it even better. “Yield Not to Temptation” takes us to church. It’s a driving Gospel tune that was done by Bobby Blue Bland and the trio of Tracy Nelson, Marcia Ball and Irma Thomas on Sing It! Bromberg gives the props in the notes, but his version is a winner, too. Next is the Bessie Smith cut “”You’ve Been A Good Ole Wagon” done very traditionally. The clarinet is a beautiful touch along with the horns and powerful backing vocals by Nancy Josephson, Teresa Williams and Kathleen Weber and tambourine by Juston Guip. “Delia” is an acoustic guitar duo piece with Larry Campbell also on guitar and slide; it’s a beautifully done ballad.

The title track has Bromberg testifying his blues in a song that depicts a court room trial of his relationship. It’s a fun cut and well done with the horns again in place making for a larger production. The album was entitled this and was completed when they stumbled on the song of the same name by Gary Nicholson and Russell Smith, so they went back and added it! Two original conclude the CD, “This Month” and ‘You Don’t Have to Go.” The former is deep, slow blues where the guitar and organ interplay and get you rocking in your seat with feeling; Bromberg ‘s vocals testify sweetly here. The latter is straight up Chicago blues with nice piano and guitar and the fiddle is added for fun. Well done!

This is a super CD by a great and talented set of artists. The fun they had making it really comes out in their music- it is a joy to listen to! I highly recommend David Bromberg’s new CD to all blues fans!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 7 

rouge johnson cd imageRogue Johnsen – Trouble Blues


10 songs – 35 minutes

Recorded “live” in the studio on 28 February 2016 with no overdubs and no separate tracking, Trouble Blues is a short (35 minutes) but highly enjoyable slice of piano blues from the Springfield, Virginia-based Rogue Johnsen.

Featuring nine originals and one cover, Johnsen is accompanied throughout by only his piano. A one-time student of Charles Brown, Johnsen acknowledges his debt to the master by taking on “Trouble Blues”, interpreted here as a stomp “but otherwise, exactly as Charles taught me.”

Johnsen is at heart a bluesman (check out, for example, “Nightlight (Full Fool Moon)”), but as one might expect from one of Charles Brown’s students, his tastes often lean towards slower, soft-toned songs as well as touching on a range of blues-influenced genres.

The loping, slightly discordant “The Same” highlights Johnsen’s ability to stay firmly within the blues genre whilst adding passing notes and chords that sound unfamiliar and memorable at the same time. The ballad “Tides Of Time”, however, with its descending piano melody, sits more comfortably in a pop-rock world, albeit one in which Johnsen’s broken, world-weary voice ominously warns that “The tides of time upon me are banking on the shadows of my mind.”

With his rough, roadhouse voice, and an ability to pen a strikingly poetic lyric, Johnsen at times sounds like a tenor-voiced version of Tom Waits. On “The Same”, he explains that he was: “Dazed when I came staggering from someone else’s dream. That’s why I started laughing after you asked me where I’d been.” In “Midnight Prayer”, one of the few lyrically uplifting songs on the album, he promises to say a prayer every night “to keep the human wolves at bay and warm you in the frozen rain.”

There are three instrumentals on the album, the slightly jazzy shuffle of “Monkey Tumble”, the upbeat boogie-woogie of “See Band Boogie” and the yearning melancholy of “Pain Of Tenderness”.

Johnsen is a superb pianist, mixing technique and emotional commitment in equal measure, perhaps most effectively in the penultimate track, “In This World”, where Johnsen’s elegiac, mournful narrator tries to find some hope in the bleak hand he has been dealt, while Johnsen’s left hand plays a classic blues bass line and his right crafts a powerfully emotional solo.

Trouble Blues is superbly recorded by Mike Monseur, who captures a late night, spit-and-sawdust atmosphere, and Johnsen himself designed and produced the attractive CD sleeve.

Overall, this is a very entertaining and enjoyable release. Recommended.

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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 7 

mike eldred cd imageThe Mike Eldred Trio – Baptist Town

Great Western Recording Company

13 tracks / 58:18

Mike Eldred is no stranger to the guitar, as he ran Fender’s Custom Shop for many years, but he is also a masterful musician and songwriter. He has joined up with John Bazz and Jerry Angel of the Southern California’s best band that should have hit the big time, The Blasters, to form the eclectic Mike Eldred Trio. The band has released their fourth album, Baptist Town, and it a refreshing blend of Americana and blues music.

Eldred drew inspiration for this project from Baptist Town, a neighborhood in Greenwood, Mississippi that was home to many blues greats, including Robert Johnson, Honeyboy Edwards, Hubert Sumlin, Hound Dog Taylor, and many more. The poverty of Baptist Town is a stark contrast with the affluent neighborhoods of Greenwood, and this inequality has not changed much for the better since Johnson passed on in 1938.

For Baptist Town, Mike acted as producer, wrote twelve of the thirteen tracks, and provided the much of the vocals and guitars. Bazz laid down the bass parts and Jerry Angel took care of the drums, while a nifty crew of artists contributed their unique skills throughout the album. Many of the sessions took place at the birthplace of rock and roll, the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee (about 125 miles north of Greenwood).

Baptist Town is not exactly the Delta nor is it Memphis, and likewise this is not a rock or a Delta blues album but rather an amalgamation of American styles, set to lyrics that speak to the social issues that are relevant to the neighborhood. There is a lot going on here, as evidenced by the opening track, “Hunder Dollar Bill,” a story of drunken misanthropy set to a driving vintage rock sound with muffled vocals and a wickedly distorted harmonica solo courtesy of Phoenix’s awesome John “Big Nick” Samora.

Three Grammy-winning guest artists each bring their own flavor to this disc, too. David Hidalgo of Los Lobos contributes his distinctive vocals and accordion to “Bess,” and the result is a thumping slice of Louisiana sttle. John Mayer provides the lap steel and electric guitar parts for “Roadside Shrine,” a very pretty country blues song with restrained vocals from Eldred. Yet another big name was drawn to this project, as Robert Cray brings his guitar to the title track, and his smooth leads mesh well with a slick undercurrent of riffs in this laid-back soul tune.

The songs that connect best to the community of Baptist Town are the ones that feature the Emmanuel Church Inspirational Choir and a local fellow, Jarvis Jernigan, on vocals. “Somebody Been Runnin’” is onlya few minutes long, but this a capella gospel tune is powerful with wonderful back and forth between Jarvis and Mike, and the vocal harmonies are beautiful. As an added bonus, it seems to be inspired by the fate of Robert Johnson! “You’re Always There” closes out the set, and after a raucous introduction, it settles down to a funky gospel vibe with a healthy serving of Hammond organ courtesy of Papa John DeFrancesco, a true American treasure.

The lone cover is an odd duck that does not exactly fit it with the rest of the material, and there has never been a version of the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” that is anything like this. This is a timeless story of love with no strings attached, but its heavy tone and six-plus minute running time highlights that there is not much value or variety to the words (sorry, John and Paul). My guess is that Eldred is seeking to contrast lighthearted pop music with the harsh reality of a downtrodden people, but it is a stretch to connect this material with the community or the overall theme of the disc.

Aside from this one tune, the rest of Baptist Town is a sweet set of uniquely American music that draws inspiration from the blues, and the Mike Eldred Trio has shone a light on a community that does not get much attention. Be sure to head over to their website as there is cool media to support this album, including the lyrics, a gallery of quality images from the neighborhood, and videos that show the production process, including an explanation of how it came to be and documentation of how a few of the tracks were recorded.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 7 

kaz hawkind band cd imageKaz Hawkins Band – Feelin’ Good


CD: 10 Songs, 46:40 Minutes

Styles: 1950’s-Style Blues, Soul, and Rock and Roll

What’s the perfect antidote to the Monday (or, for that matter, any-day) blahs? Blues fans, when you’re bored at work, feeling sluggish, or overwhelmed by projects on the other hand, to whom might you turn? Belfast’s Kaz Hawkins Band, and their zesty third album, will have you Feelin’ Good in no time! With their high-energy take on 1950’s-style blues, soul, and rock and roll, this ensemble aims to lift the spirits of everyone who listens to it. That they do, with one part effervescence, one part sweet harmony, and one part dark-rum vocals from Kaz. On eight original songs and two covers (the title track and Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You”), they prove themselves more loyal devotees of their genres than some US artists today.

The Kaz Hawkins Band has received several notable accolades for their accomplishments. For one, they were the first-ever winners of the Barry Middleton Memorial British Blues Award from Northern Ireland. Kaz and her posse also won the Pure M Award for the Best Female Act in Ireland. Furthermore, in 2015, Blues Matters Magazine took a writers’ poll, and their previous release Get Ready won the respondents’ award for Best Studio Album. On top of all that, their website reveals: “Kaz has worked tirelessly for different charities and is Arts Ambassador for EastSide Arts Belfast, in which she lectured students at Boston University on how she used music to survive trauma. Adding more strings to her bow, Kaz has just created [the] Blues Sisterhood UK organization, hoping to bring sisters together under one roof.”

With Kaz, as she performs on dynamo lead vocals, acoustic guitar, and keyboards, are Nick McConkey on lead and acoustic guitar; Peter Uhrin on drums, percussion, and backing vocals; Jan Uhrin on bass; Deanne Jones on backing vocals, and special guest David Jamison on percussion for the opening number.

Picking the best three songs on this CD is like picking three winning Powerball numbers out of four – incredibly difficult to do. Nevertheless, yours truly will happily give it her best shot.

Track 01: “Pray” – Sometimes people think that if they call upon the name of a higher power, they’ll escape a lower fate in the afterlife. Perhaps, but in the meantime, sins and misdeeds have their consequences: “You can fool all of these people with your black and selfish lies…You can play poker with your demons, and hide it from your eyes, but this place where you’ve been heading, girl – you ain’t getting no nice surprise.” The strongest section of this song is its nearly a cappella section, punctuated only by finger snaps and rhythmic thumping.

Track 02: “It Ain’t You” – Take a funky trip back to the 1970’s on track two, featuring a disco intro with great bass from Jan Uhrin. The narrator of this song is trying to tell her lover that he’s not the proverbial One: “For a moment, you look so fine. Just for a moment, you’ll be mine. Just for a moment, we lock arms, and baby, I’m inside, but no, it can’t be you.” Superb rock-and-roll electric guitar from Nick McConkey increases the voltage on this song to a startling level.

Track 09: “Soul Superstar” – This is the power ballad every one of us needs to hear when we’re feeling down, or like life has momentarily lost its purpose. The chorus says it all: “You’re a soul superstar, and you know who you are. You keep on, you keep on going. Yes, you’re a soul superstar, and you know who you are. You keep on, you keep on growing.” Spectacular harmony and energy that will propel anyone into the stratosphere are what lucky number nine is made of.

The Kaz Hawkins Band knows Feelin’ Good is what the blues is all about!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 7 

the kat kings cd imageThe Kat Kings – Swingin’ in the Swamp

MAPL/Kool Kat Records

CD: 13 Songs, 44:49 Minutes

Styles: Swamp Rock, Roots Rock, “Billy Bop Blues”

When it comes to the subcategorization of the blues, some of the lines between this genre and another are especially fine. Consider “jump blues” versus rock-and-roll: Where does one end and the other begin? Purists claim they can tell, like soda buffs claim they can tell the definitive difference between Coke and Pepsi while blindfolded. A critical test would be the sophomore album from Canada’s The Kat Kings, who are Swingin’ in the Swamp. Characterizing their music as “Billy Bop Blues” on their website, they play good-natured, high-energy tunes that sound uplifting even when dealing with dark subjects. On thirteen original tracks, lead vocalist and guitarist Kevin McQuade goes all out, leading an ensemble of six fellow musicians. This CD’s only flaw is that McQuade talk-sings sometimes, but that’s minor compared to the terrific fun fans will have listening to them. As their promotional info sheet says, this is “beer drinkin’, hell-raisin’” music.

Their promo bio continues: “Led by vocalist and guitarist Kevin McQuade, the Kat Kings released their debut album The Winning Hand in 2011 to critical acclaim, and quickly became a favorite among DJs in Canada. A cross-country tour was underway, when McQuade was sidelined with news of his daughter’s near-fatal traffic accident. Plans for gigs and promo for the album came to a grinding halt, and the devoted family man headed home. ‘All of a sudden, touring to support a new record didn’t seem that important,’ McQuade recalls.”

The Kat Kings are Kevin McQuade on lead and backing vocals, electric, and acoustic guitars; Teddy Leonard on electric and acoustic guitars, and backing vocals; Chuck Keeping on drums, percussion, and backing vocals; John Dymond on upright and electric bass; Wayne Dagenais on piano, organs, and backing vocals; and John Mays and Ben D’Cunha on backing vocals.

Among this smorgasbord of delicious swamp-rock entrées, the following three are the tastiest:

Track 06: “Before I Found Him” – First, the bad news: This song is based on a true story. Now, for the many pieces of good news: It’s also invigorating, thought-provoking, and perhaps the best song on the album. A man on death row contemplates his fate as he awaits execution. “Well, they waked me in the morning, took me my last meal. The guards are just smiling, ask me how it feels. There’s protesters praying, some singing hymns. They’ll all go home when the lights turn dim…I wish Jesus would have found me ‘fore I found Him.” Savor the gospel riff at the end!

Track 09: “It Came from the Swamp” – All icky places have their local legends – haunted houses, abandoned attics, and messy marshes, too: “I’ve been hearing stories ever since I was a child about the evil in the holler, how it drives a grown man wild.” Having lost a canine companion and a cousin to a mysterious creature, our narrator seeks to warn everyone in this gritty stomp. Dig the growling guitars, both acoustic and electric.

Track 13: “Baby, You Can’t Drink” – Is the title of lucky number thirteen a command or a statement? Perhaps both: “Baby, you can’t drink. It’s way worse than you think. You go from good to bad, happy to sad, faster than you can blink. I can see it coming from a mile away, and, honey, I ain’t no shrink. I know this is gonna make you mad, but, baby, you can’t drink.” Wayne Dagenais’ piano packs a punch.

Dance along with the Kat Kings as they’re Swingin’ in the Swamp!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 7 

jake chisholm cd imageJake Chisholm – No More Sorrow

self release

10 songs time-36:17

Toronto, Canada native Jake Chisholm kicks major blues-rock a** on this, his first release since 2013’s “Diamond In A Coalmine” with his diverse guitar attack paired with his cool swagger-infused soulful voice. The specters of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower and others color his music while he retains his individuality. Jake along with band mates Sly Juhas on drums and Chris Banks on bass create a solid blues-rock power trio, along with a handful of guests. This rhythm section is as good as it gets. Their rock solid foundation in conjunction with Jake’s seamless guitar leads and rhythms propel the music.

The title song contains a nice guitar tone along with a insanely catchy riff and Sly Juhas’ tricky drum pattern. Jake’s voice was made for this music. Blues-rock meets rockabilly on “I’m On Fire”, as Jake takes the listeners back to rockabilly music’s heyday with his rockabilly guitar playing. “Water can’t cool this fire and whiskey just makes it rise”. Paul Reddick co-wrote and adds his harmonica to “Weigh You Down”, the only song where Jake shares songwriting credit. It features another trademark solid riff.

“Is There Another Man” is a pleading tale of love gone off the rails. Jimi Hendrix via Robin Trower is channeled on soulful jaunt that is “Merry-Go-Round”. The same influence applies to “Just Because You want To” as the vocal floats along on guitar that appears to be played through a Leslie speaker. “Like holdin’ sunshine in the palm of your hand” is a semi-cosmic lyric akin to some of Hendrix’s. Jake breaks out his acoustic guitar backed by the rhythm section for the back porch feel of “Swamp Stomp”.

Stevie Ray Vaughn’s influence can be felt on “I’m Still Alone” with it’s SRV-style rhythm guitar. The live recording “I Want You The Way You Are” conjures up the sound of classic Robin Trower, complete with a killer guitar solo. Guitar feedback leads into ” You Never Will”, a slow and deliberate excursion that trails off into the ether.

As I’ve been declaring for years, there must be something in the water up there in Canada, as they seem to have a real handle on the blues and its’ cousin blues-rock. Jake and his crew have produced a winner by anyone’s standards. Every element here flows together seamlessly to deliver a very satisfying listen.

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

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 Featured Blues Interview – Tim “Too Slim” Langford 

too slim image 1Two years ago, Tim “Too Slim” Langford found himself living out a blues song he never expected to have to write. In late 2014, during a routine doctor’s visit, Langford was diagnosed with cancer, facing down uncertainty and possible death. After a successful operation and recovery period—and his fans donated generously to help defray medical costs—the down-to-the-bone guitarist, founder, and leader of Too Slim and the Taildraggers, turned back to the music that’s been rushing through his blood since he was 13 and started writing songs for a new album.

In December 2014, Langford found that he had a lot of time on his hands during his recovery, and he was kind of down; to pass the time, he started making some demos for some new songs. Even before his diagnosis, Langford had been planning on new record to follow up his highly-regarded 2013 release Blue Heart.“I’d been going back to some old blues rock records,” Langford recalls, and he wanted to capture that sound of that music, especially the music of Robin Trower. “Man, I really like the way that those Robin Trower records of the early 1970s sound,” he says.

Once Langford had the songs, the “idea was to go into the studio and knock it out in a few days.” Too Slim and the Taildraggers only rehearsed a little, and they played some of the songs—“Good Guys Win,” (“I hadn’t even finished writing the lyrics for that one,” he laughs.) “My Body,” “Get Your Going Out On”—for the first time in the studio. “It’s all about capturing the moment in time when you’re making a record, and you want to catch the band feeling the moment on the record,” says Langford. Plus, he says, “Blood Moon” was the first song he wrote of the album. In Indian folklore, the blood moon signals new beginnings and cleansing, so this was a perfect song to illustrate his new start, he says.

That album, Blood Moon, is Langford’s 20th album in the last 30 years, a testimony not only to his enduring commitment to making good music for his fans but also to his peripatetic creativity, always looking for the right lick at the right time, and always looking to produce music that both honors the long tradition of blues and rock that’s influenced him while at the same time putting his own stamp on the music; Langford operates cannily and deftly in that tension that makes for the best music in any genre: the pull and push between tradition and innovation. “Evil Mind,” the album’s opening track, delivers a straight-ahead driving blues rocker deep in the vein of ZZ Top and southern rockers like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The album’s title track delivers the sonic pyrotechnics of those early Trower albums; the song has that trapped-in-a-chamber blues riffs that make for a lumbering, steady, and crisp sound; Langford also throws in some licks on the bridge that comes out of Alvin Lee’s work, especially on Ten Years After’s Watt. At least two of the songs deal with his illness. In “My Body,” which opens with a haunting Santana-like riff, the singer pleads with death not to lay his body in the cold, cold ground. The driving Southern rocker, “Letter,” constitutes a thank-you note to his fans: “I’m gonna write me a letter to my friends/tell ‘em, thank you, friends, for thinking about me/you helped me when I’m down/instead of six feet underground.” Blood Moon was nominated for Blues Rock Album of the Year at the Blues Blast Music Awards this year.

too slim image 2For this record, bassist Robert Kearns, who’s played with Sheryl Crow and others, and drummer Jeff “Shakey” Fowlkes, who’s played with Kid Rock and Uncle Kracker, join Langford. “Robert is a fanastic bass player, and he and I just jelled right away,” recalls Langford. Fowles has been with the band since Langford moved to Nashville in 2012. “He’s a powerful drummer,” says Langford, “and he’s got a lot of personality. He kind of tells it like it is, maybe to some people’s chagrin,” chuckles Langford, “but he has a lot of studio experience, and he’s great to be on the road with.”

Although Langford co-wrote “Get Your Going Out On” on Blood Moon with Fowles, he does most of the writing himself. “Sometimes a song just comes to you,” he laughs, but that seldom happens, according to Langford. While he doesn’t have any set way of writing a song, he does use a variety of methods to get started or to keep writing once he’s started. He used to write down song titles in a book, and he’d go back and look at those to see if any ideas came to him.

“Sometimes,” he says, “people will say something that will make you think of a title, and sometimes you think of a riff that becomes a hook,” he points out. “If you get a good chorus and you have a good hook, then you’re one step ahead,” Langford laughs. His best-kept songwriting trick, though, turns out to be pretty straightforward: “You should be able to take almost any song you wrote and sit down and play it on an acoustic guitar.” Langford admits that he’s not a lyricist and that writing them is the hardest part of writing a song. “I really don’t like to write benign lyrics,” he says; “I like to write lyrics that tell a story or express a feeling or an emotion or some kind of reality that people can feel.”

According to Langford, great songs automatically draw you in in some way, either the lyrics, or the melody, or the recording of that particular song. “I think songs are memories for people,” he reflects, and people relate to them as the songs relate to moments in their lives. A song’s energy and its delivery also make it a great song, says Langford, recalling that ZZ Top’s “Lagrange” just “hit me in the chest.”

Langford’s musical influences run wide and deep. “When I was growing up, I associated music with a band or a musician and not with a particular genre of music,” he recalls. He liked Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pat Matheny, and B.B. King not because he liked rock or blues or jazz but because he liked the sound. It took him a while to listen to old-style blues, he says, but when he first heard Robert Johnson, he wondered how Johnson did what he did. If Langford could put together a supergroup, and he could select from musicians living or dead, he wants to include a range of members.

too slim image 3“Can it be an all-guitar band?” he laughs. His group would include Duane Allman, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, Lightning Hopkins, Freddie King, Jimi Hendrix, Butch and Jaimoe on drums, Berry Oakley on bass, Clapton—he was a big influence—Lowell George, Neil Young, George Harrison—his slide playing is some of the best work he’s ever done—Jeff Beck, and Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others, but he quickly adds CCR and old Black Sabbath and AC/DC as influences.

Langford grew up in Spokane, Washington, not exactly the blues capital of the United States, but he found his way into rock and roll and the blues along several paths. “I was always into music,” he says, “and I had an older cousin, Steve Springer, who turned us onto the Beatles, Cream, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Stones; he’d take us to shows, too. I saw ZZ Top in concert, and I said this is what I want to do,” laughs Langford. He started playing when he was about 13; he borrowed a friend’s acoustic guitar, but it was hard to play, so his guitar teacher told him he’d need to get a new guitar. “My mother bought me a Stratocaster when I was 15,” he chuckles; “I didn’t even own a real amp.”

Eventually, he sold the Strat—“Man, I wish I still had it,” he laughs—and bought a Gibson ES-175 so he could play in the high school jazz band. Back then, Langford was playing jazz and rock, but the blues was his passion. “I was really into Otis Rush, Freddie King, and Albert Collins; Robert Cray used to play here all the time. Back then—in the early and mid-1980s—Stevie Ray was turning the blues world on its ear and starting a whole new resurgence.” Langford saw Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, and Charlie Musselwhite at different times at a local venue called Red Line BBQ. Langford got into the blues right away, he says, but he had a hard time finding people who wanted to play with him initially. “I’d go these open jams and get up there and want to play blues, but nobody in Spokane wanted to play blues.”

When he started Too Slim and the Taildraggers in 1986, he wanted it to be a blues band; we had a four-piece band for a while, but then I wanted something more like ZZ Top, so we’ve been a trio for a long time now.” The name “Taildraggers” came from that old Howlin’ Wolf tune, “Tail Dragger.” “We were sitting around trying to come up with a name for the band, and we heard that song; somebody said that we should call ourselves the taildraggers and since I was leading the band we should call it ‘Too Slim and the Taildraggers,’” he laughs.

too slim image 4In the thirty years that the band has been playing, in various incarnations, it’s never failed to get the attention of fans and critics. Too Slim and the Taildraggers has sold over 100,000 albums, and their popularity in Europe continues to grow. The band’s last four studio albums—Blood Moon, Blue Heart, Shiver, and Broken Halo—have reached the top 10 on the Billboard Blues Chart; Langford has received the Lifetime Achievement and Hall of Fame Award from three blues societies in the Pacific Northwest. The band’s success arises not only out of its tireless commitment to touring but also out of its enduring commitment to writing and playing music that makes memories, that hits fans in the chest, and that leaves them wanting more.

For Langford, music is a journey. “I always want to make my next record better than my last one,” he says, “and I always want to be working on a new album.” He thinks of music as a spiral: you get into it and then you get out of it, but then it always comes back in a different way; you always learn something.

Musically, he says, “I’ve gotten to the point where I want to play my old music and want to sound like myself. I’ve reached a point where I want to play what’s right for the song; play what’s unique and has a certain melody and arrangement.” Since many of his older records are out of print—Burnside was his label, and they went out of business—he’s thought about taking some of his favorite songs from those albums and re-recording them. “I’d love to give them a new twist and put out a Too Slim Revisited album,” he chuckles. Langford says ideas are “still popping into my head now” and that he always wants to be working on a new album.

Langford has some thoughts about the state of the blues in America today: “I don’t know, man; it’s a bit watered down, to tell you the truth.” He acknowledges that the issues arise out of the state of the music business itself, which today is so different than when he started. Today it’s all about finding radio play for a few artists, and the history that lies behind the music is often forgotten. “Man, history always has to remain in it somehow; anybody playing this music today needs to know where it came from,” he says.

Music is a bit of family affair for Langford as well. His wife, Nancy Davis Langford, whose dad, Barry Davis was a “phenomenal jazz pianist,” did the art for a lot of his album covers, (Carla Ciuffo did the art for Blood Moon). “We met in 1993 at a festival where I was playing, and then we’d see each other again at different venues; pretty soon we ended up getting married. She’s been doing some art for my albums ever since.”

With his energetic creativity, Too Slim Langford won’t be hanging up his guitar or his pen any time soon; he’s met the enemy face to face, stared it down, and is telling the stories of his encounter and his victory. His gravelly voice and his never-waste-a-note guitar playing wrap themselves around his lyrics to deliver a blues rock experience that strikes us in our hearts and shakes us to our bones, leaving us always waiting with bated breath for the next album.

Visit Tim’s website at:

Interviewer Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. writes about music and music books for No Depression, American Songwriter, Country Standard Time, and Wide Open Country.

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The Kansas City Blues Society – Kansas City, MO

The Kansas City Blues Society has raffle tickets for a cabin for 2 on the sold-out Jan. 2017 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. Only 500 tickets will be sold. Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased online at You can’t win if you don’t enter! Drawing is held Nov. 24. Kansas City’s Danielle Nicole Band will be on the cruise as well as former Kansas Citian Larry Van Loon (Andy T-Nick Nixon Band). This is a fundraiser for KCBS and we appreciate your support.

Kansas City Blues Society’s IBC entries are the Amanda Fish Band and Brody Buster. Amanda recently won the Blues Blast Sean Costello Rising Star Award. Brody was a child prodigy on the harp. He appeared on The Tonight Show at age 10 and shared the stage at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland with Quincy Jones, Isaac Hayes and Keb’ Mo’.

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Crossroads Blues Sociey – Rockford, IL

The Third Friday Fish Fry at the Lyran Club on 4th Avenue in Rockford is on October 21st and features the HooDoo Rhythm Kings from 7 to 10 PM. No cover, open to the public.

Our November lineup begins at All Saints Church in Byron on Sunday the 6th with the teenage ragtime and barrelhouse piano impresario Daniel Souvigny, again from 4 to 6 PM. The Hope and Anchor in Loves Park show is on Saturday the 12th with the great Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys! TheLyran Club Fish Fry on Friday the 18th features Ron Holm and his Roy Orbison Tribute Show! November is going to be a lot of fun, too!

December features Dan Phelps at All Saints Church on December 4th. The Jimmys return to the Hope and Anchor for the December 10th show which will also be Crossroads Annual Christmas Party with a gag record exchange! December 16th we feature Dave Fields from NYC to do some Blues in the Schools and an evening show at the Lyran Club Fish Fry! Our big and special treat for December is the amazing Duke Robillard, who will be at the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center in Rockford on Thursday, December 8th starting at 7 PM. Advanced tickets are $15 and entry at the door is $20. The Mendelssohn PAC is located at 406 North Main Street in Rockford, IL. Tickets and information are available at!

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. October 24 – The 24th Street Wailers, October 31 – Big Jon Atkinson & Alabama Mike.

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. Wed, Nov 9, Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, Manteno IL. For more info visit

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