Issue 10-42 October 27, 2016

Cover photo by Bob Kieser© 2016

 In This Issue 

Lex Dunn has our feature interview with Sue Foley. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Ally Venable Band, Jeremiah Johnson Band, Mick Kolassa, Honey Island Swamp Band, Andre Williams, Blue Moon Marquee, Al Lerman and Bees Deluxe.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

ally venerable cd imageAlly Venable Band – No Glass Shoes

Connor Ray Music – 2016

8 tracks; 34 minutes

17 year-old Texan Ally Venable’s debut CD features five of her own songs, an old blues with re-written music and two classic covers. Ally is on lead guitar and vocals with Bobby Wallace on second guitar, Zach Terry on bass and Elijah Owings on drums. Randy Walls adds keys and label boss Steve Krase plays harp on three tracks.

This relatively short CD divides neatly into two halves. The first four tracks are all originals, broadly in the ‘rocking blues’ style. “Trainwreck” motors along well with bouncing bass and some clear guitar leads whilst the slower paced title track finds Ally playing some distorted guitar leads against Bobby’s rhythm work. However, Ally’s voice suffers when she forces, leading to some strained shouting. “Woke Up This Morning” is something of a blues cliché but the driving tune works fine with plenty of strong guitar from Ally and she completes the quartet of originals with “Wise Man” on which the organ and piano add depth to the arrangement and Ally adds some more searing guitar lines.

The second half of the CD contains the covers, starting with Junior Wells’ “Messin’ With The Kid”, one of those songs that we hear far too often but this is a good version, Ally starting with the familiar riff before she tackles the vocals in a quieter style which suits the song. Given the origin of the song it is surprising that Steve Krase’s harp does not feature but the head honcho of Connor Ray Music is present on the final three tracks, starting with the chugging “Too Much Too Soon” which was the pick of the disc for this reviewer with a more restrained vocal and plenty of solid guitar. The adaptation of Alberta Hunter’s “Downhearted Blues” also works well with Steve’s high register harp fills but Chris Smither’s “Love Me Like A Man” (a song made famous by Bonnie Raitt that now seems obligatory for all female singers) adds little to the many versions we have heard before.

There is nothing particularly original here but at 17 Ally’s guitar playing shows promise.

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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

jerimiah johnson band cd imageJeremiah Johnson Band – Blues Heart Attack

Connor Ray Music – 2016

12 tracks; 48 minutes

St Louis native Jeremiah Johnson’s 2015 release Grind was produced by Devon Allman but this time around he has produced himself with help from recording engineer Jason McIntire. Having spent some time in Texas JJ has acquired an interesting blend of styles and diversity is one of the main attractions of the CD as he ranges from blues-rock to shuffles and southern rock, even finding time for some late-night jazzy moments in an all original program. JJ plays guitar and handles lead vocals with his regular bass player Jeff Girardier and drummer Benet Schaeffer but the trio is augmented on most tracks by keyboardist Nathan Hershey and sax player Frank Bauer; Tom ‘Papa’ Ray adds harp to one track.

The album opens with the classic blues-rock of “Mind Reader” which has a strong riff and stirring organ work, also a feature of the bluesier “Room Of Fools” in which JJ’s echoey guitar break gives a nicely retro feel to the track. The title of the album comes from “Flat Line” which features some great bass, subtle use of brushes and jazzy piano/sax to give the platform for a subtle solo from JJ. A fast shuffle “Get It In The Middle” spotlights Nathan’s fast-fingered piano work before “Summertime” (not the Gershwin tune) drops the pace for a blues with Frank’s late-night sax sitting beneath JJ’s vocal as he explains how much he hates winter!

Those who love the Allmans will savour “Skip That Stone” for its “Jessica” meets “Turn On Your Lovelight” riff, the rhythm section setting a great pace over which JJ gives us a strong impression of Dickey Betts, sax and harp adding to the fun – a superb track. Changing things up again JJ gives us some rocking blues with Albert Collins-style guitar on “Talk Too Much”, the sentiments of which must have irritated his girlfriend no end, and the uptempo “Sun Shine Through”.

“Southern Drawl” is mellow Southern rock that namechecks Elvis, Johnny Cash and Lynyrd Skynyrd and has a great solo from JJ, the whole encased in the warm wash of the organ, another winner. Yet another change of style takes us down to Louisiana on the seriously catchy and appropriately titled “Everybody Party”, a good contrast with the ballad “Here We Go Again” which follows, JJ playing some very attractive lead here though his voice is perhaps less well suited to this style. The album closes with a return to the blues-rock style with the chugging rhythm and swirling organ of “It’s Been Hard”.

This is an impressive album from a band with which I was not previously familiar though this is their fifth album. If, like me, you like variety then do seek out this album which repays repeated listening.

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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

mick kolassa cd imageMick Kolassa – Taylor Made Blues

Swing Suit Records MMK032016

12 songs – 49 minutes

Mick Kolassa is one of the most beloved figured in the blues, and for good reason. As he did with his previous album, Ghosts Of The Riverside Hotel, the singer, acoustic guitarist and tunesmith is donating 100 per cent of the net proceeds of this CD to the Handy Artists Relief Trust, which aides bluesmen in distress and is better known as the HART Fund, and Generation Blues, an outreach program for young musicians, both by the Blues Foundation, where he’s also on the board of directors.

But this is not simply a charity production for Kolassa, known as “Michissippi Mick” because he hails from Michigan but is now based in Mississippi. He enjoyed a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry and now works as a consultant to the industry, but his true love – as always – has been the blues and the people who support it, both on stage and off, and he’s paying it forward.

Named the tiny hamlet where he now lives not far from Oxford, Taylor Made Blues is produced by Jeff Jensen, one of the true young talents in the blues. The nine originals and three covers it contains touches on everything from front-porch country blues to soul with a homey feel as well as just about everything in between. Each well-crafted song delivers words of wisdom, all with deep feel.

Several top talents contributed to the project, including guest appearances by Victor Wainwright, the current Blues Music Association Entertainer Of The Year, and guitarist Mr. Sipp, billed under his Christian name, Castro Coleman, and the BMA current trophy winner for album by a new artist.

The lineup includes Jensen on acoustic and electric guitars, Bill Ruffino on bass, James Cunningham on percussion, Chris Stephenson, a former member of Joe “King” Currasco And The Crowns, on keyboards, Colin John on lap steel, resonator and baritone guitars as well as baby sitar and Eric Hughes on harmonica. Reba Russell and Tullie Brae provide backing vocals, as does Deb Landolt, who’s featured on one cut.

An uptempo riff on resonator and rapid military beat kicks off “Baby Face Louise.” It’s a sprightly love song about a woman who couldn’t be matched if you searched worldwide. Hughes’ harp runs are brief, but sweet as he and John propel the song forward. The sound slows for the cover tune, “Taylor Made Blues,” which describes life in a small town. Mick’s rich baritone vocals indicate he’s in absolutely no hurry as he waits for the sun to come out as Jensen shines on six-string. He no longer has “truck with the city./Can’t stand bein’ in a crowd./Yeah, you might find good people there/But it’s too damn loud.”

A reworking of Graham Nash’s “Prison Song” – a haunting farewell from a friend who’s about to go behind bars for selling marijuana – gets new references about its legality in Colorado and Oregon. It precedes the original “I’m Getting Late,” a humorous take on playing multiple gigs on the same day and partying too hard at an advanced age. It’s delivered atop a stop-time beat with Wainwright in full control on the keys.

The funk is delivered full-force in “In The Day,” which harkens back to the ’60s with references to Howdy Doody and Shirley Temple as it insists “the past you’re dreamin’ ’bout is a lie” before Kolassa doffs his cap to salute blues musicians and fans alike in “With Friends Like Mine” atop an island beat. Stephenson’s slow-paced piano shines during a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s somber “Lungs,” about chasing false dreams, before John’s lap steel and Landolt’s accompanying vocal drive the uptempo “Keep A Goin,” a message to fight through adversity.

“Left Too Soon,” about the sudden loss of a friend and associated regret about things left unsaid other things not done, precedes a cover of the Temptations’ Motown classic “Can’t Get Next To You,” delivered with blue-eyed soul feel. “My Hurry Done Broke” revisits the aging theme, this time focused on being in the path of a younger person on the sidewalk who’s in a rush to pass, before another song of loss, “Raul Was My Friend,” concludes the set.

This is a beautiful album on many levels. It’s a labor of love that pays forward gifts received from the blues and the folks that create it while delivering straightforward, homespun messages about life in general that might seem superficial to some, but relate to others on a much deeper level. Available through Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby, it’s highly recommended.

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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

honey island swamp band cd imageHoney Island Swamp Band – Demolition Day

Ruf Records RUF 1230

11 songs – 51 minutes

Formed in San Francisco by musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 10 years ago and delivering roots-infused blues that simmers relentlessly without ever boiling over, the Honey Island Swamp Band has cooked up a gumbo for the ages with Demolition Day.

Recorded in New Orleans in analog format on 2-in. audio tape and produced by Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, the album is thoroughly modern in approach, but comes across with an old-time feel. It’s the band’s debut on German-based Ruf Records and a follow-up to their 2013 album, Cane Sugar. The fifth release in their catalog, it features music that reminds some listeners of The Band, Little Feat or the Allman Brothers in a style that’s become known as “bayou Americana.”

No one gets credited in the literature for this disc, but the Honey Island lineup includes Aaron Wilkinson on mandolin, guitar and harmonica, Chris Mulé on guitar, Sam Price on bass and Garland Paul on drums, all of whom handle vocals, as well as Trevor Brooks on keyboards. They’re augmented by several other Gulf Coast artists, including Tab Benoit on pedal steel and Ivan Neville on the 88s, and probably others.

But it’s really a group effort. The ensemble works seamlessly with solos throughout, but everything is in perfect balance within the framework of each song. All 11 of the tunes are original, composed either by Wilkinson and/or Mulé, and like the album title and artwork suggest, several deal with a sense of loss. But the message is laid atop music sure to keep you on the dance floor.

The emotions flow like the Mississippi from the start with “How Do You Feel,” a driving bluesy rocker that questions your feelings when “your baby’s gone/And you’re all alone/Don’t know what’s real.” Next up, “Head High Water Blues” percolates steadily as it alludes to a city under siege and delivers the lyric that makes up the album title.

“No Easy Way” begins as dirge, but quickly picks up speed into a fast shuffle. It’s loaded with images that eventually lead to the realization that the singer’s lady is cheating and that he’s going to have to start all over again. A regimented drumbeat introduces “Medicated,” which carries the broken-heart theme forward, before the upbeat and funky “Watch And Chain” offers emotional relief. The title refers to the way a new lady treats the singer. It’s a love song that states “she’ll wind me up and run me down again/Spin me ‘round just like a hurricane” – in a good way for a change.

“Katie,” another love song, follows. It’s an acoustic number that recounts meeting the woman on Bourbon Street and yearns for her “lovin’ every night and day,” while “Ain’t No Fun” is an electrified slide-guitar Southern rocker about being schooled relentlessly by a lady and feeling like a fool, but still wanting to be her backdoor man. Another fingerpicked acoustic number with a New Orleans feel, “She Goes Crazy,” is up next. This time, the lady’s a real firecracker who always delivers exactly when her man needs, making her craziness all right.

A solitary guitar line introduces the swamp-flavored “Through Another Day” before the full band gets involved. It’s filled with descriptions of the river as it recounts a first meeting with a new love. Emotions are dashed again in “Say It Isn’t True,” as it describes the realization that a man’s mistakes have driven his lady away. The album comes concludes with “Devil’s Den,” a plea for mercy after being beaten down to the bottom.

Demolition Day simply breezes by like a warm breeze on a sunny afternoon. Despite its 51-minute run, it’s over before you know it and leaves you wanting more. Available just about everywhere, and highly recommended.

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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

andre williams cd imageAndre Williams – I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City

Bloodshot Records

CD: 9 Songs, 34:32 Minutes

Styles: Psychedelic Blues, Blues Rock

Deep down on a gut level, all of us fear chaos. We shudder when we hear news reports about rioting in the streets, government coups, and financial crises. Heck, most of us shudder when children throw tantrums in church or at the grocery store. We prefer order in our lives, and in our music. Even in this age of synthesizer-blazing techno and laser harp, classical compositions still endure. So does the blues. We fans know what to expect: songs of cheating, heartbreak, and hard times; repeated lyrics and bar rhythms, and wicked instrumental solos. Blues hustler Andre Williams, at the age of 79, invites us to step out of our comfort zones and embrace chaos on his new CD, I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City. “Psychedelic blues” is indeed the best descriptor for its nine original tracks. His press release from Chicago’s Bloodshot Records deems him a “sonic chameleon.” As he morphs forms, listeners are allowed to let their mind expand and wander.

His promotional information sheet reveals: “Back in the ‘50’s, when Andre first arrived in Detroit from his Alabama birthplace, he made his mark with Fortune Records and his doo-wop group the 5 Dollars. Later, on his own, the Cramps-covered “Bacon Fat” and his underground classic “Jailbait” were hit records. Berry Gordy, Jr. hired him at the fledgling Motown Records. There he produced Mary Wells, The Contours, Stevie Wonder, and others…He wrote ‘Shake a Tail Feather,’ songs for Ike and Tina Turner, Parliament and Edwin Starr.” Andre has come back to his roots, his “musical birthplace,” on his fifth album for Bloodshot Records.

As Williams performs on lead vocals and tambourine, several other musicians join him: Matthew Smith, Danny Kroha, Dennis Coffey, and Peter Andrus on guitars and vibraphone; David Shettler, Jim White, Mike Alonso, and Ben Van Camp on drums; David Shettler also on percussion, synthesizer, and background vocals; Eric Villa, Steve King, Troy Gregory, and Phil ‘Greasy’ Carlisi on bass, and Maria Nuccilli, Colleen Burke, and Matthew Smith on additional backing vocals.

Andre talk-sings in a hoary, raw-edged voice throughout the entire album, but that’s part of his style. He blends ‘70’s funk, psychedelic rock, soul and blues in an eclectic fashion, paying little attention to established blues formats. With that said, this song sounds the most traditional:

Track 08: “I Don’t Like You No More” – Like a well-played CD or beloved pair of shoes, love wears out. It’s the task of both partners in a relationship to stretch their hearts to the fullest, which can be hard when only one of them is interested in doing so. Even fancy gifts and lavish spending are no substitute for genuine feelings. “I bought you a brand new car, a silver fur mink coat. I was getting ready to buy you a brand-new boat. But you start acting funny, I’m gonna stop giving you my money. I hope one thing you know – I just don’t like you no more.” Matthew Smith plays fantastic 12-string slide guitar here.

Embrace chaos with Andre Williams as he says I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 37 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 8 

blue moon marquee cd imageBlue Moon Marquee – Gypsy Blues


CD: 12 Songs, 41:33 Minutes

Styles: “Gypsy Blues,” Swamp Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues

Throughout history, gypsies have been nomads, wandering from town to town and forming their culture out of whatever treasures they find along the way. Therefore, one might expect Blue Moon Marquee’s self-styled Gypsy Blues to be eclectic, exhibiting several influences, such as Tom Waits, Lonnie Johnson, Skip James, and Django Reinhardt. This is indeed true, and they weave these musical threads together into a rich tapestry for all to enjoy. Even purists will tip their hats to the authentic, gritty swamp feel of several of their twelve original numbers. Lead singer and guitarist A.W. Cardinal’s smoky vocals resemble Howlin’ Wolf’s, so some critics might say he doesn’t actually sing. Nevertheless, once one acquires their taste, they sure are tasty. Also playing keen-mojo instrumentation, he and “Jass” Collette make spellbinding blues.

According to their website, “Blue Moon Marquee is a Gypsy Blues band that stem from the wild rose foothills of Alberta. A.W. Cardinal (vocals/guitar) and Jasmine Colette a.k.a. Bandlands Jass (vocals, bass, drums) write and perform original compositions influenced by anything that swings, jumps or grooves…After living and performing in Montreal and New York City, cutting his teeth in the jazz and blues scenes, A.W. decided it was time to head home to the Rocky Mountains and bought a Greyhound ticket as long as he is tall, back to the great Canadian West to record the album Stainless Steel Heart. It was on the West Coast where he met up with Jasmine Colette, a Hoodoo lady who has toured the bulk of North America over the last eight years as a bassist, singer and hoop dancer. Blue Moon Marquee was formed after an impromptu late-night jam and recording session in February 2012. They have since been traversing the country for nearly four years, delighting audiences from Alert Bay to Quebec City. Appealing to blues, folk, jazz, and rock audiences alike, they have played a wide array of venues from farmer’s markets and blues bars to concert halls and jazz festivals.”

The following song is one of the best this dynamite Canadian blues duo has to offer:

Track 02: “Hoodoo Lady” – “She drinks her water from the wishing well. She crossed her heart, boys, she ringin’ the bell. Well, I’m telling you; just ain’t much you can do except fall in love.” Anyone who’s entranced by jump blues will be instantly hooked by this short, sweet number. Clocking in at only two minutes and twenty-one seconds, it will make people with jumpy feet want to grab their partners for a speedy spin around the dance floor. A.W. Cardinal’s ‘50s-style electric guitar is fantastic.

Blue Moon Marquee, what it lacks in polish, makes up for in spades in terms of style, energy, and authenticity. Even though A.W. Cardinal’s vocals may be a bit too raw for some blues fans, the Gypsy Blues he and his partner play will get anyone’s mojo working!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 37 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 8 

al lerman cd imageAl Lerman – Slow Burn

Self-produced CD

12 songs – 49 minutes

One of the most gifted multi-instrumentalists in Canada, Al Lerman doesn’t limit himself when it comes to performing. Best known for his work as leader of the band Fathead, the two-time Juno Award-winning soul/funk/blues ensemble, this sweet, mellow album presents him in a different setting altogether.

Recorded live in two days in his home base of Toronto by Grammy-winning engineer Peter J. Moore, Lerman’s primarily gone acoustic on this one, setting down his saxophone in favor of six-string, accompanying himself on harmonica as he delivers a set of easy listening blues with messages that will have you nodding your head in agreement with his lyrical hooks.

Considered to be one of the finest harp players North Of The Border in addition to other skills and a student of legendary Chicago reed-bender Carey Bell, Al is a 40-year veteran of the music industry. He’s worked as both a sideman and producer with a who’s who of blues artists, including Little Mack Simmons, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Mel Brown and others. He delivers one interesting, down-to-earth number after another in this collection of 11 originals and one cleverly reworked cover.

He’s backed here by two different rhythm sections. Fathead bassist Omar Tunnoch teams with drummer Bucky Burger, while Alec Fraser, who produced the CD, contributes bass when Al Cross is behind the kit. Lance Anderson adds piano while Jana Reed and the bass players provide backing vocals. Dania Madera-Lerman adds hand claps. Despite the seemingly large sound, the feel remains intimate throughout.

Lerman regularly plays with a rack-mounted harmonica in live performance, but obviously laid down the tracks here after the guitar and vocals were already down. His licks on the reeds run fluidly and warmly in most of the cuts. His vocal style is relaxed, and his delivery might remind some listeners of Rick Estrin.

A brief harmonica riff kicks off “Don’t Put Your Mess On Me,” a medium-fast tempo warning to anyone attempting to push their particular brand of religion on him. Instead, he suggests: “Do unto others like you do yourself/And try to lend a hand when someone needs your help.” An easy-going shuffle is up next. “It Takes Me All Night Long” is an observation about aging and the time it takes to do things the singer used to do throughout the night.

“Back Luck Blues” delivers a cautionary tale about a group of five ne’er-do-wells who rob a bank in a tiny mining town only to run into traffic problems caused by road construction while making their getaway. The subject turns to romance for the sweet “Gonna Have To Wait,” in which the singer requests no tears and a kiss goodbye as he’s about to leave for a spell, something he’s done before. His guitar runs shine here.

The funky “Now That Your Man’s Gone” finds Lerman applying to fill the new hole in the woman’s life before he realizes there’s a problem lurking in the shadows in another relationship in “Totally Out Of Whack.” The subject of aging returns in “Younger Man Than Me,” a slow, electric blues about the realization that the singer’s older now than his father was when he split home forever at a time he was bouncing the artist on his knee. It also expresses a desire to participate in all of the aspects of childhood that he missed.

The tempo picks up for “Any Way You Want,” which cautions that anything is possible as long as you make the right decision, precedes “Tattoo Like You,” a bluesy reverie about getting needlework that looks exactly like the woman of his desire. A Jimmy Reed-style harp line kicks off “Better Off Taking Chances” will suggests taking risks is always a better decision than sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing. A new take on the Beach Boys’ hit “Kokomo” precedes the cover tune “Slow Burn,” a harmonica-driven instrumental blues, which concludes the set.

Available through Amazon, CDBaby or as a direct download from the artist’s website, this album wry and tender from beginning to end. It’s a big thumbs-up for anyone who likes a little originality. Al Lerman is a troubadour of the first order.

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 – 8 of 8 

bees deluxe cd imageBees Deluxe – Bluesapocalypse Live

Slapping Cat Records SLAPCD 012

13 songs – 48 minutes

Calling all original hippies and current hippie wannabes! Here’s something that might interest you: A new CD that delivers acid blues with the true feel of the ’60s. And you can take that to the bank because this reviewer was there when it all began.

Recorded live last April at the Arlington (Mass.) Center For The Performing Arts Theatre in a Boston suburb, it’s the product of Bees Deluxe, a five-piece ensemble with seven previous releases to their credit. For the past two years, the band has conducted Bluesapocalype, a concert benefiting the venue.

The band’s led by Conrad Warre — a veteran road dog, record company production manager and music journalist who’s toured with Joe Jackson, The Specials and The English Beat — on guitar and vocals and includes Berklee College Of Music grad Patrick Sanders on drums, Allyn “Aldo” Dorr on bass and vocals, Carol Band on keyboards and David Blaustein, founder of the New England favorite quintet Melodious Funk, on tenor sax. The idea of this live disc came about after someone recorded a bootleg of a recent performance and handed a copy to the band’s sound man after the show.

Bluesapocalypse Live features revolutionarily different interpretations of nine tunes made famous by blues, jazz and rock legends in addition to four original numbers, all written by Warre. While it features several extended jams, like their Age Of Aquarius counterparts, the band is completely under control throughout and remains on point, free of the screeching feedback and noodling common to the previous era.

The festivities kick off with a spacy introduction for the original, “Blues For The Decline Of The Western Civilization,” an instrumental that features Warre’s talent on the six-string atop a slow shuffle, before the group reworks Etta James’ classic, “Damn Your Eyes,” stripping it of Etta’s soulful fire and turning it into more of a pensive ballad before Conrad’s psychedelic solo brings the song to a close.

The tempo picks up for another instrumental, “B-Minor With Stops,” a rapid, stop-time shuffle, before a version of J.B. Lenoir’s often-recorded “Talk To Your Daughter.” In this version, which is nothing like Lenoir envisioned, it’s a trippy, loping blues with jazz accents provided by Blaustein’s horn. A cover of Robben Ford’s “Start It Up” follows with tasty horn highlights and the vocals slightly buried in the mix before a solid take on “I’ve Been Downhearted,” made famous by B.B. King.

Two more instrumental originals – the driving “Roll Over Stockhausen,” which features the rhythm section, and hallucinogenic “Zoe’s Chromatic Blues” – precede the Phillip Walker/Robert Cray hit, “Phone Booth.” It’s a fairly traditional arrangement atop rapid rhythm that’s handicapped by a somewhat monotonal vocal.

An equally throaty version of Albert Collins’ “Travelin’ South” is up next, followed by a slow-paced cover of Billie Holiday’s “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” before the disc concludes with takes on John Schofield’s “Green Tea” and Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me).”

It’s an interesting CD, especially for lovers of bands like Free, Traffic or Soft Machine, but might be off-putting if you’re locked into a traditional blues sound. That said, the musicianship is first-rate. Available through direct download from the band’s website.

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.

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 Featured Blues Interview – Sue Foley 

sue foley pic 1Sue Foley is seated on a stool, center stage, her signature paisley pink Telecaster resting on her thigh above the chicly torn-out knee on her black jeans. The crowd is hushed except for the occasional yelp of approval.

She is coaxing sweet singing tones from the guitar with her unique style of picking and plucking the strings with thumb and fingers. The tone lingers in the air like the scent of hibiscus on a summer night.

Her eyes are closed as her music washes over her and the rapt audience. In this way, Sue puts the lie to every guitar slinger who insists that it only sounds good if it’s loud. Because the sounds coming out of the pink Tele are beyond good, they are evidence of a master at work.

“The right hand is the most important one in guitar playing,” she tells me later. “It’s where tone comes from, it’s where rhythm comes from. The fingers on the left hand need to know what to do, but it’s the right hand that drives the sound.”

Sue Foley knows what she’s talking about – she’s been playing guitar since was 13, and professionally since 16. Foley grew up in Ottawa, Canada listening to all manner of music. There was something about The Rolling Stones’ Blues-based rock that got under her skin, but it wasn’t until she saw James Cotton in concert that she was fully enraptured by the Blues and turned to the electric guitar.

She immediately began delving into this brave new world and discovered a host of artists would become her major influences, among them Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Billie Holiday, Memphis Minnie, and T-Bone Walker.

As soon as she graduated high school, she left for the big city lights of Vancouver, British Columbia where she quickly formed her own band and started touring Canada’s Blues clubs – dotted along a thin ribbon stretching 4000 miles from coast to coast. In 1990, she sent a demo tape of herself to Antone’s Records. The label brought her to Austin, auditioned her and promptly signed her. Foley moved to Austin to begin her recording career and honing her live act with tours throughout the US, Canada, Europe and Japan.

Since then, she has racked up an impressive array of awards. In 2001, she won a Juno (Canada’s Grammys) for best Blues album, a record 17 Maple Blues Awards –more than any other performer, three Trophées de Blues de France, and has been nominated for two Blues Music Awards.

This is the weight of experience, the gravitas, she brings to the stage this night in late August in front of an appreciative audience at the Nanaimo Summertime Blues Festival, just a stone’s throw across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver.

There is a vibrant Blues scene here with a thriving community of musicians and fans. They can hear the years of dedication to craft that create the subtle tones of an intimate lead break. She stretches out long, languorous notes, and then yanks the audience out of its reverie with some high octane pyrotechnics. The crowd happily goes with her, up, down and around her full ahead Blues guitar roller coaster. It is this ability to move from gentle caresses to full frontal attack that sets her apart from many of her peers.

Foley owns the stage. One minute purposefully striding from one side to the other, her trademark fiery red hair flashing in the afternoon sun, the next minute trading licks with her impressive piano player, Graham Guest. She won the crowd with her first number, a raucous, rocking number that shows off her deep familiarity with the fretboard. She doesn’t release the audience from her spell until the last note of her last song reverberates over the audience and rings across the glittering harbor.

sue foley pic 2This is a masterful performance, honed by more than 32 years of performing professionally. She barely pauses between songs, determined to give the audience what they came for. “I only have an hour with them, so I like to keep the music coming.”

Over and above the accomplished guitar playing is a voice that is equally capable of changing moods on a dime. That’s not by accident. “I work on my voice so I can convey the depth of what the lyrics mean to me. I take a lot of time writing lyrics – many of my songs tell a story, that’s really important to me.”

She finishes her set and goes back to her hotel to put her storied paisley pink Tele away securely, then returns to the venue to sit and talk about her songwriting, her playing, her new album and the state of the Blues.

After being in the business for as long as she has, she has seen a lot of changes in the Blues. Is the current state of the Blues a cause for concern? “No, I think the Blues is in great shape. It’s expanding, as it should. We have traditional Blues artists, rocking Blues, all types. And Blues music being made all over the world – Canada, Europe, wherever.”

“I hear a lot of people talk about today’s Blues and some complain that it’s not ‘real’ Blues. But the way I see it is that all music evolves. It has to, or it dies. And Blues is evolving. So it doesn’t have to be 12-bar or 8-bar to be authentic. Back when the Blues was born, musicians played all kinds of different songs, but they were still the Blues. Because Blues isn’t a format or a rigid form; it’s about fluidity and feel.”

She starts to warm to the topic, “If the music does what it has always done – pick you up when you’re down or get you moving when you’re up, it’s the Blues. I don’t have a lot of time for hard line purists. I mean the whole point of this form is its free, improvisational, flexible structure. It’s all feel. Does it feel like the Blues? Then it’s the Blues. That’s what drew me to it and what keeps me in it.”

Does she find that some people, even other musicians, unfamiliar with the Blues dismiss the genre as being too “unsophisticated”? “Yeah, until they try to really get inside and play the Blues. Then they see there’s more to it. The thing about the Blues is that it’s simple, but not easy.

“Muddy Waters always said that very few people could play his music – couldn’t copy his guitar playing or his singing. With Muddy, it was especially how he bent the notes. Even today, there are few who can squeeze more from a note than Muddy.”

So, the Blues in changing, musically, but what about lyrically? Is it still “woke up this morning?”

Foley thinks not.

“There’s still some of that, but I think the most interesting writers are using Blues to express a lot of different ideas. I’ve even heard political ideas expressed in Blues songs.

“For myself, I am trying to bring a different kind of lyric writing to my music, whether that follows a traditional Blues structure or something with a more contemporary feel. – it’s more personal with more storytelling. I’m not the only one. There are lots of players who moving the Blues along, keeping it relevant to new audiences.”

sue foley pic3She is especially concerned about cultivating the next generation of Blues fans. “If we don’t make the Blues relevant to younger listeners today, the Blues will die along with the current generation of fans.”

The conversation turns to the topic of women in Blues, particularly guitar players. Ever since Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie, there have been women Blues guitar players. There still are – Bonnie Raitt, Suzie Vinnick, Susan Tedeschi to name just a few.

In fact, Foley collaborated with two contemporary women players, Deborah Coleman and fellow Ottawa native Roxanne Potvin, on her 2010 collaboration, Time Bombed. In addition to receiving rave reviews, it is also one a CD Foley is very proud.

Asked if being a woman has a particular influence on playing guitar, Foley has a lot to say. And a lot to back it up.

In 2001, she began interviewing female guitarists from around the world and from many different genres – Blues, rock, roots, folk, flamenco, classical. The women included Raitt and Tedeschi, but also Ellen Mcilwaine, Joan Armatrading, Susie Quatro, Nancy Wilson, Precious Bryant, classical guitarist Liona Boyd, jazz/worldbeat artist Badi Assad, even Wrecking Crew legend, bassist Carol Kaye.

“I’ve asked all of them that question – how does being a woman influence our playing and none of us has come up with a definitive answer. Not everyone is sure it makes a difference at all. The way I see it is, I can crank it up to match any man and I have seen a lot of male players capable of great sensitivity.”

Many of the interviews Foley has done with these remarkable artists are on her website under Guitar Woman. They provide an intimate and illuminating look at the inner workings of these superb musicians and the times that shaped their playing. The interviews are well worth reading.

How about being raised in Canada where Blues doesn’t have the deep roots in has in the US? There’s no New Orleans, no Mississippi Delta, no Chicago. Was that a hindrance?

“No, I wouldn’t call it a hindrance. Blues is all about feeling, and you can feel the Blues wherever you’re from.”

One of the songs she played this day, which is also on her upcoming album scheduled for release this fall, is called “Ice Queen”. She introduces it as “a song written by a Canadian woman …” invoking both nationality and gender influences.

“They call me the Ice Queen because I’m cool and I’m detached

Yeah, they call me the Ice Queen, I’m cool and detached

And all the men agree, I’m too slippery to catch.”

You can decide whether how much of this comes from being a woman and how much from being Canadian, if any. She doesn’t wear either on her sleeve – it’s all about the music and the story.

A few years ago, Foley met Blues-roots singer-songwriter Peter Karp at the Ottawa Blues festival. They hit it off professionally and personally, eventually releasing two truly terrific CDs. The first, He Said – She Said was inspired by the emails they exchanged as they getting to know each other while they were on separate tours. The resulting CD is personal and universal at the same time. It went to the top of the Blues/Roots charts as well as entering the Billboard charts at #5. They followed this up with Beyond The Crossroads, another excellent CD that threw the sophomore curse to the side of the road.

sue foley pic 4But life has many roads, and Sue Foley’s path has lead her back to living in the US, North Carolina to be exact, where she is an Assistant Professor of Music at a local college. She is herself a student of American roots and Blues music and plans to pursue a Ph.D. She still spends a fair bit of time in Canada, but to Foley, it’s all the same. “It’s music. Canada … US … doesn’t matter.”

As if balancing teaching and touring isn’t enough, Foley practices every day, and is also taking flamenco guitar and cello lessons. But most of all, after so many collaborations, Foley is getting back to her own music. “It’s time,” she says to focus on what I want to say, and I’m really pleased with where my songwriting is right now. I still have lots of stories to tell.”

Are these stories told in Blues or in other musical forms?

“This latest album is definitely Blues based. A couple of the songs I played tonight, including “Ice Queen”, are on it. But I’ve also introduced some other flavors, flamenco, Latin, some of the other things you heard today. It’s produced by John Whynot, and he’s amazing to work with.”

“And I have a couple of other solo projects in mind that I’d like to concentrate on – some in music and some on outside projects. I’m working on expanding Guitar Woman and turning it into a book. These incredible women I’ve interviewed, in all styles of music, from around the world, some famous, others known by their peers and fans … they deserve to heard, to have their stories told, too.”

If you haven’t listened to a lot of Sue Foley, you really should check out her catalog. If you are already one of her dedicated fans, you know the breadth of music she is capable of. It’s impressive and varied. It’s always fascinating to see an artist’s progression over the course of a rock solid, steady career.

From the curiously innocent “Mean Old Lonesome Train” from Young Girl Blues to the more lyrically sophisticated “Analyz’en Blues” (nominated as Blues Blast Song of the Year 2013) from Beyond The Crossroads, you can feel Foley’s power and passion. She is one of those rare artists who can convey the same energy in the studio that she generates live, in front of an audience.

The final act of the night is on stage in Nanaimo and she turns to me and says, “I really want to go catch this guy. He’s a terrific guitar player …”

And off she goes to celebrate the Blues with fellow musicians as they watch and listen from backstage. Watching them all – Foley, other big name artists, and local players who were on stage earlier – it is easy to see that Foley is absolutely right. The Blues is in great shape indeed.

Visit Sue’s website at:

Interviewer Lex Dunn is a writer and musician living on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He has fronted blues bands in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax and looks forward to his next venture on the Island. He is passionate about music in general and the blues in particular.

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The Detroit Blues Society – Detroit, MI

On Saturday November 12, 2016, from 2PM until 4:30 PM, the Detroit Blues Heritage Series will present “Tribute to Joe Weaver and Sir Mack” featuring R.J’S(Spangler) Rhythm Rockers.

This event will take place at the historic Scarab Club. The Scarab Club is located at 217 Farnsworth in Detroit’s Cultural Center. A $5.00 donation is requested.

In addition to the musical performance by R.J.’s Rhythm Rockers the program will present interview footage of Sir Mac Rice, as well as, original 45 records of both artists

The Detroit Blues Society and the Scarab Club both sponsor this event. For more information please call the Scarab Club (313-831-1250) or contact the Detroit Blues Society at

The Kansas City Blues Society – Kansas City, MO

Kansas City has a proud tradition of being the only city in the nation to host Thanksgiving Blues Breakfast Dances. This year the Ks. National Guard Armory dance features Theodis Ealey, Trampled Under Foot, Millage Gilbert, and Lady Vivian. The event has been around since the ’30s, and there is often more than one around town to choose from. Commencing at 10am, dances have featured such headliners as Bobby Blue Bland, Johnnie Taylor, Mel Waiters, Latimore, and Little Milton. It’s a dress-up, BYOB and food affair, with up to 1,000 people attending. Videos and photos are online. Tickets are available at The Kansas City Blues Society’s raffle drawing for the cabin for 2 on the Jan. Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise will be held at this dance.

More info at

Crossroads Blues Sociey – Rockford, IL

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 31 – William Marsala Band, November 7 – On Call Blues Band, November 14 – Tom Holland & The Shuffle Kings, November 21 – Brother Jefferson, November 28 – Tas Cru, December 5 – The Mojo Cats, December 12 – Hurricane Ruth, December 19 – Mary Jo Curry, December 26 – James Armstrong.

Additional ICBC and ICBC partnered shows @ The Alamo, 6 pm: November 3- James Armstrong Presents – Bad Boyz, November 17 – James Armstrong Presents – Johnny Rawls, December 1 – James Armstrong Presents – Kilborn Alley, December 15 – James Armstrong Presents – Susan Williams.

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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