Issue 10-44 November 10, 2016

Cover photo by Shoko Nagano © 2016

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with one of Chicago’s best sidemen, piano player Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including a book by Ray Robertson and new music from Thornetta Davis, Rooster Alley, Omar Coleman, Michael Doucet and Tom Rigney, Kat Riggins, John Long and Henrik Freischlader Trio.

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

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

This combo advertising package normally includes an ad in 4 issues of Blues Blast Magazine and an ad on the sidebar of our website for a month for a discount price of only $375. During our Fall Advertising Sale we are giving you six issues of Blues Blast Magazine and a 6 week ad on our website for the same low price (50% more for FREE!) This package affordably adds significant impact to your Blues advertising and promotion campaign. It is a great way to kick up the visibility of your new album release, Blues event or music product around the globe!

Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote the Blues. More than 36,000 opt-in Blues fans read our magazine each week. They are located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries. We get more than 2,000,000 (That’s TWO MILLION) hits and more than 65,000 visitors a month on our website.

Normal 2016 ad rates are $150 for an single issue and $175 per month for website ads. BUT, for a limited time, you can advertise in six issues of Blues Blast Magazine and on our website for a month and a half for only $375. This is a $1160 value based on single issue rates!

To get this special rate simply reserve and pay for your ad space NOW! (Offer ends December 15, 2016.) Ads can be booked to run anytime between now and September 30, 2017 for your 2017 Blues festival, album release or other music related product.

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This sale price ends on December 15, 2016. To get more information email or call 309 267-4425 today! Other ad packages, single ads, short run ads or long term bulk rates for publicists and record labels are available too. Call today for an ad plan that fits your needs.

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

thornetta davis cd imageThornetta Davis – Honest Woman

Sweet Mama Music (Self Produced)

13 tracks

This CD has been 20 years in the making. Thornetta Davis is the Queen of Detroit’s blues scene with over 30 Detroit Music Awards to her name. She began her career with Lamont Zodiac and the Love Signs, who became The Chisel Brothers featuring Thornetta Davis when the lead singer departed. Her first solo album was released in 1996, entitled Sunday Morning Music on Seattle’s Sub Pop label. The HBO Series The Sopranos picked up “Cry” from that album and Entertainment Weekly magazine gave the CD a hugely positive review.

Having opened for a host of the music scene greats and appearing on albums with the likes of Bob Seger, Davis has toured the world and garnered praise for her live performances and her music in film and television. It has been 20 years since that first CD and with it we get to hear the superb voice and music from this fantastic diva of the blues! The CD features some great guest artists, including Kim Wilson, Larry McCray, Steve McCray and Kerry Clark.

The album opens with a poem by Davis’ sister Felicia. “When My Sister Sings the Blues” is a touching testimonial about her sisters’ talents with Brian (Roscoe) White playing an ethereal guitar behind Felicia. The rousing “I Gotta Sang The Blues” is he first song after that and it features native Detroit harp master Kim Wilson. He and Brett Lucas on guitar do a fabulous job in support as Davis shows us why her music is held in high esteem. Wilson wails on harp, delivering a duet with davis and a poignant solo. The song closes in rousing fashion with guitar, backup singers, Davis and the rest of the band blowing things up!

“That Don’t Appease Me” is a rocking blues with a steady groove. Davis shows a lot of sass as she tells her man she’s not appeased as she tosses him out. Lucas offers a nice solo on guitar. Next up is “Set Me Free,” Gospel infused blues with a chorus of backing vocalists taking us to church, Davis delivers an inspired performance. Larry and Steve McCray (guitar and drums) with Kerry Clark (bass) and Chris Codish (keys) are the band here and make this another hit. McCray’s guitar stings as he gives us a sweet solo. “Shadow” is a soulful ballad where Luis Restos does a fine job in support on keys as Davis backs herself vocally on this moving piece.

“I Need A Whole Lotta Lovin’ To Satisfy Me” where regular backline men James Simonson(bass) and and Todd Glass (drums) lay out a cool groove. Phillip J. Hale bangs out some nice piano and James O’Donnell (trumpet) and John Paxton (trombone) provide some sweet horn work. Lucas on guitar helps drive the beat as Davis tells us, “She needs a whole lotta lovin’!” Next up is “I’d Rather Be Alone” which adds Dave McMurray on sax and John Douglas on trumpet as Thornetta delivers some slow blues in a very satisfying performance. She testifies to us and when she was done I believed! Organ, horns and guitar are well done once again.

“I Believe (Everything Gonna Be Alright)” mixes Gospel, blues and country-infused Americana to delivers a high energy performance. Lucas’ slide guitar wails and jumps and Special Annointing does the soulful backing vocals. Very, very cool stuff here! Davis delivers what she calls an “Ode to sisterhood” with “Sister Friends Indeed.” It starts with Davis with Lucas and Chuck Bartels on guitar. The key changes and the backing vocalists join in for support and a little call and response. They things change gears again as the whole band chimes. The song ends with clapping and Davis and her sisters closing things out. “Get Up and Dance Away Your Blues” is a big number with another horn section (Marcus Belgrave and Rayse Biggs on trumpet and Edward Gooch on trombone) , some great organ work (Hale) and more jumping guitar (Lucas). This is some very cool jump blues!

“Can We Do It Again” features Davis in a very sexy and soulful number. Lucas delivers a slow and cool solo on his guitar and great support throughout for us here, too, as does Hale’s organ work. McMurray and Douglas add sexy punctuation with their horns. The title track is classic bluesy R&B. McMurray and Douglas return as Davis’ horn section as they and the band support Davis as she delivers more soulful vocals. The CD closes to “It Feels Like Religion,” funky bluesy rocking stuff! Davis gives us a great up tempo closing cut with Gospel infused lead and backing vocals, some more great guitar from Lucas, and nice piano work by Hale. This is another fantastic song and a super way to end things, leaving the listener with a great memory and the desire to hear more!

Davis penned all the cuts here except for the opening poem. This is a really well done album by an outstanding singer who has crafted wonderful original tunes and surrounded herself with equally wonderful musicians. I loved the CD from start to finish. It is upbeat, cool and a lot of fun. All I can say to conclude is that I hope it takes far less than 20 years for her to produce her next album because I can’t wait to hear more from her!

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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

rooster alley cd imageRooster Alley – Cock-a-Doodle-Doo


CD: 13 Songs, 60:01 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues and Blues Rock

One of the great joys of being a blues fan is predicting which bands will make it big. The late, great Sean Costello, before he gained his strutting stardom, once played a gig in a rural-Illinois hardware store. From humble roots spring mighty oaks, and from the humble “barnyard” of Central Illinois springs Rooster Alley. On 2015’s Cock-a-Doodle-Doo, they provide a crowing collection of thirteen original electric blues numbers, demonstrating why they’ve been a barroom and festival favorite. According to their biographical profile on CDBaby, “They have played all over the Midwest since 1992. They have played at Peoria Illinois River City Blues Festival five times, the Mid-Mississippi Muddy Waters Blues Festival, South Skunk Blues Society Blues Festival and the Ain’t Nothing’ But the Blues Fest in Bloomington, Illinois several times. Rooster Alley was the winner of the 2002 Illinois Blues Challenge.”

Rooster Alley pulls no punches when it comes to their musical style. It’s raw, rough, and rip-roaring, without any slick studio polish or hyperactive electronic effects. Their lyrics cover familiar themes: heartbreak, hell-raising and humor (“I’m crowing in the morning, howlin’ at the moon at night,” says this album’s title track). Vocally, lead man Dennis “Bozman” Bosley doesn’t sing as much as he converses with his listeners, his pipes those of a hard-working pickup truck instead of a well-oiled church organ. One can especially notice this on the explosive “Highway 57 South.” The rest of the ensemble matches him in intensity, but doesn’t overpower.

Along with Bosley on lead vocals, harmonica and guitar are Danny “Poondanny” Meyers on bass; slide and second guitarist Dave “The Steep” Hill; and Tom “TJ” Joliff on drums.

These three songs are some of the “best eggs” one can find down Rooster Alley:

Track 01: “Leg and Thigh” – This smooth SRV-style instrumental does just what an opening number should: excite, establish mood, and make fans hungry for more of a band’s music. Of course, the guitar solos are the main highlights, but revel in Bosley’s hot harmonica as well.

Track 09: “Highway 57 South” – In the mood for a vacation, but not in the mood to leave your favorite comfy chair? Fear not, blues fans! Head on down “Highway 57 South,” a blues rock ode to the golden road to Florida. More than any other song on the CD, this one presents the 200-proof essence of Rooster Alley and “Bozman’s” hard-edged vocals: “I’m gonna grab my baby, take her by the hand, take her on down to the Promised Land. They got white sandy beaches and them TAAAALLL palm trees…” Grab a partner for a quick groove on the dance floor.

Track 13: “Back in the Barnyard” – Hilarious track thirteen features clucking chickens and their feathered king, who says: “When the little red hen is on the grocer’s shelf, this big bad rooster is going to have all those young chicks ALL to me-self!” “BAWWWK!” squawks the incensed older female. This number may be only forty-seven seconds long, but that’s not too short to give people a full-fledged belly laugh.

Rooster Alley will make blues lovers at festivals and in bars Cock-a-Doodle-Doo all night long!

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 – 3 of 8 

omar coleman cd imageOmar Coleman – Live! At Rosas Lounge

Delmark Records

10 tracks – total time 61:49

West Side Chicago native Omar Coleman chose the domain of the Legendary Rosa’s Lounge for this comfy live effort. Omar and his supporting band have played this venue many, many times. They are a tight knit aggregation. Consequently, the listening experience here is like being in Omar’s living room. Coleman’s cohorts include Pete Galanis, guitar, Neal O’Hara, keyboards, Dave Forte, bass, (tracks 1-5), Ari Seder, bass, (tracks 6-10) and Marty Binder, drums. As Coleman declares while repeatedly exhorting the house between songs, “One time for the band!” It’s a mojo mantra.

Coleman selects songs of Chicago legend Jr. Wells to open and close the album. “Snatch It Back And Hold It,” is culled from perhaps Wells’ most prolific album Hoodoo Man Blues. At the tail end of the song it segues into “Wall To Wall,” the Johnny Taylor hit from days past. With lyrics like, they did the one two, they did the crawl, wound up doin’ the gator…, it’s easy to envision that if Chicago was the bayou, the dance floor at Rosa’s lounge was covered that night with a funky dose of alligator lubricant. They got down! The closer, ” Two Headed Woman,” (written by Willie Dixon) is culled from Jr. Well’s Chief Records sessions. That being said, one understands why Omar Coleman is on has been quoted as saying Jr. Wells is his favorite Soul/Blues inspiration.

Other standout tracks include track 3 “Born & Raised,” (the title track to his prior release) stretched to seven minutes in this setting. Track 6 “Raspberry Wine,” is a ditty in which the joy and pain of imbibing homegrown, fermented West Side Chicago berries is put to song. The stirring, heartfelt track 8 “One Request,” presents an opportunity for the band to slow the pace down after seven frenetic uptempo tunes. The band amps it up again on track 9, their cover of Rufus Thomas’s “Give Me The Green Light.

At the beginning of track 9, “Give Me The Green Light,” Coleman declares, “As you can guess, we like our Blues with a dose of Funk, Soul and all kinds of other stuff.” Certainly adding to the funk portion of the mix are the greasy licks of keyboardist Neal O’Hara. Similarly, the rhythm and lead licks of Jim Galanis provide additional traction on this project. Witness the steady rise of Omar Coleman. Another essential link to the future of Chicago Blues.

CyberSoulMan Tee Watts is music director at KPFZ 88.1 fm in Lakeport, California. His radio show, The CyberSoulMan Review airs Tuesday afternoons from 3-5 PST. He is road manager for Sugar Pie DeSanto, the last Queen standing from the glory years of Chess Records.

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

michael douchetcd imageMichael Doucet and Tom Rigney – Cajun Fandango

Parhelion Records – 2016

13 Tracks; 61 minutes

If there is a happier style of music than Cajun and its offspring, Zydeco, I can’t imagine what it would be. The Cajun musical tradition goes back hundreds of years to the French settlers of what today is Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on Canada’s Atlantic Coast. They called the area Acadia, and themselves Acadians.

In 1755, these peaceful settlers got caught in the middle of the ceaseless wars between Britain and France. Britain had juat won one and was preparing for the upcoming French & Indian war. The British were concerned about the loyalty of the Acadians and decided the best thing they could do was to simply deport them.

So, the Acadians were sent off to the French colony of Louisiana where, over time, “Acadian” became “Cadian” and then “Cajun”. They brought their fiddles and accordions and their folk music with them. As has always been true in America, this new music was absorbed and blended into new unique styles. One of the most famous, Zydeco – a blend of Acadian and Creole influences – comes from the Cajuns’ pronunciation of “beans”. In French, beans are “les haricots” which, with the rolled “r”, sounds like “layz addico” which got squeezed into “zydeco”.

This album captures the energy of Cajun and Creole, blues and swamp, bayou and New Orleans. It is an infectious collection of the traditional and the contemporary played by an outstanding band with every member an absolute master at their instruments.

The album starts out with a rollicking traditional Cajun tune, “Marie Catlin” sung in French by Michael Doucet with a very engaging Louisiana accent. Doucet and Rigney harmonize their fiddles beautifully and lift the track above the expected.

This is quickly followed up with a sweet jazzy blues number “L’Amour Poisonné” (Poisoned Love). Fiddles play a very moody double lead backed up with perfect accompaniment by John R. Burr on Hammond organ. This track really grooves.

One of the most interesting cuts is “Cajun Fandango”. This song starts out with a distinctive Gypsy feel in minor chords then morphs into a major chord Cajun romp, and then back again. If that sounds choppy, it isn’t. In the very capable hands of Doucet and Rigney, the blended sound works extremely well.

The duo also takes songs from the blues/rock canon and overlay their own feel. Both “Early In The Morning” and J.J. Cale’s “They Call Me The Breeze” get Cajun makeovers that work surprisingly well. Of particular note is Caroline Dahl’s Sippiana piano work on “Early In The Morning”.

But perhaps, the stand out track for combining traditional and Cajun fiddle is their fantastic version of Rigo’s Blues with soaring fiddles and perfect support from Burr’s Hammond.

This CD is an eclectic blend of influences while still maintaining a distinctive overall Cajun feel. The tracks work collectively as an album and as individual songs. So load this little gem on your CD player or digital device, practice your Cajun accent, put your shoes for le danser and have an absolute blast.

As they say in Louisiana, as well as among the Acadians whose ancestors escaped the British and found their way home to Atlantic Canada, “Laissez les bons temps a rouler” – indeed, let the good times roll.

Reviewer 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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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

kat riggins cd imageKat Riggins – Blues Revival

Bluzpik Media Group

10 songs – 46 minutes

A petite vocalist with a potent delivery and electrifying voice, Kat Riggins holds nothing back as she delivers this collection of eight self-penned originals and two carefully chosen covers.

Born Katriva Tabitha Riggins in Miami and still based in South Florida, she’s in her mid-30s and developed a love for all forms of music, but was immediately drawn to Koko Taylor, Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Ray Charles and Denise LaSalle. After spending her youth singing at church and family gatherings, she landed her first paying gig at 23, delivering jazz and blues standards in a local nightclub, accompanied only by piano.

Riggins spent time in New Orleans before traveling the world extensively with a top 40 band, working blues into her act wherever she could one song at a time in an attempt to revive the music and bring it to new audiences. It’s a concept she terms “blues fusion.” Today, as a solo artist, she still blends blues with everything from country to hip hop to keep her message moving forward.

Blues Revival isn’t just the title of Riggins’ CD, a follow-up to the 2014 release Lily Rose, it’s also the name of her band. She’s backed here by Darrell Raines on guitars, keyboards and backing vocals and a rhythm section of George Caldwell on bass and Doc Allison on drums.

Stephen Hooper makes a guest appearance on sax on the first cut, “Now I See (Ooh Wee),” a straight-ahead, medium-tempo, guitar-driven blues that puts Kat’s smoky alto on display as she warns a deceptive lover that she’s tired of his lying and that she’s cried her last tear for him to boot. The tempo slows for “Good Girl Blues,” which delivers the message that Riggins has made up her mind to break all the rules.

“Wail Away” is an instruction to the guitarist to repeat a lick because she knows the deep blues he’s playing will touch someone for certain. An extended single-note solo shows that he means business. Not to be confused with the Koko number with the same title, “Queen Bee” is a medium-paced original in which Kat states: “Once you taste this golden nectar/You ain’t never gonna get enough.” But she warns that she’s got a “mean sting/Cross me once/You won’t do it again.”

Up next, “Murphy’s Law” is a bluesy statement that Riggins is taking back her freedom and breaking the popular rule that whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Her voice soars during the chorus. One listen to “Music Fiend” and you’ll understand how song drives Kat’s life.

Two traditional covers — Sam Cooke’s “Change Is Gonna Come,” which is introduced by an a capella version of the gospel tune “This Little Light Of Mine,” and Etta James’ “Blues Is My Business” – follow before two more solid originals — “The Devil Is A Liar” and “Blues Is The New Black” – conclude the set.

Available through Amazon and as a download from other sites, Blues Revival is a powerful statement from someone who deserves your ear, especially if your tastes run to modern soul-blues. Rock solid from beginning to end.

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 – 6 of 8 

ray robertson book imageRay Robertson – Lives Of The Poets (With Guitars)


283 pages

In his introduction, author Ray Robertson mentions a quote from another writer, novelist Berthold Auerbach, stating, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” It is an apt description of Robertson’s efforts to enlighten readers on musicians and songwriters that captivated his imagination. Crossing a number of musical genres, Robertson is often effusive in his praise, but consistently provides stirring rationale for the strong emotional impact that each artist elicits with their music.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe blurred the line between blues and gospel, singing songs of praise while accompanying herself on a National resonator guitar, laying down a strong rhythmic foundation that presaged rock & roll. At the height of her success, with the song “Strange Things Happening Every Day” high on the charts, Tharpe reached out a helping hand to an aspiring singer at a show in Macon, GA, bringing the young man on stage to sing with her and later giving him a handful of money, more than he had ever had in his life. Once Little Richard achieved world-wide success, he struggled with the battle between God and sin while making some of the greatest rock & roll records in history. His chapter also features Robertson frank comments on the singer’s efforts to reconcile his sexual orientation to the world around him.

The chapter on Alan Wilson of Canned Heat reminds readers of the contributions this talented musician made during the blues revival, getting an education from Mississippi John Hurt and Bukka White, even providing the spark that led to the re-discovery of Son House. An invitation from guitarist John Fahey brought Wilson to California, where he met singer Bob Hite. The pair put together a band that would play amplified country blues so successfully that several of the band’s records achieved hit status on the radio charts and playlists. The short piece on Theodore Roosevelt Taylor manages to convey the manic energy and raw blues sounds that were a hallmark of every Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers show. While he tended to favor rock with a folk flavor during his solo career, Ronnie Lane played bass for the Faces, a British band that excelled at playing a boozy, bluesy style of rock music lead by Rod Stewart on lead vocals.

Other chapters chronicle the careers of two members of the Byrds who together paved the way for the way for country music to exert a lasting influence in the rock world. Gene Clark turned away from the Beatles influence when he teamed up with banjoist Doug Dillard on The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark, filled with wonderful Clark songs that have stood the test of time. Four months later, the Flying Burrito Brothers released The Gilded Palace of Sin, featuring Gram Parsons, who had played a major role in the Byrds classic Sweetheart At the Rodeo album. In the book’s longest chapter, Robertson presents an accurate portrayal of Parson’s lasting impact.

The Texas troubadour, Townes Van Zandt, is highlighted for his sterling songwriting abilities while John Hartford is acknowledged for a restless musical soul that was constantly searching for inventive ways to lift the human spirit. Robertson is at his best when explaining the appeal of the Ramones as “Two minutes of this and Hey-HO-Let;s-Go call me in the morning” followed by the caution, “Reducing the powerful attraction of the Ramones’ peerless music to its motivational utility, however, is as crude a critical diminishment as claiming to enjoy sex because it’s good for your cardiovascular system”. After reading about Willie P. Bennett, Paul Siebel, and Willis Alan Ramsey, Robertson will have you searching the internet for examples of their work so that readers can assess for themselves if these artists truly merit the reverential status that the author bestows on them.

There is a dark side to every story that ranges from abusive marriages and multiple sclerosis to electro-shock treatments in addition to the all-to-familiar tales of excessive substance abuse. Robertson offers the whole picture, warts and all. In doing so, he honors the music of artists who have enriched his life – and opens the door for his readers to experience the same magic. Definitely a book worth checking out!

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!.

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

john long cd imageJohn Long – Stand Your Ground

Delta Groove Music

13 tracks / 52:54

John Long is a fine bluesman, and the path he took to where he is today was not the easy one, but he ended up in the right place. Growing up in St. Louis, he sought out the blues at a young age, and it certainly did not hurt that his mom was a guitar teacher or that his brother, Claude, was also a bluesman. By his teens, John was playing out and started exploring the intricacies of pre-war blues. In the early 1970s, Long moved to Chicago where he mentored under a new father figure, Homesick James Williamson, who was a protégé of none other than Elmore James.

In the forty years since then, John has continued his journey, honing his craft and writing solid material, earning a BMA nomination for his debut album, and eventually moving back to Springfield, Missouri. His new Delta Groove Music album, Stand Your Ground, is a really cool collection of original and classic acoustic blues. Long did most of the heavy lifting here, writing eight of the thirteen tracks, singing all of the vocals, and taking on all of the harp and guitar parts. He was joined on a few of the tracks by a handful of tight and very experienced musicians from Southern California, including Fred Kaplan on piano, Bill Stuve on upright bass, and Washington Rucker behind the drum kit.

This disc was cut in only two days at Audiogrand in North Hollywood, California, and the resulting music has a very natural and live feel. First up is a tribute to Long’s mentor, and the message of James Williamson’s “Baby Please Set a Date” is the timeless story of a man who does not want to wait another day to be with his lady. Long’s voice is perfectly worn, and his inflection and tone hearken back to the early days of blues music. Fred Kaplan’s piano work fits in wonderfully on this track, as he carries over his years of experience from Hollywood Fats’ band.

The remaining cover tunes are sequenced near the end of Stand Your Ground, and Long does not screw around at all with Blind Willie Johnson’s 1920s gospel blues song, “I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole.” John takes this one on as a solo effort with his jangly slide acoustic, and he displays a lot of vocal versatility, adding in a wicked warble that is to die for. There is also a slow-tempo version of Thomas Dorsey’s “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” with a neat drum accompaniment from Rucker, and harp-heavy take on Blind Willie McTell’s “Climbing High Mountains” (big time falsetto here!).

But this is not a cover album, and Long’s originals are well written and stand up well to the blues masters’ songs that he chose for the mix. His guitar playing on these songs is fascinating, as he is innovative and goes far beyond what pre-war players did with their instruments, but he never loses the vintage vibe. “Red Hawk” is a prime example of this, as he uses a lot of double stops, harmonics, and descending patterns that sound amazing on his resonator guitar. Long also covers subjects that were not song-worthy back in the 1920s or 1930s, and he can write a tune about living with Parkinson’s disease (“No Flowers For Me”), and have it fit in perfectly with the classic material. The same can be said for “One Earth, Many Colors,” which carries a beautiful message of inclusion.

The originals are righteous enough that the title track turns out to be one of the standout songs on the album. “Stand Your Ground” brings Stuve and Rucker back on stage and these two fellows really click, contributing a fat and woody bass tone, as well as lovely rhythms on the drums. The melody is very catchy, and the lyrics are about a father’s advice to his son, not the controversial Florida law.

John ends his set with his original “Suitcase Stomp,” and as it is only two minutes long it is a neat coda to this project. This is a fun and rowdy song, and Long get the chance to shine on his harp and guitar one last time before he leaves the stage.

John Long has the pre-war blues sound and feel nailed down tight, and he is able to carry this mood over to more modern lyrics with no awkwardness or feeling that things are contrived. Stand Your Ground works on a lot of levels, including its content, musicianship, and production. If you dig classic blues and want to hear something fresh, Stand Your Ground would definitely be a wise purchase.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

Henrik Freischlader cd imageHenrik Freischlader Trio – Openness

Cable Car Records – 2016

12 Tracks; 67 minutes

Once it became clear that this is a rock album, it became easier to evaluate. And it is a rock album, with a couple of blues/rock and contemporary blues tracks added. I’m not saying this is a bad thing – it is what it is, and it is done well.

This trio is from Germany but they seem to be channeling several American rock bands (with a dash of English Cream) from the 70s and blending them into their own style. You can hear influences from Rare Earth, The Allman Brothers, Edgar Winter and a couple of others that stay just far enough below the surface to defy identification. Freischlader wrote all the songs on the album, including English lyrics. Imagine trying get idioms, rhymes, slang, and of your second language right, and then singing them with the right feel.

One of the pitfalls of the Power Trio is that the guitarist feels that he has to fill every second of a song with sound. While Henrik Freischlader is guilty of that in several tracks, particularly the title track, “Openness”, he does leave some air in many, particularly “Business Straight” and “Today I’m Gonna Change”.

Freischlader is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist and has put out an album on which he played guitar, bass, drums, percussion and Hammond organ. He has an excellent voice and sings with heartfelt expression. He growls on the rockers and caresses on the ballads, and moves up and down the full blues/rock vocal range throughout the entire album.

The band is tight with Alex Grube laying down some very nice bass lines and Carl-Michael Grabinger on drums, propels the band ever forward.

A few stand out tracks are “Lord Have Mercy” where Freischlader shows off some impressive slide skills as the band gets into a swamp rock/blues groove. “Early Morning Blues”, in spite of starting off with the lyric “Woke up this morning …” (yes, really, but remember, English is not his first language). This song has that loping blues swing feel that just makes you feel good when you listen to it.

The album has a pleasing mix of hard driving rock, hints of jazz and soul, a little 60s R&B and even a pop ballad, Never Really Left You. One of the best rockers with some blues underpinnings and a terrific vocal is the second last tune on the album, “High Expectations”.

If you are a blues purist, you will probably lament that this album would only be known as a blues album by one or two tracks, and even these would be considered blues light by most diehard blues fans. But if you are into contemporary blues, this album will be right up your alley. It has some killer licks, great vocals, some good songs and an accomplished band.

I am not a purist but I tend to prefer blusier blues bands, but I have found myself listening to this album quite often and enjoying the vibe. A lot.

Eine Kleine Bluesmusik … danke schoen.

Reviewer 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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 Featured Blues Interview – Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi 

ariyo pic 1It was a life-changing experience, hearing that one record. Sumito Ariyoshi, better known as Ariyo, had been studying classical piano since since he was three years old. At the age of sixteen, a friend brought him an album, asking if Ariyo could play this kind of music on the piano. “He had an Elmore James record. You know how different classical music and the blues gets. Blues piano players are more flexible, more free. There is more attacking, especially when playing with a band.”

“I figured out that I was lucky to hear Elmore James, because Johnny Jones was playing piano on the record. He was right there between the vocal and the guitar solo. It was easy for me, because of my classical training, to pick-up each of the blue notes on the pentatonic scale, the triplets that Johnny was playing on “Dust My Broom”. My classical training was square. I couldn’t play anything without a score. My classical teachers were telling me not to use a finger a certain way because it wasn’t elegant enough. Blues piano sounded so free. So when some friends invited me, I joined their band.”

Like many others, Ariyo started educating himself by taking a deep dive into recordings by legendary artists like Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, and Little Brother Montgomery. He quickly realized that everyone played the same keyboard. The difference was in their approach. His extensive classical training gave the aspiring blues player a unique skill set.

“I was able to quickly figure out the voicing on chords. And I had a little more technique than some of the older blues piano players. At the same time, it was very hard for me to transfer from classical feeling to the blues feeling. I had to learn to play harder, be rougher. A friend of mine in those days always told me to get some more feeling, that I played too beautiful. Soon I figured out that I needed more rhythm, like the shuffle or the boogie beat. I was playing old-school, no funk. At that time in Japan, blues fans were not interested in artists like B.B. and Albert King because they were too popular. I never had the chance to play “The Thrill Is Gone” or “I’ll Play The Blues For You” in Japan because they didn’t like it. Just like the musicians in Chicago today don’t like to play “Sweet Home Chicago”! I didn’t touch Ray Charles or gospel music in my teenage years.”

ariyo pic2Ariyo finished college with a degree in Japanese literature, which lead to a teaching position. But before the hard work started, he decided to indulge to of his passions – driving cars and playing music. A friend, keyboardist Yoko Noge, and her husband asked Ariyo if he wanted to make a trip to Chicago to see the real blues scene. Arriving in Chicago with a plan to stay for several months, Ariyo quickly learned that not being able to speak English made him dependent on the Noges’. They spoke the language and knew where to go, what clubs to visit. After a short time, Ariyo realized he needed to make his own way. Taking a part-time job at a Japanese restaurant, he spent part of every day learning English from the street people that hung out around the Tokyo Hotel, a cheap place to stay on Ohio Street in downtown Chicago.

“I talked to the people out on the street. I would bring them cigarettes and some beer to have some conversations. This was the summer of 1983. A week after I got the job, I was at Blues On Halsted for Sunnyland Slim’s regular Sunday night gig. He had Steve Freund on guitar, Robert Covington on drums, and Bob Stroger on bass. Before them, drummer Kansas City Red was playing with Eddie C. Campbell on guitar. A friend of mine gave me Eddie C.’s name. I talked to him – my name is Ariyo, I came from Japan, I play piano, I love blues! So they brought me up for a couple of songs. They never told me the key, just started playing. But I was ok, I knew the songs.”

“The band loved my playing. The audience was cheering and shouting for me. I stood up after two songs but the bass player put his hand on my shoulder, telling me not to go any where. On the break. I thanked Kansas City Red for letting me sit in. He said they were taking a fifteen minute break and to make sure I was back when they started. My first time playing in Chicago and I played the whole show. Kansas City Red gave me $5, telling me to be back the following Sunday. Then I got the gig with his band. So every week I was there working before Sunnyland Slim, one of my idols, and his all-star band took the stage. I went to Blues On Halsted one night. The guy working the door didn’t recognize me, so I was getting ready to pay the cover. But guitarist Jimmy Johnson came over to tell the doorman to let me in, that I was a piano player. I was so excited that Jimmy Johnson recognized me!”

ariyo pic3But Ariyo feels the real start to his blues career in Chicago came later in the year when he was hired by the legendary Jimmy Rogers. That allowed him to quit his job at the Japanese restaurant to focus on music. He continued to play with Red, getting to play with other guitarists like Eddie Taylor and Hubert Sumlin. His pay increased as well, jumping to $20 every Sunday from the club instead of the $5 that Red had been paying Ariyo out of his own pocket. The Rogers band headed to New York in January, 1984 for a tour with Hip Linkchain on guitar, George “Wild Child” Butler on harmonica, Steve Arvey on bass, and Tony Mangiullo on drums.“Tony is Italian, so he understood what I was dealing with, not understanding English well at all. He helped me a lot, inviting me to move in his place in order to save money. When he opened his club, Rosa’s Lounge, his support made it possible for me to stay in Chicago and continue my career.”

Staying with the band until 1985, their paths diverge when Rogers headed to Texas to work with the Antone’s label while Ariyo worked with an agent to put together a tour of Japan with another outstanding guitarist, Robert Jr. Lockwood. Returning to Chicago, Ariyo was contacted by a rising star on the Chicago scene, singer Valerie Wellington. She hired him for her band along with Grady Williams on drums and Nick Charles on bass. When he had breaks in Wellington’s schedule, the piano player played dates with the Otis Rush band. “Valerie encouraged me to take advantage of those opportunities. She felt they would be valuable to my career. We were like brother and sister.”

As his career was in full swing, Ariyo was faced with legal issues that meant a return to Japan, where he stayed for the duration of the 1990s decade. Mangiullo’s family helped him out with the legal issues and the agent of for harmonica ace Billy Branch also served as an advocate for Ariyo’s return in 2001 with a new passport and visa. Six years after that he received a green card, giving him official citizen status. “I had known Billy a long time. Once I returned to Chicago, he was running around telling everyone Ariyo’s, back, Ariyo’s back – but I already got him, so don’t touch him! I started playing with his group, the Sons of Blues. I brought my wife here and our son was born in 2004.”

ariyo pic4Over the last fifteen years, Ariyo has been committed to playing with Branch. When there are breaks in Branch’s schedule, and with the leader’s blessing, the piano player has been able to explore other interests as a solo artist in addition to fronting his own band. He has done several solo tours in Brazil, Spain, and, of course. Japan. Ariyo has been featured as a soloist at the 2003 and 2007 Chicago Blues Festivals with an appearance at the Chicago Jazz fest in between. “Billy is my priority. I have to be there because I give the band directions. I am not the music director, but I have been with Billy the longest of any band member”.

Other influences on Ariyo’s style include Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, and Big Maceo Merriweather. During his tenure with Wellington, he learned to play gospel and funk. Her singing had a strong gospel element, powered by her operatically trained voice. Exposure to Chicago’s jazz scene added modern ideas to his musical palette. But blues fans don’t have to worry about Ariyo venturing too far outside the blues traditions. He is a regular participant in the Thursday night blues jam at Rosa’s Lounge, originally run by the late guitarist, James Wheeler. Now Lil’ Ed William’s frequently sits in. Ariyo also plays swinging jump blues as a member of Morry Sochat and the Special 20s, along with Billy Flynn on guitar and Shoji Naito, a 2016 Blues Blast Award nominee, on harmonica.

One measure of the piano player’s talent is the list of recordings he has appeared on in the last several years – Jimmy Burns Band Stuck In The Middle, Big Otis Blues by Rob Blaine, So Close To It by Breezy Rodio, and The Big Sound Of Lil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials on Alligator Records. He also made major contributions to the award-nominated recording from Branch, Blues Shock, one of the last releases on the Blind Pig Records label. “Before we went into the studio with the band, Billy and I discussed his ideas for each song, then I put together the voicings. We worked together for a long time. It was a range of old style to more modern sounds”.

Ariyo was excited about the opportunity to work with Lil’ Ed because it took him back to his beginning, with Lil’ Ed’s slide guitar filling in for Elmore James. “I hung out with Lil’ Ed when he toured Japan in 1989. Ed and I play together at the the Thursday night jam at Rosa’s and he is always telling me that he wants me to record with him. I had recorded for Alligator Records back in 1987 with Valerie as part of the label’s the New Bluebloods project with Lil’ Ed, Melvin Taylor and the Kinsey Report. Donald Kinsey was the first musician to ask me to join a band in 1983 but I didn’t have a keyboard”. In November, Branch will be on the road as part of the Big Head Todd tour paying tribute to Willie Dixon. Ariyo is not wasting the time, embarking on his first solo tour of China with stops in Japan. The Sons of Blues have already traveled to Ecuador, Columbia, Romania, and the European Blues Cruise this year.

There are several artists that the piano player would like to play with in the future. “I’d like to do a piano duo with Barrelhouse Chuck. We respect each other so much. It is hard to do because we usually have gigs on opposite sides of town. Before we get too old, I’d like to do something with Chuck. There aren’t many of the old style piano players left besides us and Erwin Helfer. The other is guitarist Larry McCray, who sounds like Freddie King to me. Whenever he comes to Chicago, he calls me but I haven’t had a chance to work with him.”

Interviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!.

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Santa Barbara Blues Society – Santa Barbara, CA

The Santa Barbara Blues Society presents Rick Estrin and The Nightcats Saturday, November 19, 2016, at the Carrillo Recreation Center, 100 E. Carrillo St. in downtown Santa Barbara. Doors open at 7 PM; there are free BBQ snacks and there is a large dance floor. Opening act Jeff Joad, “Son of the Mississippi Delta Blues,” will play from 7:15 to 7:45, and The Nightcats will play two sets starting at 8 PM.

General admission is $30; VIP seats, in front of the stage with one free drink, are $40. Multiple discounts are available; call (805) 722-8155 and leave name and number. Further information is available at

Crossroads Blues Sociey – Rockford, IL

Our November lineup includes the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park show on Saturday the 12th with the great Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys! The Lyran 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. 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 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 16, Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, Manteno IL. For more info visit

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