Issue 10-5 February 4, 2016


Cover photo by Roman Sobus © 2016

 In This Issue 

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with 2015 Blues Blast Music Award winner, Mud Morganfield. We have 5 Blues music reviews for you including reviews of music from Johnny Rawls, Blue Rose, Duke Robillard, Chris James & Patrick Rynn and Katy Guillen & The Girls. We also have photos of the winners of the 2016 International Blues Challenge winners.

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

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 Featured Blues Music Review – 1 of 5 

Johnny Rawls – Tiger In A Cage

Catfood Records

12 tracks

Johnny Rawls is becoming one of the last of his generation still keeping soul blues alive. The album is his first since joining up with the great and now late Otis Clay in 2014 for their Soul Brothers album which won the 2015 Blues Blast Music Award for Best Soul Blues Album. In 2013 he released Remembering O.V., a tribute to his mentor O.V. Wright. 2012 saw the release of Soul Survivor, a multi-BMA nomination garnering work that followed another that also got multiple BMA nominations, the 2011 album Memphis Still Got Soul. And in 2010 his album Ace of Spades won the BMA for soul blues album of the year.

With these acclaimed six albums in seven years Rawls shows no sign of slowing down. He’s producing a lot of great stuff, both originals and covers. He’s been recording for Bob Trenchard and Catfood Records since 2005 and the two worked together for 8 years before that on several projects. Weaned by the greats O.V. Wright and Little Johnny Taylor, Rawls has learned how to be front man to a fantastic band and get the most out of a song.

With Rawls here are his band the Rays, which features Johnny McGhee on guitar, Bob Trenchard on bass, Richy Puga on drums, Dan Ferguson on keys and accordion, Andy Roman on sax, Mike Middleton on trumpet, Robert Claiborne on trombone, Nick Flood on baritone sax, Jon Olazabel on percussion and vocal backups by the Iveys. The guitar and horns are spectacular. The band works together spectacularly as a team. I was impressed on each cut how they complemented each other. It was truly a great, team effort. Nine originals and three covers comprise the album contents, and Rawls gives some fine performances. Rawls wrote or co-wrote the original songs and Trenchard had his hand in on five of them.

The title track gets things started. This is a cut about a 19 year old sent off to prison with a life now wasted. The growth of prison populations due “War on Drugs” failures creates a sad situation for us. Prisons are filled with men who are like tigers and other zoo animals; hopelessly incarcerated, pacing cells and prison yards with no aim and getting more and more filled with rage. Another original follows, “Born to the Blues” where Johnny sings how he was born in Mississippi and has spent 40 years keepin’ keepin’ on. Rawls reprises his classic “Red Cadillac” and he and the Rays nail it. “Every Woman Needs a Working Man” is also an original tune and Rawls tells us what women need. A driving beat keeps it loose and fun. “Reckless Heart” takes us down and Rawls smoothly transitions into a more soulful and slow tempo-ed pace. This highly orchestrated ballad is well done. The next tune is “Keep It Loose” where Johnny tells us about taking his woman down to the juke joint.

Sam Cooke’s “Having A Party is the first of the covers. Rawls starts off with sparse accompaniment (bass drum and piano) and he and the band build into a swinging and sweet cover of this song. I loved the trombone solo here! The take out is also scaled down; I loved what Rawls did here. He follows that with Jackie Wilson’s “Your Love Is Lifting Me Higher.” This one exceeded my expectations; no schmaltz here. Rawls gives it a great effort and sings and swings seemingly effortlessly. The horns blare and the backing vocals are slick. “Southern Honey” spins us a country styled blues where Eden Brent shares the mike with Rawls. The two are backed by the band and some fiddles/stringed instruments to help set the tone. Another winner! The next song “Lucy” is tune about a girl who gets juicy and likes to pop her coochie. Ok, it rhymes and actually it’s a fun little cut. The third and final cover is a very nice soulful blues version of the Stone’s “Beast of Burden.” Rawls gives an impassioned performance with some gritty emotion. Rawls closes with a soulful and slow song named “I Would Be Nothing.” It is a big love song and Rawls gives his all.

I saw Johnny at last year’s Chicago Blues Fest and he put on a helluva show at the Mississippi Juke Joint Stage. He drew a huge crowd out in the sun as he amazed the fest attendees with his powerful performances. This album shows he can be artful and prolific and firmly cements him as a top soul blues artists. The critical acclaim he has gotten is well-deserved. These are some great albums he is producing and I think he’s even better live. If you want to hear one of the masters of soul blues, go out and buy this CD. You will not regret it.

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.

 2016 International Blues Challenge Winners 

We made it Memphis last week for the finals of the 2016 International Blues Challenge. Here is a list of the winners with their photos.

In the Band Category the winners were The Delgado Brothers from The Ventura County Blues Society.

Band runner-up was The Paul DesLauriers Band from The Montreal Blues Society.

Third place went to The Norman Jackson Band from The Lake of the Ozarks Blues Society.

In the Solo/Duet category the winners were Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons from The Washington Blues Society.

Solo/Duet runner-ups were InnerVision from The Columbus Blues Alliance.

The Band Guitar winner was Joey Delgado.

Solo Guitar winner was Bing Futch from The Orange Blossom Blues Society.

The Best Harmonica Player Award went to Sam Shepherd of InnerVision. We will have a complete photo review of all of the finalists in an upcoming issue.

Photos by Roger Stephenson © 2016

 Featured Blues Interview – Mud Morganfield 

He’s not blaming anyone and he’s certainly not pointing any fingers or casting any ire in any one person’s direction.

Fact is, he doesn’t have one jealous or vengeful bone in his body … he just wasn’t raised that way.

Heck, even if he did want to take it out on someone, so much time has passed since then that those wounds would have healed by now.

Despite that, he does want it known that this is what launched his career.

A television program.

Not just any television program, however, this was The Kennedy Center Presents: A Tribute To Muddy Waters: King Of The Blues, broadcast on PBS back in the very late 1990s.

To say that Mildred McGhee and her son, Larry ‘Mud’ Morganfield, were excited when they sat down to watch the program would be an understatement.

To say that they were disappointed at the program’s conclusion, would be an understatement, too.

“We watched it until the end, until all the credits had rolled and the show went off the air, and I looked over at my mom and she was sitting there crying. I rushed to her side and said, ‘Mother, what’s wrong? Are you hurt; why are you crying?’ She said, ‘I’m alright.’ So I said, ‘What’s wrong, then?’ And she said, ‘They didn’t mention my boy, not one time,” Morganfield recently said. “Buddy Guy was there and my younger brother, Bill, was there and Koko Taylor and Keb’ Mo was there … everybody that was anybody was there. Everybody but me … I felt so outcast. Did you see me there? No. Did you hear my name mentioned? No. Did you see my name in the credits? No. We sat there hoping that someone would mention this poor little boy on the west side of Chicago, and they didn’t. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After that, I said, ‘That’s it. I’m going out there.’ I’m not bitter and I’m over all that now, but that is what started me singing the blues.”

As most know by now, 61-year-old Mud Morganfield is the son of Mildred McGhee and Muddy Waters (“Some people say the oldest (child), but my dad was a rollin’ stone, so I’m a little afraid to say that,” laughed Morganfield).

As most also know by now, Mud Morganfield has rapidly ascended to become one of the hottest blues singers currently on the scene and he specializes in the kind of classic, old-school Chicago blues that used to rule the Windy City back in the day.

Morganfield’s latest long-player – For Pops: A Tribute to Muddy Waters (Severn Records) – was a collaboration with the great Kim Wilson and it landed on almost everyone’s ‘best of’ list and certainly captured its share of accolades and compliments from blues lovers across the globe.

“Yeah, it’s been unbelievable. I won a Blues Blast Award and a Blues Music Award (for Best Traditional Blues Album at both ceremonies). That was very, very gratifying. Before that, I was nominated in three or four categories for my album Son of the Seventh Son and was fortunate enough to pick one up for that (2012 Blues Blast Award for Best Traditional Blues Album). Getting one this year, man, I just want to thank everyone involved with the album,” he said. “Guys like Kim Wilson and Barrelhouse Chuck, Billy Flynn, Rusty Zinn, Steve Gomes and Robb Stupka … everyone that played on the album. It was great to receive a BMA … it’s like the ultimate thing for me. I’m still looking to one day hopefully, before I get old and die, to get nominated for a Grammy and maybe even win one of those around here.”

Kim Wilson makes no bones about his love and respect for Muddy Waters. Wilson even had the chance on many occasions to open up for and even jam with the big man and his band back in the 1970s. That makes the pairing between Wilson and Mud seem like a real no-brainer, which it was.

“That was because of David Earl (the visionary behind Severn Records. He also helped produce and record For Pops). Kim has done a lot of work with David and that’s how the idea for us to do an album together came to be,” Morganfield said. “I was getting ready to do an album and got a call from David and he was telling me about this fantastic idea, which it was. But, hey man, anything to do with my dad, the least I can do is to pay homage to him. That’s the way it should be, you know?”

For Pops found a place on the blues charts the same year that Muddy’s 100th anniversary celebration was also being held all over the world. There were several other compact discs released last year celebrating Muddy’s centennial, while the annual Chicago Blues Fest also placed special emphasis on the man’s music (as it also did for Howlin’ Wolf) last summer. Muddy’s popularity with long-time blues fans is well-documented and shows no signs of fading away. What does continue to impress about Muddy’s music, however, is the way that it relentlessly keeps finding a home in the collection of young music fans who were not even born when Muddy was doing his thing. Put it this way; Muddy’s music is every bit as popular today -if not more so – as it was in the ’60s and ’70s.

“I think that’s because it’s roots music. Really, the root of all music. Pop was listening to guys like Son House and Robert Johnson and then taking that music farther. That connected with people back then and it continues to connect with people,” Morganfield said. “According to my dad, there were hard times back then on the plantations and working in the fields and along the Mississippi River. It was pretty rough. Even though people may not do that kind of work these days, times are still hard and people can still relate to the messages in my pop’s songs. That will never change. I think maybe – perhaps – that I can give some of these younger fans a glimpse of what it may have been like if they had gotten the chance to see my dad.”

The one thing that did change in Muddy’s orbit, was the players that were in and out of his band over the years. Sure, there were a few long-time members (Pinetop Perkins and Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith immediately come to mind), but the door always seemed to revolve in the Muddy Waters Blues Band. That being the case, Muddy never once failed to surround himself with the best of the best players – that made the product top-flight, no matter who played on his records or who shared the bandstand with him.

“When you’re a great player by yourself, can you imagine having a bunch of other great players around you? It’s like having an all-star band. Pop was a great guitar player and singer and performer … you name it, pop did it. But then you look behind you and there’s Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith sitting there, who was a superb blues drummer. Then you’ve got Calvin ‘Fuzz’ Jones on bass to hold the bottom. Then there’s Bob Margolin on one side and Luther ‘Guitar Junior’ Johnson on the other, then there would be Otis Spann or Pinetop on keys. That’s amazing, man,” said Morganfield. “That’s the product of what you get when you have great players around you. And for me, I also try to keep some of the best-of-the-best players around me. The guys that play with me are not show-boaters; they don’t need to walk across the piano, but they get in there and they kick out a groove, man.”

In a relatively short amount of time, Morganfield has developed a loyal and rabid fan base in England. They count down the days to his next appearance and can’t wait to fill up venues like London’s Boisdale of Canary Wharf, where Morganfield held court last June.

“I guess it’s just the luck of the Irish (the reason for his popularity in England),” he laughed. “But you know, I do think about the times that my dad and Willie Dixon went over to England when I was still a snotty-nose kid and that country really embraced them. But don’t forget, the Rolling Stones are from there and they named themselves after a line in a tune that my dad did. And they had so much respect for pop over there, so it wasn’t hard for me to develop a fan base there, too. They tell me I have the persona and sound of pops, and I’m OK with that. I’m only saddened by one thing – that’s that America still doesn’t love its own artists like other countries do.”

Like the old saying goes – sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees and there certainly has been numerous times on several occasions, when music enthusiasts in the United States have had to wait for other parts of the world to point out what we have going on in our own backyard.

“That really does break my heart. We’ve got a bunch of great talent over here, man, and people don’t seem to really pay it that much attention,” he said. “It’s like it’s passé and they say, ‘Yeah, we know that, we’ve heard that.’ That can make it hard for an entertainer who works hard to establish themselves as an artist and a bluesman.”

That lack of instant recognition in the States has not caused Morganfield to waver for one micro-second. From day one, he’s rolled up his sleeves and worked hard at what he feels he was born to do, which is to play the authentic blues. His sound, attitude, work ethic and devotion to his craft could only be labeled as ‘old school.’ But yet Morganfield is fully aware of the days and times that we live in here in the 21st Century and he has embraced the technology of today – like Facebook and Twitter – to go along with his throw-back ways.

“It’s just social media, man, and you have to use it. You may be somewhere (playing a show) and have people say, ‘I didn’t know he was here in town, right under my nose.’ With social media, you can let people know where you’re going to be and how much tickets are and all that stuff,” he said. “Maybe that way, more people can come out to your show and have a great time. That’s turned into a big thing.”

Facebook followers and social media mavens are one thing in 2016, but it’s also fun to stop and think about what Muddy or The Wolf might have Tweeted about back in their day.

“My dad was such a humble man, that I don’t think he would have done that (used Facebook or Twitter), but I do think he definitely would have had someone working on that kind of stuff for him,” said Morganfield. “But for me, I’m a different person. I am Muddy’s son, but I’m more of a personable person and I love people. I like people to like me and that’s probably one of my biggest hang-ups. I’m a people-pleaser and want them to say good things about me, while I’m alive and after I’m dead. I do try to be humble with people and I hope they give me the same thing.”

Last year was a huge celebration year for Muddy, but it also basically marked the 10th anniversary of Mud’s devotion to fully concentrating on playing the blues on a full-time basis. Although his profile rose like a moon-bound rocket when Son of the Seventh Son hit the streets back in 2012, that doesn’t mean that Morganfield found himself suddenly on Easy Street, with no cares in the world.

“I’m still a struggling musician, just like everyone else. I still struggle to pay my bills, man, just like everyone else. The popularity is fine, but I don’t get no huge amounts of money. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it, but I’m still grinding and still hustling and am still trying to line up shows and get to those shows and enjoy myself,” he said. “I’m finding this to be a fantastic journey and I just hope my health holds up so I can put out more great albums.”

It looks like late this spring might be an exciting time for Morganfield, as plans are in the works for him to hook up with St. Louis legend Big George Brock to play a show on May 8.

“We’re talking about playing there in St. Louis at B.B. King’s club. I look at this cat (Big George) the same way I look at Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith or Pinetop Perkins. All I see is my dad in those guys.” he said. “Those guys have dedicated some 40 or 50 years to us and to playing the blues. Those cats have put in a lot of years for us, giving us music to enjoy. I mean, what more can you ask them to do? They need to be appreciated and that’s what I do for any of my elders that I can. And don’t forget about guys like Eddy Clearwater. I was just at his birthday party and he’s such a sweetheart. He’s dedicated his whole life to giving us some good blues and I have great admiration for them all.”

The brilliant thing about the way that Morganfield presents his music – especially in a live setting – is that way that’s he’s not the least bit shy or hesitant to let all of his influences shine through. Of course, the fundamental center of all that is his father, but there’s also bits and pieces of R&B and even some old-school 1980’s pop music in there, as well. And according to Morganfield, that’s natural and just the way that it should be.

“Here’s the thing; I am the son of Muddy Waters – McKinley Morganfield – but by the same token, I wasn’t born at the same time my dad was. I didn’t have to experience the hardships that people of his age had to in the south. When I was born, stuff was a little bit better than it was when my dad was born. So, when my dad was young and listening to Robert Johnson and all those great artists, when I was young, I was into Motown,” he said. “I was listening to Hall & Oates – you know, “Maneater” and “I Can’t Go For That,” and of course I was listening to The Temptations and Michael Jackson. That was the stuff that was bangin’ in my ears and you can’t deny that was great music in the ’70s and ’80s. But you’re talking 20 or 30 years later on from pops. Not only that, some of that music is what I hear in my soul. I try to keep it bluesy, but when you listen to songs like “Midnight Lover” or “Blues in My Shoes” (both from Son of the Seventh Son), that’s the kind of stuff that I feel. Then you have Johnnie Taylor and Tyrone Davis and all that stuff.”

Morganfield acknowledges that while there’s nothing wrong with a case of the deep blues from time-to-time, hopefully there’s more to life than just woe and misery 24 hours a day and he’s trying to help celebrate some of those good times, as well.

“When my dad came up, there was plenty of suffering going on in the south. They saw the blues almost as praying in those days. That’s where the blues came from – people praying for a change in the cotton or corn fields … they were praying to be safe and to be saved. When those people would hear the blues, they would feel a little better about themselves. But I’m in a different era, you know what I mean?” asked Morganfield. “The suffering’s not so bad as it was back then in the south … there’s really no comparison. When my dad and them sang, they were sad. I have a lot of reasons to be sad, too, but I know that a lot of people don’t want to feel sad anymore. They want to dance the night away and have a few drinks and have a great time. They don’t want to all the time be crying about some love affair that went bad. I do have songs that will give you that feel, but I want people to come out and have a good time.”

His repertoire does feature plenty of Muddy’s songs – some well-known and some that are more obscure – but there are songs of his dad’s that Morganfield just cannot bring himself to sing.

“Yeah, “Long Distance Call” is one of his songs that I can’t do. That song is one of my dad’s signature songs and for somebody to get up and try to do that song … I just don’t think it comes out right. To do the (sings) ‘And then, and then, and then,’ somebody would have to really be putting on an act,” he said. “And I don’t want to be a marker; when I get on stage, I want the spirit to flow. I just do what I was naturally born to do. There’s no copying or anything like that. What I’ve got is between God, Muddy and my mother. I do 20 or 25 songs during a show and I guarantee that when I open my mouth, you’re going to hear my dad in there somewhere.”

Another of Muddy’s sons – Big Bill Morganfield – has also carved out a nice piece of turf for himself on the blues scene over the past couple of decades. That leads to the obvious question of whether or not Mud and Big Bill can find the time to hit the studio at the same time and issue a full-length album together.

“Well, anything’s possible. Bill was on the scene probably 10 or years before I got here,” he said. “My plan is to continue to put out great albums.”

Plans are underfoot for Morganfield to enter the studio sometime around the middle of this year to cut his newest compact disc. If the last two albums are any indication, fans can expect another heaping helping of the real-deal Chicago blues, served up with the style and attitude of Muddy Waters at their heart and center.

And the way that Morganfield sees it, that’s the plan from here on out.

“I’m just here until I move on, trying to keep that flame burning. You know, the flame of guys like my dad and Howlin’ Wolf and Lead Belly and Blind Boy Lemon and all them,” he said. “It’s important that we don’t forget where this music came from and that we keep it alive. That’s all I’m trying to do. I want to remain grounded, so I can still get respect from my dad. This was just a gift that’s been given to me and I’m just thankful that I can do it. You have to remember, I’m not some guy just running around and trying to look or sound like Muddy. I’m his son; I’m a progeny of Muddy.”

Photos by Roman Sobus © 2016

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He’s also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.


 Featured Blues Music Review – 2 of 5 

Blue Rose – Detroit Boogie

Coon Creek Records

12 tracks / 48:23

How we ended up with Detroit Boogie from Blue Rose is definitely an interesting story. This Motor City-based band was formed by Jon Martin and Corey Storm in 1992 and played shows in and around Detroit and the Midwest until around the year 2000. There were a few personnel changes throughout the years, and the only Blue Rose full-length album that was ever released before was 1997’s Rock Me Low.

A few years ago, Jon went back through previously recorded material, and started working with analog tapes from 1994 to put together Detroit Boogie, which is kind of a prequel to their debut release, if you think about it. This album captures a unique aspect of the band, as there are three lead vocalists: Ahada, Beverly Ratliff, and Kim Lange. Also in the line-up from these 1994 sessions are Jon on bass, Corey on guitar, Barry Kovach behind the drum kit, and David Favro on keyboards and sax.

Blue Rose’s Detroit sound is a decidedly more rock than blues, and on this disc there are a dozen tracks that are evenly split between originals and covers. Ahada and either Storm or Martin wrote all of the originals, make sure you check the liner notes for details, as they are a nice resource for this release. Production values are good, and two decades after the fact Martin was able to put together a lively and organic recording that captures the essence of the band.

The party starts off with ”The Storm,” an original blues rocker with funky bass, screaming guitar, and plenty of sax to go around. Ahada’s voice is pure soul, and the backing vocals are incredible. The backline is tight and Corey’s guitar work has uncanny feel and timing. This tune is backed up a guitar-heavy version of Elvin Bishop’s mid-70s classic “Fooled Around & Fell in Love,” which calms things down a bit after the extra hot opening track. Other covers include Don Nix’s blues standard “Goin’ Down,” Ray Charles’ “I Believe in My Soul,” and Aretha Franklin’s “Evil Gal Blues.” Chances are very good that each of these will be the hardest rocking version of these songs that you have ever heard.

As a whole, the originals are also hard blues-rock, and they are consistently well written and entertaining. The standout track of the bunch is “Let it Ride,” which has a lot going for it. This driving song starts out with a bit of a bass solo and then the layers of sax and vocals harmonies kick in. Barry Kovach does a marvelous job of holding this one together and his drums fills are tasty indeed. At a touch over three minutes, this one is done was over far too soon!

The set comes to a close with another pair of covers: the Temptations’ funk standby “Shaky Ground” and a soulful yet rocking rendition of Ray Charles’ “Unchain my Heart. ” Favro kicks out a hammering piano solo on the latter, which is a nice counterpoint to Storm’s hard-edged guitars, Martin’s fat bass, and the ever-present lovely backing vocal harmonies.

Detroit Boogie from Blue Rose is a nice time capsule of what was going on in the Motown rock and blues scene twenty years ago, and it was a labor of love for Martin to put this material together into a tidy package for their fans to enjoy. If you are a fan of the era, the city, or the sound, you will need to check it out for yourself, as it is a kicking set of really fun music!

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

 Featured Blues Music Review – 3 of 5 

Duke Robillard – The Acoustic Blues & Roots Of Duke Robillard

Stony Plain Records

18 tracks/running time 59:02

Fabled troubadour Duke Robillard distills the sweet waters of the music rooted primarily from the time of the beginning of recorded music through the 1940s to offer us great examples of why his artistry is so highly regarded.

This labor of love was a ten year project. From the reworking of the minstrelsy Stephen Foster composition “My Old Kentucky Home”, through the concluding track, “Ukulele Swing”, Robillard’s latest release is a road map of the Americana horn of plenty, threading the connected tapestry of Blues, Country, Appalachian/Ozark inflected and Jazz influences.

In addition to vocals, Master Robillard plays a variety of instruments on this effort, including acoustic guitar, dobro, mandolin, tenor harp (banjo), ukulele and cumbus.

His supporting cast of players includes architect of the Sound of Kansas City, the late Jay McShann, who plays piano on track 17, “Profoundly Blue”, a Meade Lux Lewis composition that was recorded before McShann’s passing in 2006. Matt McCabe handles keyboard duties on the rest of the project.

The feminine side of the presentation is represented by guest vocalists Maria Muldaur and Sunny Crownover with Mary Flower contributing acoustic finger style and lap slide guitar with vocals.

Acoustic bass chores are handled by Marty Ballou and John Packer. Pounding skins is Mark Texeira with Marty Richards taking over on track 16. The horn section consists of Billy Novick on clarinet, Doug James on bari sax (track 16) and harmonica on track 13. Dave Babcock plays tenor sax (track 16) with the great Jerry Portnoy handling harmonica on tracks 7 & 9.

The Providence Mandolin Orchestra provides string support on track 11 and Jon Ross plays mandolin on track 6 with Russell Gusetti accompanying on concertina.

Interpretations of a myriad of composers are covered here including the aforementioned, Meade Lewis and Stephen Foster as well as Big Bill Broonzy, Jimmie Rodgers, Robbie Robertson, Eric Moore, Eddie Miller, Alton & Rabon Delmore, W.C. Handy, Tampa Red, Sleepy John Estes, Hank Williams, Sr., Robert Jr. Lockwood, Charlie Straight, Gus Kahn and of course, Duke Robillard.

All of the selections on this production are strong . “Big Bill Blues” is so in the pocket it has the listener looking for change. An added bonus is the four page booklet insert which details some production techniques, Duke’s personal instrument selection for each tune, orchestration notes and historical origins of each song. He faithfully notes for example, that Stephen Foster was not politically correct by today’s values but represented lyrically the dark era of slavery that America has endured. The insert also fronts a nice cover painting by Gerald Robillard.

CyberSoulMan Tee Watts is music director at KPFZ 88.1 fm in Lakeport, California. His radio show, Redemption Songs, airs Sunday and Wednesday mornings from 5-7a.m. PST, 7-9 a.m. CST, 8-10 a.m. EST at is road manager for Sugar Pie DeSanto, the last Queen standing from the glory years of Chess Records.

 Featured Blues Music Review – 4 of 5 

Chris James and Patrick Rynn – Trouble Don’t Last

VizzTone Label Group

10 tracks / 39:46

Chris James and Patrick Rynn have enjoyed a long partnership in their musical careers since they met up in Chicago 25 years ago. Though they now live in the San Diego area, there is still a lot of Chicago to be heard in their amazing electric blues sound. Their formula for success is James with the vocals and guitars and Rynn on the bass, which worked just fine for their lengthy stint with Sam Lay, not to mention all the other bands and artists they have worked with over the years.

Though both members of this duo obviously live and breathe the blues, they constantly re-invent their sound, and their latest album on the VizzTone label is a marked change from their previous album, where the limelight was handed over to a cadre of super-talented pianists. Trouble Don’t Last is pared down a bit from what you would get from the usual blues album as there are no keyboards, horns, or hordes of backing singers to be found here. June Core joined the guys on drums and a pair of wonderful harmonica players sat in: long time friend and collaborator Rob Stone, and the San Francisco Bay Area phenom, Aki Kumar. This album includes ten tracks that include six originals written James, Rynn, and Stone, as well as a quartet of pretty cool covers.

This disc was cut in only two days in a Tempe, Arizona studio, but is a fully formed and mature release that will not let their listeners down. This Blues Blast Magazine Award-winning duo kicks things off with an original, “Shameless,” and this rowdy set gets started in a hurry. This original rocking shuffle bemoans the characteristics of folks with no scruples and concludes that some day they are “gonna’ get caught.” Stone’s harmonica takes the lead with James holding down the rhythm line as Core lays heavily into the snare. An extended solo guitar break ties the whole thing together into a neat package.

After the opener, the band launches into a couple of covers: Calvin Frazier’s “Lilly Mae” and “Lonesome Whistle Blues,” which was first recorded by Freddy King in 1961. Both of these are nice and dirty with hearty vocals from Chris James. The latter tune features both Stone and Kumar on harmonica and some sweet vocal harmonies to emulate the aforementioned lonesome whistle.

The other two covers are also killer, the first of which is a respectful take on Robert Curtis Smith’s “Don’t Drive Me Away.” The band kept Smith’s Mississippi background in mind as they modernized the song with a slamming beat and funky bass line, and James lays down a very tasteful guitar solo. The remaining re-do is the closer, Sunnyland Slim’s “Roll, Stumble, and Slip.” This energetic romp again utilizes both harp men, and James’ guitar uses effects to glorious effect. This is the perfect song to close things out, as it is a very strong cut and leaves the listener wanting more.

Though the covers are all very good, the originals are nothing to sniff at either, and they are consistently chock full of clever lyrics and slick musical arrangements. “A Good Idea at the Time” might be the best of the bunch as it starts out sounding like something the Doors would have recorded, and quickly switches into stripped-down hard hitting slow blues that recounts the self-loathing and misery of a man who was put away for driving while intoxicated. The jaunty title track runs a close second place with some wonderful blues harp work from Kumar over the rock steady drum work of June Core.

Chris James and Patrick Rynn’s old fans and their new listeners will get a kick out of Trouble Don’t Last, as their fresh sound and rootsy take on a classic American genre is very compelling. The big question is: what will they do next? The only sure thing is that it will not be like anything they have done before and it will provide plenty of listening pleasure – you can count on it!

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

 Featured Blues Music Review – 5 of 5 

Katy Guillen & The Girls

self release

11 songs time-46:39

At first glance the line-up of Katy Guillen & The Girls looked like it would be a power trio featuring a guitar “wanker”, when happily it is no such thing. It is so much more. The music and the lyrical content are more well though out and go deeper. At times the power trio vibe is there, but there are more diverse dynamics at work here. Katy is one solid guitarist and she is ably assisted by Claire Adams on bass and vocals and Stephanie Williams on drums, along with some occasional outside help. They aren’t good for an all-girl band, they are just plain flat out good. Katy’s vocals possess a toughness that belie a cock-sure confidence. A big plus for me is that you can clearly understand the words, the girls don’t sink to the heavy metal device of slurring through the lyrics. The all original songs receive diverse arrangements and interesting tempo changes. This music is surely worthy of a serious listen.

A Stevie Ray Vaughn guitar rhythm drives the jaunty “Don’t Get Bitter”, as it showcases the bands’ musical dexterity. All the instruments are crisply recorded as the song just zips along, clocking in at two minutes. Estranged best friends are the subject of the nicely heavy “Old Best Friend”. The band is tight and in-sync. “Woke Up In Spain” is a daydream about a new love. The music here is catchy and seamless. Trippy and mystical lyrics aptly infuse “Stalling On Dreams”, a song that is at once slow and heavy.

I don’t know if it is intentional or not, but Robin Trower’s musical stamp is all over “Gabriela”, from its’ float-y and mellow guitar that morphs into some bluesy soloing, right down to the title. An easy going blues-rock song is “Think Twice”, a tale of recapturing a lost love. “quiver” begins its’ life slowly and deliberately, then perks up as it gets more intense as a guitar solo builds up to a ferocious crescendo.

The narrator bemoans the fact that she can never replace her current love in no uncertain terms in “If You Were Gone”. “Don’t Turn Your Back” employs a pounding rhythm that is catchy as all-get-out along with a nifty wah-wah solo. The rat race of life is touched on in “The Race”, a song that contains one of the bands’ trademark heavy riffs. The mysterious and earnest “Earth Angel” closes out the proceedings.

There is much enjoyment to be had here for the open-minded music lover. All three band members deliver the goods to propel the music along. The lyrics, production and arrangements were obviously well thought out. Nothing is an afterthought here. Rock energy and musical nuance are everywhere to be found. These girls are going places…good places.

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

 Blues Society News 

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Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society has announced a Blues Movie Night on Thursday, February 18, 2016, from 5:00–8:00 p.m. at the River Music Experience, RME Hall, 129 N. Main Street, Davenport, IA. The all-age show admission is $20.00, which includes admission to the 90-minute film, one complimentary drink, and heavy hors d´oeuvres.

The movie Cheat You Fair: The Story of Maxwell Street is a documentary produced, written, and directed by Philo Ranstrom. The 2006 film details the history of Chicago’s Maxwell Street community, including the partnerships between blacks and Jews on Maxwell Street and how they influenced modern music.

Funds raised from the movie night will be used to further the Mississippi Valley Blues Society’s mission of “keeping the blues alive” in the Quad City area. After funding shortfalls forced MVBS to cancel their annual Blues Festival in 2015, events such as Blues Movie Night will increase the possibility of Blues Festival in 2016.

Also The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents blues harp player/vocalist Chris O’Leary and his seven-piece band on Sunday, February 14, at Harley Corin’s, 1708 State Street, Bettendorf, IA (formerly Muddy Waters). The evening of blues will start at 5:00 p.m. The cost to see this performance will be $10 if you are a Mississippi Valley Blues Society member, or $12 if you are have not joined the Blues Society (applications will be available at the door).

The Lowcountry Blues Society – Charleston, SC

The Lowcountry Blues Society is pleased to announce the 12th annual Blues By the Sea featuring MIssissippi Heat Mac Arnold & Plate Full of Blues and Randy McAllister, Sunday, April 10, 230-7 pm at Freshfields Village Green, Kiawah Island, SC. (40 mins SE of Charleston)

The event is FREE and is brought to you by the Kiawah Island Cultural Events Fund. Rain or shine (we are tented) Bring a lawn chair or blanket, coolers OK! A great time for the entire family!

Blues Society of Central PA – Harrisburg, PA

The Blues Society of Central PA proudly presents the Mississippi Delta Blues of 83 year old Leo “Bud” Welch with Dixie Street on Saturday, March 5th 8:00 PM EST at Champions Sports Bar 300 2nd Street Highspire, PA 17034 Admission $10.00

Also, the Blues Society of Central PA welcomes Mark Hummel’s Golden State Lone Star Revue featuring Mark Hummel, Anson Funderburgh, Little Charley Baty with Wes Starr and R.W. Grigsby on Sunday, April 17th 8:00 PM EST at Champions Sports Bar 300 2nd Street Highspire, PA 17034 Admission $15.00.

The Blues Society of Central PA hosts an open blues jam every Thursday evening for 17 years running at Champions Sports Bar, 300 2nd St. Highspire, PA 17034 8:00 PM EST FREE Please drop by and join us if you’re in the central PA area!

The Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau, WI

The Great Northern Blues Society presents the 17th Annual Blues Café on Saturday 3/12/16 in the beautiful Historically Registered Rothschild Pavilion near Wausau, WI. Five Great Bands, plus an acoustic act to perform near the large stone fireplace between main-stage acts.

Acts include Aaron Williams & the HooDoo, Left Lane Cruiser, Ray Fuller & the Blues Rockers, The Lionel Young Band and Albert Cummings as the headliner.

Dan Phelps will be entertaining acoustically during changeovers. Cold Beverages of your choice, and multiple food vendors on site all day.

Come shake your tail-feathers, warm your cockles by the fireplace, and kickoff Spring 2016 at our 17th Annual Houserockin’ Blues Party! $15 in advance, and $20 at the door. Children under 12 free if accompanied by an adult parent, or guardian. See for details. (Tickets will be available for purchase on the website after the first of the year.)

Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, IL

Crossroads has lots of great blues events planned for 2016!

The Hope and Anchor English Pub in Loves Park, IL features shows on the second Saturday of each month from 8 pm to midnight. March 12th – Tweed Funk, April 9th – Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys, May 14th – The Jimmys

Blues in the Schools is also scheduled for February, Dan Phelps will be doing a two week in school BITS residency with East HS teaching song writing and guitar.

Friday Night Blues at the Lyran Club in Rockford continues mostly on the third Friday of the month with a few other special dates to boot. Currently booked are: February 19th – Ron Holm’s Roy Orbison Tribute, March 18th – Smilin’ Bobby, April 15th – Breezy Rodeo, May 20th – Dave Fields. Shows are free from 7 to 10 PM.

Stay tuned for more upcoming events!

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. February 8 – Gina Sicilia, February 15 – Chris O’Leary Band, February 22 – Dave Lumsden Factor.

Additional ICBC and ICBC partnered shows: Feb. 4 James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm, Feb. 18 James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm w/ guest host Mary Jo Curry, March 26 ICBC 30th Birthday Celebration @ Knights of Columbus on Meadowbrook – Shawn Holt, headlining, w/opening act Robert Sampson.

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



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