Issue 10-7 February 18, 2016

Cover photo by Moses Sparks © 2016

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with 2015 Blues Blast Music Award nominee Deb Ryder. We have 6 Blues music reviews for you including reviews of music from Zac Harmon, Ben Hemming, The Jimmys, Chickenbone Slim, Tommy Castro & The Painkillers and Andy Santana.

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

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 Featured Blues Music Review – 1 of 6 

Zac Harmon – Right Man Right Now

Blind Pig Records

11 tracks / 53:14

Zac Harmon is a real-deal bluesman with killer guitar chops, solid songwriting skills, and the ultimate rhythm and blues voice, but despite this wealth of talent his solo recording career got started a bit later than one might think. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, he started his guitar work in the South with blues musicians that included luminaries such as Sam Myers and Dorothy Moore. But by the early 1980s he felt the allure of Los Angeles where he hoped that his music career would blossom.

Though he started out as a session player, Harmon found success in the City of Angels as a songwriter and producer with many record, film, television, and advertising credits, and one of the high points was his production work on Black Uhuru’s 1994 Grammy-nominated album. But after writing and performing a few blues songs for a film he was working on, Zac felt the calling to return to his blues roots so he put together his first solo release, Live at Babe & Ricky’s Inn. This was a turning point in his life and he went on to earn a Blues Music Award for “Best New Artist Debut” for The Blues According to Zacariah.

Right Man Right Now from Blind Pig Records is Zac Harmon’s seventh solo release, and it is certainly a nice piece of work. Zac handles the majority of the vocals and guitar playing, and he is joined by a core band of Buthel on bass, Cedric Goodman on drums, and Cory Lacy with the keys. A few guest artists made it onto this disc too, as you will hear throughout. As Harmon is an accomplished songwriter, it should be no surprise that nine of the eleven tracks on this album are originals, and there are two pretty awesome covers thrown into the mix for good measure.

The album kicks off with eight originals in a row, the first of which is “Raising Hell” which features Lucky Peterson on organ and Anson Funderbaugh on guitar. This bouncing track has a bit of Texas blues from Funderbaugh, Chicago stylings from Lucky, and silky smooth (yet hearty) rhythm and blues vocals from Harmon. This is a good times party anthem, which is always a killer way to start the set.

The next two tracks continue with traditional themes that you have come to expect from modern blues. “Ball and Chain” is about a lover that is a stone cold bummer, and is set to a slide guitar fueled swampy blues that is punctuated by the funky bass of Buthel and a bit of talk box. And “Hump in Your Back” is a slice of braggadocio about what a smooth lovin’ man the singer is, and it is a righteously funky with a rocking backbone. This song includes blues hero Bobby Rush on vocals and harp, and once you add in Les Kepics on trumpet and Chuck Phillips on sax this ends up being one of the standout tracks on the disc.

Then the party gets put on hold and the tone becomes serious with “Stand Your Ground,” with its simple yet powerful lyrics that are inspired by the significant events surrounding this controversial Florida law. The accompanying music is hard-edged blues with a somber mood provided by Peterson’s Hammond. This sequencing of songs works well, and Harmon starts the cycle over again with three more traditional songs and then another dash of reality with “Back of the Yards,” which is about the loss of so many young men due to inner city violence. This tune is surprisingly funky, thanks to Buthel’s bass and some slick organ playing from Mike Finnigan.

The two covers are placed near the end of the album, and they are not the ones that you hear every blues artist using, and Zac’s takes on Little Milton’s “Ain’t No Big Deal on You” and John Lee Hooker’s “I’m Bad Like Jesse James” are breathtakingly good. The latter is a 7 ½ minute opus that slowly bangs along and builds dramatically with its jangly guitars and warbly harmonica from Chef Deni. Harmon’s voice is perfect for the quasi-spoken word vocals and howls of this one, and it will surely get stuck in your head for a day or two after hearing it.

Right Here Right Now is a solid effort from Zac Harmon, and this modern blues collection stands on its own with a unique sound and voice. Harmon’s songwriting is relevant, his voice is like butter, and his guitar playing is clean and red-hot. Zac is one of the artists that will help carry the blues music into the future, so make sure to check out this album.

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

 Featured Blues Interview – Deb Ryder 

Deb Ryder clicks off the accolades for her second album Let It Rain as if she can’t quite believe it herself.

“I was on the Grammy ballot for this record. I was in the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards too. I didn’t get a BMA (Blues Music Awards) nod, but I got Best UK 2015 Pick for the Best Record. I was on the Roots Music Report Best of 2015. So, for just starting out doing this, I had a great year and 2016 is already – I’m getting called right and left and playing all over the place doing a bunch of festivals.”

In country or rock music, Deb Ryder wouldn’t get out of the gate at her age. It’s not as if she were a neophyte 40 years into the game, but to release her first two indie records Might Just Get Lucky in 2013 and Let It Rain in 2015 as a solo act that long into a career doing session work, background singing, and sit-ins would be suicide in the “real world” of the pop music business. Not in blues, however.

Talking to her for an hour reveals some fascinating history behind the 11 originals on her second album produced mainly live in the studio with some heavy hitters backing her up.

Producer Tony Braunagel is another 40-plus-year veteran drummer. Keyboardist Mike Finnigan is a member of Taj Mahal’s backup band The Phantom Blues Band, and toured with Jimi Hendrix, Bonnie Raitt and Etta James. In fact it was Etta who told a young Deb Ryder her songs had too many words years ago when she would regularly perform at Deb’s stepfather’s club.

“I was blessed in that my stepdad owned a very famous rock and roll club. Everybody played up here, and we lived behind the club called the Topanga Corral, and we had a couple of cabins way out back on the property, like a 10-acre piece, and occasionally Etta would come up and hide out and stay with us. She kind of mentioned a few things to me. ‘First off, blues is not a genre that accepts 6000 – too many – words. You kinda gotta slim it down and get what you want to say.’

“So she was rough. She was a rough woman, but I did learn a lot from her. She was very kind to teach me a lot of tips for stage, for singing. When she graced the stage actually, she had you rapt, and I was like a little sponge at the edge of the stage just trying to check out everything that she did. That was a long time ago, but I carry to this day that indelible stamp of her making me stick to the classics. I think if you’re familiar with my music at all, it’s pretty classic, and I really have to give a lot of credit to her because to this day I can hear her saying, ‘That sucks! What are you trying to say there? You have about 6000 too many words in that song.’

“And she’d say, ‘Do not rewrite the wheel. There’s a lot of greats ahead of you that have set it up for you. Just figure it out.’ To this day I can still hear her because I’d bring her a song, and she’d say, ‘What the hell is this?’ She was very tough. I feel so blessed, though, that she would pay any attention. And she would teach me how to sing. She even let me open for her twice which was really great. It was really scary. When you’re young, you just let it slide.”

Deb Ryder has spent a lifetime rubbing shoulders with heroes and hard drivers like Etta James. “You know, I mean it’s all good. I remember being driven down to (Arista and Columbia Records executive) Clive Davis’s office in the back of (Eagles founder) Bernie Leadon’s two-seat Sprint, a little Morgan, whatever it was, a little bug-eye Sprint. I don’t know what they called those. Linda Ronstadt in the front seat on the right, and I was crammed in that little spot with my guitar behind the two seats, and off we went. You know, those were those days. Yeah, so that’s true. Etta did influence my writing quite a bit, and to this day I pretty much stuck to it.”

As a kid Deb was the flower girl at Neil Young’s wedding. “Neil Young and Crazy Horse played the Topanda Corral every Thursday night. Taj Mahal had some Thursdays and Fridays. Big Joe Tuner was there every Sunday. I mean it was just an amazing environment when I was a kid, but my stepdad was also an architect, and he designed and built Neil’s house in Fernwood Pacific in Topanga.

“He went into business with my stepfather on a restaurant called the Gold Rush named after his record that they ran up here for a while, and his bride that he married, Susan Octavado, and my mother ran a coffeehouse together. So we were all connected with that whole thing.

“I used to muck out the stalls when I was a kid. The school bus would let me off, and I’d muck out the stalls at the Springfield Ranch for the Buffalo Springfield. So, my earliest days were if I got these horse stalls clean and everybody curried and groomed, I’d get in there with my guitar. They’d let me jam with them on the porch, and it would be everybody in town, but we’re talking ’70, ’69? I mean a long time ago. So, you know, I’d known them for a quite a long time.

“They invited me to be the flower girl, and the wedding took place at the house my step daddy built, a beautiful home that Neil had in Topanga with a studio down below, and I recorded there a couple of times. So, we went way, way back. I still talk to him every once in a while.”

Deb and her husband bass player Ric Ryder played in a band called The Bluesryders for 20 years. So when it came time to record her solo act, they called in some favors and reconnected with some heavy hitters including producer/drummer Tony Braunagel.

“The Tony Braunagel story is a really special one. My first record which did pretty well for just an out-of-a-cereal-box kind of record I produced called Might Just Get Lucky. It hit the Living Blues charts. It was number one in France. I mean I did pretty well in Europe, and we did that on a shoe string calling in a lot of favors ’cause I’ve sung for a lot of people in my life and traded a lot of stuff, and I called in a bunch of favors which, by the way, I don’t recommend when you want to record an album because everybody has different presets and stuff. It’s a nightmare, but we recorded a little here and a little there and had all these great players.

“This was when I was first recording with (guitarist) Kirk (Fletcher), and this is before I met Tony (Braunagel) and the bunch. We’d just see each other here and there at different concerts that maybe I’d opened for or whatever, but the first record did ok, and it turns out I got everything ready to do a second album.

“I was ready to go, and I’d fallen in love with the Phantom Blues Band, didn’t really know who they were. I knew the individual musicians and who they were, but I fell in love with them (as a band). I just think everything they did, the energy they had is very live. Everything about what they were recording I really loved and brought home, and I put on the box, and I said to my husband, ‘We’ve written 10 new songs, but the energy of this record, I just want you to listen.’

“So we’re listening to the record, and he flips it over and he says, ‘Oh! Tony Braunagel, I know him.’ And I said, ‘Well, he’s a famous producer.’ And my husband who is bassist had played a couple gigs with him somehow somewhere. So, he gets him on the phone, and of course Tony says, ‘No, no, no. I’m very busy. I don’t know.’

“Tony that weekend went to stay with one of his best friends from high school, a fellow by the name of Steve Hunter in Houston and Tony said, ‘Steve, what have you been doing?’ They’re sitting on the back porch having some beers. ‘Well, I’ve been working with this girl, Deb Dyer.’ And Tony say, ‘Deb Dyer, where do I –’ because Rick had just phoned him a few days earlier. He says, ‘Yeah, you gotta hear her first record. She did this one on her own. Put it on.’

“He fell in love with the writing, loved my voice, loved everything and called me from my friend’s house. So Tony calls me from Hunter’s in Houston, and I quickly sit down with the phone and I’m like, ‘Yes, Mr Braunagel.’

“He says, ‘I’m producing your next record, but here’s how it goes. You can bring in one or two people, but for the most part I use my own people, and that’s Mike Finnigan, Kim Wilson, Johnny Lee Schell, you know.’ I said, Ok!

With one phone call, Deb had grabbed the brass ring. Braunagel is a veteran who drummed for Eric Burdon, Rickie Lee Jones and Better Midler in the ’70s. In the ’80s he played on Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time and Luck of The Draw. In the ’90s he produced Taj Mahal’s Shoutin’ in Key and played on Taj’s Senor Blues. Both albums were Grammy winners.

Keyboardist Mike Finnigan has toured and done session work with Joe Cocker, Maria Muldaur, Rod Stewart and Los Lonely Boys. He was a Blues Music Award nominee in 2013 and 2014 for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year Award. Kim Wilson of Fabulous Thunderbirds is a seasoned harmonica player and Johnny Lee Schell began his career in the ’70s with the Texas southern rock band The Babys and appears on Bonie Raitt’s Green Light and Nick of Time.

“You talk about getting scared,” says Deb. “Then, you hang up the phone and you sit down. So, I was thinking, I am not worthy. (Braunagel) loved my stuff. So, the next session of course was, ‘Send me what you’ve got. Send me this, send me that.’ And the first couple of sessions we’re sitting there with Finnigan and Tony, and we always have the bass line down way before we go anywhere, so the arrangement can at least be translated with some sort of feel. I mean that’s how we do it. So we were incredibly organized. We got in there. We did that record in five days. The second record we did live. We’re all sitting around.”

None of these guys phoned it in. Deb had a particularly good time with guest virtuoso British rock guitarist Albert Lee who has recorded every from Clapton to Earl Scruggs. He plays on “Blue Collar Blues” on Might Just Get Lucky and “Ma Misere” on Let It Rain.”

“I had lunch with Albert Lee. I ordered Mexican. He was so tickled. He’s such a joy. He’s such a joy. He gets there, and they had stuff for him laid out like a pad and this other stuff. He’s got this old amp out in the back of his Volvo in the trunk. That’s what he uses. You know, he doesn’t mess around with all the – it’s all him. It’s not gizmos or gadgets, and he’s so adorable, and his wife goes everywhere with him. He says, (British accent), ‘Oh, the pad. Darling, where is my pad?’ And she says, ‘It’s in the closet.’

“I think for an indie artist I’ve done amazingly well for only two records out and starting this whole process in 2013. It’s kind of an endearing story. We could not have children. I don’t care what process of mainstream medicine we tried I unfortunately lost several, and we couldn’t get pregnant, and there were just all these issues. Later on, of course, they figured it all out, and I love my son, but I had him so late and so much energy was consumed while I was working fulltime trying to have children, singing a lot but not doing any of my own stuff. I was singing for everybody else, singing on their records.

“I did just have my meeting with Tony for my album three. We’re gonna go a little bit deeper blues this time for sure…..I’m heading this time I think for a more traditional sound. I have some great collaboration going on, speaking of Kirk Fletcher and Alex Schultz. They’ve formed a band with me in Europe. I leave in mid-January.

“I did a lot of work for Vegas at that time. I did a lot of commercial television work. So, I was busy, but I was much more consumed – I mean we built a house. We built our American dream stuff up front and then got it done and said, ‘Well, now what do we do?’ And we said, ‘Rickie’s in school. Let’s make a record.’

“And that’s how we started. It’s very ballsy to start at this age, but you gotta understand, l don’t care. In a weird sort of way, it’s kind of our retirement.

“It’s all about that attitude. What the heck? Just go for it!”

Visit Deb’s website at

Photos by Moses Sparks © 2016

Writer Don Wilcock has been writing about blues for nearly half a century. He wrote Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues, the biography that helped Buddy Guy jumpstart his career in 1991. He’s interviewed more than 5000 Blues artists and edited several music magazines including King Biscuit Time.


 Featured Blues Music Review – 2 of 6 

Ben Hemming – Broken Man


12 songs – 33 minutes

Broken Man is Ben Hemming’s debut album and it’s a refreshingly different release that hints at great things to come from the London-based singer-songwriter.

Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar playing, with what sounds like foot drums (presumably also played by Hemming), the odd handclap and very minimal effects (such as on “Found My Way”), the album has one foot firmly in the folk camp, whilst looking both back to the early blues of Son House and Charlie Patton and forwards to the nihilistic energy and smart lyrics of punk and new wave.

Hemming’s guitar playing is simple and direct, often alternating single-note verses with strummed choruses or the use of a slide on tracks such as “Cigarette Blues”. He also favors repetitive, droning riffs in tracks like “Lies”. Which sounds like Broken Man should be dull and dirge-like, and it could be were it not for Hemming’s remarkable voice. Sounding vulnerable one moment, furious another and world weary the next, Hemming constantly produces unexpected melodies, holding notes he shouldn’t really hold and moving on from notes you expect him to settle on. At times, there are hints of Jim Morrison’s smooth, distant baritone (“I Make A Living”) or desperation of Chris Cornell (“What I Once Had”) while at other times it is difficult to even make out the lyrics as they are mumbled and slurred, but the end result is all Hemming.

There is a palpable energy on a number of songs such as “This City”, where Hemming spits out the lyrics with a dismissive sneer that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Dr Feelgood record. But it is the quieter songs that are perhaps most impressive. In particular, the primarily a capella “It Rained So Hard” has blues, folk and gospel influences and is a emotionally powerful statement of intent.

Hemming is a noted fan of Jack Kerouac and the influence of the likes of “On The Road” is discernable in Hemming’s lyrics. On “Found My Way” he sings in a voice as old and weary as the hills: “Made my way to Memphis, and down to New Orleans, tried to make a name there, but came apart at the seams. I tried a time in Nashville, down in Tennessee. Tried to make a home there, but it’s just not for me.”

Hemming describes his music as “gothic Americana” and that’s as good a label as any. Part blues, part folk, part rock and part gospel, Broken Man is a collection of songs of bleak beauty and resigned acceptance of the lottery of life. It is also a fascinating and highly enjoyable release.

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

 Featured Blues Music Review – 3 of 6 

The Jimmys – Hot Dish

Brown Cow Productions – 2015

13 tracks; 61 minutes

The Jimmys are a seven piece Wisconsin band who are fortunate to have three writers in the band and a three man horn section that propels these 13 tracks brilliantly so that the hour of the CD passes in the blink of an eye. Everything here is original, singer and keyboard man Jimmy Voegli being the main writer, aided by drummer Mauro Magellan on three tracks, and guitarist/vocalist Perry Weber also providing five songs. The rest of the band is John Wartenweiler on bass, Mike Boman trumpet, Darren Sterud trumpet and trombone and Peterson Ross sax and clarinet.

It is really hard to pick a winner amongst these tunes which are uniformly excellent. “Lose That Woman” is a head-on opener that takes something from the Ray Charles school of rockers with a latin flavour; Roomful Of Blues is a reference point for much of this sort of music and tracks like “You Say You Will” with Jimmy’s rolling piano and the superb horn arrangement or “I Wonder” with its easy swing arrangement could easily be lost Roomful treasures. Two instrumentals written by Jimmy provide the chance for the horns to take centre stage, first on on the infectious “Funk Schway” and then on the swaggering “Jacqui Juice”. Perry’s T-Bone style guitar starts his own “What Gives” and the growling trombone adds to the retro flavour of this swinger while “What Chur Doin’” has a completely different style of guitar and the trombone takes the main solo without the growl, further illustrating the variety the band is capable of offering.

Jimmy’s “Wrecking Ball” features his electric piano work on a song that recalls the sounds of Steely Dan to these ears whereas “Saddest Man” is a ballad with quiet guitar and background horns as Jimmy plays some fine piano before his vocal tells how he reached the point of the title: “My world is empty, no love to be found, I can’t live another day without my girl around. I’m the saddest man alive, won’t see my baby anymore; someday I’ll catch my heart, it’s already six feet in the ground”. Perry returns to the mike for the swinging “What My Baby Wants” on which saxophonist Pete Ross plays clarinet which further adds to that old-fashioned swing feel – terrific stuff! “She’s Wild” lives up to its title with pounding piano, wild sax and rock n’ roll guitar before the album closes with a second version of Jimmy’s “Freight Train” which, with two extra minutes, provides an extended coda for the horns to entertain us a final time.

If you enjoy Roomful Of Blues (can there be anyone who doesn’t?) try The Jimmys – you won’t be disappointed! Superb album.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Music Review – 4 of 6 

Chickenbone Slim – Gone

Lo-Fi Mob Records – 2015

10 tracks; 44 minutes

Larry Teves (a.k.a. Chickenbone Slim) and his band The Biscuits are from San Diego, CA, and this is their first full album since they got together in 2012. Slim produced the album, sings and plays guitar and is joined by Big Jon Atkinson on harp and occasional guitar, Mike Chiricuzio on bass/vocals and Marty Dodson on drums; sound engineer Danny Michel also adds some guitar. As the name of the record label suggests this is a lo-fi affair with plenty of primitive vocals and harp playing, Big Jon being something of an expert on vintage gear. Big Jon has, of course, found considerable success with his own album but is ever-present on his friend Chickenbone’s debut too, both as performer and sound engineer, with Danny. All the material is original, written by Slim.

Most of the material here is upbeat and opening track “Tomcat” is a good example with its fast rhythm, Jon’s harp underpinning Slim’s vocal at every turn. The song is a tribute to ‘Tomcat’ Courtney, a stalwart of the San Diego scene. “Tryin’ To Get By” is a classic shuffle with that old school feel on the accompaniment as Slim sings well before dropping in a nicely stinging solo which is well matched by Jon’s harp. Title track “Gone” is one of only two tracks without harp and finds Jon on guitar, a solid piece of rock n’ roll with Slim singing of needing to get “some grease in my diet, I’m going to party like it’s Mardi Gras”, concluding that he is ‘gone’ from his present situation. Things return to normal with the harp-led (if grammatically suspect) “Shouldn’t Of Oughta Done It” which has some distorted vocals and a John Lee Hooker feel before “My Legs Don’t Work” ups the tempo with buzzing harp and a toe-tapping rhythm.

“Blues For Christmas” is an extended slow blues with ‘classic’ lyrics about how Slim’s girl ran off with another guy and he could not pay his bills so the electricity was turned off. The nine minute track affords plenty of opportunity for Jon to stretch out on the harp, showing what a strong player he is, Slim providing some subtle chording in support. After that the band wants to rock out and “Daisy May” provides the perfect opportunity with an easy, rolling pace which brings out a solid vocal from Slim and some nice harp highlights from Jon, a definite highlight for this reviewer. Guitars lead the way on the rocking “Pistol In Your Pocket”, Jon putting his harp away for this one and sharing guitar duties with Slim, drummer Marty finding space to add some interesting percussion effects. To close out the album “Good Stuff” has a Muddy Waters swagger in tribute to Slim’s girl and “Mr Automatic” shuffles along effectively with a boastful lyric about how reliable Slim is, Jon making a final flurry on his harp.

Defiantly lo-fi in style and attitude, this album will definitely be of interest to those who enjoyed Big Jon Atkinson’s recent album but also features solid playing in an all-original program.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Music Review – 5 of 6 

Tommy Castro & The Painkillers – Method To My Madness

Alligator Records – 2015

12 tracks; 50 minutes

In 2012 Tommy Castro stripped his band down to a quartet, dubbed ‘The Painkillers’. Whilst long-term fans do miss the horns that were such an integral part of the old TCB sound, the new band is clearly easier in terms of touring logistics and Tommy’s songs remain models of how to write material for a blues-rock band with a healthy dose of soul blended in. This new disc is, to these ears, a significant improvement on 2014’s “The Devil You Know” and features mostly original material from Tommy who wrote ten songs, some in collaboration with other writers, with just two covers present. Tommy handles all lead vocals and guitar, with long-standing bassist Randy McDonald, keyboard player Michael Emerson and drummer Bowen Bowen.

The CD opens with three typical TC songs: “Common Ground” has a funky backbeat and a chorus with that healthy dose of soul which is emphasized by Tommy’s shimmering rhythm guitar work; “Shine A Light” moves along quickly with Tommy singing over his guitar lines to give a slightly distorted feel before the guitar propels the chorus to great effect; the title track rocks out to a solid riff and swirling keys, Tommy stepping out to nail a short but sweet solo. The versatility of the band is also evident in the gorgeous soul ballad “Died And Gone To Heaven” in which Tommy finds a deeply soulful vocal which matches the emotional lyrics perfectly as Tommy sings of how bowled over he is by his relationship. The following three songs are all Tommy’s own work: “Got A Lot” is pure rock and roll which everyone plays superbly; the band hits a latin groove on “No Such Luck”, as Tommy’s down-on-his-luck character fails to find work or to win at the races; “Two Hearts” is a soul-inflected rocker with choppy rhythm guitar and rocking piano.

The first cover is “I’m Qualified”, once a hit for Clarence Carter, and finds Tommy once more in soul territory, Michael stepping up for an impressive organ solo and follows that with some great electric piano on “Ride” which has some jazzy hues over an insistent backbeat. Tommy and Joe Louis Walker collaborated on the slow blues “Lose Lose” and Tommy takes a leaf out of JLW’s book with some tough guitar playing in his extended solo.

One can detect Rick Estrin’s lyrical cynicism in his and Tommy’s “All About The Cash” which targets war and poverty, Tommy again taking centre stage in his solo. Having demonstrated a wide range of styles to this point The Painkillers show us that they can also handle a classic blues shuffle by running through BB King’s “Bad Luck” to close an impressive album which all blues fans should hear. Recommended!

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.

 Featured Blues Music Review – 6 of 6 

Andy Santana – Watch Your Step!

Delta Groove Productions – 2015

13 tracks; 49 minutes

Andy Santana has been a well-kept secret in Northern California for many years. He has played in the area for some 35 years and produced several independent CDs but with his first on a national label the rest of the world now has a real chance to discover this triple threat as Andy sings, plays harp and guitar! The CD is attributed to Andy and ‘The West Coast Playboys’ and that name covers a veritable who’s who of talent: Rusty Zinn (who produced three tracks), Anthony Paule and Mighty Mike Schermer are among the guitarists involved, Bob Welsh, Nate Ginsberg and Lorenzo Farrell play keys and the rhythm players include Mike McCurdy and Mike Phillips on bass, Robi Bean, June Core and D’Mar on drums. Horns appear on three tracks (Eric Spaulding and Frankie Ramos – tenor sax, Jack Sanford – baritone sax, Manny Angel – trumpet) and the whole was recorded at Greaseland Studios where producer Kid Andersen played a wide range of instruments including guitar, bass and keys. Kid’s wife Lisa Leu Andersen sings backing vocals on three tracks. The material covers a range of R n’ B, soul and blues styles with four originals and nine covers.

The title track is the old Bobby Parker tune once covered by the other Santana (no relation) but this version takes us back to Bobby’s original. Andy’s lead guitar is scintillating above Kid’s baritone rhythm guitar and outstanding drumming from D’Mar. Andy clearly likes the rhythms of New Orleans and Dave Bartholomew’s repertoire supplies two songs, the bouncy “Playgirl” with some full-blown harp from Andy and “Go On Fool” which closes the album with some great horn work and twangy rhythm from Anthony Paule. Bob Welsh’s piano leads the way on another NO influenced piece “You May Not Know” and Andy’s short harp solo here is superb. The horns make another significant contribution to ZZ Hill’s “One Way Love Affair” which is one of the standout tracks here, Andy playing some solid lead on a soulful piece. Equally soulful is Mack Rice’s “Love Sickness” which Andy sings very well, Lorenzo taking a fine organ solo. Chuck Willis’ “Can’t You See” gives us a chance to hear Andy’s approach to a slow blues and his voice again suits the song really well, Anthony supplying the subtle guitar lines.

Kid Andersen’s fellow Nightcat Rick Estrin shares writing credits on “No Double Talk” and you can hear some of his comic style in this piece of 50’s style R n’ B. Andy’s solo writing credits come in a run of three songs towards the end of the CD. “Greaseland” is a funky instrumental named after the studio where the album was recorded and features no fewer than 5 lead guitarists who each take a verse (Bob Welsh, Andy, Anthony, Kid, Mighty Mike). In contrast “You Smell Like Cookies” has some amusing lyrics and swings like crazy with Andy’s harp, Bob’s piano and Anthony’s guitar taking the solo honours. The short “What’s Wrong” is a rocker with Kid’s baritone guitar featured alongside more fine organ from Lorenzo.

As with most of Kid Andersen’s Greaseland recordings this one has an authentic 50’s feel and Andy proves a versatile frontman with the varied combinations of musicians featured here. Definitely a disc worth investigating.

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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Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival is returning to LeClaire Park, Davenport, Iowa for the 31st year on July 1 and 2, 2016. More than 10 acts will be booked, bringing the audience an array of Blues music for 2-days starting at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 1 and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 2. Admission tickets will go on sale soon.

The acts for weekend are still being scheduled and the full lineup will be announced shortly. “We want the 2016 lineup to reach a wide audience while maintaining our Blues roots,” says Steve Heston, President of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. “We’re confident this year’s lineup, featuring local, regional, and national Blues acts, will do just that and we look forward to celebrating our thirty-first year with music fans from around the world.”

In 2016, guests can expect the return of favorite attractions such as Blueskool along with some new experiences which will also debut at the festival this year. MVBS is still seeking corporate and individual sponsorship to help offset this year’s event expenses. Individuals can give monetarily during the months leading up to the festival through attending the scheduled fundraising events and by donating through a Go-Fund-Me campaign. For additional corporate and individual sponsorship information visit

MVBS’ mission is to present a 2-day Blues music experience along the Mississippi River that will maintain the integrity of the festival from the past 30 years.

Also, 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.

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 (GNBS) announces that they are sponsoring a Blues In Schools (BITS) event featuring Guitarist and educator Greg Koch. Greg will be coming to the Wausau Area to perform live on Glen Moberg’s “Route 51” Public Radio Program on Thursday morning 3/3/16.

“Route 51” can be heard on AM 930 WLBL Auburndale/Stevens Point, 91.9 WLBL Wausau, 90.3 WHBM Park Falls, 89.9 WHSF Rhinelander/Eagle River, and 89.1 WHAA Adams/Wisconsin Rapids Thursdays at 10 a.m. It is also repeated Fridays at 7 p.m. on 90.9 WHRM Wausau.

Greg has established himself within six-string circles as a masterful technician, accomplished clinician (for Fender) and general bad-ass guitar-picker. Guitar Player magazine hailed him as “fiendishly talented”.

This event is free to the public, and will take place at 10:00AM on 3/3/16 in the James F. Veninga Theater on the UWMC Campus at 625 Stewart Ave Wausau, WI

Also 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. The residency will culminate in an evening show on March 17th at East HS at 630 PM. Dan and the students will be performing the songs they wrote and showing the music videos they created based on the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” This event is free and open to the public.

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.

Coco Montoyo comes to Rockford on Friday, March 25 at 8 PM. The Rockford Park District’s Nordlof Center is home to the J.R. Sullivan Theater where the show will be held. Tickets are available at the box office or on line at; advanced tickets are $15 and the cost will be $20 at the door if not sold out.

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 22 – Dave Lumsden Factor.

Additional ICBC and ICBC partnered shows: 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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