Issue 11-16 April 20, 2017

rory block cover photo

Cover photo by Marilyn Stringer © 2017

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Rory Block.

We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Eric Gales, Billy Price, Reverend KM Williams, Robert Kimbrough, Sr., Ged Wilson, John Ginty Featuring Aster Pheonyx, Gaetano Letizia and Jon Gindick.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

eric gales cd imageEric Gales – Middle Of The Road

Provogue PRD 7518 2

11 songs – 50 minutes

Veteran Memphis-based guitarist Eric Gales kicks off his latest CD with a gospel-infused greeting and call to order as he delivers a strong dose of the modern electric blues he’s known for.

Born into a musical family, Gales picked up the six-string for the first time at age four, playing left-handed and upside down with normal right-handed tuning. As odd at that might sound, there’s a long history of blues artists who’ve used that technique, including Elizabeth Cotten, Otis Rush, Albert King, Coco Montoya, Bobby Womack, Lefty Dizz, Eddy Clearwater and his late older brother, Little Jimmy King, who along with brother Eugene taught him to play in the style of B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Albert and others.

He signed his first recording contract with Elecktra at age 16 along with Eugene, and their eponymous first release in 1991, The Eugene Gales Band, was an instant success, earning Eric recognition as Best New Talent in Guitar World Magazine’s annual reader poll. His in-your-face delivery crosses the boundaries into the world of rock, where two of his later tunes, “Sign Of The Storm” and “Paralyzed,” climbed high on the charts.

Recorded in North Hollywood, Calif., Cleveland, Miss., and Memphis, this is the 17th release in Gales’ catalog. In addition to handling guitar and vocal duties, he also provides all of the bass charts, aided by Aaron Haggerty on drums and Dylan Wiggins on B-3 organ. His wife, LaDonna, adds backing vocals, and Maxwell “Wizard” Drummy plays mellotron on one cut. Brother Eugene makes a guest appearance on one tune, as do Gary Clark Jr. and Christone “Kingfish” Ingram on others.

Middle Of The Road serves as a notice to the world that Gales has finally found his center in his early 40s after a life of ups and downs. With the exception of one cover, all of the material here is original and filled with autobiographical references. And the richly annotated accompanying booklet features images of Eric that reflect the mood expressed in the lyrics they illustrate.

“Good Time” serves as the opener. It’s an uptempo, stop-time thriller that features LaDonna in the call-and-response lyrics. “Change In Me (The Rebirth)” simply states Eric’s case: “Hey everybody/I’m finally doin’ like I should y’all/I got tired of doin’ bad/Now I’m doin’ good.” It’s delivered atop a reggae beat. The message continues in the funky “Carry Yourself,” which assures his lady that his “mind is set on a truth stone/I just don’t wanna live my life alone.”

The familar “Boogie Man,” written by Leon Russell and Charles Blackwell, features Clark before “Been So Long” describes his troubled path and being his own worst enemy, while “Help Yourself,” featuring blues man-child Ingram, addresses the need to assume responsibility for your own well-being. “I’ve Been Deceived” recognizes with great angst that others have led him down the wrong path.

“Repetition,” featuring and co-written by Eugene, deals with recurring promises to change, while the sweet ballad “Help Me Let Go” seeks outside help in order to affect change. Gales remains wary that he could fall back into his old lifestyle, as he expresses in “I Don’t Know” before the Hill Country-flavored instrumental “Swamp” brings the action to a close.

Middle Of The Road is a solid offering. The musicianship is exceptional throughout, which will please those of you who love modern electric blues and blues-rock, while anyone who’s fought and conquered his own demons will take the lyrics to heart. It delivers on both levels. Highly recommended.

Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

billy price cd imageBilly Price – Alive And Strange

Nola Blue/VizzTone Record Group VT-NB003

11 songs – 61 minutes

Pennsylvania-based vocalist Billy Price follows up on his 2015 release, This Time For Real – his recording with the late Otis Clay, which won Blues Blast Music Award and Blues Music Award honors as soul-blues album of the year – with this album, which picks up where that release left off and doesn’t lose a step.

But that shouldn’t be any surprise for the man who was officially designated a Pittsburgh Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend last year. This is the 17th release in his career, which began in the mid-‘70s, when he served as vocalist for Roy Buchanan, appearing on two of the guitar legend’s most popular recordings. He’s been fronting his own bands and touring the world, delivering smooth, unhurried music ever since.

Recorded live in his hometown primarily at Club Café with one cut captured at Carnegie Mellon University School Of Music, Alive And Strange features Price — an electrifying tenor who holds his own when compared to other soul-blues giants – backed by his hard-driving band: guitarist Steve Delach, drummer David Ray Dodd, bassist Tom Valentine, keyboard player Jim Britton and tenor sax player Eric DeFade. They’re augmented by guest appearances by Joe Herndon on trumpet, Matt Ferrero on saxes and David Avery and DeWayne Chandler on backing vocals. Bassist Jason Hollar and trombone player Bob Matchett each sit in for one cut.

The album consists of two originals and nine carefully, but comfortably rearranged covers, kicking off with “It Ain’t A Juke Joint Without The Blues,” a tune written by Southern soul superstar Carl Sims. It’s a crowd-pleaser with lyrics that describe all of the essentials you’ll find in a juke – from a 40-ounce beer on the table and a trash-talking woman named Mabel to food in the kitchen gettin’ hot and a fight breakin’ out in the lot.

“Lifestyles Of The Poor And Unknown” — a tasty song of lost love from William Bell’s extensive songbook — follows before the Price original, “Something Strange,” about a mysterious place where you’re guaranteed to enjoy yourself restores the good-time feel. Bobby “Blue” Bland’s cautionary “This Time I’m Gone For Good” is up next before another ballad, Mighty Mike Schermer’s “One More Day,” which urges a lady to hold until he returns to her arms.

Five more romance-themed covers follow. Percy Mayfield’s “Nothing Stays The Same Forever,” James Brown’s “Never Get Enough,” Magic Sam’s “What Have I Done Wrong” and the Godfather Of Soul classic “Lickin’ Stick” precede take on jump-blues legend Roy Milton’s “R.M. Blues” before the Price-original bonus track, “Makin’ Plans.” Recorded at Carnegie Mellon, it’s a bittersweet tale about making love to a woman at the same time she was strategizing the end to the romance.

There’s nothing strange about Alive And Strange except the album title. Available through most major retailers, it’s stylish, sweet and certain to keep you grooving on the dance floor. If you’re a fan of soul-blues and R&B, this one’s definitely for you.

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 – 3 of 8 

rev km williams cd imageReverend KM Williams – The Real Deal Blues

Cleopatra Blues Records

15 tracks / 52:10

Reverend KM Williams was brought up in East Texas, where (legend has it) as a toddler he first played the guitar while sitting on the lap of Elmore James. From there, Williams built his skills over the years by playing in churches where he got a righteous background in gospel and rhythm and blues. The Reverend is a serious guitarist and vocalist, but he also has a mean touch with the Diddley bow, a single string instrument that produces an amazing slide guitar tone in the correct hands. After listening to his new album, The Real Deal Blues, there is no doubt that Reverend KM Williams has the correct hands!

These days, listeners can find Williams playing his unique brand of raw blues on the stages of the Deep Ellum clubs in Dallas, Texas, alongside his friends such as drummer Washboard Jackson and the BMA-winning harp man, Deacon Jeff Stone. You can get a feel for this scene and the Texas blues tradition in the album’s companion short film, which is also titled The Real Deal Blues. The Reverend took his stage energy and vibe into Atom H Studios in Austin Texas, where producer Jurgen Engler brought this project to life. The resulting 15 tracks are all distinctive and innovative, while still remaining 100% blues – the album’s title is no joke.

Whatever you are expecting, once the set starts the sound of this disc will set you back on your heels a bit. It is all raw edges with a distant sound, jangly guitars, a wailing Diddley bow, and vocals that beg to you listen just a little harder. This is modern electrified music, but with the way it is recorded the gap between traditional and modern is bridged, and the way the listener interprets it might just depend on what mood he or she is in that day.

The Real Deal Blues is all about feel and mood, not showing off with flashy solos or crazed vocals, and this is apparent from the first track, “Baby Please Come Home.” Williams’ easygoing baritone vocals are set back in the mix, and the subject matter is undeniably the blues. Musically, there is a strong backbeat and the instruments are processed and electrified, but the overall vibe is vintage due to the classic repetitive blues structure of the lyrics and the overall murkiness of the tone. From there the Reverend explores swamp rock with “The Runaway Blues” which has a melting pot of guitar layers and a nice touch of Diddley Bow.

These first two songs are pretty intense, and Williams understands that this level of drama cannot be maintained for the whole album and still have people listening at the end. So there are a few conventional tunes sprinkled around the CD. “Ring in My Pocket” has a more laid back beat, and it is a sweet story of a man who has no cash in his wallet and plenty of holes in his shoes, but he is on the road home to his lady with a ring for her finger. Another more mainstream song is “Shoulda Left this Town,” which is a little slower and is built on a 12 bar blues foundation.

There are a few shorter-length themed songs, which also help to lighten the load at times when things start to get a bit heavy. “Highway 666” has a 1950s Johnny Cash rockabilly feel with a driving tempo and groovy sound effects that accompany the story of a man who has bad ambitions. Another cool tune is “Haunted House” with its roadhouse beat and a truckload of killer guitar tone.

If this album makes you wonder what a Diddley bow sounds like without electronics and processing, you will be happy that the closer is a bonus acoustic version of “Bad Boy Blues,” which appeared earlier on the album. In this case, the drama is still there, but it is a different mojo as the driving feel of the electric mix has been stripped away. Williams can make that single string sound like a dozen, and the man’s talent shines brightly when all of the studio magic is turned off.

Reverend KM Williams remains true to his roots and to the genre with The Real Deal Blues, and this album is an edgy 52-minute set of hardcore Texas blues. It is not easy listening, and it would be best to not distract yourself while it is playing as you could miss a lot. If you like what you hear and want to see him in person, head over to his website to check out his schedule; if you are in Dallas, Mississippi, or Spain, you are in luck as he has plenty of shows coming up!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

robert kimbrough cd imageRobert Kimbrough, Sr – Willey Woot

Self release

12 songs – 75 minutes

Willey Woot is the first release as a band-leader by Robert Kimbrough, Sr., the youngest son of the late Mississippi Hill Country blues legend, Junior Kimbrough. The title is a reference to Junior’s nickname for his son and Kimbrough explains in the liner notes that the album is “a mix of songs from my previous CDs in the Cotton Patch Blues style that I was raised on”. To be fair, however, Willey Woot is a little more than that. It is also one of the most exciting and invigorating albums to have crossed this reviewer’s desk for some time.

Like his father’s hypnotic, poly-rhythmic music, Kimbrough, Sr.’s songs rely on irresistible rhythms and subtle musicianship rather than complex chord changes or gymnastic techniques. The tracks also reveal a heavy soul influence (particularly in the likes of “It’s Yo’ World” or “Battlefield”) as well as some knowing nods to Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy in the wild solos of “Jodi”, “Ride 2 The Blues” and “Girl Is Gone”. The magnificent rhythm section of Artemus LeSueur and Jim Hall deserve great credit for setting up and maintaining some serious grooves, but on tracks like “Old Man Is Gone”, Kimbrough sets up that kind of groove by himself with just a single, simple repeated guitar riff, pulled-off notes and a strummed chord letting his gospel-tinged voice float over the top.

Once the band lands on a groove, it is happy to stay there. The shortest song is over four and a half minutes long and two tracks stretch over eight minutes in length. It is testament to the quality of the musicians however that no number over-stays its welcome. “Packing Up”, as an example, starts out as a deceptively simple one chord shuffle but, as it progresses, the players introduce exquisitely understated variations around the main theme, constantly challenging both themselves and the listener.

Kimbrough’s powerfully seductive voice is a highlight of tracks such as the deep soul-blues of “U Better Run” but he is also a fine guitar player, laying down a series of solos and fills throughout the album that keep the listener guessing and intrigued. On “Runnin’ Yo’ Mouth On Me” his guitar tone switches from a crystalline Strat-like tone in the verses to an over-driven rock tone for the solo, making the switch back to the clean sound all the more effective.

The CD cover refers to guest appearances from David Kimbrough, Kenny Kimbrough and Duwayne Burnside, but it is not clear in which songs they feature. Recorded at Como Studios, Burkhead Studios and AO Studios, there is a consistency of approach and style that actually sounds like it was recorded in one sitting, live to tape, with musicians dropping in and out from song to song.

There is a deep emotional honesty to the music on Willey Woot, but there is also a rawness and genuine authenticity to the entire album that is striking. If you want to re-create in your living room or your car the sound of a Holly Springs juke joint on a late Saturday night (replete with tuning issues on one guitar in the closing “View That Remains”), you need to grab yourself a copy of Willey Woot. Highly recommended.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

ged wilson cd imageGed Wilson – Tonight At Noon


13 songs – 45 minutes

English singer, songwriter and guitarist Ged Wilson’s third album is a collection of primarily acoustic blues-folk-rock songs, cleverly put together and nicely played.

The opening track, “What The Blind Man Saw”, perfectly sets the scene as it opens with two simple plucked harmonics on an acoustic guitar followed by a short descending chord progression before kicking into the driving main body of the song, with Oli Tabor’s drums setting an irresistible rhythm as Wilson’s over-dubbed slide guitar and harmonica weave melodies behind vocals that philosophically proclaim that “Everybody’s looking for what the blind man saw. Everybody’s looking but they don’t know what they’re looking for.”

The CD sleeve notes credit inspirations as catholic as Gil Scott-Heron, Miles Davis, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Led Zeppelin, although Tonight At Noon suggests that Wilson’s influences also include the early British blues artists, from the jazz-tinged “The Mighty”, which hints at an acoustic John Mayall, to the descending finger-picked riff and slide guitar of “Ain’t That A Shame” recalling the acoustic blues-rock of Rory Gallagher. Of course, given that Wilson is himself a product of the British blues boom of the 1960s, it is equally possible that they actually all shared similar influences.

The 60s of course was a revolutionary time for popular music, with musicians bringing a wide range of influences to bear on their music and Tonight At Noon, whilst fundamentally a blues album, also reflects the impact of jazz, folk, rock and pop.

Wilson wrote all the songs on Tonight At Noon other than two tracks where Wilson puts his music to the words of the late British poet and painter, Adrian Henri, the title track and “Love Is”. Both feature spoken word vocals that accentuate the word play in the lines. Wilson’s own lyrics range from the social commentary of “Different Class” and “The Mighty”, to the autobiographical “Northern Town” and the humorous “Irwell Delta Blues” – a nod to the river that flows through Manchester, England, and Wilson’s home town.

Blessed with a warm, husky voice, Wilson is also a fine harp player and guitarist. The slow, threatening “Evil” features a lovely opening acoustic guitar solo (as well as some perhaps over-the-top vaudeville-style evil laughter) while “Love is” contains some delightful swooping harp.

Wilson’s backing band of drummer Tabor, bassist Josef Kaspar and pianist Jack Baldus provide supple, unobtrusive support throughout, although he is equally impressive with just his guitar, as on the John Lee Hooker-esque “Irwell Delta Blues”.

Wilson’s tag line is that “this is music only a fully grown man could make.” That is a not unreasonable statement. There is a mature muscularity to the music that combines well with the knowing, worldly lyrics. Tonight At Noon offers something different. Well worth investigating.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

john ginty cd imageJohn Ginty Featuring Aster Pheonyx – Rockers

American Showplace Music ASM1376

12 songs – 51 minutes

New Jersey-based John Ginty is one of the most in-demand sidemen and electrifying keyboard players on the planet, and he demonstrates it once again as he teams with vocalist Aster Pheonyx for his third solo album.

As the title implies, this one’s more rock slanted than his two 2015 releases, Bad News Travels Live, which garnered Ginty a Blues Blast Music Award nomination, or No Filter, which garnered Roots Music Report’s blues-rock album of the year. But it does contain enough blues- and soul-rooted music to keep fans interested.

John’s background is nothing short of diverse. He’s spent years backing a plethora of talent across the music spectrum, including stints with Jewel, Carlos Santana, sacred steel sensation Robert Randolph, hip-hop star Redman and world tours with the Dixie Chicks, among others.

Pheonyx is a multi-instrumentalist who started out as a keyboard player, but was fronting her own band in her hometown of Asbury Park, N.J., and had released two albums of her own when she and Ginty met at the famed Wonder Bar, where he was appearing to promote No Filter and she was serving as his opening act. They jammed backstage, and John invited her to sit in. That performance was so magical that he asked her to join his band as lead vocalist. This all-original, 12-song CD is the result.

It features Ginty on Hammond organ, vintage vibe piano, melodica and percussion and Pheonyx on acoustic guitar. They’re backed by the sensational Justine Gardner on bass, Maurice “mOe” Watson on drums and backing vocals with assists from guitarists Mike Buckman, Jimmy Bennett, and Josh Gannet and bass player Paul Kuzik. Redman, aka Reggie Noble, provides spoken words on one number.

Gardner kicks off “The Shark” with a solitary bass line before the rhythm picks up and Ginty soars on the B-3. It’s a bluesy, soulful instrumental that puts John’s electrifying skills on display. Pheonyx’s earthy alto comes to the fore for “Lucky 13,” a rapid-fire, hard-edged rocker with some psychedelic overtones about an actress who “needs to do a hit” before portraying a casualty of war, the role of a lifetime.

The funky “Believe In Smoke” follows, aided by another solid run at the bottom of the scale. Aster delivers it with plenty of attitude. Listeners get an aural break for “Target On The Ground” as the music slows and quiets and Pheonyx’s delivery turns soulful for a song with deep spiritual overtones. The feel continues and the pace quickens slightly for “Captain Hook.” It urges the superior to assess what’s an unspoken, but tenuous military situation.

Ginty turns to the piano for a stop-time introduction to “Mountains Have My Name,” another soulful number, this one about a woman who doesn’t believe in growing old, before he reverts to organ for the propulsive “Mr. Blues,” about an award-winning, critical and demanding authority who wants “to give the rockers the door.”

Next up is “WKYA,” a spoken, 60-second skit that features Redman. It’s akin to a Firesign Theatre skit from the ’70s and deals with a druggie deejay interviewing an artist during his appearance at a radio station. The music softens again for the ballad “Priscilla” with Ginty soloing on melodica before the band’s in full-force strut for the rocker “Electric.” Aster shows a sultry, jazzy side for “Maybe If You Catch Me” before the disc ends with the title tune, “Rockers,” another instrumental.

Available through most major retailers, Rockers contains plenty of blues-flavored rock and soul for folks with open minds and open ears. While not a true blues album, it’s rock solid with outstanding musicianship on display throughout. If your listening habits include rock, you’ll definitely like this one. And if they don’t, you’ll probably find plenty here that you like, too.

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 – 7 of 8 

gaetano letizia cd imageGaetano Letizia – Resurrection

Tom Letizia Records

14 songs – 56 minutes

The 10th album from Clevelan-based guitarist, singer and songwriter, Gaetano Letizia, is a collection of 14 self-penned tracks that successfully mixes together blues, jazz, rock, pop and even some reggae and Latin styles. The liner notes state that “this is a creative resurrection of that wonderful time when music was a love of the adventure of life, written for all.” If that sounds like something harking back to a perceived earlier golden age of the late 60s, in particular in its desire to provide “a rainbow of musical color”, it is also a not inaccurate summation of the music on the CD.

Resurrection kicks off with the bluesy instrumental shuffle of the title track, with Letizia’s jazz-rock guitar to the fore. Backed by The Underworld Blues Rock Band, Letizia generously shares the spotlight with his backing musicians, whether on the funky pop-rock of “Standing By The Door” – which highlights the magnificent rhythm section of drummer Steve Renko and bassist Larry Keller, especially in its time shifts – or in the clever horn stabs of Tim Keehn (trombone), Mike Fisher (trumpet) and Bob Esterle (saxophones) on slower songs such as “Three Hearts” or “Mr Bad Luck”. The latter track contains the unusual – if striking – couplet of “Someone’s been hanging around who ain’t supposed to be here. I just can’t quite tell who. But I think it’s Mr Bad Luck. Oh no. Boo hoo.”

There is no lack of imagination on Resurrection as the musicians seamlessly blend a wide variety of musical styles and time signatures. “Nothing To Me” moves closer to rock, in particular in the catchy verse riff and the hard rock chorus, although Letizia’s solos superimpose a touch of jazz on proceedings. “Sylvester Loved The Ladies” combines a salsa groove with a jazz-rock chord turnaround. The descending chord progression of “Have A Little Party” leads into another funky Salso drum work-out for Renko. The reggae-lite of “Talk To Yourself” features a wah-wah guitar solo, but it is the sparingly-used horns that have most impact.

The guitar is very much the lead instrument on the album. Letizia has a warm, slightly husky singing voice, although one senses on tracks like the autobiographical “Old Guitar Player” that he feels more comfortable expressing himself through his guitar playing. This may however be simply because the voice is mixed every so slightly lower across the album than one usually expects.

Resurrection harks back to the late 1960s/early 1970s in its willingness to mix musical genres, in particular by the imposition of heavily jazz-influenced guitar on blues/rock/pop chord structures. There is also a hint of the concept albums of the 1970s as Letizia repeatedly finds religious symbolism in the music he plays. The two shuffles that book-end the album are titled “Resurrection” and “Ascension” (the latter of which contains the upbeat, gospel message that “the blues is here to stay, and I believe it’s washing my troubles away”), while the shuffle of “Purgatory” is deliberately placed as the centrepiece of the album, in which Letizia recounts a dream of a conversation with Saint Peter.

Overall, however, Resurrection is a very impressive album. If your tastes run to the jazz-rock end of the blues spectrum, you will definitely want to check it out.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

jon gindick cd imageJon Gindick – When We Die, We All Come Back As Music

Old Chimney Records

10 songs – 43 minutes

The name Jon Gindick may be familiar as one of the world’s leading instructors on playing blues harmonica with a multitude of instruction books and CDs and Blues Jam Camps to his name. If there is any justice in the world, however, with the release of When We Die, We All Come Back As Music, his name will also be known for producing an absolute belter of an album.

When We Die features Gindick on vocals, harp and acoustic guitar together with multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carter on bass, keyboards, guitars, percussion and backing vocals, together with Louie Broussard on drums. A number of guest musicians also contribute, including Chuck Kavooras on slide guitar on a couple of tracks; Brad Rabuchin providing the wah-wah’ed lead guitar on “Maxine”, Ken Stange adding piano and organ on “When We Die”; Bill Bixler on sax and clarinet; Leslie Bixler on backing vocals, Bobby Loya on trumpets and Allan “Big Al” Walker on tenor sax.

Gindick is a very clever songwriter, with an arsenal of tricks that keep the songs interesting, from the whip-smart lyrics of “Maxine” to the key changes in “School”. He is helped by the muscular restraint displayed by the musicians, who set up a variety of subtle grooves that always underpin but never overwhelm the song. Broussard’s drumming in particular is an object lesson in how to support a song.

It goes without saying that Gindick is a virtuoso harp player with beautiful tone and an ability to weave intoxicating melodies around the songs. His voice however is a delightful surprise, with some of the wry humour and rough-edges of a Delbert McClinton. The two also share an ability to capture a story in a song. The closing “Easy Come, Easy Go” is under two minutes long but that is more than enough for Gendick to break your heart with his crying harp.

The title track is perhaps the emotional highpoint of the album. Starting with just a strummed guitar and Gindick’s voice, Stange’s keys subtly float in the background as the hums of the backing vocalists grow almost imperceptibly. By the second verse, drums, piano, electric guitar and horns are added to create an irresistible wave of joy. “When we die, we all come back as music. What else could we possibly be, but emotional vibrations that sing a special language that in a way in fact expresses life’s deepest mystery.” Glorious stuff.

Although the blues is the foundation stone on which Gindick builds his songs (check out “Wishing Well”), When We Die also features rock (“Mystery”), folk (Bird On A Wire”), funk (“School”) and even the occasional hint of jazz (“Jealous Kind Of Guy”).

When We Die, We All Come Back As Music is a highly enjoyable release from Jon Gindick. If you like primarily acoustic music, great songs and stellar musicianship, you’ll want to check it out. And the harp players amongst you will also particularly appreciate Gindick noting the key of each song as well as the key of the harp used and the harp position in the track listings.

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

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 Featured Blues Interview – Rory Block 

rory block photo 1“I never understood the idea that blues was the music of the devil,” says Rory Block who has sung the blues of the masters for more than half a century and is the minister of her own church.

“I think anything that has incredibly deep emotion and resonates with people in a life-changing way is of a spiritual nature. So, to me, if you’re singing a Robert Johnson song, a Skip James song, or any old blues song that rocks somebody’s world and makes them feel encouraged or comforted, well then you’re singing gospel.”

Rory Block is certainly in a position to know. The Blues Foundation has called her “the top female interpreter and authority on traditional country blues worldwide.” She has released 30 albums in 54 years and has won five W.C. Handy Awards and two NAIRD awards for Best Adult Contemporary Album of The Year for Angel of Mercy on 1994 and Tornado in 1997. Her mentor CD series in the last decade has captured the essence of legacy artists Son House, Rev. Gary Davis, Skip James, Bukka White, Mississippi John Hurt, and Mississippi Fred McDowell.

“When I was a child my dad said, ‘God is in everything. God is in the trees. God is in the sky.’ He inspired me and I began to connect the dots that what I was seeing as super powerful, super soulful and super meaningful was one and the same with what he was calling God.”

Rory grew up in Greenwich Village. Her dad was a sandal maker and a fiddler. Her boyfriend was Stefan Grossman who took guitar lessons from Rev. Gary Davis and gave a 15-year-old Rory two-hour tapes of then obscure legacy blues artists that she would listen to on headphones in bed through the night.

“Stefan was four years older than me and, unlike me, he was from a wonderful, stable family. His parents became like my parents. He was a kind, caring and responsible person. He was also cool, he was a guitar player. He was friends with all the musicians, record collectors, historians, and the people who went down south searching for the old blues players. He took me everywhere and introduced me to everyone. He was among a handful of devotees – David Bromberg, Roy Bookbinder, Woody Mann and a few others – who were taking guitar lessons with Rev. Gary Davis. We were die-hard blues fans.

“In those days, it seemed like everyone was a musician of one style or another. Old Timey players, country blues players, and folk artists were everywhere in the Village. Joan Baez got sandals from my dad. Bob Dylan lived just a few doors away from the sandal shop right before he became a household word. Maria Muldaur got sandals from my dad and was inspired to learn fiddle after watching him play.

“We grew up around people before they were famous and after they were famous. It didn’t make much difference to me. They were just regular people. They were the neighbors and friends. They were the people my parents hung out with. It was all normal. The Village was really a small community in those days and we all knew each other. It seemed like everyone was a musician, a painter, a poet or a writer. In my experience, everyone I grew up with was into the arts in one way or another.”

rory block photo 2The Reverend Gary Davis viewed blues as spiritual in the same way as Rory and her dad did. He certainly hadn’t sold his soul to the devil, and going to his house in the Bronx with Stefan who was taking guitar lessons from him was – if not a religious experience – certainly a transcendent one for teenaged Rory.

“It was so homey and warm. I remember the soft lighting, ‘God bless this home’ framed on the wall, and the doilies on the arms of the old easy chairs. Reverend Gary Davis never taught in the usual way, ‘And now you take the second finger of your left hand, and place it on the third fret of the D string, and you slide to the fourth fret.’ You just had to watch, play and jump in. He never slowed down to explain, he just played, but that was very typical of the way players learned from each other in the early days.

“You didn’t get an official lesson as much as you hung around and paid close attention. You gathered some information here and gathered some information there. You were just gleaning what you could whenever you could as you went along.

“Rev. Gary Davis was a brilliant man. He was witty and funny, and he didn’t abide fools. He had a lot to say about it if you couldn’t keep up with him, and he gave Stefan a really hard time, although it was all in a good-natured way. In fact, he and Stefan basically roasted each other. It was totally entertaining. I was super shy, so I just sat there quietly like a fly on the wall and watched, and it was amazing. I loved every minute of it.

“If the Reverend ever digressed into playing blues, Mrs. Davis, who was known as Annie, would appear from the kitchen, dish towel in hand, and stop him with a withering look and a well-placed word of disapproval. He was only supposed to play gospel, he wasn’t supposed to slip into the devil’s music. We all knew that in those days blues was considered to be the music of the devil, and the stigma around it was very intense. Sometimes we’d be leaving as David Bromberg was coming in. Other times we’d pass Roy Bookbinder. It was an amazing time.”

Mississippi Fred McDowell was another artist Stefan Grossman introduced to Rory. In her liner notes to Shake ’Em on Down, Rory’s tribute album to Hurt, she writes, “McDowell’s iconic style was a direct bridge between the early acoustic technique of House, Patton, Waters and Brown – and the electric blues of Bonnie Raitt and other contemporary players. Fred was famous for saying, ‘I don’t play no rock’n roll.’ But in fact he did, or if he did not, he practically invented it. He (much like Muddy Waters) taught electric players how to take the rock solid groove of the soul of country blues and bring it into modern music.”

In our interview, Rory elaborates. “You really can’t put a drum to Robert Johnson. It completely changes its character. It just irons it out, and you get a new thing. You get more of a rock-blues song which is cool in itself, but it loses that early flavor where the music speeds up and slows down, where the tempo ‘breathes.’ But you could put a drum to Fred McDowell. He was a bridge between the early fluctuating tempos to the next stage moving towards the electrified style. He had a hard driving rhythm you could put a drum to. He used to say, ‘I don’t play no rock and roll,’ but he really did.”

Son House was another iconic delta bluesman Rory honors on her 2008 CD Blues Walkin’ Like a Man, another in her mentor series. She sat knee to knee with Son who told her he’d taught Robert Johnson how to play guitar.

“I once saw a video of Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, and someone else hanging out and jamming,” explains Rory. “All of a sudden, Howlin’ Wolf confronts Son House on his drinking and how it’s wrong in the eyes of God. Son is already drunk and looks a little uncomfortable, but I think that, as a preacher, Son House understood the frailty of human beings and knew he was grappling with his own situation the best he could. He knew he wasn’t ‘walking in an upright way’ having alcohol controlling his life. But those were the challenges that he was dealing with, and as a preaching man he would say ‘God’s still workin’ on me.’

rory block photo 3“I don’t think I ever asked Son House about the story of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil because I wasn’t fascinated by that. That didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t base my career on the narrative about Robert Johnson and the devil. It wasn’t real for me. What was real for me was that it was gospel music. When I first talked to Robert Johnson’s grandson Steven, he told me that was a myth. He said, ‘You know, grandpa was singing gospel.’ Steven said, ‘Listen to the words: “I went down to the crossroads. I fell down on my knees. I asked the Lord above for mercy. He said, poor Bob, if you please,” and “If I had possession over judgment day, I wouldn’t have no right to pray.” The man was preaching.’

Rory continues, “So I never did involve myself in the idea of blues being the music of the devil. It might be a cool thing to say, to write a story about, or as Steven says ‘It makes a great movie, but that didn’t happen.’ I guess there were some blues contemporaries of Robert Johnson who had a tale to tell about that. And that’s fine. But as Steven says: ‘Nothing good ever came from the devil!’

“In the end if you read what Robert Johnson wrote on his gravestone, you might see why Steven and I say ‘that’s the voice of a believer.’ Then there’s talk of the handwritten note he had with him when he died. If you read it, you realize he was a spirit-filled person. But like everyone else on earth he had his challenges. I’m not even going to call them ‘demons’ because that’s kind of an intense word, but he had his mountains to climb. He had extreme difficulties, he had suffering and issues just like Son House did, but I never took that as having anything to do with evil. To me Robert Johnson’s music is only good.

“In fact I view early blues as being gospel-based. I think that’s something I’d like to be known for. I know this runs counter to the popular notion that it’s cool to think of blues as the music of the devil. Maybe people have enjoyed that as a rebellious point of view, and I get that. I get that. Perhaps it’s empowering. But for me music is deep and about the soul and the fact that we’re all from the same speck of dust. It’s not about the outward self.”

Perhaps because she’s a woman whose played with so many legacy artists, Rory sees the blues from a unique perspective. “I cannot see myself as others see me. I never understood it when people said, ‘She plays like a man.’ What does that mean? When I was 15 and in Berkley, California, Fred McDowell was staying at Ed Denson’s house along with me and Stefan Grossman. One night we all went down to the Jabberwocky Café, and Stefan, Fred and I were on stage together when somebody jumped up and shouted, ‘She plays like a man’ while I was playing Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road Blues,” I couldn’t relate. I felt, ‘But I’m a woman, and I’m playing this way. Thus, I must be playing like a woman.’ I really did not see myself as a category. I didn’t see myself as male or female, black or white, old or young, or anything outward. I didn’t care about that. All I cared about was this: it’s beautiful music. I want to play it. It’s all I’ve ever really known how to do.

“Son House said, ‘How did she learn to play like this?’ I can imagine he was wondering what drew me as a 15-year-old girl from New York City in the 1960s to the music of another place and time. In that context, it must have seemed extremely unusual, and I grant you it probably was. The only other young woman I knew who was playing country blues was Joanne Kelly from England. She, too, I would imagine, was considered an anomaly.”

rory block photo 4As proficient as Rory was on blues guitar as a teenager, the secrets of the slide as the masters had played it eluded her until well into her career. “I didn’t play slide for years because I didn’t think modern players sounded like the early recordings. Robert Johnson was clean. He was so perfect, so agile. It was in a universe of its own, so I thought maybe he wasn’t using a slide, and I started using my bare fingers to play the notes. But then one day I realized… he was playing slide! Drat! I knew I had to start figuring it out. My first attempts were utterly rigid and brittle. I couldn’t get it in the pocket at all. It was flat, it was sharp, it was buzzing horribly.

“Then, Bonnie Raitt recorded “Ramblin’ On My Mind” on one of my records. We were mixing the record, and we soloed her incredible playing in the speakers, and there it was! I heard something that rocked my world. I said, ‘Oh, my God. I’m doing it all wrong! It’s relaxed. She’s not racing to the fret like I am. She’s taking a stroll. She’s just going up the neck in this really funky, relaxed way. Then when she gets there, there’s this beautiful, rocking, relaxed vibrato.’ That’s really key. Bonnie is unique, and her vibrato is just so rich, smooth and funky. That changed everything, just hearing Bonnie alone in the speakers. So, I started to practice, and that’s when I began to get a handle on it. It started to fall into the pocket.

“Before publishing my book (When A Woman Gets The Blues), I sent the chapter I wrote about Bonnie to her, and she responded that she hadn’t realized she had inspired me that way. In fact, her playing was the key that started the process for me. It unlocked the door. That’s really what lessons are for, to put a key in to unlock a new door, to help somebody go through to another level that they’re looking to find. At that time, the slide info I needed was behind a locked door, and sometimes you need somebody else like Bonnie to go, ‘Here’s the key. Let me open the door for you.’”

I told Rory about the International Blues Challenge panel I’d moderated in Memphis, Blues as A Healer, on the palliative effects of blues music. “That’s where the gospel overlaps, and that’s why the blues is married to gospel,” she said, “and you can quote me on that. I truly believe that the spiritual nature of blues is one and the same in the gospel, and I always point out that the people who wrote the blues were most likely raised in the church. We’re talking about the late 1800s, early 1900s. All these players and singers who later went on to become the founding fathers and mothers of the blues had deep roots in gospel, and they took that gospel energy and all that spirit information and just rolled it right over into early blues.

“This is that spiritual thing, that lifesaving thing that happened to me when I was a little teenage girl without a root in the soil and without a center to hold me down to earth. When I was 14 along comes this guitar player named Stefan Grossman, and he hands me a record called Really the Country Blues, followed by these fabulous two-hour-long, reel-to-reel tapes of all the rediscovered blues LPs. ”

“For an entire year, I slept with headphones on listening to these tapes of unbelievable rediscovered music, listening through the night, being washed in the healing and spiritual nature of the music. That’s what saved my life, and it still saves my life. It still saves my life.”

Visit Rory’s website at:

Interviewer 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.

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Cascade Blues Association – Portland, Oregon

On Sunday, May 21, the Cascade Blues Association presents “CBA 30, Once in a Lifetime Concert,” featuring more than 50 blues and roots musicians joining together to celebrate the organization’s 30th anniversary of supporting, promoting and preserving blues & blues-related music in the Pacific Northwest. This event will be held at the historic McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland, Oregon. Tickets are $15.00 general admission, and a limited number of VIP tickets for $75.00.

Artists participating in CBA 30 will include Duffy Bishop, Lloyd Jones, Terry Robb, Mary Flower, Karen Lovely, Bill Rhoades, Norman Sylvester, Ty Curtis, Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers, The Strange Tones, Kinzel & Hyde, Too Loose Zydeco Band, Bobby Torres, Robbie Laws, Louis Pain and many more!

The Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society presents “Women Sing the Blues” on Sunday, April 30, 2017, 3:00 – 6:00 pm at Burgers & Brew (Station 1), 317 3rd St., West Sacramento, California. Featuring (in no specific order): Lena Mosely (SBS Hall of Famer), Dana Moret, Val Starr, Lisa Phenix w/Steve Wall, Sue Mac and Beth Reid Grigsby.

Tickets sold at the door only. $15.00 General Public, $10 SBS Membership. Wheelchair Accessible.

Detroit Blues Society – Detroit, MI

The Detroit Blues Society Heritage Series presents “Blues and Boogie Piano” featuring Mark “Mr.B.” Braun and Bill Heid on Saturday April 29, 2017 from 2:00PM until 4:30PM at the Historic Scarab Club at 217 Farnsworth in Detroit’s Cultural Center. A $5.00 donation is requested.

Mr. B. is a boogie-woogie pianist from Ann Arbor Michigan. He became interested in the piano through recordings collected by his father in his hometown of Flint, MI. Later he studied with “Boogie Woogie” Red and other famous area musicians among others. He is also a composer in his own right.

Bill Heid is an American Blues & Jazz pianist born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has recorded with blues & jazz greats Koko Taylor, Henry Johnson and Fenton Robinson. He spent several years living and performing in Detroit with Johnnie Bassett and others and now resides in the Washington, DC . The two pianists will perform separately as well as together, backed by a rhythm section.

Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Devenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society presents Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, at Kavanaugh’s Hilltop Tap, 1228 30th Street, Rock Island, IL on Friday, April 21, at 8:00p.m. Admission $12 for society members or $15 for non-members. (Membership available at the door).

Born and raised on south side of Chicago, the Reverend has been playing the blues since 1971 when he first saw Freddy King play in Chicago. He moved to Milwaukee where he began a long friendship and collaboration with Madison Slim, harmonica player for Jimmy Rogers. Since 1990 he has opened for B.B King, Gatemouth Brown, Pinetop Perkins, Koko Taylor Band, Junior Wells, Billy Branch, Magic Slim, Elvin Bishop, Sugar Blue, Lonnie Brooks, William Clarke, Lefty Dizz, and numerous others at festivals and at Buddy Guy’s Legends.

Reverend Raven and Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys have played in the Quad Cities several times since 2013 but you will want to catch this up-close-and-personal appearance at Kavanaugh’s Hilltop on April 21.

Minnesota Blues Society – St Paul, MN

Minnesota Blues Society presents Road to Memphis Challenge, band competition April 23, 1:00 pm at Wilebski’s Blues Saloon 1638 Rice St., St. Paul MN with band competitors: Slim Willie and the Ride; Bluedog; Ken Valdez; Harrison St; Jim Stairs-Squishy Mud; Paul Barry and the Ace Tones.

Order of performances randomly determined prior to events $10 suggested donation. Winners will represent Minnesota at the IBC, in Memphis, Jan 2018. More info:

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. April 24 – Chris Ruest Featuring Gene Taylor.

Additional ICBC partnered shows: April 20 – The MOJOCATS host James Armstrong Presents At The Alamo.  For more information visit

Ventura County Blues Society – Ventura, CA

(Camarillo, CA) – The 12th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival, a Spring SoCal Tradition, Keeping the Blues Alive for a dozen consecutive years, Saturday, April 29, at Studio Channel Islands, 2222 E. Ventura Blvd. Gates open 10:00 am, music starts 11:00 am. Tickets $30. (Pre-Sale), $40. (Gate). Kids 12 and under free with paid Adult. V.I.P. Tickets $125. (online only). Festival proceeds benefits Food Share and other Ventura County area charities (please bring food item to donate). Info: (805) 501-7122 or visit

Performing this year: Two-time Grammy winners, Phantom Blues Band; award-winning singer/songwriter/guitar player, Debbie Davies; renowned guitarist, Chris Cain; RJ Mischo, considered by critics to be in the upper echelon of today’s great harp players and singers; Michael John And The Bottom Line, fronted by VCBS President/Festival founder, Michael John; purveyors of deep-seeded Blues and smoky Southern rock, Crooked Eye Tommy; Jim Gustin and Truth Jones, fronted by blues singer/guitarist Jim Gustin, and Jeri Goldenhar, a/k/a Truth Jones, who has a big voice to match her six-foot stature.

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

The Central Iowa Blues Society is now accepting applications for the 2017 Iowa Blues Challenge for both the Band and the Solo / Duo categories. Play for a prize package that includes cash, recording time and performance opportunities at Winter Blues Fest, BBQ’Loo & Blues Too Fest and many other paid gigs throughout the year. Winners receive entry in to the 34th International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN, January 16-20, 2018.

Applications and additional information are now available at Don’t delay! The deadline is midnight on Sunday, June 11, 2017.

The 2017 Iowa Blues Challenge is proudly sponsored by Budweiser, Summit Brewing Co., Iowa Public Radio, Junior’s Motel, Rieman Music, VividPix & Design, Des Moines Social Club, Central Iowa Blues Society, South Skunk Blues Society, Southeast Iowa Blues Society and Mississippi Valley Blues Society.

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