Issue 11-21 May 25, 2017

Cover photo by Susie Trcka © 2017

 In This Issue 

Bill Dahl has our feature interview with Inetta Visor. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Omar Coleman, Coco Montoya, Aaron Burton, Godboogie, Lucas Haneman Express, Justin Howl And The Salty Dogs, Lazy Mike And The Rockin’ Recliners, Big Jon Atkinson & Bob Corritore, Tom Dikon & The Jukes Revival and Chris Antonik.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

omar coleman cd imageOmar Coleman and Westside Soul

3 on the B Records

CD: 11 Songs, 39:18 Minutes

Styles: Soul, Contemporary Electric Blues, Soul-Influenced Blues, Blues Covers

“Reviews of good CD’s write themselves, because the music sells itself.” That’s what yours truly told her sister on the phone, when talking about her latest critical endeavors. When fantastic art presents itself, describing it comes as naturally as breathing. It’s when the art is mediocre, and hard to describe diplomatically, that my literary lungs get bronchitis. Fortunately, Chicago’s Omar Coleman and Westside Soul make me want to sing their praises so all of the Windy City can hear them. Their fourth, self-titled album is everything a soul blues offering should be: energetic, passionate, uplifting, and full of robust melody all around, whether on vocals or instrumentation. A minor quibble some might have is that five out of the eleven songs here are covers. One of these has been overplayed by blues and soul bands since time immemorial: “I’m Going Down [Down, Down, Down, Down, Down]” by Don Nix. Other than that, even the ones that are less familiar, like Edward Earl Randle’s “I Let a Good Girl Go,” are masterfully played. Where Coleman and Westside Soul pop, however, is on their explosive original material.

The band’s promo materials reveal: “This marks the fourth release for the band, the third [with] Omar Coleman on vocals. Guitarist Pete Galanis (Howard and the White Boys) contributes songwriting and a lyrical pen to a few songs, as well as production…Veteran blues drummer Marty Binder (Albert King, Albert Collins) [keeps] the rhythm section pumping. When not touring Europe, South America, or around the USA playing rhythm and blues festivals, [they] can be heard playing live in Chicago, in particular at Rosa’s Blues Lounge on the West Side.”

Omar Coleman stars on lead vocals that melt steel (and potential lovers’ hearts). Westside Soul features Pete Galanis on guitars; Neal O’hara on Hammond organ, Rhodes piano, and El Grando piano; Ari Seder on bass guitar, and Marty Binder on drums.

The following three songs are original and outstanding:

Track 01: “Sweet Little Woman” – Coleman and Co. pull out all the stops from the start. With a startling, staccato piano intro reminiscent of bullets or footsteps flying over pavement, this sweet little ditty tells the tale of an extramarital affair: “The door burst open, and there Ray stood. Scared for my life, oh, I ran real good. Thought I wanted that woman, but that man’s wife – ain’t worth my life.” Truer words were never spoken, and Omar’s emotion here is spot-on.

Track 03: “Let the Babies Live” – There’s a crucial reason some people call Chicago Chi-raq. Gun violence, as common as heavy snow in the winter, has got to stop. Blues and soul fans, you might not think this is a catchy tune, but even on its first repetition, you’ll be singing “Put your guns down!” along with the band. This is classic ‘70s-style soul at its best, with a pointed refrain and a powerful pro-peace message. Shredder sorcerer Pete Galanis is on fire here, with a magical solo that will make the toughest thug drop his weapon and start playing air guitar instead.

Track 06: “Rotten Old Lady” – Another problem in cities across Illinois, big and small, is the prevalence of gambling. The subject of this song is a mother “only with one thing on her mind: Put all her money in the slot machine, and leave the little kids behind.” Keenest here is Neal O’hara’s tsk-tsk’ing Hammond organ. This is the blues, folks: pure, simple and sad.

Omar Coleman and Westside Soul bring out the best of soul and blues, simultaneously!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 37 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 10 

coco montoya cd imageCoco Montoya – Hard Truth

Alligator Records – 2017

11 tracks; 51 minutes

Between 2000-07 Coco Montoya recorded three albums for Alligator, then moved to Ruf and is now back with Alligator. Across eleven tracks there is plenty of Coco’s trademark guitar, backed by producer Tony Brauanagel who plays drums throughout with Mike Finnigan on keys, Bob Glaub on bass, Billy Watts or Johnny Lee Schell on rhythm guitar; the background vocalists include Mike, Billy, Deb Ryder and Teresa James and Lee Roy Parnell adds slide to one track. The songs include rock, soul and blues covers and three tunes by frequent collaborator Dave Steen, Coco getting a credit on two.

The opening three songs are simply terrific: “Before The Bullets Fly” was written by Warren Haynes and recorded by Gregg Allman but Coco completely owns the song with fine vocals and fluent guitar; “I Want To Shout About It” is as uplifting and joyous as Ronnie Earl’s original with exciting interplay between Coco’s lead and Johnny’s rhythm work and a superb Hammond solo from Mike; the cautionary tale of Dave Steen’s “Lost In The Bottle” races along fuelled by Lee Roy Parnell’s slide and Coco’s piercing leads. Mike Farris’ “Devil Don’t Sleep” takes us into a moodier place in which the organ swirls and the guitars ring menacingly. The soulful “I’ll Find Someone Who Will”, written by Terry Wilson and Theresa James, is a breakup song with a really catchy tune, Coco’s crisp and clean solo here being a highlight. A run through Homer Banks’ “Where Can A Man Go From Here?” shows that Coco can handle a soul ballad too, his voice having the right amount of vulnerability for such a song.

Coco always includes a tune from his mentor Albert Collins and “The Moon Is Full” has Johnny’s choppy rhythm work providing the backdrop to some great lead work from Coco. Coco’s two co-writes are “Hard As Hell”, a churning blues-rocker about “a sweet-talking Jezebel; there’s two sides to you, baby, and you know I never can tell”; the guitar interplay between Billy and Coco here is excellent. “Truth Be Told” has elements of funk and the Caribbean in its attractive rhythms and the album closes with an extended solo from Coco.

Coco is a wonderful live performer and is touring extensively to promote this album and every blues lover should catch his live show. Hard Truth stands comparison with his best work.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 10 

aaron burton cd imageAaron Burton – Southern Swagger


10 songs – 40 minutes

Texan singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Aaron Burton’s seventh album, Southern Swagger, continues in the same impressive vein as his most recent release, All Night Long (favorably reviewed in the 09 April 2015 issue of Blues Blast Magazine). The new album contains 10 self-written songs, with Burton on vocals, guitar and banjo, William “Stompin’ Bill” Johnson on harp, Dirk Cordes on drums and Joe Degelia on steel guitar. Sonnie Collie also adds bass to one track and guitar to another.

The musicians have played together for years and their ability and willingness to focus on the song has resulted in a highly enjoyable album of roots-influenced acoustic country blues. Cordes in particular sets up a series of irresistible rhythms while never over-playing or over-shadowing the song and the space that is left paradoxically creates a bigger sound. But there is also a palpable joy apparent throughout the album, as if the musicians had a total blast while recording it.

Opening with the gloriously-titled “My Name Is Aaron Burton” Burton explains the origins of his old pseudonym, Peetie Whitestraw, over an upbeat country folk blues groove. There is a sly wit to Burton’s songs, which he sings in a lazy but engaging drawl, but there is no lack of emotional depth in his voice – the haunting “Heroine And Cocaine” has echoes of the desperation and desolation of the great Skip James.

Lyrically, he covers traditional blues themes such as death (as in the ominous one-chord boogie of “Murder”) or basic carnal desires (in the rollicking “Real Good Booty” or the country blues of “Copulate”, in which he winningly admits “I want to copulate, copulate with you. I can’t concentrate, it’s all I wanna do. Look here mama, I’m telling you straight, all I want to do is copulate. I want to copulate with you”). He is also adept at finding what humour can be eked out from a desperate situation, as with his promises to his baby in “Jewelry Store”.

The rockabilly-country of “City Of Hate” reveals a complex relationship between the song’s protagonist and the city he calls home as Burton sings “Dallas, Texas is the place I long to be. I’m going back home. Pretty mama coming home with me….. I’m going down to Dallas, way down in that Lone Star State. I’m going back home, back to the City of Hate. I’m going back home, yeah, ‘cos I love the City of Hate.”

Burton adds bouncing banjo to “Caddo Line” but primarily lays down rhythm guitar on his acoustic. Burton, Johnston and Degelia all take solos at various times, but the primary focus of the album is on the songs with the lead instruments weaving in and out of the vocal melodies. One of the highlights of the album however is the closing instrumental, the album’s title track: wonderfully dreamy (but uncredited) sax playing and articulate finger-picking over the top of another top notch Cordes groove.

Southern Swagger is yet another top class slice of acoustic country blues from Aaron Burton. There is an enticing timelessness to his music. 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 – 4 of 10 

godboogie cd imageGodboogie – Play Music & Dance

Vizztone Label Group

13 tracks/68:50

Comprised of four veteran Canadian musicians, Godboogie is lead by Jerome Godboo. A singer and harmonica player, Godboo came to fame several decades ago as a member of the Phantoms rock band. Later, he was received the Lee Oskar award for Best Harmonica Player at the 2014 International Blues Challenge, selected from the semi-finalist acts. Joining him are guitarist Eric Schenkman from the Spin Doctors, Shawn Kellerman from the Lucky Peterson group on guitar and bass, and drummer Gary Craig, who tours with Bruce Cockburn.

The title track starts things off with a nod to Louisiana. Godboo plays accordion to give the track the proper seasoning. The following track , “Honey Badger,” is more indicative of the band’s approach. It is full-throttle blues with a heavy beat and an amped-up guitar sequence. “Wounded” slips into Magic Sam territory as Godboo gives a passionate performance that occasionally sacrifices proper pitch for an enthusiastic delivery. His harp playing favors the John Popper school over legends like Little Walter. You can hear that on “It’s A Party,” as he blows a cascading stream of notes at a rapid-fire tempo. The lengthy guitar solo, presumably from Schenkman, is a mind-melting escapade.

Many tracks have a loose feel that values energy over musical precision. “So Far Away” is a spirited Jimmy Reed – style shuffle about missing a love interest with more extended blowing from the leader and a twisted guitar solo. “Real Dude” benefits from a scratchy guitar line that counterbalances Godboo’s entreaties to “shake your booty”. Another track, “Workshop,” has a grinding rhythm behind Godboo’s tribute to the the place he goes to for peace and quiet.

The band sounds more comfortable once the pace slows down. “Kitty” sports guitar riffs appropriate for rock arenas while “Sign Of The Times” has one of Godboo’s strongest vocals plus a frenzied guitar workout. “Call On My Love” is a moving ballad, a standout on the all-original program. The closing track, “Tigers, Horses, Kings, & Queens,” finds the band quickly building to a frenzied delivery that fades away for a measured conclusion.

Godboogie sounds right at home on these tracks, offering a rambunctious program that veers toward the rock side of the blues spectrum. Make sure you check this one out if that style is your cup of tea!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 10 

lucas haneman cd imageLucas Haneman Express – Tearing Up The Rails

self release

14 songs time-65:57

There are many good things going on in this latest release from the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada based Lucas Haneman Express. Let me count the ways- a refreshing approach to music and lyrics, seamless and tight playing, good dynamics and arrangements, great production values, expressive vocals and an inventive and varied guitar wiz with a plethora of guitar tones in his arsenal. Try saying all that in one breath. Lucas handles the lion’s share of lead vocals, while Megan Laurence contributes background harmony vocals, one lead vocal and a duet with Lucas. Both are top notch compelling singers. Drummer and percussionist Jeff Asselin provides the appropriate beats quite handily, while bassist Martin Newman’s playing is assertive and up front. Various guest artists round out the impressive sounds within. Sundry genres of music show their influences as needed, be it blues, rock, pop, jazz, funk or variations thereof.

The blues meet pop in the gear-shifting “The Verdict”, that starts out fast then kicks into an overdrive rockabilly-like segment. Harmonica courtesy of Monkey Junk’s Steve Marriner along with Lucas’ guitar push this song to its’ limits. The jumpy and upbeat “Give Me Life” showcase the complimenting shadowing vocals of Megan against Lucas’ lead vocal. His informed and commanding guitar breathe life into this one (pun intended). The powerful bass of Martin Newman along with the “clipped” note guitar playing up the funk quotient on “Calling The Blame”. The guitar tone changes up at one point and the drumming is excellent as usual.

A change of pace in a nice slow ballad benefits from Lucas’ moody guitar and the delicate organ work of Jesse Whitely of the 24th Street Wailers on “Waiting At Your Door”. The crew gives a rocking blues finish to Bryan Adams’ “Run To You” via a strong beat, Marriner’s harp and wah-wah guitar. The urgency and yearning vocals imbued in “Take Two” are infectious as the tune slows down then builds to an ending crescendo. Not to forget the super funky bass of Martin Newman.

“Blind Man’s Blues” chugs along with bluesy and intense guitar soloing and Megan’s answer vocal. She steps out for her one and only lead vocal turn on “Firestorm”. She delivers forceful vocals over organ and a heavy guitar assault. Nicely flowing lyrics slow to a moody ending on the catchy “Storybook Love”, as drums-bass -guitar clash into a lovely noise. “Love Shine” finds the “L Man” waxing tenderly about L-O-V-E with the sole accompaniment of his acoustic. A walking bass line props up the intense blues duet between Lucas and Megan on “That’s The Truth”. Gee, this CD just keeps getting better and more surprising by the minute.

Did someone say surprising? Howse about a cover of Steppenwolf’s classic hard rock, psychedelic excursion-“Magic Carpet Ride”? Say What? A noisy guitar morphs into a splendid (yeah I said it) guitar riff. Is there nothing they can’t pull off? They dun dood it on dis one. They even throw in some nifty slide, wah-wah and tom-toms. Our heroes chug on out with chugging guitar (how else would you chug?) on “Working Band”. Jesse Whitely provides more of his organ magic.

All righty then! Truthfully, this one snuck up on me. On first casual listen to first few songs I thought, oh boy, a pop record. Oh silly me, there is WAY more going on here. Craftsmanship is the word I’m looking for and found. All save two songs are band originals. There are a myriad of techniques and sounds at play here. This relatively small group of players has come up with pure gold.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10 

justin howell cd imageJustin Howl And The Salty Dogs

Self-produced CD

10 songs — 44 minutes

Born and raised in southern Mississippi, but based out of the South Side of Chicago, Justin Howl is a true throwback performer. Despite his home base in the belly of modern blues, he delivers an all-original set that ranges from acoustic to electric while capturing a feel that existed in music 70 or years ago.

Howl migrated to the Windy City in the mid-2000s to attend graduate school at the prestigious University Of Chicago. Although he’s recently been touring the U.S. as a soloist, he and the Salty Dogs have appeared regularly in greater Chicagoland since forming in 2011, performing tunes that are rooted firmly in the pre-War sound even though the songs were penned four or five generations after its heyday.

The lineup ranges from a four-piece band with Justin on vocals, guitar and harmonica, backed by a second guitarist and rhythm section to an acoustic guitar/harmonica duo. Regretfully, information regarding the other musicians is lacking. They’re only listed by their first names in the literature: Martin on drums, Matthijs on bass and Tim on second guitar with guest appearances by Lynn on violin and Bennie on six-string for one cut each.

Howl’s material deals far more with the land of his upbringing than it does with the bright lights and big city. Despite its title, “Streetwise” kicks off with a dog howl and gong. It’s a country-flavored number played on six-string banjo that describes freezing to the bone and sitting at the side of the road beside everything the singer owns wrapped in a burlap sack. A strong singer, Justin’s voice still possesses a slight hint of the bayou. The only things he requests are that you don’t stand in his sun and that you sit down beside him so he can give you a piece of his mind.

A harp intro kicks off the two-man acoustic “My Voodoo Lady,” a bright tribute to a woman “who’s specially made for me/She ain’t no hand-me-down,” before the medium-fast “Dear Daisy,” a musical letter, serves as an apology for non-appearance because the writer’s currently serving time behind prison walls. “The judge took 15 seconds,” he says, “to give me 15 years.”

Next up, “Shara Mae” gets the full electric band treatment as it asks a woman why she has her red dress on before things calm down again for the acoustic blues, “God-Forsaken Road.” A sprightly harp line accompanied by finger snapping kicks off “Going Somewhere,” an announcement that the singer is leaving his cheating woman behind, but quickly evolves with an electric, full-band arrangement.

It’s acoustic banjo and Jew’s harp for “Jesus Was A Hobo Man,” which is delivered somewhat like Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” before Howl shows off his yodeling skills on “Boxcar Waltz.” A tune that could have been written in the ’30s, it’s a ballad of loneliness while riding the rails. The set concludes with “Poor Farmer,” a country blues, and “Wino’s Plea,” which comes across with the feel of an old-time Scottish/English reel.

Available through CDBaby or directly from the artist’s website (address above), this album will strike a chord with you if your tastes run to old-timey blues. Although there’s some inconsistency in the presentation as the ensemble switches from one format to another, Justin’s tunes are worth a listen and are intelligent throughout.

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 10 

lazy mike cd imageLazy Mike And The Rockin’ Recliners – Workin’ Man

Self-produced CD

11 songs – 39 minutes

Fronted by the father-son team of “Lazy” Mike and Carson “McKinley Slim” Mallon, the Rockin’ Recliners are a veteran four-piece band from the Canadian Pacific who deliver Chicago blues augmented with touches of the West Coast jump.

Formed about a decade ago and with three previous albums to their credit, they’re based in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Regularly filling the dance floor at venues across the vast island, they’ve worked frequently at major festivals across western Canada, opening for a who’s who of talent, ranging from fellow Canadians Jason Buie, Steve Kozak, Harpdog Brown and Downchild Blues Band to American superstars James Cotton, Duke Robillard, Elvin Bishop and others.

Both of the Mallons handle vocal duties with Mike handling harp and Carson guitar. The vocal mix is augmented by the rhythm section of Evan Matthiesen on drums and Brian Whitty on bass. None of the vocals are credited on the disc. Together they lay down what they consider to be a “fresh spin on lowdown, rockin’ blues.”

“Mr. Green Jeans” opens with a simple drum-and-harp pattern, but quickly evolves into a medium-fast jump instrumental. One of four opening originals and seven in the set, it features a mid-tune solo from Carson and sets the stage for what’s to come. The guitar-driven “Money Talks” is up next with every musician’s lament: “They say that money talks/How come it never talks to me?” Mike handles the central harp solo before yielding to his son.

The slow, walking title tune “Workin’ Man” describes the plight of someone who rises before the roosters to begin his day before the swinging “Blues Business” asks the question “where do you go” to get your business done. A pedestrian cover of Little Walter’s familiar “Just Your Fool” leads into the original rocker “Waiting For Something To Break” before giving way to another cover, “Hide Away.” The Recliners attempt to turn the Freddie King standard into a guitar/harp song with mediocre results.

Fortunately, the next original, “Harvest Rye,”quickly sets things straight as it sings the praises of a type of whisky. The band dips into the catalog of country music superstar Hank Williams for rapid-fire version of “Mind Your Own Business” before two more originals — “Shufflin’ In Nanaimo”and “Pichu” — bring the action to a close.

From the opening chords of Workin’ Man, you’ll know you’re listening to the efforts of a hard-working bar band. There’s plenty of good-time music here despite a few flaws within the covers. Available through CDBaby.

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 – 8 of 10 

big jon atkinson cd imageBig Jon Atkinson & Bob Corritore – House Party At Big Jon’s

Delta Groove Music – 2016

16 tracks; 63 minutes

Take one up and coming guitarist who enjoys traditional sounds and vintage equipment, add an expert harmonica player from the old school, season with some guest vocalists and you get this disc, perfect for lovers of traditional blues. The rhythm section is Troy Sandow on bass and Malachi Johnson, Brian Fahey or Marty Dodson on drums, Bob on harp and Big Jon on guitar with engineer Danny Michel helping out on rhythm duties. Jon and Bob wrote three tunes each, guest vocalists Willie Buck, Tomcat Courtney and Dave Riley each brought a song to the sessions and there are seven covers.

There are many highlights here, from Bob’s deep-toned harp contributions to his own “Here Comes My Baby” and the latin-tinged instrumental harp feature “El Centro” which also features Jon’s striking guitar work. A wide range of ages is also represented here, from 80 year old Tomcat Courtney who sounds great on his Mojo In My Bread to teenage drummer Malachi who appears on ten tracks. Of course Big Jon is only in his twenties but sounds far older on cuts like “Goin’ Back To Tennessee” and “My Feelings Won’t Be Hurt”, two of his contributions which bookend the CD. Bob is originally from Chicago and another Windy City stalwart Willie Buck sings his own “You Want Me To Trust You,” a classic blues tale of infidelity; Bob’s frequent collaborator Dave Riley’s deep, booming voice features on “Mississippi Plow” and Alabama Mike’s higher pitched vocals are at the heart of the extended “Somebody Done Changed The Lock On My Door” on which Jon switches to slide to great effect. Elsewhere two of Slim Harpo’s tunes appear: the rolling “I’m Gonna Miss You Like The Devil” finds Jon leaving guitar duties to Danny Michel, using plenty of reverb to get that swampy feel; “I’m A King Bee” is Willie Buck’s second vocal, Bob’s harp ‘buzzing’ most appropriately.

Chicago meets Louisiana, all recorded in San Diego!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

tom dikon cd imageTom Dikon & The Jukes Revival – Been A Long Time Baby

self release

12 songs time-47:50

Virginia based singer-harmonica player Tom Dikon has gathered up songs he has written over the years along with some newer ones to put together this project. He enlisted the help of his friend guitarist-producer Jason Cale who assisted him in selecting the right session players for this CD. Mission accomplished, as all players gel together to support Tom’s musical vision. Tom’s harmonica chops are right up there with the best on the current scene. His fluid, energetic and inventive style of playing is a high point of this endeavor. The fact that he has a cool and smooth vocal delivery doesn’t hurt either. He has managed to come up with twelve original songs that are informed by Chicago blues, jump blues, a bit of jazz and his own musical leanings. Tom has enlisted two guest vocalists to join in on the proceedings.

The title song introduces the listener to his smooth and soothing vocal delivery via a Chicago style blues. Jason Cales burning guitar playing chugs along with harmonica and the sax skills of Dave Fatek. Tom’s harmonica super charges the boisterous jump blues of “Hilton Hop”. The band chimes in on backing vocals. Jackie Scott steps in with his soulful and expressive vocal chops on the funky “Hipshake”, that features some refreshingly inventive guitar from Jason Cale. The jazzy acoustic guitar on “I Saw You” is reminiscent of the great gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. The song is a breezy little romp.

The harmonica playing on “Nevermind” recalls the percussive style that John Mayall employed on his live at the Fillmore period. Jay Skenk adds a little hoedown flavor with his viola along side some snappy snare drum. “Tidewater Stomp” is an energetic but short at two minutes harmonica based instrumental that you just wanna slap back on. Anthony Rosano supplies the vocal along with his slithery slide guitar playing along with Jason’s guitar on “Try To Make A Livin'”, a harmonica charged shuffle.

Jackie Scott returns for his second vocal turn on “Mind Over Matter” a song that is timely in its’ subject matter as it talks about crooked politicians. He is as soulful as he wants to be once again. Rick Anthony handles the lead guitar chores on this one. Hard blowing harp and the jazzy sax of Dave Fatek jump start “Wouldn’t You Know It”. Things close out on the jump blues of “Ooh Wee Baby”. Tom reminds us before he leaves of his harp skills.

Tom Dikon & The Jukes Revival and friends recall a bygone era of the blues while breathing new and refreshing life into it. Pulling eleven quality songs out of thin air is no easy task, but this crew makes it appear that way as they trade off solos at ease. The musicianship, songwriting, production values and arrangements are all top notch. This is a more than worthy listen.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 10 of 10 

chris antonik cd imageChris Antonik – Monarch

FACTOR Canada – 2017

13 tracks; 60 minutes

Canadian Chris Antonik has toured in the States, including a gig at Buddy Guy’s in Chicago, and Europe. His third album definitely repays repeated listening with its multi-layered sound. Much of the album finds Chris baring his soul about changes in his life following a divorce: the funky, horn-driven “Forgiveness Is Free” and “Gold Star” display some of the bitterness with Chris venting his angst with some ferocious guitar work but for the most part the lyrics reveal a man coming to terms with the rupture and starting to move on, as in the track that gives the album its title, “The Monarch And The Wrecking Ball” with its refrain of “we’ll find a way” and some of the most emotional guitar on the album and “The Art Of Letting Go” which probably best encapsulates Chris’ desire to move on with his life. “New Religion” also finds Chris sorting out his future as he details a new approach to life with another striking solo at the heart of the tune and the infectious “A Slip In The Rain” is another winner as Chris recognises the difficulties in his former relationship: “he was born to be loved, so he’s walking away”.

Musically there is a lot to enjoy here. Chris’ vocals continue to develop well and his guitar playing is excellent throughout. The core band of Guenther Kapelle on bass, Chuck Keeping on drums and Jesse O’Brien on keys give solid support, a horn section adds additional thrust to four tracks and harmony vocalists enhance three songs; there is even a string section on “All Of Our Days”, a moving ballad with weeping pedal steel and electric piano solo. Chris had a hand in all but two songs here and several other writers contributed, notably UK musician and writer Ben Fisher with six credits. The album opens explosively with “I’d Burn It All Down (For You)”, a song dedicated to Chris’ children in which he duels with the horns in a complex arrangement and closes on a positive tone with some fine acoustic picking and lovely trumpet on Ben and Scrapomatic’s Paul Olsen’s “Everywhere I Go”. Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites’ “You’re Killing My Love” fits well lyrically with the album and is given an Otis Rush treatment with Chris’ guitar tone and Chuck’s intricate drum patterns, the whole driven by the horns.

The whole album is great but “Love, Bettike” deserves special mention. A slow-paced tune with plenty of Chris’ trademark guitar, the song clocks in at over seven minutes, the lyrics recounting a chance meeting with a mystical figure, the song inspired by the real life Bettike, a lady who worked with the Grateful Dead and Bill Graham back in the day. “Hungry Ghost” tackles addiction with Guenther’s emphatic bass driving the tune along.

This is a mature album with thoughtful lyrics and plenty of fine playing – excellent stuff and highly 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.

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 Featured Blues Interview – Inetta Visor 

inetta visor image 1As the primary focal point of a veteran Chicago blues band boasting a proud history of spotlighting powerhouse female singers, Inetta Visor is a legitimate standout.

For the last 16 years, she’s fronted Mississippi Heat, harpist Pierre Lacocque’s traditionally-minded combo—and that’s a lifetime in the fickle blues business. Funny thing is, prior to joining the band in 2001, Visor hadn’t sung in a blues band before, exercising her prodigious pipes instead on rock and pop material in a series of local groups. The stylistic switch required some adjustment on Inetta’s part.

“It was different,” she says. “I had always listened to blues. I knew all about it from listening to WVON and Pervis Spann. But when you actually sing it, there’s like a special timing. And I was still singing pop. So I actually had to learn how to sing it, because there is a technique to singing it.”

Prior to bringing Visor into the fold, Mississippi Heat had featured Deitra Farr from 1993 to ‘96 and then the equally estimable Katherine Davis. That’s some serious talent. Yet Inetta has proven the ultimate front woman for the group, appearing on their last eight CDs. The transition from Davis to Visor didn’t transpire overnight; Inetta first tried out for the band in 2000.

“Katherine Davis had recorded a jazz CD, and she was thinking about going out and promoting this CD. And I auditioned for them at when Koko Taylor had a club (on South) Wabash,” she says. “Katherine changed her mind and decided to stay with Mississippi Heat. So in 2001, I’d always call different bands, because I was also a jobber at that time, to let people know if they needed a sub or a backup singer or whatever, I would be available. And I got ready to call Mississippi Heat—I still had their business card—and just as I put my hand on the phone, the phone rang and it was Michel Lacocque, Pierre’s brother, asking me if I was still interested in being with Mississippi Heat.” She was. Before long, Visor was in the studio working on their album Footprints on the Ceiling.

Pierre says he was impressed by “a couple of things—one, definitely her voice. Her voice was an Etta James type of powerful, yet sweet, yet melodic voice. I was very impressed very early with her ability to adapt songs, because we do original material mostly,” he says. “I need a singer because I write the songs. And I was very impressed with her ability to adapt to the songs, and also to the keys, which she’s done.

“She can sing in any key,” continues Lacocque. “It’s like Junior Wells once told me, ‘You know, Pierre, I can sing in any key!’ And here we have Inetta, who can do the same. So I was very impressed by that. Inetta’s a hard, hard worker, a team player, and really an unassuming star. Unassuming and very easy to work with, and she’s become a very, very dear friend and really a member of my family because we’ve known each other 16 years now, and we’ve traveled the world. So it’s been pleasant personally and artistically.

“She adapted very quickly to our material. With her, I can really explore many styles within the blues. I can do Santana type of stuff, which I enjoy. We can do reggae. I have reggae on the next album coming up, which is not recorded yet but I have the reggae (song) that she will sing. So she can adapt to many different genres, and she’s easy to guide,” says Lacocque. “She’s very easy to work with in the studio as well.”

Inetta did have a list of favorite blues singers when she joined the band, most notably Koko Taylor. “I did a contest at the House of Blues, and Koko Taylor and Bruce Iglauer from Alligator Records and a few other people were judges,” she says. “I won that contest, and she was one of the judges, so I met her. Nice lady. I met her when I auditioned for Mississippi Heat at her club with her daughter. And I met her again at the Blues Fest, I want to say it might have been 2008. Theresa Davis and a few other women were doing backup vocals behind Billy Branch. I was able to get backstage, and I met her again then. She was cool.

“Denise LaSalle is another favorite of mine. I love her lyrics. She has very sassy, very provocative, very female-empowered lyrics. Denise LaSalle has been an influence, because I like her storytelling in the songs. I mean, not just the provocative stuff, but she’s got some songs that really tell a story. That’s one of the reasons why she’s my favorite, is her writing and her producing.” There were other influences as well. “Definitely Etta James, because she had a powerful voice,” she says. “I liked Albert King. I fell in love with Albert King when I saw the movie Wattstax. Of course, I was crazy about B.B. King. Johnnie Taylor was my favorite.”

inetta visor image 2Lacocque has long displayed an uncanny knack for writing for his band’s resident chanteuses, reserving many of his finest creations for Inetta. “My favorite is ‘How Much Worse Can It Be?’ (from their album Delta Bound),” says Visor. “That’s really my life right there. He wrote some great songs for me, but that right there is my favorite.” Inetta has also contributed some impressive originals of her own to Mississippi Heat’s catalog.

“I would say the song that I’m most proud of ‘She Died From A Broken Heart.’ Because that’s a true story,” explains Inetta, who collaborated on the song with keyboardist Chris Cameron (it was a highlight of Mississippi Heat’s 2010 CD Let’s Live It Up!). “I lost a good friend in 2009, because after 17 years of marriage, we found out that her best friend had been dating her husband the whole time. And when she found out, in four years she drank herself to death.”

Mississippi Heat has released its last six albums on Bob Koester’s venerable Delmark label, beginning with 2005’s One Eye Open—Live at Rosa’s Lounge, Chicago (also available as a DVD) and continuing through Hattiesburg Blues (2008), Let’s Live It Up!, Delta Bound (2012), Warning Shot (2014), and last year’s Cab Driving Man. The connection has proven quite comfortable for everyone concerned. “It’s easy-going,” notes Visor. “Nobody’s yelling and screaming at you. The recording sessions are very, very smooth.”

Cab Driving Man was no exception. “I think we actually did the recording in two days. Of course, certain things had to be tweaked. Some people had to come back and overdub stuff, overdub errors, little small things. And I really practiced hard on that CD,” says Visor.

Along with Pierre and Inetta, the current core lineup of Mississippi Heat consists of guitarist Michael Dotson, bassist Brian Quinn, and drummer Terrence Williams. “The guys, they are very professional,” says Visor. “They’re very serious, but they’re a lot of fun. They’re fun to travel with. There are no arguments or nothing. All they do is get in the darned car and go to sleep! But they’re very good at what they do. Terrence is very serious about his drums. I mean, I thought Kenny was serious, but Terrence tunes the drums, and he does some things—he stands up on the drums. He says it does something to the drum skins. I’m like, ‘Oh, okay.’ I’ve never seen a drummer do all of that. And Brian is very, very serious about his bass. Everybody is very professional.”

Mississippi Heat’s Delmark CDs usually incorporate at least a couple of guest luminaries; past contributors have included guitarists John Primer and Billy Flynn, zydeco accordionist Chubby Carrier, and Sax Gordon Beadle. Inetta’s personal favorites?

“Lurrie Bell and Carl Weathersby,” she says. “We traveled with them, and Lurrie Bell, his laugh is just infectious. He doesn’t talk much, but when he does, it’s something. And Carl Weathersby is definitely my favorite because of the stories that he tells when we’re on the road about him being in Vietnam. He also talked about when he came home and was security for the group Enchantment. He tells a hilarious story about those concerts. I would say those two stand out.

I was always a big fan of Carl when he was on the road with us and telling these stories. A lot of ‘em were hysterical!”

Mississippi Heat does a lot of touring, both domestically and overseas. “We do Europe at least once or twice a year,” says Inetta. “We went last October, and we did Holland and Romania. My favorite was Greece. Greece was absolutely fantastic. Sat through my first earth tremor. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m ready to go home now!’”

Closer to home, everybody takes turns driving when they’re out on the road. “I always teasingly tell Pierre—sometimes he laughs, and sometimes he says ‘Don’t say that!’–‘Where’s my tour bus?’” laughs Visor. “But other than that, touring is very smooth. There’s been some incidents on the road where we’ve run into some humongous storms. And that’s always been comical, after we’ve come out of it, because we’re in these storms and the wind is knocking the van back and forth across the highway, and everybody’s in the van looking crazy!”

inetta visor image 3A native of the Englewood area on Chicago’s South Side, Inetta didn’t take the usual gospel-rooted route to learn her craft. “Everybody says, ‘Well, you started in church, right?’” she says. “I was not one of those that got a chance to start in church. Every time I paid for a robe, that robe got lost. And I said, ‘Well, I guess God doesn’t want me to sing in a choir. He wants me to do something else!’

“I always wanted to sing. As a matter of fact, when I was in second or third grade in an audition for a talent show, I sang Skeeter Davis’ “I Can’t Stay Mad At You.’ Back in the day, which they don’t do too much now, we always had neighborhood talent shows, where somebody would let the kids go in the basement, and we would charge a nickel at the door and we would put on a show. And of course, then you graduated and you sung outside under the street lamp or on somebody’s front porch,” she says. “There was a lot of opportunities. We auditioned to do the talent show at the Regal Theater, but I think we got cold feet and backed out.

“The only choir I did get a chance to sing in was when I auditioned for Richard Pegue, who was a disc jockey on WVON, one of the Good Guys. He started a choir called the Dubber Ruckie Choir, (later known as) the Halleluiah Chorus. And that was my first professional gig. 65 people singing R&B. I was about 17 or 18 years old at the time.”

Pegue moonlighted as the chief creative force behind the Penny and Nickel labels when he wasn’t on the air at ‘VON, writing and co-producing the Cheers’ local 1967 hit “(I’m Not Ready To) Settle Down.” Inetta wasn’t a member of the Halleluiah (sic) Chorus yet (which was formed in 1972) when they waxed their lone platter for Nickel, “I’ve Got To Find A Way,” but she was there when the aggregation performed at one of ‘VON’s gala Christmas concerts at Arie Crown Theater.

“By us being a choir, we had the biggest dressing room. And we were getting put out of that dressing room all night. The first person we got put out by was Diana Ross’ husband,” says Visor. “He was managing Chaka Khan. He came in and saw the dressing room, and all of a sudden management came in and told us we had to get out. Then it was a group called Hodges, James & Smith. Their management came into the dressing room.

“The final (group) that we got put out by was Sister Sledge. They were making their very first appearance in Chicago. They had just came out. I think they were out of New York. And they had a new album out. They asked last-minute to be on the show.”

The Halleluiah Chorus dispersed in 1976, but Visor was just getting started. “I continued to sing. A couple of the people in the choir put together bands and groups, and I did a lot of backup singing. One of the bands that I was with for awhile doing backup vocals was called TWT—The Whole Truth Band. I got a chance to sing some solo songs, but I basically did backup vocals for the members who were out front,” she says. “Our biggest rival was the Scott Brothers band.

“We had wonderful times. You want to talk about a reality show? That would have been a good one! That would have been a great reality show. I was with them for a long time.”

At the same time, Inetta was working at then-Alderman Roman Pucinski’s WEDC radio station on the Northwest Side as an engineer. “I went to Omega State Institute, because you know, back in the day, you had to have a First Class engineering license,” says Visor, who had the honor of integrating its technical staff during her 1976-85 tenure there. “I was the first black and the first woman,” she notes. “It was a foreign language radio station.” Still, singing remained Inetta’s passion.

inetta visor image 4“After I left TWT, I started a group called Sisters with Voices,” she says. “I put an ad in the paper for people who needed backup singers to get some work, which worked out pretty well. We got some work out of it.” One of the interested parties was a North Side rock band called Skyline, led by Marc Pulido. “They called us because they wanted backup singers for their band, and the other two girls didn’t want to go up north,” says Inetta. “They didn’t want to do rock. So I told him the other two didn’t want to come, and he said, ‘Well, what about you?’ So hey, I got on the bus and went up there and auditioned, and I got it.

“We went into the studio,” she says. “Tom Tom Washington, he worked with us on a CD, which was a good CD. But we still couldn’t get a record deal. And so I guess they were frustrated that they couldn’t get a record deal, and the band dispersed.” That was in 1986. There were gigs, including a few months of singing backup for reggae singer Carl Brown (“I didn’t even know what reggae was, but if it was paying, I was gonna do it”), but Inetta paid her bills by working for the Illinois Student Assistance Program, a gig she landed in 1989 and held onto for 21 years until her department was closed down. “I was a financial aid counselor, helping people find money to go to college and calling them to say they owed money,” she says.

After seven years apart, Pulido called Visor in 1993 to join another rock band he was involved with, Tainted Blue, starting as a backup singer with the Bridgeport-based group but quickly advancing to lead vocalist status. “They had always been a basement band,” says Inetta, who belted Foreigner, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Journey covers with the group. “They had never played out in public, and me and Marc actually got them out of the basement to play in clubs all over the city. Our big accomplishment was, for three years in a row we did the Tinley Park World Music Theater Festival. That band disbanded in 1997, but they never thought that they would get as far as they got.”

Pulido pulled Inetta into his next project, World Class Noise. “Marc always took me with him, from Skyline to Tainted Blue to World Class Noise,” says Visor. “I do have a bunch of CDs that I was on there with them. But we never went overseas. It was a 12-piece band, but we did a lot of work around the Midwest. We were on the road, just doing things around the Midwest—every weekend we were out of town. Every weekend. And mind you, I was still holding down a full-time job during all of this.”

As dedicated as she remains to Mississippi Heat, Inetta’s been doing a little moonlighting of late. “I’m in collaboration with this musician, Mike Dangeroux. He’s a guitar player. Matter of fact, he plays all instruments. And he has a boatload of music. And I’ve been writing songs with him. I would actually like to write songs for other people. That really is where the money is, more so than performing. Especially since I found out that I can actually do it. We did do a demo of some songs that we did. We’re just right now trying to write the songs, to see if anybody’s interested,” she says. “We have a video on YouTube we did about the violence in Chicago called ‘The Time Has Come.’”

Visor sings that moving anti-violence blues theme in Dangeroux’s video. but don’t expect her to step away from Mississippi Heat anytime soon. “It’s a good fit,” she says. “Pierre’s a good person to work for. He really does go out of the way to try to help out the band members. It’s funny, because every now and then, I would be asked to come back to maybe do a sub for World Class Noise. And after being with them for a day, you’d come screaming back to Mississippi Heat, because now you remembered why you left!”

Visit Mississippi Heat’s website at:

Interviewer Bill Dahl is a lifelong Chicago resident who began writing about music professionally in 1977. He’s written for Vintage Rock, Goldmine, Living Blues, Blues Revue, Blues Music Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and the Reader, and is the author of The Art of the Blues, a 2016 book published by University of Chicago Press, and 2001’s Motown: The Golden Years (Krause Publications). Bill was awarded the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award in journalism in 2000.

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The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation – Falls Church, VA

The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation presents tThe 24th Annual Tinner Hill Blues Festival takes place June 9-11, 2017 in Falls Church, VA. This 3-day music event features Blues, brew & barbecue, all weekend, all over town. It kicks off on Friday with “Blues on Broad” in restaurants and bars on (and off) Broad Street. Saturday’s highlight is a ticketed all-day concert in Cherry Hill Park featuring Mud Morganfield with The Nighthawks; Tas Cru & His Band of Tortured Souls; Beverly “Guitar” Watkins; Linwood Taylor, and Kareem “Lil’ Maceo” Walkes with special guest, Slam Allen.

Saturday night’s Blues Crawl will take place in many restaurants and bars in the town and feature Blues bands. Sunday’s free gospel/blues picnic features the Carter Gospel Singers and The Barbour Travelers. Visit our website for a complete list of events:

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

The Central Iowa Blues Society celebrates LIVE music at Springfest, Memorial weekend at Jasper Winery, 2400 George Flagg Parkway on Sunday, May 28, 2017. Music on the lawn from 2:00-9:00 pm, starting with Iowa Blues Hall of Famer, Rob Lumbard, followed by Kansas City’s own Amanda Fish, Rockin’ Rhythm & Blues with The Bel Airs and then Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal. Josh was recently a contestant on The Voice.

The gates open at 1:00 pm for this FREE event brought to you by Central Iowa Blues Society, Fat Tuesday Productions and Jasper Winery. For more information go to

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. May 29 – John “Catfish” Evans, June 5 – The 44’s, June 12 – Rockin’ Jake, June 19 – Adrianna Marie & Her Groovecutters, June 26 – The Bridget Kelly Band.

For more information visit

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL, IL

Saturday, June 3rd Crossroads President Steve Jones is having a Blues Block Party with his neighbors in Byron, IL. The Birddog Blues Band will play from 2 to 4 PM and The Uptown Rhythm Aces playing from 6 to 9 PM. Free admission, bring snacks and beverages. Free-will donations accepted for the bands. Kingsway Lane in Byron, IL is where it’s at, 1 to 9 PM.

“The Blues: The Roots of Popular American Music” will be presented by Crossroad Blues Society with Dan Phelps and Steve Jones on Thursday, June 8th from 6:00-7:00 PM at Byron Public Library, 100 S. Washington Street, Byron, IL. featuring music inspired by Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Skip James, and more. The program is free. Call 815-234-5107 to register.

Steve Ditzell and Blue Lightning will be at the Hope and Anchor, 5040 N 2nd Street, Loves Park IL on Saturday, June 10th at 8 to 1130 PM. No cover before 7 PM, $5 thereafter.

Blues trio Recently Paroled is at the Lyran Society Club, 1115 4th Ave, Rockford, IL 61104 on Friday, June 16th . the club is open to the public and there is no cover.

Rockford Illinois’ 27th Juneteenth celebration is Monday, June 19th from 3 to 9 PM at Sinnissippi Park at 1401 N Second Street in Rockford. Headlining the event is The Kinsey Report plus some local blues talent will also be featured. This is a free show.

Sunday, June 25th Doug MacLeod will be at All Saints Lutheran Church, 624 Luther Drive in Byron in Byron a 4 PM. Opening act Dan Phelps goes on at 3 PM. No cover, there is a free will donation to support Crossroads Blues in the Schools Program. Contact Steve Jones at for more info on any of these events or go to

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