Issue 11-27 July 6, 2017

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Cover photo © 2017 Marilyn Stringer

 In This Issue 

Bill Dahl has our feature interview with Denise LaSalle. We have 10 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Steve Kozak Band, Steve Krase, Eliza Neals, Nina Massara, Husky Tones, The Gutbuckets, Jim Gustin and Truth Jones, Terry Robb, Nico Duportal & His Rhythm Dudes and Scotch Hollow.

Bob Kieser and Lorena Jastreb have Part 2 of photos and commentary from the 2017 Chicago Blues Festival.

Our video of the week is Stax Recording artists, Southern Avenue.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

Have you voted yet? Fan voting for the 2017 Blues Blast Music Awards started on Saturday and continues until August 15th. We offer you the ability to actually hear the music of the nominees before you vote by going to our Soundcloud listening site at

You can only vote one time so listen first and then vote NOW at!

Also this week, our friends at the Briggs Farm Blues Fest are having their Blues festival this weekend in Nescopeck, PA. It features John Németh, Slam Allen, Joanna Connor, R. L. Boyce and more on Friday July 7th.

On Saturday July 8 they have Eric Gales, Thornetta Davis, Lonnie Shields, Vanessa Collier and more. There is also a a Back Porch Stage on both days with even more great Blues performers plus they also have a Sunday morning Gospel Blues Show. Don’t miss this one! For more information click here or visit

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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 Blues Wanderings 

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We had a great time at the Mississippi Valley Blues Fest last weekend. Great weather and smokin’ Blues. Some of the artists they featured included Joanna Connor, Reverend Peyton, Corey Dennison and Marquise Knox. We will have a complete photo review of the fest in an upcoming issue.

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 10 

steve kozak band cd imageSteve Kozak Band – It’s Time

Self-produced CD

12 songs — 51 minutes

Based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Steve Kozak has been an institution in the Canadian Northwest since emerging in the 1980s. Although he might not be a household name south of the border, he delivers modern blues with an old-school feel that’s certain to please listeners around the globe.

A gifted guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, he’s distinctly different than many of the rock-blues artists of the modern era. A stylish fret master in the West Coast style who delivers delicious, chunky single-note runs that steadily drive songs forward slightly behind the beat, he finally rose to international prominence in 2012, when he earned Canada’s top blues honor: the Maple Blues Award for new artist and band of the year.

It’s Time is the fourth release in Kozak’s catalog, a follow-up to his 2012 album, Lookin’ At Lucky, which featured a guest appearance by harmonica ace James Harmon, which climbed to the top of the charts North Of The Border.

He intersperses several tasty originals with a handful of carefully chosen covers on this one, backed by his regular band, consisting of keyboard player Dave Webb, bassist Roger Brant and 2016 Maple Award nominee percussionist Chris “The Wrist” Nordquist. But he’s also enlisted the help of another group of heavyweights.

Joining in on the fun are harp virtuoso Shawn Hall and guitarist Matthew Wesley Rogers — better known as The Harpoonist And The Axe Murderer, one of the top duos in Canada, who oversaw production in addition to contributing their musical talents — as well as trumpet player Jerry Cook of the long-running band Powder Blues and guitarist Dave Vidal, who’s worked with Taj Mahal, Big Joe Duskin and Lowell Fulson, among others.

Created thanks to a grant from The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recording (FACTOR) and captured at Afterlife and Neighborhood studios in Vancouver, the disc swings from the jump with the original, “Cane Sugar Sweet,” a walking blues portrait of a lady who makes the singer’s “poor heart skip a beat when she comes walkin’ down my street.” Kozak’s in total control in an all-too-brief stop-time solo mid-tune.

Steve dips into the songbook of legendary Chicago guitar stylist Jody Williams for “You May,” one of the best tunes of the ’50s. Obscured by the passage of time, it delivers the familiar message: “Don’t care how much you got/Don’t care who you may know/Yes, there will come a time/When everybody’s got to go.” Kozak’s syncopated jump original, “Messed Up,” follows with the singer having cried the whole night through out of fear of losing his lady. His guitar skills come to the fore in a powerful, understated manner.

Magic Sam’s “Every Night And Every Day” features Hall answering Kozak’s vocals with steady rhythm on harp and plenty of six-string pyrotechnics before a faithful cover of Brook Benton’s “Kiddio,” a hit in 1960 that was covered frequently through the ’70s, receives a well-deserved reprise. The original, “Trouble,” featuring Rogers on guitar, is a syncopated warning to stay away to someone who acts like an angel, but is basically a devil in disguise.

A cover of Anson Funderburgh’s “One Woman I Need,” featuring Vidal, follows before a run of three more originals. “That’s Cool With Me” is a stop-time pleaser that deals with a lover’s rejection, while “Stranger In My Hometown” is a bittersweet ballad about finally being ready to pack up and move on, and “Tell Me Why” is a harp-driven, medium-tempo query about the motivation of someone who’s always following the singer around despite being unwilling to answer him on the phone.

One more worthy cover follows. Written by Henry Glover — a King Records star in the ’60s who became one of the first prominent record executives of color — and Julius Dixson — and a hit for Little Willie John, “Love, Life & Money” is a burning ballad about paying the price and losing everything described in the title. “Goin’ Fishin’,” a Chicago-tinged, harp driven blues, brings the album to a close.

Classy and smooth from beginning to end, It’s Time is available through Amazon, CDBaby, Israbox or direct from the artist’s website (address above). If you’re old-school like me and like your music to swing, this one’s definitely your style.

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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 34th Annual Chicago Blues Fest – Part II 

On the second day of the Chicago Blues Fest the weather was great and Millennium Park was packed with Blues fans. The first act we saw was Chicago Wind with Matthew Skoller & Deitra Farr on The Crossroads stage. A great pairing and a great set.

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Next we caught a few songs by Khalif Wailin’ Walter on the Front Porch Stage. Good stuff!

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Then we got to see Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. Kingfish is only eighteen years old and is fast becoming a legend with his great singing and guitar playing. Some have compared him to a young B.B. King. He does sound a bit like that too.

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Next we saw Eddie Taylor, Jr.’s Tribute to Eddie Taylor, Sr. Another great set of Blues music.

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Then we headed back to the Crossroads stage to hear Big Bill Morganfield. He had a great band with him and the crowd grew noticeably during his set.

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Then we had a fun time listening to a few songs by Jimmy Johnson Band. Chicago Blues doesn’t get much better than this!

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Then it was back to the Crossroads Stage to catch one of my favorite Blues performers, Coco Montoya. He was recently nominated for a Blues Blast Music Award and it is easy to hear why. This guy is smoooooooth!

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Then it was a quick few songs at the Mississippi Juke Joint Stage to hear Vick Allen.

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The final act we caught before that headliners on the main stage was Harmonica Hinds Quartet. Quality stuff here!

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Then we headed over to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for Soul/R&B Night which started out with Blues powerhouse Nellie Tiger Travis.

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Fresh off of her appearance this spring on the Jimmy Fallon Show she showed why her fans love her so much with another outstanding performance.

Next up was Theo Huff and the New Agenda Band. This set was a BIG show and an amazing performance.

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The final act of the evening was recent Blues Grammy winner William Bell. We recently featured him on our cover and his top notch performance reminded us why he is so popular.

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Feeling great from a wonderful day of Blues we headed off to our hotel to rest up for the final day of the Chicago Blues Festival. Coming soon: Part 3 of the photos from the Chicago Blues Fest.

Photos and commentary by Bob Kieser and Lorena Jastreb.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 10 

steve krase cd imageSteve Krase – Should’ve Seen It Coming

Connor Ray Music CRM 17-001

13 songs — 62 minutes

Brooklyn-born, Houston-based harmonica player Steve Krase delivers a highly entertaining collection of originals and carefully recrafted covers as he delivers a welcome follow-up to his 2014 release, Buckle Up.

A frequent competitor in the International Blues Challenge, where he’s earned multiple spots in the finals, Krase began playing at age 16 after listening to Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold.” He bought himself a copy of an instruction book by Tony Glover — an instrumental part of the folk revival in the ’60s with Koener, Ray And Glover, and began a musical adventure that’s spanned four decades with stops in Ohio, California and Louisiana.

A first-call harp player in Houston for better than 30 years, he’s developed his own style in a world of Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter copycats. He spent a decade backing up Space City blues legend Jerry Lightfoot and another three with Matt Leddy & The Meatcutters before venturing on his own, blending everything from punk, country, electronica and soul into a warm, relaxed style firmly rooted in the blues.

Most recently, the Houston Post has included his unit eight times for its music awards, including five nominations for blues band, two for best instrumentalist and one for best player of the year. He’s backed here by David Carter on guitar, Rock Romano on bass, Richard Cholakian on drums with Randy Wall on keyboards and Alisha Pattillo on saxophone. Connor Ray Music label mates Mark May and Bob Lanza (guitar) and vocal powerhouse Trudy Lynn (backing vocals) make guest appearances.

The action here kicks off with “Brand New Thang,” a straight-ahead blues composed by Romano and featuring May, about a new lover who wakes the singer in the middle of the night. A pair of covers — Willie Dixon’s “Crazy For My Baby” and Fats Domino’s classic, “Let The Four Winds Blow” — get arrangements that separate them dramatically from the originals. The former merges versions laid down by Charlie Musselwhite and Little Walter as well as Dixon himself.

Next up, Krase launches into the humorous “The World’s Still In A Tangle.” Based strongly on the Jimmy Rogers song about the Cold War, this version deals with the fight against the zombie apocalypse instead of Communism, and the message it delivers is crystal clear in the current political climate: Stop listening to the news.

“Shot Of Rhythm And Blues” follows. Made famous by country-soul artist Arthur Alexander, one of the founders of the Muscle Shoals sound, it’s a rapid-fire rocker that features Lanza, while the seven-plus minute title tune, “Should’ve Seen It Coming,” starts off with a steady, funky beat that gives Steve, Wall and Pattillo and plenty of space to stretch out. Lovers of the late harp player Gary Primich will recognize the next tune. Written by soul man Wee Willie Wayne’s, “Travelin’ Mood” served as the title cut of one of Primich’s best albums.

Krase dips into Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s New Orleans songbook for “Troubles, Troubles” then Lightfoot’s “Make You Love Me Baby” before the soulful original, “Repo Man” — a rap about working to take your car in the middle of the night, and “Way Back Home,” written by Wilton Felder of The Crusaders. Two bonus tracks reprise “Should’ve Seen It Coming” and “Repo Man.” Fair warning: the lyrics include language unsuitable for younger or more sensitive ears.

Available through most major online retailers, Should’ve Seen It Coming is modern, soulful blues at its best. The covers are fresh throughout, the originals shine, and Krase is an entertainer of the first order. Pick this one up today. You won’t be disappointed.

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.

 Featured Blues Video Of The Week – Southern Avenue 

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Our feature video this week is Southern Avenue live from Acme Feed & Seed with their song “80 Miles from Memphis”. (Click image to watch!)

Southern Avenue is performing at the Prairie Dog Blues Festival on Saturday, July 29th, 2017.

For tickets and info on this Blues event visit or click on their ad in this issue!

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 10 

eliza neals cd imageEliza Neals – 10,000 Feet Below

E-H Records

11 songs – 47 minutes

Don’t be fooled by this cover. The blond powerhouse emerging from the sewer in the photo is no wallflower. Eliza Neals is an electrifying vocalist, and she’s gathered an all-star lineup to deliver 10,000 Feet Below, an in-your-face collection of blues-rock that’s powerful enough to knock you off your feet if you’re not careful.

A multi-instrumentalist who concentrates on keyboards on this one, Neals is based out of Detroit and tours the world with her band, The Narcotics, which features another Motor City blues-rock giant, Howard Glazer, on guitar. They’re joined here by Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame guitarist Billy Davis (Jimi Hendrix Band) and Grammy-winning stringbender Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter).

The rhythm section includes Skeeto Valdez (Johnnie Bassett and Trey Anastasio), Demarcus Sumter, Bruan Clune, Rubin Nizri and John Medeiros on drums, and Paul Randolph, Lenny Bradford (Joe Louis Walker and Murali Coryell), Mike Griot and John Abraham, who take turns on bass. Neals contributes piano, Hammond B-3 and Rhodes keyboards and aiding the rhythm on tambourine.

Make no mistake, however, Eliza’s the star here in a collection of ten originals and one cover that remain faithful to the blues format, but takes liberty with traditional boundaries. She possesses a voice that’s totally unique while being compared favorably by critics to Etta James, Janis Joplin and Ricky Lee Jones, among others.

The album kicks off with “Cleotus,” a stripped-down, guitar-driven, swamp-infused memory about a man who walks into the singer’s life one day and announces he’s going to become her man one day, only to walk away, never to be seen again. A guitar line introduces “Another Lifetime,” a slow-blues burner with voodoo overtones about a man whose lips deliver what seems to be the kiss of death. Running out of time, Eliza wants “to make him mine.”

The action heats dramatically for “Burn The Tent Down,” a rocker that describes the arrival of a ten-wheeler in preparation for a barbeque that’s destined to be a blowout. The title tune, “10,000 Feet Below,” recounts a return from the underworld and the warning to a wrongdoer that there’s a fire waiting for him on the other side.

Neals’ vocal pyrotechnics introduce “You Ain’t My Dog No More,” a rocker that tells a former lover he’s no longer getting any treats, before Nelson’s featured on “Cold Cold Night,” a slow-blues ballad about a man who never listens to what the singer has to say. The only cover in the set, Skip James’ “Hard Killing Floor,” follows with a totally new, modern arrangement, before Glazer comes to the front for “Call Me Moonshine,” a steady-driving, slow-walking rocker.

Voodoo imagery returns for “Downhill On A Rocket,” about another person on a slow descent to Hell, before Eliza delivers “Merle Dixon,” apparently a tribute to a main character from The Walking Dead TV show. Another blues-rock ballad, “At The Crossroads,” features Davis and brings the action to a close.

Available through Amazon, CDBaby and other major retailers, 10,000 Feet Below is never boring, and right up your alley if your tastes run to the rockier side of blues.

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 10 

nina massara cd imageNina Massara – Watch Me

CSP Records

9 songs time-30:57

Although the publicity sheet for Danish singer Nina Massara’s debut U.S. release touts her as a modern day belter, her little girl-sex kitten voice couldn’t belt out a song if her life depended on it. Which is not to say that her vocal delivery doesn’t possess an irresistible seductiveness that in conjunction with the oft times suggestive lyrics strike a cjord deep in the male libido. Raised in Denmark by her American father and Danish mother, Nina grew up listening to the likes of Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, Keb’ Mo and Delbert Mclinton. Her musical schooling continued as her parents did the backstage catering for stars like B.B King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Feat and John Hiatt among many others. At the age of 18 she began bartending at Copenhagen’s storied Mojo Blues Bar, thus continuing her musical education.

Producer Marten Wittrock and Ray Weaver wrote all the music and words that come out of this sultry chanteuse. The production along with the assembled top notch musicians delver a rootsy Americana amalgamation of a rustic auditory journey.

A punchy horn section heralds the funky title track “Watch Me”. It’s sentiment is the age old challenge. These aren’t the actual lyrics, but the gist of the message is-“Oh, you think I can’t do such and such? Watch Me!”. The homage to New Orleans “Big Easy” features some nice and lazy distorted slide guitar as Nina lists elements of the “Nawlins” experience, including the “I can tell where you got your shoes scam” often perpetrated on tourists. A Little Feat groove pervades “Impossible To Resist” a duet with Colin Brooks that that includes nifty percussion and horns.

It tends to be a bit repetitive, but “All That I’ll Ever Need” is a slow and seductive R&B gem. The upbeat and breezy “Something New” is a breath of fresh air. “I need a dog with some brand new tricks”. The shuffling drums and horn accents of “You Ain’t Up To It” lead in to an upbeat tongue-in-cheek put down song, where size does matter to the narrator. Nina works her seductive, hushed sexy voice as she recants how she can make the men go “Crazy” in all the right ways. “Drive Drive Drive” works on two levels, as a driving song and a touch of sexual innuendo. Great guitar playing is here as it is throughout the CD. Morten Wittrock delivers Dr. John style piano playing along side the muted trumpet of Peter Marott on the closing “Full Grown Woman”.

Quite a stunning American debut for Nina and her cohorts. It’s all here-dynamic singing, superb songwriting, grade-A musicianship and sterling production. Looks like smooth sailing towards success in the states!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 10 

husky tones cd imageHusky Tones – Who Will I Turn To Now?

Self Release

10 songs – 44 minutes

Who Will I Turn To Now? is the second album from Husky Tones, an English duo comprising Victoria Bourne on vocals and drums and Chris Harper on guitar. Their debut album, Time For A Change, was encouragingly reviewed in Blues Blast in March 2016. On the live circuit, they have a growing reputation for what they describe as their “punk blues”. In the studio, they take advantage of technology to overdub additional guitars and voices to fill out the sound.

The punk influence in Husky Tones’ music is easily discernible in the relatively simplistic chord structures of the songs and the anger and rage of some of the playing, as well as in the overtly political lyrics and the general absence of solos.

Lyrically, Husky Tones address a range of broad societal issues, from the protest march celebrations of “Momentum”, to the attacks on the UK’s benefits system in “Who Will I Turn To Now?” and the bleak prospects for the victims of the current refugee crisis in “Jungle Blues”. “Jungle Blues” itself starts off with some acoustic finger-picking reminiscent of Skip James before picking up the pace with a series of multi-tracked guitars and voices. Acoustic guitar also features in “The Island Of Barbed Wire”, a lovely folk ballad that tells the true story of Bourne’s great uncle who was from originally from Germany and found himself interned on the Isle of Man by the British authorities during the First World War. The majority of songs however favour the electric guitar over the acoustic.

Musically, Harper is an impressive guitarist, covering finger-picking, electric single note riffs, wah-wah’ed licks and simple yet subtle chords.

What is not so clear is where Bourne and Harper think the blues can be found in the “punk blues” of their album. There are certainly hints of blues in some of the tracks (as in the opening of “Jungle Blues”) but there is significantly more folk influence than blues (see “Put Your Arms Around Someone You Love”) and the band’s primary influence, at least on the evidence of Who Will I Turn To Now?, appears to be the heavy rock of Led Zeppelin – perhaps somewhat surprisingly, given that the entire punk movement was inspired by what was at the time perceived as the over-blown grandiosity and self-obsession of bands such as Zeppelin. Bourne’s airy soprano vocals weave melodies that are reminiscent of Robert Plant’s own melodies, especially in the way the voice may not obviously follow the underlying music. Further, a number of songs (such as “One Good Reason” or upbeat love song that is “These Hips Were Made For You”) feature changes of riffs and time signatures that again recall Led Zeppelin (albeit without the overwhelming virtuosity of Plant, Page, Jones and Bonham). The opening track, “Round The Wrekin” is perhaps the prime example of this, opening with a droning one chord guitar over which repeated short electric guitar licks are laid. As the intensity of the song builds, the chorus is built around a single note riff that Jimmy Page would love to have written. Further riffs are introduced as the song develops, always returning to the one chord drone, dynamically raising and lowering the energy and ferocity throughout.

Who Will I Turn To Now? is an entertaining album that suggests there is a lot of potential in Husky Tones and you will want to check it out if you love Led Zeppelin. Be aware however that you won’t find very much blues in evidence.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 10 

the gutbuckets cd imageThe Gutbuckets – Gas Fire Rag


Toscana 100 band Productions

12 songs – 37 minutes long

This is the second release from this multi talented and multi instrumental duo from Italy, The Gutbuckets. It follows on from their crowdfunded debut Kick Out The Lomax in 2014. The Gutbuckets are Mario Evangelista and Antonio Speciale. Their musical influences are varied with blues as the root but they add old style Ragtime music, Dixieland and even Appalachian Folk to their vast repertoire. Short on length but full on style and delivery this is a very uplifting and enjoyable release that will definitely put a smile on the listener’s face. They have enthusiasm in abundance and watching their online videos there is not a lot of difference between the studio production and live takes.

Mario shares vocals throughout and he mimics a drawlin’ down South accent on a lot of thetunes. He plays mandolin , acoustic guitar , resophonic guitar , kazoo and spoons. Antonio plays acoustic guitar,stompbox,banjo and kazoo. There are influences of Mississippi john Hurt and Robert Johnson in his vocals and guitar playing.

“Bring Back The Bush” sets the tone, with a song written by the band encompassing quirky lyrics and duelling mandolin and banjo. “Sadie Green” has that lazy New Orleans take on an old Memphis Jug Band song with fine trumpet accompaniment by Valerio Mazzoni. Another cover of Charlie Poole’s “It’s Moving Day” has some fine vintage banjo picking on it and plenty hollering. There is again a traditional take to “Weed Smoker’s Dream” with jazzy down and dirty tones.

The title track “Gasfire Rag” is a lilting smooth instrumental with an Italian narrative and a focus on kazoos and guitar work, a musical interlude perhaps a stop for breath, such is the pace of this release. “Sister Kate” is an uptempo cover written in 1919 by jazz pianist Clarence Williams and was also popular with Louis Armstrong. This is an excellent track to dance to, full of twists and shakes.

The original “Walkin’ In The Kitchen” is a ragtime romp with a resonating chorus. “Hipster Gal”, written by a band associate J.B. Tripoli, is a slide driven laid back ballad. The mandolin strings introduce “Rose Connolly” another hollering folk tale capturing the feel of an Irish traditional folk tale but has roots in the Appalachian style. This is actually an old murder ballad about a man facing the gallows for killing his lover by poisoning her wine and then throwing her into a river. The delivery of this tune is cunningly disguised in the arrangement. “You May Leave” is another traditional tune of sweet notes and shows the craftsmanship of fine tight duo. The last two tracks are originals and best on the release “My Sweet Mary”a slow acoustic ballad with fine harmonies. “That’s Our Blues” the longest track, finishes on a sleazy laid back note leaving the listener wanting more.

This is a well crafted release full of short bursts of very witty prose and eclectic mix of traditional songs from two front men who really know their subject matter. A release full of emotion and toe tapping tunes, a real joy to behold that keeps up with tradition.

Reviewer Colin Campbell is based in Scotland. He has been writing about blues music for over six years. He is also a keen photographer. He has been enthused and heavily influenced by blues music for three decades. Music is a healer, blues is the medicine.

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 10 

jim gustin cd imageJim Gustin and Truth Jones – Memphis


CD: 10 Songs, 43:40 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues and Blues Rock

On a classic episode of The Simpsons, Homer disses jazz in this way: “Jazz? Phfft. They just make it up as they go along. I can do that.” He proceeds to sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” with “dee-dee-dee.” Marge points this out, which leads Homer to sing it with “do-do-do.” “You just replaced ‘dee’s’ with ‘do’s’,” says Marge. “D’oh!” shouts our hapless hero, outwitted yet again. My point? Blues is like jazz. Not only is it difficult to improvise, but even more difficult to come up with music that absolutely no one, nowhere, has heard before. California’s Jim Gustin and Truth Jones know this well, and on their new album Memphis, have composed ten original tracks. That’s the good news, in a genre oversaturated with CD’s full of covers. The bad news is that nothing really “pops” as something wildly different from what I, and many fans, have heard before. Don’t get me wrong – there’s some promising blues rock here. Instrumentally, all of the featured musicians are above-average, but vocally, Gustin’s a bit hoarse and hard-ridden. That’s what the blues is all about, but for those who prefer more polished pipes, look elsewhere.

According to the band’s Facebook page, “Jim Gustin is a blues singer and guitarist from Santa Clarita, California. He has a distinctive, powerful voice; soulful and deep with a smoky rasp, he is a passionate and energetic performer. He has well-written, catchy songs that reveal his many varied influences to his groove-oriented blues. He is also a very solid guitarist with great tone and a funky feel…Jeri Goldenhar, aka Truth Jones, has been singing since she was a little girl, although at over six feet tall, it’s hard to imagine her as a knee high, little red-headed child. She has a big voice to match her impressive stature. She can belt out gospel and soul rarely heard from suburban white girls.”

Performing along with guitarist and lead vocalist Jim Gustin, and lead and backing vocalist Truth Jones, are Steve Alterman on piano, organ and keyboards; Terry Wilson on bass, guitar, backing vocals, and percussion; Herman Matthews on drums and percussion, and Teresa James on background vocals.

The song below proves it, and it’s not even the title track of their newest CD.

Track 05: “I Love What I Got” – A groovier blues number cannot be had, outside of the 1960’s. In this postmodern era, dissatisfaction with one’s current lot in life has hit an all-time high. In the case of this tune, it describes the flip side of success: “I’ve got a good friend, but he’s all alone. He’s got a good job, but an empty home. He’s still waiting for love to come his way. Can’t find the right woman. Now he’s early-turning gray.” Dig that Clapton-esque guitar intro and the undeniable chemistry between the two lead singers.

For classic yet contemporary blues rock, let Jim Gustin and Truth Jones take you to Memphis!

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 – 8 of 10 

terry robb cd imageTerry Robb – Cool On The Bloom

Nia Sounds, Inc.

12 tracks/running time 40:30

The Portland/Seattle Pacific Northwest music scene has come a long way since the ’60s when just about the only happenings were Odell Brown & The Organizers (regional favorites even though they were Chicago based), Ural Thomas, Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers, Pleasure, Mel Renfro’s House of Sound, and okay, The Kingsman and Tacoma’s Surf band, The (Fabulous) Wailers. Seattle’s Jimi Hendrix, as we know, had to expatriate to U.K. to make it.

Since 1992, Terry Robb has won the Cascade Blues Associations Muddy Award in the Pacific Northwest at least twenty-‘leven times or so and is therefore a good representation of the current crop of Who’s Blue in those parts. Much of the Blues press places Robb at the top of the heap of acoustic and electric pickers globally. That’s a mighty cross to bear.

Cool On The Bloom is a collection of Mr. Robb’s latest acoustic fretwork sensibility. He plucks with a broad stroke, finely tuned, combining elements of Ragtime, Delta Boogie, Piedmont style Blues, slick jazz arpeggios and scales with a subtle hint of Segovia sensibility.

Out of the gate Robb is a force to be reckoned with. He comes right at the listener with track 1, “Soc Hop.” His fingers fly fancifully. Like Lightnin’ Hopkins on speed dial.

Most of the tracks are in an acoustic setting. Drummer Dennis Carter and Dave Kahl on electric bass augment track track 10, “Late Night Kahl, ” where Robb’s intense Blues phrasing are juxtaposed against Kahl’s walking bass line.

Albert Reda accompanies on acoustic bass on track 3, “Christmas In Istanbul,” track 4 “Watermelon Eye Patch Groove,” track 7 “You Showed Me,” and track 11 “Honey One,” but to this reviewers ears the bass sounds amplified.

Sometimes quirky song titles aside, Terry Robb does exhibit masterful chops throughout. Checkout his bottleneck technique on track 8, the tristful “Holy Spirit, Father and Son,” or the Ragtime inspired track 6, “Soggy Foot Rag.”

His vocals, while not as superlative as his playing, do lend an air of uniqueness and respectability. Check out his phrasing on tracks 5, “So Glad” and 9, “Ham Hound Crave.”

Enough journalists, critics and nominators find enough merit for Terry Robb’s Cool On The Bloom to be considered as a contender for Best Acoustic Blues Album in the Blues Blast Magazine 2017 BBMAs. Voting is now open to Blues Blast Magazine subscribers until August 15. Past nominees and winners of this category include Guy Davis, Steve Earle & The Dukes and Rory Block.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 9 of 10 

nico duportal cd imageNico Duportal & His Rhythm Dudes – Dealing With My Blues

Rhythm Bomb Records RBR 5844

13 songs — 42 minutes

Frenchman Nico Duportal might be relatively unknown in America despite his recent work with the Mannish Boys and in the past with late Lynwood Slim, but this album will put a smile on your face as proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s a name to be reckoned with when it comes to modern jump blues.

Growing up in the Paris suburbs, he played flute in school, but fell in love with American music when his father frequently played Ray Charles tunes after returning home in the morning from an all-night job. Years later, as a teen, he picked up the six-string while living with his stepfather, who worked in an instrument shop. Completely self-taught, Duportal immersed himself in the music of the ’30s through ’60s — everything from R&B and country to rockabilly and Western swing, and — later — the blues stylings of the West Coast.

He credits harp player Lynwood Slim, aka Richard Duran — to whom this CD is dedicated, along with Candye Kane and others — with helping him to refine his vocal stylings. He and his Rhythm Dudes tour regularly across Europe, delivering their own brand of rhythm-and-blues, making occasional forays to the U.S. His distinctive guitar sound comes courtesy of pickups handmade in France to duplicate the sound of a ’57 Fender Stratocaster or Gibson P-90.

Dealing With My Blues features Nico on guitar and vocals, backed by Alex Bertein and Sylvain Tejerizo on baritone and tenor saxes, Olivier Contrelle on keyboards, Pascal Mucci on drums, and Thibaut Chopin on upright bass, all of whom provide backing vocals. Making a guest appearance on one cut is harmonica player Benoit Blues Boy.

From the first notes of the opener, “Don’t You See,” the all-original set comes across with a definite upbeat, old-time feel and will have your feet tapping and your body heading to the dance floor. It’s a plea for a method to get the woman of the singer’s desire to love him the way he loves her. Duportal’s vocals are warm and strong with only the slightest of accents. The propulsive “I Know The Rules” insists “I’ve got a rocket in my pocket/Mama, let’s get loose” as it carries the message forward.

A syncopated drumbeat and a low-register, single-note guitar solo introduce “Now Hush,” which relates that the singer’s shy and doesn’t want to be bothered by someone who won’t stop talking. The mid-tune solos open on keyboards and switch to guitar. Another interesting rhythm pattern and chorded guitar riffs open “The One To Blame,” about admitting mistakes in romance, while “I Will Unfriend You” is an uptempo pleaser that deals with the incursion of unwelcome remarks on a Facebook page. In this one, the “friend” who wants to marry Duportal turns out to be an ugly guy instead of a woman.

“Mess And Chaos,” a tender, deliberate ballad about building walls in relationships, follows before things heat up again for a swinging, Chicago-flavored instrumental blues, “Benzola Ascensor,” with Benoit Blues Boy riffing throughout on chromatic. Duportal’s got his suitcase packed, ready to leave a lover and town, in “Sometimes,” but wonders if he should stay and work things out. Apparently, he does, if the following jump tune with an extended guitar solo, “Brand New Day,” is true in its request for a reunion.

Next up, Duportal recounts awaking in the morning to a drum beat in “Junior’s Mambo.” Another ’60s flavored, horn-driven instrumental, “Soul Patch,” follows before “Long Way To Go,”a promise not to tarry on the way home — after a couple of shots of “the real raw stuff.”The CD finishes with a bonus cut, an acoustic version of “Mess And Chaos.”


Available through iTunes and other major online retailers, Dealing With My Blues might not be your style if you’re a gutbucket traditionalist. But if you like jump, swing and rockabilly, this one’s definitely right 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 – 10 of 10 

scotch hollow cd imageScotch Hollow – Little Tortuga


CD: 11 Songs, 36:36 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Country Blues, Americana

Take a walk with me down Memory Lane, country blues fans. In the 1980’s, one of my favorite bands was Timbuk 3, whose hit “The Future’s So Bright (I Gotta Wear Shades)” catapulted them into the stratosphere of the No. 19 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. In the 1990’s, one of my favorite bands was Southern Culture on the Skids (acronym S.C.O.T.S.), with catchy albums featuring tongue-in-cheek titles like Dirt Track Date and Plastic Seat Sweat. If you cross the musical styles of those two ensembles, you’ll get Kansas’ Scotch Hollow and their self-produced sophomore CD, Little Tortuga. It has enough twang and dobro/slide guitar to be considered country, and enough traditional covers (Little Walter’s “Nobody but You”, Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moaning at Midnight” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning”) to be considered blues. Purists, I know what you’re thinking: “Three out of eleven? Phfft.” Don’t knock Scotch Hollow ‘til you’ve tried them. Their original lyrics alone merit one listen. With two, you’ll fall in love. This ensemble is great at harmony and humor.

Their promotional information sheet provides this album’s background story: “Scotch Hollow’s Little Tortuga was written while living on [lead vocalist Carley] Martin’s family farm in rural Kansas. Totally isolated from civilization, they occasionally came across a larger-than-life turtle, old as hell, weathered, and missing an eye. He was dubbed Little Tortuga. The songs were written on a back porch [while the band was] on a back porch watching for deer, turkeys, rescuing kittens, and listening to coyotes.” When it comes to composing music, atmosphere is key. I don’t suppose this quirky quartet could have written “Bamma Lamma Jamma and Thelonious Dude” (reviewed below) while smack in the middle of New York City.

Scotch Hollow consists of Mark Verbeck on guitar, JD Linn on bass, Carley Martin on lead vocals, and Ben Scholz on drums. Special guests include Brody Buster on harmonica and Joel Schuman on piano.

The following three songs are the most memorable, whether blues, country, or both at once.

Track 02: “Kansas City Pepper” – Clocking in at an all-too-short two minutes flat, this boogie will get everyone, city slickers and country folks alike, out on the dance floor. “Hell, baby, tell me what’s wrong with you!” Carley Martin growls like Linda Ronstadt if she’d imbibed lots of cigarettes and whiskey. “You’d better quit your jivin’, talking the way you do.” Every instrumental solo in this song kills – piano, harmonica, and guitar. Yow!

Track 04: “Too Bad Poor Boy” – Listen up and listen fast, because the lyrics here sound like they’ve been shot from an AK-47. It’s the hilarious tale of an impoverished imbecile: “Sitting back in my rocking chair in my dirty old Fruit of the Loom underwear, one hand on my beer keg, my big mouth eating on a chicken leg.” Guess where he ends up? “Now I’m sitting here in my jail cell with my new good buddy – Bubba Dumbbell!” Great slide guitar here.

Track 08: “Bamma Lamma Jamma and Thelonious Dude” – This number sounds like it was penned by Too Slim and the Taildraggers, especially the intro. It’s the most traditional-sounding tune on the album, despite the misplaced vigor with which the band says “s***-eating smile.” “Bamma Lamma Jamma and Thelonious Dude gonna eat all the chicken without being rude,” they proclaim. How these characters will manage to pull that off, I can’t imagine, but you might.

Shock Hollow and Little Tortuga provide good old, gritty country blues!

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.

 Featured Blues Interview – Denise LaSalle 

denise lasalle image 1Songwriter, recording star, producer, label owner—there’s not much in the music industry that Denise LaSalle hasn’t done and done well over the last half century. After 15 years as a soul star, LaSalle switched to blues in 1982. Be forewarned that she’s not afraid of telling it like it is on mic; her live shows aren’t for the kiddies.

“Even before I started doing it on record, I was naughty but nice in person,” says LaSalle. “It comes naturally. Because that’s the way life is.” LaSalle left little doubt as to her inclinations at Malaco Records during the ‘80s and ‘90s, her material including “Smokin’ In Bed,” “Long Dong Silver,” and an “X-rated” version of labelmate Z.Z. Hill’s “Down Home Blues.” “I think I grew up a little sassy,” she adds. “I got a lot of whippings for being sassy when I was a girl. I guess it kind of remains. When I got old enough to be on my own, when I could do without getting Mama’s whippings, I think I just let my hair down and did it.”

It was rare for a female recording artist to launch her own label the way LaSalle did in 1969 when she and then-husband Bill Jones established Crajon Records (for Craig, Denise’s surname prior to her betrothal, and Jones). But if Denise encountered static from the male-dominated industry, she’s not telling. “Men seemed to be having just as hard a time as women,” says LaSalle. “It looked like God was just with me, and it just happened for me. I didn’t look for something to happen. There was always somebody there in my path that was waiting to help me.”

LaSalle was born in Leflore County, Mississippi, her family relocating to Belzoni when she was seven. Attending school and picking cotton took up quite a bit of the girl’s time. So did listening to blues deejay John Richbourg on WLAC-AM out of Nashville. That wasn’t the only music she loved. “Country music was an influence all of my life,” Denise says. “I grew up in Mississippi. That’s what we listened to—the Grand Ole Opry and all that country stuff on Mississippi radio.” The earthy storylines inherent to country music appealed to Denise. “That’s what I liked about it. That’s pretty much the same stories we tell as blues singers. We talk about real life stuff. Real life. We ain’t making up no junk. We’re singing about what happens between a man and a woman.”

At 13, Denise exited Mississippi for Chicago. What convinced her to leave home so young? “All them folks killing all the black folks,” says LaSalle. “I wanted to get out of there, and I made up my mind that I’m leaving Mississippi if it’s the last thing I do. I didn’t care who I had to hurt, or how much my mom and dad protested. I would get out of there: ‘I can’t live in this place, because I would be dead next summer. I’m not taking this stuff.’ I got out.”

Writing was an early passion of Denise’s. “I actually wanted to be a novelist. I had countless True Confessions magazines and novels and stuff like that. Growing up, I just read them all. I just loved them. And I made up my mind I wanted to be a story writer. So I started writing stories,” she said. “One was published in (Tan Magazine), and I thought I really had it made. I went out then and bought a typewriter and everything, and set up my office. I sent out story after story, and I got up one morning and I had eight manuscripts laying there in front of my mailbox. And I was so hurt. I said, ‘Nobody will publish another story!’ They said it was repetitious, and blah-blah-blah. So I said, ‘I’ll just write some poems.’ And I started writing poems.” The poems often came attached to a melody: “I got a tape recorder and started taping them.”

Aretha Franklin was one of LaSalle’s primary vocal influences, along with Dinah Washington. Just like Aretha, her earliest musical exploits were in church. “I sang with a gospel group, the Sacred Five, in Chicago for about three or four years before I had the opportunity to be a rhythm and blues singer,” she says.

Denise’s first break came when veteran pianist Billy “The Kid” Emerson, whose sizable discography included gritty blues for Sun Records in Memphis (including his original 1955 version of “Red Hot”) and more R&B-oriented fare for Vee-Jay and Chess after he settled in Chicago, dropped by Mix’s Lounge at 51st and Calumet on the South Side, where LaSalle was working as a barmaid. It happened to be a very auspicious day in November of 1963.

“The day President Kennedy got killed,” she remembers. “I’ll never forget when I met (Billy). Everybody was coming in the lounge where I was working to see the story of the murder on TV. And everybody in the place remembered that he was an artist, and they wanted me to speak to him because I think they had been kind of laughing at me a little bit, being around there writing songs and singing, and didn’t know nobody. I think they had been laughing at me. But they introduced me to him. I don’t know what they thought he was going to say, but he was impressed. And they were I think shocked that he was impressed. When they heard the fact that I had signed with Chess Records, of course everybody got really into it then. They just didn’t know what to think of that.”

denise lasalle image 2Billy the Kid proved a nurturing mentor. “He got me started,” says LaSalle. “The man taught me the ropes of the business. He taught me so much, so many things that I’ve never forgotten. He staged all my stage presence and personality. He developed me as an entertainer. He said the best thing that I could do was to make personal contact with my audience. Use my eyes, my expressions, my hands, and to look directly into my audiences’ eyes. Seize on their emotions, and go from there. Use it to my advantage. Those things I never forgot. He also taught me, even if you have to sometimes reach down and get that gut sound, and sound up and do a song, always come out of it with a smile. Always remember to smile at your audience and make them a part of a show.

“Nothing came of the contract with Chess, but Billy did take me out and around the clubs, and introduce me to the musicians and encourage me to sing and join in with the jam sessions. Soon I was getting offers to be vocalist for bands, and things began to happen.”

Denise cut her soulful 1967 debut single “A Love Reputation” for Emerson’s own Tarpon label (Billy hailed from Tarpon Springs, Florida). “I had a part in writing it, but I didn’t get any credit for it, because the song was written by a young man named Lee Baker,” says LaSalle, who says she had something to do with renaming Baker, who relocated to Chicago a few years after registering a 1957 Gulf Coast hit with a swamp-laden “Family Rules (Angel Child)” as Guitar Jr. for Eddie Shuler’s Lake Charles, Louisiana-based Goldband Records. “I named him Lonnie Brooks,” says LaSalle. “I named him, working with Billy Emerson. We came up with the initials of his name. And I said, ‘Why not call him Lonnie Brooks?’

“Well, he wrote the song, and Billy Emerson and I helped to rewrite it. Because when we got it from him, it was like a book, it was so long and all. So we kind of edited it, and reworded some of the words and turned it into what it was. So then he got concerned about how many writers, and was he going to get any money if there was too many writers on the song. So I said, ‘Well, I don’t want any part of the writer’s on this. I just want to straighten the song out and make it sound like it should.’ So I didn’t get any credit for writing it, but I did help it.”

The single came out under the handle of Denise LaSalle (her maiden name was Allen). “I gave myself the name. My first name was Ora. My middle name was Denise. And I wanted to use Denise, because I never did like Ora. I wanted a French name to go with it, so I put LaSalle with it,” she says. “Everybody thinks it’s because of LaSalle Street in Chicago. But no, it was a cartoon in the newspaper where a girl from France had come over to the United States. Her name was Buffy LaSalle. And I chose that name from that.” Chess Records, which had failed her a few years earlier, picked up the single nationally. “When ‘A Love Reputation’ got real big in certain areas, they jumped on it,” she says. LaSalle and producer Emerson collaborated on her ‘68 Chess encore “Private Property,” but “Count Down (And Fly Me To The Moon),” her last Chess offering later that year, was a self-penned effort that she produced with then-spouse Jones.

The couple premiered their Crajon label in 1969 with Denise’s self-penned “Heartbreak Of The Year,” but the logo was no mere vanity project. Crajon brought soul singer Bill Coday aboard, and he scored a national hit in ‘71 with “Get Your Lie Straight,” picked up nationally by Galaxy Records. Their resident girl group, the Sequins, had scored the year before with “Hey Romeo” on Crajon’s Gold Star subsidiary (LaSalle wrote both hits). Another of their imprints, Parka Records, pressed up Denise’s “Hung Up, Strung Out” in 1970. It made enough regional noise that Armen Boladian’s Detroit-based Westbound Records acquired it for wider consumption.

Unlike her previous Chicago-cut originals, “Hung Up, Strung Out” was produced by Willie Mitchell in Memphis at Royal Recording Studios. The trumpet-blowing bandleader and his splendid house band—brothers Mabon “Teenie” Hodges on guitar, bassist Leroy Hodges, and organist Charles Hodges along with drummer Howard “Bulldog” Grimes and a crack horn section–were the missing ingredients that transformed LaSalle into a star.

denise lasalle image 3“One day, I heard a record that was recorded at Hi Records. This guy I knew wasn’t a great singer. His name was Al Perkins. He was not a really great singer. When I heard how well his record turned out, I said, ‘Who is that made Al sound so good?’ They said, ‘That’s Willie Mitchell in Memphis, Tennessee.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s where I want to go.’ So I came to Memphis and started recording,” she says. “We found someone who could really understand what I was doing. Because actually, what was happening with me, I’m not a musician. And I couldn’t convey what I was hearing in my head. Chicago musicians who went strictly by the rules: ‘If you don’t say it in musical terms, we can’t play it!’ That’s the way they felt. They wanted you to be able to speak in musician language to them, and I couldn’t do it. So I was coming out with nothing.

“When I went to Memphis, these guys said, ‘Hey, if you can hum it, we can play it!’ And that’s what we went for. If I hummed the song, they’d play it. We started going to what they call head arrangements. We’d work it up right in the studio and cut it, and come out with a hit record.”

Even though Mitchell was tethered to Hi Records and working with Al Green and Ann Peebles as well as recording instrumentals for the firm under his own moniker, he was officially credited by Westbound as producer on Denise’s self-authored gem “Trapped By A Thing Called Love,” a seductive glider that soared all the way to the top of the R&B hit parade in the autumn of 1971. “I had fallen in love with Bill Jones in Chicago, and I wanted to write a song about it,” says LaSalle. “When we went to Memphis to record, it just turned out to be a one‑take situation. We cut it the first take that we ran on the recorder.”

Hot on its heels in early ‘72 came another smash, the LaSalle original “Now Run And Tell That” (Mitchell arranged it along with fellow Memphis trumpeter Gene “Bowlegs” Miller). Inspiration sprang this time from the sign-off phrase of a Chicago radio personality. “That was listening to Roy Wood, the news commentator on WVON,” says Denise. “Roy Wood used to do his commentary, and talk about what black people were going to do and planning to do. And then he would make his grand statement. He would say: ‘Now run and tell that!’ At the end of his commentary, that was an everyday thing. I listened to that comment so many times, and I said, ‘I’m gonna write a song!’”

That fall, LaSalle cooked up another slab of steaming Memphis soul that gave her three consecutive R&B blockbusters, the slightly bawdy “A Man Size Job.” “I was just sitting in the studio waiting for the band taking a break. I sat there, and I was singing the Staple Singers’ record (‘Respect Yourself’). I had a pencil and a pad in my hand, as usual. I was sitting there singing, ‘Get out the way and let the gentleman do his thing,’” she says. “I couldn’t remember any of the lines of that song, except that one.

“Then all of a sudden, ‘Get out the way’ turned into ‘Let a boy do a man‑size job!’ I mean, it jumped out of the clear blue! It happened! And I said, ‘Oh!’ and I wrote it down. And from there I said, ‘How would I say this? What would make me say, get out the way and let a man do a man‑size job?’ Then I had to think of a scenario that would make me say that. I wrote the song. When the band came back from their break, I called in a young man that has been playing on my records since almost day one, (guitarist) Michael Toles.

“I said, ‘Michael, come here! I’ve got something!’ And we started doing a little demo on it, right there in the studio, working up a little chord change structure for it. When the band came back, I said, ‘Hey guys, let’s play this!’ And we went for it, and cut it right on the spot. It turned out to be a big one.”

denise lasalle image 4LaSalle was still on Westbound in 1976 when she cracked the R&B Top 20 with another steamy original, “Married, But Not To Each Other,” recorded in Detroit. “A friend of mine was talking to me one day, and he brought that title to me about somebody. He said, ‘Well, we’re both married, but not to each other!’ He had a little cheating thing he had going on. All the titles come something like that,” says LaSalle, who must have been delighted when Barbara Mandrell made her song a 1977 country smash.

“I can’t say that I’ve lived all of the things that I write about, but I have seen people around me that are living the things that I write about,” says LaSalle. “So it’s easy, because I observe people and the things that they go through. Then after I really started doing it, writing these type songs, people come to me and bring me their life stories. I may be working in a club one night, and here comes a lady that will come up and tell me her problems, and lay it on my shoulder as though I’m Dear Abby. So I’ve become Dear Abby for these people. I get a story out of what she’s saying, and put myself in that situation and what would I do about this man or this situation. And I write a song about it.”

Shortly after that, Denise moved to the far larger ABC label, hitting again with the seductive original “Love Me Right” in late ‘77. “The first album didn’t do too good, but the second album was a smash. The Bitch is Bad was a big one for me, and the next one was mediocre. Then they sold out to MCA. In the transition, I was one of the artists that they kept on the label, along with B.B. King and Bobby Bland.” MCA wasn’t able to do much for the singer despite issuing three albums, and LaSalle eventually found herself a free agent. Malaco contacted her in 1982.

“(Promotion man) Dave Clark, who was alive at the time, called and asked me to write a song for Z.Z. Hill, and I submitted that tune.” The song happened to be “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In,” which proved an instant blues standard. “I got a call from (Malaco boss) Stewart Madison, who said, ‘Well, what are you doing?’ I was between record companies at the time. And they said, ‘Well, if you can sing the blues, why don’t you come over and have a talk with us?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m not a blues singer. Not really.’ They said, ‘Would you like to try? You write good music, so you think you could do something?’” With encouragement from her husband, Jackson, Tennessee businessman James “Super” Wolfe, Jr., she signed with Malaco and officially became a blues singer, releasing a solid string of albums stretching into the late ‘90s.

“It gave my career a new start, because I was kind of lost in the shuffle as an R&B singer,” says Denise. “When I got the opportunity to become a blues singer in 1982, I accepted it. There was no real competition, except the real Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor, (and) except for Etta James. These were the only ladies out there that was really doing anything, cutting records and getting airplay. It was kind of the place to be.” LaSalle remains there today, touring consistently (she performed at this year’s Chicago Blues Festival) and keeping things a tad suggestive in concert. Her fans would have it no other way.

“They always expect me to be naughty,” she laughs. “As a matter of fact, I have to convince some people that I’m not going to be naughty sometimes!”

Visit Denise’s FaceBook page 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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Southeast Iowa Blues Society – Fairfield, IA

The 4th Annual “Blue Ribbon Blues Fest” presented by the Southeast Iowa Blues Society (SIBS)is August 12th, 2017 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Fairfield, IA. The fest features Rob Lumbard, Danielle Nicole Band, Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials and with Tony Blew between acts

Gates Open at 4:30 with music beginning at 5pm. Beverage Garden and BBQ & more…No Outside Food or Drinks Bring your chairs and Camping is available. Tickets – Advance $20 and SIBS members / Day of Show – $25

For more info. go to or call 641-919-7477 or 641-233-7438

North Central Florida Blues Society – Gainesville, FL

The North Central Florida Blues Society presents the Norman Jackson Band July 23, 2017 from 7 -10 pm at the High Dive (210 SW 2nd Ave) in Gainesville, FL. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $8 for North Central Florida Blues Society members.

These 3rd Place finishers at the 2016 International Blues Challenge are making their first Florida performance. They are a truly original and unique act that promises to not just play the finest and most genuine Blues you’ll ever hear but also transcend what a “band” does by thoroughly entertaining the audience. Norman’s true and entertaining storytelling is paired by his young apprentice and saxophonist Rick Shortt’s energy and showmanship. See for more details.

Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

The Central Iowa Blues Society presents the 2017 Iowa Blues Challenge, in two categories, Solo/Duo (Sunday – July 16, 2017) and Band (Thursday – July 20, 2017 . Both are vying for a prize package and a chance to compete at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

The winners of each preliminary round will advance to the Finals held on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at the Des Moines Social Club, 900 Mulberry St, Des Moines. For a complete list of acts, prelim locations, dates and times go to

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Sat, July 15 – Polly O’Keary & Rhythm Method, CD Release Party, Watseka Elks, Thur, July 20 – The Nouveaux Honkies, Inside Out, Gilman IL, Thur, July 27 – Albert Castiglia, The Longbranch in L’Erable IL, Tues, Aug 08 – Frank Bang & Cook County Kings, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, Tues, Aug 22 – Jeff Jensen, Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, Tues or Wed, Nov 7 or 8 (TBD) – Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat, Manteno Sportsmen’s Club. More Info at:

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.

Blue Monday Schedule: July 3 – 24th Street Wailers, July 10 – JP Soars, July 17 – Joel DaSilva, July 24 – Kilborn Alley Blues Band, July 31 – Skyla Burrell, Aug. 7 – Lil Joe McClennan, Aug. 14 – Andy T & Alabama Mike, Aug. 21 – Lucky Loser’s, Aug. 28 -Green McDonough Band.

Additional ICBC partnered shows: July 5 – Selwyn Birchwood CD Release Party @ The Alamo, 6 pm, July 20 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm Black Magic Johnson, July 22 – Blues Day at the Chatham Sweet Corn Festival 12 pm Brother Jefferson, Alex Jenkins, Back Pack Jones, Aug. 3 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm Dan Rivero Trio, Aug. 17 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm Sam Crain Trio, Aug. 26 – Old Capitol Blues & BBQ Festival – Mary Jo Curry, Albert Castiglia, Lil’ Ed, Aug. 27 – Old Capitol Blues & BBQ Festival – James Armstrong, Kenny Neal, Eric Gales. For more information visit

The Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society Presents the Tia Carroll Band with special guest the Ryder Green Band July 16, 2017 2:00-6:00 PM at Fair Oaks Clubhouse 7997 California Ave Fair Oaks Village. Tickets $10/$15 21+.

Tia Carroll has her own unique star power that’s evident in her new self-titled album. She has been a recipient of many blues awards, including the Northern California Entertainers Music Awards 2016 Female Blues Artist Of The Year!

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