Issue 11- 49 December 7, 2017

Cover photo © 2017 Adrian Berryhill

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Southern Avenue’s dynamic singer, Tierinii Jackson. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Kim Wilson, Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers, Jeff Fetterman, Lara and the Bluz Dawgz, Slinky & P’tit Loup, Luis Oliart, Kelly Z and Michael Dühnfort and the Noise Boys.

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

 From The Editor’s Desk 

Hey Blues Fans,

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See our ad below to get 50% more for your advertising dollar before this great offer ends. For information on all of our great advertising options CLICK HERE.

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

Kim Wilson CD imageKim Wilson – Blues And Boogie, Vol. 1

Severn Records CD 0070

16 songs – 53 minutes

Veteran Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman/harmonica player Kim Wilson fires on all cylinders as he calls upon an all-star lineup of Chicago and West Coast musicians to deliver this tasty album, which is sure to be essential listening for anyone with a love for old-school blues.

A founding — and last remaining — member of the Thunderbirds, who’ve been thrilling audiences around the globe for three decades, delivering tunes culled from various musical stylings, Wilson goes straight to the root of his influences here. The Goleta, Calif., native mines several familiar blues standards and intersperses them seamlessly with his own originals to produce an album that sounds like it could have been captured in the Windy City in the ’60s or ’70s.

Produced by Wilson and recorded at Nathan James’ Sacred Cat Studios in Oceanside, Calif., and Big Jon Atkinson’s Big Tone Recording Studios in Hayward, Blues And Boogie is bittersweet in some ways because it contains some of the last recordings of two of the most beloved modern-era bluesman. Keyboard player Barrelhouse Chuck Goering, a longtime member of Kim’s touring band and a national treasure who was the last direct link to the first generation of Chicago keyboard masters, and Richard “Big Foot” Innes, the legendary West Coast drummer who worked with everyone from Phillip Walker and Smokey Wilson to Kid Ramos, Hollywood Fats and The Mannish Boys, both succumbed to cancer while the album was in production.

That said, this release is a delight. As anyone who’s been listening to Thunderbirds hits like “Tuff Enuff” knows, Wilson’s both an outstanding, unhurried vocalist and harmonica player of the first order. Both James and Atkinson provide their amble guitar talents to the mix, joined by Billy Flynn, Bob Welsh and Danny Michel. Filling out the rhythm section are Troy Sandow, Larry Taylor and Kedar Roy on bass and Marty Dodson and Malachi Johnson on drums. Jonny Viau contributes horns on three cuts.

Wilson’s original instrumental “Bonus Boogie” opens and sets the tone, echoing the golden era of Chicago blues as he rips and runs on harp, accompanied by Atkinson and Welsh on guitars. A swinging version of Elmore James’ “No Love In My Heart” and a straight-forward take on Sonny Boy Williamson II’s “Ninety-Nine,” follow before covers of Big Maceo Merriweather’s “Worried Life Blues” gives Barrelhouse Chuck space to shine.

The hits keep coming for re-dos of Jimmy Reed’s “You Upset My Mind,” Little Walter’s “Teenage Beat” and John Lee Hooker’s “Same Old Blues” before another Wilson original, “Searched All Over.” Featuring Flynn on six-string, it’s a new take on hunting for a woman who always goes missing whenever the singer is on the prowl for her.

A quartet of standards — Sonny Boy Williamson I’s “From The Bottom,” Magic Sam’s “Look Whatcha Done,” Little Walter’s “Blue And Lonesome” and Elmore’s “Sho Nuff I Do” — all are covered masterfully before two more originals. A medium-fast, keyboard driven shuffle, “Learn To Treat Me Right” finds Kim ready to fall on his knees to beg his lady to understand that he’s tired of their constant fights while “Edgier” is an instrumental that gives Wilson time shine on diatonic. Two more standards — Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Mean Old Frisco” and Jimmy Rogers’ “You’re The One” — bring the set to a close.

If you’re searching for a gift for a dyed-in-the-wool, old-school blues lover, you won’t go wrong with this one. Available through all major retailers, and highly recommended. And this reviewer, for one, hopes Blues And Boogie, Vol. 2 hits his mailbox soon!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

erin harpe cd imageErin Harpe and the Delta Swingers – Big Road

VizzTone Label Group

10 tracks / 47:30

Erin Harpe grew up with the Washington D.C. acoustic blues scene, and her latest VizzTone album with the Delta Swingers, Big Road, is a raucous collection of electrified delta blues that evolved from her youthful interests. This Boston-based band gigs constantly, and they took time out after this year’s International Blues Challenge to lay down some tracks. This disc was cut live in the studio, with just a few overdubs, so they could preserve their stage energy for eternity. The results are very good and they made it to the semi-finals of the IBC, so it was a pretty good month for the band!

Harpe is a guitarist and vocalist who was raised in a musical family, as her father is visual artist and guitarist Neil Harpe. It is apparent that the apple did not fall far from the tree: Erin has her own distinctive style with authentic vocals and a marvelous guitar technique, including very good finger-picking. This has not gone unnoticed, and she was asked to put together an excellent DVD lesson for Stan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop, Women of the Country Blues Guitar (which was also reviewed by Blues Blast Magazine).

Erin was the producer for Big Road, and was joined in this effort by Jim Countryman on bass, Kendall Divoll on drums, and Matt “Charles” Prozialek on the harp. Their friend, Michael Casavant, sat in for a few tracks with his organ and accordion. The material is solid, as the band put together a fun set of ten songs that includes a thoughtful mix of a few originals (written by Harpe) and bunch of deep-fried covers.

The disc starts out with Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Kokomo,” and the band turns this hill-country classis into an electrified chunk of delta-inspired rock. Harpe’s voice is hearty with plenty of character, and her slide guitar work is very respectable. The backline of Countryman and Divoll keep things moving, while Prozialek’s harmonica provides a sweet counterpoint to the guitar leads. This is followed up by a beautiful original, “Lonely Leavin’ Town,” which has a more stripped down and laid back feel, which allows the harmonica a little more room in the mix. Casavant sets the mood on this one with his organ and there is a marvelous groove to this tune, plus a melody that stays in the mind long after the song has ended.

The other Harpe-penned tunes are well written, too. “Voodoo Blues” is an upbeat piece of rockabilly with a New Orleans feel, and it features squeezebox from Casavant, a classic blues bass line from Countryman and plenty of honking harp from Prozialek. His harmonica tone carries over to “Stop & Listen,” a fast boogie that is led by Divoll’s snare. Erin carries both the rhythm and lead guitar parts, and her vocals are phrased perfectly so that they become like another one of the instruments, which is a an alluring effect. The last of the originals is “Gimme That,” a song that Erin first recorded with Countryman in her old band, Lovewhip, and this semi-psychedelic fusion jam proves to be a fascinating and fun coda.

The covers are a neat collection of songs from the delta and elsewhere, and one of the standouts is the title track. Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road” has the same spirit as the original, but this time it is delivered with reworked lyrics and a country blues feel. Another winner is Mississippi John Hurt’s 1928 classic, “Frankie,” which is stripped back to acoustic guitar and harmonica, allowing the listener to hear Erin sing the tragic story of two lovers. Erin also does a soulful acoustic take of Randy Newman’s “Guilty,” which was first recorded by Bonny Raitt in 1973, and the simplicity of this track is a lovely contrast to the high energy that Harpe exhibits for the rest of the album.

Big Road from Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers is a very cool piece of work, and if you are a fan of modern electric roots and blues, you will find a lot to enjoy here. The band has successfully avoided the “sophomore slump,” and if you want to see them in person they have a lot of shows to choose from in the Northeast before the end of the year. Give their new album a listen and try to make it out to one of their gigs – it will definitely be a blast!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

jeff fetterman cd imageJeff Fetterman – 9 Miles To Nowhere

Self-produced CD

10 songs – 45 minutes

Blues-rocker Jeff Fetterman delivers a fiery follow-up to his well-received Bottle Full Of Blues album with this collection of ten originals as he prepares to represent the Williamsport, Pa.-based Billtown Blues Association at the International Blues Challenge next month.

A talented picker with true blues chops and gifted tunesmith, he separates himself from the pack in a field dominated by shredders. Two of his songs have appeared in the soundtrack of NBC’s Passions and TNT’s The Closer, and another is featured in the Spanish-made film, The Tough Guy.

Based in the north-central town of Kane, Pa., Fetterman fell in love with the blues at age five after seeing Jimi Hendrix on TV, and is heavily influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, B.B. King, Chris Duarte and Mato Nanji, who splits his time between his family band Indigenous and working with Otis Taylor.

Now in his late 40s, Jeff picked up his first guitar at age 12, trading a bottle collect for it to a friend who collected both. A year later, under the tutelage of Sam Scott, he performed in public for the first time with Scott’s group, Cypress. As a young adult, he was lead guitarist with The Gunners, who were popular in the Rust Belt. He’s fronted his own band since the ’90s, releasing two other CDs in the process.

An ASCAP Studio Awards winner, Fetterman fronts a solid four-piece unit here, backed by Eric Brewer on guitars, Ralph Reitinger III on bass and John McGuire on drums. They’re augmented by Judy Kessler, who provides backing vocals and handclap percussion.

A syncopated guitar line introduces the hard-edged “Somebody Get Me A Doctor,” which describes an urgent need for a physician because his lady “has lost her mind and is goin’ to crash.” A strong baritone with a slightly road-worn, sometimes gravelly voice, he restricts himself to chorded guitar runs here, saving smooth, quality single-note picking for the tasty mid-tune solo, which put his true skills on display. While all of his material has rock overtones, all of it remains strongly rooted in the blues.

The melody brightens a little for “Something Just Ain’t Right,” which features Fetterman and Brewer sharing riffs and describes more problems at home. In this one, the singer treats the woman like queen, but she repays him with a brand of loving that simply doesn’t make the grade. The pace slows and the music takes on an other-worldly feel for “Devil Knockin’ At My Door.” Satan’s after the singer’s soul, but the mortal’s found redemption from a life of swilling whiskey and chasing women after hooking up with a lady who’s put him on the path to salvation.

Up next, “Brand New Day” is a straight-ahead blues that opens with a Chicago feel and a positive attitude despite a woman having walked out for good the night before. The uptempo roadhouse blues “Lover Man” gives Fetterman plenty of room to stretch out on his axe before recounting a meeting with a hard-partying lady the weekend before. A military drumbeat sets the tone for the swamp-flavored “Goodbye John Brown.” In it, a woman walks out, leaving a note behind for her lover, the title character, who tracks her and her new lover down, then drills him with a .44.

A slow, straight-ahead blues, “Broken Hearted,” is up next with Fetterman unhurried and slightly behind the beat as he gets to stretch out again for an extended opener before pleading for one more night of romance from another lover who’s just left him in the lurch. It’s followed by “Early Grave,” a pleasing six-minute boogie that deals with another wayward lady who’s driven the singer to drinking and smoking far more than he should. The theme continues with the bluesy rocker “Bad Feeling” before “These Arms Of Mine,” a bittersweet blues ballad, yearns for the lady’s return.

Available through CDBaby or direct from the artist’s website, 9 Miles To Nowhere is worth a spin despite the recurring, monochromatic theme. All of the songs have substance, the musicianship is rock-solid and the almost equal mix from blues rock to straight blues makes it an interesting listen to anyone whose feet are grounded in both worlds.

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 – 4 of 8 

lara and the bluz dawgs cd imageLara and the Bluz Dawgz – Out Here in the Blue

Lock Alley Music

CD: 11 Songs, 42:30 Minutes

Styles: Mellow Blues, Jazz-Influenced Blues, All Original Songs

According to an online thesaurus, synonyms for the word likeable include pleasant, affable, amiable, genial, friendly and endearing. According to Stephen King, the blues is “mean music,” the complete opposite of any of these adjectives. Which poses the question: What makes a blues CD likeable? If King is right, then dark, raw, and edgy songs combined with gravelly vocals are the right ingredients for this recipe. However, if Nashville’s Lara and the Bluz Dawgz are also right, mellow tunes with sultry horns and a voice like hot pepper-tinged honey would also fit the bill. Their third release, Out Here in the Blue, is a collection of eleven original songs that blend blues and jazz as smoothly as coffee and milk in café au lait. Not everyone likes their musical brew black. If this reviewer had a shot at naming this CD, it would be Bluz to Eaze Your Mind. Want more proof? Check out the cover art: a tranquil lake surface, not one beset by a squall.

According to their cozy corner of cyberspace, “Nashville, Tennessee is a city rich with great musical partnerships; the creation of Lara and the Bluz Dawgz is no exception. It was the love of Blues that brought this lineup of seasoned musicians together. The members of the band hail from a wide range of geographic locales, from New York to Louisiana, and from New Mexico to Ontario, Canada. Their collective live performance experience spans several continents and countries and creates Lara and the Bluz Dawgz’ unique take on the Blues. These musicians are accomplished in their own right, with a live performance pedigree whose venues range from CBGBs in New York City to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.” As for the band’s leading lady herself, “…Vocalist and songwriter Lara Dean Germony [no typo on her last name] brings an unmistakable vocal style, rife with lyric and emotion that epitomize the Blues genre. Lara began performing at a very early age. While in college, she majored in classical voice performance. Lara loves all types of music and has performed in Jazz, Rock, and Country bands while her heart remained loyal to Blues, a common thread in all of these styles.”

The Bluz Dawgz consist of Lara’s husband and album producer Gregg Germony on bass; Al Rowe on guitar; Carlos Ruiz on drums; Reggie Murray on sax and B3 organ, and Dan Nadasdi on keyboards. The Dawg Pound Horn Section includes Stuart Naylor on trumpet; Chuck Lyons on trombone, and Eric Walker on baritone sax.

The following song is a soothing sample of just what you’re in for Out Here in the Blue.

Track 05: “Walk Away” – When you find yourself too far down the wrong path with a partner, what’s the best solution? The title of this song, as our narrator knows all too well. “I’m not looking for a heartache, so it’s like I say. Baby, baby, walk away.” Some people are just too much for some people, but Al Rowe’s guitar is just right for every blues fan on the planet! I’m not kidding; it comes as a saucy surprise. So does Dan Nadasdi’s terrific piano keyboard solo.

Some may complain that for a third time around, Lara and the Dawgz don’t break enough new ground in the jazz/blues subgenre. However, when you’re stressed and stretched more taut than a tightrope, what better antidote can there be than this wholly likeable album?

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 38 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 – 5 of 8 

slinkt p'tit & loup cd imageSlinky & P’tit Loup – Zone Bleue

Self release

13 songs – 47 minutes

Zone Bleue is Slinky & P’tit Loup’s follow-up to their 2016 release, Movin’ On. The previous album was recorded as a duo, with Slinky Williams providing vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin and percussion and P’tit Loup providing vocals and electric and acoustic guitars. Zone Bleue sees the addition of “Monster” Joe Leduc on upright bass and backing vocals, which adds depth and additional color to their sound.

The music itself is a blend of acoustic blues, jazz and swing, with the occasional nod towards the laid-back roots-rock of JJ Cale.

At the blues end of the spectrum, there is a charming re-interpretation of Little Walter’s “My Babe”. Jimmy Reed’s “High And Lonesome” sees Reed’s harmonica replaced by Slinky’s mandolin (and with the rough edges of the original smoothed out, the angst in the lyrics really stands out). Likewise, “How Long Blues” sees Leroy Carr’s piano replaced by acoustic guitar. “My Baby Left Me” however probably owes more to Scotty Moore’s magical playing on Elvis’ famous cover version than to Arthur Crudup’s riotous original.

At the jazzier end of the spectrum, there are two Louis Jordan songs: “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” and “Blue Light Boogie” (originally written by the wonderful Jessie Mae Robinson). Both tracks captures Jordan’s lightness of touch and sense of humor, while the two JJ Cale covers on the album, “These Blues” and “Riverboat Song”, are also played relatively close to the originals, emulating Cale’s lazy southern groove, although Leduc’s excellent bass on the latter propels the track like an old Mississippi’s steamboat.

Williams contributes two of her own tracks, “Sugar Daddy” and “Married Man Blues”, which are both light, gently swinging jazzy blues songs that fit in well with the rest of the album.

Williams also takes the majority of lead vocals, although Loup’s warm, husky voice is the primary vocal on “High And Lonesome” and “Riverboat Song”. Williams has a lovely jazz-inflected voice that lays off the beat nicely and Loup’s lead guitar playing is melodic and graceful. It is probably fair to say that Williams sounds more comfortable singing on the jazzier tracks – there is a slight restraint in her voice on the pure blues tracks whereas she absolutely inhabits “Blue Light Boogie” and “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?”

The CD release of Zone Bleue contains three bonus tracks, the self-penned “The Story of Sam Maghett”, a slide guitar-driven folk song that celebrates the life of the great Magic Sam with ethereal vocals from Williams, and live recordings of “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” and “Blue Light Boogie”. The bonus tracks are a welcome additional to what would otherwise be a very short album but, given how similar the treatments of both live tracks are to the studio versions, one might query why they didn’t select some other songs instead.

The acoustic instrumentation and mellow interpretation of acclaimed songs is reminiscent of the Unplugged series of albums by the likes of Neil Young, Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton in the 1990s. There is a lot to enjoy in hearing well-known classics reinterpreted in an acoustic setting by top class musicians.

Warmly 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 – 6 of 8 

luis oliart cd imageLuis Oliart – Love Remains The Same

Mesa Bluemoon Recordings – 2017

12 tracks; 41 minutes

A quick visit to Luis Oliart’s website reveals that he is not only a musician but also a music teacher, producer of film scores and an actor, plus he is the director of The North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry – a busy man with many talents. This appears to be his second album release, following Just Another Day in 2013. Recorded in his home studio in LA, the album is all original with Luis writing seven songs on his own and working with three other writers on the remaining five: Craig T Fall, Pablo Correa and Melissa Gould. There are a lot of musicians involved: Luis handles vocals, guitar, bass and percussion, drums are by Andrew Jaimez and Ty Fleming, Craig T Fall plays keys and resonator, Debra Windsong harmonica, Rasmus Ehrborn guitar, Ric Solem piano, Scott Page sax, Peter Olstad trumpet and Kesten Solomon beat box; Jameson Moss, Miranda Finn, Josh Elson, Wiley Cox and Michael Lever provide backing vocals.

The material here covers a good range, including acoustic and electric blues, elements of gospel, Spanish music and melodic rock. Opener “Find Me Religion” has Luis searching for his path with resonator and acoustic guitar in support whereas the title track is more of an Americana tune with good vocal harmonies. “Don’t Think I Want To Dance” blends resonator and electric guitar on a chugging blues tune before the instrumental “French Soul” which features some soaring guitar and is a strong track, especially for guitar fans! “I’ve Been Away” is a gentle tune with some of the feel of “Stand By Me” and more good harmonies, one of three co-writes with Melissa Gould.

Things get far bluesier on “Train” with appropriate harmonica sounds adding to some keening slide work, Luis’ lyrics explaining that he needs to “see your smoking stack to get me home by nine”. The tune starts slowly but builds in intensity, another winner. The horns make their first appearance on “Can’t Find Her Way”, a plaintive ballad with a full choir of harmonies behind Luis’ vocal and baritone guitar to which the horns add depth towards the end. Luis switches to Spanish for “Esta Vez” which has some nice Spanish guitar flourishes to match the latin style. “Jah Jah” is an uptempo tune which is probably the rockiest cut on the album with plenty of funky wah-wah.

A second instrumental entitled “Swing Thing” features the horns and really races along with the horns answering Luis’ guitar lines and a middle section with piano, trumpet, sax and guitar all getting solos. Luis gets serious in the lyrics of “Lord Make My”, a song with country rhythms in which Luis confesses his sins as well as asking for help in securing the love of his intended. The oddly titled instrumental “Little Jay’s Struggle” closes the album with moody slide over North African sounding guitar and plenty of percussion (possibly including the beat box credited in the list of musicians).

Throughout this varied fare Luis sings pleasantly and plays all manner of guitars, acoustic and electric, really well. The result is an interesting album that makes good listening with something for everyone.

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 – 7 of 8 

kelly z cd imageKelly Z – Rescue

Self-Release – 2017

8 tracks; 31 minutes

Kelly Zirbes and her band Kelly’s Lot operate in the Los Angeles area and have recorded a number of albums since the mid-90’s. This particular album is an oddity as it was recorded in 2011 and then left on the shelf. When producer Chuck Kavooras and Kelly were discussing a future project they decided to pick up the tapes and issue the album. Clearly intended as a vehicle for Kelly’s vocals, the album contains eight covers of mostly soul and Rn’B songs with a full horn section added to the core band. Kelly handles the lead vocals with John Marx on guitar, Mo Beeks on keys, Rick Reed on bass, Bryan Head on drums and a horn section of Andy Najera on sax and Stan Martin on trumpet. Roy Wiegand adds a second trumpet to one track, Barry Goldberg plays B3 on the same track and Chuck Kavooras adds slide, Perry Robertson and Jack Wargo guitar to a track each. Background vocals are provided by Teresa James, Shari Puorto and Lisa Orloff Staley.

Kelly sounds convincing on James Brown’s “What Do I Have To Do” with plenty of funk from the band, blaring horns and solid backing vocals. Her voice seems less suited to “Baby It’s You” (Bacharach/David) though the horn arrangement is great; the song was a 1961 hit for the Shirelles, later covered by The Beatles on their debut album Please Please Me. “You Don’t Realise” is a Michael Bloomfield slow blues from The Electric Flag’s album A Long Time Comin’ and it’s well done, with the extra trumpet making the horns really stand out and Kelly sings it well, mainly in the lower register.

Kelly clearly admires Tina Turner as she reprises a pair of Ike and Tina songs next: “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” was an early success for Ike and Tina and is a lovely tune, once covered as an instrumental by Ry Cooder (on Bop Till You Drop). This version has wonderful harmonies and Ike’s original rejoinders to Tina’s expectations are copied here by Perry Robertson. The later “Trying To Find My Mind” works less well with some rather crude drums and Kelly’s voice stretched. The soul ballad “He Called Me Baby” is best known from Candi Staton’s version and suits Kelly’s voice much better. Isaac Hayes’ “Do Your Thing” seems a little flat in comparison before this short album finishes with the classic “You Are My Sunshine”, a song that dates back to 1939 and is a state song of Louisiana because of its credited author Jimmie Davis, who served two terms as Governor. Kelly’s version probably channels Aretha Franklin’s version with its funky approach.

When material remains unreleased one always wonders why. In this case it sounds as if more needed to be done as the album is very short and a couple of tracks sound under-produced. Nevertheless there are some good moments to enjoy.

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 – 8 of 8 

mickeal duhnfort cd imageMichael Dühnfort and the Noise Boys – Years of Ball Ends


CD: 12 Songs; 63:12 Minutes

Styles: Guitar Monster Blues Rock, Debut Album

One of my favorite Internet hobbies is reading the movie reviews on Critic Simon Abrams had this to say about a film that premiered just in time for Halloween: “While I can’t exactly recommend seeing Jigsaw, I can tell you that it’s fun to watch. I just don’t think it’s the kind of fun the filmmakers planned.” This apt comparison also applies to …Years of Ball Ends, the perplexing debut album from Germany’s Michael Dühnfort and the Noise Boys. Ms. Wetnight hates to be so harsh about a first release, but in this case she’ll make an exception. The good news? Our leading man knows how to rip and roar on electric guitar, channeling SRV and Joe Satriani on his 1980’s masterpiece Surfing with the Alien. He plays introductory riffs and solos with dizzying speed, causing one to wonder if he wrote their musical notes down at all. The bad news? Where to start: his grinding grooves that sound more like ruts, his heavily-accented vocals, or his ribald lyrics? “She Sucks Me like a Honey Bee” is a prime example of these, but there’s also “Little Willy, just take a blue pill. Wait a moment; enjoy the thrill!” No one can deny that he and the Noise Boys have enough energy to put a rambunctious three-year-old to sleep. With that said, Ball Ends leans so far to the “rock” side of blues rock that it falls off the edge.

Forgive me for running the band’s biographical text through Google Translate, but their website is in German: “Born 1962 in Bremen lives and works the glass designer and musician Michael Dühnfort today with his wife Angelika Dühnfort in Wurthfleth-Rechtebe, a small village directly on the dike between Bremen and Bremerhaven. A deliberately chosen retreat as a source of inspiration for the creation of musical pieces and design ideas in glass…In 1998, the focus of his artistic work shifted exclusively and intensively to the music. Own songs and pent-up ideas demanded realization. Michael founded the blues rock trio Michael Dühnfort & the Noise Boys…According to Dühnfort, the form of a trio is the ideal instrument for his music and his ideas. Voice, guitar, drums and bass, every instrument must be constantly present, an exhausting endeavor, which the audience with the perception of the energy, the passion and the nuances of the feelings of every musician…”

This above-mentioned trio consists of Michael Dühnfort on lead vocals and guitar, Steffen Schmidt on bass and background vocals, and Michael Löscher on drum and background vocals. Special guest Andrea Müller guest stars on e-piano.

The following song is the only one out of twelve originals that sounds remotely like the blues.

Track 06: “Deeper” – “So many lies around me. Who tells me what is true?” asks our narrator as he plunges ever-deeper into a romantic relationship. The blues key here is Michael’s guitar. It may not match any rhythm of the old masters, but it has the right tone and timber, the right tempo, and the right atmosphere. Dance if you like, because it’s the sole track fit for dancing.

I’d like to echo Simon Abrams’ sentiment in my final verdict: “While I can’t exactly recommend listening to …Years of Ball Ends, it’s fun to parse and puzzle out. What, exactly, are Michael Dühnfort and the Noise Boys trying to say through their music? I just don’t think their debut album’s fun is the sort they had originally planned.”

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 38 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 Interview – Tierinii Jackson – Southern Avenue 

tieriniijackson photo 1“In the south church is church. It’s the Bible Belt. Nothing is acceptable pretty much. I wasn’t allowed to go to school dances. I wasn’t allowed to hang out with friends who didn’t attend the church. Dancing was a sin. Snapping my fingers was a sin. I wasn’t really allowed to do anything.”

To say that Tierinii (pronounced Tear Knee) Jackson was ready to cut loose when she left home in Memphis after high school would be an understatement. By the time she met Israeli native Ori Naftaly and formed Southern Avenue at age 25, she was simultaneously singing in seven different dance bands with names like Party Jammers and Soul Collective.

“When I met Ori I was hustling, like grinding so hard. The party bands were just covers, and I wanted to write music. I said ‘I need a band. I just need a band!’ When I found Ori, it was obvious this was where I needed to be, so I quit all my bands and just focused on making Southern Avenue what it is.”

What it is is the most exciting band to come out of Memphis since the early days of Stax Records which launched the careers of such soul giants as Wilson Pickett and Sam & Dave. It makes perfect sense that the band would be signed to the newly resurrected Stax label.

They say lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice.

They say that music isn’t as good as it used to be.

They say that the veteran acts blow the youngsters away.

In the case of Southern Avenue, “they” are wrong!

In Memphis, a town brimming with hot blues acts, Southern Avenue is the cherry on the whipped cream of a chocolate sundae. If Otis Redding and Booker T.& The M.G.’s were the lightning that struck Stax Records in the early ’60s, Southern Avenue is the lightning burning a hole in their soul in 2017. Yeah, they’re that good. And they’re young, Tierinii Jackson is 28. Her sister Tikyra on drums is 22. Ori is a bit older. (Steve Cropper was 18 when he brought his guitar skills to Stax.)

Formed in 2015 and taking their name from a Memphis street that runs through the city limits to “Soulsville,” the original home of Stax Records, they’re moving up in the blues world so fast that their resume is eclipsing that of acts with decades of experience.

Stax Records has just picked up their option for a second album. Their self-titled first CD went to number six on the Billboard Blues Chart. They’re number one in iTunes Blues Chart, and they’ve been top 40 on Americana Radio from coast to coast for more than three months.

Since finishing in the finals of the Blues Foundation’s 2017 International Blues Challenge (IBC), they’ve played more than 200 shows in the U.S. and Europe. They’ve toured with JJ Grey & Mofro, Karl Denson, and Marcus King, and they’re opening up for Buddy Guy in January in Chicago and supported him in Memphis this past April.

Although blues and gospel enjoy the same roots, blues was forbidden fruit to Tierinii growing up. “We were only allowed to listen to gospel. Growing up I only had a few secular artists that I could speak and listen to. So, when I left home, I wanted to perform. I submerged myself in all the parts and genres of secular music, and when I met Ori was really the first time being submerged in the blues even though I put my foot in all types of genres, but he was the first one who kinda showed me the ropes.”

tieriniijackson photo 2Ori grew up in Israel, the Jewish state; so different from Tierini and yet the same. Both are obsessed with a style of music that in this day and age knows no race, no one religion, no ethnic prejudices.

There is a decided feeling of a shared history of overcoming prejudice and heartache between Ori and Tierinii. Ori told Tavis Smiley, “In Memphis, there’s a feeling of us against everybody, you know. And that feeling is something that there’s only 14 million Jewish people around the world and Israel is such a small country and that feeling of a day-to-day basis, the people in Memphis and the people in Israel have the same, whether it’s from two different — it’s just the same thing.”

Tierinii sees a similarity in her kinship with Ori to that of Jewish immigrant Leonard Chess and his empathy for African American artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf on his Chess label in the 1950s and ’60s. “Absolutely. I think that’s one of the major ways that we relate to one another, Ori would say I learned about it from him because, being an African American woman, I have my own heart (aches), but it’s good when we sit down and talk about it, So, yeah, I have 100% of that relationship with him.”

On the other hand, she sees their paring in the band as a kind of kismet. “I don’t know, man. It just happened. The gospel era that I was raised on was very heavily blues influenced. So, meeting Ori was more like just running blues songs that I’d been hearing my whole life, but I haven’t been hearing enough to know anything about it. And then, of course, he was a writing partner, not only singing the blues but creating the blues and writing. It was a wonderful experience that happened.”

In 2013 Ori Naftaly reached the semi-Finals in the IBC, the highest an Israeli artist had placed at that point in time. He told Fox News, “I started my solo career, so to speak, in blues because that’s the one thing I felt that I owned, and I speak that fluently without thinking. The first place I got to in America was Memphis, and I fell in love with it.”

Ori had a friend in Israel who had a record store where he found American music magazines. His father is an avid music fan and has a large record collection. He built a following in Israel and represented his native country as an ambassador of the blues at the 2013 IBC and came back the next year and toured with his own band, running through six singers before he discovered Tierinii.

Tierinii: “When Ori came to America, he came with his solo band, and he wanted a change. So, he fired his blues singer and hired me to sing in his solo band, and then I brought my sister (Tikyra) on (as drummer), and he finished all his dates for that summer, but soon after I joined the band, we changed the name, we killed the set list, wrote new songs, and came up with new covers. We really just made it something that was ours as opposed to me just being in his band. So, he was looking for a singer and in this music community he found me.”

In 2016, less than a year after forming, Southern Avenue signed with a reformed Stax Records, the label that in the 1960s did for Memphis what Motown did for Detroit. Stax parent Concord Label Group President John Burk said upon signing, “This young group embodies the spirit and sound of Memphis, both past and present, and Stax is the perfect imprint to represent Southern Avenue’s unique blend of rhythm & blues, gospel and Southern soul.”

Tierinii understand the gravitas of the group’s relationship with the iconic label. “I certainly Feel like I’m running with the heavyweights. I know the legacy, and I know it’s a wonderful responsibility is what I like to say. It’s beautiful because it’s already just a part of our musical influence just being from the same area and then being able to wear that brand and respect. It’s not just a brand. It’s a legacy. To me, it’s a beautiful responsibility.”

tierinii jackson photo 3Ori told Cleveland Scene, “We never thought we’d get signed to Stax. I grew up listening to Stax records and anything that came out of Memphis and New Orleans — whatever came out of places along the Mississippi River. To be signed to Stax is a dream come true.”

Released in February, 2017, the eponymously titled CD was produced by Kevin Houston of North Mississippi Allstars fame and includes guest shots by Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson and trumpeter Marc Franklin of the Bo-Keys. Tierinii wrote or co-wrote seven of the 10 cuts that closely capture the intensity of their live delivery. The one cover Ann Peebles’ Memphis soul classic “Slipped, Tripped and Fell in Love” (written by George Jackson) is actually the weakest cut on a very strong debut effort. The CD opens with the strongest cut, “Don’t Give Up” which Tierinii calls an anthem that reflects her feeling being in music.

“I know the legacy of Memphis, and I understand the hustle side of the legacy that Memphis had of being thrown into band learning 60 songs in a week. It’s crazy. You have to figure out a formula, how to do it and how to run it without stepping on toes ’cause there’s no way I could have learned all these songs in five days. I had to play my best cards. I love all the music I did in these bands.”

But writing music was the thrill she’d been waiting for as she waded through those seven cover bands. “We realized early on we have the potential for something different, better and bigger. So, I just immediately started writing with him. I think that’s one of the reasons why he hired me ’cause Memphis is full of great singers and amazing performers, but he hired me because I can write. I love that because I always write, but I never really as approached specifically for being a writer. I don’t know how to explain it, but I guess it’s the passion and making sure that every lyric tells a story.”

The role of the Blues Foundation in bringing blues artists from different sides of the world together cannot be ignored. The IBC was an important catalyst in this creative endeavor. Southern Avenue sold more CDs than any of the other competitors at the 2017 IBC.

“The Blues Foundation really gave us out first platform, and so now we’re involved with branching out, but they gave us our first platform and really anybody supports that the way that they do in these early times, we’re very, very grateful. They gave us our first platform and we couldn’t be more thankful for it.

“Memphis is so full of amazingly talented musicians, and I feel so lucky that we were chosen for this even. I have to admit on the night we competed I was under terrible pressure. I kind of have to hide under a rock until we get on stage, or I’ll freak out and get nervous, but this was competition, so me knowing that Memphis is crawling with amazing musicians in general was already enough pressure for me to know that there’s going to be some tough competition when we do the Challenge, but on the night of the competition I really shied away and was like in a state. I was trying to ignore everything that was going on around me until it was time to go on stage.”

In Stax Records’ heyday, their hits were marketed as soul, the African American yin to white America’s pop hits. Today, the lines between soul and blues are blurred if they exist at all. But Tierninii considers American Avenue’s music to be soul, while The Blues Foundation’s voting members welcomed their addition to the blues family in the Foundation’s ever widening view of a genre that thankfully is dropping its past concerns about “blues content.”

I make soul music,” says Tierinii flatly, “and people will call it whatever they want, or people will label us as blues, and I accept it because it’s like my accent. I’m from Memphis and it’s the type of music I heard. So, of course, when I write something, it’s going to have that bluesy influence, but to me we do soul music, and I don’t think that people calling it blues restricts us. I think it targets a certain fan base, but it doesn’t restrict us musically, and it certainly hasn’t held us back because we’re doing like the biggest jam festivals in the world. We’ve done so well right out of the gate.”

tierinii jackson photo 4The gravitas of faring well in The Blues Foundation’s IBC and of representing Memphis was a challenge for a shy girl who grew up in the Baptist Church where secular music was considered a sin even though blues is derived from it. And even though Tierinii’s success in secular music strains the grain in her relationship with her parents, it has not caused their complete alienation. “When I told my parents I didn’t want to just sing gospel music then they kinda shut me down even though they’re still loving, and we never really fought or anything. So, from early on I developed a shyness on that, and I could just only find my true freedom through writing music. So, I was writing secular music before I’m even allowed to listen to it. I thinks slowly but surely now they’re understanding that my purpose in life is and even though they can’t come to the shows and be supportive, they still show love in a way I feel like they’re understanding. So, my childhood was very, very sheltered which made me a very, very shy person when it comes to expressing myself. I wouldn’t call myself shy. I just know I truly found my true freedom through my music, and growing up I grew into that person. I’m probably just shy around them.”

The band has become her primary family. In addition to Ori on guitar and younger sister Tikyra Jackson on drums, they include keyboardist Jeremy Powell (an early alumnus of Stax’s legendary music academy), touring bass player Cage Markey (Daniel McKee played bass on the album).

“A normal relationship in a band is you sing, you show up, and you do your job, but with Southern Avenue the band we create a safe zone where we each individually can be ourselves and still be respected and accepted within the project of finding ourselves and who we are ’cause we’re very young, and we’re still growing and because we still love each other and accept each other, it feels more like a family than a band. We protect each other. We look after each other because we’ve got to be each other’s safe haven.

“I feel my band is more of my family than my own family because they love me, but there are parts about me that they don’t respect, but my band loves me and they respect me, and I try to give that same love and acceptance to each member in the band. The just become mine. That’s mine. It’s not like, ‘That’s my bass player.’ ‘That’s my TK.’ ‘That’s my Ori.’ ‘That’s my Jeremy.’”

Southern Avenue is currently working on their sophomore album. “Right now, we’re just recording demos. We’re doing a ton of demos. We’re in the studio recording the demos and then we’ll send them off to the label to choose which ones go on the album.”

“As far as the challenge (of a second album), it feels normal, just as normal as writing any record. But I think the challenge of the sophomore record comes from the critiques. I feel like the first album sets the bar really, really high. Then, the second album doesn’t reach that height. I think with us because half of our album we knew we were writing an album when we wrote half the songs. I feel like our first album is a good solid album.”

And she’s sure they’ve raised the bar height for their next release.

Check out Southern Avenue’s website at:

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

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The Lizzie Neal Band are previous winners of the Road to Memphis Challange at the Blues festival, promising great blues music for OUR entertainment. Come on out and help support Live Blues in Central Illinois, should be a great time for all. Also, Sammy Lyn’s Smokehouse has donated free pulled pork sandwiches until gone, and man is that killer smoked pork!

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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: Ed Selinger and Edmopolitans, Dec 18 The Mary Jo Curry Band. For more information visit

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