Issue 11-7 February 16, 2017

cover image of lurrie bell

Cover photo by Bob Kieser © 2017

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Chicago Blues legend Lurrie Bell. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including reviews of new music from Harper And Midwest Kind, Hard Swimmin’ Fish, Annika Chambers, The Acoustic Pete Blues Trio, The King Brothers, Frank Bang & The Cook County Kings, Aaron West and Diana Braithwaite and Chris Whiteley. Our video of the week is Buddy Guy.

Laura Carbone has photos and commentary from the 2017 International Blues Challenge.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

harper cd imageHarper And Midwest Kind – Show Your Love

Blu Harp Records – 2016

11 tracks; 42 minutes

Born in the UK, raised in Western Australia, Peter D Harper initially learned to play harmonica with his grandfather and absorbed the sounds of native Australian instruments like the didgeridoo alongside the blues of Muddy and Sonny Boy in his teenage years. His first album was released in Australia in 1994 and he first toured the USA in 1996. He subsequently recorded three albums for Blind Pig and has maintained a strong connection with Detroit which is his US ‘home base’ and gives rise to the band’s name Midwest Kind. Harper wrote all the material here, arranged and produced the album, plays harp, didgeridoo and keys with Will Rideoutt on guitar and backing vocals, James Norris on bass and Cam Lewis on drums. On one track a completely different line-up features: Gregg Leonard and Tyler Mac on guitars, Al Hill on keys, Paul Randolph on bass and Dane Clarke on drums. The album was recorded in Ann Arbor, MI

The didgeridoo gives a drone-like sound which features on several cuts, notably “Hell Yeah” which opens the album. The didgeridoo and some background chanting open the track which then moves into a more conventional slide-driven rocker, Harper singing of life’s problems, the didgeridoo returning mid-tune. “What’s Goin’ Down” implores us to ‘put up or shut up’, slippery slide creating a swampy feel over acoustic guitar and piano and a fine harp solo from Harper. Title track “Show Your Love” intersperses Harper’s didgeridoo drone with an upbeat tune that harks back to the 60’s lyrically as Harper invites us all to “show your love and you will see”. The acoustic “Drive Brother Drive” has good backing vocals, acoustic guitar and percussion and more solid harp work in a decidedly West Coast musical setting. The track with the different band is “I Can’t Stand This”, a slower blues tune with the keys adding to a slightly fuller sound behind Harper’s mournful harp and vocals.

The didgeridoo is back in force on a song with a familiar title, “It’s All In The Game” but this one is Harper’s own, another song with a progressive lyric: “if you open up your eyes you can see that it’s only a game. Never feel the same, you can change the game”. The funky backbeat and some wah-wah rhythms of “It’s Time To Go” form a solid platform for Harper’s tricky harp solo and the ominous sounding “We Are In Control” is rather repetitious though Harper again blows some impressive harp. An insistent drum pattern emerges from the didgeridoo drone to set the pace for “Let’s Move” in which Harper again sings positive lyrics and “Hey What You Say” also adopts a laid-back funky feel with plenty of lyrical harp playing to enjoy. The final track “I Look At Life” is a melodic tune with elegant harp and wistful lyrics about wisdom coming with age.

Overall a solid album with enough harmonica to satisfy blues fans, the ‘exotic’ tones of the digeridoo bringing a World Music influence and lyrics that will appeal to children of the 60’s – in fact, very much the ‘World Blues’ that Harper calls his music.

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 – 2 of 8 

hard swimmin fish cd imageHard Swimmin’ Fish – True Believer

Self-Release 2016

12 tracks; 51 minutes

Hard Swimmin’ Fish is a four piece band traditional, old-school blues in the Maryland and Virginia area. For their fourth album True Believer they took the increasingly popular crowdfunding approach and the end product is nicely presented in a gatefold cardboard sleeve. The band is Damian Lewis on guitar, banjo and vocals, Waverly Milor on harp and vocals, Randy Ball on upright and electric bass and Jason Walker on drums and percussion; John Sharrer adds organ to one track. Damian is the main writer with six credits, Waverly wrote one tune and the pair co-wrote one and there are four covers.

The CD has a vintage sound with plenty of reverb on the guitar, stripped back drums and upright bass, Waverly’s harp playing alongside Damian’s gruff vocals. Typical is the title track “True Believer”, the sort of tune that might have been associated with Howling Wolf. Damian’s vocals are a little low in the mix on “Five Years Hard Labor” but the insistent harp and his own energetic solo are well done.

Waverly appears to take over on vocals for his own “No Shortage Of The Blues” and he has a similarly tough approach to singing on a tune that features the rhythm section well. A jaunty take on Wolf’s “Howlin’ For My Darlin’” follows with Damian’s guitar adding an almost country feel to the familiar song. The joint Lewis/Milor tune is “Ooh That Was Close”, Damian on banjo and overdubbed guitar as he tells a tale of just getting out of a few tricky situations and “Love Me Or You Don’t” is a slower blues in which Damian sings of feeling “just like Job” as he wrestles with the eternal problems of love.

“Come Together” may share a title with a Beatles song but this one is an upbeat country blues that rushes ahead with plenty of resonator slide and harp accents. It precedes the band’s relaxed version of Little Willie John’s “Need Your Love So Bad” to which the organ adds a stately feel but the band returns to more familiar territory with “Get Gone” which has a stop-start rhythm accentuated by Jason playing the rims of his drums.

The final original is the catchy “Once Upon A Time” in which Damian extols a dream partner in pretty explicit terms and plays some solid guitar also! The album concludes with “Mess Around” written for Ray Charles by Ahmet Ertegun under his anagram pseudonym ‘A Nugetre’), here performed with bouncing bass, simple drums, rockabilly guitar and frenetic harp and the traditional gospel “Don’t Let The Devil Ride” which follows the tune for “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”. The final four tracks make a great end to this CD which will certainly appeal to fans of traditional blues and vintage sounding recordings.

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

 Featured Blues Video Of The Week – Buddy Guy with Jeff Beck 

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Buddy Guy jammin’ on “Let Me Love You Baby!” with Jeff Beck (Click image to watch!)

Buddy Guy is headlining at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival on Friday, April 7, 2017.

For tickets and info to to see this Blues legend visit or click on their ad below!

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

annika chambers cd imageAnnika Chambers – Wild & Free

Under The Radar UTR-CD40929

12 songs – 47 minutes

Annika Chambers celebrates her freedom and return to society with this sensational, long-awaited follow-up to her extremely well-received 2014 debut album, Making My Mark.

A Houston native who sang in the church and was influenced by Shirley Caesar, Yolanda Adams and Dottie Peoples, as well as Whitney Houston, she spent two tours in the U.S. Army, where a colonel heard her vocalizing one day and urged her to sing the National Anthem at a military ceremony.

Chambers’ powerful alto voice became in-demand for all base events. She won a base-wide talent show, and quickly started performing in a touring band that lifted the spirits of military personnel at bases in Iraq and Kosovo. Upon discharge, she returned to Texas, where she made her mark with her House Rules Band.

Annika rocketed to stardom with Making My Mark, which earned her a Blues Music Award Rising Star nomination. But success was fleeting. Her career came to a screeching halt in 2015, when working as a recruiting assistant for the Texas National Guard, she was embroiled in a scheme to obtain fraudulent bonuses for acquiring new recruits. Her involvement was minor. She pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and spent six months in jail. Others involved will be imprisoned for the better part of a decade.

Her error in judgment paid in full, Wild & Free should rocket Chambers back to the top of the blues scene where she definitely belongs. After the passing of Koko Taylor, Taylor’s daughter Cookie anointed Shemekia Copeland as her successor as Queen Of The Blues. One listen to this album will prove to you that Annika deserves a place in her circle.

Chambers is backed by the full complement of the Phantom Blues Band/Taj Mahal band: guitarist Johnny Lee Schell, keyboard player Mike Finnigan, bassist Larry Fulcher and drummer Tony Braunagel. The album was recorded at Schell’s Ultratone Studio in Los Angeles and produced Braunagel, Fulcher and Richard Cagle. Guest artists include pianist Jon Cleary, guitarist Josh Sklar on six of the 12 cuts, and Nicoya Polar and Melody Perry on backing vocals.

The disc opens with a fiery cover of “Raggedy And Dirty.” It served as an intense anthem for Luther Allison, and Annika makes it her own with a few lyrical changes as she demands acceptance. A cover of Otis Clay’s gospel-flavored “City In The Sky” continues the message forward as Chambers states she “won’t miss the city she leaves behind” when the heavens open.

With “Better Things To Do” turns her back on the theme that misery loves company as she sets her sights on her man rather than the past. Next up, “Give Up Myself,” written for Annika by Darryl Carter, who penned dozens of hits for Memphis’ Stax and Hi labels, finds Chambers wondering: “Why do I have to give up myself to love you?”

The singer cries “Six Nights And A Day” after her lover walks away before the music slows down and mellows for “Put The Sugar To Bed,” a tender song about love at first sight, which follows the title with the line: “Ain’t nothin’ left to be said.” The theme continues with the self-penned “Reality,” which questions the truthfulness of the situation, before “Don’t Try And Stop The Rain” cautions listeners to let the tears fall when you’re hurting because the waterfall is not in vain.

The autobiographical “Why Me” is an introspective realization about past failures and poor choices while seeking positive guidance from above for the future, while “I Prefer You” sings praise for a man who isn’t as rich or good looking as other men, but his heart is true. Another ballad, “Piece By Piece” – a regret about love lost, follows before an uplifting gospel number, “Love God,” ends the album on a high note.

Modern soul-blues at its finest, and one of the top bands on the planet. How can you go wrong? Pick this one up. 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.

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 2017 International Blues Challenge 

This was the 33rd year of the International Blues Challenge hosted by the Blues Foundation. Over 260 acts representing the finest from blues societies all over the world converge on Beale Street with a thousand fans and insiders to battle it out for top prize of Best Blues Band and Best solo/dou act.

After 5 days of showcases, quarterfinals and semifinals the top 16 acts (8 each in the band and the solo/dou category) bring it to the historic Orpheum theater for a juried showdown. First up was Sugar Brown in the solo category starting it out strong and authentic from the Toronto Blues Society.

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The first band was international group from Israel as their Blues Society’s first entry into the IBC’s, the SOBO Blues band. An energetic blues rock experience that went out into the audience.

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Playing on a National Resonator guitar from The Mississippi Delta Blues Society of Indianola was Wes Lee in the solo category.

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Johnny Fink and the Intruders from Daytona Ohio Blues Society, a band that made the semifinals last year came back to make it to the main stage this year.

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From Kansas City Brody Buster’s One Man Band doing an award winning solo act with drums, harmonica, guitar and vocals.

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From Tampa Florida and the Suncoast Blues Society, The Souliz Band featuring two sisters, Sugar and Spice shone with a gospel tinged show and powered by a 7 piece band.

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Al Hill from Nashville Blues Society and who is also the musical director for Bettye Lavette showcased with both piano and guitar and captured the judges.

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From Arkansas, The Akem Kemp Band fronted his strong guitar and stage presence as well as his youth bringing them to the full attention of the audience.

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Randy McQuay from Cape Fear North Carolina created the sound of a full band as a solo one man with guitar, drums, harmonica and vocals. Randy won the solo/duo category of the IBC in 2015.

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Hailing from the Magic City Blues Society from Montgomery Alabama, King Bee bought in southern moves and grooves in this harmonica fronted band.

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Dressed to kill with a piano to match, Sam Joyner from the Vicksburg Blues Society told stories, flashed a winning smile and bought it home as if in a juke joint.

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The incredible vocal styling of Rae Gordon and her band The Backseat Drivers from the Cascade Blues Association had the audience up on their feet stomping and clapping with appreciation.

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Ruth Wyand from the Triangle Blues Society in North Carolina was the only female entry in the solo/duo category and was another one wo(man)person band with a foot drum and intricate slide and fingerpicking guitar.

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Dawn Tyler Watson from the Montreal Blues Society stole the judges and audience heart with her perfect vocals, fiery stage presence and lyrics that shined high. She was backed by guitarist Ben Racine and a hot seven piece band with horns.

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Another international artist, Felix Slim from Spain closed the solo category with his dynamic fingerpicking style of the blues.

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Representing home town Memphis, Vince Johnson and the Plantation Allstars was the closing band dressed to kill in polka dotted vests and a fronting a big voice with harmonica controlled the stage and ending the show.

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After an intermission judges that included Kenny Neil, Walter Trout, Intrepid Artists Agency and others scored the winners. First announced was Instrumental prizes. Brody Buster from the Kansas City Blues Society as best harmonica player winning a autographed gold plated limited edition Lee Oskar Harmonica with an opportunity to perform with him.

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Al Hill from the Nashville Blues Society won best guitarist in the solo/dou category Al Hill winning a Memphis Cigar Box Guitar.

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Ben Racine from the Dawn Tyler Watson band from the Montreal Blues Society claimed the prize for Best Guitarist in a band presented to him by past winners Noah Wotherspoon and John Del Toro Richardson. That coveted prize was a Gibson Custom Guitar with The Blues Foundation Logo and a Category 5 Amp.

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The Self Best Produced CD went to JW Jones from Ottawa with his new CD, High Temperature winning cash and air-play on cable and radio stations. Then the count down to the winners circle started with second place winner in the solo/duo category which was Brody Buster’s One Man Band from Kansas City. First place went to Al Hill from Nashville with cash and several great festivals including the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise.

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In the band category the female took it, with all three finalists being large bands with horns led by strong female vocalists and band leaders. Third place went to Rae Gordon and the Backseat Drivers from the Cascade Blues Association with a cash prize.

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Second place went to The Souliz Band from The Suncoast Blues Society winning cash and festival gigs that include the Daytona Blues Festival.

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Top Band was Dawn Tyler Watson from The Montreal Blues Society taking home cash, promotional package and 10 of the most prominent festivals in the US including the Rhythm and Blues Cruise, The Las Vegas Bender, Heritage Blues Festival, Telluride, Daytona, Daytona, King Biscuit and many others.

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There were so many other events during these five days that included showcases by agencies and artists, HART fund benefits, Youth Projects and competitions, films, museum tours, master classes, lectures, health fairs and health screenings, United by Music and the Keeping The Blues Alive Awards and industry brunch. By far the International Blues Challenge is the biggest blues convention turned party going and all participants are winners with great and forever lasting experiences.

Photos and commentary by Laura Carbone

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

acoustic pete cd imageThe Acoustic Pete Blues Trio – 3 Of A Kind

Deep Blue Sea Records

12 songs – 66 minutes

Based in Sarasota, Fla., The Acoustic Pete Blues Trio is an enigmatic group fronted by vocalist Pete Arevalo in a partnership with fellow guitarists Berry Duane Oakley and Pedro Arevalo, who’s most notably known for wielding the bass behind Dickey Betts & Great Southern.

Despite the name, however, the band is augmented by musicians and family members on Florida’s Gulf Coast, where 3 Of A Kind was captured live before an audience at Spirit Ranch Recording Studio for a label owned by the lead singer.

Without an internet presence it’s difficult to find more information about Pete. But fortunately, the liner notes are rich regarding sidemen and material. Pete’s backed here by Richard “Doc” Burton on flute and saxophone, Richard Leps on violin, Steve Scott on harmonica, Thorson Moore on electric guitar, Garrett Dawson on drums and Jeffrey Arevalo on bass with Jenni Arevalo on backing vocals.

All of the material feature pleasant, weathered vocals atop a well-balanced instrumental mix that gives everyone space to stretch out. Written almost a century ago during Prohibition, the Mississippi Sheik’s “Bootlegger Blues,” opens the set, featuring Pedro on slide as it stresses: “You gotta make it through this world if you can.” Next up, “Poor Boy” is a bittersweet seven-minute opus penned by Pete, but it addresses the conditions of slaves and, later, men incarcerated at Mississippi’s Parchman Farm prison, describing their torment and hoping that they’ve been looked after from Heaven.

A sprightly cover of Eric Bibb’s “Build A New Home” precedes the original “She Saved My Soul,” an electric blues that features sings praise for a lady who performed her magic out of the goodness of her heart. An airy version of the traditional “Deep Blue Sea,” based on a version by Alvin Youngblood Hart, follows before the original slow-blues cover tune, “3 Of A Kind,” portrays what Pete says is a purely fictional musical family who hand down the tradition from one generation to another.

The music picks up steam for “Not Today,” a loping seven-minute romp about a man named Junior who doesn’t want to work, drinks too much and makes plans, but not much more. It features an extended harp solo. Next up, the band covers “Wish You Could See Me.” Penned by the late Randy Tracy, it’s an interesting tune that plays off the way a man’s viewed with the way he wishes he was.

“Girl On The Hill” follows and describes a true love who breaks the singer’s heart, but still reminds him of the lady he’s with now, while “Blues Is Talkin’” plays off of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talkin’” as it describes a woman who’s up and gone. Two covers – versions of the Delta Generators’ “Read That Letter” and Betts’ “Blue Sky” – finish the album off.

Available from CDBaby, 3 Of Kind includes some fine picking. And the interesting originals will offer a pleasant diversion for lovers of acoustic 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.

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

the king brothers cd imageThe King Brothers – Get Up And Shake It

Club Savoy Entertainment Group CD10001

10 songs – 54 minutes

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area, The King Brothers are a pair of real-life siblings who’ve been delivering the blues from their own perspective for the past 60 years. As Get Up And Shake It — the third album in their catalog – demonstrates, they have a relaxed unhurried approach that will please fans of traditional urban blues.

“It’s danceable, it’s rock-flavored, funk-flavored and gospel-flavored,” says Lee King, who handles lead vocal and guitar chores. “I don’t know a damn thing about picking cotton. I don’t drink whiskey. I don’t dip snuff. I don’t fit any of those bluesman stereotypes.”

Brother Sam, who provides drums and backing vocals, would agree that, like Lee says, “I do blues the way I feel it.”

Despite their approach, though, the brothers are members of one of the blues legendary Three Kings dynasty. They’re second cousins to Freddie King and considered Albert to be an uncle. Both brothers toured with their superstar relations, and Lee also did service time behind Ike and Big Joe Turner, too. Albert actually gifted his flying-V guitar, Lucy – the axe commissioned by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, to Lee about 25 years ago.

Get Up And Shake It features a collection of three originals and seven covers in a comfortable package that includes Ellis Hall on keyboards, Al Threats on bass and Michael Fell on harmonica. While several of the covers are old warhorses – like Muddy Waters’ familiar “Rock Me Baby,” they come across with a fresh feel.

The original, “Just Driving Around,” follows. It’s a bluesy instrumental with a jazz feel. “Hound Dog,” the Big Mama Thornton/Elvis Presley hit written by Lieber and Stoller, precedes a take on “Hootchie Cootchie Man,” a retitled – adding the “t”s – version of the Waters hit penned by Willie Dixon.

The pleasing blues original “Just The Way I Like It” features Lee in a tune that compliments a lady’s style of loving. It’s delivered atop a propulsive drumbeat. Two more covers — Bobby Rush’s “Blind Snake” and Dixon’s “Close To You” — precede the original instrumental “Get Up And Shake It” before two Freddie King standards — “Bigg Legged Woman” and “Tore Down” – bring the action to a close.

Available through all major online retailers, Get Up And Shake It doesn’t cut any new ground, but would be a pleasant addition to the library of anyone who loves his blues funky.

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 – 6 of 8 

frank bang cd imageFrank Bang & The Cook County Kings – The Blues Don’t Care

Blue Hoss Records

10 songs time-57:14

Frank Bang (Frank Blinkal) served as Buddy Guy’s second guitarist for five years, playing many dates. This internship along with his band mates playing with such luminaries as Magic Slim among many others has nurtured this band to a point were the blues just to seem to pour out of them effortlessly. They have parlayed their experience into creating blues music that is at once new and invigorated, whilst keeping one foot in the traditional precepts of the blues of the past. Frank’s guitar playing cuts through the air when needed or delivers poignant runs, whatever the situation dictates. His voice has the necessary rough edges that are well suited to this music and it also appears to have been slightly electronically altered and echoed, which contributes to the atmospherics and adds a touch of mystery.

The Cook County Kings are as sturdy as steel as the backbone for their vision of the blues. Russ Green’s well versed harmonica playing weaves in and out of this heady mix. Brian “BJ” Jones thumps the ever loving daylight out of his drums when applicable, while Andre Howard anchors it all with his on the money bass playing. Donnie Nichilo’s piano talents are in the best traditions of the Chicago purveyors of the eighty-eights. The blues tradition of interactive ensemble playing is well represented here. These guys are able to leap buildings in a single bound.

The title track is a classic blues with attitude song. Guitar solos are reserved for later. “The Dream” is slow and deliberate with harmonica and guitar testifying as they reinforce the narrator’s longing for his girl. The first original song of three, “Million Miles Away” prowls around like a stealthy mountain lion. The rhythm section pounds at just the right level. “Till The Day I Die” is a testimony to the singer’s girl. It’s a real house rocker. Jr. Wells’ “Come On In This House (Mercy Mercy)” is taken at a slower pace and done up proud.

Frank unleashes some wicked slide guitar on “Can’t Find My way Back Home (Part 1 & Part 2)”. It starts out slow, then the slide whips the band up into a house rockin’ frenzy. It’s crunch time as heavy rock meets R.L. Burnside territory on Magic Slim’s “Possum In My Tree”. The guitar strings get torn up on this one. “Repo Man” begins life all funky, slows down, then the instruments build back up. The guy compares him self to a repo man as he tells his lady he isn’t taking her back.

“Still Called The Blues” is a successful execution of a powerful and modern blues. The package is all wrapped up quite nicely at the end with A.C. Reed’s “Can’t Go On This Way”, ensemble interaction at it’s best.

All is not lost blues lovers, real blues is alive and well here and elsewhere, just like anything worth while, you have to seek it out. These gentlemen have the blues coursing through their veins and it travels down to their instruments and voices. A few years ago I had the pleasure of seeing Frank in Buddy Guy’s band at The Riverfront Blues Festival in Wilmington, Delaware. He played mostly slide guitar that day. Buddy and the band were really on. Hardly any cut off songs and the covers sounded like they belonged to Buddy. I think the fact that the mayor came out to meet them really had a profound effect on the band. To this day that was the best blues performance that I have ever witnessed. Now it looks like Frank and company have taken the ball and are running with it. Dang, I like me some blues!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

aaron west cd imageAaron West – 504 Soul

8 Songs/26:43 Running Time

Back in December of 2014, top Australian Soul/Blues vocalist and guitarist Aaron West ventured to New Orleans and recorded and album with a dream team, cream of the crop, Crescent City rhythm section. By April of 2016 504 Soul was the most played Blues album on Australian radio.

At the original session West, of course played guitar and sang lead. Joe Ashlar was on piano and Wurlitzer and has been living in New Orleans since 2007. Bassist and backing vocalist Cornell Williams is a New Orleans native who also had a recurring part on the TV series Treme. Derwin “Big D” Perkins, another certificated N’awlins product, plays guitar on tracks 4 & 8 and also contributes backing vocals. Another veteran Crescent City legend, Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander mans the drum station.

All in all, there are ten musicians on this production, with horns, backing vocals and extra keyboards parts being overdubbed in Australia when West returned from the U.S.

New Jersey born and bred Jeff Reid is on alto sax. Mononymous trumpeter Diggler hails from Brisbane, Australia. New Zealand vocalist Tommy Sowers does backing and co-lead vocals on the project. An Australian fellow by the name of John Whyte plays Hammond C3, clavinet and imitation Wurlitzer on tracks 4 & 5. On Hohner D6 is Wil Sargisson, born in New Zealand, residing currently in Australia.

Shades of Soul and R&B pulsate throughout this production. Aaron West’s gritty vocals are comfortable and true to the sonic vibe that the band is laying down. He also wrote all songs except for track #5

Track #4 “Just The Most” is a funky fun excursion that blends the ambient lead vocals of West and Sowers against the deep funk instrumentation. Different keyboard looks, draggy backbeat horns punctuated by a hard hitting Diggler trumpet and a tightly wound “Big D” guitar solo kill it.

“Such A Shame”, track #5 builds up to a bustling pace on a second line drum pattern and stays there for the duration of this 2:24 track. Leaves you hankerin’ for more.

Track #7 is perhaps the blusiest of the session. Here, Aaron West displays his guitar chops and they do not disappoint.

Top instrumental tracks include #5, “The Balcony”, co-written by Aaron West, “Jellybean Alexander, Cornell Williams and Joe Ashlar. It conjures up Crescent City moon over Cali auditory sensibilities of the Meters twined with the Tower of Power horn section – #8, “Rollin’ With D”, is obviously a nod to the tasty, heralded licks of “Big D” Perkins. It is a compact, swinging tune in the mold of say Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk, Pt. II

For contrast, slow jam, track #5 beckons all you grinders to the dance floor. All in all this is a great album.

Mr. West’s vocal phrasing is an interesting case study. It seems that on words that begin with sh, he sometimes leaves the h out. So shame becomes same, she becomes see and shake becomes sake. Could be the start of a whole new transcontinental twang!

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 – 8 of 8 

diana braithwaite cd imageDiana Braithwaite and Chris Whiteley – Blues Country

Big City Blues Records

10 songs/44:08 Running Time

Blues duo Diana Braithwaite and Chris Whiteley have collaborated on a total of 6 Cd releases since 2006. Born in Canada, vocalist Diana Braithwaite has an interesting history, steeped in the essence of the Blues. Four generations ago, her family escaped from slavery in Florida via the Underground Railroad and settled in the first African-Canadian enclave in Wellington County, Ontario. Prior to her association with Chris Whitey, Braithwaite has shared platforms with John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins, Mel Brown, Model T Ford and Jeff Healey. Her career took off after opening the 1999 Lilith Fair Festival in front of a crowd that was 18,000 strong.

Kansas born Chris Whitely has been a working musician for more than 30 years. He plays guitar, cornet and harmonica. Greatly influenced by Lonnie Johnson as a teenager, Whitely has worked with Taj Mahal, Sunnyland Slim, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry,John Hammond and Leon Redbone.

Both singularly and in tandem, the duo has amassed many awards, including Canada’s Maple Blues Award. Whiteley has won the Maple Leaf Award 7 times for best horn player.

Blues Country is a deft mix of that rural Country Blues sound and urbanized, horn driven ensemble playing. The opening track, “Sleepy Little Village,” develops an engaging story line after slowly starting with a slide guitar intro, followed by a lonely sax, segueing into a rollicking lament about returning home. When the piano, pounded by Electric Flagg alum Michael Fonfara jumps in, the band is hitting on all cylinders and the tone is set.

The band also consists of bassist Gary Kendall, drummer Mike Fitzpatrick and tenor & bari player Pat Carey (all of whom along with Fonfara, have been members of the Downchild Blues Band of Canada).

Standout tracks include “It Doesn’t Matter,” set apart by Whiteley’s clever cornet phrasing and “Motorcycle,” whose adroit lyrics tackle the proclivity that women’s hearts may have for Louis L’Amour type cowboy paperbacks, whose heroes sometimes leave cowgirls lacking. A mouthful to be sure, but when the female protagonist decides to mount a motorcycle and roam the countryside, against a simmering, down in the alley Blues backdrop, it definitely works.

The heartfelt “Sunday In Savannah” elicits traces of Nina Simone from whom Ms. Braithwaite admittedly culls inspiration. It is the only track on Blues Country not written by Braithwaite & Whiteley.

“Jumby Bash” though, might be questionable with its quirky, lyrical content. Is it Blues, or a type of stylized Bobby “Boris” Pickett Popish Top 40 effort? You be the judge.

Overall this production has formidable traction. The band cooks and Diana Braithwaite swings. Definitely worth adding to your collection.

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 Interview – Lurrie Bell 

lurrie bell pic 1“You can’t go to school to learn how to play the way I play,” says Chicago bluesman Lurrie Bell. “It’s kind of a feeling, you know what I mean?” Delmark Records in-house producer Steve Wagner in 1995 told writer George Hanson that blues musicians are divided into two categories, conscious competence and unconscious competence. Dave Spector, he said, is an example of conscious competence, and Lurrie Bell is an example of unconscious competence.

Both Lurrie Bell and Steve Wagner are given to understatement. The son of blues harp legend Carey Bell, Lurrie Bell in 1995 released his first solo LP Mercurial Son on the Delmark label. It was a feral, primal juggernaut that was downright scary in its intensity and combined the spastic energy of an R. L. Burnside with the seasoned prowess of a Muddy Waters.

The release flat out intimidated Bill Dahl who wrote in Lurrie’s AllMusic biography that Mercurial Son was “as bizarre a contemporary blues album as you’re likely to encounter.” The New York Times gushed that Lurrie was “one of the few blues musicians under 40 who has chosen not to take a technocratic, rock approach to blues. He is a virtuoso of the irregular, of strangely angled phrases, of spilled lines and notes seemingly grabbed back.”

With that release he refuted traditional hardliners who say most contemporary blues has lost something in the transition. He was and is the quintessential Chicago blues artist, the archetype. In subsequent Delmark releases he defied the logic of his musical contemporaries who tend to blend classic riffs and themes with younger generation influences. He WAS and IS his father’s Oldsmobile – but with four on the floor.

After all, he’d been listening to his father, Carey Bell’s postwar electric blues harp playing since he was in the womb. Daddy’s credits include Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Robert Nighthawk, Big Walter Horton, and Johnny Young. Carey Bell’s 1990 alligator release Harp Attack with James Cotton, Junior Wells and Billy Branch alone cemented his position as a Chicago powerhouse and Carey’s Deep Down Alligator release with son Lurrie on guitar was a staple of blues radio in the mid-90s.

“My dad knew that I had the blues,” says Lurrie today. “And he was there in my corner, and coached me along the way. He had everything I needed. He had guitars there for me, and he had albums there for me, All I needed to do was pick up the guitar and play. I think my dad knew that I was going to be a blues man, and I think he was proud of what I was doing as a guitarist and working with my father and playing in my dad’s band. I think that’s what my dad wanted.

“I felt like I was one of the luckiest individuals alive to be able to play the blues, and I was proud of my father. I wanted him to know that I could do the blues like him, and I wanted to impress my father, and I think I did. I felt very lucky to be able to play the blues. You know, my dad was something else. My father was a hell of a musician.”

lurrie bell pic 2Lurrie picked up his first guitar when he was six years old. It was missing both the high E and B strings. “I was over my dad’s house, and the music was sounding good. The band my dad had – they were all rehearsing, and I was there. It was sounding so good, and I saw this guitar. I said I’m gonna learn how to play this damn guitar. It didn’t have but four strings on it, but it didn’t matter. It felt good to just be able to hold a guitar and play along with the band. I didn’t have my guitar amplifier that I listened to on those four strings, and from then on I said to myself I’m gonna learn how to play this thing, and I’m gonna be a blues guy.”

It took a while for Carey to figure out that his son was going to follow in his footsteps. “I guess he was busy doing his thing with his band members, so they just figured I could make it with whatever was down in the basement, instruments in the basement, you know. Back in those days, everybody was kinda crazy. The band members was drinkin’ booze and everything. You could do what you wanted to do.”

Lurrie’s early tutors included Eddie “Playboy” Taylor, Big Walter Horton, Eddie Clearwater, and Pinetop Perkins. By the time he was 15, Lurrie had mastered the guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. “My first gig was playing bass guitar for my grandfather, Lovey Lee. We used to work in a club called John’s Place, and I picked up the bass guitar. That was my first job was on that bass guitar with Lovey Lee and my father.”

Surprisingly, he was not most influenced on guitar by the artists he met through his father but rather by an artist he only heard on Dad’s records. “Albert King was my favorite blues guitar player. I used to listen to Albert King on record at my father’s house when he lived on 62nd and Elizabeth St. on the South Side of Chicago. My dad had a bunch of Albert King records, and I used to try to learn his style. It took me a while, but Albert King is something else, man. It was a challenge for me to learn some of his guitar style. He was left handed, and to me he could squeeze those guitar strings like nobody else.

“I was just stunned with Albert King, his guitar playing and his singing. Back in those days, Albert King was the best guitar player I ever heard, man. He just caught my ear automatically, and I was glad my dad had Albert King albums at his house. I used to put the Albert King vinyl album on the phonograph, and I would listen. After each solo, I would put the needle, the arm of the record player on, and I would get on my guitar and try to remember those lines that Albert King did until I nailed it (chuckle). I would do Albert King licks, but I would put my own style into soloing like Albert.

“When I first got introduced to the blues, I was young, and the music that my dad introduced me to was amazing to me. It caught my ear. I said to myself, ‘Whoa! This is real music.’ When I really first started to play the blues I found out that I had a style.

“The way I play my guitar, I do not use a pick. I use my thumb and my index finger to pick certain chords, and I think playing with my fingers is how I got my tone and my style. It’s different from a lot of guitar players. A lot of guitarists use picks. I don’t use none.

“I started working and meeting all the blues guys that my dad knew back in the day. That inspired me to know those guys. People like Eddie Taylor and Roy Johnson and Joe Harper that played along with my dad back in the day. I realized back then that I had a sound, too, and once I started really working on the blues scene my style developed. I would learn from those old guys like Eddie Taylor and people like Albert King, but I had something in the scene also.”

lurrie bell pic 3At age 17 in 1977, Lurrie formed The Sons of Blues ( The S.O.B.s) with fellow Chicago blues scions Freddie Dixon (son of Willie) and Billy Branch (son of Ben). “We did a tour of Germany. That as when Willie Dixon was living, and Willie Dixon and about 10 musicians went to Europe, and we played in Berlin, and that whole project went pretty good, pretty successful. And once we got back to Chicago, me and Billy wanted to keep that same moment happening, so we formed a band, and we called it the Sons of Blues, The S.O.B Band.

At age 25, Lurrie played bass on one of blues’ true unsung classic LPs, Eddie C. Campbell’s King of the Jungle, just before taking on lead guitar duties with Koko Taylor for four years. A stroke survivor, Eddie C. Campbell still sits in with Lurrie at Chicago today. “He’s ok. Eddie is ok. He’s coming back from that stroke. I mean he doesn’t fool around with the guitar as much, but when it comes down to blowing the harmonica and singing and stuff like that, he’s doing pretty good. I get to see Eddie quite a bit nowadays. This café which is about 10 minutes from me, I usually work there and do acoustic show there, and Eddie C. usually comes to my shows. We just have a good time. He sits in and blows his harmonica and sings. He can’t play guitar like he used to. He can fumble around on it, but he’s real slow and he isn’t playing as well as he used to before he had that stroke.”

Lurrie has put out 12 solo CDs, half of them with Delmark. He mixes originals with covers that include chestnuts like “Sit Down Baby” by Willie Dixon, Little Milton’s “Hold Me Tight,” “I Got So Weary” by T Bone Walker, “Honey Bee” by Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed’s “Found Love.”

“I just sit down, and I listen to what my mind is telling me, and something tells me in my ear, ‘You should record this. You should do that.’ I play a lick or two on my guitar, and those particular songs automatically come to me in my mind, and then with my producer who produced those CDs with me, Dick Sherman, he helps me a lot to pick different songs.

Lurrie’s 2017 Grammy nominated CD Can’t Shake This Feeling is Lurrie’s second release since returning to Delmark following two CDs for his own label named after his daughter, Aria. Can’t Shake This Feeling was mixed by Steve Wagner and produced by veteran Chicago producer Dick Shurman with album production and supervision by Bob Koester who founded the label in 1953. That’s not a typo. Koester started the label in 1953. The promotional flyer with the CD states: “We’re so grateful that Lurrie has become such a consistent and reliable standout performer and recording artist, and how he has overcome such insanely difficult life obstacles and tragedies to become one of the world’s greatest, most positive, inspiring, passionate and intense bluesmen and friends to us all.”

Delmark can be forgiven for such seemingly over the top hyperbole, not just because Lurrie Bell so defines the quality Delmark has championed for 64 years, but also because every word of it is true. “I’ve been knowing Bob Koester since I was a youngster.” Lurrie’s dad first recorded with Bob Koester’s label in 1969 when Lurrie was 10. “Yeah, he’s 80-something years old. Just to be able to work with Mr. Bob Koester and to be affiliated with the Delmark label is something else. He always tells me, ‘Lurrie C. Bell, you’re one of the greatest blues guitar players around,’ and that’s inspiring when you hear those words from a guy like Bob.”

lurrie bell pic 4The insanely difficult life obstacles and tragedies referenced in Delmark’s press release for Can’t Shake This Feeling include emotional issues that had him living on the street in the ’80s, and the loss of his father and his wife, blues photographer Susan Greenberg, in 2007. It’s Susan’s photos that grace the cover and liner notes of Mercurial Son. Aria is their daughter after whom he named Aria B. G. Records.

“It hit me very hard when Susan got sick like she did. I just believe that God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes he does things to make us – you know we can’t do nothing when death comes. It hurt me very much because I cared very deeply for Susan. I didn’t know that she would get sick like she did with that lymphoma cancer. It just took over her body, and next thing you know she passed.

“God bless Susan because I learned so much from being with her, and she taught me a lot, and she helped me with my career in so many ways, and we had children together. We had bad luck. We had twin babies. They passed because they were born too premature. I think that’s what made Susan go under when the twin babies passed.

“It hurt Susan when the twin babies died. She went through a lot of pain and suffering from that, and she fought that cancer and quickly that cancer just took her away, but I will always remember Susan Greenburg because she was something else. She was fun. She was a fan. She worked with almost all of the blues guys, people here in Chicago. She was just something else. I will never forget her.”

Dave Spector, the “consciously competent” musician that Steve Wagner talks about in the opening paragraph wrote “Drivin’ Through the Darkness” for the “unconsciously competent” Lurrie Bell for his album Kiss of Sweet Blues: “Well, I’m driving through the darkness with the lights turned way down low/feeling lost on this lonely highway/wondering if I’ll ever get back home.”

Lurrie is December’s child born December 13, 1958, but his tragedies have informed his blues and garnered him much deserved accolades including 2017 BMA and Grammy nominations for Best Traditional Blues Album, and several Living Blues Critics Awards. In 2009 he paired up with Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, and Billy Branch on Chicago Blues: A Living History which garnered him his first official Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Recording and a Blues Blast Music Award for Best Traditional Blues Album.

On any given night you’re likely to find Lurrie Bell playing a Chicago club as a headliner or sitting in the best of the Chicago stalwarts like Jimmy Burns, Pete Galanis, Corey Dennison and Carlos Johnson. “Plus, I’ve been doing my own gigs at the Blues on Halstead, Kingston Mines. I’m very tight with all those musicians that work on the lower side of Chicago, downtown and House of Blues. I know just about every musician there that’s on the Chicago scene these days, Mike Wheeler and all those guys. They let me sit in with them and, man, we just have fun. We have a b-a-l-l. (The word rolls off his tongue for emphasis) when I’m sitting in with those gentlemen.”

Visit Lurrie’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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Central Iowa Blues Society – Des Moines, IA

Central Iowa Blues Society Announces Iowa Blues Hall Of Fame Class Of 2016. This year’s inductees include Ellis Kell, Tony Blew, Dan “DJ” Johnson, J C Anderson and Fletcher Henderson “Sonny” Lott.

Save the date for the Induction Ceremony to be held on April 8, 2017 at Noce’, 1326 Walnut St in Des Moines. The doors open and dinner provided by Flying Mango will start at 5:00 PM. IBHOF house band Sumpin Doo will perform at 6:00 PM with the ceremony at 6:30 PM and a Jam after the ceremony until 10:00 PM. Tickets will be available soon at Noce’ and Midwestix.

The nominated artist’s bios with additional info will follow and be posted at and the CIBS Facebook page.

The Washington Blues Society – Seattle, WA

The Washington Blues Society’s annual Best of the Blues Awards returns to the Kirkland Performance Center on Sunday, April 9th to honor musicians and artists nominated by society members in 32 award categories. The 2017 BB Awards show features performances by select nominees and recognizes new inductees into the Washington Blues Society Hall of Fame.

The nominees represent the best blues performers throughout the Pacific Northwest. Long-time favorites Brian Lee and the Orbiters return with five nominations, including Best Blues Band, Best Performer and Best Songwriter. Fresh from their 2017 International Blues Challenge performances in Memphis, Polly O’Keary and the Rhythm Method garnered five nominations, including Best Band, Electric Guitarist and Female Vocalist of the Year. Stanislove, the blues society’s representative at the 2017 International Blues Challenge is also up for a Solo/Duo BB Award. First-time nominees include vocalist Sheri Roberts Greimes, guitarist Brett “Bad Blood,” Benton, Hammond B3 master Joe Doria and Kenmore’s Capps Club, home of the Washington Blues Society’s free Blues Bash held on the second Tuesday each month. More information:

The Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau, WI

The Great Northern Blues Society of Wausau, WI (GNBS) is Proud to announce the lineup for our 18th Annual Blues Café fundraiser to be held at the Historically Registered Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI) on Saturday, March 11 2017.

The Lineup will include Joyann Parker Band, Jimmy Nick & Don’t Tell Mama, Ghost Town Blues Band, Brandon Santini, Becky Barksdale, and Bing Futch playing acoustic sets between main stage acts. Doors open at noon, and Music will start at 1:00PM and continue non-stop until 11:00PM. Chairs, Food, and Cold Beverages will be available on-site. Special Hotel Rates available at the nearby Stoney Creek Inn. Limited supply of rooms available so make your reservation now.

Please come, sit by the huge stone fireplace, with a beverage of choice in hand, and join us for 10 hours of non-stop glorious Blues Music on 3/11/17. Artist Biographies, directions, and Tickets are available on our Website at –

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for the Blue Monday live performances and jam sessions held every Monday night at The Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. February 20 – Southside Johnny, February 27 – Jeff Jensen.

Additional ICBC partnered shows: February 16 – James Armstrong Presents @ The Alamo, 6 pm.

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