Issue 12- 10 March 8, 2018

Cover photo © 2018 Bob Kieser

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with Albert Castiglia. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Freddie Pate, Sam Frazier Jr. & the SBG’s, Gary Moore, Rie “Lee” Kanehira, Robert James Starr, Tinsley Ellis, Andre Bisson and Crowd Company.

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

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 Blues Wanderings 

Made it out to Blue Monday at the Alamo in Springfield Illinois. Been a while since I got to see all my friends at the Illinois Central Blues Club sponsored show and it was a good one!

Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames were in the house as a 4 piece. Kinda nice to see them in a smaller group, it really allows you to focus on Weld’s great guitar playing and Dave and Monica’s vocals a bit better. Great Stuff!

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

freddie pate cd imageFreddie Pate – I Got The Blues


11 tracks/41 minutes

Freddie Pate is a Los Angeles native who began playing guitar at 4 years of age. He left home at 17 and moved to Texas and spent almost 20 years in Houston and Dallas as a sideman for country artists. He left Texas for Louisiana and has been there since traveling the globe with Wayne Toups and Zydecajun.

Of late he’s spent more time in Texas and hooked up with Delbert McClinton and has played on his cruise. He met Mike Zito on one and they became friends. He released a country album entitles Crossroads in 2016 but Zito pushed him to record a blues album and this is the result. Recorded at Marz Studio in Nederland, Texas, Zito helped Freddie produce this album.

Appearing on the CD with Pate (who does the guitar work and vocals) are Terry Dry on bass, Matt Johnson on drums, Lewis Stephens on keys and Mike Zito on rhythm guitar. The guitar work here is pretty damn good and the songs are all a lot of fun. The recording is well-crafted, balanced and has a good sound. Pate has a gravelly blues shouter approach to his vocals. Some may like by them some may not, but most will appreciate them for their authenticity and his overall exuberance. Pate wrote two of the songs here, so there are two originals and nine varied covers.

The party begins with “Let The Juke Joint Jump.” He offers up a mean guitar solo and shows his prowess on guitar on this cut Koko Taylor made famous. Elmore James’ “Sho-Nuff I Do” is a cool slow blues that Pate delivers with emotion. He growls as the backing musicians support him and then delivers a stinging solo on guitar before growling out the conclusion to the song. Have You Ever Loved A Woman” is the first original, a cut with a driving beat and big lead guitar and solo work. It’s a tune folks will dance to with abandon. Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Looking” gets a bluesy cover with nice guitar, piano and organ work. Toussaint McCall’s “Nothin’ Takes The Place of You” is a sad, bluesy ballad with mournful vocals and guitar. It’s a nice cover of a very cool song and Pate adds his guitar to spice up the cut. “I Got The Blues” is the other original. It’s a well done and mid tempo paced shuffle that’s a lot of fun. His guitar answers his vocal calls and he delivers another big guitar performance.

Fat’s Domino’s “Hello Jospehine” is next, paying more homage to his time in Louisina. Pate’s guitar offers up a sweet intro and then Pate gets into the groove vocally. His guitar does not rest as Freddie gives us another well done and varied solo. “My Babe” follows, a Willie Dixon classic. He uses a little echo and reverb on the vocals and guitar here to change things up. Pate takes Clifton Chenier’s “Jolie Blond” and turns it into a jumping, rockabilly styled enjoyable blues number.

The pace drops for a bit as he breaks into some cajun vocals and then re-initiates the attacks with his guitar. “Dance With Me Baby” is a B.B. King song that Pate makes his own. Piano and guitar pace the vocals nicely and then Pate once again delivers some killer guitar. Pate concludes with “Beer Drinkin’ Dog,” listed as a Niles K. Jones cut. Jones wrote “Your Poodle Dog,” released on the Pittsburgh Gemini label (and very similar to the Tampa Red “Let Me Play With Your Poodle”) but I did not find another recording of this one. It’s a boogie that’s slowed down a bit with more big guitar and fun lyrics as Pate takes us home.

The vocals are rough; that’s part of Pate’s charm. The guitar work is stellar- I really was impressed. I would enjoy going to see this guy based on the CD- I get a vibe from the songs that show me he’d be a lot of fun to see and hear live. The LA/Texas/Louisiana influences blend together well as Freddie Pate delivers a high energy and fun set of songs on this CD.

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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2018 BBMA logo image

2018 Blues Blast Music Award Submissions Are Now Open

The Blues Blast Music Awards honor contemporary Blues artists and their recordings. Artists with major labels and indie artists are eligible to be considered.

The eligibility period for specific recordings is music released from May 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018. Categories such as Male Blues Artist, Female Blues Artist, Blues Band and the Rising Star Award are not tied to these specific dates but instead are based on our nominators recent observations of performances of touring artists over the past year.

For Complete information on submitting your music for consideration click


Contemporary Blues Album

Traditional Blues Album

Soul Blues Album

Rock Blues Album

Acoustic Blues Album

Live Recording Of The Year

New Artist Debut Album

Historical or Vintage Recording

Male Blues Artist Of The Year

Female Blues Artist Of The Year

Blues Band Of The Year

Sean Costello Rising Star Award


Blues Blast Magazine’s Early Bird Special is our lowest priced advertising of the 2018 year. It offers an affordable & effective way to get the Blues word out!

This 8-issue discount ad campaign allows you to add significant impact to your Blues advertising and promotion campaign. It is a great way for artists to solicit festival gigs or can be used to kick up the visibility of your summer Blues festival, new album release, Blues event or music product all around the globe! This is perfect for a new album release, a festival advertising campaign or any new music product.

Normal 2018 Advertising rates start at $150 per issue of Blues Blast magazine. BUT, for a limited time, this special gives you eight issues of Blues Blast Magazine for only $400. (A $1200 value!)

Blues Blast Magazine is a great way to promote anything Blues. 36,000 opt-in subscribers read Blues Blast Magazine. Our subscribers are located in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries giving your products global coverage at an affordable price. Weekly issues of Blues Blast Magazine are also posted on our popular website. We get more than 2,000,000 (That’s TWO MILLION) hits and 65,000 visitors a month at our website.

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Ads must be reserved and paid for by April 15th, 2018!!!

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

sam frazier cd imageSam Frazier Jr. & the SBG’s – Sam Frazier Jr. & the SBG’s


9 songs – 30 minutes

74-year-old Sam Frazier Jr. learned harmonica from the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson and Slim Harpo, both of whom used to attend his mother’s backyard barbecues in Edgewater, Alabama, near Birmingham. In a musical career that has lasted more than 50 years, he has played blues, soul and even country (he was Country Boy Eddie’s harmonica player for 13 years on a country music show on Birmingham television in the 1970s and 1980s). His latest release is a self-titled modern take on old time acoustic country blues.

Frazier himself handles the lead vocals and harmonica, with backing from husband and wife team Sam Gunderson and Sara Green on acoustic guitars and backing vocals. Jacob Thompson also adds sparse cymbals to “Honest I Do”.

This is a relatively short album, with the nine tracks just hitting the half hour mark and one of those tracks is a 24-second spoken word piece by Frazier entitled “Intro”. Of the remaining eight, there are two tracks attributed to Frazier, the William Harris-esque “Inherit The Blues” and “Little Milton Jam” (which features a chorus that is identical to Milton’s own “The Blues Is Alright”) together with two Sonny Boy Williamson classics (“Don’t Start Me To Talkin’” and “Nine Below Zero”). Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do” and Buster Brown’s 1960 hit, “Fannie Mae” are both given relatively faithful readings, albeit with acoustic backing.

Frazier’s country leanings are reflected in the covers of Hank Williams Sr’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and Gillian Welch’s “Miner’s Refrain”.

Gunderson and Green are both fine guitarists and singers, their backing vocals adding real impetus to tracks like “Fannie Mae” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” while there is an authentically raw feeling to their playing, as if they were appearing at one of Frazier’s mother’s backyard barbecues. Both Frazier’s vocals and his harp playing are in fine fettle, his voice sounding weathered and beaten while his harp, which takes all the solos on the album, retains a lightness and melodic warmth.

Sam Frazier Jr. is one of a rapidly-vanishing generation who learned directly from the first or second generation blues giants. All his years of experience are reflected in the deep blues he sings and plays. As such, any recording by Frazier is worth hearing. The issue with this album as a whole, however, is the choice of so many blues standards given that, while they might work very well in a live setting, they are so over-played that no new recording will ever cast them in a new light.

The preponderance of overly-familiar cover versions probably means that this is the type of album that makes a fine reminder of a great gig but it probably won’t be the first CD you reach for otherwise. Which is a shame, since there is much to enjoy on Sam Frazier Jr. & the SBG’s.

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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 ‘Guitar Porn’ sponsored by Delaney Guitars 

Rick Latina’s Signature Tobacco Burst Delaney Model “T”

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Body Wood – Chambered Swamp Ash w/Flame Maple

Finish – Tobacco Burst Lacquer


Number of Frets – 22

Scale Length – 25 1/2″

Radius – Compound 10″ – 16″

Neck Wood – Maple

Fretboard Wood – Rosewood

Neck Shape – Delaney Standard “C” shape Neck

Fretboard Inlays – Clay Dots

Headstock – Delaney 6 in-line


Bridge – Hipshot “T”

Tuners – Hipshot

Hardware Type – Chrome

Pickguard – N/A

Bridge Pickup – Lollar J Street Tele

Neck Pickup – Lollar Gold Foil

Price – MSRP $2245.00 plus shipping

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I first met Ric Latina, the guitarist for the Markey Blue/Ric Latina Project, on a trip to Memphis and fell in love with his playing. He’s a very personable guy and after talking to him over a period of time, it became obvious that he should be playing a Delaney. This guitar is what we came up with.

The Delaney Ric Latina Signature model has a unique tonal pallet with the combination of the Lollar Gold Foil in the neck position and the “J” Street Tele pickup in the bridge. The Gold Foil combined with the tonewoods in the guitar has a certain sweetness to it and the “J” Street has a Fat low end and lush mids. The chambered Swamp Ash body with figured Maple top makes for a light-weight guitar with an articulate, open tone.

The Maple/Rosewood neck compliments the Swamp Ash nicely. The warmth of the rosewood balances out the brightness of the maple and gives the guitar clarity without getting muddy.

Made by hand in our shop in Bastrop, Texas, we hope this guitar gives Ric many years of service. Check Ric out on Facebook at and you can check Delaney Guitars out at – Mike Delaney

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

gary moore cd imageGary Moore – Blues And Beyond

BMG Company

Disc 1 – 14 Tracks/76:08

Disc 2 – 14 Tracks/75:43

This collection is comprised of twenty-eight tracks that are also part of the larger, four disc Gary Moore compilation with the same title. That set has an additional fifteen songs recorded live in concert plus a 350-plus page biography of the late guitarist. The two disc version contains studio recordings in addition to one live track. It also has an eight page color booklet that list the tracks along with several pictures of guitars while omitting any information regarding the backing musicians

Moore’s career began as a guitarist for Skid Row, then two stints with Thin Lizzy. In 1979, he began a solo career that covered multiple musical genres until he hit a winning combination in 1990 with his Still Got The Blues album. He stayed focused on the blues for the final two decades of his life, a heart attack taking his life in 2011.

The first disc starts off with Moore playing an acoustic slide piece with a quiet vocal on “Enough Of The Blues”. After one verse, he switches to electric guitar, the band jumps in, and the energy level rises several notches. From there, he does three covers, starting with a bold statement on “Stormy Monday” with plenty of wicked string-bending over lush organ accompaniment. Johnny”Guitar” Watson’s classic, “Looking Back,” gets a quick run-through, then Moore flavors Percy Mayfield’s “Memory Pain” with an array of guitar effects. “That’s Why I Play The Blues” slows the pace for one of Moore’s downhearted vocals. “Surrender” is a moody, ethereal piece with full of mesmerizing guitar work.

The band lays down a heavy, grinding rhythm on “Getaway Blues,” Moore barking a steady stream of woes, unable to find solace through the strings. Other standout tracks include the thirteen minute “Ball And Chain,” a Moore original complete with mind-melting guitar forays, and the last track, “The Prophet,” an instrumental that delves into the more lyrical side of Moore’s nature.

Disc 2 takes off immediately with a fiery cover of “You Upset Me Baby,” complete with horns and organ. Three other covers include “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” that veers toward the Zeppelin version, and a mannered rendition of “Evil” with Moore using plenty of effects pedals to change the sonic textures. “Ain’t Got You” fails to connect until Moore rips off a frenetic solo. “World Of Confusion” comes across a Moore tribute to the Band of Gypsies. The guitarist mourns a lost love on the contemplative ballad, “Picture Of The Moon,” then delivers a full-bore shuffle, “Can’t Find My Baby,” that packs plenty of punch. “Drowning In Tears” is another weeper with some subtle guitar work. Two other tracks, “Just Can’t Let You Go” and “Torn Inside,” are lengthy, dark explorations of the world of heartache and pain, the latter with Moore’s vocal recalling Peter Green’s style. “Parisienne Walkways” is the lone live track, a nine minute guitar explosion that encapsulates the power of Moore’s playing.

Taken from albums the guitarist’s releases from 1999 to 2004, the two disc Blues And Beyond will certainly appeal to any Gary Moore fan who is looking for a low cost alternative to the four disc boxset . Fans of blues with a strong rock flavor will also find plenty of satisfying sounds from one of the great guitarists of his era.

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

lee kanehira cd imageRie “Lee” Kanehira – Lee’s Boogie

Waggy Murphy’s Records WMCD 102

12 songs – 37 minutes

A blues traditionalist, Kanto, Japan-based keyboard player and vocalist Rie “Lee” Kanehira follows up on her well-received 2014 debut album, Union Meetin’, with this interesting collection of music that weaves originals into a mix that includes covers spanning the entire history of Chicago-style piano from its founding in the ‘20s to modern times.

Despite the four-year gap between albums, Lee has been making a name for herself in the U.S., contributing work on the 88s for The Cash Box Kings’ sensational Royal Mint album on Alligator last year as well as longtime Eddy Clearwater band guitarist/harp player Shoji Naito’s 2016 Blues Blast Awards-nominated New Cool Old School and another release from Chicago-based guitarist Billy Flynn.

Kanehira discovered the blues in 2004 after graduating from a Japanese music college with a degree in classical piano, and she’s worked with several top Tokyo bluesmen, including Shun Kikuta, Hitoshi Koide and Takashi “Hotoke” Nagai. She ventured to the Windy City for the first time in 2008, returns annually and has worked locally with Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith and all of the artists mentioned above.

Most of the songs on this album are solo efforts, and it’s easy to recognize that, as she freely admits, her main influence was Barrelhouse Chuck Goering, a fixture in Chicago from the ‘70s to his untimely death in 2016. He schooled her in the Chicago blues piano sound and introduced her to the works of Leroy Carr, the man credited with inventing it, as well as Big Maceo Merriweather, Memphis Slim, Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins. And he instilled in her a strong desire to keep the music alive after his passing.

Kanehira recorded Lee’s Boogie in Japan shortly after attending a memorial service for him in the Windy City. She dedicated the CD to his memory and enlisted the aid of one of his closest friends, pianist Erwin Helfer, for two duets and Naito contributes harmonica and ukulele as she covers a Barrelhouse Chuck original.

From the opening measures of the self-penned instrumental “Lee’s Boogie,” it’s instantly apparent that Lee’s learned her lessons well. Her rapid-fire, two-handed technique includes a left hand so powerful, it must draw envy from lesser players as she runs the bass lines. And her right hand is swift and precise. Her voice is strong and in unaccented English as she delivers takes of Tampa Red’s “Let’s Try It Again” and Carr’s “Longing For My Sugar,” both of which must have the masters smiling from above.

The original instrumental, “Walkin’ With Murphy,” which follows, fits so well into the action that it could have been written in the ‘40s instead of the 21st Century. Three more covers — Tampa Red’s “Keep Jumping,” Irving Berlin’s “How About Me” and Jimmy Reed’s “I Want To Be Loved” – cross the musical spectrum.

Helfer, an 82-year-old Chicago piano institution, joins the action and shares writing credit for four hands on the 88s for “Spaghetti” before Kanehira breathes life into “The Way I Feel,” a tune penned by Leothus “Pork Chops” Green, the Mississippi-born pianist who mentored Roosevelt Sykes. Up next, the sprightly “Pumpkin’s Boogie” honors a cat that resides in the home Kanehira inhabits when in Chicago.

The final two numbers pay tribute to Barrelhouse Chuck. Skip James’ “4 O’Clock Blues” features a duet with Helfer. It’s a tune the two men often shared when sitting side-by-side on the piano bench. Naito, who produced Lee’s first CD, joins her to finish the set with Chuck’s original instrumental, “Iza Mae.”

Available through Amazon and other online retailers, Lee’s Boogie is a treasure for anyone with a love for old-school Chicago blues piano. A word of warning however: If you’re looking for modern sounds, you’ll be disappointed. But from where this reviewer sits, that’s good!

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 

robert james starr cd imageRobert James Starr – Self-Titled


CD: 9 Songs, 28:00 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Gospel, All Original Songs

Remember WALL-E, the Disney/Pixar film about a sanitation robot who reaches for the stars and brings humanity back down to Earth? One of the taglines for the movie was, “After 700 years doing what he was built for – he’ll discover what he’s meant for.” We all have our dreams and our realities. The trick is to merge the two, to make our avocation our vocation, but that doesn’t always happen. Mississippi’s Robert James Starr, after making his first record at eighteen and touring with a strong troupe of musicians throughout the US, only found intermittent fame. While becoming a successful engineer and corporate executive, his dreams of playing the blues never died. Thus he’s released a self-titled album of nine original songs, an enthusiastic fusion of blues, rock, and gospel. Several of these tracks sound similar, but they’re perfect for savoring along with one’s favorite adult beverage.

Starr’s guitar playing and songwriting skills are above average, as is his level of energy. Even on slow songs, one can feel the heat in the music. Listen to “Jesus Comin’ Down” for more evidence of this. Starr’s message is generally positive, but his best work consists of snarky ballads about shady characters (“Gone and Forgotten,” “The Squealer” and “Damn Yellow”). Vocally, he doesn’t sing as much as he talks, holding onto certain notes for emphasis. His efforts are commendable, but don’t contain slick studio effects or laser-precise editing. James and company like their gospel blues raw, from the heart, and peppy. In this, they deliver in spades.

Born in Brooklyn, NY on March 16, 1961, Starr comes from a musical family. By making his career in music, Robert James is following the familial tradition dating back to his grandparents, who were professional jazz musicians. The blues rock guitarist, songwriter and singer says he has always been drawn to blues players such as Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, but also to more contemporary players like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa and BB King. He also performed Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) with Fallen Angel and the Bobby Starr Band.

Performing along with Robert James Starr are Heather Crosse on bass guitar, Lee Williams on drums, Mark Yacovone on keyboards, and Toni Green, Debra Barnes, and Carla Barnes on background vocals.

The following song took yours truly by pleasant surprise, as it’s not about a saint, but a sinner.

Track 04: “Gone and Forgotten” – We all hope to be remembered fondly after we die, but the subject of this down-and-dirty ballad surely won’t. “Well, he’s gone and forgotten, lonely and rotten, sucking back martinis and he’s wasting away. Yeah, he’s gone and forgotten, lonely and rotten, and that’s what he’ll be ‘til his dying day.” Traditional blues guitar follows, a blistering solo that shows just how rough this man’s path has become. Dig those background vocals, too.

Robert James Starr’s new self-titled album lays his soul bare, and his ambitions as well!

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 – 6 of 8 

tinsley ellis cd imageTinsley Ellis – Winning Hand

Alligator Records

10 songs time – 48:40

Atlanta, Georgia native Tinsley Ellis has lost none of his blues-rock powers as he presents this, his nineteenth album in a decades long career. His guitar chops are intact whether charging full steam ahead or in a more mellow groove. His gritty voice fits the songs to a “T”. He enlists a basic band of bass, drums and keyboards here with no outside help. Tinsley wrote all the songs save one. As Jimmy Thackery has of late taken to mostly spacey instrumentals, Tinsley is the rightful king of blues rock.

Songs like “Sound Of A Broken Man”, “Gamblin’ Man” and “Saving Grace” showcase his killer guitar chops and tone. They are right up there with his finest moments. The theme of “I Got Mine” is keep your paws off of my girl. It probably features the most bluesy guitar playing of the set. “Kiss This World” and “Satisfied” are two flat out rockers with the latter featuring some nice Chuck Berry-ish guitar and the piano playing of Kevin Mckendree that owes a debt to the “Killer”, Jerry Lee Lewis.

Tinsley is just as adept as turning in slower and mellower fare as proudly on display on “Autumn Run” and “Don’t Turn Off The Light”. The only real misstep here for me is his take on Leon Russell’s “Dixie Lullaby”. The music is just fine, but his vocals don’t cut it for me. Maybe I’m just used to Leon’s joyous “Okie” drawl. Hey, a minor quibble, maybe just a question of taste.

As long as Tinsley carries on this level of guitar-fired energy and song writing, blues-rock aficionados are in for years of killer music. Although you can categorize his music as blues-rock, he retains the deep soul of a bluesman. Guitar lovers and music fans in general are surely going to find much pleasure in this CD. You just can’t miss with this one. The guy possesses magic in his fingers. Heck his pipes aren’t anything to sniff at either. Do yourself and your ears a favor and snatch this one up. While you’re at it, catch his current tour. Saw him a few years back at a blues festival, quite a show!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

andre bisson cd imageAndre Bisson-Break

self release

12 songs time-48:39

Although this Canadian is a singer-guitarist, the emphasis here on his yearning, pleading and passionate rhythm and blues inflected vocals. His guitar skills are exhibited in the few brief solos included here. The arrangements by Andre are sophisticated and complex. His choice of musicians is on the money. They include keyboards, horns and the occasional violin or cello. Andre does a first class job on the writing and arranging of songs. All save one are written by his hand. The music draws a lot from R&B, soul, funk and blues.

His well seasoned vocals reveal an authentic blue-eyed soul man as witnessed on the powerful title cut. The horn section pushes it to the limit. Andre rips off a brief guitar solo. The funkiness continues on “How Many Times”, complete with old school girl background vocals. Andre’s Memphis tinged guitar playing hits the mark. “I Got The Right” keeps the groove keepin’ on. Things get toned down with the slow and poignant “The Reason Why”.

A Blues Brothers horn vibe permeates the R&B gem “Feelin’ Fine” with Andres yearning vocals showing no sign of letting up. James Brown energy ignites “Next In Line” with its’ “stop on a dime and give you nine cents change” horn section. More Memphis soul pops up in deliberate and soulful “Is This Happening”. A New Orleans rhythmic vibe with underlying Professor Longhair style piano moves the irresistible “Your Attention(I Don’t Need)” along quite nicely thank you very much. It also features a nifty trombone solo by Rob Somerville .

“Reflections” is another slow ballad, this one with a bluesy guitar solo. “The Last Sandwich In Hungry Town” is “funkilicious” with a heavy bass line. Heck, Andre must watch Guy Fierri on The Food Network. His treatment of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” employs the same lyrics, but forgoes the melody for a R&B rendition. I don’t quite see the point, but it keeps the funk rolling along. A plus is another nice trombone solo. The sole backing of acoustic guitar, cello and backing vocal accompany the closing tender ballad “Nothing At All(Live)”. “The heartache’s better than feeling nothing at all”.

Deep emotions delivered by an impassioned singer with strong songs and a tight backing band. How can you go wrong. You just can’t. Pick this soulful work up.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

crowd company cd imageCrowd Company – Stone & Sky

Vintage League Music – 2017

13 tracks; 51 minutes

Although Crowd Company is a British band their sound is wholly American, deeply rooted in funk and soul, this album was even recorded in the States at Iron Wax Studio, MA. Stone & Sky is the band’s second album and features an all-original program written by combinations of guitarist/vocalist Robert Fleming, vocalists Esther Dee and Joanne Marshall, keyboardist Claudio Corona and sax player Chris Rand; the other members of the eight piece band are trumpeter Henry Spencer, bassist Emil Engström and drummer Robin Lowery. In addition Brian Thomas added trombone to three tracks and producer Alan Evans percussion and B/V’s to two cuts.

There is little or no blues content here but if funk and soul are of interest to you there is plenty to enjoy. Opener “Take Off The Crown” has the sort of wah-wah guitar that always reminds you of Shaft, clavinet and horns providing accents to the music, we are very much in funk mode. “Saw You Yesterday” has Robert on vocals and it’s also funky but with more emphasis on melody, the chorus boosted by choral B/V’s and the horns right up front pushing the tune along before “Can’t Get Enough” brings the other female singer* to the mike for a soulful ballad with great horns, probably the strongest song here. That funky guitar/clavinet sound is back for “Soar” and “Fever”, the latter bearing a slight resemblance in terms of its lyrics to the song made famous by Peggy Lee. “Away With You” has Robert leading, the girls on the choruses, a flowing tune with lots of swirling organ and sax and trumpet solo opportunities and “Let Me Be” has rather excited vocals about “the goddess and the honey bee”. “Getting The Groove” is a short track with heavy funk bass and “Fast Forward” has plenty of funk but is rather repetitive for this reviewer. “Summer” is another song with more emphasis on melody and a fine sax solo well framed by the horn arrangement before “The Spark” closes the album proper with the longest cut with space to feature the horns and keys to good effect. The final two cuts are dubbed ‘bonus tracks’, presumably because both are instrumentals: “Blind Pig” is sax player Chris’ tune and is a good, upbeat piece with some great horns; “Station 77” is keyboard man Claudio’s tune and is more repetitive.

So, no blues present here but lots of funky music, sure to get people dancing when this disc is played. Not a disc for this reviewer’s tastes but it is sure to appeal to others.

*the disc does not indicate which of Esther and Joanne sings which songs

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 Interview – Albert Castiglia 

albert castiglia photo 1“Listen, man. I work in a welfare office, and I’ve had knives pulled out on me, and I’ve seen all kinds of shit.”

Albert Castiglia may have been sitting in with Chicago blues master Junior Wells, but he wasn’t about to be intimidated by the prospect.

After all, his day job was that of a Miami social service investigator. Michael Blakemore, Junior Wells’ manager, had given him fair warning: “I heard you play some guitar. We’ll bring you up, but you better be good ’cause if Junior doesn’t think you’re playing very well, he’s gonna ride you pretty hard in front of all these people.”

It was December, 1996. Castiglia had clocked in four and a half years in the welfare office. Musically, he was strictly part time. Sure, he could have been nervous about playing with Junior, but he didn’t blink.

“So, I got up with the band to kick off the second set. Junior wasn’t on stage yet. I played the opening. The band plays the first three songs without Junior. I jammed along with them, and then Junior came up and I did three more songs with the band and Junior, and it was over with.”

As short as that first set with Junior was for Castiglia, it was the best day of his life to that point. He rushed up the street to call his folks on a pay phone. They were happy for him, but that was it.

“Now, get back to your day job, son.” About a month later, he did three fill-in gigs with Junior in Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit. Once again, he felt those were the best days of his life. Then, in April Blakemore called on him yet a third time.

“He says, ‘Hey, man, can you move to Chicago? Can you be in Chicago in three days?’ And I go, ‘For what?’ He goes, ‘to play with Junior, to tour with Junior fulltime!’ And I said, ‘Oh, let me think about it. Yeah, alright. I’m ready to go.’ That’s exactly how I said it. ‘Let-me-think-about-it-yeah-I’m-ready-to-go.’

“I didn’t even think about it, really. I had a gig with a rock band the next day, and two days later I was on a plane to Chicago. I had no plan where I was gonna live. I had a cousin who lived on the North Side who had just gotten married. I showed up, and that lasted a day because he lived in a loft, and him and his wife couldn’t get any sleep that first night ’cause I snored. So, I went up the street to this transient hotel by the red line on Belmont Avenue called the Hotel Belmont. It was like 20 bucks a night, a real shithole, something out of the Blues Brothers. It might have been the exact same hotel, I don’t know. It was nasty. It was ratty. Real weird looking people. I had to share a toilet with the room next door. I had a little black and white TV with a coat hanger for an antenna. Women screaming down the hall. Couples fighting. It was terrible, and I looked out the window. I heard sirens blaring, and I thought to myself again, ‘This is the greatest day of my life.’

“I couldn’t believe it. I had arrived. I said, ‘I’m gonna become a Chicago blues musician.’ It’s everything I wanted to be. It didn’t matter that I was in this $5 a night flophouse. I was so happy. I lived there for a couple of weeks, Then, I crashed at my other cousin’s my place for a couple of weeks. That settled it, and yeah, it was awesome.”albert castiglia photo 2

Castiglia certainly wasn’t an obvious fit for the Chicago harp legend. He’d grown up in Miami, the son of an Italian school teacher father who listened to doo wop and a Cuban mother who liked country music. They made sure he went to college and got a responsible job in the welfare office. “Yup, no blues in my family. None whatsoever.

“If it wasn’t for Junior Wells, I’d have been there for the rest of my life. I did it four and a half years. My parents are very old school. My father is very old school. He grew up in Queens. My grandfather was a plumber, my grandmother was a nurse, and he’s just very old school. He was like, ‘You gotta get a job and you’ve got to stay with it.’ That’s pretty much what I thought was going to happen if this music thing didn’t pan out. I thought I was gonna be chained to a desk in a cubicle for the rest of my life, and then Junior came and cut that shit short. I was in my mid-20s by the time I met Junior, and my parents had accepted that I was going to play music nights, and they weren’t strict strict. They weren’t gonna write me off.”

Blues wasn’t even in his vocabulary growing up. He calls his first brush with the genre an accident. “I had bought an Eric Clapton album called Just One Night. It was a double live album that he recorded in Japan, and 75% of the material on that record was blues. “Early in the Morning” was the first one I recall on that album. There was “Double Trouble” by Otis Rush, ‘Further On Up The Road” by Bobby Bland. There was “Ramblin’ on My Mind,” a Robert Johnson song, and ‘Worried Life Blues.” So, that was my introduction and I was like, ‘Man, this shit is cool. This is cool stuff, but this was all written by other people, so let me check out that stuff.’ So, that’s how it was. I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t the guy who got me into blues. I can’t really sugar coat it. He was. He was my introduction to blues, and he opened the door for me to listen to this stuff. So, that’s how I got into it, totally by accident.”

Castiglia got his first guitar at 12. “My mother’s brother played guitar, and that’s how I got into it.” He was 15 in 1985 when he got bowled over by another record. “I went to a music stores in my neighborhood in Coral Gables, Florida, and I looked for a Muddy Waters album. In high school, the music snobs were citing blues artists, and Muddy was the one they were always talking about. I had been listening to blues, but it was that Muddy Waters album that grabbed my attention.

“I went to this music store where I grew up and looked for a Muddy album, and the only one that was available was the Hard Again cassette, and I bought it. I took it home, put it in my cassette player, and the first thing you hear is Muddy’s booming voice, and it scared the shit out of me. You know the song. (“Mannish Boy”). Then, the band comes in, and I was hooked from then on. That was it. I was I hooked. Fuckin’ band was raw, low-down, dirty, primitive, primal. I’d never heard anything like it, and I had been listening.

“This was the mid-80s, and so there wasn’t a lot of great stuff being put out then on mainstream radio. Springsteen certainly was an exception. There were exceptions, but for the most part, it as real poppy, sugary shit, and when I heard that Muddy Waters album, it was the freshest shit I’d ever heard. I’d never heard anything like it. It was raw. It was powerful, and that was it. That’s when my whole life changed. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do. I had my whole life mapped out from that point on. That’s what I wanted to do. Of course, my parents had other plans.albert castiglia photo 3

“They told me I had to go to college. ‘You wanna play music? Go ahead, but you gotta go to school.” I did what they requested of me and played nights, but when I was 15, and I heard that album, that’s when I knew what I wanted to do. That was it. That was the record that changed my life and then subsequently all these other influences came into my life after that.”

Sure, Castiglia had played gigs as early as 12 years old, and by 1996 he’d played out nights in a band called Miami Blues Authority, but Junior Wells’ Hoodoo Man’s Band was a giant leap forward. It was like he was back in college, but this time studying something that was what he wanted, not his parents.

Junior Wells’ most important lesson was to connect with the audience. “No one was better at that than Junior. He had such a wonderful relationship with his audience. Prior to being with him, I just thought it was all about playing. I’d have my head down, and I just played. I just focused on the neck of the guitar, and I didn’t really think much about music in terms of it being performance music as a shared experience. Being with Junior opened my eyes in that sense. He just had an ability to connect with his audiences and make them feel like they were a part of the show.”

One of the gigs he did with Junior was a blues cruise. “We were on break at a show. We sat at the bar and had a drink. It was almost like Junior was Nostradamus. He said, ‘Look, I don’t expect you to be in this band forever, but what I need you to do is just observe everything you see, learn from everything you see in this band, learn from the guys in the band, learn from me. Just absorb everything and learn from it.’ He pretty much said that, and that’s what I did. It was a nine-month crash course. It wasn’t very long. He got sick and he passed away in ’98. But I did exactly what he told me to, and it was one of the greatest learning experiences ever being in that band.”

Castiglia has put out seven albums since leaving Junior’s band. His guitar playing is often fast, but never loose, and his lyrics come from personal experiences. One of my all-time favorite lines is from “Bad Year Blues” on the CD Keepin’ On released in 2010: “It’s been a real bad year, and there’s only 12 months to go.”

“That line came out of strife and pure misery. My wife had just lost her job. The economy had just taken a hit in 2008, and that all happened in the beginning of the year, and it just came out of pure frustration.

“Everybody’s got their own life. As long as you’re living in this world, you’re going to have something to write about. And it doesn’t have to come from somebody else’s experience. I’d be an idiot to write about the black experience or to write about picking cotton or write about being profiled on the street.”

He recorded 10 songs in one day for Up All Night, his most recent LP. “I think it had a lot to do with I had my touring band with me, and we had been playing these songs night in and night out for three or four months. Plus, the guys had been with me a year. It’s a great band. They’re fulltime musicians, and they were happy as hell to be there. They were really excited about being in the studio. I think it was a combination of being prepared and their eagerness of wanting to go in the studio and do a good job. Yeah, a lot of those songs we did in one or two takes. Some of ’em I think we had done once.”albert castiglia photo 4

His previous band broke up when his drummer, an attorney, found his career had become more demanding, and his bass player had to move back to Indiana to take care of his parents.

“So, I had to kinda blow up the band. I was lucky I found this guy Jimmy Pritchard. He’s a bass player from Newcastle, Delaware who used to play with Big Jack Johnson, Lonnie Shields and Sonny Rhodes, and he was living up in Delaware. I’ve done some gigs with him when I passed through to Philly and Delaware, and I gave him a call and he moved down to Florida to play with me, and then I got Brian Menendez on drums, and he’s in his mid-30s kinda like a real dynamic player, has a jazz background, but very frenetic style, and it works for me right now.

Graham Drout has been a frequent co-writer for 30 years. Castiglia compares his prowess with a pen to that of Dylan. “He paints beautiful pictures. He’s an incredible lyricist, and that’s where I put him. Just because the vast population of the music buying public doesn’t know who he is doesn’t make it not so. It’s just how I feel. He’s an incredible songwriter. I like collaborating with him because it makes it easy for me. Writing songs is a struggle for me, so when I find myself struggling I’m very fortunate to have friends who can write shit in their sleep. They bounce ideas off ya.”

Mike Zito, a blues artist of similar background, produced Up All Night. Cyril Neville wrote “Unhappy House of Blues,” and Johnny Sansone plays harp on two cuts.

“I’ve gotten to know Cyril through Mike Zito and the Royal Southern Brotherhood, and we’d just run into each other over the years. We have very similar philosophies of life.Cyril’s probably a little more intense in his beliefs, but we hit it off. He was game to write songs with me, and he’s a great lyricist as well, so I said, “Hey, you got anything to send me? I got some music to it.

“The first song we did together was “Somehow” off the Big Dog record. It was a song about society treats certain people, the displaced, the homeless, the indigent, the poor, and how we need to correct that. We need to have a little more empathy and compassion and so when you get lyric from somebody like that. It’s really easy to find music. It’s almost like you know right away wat kind of vibe you want for the song when you read those lyrics.

“Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone is the perfect harp player for what I do. He’s just real gritty and real old school. He played through a nasty little shit box, an old vintage amp. It had to have an eight-inch speaker in it and he just blew the shit out of that. He played on my Big Dog album. He played a couple of tracks on it. I love him. He’s one of my favorite harmonica players around.”

Visit Albert’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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Ventura County Blues Society – Ventura, CA

The 13th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival, Southern California’s Longest-Running Yearly Big Blues Event, returns on Saturday, April 28, to Studio Channel Islands, 2222 E. Ventura Blvd., in Camarillo. Gates open 10:00 am, music begins at 11:00 am. Tickets $30. (Pre-Sale), $40. (Day of Show). Kids 12 and under, free with paid Adult General Admission. V.I.P. Tickets $125. (online only). Festival proceeds benefits Food Share, Safety Harbor Kids and other local charities (please bring a nonperishable food item to donate to Food Share). Info: (805) 501-7122 or visit Benefiting Safety Harbor Kids and other local charities. Donations welcome.

This year’s lineup features multiple former Grammy nominee, vocalist Earl Thomas; harpist-vocalist extraordinaire, John Nemeth; SoCal native daughter and longtime festival favorite, Deb Ryder; past International Blues Challenge semi finalists, Alan Wright Band; Sandy Scott & Blues to The Bone, featuring powerhouse vocalist, Sandy Scott. As per yearly tradition, the Ventura County Blues Society All-Star Jam closes out the festival, with special, unannounced guest performers

The Sacramento Blues Society – The Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society will host a performance by the Johnny Rawls Band on May 25th, 2018. Doors at Goldfield Trading Post @ 1630 J St. Sacramento, CA will open at 3:30. For tickets visit:

Johnny Rawls is a soul blues legend. In fact, the term “soul blues” was invented to describe his music. With a career spanning more than 50 years, he’s done it all. He’s an internationally recognized recording artist, music producer, and songwriter who tours extensively throughout North America and overseas.

The Blues Music Awards, Blues Blast Awards, Living Blues Critics Poll Awards, and the W. C. Handy Awards have all acknowledged Johnny with multiple awards and nominations, including Soul Blues Album of the Year and Soul Blues Artist of the Year. Living Blues Magazine described him as a “soul-blues renaissance man”

Johnny’s latest CD “Waiting for the Train” on Catfood Records was released in September 2017, and has been recognized as one of the top 50 blues albums of the year by Roots Music Report

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society announces its April Blues Bash, 1 April (no April fool’s joke here) featuring Joseph Michael Mahfoud, also at the Rabbit Hole, 7:00 doors, 8:00 show, with jam to follow.

As always, both shows are free to card-carrying members, only $5 for others. We are asking for donations of canned food or household paper products to benefit Loaves and Fishes. Hope to see you there!

Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

Sacramento Blues Society is proud to present the legendary Johnny Rawls, Nominee for 2018 Soul Blues Male Artist and Soul Blues Album of the Year for “Waiting for the Train”, on Sunday, March 25, 2018, Goldfield’s Trading Post, 1630 J Street, Sacramento.

Doors open 3:30 p.m. ~ Show: 4 to 7 pm. Purchase tickets Advance Online: $29 Members, $34 Public at or at the Door: $30 Members, $35 Public.

The Great Northern Blues Society – Wausau, WI

The Great Northern Blues Society of Wausau, WI (GNBS) is Proud to announce the lineup for our 19th Annual Blues Café fundraiser to be held at the Historically Registered Rothschild Pavilion (near Wausau, WI) on 3/10/18.

The stellar Lineup will include Big N’ Tasty Blues Band, The Norman Jackson Band, Southern Avenue, Victor Wainwright & the Train, and The Jeremiah Johnson Band. Cathy Grier will be playing acoustic sets near the fireplace 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 utilizing the Code: “BLUES Cafe”. 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 3/10/18. Artist Biographies, directions, and Tickets are available on our Website at –

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Monthly shows at the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park, IL are on the second Saturday of the month. They are from 8:00 to 11:30 PM and there is a $5 Cover Charge. Scheduled shows: March 10 – John Primer, April 14 – Chicago Wind featuring Matthew Skoller and Dietra Farr, May 12 – Cash Box Kings.

The Lyran Society in downtown Rockford hosts first and third Friday blues along with a fish fry. No cover, shows 7 to 10 pm. Scheduled shows: March 17 – Ivy Ford Band, April 6 – Bobby Messano.

Contact Steve Jones at for more info on any of these events or go to

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 e 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: March 12 – Chris Ruest & Gene Taylor, March 19 – Maurice John Vaughn, March 26 – Kilborn Alley Blues Band, April 2 – The Brother Jefferson Band, April 9 – Bruce Katz, April 16 – Harper and the Midwest Kind, April 23 – Paul Bonn and the Bluesmen, April 30 – The Joe Tenuto Band. For more information visit

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