Issue 12-14 April 5, 2018

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Cover photo © 2018 Bob Kieser & Alastair Fraser

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our Part I of our focus on some great Chicago Blues guitar players who also happen to be female. This week we feature Ivy Ford, Donna Herula and Melody Angel. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from A.J. Fullerton, Arthur Adams, Dede Priest – Johnny Clark & The Outlaws, Ridin’ With Dr. Wu’, Mitch Woods, Daniel De Vita, Netto Rockefeller and JM Carrasco, Susan Williams & The Wright Groove Band and Jimmy Markham.

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

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 Featured Interviews – Chicago Blues Guitar Women Part I 

Several cities lay claim to being the “home of the blues,” including Memphis and New Orleans. But no one will argue that Chicago belongs on the list, particularly when the discussion turns to guitar players. For more than eight decades, Chicago has boasted many of the players that have defined the traditions through several generations. Staring with legends like Lonnie Johnson and Tampa Red, followed by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers, Hubert Sumlin, Earl Hooker, Robert Jr. Lockwood, and Otis Rush, the lengthy list moves on to Magic Sam, Lonnie Brooks, Eddie “The Chief” Clearwater, and Luther Allison to the current scene with Buddy Guy still at the top of a list along with John Primer, Billy Flynn, Joel Paterson, Toronzo Cannon, Carlos Johnson, Linsey Alexander, Mike Wheeler, Joe & Nick Moss, and Dave Specter. The fact is that each era had too many fascinating players to list them all.

One notable aspect of the current scene is the presence of a number of outstanding female guitarists. Where Memphis Minnie once garnered attention for her stellar fretwork, there are six women who are working hard to share their musical visions with the blues community in Chicago and beyond. Joanna Connor and Liz Mandeville are familiar names with established careers. Donna Herula, Kate Moss, Melody Angel, and Ivy Ford have been working hard at establishing themselves as players deserving wider recognition. Sticking musicians into categories based on their sex is an unfair assessment. If a blind listening test was conducted, no one would be able to distinguish male from female players. A great player is recognized for the music they make, not their race or sex.

Ivy Ford

ivy ford photo 1Ivy Ford has been making music for about twelve years, singing with live bands in her high school years. At one point, she was introduced to blues music at open jams. She started bringing her guitar, a birthday gift, to the jams for instructions on how to play. Inspired by liquid courage, she bragged about being a great bass player, even though she had never played the instrument. When her friends called her on the boast, she had to step up. “I played with guitarist J.B. Ritchie, who introduced me to musicians in Chicago. I was with him for about two years while still doing my own gigs. It was hard at open jams to get the band to play what you want as just a vocalist, especially as a female. The guitar players would tell me I didn’t know what I was doing. So I figured ok, I’ll pick up the guitar and I’ll play for myself”.

When she was hired to be the singer for a band, the guitar player took offense that she was playing guitar. She relates, “I was nowhere near as good as he was, but he got his nose out of joint. The rest of the band said it wasn’t cool and they wanted to keep playing with me. So that the group that hired me as a side-person ended up with me as Ivy Ford & the Cadillacs. That was about five years ago. We were playing the circuit in Waukegan, IL”.

“At one point, I went to Buddy Guy’s Legends as a patron, where I was completely star-struck. Several weeks later I got a phone call from Mark Maddox, the booking coordinator at Legends. I had sat in with Joe Moss and Mark was getting good feedback about my playing, so he offered me some opening slots on their schedule. I was like, holy crap, pinch me! Of course I want to do it. I agreed before he gave any of the details. When I finally asked who we would be opening for, sure as shit, it was Buddy Guy. That experience is what jump-started my career”. Ford ended up breaking with the Cadillacs over creative differences, although bass player Willie Rauch remained with her up to the present.

Playing live, Ford used to use an Epiphone ES-339, similar to what Freddie King played, running it through a Fender Blues Pro Junior amp. “The Epiphone was my first new guitar. It has a smaller body and fit me ergonomically. I eventually had it signed by Buddy Guy. The amp is highly under-estimated.

ivy ford pic 2Mine is one of the last ones made in the US, back in 1993 or 1994. It has 15 watts with a single 10′ speaker, volume and tone controls. When I walked in with that little amplifier, people would laugh at me. But it packs a lot of heat and gets the job done. Now that I am a bit more savvy and particular, I am using a Peavey Classic 30, a tube amp with the vintage blonde face. It is a smooth sounding amp with more controls that I can dial in real nice, but the downsize is that it weighs 34 pounds, so it’s heavier than all get out to haul around. Just recently, as a wedding gift, my husband bought me a Fender Stratocaster, the black, polka-dot Buddy Guy model. It is a smoking guitar with great sustain plus power and punch”.

When asked about being a female musician, Ford feels fortunate that she has been respected from the start. “Most genres are male-dominated, and blues is no different. There are some obstacles that come with the territory, even though people aren’t being ill-willed about it. I get comments from new fans, saying that when they listen live with their eyes closed, they say I sound like a big black man. I take that as a big compliment. In the working environment, I have been fortunate that I haven’t run into much discrimination or disrespect on the stage. Willie Rauch has been playing for decades and holds me in the highest regard. My current drummer, Dave Axen, is a long-time friend who has played with us for the last two years. As a band leader and front man, male or female, you have to respect your rhythm section”.

“I haven’t run into much discrimination, but I have had my fair share of underestimating me. I try to demand a level of respect and I don’t take any shit. Being a younger female musician can be an issue because of that old cliché about paying your dues. Now I am part of the Chicago scene. It is great to be friends and a peer with guitarists like Joe Moss, Mike Wheeler, and Toronzo Cannon. I strive to present a polished live show, so that the audience gets an experience. We play different venues that have a younger clientele and I always go over very, very well, even when I play stuff like old school Muddy Waters slide. There are a lot of young blues music fans out there. They just need to hear the music. I think there is a lot of hope for my generation”.

Adding to the excitement, Ford now has Miss Vivian in her life, her vivacious eight month -old daughter. “I bring her to shows when I can, because it is good to start them young. It is awesome being a mother, but no one is ever completely ready or prepared. It is definitely life-changing”. A true “blues mamma,” Ford kept playing until three weeks before Vivian was born, then started again three weeks after the delivery. She represented the Crossroads Blues Society, out of Rockford, IL, at this year’s International Blues Challenge, where she released her new all-original recording, Time To Shine, available at her website,

Donna Herula

donna herula photo 1After playing piano for five years, Donna Herula really wanted to learn to play the guitar. So she convinced her brother to get one of his friends to teach her the Penatonic scale. In high school she played in a all-girl rock band and took some lessons on jazz guitar. “I wrote a song, “Midterm Blues,” for a variety show, getting help on arranging it for jazz band from some excellent teachers at the school.

That was the start. I play acoustic instruments, doing traditional blues. Being born and raised in Chicago, I have incorporated the blues sounds I grew up with. I have taken some lessons from guitarist Rory Block, who commented that my style is like an electric blues player. My influences include Son House, Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters, Eric Sardinas, and Rory Block”.

Her guitar collection includes two Gibson Nighthawks (Chicago Blues and Memphis Mojo). One is tuned for slide and the other is set up in standard tuning. She uses a brass slide. Her resonator guitars are Nationals – a vintage sunburst Steel Triolian, a polychrome Steel Tricone, and a silver Steel NRP. For amplification, she utilizes a Red Light boutique amp or a Fishman PA system. For solo performances, she breaks out her Porchboard Bass stomp box, using velcro to add a tambourine to it.

“Tampa Red is one of the people that inspired me. He was a resonator player who influenced Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk, and Elmore James. People think you have to play electric guitar to play slide but there are players like me who slide on a resonator. I love to play solos, it is a joyful experience that isn’t always part of traditional songs. One of the first times I saw blues being played on a resonator was as a teenager outside the Chicago Blues fest one year. Steve Arvey and Kraig Kenning were playing on the street with a big crowd around them. I stayed there watching them for hours”.

“Playing the resonator makes me feel free. My intention was to play the electric guitar. But when I went shopping for guitars, I tried one and just couldn’t put it down. It makes me happy, allowing me to imitate the human voice. The clincher was when I saw Eric Sardinas live. Eric plays more of a dobro-styled guitar, amplifying an acoustic instrument with electric pick-ups, which is what I ended up doing. Performers like Eric and Rory really make me feel emotions when I watch them play. Listening to Son House do “Death Letter Blues” basically sealed the deal for me. I was hooked on traditional blues at that point. Traditional blues songwriting has humor besides the gut-wrenching, heartfelt songs that bring out an emotional response. So the majority of what I write and play is blues”.donna herula photo 2

A recent change in the schedule of her day job has given Herula more time for her career. She typically plays 3-4 shows a month in addition to teaching classes on slide guitar at the Old Town School of Folk Music. “I teach acoustic Slide guitar I and II classes plus a number of individual lessons. There are a lot of people that have supported me over the years. One of them was Chris Walz, who had me cover two of his blues finger-style classes at Old Town when he went on a sabbatical. He has been a teacher there for more than twenty years. After eight weeks, the students really liked me, so they kept me on as a teacher. It is a blast!” Teaming up with her husband, Tony, the guitarist has done over fifty blues education programs for adults. Tony sings, plays harmonica, and rhythm guitar during a program that highlights the different styles of the music.

Herula is thankful for all of the encouragement and support she has received over the years from other musicians and from blues societies throughout Illinois. “Barry Dolins gave a big break when he invited me to be part of the Robert Nighthawk commemoration at the Chicago Blues fest, playing on a big stage as a solo artist. That lead to me participating in the Johnny Shines and Sister Rosetta Tharpe tributes. I invited singer Oscar Wilson, from the Cash Box Kings, to do a couple songs with me. He liked my take on traditional blues. The Windy City Blues Society supported me twice when I represented them at the International Blues Challenge. Liz Mandeville taught me a lot when we were performing as a duo. And the Chicago Women in the Blues experience, with Joan & Gary Gand, has made me a better guitar player and entertainer. Sharing the stage with strong personalities like Shirley King and Peaches Staten makes you step up your game, as did my trip to Durbanville, South Africa with guitarist Charlie Love”.

“I ended up building lasting relationships all the way down to the Mississippi delta from the IBC experiences. I met people scouting talent and people at the Delta Cultural Center that liked my playing. I was invited down to Helena, AK and got to meet the late ‘Sunshine” Sonny Payne, long-time host of the King Biscuit Time radio program. There were people playing on Cherry Street, a lot of interesting Delta and Hill country sounds that I have tried to integrate in my own sound. Blues helps you make friends for life. What they say about southerners being kind and caring is certainly true. Every time I’ve been down there, it feels like going home, even though I was born & raised in Chicago. I hope to get another CD done and get back down there. Tony and I will also be making a return trip to the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. in September. Archie had an old barber shop that they use to preserve acoustic music through education and performances”.

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Melody Angel

As she works on establishing her career, Melody Angel makes every attempt to utilize all of promotional tools at her disposal. The singer, guitarist and songwriter has plenty to smelody angel photo 1ay, and she is determined to make sure that listeners have easy access to her music. Something of an Internet sensation, she has a YouTube video cover of Sade’s “No Ordinary Love” that has been viewed over 88,000 times in the last five years, and a clip of her solo acoustic version of “Billie Jean” has logged over 20,000 views. A video of “A Woman’s Blues,” the title track on her recent EP, is nearing 1,300 views in less than two months.

She explains, “Those videos have been around for awhile but they continue to get spread around. I want to play for the people, so if they are listening, and I can’t get any real gigs, then I’ll reach out through videos. It took some work for me to learn how to do quality videos – what cameras to get, how to set them up, and to do sound properly. Over the years, I have taught myself how to do my own videos, with help from YouTube. “A Woman’s Blues” is a video I did myself. Financially, you have to figure it out on your own, since I can’t afford to do what the record labels do for artists. But it is a lot of work”.

Starting out at a young age, Angel was singing. She coveted a guitar but it wasn’t in the family budget. At fourteen, her mother finally got her a pawnshop guitar. Soon she had a band put together, doing live shows in clubs, accompanied by her mother so that there weren’t any issues. “I was under 21, so she was with me so I could get into clubs. Those shows forced me to really figure out how to play guitar as soon as possible. I wanted to play everywhere! I met some musicians, a guitarist and drummer in a band based out of Valparaiso, IN, at an open acoustic mic night at Uncommon Ground. They wanted to get something together because they felt we could get plenty of gigs in their area. So we added a bass player they knew, did some rehearsals, and we started playing in the Valparaiso area plus a few gigs in Chicago. That was the start of it all”.

It is easy to pinpoint the exact moment in time when Angel fell victim to the lure of the guitar. “When I was little, I saw Purple Rain, the movie. That was it. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen, or heard! I thought all you had to do was pick up the guitar to make it sound like that. But apparently, you actually have to be Prince to get those things to happen. The beginning of the movie, with him coming through the smoke and jumping on stage with his guitar, it was magical. No other instrument even looked or sounded that cool, so that was all I wanted”.melody angel photo 2

For equipment, she is partial to the Fender Stratocaster run through either a Fender Twin Reverb or a Vox amp if one is available. Her guitar choice was one of personal preference. “It came down to the feeling in my hands. It’s like buying a pair of shoes. They are the right size, but some shoes just feel better on your feet. I tried a Telecaster but it didn’t feel right. The Strat felt right and was easy to play, so that is where I was most comfortable”.

“As a songwriter, I have been affected by the violence in the city of Chicago. There have been family members taken away by the violence. I have been in some very negative racial situations, too. That’s not all of my life, but is a big part. Music becomes an outlet for me to write about being in love, or what happened when the police showed up in a situation, or my cousin getting murdered and nobody doing anything about it. Just writing it off to that Chiraq stuff. I put it out there hoping somebody will empathize, feel the emotions, and learn something”.

Currently, Angel is only playing live 3-4 times a month, including two nights a month at Rosa’s Lounge. The sporadic schedule means that she can’t keep a band together. “Last night I played with someone I hadn’t played with for some time. We had to throw something together. When you mix genres like I do, that can be hard. I am influenced by the blues and rock & roll musically. Vocally, I am soulful singer. My Mom was always playing Motown when I was growing up, that and gospel music. Both are soulful and emotional, and I am a real emotional person. I’m not just saying words. I feel them, and then I sing how they feel to me. Whatever the words are, I think about the meaning and I go through that in the moment. I feel that is the most natural way to sing”.

As far as being accepted in the Chicago blues community, Angel is a bit perplexed about a few things.

“For every guy that supports your efforts, there is often another one dude that thinks I don’t know what I am doing – or thinks I should put the guitar down and just sing. There are a lot of things unsaid.

Overall, I respect anyone who dedicates themselves to the discipline of music. It is a gift for me that I don’t take for granted at all, ever. I want people to know that”.

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In Part 2 of this series, we will be continuing with Kate Moss, Liz Mandeville, and Joanna Connor.

Interviewer 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!

For other interviews on our website CLICK HERE

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

A J Fullerton Cd imageA.J. Fullerton – Kalamath

Self Release

10 tracks / 33:56

Every year there is a new crop of talented young singers and guitarists on the music scene, but what happens to them? Many end up joining a cover band and established bands capture most of the rest of them, and only a very small percentage go on to do great things. These are the men and women who have not only have the talent to perform, but who also have a vision and the creativity and work ethic to fulfill it. Judging by A.J. Fullerton’s debut solo studio album, Kalamath, he is a part of that small percentage who will get it right.

Fullerton is in his early twenties, and he grew up in rural Colorado where he was raised on a musical diet of classic rock, blues, folk, and bluegrass. Music has been A.J.’s career since he was 19, and he has already gained fame within the Centennial State. Fullerton was chosen as the Colorado Blues Society’s solo/duo entrant for the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, in addition to earning a dozen “Member’s” Choice” awards from the Society over the past two years. He also maintains a heavy gig schedule, and plays over 200 shows per year.

Kalamath is a self-produced album, and A.J. wrote nine of the ten songs, sang the lead vocals, and played most of the guitar parts. For this project, he was joined at Scanhope Sound in Littleton, Colorado by Stud Ford on drums (North Mississippi Allstars, T-Model Ford, Light’n Malcolm), Todd Edmonds on bass (Otis Taylor Band), and Eric Luba on piano and organ. But that is not all, as every track features at least one guest artist, and each song is a neat piece of work. By the way, major kudos go out to Joshua Fairman, the engineer for this project, as it is very well recorded and this guy could give clinics on how to properly record drums – they sound awesome throughout.

The album starts out with the title track, and “Kalamath” is a tight piece of rock with a tinge of folk thanks to the layers of acoustic and electric guitars. Fullerton has a strong voice and this song is right within his range. I usually hate to compare singers to other artists, but have to say that he has the talent and sound of a young Eddie Vedder. There is neat orchestration to this song with cool organ work from Luba, and a special added folk element is the fife of Sharde Thomas. This song is followed up by “She’s So Cold,” a blues rocker with a dirty guitar tone from A.J. and distorted harmonica from Nic Clark. Not everything is rock on this album, as “Falling Apart at the Seams” is a laid-back tune with grand dynamic changes, a catchy chorus, and a melodic guitar solo. Fullerton has taken great care in refining his guitar tones, and there are great examples on this track.

There is plenty of variety on Kalamath, despite its relative short run time of 34 minutes. “Lover Come Back” is a dirty roadhouse tune at its core, but it crosses genres with soulful backing vocals from Megan Burtt. Denver’s Chuck Lettes lends his pedal steel to “Miles Between Us,” which is a radio-friendly soft rocker with a pretty melody and easygoing mood. “Smoke and Mirrors” has a folk feel with electric instrumentation, more harp from Clark, and a fabulous dry drum sound from Stu Ford. The band even worked in a piano-heavy ballad, “Oh Frustration,” which features the lovely vocal harmonies of Hannah Holbrook.

All of the songs on this disc are very good (and they all work well together), but there are a few standouts. One of these is “Highway 285,” a Southern rock song that has a bit of a Deep Purple vibe thanks to the organ of Luba. This is also the only track where A.J. brought in another guitarist, and the interplay between him and Taylor Scott is amazing. The other shining star is the only non-original song in the set, “Wish I Was in Heaven Sittin’ Down.” This song was chosen as the closer and it is delivered as a heavy piece of swamp rock with harmonica from Brandon Bailey. This is nothing like the R.L. Burnside version that you may be familiar with, and it works in every way.

Kalamath is a fine collection of blues, roots, and rock, or maybe I should just call it “Americana.” It is well recorded and well written, and there is not a bad song to be found on it. A.J. Fullerton is just getting started on his career and this album is solid indication that he is going to have staying power within the industry. Head over to his website at and check out Fullerton’s work and gig schedule – you will be impressed!

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

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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 independent 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. Submissions must be received by April 15th.

For Complete information on submitting your music for consideration click HERE

2018 Blues Blast Music Award Submissions Are Now Open

Contemporary Blues Album

Traditional Blues Album

Soul Blues Album

Rock Blues Album

Acoustic Blues Album

Live Blues Albumr

New Artist Debut Album

Historical or Vintage Album

Male Blues Artist

Female Blues Artist

Blues Band

Sean Costello Rising Star Award

Save the date! – Blues Blast Music Awards September 29th, Tebala Event Center Rockford, IL

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Early Bird Advertising Special

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.

To get this special rate simply buy your ad space by APRIL 15th, 2018!!!! Ads can run anytime between now and December 2018. So get your ad package now for that fall album release!

With this special rate, your ad can be viewed more than 370,000 times by our readers who want to know about your Blues events and music! Reserve your space today! Space is limited and will be sold on a first come first served basis.

Other ad packages and options, single ads, short run ads or long term bulk rates available too! Visit To get more information email or call 309 267-4425 today for an ad plan that fits your needs.

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

arthur adams cd imageArthur Adams – Look What the Blues Has Done for Me

Cleopatra Records

2 Discs / 26 tracks / 102:00

Arthur Adams has been singing and playing his guitar since the 1950s, and during that time he has been fluid with genres, having played gospel, blues, rhythm and blues, and funk; he even had a number one charting disco track in the UK in the early 1980s. What is probably of most interest to blues fan is the work he did in the 1960s and 1970s after he relocated to the west coast. As a session player Arthur worked with heavyweights in the industry including B.B. King, Quincy Jones, Lou Rawls, Bonnie Raitt and Phil Spector. Since then he has toured with major artists (including Nina Simone), so he has not exactly been letting the grass grow under his feet. Adams is well into his 70s now, and we are fortunate that he headed back to the studio to cut his new album, Look What the Blues Has Done for Me.

This two-disc set is Arthur’s first release since 2009, and it includes a bonus retrospective album, An Introduction to Arthur Adams. This is a compilation of 13 fine tracks from four of Adams’ 1970s albums, as well as the chart-topping 12-inch jazz funk dance single from the 1981, “You Got the Floor.” This set is a great chance for new fans to hear some of the man’s first-class material so they may have an idea where he is coming from. By the way, none of these songs have been available on CD before, which makes this collection even more special.

The disc of new material, Look What the Blues Has Done for Me, has another 13 original songs that were written by Arthur and Harry Garfield. For this project, Adam was the producer, vocalist, and guitarist, and a tight crew joined him in the studio. These folks included James Gadson on drums (BB King, Albert King, Martha Reeves, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock), and Hense Powell, a long time keyboardist for Arthur. Brian Simpson and Reggie McBride share duties on the bass. All of the tracks were laid down at Pacific Studios in West Los Angles by Glen Nishida and Harry and Carol Garfield, and the results are very good.

The new material kicks off with “You Pullin’ My Leg,” and this heavy electric blues tune features Adams’ throaty vocals and plenty of his sweet guitar work. The listener will hear that Arthur’s guitar plays a major role on this album, as every song is chock full of riffs. The next song up is the title track, and “Look What the Blues Has Done for Me” has a lovely 1970s rhythm and blues sound to it, and Mr. Adams does a respectable job with his falsetto to make the mood complete.

There are a few horn arrangements to be found on this disc too, courtesy of guest artists Lester Lovitt and Lee Thornberg on trumpet, and Bill Bergman on sax. The horns give “Helpin’ Hand Man” a blues revue sound, but with the added bonus of a country-style bass line and skillful guitar picking. “All Dressed Up” oozes Chicago blues, with some B.B. King influence in Arthur’s fingers. There is also “If You Let Me Love You,” a beautiful uptempo blues ballad that features Adams’ strong vocal skills and killer guitar leads.

There is a little bit of everything on this album, including a nice piece of funk, “Elevator Ride,” but one of the coolest songs is “Gutbucket,” which is exactly what it sounds like. This is a fun story that is told over a basic backline of bass and snare, with almost spoken word vocals. The added bonus here is a tasty selection of harmonica riffs from co-writer Harry Garfield. Then, before you know it, the set ends with an upbeat R&B song, “Gorgeous,” which is made complete by the backing vocals of Kim Foley, Ava Dupree, and Jessica Taylor. This positive tune is an excellent way to bring a solid record to a close.

Look What the Blues Has Done for Me is quite a cool release from Arthur Adams, and it is a complete representation of where he has been as well as a fine collection of evidence that this guy still has the right stuff. It is an enjoyable listen and fans of traditional blues will find a lot to like here. It would certainly be worth your time to check out the album for yourself, as there is a little something for everybody!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

dede preist cd imageDede Priest – Johnny Clark & The Outlaws – Flowers Under The Bridge

Creeping Fig Records

12 songs time-54:48

I should just say forget the review, just go out and buy this crazy, magnificent CD. It would save us all a lot of time. Dede Priest along with Johnny Clark(Hans Klerken) & The Outlaws are just that crazy good. If you are a sucker for energy driven rock, blues, indie rock, a dash of funk and country fronted by a Texan woman who has a mesmerizing and haunting voice with hints of Eartha Kitt, Janis Joplin and Elkie Brooks from her Vinegar Joe days among others, have I got a band for you. If that’s not enough for you, she tackles most of the lead guitar chores expertly and plays a mean violin to boot. Johnny Clark and band are a rockin’ three piece from The Netherlands who have a firm grip on rock and blues. This is a match truly made in music heaven. The songs are band originals, save one cover song. Their songs reek of originality in both lyrics and musical attack. OK, you need a review to seal the deal. Here goes, hold on tight for this beautifully crazy noise.

Dede’s commanding lead guitar attack leads the charge on the snappy “You Are Love”, as her brilliant pipes rattle off the inspired lyrics. Sugarcane Harris-like violin cuts through the air over a wah-wah rhythm guitar groove on “Willie Mae”, an ode to Big Mama Thorton. By this point if Dede’s voice hasn’t drawn you in, I suggest you seek medical help pronto. Dede’s captivatingly toned guitar and yearning vocal carry the slow burning blues of “What It Is Ain’t What It Ain’t”. It clocks in as the longest song here at 7:23 minutes.

They can handle a country-ish upbeat song like “Strawberry Party” with just as much skill and ease as the more rocking tunes here. Her violin adds just the right touch. Acoustic and a ringing electric guitar are the sole instrumentation backing Dede’s magically hypnotizing voice on the haunting “Snowy Mountain”. Johnny Clark adds an underscoring vocal to “Won’t Last Long” as Dede once again burns up the guitar strings.

Johnny Clark handles lead guitar duties on “Wanda”, as Dede sticks to her trusty violin. I detect a tad more soulful twang in her amazing voice on this one. Sinewy violin lines cut through a nasty distorted guitar riff on the powerful “Lynched At The Crossroads”. Johnny comes on board for his only vocal with his throaty voice as Dede echoes his words in the background on “Alaska”.

The title tune is a wah-wah charged force of nature. Dede’s guitar carries a really nice Texas blues shuffle with “Helen’s Backyard”. The rhythm section of Ray Oostenrijk on bass and Leon Toonen on drums propel this one just as they do on the remainder of the album. Their cover of Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson’s “Mister Don’t Lie” is enhanced by a tricky and seductive guitar riff.

This band is simply amazing. The energy they deliver with just four musicians is beyond what words can describe. I guess you gathered by now that I consider Dede’s vocal powers to be coming from a magically soulful alternate universe. I just can’t say enough. The recording, mixing and mastering by Erik Spanjers pulls it all together. You truly owe it to yourself to pick this one up. Play it loud!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

ridin with dr wu cd imageRidin’ With Dr. Wu’ – Vol.5

self release

10 songs time-37:02

Dr. Wu’ is the brainchild of Jim Ashworth and Bryan Freeze. It’s not a band per se, but a series of concept albums with a rotating crop of regional musicians. A Texas version of The Alan Parsons Project. Taking their name and concept from Steely Dan, the duo write/co-write, mix and produce all the songs. Hard to tell who does what in most cases as there is no list of who plays what on any given track. Suffice it to say the musicianship is first rate throughout the proceedings. Most of the songs have a Texas macho guitar vibe and attitude. Sort of like Z.Z. Top meets the best of southern rock. Lots of testosterone on hand here.

Dr. Hook And The Medicine Show come to mind when hearing “I Still Got Your Tattoo”, a humorous southern style rocker. The vocals throughout are hearty by whomever is singing. “Take Me Off Your List” is a horn bolstered rocker that benefits from some real nifty slide guitar. Voodoo woman put a spell on me…yada, yada, yada…you pretty much get the drift of the sentiment of “Lost In Louisiana”. Not much in the lyric department, but a nice chugging little rocker with fine guitar, harmonica and horns.

Buddy Whittington, John Mayall’s guitarist of choice for sixteen years, apparently makes an appearance on these CDs. His first instrumental “Buddy’ Bolero” finds him laying done mellow guitar lines alongside strings. Meanwhile on “Buddy’s Boogie” he kicks his bluesy guitar slinging into overdrive for a fun musical romp.

“Mistletoe Heights” is a slow lament about a romantic encounter. Plenty of guitar, organ by Red Young and a nicely heavy bass line. I get a bit more of a Dr. Hook vibe on “Her Folks Got Lots Of Money”, a freeloaders tale. Ok, they rock out harder with some wicked slide work. Ready for a Z.Z. Top-ish Texas rocker? Check out “Love Of A Woman”. Great bass line there as well.

Latin percussion is infused into the horn driven “I’m Somebody’s Son”, along with jazzy guitar and organ. They “rhyme” run with stone. Ouch! Big voiced Yolanda Walker duets with somebody on “Baby I Love You”. That lady can rattle the walls with those pipes.

While it is not for the traditional blues fan, this project clicks on all counts. Good songs, plenty of good guitar, good singing and great production values. If you are particular to southern-styled rock music, you’ve arrived at the right place. Rock on Dr. Wu’!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

mitch woods cd imageMitch Woods – Friends Along The Way

Entertainment One Ltd.

16 Tracks/68:55

Since his move to San Francisco in 1970, Mitch Woods has been playing boogie-woogie and jump blues, featuring his dynamic piano playing, for a number of years supported by his Rocket 88s band. In recent years, Woods made a detour to New Orleans, immersing himself in that city’s R&B history while also becoming a regular at the Piano bar on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues cruises. This release is the twelfth over his three decade recording career.

The roster of “friends” joining Woods on these tracks is full of well-known blues artists. When your project starts off with two performances featuring Van Morrison and Taj Mahal, it is cause for rejoicing. Woods plays some lovely gospel piano while Taj Mahal adds guitar accompaniment behind Morrison’s distinctive vocal on “Take This Hammer”. Then the two singers trade verses on an animated rendition of “C.C. Rider”. Ruthie Foster’s luxurious voice commands your attention on her original, “Singin’ The Blues,” as Woods’ understated piano providing the perfect backdrop. Another highlight is John Hammond’s gritty vocal and slashing National steel slide guitar on “Mother-In-Law Blues”. Equally fine is Maria Muldaur’s sultry run-through of “Empty Bed Blues,” as Woods continues to impress with his rolling piano lines.

It is wonderful to hear John Lee Hooker doing his thing on “Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive,” his his vocal personifying what blues is all about. Elvin Bishop guests on two cuts, pitching a boogie on “Keep A Dollar In Your Pocket,” then contributing slashing guitar licks to the high-energy “Saturday Night Boogie Woogie Man,” which provides Woods an opportunity to share his notable vocal talent. Both tracks have Larry Vann on drums. Harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite takes the lead on “Blues Gave Me A Ride,” laced with mournful harp blowing. Woods handles the vocals on the minor key slow blues, “Cryin’ For My Baby,” an original in the Charles Brown style with fine blowing from Musselwhite. “Chicago Express” is another dynamic original memorable for James Cotton blowing hearty train-like licks on his harp as Woods’ hands roll across the keyboard.

Other artists making appearances include guitarist Joe Louis Walker on the lively “Nasty Boogie” and Kenny Neal on vocal, guitar and harp on his original,”Blues Mobile”. “The Blues” finds Cyril Garrett Neville expounding on the blues, stating that “…..Blues is the root of the American musical gumbo”. Morrison and Taj Mahal return on “Midnight Hour Blues,” with Morrison aptly conveying the late night woes running through the Leroy Carr tune. The disc closes with Professor Longhair’s “In The Night,” featuring a vocal and piano duet with Woods and Marcia Ball.

The guest list alone is sure to garner attention for this project. The collective music-making is first-rate with top notch performances from beginning to end, consistently anchored by Mitch Woods and his piano. If you love the music, you don’t want to miss that one!

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!

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

daniel de vits cd imageDaniel De Vita, Netto Rockefeller and JM Carrasco – Third World Guitars

Blue Crawfish Records

CD: 14 Songs, 46:28 Minutes

Styles: Latin American Blues, Blues Covers, Concept Album, Avant-Garde Electric Blues

Blues is enjoyed all around the world, and every country has its own flavor. One of the spiciest varieties is Latin American blues, showcased by Daniel De Vita, Netto Rockefeller and JM Carrasco on their avant-garde album Third World Guitars. Combining zesty guitar and heavily-accented vocals with the traditional rhythms of the blues, it’s a commendable effort. There are no tunes suitable for salsa lessons or piñata parties, but perfect for a long night at a Tex-Mex bar. Almost all of them are covers (ten out of fourteen), but even those are catchy and energizing. The only unnecessary track is Mick Jones’ “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – not because this trio’s version is muy mal (very bad), but because that particular song is overdone. Another flaw is that the lyrics to several songs are inaccessible if one doesn’t know Spanish, but here’s a workaround: Dance and enjoy the mood. Knock back a tequila shot or two, or a mockarita if you’re under 21. Joining the three amigos mentioned above are Diego García Montiveros on upright bass and Gabriel Cabiaglia on drums.

Third World Guitars is a collaboration that aims to achieve something unprecedented with blues in Latin America: unify the scenes of Chile, Argentina and Brazil in the hands of exponents of the guitar from each country. TWG is an album that contains classic blues from the ‘50s, the band’s own compositions, soul and funk from the ‘60s, covers that respect the tradition, as well as songs of bands not associated with Afro-American music patterned to the rhythm of swing. Netto Rockefeller hails from Brazil, Daniel De Vita from Argentina and Jose “JM” Carrasco from Chile. The ensemble plans a tour presentation of this project during 2018 that will take them through all three home countries of the three lead band members.

The album’s closer is a firecracker that will make blues lovers go, “Ay-yi-yi!” around the world.

Track 14: “Sudacas Swing” – An original instrumental with an easygoing rhythm and a splash of hot sauce, track fourteen is tailor-made for a spin on the dance floor with one’s partner. In cases like this, musicians have to be careful not to monopolize the conversation, either ‘talking over’ each other or being overpowering. Remarkably, the five play in perfect balance, complementing one another in a harmonious, savory selection.

Take a jaunt to South America with Third World Guitars, and learn of that continent’s blues!

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 – 7 of 8 

susan williams cd imageSusan Williams & The Wright Groove Band – It’s About Time

Self-Release – 2017

11 tracks; 49 minutes

Susan Williams is an experienced musician on the Illinois scene, having fronted her own band for many years. In this latest incarnation she has joined forces with Darryl Wright who is described as ‘lead bassist’ and, as Susan also plays bass we have an unusual twin-bass set-up. The other band members are Mike Gallemore on guitar and B/V’s and Rob Davis on drums; Michael Cruse adds keys to six tracks. Susan wrote all bar two of the songs here (with Darryl credited for the arrangements) and Mike contributed the other two.

Susan has a pleasant, clear voice and carries the tunes well, the music being mainly melodic with some blues and a touch of jazz in the bass leads on songs like the mellow “I’m Sorry”. Opener “Tell Me You Love Me” has solid lyrics but little blues content and would not be out of place on albums by bands like Heart or later period Fleetwood Mac, Mike adding a nicely poised solo. “I Love What You Do” adds some slide to the first of Darryl’s very effective bass leads while “Shame On You” is an uptempo shuffle in which Susan realizes that she has not been well treated while “Loving You From A Distance” adds piano and weeping guitar to a ballad with sensitive lyrics about keeping the flame alive in difficult circumstances.

Indeed there seems to be something of a theme developing here, as “Meet Me In The Middle” demands compromise in the relationship as Mike plays a ringing solo over Michael’s organ work and Darryl adds another of his trademark bass outings. Maybe the guy did not heed those warnings as Susan has definitely had enough of him in the jump/swing tune “You’ve Got Another Think Coming” and concludes the ‘suite’ of relationship problem songs with “Too Little, Too Late” which just about sums things up! The band sounds good here with rolling bass, sweet guitar and quiet rhythm work to suit the ‘down’ feel of the song.

“Please Come Back To Me” does not change the lyrical mood much as Susan regrets the lost lover though Mike does play some fine blues guitar on this one. Mike’s other contribution “Keep Moving On” is a rockier affair musically as Susan decides that life is too short to put up with difficult people, best to let it go and move on.

Whilst the album is lyrically mostly about failing relationships the music is polished and well played. The dual bass idea seems to work and Darryl’s melodic approach to soloing fits nicely with Mike’s subtle touch on guitar and, with Susan’s clear voice, this is a very pleasant listen. Not all blues, but enough to get blues fans interested.

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 Review – 8 of 8 

jimmy markham cd imageJimmy Markham – Get Ya’ Head Right

The Tulsa Blues Project

12 songs/40 minutes

Jimmy Markham’s Get Ya’ Head Right is a concise statement about Blues eclecticism. The band works through Wolf style romps, Cajun two-steps, one chord boogies, Bo Diddley styled shakedowns, T-Bone swing and old school Chicago blues. This diversity in style is all the more impressive because all 12 songs on this record are original compositions collaboratively written by Markham with producer and “spiritual guide” Walt Richmond and/or producer/guitarist Charles Tuberville, with some help from bassist Jim Byfield on the final number. The writers have created compositions that sound timeless, fitting effortlessly into the cannons of each Blues style.

What is doubly impressive about Get Ya’ Head Right is that in spite of the head spinning changes in Blues styles from song to song, this record has a unified sound that is all Markham. Jimmy Markham is a Tulsa, OK singer and harmonica regional legend. With a muscular harp style reminiscent of Junior Wells and a lived in voice with a touch of gravel, Markham delivers his Blues with conviction and easy confidence. The other reason this record hangs together so well is that this band is tight and consistent. Bassist Jim Byfield and an un-credited drummer create a taut economical rhythm landscape throughout. Guitarists Tuberville and Chebon Markham play with such class and restraint there are no wasted notes. The guest musicians legendary saxophonist and Rolling Stone Bobby Keys (may he rest in peace), saxophonist Johnny Williams, singer Marcy Levy and accordion squeezer Johnny Sansone all fall in line with the tasteful aesthetic.

The overall effect of maturity and restraint is best illustrated by the track “After The Sun Goes Down.” An unremittingly hollow blues lifted directly from early Muddy Waters Chess sides, Jimmy is the mischievous star-crossed lover sneaking around with his girl behind her daddy’s back. A single kick drum pulsating a heartbeat throughout, a solo electric slide guitar and Markham’s voice and harp are all that’s needed to tell this 3 minute testament to “sneaking kisses.” Homage is also given explicitly to Howlin’ Wolf in “Judgment Day.” An “I Asked Her For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)” styled boogie, “Judgment Day” is an “I told you so” Blues about when Jimmy’s girl “put him down” and the hell she has to pay as a result. Markham is all menace and sneer and the steady open cymbal drumming, never deviating from the stomping momentum, drives this song into a frenzy.

Other magnificently executed styles of Blues include: Two New Orleans raves in “Please Justine” and “Desiree.” A Texas shuffle in “Cold Hands Cold Heart,” that would make the Vaughan Brothers proud. Another moaning Wolf boogie “Love Gone Wrong,” and a Muddy mid tempo life lesson in “Wrong Side of the Bed.” A Bo Diddley shaker “Like It or Not.” And, swinging urbane blues in “Done Did It” and “Hard Time with It.”

The thoroughly modern stompers, title track “Get Ya Head Right” and “That Don’t Make it Right,” don’t fit into a specific genre and although good songs and great performances, they seem a little out of place with the other material. The title track is a quick modern blues-rock boogie about partying and trouble. A simplistic ZZ Top-esq riff and incessant beat don’t create a basis for Markham to shine the way he does on the rest of this record. The final track of the album is a feel good sacred steel styled bouncer. The lyrics are about heartbreak and separation but the music is pure Sunday morning. On a record of such strong real deal blues these two anomalous songs don’t seem to be in the same family.

Jimmy Markham’s music is like a 50’s-60’s Miles Davis solo; restrained, economical and seemingly effortless while also being packed full of emotion and intensity. Markham deserves the accolades he gets in his native Oklahoma. He is an excellent Bluesman and he and his collaborators have a unique ability to write and perform the hell out of thoroughly original, classic sounding songs. This is a feat and a marvel which Get Ya’ Head Right shows off nicely.

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman working out of the Greater Boston area. A life long Blues obsessive, Bucky has spent countless hours experiencing the Blues and learning it’s history. As a writer Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Tr.

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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

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: 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: 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: 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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