Issue 12-37 September 13, 2018

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Cover photo © 2018 Joska Borbely

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with drummer, songwriter and record producer, Tom Hambridge. We have 5 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Steve Krase Band, Big Harp George, Rory Block, Lady A and Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar.

Bob Kieser has photos and commentary from the Crossroads Blues Festival.

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


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2018 Blues Blast Music Award Tickets On Sale Now

This years awards are being held at the Tebala Event Center in Rockford, IL on September 29th at 6:00pm. (Doors open at 5:00pm)

Advance tickets are $35. Tickets will be $40 at the door. Tables for ten are only $300 in advance.

Information on travel, lodging, tickets and sponsorships is available on the Blues Blast Music Awards website at


To get your tickets now click HERE!

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 5 

steve krase band cd imageSteve Krase Band – Just Waitin’

Connor Ray Music

10 songs/40 minutes

Is Honky-Tonk Blues a thing? A sub-genre in which people in the vast expanse of Texas can two-step and hoot-scoot to wailing Blues harmonica and stinging guitar. If it isn’t a thing it is now. Houston harp veteran Steve Krase’s fine new record Just Waitin’ shuffles and moseies while also delivering the real deal Blues. Out of the tragedy of Harvey, Krase has rebuilt his music into a romping feel good hybrid.

Steve Krase is a utilitarian front-man who fits into the pocket instead of flashing and strutting so it makes sense that this record is credited to the Steve Krase Band; it’s a collaborative effort. Bassist, songwriter and producer Rock Romano helps Krase create a clean straightforward sound and is in perfect union with drummer Tamara Williams. Williams and Romano, with James Gilmer adding percussion on a few tracks, keep the music moving and lay down a rock solid flexible foundation for guitarist David Carter and Krase to skitter over. Steve sings with a spoken word simplicity that exudes cool confidence and his harp attack is clean and rhythmic.

The minor key Blues “Nobody Loves Me” is haunting and highlights Steve’s ability to use his talents effectively and tastefully. Krase doesn’t try to push his limited vocal range out of the sweet spot. This is exactly how a talker/shouter like he should deliver a slow Blues. So even though “Nobody Loves Me” would be a wailing vocal workout for someone like Kim Wilson, Krase keeps it conservative expressing resignation and sadness instead of angst and despair. Krase shows the other side of his voice on the shuffling “Just Waitin’ On My Brand New Baby.” Steve takes his time with this mid-tempo Romano original phrasing the lyrics in a cool laid back way. Talking his way through as the patient narrator waiting for his baby who is obviously up to no good; Krase again uses his vocals to perfect effect to communicate simply and convincingly the message of the tune. With guest guitarist Kenan Ozdemir laying down a short but highly potent lead, this song is a highlight. Both tracks are highly effective and super enjoyable because of Krase’s understanding of his gifts and how to best present them.

So how about this Honky-Tonk Blues? Opener “Settin’ The Woods On Fire” is the template. A Hank Williams Sr. vehicle that Jerry Lee Lewis (the king of Honky-Tonk mash-up) covered; this simplistic 2-step is startling and sounds a bit corny at first. Upon a second pass, the listener is unable to sit still as the music plows forward with an old-timey call to get turnt-up. The song sticks with you. There is a maniacal rockabilly pulse. Krase and guitarist Carter keep the energy flaring with rhythmic hypnotic solos that don’t allow the groove to break. The record keeps the Honky Tonkin’ with Hillbilly flair on the Cajun take of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett.” Augmented by Brian Jack on accordion and Mike Vee on rubboard, Krase takes this Beverly Hillbillies theme song down to the bayou. “Blame It All On Love,” another Romano original, jangles with a hop that bounces down the road like Gram Parsons would have. These songs are Country music with Blue shades highlighted.

Steve Krase has been laying his Blues down on record for over a decade. A mainstay on the Houston Blues scene, it is great to hear such joyful and effecting Blues based music coming from post-Harvey Houston. Krase has taken his Blues in a new direction with Just Waitin’, a joyful celebration of life and survival, just like his City, and just what his City needs.

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman based in Boston who spreads his brand of blues and funk all over New England. Bucky has dedicated himself to experiencing the Blues and learning its history. As a writer, Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Eric Nisenson, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 5 

big harp george cd imageBig Harp George – Uptown Cool

Blues Mountain Records

12 songs – 57 minutes

Singer, songwriter and harmonica player Big Harp George’s debut album, Chromaticism, was nominated as Best New Artist Debut Album in the 2015 Blues Blast Music Awards. His new album, Uptown Cool, continues the path blazed by Chromaticism and his sophomore effort, Wash My Horse In Champagne, albeit this time with the added horns of Michael Peloquin (sax) and Mike Rinta (trombone and tuba). Uptown Cool features sharply written songs with clever lyrics, excellent singing, stellar support from the likes of Kid Andersen and Little Charlie Baty and outstanding chromatic harmonica playing.

The album opens with the swinging “Down To The Rite Aid”, which wryly narrates the struggles of getting older as George sings “Well you may still think your old blues club’s where it’s at. That I would understand – it used to be like that. But there’s a rocking new joint, hep cats can’t stay away. I’m headed there now, to my local Rite Aid….. Bobby’s in the pill line, waiting for his fix. He used to source meds in the park, how did it come to this?? Katie’s shopping canes, or thinking maybe a knee brace. Body parts sagging all over the place.”

George’s lyrics address everything from the business of modern romance in the funky “Internet Honey” and the dangers (and delusional joys) of not being entirely truthful in “Alternative Facts” (with superb interplay between George’s voice and Andersen’s guitar on the fade-out), to questioning our societal responsibilities in the slow blues of “Cold Snap By The Bay.” He also charts more traditional affairs of the heart in the likes of “Nobody’s Listening”, and the 60s-style rocker “Standing In The Weather.”

The music itself is primarily West Coast blues, with hints of Chicago. There is also the Latin jazz tinge of “I Wana Know”, which features a stunning guitar solo from Baty. There are two cool instrumentals, the swinging “In The First Place” and the title track, while the New Orleans rhumba of “Lord Make Me Chaste” provides the perfect closure to the album with its despairing plea “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet. As much as I look forward to the time I’ll spend with you, it’s a big wide world and there’s still lots to do. Lord, make me chaste – but not yet.”

Musicians on the album include Chris Burns on keyboards, Alexander Pettersen on drums, Joe Kyle on bass, Loralee Christensen on back up vocals (and shared lead vocals on “Just Calm Yourself”), D’Mar on percussion and Derick Hughes on backing vocals. Through it all, George’s distinctive chromatic harp lays down a series of memorable solos. The key to the album however is not in the technical virtuosity of the musicians, undeniable though that is. This is an album of songs and everything played by the musicians is done so purely to support and enhance the song.

Uptown Cool was produced by Chris Burns and engineered by Kid Andersen at Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose. Burns and Andersen deserve kudos for capturing some sparkling performances.

Overall, Uptown Cool is a very, very good release from Big Harp George. If you enjoy the modern West-Coast-meets-Chicago blues of someone like Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, you will definitely want to pick up a copy.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 5 

rory block cd imageRory Block – A Woman’s Soul – A Tribute To Bessie Smith

Stony Plain Records – 2018

10 tracks; 45 minutes

After completing her Mentor Series of six CDs dedicated to six great founding fathers of the blues* Rory has now turned her attention to female artists and where better to start than with Bessie Smith, the ‘Empress Of The Blues’. In her excellent sleeve notes Rory stresses that as well as being one of the earliest female singers to be recorded, Bessie had a dynamic stage presence and songs that pulled no punches in celebrating women’s sexuality. Rory lauds “…her unapologetic presentation of women as the powerfully sexual beings we know we are – but that society just didn’t know how to admit that in the early 1900s. Bessie’s material was never dirty, it was just plain sexy”.

Everything you hear on this disc is Rory: vocals, guitar, bass and varied percussion effects. One of the best things is that Rory’s arrangements maintain some of the complexities of Bessie’s originals which were often recorded with top jazz players of the day, including Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton. Selecting ten songs from the 160 recordings that exist must have been tough but it is good that we have some of Bessie’s most celebrated songs alongside some that are less well known. Rory opens with a Bessie classic in “Do Your Duty” and her slide work sits nicely over the acoustic and bass, providing some of the jazz swing we associate with this famous tune. Has there ever been a better title than “Gimme A Pigfoot And A Bottle Of Beer”? Rory’s version has some terrific singing and more good slide work. “Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl”, Kitchen Man” and “Empty Bed Blues”, all show Bessie’s sexy side; Bessie may not have written these lyrics but she sang them to probably shocked audiences and now Rory delivers them brilliantly.

Of the perhaps less well-known songs “Black Mountain” deals with revenge in a society where carrying a gun or knife seems the norm while “On Revival Day” has some appropriately gospel tones as Rory sings about the power of the church services where they have “old Satan on the run”. Rory double tracks her vocals to create a chorus and it’s a joyous song with the power of a Baptist revival service. “I’m Down In The Dumps” finds the singer contemplating throwing herself in the river and in “Weeping Willow Blues” the elegant jazzy arrangement cannot hide the girl’s sorrows. The tale of a musician “Jazzbo Brown From Memphis Town” has some fine picking by Rory as she describes a man who “plays no classic stuff but what he plays is good enough for the Prince of Wales”.

Throughout the album we are reminded of Bessie’s status in the early blues world and what a sad loss it was when she perished in an automobile accident near Clarksdale in 1937, aged just 43. Rory has set the bar high on her first ‘Power Women Of The Blues’ so it will again be an interesting ride as the series develops.

*Son House, Skip James, Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt, Bukka White, Reverend Gary Davis

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

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 Crossroads Blues Fest – Photo Review 

We made it out to the Crossroads Blues Fest in Rockford, Illinois the week before last to see some great Blues. First off we saw New York guitarist Dave Fields. Dave did a great job kicking off the show.

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Next up was a great band out of Champaign, IL, Kilborn Alley Blues Band. These guys are an amazing blues band and they have been nominated for many awards.

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Next up was Lauren Mitchell Band from Florida. Lauren is a great song writer and singer. Her last album was nominated for a Blues Blast Music Award.

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Next was a real treat! Blues legend Lurrie Bell showed up with legendary bass player Melvin Smith (Koko Taylor) for a set of real Chicago Blues.. It doesn’t get any better than that!

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Toronzo Cannon hit the stage next to show us the Chicago way! Toronzo is a rising Blues star in Chicago and around the globe.

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The final act to perform was the Ledbetter Welch Project. Michael Ledbetter and ‘Monster’ Mike Welch are an amazing Blues duo. If you have not seen this talented young Blues act put them on your “must see” list now!

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The Crossroads Blues Festival is an annual event put on by the Crossroads Blues Society of Rockford, IL, one of the most active blues societies in the entire world. The festival is held on the last weekend in August each year. See you there next year!

Photos and commentary by Bob Kieser.

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 5 

lady a cd imageLady A – Doin’ Fine

Self Release – 2018

10 tracks; 45 minutes

Lady A is a singer from the Pacific North West who blends blues, soul, funk and gospel. She wrote most of the songs here with assistance from John Oliver III or producer Dexter Allen who plays bass and guitar throughout. Drums are by Christopher ‘Rattlesnake’ Minter or Joey Robinson who also plays piano. Paul Richardson wrote one song on which he also plays the piano solo but otherwise it is just the musicians noted above. The album was recorded at Dexter’s studio in Jackson, MS.

The title track opens the album on an autobiographical note as Lady A tells us all about her musical journey and how she is in a great place in her life, played over a thumping rhythm. There is even time for a brief reference to the 45th President to bring us right up to date! Lady A has a fine voice and it is somewhat surprising to read that her roots are in Seattle rather than the Southern states. “The Ride” has some tough guitar behind Lady A’s lyrics which warn us to “keep the faith in everything you do. You got to trust and believe because life is like a ride”. “Next Time U C Me” sounds somewhat familiar but it’s a winner with a bright soulful tune, probably this reviewer’s pick of the album. “Change The World” has positive lyrics about what each of us can do to help each other set to a classic gospel tune with excellent choral backing vocals by Lady A and Dexter who mange to sound like a full choir! With the ‘churchy’ organ sounds this is a strong track. “Roof Ova My Head” gives thanks to God for looking after us, putting a “roof over my head, clothes on my back, shoes on my feet, I truly am blessed”. In contrast “That Man” is definitely secular as Lady A gets chills thinking about the guy she loves whose call to her work distracts her completely, all played to a grooving soul/Rn’B rhythm.

Some tracks seem rather repetitious: “Throw Down” has some synth horns and handclaps over funk bass and wah-wah but rather outstays its welcome; the closing track “Glad To Know You” starts promisingly with lovely piano but although Lady A sings well the lyrics are again mainly the title repeated, as is the case also on “Tryin’ To Get Over”.

Overall a mixed bag in terms of material but Lady A has a strong voice which delivers all these kinds of songs well.

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 – 5 of 5 

samantha martin cd imageSamantha Martin & Delta Sugar – Run To Me

Gypsy Soul Records – 2018

10 tracks; 35 minutes

Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar come from Toronto and represented their local blues society at the 2018 IBCs where they reached the semi-finals and got plenty of attention with their large band and soul-drenched material. Samantha leads on vocals, supported by Sherie Marshall and Mwansa Mwansa on co-vocals; Curtis Chaffey and Michael McCallum are on guitars, Steve Marriner on keys, Darcy Yates on bass and Dani Nash on drums/vocals, plus a three-man horn section of Shamus Currie (trombone), Andrew Moligun (sax) and Thomas Moffett (trumpet). The ten songs are all originals written by Samantha, with help from guitarist Curtis on five, Susie Vinnick on one and the final track is credited to no fewer than six of the band! The album was produced by Darcy with song arrangements by Samantha, Curtis and Darcy, horn arrangements by Samantha, Darcy and Shamus, so a real team effort all round.

Opening track “You’re The Love” provides the album title with its chorus of “run to me, we can do this together ‘cos you’re the love that I’m running to”. The horns are absent from this one as the twin guitars provide a chugging rhythm and the singers show how well their voices combine. “Gonna Find It” has a catchy tune, the horns and call and response vocals adding a hint of Philly soul and “Will We Ever Learn” is a classic soul tune about…lust! With lovely harmonies and horn arrangement this can only be described as a gorgeous ballad. Electric piano then leads into a spare gospel arrangement which places Samantha’s voice right in the center of the mix on “Wanna Be Your Lover”.

The next two tracks stand out as Samantha sings of “Chasing Dreams”; more gospel keyboards, a rousing chorus and horn arrangement all contribute to an excellent song. Samantha’s voice here manages to get straight into the listener’s head as she reflects on how far she has come – great stuff. Lightening the mood Samantha then sings about “Good Trouble” over a bouncing Memphis-style tune with a great sing-a-long chorus on which the co-vocalists excel. The horns lead us into another soul ballad as Samantha says that somehow she will get “Over You” before another catchy number, “This Night Is Mine”. The guitars recall Steve Cropper’s rhythm style and the overall arrangement finds you swaying and singing along with the chorus. The moody ballad “Only So Much” again shows how well the vocalists combine on a song with a serious message about a woman trapped in a bad relationship where the guy has a drink problem and the kids are left hungry. The closing track has Steve’s bubbling piano at its heart and a Delaney & Bonnie feel, Samantha again the victim of a careless man who has been out “All Night Long”, the track combining all the elements of SM&DS for a final time – soul, horns, harmonies.

Samantha has a great voice for soul material with just a hint of grit. The harmonies of the other vocalists set off her voice but also add an additional gloss to the vocals, bringing gospel and soul sensibilities to the music. Anyone who has fond memories of the halcyon days of Stax, Motown, Hi and Philly soul should enjoy this album. Pity it’s not a couple of tracks longer!

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

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 Featured Interview – Tom Hambridge 

Tom Hambridge, the producer, has an uncanny way of getting inside the minds of Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Susan Tedeschi and a myriad of others he’s produced. And when he’s wearing his singer/songwriter/drummer hat and making music for himself, as he does on his latest CD, The NOLA Sessions, he soars without a net and never looks down.

“I love taking something that doesn’t exist, creating it, and seeing it right to the end. I not only do the recording and the tracking and the writing, I do the mastering. I go right to the end, right to checking the liner notes. I want to make sure we don’t forget anybody. So, I love that process.”

When Sony first called Hambridge about producing Buddy Guy, they asked him what kind of record he’d like to do with Buddy. Hambridge gave it to them straight.

“I said, ‘I’ve had the opportunity to tour and open for him and see him in shows, and I’ve never felt they were able to capture that danger, that recklessness, that unabandoned (sic.) Buddy Guy on record and I’d love that, but I’d also love to get a little deeper in this content.”

A decade, five albums, and three Grammys later, Hambridge has produced Buddy Guy’s career defining album, The Blues Is Alive and Well. He co-wrote12 of the 14 autobiographical cuts and somehow managed to coax several guitar runs that take this 82-year-old guitar genius into new territory as if blues’ hottest man alive were 23 again and anxious to conquer the world. Not since Rick Ruben took control of Johnny Cash’ muse late in his life, has a producer so captured an artist’s essence like mercury in a sieve. But Cash sounded like drift wood at that point. Buddy Guy sounds like he has more than “A Few Good Years” left in his bag of tricks.

I know Buddy Guy. I wrote his biography, and I can’t begin to imagine any producer pulling this off.

“He can be set in his ways as anyone would at that age, like I am, the way I like my coffee or whatever,” explains Hambridge with careful understatement. “He’s been successful doing it his way for so long, but when he trusts you, he’s willing to try things, and I think our – gosh, what’s it been now – 15 years or whatever I’ve been working with him, he has built up this trust where he can say to me, ‘I just want to play my Stratocaster. I just want to do that. I don’t care.’ I can say, ‘Well, you know, why don’t we just try this? Why don’t you just pretend we’re back in 1953, and try this thing and maybe not play so many notes on this.’

“We got a trust, and I can just speak my thoughts to him, even to the point he might say, ‘I’m not sure about this song,’ and I can say, ‘Well, let’s just try it, you know,’ so we’re just able to stretch things a little bit and get right down to what feels good.

“Anyways, it’s been a blessing working with him, because there’s a lot of great artists I work with that are so set in their ways, or want to change all over the map and know their audience is not going to accept that. So, I’ve had rockers who want to come in and do love songs, or a whole album of love songs, and I’m like you (can easily) do that. But he’s a joy to work with as you know. It’s been great.”

One of Hambridge’s secret weapons as a producer is that he is completely colorblind when it comes to injecting rock and roll urgency into real deal blues, just as Buddy Guy always has been. Buddy Guy is as home with Keith Richards as he was with Muddy Waters. And Tom Hambridge has zero reticence rocking out with legacy blues artists and would-be legacy blues artists like Susan Tedeschi.

Hambridge produced Susan Tedeschi’s Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling CD Just Won’t Burn in 1997. He also wrote two singles for the album, “Rock Me Right” and “It Hurt So Bad” which he says have gone on to be recorded by more than 60 blues bands. But at the time, the record label wanted no part of “Rock Me Right.”

“I remember the record company being all up in arms that you’re gonna offend all the blues people, and I said, ‘Why am I gonna offend all the blues people?’ and I said, ‘It’s called “Rock Me Right,” and it’s rockin.’ First of all, two things. I think this record could sell a million copies,’ and they said, ‘Well, we just want to sell about 5000.’ And I said ‘Well, I think everyone who hears this will like it. People who are not even in the blues club yet, people outside the club who maybe want be in the blues club that don’t even know it exists ’cause they’re listening to other people might get off listening to this, get off on this song.

‘“And the other thing, if you want to be a stickler about it, “Rock Me, Baby” by B.B. King had the word rock in it,’ and they went, ‘Yeah, ok.’ And I went, ‘You know, I don’t think we’re that far.’ Then, of course, it sold a million copies. They’re probably two of the most recorded blues songs. Probably 50 or 60 new albums come out a year that are licensed with one of those songs on it. New blues artists.”

In 2016, Hambridge produced Mike Zito’s album Make Blues Not War which debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Blues Charts. Next to Buddy Guy’s The Blues Is Alive and Well, this is my favorite example of Hambridge’s ability as a producer to bring out the rock energy in artists who consider blues fans to be their base market.

“I hope the world gets to hear that Blues Not War record ’cause there’s so many different cool sounds and sides in that record, and I do get people who will email me and say, ‘Man, I heard this song, I didn’t know who it was. It sounds like you, but it didn’t sound like your singing.’ ‘It was a Mike Zito song off his new record. I guess now he’s got a new one out.”

Hambridge considers his ability of think outside the genre box as his “secret ingredient” as a producer. “If I’m gonna bring “Blue No More” into play for Buddy, I’m not thinking, ‘Is this a blues song? Is this a jazz song? Is this a rock song?’ I’m thinking this song is going to touch people when Buddy sings it.

Hambridge paraphrases the song on The Blues Is Alive and Well. ‘When I reach heaven’s gate, they might not know me because I won’t be blue no more. You know after all the hurt that I’ve been through, none of my songs will sound the same because all of the heartache and all of the pain will be taken from me and I won’t be blue no more.’

“And you know, I’m just thinking about it in terms of touching people, making them either laugh, feel good, wanna dance, whatever, and it’s I’m not thinking it’s gotta be in this bin in the record store, or it’s wrong.”

Hambridge writes 60 songs for every 12 that appear on any one record. One reviewer documented that in the two years between 2014 and 2016 alone, Hambridge produced 17 records, received 27 award nominations, six of which he won, played drums and/or sang on 19 other artist’s albums, made numerous TV appearances, toured extensively and released his seventh solo album, The NOLA Sessions.

No one would ever accuse Hambridge of being buttoned down, but he’s much more focused and “professional” in the classic sense of the word when producing others than he working on his own. “I wanted to do everything backwards,” he says about his own The NOLA Sessions. “I wanted to do it the way I never do it. So, when I do my own records, everything is wide open. I can say whatever I want. I can sound however I want because I’m not trying to work for somebody and make sure I keep them on track. I am completely wide open. So, I can do a blues song. I can do a strip down and just do an acoustic ballad. I can write a very introspective thing that no one is going to understand but me, and I don’t have to worry about it.

“I just booked four days in New Orleans, and of course the record company said, ‘You’re gonna bring down all of your people, right, that you do all these (recordings) with.’

“I said, ‘No, I’m just gonna go down there by myself.”

“What are the songs?”

I always have the songs prepared in advance for everybody to be on the same page and love them and pick the ones they want and I said, ‘No, I’m gonna write ’em when I go down there.’

“I just thought I want to meet the engineer for the first time. I don’t want to see the studio before I book it. I’m gonna play drums they have there. I don’t even need to see it. I ’m not bringing any equipment, and then I just call these musicians that I’ve never met and see who comes out, and that’s what we did.

“Fortunately, the record company trusted me. They knew that I wouldn’t completely let ’em down, and so that’s what I did. I just called Allen Toussaint, Sonny Landreth, Ivan Neville. These are the guys. Call these guys, and I wanted a different band every day, and whoever shows up shows up, and they might not know who I am. They might know who I am. I don’t know. I’m always buried. My head’s underneath the (sand). I’m just making albums.

“If I’m producing a George Thorogood record or a James Cotton record or whoever I’m working with, Gregg Allman, I am so in tune with them and what their sound is and their history, where they’re from, where they grew up, what they’ve already done, what they haven’t done yet. So, there’s a million things I’m thinking about sonically, how to change it, but don’t lose the magic they have. I’m constantly in touch with that artist and their music, and I will write songs with them or search for songs that pertain to where they’re from and are in their situation. So, they’re not gonna sing about something that is completely foreign, you now, in a different language.

“When people would say to me, ‘I want you to produce a record for me,’ I’d say, ‘What do you want to record?’ They go, ‘I want to record “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Stormy Monday” and all classic songs, whatever, and I’d say, ‘You know what? Why don’t we write a couple of our own, and hopefully 30 years from now they’ll be “Stormy Monday.” It’ll be our own,’ but a lot of people are shut off by that. Elmore James was able to create that just because he wasn’t trying to do that. You know, people had to write those individual songs.”

In 2013, Hambridge produced James Cotton’s last album, Cotton Mouth Man (Alligator Records) including the song “Bonnie Blue.” It was a Grammy nominee for album of the year. “That was so wonderful and meaningful and emotional because when James came to me, (he asked) ‘What kind of record?’ I said, ‘I want to tell your story,’ and he said, ‘Well, how are we going to come up with songs?’ And that’s a wonderful situation where I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Come to my office in Nashville for two days and just talk to me, and I’ll have the album ready.’ And he said, ‘No way!’ And I said, ‘Yes, that’s all ya gotta do, just come to my office.’ So, he came to my office the first day and we just talked.”

By that time, Cotton’s voice sounded like a 1965 VW stripping gears. “I was able to say, ‘James, write it down. I don’t understand what you just said there. What did you say?’ And he said, ‘Bonnie Blue. That’s the plantation I grew up on,’ and I said, ‘That’s a slave plantation?’ ‘Yeah, Bonnie Blue.’ And that is one of the things I get a chill just thinking about it.

One of the songs on the album is “Bonnie Blue.”

“He said, ‘I can’t sing. How are we gonna make a record when I can’t sing?’ I said, ‘I’m gonna call some friends of mine and when I tell ’em what I’m doing, and it’s for you, I think they’re all gonna come out.’ ‘No, they won’t come out.

“First guy I called was Greg Allman. He said, ‘You gotta send me the song.’ I sent him a song I wrote called “Midnight Train.” He called me back personally. He said, ‘You tell me when and where and I’ll do it.’ I called Warren Haynes, I called Delbert McClinton. I called Keb Mo. Everybody I called said, ‘I’m there.’

Hambridge is one of very few blues musicians who have gone to Berklee College of Music and made it through to graduation. Most quit when they make a musical connection and join a band. Hambridge went through college and joined a and at the same time, and what a band it was. “I was playing all the way through. I started playing drums when I was five years old, so I started playing music professionally, getting paid when I was in the third grade. I’ve never had another job. So, when I went to Berklee, the first thing I did was get a gig. I was touring with Roy Buchanan, Chuck Berry, and my professors would let me go and do that.

They were like, ‘You’re kidding me. You play with Roy Buchanan? Yeah, go ahead. I won’t fail you.’ So, I was just enjoying being in Boston and learning all this. There was so much vibrant music happening all over the city, and I played with John Lincoln Wright and the Sour Mash Boys. A lot of local bands that were just great, you know. There was such a scene.

“I loved everything about being in Boston and going to Berklee. I took art history courses and just all kinds of stuff. I took piano courses, and I just loved it. So, I think it wasn’t like I was a professional musician. I felt like I was a professional musician, and I was just learning and being creative and going to class and whatever I could pick up I was picking up at the time, you know, in the gig that night, in the class that day, whatever, at the jam session.”

Imagine playing with a guitarist as spectacular as Roy Buchanan while still in school. It was a baptism by fire. “When I got the gig with Roy Buchanan, I remember being in Alston, Mass, and I was known as a pretty reliable drummer, played with a lot of different people, and I got a call saying, ‘Would you like to audition for Roy Buchanan for a tour?’ And I remember thinking, oh, my gosh, I remembered my brother played those records and “The Messiah Will Come Again.”

“I called my brother, and I said, ‘Can you send me some of your records?’ This is crazy, right? And he sends me some of the records, and then I got the call. The audition was going to be on this day. Then, it was gonna be pushed back. Then, I went and auditioned, and he wasn’t there. But his band leader was there, and I played like an hour and he said, ‘Man, you got it. You’re in.’

“Then I was supposed to rehearse with the band for the tour. Then, we didn’t rehearse, and it got to the point where the first shows were at Jonathan Swift’s in Cambridge, two sold-out shows. The next show was the Lone Star in New York. Next show was the Bottom Line. I mean, the tour started in Cambridge, and I said, ‘When am I gonna meet Roy, and we’re gonna rehearse these songs?’ And they said, ‘Oh, like the week of,’ and then a couple of days before, then it was supposed to be the afternoon of the first show.

“I met Roy backstage five minutes before we were going on for the first show, and Roy walked up and said, ‘Hey, Tom, I guess you’re our new drummer. Looking forward to playing with ya.’ And I said, ‘Me, too. Do you know what we’re gonna play,’ and he said, ‘Wha’dya know?’ I said, ‘I know “Hot Job,” “Peter Gunn.”’ He says, ‘Let’s start with “Peter Gunn,”’ And I walked on stage, and that’s how I started.

“After a while you seem to work with musicians who understand that if they trust you enough, they know you come with a whole tool belt of stuff in your whole life. So, you can adapt at a certain point which is what we did. I went out on stage and we just followed him and played musically, and by I think the second night we recorded Live at The Lone Star.

“And that was the show that in the last two or three years was on an album that came out of unknown classic recordings by Roy Buchanan, and on that record was the song “Amazing Grace,” and they said that was the only time they’ve discovered Roy Buchanan ever played “Amazing Grace” live, and it was the second night of the tour. I remember he just started playing. I got brushes and just started playing it. It’s on the album, and it sounds spectacular. I just figured he did this every night.

“I was just the new guy, but that shows you how it all goes down, and history is made sometimes which is what I love about music. You get great musicians in a room with somebody like Roy Buchanan or a Buddy Guy or whoever we’re talking about, and you can make magic, and that’s what I love about music. So, that was nice.”

Tom Hambridge is a workaholic who believes in what he does passionately and works at it almost around the clock. “Every day is pretty different. I try to write a couple of songs, I try to write every day, but sometimes life gets in the way, so (right now) I’m in the middle of mixing a couple of albums that I haven’t got done, backing a record this week, writing a song with an artist who is flying in. I’ve got to do a Bobby Rush overdub for an album.

“It’s constant. I feel totally blessed, and I love what I do and at times, people do call me a workaholic because when everyone is wrapping up and saying, “Boy this is an unbelievable day, and we’ve got an early start tomorrow. I can’t just wait to hit the bed and crash out. What are you doing, Tom?’ And I go, ‘Oh, I gotta go to another session, and I’m tracking something tonight,’ and they do look at me like I’ve got three heads sometimes, but I really love what I’m doing and so I just try to fit the sleep in wherever I can and just go after it, you know?

“It’s not a game. It’s a business. It’s a craft and you first have to keep writing. You just have to keep writing better songs. A good copywriter gets his songs turned down 99% of the time.”

Visit Tom’s website at:

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

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The Windy City Blues Society – Chicago, IL

The Windy City Blues Society is collaborating with the Village of Lyons to present the Inaugural Windy City Blues Fest. The Fest is September 22nd and 23rd, at Cermak Park, 7701 Ogden Ave., Lyons, Illinois.

Saturday and Sunday, end of summer, 2 stages, over 40 musical acts, family, friends, good food and drink. Plenty of room to relax, great music and new experiences.

This is a first time Blues Music Festival, be the first ones to help make it legendary and help carry the blues forward. It’s going to be like a Chicago Blues Fest from years gone bye. We hope the Windy City Blues Fest is the Bookend to the Chicago Blues Summer, and a gateway to the King Biscuit in October. $10 for the weekend, $10 to park. VIP tickets available Please join us. Details found & tickets purchased at WWW.WindyCityBluesFest.ORG Keep the Blues Alive Baby!

Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

The Mississippi Valley Blues Society is pleased to present these upcoming shows.

Wednesday, September 19th 6:00 pm JP Soars & The Red Hots at Kavanaugh’s Hilltop Tavern 1228 30th Street, Rock Island, IL Tickets: $12.00 or $10.00 for MVBS members. Sunday, Oct. 7, 6:00pm Orphan Jon and The Abandoned Viking Club Moline IL $12, $10 for MVBS members.

The Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

On the 10th Anniversary of the Sacramento Blues Society Hall of Fame Awards, we are proud to announce our 2018 Hall of Fame Inductees: AJ Joyce, Andy Santana, Jimmy Morello, RW Grigsby and a special posthumous Induction of Frankie Lee.

Join us for a very special two part Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Sunday, September 30, 2018 at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub, 2708 J Street, Sacramento, from 1-5 p.m. ,with special appearance by musical guest, The Daniel Castro Band.

Following the Induction Ceremony, there will be a Hall of Fame Showcase with the new Inductees and many previous Inductees at the nationally known Torch Club, 904 15t St., Sacramento, from 6-8 pm.

Also Sacramento Blues Society presents the 2nd Annual Harmonica SlapDown on Saturday, October 13, 2018 at the Harris Center, 10 College Pkwy, Folsom, California featuring Mitch Kashmar, Aki Kumar, Gary Smith and Andy Santana! Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $40 Zone 1 (includes a 1 year membership to Sacramento Blues Society for new members) and $35 Zone 2.

This is going to be an exciting event you won’t want to miss! Additional information at

Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society announces its upcoming IBC Band Challenge on October 7th from 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205. The Winner receives $1,000 and represents CBS at the IBC Competition in Memphis in January, 2019. Free to members with valid cards; $5 to others. Remember to bring donations for Loaves and Fishes.

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.

9/17/ – Laura Rain and the Caesars, 9/24 – Reverend Raven & The Chain Smokin’ Alter Boys featuring Westside Andy, 10/1 – Levee Town, 10/8 – Orphan Jon and The Abandoned, 10/15 – Jeff Jensen, 10/22 – Lindsay Beaver & The 24th St. Wailers, 10/29 – Murray Kinsley & Wicked Grin. For more information visit

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Shows start at 7 pm, and are open to the public. Food and Beverages available at all Friends of the Blues shows. Tues, Sept 25, Ivy Ford Band, Kankakee Valley Boat Club, Thur, Nov 29 – Reverend Raven & CSAB, Kankakee Valley Boat Club. More Info at:

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