Issue 12-39 October 4, 2018

Cover photo © 2018 Joseph A. Rosen

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with the Benny Turner. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new books from Sheba The Mississippi Queen and Rev. Keith A. Gordon plus new music from Josh Smith, Don Scott, Jack Bon, Bluesman Mike and the Blues Review Band, Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges and Coyote Slim.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

josh smith cd imageJosh Smith – Burn To Grow

VizzTone Label Group VT-JS0010

11 songs – 53 minutes

Guitar maestro Josh Smith has always been inventive in his work, but he goes the extra mile on this one by delivering the feel of one of his live performances even though this CD was recorded within the confines of his new Flat V Studios.

Born in Middletown, Conn., raised in South Florida but based in Los Angeles for the past 16 years, Smith is one of the top innovators on the six-string in the world today, frequently collaborating with other top fret masters, including Kirk Fletcher and Joe Bonamassa, both of whom made guest appearances on one of Josh’s most recent albums.

After emerging as a child prodigy at 13, he and Derek Trucks spent their summers touring the U.S. together before they were old enough to drive. He cut his teeth and developed his skills as a vocalist with two bands – the Rhino Cats and Josh Smith And The Frost, producing four albums before graduating from high school and heading West at age 23.

Once in L.A., he quickly hooked up with Virgin recording artist Ricky Fante for two years before serving long stints as lead guitarist for former American Idol winner Taylor Hicks then old-school R&B star Raphael Saadiq when not touring on his own. He’s also backed Mick Jagger at both the Kennedy Center Honors and the Grammy Awards.

This all-original CD — the 10th in his catalog — mixes blues, jazz, rock and soul into a cohesive package. The structure for all of the material remains stellar even though Smith and all of the musicians involved improvised their parts as they went along.

He’s backed here by an all-star lineup of sidemen, including Travis Carlton and Davey Faragher on bass, Lemar Carter and Pete Thomas on drums, Carey Frank on organ and a horn section composed of Jamelle Adisa (trumpet and flugelhorn), Chris Johnson and J.P. Floyd (trombone), and Matthew DeMerritt and Dan Boisey (saxes). Grammy winner Monet Owens – who’s worked with Boz Scaggs, Celine Dion, Queen Latifah and Michael McDonald — sings lead on one tune and provides all background vocals throughout.

Almost all of the songs here are fluff-free and have themes that delve into intimate human relationships. And while Smith’s most recent releases have appealed more to his European audience — folks with a big love for blues-rock –this one should appeal to traditionalists who desire substance over shredding, something Josh has always done with the utmost taste and control.

A bare-bones bass line opens “Half Blues,” which explodes instantaneously when the horns and guitar kick in. A slow and steady burner, it finds Josh in a situation where the woman he loves is now running hot and cold and has broken her vow never to leave him. Smith’s single-note runs mid-tune are deep and dazzling, and his vocals have never been stronger.

“Through The Night,” which has a breezy, upbeat jazz feel, continues the message. In this one, the lady’s not looking for something that lasts, but simply a body to keep her warm till dawn. “Watching You Go” comes across with a heavier funk feel as Josh finds himself looking back and wondering if he ever cared as realizes he no longer needs the lady as she makes her exit. His fretwork here comes with a bite.

The mood brightens with “That For You Too,” a horn-driven number in which the singer realizes how much his life changed for the good the second the woman entered his life. The next number – the stop-time “Your Love (Is Making Me Whole)” – is delivered from the lady’s point of view with Owens handling the soulful vocals. The tender ballad “Look No Further” and the soul-blues “Let Me Take Care Of You” continue the message, as does the searing blues, “What We Need.”

The emotional whirlpool continues, however. The medium-fast “You Never Knew” offers up a plea to the lady, who’s splitting once again, to open her eyes and realize that she’ll never find anyone who cares as much while the ballad “She Survives” offers up hope and the closer, “Burn To Grow,” plants the seeds for a positive outcome.

Available through most major retailers, Burn To Grow is head-and-shoulders Josh Smith’s best album yet – a well-conceived treasure of emotions. Pick it up. You won’t be disappointed.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

Sheba The Mississippi Queen – A Real Good Woman

Bongo Boy Records

Book and CD – 13 Tracks

Born Martha Booker, along with a twin sister, to a poor family in rural Mississippi, Sheba spent most of her sixty-plus years of life learning all about the blues. Her trials and tribulations are laid out in soul-cleansing detail in her autobiography. Starting as a young woman, she was constantly searching for love and acceptance in a world full of wretched heartache, and a string of men who take advantage of her at every turn. Life starts to turn for the better when her mother, working in Miami, brings her daughters to Florida for a better life.

But her desire to be loved drives Sheba into the arms of men who view her strictly as a sex partner. Then she meets Geechee Fred, a fine looking man who slowly leads her down a dark path, promising to take her to New York City, once she earns enough money turning tricks to finance the venture. Sheba unflinchingly lays out how she became victimized, accepting responsibility for her decisions with wisdom gained in hindsight. Once they make the move, she does get some opportunities to sing, eventually recording a session with George Kelly, a noted jazz tenor saxophonist.

After a shooting incident, she finally heads back to her mother in Florida, leaning on her Christian faith to stop drinking and continue her education. She begins to take vocal lessons in the studio from King Joseph, a talented multi-instrumentalist. There was a powerful attraction from the start, and soon the cycle started all over. Joseph molded Sheba into a powerful singer, but the price was living with a man with a vicious temper and little regard for her as a woman.

Through it all, Sheba manages to stay strong as she pursues her dream of being a singer. And her resolve is rewarded, as she does find real love along with a solid spiritual foundation. Her career gets a boost when she is offered a spot fronting the Rhythm Kings, a band from the Ft. Lauderdale area.

Sheba’s amazing spirit comes shining through on the CD that accompanies the book. The first two tracks, “Oh So Good” and “Pouring Rain,” are filled with crackling energy, the former a nod to good loving while the latter finds the singer down but not ready to be counted out. “Big Man” is a salacious ode to a lover of many talents with Sheba’s robust voice riding the mesmerizing arrangement. If any song would serve to summarize her life, “A Real Good Woman” would be the one. The singer leaves little doubt as what she needs to make her happy.

Her fine backing band consists of George “Chocolate” Perry on strings, bass, drums, and horns, Michael “The Dog” Gauthier on keyboards, strings, and horns, Warren “Roach” Thompson on guitar, and Chuck Kuntzman on slide guitar. Some of the instruments are created through the use of electronic simulation.

There is little doubt as to the subject matter on tracks like “Ms Good-N-Plenty” or “Butter On My Roll,” a throwback to the days of Bessie Smith. Thompson fires off a taut solo at the start of the funky shuffle, “Tell Me Why”. A number of tracks fall into a similar mid-tempo groove, so by the time you get to “Good Good Lovin’” and “Hey Girlfriend,” it feels like you have already heard the tracks. But then Sheba hits you with something entirely different, taking you deep into the delta for some stripped down, no frills sounds on “Blues Of My Soul,” filled with the moans of a woman who understands every nuance. The closing two songs are contemporary southern soul, providing Sheba the chance to extend the scope of her vocal talents.

There is a lot of product on the market purporting to the latest, and greatest, in blues music. Sheba is just thankful that she managed to survive to finally realized her dream. Read her story for a real journey through hell in this world. Then listen and marvel as indomitable spirit is manifested through her voice on each track, reminding us that we can endure and ultimately fulfill our dreams.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

rev keith gordon book imageRev. Keith A. Gordon – Blues Deluxe

The Joe Bonamassa Buying Guide

Excitable Press

187 pages

Blues fans will surely recognize the name Rev. Keith A. Gordon, a noted writer and reviewer for a variety of publications. He also authored fourteen other books on music topics, including buying guides on Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bruce Springsteen, and Frank Zappa, plus a three volume series that looks at Delta, Chicago and Blues-Rock forms of blues music. Rollin’ ‘n’ Tumblin’, released two years ago, complies more than one hundred record and book reviews the author has written.

For his latest effort, Gordon takes a dive into the extensive output over the last seventeen years from guitarist Joe Bonamassa. Many people have strong opinions about Bonamassa as a musician and as a blues artist. One undeniable fact is that Bonamassa and his crack team have found ways to build his brand, establish a devoted fan base, and feed those fans a steady stream of high quality releases that highlight the various aspects of his artistry. Like him or not, many musicians could benefit from studying Bonamassa’s marketing techniques in order to gain insights into growing their own careers.

The first one hundred pages of the guide take an overview of Bonamassa’s career with sections specific to his studio albums, live recordings & DVDs, Band/Duo albums, and other recordings that do not fit any of those categories. Each section lists the release, the release date, musicians playing on the record, and a track list, followed by a brief over view from Gordon. The Studio section covers twelve titles from a mere sixteen year span, starting with the debut recording, A New Day Yesterday, from October, 2000. The author chronicles Bonamassa’s growth as a vocalist and songwriter while never failing to point out Bonamassa’s formidable guitar skills. Along with producer Kevin “Caveman” Shirley, the guitarist consistently finds a potent combination of originals and covers that hits home with his fans around the world, allowing his Black Rock album to finish at #39 on the 2010 Billboard Top 200 list.

As impressive as his studio output is, it is astounding that the guitarist also had fifteen live albums released in the same time period. While playing top-notch venues like the Royal Albert Hall, the Beacon Theatre, and the Vienna Opera House, Bonamassa sometimes delivers live versions of a studio album, while on others he mixes things up with songs from various stages of his career. Gordon’s notes help readers sort their way through the extensive collection, providing enough clarity that fans can pinpoint which live releases would hold the most appeal. The output includes a memorable series of four recordings from four nights, four different venues, and four different bands.

The Band/Duo section focuses on Bonamassa’s work with Black Country Communion, Beth Hart, and Rock Candy Funk Party. BBC is a hard rock band with Jason Bonham, son of John Bonham of Led Zeppelin fame, on drums, and Glenn Hughes, former lead singer for Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, on vocals. The four projects Hart did with Bonamassa helped elevate her to star status, with their Black Coffee album from this year rising to #7 on the UK charts. Some readers may not be familiar with Rock Candy Funk Party, as the guitarist joins a group of veterans based in Los Angeles for four recordings that venture away from blues into a soulful amalgamation at the intersection of rock and jazz. Gordon also touches on Bloodlines, a 1994 release that was Bonamassa’s first at the age of sixteen, the band comprised of the sons of famous musicians.

The Album review section has over sixty pages of Gordon’s assessments of Bonamassa’s work, featuring reviews previously run in various publications. As a rule, the reviews are quite complimentary, with frequent references to the Zeppelin legacy. At times, Gordon’s praise borders on hyperbole, and equating Hart’s vocals to Etta James or Koko Taylor is stretching things a bit. Still, Gordon’s comments point out the differences in the releases, again allowing readers to select which albums might hold the most appeal if they don’t want to spring for the entire Bonamassa collection, a considerable financial undertaking.

The last seven pages reprise an interview Gordon did with Bonamassa that originally ran in the September, 2011 edition of Blues Revue Magazine. It provides the guitarist with some space to sum up his reactions to his career at that point, in addition to adding a few personal insights into his recordings.

All in all, Gordon has done an admirable job of presenting the breadth and depth of Joe Bonamassa’s staggering output. Die-hard fans of the guitarist will undoubtedly want a copy to complete their collection. For those listeners who are late to the game, Gordon’s guide will certainly point them in the right direction, which is exactly what a buying guide should do.

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 – 4 of 8 

don scott cd imageDon Scott – Blues And Trouble

Self-produced CD

13 songs – 52 minutes

Based out of Chatfield, Minn., veteran guitarist and rack harmonica player Don Scott intersperses six originals with seven covers in this collection the old-fashioned way: capturing them over the course of four days on a Teac reel-to-reel recorder.

A disabled Vietnam vet, he was a founding member in 1970 of the long-running Minnesota favorite, Dust Town Blues Band, but has been touring the world for the better part of two decades, delivering music inspired by Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Big Bill Broonzy, Richard “Hacksaw” Harney and others.

Scott has eight albums to his credit, mixing blues, jazz, swing, rock and zydeco, as he does here. A 1997 Minnesota music award winner for best blues recording, he also represented the state in the 2013 International Blues Challenge.

While he’s comfortable working in either band or solo format, Blues And Trouble finds him in partnership with Rochester, N.Y., native Rosanne Licciardi, a blues aficionado, who accompanies Scott on octo-snare cajons and high-hat. Now in her early 70s, she didn’t play percussion until meeting by chance New Orleans keyboard legend James Booker in 2012.

When not working locally, she and Scott have been touring together for the past couple of years, traveling as far as Ireland. They’re accompanied here by pianist Brian Werner and upright bass player Karyn Quinn.

T-Bone Walker’s “Street Walkin’ Woman” opens the action with Don delivering the opening riffs on electric guitar. His tenor vocals swing and bare instance evidence that he’s been practicing his craft for more than 50 years. Rosanne’s rhythm patterns are simple, but serve as a solid complement. Scott uses harp judiciously for Aaron Neville’s “Devil Ride,” kicking off the song with it, then sticking to six-string until the breaks.

An acoustic version of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I Don’t Want No Woman” follows before the first original, the instrumental “Lazy Walk,” gives Scott space to demonstrate his picking skills. A medley of the familiar “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven” and “Let The Good Times Roll” is up next before a loping, country-blues cover of Junior Parker’s “Mother-In-Law Blues.”

Scott revisits his Vietnam days with “Some Other Day,” which is a bittersweet memory of ribbons on lampposts awaiting troops returning from the rice patties, many of whom came home in body bags. Two more covers – a funky, piano-driven “How Come My Dog Won’t Bark” and Charles Brown’s familiar “Black Night” – sandwich “Cody’s Funky Butt,” another original instrumental, before a trio self-penned tunes — “Sunday Cruisin’,” the previously recorded “8 Days Of Hell” and “Glad To Have These Blues” – bring the set to a close.

This one’s a little difficult to obtain at the moment. It’s interesting and definitely old-school like the recording process. For a copy, I’d suggest contacting the artist directly at the address above.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

jack bon cd imageJack Bon – Standing Rock

Starassoprod – Feb 2018

12 songs, 44 minutes

Jack Bon’s latest offering, Standing Rock, harks back to the rockin’ blues and boogie of a Rory Gallagher, with maybe a little essence of Bad Company and, I dunno, Mott the Hoople thrown in for good measure!

Based in Lyon, France, Jack Bon has been a fixture on the European blues-rick music scene for well over three decades, and has honed his craft over the course of some 40 albums and countless live performances. Bon, the guitarist-singer of the legendary 70s French band Ganafoul, performs his catchy, original compositions and covers with a simple but very effective approach to both his singing and his playing. From the collection’s opening track, “Long Big Fight,” all the way through to the CD’s closing track, “Saturday Night”(a recast of a song he had written and performed much earlier in his career) the listener is treated to some simple, yet hard-driving power-trio blues that will have your feet tapping in no time.

From the mid-70s to the early 80s, Ganafoul – also a power trio format – recorded 5 albums, and had generated considerable buzz both in their hometown of Lyon and across much of Europe, along with a loyal following. Bon’s current band – the Jack Bon Trio – was formed in 2012 and features Bon on guitar and vocals, with Chris Michel on bass and Rudy Rosselli on drums. It maintains the vitality of his earlier efforts, along with an assuredness that only comes from honing one’s craft over the course of several decades.

The 12 tracks on this collection are mostly Bon’s compositions, and it’s an impressive collection of songs and straight-ahead performances. Two notable exceptions are a solid remake of Bob Dylan’s “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” and Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee.” The Dylan cover, in particular, is truly memorable, and shows how a really great song can be interpreted in many different ways and still remain true to itself.

Bon is often seen playing a single-pickup, Strat-style guitar into a Music Man combo, and with that simple combination, he gets a sound that is both direct and powerful, yet can be nuanced when the song calls for it.

Bon’s original compositions feel both intimate and at the same time universal, and appear to be derived from personal experience. The disappointment expressed by “Another Friend Is Gone,” and the desperate feeling found in “It’s Your Turn” are universal, and become even more so as we age. “It Could Be You, It Could Be Me,” is Bon’s clear-eyed look at homelessness, and how the unpredictability of life’s many twists and turns can cut anyone down to size. Guest artist Jim Barbiani provides a stirring slide solo to this track.

“The Day You Left Me” is a slow, minor key blues-rocker in which Bon paints a wonderfully evocative atmosphere with both his droning rhythm guitar and his searing solo. And, in spite of its underlying message that our lives pass by ever so quickly, “Gone So Fast” has an almost western swing feel to it. “Good Loving Mama” is Bon’s ode to his mother, and features Lino Muoio guesting on the mandolin. “Boogie Man, Rock n Roll singer” is a relentless rocker, a tribute to a musician’s life on the road.

In addition to Muoio and Barbiani, other guest artists on this collection include Luc Blackstone on background vocals and G.G. Miller on tambourine.

If you’re a fan of energetic, rocking blues and boogie – with catchy hooks, interesting lyrics, and soulful, yet understated singing and playing – do check out Jack Bon’s Standing Rock. There’s a lot to like here. I love it, and hopefully you will, too!

Reviewer Dave Orban is a technology marketer by day, musician/artist/educator by night. Since 1998, Orban has fronted The Mojo Gypsies, based in the greater Philadelphia area.

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

bluesman mike cd imageBluesman Mike and the Blues Review Band – We Do the Blues


CD: 13 Songs, 57:51 Minutes

Styles: Jazz Covers, Blues Covers

If blues releases contained nutritional information on the backsides of their covers, the lowdown on We Do the Blues, from Bluesman Mike and the Blues Review Band, would read as follows: Serving Size, 1 Album; Servings Per CD, 13; Pure Blues, 5 Songs; Mostly Jazz, 8 Songs. Don’t get me wrong. It’s good jazz of the Delbert McClinton sort, not the Count Basie variety. Mike’s vocals are mellow and fluid, as any crooner’s should be, and his style is just as smooth. It’s a shame there isn’t more original material here, as “You Treat My Love Like it’s Roadkill” (yes, that’s the actual title) and “Am I Wrong” are above-average tunes in their own right. The rest are covers from some of the most popular blues artists of our time, such as Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Otis Redding and Coco Montoya. Whether or not one counts Jimi Hendrix (“Red House”) as a blues artist is a matter of one’s personal definition of the genre.

According to our leading man and his posse’s profile on Reverbnation, “The Blues Review Band was formed out of Bluesman Mike’s passion for the blues. In the year 2007, he decided to go back to his roots by spending his birthday gift on a bass guitar and soon started jamming with co-founder Doug Hill and performing all over the Phoenix area.” The ensemble has since been re-formed, and their first release, Blues for the Road, featured a hit song called “I Love Money.”

Along with Bluesman Mike (bass, vocals and harmonica) are Sugar Bear on lead guitar and vocals; Bobby Nealy on keyboards, and Steve Loecher on drums. The inside of the CD cover also displays photos of Julissa Ruth, Tony Mockridge, Sandra Bassett, Perry Seen, T.J. Henry, Tim Robinson, Sam Speed, and Jijjy (that’s J-I-J-J-Y) Van.

The following number is a blues treat that’ll move your feet and a title that just can’t be beat.

Track 11: “You Treat My Love Like It’s Roadkill” – Ta-da, the moment you’ve been waiting for! A Chicago-style swinger with a resonating intro that kicks some serious possum tail, track eleven is Bluesman Mike’s ace in the hole. “You treat my love like it’s roadkill, steamroll over me like I never gave you a thrill…” At the tail end of a romance, truer words were never spoken. If you want to play along on your dobro or slide at home, but fear you’re no Sonny Landreth, take heart: Even the freshest of guitar freshmen will be able to keep up with this one.

Bluesman Mike and the Blues Review Band want one and all to know: We Do the Blues, but a whole lot of jazz and soul along with it!

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 

eugene bridger cd imageEugene “Hideaway” Bridges – Live In Tallahassee

Armadillo Music ARMD 00042

18 songs – 79 minutes

Beloved musical gypsy and historian Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges dropped in to one of his favorite haunts on the planet to record this live set of soul drenched blues, which pays homage to his father as it breathes life through new songs into the tunes he first heard at his dad’s side.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Bridges is true blues royalty, the fourth of five children born to Othineil Bridges – better known as guitarist Hideaway Slim. His mother was a member of Tina Turner’s family from whom the future bluesman acquired his first guitar.

Now 55, Eugene has been wandering the world since leaving home at age 16 to join the Air Force. A gospel singer with his brothers in his youth, he joined The New Chosen and then The Mighty Clouds Of Joy after his discharge. He formed his own band, mixing blues, R&B and gospel, after moving to Houston, but relocated to Paris in the ‘80s when bassist Big Joe Turner – formerly of B.B. King’s band and not to be confused with the pianist of the same name — invited him to join his Memphis Blues Caravan.

Hideaway stayed for a year before reforming his own group. His popularity in Europe soared after recording the Born To Be Blue album, which was produced by Mike Vernon, the legendary British historian and music executive. Organizations in the UK and France both recognized him as their singer of the year during that period.

A 2017 Jus’ Blues Music Foundation Lucy Award honoree – the lifetime achievement trophy named after Albert King’s guitar, Bridges has been dividing his time between the U.S., the west coast of Australia and Singapore, where he’s spokesman for the national airline, for the past several years. But he stopped off at Bradfordville Blues Club in Tallahassee, Fla., to capture this disc in his travels.

As he states in the liner notes: “I must remember my past for our tomorrow! This is the sound I always here my Daddy singing, and the guitar riffs I hear in my head every day of my life… Hideaway Slim is always in there – the ways he talked, the way he sang, the riffs he would play. It’s like when we would sit on the front porch and just play.”

Captured in front of an eager audience on Aug., 11, 2017, Live In Tallahassee features Bridges accompanied by keyboard player David Webb and a rhythm section of bassist Kelpie McKenzie and drummer Pat Manske in a set of 17 Hideaway originals and one cover.

Bridges fires out of the gate with the uptempo shuffle “Step By Step,” kicked off with a super sweet single-note guitar intro. It tells the audience from the jump that they don’t need an invitation to walk a mile in his blues shoes. The bittersweet “I Can Never Forget” recounts having a broken heart after a lady walked out of his life. The theme continues in the Texas blues, “How Long,” in which Bridges describes being “tired of being sick and tired” of his current state of affairs.

“When The Blues Overtake You” is an uptempo paean to the music Bridges loves. “Mom And Daddy’s Place” is a not-so-subtle message to lover that the singer wants to meet her parents while the ballad “Good Old Days” promises his wife that he’ll keep on loving her like the way he did the day they wed. Delivered from the point of a traveling musician, “Hold On A Little Bit Longer” urges he to be patient, that he’ll be home soon.

Despite its upbeat delivery, “This Old House” urges the lady to return because their home’s fallen apart since she’s been gone. Relationship themes continue for “How Long Will It Take,” “I Can’t Wait” and “She’s Out Of My Life” before financial difficulties surface in “Take Home Pay.” B.B. King’s “Sweet Little Angel,” the only cover in the set, is up next before five more originals — “Don’t Call It Supper,” “I’m Holding On,” “I’ll Be A King,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You Baby” and “Rise Above It All” – bring the lengthy set to a close.

Available through multiple online sources, including direct from the artist’s website (address above), Live In Tallahassee is a rock-solid CD from a tight band with a flawless delivery, and just your speed if you like your blues modern with an old-school feel.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

coyote slim cd imageCoyote Slim – Can’t Stay Here Long

Self Release

12 songs – 52 minutes

Coyote Slim is a singer/guitarist/songwriter, based in Sonoma County, Ca, and Can’t Stay Here Long is his sixth album and his first since 2013. Backing himself on both acoustic and electric guitars, he describes his music as “California Delta Blues”, which isn’t a bad description at all.

No mere copyist, Slim takes on various classic blues songs (as well as writing some himself) and re-imagines them to give each a fresh perspective. Opening with Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Death Bells”, Slim’s deep and resonant voice recalls Son House or John Campbell while his finger-picked guitar angrily resonates with a heavily distorted electric guitar tone, in sharp contrast to Lightnin’’s more resigned and fatalistic acoustic version. Roosevelt’s Sykes’ early 1940s piano classic, “Trouble and Whiskey” is given an acoustic slide guitar treatment that slips in a few Robert Johnson licks. Likewise, Lonnie Johnson’s “Fallin’ Rain Blues”, replaces Johnson’s delicate flat-picking with Delta bottleneck, albeit played on an electric guitar. Other classics covered include Mercy Dee Walton’s “Lady Luck”, Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breakin’ Down” (here attributed to both Johnson and the first Sonny Boy Williamson) and Roy Brown’s “Lollipop Mama” (superbly redone as a solo electric boogie).

Slim takes three songs (“Goin’ To Fresno”, “Pearvine Blues” and “Baby Please Don’t Go”), each now so old as to be in the public domain, and contributes additional lyrics of his own, as well providing imaginative backing. “Baby Please Don’t Go” in particular has been covered so many times that one might assume that the song could offer nothing new. Slim retains the essential melody, but plays the song on a mandolin, with its distinctive harmonic spectrum, which adds a lightness to the overall song.

He also wrote three songs himself. “Russian River Blues” is an acoustic slide track, fraught with restraint. “Valley Fire Blues” also features acoustic slide guitar as Slim memorializes a Californian wildfire much as Charley Patton remembered the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 in his classic “High Water Everywhere”. The final track, “Goin’ To The River” is the only song on the album with a second musician, Big Jon Atkinson adding subtle harmonica.

Can’t Stay Here Long was recorded by Atkinson and Danny Michel and mixed and mastered by Atkinson at his Big Tone Studios. As usual, he does a superb job in capturing a live performance with modern clarity but vintage feel.

Coyote Slim has released a very enjoyable and solid album of solo acoustic and electric blues. He is a fine guitar player and is blessed with a booming voice that is wholly authentic and that fits his music perfectly. Great stuff.

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 Interview – Benny Turner 

benny turner photo 1Fame in the world of music comes overnight for some, and never for others, but for Benny Turner, it literally took decades.

Born in 1939 on the outskirts of Gilmer in East Texas, the younger brother of guitar legend Freddie King and cousin to fellow Gilmer native Johnny Mathis, Benny played bass in support of the Texas Cannonball from his teens and through most of Freddie’s short career. But he’s far more than that.

As a youngster, he made music history, becoming the first bass player in gospel before playing behind two more legends — famed Chicago guitarist Mighty Joe Young and Marva Wright, the Soul Queen Of New Orleans – for the better part of 40 years without a single thought of stardom for himself.

“I was always comfortable in the background,” says Turner, a nominee as bass player of the year in this year’s Blues Music Awards. Michael “Mudcat” Ward took that honor, but Benny subsequently captured top prize on bass in Living Blues magazine’s annual critics’ poll.

“I never had the desire to go out and be a front guy. It never entered my mind. I like to go in the studio and like to cut a record, but those front guys have got a lot of responsibility, and I never wanted it.

“You book a gig, and the drummer calls up and says: ‘Hey man, I got a flat tire, and I can’t make it tonight.’ You still gotta make the gig (and find a replacement) because you’ve got bills to pay. I never wanted it.”

For Benny, however, that all changed about eight years ago — after almost 60 years in the business. It was truly a bittersweet decision after having his life and livelihood turned upside down time and time again by illnesses that proved fatal to both the careers and lives of the bandleaders he worked with and loved so dearly.

Brother Freddie was still a young man and at the top of his game when succumbed to an infection brought on by ulcers. Then Mighty Joe suffered a debilitating injury that rendered his hands useless. And, finally, Marva passed after a series of strokes.

“Back in the old days, I was bouncing around quite a bit when I was playing gospel, and Roebuck Staple (Staples Singers patriarch “Pops”) wanted somebody to play with him. I told him: ‘I’ll play with you, Roebuck.’ He said: ‘But you won’t stay with nobody.’

“Boy, was he wrong! I joined a band. I stayed. Wherever I played, I stayed right there. But when Marva passed, I got tired of losing all my friends up front.”

Music has always run deep in Turner’s family. His mother Ella Mae and her four brothers all were skilled guitarists, and she and brother Leon taught Freddie and Benny how to play.

The boys were inseparable. As a child, Benny often accompanied Freddie, five years his senior, into the fields to pick cotton, helping fill 11-foot sacks in the process. And he still bears a scar on his right cheek that he picked up at age four when standing too close when King was swinging an ax to chop wood.

The family was so poor, Benny recounts in his autobiography, Survivor: The Benny Turner Story, that the kids ate fine red clay as a pleasure because they were too poor to purchase candy. “It wasn’t sweet,” he says. “It has a distinct mineral taste. But for us, it was a treat.”

They lived without electricity, indoor plumbing or running water, and Freddie and Benny shared a bed until the family migrated from the Dallas area to Chicago as the winter of 1950 approached.

“It was quite an honor to grow up with Freddie King – and watch him grow into what he eventually grew into,” Benny said in an interview conducted on what would have been his brother’s 84th birthday. “I was there when he started. I didn’t play with him then because I was too young. I played with him before I got of age. But when I got of age, he pulled me in.”

The sense of family has been of prime importance to him since childhood, and that includes both relatives by birth and the relationships he developed with the musicians – and their families — he’s been associated with along the way.

“It’s different today than what it was then,” he says. “The old people have come and gone, and the new people have come in – and they don’t have the same attitude in music or in life. We were out there paying our dues, riding six or seven in a car and having that same six people sleep in the same room. We didn’t have no big fancy buses.

benny turner photo 2“One guy would go in and pay the (motel) bill and then slip the other guys in ‘cause we weren’t making no money, you know.”

While Freddie rose through the ranks and established himself – along with B.B. and Albert – as one of “The Three Kings Of The Blues,” Benny remained quietly in the background and driving the bottom on bass.

Initially a guitarist himself, Benny was barely into his teens when he and classmates attempted to start a few groups. At age 16, he was welcomed into The Kindly Shepherds, a gospel ensemble born on the West Side of Chicago. “I had a really rough time at first because they had me so intimidated,” he recalls. “I had just started puttin’ chords and things together. I knew ‘em, but I’d never played gospel.”

Turner’s fear proved unwarranted, however. As he grew comfortable, he became more and more involved – to the point where he wound up arranging the songs they eventually recorded for Nashboro, the legendary gospel label in Nashville founded by Ernie Lafayette Young, the owner of Ernie’s Record Mart and a sponsor of a weekly hit parade show that aired on WLAC, one of the most powerful radio stations of its era.

Benny was still in his teens when he joined Freddie’s band as an emergency fill-in after regular bassist Robert “Big Mojo” Elem called in sick for a gig. It proved to be the entry into the blues that Turner had yearned for after his first brush with the superstars of the era accompanying his brother to a rehearsal with Howlin’ Wolf, Hubert Sumlin and Willie Dixon in a session to work out the charts for “Spoonful,” the Dixon tune that became a hit for Cream and ranks No. 219 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.

It was truly a trial by fire. Benny had never played bass. He found himself taking lessons on the fly on stage, using a thumb pick and playing with a light touch, developing his own unique style in the process. When Freddie took over the house band gig at Walton’s Corner, one of the classiest joints on the West Side, Benny had to play outside the back door and use a long cord because he was underage.

Soon, established players – including Elem and Calvin “Fuzz” Jones, later a fixture in Muddy Waters’ band – were showing up at his door, looking for pointers, as was a young Aron Burton, a stalwart on the Chicago scene for decades.

When Elem rejoined Freddie’s band for a spell, Turner worked a few gigs with guitarist Eddie King (no relation). It was during that time that he met Dee Clark, then a major national R&B act on Chicago’s powerful VeeJay label. Best known for the million-selling single, “Raindrops” — a 1961 chart-topper – and “Hey Little Girl” — he immediately invited Benny into his lineup, which included guitarist Phil Upchurch, whose lengthy career included work with Curtis Mayfield, Otis Rush and Jimmy Reed in addition to jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman and Stan Getz.

At the time, Bennie still wanted to tour with Freddie, who was breaking nationally with the release of the instrumental “Hide Away,” one of his biggest hits and a tune that’s been played steadily as a break song for bands ever since. Figuring that Mojo would get the gig, Turner jumped on Clark’s offer.

“I made the right decision,” Turner recalls. “I went from chitlins to steak. And Freddie being a new act, his booking agency sent him out without anyone. He had to play with house bands on the road.”

His first gig with Clark came at the Apollo Theatre in New York — backed by a full orchestra — with Carla Thomas on the same bill. It went over so well that the band stayed on for a week and returned on multiple occasions, appearing on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in the process. When Upchurch left to go on his own when his own instrumental, “You Can’t Sit Down,” became an instant success, Benny replaced him on guitar and became Dee’s musical director.

Turner remained with Clark for several years, and Benny made his first recording as a singer – “Come Back Home” backed by “When I’m Gone” — for Chicago’s One-derful! label in 1962. But he received an offer he couldn’t refuse and returned to gospel during one of their tours.

The band was gigging in Miami, when he encountered two old friends from the Windy City. LeRoy Crume and Richard Gibbs. They were members of the Soul Stirrers, a gospel group founded in 1926 and active for about 80 years. It was a group that, at separate times, including both Johnnie Taylor and Lou Rawls in their lineup.

Crume and Gibbs wanted to turn the gospel world on its ear by adding Benny on bass. Against the objections of Sam Cooke, the lead vocalist in the current incarnation who didn’t want to alter their familiar sound, Benny accepted.

“I arrived in Miami with Dee and left with them,” he says. It was a salaried gig with annual Christmas bonuses, and the addition of Turner’s new, fat bottom revolutionized gospel forever.

Bennie remained with them for two years but still yearned to be with Freddie. After a two years of constant touring, he traded gospel and fancy venues for the chitlin circuit and the blues for the final time and reassumed his spot at Freddie’s side.

benny turner photo 3When King decided to move back to Dallas, they parted briefly during which time Benny provided rhythm for harmonica giant Little Walter at his regular gig at Pepper’s Lounge on the South Side. He and younger brother Bobby also formed a soul band for a while, but soon was with Freddie again, moving steadily onward and upward with him as King’s fame grew. Thanks to a big helping hand from Leon Russell, Freddie achieved superstar status, and Benny remained with him, working as many as 300 gigs a year, until King’s passing at age 42 in 1976.

The loss of his brother, playing partner and best friend took a colossal toll, and Benny went into an immediate two-year tailspin. He finally found his center again thanks to the efforts of Young.

A stylish guitarist and showman in his own right as well as a beautiful human being, Mighty Joe remained in Turner’s corner during his struggles. “I don’t think that anyone else knew how much of a bad time I was havin’,” Benny says. “He was the only one who was coming by to check on me after learning about it from my younger brother.

“Joe came and pulled me out of my rut. I was just laying around, not playing, not anything. I was losing so much weight, they had to put me in the hospital for a week, maybe two.”

Eventually, Mighty Joe convinced Turner to join his band for a gig, dragging him out of the house to play at Biddy Mulligan’s, a large showroom on Chicago’s far North Side. “I was so tired after the first set that I couldn’t leave the stage,” Benny remembers. “I just sat in a chair.

“But Joe kept on callin’ me: ‘C’mon, B. C’mon.’ And little by little, bit by bit — like Junior Wells used to say – I came back, man.”

Their partnership lasted eight years — until the mid-‘80s, when Young encountered health issues of his own. A pinched nerve in the neck led to surgery, complications from which resulted in numbness in his fingers, rendering them useless and him unable to play. A decade later, he underwent surgery to correct the problem, but caused complications that eventually took his life.

Like Freddie, Young will always have a fond place in Benny’s heart.

“Mighty Joe had two things going for him,” Turner recalls. “He had a personality — plus what he did on the stage. Wherever we went, people enjoyed it. Mighty Joe was good. He knew the same thing that Freddie King did: You’ve got to have fun on the stage.

”We didn’t worry about mistakes. We didn’t even rehearse. Make a mistake and make it work for ya. That might not be so easy, but you’ve gotta laugh at it and say: ‘I messed up!’”

One thing Mighty Joe did, however, was cure Benny of touring. “He and I were on the road constantly – constantly! When he got sick, I said: ‘Joe, I think I’m gonna have to find a gig somewhere.’ And he said: ‘I know, Jack. I hate to see you go ‘cause we’re like family.’”

Before pulling up roots, though, Turner recorded three CDs with longtime friend Otis Clay. A cover of the Soul Stirrers’ “When The Gates Swing Open” featured Benny on guitar and bass and adding tenor and bass vocal harmonies. Released as part of an album under the same title, it became Otis’ best-selling album ever and one of the most popular gospel records of all time.

“I think he picked the song because I’d played with the Soul Stirrers and Johnnie Taylor had been the one who recorded the original,” Bennie says.

After that, Turner settled in New Orleans, where he still resides today.

“Things have changed since Hurricane Katrina, but I ended up here because you could play around town and make a decent livin’ without traveling,” Benny says. “Joe and I had passed through there before — I think we played a gig with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, and I thought it was pretty cool.”

For the first five years, Turner worked as a sideman at the Old Absinthe Bar on Bourbon Street in the heart of the French Quarter, a tavern that’s been serving drinks to partygoers for more than a century. He recorded his first album as a leader, Blue And Not So Blue, which had limited distribution, in 1997 at age 58.

“Like I said, I enjoy making records, but I didn’t want to go out and get my own band or anything like that to promote it.”

He was on the verge of leaving town once again when he met Marva Wright. A single mother just starting a singing career to support her kids, she asked him to back her for a 9 a.m. gig at the downtown Hilton. It was the beginning of a 20-year musical partnership with Benny as her musical director.

“When Marva started coming out, she only knew four songs, but she could sing them all night long,” he remembers. “People would pack the joint and stay all night long. She was powerful. She started to go on the road a little bit, but not much.”

benny turner photo 4When Katrina struck in 2005, Benny was on the West Coast and his home, which sits on high ground west of the river, suffered only minor damage. But the Crescent City was broken. Like most of his compatriots who stayed after the storm, Benny’s life savings evaporated as he struggled.

The bars gradually reopened, but the landscape had changed, and many of them no longer booked blues. Gigs were hard to come by, and the mortgage was still due. Fortunately for Turner and many of his fellow musicians, some of the pressure was taken off through the work of MusiCares, a charity run by the Grammy organization.

Benny’s life changed again in 2009 when Marva was on stage at the Coco Club on Bourbon and was felled by the first in a series of strokes that left him without a steady gig and, eventually, the loss of another close friend.

“Marva’s funeral was the last one I’ll ever attend except for my own,” he says. “I said then that I’ll never go to another one, and I meant it.”

She passed in 2010, and that’s when Benny finally decided to step out of the shadows after her death in early 2010. “I’ll tell you what worked for me,” Benny says: “Marva’s drummer, ‘Jellybean’ Alexander, and Keiko Komaki, the keyboard player, we decided to stay together and hold that gig. Once and for all, I knew that I could be a front guy.

“We all stayed together, and they supported me. And they still do. I hate to play a gig without ‘em. The support they gave me gave me the confidence to step out there — ‘cause it’s not easy if you’re gonna do it right. You really want to do it the right way and entertain people. It’s not easy.

“I had a few rough spots, but you get better as you go. Now that I threw my hat in the door, I’m gonna stay with it, man!”

Turner delivered a big tip of that hat with his first real release as a bandleader in 2011. Entitled A Tribute To My Brother Freddie King, it featured a mix of “the songs he liked and the songs I liked,” Benny says. “Some of them we played together. Some of them we didn’t because they simply didn’t work for us on stage. But I knew the ones he liked and we didn’t play. I added my own twist to them because you only got one Freddie King. There’s no way I’m going to sing ‘em like him. I’m gonna do it my way.

“I pulled in (organist) Deacon Jones – (a founding member of the legendary R&B group, Baby Huey & The Babysitters) — from Curtis Mayfield, (drummer) Charlie Robinson and (keyboard player) David Maxwell for it, and that was a powerful band.”

Turner’s next release, 2014’s Journey, delivered the blues from a different approach. “I wrote every song in there,” he says, “and I tried to talk about a lot of the things I experienced growing up. One of my favorites is ‘Worn Out Woman.’ That’s actually about my mother. I used to watch her scrub the floors and make the bread, hanging the clothes on the line, washing the clothes with lye soap. The punch line is: A woman’s work is never done.”

Two other tunes in that set – “My Mother’s Blues” and “My Uncle’s Blues” – pay homage to the early guitar lessons Freddie and Benny received. “I still play in my mother’s style,” he says. “And my Uncle Leon, he taught her, and I play his style, too.

“To me, that’s my best CD so far. I love it. I love it!”

Two more well-received albums have followed. When She’s Gone and My Brother’s Blues have served as what Turner believes are the final chapters in his tributes to his brother.

What’s next?

Benny’s Blues,” he says without hesitation. “I’m gonna do the songs that influenced me or my mother, songs that I love. Louis Jordan. Charles Brown. And country, for sure. I’m gonna bring it from back there all the way up. They may not all be from blues people, but it’ll be blues when it comes outta my mouth. And I may write one or two to go in there.”

As you’re reading this, Turner is rapidly approaching his 79th birthday, but he has no plan to slow down. “I want everyone to know that I’m just gettin’ started,” he says. “And I appreciate all the attention I’m getting.”

That includes the honors that his autobiography, penned with the aid of noted music writer and Blues Blast contributor Bill Dahl, have received. It’s currently a finalist for two separate independent book publishing awards.

Space limitations here only tell part of Benny’s story. Pick up a copy if you’d like to learn more about him, Freddie and many other folks in the music industry too numerous to mention.

Visit Benny’s website at:

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

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The Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

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.

The 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.

Also ,The Charlotte Blues Society announces TAS CRU as the musical headliner at our Sunday Blues Bash, November 4th, at 7:00 p.m. at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205. 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.

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. Thur, Nov 29 – Reverend Raven & CSAB, Kankakee Valley Boat Club. More Info at:

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