Issue 12-40 October 11 2018

Cover photo © 2018 Joseph A. Rosen

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with the Michael Ledbetter. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Jim Allchin, Teeny Tucker, James House And The Blues Cowboys, Little Chevy, Mark Cole, Brigitte Purdy, Terry Blersh and Carolyn Fe.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

jim allchin cd image Jim Allchin – Prime Blues

Sandy Key Music

14 songs

Last year we saw the release of Jim Allchin’s Decisions album which garnered good critical review for it’s great songs and musicianship. Allchin returned to the studio this past Spring to once again collaborate with Tom Hambridge and his team. Hambridge has produced Grammy winners before and to make things even sweeter he and Allchin invited Mike Zito, Bobby Rush and The Memphis Horns to join them on this production.

The output of all that is 14 new songs, 3 penned by Allchin alone and the other 11 were collaborations between Allchin, Hambridge and a couple of other folks here and there. In addition to Allchin on vocals and guitar are Bob Britt, Kenny Greenberg and Rob McNelley on rhythm guitar, Hambridge on drums, Kevin McKendree on keys, Glenn Worf on bass, Mycle Wastman on backing vocals and the aforementioned guest musicians.

The album blasts off with “Give It up,” a strident blues rocker where Allchin urges us to discover our inner truth. Allchin’s guitar is big on lead and solos here, as it is throughout. The Memphis Horns make their presence felt early on this first cut. Kevin McKendree on keys answers Jim’s calls aptly and with great style on “The Devil Don’t Sleep,” a sweet and cool blues offering.

Allchin’s vocals move to the grittier side as he testifies that the devil remains ready to get us any time. “Voodoo Doll” is next, showing some Cajun influences on the blues where a bayou beauty draws attention and becomes Allchin’s “Voodoo Doll,” a nice play of words. Another big solo on the axe showcases Allchin’s prowess. The next offering, “Snuggle Up,” is pretty much a straight up guitar anthem sort of rocker, but the band spins a little blues into the sound as Allchin wails. A nice instrumental follows entitled “Jimmy’s Boogie.” It’s a swinging and hair raising cut with stratospheric guitar riffs and a driving beat.

Things then slow down for the softer and more sultry “Summer Sunrise.” The Horns are back in force and bring their style and coolness to the mix. It’s a pretty love song and Allchin and Company deliver a great performance. We get to the half way point with “Enough is Enough” with Mike Zito bringing his fantastic sound to the mix. A gritty guitar intro and Zito on vocals get things going. The piano then fills in and the groove continues at high speed as Zito sings and Allchin makes guitar sing. Solidly cool stuff!

“Found The Blues” gets us a little guitar and organ groove going as Allchin testifies to us about his finding the blues and setting him on his path to play them. Guitar and organ solos are well done on this well done traditional blues cut. Grease abounds on the guitar intro to “Two Bad Dreams” as the organ and Horns return the guitar calls to start this one off. And to make matters even better we get the ever sweet tones of Bobby Rush on vocals as the intro concludes. He breaks out his harp to back Jim’s guitar solo and adds a bit more to our enjoyment- a very cool cut!

Allchin goes acoustic on “Pawn Shop Man” and gives us some cleaned up and dressed up Delta blues delivered in his Northwest style. The acoustic guitar work is well done and McKendree’s piano also makes for a great song. “Lost My Mind” is a well done shuffle in the Chicago style and McKendree again plays some nice piano in support of Allchin’s vocals and guitar. Next we have “Up To Destiny,” a soulful piece where Allchin gives his love life efforts up to destiny. There is some pretty organ work and backing vocals here, too. A thoughtful and different kind of cut and Allchin pulls it off well. “Tech Blues” features some fancy double shuffling by Hambridge, some harp by Bobby Rush, and a little piano by McKendree as Jim and his acoustic guitar bemoan his smart phone trying to be smarter than him. It’s meant to be a commentary on our phone obsession and gives us a bit of humor mixed with social commentary.

The CD concludes with “Logoff,” a cut that both logs us off the CD as Allchin tells his woman he’s logging off from his relationship with her. He takes the blame for the relationship’s faults and brings things to a thoughtful and poignant close.

There is nothing to complain about here. Allchin delivers some great new songs and he and his band and guests are up to the task of making them all sound fresh, new and varied. He plays with an assortment of styles and is able to make each new cut sound as vibrant as the prior one. He’s a helluva guitar player, a very good singer and he really has another winner here. The ex-Microsoft engineer once again excels and delivers a super CD for us with Prime Blues. I think this one is even better than last year’s effort, so if you liked that one then don’t wait to run out and buy this one- you won’t regret it!

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 8 

teeny tucker cd imageTeeny Tucker – Put On Your Red Dress Baby

TeBo Records

13 Tracks/49:03

The title of this release is a familiar lyric to blues fans, taken from the big hit record by Tommy Tucker (Robert Higginbotham) , who was also the father of acclaimed singer Teeny Tucker. Her cover of that classic, inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame last year, is a centerpiece on her new release. Guitarist Robert Hughes plays a short intro, then Tucker utilizes her striking voice to bring new life to the song, with Linda Dachtyl on Hammond B-3 organ, Robert Blackburn on bass and Ryan Parkevich on drums setting up a propulsive foundation.

Other covers on the disc include Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “One Kind Favor,” given a restrained treatment with some gentle, melodic guitar from Hughes as Tucker doubles on backing vocals, and two versions of “I’d Rather Go Blind,” the oft-covered Etta James signature piece. The first is eight minutes in length, giving Tucker plenty of time to deliver a heartrending performance that makes listeners feel the anguish and heartache, without succumbing to overwrought vocal techniques. The shorter version fades out before the five minute mark, making it more radio-friendly as it drops Tucker’s spoken testimonial and some final, moving cries for her man. Both have Mary Ashley, Paula Brown, and Blackburn on backing vocals. “I Sing The Blues” has a tougher sound, with biting guitar from Hughes while the singer’s voice adopts a gritty tone.

The remaining eight songs were penned by Tucker and Hughes. As Tucker explains in the notes for each track, she has experienced plenty of turmoil and loss of love in recent years that form the emotional core of each song, attempting to move past the trials & tribulations to regain a spot in the light of grace. The opener, “Church House Prayer,” addresses the need to find a way to inner piece while the troubled world swirls around us. “Love Don’t Hurt” is a fiery declaration of what the singer wants, and if if her man can’t measure up, she is prepared to break free. The next tune, “Learn How To Love Me,” is the perfect follow-up, with Tucker offering encouragement on ways to rekindle a fading relationship.

Hughes pays tribute to his main inspirations on guitar on “From The Skies,” a reflective piece honoring B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix, especially in the closing segment. The taut guitar licks and driving rhythm on “Don’t Look Back (In The Rear View Mirror)” recall the Tiny Bradshaw standard, “Train Kept A Rollin,’” with Dachtyl accompanying on piano. Tucker uses “Crack The Door” to comment on the pain of dealing with the dying embers of love. All of the emotional torment is vividly expressed on “Heart, Mind, And Soul,” as Tucker’s pushes her voice to the point of breaking in hopes of finding an answer.“Jump Back” is strong musically, with Cary Dachtyl on maracas enhancing the arrangement, but the lyrics fall short of standard on the other originals.

Throughout this release, Teeny Tucker displays her consummate control of a voice that can go from a whisper to a searing cry without missing a beat. Forgetting needless vocal gymnastics, she consistently locks in on the heart of the song, doing just enough to create the appropriate response in the listener’s mind. And she openly shares the sadness, despair and joy of her life in every performance, guaranteeing that this one will get repeated listens!

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!

For other reviews on our website CLICK HERE

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

james house cd imageJames House And The Blues Cowboys – Self-titled CD

Victor House Records

10 songs – 36 minutes

A relative newcomer to the world of blues, James House has a monster pedigree in the world of country and roots music. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that he’s produced a top-notch album for this audience the first time out of the blocks.

A 63-year-old native of Sacramento, Calif., the singer, guitarist and Hammond B3 organ player began delivering his own music at age 18, influenced by Van Morrison, Loggins & Messina and the Beatles as well as B.B. King and Paul Butterfield, whom he saw live at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium. After high school, he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked on movie soundtracks and honed his skills as a songwriter, signing first with Warner/Curb and later Atlantic Records.

His recording debut came as a rocker with the House Band in the mid-‘80s. But he gravitated to country and settled in Music City in 1988, soon signing with MCA as a solo artist. House’s true impact, however, has come as a sessions player and songwriter, a talent that’s earned him multiple Grammy, Country Music Association and Academy Of Country Music awards nominations. “A Broken Wing,” a tune he penned with Martina McBride, “Ain’t That Lonely Yet,” written for Dwight Yoakum, and “In A Week Or Two,” recorded by Diamond Rio, have all been multiple million-sellers. Other artists who’ve covered his work are Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Olivia Newton-John and Bonnie Tyler.

Blues lovers know his songs, too. Beth Hart and Joanne Shaw Taylor are just two of the mainstream artists who’ve included his tunes on their albums. And James co-wrote 15 songs with Joe Bonamassa for the guitar god’s Different Shades Of Blue and Blues Of Desperation CDs.

House fuses blues and Americana on this all-original album, which he self-produced at his Cabin In The Woods studio. He called upon a who’s who of Nashville talent to help deliver it, including guitarists Will Kimbrough, Kenny Greenberg (Willie Nelson and Bob Seger), Lou Toomey and Todd Sharp (Rod Stewart, Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton), bass players Mike Brignardello and Michael Bradford (Uncle Kracker and Kid Rock), drummer Crash Jones and fiddle player Eamon McLoughlin (The Greencards and Ashley Monroe).

James opens “Jail House Blues” with a few gospel-flavored chords on the B3 before slide guitar joins the action atop an intense, multi-layered shuffle. It’s delivered from the point of view of someone who’ll never again see the light of day. House’s vocals are slightly buried in the mix, but full of emotion. “Arkansas Woman” is a straight-ahead blues pleaser that describes someone so perfect that the singer wonders why he left her behind. It features great single-note picking throughout.

Dueling guitars open “Ain’t No Way,” a blues rocker that continues the theme. This time the singer believes he’ll never get over the breakup, and he spells it out in a mid-tune rap. The tempo changes dramatically for “Long Way Down,” a haunting number that describes Hell existing right outside the door. Each verse starts quietly, but builds in intensity toward the turn around.

The music’s slow and steady in “Good Love.” It builds tension throughout as House delivers verbal gymnastics and yearns for his lady to return to his side. It’s followed by the rocker “Moving On Over.” This time the singer’s listening to his inner voice and “moving on over to you.” Guitars come to the fore again for “Well Ran Dry,” an end-of-relationship song with an empty bed driving home the point that it’s come to an end.

The mood sweetens for “Gone Again,” a bittersweet description of a far-away woman — the memory of whom is so strong that you can still feel her face. The yin-and-yang cycle continues with “Boomerang” atop a steady boogie beat and concludes with “Ballad Of The Tkings.” After all the joy and pain, House states, you’ll learn to sing like a troubadour king.

Available from Amazon and iTunes, this one’s full of powerful tunes delivered by powerful musicians. While the themes are familiar, the material’s fresh throughout. It’s blues for modern times, and highly recommended.

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 – 4 of 8 

little cheve cd imageLittle Chevy – Lucky Girl

self release

14 songs time-58:11

Here we are ladies and gentlemen, the best thing to come out of Switzerland since their cheese – Little Chevy! It’s not only the name of the band, but it is also the moniker used by singer extraordinaire Evelyne Pequignot. On this their second release the music is an amalgamation of rhythm & blues, cabaret, ballads, country, blues, rock and whatever else they feel like throwing into the mix. The end result takes the listener back to a time when it was about the song and not instrumental virtuosity and bombast, although the soloing here suits the songs. That’s not to forget the European quality of Evelyne’s voice. With just a mere smidgen of an accent at times she runs the gamut from sultry cabernet singer to exotic chanteuse. Whatever suits the mood of the song. I detect a similarity to the voice and delivery of Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs. She is ably assisted by the top notch musicians assembled for this recording.

“Please Please Please” sounds like Natalie goes country, just a really enjoyable performance with a country-ish guitar solo by Markus Werner. Roland Koppel lends his considerable piano skills to “If I Was A Man”, the singer’s declaring that if the tables were turned she would macho it up. Fabio Bianchi provides nice sousaphone backing on this one. The title track’s lazy day vibe underscores Little Chevy’s fortunate lot in life, sans material possessions. European chanteuse’s of a bygone era are revisited in the dramatic and exotic delivery of “Mon Amour”.

Now for a light and breezy breakup lament in “Bye Bye Baby”. “Ready To Go” is a classic country style weeper. The narrator finds solace from the strife and suffering in the world in the arms of her lover in the moving ballad “In Your Arms”. Eerie guitar effects create the atmospherics for the slow cabaret song “Bad Boy”. One would swear that it is Lowell George era Little Feat backing Evelyn on “The Day I Fell In Love”. Markus has Lowell’s slide down to the last note. The shuffle beat is there along with a close approximation of Bill Payne’s piano styling’s. Great stuff. Acoustic country style slide guitar and harmonium are the sole instrumentation on the lovely closer “Lullaby”.

Passion, soul, deft instrumentation and heart felt lyrics are what make this effort such a solidly pleasing affair. Given amble air play in the states this crafty little band should surpass the notoriety that they have achieved in their homeland.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

mark cole cd imageMark Cole – Cole

Rawtone Records

11 songs time-50:02

United Kingdom native Mark Cole has quite a band resume leading up to this his first solo release of all original songs. He performs with The Dockery Boys, Sons Of The Delta, The Jigantics and Brothers And Sons. Here he sings, plays all the stringed instruments, harmonica and occasional percussion. The approach here is less is more. His less is more than most musician’s more. His mastery is displayed on electric and acoustic guitars, lap steel and banjo. The major thrust is blues mixed up with a rootsy sound. This guy sure knows his way around a sturdy groove along with a strong lyrical content.

The first thing that jumps out at you from the first track “Solitary” is his commanding voice dripping with compassion. The guitar riff draws you in from the git-go as the narrator speaks on his need for occasional space to himself in a relationship. The distorted guitar on “Desiccate Me Baby” comes right from The Hill Country Blues vein. Harmonica and drums drive it home. Things slow down on the rootsy and smooth “Love Will Make You Blind”. “Bon Toy Boy” is greasy boogie at its best accompanied solely by what sounds like foot tapping.

The slow, stark, moody and riveting “Let Me Down” uses spare drums and “bones” for percussion while banjo and haunting harmonica complete the quirky atmospherics of “Let Me Down”, a song that was a runner-up in the International Songwriting Competition. A moving tale of world wide flood disasters, “Water Will Rise”, utilizes Mark’s wicked lap steel skills and kalimba(thumb piano). Your guess is as good as mine as to what “Misprint Formica” is about other than table tops. It has an intriguing Eastern music vibe to it.

“Honeyslide”, a song about a certain part of the female anatomy is about as close you can get to single entendre. I’m not exactly sure what the Mexican flavored “Banus Rain” is about, but there is a region in Spain called Puerto Banus. It’s a lovely, melancholy and moody piece that includes a beautiful slide guitar solo over the acoustic guitar. The rustic “Out On A Saturday Night” is straight out of the Hill Country Blues playbook of artists such as R.L. Burnside and Jr. Kimbrough. Wicked lap steel and a spare drum sound. The moody and deliberate breakup song “Had Our Day” wraps things up with distorted electric guitar and moaning harmonica.

This is a well conceived and executed slice of blues and roots music. No cluttered production, Mark has an uncanny sense of what every song requires. Everything here just drips with a heart felt compassion for the music. You need this CD, trust me.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

brigitte purdy cd imageBrigitte Purdy – Still I Rise

Dirtshack Records

10 tracks | 36 minutes

Brigitte Purdy defies easy vocal categorization. It is the real blues she goes after and she succeeds mightily. On closer inspection her powerful instrument has a palate of colors to choose from, absolute tonal accuracy and precise control. Brigitte has an unusually vast combination of attributes for an unbridled belter of the blues. She has Dorothy Chandler Conservatory training and has worked with Hal Davis of Motown fame. Her musical style does on occasion lean towards Motown, even evoking the artistry, delicacy and phrasing of Diana Ross. Comparing Brigitte to other singers is unnecessary as her voice speaks for itself but touchstones abound nevertheless. She simply has what it takes. Some proof was being selected as a backup singer for master rock vocalist, Paul Rodgers, on his Jimi Hendrix /Muddy Waters tour. His standards are as high as the notes Brigitte solidly hits.

Still I Rise is an extremely coherent album front to back due to her collaboration with the albums’ producer, outstanding musician and always tasteful, Dave Osti, (drums, bass, guitar) along with Drake Shining (All Keyboards and Hammond B3). The basic tracks were recorded at Loveless Motel Studios by Billy Burke and those two Dave and Drake make quite a three-piece and additional guest appearances pop up throughout the seamless sequence.

The harp men are especially worth noting: Kenny Neal plays a down home blow your face off harp solo on opener “Hoodoo” and Michael Fell doing his back porch harp thing on the bring the house down blues rocker “My Kinda Blues” wraps up his solid work with a harp riff ending.

Brigitte (pronounced Bridget) gets the lyrics just right too, she’s “…got a whole mess of blues…so if you want my love you better like my kind of blues.” Osti’s versatile guitar riffs are on fire on this track with three different sounding leads in one interlude. The first is a dry swinging Chuck Berry rock lead verse followed by solid sustained note riffing mainstream rock turn and the third round ending on a double lead guitar well-suited for classic rock radio. “Last Time” is a soulful and gospel inspired and Brigitte delivers an outstanding performance. The song is a bit like Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” but not much to her discredit as her soaring vocals are fully into the feeling and once again she peaks at the right moment showing off her virtuosity in a stylistic and familiar setting. “It takes a better man to keep me home.”

Other standouts are the Fleetwood Mac meets Etta James “Get It Understood”. It’s a sneaky tune starting out soft and building up to a satisfying climax. The funky envelope-filtered guitar solo and the mounting fury of the B3 church organ with the electric piano grooving throughout underneath is a perfect mix. Brigitte’s chorus is a layer cake of emotion that rises to the logical peak at the end. The next song “If I Could” is reminiscent of Dionne Warwick’s soothing vocal sensitivity but grinds along with Gwen McCrae “Rocking Chair” sexiness and some banter at the end reminding the listener who is doing the singing here. The next track “Lucille Don’t You Weep”, yes, that Lucille, is a classic blues stunner about the most intimate of inanimate objects: B.B. King’s guitar. If Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” is a favorite then this bluesier take on the theme will please. Again the lead guitar does the music so much justice.

There is a hit here too “Blues Angel” with award-winning and chart-topping songwriter, Donnell Spencer Jr.on drums giving it a neo-soul / 70’s AM fusion (Pablo Cruise) / 80’s (Brand New Heavies/Lisa Stansfield) yet it is an entirely indefinable sound which never gets old. This song showcases Brigitte’s voice so perfectly as to defy any direct comparison although Olivia Newton-John comes to mind along with Chaka Kahn and add a dash of Minnie Riperton.

The song takes the listener away and brings many images to mind. The comfort the song brings is memorable in a sing-it-in-your-head but not in a get-sick-of-it sticky way. “Like a blues angel rescue me from the twilight.” The closer is the titular track, a torch song obviously close to her heart. Not quite in step with the rest of the list but the message she conveys in lyric and vocal acrobatics is an important one. She seems to be singing to help make this world a better and more livable place for her and the listener. If she can rise so can you. “Too many words too many lies…Still I Rise…Out of control without any soul.”

Brigitte has so much soul to give and along with her voice with so many facets it’s like a fine cut diamond. This is a new artist to watch and to look forward to seeing live.

Reviewer Reviewer Steve Gabe is a musician, writer, actor, comedian and lawyer.

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 Featured Blues Review – 7 of 8 

terry blersh cd imageTerry Blersh – Play It All Day


CD: 11 Songs, 35:35 Minutes

Styles: Jazz-Influenced Blues, Ensemble Blues

If there’s one thing yours truly has learned about the energy that emanates from blues music, it’s that such energy comes in a lot of different colors, along different musical wavelengths. Some blues are fire-engine red, with plenty of rip-roaring guitar. That’s not what Canada’s Terry Blersh plays. His tunes are mocha-latte smooth, and they range from robin’s-egg blue to indigo: relaxing, engaging, the kind you play at a coffeehouse instead of a bar. Certain purists may claim he leans too far to the jazz side of jazz-influenced blues; others will find his style hits the spot. On his sophomore release, Play It All Day, he combines the best of both genres and adds fluid, melodic vocals as a bonus. Accompanying him is a large ensemble playing a wide variety of instruments, including guitar, mandolin, piano, organ, drums, bass, and saxophones. Out of eleven songs, eight are originals; the best cover is Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain.”

Perhaps the most notable thing about Terry Blersh, beside his avant-garde fusion of jazz and blues, is his association with renowned genre artists. His resume includes sharing the stage with Harrison Kennedy, Garth Hudson, John Mays, Paul Reddick, Chuck Jackson and several others. Blersh has also starred in featured spots in producer Lance Anderson’s celebrations of “The Last Waltz,” “Soulsville – Stax Records,” and “Mad Dogs & Englishmen.” Several publications in his native country have given Terry rave reviews, including Maple Blues. Last but not least, this CD was produced and recorded by Grammy-and-Juno-Award-nominated Jeremy Darby.

Performing along with Terry Blersh (vocals, guitar, electric piano) are Al Cross and Shamakah Ali on drums; Lance Anderson on piano, Hammond, Wurlitzer and Rhodes organs; Denis Keldie on piano, Hammond organ, and accordion; Garth Vogan, Tom Griffiths and Colin Barrett on bass; Michael Fonfara on Hammond organ; Jimmy Bowskill on mandolin and vocals; Gene Hardy on saxophone; Art Avalos on percussion, and John Mays, John Finley and Quisha Wint on various vocals.

The three songs below are perfect for downtime, whether at home or at a live concert of Terry’s.

Track 02: “It’s All Right” – The first true blues/jazz fusion number is a mid-tempo boogie with tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “My baby don’t like sugar; my baby don’t like spice, and I can’t stand her cooking, but it’s all right.” One wonders how that’s possible, but when it comes to love, anything is, even the mixing of complete opposites. John Finley stars on good-natured yet sly guest vocals. As for Gene Hardy’s sax, it’s as fiery as cayenne pepper.

Track 03: “Play It All Day” – Quisha Wint takes the lead opposite Blersh on the title track, an ode to music that could also apply to the album itself. It brings warm spring days and cool summer nights to mind, exhibiting the perfect balance of vocals and instrumentation. Dig Michael Fonfara’s Hammond organ and Lance Anderson’s talents on keyboards. “I don’t care if the sun don’t shine; sing my song and feel so fine,” sing the background vocalists with pizzazz.

Track 06: “The Girl Outside My Window” – This one’s a bit strange, with a definite Zydeco kick thanks to Denis Keldie’s accordion, but the lyrics just can’t be beat. When you’ve got a stalker, whether online or in real life, you might share our narrator’s sentiments: “The girl outside my window just couldn’t see that I’d never feel the way she did for me. I told her soft and slow, ‘Just take your heart and go. Don’t waste your time, oh, girl outside my window.’”

Do you enjoy mellow, jazz-influenced blues? When it comes to this CD, Play It All Day!

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 – 8 of 8 

carolyn fee cd imageCarolyn Fe – Sugat Ko

Productions Carolyn Fe Inc.

10 songs time – 43:23

***Warning***- Before listening to this CD instruct a household member to hide all guns and knives and for heaven’s sake please don’t listen to it while operating a motor vehicle. It’s a dark and serious work as Toronto based Filipino “singer” Carolyn Fe rants and raves her way through forty three plus minutes of griping and moaning. Put your dancing shoes away for this one. In the four years since I reviewed her blues based Bad Taboo CD she seems to have sunk into a deep, dark hole. The only saving grace is the imaginative and modern music created by her band. It’s creative, cantankerous and at times noisy in a good way. Although they are named it’s not stated who plays what or where. Sugat Ko translated from Tagalog(Philippines) means my wound.

Intriguing and haunting music freshens up the what otherwise sounds like a tirade against the human condition on “One Minute To Midnight”…”Go to hell and screw it”. Crystal clear biting guitar lines glide over the heavy beat of “I Can’t Breathe” as Carolyn bemoans prejudice. She declares at the song’s conclusion-‘I will Breathe!”. She talks over nicely textured guitars on “Sugar”. The sole accompaniment on the stark and serious “Jerusalem’s Thorns” is percussion. Back to noisy guitar goodness on the highly intense “Bring Your Water”.

More of the same in the way of music, including distorted slide guitar, on “Howzat”. A couple bickers back and forth on “Wanna Say We’re Through”, but stays together. Home girl mellows out a bit over an acoustic guitar accented by an electric on “Nothin’ Doin'”. Carolyn is reaching out to the Lord on “Prayer” as keyboards battle it out.

Carolyn just isn’t a happy camper sports fans. She talk-sings her way through this intense undertaking, at times sounding like Buffy St. Marie minus the banshee howls. Take away the vocals and you have yourself a refreshing alternative rock noise fest and it’s a good thing. If this is the type of music that you are drawn to, fine. As for me I’m going to go down the cellar and jump out the window.

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

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 Featured Interview – Michael Ledbetter 

Mike Ledbetter photo 1Even though Mike Ledbetter is barely into his 30s and only enjoyed true stardom for little more than two years alongside Monster Mike Welch as one half of Welch Ledbetter Connection, he’s already proven himself as one of the best vocalists in the blues. And if you think that’s come about simply by chance, you’re sorely mistaken.

It has far more to do than simply serving a seven-year apprenticeship/partnership with Nick Moss. And it has virtually nothing to do with the fact that he shares the family surname with Hudie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, a distant cousin several generations removed and a blues superstar in the 1930s and ‘40s, the self-proclaimed King Of The 12-String Guitar who penned “Rock Island Line,” “Goodnight Irene” and many other blues classics.

Born, raised and still residing in Elgin, Ill., about an hour short to the northwest of Chicago, Ledbetter grew up in a home steeped in many rich musical traditions, and his entry into the blues came about in a different fashion than you might imagine.

“I always loved singing,” he recalls. “And I had a lot of different paths leading to all of the things I like, something that still carries out ‘til this day.

“I have a sister who’s 10 years older than me. When I was really, really young – in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I was hearing all of the pop and R&B that was on the radio at the time – everything from Michael Jackson to Prince and New Edition. Even all the boy bands like New Kids On The Block, all that stuff. To this day, I still know the lyrics to all of their songs from hanging out with my sister.”

Simultaneously, Ledbetter’s parents were playing the music of their youth: Motown, Stax and more. “My house was really rich in all genres,” he says. “And there was gospel, too. I used to go to church with my grandmother, and used to listen to her sing.”

Mike’s father’s love for the blues put him on the path he walks today. “He was always a huge B.B. King fan,” Ledbetter says. “We used to listen to a lot of B.B. when I was riding around with him in the car growing up. I didn’t know a lot of blues songs back then, but I could sing B.B.’s Live At Cook County Jail album front to back.”

When attending Elgin High, Mike chose the choir as an elective. “It’s not math or science…I needed to get away from that,” he jokes. “Where else could I sing for 45 minutes out of the day and do the thing I like to do.”

It was there that Ledbetter would eventually launch a career in opera. A young man with an exceptionally rich tenor voice, it didn’t take his choral director, Catherine Burkhardt, long before realizing Mike possessed talent far beyond that of the average student.

“As the year was going on, she started asking me if I wanted to take voice lessons,” he says. “At the time, I was very much against it. I was a hard-headed 15-year-old freshman, and I thought: ‘What I have now, that’s good enough. I don’t need some guy messin’ with what’s good enough.’ I was very close-minded.”

Ledbetter’s attitude began to change the following year, when he graduated to the school’s top choir. He quickly realized he was surrounded by other male students whose talents he admired, all of whom had taken the teacher’s advice and were developing their skills with outside help.

“That kinda opened my mind,” he says. “It was a situation where you had to hear one of your peers, one of your friends, do something and then you go: ‘Okay. Maybe that’s all right.’

“I started taking lessons from a gentleman named Scott Clauson. He used to come to school and give hour-long lessons throughout the day. He asked me what kind of music I’d like to do, and I told him nothing in a foreign language.

“Opera, I told him, I don’t like that stuff. It’s a bunch of fat people on stage yellin’ and screamin’ in languages I don’t understand. I was still very close-minded,” he laughs.

Mike Ledbetter photo 2Clausen steered him to material from musical theater and jazz– everything from Rogers and Hammerstein to Cole Porter. At the end of that school year, however, Mike got a chance to see Clauson at his own operatic recital. “I saw him singing in a foreign language, and I had no idea what he was saying, but I felt it,” he remembers. “That’s what started opening my mind to doing something like that.

“I wanted to do that to people. I wanted them to feel the story I was telling even though they didn’t necessarily understand the words.

Before he knew what was happening, Ledbetter was deeply involved, soon realizing: “That’s what I wanted to do for a living. From the age of 16, I wanted to be an opera singer.”

Throughout his teen years and for the better part of a decade, he worked with The Elgin O.P.E.R.A., Chicago Opera Theater and other smaller organizations in the area, handling both lead and supporting roles. To this day, his favorite remains Giuseppi Verdi’s La Traviata. “I’ve done so many productions of that one, it never gets old,” he says.

Blues fans now break out in goosebumps when they see him perform. If you ever get a chance to hear him break out into an aria from that romantic tragedy, you’ll quickly understand why opera fans got that feeling, too. Ledbetter probably would have made it onto the stage of the Windy City’s famed Lyric Opera House, too, if he hadn’t chosen the blues as a second calling.

Surprising as it might seem, he’s not the first Chicagoan to go down that road. He was still in grammar school when Windy City diva Valerie Wellington, a graduate of the American Conservatory Of Music, took her talents from the opera house to the smoky clubs on the North Side. Her album, Million Dollar Baby, was an instant hit and featured Sunnyland Slim, Billy Branch and Magic Slim in the lineup. Her star was on the ascendant at age 33 after a whirlwind tour of Japan. Sadly, however, she suffered a brain aneurism when deplaning at O’Hare Airport on New Year’s Day 1993 and died a day later.

As for Mike, he was singing at night and still working a day job when he began having second thoughts about an opera career, which would involve extensive travel. “I said: ‘You know what? I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this for a living. I started to look around for other ways to be a singer.

“Even though I sang nothing but opera for ten years, I sang everything. I wanted to see if I could sing blues, too, and started making my way to jams in the city. This all started from me trying to get my face out there.”

Ledbetter’s entry into the blues world came through the help of a former high school classmate, a blues lover who was working as a caretaker for legendary guitarist David “Honeyboy” Edwards in the final stages of his 96-year life.

“How it really all happened for me was that the Kilborn Alley Blues Band had a show in Elgin that I attended. I was so taken aback by the whole group, but especially their lead singer,” Mike recalls.

The vocalist, Andy Duncanson, remains one of the most underappreciated, golden-throated soul-blues singers in the world today. “He’s my absolute favorite,” Ledbetter says. “I went up to him during their set break, told him that he was absolutely amazing and that I was a vocalist myself. I told him that I just wanted to let him know that I really appreciate what you do.

“As soon as he went back on stage, he says: ‘Ya know, I met a real nice guy in the audience, and he says he’s a singer, too. Hey, Mike, why don’t you come up here and do a couple of songs with us.’

“I was like…whoa! I didn’t expect it. That wasn’t my intention. But I went up and sang two songs.”

It was truly a fortuitous occurrence. He didn’t know it at the time, but sitting in the crowd that night was the beautiful Kate Moss, Nick’s wife and an outstanding guitarist in her own right. “As I was leaving, she came up to me and goes: ‘Hey, do you know who Nick Moss is?’

“At that time, I was a big fan of Nick. I said: ‘Yeah. I’m goin’ to his show at Rosa’s (Lounge in Chicago) tomorrow night. She says: ‘Well, if you’re really gonna be there, I’ll get you on stage with him.’

“I said: ‘Well, all right! I’m definitely gonna be there now!’”

Mike Ledbetter photo 3Mike owned most of Nick’s musical catalog, but it was the first time that he’d ever seen him play live even though they lived only a few miles apart. The two songs he performed that night and the conversation they had afterward led to an instant friendship, mentorship and a true sense of family that continues to this day.

As perfect as Ledbetter’s vocal timing is, so, too, was his timing in life.

The last true guitar student of Jimmy Rogers and other architects of what we now know as classic Chicago blues, Nick had been enjoying a long run fronting The Flip Tops, which included Piano Willie Oshawny, drummer Bob Carter and guitarist/bassist/harmonica player Gerry Hundt, a veteran lineup in which all the other performers were older than himself.

But that chapter of his life was about to change. The Flip Tops were coming to the end of their road, and he was about to create the Nick Moss Band with a much younger lineup, an ensemble that would remain true to the root but occasionally push the boundaries of the blues.

Moss invited Ledbetter into the studio to sing backup on the tune “It’ll Turn Around” on the Here I Am album and hired him as a vocalist and rhythm guitarist shortly thereafter, a move that unquestionably must have given Ledbetter second thoughts when it occurred.

As Mike says today, Nick surrounded himself with a “bunch of young dudes who didn’t know their way around,” putting himself into the position of being the blues torch-bearer for a change. The initial lineup included Nick Skilnick followed soon after by Matthew Wilson on bass, current band member Patrick Seals on drums and Travis Reed on keyboards.

Moss unknowingly had his hands full. “I didn’t start playing guitar until Nick asked me to be in the band,” Mike laughs. “He said: ‘You play guitar, right?’ And I go: ‘Not…really.’ I knew a couple of open chords, man, but I really didn’t know how to play.

“He said: ‘That’s all right. You’ll learn.’

“I was kinda thrown into the lion’s den in every way. We were students, and Nick opened up his entire record collection so we could do our homework when we weren’t rehearsing or gigging.”

The first time Ledbetter took a guitar on stage, he says, “scared as hell” would definitely be the term. Especially back then, Nick was old-school in every way. If you messed up on stage, you were gonna get that look. Before I was able to play confidently enough on the guitar, I was playing to just not get that look.”

But Moss didn’t drop a beat as he and his neophyte bandmates quickly hit the highways and byways of America and traveled overseas, including a week on the 2012 Legendary Rhythm And Blues Cruise with guitar legend Jimmy Johnson in tow.

As Ledbetter told Blues Blast at the time, though, he definitely wasn’t along for the ride. While the singing came easy — he took the lead on a song or two every night from the beginning — guitar was another matter entirely. It took him about two years before finally feeling comfortable.

What made the difference?

“I finally learned the concept of staying out of the lead guitarist’s way,” Mike says. “In the beginning, I always asked Nick a lot: ‘What do you want me to play here?’

“Finally, one day he told me: ‘Look, man, I’m gonna tell you the same thing that Jimmy Rogers told me: ‘Keep your eyes up, and whatever I’m playing, play something else. If I’m on the high end, you be on the low end, and vice versa.’

Mike Ledbetter photo 4“It’s simple stuff to just keep your eyes and your ears open. You don’t have to be the flashiest player or know everything about it, but you do have to develop your own vocabulary to make it work.”

Ledbetter learned the lessons well, and his playing kept jumping levels as his years with Nick progressed – to the point where he can hold his own on lead when asked. “It went from something that I was doing to help the band to something that I really, really truly love,” he says. In so doing, he’s gained a second voice to express himself along the way.

Ledbetter assumed more and more responsibility as time went on, earning both praise and attention in the process. Three years ago, when non-singing guitar master Ronnie Earl recorded his Father’s Day album, he invited Mike to handle vocals, sharing duties with Boston-based Diane Blue, Earl’s regular vocalist. The CD soared to the top of the Billboard charts to universal critical acclaim.

But even bigger things – and a new partnership — were just over the horizon. Ledbetter had served his apprenticeship well, and in all musical relationships, change is bound to come after a while even when deep friendships are involved.

And like it had when Kate Moss showed up for the Kilborn Alley gig, Lady Luck appeared again to give Mike a helping hand, this time pairing him with Monster Mike Welch, the former child prodigy who’s wowed audiences for 25 years as guitarist for Sugar Ray And The Bluetones, of one of the most decorated bands in the blues.

And, once again, it came about virtually by accident.

“Mike and I met for the first time down in Memphis in 2012,” Ledbetter remembers. “It was the Wednesday night jam they have at the Rum Boogie Café that the Nick Moss Band was running.

“Nick called up Jimi Bott on drums, Mike Welch on guitar. Moss grabbed a bass with Travis on keyboards, and Curtis (Salgado) got up to sing. If there was ever a moment you didn’t want to miss as a listener that was it. It was so incredible. Curtis called out a Muddy Waters slow blues.

“I had heard the name Monster Mike Welch before, but I’d never heard him play. Once Curtis called the tune, Mike started doing his thing. I wanted to see how he was playing the slide…what kind of slide he had. But he wasn’t doing it with a slide at all. He was doing it with his fingers – and he did it perfectly! My mind was absolutely blown.

“I’d never seen anyone do that before. And I still haven’t heard anyone do it to the degree he does to this day. They got done with that set, and I had to meet this dude.”

Flash forward to 2016.

That’s when Blues Hall Of Fame producer, engineer and journalist Dick Shurman invited both men independently to participate in a tribute to Otis Rush that was to take place at the Chicago Blues Festival, a long overdue tribute to a true building block of the West Side sound that permeated the Windy City in the ‘50s and continues to this today.

A very quiet and private man, Otis — who left us a couple weeks ago at age 83 — had remained out of the limelight since suffering career-ending strokes in 2003. Despite his absence and his desire to remain out of the spotlight, he remained a beloved figure and shining star for both the Chicago blues community and the world in general.

Both Mikes were deeply steeped in Rush’s catalog and both were to be present for the show, but Shurman didn’t plan to pair them on the bill. “Dick wanted me to play with Ronnie, who was also going to be there, too,” Ledbetter recalls. One of Rush’s biggest admirers, Earl frequently covers Otis’ songs, and Ledbetter’s mellifluous tenor had delivered two or three of them on Father’s Day.

“It had been a year since I’d done the album,” Mike remembers, “and Ronnie and I hadn’t spoken that much afterward. I also saw that Ronnie was going to be there with his full band, meaning that Diane would be there, too. And I knew they were probably going to do Otis’ ‘Double Trouble,’ which they do a lot.

Mike Ledbetter photo 6“So I looked at the list of performers and noticed that Mike Welch was going to be there. I asked Dick: ‘Who’s on his set?’”

Shurman hadn’t worked out the specifics, but was receptive when Ledbetter suggested they appear together. “I couldn’t be happier,” Mike chuckles, “that I made that suggestion.”

Little did they realize at the time, but when Dick agreed, he was putting together a potential partnership for the ages.

It was a pleasant late-Spring evening when they hit the stage on June 11, 2016. “Otis had just come out in his wheelchair with his entire family with him to get his award, and the entire crowd – a quarter-million people – was going wild,” Mike recalls. “He grabbed the microphone and said: “Lemme hear you say ‘yeah.’ It was a little mumbled because of his strokes and everything.

“It hit me that that was the first time I’d ever heard Otis Rush’s voice. Live. In front of me. Mike Welch was already out on stage with the entire band – him and Billy Flynn on guitars – and they were about to start the show with Otis’ ‘I Wonder Why.’ I see Mike start cryin’, and I start cryin’. It was such an emotional moment already.

“I see that they placed Otis at the side of the stage – not back stage. So he’s still out there. Buddy Guy is standing right next to him. Ever since I started really getting into singing blues, these are two of the people I’ve looked up to the most.

“After the band gets done with the instrumental, I’m the first guy to go out there and sing. If there was ever a don’t mess this up moment, that was it! There was so much adrenaline running through my body, so much excitement. I’ve been on some pretty amazing stages, but that’s still by far the heaviest thing I’ve ever done in music.”

It was a magic moment. Without any conscious effort, the two Mikes’ skills melded in a very special way, reproducing Rush’s songs in a manner that delivered the feel of the master in his heyday with Welch delivering smoldering, stinging, unhurried guitar riffs and Ledbetter’s tenor soaring about it all with unbelievably deep feel.

Otis beamed with approval as he watched and listened.

That show took place at what was probably going to be a turning point in Ledbetter’s career no matter what transpired that day, and for reasons that went far beyond the stage. An ardent weightlifter, he’d been experiencing shoulder problems for some time and was about to undergo corrective surgery that would make it impossible for him to play guitar. Sure, he could still sing, but the aggressive touring schedule with Moss would have to go on pause for an extended period during physical therapy and recovery.

“It was a very hard decision to leave Nick,” Ledbetter says. “But with everything that happened at the blues fest and with the surgery, the time was right.

“As soon as me and Mike got backstage, all the old-timers like Jimmy Johnson and, bless his soul, Eddy Clearwater were coming up to us and sayin’: ‘You guys have gotta record an album.’ Even Ronnie was telling us: ‘You have to do something together.’

“When you have all of this blues royalty telling you that you should do something, you better do something.”

Six months later, they were in the studio recording Right Place, Right Time. Produced by Welch with an a lineup that included fellow Bluetone Anthony Geraci on keyboards, Ronnie James Weber on bass and Marty Richards on drums and with guest appearances from Laura Chavez, Sax Gordon and Doug James.

As Sherman stated in the liner notes, the feelings expressed by the older masters was just as palpable for the two Mikes themselves. “The blues guitar tradition is about playing like a singer,” Welch said. “And from the first time I heard Mike, I knew he was exactly the kind of singer I’d always been trying to play like. His experience and (operatic) training gives him otherworldly precision. But the way he tells his story comes from someplace deep inside him.”

Mike Ledbetter photo 5Ledbetter added: “The way we played off each other was beautiful to me. When it comes to intensity, we are at the exact same speed as singer and player. In addition, my vocal lines, tone and vibrato are very similar to his guitar playing. Everything fit perfectly.”

Delivering a collection of tunes that ranged from old-school to and modern soul-blues, their album was an overnight success when released in 2017 on the Delta Groove imprint. It was a contender for both 2017 Blues Blast Music Awards contemporary album of the year and 2018 Blues Music Association album of the year. And both Ledbetter and Welch were among the 2018 BMA nominees for vocalist and guitarist of the year.

Since its release, Welch Ledbetter Connection has become a festival favorite around the globe, working in a supergroup format that currently includes longtime Tommy Castro Band bassist Scot Sutherland and Andrew “Blaise” Thomas, one of most in-demand percussionists in Chicago.

What’s next?

“Mike and I are thinking about getting back in the studio – November at the latest,” Ledbetter says. “The first album was basically just me and Mike getting together and sayin’: ‘Hey, man, what songs do you want to do?’ We didn’t have a band or anything like that to put a bunch of tunes together and get ‘em road tested before we went into the studio.

“The next album is going to be primarily originals. He as a guitar player and me as a singer, we just go at the same speed. His playing is incredibly intense, and he pushes me to sing harder and with more feeling. I’ve been writing like crazy for the past few months. It’s going to have the same West Side soul kinda feel to it, but a lot of different grooves and a lot of personal stories.

“I think that we have something to offer that’s very different in both the blues and the music world in general in the fact that it’s completely universal. There’s something for everyone. For all the guitar heads out there, you have Mike Welch, who is one of the finest guitar players of any kind, not just blues. When you see our show, you know that there’s no letting up. We’re at 200% all time.

“But for all old-school blues fans, there’s plenty of traditional music for them, too. And it’s a very soulful show for folks who go for that, too. All good music is soul music – it hits you in the soul, and we have something for everyone.”

And that could probably include an operatic aria if pressed, too!

Check out Welch Ledbetter Connection 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 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.

10/15 – 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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