Issue 12-41 October 18 2018

Cover photo © 2018 Allan Dines

 In This Issue 

Don Wilcock has our feature interview with the Vizztone Label Group CEO Richard “Rosy” Rosenblatt. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from JJ Appleton & Jason Ricci, Amanda Fish, Trudy Lynn, Maria Muldaur, Mark Wenner’s Blues Warriors, The Waydown Wailers, Judy Brown and Catfish.

Bob Kieser has photos and commentary from the Windy City Blues Fest.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

jj appelton cd imageJJ Appleton & Jason Ricci – Beautiful Slop

Oct 2018, Old Boy Network

10 songs, 39 minutes

JJ Appleton is a NYC-based singer-songwriter who’s toured extensively in the United States, both in support of his own records as well as with other performers such as Pete Yorn, Sister Hazel, Hootie and the Blowfish, Joan Osborne, and Keb Mo. Appleton was a member of a popular New York band, The Grasshoppers, and went on to release his first solo album, 500 Moments in 2003, followed by a couple of others over the years. Appleton was handpicked by David Bowie as guitarist for his limited-run 2015 musical, Lazarus. In 2015, Appleton teamed up with harmonica virtuoso Jason Ricci to record Dirty Memory, an acoustic blues album. The album was very well-received, and went on to spend 10 weeks on the Roots Music Report’s Top 50 Acoustic Blues Albums chart, going on to receive a Best New Artist Debut award from Blues 411.

Jason Ricci is an American harmonica player and vocalist whose skill with the instrument places him firmly in the top echelon of its contemporary masters. In addition to his solo albums, Ricci has appeared as a guest player on albums with Johnny Winter, Nick Curran, Ana Popovic, Walter Trout, Cedric Burnside, The Mannish Boys and Joe Louis Walker, among others. Ricci was named “Best Harmonica Player” at both the 2010 and 2018 Blues Music Awards. In February 2015, Ricci played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Paul Shaffer Band, Tom Morello and Zac Brown to induct the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He also tours with his band, Jason Ricci and the Bad Kind, signing a record deal with the Ellersoul Label and releasing Approved By Snakes in June of 2017. Approved By Snakes was nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album in the 2018 Blues Blast Music Awards.

Way back in 2000, harmonica educator Adam Gussow (Satan and Adam), writing in Blues Access magazine, said “I am convinced he (Ricci) – along with New Jersey’s Dennis Gruenling – is one of the best harmonica players of his generation.” You’ll get no argument from me, about either of these gentlemen!

Produced by Appleton and Derek Nievergelt (who also plays upright bass on these tracks), Beautiful Slop continues their musical journey together, and it is one hot album! Combining the traditional sounds of the Mississippi Delta and Piedmont-style blues guitar with a decidedly contemporary approach to songwriting, and Ricci’s otherworldly skill with an unamplified harmonica, this album is a real treat to enjoy! Having seen Ricci perform with an electric band, it’s clear that he has technical chops that place him in the very top tier of contemporary harmonica players, but his exquisite taste and soulful playing are what stand out so prominently on this collection. With no amplification to hide behind, you hear – and appreciate – every breath behind the flawless – and very fluid – choice of notes that come out of his harmonica.

To record this album, the duo took over bassist/producer Nievergelt’s Brooklyn basement studio for two days, in 90-degree heat and with no air conditioning. The resulting recording – 7 original tunes and 3 covers – feels very intimate yet lively, and captures the subtlety of each string, reed, and voice, to deliver the experience of being in the same room with these players. Nievergelt also played acoustic upright bass on the album, providing just the right amount of bottom to propel these 10 performances and make them even greater than the sum of their parts.

Appleton used a 1932 National Resonator throughout this recording, while Ricci (nicknamed “Moon Cat, “a street name he once used in Nashville and New Orleans in order to avoid police detection) uses Blue Moon and Joe Spiers harmonicas, and the Jason Ricci Lone Wolf Microphone.

Every cut on this collection is a good one. From the album’s up-tempo opening cut, “Don’t Take Advantage of Me” (also released as a single), you get the sense that you’re witnessing a late night, back porch performance that is both intimate and powerful. “Hurt Myself” is a slow, mournful blues that taps into buckets of disappointment, of both the regular kind and the self-inflicted kind, with Ricci coaxing some unearthly wails from his instrument. “Geaux Nuts Kidz” has a vibrant, New Orleans-y, dance hall feel to it, with Ricci vamping on what I presume to be a double-reed harmonica, providing an almost accordion-like feel to the track. “I Got the Feeling” chuggs along at a leisurely pace, with a pulsing upright bass anchoring the call-and-response of the vocal, guitar, and harmonica. “Brighter Days” brings a slow churn and some of the most sultry harp playing I’ve ever heard!

All in all, Beautiful Slop is a wonderful album that manages to marry traditional country blues with some contemporary and stellar playing by both Appleton and Ricci. This is definitely one you’ll want to enjoy with headphones, as the recording quality is stellar, and the performances are exceptional!

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 – 2 of 8 

amanda fish cd imageAmanda Fish – Free

VizzTone Label Group VT-FF02

12 songs – 57 minutes

Kansas City-based songbird Amanda Fish has taken a little longer than her little sister Samantha, but this CD should go a long way in convincing listeners that the Sean Costello Rising Star trophy she picked up at the 2016 Blues Blast Music Awards was no fluke.

Growing up in a home where they were inundated by the sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt, the Rolling Stones and more, both girls locked themselves in their room to practice their chops, Sam as a guitarist and Amanda as a singer.

The reigning Blues Music Association contemporary female artist of the year, Samantha broke through first in 2012. A fiery blues-rocker, she’s spread her wings in different areas in the years that have following, including recent releases that have delved into both the throwback sound of an old-school vocalist and, most recently, into folk- and country-flavored blues rock.

Amanda, meanwhile, has taken a different approach entirely. Her first performances as a music professional came as a solo singer-songwriter, and started about the same time Sam was in the studio recording her first CD. A lady with a powerful set of pipes that are both stronger and deeper than her sis, she formed her first band in 2014, singing from the gut as she delivered her own version of roots rock with heavy soul overtones.

Her first album, Down In The Dirt, was released on VizzTone Label Group in 2015 and led to the Blues Blast award. She followed that up with an appearance at the 2017 International Blues Challenge, where she and her bandmates made it to the semi-finals.

All 12 songs on this album, the second in her catalog, are originals penned by Amanda, one with an assist from David Stice-Stephenson and another from Sean McDonnell and Adam Watson. While primarily blues-rock based, they also include wide-ranging outside influences, including the music of Hill Country legend R.L. Burnside and grunge rockers Nirvana. And most deal with achieving victory in situations that are beyond the singer’s control.

Three of Fish’s VizzTone label mates — guitarists Bob Margolin and Tyler Morris and harmonica ace Richard Rosenblatt — and West Coast string-bender Alastair Greene all make guest appearances. The revolving cast of sidemen includes guitarists Dave Hays, Lois Nadal, Coyote Bill, Carl Butler and Ken Valdez and keyboard player Chris Hazelton with Glen James on percussion throughout. Amanda contributes guitar, bass, mandolin and piano on multiple cuts, and Sara Morgan provides additional vocals.

Despite the all-star lineup, however, the star here is definitely Amanda. Like the match she holds in the cover photo, she lights the fuse vocally and confidently explodes out of the box with “2020.” A seering blues-rocker, it apparently offers up hope for the disenchanted masses for the next Presidential election, although there’s no political mention in the lyrics other the statement that “you’re not the one we wanted/You’re not the one we need. Be careful what you wish for/Because there ain’t nothing in this world for free.”

“Not Again” is a hard-driving, uptempo Hill Country-flavored pleaser that features Rosenblatt in his sole appearance before the pace slows for the ballad, “Anymore,” which announces a permanent separation from a former lover. “The Ballad Of Lonesome Cowboy Bill” pairs New England-based youngblood Morris and former Muddy Waters bandmate Margolin in a roots-rocker that features Morgan on vocals and Fish on acoustic guitar, mandolin and piano.

The slow-paced “Blessed” features Valdez on guitar as Amanda reflects about the path she’s chosen as she studies the footprints she’s left in the sand, while Greene powers the rocker “Going Down” with Fish powerfully pleading vocally for relief. It comes in the form of the ballad “You Could Be,” which follows and builds intensity as it progresses.

“Bullet,” another blues-rocker, precedes the steady-driving relationship tune, “Here We Are,” before the tempo slows for “Don’t Mean A Thing” and “The Bored And Lonely,” which carry the theme forward, and the bittersweet title cut, “Free,” which starts as a ballad, erupts into a gospel-tinged rocker and brings the disc to a close.

A rock-solid debut effort from a lady with a bright future. 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 – 3 of 8 

trudy lynn cd imageTrudy Lynn – Blues Keep Knockin’

Connor Ray Music

CD: 10 Songs, 41:50 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, Blues Covers

One of the greatest things about the blues, especially as opposed to pop/dance, is its reverence for mature professionals. Pop stars may come and go faster than cars through an automatic toll, but longevity counts for a lot in this genre, both in preferred tunes and preferred performers. Seventy-one-year-old Trudy Lynn, born Lee Audrey Helms, knows this very well. On her brand-spanking-new CD, released in July of this year, she covers ten classics from some of her greatest influences: Etta James, Big Maybelle, Big Bill Broonzy, and the late, great Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. She’s got a voice seasoned by experience: life’s greatest teacher. Good times and bad have served as her inspirations, for as she also knows, you can’t have one without the other. For over fifty years, she’s been telling all the Blues Keep Knockin’. Her dynamic stage presence and vivacious vocals have kept audiences all over the world – even Japan – enthralled.

Even though her professional singing career began with performing with Albert Collins, and later, Clarence Green in the mid-1960s, her recording career didn’t start until 1989. Her first label, Ichiban Records, proved that the blues doesn’t only capture hearts in the Western Hemisphere. She recorded her first five albums for them, one for Ruf Records in 1999, and is currently under the Connor Ray Music label. With over ten albums to her name and credit, she’s proven to be one of the rather unsung heroes of female blues artists. She got her stage name from a painted cartoon-character name on the wall: Trudy. As for “Lynn,” she notes that name was popular at the time as well. “Gloria Lynne, Barbara Lynn. I’m going to be one of those Lynns, too, baby,” a line in her online bio states.

Alongside Trudy are Steve Krase on harmonica; David Carter on guitar; Terry Dry on bass; Matt Johnson on drums; Randy Wall on piano and organ; Dan Carpenter on sax; Jim Brady on trumpet; Bob Lanza on guitar for tracks one and seven, and Carolyn Wonderland on guitar for track ten.

The following three songs are low-down, throw-down extravaganzas:

Track 01: “Blues Ain’t Nothin’” – Bob Lanza struts his stuff on shredder here, and boy, can Steve Krase howl on harp. Right from the get-go, it’s time to get out of your seat and on your feet. “Oh, the blues ain’t nothing but a woman loving a married man,” Lynn confides in a sly murmur. She also characterizes them as “a low-down heart disease” of the romantic variety.

Track 04: “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” – The title of this tune is an African-American saying meaning “One setback should not impede progress.” Several bands have covered this Big Maybelle hit over the years, including Joe Tex, The Animals, and R&B artists Honey Cone. Dan Carpenter plays swinging sax here, backed up by Randy Wall’s perfect barroom piano. In this case, the monkey that doesn’t stop the show is a cheating partner. Find a new one, people.

Track 08: “When I Been Drinkin’” – Reminiscent of Henry Mancini’s “The Stripper,” sassy number eight proves imbibing adult beverages may be a blast, but the aftermath? “When I been drinkin’, ple-e-ease let me lay down and rest,” Lynn pleads in some of her best vocalization. These lyrics are also funny: “I want to be taken out of the bed, put in a wheelchair, rolled anywhere, Daddy, I don’t care, when I’ve been drinkin’.” Who among us knows the feeling?

For Trudy Lynn, seventy-one and still having great fun, the Blues Keep Knockin’ on her door!

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 – 4 of 8 

maria muldaur cd imageMaria Muldaur – Don’t You Feel My Leg

The Last Music Company

12 Tracks/45:30

Over her fifty-plus year career, singer Maria Muldaur has released more than thirty recordings, scoring one bonafide hit with “Midnight At The Oasis” from her 1973 self-titled album. But she could have had a second hit from the same album. As she explains in her notes included in the packaging of her new release, disc jockeys across the country had another song on the album, “Don’t You Feel My Leg,” in more frequent rotation than “Oasis”. Discussions with her record company about making that song the follow-up broke down as the label considered the track too risque for the general public, a decision that certainly seems quaint today with standards that allow all kinds of potentially offensive language and sexual references on the air, even in the Oval Office at the White House. Muldaur includes an updated version of the song on her exceptional tribute to one of the tune’s writers, Louisa “Blue Lou” Barker.

Barker was a fixture on the New Orleans traditional jazz scene along with her guitar and banjo playing husband, Danny Barker. The singer had a number of hits, featuring her high pitched voice, often with some of the best jazz musicians of the era. Muldaur has always had an affinity for Barker’s repertoire, so this tribute is a natural extension of the one she performed at the 2016 Danny Barker Festival.

On tracks like “Georgia Grind” and “Bow Legged Daddy,” Muldaur’s warm, deliciously steamy vocals accurately portray the lusty nature of both tunes. Even better is “Trombone Man Blues,” a late-night blues full of sexual innuendo and Charlie O’Halloran’s languid trombone statement. It is one of four songs penned by Danny Barker for his wife, with “Loan Me Your Husband” complete with sly humor cushioned by a lush horn arrangement and a memorable Roderick Paulin tenor sax solo. The sprightly “Here’s A Little Girl From Jacksonville” sparkles due to David Torkanowsky’s stellar piano accompaniment. The band lays down a up-tempo pace on “Now You’re Down In The Alley,” Muldaur shouting out spontaneous encouragement at their efforts.

Blue Lou was also a songwriter, with “Scat Skunk” serving as her pointed kiss-off for a unfaithful man. “Nix On Those Lush Heads” finds Muldaur issuing a warning to steer clear of the had-to-much-to-drink crowd in a firm, melodic tone. She makes it abundantly clear to other women why they are wasting their time pursuing her man on “Leave My Man Alone,” accenting once again the sly humor in the lyrics. “A Little Bird Told Me” was a 1948 release for Barker. It gets a swinging treatment with Muldaur adding some scat vocalizing. She closes things out with “Don’t You Feel My Leg,” her bawdy vocal punctuated by marvelous interjections from Torkanowsky and the horns.

Recorded this year in New Orleans, Muldaur enlisted the help of some of the top musicians in the city, players that have the feel and understanding of the Barker legacy. Besides the previously mentioned players, the band includes Herlin Riley on drums, Chris Adkins on guitar, Roland Guerin on bass, Kevin Louis & Duke Heitger on trumpet, Paulin & Tom Fischer on saxophone and clarinet, and Eric Trolsen on trombone. For an extra authentic touch, guitarist Steve Masakowski loaned out Danny Barker’s guitar for use on the sessions.

Muldaur’s voice is deeper than Blue Lou Barker’s, with a richer tone that is an ideal fit for these twelve songs. She shares an intrinsic understanding of the music with the band members, so that their collective efforts revive these classics in all of their bawdy glory while adding exciting musical statements firmly rooted in the traditions. You can count on playing this one more than a few times…..

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!

 Windy City Blues Festival – Lyons, IL 

The Windy City Blues Festival is a new event started by the folks at the Windy City Blues Society of Chicago, IL. The inaugural edition of this festival was held in Cermak Woods Park in Lyons, IL on September 22nd and 23rd, 2018. We made it out to the show on Saturday just in time to see Donna Herula. Donna had Kenny “Beady Eyes” Smith on drums and Melvin Smith on Bass. Excellent real Blues!

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Next up was Black Oil Brothers. They played a varied set that included some Blues and some Americana numbers.

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Next up was Jamiah Rogers Band. Jamiah is performing at lots of festivals this year after a great effort in the 2018 International Blues Challenge where his band made the semi-finals.

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Next up was Joe Filisko & Eric Noden playing some acoustic blues. They have a new album called Destination Unknown and performed some of the material for this performance. Look for a review of the new album coming soon in Blues Blast Magazine.

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Eddie Taylor Jr. Band was the next artist and he gave us a great set of Blues showing his deep roots and his family’s legacy in the Chicago music scene.

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The Original Delta Fireballs featuring Geneva Red were next and Geneva held the interest of the crowd fronting a great duo and contributing interesting vocals and harmonica.

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Next we got to see our good friend Deak Harp & Quicksand. Always a great show!

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The NuBlu Band featuring Carlise Guy was the next artist. Carlise is Buddy Guy’s daughter and her guitar player is Mark Maddox who is the talent buyer for Buddy Guy’s Legends.

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Then we were treated to Willie Dixons Original Chicago Blues All-Star Band backing the Chicago Divas (Brenda Taylor, Mzz Reese, Tracy Adams and Tomiko Dixon)

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The final act of the day was The Mike Wheeler Band and some special guests. Mike and his band went first and did their usual amazing set. The Mike brought out his son Chico to play a bit for the crowd.

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After Mike Wheeler’s set the band played on with special guests Nellie “Tiger’ Travis and Lurrie Bell. Nellie was amazing as usual and the crowd loved it.

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Last up was the evenings headliner, Lurrie Bell. Lurrie is one of the best Chicago blues guitarists out there and he did a great job.

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This new festival also had a second stage that we were not able to cover and the show continued on Sunday. Based on this initial edition of the festival, this one is worth putting on the calendar for next year.

Photos and commentary by Bob Kieser.

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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

mark wenner blues warriors cd imageMark Wenner’s Blues Warriors

EllerSoul Records

12 tracks/47 minutes

The Nighthawks are taking a break as the band’s personnel changes but vocalist and harp man Mark Wenner has not remained idle. Bringing Nighthawks drummer Mark Stutso along, he recruited singer and guitarist Clarence ‘The Bluesman’ Turner, upcoming guitarist Zach Sweeney and experienced double bass player Steve Wolf who has jazz and blues experience with, amongst others, the late Danny Gatton. The intention was to make a fun record of straight blues and tunes from Muddy, Sonny Boy, Slim Harpo and Elmore James figure here, all played in authoritative fashion.

The CD opens with a relatively obscure Muddy Waters tune

“Diamonds At Your Feet” which Clarence sings really well in a swinging version with Mark on chromatic harp. “Teddy Bear” will always evoke Elvis though it was also covered by Big Joe Turner and it is his version that inspired this take, a driving shuffle with Mark W on vocals and the double bass at the heart of the tune before a second Big Joe Turner tune, “Rock A While”. The band’s version of “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” leans towards the Junior Wells/Buddy Guy version rather than Sonny Boy Willaimson’s original (excellent guitar here from Zach) before a second Muddy tune, Bernard Roth’s “Just To Be With You” which Clarence sings convincingly, the slow blues allowing us to appreciate the booming bass lines underpinning the Warriors’ sound.

Mark W then pays tribute to another of his early influences with a fine take on Slim Harpo’s “King Bee”, his vocals relishing the double entendre lyrics and his energetic harp work suiting this driving version. Mark S has sung BB King’s “It’s My Own Fault” with several previous bands, notably when he was in Jimmy Thackery’s Drivers but he had never recorded the song, an omission rectified here in an extended version that gives solo space to Zach’s guitar and Mark’s harp. Mark W based this version of Fats Domino’s “Hello Josephine” on Terry Garland’s which he played on. Blending some rock and roll and country influences with Fats’ New Orleans original gives us a bright and cheerful take, clocking in at less than two minutes, as many early Rn’R records did. Pity, I would have enjoyed more of this one! Mark shows off his harp skills on an unrehearsed take of another SBW tune, “Trust My Baby”, which ends rather abruptly.

“The Hucklebuck” features Zach whose bright picking is beautifully presented against Mark S’ busy drums and Steve’s bouncing bass, Steve also getting a short solo spot. The only original on the disc, Mark W’s “Just Like Jimmy” pays tribute to Jimmy Reed, Mark giving us plenty of Jimmy’s high end harp style. The album closes on a stonking version of “Dust My Broom” which has more harp than most versions and another great vocal from Clarence whose strong rhythm work allows Zach to play some good stuff behind Mark’s echoey harp.

Overall a very satisfying album which most blues fans should enjoy.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

waydown wailers cd imageThe Waydown Wailers – Backland Blues

2018, Woodstock Records

11 songs, 43 Minutes

Based in Canton, NY – along the St. Lawrence River, way up near the Canadian border – the Waydown Wailers third CD, Backland Blues, highlights the band’s Skynyrd-esque approach to “Outlaw Country” and bluesy Southern Rock. The band consists of Dave Parker on guitar and vocals, his brother Christian Parker on lead guitar, Michael Scriminger on drums, and Connor Pelkey on bass and backing vocals. This collection was produced by Aaron L. Hurwitz, aka “Professor Louie.” Hurwitz also plays key on the album, and co-wrote the album’s opening track, “Back Door Woman Blues.” In addition to Hurwitz, other guests on this collection include Alexander Scriminger and Miss Marie on backing vocals and Ron Keck on tambourine.

Of the 11 songs on the album, 8 are originals, and three are covers, and all have a sturdy, well-rehearsed bar-band feel to them. The opening track, “Back Door Woman Blues,” has a rollicking roadhouse feel to it, but David Parker’s insistence on repeatedly moving in and out of a falsetto voice feels forced and is somewhat distracting. “I Want Your Soul” is a solid, rocking shuffle that has some gritty slide guitar woven thought the song, while Elmore James’ “Done Somebody Wrong” gets an unexpected overhaul that combines some greasy slide with with an interesting beat and some slurred chordal work.

“Just Another Bump in the Road” is set to a solid boogie beat, and is a veritable ‘Murphy’s Law’ set to music. It tells a tale of one misfortune after another, before veering-off into an extended, southern-style jam. I imagine this to be a very popular live track for the band.

“No Mercy” has a really nice groove to it, feeling a lot like a funky, bourbon-fueled Grateful Dead jam.

Larry Williams’ classic, “Dizzy Miss Lizzie,” retains the overall feel of the well-known Beatles cover, but with an added helping of attitude and some gritty guitar work. “Every Passing Mile” is far and away the strongest original on the album, and pulses along like a semi-truck doing a midnight run, barrelling down a wide-open highway. Good stuff.

The countrified sounds of “Somewhere in the Middle” express the longing for some kind of political moderation, against a funky drum rhythm and some lovely vocal harmonies. This, too, has an extended jam band outro.

“I’m On the Hunt” unfortunately feels a bit too much like it would be a hit at a frat party. Probably my least favorite track on the album.

“State of the Union,” a remix of a song they’d done on an earlier album, uses a familiar, pulsing ‘train” beat to drive home a message of disillusionment with the current state of affairs in our country (and perhaps the rest of the world?).

“Lover of the Bayou” is a Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy composition that hews pretty closely to versions I’ve heard by McGuinn’s band, Thunderbyrd. Not my favorite of McGuinn’s work, but the band does a more than respectable cover of the tune.

If you’re a fan of Southern Rock and Outlaw Country, these fellows are worth checking out. Overall, the band is tight, the vocals are strong, and the guitars are gritty and persuasive. The drumming is solid, but the bass playing can, at times, get a little busy, which can detract from an otherwise solid groove. The recording quality, mixing and engineering are all very good.

That said, with a band as solid as this, I’d really like to see them push their songwriting a bit, and venture a little further beyond tried-and-true bar band cliches. With material that is a bit more challenging – both lyrically and musically – I believe they can make the leap to the next level, and I, for one, would love to hear it!

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 – 7 of 8 

judy brown cd imageJudy Brown – Say It

512 Music Publishing/Bluestime Productions

CD: 13 Songs, 47:15 Minutes

Styles: Ensemble Blues, All Original Songs

“It grows on you.” This old adage is as common as hay fever in early fall. The more times you see or hear something, the more you get used to it, and eventually, the more you like it. That’s what happens in the case of Canadian Judy Brown and her new release, Say It. Characterized as a “re-entry album” featuring “stories of love, loss and resilience,” this CD is peppy, pleasant, and perfect for a pick-me-up. Judy Brown’s voice may not equal those of her influences Loretta Lynn and Bonnie Raitt; then again, who can shine as brilliantly as country/blues rock icons? In the course of thirteen original songs, full of witty lyrics and a tongue-in-cheek attitude, Brown hits several flat notes, but who cares when you’re dancing and singing along? Her strengths are songwriting and a sassy spirit. Even on her slow numbers (“I Dream,” “Shifting Sand”), she wears her heart on her sleeve. Accompanied by an excellent ensemble, Judy struts her stuff.

Say It represents a journey in roots music and blues that began in Edmonton followed by thirty years in Toronto. Music moved to Brown’s back burner in the ‘90s when she focused on raising her two children. Performing abated, but the songwriting continued. In 2017, Judy made two life-changing decisions. First, a move to Nelson, British Columbia to be close to family and enmesh herself in that community’s rich and supportive arts scene. Second, a return to recording with longtime musical friends, collaborators and producers Gary Kendall and Teddy Leonard.

Accompanying our leading lady (vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, and harmonica for track eleven) are Teddy Leonard on electric and acoustic guitars, dobro and slide; Gary Kendall on bass; Michael Fonfara on piano and organ; Jim Casson on drums and percussion; Emily Ekelund, Bessie Wapp, Samantha Martin, Sheri Marshall and Stacie L. Tabb on background vocals; Colin Linden on mandolin, and Jeff Baker on harmonica for track ten.

The tracks below are catchy on the first listen and bona-fide earworms on one’s second or third.

Track 02: “Roberta” – In the opinion of yours truly, not enough love songs are about friendship. Sure, we’ve got “Lean on Me” and the theme songs from Friends and Cheers, but what if one’s pals aren’t around? With a fantastic guitar intro a la Eric Clapton and gorgeous background vocals, Judy implores her globe-trotting bestie to return to the home front: “You’ve been gone too long; get back here where you belong, Roberta.”

Track 08: “Free Range Man” – Listen closely, because the descriptions of this song’s subject will have one giggling, if not rolling on the floor: “He knows all about living on the land; you know he built his home with his own two hands…He’s got all his teeth and a big-ass beard; when a grizzly comes around, he ain’t scared.” Check out the cheeky organ by Michael Fonfara and backup vox from Emily Ekelund.

Track 12: “Fresh Bait” – There’s fishing, and then there’s fishing. Judy’s up to this sneaky second kind in the album’s penultimate track. “I’m trawling for the big one; I hope he’ll catch my line, and I’ll reel him in slow. I love to take my time.” This jazz-infused number would be a hit at nightclubs and beach bars, as well as Sirius XM.

I have to Say It on the level: Judy Brown’s latest takes more than one listen to love, but once you hit “replay” a couple of times, you’ll be caught hook, line and sinker!

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 

catfish album imageCatfish – Broken Man


CD: 10 Songs, 58:39 Minutes

Styles: Guitar Monster Blues, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock

Why do so many people nowadays, myself included, prefer Monster, Rockstar, and Red Bull to nutritionists’ favorite beverage? My answer: Water’s healthy, but it doesn’t give you wings. The UK blues rock band Catfish does, however. Their latest album, Broken Man, is like a cocktail of all three of these energy drinks combined. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but boy howdy, the guitar work here will give listeners a bigger jolt than – well, Jolt Cola. It’s best heard on a big stereo system with even bigger speakers. Intensity is the name of the game: even on their slow songs, the band’s fervor never lets up. They channel Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Too Slim and the Taildraggers, and even a bit of Rod Stewart and Bob Marley on “Better Days” (reviewed below). Vocally, Long splits the difference between talk-singing and note-singing, putting his best foot forward on “Part as Strangers” – a danceable breakup song. Almost all ten tracks are originals, with the fourteen-minute “Make It Rain” by Foy Vance closing the CD’s repertoire.

In the “What’s New?” paragraph on their website, Catfish reveals that they’ve been selected as one of only five bands to represent the country at the UK Blues Challenge in September. The winner will go on to take part in the US’ International Blues Challenge. Broken Man was voted Album of the Year in 2017 by the Independent Blues Broadcasters Association, and the band itself was named Blues Act of the Year (England) in this year’s UK Blues Awards.

Catfish consists of Matthew Long on guitar and lead vocals; Paul Long on keyboards and lead vocals; Dusty Bones on bass, and Kevin Yates on drums. Special guests include Paul Jones on harmonica for track seven and Hollie Rogers on background vocals.

The following three tunes pack the most punch, even though the last one’s a slow burner.

Track 01: “Hit the Ground Running” – Do they ever! With a rockin’ intro that would make Mr. Tim Langford (Too Slim of Too Slim and the Taildraggers) proud, they go all out. “You best get out of my way,” Matthew Long warns. “I hit the ground running.” This is a great opener, setting the bar as high as the ceiling (or the sky, depending on the venue) for the rest of the CD. One feature you might miss among all the shredder fireworks is Paul Long’s eerie, keening keys.

Track 06: “Better Days” – Time to do some jammin’ and get on your feet to a reggae beat. Current times may be bleak, but rest assured: sunnier ones are on the way. The harmony on the chorus here is beautiful and inspiring, a surefire hook for crowds. “Won’t you dry those tears, honey? You’ve got your whole life ahead of you,” Long says, and everyone, old or young, will be lifted. Paul Long provides not only kicking organ keyboards, but lusty lead vocals.

Track 07: “Part as Strangers” – Unfortunately, some things, like romantic relationships, don’t weather the test of time, and don’t mention a certain “zone.” “People part as strangers every day,” Matthew Long croons, his voice surprisingly poignant in the middle of this blues-rock fest. Haunting harmonica is provided by guest star Paul Jones.

Need some energy? Broken Man will give you more than all the faddish drinks combined!

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 Interview – Richard “Rosy” Rosenblatt 

richard rosenblatt photo 1When veteran Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin asked Richard “Rosy” Rosenblatt in 2006 if he wanted to get involved in a fledgling record label, Rosy told him, “If you want to start a traditional record company, sign some great artists and still lose a whole lot of money, I know exactly how to do that.”

His tongue was only partly in his cheek. He’d just spent two decades as founder of Tone-Cool Records. The label had released more than 50 records in 20 years by scores of blues artists that would become legacy acts. They launched Susan Tedeschi and the North Mississippi Allstars, and released albums by new and established artists. The roster earned multiple Grammy nominations and countless W.C. Handy Awards, and scored a certified Gold Record. In 2004, with the recorded music industry in widening tailspin, Rosenblatt sold Tone-Cool to V2-Artemis Records, and he stayed on as President until Spring of 2006.

“I built a basement recording studio and started Tone-Cool in 1985, and we had a 20-year run. The most successful Tone-Cool releases were Susan Tedeschi, North Mississippi Allstars, Hubert Sumlin, and Double Trouble – but we did about 50 albums with some truly great artists, and I’m really proud of all of them: Sean Costello, Rod Piazza, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Rick Holmstrom, Monster Mike Welch, David Maxwell, Toni Lynn Washington, Paul & Annie, and so many more.”

In 2007 Bob and Rosy decided to start the VizzTone label group with a different philosophy and a co-operative business plan – to work with artists who recorded and produced their own albums and managed their own careers, working in partnership with them to distribute, promote, and market their music. With Rosy as president and Bob as director of A&R, they started with a few great artists and built the business in a cooperative way. Along the way Amy Brat became a partner in the company as director of communication and publicity, and added a new dimension to their publicity and promotions.

Now VizzTone has released more than 120 albums, including 18 this year by the likes of Bob Margolin, Josh Smith, Amanda Fish, Bob Corritore, Billy Price, Too Slim & the Taildraggers, Muddy Gurdy, Tyler Morris, and Long Tall Deb & Colin John, to name just a few. So far so good. In the last 12 months I’ve done Blues Blast cover stories on VizzTone’s Casey Hensley and Erin Harpe.

VizzTone releases music through their relationship with Redeye Worldwide, an award-winning indie distributor out of North Carolina that handles physical and digital distribution around the world. Rosenblatt met the future leaders of Redeye distribution when they all worked under the Rounder Records umbrella in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the ’90s, so it was a natural choice that has developed into a great working relationship.

richard rosenblatt photo 2Rosy learned a lesson from his time at Tone-Cool. “At VizzTone we have a different model because we don’t invest money in making records, and we don’t own our artists’ music or their publishing. We work with compatible musicians who have finished records to market, promote and publicize them. In the beginning we worked with indie publicists, but after a while we took all the publicity in-house and established our own relationships with radio and press, and before long we hooked up with Amy Brat, who is phenomenal in working with all kinds of media, so now we have all the promotion in house.

There are some other things Rosy does differently at VizzTone than he did at Tone-Cool. “We have to be careful about what we release. That’s why we release maybe 13 records a year and not 50. We can’t do six female singers in a row. It just doesn’t work. Amy works closely with our artists, and she has to be confident that she’s going to be able to really work the stuff we put out. If for one reason or another it’s too much of one thing, or an artist sounds good but will never ever tour, that leaves us hamstrung.

Another edge Rosenblatt has is that he’s a musician himself.

“I got started in the great Boston Blues scene of the 1970s, when a lot of the first-generation blues artists were coming through town. I played in a couple local bands, including the Billy Colwell Band. Billy was a favorite of John Lee Hooker, so we backed him up on some notable gigs. I also had the opportunity to play and record with Sunnyland Slim, and back up artists including Otis Rush, Luther “Georgia Boy” Johnson, Pinetop Perkins, and Hubert Sumlin. Bob and I played some gigs with classic bluesman John Brim in the ’90s. I was lucky enough to play quite a bit with Hubert, and later wound up releasing his About Them Shoes album on Tone-Cool and playing gigs with him in Austin and New York City.”

“The first Tone-Cool release was my own band, the 11th Hour Band, and though I’ve had some dry spells, I’ve never stopped performing and recording. Playing music has always been my best mental health activity, and it keeps me grounded with why we’re still doing this. Around Boston I’ve been playing with J. Geils Band bassist Danny Klein’s band for more than 10 years, and though I’m not generally a verbatim player, I have always had tremendous respect for [J. Geils Band harp player] Magic Dick and it’s always a challenge to rework some of his parts.

A quick story: I have known many of the Geils band guys since the ’70s, and after I’d been playing with Danny for a few years Dick’s wife Susan came out to one of our gigs. And she comes up to me and asks, ‘So Rosy, you gonna play “Whammer?”’ I looked at her and said, ‘You know, that’s Dick’s personal masterpiece, his piece de resistance. I don’t think I should even touch that one, I shouldn’t even play it.’ She goes, ‘Sure, you should……IF YOU CAN!’ I looked at her and said, ‘Thank you. That’s exactly what I needed. I will play that song – and I will do my own two-minute ending.’ From then on, I play the song with my own outro.”

richard rosenblatt photo 3Rosy knows when he hears good music. “Sometimes you just get a hint from the first recordings. You imagine what’s going to happen when this artist gets in front of 1000 people… Are they going to be gobsmacked? People say, ‘You guys were so lucky with Susan. You did such a great job with Susan Tedschi. How did you do it? How did you get her the Grammy nomination? How did you get her to be on all those radio shows? How did you guys do it?’

“I say, ‘Well, that’s easy. First of all, you start out with an artist who is absolutely jaw-droppingly amazing, and the rest gets a little easier.’ There’s no formula. You have to have an artist that’s going to play and really hit people hard but really touch them in a unique way that draws them in so they want to keep hearing more from this artist. That makes our job easier. Does this move me in a certain way? Is this someone singing along with a melody, or is this someone touching me in a deeper way? This may seem corny, but it’s really about the artist, and the music, just how genuine it is.”

VizzTone partnering with their artists is streamlining and re-inventing the functions of a contemporary record label. And Rosy, Margolin and Amy’s cumulative experience in the music business is creating a more eclectic release library of acts that are more in line with the Blues Foundation’s efforts to expand its coverage of Americana and Blues blends.

“I like to say that I don’t care if it sounds like Blues as long as it feels like Blues. It’s hard to put a name on it when you’re blurring the lines between blues and other genres. So long as it feels like blues, it’s blues to me. That being said, yes, you have to think about keeping the blues alive – but really, I think it will always be there, it has its own primal force. There will always be blues that is nothing but the blues, but I think the more you can publicize and popularize that, the better it is for the genre, the artist, and the world. But you don’t have to be too tight within the lines. You can color outside the lines and that’s fine. Some blues is also Americana. That’s great. I mean, listen to Keb’ Mo’, listen to Bonnie Raitt. The Tedeschi Trucks Band is all over multiple genres, and that’s a positive thing. I think the more people understand the blues is more than just one particular thing, the better it is for the genre, but at the same time you have to keep that life blood flowing.

“The 1950s and earlier aren’t gonna come back, and I don’t think you need to recreate that time to do justice to the blues. Once again, when people ask me whether or not a particular song is the blues, I like to say, I don’t care if it sounds like blues so long as it feels like blues. So that can include music some people might call rock or Americana, and might disqualify what some people would call Blues.”

Some industry people say the CD is dead. Rosy disagrees. “There is still a small and loyal market for CDs, and of course they are valuable for stage sales. It’s harder to sign an MP3 than it is a CD, and people often like to leave a gig with something, a souvenir. An artist will always want to have CDs among their other merch at gigs as long as people still have some sort of CD player. DJs like to have a CD to hold onto rather than download something and so do a lot of press people. CD sales have fallen, and downloads continue to lose ground, but now streaming is coming on strong. So are LPs – go figure!

richard rosenblatt photo 4“The media will always be changing. We just need to be able to work with our distributor to maximize commerce from different configurations. Every time someone streams something or downloads it, they collect on it, and we pay the artist, and we get a little piece of that. So, we’re not living on CDs, and the other thing is part of our business is not even sales. Part of our business is pure artist promotion and publicity. People want to sell CDs, but they also want to make a name for themselves. They want people to know who they are. They want to be able to tour. They want to be able to be listed and reviewed and have their name out there. So, part of what we do is sell CDs, but we’re also providing the artist the service of promoting them and publicizing them in every possible way, and that helps the gigs, and that helps the overall bottom line for the artists and the sales help, too, but the sales are just a piece of what we do.”

This journalist first fell in love with the blues as a student at Tufts University in Boston, a great city for all kinds of music. And it’s always troubled me that Beantown never has been known for having a Boston sound even though Rounder Records started there and VizzTone is at least partly headquartered in Boston – [Bob lives in North Carolina and Amy is outside Chicago.] Rosy has the best explanation for why that’s so that I’ve heard in 50 years. It’s because the scene there is too universal.

“Chicago has Chicago blues, and Nashville has country whereas New Orleans has New Orleans music, but you talk about Boston music. There is no one Boston music. Boston is the home of a lot of great bands and a lot of musicians came through Boston especially in the ’60s and ’70s. The whole folk revival thing was as big in Boston as it was in New York. Boston has always been a great place for new music because there are so many young people here because of all the schools and colleges, but for all the great bands that came out of Boston there’s never been a specific Boston sound worthy of the name. The J. Geils Band is a great Boston band, but they aren’t the Boston Sound. Neither is Aerosmith.”

I asked Rosy about his own musical contributions to VizzTone. “I’ve had the opportunity to play and/or record with quite a few of our artists. In the early VizzTone days I did a short tour with Dave Gross and played some with Gina Sicilia. Not that long ago I played with Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers for quite a few years, and co-produced and played on their debut album. Recently I put a harmonica track on Amanda Fish’s great new record. I did some fun gigs with Chris ‘Bad News’ Barnes. It’s always a gas to play with Bob Margolin and lots of the VizzTone family at our Memphis and Chicago showcases, and lately I’ve been doing some tour dates with Bob Margolin and Tyler Morris. Next year I’m planning on releasing a new album of minimalist instrumentals called Small Blues with my original 11th Hour Band, renamed the 11 Guys Quartet.”

Rosy is in it for the duration and is functioning in the new world order very well. “We interpret Blues broadly and inclusively. We are the opposite of the Blues Police. We want this music we love alive and growing.”

Check out Vizztone Label Group at

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

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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.

10/22 – 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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