Issue 12-42 October 25 2018

Cover photo © 2018 Bob Kieser

 In This Issue 

Tee Watts has our feature interview with the Chicago bluesman Willie Henderson. We have 8 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Sister Suzie, Dave Keller, Judy Sings The Blues, Dennis Jones Band, Errol Dixon, Daniel De Vita , Scott Sharrard and Shari Puorto Band.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 8 

sister suzie cd imageSister Suzie – Ain’t No Lady

The Last Music Company

12 Tracks/

For the last two years, vocalist Susan Clarke and her veteran band have been working hard, playing gigs across England in addition to shows throughout the European continent to establish her Sister Suzie persona. Clarke was originally attracted to blues and R&B through the records of two Memphis icons, Elvis Presley and Rufus Thomas. She later fell under the spell of New Orleans legend, Irma Thomas. A cover of one of her enduring classics, “Ruler Of My Heart,” makes it clear that Suzie has a voice capable of delivering the type of nuanced delivery the song requires, featuring some outstanding tenor sax from Andy Dumment.

But Suzie is no mere imitator. “Knock Knock” is a rocking number that opens the disc in fine style, Clarke’s boisterous singing answered by Al Nichol’s deft tenor sax solo. Guest Big John Carter’s fingers tickle the ivories, laying down a tight boogie rhythm on the title track. The originals “New Shoes” and “Desire” are two more full throttle rockers, with the later cut conjuring up memories of Wanda Jackson. Another highlight is “Just Like An Old Dog,” as Suzie kicks subtlety to the curb, giving a soul-shaking performance, riding the foot-tapping rhythm from Darren Eddie Jackson on double bass and Brian Nevill on drums for all it is worth. Nick Lunt gets a brief solo interlude for his baritone sax.

When the proceedings shift over to the blues, Suzie doesn’t miss a beat. Surrounded by the horns, she aptly delivers a disheartened tale on the original slow blues, “Working Girl”. Guitarist Matt Jackson lays down an incisive solo that heightens the mood. “Big Mistake” will make you boogie-til-the-cows-come-home, powered by an infectious riff from Jackson’s guitar. Suzie & Jackson co-wrote the lush ballad, “Yours”. The singer is at her best on an unhurried performance that epitomizes the Irma Thomas style. The band switches to a grittier sound on a cover of “Stop These Teardrops,” from Texas blues singer LaVelle White, another standout track. Two other classics, “Can’t Hold Out” from Elmore James and “Sloppy Drunk” from Jimmy Rogers, are less successful due to Suzie’s mannered vocals, with the latter track rescued by the band’s spirited execution.

Mixing blues and ballads with some full-bore rockers, spiced with touches of the Louisiana swamp, Sister Suzie is another notable female vocalist putting her own spin on the sounds of a bygone era. She succeeds admirably. After hearing this disc, you will undoubtedly look forward to the day when you can hear her, and her talented musical associates, at a stateside gig or festival. Until then, give this one a spin. Just remember to turn it up, and clear the dance floor!

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 – 2 of 8 

dave keller cd imageDave Keller – Every Soul’s a Star

Catfood Records 2018

11 songs, 42:06 minutes

Hailing originally from Massachusetts, Dave Keller arrived in Montpelier, Vermont way back in 1993 and has spent years developing a solid reputation as a talented guitarist, singer and songwriter. He won the 2012 International Blues Challenge Award for Best Self-Released CD for Where I’m Coming From. In 2014, he was nominated for a Blues Music Award for Best Soul/Blues Album for Soul Changes. In 2017, he was in the running for a Downbeat Magazine Reader’s Award for Best Blues Album for Right Back Atcha. He’s played and recorded with soul-blues legend Johnny Rawls, who was responsible for introducing Keller to the folks at Catfood Records. They helped him with the foundational elements for this latest record, including flying him to El Paso, Texas to record with Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines (Van Morrison, Huey Lewis, Luther Allison, Stevie Ray Vaughn), and hooking him up with the Catfood “house band,” The Rays, who back him – very capably – on this record. The resulting 11 tracks – ten of which are Keller originals – are some very solid – and well-recorded – soul blues and blues rock offerings.

Says Keller about the experience, “Jim Gaines is a magician. He really listened to my songs, really got into the meaning of the lyrics, and was able to help me and the band bring them alive with the most heart possible. He’s an expert at making songs really shine. I felt blessed to get to work with him.” He added, “This record, for me, is about honoring the star in each person…” He continued, “The songs are about both love and heartbreak, of course, but also speak about the beauty in each of us, as unique individuals and as people standing up together. This record feels like my strongest yet. I felt more at ease singing than I’ve ever felt in the studio. That comfort helped me sing more dynamically than I’ve ever sung before on record.”

Geller’s songwriting on this effort fall squarely into the soul blues category, and if you like folks like Robert Cray, Delbert McClinton, Bobby Bland, Curtis Salgado, and even late 60s Temptations, this album definitely deserves a listen. The songs are well-crafted, the performances solid, and the vocals strong and evocative. Repeated listenings to this record have not dimmed my enthusiasm for it. The 11 songs hang together nicely as a collection, but there are a couple of standouts worth mention.

The opening track, “Don’t Let Them Take Your Joy,” with its powerful horn intro and tasty guitar figure could have easily been recorded by late 60s-era Temptations. Every Soul’s a Star carries an upbeat message of tolerance and appreciation for the individual differences that define us all.

“Baby, I Love You,” a Ronnie Shannon song originally covered by Aretha Franklin back in 1967, is just dripping with a deep funky groove that gets its hooks into and just won’t let go! Johnny McGhee’s tasty outro solo could have (should have) easily been extended for another dozen or so measures, and I certainly wouldn’t have been disappointed.

“Freedom Is Ours” features some tasty, plaintive lead playing by Keller, on a song that tackles some tough current-day issues, in particular the rising tide of authoritarianism that we’re now witnessing all the globe.

“This Is Gonna Hurt” is a minor key, mid-tempo shuffle with a strong backbeat and a solid horn arrangement. It showcases Keller’s solid songwriting chops, with a simple, tasteful solo that fits right in with the melancholy feel of the song.

“It’s All In Your Eyes” is a terrific song, with a strong, funky groove, and features another one of Johnny McGhee’s understated, yet very tasty solos. All kidding aside, I think I’m going to have to incorporate this song into my own sets… I like it THAT much!

“Kiss Me Like You Miss Me” has echoes of the Mad Man from Macon, Stax-era Otis Redding, and features the third of McGhee’s tasty solos, accompanied by some sweet B3 courtesy of Dan Ferguson. Another very solid song and performance!

All in all, Every Soul’s a Star is a wonderful collection of very solid songs and great performances that draw on the deep roots of soul music, with lyrics that reflect the uncertain times in which we live. With a little luck, this will be an album that gets noticed come award time, because it certainly deserves to!

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 8 

judy sings the blues cd imageJudy Sings The Blues – Born A Sinner


10 tracks 40 minutes

Judy Sings The Blues is a modern funky blues-rock band based in Lewes, Delaware, and Born A Sinner is the band’s first release. Featuring eight self-penned songs and two covers, the album contains more than enough to suggest a bright future for the band.

The album opens with the funky (and excellently titled) “My Name Ain’t Baby” with nice clipped guitar from Eric Zoeckler as the rhythm section of Carl Thompson (bass) and James Sudimak (drums) lay down a tight groove. Singer Judy Mangini has a warm, powerful voice that suits the material perfectly. “Until That Sucker’s Dead” mines a similar vein (both in the funky edge and the excellent title). The album has a solid mix of the upbeat (such as “Dirty Girl” and “I Like The Way”, with its irresistible drive and a full-bore rock guitar solo from Zoeckler) as well as slower tracks such as the very impressive title track, with a particularly powerful vocal performance by Mangini.

The band is usually a four-piece band but the sound on the album is filled out by guest appearances from Cody Leavel (saxophone on six songs); Dan Long (keyboards on five songs). In addition, Ken Windle adds lead guitar to “Help Me” and Lin Doughten plays lead guitar on “Fever”, “Born A Sinner” and “Tricks”.

The two covers on Born A Sinner are Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell’s “Fever” (played with impressive restraint by the entire band with some tasty sax from Leavel) and Lowell Fulson’s 1950 classic, “Sinner’s Prayer”, which is transformed from the original piano-led lament to a grinding heavy blue-rock song (imagine an angry Billy Gibbons playing on Alannah Myles’ “Black Velvet”).

Born A Sinner is a very interesting album, evolving over its length from the funky modern blues-rock of the first couple of songs to a much heavier slant after the mid-way point. The ballad “Tricks” with Mangini’s heavily-processed voice, Zoeckler’s chorused guitar and Windle’s over-driven guitar solo has echoes of the Alan Parsons Project (or even Robert Plant in some of Mangini’s howls on the outro). The wah-wah’ed riffage and prominent keys of “Help Me” give the song more than a hint or two of the funkier mid-1970s versions of Deep Purple.

“Dirty Girl” is a flat-out rock song with overdriven guitar, honking sax and lyrics that are either hilarious or deeply uncomfortable, depending on one’s perspective, while “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” builds from Thompson’s gentle opening single note bassline to a soaring, roaring arena-sized power ballad with a really fine vocal performance from Mangini.

Judy Sings The Blues are an impressive outfit and, on the evidence of Born A Sinner, they must be tremendous fun in a live environment. It’s a bit of a stretch to call this a blues album although the blues clearly underpins much of the material. If however your tastes lean towards the traditional blues-rock end of the spectrum, with a healthy dose of funk thrown in for good measure, you will want to check out this album.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 8 

dennis jones cd imageDennis Jones Band – WE3 Live

Blue Rock Records

14 tracks | 68 minutes

If a true bluesman must pay his dues to play the blues then Dennis Jones has paid in full. He was the second lead guitarist in the renowned Zac Harmon Band and can be heard on their premier album Live at Babe & Ricky’s Inn. In 2004 he was in ZHB when they won the prestigious International Blues Challenge as Best Unsigned Band. Since then Dennis has relentlessly pursued his solo career culminating in this blistering mix of well-crafted songs and quality Hendrix-laced blues rock. His vocal bark is as bad as his guitar bite. This disc features selections from all five of Jones’ solo albums. His L.A. based power trio’s rock solid rhythm section consists of Sam Correa on bass and Raymond Johnson on drums. Dennis has come a long way from Zac’s band. He was a side player then and now he’s the star. The sound is crystal clear, full of sonic punch with a thick bottom end. It’s as good as any studio recording.

The biggest takeaway is how well these three mesh together in the intimate live setting at Beaver Creek Brewery in the off-the-beaten-track town of Wibaux, Montana. The rapt audience cheers them on with every lick and cleverly twisted phrase. Maybe a deal with the devil was made, or not, but there is ample evidence in his lyrics. Dennis has seen the dark underbelly and has come out the other side with some first hand stories to tell. Bad luck in love seems to be his cover story as in “Blue Over You” or “Stray Bullet” but the truth to be told is when he talks about how there’s plenty of time to rest… “When I Die” and the unabashed anti-drug ode “Kill the Pain”. “Blue Over You” starts the evening off with funky bass and choppy melodic chord phrasing. The leads take center stage. The volume goes up when the solos take shape. Dennis takes the sonic excursions seriously every time so nothing is wasted. “Passion for the Blues” lists the luminaries he paid his dues to such as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Etta James, Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan and others he name checks. The lyrics pay proper homage where homage is due, mostly to the roots while Dennis plays the role of the torchbearer.

The well-constructed flights of soaring guitar fancy are well-framed by the sleek arrangements. His signature Stratocaster tone is consistent and his octaves, double-stops and sustained notes are reminiscent of both Stevie Ray and Jimi. In a Crossroads style battle he could give Joe Bonamassa a run for his money. Fluid runs are his weapon and he spreads it all over the music like hot mustard. In fact his song “Hot Sauce” brings in some needed comic relief. “Like it so hot, want to feel some pain.” A nice little song about one of the true unsung heroes of the blues: the culture of bottled heat as opposed to the tired anti-hero “canned heat” of old “Sterno” based drinks. Hot sauce is not toxic but still gives many a blues musician a nice pre-gig or post-gig kick in the pants. Dennis does his own take on the well-worn riff from “Third Stone from the Sun” on this track. It’s a southern take on it using the secondary “Peter Gunn Theme” riff in Freddie King’s “Hide Away”. By copping two blues rock guitar gods in one solo he better have the chops to back it up and he does. He goes for the more familiar on “Super Deluxe” with half-step chords complemented by the straight single note pentatonic scale runs. It could be his hit.

The one criticism here is that the penultimate song, “I’m Good”, is good, but too much like the Count Basie / Joe Williams showstopper “Alright , Ok, You Win” lyrics by Mayme Watts and music by the greatly underappreciated Sid Wyche. “No thanks, no way, I’m good” lyric utilizes that song’s popular phrasing to great effect. The albums sequence is well thought out and each tune has its own reason to exist. The vocals are fresh, new and uncommon. It’s a sweet syrupy articulate sound.

Dennis Jones has a way of singing the blues where each word is understood and the stories of his blues life are interesting for long enough to get to the meat the matter; his muscular lead playing. If he made a deal with the devil it may be time for the devil to pay up as this album delivers the goods.

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

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 8 

errol dixon cd imageErrol Dixon – Midnight Train – Live at Vienna Jazzland 1973

Wolf Records

23 tracks | 73 minutes

Errol Dixon is a master of boogie-woogie piano and vocal based blues. Born Errol Barnes in Jamaica in 1939, he moved to London in ’57 to study music. He had a hit his first time recording with “Midnight Train” in 1961 on Blue Beat Records. This intimate solo show at Vienna’s famed Jazzland allows the listener an aural glimpse into the past glory days of the ‘70’s when itinerant musicians with historical significance still mattered so much. The presence of the club’s loyal patrons along with the sound of clinking glasses and bottles adds to the ambience. They clap their hands and stomp their feet in perfect 4/4 time. Errol’s left hand eight-to-the-bar rolling bass lines set the pace. Errol gets better with each song. His humble answer to the crowd’s ever increasing delight is simply “Thank you very much. You’re very kind.”

The opening track “Stormy Monday”, by T-Bone Walker, starts the evening off with a proven blues classic. He shows off his right hand’s melodic know-how with trills, glissandi and cluster chords. Then he does an original instrumental aptly titled “Foot Stompin’ Boogie”. It ends with a simple single note major triad (C-E-G) going up to the octave above landing squarely like a rock on the Dominant 7th root chord with a high note tremolo-trill. His endings are pleasantly formulaic signaling there’s much more to come. Good solid endings help make for great evenings of music. His gift is the ability to get the crowd to always want more. 23 songs may sound like a lot but it goes by very quickly.

“Hey Bartender”, by Floyd Dixon, the source of Errol’s surname (see liner notes), gets the show on the road for good. This is followed by “Stagger Lee”, one of the best story songs in the genre. Sometimes he vamps his endings, sometimes he repeats the final turnaround two or three times, or to be different, he sometimes plays an instrumental last verse to bring the song to an end. He uses a well-honed set of boogie-woogie skills to detail each song in a variety of different ways. The crowd’s desire to participate is always present throughout the show. Errol’s “Pretty Baby”; “Baby, I Love You So“; and “I’ve Got the Blues” all have emotionally engaging lyrics which merge with his easy going and empathetic piano backdrops. “Every night about midnight I’m alone holding your picture tight. Your picture reminds me of you on the night you said goodbye. I got the blues and it’s all because of you.” Errol’s foolish pride won’t let him beg his baby to come home but he’s not to proud to tell us all about it. This is the foundation of the blues: The lost love confessional. The twist here is he can’t tell her but he can tell the listener.

Other stand out tracks include Junior Parker’s first hit on Duke Records in 1956 “Next Time You See Me”. This is the song with one of the most unforgettable chorus lines: “Well, you lied, cheated whoa, for so long”, a sure fire mid-set crowd pleaser. No song is too popular for Errol to tackle as he makes them all his own. For example: Leiber and Stoller’s old standby “Kansas City”, is so done, it’s overcooked but here he messes with the pronunciation giving it a down in the gutter feel and leans hard into the break making it perfectly well-done. Errol takes on Herbie Hancock’s jazzy blues “Waterman Man” and turns it into a boogie instrumental called “Driftin’ Funky Blues” with an almost New Orleans’s Second Line feel to it. B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” is problematic for some but it’s such a loved song the audience explodes on hearing the first word. Some songs just work. Errol picks all the right ones and sprinkles them in and around his fine original compositions for maximum response. Errol’s hit is right up there with B.B’s. The imagery works because what’s lonelier than a midnight train? “My baby’s comin’ home, coming on the midnight train. Been such a long time, since my baby’s been gone.”

In addition to being a great live album this CD is also a primer in the art of piano boogie blues. His song selection and sequence plays a big part. Errol could be compared to many artists but most notably Memphis Slim and here he nails Memphis’ “Bye Bye Baby”. “Baby” is Errol’s “go to” melodic passion word. It’s the second to last tune on the record, the encore before the encore. Put this CD on, pour the drinks and clink your glasses with good music loving friends. The secret of success as a continuing performer long after the hits ware off is simply playing the music people want to hear.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 8 

daniel devita cd imageDaniel De Vita – Live At Blues Baltica

Embirrizados Records – 2018

11 tracks; 74 minutes

Daniel De Vita is an Argentinian guitarist though this CD was recorded live at the Eutin Blues Festival, Germany, in 2017. Daniel handles guitar and vocals, supported by fellow Argentine Gabriel Cabiaglia on drums, Chilean Freddy Muñoz on bass and German harp player Jens ‘Cleanhead’ Jordan. The disc may well include the entire set, the band being introduced briefly at the beginning and the disc running well over an hour. There are no original tunes here but the covers range quite widely so that the band can be heard on familiar songs like “So Many Roads” (best known from Otis Rush’s peerless version) and Snooky Pryor’s “She Tried To Ruin Me” as well as on several lesser known tunes.

First it must be said that Daniel sings with a strong accent which does not always make it easy to decipher the lyrics. Having said that, some of the guitar work here is very good, the uptempo shuffle “5 Months, 2 Weeks, 2 Days” (Debbie Morris/Don Donaldson) was recorded by Louis Prima and is given a lively run through here, immediately followed by Sunnyland Slim’s “Farewell Little Girl” with more solid guitar work and sympathetic harp. “So Many Roads” is very long at over 12 minutes and here the harp did not appeal to this reviewer, plus until the vocals came in it was far from clear that this was the song we all know and love so well.

Ray Charles’ “Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand” introduces a quieter segment of the concert with Gabriel using brushes and Daniel playing very gently in the introduction. The band then covers two songs once recorded by Frank Sinatra: “Exactly Like You” (Daniel Red Hot”) and “It Had To Be You”, harp player Jens sitting these two out. Daniel brings things a little more up to date (1994) by including Jimmie Vaughan’s incorporating a snatch of Robert Johnson’s “They’re instrumental “Don’t Cha Know” which works well, the pumping rhythm section, solid harp and guitar making this possibly the strongest cut on the album. The album closes with two Chicago tunes: Jimmy Rogers’ slow blues “Ludella” and Mel London’s bouncing shuffle “The Things I Do For You”.

Apart from the two Sinatra songs all the tunes are extended enough to provide plenty of opportunity for Daniel to show us his guitar skills but there is nothing to really distinguish this disc from many others out there. A fine souvenir if you were at the show in Eutin but rather less captivating for the casual listener.

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 – 7 of 8 

scott sharrard cd imageScott Sharrard – Saving Grace

We Save Music WSM-001

11 songs – 51 minutes

The lead guitarist/musical director for the Gregg Allman in the final decade of his career, Scott Sharrard picks up where the founder of Southern rock left off as he delivers an outstanding collection of soulful blues- and roots-driven music here.

But that should come as no surprise for anyone familiar with Sharrard, who received two Grammy nominations for tunes he co-wrote with Allman for Southern Blood, Gregg’s last studio album. This one was recorded in Memphis, New York and at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. It features a lineup of several of the biggest names in the music world, and never disappoints as it flows as it delivers nine originals and two covers.

This is the fifth solo release for Sharrard, a Michigan native who was born on Dec. 28, 1976, the same day that his all-time favorite musician, Freddie King, died. Raised in Milwaukee, Wis., he cut his teeth on Luther Allison, Hubert Sumlin and others locally before relocating to New York as an adult, where he was a member of The Chesterfields, who were signed to Atlantic Records and mentored by Ahmet Ertegun himself.

Sharrard went solo after the band released three albums, worked occasionally with Levon Helm and joined Allman fulltime in 2008. As a leader himself, Scott has always shared Gregg’s vision of fusing blues, soul, jazz and folk into his own sound. And that comes through clearly in the grooves of this one.

About half the cuts here feature the Hi Rhythm Section — Howard Grimes (percussion), Reverend Charles Hodges (keyboards) and Leroy Hodges (bass) – who’ve been producing hit records since being the house band behind Al Green and Ann Peebles in the ‘70s. The other cuts feature David Hood (bass), Spooner Oldham (keys) and Chad Gamble (drums), prime movers in the Muscle Shoals sound. Also making guest appearances are Taj Mahal and legendary percussionist Bernard Perdie.

Rounding out the sound are Eric Finland and Pete Levin (keyboards), Marc Franklin (trumpet), Art Edmaiston and Kirk Smothers (sax), Moses Patrou and Steve Potts (percussion), Brett Bass (bass), Jesse Munson, Yennifer Correia and Wen Yih Yu (violin), Jennifer Puckett (viola), Jonathan Kirkscey (cello) and Susan Marshall and Daunielle “Pie” Hill (backing vocals).

It’s full-force Memphis soul-blues for the opener, “High Cost Of Loving You,” which features Sharrard’s warm, powerful voice and rock-solid, stinging guitar work as it details the problems in a relationship. Scott turns to acoustic slide for the slow blues, “Faith To Arise,” penned by British rocker Terry Reid. It’s an ode to home delivered from the point of view of a musician on the road.

The title tune, “Saving Grace” gives Sharrard plenty of space to show off his voice. It’s a ballad that sings praise of a woman who always saves the singer from himself. A cover of Allman’s “Everything A Good Man Needs” – a tune Gregg planned for an ill-fated future release — follows before the Memphis flavor returns with the love song, “Angeline.” A medium-paced, stop-time shuffle, it’s a new tune with a true old-school feel. It flows smoothly into “Words Can’t Say,” a beautiful love ballad with full orchestration, before “She Can’t Wait,” a bittersweet send-up that revisits the cheating theme as it deals with paying the price for a part-time love affair.

“Sweet Compromise” comes across with a gospel feel before the orchestra returns for the sweet “Keep Me In Your Heart.” The disc concludes with “Sentimental Fool.” A new tune, not the Roxy Music classic, it brings you home with another big dose of old-school R&B feel.

Somewhere on the other side, Gregg Allman’s beaming as he listens to this one. This one’s been at the top of the charts since its recent release. Available through Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and other outlets, it’s a delight.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 8 of 8 

shari puorto bad cd imageShari Puorto Band – Live at Bogie’s

Self Release

12 tracks / 51:27

Sometimes artists release a live album when they have run out of new ideas or if they have not put a studio album out in a few years, and they feel the need to get a new product out there in a hurry. Other artists want to document their live sound and have the opportunity to share their stage show with a wider audience, and I think that is where Shari Porto is coming from with her new album, Live at Bogie’s. This was a great idea, as her live show is full of energy and she has the talent to perform the music from her albums on stage without the benefits of studio retakes and post-production trickery.

Shari is a seasoned singer and songwriter based out of the Los Angeles area, and she has been performing professionally since 2000. During that time, she has released four studio albums (with a fifth disc in the works), and her self-produced Live at Bogie’s is her first live effort. This was recorded at Bogie’s in Westlake Village, near the Ventura County Line. Bogie’s is an upscale bar with a killer happy hour, and it is a fine place to see a show. Joining Puorto on stage were guitarist John DePatie, Frank Scarpelli on bass, Jon Greathouse on keys, and Mike Sauer behind the drum kit.

On this evening, Mike Sutherland recorded eight original songs and four covers, and the tracks were mixed and mastered by David Carey at Rock Room Productions and Total Access in Redondo Beach, California. These guys did a quality job, as there is an appropriate balance of crowd sounds and the band that gives the listener a good feel for the evening’s mood. The drums were mic’d well and the overall mix is a little bass and kick drum heavy, so the overall sound is not tinny or harsh.

After a brief emcee introduction the set kicks off with an original, “It’s a Damn Shame,” a funky cut that puts Shari on display, and her voice is amazing! She exudes equal parts of power and emotion as the lyrics run down a man who is really missing out. DePatie lays down a brief but tasty guitar solo in this four-minute track, and as the set progresses, the listener will find that these songs all have a reasonable duration, coming in between three and five minutes. There is no self-indulgent soloing here to tax the crowd’s patience.

After the opener the band keeps the tempo up and switches to a more traditional blues rock with the originals: “Home of the Blues” and “Outta My Mind,” both of which feature fine keyboard work from Jon Greathouse and gritty vocals from Puorto. These are very good but there are a few standout tracks that the band put together. The first of these is “Six Month Sober,” an upbeat blues rocker with tight bass and drums as well as backing vocals from the guys. The other is “All About You,” which might be the heaviest track on the album. This is a guitar and organ centered 1970s style AOR song with soulful vocals from Shari, who is really at her best here.

There are a few covers included in this setlist, too. Randy Newman’s “Guilty” from 1974 has the feel of the original thanks to Greathouse’s piano, but it is jarring to hear this song performed by someone with the range and emotion that Shari can put into it. I cannot say the same for Candi Staton’s “Evidence” from 1969, as both of these women have the soul to make this excellent song shine. Then, after laying down the super-fun Savoy Brown tune “I’m Tired,” the band closes out the set with Blind Faith’s 1969 hit, “Can’t Find My Way Home.” This finale builds wonderfully as Puorto takes the place of Steve Winwood while DePatie does his best Eric Clapton and Mike Sauer hits the skins like Ginger Baker would. What a cool way to wrap things up!

Live at Bogie’s is a successful effort for the Shari Puorto band, as it is a quality recording full of good material, and it provides the listener with the authentic experience of attending one of their shows. But it is still worth your time to seek out one of the band’s gigs, as there is nothing like getting out and sharing the vibe with a band and their audience. So, be sure to check out their website for details of upcoming shows and to hear some samples of their music – it will definitely be worth your time!

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

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 Featured Interview – Willie Henderson 

willie henderson photo 1Willie Henderson is walking Chicago music history personified. In conversation he is able to recall Blues clubs that have all but faded from memory. Walton’s Corner, Pepper’s Lounge, Little Mack’s Club, Castle Rock, Club DeLisa, The Playhouse and more. Born in 1941, Willie’s family migrated to Chicago from Pensacola when he was but a child. Consequently his childhood was then imprinted with the auditory strains of the first wave of Chicago Bluesman. His first instrument was alto sax. And as Willie is fond of saying, it’s been “straight ahead” ever since.

“I initially had no interest in music. But, I started out on the alto that my dad bought me. I was going to Wendell Phillips High School. After playing for a graduation ceremony, at the end of the night, Lew Whitworst, our music teacher came over to me and said, ‘Look, I want you to go to summer school and learn baritone sax. I want you to come back next semester and play the baritone in the Jazz band.’

“I was taken aback. I had just been in the concert band, blowin’ really hard and loud. That’s probably why he thought I could play baritone. Anyway, I went to summer school at Hyde Park on Stony Island. Across the street is Jackson Park which today is the future site of President Obama’s library.

“When I was comin’ up, we lived next door to Junior. Wells. We lived at 215 E. 18th Street and he lived at 213. Whenever he stepped out of the house, he was always sharp, casual or not. He was older than me so I didn’t really interact with him until I was grown.”

Willie has observed the changes in the music in general and specifically, the evolution of Chicago Blues. There’s a rumor of a quote that states, the Black man invented the Blues but the White man made a business out of it. In his assessment of the state of Chicago Blues past and present, he has some acute observations.

“The scene today, while controlled by White folks, is slower and less active than it used to be. When I was comin’ up, there were plenty of clubs in the Black community. On the West Side you had Walter’s Corner where guys like Howlin’ Wolf, Magic Sam and Bobby Rush hung out. Then you had Pepper’s Lounge on 43rd, where I met a lot of people. It was owned by businessman Johnny Pepper. Also in that area was Theresa’s Lounge, which operated out of its basement location for more than 30 years, owned by Miss T, Theresa Needham. Harmonica player Little Mack Simmons had a place down the street from me on 18th and Mission. We just called it Little Mack’s Club. It’s kinda strange when I think back on how I met all those people in that one certain area.

“Little Mack’s Club was where I met a lot of people at, including the late, great Otis Rush. There was a tenor player named John Jackson who played with Little Mack and all the guys would come in there. Detroit Jr., for one. I used to try to talk to him about his publishing. I kinda regret that we didn’t finish the publishing conversations. A lot of the guys didn’t have a lot of knowledge of the music industry and actually, I was just starting to learn myself. So, I met a lot of guys; Freddie Robinson, they called him The Buzzard. He’d be playin’ with Little Mack too. A lot of cats would go around and sit in with different people.

“Otis Rush had a tenor player named Abb Locke who would come around too. He liked the way I played and invited me over to the West Side to a place called Castle Rock where Otis was playing. Mighty Joe Young was the 2nd guitar player. They would always bring me home. As I matter of fact, Mighty Joe Young called me “Kid” until the day he died. Cuz I was really too young to be up in there. But I was playin’!

willie henderson photo 2“I worked with many, many Blues artists; Lee Shot Williams and Smokey Smothers. We played a club called the Playhouse on 43rd, right off Lake Park. That was where one day a guy came in and shot the owners. Lee hid under the pool table. There was always a lot of activity all over the place.”

And that’s not all Mr. Henderson did was play. He has enjoyed a wide and varied career. He is not just a Bluesman. His producer’s resume is long. His listed production credits according to, total 154. Certainly too long a list to state here but some of the artists he has produced, include Little Richard, Tyrone Davis, Major Lance, The Duke of Earl Gene Chandler, Esther Phillips, Erma Franklin, Otis Clay, Young-Holt Unlimited, Otis Leavill, Willie Henderson & The Soul Explosions, Walter Jackson, Jackie Wilson, Alvin Cash, Lionel Hampton, Barbara Acklin, Fred Hughes, Billy Butler, The Beautiful Zion Missionary Baptist Choir and even comedian Soupy Sales!

He has written and arranged for a similarly long list that includes the Chi-Lites, Lee Shot Williams, Little Milton, Ronnie Laws, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Willie Kent, Sonny Stitt, Otis Rush. He has conducted and led orchestrations in the studio and on stage for the likes of Percy Mayfield, Lavern Baker and countless others.

He has also recorded or performed with Donny Hathaway, Jerry Butler, Junior Parker, Eddie Harris, The Staple Singers, Bo Diddley, Koko Taylor, Liz Mandeville, Mississippi Heat Syl Johnson Luther Allison, Etta James and Sugar Pie DeSanto. Whew! And he’s not done yet.

This days, in between gigs, Maestro Henderson is compiling material for a book on his music life experiences. He shared a few stories as he feigned a protest that Blues Blast was coppin’ his biographical chops!

“I did some Chess sessions with Little Milton including We’re Gonna Make It, If Walls Could Talk and also his cover of Bobby Bland’s Blind Man. Joe Scott, whom I took lessons from. was the arranger for Bobby Bland. He was out of Houston and worked for Don Robey’s Duke Records. When Joe Scott would come to town, I would buy him drinks at Robert’s Show Lounge and we would talk music. Now, a lot of the stuff he talked about, I didn’t understand. But he was drinkin’ and I was listenin’. As it so happened, I got drafted and went into the army. When I got out, I produced Can I Change My Mind which was a big hit for Tyrone Davis. When Joe Scott came back in town, I said to him, ‘Come on man, give me another lesson.’ He said, ‘I can’t give you no more lessons. You got a hit record.’ I really like his arrangements, especially his horn lines. Still do.

“Before I went into the army, I was workin’ at Club DeLisa. At the time it was a show club, owned by Pervis Spann and E. Rodney Jones. I was the director of Syl Johnson’s band. Since the club was so large, we’d added more pieces. When I first received my draft induction notice, I told E. Rodney Jones, ‘Hey man, I got a notice to go into the army.’ He said, ‘Well, don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it.” This went on for months. So, on the night before I was to report, I said, ‘Hey Rodney, I gotta go to the induction center in a few hours.’ He said, ‘Bye M***** F*****!

“So I went into the army with just a clothes bag and my hair processed, conked out. Man look, when I went in there they said, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I’m a musician. I was pretty crazy! I ended up in the 158th Army Band. Don Myrick was in the 113th Army Band, across the way. Don and I had been schoolmates at Crane Junior College along with Charles Henry and Maurice White. They had a group called the Jazzmen. He eventually became a member of Earth, Wind & Fire with Maurice White.

willie henderson photo 3“Now George Patterson, who later did the arrangements for the Isley Brothers. along with Tom-Tom Washington, had a group in Chicago called the Jazz Interpreters. I had a group called the Metronomes and we were playing Blues and stuff. We were taught by a guy named James Mack and then began calling ourselves the Mackmen, which was crazy. I started getting involved in a lot of recording sessions so I reached back and got the guys I knew which was Don Myrick, Louis Satterfield and all of them. One of the things we did was Your No Good by Betty Everett.”

Also in Willie Henderson’s discography is an album by electric saxophonist Eddie Harris entitled Eddie Harris Sings The Blues, on which Willie plays bari. A notable percussion credit is also given to Marshall Thompson of the Chicago vocal group, the Chi-lites. When asked about Thompson’s percussion proclivities Henderson gives a studied and varied response.

“Well, I believe Marshall also played drums for Gladys Knight for awhile. Marshall’s father, they tell me, was an excellent pianist and his uncle was a great drummer. So I guess he had percussion in his blood. In fact, Marshall Thompson’s son played drums on a Gospel recording I produced, entitled, I’ll Make It All Right, by the Beautiful Zion Missionary Baptist Church Choir.

“It was strange how I got that gig. Bruce Swedien is a very well known audio engineer. He worked with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones on Thriller. At the time, he was with the Brunswick label. He was the engineer on the hits I did with Tyrone Davis. One day Swedien asked me if I knew any Gospel people. I told him sure enough, in my mother’s church. Consequently, I went to my mom’s church and told them I could record them. Emma Richards, who sang a lot of lead for the choir, had put together the tune, I’ll Make It All Right. That tune was arranged by Gene “Daddy G” Barge, with Louis Satterfield on bass, Odell Brown on organ and Rev. Marvin Yancy, Natalie Cole’s ex-husband on piano. We recorded it and it started sellin’ a lot. It was played on all the R&B stations across the country. What then happened was, it then turned out to be the same melody as the Womack Brother’s (The Valentinos), Lookin’ For A Love. The Womack’s lawyers got in touch with the record label and started attaching royalties. They had already paid me a portion for the church. I had been under the impression it was an original song. So that’s how that got put out.”

As Willie Henderson’s status grew as an artist, producer arranger and conductor, his mark began to extend to beyond Chicago record labels like Chess or Vee-Jay. Other labels came a-knockin’. Atlantic Records, New Sound from Nashville. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy label, based in L.A. Obscure foreign labels from Spain and France. Willie had his own label also called Now Sound based in Chicago. Then Willie started working for Brunswick before they moved to New York.

“That’s another strange story, ” says Willie. I was with Chess saxophonist & arranger Monk Higgins (whose birth name was Milton Bland). We used to do music for One-Derful Records which had Alvin Cash & The Crawlers and The Five Du-Tones. I went on the road with The Five Du-Tones to New Orleans. When we got down there, all our gigs were rained out. They had the biggest mosquitoes in the world! We had to play at the Dewdrop Inn. We were stranded. We played there and stayed there. The guy would give us one meal a day; pigtails, red beans and rice. I remember one night Wilson Pickett and his group came in and we burned ’em. We smoked ’em. They were doing I Found A Love.

“When we got back to Chicago, we were workin’ with Betty Everett at the Vee-Jay studios. We were rehearsing in the back room, doing the sessions for You’re No Good. A guy came in and said, “You should go down to Chess Records. They’re lookin’ for a band. So I took the guys down there. They hired the rhythm section. Satterfield on bass, Maurice White on drums and Gerald Sims on guitar. They called us when they needed the horns. We did Billy Stewart’s Summertime and all that stuff. It was really interesting but that’s how we got exposed. It all progressed from when we got started at Crane Junior College. We were young guys out there doin’ stuff and everybody wanted a part of what we were doing cuz we were playing really, for kind of cheap. We just wanted to play. So uh, we started out like that.

willie henderson photo 4“One-Derful records had moved down to right off 18th Street at Michigan. Monk Higgins would write chords for songs and tell me to play. One day I was on my way out the door and a lady named Ann DeConjay told me that Brunswick was looking for a music director. So I went down to 1449 South Michigan and talked to them. Executive Producer Carl Davis was looking for someone to work with the songwriters and also write lead sheets so songs could be copyrighted. So, I was doing that and one thing kinda led to another. One day Carl said to me, ‘Hey man, we have this guy Tyrone Davis. I want you to work with him and produce him and write the arrangements. So I did that and that’s how Can I Change My Mind (#1 Billboard Hot R&B Singles, # 5 Hot 100) came about.

“When Carl Davis asked if I knew any other arrangers, I referred Tom-Tom Washington who was another cat that came behind me at Crane Junior College as well as James Mack. That’s how they got in there and started workin’ for Brunswick.

“In 1970 I cut an instrumental co-written by me, Tom-Tom Washington and Carl Davis. Called Funky Chicken Pts. I &II, we recorded it as Willie Henderson & The Soul Explosions on the Brunswick label. It cracked the Billboard Top 100 and became another hit for me.

“Now Jackie Wilson, called himself being one of my cousins. He said, ‘Man, I’m your 4th cousin.’ We would laugh about it all the time. I had a chance to record him once. It was a track titled, I Get The Sweetest Feeling. Before I got to the studio that day, they cut a song on Jackie written by Barbara Acklin and David Scott titled, Whispers (Gettin’ Louder), which turned out to be a hit for Jackie. I also played bari sax on Barbara Acklin’s Love Makes a Woman.

“I played on Donny Hathaway’s first album Everything Is Everything, also in 1970. Donny was a gifted, rare talent. When I returned from the Apollo Theater in New York promoting my record Funky Chicken, Donny had a session for me. I went down there with my New York boots and apple cap, cocked to one side. Donny starting wearing an apple cap right after that. He was copying me. He used to call me “Star”. ‘Hey Star!’ He was interesting.

“Toward the end of his life he called me again wanting me to contract some musicians for him. I discussed it with a drummer by the name of Quentin Joseph who now works for Philadelphia International Records. He told me, ‘Man, you know, Donny is having a lot of mental problems. If I were you, I wouldn’t deal with him.’ I had a lot of respect for Quentin, so I said to myself, okay, I’ll pass on it. I regret it to this day.”

Master Willie Henderson is still booking gigs. He was in the horn section at the grand Otis Rush tribute at the 2016 Chicago Blues Festival. He advises anyone with a true ear to note, “If you want a hit song, call me. I’ve got four notebooks full.” He posted on Facebook recently that his vault of unrecorded “Hit Songs” is now open. As he is so fond of saying, “STRAIGHT AHEAD!” To the next session then.

CyberSoulMan Tee Watts is music director at KPFZ 88.1 fm in Lakeport, California. His radio show, The CyberSoulMan Review airs Tuesday afternoons from 3-5 PST. He is road manager for Sugar Pie DeSanto, the last Queen standing from the glory years of Chess Records.

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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. Also we are excited to announce its Blues Christmas Bash featuring Albert Castiglia on Sunday, December 2nd! This show only, tickets are $5 at the door for members with valid cards, $10 for non-members. (Advance tickets are available for $10 via PayPal. Refer to the website for information about ordering.) Doors at 7:00, show 8:00 – 10:00. We continue to collect non-perishable food and household items for Loaves and Fishes. 1 can? I can!.

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.

10/29 – 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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